Sunday, November 15, 2009

Men Who Stare At Goats

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Date: 11/6/09
Running Time: 96 min
Rated: R for language, some drug content, and brief nudity
Directed by: Grant Heslov
Written by: Peter Straughan (screenplay); Jon Ronson (book)

If the title of this film doesn't bring at least a smile to your face you may be one of the few people who may not find this film the delightfully crazy experience it was meant to be and is. The writing is definitely superior to much of what passes for film comedy today. The performances and directing raise it to even greater pleasure with a cast of our best actors (George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor) giving their all to squeeze-out every delicious drop of satirical wit and outright crazy fun from the script.

Though original and not in any way a replication of that great satirical film Altman's M.A.S.H., it is in the same vein and boasts an equally fabulous collection of lunatic characters. This last fact is a bit scary considering that the story is (broadly) based in fact. Many of the elements of the secret research presented in the film are indeed at least inspired by military and CIA research conducted by our country (and the Soviet Union) during the cold war. Such things as "remote viewing," "matter control," "invisibility," and the like.

If the film has a weakness, it's one shared by many film comedies. It is in the last minutes of the story where it goes somewhat over-the-top and seems to be trying too hard. (Lots of people acting crazy, completely blitzed on LSD.) Maybe this reflects more of my personal taste than it is a flaw. I'm just giving my reaction. Don't let this bit of analysis steer you away from seeing this film. Even if my impression of these very few minutes of the film is fully correct, it doesn't change the fact that this is one of the best comedies I've seen in quite some time. Jolene and I, as well as our guests, and the rest of the audience spent the entire time laughing out loud. If you're feeling at all like I believe most of us are right now, I suggest two things. Stop watching the TV news, and get yourself out to see MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS. I promise you'll feel a whole lot better. - Rob McKinnon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Education

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Date: 10/30/09
Running Time: 95 min
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Screenplay by Nick Hornby
Adapted from a memoir by Lynn Barber

As I started to write this review, I found myself about to write that I'm not usually a fan of "coming of age" films. It suddenly occurred to me that I too often begin a review with the idea: "I'm not usually a fan of...." This is really not quite correct. What I'm not a fan of are ill-conceived, badly done films no matter the genre or subject matter. So for this review let me begin by saying there are and have been way too many really dumb or derivative coming-of-age movies made. This film, AN EDUCATION, is, however a brilliant exception to that assessment for a vast number of reasons.

Firstly, it has a fully realized story that is much more than about the onset of teenage sexual awareness. AN EDUCATION is the story of a teenage girl's coming-of-age, i.e., not another visiting of the horny teenage boy coming-of-age formula film. It is set in 1961 London. (Though I don't like to admit it, this probably makes it a period film to the younger audience. Geez, this is my period, it really doesn't seem that long ago.) Anyway, London was at that time a city passing through the change from the drab-gray, postwar 1950's to the glamorous and liberated decade ahead. The setting and atmosphere are wonderfully and authentically captured by the film. The young girl whose story is told, "Jenny," is played with absolute believability and conviction by Carey Mulligan. Sixteen-year-old Jenny is a truly brilliant, extremely witty, and winningly attractive private school girl. Her father, played by the always interesting Alfred Molina, is absolutely focused on her being accepted to Oxford University. Both of her parents are extremely conservative, a condition with which Jenny seems comfortable or, at least, accepting. The only boy in her life is a bicycle-riding, immature, and somewhat "geeky" kid she's known forever. Her life, however, is about to change as she receives a very different and very real life education.

Her life teacher is the utterly unsuitable, urbane, and witty 30-something, "David," played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard. David, with the skill of a practiced con man, charms her parents and introduces Jenny to a glittering new world of classical concerts and late-night suppers with his attractive friend and business partner "Danny" (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's girlfriend, a vacuous but beautiful "Helen" (Rosamund Pike). Ms. Pike plays clueless and empty-headedness as only a truly intelligent actress can. There is much going on with all of them which I will leave for you to discover when you see this exceptional film for yourself. Will Jenny realize the value of her previous life and goals or will she be seduced away by the temporal and shallow pleasures offered by her new friends? Will David turn out to be her true and lasting love? What about her current school life? Her attaining entrance into Oxford? See for yourself, and please don't miss this absolutely delightful film.
It opens Friday, October 30, in Houston, at Landmark's River Oaks Theater.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Coco Before Chanel

Women In Film & Television Houston invites you to a prerelease screening.

