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Posts Tagged ‘Written Review’

ANOTHER YEAR review by Alyn Darnay

February 3rd, 2011 No comments

Review by Alyn Darnay

Directed by: Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake.)

Starring: Jim Broadbent (Tom), Ruth Sheen (Gerri), Lesley Manville (Mary)

Something there is about the English and their gardens, how they tend them, take their time with them, care for them, cherish them, bring warmth and joy to them, even staying with them when the weather turns nasty. And so to is it with Mike Leigh’s latest ensemble piece “Another Year.” Here the talented 67-year old director again brings us a statement about the human condition in the form of a happily married 60something couple who act as protective gardeners for a variety of their world tortured friends. As a film, “Another Year” is a slow paced slice of life, slightly ironic, very sweet, with thoroughly engaging characters, a strangely realistic story, and exceptional acting performances by all.

Over the course of one year, introduced through seasonal gardening as our guide to time passage, we meet an easygoing London couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) who are enjoying their fifth decade together. He’s a working geologist and she’s a therapist for the National Health. They live a quiet life on a quiet street somewhere in a quiet London suburb. They’re still very happy together and enjoy many shared interests, none the least of which is to socialize with friends and family, mostly over lunch, dinner or the frequent bottle of wine at the kitchen table.

Basically, the story is about the problems raging around the friends of this loving couple and how they are unaffected by it as they provide comfort and support to all these lost and lonely souls who’ve entered their life. I was however left wondering if they were really as warm as they appeared, or if they actually drew satisfaction about their own lives through the trials and tribulations of those around them. That’s the beauty of this movie; it’s so close to reality that you as an audience are left with decisions about the characters in the same way you are in life.

The standout performance, in an ensemble of standout performances, is that of Lesley Manville, a 54 year old veteran of Leigh’s films and the British Theatre, who jumps to center stage with an award worthy performance. Her character, Mary, is an attractive but desperately neurotic female, constantly conjuring up romances in her head and then drowning herself in copious amounts of wine when they fail to present themselves. It’s Manville’s brilliant performance that raises the bar in this film, she literally takes over the screen and turns Mary into a true tragic character that we as an audience just want to shake and say,  “Come to your senses girl!”

The film’s screenplay has received an Oscar nomination for Leigh’s compelling script, and deservedly so, it tells a universal story in a most unique way. Granted, the film could be a little shorter, but “Another Year” will slowly grow on you, that’s Leigh’s style, well mannered and English, but the journey is worth your time. I liked the film very much.

Rating: (A-)

Another Year” is rated PG-13. (for some language)

THE MECHANIC review by Alyn Darnay

January 28th, 2011 No comments

Review by Alyn Darnay

Directed by: Simon West (Con Air)

Starring: Jason Statham (The Transporter), Ben Foster (The Messenger), Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)

Here you go, a slam bam summer action movie, right in the middle of winter. Is there any better way to heat up the screen? Jason Statham is back tearing up the bad guys as an elite hit man in this excellent re-envisioning of the 1972 Charles Bronson/Jan-Michael Vincent film of the same name

Arthur Bishop (Statham) is the epitome of the precision hit man; so precise is he that you never know he’s been there, his targets always appear to have met an accidental death. When his mentor Harry (Sutherland) meets an untimely death, at his hands, Bishop’s quietly ordered life is turned upside down and he winds up seeking vengeance against the assassination corporation who ordered up the hit. Joining him in this quest is Harry’s son Steve (Foster), who pleads with Arthur to teach him the business in the same way he was taught. What follows is mayhem, destruction, double crosses, and lots of expended bullet casings.

Simon West shows us that he still knows how to keep the action coming, and it’s non-stop. Between the high-tech and low-tech assassinations, the steamy sex scenes, and the cat and mouse game subplot, there’s so much testosterone flying around you’ll grow a beard just watching the movie.

If you’re an action fan you’re going to like this film, it’s not “Gone with the Wind”, but it does keep you moving along with it. It’s a great winter’s night diversion.

Rating: (C+)

The Mechanic” is rated R (for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.)

THE DILEMMA review by Alyn Darnay

January 28th, 2011 No comments

Review by Alyn Darnay

Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring: Vince Vaughn (Ronnie), Kevin James (Nick), Jennifer Connelly (Beth), Winona Ryder (Geneva), Queen Latifah (Dana) and Channing Tatum (Zip)

This film crawled up and surprised me. I was expecting a light comedy with some dramatic moments, what I got was a serious film with some comedic moments thoughtfully exploring the universal topics of fidelity and friendship, and I liked it. It’s actually hard to describe this film in terms of genre, definitely a ‘bromance’, perhaps a comedy/drama, either way, to me that makes for a true viewers delight.

