Sunday, July 29, 2007

Talk To Me

  Don Cheadle gives a tour de force performance in this "based on a true story" film. This is the story of Petey Greene Jr, an ex-con who ends up as a radio DJ for WOL-AM in Washington D.C. in the late '60's. The film tries hard to cover a capsule view of late '60's America before and after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and for the most part works well enough to propel the story.
     Co-starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (so good in "Dirty Pretty Things") as Dewy Hughes,  "Talk To Me" is a very entertaining film about dark times in America and the complicated relationship of two men who desperately need each other. Not only is Mr. Cheadle terrific as Petey Greene Jr but Mr. Ejiofor matches him scene for scene as the station employee who "discovers" him and later becomes his manager. The acting is outstanding and both deserve Oscar Nominations come next year.
      Taraji Henson also does a great job as Vernell Watson, Petey's long time girlfriend, bringing both laughter and pathos to the role. Rounding out the cast is Cedric The Entertainer and Vondie Curtis Hall as other DJ's at the station along with Martin Sheen as the station owner and general manager.
      It is pleasure to watch Mr. Cheadle in any of his films. He continues to astound with his range and chameleon ability to disappear into roles. And as for Mr. Ejiofor, this film should be springboard for bigger and better roles.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Recent movie versions of Broadway shows have not really translated well to the screen with the exception of "Chicago". "Hairspray" does a terrific job of migrating from stage to screen, bursting off Broadway and into the streets of 1960's Baltimore. The songs and the choreography are first rate and the casting is absolutely perfect.

John Travolta, at first seemed an odd choice as Edna Turnblad but he makes the role his own and quickly disappears into the character. His singing and dancing skills still come through, even under tons of latex. Christopher Walken, Michele Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, James Marstan, and Allison Janney are all just wonderful in their respective roles.

As the teenagers, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelly, and Brittany Snow are all excellent. Stealing the film out from all these established stars, however, is Nicole Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, the teenager who helps bring integration to Baltimore. Ms. Blonsky is a singing and dancing wonder who shows great promise for a long career in film or on stage.

"Hairspray" will have you smiling and tapping your feet from it's opening moments. It's a very enjoyable time at the movies and a lot cheaper than the Broadway show.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix

Film five in the series continues a trend set in the last film...the darker the better. "Phoenix" is very dark and very heavy on dialog. The action is exciting but doesn't occur very often. This is strictly a transitional film that continues a bridge toward the inevitable conclusion with film seven.

The visuals are very good and the acting continues to improve for our three central leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. The remaining friends and foes are played convincingly by what appears to be, every British actor living today. Imelda Staunton is a standout as Delores Umbridge.

What falters here is the direction. Besides a lack of action, the film suffers from a lack of levity as well. A few jokes at Ron Wesley's expense don't really count as comic relief. The sub-plots of the book suffer here as well. Minor plot points come and go without much explanation making this a film just for the hard core fan base. Casual fans who may not be familiar with the book will soon be lost.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

You Kill Me

Looking for something different? How about a dark comedy concerning itself with an alcoholic hitman in Buffalo NY? Ben Kingsley stars as Frank, a hitman for the Polish mob in Buffalo who's drinking is interfering with his work. When he screws up on an important hit, he's sent to San Francisco to clean up his act.

The film co-stars Tea Leoni, Luke Wilson, Bill Pullman, Dennis Farina and Phillip Baker Hall. It's a great cast in a twisted tale directed by John Dahl. Much of the story involves Frank's attempts at getting sober with the help of Tom (Mr. Wilson) and Laurel (Ms. Leoni). It's an unusual script but it works on multiple levels. We are in on the joke and laugh at the situation, rather than at the expense of Frank's drinking problem. Sir Kingsley is a treat here, playing a sympathetic man with an addiction and a very bad job. The rest of the cast are very good in their respective roles, especially Leoni as Frank's love interest.

"You Kill Me" is a good alternative from the overload of sequels and kid friendly fare at the movies these days. If you are a fan of Grosse Point Blank, you'll enjoy this one.


In this age of torture porn that passes for horror movies and slick remakes of marginal horror films, it's refreshing to watch a good old fashioned effective ghost story.

Starring John Cusack with a cameo from Samuel L. Jackson, "1408" is a distant cousin to "The Shining". Both come from the mind of Stephen King and both feature writers trapped in haunted hotels. While "The Shining" was a masterwork from Stanley Kubrick, "1408" works in a much smaller but effective way to send shivers up your spine.

Mr. Jackson is the hotel manager who warns Mr. Cusack to stay out of 1408. His role is short but memorable as he delivers the best line in the film as only Samuel L. Jackson can. The rest of the film belongs to Mr. Cusack as he slowly begins to unravel locked in a very scary hotel room.

As the story progresses, the film turns into a special effects roller coaster ride that plays tricks on the audience as well as Mr. Cusack. The film delivers the scares it promises and is one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King story in a long time.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Opening this Friday in select theaters, "Joshua" is a creepy little drama that finds the horror in one family's seemingly normal life. Starring Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga as the parents of 9 year old Joshua and his newborn sister, Lilia, "Joshua" gets creepier and more disturbing as it goes along.

Mr. Rockwell is terrific as the average hard working dad (a big departure from his usual left of center roles) faced with an unthinkable reality and Ms. Faminga is equally good as a mother becoming unhinged by ordinary family problems complicated by something out of her control.

As the cracks begin to widen in this nuclear family, you begin to realize you are watching a very intelligent horror film, minus the gore and violence. There is nothing supernatural about the horror at work here and that reason alone makes the film even more disturbing.

"Joshua" pulls you in and keeps you on the edge as it builds to a surprising third act. It may raise more questions than it answers when it's over but it's a pretty intense ride along the way.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

20 Years ago, Bruce Willis redefined the action hero in "Die Hard". Now, in the age of "24" and "Jack Bauer" type heroes, Mr. Willis does his best to show these wannabes how it's really done, as Detective John McClaine.

This is a perfect summer popcorn movie. Suspend your belief at the door, sit back and enjoy the great action sequences and witty banter between Mr. Willis and his co-star, Justin Long. This is far superior to "Die Hard With a Vengeance" but still pales to the original or even "Die Hard 2".

Using cyber terrorists as a plot line and giving Mr. Willis a young hacker "partner" works perfectly here to bridge the gap between generations viewing the film. Casting Kevin Smith in a small but critical role was a clever idea but you never buy him as a character named "Warlock". He's just Kevin Smith doing a cameo. The CGI work, for the most part, is pretty good and except for a few obvious spots, makes the film a visual thrill ride.

To quote villain, Timothy Olyphant, (who's good but no Alan Rickman) Detective McClaine may be "a Timex watch in a digital world" but he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.