Support Women Filmmakers! This is a great chance to see the film before it opens in theaters. Then help spread the word if you like it.

COCO BEFORE CHANEL is directed by Anne Fontaine, and she co-wrote the screenplay with Camille Fontaine. BAFTA nominee Audrey Tautou (AMELIE, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT) stars as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in this adaptation of the book by Edmonde Charles-Roux. Two-time Cesar nominee Anne Fontaine (THE GIRL FROM MONACCO, HOW I KILLED MY FATHER) traces Chanel's rise from humble beginnings to the height of the fashion world. Critics are calling Tautou's performance her "finest yet." in the gorgeous, glossy, period piece.

See you at the movies!

Opens Friday, Oct. 9, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Invention of Lying

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Date: 10/2/09
Running Time: 100 min.
Rated: PG-13
Written & Directed by: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson

If "Capitalism: A Love Story" leaves you a little down, I've got just the remedy: Ricky Gervais' new release, "The Invention of Lying." Gervais, if somehow you don't already know it, is the creator and star of the original British version of "The Office." He is truly a comic genius and shouldn't be confused with the boorish character he created for "The Office." There is a great deal of humanity in his seemingly outrageous and, to some, offensively politically incorrect humor. But look a little more deeply and you'll find very human observations which are actually quite sympathetic or at least empathetic in his work. This is certainly true of this film.

Without giving too much away, the film is about a world and time almost exactly like ours except for the fact that absolutely nobody lies. No one is even aware of the concept of lying. Everyone, no matter what, speaks the truth. They don't even think about it, they just can't do anything else. This leads to a great deal of situational humor in the kinds of social and business circumstances in which most of us, frankly, filter, at least, or even lie. Of course, only to avoid hurting others, like, your friend who has an ugly baby; or, when you call in to work because you're feeling ill and in truth just didn't want to go in. Dating. I'll leave it there, because I don't want to take one hilarious enjoyment away from you.

I will tell you that eventually, one character discovers (invents) lying. And, being the only person in the world to know what it is, and be able to do it, creates even more outrageously funny happenings. Gervais is terrific as the main character. The script, which he co-wrote, is intelligent and often satirical and rises high above what could have remained a one-trick piece of extended sketch comedy in lesser hands. You are bound to enjoy every bit of the LOL film. It's a comedy which will stay with you and actually cause you to give some thought to some very interesting philosophical questions. Don't let this last observation scare you, however. Just go for the pure fun and entertainment. In other words, don't miss it. - Rob McKinnon

Capitalism: A Love Story

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Day: 10/2/09
Running Time: 127 minutes
Written & Directed by Michael Moore

I have recently viewed a screening of Michael Moore's latest politcal documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story." Moore has definitely found his "laughing place," and comfort zone in the creating of this type of documentary hybred; a mixture of serious political documentary reportage and humorous to outright funny, satirically political vignettes. No exception here in what I personally consider to be his most entertaining work yet.

The film skewers the investment houses and banks that have, under the guise of free-market capitalism, given in to the basest instincts of what I call the MFA-ification of American capitalism. I truly believe that the founders of this incredible nation, arguably naively, created both our political and economic systems which gave great freedom while expecting ethical and responsible participation by citizens. We all know how corruption upon corruption has left us with a chaotic, unproductive, inefficient, bloated, and possibly collapsing political system. The MGA-ification of the economic shpere has led to a complete lack of ethical behavior, with only the monthly dividend, grotesquely inflated executive salaries and bonuses, profit over quality or concern for consumer safety as the primary considerations.

Rather than create products or services of value, the business and finance corporations would rather create arcane instruments and methods for creating huge profits through what amounts simply to gambling. Derivatives anyone?

Moore's film will show you some of the ways the current band of unethical financial bandits, who have and are running much of our broken economy, brought us to this point. Moore also acts as our ombudsman, confronting the perpetrators and challenging them to explain and justify what they have done, (they can't) and demanding restitution for the American people.

It's all done with humor and some exageration, and it's all very entertaining. Depressing, but entertaining. It brings to mind the old movie trailer line, "You'll laugh, you'll cry." But don't miss it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cook County

Review by Rob McKinnon

Running Time: 93 minutes
Not Rated
Written & Directed by David Pomes

As a writer/director myself I watch many, many movies, and will often review some of the best films that I see, and I’m happy to be able to advise here that COOK COUNTY is one of the best “low budget” indie films I’ve seen in a very long time.