Here’s the storyline: Confirmed bachelor Ronny and happily married Nick have been best friends and business partners since college. The two buddies are on the brink of landing a dream project that will push their auto design company over the top. Both men, it seems, rely upon the strengths of their women, Ronny’s girlfriend, Beth and Nick’s wife, Geneva to help keep them on target and focused. When Ronny accidentally sees Geneva kissing another man, his world is turned upside down and his friendship and loyalty to Nick forces him into a bad moral corner. Whither to tell Nick that his wife is cheating on the eve of their presentation to Chrysler Motors or to wait till after, is only the start of Ronny’s “Dilemma”. The mayhem that ensues is both comic and tragic, and tests the bonds of every relationship in the film.

I’ve heard that director Ron Howard’s partner, producer Brian Grazer, suggested the story to Vince Vaughn who signed on to the project early. Here it feels like he wanted to continue his exploration into the darker side of relationships that began with “The Break-Up”, and there’s nothing bad about that. Vaughn is a truly talented actor, capable of great performance and this is a good one. He takes advantage of every moment of screen time, running the full gamut of human emotions. The other roles are all beautifully acted as well, there’s not a bad performance in the bunch, but in truth, this is Vaughn’s film.

If the film fails anywhere it’s in Ron Howard’s middle of the road vision. He’s a great director and there are some inspired directorial moments in this film, but he cops out in the end by not making a strong statement about the basic nature of we human beings.

I enjoyed this film very much and recommend to any mature filmgoer.

Rating: (C+)

The Dilemma” is rated PG-13. (Parents Strongly Cautioned.)

THE MECHANIC review by John Delia

January 27th, 2011 No comments

“EXPLOSIVE THRILLER”

Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn and Mini Anden

Directed by: Simon West (Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, Con Air)

MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity

Genre: Action, thriller

Running Time: 1hr 32min

Release Date: January 28, 2011

Distributed by: CBS Films

By John Delia

Explosive, vicious and exhilarating, all the things that men like in a film are jammed into the 92 minutes of The Mechanic. The no-stop assassin drama kept me on the edge of my seat while bombs exploded, bullets flew, death defying stunts performed, knife fights, well you know what Crank was like, but count on double here. If you want to up your testosterone levels, then this is your kick-ass thriller.

Jason Statham as hit-man Arthur Bishop

The Mechanic’s plot surrounds Arthur Bishop (Statham), a hired assassin who makes a very good living knocking off drug lords and political dictators.  He lives a very dangerous life but the perks are great.  His hideaway in the New Orleans Bayou has all the amenities one could ask for and he manages to spend nights with some exciting girls.  One day he gets assigned a hit on his very close associate Harry (Donald Sutherland), a job he cannot refuse or put his own life in jeopardy.  At the funeral he runs into Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) who tells Arthur that he wants to get his dad’s killer.  Thus starts an unusual bond, one that takes them on a cringing death ride.

Statham plays his brilliantly usual tough guy who’s relentless on getting his score no matter what it takes.  I am a huge fan of his and he has never let me down on the screen.  Here he makes me even more devout. Ben Foster expels a nasty persona as Steve making a great sidekick to Arthur.  You can see in his face that every fight Steve gets into more fuel gets added to his hatred.

Simon West on the set of The Mechanic

That said how could the two stars go wrong under the direction Simon West (Con Air, Laura Croft: Tomb Raider).   The man has a mind of a maniac creating one brutal scene after the next.  I was amazed at how real the action looked, explosive the story rolled out and the intrigue that was woven within.

The Mechanic is rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.  Although the target audience is males, I could see a lot of women in the audience getting thrilled by it as well.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A killer an action thriller. (B+)

BIUTIFUL review by John Delia

January 27th, 2011 No comments

“STARK REALITY”

Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Eduardo Fernández (II), Diaryatou Daff, and Blanca Portillo

Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez

MPAA Rating: Rated R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use

Genre: Drama, Foreign

Running Time: 2hrs 28min

Distributed by: Roadside Attractions

By John Delia

Javier Bardem gives a gutsy performance in the gritty drama Biutiful.  I liked this film from the incisive beginning to the heartfelt ending.  Acting, directing and especially the cinematography are the building blocks for this story of a man struggling to keep his children.

Javier Bardem as Uxbal

The movie centers on Uxbal (Bardem), a beleaguered man living and existing in a world of danger.  His only means of survival in the Barcelona ghetto depends on the contacts he makes and the devious deals he has to abide by.  His drug-addicted wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez) can’t take care of herself much less her children, but still she takes turns watching the kids so Uxbal can make his crooked deals.  When his illness starts to get the better of him, he has to make some uncompromising decisions.

Bardem puts all of his strength into the character overshadowing everything he has done previously in films.  With the help of director

Maricel Alvarez gives a cringing performance as Marambra

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros) he pulls off an amazing performance that startles and finally endears. Inarritu’s choice of locations shows a very graphic lifestyle that helps show his main character as a desperate man in a dangerous situation.

But, even with the excellent acting and direction, the film would not have been as prolific had it not been for Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto (Lust Caution, State of Play). Prieto tells the ruthless story using the worn ghetto

Director Inarritu on the set of Biutiful

as his canvas showing the uncompromising danger, sadness and realistic violence.

Biutiful is rated R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use so only mature adults should go to see the film.  The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A must see film for those who crave realistic life dramas. (B)

THE COMPANY MEN review by John Delia

January 27th, 2011 No comments

“MEN OUT OF WORK”

Starring: Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, and Craig T. Nelson

Directed by: John Wells

MPAA Rating: R for language and brief nudity

Genre: Comedy and Drama

Running Time: 1 hr 53 min

Distributed by: The Weinstein Company

By John Delia

Stunning performances make The Company Men disturbing, yet a wake up call to our decaying work force.  The film targets the heavy problems caused by downsizing, especially jobs at the top of the food chain.  Although you may think that this subject matter couldn’t be entertaining, what makes it exciting is the way it gets handled on the screen.  I enjoyed this film as much as Up In The Air, maybe even a little more.

Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Affleck in The Company Men

The Company Men centers on Bobby Walker (Affleck), one of many top performers in a large corporation.  He has a great home, plays golf often and drives a Porsche.  Not a worry in the world, or so he thinks.  Following a perfect day on the links he arrives at work right on time to find out his company is downsizing by eliminating duplicate jobs, his job.  Disturbed and disheartened Bobby takes it very badly.  His brother-in-law (Kevin Kostner) takes him in as a day laborer so he can provide for his family.  When friend and associate Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) heads into a depressive spiral, Bobby’s realm seems bleak, that is until they have a meeting with their old boss Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones).

The acting here makes the film work and although the genre shows comedy along with the drama, this is more of a stark reality call that is more depressive than funny. Affleck turns in another perfect performance (The Town) as the younger guy who fears for his family with the loss of a promising future.  I could feel his pain coming off the screen and that’s what makes The Company Men work.  In support, Chris Cooper’s delivery of the psychological trauma an older person goes through when he suffers a loss like this, defines the word irritate.

Kevin Costner and Ben Affleck

Direction here looks like a walk in the park for John Wells dealing with the excellent team of actors and his own great script.  This marks his first time directing but he has been a filmmaker since 1987 with such films as The Peacemaker, One Hour Photo and The Good Thief.   Taking the reins and doing a splendid job for his first occasion with all the power over the action, proves he can be even a greater filmmaker at this level.

The film is rated R for language and brief nudity.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A strong statement that resonates from the screen. (B)

NO STRINGS ATTACHED review by John Delia

January 20th, 2011 No comments

“ROMANCE WITH SEX”

Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Kevin Kline, and Ophelia Lovibond

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drug material

Genre: Comedy and Romance

Running Time: 1hr 50min

Release Date: January 21, 2011

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

By John Delia

Romance with sex is the best way to describe No Strings Attached.  The fast paced openly sexual film takes liberties using artistic license and lets it all hang out. This comedy’s not for the prudent or immature and has no class whatsoever.  If it embarrasses you, then your morals are still in tact. If not, you probably had a good time.

Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman)

At the center of the story are Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) two young career people who met earlier in their lives and are now getting to know each other better.  While formerly ‘friends’ there sex lives are way over the hormone levels of the normal.  Actually both can be categorized as borderline nymphomaniacs. After becoming reacquainted, since their lives have just been in a passing by phase, Adam starts to take interest in the now blossomed girl that has become more tantalizing.  When Adam finds out that his father is dating his ex-girlfriend, he goes over the edge looking of any old girlfriend he can contact to have mind-altering sex.  Getting totally smashed after hitting all the bars in town, he wakes up the next morning in Emma’s apartment.  What happens next is the ‘rest of the story.’

