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Saturday, August 14, 2010

THE ROMANTICS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Galt Niederhoffer
Writer: Galt Niederhoffer (book); Galt Niederhoffer (screenplay)
Cast: Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, Josh Duhamel, Malin Akerman, Jeremy Strong, Candice Bergen, Adam Brody, Elijah Wood, Dianna Agron, Rebecca Lawrence et al.
Producers: Michael Benaroya, Daniel Hendler, Ron Stein, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Jennifer Todd and Suzanne Todd
Executive Producers: Robert Barnum Ogden, Eva Maria Daniels, Rose Ganguzza, Pamela Hirsch, Katie Holmes, Taylor Kephart, Lawrence Kephart, Riva Marker, Ranjit Ranju, Celine Rattray, Tony Shawkat, Jai Stefan and Todd Traina
Co-producers: Cynthia Coury, Simon Crowe, Todd J. Labarowski and Cecelia Kate Roque
Associate Producers: Lawrence M. Kopeikin, Nic Marshall, Tommee May and Owen Wiseman
Original Music: Jon Sadoff
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Romance, Comedy

It's interesting to assemble a stellar cast and have them directed by the woman who wrote the original novel, and still be lacking something in what should be a surefire hit.

The story is simply that some former Harvard classmates assemble on a beautiful New England estate for a posh wedding of one of their numbers.

These men and women are wealthy and privileged and somewhat artificial in their relationships with each other.

Anna Pacquin plays the wealthy and beautiful bride. Katie Holmes is her former college roommate and present maid of honor.

The problem seems to be Tom, the groom, played by Josh Duhamel. He's hunky but lacking any chemistry with either Pacquin, his bride, or Holmes, his former girlfriend.

It's also hard to believe he's got a PhD in English. Regardless, the film goes forward through the rehearsal dinner, the obligatory over drinking scenes and a "showdown" between Holmes and Duhamel.

Surrounded by the beauty of the seaside estate presided over my the bride's mother, played by Candice Bergen, the only person who seems solidly grounded and committed is the bride, who explicitly explains to the groom that she is the driving force who sees things as they actually are, where the marriage is a business proposition and she is in control.

Overall, it's a lavish to look at, light film with some deeper themes and should do well with the female audience.

Friday, August 13, 2010

LEGENDARY

By D.E.Levine

Director: Mel Damski
Writer: Jon Posey (screenplay)
Cast: John Cena, Patricia Clarkson, Madeleine Martin, Devon Graye, Danny Glover, John Posey, Tyler Posey, Chris Whetstone et al.
Producer: David Calloway
Executive Producers: Steve Barnett and Michael Pavone
Original Music: James Raymond
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Country of Origin: Country of Origin
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Sport

Legendary is an inspirational film project from WWE Films that stars former WWE wrestling champion John Cena.

Cena does a credible job playing Mike Chetley, a former high school wrestling champion who became an All American amateur wrestler but over the last decade has been arrested and served time for disruptive behavior and public brawling.

Son of a wrestling champion and coaching hero, Mike has lost touch with his mother and younger brother, although he lives and works not far away.

When his younger brother, Cal, a skinny kid who wants to reunite the family, decides to go out for wrestling at his high school, initiates contact by tracking him down and taking the bus to visit him, he's hostile and unreceptive.

It's only after he's targeted by some toughs at a bar, gets arrested again and is rescued by his younger brother, that Mike becomes interested in helping him.

Working daily and secretly with Cal, Mike manages to turn him into a wrestling champion and also turns his life around.

There are twists and turns along the way, and when he's targeted by toughs and winds up in prison again, it's only Cal who believes in his innocence and manages to convince their mother to investigate further.

All of the performances are believable and professional and the film does tell an inspirational story about reuniting the brothers and the family.

One problem I had was believing that the massive Cena could actually be the son of petite Patricia Clarkson and the brother of lightweight Devon Graye. It's a physiological thing based on the fact that Cena is so muscular and well-developed. a

I had serious doubts about enjoying a wrestling film, but it's well done, and absorbing, moves briskly along and is a film that you can definitely take the entire family to for an afternoon or evening of entertainment.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED

By Linda Zises

Director: J. Blakeson
Writer: J. Blakeson
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan
Producer: Adrian Sturges
Executive Producers Steve Christian and Marc Samuelson
Co-producers Andrew Fingret
Original Music: Marc Canham
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Thriller, Comedy

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a thriller turned into an almost comedy and shows the triumph of women over the minds and brawn of the stronger men in their lives.

