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Lawrance Bernabo RSS Feed (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)

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DVD ~ Harold Pinter
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael Caine returns for the other role in "Sleuth," but Harold Pinter's script is the main attraction this time around, March 16, 2008
This review is from: Sleuth (DVD)
Given the ongoing onslaught of remakes of films, both classic and trashy, that Hollywood has been overdosing on in recent years, there is an obvious impulse to label this new version of "Sleuth" a remake of one of the few films in history in which the entire cast was nominated for acting Oscars ("Give Em Hell, Harry!" would be the other; "Who's Afraid of the Virginia Woolf?" would be on the list too if they had not undone the inherent claustrophobia of Edward Albee's play with the unnecessary road trip). However, usually when you are "remaking" a play, you stick to the play. Such is the case with the various versions of classics like "A Streetcar Named Desire," where the changes between the Brando-Leigh) version and the one with Baldwin-Lange are relatively minute. However, what we have here is a reconcpetualization, courtesy of Harold Pinter. The key change is not simply updating Wyke's toys from games and puzzles to technology, but rather the way Pinter comes up with a totally new "third" act.

The point of reference for this movie should not be all of the remakes that Hollywood is infatuated with, but those rare reconceputaliations that are done for artistic rather than commercial reasons (the one that came to my mind the most while watching "Sleuth" was Akira Kurosawa's transformation of "King Lear" into "Ran"). In that regard the key member of the production is not director Kenneth Brannagh but screenwriter Harold Pinter. Getting Pinter to do this script was pivotal, because it is difficult to fault a Nobel Laureate when he wants to reimagine a script like this. Plus, Pinter has a track record of transforming the works of others, proven once and for all time by his script for "The French Lieutenant's Woman." If playwright Anthony Shaffer were still alive no doubt he would have recruited to update his play, but he passed away in 2001. In that context getting Pinter (who had seen neither the play nor the movie) was a masterstroke).

I am not surprised that things have come full circle with Michael Caine now playing the Laurence Olivier role; we have seen such things before (e.g., Patty Duke going from playing Helen Keller to playing Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker." But while Caine's presence gives legitimacy to the proceedings and Jude Law's performance is as fine as anything he has done to date, this "Sleuth" is really Pinter's show. Ultimately, I would maintain that this film is most decidedly not for those who have never seen the original because the ability to appreciate this "Sleuth" is predicated on your knowing the original story (notice that this time there are only names of two actors in the opening credits and not three). The danger here is to be lulled by your familiarity with the story that you ignore the way Pinter has changed things up during the first two "sets" to up the ante for the fatal finale. I still prefer the original as being one of the most effective twists I have seen in a movie (although I am sure it is much more effective on stage), but this one has its moments, most notably in the finale confrontation as Caine and Law engaged in the psychological duel that Pinter has crafted for them. This version is not as memorable as the original, but I did not expect it to be and I found it worth a look.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 11, 2014 12:10 PM PST

Paris (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
Paris (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
by Alan Tillier
Edition: Paperback
79 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This guidebook made making our way around Paris a piece of cake, March 15, 2008
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We have just returned from Spring Break in Paris and the "Paris: Eyewitness Travel Guide" was our guidebook for our trip. Of course, the photo illustrations in any DK book are always impressive, and since I always like to see where I am going and what is to see there without having to Google everything, that was an obvious plus with this book. I must admit that II do not really think about this particular book as a guidebook for getting in-depth information about places; when I want that sort of information I get a guidebook at the place (only thing I bought on the trip were guidebooks and postcards). In practical terms this guidebook functioned as our menu for the trip, allowing us to see what was available and when you could visit, which was crucial because visiting hours change based on the month and the day (my biggest piece of advice based on this trip is that if you can go see the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay at night--Wednesday and Thursday respectively--you will enjoy them a lot more without the massive crowds during the day).

