2011: Index and Previews of the Articles

Newest articles always on the top of the list.  You can click the text link (in blue, or sometimes it is red, or maybe another color depending on the theme-of-day)  or sometimes I’ll also install a link in the image itself that will take you directly to the article. I’m generally a wee bit behind in updating this page – but is just an preview and index page – you can always just stroll and click beginning from the home page. Or use the search feature which is at the bottom of the menu on the left of the home page if you’re looking for a specific title.

December 2011 

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – December 31st, 2011 – This is the 4th installment of the Mission Impossible franchise. It is hard to believe that Tom Cruise first appeared as Ethan Hunt fifteen years ago. With the 15 years back being the key element. This time around we globe hop with stops in Budapest, Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai, before ending in Seattle. The cast is international with Swedish, French, Russian, and Indian actors. It is nearly non-stop action and some of that is jaw-dropping. It is also true that there are more than a few times where you will be asked to suspend disbelief. But as a thriller, it is top notch. Just less so if you’re concerned about if it makes good sense all the time. Tom Wilkinson makes an uncredited appearance. But this is still the Tom Cruise show – though this time he is heavily on the action side and less so on the scale measuring charisma or good looks. Watch for Lea Seydoux who we saw in Midnight In Paris last summer, and Michael Nyqvist from Sweden as the baddie.

Two Ladies for the History Books – December 25th, 2011 – A preview of two bio films of world famous names. Opening on January 13th will be a film starring Meryl Streep about the former Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher. The film’s title is The Iron Lady. Opening a month later in February will be the tale of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who championed the cause for freedom, democracy, and justice in the country of Burma which is now called Myanmar. For her troubles, she was placed under House Arrest for 15 of the last 21 years by the military junta that rules the country. Michelle Yeoh has the role in this film called The Lady directed by French film auteur Luc Besson. We have trailers for both films.

We Bought A Zoo – December 23rd, 2011 –  Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson are the stars. Cameron Crowe directed. There’s a cute 7 year-old who steals every scene she’s in. And there’s lions, and tigers, and bears…Oh my! A holiday film without a single mention of Christmas. Enjoyable and light weight. Even though it is not a perfect film, it is perfect for the holiday season.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – December 22nd, 2011 – A review discussion with my friend and colleague Didion.  She calls our review-discussion: a pre-holiday chat about an non-holiday film thriller. I’m calling it a must-see.

Nankyoku Tairiku – December 20th, 2011 – A Japanese TV series that just ended last Sunday (Dec 18th). While a trip o Antarctica is not everyone’s dream vacation – they done a terrific job with this series. When you begin with heroes, both human and of the variety that we know as man’s best friends – dogs – you are going to have people watch the series.  DVD is not out yet, but I’ll let you know when it is available.

What Women Want – December 18th, 2011 – China’s two biggest film stars – Andy Lau and Gong Li are paired up in the remake of the Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt film of the same name from 2000. What Women Want is a rom/com about what happens when guy suddenly has the power to hear (in his head) the thoughts of whatever woman he’s standing next to. This film is handsomely mounted and a pleasure to look at – but the Chinese version is lacking in the romance part. Andy and Gong Li are great to look – even if they aren’t between the sheets.

Young Adult – December 17th, 2011 Charlize Theron stars in Young Adult; a tale about a thirty-something ghost-writer of teen fiction who decides to go back home and reclaim her former flame – even though, at this time, he is a HMWAK. That’s Happily Married with a Kid.  Looks like trouble is about to visit Mercury, Minnesota.

Sherlock Holmes 2 aka A Game of Shadows – December 16th, 2011Hail, hail – the gang’s all here in the second of the Holmes films from Guy Ritchie. Not a lot of fun yet technically amazing. Technically amazing yet not satisfying. Nice turns by Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. You’ll get a nice new fresh look at The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace. Here she plays a gypsy woman. You see plenty of her, and not much of Rachel McAdams. And you see more than you’d want of Stephen Fry. One word review: Disappointing.

Roadie – December 13th, 2011 –  (Opens in New York next month – but available now via On-Demand from your cable company. A small and compact film, set in NY’s Queens – is a tale of a guy who worked for a rock ‘n roll band for 25 years, then one day, out of the blue – he’s fired. He knows nothing else, as he’s done this for his entire adult life. So he heads home, to his Mom’s place in Queens, as he has no other alternatives. He’s got to face reality, and it won’t be easy. We find out what happens to him following that set up. Directed by Michael Cuesta, the film stars Ron Eldard, Jill Hennessy, and Bobby Cannavale.

Harry Brown & Outrage: You Can’t Look Away – December 1st, 2011 – Two films with violence and ‘getting even’ as central themes. One is set is London and involves an elder gentleman (played by Michael Caine), and the other, which stars Takeshi Kitano, is set in the milieu of the world of the Yakuza in Japan. Despite the string violence, I found I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

November 2011

The Artist Named Best Film By the New York Film Critics Circle – November 30th, 2011 – It’s not so much that I am disagreeing with their picks, but I do question what was the damned rush. Is being the first out with a Best Films and Acting group of awards more important tahn giving people a chance to see the film. The Artist was playing in just SIX theaters in the entire United States at the time of the award. That’s theaters not theater chains.

Overheard 2 or When Is A Sequel Not A Sequel – November 29th, 2011 – This is a look at the latest in Electronic eavesdropping/insider trading from Hong Kong. More action than Overheard, and the same director, writers, producer, underlying theme, and three male leads – only it isn’t a sequel. Read about the film and find out why this film carrying ‘2’ in its title – isn’t a sequel at all.

The Descendants – November 25th, 2011George Clooney and Hawaii – but all is not well in Paradise. In fact, in his opening voice-over, Clooney’s character – a Matt King, and attorney, a cuckolded husband, and a possible land baron had this to say, “Paradise? Paradise can go fuck itself“. There is a wonderful performance by Clooney in this film. His glitz, and his glamour are nowhere to be found in The Descendants. Instead we have Clooney as a wealthier than most attorney – whose life is going to be turned upside -down, and inside-out, after his wife emerges from a dire boat crash into  a permanent coma.  However in all honesty this is not a tear jerker of a film. You’re going to shed a tear or two, but the film is much much more than that including an Oscar worthy performance by the G-man.

