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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE

By D.E.Levine

Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Adi Hasak (screenplay) and Luc Besson (story)
Cast: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden, Yin Bing, Amber Rose Revah, Eric Godson, Francois Bredon, Chems Dahmani, Sami Darr et al.
Producers: Luc Besson, India Osborne and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Executive Producer: Virginia Silla
Co-Executive Producers: Anson Downs and Linda R. Favila
Original Music: David Buckley
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Country of Origin: France
Language: English, French
Genre: Action, Thriller, Comedy

Based on the last few films John Travolta made I wasn't looking forward to screening From Paris With Love.

Amazingly, I found it to be really entertaining, humorous and extremely fast-paced.

Travolta plays another oddball character. Here he's playing against Rhys Meyers' character James Reece, the straight-laced assistant to the United States Ambassador to France who occasionally handles clandestine jobs for the CIA.

Assigned to partner with Charlie Wax, a CIA operative who has a rather unique way of handling things, Reece is exposed to a different way of doing business.

Wax functions by flouting all the rules, carrying his own arsenal and killing liberally and with glee whenever he thinks necessary. Reese is a strict "by the book" player who likes to think things out carefully and not make waves.

In reality, during this quick action played against the background of Paris, Travolta creates ongoing mayhem while Reece is somewhat unbelievable due to a bad American accent.

But nobody really cares. The film is action-packed and entertaining. If it's lacking in character development it doesn't really matter because it keeps the viewers attention, doesn't tax the brain and is, after all, slated for February release.

Monday, February 8, 2010

EDGE OF DARKNESS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: William Monahan (sceenplay) and Andrew Bovell (screenplay)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, David Bakeer, Jay O. Sanders, Denis O'Hare, Damien Young, Caterina Scorsone et al.
Producers: Ted Headington, Graham King and Michael Wearing
Executive Producers: Gail Lyon, Danton Rissner, David M. Thompson, E. Bennett Walsh and Susanne Warren
Co-producers: Lucienne Papon and Kwame Parker
Original Music: Howard Shore
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Mel Gibson is back as an actor. This time, in a remake of the popular 1985 British television series by the same name, Gibson plays a veteran homicide detective.

The character, Thomas Craven, is trying to unravel the mystery behind the brutal murder of his daughter, Emma.

Craven's investigation leads him into the world of government collusion, corporate cover-ups, nuclear espionage, murder and shadowy government operatives.

The original series was met with tremendous critical acclaim. Whether or not the remake will be as successful remains to be seen.

The film is emotionally charged as the 24-year old Emma, Craven's only child is murdered on the steps of his home and everyone assumes that he was the target.

In this version, Craven is with the Boston Police Department (instead of being in Yorkshire) and as a career cop with homicide experience, stops at nothing to uncover the truth about his daughter's death.

The film is intense, with many unexpected twists, although the nuclear turn in the story is a bit far-fetched and not totally believable.

Gibson looks extremely aged - a far cry from his previous films. It takes a few minutes to get used to his look, but then he becomes believable in the role of a despairing father with nothing left to lose, who will do anything necessary to solve his daughter's murder.

With a solid supporting cast and a tight story all that remains to be seen is whether public audiences will forgive Gibson his many personal indiscretions and flock to the box office.

Friday, February 5, 2010

DOWNLOADING NANCY

By D.E.Levine

Director: Johan Renck
Writers: Pamela Cuming and Lee Ross (screenplay); Lee Ross (story)
Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman, David Brown, Matthew Harrison, Sunny Doench, Justin Scott and Josh Strait
Producers: Jason Essex, Igor Kovacevich,David D. Moore and Cole Payne
Executive Producers: Julie Aaron, Adam Batz, Philip H. Clinkscales III, Maddox Pace Clinkscales, Chris Hanley, Sean McVity, Mark Mueller and Stephen Onda
Co-producers: Dawn Fanning
Co-executive Producer: Karen Beninati
Line Producer: Rhonda Baker
Original Music: Krister Linder
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Country of Origin: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Thriller

A film that's extremely emotional, powerful and uncomfortable. Played by Maria Bello, Nancy Stockwell is an unhappy and self-destructive housewife who likes to cut and burn herself in order to escape memories of an unhappy childhood and a very miserable marriage. One day she leaves her husband a note that she has gone to see friends and disappears.

Her marriage is emotionless and cold to a husband whose only intimacy is with golf. This causes Nancy to seek men on the Internet with whom she can have encounters. Other people might seek alternative activities or friends online to make her happy but Nancy is actively seeking someone to kill her.

