Reviews, Reports + Comments

Monday, February 28, 2011

Review of film: “BEASTLY”

2011, 02-28:

Review of film:  BEASTLY

                                           His FACE Is, but the Movie ISN’T

Rob (PETER KRAUSE) is a well-known & rich TV broadcaster.  He’s gotten where he is on his good looks, & his mantra is that you need to be GREAT-LOOKING & surround yourself with similar people… 

  His son, Kyle (ALEX PETTYFER), has FOLLOWED in his dad’s mis-steps in that regard, & (likewise) acts like an arrogant ass 

  Alex is very “open” in his attitude, & declares his belief that people need to be particularly ATTRACTIVE physically during his campaign to be a Class President at a fancy private high school in the New York area…

  While much of the school is “awed” with his conceits (including his attitude that people “suck” if they’re not beautiful), he does not really impress a pretty girl Lindy (VANESSA HUDGENS) who is running for a lower office & who he’s never bothered to really talk to in her 3 years at the school…

  Further, his condescensions and thoughtless treatment deeply antagonizes a Goth-like girl named Kendra (MARY-KATE OLSEN).  When he goes out of his way to be hurtful to her, she puts a CURSE on him:

  To teach him a lesson, Alex loses his head hair & he becomes downright “BEASTLY --  with ugly red gouges in his face + upraised spider-like VEINS & “vine” designs there & elsewhere on his body…  And, above his left eye, there’s an apropos tattoo etching of the word “SUCK”…

  Yes, it’s a “take-off” on the “BEAUTY & THE BEAST” story, & Alex gets very depressed & angry when his “six-pack” becomes a “broken case  His dad takes him to doctors, but when he learns they can’t do anything to help his condition, he puts Alex in an out-of-the-way location & basically SHUNS him…

  Alex is given just the help of a Caribbean housekeeper named Zola (LISA GAY HAMILTON) who Alex has been unkind to as long as he’s known her, + a tutor named Will (NEIL PATRICK HARRIS).  Neil is blind & takes no “guff” from Alex, since he’s unwilling to indulge someone who’s already clearly badly SPOILED & uncaring about the people & world around him…

  Alex had been told by Mary-Kate that the only way she’d remove the curse from him is if he found someone who’d sincerely say she LOVES & kisses him within 1 year…  There are precious few “candidates” for that role, but Alex hesitantly goes after Vanessa

  She has grown up with a druggie father (-- sort of the “modern” touch to the old story! --), & Alex gets her father to let him care for Vanessa since the dad is clearly incapable of doing that properly… 

  Alex is timid about even letting Vanessa SEE him at first.  But, eventually, he follow’s Neil’s straightforward advise, “listens” to her, & eventually starts becoming more THOUGHTFUL towards her (& others).  Eventually, following the other “contemporary” touch of being “Green”, he even tries building her a GREENHOUSE with pretty flowers…     

  Will Alex start to truly change INSIDE as a person?...  Will Vanessa be able to NOT see Alex as “Beastly”?...   Will Alex’s Dad ever reconcile with him?...  Will Alex be able to find someone who’ll truly LOVE him & be able to break the SPELL he’s under?...     

  Althought the writing is often fairly weak, it’s nevertheless a cute little story.  NEIL has the best “lines” in the film--  clever, funny & well-delivered…  The  other major actors do well with the sort of “partially-deveveloped” characters they’re given to play…  (Alex is better & has more to “do” in his “I AM NUMBER 4” role…)

  Accordingly, since it’s enjoyable in a “light” way, I’m rating it as 7 out of 10 stars… 

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Review of film: “JULIE & JULIA” [ + info on Special DVD Features ]

Review of film:  JULIE & JULIA  [ + info on Special DVD Features ]


Nora Ephron


Nora Ephron


Meryl Streep
Amy Adams
Stanley Tucci
Chris Messina
Linda Emond
Helen Carey
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Jane Lynch
Joan Juliet Buck
Crystal Noelle
George Bartenieff
Vanessa Ferlito
Casey Wilson
Jillian Bach
Andrew Garman

MPAA Rating:

PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality.


