Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear and a handful of real-life military men
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 2.5/5
Word of Warning: The viewer may suffer from “Greengrass sickness” (a.k.a. motion sickness).
This Saturday, March 20, 2010, will mark seven years of US troop involvement in Iraq. “Green Zone” takes place exactly seven years ago, during the initial invasion of the country. Matt Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. He and his men have been given the job of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction, better known as WMDs.
The military on the ground in Iraq has been told there is an informant who has revealed numerous locations where they will discover storehouses of WMDs, but as Miller and his men inspect site after site and come up empty handed, Miller begins to question the legitimacy of the intelligence.
When Miller openly questions the validity of the intelligence in a briefing he is shut down by his superiors but his inquiry catches the eye a CIA man named Brown (Brendan Gleeson). Brown has also been questioning the intelligence about WMDs, and expects it was intended to send the American’s on a wild goose chase. In a seemingly downright unrealistic move Brown recruits Miller to seek out the truth.
Greg Kinnear plays Clark Poundstone, the non-military government official who appears to be linked to the intelligence that in question. Amy Ryan plays the Wall Street Journal journalist who is covering the WMD story.
The main problem with this movie is the fact that we all know the outcome. There were no WMDs in Iraq. Our troops were on a wild goose chase. Since there is little character development and we know the ending, the movie lacks significant suspense.
There are some tense moments in “Green Zone,” and I enjoyed the screenwriter’s addition of an Iraqi civilian recruited by Miller to help translate. But overall, this movie is missing something. Perhaps it’s relevancy. The subject matter of the film is no longer top of mind for most Americans. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t historically relevant, or that we can’t learn from our mistakes, but it’s just not timely.
I have no doubt some will walk away from this movie believing it is a true story. Even though we now know the truth about WMDs in Iraq, and we know there were big lies and cover ups leading up to the war in Iraq, the actual storyline of “Green Zone” is a total work of fiction.
If the “Green Zone” had come out five years ago, perhaps it would feel more germane; as it is, I felt a little disconnected and at times a little bored. I’d suggest waiting until this one comes to DVD.
Interesting note: The move stars a handful of real Iraq veterans and some soldiers who are still enlisted. This is a good way to save money; you don’t have to spend time teaching a bunch of Hollywood extras how to properly hold a gun.
Warning to those who suffer from Greengrass sickness, a.k.a motion sickness: The “green” in “Green Zone” stands for the color I turn while watching Paul Greengrass’ crazy, jostling camera work. I had the same problem during the Bourne movies. In the action scenes, this style of direction tends to be confusing; I can’t decipher what is going on in the scene. I realize this what Greengass is known for, but I am definitely not a fan.
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 3.75/5
Word of Warning: This one is properly rated. Although it’s dark, partly due to the 3D glasses, I don’t think it would be terribly frightening for the little ones.
The original “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was a book written by Englishman Lewis Carroll in 1865. It is considered the quintessential example of the “literary nonsense” genre. Burton’s new “Alice” doesn’t quite live up to that description. Although the world he has created is a bit nutty, it’s not quite as nonsensical as Carroll’s Wonderland.
According to my husband, who is more of an “Alice” aficionado than I am, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) wasn’t quite mad enough. My husband is also a big fan of Tim Burton, and he felt “Alice” didn’t feel as though it had enough of Burton’s style in it. That being said, he enjoyed the movie, but I enjoyed it even more.
This is the story of Alice Kingsley, a 19-year-old whose future is being planned out for her without any consideration of her wants or desires. This was a fairly typical situation for young women of the time period. When Hamish Ascot, a sniveling Lord, asks for Alice’s hand in marriage, she is expected to say yes, but instead she flees into the forest where she falls down a rabbit hole.
Alice finds herself in a strange and magical land where she meets odd creatures and animals that are able to speak. Everyone seems to know her, and yet she doesn’t know anyone in this peculiar place. She finds herself wrapped up in an adventure story where she is destined to play a large role. All the while, she continues to believe she is dreaming.
Her adventure in Wonderland starts out feeling familiar, in a dark wooden room with lots of differently sized doors. There’s even a bottle marked “Drink Me” and a cake with the words “Eat Me” written on it. But that’s where the familiarity starts to fade. This Alice is caught up in a very different story than the younger Alice, a slightly more dangerous tale.
Interestingly, Tim Burton had never filmed on green screen before and ninety percent of “Alice” is filmed on green screen. According to once source, the green screen scenes were filmed in a relatively short period – 40 days – leaving the cast and crew a little nauseated. It’s said Burton actually wore a pair of lavender lenses fitted onto his glasses to cut down on the overload of green.
With a mix of live actors and animation, I enjoyed this whimsical, 3D Alice story. Purest will likely have issues with the movie, but it’s an enjoyable film on it’s own merits. Perhaps the Mad Hatter could be madder and the ending could be a little less contrived, but this one is worth the full price of admission, and be sure to see it in 3D.
Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.
The 82ndAnnual Academy Awards are this Sunday, March 7, 2010 and for the first time in 66 years, ten films have been nominated for Best Picture, instead of the standard five.
When I first heard this astounding number, I was incredulous. Most years it is hard to find five films good enough to be nominated for Best Picture, let alone ten. The Academy claims they wanted a “broader range of titles in the mix,” but we all know they wanted more people to get their butts to the movies. Many of us, me included, attempt to see every Best Picture nomination.
The Academy also wanted the ratings for their show. By broadening the nominees to include such films as “Up” and “The Blind Side,” your favorite is certain to be in the mix and therefore, you will be more likely to tune in on Oscar night.
I usually make an effort to see all the Best Picture nominees, but this year I’ve only managed six out of ten, and I am unapologetic (and bitter about “Star Trek“ not making this very big cut). So without further ado, here are this year’s Best Picture nominees.
“Avatar“ – Cameron’s 3D phenomenon combines the coolest graphics ever to hit the big screen with an uninspired and predictable storyline. In my illustrious opinion a best picture winner should be outstanding in multiple categories including directing, acting and storyline. “Avatar” fails to deliver on all three. HeidiTown.com rating: Graphics 4.5/5 Storyline 2.5/5
“The Blind Side” – I know a lot of you who love this feel good, sports flick, but I’ll wait until it comes to the Hallmark Channel. “The Blind Side” is a good example of the Academy’s attempt to use their nominations to appeal to the masses. HeidTown.com rating: none
“District 9“ – I definitely would have included this one in the top five. 2009 was am awesome year for science fiction. “District 9″ was surprisingly good and distinctive sci-fi and I’m rarely amazed by any movie. HeidiTown.com rating: 4/5
“An Education“ – Fabulous directing, outstanding acting and a clever narrative made this film a HeidiTown favorite. “An Education” is as visually stimulating as it is emotionally engaging. Based on the memoir of Lynn Barber, a celebrated British journalist, I’ll be rooting for this one on Oscar night. HeidiTown.com rating: 4.5/5
“The Hurt Locker“ – Set in Iraq in 2004, this plot stayed away from politics and concentrated on the things that make an excellent war movie – characters and ambiance. This movie was a huge winner at the British Academy Awards on Feb. 21, 2010, and I can only hope the Americans will follow suit. HeidiTown.com rating: 5/5 (highest rating of the year)
“Inglorious Bastards” – I have a lot of friends who loved this Quentin Taratino re-visualization of WWII history. I’m not a die-hard fan of Taratino, so I’m waiting to see this one on DVD. HeidiTown.com rating: none
“Precious” – I have purposely skipped this one. Yes, it has gotten critical acclaim, but I just never felt in a good enough mood to subject myself to this depressing of a film. Heiditown.com rating: none
“A Serious Man” – I desperately wanted to see this Cohen brothers’ movie in the theater, but it only briefly played in northern Colorado. I’ve put this one in my NetFlix queue and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. HeidiTown.com rating: none
“Up“ – A clever, cute little film, but no cartoon should receive a Best Picture nomination. Personally, I’d nominate “Fantastic Mr. Fox“ before Disney’s “Up.” HeidiTown.com rating: 4/5
“Up in the Air“ – Starring George Clooney as a traveling salesman who is forced to take stock of his mundane existence when a bright Cornell grad joins his company and begins changing things. This is definitely one of the best of 2009. HeidiTown.com rating: 4/5
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max Von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earl Haley, Patricia Clarkson
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 4/5
Word of Warning: Frightening, but it’s not one of those trendy, cheap-scares kind of films where ghosts crawl on the ceiling and come out of television sets.
There is a lot on the line when someone like Scorsese is sitting in the director chair, and I was anxious to see if “Shutter Island” would live up to the standards of its renowned director.
“Shutter Island” is based on a book by the same named authored by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” It is the third film Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio have worked on together.
The year is 1954, and U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) have been summoned to Shutter Island. The island is home to a hospital/prison for the criminally insane, and a dangerous patient has vanished.
The film’s opening sequence – sweeping cinematography of a dark island shrouded in a damp, low lying fog of gloom, accompanied by frantic piano music – sets a terrifying tenor.
When the two marshals arrive on the island, the mood of the place is unsettled. They meet with the hospital’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Kingsley), who despite his friendly nature, seems to be hiding a more sinister side, or perhaps we just think that because Kingsley is so good at sinister.
The marshals find that patient Rachel Solando has mysteriously escaped from her room, leaving only a cryptic note hidden behind her bureau. As the two start their investigation Daniels is plagued with flashbacks of his time in the war and emotional flashbacks involving his late-wife. As the marshals dig deeper, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems on Shutter Island.
The criminally insane always make for good, scary stories and “Shutter Island” is both beautiful and alarming. Crafted to transport the audience into the tale, by pulling them in with music and emotional, the story wraps the audience into a cocoon of paranoia. In this way, the viewers are connected to Daniels, who is also becoming more and more apprehensive as his investigation deepens.
In “Shutter Island” Scorsese has pulled off a sort of Hitchcockian thriller, tightly holding the viewer’s hand as he leads them down an unpredictable and eerie path. I like this movie. It keeps the viewer guessing without insulting his or her intelligence.
I think Scorsese is tops when it comes to the craft of movie making. He’s made several of my favorites, including “The Age of Innocence” (1993). Scorsese is a storyteller who paints a dazzling and vivid picture, but also draws in the rough edges. I definitely recommend “Shutter Island.”
For a different take on “Shutter Island’ visit WhatWouldTotoWatch.com.
Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.
There are lots of reason to love the Brits, and here’s just one. HeidiTown’s highest rated film of 2009, won big last night during the 2010 Orange British Academy Film Awards (aka BAFTA).
Interestingly, while “Avatar” has made a staggering $2 billion at the box office, “The Hurt Locker” has made about $17 million.
Another HeidiTown favorite, Carey Mulligan, won best actress for her work in “An Education.”
Time will tell if “The Hurt Locker” will bode as well in the United States. The Academy Awards are scheduled for Sunday, March 7, and former husband and wife, Cameron and Bigalow will be up against each other again. Both “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” have received 9 nominations, including best picture and best director.
I saw “The Hurt Locker” long before the hype. You can read my review by clicking here.
Directed by Scott Cooper
Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Beth Grant
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 3.75/5
Word of Warning: It’s helpful if you already like country music, because this story unfolds like a country song. Also, the R-rating is mostly about language and adult-themes, such as alcoholism. In my opinion, this one hardly merits the R-rating.
Hollywood’s gone country in this all-too familiar story of one man’s hard fall from fame. The story isn’t new, in fact we saw another version of it just a year ago in “The Wrestler.”
Despite the clichÃ© storyline “Crazy Heart” is above average because of the music and a solid performance by Jeff Bridges. Bridges plays Bad Blake, a drunk, washed up country music star who has gone from playing the big stages to playing the bowling alley. Country music has changed, but Bad Blake hasn’t and he also hasn’t written a new song in three years.
After being interviewed by a young music reporter named Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the two began a romantic affair (which is more than a little unsettling because she looks about thirty years his junior). The relationship helps Blake find his long lost inspiration, but doesn’t inspire him to put down the bottle.
“Crazy Heart” is based on a novel written in 1987, by Thomas Cobb. The film was originally slated to go direct-to-DVD, but it was picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures and opened in limited release in December 2009.
The small film has been making big waves, due in part to Bridges picking up the best actor Golden Globe for his performance as Bad Black, and scoring a best actor Oscar nomination. Bridges has never won an Oscar, despite four previous nominations.
Gyllenhaal has also been nominated for an Oscar for her role, but I wasn’t all that impressed with her performance in this film. Truthfully, I think almost any actress could have pulled off the role. The film’s song, “The Weary Kind,” has also been nominated for best original score.
Many of the actors sing in the movie, including Jeff Bridges. In fact, Bridges is quite an accomplished singer/songwriter and guitarist. Even more surprising is Colin Farrell, who has a small role in “Crazy Heart” as big time country star. The Irish bad boy happens to have a great singing voice.
With sweeping scenes of the southwest and a toe-tapping soundtrack “Crazy Heart” is definitely worth the price of admission.
Directed by Martin Campbell
Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 3.5/5
Word of Warning: Violence in the form of bloody gun shot wounds. Please, leave the little ones at home.
Love him or hate him, Mel Gibson is the best at making a good revenge movie, and “Edge of Darkness” does not disappoint on that count.
Gibson plays Boston police detective Thomas Craven. When Craven’s 24-year-old daughter (Bojana Novakovic) is unexpectedly gunned down, he begins a quest to find the killer. His investigation leads him deep into a conspiracy involving powerful and dangerous players.
It’s been nearly eight years since Gibson has stepped in front of the camera, and though he is starting to show his age, he can still play an effective bad ass. Personally, I think Gibson is at his best when he plays “a man with nothing to lose,” and Craven is just such a man.
Other revengeful characters from Gibson’s movie past include Porter in “Payback” (1999), Tom Mullen in “Ransom” (1996), and William Wallace in “Braveheart” (1995).
Director Martin Campbell also directed one of my all-time favorite Bond films, “Casino Royale.” Campbell is a New Zealander who has lived in Great Britain since 1966. “Edge of Darkness,” originally a novel, was made into a British television series in 1986, also directed by Campbell.
“Edge of Darkness” is fairly predictable and there are plot holes, but it’s still a great deal of fun. The line between the good guys and the bad guys is clearly drawn, and Craven is unrepentantly out for blood. And the audience loves it because sometimes we just want to see the bad guy get his and get it good. We don’t want a moral discussion and we certainly don’t want apologies or forgiveness, we just want to see the good guys win.
In some ways, this movie is similar to “Taken” (2009), a film panned by critics, but loved by audiences. In “Taken” Liam Neeson plays a man with a “very particular set of skills,” and he has to put those abilities to use when his daughter is kidnapped.
If you’re in the mood for a classic revenge movie “Edge of Darkness” should satisfy.
Directed by Guy Richie
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 2.5/5
Word of Warning: May be a bit scary for little ones. Excessive use of CGI.
This movie is Guy Richie’s reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes, the famous British detective who uses his mind to outwit criminals and solve crimes. Does the fact Richie is a Brit make him qualified to muck with such a legendary figure? Perhaps, and muck he does.
The story starts out at a wild pace. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is hot on the trail of an evil villain. Richie immediately shows off some of his typical directorial style, fast, flashy with a fondness for humor.
Holmes is able to save the day and the girl, and put a serial killer to the rope, but a bigger case is afoot when it appears the killer has come back to life. Holmes is intrigued by the case, and though the superstitious police and public believe it is magic or supernatural, the logical Holmes thinks it is an elaborate hoax.
At the same time other storylines are playing out. Dr. Watson’s (Jude Law) impending nuptials and his intention to move out of the flat he shares with Holmes is causing the later great grief. Also, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a woman Holmes both adores and fears has come back to town.
That is the plotline in a nutshell. Now you must understand, I’m a bit Holmes fan. I’ve watched a number of Sherlock Holmes television shows on PBS and BBC America, and I’ve also read quite a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.
While the story stays true to some of Holmes’ quirks, including alluding to Holmes’ drug use, it strays greatly from Doyle’s Holmes. Holmes movie are usually based on one of the many stories written by Doyle, but not only is this movie not based on a Doyle story, it takes great liberties with certain characters.
For instance, Irene Adler is not a criminal, and only appears in one of Doyle’s stories. She does outwit Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” but there is no love affair between the two. The character of Holmes plays out more like James Bond, minus all the women, rather than a staunchly British detective with a penchant for the pipe and violin.
However, this wasn’t my main issue with “Sherlock Holmes.” The excessive use of CGI continually drew me out of this movie and out of the time period in which it was set. This is an historical film and London still exists. Why did every scene of 19th Century London have to be in CGI? Couldn’t the BBC lend Hollywood the sets they use for the hundreds of period pieces they recreate every year?
Unfortunately, the constant use of CGI in scene after scene started to give the movie a feeling of being just another big budget superhero flick. And Sherlock Holmes is not a superhero. He’s just a very smart, very observant humanbeing.
Personally, I like Sherlock Holmes movies set in a world that really exists, not some overly stylized Hollywood version of the world. This movie has taken a character from literature and made him a gimmick.
That being said, I thought Robert Downey Jr. was a humorous Holmes and Jude Law was fantastic as Dr. Watson. But will children remember the real Sherlock Holmes? Highly doubtful, and that is sad. We certainly haven’t seen the last of this new fangled Holmes, because the movie’s ending is an obvious set up for a sequel.
This was a very hard list to compile. I contemplated making it a top 3 list, because that would have been much easier. In my opinion, a truly good movie has to be outstanding in multiple categories, including directing, acting, and storyline. That is why you will not find “Avatar” on my list.
“The Hurt Locker” – This movie, by Kathryn Bigalow, has an intense storyline, great acting and flawless directing. It’s an incredible movie from top to bottom. I’d love see it win an Oscar, but I’m not holding my breath.
“An Education” – I simply adore everything about this movie. I adore Carey Mulligan, the breakout new actress from across the pond, I adore the setting, the time period and the story. I’d love to see Ms. Mulligan win an Oscar, but I don’t think this will be her year.
“Moon” – With only one actor carrying nearly the entire film, this movie could have been boring, but it was mesmerizing. Sam Rockwell is terrific as Sam Bell, a tormented employee of Lunar Industries, stuck on a three-year mission on the Moon. If you enjoy a good sci-fi, Netflix this film today.
“Star Trek” – I admit it. I have a secretly hidden geek inside of me and occasionally she shows through. I grew up with Captain Kirk, Spock, Jean-Luc Picard, Dr. Crusher, Data and the rest of the Star Trek gang. Before the newest movie in the franchise hit theaters, I was skeptical, but this movie delivers and true fans, and even non-fans, will enjoy it.
“District 9″ – This was a good year for science fiction. I even enjoyed the campy “Surrogates.” This movie makes my top 5, because it was so surprisingly good. I am rarely surprised by a movie these days.
“Up” – I don’t think I’ve ever cried in a cartoon until I saw this movie.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox – I didn’t write a review of this movie, but I did see it and really enjoyed this hysterical cast of crazy animals.
Worst Movie of 2009:
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” – Shamefully, stupid movie. So sad to see it was the 4th highest grossing film of 2009.
Disclaimer: There were a few critically acclaimed movies released in 2009 that I haven’t seen yet, including “Precious” and “The Young Victoria.”
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 4/5
Word of Warning: Lots of product placement in this movie, sometimes distracting from what is otherwise a great film.
Before I expound on “Up in the Air” I want to make a statement. Apparently American Airlines paid a lot of money to be the featured airline in this film, however, you should beware the only airline that has ever official lost my luggage was AA. I’ve flown with them three times and all three times I experienced numerous delays. I was once stuck at the Salt Lake City airport for hours with no apology or explanation. American Airlines sucks!
With that out of the way, I will give you my review. This movie reminded me of “Lost in Translation“ with a little more levity. Clooney usually plays a too-cool-for-school fast-talking guy, but his character in “Up in the Air” is a little more believable than some of those previous characters. In fact, Ryan Bingham is realistically average and even a little dull.
Bingham, a forty-something suit, spends most of his time in the air. When he is on the ground, he is a corporate downsizing expert, meaning he fires people for a living. He travels over 300 days a year. His one goal in life is to reach 10 million frequent flier miles, something only six other people on AA have accomplished.
Unfortunately for Bingham, a bright young Cornell graduate has recently infiltrated his company, bringing with her new ideas on how they can streamline their firing practices. Natalie Keener, played by Anna Kendrick of “Twilight“ fame, has devised a plan for video conferencing firing – ground the experts and put them behind a computer screen with a video camera. No fuss, no mess.
Bingham is not happy about this plan and his boss (Jason Bateman) decides to let Bingham take Keener on his next round of firings so she can see what it is really all about. This trip turns into more than Bingham bargained for, forcing him take stock in his own mundane existence.
This movie is sad, funny and insightful. Anna Kendrick holds her own in the shadow of George Clooney. In fact, being a “Twilight“ alum, I wasn’t expecting much from Kendrick, but she surprised me with her exceptional acting ability.
“Up in the Air” has a well-constructed, solid storyline, is well acted and brings to life the lifeless world of airline travel and cookie-cutter chain hotel lodging. I highly recommend this movie and hope to see it do well at the Oscars. It is one of the best of 2009.