Saturday, January 23, 2010

AVATAR (2009)

Written & Directed by James Cameron



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. January 22, 2010 7:00PM



After all the hype, the many accolades ( including the recent winner for Best Picture at the 2009 Golden Globe Awards) and financial gain (1.6 billion worldwide and counting), I finally went to see "Avatar". I wasn't necessarily avoiding it but I was waiting to see it with Dean and I wasn't in any particular hurry. I have to admit I wasn't completely sold on the trailer but it did get good reviews and great word of mouth.

So, what did I think of the film? Well, I actually liked it a lot. I didn't love it, I think it is definitely overpraised and it is forty-five minutes too long but still it is a very entertaining.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a disabled ex-marine who is sent to a mining outpost on a moon called Pandora. He is offered a lot of money to replace his deceased brother who was involved in a project that requires DNA that is similar to his. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who is head of the project, is dead set against using him because he is untrained and inexperienced. Parker Selfridge, (Giovanni Ribsi) who runs the mining operation is unconcerned and feels his being an ex-marine will be an asset.

The project is called the Avatar Program which is the growing of a hybrid of human DNA and of the Na'Vi, which are a ten foot tall, blue skinned, cat featured humanoids that are native to the planet. The subject goes in to a machine and their minds are transferred into the avatar which allows them to control it like it is part of their body. Humans are unable to breathe the air without breathing masks so this will allow the scientists to collect biological samples as well as a way to try and reestablish a relationship with the tribe by looking like them.

Parker Selfridge is trying this program because he wants to attempt to peacefully relocate the Na'Vi from the Hometree where the Omaticaya clan live. This is the reason why communications have broken down between the humans and the Na'Vi. Underneath the very large tree is a large source of unobtanium which is a mineral that is very valuable back on Earth. If this doesn't work, he is more than willing to remove them off the land by force with the assistance of Colonel Miles Quartich (Stephen Lang), the leader of the private security and his arsenal of military firepower.

Jake, Dr. Augustine, and Norm, (Joel David Moore) a fellow biologist, are flown out in their avatars by Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez), a tough security force pilot, to an outpost in the middle of the jungle for biological samples. After Jake is chased by an indigenous animal, he is separated from the crew and is lost. Night falls and Jake is surrounded by a pack of wolf-like creatures but he is rescued by Neytiri, (Zoe Saldana) a Na'Vi female. She doesn't think much of Jake but she decides to take him back to the Hometree. Jake is not welcomed by the Omaticaya tribe but Neytiri's mother, Mo'at (CCH Pounder) senses something about him and instructs her daughter to teach him their ways and to train him as a warrior.

When Jake returns to his body, Col Quartich enlists him to secretly give him intelligence on the Na'Vi to help with removing them from the area and in exchange, he will help Jake get back the use of his legs.

Over the next three months, Jake becomes close to the Omaticaya clan but most especially with Neytiri but she is promised to Tsu'Tey (Laz Alonzo), a powerful warrior. They don't let this stop them from becoming intimate. Now that he understands the Na'Vi people and their culture, Jake no longer wants to be invoved with removing them from the area and now wants to help them fight off the humans.

Dr. Augustine tries to convince Mr. Selfridge that by destroying the Hometree they could upset the bio-botanical connection between all of the planet's lifeforms. He doesn't care and gives them only one hour to convince them to relocate or he will send the military to destroy the tree, whether they move or not.

In their avatars, Jake, Norm and Dr. Augustine try to warn the Omaticaya clan of what is to come but it is to no avail. As promised, Col. Quartich and his team come and knock down the tree. There are many casualties including Neytiri's father, the clan chief Eytucan (Wes Studi).

After the massacre, Col. Quartich has the trio imprisoned. Col. Quartich's new plan involves destroying the Tree of Souls, which is important to Na'Vi religion and culture, as a way of making them submissive to the humans. Trudy, fed up with what is going on, helps Jake and the team escape with the avatar devices and flies them out to the outpost. Tsu'Tey is now the new chief and with Jake's help they unite thousands of warriors from many other Na'Vi tribes to fight the humans but will it be enough to stop them?

