Movie Trailer: Valkyrie

This movie has had its share of troubles and rumors on top of it's changing release schedule. It looks wonderful. Strong design, compelling story, great cast. It will be interesting to see if they can keep the story moving and filled with tension even though we know how it ends. For all of you who are under thirty who went to public school I'll tip you in: Hitler was a bad man we fought a long time ago and he eventually committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin.

Berlin is a city in a country called Germany.

I'm only half kidding with the condescending tone. I mentioned Der Führer to a smart, educated young woman once - she had no idea what I was talking about. I've had more than one instance of similar encounters.

Click to view the trailer

Screenwriters: Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Nathan Alexander
Director: Bryan Singer (X-Men)
Actors: Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky), Kenneth Branagh (Conspiracy), Tom Wilkerson (Michael Clayton), Terence Stamp (Superman II), Eddie Izzard (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), Bill Nighy (Underworld), Stephen Fry (V for Vendetta), Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) and Carice van Houten (Body of Lies)

Scanners (1981)

Should I see it?


There's an underground movement of people with extraordinary psychic powers. Using their powers they can control other's minds or even make their head explode.

Oh yeah, their heads explode.

This isn't the kind of premise which leads to a production that collects too many accolades. This is a fun premise in a irresponsible, amoral kind of way but the execution is pretty sloppy. I don't recommend this movie at all, but it is the kind of movie I'd stop on and guiltily watch for a while if it's on TV.

Those who are concerned about content or quality filmmaking will be well advised to leave this one alone. If you're given to moments of weakness and/or aren't too discerning, this may be a fun piece of stupidity.

Related Reviews:
Bad movies
Sahara (2005)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Monsters and Critics
Roger Ebert

Movie Trailer: The Spirit

The more I see of this film the dumber it looks. I can't think of the last time I have been this underwhelmed with an upcoming release. It just looks embarrassing. They all but have Samuel L Jackson wearing a chicken suit.

Screenwriters: Frank Miller (300) and Will Eisner
Director: Frank Mille (Sin City)
Actors: Scarlett Johansson (Match Point), Eva Mendez (We Own the Night), and Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane)

Moivie Watching Tip: Films Shape How We View the Past

History that is represented in film has the ability to form how we consider historical events. This is particularly true as many audience members become more and more illiterate. Unless you're a modern day Methuselah the average person has little if no idea what history really looked like other than what has been seen in film, paintings or television.

Filmmakers can manipulate how we see the past much in the same way they can color how we view the future. The treatment of Native Americans is an example. Hollywood has always had problems deciding how to represent them. For decades they were shown as bellowing barbarians hungry to kill white settlers. Today, they're almost uniformly shown as peaceful folk more concerned with being attuned with nature than being hindered by normal human urges. The truth is somewhere in between these two extreme views. Films have the ability to not only inform audiences on Native Americans but other groups and other times. When most people are asked about Scots they'll dredge up images of Braveheart, talk about the Old West, Clint Eastwood will likely pop into mind, even more recent events like the McCarthy Era, the Holocaust or Vietnam are often seen through the filter of how they have been presented in film.

Filmmakers have a great deal of control how we see our past and therefore define ourselves today. When viewing a film you should always remember that this is someone's opinion on how things went down, not necessarily what happened. Showing historical events or peoples is rich ground for a filmmaker to insert agendas to change how you think of your world.

Iron Man (2008) - Repost

Should I see it?

Should I see with with small kids?

Short Review: Far more interesting than Nickel Man.

Click below to view the trailer
Robert Downey Jr. gives the most inviting and outright fun performance since Johnny Depp dressed up like Keith Richard in Pirates of the Caribbean. Downey's career still stinging from his drug issues and time in the hoosegow manages a remarkable comeback performance in this silly flick. He obviously had fun portraying the weapon industrialist turned iron-clad superhero Tony Stark. He gives Stark a belligerent, but sharp minded snarkiness that lights up the whole picture.

The movie itself isn't going to win any awards for originality. The plot a bit copy and paste and only serves to introduce Stark/Iron Man. The points of the plot tick off predictably but the movie as a whole works because screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hank Ostby (
Children of Men) smartly keep the focus on Stark rather than Iron Man. The time it takes for the transformation from man to superhero takes almost the whole film. If you're heading in to see Iron Man kick the stuffing out of bad guys and perhaps throw something through a building, you won't be completely disappointed but you're going to have to wait. Don't take this patience to mean this is a moody and ponderous film like Batman Begins. This more like Spider-Man - the story is properly developed so there's less time for the visual eye candy we have come to expect from content free films like Fantastic 4, Tomb Raider, and Daredevil, X-Men: The Last Stand.

