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Sunday, December 19, 2010

CONVICTION

By D.E.Levine

Director: Tony Goldwyn
Writer: Pamela Gray
Cast: Hillary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Thomas D. Mahard, Owen Campbell, Conor Donovan, Laurie Brown, John Pyper-Ferguson, Minnie Driver, Ele Bardha, Melisso Leo,
Producers: Tony Goldwyn, Andrew S. Karsch and Andrew Sugarman
Executive Producers: Markus Barmettler, Anthony Callie, Alwyn Kushner, Myles Nestel, Tim Smith and Hillary Swank
Co-producers: Ed Cathell III and Dama Claire
Original Music: Paul Cantelon
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Country of Origin:
Language: English
Genre: Biography, Drama

It's obvious from the beginning that Kenny Waters wasn't a very nice man. However, taken from a true story, this film shows that while he might not have been nice he was innocent and yet he was convicted of murder and spent most of his life in jail.

Undeterred by the finding, his sister believed him innocent and reshaped her entire life to prove him innocent.

Railroaded by a vengeful cop, Kenny has numerous people "think" they saw him near or leaving the crime.

Working class people, Kenny and his sister, Betty Ann, had stuck together through a bad childhood and an absent father. Despite his faults, Betty Ann has unswerving faith in her brother.

In fact, Betty Ann, a married mother without a high school diploma, reinvents herself and earns a high school diploma, a college degree and then a law degree.

Along the way her marriage disintegrates and she forms a friendship with a law school classmate who also dedicates her life to proving Kenny innocent.

Based on DNA testing, which didn't exist during his original conviction, Kenny is exonerated and joyously reunited with his family.

In real life, only six months after being set free, Kenny died from a fractured skull he got in an accident.

The story is amazing and shows what perseverance, determination and hard work can do to a life. Betty Ann Warren reinvented herself and her life and although her brother is gone she continues to work to free prisoners who were wrongly convicted.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A FILM UNFINISHED

By D.E.Levine

Director: Yael Hersonski
Writer: Yael Hersonski (screenwriter)
Cast: Alexander Beyer, Rudiger Vogler
Producers: Itai Ken-Tor and Noemi Schory
Original Music: Yishai Adar
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Country of Origin: Germany, Israel
Language: German, Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, English
Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Yael Hersonski has produced a powerful and disturbing documentary. To achieve this he highlighted and re-examines the notorious 1942 unfinished Nazi film about the Warsaw Ghetto.

Only two months after the Nazis filmed the Ghetto they liquidated the entire Ghetto.

The Warsaw Ghetto film was discovered after the war in an underground vault, with no sound track.

Although it was obviously staged and produced for propaganda purposes, the Nazis never got a chance to finish or show it and the Ghetto film became a source of interest for historians.

When a long missing reel was discovered later it threw a "curve" into the film interpretations because it clearly showed the manipulations of the film crew to stage every day scenes.

Originally, the Ghetto film showed well-dressed Jewish diners and business people callously stepping over the bodies of indigent Jews on the street. When the new reel became available it showed that the scenes were staged and the well dressed diners were actually actors or others forced to act in the staged scenes.

As Hersonski says, it appears that the film participants were apparently taken to concentration camps immediately after they finished shooting the film. After that they simply disappeared.

Hersonski's documentary features interviews with Ghetto survivors and a re-enactment of testimony from Willy Wist, one of the cameramen involved in filming the Nazi propaganda movie.

Presented at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the film won the World Cinematography Documentary editing award.

A Film Unfinished will premiere on television on PBS in May 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HENRY OF NAVARRE

By D.E.Levine

Director: Jo Baier
Writer: Jo Baier and Cooky Ziesche (screenplay); Heinrich Mann (novel)
Cast: Julien Boisselier, Joachim Krol, Andreas Schmidt, Roger Casamajor, Armelle Deutsch, Chloe Stefani, Sven Pippig, Sandra Huller, Hannelore Hoger, Ulrich Noethen, Devid Striesow, Adam Markiewicz, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Christine Urspruch, Marta Calvo, Karl Markovics, Andre Mennike, Wotan Wilke Mohring, Antoine Monot Jr et al.
Producer: Regina Ziegler
Executive Producer: Hartmut Kohler
Co-producer: Carl Bergengruen (SWR), Jean Bigot (France 2), Jana Brandt (MDR), Esther Cases et al.
Original Music: Henry Jackman and Hans Zimmer
Running Time: 155 Minutes
Country of Origin: Germany, France, Czech Republic, Spain
Language: German, French, Czech, Spanish, Italian, Latin with English subtitles
Genre: Drama, History

This is a magnificent period piece that traces the rise of Henri of Navarre from a battlefield soldier to the beloved King Henri IV of France.

It's amazing that an epic of this caliber could be made because of the inherent problems.

With an amazing cast of actors who are well known in their own respective countries, each actor spoke his own language without understanding what the other actors were saying to them.

The director had the unenviable job of directing actors who spoke different languages to each other without understanding, and with whom he sometimes had problems directing because he didn't speak their language.

Despite everything, the casting and acting is superb and the actors managed to convey their emotions credibly and believably.

This is a very bloody film, filled with amazing action filled and historically correct battles, and many bawdy sex scenes.

When Catherine de Medici, the French dowager queen summons Henri to court to marry her daughter in late 16Th century France, it's because the Catholics and Protestant Huguenots were at war and Catherine wanted to solidify a peace.

Unfortunately, the Catholics massacre the Protestant wedding guests in what became known as the St. Bartholomew's day massacre.

A now married Henri has to resort to a combination of guile to remain alive and gain the throne. It's quite a feat, especially for a man who started out as a soldier.

The film is absorbing and never falters during the entire 155 minutes which pass all too quickly since viewers are never bored despite having to read subtitles.

Friday, December 10, 2010

GREENBERG

By D.E.Levine

Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach (screenplay); Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baubach (story)
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Chris Messina, Susan Traylor, Merritt Weaver, Ben Stiller, Zach Chassler, Mina Badie, Rhys Ifans, Blair Tefkin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jake Paltrow et al.
Producers: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Scott Rudin
Executive Producers: Lila Yacoub
Original Music: James Murphy
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Comedy

This film is a departure for Ben Stiller who normally plays straight comedy. Stiller plays a man who's exhausted by his own anger and the fact that he's directing it at himself which causes people to think he doesn't care about himself or others.

Years earlier, Greenberg was part of a rock band that was on the verge of a breakthrough in the music industry, and was offered a recording contract. Instead of accepting, Greenberg walked away and abandoned his band-mates. Instead of explaining anything to anyone, Greenberg fled Los Angeles, moved to New York and became a carpenter.

Struggling, he had a breakdown, was institutionalized and has now returned to Los Angeles to house sit for his wealthy brother and take care of the dog.

Keeping himself isolated indoors while glaring out the picture windows, he calls and comes to depend on Florence Marr, his brother's family assistant who's familiar with the house and the dog.

Florence is definitely not the conventional love interest. Recently broken up with her boyfriend, working incredible hours planning the Greenberg family life and schedule, she's not interested in finding a new man.

Despite everything she becomes involved with Greenberg and he treats her badly. Through all this we see that Greenberg is totally unaware of his effect on people. This may be because he's busy obsessing over the grievances against him.

Whether it's reuniting with a former band-mate or a former girl friend, Greenberg is totally self-absorbed and neglectful of others.

Greenberg is not a sympathetic character. In fact, the viewer can't stand him. Yet Stiller achieves a fascinating portrayal that's interesting to watch and bags the question "Can Greenberg change or will he always be stuck where he is right now?"

Monday, December 6, 2010

RABBIT HOLE

By D.E.Levine

Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay); David Lindsay-Abaire
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney et al.
Producers: Nicole Kidman, Per Saari, Leslie Urdang and Dean Vanech
Executive Producers: Bill Lischak, Linda McDonough, Brian O'Shea and Daniel Revers
Co-producer: Geoff Linville
Original Music: Anton Sanko
Running Time: 91 Milutes
Country of Origin:
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Comedy

Nicole Kidman is astounding in this role as Becca, a mother who can's seem to move on since her four year old son ran into the street and was killed six months ago.

Grief is prominent as she and her husband attempt to cope through grief counseling and a variety of other techniques.

There's the definite use of humor as Becca tries to cope, doing things that aren't "approved" by friends, family and society but finding her own way nevertheless.

While Becca and her husband try to handle their loss they're also faced with the possibility of a disintegrating marriage which they need to rescue.

The movie is devastating as it reaches into the viewer and takes a piece of them along with their tears.

In the end, the audience can see that the only way to handle grief is not the way other people tell you to, but by following your own path, which is different for each individual.

Friday, December 3, 2010

BURLESQUE

By D.E.Levine

By D.E.Levine

Director: Steve Antin
Writer: Steve Antin
Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Alan Cumming, Eric Dane, Julianne Hough, Cam Gigandet, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Dianna Agron, Glynn Turman,
David Walton, Terrence Jenkins, Chelsea Traille, Tanee McCall,
Producer: Donald De Line
Executive Producers: Dana Belcastro, Stacy Cramer, Glenn S. Gainor and Risa Shapiro
Associate Producer: Bojan Bezelli and Dave Goldberg
Original Music: Christophe Beck
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance

Can a large budget, musical extravaganza with a strong cast of performers be a bad film? The answer, in this case, is yes.

Although Cher looks amazing and performs in her usual fashion, and Christina Aguilera has numerous musical numbers, elaborate costumes and a different wig in every scene, the magic just isn't there.

This may be because the story of an unknown country orphan (from Iowa here) who comes to Hollywood looking for a break and finally gets it, has been told repeatedly.