Say what you will about Mr. Cameron and his ego, which is larger than this film's budget but he knows what he is doing in regards to creating great Hollywood entertainment. His last film, "Titanic" (1998) is the top grossing film of all time and "Avatar" looks like it going to do the impossible and top that film. I saw this film in 3D and that is really the only way you should see "Avatar" to really appreciate the amazing visual effects. "Avatar" is a game changer in film and it is now the high standard of how CGI can be used for photo-realistic results and it points to the future cinematic possibilities from this technology. Visually, this film was absolutely stunning, breath taking at times and at the end, I couldn't believe that, with the exception of the human actors, virtually almost everything we saw in the entire film was created by a computer.

Mr. Worthington, with his rugged features and sensitive nature, has a great screen presence and a could potentially have a big future in films. Mr. Lang is perfectly scary and menacing as Col. Quatich and as she did in Mr. Cameron's "Aliens" (1986), Ms Weaver delivers her reliable tough and tender performance and adds a touch of class to the film.

There is no argument that this film is a visual wonder but the problem I have is that people are proclaiming this to be the "Best Film of the Year" . Now, it is very well made and entertaining but it is no where near that category. If you strip all of the effects away, all you have left is a very slight and standard story. "Avatar" makes me think of "The Jazz Singer" (1927), which is only still remembered because it was an innovative film at that time. It was the first talking film but it doesn't hold up well and it's not very good. Although I don't think "Avatar" will be looked back on necessarily as a lousy film but I do think it will certainly be viewed as overpraised. I highly recommend you experience the 3D "Avatar" in a theater. It is well worth the ride.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NINE (2009)

Written by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella



Directed by Rob Marshall



Where & When: Fairfax Cinemas, Los Angeles, CA. January 16, 2010 7:40PM


I'm sure that on paper, "Nine" sounded like a "can't miss" project with a winning recipe: you take the successful Broadway musical which was based on the classic Fellini film, "8 1/2", sprinkle in the award winning director of the 2002 Academy award winning musical film, "Chicago" and mix thoroughly with several Oscar winning actors and you will come up with something that everyone will enjoy. Unfortunately, "Nine" has arrived very flat and not very tasty.

Guido Contini, (Daniel Day-Lewis) a famous Italian film director who has committed to making his next film, "Italia" that will star film sensation and his muse, Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman) although he is actually unable to write it. He is struggling with writer's block as his crew is building sets and creating costumes for an unknown project. Guido confides to his friend and costume designer, Lilli La Fleur (Judi Dench) that he is stuck and stressed out but she doesn't have much sympathy.

Memories from Guido's past haunts him that include his Mamma (Sophia Loren) and Saraghina, (Fergie) a prostitute who aroused his curiosity as a boy.

Guido takes off to a hotel along the Amalfi Coast. He's gone there to rest and help try to clear his head. Guido calls his wife, Luisa, (Marion Cotillard) a former actress, to let her know where he is and what's going on. She offers to come out but he tells her that he will be fine. The real reason is because he sent for his married mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz) to come and keep him company. He is at least smart enough not to have her stay with him at his hotel much to Carla's disappointment.

Soon, Guido's producer and the heads of his film crew come to the hotel to work on the film but unbeknown to Guido, they also call Luisa to come and try to help. She discovers that Guido has not been alone and is fed up with his behaviour. He meets a flirty, American Vogue journalist (Kate Hudson) at the hotel bar. He is tempted by her charms but decides to go back to his wife to try and repair the damage.

They all soon return to Rome to begin to piece together the movie. Claudia Jenssen arrives to begin work on the film but is annoyed to still not have a script. Realizing this film is a lost cause, Claudia walks away from the project just as Guido's wife walks away from their marriage.

First, let me start with what I liked about this film because it will be brief. I really loved Judi Dench's musical number, "Folies Bergere" and I think it was the best performance in this film. This was mainly because she was the only one who seemed to be having any fun.

I also liked both of Ms Cotillard's numbers, " My Husband Makes Movies" and "Take It All" and Ms Cruz's "A Call From The Vatican" and Ms Hudson's original film song, "Cinema Italiano" were adequate. Although Fergie is the only true singer and gives a good musical performance, the staging of her number, "Be Italian" with all that sand is cheap looking and just really bad.

The major problem of the film, in a way is surprising but not really, is the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido. He is a great actor but he can't sing well, he can barely move his hips and he's about as Italian as I am. Three big strikes against him being convincing in a movie musical about Italians. I know Mr. Day-Lewis was up for the challenge but this was way beyond his abilities.

As for the ladies, well, nobody really embarrasses themselves but I think that is because most of them don't have anything to do. Beyond their musical numbers, Ms Kidman and Ms Hudson are on screen for just minutes and Fergie doesn't say one word. I am also happy to report that nobody is in the painful "Pierce Bronson" style of singing although Ms Loren is precariously close.

I think that Mr. Marshall didn't have a clear vision on how to put "Nine" together so this would work as a proper film musical and trying to simply repeat what he created for "Chicago" on this film was a fatal error. Most of the songs are not memorable enough and loading the film with untrained movie stars to sing them just makes it more obvious. In fact, it sort of seems that the stars were used to distract from the shortcomings of this musical and to make up for the lack of direction that this film has.

The screenplay doesn't help much either. In between the songs, nobody has nothing really interesting to say and none of the female characters are fully developed. For a film that is clearly supposed to be a big, sexy and colorful spectacle, it's too serious, dull and lifeless. "Nine" is a big disappointment and this film would have definitely would have been on the list of my least favorite films of 2009.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

THE LOVELY BONES (2009)

Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens


Directed by Peter Jackson



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. January 11, 2010 2:15PM



"The Lovely Bones" is the story of Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old girl who is raped and murdered on December 6, 1973. Now, I know from this description, this doesn't sound like something many people would want to rush out to see nor like a fun way to spend over two hours and it's not. But not necessarily because of the story. The problem lies in the way this tragic drama has been presented. Peter Jackson, the famed director of the "Lord of The Rings" trilogy, has tried to use the colorful, creative fantasy world of those films on his version of this best selling novel by Alice Sebold and has come up short. Very short.

After her death, Susie (Saoirse Ronan) has not gone to heaven but she is in a place called, the in-between where it's her version of a perfect world. She watches as her family grieves for her and narrates this story. Jack (Mark Wahlberg) becomes obsessed with trying to find his daughter's murderer and in the process neglects the rest of his family. His wife, Abigail (Rachel Weisz), while also in deep pain, is trying to find a way to cope with the loss and move on with her life but her husband's behavior is hardly helping. Jack calls Abigail's mother, Lynn (Susan Sarandon), a wild living, hard drinking kind of gal, to come and help the distraught family.

The police investor, Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) appreciates and understands Mr. Salmon's passion in trying to help solve this case but advises him to let him do this job. Unable to stand being in the house any longer, Abigail runs off to California, starting a new life as a migrant worker.

Susie's murderer, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) lives across the street from the Salmon family. He is cool and calm as the police question him, asking if he saw anything out of the ordinary. Mr. Harvey builds doll houses and while the Detective admires his work, he realizes he left out Susie's charm bracelet on a piece of doll furniture but manages to hide it before it could be discovered.

Jack becomes highly suspicious of George Harvey, perhaps with Susie's assistance, and is convinced that he murdered his little girl. He decides to handle him on his own. One night, Jack follows Mr. Harvey, armed with a baseball bat, in to a cornfield. He had planned to beat Mr. Harvey but instead he stumbles across a young couple. Jack startles them and thinking he is trying to attack them, the boy takes the bat and beats him with it as Mr. Harvey simply watches. Jack is hospitalized and his other daughter, Lindsey (Rose McIver) who also suspects Mr. Harvey, decides to help her father investigate and try to get some evidence.

