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The Reader


There has been a barrage of movies this awards season that have noteworthy performances, but were unpleasant to watch. This is another one.

From the moment I saw the first trailer for The Reader, I thought it screamed English Patient. From what I saw of The English Patient, I was right. Whenever anyone asked me what the movie was about I would tell them that it's about this chick that picked which Jews to kill in the concentration camps during WWII. You would never know that, however, by the first hour and fifteen minutes of the movie. The beginning of the movie is about Kate Winslet having an affair with a 15 year old. If you're patient enough to get to the main plot, the whole thing only pans out the way it does because Winslet's character is too proud to be honest about one of her other deficiencies. Silly.

The Wrestler

I can't say yes.

There are some genuinely powerful moments in The Wrestler. The relationship between Randy and his daughter begins and ends with some emotionally difficult scenes. The rest of the movie is equally difficult to watch for a variety of reasons. The physical, emotional, and mental distress that this man goes through during the course of the film is unfathomably galling.

I saw My Bloody Valentine in 3D the night before I saw The Wrestler... it was easier to watch My Bloody Valentine. The physical pain that "The Ram" endures is shockingly realistic. I was squirming throughout some of the wrestling matches as well as some other scenes when I was anticipating pain... and you will know it's coming.

While Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood are all outstanding, this is another film that, like Snow Angels and Boy A, is extraordinarily upsetting. The reason that those films made my top 20 of the year and The Wrestler didn't is based entirely on watchability. The performances actually make me want to watch it less because the actors make you care about these degenerates, root for them to succeed, and what they go through is not pleasant. Even the movie's faux-happy ending is open to interpretation and may not be happy at all. Is the movie well-made? Yes and the performances, as I said are phenomenal. But it really is way too difficult to watch.



Milk is an extraordinary film, politically and personally, with powerful performances from THE ENTIRE CAST. Sean Penn, as much as I hate him, is perfect... as always... but James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch are all deserving of recognition for their work as well.

Harvey Milk was to the gay community, what Martin Luther King Jr. was to the black community. While homosexuals don't have quite as turbulent a history as African Americans, this civil rights story is just as important to tell as that of black history.

Since this is a true story, the writers assumed we would know that Harvey Milk was assassinated. What they were banking on, and in my case they were right, is that the majority of the audience wouldn't know who killed him and why. They did a great job keeping the tension level up throughout the film, first by making you like him, then by putting him in harms way.

I was surprised how at how much I liked Milk. I've gotten bored of biopics as of late. I think the one-two punch of Ray and Walk the Line pushed me over the edge. What sets this one apart is that it doesn't really feel like a biopic. It's funny and entertaining, but it's also intense and heartbreaking. Best Picture of the Year? Not quite... but close.

Man on Wire


Here's what's weird about Man on Wire: Even though the climax of the film is told with a heavy French accent and shown with mostly still, black and white photos, it is still so unbelievably breathtaking that I was actually saying things like "holy shit" out loud to my computer. That's right, I saw it on my 18" computer screen and was still completely blown away by the experience. That, however, was only my description of the last 20 - 30 minutes of this documentary about a man who walked on a tight rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center in the 70's.

The beginning of the movie was a little long. If they had shortened it slightly, it would have been highly entertaining. I suppose it was very entertaining except for the parts that dragged. It was structured like a heist film and really felt like one... actually, I guess it kind of was one. What they were doing was highly illegal and they had to be highly sneaky about it.

While it was generally well crafted and the images were mind numbing, it was a bit too long. If you can get past the accents and the extended running time, the ending will make it all worth while.


There's no reason to see this on the big screen, but it was very good.

Doubt is an intimate character study with powerful performances from Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. As far as the rest of the film goes... nothing really happens. Something may have happened, but we never find out. The only one's who may know are Hoffman's character and the boy that may or may not have been involved leaving Streep, Adams and the audience with doubt as to whether or not a crime was actually committed... hence the title.

