Friday, January 27, 2012

'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

'We Need To Talk About Kevin' (11) (R) (4 STARS) (Highest Rating)

Writers: Rory Stewart Kinnear and Lynne Ramsay
Based on a novel by Lionel Shriver
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rocky Duer

When a child does something unspeakable and cruel should we blame the parent? When should a parent be strict with their child and when should they be understanding and loving? Can a child just be so evil and helpless that even any type of parent can't make good out of the situation? Those are the questions I have been struggling with long after I have seen the haunting, uncomfortable and powerful new drama "We Need To Talk About Kevin". What we have here is an unflinching, no holds barred study on parenthood and evil with an unforgettable, amazing performance by Tilda Swinton!

Swinton plays Eva who is the mother of Kevin and we can't tell what kind of parent she is and that is one of the movie's strengths. She is married to Franklin who is played by the amazing John C. Reilly. Kevin is seen in the movie in three different stages in life as a toddler, a 6 year old and then a teenager. Kevin seems troubled and he also seems to have a strong dislike of his mother. The movie never explains what is really wrong with Kevin and I loved that. There are no easy answers in this movie and there shouldn't be. This is not a movie that wraps everything up in a bow. This is one of the most haunting and unsettling dramas I have seen in a very long time.

Kevin also treats his father with more respect and the father is more clueless to what is going on with Kevin. As most mothers spend more time with their child we see Eva trying to reach out to her child but to no avail. Does Kevin not connect with his mother emotionally because Eva isn't loving enough and is a bad, ineffective parent? It is hard to figure that out in this movie and I think that is why the movie is so haunting, effective and unsettling. The movie is told in a fractured narrative and sometimes the movie is shot in a distracting way but I think that is the movie's aim, to make us feel confused and emotionally off guard. As Kevin grows into being a teenager we think he might have matured a little and we hope that Kevin and Eva might have gotten closer to each other but we are wrong. There is a powerful and chilling scene where 6 year old Kevin gets sick and something changes in his attitude towards his mother and when he gets better there again is a complete 180.

It turns out that Kevin is still emotionally detached from life and his mother. Does he seem detached from life because he was brought up with too little love and support from his mother? The movie builds up to a shattering and haunting tragedy and now we are even coming up with more questions and conflicted feelings. There is a powerful scene at the end between mother and son where we might get answers. That scene will not give us anything and it is the coldest and most haunting scene I have ever seen in a drama like this. I will not give away the tragedy that comes about at the end of this movie because I didn't know about it and find that the movie will be more powerful for you if you like bleek and despairing dramas that hit hard.

Tilda Swinton is an unique actress and she is incredible here playing what I imagine would be a very tough role. It is one of the best performances of the year by far and it is a travesty she was overlooked for an Oscar nomination. This is not mainstream Hollywood filmmaking and I think it is too bold for the mall type theatre crowd. Swinton has a tough task and she looks in a state of shock through a lot of the movie but there are moments that she creates that are all right choices for an actress and they are masterful and subtle. This is a beautiful performance and Tilda Swinton is one of our best and most unique actresses we have, she is a treasure in my opinion.

John C. Reilly has been playing characters in a lot of comedies lately but he also shows what a great, serious actor he can be. The three actors playing Kevin at different ages are all solid and it is a tough role for all of them. This movie could have come off as silly and unintentionally funny and awkward. It does not, in fact it comes off the exact opposite, powerful, chilling and uncompromising. I have read a certain review of this movie that says that this movie is shot like a horror movie and that it comes off silly like a remake of something like "Problem Child", the horrible comedy with John Ritter. I disagree strongly, this movie never makes a false move and yes it is a horrific movie and horrible, evil things will happen so maybe that is why it seems like it was filmed like a horror movie.

This provocative and troubling movie would be a great movie to debate about and to talk about in groups long after you see it. It will bring up questions on what kind of parent is Eva and is Kevin pure evil or is he troubled because his parents didn't raise him up right and didn't give him enough love. This is not the feel good movie of the year and it is heavy stuff but I want to see it again and again to see if I can come up with answers. I would love to see it with a group and then have a discussion after. I think this is a movie everyone should see and it strongly ties in to what is happening to teenagers these days with the various shootings and killings going on in our World. I can't shake this movie or Tilda Swinton's performance off. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" is one of the most powerful and sad movies I have ever seen and one of the very best movies of 2011.

