Name: mutuel

Most Recent Reviews by mutuel

Romantic Triagle with Penelope Cruz sexy Almodovar Suspense tale

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Broken Embraces (PG) * * * * *

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Stars: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homak

Genre: Drama

Rating: * * * * *

Audience Suitability: PG

Studio: Mongrel Media

Release Date: Dec. 12, 2009

Running Time: 127 Minutes

Warm Encounters!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Looks like Pedro Almodovar has done it again. One of Spain’s natural treasures continues his winning ways as a director of renown with Broken Embraces, a must see sexy thriller from Mongrel Media now enticing audiences at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas. Right in the Hitchcock tradition Broken Embraces is a smart, thinking suspense tale that reels you in through very smart execution.

Like so many others Almodovar relies on a back and forth flashback technique to flesh out this tale about a group of very passionate people. Early on we see the plight of Mateo Blanco, a blind man well presented by Lluis Homak who makes a living as a writer. Known as Harry Caine in print Mateo leads a rather sheltered life under the watchful gaze of manager Judit Garcia. Blanco Portillo shows lots of poise as Mateo’s overseer. Both people, however, hold back some very dark secrets which take us back in time to see how Mateo’s condition became so precarious.

Penelope Cruz Sizzles at Centre of Love Triangle

Flashbacks reveal a woman was a the heart of Mateo’s problems. Young and beautiful Lena represented what most men want in a woman. Penelope Cruz is stunning as this would be actress who falls under the spell of Mateo. Unfortunately for Mateo this woman is already spoken for by way of a rich industrialist, Ernesto Martel. Handsome and debonair Jose Luiz Gomez embodies power and his grip on Lena is unbreakable. Still, Lena falls under the spell of Mateo in an affair not soon forgotten.

Suspense abounds in Broken Embraces as does standout performances. Numerous side plots enter into the tale of a woman caught between two forceful men with apparently no way out. Things change quickly in this tug of war over emotions in a stupendous movie about jealousy, lust, competition, secrets and family pride.

Shades of Hitchcock Surface in Tense Almodovar Sassy Thriller

Almodovar succeeds here in building up tremendous uncertainty as these characters change over time in a tale bursting with cleverness and raw energy. Emotional sparks fly between Cruz and the two men who fawn over her. Modern elements are also thrown into the mix complete with drugs, rock and roll and a very astute look at the art of filmmaking. And the lengths some people will go to keep tabs on their lovers has never been better portrayed on screen in such a fresh, new and brilliant way.

A student of the cinema, Almodovar has cleverly blended elements of soap operas and classic Alfred Hitchcock –like matinee thrills to pull off a true masterpiece that gets bolder and better with each passing frame. Accompanied by a terrific musical score that conveys the very essence of lovers and those with intense jealousies, Broken Embraces is a flawless foreign film that looks and sounds good in any language. Told in Spanish with English subtitles Broken Embraces is one of the best foreign films this year and not to be missed.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Kissing a frog turns eventful for young girl in animated delight

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

The Princess and the Frog (G) * * * * *

Director: John Musker and Ron Clements

Stars: Voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos

Genre: Animated

Audience Suitability: G

Rating: * * * * *

Release Date: Dec. 11, 2009

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Royal Blush!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Laughs come at you fast and furious in The Princess and the Frog. Put out by Walt Disney Pictures this 97 minute movie continues the track record of the studio that pioneered animated films. Unlike the more sophisticated Pixar treatments and even the Shrek juggernaut The Princess and the Frog relies on the tried and true fairy tale formula only punches it up with new twists and turns sure to appeal to old audiences and new converts.

Back for a reunion are the dynamic writers/directors of Alladin, John Musker and Ron Clements who helm a team of what must have been thousands of dedicated craftsmen and technicians. Apart from all the pretty colours and jokes it’s the story that will either make or break a movie and in animated form those stakes are raised even higher.

Classic Rags to Riches tale Resurfaces in New Orleans

Set in the fanciful locale of New Orleans our story begins with two childhood girlfriends, one born rich into society while the other Tiana comes from a working class background. Voiced by Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) her innocent soft spoken sounds will embrace you and have you under her charm right from the start. Unlike her wealthy white friend Tiana has an Afro-American heritage and scenes of her growing up in the slums are nicely introduced. Both girls share dreams with Tiana mostly interested in opening a restaurant. Boys come up at times and the ability at a later age to wed a prince clearly sends both women over the top. Man of the hour Prince Navin is deliciously given words with lots of soul by Bruno Campos who will make playboys everywhere proud of his tongue extending techniques. Chicanery, however, develops on the scene when a voodoo expert has other plans and this prince to be turns into a frog and his only hope to escape is a kiss. What doesn’t follow according to the playbook comes about when Tiana kisses a talking frog and she herself reverts to an animal form.

A Bayou Wonderland comes to life when Two Frogs learn all about Love

Mad at being transformed into a frog Tiana pines away. That French prince, however, tries to make her stay more comfortable. Scores of animals come into this pair’s lives along with hidden dangers as the duo try to find the key to become human again. Bad elements hound their journey every step of the way.

Great fun will be had by one and all in this delightful fairy tale. Classy songs from Randy Newman set just the right mood as you feel for the plight of this poor girl and can’t resist the subtle charms of that dethroned prince. Great artwork brightens up the bayou as we get introduced to scores of unusual offbeat characters that add further to the plight of two star-crossed lovers.

Romance, danger and faith all come into play in The Princess and The Frog, a delightful film for children and adults alike that will make you believe in fantasy once again.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Firing Employees comes easy for George Clooney in Jason Reitman film

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Up in the Air (PG) * * * * *

Director: Jason Reitman

Stars: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga

Genre: Drama

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Audience Suitability: PG

Rating: * * * * *

Release Date: Dec. 11, 2009

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Flying High!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Looks like Jason Reitman has hit his stride. As a director and writer he has had three tremendously entertaining films in a row. Reitman follows up the sensational Juno and Thank You For Smoking with currently in theatres Up in the Air. Sure to be heard loud and clear come Oscar time this seductively entertaining escapade from Paramount Pictures is now firing up audiences at the Scotiabank Theatre and Fifth Avenue Cinemas, to be followed in short order by other cinemas across B.C..

Worth any length of wait in a line up is this clever 109 minute yarn. Perfectly paralleling the plight of countless North Americans facing economic starvation is this tale about a so-called efficiency expert up to his eyeballs in applying his skills. Work for Ryan Bingham involves firing people. George Clooney (Ocean’s 11) brings all his charms to this swarmy character who has a rather special talent. Bad news is hard for anyone to receive but this Bingham chap is an artist when it comes to telling folks their services are no longer required. Call him the devil incarnate, able to do the dirty work managers or owners of firms simply don’t want to engage in. After all, we all know that some ex-employees can go postal and become violent. Years of experience has left Bingham with just the right subtle approach to do the deed. Like a master quarterback it’s somewhat of a guilty pleasure to see Bingham go through the motions.

Work is everything for this middle-aged man who travels literally out of a suitcase. Collectors of air miles or those who covet company point plans would learn a lot from this guy’s playbook. Even the best laid plans come undone on occasion and the introduction of a new employee at head office throws a rather big wrench into Mr. Bingham’s winning ways.

Just like the name suggests Natalie Keener is quite a keener to further increase profits at Bingham’s company. Anna Kendrick (Twilight) burns up the screen as the newcomer who grates Bingham the wrong way. Talk about a contrast in styles. It’s hilarious to watch these two try to tell the unsuspected that their careers have come to a screeching halt. Sadness also weighs heavily on those affected.

Besides all this further complications confront Bingham. Long on his own a touch of melancholy sets in that not even a new fling can help contain. Affairs are common everywhere and those who travel have the ideal chance to form dalliances. Chance encounters can also be loads of fun and full of pitfalls as relationships unfold. Sparks do fly when Bingham meets the fetching Alex Goran, played coyly in a sexy way by Vera Farmiga (Orphan).

Put simply, Clooney makes this movie his own and rocks with the role. Chemistry explodes on screen between Clooney and Farmiga who both engage each other with just the right amount of humour to pull you in. Reitman further ups the ante by exploring in detail what relationships are all about as a bittersweet twist develops for many of the characters we come into contact with.

Great dialogue that’s witty and sly and very well-grounded makes Up in the Air a spectacular, smart story about the jobs none of us want which some of us can excel at. Clooney has never been better and looks terrific as a hired gun who may be left with a few blanks in his ever momentous life. Tests for good films are when characters can develop and change over time. In Up in the Air that change is handled masterfully by one of the best new directors and writers out there. Good wishes go out also to the brave participants in this fact based movie who actually were fired and were good enough to recount their actual experiences clandestinely on camera, the results of which turned out to be considerably superior to any reality television program.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewsite.com

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Morgan Freeman outstanding as Nelson Mandella

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Invictus (PG) * * * *

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

Genre: Drama

Audience Suitability: PG

Rating: * * * * *

Studio: Warner Brothers

Release Date: Dec. 11, 2009

Running Time: 134 MInutes

Play Ball!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Associate the names Eastwood, Freeman and Damon with any film project and odds are good you’ll get a superior effort. Rewards will be had by all audiences who check out Invictus, a stunning cinematic treat from this talented trio and Warner Brothers Films. Sure to create lots of Oscar buzz this captivating 134 minute story is now unfolding at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking), the Fifth Avenue Cinemas, Empire Esplanade Six, Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City Theatres around B.C.

Come December the studios and talented filmmakers unleash their finest products. Done away with summer heroics and throwaway spring flings and autumn wannabes the best is truly saved for last. Just like the original James Bond films were released in December now it appears no year can end without a Clint Eastwood masterpiece. Invictus continues this winning tradition for the original man with no name and squint eyed detective from the city by the bay.

Turning Points in History are Few and Far Between

Over the years discrimination has taken many forms. History tells us to remember the past or risk reliving dark times. South Africa has been a tragedy in the making for generations. National racism was practiced on the home grown population until the election of Nelson Mandela, played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman, changed course and the fortunes of an oppressed minority. Fear of the unknown is common for those minorities in power afraid of giving up control. Invictus tells us the story of how a former prisoner could rise to the top of power in a country full of ancient hatreds that are still slowly being purged.

Scant time is spent on Mandela’s early years in custody. Instead we see him emerge as a new leader and the tough attitudes he had to take on. Unsure of the transition the story smartly shows the testiness of the key players in government. What few could have expected, however, was the role sport was to play in one man’s quest for a better country – and world.

While most leaders would be more interested in running a government and hobnobbing with international heads of state Mandela saw the need to unite a people and through, of all things, a rugby team, that effort was made sincere. Closet quarterbacks are a dime a dozen but against this brand new government one fearless leader made an effort to use an otherwise, also ran rugby squad and subtly in effect make them the cornerstone of national reconciliation.

Respect for all human rights was the mantra of Mandela and with the aid of some jocks he was able to forge ahead and, in the process, rally a people. Captain of the team Francois Pienaar, portrayed by an accented Matt Damon, was at first skeptical of this mission as were his crew but over time the team took the effort seriously.

Clint Eastwood again recreates to perfection the South Africa of the 90s. Tension abounds in this movie as there are forces within both the white and black communities that want Nelson Mandela’s newly formed government to fall. Stand-out acting from the main performers is always expected but even the secondary and tertiary figures here rise to the occasion and flesh out a believable scenario of what best could be described as a modern miracle.

Magnetic Morgan Freeman Captures Mandela’s Convictions

Full of passion and vigour and total charm is Morgan Freeman (Kiss the Girls) who radiates on screen as the soft-spoken Mandela. Speeches given by Mandela soft spoken rugby star, also points to the need for acceptance and a willingness to, in the words of John Lennon, Give Peace a Chance. On the rugby field, however, peace is the last things on anyone’s mind as a squad not too many gave a snowball’s chance in hell of winning clearly put in a yeoman’s effort.

Sports movies require action on the athletic field but superior films in this genre require character growth and deeper developments. Invictus does a masterful job showing how sport can lift a nation from the depths to new heights. Action on the field is intense with the camera work impressive. Unfortunately, the final match, though gripping, does tend to linger too long and drag.

Fans of history and change should fully embrace Invictus, a wonderful testament to the life of Nelson Mandela that reveals his philosophy without turning him into just another leader out for power. Deep insight into Mandela’s character and humanity is brilliantly revealed by Freeman who likely will at the very least get an Oscar nomination for best actor.

Another Eastwood trait is music. Soft tone lyrics further enhance the atmosphere of this terrific journey. Not just a wonderful movie, but a superior teaching tool without any preaching makes Invictus a superb portrayal of a one of a kind man.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Heist Film standard Shootem-up Fare

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Reviewed by mutuel

At the movies

Armored (PG) * * *

Heist!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Today jobs are important. Hard economic times bring out the best of people. A new employee learns it’s not that easy gaining acceptance in Amored, a routine though entertaining actioner from Columbia Pictures now hauling in the loot at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking), The Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City cites around B.C.

Some circles claim whenever a studio fails to screen a movie for critics it’s a sign of bad things to come. Or else a studio feels they have a bonafide hit and don’t need additional comments from the media, as was the case with the latest Twilight movie. On occasion, however, a studio can misjudge not only the critic’s take on an opening but also the public’s perception with Armored likely falling into the latter category.

New employee faces Major Pressures at new Job

Down and out Ty Hackett, played by Columbus Short, is a man in a bind. Saddled with raising his young brother Ty is in an economic slump. Being muscular and a quick learner this strapping young man gets a break when he’s given work at a local armored car service. Little does he know that this new job would create considerable pressure the likes of which most of us could never handle.

Mention armored car and you automatically think money. Out in the “real” world there are always opportunists willing to make a fast buck and not afraid of going “outside” the law. With $42 million dollars at stake temptation can easily come into play for a group of otherwise middle class blue collar employees and this is exactly what Ty falls into.

Action and Violence follow mega Cash Heist

Unable to resist the prospect of becoming rich Ty reluctantly signs on to a robbery spearheaded by the mercurial Mike Cochrone. Versatile Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary) leads the pack as Mike, a no-nonsense family man that takes a shining to Ty and his plight. Economic circumstances can make good people to bad things and director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) takes us on a pretty wile ride for 88 minutes of teresterone pumping action.

Consider Armored to be your typical macho man movie with a string of supporting actors doing their best with the heavy handed heroics that come at you at a fairly constant weight. Major talents like Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Jean Reno (Couples Retreat) do their parts to make this plan work while Fred Ward’s (Remo Williams) dispatcher works seems oblivious to the entire criminal activity.

Take Armored with a big grain of salt. Certain scenes you can see coming at you a mile away so there’s definitely a predictability factor to the movie. Crank up the violence and you’re momentarily jolted and there’s also some good character development as some conscience wrestling comes into play.

Tension does develop between the characters but the film lacks any true sense of danger and efforts at uncovering the hijacking seem rather muted. Still, from an action standpoint, Dillon does play his character well and Columbus Short is impressive as a man not sure which way to turn when all that potential money may be his for his cooperation. What works best in Armored is the depth of the family relationships that are well developed. Less impressive, however, is the actual heist which we’ve seen done often before and not much new is served up here. My it’s funny how prospective wealth can lure you in.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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