For me the best part of this guide book ended up being the maps. Paris is gridded out in 18 maps in the back of the book and for each region of the city there is a general map of the entire area with "Sights at a Glance" marked along with metro and train stations. Add to the mix the Paris Metro and Regional Express Railway (RER) map inside the back cover, and we found it incredibly easy to find things. We got a 5-day Metro pass and had the fortune of our hotel being right down the street from the Montparnasse Bienvenile station, which was the intersection of several metro lines (plus linked to a train station which allowed us to go to Chartres and be back by 1 in the afternoon). Except for a bus tour/river cruise the first night and a side trip to Versailles, we did not have our trip planned out. We had a list of things we wanted to see and each day would pick a starting point and work out our other options as we went along. These maps were great for making that relatively easy. Nor did we feel that we were restricted to the restaurants in our area because we were able to use our maps to head off into the night and find them.

The only exception would be the maps of the Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise and Cimetiere du Montparnassem because they were not extremely helpful in trying to find several of the graves I was trying to track down. Those of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are easy to find because there are also several people standing around them, but finding those of Moliere, Sarah Bernhardt, and Samuel Becket were much harder. The guide does provide tiny icons representing what the graves actually look like, but the locations can be troublesome, especially when the graves are not right on a walkway. But there are detailed maps for Pere Lachaise and signs at the entrances that you can photograph with your digital camera and reference as you walk about (courtesy of your magic zoom button).

I bought the book a year before our trip, when my impromptu suggestion that we go to Paris for Spring Break was derailed by the lack of a current passport. So there is a minor concern that information is not totally current. On the one hand the Musee de l'Orange with Monet's water lily series was open, but the one place my wife wanted to go, the restaurant atop La Samaritaine, was derailed because the department store was closed. As long as you suspect that these sort of things are always going to happen (I felt sorry for the law students visiting the Louvre to discover that the Code of Hammurabi was not on display), you should be able to roll with these punches. Final word of advice regarding this particular guidebook: Make sure that you have a purse or a coat with pockets large enough to accommodate the peculiar not quite "pocket" size of this guide.

Path of the Assassin, Vol. 9 (v. 9)
Path of the Assassin, Vol. 9 (v. 9)
by Kazuo Koike
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.75
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Koize and Kojima begin Ieyasu's epic "Battle for Power", March 7, 2008
Volume 9 of "Path of the Assassin" is entitled "Battle for Power: Part One," and you should be forewarned that this particular story carries off through not just the next volume but the one after that, so it will probably not be until the end of this year that we finally get to the end of this particular story. Part 1 was originally scheduled to be released in October 2007 but has not shown up until March of 2008, which is when Part 2 was supposed to be published with Part 3 slatted for April. Obviously that is not going to happen, but I am getting used to the delays and am accepting the strong probability that this 15-volume series will not be finished until 2010. So each time the next volume finally shows up, it is to be savored.

It turns out that the title for this volume is something of a misnomer in that most of this magna is devoted to the chapter on "Haja Kensho," begun in Volume 8 (managing to put all of it in one volume proved to be a mathematical impossibility apparently). No. 1: "Ihoro Kikko (Part 2)" begins with the fall of Mino, as a necessary step for Nobunaga's effort to rise up, serve the emperor, and declare his supremacy. Hanzo requests Nobunaga's sash, tied, which he accepts on his master's behalf, the next step in the giant chess game being played for the Shogunate. No. 2: "A Wish to Be Alone," finds Hanzo becoming a father and his wife puzzled by his remark "I wish...I was alone." The meaning of such a remark must be explained, as must the meaning of Nobunaga's tied sash. No. 3: "Kyoyu," introduces us to a strange samurai coming up from the west. After interrupting a violent rape, the samurai makes his way to the Mori Motonair, where he demonstrates his proficiency with a gun and his prescience towards the favor that will be asked him. Meanwhile, Hanzo is making the Shinobi power of virility for Ieyasu, yet another interesting step in the game that is bringing Nobunaga and Ieyasu closer to power and therefore closer to conflict.