Hugo – November 24th, 2011 – Directed by Martin Scorsese, Hugo is a film that is all about the magic of films. Its source is a prize winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The setting is in a rail station in Paris, circa 1931. Don’t let the film’s poster fool you and don’t be misled by the fact the the lead actor is a young boy named Asa Butterfield . Truly this is a film for the ages, meaning folks will be talking about it for a long time, and … it is a film for all ages. The book may been categorized as a book for children, but every adult who see it will be inspired.

Thanksgiving 2011 – November 23rd, 2011 – This is my annual Thanksgiving page. I celebrate the holiday of giving thanks with a homage to American art. This time our featured artist is Robert Duncan. His nostalgic, heartwarming and beautiful art is presented in a video montage by DNR Productions, accompanied by The Judds singing, Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Old Days.

Not Quite in the Nook of Time – November 20th, 2011 JustMeMike plunges ahead seeking to catch up with everyone else with a new toy. He spends some cash, and comes away with the brand new tablet from Barnes & Noble called the Nook Tablet.

Life Without Principle – November 20th, 2011 – A brand new Hong Kong film that I saw in Taikoo, Hong Kong. Directed by famed HK director Johnny To – this is a tale of people mad for money. Our lead characters are a bank rep who handles investments for clients, a homicide detective, and a low-level triad enforcer. A marvelous film by To. The stars are Lau Ching Wan, Denise Ho, and Richie Jen.

Breathing Water – A Poke Rafferty Thriller – November 17th, 2011 – A look at the Poke Rafferty novels written by author Timothy Hallinan.

Elite Squad + Dinner in Kowloon – November 16th, 2011 I met my friends for dinner in Kowloon on the last night of my vacation to Hong Kong and Yangshuo in Guangxi Province, China.  The film review is of Elite Squad – the story of some special police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their sole job is to fight and attempt to keep the favelas (slums) out of the hands of the drug lords. It is a tough job, and it takes a special kind of man to do it.

J. Edgar – November 12th, 2011Clint Eastwood pulls back the curtain and shows us somethings we knew and somethings we didn’t know about J. Edgar Hoover, the former director of the FBI who died 40 years ago. Kind of dark, depressing, and dull. Or said a different way – disappointing though technically worth seeing. Leonardo DiCaprio does a nice turn as the institution called Hoover, aging 50 years in the process.

A Slow Boat in China – November 11th, 2011 – Another superb day in Yangshuo. Me, my guide, and a guy supplying the momentum on the Yulong River in Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China.

In Time – November 10th, 2011 – JMM has a morning to kill before a lunch date. So he takes in a movie in Hong Kong. This is the futuristic thriller, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake. Not particular special. However the movie theater was superb. Written on the plane far above the Arctic Circle.

Walking on the Moon – November 7th, 2011A wonderful day spent in Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China. I can finally post this piece now that I am back in Hong Kong. Wasn’t possible from China.

East Hotel, Tai Koo Station, Hong Kong – November 7th, 2011 – a very cool and hip place to stay in Hong Kong. A hotel review.

Beginning The Day – Chinese Style – November 6th, 2011 – a look at having breakfast in Hong Kong, Yangshuo in China, and then back in Hong Kong. We might also give this post an alternate title – A Room With a View.

Back In the World – November 6th, 2011 – I am finally out of the digital disconnect caused by The Great Firewall of China. In short, I’m back in Hong Kong and able to connect with my own website which wasn’t possible in China.

October 2011

You Can’t Get There from Here – October 29th, 2011 – I’m still jet-lagged. This is Day 2. From Sheung Wan, to Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, to Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong Island and back. A beautiful but tiring day.

First Dispatch from Hong Kong – October 28th, 2011 – I left Sarasota, Florida, on a Delta flight to Atlanta, and then on to New York at 7:05 AM on October 26th. I arrived at my apartment in Hong Kong on the evening of the the next day, October 27th. Have a look at the place and read about how getting there is not necessarily half the fun.

Lost In Time – October 25th, 2011 – A drama from Hong Kong with Cecilia Cheung starring. She walked off with the honors in Hong Kong for Best Performance by an Actress. From 2003 and available from Netflix. Really, this is a superb drama about life in the big city by ordinary working people. All the bright lights and glitz of Hong Kong is missing. Instead you get a touching drama that works wonderfully.

Margin Call – October 21st, 2011Margin Call is the tale of an unnamed high flying financial firm. One day they’re making millions upon millions – the next day – might be their last. A great film by first time director J.C. Chandor.  Don’t miss it.

The Big Year – October 17th, 2011 – A year in the life of three bird watchers – it has a very serious competition in birding (as bird watching is now called). Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black hop and fly around the North American continent to see who can amass the most sightings in a calendar year.  They will discover that each of them is really searching for something else and birds are just the focus if not the targets.

Zenkai Girl – October 11th, 2011 – A Japanese TV series about a young lady lawyer played by Yui Aragaki who will discover that working in a big international law firm as a just out of law school attorney involves a whole lot more than just preparing legal briefs. It’s a drama with plenty of romance, and decidedly family influences that add up to an entertaining series. The DVD with English, Chinese, and Malay subtitles is out.

The Ides of March – October 7th, 2011 George Clooney writes, directs and stars in a take on the American political arena. He’s a Presidential hopeful in a ruthlessly fought primary campaign in Ohio. A terrific film.

Blitz – October 5th, 2011 – Another Jason Statham film. This time he does a ‘Dirty Harry’ type of London copper. There is a serial killer afoot doing in some of London’s finest police men and women – at least those that had a hand in the killer doing some time in jail before all this mayhem got started. Quite decent if not quite riveting.

