Category Archives: 2005

The Upside of Anger (2005)

I believe that The Upside of Anger was the unsung hero of 2005. I wanted to see the movie during its theatrical run because something about Joan Allen and Kevin Costner pulled me to it. I loved the movie and put it on my top ten list of that year. I even owned the DVD, but all you say may know that I had to sell it to buy food. The two lead gives great performances that they were nominated for Critics’ Choice Awards and nothing else. Shame.

Terry Wolfmeyer (Allen) devolves into a bitter, resentful state when her husband leaves her for his Swedish secretary. She is a complete mess, hanging around the house in her nightgown with a cigarette in one hand and a vodka tonic in the other. She has to care for her four daughters; the uptight college student, Hadley (Alicia Witt); the working girl, Andy (Erika Christensen), the anorexic ballet dancer, Emily (Keri Russell) and the introspective, Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood).

Former baseball player/radio show host Denny Davies (Costner) comes by the house to check up on the girls, because he was a friend of Terry’s husband. He talks to Terry about the proposed neighborhood that would be built in the back of the Wolfmeyer property. Terry doesn’t care anything about the new neighborhood, she wants to drink her troubles away. Denny joins her as drinking buddies, because he is clinging on to his former baseball glory. He is getting pressure from his producer, Shep (Mike Binder) to talk about baseball instead of spewing on about his life. His ratings are suffering.

The relationship between Terry and Denny changes when they start to have a deeper connection than getting hammered. Everybody’s lives will be profoundly affected when relationships are tested and an unexpected discovery happens to them.

I cannot gush more about this movie that I always have. I thought that it was screwed out of some more awards attention. Joan Allen was real and embodied the character. I felt for her as she went through her journey. Costner was in top form playing another former baseball player. You kinda feel like he is typecasted, because he was played a baseball player in Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. I feel like this is the swan song of those characters. Writer/director, Mike Binder probably made the conscious decision to have Costner retire his signature characters.

Judgment: Give this movie a chance, you won’t regret it.

Rating: 8/10

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The Constant Gardener (2005)

Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.

— Sir Bernard Pellegrin

2005 was my snobbiest year to date, because I didn’t see that many of the Oscar nominated films of that year. When Brokeback Mountain came out, it was the end-all-be-all for me. The adaptation of John Le Carré’s book, The Constant Gardener was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz Best Supporting Actress. The movie is a solid effort that swept under the rug.

after coming from his Oscar nominated direction of the seminal movie, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles followed up with this movie. A diplomat from the British High Commission, Justin Quayle (RalphFPiennes) leanrs of the death of his wife, Tessa (Weisz) from his colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston). They go to a morgue in Loki, Kenya to identify her body. People think that it was an accident, but others think that it was an assassination.

Quayle is reminded to the times that he has had with Tess. He was filling in a lecture for his friend, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) when the idealistic Tess challenged him about the actions of the US to go to war with Iraq. They have a mutual attraction with each other and quickly marry. Tess wants to go to Africa with Justin so she could do something about the AIDS crisis on the continent.

After Tess’ death, reports surface that Tess was supposedly having an affair with her African escort, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé). Quayle wanted to know why Tess was killed. It could have been from her probing into the pharmaceutical  companies of KDH and Three Bees who are using the African people as lab rats. She wanted to expose the companies for suppressing clinical trails, especially the adverse side effects, for a drug called Dypraxa that would suppose to treat tuberculosis. Justin wants to continue Tess’ crusade and investigate her death when everybody in his life is telling him to leave well enough alone.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie when I was watching the first half of the movie. I have seen movies that are heavy-handed with political messages like Syriana, Rendition or In the Valley of Elah. They will jump a subject down your throat, and you want to turn off the movie. Don’t talk at me. Let me understand what you are saying. When the conspiracy begin to unravel, the movie really started become intriguing where Justin’s life could be in the same peril as Tess’.

It did make me think about how the African people are portrayed as a continent of expendable people. With the rampant AIDS infections, famines, rebel child soldiers, and the ethnic cleansing; it shocks me that almost nothing is being done to help the African people. It makes me sad and angry that they have to fend for themselves.

Judgment: A taut thriller through and through.

Rating: 8/10

The Boys of Baraka (2005)

I have never heard of The Boys of Baraka until I picked the DVD at my local library. I thought it was a film about the Mortal Kombat character. Nope. It’s something much different from that.

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady spent three years following the lives of at-risk youths from a Baltimore ghetto. The only options the young boys have are either jail, death or graduating from high school. In their neighborhood only 76% of boys drop out of school.

