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Sunday, June 27, 2010

VALHALLA RISING

By D.E.Levine

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Writer: Roy Jacobsen and Nicholas Winding Refn
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Gordon Brown, Andrew Flanagan, Gary Lewis, Gary McCormack, Alexander Morton, Jamie Sives, Ewan Stewart, Matthew Zajac et al.
Producers: Johnny Andersen, Hennik Danstrup, Bo Ehrhardt
Executive Producers: Christine Alderson, Lene Borglum, Yves Chevalier, Linda James, Mads Peter Ole Olsen, Carole Sheridan, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Thor Sigurjonson
Co-producer: Karen Smyth
Assistant Producer: Eva Jacobsen
Original Music: Peter Kyed and Peter Peter
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: Danish and English
Genre: Action

Meant to be an epic, this film falls short of its goal. With mostly British actors playing Norsemen, the film centers on a mute named One Eye taken prisoner and forced to fight to the death in staged bouts in order to survive. Kept in a cage by his Norse warrior captors and fed sparsely, he is befriended by a young boy.

Upon his escape from bondage, he is followed by the boy and the two fall in with a band of Vikings on their way to plunder the Holy Land and reclaim Jerusalem. In an obvious attempt to mimic Sergio Leone and Werner Herzog, while the film has beautiful cinematography of the Scottish landscape where it was filmed, it never achieves a memorable peak of drama or emotion.

This is both an odd and beautiful film. Divided into six parts the title of each part seems to be about evoking a mood rather than telling a story. However, throughout the film while the characters go through the motions, there doesn't seem to be any effort to propel them towards a goal, conflict or conclusion. While it's beautifully filmed, the film doesn't really make it as an action film.

Friday, June 11, 2010

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO

by D.E.Levine

Director: Lucy Walker
Writer: Lucy Walker
Cast: Gary Oldman (prologue voice, Valerie Plame Wilson, Graham Allison, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Matthew Bunn, Lawrence Scott Sheets, Oleg Khintsagov, Scott Sagan, Zia Mian, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pervez Musharraf, Mike Chinoy, Alexander Glaser, Tony Blair, Andrew Koch, Ahmed Rashid, Joe Cirincione, Jeffrey Lewis, Bruce Blair, Roger Molander, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Sbigniew Brzezinski, Ira Helfand, Frank von Hippel, R.Scott Kemp, Robert McNamara, Richard Cizik, F.W.deKlerk, Thomas D'Agostino, Richard Burt and James Baker III (interviewees)
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Executive Producers: Bruce Blair, Matt Brown, Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann
Co-Producer: Lisa Remington
Associate Producer: Brendan Rees
Original Music: Peter Golub
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary

By the time the viewer finishes watching Countdown to Zero they are pretty much horrified and in a state of shock.

The film traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs.

Released in 2009 the film shows nine nations who possess nuclear weapons capabilities with many others joining the race to acquire the capabilities.

Viewers see the delicate balance within which the world is held. This balance can be upset by a human accident, a natural disaster, a human act of terrorism and/or failed diplomacy.

There are a myriad of interviews with international statesmen who make a compelling argument for worldwide nuclear disarmament, an issue that has taken on new life and importance with the Obama administration's efforts to revive this goal.

Written and directed by widely acclaimed documentarian Lucy Walker, the film was produced and financed by a group of experienced filmmakers who have been activists in other areas and now turned their attention to the precarious situation facing the world regarding nuclear arms.

Friday, June 4, 2010

LOVE RANCH

By D.E.Levine

Director: Taylor Hackford
Writer: Marc Jacobson
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Scout Taylor-Compton, Joe Pesci, Gina Gershon, Ling Bai, M.C.Gainey, Taryn Manning, Gil Birmingham, Rick Gomez, Luce Rains et al.
Producers: David Bergstein, Lou DiBella, Taylor Hackford and Mary Katz
Executive Producer: Marcus Shofer
Co-producer: Jeff G. Waxman
Associate Producers: Tiffany Tiesiera and Frederich R. Ulrich
Line Producer: Anne Johns
Original Music: Chris Bacon
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Taken from a true story about Joe Conforte, who owned the Mustang Ranch, one of the first legal brothels in the United States and his wife, Sally Burgess Conforte, the daughter of a prostitue.

Love Ranch deals with life on the Mustang Ranch, the prostitutes, tax cheats, law men on the take and others who were involved with the Confortes.

In 1976, world class boxer Oscar Bonavena was shot dead at the ranch, alledgedly for having an affair with Sally. According to the film. the murder was covered up by law men on the take and Joe never paid for the crime.

Because of the wonderful acting, the late blooming love affair between Sally and Oscar is convincing. Of course, Helen Mirren is always superb in her roles whether she's playing Queen Elizabeth or the queen of a brothel.

Names have been change so while the story is based on truth the name changes protect the writer, director and producers from law suits.

The role of Joe (here know as Charlie) is thin. There's not much character development although Pesci is a bit of a surprise since most of us relate to him in comedic supporting roles and here he places a hard nosed man who's the brains behind the brothel (it was his idea) and schmoozes everyone while deal making.

However, the truth is that Charlie isn't always successful with his entrepreneurial endeavors and it's definitely Grace (Charlie's wife) who runs the ranch.

Brothel work certainly doesn't look glamorous in this film. If anything, the prostitutes are overworked and deal with the work as though it's drudge work - not even a job they like. But they stick to it because of the money and because Charlie and Grace provide them with a place to live and with all the amenities they need.

This isn't an erotic film in any sense of the word. While it covers life in a brothel during the 1970s, the film certainly isn't an advertisement for anyone to turn to prostitution as a way of life.

Overall, Love Ranch is interesting and well acted. Appeal will depend on individual taste regarding the story, characters and time period.