September 2011

Killer Elite – September 24th, 2011Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro star in this nothing new and by the numbers thriller but it is still exciting and worthwhile.

Moneyball – September 23rd, 2011 Brad Pitt stars as baseball GM Billy Beane in this baseball film unlike any other that you might have seen. From the Michael Lewis book of the same name. A sure Oscar contender.

Abduction – September 23rd, 2011Taylor Lautner stars, Sigourney Weaver supports, and John Singleton directs – a thriller that has it’s home in the Washington DC – Pittsburgh- Cincinnati corridor. Decent, but not more more than that. If that.

Barney’s Version – September 21st, 2011Paul Giamatti stars as Barney with Dustin Hoffman as his Dad. Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, and Rachelle Lefevre are his wife and two ex-wives. First he got married. Then he got married again. Then he met the love of his life. This is a wonder film that crosses comedy and drama, with more than a few occasional laugh-out-loud moments.

The Guard – September 20th, 2011Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle star in The Guard.  This is a  wonderful tongue-in-cheek story about an Irish copper and an FBI agent far from home. “I’m Irish sir. Racism is part of my culture.” Devilishly funny and yet there’s a strong murder/drugs/conspiracy element just below the surface.

The Bull Doctor – September 19th, 2011 – A Japanese TV Series – Murders, bodies, forensic medicine, autopsies and a lady Forensic doctor and a lady homicide detective.

I Don’t Know How She Does It – September 18th, 2011Sarah Jessica Parker is back as another girl working in the city. This one isn’t a sequel to Sex And the City – instead it is like a grand-daughter of that film – same genes, different story. SJP plays a woman trying to balance a career and a married life as not only a wife but also a mother.

The Whistleblower – September 17th, 2011 – Actress Rachel Weisz stars as The Whistleblower. She’s a lady cop working in Bosnia and runs afoul of the sex-trafficking industry. She is horrified as are we. She decides to do something about it. Fellow blogger/critic Didion, of the excellent website Feminema, and I sat down to discuss the film. This column is our discussion. You can find this discussion of the Feminema website as well.

Drive – September 16th, 2011 – This is a film from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. It is a stylish actioner and tells the story of The Driver. His story begins as we meet him. There’s no backstory, in fact we never even learn his name. But he’s aces behind the wheel of car, and he knows L.A. better than any of us even know our own homes. Plenty of style, atmosphere, and on top of that – lots of bloody violence. Truly a thrill ride – only not for the squeamish.

Contagion – September 9th, 2011 – From Director Steven Soderbergh, and with an all-star cast, this is a superb film. Scary, fast-paced, and definitely well made. In today’s world, with it fast jet planes, a woman can catch a virus in country A then infect country B in a matter of hours. Not only is the film well=-made and extremely watchable, many provocative ideas are brought to the fore like are the Big Pharmaceutical companies behind the diseases, can the CDC and the WHO be trusted, should you believe everything you read on the net or in the papers. And if and when a cure is found, can and will the drugs be fairly and equitably distributed. Wow!

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – September 8th, 2011 – A classic love triangle is the at the center of this rom/com. Louis Koo, Gao Yuanyuan, and Daniel Wu are the principal players. It’s good, fast, sometimes funny. Production values are very high, and while this is a Hong Kong film , western audiences will find much to appreciate and enjoy in this one.

Overheard – September 6th, 2011 – When you hear about electronic skullduggery, as in wire-taps, hidden voice activated microphones for eavesdropping, sorry – make that surveillance, and surreptitious cameras planted in offices, you might think of, if you are of a certain age, the goings on in a Washington DC office/apartment complex called Watergate, or if you like Asian films, you might think of Overheard, the 2009 police thriller from Hong Kong.

August 2011

The Debt – August 31st, 2011 – Directed by John MaddenThe Debt is a thrilling, suspenseful, and thoroughly gripping film. The method is to run the two stories, one of the past (1966) and the other in the present (1997) in a back and forth sequence. Israel becomes aware of the existence of a suspected war criminal. They organize a mission and send three young Mossad agents to East Berlin. 30 years later, the story still needs a redemption because vengeance comes with a price..

The Help – August 26th, 2011 – To set the film up – the time of the story was before President Johnson signed into law The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Skeeter Phelan, played by Emma Stone is a recent graduate of Ole Miss, and more than anything else, she wants to be a writer. Her circle of friends are all bridge playing housewives who have opted to spend their days playing cards, shopping, gossiping, and turning over the raising of the their children, and the running of their households to ‘the help’. As we come to find out, change begins with a whisper.

Colombiana – August 26th, 2011 – Screenwriter, Director, Producer, and film Auteur Luc Besson is no stranger to armed and dangerous females – we’ve seen his participation wearing those mantles in such films as Leon: The Professionalla Femme Nikita, andThe Fifth Element. We know DirectorOlivier Megaton from his previous filmTransporter 3 as a guy who can deliver high octane action. Well these two have partnered up and have brought usColombiana which opened today.

Starring Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Colombiana has a simple premise: a 9 year girl (played by Amandla Stenberg) witnesses the drug cartel’s assassination of her mother and her father in Bogota, Colombia. In an excellent chase sequence, nearly as good as any you’ve seen in the Bourne films, young Cataleya manages to barely escape from the hired thugs. She has a passport to freedom using the info her father provided for her and by turning this over to CIA station chief in Bogota. Her father also provided her with some family connections in Chicago who will take care of her.

Hanamizuki – August 25th, 2011 – Flowering Dogwood – and tag-lined: May your love bloom for 100 years] will mostly likely not last 100 months in your memory. But that doesn’t mean you can’t watch and enjoy it for what it is – a sweet drama with appealing actors and actresses in situations that we all can identify with. Mainly this is a film about overcoming obstacles, finding love, as well as going back to your roots.

