The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

You can use this homepage for posting comments, reviews, and other things that cannot be posted to the group. Of course spam is not allowed. Thanks!

To join the Dallas Movie Screening Yahoo Group:
dallasmoviescreenings-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Reesa's Reviews can also be found at:
http://www.moviegeekfeed.com

Logo art by Steve Cruz http://www.mfagallery.com

Website and Group Contact: dalscreenings@gmail.com

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Movies Scheduled for the Week of 7/31 - 8/6

The Angelika is having a party and offering movie which are listed on this week's calendar. "Celebrate the 10th Anniversary with us WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2011. Enjoy a FREE screening of this Angelika classic, plus 10-cent popcorn and soda all day. There will be a celebratory cake cutting at 1:00pm."

Want to thank everyone at the aborted Devil's Double screening for being cooperative with the studio reps. Stuff like this is bound to happen, and it was nice not to have anyone getting vexed.

Lots of movies this week. Please keep those pass replies to the person and not to the group and everything should go smoothly. Reminder again to the newbies, you have to enter those contests on your own and not mooch for someone who made the effort.

What no complaints this week? Giving y'all a break.

July 31 - August 6, 2011

Sun
7/31

8:30 pm
Finding Nemo
Central 214

Mon
8/1

7:00 pm
The Perfect Age of Rock 'N' Roll
Angelika Dallas

7:30 pm
The Change-Up
Angelika Dallas

Tue
8/2

7:30 pm
The Change-Up
AMC Northpark

7:30 pm
50/50
Cinemark 17

Wed
8/3

1:30 pm
Pride and Prejudice
Angelika Dallas

1:45 pm
Swimming Pool
Angelika Dallas

2:00 pm
Tell No One
Angelika Dallas

4:30 pm
Bend It Like Beckham
Angelika Dallas

4:45 pm
500 Days of Summer
Angelika Dallas

5:00 pm
Little Miss Sunshine
Angelika Dallas

7:00 pm
Devils Double
AMC Northpark

7:00 pm
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Angelika Dallas

7:30 pm
30 Minutes or Less
Cinemark West Plano

7:30 pm
Fright Night
Studio Movie Grill Dallas

7:30 pm
Made (2001)
Angelika Dallas

7:30 pm
The Station Agent
Angelika Dallas

9:30 pm
The Town
Angelika Dallas

9:30 pm
Mulholland Drive
Angelika Dallas

10:00 pm
Children of Men
Angelika Dallas

Thu
8/4

7:00 pm
Seven Days in Utopia
tba-Grapevine

7:00 pm
Seven Days in Utopia
Cinemark West Plano

7:30 pm
30 Minutes or Less
Cinemark 17

7:30 pm
Attack the Block
Cinemark West Plano

7:30 pm
Warrior
Studio Movie Grill Dallas

8:00 pm
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
AMC Grapevine

9:00 pm
Rio
UT Arlington

Fri
8/5

8:30 pm
Napoleon Dynamite
Fairmont Hotel Dallas pool area

Sat
8/6

8:30 pm
Tangled
Villages at Fairview


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens




It's the late 1800's and a man abruptly wakes up in the middle of an arid nowhere with an injury on his side and large metal shackle on his arm. There's a picture of a woman half buried in the dirt nearby. He attempts to remove the shackle but it seems impervious. Three men on horse back approach and surround him. Their questions go unanswered. They surmise that he's an escaped prisoner. When they attack he unexpectedly and quickly takes them all out. He takes the their boots, weapons and money and takes off on their horse with their dog following him.

The town of Absolution is run by Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who owns most the land and cattle. People owe their jobs and lives to him so when his spoiled out of control son Percy (Paul Dano) shoot up the place, no one is willing to stand up to him because of the Colonel's cruel reputation. That is until the man (Daniel Craig) with no memory comes to town. After getting fixed up by the gun toting preacher and discovering he has no idea of who he is, how he got injured or what is that thing on his wrist. He doesn't take any grief from the Colonel's son either. Percy ends up shooting a Deputy and gets sent to jail by Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine). The Sheriff notices a wanted poster with a picture of the mystery man who turns out to be Jake Lonergran who is being accused of train robbery and murder. The deputies try to arrest him but he takes them out until Ella (Olivia Wilde) the woman who has been showing an interest in him knocks him over the head. She's sorry she did it, but tells him that she really needs him in town.

A big flash in the night knocks a drunk cowboy in the river when he come up the cattle and his fellow hands are wiped out burnt to a crisp. Soon the town is also besieged by flying objects attacking with explosions and grabbing the citizens up with hooks. It doesn't take long before the confrontation between Lonegran and Dolarhyde becomes one of forced cooperation. While tracking the “demons” - people have no point of reference to explain the aliens – they have to contend with Lonegran's unhappy gang and an Indian tribe that wants to blame the white people for bringing in the monsters. Everyone has to team up for the big cowboys, Indians and alien battle.

Based on a 2006 graphic novel of the same name by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, the movie is nothing like the comic except for the concept of aliens coming to earth in the old west. Directed by Jon Favreau of Ironman and with seven screenwriters including Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindeolf it almost seems like too many cooks in the kitchen. The action is paced to keep your attention from the first time we meet Jake to the ultimate conclusion. Somewhere in the middle it gets bogged down with train robber gangs and rowdy Indians with their own agendas. Craig is too cool for school with those lightening fast reflexes but somehow gets beat up anyway. It's never explained if those moves were enhanced by the alien shackle or Jake is just naturally a ninja. Plus there's the hazy flashbacks as he tries to remember what happened that got him to that point. Ford's Colonel is just plain mean and unsympathetic that they slowly try to soften by small scenes with Taggart's grandson Emmett (Noah Ringer) and the Indian tracker Nat Colorado (Adam Beach). Most of the time Ford plays his usual crotchety curmudgeon. Sam Rockwell is wasted as the bar keeper Doc who doesn't know how to shoot a gun but is along the adventure to save his wife who was captured. Ella is played by the beautiful Olivia Wilde who gets to do another tough action figure as the woman trying to help Jake and has some secrets of her own.

The film looks amazing and the explosions are some of the best around. It's just the story that seems like it's been done before. You can't beat the testosterone of the two male leads. It's nice to see some old school action guys together. Cowboys and Aliens may not be perfect, but it's a great way to spend a night at the movies.
(Review by reesa)





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Crazy Stupid Love




Cal and Emily Weaver are you normal suburban couple. They have kids, a nice house, successful middle class jobs. One night when they are out having dinner, Emily blurts out that she wants a divorce. She confesses she had an affair with David Lindhagen a coworker at the accounting agency. After 25 years of marriage and without a clue this was coming, Cal is stunned mute. Emily is driving home verbally justifying herself, when Cal tells her to stop talking or he's going to get out of the car. She continues and he opens the door diving out of the moving vehicle.

Cal moves out and gets an apartment where his kids can spend time with him. He also starts going to a bar where he grouses loudly to everyone while wallowing in his self pity. He watches a good looking guy pick up women with ease. The smooth talker uses the same lines which women fall for each and every time. Cal is both offended and fascinated. After a few nights of complaining Jacob (Ryan Gosling) decides to take Cal under his wing and rehab him for his new lifestyle as a single man. That means new clothes (you are better than the Gap!), haircuts and confidence. Jacob teaches him all the lines, and after getting his feet wet a reborn Cal becomes a player. Even Emily (Julianne Moore) is impressed at how well he looks.

Jacob meets a beautiful Hanna (Emma Stone) at the bar and for the first time, someone is actually calling him on his charm. Intrigued by the one that got away he's completely surprised when she comes in one night and kisses him after her sort of boyfriend Richard (Josh Groban) offers her a job instead of marriage.

Cal's 13 year old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has a crush on his 17 year old baby sitter Jessie (Analeigh Tipton) and she in turn has a crush on his dad. Awkward. But Robbie believes that once you find your soulmate you fight for her. Advise that he imparts to his father to try and get his marriage back.