Don't be surprised to see multiple acting nods as well as a possible writing nomination for writer/director John Patrick Shanley, but should you see Doubt? Nah, not in theatres. Rent it when it comes out on DVD or watch it on cable.

Revolutionary Road


Revolutionary Road was an absolutely miserable movie, but that's actually a good thing because it really is supposed to be.

I've always been a fan of Sam Mendes; American Beauty remains in my top five favorite movies, I enjoyed Road to Perdition, and I loved Jarhead. I kind of feel like he phoned it in on this one. It's a 50's period piece about the two most unhappy people ever, and it relied heavily on it's two lead actors, not necessarily it's director. The set design, costumes, hair and make-up were all accurate for the time period, but those were other peoples' jobs, Mendes only had to sign off on them. With Kate Winslet's and Leonardo DiCaprio's talent, I doubt he had to direct them much.

The performances were powerful. These two are locked in an unwanted relationship and they fight... a lot. They fight from the opening scene until the film's tragic end with the exception of a short period of forced happiness. They worked well together in a complete turnaround from their last movie together. In fact, they could have used the tag line "What if Jack didn't die?" on the poster for Revolutionary Road and made it a, kind of, sequel to Titanic. The 50's may have been a little late for that, but it is the natural progression of their relationship if he had survived the sinking.

So, should you see it?

There is a chance for some acting nominations out of this one. The eerie penultimate scene had me entranced, thanks entirely to Kate and Leo. If you like to see all of the nominated performances before the Oscars, you might want to check this one out. It really is horrible to watch though, so I can't bring myself to recommend Revolutionary Road.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Words can't express how beautiful this film is. I was absolutely mesmerized from the moment the Paramount logo hit the screen. I actually found my eyes welling up with tears simply from the film's grandeur. I don't know how they aged Brad Pitt the way they did and I don't think I want to know. The visual effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are so subtle that you don't even know they're there... proving, I suppose, how great they are.

Most stories evolve from writers putting an ordinary man into an extraordinary situation. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button does the opposite. It tells the story of an extraordinary man in quite ordinary situations. The movie follows Benjamin's life from the cradle to the grave as he is surrounded by, and surrounds himself with one of the most diverse groups of people ever assembled.

This movie made me think of films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. All simple stories with complex subtexts, written, directed, acted and filmed at a skill level that most filmmakers can only dream of.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, and Wall-E, is making my decision for best film of 2008 an extremely difficult one.

Slumdog Millionaire


Trainspotting brought me into Danny Boyle's world with an immensely entertaining look into the lives of Scottish heroin addicts. He turned the zombie genre on it's head with 28 Days Later... followed immediately by a sophisticated, emotional family film called Millions. He explored the center of our solar system as well of the psychological impact of space travel in Sunshine and now he tells a beautiful and shocking, love/survival story with Slumdog Millionaire.

The culmination of his work alone should win him the Oscar for best director. All director's have a bomb or two and Boyle is no exception. The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary were inexcusable. His willingness and ability, however, to successfully cross genre barriers with such extremity is inspiring. To jump blindly from dark comedy to science-fiction to romantic comedy to horror to family drama, and now, finally, to love story, shows a true love for the art of film making and a skill beyond that of most people in most professions.

Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best told stories I've seen in a long time. Is it predictable? Yes, but it's the journey that moves you. Throughout his life, Jamal has been unknowingly collecting the answers to questions that may ultimately reunite him with his one true love. His horrifying tale of survival as an orphan growing up in Mumbai leads him to to his fateful appearance on India's version of "Who Wants to be Millionaire?" Accused of cheating, Jamal is forced to tell his life story in an effort to explain how an uneducated "slumdog" could possibly know the answers to the questions he was asked on the show.

Stylish and masterful direction, astonishing performances, and a bitter sweet tale of love, sacrifice, and destiny makes Slumdog Millionaire one of the best films of 2008.


Ummm... yeah...