The Brothers Bloom – August 21st, 2011 – The Brothers Bloom came recommended. Most folks like to watch films where someone deserving gets royally fleeced by skilled con-men. Immediately, The Sting, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels come to mind. You know half the fun of a con film is that in most cases, we members of the audience get tricked as well.

Sarah’s Key – August 19th, 2011

An event no one wanted to remember ... … was the story one woman had to tell.

The film Sarah’s Key is a really a couple of interwoven stories that play out between 1942 and the present. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a journalist, Julia Jarmond, who on assignment begins to investigate a dark day in history that was all too real.

Adapted from the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, and directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Sarah’s Key is gripping, and moving. It begins with the Round Up of Parisian Jews in the Marais district of Paris on the evenings of July 16 and 17, 1942. This really happened.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – August 6th, 2011 – I caught the early show of The Rise of the Planet of the Apes today. This is the latest iteration – the producers are calling it an origin story which you can take to mean prequel as in source, rather than remake – of the Planet of the Apes franchise. When author Pierre Boulle first conceived of the idea nearly 50 years ago years ago, and penned the novel, it was an idea that caught everyone’s imagination. From the time thatCharlton Heston, as an astronaut who crashed landed on an ‘unknown’ planet that was not only inhabited by apes, but apes were the dominant species, until now – the idea remains fascinating.

Snowflower and the Secret Fan – August 5th, 2011 – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brand new movie adapted from Lisa See‘s novel of the same name. Directed byWayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club), the film and the novel each tell the same story with one difference. The book concerned itself with two laotong (old sames or friends) beginning at end of the 1820′s.The film tells that story as well as the story of two laotong set in present day Shanghai.

July 2011

Cowboys & Aliens – July 29th, 2011 – The long-awaited Cowboys & Aliens from Imagine and directed by Jon Favreau opened today at local cineplexes all over the country. I think the title might require a small change. I think it could be called Cowboys & Aliens & Clichés. That’s right. Everything about this film has been done before, and done better.

Friends With Benefits – July 28th, 2011 – Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake shed their clothes more often than you might expect in this new rom/com called Friends With Benefits from Director Will Gluck. It’s fast paced, it’s frothy, it’s funny, and yet is underwhelming.

Chonmage Purin / A Boy and His Samurai – July 27th, 2011 – Modern day Tokyo – a Samurai warrior is transported through time from the Edo Period (roughly the 1820’s) to the present. Where he meets a single divorced Mom and her son. Not a sci-fi thriller – instead, this is a heartwarming family movie where an independent woman living  in the present runs into a fervent member of a patriarchal culture from a time long passed.

They Say Time is Money – July 26th, 2011 – A quick look at three films about money, time, and time is money.

Shinzanmono – Red Finger – July 24th, 2011 – This isn’t the Japanese TV series, this is a made for tv Movie Special – a prequel to the series. Hiroshi Abe returns as Detective Kyouchiro Kaga, as does Meisa Kuroki as Ami Aoyama, the reporter. The series ran for 11 episodes. This time you’re done in two hours. Excellent and available with subtitles.

Norwegian Wood – July 22nd, 2011 – This is not the 1965 Beatles song Norwegian Wood, nor is it the 1987 Haruki Murakami novel, it is both of those plus the 2011 film by Ahn Hung Tran called Norwegian Wood. This is a visually spectacular film which cannot do justice to the book. Have a look.

Rinko Kikuchi as Naoko in Norwegian Wood

Varenna, Italy – Photos, Video Screencaps, and the Art of George Guzzi – July 19th, 2011 – My pics, some images from a Rick Steves travel video, and the art of George Guzzi – all in one, and about one place – Varenna, a towm of 800-900 on Italy’s Lake Como. Sorry, George Clooney wasn’t sighted when I was there.

August in Varenna by George Guzzi

Something Old, Something New – Maybe!: July 14th, 2011 – The more things change, the more things stay the same. Or one might say – there are no new ideas in Hollywood. Three films that visit the old familiar places. Okay, maybe not always familiar. Been there, done that seems to apply. Planet of the Apes, Straw Dogs, and of course, Harry Potter.

Conviction – July 13th, 2011 – As the movie poster states, “How far will we go to fight for our family?” This is the incredible, real-life story of Bette Anne Waters, a high school drop out who took on the legal system to have a murder conviction of her brother, Kenny Waters, overturned. Conviction stars Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, and was directed by Tony Goldwyn.

Ishqiya – July 10th, 2011 – A couple of guys on the lam look up an old buddy. He’s out of the picture but his widow agrees to let them stay on till the heat blows over. A masterful film – it’s so good that it is wicked. Vidya Balan has never been better. On Netflix or DVD from Amazon with English subtitles.

Horrible Bosses: July 9th, 2011 – a very funny film about three friends who are being driven crazy by their bosses. So they decide to have their bosses go away, as in forever.  Danger lurks as do the police, and some very funny situations.

Larry Crowne: July 7th, 2011Tom Hanks wrote, directed, and stars in this tale of a middle-aged guy losing his job, losing his home, and seemingly finds himself on the shoals of life – so he enrolls at a community college to look for direction and purpose. It is there that he meets Julia Roberts who plays an unhappy, dissatisfied, and nearly at the end of her rope college professor.  This rom-com slots right in as a middle of the road effort. Hanks opted for the safest route with this one. Offend no one, leave no group out, keep the sex off screen, and no four letter words. Instead of a solo review written by me – I joined up with Didion of the Feminema website and we break it down for you.

A Month by the Lake: July 5th, 2011 – This is a romantic comedy (not sure if the term rom-com was used in 1995 when this film came out) set on the idyllic shores of Lake Como in Italy. Vanessa Redgrave has booked a month at a luxury villa resort. Enter Edward Fox as the randy (hot-to-trot) Major Wilshaw. They duel around for a bit, and things get even more funny when Uma Thurman shows up. This is a delightful film, and while it might seem quaint or tame by today’s standards (it is set in 1937 pre-war Italy), it has an abundance of charm.

