Review

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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.    

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: "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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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: DON'T OVERLOOK "THE OTHER GUYS"

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 7, 2010 (San Diego)--The Other Guys works best when it focuses on Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. I found their scenes droll because of the way the two played off each other. The Other Guys could have benefitted tremendously from a slight trim job and a comprehensible, less-than-convoluted plot but it in the end, it really doesn’t matter. The movie has enough laughs for me to recommend it, although it is not without its flaws.

 


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ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "CHARLIE ST. CLOUD" GIVES UP THE GHOST

By Brian Lafferty

 

July 30, 2010 (San Diego)--Charlie St. Cloud is one of those movies that made me wonder if it should have even been made. The two major themes in this picture are death and letting go. These by no means rank the highest on the controversy meter when it comes to sensitive subjects. Charlie St. Cloud doesn’t handle these themes in a competent manner but that’s only one symptom of an even larger problem: the plot, the characters, and their actions are built on such a shaky foundation that the movie is doomed to begin with.

 


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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: "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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