It might be difficult to find a man to enjoy the turns and twists of this solid thriller but women seem unanimous in their enjoyment of this film.

While this is a violent film, it is also funny, light-hearted and almost not believable.

Of the three cast members Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) got the worst of the nudity and violence that ripples throughout the film because she is tied and gagged for most of the scenes. Her seemingly endless screams and squirming body would stay with me long after the film ended if they hadn't been upstaged by the most compelling innovative sounds created by the original music of composer Marc Canham that thundered with Dolby clarity, filling the theater to capacity.

But there is also silence; the long protracted moments of no music, just action and the men's voices. It was during the silence that I knew I was in the presence of genius: the genius of great music composers who know what to play and when to play it.

This music doesn't talk to emotions either present or anticipated but instead uses deep bass tones like mellow velvet vibrations and other unidentifiable instruments to enhance and augment the thematic needs of every filmed moment.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a game of cat and mouse with many a playful gesture mixed with a deadly foray into the minds and methods of professional crooks, ex cons and the seedy sorts that inhabit our immediate environment. Composer Marc Canham comes from a Games background that is perfectly suited for this film.

As the film unfolded, there was a tangible feel of humanity and likeable features in the characters, even in the crooks turned kidnappers.

Surprisingly, Alice, the victim was the weakest character and the least likable person on screen. I thought the part was poorly cast and that she was too old for the part. Although she was cruel and one dimensional, that didn't dampen my applause.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is fun, playful, memorable and worth seeing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE

By D.E.Levine

Producer: Ryan Murphy
Writer: Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt (screenplay), Elizabeth Gilbert (book)
Cast: Julia Roberts, Jarvier Bardem, l. Gusti Ayu Puspawati, Hadi Subiyanto, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, A.Jay Radcliff, Mike O'Malley, James Franco, Richard Jenkins et al.
Producer: Dede Gardner
Executive Producers: Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt and Stan Wlodkowski
Associate Producer: Gary L. Hayes
Original Music: Dario Marianelli
Line Producers: Tabrez Noorani and Neil Raven
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language English
Genre: Romance

This highly anticipated film is a huge disappointment. While the cinematography shows a lovely Rome, a very deluxe Indian Ashram and an isolated but beautiful area of Bali, there are absolutely no sparks between Julia Roberts and any of her leading men.

Playing journalist Elizabeth Gilbert, who had a best selling autobiographical book about a year she spent getting in touch with herself, Julia Roberts divorces her husband, leaves behind a younger lover and finds a new romance with an attractive older man in Bali.

Unfortunately, with no sparks, all of the romances fall flat and are unbelievable. You may ask how can there be no sparks with actors like Javier Bardem and Billy Crudup? It's hard to manage, but Eat Pray Love does just that.

The entire film seems to revolve around first class privelege. It must be nice to take a year off to "find oneself." The problem, for those of us that have traveled, is that the luxurious accomodations in Rome, India (an air-conditioned meditation room?) and Bali, don't ring true because that's not what the average person gets for his/her money.

Additionally, the writer, has an underlying monologue of pop psychology that she delivers as the film meanders along. Given the monetary abundance plus the psychological monologue, the film comes across as unrealistic

And meander it does. While a nice travelogue, the story isn't interesting enough for the time devoted to it plus without sparks, the romances fall flat. By the time Liz reaches Bali the viewer is bored and not terribly interested in what the privileged Liz is going to find.

Additionally, Liz never really does anything on her own according to the film. Each stage of finding herself is actually guided by either a romantic interest or a friend who guides her through that particular adventure or stage of her life.

Although we see her resisting Bardem because she wants to "do it alone" this woman never does anything alone in the film.

Basically, although a high-budget, celebrity cast film, this one is overrated and not worth devoting time or money seeing.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

DINNER FOR SCMUCKS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Jay Roach
Writer: David Guion and Michael Handelman (screenplay); Francis Veber (film "Le Diner de Cons")
Cast: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zak Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch, Bruce Greenwood, David Williams, Ron Livingston, Larry Wilmore, Kristen Schaal et al.
Producers: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes and Jay Roach
Executive Producers: Gary Barber, Sacha Baron Cohen, Roger Birnbaum, Jon Poll, Amy Sayres and Francis Veber
Original Music: Theodore Shapiro
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy

Another remake, this one is a remake of the French play The Dinner Game by Francis Veber and Veber is an executive producer of the film.