While "The Lovely Bones" remains fairly faithful to the story on which it is based and it is visually stunning but my concerns in trying to make a film on this subject is still problematic. The book was beautifully written and told from Susie's point of view but when you try to translate what happens visually, a lot of power of the novel is lost and it's much more difficult to digest.

"The Lovely Bones" shifts in tone from a dark and ugly murder and the aftermath to a bright and colorful, fantasy afterlife and it just doesn't work as a whole. The film works best at the beginning until we get to the murder, where it slowly continues to drift in uncertain directions. I know this would be challenge for any film maker to make but I don't know if Mr. Jackson was necessarily the best choice to try and tackle this material. He was unable to achieve any real and deep emotional feeling that is certainly needed for this to work at all as a film.

Mr. Tucci, completely unrecognizable here, is very frightening and gives the best performance in the film as Mr. Harvey. Ms. Ronan is a very talented young lady and hopefully she has a big future ahead in films but Ms Weisz is absolutely wasted, given nothing meaningful to do but display variations in sobbing and sadness.

I really wanted to like "The Lovely Bones" but at the end, there was no emotional payoff. It was nice looking film but it left no deep impression. I highly recommend reading the book for a more satisfying journey.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

Written by Michael Robert Johnson and Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg



Directed by Guy Ritchie


Where & When: Vista Theater, Los Angeles, CA. January 10, 2010 2:15PM



Guy Ritchie has made some decent, interesting films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RocknRolla) and one really bad one (Swept Away) but I think he is a good film maker who has the potential to make a great film. His latest, "Sherlock Holmes" puts a modern twist to the classic character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I don't think this film is helping put Mr. Ritchie or Mr. Holmes in the right direction. In the many books and movies based on the character, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is a brilliant, clever and sophisticated investigator but now in this updated version, he is still a somewhat intelligent investigator but he is also an obnoxious, self centered jerk who gets his kicks from bare knuckled boxing and pushing people's buttons. His associate and close friend, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) still assists Mr. Holmes but now he has a gambling problem.

The story begins with Sherlock and Watson, working with Scotland yard, to stop Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from completing a human sacrifice. He is arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Before his execution. Lord Blackwood requests Sherlock's presence. He tells him that there will be three more deaths after his execution and this will change the course of the world. Lord Blackwood is hung and his death is confirmed by Dr. Watson.

Irene Adler, (Rachel McAdams) a woman with sticky fingers and an old romantic acquaintance of Sherlock's, needs his help in locating a red headed midget for a person she is working for. He declines her offer but disguises himself and follows her to find out who her employer is. He is not able to get a good look but determines that he is a professor.

Later, a yardman claims to have seen Lord Blackwood walking from his grave. Sherlock and the police go and open Lord Blackstone's coffin and discover a red headed midget in his place. Doing further investigating with Watson, Sherlock discovers that the midget was doing chemistry experiments, that Lord Blackstone was involved in an occult-like, secret society and that Lord Blackstone is very much alive and in between there is plenty of fighting, chasing and mayhem.

I have to admit I had some difficulty trying to figure out what was going on in this film but I felt better after talking to other people who had seen it and they said the same thing. I think part of the problem is that there were three separate writers on this project which doesn't help to make a coherent story. Thank goodness Sherlock Holmes explained what was going on at the end and tied all the very loose ends together.

This reloaded version of Sherlock Holmes is long on over the top fight sequences, gruesome murders and groan inducing comic moments but very short on fun, charm or an interesting detective story. This would have been perfectly fine if this was your typical action film but this is supposed to be based on a iconic character, so people are expecting a lot more.

Despite the settings and costumes, I did not for one minute feel we were in Victorian England. In fact, since this version of Sherlock Holmes is so far removed from Sir Doyle's character, it would have served the film better to just simply have placed this character in contemporary London. It certainly wouldn't have it a better film but it would have made more sense.

Mr. Downey Jr. and Mr Law do what they do best in this film but Ms McAdams is completely wasted in this. She is too talented to waste her time on a underdeveloped character, no matter how many zeros are at the end of her paycheck.

