Brian Lafferty

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.

 

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: EXPECT SOLID SOPHISTICATED HUMOR FROM "DUE DATE"

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 7, 2010 (San Diego) – Due Date feels like an in-between job for Todd Phillips. His previous film, last year’s The Hangover, is one of the funniest comedies I’ve ever seen and that is not something I say lightly. The sequel is set to release next year. Due Date doesn’t have anywhere near the number of laughs as The Hangover, which I don’t fault; that movie achieved a seemingly impossible feat in which every single gag was not only funny but downright hilarious. But Due Date has enough laughs for me to recommend it.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: IN "ENTER THE VOID" DIRECTOR GASPAR NOE'S BOLD USE OF CAMERA, IMAGERY BREATHES LIFE IN PSYCHEDELIC TALE ABOUT DEATH

By Brian Lafferty

 

WARNING: If you have epilepsy or are prone to seizures, do not see this film, as it contains frequent strobe effects.

 

October 30, 2010 (San Diego)--After seeing Enter the Void, it became clear to me that the newest film by Gaspar Noe is shaping up to be a very divisive movie. It is not for those even remotely squeamish. People either love it or hate it. I went to the screening with three to five other critics and they thought they had seen one of, if not the, worst movies of the year. I felt I saw one of the year’s best.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: CLINT EASTWOOD'S DIRECTION, PETER MORGAN'S SCRIPT GIVE "HEREAFTER" LIFE

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 23, 2010 (San Diego)--After the hilarious yet powerfully dramatic and tragic Gran Torino and the rousing Invictus, director Clint Eastwood has followed up with the somber and sedate Hereafter, which presented a challenge for my attention span. The movie opens with a spectacular tsunami that nearly takes the life of French journalist Marie LeLay (Cecile De France). For the first hour after this sequence I started getting a little restless, feeling that the film wasn’t delivering anything close to the level of the opening action. But that changed over the next hour and I began to fully appreciate it. It doesn’t rank among Eastwood’s best directorial efforts but it is a good movie that doesn’t have a lot to say about its subject matter but is interesting if you’re willing to listen.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TV SCRIPT, DIRECTION BUILD A CASE AGAINST LESS-THAN-CINEMATIC "CONVICTION"

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 22, 2010 (San Diego)--Conviction has a well-told, if formulaic, story. The acting is OK, although I felt at times Hilary Swank was trying too hard. It somewhat touched me emotionally and I got mad at times, in a good way. However, I cannot recommend it because of its one major flaw: it’s nothing more than big screen television.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "NOWHERE BOY" COMES TOGETHER IN PORTRAYAL OF TEENAGE JOHN LENNON

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 17, 2010 (San Diego)--Nowhere Boy doesn’t offer anything revelatory about John Lennon but that doesn’t matter. It is easy to go into this movie expecting something extraordinary. But if the film were to take such an approach, it would have been wrong. We know Lennon is a legend but that began as a member of The Beatles. The filmmakers could have made a film about his time with the Fab Four or his relationship with Yoko Ono. But writer Matt Greenhalgh and director Sam Taylor-Wood elect to explore a time in this man’s life that hasn’t really been touched on: his teenage years.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: THREE CHEERS FOR "RED"

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 17, 2010 (San Diego)--There isn’t a lot in Red that is original. We get the usual shootouts, chases, and other typical action movie staples. But director Robert Schwentke and screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber take what could have been a standard action movie and make it both refreshing and funny. They take scenes that could have been clichés and reinvigorate them by filming and editing them in ways that are both refreshing and surprising.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: YOU WON'T MEET INTERESTING CHARACTERS IN AVERAGE WOODY ALLEN FARE "YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER"

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 3, 2010 (San Diego)--You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger features a lot of great actors. Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto and Antonio Banderas make up most of the ensemble cast. It is also written and directed by Woody Allen. But despite all the talent here, the movie did nothing for me because they are all involved in a nonessential movie.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: CRITIC LIKES "THE SOCIAL NETWORK"

By Brian Lafferty

 



October 5, 2010 (San Diego)--The Social Network is one of the year’s best films. That is not a label I apply to just any good film. What makes this movie special is how everything in it took me in. Very few movies this year engaged me as much as The Social Network. The writing, directing, acting, and every other aspect left me feeling genuinely spellbound. Every person involved gave one-hundred percent effort and it shows.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: COFFIN LEAVES PLENTY OF ROOM FOR CHILLS IN CLAUSTROPHOBIC THRILLER "BURIED"

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 3, 2010 (San Diego)--Claustrophobia seems to be a popular theme in the last two months. Lebanon took place entirely within a tank populated by four Israeli soldiers during the First Lebanon War. Whatever was seen outside the tank was limited to what was viewed through the periscope. Devil had several people stuck in an elevator with someone eventually revealed to be the Devil himself. Now we have Buried, a film featuring Ryan Reynolds in Iraq buried several feet underground in a coffin. This is a movie that must be seen in the theater to fully appreciate it. Not even the best home theater system can faithfully replicate the claustrophobic effects experienced at the cinema.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: PROPAGANDA FILM MAY HAVE BEEN "UNFINISHED" BUT THE IMAGES STILL TELL OF HORRIFIC DETAIL BEHIND WARSAW GHETTO

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 28, 2010 (San Diego)--Playing until Friday at the Ken Cinema is A Film Unfinished. The title refers to an uncompleted Nazi propaganda film shot in the Warsaw Ghetto in the early 1940s. The majority of the movie consists of footage from the propaganda film. Director Yael Hersonski isn’t content to just show the film. Behind each shot is a story and the narrator goes into deep, articulative, and informative detail into each of them. Diaries from the overseer of the Ghetto and letters from one of the filmmakers are read.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "BRAN NUE DAE" SINGS AND DANCES TO A GRATING BEAT

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 25, 2010 (San Diego)--Bran Nue Dae is a film so dreadful I felt embarrassed just watching it. Everything about it literally made me cringe. Only the completionist in me got me staying until the end. Once the end credits began to roll, I didn’t just walk out of the theater. I ran to the nearest exit. No, I’m not making this up.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS" ON THE MONEY WITH FRESH SCRIPT

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 25, 2010 (San Diego)--Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opens with Gordon Gekko being released from a federal penitentiary in the year 2001. Among the personal items given back to him is his mobile phone, one of those ugly giant cell phones that are an eyesore today but were trendy in the late 1980s. Gekko exits the penitentiary and sees everybody else being picked up, including one ex-convict in a limousine. But nobody comes for him. His face exudes loneliness. Here was a man who was big and rich twenty-five years ago but now nobody cares about him.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: MOVIE MAY BE CALLED "HEARTBREAKER" BUT IT MAY LEAVE YOU FEELING GOOD

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 24, 2010 (San Diego)--My favorite scene in the French film Heartbreaker comes towards the end. Alex (Romain Duris), who is tasked with breaking up a heiress’s relationship with her fiance, puts on I’ve Had the Time of My Life from her favorite movie Dirty Dancing. He starts dancing, having memorized all the steps. I cracked a really wide smile when Bill Medley began singing. I wasn’t laughing a lot during Heartbreaker but I sure was smiling.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: GREAT ANIMATION BUT UNWISE APPROACH TO OWL STORY "LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS"

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 24, 2010 (San Diego)--I watched Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole in a packed theater. Much of the audience consisted of parents and kids, many of them ranging between three to seven years old. There was an air of excitement in the theater during the half hour before the screening. But within the first fifteen minutes all the fun was sucked out. By the end, the atmosphere was cold and joyless. I left the screening depressed, manipulated, angry and appalled. This movie is based on a series of children’s novels but it is definitely not for kids. I will feel sorry for parents who will be understandably misled and take their kids to see a movie that will leave their young ones with tears and nightmares.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: CLICHES, UNORIGINALITY HOLD UP ROMANCE IN "THE TOWN"

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 17, 2010 (San Diego)--The Town opens with Ben Affleck and his crew robbing a bank. The action here is standard but one shot stands out. Rebecca Hall, playing a Bank Manager, is forced to open the safe. She shakes as she tries several times to get the correct combination. She’s under pressure because the cops are on their way and because she has a gun to her head. She finally manages to get it open. This looked promising; Affleck, who also directed and co-wrote, shows a knack for directing suspense despite the otherwise ordinary robbery.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: TOO MUCH PLOT OVERCOOKS "SOUL KITCHEN"

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 17, 2010 (San Diego)--A lot happens in Soul Kitchen. Too much, actually. Just as a film can rarely survive on the flimsiest of plots, a movie can have just as much a hard time sustaining itself trying to balance a smorgasbord of story lines. This newest film by German director Fatih Akin suffers from a major case of plot overload. In my notes I made a list and counted six distinct story threads. For this movie that was too many.

 


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OFF THE SILVER SCREEN: CANCER IN THE FAMILY NO MATCH FOR CRITIC'S LOVE FOR FILM

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 13, 2010 (San Diego) -- Today I will venture out into the Realm of the Off Topic. What follows is not exactly movie-related but I feel compelled to talk about the last few weeks and how they have affected me. I’m sure some of you may feel the same way I do after reading this post.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "I'M STILL HERE" GOES WAY OUT THERE IN JOLTING, COMPELLING PORTRAIT OF JOAQUIN PHOENIX

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 13, 2010 (San Diego)--“I don’t want to play the character of Joaquin Phoenix anymore,” says Phoenix, the subject of this documentary. “I want to be whatever I am.” That is his explanation for why he chose to give up acting in favor of a rap music career. I’m Still Here, helmed by Phoenix’s brother-in-law Casey Affleck, is a film that you simply cannot prepare for. There are many images you will never unthink. These are not criticisms; as hard as it was to watch, I liked it. I didn’t necessarily enjoy it as I normally would. The documentary sets out and accomplishes what it wants to do and conveys what it wants to communicate. It doesn’t work as entertainment but then maybe that wasn’t the point.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: SHADOW OF COENS' "BLOOD SIMPLE" LEAVES "A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP" IN THE SOUP

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 12, 2010 (San Diego)--A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop is not a bad movie per se but an unnecessary one. I could easily apply that label to a lot of bad movies but usually every movie, even the real stinkers, starts out conceptually with the best of intentions. This newest film by Yimou Zhang, a remake of the Coen Brothers’ film Blood Simple had no reason to be made.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "CENTURION" A BLOODY GOOD TIME AT THE MOVIES

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 6, 2010 (San Diego)--Neil Marshall is a British writer/director renowned for the amount of blood and gore he includes in his films. Sometimes he’s visceral as in Dog Soldiers. He can be gleeful and cartoonish about it like he was in Doomsday. In The Descent, the violence was unpleasant. In the case of Centurion, he is gritty and realistic. Even if it appeared gratuitous, I didn’t mind because I had a lot of fun watching it.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1" A SATISFYING CONCLUSION TO THE MESRINE SAGA

ON THE SILVER SCREEN: PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1 A SATISFYING CONCLUSION TO MESRINE SAGA

 

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 6, 2010 (San Diego)--Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1, released last Friday, is the second of a two-part series. Killer Instinct emphasized action while this one focuses more on character exploration. Vince Cassel showed us in the first movie how he could rob banks. The movie contains action but not as much as the first. Instead, Cassel is given the opportunity to flex his acting muscles this time around, giving us a glimpse of one of France’s most notorious outlaws when he’s not on his latest crime spree. It is here that we get a portrait of the criminal artist as an older man.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT" BRINGS OUT THE BIG GUNS

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 27, 2010 (San Diego)--Jean-Luc Godard, that great French filmmaker, once said, “The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie.” When I first saw Mesrine: Killer Instinct, which is the first in a two part series (Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 will be released next week) I wasn’t very impressed. I felt like I had seen it all before and that the movie wasn’t anything special. That was until I saw Takers a while later.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "TAKERS" TAKES THE AUDIENCE FOR A RIDE

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 27, 2010 (San Diego)--The movie may be called Takers but “Sharp Dressed Men” would be a more apt title. The Takers in this movie are a group of men who get their kicks robbing banks but there is very little of it. Instead, we see only a group of men dressed in expensive suits strutting around, acting cool, and emitting a subtext that says, “Look how much money we have to afford these coats and ties!” At some point I wished ZZ Top’s hit song, “Sharp Dressed Man” would blare to lighten things up a little.

 


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A CONVERSATION WITH LOCAL FILMMAKER VERNON MORTENSEN


The Kid: Chamaco, which he produced, opens Friday for a one-week engagement

 

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 26, 2010 (El Cajon)--“The quality of writing will get you through the door,” says East County film producer Vernon Mortensen. His newest film, The Kid: Chamaco, opens Friday for a one-week showing at the Reading Gaslamp.  “To get to the door, half the time you need to know somebody," he told me over lunch in El Cajon.


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "PATRIK, AGE 1.5" OVERCOMES FORMULAIC SCRIPT WITH ROMANCE, HUMOR, AND FINE ACTING

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 22, 2010 (San Diego)--Patrik, Age 1.5 is formulaic, super-sweet, and very sentimental but I liked it. The movie opened on Friday and is playing at the Ken Cinema until Thursday. I found the structure to be overly predictable and some of the song choices questionable and gag-inducing but it was to me a worthwhile cinematic experience.

 


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