Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I used to think that Angelina Jolie was pretty hot. She's still okay, but many fine young ladies have pole-vaulted in front of her. But that doesn't mean I won't watch a good Jolie movie, even if she has 15 kids of every different color.

Wanted is about a fraternity of hitmen (and women, but not drunk college kids) that assassinate people around the world as they are instructed. One day Wesley Gibson's, played by James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland, Atonement, and Narnia) father is assassinated. Gibson finds himself targeted and recruited at the same time while trying to live his normal boring pathetic life.

Jolie and Sloan (Morgan Freeman) recruit Wesley into the fraternity of assassins, but Wesley finds out that life as an assassin isn't quite what he thought it was going to be.

The movie is more fantasy than anything, but it is certainly action-packed. From bullet bending, to leaping from building to building, to an outrageous and unbelievable car chase, this movie should keep your attention for the full hour and 40 minutes. I was a bit surprised by the ending, which I love. I can't stand it when a movie is super-predictable. This movie is not.

Morgan Freeman again does a good job as the bad guy. (Remember his work in Lucky Number Slevin?). Jolie is tough, sexy, and unflappable. You'll find yourself cheering for McEvoy as he goes from LOSER to tough villain back to the point where he wonders how he got to where he is.

The movie is rated R for tons of violence, including frequent slow-motion bloody bullet shots to the head, language (pervasive language according to MPAA), and some sexuality. I think we got a fair shot of Jolie's butt as she was getting into the tub.

The movie is directed by Timur Bekmambetov who has brought you nothing that you ever heard of. I give this movie a 4 star rating. Good plain fun movie.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Anyone that knows me or reads my other blog knows that politically I lean slightly to the right. Okay - a little more than slightly, but that's not the point. When I saw that Oliver Stone was producing a movie about George W. Bush, I could only picture the worst. After all, Old Olly is known for his conspiracy movies and I was a bit afraid that he would pal up with Michael Moore and prove how George W. Bush created Hurricane Katrina and directed it to the 7th Ward in New Orleans.

Stone Cold Oliver is known for his conspiracy movies. Remember JFK, The Doors, Born on the 4th of July, Nixon? Though he has put out some good ones - Platoon, Wall Street. But he's also produced some duds - Camera, Alexander. I've never seen Natural Born Killers, so I cannot comment on that one.

W. stars Josh Brolin as the W. I'll have to admit, he did a good job with the voice. He really did sound like the former President. However, I must admit that on the whole, the acting sucked. Thandie Newton's performance as Condileeza Rice was comical to the point where I really was "LOL". Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell was nearly as bad. James Cromwell, the 9 ft tall thespian, made no attempt to impersonate George H. W. Bush, but that was probably okay. Elizabeth Banks, who I have a slight attraction, did a fair job as Laura Bush, and again, made little attempt to actually impersonate her. Richard Dreyfuss, on the other hand, had perhaps his best performance since Jaws. He portrayed Dick Cheney and portrayed him as we would think of him.

Now, we all know that W is a bit of a doofus. Okay, he's a huge doofus. His grammar is horrible, he stumbles in his speeches, he makes up words, he can't think on his feet. We get that. However, Stone made it a point to get every gaff W's ever said into 2 hours. It was like watching David Letterman's daily Bush-bashing, but not funny. And the result of this is 2 hours of the worst movie ever made. At several points I though about turning the movie off and pouring Tabasco sauce in my eyes - something that would me more enjoyable.

W. is rated PG-13 for piss-poor acting, drug and alcohol references, and a liberal agenda, but more on that in my political blog. The movie is 129 minutes long, but that's 115 minutes too long. I do not recommend this movie. In fact, I recommend that you avoid it at all costs. Go rent some gardening documentaries. You'll get more out of it. I give his piece of junk movie the lowest rating - 1 Star.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Das Boot

As we all know, VHS tapes are on the out and DVD's are here for a bit longer. We'll probably all be watching movies digitally in the next few years. However, in that time I still have my VCR and a few VHS tapes. I decided to watch them again for posterity sake while I still own a VCR.