“Bon appetit!”
“You have to taste this!”
“Repeat after me: 900 square feet.”
“She changed everything.”
“I feel I am French.”
“French people eat French food every single day.  I can’t get over it!”
“I am in heaven here.”
 “Guess who’s coming to dinner!”
“[As beef bourgignon is made:] ”Mostly, I am just talking to myself.”

MY Rating:

8 of 10 stars (for the 123-minute film, as seen on DVD).

What’s “Cooking” is Fine ACTING!

Julia Childs was an icon both as a cook and a TV personality.  Utilizing true stories from at least two books, this film has wisely hired MERYL STREEP to “channel” Julia as she & her husband Paul (STANLEY TUCCI) arrive in France (at Rouen) after the end of World War II,  & she develops an intense love of the French style of cooking…

  In between scenes with Julia, we’re introduced to Julie Powell (the ever-spunky AMY ADAMS).  She lives with her husband Eric (CHRIS MESSINA) in a small apartment in Queens, New York, & decides to write a BLOG about her attempts to use Julia’s “The Art Of French Cooking” book to prepare the RECIPES in it…

  Amy speaks of how impressed she was with Julia, & how she’s unsure if she could actually succeed at what she will try to accomplish…  The story shifts back & forth between the two main characters, & you see how Julia came to LEARN cooking: 

  How she delights in the wonderful taste of the food in France [as represented in the Quotes above], how she was initially made fun of by other students as she goes to a cooking SCHOOL in the Paris area, & the difficulty she has in learning how to do things properly  But, in time, the men at the school start to respect her because of how “fearless” she was…

  The film shows the life-loving & even sexual side of Meryl’s relationship with her hubby, & how she has problems in trying to write her BOOK about French cooking--  the difficulty of translating metric measures into American ones, the problems that arose from having the many recipes be so detailed & long that it was hard to find a PUBLISHER for the book, etc… 

  But, Stanley is always supportive of her, lovingly commenting at one point, “You are the butter to my bread!”…

… At one point, Amy claims life has been hard for her because she has A.D.D.:  “That’s why I’m so bad at housework...”  To her surprise, she finds herself feeling GOOD as she cooks, & it helps her get away from trying to handle office or other “everyday” type of activities…

  Amy is so new to food preparation, it turns out she’d never even eaten an EGG before she starts her cooking & blogging efforts…  Bit by bit, she replicates more than 100 recipes…

  As the stories weave their gastronomic way thru our sensibilities, we periodically meet friends of Julia & Julie (many of whom are invited to join in sampling the concocted cuisine), + people involved in considering publishing their various books: 

  Madame Brassart (JOAN JULIET BUCK), Simone Beck (LINDA EMOND), Louisette Bertholle (HELEN CAREY), Sarah (MARY LYNN RAJSKUB), Dorothy McWilliams (JANE LYNCH), Ernestine (CRYSTAL NOELLE), and others…

  At one point, Julia becomes so famous, she’s satirized by Dan Akroyd in a skit on “Saturday Night Live”…  Getting a book published isn’t easy at that time in the world of cooking:  Meryl relates at one point how a woman she knows PAID a publisher to put out her book, but she ended up SWINDLED by the guy…

  Meanwhile, Amy is having her tribulations:  at one point, she admits that, on a 10-point scale of narcissism, she’s probably a 9.3…  Meryl has to contend with upsets beyond just the world of cooking and writing, since her husband is at one point investigated by the government when he tries to apply for a new position… 

  Amy’s husband has to deal with her frequent highs and lows as she attempts recipes and works to write her blog.  There are times she wants to give up, & is told, “It’d be good to FINISH something for once in your life!”…  

  In time, Meryl comes up with the idea to possibly publish her increasingly-long cookbook in a SERIES of like 8 volumes (since it’s way too big for a single one)… 

  Meanwhile, Amy’s blog is becoming increasingly FAMOUS, to the point that she’s having articles written about her & she’s getting requests for INTERVIEWS on television… 

  Some guy claims to her that now 90-year-old Julia (Meryl) was supposedly “kind of a PILL” when she learned of Julie’s blog about replicating her recipes.  That upsets Julie (Amy), since Julia is a real HERO to her…

