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.

May 28, 2011

Black Death (2010)

 When it's over, I neither liked the film nor disliked it.  My indifference to the film cancels each other out.  I think the film moved at a good pace, it had interesting characters, and was very realistic to the time period it portrayed - at least to a non-historian such as myself.  However, the film didn't win me over, mainly due to the ending, which I felt killed the story.  I felt the ending didn't come full circle; and furthermore, having one of the main characters convert to the "dark" side made all the deaths that led to the ending seem pointless.  The cast of European actors make the film feel authentic - no phony accents in this film - and having the film shot completely in Germany added a "new" look to medieval England.  The film is set in the days of the bubonic plague, where fear of witches and sorcery drive men to evil extremes.  The church sends the Bishop's envoy, Ulrich, played by Sean Bean, along with several soldiers to capture a necromancer, who is able to make the dead rise.  Ulrich is guided by a young monk, played by Eddie Redmayne, whose destiny may or may not lie with God. 

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

May 26, 2011

Priest (2011)

When it's over, the idea of a priest trying to save humanity by using knives and hand-to-hand combat instead of rosaries was appealing and a fresh approach to the vampire genre. The film is based on the popular Korean comic "Manhwa" by Hyung Min-Woo, and although I haven't read the comics, the film's dark mood and the main character's edgy storyline is interesting enough to provoke my curiosity in the comic books.  However, I have a feeling my opinion of the film would change for the worse, if I was to read the comics now.  Priest was entertaining not only because it was different, but also, because it successfully recycled the styles of popular films from the past.  The film felt like Mad Max meets The Matrix meets Underworld, and it's a fusion of the western and supernatural genres, making it very different from the vampire films before it.  When I first heard about the film, I didn't think Brit actor, Paul Bettany could pull it off as a renegade priest, but I'm glad to be proven wrong, because I think Bettany was convincing as the no-flinching, no-hesitation warrior priest who could leap through the air and do some serious kung fu.  With the help of a priestess, played by Maggie Q, and a gunslinger sherriff, played by Cam Gigandet, the trio venture into a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of the vampires who had murdered the Priest's family and kidnapped his niece.  Along the way, there are some plot twists, which helps the viewers understand the Priest's motives.  One thing the story should have developed further was the Priest's relationship with the Priestess, because there are hints of feelings and a possible past between the two, but no specific details are revealed, which was a shame, because their "possible" love story would be a forbidden one and the fragility of their relationship could have taken the storyline to a more meaningful level. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

May 23, 2011

Rio (2011)

When it's over, there isn't much to remember about Rio, a story about a domesticated blue Macaw, named Blu, who gets stolen by thieves in Rio de Janiero and must find a way back to his owner, Linda.  Along the way, Blu meets some feathery friends who help him on his journey and help him to find the courage to fly for the very first time.  This film had a few good laughs, but falls short of being memorable compared to animated films such as Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon which were not only fun, but intelligent as well.  There were some catchy tunes for the kids and some jokes the adults can appreciate, but that's about all it had to offer.  It was a good " time-filler," and I think most kids would enjoy the comical humor.  Cast of voices include, Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Jamie Foxx.

My rating: 3 out of 5

Faster (2010)

When it's over, Faster suffers from a weak story and an even weaker sub-plot that stagnates the story rather than moves it forward.  Dwayne Johnson plays a man known as the Driver, who seeks revenge for the murder of his brother.  The film's sole focus is revenge and because of that, it failed to accelerate.  The film spends most of its time showing the Driver going on a rampage and killing for revenge, but what the film should have done is expand on the Driver's trauma and pain, so, as the viewer, I can sympathize with the character and his vigilante methods.  A character that's one dimensional is boring and uninteresting (he just points and shoots), but if you give that character a lifeline (a past, a present, and a future), then the character is someone I can relate to and care about.  Also,I think the producers should have made the executive decision to cut out the "assassin for hire" sub-plot, in which an assassin is hired to take out the Driver.  This sub-plot was pointless and unrelated to the main story and a waste of screen time.  Instead, that screen time should have been used to develop the two key characters - the Driver and the Cop, played by Billy Bob Thornton.  I think Johnson and Thornton would have made great adversaries if the story had been better crafted.