Adroitly written and directed by David Pomes, COOK COUNTY is an unflinching look at the Great American Tragedy of meth addiction; but it is unlike any of the drug culture films you may have seen. This film is not the usual urban story. COOK COUNTY delivers showing us a predominantly white, rural America, that is being consumed and destroyed by the scourge of crystal meth addiction. Here you’ll see a story that though fiction is completely grounded in an ugly reality. It is currently perhaps the biggest problem with which American law enforcement is confronted.

This film is set around a country family made up of a father Sonny (Xander Burkeley), returning home from prison and having been off meth, who wishes to reconnect with his teen-aged son (Ryan Donowho), who is just beginning to experiment with drugs but is devotedly protective of his little niece, who with her father (Anson Mount) , the boy’s uncle, and his grandfather all share a small house in the East Texas countryside. The home is constantly visited by a variety of disreputable meth addicts. The uncle, Bump, (Anson Mount) is not only an irredeemable addict who cares about nothing more than meth, but has a meth “lab” in the house where he cooks it to use and to sell, unmindful of the danger to his young daughter.

The suspense, conflict, drama, tension, and violence which Pomes’ intelligent script and spot-on directing creates, makes for a film which is compelling, insightful, real and thoroughly entertaining. And yes, I said “film.” In the days where low budget is generally digitally shot, this one was shot on film, and because of it, it’s all the more powerfully engaging. We do what we have to do when shooting low budget, but don’t ever forget the power of the film image to thoroughly engage the audience in the story, particularly in drama, terror, and horror.

This is strong stuff, but definitely a “must see” film. The major players are all outstanding in terms of the credibility, power, and skill of their respective performances. Anson Mount is phenomenal and brings such incredible depth to his portrayal of Uncle Bump.

The audience (a full house) with which we viewed this movie, was mesmerized and clearly, completely drawn into the story.

This film has not yet been picked up for theatrical distribution (though I’m sure it will be). You can help in the process. You have an advance opportunity to see it, and tell others…everybody. It will be screening in Houston again at Studio Movie Grill CityCentre from September 4th through 10th. David will be taking his film to Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to give people a chance to see it on the big screen before it goes to DVD. Locally for tickets, go to

Besides Studio Movie Grill CityCentre, from 9/4 through 9/10, COOK COUNTY will screen Tuesday, Sept. 1 in New Orleans, 7:30 PM at Canal Place Cinema; Thursday, Sept. 3 in Baton Rouge, 8PM at Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion; Thursday, Sept. 10 in Fayetteville, AR, 8PM at University of Arkansas Global Campus Theater; and Friday, Sept. 11 it will have a one-week run in Little Rock. Spread the word about this movie!

Friday, August 14, 2009

District 9

Review by Matt Piccirillo

Rated R
Running time: 112 minutes
Matt’s Mark: 9.5 out of 10

If you are a fan of Sci-Fi aliens with a documentary film style, then I recommend DISTRICT 9, the latest from Oscar winner Peter Jackson who produced this film. This is not your typical sci-fi flick because of its film style (which is a good thing). DISTRICT 9 also combines the elements of drama and action with documentary captions and social commentary.

For this being his motion picture directing debut, Neill Blomkamp has created something special. He not only directed DISTRICT 9, but he wrote the screenplay with Terri Tatchell. Blomkamp is best known for his advertising work, short films, and contribution to visual effects. He was the creator of the short "Alive in Joburg" (which is the impressive original to DISTRICT 9).

DISTRICT 9 is worth every cent of the movie ticket price. Blomkamp isn’t afraid to show blood. The film can be brutal at times, but it’s done in a way where it doesn’t fall into the gore genre.

The story takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa and follows Wikus Van De Merwe played by Sharlto Copley. Copley is a South African filmmaker turned actor and he's delivered a memorable performance. Copley portrays a man who gets framed and becomes part of an experiment by Multi-National United (MNU). MNU was set up to quarantine the aliens whose ship landed above the African city nearly 30 years ago. DISTRICT 9 includes Man vs. Aliens and Man vs. Man combat.

