Name: mutuel

Most Recent Reviews by mutuel

War Hero Comes Undone!

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Brothers (PG) * * *

Battle Scars!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Family rivalry takes centre stage in Brothers, a smart revealing movie from Alliance Pictures now stirring emotions at Tinseltown, on Pender, free parking), Colossus and Famous Players Silver City cites around B.C.

Top Irish director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) is at it again. Serious subject matter is this film maker’s forte and again he does not disappoint with Brothers. Set with a backdrop of war this story concerns a burning conflict from within.

Natalie Portman convincing as Grieving War Widow

Wars are controversial and homecomings can be blessings or setbacks. Fresh off a tour of duty in Afghanistan is Captain Sam Cahill. Tobey Maguire (Seabiscuit) leaves his Spider-Man cape behind and fits well in a U.S. military uniform. Back home our G.I. Joe has two young daughters and beautiful wife, Grace. Leaving a galaxy far far away far behind is Natalie Portman who has matured into one of the best actresses after a string of strong dramatic roles. Add Grace to her resume as a woman trying to cope with unbearable sadness when her husband dies on a return tour in Afghanistan. Or so it seems.

Friends of the family are shocked with news of Sam’s death, including two loving parents and brother Tommy, thought by some to be the black sheep of the family. Jake Gyllenhaal relishes the role of Tommy, a very confused brother to a military hero. Despite the differences between these men they still share a common bond, though Sam is now thought dead.

Amidst all of this despair Tommy begins to play a more active role in the girls’ lives and a friendship develops between him and Grace. Talk about that brotherly bond strengthening. On the surface no one can really blame these adults for their actions. But what if Sam was in fact still alive?

This element of surprise provides the real grit in this story as the presumed dead Sam resurfaces, albeit as a changed man. Back in the field of war Sam underwent considerable stress and that battle fatigue comes home to haunt all who wander back into his life.

Maguire and Gyllenhaal Powerful One-Two Punch as Battling Brothers

Smart dialogue and wonderful dramatic acting make Brothers a memorable movie experience. Both Tobey Maguire and Jake Gylenhaal (Jarhead) put on explosive performances as members of what once was a cohesive unit coming apart at the seams. Caught in the middle of this “adjustment” is Grace who holds her head high, stands her ground and shows the compassion needed to reconnect with her husband while raising two cute as can be little girls.

Many films have been made about the Iraq war so now Afghanistan is becoming centre stage. Sheridan succeeds in mounting good footage of the perils of prisoners of war and further shows the dilemma such trauma can cause on soldiers and their families back home.

Tension truly abounds in this 110 minute film that shows Mr. Sheridan hasn’t lost a step or his touch when it comes to bringing very personal human stories to the screen. Based on a Danish movie, Brothers is solid drama with an abundance of winning performances from a spate of professionals.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Two sports jocks run into a problem with new found kids here

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Old Dogs (PG) * * *

Family Planning!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Father’s Day comes a tad early in Old Dogs, the newest comedy release from Walt Disney Pictures trying to connect with audiences at Esplanade 6, Empire Studio 12 and Colossus. Brought to us by the same filmmakers who gave us Wild Hogs this mild and tepid comedy tries to exude warmth from a rather messy family situation.

Sports plays a pivotal part to the main characters in this story. Tag team duo Charlie and Dan run a top sports marketing business in the Big Apple. Jerry MaGuire these two just ain’t. Through a few flashbacks we learn early on that Charlie is the more outlandish of the pair while Dan is very laid back and straight-laced.

News that Dan has two children takes him by surprise and sets this 100 minute movie in motion. Terrified of fatherhood Dan meets up with his two children under rather suspicious and contrived circumstances. Like a fish out of water Dan tries to cozy up to the young ones but it seems like a lost cause.

Missed opportunities at starting a family and connecting with children provide the gist to this story. Despite having a top comic in the lead role Old Dogs can’t be classified as a flat-out comedy since there are some underlying “issues” that plague all concerned. Like so many other films that try to do too many things Old Dogs gets “trapped” in not being that funny and not being that serious, ending up in a no man’s land with only mild moments that appeal to audiences in my view.

Time has been kind to the stars of this movie. John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) and Robin Williams (Good Morning Vietnam) still look good but a tired script doesn’t give them that much punch. Seth Green (Austin Powers) and Matt Dillon (Armored) co-star in a story that sees one man conflicted between staying with his “new” family or pursuing a business venture. Midway through the story you know exactly how this movie will turn out which makes it not too eventful.

Walt Becker (Wild Hogs) tries his best to insert youthful moments relating to the kids hoping to find a new dad to bring home but the melancholy nature of the proceedings likely won’t sway too many little ones. Bathroom jokes aside, there isn’t all that much in the humour department also coming across in Old Dogs giving it a rather bland flavour that won’t win over too many hearts. More jokes and being willing to take some chances may have given this movie more impact and, as a result, we’re left with a fairly routine, ordinary comedy featuring two aging superstars who likely have seen better days in front of a camera. Give this film an A for effort but just a C for results as some of the jokes backfire despite a valiant attempt to make people believe. Even a to do list gets only mild acceptance as what could have been funnier exchanges, such as at a zoo or camp ground, come off as being too contrived and not that original or memorable.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Sandra Bullock Shines as well meaning mom who helps a poor kid out

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Reviewed by mutuel

At the Movies

Director: John Lee Hancock

The Blind Side (PG) * * * *

Noble Cause!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Football is to Americans as Hockey is to Canadians and soccer to the rest of the world. Funny how a movie with a sports theme takes second stage to an even bigger message; in The Blind Side we get to see a new dimension to leading lady Sandra Bullock. Like so many other actors Ms. Bullock is trying to add dramatic performance to her repertoire. Following the footsteps of fellow comic Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love Ms. Bullock makes an impressive bow in this uplifting tale from Warner Brothers

Home base for our tale is the Deep South. Way down yonder in Memphis there still seems to be a cultural divide. Like many big cities in North America there are the haves and the have nots. Behind The Blind Side are economic woes laced with prejudice and hope. Action here revolves around the plight of a lonely black boy named Michael with a host of problems too numerous to list here.

When Michael, played brilliantly by Michael Oher,l arrives at Wingate High School you immediately notice that there aren’t too many Afro American students at this Christian academy. Besides having the race issue on his plate Michael turns out to be not exactly prime academic material. Largely taken for granted most give this young lad no chance to succeed.

Charity Begins At Home For Upscale Christian Couple

Amidst this backdrop comes freewheeling Leigh Anne Tuohy, brought to life by Sandra Bullock in a breakout performance. Life has been good to Leigh Anne and she’s blessed with two adorable children and a loving husband. Charity is big with her as are her society efforts and being a good Christian she notices the plight of this poor boy. People with airs about them can be liked or despised. Hearts of gold are rare commodities so it’s surprising to everyone when a rich white woman takes a poor black boy into her world. Yes, stories like this have been done before. Great all round performances and a well-written script make The Blind Side enjoyable and memorable on a number of fronts.

Underdog stories and films about those from the wrong side of the tracks are commonplace. Here all revolves around family, or the lack thereof, as the centerpiece about struggle and adversity. Director John Lee Hancock co-wrote this 129 minute drama and its pacing is perfect with nary a moment to bore you. Instead, people will be captivated by the sincerity of the acting. Even the on-screen footage of action on the field pales in comparison to the intensity behind the scenes as to what will happen when a fish out of water enters a new strange world that may have repercussions far outside that single family home, no matter how spacious and luxurious it may be.

Sandra Bullock Shows Poise In Dramatic Departure

Fresh off a big spring success in the romantic comedy The Proposal comes Sandra Bullock. Long admired for her niceness on set and generosity off screen Ms. Bullock is terrific as the no-nonsense straight shooting mother who decides to make Michael almost her own personal cause. At her side through thick and thin is musician turned actor Tim McGraw (The Kingdom) whose laid back style here perfectly contrasts with the almost General Patton directives uttered by his wife. Under all that bravado, however, may be a true mother at heart.

Struggle within and from outside forces plague our central figure Michael Oher. Bound to create a big stir is Quinton Aaron whose portrayal of a troubled young man will certainly stir audiences. Other standouts in this movie are the young son of the couple and Kathy Bates whose small screen time delivers more punch in a story about making the right decisions with second guessers all along the way.

No need for lots of rah rah here. Let the spirit of helping others grip you and hopefully never let go. Funny at times, sad at others, The Blind Side is one movie that will open your eyes and make you think about how you treat others in a hopefully positive way.

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Family Abuse exposed in Lee Daniels Break Out Movie

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Precious (14A) * * * *

Bad Mama!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Tears won’t remain dry for long for anyone watching Precious. Based on the acclaimed novel Push that book could well have been called “shove” as mistreatment provides the cornerstone to this highly charged Maple Pictures release now awakening people at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking) and the Fifth Avenue Cinemas. Rightful Oscar nomination nods sure seem likely for some of the performers in this stark, brutal film.

Not having read too much publicity on this story from the outset, let’s hope the movie is not based on real events. At the heart of this tale is a young 16 year old girl named Precious. First time actress Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe makes a stunning unforgettable debut as a girl from the ghetto facing unbelievable pain. Harlem is the setting in 1987 where we encounter Precious living with her mom, Mary. Cast as Mary is Mo’Nique (Soul Plane) who’s character here likely will set back daughter/mother relationships for decades.

What goes on inside the small, run down skid row apartment where Precious and her mom live is horrific and absolutely heartbreaking. Director Lee Daniels mounts a no holds barred recounting of some horrible events that make this 16 year old girl a victim of extreme brutality, violence and coercion. Domestic violence is a huge issue and this movie brings it home front and centre for all to experience. It’s not a pretty sight.

Even though Precious at home experiences a life not fit for a dog during her out of apartment hours she somehow manages to pick herself up in an effort to move forward. Uphill battles persist for this down on her luck teen. Adults who encounter her at school suspect something may be up and a move to a new educational centre seems to give her a new lease on life.

Tactful direction and a non-syrupy presentation make Precious superior drama that takes on some very hard issues and does not relent. Encounters this mother and daughter have are riveting and you can sense the huge tension in this household thanks to a very impressive presentation by both Ms. Sidibe and Mo’Nique. Put these two in a room and watch out as the situation truly becomes explosive.

Lighter moments, and there are few in this 110 minute movie, involve Precious taking up at a new school where a teacher tries to find out the truth of her sad situation. Underrated actress Paula Patton (Swing Vote) shows just the right degree of care and compassion as Ms. Rain, a teacher whose agenda seems to have a nurturing component that’s exactly what this tough, misdirected girl from the ghetto sorely needs. Frank exchanges with other students further adds to the gritty atmosphere depicted here as do the diverse characters that form a nice microcosm of disadvantaged youth from different backgrounds. Tough language further fleshes out the realistic tone of this movie which is sad and thought-provoking.

Keen observers will also notice two secondary characters played by two musical superstars. Both Mariah Carey (Glitter) and Lenny Kravitz (in his film debut) show lots of poise as individuals who come across Precious at rather trying stages in her life.

Chalk full of tough subjects Precious is one film you soon won’t forget. Made with the help of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry expect Precious to be heard loudly come Academy Awards time next year.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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Ninja Assassin Kicks Ass!

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Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Ninja Assassin (PG) * * * *

Director: James McTeigue

Stars: Rain, Naomie Harris

Genre: Action

Studio: Warner Brothers

Audience Suitability: PG

Rating: * * * *

Release Date: Nov. 25, 2009

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Born to Kill!

By ROBERT WALDMAN

Fasten your seatbelts. Forget about all those sappy vampires and werewolves and ridiculous teenage love stories. Put your mind in gear for non-stop action with Ninja Assassin, a surprisingly good and engaging bit of nonsense from Warner Brothers guaranteed to give you a rush. Fight your way through long line-ups at Esplanade 6, Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City cites to get in on the fun.

Here the title says it all. 99 minutes flies off the screen as director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) pulls off a wondrous comic strip escapist treat forged in the past with major repercussions for the modern world. Ancient times reveal that a group of well-honed ninja fighters have been roaming the Earth for centuries. Flash forward to present day when one lone graduate is doing his dirty work in secrecy. Oops, check that. One individual investigator working for an Interpol-type organization somehow latches onto a mysterious death and through the course of lots of grunt work winds up in the fight of her life taking on unbelievable danger.

KOREA’S RAIN KICKS BUTT AS AVENGER

Two reasons make Ninja Assassin a lot of fun. First, there are the outstanding martial arts fights. These battles never cease and though preposterous and over the top you can’t deny their fun element. Cast as the awol assassin is Rain. Remember this man’s name. Look for Rain, already a huge star in Korea, to become the next best big thing in martial arts/action movies and the rightful heir to Jet Li when this bright light begins to fade. Caught in the middle of a huge international conflict involving secret societies as a woman in a lot of trouble is government operative Mika Coretti. Underrated actress Naomie Harris (Street Kings) looks the part of a determined police official trying to solve a number of murders. Little does she know she’s about to enter the murky world of mysterious killers from the Orient.

Second, you have to credit a pretty interesting story. Attention to detail concerning the training of these elite fighters to life-altering events resulting from those sessions provides the incentive for what’s to follow. Scores of stuntmen bring the great heroics of this fight to light. Even the dialogue between the students and their master is so far fetched and corny those words speak volumes and will click big time with audiences who like this murderous mayhem.

ELABORATE MARTIAL ARTS SEQUENCES FULL IMPACT FUN

Take this movie in with a huge grain of salt. Park your brain at home and go with flow as the superbly choreographed fight scenes, which are all well-timed and surprisingly tense and high voltage, will have you leaping out of your seats. Even laughs erupt as the verbal exchanges and some of those body dismemberments are crude and funny in the extreme.

One never wants to make light of violent images or dismemberments. Unlike the Saw movies Ninja Assassin works at a pleasant, yes pleasant comic book level which means this is a movie to be enjoyed. Don’t you dare try to do any of these stunts on your own as the actors hired to do all these fights are truly in fine physical form and will leave you shaking your heads not only in disbelief but with full approval.

Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com

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