December 31, 2013.

This blog is now closed. After three years and 311 posts, I have decided to end this blog. I have enjoyed watching the films, reviewing them, and interacting with global readers.

If you are interested in contacting me, you can do so by commenting on any of the posts. The blog will remain live on the web.
Thank you to all the readers for your comments, ideas, and thoughts. They were helpful, stimulating, and enriching. This is Alene, signing off.

March 31, 2011

The American (2010)

When it's over, thank goodness it's over.  The American tries to be artistic, but fails to hit the mark.  Yes, it's got beautiful Italian scenery, and the mood of loneliness and isolation is right on, but everything else just lags and drags.  George Clooney plays Jack, an assassin hiding out in Italy after a previous job goes sour.  While romancing a local prostitute, he agrees to take on one last assignment.  The storyline of the assassin growing a conscience and wanting to get out of the business is so overused that it's become uninteresting.  The director took a fresh approach by telling the story from a dramatic and emotional point of view versus action based.  I think it would have worked with the right actor, a strong supporting actor, and a tighter storyline.  Much of the film showed Jack alone, quiet, and pensive, suggesting perhaps the inner struggles of a man who is finally coming to terms with the consequences of his career.  Clooney may be a superstar off camera, but he didn't soar as Jack, and he lacked the emotional intensity needed to transmit his character's feelings of loneliness, regret, paranoia, isolation, and love to the viewer.  Great assassin films such as The Professional, La Femme Nikita,The Day of the Jackal, and even The Bourne Identity, had solid storylines and strong character backstories which bridged the emotional link between screen and audience.

My rating: 1.5 out of 5

March 28, 2011

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011)

When its over, this was one of the best prequels to a television series I have seen so far.  The season's six episodes may seem little in number compared to some major network shows which run about 12 episodes and up, and what it lacked in quantity, it made up in quality. There's a whole lot more nudity and orgies than its predecessor, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which at most times, were unneccessary, but for the network, I imagine it's a neccessity for ratings and viewership.  The prequel tells the story, before the arrival of Spartacus, of the original Champion of the House of Batiatus - Gannicus, who through skill, bravery, and some luck, gains his freedom.  But the road to freedom took six episodes filled with characters we knew so well from "Blood and Sand."  The talented writers did a successful job intertwining storylines and bridging the two seasons - Gods of the Arena and Blood and Sand - together.  We learn how Crixus becomes the new champion.  We learn how Oenomaus becomes Doctore and how his beloved wife dies.  We discover how Ashur becomes crippled.  And so much more...

My rating: 4 out of 5

Season of the Witch (2011)

When it's over, it's Exorcist meets The Ninth Gate.  Nicholas Cage plays a 14th-century knight who must transport a suspected witch to a monastery, where monks will determine whether or not her powers could be the source of the Black Plague.  Upon arrival at the monastery, Cage and his group of knights find the place deserted and the monks dead. They discover the woman not to be a witch at all, and then, things really start to get nasty.  This film was a true disappointment, and it's a shame Cage didn't take the time to learn an English accent.  It would have made his character more believable and the film more authentic to its setting.  The sudden twist in the last third of the film damaged the story more than helped, and I think the filmmakers should have stuck to the witch story, instead of switching to a story about Satan. 

My rating: 2 out of 5

El Mariachi (Mexico - 1992)

When its over, I'd forgotten how entertaining this simple little film was.  This was director, Robert Rodriguez's, first feature film and it costed him $7,000 to make.  That's impressive, even for its time.  It's an example of what creativity, simplicity, and passion put together can create.  It didn't have all the fancy stunts and FX of A-listed films, but it had what mattered - a story. The film's about two men dressed in black, two guitar suitcases, and a case of mistaken identity.  The result?  Death, blood, and revenge. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Red Riding Hood (2011)

When it's over, Red Riding Hood felt like a low budgeted cross between Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow and M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.  After years of accepting animals as sacrifice, the werewolf begins to attack humans, forcing the villagers to seek help from famed werewolf killer, Father Solomon, played by Gary Oldman, whose arrival causes unintended consequences.  The film had the potential for greatness, but with poor directing by Catherine Hardwicke and a weak script, it failed to keep me interested or care for the characters.  Even Oldman's strong acting abilities couldn't save his peers from drowning in their own flat, emotionless performances.  This is suppose to be a horror\supernatural film, but nothing about it seemed scary, and not one scene showed the transformation of man to wolf or vice-versa.  What was Hardwicke thinking????

My rating: 2 out of 5

March 27, 2011

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

When it's over, Jake Gyllenhaal is still a wonderful actor, just not convincing enough to play Dastan, the young prince who must save the world by preventing a magic dagger that reverses time from falling into evil hands.  Dastan is aided, off and on, by princess Tamina, played by Gemma Arterton.  There's tons of action and loads of stunts that mimic the video game the character of Dastan is based on.  Plus, enough one liners and cliches to make one roll their eyes to exhaustion.  Still, after two viewings of this film, I would have to admit, it was entertaining.  I actually liked it more the second time around.  The setting and costumes were a delight and I suppose, having Gyllenhaal flex his pecs here and there didn't hurt either.

My rating: 3 out of 5

March 11, 2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

When it's over, I think the producers tried to cram too much into a 109 minute film.  I Am Number Four is based on the young adult novel of the same name and is definitely worth reading before watching.  The story follows a teenager named John, who is an alien with extraordinary powers.  He is next in line to be killed and must find a way to stay alive from the evil clutches of the Magadorians, another alien species set on destroying Earth.  The film does have its fair share of special effects, but wasn't enough to make up for poor performances and a loosely constructed script.  Science fiction stories require more backstory than other genres, and this film failed to inform the viewer of the "why" and of the "how."  We need to know why things were happening and how things got that way.  The book did this in dreams and flashbacks, perhaps the film should have followed.  Maybe a stronger script would have generated better performances.  Still the only person that truly shined was Number 6, played by Aussie gal Theresa Palmer, who really knew how to kick some alien butt.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

The Wolfman (2010)

When it's over, The Wolfman was a gothic slasher horror film.  If you like the whole genre of werewolves, then it's definitely a film to watch.  Yes, it's scarier, gorier, and has better special effects than its predecessors, but I was expecting that with an "R" rating and any rating less would be pointless to watch.  Benicio Del Toro plays Lawrence, who has returned to England to solve the murder of his brother.  Upon his return, he is reunited with his estranged father, John, played by Anthony Hopkins.  In his quest to find out the truth of his brother's murder, Lawrence is bitten by a werewolf and ultimately shares the fate of the werewolf's curse.  There's a bit of plot and a bit of love story, but nothing substantial for it to fall in the ranks of such films as Underworld and An American Werewolf in London.

My rating: 3 out of 5