***Spoiler Warning - I'm going to ruin some things about the film in the next paragraph***

What is interesting, at least to me, with this film is its view of the United States. In a time when Hollywood can't seem to say anything positive about America, this movie goes out of its way to be fair. Stark, a weapons dealer, gets kidnapped in Afghanistan. The American soldiers in the field with him are shown as heroic and kind. Given how they've been treated for the past twenty years, this is a notable exception. On top of this, the duality of America's foreign policies is also carefully displayed. Yes, we blow tons of things up and we've caused a great deal of pain. Conversely, we have also fed and saved millions through humanitarian aid and protection. When Stark's friend lies dying in an Afghan cave surrounded by American weapons they're using on our troops, it is not an accident the dying man is lying on top of a bag of grain also from the States. Finally, the villain Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), Stark's business partner, is only identified as the villain when it comes out that he is a turncoat against America and is selling weapons to our enemies. Again, in a time when many in Hollywood would be more than comfortable not making a distinction between terrorists and America, this a worth noting.

If you can turn your brain off and gloss over the details (and ignore the plot conveniences) this is an enjoyable film on many levels. It doesn't rise above its comic book origins. Then again, its about a guy in an iron suit, its not meant to be an Oscar contender.

Cautions: Given that the Iron Man toys have hit the shelves and the franchise is off to a stellar start, many parents will be tempted to take their children to see the movie. For parents I'd give a warning that the movie does have some frank sexual behavior. Stark picks up a reporter and they are shown rolling in the sheets. She is then shown draped naked on the bed, blurry eyed, the morning after. Stark is a womanizer and this is referenced a number of times throughout the film. The violence is not gory but people are shot, beaten and thrown around like rag dolls. It should also be noted that small children will probably be disturbed by the frightening robots and loud voices.

Worldview: The movie contains a very valuable lesson on defining oneself through ones works. Stark is filthy rich, brilliant and insanely successful but his life is hollow. His mentor, once he learns Stark is without a wife and kids points out that Stark is a man who has everything but it means nothing. Much in the same way he sleeps around with women but never experiences love, Stark turns when he looks at his life and recognizes that works for their own sake are without value. The script does a great job of bringing this to life through the use of an obtuse symbol of a chuck of glowing technology that essentially replaces his heart. He only becomes a man when he lives to serve others and not his own selfish needs.

Related Reviews:
Superhero movies
Superman Returns (2006)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Oxford Film Freak
The Film Chair

The Mask (1994)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

The MaskShould I see it?

Director: Chuck Russell
Written by: Mike Werb
Starring: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Joely Fisher and Richard Jeni

Rated PG-13 for language and mild violence

Buy or Rent this Film

Released at the height of Jim Carrey’s rise to fame this film tries very hard to be funny. It succeeds in being obnoxious more than anything else. Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) is a loser who finds a mysterious mask which when worn turns him into his alter-ego, a green-faced trickster.

This is not Carrey’s best work, but not his worst. The film co-stars Cameron Diaz in the role that introduced her to a broad audience.

Related Reviews:
Scott Nehring Good News Film ReviewsYes Man (2008)
The Number 23 (2007)

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Big (1988)

Should I see it?


Lighthearted and fluffy, this upbeat movie has dated well. Tom Hanks was a known commodity prior to this movie but his endearing performance as a twelve-year-old who is magically transformed into the body of a man, made people take a closer look. This was one of the more effective star vehicles ever made. The film was well received and set the stage for the most successful acting careers in Hollywood history.

The movie itself is well handled by director Penny Marshall. It is lightweight and intended to be a product with mass appeal. It serves this function. If you're looking for a comfortable McMovie it's sometimes good to go back to older films like this one - you'll get a good movie that is probably as good as you remember.

Related Reviews:
Tom Hanks movies
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Other Critic's Reviews:

Something the Lord Made (2004)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
Serious and heartfelt, this movie wants to inspire and does just that.

Something the Lord Made

This is a good movie, however, it lacks visual strength and style. Additionally, the script is at times a little flat. Despite these weaknesses, the topic is riveting and Alan Rickman and Mos Def offer performances that compensate for the weak points of the script. The story involves a large amount of medical drama, which in many cases doesn’t translate well to screen. Thanks to the performances, this one manages to be worth while.

Cardiologist Dr. Alfred Blalock’s (Rickman) and Vivien Thomas’ (Mos Def…or is that Mr. Def?) work to find a cure for “blue babies” and invent bypass surgery along the way while living under a segregated society. I give this film credit for one thing, it didn’t pander once. In films about race it is very easy for the filmmakers to treat the audience either like: a) children who need to be told to love one another or b) viciously racist children who need to told to love one another. Often filmmakers make the mistake of assuming the general audience hasn't moved in their views on race since the time prior to The Civil Rights Era. This film also lacks something that is in the DNA of most films involving race relations – the proud white liberal who comes to save the day for those hapless oppressed blacks. This is most obvious in Civil Rights Era pieces such as Ghosts of Mississippi. African American are oppressed by overweight white Southern crackers and white East-coast liberals sweep in and beat back the ugly head of racism. We can’t get big films made about Medgar Evers but we have a dozen celebrating the underdog civil right court battles of New York liberal lawyers.

