Monday, January 26, 2009

Defiance (2008)

Daniel Craig, the best James Bond since Sean Connery, no matter how much Quantum of Solace sucked his spirit, gets a true story to dig into this time. And it's a doozy. In Defiance, Craig brings grit and gravity to the role of Tuvia Bielski, the eldest of three Jewish brothers who led the resistance against the Nazis from their base in the Nalibocka Forest in Belorussia during World War II. Joseph Stalin, who famously opined that "Jews make poor warriors," never met the Bielskis. Brother Zus (an outstanding Liev Schreiber) is a hothead who thinks Tuvia is too conciliatory. Younger brother Asael (Jamie Bell) labors to find a balance between Zus, who wants revenge by gun, grenade and whatever's handy, and Tuvia, who believes that "our revenge is to live."

Just as he did with the black soldiers in the Civil War-themed Glory, director Edward Zwick has seized on a strong, underserved subject. The excellent source material is Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, by historian Nechama Tec. Sadly, the script by Zwick and Clayton Frohman veers off into action clichés, clunky dialogue and Hollywood hoo-ha (a bare-chested sex scene for Craig — please!) when the facts reveal a richer tale. For all the film's flaws, this is a war story told with passion about a band of brothers that still has the power to inspire.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

We can understand the resurrections of Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. But one-hit wonder the Miner? Yes, pickaxe-wielding mad miner Harry Warden appears to be on the rampage again. The residents of Harmony believe police fatally shot Warden after he picked off kids partying in the mine. But his body was never found. If Warden really is dead, who’s now driving his pickaxe through the heads of those connected with all the mine murders? Could it be Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), the mine owner’s son responsible for the accident that turned Harry into a homicidal maniac? Or could it be Sheriff Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith)? Caught in the middle is Sarah (Jamie King), who married Axel after Tom dumped her and fled Harmony. Worse, the killer set his sights on Sarah so he can finished what was started long ago down in Tunnel No. 5.

Bearing in mind the damsel in distress must remain standing, it’s more important that King can bust some moves than explore the emotional and psychological toll of being victimized by an unstoppable force of evil. Luckily, King prevails over her initial jitters in order to swing a mean shovel when under attack. On the other hand, wimps Ackles (Supernatural) wears nothing but a pained expression on his face, while Smith (Dawson’s Creek) is all bark and no bite. Horror fans, though, will get a kick out of seeing ageless tough-guy Tom Atkins take on the Miner. Oh, and as for that glasses-fogging moment that’s mandatory for a 3-D chiller, it’s Betsy Rue’s unenviable task to strip down to her birthday suit as Palmer’s high school sweetheart and rub what she’s got right in our faces.

Does it matter that this My Bloody Valentine redo fails miserably as a whodunit? Or that the only time you’re on the edge of your seat is during a tense supermarket confrontation between King and the Miner? This remake exists solely to gross you out by throwing anything and everything at you in 3-D. Eyeballs pop out, body parts drop to the floor, blood and pieces of bone cover the screen -- to that end, director Patrick Lussier doesn’t disappoint. Props to him for not giving us a scene-by-scene carbon copy of one of the earliest holiday-themed Halloween knockoff, but the director falls short whenever he attempts to recreate his source material’s most nail-biting moments. So if its gore you want, you got it; but if you want to be scared out of your wits, give My Bloody Valentine the kiss off.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bride Wars

The Basics: Two female friends, when confronted with the tiniest of speed bumps on the road to each having a lovely wedding (they've accidentally been booked for the same place at the same time--I know, stab your eyes out now from the horror) turn on one another and do their best to sabotage their BFF's nuptials. They accomplish this by trying to make each get fat or have badly dyed hair or awful tans. And since all three of those cosmetic maladies are the equivalent of a harsh and untimely death, it's understandable that any one of them could make a woman cancel plans for her big day. Like Oh dang, my hair looks bad. Guess we have to call off the wedding.

What's The Deal: Last year, when the Sex and the City movie came out, non-fans complained that its portrayal of female camaraderie was more about shopping than shared affection. But you know what? At least the ladies in that movie kept their ranks tight. There might have been some squabbling but there were no open displays of life-wrecking hostility. But if you were an alien and someone used this movie to explain the concept of "best friends" to you, you'd just incinerate the whole planet right then and there.

What Saves It From Being As Despicably Anti-Feminist As 27 Dresses: It forgives its main characters for their stupidity and gives them a happy ending that costs the movie nothing. The Katherine Heigl abomination, on the other hand, just dragged its heroine through dirt to punish her and its own happy ending felt like she'd just been set up into another trap.

Biggest Beef: Really cheats you out of the kinds of battle scenes you expect from a movie with the word "war" in the title. You have to wait until the final 15 minutes before these two indulge in hand-to-hand combat. Contrast this to the amazing Dragon Wars, which featured giant monsters laying waste to Los Angeles skyscrapers by the 30-minute mark, and you can see which one really earns the right to use the W-word.

Just To Make Myself Feel Better: I'm going to assume that funny Saturday Night Live cast member Casey Wilson, who appears here briefly and who co-wrote the script, was the one responsible for putting the film's only funny lines into the mouths of secondary characters and nameless bystanders and that she had nothing to do with the rest of it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Lohan walks out on Ronson?

The "Mean Girls" actress was spotted leaving the Los Angeles home she shares with the DJ carrying a large bag shortly after the pair had a vicious public argument.

The row started on December 31 at Miami's SET nightclub, where the pair exchanged foul-mouthed tirades in front of shocked party goers.

It continued as the pair moved on to Mansion club, where Lindsay eventually stormed out - with the fight continuing in an alley behind the club.

Lindsay, 22, reportedly shouted at Samantha: "When I storm off, you are supposed to follow me!"

The fight then moved to the couple's hotel – where things became so heated the pair exchanged blows in a corridor until security intervened.

An onlooker said: "The screams and crashing from their room were heard all over the hotel."

"They spilled out into the hallway at 11am on New Years day, kicking and punching each other."

"People were watching. They were going for it - it was scary. Lindsay seemed unstable."

"At one point she dropped to her knees and cried, 'Why are you doing this to me?' Sam just said, 'I don't know you.'"

The couple are also said to have destroyed their hotel room during the fight, with security guards reportedly taking photographs of the damage.

Lindsay was still visibly upset at the airport as she and Samantha, 31, prepared to return to Los Angeles.

Another source said: "Lindsay was so inconsolable the flight attendants asked if she'd like to disembark."

A spokesperson for Lindsay denied the couple had split, saying: "There was an argument - I don't know the details - but they left for Los Angeles together and it's fine."

Tara Reid leaves Rehab

The 33-year-old actress - who checked herself into Malibu's Promises Treatment Center last month for undisclosed reasons - left the rehabilitation facility on Saturday (Jan 3, 2009).

A source said: "She's doing well. The whole family is very positive about this being the new beginning for her."

The "American Pie" star had been receiving intensive treatment, believed to be for alcoholism, and her friends and family are optimistic about her future.

The source added: "They are taking steps to do everything they can to help Tara keep on the right track."

Tara claimed she was a "social drinker" last year, saying she enjoyed an occasional glass on wine with friends but her infamous partying days were over.

It has not yet been confirmed what the actress has been treated for.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

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