Juliette Grant (Patricia Clarkson), a magazine writer, travels from America all the way to Cairo, Egypt, where she expects to meet her husband, Mark (Tom McCamus), a U.N. official working in Gaza. As it turns out, Mark’s arrival in Cairo gets delayed for a few days because of his temporary detainment in Gaza, so he sends his friend/security guard, Tareq (Alexander Siddig), to assist her throughout her brief time spent in Cairo. She stays at a luxurious hotel overlooking the Nile River, and, not surprisingly, experiences jet lag initially. The city of Cairo becomes a character of itself with its beauty landscapes and architectures which contrast the excessive heat and humidity which makes it strenuous to walk around there during the daytime. Tareq becomes her friendly tour guide, plays chess with her, takes her to sight-seeing trips around Cairo and even brings her as a guest to a wedding of the daughter of his former lover. Gradually, he and Juliette fall in love. Writer/director Ruba Nadda unfolds the love story in such a gentle, unpretentious fashion that you can’t help but sense the passion between Tareq and Juliette. Is it true love or just a fleeting romance? If this were a Hollywood film, they’d be having sex right away and Juliette would simply leave her husband who probably would’ve come across as a jerk, but, instead, Nadda aims for realism because the solutions to Juliette’s inner struggles with the love of her husband and of Tareq are handled with sensitivity and complexity. Nadda wisely chooses not to introduce Mark to you until a brief scene at the very end, so it’s up to you to imagine what he’s like up until that point. Patricia Clarkson looks absolutely beautiful and luminous as Juliette. Her performance radiates with panache, warmth and charm while subtlety hiding Juliette’s innate sadness as a lonely wife who has spent too much time away from her husband. You’ll feel like you’ve gotten to know Juliette, and, by the time the film ends after 1 hour and 30 minutes, you’ll wish you could have gotten to know her even more. Cairo Time ultimately manages to be a gentle, bittersweet love story boasting a picturesque, enchanting travelogue of Cairo and a radiant, well-nuanced and engrossing performance by the genuinely beautiful Patricia Clarkson.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Danny (Eddie Marsan) and Eddie (Martin Compston), two ex-cons, kidnap a young college student, Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), tie her up, throw her into a van and drive off into an apartment building where they hold her hostage for ransom. They tie her to a bed, blindfold her, gag her, strip her naked and photograph her. It turns out that Danny and Eddie do have some kind of motive: her father is a millionaire. Thus far, the plot sounds like a standard thriller with standard good vs. evil characters, but just when you think it’ll stay so by-the-book, it suddenly takes unexpected turns that puts everyone’s motives, relationships with one another and morality into a whole new perspective. Danny seems to dominate over Eddie like an abusive father, and it’s suspenseful and intriguing to observe how the dynamics of their relationship evolves throughout the course of the film because there’s more to each of them than meets the eye. You might end up hating Eddie one minute and liking him the next. Writer/director J Blakeson has a knack for combining suspense, drama, thrills and terror with just the right splash of black, twisted humor. Some of the torture sequences, although not particularly graphic in nature, do veer toward cringe-worthy moments and psychological terror because you never really know how far Danny and Eddie will go with their kidnapping. Admittedly, though, the third act does go a bit over-the-top with all of its relentless twists and turns. Gemma Arterton, whom you may recognize from the recent blockbuster Prince of Persia, gets her chance to show off her serious acting chops here and bares it all, physically and emotionally. Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston also give impressive performances that help to further elevate the film from being a pedestrian, run-of-the-mill thriller. At a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an unpredictable, taut and well-acted thriller with just the right balance of intrigue, palpable suspense and comic relief.
Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl
Last Letters from Monte Rosa
In Northern Italy, 1944, German troops camp out as they wait for Italian troops to reinforce them during World War II. Lieutenant Gunther (Thomas Pohn) gets increasingly frustrated as food runs very low and local partisans attack his troops out in the woods. When the Italian troops finally arrive, the German troops treat them, along with German Lieutenant Giannini (Fabio Sartor), with disrespect, i.e. by giving them only half the rations of food that their own troops receive. Not surprisingly, an Italian soldier ends up in a fight with a German soldier who serves him the half-ration. An Italian gangster, Rossini (Carmine Raspaolo), gets into trouble with the Italian and German troops for committing an unforgivable, immoral act which won’t be spoiled here. The screenplay by Caio Ribeiro, based on letters from deceased WWII soldiers, humanizes each of the soldiers by getting into their heads so that you’re able to grasp their thoughts and feelings throughout their experiences. Although you don’t get any backstory about any of their lives before the war, at least none of them comes across as mere cardboard caricatures. It’s fascinating to observe the dynamics of the relationship between the German and Italian Lieutenants and how they evolve into an unexpected friendship in the midst of a brutal war. Ribeiro also interjects some brief moments of comic relief---a necessity in any kind of film that tackles a serious subject matter---such as when the troops deceive the German lieutenant into thinking that the Italian word for “land mine” is “penis.” Even the brief introduction to Rossini provides some dry humor as an American wine salesman approaches him while he sleeps sitting down. Director Ari Taub includes stylish cinematography, lighting and set designs which further enhance the films intense and somber moods without veering toward pretension. At a brief running time of only 1 hour and 28 minutes, Last Letters from Monte Rosa is a richly human, heartfelt, character-driven and atmospheric war drama.