By selecting to make this big-budgeted, Hollywood film, it is clear that Mr. Ritchie was seeking commercial success, which I understand and he did ultimately manage to achieve that goal but what was sacrificed was his artistry and independent spirit that made his previous films, while not entirely successful but always interesting to watch.

Because of the financial windfall of this film, of course, there will be a "Sherlock Holmes 2" (that was also made clear by the presumptuous ending) and if Mr. Ritchie is involved in it, let's hope he takes this opportunity to do it right this time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND (2009)


Written by Tennessee Williams


Directed by Jodie Markell


Where & When: Laemmle Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. January 3, 2010 1:40PM


Bryce Dallas Howard plays Fisher Willow, a recently discovered character in "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" which is an unproduced original screenplay by Tennessee Williams, the acclaimed writer of such classics as "A Streetcar Named Desire", "The Glass Menagerie" and "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof".

Fisher is a young heiress who likes to think of herself as a modern woman of the 1920's. She's spoiled, drinks way too much, doesn't have much regard for other people's feelings and suffers no fools. Despite this tough exterior, inside lies a girl who is very sensitive and fragile.

Fisher is social outcast because of the unscrupulous actions of her father but she is completely unfazed because she knows that because of who she is, she will be invited to many of the parties. She decides she needs a proper suitor to escort her to the upcoming parties instead of friends of her Aunt Cornelia (Ann-Margaret). She selects Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans), who works as a farmhand on her father's plantation. The problem is that Jimmy is poor, his father is an alcoholic and his mother has been committed to an asylum. None of this concerns Fisher but she knows it would be a problem for her Aunt Cornelia, who is raising her and controls her fortune. So she buys Jimmy a proper wardrobe and passes him off to her Aunt as the grandson of the former governor.

Jimmy reluctantly agrees to go along with Fisher's plan, mainly because she is his boss's daughter but also because he is a little intrigued by her and her outrageous behaviour.

Fisher prepares to attend the party of an old friend, Julie (Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep's daughter) and she begs Aunt Cornelia to allow her to wear her priceless diamond earrings. Cornelia is concerned because she knows how careless Fisher is but ultimately allows her to wear them.

On the way to the party, Fisher has Jimmy pull over the car, so they can talk. She realizes that she has feelings for him and she hoped that he could have them for her. She is disappointed and hurt when he pulls away from her when she tries to move in to kiss him.

When they arrive at Julie's party, Fisher is horrified to discover that she has lost one of the earrings. They search around but cannot find it. Perhaps seeking some sort of revenge on Jimmy, she accuses him of stealing the earring in front of the guests. Jimmy is highly insulted and demands to be strip searched by the house staff. Fisher tries to backtrack her accusation but it is too late. Jimmy spends the evening avoiding Fisher and cozying up to Vinnie, (Jessica Collins) a girl he was familiar with in the past.

During the party, Fisher is summoned over to the room of Miss Addie (Ellen Burstyn) because she wants to have a private conversation with her. Miss Addie is an invalid and bed ridden after suffering a series of strokes. She is in agony because her body has failed her and she wants Fisher to assist her in ending her misery. Miss Addie sees in her that she is the only person who could understand and would be willing to help her.

Will Fisher be able to repair the damage she has done to her relationship with Jimmy, will she actually help Miss Addie and what happened to that damn earring?

It was wonderful to hear his use of words and his brilliant dialogue (especially in this day and age) but the problem is that this screenplay doesn't feel completed which in turn also makes this film feel unfinished since Ms Markell insisted on filming only from the actual screenplay and not making any significant changes. This screenplay was written during the height of Mr. Williams's career so it's not surprising that the themes of alcoholism, mental instability and depression are in this story but have been used to greater effect in some of his other writings. It is clearly a work in progress which was abandoned for whatever reason and I'm sure is why it was never produced in Mr. Williams's lifetime. To be fair, I don't know if any changes would have even been allowed by the estate but it just feels like a complete disservice to the memory of Mr Williams for this to be have been made this way.

These characters appear to be just mere sketches of ideas that with a little more work could have been fully realized. Miss Howard does very well in shaping her character and she has enough to fill in the blanks which cannot be said for Mr. Evans's Jimmy.

"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" is watchable but will certainly not be remembered as one of Tennesse Williams's great lost works.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

MY LEAST FAVORITE FILMS OF 2009

Every year, there are always some films you see that are shockingly bad, unbelievably boring or pathetically sad that you can't believe that they were actually made.

I realize that nobody intentionally sets out to make a lousy film and I also know that there are people out there that will have liked or loved one or all of these films I'm going to mention. Despite this, I'm still going to name some films I didn't care for during this past year. You may or may not agree with me but that's what so great about cinema (or any art form for that matter). . . there is no film that is really "good" or "bad", that will only be determined by each individual viewer.

WATCHMEN: This film was my biggest disappointment of the year. I saw the great trailer and was REALLY looking forward in seeing this but it was a big fat bust. This film is an adaption of the comic book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and was made by director of the good but not great, "300" (2007), Zack Snyder. It's set in 1985 in an alternative world and the U.S. and the Soviet Union are in the middle of a Cold War and Richard Nixon is still president. A group of mostly retired super-heroes investigate a conspiracy against them and uncover something even more sinister. The film looks great but the problem is that the film feels bloated and is uninspired and sleep inducing. Even the sight of a large blue penis doesn't help matters.



FAME: This is a completely pointless and unnecessary remake of the 1980 film. This version follows a group of more pretty than talented students who attend the performing arts school in New York but this time the kids are stripped of any personality and decent songs to perform. I knew this wouldn't be great but was shocked at how bad it actually was. This film is not even worth renting.


THE BOX: Another big disappointment and I was fooled by another good trailer. It was my fault because I read all the bad reviews but I had kept my faith in director, Richard Kelly with thoughts of his great film "Donnie Darko" running through my head but he let me down BIG time. Cameron Diaz stars as a woman tempted by a big box with a button in the middle and the fate of her life at her fingertips. It could have been good but the story unravels into a crazy and incoherent mess.

NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU: A round up of celebrated film directors who were supposed to each make a short film about finding love in the city of New York that features an all-star cast. Every film was mediocre and as stale as week old bread. New York deserved much better and so did the audience.


THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE: I am a fan of Rebecca Miller's film, "Personal Velocity" (2002) but this one, which is based on her novel, is nowhere in the same league. Robin Wright stars as Pippa, a woman who married a much older man to start a new life and help save her from her troubled teenage past but now she is bored and developing new emotional problems as an adult. This film is so lethargic and dull that I didn't care one bit about either Pippa's public or private lives.





AN EDUCATION: I know there are many people who loved this film but beyond Carey Mulligan's very good performance, I think this film is wildly overrated and a complete snooze-fest. This is the story of a young student who is seduced by a wealthy older man who teaches her things she would never learn in a school book. I don't think this necessarily is a really bad film but it's just too ordinary and predictable.

Friday, January 1, 2010

MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 2009

Another year has ended as well as the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. I saw exactly one hundred films in a theater this past year and out of all of them, I can say that the films listed here I loved. Then there are a small number of them that I really liked but most were just average. Finally, there were the few that I really didn't like at all, which I'll get to on another post. I tend to wind up not seeing a lot of bad films because if the trailer doesn't convince me that I should go and see it, I don't waste my time. Sometimes, the trailer leaves me ambivalent and that's when reviews and word of mouth help me make a final decision, but then there is the very few instances when I just read about an upcoming film that sounds very interesting and it features a favorite actor or director and that's all I need to know and I'm so there.

Although there are still a few films out that I haven't seen yet, like "Avatar", "Nine", and "Invictus" that could have possibly found a place on this list, I think this is still a pretty accurate round up of my favorite movies of 2009. I decided not to limit the number of the films on this list because there is no point in doing that. Besides, I didn't think that there were that many great films released in 2009. I also didn't have the time to be able to write a review on some of the films on this list, so this is my chance to give a shout out to some wonderful moments in cinema.

