Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Touch Of Sin

A Touch Of Sin is Writer/Director Zhangke Jia’s dark portrayal of life in present day China.


Taken from headline stories, ranging from the Country’s northernmost city to its southernmost city, four characters give a picture of the violence to which desperation drives people, three of whom are trying to find a life with a sense of fairness and love and one of whom just likes to kill. 

A Touch Of Sin is not for the squeamish, but it is a powerful depiction of modern day China.

I give A Touch Of Sin a 4 out of 5.







Baggage Claim

Writer/Director David Talbert’s Baggage Claim is a pleasant, albeit glaringly predictable romantic comedy that survives only thanks to the charm and beauty of Paula Patton. 

Paula plays Montana Moore, an always-bridesmaid flight attendant, who is spurred into marital pursuit by the upcoming marriage of her younger sister.

 With the help of two friends played by Jill Scott and Adam Brody, Montana goes on a quest to reconnect with former lovers she had met on her flights.

With a better script and director this might have been something special.  As it is, I give Paula a 3+ and Baggage Claim a 2+.



Sunday, September 22, 2013


Director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners is a harrowing thriller about the abduction of two young girls in “Crazytown,” Pennsylvania where everyone seems to have an underlying psychotic streak except, perhaps, for facial tick-prone Detective Loki, superbly played by Jake Gyllenhaal in, arguably, his best role to date. 


The story moves at a relentless pace thanks to Editors Joel Cox’s and Gary D. Roach’s handling of Writer Aaron Guzikowski’s tight script, the logic flaws of which only become evident in retrospect after the viewer has had a chance to calm down and reflect. 

 Every one of the loonies in this film is well-played from Hugh Jackman on down.  To go into detail would only give away plot points, which, you know, I only do with bad films.

If you enjoy thrillers, Prisoners is your cup of tea…iced tea, which you may need in your veins to handle some of the more violent scenes.

Prisoners easily gets a 4 out of 5.


Director Ron Howard’s Rush is a mesmerizing story of real-life Formula One racing champions Niki Lauda and James Hunt, admirably played by Daniel Brühl and Chris Hemsworth. 

With an excellent script by Peter Morgan, powerful score by Hans Zimmer and precision editing by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill, the story zooms along without letup over a 7-year period in the early-'70s during which the serious Austrian and British playboy are both disowned by their respective upper class families and move from Formula Three to Formula One competition and, ultimately, duel for the world championship.

The two drivers could not be more different in looks and temperament, but they both have the same thirst for winning and the film examines their characters, their loves and racing skills with the relentless pace of the track.

Having had a one-time experience in a Ferrari on a track at speeds not quite as high as in Formula One, I can attest to the authenticity of Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s capturing of the skill necessary to handle the quickness with which turns come up and the concentration necessary to keep focus lap after lap.

Though the sound of the engines will probably have special appeal to guys, the film should appeal to women, as well as men.

Rush truly lives up to its name and deserves a 4+ out of 5.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Family

Writer/Director Luc Besson’s The Family, is a good action/thriller with a cast, including Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer (who gets better with age), Dianna Agron, John D’Leo and the best of the Italian bad guy players, all in top form.

DeNiro plays former Mafioso capo Giovanni Manzoni, in witness protection with his family for informing on his former associates, who, in turn, have put up a $20 million bounty for his death.   
Currently hiding out in France, the authorities have been forced to keep moving the family around because each member gets violent with anyone he or she feels disrespects them.   This makes for some macabre humor, as well as, a few somewhat ghastly scenes.

The Co-Writers Michael Caleo and Tonino Benacquista have crafted, with Besson, an interesting story with plenty of action and Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast always has the camera in the right place to capture the essence of the Normandy country life.

The only problem is that Editor Julien Rey often slows the pace of the film, which could easily be trimmed by as much as 5 to 10 minutes.  This is surprising given Besson’s other successful action films like The Fifth Element, Léon: The Professional and Taken 2.  

Still, I give The Family a 4 out of 5. 



Sunday, September 8, 2013

Out Of The Clear Blue Sky

Director Danielle Gardner’s Out Of The Clear Blue Sky is a haunting documentary on Cantor Fitzgerald, the biggest bond trader on September 11, 2001, with 960 employees on floors 101 to 104 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.   

That day, 658 of them died, making the company's toll the biggest from any organization, fully 22% of the nearly 3,000 killed in the attack.

This horror was compounded by the fact that, starting immediately, the survivors had to try to keep the company afloat with their offices and equipment gone, whole departments gone and spirits lower than could possibly be imagined.
The film traces the ups and downs of the suffering families and the survivors from then until now, including the heroic efforts of CEO Howard Lutnick, who had to restructure the company, attend as many of the 658 funerals as he could, design a plan for helping the survivors and fight off trash media pundits like Bill O’Reilly, who, without facts, didn’t think the company was working fast enough to help the victims' families.

Having lived through the experience myself, the film was not fun to watch, but it was well edited and truly informative.  It is, also, a must see for HR executives to learn how to create a sense of “family” within a corporate environment, a lesson Lutnick and his team had to invent on the fly. 

I give Out Of The Clear Blue Sky a 4 out of 5.


In Writer/Director David Twohy’s Riddick, the marooned and wounded character played by Vin Diesel has to fight off more monsters in the first half hour than most superheroes have to defeat in their entire film franchise.  And, the monsters are extremely ugly to boot.

It’s only then, that he has to begin to fight off the bounty hunters, who come to the dead planet for his head…literally. 
Fans of Diesel and this character will enjoy the film, which was shot well by Cinematographer David Eggby and has a deliciously murky set designed by Joseph C. Nemec III.  However, it’s definitely not for the squeamish.


I give Riddick a 4 out of 5 for the fan base.  Others, beware!