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.

September 29, 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

When it's over, stupid - that's my one word to describe 21 Jump Street.  I'm probably one of the few who just couldn't wait for this film to end.  Even an appearance from Johnny Depp couldn't redeem this senseless, pointless garbage of a film.  Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill served as producers, which could be one reason why this film just seemed to be a never ending joke.  Tatum and Hill are Jenko and Schmidt, two underachieving cops who go undercover in a high school to investigate a drug ring that is responsible for the death of one of its students.  This was a disappointing and poor adaptation of the popular television show of the 80's, which launched Depp's career.  All the elements of the TV show were gone, including the controversial teen issues and personal struggles of the undercover cops.  All the good stuff was replaced with clueless cops and their stupidity serving as comic relief.  Nothing about this film was appealing, absolutely nothing.  I cared nothing for the characters and felt what they got was what they deserved.  If these were the type of cops being generated from police academies, then I'd be afraid, very afraid.  But, oh yeah, it's all fiction. What a relief.  I get that it's comedy and even laughed at a few scenes, but crude style humour without substance is a definite turn-off, and even with Tatum's good looks, I couldn't be persuaded to like his character.

My rating: 1 out of 5


Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

When it's over, I loved it.  I loved everything about this film.  It was sweet, funny, and honest.  The tightly crafted screenplay by animation writer, Dan Fogelman (Cars, Bolt, Tangled) laid the groundwork to this feel good film, touching on many issues involving first loves, marriage, and growing up.  Cal Weaver (Steve Carell)  is a middle-aged man, who discovers his wife (Julianne Moore) wants a divorce. Lost, confused, and drowning in self-pity, Cal enlists the help of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a player he meets at a bar, to teach him the fine art of picking up women in order to regain his manhood.  Carell, Gosling, Moore - a talented trio of actors who brought life, laughter, and tears into their characters.  Even in Cal's shallowness, I still found myself caring for his shortcomings, wanting him to succeed, hoping for him to evolve.  Carell truly embodied Cal's growth and demise.  Jacob's got every pick up line mastered, and even when he comes off sleazy, there's still a likableness in him that resonates in every scene.  He goes from knowing everything about women, to having to rediscover them.  Gosling was extremely charismatic in that sense.  Moore's character, Emily Weaver, took more of a backseat to the two men, but this didn't make her role less meaningful.  I saw Emily as the weakness and the strength.  She asked for the divorce, setting the events of the story in motion; and as the story developed, I began to see the various layers unfolding, such as the loving mother who holds a brave face and the woman who wants to move on, but can't.  Moore delivered all these emotions effortlessly.  Aside from the main cast, I thought the supporting cast, comprised of Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon, were all brilliant, lending their talents to complete the story as a whole.  I can't exit this entry without mentioning Jonah Bobo, who played Robbie Weaver.  What an incredible piece of acting from such a young actor, showing the fragility and torment of first loves, and the joys and pains of growing up.  

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

September 14, 2012

The Cold Light of Day (2012)

When it's over, this film felt like a tossed salad. Included are most of the ingredients of an international thriller, but generic fixings fall short of quality flavour. Spain, serving as a backdrop, added pizazz, but an underdeveloped story quickly fizzled my interest.  It was exhausting watching this film. The first half was a procession of chase scenes intermixed with interrogation violence.  I'm visually glued, but mentally, there's nothing to grasp. Only after an hour into the film did the story finally begin to unravel, and even then, the plot was thin.  So thin, the action simply shreds through the script, consuming the film.  Henry Cavill gave a relatively convincing performance as the son, Will, who suddenly discovers his father (Bruce Willis) is a government agent after his family is kidnapped and held for ransom by the Israelis.  The ransom was in the form of a silver suitcase, which the viewer never sees the contents of.  That was frustrating.  I think the film should have developed Will's character in ways that might have made him more likable, so that I would care about what he was going through.  His relationship with his father should have also been explored further.  Also, where's the love interest?  European backdrops. Love interest. They go hand-in-hand. Huge disappointment there, too.  Plus, if I could rework the characters, I would make some big changes in who lives and dies and when that person would bite the bullet.  Again, what a disaster of a script.  Cavill showed he had promise as a leading man and with that thought, I think he will successfully pull off the red cape as the future Superman, in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel due out 2013.  On the flip side, I have to mention my disappointment in Sigourney Weaver's role as the dirty CIA agent.  Her poor choice in roles have diminished her acting credibility, and that's a true shame, because I loved her in Aliens (1986), Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Galaxy Quest (1999), and Working Girl (1988), just to name a few.  

My rating: 1.5 out of 5

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

When it's over, see this film for the quality of the drama. With a solid British cast, it was hard not to be impressed by the fantastic acting and visual style of Tomas Alfredson's adaptation to John Le Carre's novel. At times, the story was hard to follow as the story was pieced together with the use of flashbacks and reversed storytelling. There were several parts in the film where I felt I needed to speak “spy” in order to understand what was happening. Just keeping track of the players and each person's role and involvement required extra effort.  At the end, all the pieces fit nicely, but the road to the end can be slow, and at times, confusing, causing the less political thriller inclined viewer to nod off briefly, especially in the beginning when the story was still evolving.  I have spoken to people who found the film amazing, but I didn't feel this way.  I ventured into this film for the cast of accomplished actors rather than the story, and for that, I'm not disappointed.  I may not have received the type of satisfaction I would normally have from seeing a film I can respond to, but nevertheless, I had a great experience watching some of my favorite actors exchange scenes together.  Gary Oldman turned out a brilliant performance as Agent Smiley, an espionage specialist during the Cold War.  Smiley is assigned to uncover the mole in the British Secret Service.  Along with his team (Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch), they round up the suspects, played by Colin Firth, Ciarian Hinds, and Toby Jones.  Mark Strong and John Hurt rounded out the notable cast. I can't complain about any of the acting. They were all great, like watching a veteran acting workshop unfold.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5