New Look


Some of you may have noticed that the site has changed from this morning to this afternoon. That’s because we’ve updated the look so that the logo could once again be included in the banner. I also like the cleaner look to the blog.

There are also a nod to the old Friday Night Movie Bunch days – the newsletter’s background images can be seen on the sides of the blog if you look carefully. I’ve reprinted most of the reviews from the FNMB days, and should have the rest of them uploaded relatively soon.

As you saw from the article below, we’ll be covering the Florida Film Festival in some detail, including interviews with filmmakers, something new for the site. We’ll also be resuming the semi-irregular Top 5 feature in the near future, something that has been a victim of TLTTMTD syndrome (that’s Too Little Time, Too Much to Do) that has plagued our household lately.

Another item  of interest to regular blog readers; a new Summer Preview article is currently in the process of being assembled; we’ll be posting that Thursday, April 28th.

If you are a filmmaker who’d like to see your movie reviewed or if you’d like to contact me directly without leaving a comment on the site, I can be reached at Cinema365@email.com. Feel free to drop me a line with any contact info and I’m usually really good about responding quickly.

Finally for those who also read my other blog, Thank Blog It’s Friday, we’ll be continuing to do occasional pieces on the many pavilions of Expo 2010 until I’ve got ‘em all up which should take us through the summer. I’ll also be adding, at the request of some folks who have been appreciative of my efforts at writing fiction, further short stories and such, plus regular chapters of what will eventually become a full-fledged novel that will act as a sequel to the short story Inner Demons, which has become the single most visited page on the site after the home page. Thanks to everyone who has expressed their love for the world of the Badlands – we will be returning to it very soon and it will be a much different place – and a far more dangerous place – than it was in the story.

Thanks to all of you for your support; we are regularly topping 400 hits per day and have cracked the 500 hit mark several times. I’m hoping by the end of the year we’ll be doubling that. If you have any suggestions for improving our blog, or for something you’d like to see written up, don’t hesitate to contact me at the e-mail address above or by leaving a comment here.

Florida Film Festival 2011


As many of you know, I’m a huge supporter of the Florida Film Festival which takes place every year here in Orlando. Presented by the Enzian Theater (a non-profit group dedicated to bringing independent and foreign cinema to the people of Central Florida), it is an event like no other. It is not about deal making and studios finding the next hot indie property; it is about ordinary filmgoers rubbing elbows with filmmakers and fellow filmgoers. In other words, it’s as friendly and interactive a film festival as there is in the United States.

I was fortunate enough to receive press credentials for the Festival and can share with you some of the wonderful and amazing films that will be presented at this year’s event, the 20th anniversary film festival. The theme this year is Florida, a tribute to the state that the Festival is being held in and noted critic Scott Foundas of Variety will be curating a series of films inspired by, made in or created by Florida and Florida-based filmmakers. Included in the series is River of Grass, Ruby in Paradise and A Beautiful Belly. The festival kicks of on April 8 with the screening of Project Nim, the latest documentary from filmmaker James Marsh, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Man on Wire.

Da Queen and I will be attending screenings of Incendies (a 2011 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film), Potiche (a French comedy starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu) and Troll Hunter, a Norwegian film that looks absolutely breathtaking. We will also be attending a variety of other films and events to be announced as time goes by. We will also be reviewing a variety of other films as well, including Fannie, Annie and Danny (whose filmmaker Chris Brown and lead actress Jill Pixley we’re hoping to interview at the Festival).

For those attending, there are some really awesome films not mentioned above that are going to be at the Festival and that we hope we’ll get a chance to see, including Meek’s Cutoff (a new kind of Western), Holy War (a contraversial documentary), Hesher (a slacker comedy), Hamill (the true story of a deaf MMA fighter), Kinyarwanda (set in the Rwandan genocide), Super (A DIY superhero film), Terri (a coming of age film about an overweight teen desperately trying to fit in) and Bobby Fischer Against the World, a look at the late chess prodigy.

Expect surprise guests and more news in the weeks to come. If you live in the Orlando area or are planning to visit, the Festival runs April 8 through April 17 and will screen over 160 films and shorts during the duration of the Festival. Tickets are onsale now, both in packages (starting as low as $40) and for individual films (usually $10 for most films, although there are several free events throughout the Festival).

If you’ve never attended a Film Festival, this is the one to go to. It’s laid back, friendly and full of really impressive movies ro see. For more information or to purchase tickets, go here. Look for a full slate of reviews, sometimes more than one a day (heavens! a change in site policy – can anarchy be far behind?) when the mood is right. Hope to see you all there!

The Twilight Saga: New Moon


The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Couldn't you just DIE?!?

(2009) Romantic Fantasy (Summit) Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Rachelle Lefevre, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Nikki Reed, Kellen Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Anna Kendrick, Chaske Spencer, Christopher Heyerdahl. Directed by Chris Weitz

Some movies are aimed squarely for a specific audience segment and you just have to go with that particular flow. It you don’t mind accepting that you’re not the target audience, you can enjoy the movie at least on an intellectual level.

The Twilight saga continues with the second installment of the four-book series. Edward Cullen (Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Stewart) are deeply in love and looking forward to Bella’s 18th birthday, which she intends to spend at a celebration at the really nice Cullen place in the woods. When she accidentally cuts her finger, it sets off Jasper (Rathbone) and ends up with Bella getting hurt. Edward recognizes that it is far too dangerous for Bella to remain with his kind and he dumps her, heading off to Italy to hang out with the Volturi, the eldest of the Vampires.

