Category Archives: 2006

Half Nelson (2006)

Man… I’m sweating like George Bush on Judgment Day.

– Dan Dunne

I haven’t seen Half Nelson in a couple of years. Ryan Gosling received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance. I thought I might revisit the movie to see if the movie is still effective. The answer to that question is no.

A young upstart, Dan Dunne (Gosling) is teaching at an inner city junior high school in New York City. He tries to get his students to think about history and how they should learn from the past to become people in the future. He also coaches the school’s girl basketball team. His life is thrown for a loop with his ex, Rachel (Tina Holmes) comes back to town. She comes to the game, but it was a losing game.

After the game, one of Dan’s students, Drey (Shareeka Epps) comes into the locker rom to find him smoking a crack pipe in one of the stalls. He wants her to kept what she saw a secret. He gives her a ride home when her deadbeat father doesn’t even bother trying to pick her up.

Drey begins to cut Mr. Dunne’s class. Drey’s mother Karen, (Karen Chilton) is concerned for her daughter. So she won’t end up being the wrong crowd that got Drey’s brother in jail. She especially doesn’t want her hanging out with the local drug dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie) and making her hustle for him.

During time at the teacher’s lounge, Jimbo (Denis O’Hare) express his disgust that a crack pipe was recently found in the locker room. Dan and Drey develop a close relationship that for some people would be perceived as inappropriate.

I think that the movie lost its luster for me. I guess, I couldn’t believe that nobody would have pegged this guy as a crackhead. If he was using regularly, he would look like death. I wouldn’t believe that he and Drey would be close friends. I’m surprised that other teachers or administrators wouldn’t have found out.

I know that the movie won a couple of Spirit Awards for both Ryan and Shareeka. I think the movie felt disingenuous to me. It’s a shame, because I loved this movie a couple of years ago. I don’t know what happened.

Judgment: Ryan Gosling comes into his own in this movie.

Rating: 7/10

Children of Men (2006)

I can’t really remember when I last had any hope, and I certainly can’t remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what’s left to hope for?

– Theodore Faron

I have meant to watch Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of P.D. James’s novel, Children of Men. I have heard nothing but good things about this movie. It is now the 189th Film on the IMDb Top 250 Films list. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. I wondered at the end of the movie, why the hell didn’t I see this movie sooner?

The movie’s setting takes place in the dystopian world of 2027 London where the world’s population is descending into chaos after the world became infertile. The reason for the phenomenon has not been known until certain events could shed light on the plight of humanity’s survival. There is a countrywide crackdown on illegal immigrants that are brought to refugee camps.

The main person that we fellow is a former activist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) who is working soul-sucking 9-to-5 job where he was almost killed in a bomb blast getting coffee. The world is in mourning over the death of the youngest person in world who was a little over 18. He skips out on work to visit another former activist friend of his, Jasper (Michael Caine) is a hermit living in the middle of woods growing marijuana in his house.

Jasper tells Theo about “The Human Project” which is a secret government project that could help cure the infertility in women. Theo doesn’t believe a place existed. When Theo world is rocked when he is abducted by Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Patric (Charlie Hunnam) and Ian (Paul Sharma) who are members of the Fishes, which is an underground guerrilla group that is fighting for the rights of the immigrants.

The leader of the group is actually Theo’s ex, Julian (Julianne Moore) who wants Theo to do a big favor for her. She wants Theo to get transit papers for a “fugee girl” that is trying to get out of the chaos of London. Theo is resistant to do it when Julian offers him $5,000 pounds, he reconsiders it. He goes to his cousin, Nigel (Danny Huston) to ask for the papers. All Theo could get is joint transit papers, which means that he has to go with the girl.

