Friday, May 29, 2009

Movie Review: Powder Blue & Crossing Over


Powder Blue

Featuring: Jessica Biel, Eddie Redmayne, Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta, Lisa Kudrow, Patrick Swayze, Kris Kristofferson, Alejandro Romero

Genre: drama

Plot: A couple of days around Christmas in the lives of a few people whose life is on the brink.

Acting: Nothing to complain there though Jessica Biel makes for a really bad stripper.

Drama: Let’s see… one is dying, one’s kid is dying, and another one is begging to be killed, yep plenty of drama.

Action: a few bar brawls, nothing major.

Funny: Nope, it’s not supposed to be.

Visuals: Nothing outstanding, but it is nicely shot and pretty good editing as a whole.

Soundtrack: That was interesting because it had plenty of vocals and not just instrumental parts like most movie have. Wouldn’t mind getting a copy of that.

Official website:

Comments: Since the beginning we get the feeling that this can’t end well, not with drug use, terminal cancer, coma, and suicidal characters. It’s pretty depressing. I wish people stopped making movies following the Crush recipe. This movie is far from it and I can’t say I liked even that one much. It’s about lost souls, and I found it a bit ironic and frustrating that the good man and the innocent child get the short end of the stick while the stripper and the priest get absolution. It doesn’t exactly seem fair. And the blue snow that's falling over LA is more then cheesy. I guess the producers/director/script writer thought they saved the movie once they gave it sort of a happy ending, but unless you really like Ray Liotta, like I do (I had to chuckle at the mention of his eyes), or want to see Jessica Biel wearing close to nothing, very few people will find it worth their time.

Rating: 6/10

Crossing Over

Featuring: Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis, Summer Bishil, Alice Braga

Genre: drama

Plot: The immigration issues in the US.

Acting: Good enough for what the movie needs to portray.

Drama: Murder, blackmail, terrorism suspect, etc.

Action: Factory raids in search of illegal immigrants.

Funny: The young man trying to get a working visa by pretending to be a Jew, and especially the interview scene.

Visuals: Nicely shot and good editing, loved the colors of the city lights during the opening scene, but Harrisson Ford should stop wearing short sleeves while in front of the camera if he wants to preserve his image.

Soundtrack: -

Official website:

Comments: This is another movie that follows the trend started by Crush, only that this one deals with a more painful reality: immigrants’ situation. The intertwined stories are touching in their own way. We get a peek into the system and get an idea of how it works, how it can be cheated and how it can screw you. Harrisson Ford is supposed to play the lead but enough attention is paid to the other storylines. I have to say there are a few unnecessary sex scenes and they’re not even artistically done. Aside from that the movie achieves what it was meant to do, with a bittersweet ending that makes you think about what’s fair in the world and what isn’t. I have to make a comment on how aging doesn’t do any favors to Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta, and that’s a shame because they are both quite good looking or they were at some point. It’s funny how Liotta is such a softy when he plays a good guy and still can make a character so more interesting when he plays a bad guy.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Librex International Book Fair

Over the past few years it became sort of a tradition to go to the book fair in the spring and return home with a bag full of books. The tradition also says that Dad pays for them. This year he kinda cheated, meaning that he went ahead to prospect the market and got his art books before we could all go. The Librex fair opened on 6th of May in Iasi and it was supposed to close on Sunday, on 11. We waited for the weekend to go there and see the offers. Saturday afternoon seemed like a good time to do it, the weather was great and there was still Sunday ahead to do the reading and enjoy our purchases.

As we walked down the street leading to Sala Polivalenta we couldn’t help notice that among the people coming up the hill towards the Palace of Culture were very few those who carried bags with what looked like books inside. What we feared became true once we got inside. Although there was a decent amount of visitors and discounts on every other stand, the number of actual buyers was considerably small. It was enough to look at the vendors’ bored faces to figure out the sells didn’t do well.

We started to the right, glad that we didn’t have to battle the crowd for a change. With a little patience, we could stop by each stand and check out the titles without being squeezed upon or breathed down our back. A voice was coming out through the speakers, too loud to the point of being annoying, a book launch or something, but that didn’t interest us, we were there for the books.

And books there were. Last year I missed the fair because of a cold, but before that the fair seemed to be smaller when it was hosted inside the Palace. Now there were over 100 publishing houses and a dozen of importers attending, or least that’s what the papers said. The numbers seem a little blown up to me but the place was nicely filled.

We did a full tour not missing one stand, big or small, important or not, interesting or not. From those that did interest me, I would have to say that Nemira was disappointing, from an aesthetical point of view but regarding the content as well. I was familiar with most of the titles, and those that might interest me I had to restrain myself and remember that I still had six coupons waiting to be used so I better spend my money somewhere else. The two boxes with books with a ridiculous high discount were rather tacky. No need to say people didn’t even look at them.

RAO looked good, it was probably one of the largest rented spaces, with classy bookshelves and small tables in the middle, on one of them the Twilight series being displayed and we gagged as we passed by it. Surprisingly, the place was almost empty, rarely one or two people entered to look at the books.

Vis-à-vis from it, Corint Junior looked nice and inviting full of colors as it was.

About an hour or so later we found ourselves approaching the exit and realized that we hadn’t bought a single book. Shock, horror, bitter laughter. Sadness. No, that would not do. We went back in because after all we did have to support the book industry. Long story cut short, I ended up getting The Time Traveler’s Wife and a couple of Neil Gaiman novels while little brother picked some fantasy books with a sexy chick on the cover, cause of course he didn’t bother to read the abstract on the back.

