PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (2007) (**1/2)

31 05 2007
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After a triumphant start to this franchise, I’m sad to report that the final installment in the original trilogy is only partly successful, leaving me vastly disappointed in all the potential wasted. Convoluted, over-long, dramatically weak in too many areas, contrived and often unfunny, this bloated exercise in over spending on razzle-dazzle to distract audiences from a void of enough new ideas will probably satisfy some with a solid conclusion, but others might find the time invested not worth the journey.

With Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander, THE LIBERTINE) wielding his control over Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, SHAUN OF THE DEAD), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, ELIZABETHTOWN), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, SHINE) and Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris, TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY) must begrudgingly team up to help save Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, ED WOOD) from Davy Jones’s locker, so that the nine members of the pirate alliance can free goddess of the ocean, Calypso, and stop Davy Jones from terrorizing the sea.

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This Weekend’s Film Festival Celebrates Romance

30 05 2007

Well, I’m three for three on keeping the This Weekend’s Film Festival alive as a weekly segment on this site. Because there wasn’t any worthwhile DVD releases this Tuesday to build the lineup around, I had to come up with another theme to tie the films together. It’s far from Valentine’s Day, so why romance you might be thinking. Well, it’s my 5th wedding anniversary on June 1st and in celebration I thought it was as good as time for any to look at five great films for the romantic at heart. Some of the films in the lineup are fairly straight forward… but I know you’re gonna want to know how a zombie film, which I referred to in my original review as “the goriest film I’ve ever seen,” works into this week’s group of films.

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FAST FOOD NATION (2006) (***1/2)

29 05 2007
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Despite some structural problems, FAST FOOD NATION shines with intelligent debate, an impressive cast and a layered approach at looking at the entire fast food industry from the corporate level to the meat supply level to the store level. Based on the bestselling non-fiction book, director Richard Linklater and co-writer Eric Schlosser find a way to bring out a bit of the human side behind the disturbing facts that were revealed in the original tome. Seen side by side with the documentary SUPER SIZE ME, one may never eat a fast food hamburger ever again.

For the film’s corporate look, the fast food chain Mickey’s is riding the success of their new burger the Big One. Marketing exec Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) is sent to Colorado to investigate one of their beef supply facilities after an independent report reveals a high level of crap in the meat, literally. For the supplier side, we follow a group of illegal Mexican immigrants — Raul (Wilmer Valderrama, TV’s THAT 70S SHOW), Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno, MARIA FULL OF GRACE) and Coco (Ana Claudia Talancon, THE CRIME OF FATHER AMARO) — as they cross the border and get jobs at the meat packing plant. On the local store level, Amber (Ashley Johnson, TV’S GROWING PAINS) is working to make enough money to go to college, because her mother Cindy (Patricia Arquette, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER) can’t afford to send her.

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This Weekend’s Film Festival Celebrates Letters From Iwo Jima & Apocalypto

23 05 2007

Wow here it is the second weekly This Weekend’s Film Festival. I never know how difficult it will be to get around to a regular column on Rick’s Flicks Picks, but I’m at least two for two. Like last week, I’m building this week’s theme around film(s) newly released on DVD. Two of my favorite from 2006 arrived on DVD yesterday — LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA and APOCALYPTO. They’re completely different films, but I’ve found some interesting companion pieces for the lineup that will pull this week’s festival all together.

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THE OFFICIAL STORY (1985) (****)

22 05 2007
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Winner Best Foreign Film at the 1986 Oscars, this harrowing tale of political awakening works more so on an emotional level than an intellectual one. This does not mean that the film is absent of ideas, because it is filled with Argentinean history and the political strife that enveloped the nation in the 1980s when the government was rounding up dissidents, who were often never seen from again.

Alicia (Norma Aleandro, SON OF THE BRIDE) is a high school history teacher. Her husband Roberto (Hector Alterio, SON OF THE BRIDE) is a rich businessman, who has dealings with the country’s elite as well as the government. Alicia knows little about the rallies in the streets of her city where poor mothers seek information about their missing children. She only knows what has been written down in books. Alicia is a great mother to her adopted daughter Gaby (Analia Castro), who just turned five.

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MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) (****)

21 05 2007
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One of the key reasons MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON works at all is that the aw-shucks attitude of its title character isn’t the attitude of the whole film. This isn’t a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER worldview going on here. Director Frank Capra, known for his flag-waving sentiment, is fairly cynical about how government works. The Senate in this 1930s film almost feels modern. The film is actually a cry for a noble institution to hold up to its noble ideals.

When a vacancy opens up in the U.S. Senate, naïve Midwesterner Jefferson Smith, who has made a name for himself working with underprivileged boys, is picked to fill the spot. His father was good friends with Sen. Joseph Paine (Claude Rains, CASABLANCA), who supported Smith’s appointment. Smith idolizes Paine, but he doesn’t know that he’s been chosen as a patsy. Paine hopes to use Smith as a way to help pass a bill, which will make corrupt businessman Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold, THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER) a lot of money and insure him a shot at the presidency.

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HOT FUZZ (2007) (***1/2)

19 05 2007
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What writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg did to the zombie film in SHAUN OF THE DEAD, they turn around in HOT FUZZ and do the same to the buddy cop genre. They certainly know their actions flicks, referencing specific bad actioners like POINT BREAK and BAD BOYS II while skewering the whole genre with pointed jibes, post modern references and a subtly that often walks the edge between homage and satire.

Officer Nicholas Angel (Pegg, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) is the best cop on the London police force. He’s so good that his superiors are looking bad, so he gets a promotion to sergeant in a sleepy village where the top crisis is when a swan gets loose. Angel takes his job very seriously. He follows the letter of law precisely. Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent, MOULIN ROUGE) tells him that he needs to lighten up and that some rules need to be bent for the betterment of the village. But Angel has a hard time letting things slide such as Butterman’s police officer son Danny (Nick Frost, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) driving drunk. Angel quickly becomes a celebrity of sorts in town and Danny begins to idolize the former big city cop. However, when a brutal traffic collision seems a bit fishy, Angel starts to suspect that something is rotten in Sanford and everything seems to point to Machiavellian grocery store owner Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton, LICENSED TO KILL). When Angel starts to voice is worries to his fellow officers, the intense and crude inspectors Andy Wainwright (Paddy Considine, IN AMERICA) and Andy Cartwright (Rafe Spall, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS) think he’s nuts, because there hasn’t been a murder in the village in 20 years.

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SHREK THE THIRD (2007) (***)

18 05 2007
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I walked into this movie not expecting much due to the lackluster appeal of the trailers. I walked out thoroughly entertained, more so than I expected to be. However, now a week after having seen it, I barely remember it and really can’t recall anything that really stuck out as spectacular. Shrek is approaching middle age and so is the franchise. SHREK THE THIRD is like going to your high school reunion — it’s entertaining to visit with old friends, but those wild and crazy guys aren’t like they use to be. That being said, Shrek’s latest tale isn’t boring and at least moves the franchise into a logical direction instead of just spinning its wheels with a rehash of what worked in the first film.

Shrek (Mike Myers, AUSTIN POWERS) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz, IN HER SHOES) are filling in for Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews, MARY POPPINS) and King Harold (John Cleese, A FISH CALLED WANDA). But when King Harold croaks, Shrek is the next in line to be king, but he doesn’t want it. So along with Donkey (Eddie Murphy, MULAN) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas, DESPERADO), Shrek ventures out to find Fiona’s teenage cousin Artie (Justin Timberlake, BLACK SNAKE MOAN), the only other legitimate heir to the throne. If this wasn’t a big enough worry for Shrek, Fiona reveals that she’s pregnant, which turns Shrek even greener than he already is. While Shrek is away, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING), who has been relegated to working dinner theater, plots to take over the Kingdom of Far, Far Away with the help of a legion of fairy tale villains.

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This Weekend’s Film Festival Celebrates Pan’s Labyrinth

16 05 2007

This is the first edition of the This Weekend’s Film Festival. Hopefully, this will become a weekly feature of the site. But who knows what will get in the way. Each week will have a new theme. The only criteria for the fest’s lineup are that I’ve already reviewed the film and that it’s at least available on DVD. For the most part the films will be three star flicks, but a there may be an occasion to embrace less than positively reviewed films. I hope to bring attention to films I like and hope this is a fun way to encourage people to check them out and even better… have a fun thing to do on a weekend or two.

This week I’m building the lineup around PAN’S LABYRINTH, which just arrived on DVD. I felt it was the best film I saw from 2006. So the Friday evening film is Guillermo del Toro’s fairy tale for adults. Fantasy films are on the rise lately thanks to the LORD OF THE RINGS series. Del Toro took many risks with this dark story that takes deep emotional issues and presents them on a grandly magical scale. The layered story works on more than one level. Visually arresting, the film will leave its images imprinted on your mind forever. For more on the film, read my original review.

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DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2006) (***1/2)

14 05 2007
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This Oscar nominated documentary chronicles the long trail of child abuse inflicted by Father Oliver O’Grady and how the Catholic Church covered it up and allowed it to continue. More of a chronicle of what happened then a deeper look at why, the film succeeds the best when it deals with the way the sexual abuse affected its victims, which does not include just the grown children, but their families as well.

Part of the film’s intrigue comes from the interviews with O’Grady, who now lives on a church pension in Ireland. The smile on his face and the lack of real remorse for what he has done only makes O’Grady’s chronicling of his actions more chilling as well as fascinating.

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