Friday, February 29, 2008


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A Review of the Feature Film Holly


Gil Lahav

Shot on location in Cambodia, with scenes filmed in actual brothels of Phnom Penh's notorious red-light district, Holly sheds light on the horrors of child prostitution and trafficking.

Patrick (played by Ron Livingston) is an American card player whose empty expatriate life is jolted out of its slumber when his motorcycle breaks down in the K11 village of child prostitutes. While waiting for his motorcycle to be fixed, Patrick’s moral universe is turned upside down when he meets Holly (played by the talented Thuy Nguyen), a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl who was sold by her impoverished family into sexual slavery.

As Patrick learns more about Holly's irrepressible thirst for freedom and normalcy and the brutally abusive conditions that will destroy her if she isn’t freed, he decides to risk his life of comfortable apathy to save one girl. But as the story progresses, Patrick learns that his simple desire is complicated by ever more insurmountable obstacles in an economically, legally and morally bankrupt system that condones and often encourages the conversion of children into sexual commodities.

Directed by Guy Moshe, Holly was crafted with a memorably gritty but vivaciously real cinematography. Rough angles and occasionally unsteady camera shots accentuate the shady and dangerous elements that govern the world of exploited children. A panoply of color and light capture the exotic locales of the story. Frequent close-ups of the characters provide an uncomfortably intimate look at the human victims that populate Holly's dark world.

In the film Holly, as in the grim reality it portrays, there are no easy answers. The social worker Patrick befriends explains to him that if he buys Holly's freedom then he only fuels economic demand for the very scourge he wants to eradicate. Bringing Holly with him to the USA isn't an option because of the corrupt Cambodian laws that prohibit it. Even the answer that is safest for the victim - leaving her with an NGO that protects children - is an emotionally hollow outcome for Holly, because it means that she must completely disconnect from the one person who has showed her unconditional kindness (Patrick). It also means possibly never seeing her family again.

Holly is a study in cinematic under-statement. While there is no nudity and only one brief scene of violence, the viewer is all too aware of both the appalling crimes to which Holly is subjected and the gritty dangers Patrick faces in his quixotic quest to rescue her. Entire conversations are conveyed with just a few piercing expressions, and simple acts of human kindness or cruelty manage to transcend all differences in age, gender, culture and language. In a film of few words, the motive behind each gift speaks volumes: is a piece of food given by a selfless friend with no agenda, a corrupt cop with money on his mind, or a pedophile in search of sexual favors?

Even the reluctant hero is rendered with subtlety. Accidentally thrust into the dark world of child sexploitation, his initial impulse is just to introduce a moment of compassion and dignity into the otherwise wretched life of the little girl tending to his room at the sleazy guest house where his motorcycle breaks down. There are no grandiloquent soliloquies about his political ideology or objectives. But Patrick’s calm persistence in spurning those who would sell him children makes it clear what side he is on, and his steadfast mission to save Holly becomes a moral one that will give new meaning to his life and hers.

Above all, the film Holly explores the limits of human kindness and courage, and provides a stark reminder of the basic human rights to which all children are entitled: to be free from physical and sexual abuse, to be with their families, and to receive a proper education. To that end, the producers of the film ( created a companion political campaign ( with the aim of raising awareness about the issue and effecting change. For its powerful message and for the child victims it represents, Holly is a film that should be seen and supported by every caring adult.

My Name is Alan and I Paint Pictures

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Go see the documentary My Name is Alan and I Paint Pictures, starting September 19th, 2007 at the Pioneer Theater!

Alan's been drawing since he was 3 or 4, and when he saw Salvador Dalí's "Metamorphosis of Narcissus" at the age of 10, he knew that's what he wanted to do the rest of his life. He was a wild child that used to frequently get drunk and sniff glue, and even after being accepted to the prestigious St. Martin's School of Arts, he immediately dropped out to paint leather jackets, and soon after he moved from England to New York. But what begins as the typical struggling artist story becomes a very interesting look at a man battling schizophrenia and finding release through his art as well as physical activities like boxing.

What I love about this documentary is how much access it gives us to Alan's art. Even the brief animation snippets in between the interviews utilize characters from Alan's paintings. Director Johnny Boston takes what could have been a very boring observation of Alan at work and infuses it with life and character. And in perhaps the most touching sequence, Boston shows Alan interacting with an ex-girlfriend, and then with his current girlfriend. We learn that his ex was unable to handle his intense need to stay at home all the time. We learn that at this point in his life, Alan wants to concentrate on his work, but that he still needs women in his life for sex and good cooking. We reflect that to some extent, this is universally true.

