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.

June 30, 2011

The Last Song (2010)

 When it's over, the themes of rebellion, forgiveness, loss, and second chances are nothing new for a film based on another one of Nicholas Sparks' bestselling novels.  The story's about Ronnie, played by singer Miley Cyrus, who spends the summer with her estranged father, played by Greg Kinnear.  In this one summer, Ronnie encounters first love, heartbreak, loss, and the power of forgiveness.  There was two things wrong with this movie.  One, I thought the story was good, but it felt rushed through some how.  Everything seemed to happen so fast - falling in love, reconciliation, forgiveness, loss - that I didn't feel the natural progression of the story.  A tighter script would have helped.  Second, the casting was all wrong, except for Kinnear, who lent charm and humor to his character who would have otherwise been depressing and flat.  Cyrus lacked the ability to transcend the complex emotions that Ronnie endured.  I think the very talented Ellen Page would have been a better choice to portray the rebellious youth who comes of age.  Liam Hemsworth looks great on the beach, but doesn't make the cut as Ronnie's rich boyfriend, Will, who goes from playboy to good boy. 

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

June 21, 2011

Green Lantern 3D (2011)

When it's over, the Green Lantern's super cool "green" fx makes up for its story's predictability. Actor Ryan Reynolds tries his hand again as a comic book character, and fares decently.  He's in great physical shape for the role, but still lacks enough charm to captivate me as Hal Jordan, a reckless man turned responsible after a mystical ring chooses him to inherit extraordinary powers and a place in the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic team whose goal is to maintain peace and order in the universe.  Playing Hal's love interest is Actress Blake Lively as Carol Ferris.  Their relationship's rather static and doesn't really generate any sparks, which is too bad, because a lack of a good love story is a lack of emotional conflict - that tug-of-war in the hearts.  Yes, Hal does have other emotional conflicts including facing up to his fears and living up to his father image, but it's the conflicts of the heart that make viewers either swoon or not.  Actors Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard round out the major players in the film.  Although this film has been released in 3D, it's not necessary to watch it in this format.

My rating: 3 out of 5

June 20, 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

When it's over, it's Toy Story meets Shakespeare, because when the humans are away or not looking, the gnomes of the house of Capulet and the house of Montague come out to rage war on each other and fall in love.  The voice choices couldn't have been better.  James McAvoy lends his voice for Gnomeo; Emily Blunt as Juliette; Jason Stathum as the nasty Tybalt; and the incomparable Patrick Stewart as William Shakespeare.  If you're a Shakespeare fan, there's so much to relish in this film, from small details (ei: the street is called Verona Drive, "Tempest" inscribed on a license plate) to the several Shakespearean verses incorporated into the script.  The music and lyrics by Elton John and Bernie Taupin offers a fresh "pop culture" take on the classic.  Plus, scenes of street racing, Juliet getting her legs waxed, and the military covert operation comedy makes this film a lot of fun to watch.      

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

June 19, 2011

Super 8 (2011)

When it's over, I'm surprised Director/Writer J.J Abrams didn't come up with a more original story.  I mean, he's created some memorable shows (Alias, Lost, Felicity) and written some notable screenplays (Forever Young, Regarding Henry, Armageddon).  He successfully helmed Star Trek in 2009, so, I expected more from him than an anthology of Steven Spielberg films rolled into one, which is basically what Super 8 was - a Goonies meets E.T. extravaganza, plus a bit of Arachnophobia and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The film takes place in the late 70's about a group of kids from a small town who encounter a train crash while shooting an amateur film.  Unknown to the kids, but captured on their camera is something that crawls out of the wreckage - something mysterious that brings the Naval Forces into town and a series of unexplained disappearances.  I was intrigued by the story's premise, and thought the mystery surrounding that "something" would be worthy of a sit through.  However, the journey wasn't worth the destination reached. I saw bits of the "something" in the shadows, and a few times as a whole near the end.  This was very disappointing, because it's this "something" that causes such havoc in the small town, and it's this "something" that provokes an emotional response in the characters, re-uniting them on an emotional level (father and son, father and daughter).  If we didn't see E.T. until the very end, would the film still have had the success it received?  Probably not.  The secrecy behind that "something" shouldn't have been a secret at all.  It should have been up front and centre - lets see what we're dealing with.  Aside from the science fiction aspect of the film, there was also the human stories - coming of age, coping with loss, and forgiveness.  These are great themes, but they were poorly presented and supported.   I wasn't sold on the casting of the two main children - Joe, played by Joel Courtney, and Alice, played by Elle Fanning - who are two teens falling in love in the midst of the chaos.  If you're going to have two people fall in love, then you've got to make sure they have chemistry.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Pride and Prejudice (United Kingdom - 1995)

When it's over, this faithful BBC version remains to be my favorite.  Running at a good five hours, this production truly captured the essence of Jane Austen's classic story about 19th century society and the pride and the prejudice that constantly comes into play between people from varying classes.  Mr. Darcy, played by Colin Firth, represents the pride, and Elizabeth Bennett, played by Jennifer Ehle, represents the prejudice.  Both characters start out disliking each other, but as they challenge one another in conversation and wit, their relationship evolves into one of mutual respect and eventually, love.  Director Simon Langton did a superb job unfolding the various plot lines while keeping the tension escalating between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.  This is one of those rare films where the casting is perfect throughout, and the script is flawless, thanks to British writer, Andrew Davies, who transcribed Austen's words with such clarity and flamboyance.  The sets and costumes were true to the time period, and the locations were breathtaking, especially the grounds of Pemberley, which Austen would approve if she was alive today.  This film is truly a treasure, and no matter how many times I watch it, I never tire of Mr. Darcy's pride nor of Elizabeth's prejudice. 

