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Movie Review: Green Zone
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Cinema Junkie   |  
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Green Zone movie posterGreen Zone
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Antoni Corone, Nicoye Banks
Rated R
Release date: March 12, 2010


“Someday this war’s gonna end…”
— Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore from Apocalypse Now

“You know they’re all kids in Washington? It’s like Bugsy Malone, but with real guns.”
— Judy Molloy from In The Loop

“The reasons we go to war always matter. They always matter.”
— Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller from Green Zone

Green Zone: The Truth Ultimatum

The front between myth and reality evaporates as the search for the truth rages on in Paul Greengrass‘ Iraq War thriller, Green Zone.

In Green Zone, Greengrass has decided to merge his serious political films, such as Bloody Sunday and United 93, with the wildly entertaining Jason Bourne films he has directed: The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. At first, the result is one of supreme imperfection, but I have come to the conclusion that Greengrass has directed the first truly great thriller with the Iraq War as background. I have to remember that this is Greengrass’ version of the truth that he has taken from Brian Helgeland‘s screenplay. Helgeland’s screenplay is adapted from Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. Chandrasekaran is a reporter and editor for The Washington Post. The screenplay is more inspired from his wonderfully insightful book than a straight adaptation.

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Movie Review: The Ghost Writer
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The Ghost WriterThe Ghost Writer
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall
PG-13
Release date: February 19, 2010

“I’ve been having this nightmare. A real swinger of a nightmare, too.”
— Major Bennett Marco from The Manchurian Candidate

“Have you ever heard the expression “Let sleeping dogs lie”? Sometimes you’re better off not knowing.”
— Jake Gittes from Chinatown

“Sorry, I’ve just got one question: Whose map is Britain using when it completely ignores the United Nations and decides to invade Iraq? Or do you think it’s more diplomatic to bend the will of a superpower and politely take part in Vietnam the Sequel?”
— Tessa Quayle from The Constant Gardner

The Ghost Writer: Prisoner Of Convictions

The consequences of our transgressions are the stains that cannot be cleansed away. The past is the vessel that we cherish and regret with equal measure. Art can be the ultimate catharsis when dealing with the past or attempting to get through the present depending on what one’s situation is. Imagine what life would be like if we could write are our memoirs with the aid of a ghost writer who believes everything we say. Unfortunately, what would happen if the ghost writer goes to check all the information you provide? Your life would take on different meaning — more honesty might expose you to disgrace or more ridicule.

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Movie Review: Up In The Air
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up in the airUp In The Air
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring George Clooney, Jason Bateman, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Release date: December 4, 2009 (limited)

“Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends.”
— Narrator from Fight Club

“Few people on this planet know what it is to be truly despised. Can you blame them? I earn a living fronting an organization that kills 1200 people a day.”
— Nick Naylor from Thank You For Smoking

“Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.”
— Ryan Bingham from Up In The Air

Up In The Air: Life In The Descent

The beauty of getting lost at the movies is that it allows us to visit worlds vastly different from our own. It is the greatest exercise in being a fly on the wall. It is the ultimate act of voyeurism. Going to the movies, listening to an album or reading a book are some of the greatest trips we will ever take in our lives. Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air is one of those experiences. Before I go any further, it must be stated that Jason Reitman is his own man. He stepped out of his father’s shadow as soon his first feature, Thank You For Smoking, was released in 2006. He followed that with Juno in 2007 and the rest, as they say, is history. While it helps to be Ivan Reitman’s son in order to have a shot in this business, you have to have talent and hunger to survive in this industry; Jason Reitman has both in spades. He is three for three as far as directing films is concerned. The nepotism claim can be thrown away. He, like Nick Cassavetes, Jake Kasdan, and especially Sofia Coppola have forged their identities in the entertainment business. A famous last name can only get one so far, you have to have the talent and skills to truly survive and endure in the film business.

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Confessions Of A Cinema Junkie: The Art Of The Mixtape, Coming Of Age Films And Drew Barrymore’s Whip It
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“All right, let’s show ’em what we got, guys! Get out there on the ice and let ’em know you’re there. Get that fuckin’ stick in their side. Let ’em know you’re there! Get that lumber in his teeth. Let ’em know you’re there!”
— Reggie Dunlop from Slap Shot

“Now that I’ve got school covered, I’ve only have the world outside these walls to fuck up.”
— Diana Guzman from Girlfight

“Well, put on some skates and be your own hero.”
— Maggie Mayhem from Whip It

The sonic fury of a film’s soundtrack is integral to its lasting presence. The soundtrack to Drew Barrymore‘s Whip It is a furiously beautiful compliment to this potent and rousing coming of age film. Barrymore understands the importance of a film’s soundtrack. She understands how vital the musical component is to the film. All one has to do is read her note that she wrote for the soundtrack album:

“Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and when you put music and film together, it is a powerful combination.”

“I have always been someone that had a great appreciation for the art of the mix tape.”

“This soundtrack is my mix tape for you.”

Drew Barrymore gets it. She understands the relationship between music and film. While watching the film, I would crack a smile as songs by The Breeders, Tilly And The Wall, The Ramones, The Chordettes, Dolly Parton, Peaches, and many others would blare out during the film’s many magical and cathartic moments. A good soundtrack is essentially an awesome mix tape. Drew Barrymore understands this all too well for her directorial debut.

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Movie Review: Funny People
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Funny People
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill
Rated R
Release Date: July 31, 2009

“The whole place seemed to have been stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis – out of beat with the rest of the world, crumbling apart in slow motion.”
— Joe Gillis from Sunset Blvd.

“I don’t know if there is anything wrong because I don’t know how other people are.”
— Barry Egan from Punch-Drunk Love

“You’re my best friend, and I don’t even like you.”
— George Simmons from Funny People

Funny People: Bringing The Nasty Pain

Los Angeles, the bitch of desire, takes no prisoners. Hollywood may be her enchanted vagina, but the rest of her is a ferocious dominatrix ready to force everyone to fall under her demented spell. It is a city with an infinite supply of Sammy Glick’s ready to pleasure the bitch at whatever cost.

Judd Apatow’s third film, Funny People, is a departure for him; it is supposed to show him as a more mature filmmaker. It certainly has many of the raunchy elements that made The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up so memorable. Judd Apatow is trying to move beyond the myth of adulthood in this film. Adulthood seems to be the Holy Grail that his characters can never quite find in his films or even the films of Wes Anderson. Adulthood is out of reach for the so-called adults as well as the younger generations who are stuck in eternal adolescent purgatory. Funny People certainly fits this vital characteristic of what makes a Judd Apatow film, but he has gone further with this film in that he deals with the show business angle — the world of stand-up comedians.

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Movie Review: The Hurt Locker
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The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Evangeline Lilly
Rated R
Released date: June 26, 2009

“When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle.”
— Captain Benjamin L. Willard from Apocalypse Now

“Death is the best kick of all. That’s why they save it for last.”
— Eugene Hunt from Blue Steel

“Life sure has a sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?”
— Bodhi from Point Break

The Hurt Locker: The Ultimate Adrenaline Junkie

The ecstasy of war is at the heart of Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliant new action thriller, The Hurt Locker. We only need to read the now famous quote from journalist and author Chris Hedges that precedes the film, “War is a drug”, to realize that Ms. Bigelow is the right person to bring Mark Boal’s screenplay to life. If anyone knows about an addiction to violence and an addiction to the rush of pure adrenaline, it is Kathryn Bigelow. Her previous films such as Near Dark, Blue Steel, Strange Days, K-19: The Widowmaker, and most importantly Point Break deal with adrenaline junkies of one sort or another. She has a natural ability to strip away the fat from subcultures to provide us with a crystal clear acumen of her fascination with them. Her examination of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordinance Squad (EOD) is an exercise in exhilarating and harrowing tension.

The film possesses a level of intensity that few films can match. The Hurt Locker is the thinking person’s action film. Ms. Bigelow has won the pissing contest of 2009, everyone else can go home. She has a natural ability to take all the elements to create a potent and thrilling portrait. Her money shots put the competition to shame this year. She is a master at staging suspenseful and harrowing action sequences. The Hurt Locker has some of the best in recent memory. The Hurt Locker is the epitome of cinematic suspense.

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Movie Review: (500) Days Of Summer
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(500) Days Of Summer
Directed Marc Webb
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloe Moretz
Rated PG-13
Release date: July 17, 2009

“She’s gone. She gave me a pen. I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”
–Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything

“If I had a personal conversation with God, I would ask him to create this girl.”
–Steve Dunne from Singles

“People don’t realize this, but loneliness is underrated.”
— Tom Hansen from 500 Days Of Summer

(500) Days Of Summer: The Architecture Of Expectations And Reality

Happy endings are for massage parlors. Reality is a stranger in most recent romantic comedies. This was not always the case, but in good and bad times, the masses demand that their characters live happily ever after. No one wants to pay ten dollars to hear that life sucks and you do not receive all the assets that come with the American Dream. Is there even an American Dream anymore, regardless of the accessories that may come with it? We do not get the romantic comedies we want, but the ones we deserve.

More recently, audiences have been blessed with three very honest films this year that have been sold as comedies, but work on a far deeper and subtler level: Greg Mottola’s Adventureland, Sam Mendes’ Away We Go, and now Marc Webb’s (500) Days Of Summer. Each of these films work as honest cinema that delivers a gut punch of epic proportions. All of the films work on a comic level, but each delivers a level of brutal honesty which is greatly appreciated by the time the closing credits start to roll. These films never preach or condescend to its audience. Instead, the films speak to us in ways we never thought possible. In harsh economic times, the last thing most people want to see is some structure of reality staring at them from the other side of screen. At the end of the day, it is the realistic film that will stay with you far longer than the far fetched fantasy film. Leaving your brain at the door does not have to be an option. Actually, as I have gotten older, I appreciate having to think about what I am watching.

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Confessions Of A Cinema Junkie: The Art Of Reversals, The Caper Film and Something Like A Comedy Of Manners In Tony Gilroy’s ‘Duplicity’
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“It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.”
— Mike from House Of Games

“Well, maybe I don’t! I had ten good years with Cole, and I want them back! I gotta have a partner! I looked and I looked and believe me, brother, I kissed a lot of fucking frogs, and you’re my prince!”
— Myra Langtry from The Grifters

“It’s like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there’s this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person’s gone, and it’s too late to do anything about it.”
— Jack Foley from Out Of Sight

Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity is the ultimate cinematic cock tease. Duplicity has everything going for it right from the starting gate, but ultimately the film fizzles where it should sizzle. It is not a bad film, far from it, but after all is said and done, one wonders if they have just seen a comedy of manners written with enough reversals to give David Mamet a run for his money. Although “fuck” is never used enough to give it the traditional David Mamet touch, it is con game film. Tony Gilroy’s screenplay may be too smart for its good. Steven Spielberg had confessed that the film was too confusing for him to understand so he passed on directing it.

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Movie Review: Taken
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Taken movie posterTaken
Directed by Pierre Morel
Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Anjul Nigam, Jon Gries
PG-13
20th Century Fox
Release Date: January 30th, 2009

“Turn it off! Turn if off! TURN IT OFF!”
— Jake VanDorn from Hardcore

“Come on, Bennett, throw away that chicken-shit gun. You don’t just want to pull a trigger. Put the knife in me and look me in the eye and see what’s going on in there when you turn it.”
— John Matrix from Commando

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
— Bryan Mills from Taken

Taken: An Efficient Dog Of War

We live in uncertain economic times. A night out at the movies has to be worth the price of admission. People want to escape from their lives for a few hours. They want to escape into the dark theaters for entertainment, for escapism. It does not surprise me that Paul Blart: Mall Cop was number one at the North American box office for two weekends in a row. I have not seen the film and I must say I have very little interest in seeing it, but I see the appeal very clearly. You can take the whole family to see it. Does it surprise anyone that Marley And Me and Bedtime Stories did as well as they did during the holiday season? It should not; these are films that whole families can go see and enjoy together.

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Confessions Of A Cinema Junkie: Glorious Self-Indulgence And The Return Of Grandeur
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“You wake up one morning and say “World, I know you! From now on there are no more surprises!’.” — Jill McBain from Once Upon A Time In The West

“The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations.” — Major J.F Thomas from ‘Breaker’ Morant

“See that bird? That’s the spirit bird. He will always look after you.” — Maud from Rabbit-Proof Fence

Every weekend we pay to see the fruits of the filmmakers’ dreams at the multiplex. Every weekend translates into a cynical game of Russian roulette with our cash. Every weekend there is a chance to fall under their spells and believe all over again. Every weekend there is a chance to truly escape reality for a few hours. Their self-indulgence is a double-edged sword which can either transcend their final vision into unlimited ecstasy or send it crashing to the eternal damnation of the bargain DVD bin at the local Best Buy. Certain films still have a hypnotic power over me, but there are a few that punch me in the gut and send me into another dimension. Werner Herzog knows all too well about the joy and “burden of dreams.”

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