Thin Ice

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Thin Ice was very entertaining with lots of good plot twists and turns. Greg Kinnear plays an insurance agent living in frigid Wisconsin with financial and other problems. When he meets Alan Arkin’s character, he sees an opportunity to take advantage of Arkin and resolve his own problems. Things don’t go according to plan and that’s when the numerous plot twists start kicking in. You may anticipate some of them but you wouldn’t expect all of them.

Greg Kinnear is good as the unscrupulous insurance salesman but I enjoyed Alan Arkin’s performance more. Billy Crudup also provided some comic relief.

With a wintery setting in Wisconsin and some similar plot lines, this film is reminiscent of Fargo. Although not as good as Fargo, Thin Ice is definitely worth seeing.

IMDB – Thin Ice

Rotten Tomatoes – Thin Ice

A Separation

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

A Separation is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and deservedly so. It is set (and made) in Iran and deals with a family splitting up because the wife wants to leave Iran for a better life while the husband refuses so he can continue to care for his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Tough choices, both moral and otherwise, are faced as the couple separates and needs to deal with their new circumstances. Part of what makes this such a good movie is you are able to sympathize with all the characters. Forces beyond their control take them in conflicting directions and some of their decisions have disastrous effects..

Excellent performances all around, including the couple, the daughter and the woman who comes to help care for the father after the couple separates.

This movie is also interesting because of the insight we get about daily life, the judicial system and religion in Iran.

This film is highly recommended.

IMDB – A Separation

Rotten Tomatoes – A Separation

Safe House

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5
Reminiscent (or just a copy) of the Bourne movies, this has all the key elements: government agents who are either rogue or legitimate (you won’t know till the end), a tightly wound middle-aged female 2nd in charge (here played by Vera Famiglia), in conflict with world weary older dude (Brendan Gleeson), GQ-looking agent on the run (Ryan Reynolds) with a cute foreign lover (Nora Arnezeder), bad guys everywhere with bullets flying, brutal fight scenes both in close quarters and in and out of third world buildings and roof tops, exotic and run-down locales, I could go on and on, including the same cinematographer (Oliver Wood). But this film has Denzel, who steals every scene he’s in, often by just sitting handcuffed or standing observing. He doesn’t need much dialogue to convey his character. This is fast paced, quick cutting action, that kept me riveted throughout. Don’t worry too much about the plot, like I said, there’s bad guys after good guys, or vice versa, you find out at the end. Which by the way, decides to copy the latest Mission Impossible instead of Bourne. I don’t think that gives away anything. Enjoy the fun and mothers, don’t let your boys grow up to be secret agents!

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

I know it’s boring when we agree, but I think Bill’s review is right on! Starting with the strength of Denzel’s performance, the reminiscence to the Bourne movies (although not as good) and all the way to the similarity to the Mission Impossible ending.

While I liked most of the action scenes, I did find the quick cutting made a couple of them tough to follow and just hoped the right people were winning (I thought that in the Bourne movies too!).

In addition to the fine performance by Washington, I thought Ryan Reynolds was very good too.

As Bill I. said, the CIA bad guy was pretty arbitrarily chosen and the plot should not be focused on.  If you are an action fan, this movie is ok although not great.

IMDB – Safe House

RottenTomatoes – Safe House

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Tilda Swinton gives a great performance as the mother of a boy who goes on a Columbine-like rampage. The movie tells the story from the mother’s perspective as she deals with her grief after the event, as well as her view of Kevin’s upbringing and what she had to deal with. This adds poignancy to an already sad subject. The story is told in a non-linear way which allows interesting contrasts to be brought out at different times.

In addition to the great performance by Swinton, the two boys who play Kevin at different points of his life are also excellent (the baby Kevin also did a great job of crying on cue but I do not attribute that to his acting skills).

A very good movie but sad movie…so don’t go see this after a tough day when you need to be cheered up.

