Category Archives: Drama

Reign Over Me (2007)

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Reign Over Me

Reign Over Me

Tagline: “Let in the unexpected”

Alan Johnson has everything he needs to get through life: a good job, a beautiful and loving wife, and their wonderful children. Yet he feels isolated because he finds having a hard-working job and managing a family too much to handle and has no one to talk to about it. Charlie Fineman, on the other hand, doesn’t have a job or a family. He used to have both until he lost his family on the fateful day of 9/11, and the grief he felt caused him to quit his job and isolate himself from everyone around him. As it turns out, Alan and Charlie were roommates in college, and a chance encounter one night rekindles the friendship they shared. But when Charlie’s problems become too much to deal with, Alan is determined to help Charlie come out of his emotional abyss.

I am going to point you to the review by babubhaut, an IMDB user, which sums up my feeling of the movie nicely.

I am not quite sure why Sandler went with the Bob Dylan impersonation for this role but, that quirk not-withstanding, his performance is quite moving. Don Cheadle is always great. Jada Pinkett Smith is generally irritating, but her role here is small enough that I didn’t mind her.

Yes, it’s a message film – and it’s predictable. But it is still lovely and I know my family and friends will enjoy it.


Rotten Tomatoes: critics 63%; users 86%

The Professional (1994)

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The Professional

The Professional

As visually stylish as it is graphically violent, this thriller directed by Luc Besson concerns Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has been exposed to the sordid side of life from an early age: her family lives in a slum and her abusive father works for drug dealers, cutting and storing dope. Mathilda doesn’t much care for her parents, but she has a close bond with her four-year-old brother. One day, she returns from running an errand to discover that most of her family, including her brother, have been killed in a raid by corrupt DEA agents, led by the psychotic Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda takes refuge in the apartment of her secretive neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno), who takes her in with a certain reluctance. She discovers that Leon is a professional assassin, working for Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob kingpin based in Little Italy.

Not for everyone. As the synopsis says, it is quite graphically violent. It is also…oddly sweet. Damaged souls who find each other and form a new family, a plot device that has been used often – though not often so well.

The story is engaging, the direction is beautiful, the performances are absolutely top notch. You may find Gary Oldman’s turn a bit much, it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it bit of overacting. I found it deliciously psychotic.

And there is simply no way you could watch this movie and not see the future stardom in store for a young Natalie Portman.

It loses a bit on the Word of Mouth Scale because of the violence & language. But, if you can handle a fair amount of blood and cussing, this movie should be on your list.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 79%; Audience 94%

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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Pan’s Labyrinth

In 1944 fascist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.

Beautiful, captivating, mesmerizing . . . and a story, as well.

The subtitles were a bit of a distraction since the images were so amazing. Like with Amelie, I hated to look away from the picture to catch the dialog.

The movie is not, however, all fairies and bows and butterflies. It has serious brutality, which is why it loses a star. I am not sure this is a movie I would recommend to my sister, for instance.

This movie is much like Life is Beautiful, involving a fantasy world which helps a child deal with a world which is frightening and harsh.


Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing: critics 96%; users 94%

Shadowboxer (2005)

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Shadowboxer

A late-career change of heart leads to a dangerous life on the run for two seasoned assassins whose complex relationship masks a dark past in Shadowboxer, Lee Daniels‘ pulpy film noir. But when Rose is diagnosed with terminal cancer; she decides to carry out one final killing.

Sounds like a good idea and a great cast; Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding, Stephen Dorff.

Unfortunately, it fails miserably. Even the fine acting can’t save this creepy, icky flick.

I’d sooner sit through 32 hours of Congressional committee testimony about imported yarn than watch “Shadowboxer” again.

Violence, sex….it only merits the half star on the Word of Mouth Scale because of the great cast…and Cuba Gooding’s great backside


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 19%; Audience 40%

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

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Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

With a cast this great, you know I was expecting a lot. Truth is, this movie was all about the cast, I can’t imagine it working with any other group of actors.

Little Miss Sunshine is one of those rare movies that brilliantly mixes laughter and heartache to engross you in every obstacle the characters face on this arduous journey down the road and through life.

We laughed so hard through this movie, our cheeks hurt by the end. I fell in love with this family and cringed at each of their misadventures.

It loses points on the Word of Mouth Scale only because of the overabundance of foul language, and some unnecessary (though very funny) sexual conversations.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 91%; Audience 91%

Hard Candy (2005)

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Hard Candy

Hard Candy

Hayley’s a smart, charming teenage girl — but even smart girls make mistakes.

She’s hooking up in a coffee shop with Jeff, a guy she’s met on the Internet. And even though he’s a cute, smooth high-end fashion photographer in his early 30s, Hayley shouldn’t be suggesting that the two of them go back to his house-alone.

Here is where the Word of Mouth Scale gets confusing; this was quite a good movie but, due to the subject matter and graphic presentation, I can’t recommend it to most of my circle. I can’t imagine my mother enjoying it, after all.

This is an interesting concept, fairly well executed. You need to have pretty tight writing and extraordinary performances when the entire story involves two characters on one set. The dialog is crisp and intense and the actors are up to the challenge.

Movies generally require a suspension of disbelief, and this one is no exception. It clings precariously close to the edge for so long, I thought it would make it all the way. Unfortunately, just before the bathroom scene (you’ll know it when you see it) the train jumps clean off the tracks. There were moments after when I thought they were going to manage to regroup and bring the story to a convincing conclusion – no such luck.

I still think it is a really good movie, an original concept, a risky staging……just not great.

And it is very graphic – so

“Disturbing, controversial, but entirely engrossing, Hard Candy is well written with strong lead performances, especially that of newcomer Ellen Page. A movie that stays with the viewer long after leaving the theater.”


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 68%; Audience 76%

Friends With Money (2006)

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Friends With Money

A drama about three married women, their husbands, and their lone single friend.

This movie is every bit as exciting as that tagline makes it sound – yawn

I found this review by Tony Medley that sums it up nicely, though the film apparently kept his attention more than it did mine. Besides the criticisms he mentions, I found the story to be tedious, boring, monotonous, characterless, cloying, colorless, drab, dull, humdrum, insipid, prosaic, routine, spiritless, stale, stereotyped, stupid, tiresome, trite, unexciting, vapid…..


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 71%; Audience 37%

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