Almost the last 100 pages of the manga are devoted to the beginning of the Chapter on "Tenka Fubu," with No. 1: "Battle for Power (Part 1)." Apparently this will be a very complex story, because we begin with a bloody battle, followed by Hanzo giving Ieyasu a massage as they discuss the political situation. Then things get interesting when Oyakata has an audience with a dubious "suppa" of great ability, named Hachiya Sekiun. Or rather I should say the audience is with a doll. Once again there are twists within twists as another assassination is dispatched to try and stop Tokugawa Ieyasu from becoming the shogun who unifies Japan and makes it a great modern nation.

"Path of the Assassin" ("Hanzo no Mon") was originally published in Japan back in 1972 by the legendary manga team of writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. Intended for mature readers and carrying a parental advisory label that warns of explicit content, this series is rather astounding in its ability to entwine sex and politics, and by "sex" I do not mean simply arranged marriages for the purposes of alliances or the importance of producing children. With Koike and Kojima, an orgasm can literally be an important step on the road to power. Yes, this is a peculiar approach to history, and I must admit that the current installments are not as compelling as the early ones when Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo become "Lifelong Friends, with the Same Dreams, Striving to Grow into a Rising River." Other characters are starting to dominate the stories more and more, which may be necessary given the scope of the tale, but remains a source of regret for those of us who loved the intimacy of the earlier tales. Still, with Koike and Kojima in terms of graphic storytelling, this is as good as it gets.

101 Dalmatians (Two-Disc Platinum Edition)
101 Dalmatians (Two-Disc Platinum Edition)
DVD ~ Marjorie Bennett
Offered by 86books
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "101 Dalmatians," 2-DVDs, and 6,469,952 spots, March 2, 2008
"101 Dalmatians" was the first movie that I took my son to see in a movie theater. He could not have had any idea of what sort of magical place we were walking into with all those rows of seats and the giant curtain (this was a classic movie palace in Champaign, Illinois, with a gigantic screen and all of the seats laid out in a horizontal rectangle rather than the traditional vertical arrangement). I think the first movie I saw in a movie theater was "Pinocchio," although I might be wrong. I do remember that the first movie I saw that was neither at the drive-in nor at the base theater was "Mary Poppins." We drove to some town near the base and had to wait in line during the showing we had intended to see in order to actually get in to the one after that. Decades later when Disney released "Mary Poppins" for the last time in theaters I finally got to see it again, and remembering how great it had been that first time many years ago was something of an emotional experience. I wonder if my son will have anything like that reaction when he sees "101 Dalmatians" on DVD; after all, it is not quite the same.

The story here should be familiar to most. Dog (Pongo) meets dog Purdy) and helps boy meet girl. The dogs have puppies and the evil Cruella De Vil wants to buy the puppies to make a fur coat, thereby giving rise to a generation of children who grow up to be anti-fur. Cruella arranges for the puppies to be puppynapped, at which point Pongo and Purdy go off to the rescue, aided and abetted by a nice collection of supporting animal characters as the story goes on to reveal the meaning of the title (the movie is both anti-fur and pro-adoption). The tale is relatively simple simply, but it is hard not to have 99 spotted puppies and not be rather charming, espcially given the dedication of the Disney studio to giving each of the original puppies their own personalities (and patterns of spots).

This is the eleventh release of Disney's Platinum Editions, and in their effort to update the idea that the studio's films are something special, Disney has been loading up these DVDs with a quantity and quality of extras that make the folks putting out the Criterion Collection editions seem like pikers. There are two pop-up tracks with 101 trivia facts, the first geared for the family and the second intended for the family (somebody actually counted all of the dogs' spots throughout the movie). Disc One also has another one of those teeny-bopper music videos with Selena Gomez of "Hannah Montana" doing "an all-new rocking version" of "Cruella De Vil" (Like there was an old rocking version). There are more treats to be found on Disc Two divided in Games & Activities (e.g., Puppy Profiler, "101 Dalmatians" Fun With Language Games), Music & More (deleted songs, extended versions, and the "Kanine Krunchies" Jingle), and Backstage Disney. That last one has a half-hour featurette on the innovative art work of the film, "Cruella De Vil: Drawn to Be Bad," a reenactment of the correspondence between Walt Disney and author Dodie Smith, and an assortment of trailers, radio and TV spots. In short, there is way too much here to get through in one sitting. Final Note: "Sleeping Beauty" is due for a Fall release this year and the lucky 13th Platinum Edition will finally be "Pinocchio."

