Toronto Movie Guide

Julie's Toronto Movie Guide

Movies Shot in Toronto. Toronto has been popular destination for international movie production for years. Here you can find some interesting pieces, where Toronto plays its role

Eye Movie Listings. Your guide to all the movies in Toronto all the time, by theatre and with capsule reviews.

Movie Trailers on Highest quality movie trailers available. All major release trailers are here for your viewing pleasure 24 hours a day, all year round. See what you're getting yourself into.

Scoreboard for movies. tracks hundreds of published critics movie reviews, assigning each movie a tomato rating. Make sure the movies you go to see are fresh and not rotten. Box office numbers also here.

Movie trivia. The Internet Movie Database is a complete cross-referenced online resource to all of world cinema. Have a favorite actor? Know the film but can't place the face. It's all here, for free. Ordinary viewer reviews. Great for classics too.

TIFF aka Toronto International Film Festival. One of the top three film festivals in the world. Turns Toronto on its head every September. Getting places can be tough, best to start early. Year round version is the Cinematheque Ontario located on McCaul in the basement of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Julie Kinnear Team Oscar Predictions

The Julie Kinnear Team Reviews
Movies in Toronto...

Finally Movie Reviews You can Trust

2012 New Movies

Jen: Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - ***½

I was so excited to see the final film, but it was bitter-sweet... because now it's over. The last in the series, Bella finally gets what she has always wanted, a new life and new powers. After the birth of their Bella and Edward's daughter, Renesmee (bad name in my opinion), the Cullens travel the world gathering other vampire clans as witnesses.

They need to protect their daughter from a false allegation that puts the family in danger. The movie wasn't as good as some of the others, but it was entertaining. There is a twist, which was a complete surprise to me - despite my friends almost ruining it for me, but I was oblivious. If you've seen all the others, you have to see this one too. Vampires and werewolves living in harmony - crazy!

Julie: The Avengers - ****

Well, admittedly we watched it because it got 97% fresh from the Rotten Tomatoes site - and that is an incredibly rare and high rating so we had to see!

It was especially great if you are a Marvel Comics fan or of big blockbuster big budget films!  It was awesome for the senses and to witness sheer creative action movie making. 

Essentially ia group of Super Heroes is brought together to fight off evil to save Earth... and is very entertaining.

I really like how they modernized it, using new technology, computers and realistic seeming sets.  It is not overly weird science fiction - although it is on the edge to keep it a bit kitschy.

The ship reminded me of Star Trek, and truly I only remember the Hulk from the old TV show with Bill Bixby from the '80s.  His transformation alone was very cool.

It was so action packed from the first second to the last that it didn't matter too much that they missed doing an introduction to the characters - pretty light development - assuming the audience knew who they were...which we didn't. 

My favourite part is Robert Downey Jr. returning as Tony Stark/Iron Man.  He cracks me up.  I could watch a million movies with him in that role!

Great cast - Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansen, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo...

Great rental and PG rated for family fun.

Jen: Footloose (the 2011 remake) - ***½

I'm not sure you can improve on a great 1984 classic like Footloose. The movie is about a city teenager who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned. Naturally, he isn't happy with the situation, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the town. The female lead, played by Julianne Hough, is an incredible dancer - so the dance scenes are great.

All in all though, I would stick to the original!

Jen: Rock of Ages - ***½

This is a fun movie! A small town girl moves to Hollywood in the 80's to persue her singing career. She gets a job at a popular bar, and gets along quite well with one of the waiters. The music is a blast from the past - Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more. The biggest surprise is the roll that Tom Cruise plays - he a famous rockstar, and plays the part beautifully. Very entertaining!

Jen: The Lucky One - ****

This romantic drama is about a Marine who travels to Louisiana after serving three tours in Iraq. He searches for the unknown woman he thinks was his good luck charm during the war. It is an adaptation of the 2008 novel of the same name, by Nicholas Sparks. He is the same person who wrote "The Notebook" - and who didn't love that movie! The movie was great - typical romantic drama. It made me fall in love with Zac Efron... he has grown into a fine young man. The movie has a mix of drama, a bit of suspense, romance - everything you could ask for if you're planning on having a Girls Movie Night!

Claire: Savages - ***½

I went to see the highly anticipated movie Savages yesterday which I enjoyed there were lots of strange twists and turns especially the end.

It is based on 2 best friends Ben & Chon which I swear I thought throughout the entire movie his name was John. Ben is the brainiac botanist and Chon is the crazy ex Iraq soldier. Together with Ben's brilliance to create the strongest THC levels in weed and Ben's connections to some of the best Afghanistan seeds they quickly become two of the wealthiest most sought after drug dealers (especially to the Mexican drug cartel). When they decline the cartels offer to a new found partnership things get interesting! They decide to kidnap the most important thing to both Ben & Chon... their shared girlfriend "O" (short for Ophelia)? A very strange trio to say the least but definitely not a hard life for "O"!!!

John Travolta plays the dirty FBI agent and Salma Hayek is the drug cartel leader (it's so nice to see a woman in power) lol. With plenty of dirty dealings in between they decide to kidnap Salma's daughter in exchange for "O" (sounds like a fair tradsy to me). The final swap is located in the desert with the bloody ending of pretty much everyone dying. The trio goes out Romeo & Juliet styles oh sorry forgot to add another Romeo! Cut to haha that's not the real ending of course we all want a happy ending and that's how it ends. They erase that ending - Salma goes to jail the bad guy gets away and partners up with another member of another cartel, John Travolta is the hero drug buster and the trio heads to some hideaway in Indonesia to surf and be marry!

Julie: Crazy Stupid Love - ****

Now this is a funny movie. You really can't miss with Steve Carroll if you ask me. I'm a fan. Obviously he had to leave The Office tv show to focus on the the flicks. Too funny.

Once again Ryan Gosling is in it... That's my third review this month with him leading! Ryan plays the young buck teaching the uncool ex husband who needs a makeover after his wife (Julianne Moore) leaves him. How strange is it that the same actors are in multiple movies in one year, as the other fair haired actress of the hour is Emma Stone (also in The Help).

It was a bit of a surprise snub that Ryan Gosling did not receive an Oscar nomination as he was up for a Golden Globe for this and Ides of March!

Julie: Ides of March - ****

Saw this at the Revue theatre on Roncesvalles. That is such a groovy old retro theatre and just a stone's throw from my house - so convenient!

This movie provides a very cool insight into the whole American political scene, whether it is completely accurate or not. It actually helped me understand why the Iowa primaries are so important in the run up to the presidency and vote. George Clooney stars as the good looking down home senator running for the democratic candidacy.

Dirty politics at its best!

Impressive cast. Golden boy Ryan Gosling was nominated for a golden globe for his ro le as a young campaign manager. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the veteran guys supporting competing candidates on the campaign trail. First thing I thought when it ended was how much I dislike politics!

Julie: Drive - ****

Our night out to see Drive has become quite a good story in our family since reading the reviews did not say anything about the violence or gore! Bit of a shocker as I thought it was an action driving movie. It reminded me of a Quentin Tarantino movie. We went with Mary's family including her Mom! Not exactly a family film :)

Amazingly it was an intense movie with not a lot of dialogue but great acting by Hollywood's latest favourite actor and fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling, as well as brilliantly supported by Carey Mulligan who plays role of single mom and neighbour next door who Ryan Gosling's character falls for and becomes involved with. Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play excellent mobsters! Gosling has this quiet calmness about him, and does seem to play similar roles. He is this talented driver, but a bit of a going nowhere mechanic who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals.

It is too long of a plot line to do it justice here. The movie is great, if you don't mind the sight of blood. It has received accolades and excellent reviews but seems too rough for the awards season.

Julie: My Week With Marilyn - ***½

I went to see this with my friend Heidi for my annual birthday movie night. I just love Michelle Williams, she has made such a major impression in the movies she's in, (imagine that she jumped from tv show Dawsons Creek to the big leagues in films like Brokeback Mountain). Anyhoo- as reviewed and hyped about, Michelle Williams was brilliant as Marilyn Monroe. Truly mesmerizing every time she was on screen, and you definitely get lost in her character, so you tend to forget about Michelle Williams. Worthy of all the Oscar buzz for best actress.

This film as about the making of the cult classic the Prince and The Showgirl and based on a true story. The filming takes place in England, with the legendary Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh). Olivier struggles with Monroe's unorthodox acting methods and sometimes poor ability and her insistence in having her acting coach by her side. Monroe is young and naive with little confidence yet becoming a big deal all over the world. The story is told through the eyes of a young film assistant who seems to have won her trust. Small role played by Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame.

Its a cute and enjoyable and another glimpse into the tormented life of Marilyn Monroe. Up for 3 Golden Globes.

Steph: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - ****½

This trilogy is in my top 10 books. I always hope the movie(s) are as exciting and gripping as the books and I am so happy that David Fincher stayed true to the book and made it as exciting as I had hoped it would be. The cast is excellent. The scenery is beautifully cold. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander is perfection to me. It is graphic!! I wouldnt advise a young teenager seeing it to be honest. There could be alot of explaining to do.

I am interested to find out if anyone that hasnt read the book, and has seen the movie if they think it as exciting and mysterious as I do. I truly hope the other 2 are made into movies and that David Fincher is at the helm again!

Loved it!

2011 New Movies

Julie: The Help - ****

I read this book this summer and could not put it down. Despite the heavy topic of race discrimination and the civil rights movement in the deep south in the early 1960's it really has been written in a witty and warm way. The movie adaptation really worked – it captures the highlights, and there are many. Of course the book gives even better and deeper understanding but this brings to life the relationships and bonds that are formed by the maids and their families.

Viola Davis was brilliant as Aibileen the maid who shares so many stories. The lead character of Skeeter played by Emma Stone was ok I thought, not quite the same as my imagination. The unforgettable characters of Hilly (portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard) the stuck up President of The Junior League was priceless, as well as the Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, another one of the maids who always ends up in plenty of trouble, and Jessica Chastain as Celia the outcast from Texas were hilarious.

It is a definite must read book and now one of the best movies of the year.

Julie: The Ledge - ***½

This film had it's debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. I don't think it ever made it to the theatres - it went directly to video. The director/screenwriter is Matthew Chapman. The two stars that I recognized in the movie were Terrence Howard and Liv Tyler. The movie starts with the a young hotel manager standing on top of a building (on a ledge) about to end his life. It then flashes back to how he got there, and his life and death dilemma. The film involves a love story, why else would he be out on a ledge (ha, ha) and lots of suspense.

It didn't get very good reviews, which is why it never made it to the theatres. If you're looking for a 'film', it's not bad, but don't rent it if you're looking for the best movie you've ever seen!!

  • Rating: ***½

Soul Surfer – review by Julie - ½

Don't need to review this one - as we practically couldn't watch it -so don't bother.  It is like an after school special in the quality of acting.  Cant believe i paid good money to watch it. As one of the leads, and mother of the Bethany Hamilton character, Helen Hunt lowered her standards and actiing abilities.

The plot and storyline could have been very interesting, and sounded inspiring - about the young girl who loses her arm in a surfing shark attack, and comes back.  Very courageous true story.  And admittedly I am a fan of Carrie Underwood who debuted in her first movie - so was curous about that too.  It was just so poorly scripted and acted it was a total let down.  Super cheesy.

Julie: Leap Year - ***

Starring Amy Adams - I would definitely call this a popcorn movie. Light, easy, inoffensive, enjoyable, pretty silly, romantic comedy.  Personally I loved the magical scenery throughout Ireland, (where I visited my grandparents family and my ancestry). Of course the accents are kinda fun too. It was a little bit predictable, especially if you see the cover of the DVD box. See I don't like to give away too much plot because it is more fun to watch and figure it out for yourself. Note - The other item of interest for me was that the main character was a stager for realtors, which gave a bit of a chuckle!

Arthur – review by Julie - ***

I am a big fan of the original, one of my all time faves because of drunk Dudley Moore. Russell Brand is really fun in this role. The movie does not stray very far from the original except Hobson is Helen Mirren. She is great as always. It was fun to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Russell Brand has amazing comedic timing and that's what I really like about him.

Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps - ***

Following a lengthy prison term, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) finds himself on the outside looking in at a world he once commanded. Hoping to repair his relationship with his daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), Gekko forges an alliance with her fiancé, Jake (Shia LaBeouf). But Winnie and Jake learn the hard way that Gekko is still a master manipulator who will stop at nothing to reclaim his rightful place at the top of Wall Street. MIchael Douglas still is a great Gordon Gekko, he just gets better with age!

I have to say it was not packed, we expected more – but it wasn't right downtown in one of the littler silver screens.

Great cast! With Michael Douglas in the news so much these days with his health, it was a quiet reminder seeing him smoking his cigars in the flick. Michael looked great and is always very engaging. Shia Labeouf was the younger version now (Jacob)– working on Wall Street and is seeking revenge after his mentor dies. He is by all accounts one of the huge upcoming lead stars. I remember him as an action guy from Transformers – he has a lot of energy and handles a lot of dialogue really well. He has great chemistry with Carey Mulligan (Winnie) who in real life is now his girlfriend after they co-starred in Wall Street, as she plays his love interest in the movie and has very interesting role and is definitely a quality actor. Josh Brolin plays evil well. There was a funny cameo by Charlie Sheen which was classic as it really flashed us back to the original movie from 1987. Susan Sarandon also stars as Jacob's mother – kinda hilarious as she is in real estate – and she plays such an off character as a Long Island realtor/developer getting into real trouble as the market is sinking too.

The engaging story line was taken from real life – essentially the October crash of 2008 that was felt so heavily on Wall Street and Gordon Gecko was his usual intriguing surprising self. The story gets more involved in the private life of Gecko, as Winnie is also his estranged daughter, so ontop of the business craziness, there is a whole other part about building that relationship.

It was well paced and good fun, and worth seeing, especially if you remember the original!