Frost/Nixon is an extremely well made movie. The performances by Michael Sheen and especially Frank Langella were extraordinary and are absolutely deserving of recognition by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; if not with an Oscar then at least with a nomination. It was put together as well as the material would allow, but I honestly don't know that the material was deserving of a major motion picture.

I don't want to minimize the events that the movie conveys. It was an important moment in American history and I recognize the impact it has had on both the government and the media. I can also tell you, however, that I was unaware of the events until I saw the preview for Frost/Nixon for the first time. Should this information be out there for common-folk to see? Yes. Should it be a dramatization? No, it could just as well have been a documentary. Even this dramatization was written and filmed like a documentary with the "confessionals" being acted out in character.

Frost/Nixon is a straight up re-enactment of specific events, without any personal or political views of the filmmakers. It is both critical of, and sympathetic to both characters and therefore, effectively remains neutral in it's stance. The reason why I'm hesitant to recommend the film is because while I recognize that it is an extremely well made film, I wasn't very entertained. In fact, until the end of the second to last interview, I was actually rather bored.

American Teen


This is going to be short. American Teen may as well have been called MTV's True Life: I'm an American Teen. There is nothing extraordinary about this film and there is no reason to have made it. There certainly was no reason to put it on the big screen.

Gran Torino


Why aren't they advertising this movie? Clint Eastwood is amazing in it and the story is heartbreaking, but it's also unbelievably funny. It's predictable in the sense that while I didn't know exactly how the movie would end, I wasn't the least bit surprised. Still, everything about Gran Torino is just less than Oscar-worthy... and that's not bad.

I believe it's still in limited release and will expand after the new year, so seek it out, I think your other choices in January will include The Unborn and My Bloody Valentine 3D.



I wasn't necessarily expecting it to be better... just a little bigger, maybe. Bryan Singer made X2 and passed on a third X-Men movie to make Superman Returns. He put off making another Superman movie so that he could make Valkyrie. Valkyrie was in the works for a very long time and this is the final product. It just seems like Singer in constantly trying to "one-down" himself.

I was also expecting more of a "heist movie" feel. Not the witty banter of the Ocean's films, but at least a similar structure. And actually, I don't think a little bit of humor would have been uncalled for. I know that this is a serious subject and that German's are notoriously unfunny, but a sarcastic or snide remark, or a joke during casual conversation, something to make me care about these people would have been helpful.

I just think this was an unwise time of year to release this film. With movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon set for a holiday release, Valkyrie would have been better suited for release in late August or October.



Even though I guessed the ending at the very beginning of Baghead, the lack of a budget and the style of filmmaking were both integral in my enjoyment of this movie. It's shot with, seemingly, a home video camera adding a certain amount of personal dread whenever baghead appears. The performances were very realistic as was the dialogue, a necessity if you want to film a movie like this.

There are some great scares in Baghead and it's definiely an entertaining 80 minutes.

Seven Pounds


I really don't want to say too much about Seven Pounds. All of the advertising was extraordinarily cryptic. The poster doesn't really give any hints and after seeing the 2 minutes and 30 second trailer, I thought, "I still have no clue what that's about."

When I sat down to watch it, I made a conscious decision to just sit back and let the story unfold. At no point did I guess at what was going on, only to find out later that I was way off. Like the advertising, the plot remained esoteric for much of the movie. When all finally becomes clear, the film transforms from a bizarre mystery drama, to an emotional powerhouse of a film.

Seven Pounds is not getting very good reviews and the only reasons I can think of to not recommend it would be because it's a mite long and that it has the potential to force moviegoers to examine their own existence. Not that those are necessarily bad things, but it's the kind of statement i expect out of some of these self important critics. Those, however, are not the reasons for the bad reviews. The reasons for the bad reviews contain the words "preposterous", and "unintentionally ludicrous". Bear in mind the source of the following statement, but some critics are way too cynical for their own good.

Seven Pounds is a good movie about good people doing good things for other good people. At the end, it made me want to do good things for good people, too. Unfortunately, I was too tired to do something nice at the time and now I've had a chance to sleep on it. Check out Seven Pounds, it won't win any awards, but it will move you... at least momentarily.

