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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Brothers Bloom

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo star as Bloom and Stephen, two con artist siblings out to fleece a wacky millionaire, Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), of her fortune. While pretending to woo Penelope, Bloom predictably falls for her, and as the faked emotions grow more impossibly entangled, the film grows more and more out of control. What it may lack in clarity, however, the film more than makes up for in entertaining characters. Rinko Kikuchi is a delight as Bang Bang, a mute who lets her knack for blowing things up do her talking. The true joy of The Brothers Bloom, though, is watching Weisz’s performance as the heiress. While she’s done her fair share of supporting comedic roles in films like About a Boy or The Mummy, Weisz hasn’t had a chance to really create something special from the ground up before and she just runs with it. She makes Penelope loony and loveable, but never weak or stupid.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Guyver: The Complete Box Set

One day while out exploring nature, a pair of school buddies discovers what looks like a flesh-colored garden hose in a futuristic metal casing. They pick it up and it turns into a strange alien creature that latches on to one of them and coats him with a suit of a bio-boosted armor that not only gives him super powers, but makes him the target of an intergalactic conspiracy. Filled with plenty of battle scenes, this series shines because it gives us characters strong enough to care about as everything around them blows to bits. Better yet, the pop art style of the images used to tell the story is as exciting as anything the characters do.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beautiful

Something nasty is happening beneath the beautiful façade of upscale Sunshine Hills. Local schoolgirls are disappearing at an alarming rate, there’s a creepy new neighbor in the scary old house on the block and nerdy 15-year-old Danny (Sebastian Gregory) is being seduced by the sexy young slut from across the street. What has all the markings of a sordid teen slasher flick is actually an intelligent, engrossing mystery that will keep you guessing who the bad guy is right up until the end when a sudden twist makes everything you thought totally wrong.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Maid


After more than 20 years of devotion to the family she works for as a maid, Raquel (Cataloina Saavedra) is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Worse than that, her longtime employment with the same family has given her a sense of entitlement, of being an actual member of the family and not just an employee, which is playing havoc with her mind. When the lady of the house decides to hire some additional help to ease Raquel’s daily burden, a weird game of cat and mouse begins as Raquel starts to defend her territory.

Friday, June 25, 2010

TiMER

Set in a time when true love not only exists but is predictable, TiMER tells the story of Oona (Emma Caulfield), a single woman who spends her life searching for Mr. Right. Thanks to a scientific device attached to her wrist she’ll know when she’s found him because both her device and his will beep to each other when they meet. While waiting for that magical, if a little cold and scientific, moment to happen, Oona dates guys until she finds their TiMERs don’t match, then dumps them and moves on. Her search gets derailed, though, when she falls for a young musician who she can’t get out of her mind – or her bedroom – even though she knows there is no future for them. While it may start to feel a bit predictable at times, writer/director Jac Schaeffer does a great job of tipping the scales anytime the audience gets too complacent without relying on any of the usual Hollywood romcom clichés. The cast is top notch, too, particularly Caulfield as the woman who wants to believe in true love and Michelle Borth as her cynical, sassy and sexy stepsister.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Emerson, Lake & Palmer Live at Montreux

They may be little more than a progressive rock memory these days, but this entertaining DVD is a great reminder that Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer – ELP to fans – were not only once a musical force to be reckoned with, but a heck of a live band. Listening to them, it’s hard to believe there are just three guys making all those sounds, particularly when its three guys who act like they don’t like sharing the stage with each other. The lack of any bonus material to set the show in the band's historical context is disappointing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paris 36

Every once in a while, a film comes along to remind you why you love going to the movies in the first place. Paris 36 is that film.
Directed by Christophe Barratier (The Chorus), this frothy French tale of a theater group struggling to put on a show despite the harsh realities that surround them circa 1936, is a glossy throwback to the old fashion MGM-style musical it so lovingly pays tribute to. It’s filled with romance, big dance routines and songs that you’ll be humming as you walk out of the theater even if you can’t understand a word. And as if that wasn’t enough, Paris 36 features an absolutely terrific performance by Nora Arnezeder, a leading lady you’re destined to fall in love with by the final reel. Playing the part of the not-too-innocent ingénue, Douce, Arnezeder combines a wide-eyed wonder with a killer smile to create the character of the young girl realizing her dreams of being on the stage. And she sings well, too, particularly in the sultry ballads she uses to tell her woes to the audience.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Ugly Truth

Hats off to director Robert Luketic and the talented cast of The Ugly Truth for bringing a sorely needed sense of raunchy back to the romantic comedy where it belongs. This saucy battle of the sexes wouldn’t be half as much fun to watch if it didn’t have a wicked sense that genre films like this are a lot funnier – and sexier – when they let the adults on the screen act like adults (who just happen to be beautiful movie stars). The movie stars Katherine Heigl as Abby, the producer of a struggling morning show that needs to come up with a gimmick to make more people tune it before the network executives turn it off forever. Enter Mike (Gerard Butler) the arrogant host of a cable access show called The Ugly Truth whose sole premise seems to be to prove that while women may think with their hearts men only think with their…