The American – review by Julie - ***½

I was excited to watch this movie as it was set in Italy and we were on the plane to Italy! And of course, George Clooney is usually pretty great. The scenery and lifestyle in a small town in the rural Italian countryside was pretty amazing. Loved the language, music, and customs. The movie? Not good. Along the lines of terrible. I fast forwarded through alot. It was so slow. Imagine, a movie about an assassin Jack, played by George Clooney with his "last" assignment and he's a master craftsman with weapons. It guess I was expecting action, and it was very introspective. Very little english dialogue, and lots of silence. I think the director was making an artistic movie that fell flat to me.

The American
The American

The Mechanic – review by Julie - ***½

Movies are meant to take you away from your reality - and certainly all these flicks with assassin's etc are pretty far fetched, and far away from anything "normal" I've ever heard of, so yes it takes you to a world far away!  And this was a pretty good one.  Perhaps because I wasn't very familiar with the lead actor (Jason Statham who plays Arthur Bishop). He is a professional elite assassin who ends up training his own mentor's son after his mentor (well played by Donald Sutherland) is killed. There are a few twists and turns, and it is an enjoyable rental for those who like this type of movie.

the mechanic
the mechanic

The Rabbit Hole – review by Julie - ***½

Becca and Howie Corbett (NICOLE KIDMAN and AARON ECKHART) are returning to their everyday existence in the wake of a shocking, sudden loss. Just eight months ago, they were a happy suburban family with everything they wanted. Now, they are caught in a maze of memory, longing, guilt, recrimination, sarcasm and tightly controlled rage from which they cannot escape. While Becca finds pain in the familiar, Howie finds comfort.

Rabbit Hole
Rabbit Hole

Blue Valentine – review by Julie - ***½

Have to say, two of my favourite quality relatively young actors around right now. And this movie was heavy. Both Acadamy Award nominnees - Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams carried the movie brilliantly. It is a depressing storyline though - they portray it as very sad and emotional. Essentially it is about a couple who beat the odds to be together and now who's marriage is failing, as it goes back in time to get a sense of what was lost. It is about confidence in each other being gone, and their young daughter and how hard that is impacting the family. Serious movie drama.

blue valentine
Blue Valentine

No Strings Attached – review by Julie - ****

No Strings Attached is a pretty hilarious comedy about two friends who decide to have "benefits" while they both stay single. Great cast with Ashton Kutcher & Natalie Portman. Ashton is engaging and adorable and definitely wins points in the "he would be a great boyfriend/ partner" category. I don't find comedies usually that funny so this was a nice surprise and worth the rental. Having loved watching the movie Black Swan with Natalie in a very serious role, it was certainly a big surprise that she could pull this off without it being too cheesy. She's a great actor!

no strings attached
no strings attached

Bridesmaids – review by Steph - ****

The trailer for this movie makes it look like a typical chick flick. And it isnt! It was a large audience mixed with men and women, and each individual was laughing hysterically. There was one guy in the theatre that laughed the loudest and longest through the whole movie. The humor in this movie is smart and funny and its not what you expect from seeing the trailer which was such a nice surprise.

Its also a touching story of friendship and how stressful weddings can be for everyone involved.

It was so nice to sit in the theatre on a very rainy Sunday afternoon with my mom where we both had tears from laughing so hard. I havent done that since the Hangover which I can't wait for next week for the Hangover 2!


Bill Cunningham New York – review by Julie - ****

"An intimate portrait of Bill Cunningham, the 80 year old New York Times photographer who for forty years has been riding around New York City on his bicycle, documenting fashion trends on the street by day and New York's social scene at night for his two weekly columns in the Sunday Times. Known and beloved by most New Yorkers, and with an international following in the paper and on-line. Bill has been likened to Garbo in that, until now, no one has known a thing about him. Intensely private, and with an aversion to any kind of recognition"

I had never heard of this person and when asked to go see the movie, I thought there are other things I want to see. I am so glad that my friend won this decision! Bill Cunningham is a charming, quirky and eccentric man. He has 2 columns in the NY Times and New Yorkers want to end up in his column !!He still takes his photos on a wind up camera that uses FILM! He develops his film everday at a little whole in the wall.  He has no interest in celebrity, its all about fashion fashion fashion!! It was a great documentary of a man that has a passion and wakes up everyday spo happy to work but of course to him it is not work, its his love and joy!


127 Hours – review by Julie - ***½

Just loving the Oscar movie season. I actually watched this one on the plane so didn't get the full theatre experience which probably didn't help. Having heard a bit about the story ahead of time the movie unfortunately was not as nerve wracking as if I didn't know the outcome... so if you don't know what it is about and don't want me to spoil it for you ... stop reading now, until you've seen it! !
This is one of the 10 movies this year nominated for best picture and I could go on a totally different tangent about that whole decision. Suffice to say I think there way too many in the category now.

It is pretty cool though that James Franco is hosting the Oscars and is the lead in this indie style movie AND is up for a best actor for his role in 127 Hours. Apparently it was done by the creators of Slumdog Millionaire and definitely has that cinematic feel - of "live" action not studio style at all. I'm not sure how many people went out to see this flick, I don't get the sense that it did very well @ the box office.

The movie is set in the desert, on a bright sunny spring day - and despite it being one of the most unforgiving climates of them all, the scenery was beautiful. Good thing that it is based on a true story about a mountain climber as it made it much more interesting, considering the fact that he had made a few crucial mistakes early on in the story that seemed almost unbelievable, except that it was true! The director and actors did manage to rivet the audience with barely any human interaction - and alot of hallucinations. Pretty scary stuff I must say. Iit certainly helped me appreciate that accidents can happen at any time. I do have one beef - they could have changed the title of the movie - since it doesn't take rocket science to realize that that must be how long he is out there on his own and exposed for - it made me sort of lose more anticipation as I knew on say day 2 and 3 that he wasn't done yet! Bottom line, James Franco does a brilliant job of his role. He basically carried every minute of the movie so all the more kudos to him. Wouldn't highly recommend the movie, it was just alright to me.

The King’s Speech – review by Julie - ****

This is definitely classic Oscar material. Period piece, period costumes, monarchy interest etc.

I have to say I thought it was a unique glimpse into the Royal Family. Loved that it was a true story - that made it so much the more poignant and relevant. They really picked up on little intimate nuances, their marriage, his relationship with his father the King, as well as the early childhood of our current Queen Elizabeth as well as the bond she had with her father. Really made him human/mortal seeming as well, perhaps why the Queen Mum requested that no one release the rights until after her death!

Colin Firth is amazing and is definitely deserving of all the awards he is winning in the title role - apparently people loved him in Pride and Prejudice as Mr. D'arcy - I loved him in the Bridget Jones' Diaries!

What a supporting cast too - Geoffrey Rush really brought to life the role of the unconventional speech therapist and friend Lionel Logue, and of course Helena Bonham Carter is always lovely - she plays the young queen Mum (Queen Elizabeth at the time).

Can't wait for Oscar night to see if their 12 nominations wins them best picture. As a side note - when we went to watch it at the theatre it was pretty funny - the place was filled with a more "mature" crowd. Hilarious - not sure where we fit in - but the rival Social Network movie is totally the opposite in the running this year.

I've also noticed a whole lot of publicity around this movie more than others - so I think they're expecting great things.

Black Swan – review by Julie - *****

OK - this is a MUST SEE. I've been telling EVERYONE about how much I loved it. It is truly mesmerizing. Natalie Portman transports the audience through her trials magnificently. I am most amazed that they created this strong strong role for her. First of all she is in practically every scene. And she's ballet dancing like a real pro. It gave quite a behind the scenes look at the dance world. Pretty scary to tell you the truth. Obviously these artists do it for the true love of the sport/ art. It just seems incredibly gruelling and painful for a short time up on stage in front of the people. And the driven directors, and parents (like her mother - surprisingly played by Barbara Hershey - who really was almost unrecognizable). Loved the psycho thriller part of it too but had to hide my eyes at parts. Great to see in the theatres to really get engrossed in it all. Personally this is Natalie's big moment - to win during the whole awards season, like she did with the Golden Globes and now with the Oscars. What a challenging experience it must have been. Of course the feel good story coming out of it that she is engaged to her leading dance partner and choreographer for the movie and pregnant with his child is great for the tabloids. Not to forget the brilliant direction of Darren Aronofsky, as well as her supporting stars Mila Kunis & Vincent Cassel.

Country Strong – review by Julie - ***½

This is the sad story of an alcoholic former country music star trying to make a comeback and being pushed too hard by her husband/manager, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tim McGraw. Apparently Leighton Meester who played one of the supporting roles - as the up and comer in the movie story - is becoming a big star these days in real life too - moving over from tv to movies. My personal favourite was the younger singer Garrett Hedlund - who has the role of being Gwyneth's support system and down home country boy. It is a bit of a popcorn flick. What I call a rental. It is not terrible, just not overly engaging. Gwyneth has to be pretty dramatic and has to cry alot - and there's a lot of mascara running down - she's a pretty good cryer but it felt like she was acting, not really the character. It made me think of Walk the Line and how Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon drew you in and really blew you away. This was not like that. It was kinda funny seeing Tim McGraw as an actor, when he is actually the country music star! ha. Good tunes though. Loved that part best. Since Mary & I want to try and see as many Oscar nominated films as possible, they were nominated in the best song category!

Inception – review Julie - ***½

This movie seems to really divide people - on whether they love it or hate it. It is a bit like the Matrix - science fiction that is hard to figure out what is reality and what is not. Not so much weird space age - as the costumes are fabulous - very retro 1950's. Pretty ingenious in some ways. It has some high points - I love the cast - Canadian Ellen Page, the brilliant late Irishman Pete Postlewaithe, Michael Caine and Leonardo Di Caprio - he and his sidekick Joseph Gordon-Levitt are great together. He is a modern day thief, able to enter your brain to access dreams. Basically it is a dream within a dream or a film within a film. Lots of twists and turns. There is the element of a love story, and family life. But it is darned hard to follow and understand, and that seems to be the big deal for some people, including me. It almost hurts your head you have to concentrate so much. So not quite the relaxing flick. More like you need to focus. I think seeing it in a big theatre is probably ideal where you have no distractions! Despite all the accolades including BEST PICTURE nomination, the director Christopher Nolan did not get a nomination as director for the Oscars, just for screenplay, bit of a controversy! They have 8 Oscar nods, but not my favourite.

The Social Network – review by Julie - ****½

I don't get to hit the theatres near as much as I'd like - but being a bit of a tech junky this one topped my list last Fall & I loved the movie. It was a fascinating story based on real life events. Gave me a real appreciation for Facebook, its young founder Mark Zuckerberg and the speed of implementation. WOW. The huge Hollywood movie actually came out in 2010 and Facebook was only started in 2004. Now that is fast. The exponential growth is jarring.

Despite my own misgivings about joining FB, I did eventually and am glad I did - it is a fun way of keeping in touch, and the power to reach so many so fast has been essential to our JKT "people community" business. And the story continues to evolve... Best line was by Justin Timberlake's character "take out the THE" in The Facebook.

2010 New Movies

The Town – review by Julie - ***½

I love Ben Affleck so had high hopes for this movie and I wasn't too dissapointed! Its a good action flick. Ben Affleck being the Star, Director and Writer (adapted) he pulls it off very well. Jeremy Renner is excellent and Pete Postlethwait ( i hope thats right) is a creepy yet great character that you don't see alot of and I wanted just a bit more.

The feel of the gritty Boston town gives the movie a great look and you just gotta love the accent! Its a movie that can entertains both sexes so I totally recommend it for "date" night!

Pirate Radio – review by Heidi - ***½

This is quirky and fun movie and original in it's concept.  In the early 1960's England put a ban on rock and roll music aired over the radio on it's "soil".  In order to get around this law, a group pf rougue d.j's set up their radio station on a ship in the North Sea.  The music is great and the characters are eclectic.  Philip Seymour Hoffman almost always guarentees a good movie. Although there are some rediculous scenes that I didn't quite buy into, it is overall an entertaining movie to rent.

Date Night – review by Heidi - ***½

You never know what you're going to get with a comedy. They can sometimes surprise you, like "The Hangover" did, or they more typically disappoint like "Year One" did with Michael Sera. Luckily "Date Night" falls in the former category. It is funny, relatable (to parents of young kids), and original in its premise. Tina Fey and Steve Carell reportedly ad-libbed most of their lines, and the humour is fresh and natural. In my mind the funniest scene is when the 2 of them try to escape from the "bad guys" in an extremely slow motor boat (sorry, you have to see it to understand it!). 4 stars.

Iron Man 2 – review by Julie - ****

As we all know, sequels tend to be a big disappointment in the movie world, but Iron Man 2 is the exception! This movie is funny, fast-paced, and exciting. It has all the elements of a great action flick – a love-triangle equipped with the mandatory sexual tension; cool state of the art computer technology; and a new plot that stays true to the original comic book plots and nuances. We even get a quick peek at Stan Lee (who always does a cameo in his comic book movies) as Larry King. The ending sets us up for Iron Man 3, and I can hardly wait!

It’s Complicated – review by Julie - ***½

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are a divorced couple who are pretty funny together - and Steve Martin (who I don't love as an actor, sorry) was the love interest.  Should I spoil my fave part?  I guess not. 

It's sorta nice to see older actors, in a normal movie, as leads.  No young sexy 20 somethings.

One question though - these guys were all pretty rich.  Definitely how the other half lives in California.

Letters To God – review by Julie - ****

Julie saw this incredible movie in a private screening, just released in the theatres 4/9. It is a great watch inspired by a true story and has the potential to impact your life in a major way! 

Having worked @ Camp Oochigeas for years, as well as absolutely loving and giving the book The James Emails away to so many friends and clients - this is in the same vein. These KIDS INSPIRE US to be better. To live for today. To give back. VERY cool.

Take your family, friends whomever.  And some kleenex.  Great soundtrack too!

The Hurt Locker – review by Julie - ***½

Well with 9 Oscar nominations - wow - that is ALOT of nods - I think the hype was a bit too much.  Mares & I were so adamant on seeing it that we were slightly disappointed.  Very cool in many ways - intense, little dialogue, and dramatic feelings were felt with action thrown in too.  Quite artsy.  It is a tough theme of course - Iraq war is pretty sad all around, so maybe it was just a little too depressing for little ol' me.  Impressive accolades!  Glad to see the glass ceiling for female directors got a big crack in it too.

Avatar – review by Steph - ****½

Movie-making MAGIC! Specatacular!!

This movie made me feel like I did the first time I saw a movie. I was trying to figure how they did it, how did it get on that screen in front of me, how did they do the effects. (one of my first movies was E.T. and i was fascinated by the "special FX"

Avatar did that to me again. How James Cameron came up with this concept and had to wait 15 years for it to happen is really amazing. The story of Avatar is very basic. Good Vs. Evil, your basic hollywood plotline. Everything else that happens is just mindblowing!!! Its a must see in 3D!! and especially IMAX 3D!

The Hangover – review by Julie - ****

After the rave reviews we were psyched to see it, and you can't help enjoying!  It was just a silly movie, and a bit rude and crude, so you do have to be in the mood for it.   

It takes place in Las Vegas and is a boys night out bachelor party, and it cleverly pieced together, rather than just a straight forward adventure.  Bradley Cooper is the latest Hollywood hearthrob and stars. 

Good fun!

2009 New Movies

Sherlock Holmes – review by Julie - ***½

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are an amazing team in this movie. It was entertaining and the scenery and sets are incredible. It definitely has the Guy Ritchie feel to it. There is a great fight scene with Robert Downey. Clever humour and acted perfectly. I highly recommend. Fun for the whole family!

The Blind Side – review by Julie - ***½

The Blind Date was a feel good movie and the performance by Sandra Bullock - fantastic! The real life story was inspirational and restores my faith in humanity. This is great for the whole family or a perfect date night movie with many enjoying the football action, humour and perhaps the odd tear wipe too. This is a good one to see over the holidays.

My Sister’s Keeper – review by Julie - ***½

Not sure if you've read any of Jodi Picoult's novels - they are pretty engaging and memorable - always dealing with pretty intense dramatic topics that are real life family decisions/ happenings, just rarely talked about. 

I read this one before watching the movie.  There are lots of twists and turns along the way - don't want to spoil it for you so read on at your own risk!  Essentially a couple consider having another baby who may be a match for medically to help their older daughter who has leukemia. Fascinating dilemma.  Anyhoo - Cameron Diaz is actually playing the role of mother - which is a bit of turn for her - growing up and maturing! You'll recognize Abigail Breslin who does an admirable job of being the lead throughout film. 

Good rental, slightly emotionally draining! 

Men Who Stare at Goats – review by Julie - ***

I left the movie theatre thinking, OK that was different. And I say that in a good way and a bad way. I was entertained. Everyone acted their parts well.  There are elements of comedy, satire, drama, action... but without having enough of each of these things to really give the movie a proper feel or direction. It veers close to being funny... and then veers off. It comes close to satirising American military tactics... and then goes off in another direction. There is so much going on on screen but yet really nothing is happening. I felt that a little more focus was needed to bring the film together. I am sure the overall story makes more sense in the book, it just gets a bit lost on the screen.

Michael Jackson: This is It – review by Julie - ****

Julie here - I have been asking everyone to refrain from giving their opinions of the movie, so as not to spoil it for me.  I kept hearing the odd fabulous comment, and was so looking forward to it.  This Is It is a real concert movie type movie, it is done in a documentary type style almost - and it felt like we were really seeing behind the scenes.  Untampered view of the King of Pop - away from all the media ways of bending the truth.  The rehearsal scenes were truly amazing.  Can't hardly believe how talented he still was, and how loving and patient too!  The way they were pushing the boundaries for the most extraordinary concert experience ever reminded me of the good old thriller days.  Hard to believe it was 25 years ago that Thriller came out.  It is impossible to believe that MJ wasn't in the best health of his life with the kind of athletics he was going through daily.  Made me feel like his untimely passing was completely unneccessary, and an inquest into his death needs to be a priority.  

Coco Avant Chanel – review by Holly - ***

It's not often that I manage to get to the movies but one lazy Sunday afternoon I decided to check out this biopic of fashion icon Coco Chanel. The film stars Audrey Tautou as Chanel. It is a visually and acoustically lush treat but a somewhat superficial treatment of a complex life.

The gorgeous costumes, French countryside and French from France accents (it's subtitled in English) kept me captivated but the storyline did not.

I wanted to know more about what made Chanel tick. Where did she get her strength and the passion to persevere to become one of the most successful designers of all time?

The Proposal – review by Jen - ***½

A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada. Starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies, and this one did not disappoint. There were so very funny parts - it's light and entertaining. I thought that Ryan Reynolds was great. Not only is he cute, with an amazing body, but he was very funny! Sandra Bullock does a great job being the cold-hearted bossy boss.

If you're looking for some light entertainment, then this is the movie for you!!!

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen – review by Julie - ***

When the cats away the mice will play... So Julie watched this as a guilty pleasure last weekend when Mary was away! It was tons of ACTION. Incredible special effects. Totally implausible of course, but with suspended disbelief and a tiny bit of a story line it was all good. One main problemo though - too long. Over 2.5 hours of these cars and trucks that turn into maniacal machines...

Inglorious Basterds – review by Julie - ****

AMAZING!! I did not breathe though the opening scene of this movie. Quentin Tarantino, as always, with his blood and gore entertains in this movie from the minutes it starts to the minute it ends. Brad Pitt is totally fun but the whole cast of this movie, some of whom I hadn't heard of, were all absolutely terrific!!

Julie & Julia - ****

Well, we HAD to go and see this movie, as my wife Mary is SUCH a foodie. She loved the book and we heard so many good things. You can't beat Meryl Streep of course, who was hilarious (although a bit old for the role) as Julia Child. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell who's blog started it all. They both brought their respective eras to life, and pulled off looking like passionate chef's. It was nice to know more about the background behind the perennial best seller Mastering the Art of French Cooking - which is BACK on the best seller list AGAIN, even if it was published almost 50 years ago..

Changeling – review by Julie - ***½

Another Oscar nominated movie I had to see. Lots of good chatter about Angelina acting exceptionally. It was a very sad and disturbing story and truly only believable because it was true. Angelina is in just about every scene in the flick and lots of the time just pouting or giving expression without many words. Her red lips and her fashionable hats are the most memorable. It is a pretty dark and somber story and look, although kinda long - Director Clint Eastwood could have cut out a few repetitive scenes. There were a couple of outstanding characters, including John Malkovich who I always think steals the show he's so good. Worth renting.

Slumdog Millionaire – review by Julie - ****½

Whoo! I felt like I was hit by a truck after watching that movie. It is intense... Talk about the darling of the awards season. Since Mary and I are such fans of the Oscars we HAD to see this before Feb 22. Its a terrific movie, depicting the underside of India and has everything from excitement to adventure to mystery to romance. Apparently it is polarizing audiences but I thought it was an excellent if not kinda disturbing movie. You'll see.

Tropic Thunder – review by Julie - ***½

Ok I had to see this movie because we saw the trailer for it at another movie (see they work although I only rented this - who knew it would garner an Oscar nod?). It was the hook of Robert Downey Jr. playing a black character... It was such a fun and silly movie that it worked. Its a movie about a movie being shot, story line takes place in Vietnam during the war. Very crazy and lude and crude, again, who knew it would attract the Academy Awards? You know who steals the show? Tom Cruise! He's one of my favourite actors and I didn't even know he was in it! Enjoy.

Ghost Town – review by Jen - ****½

This is a great rental! It is laugh-out-loud, tears down your face funny. The British lead actor, Ricky Gervais, has a brilliantly dry sense of humour. Greg Kinnear plays a ghost who befriends the grumpy British dentist. It is a nice light, fun movie!

Doubt – review by Julie - ****½

Julie here, and yes I am a confessed movie and Oscar superfan. This movie was one I was really looking forward to,although I got the sense that it was going to be a dark story line. My rule for all movies is to not know anything about it prior to going to see, other than hearing whether its good or deserves a razzy! (Hence the reason why I try not to give away the story line in my reviews!) You just knew Doubt would be a great film with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the leads. Two stellar actors that never ever go wrong. I was pleasantly surprised that not all the characters in this were dark and dreary. It was actually a fascinating story as it unravelled, and the character development was excellent, despite it being filmed in very few settings in the middle of a cold winter in New York in the early 60's. The acting nominations from the Oscars is well deserved, including Amy Adams and Viola Davis for best supporting roles. Worth going to see. As a little aside, Mary and I actually saw it at the newly reopened independent (and still old school) Kingsway Theatre. Let's hear it for "Whiz" or whomever has taken on this new venture - it is a benefit to the community.

  • Rating: ****½

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons – review by Julie - ***½

As reviewed by Julie, I went to see this over the holidays. I hadn't heard much about it except that it was getting positive reviews and it featured Brad Pitt! Who knew it would be 3+ hours! It really was a pretty good flick, the pacing did remind me of the movie Forrest Gump. I thought the make up was stellar - Brad through the ages was truly remarkable. They kinda dragged on the first half of the movie, the last half seemed to fly by. Cate Blanchette is a gifted gifted actor and is terrific once again. I am not sure that Brad is the best actor this year - good for him for the nod, probably because he is essentially in every scene. Not sure this movie rocked my world, surprised about the # of nominations to tell you the truth!

  • Rating: ***½

Rachel Getting Married – review by Julie - ****

This little known film hopefully get lots of Oscar buzz as it is brilliantly acted and well directed. In this role Anne Hathaway veers away from her typical sweet girl Hollywood schlock. Loved seeing Debra Winger again in her small roll as the mother. Jonathan Demme directs this Indie style flick. It's a bit depressing in that let's see how dysfunctional we can get family style. The overbearing soundtrack drove me crazy. Overall it's worth going to see if you can still find it in the theatre.

  • Rating: ****

2008 New Movies

Valkyrie – review by Julie - ***½

We got prescreening tickets to the movie happily, although I would have gone anyway since I am a die hard Tom Cruise fan. The movie was good - it is based on a true story about Nazi's trying to overthrow Hitler in the height of WWII. The whole cast was excellent, the supporting actors did shine strong especially Bill Nighy. The costumes were superb. It was a straight forward storyline with heroes and villains and another reminder of how lucky we all are to be living in this day and time. The movie tried to be a bit dark and mysterious, with minimal dialogue in a number of scenes, but didn't develop the characters quite enough. I was hoping for a bit more action personally. I have to say it was quite thought provoking and because it was a true story it was all that more fascinating. For some reason I think that I kept thinking it needed to have more german in it. Quite impressive that Tom Cruise opened the movie speaking German though!

  • Rating: ***½

Passchendaele – review by Julie - ***

Paul Gross has big ideas in this WW1 drama… the war scenes are pretty incredible and the audience can practically feel the rain and mud themselves. It was an overly dramatic love story that seemed to get a little off course. Gotta be happy that a proud Canadian went all out like this for this epic big budget film about Canadians and in fact filmed in Canada (Alberta has beautiful scenes). Caroline Dhavernas did a good job as the love interest. I personally liked it but felt it was just a little overdone. 

Blind - ***½

Blind is a story about Ruben, a boy who goes blind and struggles with the acceptance of his new state. He eventually falls in love with Marie, a woman who is twice his age who believes she is ugly and unworthy of affection. Ruben sees in his blindness the fantastic beauty of Marie that Marie herself hadn't the courage to see with her eyes open. Their relationship is a perfect match: the blind is paired with one who does not wish to be seen. Dialogue is sparse and the images will haunt your imagination. The film leaves the viewers with the clichéd question: what is love? Love isn't blind - it closes its eyes 'perchance to dream.'
  • IMDB link: Blind
  • Rating: ***½

Religulous - ****

With the dearth of quality Hollywood movies lately, we went to see Religulous, Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion. I was not familiar with Bill Maher's comedy but the trailers looked hilarious - something like Borat meets Michael Moore - and the movie definitely delivers these laughs, as Bill travels the world in search of why people believe in religion. Maher focuses the search on Islam, Judaism and Christianity; glaringly omitted are such faiths as Buddhism, Hinduism and other world religions. Of course he mercilessly roasts the usual targets (funadmentalists of every faith; Southern politicians) but he concentrates on why people believe in the rituals of these religions, not on why they believe in something greater than themselves. This makes for a film as thought-provoking as it is funny, and points out that perhaps over the millennia, something has been lost in translation as many cling to the letter rather than the spirit of these faiths. A brave and funny, always entertaining movie!

Batman The Dark Knight - *****

When Batman Begins was released, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about - I know all about Batman, I've been watching the cartoons with their Biff! Bang! word bubbles since I was a little kid, I've seen everything Michael Keaton could throw at the character...and loved it. Not a fan of Christian Bale (I know I'm the only one!) I didn't enjoy the long backstory of how Batman came to be, and found it overly moody and drawn out. But once my friends had seen this sequel not once but twice, reporting it to be the best Batman movie they had ever seen, I had to cave (ha ha). Also I'm pretty captivated by the sad, creepy Heath Ledger thing, which reminds me of the Brandon Lee tragedy and lends even more spookiness to the movie. We went to see The Dark Knight the day that blasts ripped through a propane factory, dominating the afternoon news. The movie was so dark and frighteningly real that it seemed the Joker might be at work spreading his chaos in Toronto! A masterful performance by Ledger truly steals the show. Every ounce of the hype is true. You must see this movie!

The Other Boleyn Girl - ***½

When you live with a musician you are not getting out to the theatre most nights, so I resorted to a rental. Hey, at least it's a hot new release! The Other Boleyn Girl starts out slow and it is hard to suspend disbelief when looking at Henry VIII played by hunky Eric Bana (knowing the real King Henry was more bloated monster than beefcake). However, as the plot thickens it is easy to get past historical inaccuracies and just enjoy the show. There are beautiful people like Natalie Portman & Scarlett Johanssen, beautiful clothing & rich surroundings, all kinds of sibling rivalry, much betrayal with plots for power & prestige, and Henry getting uglier by the minute as his true personality emerges. Of course a lot of the intrigue is a function of the times: today, there are 12-step programs for people with Henry's problems, and women's rights ensure no one will be tried and beheaded for not producing sons. In Canada.

Evil Dead: The Musical - ****

Ok so it's not a movie - but it was once! We got tickets as a birthday gift to see this production at the Diesel Playhouse downtown, and I dragged a very reluctant boyfriend who hates musicals. He perked up a bit at the classic rock booming from every speaker, and by intermission, was laughing his head off at the raunchy song lyrics and hilarious acting by a very talented cast! If you are wondering what's the worst that can happen when five teens on spring break bust into a secluded, abandoned cottage in the woods where unspeakable evil has recently been have to see it. It was a really funny, laugh out loud night out. And if you sit in the splatter zone, you'll be sprayed with fake blood! Not for prudes, children, or the faint of heart - but great for those who don't normally like musicals.
  • Rating: ****

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - ****½

Ah that rare beast - a sequel better than the original! Well, that's my take on it anyway. If you are a Marvel Comics fan who found the original a bit too dark, you will love the happy go lucky sequel. Who couldn't love an anti-hero sent through a rift to destroy earth, who with a little good parenting became a candy-and-kitten-loving advocate for humanity? The big red lug has cut back on his smoking, taken up with the firestarter, and is now on a quest to rid the world of ancient evil. We also get to know Abe (a.k.a. Blue) a lot better and he is just too cute - they all are. Interesting and incredible to note that Ron Perlman, who dons the big red suit, is actually pushing 60 - you'd never know it! The effects are great and there is a lot of humour. All in all, a very enjoyable experience!

The Happening - ½

Ok M. Night Shyamalan…we get it! Humans need to start working harder to protect the environment. Al Gore thought the same thing, but then he went out and made something useful, An Inconvenient Truth. You decided to make this Greenpeace ad, masquerading as a horror movie. We know… we know, your career peaked early and you've been suffering from delusions of Hitchcockian grandeur. All the while your movie's ratings have been on a slippery slope, with no thanks to the predictable "twists" that we've all come to expect. But now you've released your preachiest and lowest rated film yet, the "Eco-Thriller", The Happening. The film starts off immediately, (showing around 90% of its trailer within the first 5 minutes) as we watch people in Central Park lose their coordination and find the most immediate way to kill themselves. Is it a terrorist attack? Nuclear Accident? Killer trees? The film sets us up for disappointment early, when Shyamalan goes out of his way to include the line "It was just an act of nature and we'll never fully understand it. Science will come up with some reason, but in the end, it will just be a theory" SPOILER ALERT! Within the first 10 minutes we know that we will not get a satisfying answer for what is indeed "happening." In the remaining 80 minutes we follow Elliot, a character that we're supposed to care about – With no help from Mark Wahlberg's unusually flat performance - as he tries to survive and make sense of this "event." M. Night apparently decided he could coast through, based on premise alone, subjecting us to dozens of unintentionally funny (if not creative) suicides, and 'subtle' messages like a large billboard for a new housing development stating "You deserve this!" I tried to be positive and hold on to hope, after all Shyamalan is a big fan of game-changing endings. The joke was on me…I don't even think there WAS an ending! Something was happening then it stopped happening, roll credits.

Baby Mama - **

I didn't have high hopes for this movie from the beginning, but a Friday night with no TTC lead to me desperate for any entertainment I could get. Sure the plot didn't look too mind-blowing but considering I think 30 Rock is one of the funniest shows on tv right now I placed full trust in the abilities of Tina Fey. The problems started at the opening credits when I realized Tina Fey didn't write this movie herself. Sure enough by the time the end credits rolled I was ready to go back home and hug my 30 Rock box set. The movie itself wasn't terrible, just bland (with the one exception of Steve Martin's performance as a smug, new age health guru) The movie scored some laughs, especially between Fey and Poehler, unfortunately all of these moments were already shown in the preview, leaving 90-some minutes of filler. With the cliched 'odd-couple' premise and predictable plot twists Baby Mama would have fit in better as a Saturday Night Live sketch.

There Will Be Blood - *****

Have you seen the movie that SHOULD have won for Best Picture? We were gravely disappointed in No Country for Old Men, especially after all the hype. If you think that a movie about a sociopath chasing stolen money is NOT Oscar material but rather something covered in your typical movie of the week, we're with you! But we digress. There Will Be Blood, which won for best actor (Daniel Day Lewis) was one of the best examples of good acting we have ever seen. It's so good that the absence of dialogue for the first 14 minutes only serves to reel you in. From the creepy fundamentalist boy-minister to the neglected son to the driven, fanatical oil man who blows like a tornado through every life he touches, the parts were incredibly well played. These stellar performances set amid the harsh beauty & tumultuous times of New Mexico & Texas at the turn of the century, along with a chillingly lovely score, make for an amazing movie. Don't miss this work of art - still in theatres!!

No Country for Old Men - *****

I had heard all the buzz through the movie awards season about how this was the one to beat, so it was a must see before the Oscars – we caught the matinee the day of! I had no idea quite how gory and violent this was going to be. That would be my only negative. It is well paced, very intense, and very well filmed. From the sound of boots on the sand, the visual of the parched desert, and Javier Bardem's long suffering haircut, this was very memorable. Josh Brolin was excellent. The Coen brothers did it again. Enjoy!

Michael Clayton - ****

This is a good movie – personally I thought it started out a bit slow, and a bit confusing, but by the end the twists and turns were very climactic and exciting. The handsome George Clooney plays a lawyer, and it is really an ideal role for him. He's great with dialogue. Tilda Swinton was the surprise Oscar winner for best supporting actress, but anyone who saw the movie would have appreciated the win. Great cast.

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - ****

Julie quite liked this movie. It was beautifully filmed (in Canada and nominated for an Oscar for cinematography), and I always look forward to seeing Brad Pitt and he was very good and subtle in his role (no comments!). Who knew that Casey Affleck would steal the show. No wonder that he was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar and practically every other awards show in his role as Bob Ford. It was an interesting story that didn't move very quickly more like a drama rather than a Western with a lot of quiet contemplation. It was a long movie but didn't feel like it.
  • Rating: ****

Cloverfield - ****

The hype started last summer when a shaky trailer played before Transformers. The two minute teaser revealed very little about the movie other than something was blowing up New York City, and our only glimpse of the action would be through the lens of a handheld camera. The film had no name, only the date 1-18-08 and credit to producer JJ Abrams (Lost, Alias, Mission Impossible 3) In the 7 months that followed there was much internet speculation about what the monster was, fueled by fictitious company websites that kept springing up, hinting at secrets in the plot. January 18th approached, and Elise had to see this opening night to see what all the hype was about. With pre-ordered tickets in hand, we showed up an hour early to make sure we got good seats near the back (Necessary, as about forty minutes in, half of the front rows cleared out, dizzy from being so close to the unsteady camera shots) The movie starts with no credits, only a message on the screen saying we the footage we are about to see is "Property of the United States" pertaining to U.S. Case Designate "Cloverfield" found in an area "formerly known as Central Park" After a shaky first 20 minutes filled with obnoxious characters and worse camerawork than my five year old niece's home movies, the explosions started happening and the real story began. Cloverfield interested me as it was a monster movie that wasn't really about a monster. It focused more on the humanism of the characters than any actual destruction. This movie isn't about the origin of a monster, and a group of heroes banding together to take it down; its about 5 friends that get caught in the middle of this struggling to cope, let alone survive, while knowing as little about it as we do. In a world of reality tv, cameraphones, and You-tube; Cloverfield is a monster movie for a new generation that believes "it's not really happening unless it's on videotape"

310 to Yuma - ****

Billed as 'the best Western since Unforgiven', this movie will truly delight fans of the Wild West! I wasn't sure I wanted to see another movie about liquor-swilling hoodlums shooting each other to the tinkling of a pianer while the tumbleweeds roll by. Not really a fan of the genre, but who can resist a chance to see Russell Crowe pushing people around? Christian Bale does a great job as a desperate wounded farmer trying to hang on to his piece of dusty land. Unlike the westerns of old, there are no heroes or villains here, though Crowe's character does make a stab at giving us a modern psychological explanation of his badness, in the film's only moment of maudlin self-pity. This is a good old fashioned visually stunning movie with a simple plot and lots of great action.

Juno - ****½

One of the most delightful and insightful movies of 2007 is JUNO, launched last year at the Toronto Film Festival. Made in Vancouver by Jason Reitman with two young Canadian lead actors, Ellen Page and Michael Cera, it is an independent film that has surprised everyone with its success. Juno is a 16 year old smart and quirky high school student who finds herself pregnant after a fumbling sexual experiment with her best male friend Paulie Bleeker. The plot of the film concerns Juno's decision to find adoptive parents for her baby when it is born. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are excellent as the 35+ year old potential parents, Vanessa and Mark. Vanessa yearning for a child and Mark not ready to give up being a child. Olivia Thirlby as Leah, Juno's best friend, adds the dimension of being one of the cool kids. The musical score is perfectly attuned to the characters and the dialogue by Diablo Cody is so fast and funny that you have to listen carefully to catch it all. The relationships between Juno and her family mirror real life. Accepting, supportive, loving and mystified parents played by JK Simmons and Allison Janney provide a framework for Juno's growth and struggle to understand love. Well worth going out to see on a cold winter's night. Highly recommended by Brenda Kinnear (Julie's mom)
  • IMDB link: Juno
  • Rating: ****½

A Mighty Heart - ****

A Mighty Heart recounts the search for kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, in Karachi where he was eventually beheaded. Angelina Jolie plays the role beautifully as his stoic wife Mariane Pearl, and she will no doubt be nominated for many awards. Very enjoyable, as it feels quite believable version of this frustrating real -life story without being overly dramatic. Didn't do gangbusters at the box office.
  • Rating: ****

2007 New Movies

I Am Legend - ****½

I won't answer the question everyone wants to know: does his dog die? Instead let's go down memory lane and remember the last movie made based on the same premise of a deadly virus wiping out most of the earth's human population, leaving only one man behind to try to find a cure: The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. While that one had spooky moaning robed figures standing outside Heston's barricaded home - not very threatening really - this one has hyper-aggressive computer generated vampires doing really nasty things with their jaws. Despite some terrifying moments, what really matters is Will Smith's amazing depiction of a man driven half-mad by grief, guilt and the crushing loneliness of being the last man on earth. He deserves an Oscar just for his facial expressions, and I am not a Will Smith fan. This is a must-see!

Beowulf - ***½

Being a fan of myths and legends, I thought it would be fun to check this movie out - especially when CinemaClock gave it an unheard of 10/10! The only experience I've had recently with the 3-D technology was the movie 300, yet another violent 'historical' drama about gods, men & monsters that I really enjoyed. Beowulf had an even more computer animated feel to it, it was hideously violent and also terribly sad, and by the time it ended, I felt relieved, as if I had just watched the Fern Gully crew on hallucinogenic drugs. Beowulf falls into two sections - the valiant hero and the lonely aging king are poignantly contrasted and the characters are very well rounded, which seems unusual for the legends these typically one-dimensional action films are based on. I'm just not sure I was ready for the...realness of it all which left me weeping for Grendel. According to the good people of imdb, I'm not alone in that.

American Gangster - ****½

Though I'm not a big Denzel fan, once I saw the rest of the cast I just had to see this movie about the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a black heroin kingpin whose organized crime ring rivals that of the top Mob bosses in 1970's New York/New Jersey. The movie was masterfully done - it's all been completely done before and has Ridley Scott written all over it, but it doesn't even matter because it is so well done. The utter despair and destruction wreaked by heroin addiction is nicely juxtaposed with Denzel in his mink coat with his irritating trophy wife on his arm, still thinking he is doing the right thing by taking care of his family. Tony Soprano could take a page from Frank Lucas' steely book! Without being overly moralistic, the flick shows us that bad guys always make mistakes, persistence and grit pay off, and crime doesn't pay - yet there are no real heroes here. By the end, it doesn't matter who wins - they have all lost something significant. An excellent gangster movie, not for the faint of heart or those who are afraid of needles.

We Are Marshall - ***

Great rental – inspiring tear jerker based on a true story, starring Matthew McConaghey and Matthew Fox (Lost and Party of Five). Nice family rental period story about a small town and how much their College Football program affects the whole community.

Knocked Up - ***½

What a fun movie! Watch out for the overboard toilet humour… always good for a laugh, but inappropriate for kids. If you're a Grey's Anatomy or Friend's Fan you'll love it more since Katherine Heigl & Paul Rudd star. Apparently written or directed by The 40-Year-Old Virgin with similar humour. Pretty amusing – especially Seth Rogen's character with his buddies.

Across the Universe - ****

There's no way around it. This is a strange, strange movie. It is a moving, artistically stunning 139 minute ride If you allow yourself to go get lost in the experience and not focus on what its lacking (such as a cohesive plot.) This Fab Four-inspired musical had its world premiere here in Toronto at the International Film Fest. In the weeks that followed, Across the Universe has gone on to see a limited release on 276 Screens in the US receiving mixed reviews, (a total score of 51% on thus proving its "Love-it or Hate-it" artistic style. In a nutshell this movie tells the love story of conveniently named Jude and Lucy, amid the war, sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the 60s; All set to the music of The Beatles. My one complaint with this movie was it seemed as if some of the characters were written in last minute, so they could receive a literal song reference. In my mind that still did nothing to take away from the beautifully directed interpretations of familiar songs. If you're a Beatles fan, its definitely worth the hefty 139 Minutes. If you only have 3 minutes to spare, just watch the trailer, somehow it's almost as good.

Hairspray - ***½

I went to see this movie with two friends who laughed and cried their way through it - it didn't provoke this reaction in me, probably because I'm spoiled by the version with Ricki Lake! Divine was much better than John Travolta as Tracy Turnblad's overweight laundress mother; Travolta plays the character saccharine-sweet and almost simple, with a strange Kids in the Hall-esque accent. However, at many times in the movie I found myself doing the waist-up watusi in my seat, and not just because the plot is largely set in my former middle school, Lord Lansdowne. The musical numbers are excellent, as are the costumes, and very sharp acting by Michelle Pfeiffer, James Marsden and Christopher Walken save the movie from descending into a Disney-type feel-good musical. Fans of the Queen will also love her performance and enjoy the moving civil rights struggle scenes, which run as an undercurrent throughout.

Black Snake Moan - ****½

If you've ever wondered whether Samuel L. Jackson can sing, whether Christina Ricci will ever grow up, or whether Justin Timberlake can act, you need to see this shocking, gut-wrenching movie about a heartbroken blues man who tries to redeem the town wild child and himself with the power of the Lord and his sheer force of will. While it requires a bit of a leap of faith, our faith is well rewarded when beauty is found everywhere in the unlikeliest of circumstances. An inspiring, thought-provoking movie set in the hot lush south and as full of raw emotion and corn liquor as the blues themselves, this is an absolute must-see.

Rush Hour 3 - ***

Tasteless, racist jokes and impossible fight scenes abound in this third installment - which you just know won't be the last! An aging Jackie Chan doesn't quite make all the right kung fu moves, and Chris Tucker is a hip-wiggling stereotype come to life. The outtakes alone are worth the price of admission; at least when they're making glaring mistakes, everyone seems to acknowledge that the Rush Hour movies have become parodies of themselves, with uber-villains evident from the beginning, 'who's on first'-type dialogue, killer ladies, and of course the ubiquitous California Girls song playing constantly. Wish they all could be as good as the first one!

Transformers - **½

Transformers is the first live action film based on the 1980s cartoon series of the same name. Since its release its been getting many mixed reviews from critics. Maybe its because I never watched the show growing up, but I didn't enjoy this movie. I found the human characters to be very shallow, two dimensional caricatures, that did nothing but pass the time between action sequences. Possibly because it was the first of a franchise writers may have been trying to introduce the story slowly, but the movie could have been called "Generic teen angst with some robots." Storyline aside, the action scenes were very well done and the animation was amazing. If you're looking to turn your brain off for two hours and go watch cars turn into robots and blow things up, this is a good movie choice.

The Simpsons Movie - ***½

I've been a Simpsons fan for nearly 20 years now, and I agree with the majority who notice the show slowly depricating in quality. Although still a fan, I'll admit it, I went into the movie with pretty low expectations. Within 5 minutes from the title sequence (and after being mocked by Homer for paying money for something you can see for free) I began realizing I was wrong. Of course it was packed with all the laughs, cultural references, guest stars and an outrageous plot that you'd see in the series. However, The Simpsons movie was a refreshing change, in that it had time to slow some of the scenes down, and focus on developing the characters, instead of rushing to introduce a plot and resolve it in 22 mins. And purely from an aesthetic standpoint the animation was amazing in widescreen. All in all, while it isn't comparable with some of the classic episodes from seasons past, it's an enjoyable movie, so if you watch and laugh at the series... even a little bit... go to the theatre. Its worth the d'oh

The Bourne Ultimatum - ****½

The third (And hopefully final!) installment of the ever-popular Jason Bourne Franchise lives up to the hype and exceeds expectations. An explosive summer blockbuster that managed to pull in the all-time highest August box office opening in history. This film picks up nicely where the first two left off, following Jason Bourne all around the globe as he tries to figure out his identity while dodging the seemingly endless stream of CIA hired assassins. While Ultimatum does follow much of the same storyline from Identity and Supremacy, its still enjoyable on its own for the edge-of-your-seat car chases, action sequences, and opportunities to watch Jason Bourne use his MacGyver-like skills to outwit CIA agents. Bourne Ultimatum brought the franchise full circle and if there isn't a fourth film on the way, Jason Bourne is going out with real style.

Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix - ****

In true Harry Potter form, this film is exciting, funny, clever, and dark. The story of a young wizard facing unearthly obstacles unfolds, as we watch Harry and his friends learn to tackle the world of magic. Although it is based on a novel from a series of books originally intended for children, this is not just a kid's movie. Political struggle and sensorship are two main themes of this film, not to mention that parts of it are actually pretty scary! Although I do recommend this film, it would be best enjoyed by those who have seen at least the previous two Harry Potter movies, as it is story with lots of characters and background info that are important to know in order to understand the story.
  • Rating: ****

Sicko - ****

Michael Moore returns with a third documentary exposing what is wrong with American society - his first looking at the gun culture, the second dealing with the war in Iraq, and now he's back to attack the U.S. health care system. He's less angry and more down-home, which oddly doesn't suit the inflammatory subject matter: people are dying/going bankrupt/staying sick in droves due to inadequate medical insurance, and there's Michael Moore with a camera gently questioning them, but we have to wonder what happened to the sparks that used to fly when this courageous filmmaker confronted big business and pulled no punches. This documentary is certainly the most wrenching of the three - there won't be a dry Canadian eye in the house as we learn that just a few clicks south of the border, people like you and me are suffering in a way that would not be tolerated here.
  • IMDB link: Sicko
  • Rating: ****

Live Free or Die Hard - **½

An older, but still unsubdued Bruce Willis is back as the unstoppable John McClane in this fourth Die Hard movie. As a serious lover of the cheesy Die Hard franchise (especially the one with Samuel L. Jackson and lots of scary blond uber-villains), I just had to see the latest spin on the classic action tale. Although there were explosions, car chases and shootouts a-plenty, something was missing from this latest movie. Oh right, a plot. Sure, they tell us that a gorgeous young whiz kid with a grudge against the American government has decided to play internet terrorist; that the guy who plays the Mac in those annoying commercials is an innocent victim/nerdy sidekick; that only one grizzled New York cop can stop the entire crash of the world as we know it while trying to save his flippant teenage daughter. But it's completely phony, so I didn't care.

Little Children - *

Would not recommend this movie - too much nasty cheating, lying, deceit... Movies are supposed to take you away but this just made you feel kinda repulsed and not happy to have watched it. I suppose one could argue that it reached the audience by causing a reaction! Kate Winslet stars.

Miss Potter - ****

Great Mom and daughter movie! Really beautiful scenery, costume and style, plus a very woman empowering story in any era! Not sure why it was not long in the theatre. Played out a little like a fairy tale as some of Beatrix's characters were life-like. What an amazing woman Beatrix Potter was (played by Renee Zellwegger).

Half Nelson not Half Bad - ***½

Julie decided to see this because it was starring the talented Ryan Gosling - who was nominated for an Oscar as a lead actor in this role. He played a young talented high school teacher with demons who is fighting his drug addiction. Good movie - a bit dark - kept your interest, although definitely not appropriate for children.

Spider-Man III - ***½

Everyone says this is one of those 'love it or hate it' movies, but here it is: even if you warned us it was going to be total crap (like the third installment of Pirates of the Carribean) we'd see it anyway, because it's part of the franchise. This time they have some black goo conveniently dropping in from another world and sticking to Peter Parker, making his self-will run riot. It's sad that we need black goo from another world to have Spider-Man face his inner demons, but there you are. Part of the franchise. This movie has the same complexity as the first two - even the evil-doers are shown to have sympathetic qualities - but with the emphasis being on the human relationships. Which is fine because we still get lots of web-slinging and dust clouds and nasty fangs. Part of the franchise!

28 Weeks Later - ****

If you enjoy a good scare and don't mind the kind of jittery camera action that can cause seizures, this is a good bet! Fans of 28 Days Later, myself included, enjoyed the edgy British flair and unsentimental bravery of the doomed survivors of a deadly virus that makes people act like doorcrashers at a Best Buy sale, only with blood pouring from all their orifices. This sequel offers some great acting - like Robert Carlyle acting more Trainspotting than Full Monty - but they've brought in the Yanks, so it's not surprising that this version is a lot more blood & gore & patriotism. Can't wait for the next one though...

300 - ****½

Do you love action? War? Romance? Historical fiction? Monsters? Heroes? Villains? Drag queens? If so, this is the movie for you! A gripping tale of a Spartan leader's doomed attempt to hold off the hordes of Persia with only 300 men, this film consists of far more than the continuous fight scenes I had expected. Not sure how historically accurate it is, but it does have groovy costumes, serious battle tactics like the phalanx and early gunpowder, creepy rituals involving oracles and a multitude of regal names that end in -os. If you loved the Greek myths as a child, you must not miss this!!
  • IMDB link: 300
  • Rating: ****½

Blades of Glory - ****

Two Wills go head to head in this hilarious spoof of the competitive world of figure skating. If you ever wondered what really goes on behind the skates, tights & sparkly thingys, or rather wondered what would happen if Will Ferrell got on the ice, this movie is for you. It tells of two Olympic ice skaters - the prissy golden boy Jimmy (Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite) and the drunken slob Chazz (Ferrell) who were stripped of their gold medals and permanently banned from men's single competition, but still qualify as a pairs team. There were many laugh out loud moments and also a good message behind it all. Suitable for lovers of the sport and lovers of slapstick alike!

Children of Men - ***

This would likely have been a better movie to see in the theatre, where the full-on war scenes and shaky hand held camera sequences could have had full effect. As it was, this rental is extremely dark - thematically, cinematically etc. There is plenty of brooding as a thunderous Clive Owen contemplates the futility of life in a childless world and then goes on a mission to save humanity from itself. While there are plenty of creepy moments - soldiers bowing to a baby before resuming their killing, suicide kits being handed out like GST rebates - the most sinister thing is what my movie buddy pointed out: many people in the world actually live like this now.

Notes on a Scandal - ****½

The creepiest movie we've seen in a long time, and the best role I've ever seen Dame Judi Dench in. In a major departure from her stylish, motherly appeal in the Bond franchises and those crazy Vin Diesel films, she plays a dowdy teacher who lives only to ensnare unwitting victims and make them part of her elaborate, twisted fantasies. Her carefully constructed webs have disastrous results when she encounters Bathsheba, an effervescent new teacher at school, and takes her hostage. This movie is extremely powerful - the acting is extraordinary, and nothing is taboo: it manages to show how the prison of self-imposed loneliness, combined with possessiveness and extreme denial, conspire to ruin the lives of everyone involved, and how the schemes we set in motion have unseen consequences everywhere. It is an incredible portrait that will have you cringing and making sure your hairbrush is all cleaned out. My top Oscar pic, bar none, and Paige's too.

All the Kings Men - ****

Loosely based on the life of Louisiana Governor Huey Long, this movie has plenty of heavy hitters - Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini - and it's an excellent drama reminiscent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We get all the southern intrigue, the stark contrast between the haves and have nots, the long-buried secrets of the privileged, and plenty of Pacino-like rants by Penn. Minor player Gandolfini is awful - he just can't seem to shake chanelling Tony Soprano, and Jude's accent leaves a lot to be desired, but that is just nitpicking. We root for Penn's character despite his strange obsessions and rhetoric because in the end he is just trying to play the game with huge disadvantages at the start. Nail 'em up!

Blood Diamond - ****½

Over the holidays I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the new movie Blood Diamond, starring Leo DiCaprio as a Rhodesian diamond smuggler and Jennifer Connelly as an American journalist. Connelly's character is looking to expose the violence and corruption in Sierra Leone of the conflict diamonds (which are mined diamonds in war zones and sold to finance the conflicts). The movie is action packed with much violence and political unrest and causes one to re-think ones life back in North America where we covet those jewels so much, and whether it is worth the cost of human lives. Leonardo is up for a Golden Globe for best actor.[Julie]

Fun with Dick and Jane - ****½

Now this left me smiling - truly hilarious silliness and great fun. Quite a farce no doubt but Jim Carrey brings out the big guns with his creative expressions and physical comedy - and Tea Leoni holds her own - (of course she's gorgeous which helps). Loved the son's Spanish accent, and the tongue in cheek costumes. Apparently it is a remake of the 1977 version, never saw that one, so this was good. [Julie]

Annapolis - ***½

A cross between An Officer and a Gentleman and Rocky - this is a story of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks being accepted at the prestigious Naval Academy, and his first year of struggles. It is watchable, although I am a pretty easy audience, I must admit it is kinda cheesy and the female instructor's flirtation is totally unrealistic - no doubt Nicole would hate it! [Julie]

2006 New Movies

The Good Shepherd - **½

If you see only one movie this holiday season, please do not let it be The Good Shepherd. Never mind that it's directed by DeNiro or that it stars Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. Come on, you don't really go to see movies just because Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie are in them, do you? Didn't you learn from The Brothers Grimm and Mr. & Mrs. Smith? Whether the story of the founding of the CIA bears any resemblence to the truth or not, seems to be in question, but that is the wrong question: we should be asking, why couldn't they make it more entertaining? In the movie, the CIA quietly takes shape with a number of acts of espionage undertaken by tense young men in shirts with the sleeves rolled up. For three excruciating hours. It is painful to witness the crumbling of a man's essence even as his career soars, however we have to imagine this pain, as Damon does nothing but purse his lips and furrow his brow throughout. I would say wait for the video, but only if everything else is sold out. [Nicole]

The Pursuit of Happyness - ****

I took a single dad up on his offer to see this movie on Christmas Day,trying to be spontaneous, thinking that for his benefit I would sit through a self-aggrandizing Will Smith holiday spectacle and squeeze out a tear or two. This skeptical movie-goer was very pleasantly surprised by The Pursuit of Happyness - brilliant acting by both Will and his real-life son, not to mention a beleaguered Thandie Newton. Anyone who has ever struggled to achieve anything, or faced financial insecurity, prejudice, or had a dream denied, will identify and be moved. Though certainly designed to manipulate our emotions, we buy into it completely. And isn't that what the holidays are all about? :) [Nicole]

Casino Royale - ****

Bond is back! A new, less refined Bond with a body like an ox and eyes like the sea. He's a tavern-brawler, a man of few words and of great gymnastic ability. He's joined by a great cast including a lovely new Bond girl. Guaranteed to satisfy Bond fans everywhere, though I doubt Daniel Craig will be anyone's 'favourite' Bond (mine is Roger Moore, just me and like five other Bond fans on the planet). This long, rambling movie has everything you'd expect from the franchise - stunning action scenes, gorgeous cinematography, simple intrigue, and some hot lovin'. Not to mention a very worthy creative opening sequence. Can't wait for the sequels. [Nicoile]

The Queen - ****

It was such a treat on the weekend to get to the movie theatre again! Being a huge Diana fan - (yes I admit having visited the tunnel in Paris, and seeing her exhibit here). I thought this movie would be an interesting take on her fateful relationship with the Royal Family. Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II beautifully, and seemingly very realistic. The glimpses into their very country life at Balmoral, Scotland, the idiosyncratic Royal protocol where so much is left unspoken, and the integral role Tony Blair played in advising the Queen in the aftermath of Diana's death is fascinating and very enjoyable. The fellow who played Tony Blair steals the show, and Prince Philip and the Queen Mother do not fare well! [Julie]
  • Rating: ****

The Fountain - **½

I don't know what I expected when they said this was a love story spanning 1000 years - perhaps "All My Children"? What we get instead is Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, both shining as doomed lovers. The performances are fantastic, especially from Weisz, and though the plot alternately drags and rushes through the 1000 years, there is a lot to be had spiritually here. This movie had a beautiful, thought provoking message that could be 1000 years before its time. [Nicole]

You, Me and Dupree - ***

Another silly adventure with Owen Wilson! Not as good as Wedding Crashers, but along the same vein. Of course Kate Hudson is totally cute and charming in her role as new wife to husband Matt Dillon. (Isn't this the movie that sparked rumours of a real life romance between Kate and Owen ?!?) Matt's character is trying hard to please his new wife's father and boss played by Michael Douglas. All around fun and fluff lots of pranks, and over the top stereotyping. Their house and neighbourhood is really nice - very Arts and Crafts and west coast style quite interesting for the realtor in me. The message is good, and a mostly family holidays flick. Enjoy!

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - ****

Don't take the kiddies to see this one! You might remember Sacha Cohen from Da Ali G show, which premiered briefly on Showcase this year (booyakasha!) He returns in this feature length film which manages to create the kind of belly laughs that actually burn calories. I thought it would be a bunch of Borat clips basically cobbled together, but the hilarious material translates well into movie form - we follow Borat on the kind of mission reminiscent of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, only with subtitles and much more hilarious as the American heartland is ruthlessly trashed. I spoke to an acquaintance from Kazakhstan who said that the depiction of that country was 'only 80% true', a claim that had me rolling on the floor.

The Break Up - ***

Julie says: Quite a good rental, although there was a little too much arguing for me. When I watch movies I am looking forward to getting away from it all and this movie had a little too much domestic unhappiness pour moi. I am a fan of Jennifer Aniston, so I had to rent this after reading my People magazine weekly update on Jen and Vince Vaughn's relationship (which started during the making of this movie!) I was very glad I rented it. Enjoy - you've been forewarned!

Akeelah and the Bee - ***

Charming and filled with precious moments that make you cry like carefully manipulative cookie commercials, Akeelah and the Bee is a fine film to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. If you are asking yourself who has time to watch movies on a Saturday, remember that flu season is (cough) upon us and that prevention is much better (sniffle) than reaction. While the film is rather predictable, it is nevertheless enjoyable. You are guaranteed to learn some new words and develop a (passing?) love for the fattest dictionary in your house. A new love, perhaps, unless you are a former bee competitor yourself in which case we beg you, how does one spell "superkalafragalisticexpialadocious" correctly??? Keke Palmer delivers a mature performance as Akeelah and Lawrence Fishburne is alwasy a pleasure to watch. If you're staying home anyway, add Spellbound and Bee Season to your rental repose list and enjoy a thematic movie afternoon at home.

Little Miss Sunshine - *****

This film is lovable from start to finish, showcasing a brilliant cast and a truly original screenplay. The family drama was perfect for a holiday weekend at the movies and brings to mind such wonderful ensemble films as "Home for the Holidays" and "What's Cooking". The beauty of Little Miss Sunshine lies in its subtle reality, buried under the seemingly absurd situations in which the Hoover family find themselves. Little Miss Sunshine provides pure, knee-slapping, snort-laughing humour and is highly recommended.

Friends With Money - ***½

This movie has an excellent female cast including Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener and Jennifer Aniston it is a little hard to believe that Jennifer Aniston plays a house maid (as that just seemed too out of character), but it was fun, especially the pot smoking, sex in the afternoon scenes. The film actually touches on a few realistic issues that grown women and families go through, and it is entertaining. A Sundance Film Festival Choice. Enjoy.

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing - *****

Kathleen loves the Dixie Chicks. In fact, it's safe to say that she has a Dixie Chick "problem". So you can imagine how excited she was to see Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, the new documentary from Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, at TIFF '06. Chronicling the backlash the Chicks dealt with after lead singer Natalie Maines expressed her opinion about the pending war in Iraq at a packed show in London, Shut Up & Sing provides a candid and emotional look at the Chicks and the role celebrity plays in politics. While the importance of freedom of speech plays an important role in the film, Natalie's vulnerability and resolve are what hold your attention. Enjoy this film - it's smart, witty and reminds us of the true value of friendship. Oh, and Toronto is mentioned a LOT! The Dixie Chicks are performing in Toronto on October 28th & 29th. Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing is scheduled to open in limited release on October 27th.

Babel - ****

The third installment from Irritu's trilogy playing witness to the relationship between parents and their children, Babel is simply a stunning film. This film pushes the "Citizen of the World" mentality to the forefront while subtly commenting on the nature of family and the love and strength that can come from vulnerability. Irritu and the creative team behind Babel have manipulated language, sound and the visual image to an outstanding level. The uniqueness of their techniques is significantly less important than their mastery - you can't help but be overhwelmed by this film. Not to be missed! Babel is set for limited release beginning October 27th!
  • IMDB link: Babel
  • Rating: ****

Lady in the Water - **

It wouldn't be so bad if they would stop billing M. Night Shyamalan's movies as 'thriller' flicks. They are not. Period. Yet I never seem to learn my Shyamalan: rather than chills, he is going to beat me over the head with a moralistic tale that is fanciful at best. There is nothing thrilling about the legend of the Narf, as we realize in the first half hour; it is just a pretty threadbare children's tale dragged out by various one-dimensional characters to a feature length film. There is no fault on the part of the actors, particularly Paul Giamatti, who does wonders with his limited role - but the entire premise is either really lame or so sophisticated in its subtlety that it went right over my head (a distinct possibility). Narf.

Scoop - ***

Woody Allen directs and stars in this mildly humourous tale of a hapless student journalist (Scarlett Johansson) who stumbles on the scoop of her young life. Helped by a farmisht magician (Allen) and the ghost of a departed newspaperman, she must solve a series of murders in the English countryside. There is a lot of Woody being Woody, but he and the schtick are getting a bit old. Even Johansson's and Hugh Jackman's eye candy are insufficient to make this anything more than a very light, Brooklyn-meets-the-Palace caper. Save your gelt for the video store.
  • IMDB link: Scoop
  • Rating: ***

The Devil Wears Prada - ***

Kathleen liked The Devil Wears Prada so much, she paid to see it twice. It's not cerebral, it's not the funniest film this summer and it often reminds us how sad our wardrobe really is, but this movie is fun and flirty and doesn't try to be anything it's not. It is simply entertaining. If you've ever had a scary boss, you may suffer a panic attack as the film triggers not-so-fond memories of working for a tyrant, but the cookie-cutter victories over Meryl's Devil are amusing. Most importanty, The Devil features Bubby's - Kathleen's favourite restaurant in New York. Located at the corner of Hudon and N. Moore in Tribeca, Bubby's Pie Co. is always the first place Kathleen visits in NYC. If season permits, have the ginger lemonade and peach pie - tasty summer treats worth every single calorie.

Miami Vice - **½

You know you're getting old when you ask your colleagues and friends if they're going to see a movie based on an original series and they just look at you blankly and say they don't know who Don Johnson is (good thing I didn't mention Philip Michael Thomas). As an aficionado of the series - a soft crime show with lots of pastel suits, tanned skin and fast boats - I was disappointed by this dragging movie. While looking forward to an 'edgier' experience than the TV show, in fact what we're presented with is a rather stale plot, very wooden acting (a surprise given the acclaimed cast) and lots of filler. Thank goodness for the love stories, which do redeem this movie from descending into movie-of-the-week territory.

Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest - **½

Arrrr, matey! If you long to see Johnny Depp staggering around Keith Richards after a bad tumble from shrubbery, you may be a bit disappointed. Captain Jack Sparrow does manage some amazing tricks, like escaping from cannibals and diving into the maw of a disgusting sea creature. However, in this summer of sequels, Pirates II merely managed to hold its own, not offering anything we haven't already seen. The special effects are excellent, though one wonders how many carbuncles can grow on a human face before it just becomes a lump. Hopefully in the third movie, there will be more yo-ho-ho and less tentacles.

Superman Returns - **

It is always a bad sign when the theatre is laughing after the opening credits. In this case, they were probably referring to the bad Star Wars-ripoff theme music. For some reason, the man in tights does not hold the same appeal he used to when we were kids, but more than that is wrong with this too-long movie: a lacklustre Lois Lane, now a mother but still contrary as ever; the old threadbare plot which not even a new hero can rescue; special effects we have seen many times before. The bright spots of the film all belong to Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther, whose impeccable timing and hilarious villany make Superman's saccharine goodness tolerable. Apparently Kryptonite is not the only thing that can fell Superman.

Nacho Libre - ***

A movie that doesn't really know what it is but still works! Jack Black making fun of Jack Black making fun of Ignacio, a Mexican friar with a love of wrestling, the orphans he works with, and his beautiful colleague Incarnacion. The gentle humour, outright slapstick, and triumph of the (not physically) little guy makes this slow-moving comedy an unexpected delight.

X-Men III: The Last Stand - ***½

One of the few sequels that doesn't lose momentum, though the premise does get thinner this summer blockbuster is sure to please! Our favourite characters return along with some new ones to fight thorny issues like genocide, identity and mental illness in a brave new world with super powers! Yeah! If only real life could be this simple. I've tried creating adverse weather patterns to avoid business commitments, but it just doesn't work.

The Omen - ***

Having never seen the original, I'm really not in a position to compare. We went to see this on opening night, 06/06/06, and found the 'evidence' of a plot from the damned actually quite convincing, though not sure it would be manifested in the form of a small, weedy-looking boy. There are plenty of scary, suspenseful moments (watch out for Mia Farrow as, guess what, someone who loves children) and also humour as we wonder how blind these foolish mortals can actually be. This won't be the last we've seen of Damien, that's for sure.

Mission Impossible III - **

Ethan Hunt returns as a secret agent and brings with him the usual life-like rubber masks, super duper weaponry, and stunt talents that we all remember from Missions I and II. As with most serial movies, it just keeps getting worse. The explosions are louder, the danger is greater, but not even Cruise coming back from the dead could add spark to this movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman is lame and wooden as the unlikely villain. Thank goodness for Michelle Monaghan's fiesty performance as Cruise's wife - we still prefer her in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, but at least she never lapses into cutsie Barbie mode as she gets sucked into her hubby's dramatic life. Yawn.
  • Rating: **

Poseidon - ***

I will never go on a boat of any size, ever again. That was my thought upon rising from the edge of my seat in the Imax theatre we saw this clever re-make at the theatre we recommend you sit far back to avoid retinal burning, as this is a loud, graphic movie full of - well - water. Tons and tons of water. We saw this movie for the special effects, and they don't disappoint, but oddly enough neither does the acting. While the film began to drag towards the end (they're wet; they're cold; they're dying off; they're running out of exits on a sinking ship, we get it!) it still proved suspenseful and exciting, well worth seeing on a BIG screen.

Scary Movie 4 - *

Unsurprisingly, they just keep getting worse. Without the Wayans brothers to add pizzazz, this spoof falls flatter than the "scary" dreck it is satirizing. There are a few truly LOL moments - the ghost child from The Grudge wreaking revenge on the Japanese language, some culture shock when our hapless heroes encounter the backward folk from The Village - but take a lesson from the aliens who failed to wage the War of the Worlds: Stay Home.

Inside Man - **

Once again, Denzel is back, this time as an arrogant cop trying to foil a bank robbery staged by an arrogant criminal played by Clive Owen. Jodie Foster is an arrogant mercenary with an agenda of her own, working for the arrogant owner of the bank. With the egos duking it out, there is little room for a complex plot, so we don't get one - the reference to Dog Day Afternoon is ironic in view of Inside Man's tired spinning out of the same old scenario. Suspense fans will find little to keep them occupied here.
  • Rating: **

V for Vendetta - **½

Just one of the many comic books I didn't know existed - we went to see this as there was nothing else of interest playing, having been Oscar'd out with DVDs of heavy duty movies that actually made us think and grow. V for Vendetta was a nice departure from all that brain activity: just sit back, relax, keep your eye on the man in the mask spraying arterial blood with his knives. However, unlike so many mindless action flicks, V's witty wordplay, the Fawkesian themes, and a stellar cast of (mostly British) actors, including John Hurt and Stephen Rea, as well as a great performance by Natalie Portman who actually looks good bald, more than redeem this film.
  • Rating: **½

The New World - *½

Cinematically beautiful. Excruciatingly long and slow. Here are suggested alternate titles for The New World:

  1. It's Hard to Settle for Christian Bale
  2. Spoiling Really Nice Dresses in the Mud
  3. Unintelligible Mumbling
  4. Are Those Ashes on your Face, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
  5. Please, Please, Somebody Say Something

If you are willing to sit through three hours of very little going on, there is a payoff: a feeling of peace, serenity and one-ness with mother earth. Or perhaps it is just relief that it has finally ended.

  • Rating: *½

Syriana - ****

This seems to be a year of the little guy fighting back against big business - witness The Constant Gardner, North Country, and now Syriana. This movie was only nominated for two Golden Globes, which surprised me as I feel it is the best movie I saw in 2005. What makes Syriana different is an amazingly complex plot and multi-dimensional characters. Avoiding the simplistic trap of villains and heroes, it reveals how everyone from CIA agents to whistleblowers to suicide bombers are created, not born, and how both the best and worst of intentions can lead to tragic events. Warning: this is not an easy movie to watch or to understand, but if you are political and patient, it is a drama not to be missed.
  • Rating: ****

King Kong - ***

We struggled through this movie on New Year's Day on the theory that a light action-adventure movie with great special effects would be just the thing. What we got was a visually stunning but excruciatingly l-o-n-g flick that failed to hold our interest throughout. There is only so much stampedeing dinasaurs/giant bugs/ice skating apes that can be tolerated in a single movie. While Kong certainly captured a great depth of emotion between man, beast, and the beast inside every man, its efforts to convince us that there was much more going on ultimately failed. As with the original, we merely reinforced our suspicion that Hollywood is a more savage place than Skull Island.

2005 New Movies

The Chronicles of Narnia - ***½

My favourite series of books as a child, this film adaptation of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe manages to be frightening and funny, ruthless and forgiving, sad and hopeful - just like the book, but without the same sense of magic that a child's mind can conjure up (though the four young actors are excellent). While it is impossible to capture every nuance of the children's internal struggles in a two hour movie, the director does a very good job of moving the narrative forward and preparing us for the inevitable - and much awaited - sequels. This is LOTR meets Nancy Drew. In a good way.

  • Rating: ***½

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang - ***½

Earlier in the year I reported that the best comedic duo I had seen in a long time were Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in The Wedding Crashers. This team has now been supplanted by the more subtle, yet stunningly funny Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer - yes, Val Kilmer - in this light hearted romp about murder, scandal, fame, and broken dreams. If you love Elmore Leonard but wish he had a much better sense of humour, this film is for you. The cast of characters are lovingly annoying, the dialogue is razor-sharp, and though you might be clutching several parts of your body in agonized sympathy for the protagonist, you won't be looking at your watch.

  • Rating: ***½

Walk The Line - ***

Touted as a sure Oscar winner, this movie about the life and times of Johnny Cash was one we waited for with great anticipation - after all, we like our biopics as much as the next person. It was therefore with great surprise that we realized this was just a paler, whitewashed version of last year's hit Ray - same tragic childhood, same struggles with womanizing and addiction, same extraordinary talent and impact - but with most of the gut-wrenching emotion leached out. It's not that Joaquin & Reese don't do a fantastic job of mastering their roles, right down to excellent vocals. But there is not much here to grab us in this long movie which struggles to make us cry.

  • Rating: ***

Stay - **

This movie should be called 'When Bad Things Happen To Good Actors'. Ewan MacGregor plays a hapless, quirkily innocent psychiatrist (is that even possible?) who begins to lose all sense of reality as he tries to help a suicidal patient. Unfortunately, we the audience also lose all sense of reality, aided by fancy photography, as the movie finally reaches a denouement that makes absolutely no sense. On the plus-side, the film does offer some Crash-like thought provoking moments about relationships, perception and the like. Too bad we have no idea what is going on.

  • Rating: **

Lapinthrope - ***½

Mainstream film fan that I am, an artsy dance movie with a distinctly European feel is not normally my first choice for a Saturday night out. How unfortunate - I have been missing a lot apparently! Joking with my partner that they had better blow up some buildings in this movie, we settled in for what ended up being an incredibly moving experience. A poignant musical score and the provocative dancing of Austrian star Anna Hein tell a magical story of loss, isolation, and the savage conformity imposed upon a girl who definitely does not fit the urban mold. Impressively, a full range of emotions, from humour (plenty of it) to elation to despair, are communicated through movement and music alone. I was brought to tears by this little movie. No bombs necessary.
  • Rating: ***½

The Constant Gardener - ***

Interesting movie with the always dramatic & intense and lovely Ralph Fiennes. This truly is a suspenseful yet artsy movie. The story takes place in Kenya, and is quite eye opening about what goes on in some parts of that country, and it is quite disturbing. It made me very grateful to be living in Canada! The film goes back & forth in time, and much is said in actions vs. words. Cinematically quite beautiful. It carries the viewer along, and you can feel the pain & anxiety & frustrations of each character. They say it is Oscar worthy, and the academy will probably love it. I liked it, but was more disturbed than loved it.

  • Rating: ***

Lord of War - ***½

Despite good reviews, this quiet little movie has not done well at the box office - perhaps because it's billed as comedy/drama, which is enough to turn me off right there. However, we persisted and were well rewarded. A very dark comedy indeed, this powerful picture based on true events deals with an arms dealer (the excellent Nicholas Cage) whose ambition is compromised by his relentless self-knowledge - definitely Oscar material. Narrated by Cage, and taking us around the world from Israel to New Jersey to Monrovia, Lord of War manages to be not only extremely entertaining and suspenseful, but also carries a very disquieting message about the politics of war.

  • Rating: ***½

Transporter 2 - ***

Incredible stunts and nice martial arts moves, combined with dry British wit and cartoonish villains we love to hate, make this a very entertaining flick. Jason Statham returns as Frank, the smooth, uber-self-controlled driver who will transport anything for a fee as long as the transaction conforms to certain rules. He holds his own among the Yanks in this exciting sequel to the first Transporter movie (check him out in our favourite, Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels). It doesn't matter that we leave the theatre without really learning anything except maybe how to thwart a carjacking attempt. This is summer action at its best.

  • Rating: ***

The Brothers Grimm - **½

Ah, the joys of a free sneak preview...the only thing that could get me out to see this movie (even the lure of Matt Damon being insufficient). Expectations were low at the outset - this is, after all, a fantasy/horror flick more in the tradition of Disney than The Lord of the Rings. However, great acting by Heath Ledger (hapless & unattractive) and Damon (hapless but hiding it) and comic relief from the impeccable Jonathan Pryce, make it more than bearable. Bring the kiddies, they will love the slapstick and the 1.5 hours of enchanted forest. Into the woods...

  • Rating: **½

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - **½

This tale of the zany Willy Wonka and the poor boy who gets the prize was one of my favourites growing up. Tim Burton has remained very true to Roald Dahl's book, retaining the darkly funny elements. Particularly hilarious are the Oompa-Loompa stage shows, updated for the modern age. However, Johnny Depp's attempt to fill Willy's platforms falls a little flat - he is by turns creepy, crabby and child-like, yet the character still seems one-dimensional (this is the first negative thing I have ever said about Depp and hopefully it will be the last). Perhaps it's just that when you love a book so much, expectations run too high - and when you're not a kid anymore, you lose some of that sense of wonder. This is essentially a child's movie and adults would do well to remember that.

  • Rating: **½

Cinderella Man - ***

Taking place in the depression, starring Russell Crowe & Renee Zellweger and the amazing character acting by Paul Giacommatti. This is a wonderful story of a principled man & boxer facing some of life's most difficult challenges & decisions. As they have always said, this has Oscar potential. I am not so sure with the boxing movie last year winning top honours that this will be able to do the same. Very interesting to note that it was mostly filmed in Toronto - Ron Howard transformed the city beautifully. Really enjoyed this movie.

  • Rating: ***

Napolean Dynomite - ***

This is a hot and trendy rental. Who knew? We don't normally include rental reviews, but I couldn't resist, since it seems to be the banter around the watercooler these days. No big name actors or directing etc. This is written, directed and starred by one person with a wicked sense of humour. Certainly those in their 30's and older will appreciate some of the whacky goings on. The story focusses on a nerdy high school kid who has to deal with a nutty family life as well - seems to transport us back from the 70's to today and back again. Apparently the person who was working at Blockbuster when I rented it, cautioned me away from it, as she disliked, but mostly I hear lots of hilarious imitations - which of course is the highest form of flattery!

  • Rating: ***

The Island - ***

There's nothing like a good sci-fi action thriller to get the blood boiling! And this movie is good. Ewan McGregor is good as a captive of an evil conglomerate, displaying the wide-eyed innocent grin we haven't seen since Big Fish. Scarlett Johansen is good as his wide-eyed, innocent love interest. Sean Bean is good as the quintessential evil villain, and Steve Buscemi is good as the hapless grunt who gets caught in the middle. Even the guy from Voyager is good without his Nelix makeup as another wide-eyed innocent. The special effects are good too. What prevents The Island from being great is its absolute predictability, only broken by the ever suave Djimon Hounsou who manages to do something unexpected. Keeping right and wrong firmly separated in this way may be oversimplistic, especially with summer blockbusters, but it's good.

  • Rating: ***

The Wedding Crashers - ***½

When a professional movie critic compared the on-screen chemistry between dysfunctional heroes Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson to that of Butch & Sundance, I laughed it off as so much movie hype. Upon seeing this hilarious movie, the parallel I would draw is that these two girl-hungry fiends are more like Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder: hapless, bumbling, outrageous, and very, very funny. In particular straight man Vince Vaughn's lecherous monologues, delivered with perfect timing, had me laughing harder than I have ever laughed in a movie theatre. Wedding Crashers has its share of sentimentality, but in a palatable dose that occasionally slides into pure fantasy but not into Hollywood faux-sweetness. A must see summer movie!

  • Rating: ***½

War of the Worlds - ***½

Obnoxious children. Very mean aliens. A blue-collar hero. And a creepy, paranoid Tim Robbins digging holes in the basement. Put them all together and you have one big summer blockbuster! The special effects are fantastic in this thriller about a hostile alien takeover as seen from the eyes of one American family. There are some genuinely scary moments (red is no longer my favourite flower colour) and the action is as non-stop as Tom Cruise's blue-collar antics. The movie handles the whole 'they're already here' thing in an interesting, innovative way. See the movie and put some cash in poor Tom's pocket!

  • Rating: ***½

Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith - ****

The first Star Wars movie came out the year I was born, and while I am a raving Trekkie, I regret to say that Leia's hair and R2's circuits never really got me. Episode III changed all that. This is as close to a TLOTR epic as space is ever going to get, and a great summer blockbuster. With the usual stunning visual effects and dramatic fight scenes taking centre stage, the plot explores the nature of good and evil, betrayal and loss, blah blah blah...let's face it, we really want to see how Anakin turned to the Dark Side. We are not disappointed; everything is explained, albeit abruptly (one minute Ani is a troubled youth, the next a murderous psychopath). And we still pity him.

  • Rating: ****

Sin City - ***½

Fans of comic books, violence and gore will be in hog heaven at this adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels (no pun intended). Nothing is left to the imagination here, and there is much wooden dialogue, dramatic clutching at chests, single tears rolling down porcelain cheeks, and plenty of PVC. The set literally looks like a black and white comic book page with lots of ink splashes. This is no Gotham City, however - much grittier, and the cast is fantastic. A word of caution: see this movie and you will never, never think of Elijah Wood as a Hobbit again. [Nicole]
  • Rating: ***½

Be Cool - **½

With a star-studded cast including John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Danny Devito and Harvey Keitel, this movie really is a tribute to Elmore Leonard's vision of Hollywood: lots of glitz, little substance, suspend disbelief, but who really cares - it's Hollywood! There were many funny moments in this sloppy movie, mostly delivered by Vince Vaughn as the jive-talking Raji. However, in a movie that finds slapstick in everything from a gay cowboy's eyebrow to the wigs of the Russian Mafia, it is disappointing that Thurman's dialogue trumps these as the dumbest thing going. [Nicole]

  • Rating: **½

Constantine - *½

Fans of raging fires, insects, arterial blood and shattered sheet glass used to have CSI. Now they can also enjoy Constantine, the Keanu Reeves flick about a man with the power to see demons and banish them to hell. With dialogue so wooden that even Keanu cringes, the only redeeming feature is the quirky character acting from actors like Djimon Hounsou and Tilda Swinton. It is very important, while watching Keanu treat his terminal lung cancer with swigs of cough syrup - very important, to remember this whole thing is based on an obsure comic strip. [Nicole]

  • Rating: *½

Shark Tale - ** Oscar nominated

Will Smith is pretty funny, you have to admit! This movie was no comparison to Nemo - but it was a cute, fun and enjoyable movie for all ages. It is about an unscary shark, and a too cool fish, there are relationships & quirky comparisons to life above the sea.

1 Nomination - Animated Feature Film.

  • Rating: **

SuperSize Me - **** Oscar nominated

This was extremely well done documentary movie - about the "nasty" fast food industry - specifically targeting McDonalds - although try to remember it is all types. It was a little extreme from start to finish, as he starts eating virtually like a vegan - to a full fast food diet & all the ramifications. It is ingenious, and sort of sickening. Of course as they say - negative advertising is better than no advertising, McD's has not only changed their menu in part from this sort of "feedback", but are also top of mind awareness! Must see.

1 Nomination - Documentary Feature

  • Rating: ****

Shrek 2 - ***½ Oscar nominated

Sweet & hilarious sequel to the first one. All the hype about Antonio Banderas is right on - I can still hear him as Puss in Boots. Now married, Princess Fiona, Shrek & Donkey travel to the kingdom of Far, Far Away to meet her parents, who don't know they're ogres. Always a hoot & great for the whole family.

2 Nominations - Animated Feature Film & Song

  • Rating: ***½

Maria Full of Grace - ***½ Oscar nominated

Subtitles or not, this picture moves you - pregnant teen Maria was depressed living in Colombia. It is scary to see what happens to those "mules" who work in the drug trade.

1 Nomination for Best Actress

  • Rating: ***½

The Aviator - *** Oscar nominated

Anyone who thinks Leonardo di Caprio is a young (read talentless) whippersnapper should definitely see this movie, if only to be proven wrong. Given the complex character of Howard Hughes, Di Caprio avoids slipping into the germ-obsessed caricature and instead develops the insecurities, genius and vision of the man. Cate Blanchett is a special treat as Catherine Hepburn. An interesting, if shallow, biopic of one man and his dream. [Nicole]

  • Rating: ***

Hotel Rwanda - **** Oscar nominated

Depicting the horror of the Tutsi genocide less than a decade ago, this movie could have easily slipped into a chronology of violent, horrific acts, yet it rises above its macabre subject matter with fragile, vibrant characters whom we care about and even understand. Even as the Western baddies and the corrupt Rwandan goverment are exposed and denounced, we never lose the thread of hope that prevents Hotel Rwanda from becoming a grim and frightening documentary. The human condition emerges triumphant over the human cruelty and indifference that made this tragedy possible - cold comfort, perhaps, to the victims of the genocide. [Nicole]

  • Rating: ****

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events - *** Oscar nominated

This is apparently the British children's book series that knocked Harry Potter from #1. The movie is an amalgamation of the first 3 books in the series. It was tons of fun, extremely creative & imaginitively done. It felt like being in a live fairy tale. Jim Carrey is superb in the numerous roles that he plays as the villain. Not just for kids, everyone will enjoy. [Julie]

  • Rating: ***

Closer - **** Oscar nominated

Being both a huge Julia Roberts & Jude Law fan, I was psyched to see this. Everyone acted well, but the supporting actors stole the show - both Natalie Portman as Jude Law's muse, and Clive Owen as Julia Robert's partner. It is brilliantly written - you can feel the tense tortured souls of the characters. The good news is that it is not really graphically x-rated, it is more of a psychological thriller. Well worth seeing. [Julie]

  • Rating: ****

Million Dollar Baby - **** Oscar nominated

If they made 'Rocky' for the modern day, with great actors and without the ridiculous Italian-American stereotypes, perhaps it would come close to this raw, gritty film. When we saw the poster saying this movie was 'more powerful than Mystic River' I certainly had my doubts; but in its quiet way, Million Dollar Baby produces the same deep currents of emotion as we bear witness to one woman who has been fighting poverty and ignorance her entire life, and whose seemingly impossible dream of fighting professionally becomes a magnificent reality. [Nicole]

  • Rating: ****

Ray - ***½ Oscar nominated

Jamie Foxx has come a long way since his skits on In Living Color. He delivers an Oscar-calibre performance as Ray Charles in this homage to the man who has left an indelible mark on the face of popular music. Balanced in that it does not shrink from the egotism, philandering and drug abuse of the man, Ray also reveals the genius of the legend and the hearbreak from which his tremendous gift sprang. This is a must-see for fans of his music and for anyone seeking an old-fashioned story of triumph against huge odds of poverty, racial discrimination, addiction and physical limitations.[Nicole]
  • Rating: ***½

Collateral - ***½ Oscar nominated

This is Tom Cruise proving once and for all that he really can play roles other than 'stereotypical good guy' or 'arrogant guy we love for his quirks'. In Collateral, he plays a contract killer on a mission who lands in timid Jamie Foxx's cab and enlists his help for a night of mayhem. Even better than Cruise's multi-faceted performance is watching Foxx's metamorphosis throughout the night. A summer movie without special effects, it still transported us into a strange nighttime world of evil and hope [Nicole]

  • Rating: ***½

SpiderMan 2 - *** Oscar nominated

The webslinger is back in this sequel to the wildly successful original. Toby McGuire must decide whether to embrace his superhero self or revert to being the lonely nerd he once was. Unfortunately, the cheese is ladled on with a liberal hand as Spidey alternately ponders the deep questions of love and loss, and hunts a man with four metal arms who wishes to destroy most of New York. What happens when the two worlds collide? The answer is, great marketing, great hype, and a no-better-than-adequate sequel. [Nicole]

  • Rating: ***

Troy - **½ Oscar nominated

In Wolfgang Petersen's epic movie, bringing the story of the fall of Troy to the silver screen after three thousand years of storytelling seems secondary to his mission to pack in as much beefcake into 2 3/4 hours as possible! Choose from the arrogant Achilles (Brad Pitt), the noble Hector (Eric Bana) or the adolescent-looking Paris (Orlando Bloom) - there is plenty of blood, sweat, tears and rippling muscles for all, however, the script falls flatter than a pita and by the end of this long movie we are laughing and waiting for the city to be sacked already. [Nicole]

  • Rating: **½

I, Robot - ** Oscar nominated

In this futuristic thriller, the year is 2035, cars run by themselves, and Will Smith is as obnoxious as ever. Long before the 'mystery' of what's going on with the robots is solved, you simply want them to tear Sir Will ear from ear. The robots save the movie with their intelligence, compassion and personality, and the special effects are great. The movie leaves unanswered several ethical questions of man vs. machine, or in this case, machine vs. the Enormous Ego of Will Smith. [Nicole]

  • Rating: **

2004 New Movies

Ocean’s 12 - ***

If you have read the reviews, you know the general consensus is 'it's pretty good for a sequel'. As the magnificent Brat Pack returns for another caper, we are not disappointed: action, beautiful cinematography, beautiful people, interesting new characters & challenges, innovative crime techniques. It doesn't matter that the current heist would never work: neither would the last one. We can cheerfully suspend disbelief for this one and let the star-studded cast and European setting do the work. Calgon, take me away! [Nicole]

  • Rating: ***

Flight of the Phoenix - **½

My partner's uncle, a history buff, told us this was actually a remake of a Jimmy Stewart movie. Actually Dennis Quaid may not be an American icon of the same status, but he does a very good job as pilot of a plane that crashes in the Mongolian desert. Faced with certain death any way they slice it, the survivors decide that 'the only way out is up' and try to rebuild the plane. This was entertaining much as Ocean's 12 was, except instead of 12 beautiful people stealing things in Europe, there were 14 very sweaty, muscular people soldering things in the sand. Why not? [Nicole]

  • Rating: **½

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - **

We saw this over a month ago and the fact that it has taken this long to review it, speaks volumes - either to the movie's lackluster quality or to the fact that I fell asleep during the second half and am still trying to figure out what happened. There is nothing wrong with Sky Captain per se; in fact it has something for everyone - film noir intrigue, eye candy in the form of Gwyneth, Angelina & Jude, pre-historic beings, giant robots - and yet this is perhaps the problem. The saccharine B-movie plot leaves us caring neither about the characters nor the fate of mankind.[Nicole]

  • Rating: **

The Forgotten - ***

As far as thrillers go, this reminded us of a certain popular TV show that birthed two movies and a cult following for several years. That is all I'm going to say. Oh, might I add, the main characters include a fervent believer and a sceptic who later becomes a fervent believer, both dedicated to overthrowing a huge conspiracy involving the highest levels of governement and top-secret organizations. Julianne Moore, playing a mother frantically searching for evidence that her son ever existed, even has the red hair and stylish clothing. With edge-of-your-seat drama and good character development, this movie proves once and for all that the truth really is out there. [Nicole]

  • Rating: ***

Hero - ***

This Chinese martial arts movie is the much touted rerelease of the movie that Quentin Tarantino loved so much when he saw it that he pulled some strings to have a wide release in North America. In fact it was up for an Oscar a couple of years ago for best Foreign Film but lost.

It is as much of an artistic display almost operatic with the colours, music and the dancing on air martial arts demonstrations. The cinematography and choreography is breathtaking. This drama is philosophical, with the storyline being told from 3 different perspectives. This is like a fairy tale or fantasy about an emperor who is rising to power.

This movie has been a blockbuster in the theatres, although I have heard mixed reviews, as some people expected more action, so beware that this is a poetic masterpiece. [Julie]

  • Rating: ***

Fahrenheit 911 - ***

Having loved seeing Bowling for Columbine, and being inundated with the controversy about this movie - especially knowing that Michael Moore specifically released this movie in Canada before the Federal election to educate voters I had to go & see this movie.

I left just plain saddened by the whole thing. If it is even partially a true story - rather than one man's opinion - America is in a sad state of affairs with the leadership of "Dubya". Mr. George W. Bush. It covered alot more of the Iraq war than expected, but some of the goings on behind the business/political world that the Bush's work in is pretty darned shady. Hope it does what is suppposed to do, and open people's eyes to get past the government propaganda, and know that there are 2 sides to every story. [Julie]

  • Rating: ***

Chronicles of Riddick - ***½

Starring Vin Diesel, who is working on his third facial expression and putting that hard body to good use in the third movie in the Chronicles (the prequels are Pitch Black and Dark Fury). If you never thought to see Dame Judy Dench in a sci-fi thriller about an evil race bent on the conversion or destruction of everything in the universe, think again. The sets were stunning, the special effects fantastic, and after 2 hours I wanted more...good thing there will almost certainly be a fourth movie! [Nicole]

  • Rating: ***½

Van Helsing - *

If you liked Hugh Jackman in the X-Men movies, please do not go see Van Helsing just because he is in it. He really cannot redeem a movie that does not even give a bare nod to history (Kate Beckinsale in pants, in 19th century Transylvania) or intelligence (Frankenstein, the Wolfman and even Dr. Jeckyll are dragged into this as well). Special effects cannot save this incredibly lame film from one yawn after another. Even rooting for Dracula, the only fun character, wasn't enough to keep me awake! [Nicole]

  • Rating: *

House of Sand & Fog - **½ Oscar nominated

Starring Ben Kingsley & Jennifer Garner. Excellent. We feared it would be boring & slow even though it had received a number of Oscar nominations - as it is sort of about a tumultous real estate deal gone wrong - but it was extremely enjoyable & emotional & well acted. Highly recommended. [Julie]

  • Rating: **½

Master & Commander – The Far Side of the World - **½ Oscar nominated

Starring Russell Crowe. Very good. It all takes place on a ship 200 years ago, and seriously makes you happy you didn't live in that era, on a ship!! Another interesting note is that there are no female actors in the movie at all (save for about 5 seconds from afar). The ship intricacy's, relationships & life were very well done. You definitely felt kinship with the crew. What a set. They must have spent a fortune. Anyway - very enjoyable. Rent it today. Not sure it was worthy of best picture, but definitely for all the movie making technical magic. [Julie]

  • Rating: **½

Monster - **** Oscar nominated

I went to it as a default choice one night when Mystic River was sold out. I had heard it was violent & nasty - so was not overly optimistic. WOW - I was blown away. You heard it here - Charlize Theron IS winning the best actress Oscar. Unbelievably amazing performance. Even though you look for Charlize in each scene, she is gone and her character Eileen Wuornos has come to life. [Julie]

  • Rating: ****

Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King - ***** Oscar nominated

Every good thing you hear about this movie is true. I was so excited to see this one that I went to this one at a pre-screening fundraiser. It is truly an awesome epic, the battle scenes take your breath away. Hope you get to see it on the big screen. Can't help imitating "my precious" Gollum all the time! Never read the books, no wonder my brother and everyone else was so enthralled. [Julie]

  • Rating: *****

Lost in Translation - *** Oscar nominated

Not my taste. Although I do think Bill Murray & Scarlett Johanssen were fabulous in it. I found it just a little too slow. As far as good film making, I can appreciate all the accolades it is getting - the stillness feel in the hectic Tokyo, and the unspoken communication. [Julie]

  • Rating: ***

Finding Nemo - **** Oscar nominated

Loved it. I went to it pre being a volunteer counsellor last summer at Oochigeas, as I thought it would be a good icebreaker with the kids. Well, I think adults & children alike love it! Enchanting... [Julie]

  • Rating: ****

Pirates of the Carribean – The Legend of the Black Pearl - *** Oscar nominated

Very silly, but great rental. Johnny Depp is hilarious. It seems like he is having a blast, being the drunken pirate. It is a really fun experience, unlike most of the "dark" Oscar movies out there. [Julie]

  • Rating: ***

Seabiscuit - **** Oscar nominated

Loved it once, twice, always. I found the movie created a string of emotional roller coasters, where you were drawn in & completely moved over & over & over. Not sure that Toby Maguire should have red hair though - doesn't suit! [Julie]

  • Rating: ****

Thirteen - ** Oscar nominated

Holly Hunter is nominated in a supporting role, she is the mother of a teenage daughter. The kid gets mixed up with the wrong crowd of friends & seriously goes off the deep end. I have to say the world is in a sad state of affairs if this is how peer pressure & kids are these days. I am torn between encouraging my friends & clients with kids to see so they can be forewarned, or not to as they will be frightened out of their wits! [Julie]

  • Rating: **

Cold Mountain - **** Oscar nominated

The widely nominated epic civil war movie with Nicole Kidman, Jude Law & Renee Zellweger. It is another one of these Oscar picks that is a dark & sad heartbreaker - it was a terrible time in the history of the States. Jude Law is not only gorgeous as the hero that goes through hell, but great at acting without needing to speak much. Renee is a bright light - a fan favourite. Nicole looked way too beautiful to having lived through that time period, but was good overall. [Julie]

  • Rating: ****

Whale Rider - *** Oscar nominated

Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated as the youngest best actress ever for her role - it is a fascinating story of family & cultural traditions in a Maori tribe that is losing ground to modern life. I thought that it seemed almost like a documentary, but it was touching & heartfelt. [Julie]

  • Rating: ***

Somethings Gotta Give - ** Oscar nominated

Cute rental, romantic comedy - can't believe Diane Keaton was nominated for her role as an older woman falling in love. It was quite fun with Keanu Reeves & Jack Nicholson (he plays similar roles in all his flicks nowadays), but not Oscar worthy. [Julie]

  • Rating: **