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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: CHECKMATE! HOUSEWIFE FINDS HAPPINESS THROUGH CHESS IN "QUEEN TO PLAY"

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 29, 2011 (San Diego) – The great sportswriter Grantland Rice said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Queen to Play purports to be a film about a housewife in a mid-life crisis and stale marriage who finds happiness through chess. It then ends in a Big Game. The movie fails on both counts.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES DON'T GET LOST IN "INCENDIES'" MURKY PLOT

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 28, 2011 (San Diego) – For a movie nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Oscars, Incendies is artistically and technically incompetent. Rarely have I sat through a movie feeling so bewildered and frustrated. The story is needlessly complicated but that’s not the real problem. It’s the ineptness of the screenwriter, casting director, and the cinematographer in telling this story.

 

NETFLIX STREAMING PICK OF THE WEEK: "DINER" IS A SMALL FILM THAT RANKS AMONG THE GIANTS OF 1982

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 25, 2011 (San Diego) – Growing up I have witnessed firsthand a revolution in movie watching. My family went from having a VCR to a DVD player to a Blu-Ray Disc player in a span of twenty-five years. We went from renting movies from Blockbuster and Hollywood Video to Netflix.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "CARANCHO" LACKS DRIVE

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 16, 2011 (San Diego) – Carancho is not a good film, nor is it a bad film. It tells a decent story in dire need of pep and zip. It stars two appealing actors in Ricardo Darín and Martina Gusman but they are trapped in a movie that suffers from terminal perfunctoriness.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TWO KIDS GROW UP THE HARD WAY IN OSCAR WINNER "IN A BETTER WORLD"

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 8, 2011 (San Diego) – Up until the last ten to fifteen minutes I was ready to give In a Better World, 2011’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner, a mixed review. At the time I didn’t feel it was a bad movie but it wasn’t a good one, either.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: UNIQUE PREMISE TAKES CENTER STAGE IN "THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED"

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 1, 2011 (San Diego) – The Music Never Stopped is a classic example of a good movie that could have been greater. The movie has an interesting premise but that’s all it is. It does some stuff with this premise but not as much as I wanted. I was never bored, and in the end I liked it, but I wish it could have done a lot more with the subject.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: NAZI OCCUPATION VIEWED THROUGH UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE IN "WINTER" TALE

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 1, 2011 (San Diego) – Director Martin Koolhoven says in the press notes that 1960s Italian spaghetti westerns inspired Winter in Wartime’s look. I didn’t see so much of that, or at least that didn’t run through my head as I watched it. Instead, I mostly saw another kind of influence, also from Italian cinema.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: BLACK COMEDY "A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN" FINDS HUMOR IN THE MUNDANE

By Brian Lafferty

 

March 27, 2011 (San Diego) – I’ve seen movies that begin full speed and with ambition but collapse under their own weight. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been movies that try to be extremely low-key but eventually implode for the same reason. A Somewhat Gentle Man goes for the mundane and something in me kept anticipating a collapse. When it became apparent three-quarters of the way through that this wouldn’t happen, I sat back and enjoyed.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "BLACK DEATH" A THRILLING WAY TO SPEND MIDNIGHT AT THE KEN CINEMA

By Brian Lafferty

 

Black Death is playing only at midnight tonight at the Ken Cinema.

 

March 26, 2011 (San Diego) – Black Death is one of the fresher horror films I’ve seen in recent years. It has a structure loosely reminiscent of Psycho: I expected the movie to be about one thing but then the film unexpectedly switches gears halfway and becomes about something different. Both convey different types of horror (all of which is not your typical kind of horror) in their own respective ways.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: KOREAN REVENGE FILM "I SAW THE DEVIL" IS CHILLING THRILLER WORTH SEEING

By Brian Lafferty

 

March 18, 2011 (San Diego) – I want to make one thing plain: I Saw the Devil is not entertainment. It is sickening, repellent, unrelentingly violent, depraved, and twisted. That last sentence makes it sound like it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Instead, it is a great film for exactly those reasons. It is definitely not for everyone but if you’re looking for a revenge film done right, and you don’t mind subtitles, then here’s a film for you.

