Sunday, October 31, 2010


Written by Matt Greenhalgh

Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood

Where & When: Los Feliz 3,  Los Angeles, CA.  October 17, 2010 1:30PM

The Beatles are considered one of the greatest bands of the rock & roll era. John Lennon was a part of this group, contributing bass guitar and was one half of the core song-writing team for the band. His life was cut tragically short on December 8, 1980 and this year he would have turned seventy. The new film, "Nowhere Boy" explores the story of John Lennon's developing teenage years and his attempt to become a musician and start a band.

Aaron Johnson plays John, a smart but mischievous sixteen year old who is trying to figure out who he is and what he's going to do with his life. We first meet John, who is living with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and Uncle George (David Threlfall) in Liverpool, England. He's not much interested in school but Mimi is constantly on him to get to education and wear his glasses. John relates better with his uncle because he is a fun-loving and gregarious guy while his aunt is more distant and strict.

After George passes away suddenly, John is left alone with just his Aunt Mimi. Although his aunt means well, she just doesn't do warm and fuzzy but that is exactly what John needs right now.

John discovers that his mother has been living not far from him all these years and decides to go and pay her a visit. The last time he saw her, he was a small boy but Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who is Mimi's sister, is very happy to see him and welcomes her son with open arms. Julia, who now has a new husband and two young daughters, is a hot-blooded, free spirit who drops everything so they spend the day together. John soon sees how much he is like his mother, most especially in that they both share in the love of rock music. She introduces her son to Screamin' Jay Hawkins's, "I Put A Spell On You" and soon after that moment, he decides to become a musician.

John talks his aunt in to getting him a guitar, although she is highly skeptical of him making a living as a musician, and he forms a band called The Quarrymen made up of a bunch of school friends. After their second concert, John meets Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster), a talented guitarist who was impressed with the band. John soon asks Paul to join the band and they begin working together writing songs.

John begins to have more trouble at home with his aunt, so he wants to move in with his mother. Julia agrees but it causes problems with her husband as well as her sister, who knows the reason why John has been living with her all these years. These estranged sisters both begin fighting over this boy they both love but neither wants to tell him about the past but John soon begins to wonder himself why his mother did not raise him, pressuring them to tell him. John does gets an explanation, which turns out to be a dark family secret that may be more than he really wanted to know.

Partially based on a biography by Lennon's half sister, Julia Baird, this is photographer and artist, Samantha "Sam" Taylor-Wood's feature film debut and she has shown great promise with her exceptional first film. She employs all of skills to create a vivid visual style in addition to inventive editing and a crackling energy which helps this drama rise well above a typical biopic.

Mr. Greenhalgh, who also wrote a great film I just recently saw, "Control", the 2007 biopic about Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis, has written a warm yet rollicking script that helps flesh out the little known story of these real life people as well a takes us to the time when rock is beginning to cause a major shift in our society with the soundtrack filled with the great music of those early pioneers.

Although he doesn't look much like Lennon and appears much older than sixteen, the handsome Mr. Johnson, who may be best known to American audiences from his appearance in this year's super-hero flick,"Kick Ass", perfectly conveys the spirit of the future Beatle. He believably takes John Lennon from an unfocused and unsure teenager to a confident and charismatic musician with precsion and ease.

Ms Scott-Thomas is always wonderful and she does British chilliness very well but the film's true revelation is the performance of Ms Duff. She is little known here state side but I do hope that changes after this film appearance. Her Julia is one part red-hot mama and the other a giddy child-woman but there is a darkness lurking underneath that can creep up on her unexpectedly. When Ms Duff is on the screen, you can't take your eyes off of her.

"Nowhere Boy" ends right when the band is preparing to head off to Hamburg, Germany where the Quarrymen would soon evolve in to the Beatles and Lennon's life, as well as the rest of the world would be changed forever.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

EASY A (2010)

Written by Bert V. Royal

Directed by Will Gluck

Where & When: AMC Century City 15, West Los Angeles, CA. October 13, 2010  4:40PM

"Easy A" is a teen comedy loosely inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's tale, "The Scarlet Letter" in which a puritan woman is publicly punished for her adulterous affair by being forced to wear a red "A". This film uses that story and humorously shows how far we have come as a society but also how things have not changed one bit.

