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Monday, May 24, 2010

ROBIN HOOD

By D.E.Levine

Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Brian Helgeland (screenplay); Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (story)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Issac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy et al.
Producers: Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott
Executive Producers: Michael Costigen, Ryan Kavanaugh, Charles J.D.Schlissel and James Whitaker
Original Music: Maarc Streitenfeld
Running Time: 148 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States/United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure

If you're expecting the tried and true tale of Robin Hood that we're all familiar with -- that's not what you get in this epic.

Dour and dark, both in story and cinematography, this tale takes you back to before Robin was a legend and tells us how the legend actually started.

Gritty and realistic, this is an extremely violent film - stretching the bounds of PG13.

Made Marion is an exhausted and steely head of the biggest farm in all of England.

Angry at a King that taxes them without relief and shows little compassion, Robin speaks out against him.

The plot is very complicated to follow with a possible French invasion, the rise of King John and a possible double agent.

Both Crowe and Blanchett appear to lack the chemistry necessary for the characters.

On the other hand, Scott stages brilliant action scenes of battles - bleak, bloody and horrifying.

True, the film is too long. All that history takes time and its doubtful whether the audiences will want to sit through it, but it's an interesting and different take on an age-old story.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

SHREK FOREVER AFTER

By D.E.Levine

Director: Mike Mitchell
Writers: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke
Cast: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphey, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Hamm, John Cleese, Craig Robinson, Walt Dohrn, Jane Lynch, Lake Bell, Kathy Griffin, Mary Kay Place, Kristen Schaal, Meredith Vieira, Ryan Seacrest, Cody Cameron, Larry King, Regis Philbin, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon et al.
Producers: Teresa Cheng and Gina Shay
Executive Producers: Andrew Adamson, Aron Warner and John H. Williams
Original Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Animated, Comedy, 3D

It's hard to keep the momentum going through a fourth film in the Shrek franchise.

Shrek, of course is the ogre, that is lovable rather than scary and is married to Princess Fiona, an ogress herself.

When we see Shrek in this film he's suffering from stress from being a husband and father to three children who are adorable but needy in their childlike way.

Of course, there's a villain. In this case it's a sleazy Rumpelstiltskin who convinces Shrek to sign a contract in which he gives away one day of childhood in exchange for one day as a grownup without grownup responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there's fine print in the contract that makes it a nightmare for Shrek.

It seems that Rumpelstiltskin has been plotting ever since Fiona's parents were saved from signing a contract to turn over the kingdom of Far Far Away in exchange for the rescue of their daughter.

When Shrek is cajoled into signing his own contract, he finds there's an unprecedented and unexpected requirement that plunges him into a world where he was never born.

The story here isn't totally original but is a retelling of "It's a Wonderful Life". Plunged into a living nightmare, Shrek reunites with the incomparable Donkey and spends the rest of the film seeking to regain the bourgeois life he regretted and lost.

It's the age old story of not knowing what you've got until it's gone and then striving to recover it.

Despite the fact that it's not totally original, Shrek is funny, filled with jokes for kids and inside jokes for adults. The sound track is wonderful and of course since it's in 3D there's an added feeling of being immersed in the movie.

The best thing about the movie is the brilliant characters that remain brilliant and endearing nearly a decade after they were first introduced.

Friday, May 21, 2010

MY LAST FIVE GIRLFRIENDS

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival selection

Director: Julian Kemp
Writer: Julian Kemp (screenplay) and Alain de Botton (novel)
Cast: Brendan Patricks, Naomie Harris, Kelly Adams, Cecile Cassel, Jane March, Edith Bukovics, Michael Sheen, Mark Benton, Johnny Ball et al.
Producers: Michael Kelk, Marion Palowsky and David Willing
Executive Producer: Steve O'Pray
Original Music: Andy Blythe and Martin Joustra
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Romance

Budding architect Duncan has a lot of dating problems. We meet him as he recounts tales of his last five relationships.

As he recounts the stories he wonders why the relationships failed. It causes viewers to wonder what determines the type of people with whom we fall in love.

Overall, the script is weak which causes the director to make use of many different types of story telling devices.