My rating: 5 out of 5


June 12, 2011

Hardball (2001)

When it's over, Hardball may be hard for some children to watch, but worth a sit through, because it opens up opportunities to talk to children about gambling, violence, drugs, education, and what it really means to win and lose.  In Canada, it's rated as PG, in the United States, it's PG-13, but personally, I'd say it's borderline R for language, violence, and disturbing scenes.  This well-crafted story's about a washed up gambler and drinker named Conor O'Neill, played by Keanu Reeves, who's forced into coaching a Little League baseball team from a housing project in Chicago in return for a loan to pay off his debts.  The kids who live in the project have mouths as foul as sweaty unwashed socks, and their housing complex is filled with criminals, thugs, and gang shootings.  The film does a realistic job at showing the dangers the children face each day, and how they struggle to survive in a world where violence begets violence and in the midst of their dark reality, the children cling to one joy - baseball.  It's through baseball that Conor and the children learn the importance of teamwork, faith, and not giving up.  This film's a bit of a tearjerker in some parts, but not all the tears are sad, they're happy, too. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

Somewhere (2010)

When it's over, this film had the most unique opening I've seen in a very long time.  There was less than 10 words said in the first 15 minutes.  The whole beginning sequence was done in visuals and inter-cutting of well-thought out scenes offering a snapshot into the life of a Hollywood bad boy named Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff.  Johnny's loved by his fans, but can't seem to find a way to love himself and find meaning in his life.  This first 15 minutes sets up the mood and the direction the film will take.  The absence of dialogue evokes a sense of loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and boredom.  I admire Director Sofia Coppola's vision and style (as she always demonstrates in her films), and it's because of her artistic abilities that kept me intrigued throughout the film.  However, there's something very disappointing about going on a journey with a character only to be let down and unfullfilled in the end.  That's how I felt with the ending of this film.  Although the film suggests that Johnny has evolved, I would have liked to see him evolve, perhaps in a 5 - 10 minutes montage of the outcome of his decisions - on his life, his daughter, his career, his car, and it would have been nice to see where he ended up living.  I don't want to give too much of the film away, so you really need to see the film to understand some of the comments I'm making.  No doubt, this film is definitely a small experimental art house film, and would appeal to viewers who enjoy dissecting a film, because this film has a lot to break down - there's lots of metaphors, symbolism, and scenes left open for viewer's interpretation.     

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

June 6, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

When it’s over, X-Men: First Class wasn’t first rate, but a worthy prequel to the franchise.  I was expecting a lot of special effects and not much plot, but instead I got the opposite, which was great, because it’s really the story that made this film work.  James McAvoy plays Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender plays Erik Lehnsherr who would later become Magneto, Xavier’s archenemy.  Both actors were well casted and did a fine job at reinventing the roles made famous by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  However, the casting for the remainder of the mutants were new faces with “so-so” acting.  One character I didn’t like was the villain Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon, who had the mutant ability to harness energy.  Bacon didn’t fit the role, and despite his acting abilities, just wasn’t convincing as a mutant set on taking over the world.  Although the film is made up of many characters and storylines, it’s the meeting, the friendship, and the separation of Charles and Erik that the film stays focused on.  The film successfully sets up (in this case, tells the evolution of) many storylines that were prevalent in the X-Men films of the past years including intros to William Stryker, the machine known as Cerebro, how Mystic ends up in the company of Magneto, how the Beast got his look, and how Xavier ends up in a wheelchair, just to name a few. 

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Tourist (2010)

When it’s over, the film suffered from a lack of chemistry between Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.  Jolie plays the beautiful mysterious woman who meets a tourist, played by Depp, on a train to Venice, Italy, and what follows is a series of mistaken identity with Interpol and the Russian Mafia hot on their heels.  Although Jolie and Depp played their parts adequately, they lacked that “something” that “spark” that would’ve made their romance more grand, more believable.  With all the beautiful scenery, elegant costumes, and extravagant decor, it’s a shame their relationship on screen couldn’t match the grandness of the production.   A reunion with Jolie and Clive Owen (they last starred together in Beyond Borders) would have been a better casting choice; as also, Depp and Kate Beckingsale or Depp and Charlize Theron. 

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

June 1, 2011

A Walk to Remember (2002)

When it's over, this romance/drama had me in tears.  Not balling, but enough to demand tissue nearby.  I think I started crying about two thirds into the film and having read the Nicholas Sparks novel and knowing the ending just made the sadness so unavoidable.  The story is about Landon and Jamie (played by Shane West and Mandy Moore) who are two teens with nothing in common, but joined together by fate.  They fall in love, but when a heart-breaking secret is revealed, their love and their relationship is put to the test.  Yes, this is definitely a sad and tragic film, but what separates this film from other "doom and gloom" tragedies is the uplifting tone of the story.  It wasn't filled with scenes of overcast skies, pouring rain, and people huddled in the cold.  Instead, the film had a palette of bright colors signifying life, new beginnings, and hope.  The story's message to me was that sometimes you have to suffer to know what blessings are and what you are blessed with.  The themes of faith, love, forgiveness, and courage are the veins that pump life into this love story, while at the same time mirrors the unfairness that life sometimes brings. 

My rating: 4 out of 5