 

“I SAW THE DEVIL” DIRECTOR SHARES DIABOLIC SUSPENSE DETAILS IN INTERVIEW WITH ECM

By Brian Lafferty

March 18, 2011 (San Diego)--Opening today at the Ken Cinema is director Kim Jee-Woon’s thriller,  I Saw the Devil. I had an opportunity for a brief interview with the director about the picture, in which he shares secrets of creating cinematic suspense. 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE LAST LIONS" A ROARING SUCCESS

By Brian Lafferty

 

March 11, 2011 (San Diego) – There is a moment towards the end of The Last Lions when I experienced an emotion called elevation. The term may be unfamiliar to most readers but the feeling isn’t. If you get tears in your eyes, a lump or tightness in your throat, and you feel uplifted, that’s what elevation is. Cocoon and Harry & Tonto are the few movies to have such power over me.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "BUREAU" IS AN INTELLIGENT FILM, BUT ENDING NEEDS "ADJUSTMENT"

By Brian Lafferty

 

March 6, 2011 (San Diego) – After my mother died last November I learned something about myself: I have no regrets. I never say, “If only…” Instead, I tell myself, “If it weren’t for…” When I look back on my first twenty-five years of existence I see that I wouldn’t be where I am now if I did anything differently.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT" DOESN'T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A GOOD COMEDY

 

By Brian Lafferty

March 6, 2011 (San Diego) – Take Me Home Tonight suffers from a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It has trouble staying focused. Every time the film gets on track, there’s always something that derails it. If they had made it solely about the two leads, it wouldn’t have been such a slog to sit through.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: LOOKING FOR A QUALITY FILM? ALLEGORICAL "EVEN THE RAIN" WILL QUENCH YOUR MOVIE THIRST

By Brian Lafferty

 

March 2, 2011 (San Diego) – If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last year it’s that you never know where life will take you. Faithful readers may have noticed in my reviews references to my time at Cal State, Fullerton. I took a variety of classes in criticism, writing, and production. In two of my courses, I produced several sixteen-millimeter shorts.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: COMBINING MYSTERY AND SEX COMEDY, "KABOOM" BURSTS WITH SURREALISM

By Brian Lafferty

 

February 28, 2011 (San Diego) – Take one part Luis Buñuel, add one part David Lynch, throw in a sex comedy and what do you get? Kaboom, the newest film by independent director Gregg Araki. Currently playing at the Landmark Hillcrest, it is among his better works.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: KOREAN THRILLER IS STYLISH BUT "THE HOUSEMAID" SCREENPLAY NEEDS HOUSEKEEPING

By Brian Lafferty

 

February 18. 2011 (San Diego) – Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, once said, “To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” Too bad Korean director Sang-soo Im didn’t heed this advice when he wrote The Housemaid.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: BAD SCRIPT, UNDERWRITTEN CHARACTERS LEAVE "SANCTUM" DEAD IN THE WATER

By Brian Lafferty

 

February 4, 2011 (San Diego) – A couple of months ago I came across a National Geographic article that covered underwater cave diving. As with any National Geographic publication, the photographs were stunning and the article offered a lot of insight into this activity. When I learned of Sanctum, I became excited, especially when I saw James Cameron’s name attached to the production.

 

The images in Sanctum are stunning but in the end that National Geographic article provided far more insight on the subject, and more wonder and thrills, than anything in this film.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DON'T DISCOUNT "BARNEY'S VERSION"

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 28, 2011 (San Diego) – When I think of Barney’s Version, one director that keeps coming to mind for some reason is Mike Nichols. Maybe it’s because Nichols is someone who I consider to be an actor’s director. His movies contain great stories but the performances are what I remember the most. Barney’s Version is the same way. The story is well-written but it’s Paul Giamatti’s great acting that is the most memorable.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "SUMMER WARS" IS A SOLID WINTER GEM

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 23, 2011 (San Diego) -- Every few years we get a Japanese anime, mainly from Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo, Spirited Away). This year’s import is not from Miyazaki but from Mamoru Hosoda. Summer Wars features one of the most unlikely genre combinations: shomin-geki (a genre that depicts the lives of ordinary, working-class families) and technothriller.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: MAGICAL "ILLUSIONIST" DEMONSTRATES THE STAYING POWER OF TRADITIONAL ANIMATION

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 21, 2011 (San Diego) -- Over the last few years I’ve discovered a love-hate feeling with Pixar. Back in 1995 I was enthralled when I saw Toy Story in the theater. Since then I have seen every Pixar movie and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of their films. They put more effort into their movies than most studios and it shows every time.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE GREEN HORNET" HAS NO STING

By Brian Lafferty

 



January 18, 2011 (San Diego) – The Green Hornet is beset with many problems. The first glaring issue involves the casting. I could not buy Seth Rogen as either Britt Reid or his alter ego the Green Hornet. I can understand why he was cast; Rogen co-wrote the screenplay with his longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg. Having been an established actor and a bankable writer (he also co-wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express) I don’t doubt he had his heart set on playing such an enduring and somewhat iconic character.

 



But Rogen has miscalculated this time around. He should have let someone else play the hero this time. Someone who would have brought a smooth, sly personality to both characters.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SEEING "ANOTHER YEAR" IS TIME WELL-SPENT

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 15, 2011 (San Diego) – Another Year is about how people move in and out of our lives, such as how my two sisters and their families from out of town visit once or twice a year. With each visit, I see they have made all sorts of progress in their lives. They have kids, the kids grow up, and each year everyone gets a little smarter and wiser.    

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DIRECTOR JAVIER FUENTES-LEON MAKES WAVES WITH ROMANTIC "UNDERTOW"

 

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 11, 2011 (San Diego) – After seeing Undertow, Peru’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Language Film, I wondered if director Javier Fuentes-Leon had seen the 1947 classic The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who would direct All About Eve three years later) it starred Gene Tierney as a widow who falls in love with the spirit of a crusty sea captain played by Rex Harrison haunting her seaside cottage.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "BLUE VALENTINE" MOVIE BOASTS SUBTLE, YET STRONG PERFORMANCES

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 7, 2011 (San Diego) – Looking at a few of Blue Valentine’s negative reviews (as of today, the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer stands at 91% with only nine “rotten” reviews against eighty-six positive) I find the film’s unfavorable comparisons to the directorial work of the late John Cassavetes a recurring observation.

 

Granted, the movie isn’t the first to explore a marriage’s disintegration. Cassavetes’ Faces and Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road come to mind. However, I believe this criticism is unfair to Blue Valentine. I don’t mind if a movie doesn’t have an original plot as long as it has unique and strong characters. This movie is populated with two of them.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: HOLIDAYS BRING A MIXED BAG OF MOVIES

 

Reviews:  True Grit, Tangled, The Fighter, and I Love  You Phillip Morris

By Brian Lafferty

 

December 30, 2010 (San Diego)—Today’s column is going to be different. Normally I post one movie review at a time. Today I will have several shorter reviews in this one post.  Before I post them I would like to explain what has happened the last two months that have made for less reviews than normal.

 

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TINY BUDGET, LIMITED RESOURCES NO PROBLEM FOR INDIE "TINY FURNITURE"

By Brian Lafferty

 

December 11, 2010 (San Diego)--While watching Tiny Furniture, which opened yesterday at the Ken Cinema, I was somewhat captivated and never bored. It accomplishes its goals and captures without fail the feeling it wants to convey.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: MAKE TRACKS FOR "UNSTOPPABLE"

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 12, 2010 (San Diego)--Tony Scott’s last movie, The Taking of Pelham 123, had exciting action and suspense on an immobile subway train hijacked by John Travolta with Denzel Washington trying to stop him. In Unstoppable, we get equally exciting action and suspense on a runaway train loaded with toxic chemicals with Denzel Washington trying to prevent it from careening towards a populated town.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: YOU'LL BE SURE TO GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH - AND MORE - BY SEEING SMALL, INDEPENDENT "THE FREEBIE"

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 12, 2010 (San Diego) – The Freebie has a simple story, and it runs only seventy-eight minutes, but director Katie Aselton has crafted a movie that is more than mere premise. In addition to having two likeable characters and dialogue that is real, honest and rich, the movie also kept me guessing until the very end.

 

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: BY HOOKER, BY CROOK, CAUSES OF FORMER GOVERNOR SPITZER'S RISE AND DOWNFALL CHRONICLED IN "CLIENT 9"

 

By Brian Lafferty

November 12, 2010 (San Diego) – At the beginning of Client 9, Eliot Spitzer describes his rise and downfall as a classic Greek story archetype. You have the hero who overcomes all odds and becomes successful. Then he makes a fatal mistake that brings his downfall. What makes this story fascinating is that it isn’t fiction.

 

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