Wild Target: July 1st, 2011 – Emily Blunt sells an art forgery to a gangster. The gangster hires an assassin to rub her out. The assassin is played by Bill Nighy. Complications set in when the hired killer is ga-ga over his intended victim. This one plays as a comedy, only it is short on laughs. They try hard but… still Blunt is a beauty, and that’s almost enough to justify the cost of the ticket or rental.

June 2011

Mademoiselle Chambon: June 30th, 2011 – A man in the construction business meets a school teacher. A delicate tale of romance is set in a provincial town in France. A very special romance with excellent performances. Poignant, touching, and very enjoyable.

Casino Jack: June 29th, 2011 – A cautionary tale of greed and ‘unbridled enthusiasm’ that goes beyond the rules. Way beyond the rules is a better description. Kevin Spacey stars as the real life super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. As Jack tells us, as a licensed lobbyist he is legally allowed to receive money from special interest groups for the purpose of persuading Congressman to vote a certain way. It’s all part of the way things get done in Washington.

Wonderful Town: June 27th, 2011 – in the aftermath of the tsunami, a Thai architect is assigned to oversee a project in a sleepy Thai town north of Phuket. He meets a young woman who runs a hotel. Romance and more follow.

Genova aka A Summer in Genoa: June 26th, 2011 – A marvelous family drama. A Chicago family relocates to Genoa, Italy in the aftermath of an automobile accident that kills the wife and mother of two children.

The Tree of Life: June 24th, 2011  – Possibly the most discussed film since Kubrick’s 2001. Directed by Terrence Malick, TTOL is about families, the earth’s creation, and almost everything in between. Just kidding. There’s no easy way to describe this film that is beautiful, enigmatic, and thought provoking.

Elephant White: June 24th, 2011 – A CIA covert op like assassin for hire (Djimon Hounsou) and an arms dealer called Jimmy the Brit (Kevin Bacon) take on the Bangkok underworld. A shooting/action film where the good guys decide the the white slavers and the racketeers who run the child prostitution rings need some harsh treatment.

Gangster’s Paradise – Jerusalema: June 23rd, 2011 the tale of a gangster who rose from the days of snatch and grab, to carjacking, to bank robbery, and to big, white collar crimes. All in South Africa. Directed by Ralph Ziman.

City Island: June 21st, 2011 – Andy Garcia plays a prison guard (Corrections Officer) with some secrets. He tells his wife he going out for a poker game, but he’s really going to acting classes. His wife has a secret and so do each of his kids.  This is family that can be subtitled – ‘what we got here is failure to communicate’.

Hereafter: June 19th, 2011 – From Clint Eastwood. What happens to us when we die. Is there life after death? Can we communicate with those who have passed on? Questions we’ve all thought about – yet no one has the answers. This is Eastwood putting the questions before us with stars Matt Damon and Cecile De France.

Kill the Irishman: June 18th, 2011Ray Stevenson stars as Danny Greene, a  Cleveland hoodlum who took over a corrupt longshoreman’s union, then went toe-to-toe with the Cleveland Mafia, circa late 60’s to late 70’s.

Strawberry Night: June 15th, 2011 – a TV special or as we call them here – a pilot that has launched a TV Series scheduled for this winter on Japanese TV. Gorgeous Yuko Takeuchi stars as a smart detective. Her subordinates love her, but the higher ups, or suits, in the upstairs corner offices in the Tokyo Police headquarters resent her. She’s that good.

7 Khoon Maaf: June 13th, 2011 A film in the same niche as Black Widow. She marries, she mates, she murders. This time love is the treasure that is sought. This oft married woman is already rich. Will she ever find a husband  that is suitable? If not – she’s going to keep on trying.

Midnight in Paris: June 10th, 2011 – Woody Allen‘s bouquet to Paris, France. With Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. Woody’s best film in years.

How Do You Know: June 7th, 2011 – A rom-com with Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd & Jack Nicholson. Opened as a Holiday film for the Christmas season in 2010. Not great, not bad – it easily fits somewhere between those two polar opposites.

Snowflower and the Secret Fan: June 3rd, 2011the film adaption of Lisa See’s novel of the same name. Directed by Wayne Wang who directed The Joy Luck Club. Opens July 15th, 2011. “Our destines are tied forever. We will be laotong – sisters for 10,000 years.”

Director Mike Mills Talks About his New Film – Beginners: June 2nd, 2011 – Film Director Mike Mills sits down with JustMeMike and talks about his movie Beginners from the heart. Read about the genesis of the film, and other insights about the story told, as well as the actors.

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries): June 1st, 2011 – A Khan family venture from India. Not only does Indian superstar Aamir Khan star in the film , but he also produced it. And to keep it all in the family, his wife, Kiran Rao was the director. Four people, four stories and they’re all connected. Plus there’s another character – the city of Mumbai itself. Interesting? Yes. Flawed?  Yes. Worth seeing? Of course.

May 2011

Public Enemies: May 25th, 2011 – One good Depp deserves another. This time Johnny Depp stars as the legendary American bank robber – John Dillinger. Depp’s co-stars are the Academy Award Oscar winners Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard. This is the  2009 Public Enemies directed by Michael Mann.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: May 20th – Just opened today – this is the 4th installment of the Pirates franchise. While you won’t find fault with Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Geoffrey Rush, or their characters, you will be unsatisfied. The film entertains, but is no longer fresh or original. It is worth seeing for the reason that this is likely the last you’ll see of these pirates. I’ve a feeling that they’ve sailed on the tide, never to return to these shores again.


The Secret of the Grain aka Couscous with Fish:  May 18th – An award winning film from France. This is the story of a family that lives in Sete, a port city in the southwest of France. The people speak French, they’re immigrants in France, and they face difficulties. But despite the film’s often too lengthy scenes, and the close, handheld camera techniques, and the constant conversation – you will connect with them.