Bella is devastated by this and spends much of the movie in a funk, crying and brooding and in general, acting as if her life is over. Most teenage girls can relate to this – when you can’t be with that cute boy you love, you just want to die and so Bella does, convinced that each time she is on the brink of death, Edward’s spirit comes around to save her so that, at least that way, the two of them can be together. Mothers of teenage daughters please take note – this is very unhealthy and should be discouraged.

Bella is taken under the wing of Jacob Black (Lautner), the Native American who has buffed up quite a bit since the first movie and spends much of his time not wearing a shirt to make sure you know how buff he is. He has taken to hanging out with the Wolf Pack, a bunch of equally buff and shirtless Native Americans led by Sam (Spencer) who like Jacob and the rest of the Wolf Pack, harbors a secret – they’re all werewolves (although this is treated as a secret plot point, it is well known enough that I don’t mind revealing it here). Jacob and Bella begin to get a little closer than just besties.

In the meantime Bella is being stalked by Victoria (Lafevre) who has vowed vengeance on her after the events of the first movie and the Wolf Pack mean to protect her – as do some of the Cullens, especially Alice (Greene) who has come to warn her that Edward, lovesick and moping around, means to reveal himself to non-vampires which would mean his death by Volturi.

The success of the first movie meant a much bigger budget for the second, which means this is a much better-looking film than the first, where the special effects were bargain-basement. Here, they are more extensive and a bit better-realized but all in all the point of the movie isn’t the special effects, it’s the romance at the center. Or, in this case, romances.

The whole Team Edward vs. Team Jacob thing is set up here. Certainly Bella is firmly entrenched in Team Edward at this point. There is a Romeo and Juliet thing that seems to be pulsing through the movie, from its Italian denouement to the reading of the play in class at the movie’s beginning. The star-crossed lovers thing is reinforced by the looks of aching and longing that is supposed to be soulful but sometimes comes off more like Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Part of my issue with the film is that Bella is so damn bland. Most of the movie, people are telling her how special she is, from her dad (Burke) to Jacob to Edward to Alice to…OMG, like, everyone. I just don’t see it. When Edward dumps her, she falls apart and not just for a little while, I mean for almost the entire movie she can’t breathe, she hurts so much.

We’ve all been there. Most of us who have ever had their hearts broken (and that’s most of us) can relate to her pain. What I can’t relate to is how long it goes on, her obsession driving her every move, including bringing herself into near-death experiences just so she can see the apparition of her lost love. While it’s highly romantic and appealing to adolescent girls, it is somewhat disturbing that this unhealthy behavior is seemingly celebrated here as the right way to behave for a loyal loving heart. It really isn’t ladies…trust me on this.

Like the first movie, the performances are as good as you’d expect – not really outstanding but not bad either. The addition of Sheen and Fanning to the cast adds a little bump up in the talent, but they aren’t seen much. The movie mainly resides in the hands of Stewart, and she spends most of the time moping. It isn’t her fault – Stewart is proving to be a pretty decent actress although she mostly gets to show that in other films – the story is set up that way. Still, it’s hard to get behind a character that you just want to shake and scream in her face “Enough, already!”

Lautner is much more integral to the movie and he’s an appealing young actor who has better things ahead of him, but to this point his role is essentially a one-dimensional nice guy who is meant to be the thankless best friend role that is blossoming into maybe something else but never will because Bella is “meant” to be with Edward. Hmm.

I have to say that overall, I didn’t like this movie as much as the first – which, to be fair, is usually the case with sequels. As in the case of the first film, this review is pretty superfluous – girls gonna see it no matter what anyone writes. There is nothing more loyal and steadfast than a teenage girl in love, and there are few things that teenage girls are in love with more than a tragic love story that appeals to the drama in their lovely teenage hearts, bless them all.

No, I’m not the audience this movie is meant for and for those who aren’t this movie isn’t as compelling or engaging as the first. However, for those who love the books and the first movie, this isn’t going to disappoint and while it likely won’t convert any new fans, it won’t dissuade any old ones from their rabid devotion to the series.

WHY RENT THIS: For the adolescent or pre-adolescent girl in your family – and their mom.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Well, you’re not one.

FAMILY VALUES: If you don’t mind a little bit of fantasy vampire/werewolf violence, it’s pretty much acceptable for everyone.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Weitz also directed The Golden Compass based on a bestselling young adult fantasy series.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Summit chose to market a variety of different editions that were exclusively available at specific retailers, each with their own unique features which made choosing the edition you wanted difficult and confusing. Common to all were a series of features which included one on how the success of the first movie affected the lives of the actors. In addition, the Deluxe Edition (available only at Target) had a featurette on the music of the film and at the die-hard nature of the series’ fans, as well as one on the Volturi. The Ultimate Fan Edition (Wal-Mart) had a documentary about the impact of the series on Forks, Washington – the real life town where the series is set (and some of the scenes are filmed), and a look at the love triangle and the rabid fans who choose Team Edward or Team Jacob. The Medallion edition (Borders) comes with a medallion necklace that has a wolf head crest on one side and the Cullen family crest on the other. Finally the Steelbook Package (Best Buy) comes in a special steel case and comes with a free cell phone skin.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $709.8M on a $50M production budget; the movie was a blockbuster.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Tenderness