DVD ~ Shannyn Sossamon
Price: $9.99
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It will require some effort, but you should hang around for the ending of this one, March 1, 2008
This review is from: Catacombs (DVD)
Since I am flying off to the City of Lights a week from today I thought watching a horror movie set beneath the streets of Paris in the city's famous catacombs seemed like an appropriate choice for last night's late night fare. However, this 2007 films from the writer-director tag team of Tomm Coker and David Elliot is not actually filmed in the catacombs of Paris, it is merely set there. Too bad, because I figure that there is no way on earth (or beneath it) that my wife is going to want to spend any of her first trip to Paris looking at thousands and thousands of skulls and bones.

"Catacombs" begins with an ominous voice over from Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon), who explains: "My sister sent me a postcard. All it said was, 'Come to Paris. It will be good for you.' Forty-eight hours after I arrived, she and everyone I'd met were dead." Such foreshadowing hardly constitutes spoilers in this genre, so Victoria meets up with her sister Carolyn (Alecia Moore, a.k.a. Pink) and her group of wacky bohemian friends. After a day of shopping Carolyn and her friends drag Victoria to a secret rave that takes place in the catacombs that night. There they meet up with Jean-Michel (Mihai Stanescu), who tells Victoria the story of a deranged killer raised by a satanic cult who feeds on those poor souls who get lost in the catacombs. This, as all devotees of the horror genre know, is the sort of convenient exposition that are a staple of such films, taken as a joke or urban legend, but, of course, necessary background information for what is about to take place. It does not take long for Victoria to become separated from her sister and lost in the catacombs, so the merriment can begin.

The problem is that things slow down after the initial attack. There is, I suppose, some effort to take advantage of the setting as a labyrinth in which our heroine is lost, but nothing that follows is particularly interesting. At least if this were happening in the real catacombs of Paris that would be interesting, but the sets are just sets (in Romania no less). Since Victoria is separate from everybody she met and we are focusing on what is happening to her, which sort of limits the opportunities for blood and gore, which helps contribute to the lethargy of the middle part of the film (during which time you keep trying to wrap your mind around the idea that Sossamon and Pink are sisters). But you should keep watching because the best part of this film is the ending, which may be entirely relatively. After watching hundreds of horror films that have laughable or less than laudable endings, I liked the way this one comes round full-circle to Victoria's ominous words at the start. Too bad the ride along the circumference is not worth the trip.

DVD ~ Fabrice Luchini
Price: $11.63
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Molière dans l'Amour, February 29, 2008
This review is from: Moliere (DVD)
In case you were wondering it is not official and there is now a sub-genre of historical fiction films that we will call "Shakespeare in Love." These are films in which case we learn that (gasp!) the life of a famous author parallels one of their most famous works. For Wm. Shakespeare it was a mixture of "Romeo & Juliet" and "Twelfth Night." "Becoming Jane" purports to find the real Mr. Darcy in the life of Jane Austen. Here, despite a title suggesting that this is a look at the entire life of the celebrated French playwright, we discover that "Tartuffe," arguably the best of the comedies of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (the artist known as Molière), was based on a personal tragedy. This, of course, echoes the whole "laugh clown even though your heart is breaking" idea personified by Canio's "Vesti la giubba" aria from "Pagliacci," which is clearly a key element of this particular sub-genre. I bring all of this up because if I had not seen the other films cited above, then I might have a higher estimation of "Molière." Instead, I am wondering if there will be similar films made about the attendant ironies between creators and creations for the likes of Sophocles, Henrik Ibsen, or anybody else that comes to mind down to Stephen King. Just imagine the existentialist trauma of "Samuel Beckett in Love."

