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.

July 30, 2011

The Warrior's Way (2010)

When it's over, this is cowboys vs. ninjas in a Mad Max setting and throw in a bit of Kill Bill.  After an assassin fails to complete his last mission, the hunter becomes the hunted and finds refuge and a new life in a small town in the old west.  International film star, Jang Dong Gun looks great as the ninja warrior, Yang.  He's handsome, he's lean, he's trim, and he moves with deadly grace; Kate Bosworth showed she could hold her own up against the baddies playing a woman, Lynne, with a score to settle; and Geoffrey Rush played a convincing drunk with a steady trigger finger.  There's plenty of gunplay and gore, but it's really the well choreographed - almost poetic - swordplay that separates this film from other martial arts films.  Also, the two small love stories in the film helped keep the emotional action moving - (1) the baby that Yang grows to love and needs to protect and (2) the budding love between Yang and Lynne and their inevitable separation.  I haven't seen anything this visually stylish since Director Zhang Yimou's "Hero" or "House of Flying Daggers." It's fresh, it's different, and it works. The use of colors and smart cinematography blend together nicely giving the film a surrealist look and the use of opera music gave some of the action sequences a more fluid and defined emotional experience.

My rating: 4 out of 5


July 29, 2011

The Crazies (2010)

When it’s over, I like this remake of Director George Romero’s 1973 film of the same name.  The Crazies is about the inhabitants of a small town in Iowa, USA, who are infected by a biological toxin that causes them to become insane.  Timothy Olyphant plays David, the town’s sheriff, who tries to make sense of the sudden outbreak of violent behaviour amongst the townspeople.  But, once the military arrives in town and begins taking people into custody, David, his wife, and two other uninfected people join together to find an escape out of town.  Although, the infected have some of the attributes of a zombie, this film is not about zombies, at least not in the traditional sense - they don't bite and they're not contagious.  This film is about paranoia and how people respond to fear and danger.  It also raises the political question as to what really is the protocol when there is an accidental insurgence of biological weapons on American soil.  Hmm...food for thought...

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

July 25, 2011

The Roommate (2011)

When it's over, The Roommate was a waste of time.  It's about a college student who learns that her roommate's obsession with her begins to turn violent.  I would consider this film a remake of Single White Female, which was so much better.  This film had a lousy story, lousy acting, and a lousy script.  There was nothing remotely interesting about this film.  I laughed at the stupidity of the whole thing.  Imagine, death by utility knife. How ridiculous is that??!!

My rating: 1 out of 5


July 23, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger 3D (2011)

When it's over, I really enjoyed the film's special effects, action sequences, and nostalgia.  Yeah, it was a bit cheesy in some scenes, but overall, it was entertaining.  I really liked how this film showcased Howard Stark and Stark Industries linking it seamlessly to Iron Man and the upcoming Avengers movie (there's a nice clip of the film after the credits). This film's very reminiscent of the 1991 movie Rocketeer, which isn't surprising since both Rocketeer and Captain America were directed by the same man, Joe Johnston.  I wasn’t too surprised by the lack of character development as it seems to be the norm lately with most comic book adaptations.  I get this feeling, that as a viewer, I’m suppose to know the histories of the characters from the comic books prior to the film, which is an assumption producers shouldn't make.  Actor Chris Evans holds up well as Steve Rogers, the pint-size soldier with a big heart turned superhero when he agrees to participate in a top secret military project.  Evans looks the part from beginning to end, thanks in part to special effects and photoshop to make him look thin and frail in the early parts of the film.  Also, there’s something in the way Evans’s put together – I think it's his old fashioned boyish hair cut that keeps his character sincere, innocent, and likable throughout the film.  No comic book story would be complete without the girl, and the task fell to British actress, Hayley Atwell playing Peggy Carter, who was able to add some gumption to her otherwise boring character.  One character I didn’t like was Johann Schmidt (aka: Red Skull) played by Hugo Weaving.  The Red Skull looked like a cross between Skeletor from the He-Man days and Jim Carrey's The Mask, but red.  The Red Skull wasn't menacing like what you'd expect from a comic book villian, thus not a worthy foe for Captain America. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

July 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

When it's over, this film is a worthy end for fans who have shared a ten year love affair with Harry Potter and all the magic this series has casted throughout the world.  Some of the people I've spoken to loved it, some thought it was just so-so, and some thought it was very poorly done.  For me, I enjoyed it for various reasons, none of which are related to being a die hard Potter fan.  I like Harry Potter, but I don't love Harry Potter.  Although I don't remember much from the previous films, I always wondered about Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) - whether he was good or evil, because throughout the various films, there have been indications that he was evil, and then he'll turn around and do something good.  So, in this final installment of the series, I really liked the idea that Snape's story was finally revealed and the memory flashback he gives to Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) summarizes not only his feelings, thoughts, and secrets, but also represented, theatrically, a snapshot summary of all the past films.  Also, I thought having an unlikely hero such as Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) help save the day was a refreshing surprise.  The ending was well thought out and having the main characters meet 19 years later at the train platform to Hogwarts with their children in tow added a nice sentimental touch to the story.  There was a bit more kissing in this film, finally... and much needed in order for the relationships to shift from friendship to love.  I was disappointed by how abrupt the kisses were.  One minute, the characters were in a state of panic, and the next second, their lips were locked.  I mean, couldn't the producers spare a couple of minutes to set up the kisses?  All in all, whether you're a fan of Harry Potter or not, this film is worth a look.  It represents the end of an era. 