I am way out in left field. Let me come back.

Mos Def (a.k.a. Dante Bezé, Bizet Dante, Smith Dante, MosDef, Dante Terrell Smith, Dante Smith and/or Black Star) is in full effect in this movie and brings a heart to the piece that would otherwise be missing.

The film will certainly will be forgotten as time goes on but that shouldn’t discourage you from seeing it. There is some good being done in this film, it just isn’t resounding.

Related Reviews:
Mos Def movies
Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

16 Blocks (2006)

Other Critic's Reviews:

DVD Verdict

Fireproof Rakes in the Cash

Kirk Cameron's latest movie Fireproof is already a success at the box office.

I admit, I am surprised. These numbers have my attention. If they can keep the attendance up over the next seven days they will really have something. Since Passion of the Christ, Christian filmmakers have been claiming that the "passion dollar" is in play. There really hasn't been another example of Christians flocking to the cinema and pushing a film into high profits. Maybe this is it.

Made on a modest budget of $500,000, the "Christian film" about a couple working out their marital issues brought in over $6.5 million on less than 840 screens. This makes it the year’s second highest grossing opening weekend released on less than 1,000 screens. Not bad, not bad at all. Despite my skepticism and, as others have said on other sites, unfair criticism, my hats off to Sherwood Pictures for their take.

Click on Kirk to see the trailer

Movie Trailer: Revolutionary Road

If you live in suburban America you're apparently second-class, boring and without live a life without value. There's no pleasure in a quiet life. There's no honor in raising children. There's nothing more pathetic than sacrificing oneself for others.


The film follows the trials of a couple who believe themselves to be better than all of their oh so sheepish American counterparts and long to go to France where they can live free.

Geez, this thing has blockbuster written all over it. Hey you mind-numbed, Wal-Mart slaves come see us millionaires crap all over your miserable lives with this overwrought drama!

Besides, he's whining he has to work ten hours a day? Are you kidding? Working ten hours a day is a vacation.

Screenwriters: Justin Haythe (The Clearing)
Director: Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition)
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed), Kate Winslet (Titanic) and Kathy Bates (Primary Colors)

Movie Trailer: The Deal

It is rare that a film about filmmaking is worth seeing. Most are inside jokes littered with ironic gags about how soulless the industry is while celebrating the sins being mocked on screen. Oh yes, everyone is shallow, everyone is out for themselves, it's all so kooky.

The upbeat tone, bright colors and snappy music to be reminiscent of Get Shorty doesn't mean this is going to work. Doing this is a way for the marketers to subconsciously tell potential audiences that it's in that vein without making the direct connection.

Screenwriters: Steven Schachter (Door to Door) and William H. Macy (Door to Door)
Director: Steven Schachter
Actors: William H. Macy (Fargo), Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally), LL Cool J (Mindhunters), Jason Ritter (W.), and Elliott Gould (M*A*S*H)

Movie Trailer: Zodiac

A meandering script and an irrational fear of editing makes this film a dry bore. The performances are good but since they go on so long they lose their potency and eventually become tedious.

It's a remarkable thing to make a movie about a famous serial killer boring.

Return to the to Movie Trailer Page

Click on the fancy scarf to read the full review

Screenwriter: James Vanderbilt (Basic)Director: David Fincher (Fight Club)Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Anthony Edwards (Gotcha), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), and Brian Cox (The Ring)

Movie Trailer: The Elephant King

A family drama about two brothers meeting up in Thailand. There appears to be plenty of dramatic pleading and yelling but the trailer doesn't really set up any compelling conflict. One brother falls in love and then all the sudden everyone is cranky. This could be a quiet, but interesting film but this trailer doesn't give me any reason to want to find out if it is.


Screenwriters: Seth Grossman
Director: Seth Grossman
Actors: Tate Ellington (Descent), Ellen Burstyn (The Yards), Jonno Roberts and Florence Faivre

Movie Trailer: Ballast

I love the camerawork.

The trailer is visually compelling but I am hesitant when it comes to movies that rely on raves from Sundance. Sundance is a hole of groveling pseudo-artists who think being nihilistic equates being smart. I'm also careful with films of trailers that don't tell me what the movie is about but rather gloats about it's positive reviews/awards. I'm not saying it marks this as a bait-and-switch, I'm just saying it raises red flags in my mind.

