Can Winston Churchill be exciting? In this second installment of HBO’s film on Churchill (the first being The Gathering Storm with Albert Finney playing Churchill), the old English Bulldog is pretty darn exciting. Maybe I should preface that by saying the ERA that this film takes place in is much more exhilarating than the timeframe of the Finney film (pre-WWII). Churchill during WWII was a force to be reckoned with. He and FDR formed a powerful, menacing alliance that took the world and Hitler by storm. In The Gathering Storm, Finney did a fabulous job of embodying the Prime Minister, but there was always something a little too “regal” about him. I mean after all, it was Albert Finney under all of that make-up and the years of classical acting seemed to hinder the rough, brash Churchill exterior from coming all the way through. Here, in this film, Irish actor Brendan Gleeson does not have any problem being a true, unadulterated curmudgeon. Gleeson’s performance is truly phenomenal…he’s all fire and brimstone when he needs to be but in the scenes with Churchill and his wife Clemmie, Gleeson shine’s as he lets slivers of Churchill’s soft side peek out. All around, an excellent film about a traumatic time in history…and about the man who made sure Great Britain got though that trauma mostly unscathed.

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For those of us who have fallen in love with Danny Ocean and his crew through the first installment, 2001′s Ocean’s Eleven and with the harder-to-love second in the series, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), this film is a must! Where Ocean’s Eleven was glitzy and stylish and Ocean’s Twelve was more convoluted and mysterious, this one is a mesh of the two. Admittedly, even the cast and crew says that Twelve did not live up to the high entertainment standards set by Eleven. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but I can say that Eleven and Twelve do seem like completely separate movies…both with different agendas. Thirteen was their way of rectifying the public dismay with Twelve so when it came to glitz and glamour and entertainment, they held absolutely nothing back. The plot (does plot really matter in these films?) revolves around Vegas developer Willie Bank (played with lots of zip by Al Pacino) who fleeces Reuben (Elliot Gould as one of the “eleven”) out of his share in Bank’s new casino. Enter the rest of the “eleven” to right Reuben’s wrong and get even with Bank. The plot, though, is overshadowed by good looking people, good looking sets, and snappy, witty dialogue that Eleven did with perfection. Apparently, this will be the last in the series, but who knows since, at the end of this one, there seemed to be the perfect entree for a number 14.

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Where the first one was slick, this one is stylized. Where the first one was clever, this one is intellectual. Where the first one is glitz, this one is glamour. Basically, Ocean’s Twelve is for adults…not only for action movie-crazed adults but for adults who need more plot, structure, and development. The look of this film is almost a night and day difference from the first, mostly because there is no “Vegas” in the second film. (I use Vegas here as a noun because in the first film, Las Vegas became an entity onto itself by contributing highly to the slickness and glitziness of the first film.) Amsterdam, Rome, Naples…where the second film is set…lend to more of an old world sophistication that Vegas can’t touch. Vegas is a playground and looks the part. Europe is cultural and classic and looks that part. Director Steven Soderbergh does many of his same tricks with the camera here to try and pump up the pace and plot. But, again, taking Vegas out of the equation brings the movie out of the realm of the fantastic and into the world of the real. Concerning the plot in this second film…well even that seems to lack some of the “Vegas” feel to it. The first one seemed faster and filled with more vigor. Tricks happened right until the every end and the audience enjoyed the ride. The characters looked good and moved quick to keep up with the Vegas scene. In Europe, there seems to be a more laid-back feel to the characters. The film starts off with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict character (who was the victim – if you can call him that – in the first film) giving each of Ocean’s men two weeks to return his money. Two weeks!!! They should all be running around frantic. But, they are not. They act like they have all the time in the world. Does the European setting have that much to do with the pace? Maybe or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to make a film that was more intellectual than eye candy. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eye candy. But, I also like a good movie. Both of these are good films in their own unique ways, but keep in mind that one is more the kid in you and one is for your adult side trying to break through.

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John McClane, I have to confess, is one of my favorite movie characters in contemporary cinema. From the first time we met him in 1988’s Die Hard, he has always been there to save the day, no matter who the bad guy is, what the obstacle is, or how old he is. It is now almost 20 years later and McClane is still going strong…maybe even stronger than ever. And, even after all the bruises and bullets and stabbings, he’s still got the goods to add two hours of pure entertainment to our hectic schedules. The plot of this one is pretty convoluted, but the guts of it are that a former computer security employee for the government got mad and wants to show America how angry he is by stealing billions from the country. McClane, once again, finds himself embroiled in this mess, not seeking out any trouble, but rather having trouble find him. Bruce Willis, born in 1955, does not show any wear and tear here…though I’m assuming the stunt team does more for him that they did in the previous outings. He gives McClane that perfect cocky attitude and the right mix of butt-kicking thrown in. The action sequences here are phenomenal…almost as good as the first. If I didn’t know better, I would think McClane was really caught in some of those precarious situations, rather than having them be computer generated. This just proves that even though times have changed, McClane and his Die Hards do not.

