On the Silver Screen

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "SALT" CONTAINS NO SPICE

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 23, 2010 (San Diego)--The scenario of Salt is gleefully implausible, with twist after twist and sequences of events that go way beyond the valley of the absurd. The film knows this. These would not be criticisms if the movie was any good, but Salt is a surprisingly boring action movie, completely devoid of suspense as if the filmmakers made a conscious effort to avoid it.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "INCEPTION" DREAMS UP A RICH SCRIPT

By Brian Lafferty

 

"This is one of the best movies of the year." -- Brian Lafferty

July 22, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--Dreams have always been part of  cinema. A common film use is the “it was only a dream” stunt applied to generate cheap thrills and groans (Jaws: The Revenge) or to foment laughter (A Serious Man, An American Werewolf in London).  Dreams have also acted as visually expressive tools to reveal character or relay exposition (Salvador Dali’s dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound). Sometimes, dreams have been used to shock the audience (the movies of Luis Bunuel, particularly Un Chien Andalou, which opens with an eyeball being slashed).

 

Dreams may be old subjects in motion pictures, but with Inception Christopher Nolan has delivered one of--if not the most--original movie of the year, taking the concept in many new directions I never thought possible.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "SORCERER'S APPRENTICE" CASTS A CHARMING SPELL

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 14, 2010 (San Diego’s East County)--The Sorcerer's Apprentice takes a ten-minute animated segment and stretches it out to a nearly two hour live-action film but it works. It is visually dark yet lit up by the energetic performance of Dave by Jay Baruchel and Nicolas Cage’s dry, deadpan, and humorous portrayal of Balthazar. Some of the humor is predictable but I still laughed throughout. The film teems with special effects but they have a decent story to put them to use.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "CYRUS" HITS THE MOTHER LODE

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 2, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--There is a scene at the beginning of Cyrus in which John (John C. Reilly) tries to pick up a woman at a party. The problem is he can’t get the words out and gives up. Later, he meets another woman, Molly, (Marisa Tomei) who describes the conversation he had as raw and honest. Those two words are not just true about the failed pick-up: they accurately describe this movie.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE LAST AIRBENDER" RUNS OUT OF AIR

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 1, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--The Last Airbender is a movie that begs to be remade by a different director. It had the potential for an entertaining cinematic experience but it ends up as a vigorously underwhelming film. I didn’t hate this picture as much as I felt really disappointed.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "KNIGHT AND DAY" SUFFERS FROM DAY AND NIGHT TONE

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 24, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- Knight and Day was a movie that gave me fits. That’s something I did not expect from a movie starring either Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz. These two stars are reunited for the first time since Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky in 2001. That movie, while not their best, was at least interesting, thought-provoking, well-acted, and most of all, not the least bit boring. The same cannot be said for Knight and Day, which tries to be like James Cameron’s 1994 action flick True Lies but winds up only paling in comparison.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "JONAH HEX" A WESTERN THAT SHOOTS BLANKS

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 19, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- Jonah Hex is one of those movies that had me sitting in the dark both literally and figuratively. I had barely any idea what was going on except Jonah Hex’s (Josh Brolin) family being torched by Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), Jonah seeking revenge, and Turnbull’s attempted terrorist plot on Washington D.C.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "TOY STORY 3" IS A RARE SECOND SEQUEL THAT DELIVERS

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 18, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- I remember the day I saw Toy Story in the theater way back in 1995. Back then I was used to the traditional animated fare. Nothing could prepare me for it. That movie was unlike anything I had ever seen. I sat in the theater simply mesmerized. Fifteen years later Pixar has released the third installment in this series. It is a rarity: a third movie in a trilogy that is as successful as its prequels.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE A-TEAM" BRINGS ITS A-GAME

 

By Brian Lafferty

June 11, 2010 (San Diego) -- I strongly believe in approaching every movie I review with as neutral an attitude as possible, with no preconceived notions as to whether or not I will like it. The A-Team made it simultaneously difficult and easy. It was difficult in the sense that I’m a huge fan of the original series and easy in that the show was not a work of art. The episodes followed a strict formula and contained mindless action, yet it worked because it was entertaining, energetic, and fun. This movie works because it follows in that same spirit that made the show fun to watch.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "GET HIM TO THE GREEK" WORTH GETTING TO THE THEATER TO SEE

By Brian Lafferty

June 4, 2010 (San Diego) -- Maybe Hollywood should focus on making comedies instead of romantic comedies. After enduring such sludge as When in Rome and The Bounty Hunter earlier this year, it has, in the past few months, been a welcome relief to see laugh out loud films like Death at a Funeral and Get Him to the Greek, which opens today.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "SHREK FOREVER AFTER" AN UNHAPPY ENDING TO ILLUSTRIOUS FRANCHISE

 

By Brian Lafferty

May 22, 2010 (San Diego)--In 2001 Dreamworks released Shrek. Based on a children’s book, the movie was an inventive, clever, and witty satire of fairy tales. It was a huge hit and spawned three sequels, the last of which being Shrek Forever After.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "ROBIN HOOD" LESS THAN MERRY

 

By Brian Lafferty

May 14, 2010 (San Diego) -- Robin Hood is the year’s first big disappointment, considering the people involved in making it. Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe as the title character and fine actress Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian. As always, Scott demonstrates his ability as one of the most visual directors out there today, teeming with expertly crafted shots that nearly give the film an epic feel. Crowe and Blanchett do not disappoint in the acting department. It is not a bad movie by any means but rather aggressively unsatisfying; to paraphrase Sean Connery from the 1976 film Robin and Marian, (a better film than this incarnation) instead of getting red meat I wound up settling for only bread and cheese.

 


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FREE SCREENING TONIGHT OF "ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM" AT LESTAT'S COFFEEHOUSE TONIGHT; Q & A SESSION, BOOK SIGNING TO FOLLOW

May 9, 2010 (San Diego)—Almost ten years ago, Enron Corporation went bankrupt. In 2005, Alex Gibney directed a documentary entitled Enron: The Smartest man in the Room. Today, there will be a free screening of this film, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, at Lestat’s Coffeehouse West Showroom in downtown San Diego. The screening begins at 5:00 and seating is limited so plan to arrive early.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "IRON MAN 2" A MOVIE OF STEEL DESPITE SCRIPT FLAWS

By Brian Lafferty

May 6, 2010 (San Diego)--When I saw Iron Man two years ago, I left the theater feeling it was a great movie but functioned more like a set-up for a better and bigger story. It raised my expectations for the sequel, which is out in theaters today. Iron Man 2 is bigger and better but not by much; it suffers from two major story flaws. Yet, I walked out of the theater feeling much more satisfied because everything that did work more than made up for what didn't.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "ELM STREET" WORKS AS RE-IMAGINING, NOT REMAKE

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 30, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- Re-imagining a classic movie like A Nightmare on Elm Street is very risky, primarily because there will be constant comparisons to the original. Wes Craven’s 1984 masterpiece has garnered a spot in the pantheon of horror films and spawned numerous sequels with varying degrees of quality. I happily report, however, that the reboot, directed by music video director Samuel Bayer, is a solid piece of filmmaking.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE LOSERS" ANYTHING BUT A WINNER

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 23, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) -- The Losers is an action movie that had no effect on me except for making my eyes glaze over. It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Watchmen, TV’s Supernatural) and Zoe Saldana. There are moments of great inventiveness, which include grabbing an armored car using a magnet attached to a chopper…taking place in broad daylight in front of downtown commuter traffic. The problem? This film is nothing special. I just didn’t care.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "KICK-ASS" A UNIQUE TAKE ON THE SUPERHERO GENRE

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 16, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) -- Kick-Ass is not your typical superhero. He doesn’t have any special powers and he lacks strength. His costume is a garish green wet suit with yellow stripes. He is deathly afraid of heights. This movie is one of the more interesting of its kind: an existential portrait of a tortured superhero.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: ALL-STAR CAST PROVIDES HEARTY LAUGHS IN "DEATH AT A FUNERAL"

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 16, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- As I walked out of the theater after watching Death at a Funeral, I was reminded of something the great director Howard Hawks once said about what makes a good movie: three great scenes, no bad ones. There are three hilarious, uproarious scenes which had me literally gasping for air from laughing so hard. At the same time, there was not a single scene that didn't work.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE RUNAWAYS" ROCKS AND ROLLS

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 9, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) -- Watching The Runaways was like going to a fun party; you have the time of your life before you spend the next day recovering. The energy this movie generated resulted in a nonstop simultaneous feeling of euphoria and heartbreak. It is a rollercoaster of a movie, one that constantly engaged me on an emotional level. It is a film that will stay with me for a long time.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "TITANS" BENEFITS FROM EQUAL BALANCE OF ACTION AND STORY

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 2, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--Clash of the Titans is the newest in a seemingly neverending long line of Hollywood remakes. Directed by Louis Leterrier (director of The Incredible Hulk two years ago) it is a splendid remake of the 1981 classic of the same name. That movie starred future L.A. Law actor Harry Hamlin and was the last to feature special effects master Ray Harryhausen’s famous stop-motion animation. This time Perseus is played by Sam Worthington, coming off of last year’s megahit Avatar.  The stop-motion has been replaced with CGI.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DESPITE BAREBONES SCRIPT "THE LAST SONG" HAS ITS STRENGTHS

 

By Brian Lafferty

April 2, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--The Last Song is one of those films I call a “Hit and Miss” picture. Movies that fall under this category typically have as many elements that work as those that don’t. One scene may be wonderful, the next may be forgettable. Some characters are great and some are not so desirable. This is basically how The Last Song works. It is not a bad movie but it isn’t great, either.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON" FIRES ON ALL CYLINDERS

 

By Brian Lafferty

March 26, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- After I saw Avatar back in December, I was sure of one thing: there is no longer any excuse for filmmakers to skimp on 3D. Avatar, for me, established several precedents when it comes to the quality of these movies. It demonstrated that a 3D flick can have outstanding image quality, that the medium is best when used to increase depth, and that it can really make you feel like a part of the movie’s world. How to Train Your Dragon, the newest animated feature from Dreamworks, grasps these three notions. The result is a fantastic cinematic experience for both adults and kids alike.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: UNEVEN SCRIPT MAKES "THE BOUNTY HUNTER" THE HUNTED

 

By Brian Lafferty

March 19, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- The Bounty Hunter has, on paper, an interesting concept for a romantic comedy: a journalist (Jennifer Aniston) on trial for assault skips bail to help a snitch, who has information about a suicide case she’s investigating. Before they can meet, the snitch is kidnapped. Her ex-husband (Gerard Butler) is offered five grand to bring her back. As the lights went down and the projector ground to life, I thought this premise, contrived as it may be, could deliver some laughs. I wish I could say that was the case.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: MATT DAMON, DIRECTOR PAUL GREENGRASS IN THE ZONE WITH "GREEN ZONE"

 

By Brian Lafferty

March 14, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- Green Zone is relentlessly exciting from beginning to end. We know there never were weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, which was the primary reason we went to war. We know what the outcome will be in the end, that there’s no turning back and we’re in it for the long haul, WMDs or not. Despite this common knowledge, screenwriter Brian Helgeland manages to incorporate a mystery that keeps us guessing until the very end in addition to exciting action sequences.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: “SHUTTER ISLAND” IS AN ATMOSPHERIC, EFFECTIVE THRILLER

 

By Brian Lafferty

February 23, 2010 (San Diego's East County)-- Shutter Island, the newest feature by director Martin Scorsese, is mesmerizing. It is unlike any Scorsese movie and I’ve seen them all. Originally set to be released back in October, the studio pushed it to February 19. I can tell you without hesitation the wait was worth it.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: AS A REVENGE MOVIE, “EDGE OF DARKNESS” COMES UP SHORT

 

By Brian Lafferty

February 8, 2010 (San Diego)--The first scene of Edge of Darkness is a home movie featuring a little girl at the beach. This little girl is the daughter of a Boston Detective (Mel Gibson) who grows up to be a trainee at a corporation specializing in handling nuclear waste. Within the first five minutes, Gibson’s daughter comes home, gets sick, then is shot to death and dies in Gibson’s arms. After learning who was behind his daughter’s murder, he swears revenge against the evil corporation.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: “THE LOVELY BONES” OVERCOMES ROUGH START, BUOYED BY CONVINCING PERFORMANCES

 

 By Brian Lafferty

January 31, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) -- The Lovely Bones is a movie that had me sitting on the fence the entire time I was watching it, right down to the end credits. This was a film where it isn’t as easy as yes or no in terms of recommending it and strong arguments can be made from either side.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: HEATH LEDGER’S SWAN SONG, “DOCTOR PARNASSUS,” A VISUALLY SUMPTUOUS, WELL-ACTED TREAT

 

By Brian Lafferty

January 12, 2009 (San Diego’s East County)--While watching The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus I could not help but remember a film with elements similar to it. That film would be The City of Lost Children, a 1995 French film co-directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) and Marc Caro. Like The City of Lost Children, Doctor Parnassus contains eccentric characters (in both physical appearance and personality), lush cinematography and set design, and an interesting narrative that is barely coherent yet rewarding at the same time. I loved it.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: “INVICTUS” IS ROUSING, WELL-WRITTEN, AND WELL-ACTED

By Brian Lafferty

December 21, 2009 (San Diego’s East County)--Invictus is a movie that brought out a lot of the fan in me. It is a feel good film that had me cheering. It is one of the most rousing films of the year.

The movie begins with the release of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) after decades of imprisonment. Through sometimes shocking and powerful real news footage, which includes riots, we see Mandela winning the South African presidency against all odds. This news footage is real from 1994, but in Forrest Gump style Morgan Freeman is digitally, and seamlessly, inserted in the real Mandela’s place. It wasn’t even five minutes in and I was starting to cheer for him to succeed.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "PRECIOUS" AGGRESSIVELY BLEAK BUT VERY REWARDING

 



By Brian Lafferty

December 5, 2009 (San Diego's East County) -- Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is one of the most strong-willed characters I have seen in a long time. She’s pregnant, at sixteen, with her second child by her father. Her mother (Mo'Nique) is both physically and psychologically abusive, calling her mean names and always bringing her down. She’s illiterate. She’s harassed at school and on the street. She enrolls in an alternative school and the other students are initially mean-spirited. In her mind, the world is unfair and cruel, with very few people on her side.


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