Riding in an elevator is a genuine phobia for some and getting stuck in one isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Now, imagine not only are you trapped in an elevator with four other people but one of them is also a cold-blooded killer who is picking the rest of you off one by one. That’s the simple “and then there were none” setup of the movie, Devil. M. Night Shyamalan wrote this low-budget, limited location supernatural thriller set in Philadelphia, although the setting hardly matters. I’m not a big fan of Shyamalan’s work who is a far better showman than he is a writer/director and who for years has been riding on the success of his one stroke of brilliance, The Sixth Sense.

The stripped down to the basics Devil though is a made to order rental meant to be watched in the comfort of your home with a bowl of popcorn. Chris Messina, still memorable from his turn as Claire’s mainstream lawyer boyfriend on Six Feet Under, is Detective Bowden who in the course of investigating a suicide in the area is called to the scene when things start to get out of hand. Continue reading »

Nelson Ascencio

The Brooklyn mouth speaks with actor and comedian Nelson Ascencio of MADtv fame. After taking a break from acting, the Cuban-born Ascencio returned to the screen last year in Paul and appears in the movie The Hunger Games as Flavius, a member of Katniss Everdeen’s prep team.

Ascencio speaks candidly about the ups and downs of the business and what keeps him inspired.

Big surprise, Meryl Streep delivers another of her spot on performances as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Seriously, by this point audiences know Streep will bring it. Unfortunately, The Iron Lady does not even come close to equaling the level of her work.

The structure of the film is disjointed and just plain annoying. The story jumps back and forth between the present day Thatcher who suffers from dementia and snippets of her as a young woman on the rise and as the first female Prime Minister of England. Thatcher’s condition was brought on by a series of strokes, a fact that I had to look up because the filmmakers assume we know all the details of Thatcher’s life. As a result, the audience gets only a surface look at this fascinating political and historical figure. The constant switching back and forth means that as soon as we get caught up in and invested in what’s going on, the timeline switches to the modern day Thatcher who roams around her house speaking to her dead husband. Continue reading »

The beginning of War Horse consists of sweeping vistas of the English countryside accompanied by uplifting music to underscore “we shall overcome” moments designed to make the audience cry as Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) bonds with his horse, Joey while training him.

Albert’s father, Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) a stubborn drunk sets out to buy a workhorse to plow the fields but instead ends up overbidding for a beautiful yet impractical thoroughbred he can’t afford. Emily Watson is the matriarch, Rose who doesn’t approve of her husband’s actions but remains loyal to him. Ted’s irresponsible impulse leaves the family on the verge of losing their home and livelihood. Up to this point, the film is beautifully shot, well acted and entirely predictable.

It isn’t until World War I erupts that the story takes off and starts feeling more real and less manipulative. Ted sells the horse to the cavalry and the rest of the story follows Joey and the numerous people who come in contact with him throughout the war. The film comes to life as Joey affects individuals from disparate backgrounds and both sides of the conflict to lend a human face to war. Joey’s encounters illustrate what we already know; war is brutal, random and leaves no one untouched. Continue reading »

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