Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Jim Sheridan made his directorial debut a long time ago with My Left Foot and helped get Daniel Day Lewis on his road to being one of the most well-respected actors of all time (Lewis' first Oscar performance).
He has made a career of intense story telling and serious topics garnering some of his actors' best performances.
His latest offering, Brothers, (based on a Danish film called Brodre) hits another tricky topic, war in Afghanistan and the effects on the families of the soldiers.
Again, Sheridan coaches out some great performances from his actors and makes it look easy.
The best performance in this film is from Jake Gyllenhaal as younger, troubled brother Tommy Cahill. His older brother, Tobey Maguire's Sam Cahill, is a captain in the USMC and makes another trip to Afghanistan.
Tommy's wife, Grace, is played by the lovely and talented Natalie Portman. It's important to note how pretty she is because it is a fact repeated by several of the characters throughout the movie.
Some of the dialogue is clunky and cliched, parts of Maguire's performance are overacted (he overdoes the crazy eyes a few times), and there is a line delivered by the oldest daughter that is just preposterous, but overall the movie is a satisfying character study that provides an interesting look at the effects of war on the soldier and on the family they leave behind to cope with their absence.
The movie is thoroughly entertaining the whole way through, but has some major holes in spots but manages to get past that and deliver one of the better movies of 2009. Not that 2009 has brought too much competition, but it is actually the second best Iraq/Afghanistan war movie to see wide release this year, following The Hurt Locker which might be the best movie so far about the current war.
Brothers could have used a little more of the experiences Sam has in Afghanistan, and a little refining of the dialogue, but the whole film is solid and thought-provoking, so it gets a B+.
--John Berry, online editor--

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Oh, Roland Emmerich, what do you have against the White House?
Emmerich loves destroying stuff in bizarre end-of-the-world scenarios. From Moon 44, Godzilla, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and now 2012. Emmerich is now the modern day king of the disaster epic. This new piece or the apocalyptic puzzle portrays the ancient Mayan prediction of planetary alignment bringing about the catastrophic disasters across the globe. This prediction never really existed, though, so all of this fear of the year 2012 is going to be oddly reminiscent of the y2k debacle a few years back. But the idea is that the solar wind is creating different charged particles because of the alignment that are heating up the Earth's core, causing free-floating plates on the surface.
The nonsensical premise aside, Emmerich and company deliver exactly what his fans want: over-the-top special effects not bogged down by complicated story or character exposition.
With a large ensemble of characters that never get a chance to fully develop and a convoluted connections between random disaster victims there is very little reason to care about anything in the entire movie. Which is fine, since half of them are dead by the end.
One of the leads is John Cusack as Jackson Curtis (not 50-Cent, that's Curtis Jackson) is bland and his family is annoying. The president of the USA is played by whispering Danny Glover and no one is sure why he can't talk. His daughter is Thandie Newton who is a doctor of picking art to save. Oliver Platt is the White House chief of staff who is kind of a prick. The only interesting character is the geologist who discovers that the end is coming played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who seems to be constantly great in supporting roles, so it's nice to see him with a larger part, even if it's in a mediocre movie.
The main flaws in 2012 are the dialogue and the back story.
Nobody seems to get that disaster films don't need to be populated by the employees of Hallmark. There are no fans coming to see a touching goodbye between a father and son, or a valiant effort by the President to whisper a touching speech to the American public, or see a budding romance in the midst of the tragedy. People see movies like this to watch stuff get absolutely wrecked.
Emmerich should stick to what he does well. Special effects and epic destruction are the only draw for a movie like this. Stop pretending that you know how to make an emotional side of the end of the world.
If you're looking to see crap go boom, see 2012, but I'm giving it a C- overall.
--John Berry, online editor--