Sucker Punch

Talk about a specific target audience! This PG-13 rated modern-day Gothic tale is custom designed for the 13- to 30-year-old male. I can see exactly what would be appealing about it and appreciate how smart they are to stick to that design.

A pretty young girl (18'ish) is locked in a mental asylum by her abusive stepfather and is to undergo a lobotomy within a week. As she retreats into her own imagination, she develops a fantastical plan for escape, not only for her, but for five of her fellow inmates, who are all under 25 and seem to be used for some sort of smoker/cabaret/dance act for males. Suffice it to say, a good portion of the time they wear bustiers and high heels, with LOTS of eye makeup...smile...

D'ya'wanna see who is in this?
  • Emily Browning ("Ned Kelly") is Baby Doll, the lead victim.
  • Abbie Cornish ("Limitless") is a fellow inmate.
  • Carla Gugino ("Elektra Luxx") is the asylum psychiatrist...and choreographer (!)
  • Jena Malone ("Pride and Prejudice") is another member of the asylum "posse."
  • Vanessa Hudgens ("Beastly") is another, more cowardly, inmate.
  • John Hamm ("Mad Men") does trans-orbital lobotomies....
The production design is imaginative and true to the comic book format we expect, as are the generous offerings of martial arts and blowie uppie stuff (no profanity). The fight choreography is fun and just to make sure this thing is really ramped up, those spunky girls fight Nazis, zombies and fire-breathing dragons, along with over-weight cooks and thuggish asylum orderlies.

This Gothic story is no Jane Eyre, even though they are both orphans, because our Grrrrls wear leather dominatrix outfits when they fight!


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

If the screening audience is any indicator, this movie should be enormously popular with children from eight and up. As a matter of fact, I saw thirty year olds laughing with glee at the childish capers of those perfectly normal, i.e. rascally, boys.
  • Zachary Gordon (lots of TV) reprises his 2010 role as Greg, the Wimpy Kid, tormented by an older brother and goaded by his own ego into excruciatingly embarrassing moments, e.g., whitey tighties in a hotel lobby.
  • Devon Bostick (lots of TV) is back again as Rodrick, that demonic older brother who torments his sibling, drums in a rock band, and tries to obey his parents.
  • Robert Capron ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") again brings heart to the plot. He is almost compelled to be honest.
  • Karan Brar (uncredited) proves that even our Wimpy Kid isn't above turning around and tormenting someone else who is even wimpier.
  • Rachael Harris (lots of TV) is our hero's exasperated mother, ineptly trying to negotiate a truce between her two oldest sons.
  • Steve Zahn (lots of TV) is Dad, who has his own version of wimpy- dom, e.g., miniature civil war soldiers: "These are not toys! They are figurines!"
One of my favorite scenes occurs when Rodrick locks his little brother in the basement. Poor Greg, his only means of escape seems to be a telephone. Oops! It's rotary dial! How in the world does THAT work?

Of course this is written and filmed for adolescents, so everything is over the top, but the audience didn't mind; there was MUCH excited talk as the screening audience exited the theater...always a good sign. Dozens of those children came carrying their personal copy of a "Wimpy" book. That too, is a VERY good sign!


I Am Number Four

Our hero is Number Four (on a list of fugitive aliens) and as there are six or seven of them being hunted, I think this might be a series in the making. I wouldn't mind, except I'd like to see a certain character return from the dead.

Who? I'll tell you in a minute, let's start with the cast:
  • Alex Pettyfer ("Beastly") is Number Four, protected by a warrior assigned to the task back on their home planet. Our hero passes as a high-school student but must pull up stakes at a moment's notice when assassins start to close in.
  • Timothy Olyphant ("Elektra Luxx") is Number Four's protector; if there is a sequel, I want him back! Yeah, I know - Spoiler Alert!
  • Teresa Palmer ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") is a gutsy and determined Number Six, trying to spare our hero the lot of a doomed Number Three and his ill-fated protector!
  • Callan McAuliffe ("Flipped") is a lonely nerd with a Kick Me sign on his back; he is the butt of high school bullies and longs to track down his missing father.
  • Dianna Agron ("Glee") is the high-school classmate who makes our hero want to stick around, even if he is in jeopardy.
Director D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia" and "Eagle Eye") knows how to keep a plot boiling; he is ably assisted by writers Alfred Gough ("Shanghai Knights") and Miles Millar ("Lethal Weapon"). They provide many Don't go in the Basement! -type moments and for dessert, a sweet stray dog is rescued by our hero.