Now while I am not a prude, actually I do see the changes in today’s society relating to morality, my opinion on this up in your face sex comedy is not in high regard.  The evocative characters however are extremely well performed, elicit a lot of laughter and do entertain.  The writers must have been living in LA all their lives because the lifestyle seems to have gotten to them.

Portman and Kutcher heading for their first of many LIP LOCKS

Performances by Kutcher and Portman in the bedroom scene are so realistic you would think you were watching a porno it’s that hot.  What is all the fuss about Portman and Kutcher kissing as reported on Yahoo?  Portman said it was weird.  NOW, it didn’t look like either person found it weird at all.  Actually it looked very sexy and real.  Watch out Demi.

What keeps the film going for 110 minutes are the support cast that adds more sexual humor that continues the sex-fest in various side stories.  The writers didn’t leave out a thing from gay, both men and women; to handcuffs and everything in between.  Here the side characters are as funny as the leads.

Kutcher and and a ditsy Lake Bell

I know I had a lot of fun writing this review and if you are a mature adult you will probably have fun watching the movie.  No Strings Attached is rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material. I may add that it contains some naked rear end shots that both the men and women should enjoy.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A truly tasteless ADULT comedy. (C+)

ALL GOOD THINGS review by John Delia

January 20th, 2011 No comments

“DAMAGED ROMANCE”

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Lily Rabe, and Philip Baker Hall

Directed by: Andrew Jarecki

MPAA Rating: R for drug use, violence, language and some sexuality

Genre: Romance and Thriller

Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures

By John Delia

What starts out to be a romantic story turns into a nightmare in All Good Things a loosely based true story involving a disappearance that could not be solved.  Very chilling the movie moves along at a quick step from a budding romance that was frowned upon to the final enactment of the possible murder outcome of this unsolved mystery.

Gosling as David in a scene with Dunst as Kathie

The movie centers on David Marks (Gosling) the wealthy son of the Marks Family who earned millions in the real estate business.  Under the thumb of the powerful patriarch, Sanford Marks (Frank Langella), David avoids any relationships that may upset the family company.  On the side he meets Kathie (Dunst), they fall in love and David takes a chance on marriage.  Unfortunately as time goes on their marriage starts to breakdown due to demands put upon David by the family.  When Kathie goes missing, the mystery begins.

Inspired by the Robert Durst incident, the most notorious missing person’s case in New York history, director Andrew Jarecki takes Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling’s script and puts together a searing portrait extracted from actual case records as to how things may have actually gone down.  Although just conjecture, the possibilities look amazingly realistic.

Ryan Gosling in All Good Things

Gosling rockets his acting skills with an amazing psychotic performance. This past year has been a good time to show off his talent with Blue Valentine and now All Good things.  Especially in this film where Ryan goes from lover to monster showing facial expressions that bring out the sinister personality of David making him intensely believable.

What saves this film from a television movie however is the chemistry between Dunst and Gosling who heat up the screen with a touching romance and then a violent relationship. You could feel the love between the two characters as it develops into an endearing affair.  When David finds himself with his back to the wall, his rage drives a blazing breakdown in all that is good.

All Good Things is rated R for drug use, violence, language and some sexuality.  The film was originally rated NC-17.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Top-notch acting saves the film from an early grave. (B-)

MADE IN DAGENHAM review by John Delia

January 12th, 2011 No comments

“LADIES ON STRIKE”

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Bob Hoskins, Geraldine James, Jaime Winstone, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike

Directed by: Nigel Cole

MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality

Genre: Foreign, Drama

Running Time: 1 hr 53 min

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

By John Delia

Here’s a lesson in history that set the standard for equal pay for women.  Made in Dagenham takes this subject and presents it in storybook fashion adding a lot of ‘Hollywood’ stuffing and pretty faces.  I like the film, but subtitles would have had me liking it even better.

