The Hurt Locker

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Kathryn Bigelow’s (The Weight of Water, Strange Days, Point Break) The Hurt Locker  was the winner of last years Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival. The American war thriller was shot on location in Jordan and is based on declassified information about a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team in present day Iraq. Jeremy Renner (28 Days Later) plays the leader of the EOD team who has to defuse bombs while a full on war is exploding around him and his team.

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The authenticity of the film hits like an unexploded bomb, as many of the locations were less than three miles from the Iraqi border, plus all of the Iraqi roles in the film were played by displaced Iraqi war refugees living in Jordan. Renner trained with real EOD teams prior to shooting the film. On set, he had rocks thrown at him and even got shot at while filming.

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The film also stars Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, and Anthony Mackie, although it is Renner’s performance as a man who faces the prospect of death on a daily basis that truly stands out. Bigelow’s usual flair for visual poetry and exhilarating actions sequence never skips a beat.

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Waltz With Bashir

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For something completely different yet just as thrilling, Waltz with Bashir is an animation about the 1982 Lebanon war and one you won’t easily forget. This inspired bio-documentary by filmmaker Ari Folman, who himself was an Israeli veteran of the First Lebanon War, chronicles the life of one man’s desire to uncover his forgotten war torn past.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

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For all you boys and girls who love shopping, Confessions of a Shopaholic, is not for you. Sure the film is set in New York’s fashion mecca and stars Australian actress Isla Fisher (Definitely, Maybe) as a frenzied consumer who just can’t say no to zebra print pants. And Fisher is hilarious from beginning to end with Hugh Dancy (The Jane Austin Book Club) providing the love interest in and on the whole is an enjoyable fizz of a movie. But ultimately our hero is forced to take stock of her wardrobe (no pun intended) and re-evaluate her spending habits while coming to realize what’s really important in life is not owning a pair of zebra print pants. I beg to differ. In this time of economic slowdown where unemployment seems to be the number one topic of conversation, you can bet that I’d rather skip the depressing dialogue and head down to Macy’s. Are you with me? Unemployment doesn’t have to look drab and unfashionable.

Oscars, Cher, Facebook in Hollywood News

Cher will star in her first movie role in a decade, as she is set to join Christina Aguilera in Burlesque. No prizes as to what the film is about. Aguilera plays an ambitious small town girl who is introduced to the titillating neo-burlesque scene in LA’s very own Sunset Boulevard. Cher plays Tess, the club owner and former dancer who struggles to make ends meet. No news as to which direction the tone of the film will take. I, for one hope that we see real burlesque performances full of comedy and outrageous costumes, and not the general misconception surrounding this great art form. Please, it’s not about stripping.

 

Cher’s last film was Tea with Mussolini (1999) and Burlesque will mark the first time Cher has sung on screen.

 

I can’t think of anything as tedious and un-sexy as a film about the formation of Facebook. What’s even more remarkable is that David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club, Seven) will direct the story of Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg’s 2004 Facebook creation. Will this be sexy, murder mystery where the creators of Myspace and Friendster use any means possible to stop Zuckerberg’s brilliant plan for world domination? I think not.

 

The big news in Hollywood this week is that the Academy Awards have expanded the Best Picture category from five to ten nominees. The 82nd Annual Academy Awards hopes that having ten nominees will allow voters to recognize movies that are often recognized in lesser categories. The last time the Academy ran ten Best Picture nominees was in 1943 when Casablanca won.

 

Does this mean that the Academy sees a higher standard of the art form flocking our screens? I certainly think so. The last few years has produced some of the best movies in decades with positive nods to lesser Hollywood-machine genre films with stories that have delighted filmgoers from around the world.

Cheri staring Michelle Pfeiffer

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Cheri stars Michelle Pfeiffer in Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons) adaptation of Colette’s novel about fading beauty, Lea de Lonval (Pfeiffer) and her famous courtesans. Kathy Bates plays Pfeiffer’s mother as a jolly old gossip queen and the film covers Lea’s affair with Cheri, played by Rupert Friend (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), and charts their tortured love affair and separation after he is whisked away into an arranged marriage. For those who love films with pomp French costumes and gaunt attractive toy boys, then this is for you.

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Transformers: Shia LaBeouf

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If you were stuck on a long lost island somewhere with no wireless connection you could be forgiven for having no clue about the second installment of actor Shia LaBeouf’s gold dust blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The success of the first movie exceeded all expectations with worldwide ticket sales at $700 million, leaving backers DreamWorks and Paramount pictures frothing at the mouth with the prospect of the sequel topping that mark. According to Transformers director, Michael Bay, the sequel cost $400 million (including marketing) to make and shows off some of the best special effects around today. The film hasn’t garnered the best of reviews but then Bay isn’t exactly trying to sell Hamlet here. Bay reaches for the 13-year-old male jugular and doesn’t let go. It has all the bells and whistles to keep the franchise running halfway into the next decade with LaBeouf as cute but regular nerd boy, Sam Witwicky, Megan Fox in a limited role as feminine eye candy and girlfriend, Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta, The Matrix, The Adventures of Pricilla Queen, of the Dessert) as the voice of the evil Megatron, and Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas) as soldier hero, Captain Lennox.

 

What bugs me about making a movie for 13 year-old boys is that it is these very teenagers who have little to no disposable income, the same broke teenagers who turn to illegal downloads or web casting sites that air home HD pirated cinema copies, who thus stay away from theatres. There is a huge demographic out there with a pot of retirement funds, just waiting for Hollywood to make a movie for them. But instead, these retirees are stuck at home watching re-runs of old movies, holding on to their dough, all the while wondering why today’s Hollywood is catered for penniless teenagers. 

 

In interviews, straight talking LaBeouf has made no secret to the fact that he and all the other actors in the film are playing second fiddle to machines. LaBeouf can certainly act, as we’ve seen in Eagle Eye and

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and Transformers, regardless that it’s a film about toys, has brought LaBeouf the kind of global recognition that actors in Hollywood can only dream of.

 

LaBeouf is currently working on director Oliver Stone’s sequel to 1987’s Wall Street, with the clunky titled, Money Never Sleeps, and starring along side Hollywood big guns, Michael Douglas, who won an Oscar for his role as Gordon Gekko, and Javier Bardem. 

Benjamin Bratt is The Cleaner

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The Cleaner hasn’t received the best of reviews since it first aired on A&E in 2008. That said; Benjamin Bratt (The Andromeda Strain, Miss Congeniality, LA Law) is the kind of body-perfect eye candy that could make a toothpaste commercial look like soft porn. Sporting a goatee that would make a Hells Angel proud, Bratt plays William “The Cleaner” Banks, a character based on real life “extreme interventionist” and executive producer of the show, Warren Boyd.

 

The Cleaner uses 1960’s terminology to describe an advocates’ thankless job that at times seems more a savior to the actual interventionist rather than the drug addict he/she is helping. William Banks is not even close to the friendly after-hours-call advocate often portrayed onscreen. Instead, he uses the resources of an unconventional team of no nonsense recovery junkies, (Esteban Powell and Grace Park) who together use all means necessary to help people steer clear from their addictions. It is this over the top semi-mercenary acts of rehab that haven’t rung true to viewers, who rightly so, consider one persons addiction as a close knit problem rather than the universal threat to mankind and civil order, as depicted in the series. In one episode we see Banks team of “just say no” evangelists use radar trackers and frenzied car chases in order to grab just one poor gal into rehab.

 

Of course, our hero must fight inner demons, this is TV after all, and Banks old addictions come back to haunt him. But it is his present addiction to work and his commitment to his wife (Amy Price-Francis from Nip/Tuck), children, and to the God he made promises to, which find cause to push him over the edge.