"Molière" begins in 1658, when the playwright and actor, played by Romain Duris, returns to Paris from touring France with his company of players. He has been given a theater by the King and instead of doing one of the farces for which he has become well known, Molière aspires to write something better. Then a young woman shows up and requests that he accompany her to the deathbed of her mother. We then go back a dozen years when Molière troupe is so bankrupt that he is thrown into prison (but not after getting a lot of laughs from his audience). Molière's is saved by the wealthy Monsieur Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini), who likes to hire experts to help with his various needs and who requires a playwright to help him rehearse a play he has written to seduce the beautiful widow Célimène (Ludivine Sagnier). The fact that Jourdain is married to Elmire (Laura Morante) requires the playwright to do so incognito. Hence he presents himself to the rest of Jourdain's family as a priest named...Tartuffe.

As was the case with "Shakespeare in Love," where the more you remembered about "Romeo & Juliet" and "Twelfth Night," the more you could appreciate what was happening in the story, the same applies here with regards to Molière's "Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur" ("Tartuffe or the Hypocrite"). For example, the name Tartuffe is not the only one to be recognized from the play and provides your first major clue as to who the playwright's love interest will be in the film. Those who are familiar with Molière's work will also see echoes of scenes from both "Le Misanthrope" ("The Misanthrope"), and "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" ("The Bourgeois Gentleman"). This is not to say that this 2007 film does not work unless you know your Molière, but rather to say that there are levels to these film only accessible to those few person.

Director Laurent Tirard ("The Story Of My Life / Mensonges et trahisons et plus si affinites"), who co-wrote the screenplay with Grégoire Vigneron, is basically trying to turn the unknown part of Molière's life into one of the playwright's comedy of manners. The trick, of course, is for the cast to act this out in a much more realistic manner than we would see watching a Molière play performed on stage. Consequently the proceeding are relatively sedate and despite the inherent irony of the situation, not as comic as a Molière comedy. However, that is necessary to set up the final scenes of the film, both in the past and the "present," where things take a more serious turn. I actually liked the ending(s), considerably more than the set up. Duris' best moments are the few where his character gets to show his comic genius on stage, but it is Luchini who turns in the film's best performance as Jourdain. Since the film is in French with subtitles, that probably increases the odds that those on this side of the Pond who decide to check it out will do so because these like Molière's plays and will appreciate all the nods and winks ot his work. But those who are starting to overdose on these authors in love movies might not want to bother with another one.

Gone Baby Gone
Gone Baby Gone
DVD ~ Casey Affleck
Offered by Big_Box_Bargains
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Brothers Affleck successfully bring another Dennis Lehane crime novel to the big screen, February 22, 2008
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This review is from: Gone Baby Gone (DVD)
Casey Affleck is having a great year in the movies, what with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and his stellar performance in "Gone Baby Gone." I think Affleck would have been a shoe-in for the Oscar for the former role (it really is the lead part in the film, much more so than Brad Pitt's Jesse James), if he were not up against Javier Bardem's performance in "No Country for Old Men," but arguable what he does in the latter film is of more importance for his career because two points define a line segment. Casey Affleck can do more than broadly drawn character comedy and here is the proof.

It does not take long watching "Gone Baby Gone" to be reminded of "Mystic River," another crime thriller set in Boston, which is not surprising since both novels were written by Dennis Lehane. The key difference is that "Gone Baby Gone" is the fourth of (to date) five novels by Lehane about the private investigator team of Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan). Their area of specialization is tracking down missing people, which is to say deadbeat dads and the like. So when they are approached by Bea McCready (Amy Madigan) and her husband Lionel (Titus Welliver), about helping in the investigation regarding their missing niece, Amanda, the two PIs feel they are in over their head. But a little girl from the neighborhood is missing, and they want to do what they can to help. After all, Bea thinks a couple of locals can get do a better job of digging around Dorchester for answers. It does not take long for them to find out this is not going to be an easy case.

This is especially true because Amanda's mother, Helene McCready (the Oscar nominated Amy Ryan), turns out to have been a pathetic figure long before her daughter disappeared. When Kenzie and Gennaro find out what her particular package of problems happens to be, they start looking at the case in a whole new light, trying to make sense of it all in time to save the little girl. No more need be said about the plot and if this is not enough to persuade you to check out the film then notice that the supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and John Ashton. Anytime Freeman or Harris make a movie I am inclined to check it out when it is released on DVD, so having both of them in the film is a really good sign that this one might be something special.