But there are other reasons why the film falls flat. In this case, the orphan (Ali) finds a place with the dysfunctional "family" of a seedy Sunset Strip club, initially working as a waitress and then, miraculously stepping in to fill the spot of a non-performing "star."

The elaborate costumes and original songs don't undo the garish appearance that accompanies each scene. While the songs are tuneful and in many cases the lyrics were written by Aguilera, you don't walk out humming them the way you did with Cabaret. Diane Warren provides the one ballad "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me", but the scene where it's presented doesn't do the song justice.

While the film tries to be glamorous, there's very little character development. We're not even certain how old Ali is or what her back story and motivation are for her.

When the music plays and the production numbers are on, the film is bearable. However, once the music stops there's nothing to convince the viewer that the characters are real and they have real hopes, dreams and motivation.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

THE COMPANY MEN

By D.E.Levine

By D.E.Levine

Director: John Wells
Writer: John Wells
Cast: Ben Afleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson, Kevin Costner, Dana Eskelson, Sasha Spielberg, Thomas Kee, Craig Mathers, Suzanne Rico, Gary Galone, Adrianne Krstansky, Lewis D. Wheeler, Celeste Oliva et al.
Producers: Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein and John Wells
Executive Producer: Barbara A. Hall
Co-producer: Jinny Joung
Original Music: Aaron Zigman
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Anyone who has ever been laid off or fired from a job, or has a friend or relative who has lost their job, can relate to this film.

Sitting in a darkened theater watching the story unfold, it is disheartening but totally realistic regarding how bottom line profits dictate careers and futures, regardless of loyalty, hard work and dedication.

Focusing on the downsizing done at a fictional Boston corporation, GTX, the film is sad but true about corporate executive 50 and over who have dedicated their lives (and in some instances their families) for the corporation. It's also a riveting and horrifying awakening to younger corporate climbers.

Perhaps because the world is currently suffering such a high rate of unemployment and uncertainty, as well as financial failures in business, Ponzi schemes and mortgage scandals resulting in home repossession, the audience is pulled into this story and suffers along with the predicaments its characters endure.

With a stellar cast and a strong story, this is an unhappy commentary about what happens to people who are defined by their jobs. Once those jobs are taken away from them, in addition to the financial deprivation and adjustment, their identities are also at risk.

As sad as this story is, the film is a gem. It shows what we've all learned over the past few years. Corporate beneficence and loyalty to longtime employees no longer exists.

It's also obvious that there was some heavy editing done as some subplots are all but abandonned. But even with some flaws this is definitely well worth seeing and perhaps, in part, an education to the current workforce.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

THE FIGHTER

By D.E.Levine

By D.E.Levine

Director: David O. Russell
Writer: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington (story)
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O'Keefe, Jack McGee, Micky Ward, Melissa McMeeken, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Jill Quigg, Dendrie Taylor, Kate B. O'Brien, Jenna Lamia, Frank Rezulli, Paul Campbell, Catlin Dwyer et al.
Producers: Dorothy Aufiero, David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman, Paul Tamasy and Mark Wahlberg
Executive Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Keith Dorrington, Eric Johnson, Tucker Tooley and Leslie Varrelman
Co-producers: Ken Halsband and Jeff G. Waxman
Original Music: Michael Brook
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport

After so many great boxing films one has to wonder what is left to say about the fight game.

In this truly remarkable film, David O. Russell directs a brilliant film that focuses on a very toxic blue collar family that brutalizes its youngest son who ironically is their best chance for achieving boxing and worldly success.

There are, of course, the recurring images of a fighter working with his trainer. In this case, Micky is the fighter with promise, and Dicky, his older brother, is his trainer who once was a promising fighter himself but gave in to drugs and prison.

Telling the true story set in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1990s, among the working class, we see the domineering mother/manager and the six older sisters who play an integral part in everything Micky attempts, including his relationship with a girl.

Micky basically supports his family by taking physical abuse in the ring. He is both literally and figuratively a human punching bag. Played by Mark Wahlberg, who grew up knowing the real family and championed the making of the film, Micky is the central figure but initially his role is rather passive.

Dicky, who has drug induced feelings of grandiosity, is a much more flamboyant role and is brilliantly played by Christian Bale.

Family is central to this film. And, this isn't a dysfunctional family. Rather it's a very functional and destructive family.

It would seem that The Fighter is geared for defeat until Micky's new and strong girlfriend challenges his mother and sisters and turns the story into one of hope instead of defeat.

In the end, The Fighter becomes a story about elation, hope and optimist, as well as a biographical picture about an individual.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BARNEY'S VERSION

By D.E.Levine

Director: Richard J. Lewis
Writer: Mordechai Richler (novel); Michael Konyves (screenplay)
Cast: Paul Giametti, Macha Grenon, Paul Gross, Atom Egoyan, Mark Camacho, David Pryde, Mark Addy, Minnie Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Saul Rubinek, Howard Jerome, Rosamunde Pike, Rachelle Lefevre et al.
Producer: Robin Lantos
Executive Producer: Mark Musselman
Co-producers: Lyse Lafontaine, Ari Lantos and Domenico Procacci
Original Music: Pasquale Cantolano
Running Time: 134 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Once again Paul Giamatti give a brilliant portrayal in a small film. The story of Barney Panofsky's "wasted life" and the scandals that occurred during his lifetime and followed him to his grave.

Believed to be the most autobiographical of Mordechi Richler's novels, Barney is an uncomfortable member of Montreal's tightly knit Jewish enclave.

His father (Dustin Hoffman), is a retired Jewish policeman who is outspoken and irascible.

He succeeds easily at business but has less success in the romantic area. Despite that, he marries three times and fathers children.

Wrestling throughout his life with success, failure, friendship, love and finally time. Barney's behavior, both good and bad, is always rippling across the universe.

Barney leads a life of excess. We never fully understand Barney's ability to charm beautiful, intelligent women. There's also the question of whether he got away with murder.

What is a small film is two hours of intelligent portrayals and interesting story. The audience is never bored with Barney and his shenanigans but rather engrossed in what happens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

HEARTLESS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Philip Ridley
Writer: Philip Ridley
Cast: Jim Sturgess,Clemence Posey, Nigel Clarke, Luke Treadaway, Justin Salinger
Producers: Pippa Cross and Richard Raymond
Executive Producers: Steve Christian, Steve Norris, Marc Samuelson, Nigel Thoman and Charlotte Walls, Timothy Spall
Co-producer: Andrew Fingret
Line Producer: Alexander O'Neal
Original Music: David Julyan
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Horror

This is a psychological thriller that has a lot of heart despite being called "Heartless."

Jamie, a shy, East Londoner facially disfigured by a wine-colored birthmark is still suffering from the death of his beloved father 10 years before. An introverted photographer, Jamie has learned to endure the gawking stares of neighbors and strangers.

Extremely watchable, Jim Sturgess, as Jamie, fatefully interacts with supernatural beings in a suspenseful thriller. Even when pushed to murderous extremes, Jamie is extremely sympathetic to the audience.

One night, when wandering through the East End Jamie discovers that the gang of thugs wearing demon masks and terrorizing the neighborhood are actually demons. However, before he can tell anyone, Jammie and his mother are attacked, and his mother is killed.

While the film initially makes Jamie appear to be going the vigilante route, after a meeting with Papa B the "patron of random violence", Jamie is seduced into a Fasutian agreement where Papa B will remove his disfigurement and make him normal in return for his doing some extremely bad things.

While special effects are used sparingly, there is a strong supporting cast that helps achieve a truly scary experience for the audience.

RARE EXPORTS; A CHRISTMAS STORY

By D.E.Levine

Director: Jalmari Helander
Writer: Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander (original idea); Jalmari Helander (screenplay); Petri Jokiranta (dramaturge); Sam Parkkinen
Cast: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ilmari Jarvenpaa, Peeter Jakobi, Jonathan Hutchings, Risto Salmi et al.
Producers: Agnes B, Anna Bjork, Francois-Xavier Frantz, Petri Jokiranta and Knut Skoglund
Line Producer: Anna Bjork
Original Music: Juri Seppa and Miska Seppa
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Country of Origin: Finland
Language: Finish with English subtitles
Genre: Action, Comedy, Fantasy

Have you ever thought of Santa Claus as being a sinister figure? Well, in this bizarre Finnish fairy tale, Santa is sinister and he and his demon helpers kidnap children.

Set in northern Finland just before Christmas, and American drilling operation unearths a giant block of ice that spouts gigantic horns.

When children from a neighboring village start disappearing and the local reindeer hunters find their annual reindeer crop slaughtered, it's obvious something's amiss.

Only a little boy named Pietari understands who's behind the foul deeds and he has to convince his father about what's happening and that they should fight back.

This strange fairy tale portrays Santa as a wizened troll who bites off ears while his demonic elves are naked, wizened graybeards (filming in the buff in the frozen north of Finland must have been challenging).

There's a lot of deadpan humor in this tale but beware very young youngsters will be terrified of Santa after seeing this film. Tweeners, on the other hand, will probably admire and cheer on the child-hero.

Monday, November 15, 2010

WINTER'S BONE

By D.E.Levine

Director: Debra Granik
Writer: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (screenplay); David Woodrell (novel)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Isaiah Stone, Ashlee Thompson. Valerie Richards, Shelley Waggener, Garrett Dillahunt et al.
Producers: Alex Madigan and Anne Rosellini
Executive Producers: Jonathan Scheuer and Shawn Simon
Co-producer: Kathryn Dean
Associate Producer: Michael McDonough
Line Producer: Kathryn Dean
Original Music: Dickon Hinchliffe
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Dram, Mystery, Thriller

Jennifer Lawrence gives an amazing performance as Ree Dolly, a 17-year old in the Ozarks, who acts as a homemaker for her younger brother and sister and a caregiver for her mentally ill mother.