Cairo Time: May 12th – I always wanted to go to Cairo. My Aunt’s cousin was in the movie business and distributed US Films in the Middle East years ago. But I’ll have to settle for the cinematic journey to Cairo. Siddig and Clarkson. The pyramids. Will they or won’t they? Very worthwhile film.

Miral: May 6th, 2011 – A discussion with Didion of the Feminema blog about the new film Miral directed by Julian Schnabel. This is not just a review, this is a no holds bar talk that happens when two film critic walk into a bar. The film stars Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaires, Hiam Abbass, & Alexander Siddig.

April 2011

Anastasia: April 30th, 2011 – The classic film from the bygone 1950’s when movie stars really worked for a living. This one stars Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner, and Helen Hayes. Filmed in Paris, Copenhagen, and London – this one is a real treat. When homeless, friendless, and penniless Ingrid Bergman decides to end it all by throwing herself into the river in Paris, she’s rescued by Brynner and his associates. They decide to pass her off as the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, the the youngest daughter of the deposed and dead Russian Tsar. Will their fraud work? Or will they discover that Bergman’s Anna is the real Anastasia.

Water for Elephants: April 22nd, 2011 – A circus flick is quite a treat. They don’t come around very often. While this one will never be called the greatest show on earth, it does have it’s charms. Watch for Rosie the Elephant. She doesn’t quite chew up the scenery, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off her.

The Conspirator: April 18, 2011 – Director Robert Redford‘s release about the trial of Mary Surratt, the lone woman accused of being a part of the conspiracy to assassinate U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, on April 14th, 1865. The film’s tagline is: One Bullet Killed The President. But not one man.

Summer aka Le Rayon Vert: April 16th, Sarasota Film Festival – from French Director Eric Rohmer, Summer is about a woman who has has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and her best girl friend has canceled out of their planned summer vacation.

The Piano in a Factory: April 14th, 2011 – Sarasota Film Festival – A film from China. A husband and wife will divorce. Who gets custody of the daughter? The one who can provide her with a piano.

Submarine: April 14th, 2011 – Sarasota Film Festival – From the UK. A coming-of-age film about a youngster who wants to cross the divide and lose his virginity.

Dos Hermanos aka Brother and Sister: April 10th, 2011 – Sarasota Film Festival – from Argentina. A family film about a brother and sister who are always squabbling. A comedy drama – not quite Woody Allen-ish and not Neil Simon-ish either, but there are laughs and funny situations.

Hanna

April 8th, 2011 – an exciting thriller from Director Joe Wright. Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan in the lead role as a 16 year old angelic assassin. She’s unlike any other 16 year old you’ve seen in movies. Wright and crew have done an excellent job of creating questions in your mind, and slowly, little by little, answering them effectively.  With Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana filling out the leads, in my opinion – the best film I’ve seen so far in 2011.

Mesrine 2: Public Enemy No. 1

April 7th, 2011 – Vincent Cassel’s performance of a lifetime as the French Gangster Jacques Mesrine, a legend who died at the hands of the police at the end of the 70’s. This film as well as Part 1: Mesrine: Killer Instinct, run a combined two hundred and fifty minutes. Mesrine, as performed by Cassel is fascinating, he’s monstrous, he’s larger than life, and yet you can’t take your eyes off him. From the beginning of Part One to the end of Part 2 – there’s plenty of carnage. Directed by Jean-Francoise Richet. Don’t miss it.

Stool Pigeon

Stool Pigeon directed by Dante Lam

April 6th, 2011 – from Hong Kong, Stool Pigeon is another gritty cops and gangsters film directed by Dante Lam. He’s once again paired Nick Cheung and Nicolas Tse as his leads., just as he did in Beast Stalker. Only this time they reversed roles: Cheung is the cop and Tse is the ex-con.  As we’ve seen many times before in this type of film, the Hong Kong police always try to work someone undercover into the bad guys’ gangs. Stoolies, informants or rats – call them what ever you like. But this business is never clean. The cops say we need the intel, they need the money. However, someone is always going to pay the hard way. Well worth your time.

Ex

April 5th, 2011 – From youthful director Heiward Mak (she’s only 27 and this is her second feature film), we get a look at a few twenty-somethings in Hong Kong. This is a story about relationships, and gives you plenty to ponder. Whereas we live our lives with foresight and planning, or so we think, these people are all impulse and action. Starring Gillian Chung, in her first starring role since the 2008 Edison Chen photo scandal, William Chan, and Michelle Wai, we look on as people argue and fight, and then make love. Terrible things are said, and dishes get broken, it’s not always pretty. But you watch, entranced, and some times horrified.  You’re unable to not watch.

The Girl by the Lake aka La Ragazza del Lago

April 2nd, 2011 – The award winning murder mystery from Italy that swept the Italian Oscars, winning 10 of them in 2008. Beautiful shot, and despite the almost complete lack of action, you will find this film to especially satisfying. In a small Italian hill town, a body is found by a lake, and a city detective is called in. There’s no Columbo’s in this detective yarn – instead, the detective is called Inspector Sanzio. The case does get solved, but you might feel that you aren’t quite sure – despite the confession. Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture were among the Italian Davids (like Oscars in Italy) won by this film. It is well worth your time.

Source Code

April 1st, 2011 – A much anticipation sci-fi thriller that is simply more of a thriller than a sci-fi film. Oh they explain the hardware, and it certainly something that we don’t have in this world, but the mechanics of how they do what they do isn’t what the film is about. It has it’s moments, and is worth seeing; but it won’t be anything that you’ll want to watch again and again.

March 2011

The Wilby Conspiracy (1975) and Goodbye Bafana aka The Color of Freedom (2007)

March 29th, 2011- Two films about a dark period of history, when apartheid was the system in practice in South Africa. One film is the thriller called The Wilby Conspiracy which starred Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine who race across the face of the country of South Africa while being pursued by the State Security Police meaning Nicol Williamson as the evil racist, Major Horn.  The other is called Goodbye Bafana which stars Joseph Fiennes as the jailer, and prison censor at Robben’s Island Prison, off the coast of Capetown, South Africa, during the period when Nelson Mandela was incarcerated there. These two films will give you a look at what can be described as a shameful period of history.

