Saturday, June 30, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Thor (2011) ***

PG-13, 115 min.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich, Stan Lee (comic book), Larry Lieber (comic book), Jack Kirby (comic book)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Jaimie Alexander, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Rene Russo

One reason I like “Thor” is because I can show it to my children without having to worry about cringing at unexpected moments of foul language. All these superhero movies come out these days, and the kids naturally want to take them in. Of course, they’re all rated PG-13 for maximum violence, although the violence tends to still be somewhat cartoony. If you let them watch these movies, you may have to listen to some words come out of their mouths you’d rather not hear from your kids. If you don’t, most of their friends will see it, and they’ll feel left out.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Secret Things (2002) *

UR, 115 min.
Director/Writer: Jean-Claude Brisseau
Starring: Sabrina Seyvecou, Coralie Revel, Roger Mirmont, Fabrice Deville, Blandine Bury, Olivier Soler

There’s this underground appreciation of erotic cinema among major movie critics that I just don’t get. Perhaps you had to be watching erotica during the seventies to build this appreciation. I don’t really watch much erotica, but every once and a while I hear about a title that is supposed to actually be cinematically challenging. “Secret Things” is challenging all right, but more so intellectually than cinematically.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Breaking Bad, season 3 (2010) ****

TV-MA, 13 47-min. episodes
Creator: Vince Gilligan
Directors: Bryan Cranston, Adam Bernstein, Michelle MacLaren, Scott Winant, Johan Renck, John Shiban, Colin Bucksey, Michael Slovis, Rian Johnson
Writers: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, George Mastras, Sam Catlin, Moira Walley-Beckett, John Shiban, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Morris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Giancarlo Esposito, John de Lance, Jere Burns, Carmen Serano, Luis Moncada, Daniel Moncada, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Tess Harper, Mark Margolis, Christopher Cousins, Steven Michael Quezada, Michael Bofshever, Danny Trejo, Julie Dretzin, Javier Grajeda, Michael Shamus Wiles, Charles Baker, David Costabile, Matt Jones, Jeremiah Bitsui, Krysten Ritter, Emily Rios, Julia Minesci

Season three of the cable television series “Breaking Bad” is a focusing season. Walt and Jesse are mostly done with their rookie flailing in the illegal drug manufacturing industry of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are now established in their trade and working under a ruthless drug lord, but he’s their drug lord. Well, Walt’s anyway. Jesse still struggles with messing everything up, although he starts the season promisingly with a nice jab to his parents’ plans for his house. It isn’t long, however, until Jesse can’t seem to get out of his own way again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Duck Soup (1933) ***

NR, 68 min.
Director: Leo McCarey
Writers: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin
Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres, Louis Calhern, Edmund Breese, Leonid Kinskey, Charles Middleton

I know I’m committing some sort of critical sacrilege by awarding the Marx Brothers’ classic “Duck Soup” anything less than four stars, or even three and a half out of four; but I have to admit, upon my first ever screening of the comedy, I wasn’t blown away by its critical indictment of a nation’s motivations for war. Certainly at the time, it would’ve been an impressive satire; but today I don’t think it stands up as being nearly as sophisticated as many of its contemporary films.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter / *** (R)

Abraham Lincoln: Benjamin Walker
Henry Sturgess: Dominic Cooper
Will Johnson: Anthony Mackie
Mary Todd Lincoln: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Adam: Rufus Sewell
Jack Barts: Marton Csokas
Joshua Speed: Jimmi Simpson

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on his novel. Running time: 105 min. Rated R (for violence throughout and brief sexuality).

It has long been tradition in Hollywood when making a biopic to take some liberties with the history involved. Sometimes the facts are changed to add some sort of dramatic element to the story, or motivations are obscured to make a point. All to often audiences mistake “based on a true story” for meaning it plays like a history book. Somehow I don’t believe many people will make a similar mistake about the new film “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, which takes the notion of artistic liberty to a new level.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Killer Elite (2011) *½

R, 116 min.
Director: Gary McKendry
Writers: Matt Sherring, Ranulph Fiennes (book “The Feather Men”)
Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert DeNiro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Yvonne Strahovski, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Whiteley

Penny Thoughts is supposed to be a briefer forum in which I can comment more succinctly about the movies I watch at home. In order to achieve this with my thoughts on the international espionage thriller “Killer Elite”, I’m going to have to confine my comments to the opening action sequence. In fact, I think I can make my point with just one detail of that scene.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brave / *** (PG)

Featuring the voices of:
Merida: Kelly Macdonald
Fergus: Billy Connolly
Elinor: Emma Thompson
The Witch: Julie Walters
Lord Dingwall: Robbie Coltrane
Lord MacGuffin: Kevin McKidd
Lord Macintosh: Craig Ferguson

Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures present a film directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Co-directed by Steve Purcell. Written by Andrews and Purcell and Chapman and Irene Mecchi from a story by Chapman. Running time: 100 min. Rated PG (for some scary action and rude humor).

Part of the appeal of animation is its ability to create beauty from the minds of its artists. Certainly a live action production can hold a great deal of beautiful photography, but there’s something about animation that can transcend the beauty found in the real world. This has always been the case, even with traditional hand-drawn animation, but for some reason computer generated animation artists all too often restrict themselves by trying to reproduce certain elements too realistically or even go into the opposite direction of becoming too cartoony, as in the recent “Madagascar 3”. “Brave”, on the other hand, may be the most beautiful film to be produced yet by Pixar Animation Studios, the standard bearers of everything CG animated.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Goon (2012) ***

R, 92 min.
Director: Michael Dowse
Writers: Jay Baruchel, Evan Goldberg, Adam Frattasio (book), Doug Smith (book)
Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Marc-André Grodin, Kim Coates, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy

My wife was astounded to learn one day while watching a professional hockey game that the refs would let the players actually stop the play of the game and fight each other. I’m not much of a hockey watcher myself, and this practice even boggles my mind. The new movie “Goon” is based on a true story about a hockey player, Doug “The Thug” Smith, who was drafted into the minors just for his ability to finish fights. He’d never even played hockey before.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Shame (2011) ****

NC-17, 101 min.
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: Steve McQueen, Abi Morgan
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie

There are certain movies that are more fun to figure out rather than merely watch. I’m not talking about mysteries, although in a way I am, but not the whodunit kind. “Shame” is a mystery of human behavior. It follows the story of a man who is addicted to sex. When his sister drops in on his New York apartment to crash for a while, he has to face some of the emotions he spends so much time avoiding through his addiction.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—And Everything Is Going Fine (2010) ***

NR, 89 min.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Spalding Gray

In college there were two performers that had an immeasurable influence on me. One was Sam Shepard, whom I looked like at the time but have been cursed not to look like anymore. The other was Spalding Gray. I was a theater arts performance major, and these were the two performers I latched on to. I suppose it makes sense each was also a writer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Frozen River (2008) ****

R, 97 min.
Director/Writer: Courtney Hunt
Starring: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O’Keefe, Mark Boone Junior

My wife and I have become fans of the television sitcom “The Middle”, because we’re a family in the Midwest, and that’s what the show is about. It’s pretty darned accurate in its depiction, too. One of our favorite characters is the family’s oldest son, Axl, who embodies all the worst behaviors of a teenaged boy. We fear our middle boy is a little too much like Axl for our tastes and might become our living nightmare in his teenage years.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rock of Ages / **½ (PG-13)

Sherrie Christian: Julianne Hough
Drew Boley: Diego Boneta
Stacee Jaxx: Tom Cruise
Dennis Dupree: Alec Baldwin
Lonny: Russell Brand
Patricia Whitmore: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Paul Gill: Paul Giamatti
Constance Sack: Malin Akerman
Mike Whitmore: Bryan Cranston
Justice Charlier: Mary J. Blige

New Line Cinema presents a film directed by Adam Shankman. Written by Justin Theroux and Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb. Musical book by Chris D’Arienzo. Running time: 123 min. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, suggestive dancing, heavy drinking, and language).