So now it’s not only the book industry, and world in general, that is going through a crisis. I have one week to finish a website and five books are winking at me from the corner of the desk. Feel free to guess what I am going to do tomorrow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Review: State of Play & Nothing But The Truth


State of Play

Featuring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels

Genre: thriller, drama

Plot: The death of a politician’s mistress investigated by a tenacious journalist leads to the unveiling of an entire plot.

Acting: Good as far as the lead players are concerned.

Drama: Politics, mistress, love triangle not involving the said mistress, office competition, security, rogue soldiers.

Action: there are a few action scenes full of tension.

Funny: come to think of it Crowe has the most part of the funny lines and he delivers them nicely.

Visuals: Let’s see, Rachel McAdams looks quite good and so does Robin Wright Penn even as thin as she is, and of course Helen Mirren looks great for her age. Ben Affleck is still at a age when top shape is not in danger to be lost and since he basically always looks the same it’s only a matter of taste whether you like him or not. Russell Crowe though, now he could use some CGI to remove the extra pounds and long, and for once not greasy, hair. I don’t care if he and the director thought this is the image that would best portray his character, if I have to stare for two full hours at Crowe then I’d rather stare at a Crowe in his prime thank you very much.

Soundtrack: a little odd in places but alright I guess.

Official website:

Comments: This movie looks like it was inspired from the 90s political thriller novels. Plot is well done with many twists and turns, but the pacing is off, too rushed to get to the next scene and the next scoop, which is in the detriment of the characters. There’s a lot of dialogue easy to follow and necessary to the plot, still this movie ain’t A Few Good Men, not by far.

We’re treated with good acting all around, even Ben Affleck delivers a decent, believable, and not flat performance, which is a rare thing in his case. Of course, you can see it from miles that this is Crowe’s gig, he even does a bit of singing in the beginning of the movie. He’s good as usual, not a surprise there, and if not better than in American Gangster or Body of Lies he’s definitely more enjoyable. Rachel McAdams draws the short end of the stick here, while she holds her own with what she’s given her character being down-played being a pale shadow of the hungry, witty, wannabe reporter, and looking more like a scared little mouse. Being only in a few scenes, Helen Mirren makes more of an impression than she does. No need to say Mirren deserved to have more screen time.

With the focus on the plot, that leaves little room for character development or even portraying them fully. The relationships are strained and more like sketched than fleshed out. We don’t really get a feel of them, just the idea of a stereotype.

There are also a couple of things that don’t quite work realistically speaking. The politician and the journalist are supposed to have been roommates in college when it’s obvious the physical age difference would have made it very unlikely for them to go to college in the same time, especially with Crowe looking older than his real age. Furthermore, everyone seems to be aware of the journalist’s crush on the politician’s wife and their affair, but the three of them have strange, unfit reactions regarding the matter and around each other.

Some clumsiness in the plot could be mentioned, Crowe’s reckless driving through the rain while making several phone calls in the absence of a hands-free device, the young journalist/blogger who never finds a pen and also doesn’t seem to have a mini-laptop, blackberry or cell phone to take notes or short messages, the new owners of the paper who are putting pressure on the redaction and so on.

Other than that it was an entertaining movie and not a waste of time as a whole.

Rating: 8/10

Nothing But The Truth

Featuring: Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Vera Farmiga, David Schwimmer, Noah Wyle

Genre: drama

Plot: There is a fine line between what is right and what is right for a certain person.
Acting: Alright, although awkward in places.

Drama: Woman goes to jail, loses her family and has to live with a death on her conscience.

Action: Chick fight in jail

Funny: Not at all.

Visuals: Nicely shot, bland and depressing at times.

Soundtrack: depressing

Official website:

Comments: After the alert State of Play this feels like dragging. It has an oddly put together cast of characters. We have the reporter who would protect the identity of her sources and go with it to her grave even it that destroys her family and she loses her child. And we get to see all that. While starting as a so-so youngster, Kate Beckinsale has turned out into a beautiful woman; unfortunately, just like Nicole Kidman, she cannot connect with the audience. One tries acting it and the other ones tries faking it but they both fails. That’s why the general public can’t really sympathize with her character. Sure, we understand her dilemma and feel bad for her, but we don’t “feel” her. Compared to her, Vera Farmiga’s character feels much more alive.

David Schwimmer as the reporter’s husband seemed an unexpected choice and totally down played in the second half of the movie, but he managed to play his part and look less silly and annoying than he did in Friends. It took me a moment to recognize him actually. Matt Dillon as the prosecutor attorney was an odd display and potentially wasted cast. He claimed he didn’t want to play the character as a bad guy, he wanted to play it as a good guy. Well, either way he failed. The attorney is not good or bad, he’s just someone who only cares about his work and has no human empathy for others. He’s like a terminator who once he’s got a mission just wouldn’t stop. There is no charisma whatsoever, and we all know Matt Dillon can do charisma damn well.

To this group Alan Alda is added as the lawyer defending the reporter. Another odd character, with a reputation based on fame and obsession for fine clothes and expensive items, who in the end turns out to be more human than we would expect. Angela Basset gives a hell of a lot of class to the scenes she’s in, as little time as that is. Not sure what Noah Wyle was doing in there, with his odd reactions, and I can not notice how badly he aged.

Of course, the moral question remains. Should have the reported divulged her source? Given the nature of her source we incline to believe that she should have. Just think about the money wasted with the investigation and all she’s been put through. There would have been no serious repercussions for the source, the CIA agent maybe wouldn’t have resigned losing her protection and therefore would have been still alive. Some people’s reputations would have been questioned, but that was a small price to pay. The way it is the ending is disappointing, and I’m not referring to the twist at the end. It sends the wrong message to the audience, saying basically ‘do not mess with the government because you will lose’. And that is just not right.

Rating: 7/10