'Albert Nobbs'

'Albert Nobbs' (11) (R) (2 STARS)

Writers: Gabriella Prekop, John Banville and Glenn Close
Based on a short story by Istvan Szabo based on a short story by George Moore
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Starring: Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Warsikowska, Brenda Fricker, Brendan Gleeson, Aaron Johnson, Pauline Collins, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

"Albert Nobbs" has the look right and the acting is wonderful but why did I feel no emotional connection to the characters or the story? Glenn Close is great as Albert Nobbs who is really a woman pretending to be a man in 19th century Dublin. She works as a waiter in a hotel and has to dress and act like a man because a woman would never be hired as a waiter in those times. Also she doesn't have enough money to survive and a woman has to do what a woman has to do.

There have been many so called "Drag" movies where either a man dresses up as a woman or a woman dresses up as a man. The two best are "Victor/Victoria and "Tootsie" of course and "Albert Nobbs has big shoes to fill. It is better than the dreadful "Mrs. Doubtfire" but I felt that the movie was too timid, polite and dull in stretches. The movie needs more fire to match it's performances. It might be the fault of the director Rodrigo Garcia but also the screenplay needed tinkering. It has one character that has a lot of screen time but I thought messed with the flow of the movie.

Albert takes a fancy to a maid in the hotel played by the beautiful Mia Warsikowska. Her name is Helen and Helen starts to feel an attraction to a drifter who comes upon the hotel and maneuvers into a job there. That drifter is overbearing and thinks Albert can be used to get Helen and him to America. As he starts to feel hatred towards Albert I felt the character just set a different tone to the movie. The rest of the movie has some sweet moments and the tone of the movie is light and that drifter character is weak when the others come off stronger. Also the main love story and the direction of the movie just meanders to an unsatisfactory ending.

The movie starts to build and then just fizzles in the end. The movie is based on a short story that was an Off Broadway play in 1982. I had reviewed a movie based on a play called "Carnage" a week ago. I have the same problem with "Albert Nobbs" that I had with "Carnage". "Albert Nobbs" feels fake, stagy and there is just no depth or juice to the movie. So what you are left with is the wonderful performaces and Glenn Close actually doesn't give the best performance in the movie.

Glenn Close is very good here but I felt too much pulling back in her approach to the character sometimes. She does a solid job but I have seen this type of character played stronger. I do like her subtle approach but I thought Mia Warsikowska is the under rated performance here and the best. The very talented actress from "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Kids Are All Right" steals the movie away fom everyone with a strong, charming and natural performance of grace and humor. Also Janet McTeer is great as Hubert Page who is another woman pretending to be a man. Mcteer is playing the same type of role but I think she is better than Close. I hate to say this but I don't think Glenn Close deserved her Oscar nomination.

"Albert Nobbs" is just too safe and pretty and even the financial woes of the period don't come through strong enough. It is for an older movie going audience and before I am branded an ageist I mean it is for older audiences who only see a couple of movies a year. I wanted a stronger love story and a stronger look at the repression of women in that time. The weak subplots, the movie's listlessness and weaker charcters just get in the way. "Albert Nobbs" means well but just doesn't make a strong enough impression on me.

P.S. For better movies than "Albert Nobbs" that deal with some of the same issues check out "Norma Rae", John Lithgow wonderful in "World According to Garp", "Victor/Victoria" and of course "Tootsie".

Friday, January 20, 2012


'Haywire' (R) (3 STARS)

Writer: Lem Dobbs
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Mattheu Kassovitz

"Haywire" is what a successful genre movie should be. For those who love action movies, spy movies and martial arts sit down with me and let me tell you about this wonderful present to you all. It is about time that I feel that a whole action franchise can be made about a kick ass female action star! Gina Carano is a retired MMA fighter and she is quite an action movie find, she kicks major ass! The fight scenes in "Haywire" are crisp, clean, beautifully choreographed and fun to watch. After "Haywire" you will hear a lot of young men and boys sighing and a lot of females cheering. I have never seen so many men get their ass kicked by a woman in a movie ever.

Gina Carano has major screen presence as super spy Mallory who in a wonderful opening scene is told by some mysterious man to come with him. Then you have the first of many awesome fight scenes as Mallory dispatches her first man. We then learn why Mallory is wanted as she is set up by her agency and a hit is put on her. I will not spoil all the plot machinations but I was really happy with this story and the fights. I have been complaining lately about all these lastest action movies that you can't follow in either the action scenes or story. "Haywire" has fights that are clearly choreographed and easy to take in and a story that is simple but fun and easy to follow. This is all I am asking for from my action movies. "Mission Impossible" and now "Haywire" have got the job done, this isn't brain surgery Hollywood!

I am loving what independent maverick Steven Soderbergh has done with his career! Along with movies like "Oceans 11" he has made specialized genre films and unique movies like this one and "The Girlfriend Experience". He has not just gone the safe Hollywood route, he tries different and risky projects. This is brave territory making an action movie with a female at it's center that could fall on it's face and bomb. What he does with "Haywire" is make a wonderful action movie that could have been made in the 70's as part of a kick ass double feature at a Drive-In theatre.

Gina Carano does a surprisingly solid acting job, she has charm, is tough, sexy and man can she kick butt! I admit I am now hooked and I hope she makes more action movies, she is hot! I have been screaming for a major female action star for years. There are so many stock, thankkless roles for actresses while men get to have all the fun. I hope this is a new trend for I miss the old days of Ripley from "Aliens" and "Thelma and Louise" and I am talking 80's and 90's here. This is a great action movie and not only will men eat it up women will have a cathartic experience as they see a woman beat the crap out of bad men! Should I dare say this is a great date movie? Hmmm.

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' (11)

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' (11) (PG-13) (1 STAR)

Writer: Eric Roth based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer
Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright, Zoe Caldwell

I know there can be a great movie made out of the 9/11 tragedy and it has been proven by the powerful "United 93". There has always been a debate on what is too soon for there to be a movie made from this awful tragedy. It has been over ten years so I think it has been enough time. Though if movies like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" get made then maybe there shouldn't be any movies about 9/11 ever. This is a manipulative, offensive and phony movie and I sat stone faced throughout until I laughed a few times. The movie is based on a best selling book and if the movie is faithful to the book then shame also on Jonathan Foer who wrote the novel.

The movie tells the story of Oskar Schell who is an 11 year old boy who is believed to have Asperger's Syndrome. Oskar has lost his father to the 9/11 tragedy and oh he also finds out his grandparents survived the Holocaust. So you have the filmmakers not only using 9/11 to manipulate us with a bad story but also using the Holocaust. I wouldn't mind the filmmakers using both these dark subjects to tell it's story if it was a smart movie that didn't feel like someone was forcing me to cry to a cheap story. When a movie gets to me emotionally I can start to cry and I have cried during a lot of movies. I didn't feel at any moment during this movie any concern or emotion to any characters or the story so trust me this movie is lame.

Oskar's father when he was alive had Oskar doing certain tasks out in the city and if Oskar may have Asperger's then isn't it cruel for the father to give him these tasks? Anyway after Oskar's father dies jumping from a building Oskar finds a key he left in an envelope with the last name Black on it. So Oskar then goes out into the city again to find out what this key is for and does it involve his father. So Oskar searches and runs into many city dwellers that are all weakly and shallowly written. There is no character development here at all and I actually found Oskar annoying and sorry to say the child actor playing him, Thomas Horn, is a weak young actor.

Oskar then meets a mute street person played by Max Von Sydow and what a shamless tool and character for the writers to come up with. The mute man has a dark back story and I am surprised the writers didn't give him cancer also. The movie just piles on all these phony moments that are implausible and could never happen in real life. So you can see what made me mad here, you are using 9/11, the worst tragedy this country has encountered, to give us such false moments to get us to cry.

Then the movie gets worse in the last half hour. Oskar writes a letter and sends it to all the people he has met on his journey. He thanks them for helping him on his quest and all these people have lost close ones to the 9/11 tragedy. Then we get a montage of all thse people reading the letter and crying. How arrogant is this movie to think that all these people who have lost family members should drop everything to make them care about this one boy and his father? We never have met half of these people reading the letter so how are we supposed to feel for anybody?

If you love Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock don't expect them to be in it that much. Hanks is in it for 5 minutes total and John and Jane Schmo could have played these characters in their sleep. So now you have Hanks and Bullock to use as more manipulation to see this insulting movie. There are so many great child actors these days in movies so I do not apologize for saying that young Thomas Horn as Oskar is over acting here and he annoyed the heck out of me. The movie ends with a howler of a scene that made me roll my eyes and gag. We find out who the key belongs to and Oskar and this person have a pointless, embarassing and fake emotional scene.

