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(Sundance Selects…Unrated…87min…French with English Subtitles)

A nominee in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2011 Golden Globes and the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and the winner of the Best Screenwriter Prize at the European Film Awards, The Kid with a Bike is a deeply moving film by the Dardenne brothers (L’Enfant, Rosetta) that delves into the emotional life of a troubled 11-year-old named Cyril (played by newcomer Thomas Doret).

When Cyril’s father abandons him, the boy obsessively tries to find his bicycle, after all, his father must have cared enough about him not to sell that off. Almost by accident, he becomes the ward of a kind hairdresser (Cécile de France) named Samantha, a woman who seems surprised to find herself so determined to help him. With his wild, unpredictable behavior and his disastrous search for father figures, Cyril risks losing her—though she refuses to give up without a fight. Full of heartbreaking betrayals and unexpected grace, the film is about a child, abandoned to the elements, learning to become good.

Dramatic yet not overtly sentimental, filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne were determined to keep it that way.

“We were adamant that the audience would never find out why Samantha is drawn to Cyri,” Luc Dardenne explained. “We didn’t want psychological explanations. We didn’t want the past to explain the present. We wanted the audience to think, she is doing this, which is plenty already.”
Poignant and dramatic with solid performances throughout, The Kid with a Bike is extremely compelling and endearing to watch.

The Kid with a Bike opens March 16 at The Landmark in West Los Angeles and on March 23 at Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena; Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino; the Regency South Coast Village in Santa Ana; and the Regency Rancho Niguel 8 in Laguna Niguel.








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(Sundance Selects…103min…Unrated)

These days, the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of 3D have grown tired. It seems like just another excuse for studios and movie theaters to charge more for tickets. And the extra money spent never seems worth it. But now, two films, Hugo and Wim Wenders’ latest effort Pina, seem to get it right.

In his new film, German filmmaker Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, The Buena Vista Social Club) shoots in 3D to capture the brilliantly inventive dance world of legendary choreographer Pina Bausch. Wenders had conceived with Bausch a dance film that takes the fullest advantage of 3D technology, putting you deep inside Bausch’s playful, thrillingly unpredictable pieces.

“With 3D our project would be possible,” Wenders explains. “Only in this way, by incorporating the dimension of space, I could dare, and not just [presuming[, to bring Pina’s Tanztheater in an adequate form to the screen.“

After Bausch’s untimely death in 2009, Wenders continued with the project, turning it into the most exciting tribute he could imagine. Sensual and visually stunning, Pina uses 3D to remarkable effect, taking the audience into Bausch’s work in her imaginative sets (a gliding monorail, a bare stage covered with chairs, a towering man-made waterfall) and powerfully rendering the beauty and sheer physicality of the dances and dancers of her Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble.

The Official German Oscar entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category, Pina is also being bandied about as one of the films that made the Academy’s shortlist for Best Documentary Feature.  Whether you’re a fan of dance or not, or perhaps you’re like me and have never heard of Pina Bausch before, it won’t matter as this is an easy film to get lost in and be mesmerized by the dance and production.

Click here to watch the Pina trailer.

Pina is now playing at The Landmark Theatre in West Los Angeles and The Arclight Theatre in Hollywood, and opens at the Cinemark Century 20 Huntington Beach at Bella Terra Theatre in Orange County on January 20.







(Magnolia Pictures • Rated R • 93 min)

Mix a crafty thriller with a dark comedy and you will find yourself in the uneasy terrain of The Perfect Host, the impressive debut feature from Australian filmmaker Nick Tomnay.

As the stiff and serious Warwick Wilson, the consummate dinner party host, is preparing for another carefully crafted affair in his home, career criminal John Taylor stumbles upon his doorstep. Wounded and fleeing from the police, Taylor is on the run after just robbing a bank and decides to holdup at Wilson. But of course things never seem as they appear, at least not in this familiar Hitchcockian neighborhood, and needless to say, things quickly to awry.

