Everyone’s a Critic: Cars 2 and Fish Tank

Hi everyone! Welcome to another edition of Everyone’s a Critic! Pardon my lack of reviews this week and the next as I’m quite busy planning/preparing for our California trip next week, yes, less than two weeks away until Comic Con! 😀

Anyway, check out the reviews below courtesy of my good friends Vince C. and Paula G.

CARS 2 (2011)

My son (who turned 4 this past month) is one of the millions of faithful Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater fans in the universe. He has seen Cars a few hundred times by this point and numerous movies on Netflix streaming and DVD – but he had never been to a movie theater and so what better way to christen this young lad into the joys of big screen entertainment than by seeing Cars 2? Win, win, right?

First, I should say, for his attention span, I credit (my son) for seeing the movie all the way through without demanding to go home for one reason or other. The movie was loud even to an adult’s ears and I was worried about him becoming overwhelmed. There was also the distraction of new surroundings for him. For the most part, he watched in interest, but with a consistent stoic expression. By the end, I sensed a mild disappointment.

During the course of the movie, he asked, “Where are the tractors?”, “Where’s McQueen?” and “Is Mack gonna be there?” From his perspective, this was really Mater’s movie which is great. Lightning McQueen (the star of the first movie) plays a supporting role; but because the movie is now set abroad across the globe, many of the lovable sub-characters from Cars 1 are not in Cars 2. And that is the problem with this action packed, spy themed, sequel. Gone is the compelling backstory of Route 66, of McQueen’s character development from arrogant racecar to earthbound ego and most importantly, the cool desert landscape of Radiator Springs.

A colleague once commented that the original Cars could’ve been made as a live-action movie with real actors in real settings and be just as good – it was written well enough to satisfy this adult’s (and most other parents) expectation. Cars has become a classic in story and technical achievement. Cars 2 needed a good story to balance out its technical boisterousness. Unfortunately, it was all loud explosions and no ‘bang’ (more like a clunk). This was clearly reflected in my son’s reaction to it – indifferent.

2 out of 5 reels

FISH TANK (2009)

Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a 15-year-old girl living in a cramped apartment in a housing project with her young single mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths). Mia has anger issues (as does Joanne) and has been kicked out of school. Mostly she spends her time practicing her hip-hop dance moves in an empty apartment. Joanne resents both girls and doesn’t care much for their welfare. There is a lot of yelling and arguing which sometimes turns physical. Into this gunpowder factory comes some dynamite, in the form of Connor (Michael Fassbender), Joanne’s latest boyfriend.

At first, it seems like Connor will be the family’s savior. He’s handsome and charming, but more than anything, his presence is like a shot of normal loving parenthood. He’s encouraging, nicer to them than their mother is, and does normal dad things. But he also flirts with Mia and says and does some inappropriate things. It soon becomes clear that Mia’s attracted to him, he may be attracted to her, and that Joanne views her older daughter as competition. When Connor moves into the apartment, things get really complicated.

It is easy to see why this film won a bunch of awards, including the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film and the Jury Prize at Cannes. Director Andrea Arnold got uniformly great performances from her actors, particularly Jarvis and Fassbender, who makes a potentially sinister character complex and likable. Their chemistry is a big factor in the film’s believability.

It’s also an amazing-looking film. Mostly using what looks to me like natural light, Arnold keeps the camera moving, and also uses slow motion and changing focus in subtle ways, for instance to show when Mia’s emotions are overwhelming her. It is also a very subjective film, almost everything that happens is experienced through Mia. Most of the time, we’re looking over her shoulder, seeing through her eyes and even hearing what she hears, especially where Connor is concerned.

It is interesting to note that the film was shot chronologically, and the actors were shown only a week’s worth of script (which Arnold also wrote) at a time. None of them knew what would happen to their characters later in the film. This improvisation keeps it real and explains why I sometimes felt like I was eavesdropping.

I love this film but I’m not sure I’d say I enjoyed it. It’s is funny at times, but more often uncomfortable and disquieting. Mia’s narrow, trapped life and the strong possibility that she will repeat the cycle of poverty are sad. The film is honest and flawlessly done, and it is well worth watching.

4 out of 5 reels

Have you seen either one of these films? Do share your thoughts below.

Everyone’s a Critic – Flame & Citron, Faster Reviews

Welcome to another edition of Everyone’s a Critic! It’s been about three months since the last EaC post, and as always, we’ve got two very different genres from FC’s loyal readers/contributors. Special thanks to my pals Paula and Ted!