The movie I dug out of my box for this weekend was Das Boot, the German movie about World War II - from their perspective. As any historian will tell you, history is told by the victors. In this case, the Germans decided they wanted to show what it was like for German seamen of the submarine flotilla, or Kriegsmarine.

The movie starts out with a party in some French town and everyone is totally out of their mind stupid drunk. However, they know what they're getting into. Nearly three-quarters of all Germans who went out on a submarine never returned. Most knew that there was a good chance that they would never see land again.

The next day, Captain Leutenant Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock is led to his new boat, U-96 and they head off to sea to intercept ship convoys and sink their prey.

What is interesting about the movie is that there is a strong anti-Nazi feel amongst the men. Most seem to understand that they are being led by an ego-maniac and eminent death awaits the country.

In reading about the movie, the actors were confined to the submarine model that was created for the movie for many hours and denied sunlight. This was to help give a more realistic sense of the anxiety and darkness that the sailors would have experience at sea.

Truly a military movie classic, this is a must see. The only actor that would be known to Americans is JΓΌrgen Prochnow who was in The English Patient, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Dune.

Das Boot is Rated R for violence, language, and tense situations. The movie is long - it's 209 minutes, which for people that attended Baltimore City Public Schools - that's 3 hours and 29 minutes. I give this movie the maximum rating - 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Synecdoche, New York

If you are a fan of artistic movies, then you're dumb and you're not going to like this blog entry.

I got Synecdoche, New York from Netflix recently. If you don't get it yet, it's a play on Schenectady, New York. Schenectady being an economically shrinking town in New York full of formerly employed New Yorkers who do not want to live in the state capital of Albany.

Synecdoche, on the other hand, is a part of speech, a term denoting a part of something that is used to refer to the whole. I think of the term Nazi, which when heard conjurs up impages of German soldiers in World War II and a general refrence to Germany as a whole. However, this is not entirely accurate as Nazi was a political party and I think you could argue that most people that lived in Germany were not Nazis, though most were conscripted into service and fought for their cause. Do you think that the Germans would talk about how the Democrats were bombing Berlin?

Back to the movie. Synecdoche, New York stars Philip Seymour-Hoffman, who I think is taking cues from Robert De Niro. Hoffman has starred in 7 movies in less than 2 1/2 years, including Charlie Wilson's War, The Savages, and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Also starring in the movie is Catherine Keener, also taking cues from RDN, with 9 movies since 2007, including What Just Happened, with RDN, The Soloist, and Into the Wild. Minor roles include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, and Diane West.

The movie tracks the life of director Caden Cotard who is staging an autobiographic play of his life. He was won a grant that endows him unlimited resources to produce his play. However, the play never seems to get completed. Cotard ages, his child grows up to participate in unsavory activities, and his wife leaves him. Cotard becomes neurotic and a hypochondirac.

Meanwhile, the set for his play becomes larger and larger, eventually occupying a reall large warehouse that comes to include a miniature cut-out of New York City. He hires an actor to play him, who, in an attempt to recreate Cotard, hires an actor to play the actor who plays Cotard.

I get the humor in the movie. I'm sure this would have made a hysterical book. However, the movie is long and drawn out. It's sort of dark humor or tragic comedy. And, yes, spoiler alert, nearly everyone dies in the end, but don't we all die in the end?

Synecdoche, New York is rated R for language, sexual content and nudity, and confusing dialog. Fortunately, this movie cuts out right near the 2 hour mark and not the 40 year mark like the play.

I am not a huge fan of the artistic movies, nor of the dark comedies. I didn't care for Broken Roses. Didn't like Burn After Reading. I did understand the comedy, but I was just not a fan of it. I give this movie 2 stars.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What Just Happened?

