Monday, June 29, 2009

Transformers -- Summer Blockbuster$$

Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen (PG-13, 2 1/2 hrs)
Let me preface the review with the admission that I am a fan of the Action/Adventure... the more explosions, car chases and special effects, the better. It is my brain candy -- my release from the normal drama or high brow classic. I did not grow up playing with or watching Transformers, but I really LOVED the first movie. Okay, now for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen...

It was chock full of great special effects! I marvel at the actual transformation from machine to robot. The transitions were good and I bought the story. I am mesmerized by Optimus Prime's voice. And I absolutely love Bumble Bee. As a local, I enjoyed spying Fairmount Park and Eastern State Pen. scenes. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely. That said;
when I am watching a movie, the essential quality of a great movie is that I don't notice anything...meaning everything seems to flow from one scene to the next and I am caught up in the fantasy of it all. If something happens to make me snap out of my revelrie and "notice" the movie, it's a mark against it.

A few things about T:ROTF -- gratuitous sexual innuendo as well as some blatant sexual comments seemed to be put in the movie for the sake of the young male viewer, though I must say the young males in our party even thought it was stupid and demeaned the movie. (And I'm not talking about Megan Fox). It's a shame because the movie stands on its own and those scenes stood out and broke my trance.
I still liked it. 4 out of 5 (but just because I like the action/adventure)

Monday, June 22, 2009

DVD ALERT -- Miracle at St. Anna

6/21/09 -- DVD ALERT

Miracle at St. Anna (2008) (Rated R, 160 min.)

Spike Lee's controversial movie of the Buffalo Soldiers -- Set in 1944 Italy, the story of four black American soldiers who get trapped in a Tuscan village during WWII while fighting against the Nazis. As they make their way across lines with a shell-shocked and feverish little boy in tow, their story of prejudice and bravery unfolds while dealing with both German and American fire.

This one, I fear, got mired in the controversary of its subject matter, instead of standing on its merits. I loved this movie -- though almost 2 1/2 hrs, I didn't notice. A captivating story told from a new and needed point of view. With a backdrop of prejudice, small village mythology and patriotism -- a miracle is found. A must see.

5 of 5 movie tix

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Hangover

The Hangover (rated R, 1 hr. 40 min)
I very rarely go to see outright comedies, unless they get great ratings or I hit a matinee. But, I just couldn’t avoid the fact that The Hangover was still #1 at the box office after 2 weeks and everyone seemed to be talking about it. I admit I caved to the press. And at a 10:30 Saturday night showing, there was but a few empty seats.

Typical buddies-flick--road trip to Vegas for a bachelor party and chaos ensues if anyone could remember. Losing the groom, the buddies must retrace their steps through a night filled with mis-steps. All I can say is that like any good train wreck, I somehow couldn’t look away. If you want to know what they mean by “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” this is the movie for you. I think every possible scenario was covered and then some. Surprise cameos and laughs that are more ‘oh, no’ groans than slapstick guffaws.
Directed by Todd Phillips. With Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis.

Hmmm. 3 out of 5 ticket stubs

Saturday, June 13, 2009


This week in Entertainment Weekly - 6/12/09, an article on movies for grown-ups (Hollywood's Endangered Species) posits that dramas for adults are becomming slim pickings. It quotes "The Soloist" producer Gary Foster, "Audiences don't want to be reminded of the darkness in the world -- they want to laugh, get taken to space, watch things in museums come to life." Recent adult dramas were less than successful grossing under $50 million (ie., Duplicity, State of Play, and Frost/Nixon...).

Is that true? -- hasn't that always ben true of movies... that "take me away" aspect that comes from sitting in the dark and being truly surrounded by another reality?

Is it the fault of studio marketers -- or is it that we really want to be entertained for the money we spend? Maybe the salaries, production costs, concession stand prices have finally topped out? There are still plenty of us willing to go to see movies, but maybe we are more selective about what we view in the theater and what we are willing to wait for on DVD.

What are your thoughts...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


DVD Watch -- Australia

A bit on the long-ish side, I did take a break or two, but found myself coming back to see what happens next.

A beautiful showcase of the land down under, takes place at the beginning of WWII, with a view on the treatment of aborines. Combines history with romance and a dose of villanry(?) and heroism. Of course, watching Hugh Jackman is a BIG PLUS for me. the story was good and I'm glad I saw it on DVD instead of theater.

3.5 tix stubs out of 5

Monday, June 8, 2009

DVD Alert

French Film, Tell No One (2008)
Yes, I do enjoy a good foreign film from time to time, and no, the subtitles do not bother me --they seem to fade after a while. This is especially true if the movie is that good -- and I can't say it enough -- this film was that good!
It has everything: suspense, car chases, romance, thriller, and some really good twists... Premise is that a man is suspected of his young wife's murder and picks up 8 years later when new evidence surfaces... a real must-see. Guillaume Canet’s thriller, based on the bestselling novel by Harlan Coben, features Francois Cluzet in the lead role -- worth seeing.
From the Last Row...

The Summer Movie Season is already upon us and I have jumped in with both feet and a big bag of Swedish fish!
The Summer Movies are Here and while it may not be off to the hot start of last summer... here we go !

MARCH 5, 2009
The Watchmen -- the summer started early in March with The Watchmen. I enjoyed every minute of it and thought it stayed as true as movies can get to the comic novel. Jackie Earle Hailey as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach: was a great comeback role for the actor. I am a fan of the Comedian, though it's very hard to like him--Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a great job with the character. Kudos to the director for paying attention to even the slightest details in background art and minutiae. Probably one of the hardest of the dark comic genre, Watchmen profers an alternate universe set in the 1950s--1960s where superheroes were in the open and helping fight the World Wars (not always up to a "super hero" standard).

MAY 1, 2009
Up next, the highly anticipated X-Men Origins, though full of wonderful Wolverine background as expected, it left me somewhat hungry afterward. History, both Wolverine and mutant, played out without boring -- Liev Schriebner played a mean sibling in the form of Sabertooth and great characters were introduced. We were even given a glimpse of a young Cyclops. Hugh Jackman did not disappoint, he was an even better Wolverine than in previous movies. But, I felt it was light and unfulfilling.

And the highlight so far this movie season was Star Trek (in IMAX) on opening night! I have been a Star Trek fan since the original series on tv = even attended a Convention or two in my day... and I LOVED THIS MOVIE. I loved the characters -- it was amazing how well they were matched up to the original cast. I loved the quirky references to the ST-TOS and found the special effects were fantastic! A must see in IMAX.

Up next...Terminator Salvation... Hangover (?)... Taking of Pelham 123.. The Proposal...

Archive from last summer (2008) blockbusters and not so

From the Last Row

May 31, 2008I started the summer like most red-martini loving women in their 40s with an estrogen-fix of a late night premier of Sex and the City or SATC for the initiated. If you are a fan of the series – you will not be disappointed! It is everything and more than the hype around it promised. It answers questions and ties up loose ends all while stirring the chemistry among our favorite New Yorkers. Everyone is back and it’s a wonderful reunion. It has sex, fashion, friendship, sex, some tears…and sex!

My second trip to the theater was a solo flight to Iron Man…I am a closet comic book fan and love Stan Lee and his Marvel legacy! (Not to mention a fan of Robert Downey Jr. = I am after all, a product of the 80s). And in neither category was I disappointed… action-packed, funny, great story – not comic book corny – Stan Lee makes his expected cameo and Downey does not disappoint. Downey as playboy entrepreneur Tony Stark, faces a life altering experience and a close encounter with some Middle Eastern terrorists that changes the direction of his life as well as his weapons defense industry empire. The plotline: “When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark is forced to build an armored suit after a life-threatening incident, he ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against evil.”

Downey seems to have finally matured into a role that suits him—drama, sarcasm, unlikely super-hero. Gweneth Paltrow works her executive assistant role as Virginia “Pepper” Potts (do I smell smoke from the heat between her and Stark) and possibly has the best line in the movie. Jeff Bridges doesn’t disappoint as the friend/nemesis. Lots of action and humor. Caution: Some scenes were very intense with a terroristic theme.

A natural follow up to Iron Man was The Hulk. I was more than pleasantly surprised with this one. I am a fan of Edward Norton and William Hurt as well as being a product of the Bill Bixby era – so I was curious to see how my beloved Bruce Banner would be presented. It was heart pounding action from the beginning and at 2 hours long…it rarely let up! Fantastic vistas and awesome CG special effects were a major feature. Great cameos and references surprise throughout! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Both action-films left doors open for sequels.

To catch my breath and let my heart rate settle down, I moved on to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. Though he has not yet made a movie as wonderful as the Sixth Sense, Shyamalan seems to have settled into his own thriller style and beat. This movie has many seat-jump moments and is most certainly his statement on Global Warming. The movie is marketed as a “paranoid thriller, about a family on the run” from something in the air that’s turning people crazy and … It moves from city scenes to suburbs to country-esque setting. It is his first R-rated movie, based on graphic images of violence. He also keeps true to his twisty-turn end. I really like Zooey Deschanel (Elf) and Mark Walhberg (The Four Brothers) anyway, so it was easy to watch them, but they were ok. Then there’s the local settings that always make it worthwhile. Look for the trademark Shymalan cameo as well.

A short break from full features and a word on some shorter fliks...
I truly like the new Coke commercial featuring James “the Democrat” Carville and Republican Bill Frist doing the blue and red thing. Very Coke!

Looking Ahead…
A few previews have my interest piqued as well…Sitting through the Fall previews, a few look very interesting – chic flick Nights in Rodanthe' by Nicholas Sparks with Richard Geer and Diane Lane… and Spike Lee has Miracle at St. Anna which looks simply incredible. Set in World War II Italy, the film features the Buffalo soldiers’ experience against the Nazis. Of course, it is already embroiled in controversy.

Now Back to our Regular Full Length Feature…

Demi offered her teen take on You Don’t Mess with the Zohan -- funny but deserved the rating, because of the sex stuff.

We have a number of goodies still to come: Wanted, Hancock, The Dark Knight, Get Smart, The Mummy, The X-Files…to name a few.

DVD alerts…
Don’t miss Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List . It is a must-see, funny, inspiring watch. Two aging men set about doing the things they’ve always wanted to do, experiences on the “before I kick the bucket” list. Everyone should have a list!

This is certainly turning into the summer of my peers & years... Comic book characters from my youth (Hulk, Batman), tv characters brought back to life (shoe phones, speed racers, Indy Jones, and alien investigations), and actors that I watched and even "figuratively" have grown up with -- which brings me to Will Smith. I "grew up" with the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Fresh Prince of BelAire, Will Smith - musician/actor, fellow Philadelphian and I admit I truly like him. You can't go wrong with Charlize Theron, whom I think is gorgeous. And Jason Bateman is my kind of funny (anyone see Arrested Development).

HANCOCK, the latest of the super hero movies to grace the big screen this summer, turned out to be a complete surprise. I went in expecting a story of a misunderstood and self-depracating super hero who undergoes a L.A. marketing change and what I got was something different and more. A love story? hmmm--yeah I think so, and a very sweet story. (Kiddie alert--there are some violence laden scenes.) My fellow screenies that night really enjoyed the movie. I found it clever -- though a superhero story, it went in a different direction than the other summer movies. The special effects were great--Hancock's landings and cityscape fly-bys were cool.

Next up...Get Smart ! So far I'm hearing it's a better experience for those who grew up watching Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 and the crazy antics that ensue. I'll let you know, next time FROM THE LAST ROW...

Hellboy! A great follow up to the first Hellboy movie with Guillermo DelTorro again at the helm and the interesting cast back for more. Following his success of Pans Labyrinth, DelTorro brings similar characters over into a Star Wars-like bar scene cast to this movie as well - The Golden Army. I love Ron Perlman's Hellboy for a number of a season of super superheroes, Hellboy is right out of the streets...he chomps cigars, talks off the cuff, and is super street tough, no mannerly playboy here--and Ron Perlman is almost 60 and handling scenes his minus-20 years counterparts are and maybe not playing. This movie is also a love story -- Liz is his center piece and while the relationship is off to a rocky start, it just gets better and better. And we get a glimpse into a piece of Big Red as a Little Red.The team must stop an ancient convenant between man and the fairy world from being broken. The storyline allows for great a crossover between human and a total fantasy world of creatures. DelTorro said his success with Pan Lab allowed for more control in this movie and it shows. The humor is also a great plus in the movie...the library scene with Abe and Red singing Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You" kills. The special effects are cool and fiery explosive! Another great comic book movie. Humor, sadness, surprise, all there. And of course, a surprise set up for the next (last) of the Hellboy trilogy.

Alright, Demi and I went to the late night viewing of The Dark Knight knowing it would be an almost 3-hour event after a long day. I watched the first "Batman Begins" the night before so all the details would be fresh in my mind. HOLY BUTTERED POPCORN, moviegoers! !I have seen all the Batman movies and tv shows, and I now nominate Christian Bale as my favorite Bat in a cape. His toys are the best and the setup for his abilities make them believable. and the voice...forget about it! I admit that I didn't buy into all the Heath Ledger hoopla, finding it a sad way to play on someone's tragic death -- but I must admit - WOW. It was very hard to see the Heath Ledger person under the makeup. He was the Joker and a very deeply frightening version at that. I think I left with an understanding of what makes someone (thing) truly evil - no motivation other than to see what happens. (very scary)I always love Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and the quirky Gary Oldman, but I just found it hard to get used to Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel. Aaron Eckhart also plays a surprising role with DA Harvey Dent. It's a bit intense (there's a magic trick with a pencil...) and probably not for little kids. I'm already looking forward to the next one...
From the Last Row

I really want to believe !
OK -- we go see the X-Files, an early weekend matinee, and shortly into the movie the curtain over the screen starts going down, white lights start flashing and a siren goes off & we are told by a mechanical voice to proceed to the nearest exit. Now the first thing I think is, is this part of the movie? Then I'm nervous that there's something wrong--quickly followed by the thought that I am not going to get to see the rest of the movie. How sick is that--shouldn't I be more concerned for my daughter and my safety? Hmmm. So instead of filing out the nearest parking lot door, we (and the rest of our fellow movie goers) head toward the lobby. We immediately notice the horrible storm raging outside, complete with thunder and lightning. Since I don't smell smoke, I am convinced it's a boom that set off the alarms. We settle in and wait to go back to our seats.
Luckily, the movie picked up right where the thunder left off.

OK, first off I admit I am an X-filer. I have the poster in my office--framed. But I also admit that I semi-bailed the franchise when Mulder left and the actor from Terminator stepped in! I always loved Skinner, so that was what I watched for when I watched.

Chris Carter, though cloaking the movie production in secrecy, said it would be a stand alone movie -- non-filers could watch and enjoy. This is true. In fact, the whole movie was like an extended tv episode. There were, of course, tip offs and cameos for us old filers, and one loose end tied (in a sub category, I am a relation"shipper" believing in Mulder & Scully together). But, it was more or less a crime mystery that they solve--no aliens here.
I enjoyed watching the two together again, believer and skeptic, complementing each other's work. But all the secrecy seemed to be necessary to keep the plot together.