Julian brings Theo to the place where the girl, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is hidden away at with her guardian, Miriam (Pam Ferris). The group, including Luke ride out to a checkpoint to get her on a boat away from the place when the car is attacked by rioters and Julian is shot. Things go from bad to worse when Theo realizes that Kee is pregnant. Now, he knows that stakes and lengths that people would go to get close to Kee and her unborn child.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this movie because the beginning of movie was fine, but nothing exciting was happening. Then when the revelation of Kee’s pregnancy happened, I was hooked right in. It was a tense=filled ride for that time forward. I wanted characters to be all right. I was afraid when danger would come knocking on their door. I have never been so moved by an ending like I did this one.

The movie felt a lot like The Road is some respects, but this movie had hope and heart it in it. The allegories of the concentration camps, Abu Ghraib, September 11th, the war in Iraq were not lost on me. It reminded me of another movie, Blindness that I didn’t care for that much. This world felt like modern times that it eerily gave us a glimpse into a possible future. After you read this review, go and buy this movie. Watch it, experience it. You will not regret it.

Judgment: I didn’t know how could I recommend this movie highly enough?

Rating: ****1/2

Blood Diamond (2006)

In America, it’s bling bling. But out here it’s bling bang.

– Danny Archer

Blood Diamond was a movie that I intentionally stayed away from when it was released in 2006 ,because of the overt political message that slapping you upside the head with it. I did see the ending of the movie when I was flipping the channels one day. If I saw the ending that liked it, I should see the rest of it. The movie is an unflinching look at a war zone, but the message is heavy handed.

Taking place in Sierra Leone circa 1999, the story mainly focused on a civil war between the people over the control of diamond fields there. Many people have died, even though no one of them has actually seen a diamond. Ambassador Walker (Stephen Collins) tells a panel that the Africans have been killing themselves over precious resources for years. Now they have turned to diamonds as their next source of strife. The blood diamonds are purchased for weapons that made the civil war drag on. He wants to prohibit the purchase of conflict diamonds. The US makes up the majority of diamond sales.

A fisherman, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) walks with his only son, Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) from school, when he sees a bunch of soldiers from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) gunning down men, women and children in their village of Shenge. Solomon tries to save his family from the ongoing massacre, but he is captured while they escape. The reason behind the shooting is that the rebels don’t the people to vote to change the way things were. Solomon is sent as labor to mine diamonds. While at the mines, Solomon finds a 100 carat light pink diamond. He buries it, but it caught when the Sierra Leone troops attack rebels and captures alike. Shoot first, ask questions later. He is taken for being rebel in their eyes.

A Rhodesian diamond smuggler, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) pretends to be with National Geographic to cross into Liberia with the conflict diamonds placed inside the necks of goats. He is doing this assignment for Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo) that is working the large diamond exporters, Rudolf Van De Kaap (Marius Weyers) and Rupert Simmons (Michael Sheen) to supply the money for the never-ending conflict. (Getting confusing for you. I should.)

Archer is promptly arrested and taken to the same prison with Solomon is held. The person that captured Solomon, Captain Poison (David Harewood) announces to everyone including Danny that he buried the diamond. Danny is bailed out by his friend, Nabil (Jimi Mistry) to convince Coetzee, Van De Kaap and Simmons to split the cost of the pink diamond Solomon has found.

At a local bar, Danny meets a journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly). She tries to get information about Van De Kaap. How are the diamonds being exported from Liberia where there are not diamond mines? She wants his help to expose Van De Kaap and Simmons for their wheeling and dealing; names, dates, and number accounts of buyers of the conflict diamonds to take them down.

When Solomon is bailed out, he tries to find his family at various refugee camps. They are nowhere to be found. Still on the run, another group of rebels have taken Dia from his family. He is beaten and brainwashed into being a part of the child soldiers by Captain Poison.

Danny tracks down Solomon to find the location of the diamond that he buried. Split the cost of the diamond fifty/fifty to help get Solomon his family back and Danny enough money to pay off Colonel. They enlist the help of Maddy to ensure that they succeed in finding his family and recovering the diamond.

I have heard about the dealing with conflict diamonds prior to watching this movie. I didn’t know the extent of what was going on at the time. Here is another example as why the Western world doesn’t care about Africans. Just like what was dramatized in Hotel Rwanda and The Last King of Scotland. Massive atrocities have been happening and nobody did a damn thing to stop it. It’s still happening. I do hate it when the point is donkey-punching me every five minutes. We get it, Ed Zwick!

The movie is long for such a heavy subject. I thought some of the sequences dragged a bit too long. The romance plotline between Maddy and Danny was completely trite. Why does that need to be in there? Why is it every time that Solomon is about to get killed a militia comes in to wipe out everything moving? He survives.

This film was nominated for five Oscars including Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hounsou. I thought they were good, but I didn’t think it was worthy of recognition in my opinion.

Judgment: There is a good story under all the political red tape.

Rating: ****

Loose Change: Second Edition (2006)

First of all, I want to say that I do not support the rhetoric that was presented in Loose Change. I think that blaming the government for 9/11 is utterly ridiculous, but I decided to hear the infamous conspiracy theory that will not go away. That there are internal memos amongst government officials to stage fake attacks against the United States. I don’t know credible their “sources” are, bit I am not buying it.

The documentarian Dylan Avery gives faint examples in history of high-ranking officials staging attacks circa the Cuban Missile Crisis, the military manning remote control Boeing jets, the Twin Towers encircled in crosshairs, military jets were pulled from being close to the Pentagon, there were training exercises to crash planes into the Towers and the Pentagons.

There are some phone interviews with different people giving their descending opinions on the motives of the attack. There was an interview with Hunter S. Thompson that was spliced in that talks about his opinion that President Bush had an agenda on that day.

Avery tries to paint a picture that events that had been relayed on the news were inaccurate. Talking about the flight training of one of the hijackers, painting a picture that a missile was fired upon the Pentagon, not a 747 jet. Avery is also saying that the intense heat the planes did not make the buildings collapse, but it was explosive devices implanted in the towers when the planes hit to make the falls quickly.

Okay, let’s say that all of Avery’s fact are correct. Bombing devices were at the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers, why would the government do this to their own people, why the cover it up?

Throwing a bunch of quotes taken out of context will not convert me to the other side of the argument. Where there a bunch of inconsistencies with the news report covering the story? Of course. One station could say one thing; another will say something different. It’s not new.

People were in shock and they convey what they thought they saw or heard. Was it an accurate depiction of what happened? Probably not, because they were under stress. I heard people said it sounded like firecrackers when shots rang out. It doesn’t mean that a prankster lit a couple of firecrackers. I want Mr. Avery to be at the WTC site on that day and tape himself on camera about what he thought he saw.

I have theory of my own. Did Mr. Avery forget to mention about the aborted terrorist on the WTC back in 1993? If it was an inside job that he says, what if an Al Queda agent infiltrated and planted the explosive devices in the buildings? He was so certain that the government was entirely behind the attack that he didn’t explore all the possible explanations? If commercial airplanes were not used on all of the attacks, what happened to the passengers and crew of those American 11, 77, United 175 and 93 planes? Did they simply disappear? Were they killed?

Is this propaganda? Absolutely. Is what Dylan Avery saying could be taken a fact? Not certainly. There is reasonable doubt. Conspiracy theorists almost had me convinced that the moon landing 1969 was no real. They would trick you with their distorted facts, doctored images and misquoting sources. He was even taking his quotes from Wikipedia. Yes, the most credible of sources. You are reaching, sir. You think we created a real version of Wag the Dog or Dr. Strangelove.

Should we ask questions about that day? Yes. Should we get all the answers? No. The public will be in a panic that the government is coming to get them. Some secrets need to be hidden the American people.

Judgment: I don’t agree with the statements presented here.

Rating: **

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)

In the end – just like I said – I left everything, and everyone. But no one, no one has ever left me.

– Dito

I heard about Dito Montiel’s A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints from the /Filmcast a couple of months ago. I tried to find this movie. I was lucky that it was playing on IFC last night. The hosts of the podcast were praising the movie about the gritty coming-of-age story. After watching the movie, I felt that something missing in the plot.

The movie dramatizes Dito Montiel’s youth in the summer of 1986 where he left home for years. It wasn’t her publishes his memoir of the same name in 2005 that he gets a phone call from his mother, Flori (Dianne Weist) telling Dito played by Robert Downey, Jr that his father, Monty (Chazz Palminteri) has falling ill. Monty refuses to go to hospital. Flori asks Dito to come back and take care of him.

The storyline swaps from 2005 back to 1986 where young Dito (Shia LaBeouf) is hanging out with his troublemaker friends, the roughneck Antonio (Channing Tatum), Antonio’s odd brother, Giuseppe (Adam Scarimbolo) and pre-pubescent Nerf (Peter Tambakis). It is an unspoken tradition that the Italians do not get along with the Puerto Ricans. There is a graffiti artist named “The Reaper” (Michael Rivera) that is tagging the neighborhood. The boys want to get to the bottom of who is defacing their neighborhood.

A new kid from Scotland, Mike O’Shea (Martin Compston) befriends Dito, but their budding friendship threatens to their guys apart.

Meanwhile, older Dito comes back to Astoria after twenty years to find that things have changed. Friends moved away, some have died; some are stuck there like Nerf (Scott Nichael Campbell) or Dito’s old girlfriend, Laurie (Rosario Dawson). Dito is reluctant to go back to his family’s house after such a long absence. He wonders if it was a mistake to come back at all.

The effective parts of the movie were at the end of the movie when Laurie confronts Dito about fulfilling his obligations to his father, and the pivotal point that Dito leaves Astoria were excellent. The rest of the movie was choppy with its shoddy editing. Parts of story were not explained. Was Giuseppe autistic? Why does Antonio’s dad beat him, not Giuseppe?

Judgment: A good movie is in here somewhere. You have to dig through a lot of muck to get to it.

Rating: ***

Jet Li’s Fearless (2006)

Poison works very quickly. It has worked its way to my heart… Zhensheng, promise me you won’t seek revenge. Revenge will only bring us more bloodshed. Please, that’s not what I want. We must strive to become triumphant… Nong Jinsun, I only understand wushu. I practiced for many years to understand what Wushu is, what is wushu’s real purpose. The competition must continue. One cannot choose how one’s life begins. It takes courage to finish the final step.

– Huo Yuan Jia

Billed as Jet Li’s swan song to the epic martial arts movie, Fearless retells the true-life story of Huo Yuan Jia. He is known as being the best martial artist in China at the turn of the 20th century. I learned about this after I watched the movie. I thought that this was another martial arts movie, but it was a little different not by much.

As I said in the introduction, the film is about the life story of Huo Yuan Jia (Jet Li) primarily focusing on the last ten years of his life. All of this life, Yuan Jia wanted to be a great martial artist like his father. His father didn’t want his son to fight because of the asthma that he had since he was a boy.

Yuan Jia wanted to prove everyone wrong to be the number one fighter in the land. Not hearing his mother’s warnings, he becomes very cocky. He fights scores of warriors until Master Chin (Chen Zhi Hui) challenges him. They get into an epic fight where Chin is defeated. As an added consequence, a follower from Chin’s clan slaughters Yunjia’s family.

Devastated from the turn of events, he leaves his life behind to find the true meaning of the martial art. After years of exile, Yuan Jia comes back to his hometown to find the Jin Wu Sports Federation that has expanded to over fifty countries today.

I understand that Jet Li wanted to portray the greatest hero in Chinese culture. He wanted to end his martial arts movie life with this person. It’s like poetic justice, but it was stale in some parts of the movie. The action sequences are great, of course. You can plainly see the stunt doubles from some of the actors. Also, there is a sequence where a Japanese fighter is interacting with Yuan Jia where he is clearl dubbed. That is a capital offense in my book. Everything else is blah.

Judgment: If you want to see a half-ass attempt of a biopic, watch this movie.

Rating: ***

Inside Man (2006)

My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I’ve told you my name: that’s the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there’s a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison…

– Dalton Russell

Considered Spike Lee’s most critically and commercially successful movie of his career, Inside Man is not your average bank heist movie. I own this movie on DVD for a while, but I never cracked it open and watched it. I have given it to former co-workers to watch, but I never did because it came out of a subscription I had with Columbia House a couple of years ago. Watching it now, I don’t know why I waited this long.

At first, you think that this would be a typical bank robbery, but it’s not. A masterful criminal, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his crew holds up a Manhattan Trust Bank disguising themselves as painters armed with AK-47s and smoke bombs.

Det. Fraizer, (Denzel Washington), a hostage negotiator that is in some hot water over a drug dealer, check cashing and $100 thousand missing dollars is assigned to the case with his partner, Det. Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor). They rendezvous with Capt. Darius (Willem Dafoe) to let the duo know about what is going on.

The robbers usher to the hostages to the bank vault level to confiscate their keys, cell phones and clothes. The hostages are asked to change into the identical painter coveralls the robbers have on. These are not your ordinary robbers.

With all the news coverage about the robbery spreads to the news, the chairman of the bank, Mr. Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) calls a “fixer” Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to protect special items in his safety deposit box.

They all come together to try to diffuse the situation. There are more layers to the movie when Dalton strings Frazier along like a puppet. He always stays one step ahead of him. It’s a cat and mouse game.

Nothing is what it seems to be when the purpose of the robbers is not about money, but it’s about a person getting their due justice. It’s a morality play that is reminiscent of the legend of Robin Hood.

The performances were solid across the board. The dialogue is quick and biting. The action keeps you on your toes with twists and turns.

The only gripe I have about the film is that the film wrapped up to nice and neat with any loose ends are solved. Nothing is left to the imagination of the audience to think about when the end credits begin.

Judgment: A solid psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes.

Rating: ****

Crank (2006)

crank_ver3

Does it look like I got cunt written on my head? Who do you think you are fucking with?

– Chev Chelios

The high intensity action movie Crank was never my kind of movie. I am the big action anti-hero movie kind of guy. Directors Neveldine/Taylor has a reputation of having a buffed anti-hero kicking ass and taking names with jump cuts, thumping music and saturated lens. It feels like combination between Danny Boyle, Tony Scott and Renny Harlin. That may not end up as a good thing.

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is a contract killer for a Los Angles crime syndicate. He wakes up to find himself a groggy mess. There is a video playing of Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) drugging him with the “Beijing Cocktail” on Chev’s TV. Ricky’s motive for the injection is retribution for not killing Don Kim (Keone Young).

Little does Chev know is that the serum slows down his heart. He has one hour to live before the serum kills him. He calls Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakum). Doc informs Chev that he has to keep his heart pumping with adrenaline to stay alive by any means necessary from coke, tossing back Red Bulls, car chases, and nasal spray or fucking his brains out with his pothead girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart).

He wants to seek revenge on Ricky. He enlists the help of his gay friend, Kaylo (Efren Ramirez) to get Chev closer to getting Ricky. Chev realizes that his boss Carlito (Carlos Sanz) is conspiring with Ricky for Chev not finishing the job.

As Chev stretches his limited time, Doc Miles tells him that he needs to find epinephrine. He tears Los Angeles apart to get the drug. He overdoses on the epinephrine and he has to burn it off.

From the get go, the movie is beyond reality with the ridiculous premise. I understand the movie is supposed to be frenetic and fast paced. Sometimes it could be too much. I believe that Neveldine/Taylor knows that the movie is ridiculous and treat it as much. There was the WTF sequel Crank: High Voltage that came out earlier this year, it makes the ending falls flat. Sorta speak.

Judgment: This is a fun movie that should not be taken seriously.

Rating: ***1/2

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

pursuit_of_happyness

This part of my life… this part right here? This is called “happyness.”

– Chris Gardner

I actively avoided watching The Pursuit of Happyness, because I don’t like those syrupy-knock-you-over-the-head-with-its-message kind of films. Will Smith was nominated for an Oscar for this movie. I can see why, but the overall movie tries at your patience.

It is inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner (Smith), a man struggling to keep his family afloat in San Francisco during the early 80s. When we first meet him, he is a salesman that is selling portable bone density scanners to try to pay for rent.

Chris spent their whole life savings into machines that doctors deemed to be a luxury item. His family is behind in their bills. His distraught wife, Linda (Thandie Newton) is working double shifts to try to keep the family, including helping to send their son, Christopher (Jaden Smith) to daycare in Chinatown.

Chris tries to sell off the last six of the scanners while he tries to better himself by applying for an internship at a brokerage firm, Dean, Witter & Reynolds. He tries to get a way in the broker trainee program by buttering up to one of the executives, Mr. Jay Twistle (Brian Howe).

Chris is very charismatic person. When he sees that Twistle is trying to solve the Rubik cube — which was a hot trend in 1981— Chris impresses Twistle with his math wizardry and solves it. In subsequent meetings with Twistle and Martin Frohm (James Karen), he charms them and become a hard worker on cold calls to potential customers.

Just when his life is looking up, everything else is crumbling down around him. Linda is tired of Chris’ empty promises about leaving the salesman stuff behind and leaves for NYC. She wants to take Christopher with her, but Chris has a rule that child should know his father. He wants Christopher to stay with him.

Being three months behind in rent, the landlord kicks him out on street. With no place to live, Chris looks for different places to live when he is enrolled the six months internship program that could led to a permanent position with the company. Father and son try to stick together through a difficult time in their lives.

Some parts of the movie that bothered me, like the running gag of having Chris chase after people that took his scanners. Be prepared to see a lot of running, voice-overs and references to Thomas Jefferson. This takes place San Francisco; he actually bumps into the hippie or the guy that think the scanner is a time machine that took his scanners. As much as I hated Jayden in The Day the Earth Stood Still, he was equally as annoying here. Asking questions repeatedly got on my last damn nerve. Shut up already!

I supposed that this movie could be cathartic to the people affected by the recession about the past year, but other than that, this is just another saccharine movie that toys with your feelings.

Judgment: Another inspirational movie that doesn’t inspire you. Epic fail!

Rating: **

The Covenant (2006)

covenant

I’m going to make you my Wee-yotch!

– Chase Collins

This is the first time in memory watching a Renny Harlin movie. The Covenant has a reputation of being the gayest straight witch movie ever to be created on celluloid. There are endless sequences of the boys being shirtless or even less and a man-on-man mouth rape. The rest of the film, however, is god-awful.

This movie tells the convoluted story about the sons of Ipswich, a powerful Wiccan sect that have been in the shadows ever since the Salem Witch Trails. It was believed that there were five descendants that survived.

We are introduced to four of them; Caleb (Steven Strait), the leader of the sons with Pogue, Reid, and Tyler (Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemingway, Chace Crawford) that try to keep their supernatural powers under control.

Things change when a hidden, powerful fifth force threatens the kids at the Spencer boarding school.

There is nothing redeemable about this movie. The action sequences were clunky. You could actually notice that these people were on wires. The dialogue is atrocious. The acting was wooden. The only thing about this movie is the endless sweaty, shirtless scenes with the male cast members.

Judgment: A generic movie that should have a soft-core gay porn flick.

Rating: **

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