The film opens with Olive (Emma Stone), an unpopular high school student, making a confession via web cam, explaining about how her little white lie exploded into this out-of-control, complete disaster.

Olive explains that the whole thing started when she didn't want to go camping with her best friend, Rhiannon (Ally Michalka) and her family over the weekend, so she just tells her that she has a date. On Monday, Rhiannon wants all of the juicy details, so Olive feels compelled to give her some juice. She tells her that she lost her virginity to a college boy but Marianne (Amanda Bynes), a religious zealot, overhears their conversation and quickly spreads the news around the school. Marianne leads a teen church group at school and decides their mission is to save Olive from her sinful ways. During English class with Olive's favorite teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church) has the students reading, "The Scarlet Letter". While discussing the book, one of the girls from the church group makes a catty remark directed at Olive and she in turn lets loose with a few choice words of her own.

Olive is sent to the Principal's office and is given detention. While there, she meets Brandon (Dan Boyd), a fellow student who is harassed because he is gay. She confides to him that she made up the story about her sleeping with a college boy which gives Brandon an idea that could help him. Olive and Brandon arrive at a party where they announce that they want to have sex and head to a bedroom where they pretend to get it on. This changes Brandon's reputation and makes him popular at school but it really doesn't do much for Olive.

Soon, other school misfits approach Olive asking her to say they had sexual relations with her in exchange for gift cards and money. She decides to embrace her bad reputation by wearing sexy clothing and, unlike the character, Hester Prynne, proudly stitching a red letter, "A" to them. Olive becomes quite popular but not for the right reasons. Things go downhill very quickly however and Olive soon realizes the error of her actions but how is she going to clear her name and get the truth out?

"Easy A" lovingly pays warm homage to the teen comedies of the 1980's while keeping it's feet firmly planted in our modern times. The script tends to be filled with more chuckles than laugh-out-loud funny but there are plenty of great lines.This film is full of charm and quite enjoyable, although I highly doubt that a teenage girl simply being accused of having sex in today's society will hardly make her an outcast in high school or even raise any eyebrows for that matter.

Ms. Stone showed great potential in her supporting role in the cute 2008 sex comedy, "The House Bunny" but "Easy A" is her first lead role and it's a perfect showcase to show off her talent. She has all of the attributes of a great screen comedienne: charm, intelligence, timing and fearlessness. I see a possible great future ahead for her if she continues making smart film choices. The film also features nice cameos from Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive's wacky liberal-minded parents, Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley as Olive's school crush and Lisa Kudrow as the school's counselor with a dark secret.

"Easy A" may be light-weight but it treats it's target audience with a solid comedy that is refreshingly smart and fun.This film is certainly also good enough to appeal to people who haven't seen the inside of a high school in many years.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Here is a collection of a few upcoming films that will be released throughout the rest of the year that look most interesting to me:


Release date: November 5, 2010

Tyler Perry has assembled an impressive group of African-American actresses (Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson and Thandi Newton) in this filmed version of the hit 1975 play. Mr. Perry is not one of my favorite filmmakers but I am intrigued by this trailer.


Release date; November 5, 2010

Naomi Watts stars, in this unbelievable true story, as Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent who was outed by White House officials during the Bush administration in order to discredit her husband, played by Sean Penn because of a critical article he wrote in the New York Times. This thriller is directed by "The Bourne Identity"'s Doug Liman.


Release date: November 12, 2010

This comedy is set in the world of morning television where Rachel McAdams plays a news producer trying to save a struggling show. This features a dazzling cast that includes Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum.


Release date: November 24, 2010

In the spirit of "Showgirls" comes another tale of a small-town girl coming to the big city, looking to dance her way in to stardom but this time she can sing too. Cher returns to the screen in this musical, after too long of an absence and Christina Aguliara makes her film debut. I don't really expect this to be any good, but I'm sure it will be a lot of campy fun.