After the final preview trailer, the audience in our small town’s modestly attended opening night screening of the new rock musical “Rock of Ages” hushed with anticipation. The company logos flashed with a score that sounded reminiscent of the rock music of the 1980s and the images started moving, showing us a girl on a bus wearing headphones. She begins to sing the Night Ranger song “Sister Christian”.  The audience shifts in their seats, not sure what to think of this girl bursting into song with no introduction to character or location. Then the bus driver adds a couple of lines to the lyrics and the chuckles begin. Then the entire bus passenger population joins in and the chuckles increase.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted / **½ (PG)

Featuring the voices of:
Alex: Ben Stiller
Marty: Chris Rock
Melman: David Schwimmer
Gloria: Jada Pinkett Smith
Julian: Sacha Baron Cohen
Maurice: Cedric the Entertainer
Mort: Andy Richter
Skipper: Tom McGrath
Kowalski: Chris Miller
Captain Chantel DuBois: Frances McDormand
Gia: Jessica Chastain
Vitaly: Bryan Cranston
Stefano: Martin Short

DreamWorks Animation presents a film directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon. Written by Eric Darnell and Noah Baumbach. Running time: 93 min. Rated PG (for some mild action and rude humor).

There are some movies you really can’t imagine continuing on after it’s initial installment. “Madagascar” was never in the upper echelons of great American CGI cartoons, but it was an enjoyable romp back in 2005. It had enjoyable characters, if a not so intriguing premise about four animals from the Central Park Zoo who somehow find themselves shipwrecked on the island nation of Madagascar half the world away from the home they loved.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Innkeepers (2012) ***

R, 101 min.
Director/Writer: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, George Riddle

“The Innkeepers” is the second horror film by writer/director Ti West. West has a classic approach to horror, one straight out of seventies filmmaking. His first film, “House of the Devil”, felt like it could’ve been made in the seventies, and also was one of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years. His follow up isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s still a solid piece of filmmaking.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—DC Showcase: Catwoman (2011) ***

PG-13, 15 min.
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Writer: Paul Dini
Starring: Eliza Dusku, John DiMaggio, Liliana Mumy, Kevin Michael Richardson, Tara Strong, Cree Summer

Salena Kyle has never had a leading role as Catwoman in a motion picture before this 15-minute short was made as a companion to DC Comics’ direct-to-video adaptation of the classic Batman storyline “Batman: Year One” last year. Yes, there was a feature length “Catwoman” movie, but for some reason Warner Bros. chose to change the identity of Catwoman in that movie to another person entirely. And, although Tim Burton retained the name for his “Batman Returns” version of Catwoman, she was not the career criminal she’s always been in the comic books.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ****

G, 216 min.
Director: David Lean
Writers: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson, T.E. Lawrence (writings)
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy

I know. It seems a crime to highlight one of the greatest movies ever made in the Penny Thoughts feature and not really discuss what makes it so good, but I’d really like to discuss something else. Don’t worry. I’m bound to watch it again someday. What I’d like to talk about is David 8 from the recent theatrical release “Prometheus”.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Breaking Bad, season 2 (2009) ****

TV-MA, 13 47-min. episodes
Creator: Vince Gilligan
Directors: Bryan Cranston, Charles Haid, Terry McDonough, John Dahl, Johan Renck, Peter Medak, Félix Enríquez Alcalá, Michelle McLaren, Phil Abraham, Adam Bernstein, Colin Bucksey
Writers: J. Roberts, George Mastras, Peter Gould, Sam Catlin, Moira Walley-Beckett, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Raymond Cruz, Steven Michael Quezada, Tess Harper, Mark Margolis, Matt Jones, David House, Tom Kiesche, Krysten Ritter, Michael Shamus Wiles, Dale Dickey, David Ury, Charles Baker, Rodney Rush, Jessica Hecht, Danny Trejo, Christopher Cousins, J.D. Garfield, Bob Odenkirk, DJ Qualls, Jimmy Daniels, John de Lancie, Carmen Serano, Giancarlo Esposito, Sam McMurray, Jonathan Banks

