Name: mutuel

Most Recent Reviews by mutuel

Hunger

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Reviewed by mutuel

Politics can be a tricky affair. Mix affairs of the state with military intervention and odds are good that something explosive can arise. Back to the troubled period of Irish history we go with Hunger, an outstanding portrait of the penal system from first time director Steve McQueen. Learn a lesson in history from this Maple Pictures release that’s now waking people up at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking).

Stark images will haunt you once you step inside a maximum security prison during the Margaret Thatcher years. Once inside this institution you come face to face with IRA prisoners, including the infamous Bobby Sands. Based on a true event Hunger examines the dynamics inside those cement walls. Troublesome in the extreme, we bear witness to the tactics used by the authorities to keep the prisoners in line. Alas, it’s not a pretty sight.

Communications with the outside is forbidden though these condemned men do enjoy family visits. Ingenious methods are used by the prisoners and their supporters to try to circumvent the security that’s almost always on them. Late at night, however, it’s the guards turn to “manage” their locked up charges. Brute force is used with zeal as guards do their utmost to humiliate and break down these convicted men.

Deep inside the psyche we go of Bobby Sands to see just what the Irish Republican Army is fighting for and what they have planned up their sleeve. Rumours of a hunger strike take on a life of their own as for 96 minutes you feel numb by the actions that go on behind closed doors in this government run, parliament sanctioned institution.

Cast as Bobby Sands in a mesmerizing performance is Michael Fassbender (300) who conveys a sense of idealism and desperation as the leader of a jailhouse movement with national ramifications. Just as gripping are the words from a priest trying to make sense out of the whole Belfast situation of the day. Father Moran does his best to help those men facing monumental decisions and is well brought forth by Liam Cunningham (The Wind That Shakes the Barley).

Use of graphic footage showing mistreatment inside this jail will doubtlessly trouble some. Gut check time will come for all brave enough to explore Hunger, a shocking and outstanding retelling of a real event that changed history.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Sin Nombre

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Reviewed by mutuel

Never cross your friends. Efforts to break free of a gang can lead to bigger problems. Upheavals in a closely knit group turn out to have major repercussions in Sin Nombre, a sensational tale of fitting in from Alliance Films now causing pulses to race at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas. Hot on the heels of the wave of crime in Vancouver this little gem from Mexico shows how these groups ply their trade. Novices to this way of life should forget the Bacon brothers and see what criminals south of the border are up to. Here’s a hint: it’s no good.

Young people get into gangs for a variety of reasons. Director/writer Cary Fukunaga takes his cameras to southern Mexico where we see a gang of thugs protect their territory. Led by the charismatic, hot tempered Lil’ Mago this band of crooks turn violence into an art form. Don Corleonne would be proud. In short, they use brute force to welcome new members into their fraternity of terror.

Two fellows are recruited into the lifestyle. By now, twenty-something El Casper is a seasoned pro. Parents would be shocked to see this lad allow a child to become part of the team. El Smiley is under ten but has a fascination with the lifestyle criminals enjoy. Friends at first it’s quite a testament to this way of life how these two chaps would ultimately end up.

Problems in the family occur as El Casper has a fondness for the ladies. Always suspicious of his underling Lil’ Mago keeps El Casper on a short leash. When things go off the rails El Casper decides to branch out on his own. What he later learns, however, is that his former friends have associates throughout the territories. How long El Casper can stay alive depends on a number of factors including a bid for freedom in the United States.

Apart from the gangland element Sin Nombre also effectively examines the plight of Mexicans who want to reach the U.S. Together these two themes cross making this 96 minute movie all the more powerful. Shot in Mexico with a foreign cast subtitles take little away from the impact of this exhilarating movie.

Great atmosphere and a well paced script make you feel for El Casper and the many people he meets along his rather troubled journey. Cast as El Casper is Edgar Flores whose aloofness perfectly suits the complacency of his character. Parents everywhere will be second-guessing the desires of young Kristian Ferrer who dreams of learning to kill to be part of a family. One of the highlights of this film is the way the gang’s leader takes charge of his troops. Scary describes the methods used by Lil’ Mago, well brought out by Tenoch Huerta Mejia, to keep his men in line. Under this leader’s eyes you would be hard-pressed not to follow his command.

Flights to a foreign land are fraught with danger and the way this group of Mexicans try to flee the south for a better life in the north are emotional and equally dangerous. Senses of fear and claustrophobia add to the tension in this thrilling drama. Full of fists and painful initiations, Sin Nombre also offers some strong female performances courtesy of Diana Garcia and Pauline Gaitan who also figure prominently in El Casper’s plans.

Short on gore and long on atmosphere and character development, Sin Nombre is an effective look into the life of gangs and how difficult it is to escape their hold.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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State of Play

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Reviewed by mutuel

Just who’s ” playing “ who is part of the fun in State of Play, a dynamic drama dripping with tension from Universal Pictures now heating things up at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking), Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City cites around B.C. Scribes everywhere will be on pins and needles as the fix is in during this complex and invigorating tale that involves corruption, lust and politics. No, we’re not talking the B.C. election here – something much more sinister.

A murder here, a murder there is all that an ace Washington reporter has to go on. Cal McAffrey is the bane of law authorities as he’s always needling the police for information. News of what appears to be a random killing puts his journalistic integrity to the ultimate test in this tricky chase tale that’s full of puzzling characters and non-clear motives.

Cast as Cal is Russell Crowe (Gladiator) who continues to impress. Long hair suits Crowe’s character as Cal has a special way to get information through his personal traits. Bad news for Cal, however, comes through another paper employee who’s more into the sensational aspects of a story. Young Della Frye is all hot to trot but gets quite a comeuppance from seasoned pro McAffrey who wants nothing of her mudslinging ways.

Petty rivalries on the job become secondary when a prominent Washington insider becomes prime fodder for papers across town when a scandal breaks. Smart, young and handsome Congressman Stephen Collins seems to have the world on a string. Unfortunately for the busy Collins a tragedy in his ranks makes his already public life even more prominent as somehow he becomes engulfed in a growing scandal that sparks controversy and bitterness all around.

Smart writing and taut pacing from director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) make State of Play one of the most exciting political thrillers in recent memory. Crowe is in top form as the relentless journalist with Canadian born Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) also highly effective as a cub reporter in way over her head. Other strong actors in this gripping tale of intrigue include Helen Mirren (The Queen) as a restless editor, Jeff Daniels (Speed) and Ben Affleck (Pearl Harbor) who casts politicians in a new light.

118 minutes goes by in a flash in this exciting police tale that meshes politics with scandal in a very tantalizing way.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Observe and Report

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies


Observe and Report (18A) * * *


Super Cop!

By ROBERT WALDMAN



Timing is everything in life. When to release a movie also can impact a film’s success. After the surprise success of Mall Cop comes another shopping centre themed movie. Local boy who made good Seth Rogen (Superbad) is up to his old tricks in Observe and Report, a wacky offering from Warner Brothers sure to click with the comedy crowd. Expect lots of guffaws at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking), Esplanade 6, Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City films across B.C.

Dreams die hard. So it goes for Ronnie Barnhardt, a somewhat humbled mall officer just trying to do his thing. Upholding rules and regulations is a big thing for Ronnie and as the head security man at this upscale suburban mall he runs roughshod over a rag tag bunch of underlings. Politically correctness goes by the wayside as Ronnie imagines himself to be a super cop. That image of bravery and his gung ho attitude don’t resonate too well with the legitimate police in the area. Alongside co-conspirator Dennis these misfits especially rub Detective Harrison the wrong way.

Day by day Ronnie tries to “manage” the mall and keep both its businesses and customers safe. He particularly has the hots for Brandi, a dashing clerk played by Anna Farris (Brokeback Mountain). Over the course of time we get to see Ronnie’s rage build and the jokes accelerate in this wacky little bit of nonsense.

Director and writer Jody Hill does what she can with an 86 minute movie and Seth Rogen is full value for his portrayal of a maligned loser trying to break free while living in a dream world. There are some touching moments in the film, including a good accounting of a handicapped worker that adds some soul to this otherwise standard comedy. Rogen does punch things up a bit but it’s too bad Observe and Report comes right on the heels of a similar-themed movie.

Spoofing the whole police recruitment efforts also plays into Rogen’s hands who does manage to move the story forward. Likeable and unpredictable Observe and Report again shows Rogen’s ease in front of the camera and a charisma that can’t be contained or overlooked.

Read more reviews by Alan at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Two Lovers

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Two Lovers (PG) * * *

Director: James Gray
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow
Genre: Drama
Studio: Alliance Films
Audience Suitability: PG
Rating: * * *
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Date: April 10, 2009

Double Trouble!

By ROBERT WALDMAN



Many men dream of getting it on with more than one woman at a time. Excess can prove deadly to some. One “average” man must come to terms with those inner demons in Two Lovers, a rightly named drama from Alliance Films now causing consternation at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Tough luck seems to follow Leonard Kraditor around. Despite two loving parents this young man seems to be heading nowhere. Old school parents do what they can to protect their boy but he suffers from some mental ailments. Charitable folks would say he’s not all there.

Bad thoughts cloud Leonard’s mind so it’s quite a surprise when he meets local lovely Sandra Cohen. Faith means everything to immigrants and Leonard’s parents are delighted with this new fledgling love. Wait a minute, not so fast. While Leonard busies himself with this svelte brunette he makes the acquaintance of new neighbour Michelle Rausch. Young and beautiful this average looking guy is smitten by this blonde beauty. Unfortunately for Leonard that attraction is not mutual.

We end up with a bizarre love battle royal as this plain boy must struggle with two dynamic young women. Each of these women also have families and/or lovers which further complicated and confuse an already tense situation. Cover-ups become common as we get engulfed in the interesting trysts of these young people whose baggage begin to multiply.

Sense of both religion and working class struggles are well accounted for in Two Lovers as are the trials and tribulations of people with some medical infirmity. Caught between two would-be girlfriends is Joaquin Phoenix who exhibits just the right degree of aloofness to get your attention. Women are at the core of this struggle with both Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en) and Vinessa Shaw (3:10 to Yuma) fully capable of making any man squirm and cloud those overworked brain cells.

Written and directed by James Gray (The Yards) for 110 minutes we bear witness for one young man’s coming of age with all the pains and sorrows love affairs so entail.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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