This is the best Sci-Fi film I have seen this year. It is solid. Strong writing and directing, believable characters and good acting, impressive visual effects and sound editing all add up to an entertaining time at the movies. Isn’t that why we go to the movies? It sure is. So go on and enter DISTRICT 9.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Review by Rob McKinnon
Rated: R
Running Time: 123 min
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

The poster for the new terror film, ORPHAN, reads, "There's something wrong with Esther." You bet there is! But, there's nothing wrong with this movie. From beginning to end ORPHAN grabs the audience by the throat and never lets go. You'll note that I call this a terror film, and not a horror film. The reason is my own definitions for genre films: a horror film, in my opinion, must contain some supernatural component, ghosts, demons, and the like. While a terror film on the other hand may be wildly horrific, but concerns situations which though extreme, might actually occur in our "reality" such as serial killers, psychopaths attacking with axes, swords, machetes, and various knives, etc. Both are certainly scary and make timid folks squirm. Both may or may not be bloody and/or gory, but the supernatural element makes the differnce for me.

This is why I refer to ORPHAN as a terror film. But don't think it won't keep you in a constant state of anticipatory tension and fear. It is horrific, and all the more so because it could happen...perhaps to you!

The screenplay, from the story by Alex Mace and written by David Leslie Johnson, is tight, intelligent, and believable. Jaume Collet-Serra's direction holds us in a constant state of suspense and tension with only a few moments of humorous relief in which to catch our collective breaths. This film makes the classic The Bad Seed seem like a Walt Disney family movie.

If you enjoy experiencing unrelenting terror, adroitly served up by talented filmmakers who clearly wanted to tell this story well and effectively, scaring the hell out of you, while solidly entertaining you, don't miss ORPHAN! Esther is looking forward to meeting you. I highly recommend it. - Rob McKinnon


Review by Matt Piccirillo

Running Time: 90 min
Rated: PG
Matt's Mark: 6 out of 10

G-FORCE is the latest film from Walt Disney Studios and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It is a strange pairing indeed. Oh how strange quickly turns out to be dull.

The story is about CGI guinea pigs that are voiced by Sam Rockwell, Penélope Cruz, and Tracy Morgan, and a smart mole voiced by Nicolas Cage, all on a mission to steal vital information in Project Clusterstorm. But the hole doesn’t come from first-time director Hoyt Yeatman who has been involved with the visual-effects side of movies, it comes comes from the movie's plot.

I am not going to give a tell all about the plot for fear of making this review as painful as the movie. Instead, you should know Yeatman does do a decent job working in the 3-D visuals with flying bugs and a nice scene involving the rodents driving through a fireworks show. Yes, I said rodents driving.

The music by Trevor Rabin was placed well throughout the film. Songs from The Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga made the movie fun to Just Dance to at times. But still I Got a Feeling that G-Force did not have that Boom Boom Pow.

G-FORCE is what it is. It’s an action adventure for children with a few one liners that could make a kindergartner laugh like “poop in his hand” and “get your butt out of my face.” - Matt Piccirillo

My Sister's Keeper

Review by Matt Piccirillo

Running Time: 106 min
Rated: PG-13
Opened: June 26, 2009
Matt's Mark: 8 out of 10

If you can handle drama, my pick is the "My Sister's Keeper" from director/writer Nick Cassavetes. It is probably the best drama I have seen this year. Cassavetes tackles the sensitive subject of leukemia in his latest big screen adaptation which is based on the Jodi Picoult novel.The adapted screenplay by Jeremy Leven and Cassavetes is written very well. It exudes many emotions from the cast as the movie plays out. My Sister's Keeper is casted by Matthew Barry and Nancy Green-Keyes and includes a well-known cast with some strong performances. In the film, Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric, playing parents to Abigal Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva, and Alec Baldwin, a very successful lawyer, headline the cast and shine in their roles throughout out the film. But the performance that is the best comes from Sofia Vassilieva who is fighting leukemia. Her performance is not only powerful and moving, but it is very believable. I think she should be recognized with some nominations for supporting actress. However, the editing by Jim Flynn and Alan Heim could be better. Some of the story takes place during flashbacks and that is where I felt the editing didn't work as well as it could have. On the otherhand, the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel brings the film back up. My Sister's Keeper is strong, touching, and moving from beginning to end. I exited the theater feeling peaceful and and a desire to give back. Yes, it may be a tear jerker, but this one's a keeper. - Matt Piccirillo

Friday, July 3, 2009

Whatever Works

Review by Rob McKinnon
(7/3/09) Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 92 min
Writer/Director: Woody Allen
Opens: July 3, at Landmark’s River Oaks

One of my reel pleasures is the yearly release of a new film by Woody Allen. This time, after creating films in England and Spain, Woody has returned to his laughing place, New York City, with his latest offering, “Whatever Works.”

