Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU



"New York, I Love You" is a sequel, of sorts, to the 2006 film "Paris, Je t'aime". This was a love letter to this French city which was a series of short films by world renown film directors featuring an all-star cast. Some of the films were stronger than others but overall a good film. If you didn't see it, please go out and rent it.



"New York, I Love You" follows the same premise as this previous film. New York is one of favorite cities. In fact, when I was planing on leaving Michigan, I knew I was going to move to either New York or Los Angeles. My friend, Robin was going to move to LA to go to USC, so I decided to tag along. I just love the energy of the city. I always have such a great time and I find New York so inspiring. I have been there many times and I still always discover something new.

Enough gushing. The film should be released in the US on October 16, 2009.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE (2009)



Directed by R. J. Cutler



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. September 15, 2009, 4:35PM



Having worked for a high-end, designer retail establishment for over twenty years, I was very interested in finding out what it takes to put together the "bible" of the fashion industry, Vogue magazine and to discover more about the magazine's celebrated Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour.

This documentary, "The September Issue", is on the making of Vogue's 2007 fall issue, which at this time still stands as the biggest issue to date with 840 pages. We follow the editors as they discuss and agonize over what will actually go in to the magazine. They decide on what will be the current trends of the season based on what was seen on the runways. From that they create the photo shoots and which clothes will be featured in them. Then they will finally present their ideas to Ms Wintour who will either accept or most likely advise them to rethink and come up with a fresher concept.

We meet some of the key players of the magazine; the fabulously flamboyant, Andre Leon Talley who is Editor-at-Large. He lives, breathes and is inspired by all things "fashion" which is a valuable asset to Vogue.

Grace Coddington, a former model and the Creative Director of American Vogue for over twenty years who actually joined the magazine at the same time as Ms Wintour. She is the true visionary of the magazine and she makes what she does appear effortless.

As Editor-in-Chief, Ms Wintour is responsible for taking many different ideas from many different sources and paring it down to become the definitive answer on what fashionable women should be wearing each season. On the surface, it can appear to be silly and unimportant but I think it is comforting to some women to have someone guide you through the endless choices that are out there to help create a look of the moment.

There is not one part of the magazine that is not approved of by Ms Wintour before it will make it onto the pages of Vogue. We see quite frequently that Ms Wintour and Ms Coddington do not see eye to eye on creative matters. Although Ms Coddington is a very important force to the magazine and it appears that there is some sort of compromise, the reality is that Ms Wintour has the final word.

It has been well noted that Ms Wintour was the basis of the character in the book and the film, "The Devil Wears Prada" and after seeing her in action in this film, it is even more obvious. She is not an overtly warm individual mainly because I think work consumes so much of her time and she has to remain focused on the job at hand. It may not occur to her to ask how some one's day is going because she is preoccupied with answering many questions and making even more decisions. Now I personally don't think this is the best approach but I guess it works for her.

To be fair, she is not a total ice queen. We do see moments, although brief, throughout the film that shows that she does have a beating heart in her body. Most especially away from the office. We catch Ms Wintour looking lovingly but slightly disappointed at her daughter, Katherine while she discusses how she could never be involved in the fashion business.

I found the film to be fascinating. I really didn't realize how much was involved in putting together the magazine. We are given unprecedented access to all areas in the creation of an issue of Vogue. From the beautiful fashion shows and the after parties, big name designers previewing their latest work who nervously look for Ms Wintour's approval, the mentoring of new designers, the photo shoots and how they are discarded if they do not meet up to Ms Wintour's standards, and the endless discussion of the cover with actress Sienna Miller.

My favorite part was when Ms Coddington was inspired to use the camera man of this documentary in a photo shoot. After Ms Wintour sees the finished pictures, she wanted to have his slight belly air-brushed out while Ms Coddington insisted that the photos remained untouched.

Now if you have zero interest in the fashion industry, will "The September Issue" be worth seeing? Perhaps. As long as you go in with an open mind and are interested in discovering who is responsible for deciding that shoulder pads are fashionable again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

THE OTHER MAN (2009)




Written by Richard Eyre & Charles Wood



Directed by Richard Eyre



Where & When: The Landmark, West Los Angeles, CA. September 16, 2009, 5:30PM



"The Other Man" has an impressive cast and is directed by the creator of one of my favorite films of 2006, "Notes From A Scandal". Unfortunately, this film is lifeless and tedious.


This is the story of Peter (Liam Neeson), a successful web designer and his wife of 30 years, Lisa (Laura Linney) who is a successful shoe designer who appear to be the perfect couple with the perfect life. At dinner one evening, Lisa asks her husband if two people can stay together for the rest of their lives. He believes that they can if they are truly in love. She then asks him if has ever thought of having an affair. Surprised by the question, he tells her he has not. I found it strange that he didn't think it wasn't at least a little suspicious of what her motivation was in asking him about fidelity. Shortly after the conversation, Lisa seems to have disappeared and Peter is distraught. First he hears a message from a man on Lisa's cell phone saying that he can't wait to see her. This leads him to do some investigating. While going through Lisa's computer, he discovers a locked file. He struggles to figure out the passcode and when he finally cracks the code, he is shocked to discover pictures of his wife romantically involved with another man.

Now, Peter's only focus is to find out who this man is. This finally sends him to Milan, where he arranges to meet his wife's lover. Peter is disgusted to see that the man is a charming and attractive man named Ralph, (Antonio Banderas) who goes by the pronunciation "Rafe". Peter had found out where he lives and follows him to a cafe and they meet through a game of chess. This gives Peter an opportunity to question Ralph and to get answers on his involvement with his wife. This leads to a sort of friendship between the two men but this doesn't change Peter's feelings of revenge against his rival.

There is a twist ending that is supposed to be shocking but is neither shocking nor does it add anything of interest to this plodding film. I was actually annoyed when this was revealed because I felt cheated. I can't believe I sat through all of this pointless nonsense. "The Other Man" was very disappointing, considering all of the talented people involved. Do not waste any of your valuable time sitting through this.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF (2009)


Written & Directed by Tyler Perry



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. September 13, 2009, 8:05PM


First, let me say I am very proud and very happy of the success of Tyler Perry. He is a self made man who achieved success on his own terms and without the interference of Hollywood. He is also responsible for giving starring roles to several talented but underused African-American actors as well as introducing new actors to audiences who may not have gotten an opportunity through conventional, narrow minded Hollywood producers.

Now having said that, all I can say about Mr. Perry's latest film, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" is that I really enjoyed the musical numbers by Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige and Pastor Winans, the terrific performance of Taraji P. Henson and Madea is always good for a few laughs. Oh, and Adam Rodriguez and his dazzling smile. The rest of the film left me unimpressed and very bored. To be honest, I have felt that way about most of Mr. Perry's films. I find his films to be nothing more than skits loosely tied together to try and create a plot. This is fine for television but it is not a film. Or at least my idea of a film. I like to see some effort to try and create something as fresh as possible and not simply travel down a too familiar and too obvious path.

We begin with Madea (Tyler Perry) sound asleep when she hears someone breaking in to her house. Bad move. Very bad move. She wakes her husband, Joe (also Tyler Perry) and they go downstairs to confront the thieves. The "thieves" turns out to be three young children, Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her younger brothers. Madea wants to know why they are stealing but they aren't talking but Madea has a way of getting answers. She finds out that their grandmother who takes care of them has disappeared for four days and they were only stealing to get money to buy food.

Madea finds their only other relative, April (Taraji P. Henson) who is their aunt. She just got home from her job as a nightclub singer and she can't be bothered with them. All she wants to do is go back to sleep. Madea wants to be reimbursed for the VCR that Jennifer broke during the attempted robbery. April has no intention of paying even if she had some money but Madea agrees to have the kids work off their debt by cleaning her home.

April reluctantly lets the kids stay at her home until she can find her mother. April is certainly not maternal and has zero interest in taking care of some body's children even if they are relatives. She is much too busy drinking heavily and keeping company with a mean and repulsive married man, Randy (Brian J. White).

After April tries to go back to bed, Paster Brian (Marvin Winans) comes to the house. He tells her he has a young man who has just arrived from South America and needs a place to stay. He can do repairs around her house in exchange for a room. April agrees just to get him out and she can go back to sleep.

As soon as her head hits the pillow, there is another knock at the door. There stands the handy man, Manny (Adam Rodriguez) who also happens to be very easy on the eyes. She sets him up in the basement and now her house is full of uninvited guests. Manny bonds with the kids and becomes a kind of surrogate father to them. April also develops an attraction for Manny but fights to resist those feelings.