Season two of the AMC innovative television series “Breaking Bad” just makes me want more. The filmmakers have settled into the task they set out for themselves of making a terminal cancer chemistry teacher turned crystal meth manufacturer into a hero. We’re given a few more peeks into the darkness behind Walter at several points in this season. Cranston is still in peak form as he transfers his side business from mere manufacturing to being a failure at distribution. When he growls at a rival producer “Stay out of my territory,” you believe he might eventually have the cajones to be a kingpin someday; but he’s not there yet. He still hasn’t mastered his web of lies, and they are beginning to become a burden.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Spider-Man 3 (2007) ***

PG-13, 139 min.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent, Stan Lee (comic book), Steve Ditko (comic book)
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks, Dylan Baker, Theresa Russell, Ted Raimi, Bill Nunn, Bruce Campbell

You know, I was right there with everybody at one point in time. When I originally reviewed it, I was kind to it. I gave it the three stars for delivering a high quality comic book action movie, if not the greatest Spider-Man movie. I eventually felt I’d been too easy on it. Now, after seeing it again years later, I think it’s a little better than everyone seems to give it credit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Predators (2010) ***

R, 107 min.
Director: Nimród Antal
Writers: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch, Jim Thomas (characters), John Thomas (characters)
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Lawrence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Carey L. Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears

I would call this just about the best a “Predator” movie can be. It isn’t exactly high concept stuff, the whole alien hunting humans as if they’re game thing. But, in the three films of this franchise proper, the filmmakers have succeeded in making this bloody idea entertaining and fun. “Predators” is the best of the bunch.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—W.E. (2011) *½

R, 119 min.
Director: Madonna
Writers: Madonna, Alek Kekishian
Starring: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, David Harbour

Pop singer Madonna’s sophomore effort as a feature film director is certainly more ambitious than her first film “Filth and Wisdom”. While that film concentrated on the British subculture of prostitution and pornography, “W.E.” focuses on the upper crust of British society. She deigns to tell the story of one of Britain’s greatest and most controversial love stories. I’m inclined to think she might’ve pulled it off were she not tripped up by her own airs of pretention.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prometheus / **** (R)

Dr. Elizabeth Shaw: Noomi Rapace
David: Michael Fassbender
Meredith Vickers: Charlize Theron
Janek: Idris Elba
Peter Weyland: Guy Pearce
Dr. Charlie Holloway: Logan Marshall-Green
Fifield: Sean Harris
Millburn: Rafe Spall

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Based on elements created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Running time: 124 min. Rated R (for sci-fi violence including some intense images and brief language).

“God doesn’t make straight lines”
                                                —Dr. Charlie Holloway, “Prometheus”.

This is the line uttered by a scientist who thinks he’s discovered the planet that holds the secret to the origins of the human race. He travels to this planet in the year 2093 with his partner and a crew of specialists who have no knowledge of the purpose of their trip until they wake from their hyper-sleep two years after leaving Earth. “Where do we come from?” is a question that fascinates some more than others.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem (2007) *

R, 94 min.
Directors: The Brothers Strause
Writers: Shane Salerno, Dan O’Bannon (“Alien” characters), Ronald Shusett (“Alien” characters), Jim Thomas (“Predator” characters), John Thomas (“Predator” characters)
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, Kristen Hager, Sam Trammell, Robert Joy, David Paetkau, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ian Whyte

This is the fourth time I’ve forced myself to sit through this atrocity to both the “Alien” and “Predator” franchises. Why would I watch it four times? As humans we have a need to try to understand the inexplicable, I guess.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Spider-Man 2 (2004) ****

PG-13, 127 min.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon, Stan Lee (comic book), Steve Ditko (comic book)
Starring: Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy, Daniel Gillies, Dylan Baker, Bill Nunn, Ted Raimi, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Campbell

For the first time in about 6 times that I’ve seen this movie, I’ve upgraded my star rating from 3½ to 4. There was one element of the movie that always bothered me—the on-again off-again feelings of Peter and MJ toward each other. The whole “I’m going to tell her, I’m not going to tell her" thing, and her with the “I’ll wait, I’m not going to wait for him” thing. I always felt they went around it one too many times. For some reason, it felt just about right this time.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) **

PG-13, 101 min.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writers: Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O’Bannon (also “Alien” characters), Ronald Shusett (also “Alien” characters), Jim Thomas (“Predator” characters), John Thomas (“Predator” characters)
Starring: Sanaa Latham, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ian Whyte

Hrumm. That’s my frustration. What’d they go and do this for? They went and ruined two perfectly good franchises in one movie. Well, they didn’t completely destroy them until the next one. But, they took a pretty big chunk of love away with this one.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Predator 2 (1990) ***

R, 108 min.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Rubén Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Adam Baldwin, Kent McCord, Morton Downey Jr., Kevin Peter Hall

I always liked “Predator 2” more than the first one. It’s a better-made film. Not that it’s really a good movie either, but director Stephen Hopkins does a good job punching it up a notch. Again, it’s silly and ridiculous, but it’s also fun to see Danny Glover, at the height of his “Lethal Weapon” fame, going solo. I’m just waiting for him to say, “I’m too old for this shit,” when I’m watching this one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Breaking Bad, season 1 (2008) ****

TV-MA, 7 47-min. episodes
Creator: Vince Gilligan
Directors: Vince Gilligan, Adam Bernstein, Jim McKay, Tricia Brock, Bronwen Hughes, Tim Hunter
Writers: Vince Gilligan, Patty Lin, George Mastras, Peter Gould
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Maximno Arciniega, John Koyama, Steven Michael Quezada, Carmen Serano, Jessica Hecht, Tess Harper, Michael Bofshever, David House, Adam Godley, Raymond Cruz, Charles Baker, Cesar Garcia

I’ve heard this show is the best on television. After watching its brief debut season on Netflix Instant, I’m willing to believe it could be.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman / *** (PG-13)

Snow White: Kristen Stewart
Ravenna: Charlize Theron
The Huntsman: Chris Hemsworth
Finn: Sam Spruell
William: Sam Claflin
Beith: Ian McShane
Muir: Bob Hoskins
Gort: Ray Winstone
Nion: Nick Frost
Duir: Eddie Marsan
Coll: Toby Jones
Quert: Johnny Harris
Gus: Brian Gleeson

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Rupert Sanders. Written by Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini. Running time: 127 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, and brief sensuality).

As I was watching “Snow White and the Huntsman”, I couldn’t help thinking to myself about what a rich program of movies Hollywood set out for us this summer season. Sure there are the sequels and comic book fare that seem to make up the bulk of blockbuster output these days, but we’re also being served up a plethora of other genres, mixing of genres, old times revisited, and new takes on classic stories. “Snow White and the Huntsman” falls squarely under that last category.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Predator (1987) ***

R, 107 min.
Director: John McTiernan
Writers: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, Shane Black, R.G. Armstrong, Kevin Peter Hall

I’m of two minds on the whole “Predator” phenomenon. I don’t think it’s a good movie. I don’t think it’s well made. I’m not sure that John McTiernan only had one good movie in him. That would’ve been “Die Hard”. Well, he put out a few other worthwhile outings, but in terms of artistry, “Predator” is at the bottom of his canon. It’s down there with “Medicine Man” and “Rollerball”. Yet, somehow it’s actually kind of fun and infinitely more entertaining than those two losers.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alien: Resurrection (1997) *½

R, 109 min.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writers: Joss Whedon, Dan O’Bannon (characters), Ronald Shusett (characters)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Kim Flowers, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman, Raymond Cruz, Brad Dourif, Leland Orser

So, we come to “Alien: Resurrection”. It can be said for it that it doesn’t fail because it gives up and stops trying to be original. Like the three “Alien” films before it, it continues to push the bounds of the genre and of the universe in which it takes place. It also acts as proof that just because you strive to broaden a franchise, you won’t necessarily create a good product.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) ****

R, 158 min.
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Stieg Larsson (novel)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wrigtht, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Goran Visnjic

Seeing the U.S. version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” a second time solidifies it as an example of the excellence of director David Fincher. In this film, he’s taken a work of pulp fiction from its source and created something that transcends its origins. His version of this fairly basic crime mystery displays a mastery of character, setting, suspense, structure, mood, and imagery.