This movie, forever known for the line “I don’t have to show you any stinking badges,” is more of a philosophical study on human nature than an action film. Yes, there is action and a certain sense of mystery, but the core of the film is a character study about materialism, morals and friendship. Don’t be alarmed…all of these things make it sound like a boring “educational” film, which it is most definitely not. Based on a novel by the elusive author B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre lives up to its reputation as a true classic directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th Century (John Huston). Humphrey Bogart, who had already developed a working relationship with Huston with films like 1941’s The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo also from 1948, changed his clean-cut ladies man image to take on the role of a scruffy, indigent American Fred Dobbs trapped in Mexico. With a coincidental twist of fate, Dobbs meets up with Curtin, who is just as down on his luck, and an aged prospector (Huston’s father Walter) who tells the two younger men about his good old days gold mining. That’s when it really all begins…the three of them head out of town to hunt for gold. Whether they find some of not is soon irrelevant since once in the middle of nowhere Curtin’s and especially Dobbs’s greed and paranoia starts to take over. Walter Huston’s character, Howard, is the one constant in the film. He does not change since he already has experienced the highs and lows of prospecting and knows what not to do. Also, being the oldest, Howard has the least to lose or gain from finding gold. Put all of these characters and situations together and what you have is one great film filled with flawed, yet powerful people learning an equally powerful message. Don’t worry—this film is not preachy in its morality. It just depicts how easily greed can corrupt. A good film for everyone to watch but especially recent lottery winners!

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Trade is a tough film to watch. There is a rape. There is violence toward children. I felt, though, that the movie handles these tough issues very well and respects all of the characters throughout the film. Once the Kevin Kline character enters the story, there are moments of unbelievability and even sappiness but for the most part, I felt this was a realistic portrayal of a small slice of the world of human trafficking. The movie does not end how you think it will…where I thought it was going to end would have been unsatisfying for me…since it would have been a clichéd, happy ending. It went one step further and took the ending back to a place of realism and believability.

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James Bond meets The Day of the Jackal meets Fargo. Sounds strange, I know but watching four-time Bond actor Pierce Brosnan play a tired assassin is a strange thing to imagine. But, Brosnan does not let that stand in his way of making the role his own…he really seems to have fun with his character here. This is a dark comedy but much of the comedy is pretty light. I mean, unlike Fargo, this one does not use the murders as a source of the humor. The humor comes from the characters’ unusual personalities, especially Brosnan’s. Plot is simple here: a down-and-out businessman meets a down-and-out hit man in Mexico City where both are on business…Brosnan for a hit and Greg Kinnear’s businessman for a career-make-or-break client. They strike up a conversation which leads to a camaraderie which leads to a close friendship. These are both are hard-to-read people. On the exterior, it seems like it’s just Brosnan’s character who is the complicated one (he covers his complications with wisecracks, swearing, and liquor), but Kinnear’s complicatedness comes out slowly and more subtly throughout the film. I mean, Brosnan practically has a nervous breakdown in the middle of the film. But, the Kinnear character is just as fragile as Brosnan is. It’s a hard movie to describe because it has so many levels but what I can describe is that I enjoyed it tremendously.

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I went into this one with low expectations. I had heard that Denzel Washington plays a troubled soul in Man on Fire, one who has had his fair encounters with criminal behavior. This depiction immediately took me back to Training Day, where Washington plays a corrupt cop in a role that earned him his first Best Actor Oscar. I did not like Training Day and even though Washington gives an extreme and powerful performance, I could not help thinking Man on Fire would be more of the same “bad guy” Washington. This time, though, the movie worked from start to finish, with only a few minor glitches along the way. Washington’s character, Creasy, is a man in torment. He accepts the job of guarding young Dakota Fanning’s character, Pita, as kind of a last resort before suicide or another form of self-destruction (Creasy is a rampant alcoholic in the beginning of the film). The beginning is strengthened by the touching relationship between Pita and Creasy. At first, he tries his best to keep his distance from this young girl but she softens him up and wins him over in a completely realistic way. This story could have become very trite during these scenes with Washington succumbing to Fanning’s charms without justification, but with credit to both actors, they are able to make the transition from strangers to friends natural and convincing. The second part of the movie continues to get its strength from the relationship between Creasy and Pita, but in a more dramatic and deeper way. Sure, there are parts of this film that are highly unbelievable and over-the-top. But, it’s an action movie. Most action movies provide more unbelievable entertainment that realism, whereas this is not the case here. For the most part, this film speaks true, mostly because of the relationship between and the performances by Washington and Fanning.

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A fabulously vivid and enticing film from Mexico that combines food and sensuality. The story, based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Esquivel, revolves around a family who has three daughters…the oldest one is a rebel, the middle one is the “good” girl, and the youngest is doomed to a live of misery and loneliness since she will be the one to take care of her aging mother and can never marry. The youngest falls in love with a man, but the middle daughter is the one the mother assigns him to marry instead. Filled with rage and hatred for her mother and her situation, the youngest takes her anger out in her cooking. Beautifully filmed, this is a wonderfully colorful and lush film that will make you both hungry and excited. What more can you ask for than that?

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