Whip It! by Director Drew Barrymore Movie Review: Roller Derby with Ellen Page Pumps Girl Power Into Sports Genre

Move aside boys — it's time for the girls to get in on the action, on both sides of the camera.

It's no big secret that American cinema is still largely a man's world, from top to bottom and everywhere in between. Every once and a while, we get something like Frozen River — a film about what it means to be a woman, written and directed by Courtney Hunt (a woman) — and of course, small awards buzz aside, the film gets relegated to the fringe.

The point here is not that we should expect women to be making films solely about women — Kathryn Bigelow has exhibited more insight into the male psyche than most gents. But when sexuality and promiscuity are too often treated as synonymous with femininity, someone has to step in, and it might as well be someone who knows a thing or two about being a woman.

And, for that matter, filmmaking. Whether you believed she had it in her or not, Drew Barrymore is exactly that filmmaker.

Whip It! Skates Around The Sports Genre Conventions Admirably

Whip It! — Barrymore's directorial debut — isn't a sensationally great film, and from beginning to end, it's a downright predictable one. Every move is telegraphed by a thousand coming-of-age and sports movies before it. However, it has the wonderful sweat and stench of truth, as in something that came from experience rather than blind inference.

Scripted by Shauna Cross from her novel of the same name, Whip It! is unapologetic in its reliance on genre formula and convention, which is at least one reason why it gets away with playing connect the dots with the plot lines. Predestination aside, there's a lot of personality coming through from both sides of the camera.

Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) longs (as every small-town, high-school protagonist does) to escape. The prison in question is Bodeen, Texas, or more figuratively, her nutty mother's (Marcia Gay Harden) insistence on including her in the local pageantry circuit. Down the highway, the liberal offerings of Austin tempt her toward, of all things, roller derbies.

Ellen Page Leads Off Phenomenally Assembled Cast in Whip It!

Page, as she has proven before, is as talented as any young actress around, and it's a good thing she brought her A-game. Aside from the demanding physicality for the role, Page has competition coming at her from all angles. …

The Social Network – Movie Review

I'll admit it – I'm a Facebook addict. So when I heard that a movie about how Facebook grew to have 500 million members was in theatres, I was thrilled.

From the very first scene, The Social Network pulled me in and kept ahold of me for the entire 120 minutes.

The Beginning

The movie didn't keep us waiting long before getting into how Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, came up with the idea for the website. Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is obviously a computer genius and an expansive thinker. His people skills may be lacking but he makes for a character we root for. As Zuckerberg gets Facebook growing from one university to a dozen to a hundred to everyone worldwide, we get taken along on the ride.

 

Justin Timberlake

While I wouldn't consider myself a Justin Timberlake fan, he did a superb job playing the role of Sean Parker. Parker became a member of the Facebook team as it was spreading across the Atlantic Ocean to include universities in Europe. Parker brought a greater vision to Facebook than even Zuckerberg probably ever had and took the website into another realm of expansion. One could argue that Parker took Facebook from an American non-advertising website to a global one with paid advertisers; numerous, wealthy, profit-making advertisers. Whoever cast Timberlake as Sean Parker made an excellent choice.

The CFO

The second leading character after Zuckerberg is Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield), the Chief Financial Officer of Facebook. He was a part of the project from the beginning and provided all of the money Zuckerberg needed to get the website up and running, perhaps all of it until Facebook became profitable. Like quirky Zuckerberg, Saverin is a lovable character, flawed yet one we grow to empathize with. When he is standing in Zuckerberg's laundry room, dripping wet from waiting in the rain for Mark to pick him up at the airport – which he never did – and we see how far apart the two men are, we feel for Saverin who has worked his butt off for Facebook since day one.

My heart actually broke for Saverin when, through a series of documents and conniving actions by others, he is ousted. Even as a bystander to the story, you feel the blade of the knife in your back, too.

Lawsuits

The majority of the movie takes …

Sherlock Holmes Movie Review – The Scarlet Claw: With Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson

The ongoing popularity of Sherlock Holmes has led to many theatrical and movie adaptations of Conan Doyle’s stories. Guiness World Records regards him as the “most portrayed movie character” with more than 70 actors playing the fictional detective in over 200 films. Of these 70, one of the best remembered is Basil Rathbone.

Basil Rathbone as Holmes

In 1939 20th Century Fox released two Holmes movies, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Portraying the lead roles of Holmes and Dr. Watson were Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Both films were well received by audiences, in part due to the screen presence of both actors, particularly Rathbone.

The South African born Rathbone, who had often been cast as a villain in previous movies such as The Adventures of Robin Hood was an ideal choice to play the role. His height of 6-1, build, and facial features nearly matched the literary Holmes as described by Doyle. Trained on the Shakespearean stage, he was also able to bring a staid, dignified sophistication to the role.

Universal Studios Steps In

Shortly after the Fox movies were released, Rathbone and Bruce reprised their roles in a popular radio series based on the Doyle stories. Then in 1940 Universal Studios signed the two men to star in what would become a series of 12 Holmes movies, the last released in 1946.

The 12 movies were essentially low budget “B” or second feature films that ranged in storytelling from mediocre to quite good. The one which is still considered the best and holds up well today was the sixth in the series — The Scarlet Claw.

Synopsis of The Scarlet Claw

  • Cast: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Miles Mander, Ian Wolfe, Gerald Hamer, Paul Cavanaugh, and Kay Harding
  • Director: Roy William Neill
  • Length: 74 minutes
  • Color: B&W

Holmes and Watson are in Montreal attending a conference with Lord Penrose when the latter receives a message that his wife has been found dead, her throat savagely torn out. The three go to the Lord’s small French-Canadian village of La Mort Rouge to discover that the town's residents are all convinced that the killing is the work of the legendary La Mort Rouge monster, which allegedly roams the marshes around the village.

Holmes, however, is skeptical, and quickly deducts that Lady Penrose, a former actress, is the victim of a revenge killing by …

The Last Song Movie Review: Miley Cyrus Makes Dramatic Debut In Nicholas Sparks Melodrama

The Last Song opens with a pouty Miley Cyrus looking underwhelmed at the prospect of spending the summer with her beleaguered father, and it's a somber prospect for the viewer, as well. Miley's effervescent screen presence in 2009's Hannah Montana The Movie is nowhere to be found at the onset of her latest film, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation of his own melodrama novel. Miley is wistful, whiny, and flat out mean, something fans of her Disney Channel show might find alien. Well, it's her first crack at a serious role, a "more mature" part designed to provide at least some distance between her famous small screen persona and her new endeavor of becoming a serious actress.

For the most part, it works…at least for Miley's performance. She has just enough to keep her character Ronnie interesting and engaging, and her natural charisma serves her well even as her inexperience as an actress becomes obvious. It's a solid debut for her; not a star making turn by any means, but also not the embarrassment some were probably hoping for. OK, with that out of the way…

The Plot of The Last Song

Ronnie Miller and her little brother Jonah (effectively played by Bobby Coleman) are spending the summer with dear old dad Steve (Greg Kinnear). Along the way, Ronnie makes a friend, some enemies, and a potential suitor in the form of local rich boy Will Blakelee (hunky Matthew Modine lookalike Liam Hemsworth). During a summer of roller coaster-like ups and downs, Ronnie and Will become closer. However, being a Nicholas Sparks screenplay, the other shoe inevitably drops and tragedy strikes…which may just bring everyone closer.

It's a predictable tearjerker, complete with just about every stock character from these types of films, including the mean and conniving ex-girlfriend and the boyfriend's uppity, judgmental mother. What makes everything kind of work, to the extent that it does, is Greg Kinnear's excellent portrayal of Steve.

Greg Kinnear Shines

It will probably come as no surprise to fans of cinema that Greg Kinnear's performance is worthwhile; after all, he generally turns in good to great roles. What may be surprising (or perplexing) is his presence in this film to begin with. It seems like an odd choice for such a fine actor at this stage in his career.

But no matter. Kinnear flexes his acting muscle as far as the limited screenplay will allow, …

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Movie Review: Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson Starrer – Woody Allen Lite

 

See the source imageNeurotic and directionless, pretty but appallingly vacant, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a sugar-free, fat-free diet slice of life. Set in a city much more dynamic than its characters, the film transposes the textbook female quarter-life crisis across the Atlantic into Catalonia, where the beautiful scenery of Barcelona leaves the viewer unprepared for the volley of clichés that director Woody Allen is about to launch.

One-Dimensional Acting

Immediately the briskly clipped words of the narrator cut through lazy, golden-hued panoramas of the title city, spoiling the mood accumulating behind the majestic vistas and Spanish guitars. The voice begins to grate after about thirty seconds, as the listener gets the unshakable impression the narrator is patting himself on the back for being so relentlessly clever in his glib descriptions of Vicky, Cristina, and their respective circumstances. With this unrelenting refusal to let the film speak for itself—often, the characters are silenced as the narrator speaks, helplessly moving their mouths like goldfish trapped in a cinematic bowl—Vicky Cristina sometimes resembles an obnoxious tourist’s slideshow more than a film.

The shallow exploration of Barcelona as a “character” in the film does not help Vicky’s paper-thin character gain any sympathy, either—aside from a few shots of her in the library and vague references to a long-standing infatuation with the architecture of Antonio Gaudi, the setting could be any other picturesque, historical European city. Vicky may find Catalan guitar music “magical,” but the narrator has to explain her enchantment in the absence of any real acting on the part of Rebecca Hall.

Hall’s proclivity for staring off into space necessarily detracts from any solid interpretation of these stares, rendered ineffective from overuse. Scarlett Johansson, playing Cristina, surpasses even Hall in the number of times she whips out the all-purpose blank stare, and so the narrator is summoned from his back-patting reverie to explain her every thought and feeling.

Narrative Interference

While an intrusive narrator is acceptable in moderation, Vicky Cristina’s quickly reaches a saturation point and actively bars the film from showing instead of telling. This narrator is a light switched on during an intimate moment—whenever a mood begins to congeal out of the lamentably shallow dialogue, the narrator cheerily smashes it. In a leering aside, during a smoldering scene between Vicky and Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem, whose talent as evidenced in No Country for Old Men is pitifully squandered here), the narrator …

Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange : Movie Review

Set in future Britain, A Clockwork Orange is the story of a sadistic, perverted and ultra violent teenager named Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who along with his cronies terrorized the back streets of the city and remote suburban establishments hitting on old drunkards, breaking into houses, damaging private and public property and of course raping all the women they could lay their hands on. And whatever time they still managed to spare they spent fighting rival gangs and getting high on drugs in the 'milk bar'. However, like many great leaders, one day Alex too lost favor with his grudging subordinates. And thanks to their treachery his luck finally ran out. He was arrested, tried and charged with murder.

While in prison he came to learn of a new project launched by the government aimed at reforming the prisoners by messing with their minds so that they would never again commit crime. As compensation for volunteering his 18 years sentence would be reduced to just a fortnight and good old Alex would be on the streets again, much sooner than expected.

On being released, the new Alex finds a hostile and uncompromising world waiting for him full of people whom he had once wronged and who had lied in wait to get even with him. In his compromised condition (he can no longer raise fists to fight or defend himself without feeling nauseous) homeless, penniless and hopeless, Alex sees a world which is very familiar to him but which he never expected to live — that of the victim.

 

What works in favor of A Clockwork Orange

The movie very effectively addresses the issue of prisoner reform alongside telling a very interesting and gripping story.

The acting is top-notch and just the way Alex says " well well well well" or "righty right" while twirling his stick is enough to send a shiver down your spine.

Music plays a very important part in this movie and the way it is used in tandem with scenes of violence is simply amazing.

My verdict on A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is definitely a movie worth watching. It has high drama, a fast narrative and of course the brilliant acting of Malcolm McDowell (as Alex). At times the movie becomes grossly perverted and at other times almost spiritual, it portrays a total cornucopia of emotions aided by spell binding background scores. If …

Sex and the City 2 – Movie Review

Sex and the City 2 combines a lot of what fans have been expecting from their four gals and their guys. The fashions are incredible and the jewelry is out of this world. But the story is not what fans of the show and characters are used to. It is basically, outside of all the drama of the lives of Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), a political comment on the suppression of women in the Muslim culture.

The first part of the film is downright adorable. There is a wonderful wedding filled with plenty of humor and memorable moments. And Liza Minnelli makes an appearance as well as sings and dances. But from then on the story takes on a more political and disconcerting tone as the four women take off to Abu Dhabi for an all-expense paid trip complete with personal suites on board the airplane and a luxurious suite in a five star resort, not to mention they each have their own butler as well as their own private Maybach car at their disposal.

Changes in the Lives of Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda

The four women are each going through their own drama and changes. Miranda has hit the glass ceiling at her job so she decides she needs to change law firms. Charlotte’s daughter Rose is going through the terrible twos, which takes the perfect mother to her breaking point. And speaking of the terrible twos, Carrie and Big, aka John Preston, are in their second year of marriage and Carrie is having a hard time trying to merge her old life with her new married one. And as for the ultimate change, Samantha is in the middle of menopause. Drama, drama, drama.

While the women are in Abu Dhabi, they face the culture with alarm and hesitation. They take a swipe at the oppressive culture when they join together at a karaoke club to sing “I am Woman,” a highlight of the film.

But Samantha being who she is, cannot resist a fling while away, and that leads to trouble in this religious culture. She is outraged that her sexuality is considered a no-no. What is Samantha without sex?

While the city of New York is not one of the characters in this film, which it has been in the TV series as well as the …