Monthly Archives: August 2007

HALLOWEEN

R, 109 min, 2007

Director: Rob Zombie
Writers: Rob Zombie (screenplay), John Carpenter and Debra Hill (1978 screenplay)

Stars: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane

Rob Zombie’s Halloween may sound like a frightening proposition – not so much an effective horror film as an abomination of the worst variety… Well, in fact, writer-director Zombie has a few mildly controversial tricks up his sleeve that may titillate those looking for a fresh take on a long-in-the-tooth franchise, or offend wholeheartedly the series’ most ardent supporters. Continue reading

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BALLS OF FURY

Innocuous, inoffensive “comedy” about a former ping pong whiz kid who grows up to be a pudgy orphan working the Reno casinos with ping pong trickery to pay rent. He gets approached by an FBI agent (George Lopez) to infiltrate a ping pong tournament (“sudden death” takes on a new meaning here) at the secret hideaway (in Central America) of the mysterious Feng (Christopher Walken, in the only flat-out laugh-inducing role in the film) and falls for his trainer’s (James Hong, above this) daughter (Maggie Q). Silly, stupid, but watchable. Co-written by Thomas Lennon, who appears here fresh from RENO 9-1-1: MIAMI – THE MOVIE (the adaptation of his Comedy Central TV show), but never living up to the absurd humor of that series.

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THE PIXAR STORY

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THE 11TH HOUR

The 11th Hour Movie Review

PG, 95 min, 2007

Directors: Leila Conners (as Leila Conners Petersen), Nadia Conners
Writers: Leila Conners (as Leila Conners Petersen), Nadia Conners, Leonardo DiCaprio
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kenny Ausubel, Thom Hartmann

The 11th Hour is a documentary as well-intentioned and intelligent as it is boring and redundant. Continue reading

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STARDUST

Matthew Vaughn’s charming, whimsical romantic fantasy epic is a well-made, very enjoyable little slice of imagination, a mixture of the old and the new. Once upon a time, there lived Tristan (Charlie Cox), the young son of a Victorian scientist and a gypsy slave girl/prostitute called Una (Kate Magowan). Now grown, Tristan is the grocery clerk who lives in the small English village of Wall, cleverly named for the wall which separates it from the fantastical world of Stormhold. Tristan is in love with beautiful, popular Victoria (Sienna Miller), who has her own betrothed, the posh and ill-tempered Humphrey (Henry Cavill). Determined to prove his love for her, Tristan will retrieve a fallen star that has landed on the other side of the wall. Arriving on the other side of the wall, Tristan discovers Yvaine (Claire Danes), a beautiful young lass in place of the shooting star. Before long, via circumstances beyond his control, Tristan is attempting to escort Yvaine (quite against his will) through the kingdom of Stormhold to get back to England. The duo is pursued by Primus (Jason Flemyng), the son of King Stormhold (Peter O’Toole), who wants Yvaine because she holds the key to eternal life. So too does Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), a witch, seek her out for exactly the same reason. Tristan and Yvaine attempt to evade their pursuers, seeking refuge for a time with the astonishingly misleading Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), a pirate on an air ship whose demeanor is an affect at best, and a deception at worst. All of this is narrated by Ian McKellen (“Lord of the Rings”), the voice of all things fantastical and ancient. The film was directed by Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) and is based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, no stranger to vaguely historical fantasy (“MirrorMask”). The story is a bit overstuffed, but it’s also quite enjoyable. The sequences involving Captain Shakespeare are tremendously entertaining, and it’s a joy to see De Niro playing a real character. It’s all a little too trivial to take seriously, and a little less epic than some of its recent predecessors; think less “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” and more “Princess Bride.” Still, it’s a good time.

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BECOMING JANE

Perhaps the most famous and beloved female author of all time, young Jane Austen wanted to write of “affairs of the heart.” It is these sorts of affairs which inform her writing of perhaps her most adored book “Pride and Prejudice,” or so asserts this lighter-than-air romantic drama – a biography of the great British writer, from director Julian Jarrold (“Kinky Boots”). Anne Hathaway leads a wonderful cast in this sumptuous adaptation of a recent biography by Jon Spence, via a screenplay by Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood. The words are lyrical and lovely, the scenery lush and vibrant. A sweet, enjoyable time.

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THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM

The third entry in the popular action series based on the novels by Robert Ludlum is the strongest one yet. Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne, a trained assassin seeking his true identity, revenge for the death of his girlfriend, and a way out of the life that the CIA has created for him. He is surveilled by two CIA higher-ups: a cold, calculating bureaucrat (David Straithairn) and a consciencious and well-meaning veteran (Joan Allen). Coming to his aid again is analyst Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), as Bourne makes his way all over the globe, dodging bullets, chasing (and being chased), and defending himself at every turn. Paul Greengrass directed again (he previously made the second film, “The Bourne Supremacy” in 2004, as well as 2006’s 9/11 saga “United 93”) and shows a great deal of intelligence coupled with riveting style in weaving his tale; it’s a virtually non-stop action ride. I believe what elevates this part above the rest of the trilogy is the acting, particularly by Allen and Straithairn as two government agents working together for a common goal who come to a fork in the road and have to decide who and what they really are. Albert Finney is quite good as well, late in the film, as the doctor who “created” Bourne. All in all, this is a superior continuation of a series that may be the successor to the legacy of James Bond.

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HOT ROD

Hot Rod Movie Review

PG_13, 88 min, 2007

Director: Akiva Schaffer
Writer: Pam Brady
Stars: Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane

Here is a comedy as goofy, dumb, well-meaning and surreal as any I can imagine; it’s also often very funny. Continue reading

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