After the past few ranchy comedies it's nice to find a grownup movie. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa with writer Dan Fogleman (Cars, Bolt) offer up a funny with a heart story of people who have lost sight of what is important in their lives. Steve Carrell plays Cal with an everyman grace. For once he's not annoying. He's a good guy, great father, and a bit down trodden with his wife's betrayal. Julianne Moore is as beautiful as ever. Her Emily is going through a midlife crisis. Her reaction to the boredom of her marriage was to be influenced by Kevin Bacon's David. Not a bad sort, but he is after all sleeping with a married woman. Ryan Gosling adds another notch in his career by handling comedy and doing it flawlessly. He's Cal's Miyagi. And Emma Stone is the best thing happening in movies now. Their scenes together light up the screen. Good summer movie worth the popcorn.
(Review by reesa)



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Smurfs



There's a place where sadness is unknown and being blue is being happy. This is the land of the Smurfs who live in this little village with mushroom homes that 's protected by an invisible wall so that the evil wizard Gargamel can't find them. Smurfs are tiny beings that are perpetually chipper. They sing, dance and live in complete harmony. Papa Smurf is the leader and each Smurf has a name that aptly describes them by what they do, like Baker Smurf, Narrator Smuft, and Chef Smurf. There's even one female Smurf called Smurfette. All is good until Clumsy Smurf inadvertently leads Gargamel and his evil cat Azrael to the Smurf hideout. Gargamel starts to destroy the Smurf homes.

Clumsy (Anton Yelchin) escapes the wrong way through the “forbidden” forest. Papa (Jonathan Winters) and some of the others follow him to retrieve him. Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is close behind and the only way out is to jump into the magic portal that opened up because it's the night of the Blue Moon. It hurtles them in the middle of New York City. Gargamel and the cat also dive through the Blue Moon wormhole and soon the Smurfs are being chased through Central Park where they run through a cosmetic launch event. Clumsy falls into some boxes that marketing director Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) takes back to his home to work on a new campaign. The Smurfs need to wait until the next Blue Moon to get back home. Before they can leave they must search for Clumsy. Rescuing him is met with mixed results when they encounter Patrick and his pregnant wife Grace (Jayma Mays). Soon they are helping the Smurfs although Patrick is more reluctant. Meanwhile Gargamel has taken refuge in the old Belvedere mansion in Central Park. He plans to use Smurf essence for unlimited power and world domination.

Director Raja Gosnell who has done some light fare as Beverly Hill Chihauhua and Never Been Kissed uses live action and CGI Smurf's. This technology has improved and is used more successfully here than in Yogi Bear just as long as the personal interaction of the real humans and animated beings remain limited. It always seems awkward when someone is trying to pick up a Smurf as it doesn't looks very natural.

Pierre Culliford better known as Peyo wrote the stories which made it's debut in Belgium in 1958. It became popular in the US as a 80's animated TV series. Personally my kids loved these characters but I confused them later with the Keebler elves. The bright colors and inoffensive story line makes this good family fare. Hank Azaria is a hoot as Gargamel if maybe a little too over the top, but it's the kitty who who is the brains and steals his scenes.

Seems like everyone wants to do cartoon voices now of days and this cast includes the talents of Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Alan Cumming, George Lopez, Jeff Foxworth, Paul Rubens and even Wolfgang Puck. The humans are all TV friendly faces. There's the Smurf song that's annoying and addictive. And the dialogue has been Smurf-alized, using Smurf as a verb and descriptive. Don't be smurfised if you leave the theater incorporating Smurf in your speech patterns. You will be Smurf'd.
(Review by reesa)



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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Movies Scheduled for the Week of 7/24 - 7/30

Holy smokes what a week. All this begging for passes, people getting angry, replying to the list instead of the person, and it seems like it's never ending. Again we have some big movies coming out and everyone wants them. Remember there are other screenings happening...in fact the schedule is quite full this week...so take a chance and see one of those if you don't get that big ticket item.

Everyone is used to the Sunday rants, but I'm not the only one who gets frustrated with around here. Just sharing a comment by one member of our group who is frustrated with people amassing passes with no intention of going:
"i want someone from the group to look at this.... this make me sick. how does someone get all these passes and others are saying that they went to retrieve their passes that they won and their passes are gone. if i try for passes i'm 100% forsure going. i have even told rainy that i could not go and to award them to someone else."

When you sign up for newsletters or SMG you will get passes that you may not be able to use. But if you purposely enter contests or redeem GOFOBO's when you know that you will not be able to go, then that's another story. You are denying someone else the opportunity to attend because you want to hold those passes as hostage for a reward later.

To avoid having to mooch for passes, just go ahead and sign up on all those places that are in our "link" section of the group pages, so you don't have to ask people. Don't forget to bookmark the group page, and the calendar so you can check the schedule on what's coming up to plan your week.

July 24 - 30, 2011

Sun
7/24

8:30 pm
Raatatouille
Central 214

Mon
7/25

7:30 pm
Attack the Block
AMC Northpark

7:30 pm
Crazy Stupid Love
Cinemark West Plano

8:00 pm
Another Earth
Angelika Dallas

Tue
7/26

7:30 pm
The Help
RAVE Ridgmar

7:30 pm
The Help
Angelika Dallas

7:30 pm
50/50
Studio Movie Grill Dallas

7:30 pm
30 Minutes or Less
Studio Movie Grill Plano

8:00 pm
Cowboys and Aliens
AMC Northpark

Wed
7/27

7:30 pm
30 Minutes or Less
Studio Movie Grill Arlington

Thu
7/28

12:00 pm
Ever After
Nylo Hotel Plano

7:00 pm
Smurfs 3D
Cinemark 17

7:30 pm
Warrior
Studio Movie Grill Dallas

7:30 pm
Devils Double
AMC Northpark

7:30 pm
The Change-Up
AMC Stonebriar

9:00 pm
Prom
UT Arlington

Fri
7/29

8:30 pm
Blue Crush
Fairmont Hotel Dallas pool area

Sat
7/30

8:45 pm
Star Trek (2009)
Half Price Books Parking Lot



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Tabloid



The recent Earl Morris film, “Tabloid” recounts the 1977 incident involving Joyce McKinney and her alleged kidnapping and rape of her Mormon boyfriend, Kirk Anderson, in England while Kirk was on a missionary retreat. Most of the screen time is taken up with Joyce telling her side of the story interspersed with a cohort of Joyce’s in the “kidnapping” plot, a couple of British news journalists who covered the story when it broke and an ex-Mormon zealot who shares some biting and funny commentary on Mormon beliefs. The movie plays out in two parts, the first is the detailed account of the incident and Joyce’s subsequent tabloid notoriety and the second deals with the cloning of her pet pitbull “Booger”. I guess you can view Joyce as one of the first celebrities to gain fame simply because she was in the paper. Her unabashed obsession for the dumpy repressed Mormon boy Kirk, the sexual intrigue and salacious photos ignited the imaginations of the Brits. Joyce was the girl next door combined with a sexpot figure and the reputation of a harlot. When the press became more invasive and discovered a seamy past Joyce retreated into sullen denial. Its then that she talks about the brutal attack by her overmedicated pet mastiff and how she was saved by the heroic “Booger”. When “Booger” passes she manages to get a scientific team in Korea to clone him resulting in a six puppy brood of “Boogers”. All this propels her once again in the public eye and into the tabloids. Earl Morris has a penchant for the American oddball but Joyce is not the most compelling, her vivacious histrionics and bland insights make her more eccentric than endearing. Also Mr. Morris skips over the question of where did Joyce come up with the funds for all these escapades? There’s a lot of cheap laughs here and consummate editing, vintage film clips and faux tabloid headlines serve to accentuate and comment on the talking heads, but Joyce remains a cipher, either an adroit manipulator or an ardent simpleton.
(Review by Steve Cruz)


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter Parody

Harry Potter parody from Thank You for Watching.com




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AFFD Movie Reviews Day 7





Triple Tap

A triple tap is when a shooter is able to fire three rapid shots at the same spot. Ken Kwan a foreign exchange banker beats cop Jerry Chong in a shooting competition. It's a close call but even Jerry is impressed when he sees a triple tap on one of the targets. On the way home from the contest, Ken witnesses a armed robbery of armored truck containing bearer bonds. Ken becomes a hero when he stops all but one of the robbers with his competition pistol. Even though he saved a traffic officer who came at the end of the shootout, Jerry has to charge Ken with three counts murder and illegal violation of the Firearms & Ammunitions Ordinance Act.