Allen is a master of filmmaking, and has, among his many gifts, a truly phenomenal eye for casting. In “Whatever Works,” the lead is a crotchety, arrogantly-brilliant, misanthrope named Boris Yellnikoff. The part was originally written for the late, genius actor, Zero Mostel. When he passed away, Woody Allen set the script aside. But, though he had felt that no one would be able to fill the hugely-talented shoes of Mr. Mostel, it occurred to him that now there was indeed someone who would be perfect for the role and make it fun to shoot, and marvelous fun to watch. That person is Larry David. If you’re as much of a fan of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as I am, you’ll see the perfection of this casting choice immediately upon viewing this movie. No playing against type here.

There are few if any actors who wouldn’t sell their souls for a chance to play a leading role in a Woody Allen film. But true to his personality, Larry reacted: “I thought Woody had become unhinged,” he says. “I wondered who put this crackpot idea in his head. And, of course, as with anything I’ve ever been offered, I didn’t feel up to the task. Feeling up to the task is not my thing.” Woody says, “Larry kept complaining to me what a mistake I was making by hiring him, telling me what a tiny range he has, how terrible he is, and all that. And then right out of the box, first take all the time, he was just wonderful, a natural actor. And what surprised me was how fine he was in the scenes that didn’t require him to be funny, but required genuine acting. But being funny is sort of built into Larry, he just has it. He doesn’t have to push it, he just has to show up and perform the scenes credibly, without trying to be funny, just trying to be real. When Larry’s real, he’s funny—because he’s funny in life.”

The rest of the cast, as well, is perfect, delightful, funny, and real, and features: Ed Begley, Jr., Pataricia Clarkson, Conleth Hill, Michael McKean, and Evan Rachel Wood. The supporting cast is also perfection. As for the story, I don’t wish to spoil the fun and surprise by revealing anything to you. It’s an hilarious, brilliant, intelligent, engaging, sex-and-laughter-filled romantic comedy as only Woody Allen could create. Great characters, insightfully-funny dialogue, and non-stop pacing. Don’t miss “Whatever Works,” written and directed by Woody Allen and opening in Houston at Landmark’s River Oaks, Friday, July 3rd. It is a pure pleasure and I highly, enthusiastically recommend it. - Rob McKinnon

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Does She Think She Is?

A documentary by Pamela Tanner Boll
Comments by Jolene McMaster
What is your view of woman’s societal role? How does your own struggle to create fit into your daily life? Do you have to choose to be either an artist or a wife and/or mother? Do you have to give up a professional career until your children are grown? I guarantee you’ll give some serious thoughts to your life as compared to the lives of those women featured in Pamela Tanner Boll’s documentary WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?.

If you missed the opportunity to attend the WIFT co-sponsored screening at Museum of Fine Arts Houston in May, then make a point to see this documentary at some point, even if you have to wait and purchase the DVD when made available to the public. It’s a well-conceived and beautifully executed documentary. Co-Director and Editor Nancy C. Kennedy was in attendance for the Q&A, and the reception following. Upon viewing it, you’ll be inspired by what you see, and you’ll want to watch this multiple times especially when you need the inspiration to go on with your journey toward a rewarding life that allows you the time to pursue creativity, if you measure fulfillment by something more than successful parenting.

Here’s the review written by Jeanette Catsoulis of “The New York Times:”
Five female artists explore the competing demands of muse and family in “Who Does She Think She Is?,” an engaging documentary about the struggle to create art while nurturing life. For Maye Torres, whose mountain home in New Mexico overflows with her paintings and sculptures, this has meant divorce, guilt and feeding her three sons on $24,000 a year. Janis Wunderlich, on the other hand, seems cheerfully adept at managing five children, a husband and a successful career as a sculptor. Only when we examine her fantastical, disturbing figures — often with rabbit ears and tiny, toothy creatures swarming over them — do we see explicit evidence of her internal conflict. Calmly directed by Pamela Tanner Boll, “Who Does She Think She Is?” is about answering the call to self-expression in the face of biological imperatives and cultural programming.
Though the documentary was written in support of women who can enjoy their children and their art without losing either, there’s something to be said for the artist who knows early in life where her or his passion lies, and can consider beforehand whether or not parenting might be best left to others.