I really liked this movie (a lot more than last year's Best Picture winner "The Departed"), although I wonder if I had an advantage during the opening act because I already knew that Casey Affleck act having seen his other big movie of 2008. If you keep thinking about the bratty kid from "Good Will Hunting" and lesser fare then it might take you a while to accept Affleck carrying the heavy load, although Monaghan, his character's "better half," is providing ample support along the way. Because older brother Ben both directed the film and co-wrote the script with Aaron Stockard, there is a tendency to think that the first-time director is looking out for his little brother. But to be fair, this movie works because the Afflecks have a high regard for the Boston in which they grew up, and they are just being true to their neighborhood. You do not need to listen to the commentary track by the director and his co-writer to know this is the case, because there is ample evidence on the screen. I suppose there is no particular motivations for the Afflecks to do another one of novels in this series for the big screen, but it would be nice given how well they did on this one.

Cloverfield [Theatrical Release]
Cloverfield [Theatrical Release]

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I did not see most of the movie, but I listened to all of it..., February 17, 2008
It took a while for "Cloverfield" to come to the Zenith City. I am not sure if it has to do with the fact that we only have two movie theaters, both with ten screens apiece, or the fact that this particular chain has been fighting some of the studios over money (we had to wait over a month for "Sweeney Todd" to come to town. So instead of going the first weekend I did not check out "Cloverfield" until today, which means I had seen the stories about how the movie was making physically ill because of all the hand held camera work. Ever since the small craft searching for Luke and Han in "The Empire Strikes Back" came over the ridge and the landscape dropped away I have been away that such things in movies can make my head explode. It is one of the reasons that I only saw the first Bourne movie in the theaters; I knew I could never make it through the other ones except on the small screen. So what ever made me think I could happen "Cloverfield" is beyond me.

Yes, this is all my own damn fault. I should have gone directly to the back row of the theater, but I only went back about three-quarters, and when my daughter offered to buy popcorn I should have said "No." I did make a point of not watching everything in the opening act of the film (i.e., before the head of the Statue of Liberty lands in the street), so that I could watch the good parts. But it turns out that the good parts include the camera work most likely to make you look at that popcorn bucket as the world's most accommodating barf bag. All told I probably watched a third of the movie, and half of that indirectly; however, I did listen to the whole thing and managed to sneak a peak at all of the key scenes while my head was spinning and chills went through my body (I have been listening to some of the radio dramas included in "Twilight Zone: The Complete Definitive Collection," so I have recent experience with coming up with pictures in my head, even when it is spinning like a top).

Basically, "Cloverfield" takes "The Blair Witch Project" approach to a giant monster movie. For most people the only point of reference on the later will be "Godzilla," which is pretty disappointing, but us older folk we can think back to not only the original "Gojira" movie, but "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" and films of that type. The film I am reminded most of is Spielberg's "War of the Worlds," because it also keeps the focus on a small group trying to survive, with only the vaguest sense of what is happening; no multi-starred generals ordering troops to their deaths or scientists postulating on where the beastie has come from. Our vantage point is a farewell surprise party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who is heading for a job in Japan. His brother Jason (Mike Vogel), hands over the video camera to his bud Hud (T.J. Miller), and because of what the camera shows us we are able to pair the three boys up with three women: Lily (Jessica Lucas), Beth (Odette Yustman), and Marlena (Lizzy Caplan). After midnight there is an initial explosion that has everybody running for the roof. The next thing they know, everybody is running for their lives.

Of course, any sane, rationale human being would ditch the frigging video camera early on once the world goes to hell in a hand basket, but Hud is not the brightest bulb in the world and in a world where everybody stops in the middle of a monster attack to whip out their cell phones and take pictures, there is a sense that documenting the end of the world as we know it could be a good thing. So, yes, it is a conceit that becomes pretty unrealistic by the end, but without it, there would not be a movie (Besides, the stupidest decisions of the night belong primarily to the guilt-ridden Rob). The bigger concern with such movies is how things hold together once the monster shows up; it was almost a given in 1950s black & white science fiction movies that once the monster showed up and we got to see what it looked like things would quickly head downhill. I think the best part of the movie come before we see the creature, with all of those images reminiscent of 9/11, but I was not disappointed by what the CGI put together. It is just that my preference for movie monsters are more the size of "The Thing from Another World" and "Aliens."

The opening pretty much indicates how this is all going to end, and the movies runs less than 90-minutes, which was a blessing. "Cloverfield" is a one-trick pony, but once things start happening here they happen pretty much without respite and you have to admit that it provides the rollercoaster ride it promises, including the whole bit of making you physically ill. The results are not great, but it is not like giving Hud a steady-cam would have improved the experience enough because such monster movies always have gaping holes in logic. Still, all things considered, I approve of this guerilla-style monster flick.

Blue State
Blue State
DVD ~ Tim Henry
Offered by Cookeville Books and More
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you promise to go to Canada is Bush is re-elected, then you have to go, February 16, 2008
This review is from: Blue State (DVD)
I am not exactly sure when it was decided that blue was for Democrats and red was for Republicans, but that sure is codified in the political consciousness of all Americans by this time in the history of the known universe. I think that once upon a time they used to switch back and forth on which party was which color from one presidential election to the next, but that might be just wishful retroactive thinking on my part. Of course, now we have potentially purple states that could be switching from one color to the next, so it is not like these colors are forever. Once upon a time I thought about creating bumper stickers that would say "Red State, Blue Heart" or "Blue State, Red Heart," but adding to the political disharmony of the nation just did not seem worth the profit.

John (Breckin Meyer) probably would have wanted a "Red Nation, Blue Heart" bumper sticker, because he is living in California (and "Blue State, Blue Heart" is just plain smug rather than a colorful act of defiance). John was campaigning full-time for the Kerry-Edwards ticket in the 2004 election, and during a moment of anticipatory euphoria (or in reaction to all the doors being slammed in his face by people voting for Bush-Cheney), John declares that he is so sure of a Democratic victory that if the Republicans actually won--he would move to Canada. In the aftermath of Bush's victory John is somewhat surprised to see that people really do expect him to head for the border. After all, the promise was taped and appeared on television, which, of course, somehow means he has to go. His disgust over the election, coupled with the lost of both his job and his girlfriend, soon convinces him there is nothing left for him in the U.S. Besides, he can write his "Donkey Revolution" blog just as easily in Canada. Plus, there is an organization in Winnipeg that helps settle American "refugees." However, it is not really a road trip movie if you go by yourself, so John begins interviewing potential travel buddies.

Of course he picks Chloe (Anna Panquin), who has blue hair and clearly seems to be saying what John obviously wants to hear about politics and the invention. But that is okay because John has stopped listening. However, Chloe has her own reasons for leaving the country, which John will discover in due time (i.e., right before they cross the border). Driving up the coast there is a convenient but quite uncomfortable stop at the house of John's parents. Mom (Joyce Krenz) is dismayed John is stilling on that vegetarian kick, while Dad (Richard Blackburn) presides over the dining room table like it is a super conservative talk show (I mean he literally acts and talks like he has a radio show and John is a liberal guest who needs to be eviscerated for his listeners). When they get to Winnipeg, they meet up with Gloria (Adrana O'Neill), who runs a "Marry-A-Canadian" website.

At this point I was thinking that it was like John and Chloe had traveled back to the Sixties, an idea that is reinforced when they run into an American expatriate who came to Canada to dodge the draft (there is a wonderful line where the old guy wonders why Americans would flee the country at a time when there is no longer a draft). I round up on "Blue State" because while it looked like writer-director Marshall Lewy ("Future Imperfect") is suggesting that John would have been happier living in the late 1960s, the film's ending suggets that the more accurate time frame might have been the early 1960s. Meyer and Panquin are the best things in this 2007 Indie film, mainly because our initial sense that they are "out there" is reined in by all the wackier people that they meet along the way. Besides, I appreciate the irony that leaving the United States is the best way to find out what it means to be an American.