Duncan may be an architect, but he's paranoid and self-absorbed and fairly boring. It could very well be that it's his continual neediness that interferes with his relationships.

At least, with his fifth girlfriend, the relationship seems to depend on the girl being deliberately blind to his weaknesses and failings.

In addition to being needy, Duncan spends so much time talking about himself that one can well imagine his self-obsession is preventing him from getting that long-lasting relationship.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

HOLY ROLLERS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Kevin Asch
Writer: Antonio Marcia
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny A Abeckaser, Ari Gaynor, Jason Fuchs, Q-Tip, Bern Cohen, Mark Ivanir, Charlie Hewson, Elizabeth Marvel et al.
Producer: Danny A. Abeckaser, Jen Gatien, Per Melita and Tory Tunnell
Executive Producer: Kevin Asch and Dave Berlin
Co-producers: Robert Profusek and Ryan Silbert
Original Music: Mj Mynarksi
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Dutch
Genre: Crime; Drama

A low-budget film about a real life Ecstasy drug smuggling ring that operated in Williamsburg Brooklyn during the 1990s, Holy Rollers stars Jesse Eisenberg playing a Hasidic Jew whose quest to accumulate money leads him become involved in illegal activities and draw others into the same ring.

Danny A. Abeckaser orginally read about the case and decided he wanted to play the role of Jackie Solomon so he raised the production money and hired Kevin Asch to direct.

The performances are straightforward and convincing as Yosef Zimmerman, older brother to Sam Gold's best friend and the criminal living right next door lures the gullible Sam Gold into the Ectasy ring.

Sam, who comes from a family where his hard working father is consumed with him becoming a rabbi, is convinced that his activities are actually bringing helpful medicine into the US and simply circumventing red tape. But, deep down, as he falls into the fast life, lose the Hassidic girl he wants to marry and falls for Jackie's girlfriend, who is far from an approved Hasidic girl.

While the film is interesting, and the back story is true, there's no depth to Sam's character and no real excitement. The characters seem stereotypical and in the end we're left with a sense of wonder that the story could and did happen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival Selection

Director: Julien Nitzberg
Cast: Jesco White and the White family, Hank Williams III
Producer: Julien Nitzberg and Storm Taylor
Executive Producers: Johnny Knoxville, Priya Swaminathan, Jeff Tremanine and Jeffrey Yapp
Co-producer: Kathie Doering
Associate Producer: Paige Hess-Hill
Original Music: Deke Dickerson
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

The White family is not your typical family -- or at least not the typical one most viewers know. However, the Whites may be typical of the American outlaw white trash families that exist in rural America and make no excuses for how they behave.

Openly mocking middle class pretentiousness, the Whites commit crimes, receive government checks for "being crazy", get continually high on drugs and act any way they want to, mocking society and laughing about their exploits.

Filmed poorly in places where the lighting isn't turned on during scenes and the boom is in the frame, it should be noted that despite their wide reaching reputation the Whites make no apologies for their actions and don't even appear to be sorry for the unique circumstances of their lives.

It should be noted that the White family is not typical of West Virginia residents but are a segment often referred to as Appalachian Ministry, which parodies and mocks themselves and their lifestyle.

During interviews and the "documentary" style film, the Whites are followed through their daily activities, which include picking up a daughter-in-law just released after a four-year prison term, snorting crushed tablets through their noses, onscreen, and dancing a particular style of tap developed by the patriarch.

They don't care a whit about how other perceive them and go about their normal lives and illegal activities, speaking bluntly and scoffing at society.

Why should this film be in a film festival? Basically because the film is a realistic and unscripted portrayal of a real existing segment of America and while the White family may not be appealing, they are fascinating and outrageous.

Monday, May 17, 2010

METROPIA

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival selection

Director: Tarik Saleh
Writer: Fredrik Edin and Tarik Saleh (screenplay); Fredrik Edin, Martin Hultman and Tarik Saleh (story)
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard, Alexander Skarsgard, Sofia Helin, Shanti Roney, Fares Fares, Fredrik Eddari et al.
Producer: Kristina Aberg
Co-producers: Gunnar Carlsson, Elin Erichsen, Tomas Eskilsson, Mikael Olsen and Eric Vogel
Assistant Producers: Tobias F. Dahl, Johanna Mikolajczyk and Hanna Storby
Line Producer: Jon Wigfield
Original Music: Krister Linder
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Country of Origin: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Animation/Sci-Fi/Thriller

Metropia is a sleek and totally fascinating animated science fiction film. This is a truly ambitious endeavor that took four years to achieve.