What Just Happened? (WJH?) is the 2nd of two movies released this year staring Robert De Niro, the other being Righteous Kill. As one of my co-workers said, "I think Robert De Niro is trying to see how many movies he can make." Based on this movie, he's not being too picky about the scripts that he accepts.

WJH stars RDN as a producer of a movie that is currently being presented in front of test audiences for reaction. The audience does not like the final scene, so the backers of the movie request that the director change the ending. The director goes nuts (which is kind of funny).

Meanwhile, RDN has several former relationships that he is trying to maintain, though unsuccessfully. He spends most of the movie driving from one place to another trying to catch up with everyone via his cell phone.

Moreover, negotiations for a new movie are not going well because Bruce Willis refuses to shave his beard. He begins acting like those brats on The Real World, which is about as real as professional wrestling.

Back at movie land, the director is finally convinced to change his movie and the ending, though predictable, is somewhat funny. However, it took a long time for the movie to get there.

The dialog in this movie is horrible and has no fluency to it. The scenes are choppy from one to another and the constant tension between all of the characters makes for a movie of no protagonists, just a bunch of loosely connected antagonists.

The movie stars, in addition to De Niro and Willis, Sean Penn, his wife Robin Wright Penn, and Catherine Keener. The movie was directed by Baltimore native Barry Levinson, known for such good movies as The Natural, Diner, Wag the Dog, and Bee Movie. Chalk this one up as 'Not one of his Best Works'.

The movie is Rated R for language, depicted violence, sexual content, drug use, and bad acting. Fortunately the movie is 104 minutes long and not 120.

Based on the fact that I was looking forward to the end of the movie, I would have to say that it was not a good one. The comical scenes with the director saved this movie from a 1 star and earned it a 2 star. Be forewarned. Hopefully the 5 movies that De Niro makes next year will be better.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I must admit that when Changeling arrived from Netflix, I had no idea what it was about. The movie opens set in the 1920's in Los Angeles. Angelina Jolie plays a single mother named Christine Collins working at the phone company as what appears to be a shift supervisor at a switchboard.

One Saturday Christine is called to work and she is forced to leave her son home by himself. She promises him she'll be home by dark and will take him to the movies the following day. When she returns home from work she finds that he has disappeared.

Calls to the Los Angeles Police Department are dismissed. She's told that he'll show up and they don't start searching for children until they've been missing for 24 hours. Frantic she searches the neighborhood all evening to no avail.

She struggles for months with the L.A.P.D. and finds them uncooperative and arrogant. Finally she is informed that her son has been found and a reunion is scheduled. She arrives at the reunion only to learn that the child they are handing over is not her child. Again, she is dismissed and told that she's been through a lot of stress and is just confused.

Her plight continues to be ignored by the police and she finally seeks help from Reverend Gustav Briegleb, played by John Malkovich, who broadcasts a radio show that criticizes the corruption within the police department and government of Los Angeles.

I do not wish to give away this movie, but the story it tells is a compilation of true stories from the 1920's. Christine Collins did, in fact, have her child kidnapped and she was given a child that was not hers. With the help of Reverend Briegleb, she sues the city and exposes the corruption that has been gripping the city.

Furthermore, though not officially connected, there was a lunatic outside of Los Angeles that had murdered dozens of young boys and buried them on the property. The actual case was never resolved, but Christine Collins continued her fight, not only for missing children, but to fight corruption in politics and in the police department.

Changeling is about 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but kept my interested in the movie. I had to struggle to convince myself to pause it at the hour and 10 minute mark so that I could go to bed and finish watching it the following night. The movie made me angry, it made me sad. Angelina Jolie did an excellent job, as did director Clint Eastwood. In recognition for her work, Jolie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. The movie is Rated R for language and some disturbing violence.

I give this movie 4 stars.

Roman Holiday

Like the girls of our era that idle such movies as The Princess Bride and The Princess Diaries, I would image that girls of the 1950's worshiped Roman Holiday as their Princess movie.

Roman Holiday was released in 1953 and stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Peck, known for such classics as Twelve O'Clock High, Moby Dick, the Guns of Navrone, and the original Cape Fear, plays a journalist covering the news in post-World War II Italy. One evening he runs into a young lady played by Hepburn, most noted for Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady, who had been drinking and was in no condition to be lying on a park bench in the middle of the night. He takes her to his place to allow her to sleep it off.

Before she awakes he hears the news that a visiting Princess is missing. He puts two and two together and realizes that she is the Princess, but he never lets on that he knows who she is. Meanwhile, his buddy, Eddie Albert, helped him conceal her.

To play the game, Peck takes the Princess on a wonderful 1 day tour of Rome. She enjoys herself immensely, but finally she must return and breaks her silence. The next day at a ceremony, the Princess is presented to the press and is asked light questions about politics and travel. Peck and Hepburn exchange knowing glances at each other, but their secret is maintained as she retreats from the gaggle in classic Hepburn style.

In an interview in the 1980's Gregory Peck said that he found out that Carey Grant was first offered the lead role but turned it down. When asked about this Gregory Peck commented that he figured every role he got was something that Carey Grant had turned down.

Additionally, when the movie was finished, Peck was to be the headline on the marquee above the name of the movie and Audrey Hepburn, who was only 24 at the time, was to appear below the name of the movie. Peck demanded that Hepburn be above the title with his name as he knew that she was going to be a star.

Roman Holiday satisfied two of my obsessions. First, I think Audrey Hepburn is one of the finest and most attractive actresses ever. Gregory Peck, on the other hand, is a respectable and classic actor with his distinctive voice and chiseled face.

Roman Holiday is nearly 2 hours long. It is too old to be rated, but would probably get a PG rating, not because of anything like language or violence, only because if it was G, no one would go see it! Easily one of my favorite movies from the 1950's, Roman Holiday gets 5 stars.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stalag 17

I keep a list of movies that I want to see at some point in my life. This weekend I had the opportunity to knock out 2 of them. The first was the previously reviewed Pleasantville. The second one is a classic black and white movie. A talkie. It was Stalag 17.

Now I would image that most people are not familiar with this movie unless you lived in the 1950's or are a big William Holden fan. I certainly cannot claim the former, but I can claim the latter.

Additionally, this movie was the inspiration for the late 1960's / early 70's T.V. comedy Hogan's Heros staring Bob Crane (Hogan), John Banner (Schultz, who ironically is played by a Jewish actor), Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink - also a Jew), and Richard Dawson (Newkirk). In fact, the guard in Stalag 17 was also named Schultz, and was an overweight, somewhat bafoonish guy, just like the Schultz of the T.V. fame. You may recall his famous catch-phrases, "I know nothing. NOTHING!"

Stalag 17 is like a comedic drama. There are plenty of laughs in the movie, from Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) and Animal (Robert Strauss), as well as drama from Price (Peter Graves) and Lieutenant Dunbar (Don Taylor). The underlying theme of the movie opens with a failed attempt to have 2 prisoners escape through a tunnel. These prisoners are shot and killed as they exit the tunnel. Immediately everyone in the camp suspects a mole. The sarcastic Sefton (William Holden) is an immediate suspect because he bet dozens of cigarettes that they would not escape. He then barters his reward with the soldiers for an egg, an exotic meal in the prison camp.

Meanwhile, 2 Americans are captured and brought to the camp suspected of sabotage. If this is the case they would not be considered prisoners of war and would be eligible for execution. The camp musters a plan to capture the detained Dunbar and get him out of the camp. Sefton, in addition to wanting to help get Dunbar out of the camp, wants to identify the real mole and untarnish his name.

The movie is too old to be rated by the existing totalitarian MPAA and their evil ways, but I suspect that if it was rated, it would be PG-13 for some violence and some thematic elements, meaning tense situations. The movie is exactly 2 hours long.