Across the Universe (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Across the Universe (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Evan Rachel Wood
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5.0 out of 5 stars All you need are Beatles songs. Yeah? Yeah. Yeah!, February 10, 2008
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When I first saw the trailer for "Across the Universe" I was pretty sure that I was going to like it. I have dozens and dozens of covers of Beatles songs, having put together playlists for each of the Beatles albums, in many instances having been able to find cover versions of all of the songs on a particular album. Also, in my youth, I contemplated a stage musical that would use the songs of Stevie Nicks to tell the story of the Welsh witch Rhiannon, so I appreciate the inclination. Besides, with 200-plus Beatles songs, the problem would not be finding enough songs for an entire musical but rather drawing a line and getting the finished movie in at under 2 hours.

I would have said that using the music of the Beatles as the soundtrack for a movie is a fool proof idea, but that was because I was taking the idea at face value and had forgotten about "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Then I remember that "I am Sam" used contemporary covers of Beatles songs, but that example is really not on point since they are used in the background, the way Simon & Garfunkle's songs were used in "The Graduate." "Across the Universe" is a more traditional musical, even if it is, in Roger Ebert's memorable phrase, a musical "where we walk into the theater humming the songs."

Before we are a minute into this 2007 movie I knew it was going to work, as soon as Jude (Jim Sturgess), sitting on a stormy beach, turns to the camera and sings: "Is there anybody going to listen to my story, All about the girl who came to stay?" I was reminded of the beginning of "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet" when the newscaster does the whole "Two households, both alike in dignity..." prologue and I knew this "modern" version was going to work. It is not often when a movie is able to convince you in the prologue that it is going to work, but when it does (e.g., "Beauty and the Beast," "Sleepless in Seattle"), you tend to remember them.

Because the characters all have names from Beatles songs, from Jude and Lucy to Sadie, Jo-Jo, and Prudence, there is an expectation that the songs from which they get their names are all going to pop up during the proceedings (or the end credits). But that does not prove to be the case. Sometimes a single line from a song pops up, so Beatles fans need to pay attention even when characters are not singing. The plot is basic boy (Sturgess's Jude) meets girl (Evan Rachel Wood's Lucy), boy loses girl, on to the requisite happy ending, played out against the turmoil of the 1960s, which means the War in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the like. Part of the fun is seeing the new contexts in which these familiar songs pop up, both in terms of the times, as with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," and in terms of relationships, like with "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

Julie Taymor previously directed "Titus" and "Frida," it is not surprising to those relatively few souls who have seen both of those films that she pulls this one off. A major treat here is seeing how Taymor makes specific lyrics work so well, from the "Won't you come out and play" from "Dear Prudence" to the "Jude, Judee, Judee" part of "Hey, Jude," and even a "duh" moment when she works in "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." I can also add to the list the nice use of the final chord from "A Day in the Life."

The cast are relative unknowns, with Evan Rachel Wood the most familiar fact (but when Taymor suggests on the bonus disc that nobody knew Wood culd sing I have to respond that everybody who saw the final episode of the second season of "Once and Again," where Wood sang "Red Red Robin" after the wedding was well aware Wood can sing). It says something of the quality of the singing if I say that Wood might be the weakest vocalist in the cast and I have no complaints regarding what she does on . Dana Fuchs' Sadie was my overall favorite, belting out "Helter Skelter," "Oh, Darling," and "Why Don't We Do it in the Road?" But I could listen to Sturgess sing just anything, and it was great to have Joe Cocker show up for "Come Together." Some of my favorite parts here are the harmonies, most notably on the gorgeous version of "Because" the cast sings laying en masse in a field.

Yes, I know all of the songs are available on the soundtrack, and that is fine for driving around in the car, but listening to these songs on the DVD is way better. Despite all the visual treats, "Across the Universe" is a great movie for playing in the background.

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