A recruiter from the Baraka School, Miss Jackson, tells the potential students about the school in Kenya, Africa that would change their attitudes about getting an education and change the course of their lives. Only twenty students will chosen to take part in the school program.

Out of the twenty students selected, the filmmakers follow four boys. There is Richard, the boy with the determination of not being like the drug dealers that hang around every corner in his neighborhood and his little brother, Romesh. There is Devon, who wants to be a preacher when he grows up. Last, there is the troublemaker, Montrey, who wants to a chemist when he grows up.

The trouble is that most of these boys are not the academic levels that they should be at twelve or thirteen. Miss Jackson conducts the summer orientation for the Baraka School before the boys leave for Africa in September.

When the boys arrive to the school, they are greeted by the headmaster, Ray Berttula who explains the rules of the school. They have to do their work and not be physically violent towards each other of they will sent back home.

The boys explore their new surroundings by taking hikes to local villages to see other kids, play in the streams and watch the native animals roam around. Their time there makes them homesick and some of the kids act out in frustration. Will the school actually changes these boys before it’s too late?

When I heard that the y filmmakers spent three years filming this movie, I had to ak myself, “Where is it?” It feels like a hollow documentary that barely scratched the surface of what these boys are going through.

Judgment: I felt that I was cheated out of 1 1/2 hours of my time.

Rating: 4.5/10

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Ya know it could be like this, just like this always.

— Jack Twist

Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain was the seminal movie that ignited my passion for the cinemas. I was obsessed with this movie when it came out. I didn’t see most of the Best Picture nominees that year for that reason. It was the be all, end all for me. It went on to when three Oscars including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score. The Oscars were on my “shit list” for a long time that it did not win Best Picture, instead of giving it to Crash.

Summer 1963. Wyoming. A gruff rancher named Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and brooding Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) help out sheep herder Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) move his flock on Brokeback Mountain without the park rangers smelling him out. It seems like everyday is the same with eating beans, watching the sheep; Ang Lee brilliant direction makes it fascinating to watch their relationship unfolded. Jack’s innocence softens Ennis’s tough exterior. He begins to express himself more.

One night, their friendship is changed forever after a night of drinking they have sex. Multiple questions arise: did Jack forced himself Ennis? Did they come together because they were the only humans around? Afterwards, they try to shake it off as a one time only occurrence. They can’t because they are beginning to fall in love with each other.

They thought that they could keep their relationship secret, but it is the worst kept secret. The work they are sent to do suffers as Aguirre’s flock is confused with another sheep herder and a massive snow storm cut their time short. Jack and Ennis have to go their separate. They don’t work to leave each other’s side, but it was a different time in 1963. They can’t run away together and go to Greenwich Village or San Francisco.

Ennis marries his longtime girlfriend, Alma (Michelle Williams) and quickly starts a family with her. Jack tries to get back into the rodeo circuit, but he  meets the forward, Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). I never realized that each guy married a female version of each other. Alma is passive like Jack and Lureen is more take charge like Ennis. They try to lead “regular” lives as fate steps in to turn their worlds upside down.

I remember the first time that I saw the film at the Landmark Theater back in Houston. It was a couple of days after it opened in limited release that December. The line for the movie was around the corner. It was amazing to see straight and gay couples wanting to see this movie. The movie was packed. It sat on the very back of the theater. I wanted to soak the experience in. I’m glad I did. I laughed. I cried. I went on a journey with these characters.

Oh, how I love this movie. Let me count the ways. The beautiful, breathtaking mountain peaks captured on video by Rodrigo Pietro, the haunting score by Gustavo Santaolalla, the excellent acting by Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams. I was surprised that the movie only won three Oscars. It boggles the mind.

The movie is not perfect. I did have some troubles with Anne Hathaway towards the end of the movie and some of the small female roles were throw aways like Anna Faris and Linda Cardellini. There was also the conclusion of the relationship. It was a little cliché.

Judgment: This is a prime example of why the Oscars don’t know what the fuck qualifies as the Best Picture of the year.

Rating: 9.5/10

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I could more easily forgive his vanity had he not wounded mine.

— Elizabeth Bennett

There have been at least a dozen adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice over the years. I have have not seen them all. I have only seen one Joe Wright directed in 2005. I caught it on television and I thought it would completely derivative, but I was enamored with the story and Matthew Macfayden and Kiera Knightley who garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. I have to say that this is best Joe Wright film that I have seen.

The Bennett family has fallen on hard times the mother (Brenda Blethyn) is driving herself into hysterics trying to marry off her five daughters; the innocent Jane (Rosamund Pike), the outspoken Elizabeth (Knightley), the cynic Mary (Talulah Riley), the bubbly Kitty (Carey Mulligan) and the naïve Lydia (Jena Malone). The father (Donald Sutherland) want the girls to have better lives that what they already have. Have a suitor marry them for financial security, not love.