  Finally, (with the time & location flipping a bit back & forth), Meryl is thrilled to learn that KNOPF had finally agreed to PUBLISH her huge cookbook…  At one point, Amy can be heard stating that “Julia TAUGHT me to cook” by what she created in her cookbook (& life story)… 

  Near the end of the film, Amy finally FINISHES duplicating the last of the recipes in Meryl’s cookbook, with a hearty “BON APPETIT!”…

  Just before the credits roll, a postscript relates how the real Julia Childs died in 2004 at age 91… And it reveals that her book “Mastering the Art of  French Cooking” was now in its 49th printing…

  You also learn that Julie Powell’s book about her following Julia’s recipes & blogging about her efforts came out in 2005.  It further tells how Julie is now a writer, & still lives in Queens (tho in a different home now)…

                                   * - - - - - - - - - *
  The DVD has a some enjoyable SPECIAL FEATURES on it:  one tells how the movie was MADE (including how they used some real artifacts from the Childs family), and how --  because of numerous re-takes in many scenes of food consumption --  Meryl ended up gaining about “15 pounds”, which it took her “a year” to lose… 

  There’s also a fascinating COMMENTARY from director Ephron about her movie…

  If you watch this film, you’ll see why Meryl just WON a Golden Globe for her role in this as “Best Performance By An Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy”…  (However, since it’s a comedy, I feel it’s UNlikely to be duplicated by garnering an Oscar to her, since the Academy tends to prefer more ‘SERIOUS” efforts)…

[…  As an aside:  Meryl was nominated for a 2009 Best Actress Oscar for this, but she did NOT win… ]

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2010, 01-16:



Quentin Tarantino


Quentin Tarantino


Brad Pitt
Mélanie Laurent
Christoph Waltz
Eli Roth
Michael Fassbender
Diane Kruger           
Daniel Brühl
Til Schweiger
Gedeon Burkhard
Jacky Ido
B.J. Novak
Omar Doom
August Diehl           
Denis Menochet
Sylvester Groth
Martin Wuttke
Mike Myers
Julie Dreyfus
Richard Sammel
Alexander Fehling
Rod Taylor
Soenke Möhring
Samm Levine
Paul Rust
Michael Bacall
Christian Berkel
Anne-Sophie Franck
Ludger Pistor           
Jana Pallaske
Buddy Joe Hooker
Carlos Fidel

MPAA Rating:

Rated R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality.


“Facts can be so misleading.”
“Your family will cease to be harassed.”
“Nazis ain’t got no humanity!…  They need to be DESTROYED.”
“They seem to be able to elude capture.”
“We let you live so you can spread the word.”
“I will be the German Van Johnson.”
“It appears I’ve created a monster.”
“All our rotten eggs in one basket.”
“There’s a special ring in Hell for people who waste.”
“I’m a German, you idiot!”
“I want to trust you.”
“It’s called ‘suspicious’…”
“It appears somebody’s missing.”
“…  dashing as me.”
“I tease rough!”
“If the shoe fits, you must wear it.”
“If I were sitting where you’re sitting, would you show me mercy?”
Finding people is my specialty.”
“She got what you deserved.”
“… And, yes, it will RUIN the evening.”
“You have to make a deal.”
“Every once in a while, FATE reaches out.”
“That’s a bingo.”
“I’ve been chewed-out before…”         

MY Rating:

9 of 10 stars  (based on viewing the DVD version of the 153 minutes film).

Revisionist RETRIBUTION “sets you FREE”

QUENTIN TARANTINO has a reputation for self-indulgence in his films.  He was comparatively SELF-RESTRAINED in this latest production of his… 

  The basic story is REVISIONIST history wherein Jews go actively hunting & killing NAZIS during World War II…  The above Quotes will give you a good “overview” of this fascinating concoction… 

  Tarantino’s divided the overall story into 5 separate chapters:  Chapter 1 is “Once Upon a Time In Nazi Occupied France (1941)”.  Here, we meet very charming but ruthlessly vicious SS Colonel Hans Landa (excellently played by CHRISTOPH WALTZ)…

  He speaks fluent French & English, & interrogates a French farmer (DENIS MENOCHET).  After bragging “I can think like a Jew”, Waltz tries to get the farmer to give up Jews who had been concealed from his hunters…  He tries to kill many in hiding, but one girl named Shosanna (MÉLANIE LAURENT) escapes…

  Chapter 2 = “Inglourious Basterds”.  This introduces us to the military group headed by  Lt. Aldo Raine (BRAD PITT) from the deep South.  He describes himself as supposedly a descendant of Mountain Man Jim Bridger, &, at one point, comments, “We aren’t in the prisoner-taking business.”… 

  Supposedly because he’s part American INDIAN, he wants all the guys in his specially-put-together group of Jewish soldiers to be not only KILLERS of Nazis, but to bring him SCALPS of those killed…

  His band of revengists consists of guys such as Sergeant Donny “Bear Jew” Donowitz (ELI ROTH), PFC Omar Ulmer (OMAR DOOM), PFC Smithson Utivich (B.J. NOVAK), Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz who had to be rescued from Nazi clutches (TIL SCHWEIGER), PFC Andy Kagan (PAUL RUST), PFC Michael Zimmerman (MICHAEL BACALL), & PFC Simon Sakowitz (CARLOS FIDEL)…

  Spearheaded by the attitude of Brad, his guys are purposely ruthless, wanting the Germans to know about their exploits and to FEAR them, which they do.  In fact, Hitler (MARTIN WUTTKE) rails against his subordinates for not capturing & stopping the Basterds… 

  Flashbacks show Brad threatening German soldiers with death by baseball bat-wielder Bear (Eli), in a story partially told by Private Butz (SÖNKE MÖHRING) to Hitler…  He relates some details of an infamous “carving” done by Brad… 

  Chapter 3 is called “German Nights in Paris”…  Here, we meet a young female French Parisian cinema-owner named Emmanuelle Mimieux --  who is actually the runaway Shosanna living under an assumed name. ..

 She chances to meet an outgoing German soldier named Fredrick Zoller (DANIEL BRÜHL), who describes himself as “a fellow cinema lover”.  She soon discovers he’s famous to the Germans, for having mowed down loads of American soldiers from the birdsnest atop a bell tower…

  Daniel fancies himself as “the German Sgt. York”, & is so popular, Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (SYLVESTER GROTH) wants to show a MOVIE he’s produced about Daniel’s exploit called “A Nation’s Pride” (starring Daniel in a recreation of his famous feat)… 

  Daniel works to convince racist Goebbels to premiere the film at Mélanie’s theater--  which gives her an idea for a plan to get VENGEANCE against the Nazi leadership (scheduled to attend the screening) for what they’ve done to her family & friends…

  Life starts getting very tense, when slimy Christoph starts to QUESTION Mélanie, seemingly having “caught-on” to the fact that she was the Jewish ESCAPEE from the farmhouse…  He seems to not trust having her black assistant Marcel (JACKY IDO) around (although he’s not aware of just how close he is to Mélanie)… 

  Things are very cleverly set-up, in the way Christoph works to extract information from her, without letting on exactly what he really “knows”…

   That brings us to Chapter 4, “Operation Kino”, wherein the British learn of Shosanna’s plan, & want to be part of it along with the Basterds.  The Brits send one of their soldiers -- Lt. Archie Hicox (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) -- to the Paris area to try to help with things…

...  Brad is upset when he learns the meeting place is to be in a difficult-to-control basement bar, where the British agent is to meet a double agent in the form of famous German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (DIANE KRUGER), who he’s never met before… 

  In the bar, she chances to get involved in a celebration by a bunch of drunken German soldiers for the birth of a baby boy to Master Sergeant Wilhelm (ALEXANDER FEHLING)…

… English agent Fassbender is very uncomfortable having the unexpected German celebrants around as he tries to plan things with actress Diane...  

  When he tries to get rid of Wilhelm & his friends, he’s confronted by a German Gestapo Major Hellstrom (AUGUST DIEHL), who starts to “question” his unusual-sounding German “accent”…

  After a game of “Who am I?” played with cards, the confrontation becomes unusually intense and violent when “mistakes” are made by agent Fassbender…

  Concluding Chapter 5 is called “Revenge of the Giant Face”…   Wouldn’t you “know” it, ever-troublesome Christoph finds some damning evidence against one of the participants in the afore-mentioned fierce conflict in the tavern--  someone who’s closely involved in the plans against the Nazi  hierarchy at the cinema

  Some of Brad’s men are set-up to be at the cinema for use in attacking the high-ranking Nazis…  But, once again, CHRISTOPH is there, & he plays “cat & mouse” games with various conspirators…

   Sacre bleu! -- There’s a sudden “TWIST” that comes up concerning Brad & Christoph and others!…  Is there a “TURNCOAT” somewhere in the mix?!…

  Is the “Twist” going to AFFECT the players in the drama?…  WILL the grand Plans succeed towards the Nazis?…  Who will “SURVIVE” the Plans, & what kind of “shape” will they be in?…

  There’s a bunch of CLEVER work done in setting up this swirling drama, with Oscar-caliber acting done by Christoph Waltz…  Overall, an effectively multi-layered film highly WORTH seeing

[And, as a postscript:  Waltz WON the OSCAR for Best Supporting Actor… ]

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Review of film: “THE BOOK OF ELI”

2009, 01-14:

Review of film:  THE BOOK OF ELI


Albert Hughes
Allen Hughes


Gary Whitta


Denzel Washington
Gary Oldman
Mila Kunis
Ray Stevenson
Jennifer Beals
Evan Jones
Joe Pingue
Frances de la Tour
Michael Gambon
Tom Waits
Chris Browning
Richard Cetrone
Lateef Crowder
Keith Davis
Don Tai

MPAA Rating: 

Rated R for some brutal violence and language.


“Leave room for breakfast.”
“What does that say about our hygiene?”
“Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.”
“It might’ve been the last shampoo.”
“You’re going to held to account—.”
“We belong to him just the same.”
“We had no idea what was precious.”
“They burned them all after the Fire.”
“A weapon aimed right at the heart of the weak and desperate.”
“…  This was the reason for the War.”
“Please watch over her as you watched over me.”
“… I kept the faith.”

MY rating:

8 of 10 stars (based on an advance screening of the 118-minute film).

Will this “Book” be a BEST-SELLER?!…

America’s a wasteland  Yep, it got involved in still another war  Even tho it’s been 30 years since that conflict ended, chaos and lawlessness still reigns… 

  Eli (DENZEL WASHINGTON) is a peace-loving warrior still filIed with hope for the future, partly because of his belief in a “greater power”.  As he travels the countryside, he finds it’s a very DANGEROUS place, with highwaymen and others out to rob anyone in sight… 

  But, Eli is realistic enough to know that most others around him can’t be trusted, &, if feeling provoked, he’ll attack first and move on to follow what he believes is his destiny…

  Eli seems to have a special power, which is coveted by a rogue guy named Carnegie (GARY OLDMAN) who ruthlessly runs a town filled with the scum of society… 

… His adopted daughter Solara (MILA KUNIS) is intrigued by Eli, and of no particular interest to Carnegie except for things he can get from her (as is true re Gary’s treatment of her blind mother Claudia, played by JENNIFER BEALS)…

  Carnegie tries to force Eli to join his group and to turn over a special book he thinks he has, and uses his right-hand henchman Redridge (RAY STEVENSON) to try to intimidate him.  But Eli is an unusually effective fighter, and escapes from the town…

  Will Eli be able to avoid those who are out to do him harm?…  Will he continue holding on to his special book?…  Will Solara prove to be sincere in her attempts to join him on his journey?…  What’s the story behind George (MICHAEL GAMBON) & Martha (FRANCES DE LA TOUR), and whose side are they really on?…

  Besides a number of “ACTION” scenes, the film has some general “religious” overtones--  but they’re understated, & the movie seems more intent on telling of a REBUILDING of a gentler society and culture… 

  The flick builds an exceptionally effective “ATMOSPHERE” of devastation in a collapsed society.  There are memorable performances by Denzel & Gary, altho the former really doesn’t talk all that much;  his “force” mainly comes thru his “attitude” overall…

[ A side note:  at the end of the movie, there was a clever promotional tie-in wherein reps of Eli’s CHEESECAKE presented the audience with delicious pieces of toffee-infused chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick.  Please understand that the product is NOT involved in the film itself, and you should not expect to be “rewarded” with similar sumptuous samples for attending any screening of it!… ]

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