The cast never appears onscreen but instead do the voices of the characters in this computer-animated feature.

The central figure is Roger, who lives with his wife, in an unappealing apartment in Sweden, in the year 2024. The landscape is desolate, bleak, depressing and appears mostly in gray tones. Roger is unhappy with his job, his home and his life.

Oil supplies have run out in Europe and a company called Trexx Corp has linked all the European subways together. Trexx Corp. actually owns most of society and its head has developed a very unique way to control peoples' thoughts and actions.

Roger begins to hear a voice in his head. Initially, the voice claims to be his conscience but Roger remains unconvinced.

The voice turns out to be that of Stefan, who is able to speak directly into Roger's head. Stefan is linked mysteriously to Nina, the beautiful girl on the, dishonesty bottle of dandruff shampoo (also owned by Trexx Corp.)

Nina, in turn, is the girl of Roger's fantasies. He sees her on the bottle of shampoo, on billboards, on television commercials, in dreams and finally in the subway.

Nina reveals to Roger the ingenious way that microchips have been implanted into his brain and that Stefan is one of the people who monitor him and other people who have implanted microchips.

Nina has plans to use Roger for her own purpose, which she doesn't reveal to Roger. However, in true thriller fashion, we see that everyone is disposable and replaceable in order to achieve the desired end result. Furthermore, there seems to be no end of greed and dishonesty among the characters.

The animation method for this feature is unusual as the sharply defined faces of characters were made from photos of random people taken on the street. Character movements are a bit stilted and the characters themselves frequently lose focus and become distracted from their original purpose. Another weakness is that there are basically American voices for the characters, which seems strange for a film whose characters are Swedish.

Additionally, the viewer must also assume the trains are super fast since the characters are able to travel easily from Sweden to Paris and back in a short span of time (normal train time is approximately 10 hours each way).

Despite the flaws in this film it's unusual, innovative and inspired. While the story line and method can stand some improvement, the ingenuity and creativeness let this film stand apart from others.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD

By D.E.Levine

Director: George A. Romero
Writer: George A. Romero
Cast: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano DiMatteo, Joris Jarsky, Eric Woolfe et al.
Producer: Paula Devonshire,
Executive Producer: D.J.Carson, Michael Doherty, Dan Fireman, Peter Grunwald, Ara Katz, Art Spigel
Original Music: Robert Carli
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States/Canada
Language: English
Genre: Horror

Since the "Dead" franchise has been so strong I was really looking forward to this new film from George A. Romero. He is, after all, the guru for zombie movies.

Unfortunately, this particular film never gains speed and takes off.

In this film a small unit of soldiers seeks refuge, from a zombie-infested world, on small and scenic Plum Island.

What they find is a religious zealot, Seamus Muldoon, who believes that familial undead should be left unmolested. He's opposed by Patrick O'Flynn who believes the undead should be finished off and permanently killed.

The CGI is terrible, considering what's currently on the market. The dialogue is too wordy and convoluted while the ideas aren't very clear. In short, the various themes are muddled, if indeed they exist.

Always an astute social critic instead of just a horror filmmaker, Romero seems to have lost his edge. What's missing is the wit and even the humor that was present in the other "Dead" movies.

Whether or not the movie will succeed based on the previous reputation of the "Dead" films and Romero remains to be seen. As word spreads about how disappointing this film is, crowds, except for cult followers, probably will not go.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

IRON MAN 2

By D.E.Levine

Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Theroux (screenplay); Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby (comic book)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson et al.
Producer: Kevin Feige
Executive Producers: Louis D'Esposito, Susan Downey, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Dsvid Maisel and Denis L. Stewart
Original Music: John Debney
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Action

The first Iron Man film was better. It's not that this one isn't good. It's good and it's exciting. There are some fabulous CGI effects and it should make a lot of money.