Louis Koo stars as Ken Kwan who becomes a media hero is later released after being brought up on charges. He's honest and straight forward on the stand. Ken is not all that he seems. He's dating a nice nurse Ting (Charlene Choi) who loves him but his supervisor at work Anna Shaw (Li Bing Bing) is also romancing him using the promise of promotion and material gain. Shaw sets him up to win the best foreign investor award at the annual dinner. But Ken has been illegally accessing funds at his investment film trying to cover his losses. Ken is not a happy sort of guy, and doesn't really treat Anna with much affection. He resents her acting like she owns him.

Ken is attacked at his home and is surprised that the cops are there right away to scare the perp off. They believe it may be one of the robbers who got away and they plan watch even his nurse girlfriend for safety. Ken is being followed too. Visiting him at the Ken's workplace Jerry notices Ken's hand shaking and he tells him that it's because he killed someone and he's seeing a psychiatrist to help him sleep. As Jerry looks into Ken he finds him well educated and controlled with a psychology and economics background. They are very close in character so the cat and mouse tension between the two add add another layer of competition. As the pieces fall into place, Jerry suspects that Ken may be involved somehow.

Director Derek Yee wrote the screenplay with Tin Nam Chun and Ho Leung Lau as possibly a sequel to Double Tap of 2000 that Yee also wrote contained a similar story of a shooting competition. Alex Fong plays Miu Chi-shun the same character as in the first movie giving Jerry advise in his investigation. He tries to get in the head of the shooter to find his motivation. This psychological thriller is interesting with it's twists and turns but it lacks back story to some of the characters. Jerry's professionalism tries to pressure Ken who is slowly going nuts as his culpability is being exposed. Since there's no emotional investment in these characters it makes it hard to really connect to the outcome.
(Review by reesa)




Outrage

Takeshi Kitano wrote, directed and stars in the 2010 film about the power struggle of Tokyo's Yukuza clans. Kitano started out in 1972 as part of a comic duo called Two Beats and he's still known as “Beat” Takeshi. He's responsible for such films as The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi, Kikujiro and his last movie about the Yukuza, Brothers. Outrage competed in the 2010 Cannes Film Festival is soon to be followed up in a sequel Outrage 2.

There are numerous crime families in the Japanese underworld. They are governed by the strict code of honor and respect and by the head of all the families, The Chairman (Sôichirô Kitamura). Outrage begins with the The Chairman's lieutenant Katô (Miura Tomokzu) asking about Ikemoto's prison pact with Murase. The Murase clan wants to associate with the Sanoukai clan. The Chariman is unhappy with Murase's drug trade and wants Ikemoto (Jun Kunimurato) to bring the Murase clan in line. As the orders pass down the food chain, Ikemoto's subordinate Otomo (Beat Takeshi) and his crew are given the task. The befuddled Murase boss is played by Ishibashi Renji who is an old school Yukuza and can't seem to adjust to the modern world of the syndicate. The Chairman suspects that Ikemoto and Murase are up to something.

The complicated hierarchy of the families make it hard to tell who belongs to which family. The Chairman is manipulating everyone so pretty soon underbosses are killing their bosses. No one is safe from betrayal and greed. Takeshi plays the same world weary character that he's played in other movies. His Otomo pays a bloody visit to Murase at the dentist that is pretty gruesome. Otomo doesn't even flinch when a roomful of his crime family is blown up in the other room. The interludes move from one violent encounter to another. Basically the movie is 2 hours of Yakuza yelling and you can't go more than a couple minutes before some one gets the crap kicked out of them. Like the old gangster movies of the American 20's full gang war is raging in modern day Japan. Of course some of the violence has a humorous element to make it interesting to the viewer. Like you won't look at chopsticks and a bowl of noodles quite the same way again. Overall, despite the fact it's hard to keep track of who with everyone dressed in the same black suit with sunglasses looking like Asian Blues Brothers with guns. It's definitely not boring.
(Review by reesa)



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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Captain America The First Avenger




In the frozen north a Russian oil team reported a very large object possibly and aircraft embedded in the ice. American scientists come and cut a hole to lower a team of investigators down to investigate. What they find at first is a Captain America shield.

Flashback, it's Norway 1942 Johan Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) who is the commander of Hitler's Occult division finds Odin's treasure the cosmic cube called Tesseract. The bright blue lighted cube is powerful enough that Schmidt and his scientist Dr. Zola plan to harness the unbelievable energy within so that it change the course of the war.

Back in NYC, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans CGI'd into a very small man) underweight, short, and asthmatic tries several times without success to join the army like his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) who is leaving for duty in England. Scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) over hears the young man's sincerity when he explains why he wants to join up. So Erskine intervenes during the medical examine for the young man to join Strategic Scientific Reserve. The recruits do all the basic training but the thing they can't learn is the ability to think beyond themselves. When the colonel throws a grenade into their group everyone runs away except for Steve who uses his body as a shield to save everyone else. This self sacrifice puts him at the top of the list for the experiment to make him a super soldier. Erskine is impressed with Steve's innate goodness. Steve doesn't want to kill, he just hates bullies. The serum was used once before in creating Schmidt whose penchant for evil was exacerbated turning him into a monster. Steve comes through bigger, stronger, and handsome.(An un-CGI'd Chris Evans). The epitome of the all around good guy hero. Ready to do what he can to save the world.

Director Joe Johnstone has brought us The Wolfman, Hidalgo, Jurrassic Park III does wonders with another Marvel character. The first Avenger for the new Avenger's movie due next year gives us something to look forward to next summer. Based on the Marvel comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby the screenplay was brought to life by Christoper Markus and Stephen McFeely. the 3D isn't even annoying giving the scenes some depth. The origin story introduces the hero during WWII the costumes, the language pattern fit the old films of the time. Later when fighting the Nazi's then with Schmidt's private Hydra army there's a sense of the old war films of the time with his team of loyal soldiers. Hugo Weaving plays Schmidt with all the arrogant oiliness of a mad man with a red skull. Peggy Carter the agent with the British accent, a crack shot is the love interest who believed in the skinny Steve to do something special. Tommy Lee Jones is the Colonel who doesn't believe at first that Captain America is anything but a shill to sell War Bonds. He has the best lines in the movie. Howard Stark father of Tony Stark of Ironman is played by Dominic Cooper. Well paced with plenty of action there's some enjoyable humor and Chris Evan's pecs. It's probably the best of the super hero movies so far this year. Please note you don't have to wait for the easter egg after the credits. There isn't one. Chris Evans is solid enough to lead the Avengers on the next adventure. Looking forward to it.
(Review by reesa)



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Friends With Benefits



Jamie a successful headhunter in NYC and Dylan a successful web designer in LA just happen to break up with their respective boy friend (Adam Sandburg) and girlfriend (Emma Stone who would have been interchangeable as Jamie). She is being accused of being emotionally damaged and he is emotionally unavailable. Dylan gets a interview through Jamie's employment recruiter as an art director with GQ. They meet cute at the airport then she takes him for a personal tour of the Big Apple selling him on the relocation of his life. Of course if he signs the contract and stays for a year she gets a bonus.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis play very attractive young singles who have great jobs, nice apartments, surrounded by friends and family that love them. What possible conflict could they possibly endure? Well, for some reason, they can't seem to keep a steady romantic relationship. After the first day of hanging out they continue their friendship after he starts his job keeping a funny upbeat banter developing into best friends. One night after a few drinks while commiserating on their pathetic love lives they decide to swear on her phones' Bible app to have sex with no emotional commitment and to stay friends. Feeling comfortable enough with each other without the usual foreplay and expectations they are able to have a really good time. Afterwards there's the awkwardness that's to be expected. And even though they tell each other to forget about it, then are right back into it. Her wild child mother Lorna (Patricia Clarkson) tells her it's like the 70's in there and calls her daughter is his “slam piece”. Pretty soon they are getting those “feelings” so they mutually decide it's time to start dating other people, even helping each other find the “one”. It gets more complicated when Dylan brings Jamie back to California for a holiday weekend where his family can see that they are perfect together.

Easy A director Will Gluck with a multiple of screenwriters have made a rom com that's supposed to be more adult via language and nudity. The characters make fun of the the whole rom com genre even watching cliché filled fake movies with Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. There's the self aware nods when at one point Lorna and Jamie are talking with the movie “Bob, Ted, Carol and Alice” a 60's film about free love. Woody Harrelson practically steals his scenes as the gay sports editor of GQ who assumes Dylan is gay too because he's an art director. Richard Jenkins as Dylan dementia suffering father is the only serious bit that helps progress the story during the last act. Jenna Elfman plays Dylan's older sister who helps her brother see his situation a little clearer. Only the flash mob dancing dates the film as being so five minutes ago. It's like Hollywood finally making a movie about free love years after the fact. Still the two leads are cute together, it's has some amusing moments, but parents be warned this is not for kids.
(Review by reesa)


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Terri







Over sized and depressed Terri is a 15 year old high school student who takes care of his bizarre ailing uncle James. He goes to school and everywhere else in his striped pajamas because “They're comfortable for me”. He has no friends and is the subject and ridicule by his classmates. He's pretty much accepted being ignored or bullied by those around him. The vice principal decides to take him under his wing in a special project for helping other misfit kids.

In his debut role Jacob Wysocki inhabits Terri with a shuffling downtrodden personality. It's like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He walks through the woods near his house to get to school. On the way he sets out traps outside for mice, then lays the bodies down in a line for the birds to come and eat. His uncle (Creed Bratton) talks to the Vice Principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) because he thinks it's weird. In the administrative office Mr. Fitzgerald makes it a habit to yell at the students waiting for him just because it makes the secretary happy. He has created a little group of students to mentor who Terri later finds out are considered “special needs”. Reilly is perfect as the hapless Mr. Fitzgerald who understands these kids as he once was considered an outcast when he was a teen. He guides the kids with his own brand of acceptance.

Terri befriends a couple of others in his new group, a scrawny troubled punk Chat (Bridger Zadina) who pulls the hair out of his scalp and a disgraced popular girl with a reputation for being sexually active named Heather (Olivia Crocicchia). Terri defends Heather when she's branded that hateful word for loose young women. Grateful Heather says she will go out with Terri, and Chad shows up to mess with them. Taking some of his uncle's drugs they have some awkward game playing and revelations that will remain life altering for developing teenagers.

Independent director Azazel Jacobs has done a few small features that are basically unknown but also deal with approaching adulthood. Terri is one of those quiet films but with a slight sensibility like Rushmore or Napoleon Dynamite but without the silliness. It's kind of a sad film, without being a downer. Mostly due to the honesty in Wysocki's presence who besides being physically large has an honest acceptance of who he is which makes him more stable than anyone else around him. Outside of the mice thing that is. After a night with Heather he realizes on his own that he's just not ready for what she has to offer him. If only all teens could manage that wisdom.
(Review by reesa)



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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

AFFD Movie Reviews Day 5






Midnight FM

Ko Seon-Young is quitting her job as a popular radio show host of a late night program. She's moving to America with her mute daughter Eun-soon so she can have surgery that will cure her. During her last show she gets a call on her cell phone from Han Dong-soo who tells her that the lives of her sister, daughter and niece are in her hands. He tells he is in her apartment and that she must remain on the air if she wants to save her family.

Soo Ae plays Seon-young who has been doing the show for five years. She has a voice that sounds like a whisper in your ear. Soothing, gentle and melodious. She has her share of stalking fans. One adoring guy hangs anxiously outside her radio studio. The scary man with the knife is Han Dong-soo played with creepy coolness by Yoo Ji-tae. He calls her on her cell from her sister's phone so she would pick it up. He tells her not to inform the police or he will kill them. Of course she calls the police immediately and that doesn't go well. Meanwhile detectives are investigating another murder. They believe she is linked to a mentally ill serial killer who believes he is being heroic killing criminals. Seon-young realizes he's a total madman when she sees over her phone what he has done with the police and her family. He wants her to air music from a playlist he had sent to her producer. He has requested specific songs from the dates she played them. In the background of his video to video calls she can see her sister tied up in the background. She realizes she has to play his insidious game.

Kim Sang-Man directed this very tense and exciting story. It's a cat and mouse game as she is both terrified yet her brain is trying to figure a way to save her family. The scenes jump from the studio to the apartment. They watch each other from their cell phones. He checking that she remains at the station playing his music, she watching in horror as she murders her family members. Their conversations end up going over the air to her listening audience. Just listening to their low register voices talking smoothly over the radio while he teases her into a chase and the radio audience is mesmerized in fear. This is a sitting at the edge of your seat sort of movie as she fearlessly tries to save her daughter.

Soo Ae who was in the The Sword With No Name is perfect as the boxed in a corner Sun-young. She's smart, clever, and desperate while her male superiors continue to make wrong headed decisions endangering the situation. Yoo Ji-tae the bad guy in Oldboy is once more a killer with issues. It's never really quite clear why he's targeting the DJ and the family. At times it feels everything is out of control, how can this be resolved without total tragedy? That's the beauty of a well done film. Like a book you can't put down. It's worth overlooking some of the plot moves, this thriller is right up there with the best of the current Korean wave.
(Review by reesa)



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Monday, July 18, 2011

Teen Views of Movies by Wyatt Head

From contributor Wyatt Head his quick thoughts on the movies screened from a young adult perspective:


Something Borrowed-We are reminded that a romance always has its twists in this innovative and relatable film.



Attack The Block-If you think Eminem is tough, wait till’ you see these teens beat the fur out of monsters.


Beautiful Boy- This film pinpoints every aspect of such a real and yet unknown tragedy that few people ever live. I believe Shawn Ku picked highly talented actors who not only know how to portray such a horrible happening but how to really live it. This film teaches us as an audience the true effects of such a loss that can impact people greatly. With a beautiful camera angle, we are taken deeper into the wound of such an unfortunate event that rarely people experience. This film is by far the most royal in standard and most real drama in the recent history of film. The Academy is as fake as a cardboard cake if they don’t pick this “boy”.



Thor- Thor has hammered down the punches as well as the CGI in this action packed and artistic rocker!!!



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides- We are reminded that not all seas are calm in this thoroughly exciting film about love, revenge, escape and the one thing money can’t buy--they steal the money--pirates!!!



Days Of Heaven- Seeming to be random but really it is straight forward, this film shows the brush fires of life and how they intersect through love.



Source Code- This is Groundhog Day in eight minutes except there is a bomb on a train and a dead guy who's trying to find it which makes this film even better.



Midnight In Paris- We are artistically shown in this film that every person needs to access his/her role models even if it is through time travel at midnight.



Friends With Benefits- A sexy comedy that upgrades “friends” to the bed instead of the floor.



X-Men: First Class- An elite action packed prequel that “telepaths” the minds of the audience to serve just the right entertainment.



Green Lantern- This film wears the ring of a blockbuster and proves that it deserves that ring.



The Tree Of Life- This film shows the ordinary life of a family in the most exclusive and unexampled way that seeps through the heart of the audience and never comes out.



Unknown- This film “steals” a well-deserved thriller standard that defines what every thriller film should define –a suspenseful assassination of the audience’s mind.



Bad Teacher- There are plenty of worms in this apple which when eaten make people laugh to point of crying.



Sarah’s Key- An open closet door to the most hideous event that is portrayed in the most veritable way.


Transformers: Dark Of The Moon- The metal of the “machinery” in this film is embedded with so much endurance that it can withstand even the action-filled nuclear bomb that this film produces.



The Change-Up- The two main characters switch lives in this film but the level of hilariousness in these two characters still stays at the highest standard.




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AFFD Movie Reviews Day 4





City Under Siege

In 1945 Malaysia during the end of WWII Japanese prisoners were sent to a underground cavern where a mutated man, large and muscular attacks the prisoners. The Japanese Captain in charge is angry because the men he sent down were supposed to be the next test subjects. Suddenly the British attack burying the caverns along with any secrets inside.

Orphaned as a child to a former knife throwing champion, Sunny (Aaron Kwok) is now a clown since he did not inherit his father's skills. He really dreams of doing the the Flying Dagger act. His cousins in his uncles circus troupe torment and ridicule him. One night he hears them talk about exploring some caves where there is supposed to be gold. He follows them to where they find some others who have blown up hole to gain access. The cousins beat them up and chase them away. Clumsy Sunny drops on them unexpectedly so they decide to use him as a point man. When they find some crates, they have Sunny open them first which reveals gold. They try to kill their cousin but some of the crates have capsules which contain the experimental gas that transforms into vein bursting super mutant monsters. The evil cousins turn their evil into gang pillaging and ravaging when they go back to Hong Kong. Sunny, who had run off had fallen onto a passing ship after being exposed to the gas doesn't turn into such an ugly creature only big and chubby with no neck. Apparently he has some antibodies that that prevented the really ugly part. The guys on the ship think he's contagious so they throw him overboard. He ends up back on shore getting a ride from a pretty young woman who needed a tire fixed. He's still a goofy guy, only more chubby. Later that night Sunny loses all that water weight and now looks like himself again. But now he's got some super skills, lightening reflects, super strength, sight and hearing, unfortunately he's still not very bright.

Sunny sees reporter Angel (Shu Qi) who had the flat tire is at the scene of a bank robbery. Using his super skills he manages to stop the robbers with a chop stick. The press converge on him and his heroics. Angel gets him out of there as her exclusive story. There are also two mainland cops Suen (Wu Jing) and Ching (Zhang Jingchu) who believe it or not work for the mutant crime division. Not only do they have mad fighting skills, they are also a couple planning to marry. To make things more complicated evil mutant cousin Cheung has some unresolved love issues with Angel. After they see Sunny on TV and realize he survived they decide to get him in a Mutant vs mutant battle.

Hard to believe that Benny Chan directed this feature before doing Shaolin. These movies are different to the extreme. Sunny becomes an media star doing commercials and promotions, all the things that most superheros would not be caught dead doing. Meanwhile the cousins continue to mutate. Everything about this movie is over the top, campy, scifi, circus clowns, monsters, knife throwing, stuff blowing up and love stories all mixed in to a fun filled mess.
(Review by reesa)





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Sunday, July 17, 2011

AFFD Movie Reviews Day 3





Amigo

Independent director John Sayles who back in the 80's gave us such films as Return of Secaucus 7, The Brother From Another Planet, Eight Men Out. Then the 90's there was City of Hope, The Secret of Roan Inish, and Lone Star. He did less films in the following decade most notably Sunshine State and Honeydripper. Now 60 years old he brings us Amigo a story set in the Philippine-American War in 1900 after the US freed Cuba from being a Spanish Colony. The American's were supposed to leave after ridding the islands of Spain, but they ended up staying.

In the small barrio of San Isidro Rafael Dacanay (Joel Torre) is the village leader. He owns most of the land, and the villagers work the rice fields for a share of whatever is produced. His brother Simon is the leader of the local rebels hiding in the jungles. They had forced the Spanish guard to surrender and Simon had his brother lock them in the granary as prisoners along with the Spanish friar Padre Hidalgo (Yul Vazquez) in the name of the revolutionary government. Rafael argues with his son who decides it's better to be with the rebels than to accept more occupation from another country. Colonel Hardacre (Chris Cooper) shows up with his troops while chasing General Emilio Aguinaldo. He has Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt) set up a garrison in the village using the Rafael's house. They release the barrio prisoners but the friar decides to stay for “his children”. But the sanctimonious priest may have other reasons for sticking around. The last thing his commanding officers tells him is that they need to win the hearts and minds of it's citizens. Rafael is being put in a difficult situation since he must keep supplying the rebels with food and information while appeasing the American soldiers. When asked his name Rafael says it's “Amigo”...friend.

The dialogue is in Tagolg, English and some Chinese. The American's use Chinese coolies left over from the Spanish to do all their laundry and heavy work. Their view of their employers are not very favorable as long as they get paid for their work. The American's call the local population “monkeys” and make fun of the sound of their dialects. The Filipino's in return think the “white ghosts” to be just as annoying and clueless. Rafael has to find a balance to keep the soldiers from killing everyone in the barrio, keep them from finding the rebels, and make sure they can harvest enough food. One of the soldiers gets smitten by a local woman despite the racism that is common within the troops. Another falls prey to the local moonshine. And Lt Compton once a a house builder sees villages in terms of how it was made.

As usual history is written by the conquerors. In this tale although both sides of the story is given, the invading “ugly American's” don't fare well. No sooner than Lt. Compton who follows orders as any good soldier is also compassionate and is able to bring a sort of workable peace to the barrio, the powers that be decide that a stronger hand must be played to weed out the revolution. If that means cutting off the food supplies and enacting martial law. Their buffalo are slain and the fields are burned. Violence increases and tension escalates.

Not too many movies have been made about this piece of history. Sayles story is linear and well told. It's photographed in the rich warm tones of the Philippine countryside. There are moments of rural culture displayed like the festivals and funerals. It's at once a a history lesson and a travelogue. At times the story seems that it's been told before. It's just set in a place where more stories need to done.
(Review by reesa)



Love in a Puff

Hong Kong has instituted a ban on all indoor smoking areas and even outdoor places. This forces smokers to gather in secluded areas near trash bins on their breaks. In just one week the camera captures series of personal interviews while following a group of people who gather in this one alley. They talk about how it's just another way of meeting others and communication.

They tell each other horror stories. In fact the movie opens with a security guard hearing a man trapped inside the truck of the car. When he gets the police to open it up, there is no one there. One shares food from his food delivery service. Then one offers a story of his coworker Jimmy Cheung losing face at dinner when some damning evidence was found on his girlfriend's bracelet in front of everyone who was at a dinner. Cherie who works at Sephora starts to flirt with the cuckolded boyfriend who came for a smoke. Cherie is also asthmatic and should probably quit smoking. The camera follows them around like voyeur as they attend a costumed birthday party at at karaoke bar. Jimmy is disappointed that Cherie's got a boyfriend of five years. They start to see each other anyway, mostly just hanging out smoking, talking, but boyfriend Carl is getting suspicious. She decides to spend the night in a hotel with Jimmy. Although nothing happens between them. He tells her that they don't have to do everything in one night, that there was plenty of time. She is really touched. The next day she asks him to switch phone networks because it's costing her too much to text him. He doesn't want to and things get uncomfortable between them.

The Government decides to raise the price of cigarettes and they run out to stock up while they are cheap. Cherie and Jimmy run into each other then travel around town stocking up on packs. On the way the car breaks down. They bicker and she confesses she's more than 3 years older than he is she's actually 4 years older. But in the end they decide to quit smoking and fall in love.