Leaving

March 24th, 2011 – Leaving or Partir is a French film from Director Catherine Corsini. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Suzanne Vidal, a forty something whose life is seemingly idyllic. A nice home in the south of France, two teen aged children, and a successful doctor for a husband. What more could a woman want. The answer is Passion, and the one who will bring this passion to Suzanne is not her husband Samuel (Yvan Attal). Instead it is Sergi Lopez as the day laborer Ivan who ignites Suzanne’s long dormant inner fires.  A 2009 film, and available from Netflix or from Amazon.

The Quiet American

March 21st, 2011: Directed by Phillip Noyce from the 1955 Graham Greene novel, our film is set in Saigon, in what was then known as Indochina, but later would be called Vietnam. While the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people went on, a smaller struggle also played out. That would be the love triangle between the weary and older British reporter Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), the young and idealistic American Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), and the beautiful and exotic Phuong ( Do Thi Hai Yen). This film is a treat for the senses set in a place and time on the eve of an era that the world will not forget.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct

March 20th, 2011: The life and times of former Public Enemy No. 1 in France, Jacques Mesrine, played by Vincent Cassel, is a character that is not quite all evil, but nearly so. Brutal, fierce, and loyal to his friends – that was Mesrine. No jail could him, and no bank could withstand his greed.   This is a no holds barred look at a criminal who along with his companion was called the French Bonnie & Clyde. If you loved Cassel’s performance in Black Swan, then this is a film you must see. Be warned – this is an R  Rating film – if anything it is almost too violent.

The Lincoln Lawyer

March 19th, 2011 – Matthew McConaughey plays LA Criminal Defense Attorney Mick Haller in a gritty and realistic crime and courtroom drama. Critic have said this is Matthew’s best work in years. Adapted from a Michael Connelly novel and directed by Brad Forbes, this is an entertaining film, and is well worth the cost of a ticket.

Limitless

March 18th, 2011: Directed by Neil Burger, Limitless is a flashy, and fast paced thriller that is not about unbridled greed. Instead it is about limitless possibilities. We watch as Eddie Morra played by Bradley Cooper, pops a magic pill, and his life suddenly accelerates beyond his wildest dreams. He goes from being a depressed man with a book contract and a severe case of writer’s block to a multi-millionaire in days.  At one moment he is running from a loan-shark, and the next he’s managing the world’s biggest business merger. As Bette Davis once said in All About Eve – “Fasten your seat-belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”. But Limitless is not about some emotional rough spots – instead think of this as a thrilling ride through New York with a bag of magic pills to keep you going. And you’d better not lose them …

The Art of Winter

Martin Grelles - Eagle Prayer

March 10th, 2011: Check out this painting called Eagle Prayer by Martin Grelle. Yes, there is an eagle to be in the painting, but this painting is also about winter’s waning last days. In this article, we will have a look at a number of memorable pieces of art work. We, in the Northern Hemisphere, are still dealing with winter in many parts of the country. Hopefully, it should soon be spring. While there’s no true spring in the art I have selected for this article, these painting will serve to remind us all that winter is still upon us, but spring is around the corner, and we know it is coming.

Wasabi

March 5th, 2011 – I spent the latter part of Saturday watching this French Cop in Japan film.There’s a French detective  (Jean Reno as Hubert Fiorentini), a nearly 20 years old Japanese girl (Ryoko Hirosue),  a few hundred million dollars at stake, and the big bad Yakuza is involved. A popcorn film in which the film itself serves as the popcorn. Tasty, delicious and lots of fun.

The Adjustment Bureau

March 4th, 2011 – The Adjustment Bureau opened today after a longish delay stretching back to last September. The film stars the popular Matt Damon, and the appealing Emily Blunt.  The question is whether this is a Romance wrapped around a thriller, or if it is a thriller with a love story at its core. Either way it is a thrilling chase through some of New York’s most iconic places. Bring your thinking cap with you, because I’m sure you’ll be discussing this film over coffee after seeing it.

February 2011

No One Killed Jessica

February 22nd, 2011 – A vivacious and beautiful girl working at a posh Delhi nite-spot as a bartender-waitress at a party is shot dead for refusing to serve a customer a drink after the bar’s closing hours had passed. The shooter was a spoiled son of a MLA. By the time the case came to court six years later – the key witnesses had been bought off, the ballistic evidence had been tampered with, and 300 of Delhi’s best people all weren’t sure, weren’t there, were on the roof, in the bathroom, or just plain saw nothing. Insufficient evidence – case dismissed. The open and shut case fell on its face. But when a tough TV personality  and the victim’s sister teamed up – things began to change. The voice of the public demanded to be heard.  Two women slapped the system on the face. And the system took note. Two of India’s favorite actresses, Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan, star in this film which opened world wide on January 7th of this year. Directed by Raj Kumar Gupta.

The Secret In Their Eyes

February 21st, 2011 – The Secret In Their Eyes won the Oscar for Best Foreign language Film last year; and I just got around to seeing it yesterday thanks to a suggestion from a reader.  A homicide investigator in Buenos Aires, Argentina, retires. He is still troubled by a brutal rape/murder case from twenty-five years earlier. He decides to write a novel based on the case. The film directed by Juan Jose Campanella is a marvelous tapestry of the past and the present – what it was like at the time of the murder and what it is like today – a quarter century later. The film while not quite epic – is certainly worthy of the acclaim it has received.

Unknown

February 18th, 2010 – Unknown opened today. It stars Liam Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, and Bruno Ganz. This is what you call a thriller. A man in a strange city is involved in an auto accident. He can’t prove who he is. Other folks, and we don’t know who they are, seem intent on making him appear to be the imposter in his own life. Even his wife doesn’t recognize him. It’s Hitchcockian, Bourn-esque, and it layers on a series of mysteries. Who am I?, says Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris.

Rain Fall

February 16th, 2011 – Rain Fall is from the Barry Eisler series of novels. This is the first film friom the series starring Kippei Shiinaas the titular hero, John Rains – an American with a Japanese father. He’s a bad-ass ex-CIA operative who has also trained US Navy Seals. This case involves a whistle-blower in the Japanese Ministry of Public Works. He’s about to blow the whistle on the corruption. The CIA, headed by Gary Oldman,  doesn’t want him to go public, nor does the Yakuza. It seems everyone wants their hands on the memory stick that contains the damaging reports. Rain is also trying to protect the daughter of the whistle blower. She’s played by Kyoko Hasegawa.  Besides all of that – the Japanese detectives are closing in as well. Direct and written by Max Mannix.

The Eagle

February 11th, 2011 – The Eagle is a swords and sandals adventure. A couple of guys go on a quest. One is a former general who had been in the employ of the Ancient Roman senators. His buddy is a slave whom the general had saved from a death in a gladiator battle in a far smaller coliseum than we are used to. In fact, every thing about this film is on a far smaller scale than we’d seen in Spartacus or Gladiator. Imagine a film about the ancient Roman civilization without even one shot of a Roman exterior. Also imagine a film without any women with speaking parts. That’s what you have in The Eagle. Not a must-see, and certainly not bad – just not exceptional in any way.

15 Park Avenue


February 3rd, 2011 – From acclaimed Indian film director, Aparna Sen 15 Park Avenue is an engrossing tale of a family with a daughter/sister suffering from schizophrenia. This is not a trip through a psychiatric ward in a institution. Instead this is about a live-at-home woman who believes she is married to a loving husband, has 5 children, and they live at 15 Park Avenue, which in Kolkata, is a non-existent address. Meethi is played by Konkona Sen Sharma, and her older half-sister is played by Shabana Azmi. This is simply a thought provoking film, superbly rendered by Director Sen. It will touch you on many levels and will leave you with lots of thoughts about families, perceived realities, and care of those suffering from this disease. The film  is 90% English, with subtitles for when other languages are spoken. Available via Netflix, Hulu, or on DVD.

January 2011

The Company Men

January 30th, 2011 – The Company Men focuses on three executives who are fired (which is called downsizing) by the Boston based but fictional GTX Corporation. The three leads are Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper. Ably supporting them are Kevin CostnerMaria BelloCraig T. Nelson, and Rosemary DeWitt. No one thinks being let go from your job, your livelihood, and your career are inspirational events, this doesn’t mean that the topic cannot produce an interesting film. Directed and written by John Wells (Exec Producer of ER and The West Wing) the film is about these three executives and how the downsizing effects them and their families. While you might not want to feel sympathetic towards men earning six and seven figures, the film does present some excellent actors who do quite well in their roles.

The King’s Speech

January 28th, 2011 – The King’s Speech is a marvelous, don’t miss it kind of film. It is also the kind of film that when you think about what it is about, you might think that this isn’t for you. I know that’s what I thought. But having seen, reviewed, and shared my review – I can only say – check it out. It is really good. I believe a number of those golden mantel pieces commonly called Oscars will be awarded to the film

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

January 27th, 2011 – This the the Karan Johar film that he made and released in 2006, before My Name is Khan.It purports to be a new and refreshing look at marital infidelity – India style and New York based. Great music, beautiful performers, sets, apartments, clothing, and homes. Johar has cast some of India’s best known and internationally acclaimed actors and actresses. This is a sumptuous visual feast. But it runs more than 3 hours and it doesn’t have a great script. But despite those facts, I do recommend it. My review also has a trailer for the film.

My Name is Khan

January 20th, 2011: A Muslim man afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome, lives with his Hindu wife in a San Francisco suburb. On September 11th, 2001, their lives, as well as everyone’s in America, drastically changed.  In the aftermath of that tragic day, a series of events, over some years,  propelled this man to undertake a journey to Washington, DC, to the tell the President of the United States that – My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist.

The Dilemma

January 14th, 2011 – The Dilemma is a flawed film. But this is not to say that it isn’t entertaining. It is a film that takes a hold of you then tries its hardest to let go and lose you. Then they drop a surprise or two or three into the plot, and you’re reeled back in. Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Allen Loeb pull plenty of surprising elements out of their trick bag. Vince Vaughn gets most of the screen time, and you’ll be not so sure you like him as he is long winded, as in very long winded, over and over. Kevin James does okay but he hasn’t much to work with. In fact no one does except Vaughn and his character is overwritten. Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder sparkle as does Queen Latifah in roles that are important but are they’re on screen far too briefly.

The Pledge

January 12th, 2011 – This is one of Jack Nicholson‘s most overlooked or forgotten roles. Directed by Sean Penn, this is a 1991 film that was released in January of that year. Jack plays a retiring Reno, Nevada Sheriff who takes the call on his last day. He will make a pledge to a grieving mother who has just lost her young daughter in a rape and murder case.  Though Jack will tone down his bag of tricks by about 90%, the story and the supporting actors which include Helen Mirren , Vanessa Redgrave, Mickey Rourke, Robin Penn, Aaron Eckhart, and Sam Shepard, make this a hard to forget film. In my own case, I had simply never heard of it so I didn’t see it until now.

Country Strong

January 7th, 2011: Country Strong is yet another in a long line of films about  fallen music stars who sing, struggle, and ultimately overcome the usual obstacles. Nothing new in this story. Directed by Shana Feste, and starring Gwyneth Paltrow who sings better than I expected, Tim McGraw – a real life country music star who doesn’t sing at all in this film, and youngsters Garrett Hedlund, and Leighton Meester who not only look good, but they can sing and act too.  The film will make you tap your feet, and even shed a tear, but the script is really too thin for you to really care about the characters.


Advertisements