Currently Browsing: 2009

THE SECRETS

Too much of a good thing: Nesher locates his excellent cast in a school for young Orthodox women, where they’re surrounded by the ghosts of prior generations of Kaballah scholars who also walked up & down these same stone steps of Sfat. Add in a murder mystery, fine. But then he went one step too […]

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THE SAVAGES

Thirtysomething Manhattanite (Linney) puts her own life on hold when her estranged father (Bosco) succumbs to dementia. Caring for him with a brother she knows only slightly better (Hoffman) becomes life-changing for both of them. Jan”s agog, but while Rich loved performances, he found frequent “shifts-of-tone” between comedy & tragedy disorienting. Click HERE for FF2 […]

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SALAAM BOMBAY!

Nair’s first film (made with frequent collaborator screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala) achieved instant acclaim, winning multiple awards worldwide & receiving a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination. Bombay street kids survive amidst the squalor and danger of the adult world around them. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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RAILS & TIES

Sincere drama about a withdrawn man (Bacon) nursing his cancer-striken wife (Hardin). When a kid appears in the life of this childless couples, they take him in, but the story unfolds naturally with strong character development & a well-earned tear-filled ending. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

Druggie (Hathaway) gets a weekend pass from rehab so she can attend her sister”s wedding. Jan: Film went on & on forever, & 2nd screening added NO new insights. Who ARE these people??? Vague Jewish references never explained amid all the saris, Brazilian Carnival costumes, etc, etc. Rich: OK, it”s not a great film, but […]

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THE PROPOSAL

Starts as a The Devil Wears Prada wannabee with Sandra Bullock in the “Meryl-Streep-as-Devil” role, but quickly becomes Ryan Reynolds’ film. Bullock just needs to be game & she is here. But Reynolds is surprisingly good as an Alaskan scion who wants to create his own destiny. I found Anne Fletcher’s film enjoyable albeit totally […]

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PRAYING WITH LIOR

Kid born with Down’s Syndrome loses Mom to cancer in early childhood, but it’s OK because everyone loves him. Filmmakers ask NO hard questions (e.g., does anyone in this family work for a living?), & all the uplift feels manufactured for the cameras. Impossible not to cry during Bar Mitzvah scenes, but Oy! Rating = […]

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PERSEPOLIS

Compelling personal story about a young woman coming of age during the Iranian revolution. Wonderfully-expressive animation based on writer/director Satrapi”s first-person graphic novel. Aesthetically elegant with fasciating insights into one of the major cultural upheavals of our lifetimes. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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PENELOPE

Charming fable about a rich girl burdened by a family curse (Ricci) who finds love despite the demands of her intrusive mother (O’Hara). Dinklage provides perfect counterpoint as a newspaper man also learning that appearances can be deceiving. Kudos also to McAvoy & Witherspoon as well as screenwriter Leslie Caveny. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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PARALLEL LINES

NYC doc director just happens to be working in LA when the Twin Towers are attacked on 9/11. Afraid of what she will find back home, she decides to drive cross-country to give herself time to “adjust” before facing the reality head-on. Along the way, she converses with countless “average Americans” with varying POVs. Click […]

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PAPER HEARTS

Too twee for Jan. Not (yet) seen by Rich. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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NOODLE

Luminous Mili Avital stars as an El-Al flight attendant struggling to reunite a small Chinese boy with his missing mother. Menahemi creates a ornery role for Waxman, so that some comic relief prevents her poignant dramedy from getting too icky as widow & orphan bond despite cultures, languages & time zones. Click HERE for FF2 […]

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NICK & NORA’S INFINITE PLAYLIST

SPLIT DECISION: Two NJ high school students in bad relationships find each other in an all night search for their favorite band. Jan sensed just enough warmth in Nick (Cera) & Nora (Dennings) to forgive the endless binge drinking & purging “jokes,” & boring drive arounds, but Rich saw nothing here worth recommending. Click HERE […]

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MUERTO DE LA PENA

DEAD FROM THE PAIN–Argentine satire starring Pinto as an aging bureaucratic who becomes a one day news sensation when he has his “I’m mad as Hell & I’m not going to take it anymore” moment. Quick-witted & amusing, we suspect it’s also chockfull of sly local references but universal enough to recommend in any language. […]

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MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES

Eloquent doc about photographer Edward Burtynsky & his extraordinary compositions, showing how 21st century industrialization is changing our visual landscape. Baichwal’s camerawork is slow & steady, drawing back from the microcosm to the macrocosm to reveal the universal implications. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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MAMMA MIA

“The ABBA Musical” – Almost unwatcheable… except… Meryl Streep is fabulous! Altho almost 60, she plays someone ~ 40, & she blows all the youngsters off the screen, especially in tandem with Gal Pal showstoppers Baranski & Walters. Rich agrees, but these miracles weren”t enough for him. Kudos to good sports Brosnan, Firth & Skarsgard. […]

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LAWS OF ATTRACTION

Aline Brosh McKenna’s first screenplay needed to put more flesh on the Brosnan character, but overall this is a giddy romp about the accomplished daughter (Moore) of a beautiful mother (Fisher) who still thinks of herself as an ugly duckling long after she’s actually become a swan. Dress rehearsal for THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Click […]

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LADY KUL EL-ARAB

Mini-Doc coming in CFIC ’08. Not yet seen by Rich.  Click HERE for FF2 Haiku

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KITT KITTREDGE

Well-paced, gently-didactic story about life in Depression Era America based on popular series of stories by the AMERICAN GIRLS doll company. Breslin stars as a Cincinatti preteen with ambition, empathy, & pluck. Recommended for all (girls & boys & adults too) by Jan & Jan””s BFF Dorthea, but Rich says: Kids only. Click HERE for […]

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KIBBUTZ

First person doc is an emotional history of Kibbutz Hulata (where director Schwartz grew up), now facing hard times in the new Israeli economy. Doc focuses on 3 elderly women who recount their days as “true believers” (visiting their infants in the children’s house, shunning make-up, etc, etc). Sad, sobering, & very thought-provoking! Click HERE […]

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JUNO

High school “rebel” (but oh so clean-cut, sweet-faced & cutsey) seduces classmate, gets pregnant, & ingratiates herself with desperate couple looking to adopt. Normally we don”t write negative reviews, but every moment of this film is so false & insidious that we have to speak up: Rich hated it; Jan despised it! Click HERE for […]

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JELLYFISH (MEDUZOT)

Does not meet criteria. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB

“Jocelyn” (Bello) thinks her friend “Sylvia” (Brenneman) needs help connecting after her husband leaves her for another woman, so she starts a book group dedicated to their favorite author. Lightweight but thoroughly satisfying chick flick with well-drawn characters & strong performances. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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IRA & ABBY

Jennifer Westfeldt stars in her second screenplay (after KISSING JESSICA STEIN), casting herself this time as waspette “Abby” married to Jewish prince “Ira” (Messina). Jan says: Westfeldt’s adorable & her clever dialogue builds to a giddy climax. Full haiku pending input from Rich (who hasn’t seen film yet). Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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I’M THRU WITH GIRLS

First-time director catches lightening in a bottle (the very first Spike Lee vibes from SHE””S GOTTA HAVE IT)& concocts a charming update for the new millennium. Johnson & Montgomery are terrific in the central RomCom; supporting cast adds the depth to racial-stereotyping subtext. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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HOUNDDOG

Deborah Kampmeier, writer/director of the award-winning film VIRGIN, has created another compelling narrative depicting one girl’s journey from self-doubt to self-respect. Dakota Fanning anchors the film; she looks directly at us through the eye of Kampmeier’s camera and dares us to deny the truth of her character’s travails. Audiences will be deeply moved by her […]

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HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU

5 Baltimore women (below) look for love in all the wrong places. Ben Affleck, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, & Justin Long play “the guys.” Since Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein (NEVER BEEN KISSED) wrote the screenplay, Jan expected “something,” but no… it’s long, tedious, & dumb! Rich hasn’t seen film & Jan tells him: Don’t […]

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GRBAVICA

Karanovic plays a Bosnian woman with a horrific past trying to raise her teenage daughter & move on with her life. Searing drama won multiple awards @ several European film festivals including Berlin’s ’06 Golden Bear. Full haiku awaiting input from Rich (who hasn’t seen film yet). Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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GRACIE

Fact-based story about a teenager (Schroeder) who throws herself body & soul into competitive soccer in the early days of Title IX, thereby forcing everyone around her to take sides. Rich is right that the outlines of this story are routine, but Jan likes the details: family, schoolmates, townfolk all ring true. Click HERE for […]

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GOODBYE SOLO

Bahrani’s second collaboration with screenwriter Bahareh Azimi is a “perfect Indie,” rich in characterization & understated eloquence. Senegalese immigrant (Sy Savane) learns new mysteries about American life from an elderly man of few words & private secrets. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.

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