Directed by Pang Ho-cheung who co-wrote the script with Heiward Mak, Love in a Puff premiered at the 2010 Hong Kong International Film Festival. It stars Miriam Yeung as Cherie who is a non-smoker and had to learn to smoke for the role. Shawn Yue is Jimmy the advertising executive. The film gives a vivid sense of how people live and talk in real life in Hong Kong. There's a cosmopolitan flavor with the language peppered with English and other languages and cultures. There is some foul language, that seems tame to American viewers and there's smoking in almost every scene. Nothing actually happens out side of the smoking, but the natural and authentic feel for the couple just starting out feels real and unforced.
(Review by reesa)



Bedevilled

A woman unhappy in her job as a loan officer at a bank witnesses a woman getting beaten, but refuses to identify the perpetrators in a line up. She goes back to work and the woman whose load she loudly and unsympathetically refused is approved by another bank worker. She accuses the woman of trying to impress her male bosses. Later someone locks her in the bathroom at work and she ends up slapping the co-worker. Her boss tells her to take a vacation.

Hae Won (Ji Seong-won) goes to Moo-do Island where 15 years ago she visited her grandfather. She meets up with an old friend Bok-nam (Seo Yeong-hie) who has never left the remote underdeveloped location. Bok-nam had written many letters to Hae-won who ignored them. There are only sunbaked old women left on the island to farm and dive for oysters and they are excited to see someone from the city. The village leader doesn't think she will last a day there. The men chew on bozo leaf an addicting herb and outside of fixing roofs, don't really do anything else. Bok-nam is married with a 10 year old child Yoon Hee who doesn't go to school. As the only young woman on the island she is sexually used and abused by both her husband and his brother. Her husband feels free bringing prostitutes to the house who tells her that she should run away to Seoul where no one can find her. Hae Won watches with shock that everyone treats Bok-nam like a slave. But remains emotionally unmoved to the point of inertia to everything around her whether it be Seoul or Moodo. Bok-nam acts so happy that Hae-won is back remembering their childhood on the island. She hand washes Hae Won's pretty white dress lovingly like a precious prize. Tragedy strikes and it's the final blow to Bok-nam's psyche. Slowly the quiet life on the island starts to unveil the horrors that are about to erupt in a deadly explosion.

Bedevilled is a debut feature film by Jang Chul-soo from Secret Reunion screenwriter Choi Kwang-young. The contrasts from the opening scenes in the city, dirty, gritty full of danger to the sunshine drenched country side island are jarring, but it doesn't take long to realize that it too is just as soul-sapping. The build up to final act of carnage seems inevitable which may make one feel sympathetic to the perpetrator and repulsed at the same time. The dictionary meaning of Bedevilled is 1. to harass or torment 2. to throw into confusion 3. to possess, as with a devil. With this film it does all three.
(Review by reesa)



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Movies Scheduled for the Week of 7/17 - 7/23

Hope y'all are taking advantage of the 10th anniversary of the Asian Film Festival Dallas that is happening right now at the Magnolia Theater. There's still four full days of programming that offers unique and amazing films that you will probably never have the opportunity to see anywhere else. Go to http://2011.affd.org/ for more information and to buy tickets. Reviews for some of the movies screened so far can be found on these pages.

Lots of screenings to choose from this week and they all seem to be happening on the same nights. So here's another reminder to everyone, please, please, please keep the "I want, give me, it's my girlfriends birthday, my kid wants to go, it's my anniversary, my relatives are in town" emails to a minimum. If you have passes and can help someone out great. If you want them, please answer the person offering directly, don't just hit reply because it goes to everyone here and promptly gets deleted.

July 17 - 23, 2011

Sun
7/17

8:30 pm
Monsters Inc
Central 214

Mon
7/18

Tue
7/19

7:30 pm
Terri
Magnolia

Wed
7/20

7:00 pm
Tabloid
Texas Theater

7:30 pm
30 Minute or Less
Studio Movie Grill Dallas

7:30 pm
Friends With Benefits
AMC Northpark

7:30 pm
Captain America: The First Avenger
Cinemark West Plano

7:30 pm
Captain America: The First Avenger
Cinemark 17

Thu
7/21

7:30 pm
Crazy Stupid Love
AMC Northpark

7:30 pm
Attack the Block
Angelika Dallas

8:00 pm
It's Complicated
Nylo Hotel Plano

9:00 pm
Scream 4
UT Arlington

Fri
7/22

8:30 pm
Pirates of the Carribean: Curse Black Pearl
Fairmont Hotel Dallas pool area

Sat
7/23

10:00 am
Smurfs
AMC Northpark


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AFFD Movie Reviews Day 2






Little Big Soldier

A hundred years before China's unification the Warring States Nation was in devastation. The seven largest states were known as Qi, Chu, Yah, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin. The rest were wiped out. The year is 227 BC after the battle between Liang and Wei the field is littered with the loss of 3000 men. One soldier remained alive in the piles of bodies.

Besides this one soldier playing dead a couple of generals seem hard to kill. The two remaining warriors arise for a final battle. The Wei general kills the Liang general. The Liang soldier who faked his death with a collapsible arrow witnesses his general's demise and takes the wounded enemy general as a POW. He says he can get five acres of land for him. He tends to the general's wounds and puts him in a cart to take him back to his country for the reward. The Wei general suspects they have been ambushed and Prince Wen (Steven Yoo) and his personal army are hot on his trail to make sure he stays dead. Jackie Chan plays Big Soldier not necessarily a coward but a man with strong self preservation instinct who doesn't want to kill anyone. Of his other brothers who fought in the battle only he remains. His father had instilled in him the need to carry on the family name. He's determined to survive. Leehom Wang of Lust, Caution plays the general who is a soldier first and foremost and possibly more who wants to get back to his troops and die gloriously in battle. The two enemies experience lots of adversity on the road besides the Prince following them and the arguements between themselves. There are other adventures on the road like a vengeful woman and unaffiliated warriors living wild in the countryside. The general decides he wants to die in dignity than in the hands of his own people. He decides to go willingly. Along the way they develop a grudging respect for each other.

Directed by Sheng Ding the script is by Jackie Chan who also served as the action director. The fights scenes are choreographed with Chan's signature hi-jinks and acrobatics. A little bit older now he still entertains with his fighting slapstick that is inventive, creative and just plain fun to watch. It's a typical road story only in costume with some amazing countryside using mostly outdoor shots bathed in sunlight. There's plenty of battles, escapes that don't go so well including one on a buffalo. The friendship that develops between the Wei general the foot soldier turns into a nice bromance as they both learn something from each other. Not a lot of political intrigue to worry about that's typical in most Chinese period movies. Just two guys who love their countries. It's interesting to note that Qin will eventually unite China in 221 BC. Of course there's the outtakes during the credits that are always interesting and show just how much physical damage Chan endures to get a scene done.
(Review by reesa)





Saigon Electric

Mai has moved from the countryside to Saigon to audition to a dance school. But she is over her head with out any formal training. She's learned to ribbon dance from her mother and has performed at local events and weddings. Her nerves get the better of her and she lies to her mom that all is going well. She rents a small room from a cranky old man where the electricity is broken and the windows don't work. She gets a job at a local restaurant where she meets Kim a local hip hop street dancer. Mai had seen her outside doing her thing and was impressed. The girls from a quick friendship.

Kim's crew practices at the local youth club that offers training in martial arts and hip hop dancing. Kim is considered to be one of best women dancers in the city. The leader of the group Saigon Fresh is Do-boy who also works on fixing scooters. Saigon streets are filled with 2 wheel bikes of all kinds rather than cars. There's a big dance competition coming up and their aim is to beat the other top hip hop crew champions North Killaz from Hanoi. Lonely Mai finds a family at the youth center. The crew willingly accepts her even though everyone considers ribbon dancing as being corny. Do-boy who remembers his ex-beauty queen mother was once a ribbon dancer before she passed. He asks Mai to teach some traditional dances to the young girls at the center. They get news that the youth center is going to be torn down to build a hotel. Mai asks her land lord to use his connections that he made before as a professor of music and a composer before he became a depressed alcoholic. A win at the dance contest would help sway the need to keep the center open.

