Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to the midwest after a business trip to Hong Kong, only to die soon after from unknown causes. Immediately following her death, her young son dies. Several more people who had contact with Beth meet their untimely demise and thus spurs an investigation by the CDC. We peer into the lives of her husband, Mitch, who turns out to be immune, Leonora (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organization, Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an EIS operative sent out into the field, and Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC, among others.
The film moves fluidly, with brief shots of objects we touch every day to remind us how susceptible we are – a door handle, an elevator button, a pen at the office, a bowl of peanuts at the airport. While it’s captivating throughout, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in biology class now and then, particularly scenes that delved extensively into the genetic analysis of the virus. But I am content to have learned a few things about r nought (the reproduction number of a virus/infection), fomites, and how crap-my-pants scary Gwyneth Paltrow’s hospital scene really is on a gigantic cinema screen.
This isn’t much of a thriller. It’s more of a slick, stylized, fictionalized docu-drama that is very bleak and pensive with a CSI element to it. It’s a sobering look into what could realistically happen during and after a pandemic outbreak. It’s pro-science/pro-medicine. Unlike many movies of today, the heroes don’t have bulging muscles, superpowers, or cool gadgets. In Contagion, the saviors wear lab coats and their weapon is a vaccine.
An insecure teen girl, Annie (Liana Liberato), starts a relationship with Charlie, a boy whom she’s never met but after a couple of months of online and phone correspondence, she agrees to see him in person. She’s been convinced by Charlie that he is a 20-something college student. When she finally sees him face-to-face, he is far from the young, twinkly-eyed boy in the photos Charlie has sent to her – he’s a 35 year old man. Still, she goes to a motel with him and ends up being sexually assaulted.
Directed by David Schwimmer and starring two brilliant actors as Annie’s parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener), Trust didn’t receive a nationwide release, probably due to its heavy subject matter and a very un-Hollywood like ending, one that doesn’t deliver that warm and fuzzy feeling. Most people have no idea the movie even exists. If you’re a parent of a teen/tween, do yourself a favor and watch it.
Although the performances were spot-on, it did creep into that weepy Lifetime/Hallmark Hall of Fame territory every so often. I admit, it worked like a charm. I cried like a baby. Sometimes, the film lost its focus, bouncing back and forth between the criminal investigation and the father’s increasingly neurotic behavior and lust for vigilante justice. There were some scenes that stood out, reminding me of the misconceptions so many people hold about rape.
Despite what the trailer at the official site may lead you to believe, the film’s message is not that the internet is evil. David Schwimmer is a long-time anti-violence advocate for women (he’s also on the board of the Rape Foundation) but he’s careful not to get too preachy or overbearing. Don’t view Trust as a lesson to be learned. In this technologically advanced age, we’re well aware of the dangers, of the predators, of the steps we have to take to protect ourselves and our children. Instead, consider it an opportunity to explore the reactions of the characters on screen and reflect on your own emotions, both positive and negative.
Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a diamond dealer who appears to have it all – a gorgeous wife (Nicole Kidman), a beautiful daughter, and insane wealth. He’s targeted by a ragtag group of thugs that hold him and his family hostage. They know what he has, where he stashes it, and they’re not leaving until he forks over the goods. Sound familiar? It should because Hollywood has done the hell out of the captive and captor scenario.
Cage is surprisingly subdued. Kidman is Kidman, a little melodramatic with everything, but that’s her style. (I like her as an actress. I don’t get all of the hate.) It’s not the acting. It’s the lack of any level of suspense, mystery, intrigue, or action. Trespass is basically 91 long minutes of people crying hysterically, screaming, cowering, and doing even dumber things than people in the worst B-movie horror movies out there.
The R rating is probably due to the smoking and drugs since there is no nudity or sex and the violence is tame. What a shame. If a movie is going to be as dull as this one is, at least give the audience some juicy material to lust after.
Love and Other Drugs is based on Jamie Reidy’s Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, a book about his years at Pfizer during the pharmaceutical company’s Golden Age. Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a womanizing, smart-mouthed slacker who gets fired from his job at an electronics store after he’s caught in the act with the boss’s girlfriend. He lands a gig as a sales rep for the big pharma giant and, true to his ways that have never failed him before, uses his charm and good looks to get an ‘in’ with Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria). He convinces Stan to let him observe his appointments and take notes, under the guise of a medical intern. This is when he meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a sharp-tongued, free-spirited artist who also suffers from early onset Parkinson’s disease.
They form a kind of friends with benefits relationship that serves them well in the beginning. Maggie doesn’t want to get too close to anyone for fear of becoming a burden and Jamie is focused on scoring a big promotion to Chicago. As their casual sex arrangement transforms into a more emotional connection, Jamie must come to terms with her Parkinson’s long-term in order to open himself up fully to love but it’s Maggie alone who finally accepts her illness. As he struggles with his own demons, he must also indulge the whims of his younger brother, Josh (Josh Gad), who’s moved in with him, constantly find new ways to one-up a rival pharmaceutical rep (Gabriel Macht), and pimp out hot females to Stan in order to stay his numero uno.
I am a fan of Ms. Hathaway. Her personality and smile light up a room, she’s a versatile and talented actress, and she seems like a down-to-earth individual. But I don’t think she was right for this role. I didn’t get the artsy-fartsy vibe from her. Sporting beanie hats and bohemian clothing doesn’t make a person an artist. Ordinarily, nudity doesn’t bother me but seeing her naked all of the damn time became tiresome. To be fair, I was sick of seeing Jake Gyllenhaal’s butt, as well. Jamie’s transformation from insensitive jackass to adoring boyfriend is hardly believable amid steamy pajama parties and threesomes and flesh-peddling for doctors. Nice, melodramatic “I’m head over heels in love with you” speech at the end but, by that time, I didn’t care.
I think I would have liked Love and Other Drugs more if it hadn’t come off so schizophrenic and desperate for attention. It was trying to be too many things for too many viewers – weepy romance, light-hearted comedy, social and corporate commentary, soft core porno, Pfizer documentary… therapist. If they had concentrated their efforts on two, even one, less sub-plot, it would have made a noticeable difference. There’s no doubt that this is the film to watch if you’re hungry for healthy doses of Hathaway’s rack (which is beautiful, by the way – full and all-natural) or Gyllenhaal’s ass (also decent) but as a rom-com, it lacks depth and the laughs.
Two good-looking crazies, Lila (Tricia Helfer) and David (David Geraghty), take over the home of a recently broken-up couple, Alice (Rachel Blanchard) and Josh (Stephen Moyer), and start their reign of terror in suburbia. David stows a bruised and sedated Alice in the cellar while Josh ends up meeting his grisly end during a naughty little romp in the hot tub with Lila Loonybrains (sorry, guys, no gratuitous boobies scene). Several more mundane characters meet their demise, mostly stabbed in the neck with a kitchen knife or having their throats slit.
Throughout the film, it’s assumed the partners in crime are romantically involved until Lila gives her unwitting dinner guests a disturbing synopsis of the book David is supposedly writing. It’s about two children living in the forest who are deceived by a magical creature that persuades them to leave their home to go to utopia. But the children can’t keep up with him because he’s running so fast and, soon, they’re lost. Frightened and alone, they cling to each other but “they can’t exactly fall in love because they’re brother and sister – twins.” Oookay.
It’s clear that Lila calls the shots. She’s a psychopath, one hell of a sexy one, but her bossiness quickly becomes tiresome. All the while, the audience is wondering if David was castrated – come on, man up. Emotionless and muttering no more than a few words at a time, he’s an awkward fellow to watch. A lot of cheesiness with no creepiness makes for a really lame serial killer. His one act of defiance is keeping Alice alive in a basement cubbyhole, letting her out during the day while Lila is out and about. Alice uses his fondness for her to her advantage and convinces him that she’ll run away with him when the time comes. So he’s not only a wimpy dullard, he’s as smart as a pile of rocks.
Open House is bland, empty, and really freakin’ boring. I spent more time checking the clock than actually watching the movie. I had to rewind so many parts I missed because, no joke, I kept zoning out. It’s not scary, suspenseful, or like many bad films can be, unintentionally funny. Because the movie’s only location is the house, there are limited opportunities to introduce new victims. A more experienced director would have offered more than wasted minutes of David cooking or washing dishes and conversations that serve no purpose except as filler. And is it just me or are the aerial blood sprays too watery and unrealistic?
I’m not a True Blood fan but if you are, don’t rent or buy this because you see Sookie and Bill on the cover. Combined, they get no more than 10 minutes of screen time.
Mel (Peyton List) and her best friend, Jules (Cameron Goodman), return to Los Angeles from their trip to Mexico. At the airport, they’re hit on by Seth (James Snyder) who is with his buddy, Matt (Dave Power). They board a shuttle after the driver (Tony Curran) offers to transport them for half the normal cost. When they end up on a deserted road away from town, the driver tells them he has brought them there to avoid a traffic jam. Cue dramatic music when Matt’s fingers are completely severed as he changes the bus’s flat tire and the situation goes from bad to worse – much worse.