IMDB – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Rotten Tomatoes – We Need to Talk About Kevin

The Grey

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 Stars

This reminded me of 27 Hours combined with The Blob, with Liam Neeson and his group of fellow Biig Oil workers marooned post airline crash and nasty wolves snapping up any slow or wounded stragglers. Where was Captain Sully? Katie (my daughter) thought the wolves were not realistic, but that did not bother me; they were scary and when they attacked it was effective. Tension was kept throughout, balanced with some hazy sentimental flashbacks. Liam plays a character similar to the one he played in Taken: a veteran dude, knows-it-all, wastes no time in taking action, and is above all a survivor. My one quibble: watch for the scene where the group stands on a cliff, and hears a river way down below. Then when they make it all the way to this noisy river it’s as calm as a small pond. Later, Liam extricates hiimself from raging rapids, and you see the stream is now about 10 feet in width and again back to calm. Where did all the water go? Anyway, this is entertaining and yes, there’s a quick scene at the end of the credits.

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Poor Liam Neeson! His life is going from bad to  worse. The love of his life is gone, he’s in a plane crash and then when he survives that, he and the other survivors have to deal with these really ticked off wolves that  are out for blood while trying not to freeze to death, starve or just get stuck in very deep snow.

Liam plays the alpha male of the human pack trying to lead them to safety (while dealing with his personal demons) and hoping to get his shot at the alpha male of the wolves. Liam deserves credit for being an action hero with movies like this and Taken while in his late 50s.

The tension between the wolves and survivors (and between the survivors) is good.   This isn’t really my type of movie so it’s easy for me to poke holes in some of the situations, etc. but if you are into this sort of movie then you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.

IMDB – The Grey

Rotten Tomatoes – The Grey

Liam Neeson stars in the survival thriller, “The Grey.”


Bill C’s Review – 3 Stars

Haywire is an entertaining action B-movie starring former female martial arts competitor Gina Carano. There are several good fight sequences and a couple of good chase scenes. Gina isn’t the greatest actress but she is excellent in all of the action sequences.   The supporting cast is surprisingly strong with Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor. The plot is convoluted and has plenty of holes but the action sequences with Gina make this movie worth seeing.

Haywire on IMDB

Haywire on Rotten Tomatoes

Bill I’s Review – 4 Stars

At the risk of alienating readers by using some sophisticated film review language, Haywire is freakin’ AWESOME. I loved it, had a smile on my face the whole movie. Let me start with the main character, a female Michael Bourne-like character (or alternatively, a Jennifer Garner Alias-like character, only much more ruthless) played by hard-body Gina Carano. When Ewan MacGregor has to warn somebody about to meet you with “You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman. That would be a mistake”. Or when Antonio Banderas simply says when you pop up in his house “Oh shit”. The action is non-stop, and as directed by Steven Soderbergh, strikingly original. When was the last chase scene you saw that wasn’t a cliche you’ve seen 1,000 times, including every night on the TV cop shows? Well, look for the literal chase scene, Gina chases the bad guy on foot through the streets and back alleys of Barcelona. It’s an incredible piece of filming. I won’t spoil the opening scene, but suffice it to say I thought back to the diner scene in Pulp Fiction. The tension is so naturally built up, sometimes by just a glance, or the cool music, then erupts in fight scenes that are more realistic than most of what passes in today’s films. What a great supporting cast, as Bill C says above. Banderas was unrecognizable to me with his beard until the end. I don’t like to see movies more than once, since I love not knowing what’s going to happen – that’s why I will close my eyes and stuff my ears sometimes when the incessant coming attractions are shown – but this is one movie I would enjoy seeing again soon. I expect Carano will be back, maybe as a female Terminator. Here she is in case you never heard of her, same as me:

The Artist

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I finally got around to seeing the non-talkie The Artist, which has been touted by many as one of the best of 2011. I cannot rank it as one of my ten favorites for the year, especially since my eyelids kept trying to close on me. I guess it’s the best that could have been done without any dialogue, and the leading characters were certainly charismatic and expressive, especially Uggie the wonder dog (best supporting actor candidate?). If this had conventional dialogue, it would be evident how banal the story line is. I loved the last 5 minutes however, which was cleverly done, but in retrospect I’d rather spend my entertainment time watching some of the episodes of Treme I have saved on my dvr at home. Bill C., please pipe in with your review, I believe you liked it more than did I.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This film did make my top 10 list, although I understand (and expected) Bill I to enjoy it less than I did. I viewed this homage to a bygone era of Hollywood movie-making as fresh and unique. I enjoyed the nods to Douglass Fairbanks, Chaplin (see A Dog’s Life if you get the chance), Rodgers and Astaire, A Star is Born, Singing in the Rain, and a bunch I’m sure I missed.

