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