Kim is being distracted by a rich kid Hai whose parents own restaurants and hotels. He's attracted to street smart Kim because she represents the ultimate in freedom as his life is closely controlled by his family. At first Kim doesn't want anything to do with him, but he eventually wins her over. His parents are sending him to England in a few weeks and he fills Kim with dreams of her going with him. Mai is afraid that she is heading for heartbreak. After Kim meets Hai's parents they forbid him from seeing her again. Kim's world crumbles and she returns to her crew in time for the final dance show down.

Director/writer Stephane Gauger was born in Saigon and was raised in California. He returned to Vietnam in the 90's as a lighting technician. He directed a short film in 1998 before making his feature Own and Sparrow in 2007 which won awards at international film festivals. In Saigon Electric he explores the world of hip hop dancing that has exploded in Vietnam in the last few years. It's been designed to hit the film festival circuit but will have a theatrical release in October in a few cities, Dallas included.

The cast was formed from real dancers and first time actors. Quynh Hoa plays Kim dances with an all girl dance crew while studying tourism at school. Van Trang as Mai is a popular TV actress in her country. The dancing rivals the dance movies in the states without the over produced staging. It's the story of the young women that makes this film universally appealing. That no matter where you are or who you are, you have to power to follow your dreams. For more information visit saigonelectric.com/
(Review by reesa)



The Stool Pigeon

Police detective Don Lee uses police informants and when one drug bust goes wrong, retribution is paid on the informant. Feeling guilty, he still uses a street racer named Ghost to gain intelligence on a gangster named Barbarian. As a senior inspector he trains other officers on how to handle their stool pigeons. The police have to handle them 70 % tight and 30 % loose. There are also budgets cuts so funds for informants are tight. Lee says the informants know that they are putting their lives on the line just for the police pay off although he himself is beginning the question if it's morally right.

Inspector Lee decides to use a guy currently in prison who is due out soon named Ghost (Nicholas Tse) named after his father who was street racer. The investigation of him reveals that he has spent 25% of his life behind bars for illegal street racing, assault, theft and drug trafficking. He entices Ghost to work with the police to use the money to pay off his dad's debt and to save his sister who is now working for a pimp as payment. Ghost tries to get her out on his own, but only gets beat up. Lee manages to get the interest off the loan off to help free the sister. Ghost is forced to work with him. They set up an elaborate system to meet and arrange the money becoming an official informant. Like all bureaucracy it requires signatures and seals. He's assigned to get information on Barbarian (Lu Yi). He infiltrates the gang which will pay him to be the driver during a robbery. At one stage there's car chase to the tune of “White Christmas”. Then an exciting foot trace through a crowded market place still bleeding from the car accident.

The gang is set to rob a gold shipment at a jewelery store. As Ghost feeds information, life in the gang is hard and gets complicated when the Barbarian has the rest of the gang take out one of their own. With one person short now Ghost reluctantly has to carry a gun. He also has some feelings for Barbarian's girlfriend Dee (Lunmei Kwai) who is tired of being treated poorly by him. During the robbery he manages to get a message to the police before crashing the car into the building. The gang has automatic weapons and they get away. As they melt the bars Dee betrays her boyfriend and tries to get away with the gold with Ghost's help. When the police come they have no evidence and Lee's boss wants him to set up the stoolie to take the fall so he can inform on the rest.

Director Dante Lam who did the excellent Beast Stalker does a nice character study of the stoic Inspector Lee. Stuck between a rock and a hard place that he must use and manipulate people to serve the greater good fills him with remorse. On top of that his wife who had tried to kill her self has amnesia and doesn't remember him even though he goes weekly to take dance classes at her studio. The final horrific battle is worth the wait in the end. A dark and bleak picture of the the gray world of police and what they have to do to stop crime. Although there are excellent performances it's slow and ponderous at times without a bit of humor and only a bit of redemption at the end.
(Review by reesa)





Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City

The first Zebraman story was made in 2004 but the story was set in 2010 about a mild mannered school teacher Shinichi Ichikawa whose son is bullied because of his dad. In his off time he creates a costume of Zebraman a short lived 70's TV series and later morphs into the superhero when town invaded by green gobular aliens. Part 2 happens 25 years later when Ichikawa awakens from a 25 amnesiac sleep to fight a police state , an alien incubator and his alter ego.

Tokyo has been rebranded a Zebra City. Everything is now made into a black and white design The city now has political reform called “Zebra Time” where everyone even the police are allowed for to shoot people and commit crimes for 5 minutes a day at a 5 am and pm supposedly making the city the most secure in the world. It balances human nature of good and evil according the goth like fascist governor and his daughter the goth pop performer called the Zebra Queen. Asano the little crippled boy from the first movie is now a doctor that cares for the people who are victimized by the new regime. Ichikawa is brought there when he's shot by the Zebra police during one of crime times. IThey try to explain to him what happened. A media created Zebraman in a high tech costume is sold to the masses. Ichiba the TV Zebraman thinks by letting him watch it will trigger his memories. A little girl at the Zebra Time refuge is really 25 years old . She was once imprisoned and experiments done on her because has some green alien in her. Her touch brings back Zebraman in him.. For some reason, the Zebra Queen is also affect by the power generated by the two. She wants to bring Zebra Time to the entire world. But first she has to get the alien possessed young woman. There's a whole thing about experiments to separate white and black. Zebraman becomes white, his alter ego black. The Queen gets to wear some SM influenced leathers and spikes, while Zebraman sports a white mohawk.

Action director Takashi Miike working with a script by Kankurô Kudô is a visual feast good for midnight movies when your brain doesn't care to understand what you are watching. The art direction is appealing, costumes really interesting but doesn't have the home made charm of the first movie. The movie can stand on it's own without having to see the previous film. Show Aikawa is back as the Zebraman, with Riisa Naka as the hysterical laughing Zebra Queen. Handsome Masahir Inoue plays Kohei Asano the doctor. Naoki Tanaka plays Ichiba the TV Zebraman who thinks he can defend the refugee's in his costume. Guadalcana Taka is the demented evil Governor Kohei Asano. Tsuyoshi Abe is Niimi, the queen's first in command. Just accept what you see, don't ask why and enjoy the silliness.
(Review by reesa).


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Saturday, July 16, 2011

AFFD Movie Reviews Day 1






Golden Slumber

Aoyagi is a nice humble sort of guy. A couple years earlier he had saved a pop star from attack when he was out doing his delivery job. He had a hero image. Maybe that is why a college friend Morita was offered a pay off for his debts by setting Aoyagi up to take the fall in the assassination of Japan's Prime Minister. Thinking they are going on a fishing trip, his friend gives him a sedative in his water. When Aoyagi wakes up, they are near the PM's parade route, and he confesses the plot. He asks him if he has met anyone mysterious lately. Morita tells Aoyagi to run before their car blows up as well.

He gets a phone call from a woman who he met at a cyber cafe. She tells him to meet at her house. While watching the news he sees the bomb was activated by a radio controlled helicopter. The room he's in is full of helicopters. Later he finds his image is being broadcast on TV as a possible suspect. Everywhere he goes he's either being recognized as the guy who rescued the popstar or by government agents bent on killing him. The National Police hurt his friends in order to get him to turn himself in. They explain it's all about image and they can manipulate the information.

A serial killer on the loose known as Kill-O comes to his aid because he's impressed and helps him on impulse especially when Aoyagi is in tight spots. He thinks he knows the doctor who did the plastic surgery to frame him in the videos. But thing go wrong again. An old gangster at the hospital had told him the only way to turn himself in is that he must do it with TV cameras in a public place. He also tells him about a series of storm drains. And he mysteriously has manhole covers. There are blockades everywhere. The TV broadcasts are full of stories and speculations on what he may be doing. His parents, friends and family are pulled into the controversy but they don't believe he is guilty. A cop catches him urinating by the side of the road and he knocks out the cop. The cop is touched by Aoyagi's fathers statement to the press, and offers him solace and advise.

Fish Story director Yoshihiro Nakamura based the story on a novel by Kotaro Isaka meanders quite a bit. No reason is given for setting up Aoyagi except they needed a patsy. Masato Kakai as Aoyagi is innocent, yet resourceful. The flashbacks of their college days are sometimes confusing. All set to the Beatles song Golden Slumbers sung with a Japanese accent. But it's a fun curious tale that speaks of friendship.
(Review by reesa)



Cyrano Agency

A theater troupe of 4 people offer a unique service of acting cupid for lovelorn clients. They investigate the object of their clients attentions and mastermind a way for them meet with the ultimate goal of romance. They do everything from image redo's, creating scripted scenarios, coaching them on how to deliver the lines that will melt the heart in question, even adding more rain as the scene demands. They are not adverse to sending in actors hired just to get one of the parties jealous or to add background to the scene. It's like a Mission Impossible job, only with love.

The boss and one time acting teacher Byung-Hoon (Uhm Tae-Woong) is hesitant about the newest client Sang-Yong (Daniel Choi). The straight laced, awkward financial trader who is smitten with a free spirited woman Hee-Joong (Lee Min-Jung). He first saw her upstairs in church when she sneezed out her gum into his yawning mouth on the ground floor. The boss says he's got a bad feeling about this particular job. The first scene they set up to gain her attention goes terribly wrong when Sang-Young doesn't stick to the script. In fact he never sticks to the script to their dismay. The next one at the church doesn't go well either when the minister turns out to be her uncle. Despite the team feeding him things to say and do, it almost seems doom to fail. He offers to give the client his money back, but they already spent it paying off their bills and loan. Team member Min-young (Park Sin-hye) notices that maybe the boss isn't putting his full focus of the job at hand. Turns out Hee Joong is Byung-Hoon's ex-girlfriend and he may be sabotaging this latest case in the name of love.

If one thinks about the premise of the Cyrano Agency there's probably a lot of ethical questions on setting up people to fall in love. Director/writer Kim Hyeon-Seok manages to move the action and the comedy along quickly so that it's entertaining and diverting. The cast is filled with favorite Korean TV drama stars like Lee Min-jung of Midas and Boys Over Flowers, Park Shin-hye of You're Beautiful, and Daniel Choi of High Kick! There's also Park Cheol-Min who is in literally in everything and Uhm Tae-Woong from Dr. Champ and Stranger Than Paradise. Koreans are great at fun romantic comedies and this works well.
(Review by reesa)



Shaolin

In China's early Republican era, the land is plunged into strife as feuding warlords ravage the land and people for power. The warlord Hou Jie defeats rival Hou Long who flees to the Shaolin Temple to hide. Gravely injured Hou Jie admits defeat and hands him the power to Dengfeng, Henan.. Despite the abbots plea, Hou Jie shoots Hou Long and writes “empty words” on the Temple's sign The Source of all Martial Arts.

Foreign officers want to trade automatic guns to the General Hou Jie (Andy Lau) in exchange for railroad rights through his land. But the General believe that opening the doors to the railway will open the doors to losing their country. He belittles his deputy Cao Man (Nicholas Tse) for wanting to do business with them. He's also afraid that Song Hu (Shi Xiaohong) will want those weapons, so he asks Cao Man to eliminate him. Commander Song Hu is Hou Jie's sworn brother, but Song wants to marry off his son to Hou Jie's young daughter. They set up and engagement party to trap Song. Cao Man feeling used and thinking he deserves better betrays his General sending assassins to murder him and his family instead. In the ensuing mayhem, he shoots Song Hu but Song hu saves him from the ambush and letting him escape.

Hu Jie rushes his fatally injured daughter to the monks that he had earlier defiled. Despondent over the death of daughter and his wife leaving him, Hou Jie feels guilty for his past deeds he wanders near Shaolin. He falls in a pig trap made by Wudoa (Jackie Chan) the cook monk who provides him with food and shelter. He trains with the monks and comes to understand martial arts and finds a way to peace and enlightenment by releasing his need for revenge. One day he hears that his deputy has taken over the army and is oppressing the people to unearth Chinese relics to sell for automatic weapons, then killing the laborers to keep them silent. When Cao Man finds Hou Jie still alive, he attacks the Shaolin temple and the foreigners also join the frey bombarding the temple with artillery. Eventually Hou Jie and Cao Man have a confrontation with karma payback.

Directed by Benny Chan who also did City Under Siege another film featured at the AFFD. Shaolin tells the story of a man once cruel, full of anger and greedy for power who finds a way to forgive himself and learn to become humble.. Andy Lau, known as a perfectionist, really shaved his head for his role as a monk. Although not a real martial artist like Jackie Chan he manages to make the fight scenes look pretty amazing. As with Chinese films there is some wire work, but not overly exaggerated. Jackie Chan as the cook who doesn't do martial arts, manages to fight the way he cooks in a well choreographed battle aided by real Shaolin kid monks. His easy going nature is a breath of fresh air to the seriousness of the story. The film is not just an martial arts film so if you expect socky choppy forget it. What you get is a good character driven story with excellent performances especially by Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse.
(Review by reesa)



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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II



In the first 6 books Harry Potter struggled with adolescence, becoming a wizard, and dealing with being the child who survived the attack of Lord Voldemort. Slowly his teenage years at Hogwort's School of Magic becomes increasingly dark and more dangerous as the last confrontation comes to it's climax in the eight and final installment of the J.K. Rowling's beloved series. Again directed by David Yates with a screenplay by Steve Kloves centers the last story on the personal angst of Harry who must battle Lord Voldemort and his army of dark wizards.

Picking up from the end of the previous movie, Harry is mourning the loss of house elf Dobby. Lord Voldemort has the powerful Elder wand and is basically in control of the wizards and the government. Harry (Daniel Radcliff) and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are still looking for and destroying the Horcruxes, the powerful objects that Voldemort has stored a fragment of his soul for the purpose of attaining immortality. As each one is destroyed Harry feels the same sense of loss of Voldemort feels as there is a connection between the two that must be resolved.

There's a sense of gloom and doom from the opening sequences, and the pallid color palette on the screen. People move in a slow dreamlike state. You can sense the time bomb running in the heads of the three main characters as they steadfastly deal with the seriousness of their lives. Considering that Part 1, although excellent, not much happened as it's mostly a set up for this movie. Part 2 hits the ground running with the impersonation spell at the goblin bank, a thrilling escape on a dragon, sneaking into Hogswort that has been taken over by Snape, and the epic battle of the dark wizards against the teachers and students at the school. Everyone that has ever been in the series gets a little face time, even the dead ones. Alan Rickman is wonderfully nuanced in the revelation of what really happened in the death of Dumbledore. Maggie Smith, who was suffering from breast cancer throughout the shoot, stands strong as Professor McGonagall. Even Julie Walters as Molly Weasley gets some serious wand time in a show down with Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). Neville (Matthew Lewis) enjoys some feel good hero moments, considering in the past he was the constant subject for mocking.

The special effect rival the scope and intensity of Lord of the Rings. The ending battle sequences are exciting and thrilling, but homages to the fallen are over in s blink. The performances of the three main characters have immensely improved over the years. Radcliff shows an maturity as Harry who had to grown up quickly to deal with the sacrifice that he's forced to make. There's a scene where he's shirtless and you wonder what Harry does in his off time to get such a six pack. But it also reminds one that Harry is not the cute little kid with a scar on his forehead. He's a young man with a serious responsibility. It's hard to let go of stories that have defined a generation of young people all over the world. The epilogue ties up the ending so we who has shared in this adventure the past 11 years can leave Harry and friends with a happy heart.
(Review by reesa)



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