We see lots of fisticuffs, special effects, gunshots, and blowie uppie stuff. We don't see any sweaty bodies, car chases, or hear much profanity.

Full disclosure? I only bought a ticket because I like to look at Pettyfer and Olyphant. Shhh... That's just between the two of us...smile...



What a quandary... This 2011 holiday (Easter) film is obviously targeted for the kiddies: it's colorful, includes cartoon characters, and celebrates an icon, the Easter Bunny.

On the other hand, much of the dialogue is fairly adult, e.g., "Coup d'état? That's French for coup d'état!" If, like me, you find that funny, you'll probably get some kicks out of this one. If not, maybe that six year old in your life will find it hysterical, because a coup d'état is precisely what this movie is all about. Mr. Easter Bunny, Sr., is thinking about retiring, but like fathers everywhere, he has discovered that his son isn't too thrilled about stepping into his shoes. Junior wants to be a drummer in a rock band. It's an ambitious chick in the candy factory who is planning the coup d'état.

Meanwhile in the human world, another successful father is equally disappointed: his son hasn't held a job for over a year and despite numerous interviews, discovers, for one reason or another, that not a single one "is a good fit." The family's adopted daughter however, intends to be the paragon those parents have craved. She's planning a you-know-what....

These folks make it happen:
  • Russell Brand ("Despicable Me") brings his quirky charm to "Hop," the callow future Easter Bunny.
  • Hugh Laurie ("House") is his loving but oblivious father, the current Easter Bunny. He thinks that drumming thing could be a nice little hobby.
  • Hank Azaria ("The Simpsons") is the (uncredited) supervisor at the candy factory. He's planning the coup d'état.
When our hero hops down the rabbit hole to escape his destiny, he is transported from Easter Island to Hollywood, where he is promptly hit by a car, driven by:
  • James Marsden ("Enchanted"), the disappointing son in the human world. These two disappointments are thrown together, for good or for ill.
  • Gary Cole (LOTS of TV but uncredited here) is the disappointed father.
  • David Hasselhoff (LOTS of TV) does a cameo and auditions our would-be drummer for his talent show.
The smaller children in the audience became restless, although the seven or eight year olds hooted with delight as a buzz saw nearly sliced off Hop's head. Also, I'm happy to report that the "Fatal Attraction" homage went over their heads...boiled bunny anyone?

By the way, the animation is excellent: the interplay between "live" humans and the cartoons is seamless. I can't recommend this though. There are waaay too many good ideas, as a result none of them are fully developed.


Did you like "Shaun of the Dead" or "Hot Fuzz?" If so, you'll probably like "Paul."I would caution you though, this one has been Americanized, and a more vulgar script would be hard to find.

Two British geeks make a pilgrimage to Comic-con, a convocation of Sci-Fi die-hards who revere special artists. A real alien has escaped custody and desperately needs to reconnoiter with the mother ship. He ends up traveling with our geeks.
  • Simon Pegg ("Star Trek") is the perfect tourist: he's excited to be here and wants to visit all the notorious Sci Fi hot spots in this country. It's fun when he points them out on a map.
  • Nick Frost ("Pirate Radio") is his sidekick, equally enthusiastic about this road trip in an RV.
  • Seth Rogan ("Knocked Up") is Paul. His voice is good, but his dialogue is jarring.
  • Jason Bateman ("The Switch") is the inscrutable and relentless Special Services officer chasing them. Bateman is outstanding, as usual!
  • Kristen Wiig (LOTS of TV) is a pious hostage...until she isn't pious anymore. Then she too is a fugitive...who has caught a serious case of potty mouth.
  • Jane Lynch ("Glee") practically steals the show as a big-haired waitress in a roadside diner.
  • Sigourney Weaver ("Avatar") does steal the show. Wait till you see this great grand-dame of Science Fiction classics hitch up her strapless evening gown and wade back into a knock-down, drag- out cat fight!
There is always a bit of humanity in these Pegg/Frost collaborations and this one is no different. In addition, they have layered in a number of Sci-Fi homages, e.g., Paul requests Reese's Pieces when they stop for snacks and we recognize the Devil's Tower as they approach their goal.