The Tale of Despereaux


This movie has so much back story, that even a half hour in, you still really have no idea what the movie is about. Come to think of it, I still really don't know what it's about.

There's really no reason why this movie couldn't have been called The Tale of (pick any character from the movie). Despereaux's actually not in it very much at all and his story is the least intriguing of the 5 different stories that are being told simultaneously. And that's saying a lot because none of them are even remotely interesting or entertaining.

One of the reasons for the lack of entertainment value is the way the characters are introduced. Each of the characters has a 5 to 10 minute back story that is told as they become known to us. Unfortunately, they are all introduced before any real plot is developed. Since we don't know what their impact on the story will be, it's difficult to care about them. It actually gets pretty frustrating. The one character that I wanted some kind of story about but never got was the fruit/vegetable man. I know what your thinking, What's so interesting about a man who sells fruit and vegetables? Well that's easy... he doesn't sell fruit and vegetables, he is made out of fruit and vegetables. No explanation... he just is.

Another reason is because of how dreary and depressing it is. Even Despereaux isn't adorable enough to liven this up at all.

I haven't read The Tale of Despereaux, but I really can't imagine it being a good book. There isn't much of a story... at least not a coherent one. I know that the movie is never as good as the book, but even if the book is 10 times better than the movie... it still couldn't be good.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

It's strictly for children.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was released in theatres on 7/2/08 and on DVD and Blu-ray on 10/28/08.

I almost said "No." This sugary, sickeningly sweet depression era family drama is well made with fine performances and is not entirely unbearable... but it's not really worth sitting through. It is good for kids though.

Four Christmases


Four Christmases officially seals Vince Vaughan's fate on my list of people in Hollywood who have no right being there. This is gonna seem harsh, but he joins the ever growing list which includes Keanu Reeves, Nicholas Cage, and the Bill's Paxton and Pullman. Vince Vaughn;s IMDB page should list all his performances under the "Self:" heading instead of the "Actor:" heading. He has never played a character in a movie, he only changes his name. His wiseassery has gotten him further than it should according to several of my school teachers should have gotten him nowhere. The scene at the end when he is apologizing to Reese Witherspoon for being an ass is the least sincere apology I've ever heard.

While Witherspoon is a very talented actress, this is a major drop in quality from her turn in Walk the Line, still, she hasn't disappointed to the same extent as Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Roberto Benigni, and Cuba Gooding Jr, because she built a career on movies like this and then proved she could act... won an Oscar... and then went back to normal. The others dropped to the level of Keanu Reeves, Nicholas Cage, and the Bill's Paxton and Pullman once they placed Oscar on their mantle.

What does Four Christmases have going for it? It's short. It's mildly original; Multiple Christmases is a fairly common concern at the holidays. Who's going where on Christmas Eve and Day is a major topic of conversation in my family every year starting before Thanksgiving. It's never been addressed in a movie to the extent that it is in this one, unfortunately, it was addressed in this movie and not in a good one. Finally, it is funny... sometimes. I laughed once or twice. For the last 20 minutes, however, you won't laugh once.

There are at least 48 hours of Christmas movies on every day this month an Lifetime, We, and TLC and while Four Christmases isn't as bad as much of what you'll see on those channels, they are free.

Nothing Like the Holidays


Nothing Like the Holidays is a movie full of stupid, cliche characters in forced emotional moments. During the car ride after his cousins pick him up from the airport after his tour in Iraq, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) urgently yells at his cousin to "stop the car!". He opens the door and runs into a field, his cousins running after him, and suddenly comes to a halt. He just stands there and admires the view of the old baseball field and it's backdrop of the town he grew up in covered in snow. After the build up of the urgency and the emotion with which he ran from the car, I asked... out loud... "that's it?"

That was the opening scene and the rest of the movie was filled with scenes just like it. A family of such diverse characters (an actress, a lawyer, and a soldier) all coming to terms with the decisions they've made. As soon as you meet all of them, you know exactly what their conflicts will be and you'll know, at least partially, how they will be resolved.