Her father, who was jailed for cooking methampethamine, is now absent from the scene and gives no emotional or financial support to the family.

By scraping along on welfare and the assistance of kind neighbors, Ree undertakes to be the head of the household and the head of the family.

Filmed on location in the Ozarks, this film resembles the depression despite the fact that it takes place in the present.

Despite the lack of parental guidance, Ree has grown up a strong, self-reliant young woman. Therefore it's no surprise that when the local sheriff reports that Ree's father Jessup has skipped bail and put up the house to meet his bond, Ree sets out to find him so that the family won't become homeless within the week.

In her own quiet way, without threatening or boasting, Ree becomes a hero and steadfastly believes that people will "do the right thing."

During the search for her father, Ree must meet with his brother, her uncle, and face the fact that Jessup is probably dead. The problem is that without proof, such as a body, the family will still be put out of the house and become homeless.

As Ree conducts her journey, there is a quiet, steadfast resolve, and the writers focus on the humanity of each character instead of the type of the type of caricature they seem to represent.

This is not a happy film. The story and the characters are almost too much to bear. However, throughout it Ree remains optimistic and strong, never allowing herself to be torn down by the conditions and surroundings.

Truly, Winter's Bone is a remarkable film and commentary on life and human existence.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

TRON LEGACY 3D

By D.E.Levine

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writer: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (screenplay); Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (story) and Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird (characters)
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen, Anis Cheufa
Producers: Sean Bailey, Steven Lisberger and Jeffrey Silver
Executive Producers: Donald Kushner
Co-producers: Steve Gaub, Justis Greene and Justin Springer
Associate Producer: Bruce Franklin
Production Executive: Brigham Taylor
Original Music: Daft Punk
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Long anticipated, Tron Legacy doesn't disappoint as a fantasy filled science fiction spectacular filled with stunning special effects.

Seen in 3D, all of the action and effects are enhanced into something spectacular. While it may not be a thought-provoking psychological film, it's lots of fun.

Picking up 28 years after the original Tron was made, Tron Legacy stars Jeff Bridges, once again, as the software developer father who was seduced by a video game and disappeared inside the Tron universe (which exists entirely within computer chips).

Sam Flynn grew up an orphan since his father Kevin disappeared 20 years ago and now he receives an electronic message that lures him into joining his father into the Tron universe.

Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, both in a flashback to 20 years before, taking leave of his son, and now in the Tron universe. His remarkably youthful appearance in the flashback isn't due to expert makeup but rather due to CGI special computer effects that do a remarkable job of making him look exactly like a young Jeff Bridges.

And the younger Flynn doesn't just appear in the flashback but sticks around to play a character named Clu, who is the adversary in this fantasy.

Clu of course is the digital doppelganger that Flynn created, and who now wants to control the world.

After a reconciliation between Kevin and Sam, they are joined by the beautiful Quorra. Played by Olivia Wilde (former Number Thirteen on House), who looks fabulous in a tight, form-fitting outfit and short wig, there are definite sparks between Sam and Quorra. There is the problem that she's virtual and he's a real human. Can love exist between them?

Tron Legacy is very action oriented - much more so than the original Tron and a far cry from the sedentary Hal in 2001.

Jeff Bridges is outstanding reprising the role of Kevin Flynn. Even his current craggy looks are enhanced by the neon-lit costumes and stunning sets and special effects.

Michael Sheen (formerly David Frost and other historical figures) gives a remarkable performance whose transformation leaves the audience amazed that it's truly Michael Sheen.

This film is sure to be a blockbuster because of the anticipation, the great cast and the remarkable special effects - regardless of the weak and confusing story.

The music by Daft Punk is electronic and enhances the overall effect of the film.

Overall, the film is an experience that will be enjoyed and discussed whether it's a "great" film in the annals of film history or not.

Certainly, Tron Legacy 3D is new and exciting and paves the way for still more creativity and originality in the movie industry.

THE GHOST WRITER

By D.E.Levine

Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Robert Harris and Roman Polanski (screenplay); Robert Harris (novel)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jon Bernthal, Eli Wallach, Tim Preece, James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Anna Botting, Kim Cattrall, Tim Faraday, Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Wilkinson, Desiree Erasmus, David Rintoul et al.
Producers: Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski and Alain Sarde
Executive Producer: Henning Molfenter
Co-producers: Tim Burrill, Christoph Fisser and Charlie Woebcken
Line Producer: Oliver Luer and Christian von Tippelskirch
Original Music: Alexandre Desplat
Running Time: 128 Minutes
Country of Origin:
Language: English
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Despite all the adverse publicity centering around his personal life, at 76 Roman Polanski has turned out one of his best films.

Commenting on contemporary politics and the helplessness of individuals against the powerful already entrenched, The Ghost Writer reminds one of a Hitchcock film, especially when paired with the original score of Alexandre Desplat.

Once again Polanski has provided the adult viewing audience with a film that alternates spellbinding suspense episodes with those of comic relief.

This technique too is that of pure Hitchcock, but Polanski has used it successfully in the past with films like Rosemary's Baby.

Because it's based on a contemporary novel, the audience can recognize and relate to a former prime minister (strangely like Tony Blair) who is a central character, and the ghost writer hired to enhance his memoirs (label that rewrite professionally).

Throughout the film there are some unexpected twists and turns that add to the suspense and let the viewer know that cleverly both the writers have made sure things are never as they seem.

Every carefully chosen member of the cast performs well, including an unglamorous Kim Cattrall in a departure from her Sex in the City role, and 94 year old Eli Wallach, who can still steal any scene where he appears.

It's obvious that despite the notoriety in his personal life, it hasn't hampered the creative genius and meticulous consideration of detail that distinguishes one of Polanski's films from that of his contemporaries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Edward Zwick
Writer: Charles Randolph, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz (screenplay); Jamie Reidy (book)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, George Segal, Jill Clayburgh, Kate Jennings Grant, Katheryn Winnick, Kimberly Scott, Natalie Gold et al.
Producers: Pieter Jan Brugge, Marshall Herskovitz, Charles Randolph, Scott Stuber and Edward Zwick
Executive Producer: Margaret Riley
Associate Producers: Darin Rivetti and Troy Putney
Production Executive: Alexa Faigen
Original Music: James Newton Howard
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama

Love and Other Drugs is an interesting film in that while being a romantic comedy it also tackles the very serious problem of Parkinson's Disease.

Perhaps the fact that Michael J. Fox is thanked on the end credits points out that the research into and knowledge about the disease is realistic.

Set in the 1990s the film follows a young man navigating the pharmaceutical industry as a Pfizer representative.

While fighting his way out of Pittsburgh to a job in Chicago this young man learns the trade, outwits the competition, smooth talks and bribes the client doctors and falls for an attractive young woman.

Despite an abundance of nudity and sex, the two are careful not to fall in love because she's in the early stages of Parkinson's.

Although they have a torrid romance going, we see the struggles she faces when the tremors in her hands prevent her from working or the pharmacy is closed and she can't get her medication.

Determined to find a cure, the pharmaceutical rep who's now successfully marketing Viagra, spends his time and money flying his girlfriend all over the country for consultations and tests.

Even though they agreed not to fall in love, they do and instead of running away from the problem, the arrogant good looking sales rep shoulders responsibility in an admirable fashion.

How they face their emotional needs and her growing medical problems develops into a tender love story with a surprise ending.

The film is amusing and funny with a strong undercurrent of serious issues about medical problems and complications.

Friday, November 12, 2010

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 1

By D.E.Levine

Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves (screenplay); J.K.Rowling (novel)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Bill Nighy, Richard Griffiths, Henry Melling, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright, Ian Kelly, Michelle Fairley, Fiona Shaw, Alan Rickman, Carolyn Pickles, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Helen McCrory, Jason Issacs, Tom Felton, Timothy Spall, Graham Duff, Peter Mullan, Guy Henry, Michael Gambon, David Ryall, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Mark Williams, George Harris, Andy Linden, Domhnall Gleeson, Clemence Poesy, Natalia Tena, David Thewlis, John Hurt, Frances de la Tour, Evanna Lynch, Rhys Ifans, et al.
Producers: David Barron and David Heyman
Executive Producer: Lionel Wigram
Co-producer: Tim Lewis
Original Music: Alexandre Desplat
Running Time: 146 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

It's difficult to keep a franchise fresh and interesting. This is the first part of the seventh and last book of the Harry Potter franchise.

While the story doesn't rely on viewers having seen the previous six films, and there are flashbacks that fill in some of the blanks, knowledge of the books and previous films is definitely helpful.

It's also difficult to keep your child actors children and in this film it's readily apparent that Ron Weasley is more muscular and taller than Harry Potter, his brothers and many of the other characters.

Harry looks older than his 17 years and Draco Malfoy looks absolutely old (which may be why we don't see many full faced shots of him.

Ginny Weasley has grown from a little girl into a tall young woman and Hermione Granger looks and acts all grown up.

Taking into account that the characters are growing up and Professor Dumbledore is dead, Harry and his friends are intent upon overcoming He Who Shall Not Be Named (Lord Voldemort), especially since the Dark Lord wants to establish a race of "pure blood wizards" and is busy eliminating Muggles and accusing many wizards and witches of being impure and/or traitors.

Once again, there are lots of special effects, time transport through access ports, and plenty of magical spells and potions. However, this film is definitely less bloody and slower paced than the previous films.