I won't tell you more because I don't want to spoil it for you.


Jane Eyre

At least this generation will get a look at a classic. This telling of an oft- told tale is fairly true to Charlotte Brontë's gloomy Gothic, although it starts with completely unnecessary skipping around through time (linear storytelling is SOOO out of vogue!); but once it settles down we see our favorite orphan girl cope with rejection, typhoid and a spooky house.

In my opinion, they ramped up the "GOTCHA!" moments more than necessary, but the story is still intact. Director Cary Fukinaga ("Sin Nombre") clearly is trying to appeal to the current generation and I appreciate that.

Some of the cast is worthy of mention:
  • Mia Wasikowska "vash-i-kov-ska" ("Alice in Wonderland") is our eponymous heroine. She seems authentic with very little makeup and only two dresses in her wardrobe.
  • Michael Fassbender ("Inglourious Basterds") is a fairly politically correct Mr. Rochester. Mr. F. bears a fleeting resemblance to a young Laurence Olivier...may he rest in peace...
  • Jamie Bell ("Defiance" and "Billy Elliot") is the earnest young would-be missionary who refuses to travel with a young woman unless they are respectably married.
  • Judi Dench ("Cranford") is the sturdy and dependable house- keeper, Mrs. Fairfax.
This movie runs a little longer than necessary, but many in the audience were not familiar with the story (to my shock and dismay!), so in the interests of storytelling....sigh...

In another two or three years someone else will re-mount this old war horse (23 versions are listed at first glance) and we'll be off to the races again. This is one of the most durable love stories in classic literature.


This is a cautionary tale about drugs: Designer drugs without FDA approval; illegal drugs and their criminal repercussions; drug highs and lows; drug dependency and addiction. All done for a PG-13 audience with no profanity, no vehicular mayhem, no sweaty bodies, no blowie uppie stuff and only one bloody fight.
  • Bradley Cooper ("The A-Team") is an author with a bad case of writer's block. He is just one little transparent pill away from brilliance.
  • Robert De Niro ("Everybody's Fine") is an industrialist who wants some of our hero's glow to shine on his pending corporate merger.
  • Abbie Cornish ("Bright Star") is an erstwhile sweetheart who stops supporting our hero, both emotionally and financially. She starts out pretty much in the dark.
Of course, it's great fun to watch a ratty disheveled loser get a spring in his step, get a shave and a haircut, get an upscale wardrobe, and adopt a new persona, as those miraculous pills pave his way to bestsellerdom and high finance. Problem is, those who try them always want more, and there is only a finite supply.... Therein lies the tale.

Be prepared for psychedelic camera work and a pretty intense fist- /gunfight. On the other hand, watch for great New York locations and appreciate the beauty of that terrific city. The voice-over wasn't too distracting and Mr. Cooper's blue eyes are the best!