Release date: December 10, 2010

Based on one of Shakespeare's last plays, Helen Mirren stars in this re-imagining where the character of Prospero is now a female.This also features Alfred Molina, David Strathaim, Chris Cooper and Djimon Hounsou in this visually stunning film directed by Julie Taymor ("Across The Universe", "Frida").


Release date: December 17, 2010

The director of such classic films, "Terms of Endearment" (1983) and "Broadcast News" (1987), James L. Brooks returns to the big screen, after his horrible last film, "Spanglish" (2004), with a promising new one. This romantic-comedy stars Reese Witherspoon in a love triangle between a corporate executive (Paul Rudd) and a major league pitcher (Owen Wilson) and it also features Jack Nicholson.


Release date: December 25, 2010

The Coen Brothers have returned with a remake of the 1969 western film that starred John Wayne. This version will be more faithful to the novel on which it was based and will star Jeff Bridges as "Rooster" Cogburn along with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Written by Aaron Sorkin

Directed by David Fincher

Where & When: Vista Theater, Los Angeles, CA. October 3, 2010

I have to admit that I am probably one of only a handful of people on the planet who is not on Facebook. I have flirted with the idea of joining over the years but I always just wind up finding something better to do.

When I first heard that they were actually going to make a film about the creators of the friend-collecting, time-wasting site, I thought that watching some techie-geeks sitting around talking about computers and the girls that won't pay them any attention wouldn't be all that exciting.

How very wrong I was.

I was not really all that familiar with the origin of Facebook, but the film, "The Social Network" reveals a very fascinating story, indeed. Most especially in the hands of the brilliant film maker, David Fincher of "Se7en" (1995) and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008) fame and the very talented writer of "The American President" (1995) and the television show, "The West Wing", Aaron Sorkin who together made one of the most interesting and best films of the year.

We first meet Mark Zuckerberg, wonderfully played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is a student at Harvard, in the middle of a conversation with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). This exchange perfectly shows his brilliant mind and anti-social behavior but also clearly explains why Erica is breaking up with him.

Upset about being dumped, Mark storms back to his dorm room and after a few beers, decides to enact a little revenge. After posting a blog that bad mouths Erica, Mark then easily hacks into the school's database and downloads the names and pictures of the students. With the help of Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who is probably Mark's only true friend, comes up with a web page called "Facemash" that puts two female students pictures together to vote on which one is more attractive which he sends out throughout the campus. It becomes so popular that it causes the school's network to crash.

Mark is put on academic probation after he is caught and is a pariah with the female students but his work catches the attention of three upperclassmen. The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (these characters were created with a computer with Arnie Hammer as the face of both twins and Josh Pence as the body used for one of the twins) and Divya Narendra (Max Mingella) approach Mark about creating a program for them that would connect the students at Harvard and call it "The Harvard Connection". Mark agrees to do it.

Later, Mark tells Eduardo about his idea to create a social network where people can share personal information without the worry of an invasion of privacy and he wants Eduardo to put up the seed money. Eduardo agrees and it is called, "Thefacebook". The site becomes very popular, very quickly throughout the school. Divya gets wind of  Mark's deception and tells the Winklevoss twins that they need to sue him for stealing their idea.

Soon Thefacebook expands to other universities and Eduardo and Mark have different ideas on how to have the site grow. Eduardo's girlfriend, Chrissy (Brenda Song) arranges a meeting with Napster founder, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Sean is a fast-talker and very charismatic but Eduardo is not charmed and doesn't trust him but Mark is captivated. Sean gives his opinion about how the site should be handled which is very similar to what Mark wants to do but no deal between them had been decided. Sean does give some free advice, which is to drop "the" from the name of their website.

While Eduardo seeks advertising support in New York, Mark moves their operation to Palo Alto, California where he rents a house to work out of. Sean Parker happens to run into Mark and in no time, Sean has moved in to the house and helps make business decisions. Later, Eduardo arrives in California and is upset to find that Sean is living in the house but Mark tells him that they now have an informal investor, thanks to Sean.