April soon learns that her mother has passed away and she is racked with guilt over not speaking to her mother in years because of a disagreement. Randy is of no comfort but Manny is there for her with open arms. April's life is a mess and cannot possibly raise children, so she decides to put her niece and nephews in foster care. The kids and Manny beg her not to do it but April is torn and she doesn't know what to do.

I'm not giving anything away by saying that this film ends with a happy conclusion since that was made very clear since the beginning of the film. There is no real suspense and the dramatic moments are all very predictable. "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" might have been better played strictly for laughs.

I really wish I could praise the work of Mr. Perry but I always find myself disappointed after every film I have seen. I realize there is an audience and a definite need for his type of films but I guess it is lost on me. I have heard that he is going to next tackle the 1976 play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf". I am slightly concerned what he will do with the piece but I am also hoping for the best.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

MY ONE AND ONLY (2009)



Written by Charlie Peters



Directed by Richard Loncraine



Where & When: The Landmark, West Los Angeles, CA September 2, 2009, 4:50PM



As summer is winding down, we are now approaching fall which means we are in for an insane traffic pile up of well intentioned, high brow and Oscar hungry films. "My One and Only" happens to be released in between seasons and it was a wise move because this sweet, little movie would surely had been lost in either the summer or autumn. Although, I don't know how many people are really going to get an opportunity to see this in the theaters, but if you can... go.

Renee Zellweger plays southern belle, Ann Deveraux who has returned home early from her trip from someplace grand. Her husband, Dan (Kevin Bacon) a musician, is caught in the middle of entertaining a young lady in their bedroom. Not one to make a scene, she calmly packs her bags and leaves the philanderer. She retrieves her two sons, George (Logan Lerman) her handsome child with Dan and Robbie (Mark Rendall) her effeminate son from a previous marriage and sets off to start a new life in a new city.

After emptying her safety deposit box and buying a new car, the trio sets off for Boston. Ann is in hot pursuit of a new husband and Robbie dreams of becoming an actor. George just want to go back home and get back to their life in New York.

Boston turns out to be a bust and the next stop is Philadelphia. Once there, Ann meets Dr. Harlan Williams (Chris Noth). He has a habit of wearing a military uniform all the time but despite that, Ann thinks he could be a potential new husband. He turns out to violent psychopath and they quickly depart the city of brotherly love.

With money running low, Ann reluctantly heads to Missouri to stay with her judgmental sister, Hope and her husband. Ann's attempt at working as a waitress fails miserably. She is much more of a person that people serve, not the other way around.

Ann makes the decision to move to California as an opportunity for Robbie's career. George has had it and refuses to move again. He asks to stay with his Aunt Hope and she agrees. An argument ensues and Ann and Robbie head off without George. Will the family be reunited and will George ultimately have fun in the sun?

This film is loosely based on the life of the sun kissed actor, George Hamilton. It seems like the kind of story that could only happen to an actor. "My One and Only" is slight and frothy but it is fun, well made and good performances by all involved. This film is also littered with cameos by actors better known on television including Steven Weber and Eric McCormack.

Ms Zellweger may certainly be an acquired taste and definitely not come to mind when you see the words "MOVIE STAR" but she is very good as the loving but self involved mother. She has always has been a charming and appealing performer and this is one of her better films. This film is a nice way to end the summer before heading in to the serious nature of the fall.

One more thing, I have no idea what this movie's title has to do with this film. There is no reference to it in the film at all. I guess they just thought it was just catchy or they couldn't come up with anything better (my opinion).

BROKEN EMBRACES (LOS ABRAZOS ROTOS)

Here is the trailer for "Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos)",  the upcoming film by one of my all time favorite film makers, Pedro Almodovar and starring last year's Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress and star of Almodovar's last film, "Volver". Penelope Cruz. I'm not exactly sure what it's going to be about but, no matter. The film looks beautiful and I'm very sure I will be thoroughly entertained.

I will always remember going to a movie theater in Toronto at the impressionable age of 24 and being completely blown away by his film, "Law Of Desire" (1987). I just loved the film's style, it's use of color and the unabashed sexuality. It was just so different from the conventional Hollywood films that I was used to seeing. I also think it was one of the first foreign-language films with sub-titles I had seen. I certainly didn't have access to seeing them in Michigan at that time. I have seen and loved (or liked very much) every one of his films since then.

"Broken Embraces" should be released in the US on December 11, 2009.