The film is aided by solid performances by David Hyde Pierce and Clayne Crawford. Billed as a slippery psychological thriller that exposes true human nature and reveals just how far we’re willing to go to satisfy our needs, the marketing tag line for The Perfect Host is, “dinner parties are a dying art.”

According to director Nick Tomnay, the film “originally was set in rural district Byron Bay, Australia, and was much more like an atmospheric thriller, but due to my state of mind at that time and my urban address, the tone and location changed. After writing a first draft of the script, I enlisted a friend of mine, Krishna Jones, and together we wrote The Host in 1999. In 2000 I shot the film, posted it in 2001, and in 2002 sent it off on a festival tour.”

In 2008 Tomnay flew out to Los Angeles and filmed The Perfect Host.  The result is a tense and dark film that is a welcome relief from mind numbing summer blockbusters. If you like off quirky and dark films that play off center, then this may just be right up your alley.

The Host opens Friday, July 1 and plays at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.







Summit Entertainment – 106 min; Rated PG-13

A fascinating examination into the dark corridors of political power, Fair Game is a riveting story based on the real-life experience of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame whose career was destroyed by a Bush administration White House leak.

Plame's status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq. Starring Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her husband Joe Wilson, the film is more All The President’s Men than it is Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Yet another film pointing out that our government knew all to well that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before we went to war, this true story shows just to what devious lengths the powers that be would go to, including putting an American agent’s life in jeopardy just to get what they want. A smart film with wonderful performances, especially by Watts and Penn, director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) really delivers a top-notch drama.

Click here to watch the Fair Game trailer.




Cinetic Filmbuff – 70 min; Not Rated

Remember two years ago when Americans voted for change and made history with the election of President Obama? Things looked bright and we hoped the country would finally get back on track. As Election Day 2010 approaches, filmmaker Jeff Deutchman looks back at the historical election night of 11/4/08.

One of the first user-generated, participatory documentaries ever made, the film showcases a series of interviews and events on the day when Barack Obama was elected into office. In this documentary, we see idealistic volunteers, children, parents, expatriates, and everyday people in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Austin, Paris, Dubai, Berlin, Geneva, and New Delhi expressing their emotions over this historical moment in our modern history. In addition, Deutchman collected footage captured by a combination of both passionate amateurs and acclaimed independent filmmakers, including Henry Joost (Catfish), Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths), Joe Swanberg (Alexander the Last) and Benh Zeitlin (Glory At Sea) talking about what this day means to them.

A series of personal short home movies, the film lacks focus, other than people being excited about the possibility of a newly elected President Obama, and does grow tiresome. As important as that particular election night as two years, which seems so distant from now, it’s interesting to really examine what exactly has changed amidst our dismal economy, sky-high unemployment and troops still fighting overseas. I doubt anyone will ever forget where they were the night President Obama was elected but that doesn’t mean you have to sit through 70 minutes of home movies to gain any perspective for nostalgia sake.

11/4/08 is currently available through the following platforms:
Amazon VOD, Netflix and Sony Playstation3 VOD System.




resident-evil-afterlife-movie- review

(Screen Gems – 97 min) Rated R

With the release of the fifth installment of the Resident Evil franchise this weekend, Hollywood just keeps churning out video game movies one after the other. Having made an action star out of the lovely Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D finds badass Alice in Los Angeles looking for safe haven as the city, is overrun with the Undead. As Alice and Claire Redfield, back from the last installment, crash land atop an L.A. prison where a few remaining humans, including “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller, are holdup keeping an army of mutants at bay, carnage soon ensues.

Director Paul W. S. Anderson shot the movie using James Cameron's Fusion camera system and a lot has been touted about this being the first film to actually be filmed in 3D since Avatar (the bevy of 3D live-action films that have inundated theaters recently have merely been turned into 3D after the fact). Yet once again, I wasn’t impressed with any of the 3D effects, but then again, I wasn’t impressed with the Avatar effects either. The last truly cool 3D movie I saw (we’re just talking 3D effects here) was My Bloody Valentine 3D, with the exception of the fantastic IMAX 3D documentaries like The Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D or Hubble 3D.

Resident Evil game fans should enjoy the appearance of The Executioner, the bloodthirsty giant wielding a large axe, renamed here as The Axeman. With its slick look, the film is more style than substance, which may be exactly what you expect from this type of genre film except that earlier movies in the series had both, at least the first one, back in 2002, did. But if all you want is a high body count with flashy kills, including cheesy slow-mo sequences of the film’s babes battling Axeman in a large prison shower, completely wet from all the shower heads in use, then set right up and buy your ticket, and prepare yourself for the inevitable sixth installment you know will come soon.

Click here to watch the Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D trailer.





despicable me movie review

(Universal Pictures – 95min) Rated PG

The latest 3D animated film to be released this summer Despicable Me isn’t quite your average family fun flick. I found it a little odd that the film’s main character is super villain Gru (the voice of Steve Carell) who is determined to pull off the ultimate heist…stealing the moon.

Not quite the greatest role model for kids, the film definitely has jokes for grown ups and for the little ones. And the kids either didn’t get it or didn’t mind rooting for a master criminal, albeit one with a slew of cute and funny robot minions at his disposal. Maybe they were too busying identifying with the trio of orphans Gru takes in as part of his scheme to steal back a shrink ray in order to steal the moon. Of course with the addition of the girls longing for a father figure comes some sense of responsibility and sentiment from the hardened criminal.

Once again, I wasn’t too impressed with the 3D effects although this was a little better than the last few 3D films to hit theaters. Trying to please the kids and the parents who will invariably take them to the theater Despicable Me spreads itself a little too thin but still manages to be enough fun for everyone involved.

Click here to see the Despicable Me trailer.



how to train your dragon review

(Paramount Pictures – 98 min) Rated PG

Viking battling dragons is the recipe for a good action film, animate it and add 3D glasses and you have the makings of a good kids movie. And How To Train Your Dragon definitely falls into that category.

A hapless young Viking named Hiccup with dreams of becoming a dragon slayer realizes he doesn’t have it in him to make the big kill only to actually rescue and adopt a young dragon himself. Having to keep this secret from all of the other axe-wielding Vikings in town, young Hiccup learns there’s more to the evil dragons than meets the eye.

With Jay Baruchel of She’s Out of My League as the affable Hiccup and Gerard Butler of 300 as Stoick, the leader of the Vikings, as well as funny man Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera and Jonah Hill as Vikings, the film offers solid performances amidst all the 3D action that the kids will love.

Click here to watch the How To Train Your Dragon trailer.



when you're strange

(Rhino Entertainment Company – 90min) Rated R

You would think that a documentary about legendary rock group The Doors would make for fascinating viewing but that’s not the case with When You’re Strange, the new doc from director Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp.

If you’re a die-hard fan like I am, well, then there’s nothing new being offered that you haven’t already seen countless times. If you’re a casual fan, and you want to sink your teeth into something meatier than Oliver Stone’s trippy 1991 Doors movie, this may still not be your best bet.

Obviously the focus of the film is lead singer Jim Morrison whose masterful charisma was always the center of attention in the band, and that’s not going to change now. When You’re Strange just doesn’t give the band its fair due by only skimming the surface of what made Morrison and the band one of the greatest artists of the ‘60s. The band’s meteoric career only lasted a mere four years with Morrison (the band tried to continue without him for two more years before finally disbanding) but it that short period of time they were able to solidify their place among the rock pantheon. Unfortunately the film just never quite breaks on through to the other side.

When You’re Strange is playing at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, at the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, at Town Center in Encino, and at Monica 4 in Santa Monica. 






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