There is a twist at the ending that was spoiled for me after I read, what I thought to be, a harmless thread at the IMDb message boards. I still would have figured it out and that’s not me being cocky. Most avid movie watchers will guess correctly too, especially since the subject matter was popular around the time this movie was made. There are numerous clues throughout the film but this is more of a drama/thriller than it is mystery and suspense. In a way, depending on how you perceive the cover art, you may assume this is torture porn. It’s not. There are a couple of minutes of nudity and it is not gratuitous. There is violence and bloodshed but nothing the average person can’t handle.
The characters are constantly doing (or not doing) things that are frustrating, to the point I almost punched the screen, right where their faces were. It was maddening. I’ve seen a lot of low-budget horror films and the characters are always making irrational decisions but Shuttle elevates illogical to a nearly epic level. Despite snags in the tale’s weave, the actors and actresses give decent, authentic performances. I’m both pleased and bitter about the realistic, totally depressing, hard slap-in-the-face ending. The Mist’s or Mary and Max’s conclusions? Pfffft, baby food compared to Shuttle’s and the latter does it with the visual alone, without a moody musical accompaniment.
Three children (Aggeliki Papoulia, Christos Passilas, and Mary Tsoni) live a sheltered existence with their parents (Christos Stergioglou and Michele Valley) who control them to the extreme in order to protect them from the rest of society. They invent an older brother who, they tell the children, ventured outside the confines of the estate and was killed by a vicious, flesh eating cat. The parents improvise new definitions for words like sea (an armchair) and zombie (little yellow flower) to further isolate them from anything beyond their bizarre, manipulated microcosm.
The children’s only link to the outside world is Christina (Anna Kalaintzidou), a security guard at the father’s workplace, who is paid to relieve the son of his sexual urges. One day, Christina offers a present to the oldest daughter but she is obligated to give her something in return – oral sex. The family structure starts to unravel once Christina is gone and the oldest daughter is forced to replace her role as the son’s personal prostitute. Whatever cruel punishment her father exacts, the oldest daughter isn’t deterred from rebelling and, eventually, going to great lengths to gain her freedom.
Dogtooth, original Greek title of Kynodontas, is shocking and depraved. This is not for most people and most definitely not for anyone under the age of 18. With multiple sex scenes (a few including incest and a very graphic fellatio clip from a pornographic video tape), an act of animal cruelty, violence and bloodshed, child abuse, and full frontal male and female nudity, this is not for the casual viewer. It seems the only debauchery left out of the film is bestiality (thank goodness).
The dialog is painful to endure at times but the acting is kind of hypnotic. In fact, it’s hard to stop watching entirely because of how inappropriate and insane the movie is. It plays out in a silly fashion with the lies the parents tell the children elevating to absurdity for their own selfish desires (e.g., Frank Sinatra is their grandfather so they have a reason to listen to his records).
For me, the highlight of Dogtooth is when the two daughters dance for the parents, who are celebrating their anniversary, while the son strums an expressive tune on the guitar. An innocent, reverent dance with her younger sister turns into a frenzied solo interpretation of Flashdance that becomes so intense, she’s ordered by her mother to stop. Imagine contestants on shows like America’s Got Talent or So You Think You Can Dance who are aired only because their dancing is so horrendous, so hilarious, so over-the-top, but so full of spirit that it must be witnessed.
Mary and Max is a multi-award winning animation that chronicles the relationship between Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette), a young, insecure girl in Australia who is the only daughter of an alcoholic mother and a neglectful father, and Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an overweight, panic-ridden man in New York. One day, Mary picks the first name she finds in a phone book and sends a letter, along with a chocolate bar, prompting a decades long correspondence of letters and chocolate treats. Although Max has longed for a real friend (his imaginary friend sits on a stool reading all day), Mary’s sensitive questions propel him into anxiety attacks, one so severe he ends up in a mental institution.
Many years pass with no mail from Max. In between waiting for word from him, Mary becomes smitten with the next door neighbor boy, Damien (Eric Bana), and continues helping her agoraphobic neighbor, Len. Considering advice from his therapist, he finally writes to Mary and confides in her that he has Asperger’s Syndrome which affects his social interaction. She decides to enter into university to study mental disorders and ends up penning a highly acclaimed book with Max as her case study. The news is not well-received by Max and he cuts off communication with her, which sends Mary into a drug-induced, drunken stupor (after shredding her hard work to pieces and damning her career). On the verge of suicide, she wonders if Max will ever forgive her.
Let me immediately point out that this is not for young children or tweens. Don’t be wooed by the cartoon cover art or pictures of adorable Mary Daisy Dinkle with her clunky glasses and red barrette. It’s a complicated tale meant for adults. If you are unable to process rather gloomy, disheartening material without being able to bounce back emotionally, avoid this movie. Aside from the celebration of enduring friendship, there isn’t much to smile about. Alcoholism, mental illness, loneliness, pill popping, heartbreak, four deaths, overeating, involuntary manslaughter, schoolyard bullying… a small list of the obstacles the characters struggle to overcome.
The animation is beautifully done and the characters are a peculiar, quirky bunch with a myriad of flaws but endearing in their own ways. The stop-motion figures on the screen breathe life, full of raw, human emotion in such a profound manner, it can be a distressing, suffocating experience. That’s balanced with some incredibly kooky humor. The storyline flows effortlessly but, ultimately, it won’t appeal to a wider audience. High praise for writer and director, Adam Elliot, for having a unique vision and sticking to his guns. There has been mixed reviews on Barry Humphries’ narration. Personally, I found his voice very soothing.
This film appeases two long-time love affairs, claymation and stop-motion. It tickled my funny bone at the right moments but it was too melancholy, even for me.
Kyle (Alex Pettyfer, I Am Number Four) is a handsome, popular, rich kid who is also a grade-A jerk but blame that on his conceited, inattentive father who is more concerned about his career as an anchorman than with his own son. At least that’s what the film wants you to do. Like father, like son.
After Kyle plays a cruel prank on another student, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen, Full House), she transforms him into a bald, boil-covered, tattooed freak. It turns out Michelle Tanner grew up to be a witch dressed in emo-inspired haute couture clothing. Oops, not exactly the person you want to invite to the prom and then publicly humiliate. He has one year to find someone to fall in love with him or he’s cursed to stay ugly as hell forever. A blind girl, maybe?
Nope, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical), a fellow student who moves in with him after he saves her and her father from muggers. The blind person turns out to be a tutor, Will (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother), hired by Kyle’s father. Kyle was moved into a place of his own after doctors told his father that, um no, a face transplant is not a viable option.
We are all familiar with the tale of Beauty and the Beast so we all know where the characters are headed and what happens at the end. This isn’t the kind of film for special effects or over-choreographed fight scenes so that leaves the acting.
Both Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens are easy on the eyes but their acting skills have yet to be fully developed, or developed at all. It seems like Pettyfer is trying but Hudgens has one or two facial expressions in her repertoire. I’ve seen better acting from my daughter’s sock puppets. The saving grace is Neil Patrick Harris whose comedic timing is sublime. He breathes some life into this flat fantasy.
Parents, this is okay to let your tween/teen watch but I don’t recommend it.
Liam Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris, a scientist who travels to Germany with his wife, Liz (January Jones, Mad Men), for a bio-tech conference. Before checking into the hotel, he realizes he’s left his briefcase and passport behind so he flags down a taxi driven by Gina (Diane Kruger, Inglorious Basterds). Her expert driving skills sends them careening off of a bridge and into the drink. She manages to save herself and Martin, then flees the scene, not wanting to risk deportment because she’s an illegal immigrant from Bosnia.
After waking up from a coma, Martin can only remember who he is and why he’s in Berlin. He finds his way back to the hotel where he finds Liz, only she denies that she’s his wife or that she even knows him. Worse yet, she’s with a man (Aidan Quinn) claiming to be her husband and the real Dr. Martin Harris. Lacking any identification to prove that he is who he claims to be, he’s removed from the premises. And the mystery surrounding the dual Dr. Harrises begins.
He tracks down Gina and, together, they try to understand what is happening to Martin and why Liz denies that she’s his wife. They’re lousy detectives. If it weren’t for the mystery men constantly in their faces (I don’t want to give too much away), they’d be wandering aimlessly around Berlin.
Yes, there are plotholes and more than enough “reeeeally?” moments, but Neeson makes it all worthwhile. At 58, he’s still got it. The action is intense, the suspense and thrills are the perfect tone, and the mystery is well done. It’s up to you to decide whether the twist at the end is satisfactory. This isn’t a flawless film. It’s escapist entertainment that relies mostly on its leading man. Unknown is The Bourne Supremacy with less action.