A great deal of the action takes place in the countryside where Harry and Hermione, and later Ron, hide out while searching for the Deathly Hallows so they can destroy them.

But, the three also face the wrath of the Wizards Ministry while infiltrating their home turf.

Naturally, just when you think you know what's going to happen next, something unexpected happens.

With a cliffhanger ending, Part I will make it an absolute necessity for fans and followers to see Part 2 which will be released during the summer of 2011.

127 HOURS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy (screenplay); Aron Ralston (book)
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Sean Bott, Koleman Stinger, Treat Williams, John Lawrence, Kate Burton, Bailee Michelle Johnson, Rebecca C. Olson, Parker Hadley, Clemence Posey, Fenton Quinn, Lizzy Caplan et al.
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson and Jon Smithson
Executive Producers: Bernard Bellew, Lisa Marie Falcone, Francois Ivernel, John J. Kelly, Cameron McCracken and Tessa Ross
Co-producer: Tom Heller and Gareth Smith
Associate Producer: Diamuid McKeown
Original Music: A.R.Rahman
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama

A few years ago (2003) Aron Ralston made the news because when his arm became trapped under a boulder while he was hiking alone in a canyon near Moab, Utah.

After many hours of suffering and hallucinating, when he realized that his arm was dying and poisoning his body, he cut through the bone and amputated the arm, wrapped up the stump and hiked back through the canyon until he found help.

Hacking off his arm undoubtedly saved his life, since the arm's circulation had been shut off and gangrene had set in. The experience was and as told, is gut wrenching.

127 Hours covers the time between Ralston's start of his hike, through the accident and through his rescue.

There are numerous flashbacks about his life and some extremely gory scenes when he severs the arm.

Despite other actors that appear briefly in scenes prior to the accident and in flashbacks, essentially it is James Franco playing Aron Ralston who carries the film and in the end, the inspirational message it achieves.

This film will not appeal to everyone and even those with strong stomachs may have difficulty with the amputation scenes.

It is simultaneously fascinating and repulsive to viewers. Because it's a difficult film to watch one has to wonder why viewers would want to subject themselves to the ordeal.

While Franco gives an amazing performance, the film itself may have a limited audience because of the very gory scenes.

However, this is a film, an a performance by Franco, that is well worth seeing and should not be missed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HEMINGWAY'S GARDEN OF EDEN

By D.E.Levine

Director: John Irvin
Writer: James Scott Linville (screenplay); Ernest Hemingway (novel)
Cast: Mena Suvari, Jack Huston, Caterina Murino, Carmen Maura, Richard E. Grant, Matthew Modine, Mathias Palsvig, Hector Tomas, Dritan Biba et al.
Producers: Timothy J. Lewiston and Bob Mahoney
Executive Producer: Lorne Thyssen
Co-producers: Tim Baish,Vincente Tamarit, Geoff Jarrett and Mario Jarisic
Associate Producers: Alice Guien and Wojtek Palys
Line Producer: Al Burgess
Original Music: Roger Julia
Running Time: 70 minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English, Spanish, French
Genre: Drama, Romance

Beautiful vistas and cinematography, exquisite costumes and believable acting are what make this period piece enjoyable to watch.

Made in 2008 and recently acquired by Roadside Attractions, "Hemingway's Garden of Eden" is an adaption of the Ernest Hemingway novel which was published in 1986, after the author's suicide.

The film is set in the jazz era of the 1920s and focuses on newly successful writer David Bourne, his rapid romance and subsequent marriage to heiress Catherine. and their extended honeymoon on the French Riviera.

Instead of being proud of David's achievements and his ability to earn some income through his writing, Catherine becomes increasingly jealous of his abilities.

Without money problems, the couple have a luxurious life although David keeps a regimen of writing while Catherine spends her days shopping.

Experimenting with different appearances through hairstyles and clothes, they are a twosome until Catherine brings the beautiful and sultry Italian heiress Marita home.

The film which initially focuses on the relationship between a male and a female then shifts to examine relationships between the two females and the male and each of the females.

Despite having beauty, money and a devoted husband, Catherine's restlessness ultimately destroys her happiness and several relationships.

Reminiscent of Merchant Ivory films, this is a small but rare and delightful gem.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

THE RED CHAPEL (DET RODE KAPEL)

By D.E.Levine

CHOSEN AS ONE OF "THE CONTENDERS" BY MOMA

Director: Mads Brugger
Writer:
Cast: Mads Brugger, Simon Juls Jurgenson, Jacob Nossell, Mrs. Pak et al.
Producer: Peter Engel
Executive Producer: Peter Aalbaek Jensen
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Country of Origin: Denmark and North Korea
Language: English, Danish, Korean (with English subtitles)
Genre: Documentary, Comedy, Satire

A rather unusual film that is too long even at 88 minutes. The premise is so far-fetched that it's hard to believe anyone had the audacity to even attempt to make this film, much less to accomplish it.

A real Danish journalist, Mads Brugger, decides to make a film in North Korea by taking a Danish comedy troop over in a cultural exchange.

The real reason that Brugger wants to do this is that as an investigative reporter he wants to "infiltrate" North Korea and expose the dictatorship and corruption that abound and have never been seen before.

The North Korean government actually swallows the bait Brugger tosses out and invites Brugger and his comedy troop to tour North Korea.

Brugger's entire comedy troop consists of two Danish-Korea comedians, both of whom were born in North Korea and then adopted by Danish family. Raised in Denmark, neither speaks Korean but are fluent in Danish and English.

One of the comedians, Jacob, suffers from cerebral palsy and describes himself as spastic. His straight man is Simon, and the two of them are actually pretty funny doing slapstick comedy and also reacting to situations they are exposed to in North Korea.

Brugger manages to interject sarcasm into the skits and the film commentary. While the North Korean government may have agreed to allow the comedians to visit because they thought they'd get positive publicity from the visit, the reality is that Brugger exposes the insensitivity and dictatorship of the government.

In the end, the Danes go further than one would think is possible, with their expose and their sarcasm. But, they are also deeply affected by their trip and their exposure to the North Korean culture.

While after the first 40 minutes the film becomes somewhat redundant and drags, overall, this documentary is revealing unusual and well worth viewing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

THE NEXT THREE DAYS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Paul Haggis
Writer: Paul Haggis (screenplay); Fred Cavaye and Guillaume Lemans (screenplay "Pour Elle"
Cast: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Jonathan Tucker, Brian Dennehy, Lennie James et al.
Producers: Olivier Delbosc, Paul Haggis, Marc Missonnier and Michael Nozik
Executive Producers: Anthony Katagas and Agnes Mentre
Co-producer: Eugenie Grandval
Original Music: Danny Elfman and Alberto Iglesias
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Action

An unusual film that focuses on a family torn apart by a wife convicted of murdering her boss and a husband who will goes to any length to save her, The Next Three Days meticulously examines the steps the husband takes to save her.

John Brennan is a mild-mannered professor at a community college. Intelligent but now aggressive, he simply isn't convinced of his wife's guilt.

When the justice system fails and his wife Lara attempts suicide, John decides that he needs to break the law and break his wife,out of prison.

Researching how to conduct a prison break by turning to some criminal types for advice on how to do it, using the Internet for additional advice and trying a variety of techniques, the mild-mannered professor does the impossible.

The amazing thing about this film is that although the protagonist, Brennan, is attempting to commit a crime, he's a good guy just trying to keep his family together and the audience is definitely rooting for him to succeed.

Whether or not he does it is something you'll have to see by viewing the film.

FOUR LIONS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Christopher Morris
Writer: Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Simon Blackwell and Christopher Morris
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Darren Boyd, Riz Ahmed, Craig Parkinson, Preeya Kalidas, Julia Davis, Arsher Ali, Will Adamsdale, Alex MacQueen, Kevin Eldon, Chris Wilson, Adeel Akhtar et al.
Producers: Mark Herbert and Darrin Schlesinger
Executive Producers: Angus Anysley, Carole Baraton, Peter Carlton, Will Clarke, Mark Findlay, Afi Khan, Caroline Leddy and Alex Marshall
Associate Producer: Faisal A. Quereshi
Line Producer: Rebekah Wray Rogers
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English,
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Satire

Four Lions is a hysterically funny satire about four British jihardists who have competing ideologies. They also are apparently totally inept and unable to carry off their terrorist plans with any reasonable facility.

The farce is filled with humorous fiascoes such as a rocket launcher mishap where the jihardists annihilate their own terrorist leaders, which are actually based on real incidents.

If terrorism can have levity added to it, then Christopher Morris has succeeded in doing just that.

While the film is filled with a variety of stereotypical characters, they are uproariously funny.

The terrorists are portrayed as being totally human, with friends, families and common worries, but their terrorism is never condoned.

Instead, despite their emotional commitment and willingness to die for their cause, they are continually unsuccessful at achieving their planned end goals.

Despite their fervor and dedication, everything goes wrong - bad for the jihardists, good for the British empire.

Evidently, as funny as these occurrences are to watch in the film, they actually frequently happen in real life.

THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D

By D.E.Levine

Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Writer: Andrey Konchalovskiy and Cris Solimine (screenplay)
Cast: Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane, John Turturro, Frances de la Tour, Richard E. Grant, Yulia Visotskaya, Yuliya Vysotskaya, Shirley Henderson, Aaron Michael Drozin, Charlie Rowe, Peter Elliott, Daniel Peacock, Alan Cox, Hugh Sachs, Africa Nile, Gyorgy Honti et al.
Producers: Andrey Konchalovskiy and Paul Lowin
Executive Producer: Moritz Borman
Co-producers: Jozsef Cirko and Meg Clark
Line Producer: Laura Julian
Original Music: Eduard Artemiev
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy

This version of the classic tale of The Nutcracker is in 3D and takes certain liberties with the story.