I already consider this one of my all-time favorite movies and give it 5 stars. If you are a war-buff, Americana-buff, or a William Holden fan, get this movie on your list and watch it. On a side note, Thomas Magnum mentioned it as his favorite movie in an episode of Magnum, P.I. So if Magnum thinks it's a great movie, you KNOW it's a great movie.

The Wrestler

Nominated for Best Picture in 2009, The Wrestler is a poignant movie about the life of an aging former professional wrestler and his attempt at a comeback.

Love. Pain. Glory. The movie stars Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, who, ironically, has an almost paralleled life to the wrestler. Rourke's career is pretty much over, no one cares about him, and he makes a big movie to try and make a comeback. Oh, and he's old and ugly. And to top off the king of creepiness, he owns an old Chevy van.

Also in the mix are his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood - Running With Scissors, Thirteen) and a stripper that he tries to engage in a relationship, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei - My Cousin Vinny, What Women Want). After experiencing a heart attack Randy attempts to reconnect with his daughter. He sees the end of the road and he wants to make it up to her. But he has never been there for her and has always found a way to mess up his life and their relationship even more.

Meanwhile, Cassidy the stripper sort of feels bad for the guy. He's a has-been, but he's always good to her. He tries to light a flame under her and their relationship, but she IS a stripper.

While staging his comeback, Randy becomes observant of his fellow wrestlers and what they've become. Is this how he wants to end it? Will he ever be able to make something of his life? Or will he end up as another footnote in the tragedies of professional wrestlers?

The movie is Rated R for language, thematic violence (remember those crazy wrestling matches?), drug use, and sexuality and nudity (she IS a stripper!) and the movie is 105 minutes long.

However, depressing this movie is, it is a great movie. I'm not sure if this movie will jump-start Mickey Rourke's career, but he sure did a great job with the character and he deserves the nominations that he received. I give this movie 4 stars.


I finally watched Pleasantville for the first time in my life. I know, can you believe it? So many movies I haven't seen.

My main objective for watching the movie is to fulfill my fantasy of dating Reese Witherspoon. I figure if I see every movie she's ever been in and she learns about how obsessed I am, she'll like me. Sounds like a high school tragedy, doesn't it? (And by sheer coincidence, Tragedy by the Bee-Gee's is currently on the radio as I write this.)

As I mentioned, the movie stars Reese Witherspoon, in addition to Spiderman, I mean Tobey Maguire, as her brother, William H. Macy as their father, and Joan Allen as their mother.

Tobey is obsessed with an old T.V. show called Pleasantville, sort of a spoof on late 1950's, early 1960's T.V. shows like Leave It To Beaver and My Three Sons. His sister Jennifer, on the other hand, likes to get around. A lot.

On the day of the big Pleasantville marathon, Jennifer plans to have her boyfriend over, but Tobey plans on watching the marathon. They get into a fight over the remote and it breaks. But not to worry, Barney Fife the T.V. repairman mysteriously shows up at the door with a new magical remote. Unbeknownst to Tobey and Reese, the remote sends them into the T.V. show - black and white and all. As my son would say, this is a gray T.V. show. They then spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to, so to speak, 'get back to the future', only this version is funny.

The presence of the 2 kids in town changes the balance of harmony and things start to fall apart. Then colors start appearing and people start to freak out. What's going on? Will the town tolerate these new changes? I mean, some people have color and some don't. The funniest thing in the movie was a sign in the window that read, "No Coloreds", alluding to segregation in the early to mid-1900's, though the reference is to people in technicolor. In fact, I don't think there were any African-Americans in the movie at all, or black people.

This movie is clever and funny. I'm disappointed that it took me this long in life to see the movie. If you haven't seen it, then you need to knock it off of your list. Because after you see it, "Fire! Fire! Fire!.......Dog in a tree!" will have a lot more meaning to you.

The movie is rated PG-13 for language and sexuality. And Jeff Daniels painted a naked picture of Joan Allen on the window of the diner. It's not a bad picture either. And her in the tub...quite a visualization.

I gave this movie 4 stars, and that's without the Reese bias.
My Zimbio