It isn't just a simple killing that she desires. Nancy wants to be tortured emotionally, physically and sexually. When she finds Louis Farley online, she seems to find just the torturer/killer/assassin she desires.

Downloading Nancy is all about two hurt and bruised people hurting and bruising each other. The film is a bleak, chilly, morbid sadomasochistic piece presented in a series of vignettes.

The style comes from director Renck's previous experience in the music and commercial video field.

Bello's performance is frightening in its despair which goes much deeper than remorse for a loveless marriage. She's a neurotic requiring pain as is Louis.

Don't see this film if you're looking for something upbeat and light. This is a deep experience of depravity and psychological depravity that leave the viewer with a real sense of dread and despondency.

VALENTINE'S DAY

By D.E.Levine

Director: Garry Marshall
Writers: Katherine Fugate, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein
Cast: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robinson, Bryce Robinson, Taylor Swift, Matthew Walker, Larry Miller, Beth Kennedy et al.
Producers: Mike Karz, Wayne Allen Rice and Josie Rosen
Executive Producers: Samuel J. Brown and Diana Pokorny
Associate Producers: Russell Hollander and Mark Kaufman
Original Music: John Debney
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English

The list of celebrities and stars in this film is so long that the question is not who"s in the film, but who isn't.

Director Garry Marshall has given us a light, romantic comedy with interwoven stories that bring the characters together over the course of 18 hours.

The film is pleasant, undemanding, humorous and poignant. Due to the broad range of acting talent and ages, this film should be appealing to a broad age range, from young to very old.

The narrative engine is Kutcher, a southern California florist named Reed who delivers flowers to the other characters.

Believing in the power of love, Reed proposes to his live-in girlfriend on Valentine's Day, with surprising results

Simultaneously, Reed's best friend Julia is waking up with her surgeon boyfriend who has to leave town to perform an operation and won't be able to spend Valentine's Day with her.

What happens to both of these characters and their friends forms the basis for the chain of events flowing through the film.

Like most of Marshall's films, the characters are people who are nice - generally nicer than people in real life. Some may have issues with Marshall's perpetual presentation of the world as a kind and benevolent place inhabited by kind people.

In this instance, that view sometimes presents characters who seem insincere. However, those instances are minimal and overall the picture is a pleasant, relaxing erxperience.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ME AND ORSON WELLES

By D.E.Levine

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. (screenplay); Robert Kaplow (novel)
Cast: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay, Bert Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, ERddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Turner, Lero Bill, Al Weaver, Ian McKee, Simon Lee Phillips et al.
Producers: Ann Carli, Richard Linklater and Marc Samuelson
Executive Producers: Steve Christian, Steve Norris ad John Sloss
Co-producers: Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr.
Associate Producers: Sara Johnson and Jessica Parker
Line Producer: Richard Hewitt
Original Music: Michael J. McEvoy
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom and United States
Language: English

This is a sweet, heartfelt film about life in the theater. Centering around a young actor, Richard Samuels, who lucks into a small part in Orson Welles' "Julius Caesar", he enters a world where everyone is terrified of the 22-year old genius Welles and emotions offstage are just as intense as those onstage.

The tumult of putting on a stage production is brilliantly showcased with what can only be interpreted as a real love of theater.

The naive Richard is led on by Welles' assistant Sonja, who is lusted over by all of the male cast. Infatuate with Sonja, Richard believes she has emotions for him until he discovers her involvement with Welles and her attitude of "I have to take care of myself."

Zac Efron surprises by coming across as a charming and sleek matinee idol. However, the real surprise is Christian MaKay's portrayal of Orson Welles.

While it's true that McKay has previous experience playing Welles onstage, his portrayal is uncanny as he creates an enfant terrible.

His players are terrified of him and Linklater and the cast do a superb job of conveying that, something that all historical records confirm.

Because we know that Welles was a man of great brilliance who rose to great power and accolades and was deprived of everything by the studios because of his self destructiveness, the portrayal of the young Welles has a foreboding feel and sadness about it.

Although it's 24 years after his death at the age of 70, Welles remains a figure of great interest. He was definitely a multi-tasker and because he was so good at everything he did he incurred the resentment of many, if not all, his collaborators.

This film is a gem about the theater and theatrical life. While staging productions on Broadway, Welles also starred in several radio shows and was famous for his active social life.

It's not necessary to know much about Welles' life in order to enjoy this film. Steeped in theater lore, with representations of real life actors and directors who were involved in Welles' productions, Me and Orson Welles is entertaining and insightful into the life of a legend.