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Based on the bestselling book by Helen Fielding, this story of the classic “singleton” hits both dramatic and comic highs and lows while entertaining throughout. Texan Renee Zellweger strikes the perfect British tone as Bridget, a single, frustrated Londoner who looks for love in all the wrong places. Hugh Grant steals most of his scenes as the devilish Daniel, who once again fits Bridget’s bill as the “wrong” guy. Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy, on the other hand, might very well be the “right” guy, if Bridget would ever realize it before it’s too late. Well-adapted from its diary format, this movie runs the gamut of emotions while never seeming forced or fake, mostly due to Zellweger’s robust and daring performance as the ever-disappointed yet daffy Bridget.

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I wanted to LOVE this movie. After-all, I adored the first installment. So, naturally, I was VERY excited to see this one. And, I have to say, I was let-down some. Not because it’s not a cute, witty film (the first one was extremely witty), but because it’s not AS entertaining as the first. Sequels do have a lot to live up to and this one, like most, falls flat, in comparison to the first. But, looking at the film on it’s own, it is a sweet, funny romantic comedy that has a lot of problems (the jail scenes need to be MUCH shorter) but that basically is a cute, fun film. Starting from where the first film lets off (Bridget just snags Mark Darcy as her boyfriend and she’s no longer a “singleton”), Bridget once again is up to her old tricks. Now that she HAS Mark, she tries her best to “get rid of him” by letting her paranoia get the best of her. Bridget is a very appealing character. She’s like every woman. She’s nuts at time. She’s not bone thin. She makes a lot of mistakes. She’s VERY imperfect. Why Mark (a heck of a lot more perfect than Bridget) would be with her is a mystery but doesn’t every slightly chubby, less than gorgeous woman imagine Mr. Perfect on her arm. It’s a film about watching someone live out her fantasies…and I’m sorry but I wouldn’t mind doing that.

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Like its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy, this film holds up well against the first one of the series, The Bourne Identity. When it comes to series films, regardless of how good or bad the first one is, the subsequent films are usually never good…or at least as good…as the first. By a third film in a series, everything just seems to run out of steam…especially the screenplay. Plot is just mostly ignored…since blowing things up for no reason does not fall under the list of acceptable plotlines. In The Bourne Ultimatum, the script stays taut and clever from start to finish, the action stays consistently tied to the story, and the actors do not behave like they are sleepwalking through their performances. Beginning with the plot thread that left Supremacy up in the air, Ultimatum takes charge right from the beginning. Jason Bourne, this time, remembers more about his past and is determined to find out who is the person responsible for that said past. No, it’s not MUCH of a plot but at least it’s some justification for all of the action and fighting. It’s simple…a simple story…Jason Bourne wants to find out who he is and why he does what he does. Basing all the action on that logic, the movie makes sense. And it is one heck of a wild ride – once again Greengrass and his crew incorporate the camera in the action…make sure to take your Dramamine before this one because when Jason Bourne gets in a brawl, you feel like you’re punching right along with him. If you were a fan of the first two films, this one is a must see!

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Like the 2002 film, The Bourne Identity, this film features amnesiac Jason Bourne on his quest to find the truth out about himself and his possibly nefarious former life. Identity ends with Jason reconnecting with love Marie in an island paradise and Supremacy continues at that spot. From there, it spins you into a world of action, intrigue, and governmental intelligence like nothing ever before. Identity lays the groundwork for the character and plot, but this film answers most, not all, of the questions. It is faster, more intense, and a bit more easy to follow than the first installment. And, there is a car chase in Supremacy (one of the best car chases ever in movies, I feel) that will make you want to walk around for a while since just the sight of automobiles will make you sick. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne to the hilt, capturing the right level of stamina, compassion, and strength of mind and body. The supporting characters (some carried over from Identity, some new) round out the film by filling in some of the holes about Jason’s past, that, of course, he can’t do since he’s lost his memory. This is one of the best action films in recent years (or decades). It takes the audience on a ride of fun and thrills, all while maintaining a level of plausibility, smarts, and common sense…things VERY few action movies do anymore.

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