The first sign is that a wealthy eligible bachelor, Charles Bingley (Simon Woods) moving into a nearby property who is also looking for a bride. The opportunity to meet him is at a public ball where he comes with his sister, Caroline (Kelly Reilly) and his morose friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen). Bingley immediately is smitten by Jane while Darcy sulks alone while everybody else. Elizabeth finds the time to verbally spar with Darcy who she thinks has no matters for a gentleman.

After the ball, Jane receives a letter from Bingley asking her to dinner at his estate. Along the way to the estate, there is a terrible rainstorm where Jane catches a cold and has to stay over. Elizabeth walks to the estate to see how Jane is recovering with her family bringing up the rear to suggest a less formal ball to be held at the estate after Jane recovers.

Since Mr. Bennett has not produced any male heirs to bequeath the property in case of his death, it would go to their distant cousin, the long-winded William Collins (Tom Hollander). The reason by him coming into the house of take one of daughters as his bride. He wants the eldest, Jane, but Mrs. Bennett says that Jane is already taken, but Elizabeth is equally suitable and the family could keep the estate.

In town shopping for ribbons, a handsome soldier Wickham (Rupert Fiend) picks up a handkerchief belonging to Lydia who tried to woo one of the Redcoat soldiers coming back from battle. He thinks that it belongs to Elizabeth, but Elizabeth fancies Wickham immediately. She hopes that Wickham would come to the ball, but he doesn’t.

She wants to avoid Darcy for the stories that Wickham tells about their strained friendship. Darcy wants to dance with Elizabeth, which surprises her. On the dance floor, Elizabeth and Darcy resume their verbal sparring match as they realize that their disdain for each other could wind up as something more.

It’s strange. The first time that I saw this movie, I fell in love it. Watching it the second time. It doesn’t hold up in my eyes. The score by Dario Marianetti was gorgeous. I loved the costumes. There were some instances where I knew why Keira was nominated, but I thought she could have gone more into Elizabeth.

Judgment: The movie felt a little shallow, but I am a sucker for costume dramas.

Rating: ***1/2

Shadowboxer (2005)

Feeling protected is very seductive.

— Rose

After I saw the trailer for Helen Mirren’s upcoming flick, Red, I thought I was seeing the other movie that plays an assassin. Lee Daniel’s directorial début film, Shadowboxer has some controversy with a scene with Stephen Dorff going full frontal in the movie. Trust me, I saw the pictures and video. Excuse me for going off topic. I knew very little about this movie, except it was about assassins and that’s all I should have known about it.

Mirren plays an aging assassin, Rose that has terminal cancer. The type of cancer was not discussed.  Her companion, Mikey (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) tries to comfort her as she knows that her time is running out. She begins to talk about God, heaven and the afterlife when she receives her last mission from their wheelchair bound handler, Andrew (Tom Pasch). The mission is to take out the wife of a fellow hitman, Clayton (Stephen Dorff).

Clayton conveniently goes on a trip for the hit to happen. Rose and Mikey gain access to the house and take out the bodyguards that are protecting Clayton’s wife, Vicki (Vanessa Ferlito). In the back bedroom, Vicki is talking on the phone with her girlfriend, Neisha (Macy Gray) who tells her to be careful about the company she is keeping. She doesn’t like Clayton at all and not afraid to say it.

After getting off the phone, Vicki noticed that it is eerily quiet.  Rose stealthily comes into the room for the intention to kill her, but she realizes that Vicki is pregnant. She has a change of heart to not shoot this woman. The trauma of the ordeal causes Vicki to go into labor. Rose decides to deliver the baby with the reluctant help of Mikey who thinks that they should finish the job.

After delivering the baby, Rose decides to take the mother and child with them in hiding. Before they do so, she summons Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to come and look at the twosome. He brings along his crack addicted girlfriend, ironically named Precious, played by Mo’Nique, who is jealous of his strange relationship with Rose.

As Rose unofficially retires, she decides to take Vicki and the baby out of the city and into a suburban life, trying to be like a blended family. The strange turn of events does not sit too well with Mikey, being a father figure to a kid that they were hired to kill.

Being that this was Daniel’s first film, I could see that he tried too hard to make a good movie here. It tried to be grand with the musical choices of classical music going into rap music. There were scenes of saturated lights and falling leaves that came straight out of a feminine hygiene commercial. The tone seems off with an assassin story with a family drama and the “comic relief”, which was the lush Neisha. I did not like her in this role. Her voice drove me crazy. I have never been so happy to see a character die in all my life.

As I stated earlier, there is a lot of obvious symbolism here with the older woman, Rose is dying and she wanted to save a woman that is about to bring new life into the world, Vicki. It’s not very subtle. The abundance of crosses is not lost on me about life and death. How do we live our lives and how it all ends? Is there a Heaven or Hell? Will we be remembered after we are gone? Yeah, I get it.

It seems that the movie tried to be a different take on the typical assassin movie, but it ended up being horribly predictable at the end.

Judgment: Google the interesting scenes to save you from sitting through this movie.

Rating: **

Layer Cake (2005)

My name? If you knew that, you’d be as clever as me.

— XXXX

Over the years, film geeks have been singing the praises of Matthew Vaughn’s breakout debut film, Layer Cake. It is also ensured Daniel Craig getting a spot as the next James Bond. English gangster films are hit and miss with me. More hit than miss with me. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

J.J. Connolly adapted his book of the same name about his tale of a cocaine dealer known cryptically as XXXX (Daniel Craig) who wants to get out of the game before he gets in too deep. He is not a gangster. He has never first a gun in his time of dealing the coke. His philosophies are keeping a low profile, have a small team of men cutting up the product like Terry and Clarkie (Tamer Hassan, Tom Hardy), never get greedy and always pay your supplier on time. His supplier is Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) who dispatches his right hand man, Gene (Colm Meaney) to transport the drugs and the money.

Price wants to have a private meeting with XXXX to help Price’s friend, Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) find his missing daughter, Charlotte (Nathalie Lunghi) who could be with her junkie boyfriend, Kinky (Marvin Benoit).

To make matters worse for XXXX, a pompous asshole nicknamed The Duke (Jamie Foreman) steals over a million Super E pills from Serbian war criminals with the help of his girlfriend, Slasher (Sally Hawkins) and right hand, Gazza (Burn Gorman). The Duke wants to sell the pills for a ridiculous amount of profit.

XXXX enlists his mates Cody and Tiptoes (Dexter Fletcher, Steve John Shepherd) to deal with the girls as he has a shit storm falling on him. Apparently, The Duke boldly said his name to the Serbs and one of them hires an assassin named Dragan (Dragan Micanovic) to go after XXXX and he associates. XXXX has to find a way to rectify the situation.

The first half of the movie was a lot of exposition that was okay. Not exactly thrilling, but there is a turning point where everything comes together and I was hooked in. There is not like a Guy Ritchie movie. It is not over the top with the characters having weird quirks or having exaggerated accents. It seems grounded in reality. I applaud the film for that.

Judgment: A tight crime caper. What more can you want?

Rating: ****

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

You know what? I respect women! I love women! I respect them so much that I completely stay away from them!

— Andy Stitzer

It has been a while since I have seen Judd Apatow’s breakout movie, The 40 Year Old Virgin. I owned the unrated edition before I had to sell it. Boo. No matter how many times I watched this movie, I still get a kick out of it.

If you don’t know the premise of the movie, you should be ashamed of yourself. Stop reading this review now and watch this movie. For the rest of you, I will give you a refresher. Steve Carell plays Andy, an introverted that leads a solitary life with his gaming chair, painting small figurines and endless toys that have never been taken out of the box. He doesn’t have a car. He rides his bike to work at Smart Tech, which is like Radio Shack.

Andy doesn’t fit in with his co-workers, particularly with the womanizing Jay (Romany Malco), wound up Cal (Seth Rogen) and romantically forlorn David (Paul Rudd). As by some miracle, they invite Andy to a poker game after store hours that night. Andy playing online for hours at time gave the wherewithal to wipe the floor with them.

The conversation turns to sex when they relay horror stories about when Jay talks about the freaky shit he has done with his jump-off behind his girlfriend, Jill’s (Erica Vittina Phillips) back, a dog giving Cal anal-lingus during sex or David rambles on about making love to his ex-girlfriend, Amy (Mindy Kaling). When it comes to Andy, he tries to bullshit he way with a story and the guys call him out on it. It turns out that Andy is virgin. Their mission to get Andy laid. With Andy’s secret out, he is afraid that the whole store will know.

The next day, everything seems to be normal, but it’s normal. Everybody knows including the store manager, Paula (Jane Lynch). Andy wants to escape from the embarrassment. David tries to calm Andy down. Andy tells David about his failed attempts of getting laid. David wants to make it up to Andy by inviting him to be with the guys again with no pressure about having sex.

Jay doesn’t wanna hear that. He wants Andy to scam a sloppy drunk that is on the verge of passing out and Nicky (Leslie Mann) enters from a bachelorette party. Andy and Nicky seem to hit it off and leave together in her car. Things spin out of control real fast when she bobs and weaves out of traffic, crashing her car with another and blew chucks at him. The fellas have a chuckle afterward when Andy tells them.

Things were about to change when a customer, Trish (Catherine Keener) comes into the store looking for help for a VCR. They quickly disappear leaving Andy to deal with her. Andy convinces her to get a DVD/VCR combo; in turn Trish is a shop owner at a place called “We Sell Your Stuff on eBay Store”. She invites Andy to check out the store and gives Andy her number. The fellas go out a celebrate Andy’s first step in order to have sex. They try to loosen up his clean cut exterior. Will it impress Trish?

I thought the climatic scene between Trish and Andy was silly. How the hell did she get into his apartment? When Andy tried to call Trish a couple of times how come she didn’t know it was his number. She doesn’t have caller ID. The dance sequence at the end? Maybe that is nitpicking.

Judgment: There is a poignant story of love inside a raunchy comedy.

Rating: ****1/2

Jarhead (2005)

Every war is different, every war is the same.

— Anthony ‘Swoff’ Swofford

During my subscription of Details magazine circa 2003, I passed by a blurb for Anthony Swofford briefly discussing his memoir about his time in the Persian Gulf War called Jarhead. Sam Mendes directed the big screen adaptation of his story. I loved that the story is not a war movie, but a movie about young soldier’s journey.

Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a Marine recruit that is trying to find himself. He thought that the military was the best decision, but he regrets it. He is introduced to his platoon, Gulf Company. His initial reception does not turn out why the way that he thought. They tried to initiate him with a mock branding of the USMC.

Pretending that he has a stomach virus, he meets Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jaime Foxx) in the crapper. Seeing that Swofford is not as dumb as he thinks he is, Sykes wants Swofford to train as a scout sniper. Swofford jumps at the opportunity. He is teamed up with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard).

As the Iraqis invaded Kuwait, Second Platoon is deployed to the battle zone. The Marines think that they would be there a maximum of two weeks, but things changed. As part of Operation Desert Shield, their orders from their battalion leader Lt. Col. Kazinski (Chris Cooper) are to guard the oil fields that are a constant target of the Iraqi militants.

The platoon has to learn is about to the harsh conditions of the desert, how to survive the insurmountable boredom of non-combat conditions. As the days turn into months, Swofford’s mind begins to unravel as he learns that his girlfriend is cheating and he is not seeing any action.

Everybody knows how much of a “Gyllenhaalic” I am. I remember taking my ex-boyfriend to see this movie in the theaters. I was engrossed in the movie and I looked over to see that he was sleeping. That’s why he became an ex-boyfriend.

Sam Mendes has a way to make a monochromic setting into a thing of beauty. You see sand blackened with soot and ash from fireballs or burning oil wells in the distance. It’s like the screen is inverted.

Judgment: If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like gory war movie, you would enjoy

Rating: ****

The Descent (2005)

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I’m an English teacher, not fucking Tomb Raider.

— Beth

The Descent is a movie that I eagerly anticipated seeing, but haven’t had the chance until now. Having a female cast is something different that I thought I could get into. The movie as it turns out is not unique.

After a river rafting trip, a family gets into a car accident where the husband Paul (Oliver Milburn) and child Jessica (Molly Kayll) die, leaving the mother, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) with survivor’s guilt.

A year later, Sarah’s best friend, Juno (Natalie Mendoza) arranges a trip to Chatooga National Park where they could walk the caverns. Along for the trip is Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), Beth (Alex Reid) and sisters, Becca and Sam (Saskia Mulder, Myanna Buring).

Juno coordinated the trip, but she is thrill seeker. When they all go out to explore the Boreham Caverns, Juno decides to leaves the booklet for the caverns behind in the care. Big mistake.

They descend into the caves and explore the vastness of them. Juno leads them into alternate passageways. It wasn’t until a cave in that the women realize that they are not in Boreham Caverns. They are in an unnamed cave that Juno wants to explore so she could name it after Sarah.

With no way out, the group tries to find a way to the surface. Along the way, Sarah keeps on hearing giggling noises in the distance. At first, it was thought to be an after effect of her PTSD, but something does not feel right. The women soon realize that they are disturbing the first inhabitants of the caves.

Watching the movie could be a chore. Nothing major happens to the girls until over halfway to the movie. I was thinking what the hell is taking so long. Watching it, you do feel claustrophobic with the tight squeezes of the tunnels. There were some inconsistencies that I have an issue with, but to discuss that will be in the spoiler section.

Judgment: A different configuration to the same basic plot.

Rating: ***

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