Eduardo is soon deceived when Mark allows Sean to arrange to reduce his shares in the company from one third to less than one tenth of one percent and have his name removed as a founder. It's not too long after this that during a party for Facebook, Sean is busted with some underage interns for possession of cocaine. Not surprisingly, Mark is sued separately by Eduardo and the Winklevoss twins for what each thinks he stole from them.

The film is based on the book, "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich and although there was no involvement by any of the actual participants on the film, I find it interesting that no one in this story has come forward to claim that anything in "The Social Network" is not fairly accurate. Mr. Sorkin has taken the facts from this story and made a very sharp and clever script by vividly creating a semi-fictional account of the events while objectively showing each person's side of it. This will be the script to beat during award season.

After years as a successful music video director, Mr. Fincher made his first feature film, "Alien 3" in 1992. The film was a complete disaster but it did show his potential and he was fortunately given another opportunity which he has gone on to make some brilliant movies that include some of my favorites like "Fight Club" (1999), "Panic Room" (2002) and "Zodiac" (2007). His eighth, "The Social Network" is another solid film that is fast-paced, thought-provoking and highly entertaining. He is currently working on the English language re-make of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and although I still don't think it's necessary, I am looking forward in seeing what he will do with the material.

A great cast of young actors has been assembled which includes a surprisingly effective job by Mr. Timberlake. I always feel a little resistance to musicians who decide to become actors because normally they tend to be too obviously out of their element but in the right hands, they can sometimes deliver a really great performance. I don't know if this means Mr.Timberlake has a long film career ahead of him but he most certainly can be proud of this moment.

I always saw the potential in Mr. Eisenberg in all the films he has done, most especially "The Squid and the Whale" (2005) but this film has really given him a great opportunity to shine. He skillfully is able to have Mr. Zuckerberg come across as ambitious and complicated but also manipulative and deceitful while still not seeming like such a awful guy. It's a great performance and all the Oscar talk is not just hype.

"The Social Network" is the rare film that speaks to the youth of the digital age in a smart and insightful way. It is a clear reflection of the beginning of the way our society now communicates with each other and because of the anonymous nature of it, people no longer feel the need to consider the moral consequences of what they say or do over the internet. The film shows how technology can be used to add quality to our lives but also how it can be used, if we are not careful, to be very destructive.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


The American Film Institute's annual film festival is being presented this year in Hollywood, CA. on November 4 thru 11 with screenings being held at the magnificent Grauman's Chinese Theater, the historic Egyptian Theater and at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, home of the very first Academy Awards ceremony.

The opening film with be "Love And Other Drugs", directed by Ed Zwick and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. This film should be released theatrically on November 24, 2010.

The closing night film will be "Black Swan", directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. This should be released in U.S. theaters on December 1, 2010.

David Lynch will be the first-ever guest artistic director of this year's film festival and most noteworthy, the festival will once again be offering free tickets to all of the AFI screenings with tickets available online to members on October 27 and to the general public on October 28.

For more information, please go to: AFI 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

BURIED (2010)

Written by Chris Sparling

Directed by Rodrigo Cortes

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. October 5, 2010  1:45PM

The bleak and disturbing film,"Buried" opens in complete darkness, then we hear a male's voice groaning. Next, we hear a lighter being ignited, then we see Paul Conroy, played by Ryan Reynolds, who is bound and gagged inside of a coffin. He is an American truck driver working in Iraq and this is just the beginning of his harrowing ordeal.

Paul manages to get himself loose, then he, understandably, completely freaks out. After he calms down, he tries to recall how he got in this box and figure out how he's going to get himself out. He takes inventory and discovers that he has in pockets, the previously mentioned lighter, a knife, a small flask of water, anti-anxiety pills and a cell phone that doesn't belong to him.

Paul first tries calling his wife and then his employers but he just gets an answering machine. He calls the FBI next, which he is able to let an operator know his situation before the call is disconnected. The cell phone rings and it is man informing Paul that he has been kidnapped and he wants five million dollars in order for him to be released alive. Paul, of course, doesn't have that kind of money so the man tells him to have the U.S. government pay it. . .or else.