My rating: 2 out of 5

May 19, 2011

Outlander (2008)

When it's over, even though I've seen this film countless times, I still find it enjoyable.  It's science fiction.  It's man against beast.  It's got an element of time travel - in this case, it's the Vikings.  It's an entertaining film to watch with friends and not take too seriously.  Jim Caviezel plays Kainan, a soldier from another planet who crash lands in Norway during the Iron Age (approx. 700 AD) and unknowingly brings along an alien predator known as the Moorwen who is set on destroying anything in its path.  Unlike some Sci-fi films where the stories and characters get snuffed in the action, Outlander stays at a good pace keeping the action going and slowing down when necessary to develop the plot and characters. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Peacock (2010)

When it's over, Irish actor, Cillian Murphy blew me away in his portrayal of John/Emma Skillpa, a character suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka: Multiple Personality Disorder).  John and Emma live a simple and private life in rural Nebraska, until one day a train derails into their backyard creating much unwanted publicity and attention.  This sudden change in the Skillpa household unleashes an inner battle between the two personalities each fighting to gain control of the other to haunting circumstances.  Peacock was dark, eerie, disturbing, and very believable due mostly in part to Murphy's brilliant performance.  The script was smart and although I am usually turned off by stories that are left "hanging," I thought the peculiar ending for this story was an appropriate fit for the characters and left quite open a lot of questions that would certainly cultivate a mind-probing discussion.  Rounding out the cast are Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Josh Lucas, Keith Carradine, and Bill Pullman.

My rating: 4 out of 5

May 16, 2011

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (UK - 2008)

When it's over, the story of Tess remains tragic no matter how updated a director may make it.  So far, I've seen two versions of this classic story of love and loss, and this version is a bit livelier in costume and landscape compared to the 1998 version (also from the UK).  Thomas Hardy's timeless tragedy about a young girl named Tess Derbeyfield played by Gemma Arterton, who becomes a victim of circumstance in 19th century England, is so heartbreaking that one can't help but be drawn into the story and all its flawed characters.  This four hour film from BBC was filmed completely in 35mm (rare in the age of high definition), which gives the landscape a sense of grandness as well as a sense of loneliness and despair.  The landscape becomes a character in the story as we follow Tess on her journey from an innocent country girl to a courtesan in a span of several years.  She lives through seduction, rape, betrayal, motherhood, marriage, and abandonment, and yet, remains remarkably strong willed and independent.  I think Arterton did a wonderful job portraying this very complex character by molding Tess into a character we can relate to, sympathize with, and ultimately fall in love with.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

May 15, 2011

Hereafter (2010

When it’s over, if the film had ended any other way, I would have been very disappointed.   The Hereafter is about three people, three stories, and three differing experiences with death.  Matt Damon plays an American who has a special connection to the afterlife;  Cecile De France plays a French journalists whose near death experience changes her perspective on life; and twins, Frankie and George McLaren play a London schoolboy who tragically loses his twin brother and must find understanding and acceptance.  Throughout the film, I kept wondering when these three stories would meet, as I kept hoping they would.  However, director Clint Eastwood kept me waiting and guessing until the very end, when finally, the stories do thread together, and there is a sense of completeness and fulfillment for all three characters making the story, as a viewer, a more satisfying one.