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Planet 51

Planet 51 is the story of a strange visitor from another planet who has to find a way to make the native inhabitants understand that he means them no harm and, as the cliché goes, that he comes in peace. What gives the film its comic flair is a simple inversion of the expected: the strange invader is actually an American astronaut and the natives are little green creatures that look and act like extras from an Ozzie and Harriet show from the 1950s (if Ozzie and Harriet had green skin and antennas sticking out of their foreheads).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Easy Virtue

With a script based on a Noel Coward play and director Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert) behind the camera, all Easy Virtue needed to be a huge success was a cast skillful enough to make it all come alive.
And that’s just what happens with his frothy bit of fun.
Lead by a wonderful performance from Jessica Biel, Easy Virtue takes viewers on a romp through the English countryside circa the 1920s that feels as fresh and alive as if it happened yesterday.
In the movie, Biel plays Larita Whittaker, a modern American woman who gets hitched to a spoiled young Englishman and soon finds herself being scrutinized by the family he’s rebelling against. While Larita is an instant hit with the boy’s father she’s the anti-Christ as far as his mother is concerned, and the two start butting heads soon after saying hello.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Mrs. Whittaker, and watching her go toe-to-toe with Biel is an absolute delight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Shadows: The Final Tour

Do yourself a big favor before settling down to watch this concert: Watch the extras first. If you’re not from Great Britain and over 40, chances are you aren’t that familiar with the unique sound of this hugely influential rock band. Listening to the musicians talk about their history helps put their entertaining show in context. Not that you can’t just put the disc in the player, hit play and dance the night away. You can, because after decades of touring the world and burning up the pop music charts, it’s clear from the start that these guys still love their job and it’s nice to know why.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country

The most Americans seem to be able to do with their video recorders is make a sex tape to further their career or film a friend getting hit in the groin and hope it wins America’s Funniest Home Videos. This riveting DVD shows what can happen when the person operating the camera isn’t a narcissistic airhead. This group of Burmese video journalist risked their lives to film the revolution – and brutal suppression – taking place in their country then did whatever they had to do to get it on the internet so the world could see what was happening. It’s a stunning reminder of what technology is really good for.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Collapse

A guy sits in a chair, chain smoking cigarettes and talking. There’s a bit of archival footage and some animated sequences to illustrate what he’s saying, but it’s basically a movie of a guy sitting in a chair, talking. So what makes it one of the most compelling movies you will ever see? It’s what the guy, Michael Ruppert, is talking about: The end of the world as we know it. This is no raving lunatic that you can simply dismiss as mad. What Ruppert talks about, and the compelling way he talks about it, has the ring of truth in every sentence, whether he’s talking about the war for oil in Iraq or the government cover-up of the economic collapse. And when you think he’s gone over-the-top, all you have to do is take a breath and really think about what he said. You’ll know he’s not crazy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mary and Max

This could be just about the strangest – and best – use of claymation in a movie. Written and directed by Adam Elliott, it’s the story of a lonely young Australian girl who randomly picks a name out of a New York phone book to be her pen pal. The recipient of her plea is a sad middle aged Jewish guy who spends his life stuffing his face during the day (chocolate hot dogs are his favorite) then going to his over-eaters meetings at night. The unlikely pair soon starts corresponding about everything and anything they can think of from taxidermy to sex. Nothing is out of bonds, but there is never a salacious moment in their long distance relationship. It’s more a conversation about the oddities of life than anything else, brought to live by the weird and wonderful clay figures, as well as the excellent voice work by Toni Collette as Mary and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max. It’s an astonishing film.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blassreiter


A rare blood disease is turning people into Amalgams, strange robot demons with the ability to physically meld with any inanimate object they touch: They don’t just ride a motorcycle, they absorb it. When a champion racer gets the disease, he somehow retains his human side, too, leading investigators to uncover a very strange plot. The series uses a lot of computer generated animnation to give the actions scenes a slick edge missing from a lot of other anime. Visually, it takes a bit to get used to, but eventually adds a lot to the look and feel of the adventure

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life Gamble

More plot-driven than most Shaw Brothers action movies, Life Gamble tells the story of a band of mercenaries all trying to recover a piece of stolen jade. You almost need a chart to keep track of the different characters as they plot with and against each other, but it’s worth the effort, especially when the fighting finally begins.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tales of the Gold Monkey

Stephen Collins stars in this addictive series about a scruffy pilot named Jake Cutter living a carefree life on a tropical island and the many madcap adventures he gets into battling Nazis, smugglers and other ruffians with the help of his drunken sidekick Corky (Jeff Mackay), his one-eyed dog Jack and his sassy girlfriend Sarah (Caitlin O’Heaney). If you’re thinking it’s just a cheap Indiana Jones made-for-TV rip off, then you’re missing the point: These adventures more than stand on their own, particularly as the series progresses and the relationships between the friends deepen. The action is pretty good, too, and there’s a cheesiness about the whole thing that makes it a lot more fun than that other big budget Hollywood stuff.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life