The film is truly funny, with a melancholy feeling to it. Of course, Steve Carell is doing the hard comedy with Paul Rudd playing the straight man, Tim, whose on the verge of having tremendous professional success if he can find the perfect guest (schmuck)to bring to his boss' annual Dinner for Extraordinary People.

In reality, the dinner ridicules the offbeat "guests", mocking their talents and presenting an award to the "most extraordinary."

Played by Carell, Barry is a blissfully unaware imbecile who works for the IRS and spends his spare time as an amateur taxidermist making dioramas with dead mice.

Smelling like aftershave and formaldehyde, badly dressed and toupeed, Barry is low key and bumbling but plays well against the other hysterically funny characters.

While all the characters are funny, the center of the film is really the relationship between Barry and Tim.

It's true that some people may be offended by the way the characters are described and played for the humiliation factor but in truth, Carell's Barry is such an appealing innocent that it's difficult to be offended by the film.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE

By D.E.Levine

Director: Steven R. Monroe
Writer:
Cast: Chad Lindberg, Daniel Franzese, Tracey Walter, Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Rodney Eastman, Andrew Howard, Mollie Milligan, Saxon Sharbino et al.
Producers: Lisa M. Hansen and Paul Hertzberg
Executive Producers: Kevin Kasha, Jeff Klein, Gary Needle, Alan Ostroff and Meir Zarchi
Original Music: Corey A. Jackson
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Country of Origin: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller

This is a remake of a 1977 film that was named "Day of the Woman."

The story revolves around a city girl who's a writer. Jennifer Hill rents an isolated lake cabin for a few months to write her first novel.

But within a couple of days she's harassed continually by some local men who finally abduct, rape and torture her.

Believing that she's dead the men search for her body but never find it. Instead, the girl who didn't die, returns to get revenge on the men.

It's a horrifying rape revenge film, but extremely well done. Despite the fact that it's well done, watching the brutality and humiliation on the screen is uncomfortable for the viewer.

Although the film has a small cast, the film is well acted, with the parts of Hill and the sheriff being especially well done.

Overall, the film as a horror film will invoke discussion based on the manner in which revenge is taken and while horrifying, it's not as disgusting as the last couple of SAW films.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

By D.E.Levine

Director: David Michod
Writer: David Michod
Cast: Ben Mendolsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frechville, Dan Wyllie, Anthony Hayes, Laura Wheelwright et al.
Producer: Liz Watts
Executive Producers: Vincent Sheehan and Bec Smith
Line Producer: Libby Sharpe
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Country of Origin: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama

Animal Kingdom has been described as a more naturalistic approach to a crime drama. It lacks the Hollywood flashiness of most gangster films.

Instead, the film concentrates on a Melbourne underworld crime family, Evil in this family and their tacky suburban home is mundane and even boring.

We're introduced to the family through 17-year old Josh or "J" whose mother kept him away from her murderous relatives but when she overdoses J has no place to go but to them.

All the actors are good but the actor playing J and the actress playing his grandmother (a newcomer and a well-established actress) give standout performances.

While J doesn't want to get involved and appears oblivious to the dangers to both himself and his girlfriend, living in the environment and observing his family, it's inevitable that he becomes part of their criminal life.

The teenager's observations reveal how individuals show their true colors and how trust can be quickly and easily lost.

While the teenager quietly observes, we see the grandmother, originally portrayed as a doting grandmother, show her authority and manipulative nature towards her offspring and grandson.

She can order the murder of her grandson without blinking an eye if it means saving herself and her sons (who are all somewhat unbalanced).

Animal Kingdom is an achievement because it doesn't go the Hollywood route and instead was filmed in real Australian locations in natural light. It comes across as authentic and real and has proven a hit at film festivals and previews.

Monday, August 2, 2010

CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE

By D.E.Levine

Director: Brad Payton
Writer: Ron J. Friedman and Steve Beniich (screenplay); John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (characters)
Cast: James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate, Katt Williams, Bette Midler, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Wallace Shawn, Roger Moore, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris O'Donnell et al.
Producers: Polly Johnsen and Andrew Lazar
Executive Producers: Brent O'Connor
Co-producer: Miri Yoon
Associate Producer: Debbi Bossi
Original Music: Christopher Lennertz
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy

It's been nine years since the original "Cats and Dogs" brought over $200 million in worldwide.