The documentary’s Official Web Site is However, the press kit alone is worth preserving. It’s available for downloading at

Our thanks again to Ernie’s On Banks for providing the venue and snacks. Rick Haas, the owner, is film friendly. His place is great for wrap parties and other group gatherings, or just stop by for a cool one during these hot Houston summer days.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Review by Matt Piccirillo
Running time: 106 minutes
Rated R
Film Opens June 12, 2009

Matt’s Score: 8 popcorn buckets out of 10

If you are questioning yourself whether or not to see the PELHAM 1 2 3 because it looks like just another hostage film, I encourage you to take Pelham 1 2 3 for a ride because it is the most suspenseful action movie of the summer so far.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3, the new Tony Scott film which stars Oscar winner Denzel Washington and John Travolta is my pick of the week. The film is based on the novel by John Godey. It is also a remake to the 1974 version called THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE. In case you were wondering, PELHAM 1 2 3 is the title because it is a subway that departed from Pelham Bay at 1:23.

After a slow opening, Scott comes back to deliver plenty of suspense building up to PELHAM 1 2 3’s final turn. Scott effectively uses good visual effects and cinematography supported by the strong screenplay written by Brian Helgeland. And by the way, Washington and Travolta are fun to watch as well.

Washington plays Walter Garber who works as a dispatcher at Rail Control Center in New York City while Travolta plays Ryder, a smart hijacking criminal who takes over PELHAM 1 2 3. Washington and Travolta share some entertaining scenes together even though they are rarely in a single frame at the same time. Most of the time you are watching engaging conversations from Garber who is at his desk at the Rail Control Center and Ryder who is at his spot aboard PELHAM 1 2 3.

Sure the story has been done several times, but Scott makes it work. The movie is entertaining and fun. It even brings out some laughs with some quirky one-liners by both Washington and Travolta.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is the one to see one, two, or even three times. So, don’t let it pass you by. I predict PELHAM 1 2 3 will crash the box office and haul away more than $100 million by the time it makes its last stop.– Matthew Piccirillo


Review by Rob McKinnon
(6/12/09) Rated: R
Genre: Action/Adventure
Director: Tony Scott
Opens: June 12, 2009

Ordinarily I am less than enthusiastic regarding the release of yet another remake. For the most part, unless one is talking about a remake of a film from the 1950s or before, I usually find the remake simply isn’t needed and is usually (almost always) less good than the original. A film such as “The Day The Earth Stood Still” had a story line and a point of view to express. (Yes, I know it was made in the 50s and I know, sin of sins, it is in black and white, but many of my favorite films are in black and white and for films in the cinema noir genre, black and white adds to their visual effectiveness…but I digress.) The recent remake was just more of a CGI video game kind of film sans the subtleness of character, story arc, and point of view of the original.

Occasionally, however, a remake is made that maintains the story integrity of the original and provides an updated environment in which to present the story making it seem less “historical,” i.e., less “old timey” to the younger audience. If this is done without losing character development and the fullness of the story, the viewing experience can be every bit as enjoyable as the original. Just think of John Carpenter’s outstanding remake of “The Thing,” for example.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is another excellent remake. Though containing a number of changes from the original, it is just as engaging, exciting and as true to the book upon which it is based as the original which is a favorite of mine.

Denzel Washington delivers a thoroughly convincing and real portrayal of Walter Garber, the story’s protagonist. Unlike in the original where Walter Matthau’s Garber was a Transit Police Chief Lieutenant, Washington’s Garber is a Transit bureaucrat in equipment purchasing. This change allows us to relate to Garber’s feeling of being overwhelmed when thrust into the middle of a subway train hijacking and hostage taking. We expect an experienced police officer to be able to deal with such a situation, but a guy like us, untrained in hostage negotiations, is really being put through it.

As always, I don’t want to give away any plot points or surprises. Let me just say that if you are new to this story, you’ll have a really exciting ride and feel more than satisfied by the experience. If you are familiar with the original version, you’ll notice some story specifics and characterizations that are changed in this take on the story, but you are most likely to find the changes positive, allowing you to have a new experience with this story. My recommendation is watch them both and just hang-on for a tense and terrific ride. The original, now on DVD, is in my library and the remake, when it comes out on DVD, will be also.

My only criticism of the new version is a little too much shaky camera technique in the action scenes, but this is a matter of personal preference and I think the studios believe this is necessary to hold the younger audience. THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is, however, a great evening’s entertainment and I highly recommend it. – Rob McKinnon