Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Purple Rose of Cairo

Starring Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, and Dianne Wiest

Directed by Woody Allen

Release Date: March 1st, 1985

A madcap comedy that explores the blending of reality and fiction.

It's the 1930's New Jersey. Cecilia (Farrow) is a waitress whose only happiness comes from going to the movies each week. One day, at a screening of The Purple Rose of Cairo, Tom Baxter (Daniels) walks out of the screen and begins talking to our lonely maiden. Soon, Hollywood is in a panic due to rumors that there's a movie that's not playing as it's meant to and a double of Gil Shepherd (also Daniels) walking around and causing the studio a major headache. If all that's not enough, both Baxter and Shepherd are head over heels in love with Cecilia!

Woody Allen does a masterful job blending a screwball comedy with romance. I really adore the way Allen works in several styles of comedy and storytelling that was commonly seen in the films during the 1930s, such as the dialogue the characters in the fictional film speak or the heavy "drinking" done by several of the characters.  In addition, I really must applaud the acting of Jeff Daniels as both Baxter and Shepherd, making each character into a different person. Finally, there's a ton of great jokes toward metafiction, such as talking about Baxter as only a fictional character or that he believes the only "higher power" are the screenwriters for his film.

Click here to buy The Purple Rose of Cairo

Rating: * * * * 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dog Soldiers

Starring Sean Pertwee, Kevin Mckidd, and Emma Cleasby

Written and directed by Neil Marshall

Release Date: November 5th, 2002

A group of soldiers are attacked during a routine training mission in the Scottish Highlands. Soon, it becomes a fight to survive the night against an enemy that is beyond belief...

If you were to mix Predator, Night of the Living Dead, and The Wolf Man  into a blender, you'd come up with Dog Soldiers. Writer/Director Neil Marshall pits a group of soldiers against werewolves...that's right werewolves, in this British horror action movie. While the film doesn't give enough character development to every soldier, we do get a sense of comraderie between many of the soldiers and a burgeoning friendship between Cooper (McKidd) and Megan (Cleasby). In addition, Marshall does a fantastic job of making the mood tense and foreboding when the soldiers are hiding from the werewolves. For example, there's a fantastic scene where Cooper scouts the house initially and you get a sense that something isn't right, that it's too quiet and empty for a house to have no one there. Also, the were wolf effects are quite good: the creatures are used by prosthetics and stunt men rather than shoddy CGI which is sadly becoming the norm with horror movies these days.

Click here to buy Dog Soldiers Dog Soldiers [Blu-ray]

Rating: * * * * of 5

Monday, August 29, 2011


Starring Dennis Quaid, Pete Postelthwaite, David Thewlis, and the voice of Sean Connery as Draco

Directed by Rob Cohen

Release Date: May 31st, 1996

Nowhere near as bad as 2000's Dungeons and Dragons, but certainly not as memorable as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

For years I had heard this was an unappreciated gem, a tale of a knight in need of redemption and the last dragon. Sadly, I found that Dragonheart is a mis-mash of ideas, cliches and errors in logic. First of all, the tone is all over the place; one minute it's a heart pounding action movie, the next it's a wacky comedy, and then it's trying (desperately) to add in some pathos and drama to little avail. I understand the need to lighten the mood, but there are several times where Bowen (Quaid)'s arrogance and smug attitude felt like left over dialogue from Army of Darkness. Second, David Thewlis's Einon is a terrible villain. In the years since Dragonheart, Thewlis has gone on to show great performances in the Harry Potter series and in Kingdom of Heaven. Here, he's playing a 20-ish spoiled brat who takes over his father's throne and chews scenery like nobody's business. We're told that there was once good in him and that he was corrupted. Obviously, the film shows us that he was always bad; what the screenwriters should have done is show Einon as a kind-hearted child and then gradually show more and more of his cruelty. Instead, they show him immediately twirling his mustache as soon as the crown was his.

On the positive side, the supporting cast give great performances, especially Pete Postlethwaite as Brother Gilbert.

Dragonheart could have been a great movie, but has some flaws.

Click here to buy Dragonheart - Collector's Edition Dragonheart

Rating: * * * of  5 

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Starring Ayrton Senna (Archival Footage), Alain Prost,  Richard Williams, Ron Dennis, and Frank Williams

Directed by Asif Kapadia

Release Date: August 12th, 2011

Ayrton Senna (1960-1994) was a true champion of Formula 1 racing. He was one of the fastest racers of his generation, a three time World winner, and a dedicated brother and son to his family. Sadly, he was fatally injured April 1994 in a race. This documentary captures Senna's decade long career as a Formula 1 driver.

Produced by ESPN, Universal Pictures, Studio Canal, and Working Title Films, Senna offers an exciting and informative look into the race track during Senna's career. Director Asif Kapadia masterfully utilizes interviews (archival and new) on Senna and his Formula 1 races. One of the best parts is how the footage pulled from the races is often from Senna's own cockpit, showing how fast he could drive and how close he hugged the asphalt. In addition, the documentary goes into Senna's rivalry with fellow driver Alain Prost or his devotion to his home country Brazil.

Senna is an exhilarating, emotional and heartfelt look into a driver with a lot of passion and devotion to Formula 1.

Senna is in English, Portuguese, French, and Japanese with English subtitles. 

Click here to buy Senna - Special Edition (2DVD) Senna Ayrton Senna-An Official TributeBRAZIL AYRTON SENNA GLORY YEARS F1 FORMULA 1 SEALED DVD 

Rating: * * * * of 5

Monday, August 22, 2011


Starring Brad Jones, Sarah Lewis, Brian Lewis, and Brian Irving

Release Date: June 7, 2011

Directed by Ryan Mitchelle

First of all, I love the tagline: Do you know the night? It works so well with the tone and atmosphere of Paranoia, the latest thriller written by Brad “Cinema Snob” Jones.

Mark Bishop (Jones) is having a hard night: his wife is leaving him, he’s got a massive headache, and there’s a dead intruder in his walkway. Soon enough, Mark is wandering across town trying to shake his growing paranoia and the strange feeling that not everything is alright. Is Mark just imagining things? Soon, Mark questions his very sanity and may soon enough become another victim of the night.

The mood of this film is amazingly tense, growing more and more suspenseful until the third act finale. What works really well is how the film starts off slow and accustoms the audience to Mark and his predicament.  Director Mitchelle makes the atmosphere for “Paranoia” work well due to his past work with Jones and his style of nourish thrillers and suspense films, such as “Midnight Heat” or “The Hooker with a Heart of Gold”.

Speaking of, Jones and his cast of actors give great performances. Jones makes everyman Mark into an amazing character, one who can be sympathetic one minute and aggressively hostile the next. Mark may be one of Jones’ best characters, someone whose sense of reality flip flops back and forth during this turbulent night. During one scene, Jones gives a great monologue about how he tries to be a writer and how ironic it is how his nightly events would make a great story. In secondary parts is Jones’ wife Jillian as Claire the Waitress or Brian Lewis as Randy, but Brian Irving gives a chilling performance as Carl, the intruder who initiates Mark’s night of insanity.

If you enjoy After Hours , Taxi Driver or Memento, you’ll certainly enjoy Paranoia.

Click here to buy Paranoia

Rating: * * * * * of 5 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Minority Report

Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Ferrell, Samantha Morton, Tim Blake Nelson, and Max von Sydow

Directed by Stephen Spielberg

Release Date: June 21st, 2002

In a world where psychic humans known as "Precogs" can determine the events of a murder before they occur, how can Tom Anderton be guilty of killing a man he doesn't know?

Adapted from a short story by Philip K. Dick, Director Stephen Spielberg crafts a world based on the belief of fate and predetermination rather than free will. The entire world seems to have given into a system of structure and order just to make the world a safer place.  Everything is done by machines: all transportation is achieved through cars that can move up buildings, doors are opened by eye scanners, and the "Precogs" keep Washington DC free of murder.

However, the film does have a few plot holes regarding technology and there were a few too many product placements (good to know Tom Cruise shops at the GAP, I guess). But, the film has a great balance of suspense, sorrow, action, and drama. If you're a fan of Dick or Spielberg, you'll enjoy Minority Report.

Click Here to buy Minority Report (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) Minority Report [Blu-ray] The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories

Rating; * * * * of 5 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

30 Minutes or less

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and Danny McBride

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Release Date: August 12th, 2011

 Ripped from the Headlines,  30 Minutes or Less is a loose adaptation of this odd crime story. The screenwriters claimed that they only took the inital premise as a spring board, but I find there are too many similarities for it to be a coincidence; that being said, the movie is still very funny and I highly recommend it.

Both sets of actors have great chemistry together, Eisenberg and Ansari as the unwitting victims or Swardson and McBride as the criminals. Ansari himself gets a lot of great one-liners while Eisenberg makes a convincing dupe for McBride to blackmail into robbing a bank. Speaking of McBride, he is an understated comedian that can deadpan his way into hilarious dialogues about tanning salons or how explosives work. If McBride ever decides to quit comedy for a while, I think he's got a great future playing cinematic villains.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 of 5

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Slammin' Salmon

Starring Broken Lizard, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Cobie Smulders

Directed by Kevin Heffernan

Release Date: December 11th, 2009

For fans of Broken Lizard, they'll certainly enjoy this bizarre story set in a restaurant. Sure, a lot of the jokes are standard and aren't particulary memorable, but the pacing is really good and does a great job of showing how wait-staff deal with customers (ceratinly a lot less disgusting than "Waitng")

Rating: * * * 1/2 of 5