The performances (dog included) were all top-notch (they are all great smilers except for the dog) and, like Bill I, I really enjoyed the ending. There were a lot of nice little moments in the film as well. I agree with Bill I that the plot was very basic, especially compared to many of today’s movies, but for me that was consistent with some of the movies it was paying homage to and added to its charm.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this a lot, but if you’re looking for a plot-driven movie, this might not be the movie for you.

Photo added by Bill I.

The Artist – IMDB

The Artist – Rotten Tomatoes


Man on A Mission

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Man on A Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to The Stars is a documentary about Richard Garriott’s visit to the international space station as one of the first space tourists.  He paid the Russians $30 million to take him up on a Soyuz rocket.  I saw a special screening that included a Q+A with the director and producer.  It’s an entertaining movie that gives good insight on Richard’s preparation and his visit to the space station.   Richard also left his camera on to get some interesting footage during the re-entry and landing. In addition to Richard the movie features several interesting characters (including his retired astronaut father).

This movie opens in N.Y. next week and in Austin the following week.  Richard will be at the Austin premiere (he lives in Austin).

This is a must see for anyone with $30 million considering a space trip and recommended for others just interested in the space program from afar.

As tis has not opened in New York Bill I. has not had a chance to review this one.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Bill C’s review – 3 Stars

Ghost Protocol is the 4th in the series of Mission Impossible movies and is very entertaining.  The action is non-stop and they have gone out of their way to out-do the action in previous movies.  The movie really flies by and is fun to watch.  Tom Cruise deserves kudos for really hanging on the outside of the tallest building in the world (with cables that were later erased using CGI).  As a fan of the old TV series I think they rely a little too much on action and could use more brilliant plans to fool the enemies, but that is a small quibble.

***** Spoiler Alert ******

As in all of these types of movies you need to be ready to forget about reality and just enjoy the action.  So I happily did that as Tom dangled off the building, had a high speed chase in a blinding sand storm (which miraculously ended just as the chase did), dropped multiple stories in a car, etc., BUT who could believe the ending: Tom Cruise watching his wife, who he pretended to kill and had to abandon prior to this movie, while she is hanging out with some new guy.  When she sees him, she is happy to smile at him from a distance and then just goes on with her new life.  Wouldn’t she either be totally disgusted to see him (after all he put her through in the last movie and prior to the start of this one) or if she loved him (and since he is Tom Cruise), wouldn’t she want to ditch the very heavy un-Tom Cruise like guy and reminisce about old times???  You can only suspend belief so much!

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 Stars

First, I must say that I missed the fantastic editing job of MI III, done by our old friend, Maryann Brandon, teamed with one of my favorite directors, JJ Abrams, the same team who brought us Super 8,  the last Star Trek and of course the Alias TV Series. I agree the action in Ghost Protocol is the main attraction, and knowing Tom supposedly did his own stunts including jumping outside the world’s tallest building made it more thrilling. Jeremy Renner as his new sidekick is excellent, and Paula Patton as the kick-ass martial arts colleague made me forget about all these other supposed super beauty action heroes (Megan Fox pales in comparison, Angelina Jolie-Pitt is old news). The fact that Tom doesn’t make a play for her, and as Bill C. alludes to in his spoiler above, still pines for his wife (ex-wife? witness protection wife?), in fact lets Paula walk off with another dude after he clearly could do his best James Bond and have his way, is really what made me not believe the ending similar to Bill. Finally, I must mention the most inventive chase/fight scene I’ve seen in years, held in a super automated futuristic parking garage – where are these in Manhattan! Here’s Paula: