Archive for April, 2009


May Movie Releases




“The Merry Gentleman” – A woman moves to Chicago to start life over and meets a guy. Both are trying to escape their past lives and need to become more than they are. Stars Kelly MacDonald and Michael Keaton, who also directs. Opens May 1, 2009




“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” – Hugh Jackman’s back in the role that put him on the map: Wolverine of the “X-Men.” Watch for Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. Opens May 1, 2009




“Next Day Air” – When a package delivers driver drops off a shipment of bricks of cocaine to the wrong address, it’s a battle of wit and wills between the dealer, the buyers, and the recipients. Stars Mos Def and Mike Epps. Opens May 8, 2009




“Star Trek” – Chris Pine plays Captain James T. Kirk is this “reboot” of the franchise. Also stars Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, and Leonard Nimoy. Opens May 8, 2009




“Wild Child” – Emma Roberts is a SoCal socialite brat stripped of her privileges and sent to boarding school in England. Opens May 8, 2009




“Angels and Demons” – Tom Hanks returns to the character from “The Da Vinci Code” for this installment, a sequel based on a book that was the prequel to “The Da Vinci Code.” Got that? Opens May 15, 2009




“The Great Howard Buck” – John Malkovich plays a magician whose illusions are becoming more transparent. He takes on an assistant played by Colin Hanks. Watch for Tom Hanks playing Colin Hanks’ father (there’s acting for ya). Opens March 20, 2009




“The Limits of Control” – Isaach De Bankole is a mysterious loner on a job, probing the depths of his soul. Also stars Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Bill Murray, and Tilda Swinton. Directed by Jim Jarmusch. Opens May 22, 2009




“Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian” – Ben Stiller is back, as is Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson as Jedidiah. New historical personalities include General Custer, Ivan the Terrible, Al Capone, The Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and Ulysses S. Grant. Opens May 22, 2009




“Terminator Salvation” – Christian Bale stars as John Connor in this installment of the franchise taking place in 2018. Opens May 21, 2009




“The Brothers Bloom” – Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are brothers pulling one last con on eccentric heiress Rachel Weisz. Opens May 29, 2009




“Drag Me into Hell” – A loan officer tries evicting an old woman from a home but has an evil curse put upon her. Directed by Sam Raimi. Opens May 29, 2009




“Up” – The next Pixar movie about a 78-year-old man named Carl Fredricksen, who uses balloons to make his house fly. Unfortunately he has a stowaway: 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer Russell. Opens May 29, 2009



Movie News and Views April 29, 2009 Trailer Edition




“Moon” – Sam Rockwell is a miner on the moon whose contract is set to expire in 2 weeks. Just enough time for him to begin “losing it” as well as finding out who his replacement is. Kevin Spacey voices a robot. Opens June 12, 2009




“My Sister’s Keeper” – Abigail Breslin is a kid who sues for emancipation from her parents. Cameron Diaz is her mother. Alec Baldwin is her lawyer. Opens June 26, 2009




“Bruno” – Sacha Baron Cohen is back this time as faux gay Australian fashion reporter Bruno. Opens July 10, 2009




“They Came from Upstairs” – A group of teens has to protect their vacation home from aliens who have invaded their upstairs. Stars Ashley Tisdale and Tim Meadows. Opens July 31, 2009




“Paper Heart” – A girl decides to make a documentary about the one subject she doesn’t understand: love. Stars Michael Cera. Opens August 7, 2009




“Shorts” – William H. Macy stars in this film about a suburb where a black box has the power to grant anyone’s wish. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Opens August 7, 2009




“Halloween 2” – Picking up where the first leaves off, we get to follow another Myers murderfest. Opens August 28, 2009




 “Armored” – A crew of armored transport guards engage in a heist against their own company. Stars Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, and Fred Ward. Opens September 18, 2009




 “Case 39” – Renee Zellweger is a social worker who happens upon the case of a child thought to be abused by her parents. What she doesn’t know is that the forces of evil follow this little girl. Ian McShane plays a cop trying to help Zellweger out. Coming soon!




“More Than a Game” – Documentary following LeBron James and his four starting teammates when they were part of the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School varsity basketball team. Coming soon!




“Streets of Blood” – A cop has died during Hurricane Katrina but his partner finds that it may have been murder. Stars Val Kilmer, 50 Cent, Sharon Stone, and Michael Biehn. Coming soon!



In Passing… Bea Arthur (1922-2009)




Actress and comedienne Bea Arthur passed away from cancer on April 25th. Arthur was born Bernice Frankel in New York City. She began on the stage until she was in Sid Caesar’s “Caesar Hour” in the fifties. From there she split time between stage and TV, notably playing Yente the Matchmaker in the original Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Her TV breakthrough came in 1971 when she starred as Maude Findlay, Edith Bunker’s cousin, in “All in the Family.” Viewers were so crazy about her character that in 1972 “Maude” had her own series. In 1985 Arthur, along with Estelle Getty, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan, was part of the hit NBC series, “The Golden Girls,” which ran for seven seasons. Afterwards Arthur retired to her California ranch occasionally appearing on TV or film over the next 17 years. Bea Arthur was 86 years of age.


Thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends



For more information, check out her IMDB page at:


Remake Radar: Fame



Welcome to Remake Radar, where we take on Hollywood’s penchant for remaking films for better or worse (which is most of the time). This month’s movie:


“Fame” (1980)


Stars:Eddie Barth, Irene Cara, Lee, Curreri, Debbie Allen, Richard Belzer, Michael DeLorenzo, and Meg Tilly.


Director: Alan Parker


Story: Four students at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts are followed from audition to graduation.


What can I say about the original? It won Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song (“Fame”). It was the sixth film by Alan Parker who preceded it with “Bugsy Malone,” and “Midnight Express,” and followed it with “Pink Floyd: The Wall,” “Angel Heart,” and “Mississippi Burning,” among others. Finally, it gave a career to Debbie Allen.


Why is that last bit important? After winning some Oscars it became bound for TV where it was remade into a TV series in 1982 that ran for six seasons; Debbie Allen played Lydia Gant. In 2003 Debbie Allen started her own version of “Fame,” making it a talent show. Finally, Debbie shows up once again in this year’s remake as Principal Simms.


What do we know now?: Just short a few cast members of a “Cheers” or “Frasier” reunion, Kelsey Grammer AND Bebe Neuwirth are in this one, along with Charles S. Dutton, Kay Panabaker and every other guy or girl who can sing, dance, or act. It’s set for release on September 25, 2009.


Original Trailer:




TV show intro:




Remake trailer:







First Feature: “Shallow Grave,” Danny Boyle



Welcome to a new article called First Feature, where we profile a Director and their first movie.


This month’s Director-at-large: Danny Boyle

His First Feature: “Shallow Grave” (1994)


Danny Boyle is a British director who cleaned up this past year’s Academy Awards with his movie, “Slumdog Millionaire,” based on the novel by Vikas Swarup. Overall I’ve enjoyed Boyle’s work which has given the cinematic world pieces to talk about. “Trainspotting,” helped to put Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle on the map (McGregor would go on to become Obi-Wan Kenobi and Carlyle would eventually become a Bond villain). I’m probably one of the few who enjoyed “A Life Less Ordinary.” “28 Days Later” reinvented, if not reinvigorated, the zombie-movie franchise (“Resident Evil” doesn’t get all the credit). “Sunshine” had great special effects but was only 2/3 of a good movie (not a big fan of the last third of it).


Boyle worked in TV before his first movie, “Shallow Grave.” In “Shallow Grave,” three flat mates (Ewan MacGregor, Christopher Eccleston, and Kerry Fox) are auditioning for a fourth flat mate to help share the costs. After breezing through and testing several applicants they agree on Hugo, a purported writer. The morning after Hugo is accepted he doesn’t wake up. The three force open his door and find that he OD’d on heroin and left a suitcase full of money. Unbeknownst to them there are two prisoners trying to track down Hugo and the money. The trio makes a pact to stay silent and cut up Hugo’s body, leaving him in the woods. While McGregor and Fox start going through the money, Eccleston has other plans. He takes the money and hides it in the attic, thus beginning his descent into darkness. The three have it in for one another and when the cops and prisoners come around it all becomes a slow spiral into hell.


“Shallow Grave” is as good a “starter” film as any. It’s funny, dark, and psychological. All three actors are great. Incidentally it was the first movie for McGregor, who teamed up with Boyle again for the movies “Trainspotting,” and “A Life Less Ordinary,” before striking out and getting the role of Obi-Wan in the “Star Wars” prequels. Christopher Eccleston would later appear in the “Gone in 60 Seconds,” remake as well as the first season of the new “Doctor Who.” Fox was in “Welcome to Sarajevo,” and mainly acts in British fare.


Boyle’s themes and styles have roots in “Shallow Grave.” The opening scene is a frenetic, techno-thumping tour of flats in England. Using techno music to accentuate a scene can be found in “Trainspotting,” “A Life Less Ordinary,” and especially “28 Days Later.” His use of a mechanical baby doll to portray a creepy sense of innocence is like the scene from “Trainspotting” where McGregor is hallucinating and sees the baby crawling across the ceiling. And yes, every Danny Boyle movie has a scene in the bathroom: in “Shallow Grave,” McGregor has the crap beaten out of him; in “Trainspotting,” McGregor crawls into a the “shittiest toilet in Scotland” to retrieve some drugs, and in “A Life Less Ordinary” McGregor stands in the bathroom and hatches his plan to confront the CEO about the loss of his job.


For more info on Danny Boyle, check out his IMDB at:







Movie News and Views April 20, 2009 Poster Edition




Kinda abbreviated.


– Newest residents of Sequel-ville: “Wanted,” “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,”

– Watch for “I, Frankenstein,” a modern noir take on the monster and his buddies (The Wolf Man, Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.)

– “Weird Al” Yankovic has been the latest to join “H2” (“Halloween 2”).

Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon has written the script for Disney’s “John Carter of Mars.”

– The fourth Jason Bourne film is set for 2011.

– Zac Effron will play Jonny Quest in a movie based on the cartoon. The film will not be called “Jonny Quest” due to the backlash from “Speed Racer.”

– Speaking of the WB, they are threatening legal action against Bollywood should it decided to make its version of “Benjamin Button.”

– The reported budget for Disney’s new “Tron” movie is $300 million.

– Sony will soon begin to offer free movies on YouTube. You can catch their current “free” movies at their site,

– Sam Rockwell plays a miner with a solitary robot companion (voiced by Kevin Spacey) in “Moon.”

– There will be a Venom spin-off from the “Spider-Man” series.

– Al Pacino will play Napoleon Bonaparte in “Betsy and the Emperor,” based off the kids book.

– Actor Kal Penn is taking a respite from acting to work for the Obama Administration as Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Liaison.

– The WB, in another head-scratching move, has greenlit a sequel to the movie, “Hangover,” a comedy movie that won’t even be released until June.

– Due to the success of “The Fast and the Furious 4,” Paul Walker and Vin Diesel have signed for a fifth.

– Will Arnett and Michael Shannon have signed for the Jonah Hex movie.

– Watch for “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” based on the kids book.

– “Ghostbusters 3” is on-again, off-again, on-again… However, Harold Ramis, Dan Akyroyd, and Sigourney Weaver are attached to star in it, if it happens.

– The Coen bros. are set to remake “True Grit.”

– A theatre in Chicago is starting MuVChat, a system that will enable viewers to “heckle” a movie by texting from their cellphone. The text messages will pop up on the screen while the movie is playing.

– “Father Knows Best” is going to be adapted for the screen.

– Angelina Jolie is in talks for “Sin City 2.” Speaking of which, the rights have lapsed for Miramax films.

– No more “Pink Panther” movies. Hollywood, I thank you.

– Ralph Fiennes has signed for the “Clash of the Titans” remake.






Movies on DVD Review: The Tailor of Panama




A different set of spies…


Starring Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Brendan Gleeson. Directed by John Boorman.


Story: The U.S. has returned control of the Panama Canal to Panama. MI6 agent Andy Osnard (Brosnan) is a black mark for the English spy network: he has too many ex-wives and too many gambling debts; the anti-James Bond. He’s sent to Panama to stay out of trouble. With 200 registered Brits in Panama, he’s told that maybe he can set up his network there.


And that he does. He closes in on Harry Pendel (Rush), a tailor to the elite (or those who can afford him). Pendel claims that he studied on Saville Row with the best of them, but Osnard throws his real life back at him: Pendel did time in prison before his uncle helped get him a job in his tailor shop. Following that he left the UK for Panama, adopted this “personality” and married an American woman (Curtis). And things aren’t boding so well for Pendel; his farm, bought with money from his wife’s inheritance, is about to be foreclosed on. Osnard promises to make these problems go away just as long as he gets a little information.


Which Pendel supplies. The Brits and the Yanks want to know any and all rumors surrounding the canal. Pendel begins taking tidbits here and there and ballooning them up to whopper-size tales. He concocts a story about the “Silent Opposition,” a group against what the Panamanian government wants that includes his friend Mickey and his assistant Marta (Leonor Varela). As the lies get bigger and the secrecy gets deeper, Harry has to find a way to make it all stop when it’s certain to spin out of control.


First off the best thing about this movie is its two stars Geoffrey Rush and Pierce Brosnan. I’ll admit to not having seen a lot of Rush’s movies but he makes the character of Harry Pendel believable in what is a contrived situation. Pierce Brosnan, at the point in time of this film having completed 3 Bond movies, is great at being the anti-James Bond. He may have been born to play James Bond but he’s even better at playing the antithesis of him. These two make the movie worth watching.


Note: watch for Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) playing Harry’s son. This was his feature film debut.


My grade: B+




Movies on DVD Review: Slaughterhouse-Five



I have become unstuck in movie reviewing…


Stars Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche, and Valerie Perrine. Directed by George Roy Hill. Based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


Billy Pilgrim (Sacks) is sitting, typing out a letter to the editor telling him stating that he has become “unstuck in time.” From that moment he time-trips to the future and his life on Tralfamadore, then back to himself as a young chaplain caught by the Germans and sent to Dresden. We see further glimpses into his life as he survives a plane crash, becomes an optometrist, survives the bombing of Dresden, gets married, has kids, and winds up as part of a human zoo on planet Tralfamadore.


The most effective parts of the movie are the one based in Dresden. Dresden was a civilian city not thought to be a military target. Vonnegut based this on his experiences in Dresden which include surviving the bombing. We are also shown that when the Nazis say you will be shot for taking any merchandise, they keep to their word.


I enjoyed the movie. It’s dark, funny, tragic, interesting, intriguing, weird, and poignant. Hill (I am told) stayed loyal to the novel. I apologize upfront; I have not read the novel (sorry to disappoint). If that’s true, this is one fantastical stream of consciousness. Kudos to Vonnegut for the story.


Why should you watch it? If you’re a film geek this fits two categories: cult movie and non-linear editing. On the “cult” side, this movie was not critically acclaimed nor a big box office draw however, it’s weird enough and has a following. As for non-linear editing, think of this movie as an inspiration for films like “Memento” and “Pulp Fiction.” If you are a bookworm, this is one of the most loyally adapted book-to-films.


On a trivia note, George Roy Hill also directed “The Sting,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Slap Shot,” “The World According to Garp,” and “Funny Farm.” Valerie Perrine is still acting. And Michael Sacks, who beat out Dirk Benedict for the role of Billy Pilgrim, retired from acting in 1984 and is now Head of Global Applications Development at MarketAxess.


My grade: B



Movie Review: Observe and Report



Better than most Will Farrell comedies…


Stars Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, and Michael Pena. Directed by Jody Hill.


Okay, let me say this first: no, this is NOT a Will Farrell movie. I could imagine Farrell playing Rogen’s role. The “arrogant doofus” has become prevalent in comedies and is getting on my nerves.


The arrogant doofus at large, i.e. Seth Rogen, is Ronnie Barnhardt. He lives with his alcoholic mother and is the inept head of security at the local mall. He is a rent-a-cop with delusions of grandeur and a bloated sense of purpose so much so that one of the vendors has a restraining order out on him (and he still works at the mall? Uh, script coach!) His crew include the twin brothers Yuan (Matt and John Yuen), a food court guy (Jesse Plemons), and his second-in-command Dennis (Michael Pena), a Hispanic who talks with a lisp.


A streaker (Randy Gambill) flashes several people in the parking lot and Ronnie is on the case. Sort of. When his love interest/infatuation cosmetics girl Brandi (Faris) is “flashed” by the pervert, Ronnie’s infatuation turns to determination of finding the guy at all costs. Enter Detective Harrison (Liotta). Harrison wants to do what’s right but continually gets hindered by Ronnie’s blundering incompetence. If you or I were in this movie, we would pretty much be on Harrison’s side.


This is the crux of the movie.


Don’t get me wrong; there are funny moments in this movie with some even being laugh-out-loud. For the most part it’s a 90-minute distraction from the reality you are escaping, much like the one Ronnie is. Kudos to the music department for picking out a great soundtrack. Queen has at least two song selections in this one proving that if you’re lamenting or kicking ass, they’re the defacto rock band.


As a movie, again it’s a good diversion if you’ve got nothing else cramming your schedule. As a film, it falls flat. It seems that there was heart in making it, but the technical details were lacking. A subtheme about thefts in the mall was glazed-over and reappears momentarily and then treated with shrugged shoulders. At some point in the middle of the movie the entire thing unravels and becomes a bunch of non sequitur jokes until the filmmakers had to be thinking “we gotta wrap this thing up!” and got back on track for the ending.


To end Ronnie finds true love, self worth, and he captures the streaker, but I’m not gonna tell you how. If you really want to know, I guess you’ll have to go see it. Or feel free to watch its distant cousin, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”


Watch for Danny McBride (“Tropic Thunder,” “The Foot Fist Way”) as a crackhead.


My grade: C




Movies on DVD Review: Man on Wire



A wirewalking documentary.


Stars Philippe Petit. Directed by James Marsh.


“Man on Wire” is a look back at Philippe Petit and his accomplishment: wirewalking between New York’s (then) newly created Twin Towers on August 7, 1974. With the help of friends and contacts, he and his team pulled off what some have called “the greatest artistic crime of the century.”


Petit is a Frenchman who grew up to be a street juggler and wirewalker. One day while sitting in the dentist’s office he sees a picture of the proposed Towers and has a vision, a manifest destiny if you will, of walking between them (nevermind the fact that it hasn’t been built yet). From that point on his wirewalking career is taking steps toward achieving that goal. From wirewalking between the towers of Notre Dame to Australia’s Sydney Harbour Bridge, Petit daredevils and crosses the law as he builds up to his goal.


The movie flashes backwards and forwards, showing events in Petit’s life that influenced why he did what he did as well as portraying the wirewalk feat itself like a heist movie. From making scale models of the building tops to flying back and forth to the U.S. from France, to making fake IDs to get into the Towers, to evading guards and finally stringing the cable in the early hours of the morning amidst thick fog, this achievement was cut-out for him. Current day interviews are inter-cut with re-enactments of scenes, as well as original footage taken at the time.


So, how is the film? I thought it was alright. The back-and-forth-and-back editing got to me a little; sometimes telling the story forward is a better idea. The achievement was great, no doubt about that, but I wish the film would make it feel greater. It’s a worthy documentary, but winning an Academy Award may have been a bit much.


My grade: B-