Anyone with a fear of snakes, spiders, insects or any other of life’s creepy crawlers will want to sit far back from the TV when this fascinating series gets played (especially on Blu Ray which makes the critters look absolutely real). And the squeamish may want to skip the show about hunters and the hunted. Everyone else should just pull up a chair and get ready to watch hours of some of the most incredible nature footage ever captured, brought to life by Oprah’s entertaining narration. Be sure to check out the extras, too. Watching the team film the komodo dragons, and witnessing the emotional toll it takes out of them, is absolutely riveting.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Seventh Season

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who think Larry David is funny on his hit HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, and those who think he’s the most annoying person on the planet. This seventh season, which features the already legendary Seinfeld reunion shows, may help bring the David haters to the other side. He’s still annoying, but the season is so well-written, and the Seinfeld scenes so entertaining, that you can’t help but laugh at the schmuck, particularly when the world gives him back just what he deserves.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chickenfoot Get Your Buzz On Live

There’s something refreshing about a rock supergroup that doesn’t seem to care what they look like or how big the special effects are when they play a show. All that matters is the music and the fans. Chickenfoot – made up of two ex-Van Halens, an ex-Red Hot Chili Pepper and a certified guitar god named Satriani – look and act like drunken frat boys, but they play like guys who would bleed music if you cut them. Sure, the songs all start to sound the same after a while, but even an old chestnut like bad Motor Scooter can sound fresh when it’s played with passion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Clash of the Olympians

They may not be in 3D or feature any state-of-the-art special effects, but this collection of sword and sandal films has more than enough action, adventure and unintentional comedy to keep you entertained for hours. The quality of the films is a mixed bag, both in terms of the acting/story and of the film stock itself, but the great thing about a big – and inexpensive – set like this is that if one film isn’t working for you, there are 15 more to choose from.

Monday, June 7, 2010

American Pickers: The Complete Season One

If you ever wanted proof of the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure all you have to do is click on any episode of this compelling series for all the evidence you will ever need. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz send their days roaming around the country looking for the biggest pile of trash they can find so they can dive in and see what’s there. You’ll be amazed at what they discover and just how valuable it turns out to be.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Alice in Wonderland


After testing the waters of turning classic children’s literature into cinematic eye candy with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, director Tim Burton set his sights much higher by taking one of the best loved – and most-filmed -- children’s stories of all time, Alice in Wonderland, and trying to make something truly original out of it. The result is a dark and daring version of the story that might have younger viewers hiding under their seats, but will have more mature audiences on their feet cheering.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

When they were young alchemists in training, Edward and Alphonse Elric tried to perform a forbidden ritual to bring their mother back to life. The thing they brought back was barely human and had to be killed; the price the brothers paid for fooling with powers beyond them was high. Edward lost an arm and a leg and Alphonse lost his entire body only to have his soul transferred to a hulking, but empty, suit of armor. If this delightful anime only followed the Elric brothers on their quest to get their complete bodies back, it would be worth every penny. Because it does that and more, involving many weird and wonderful adventures the brothers have along the way, it’s a set to be savored. The voice-acting is top notch, the stories are intricate and entertaining and the art is brilliant (especially in the Blu-ray edition). If you are new to the wonderful world of anime, this is the perfect place to start.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

True Blood Season 2

If you haven’t already been bitten by this HBO series, then get ready to watch the perfect blend of blood, sex and drama. You’ll want to watch (or re-watch) Season 1 to get fully into the swing of things because the action picks up with the mysterious body found in the back of the detective’s car and then quickly cranks it up to 11. As exciting as the action is, though, it’s the characters and the drama of their stories that make True Blood Season 2 as haunting as it is, especially with the introduction this season of young vampire Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bing Crosby: The Television Specials, Volume 1

This collection of television specials featuring legendary crooner Bing Crosby is a mixed bag. His debut show from 1954 is interesting, but not very entertaining as the stiffness in Crosby’s performance (and his slightly off lip-synching) during the taping are distracting. The middle shows, shot loose and live with costars like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, are a lot of fun. On the other hand, the 1970 show with Dean Martin and Flip Wilson, featuring some really bad special effects, is awful.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Greatest Tales Ever Told - The Collection

‘Serious cartoons’ may sound like an oxymoron, but don’t let that stop you from checking out this fascinating series featuring animated versions of classic stories like Ben Hur and Ivanhoe. The shows work best when they stick to the original story and don’t veer off course with some misguided notion that just because it’s animated it needs to be cartoony. The slapstick scenes in the Jules Verne classic From the Earth to the Moon are annoying, but the drama of three guys being shot from a cannon into space still works.