This all said, I am interested and hope it's as good as being portrayed here.

The plot summary from IMDb:

"A single mother and her embattled son struggle to subsist in a small Mississippi Delta township. An act of violence thrusts them into the world of an emotionally devastated highway store owner, awakening the fury of a bitter and longstanding conflict."


Screenwriter: Lance Hammer
Director: Lance Hammer
Actors: Michael J. Smith, JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs and Johnny McPhail

Movie Trailer: Wordplay

Like the New York Times' crossword puzzle itself, this documentary featuring the puzzle's editor Will Shortz is a comfy little distraction. Sure, this is a completely unneeded piece of cinema and no one's life will be altered by seeing or missing it. It is interesting however, and passes the time without making you feel like you've wasted it. If you enjoy documentaries, this is a solid pick if you're looking for something light.

Visit the official site

Director: Patrick Creadon
Actors: Jon Stewart (Death to Smoochy) and Ken Burns

Paul Newman Dead at 83

Paul Newman died last night from cancer. He was 83 years old. In many respects he was, in my mind, what performers should be, not only decidedly talented but also clearly unaffected by his fame. He was a legend but in interviews and through how he lived his life it was clear he had good sense to live as normal of a life as he could.

He was political but not to the point of obnoxiousness, which is rare these days when the famous are urged to be over-the-top. He followed up on his political and social ideas with effective philanthropy, not bitter speeches and bombastic film projects. In other words, he walked the walk and didn't make his beliefs into a slogan, he turned them into action.

His resume is a path through the important theatrical and cinematic works of the 20th century: The Long Hot Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Exodus, The Young Philadelphians, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Hustler, Hud, Torn Curtain, Harper, Cool Hand Luke, Hombre, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Fort Apache the Bronx, Cars, Slap Shot, The Color of Money, Absence of Malice and The Verdict. While not each of these films are brilliant each are noteworthy and more than a third had a sharp impact on the industry.

I've always had a strong respect for Newman, not only for his talent as an actor but also because it is clear he was given about as many gifts as a man can receive, but never gave the impression he let it get to his head. More importantly he did the one thing we all should strive to do, take the gifts that we are given and use them to make this a better place when we're done. Through his works in the arts and his philanthropic efforts, he clearly did this.

Carnival of Cinema: Episode 94 - The Blog Ultimatum

Welcome to the Carnival of Cinema, a weekly round-up of the best film-related posts submitted from around the world.

Brad PittGetting things started, we have a pair of reviews of the Coen Brothers' latest effort Burn After Reading?

Are you gonna want to burn after watching? Read Sean Kelly's thoughts on the movie at SEAN KELLY ON MOVIES.

BloggingFun who runs a site called MOVIES, WORK & RANDOM THOUGHTS has some specific, direct thoughts on the movie. She also has a review covering Hamlet 2.

Next up MANNY THE MOVIE GUY has interviews with the cast and crew of Choke, Nights in Rodanthe, and Eagle Eye. Manny offers "From Richard Gere to Shia LaBeouf, learn the secrets of their respective films!"

Well, let's steal some of Manny's thunder and reveal some secrets from these productions:

1. Richard Gere pushed hard to have himself cast in both main roles so he could make-out with himself.
2. Eagle Eye wasn't the original title of the movie but was changed because the working title Pathetic Star Vehicle That Will be in Theaters for Seven Days Because it's Illogical and Looks Stupid was felt to be a hard sell by marketing.
3. Choke was originally pitched to be shown in "feel-o-rama".

Samuel L JacksonContinuing with the new releases, Samuel L. Jackson has deposited another glorious hunk of cinema this week and we have the reviews.

Over at FRAME BY FRAME, Dr. Rus Jeffreys looks at Jackson's effort Lakeview Terrace. The good doctor also takes on the right-wing flick An American Carol.

Our second and final review of Lakeview Terrace this week comes from General Disdain from THE CRITICAL CRITICS. From the sounds of things it appears the title isn't the only stupid thing about this movie.

If you're into reviews we have more coming your way.

SLY PARADOX's Kate provides her opinion on Mrs. Pettegrew Lives For a Day.

Next, Richard Cummings holding a new hope for re-connecting with his childhood took his niece and nephew to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars. His first thought: You have got to be kidding me! To learn what his second thought was go over to his site LIVE YOUR WAY.

Tressa Sanders has seen Bin Jip "3 Iron" and she let's you know all about it on her site THREE WEST CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT BLOG.

Looking at something that hasn't been released yet, Missy from OBSERVATIONS FROM MISSY'S WINDOW wants you to watch the trailer for The International.

Sam Smith says "History has reassessed the classic film Blade Runner. Roger Ebert added it to his list of greatest films after seeing the Final Cut, and our friends at Wikipedia catalog the rest. All of which brings me back around to a favorite topic of mine: art whose greatness was not realized in its time..." Want to know more? Click over to his site SCHOLARS AND ROGUES.

Someone whose lousiness is being realized in his time is Dane Cook. Why does this guy keep getting roles? Jimmy the ENTERTAINMENT BUFF takes a shot at an answer.

Bringing things to an end this week is Jon of YOU'RE NOT WORTHY who has a list of the top ten movies you're not worthy enough to see. Which begs the question, if I'm not worthy to see the movies then am I worthy enough to see an actual list of the movies I'm not worthy of seeing in the first place?

…and CUT!…and PRINT!

Thanks to everyone for their submissions.

Other carnival editions:
Carnival of Cinema: Episode 29
Carnival of Cinema: Episode 39
Carnival of Cinema: Episode 43

The Edge (1997)

Should I see it?

The Edge

A rich guy and a photographer get lost in the woods. The wrinkle is that the rich guy believes the photographer may have slept with his wife. All of this and than a big ol’ bear begins to track them. This could have been interesting but the film never really takes off. They Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin star in this tepid bore.

Related Reviews:
Anthony Hopkins movies
The World's Fastest Indian (2005)
Fracture (2007)

Other Critic's Reviews:
At-A-Glance Film Review
Ain't It Cool News

Movie Trailer: Inkheart

Could be good...then again it does have Brendan Fraser so that's a knock against it. He hasn't picked a good project in years.

What would happen if you could make a book come alive by simply read it aloud? Well, I know of at least one of my friends who would scramble to find a collection of Penthouse Forum Letters. I'd just read the book this movie is based on. I'd like to see what happens when you read a book out loud about making books come alive by reading them out loud. That would have to do some weird "don't cross the streams", avoid seeing yourself in Back to the Future destruction of the universe thing.

Screenwriter: David Lindsay-Abaire (Robots)
Director: Iain Softley (K-Pax)
Actors: Brendan Fraser (Gods and Monsters), Eliza Bennett (Nanny McPhee), Helen Mirren (The Cook, the Thief, His Cook and Her Lover), Andy Serkis (13 Going on 30) and Paul Bettany (The Da Vinci Code)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Should I see it?

The Day the Earth Stood Still

A great piece of science fiction and probably the best example of a Christ figure put to film. Robert Wise's (The Sound of Music) movie about an alien who arrives at Earth to deliver the ultimatum from the rest of the universe "stop the international bickering or we will destroy you all" has aged well. Sure, there are some elements that feel a tad dated but as a whole the story still works and will most likely satisfy most audiences, provided they can work their way past the moral equivalence the film makes between Communist Russia and the United States.

Related Reviews:
Science Fiction movies
Gattaca (1997)
Sunshine (2007)

Other Critic's Reviews:

Reel Movie Critic

Movie Watching Tip: Science Fiction as Social Tool

Science fiction is used as a filter through which we can discuss modern issues. Potentially touchy subjects like racism, drug use, abortion, religion, or even the definition of humanity can dispassionately be unpacked by a storyteller without the hindrance of today's political correctness if they are handled in a distant galaxy or in a time far in the future.

When viewing a science fiction film you as an active audience member should think about what the story is saying about our lives today. Remove the special effects, alien make-up, flying cars and whatnot and think of the story in light of the events of today.

This may seem like an obvious tip but many of us watch movies without giving the messages that are being pushed a second thought. When messages are veiled by being set in the distant future they become even more likely to be ignored.

Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo (2005)

Should I see it?
Of course not.

Short Review:
This is not unlike watching the Faces of Death films from the 80’s. This is an eighty-minute career suicide put to film.

Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo

This film is a gaggle of moderately talented people who have expended their meager gifts long ago getting together to produce a work of such pathetic shamelessness that it is hard to watch. An average porn actress should have more pride in her work than this lot. This film is nothing more than tired, aging comedians who have run out of jokes. Desiring any brand of fame over their own self-respect, these losers have debased themselves with this truly awful film.

It's not that this film is offensive, which it is, it is that it really seems like everyone involved couldn’t do any better. I think they wanted to be funny but couldn’t figure out how. If you have had the thought of renting this DVD, don’t bother. My recommendation for you is for you to make your way to Minnesota during the winter. Remove all of your clothes and paint your skin red and green. Now, hose yourself down with ice cold water and run down I-94 until you drop from exhaustion. Sure, you’ll probably die but at least you’ll go without having sat through this truly wretched movie.

Related reviews:
If you're stupid enough to like this movie, you may also enjoy:
The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Stuck On You (2003)

Other Critic's Reviews:

Critical Critics

Ocean's 11 (2001)

Should I see it?

Ocean's 11
This is a big fat McMovie, and a very charming one at that. Remaking the Rat Pack flick of the same name, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon front an ensemble that includes Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac and Don Cheadle. The titular Ocean (Clooney), and his cohorts, plot to steal from three big ticket casinos all at the same time. Each of these casinos are owned and operated by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Benedict is a ruthless, streetwise business man who will kill the thieves if they get caught.

Little is made of the moral questions at the heart of the piece, we are rooting for the bad guys after all, they're just not as bad as the real bad guy Benedict. Director Steven Soderbergh guides the audience away from the criminality or morality of what's being done on screen and he focuses on making us like these villains as much as possible. He succeeds in delivering a charming film that entertains but at its core, this movie's moral sleight of hand is a bit too manipulative.

I'm certain there's readers who would say "So what? So they rip off a casino? Settle down and just relax, its just a movie!" Stealing is wrong and a film that promotes it is likewise wrong. Screenwriters Ted Griffin (Matchstick Men), clearly understands how to present his story. To steer us away from judging what Ocean and company are doing as being inherently wrong, he makes sure to muddy the moral waters by giving these thieves some honor. They are robbers with rules, those rules are #1 No blood. #2 Rob only who deserves it. #3. Do it as if you have nothing to lose. This is very clever since the rules assure the audience that while these guys steal, they won't hurt anybody, they're not really that threatening. They only hurt people we can all agree have it coming, who can be against the really "bad" people getting hurt? The final rule gives the illusion they are stealing out of need, they have "nothing to lose" which also reduces the reflexive moral judgment because as we all know, there's a difference between stealing for greed and stealing to eat. This and other tricks to distract the audience from what is really happening on screen are done for a single reason - the filmmakers know what they're showing is actually wrong.

I know its a fun film but sometimes adults needs to step back and really look at what they're consuming.

Related Reviews:
Ocean's 12 (2004)
Ocean's 13 (2007)

Other Critic's Reviews:

DVD Verdict

Movie Recommendations #5: Dramatc Films

Below are three dramatic films that you may have no heard of or overlooked. Each of them is worth your consideration the next time what you're looking for is not available. If you're into moving, even depressing movies, I recommend adding them to your Netflix queue today.

I am David (2003)

At first glance this may be something many people would not pick up. The story, a boy escapes a post WWII prison camp and travels across Europe and finds happiness, sound sanctimonious and saccharine. This film is hardly sanctimonious, actually it is rather bleak and heart wrenching.
I highly recommend this film. If you have children, I recommend it even more. While this is not a film for children, parents will have a special connection with this third act – in particular mothers of boys. This is a very good film that has been completely overlooked. I suggest you give it the chance it deserves.

Wit (2001)

Based on Margaret Edson’s play, Emma Thompson co-wrote this with director Mike Nichols (Charlie Wilson's War). This is a great piece about the trip we’re all making to the grave. We are shown the experience of dying through the eyes of Vivian Bearing (Thompson), a coldly intellectual poetry professor who learns she is dying of an aggressive ovarian cancer. As the film advances, so does her cancer and Vivian dissects the process for us on both physical and philosophical levels. Her cold, humored look at the horrifying cancer treatments and their effects on her body are entrancing and her eventual decline from healthy looking professor to bald, thin cancer patient is devastating.

Magnolia (1999)

Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) is comfortable indulging his whims in his films. His saving grace is that his whims are simply fascinating.

Anderson creates a brilliant mosaic of morality and mortality, populated with vivid characters struggling with the bitter troubles of their lives. Suffering in their sins the characters turn to each other and find little comfort for their pain.

This film contains what I see as the best presentation of a Christian put to film. John C. Reilly's bumbling cop Jim Kurring shows a Christian man not as a weak, goofy zealot but as a real man trying to do his part and offer comfort where possible.

Anderson doesn't get enough credit for his ability to get moving performances out of his actors. Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly and Philip Baker Hall each give the best performances of their careers. These performances matched with Anderson's ease with handling multiple storylines makes this a great movie.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
Apparently, the writer decided to replace the punctuation in his script with curse words.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Watching this film is like going out for a night on the town with a friend of mine. You have fun and intelligent conversation for about the first hour and then he gets one too many drinks in him and he starts fights, swears too much and eventually moons the cops. This movie begins wonderfully. Yes, it is littered with foul language, crude references and violence…that breeze you just heard was all of my Christian readers running away from this review. This is a foul movie in many respects but the first act of the film is still a great watch. It is tightly written, expertly crafted and needless cursing aside, fun.

Penned and directed by veteran screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout) this movie is bristling with marvelous dialog and ingenious narration. Yeah, narration, the bane of my existence - the Cheese Whiz and Spam sandwich in the screenwriting buffet. Black’s use of narration is wonderful and funny. Black has a cynical sense of humor and knows how to throw out insults. As one who appreciates cynicism, along with clever insults, I have always had a soft spot for Black’s work.

The film revolves around Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), a former failing criminal turn soon to be failing film actor. Lockhart gets mingled in a murder mystery with hardened Hollywood private investigator Gay Perry (Val Kilmer.) The piece is an exercise in the hollow joys of cynicism. Everyone is bitter, disturbed and sarcastic to the extreme. Every scene drips with contempt for Hollywood, the entertainment industry and those who exist around its fringes. This is the film’s strongest point but it is also its undoing.

The film is a great watch for about forty minutes Again, I return to the idea that this film is a little like sharing a park bench with a belligerent drunk. They may be humorous for a little while but eventually it just wears on you and its just sad. The film keeps going on you just want it to end already. The cynicism is great to open with, but it just doesn’t let up and eventually overtakes the piece. This is particularly evident in the final act where Black’s story loses steam sputters along for the final half-hour. The film ends with a limping plot that becomes more crude than clever.

Overall, while I love many parts of the film for my own film geek reasons, I think the normal person will not find this experience one they will want to repeat. As a movie, it goes stale and why would you want to sit through that?

The final piece of narration in the film should sum up whether you think this film is for you or not:

For all of those good people in the Midwest, we’re sorry we said “f**k” so many times.

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Movie Trailer: Peur(s) du noir "Fear(s) of the Dark"

The animation doesn't look all that inspired + It doesn't look scary at all = Probably not worth the effort of sitting in front of for 85 minutes.

Screenwriter: Blutch, Charles Burns, Pierre Di Sciullo, Michael Pirus and Romain Slocombe
Directors: Blutch, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Jerry Kramski, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire, Michael Pirus and Romain Slocombe
Actor:AureAtika,GuillaumeDepardieu (Stella) and Nicole Garcia (My Place in the Sun)

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)

Should I see it?

A stylized bore. One of a number of Tarantino gangster-chic derivatives. A bunch of small time crooks find themselves on a hit list after botching a job. This is little more than an flimsy excuse for screenwriter Scott Rosenberg (Gone in Sixty Seconds) to display a gaggle of two-dimensional thugs (there's the family guy, the crazy guy, the old guy, etc.) getting whacked. Its Reservoir Dogs without the clever dialog and more sets. Other than a characteristically goofy but strangely interesting performance by Christopher Walken as a disabled crime boss, the movie really doesn't have too much going for it.

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Movie Watching Tip: How is the Future Depicted?

When watching a film that takes place in the future keep an eye on how that future is displayed. Are our descendants stuck in a dimly lit dystopia (Blade Runner)? Are they slaves to some faceless bureaucracy (Alien, Brazil)? Are our descendants living in a bright, clean falsely happy dystopia that is run by a faceless bureaucracy (Demolition Man)?

The conditions of the future in a film are used to reflect the filmmaker's opinion on how we're living today. The future is a summation of our actions and can be shown to accuse certain elements of our society. Given that Hollywood rarely shows the future as a happy, lovely place (which is strange since history shows that we humans have been getting better over time) it seems reasonable to assume they don't see us in a positive light.

Consider what the storyteller is saying when they tell you how crappy the future will be. It's not some distant consideration, more times than not, they're trying to condemn us for ruining things going forward.

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
They changed the name. The original title Diary of A Whore didn’t do well with test audiences.

Memoirs of a Geisha

This may be the best film about a little girl who pines to be a whore and gets her dream. Chiyo is sold as a young girl and is enlisted to become a geisha. Although geisha were not and are not prostitutes, this gem of a film would have us believe otherwise. So, in the language of this film, Chiyo wants to become a geisha which translates into Chiyo wanting to become a sex slave. In the whorehouse, when Chiyo’s antics become too much, she is punished and demoted to a life as a regular ol’ slave. Later, due to her outstanding beauty, Chiyo is sponsored and mentored by older geisha (sex slave) Mameha and is rescued from a life as a regular ol’ slave and brought into the world of the geisha (sex slave.) and given a new name for her efforts. The story goes on from there without much to keep it going. There’s a good deal of pretty scenery, some tears and mournful looks and there’s this big chunck involving World War II…I dunno, I drifted off for a while. Its’ like listening to someone tell a real long story and you have to keep reminding yourself to pay attention.

Apparently, we’re all okay with stories about girls dreaming of being sex slaves as long as the slavery is masked in beautiful clothing, graceful movements and a non-Western environment. As long as the slavery is Eastern we can pawn it off as being a “cultural difference”. Why is this much different than telling the story of a poor girl from the inner city who dreams of learning how to become a high-class hooker who can take on rich musicians and actors as her patrons? How is it much different than a girl from a trailer park begging fate to let her be a favorite pit stop in a harem? It isn't but since the story is framed in a historical setting and plays up all of the delicacies of the Japanese culture, we can comfortably forget what it is that is being shown.