In this version kindly Uncle Albert (who bears a striking resemblance to Albert Einstein) visits his family in Vienna and brings his niece and nephew a wonderful, magical dollhouse with inhabitants, and a nutcracker.

As Christmas falls the nutcracker comes to life and whisks Mary (the niece) away to a place where all Christmas gifts come to life.

It's breathtaking and it's in 3D.

Unfortunately, the villain here is the malevolent Rat King and his mother who are planning to claim the special kingdom for themselves.

There are some horrifying and scary sequences that bring reminiscences of Nazi Germany, both by the storm trooper rats in military uniform and formation, and the bonfire burning of the toys (i.e. books in Nazi Germany).

So the beautiful, wondrous kingdom isn't totally beautiful and wonderful.

Additionally, it turns out that just as in the original tale, the Nutcracker is actually the kingdom's prince who has had an evil spell put on him.

After the Rat King and his mom kidnap the Nutcracker, Mary and the other toys combine their efforts to rescue him and the kingdom by defeating the Rat King.

To do so, they have to discover the Rat King's one true weakness and then strike their blow when he least expects it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BLACK SWAN

By D.E.Levine

CHOSEN AS ONE OF "THE CONTENDERS" BY MOMA

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLauglin (screenplay); Andres Heinz (story)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Ksenia Solo, Sebastian Stan, Barbara Hershey, Toby Hemingway, Janet Montgomery, Christopher Gartin, Kristina Anapau, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Adriene Couvillion, Deborah Offner, Shaun O'Hagan, Marty Krzywonos et al.
Producers: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer and Brian Oliver
Executive Producers: Jon Avnet, Brad Fischer, Peter Fruchtman, Ari Handel, Jennifer Roth, Rick Schwartz, Tyler Thompson and David Thwaites
Co-producer: Jerry Fruchtman
Original Music: Clint Mansell
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Thriller

This is a fascinating psychological thriller about a young ballerina whose life takes some strange twists after she is selected to play the lead in a New York City production of Swan Lake.

Following the ballet dancers as they rehearse and plot to achieve more prominent status, the Black Swan gives us insight into the machinations of the ballet business (and make no mistake about the fact that despite the dedication by dancers and teachers it is very much a business).

Fundraisers are successful by being charming and selecting the dancers that not only fill the dancing requirements but also satisfy the political needs of the organization.

There's jealousy and backstabbing, bulimia and starvation, and a multitude of other physical and psychological problems.

Natalie Portman seems to have overcome some of her poorer choices of roles and seems admirably suited for the role of Nina, a technically proficient dancer who strives for perfection.

Barbara Hershey, as her overbearing mother who gave up her own dance career to raise her daughter, certainly bears noticeable responsibility for many of her daughter's problems.

The casting and acting are strong and the moves along quickly without ever lagging or becoming boring.

Black Swan appears to be a gem among the films of 2010.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MADE IN DAGENHAM

By D.E.Levine

Director: Made in Dagenham
Writer: William Ivory
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winstone, Lorraine Stanley, Nicola Duffett, Geraldine James, Bob Hoskins, Matthew Aubrey, Daniel Mays, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Phil Cornwell, Karen Seacombe, Thomas Arnold, Sian Scott, Robbie Kay et al.
Producers: Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley
Executive Producer: Tim Haslam
Line Producers: Laurie Borg
Original Music: David Arnold
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Comedy

Made in Dagenham is a fictionalized account of a true incident that occurred at the Ford automotive factory in Dagenham, England in 1968.

Focusing on the rebellion and strike of the women seamstresses who did piece work on the interior of the cars by stitching fabric together without patterns and were vastly underpaid both as women and as unskilled labor, the film brings to light the women who until now have never publicly taken credit for changing the pay scale for women throughout the world.

As part of the automotive workers union, the women were expected to accept less than half of what men were paid and to let the male union leaders dictate what they could and could not do.

Instead, without formal strike training, they banded together, walked out on strike and demanded their just requests.

Eventually they were invited to meet with British Employment Minister Barbara Castle, a woman who until their strike had not championed their requests, but after meeting with them forced Ford into an immediate pay raise agreement.

The outcome of the story is victory and within a couple of years countries throughout the world were adopting the British pay model of "equal pay" for women as their own.

The cast is first rate and believable, giving strong, credible performances. Most importantly, since the women who achieved the equal pay status never bragged of their achievement, even to their children and grandchildren, it highlights an important event in history.

We can only hope that the saga of the Ford Dagenham plant and what these women achieved will someday be taught in school curriculum both in the UK and abroad, as it was an event that literally changed the world.

THE KING'S SPEECH

By D.E.Levine

CHOSEN AS ONE OF "THE CONTENDERS" BY MOMA

Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler (screenplay)
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Adrian Scarborough, Robert Portal, Richard Dixon, Paul Trussell, Andrew Havill, Charles Armstrong, Roger Hammond, Calum Gittins, Jennifer Ehle, Domenic Applewhite, Ben Wimsett, Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez, David Bamber, Jake Hathaway, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, Patrick Ryecart, Teresa Gallagher, Simon Chandler, Claire Bloom, Orlando Wells, Tim Downie, Dick Ward, Eve Best, John Albasiny, Timothy Spall, Danny Emes, Anthony Andrews, John Warnaby and Roger Parrott
Producers: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin
Executive Producers: Paul Brett, Mark Foligno, Geoffrey Rush, Tim Smith, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein
Co-producers: Simon Egan and Peter Heslop
Co-executive producers: Phil Hope and Deepak Sikka
Associagte Producer: Charles Dorfman
Original Music: Alexandre Desplat
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom and Australia
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Biography History

In this brilliant film, Colin Firth stars as Queen Elizabeth II's father, who became King George VI when his brother David (Edward VII) abdicated the throne to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson.

Taken from the true historical story about the prince's lifelong speech impediment, the film deals factually but compassionately with the story of the stuttering that plagued the King from the time he was a child prince.

Despite a real desire to overcome the impediment, and the urgings of his father, King George V, who sometimes threw him into the lion's den by sending him off to make a public speech (unsuccessfully), the young prince failed time and time again.

Already married, with two small daughters, when this film opens, the film shows a prince who never desired to be king and certainly didn't believe he could speak publicly or on the radio in an effective manner.

With his wife Elizabeth supporting him in his attempts to overcome the impediment, he agrees to study with an Australian commoner speech therapist who lacks the title "Dr." and all the "right" credentials (according to his advisers.

A lifelong friendship develops between King George and Lionel Logue, as Logue teaches him how to live with and rise above his stuttering.

The title refers to both the King's speech problems and the famous speech he gave on the radio when Great Britain entered into World War II.

Although the Prince/King's speech impediment was never hidden from the public, as far as I can remember no one has sought to tell the story with tact and empathy in a film. Not until now.

Colin Firth's portrayal is remarkable in that while actors are taught to speak smoothly and emote, he had to teach himself to stutter and to do it so that it appears as part of his normal speech.

Much of the film centers on closeups of Firth and Rush's faces, capturing astounding emotions as they take on these roles.

While this may have started out as a small art film, with the involvement of the Weinstein brothers as executive producers and the amazing performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech has turned into a brilliant piece which may well earn a number of awards on both sides of the Atlantic.

Monday, November 1, 2010

RED HILL

By D.E.Levine

Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tommy Lewis, Claire van der Boom, Christopher Davis, Kevin Harrington, Richard Sutherland, Ken Radley, John Brumpton, Cliff Ellen, Jim Daly, Dom Phelan, Eddie Baroo, Tim Hughes, Ken Connley, Richard E. Young and Jennifer Jarman-Walker
Producers: Al Clark and Patrick Hughes
Executive Producers: Rob Galluzzo, Greg Mclean and Craig McMahon
Associate Producers: Rachel Higgins and Kate Menzies
Line Producer: Ray Hennessy
Original Music: Dmitri Golovko
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Country of Origin: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Action, Thriller, Western

Red Hill is a surprisingly good, taut western thriller that takes place in the rugged Australian countryside.

Centering on Shane Cooper, a young constable who relocates to the Australian countryside so his pregnant wife can have a quieter environment, the film focuses on his first day which turns out to be anything but the quiet time he expected.

Dealing with a prison outbreak and the escape of a convicted murderer who wants vengeance against the residents of Red Hill, Cooper is initiated into a job he may have trained for but never actually expected.

An extremely violent and bloody film, this is not for youngsters. However, it is a good action thriller that keeps the viewer absorbed and on the edge of his/her seat throughout.

There are also unexpected twists and turns along the way with a surprise ending that adds to the overall tension of the film.

The casting is well done with the various actors believable in their characters and each contributing an essential part to the overall plot.

A small film, it's not known how it will be received to large audiences, but it's a film well worth seeing for good action and thrills.

MOMA ANNOUNCES "THE CONTENDERS"

By D.E.Levine

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has released a list of outstanding films and which it calls "The Contenders".

Noting that these films resonate beyond the traditional theatrical appearance but frequently have difficulty getting distribution for commercial release and/or appearance at film festivals, MOMA is running special screenings at the museum.

The full Contender List includes:

I Am Love
Henry of Navarre
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Black Swan
The Social Network
A Film Unfinished
Never Let Me Go
Waste Land
The Kids Are All Right
Winter's Bone
Last Train Home
World on a Wire
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The King's Speech
The Red Chapel
The Ghost Writer
Inception

All of these films are well worth screening and MOMA makes it possible to see them in a comfortable theater setting.

Many of these films were reviewed over the past few months on the pages of Cinefilms, as I attended press screenings and some may well walk away with multiple awards this year.

