The Other Boleyn Girl


The story of the Boleyn sisters rivals Greek tragedies in relevance and grandiosity. Its outcome has indefinitely influenced modern civilization and its tragic drama has courted its way into our literature, cinema and television to this day; namely The Other Boleyn Girl. The story tackles such contemporary issues, complex emotions and riveting characters that you quickly become enthralled by it; however the movie does not delve deep enough into the subject matter to do the story justice, and loses the story’s appeal by taming its sinister essence.

The middle ages were tenebrous times for modern civilization. Drenched in blood, disease and poverty, they embodied degeneration. Human rights were inexistent, and the human condition destroyed. People would do anything for power and wealth, for it was a world owned only by those who were blessed with both. The Boleyn sisters, although scheming, betraying and lying their way to royalty and historic infamy, are martyrs not criminals. They merely reflect the immorality and cruelty of the society they were raised in.

When Henry king of England (Eric Bana) discovers his queen’s infertility, the prospect of an heir suddenly seems bleak. Desperate for a son and to produce the future king, Henry’s court sacrilegiously seeks a surrogate mother. The Boleyn family sees in this opportunity the potential to move up the proverbial social ladder and live the hedonistic life it desires. Soon enough, both of their daughters, Mary and Anna, are pawned and thrown into the whirlwind of jealously and tragedy that is the king’s court.

Henry is quite the promiscuous majesty and is unable to satiate his burning desire for the female flesh, scattering his illegitimate progenitors around the countryside and destroying their mothers’ lives in the process. Anna (Nathalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlet Johansson) on the other hand, are two beautiful sisters with very different temperaments, Mary being the naïve and trusting Boleyn, Anna the ambitious and conniving one. Whereas Mary unwillingly charms the erratic king with her uncanny kindness of heart, Anna bedazzles him with her boldness and strength and Henry, such a pollinating bee, skips from one Boleyn sister to the next. Mary is the first to spark his interest, but is quickly tossed aside as she is not strong enough to demand her place in the king’s court. Anna, on the other hand, seizes him with a firm grip and schemes her way through the court and straight to the throne, changing history forever.

The Other Boleyn Girl is a captivating movie, if only for its incredible story of royalty, greed, lust and betrayal. It is impossible to remain untouched by such a genuine tragedy. Accordingly, when watching a film with such subject matter, one would expect a discourse, whether visual or written, resembling those of the great tragedies like Medea, Antigone and Madame Bovary. It needs to be intense and unapologetically immersed in immorality, sexuality and deceit. The setting must be bleak and threatening, the sex explicit and rough and the betrayal torturously heartbreaking, for it is a story of innocence being raped by power and greed. Instead, The Other Boleyn Girl’s environment is a little too inaccurately majestic and comfortable for its time period and the dialogue never seems to truly grasp the essence of the characters’ emotions. Moreover, the costumes, whether accurate or not, are hideous and somehow manage to strip the film’s very attractive cast of all its sex appeal, leaving the actors to do the most with the least, and consequently beheading their performances. As a result, The Other Boleyn Girl comes off as a feeble love triangle period drama, taming its subject matter and denying the story of its potency.

Portman and Johansson are two of the best and most attractive young actresses that Hollywood has to offer these days. They both carry this movie convincingly and embrace their parts wholeheartedly; however they do not project the magnitude or the intensity that their characters require. Throughout the movie, Johansson delivers as the naïve and gentle sister, looking more understated and vulnerable than we have seen her in a long time. Equally as good, Portman is delicious as the scheming Anna, and tirelessly fascinating to watch. Anna Boleyn is a part of a lifetime for any actress, and Portman does the best she can to surpass the film’s limitations, and to give it justice. Whereas both actresses seem to be at the top of their game in this movie, they pale in comparison to other established actresses in relatively similar roles, namely Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth; a testament mostly, to the movie’s weak rendition of a powerful story.

The Other Boleyn Girl’s unwillingness to be as daring and notorious as its characters is a tragedy, as it stood, before its execution, as the film with the best story and cast to come out in a long time. Although quite entertaining for a period drama, it shamelessly diminishes the gravity of its subject matter, and when its final credits start rolling, it leaves one longing for the movie that it could have been.

There are very few ways to make a bad movie when dealing with a great story. That being said, The Other Boleyn Girl is a tragic movie adaptation.

Review by Ralph Arida

Semi-Pro


Semi-Pro is a Will Ferrell-lead comedy set in the ‘70’s and milking the decade for all of its fashion mishaps and funky hairstyles. Although very similar to most of Ferrell’s movies, this one is based on historical facts and feels more like an homage to basketball than anything else. Edging between being a slapstick comedy, a coming-of-age story and a cheer-for-the-underdog sports film, the movie does not particularly identify to any of those genres. As a result, Semi-Pro is an eclectic and borderline schizophrenic cinematic experience.

The film takes place in the world of the ABA, an underground and grassroots basketball league that ran parallel to the NBA in the 1970’s. This time around, Ferrell’s adorable-loser character is Jackie Moon, a washed up one-hit-wonder disco singer with a passion for basketball, who buys an ABA team called The Tropics. Both the league and the team are near extinction. The ABA is about to get bought out by the NBA while the Tropics are on an incredible losing streak. After convincing the NBA to allow the four best rated ABA teams to transfer into the much-coveted league before the ABA’s demise, Moon embarks on a quest for victory, determined to defy the odds and to make his team’s dream to play in the NBA come true. Satirical montage sequences of training drills and athletic enlightenment ensue, and before you know it, it all amounts to a final act much like every final act of any Ferrell movie; a relatively happy ending where the underdog becomes a champion and the loveable loser attains self-acceptance.

Semi-Pro’s script seems to be written with the intention of making a basketball film, not a comedy. It does not include enough sarcasm, over-the-top dialogue or cynical plot twists to be a parody, nor enough gross-out elements to be a slapstick comedy. In fact, Semi-Pro is not humorous enough to be a comedy nor relevant enough to be anything else. Other than Ferrell who is consistently asked to bask in his usual over-the-top goofiness, most of the other actors give out very plain and grounded performances (bordering on boring and uninspired), thus leaving Ferrell with the impossible task to bring in the laughs by himself, in a movie that is not even that funny to begin with.

The people behind Semi-Pro seem to believe that dressing the notorious actor in the most hideous ‘70’s costumes, and filming him from all the most compromising angles as he wears them proudly, would compensate for the film’s lack of comedy. As a result, Ferrell is very funny in this film, but feels reduced to being the film’s clown instead of its lead, and doesn’t even seem to be in on the joke.

Semi-Pro will definitely please Ferrell’s hardcore fans, but cements the rule that one should never put all of one’s balls in one basket.

Review by Ralph Arida

Be Kind Rewind


Jerry: The only reason there’s anybody here is because there’s nowhere else to go.

How can someone who has built a reputation for being one of the more imaginative and visually creative directors in modern cinema find himself producing work that feels increasingly limited in scope? French filmmaker, Michel Gondry, broke out of the music video milieu in 2004 with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The mind-melting dive into a psyche burnt by love was a dizzying assault on the eyes and a cerebral tickle simultaneously. His narrative film follow-up, “The Science of Sleep” (2006), was expected to be a similar experience revolving around the dreamiest of human experiences. While it may have been whimsical, it lacked the firm contemplative nature of its predecessor. This was of course forgiven considering the elusive nature of the subject but disappointment was still felt. Now, as if in direct response to his criticisms of being perhaps too imaginative to be always understood, Gondry has crafted “Be Kind Rewind”, where the madness of Gondry falls from the boundless sky and hits the pavement of Passaic, New Jersey, hard. His once ingenious approach is not entirely squashed but rather squeezed into conventional form resulting in a work that tries too hard on all plains.

The beginning of “Be Kind Rewind” is both bizarre and boring. A video store clerk (Mos Def), his boss and mentor (Danny Glover) and a junkyard mechanic (Jack Black) sit around with colanders on their heads and stare across the street at a supposedly pimped out ride (an economy car outfitted with gigantic aluminum piping that looks like a musical wind instrument out of the world of Dr. Seuss) as they blabber on about working in a microwave or something equally nonsensical. Gondry just drops us there. He explains nothing as if everything we see is supposed to already make sense. Apparently, it means nothing to Gondry that we are not permanent residents in his brain. By the time Black’s Jerry concocts some plan about sabotaging the neighboring power plant with a grappling hook that I can only assume he found in the junkyard, I was ready to walk. Gondry’s attempt to ground the imagination in a real context only served to show how the two worlds are separate for a reason. Naturally, the sabotage is a disaster and this leads to every videotape in the Be Kind Rewind store being erased by magnetism. Def’s Mike must now replace the tapes before his father figure finds him out and he proves to be the disappointment he fears he truly is. Thankfully, hilarity finally ensues.

Jerry and Mike proceed to reshoot “classic” fare like “GhostBusters”, “Rush Hour 2” and “Driving Miss Daisy” to replenish the shelves of wasted tapes. As they parade around in costumes made of aluminum foil and Christmas garland, they remove every trace of quality from these conventional crowd pleasers. Their antics and approaches are goofy and very funny in an intimate fashion; the chemistry between the pompous Black and the timid Def is just what the film needs to get the audience laughing and rooting for its formerly uninteresting heroes. And while they may look to be ruining these films at first, what they are really doing is reminding the audience that movies needn’t be made for millions of dollars to be entertaining. Suddenly, there is a lot being said in “Be Kind Rewind”. The neighborhood that is home to the store is being entirely remodeled and Glover’s Mr. Fletcher wants to transition from VHS to DVD in order to compete with the chain stores that are gobbling up small business. The nostalgia for simpler times points out how glossing everything over to look new doesn’t erase what is underneath. Despite this, Gondry is too busy glossing his own work over to solidly make his point.

When “Be Kind Rewind” is funny, it’s hysterical. When it is not, it is awkward and annoying. Though the film praises the amateur filmmaker in all of us, this is no excuse for it to play out like it was actually made by an amateur. Still, the film fosters a strong community effort to work together and be a part of movie making magic – a world so many of us admire regularly from afar but so few comparatively get to be involved in. The little guy can have his voice too and push his imagination further than, well, he ever imagined. Unfortunately, Gondry makes a crucial mistake and forgets to ask the audience to join in all the fun.

Review by Joseph Bélanger

2008 log (3)

(2 Mar) Clint Eastwood, le franc-tireur (2008, Michael Henry Wilson) 65
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(3 Mar) Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008, Bharat Nalluri) 79
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(5 Mar) Funny Games (2008, Michael Haneke) [ review ] 77

(7 Mar) O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias (2006, Cao Hamburger) 62
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(8 Mar) UPA! Una película argentina (2007, S. Giralt, C. Toker & T. Garateguy) 43

(8 Mar) Stellet Licht (2007, Carlos Reygadas) 91
[ Le film débute avec un plan hypnotisant de près de cinq minutes montrant le lever du soleil, alors qu’on entend les cris insistants des animaux de la ferme. Nous rencontrons ensuite Johan (Cornelio Wall), son épouse (Miriam Toews) et leurs enfants, un clan de mennonites qui semble tout droit sorti d’une autre époque. Nous découvrons toutefois bien vite que certaines choses sont universelles, peu importent nos croyances et nos coutumes, alors que le patriarche révèle à un ami être amoureux d’une autre femme (Maria Pancratz). Le coeur veut ce qu’il veut, et la loi de Dieu et des hommes a bien peu d’influence sur nos sentiments les plus profonds. L’intrigue du film est toute simple, limitée sensiblement à la crise morale d’un homme déchiré entre sa loyauté envers sa famille et le désir incontrôlable qu’il ressent pour sa maîtresse. Là où Lumière silencieuse prend des dimensions mythiques et élégiaques, c’est dans le contexte et l’approche de cette histoire. On a souvent l’impression de se retrouver dans le jardin d’Éden, au sein d’une nature splendide, sous des cieux majestueux illuminés par la lumière divine. Reygadas capte le tout en une succession de tableaux visuellement époustouflants, qui évoquent autant Dreyer que Malick. Lumière silencieuse étant une oeuvre minimaliste et austère, les élans passionnels qu’on y retrouve s’en voient magnifiés. À cet égard, l’exactitude émotionnelle des interprètes est exceptionnelle, particulièrement lorsqu’on sait que ce sont des non-professionnels, recrutés à même la communauté mennonite. Magistral. ]

(9 Mar) El Custodio (2006, Rodrigo Moreno) 46
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(10 Mar) Sleepwalking (2008, William Maher) 0
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(12 Mar) Americano (2007, Carlos Ferrand) 80
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(13 Mar) South Park 12.1 (2008, Trey Parker)
[ CARTMAN – “I’m not just sure, Butters, I’m HIV positive!” ]

(13 Mar) Año uña (2007, Jonás Cuarón) 51
(15 Mar) El Rey de la montaña (2007, Gonzalo López-Gallego) 56
(16 Mar) La Señal (2007, Ricardo Darín) 44
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(18 Mar) Snow Angels (2008, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 90

(19 Mar) South Park 12.2 (2008, Trey Parker)
[ SOME DUDE – “Britney was chosen a long time ago to be built up and adored, and then sacrificed. For harvest.” ]

(20 Mar) 3:10 to Yuma (2007, James Mangold) 80
[ Based on an Elmore Leonard story, this Western pits the badass Christian Bale against a badass Russell Crowe, in a battle of wills and six-shooters, natch. The story’s pretty classic, part “Rio Bravo”, part “High Noon”, with an outlaw being held prisoner while his gang tries to break him out and the upcoming arrival of a train acting as the movie’s clock. But this is clearly a modern take on the genre, for better or worse, with more flash and action… Mangold’s direction is effective, if not particularly epic, lyrical or distinctive. On the other hand, the acting is less stiff than that of the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper — I could watch Bale and Crowe all day. And while some of the plot turns are iffy, that final showdown is pretty damn awesome. ]

(23 Mar) 3 amis (2008, Michel Boujenah) 3
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(25 Mar) Run Fatboy Run (2008, David Schwimmer) 34
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(26 Mar) le fils de l’épicier (2008, Eric Guirado) 75
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(26 Mar) South Park 12.3 (2008, Trey Parker)
[ BOOBAGE KING – “This must be decided at the Breastiary, in Nippopolis.” ]

(28 Mar) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, John Ford) 70
[ Fuddy-duddy attorney/dishwasher/professor/senator James Stewart and badass gunslinger John Wayne both want to stop dirty bastard Lee Marvin, but one wants to use the law while the other figures a coupla bullets would do just fine. That’s a potent premise, and it’s a hoot to see these very different movie stars share the screen. But I gotta say, I’m not the biggest John Ford fan. The man was a skilled craftsman, who made perfectly fine pictures, don’t get me wrong. But his movies often feel a bit too staged, with square storytelling and hammy supporting performances. Still, the three leads are solid, and the brilliant last act kicks it up a notch. “This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” ]

(29 Mar) Superhero Movie (2008, Craig Marzin) [ review ] 1

(30 Mar) Travelling Light: Artists on the move (2008, Tamàs Wormser) goddamn hippies…
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(31 Mar) Antonio Gaudí (1984, Hiroshi Teshigahara) 68
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

February / April

Ralph Arida’s Oscars

Behind every film critic is a hidden and guilty desire to be a part of the Oscars’ jury and decide who gets the much-coveted award. There is also, in my case, the strong need to shove the academy’s political antics up its voters asses, as each passing year I find myself disappointed at the nominations and flat-out disgusted at some of the winners. I also do not understand the academy’s acute lack of memory, as usually any movie that is out in theatres before September, whether it is the best movie of the year or not, is completely neglected by the academy. So here is my own personal list of Oscar nominations (based on what I have seen of course) featuring some brand new categories:

Actor in a Supporting Role:

Steve Zahn- Rescue Dawn
Jason Schwartzman- The Darjeeling Limited
Javier Bardem- No Country For Old Men
Albert Finney- Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Hal Holbrook- Into the Wild

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Joan Allen- The Bourne Ultimatum
Meryl Streep- Lions for Lambs
Tilda Swinton- Michael Clayton
Hope Davis- The Hoax
Cate Blanchett- I’m Not There

Actor in a Leading Role:

Chris Cooper- Breach
Ben Kingsley- You Kill Me
Tommy Lee Jones- In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen- Eastern Promises
Joaquin Phoenix- We Own the Night

Actress in a Leading Role:

Christina Ricci- Black Snake Moan
Parker Posey- Broken English
Naomie Watts- Eastern Promises
Angelina Jolie- A Mighty Heart
Katherine Heigl- Knocked Up

Writing (Original Screenplay):

In the Valley of Elah
The Darjeeling Limited
Rescue Dawn
Black Snake Moan
You Kill Me

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

Atonement
No Country for Old Men
The Bourne Ultimatum
There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild

Cinematography:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Rescue Dawn
No Country for Old Men
Zodiac
3:10 to Yuma

Film Editing:

The Bourne Ultimatum
A Mighty Heart
Rescue Dawn
Eastern Promises
No Country for Old Men

Animated Feature Film:

Ratatouille
Persepolis
The Simpsons Movie

Direction

No Country for Old Men
Into the Wild
Rescue Dawn
American Gangster
The Darjeeling Limited

Best Picture:

No Country for Old Men
Black Snake Moan
Rescue Dawn
Atonement
The Darjeeling Limited

Most Overrated Movie at the Oscars this Year:

Juno
Surf’s Up

Most Absurd Nomination at the Oscars this Year:

Surf’s Up- Animated Feature Film
Ruby Dee- Actress in a Supporting Role- American Gangster

Biggest Shun at the Oscars this Year:

Rescue Dawn
The Darjeeling Limited
Black Snake Moan

Happy Oscars!
Ralph Arida

Penelope


Penelope is a fairytale movie about a young bourgeois girl, born with a pig’s snout for a nose, on a quest for freedom from her overbearing family and alienating face. While at first the film’s lightweight plot and cuddly mood are disarmingly charming, things quickly start to lose steam and feel a little too familiar as Penelope borrows and channels the vision of many fairytale authors and fantasy film directors, but ultimately never finds its own.

From the very beginning director Mark Palansky boldly defines Penelope as a celebration of the classic folk tales as well as their gateway to the future by stylistically marrying the old fairytale cinematic language with the new. He clearly intends to do to live-action fairytale films what Shrek did to the animated ones: rehash, remix, and revamp the genre. However one cannot help but think of Tim Burton’s iconic imaging, especially with Christina Ricci, a long-time Burton collaborator, gracing the screen. From numerous shots of majestic trees with sinuous and leafless branches (Big Fish; Sleepy Hollow) to a decidedly over-saturated color palette (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Edward Scissorhands), it seems like Burton’s fingerprints are all over the film, consequently overshadowing Palansky’s own. There is no denying however, that Penelope ’s visual style, although plagiarized, is stunning, painting London and the title character’s home with a stroke of fantasy so vibrant and colorful that it makes the story seem out of this world.

In the same vain as Palansky’s directing, Leslie Caveny’s writing stands more as a mosaic consisting of deeply engrained literary classics than as an original piece. Considering that all fairytales generally encompass the same beliefs and value systems and have established a common repertoire of plot devices to fuel their analogous moralistic fables, similarities to previous tales are always to be expected. What Caveny fails to deliver however, is a fresh take that would allow the repetitiveness of such storytelling to be ingested obliviously and enjoyably by its audience. That being said, Penelope has its share of imaginative, funny and witty moments. The problem is that they all occur in the first act, leaving the second and third mostly devoid of humor. Comedy, the script’s only merit and sole redeeming factor, should have been Caveny’s main focus. Instead, the audience is entitled to sugarcoated dialogue and diabetes-inducing character arcs.

The acting in this film is, to say the least, colorful and effective. Ricci’s interpretation of Penelope is outstanding. She carries a lot of range as an actress and displays all of it in this film, going beyond the script’s limitations, and proving once again that she is a savvy and worthy leading actress. She paradoxically and effortlessly emotes naivety, jadedness, strength and vulnerability and captivatingly carries this movie from the beginning until the end. Ricci is so radiant and magnetic in this film that she even makes the snout look good. Furthermore, Catherine O’Hara miraculously manages to be likeable as the overbearing and superficial mother despite the incredibly annoying part she is given and Richard E. Grant holds his own very well as the guilt-ridden father. James McAvoy (Atonement) delivers what is required of him, but unlike the others, does not surpass any expectations and consequently feels more like a supporting actor than a leading man. The only true disappointment however, would be Reese Witherspoon (also a producer of the film) in a bit part as the eccentric and sarcastic friend. Seeming to rely mostly on the refreshing stunt casting rather than her acting, she delivers her lines with an unconvincing and one-dimensional cheekiness that falls flat real fast.

Penelope starts off as a cute and heartwarming film beaming with humor and charm, but ends up relying too much on the familiar and the comfortable, consequently clouding its vision with boredom and predictability. It is no wonder the movie has been on the shelves for over two years before its release, and maybe it should have been given even more thought before gracing theatre screens. That being said, Penelope could very easily be every little girl’s favorite movie until another one of its kind comes out.

Review by Ralph Arida

Step Up 2 the Streets


Everybody was taken by surprise when Anne Fletcher’s “Step Up” instantly became a hit movie at the box office two years ago, quickly paving the way for an inevitable sequel. Directed by Jon Chu, “Step Up 2 the Streets” received about the same negative response from the nation’s top critics, but it also performed just as well as its predecessor on opening weekend. As hard as it may be to believe, step dancing is indeed not on the verge of dying out.

The sequel focuses on a young Baltimore girl named Andie (Briana Evigan), a rebellious street dancer who forms her own crew in hope to compete the streets. The script, of course, couldn’t be more predictable or formulaic, adding absolutely nothing new to the genre itself. The main characters all run into common conflicts with friends and enemies, develop boring rivalries, and throw around a handful of clichéd motivational speeches. Think of the plot as an even more blatant version of “Save the Last Dance.” You’ve seen is all before too many times now, and it’s seriously starting to get annoying.

On the other hand, “Step Up 2 the Streets” features a bunch of electrifying dance sequences. The choreography is more intriguing than in the first film, and the majority of moves looks refreshing, innovative and provocative. The energetic athleticism of the cast boosts the pace of the plot and keeps the audience from dozing off. Bold moves are not enough to save the film, but they are at least quite enjoyable to watch, especially on the big screen. With everything else in the script failing, the tricky performances come in handy, culminating in an exciting showdown.

Then there’s the extremely bad acting. Leads Evigan, Robert Hoffman and Adam G. Sevani certainly have what it takes to be great dancers, but they are terrible at delivering dialogue. Screenwriters Karen Barna and Toni Ann Johnson obviously struggled to squeeze in a couple of romances, but they are as cheesy and superficial as they can get. The actors fail to provoke chemistry between each other, which is often painful to watch. A cameo by Channing Tatum at the beginning of the film doesn’t help out much either.

“Step Up 2 the Streets” is probably a little more entertaining than its predecessor, despite its striking simplicity and predictability. I would recommend this film only to hardcore fans of the genre. After all, it all looks like a long music video anyway.

Review by Franck Tabouring

Definitely, Maybe


Ryan Reynolds slowly seems to be withdrawing from starring in brainless slapstick comedies; a move that is undoubtedly much appreciated. He already showed great skill in John August’s mystery thriller “The Nines,” and now he leads in Adam Brooks’ “Definitely, Maybe,” a serious comedy about a downhearted father who gets the opportunity to revisit his past and make up for his failures.

Reynolds jumps into the role of Will Hayes, a political consultant who agrees to tell his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) the story of how he met her mother, but only under several conditions. He tells her about his past three relationships, changes all the names, and challenges her to figure out who of his former girlfriends could be her mom. For Maya, it’s the most exciting bed story she could ever imagine.

“Definitely, Maybe” is an absolutely delightful experience. It tells the captivating story of a young man whose only way to find his happiness is to go back in time and reevaluate the highs and lows of his past life. The film mostly focuses on Reynolds telling his story, which kicks off in 1992 when he started working as the toilet paper guy on the Clinton campaign. As the story unfolds, viewers get an extensive insight into his past relationships. Brooks’ strong screenwriting and his sense for telling coherent and exciting stories make the experience of watching all the more delicious.

The movie is never too cheesy or too saccharine, offering a horde of funny and emotional situations that are all too familiar to everybody who’s been in love before. In fact, the story is so engaging that moviegoers themselves will quickly start wondering: well who is the mother then? Is it the high school sweetheart? Or the scrupulous journalist? Or maybe the charming copygirl? Fans of solid romantic comedies will definitely enjoy the guessing.

As I mentioned earlier, Reynolds seems to be picking up more challenging and sophisticated roles. Here he is absolutely charming as womanizer and devoted father. In the roles of his ex-girlfriends, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher offer delightful performances. Fisher clearly has the most energy to spare, and her chemistry with Reynolds is simply delicious to observe. Acting honors also go to Kevin Kline, who stars as a drunken writer who adores seducing attractive freshmen.

Although the film is not intended to make its audience laugh every other minute, “Definitely, Maybe” is a charming comedy with a heartwarming story, subtle enough humor, and wonderful actors. It’s the perfect movie for the perfect date. No, definitely!

Review by Franck Tabouring

Vantage Point


Before their release, certain movies seem to have it all: the best actors, the most exciting premise, and an awesome preview. Once those movies open in theaters though, most of them turn out to be disappointing flops; movies that could but didn’t. Vantage Point, with its cast and premise, sets the bar high for itself. After all, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver and Dennis Quaid in a smart political action-thriller seems more like a wet dream than a reality. Vantage Point however is not too-good-to-be-true; it is truly good. In fact, it is even better than it looks.

The movie centers on an attack against the President of the United States (Hurt) in Majorca, Spain, during a summit uniting all Arab leaders to create a truce in the Middle East. Do not panic, this movie is not a sappy pro-American right-wing piece of political propaganda. In fact, Vantage Point is not a very political movie. It uses contemporary politics to establish a grave sense of urgency and to get the action going, but never delves too deep into the core subject matter. Whenever it dabbles in political themes however, the film is at its weakest; thankfully it seldom does. Instead, the film chooses to explore the multiple facets of a single event by playing the event five times, each time from the different perspective of a key member and/or witness of the attack in question.

Director Pete Travis handles the script masterfully considering the difficulty of maintaining a level of thrill and suspense while showing the same scene over and over. Despite the repetitive nature of the storytelling, the action remains teeth-grindingly addictive from beginning to end as Travis skillfully uses the intricacies of moviemaking to his full advantage. The camera work is hectic and erratic enough to translate the chaos and panic of the event while still ably guiding the audience’s eyes towards the right places at the right time. The editing is edgy and ruthless, enhancing the movie’s sense of urgency and ultimately making each scenario as gripping and suspenseful as the previous one, leaving you breathless and impatiently awaiting the next – not an easy feat.

The script by Barry Levy is ambitious and although slightly uneven, works efficiently. It effectively handles its multitude of characters, giving each one enough depth and dimension without ever slanting into stereotypes. Moreover it chooses to show rather than say what is going on, thus allowing the story to gradually lead the audience towards its climax without clumsy explanations or bulky stating of facts compromising the film’s pace. For example, the first time the audience is shown the attack is through the eyes of a television news director (Weaver) in the control room. You witness the various cameras covering different angles of the event, and Weaver carefully picking her images and which side of the story she chooses to tell. A parallel is immediately felt between the news director and her control room and the movie director and his audience. Subtly, through Weaver’s character, the audience is explained how the story will unfold; how with each different angle of the story told, a little more of the plot’s tightly weaved web will be unraveled. Such instances are when Levy’s script works at its best. On the other hand, whenever Levy indulges into writing leftist political dialogue, the quality of the script plunges, as his words come off as being condescending, hammering and simply obvious. Thankfully, those scenes are easily dismissible, and the actors spouting those few clumsy lines work wonders with them.

The cast of this movie is simply outstanding. Quaid’s physically and emotionally scarred bodyguard is gripping, Whitaker’s sensitive bystander is touching and Hurt’s take on the president is skillfully nuanced. The supporting cast including Edgar Ramirez (Domino; The Bourne Ultimatum), Spanish superstar Eduardo Noriega (Open Your Eyes; The Devil’s Backbone) and Said Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner) is extremely strong; each thespian delivering a stunning performance. On the other hand, Matthew Fox seems uninspired as a bodyguard and Weaver gives a sometimes over-the-top performance, though in her defense, she is not given much to work with. Overall though, Vantage Point’s plethora of great performances elevates this film to a level far beyond its script, transforming what is initially a good movie, into a great one.

Vantage Point is skillfully directed, wonderfully acted, wittily written and far exceeds what it stands out to accomplish. It succeeds as a great action movie, a compelling edge-of-your-seat thriller and mindless entertainment with a hint of realism for all audiences to enjoy. No matter which vantage point you’re looking at this movie from, it’s definitely worth your time.

Review by Ralph Arida

Jumper


What better on a cold February night than a supernatural action-adventure movie of epic proportions, featuring teleportation around the world, and awesome-looking special effects? When I first heard of Jumper, its premise, and the awesome talent behind the lens, I rushed to the theatre as soon as it came out, hoping to massage my brain with spectacular and brainless fun. I was thirsty for kick-ass action, slick visuals and the all-American mainstream. Once the lights dimmed in the theatre and the feature presentation started, it did not take long before I realized that the movie I was about to watch was not what I expected it to be. Considering the well-established moviemakers responsible for Jumper, I expected to be dazzled by their work rather than their lack of inspiration. I was wrong.

Jumper immediately starts off with Hayden Christensen reading a voiceover narration. I hate voiceovers; they rarely work. Uninspired screenplay writers resort to them too often when they do not know how to illustrate their point. In Jumper’s case, the voiceover is useless and badly written. I am talking about lines that are so cliché that most writers wouldn’t dare type them. ‘Once I was normal, a chump just like you,’ claims Christensen as we watch him standing on the Sphinx. What a line… Whoever wrote it would have been better off with ‘Once upon a time,’ because sure enough, one minute into the movie, we are taken into our hero’s past, where for at least a good quarter of an hour, we are given the wonderful opportunity to view a bad episode of My So Called Life. You know the drill: awkward teenage boy has crush on annoying girl actress but is bullied by a stupid jerk that reminds him of his paper-cutout abusive father that his mother never bothered to defend him from because she mysteriously fled the household when he was five… Once those elements are hurriedly settled, he suddenly and inexplicably discovers his jumping/teleporting powers and runs away for good. We don’t know (and will never find out) where those powers came from or their true purpose, which is essentially the only reason why we are interested in this chump’s youth in the first place. Thanks for the waste of time.

We then follow our newly gifted protagonist into the big city, where he unfolds as an anti-hero rather than a vigilante. Being the angry teenager that he is, Christensen decides to utilize his power by robbing banks and getting wealthy instead of saving people from natural disasters – now we’re talking! Sadly, we only catch a glimpse of this as the movie unwisely decides to focus on Christensen’s return home instead. Back home, our Jumper meets Rachel Bilson under the guise of the all grown up love interest. Used-to-be-awkward-but-now-strong-and-handsome Christensen beats up his bully, sweeps the girl off her feet and takes her on a romantic escapade to Rome, where the much awaited action is set to take place.

Cut to Samuel L. Jackson as the baddy. Samuel, Samuel, Samuel. Only you could pull off being so shameless and careless about your career and still be respected by your peers… Mr. Jackson shows up on screen with an embarrassing cryogenic rug pasted on his scalp, thinking he is in a Spy Kids spin-off, and looking to kill. The person responsible for making him look like a half-breed between Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man and a chia pet should have been fired on the spot. Everything about Jackson in this movie, from his ridiculous power ranger looks to his absurd and over-the-top performance, sticks out like a sore thumb. Clearly, either he thought the movie was meant to not take itself seriously or he simply did not take the movie seriously himself. One thing is for sure though, Jackson is a riot in this film, whether he intended to be or not. Mr. Jackson however, is far from being Jumper’s weakest link and is definitely not accountable for the movie’s lack of entertainment value.

The problem with Jumper is that it consistently focuses on the wrong things. It prioritizes the uninteresting rapports between the two leads and completely neglects its supernatural premise, leaving those thirsty for action oversaturated with cheesy soap-opera dialogue. Instead of showing us how Christensen learns to maximize his powers, he suddenly and inexplicably becomes a super Jumper. Instead of exploring the ‘Paladin’ versus ‘Jumpers’ mythology, we see Jackson running around like a headless chicken without ever knowing what the motivation behind his witch-hunt is. Instead of taking advantage of the incredible potential teleportation has as a plot and visual device, the movie centers on Christensen and Bilson’s relationship. What a waste…

Jumper has a lot of talent backing it up. It features an adapted screenplay by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins; the Blade trilogy) and Jim Uhls (Fight Club), is directed by Doug Liman (Swingers; Go; The Bourne Identity) and includes great actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane and Michael Rooker. I just don’t understand how all this talent managed to make such a disappointing and dysfunctional movie. Jumper does not jump, it skips like a scratched CD, and you should definitely skip it.

Review by Ralph Arida