To speak about the technical aspects of this film, I will easily admit that this is an impressive film in its aesthetics. It is a beautiful looking film. Is it original in much of its design? No. You can find like set and sound designs and cinematography in other similar films. The film follows the visual conventions that are already firmly in place on how Eastern period pieces should be shot and presented. Everyone is cruel and the backgrounds are dingy but the actors a pretty, the foreground is intricate and everything has a mystical aura about it.

The acting in this piece is quite good. Ziyi Zhang (Rush Hour 2) as Chiyo/Sayuri gives us one of her better performances and rivals her work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Ziyi Zhang has a longing and wounded feeling to her performance that transcends the dry script. Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies) is solid as well as the old whore Mameha. Yeoh is an under appreciated actress, probably because she’s made a name for herself in action films. She once again brings her charisma into full bear in this production. Li Gong (Farewell My Concubine) is also notable as Hatsumomo, Chiyo’s rival in whoring. Hatsumomo is a mean character driven by fear and insecurity. Li Gong handles her character’s delicate mindset with some care and delivers a complex performance. While these ladies give these good performances, the production as a whole lets them down.

There has been some nasty words over the producing of this film since the cast is primarily made up of Chinese performers. Given that this film portrays Japanese characters in a Japanese setting, this cannot stand according to some critics. Again, like the film’s request that we overlook the sex slavery in the story line because the film is about Japanese folk, the critics who take umbrage with the casting want us to have a different set of standards from Western centered pieces. In Western pieces The Irish can play English, Americans can perform as Jamaicans and the Germans can perform as any group of people they want as long as they keep within their borders and mind their organizational impulses. Have a few Chinese perform as Japanese and the whole balance of race politics gets upset. I say dial it back. Italians and Jews cross-dress their heritages nearly every week in productions. You can’t even keep track of how many nationalities the British and Americans have portrayed. As an American, do you know how many times my people have been portrayed by the evil Canadians? This is a nation full of people who are known for making syrup and second-class beer. Their main industry is being above America. Having them portray Americans is akin to having your younger, unemployed brother who still lives in your parent's basement pretending to be you down at the local bar. It’s irritating that these moose jockeys like to pretend they have it good and live in America, but we take it. Japan, its your turn. Take a hit for the cinematic team and get over yourselves.

The film runs on over well over two hours. After you get over the beauty of the production you will find there is scant to see you through this long running time. This film would have been served well by a strong edit and you will be best served by not bothering with it. If you’re able to ignore that this is about sex slaves and can enjoy lovely scenery and acting, you may like this piece. If you have a sense that perhaps slavery is a bad thing and shouldn’t be sold as something credible, even if its well lit, this ain’t going to be your cup of green tea.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Should I see it?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As the Harry Potter films continue, and Potter grows older the series gets darker and delves into adult themes. The powers that be in the Ministry of Magic smell a conspiracy in Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe) claim that the evil Voldemort has returned. Potter finds support in his friends and some of the adults at Hogswart's, but is shunned by most everyone else. On top of everything, the Ministry of Magic sends in Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) who is sent to restrain the insistent Potter. Staunton gives a humorous and creepy performance as the sadistic Umbridge. Potter and pals rally the troops as the evil warlock Voldemort rises.

This particular outing is a little drifting and is obviously a bridge to the next films. It is clear throughout the film that the main conflict will be pushed off for another day and the ground gained is to establish the foundation for the future. Like The Empire Strikes Back or Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest, this film isn't meant to be a complete stand alone piece. Its leading somewhere else so the conflicts in the film lose a little of their potency. This said, the film does act as a great bridge and is a sturdy film in its own right.

With the passing of each film the franchise picks up more characters and subplots like some greedy narrative dust bunny. If you haven't seen the other films, you will be completely lost if you start here. I suggest starting from the beginning, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and move forward from there. The franchise has been an impressive and consistently strong series of films. The quality of the films themselves is remarkable, but also their focus. Even with the gargantuan cast list, numerous motives and relationships, the films remain easily consumed and understood if taken in order.

Click on Voldemort to view the trailer

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

Should I see it?

Fried Green Tomatoes

One of the better “chick flicks” ever made. Supported by good performances from Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker, this self-adaptation from Fannie Flagg works well on screen. The one huge flaw in the piece is the ending. The final resolution is horrific – absolutely horrific. It’s played as being humorous but it is despicable. Forgiving the final moments (if that’s possible) there is many of positive elements to the movie and it will satisfy most audiences.

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