Made in Denmark in 2008, and based on actual events, the largely unseen Flame and Citron takes us into the world of two members of Holger Danske, the Danish Resistance during World War II. The Nazis have invaded and taken over Denmark. The Gestapo, Wehrmacht, Abwehr, and SS are everywhere. In this lethal atmosphere, two Danish patriots liquidate traitors—Danes who collaborate with the Nazis—knowing that being caught means certain death. Baby-faced killer Bent (Danish actor Thure Lindhardt), known to the authorities and his colleagues in the Resistance as Flame , is intense and reckless, though there’s an ever-increasing price on this head.

Told by his partner Jørgen to dye his ginger hair or wear a hat, Bent ignores the suggestion. Jørgen, a.k.a Citron (Mads Mikkelsen – Casino Royale, Valhalla Rising), is quiet and determined. He is a relatively old hand at Resistance activities; he was involved before Bent and is the last surviving member of an earlier underground group. His involvement is presumably what led to his split from his wife and his pill habit…he sleeps in his car. They have the chemistry of longtime law enforcement partners chasing bad guys in a buddy picture (which, if you think about it, they are), but these characters are well-drawn and well-acted, so they go beyond rookie and veteran stereotypes. We see their personalities and quirks and are invested from the beginning.

Their boss is the shadowy Aksel Winther, a well-connected police solicitor, who is supposedly getting orders from the British. Can they trust him? Bent and Jørgen, and the viewer, only have Winther’s word for it. Because business must be conducted in secret, no one really knows. “There aren’t many of us, and it’s hard to tell who does what,” Bent says. As the film begins, they run afoul of Winther for a killing he didn’t order. Winther says he just wants them to be disciplined, but later it seems he is shielding some of the traitors who make Bent’s trigger finger itch. Why does Winther order Bent and Jørgen to execute certain people but forbid them from taking out the head of the Gestapo in Denmark? Is he trying to maintain all of their covers or is he a double agent?

Flame and Citron draws on film noir and previous WWII espionage movies. Director Ole Christian Madsen has acknowledged particularly Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 neo-noir Army of Shadows, about a group in the French Resistance. As in that film, colors are mostly desaturated, suggesting the austerity of life during a Nazi occupation. There is a femme fatale, of course. Mysterious and cool, Ketty (Stine Stengade) is introduced with a building dissonance on the soundtrack. She reels Bent in even though he thinks he knows her game. And in the beginning, there is also a weary-detective-style voiceover by Bent, which Madsen uses to place the viewer in much the same position as our anti-heroes. We get pieces of the puzzle, but never really know exactly what’s going on, until the end. If then. But the film is resolutely its own thing—a shadowy spy thriller with a dose of documentary style, a partial history of the Danish Resistance including a side order of star-crossed romance, all in one fascinating and affecting film. As it progresses, there is sense of increasing paranoia as the Nazis close in and the two become tangled in an ever-thickening web of lies. It kept me guessing until the end and made me think about what I would do if I were in their places.

– review by Paula @ Paula’s Cinema Club


Faster was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson first true action film since Doom and it was pretty entertaining. The story is about an ex-con who just got released from prison and decided to go on a killing spree to avenge his brother’s death years ago. Along the way, he was being tracked by a contract killer and a veteran cop with a suspect background. The movie pretty much focused on these three characters, The Rock played a character simply named Driver, Billy Bob Thornton played the cop and new comer Oliver Jackson-Cohen played the hired killer. Director George Tillman Jr. was really trying to pay homage to 1970s action thriller, if you’re a fan of 70s cinemas like myself then I think you’ll know what I mean when you see Faster. For the most part he succeeded, but I thought he totally messed up the last 20 or so minutes of the film.

The movie starts out like its title, fast and faster. Driver got out of jail and proceeded to start killing his prey one by one. Then we were introduced to the other two characters, Killer and Cop and also we got to know a little bit about their personal lives. I think it was bold move by the filmmakers to tell the story this way, considering the trailer made it look like the film was about The Rock going on a killing spree and kicking ass, well he did a lot of that. But it was kind of surprise to see these other two characters shared the same amount of screen time as the lead character. I think that’s the weakness of the movie, instead of focusing on the lead actor, they’ve decided to also focus on the two lesser interesting characters. I would’ve preferred to see more of Driver’s background and have the cop and killer just in supporting roles.

As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed this movie up until the last 20 minutes or so. I thought the ending was quite predictable and didn’t live up to its title. I wanted to see hard and fast action for the finally but it never happened. They included the alternate ending on DVD/Blu-ray that has a big action scene but it didn’t make sense so I was glad they cut it out. I just think the writers should’ve came up with a better ending and delivered a rousing action for the climax.

I do recommend it if you’re in the mood from mindless action flick, but don’t expect too much from it.

– review by Ted S.

Any thoughts about either or both of these films? Do share ‘em below in the comments.

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC: Life as We Know It, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Thin Red Line

It’s been almost a year since I had an Everyone’s a Critic post! I shall try to have this a bit more regular, perhaps more of a quarterly feature on this blog. Special thanks to Mike Beery (check out Mike’s contributor page), my Twi-mom friend Marianne Lemire, and FC’s frequent guest blogger Ted S. for their awesome reviews!

Life as We Know It (2010)

By Mike Beery

If you’ve seen the trailer on this one you know pretty much all there is to know about the story. Holly Berenson (Heigl) is a bakery owner and Eric Messer (Duhamel) is a playboy who works as a TV director for the local NBA team. Back in 2007 the couple is setup on a blind date by their best friends that goes bad fast and is never to be forgotten. These same best friends that later marry and have a super cute little baby girl. When tragedy strikes, Holly and Eric are left as guardians to the orphaned child. The will states they must live under the same roof in order to care for her. That’s when this flick kicks into overdrive.

The next hour is spent stringing together gag after gag showing how hard babies and toddlers can be to raise. How they can get in the way of your love life – if you have one to begin with! Eric is still a crazed bachelor that seems to only be doing this because he has to. Holly, a very desirable woman can’t seem to get his attention. As the movie wears on Eric is slowly transformed into this awesome Dad, that finally seems to be noticing Holly’s charms. Yes it seems that a wild ladies-man can be conquered by the lure of a good woman and “family life”.

The tension of forced parenthood and the chaos of trying to live with someone you’re not involved with climaxes just when Eric gets a job offer that takes him to the other side of the country. This is a welcomed break from all the toddler antics and it’s where the films develops some drama.

The film turns “feel good” after that conflict is resolved then quickly moves into happy ending mode. The remainder of the movie is a chick-flick fantasy come true with Eric becoming a dashing prince that has changed his player ways.

If you love babies, sexual tension, a relationship that seemed doomed but ends happily then this one if for you. As a chick-flick, this will do well as a rental. It’s got all the essential elements wrapped up into one neat package.

Twilight Saga: ECLIPSE (2010)

by Marianne Lemire

[Review may contain spoilers]

A while back my sister asked me if I wanted to read the Twilight series. I said ‘no thank you’ – I’m not interested in some teenage hype books. However, when the first Twilight movie series trailer came out – well, let’s just say my whole perception of the series changed. I watched the movie when it came out on DVD and that’s all it took for me to become a fan. I’ve since purchased the books series and read them twice. I now own all 3 movies and watch them multiple times. And I can’t wait for the two upcoming Breaking Dawn movies to come out.

Let me tell you why I love the story so much. What I see between Bella and Edward is rare and you don’t see in movies any more. A love and respect for one another. Bella Swan is a girl who is clumsy and insecure. Edward Cullen is a guy so handsome that you are not able to tear your eyes away from him. Bella and Edward are drawn to one another by an unnatural union of love. Their emotions for each other are so vivid, so intense, that you feel you are a part of their lives and you are drawn to their characters. What makes this unusual is that Edward is a vampire. There is also Jacob, someone that Bella became friends with when she first moved to Forks. Their friendship strengthened when Edward had left Bella for awhile thinking he was keeping Bella safe from the vampire Victoria. Victoria became the enemy when Edward killed her lover, James, while trying to protect Bella. During the time of Edward’s absence, Bella and Jacob’s friendship grew, but Bella couldn’t deny her love for Edward. Bella is still real adamant about Edward turning her – he would only agree to do it if she became his wife. He presented Bella with his grandmother’s engagement ring and proposed to her. Bella seemed hesitant. First, there’s the whole idea of getting married at her age and she was also concerned about the rumors going around. But it also mean that she would be with Edward forever as a vampire. So she said yes, but she wouldn’t wear the ring just yet.

Jacob was going through a rough time and was been keeping his distance, part for because of his love for Bella, but also because the turn of events in his life. Jacob is a werewolf along with the other members of his tribe. Now with the latest killings in Seattle, he has resurfaced to make sure that Bella is safe. The group behind the killings are newborns (newly turned vampires) and the person behind this new army is Victoria, her mission is to avenge James’ death. But they also had to worry about the Volturi’s involvement – the group who police the activities of all vampires – where the newborns were not hiding any of their actions. The Cullen family have come to terms with Jacob and his wolf pack to form a truce to end the killings and destroy the newborns and Victoria.

The battle between the groups was action packed, intense and engaging. While the fight was going on – there was only Edward and Seth (who is part of the wolf pack) to protect Bella in a secluded area, but Victoria along with Riley (the leader of the newborns) was successful in their quest to find them. Between Edward and Seth – they were able to fight off and kill them both – Bella is now safe. The Volturi showed up after the battle to make sure everything was taken care of – and Bella announced that a date has been set when she will be turned. Edward and Bella can now continue with their lives knowing the relationship between the Cullens and Jacob and the pack seems to be working itself out and they have a better understanding of each other and have mutual respect.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  I guess I am a hopeless romantic.

The Thin Red Line (1998)

By Ted Saydalavong

After 20 years absence, Terrence Malick came back to Hollywood and made, in my opinion, one of the best war films ever. It’s on my top five favorite films of all time. It tells the fictional story of United States forces during the Battle of Guadalcanal in WW II. The film focused mostly on the five soldiers in The C Company, these soldiers were played by Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Ben Chaplin and Elias Koteas. The men of C Company have been brought to Guadalcanal as reinforcements in the campaign to seize the island from the Japanese. The film was based on a novel by James Jones. The original cut of the film ran over 5 hours long and after trimming it down to two and half hours, the footage of the performances by Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Bill Pullman, Jason Patric, Viggo Mortensen and Mickey Rourke have been removed.

As with most of Malick’s films, we get to hear what each character is thinking and we see some flashbacks of their lives back in the States. Out of all the characters in the movie, I thought Nic Nolte’s character was the most important one. He played an aging Lt. Colonel Tall, who’s been passed over for promotions too many times and wants to win this battle so he can impress his superiors and maybe getting that promotion finally. Nolte’s performance was so intense that you’d think his character is a lunatic, but to me it’s his last despiration attempt to prove to his superiors and to himself that he can still command and win a battle at his age.

Jim Caviezel (left) in The Thin Red Line

There’s a great scene in the movie where he orders his captain played by Elias Koteas to attack the hills but the captain refused because his men are dying and outnumbered, the expression’s on Nolte’s face was just pitch perfect. You can tell that he can’t believe one of his men is disobeying him and that he cannot do anything about it. I thought it was Nolte’s greatest performance and he should’ve gotten an Oscar for it. There’s also another great scene by Nolte after they took over the Japanese base camp, he was sitting by himself and he looked around at the corpses and started crying. Is he crying because he won the battle or was it from regret that he pushed his men too hard and a lot of them lost their lives? I’m leaning towards the latter.

Another great thing about this movie was that Malick decided to show the horror of war through emotional and psychological side instead of gore. The film has lots of violence but it wasn’t as graphic as most war films. Also, the score my Hans Zimmer is so haunting and beautiful at the same. Last but certainly not least, is the great cinematography by John Toll. The film looked spectacular. Malick wanted to shoot the whole film on 65mm but found out that there aren’t many theaters that can project 70mm prints. So he and Toll decided to just shoot it in 35mm.

If you’re a fan of Malick and haven’t seen this film yet, please check it out. And if you a Blu-ray player, I highly recommend you get the Criterion Collection (watch for a CC related post tomorrow). The picture and sound is just amazing.

Have you seen any of these movies? Love ’em or hate ’em, chime in below.

Everyone’s a Critic: Reviews from FC readers (6th Edition)

This edition’s of Everyone’s a Critic‘s series happen to be movies that exceeds the reviewers’ expectation. In fact, Mike was practically baffled why Remember Me had gotten such terrible reviews – which at 28% is exactly the same Tomatometer as Twilight Saga: New Moon. He thought that this indie drama definitely has much more depth than that vapid vampire flick and shows that R-Patz actually has acting chops. I have not seen any of these movies, but I do plan on seeing them once they arrive on dvd. Special thanks to Corinne, Mike and Alan for their kind contribution!

Alice in Wonderland
– by Corinne Olson

A few friends and I were all geek-ed about seeing Shutter Island. So we all met for lunch and thought we had plenty of time to get to the theater for the 2:00 show. But when we got there at 1:55, we found that Shutter Island had already started at 1:30. So after 5 minutes of arguing about what we should do, we all decided to go to the 3D version of Alice in Wonderland which was starting at 2:00.

I love Tim Burton movies and of course I love Johnny, but for some reason I had low expectations for this movie since I heard it had a cool reception in England. We’re already a little late going into the theater so we were stuck sitting in the front and off to the side. I hadn’t sat that close to a movie screen for 20 years.

Doesn't Johnny look a bit like Elijah Wood as Hatter?

Then the trailers started and we put on our 3D glasses. Then the movie started and after a funny beginning where Alice (Mia Wasikowska) seems more interested in chasing a rabbit down a hole than accept a proposal of marriage, the movie turns into this strange but beautiful alien world of strange creatures, plants, and disproportionately figured people. Alice is thrown into a world where  all these creatures in “Underland” are terrified of the dreaded “Red Queen” (Helena Bonham Carter), who Screems “OFF WITH THEIR HEAD!!!” to anyone that disagrees with her. She is my favorite (human) character in the movie.

Yes, Johnny Depp is really good as the Mad Hatter but Helena is a scream with her over-sized head and her super-diva Kate Gosselin-like attitude. She really pules that off. Then there’s my favorite digital character, the “Cheshire the cat”. This creature pops in and out throughout the movie with all the creepiness you’ve come to expect in a Burton movie. The 3D effect works especially well with the cat as it looks like you going to be nabbed out of your seat and eaten alive. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually loved this movie for the 3D effects more than Avatar. I’m not sure if it’s from sitting closer or what, but I felt like things were coming out at me more than with the Avatar 3D effects. In fact, I would recommend sitting closer then you normally would in a 3D movie. It seemed to enhance my experience anyway.


Remember Me
– by Mike Beery

I was dragged to this one my my significant other. Now I’m a dude, so Robert Pattinson doesn’t exactly do it for me, however, my lady was interested so what was I to do? We both knew the reviews were pretty bad so perhaps that put us in a general mind-set not to expect much. It was from there that I grew more and more engaged as the movie dug deeper into the storyline.

Pattinson plays Tyler, a rebellious young man in New York City, who has a strained relationship with his father played quite believably by Pierce Brosnan. Tyler doesn”t think anyone can possibly understand what he is going through until the day he meets Ally played by Emilie de Ravin. Love was the last thing on his mind, but as her spirit unexpectedly heals and inspires him, he begins to fall for her. This is about as happy as it gets.

A series of rather sad circumstance unfold one after another. All is well with regards to the writing and acting, however, it’s not happy stuff. Perhaps it’s here where most of the reviewers were lost with this film. I’m not one to shy away from slightly depressing story lines, as that’s often how life is, as long as the portrayal is well done. This film does explore Tyler’s life in a respectful manner, as sad as it is. Remember Me isn’t the typical “tear jerker” love story at all. It’s a love story, it’s sad, but the two aren’t related. It’s that disconnect that adds to the movies “unlikeability”. Because it’s really about a young man that just can’t get past several tragedies in his life, and then, in the end, it’s too late for him to have a chance to do so. Adding to the ultimate sadness of this film.

Personally I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it. It’s engaging and memorable – lingering with you after you leave the theater.


The Invention of Lying
– by Alan Markham

I have to admit going into this movie I was more than skeptical (given the weak title), but Gervais’s sharp wit and humor quickly turned me around. Co-written and co-directed by Ricky Gervais and Mathew Robinson, this romantic comedy does a good job of making the viewer think while also making them laugh.

In this movie, Gervais plays the character of a failing screenwriter who exists in a world where no one tells a lie. Early on in the movie though, Gervais soon discovers [the idea of] lying, and this begins to dramatically change/improve the world in which he lives. Part of this world involves Jennifer Garner, whom Gervais meets on a blind date, and Rob Lowe, a competitive coworker that Gervais has a hard time measuring up to.

I believe what makes this movie so entertaining is the fact that it makes you think about lying and how much lying really takes place on a daily basis… and how that really isn’t such a bad thing. During the movie I found myself wincing several times as characters delivered brutally honest lines to one another. The saying “The truth hurts” was never quite so apparent.

Entertaining movie for the most part… go see it!