Now, with the release of this 3D sequel, Warner Brothers and its associates are hoping for another smash hit.

This film is actually funnier than the original. It centers around cats and dogs working together against one, Kitty Galore, a former agent of MEOWS (Mousers Enforcing Our World Safety) who's gone rogue.

Real cats and dogs are used, and they are CGI enhanced to produce the movement of lips when speaking and appropriate body language when striking poses or moving.

Evidently, just as in the original 2001 film, humans are oblivious to the perils of the world and it's the dogs and cats who become the combatants, armed with high tech weapons and satellite surveillance.

The villain, Kitty Gallore, is hilariously voiced by Bette Midler, who may have found a new calling should she ever decide to give up singing.

Diggs, a German Shepard (voiced by James Marsden) has had so many screw ups on the job as a San Francisco Police dog that he is dishonorably discharged.

Sprung from the kennel by Butch, for canine secret agentry, Diggs goes to work sniffing out the whereabouts of Kitty Galore.

The entire film is a a very funny spoof on James Bond and Shirley Bassey even sings a re-orchestrated version of "Get The Party Started" while the credits role.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

THE OTHER GUYS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay and Chris Henchy
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Derek Jeter, Samuel Jackson, Dwayne Jackson, Steve Coogan, Eva Mendes, Larnell Stovall, Jalil Jay Lynch, Roy T. Anderson, David Gideon, Michael Keaton, Damon Wayons Jr., Rob Riggle et al.
Producers: Patrick Crowley and Jimmy Miller
Executive Producers: Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy, David B. Householter, Adam McKay and Kevin J. Messick
Associate Producers: William M. Connor and Rizelle Mendoza
Original Music: Jon Brion
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Action

Another successful pairing of comedien Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay. This is a funny film based on the age-old premise of the cop-buddy duo.

In The Other Guys, Ferrell plays Adam Gamble, a forensic accountant police detective who loves paperwork and is the butt of jokes by other detectives.

His partner, Terry Hoitz, is frustrated by being paired with Gamble, but he shot Derek Jeter and that has pretty much kept him office bound.

Who would have thought that Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg could do comedy together. But, the two are hilarious. Undoubtedly, much of that is due to Ferrell's outrageous comedic talent and Wahlberg's ability to play the straight man.

However, Wahlberg exhibits great comedic skill and timing in some scenes, especially when Gamble takes partner Hoitz home to meet his "ball and chain" wife played by Eva Mendes.

There's a very interesting supporting cast of detectives and administrators and plenty of funny jokes that caused the audience to laugh out loud throughout the film.

Steve Coogan is cast as a superb sleazy villain who manages to elude the hero cops but not "the other guys".

This is fun summer entertainment. Some of the language and jokes are crude, but overall it's a lightweight, fun film that deftly blends comedy with action.

SALT

By D.E.Levine

Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetal Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, Daniel Pearce, Hunt Block, Andre Braugher, Olek Krupa et al.
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Sunil Perkash
Executive Producers: Ric Kidney and Mark Vahradian
Associate Producer: William M. Connor
Original Music: James Newton Howard
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English and Russian
Genre: Action, Thriller, Mystery

I liked Salt although I didn't expect to like the film. It's an intriguing thriller with twists and turns along the way and a surprise ending.

Well cast with a superb group of actors, from the start, the story is absorbing and holds the viewer's attention.

Angelina Jolie plays a federal agent accused of being a Russian mole. The Russians are once again the bad guys in this film and most characters seem to have multiple personalities and/or identities.

There are a lot of breathtaking stunts involving leaps of several story heights and from moving vehicle to moving vehicle. Despite the fact that she did her own stunts, Angelina Jolie apparently emerged unscathed with no sprains or broken bones.

The story has plenty of holes and they are readily apparent while watching it but because of the casting and the action scenes, no one seems to mind the holes.

Jolie is in a role where she either breaks into or out of impenetrable strongholds and singlehandedly sets out to save the world from nuclear annihilation while every friend and co-worker appears to be working against her.

Despite the flaws in the film, Jolie is fun to watch and the film is absorbing. It's a summer thriller and deep thought and analysis are not required.