The Lincoln Lawyer

There is something so satisfying about seeing two really smart people in a battle of wits. It's one of my favorite plot devices. For me, another favorite is handsome men...and look at this cast!
  • Matthew McConaughey ("We Are Marshall") is a slick, successful, street-wise lawyer, but he actually believes in Justice. His office is a Lincoln town car.
  • Ryan Phillippe ("Breach") is his client, accused of rape and attempted murder. This baby-faced character presents quite a quandary: Is he or is he not guilty?
  • Josh Lucas ("Glory Road" - I've been a fan since "Sweet Home Alabama") is the prosecutor confronted by death of a thousand cuts. It's not as bad as it sounds.
  • Michael Paré ("Hope Floats" and for you hard-core fans, "Eddie and the Cruisers") is a frustrated detective.
  • John Leguizamo ("Moulin Rouge!") is the fast-talking street guy who pulls our hero into the game.
  • William H. Macy ("Shameless") is our hero's right-hand man, quick, resourceful...and funny.
  • Laurence Mason (LOTS of TV) is his chauffeur; he has the best line: "You're nobody 'til somebody shoots you!"
The female roles are mostly window dressing except for Frances Fisher ("Jolene") who plays the accused fellow's mother; the script has plenty of laughs, with many upbeat characters and a twisty plot worth following. By the time we know what happened, we still can't see where we're going.

All in all, this is an exciting, satisfying, well-shot film with plenty of people to root for, very little profanity, no car chases and no blowie uppie stuff.

Our screening crowd really liked this one.


Elektra Luxx

This bawdy little film is waaaay to risque for general audiences but is audacious enough for some of you...you know who you are! It's about a semi-retired porn star, so there is very little left unsaid or undone.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Inception" and "The Lookout") must have a GREAT agent! He has been in first-class projects since the beginning of his career. His character runs a blog devoted to the life and times of "Elektra Luxx"; his attempts to film and broadcast from his mother's basement are interrupted by mundane tasks, like taking out the garbage.
  • Carla Gugino (she played this role before in "Women in Trouble" AND she shared the screen with Gordon-Levitt once before in "The Lookout.") As our eponymous porn star, she sings, dances, and has an interesting scene where she plays against herself, as her tough twin serving time for a felony. The twin has a lisp and a distinctive personality. This is a great showcase for Ms. Gugino!
  • Kathleen Quinlan ("Made of Honor") graduated years ago from teenybopper roles, e.g., "American Grafitti." Her character attends Ms. Luxx's adult education class: "How to Act Like a Porn Star in Bed."
  • Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood") was last heard as Clint Eastwood's voice in "Rango." He is hilarious in this one, and appealing as all get out! We're gonna see a LOT of this guy!
  • Adrianne Palicki (lots of TV) plays a dim bulb who is thinks maybe she should see a doctor because she might be "artistic." She admits she isn't "the sharpest stool in the shed."
This is by no means a list of the entire cast. Pretty much every actor has his or her moment to show off and the plot is all over the map, but funny 95% of the time. The Seattle International Film Festival audience laughed out loud all the way through.
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Check out this preview:
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Red Riding Hood

Wellll....our eponymous heroine has a red hood....and the bad wolf is a really BIG bad wolf. Other than that, this witless waste of disposable income has very little resemblance to the much-loved fairy tale of our childhood.
  • Amanda Seyfried ("Dear John" - her undeserved movie career started with "Mean Girls") goes through the woods to Grandma's house, but those aren't cookies in her basket!
  • Lukas Haas ("Inception" - remember when he was the little Amish boy in "Witness?") tries to convince the townspeople to hold off their hunt for the werewolf until the huntsman arrives.
  • Gary Oldman (he's usually remembered for being evil, e.g., "The Book of Eli") is the huntsman, the very embodiment of power which abuses the helpless (for their own good!).
  • Billy Burke ("Twilight" franchise, but he dates back to Seattle's Annex Theatre) is our heroine's conflicted father.
  • Shiloh Fernandez ("Happiness Runs" - he resembles Robert Pattinson from "Twilight") is the "bad boy" who obviously appeals to our heroine.
  • Max Irons ("Dorian Gray" yes, he's Jeremy's son...) is the sweet but boring "good guy" who is engaged to her.
  • Virginia Madsen ("Sideways" but she first garnered fame in "Dune") is our heroine's mother with a long-kept secret.
  • Julie Christie ("Away From Her" - has it been 46 years since "Dr. Zhivago?") is the grandmother with big eyes, big ears, and...oh, you know....
Did you notice back there I said "werewolf?" Does that give you a hint?