He immediately calls back the FBI where he is transferred to a special agency operative who tells Paul that they are doing all they can to locate him but the United States doesn't pay for hostages. The agent gets as much information as possible from Paul, then he will get back to him.

The kidnapper calls back and lowers the amount to just one million but demands that Paul make a ransom video using the phone. He then has Paul watch a video of a fellow employee held hostage to show him that they mean business. Paul is desperate because he realizes he is running out of time. He knows he will soon run out of air, the cell phone battery is almost out of power, the coffin is slowly filling up with sand because of the bombing going on above him and he has to fight off an unwelcome slithery visitor.

This is not fun stuff and to call this film, tense, is an understatement. When "Buried" comes to it's inevitable conclusion, I just wondered what the hell was the point of all of this? If this was supposed to be a traditional horror film, I wouldn't have had so much of a problem but this is apparently a serious drama. I didn't find any of this entertaining and the idea of sitting for ninety minutes watching this poor man struggle to stay alive was distressing and disgusting actually. I can't imagine any real kidnappers really going through all this trouble for ransom money. This film felt like a slightly more sophisticated version of torture porn.

I can be honest and say that Mr. Cortes has actually made a well-crafted and suspenseful film, which I guess is partially the point and I suppose there is a political statement being made as well, but it's not very clear. "Buried" is in real time and he cleverly uses only the lighter and the cell phone to illuminate the film which helps puts the audience in the coffin with Paul Conroy.

Mr. Reynolds is the only one on the screen and he takes us through a gamut of emotions we would all go through if we were in a similar plight; fear, anger, frustration, desperation and finally, resolve to his situation and he does so exceptionally well. But none of this is enough to say you should rush out and see "Buried". I'm sure there is a message buried under all of this but I have no idea of what it is.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

HOWL (2010)

Written & Directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. October 2, 2010 4:30PM

It's hard to imagine that a book published today could be labeled obscene and that the author would have to defend his work in a court of law but it wasn't so long ago when that certainly could happen in this country. "Howl", the first narrative feature by noted documentary filmmakers, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, explores the creation of the book of poetry written by Allen Ginsberg, played in the film by James Franco, that was deemed indecent.

The film is fragmented in to three distinct parts: One is of Ginsberg's first public performance of "Howl" in 1955 shot in black & white which is combined with a colorful, animated visualization of the poem during the reading.

The second is an interview Ginsberg is giving to an unseen reporter which he discusses his troubled childhood which included his mother being institutionalized, how fellow writer, Jack Kerouac was the inspiration for the writing of the poem and Ginsberg's philosophy of life, sex and love.

The final is the actual obscenity trial itself which was actually against Lawrence Feringhetti of the City Lights Bookstore who was the first to publish the book. Jon Hamm plays defense attorney, Jake Ehrlich and David Stratharin plays Ralph McIntosh, the prosecution.

It was admitted by many of the prosecution witnesses that they either didn't fully understand the poem or they came to their own interpretation of the ideas behind it but they all agreed that it had to be obscene because of a few choice words used and it had absolutely no literary value. While Mr. Ginsberg and the Beat Generation is a fascinating subject matter, the film, despite good intentions, great style and plenty of talented people involved, lacks a clear focus, significant energy and doesn't dig nearly enough to make this rise above a conventional biopic.

Mr. Franco gives his all in his performance and is quite believable as Ginsberg. Treat Williams, Alessandro Nivola, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Daniels make cameo appearances playing the various experts in the field of literature who either defend or are against Mr. Ginsberg's book of poetry but despite their presence, the court room scenes are deadly dull.

I should admit that I am not at all a fan of poetry, since I tend to be more of a literal minded person and the addition of the animation didn't help me understand or explain the intention of Mr. Ginsberg. I think that is the basic problem for me with poetry is that the ideas really would only be clear or obvious to the writer. "Howl" brings long overdue attention to the work of Allen Ginsberg and shows us how far our society has come on our views on what is "art" and what is socially acceptable but unfortunately it doesn't work completely as an entertaining film.