Inspired by true events. Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) works as a problem-fixer for companies and lives with his wife, Diana (Jacinda Barrett), and son in a suburban home. One day, Jerry Haggerty (James Caan), a lawyer, persuades him to team up with Wayne Beering (Giovanni Ribisi) and Buck Dolby (Gabriel Macht) to help them facilitate online billing for a website that specializes in internet porn. The backstory of how Wayne and Buck ended up fired from their previous jobs is quite hilarious and won’t be spoiled here, though. As Jack, Wayne and Buck strike it rich with millions of dollars in revenues, they get into trouble with Russian mob boss Nikita Sokoloff (Rade Serbedzija) when one of men arrives to collect money and ends up dead after James (Terry Crews), Jack’s bodyguard, punches him in the face. When his wife kicks him out of the house for cheating on her, Jack flies all the way to Los Angeles to be with his new lover, Audrey Dawns (Laura Ramsey), a porn star. Kevin Pollack plays an FBI agent who’s hot on Jack and the Russian mob’s trail. Director/co-writer George Gallo along with co-writer Andy Weiss fuse drama, action, comedy and suspense together compellingly thanks to dialogue that sparkles with wittiness for the most part. Take, for example, Jack’s meeting with a politician Frank Griffin (Kelsey Grammer) whom he blackmails in an attempt to stop charges from being pressed on his son who hacked into his school’s computer system. It’s a brief scene, but one that’s very well-written and funny. A weaker scene takes place when the FBI agent behaves too nicely and gently when conversing with Jack during a secret meeting at a stadium. The same can be said for the too-brief part when Diana suspects Jack of cheating on her. Their relationship should have been fleshed out more organically and endearingly. On a positive note, though, you’ll find a few intriguing twists and turns as the people around Jack backstab him. There’s also a lively soundtrack and solid performances all across the board from the perfectly-cast James Caan to the often hilarious Giovanni Ribisi all the way to Laura Ramsey who’s quite sizzling. Roughly 15 or so minutes could have easily been trimmed down from the nearly 2-hour running time. Ultimately, Middle Men is far from a classic and won’t tug at your heartstrings, but it manages to be captivating from top to bottom with a refreshingly sharp and funny screenplay, a great ensemble cast and a lively soundtrack.
The Other Guys
Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) both work for the NYPD as the “other guys” because they have a desk job as opposed to the well-respected cops like Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) and P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) who work out on the streets fighting crime. Terry found himself demoted after he accidentally shot baseball star Derek Jeter. When Christopher and P.K. plummet to their death during their attempt to be heroic, Terry desperately seizes the opportunity to become a real cop taking Allen hostage at gunpoint to the scene of a crime that has something to do with British billionaire David Ershon (Steve Coogan) and his Ponzi scheme. Captain Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton) isn’t too happy about their unassigned involvement in the crime investigation. Don’t ask how Allen and Terry end up in a cocaine-covered car that looks like Scarface sneezed on it. Or how an old lady talks dirty to Allen when she relays dirty messages to him from his sexy wife, Dr. Sheila Gamble (Eva Mendez). In a hilarious dinner scene, Terry can’t stop staring at Sheila’s heaving bosom. Or why when Captain Gene Mauch repeats the titles of TLC songs verbatim in his speeches. The more you try to make sense of the screenplay by director/co-writer Adam McKay, the less fun you’ll have enjoying the mindless diversions. Everyone seems to have a lot of fun in their roles, especially Will Ferrell because of his terrific comic timing. Michael Keaton hasn’t been funny onscreen since Multiplicity. Even the underrated Eva Mendez gets a chance to show off her comedic talents, among other things. A truly great buddy flick, i.e. Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour, ought to not generate laughter, but also have great chemistry between its leads while being grounded in reality at least somewhat.The Other Guys has all of the above because the reality and timeliness, in this case, comes in the form of Bernie Madoff...err...David Ershon and his elaborate swindling scheme. Please be sure to stick around through the credits for a nifty animated sequence that shows how a Ponzi scheme works, and, if you stay until after the credits, you’ll be treated for a stinger. At a running time of 1 hour and 47 minutes, The Other Guys is often silly, but very, very funny and well-cast. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg have terrific chemistry and impeccable comic timing. It’s one of the best buddy flicks since Rush Hour.