Yup. Hollywood had to ramp up the scary stuff: A medieval village complete with torches, silver blades, holy ground, witches, torture, howling, and lots of close-ups of eyes! Aarghhh! I know directors think Seyfried has expressive eyes so we are subjected to them over and over! This is rated PG-13, so no profanity, no sweaty bodies, no car chases, no blowie uppie stuff, just close-ups of eyes.

In MY youth, fairy tales ended "and they all lived happily ever after." ...sigh...

The Last Lions

After viewing scores of documentaries, I can safely say that I have NEVER encountered a better narrator, Jeremy Irons is perfection: deliberate, elegant and precise. Every word is mounted like a precious gem.

This National Geographic screening, sponsored by Seattle International Film Festival, featured filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert for a question and answer period afterwards about their adventures shooting this wrenching wildlife documentary in Botswana.

Amazingly filmed and masterfully edited by wildlife specialists, we follow the trials and tribulations of a lone lioness (we see her mate die), as she tries to elude a migrating pride of lions who in turn are in flight from encroaching human development. She flees the marauders, knowing they will kill her three cubs, as lions always destroy any babies who are not of their own gene pool.

She has to confront natural enemies: a river, a fire, an aggressive herd of cape buffalo, lurking crocodiles, a hippopotamus and that pesky pride, all the while keeping her three little ones alive.

You may be sure this is a real wildlife documentary, with real blood, real life-or-death battles and real parent/offspring struggles and heartbreak. Mother Nature is a harsh mistress, despite Walt Disney's portrayal of animals in the wild. Although I found some of the narrative a little too anthropomorphic, it still helped convey the story and point up the central issue: Fifty years ago, Africa boasted a population of almost half a million lions, today that number has been reduced to about twenty thousand doughty survivors.

Bring tissues.....



Well THAT was a surprise! An animated feature for fun-loving, movie-loving adults. How do I know?
  • The dialogue: Our hero talks like George Clooney talking like Clark Gable in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" so pay close attention!
  • Homages to classics from "Star Wars" to "Singin' in the Rain."
  • The music has everything from yodeling during a chase scene (with toilet paper trailing from a shoe) to Ride of the Valkyries during an aerial attack.
  • The Spirit of the West (in an Alabaster Chariot) is a serape-clad Clint Eastwood in a white golf cart with a bunch of Oscars tossed in the back.
  • The line dance of the townspeople on Main Street is done to Cool Water by what sounds like the Sons of the Pioneers.
  • A Greek Chorus/Mariachi Band which explains the action, consists of four little cactus owls.
  • The hawk that terrorizes the town has a partial silver beak, a la Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou.
  • One of the townspeople has a crackly voice like Pat Buttram from the old Roy Rogers movies.
  • The snake is waaaay too scary for children even though it is clearly patterned after the one from the "Harry Potter" franchise.
  • Much of Hans Zimmer's music seems inspired by Ennio Morricone of Spaghetti Western fame.
The voicework is exemplary:
  • Johnny Depp ("The Tourist") is our hero, a scrawny little chameleon. He articulates, he projects, he emotes! This little lizard is an out-of-work actor with delusions of adequacy who is accidentally dumped along the Interstate near a town in the throes of a drought.
  • Isla Fisher ("The Lookout") is the spunky little gecko who is trying to save her daddy's ranch.
  • Abigail Breslin ("Zombieland") is the sweet little possum who believes in our hero.
  • Ned Beatty ("Toy Story 3") is the land tortoise who is mayor of that little burg.
  • Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood") does a bang-up job voicing Clint Eastwood.
  • Bill Nighy ("Valkyrie") is that evil rattlesnake.
The list of voices goes on and on, with each and every one of them inspired by a great goofy script from John Logan ("Gladiator") and direction by Gore Verbinski ("Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise). The animation is excellent, while everything from the music to the dialogue feels young, energetic and very funny!

You'll like it a lot if you like movies. I laughed more than most of the audience because I'm afraid many of the older references went over their heads. I hope you give this classic Western a shot...smile...

The Adjustment Bureau

Movies made from stories by Philip K. Dick vary widely. "Blade Runner" (from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) has become a classic, while "Minority Report" and "Through a Scanner Darkly" ...not so much. There are others as well, but space doesn't permit. This plot, again based on a PKD short story, explores the idea of free will: Do we have it? Is it really free? Who actually controls our destiny and why?

Let's talk about the cast and the characters:
  • Matt Damon ("True Grit") is a charismatic U.S. Senatorial candidate who loses his race during the opening credits. He meets the love of his life in the men's room; she has crashed a wedding in the same hotel and is hiding from Security.
  • Emily Blunt ("The Young Victoria") is that gal. She is a ballet dancer with aspirations of greatness and is equally smitten with our hero.
  • John Slattery ("Mad Men") works for the "Bureau," and is deter- mined to derail their budding romance.
  • Michael Kelly ("Fair Game") is our hero's campaign manager, doing the Bureau's bidding but unaware of its existence.
  • Terence Stamp ("Valkyrie") seems to be the ranking Bureau chief.
  • Anthony Mackie ("The Hurt Locker") is the only friendly face in the Bureau.
As our Bureau-crossed lovers flee for their future, we are treated to great special effects: If you are wearing a special hat, each door you open (if you turn the knob clockwise!) takes you to a new spot. We dashed through doors into Yankee Stadium, the Statue of Liberty, hospitals, office buildings, parking garages, train stations, busy streets and lonely parks, with never a dull moment.

My biggest problem was making out what the devil they were talking about. The sound was very poor and they murmured in confidential undertones or secretive whisperings. For a plot as convoluted as this one, we need clarity. Some of the audience was able to hear the dialogue, but many others were as mystified as I.

Damon is a capable actor, but I never felt his pain. Blunt is best when she is being witty and relaxed; her character is charming, but I wasn't charmed. The Bureau was all-seeing and all-powerful, but.... WHY? Their flimsy rationale seemed just that: Flimsy.

Very little vehicular mayhem, no gunshots, no sweaty bodies, no profanity and no blowie uppie stuff. In fact, not much of anything. ...yawn...


This sweet but flimsy re-telling of the oft-told tale Beauty and the Beast (or the Nordic version, East of the Sun and West of the Moon) is set in contemporary New York City at an exclusive high school. Just one look at Alex Pettyfer ("I Am Number Four") and you wonder how such a handsome fellow could conceivably be construed as a beast...until he opens his mouth! What an ugly, ugly human being: Vain, mean-spirited, selfish and cruel, he is the spoiled son of a wealthy vain, mean-spirited, selfish and cruel father.

We can hardly wait to spot our heroine in the high school halls...AND the wicked witch can't come any too soon, either! When a story is as well known as this one, it is just the details that are lacking.

Here's the rest of the cast:
  • Vanessa Hudgens ("High School Musical" franchise) is Belle ...oops! I mean Lindy... Who is earnest and overwhelmed as she tries to cope with a father who is a drug addict.
  • Mary-Kate Olsen ("The Wackness") is the wicked witch who makes our hero's outside reflect his ugly inside. She gives him one year to find someone who will love him.
  • Peter Krause (LOTS of TV) is that wealthy, vain, etcetera, father, who is far too busy being successful to cope with an ugly son he can't bear the sight of.
  • Lisa Gay Hamilton ("The Soloist") is the Jamaican maid who is assigned babysitting duties when Dad sequesters his son out of sight.
  • Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") gets all the good lines as the blind tutor hired to help chaperon The Beast.
We watch our guy learn his necessary lessons about what is valuable. I particularly liked the Greenhouses for Dummies book...you had to be there. Don't worry, there is only one chaste little kiss in this chick flick for tweens. Oh! And a happy ending!