This is one of the phoniest, most maudlin and unintentionally funniest movies I have seen in a long time! The writing is manipulative and terrible and none of the characters have any depth. I also have a burning question to ask about this movie. If Oskar went out by himself in New York City on his journey don't you think he would encounter trouble or have had his life threatened or maybe be mugged? Not in this movie's fake and phony New York City. Congratulations to Stephen Daldry the director who also directed the manipulative and horrible "The Reader". Along with "Patch Adams" and "I am Sam" you have made one of the three worst tearjerkers in film history!

P.S. I forgot the most insulting thing about this movie, showing in slow motion people jumping from buildings as the planes hit. What a cheap and manipulative and just plain wrong trick!

P.S. For movies like this that are much better you can watch anything actually. Seriously, "United 93" is still the best movie made about 9/11 so far and it is powerful.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


'Contraband' (R) (rental)-

Writer: Aaron Guzikowski based on movie "Reykjavik-Rotterdam"
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster, JK Simmons, Diego Luna, Lukas Haas

"Contraband" is one of those movies that you find while flipping through stations on cable. You stop and watch it because you are a fan of Wahlberg and a lot of movie fans are. You stop because it looks like a neat, little crime, heist movie. You finish watching it and in the morning you don't remember anything about it. It was entertaining while you watched it as long as you don't think about it too much after and with "Contraband" you won't. I am not saying it is a weak or bad movie, I did like a lot of it and I like that it had somewhat of a brain and was complicated but it isn't memorable.

The plot would not make sense if I explained it fully and I would give away some of the twists. Let's just say Mark Wahlberg plays a former criminal who tries to go legit but crime tries to pull him back in! His brother-in-law has screwed up a cocaine drug heist and the bad guy in charge wants him or Wahlberg's character to play. Then this psycho bad guy brings Wahlberg's character's family into it and threatens them. The wife is played by Kate Beckinsale and I like her but anyone could have played this role. There are two bad guys, one that is weak and over the top and played with a screeching accent by Giovanni Ribisi. The other one is played by one of my favorite new actors in Ben Foster. Foster brings subtle evil and intensity to his bad guy, Ribisi overacts and comes off goofy instead of threatening.

I like Wahlberg in this movie as I always like him in everything. He is a very likable guy and I rooted for him here even though I didn't get totally into the movie. I love the Mark Wahlberg of "The Fighter" a lot and if light, "B" movies like this make Wahlberg get the green light on deeper movies then "Contraband" is alright by me. "Contraband" has some good shootouts, dialogue and chase/fight scenes. It has a likable Mark Wahlberg and a very effective and deeply acted bad guy in Foster. I also absolutely love the location work of New Orleans and Panama City. Mark Wahlberg movies always have great location work and the gritty location work here seems like another character. So when you are watching cable one night and "Contraband" comes on check it out.

P.S. Better crime thrillers and Mark Wahlberg movies than "Contrband" which you can watch on DVD with "Contraband" are "The Fighter", Michael Mann's "Thief", "Heat" and "Collateral".

'The Iron Lady'

'The Iron Lady' (PG-13) (rental)

Writer: Abi Morgan
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Olivia Colman, Richard Grant

I noticed something while watching the Margaret Thatcher biopic "The Iron Lady". Meryl Streep gets taken for granted even though she gets heaps of praise all the time. I noticed that we sometimes think we see Streep acting but during her latest performance I noticed she dissapears into her characters. My mother told me this the other night before I saw this movie and now it is crystal clear. Meryl Streep gives a lived in performance that is amazing and sometimes I found her to be unrecognizable and that is how masterful she is here. I just wished the movie lived up to her performance.

When Streep played Julia Child in "Julia and Julia" great as she was I still could see Streep in the performance and I could see her acting. She is much better here because I couldn't see her acting at all. Right from the first frame she totally immerses herself in the character and Streep the actor is gone. The movie itself is another matter because I learned nothing new and the device of telling the story here is awkward and annoying. Writer Abi Morgan and director Phyllida Lloyd jump back and forth showing the older, retired Thatcher and the younger college, career bound Thatcher. Then we jump to Prime Minister Thatcher dealing with the Falkland Wars. The movie jumps around too much and while I am not a big fan of the straight narrative approach this movie should have stayed put and gone in chronological order.

I could never get into the story of this movie for I am not that interested in or a huge fan of Thatcher or British politics. I wanted to be surprised and to learn something and all I learned is that Streep is a fantastic and lo and behold I already knew that. Meryl Streep is incredibly great in this role and I was also surprised at the look of the older Thatcher, how real Streep looked and how well she acted in those scenes. Old age make up and actors growing old in film is usually hammy and awkward. Though I cringed at the way the movie uses that old living charcacter talks to a dead character device. The movie has a fragile, older Thatcher talking to her dead husband Dennis played by Jim Broadbent. Those scenes, and there are a lot of them, distract from the story.

So if you love Meryl Streep I guess you should go see "The Iron Lady" but don't expect a weighty or powerful film. I felt nothing while watching except pure joy in watching Streep. I guess that is enough for you to see it, just to see Streep give another amazing performance and I think her best in years. So if you are a Meryl Streep fan you should go see it and she will be nominated for and even might win the Oscar. If you are not a big political movie fan or you couldn't care less about Thatcher you should skip it. This would be a great movie to watch next to my favorite Streep performance as Karen Silkwood on DVD so you can marvel at the wonderment of Meryl Streep.

P.S. For better Meryl Streep movies and better political bios check out "Silkwood", "Sophie's Choice" and "Kramer vs. Kramer". Political bios like the wink, wink Bill Clinton bio movie "Primary Colors" or "Nixon" would be great also.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


'Carnage' (R) (2 STARS)

Writers: Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza based on play "God of Carnage"
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz

There is a feeling among critics that movies based on stage plays fail most of the time because they are always too stagy. Some movies don't open up the story enough to leave it's stage confines. I have not seen the play "God of Carnage" but I have heard that it is faithful to the stage play and that the only scenes that is independent is it's opening and closing shot. The film deals with two couples of parents who meet after one of their kids had struck the other kid in the face with a stick during a fight. They meet in one of their apartments and the movie doesn't leave that location.

There is nothing wrong with a movie that will stay in one place and nothing wrong with a screen adaptaion of a stage play being stagy. As long as the acting is great, the story compelling and the dialogue intriguing all is good. One of my favorite movies is the screen adaptation of "Deathtrap" from 1982 which was all set in a writer's house. I have seen "Deathtrap" with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve over 50 times and I can recite all the dialogue. So a confined adaptation can be rewarding because that movie had great dialogue, twists and an expert use of that film's location.

"Carnage" has great acting and some priceless one liners but the movie never really gets going until it is too late. The last half hour really gets nasty and great but suddenly it is over and I was disaapointed. This movie has such a great cast and such a great premise I felt cheated when the movie abruptly ends. The movie's characters to me all seemed selfish, stuck up and boring people. There is nothing wrong with that and the movie wants to get nasty and wants to show up these characters and how mean and selfish they are. I do get what this movie is trying to do to us and why the story is set in one claustrophobic location. The movie is trying to make us uncomfortable as we try to laugh at what is unfolding but I didn't laugh as much as I wanted to.

All four actors are very good with Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as the parents of the victim and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as the parents of the kid who struck the other child. To me John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz come off the best. Foster and Winslet yell too much and a lot of movie goers will be put off by what seems like stage type acting. That is one of the reasons the movie felt stiff and fake to me and when you see a movie you don't want to feel like you are watching a play. There are some really good verbal attacks and a great running joke about the Christoph Waltz character always using his cell phone and interrupting conversations. There is also a lame running joke that deals with the Winslet character vomiting.

There are scattered, great insults and one liners but a lot of the dialogue to me was weak. I was bored in the first half but I started to like the second half but when I got comfortable the movie was over. This is a movie that would be better to wait for on DVD but I also fear a lot of people will hate this movie. These are not characters people will like and I felt after awhile they were beginning to annoy me even though I love all the actors. They are all really good but I wanted more intensity, more nastiness and I just wanted plain more.

P.S. For those who love priceless acting, twists and turns, nastiness, scares, chills, grand guigonol, laughs and intensity from a movie adaptation of a stage play netflix 1982's "Deathtrap" with Christopher Reeve, Michael Caine and Dyan Cannon. It is one of the best and most fun times I have ever had in a movie and a better adaptaion than "Carnage".

Friday, January 6, 2012

'Pariah' (11)

'Pariah' (R) (11) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written and Directed by Dee Rees
Starring: Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans, Pernell Walker, Aasha Davis, Charles Parnell

"Pariah" is the type of movie you don't see anymore and it is refreshing, extremely well acted and bold. There used to be movies that dealt with young black women trying to grow up in a quickly changing World. Heck I don't even see these types of movies dealing with white or hispanic girls either. There used to be some strong movies like this in the 80's and now with "Pariah" we get something even more rare. A movie that deals with a young black woman who is a lesbian and has to struggle with the the task of coming out to her parents. You have to treat a movie like this in the right way without any false moves and "Pariah" is almost perfect.

"Pariah" is a very sensitive and quietly powerful movie with some incredible acting that might fly under the radar. The captivating and wonderful Adepero Oduye plays Alike or Lee who has totally accepted her lesbianism. She hangs out with her best friend Laura and they frequent a lesbian strip bar located by a liquor store. Her mother suspects that her daughter is a lesbian so she tries to set her up with a friend's daughter from church to be a different influence on Lee. Her father is a police officer and he is blind to his daughter's sexual orientation because she is Daddy's little girl. The story of "Pariah" is dealt with in a sensitive and thoughtful manner and that is where it gets it's power.

The greatness of this movie starts with the acting and it is not only just the incredible performance by Adepero Oduye. Oduye is a revelation and she is natural and fierce showing how vulnerable she can be but also how strong she can be. It is a commanding performance and you never see her acting, it is a lived in performance. Another revelation is the performance by Kim Wayans of the famous comedy family The Wayans. Kim Wayans has given some great comedic performances in the televison classic "In Living Color" but she proves she can be an amazing dramatic actress as well with her great performance here. There is a scene at the end of this movie between mother and daughter that broke my heart due to Wayan's and Oduye's powerful performances.

There are also great supporting performances by Pernell Walker as Lee's best friend Laura. They strike up a believable friendship and Walker is also a natural. Laura is a lesbian also and she has her own powerful scene as she visits the mother who left her and her sister on their own when Laura came out that also broke my heart. I also think Charles Parnell is a real find and very solid as Lee's father Arthur and Lee and Arthur also have a powerful and touching scene near the end.

"Pariah" reminds me of the movie "Precious" in it's frankness and thoughtfulness. It is not as forceful as "Precious" but in it's own quiet way it is almost as great. It is a different type of coming of age and settling in your own skin movie but just as important. This is a movie that is a must see for any young girl struggling with her sexual identity as for any teenage girl actually. It is also one of the best movies of the year and something everyone should see.

'In the Land of Blood and Honey' (11)

'In the land of Blood and Honey' (R) (11) (2 STARS)

Written and Directed By Angelina Jolie
Starring: Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija

Angelina Jolie is a very smart actress and political activist and she makes a sturdy and impressive directorial debut with "In the Land of Blood and Honey". I like the look of the movie and the acting and Jolie proves she could be an amazing director. I just wanted a stronger love story to counter balance the repetitive rape scenes and bombings. I wouldn't mind all the grim scenes because the subject matter is stark and sobering but I felt the main story lacked strength to strike a good balance.

"In the Land of Blood and Honey" is set during the Bosnian War in the mid 90's and has a promising and convoluted love story set amid the conflict. Ajla and Danijel are first seen at a night club in Bosnia when an explosion goes off as they are dancing close to each other. This is before the war starts and their relationship is halted. Danijel is fighting for the Serbs and Ajla is a Muslim and is hated by the Christian Serbs. Danijel is one of those Serbs and their growing love will be tested by Danijel's loyalty to the other side.

Angelina Jolie does a great job capturing the ugliness and tragedy of this senseless war. Her directing is assured and completely focused but it is her writing of the story that lets her down. There are a lot of rape scenes as a movie capturing this war should have. So many Muslim women were raped and many women, men and children were needlessly shot dead. This is a war movie that is in the mold of "Schindler's List" which was a brutal movie. The difference was that "Schindler's List" had an amazing and powerful story in the middle of the carnage. "In the Land of Blood and Honey" lost my interest quickly because I felt Ajla and Danijel's love story grew tiresome to me so that all the kill shots and rape scenes had the same effect on me. You need a story to grab on to if you are dealing with subject matter like this.

I also did not learn anything about the Bosnian War from this movie and there are no explanations for why there was all this senseless rape and killing. This movie also needed something like "Hotel Rwanda" with a main character we believed in and something to explain why this conflict was happening. The acting by Zana Marjanovic and Goran Kostic is very good but their characters kind of bored me after a while. Angelina Jolie has a very promising future career as a director, she has the chops. Sadly her first film needed better writing and more firepower. Saying that I do hope to see Jolie direct another movie very soon.

P.S. For better types of movies like this you should check back on Steven Spielberg's iconic and powerful "Schindler's List", "Hotel Rwanda" and "United 93".