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The Parking Lot Movie
If you think that a documentary about a parking lot may not sound like a particularly intriguing idea, then think again. When was the last time you stopped to consider what it might be like to live the life of a parking lot attendant? The Parking Lot Movie centers on The Corner Parking Lot locating in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s about 24-hours a day and, as you’ll notice throughout the film, it’s far from your average parking lot. Not everyone can get a job there even if they beg because the ones who do actually get hired are friends of the workers each of whom has developed a friendly a rapport with customers---a task that’s easier said than done. Unlike most parking lots, this one has attendants who attend or have attended college where they study such courses as philosophy which they, in turn, use to enhance their experiences at the lot. Have you ever heard of a parking lot employee philosophically discussing the “social contract?” Well, now’s your chance. The attendants roam around the lot rather than stay glued to their seats in a booth for most of the time. They stand up outside of the booth late at night because their presence there makes those who attend the nearby pub hesitant to behave crudely, rudely or lewdly. Apparently, that doesn’t stop a frat boy from puking on a car, for instance. You’ll be surprised at how many drivers have the nerve to drive away without paying. One particularly penny-pinching customer argues with an attendant about a mere charge of 40 cents, and, as it turns out, she’s the attendant’s former classmate and, while fighting to not pay, she makes fun of his job. The booth has a character of its own with writings on it wall written by the attendants and altered clippings of newspaper headlines each of which must be refer in some way to the topic of parking lots. Director Meghan Eckman captures the energy, passion and frustrations of what it’s like to work at that parking lot by interviewing its owner, Chris Farina, as well as its many quick-witted and lively attendants who come across as intelligent, articulate, honest, charismatic and often very funny----i.e. one attendant plays a game with the orange parking cones to escape boredom. Eckman even includes some thrilling footage as the attendants chase after customers that exit the lot in their car without paying. A lengthy rap video with some of the attendants ends the film on a rather bizarre note because it’ll make you feel as though you’re watching a Christopher Guest “documentary” during those moments. Nonetheless, The Parking Lot Movie is refreshingly original, spirited, honest and provocative. Get ready for a surprisingly enlightening and amusing experience.
Patrik, Age 1.5
Step Up 3D
Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner), best friends since childhood, both attend NYU together. He tries to focus all of his energy on his major, engineering, while still hanging out with Camille, but that becomes those become difficult tasks to balance when he meets Luke (Rick Malambri), an aspiring filmmaker and talented dancer. Luke persuades him to join his team of dancers called The Pirates who prepare for a World Jam competition with a grand prize of $100,000 which Luke desperately needs to pay for his mortgage debts before the bank forecloses the warehouse where The Pirates dance at. Julien (Joe Slaughter) leads their rival dance tem. Little does Camille know that Moose chose to participate in a dance-off instead of going to a party with her. In another cheesy subplot, Luke has his eyes on a new dance member of The Pirates, Natalie (Sharni Vinson). Anyone with an IQ above Sarah Palin’s would know that Camille and Moose are in love and will be able to figure out what might happen when Camille finds out the truth about what he’s doing during and after school. The by-the-numbers screenplay by co-writers Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer offers nothing new, surprising or believable for that matter, but that’s not really much different from the problems that the previous Step Up suffered from, so fans of that film will be able to forgive those shortcomings. Everyone else will be rolling their eyes at all the corniness and oversimplifications that pile on top of each other throughout. Fortunately, director Jon Chu knows how to keep everyone entertained during the impressively choreographed dance numbers that pop out at you with abundant energy, especially in eye-popping 3D. That’s when the film truly comes to life as opposed to much duller dramatic or romantic scenes that fall flat. One particularly memorable sequence occurs when Moose and Camille, in a wink to classic musicals starring Fred Astaire, dance on a sidewalk to the song “I Won’t Dance” using objects along their pathway as their props. Rick Malambri looks, not surprisingly, a lot like Channing Tatum while the charismatic, curly-haired Adam G. Sevani is, believe it or not, reminiscent of Jennifer Grey from Dirty Dancing occasionally. At a running time of 1 hour and 47 minutes, Step Up 3D is unabashedly corny, contrived and comes alive with irresistibly captivating, eye-popping energy during the vibrant dance numbers.
The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest