Monthly Archives: February 2009

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Wonderful doggie movie so far, the “Dont Look Back” is Glorious!”

In Disney’s unabashedly silly talking-dog movie BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA, Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), the ridiculously spoiled title pet, is swept away from her comfortable 90210 existence,… In Disney’s unabashedly silly talking-dog movie BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA, Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), the ridiculously spoiled title pet, is swept away from her comfortable 90210 existence, when the impulsive niece (Piper Perabo) of her wealthy owner (Jamie Lee Curtis) combines dog-sitting with a vacation in Mexico. When Chloe gets lost south of the border, her scrappy Chihuahua admirer, Papi (voiced by George Lopez), embarks on a mission to bring her back home.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)

While Chloe’s pint-size dog in shining armor searches for his posh crush, she must contend with the rough-and-tumble side of life, learning a few important lessons along the way. Directed by Raja Gosnell, who is no stranger to dog-themed live-action/CGI flicks (see SCOOBY-DOO), CHIHUAHUA is an amusing diversion that is custom-made for canine lovers. Barrymore and Lopez are pitch-perfect in their vocal performances, and they are ably assisted by a bevy of Latino talent, including Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, and Cheech Marin.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)

Although the film doesn’t give its human actors a lot to do, it doesn’t matter much, since the dogs are the reason for the entire show. In fact, the more the movie concentrates on its furry protagonists the more giddily entertaining it gets, as exemplified by a fun, fantastical doggie musical sequence that serves as CHIHUAHUA’s undeniable highlight.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

My Rating : 5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Astonishing, Touching and a very Peculiar award-winning movie!”

At once epic in scope and intimate in detail, David Fincher’s THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is certainly the director’s most emotional film to date (though FIGHT CLUB and SEVEN don’t offer… At once epic in scope and intimate in detail, David Fincher’s THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is certainly the director’s most emotional film to date (though FIGHT CLUB and SEVEN don’t offer much in the way of competition).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Loosely based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, this romantic drama tells the tale of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), born in 1918 in New Orleans as a baby with wrinkles, cataracts, and arthritis.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benjamin will age backwards, getting younger as he watches those around him growing older. Included in that group are his adoptive mother, Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), and Daisy (Cate Blanchett), the love of his life whom he meets when she is just a little girl and he is an old man. They age in reverse, but despite Benjamin’s globe-trotting adventures, their lives repeatedly intersect.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The script from Oscar winner Eric Roth bears more than a few hallmarks in common with his earlier work on FORREST GUMP: both adaptations cross decades and continents.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

But BENJAMIN’s script or even the fine acting aren’t its most impressive accomplishment; the technology–both CGI and makeup–used to make Benjamin and Daisy age are remarkable, and makes the film entirely believable, but they’re certainly aided by fine performances from both Pitt and Blanchett. The triumph of technology only serves to underscore the beauty of this film and of the love story at its heart.

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

My Rating : 3/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >>Violent, Gory and lots of Gunfights – truly a WAR ZONE!”

PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, the third screen appearance from Marvel Comics’ angel of death, continues the saga of Frank Castle, normal New York City citizen turned Mafia-slaying vigilante following the murder of his wife and daughter.

Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone

Upping the violence level to the intensity of a horror film, this outing requires no prior knowledge of the character’s screen antics and features an appealingly stoic performance from Ray Stevenson, who cuts an imposing physical presence, and is a more-than-worthy successor to previous Punishers Dolph Lundgren (1990) and Thomas Jane (2004). Six years after the death of his family, Frank Castle is still waging war against organized crime in New York. After he ambushes a party for an aging mob boss and turns it into a bloodbath, the battle moves to a recycling warehouse where Castle pushes gangster Billy Russoti (Dominic West) into a swirling vat of broken glass.

Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone

During his escape, Castle accidentally shoots one of the FBI men who have arrived on the scene. Russoti undergoes plastic surgery, but after seeing his badly disfigured face for the first time, he shoots his surgeon and dubs himself “Jigsaw.” While a deeply regretful Castle attempts to make amends with the widow (Julie Benz) of the agent he has slain, Jigsaw rallies an army of criminals in an attempt to take down the seemingly indestructible Punisher. Though there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments to lighten its impact, the graphic bloodshed in PUNISHER: WARZONE is often startling and is sure to satisfy the bloodlust of any fan of violent action cinema. Directed by former karate and kickboxing champion Lexi Alexander (GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS), the film is frenetically paced and retains a true comic book feel, mostly due to a colorful lighting scheme and a particularly hammy performance by West, who seems to be having a blast.

Australia (2008)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Enchanting, Mind-blowing and a Brilliant work by Luhrmann!”

MOULIN ROUGE’s Baz Luhrman and Nicole Kidman reteam for this epic that pays homage to their homeland. In AUSTRALIA, Lady Sarah Ashley (Kidman) is a prim and proper Englishwoman who journeys to Australia in the years before World War II reached the country’s shores.

australia

australia

She is determined to have her estranged husband sell his cattle ranch to a monopoly-craving businessman named King Carney (Bryan Brown), but when she arrives, Lord Ashley is dead, and her plan to sell the ranch changes when she sees an employee named Fletcher (David Wenham) cheating her husband’s business and mistreating a young boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters) because he is of mixed race. Urged on by both pride and a sense of justice, Lady Ashley wants to drive her herd of cattle to Darwin so she can sell them to the troops, but she’ll require the help of an independent cowboy (fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman) to get them there.

australia

australia

AUSTRALIA changes genres almost as much as Kidman’s character changes from fantastic costume to fantastic costume (courtesy of Luhrman’s wife and collaborator, Catherine Martin). The film begins as a fish-out-of-water comedy, then changes into a Western, then morphs into a romance, and it finishes as a World War II drama. But in this genre-bending epic, there’s something for everyone, especially for fans of Jackman.

australia

australia

The actor has rarely looked better, and there’s plenty of opportunity for him to show that he can be an action star as well as a romantic lead in the mold of the Golden Age stars. The film itself harks back to classic Hollywood, at times resembling essentials such as GONE WITH THE WIND and THE AFRICAN QUEEN. And fans of THE WIZARD OF OZ will enjoy seeing how the beloved film works its way into AUSTRALIA’s plot and score.

Thick as Thieves / The Code (2009)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Excellent crime story, and Freeman makes more lively with his astounding performance!”

A veteran thief recruits a younger crook to help him pull off one final job in order to repay his debt to the Russian mob.

the code / thick as thieves

the code / thick as thieves

Mitchell plays a temptress whose romantic liaison with a thief (Banderas) threatens to come between him and his partner in crime, her godfather (Freeman).

the code / thick as thieves

the code / thick as thieves

“The Code,” written by Ted Humphrey is directed by Mimi Leder, the woman behind such films as “The Peacemaker,” “Deep Impact” and “Pay It Forward.”

the code / thick as thieves

the code / thick as thieves

Her new movie has already been picked by Millennium Films, but has yet to set a release date.

Blindness (2008)

My Rating : 5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Blindness is one movie where you feel the intensity of the movie-making, the acting and the sets – The concept is mind blowing!”

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (CITY OF GOD) brings Jose Saramago’s much-loved novel BLINDNESS to the screen with this ambitious adaptation. Like Saramago’s book, Meirelles chooses to forfeit names for his characters, instead spinning BLINDNESS around the plight of a doctor and his wife (respectively played by Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore).

blindness

blindness

A blindness epidemic strikes an unnamed city, forcing the government to put many citizens in quarantine, including Ruffalo’s doctor. Unable to conceive of life without him, Moore’s character feigns blindness and joins him in the grimy high-security institution where visually impaired citizens are kept. Their attempt to survive in the rotting facility, which quickly falls into disrepair and chaos, forms the backbone of Meirelles’s movie. There’s a twist in the tale as Ruffalo and Moore’s characters struggle to lead the blind to a place where they can come to terms with their condition, and Meirelles makes the journey deeply unsettling. An impressive cast ably backs Ruffalo and Moore, including Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Alice Braga.

blindness

blindness

Their performances give a palpable feeling of what it’s like to be blind, and even provide a few moments of dark comedy as they stumble through the institution in which they’re imprisoned. Meirelles’s movie, which essentially functions as an allegory for societal collapse, is an alarming and often distressing look at the dark side of human nature.

blindness

blindness

The director often saturates the film with milky white color, reflecting the bright light the blind see when the condition besets them. This glare often makes it difficult to look at the screen, inflicting Meirelles’s audience with a feeling of momentary blindness.

blindness

blindness

An atmosphere of tangible dread manifests itself as BLINDNESS progresses, and the ugly scenes of rape and brawling, largely caused by the meager food rationing among the blind, makes for emotional viewing.

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

My Rating : 3.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “You always find the truth, when the truth starts finding you – Magnificent!”

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, based on the New York Times best selling novel and set in South Carolina in 1964, is the moving tale of Lily Owens (Fanning) a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother (Burton).

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees

To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father (Bettany), Lily flees with Rosaleen (Hudson), her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters (Latifah, Okonedo and Keys), Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

My Rating : 2.5/5 STARS

The first HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL movie to be released straight to the silver screen, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 finds the cast of the beloved earlier installments, all students at East High, dealing with the ups and downs of senior year. While all the characters have their own dilemmas, the central issue, as in past films, is the relationship between sweethearts Troy (Zac Efron), the captain of East High’s Wildcats basketball team, and the bookish Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), who face the possibility of imminent separation when Gabriella gets a chance to attend college early.

Senior Year

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

With this third outing in the wildly popular Disney series, director Kenny Ortega takes full advantage of HSM3’s big-screen leap, staging musical numbers that go far beyond the scope of the movie’s predecessors (see the lavish “I Want It All” by resident East High diva Sharpay, played by Ashley Tisdale). While the series regulars are in fine form and a few new characters are introduced, the film really belongs to Efron, who gets the most screen time and is clearly on a trajectory for stardom beyond HSM. Rather than hold back their budding leading man, the creators and producers of HSM3 let Efron take the spotlight, much to the movie’s advantage. Designed to welcome the few viewers who might be unfamiliar with HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, SENIOR YEAR certainly offers plenty of valedictory excitement, and will leave fans giddy with delight.

Things We Lost in the Fire (2007)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “My first Del Toro movie, and Im impressed – Beautiful, Life-size and Realistic!”

Danish director Susanne Bier gained international acclaim when she was nominated for an Oscar for 2006’s AFTER THE WEDDING, but before that she had strong ties to the hyper-realistic, documentary style of the Dogme 95 group. In her U.S. debut, THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE, Bier effectively brings together her tendency towards soapy subject matter and her signature vérité style, creating characters with a depth and a human fallibility that are rare in Hollywood. Halle Berry (X-MEN, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD) stars as Audrey Burke, the stay-at-home wife of well-to-do real estate broker Brian (David Duchovny, TRUST THE MAN). They enjoy what is to all appearances a perfect marriage and family life, with two adorable children (Alexis Llewelyn and Micah Berry) and a fabulous house. Audrey’s life is shattered when Brian is killed attempting to intervene in a domestic dispute.

Things We Lost in the Fire

Things We Lost in the Fire

In her grief, Audrey reaches out to an unlikely ally: her husband’s childhood friend, Jerry (Benicio del Toro, TRAFFIC, 21 GRAMS), a 40-something heroin addict whose relationship with Brian Audrey has always resented. After Brian’s death, Jerry goes straight, and Audrey invites him to move into her home, where he bonds with Audrey’s kids and begins to heal. The uneasy, tense, and tender relationship that develops between Audrey and Jerry is the heart of the film, with del Toro’s charismatic performance suggesting realms of human experience previously uncharted on film: his portrayal of withdrawal symptoms rivals Ewan McGregor’s memorable TRAINSPOTTING scene. Berry takes more subtle risks with her role, testing the viewer’s sympathy with a somewhat prickly character. Allison Lohman (FLICKA) is a strong supporting character as a Narcotics Anonymous attendee with a crush on Jerry.

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “I stated believing Indian Directors can make a cool college movie!”

While some might be confused by the rambling title, fans of the young adult novels will instantly recognize ANGUS, THONGS AND PERFECT SNOGGING. Based on the entertaining series of books by Louise Rennison, the adventures of Georgia Nicholson are finally hitting the big screen under the direction of Gurinder Chadha (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM). Georgia (Georgia Groome) is a rambunctious, boy-crazy teen living in Eastbourne, England, where she and her mates spend their days puzzling over the strange new world of sex and boys. At the film’s start, Georgia is bemoaning her horrible life: her parents are embarrassing, her little sister drives her crazy, and she’s never had a real boyfriend. When she encounters a new boy at school–the dreamy Robbie (Aaron Johnson)–Georgia is determined to land him for herself.

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

But her hopes are dashed when Robbie begins dating the school mean girl. Determined to win his affections, she tries various schemes, including kissing lessons and a disastrous attempt with a self-tanner. Meanwhile Georgia’s father (Alan Davies) has to relocate to New Zealand for his job, and Georgia beings to worry about the state of her parents’ marriage. When she selfishly commits a series of blunders, she seems to have lost everything she once held dear. After she learns some tough life lessons, things start to turn around for Georgia–and in ways she never even imagined. The screenplay is snappy, and Groome is a near-perfect Georgia, though the novels’ fans may miss some of their clever humor. Yet, in a world where squeaky clean HANNAH MONTANA is the reigning teen queen, it is refreshing to see such a frank and honest depiction of the way girls think and talk about sex. ANGUS is a smart–albeit giddy–celebration of girlyness, and it comes with a delightfully over-the-top ending that will make your inner teen swoon.