Miranda Richardson and Sally Hawkins

The dramatization takes place in 1968 England showing the lives of some of the Ford Motor Company factory women who make up the upholstery department where the seats and doors were covered.  The film depicts the uncomfortable conditions that the women had to work under including no air conditioning.  One day the announcement comes that the women in the upholstery division of the factory have been granted a vote in union activities.  When they are invited to attend a meeting of the heads of the union, Rita O’Grady speaks up about equal pay for both men and women.  Thus starts a battle of wits and strikes that even today may not have been equaled in women rights.

Bob Hoskins as Albert Passingham

The acting here is incredibly good giving the feel of the era and the way women were being treated.  Much like another period movie Calendar Girls where women protested by getting naked for a cause, the stage here is a factory and a call for equal rights. The film also reminded me somewhat of Norma Rae and the textile mills in North Carolina with Sally Field standing up on a table holding a sign that says STRIKE. Hats off in acting to Sally Hawkins as Rita O’Grady the insistent factory worker and Bob Hoskins as the cunning union worker representative Albert Passingham who guides Rita without regard to damaging his own future with the company.

I know I am being a bit cheeky, but here Nigel Cole takes liberties focusing on women disrobing in order to cope with the heat in the factory and using it to provide a comical tone that in reality was probably an  incidental happening that was reported during the times.  He also insists on dialog in the shanty dialect for the era, that in most cases made it difficult to understand.  If he was looking for flavor he got it, but at what cost?  I guess I will have to wait for the DVD to come out so I can put on the

Nigel Cole on the set

subtitles to find out what I missed.

As for the movie as a whole, I liked it.  Even the problems cited about are not enough to take away from the event itself and the challenges the women went through in order to bring attention to the unfairness that had been bestowed upon them.  Cole tries to stuff a lot into his film showing many scenes where men treated women as rag dolls insisting that they have no say in business.

Hats off to the women who were insistent enough to hold strong in their amazing battle for right and freedom.  This film is surly one that they can glean on as future reference to any further segregation of the sexes.

Made In Dagenham is rated R for language and brief sexuality.  The language part is circumspect since due to their cockney I could hardly understand when they were swearing.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An above average film with historical significance. (3.5 of 5)

CASINO JACK review by John Delia

January 5th, 2011 No comments



‘POLITICS FOR PROFIT’

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly Preston, Rachelle Lefevre, and Jon Lovitz

Directed by: George Hickenlooper

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some violence and brief nudity

Genre: Drama, Biopic, Crime

Running Time: 1hr 48min

Distributed by: ATO Pictures

By John Delia

Well acted and directed Casino Jack provides a scary look into government politics and though the eyes of super lobbyist Jack Abramoff.   It’s Kevin Spacey at his best with a brilliantly cringing performance that tells all about the government gangster who goes out of control.  With Barry Pepper at Spacey’s side, this film comes up a winner.

Kevin Spacey and Berry Pepper in Casino Jack

Inspired by true events, this story shows how Jack Abramoff (Spacey) takes control of some of the world’s most powerful men, including the President of the United States for his ill gotten gain. With the country tied up at war and a President in a struggle to keep America on track, Abramoff uses his conniving power to build an empire with the help of his business partner Michael Scanlon (Pepper).  His illegal schemes lead to the kind of greed that can make a man so strong that even his mistakes are overlooked.  That is until his wealth and influence get out of hand and the world takes notice.

Here Spacey shows his might as the businessman with clout.  Dominating the screen with the Abramoff persona, he makes the lobbyist a scary reality. Having seen the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, I am amazed on how close Spacey comes in character to the real Abramoff.

But, without Barry Pepper as the business partner and envoy of their schemes, the film would have lost its dramatic genius.  Pepper takes on the character of Scanlon with a slick performance showing how easy it is to deliver some of the world’s most powerful men and the mob to the greedy Abramoff.

Spacey as Abramoff and Kelly Preston as his wife

Also in support Kelly Preston shows how oblivious Abramoff’s wife Pam is to his dirty dealings. In one scene by the pool of their multimillion-dollar estate Pam confronts Jack with a few questions including bills that are not being paid.  The super con easily brushes her off as Preston walks away wagging her butt with shear naiveté.

Direction by Hickenlooper comes up to snuff with some of his other good works like Factory Girl and Hearts of Darkness.  Here he brings out the best in Spacey and Pepper as they are moved within the world of shady business dealings and government power plays.  Paying close attention to the real Abramoff, Hickenlooper never looses control of the darkness and domination that the man possessed.

Casino Jack is rated R for pervasive language, some violence and brief nudity.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  An explosive drama that exposes a scary reality. (4 of 5)