There is something archetypal at work here. I understand that every painter has different experiences, but I was shocked to find how precisely Alan embodies what making art has always been like for me. Alan's story continues past this documentary. He is still struggling to obtain his Green Card. He is in danger of being deported. And after seeing the documentary, I really believe we need Alan here in New York. He's the real thing.

The Bourne Ultimatum

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For those of you who do not know The Bourne Ultimatum is the third in the Jason Bourne Trilogy which follows the exploits of an ex CIA Agent Jason Bourne. In the third movie he is attempting to discover his true identity and who created the man that he has become. In the first two movies he was trying to find out why an agency known as tread stone was tracking him down and why they were attempting to kill him. In the first movie he is regaining his memory and in the second knows fully well who Jason Bourne is and what he was trained to do, Kill for a secret government agency bent on taking out anyone that might cause harm to the United States of America.

I really did not know what to expect when coming into this movie, I had seen the trailers and had it in my mind that they were only making a third novel to generate more money for the company that created it. Similar to several other movies coming out this year such as Rush Hour 3, a movie simply being made for money and no artistic or any sort of purpose. I have scene spy movies before and both of the previous Bourne movies so I expected more of the same just to please an audience that will go see the movie simply because of the name. I decided to give it a shot considering the amount of great reviews that have been circulating around the internet and came away with much much more then I had bargained for. This movie not only does a great job of sending off the trilogy but does it with a bigger bang then any trilogy to come out in the past decade. Usually trilogy's play out like this; The first film is great, the second is alright, the third is a complete downer. This is how the Jason Bourne Trilogy plays out; The first is amazing, the second even more so, the third is the best in the trilogy and makes me regret to say that this is probably the last. There are no cheesy cliffhangers just in case they want to make a fourth, there is no mention of them even needing to create a fourth. What we have hear is a movie that defy s all the odds of being "just" the third movie and is sent into the outer limits of being one of the greatest spy movies ever created. There I said it, I think this movie was better then Casino Royal by miles. At times Casino Royal was a bore to watch but this movie was a pulse pumping thrill ride that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to it's amazing end.Some may be wondering why I am comparing this movie to Casino Royal. It is the only other decent spy movie to come out in years and most likely the only one that even comes close to walking in this film's shadow.

The acting by returning cast members Matt Damon, Joan Allen, and Julia Stiles is amazing. They play out their roles extremely well,especially Matt and Stiles. Matt fleshes out the Bourne character even more now that we see he is driven solely by the need to find out who he really is. Joan grows and shows that while she is the same character in the second film, now she is finally fed up with what the agency is doing and takes a stand to change it. Stiles returns and like Joan, she hasn't changed a bit. She doesn't like where the agency is going and what's to put a stop to what they are doing and have done to Jason. Other new cast members play out just as good as the three I just mentioned, I never found a single flaw in their characters to stop me from believing that they are who they say they are.

Camera work is nearly flawless, you usually know exactly what is going on and there is nothing to make you ask what the hell just happened. There is one fight scene that I am not going to spoil that is amazing, except for the camera that makes you feel a little cramped and you can't really get a good feel for what's going on. This might have been done to create more tension for the battle and while it did, still found a way to bug me just a little.

The story and pacing moves seamlessly from one scene to the next. You are never forced to ask somebody what is going on because you will always know. All of the elements come together perfectly and there are plenty of "Woah Shit" moments for the most avid action movie fan. There is one spot that might bug a few realists to ask how the hell he did that because it doesn't seem realistically possible but it's a movie and I don't mind a bit of fantasy to make the character seem more articulate with a motorcycle then most professionals out there. This is just one tiny part of a scene though and most probably will not even take notice.

To sum all of this up, The Bourne Ultimatum is the best in the trilogy and every spy, thriller, and action movie fan should see it. I promise anyone that decides to pay the money to see this film will not be disappointed. If you are disappointed, tell me and take me down a few points with plausible reasons why it wasn't any good to you. Although I don't see any way a person could be. The acting, camera, and story come together and show you this is what they mean when they say movie magic is Bourne.

Spider-Man 3

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Spider-Man 3 - $2

Spider-Man 3 made a lot of money. It is an action packed movie with amazing special effects which appealed to a young audience and die hard fans of the comic. Unfortunately Spider-Man 3 is not a good movie. It is in fact terrible.

The 3rd installment of this franchise is a massive disappointment in comparison to the far superior 1st and 2nd movies of this same series.

The action is good, of that there is little doubt. The director is the same person who directed 1 and 2 and the action sequences are again amazing, the pace is fast and is likely the main reason so many people have already gone to see this movie. Though it could be said that there is also really nothing new here.

What went wrong then you ask? Basically everything else. The love story of Peter Parker and MJ is awkward and I found myself a little bit pleased when it wasn't working out during the movie. The dialogue in Spider-Man 3 is truly awful, cheesy jokes and lame one liners dominate a script that is devoid of the quality character development and tension that the first 2 movies contained. The villains in this movie were underdeveloped, we were left to guess how they were able to do most of what they could do and their hatred of Spider-Man was not believable to me.

The most glaring problem with Spider-Man 3 however is the major plot line. A living black sludge that falls from space attaches itself to Parker's scooter and later to his Spidey suit; this sludge (as Parker's chemistry teacher explains) increases the aggression of its host when it attaches itself to something. That's all we're told about it really. When Spider-Man is affected by this material he turns black and becomes more vengeful. Parker however basically turns into a bigger nerd with nicer clothes and a new hairdo.

There is a scene where the post-black-sludge Parker goes shopping and takes a girl to a Jazz club, this scene was intended (I believe) to show that Parker has become cooler and darker since the affect of the space sludge. I can say in no uncertain terms that this was the worst series of scenes I've witnessed in a movie since Crawlers. The cringingly bad acting was only eclipsed by the terrible writing in this part of the movie. At one point I leaned over to my wife, who I was at the movie with, and said "is this really happening?"

Overall it was painfully obvious that Spider-Man 3 was written by a new team of writers and not by the successful team which wrote 1 and 2.

If you are a big Spider-Man fan you may want to check this out anyway but I adamantly put Spider-Man 3 on my 'Don't Watch It' list and give it a value of $2.

by: David Russell-Coutts

Fast Food Nation

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The verdict: Great cast, not so great a script. A ‘Fast Food’ version of the book.
The rating: 6/10

The Book-to-movie adaptation is a unique type of media experience for the audience member. There is a certain idiosyncratic familiarity that can be enjoyed when reading a book over the course of twenty hours or so, allowing the reader to develop an intimate knowledge of characters, situations and plot developments. This type of experience has traditionally been difficult to replicate in a two hour movie. However, translations from printed page to silver screen have had no shortage of successes in the past, and show no sign of letting up in the future. Think the ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy of course, but also a long list including, among many others ‘The Shining’, ‘Schindler’s List’, and, um, ‘The DaVinci Code’. (Hmm… only because it made a shed-load of cash, I’ll allow that last one – Ed).

However, this type of movie adaptation can trigger visceral reactions from fans of the book. A classic example of this was the screen version of ‘American Psycho’, which made an enjoyable dark comedy experience out of a book considered by many to be repulsive at worst, and almost entirely unfilmable at best. The movie ended up more of a companion piece to the book, providing a deeper understanding of the main character’s story, and also produced a fantastic performance from Christian Bale.

'Fast Food Nation' is a curious type of book-to-movie adaptation, and one that most likely would fall into this companion piece category. For the uninitiated, Eric Schlosser's book was a didactic, well-researched account of all that is wrong with the American fast food industry, establishing links between the burger joint production line, and various aspects of the cultural fabric of the United States. From high-powered marketing executives, to cattle ranchers and Mexican slaughterhouse labourers, all the way down the chain to high school kids flipping burgers to earn a few bucks, and the millions of happy customers chowing down on big macs every day, the book is far-reaching and extremely informative. As each chapter draws to a close, the gathering weight of the overall conclusion rolls on relentlessly, and almost operates as a guide to quitting Big Macs, in the same manner as Allen Carr’s ubiquitous guide to quitting smoking. By the time the reader has finished the book, it is unlikely s/he will be rushing into a Mickey D’s or BK in the near future.

In the book, strong links are forged between the product offered by these fast food joints and many insidious cultural problems faced by Average Americans, such as obesity, employment issues and the pervasion of big corporation marketing into schools, with companies such as Burger King and Dr. Pepper sponsoring underprivileged schools to build 'lifelong consumers of the brand'.

However, Richard Linklater's adaptation - which was co-written with Schlosser - is a dramatisation, foregoing the obvious possibility of a documentary approach for a more character-driven story with a traditional narrative. (He does still talk about the shit in the meat though - Ed)

In what now seems to be the mandatory narrative structure of choice these days, 'Fast Food Nation' is three stories in one, with each separate vignette following the progress of characters involved in the fast food industry, albeit in very different ways.

Raul (Wilmer Valderrama), Sylvia and Coco are Mexican immigrant labourers, risking a hazardous border crossing for the prospect of work. Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear) is a marketing executive for a large – fictitious – fast food chain named Micky’s, and is enjoying unprecedented success with their latest beefy offering: ‘The Big One’. Meanwhile, Amber (Ashley Johnson) is an honest middle-class high-school kid working in her local Micky’s to earn the few bucks to help her get by, and possibly help out her mom, played by Patricia Arquette.

Although you might remember Wilmer Valderrama from ‘That 70’s Show’ (Fez!? Dude, no way! .. ahem – Ed), he’s actually quite good in this, albeit playing an everyman character, but he’s an honest guy with good sense, who just happens to be swallowed up by the meat-packing industry, and does his best to cope. This storyline is the device to allow the camera to poke around the slaughter-house, and although these scenes are the most horrifying in the movie, the characters themselves were a little caricatured for my liking.

Amber’s story takes a turn when she receives a visit from her uncle, played by Ethan Hawke. He encourages her to think twice about working for a company such as Micky’s, and his coherent arguments re-evaluate her choice to work for Micky's, a choice driven simply by the fact that it was the first job she could find.

Greg Kinnear’s story is the most implausible at the outset, and although he’s a great actor, and does well enough with the subject matter, this story is really just a device to allow the corporate side of the fast food industry to be lampooned. He visits a rancher (Kris Kristofferson) and talks to a rep from the meat-packers (played very well by Bruce Willis) and his journey enlightens him as to the type of corporation he’s working for.

As a political piece of work, ‘Fast Food Nation’ is brave, daring even, for it is challenging one of the foundation industries of the United States, and encouraging people to do the unthinkable – think. Amber’s story, the most interesting of the three for me, involves an intense period of learning and questioning for the young girl, and is possibly the only one of the three that produces any kind of positive outcome. Unfortunately, it becomes a little mired in political sensitivities towards the end, with Avril Lavigne’s character in particular providing an unwelcome addition to an otherwise very watchable support cast (including Paul Dano, who you might remember from ‘Little Miss Sunshine’).

So, it may be politically brave, but the ultimate question is, is it a good piece of movie entertainment? Well, unfortunately, it left me a little cold. I felt that, for the most part, the stories explored in the movie were a little lightweight, losing much of the power of the arguments presented in the book of the same name. Also, by presenting this story in an easily digestible package such as this, I felt as if the film was ultimately nothing more than a fast food version of the square meal the book had so capably delivered.

So instead of hanging around to watch Jeremy Thomas get presented with his Volta award after the Dublin Film Festival screening, PCMR decided to head off for a Whopper meal on the way home instead. (Dude, totally sick burn! – Ed)


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Fearless - $7

Fearless is the true story Huo Yuanjia, or at the very least it is the telling of his legend. Yuanjia was an early 20th century Chinese martial arts master who is credited with uniting China and bringing it respectability in a time when China was short of both.

Yuanjia is kept from learning martial arts as a young boy by his Father but he trains in secret. As a young man he becomes skilled and arrogant and after defeating all challengers he is named the local champion fighter.

Yuanjia takes to drinking and partying and due to events that are partly his fault, a serious tragedy strikes his family. Devastated, he leaves his home town and disappears to the Chinese countryside, living as a simple farmer. Here he learns the value of hard work, humility and the respect of human life and returns to his hometown years later. What he finds is not the town he left; the people are poor and foreigners are controlling the economy. The Chinese people are belittled here and all over their country by foreigners. Eventually Yuanjia answers a challenge to take on fighters in different styles from all over the world to disprove the reputation of the Chinese as the "weak men of the east."

I went in to this movie with low expectations and truly enjoyed it. I don't typically enjoy martial arts movies that have little more than choreagraphed fighting in them. This movie provided more than martial arts though as it goes through the maturing and learning stages of Yuanjia after his family tragedy.

Jet Li plays Yuanjia and though his acting is not what has made him famous, he does an affective and convincing job in Fearless.

The fights in this movie are impressive and though I am thankful that they are not all there was to it, they are choreographed well and are a huge part of why I enjoyed this movie. The cinematography was surprisingly impressive as well, clearly the movie maker took great pains to make this movie about more than just martial arts.

This movie will not blow you away but as I said it was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it.

I put Fearless on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7.

Casino Royale

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Casino Royale - $9

James Bond is back and better than he's been for a long time. Actually in Casino Royale James Bond is just beginning. The 21st Bond film takes us back to the beginning and lets us watch James Bond become OO7 and evolve into the man we've watched 20 other times.

Daniel Craig is the new Bond and I, like many others, was skeptical when I heard he had to learn to drive standard and had never held a gun before this movie. Craig proved me and all of his critics wrong with the best Bond performance since the great Scot himself. Craig plays Bond with the usual sophisticated confidence bordering on arrogance; what he also accomplishes is the tough side of Bond that was less than convincing in some of the past actors who played the fictional legend.

Casino Royale is a great action movie and a great Bond movie. As cliche as it may sound, I was literally on the edge of my seat during some of it. One scene in particular, where Bond chases a bomber through a high rise under construction, could be the best chase scene I've ever witnessed.

The movie centers around a classic Bond villian with a physical disfiguration. He is an understated villian named Le Chiffre who is not trying to take over the world but rather he is a financier of terrorists. Le Chiffre needs to make millions of dollars back to save his life and he plans to do this by winning a big-pot poker game at the Casino Royale. Bond's plan is to break Le Chiffre for good at the gambling table, and the $10 million buy-in is financed by the British Treasurey and delivered by Vesper Lynd who is the anti-Bond-girl in every way.

The only part of this movie I thought could have been better was the love story between Bond and Lynd, we see the sensitive side of Bond and we also see the context behind his womanizing ways and why this sensitive side is never to be seen again. I acknowledge that this part of Casino Royale was necessary for the plot but Craig was slightly less convincing as the romantic lead man.

Overall this is one of the best Bond movies I've ever seen and certainly the best action movie produced in years. I highly recommend seeing Casino Royale, especially if you are a Bond fan. The gag and gadget centered themes of the past few Bond movies are stripped away and the audience is left with a simplified movie that centers on the characters, low-tech real action, and a newly invigerated Bond character. I'm looking forward to #22.

I put this movie on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $9.

by: David Russell-Coutts

For Your Consideration

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Preston Nicholson
Award Avenue

For Your Consideration is just the type of movie that most people in the industry should love. It pokes fun at a practice that, for the most part, is seen as a pathetic attempt to jockey for that pat on the back that you may, or may not deserve. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the man at the helm, Christopher Guest, has a history of producing great comedy, with previous successes from Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind.

For Your Consideration breaks away from the usual patented Guest-brand of filmmaking, as the story is told in real-time format, as opposed to the mock-umentary style we've grown to love from his previous ventures. The film tells the story of the making of Home for Purim, a hammy film about a Jewish family seeking to re-congregate during war-time for a nice Purim dinner. However, when a spy on the set leaks the word to the Internet blogosphere that the film could be Oscar worthy, it makes the cast excited, and scared, at the same time. Marilyn Hack, the matriarch of Purim (played by Catherine O'Hara), becomes the first cast-member to get the Oscar buzz. This buzz brings forth feelings of jealousy amongst the other cast, until they, one by one, start getting singled out as well. What ensues is a few months of pre-nomination morning prep, including talk shows, makeovers, production changes, and award prognosticators fawning over the film and its stars. This review won't reveal what ultimately happens, but the ending seems ultimately appropriate.

A positive aspect of this film is definitely Catherine O' Hara. Her portrayal as Marilyn Hack is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. As a conflicted actress who doesn't know how to act regarding this possible surge in her career, O' Hara highlights Marilynâ's eccentricities and , by the end of the film, you are definitely rooting for her. The major laughs from the film come from her. I would wholly support an Oscar nomination for this performance.

O' Hara' s performance is almost the only thing about this film that is laugh out loud worthy. Many other aspects of the film felt empty, or like something was missing. An example is Jennifer Coolidge. Coolidge plays Whitney Taylor Brown, a producer who might not even know what the word "producer" means. I have always been a fan of Coolidge, and I generally enjoy her here, but her character felt very underdeveloped. Guest has utilized Coolidge's comedic genius in the past, so the fact that she was a little more subdued in For Your Consideration was very surprising. The same goes for the majority of the rest of the cast. Nothing in particular stands out about the rest (when in past Guest films these stars have done remarkable things), except I must admit I chuckled a few times at Jane Lynchâ's portrayal of an Access Hollywood-esque "reporter."

Overall, the film kept me engaged, I think mainly because of my interest in the subject matter and not so much due to the quality of the film. It's not inherently a bad film by any means, but it doesn't meet expectations of what it could have been. For the hardcore Christopher Guest fans, I would say definitely watch it, but don't make it the last film you watch in a Christopher Guest film marathon.

Grade: B-