However, in the initial Iron Man had several well developed characters that you could follow.

In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is facing his demise unless he finds a new element capable of powering the suit which is integrated with his physical system.

As exciting as this film is it lacks imagination and depth because the political overtones have either been toned down or removed entirely.

While it's a given that this film will be a blockbuster simply because of the CGI effects which make Forest Hills and the battle against the bad guys look spectacular, it's clear by the introduction of certain new characters that the film is paving the way for the third film.

Friday, May 14, 2010

COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY

By D.E.Levine

Director: Jan Kounen
Writer: Chris Greenhalgh (screenplay); Chris Greenhalgh (novel); Carlo de Boutiny and Jan Kounen (adaption)
Cast: Anne Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen, Yelena Morozova, Natacha Lindinger, Grigori Manukov, Radivoje Bukvic et al.
Producer: Chris Bolzli and Claude Ossard
Co-producer: Veronika Zonabend
Associate Producers: Albina Boeckli, Kazutaka Kimori and Yoichi Sakai
Line Producer: Phillippe Deiest
Original Music: Gabriel Yared
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Country of Origin: France
Language: French, Russian and English with English subtitles
Genre: Drama

This is a very beautiful film that is based on a few months in the lives of two people who went on to become famous individually.

The director filmed in the actual villa where Coco Chanel put Stravinsky and his family up after the Russian Revolution, the chic Chanel atelier in Paris, the laboratory in Grasse where Chanel No. 5 was created, and the Theatre Des Champs- Elysees (where "The Rite of Spring" was a failure).

The sets, scenery and costumes are breathtaking, accurate, exquisite and rich although neither individual comes across as being very appealing.

Coco comes across as a cool, calculating, determined individual who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it.

Igor is a brooding artist exiled from his homeland and almost penniless, with a wife and several children to support. His work is not being well received in France and the family is living in crowded immigrant quarters.

When Coco offers her rented villa in Garches to Igor and his children and tubercular wife, the Stravinskys move into luxurious surroundings in which he can work on his compositions. As these compositions increase in passion, Katrina, Igor's wife becomes aware of the affair between her husband and Coco.

Two such strong wills and egos obsessed with their art are bound to separate, added to which is Stravinsky's devotion to his family.

Nothing in the movie suggests that the affair would have continued or that there were any regrets when it ended. Each individual went on to spectacular success in their own areas and became icons of history.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DRIZZLE

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival selection

Director: Dsvid Russo
Writer: David Russo
Cast: Marshall Allman, Melissa D. Brown, Richard Lefebvre, Russell Hodgkinson, Natasha Lyonne, Agatha Nowicki, Tania Raymonde, Tygh Runyan, Matt Smith, Vince Vieluf et al.
Producers: Peggy Case
Executive Producer: Michael Seiwerath
Co-executive Producers: A.Joel Eisenberg, David P. Glickman, Garr Godfrey, Malayka Gormally, May L. McCarthy and Menno van Wyk
Original Music: Background music played by Awesome
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy

This film is hilarious. What starts out as what seems to be a straightforward story takes numerous funny unexpected turns and becomes a witty dark comedy.

Drawing upon his 11 years experience as a janitor, Seattle artist and filmmaker David Russon creates an unusual film that is totally enjoyable.

Dory is a good guy who can't find a data manager job after he's fired. Recommended by a former co-worker to Spiffy Jiffy Janitorial Services, he goes to work cleaning offices at night.

The Spiffy Jiffy crew gets their job done but they manage to have fun along the way, doing some rather unusual things like taking photos of the most unusual clogged toilets.

After being caught trash diving by a food company employee, Dory is invited to attend a food testing session. When the results are less than stellar, the food company employee encourages Dory to try the self-warming cookies again when they're perfected and decides to surreptitiously test new cookies on the janitorial staff by throwing new, wrapped samples into the trash.

As the unsuspecting janitorial crew trash dive and eat the cookie samples they become less than happy.

Unfortunately, the self-warming component of the cookies doesn't do what's expected and in men it produces hallucinations, terrible stomach cramping and the birthing of blue fish.

On the whole the material is absurd and ridiculous but the audience gets the idea that it's meant to be that way. Obviously, Russo means this to be a light-hearted work not to be taken too seriously.