Over the next few weeks I hope to review the remainder of the films so that readers can have an idea regarding whether they want to see these films or not.

All of these films are in release now, although some may appear only in smaller art houses, while others are gaining momentum and are being pushed by PR firms and production houses as awards season approaches.

Monday, October 25, 2010

HEREAFTER

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Peter Morgan
Cast: Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Cyndi Mayo Davis, Lisa Griffiths, Jessica Griffiths, Ferguson Reid, Derek Sakakura, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind, Charlie Creed-Miles, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Lyndsey Marshal, Rebekah Staton, Declan Conlon, Byrce Dallas Howard et al.
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy and Robert Lorenz
Executive Producers: Frank Marshall, Tim Moore, Peter Morgan and Steven Spielberg
Original Music: Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English, French
Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller, Action, Suspense

This is an unusual film as Clint Eastwood tackles the question of whether there is life after death - a place where people go and exist when they die.

The film is actually comprised of three interwoven stories about people who are touched by death in different ways.

Matt Damon is George, an American blue collar worker who has psychic ability and a special connection to the afterlife. He's given up practicing as a psychic because of the pressure it imposes on him and his inability to live a "normal" life.

Marie, a French journalist played by Cecile De France, has an actual near death experience that shakes her reality, causes her to question life and death, and changes her life forever.

Marcus, a London schoolboy who loses the person closest to him seeks answers from everyone he can contact - most of whom are widely publicized but scam artists nevertheless - until he finds George.

The lives of these three individuals intersect and cause each to question the reality of the existence of an afterlife.

Eastwood has tackled many types of stories but never one like this. While it seems a bit long and drags in places, overall it addresses a topic of interest to many and provides and ending that is open to individual interpretation.

Friday, October 8, 2010

MYSTERIES OF LISBON

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Raoul Ruiz
Writer: Camilo Castelo Branco (novel), Carlos Saboga (screenplay)
Cast: Lea Seydoux, Melvil Poupaud, Clothilde Hesme, Jose Alfonso Pimentel, Catarina Wallenstein, Maria Joao Bastos, Lena Friedrich, Filipe Vargas, Malik Zidi, Joana Pinhao Botelho, Albano Jeronimo, Ricardo Pereira, Carlo Cotta, Adriano Luz, Margarida Vilanova et al.
Producer: Paulo Branco
Original Music: Jorge Arriagada and Luis de Freitas Branco
Running Time: 270 Minutes
Country of Origin: Portugal/France
Language: Portugese and French with English subtitles
Genre: Historical Drama

Lush country vista, ornate palaces and elegant costumes are presented by Chilean director Raoul Ruiz in this epic film.

Originally produced as a six hour mini series, the episodes were edited into a long but beautiful film.

The story is an adaption of a famous nineteenth century novel by Camilo Castelo Branco which evokes a tale over decades where many characters' lives cross and intersect, separate and intersect again.

The initial narrator is a 14-year old boy living in an orphanage who longs to discover his true parentage. The bastard son of two members of aristocracy who were forbidden to marry, the boy initially is introduced to his mother by the priest who runs the school where he lives.

His mother is married to a controlling count who dictates her life and fortune. Slowly, through the priest and his mother, the young boy learns the truth about his birth and identity.

The tale follows many characters through a complex life over many years and travels, unveiling many surprises and unexpected occurrences.

Although long, the beauty of the sets and costumes, the alluring cinematography and the superb acting by all of the actors, prevents the film from ever being boring.

As of the screening, the mini series had not been presented on TV yet. Whether or not such a long film will find an audience in theaters remains to be seen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

THE TEMPEST

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Julie Taymor
Writer: William Shakespeare (original play), Julie Taymor (screenplay)
Cast: Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Albert Molina, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn, Ben Whishaw, Felicity Jones, Tom Conti et al.
Producers: Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Jason K. Lau, Julia Taylor-Stanley and Julie Taymor
Executive Producers: Ronald M. Bozman, John C. Ching, Rohit Kattar, Deborah Y. Lau and Greg Strasburg
Co-executive producer: Beaux Carson
Original Music: Elliot Goldenthal
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy

It may be a 400 year old play but Julie Taymor has put a new spin on it by making the lead a woman named Prospera.

Although Taymor has directed The Tempest on stage, this proves to be a bit of a weakness since she attempts to use stage direction for the film and it doesn't quite work.

Casting Helen Mirren as the female Prospera, a part always male (Prospero) in previous productions seems a bit strange to everyone familiar with the story.

The basic story is about an exiled wizard living on a desolate island and obsessively protecting her daughter from the world (which is actually the only other island inhabitant).

However, by changing the main character from a male usurped duke to a deposed female causes a diminishing in the tension that normally exists between Prospero and the daughter.

The tension never intensifies in this version and the film remains somewhat lukewarm despite a talented cast and a reknowned play.

INSIDE JOB

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Charles Ferguson
Writer: Chad Beck and Adam Bolt
Cast: Matt Damon (narrator)
Producers:
Executive Producers:
Co-producers:
Associate Producers:
Original Music:
Running Time:
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

A documentary providing an in-depth comprehensive analysis at the 2008 global financial crisis.

Costing over $20 million dollars, millions of people lost jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Filmed on location all over the world, with interviews with well-known scientists and politicians, the film traces the rise of a rogue industry that has corrupted politics, industry and academia.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

BOXING GYM

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Frederick Wiseman
Writer: Unscripted
Cast: Gym Attendees, Richard Lord
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

Frederick Wiseman has made a multi-layered, extremely interesting documentary about a community gym.

The film explores the gym, which concentrates on martial arts, and the varied attendees who join and train because of their interest in martial arts.

The gym membership pay $50 monthly, with no contracts or extra fees and are able to train as much as they want and can handle for that fee.

From the conversations with both the owner/manager Richard Lord and the gym attendees, the film was shot real-time without scripting or rehearsal.

It's an interesting look at the gym and the people who attend and will probably be more appealing to some who have a more intense interest in martial arts and the training necessary to achieve different goals and plateaus within that specialty.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BLACK VENUS

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Writer: Abdellatif Kechiche, Gayla Laroix
Cast: Yahima Torres, Andre Jacobs, Olivier Gourmet, Elina Lowensohn, Francois Marthouret, Michel Gionti, Jean- Christophe Bouvet, Jonathan Pienaar, Remi Martin, Jean-Jacques Moreau et al.
Running Time: 166 Minutes
Country of Origin: France
Language: English, French
Genre: Drama, History

This may not be a great film but it is certainly an interesting and touching one.

The film opens in early 19th century London where a scientist is presenting a lecture at the Museum of Natural History Museum on the Hottentot, a bulky African female who is known for her large posterior and distended labia.

In a Piccadilly sideshow the African slave Sarah Baartman has been dressed in a nude colored body stocking and is paraded onstage as the Hottentot Venus, a sexualized savage from the jungle who has traveled to London and is now appearing on stage.

Released from her cage, Sarah sings and dances and is at the mercy of her "overseer" in front of an enthusiastic London audience.

Is she being exploited? Or is she reaping the benefits of being a star attraction?

She is a star attraction and offstage, dresses like a lady, goes out on the town where she eats, drinks and smokes with gusto, and is accompanied by a couple of young men to do her bidding.

Are they really there to help her or are they keeping track of her for her overseers? Is she really a free woman as she claims in court, or an exploited slave?

It's painful to watch Sarah but watching also raises questions about the spread of slavery in Europe. Although we see Sarah as an "entertainer" we know and learn little about her early years and her upbringing.

How much of the story about slavery and exploitation is true? Was it all a hype to bring in customers or was Sarah really badly abused?

While the film raises more questions and speculation, it answers very few. Overall, the material and performances are fascinating but raise more questions than they answer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) and Ben Mezrich (book0
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Bryan Barter, Dustin Fitzsimons, Arnie Hammer, Josh Pence, Joseph Mazzello, Patrick Mapel, Max Minghella, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake et al.
Producers: Dana Bruneetti, Cean Chaffin, Michael De Luca and Scott Rudin
Executive Producer: Kevin Spacey
Original Music: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: Language
Genre: Drama

The 48th New York Film Festival opens with the much hyped film about the Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard "geek" who formed and rapidly grew the social network, Facebook.

From the start of the film you're aware that Zuckerberg has few or no social skills (which explains his lack of friends), dresses abominably even for a college student, and is only concerned with his programming and blogging.

Mark is smart, probably the smartest guy in the room, regardless of what room he's in. The big drawback is he knows it and that propels him to be consistently rude and obnoxious.

In conversations with his girlfriend he's unable to concentrate and carry on one train of thought, leaping from one thing to another and wearing her down. When she reaches the breaking point and tells him she's breaking up with him he reacts badly.

He takes his anger at his girlfriend and women at Harvard out by blogging distasteful things in public and programming a Facemash site where Harvard men can choose who's hot and who's not.

Whether Zuckerberg knew it or not, Facemash was the predecessor of Facebook. However, it also got him suspended from Harvard.

But things do not run smoothly. Regardless of his brilliance, it turns out that the Facebook concept wasn't totally his alone. The Winklevoss twins from the Harvard rowing team actually had the concept and had already had a couple of programmers working on it by the time they hired Zuckerberg to program for them.

Through a series of flashbacks of lawsuits against Zuckerberg the audience sees that as brilliant as Zuckerberg is, he alienated everyone he dealt with from his only friend through his own attorney.

Seemingly unable to say words as simple as "Thank You", Zuckerberg builds his database and becomes even more alienated from society, not only cutting himself off from people but also angering them through his actions, his ambition, his lack of grace and his seemingly endless ego.

In the film, Zuckerberg's best friend, Eduardo Saverin, who financed the original project and is treated badly after doing so, captures the viewers sympathy in a way that eludes us as far as Zuckerberg himself.

The thing that stands out about Mark Zuckerberg is his cleverness at accepting help from people and then holding them in total contempt. He's simply not a sympathetic character.

It is ironic that the most successful online "community", a social networking web site that has expanded beyond belief and made Zuckerberg incredibly rich, was created by a man who lacks even basic social skills and doesn't interface well with anyone.

When Sean Parker enters the picture, the flamboyant creator of Napster, Eduardo is pushed aside and Mark starts accepting help and introductions from Sean. Parker is so flamboyant and such a "bad boy" that Mark is immediately dazzled by him.

This was shot in digital and makes Harvard seem normal rather than the elitist institution that it is always represented as. But there's no denying that the school is filled with the wealthy, the powerful and the ambitious.

The Winklevoss twins moved on row in the Olympics and also proved enough of their case to receive a huge settlement.

Zuckerberg, who was never invited into the elitist society, was angry, contemptuous and looking to get even and prove he was just as good as they were, or better, so he created a world of his own, based on data.

In our modern world where information rules, the audience can immediately identify with the story and characters as being in the here and now of modern society.

It's an interesting film and reflects our world but doesn't depict any character that you would want to emulate. Except for the money and the fame most of the characters seem to have rather empty lives.

OF GODS AND MEN

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writer: Xavier Beauvois (adpation and dialogue); Etienne Comar
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin, Laic Pichon, Xavier Maly, Jean-Marie Frin, Abdelhafid Metalsi, Sabrina Ouazani, Abdellah Moundy, Olivier Perrier, Farid Larbi, Adel Bencherif et al.
Producers: Pascal Couchetoux and Etienne Comar
Area Executive Producer: Frantz Richard
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Country of Origin: France
Language: French with English subtitles
Genre: Drama

Xavier Beauvois has given us a brilliant film, so well cast, directed and acted that the viewer forgets they are watching a movie and thinks they are observing a real-time story.

Taken from an actual story about eight Cistercian monks who lived in a monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria from 1993 to 1996, the story focuses on their simple life and harmonious existence with their Muslim neighbors.

When Islamic fundamentalists massacred a crew of foreign workers, the monks turned down protection offered by the regional army and then debated whether to remain or leave their monastery.

Living an austere religious life and providing medical and community services to the local population, the monks were faced with the moral delemma of whether to let their fear drive them away from their mission.the

When they all concluded and voted that they wanted to remain, they demonstrated silent strength and courage that was stronger than their fears.

In 1996 seven of the monks were kidnapped and murdered in one of the extreme examples of violence and atrocities culminating from confrontation between the Algerian government and terrorist groups.

The identity of the kidnappers and murderers and the exact circumstances of the monks' deaths have never been known, but the incident had a profound and lasting effect on the governments, religious communities and international public opinion.

In 2003 the case was taken up by a French court. With the recent declassification of previously classified documents, it's hoped that the mystery of who kidnapped and killed the monks may finally be solved.

Beautifully photographed and capturing the spirit of the monastic order, the Muslim community and the spirit of the events, the story begins several weeks before the terrorists issued an ultimatum ordering all foreigners to leave the country.

Running through the film is the ongoing theme of commitment by the monks to the community and the message of peace by which they live and which they want to spread.

After viewing this beautifully made film, it's easy to understand why this film won the Grand Prix 2010 at the Cannes Film Festival.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE ROBBER

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Brenjamin Heisenberg
Writer: Benjamin Heisenberg (screenplay); Martin Prinz (novel)
Cast: Andrew Lust, Franziska Weisz, Florian Wotruba, Johann Bedner, Markus Schleinzer, Peter Vilnai, Max Eidelbacher et al.
Producers: Burkhard Althoff, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Markus Glaser, Peter Heilrath, Michael Kitzberger and Wolfgang Widerhofer
Producer: Anne Even (ZDF/Arte), Heinrich Mis (ORF) and Susanne Spellitz (ORF)
Line Producer: Michael Kitzberger
Original Music: Lorenz Dangel
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Country of Origin: Austria/Germany
Language: German
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Sport

Taken from the true story of Johann Kastenberger, an accomplished Austrian marathon runner and one of the most successful bank robbers in the country's history, this is really and interesting and easy to watch film.

Renamed Rettenberger in the film, the film opens with Rettenberger in prison, working out on a treadmill.

Released, he goes back to bank robbing and then shows up at the state work bureau to apply for help finding a job.

Getting involved with someone who works at the bureau, Rettenberger ostensibly runs to work out, but breaks up his training to successfully rob banks, hiding the money under the bed where he lives.

Some say that his training produced an endorphin high that motivated the robberies and later killings. However, as played in this film, Rettenberger has a problem with society and rehabilitation. He appears almost emotionless and keeps himself remote even when having an affair.

His love interest also seems remote. She covers up their involvement and shows few emotions, but her glances and look convey an enormous amount.

This may constitute an "art" film but it's a masterpiece. More than once when the film appears to be winding down it suddenly ratchets up again. It's intriguing and stimulating and certainly worth seeing.

LENNONNYC

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Michael Epstein
Writer: Michael Epstein
Cast: John Lennon, Yokon Ono, et al.
Producer: Susan Lacy, Jessica Levin and Michael Epstein
Executive Producers: Stanley Buchthal, Michael Cohl and Susa
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

This is a critically acclaimed film that was made for PBS but is premiering in theaters at the 48th New York Film Festival.

As the world remembers John Lennon on what would have been his 70th birthday and the 30th anniversary of his death, it seems fitting to bring this film to the public.

There's a great deal of archival footage, much of which has never been publicly seen. Additionally, Director/writer Epstein interviewed some artists who worked with Lennon, who have never spoken publicly before, as well as artists like Elton John and others.

The film covers the 1970s when Lennon immigrated to America from England. It's mostly a positive portrayal although it does cover his descent into alcohol and drugs when he separated from Yoko and went out to Los Angeles.

Yoko is portrayed as the steadying force that brought him back to his senses and his creativity and since this film was made with the approval and assistance of Yoko Ono, we have to expect it would portray her in a positive light.

For everything good and bad we know about the public performer Lennon, it is the years when he lived with his family in NYC that are the most endearing and appear to have been the happiest in his life.

The ending lacks relevant information as we see the memorials in front of the Dakota but Mark Chapman's name is never mentioned, nor the fact that he has been consistently denied parole and is up for it once again.

Definitely worth seeing one must assume that the film adds to the myth already surrounding John Lennon and is overly reverent about his post-Beatle days.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CERTIFIED COPY

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Adrian Moore et al.
Producers: Angelo Barbagello, Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz and Abbas Kiarostami
Executive Producers: Claire Dornoy and Marin Karmitz
Line Producer: Gaetano Daniele
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Country of Origin: Italy
Language: French and Italian with English subtitles
Genre: Drama

Beautiful Juliette Binoche is beautiful and talented in this film and that's undoubtedly why she won the Best Actress Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

In a beautiful bittersweet comedy set in Italy, Director/writer Abbas Kiarostami veers away from the photography, poetry and experimental films for which he is known.

A tale about an American writer in Tuscany to promote his latest book who meets a French single mom who's running an antique gallery in town.

She invites him to visit her gallery but once there he informs her he'd prefer to drive around in the Tuscan sunshine before his train leaves.

From their initial trip in her car, a male-female clash begins. She's romantic and he's pragmatic.

During the afternoon she avoids her son's phone calls while coming onto the author. She takes him to a wedding chapel and insists they pose with one of the wedding couples, telling the couple a story about having been married there 15 years before.

After a misunderstanding with some locals, she gets the author to pretend they are a long-married couple and they then proceed to have a series of amusing spats.

The film is more of an art film and will probably have limited draw despite Ms. Binoche.

The author is played by famed operatic baritone William Shimell. He does an outstanding and believable job in his first non-singing role.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

OKI'S MOVIE (Ok hui ui yeonghwa)

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Hong Sang-soo
Writer: Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Lee Sunkyun, Jung Yumi and Moon Sungkeun
Producer: Kim Kyounghee
Original Music: We Zongyun
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Country of Origin: South Korea
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Genre: Comedy, Drama

Oki's Movie actually consists of four short films where the three main characters appear in all four of the films, but have different but overlapping roles in each of the films.

The first film "A Day for Incantation" follows Jingu after he has a few successful films produced. Jingu is a philanderer who feels entitled due to his success. He wants to rest on his laurels and achieve success without actually putting in the work. Overall, he's a very annoying character who drinks, smokes and chases women.

The second film "King of Kisses" takes us back to Jingu's college days when he tries to fall in love with a woman. Known as "Psycho" to his friends he pesters Oki with the continual story that he's never dated before. The film seems unfinished and even juvenile as it represents a common form of student filmmakers production.

The third film "After the Snowstorm" finds Professor Song waiting for his students after a snowstorm. The two students, Jingu and Oki, ask questions about life for which Professor song doesn't have good answers. Song claims he isn't very wise and after indulging in a dinner of live octopus, vomits it up outside the restaurant. While the film isn't overly interesting, it does set the stage for the fourth film.

The fourth film "Oki's Movie" is told from the viewpoint of Oki, who compiles a student film to tell her story of loving two men - one older (Professor Song) and one younger (the filmmaker Jingu). The storyline is basically about Oki taking both men to Mt. Acha on different days in winter. Oki's voice provides a voice over telling the viewer what transpired with each visit and how the visits and the two men compared to each other.

The films are interesting but lackluster. The major interest derives from how they compare with other films done by Hong Sang-soo.

POETRY (SHI)

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Chang-dong Lee
Cast: Jeong-Hee Yoon, Nae-sang Ahn, Da-wit Lee, Yong-taek Kim, Hira Kim et al.
Producer: Jun-dong Lee
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Country of Origin: South Korea
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Genre: Drama

Poetry is a very sobering philosophical film. It's also very beautiful and thoughtful.

Mija works as a maid to a disabled elderly man several days a week and cares for her deadbeat ungrateful teenage grandson.

Plagued by constantly forgetting simple words such as "wallet", Mija is in her sixties and senses something is wrong with her, which precipitates her visit to the hospital for tests.

Seeing an advertisement for a poetry class at the local community center, Mija registers and takes her teacher's advice to observe, take notes and write poetry very seriously.

Along the way five fathers of her grandsons friends visit her and report that the six boys were involved in raping a farm girl who later committed suicide.

The fathers decide to pay the girl's mother a settlement of 30 million won, split six ways, so that the family won't sue the school or ruin the six boys' lives.

Mija gets up and leaves the meeting, not just because of the difficulty raising the money but also because she's not convinced that paying a settlement is the right thing to do. Throughout the film she seems to question making the payment.

Mija, on her modest income is unable to come up with her share of the money (5 million won) and tries a variety of people and techniques in order to raise it.

Mija undergoes a great deal of pain and hurt and endures things that are demoralizing and degrading. In the end she learns that loving her grandson doesn't mean she has to protect him from the punishment he deserves.

Director Lee Chang-dong's message is really about how language of your own creation can liberate you, even in the situation where you live in a society where there is institutionalized male aggression.

Monday, September 20, 2010

CARLOS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Olivier Assayas
Writer: Dan Franck and Olivier Assayas
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Beyer, Julia Hummer, Anna Thalbach, Susanne Wuest, Alexander Yassin, Alexander Scheer, Ahmad Kaabour, Juana Acosta, Alejandro Arroyo, Talal El-Jordi, Christoph Bach, Rodney El Haddad et al.
Producers: Daniel Leconte and Jens Meurer,
Executive Producers: Judy Tossell and Ralph Cohen
In-house Line Producer: Marc Wachter
Junior Producer: Undine Filter
Running Time: 330 Minutes
Country of Origin: France
Language: French and Spanish with English subtitles
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

Carlos is a fantastic film but it's 5 hours and 30 minutes long so a viewer must be prepared for some discomfit simply because the break arrives 3 hours and 18 minutes into the showing.

Originally made as a three part television special and shown on German TV, separate or together, Carlos is a formidable undertaking.

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, the film is both illuminating and engrossing. It details the life and career of Carlos the Jackal, a myth in his own time and an extraordinarily adept terrorist who holds a place as a central figure in the annals of international terrorism.

Slated to be shown on the Sundance Channel, the film shows how countries embrace and use terrorists to further their individual domestic and international goals.

While the film is extremely politically informative, the individual, Carlos (aka Ilrich Ramirez Sanchez) is still an enigma about whom little is known making it necessary to label the story as fiction.

A successful killer for hire, Carlos was used repeatedly by African nations only to ultimately be betrayed by them and handed over to French authorities by the Sudan.

Despite the fact that we know the ending, the story is taut, suspenseful, exciting and horrifying all at the same time.

He was arrested in 1997 and had an extremely successful and profitable career as a hired assassin during the 1970s and 1980s when he garnered lots of newspaper space.

What is known was that the man who ultimately became Carlos was born in Venezuala to a Marxist lawyer and was educated in England and the Soviet Union.

When he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Beiruit in 1970, Carlos became the engineer and protagonist in bombings, kidnappings and murders worldwide.

Always surrounded by a following, including many infatuated women, he was intelligent, charming and extremely dangerous.

He was a master at manipulating individuals and organizations and claimed that he knew he would die violently.

As with so many communists and socialists, while claiming his actions are to benefit the masses and the oppressed, Carlos lives in luxury surrounded by plenty of money and women.

The film is intriguing because Carlos managed to elude authorities for so long as well as for the fact that even now while he serves a life sentence in a French prison, it's still difficult to get personal details about the man known as The Jackal.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JACK CARDIFF

By D.E.Levine

2010 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

Director: Craig McCall
Writer: Craig McCall
Cast: Jack Cardiff, Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, John Mills, Alan Parker, Thelma Schoonmaker, Freddie Francis, Raffaella De Laurentis, Richard Fleischer, Peter Yates, Kathleen Byron, Christopher Challis, Kevin McClory, Ian Christie, Moira Shearer, Peter Handford, George E. Turner, Michel Ciment, Michael Powell, Dustin Hoffman, Humphrey Bogart, Sophia Loren, Craig McCall, Niki Cardiff and Deborah Kerr
Producers: Craig McCall and Richard McGill
Executive Producers: Mason Cardiff and Julie Williams
Associate Producers: Sean Broughton, Alex Ireson, Chris Roff, Penny Verbe and Mark Wildig
Original Music: Mark Sayer-Wade
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

Perhaps the greatest of British cinematographers, Jack Cardiff worked well into his nineties and was pretty much revered and acknowledged by everyone for his great abilities.

Starting as a child actor in film, he became a teenage gofer and then learned the process of using a motion picture camera becoming a formidable force both behind the camera and as a director.

Cardiff, who died in 2009, was interviewed at length about the films on which he worked and the dramas and people that surrounded the films.

Very simply, Cardiff was a genius and it's evident in every frame that's shown of his work. He worked on great films that have become classics, like The African Queen and the Red Shoes.

In fact, it was Cardiff who was chosen to be the first to use a Technicolor camera in the United States.

More insight into the man is given by interviews done with living friends like Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, and archival footage with Humphrey Bogart and other deceased greats.

Cameraman is a loving look at a great talent who's work will live on through the masterpieces he left behind.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

NEVER LET ME GO

By D.E.Levine

Director: Mark Romanek
Writer: Kazuo Ishiguro (novel) and Alex Garland (screenplay)
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightly, Izzy Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe, Ella Purnell, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Kate Bowes Renna, Hannah Sharp, Christina Carrifiell, Oliver Parsons, Luke Bryant, Fidelis Morgan, Damien Thomas et al.
Producers: Alex Garfield, Andrew MacDonald and Allon Reich
Executive Producers: Mark Romanek and Tessa Ross
Co-producer: Richard Hewitt
Original Music: Rachel Portman
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi

I loved this film and despite some disparaging remarks I've heard from other reviewers, the film made me want to go read the book.

Director Romanek, an American, has made a name for himself directing typically British films and once again he excels.

The cinematography is absolutely beautiful as the lushness of the British countryside with its towns and estate houses are lovingly captured on film.

With a stellar ensemble cast, we follow three central characters through their childhood at a private school where we don't know until well into their lives that then children at this school (and others) have been bred and are being raised specifically so they can donate organs to individuals who need replacement parts.

They are living donors from whom organs will be harvested more than once, until ultimately they succumb to death.

It's a sci-fi thriller without the alien invasion. It's a love story between friends and lovers. It's a combination of beautiful, emotional, touching and poignant combined with horrifying, demented, warped and sick.

Romanek has brilliantly used different color palettes for the different decades of time, and those palettes reflect the life and emotions of the characters. The colors are soft and Romanek says he deliberately avoided primary colors.

The casting and performances are brilliant. However, to talk about the plot is to give away the story with its inherent twists and turns, which is unfair to anyone who wants to see the film with a fresh unbiased view.

It's enough to know that the story, written by Kazuo Ishiguro, who also wrote "Remains of the Day" is unusual and mesmerizing, beautifully expressed and definitely something that will make each viewer consider his/her own mortality and the relationships within their lives.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

By D.E.Levine

Director: Bansky
Writer:
Cast: Bansky, Shepard Fairy, Thierry Guetta, Rhys Ifans, Space Invader and Joshua Levine
Producers: Holly Cushing, Jaime D'Cruz and James Gay-Rees
Executive Producers: Holly Cushing and Jaames Gay-Rees
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States and United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Documentary, Comedy

Is graffiti art? Are graffiti practitioners true artists?
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These are the questions that Bansky's comedic documentary asks. It's an entertaining quirky film but the question is never really answered.

The film is essentially about how a Los Angeles shop keeper named Thierry Guetta approached Bansky about making a serious documentary about Bansky and other graffiti artists.

Guetta used to buy second hand clothes by the pound and sell them individual at inflated prices to trendy customers. He became very wealthy doing that. However, he must have been bored because when he came into possession of a video camera he became obsessed with making video tapes of everything including himself making video tapes.

Although Bansky guards his privacy and his facial image closely, he agreed to let Guetta follow him around and make the documentary. That was the beginning of eight years (that's right, eight years) of Guetta following Bansky around, being introduced by Bansky to other graffiti artists, and making video tapes.

Unfortunately, Guetta never actually made a viable film. He does try to produce something but his tapes are uncatalogued and the resulting film looks like a disjointed avant garde film.

Bansky, located in the UK, decides he'll try to put a film together a film himself. He sends Guetta back to the U.S. advising him to become a street artist, advice that Guetta takes seriously.

The film is just too interesting to give the rest away. It's entertaining and well worth watching.

Is Bansky putting us on or is he making a critique about the art world? He's definitely making a statement about who makes it as an artist and how they do it.

While, according to Bansky, Guetta wanted to make a documentary about Bansky, in the end Bansky made a film about Guetta, whom he claims is more interesting.

Everyone seeing this film will have their own perception. Is it a real documentary or a satirical look at the world Bansky in which Bansky lives and works.