My rating: 3 out of 5


July 13, 2011

No Strings Attached (2011)

When it's over, this film asks the much debated question of whether or not a man and a woman can have casual sex without becoming emotionally involved.  The film's answer is no.  Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman team up in this raunchy romcom about two friends who decide to become sex buddies, but what starts out to be fun and convenient develops into something more.  With all the kissing and fondling between Kutcher and Portman, I thought they would have developed some fake chemistry to make me believe these two characters were falling in love, but nothing, nada, zilch.  The story's flat and uninteresting and makes me wonder how such scripts get made.  I think Kutcher should verve away from romcoms and do some dramas (he was great in The Butterfly Effect and fared well opposite Kevin Costner in The Guardian).  I think Portman's acting ability is overrated as this film demonstates her "lack of" acting (however, I haven't seen Black Swan), and among the many films she's been in, I liked her best in Closer and The Professional.  

My rating: 2 out of 5

July 9, 2011

Battle Los Angeles (2011)

When it's over, this film could have easily been renamed, "The Brotherhood," since its characters constantly revisit the importance of loyalty and camaraderie among their marine platoon.  Battle Los Angeles consists of three stories rolled into one.  First, the main story is about the fight to reclaim Los Angeles from alien invaders; second, it's about saving and delivering civilians to safety; and third, it's about the sacred bond shared between soldiers.  The film managed to deliver on both two and three, but failed to make the primary storyline original or compelling or suspenseful.  With 60% of the film focused on flying bullets, explosions, and destruction, there wasn't much room for story development.  Yes, aliens have landed around the world and are taking over the city of angels, and that storyline is fine, but to make it work, the audience needs to know more about the aliens (where they come from, their language, etc) than just that the weakness on their body lies opposite to where a human heart would be or that they have decided to colonize earth for its H20 supply.  Perhaps showing how they harness the earth's water would have been a step towards story development, because this would have shown the power of the alien's technology.  In addition, the aliens were downright boring to look at, and there wasn't anything unique about them, like acid for blood in the Alien series or invisibility in the Predator series.  This film tried to capture the feel of Independence Day, but missed the mark big time. 

My rating: 2 out of 5

July 7, 2011

The Social Network (2010)

When it's over,  I liked that the film focused on the emotional journey rather than just the physical birth of Facebook.   As the film's tagline suggests, "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies," is what's at the heart of this story.  It's the emotional price tag that goes along with such a monumental success, and it's the things we lose along the way -friendship, loyalty, and self-identity.  Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook and the youngest billionaire in history.  I felt Eisenberg played this "grown up" role well and managed to incite in me a sense of loathing for his character, while at the same time, sympathy. Also, I think director David Fincher skillfully threaded the emotional conflict into the plot keeping it constant and escalating.  At the end of the film, Facebook remains a global success, but the  road to success has been laced with bitterness by all the players involved. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

July 5, 2011

I Am You (aka: In Her Skin - Australia - 2009)

When it’s over, this small Australian film made me think deeper into the issues of mental illness and its potential consequences when left ignored.  I Am You is based on a true story about a teenage girl who is murdered by her childhood babysitter, Caroline, played by Ruth Bradley.  The film addresses the issue of self image and how wanting desperately to look “good” can drive one to extreme behaviours.  It’s a tragic and sad story for all the characters – from the grieving parents (played by Guy Pierce and Miranda Otto), to the boyfriend, and ultimately to Caroline, who is so mentally disturbed that she doesn’t understand what she has done.   There were great performances throughout, especially by Ruth Bradley, who managed to make a sinister character into one I ended up feeling sorry for.   What I will remember most about this film is the lengthy murder scene.  It’s one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve seen in recent times. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

July 2, 2011

The Way Back (2010)

When it's over, The Way Back discusses the crimes of the Soviet system the way many other films have documented the crimes of the Nazis during the early 1940's.  Peter Weir makes a successful return to the director's chair after a long hiatus (Master and Commander was his film last in 2003) to bring this true story about a band of prisoners who escape from a Siberian gulag and who make their way to freedom on foot to India by crossing through the Sahara Desert and the Himalayas.  Weir uses beautiful, but harsh, landscapes and unforgiving weather as characters in the film, which the escapees must struggle through in order to survive and reach freedom.  Like most films about survival, not everyone survives, and it was the small stories about life and death along the journey that made the film captivating and reinforced the power of the human spirit.  A great international cast included: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Mark Strong, Saorise Ronan, Gustaf Skarsgard, Dragos Bucur, and Alexandru Potocean. 

My rating: 4 out of 5