So. here are the films, in no particular order, that either left a deep impression on me or they just simply made me feel good.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER: Sweet, sunny and funny. It was the perfect summer movie and it is now recently available to rent. It will warm you on these cold winter nights. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star as we watch the rise and fall of the relationship between a young couple over five hundred days.

THE HANGOVER: My favorite comedy of the year. The story of four friends who go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. The next day, they can't remember what happened and lose the groom. As they try and retrace their steps to find him. they discover exactly what they did. This film was hilarious and full of very funny surprises.



A SERIOUS MAN: The Coen Brothers have never made a bad film and their 14th film is another winner. The story of a man who suddenly has many troubles in his life and he is in search of some understanding and answers. Dark, funny and strange which is what I love about this film. This film also had one of the best trailers of the year.



A SINGLE MAN: Tom Ford's film debut is beautiful and visually exciting and features a great performance from Colin Firth. This is a story about a man who loses the will to live after the death of his lover and wants to end it all but discovers it's much more complicated than he thought. Another great trailer.

UP: My favorite animated film of this year. This is a story of an elderly widower who is trying to escape an eviction by tying helium balloons to his house and floating away (If only it was that easy) but a young wilderness scout has stowed away on his porch. A funny and poignant film.

UP IN THE AIR: George Clooney stars as a corporate down sizer who travels the country and doesn't have time for any emotional connections. He thinks his life is perfect but several events occur that shakes things up for him. Great performances and another great film from director Jason Reitman plus another really great trailer.

STAR TREK: I was never really a big "Star Trek" fan but this film refreshed and reinvigorated the long running film and television series. This story starts from the beginning and we are introduced to all the beloved characters. Fun, thrilling and surprisingly sexy plus a great cast makes this one of the best popcorn flicks of the year.



INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Quentin Tarantino is another film maker who has not made a bad film. Of course, some are stronger than others and this film is certainly one of the better ones. Brad Pitt leads his army of men to try and put an end to Hitler and the Nazi party. A superior script and a brilliant performance from Christoph Waltz help make this another classic film by Mr. Tarantino.

SUMMER HOURS: A wonderful French film by Olivier Assayas that stars Juliette Binoche as one of three siblings who must face the loss of their childhood memories and their family heirlooms after the death of their mother. A warm and touching movie that I highly recommend you check out when it's available on DVD.



I LOVE YOU, MAN: Paul Rudd stars as a man who lacks a close male friend and starts a bromance with Jason Segel. Paul's girlfriend is okay with the idea until it starts to interfere with their relationship. A Hollywood comedy that is also smart and touching.



EVERY LITTLE STEP, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE, TYSON, GOOD HAIR & VALENTINO- THE LAST EMPEROR: I saw some really interesting documentaries last year and these were the ones that interested me the most. They aren't very deep but they are fun, entertaining and worth seeing. "Every Little Step" is about the casting of the latest version of "A Chorus Line" on Broadway and we follow the lives of some of the possible performers for the show; "The September Issue" is about the creation of the September issue of Vogue magazine and it's powerful editor, Anna Wintour; "Tyson" is about boxer, Mike Tyson and the fascinating look at his life; "Good Hair" is about Africian-American hair and what is considered "good" and "Valentino - The Last Emperor" is about fashion designer, Valentino creating his last collection before he retires.



PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE: Gabourey Sidibe gives an amazing and heartbreaking performance as an obese, young woman trying to find a better life for herself and her children but is being abused and kept down by society and her own mother played by Mo'nique. Director Lee Daniels is an interesting film maker and I'm looking forward in seeing what he will do next. This is hard to watch at times but it is a great and powerful film and well worth seeing.



HONORABLE MENTION: BROKEN EMBRACES, THE HURT LOCKER, THE MAID, MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY, CORALINE and JULIE AND JULIA