My rating: 4 out of 5   

May 11, 2011

Beastly (2011)

When it's over, I can understand why it did so poorly in theatres, but I can also see the potential it had for success.  Beastly is a modern version of "Beauty and the Beast" from a male perspective.  Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is a spoiled teen who cares for no one but himself.  To teach Kyle a lesson, a witch (Mary-Kate Olsen) puts a curse on him exchanging his good looks for a scarred and deformed one.  He has one year to find someone to fall in love with him or be doomed forever to be ugly.  Having read the book and loving it, I was disappointed by how much the producers downplayed the character of the Beast - personality as well as physical.  The film did away with the hairy body and the animal-like qualities of a beast, such as roaring, tantrums, difficulty in speech, and clothing that didn't quite fit.  Instead, Kyle spoke perfect English and stayed in human form with the addition of tattoos, warts, and scars held together with staples.  The casting of Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy, the girl who enters Kyle's life and eventually becomes "the one" who breaks the curse was a poor choice for a female lead.  She lacked the acting ability to bring Lindy to life - to show Lindy's greatness as well as her vulnerabilities.  Early into the film, I was feeling "turned off" by Pettyfur's poor acting despite his dashingly good looks.  However, I held on and tried to keep an open mind about the story and hoped that Pettyfur would hook me as the "Beast," which he eventually did and I found myself really liking his character and being engaged in the personal journey he was on.  Neil Patrick Harris played the tutor, Will, and he was a much needed supporting cast member.  Harris brought comedy and spontaneity to a film that desperately needed some humor.  Lisa Gay Hamilton portrayed Zola, Kyle's maid and housekeeper, who was much more than a hired help.  She represented wisdom and guidance to a teen who failed to receive any from his father.  These two supporting characters helped to make Kyle complete and also, helped to elevate this film to a more positive experience. 

My rating: 3 out of 5

Thor - 3D (2011)

When it’s over, do sit through the credits to view a short scene that will whet you appetite for what's to come in the Marvel universe - just something to think about... 

For his arrogant ways, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished from his home realm of Asgard by his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins), to live as a human.  On earth, he falls in love with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and learns humility and compassion, which earns him the Mjölnir, the hammer which is considered to be the most powerful weapon in the universe.  Thor uses Mjölnir to save Earth and to return home to Asgard where he must stop his evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), from destroying a species known as the Frost Giants.  Director Kenneth Branagh did a terrific job at bringing Norse Mythology to life while mixing in some modern day humour and charm.  His vision of the mythological realm of Asgard was a true treat.  It reminded me of Mount Olympus with less columns and lots of golden architecture surrounded by greenery.  He manages to fit into two hours all the necessary information the viewer needs to understand the characters and the various storylines leading up to the very much anticipated The Avengers movie slated to be released in 2012.  Aussie newbie, Hemsworth, did a fine job portraying the fallen God who eventually redeems himself, and Portman didn’t disappoint as the woman he falls in love with.  The love story between Thor and Jane felt somewhat rushed, but sweet nonetheless.  I suppose it’s forgivable since this film really is action driven versus character driven.  Portman and Hemsworth have good chemistry together and they seem to fit very well onscreen, and I’m sure much of that is due to Branagh’s meticulous handling of the two actors.  Having seen Thor in both versions, I’d have to say that watching it in 3D enhanced some of the scenes (like the cinematic feel of Asgard and the grandness of the fight sequences), but not crucial enough to make the 3D version a must-see format. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

May 5, 2011

Going the Distance (2010)

When it's over, the film's attempt at being funny only made it silly.  Much of the humor is "forced," not natural like comedies such as The Hangover or Knocked Up, which both shared the same sexual raunchiness as Going the Distance.  Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star in this rom-com as lover's trying to maintain a long distance relationship between New York and Los Angeles.  Normally, profanity doesn't bother me if it serves to move the story and it's characters forward (such as Pulp Fiction), but when it's excessive in a lousy script, and the key word is "lousy," I simply find myself becoming indifferent to the story and its characters, which was the case for this film.  Also, I think the casting only hurt the film, not elevate it.  The pairing of Barrymore and Long was awkward and lacked the spark to make this romance believable.  Long may have won Barrymore's heart off screen, but he doesn't pass as a charismatic romantic lead.  Barrymore is usually upbeat, funny, and adorable, but as the character of Erin, she looked depressingly run-down and in desperate need of rescue. 

My rating: 2 out of 5