Nothing Like the Holidays is the Latino version of The Family Stone from a couple of years ago and even that wasn't a very good movie.

Punisher: War Zone


There have been a lot of superhero reboots coming out of Hollywood lately. Batman Begins, The Incredible Hulk, Superman Returns and now Punisher: War Zone. Here's the thing... and I'm not the high paid CEO of a multi-million dollar movie studio... but I think that if you're gonna start over, the reboot should be better than the original. Most of the recent reboots have been better than, or at least as good as the previous installment. Punisher: War Zone was not.

Punisher (2004) was actually a good movie. I've spoken to several people about this and the most common response is "I actually like the first one, it was pretty good." It may not have been perfect, but it was a well acted, well produced comic book movie. With comic book movies pulling in a good portion of the money in Hollywood, I would expect Lionsgate to put every dollar they had behind the only superhero franchise they've got. I hope they didn't because if they did, it was a colossal waste of money.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you can't get the original actors to sign on to a sequel, you really should go into rewrites. Most actors have some level of dignity that they need to maintain. Thomas Jane isn't making an awful lot of movies these days, so for him to turn down a role is big. Especially if he had the opportunity to be immortalized on screen as a superhero. For someone to turn down a role like that, the material would have to be ridiculous... and in this instance, it absolutely was. I mean they didn't even keep the origin story the same from the original movie. Whether or not it's the correct one is irrelevant, as far as I'm concerned. Stick to your guns... the origin of Punisher is not an overwhelming concern of mine. The original movie's origin was good. It made sense. It did not need to be changed.

It's never a good sign when you're laughing at the movie instead of with it. War Zone was so bad it was funny... for some of it. Then it dragged on for another hour and fifteen minutes. There was more blood and gore in this than was necessary for even the most horrifying of horror movies. Peoples faces being blown off, of punched through. Hearts being eaten, necks being broken... you get the point. There was blood squirting everywhere. Every New Yorker, apparently, has a very thick ethnic accent, mostly either Italian or Russian. The blacks and Latinos also had ridiculously thick accents (Jamaican and Puerto Rican).

The acting as a whole was terrible. They tried to trick us into believing that Ray Stevenson is a big name in Hollywood by constantly advertising the movie with his name before the title of the movie... This season you can see Tom Cruise in Valkyrie, Adam Sandler in Bedtime Stories, or Ray Stevenson in Punisher: WarZone. We're not idiots. He's a nobody, and he acts appropriately.

Every aspect of Punisher: War Zone is awful. Do not go see it.

Meet Dave


Meet Dave was released in theatres on 7/11/08 and on DVD and Blu-ray on 11/25/08.

I've seen better acting, writing, directing and special effects in mouthwash commercials. The one ray of sunshine from the whole experience was Elizabeth Banks. She is slowly but surely becoming this generations' Meg Ryan.

I guess I'll never understand why someone would take a title like "comedic legend" and flush it down the drain.


Yes. If you have 3 hours to spare.

Australia is epic. It's long, it has a sweeping score, long, soaring shots of a sprawling beautiful landscape. It has a cross-country adventure, a devastating WWII attack and a love story that is as grand as the exquisite countryside it takes place in. The villain is villainous, the hero is heroic, and the damsel is very often in distress. Australia has all the makings of an Oscar winning film... but it won't win; it probably won't even be nominated.

This movie is too self important for it's own good. It's trying to be epic even though it really already is. There was no reason for Australia to have a 3 hour running time except to make it epic-er. 2:15 or 2:30 would have been just the right amount of epicness as there were two or three times when I felt the movie was dragging.

That being said, I did enjoy it. I think your best bet would be to rent it, but if you wanna go to the movies this week and you've already seen Role Models and Quantum of Solace, Australia is your only choice. There is nothing worth going to until December 19th when Seven Pounds and Yes Man come out... we'll see how those go.