From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Conspirator - C+

Rated PG-13, 123 minutes

The new Robert Redford film "The Conspirator" tells the story of Mary Surratt, who was convicted of helping murder President Abraham Lincoln and became the first woman executed by the federal government. With an A-list cast, a worthy story and a few compelling moments, Redford's overlong, idealistic film is an intriguing look though it fails to capture a huge emotional connection. Unsurprisingly, Redford and company change some key historical details for cinematic glory. Robin Wright is Surratt, James McAvoy is her attorney Frederick Aiken and Kevin Kline is Secretary of War Edward Stanton. If you're familiar with history, you already know what happens, but Redford wants you to believe that Surratt was harshly convicted so the U.S. Government could heal an ailing country from the Civil War and Lincoln's untimely death. Some of that might be true, though we may never really know what truly happened, ala Oliver Stone's "JFK," though the mildly entertaining "The Conspirator" isn't as ridiculous as that film's theories. A few enjoyable scenes and good performances from Wright and McAvoy highlight the film, though an overlong, uneven tone, particularly in the final act, somewhat dampers the film. Worth a look maybe for history buffs, otherwise wait to rent it.

Wes’s Grade: C+
Worth Seeing: Possibly, for history buffs.

Certified Copy - B

Rated PG-13, 112 minutes

"Certified Copy" is an original, if not, baffling and intriguing film. Starring the lovely Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche, it's a provocative, engaging film that's part romantic dramedy and part mystery. Binoche is a French antiques dealer and single mother who meets a British writer named James Miller (William Shimell) after a public discussion of one of his books, so he can sign a few copies for her. They then take a jaunt to a small French village where it leads to something far deeper than both had planned. This has a similar feel to the Linklater film "Before Sunrise" in scope and tone, except with a big plot twist that leaves the audience hanging. Directed and written by Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami it's a unique film, which only works because of the actors and not the uneven script. The best part of the film of course is the always luminous, lovely Bincoche, who delivers a nicely shaded turn as the antiques dealer. She and British actor/singer Shimell also have decent chemistry and deliver the material sublimely. "Certified Copy" will leave you to make the final decisions and complete the story yourself, which isn't always a great thing if you don't feel too manipulated. Worth a look, if just to see Binoche and nothing else.

Wes’s Grade: B
Worth Seeing: Yes, but mainly for seeing the always lovely Binoche.

Miral - B

Rated PG-13, 112 minutes

The dramatic film "Miral" is a compelling portrait of a young girl caught up in the Middle East conflict; I know many who have a difficult understanding a complex subject, but try being in the middle of it. The story centers on an orphaned Palestinian girl ("Slumdog Millionaire's" Frieda Pinto) growing up in the wake of Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict. She is raised in an orphanage by the opinionated but kind Hind (Hiam Abbass) but as she grows older love draws her first-hand into the difficulties her land faces, but even more important than the conflict her country faces is the inner conflict she has: stand up for what she believes or promote the peace she was taught by Hind. Director Julian Schnabel ("Diving Bell and the Butterfly") skillfully brings out the complexities the Middle East issues bring, and the autobiographical story, based on the life of Rula Jebreal is superbly acted. The downbeat story loses a little focus in the later going, but it's positive message is also a hopeful one. Worth a look to see how this issue affects people in different ways.

Wes’s Grade: B
Worth Seeing: Yes, a complex but downbeat story but Pinto is always lovely to watch.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Potiche - B

Rated R, 103 minutes
In French with English subtitles.

In French, the word potiche is a term used for “trophy wife.” That is the subject of the entertaining French dramedy “Potiche,” starring legendary actors Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. Set in 1977, Deneuve is the wife of a tyrannical factor owner (Fabrice Luchini), a despicable man both personally and professionally. Up until now she’s been a faithful, submissive wife, that is until he is held hostage by his employees and she ends up making some key business decisions for him, with assistance from the town’s mayor (Depardieu), with whom she had a fling years ago. Well-acted, funny and touching, Deneuve, now in her late 60s, is still a marvel as the woman who blossoms under less than ideal circumstances to become the person and woman she was meant to be. Based on a French play, the somewhat conventional story seems an unusual fit for young, unconventional French director Francois Ozon, but the feminist themes are brought out nicely. It’s also a treat seeing veteran French actors Deneuve and Depardieu together, who have a warm chemistry together, it’s worth seeing for that alone.

Wes’s Grade: B
Worth Seeing: Yes, especially for Deneuve and Depardieu fans.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York - A

Not rated, 84 minutes

Wes's Take:
If you've ever read the New York Times fashion columns over the years, you already know who Bill Cunningham is. He's the one responsible for those pictures of people on the street to show what the current trends are. Now in his 80s, Cunningham still rides his Schwinn bicycle all across New York City taking pictures of people on the street and various events. He's one of the last tenants living in Carnegie Hall; irrepressible and incomparable, he's a respected artist and person in many, many circles. Richard Press has created a detailed, sensitive but amusing portrait of man well-ahead of his time and who has had considerable influence over fashion photography and trends. Cunningham can certainly be a finicky artist, but a person you'd still like to get to know. One of the year's best documentaries about one of the last great American artists.

Wes's Grade: A
Worth Seeing: Touching and funny, one of the year's best docs and a must-see for fashionistas.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Scream 4 - B-

Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking, 103 minutes

Wes's Take:
Oh, what memories. Just when you thought it was safe to back to the theater, "Scream 4" returns, 10 years since "Scream 3" and with its majors players intact: Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, along with some fresh faces including Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere. Campbell's Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the killings to promote a new book, and the killings start happening again. Dewey (Arquette), now Sheriff of the town, and his wife, Gale (Cox), now must help Sidney endure another round of slayings. Bloody enjoyable and tongue-in-cheek fun that's better than the last couple of films in the series. The horror spoofing, is so like, 1990s by now, yet it works best when it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are a few good twists and while the identity of the killers isn't a huge surprise (not to mention the three leads have aged too much for this), you'll still enjoy it far more than you really should. This weathered Clinton-era franchise should probably be put to rest, though that won't happen if the film is a hit.

Wes's Grade: B-
Worth Seeing: Bloody, guilty-pleasure enjoyable, if not a little old by now.

Rio - B

Rated PG, 96 minutes

Wes's Take:
"Rio" is the colorful, entertaining new animated film from the creators of the "Ice Age" animated films. When Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a domesticated macaw raised by Linda (Leslie Mann) in small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel (Anne Hathaway), he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with the bird of his dreams. "Rio" is an amusing, energetic tale for the kids that lacks some of the sparkle of the similarly-themed "Madagascar" not to mention the music isn't well-integrated into the film, but it's well-voiced by all, particularly the straight-laced Eisenberg and the always chirpy (no pun intended) Hathaway. Listen for George Lopez and Tracy Morgan, who also provide a few good laughs.

Wes's Grade: B
Worth Seeing: Yes, good family film.