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.

August 25, 2011

The Beaver (2011)

When it's over, this was one of those films I chose to watch solely based on the director.  Director and Actress Jodi Foster manages to hook me with her sensitive, yet bold, storytelling of a fragmented family trying to find its way back together.  The Beaver is a very small film with a very small budget, but it has huge heart.  It tells the story of Walter Black, a father and a once successful businessman, played by Mel Gibson, who suffers from mental illness.  Not only does Walter's severe depression and anxiety spill into his family and professional life, it ultimately pushes him to the brink of suicide, until he finds The Beaver, a raggedly puppet who becomes his sole means of communicating.  At first, the idea of The Beaver serving as a conduit for a cure or solution or voice seemed rather unconventional, but within 15 minutes into the film, I was sold on the idea that the Beaver represented an alternate personality - a suppressed voice Walter needed in order to survive.  The Beaver became a character and took on the manifestations of the good and the bad that lied within Walter, and in many ways, all of us.  Great performances from the whole cast: Gibson who takes on the double role of Black and The Beaver;  Foster playing the loving supportive wife who is at her wits end; Anton Yelchin is very convincing as the troubled teen son, Porter Black, who helps others find a voice, and yet, cannot find his own; 8 year old, Riley Thomas Stewart portrays Henry Black, the representation of innocence, joy, honesty, and unconditional love; and finally, budding actress, Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful to watch as the high school valedictorian who has everything, but secretly tries to cope with her own family tragedy. 

My rating: 4 out of 5

August 20, 2011

Gulliver's Travels (2010)

When it’s over, Jack Black is Jack Black, need I say more?  The film was mildly entertaining with Black adding some light humour to the classic Jonathan Swift book-to-screen adaptation about a man who gets shipwrecked on an island inhabited by little people.  The film’s got a decent love story, plus it’s got some decent character development, plus a pretty rocking soundtrack, plus a transformers-like battle at the end, balancing it out as a decent film suitable for the whole family.  No overly crude behaviour or swearing from Black, except maybe peeing on the king, that was a bit unnecessary.  I thought the special effects could have been better considering the technology the film industry has available.  I thought the integration of past and present cultures colliding added a fresh change from the original classic. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Morning Glory (2010)

When it’s over, I was exhausted.   Keeping up with the frantic pace of the film was distracting and frustrating.  Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, a highly ambitious producer who is hired to helm a failing morning television show close to being canned.  The job comes with more challenges than Fuller anticipates as she tries to juggle the tasks of keeping the show afloat and making sure the egotistical reporter, Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), stays sober and does his job, while at the same time falling head over heels for Adam (Patrick Wilson), another fellow producer.   Fuller talks way too much and half of what she says is indecisive and gibberish.  I felt like shaking the poor girl so she’d snap out of it.   How Adam falls for her is beyond my understanding, maybe it’s the cuteness or naivety McAdams brings to Fuller that makes her likable.   Much of the story is unrealistic and in the “real” world, things would happen much differently, in a career setting as well as a personal setting, than it does in the film.  But, then again, this is Hollywood, and make believe is the name of the game.  So, I did get a few laughs out of the flick, and I really liked the cast, so that counts for something.  If I was producing this film, I’d give Fuller more depth.  She’s ambitious, she’s hardworking, she’s a “I can get it done for you” kind of employee.  I think most people can relate to that, but she’s not complete without a soul and heart and that’s what the film needs to work on – who is she outside of work, what are her weaknesses, what keeps her going, what motivates her?  Show me these things and maybe I’ll respect her a whole lot more.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

August 17, 2011

All That Heaven Allows (1955)

When it's over, it's amazing how a movie made more than 55 years ago still resonates many parallels to films we see today.  The clothes, people, and music have all changed, but the themes haven't.  Actress Jane Wyman plays a wealthy widow, Cary Scott, who falls in love with her much younger gardener, Ron Kirby, played by Rock Hudson.  They're romance and engagement triggers disapproval from Cary's children and alienation from her snobby country club friends.  Cary must struggle with the emotional tug-of-war between what is expected of her and what she really wants.  The film clearly reminds us that love holds no age restriction nor is it prejudice against social class status.  The timeless theme of following your heart is prevalent throughout the film making this film as relevant today as it was back in 1955.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 

August 11, 2011

Rango (2011)

When it's over, my favourite part was the dream sequence of the Spirit of the West (aka: the Clint Eastwood scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), which pays tribute to the old 1960s spaghetti westerns.  I thought it was Eastwood voicing the part of himself, but in actuality, it was Actor Timothy Olyphant, who fooled me completely.  I'm rarely surprised in films, and the scene with Eastwood was a pleasant surprise.  Johnny Depp lends his voice as Rango, a domesticated chameleon who suddenly finds himself sheriff of a lawless town named, Dirt.  Rango vows to save the town from drought and dehydration, and in his search for water, he uncovers a conspiracy.  There's a lot of silliness and humour in the film the way only Depp can deliver - kinda like watching Jack Sparrow in the wild west.  I had some good laughs. The story was decent.  The action was well paced.  I only wish the film was live action rather than animated.  I couldn’t identify half of the animal species in the film, and sometimes, the animals looked rather creepy.  

My rating: 3 out of 5

August 8, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

When it's over, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a faithful prequel to the iconic original.  It's an entertaining film on it's own, but for one to really appreciate this film, one needs to have seen the 1968 original, Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston, or at least know the story.  This origin story depicts how genetic engineering goes astray and instead of finding a cure for Alzheimer's, the man-made serum ends up becoming the source that develops intelligence in apes and the demise of man.  CGI actor extraordinaire, Andy Serkis, plays Cesar, the ape who inherits the serum from his mother and who is raised by Will Rodman (James Franco), the geneticist who created the serum.  Cesar really steals the show, and he's amazing to watch thanks to Serkis's skillful portrayal.  He brings the primate to life through facial expressions and bodily gestures.  I can sense Cesar's pain, his disappointments, his innate nature to protect, and his desire to be free.  Also, I thought the careful editing of the film helped to emphasize the emotions and feelings of the apes that would have otherwise been overlooked as simple animal behaviours.  For example, a close up of Cesar's hand when he seeks Will's permission, or when the camera focuses in on the apes' eyes to reveal anger or sadness or regret.  In essence, this film addresses the issue of humanity and the fundamentals of human nature.  The love story in this film was not between a man and a woman, but between fathers and sons - Will and his father and Will and Cesar.  It's about the sacrifices and risks we take for the ones we love no matter how extreme, and ultimately, it's because of that love, we let them go.  I really enjoyed this film, however, I thought the film was too short.  Running approximately 90 minutes, I thought the producers should have integrated 20 more minutes of character development for two of the characters: 1) Will's girlfriend (Frieda Pinto), who didn't have much of a role in the film except to represent a female figure on screen.  The producers could have created a story arc where she comes between Will and Cesar or between Will and his work.  This would have created tension forcing characters to act and react; 2) Will's boss who is head of the genetic engineering project.  Yes, he was a money hungry prick in the movie, but not bad enough to make him the fall guy, literally, at the end.  The producers should have included him in the ape experiments by having him physically bully the apes.  Thus, justifying what happens in the end. 

My rating: 4 out of 5


August 4, 2011

Cowboys vs Aliens (2011)

When it's over, Daniel Craig is a better Bond than he is a cowboy.  Harrison Ford doesn't disappoint as a wealthy cattle owner.  Olivia Wilde's performance is forgettable, but that probably has more to do with the script than her acting abilities.  She was way better in Tron.  This simple sci-fi story is about a town in the old west called Absolution and how this town fought back against the threat of alien invaders.  With five screenwriters and three story writers, I can understand why the film's story went astray.  Too much input and too many ideas oftentimes causes more problems than solutions.  Furthermore, with Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Glazer serving as producers, I would have thought they would have had the foresight to see the holes in the script.  Director Jon Favreau salvaged what he could with the loose script by giving it a lot of action, so at times, the action's pretty good, but at the end, I found it real painful to watch such good talent wasted on a film that had no direction nor connection with the audience.  If you're looking to satisfy the western/sci-fi crossover genre appetite, The Warrior's Way is a better bet (I've already posted this blog).  They don't make westerns like they use to.  The last true western film that was as good as the classics was 2007's 3:10 to Yuma

My rating: 2.5 out of 5