Monday, April 19, 2010


Let me be very clear...this film is not for everyone. It is ultra-violent and completely deserves it's R-rating. If watching an 11 year old girl maim and kill while using language unfit for many adults, let alone a child, is not your idea of fun then read no further. This is not your kind of movie.

On the other hand, if you are a fan of the graphic novel (IE; comic book) it's based on or films like "Sin City", or "Watchmen", then by all means, keep reading as this film is definitely for you. The screenplay is by director, Matthew Vaughn (who made the delicious British crime film, "Layer Cake"), Jane Goldman and Mark Millar and John Romita (who teamed up for the original comic book). They have rendered a perfect live action recreation of the comic and fans will love it.

It's a perfect cast. Aaron Johnson has his first major lead as Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist, will make you forget him as "McLovin" in "Superbad". But two of the biggest surprises are a humble and subdued Nicolas Cage as "Big Daddy", who clearly respects the script and the wonderful Chloe Grace Moretz, who steals the film and will blow you away (literally & figuratively) as "Hit-Girl". Ms. Moreta is the aforementioned killer 11-year old with very adult language who is just remarkable in a role that has caused quite a stir. A controversy made worse when, not only does she main and kill but is herself, beaten to a pulp by Mark Strong, the villain of the piece (Mr. Strong is making quite the career of playing villains. He's also the sheriff of Nottingham in the upcoming "Robin Hood").

The film holds none of the gravitas of "Batman" and in many ways is a self parody of "super hero" movies. It can be extremely violent and very funny and the combination doesn't always work back to back but overall, for a film major studios wouldn't touch, it certainly will appeal to today's young audiences who are numb to the violence but are also in on the joke.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

City Island

A small jewel buried beneath the blockbusters and spring rejects, "City Island" will amuse you and warm your heart. It's the story of the Rizzo family, born and raised for generations on City Island, a small piece of real estate located on Long Island sound, a stone's throw from the Bronx, New York.

The cast could not be more perfect. Andy Garcia is Vince Rizzo and Julianna Margulies is Joyce, his wife of 20 years. They have a daughter, Vivian and a son, Vinnie and they are a loving but dysfunctional family, each hiding their own secrets. This is one of the best characters Andy Garcia has ever played. He shows a flair for comedy you don't often see and he is so natural in the role, you believe completely in the character. Ms. Margulies matches him scene for scene and easily balances the many sides of Joyce. The film also features Emily Mortimer and Alan Arkin in smaller but pivitol roles.

When a new character is introduced, secrets begin to unravel and family chaos reigns. To tell more would spoil the fun but I'm sure you'll have an enjoyable time visiting City Island and leave the theater smiling.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clash Of The Titans

The original was cheesy, light and silly but fun to watch. This remake is cheesy, silly, and with the exception of three scenes, dull to watch. Sam Worthington, fresh off of "Avatar" is strong man of action but can't act his way out of his amor chestplate. And furthermore, he steals all his fighting techniques from watching Brad Pitt in "Troy".

The three scenes that will keep you awake are the attack of the giant scorpions, the battle with Medusa, and the final battle with the Kraken (which really is the highlight and saved for the end). Between these set pieces, you can go to the restroom, refill your popcorn or take a quick nap.

Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes lend their gravitas to the film as Zeus and Hades (respectively) but you can't even take them seriously. There is no character development and you probably won't even care who lives or dies. If you're in the mood for mindless swordplay and mythology that won't leave a lasting impression (even while you are watching it), then this one is for you.

I would also recommend that you find a theater showing it in 2-D, rather than 3-D (if you still insist on going). The 3-D technology is completely wasted here. The film was shot in 2-D and converted later to 3-D. It shows. Unlike "Avatar" the 3-D does nothing to enhance the visuals. It actually makes the film darker and harder to watch.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


The latest drama from writer/director Noah Baumbach, stars Ben Stiller who turns in a terrific performance as the title character. The problem is, that while his performance is stellar, Roger Greenberg is a self absorbed, unlikeable 40 year old trying to restart his life after a breakdown and he's not fun to watch.

As the film began, I found myself hating every minute of it but then a funny thing occured. Mr. Stiller, playing against type makes this irritating, post breakdown, and almost comatose, character sympathetic. Greta Gerwig plays Florence, a personal assistant to Roger's brother and a potential love interest for Greenberg. Florence has her own neurosis to deal with and their very odd courtship becomes fascinating to watch.

Rhys Ifans plays Ivan, an old friend of Greenberg's and like Florence and Greenberg, he too lacks energy and drifts in and out of his scenes. And yet, you find yourself rooting for him to succeed with his own demons as well. It's a strange film where most of the characters lack any appeal but you are drawn to them anyway.

I can't count "Greenberg" as one of Mr. Baumbach's best. He co-wrote it with his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh (who has a small role as Greenberg's ex-girlfriend). They have created unlikeable characters in awkward situations that don't do much to redeem themselves. But there is something brewing beneath the surface that keeps you engaged and that is also a testament to the fine acting by Mr. Stiller and Ms. Gerwig.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Prophet

Nominated at this year's Oscars for best foreign film, "A Prophet" is a remarkable character study of a criminal's rise to power in the French penal system. When Malik ( played by Tahar Rahim) arrives in prison to start a six year sentence, he is a naïve 19 year old. Once there he learns more than just to read and write.

Niels Arestrup plays Cesar Luciani, the criminal kingpin of the prison. It is Cesar that forces Malik's initiation into hard time when orders him to murder another inmate. From that point on, Malik works for Cesar in return for protection. Mr. Arestrup's Cesar is a Corsican Don Corleone, controlling everything inside and out of the prison with a network of corrupt guards and informants everywhere. He is a force to be reckoned with.

Like Michael Corleone in "The Godfather", it is Malik who begins innocent and grows under the tutelage of his older father figure. The film is a lesson in the corruptive nature of power and the struggle for survival in a hostile environment, filled with mistrust and betrayal. There are moments of raw violence with an impact so strong, you'll imagine violence throughout, when in reality, it's just a few scenes.

Mr. Rahim is a compelling actor, hard to read but fascinating to watch as he grows through the course of the film. His scenes with the terrific Mr. Arestrup are wonderful to watch. Their last scene together is unforgettable.