To that end, Russo succeeds since the film is fanciful, whimsical and rather wacky and doesn't require any deep thought or conjectures.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

THE SWIMSUIT ISSUE

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival selection

Director: Mans Herngren
Writers: Brian Cordray, Man Herngren and Jane Magnusson
Cast: Jonas Inde, Amanda Davin, Paula McManus, Benny Haag, Andreas Rothlin Svensson, Jimmy Lindstromm and Peter Gardiner
Producer: Rebecka Hamberger
Executive Producer:
Original Music: The Soundrack of our Lives
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Country of Origin: Sweden
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
Genre: Comedy

This film isn't one of those ha-ha comedies. Instead it's a tender, funny look at a group of friends following a dream and what they go through to achieve it.

The protagonist is Fredrik, and out-of-work, divorced journalist who as captain of the groups' floor hockey team is very intense and more serious about it then his team members. Even the local recreation center where they play gives preferential treatment to other groups.

When they lose their time slot at the recreation center, the group finds it has no place to go. After getting drunk at a friend's bachelor party, the team makes a synchronized swimming spoof which is a tremendous hit when played at the wedding.

Seeing synchronized swimming as a means to an end to earn money and rent their own floor hockey space, the group accepts an offer to perform at a wealthy woman's party where they promptly bomb.

While there have been many jokes made about synchronized swimming, especially, men's' synchronized swimming, the audience actually learns something new as Fredrik discovers that men's' synchronized swimming has a long established and respectable history and other countries have teams who compete regularly.

Bitten by the competitive bug Fredrik forms the group out of men of varying ages and physiques and they prove to be pretty good. Now the art of synchronized swimming has moved from a means to an end to an means unto itself.

With the chance of going to Berlin for the European championships, Fredrik and his group throw themselves into practice and perfection.

Along the way certain questions and obstacles arise. Although the men in the group are all macho, what should they do when an openly gay man wants to join the group? Fredrik's best friend Charles is the worst performer so should he be allowed to compete if his appearance means they might lose? They've all practiced in a format for nine performers but only eight are allowed according to competition rules, so what should they do?

While the comedy is low-key, the sensitive issues are front and center, and handled in a deft and humane fashion.

The Swimsuit Issue is a truly beautiful film and deals with some very real issues with perception and awareness.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THE GOOD HEART

By D.E.Levine

Director: Dagur Kari
Writer: Dagur Kari
Cast: Paul Dano, Brian Cox, Stephanie Szostak, Isild Le Besco, Damian Young, Clark Middleton, Susan Blommaert et al.
Producers: Skuli Fr. Malmquist and Thor Sigurjonsson
Executive Producers: Scott Macaulay and Sigurjon Sighvatsson
Co-producers: Peter Nadermann and Birgitte Skov
Associate Producer: Sigrid Strohmann
Line Producers: Hlin Johannesdottir and Jimmy Price
Original Music: Ori Jonsson and Dagur Kari
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdon
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Basically The Good Heart is a film about gifts and what they mean. Is a gift really a gift if it comes with conditions?

Early in the movie, Lucas, a homeless man and street person attempts suicide and his life is saved by staff at the hospital. He's extremely grateful and signs up to be an organ donor. The staff is so moved by his thanks that they take up a collection to give him a new start.

At the same time, crusty old Jacques, the owner of a bar straight out of "The Iceman Cometh" suffers his fifth heart attack and is saved at the same hospital where his doctor informs him he can be put on a heart transplant list only if he gives up smoking and drinking.

The two meet and bond when they are placed in the same room in the hospital.

Once released from the hospital Lucas gives all his money away to other street people. Jacques takes him in as an apprentice and teaches him how to handle the bar. There are a lot of rules involved as far as handling the customers, making the espresso and limiting the number of customers to no more than thirteen.

When a distraught young woman shows up during a storm one night Lucas takes her in and despite Jacques' disapproval they soon wind up marrying.

The lead actors play well against each other and make the story totally believable, if a bit bizarre.

An unexpected twist in the plot brings the viewer back to the question about when is a gift a gift and what part does fate play in bringing gifts to us?

The Good Heart touches the viewer's heart more deeply than expected by its display of tenderness and mortality.

Monday, May 10, 2010

SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival selection

Director: Mat Whitecross
Writer: Paul Viragh
Cast: Luke Evans, Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams, Naomie Harris, Andy Serkis, Noel Clarke, MacKenzie Crook, Toby Jones et al.
Producers: Damian Jones
Executive Producers: Ian Neil and Kevin Phelan
Co-producer: Michelle Eastwood, Justin Edgar, Jane Hooks and Alex Usborne
Original Music: Chaz Jankel
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Music


Brilliant is the only word one can use to describe Andy Serkis' portrayal of British punk rocker Ian Dury.

While the script isn't the strongest and is filled with many cliches, Serkis, who is best known for his portrayal of Gollum in Peter Jackson's trilogy "Lord of the Rings", a role in which Serkis wore a CGI suit and whose movements and nuances were translated into digital animation, gives a riveting performance.

As Ian Dury, a boy crippled by polio in his youth and ostracized by contemporaries, Serkis shows a verbally abusive, dishonest and disreputable genius who splits from his band, Kilburn and the High Roads, and forms a new band, the Blockheads.

The title is taken from a 1977 hit of Dury's. Dury is egotistical, angry and cruel gut he's also witty and charming.

Splitting from his long-suffering wife and taking up with a teenage girl, Dury achieved success as a musician but was unsuccessful at juggling family, fame and increasing alcoholism.

The film is a celebration of the music of the era and one 'outsider" who made good. After contracting polio swimming at Southend in the late 1940s, Dury suffered humiliation and taunting at school and those experiences strengthened his resolve to spurn pity and achieve.

Left partially paralyzed, using a leg brace and a cane and limping throughout his life, there is no doubt that it was the polio that shaped Ian Dury.

There are some heart tugging scenes in the film, and all the acting is superb. However, it is Andy Serkis' remarkable performance that centers and grounds the film.

Serkis died of cancer in 2000 and this film covers only a portion of his life, but the film is remarkable.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

CLIMATE OF CHANGE

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival selection

Director: Brian Hill
Writer: Simon Amitage
Cast: Tilda Swinton
Producer: Katie Bailiff
Executive Producer: Kit Hawkins and Kevin Wall
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Country of Origin: USA
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

A visually stunning film, Climate of Change is narrated beautifully by Tilda Swinton.
The film is an environmental documentary that profiles individuals around the globe that are thinking globally and acting locally.

In this film we see youngsters in India who are educating their communities in reducing the use of plastics, while a Togo activist is fighting deforestation and Appalachians are organizing against mountaintop mining.

Credited to four directors of photography, the film is consistently breathtaking regardless of what is shown, and that includes a recycling plant in Mumbai and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

To those who say the problems are too big, Director Hill shows that small, local acts can make a significant difference.

TIMER

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival Selection

Director: Jac Shaeffer
Writer: Jac Shaeffer
Cast: Emma Caulfield, Michelle Borth, John Patrick Amerdori, Desmond Harrington, JoBeth Williams et al.
Producer: Jennifer Glynn, Rikki Jarrett and Jac Shaeffer
Associate Producer: Joshua Lee Huber
Original Music: Andrew Kaiser
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Country of Origin: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Romance

Timer is a charming film that raises questions regarding whether knowing exactly when you will meet your soulmate will influence your actions in the interim.

Oona lives in the near future when an implant in the wrist determines when the person will meet that "special someone", assuming they too have an implant.

Oona, a dentist, is frustrated when her timer remains blank. But her stepsister, Steph is just as frustrated when her timer reveals a wait of 5200 days.

While it's true that the twists and turns are predictable, the film is charming to watch and well acted and better than many big budget romantic comedies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

HAPPINESS RUNS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Adam Sherman
Writer: Adam "Sherman
Cast: Hanna Hall, Mark L. Young, Jesse Plemons, Rutger Hauer, Rich Sickler, Mark Boone Jr., Andie MacDowell, Joni Barth, Steven Christopher Parket et al.
Producer: Stephen Israel
Executive Producer: Tatiana Kelly
Associate Producer: Paul Palo and Linda Phillips-Palo
Line Producer: Win Craft
Original Music: Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimk
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Happiness Runs is an unsettling film that follows the lives of young people born on a rural hippie commune.

While their parents are busy practicing new age rituals, the youngsters are busy drinking, dealing and ingesting pot and having sex.

The film is said to be semiautobiographical since Mr. Sherman grew up in a polygamous hippie cult in Vermont, and many of the unsettling events mentioned are inferred to be true events from Sherman's life.

The aimlessness of their lives is disheartening, especially since the young people don't seem to want to break free, However, the film's protagonist, Victor, does want to leave the commune and seek a different and better life. However, his mother refuses to give him the money to leave and his father is busy and boasting about sleeping with a different woman every night.

The girl for whom he has feelings, Backy, declare that she "belongs to everyone" and sleeps with Victor's friends and enemies.

In the end, the film is depressing rather than uplifting and shows that so-called Utopia doesn't work.

THE TROTSKY

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival Selection

Director: Jacob Tierney
Writer: Jacob Tierney
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Genevieve Bujold, Colm Feore, Saul Rubinek, Michael Murphey, David Julian Hirsh et al.
Producer: Kevin Tierney
Assistant Producer: Isabella Salas
Original Music: Malajube
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Country of Origin: Canada
Language: English with Frencg
Genre: Comedy

When 17-year old Leon Bronstein takes a summer job at his father's factory he insists on working among laborers instead of having a cushy office.

Convinced that he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky (original last name Bronstein), the teenage Leon soon organizes a hunger strike among the workers because of their half an hour lunch break and demands that they be allowed to unionize.

As a result, Leon's tuition to private school is cut off and he registers in public school where he joins the student union believing it to be a real union.

Although he finds this union primarily organizes student dances, Leon chooses "social justice" as a theme for the next school dance and offers other members of the student union a chance to form a real union in order for students to have equal representation

Organizing a student walkout, Leon tries to enlist the help of a former protester, Frank McGovern, and meets his daughter Alexandra. Since the real Leon Trotsky's first wife was also named Alexandra, was older than Trotsky and couldn't stand him when they met, the teenage Leon believes the meeting is "meant to be,"

The film has clever jokes and scenes, but it's a bit to0 long and meandering. While not a great film, this quirky comedy is thoroughly enjoyable.

MOTHER & CHILD

By D.E.Levine

Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Writer: Rodrigo Garcia
Cast: Alexandria M. Sailing, Connor Kramme, Annette Bening, Eileen Ryan, Samuel L. Jackson, Naomi Watts, Cherry Jones, Kerry Washington, David Ramsey, Jimmy Smits et al.
Producers: Lisa Maria Falcone and Julie Lynn
Executive Producers: Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro
Co-producer: Jonathan McCoy
Associate Producers: Karen Graci and Tom Heller
Original Music: Ed Shearmur
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Using multiple story lines that crisscross, filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia presents a tender film that will probably gain more of a following of female viewers.

The initial story is about two 14-year old teenagers who make out and as a result have a baby, surrendered at birth by the young mother.

Thirty-seven years later we see the baby, Elizabeth, now grown into a beautiful woman and brilliant lawyer who uses sex and her body when she needs to control situations at the office and in her personal life. She's independent but has no goals except for a judgeship and drifts aimlessly from law firm to law firm.

The unwed mother, Karen, is a bitter unmarried health professional who cares for her elderly, invalid mother, Nora, the same mother who was responsible for surrendering the baby. She's awkward in her relationships with people and alienates them which embitters her even more. She is unable to have a relationship with a tender co-worker until her mother dies.

Yet another story line deals with a young couple who can't conceive and decide to adopt a child. Set up with a Catholic agency to adopt a baby if the mother approves, they (Lucy and Joseph)earn acceptance only to have the mother renege after the baby is born.

As Karen and Elizabeth search for each other fate intervenes and prevents their meeting. However, fate also intervenes to bring Karen and Lucy together in an unexpected way.

Mother & Child is a beautiful, heart-tugging movie that is realistic enough to make the viewer believe it could actually happen. Garcia displays a sensitivity and understanding of emotions that is essential to making the film work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

THE INFIDEL

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival Selection

Director: Josh Appignanesi
Writer: David Badiel
Cast: Archie Panjabi,Matt Lucas, Richard Schiff, Omid Djalili, Chris Wilson, Yigal Naor, Mina Anwar et al.
Producers: David Baddiel, Arvind Ethan David, Omid Dajalili, Uzma Hasan and Stewart Le Marechal
Executive Producers: Cavan Ash, David Badiel and Omid Dajalili
Associate Producer: Jeremy Amias, Yoni Magid and Shahin Sobhani
Original Music: Erran Baron Cohen
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English with Arabic and Hebrew
Genre: Comedy

The Infidel approaches the animosity between Muslims and Jews with humor.

When Mahmud, a moderate Muslim, a contented father and husband living in north London in the United Kingdom goes to clean out the home of his recently deceased mother, he discovers papers showing that he was adopted and actually born Jewish.

Since Mahmud's son Rashid is trying to impress a radical Muslim cleric who happens to be the stepfather of his son's fiance, finding out he's Jewish comes at the worst possible time.

Mahmud sneaks behind his family's back, teams up with a booze-loving American Jewish cabbie named Lennie, and starts out to learn what it means to be Jewish.

The result is humorous as Mahmud, now knowing his birth name was Solly Shimshillowitz, explores his heritage with

Thursday, May 6, 2010

ROAD MOVIE

By D.E.Levine

A Tribeca Film Festival Selection

Director: Dev Benegal
Writer: Dev Benegal
Cast: Abhay Deol, Mohammed Faisal, Satish Kaushik, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Veerendra Saxena, Amitabh Srivastava, Suhita Thatte, Hardik Mehta, et al.
Producer: Dev Benegal, Ross Katz and Susan B. Landau
Executive Producer: Sanjay Ray Chaudhuri and Vandana Malik
Co-Producer: Fred Berger and Sopan Muller
Line Producer: Anup Poddar
Original Music: Michael Brook
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Country of Origin: USA/India
Language: Hindi and English
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Romance

After a 10-year hiatus, Dev Benegal returns with a hauntingly beautiful film set primarily in the stunning deserts of Rajasthan and Kutch.

While Vishnu, a young man who is bored with his father's hair oil business seeks a better way of life, he is charged with delivering a 1942 Chevy truck. On his journey he is faced with the breakdown of the truck and the need to find water which is scarce and mobster controlled by the "water mafia."

The truck also doubles as a traveling cinema. As his journey proceeds, Vishnu picks up co-passengers - a vagrant, a wise old man and a gypsy.

In the end, it is the two cases of hair oil that are exchanged for precious water and the old films and projector that provide a ticket to freedom.

Each of his co-passengers brings something special to Vishnu's life. Vishnu himself, starts out on the journey as a selfish, self-centered man and finishes the journey having undergone significant changes.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

LETTERS TO JULIET

By D.E.Levine

Director: Gary Winick
Writers: Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Marcia DuBonis, Gael Garcia Bernal, Giordano Formenti, Paoli Arvedi, Dario Conti, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, Luisa Ranieri et al.
Producers: Ellen Barkin, Mark Canton, Eric Feig, Caroline Kaplan, and Patrick Wachsberger
Executive Producer: Ron Schmidt
Line Producer: Marco Valerio Pugini
Original Music: Andrea Guerra
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English and Italian

The movie is sweet bu somewhat disappointing when one considers the cast involved.

Magazine fact-checker Sophie goes to Verona, Italy with her restaurateur fiance and visits the house where Shakespeare's Juliet supposedly lived. Beneath Juliet's balcony women leave notes asking for advice regarding their love life.

Discovering a 50-year old note from British girl named Claire that discusses her love for a young Italian man, Sophie sets out to find Claire (now a woman) and the two of them go looking for Claire's love from 50 years ago.

Accompanied by Claire's good-looking, sharp-tongued grandson Charlie, the two women set off on quest through the beautiful Italian countryside.

While the story is rather weak and melodramatic, visually, the search through the Italian countryside is spectacular.

Despite the flaws in the story and the "happily ever after" theme, the film, while not great, is certainly entertaining and should gather an audience of a wide range of ages.


Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance