sjb_can

IMDb member since February 2006
    Lifetime Total
    10+
    IMDb Member
    13 years

Reviews

Skyfall
(2012)

Equal to the hype
I went into the movie a little skeptical because of the hype. Also, I was worried about the opening sequence they kept pitching because most car chases, chases in general, bore me. But this one was riveting, interesting. It was fantastical but just shy of over-the-top. Loved it. Adele's song and the beginning movie credits was interesting, entertaining, beautiful. Javier Bardem played the best Bond villain I've seen since the '70's. His acting was a work of art. Judy Dench was, as usual, perfect. Daniel Craig was more than eye candy, more substantial. Sam Mendes is obviously an amazing director. He was able to make even the couple of corny lines work to the movie's advantage. And the filming/editing was flawless.Those who haven't watched the old Bond movies might miss the punch of some of the really enjoyable moments, like the Aston Martin, Moneypenny, Q... I was delighted at the memories.

Shutter Island
(2010)

Hitchcock-esquire, atmospheric mystery that held me comfortably in my seat for 2 1/2 hours.
I wish I could experience the movie without having read the book. A mystery isn't very mysterious when you know the outcome. I was interested and entertained, but not enthralled. Unfortunately, except for Ben Kingsley's perfect performance (as usual), over-acting ran rampant. That coupled with the heavy, melodramatic music punctuating the brooding backdrop of a mental asylum on a rocky island with a hurricane lashing its shores, it was more typical of a movie for audiences of the 1950's than 2010. Perhaps Scorcese wanted it that way since it was set in 1954. I found it a little over the top. If it had been toned down just a notch, I think I'd have given it at least an 8. The story was complex and compelling in its own right and handled pretty well; however, I wonder if the atmosphere got in the way a bit.

Dexter: The Getaway
(2009)
Episode 12, Season 4

Went for the cheap shot
Until this last episode, I would have said that Dexter was my favourite series--so different, so well done. Like watching a 12-hour movie in pieces. The dynamics of Dexter and Deb (as sister, not co-worker), Dexter and co-workers, Dexter and his victims, Dexter and his wife & kids, are so interesting, amusing, suspenseful... This season had its faults: his dead father play too much of a role for my taste; the whole Batista/La Guerta romance was a side story that was never tied into the main story (unusual for this series); Dexter was making way too many mistakes (not in character); and Deb's digging up Dexter's mother's past didn't seem to have much punch. That said, I was only mildly annoyed because I was caught up in the main story of Dexter's pursuit of his quarry, Trinity. If I had stopped watching five minutes before the end, I wouldn't have to make this declaration: I WILL NEVER WATCH ANOTHER DEXTER EPISODE. No matter what they do for the fifth season, I refuse to watch a future episode or re-watch my Dexter DVD's. I am completely turned off, SO peeved. There were so many other ways for the writers to accomplish their goal. This was lazy and unscrupulous. I read that they wanted to end with a bang--well they certainly succeeded, but at too high a price for me. Contemptible.

The Time Traveler's Wife
(2009)

Enjoyed it more than the book.
I read the book five or six years ago and I was disappointed, I think because my expectations were very high based on reviews. The only reason I rented the movie was because of Eric Bana. My husband and I watched it together and I was braced for his sighs and fidgeting (romances are not his cup of tea) but was surprised when he sat with rapt attention. For the first twenty minutes or so, I was sitting on the fence, thinking "OMG! It feels like Benjamin Button!"-- meaning distant and detached, but then... something changed and I loved it. I can't say for sure what made it work so well for me on film but the casting was perfect. Each actor perfectly embodied their characters, an important key to a drama's success. Also, the set and cinematography was outstanding. I was glad Henry's disappearances were handled with relatively simple special effects--it kept the focus on the story. I found myself very moved at the end.

Avatar
(2009)

Exceptional until last half hour of mind-numbing, immoderate violence
I was in awe of the world Cameron created and was spellbound. I didn't care that the storyline was somewhat predictable or that some of the graphics weren't in focus. I ignored the "message" about genocide, greed and Earth rape (all worthwhile messages but I really go to movies primarily to be entertained). And I succeeded in surrendering to a wonderful 3D experience, until the last half hour of inessential violence. It was over the top and so unnecessary. There were better ways to play out the conflict, ways that would have been satisfying. Also, the bad guy was so annoying. Yes, we are supposed to hate bad guys and want them to meet their maker, but I didn't care what happened to him--I just wanted him out of the movie. I recommend seeing the movie in 3D for the beauty of the imaginary planet and its inhabitants. But only people who enjoy long drawn out scenes of gratuitous violence will leave feeling the end wasn't designed for cheap thrills.

Star Trek
(2009)

It was true to the original while taking us where no Trekkie has gone before.
I was a little put out by the special effects extravaganza and the childhood scenes of Spock and Kirk at the beginning, and thought, "Oh no. This is going to be a long two hours." Then Doctor Leonard McCoy showed up and I started to enjoy it. From the middle of the movie on, I had a silly grin on my face. I was utterly full of joy. Since I was four years old, I've loved Spock, Kirk, Bones, Chekhov, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty, and this movie brought them all back to life in an amusing and satisfying way--which I did not think possible. Of course, the Romulan threat, with the intense Eric Bana as the menacing Nero, was as formidable an enemy as always. Simon Pegg's Scotty was humorous and his Scottish accent was perfectly over the top. Leonard Nimoy as the future Spock seemed a little contrived at first, put there to please us old Trekkies, but in the end, I was convinced that he was needed. I can see that the film would be enjoyable to people who'd never seen a Star Trek film in their lives, but I can't help but feel sorry for them because they couldn't possibly get just how clever these film makers were in their casting, directing, effects, etc. to give a classic a face-lift without making it look like plastic.

A Fun, Fun film!

Chéri
(2009)

All Glamour, No Drama
While I thought the idea of the movie interesting--a May/December romance with Lea, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, being much older--it was distasteful that Michelle's character was like an aunt to the nineteen-year-old Cheri, played by Rupert Friend. There was a hint that Cheri's mother, Kathy Bates (who I always love), wanted the affair to occur to keep Cheri out of trouble. That seemed a bit creepy. As for the romance, there was no chemistry between Lea and Cheri, and no character development for Cheri, even though the movie was named for him. He remained sullen, brooding, immature and amazingly dull, although I don't blame Rupert Friend for the performance. I think the script, direction and editing were to blame, if not the story itself. The love scenes were tasteful but not believable. The pair were together for six years, but the relationship didn't seem to have love or even lust at its core, just a boredom being filled with champagne and satin sheets. Michelle was the reason my rating was a 3 rather than a 1. She did a good job with what she had to work with and I was invested in her character. However, the character was ultimately a disappointment. I think we were supposed to come away with an experience of a slice of French culture (courtesans) during La Belle Epoque, but it didn't work. I was stunned to see a car pull up to a country house; it seemed out of place. The director had no idea how to set the time and place properly. The overlong verbal narration at the beginning and end of the movie was not only annoying (I hate being told what should be shown) but it didn't tell us things helpful to the story. The voice-over at the end was particularly awful because Cheri's entire life's arc was given three sentences. If they had edited that out, I may have been able to nudge my rating to a 5.

Two Lovers
(2008)

Groan.
I have been a die-hard Joachin fan since first seeing him in Clay Pigeons and I was disappointed to hear he had retired from acting. After this performance, I'm glad about his decision because it was clear he had no interest in performing. There was something off about him throughout the film. Drugs? Booze? Illness? I don't know, but something was way wrong. His timing was off; he had marbles in his mouth, there was no evidence of the intensity he's famous for...I could barely watch this train wreck. As for Gwyneth, she did as much with the character as she could. I agree with other comments about Isabella--she was superb. But then she could add class to a Jello commercial. There was more than a fair amount of overacting by all the male characters and, with the Isabella exception, the female characters were flat. Both fathers and Gwyneth's married boyfriend played like caricatures. How did this movie achieve such high IMDb ratings?

Crossing Over
(2009)

A Good Movie
I understand why people compared this movie to Crash and found it lacking. It wasn't as gut-wrenching, gritty or clever as Crash, nor did it have the mesmerizing atmospheric music, realism and huge talent. Comparisons aside, I enjoyed it. Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Summer Bishil and supporting characters put in decent performances. The plot was somewhat predictable but I don't always have to be surprised to enjoy a movie. I liked all the "good" guys, felt empathy for the "bad" guys, and felt moved and entertained from the opening scene. And, yes, some of the Americana that Cliff Curtis' character delivers, seems a little stilted and tired, but I know that, in reality, what he was saying about the thrill of the Americanization ceremony is true. People who emigrate from war torn, impoverished, stultifying countries are grateful to be welcomed into The States, where they have the hope and possibility for a better life. Hey, I'm a Canadian and wouldn't want to be anything else, so I'm not waving the US flag. But there are millions of people who would do anything, within and without the law on their side, to better their lives and the lives of their families. This movie brings that into focus across different cultures, not focused solely on the Latino/Latina population (as is usual when dealing with US immigration issues). Having an Australian and a Brit use their wiles to gain entrance offers something a little different, as does the Asian gang caper. Those tweaks make the movie stand on its own two feet despite some similarities to Crash. Definitely a solid 8.

The Closer
(2005)

Crime Drama With Heart
Chief Deputy Brenda Lee Johnson, along with her co-workers, family, victims and suspects are combined in story lines dramatically different from the popular CSI, Law and Order and copycats. Personally, I'm over-saturated with stories "ripped from the headlines", grisly autopsies and cool cool cinematography. The Closer entertains. While the plots may not always be completely believable, the characters act like real people. If you like character driven stories, this is a show worth exploring. I've read complaints that there's not much mystery in the show. I agree, but it doesn't matter. That's not the intent. There was very little mystery in Columbo either and it was the most entertaining show of its time. And there's complaints about Brenda Lee's messy personal life. For me, it makes her fully dimensional and complex. She has a lot of foibles and she is definitely "impossible" as she readily admits, but her work is brilliant, inspired and she's a fierce force of justice. Her over the top southern accent adds a sweetness that is endearing once one grows accustomed to it. Her problems with her fiancé and parents may be a bit exaggerated and contrived at times, but Kyra Sedgwick carries Brenda Lee's life into the viewer's heart in such a way that any flaws are easily overlooked. The supporting cast is superb. I wouldn't change a thing.

Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
(2008)

I've Been Waiting For a Movie Like This For A Long Time
I have gotten so accustomed to the fast-paced, vapid drivel that Hollywood has been creating for the last few years that I forgot what a good movie is like. This movie brought me back to a time when I reveled in movies, when I was moved, entertained and satisfied without being bludgeoned by confusing dialogue, gimmicks, hip music and artsy (mostly shaky or grainy) photography. This story of a woman released from prison after fifteen years unrolls slowly and wonderfully, with enough mystery to create just the right amount of tension for this type of drama. Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein give amazing performances as reunited sisters and the supporting cast is sensational.

Funny Games
(2007)

Exploitive Nonsense; Waste of film
While I'm sure there is an appreciative audience for this movie, I'm not sure who it would be, and I'm not sure I'd want to meet them. Gratuitous Violence? This was Stupid Irritating Violence. Then there's the foolishness of the victims; it grated on me from the beginning. From the misbehaving, barking dog to the lackadaisical behaviour of the father and the willingness of the mother to have her son hurt for her own modesty, I didn't care whether they lived or died, except for the kid. I cared about the kid and I wanted the maniacs to pay for their idiotic sadism, but in the end I was left wondering why the German version was considered so "good" that the director re-made it. While I realize that we were supposed to hate the antagonists of the story, it may have been a little more interesting if they were more believable. It is unlikely that two skinny weaklings looking decidedly insane-looking with their white gloves and inbred looks could gain the trust of not one but three rich families living behind gates on a private lake, and proceed to get the better of them with mere head games. I can suspend belief if I'm entertained. I can stomach violence if it drives the plot in a satisfying way. This was neither entertaining or satisfying. Why did I continue watching? Because after suffering through the first half, I wanted some sort of gratification to make it worth my while. Nope.

The Ultimate Gift
(2006)

A Little Too Smarmy For My Taste
The friend who recommended this film likes sentimental slop so I should have known better, but after reading quite a few comments here on IMDb, I thought it sounded a cut about "Tuesdays With Morrie". It didn't grate on me in the same patronizing way Morrie did, but it was still a simplistic morality tale that didn't say anything new. Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is an elegant and engaging morality story because it's interesting, with well-developed characters. I didn't really like the lead character in this film;his journey towards a hopeful transformation isn't believable because his character isn't drawn very well. The supporting cast made the movie bearable, especially Abigail Breslin. Only she could have delivered her lines in a believable way. I wanted this to be a good movie, but it wasn't to my taste.

Harsh Times
(2005)

Christian Bale fans beware! There be bad acting here.
I'm stunned that there are so many high ratings of this film. It is rare for both my husband and I to rank a movie so low, but it was sheer torture watching it. The story wasn't worth the annoying aspects of the film. The forced L.A. Latino cool talk is so irritating that I had a hard time staying in my seat. I wanted to pace with my hands cupping my ears. Then the driving around and driving around drinking beer and stopping to smoke some dope. Talking about getting "f--ked up" and getting "biotches". Pulease! I've never seen Christian do a bad job so it must have been the director's fault encouraging over-acting, bad acting. Perhaps Christian read the script with the idea that this would be a challenge. I'm sure he didn't expect a fiasco. So the character was messed up in the military. That doesn't excuse him being an idiot and ruining everyone's lives, including the audience members for the minutes they waste watching this crap. His sidekick is equally stupid. They act more like messed up teenagers than grown men.

Bonneville
(2006)

Trite: Tried too hard to be moving; did not succeed
With Lange, Bates and Allen starring in this movie, I was interested enough to keep watching, but there was little chemistry between the three women and poor character development. While mourning the recent loss of a spouse should be difficult, there was something forced and artificial about Lange's character's bereavement. The whole reason for the cross-country drive seemed contrived and foolish. One scene of the women in awe at the beauty of the Grand Canyon was so over-done, I groaned. Their adventures were silly, predictable and ungrounded in any meaning. Except for the salt flats, the scenery was right out of Thelma & Louise, which added to the sense of watching a poor imitation. Sometimes I will say that it could have been a good movie if... but in this case, a completely different concept would be required to make this a good movie.

Hard Candy
(2005)

Inspired
I thought pedophilia had been covered ad nauseum, but this film deals with it in a fresh, rather satisfying way. Elllen Page and Patrick Wilson delivered the goods on all fronts. I can't believe I'd never heard of this film. I picked it up at Roger's Video yesterday merely to get the "6 for" deal. What a pleasant surprise. It is hard to categorize it; it's neither mystery, horror, black comedy or drama, but a brilliant mingling of each. There are some "unrealistic" feats carried out by a slip of a girl, but disbelief is easily suspended by masterful scene sequencing. This is not merely a statement piece; it has entertaining elements despite disturbing subject matter. It was pulled off in a dazzling way. Excellent work by director David Slade and writer Brian Nelson. Not appropriate for children or teens.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
(2007)

Despicable characters in a poorly plotted film
I don't like movies about very dysfunctional families but from the hype I expected more from this film. This is not just a dysfunctional family; it's hateful, evil--and for no apparent reason. The movie's premise was intriguing but the time jumping and extreme behaviour just wasn't believable. I didn't like one character in the movie, except maybe the mother who played a very small part, and the time jumping from "different perspectives" wasn't artsy or informative in any way--it was annoying. There were inconsistencies and confusion and just plain idiocy. Who would rob a store for $600,000 of merchandise for 10% return if in really serious "trouble"? The payoff is not worth the risk, especially since the trouble they are in can't be solved with money. The only reason I gave it a 3 rather than a 1 was because Philliip Seymour Hoffman delivered a pretty good performance given the circumstances.

Reservation Road
(2007)

Well crafted character study of tragedy
I knew nothing about the plot when I rented this film. With Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly and Mark Ruffalo starring in it, I figured it would be, at the very least, good, and it was. From the beginning scenes, a palpable tension is created; you just know something awful is about to happen despite two normal family outings being the subject matter. From then on, the plot reels out in an arc rife with too many coincidences, but the direction was able to pull it off without making me want to groan. There are some emotional scenes that would have played a little better had they been more subtle. The police officer and Mark Ruffalo were flawless. The children were outstanding. I'm not sure if it was Joaquin's character, the script, the direction or what, but he did not keep me riveted as he usually does; a bit over-acted perhaps. Jennifer delivered a couple of lines that didn't ring true--could have been an editing problem. The obsession of anger/justice seems a bit premature. It would have been better to see a progression. Despite my criticisms, I found enough mastery and depth of character to recommend it and give it a 7. I found myself worrying that the ending would ruin the film but it was faultless and convincing.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
(2007)

Funny Movie; Hilarious Special Features
Even when I wasn't laughing out loud, I was smiling during this movie. It is the most original spoof I've ever seen (I realize that is an oxymoron, but true nevertheless). Real talent went into the making of this movie. John C. Reilly was fabulous as the lead and the supporting characters didn't miss a beat. Whatever you do, don't dismiss the Special Features disc. It is as funny or funnier than the movie. Start with the things you'd usually watch but then watch the things that usually bore you. The Real Dewey Cox and The Making of Dewey Cox was very entertaining. All the deleted scenes were funny except for one. The two discs provide an entire evening of enjoyment.

Silk
(2007)

Bad art
While I didn't expect action, I did expect something more than a slide show of boring travels. I wanted to like this movie, I really did. But it was self-conscious photography with nothing to recommend it except trying to be something it couldn't. The characters were poorly drawn and despite watching one scene three times, I was unable to determine which woman was taking off her clothes. The travels were monotonous and uneventful. I was not invested in the silk worm eggs in any way and should have been. Michael Pitt was badly miscast and Keira Knightly had little weight in what could have been a great role. When a movie contains as much narration as this one did, the viewer should not be left in the dark about important details. There was "trouble" in Japan. What kind of trouble? The Japanese trader's motives were unclear.

Swimming Upstream
(2003)

Acting superb!
Jesse Spencer is wasted on TV. He is a phenomenal actor. I was dazzled by his performance. Judy Davis, is, as always, top drawer. Although I don't much like Geoffrey Rush, I can't complain about his acting. I probably don't like him because he almost always plays characters with few redeeming qualities. Anyway, although the story is hard to watch for people who grew up in alcoholic or abusive homes, it is realistic and well-done. The family dynamics are portrayed so profoundly and truly that the swimming competitions, although central to the story, don't dominate in a boring way. Jesse's character, Tony Fingleton, is trying to succeed at something in life, despite the constancy of his father's hateful abuse. Tony never gives up, even in the face of hurt and betrayal.

Disturbia
(2007)

No Hitchcock; just a teen thriller
With the high ratings and references to a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, I was unpleasantly surprised when I sat down for two hours of teen scene. Also, I was angry over the cheap "shocking scene" at the beginning of the movie that was unnecessarily traumatic to watch (we could have understood Shia's character without it). While David Morse brought some adult weight and the last fifteen minutes of the movie were suspenseful, I was disappointed, to say the least. Shia was so riveting in The Greatest Game Ever Played, but here, he was upstaged by Aaron Yoo who played his best friend. Shia seemed a supreme unlikeable geek, not a cool teen acting out because of emotional trauma. There is no chemistry between him and Sarah Roemer and her role is unnecessary, as Morse, Yoo and Carrie-Ann Moss create the tension. Although I'm not a suspense lover, the edge-of-your-seat scenes near the end were very well done, and Shia showed what I expected of him--but it was too short and too far into the movie to bring up my vote.

School for Scoundrels
(2006)

Unexpectedly hilarious!
It's like Anger Management meets Gilligan. Silly physical humour mixed with Billy Bob's deviousness...well, it's beyond funny. We had low expectations of this movie because I didn't like Napolean Dynamite (I'll have to try it again now that I like the leading character), and my husband doesn't like Billy Bob. We rented it because we'd run out of movies to watch. I'm certainly glad we did. Billy Bob has a couple of funny lines but the "losers" of the "School for Scoundrels" get most of the laughs. The romance is incidental, not annoying--something to focus the plot. I rarely rate a movie a 10 (especially comedies!) but the enjoyment level was so high, I had to. My husband and I both held our sides and roared throughout the entire movie.

The Departed
(2006)

Stellar performances by Leo, Matt, Jack, Alec and even Mark
For two hours, I was mesmerized and had this movie ranked a 10. But the last half hour left me feeling dissatisfied. Sometimes that is thought-provoking and stimulating; this was frustrating. While the deaths came as no real surprise, the rapid succession made each inconsequential. I was highly invested in these characters, and I, the audience, deserved a fitting reckoning, a flourish. A shot in the head by a civilian! No humiliation; no atonement. The rat symbolism was contrived, and definitely not compensation for a muddy ending. So why did I still give it an 8? Because it was a really good movie; the disappointing thing is it not ending up a great movie.

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