Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: June 11, 2010
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 100 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Having to grow up too early is a fate that no child should have to endure. For 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a childhood is something she never really had the luxury of experiencing. With a physical absentee father and a mental absentee mother, Ree is the primary caregiver to her younger brother and sister living in the Ozark Mountains. The young ones seem relatively happy, and the Dollys don’t have much but they do have their house.

Then one day there’s a knock at the door. The local sheriff informs Ree that her father Jessup, a known crystal meth cooker and dealer, has skipped bail. He had put up the house, which was owned in his name, as collateral, and if he doesn’t show up in a week’s time Ree and her family will lose the house. This is something that the resolute and never wavering Ree finds unacceptable. She vows to find the father she doesn’t know to protect the rest of her family that she does know.

To find her father, Ree needs the help of his brother, her uncle who calls himself Teardrop (the intense and brooding John Hawkes). Believing his brother to be dead, Teardrop initially refuses to help Ree. He has no idea how determined and strong-willed she is.

Ree is afraid of nothing and no one in the pursuit of her father. The crystal meth crowd in the Ozark Mountain region isn’t the friendliest bunch, but Ree does what she has to do no matter how unsavory the characters she comes across may be.

Lawrence’s performance is a revelation. It anchors a film steeped in sadness and anger. Lawrence plays Ree with a steely reserve – there are no movie character speeches or emotional outbursts in Lawrence’s repertoire. With the right kind of campaign, Lawrence could reap some awards attention. It reminds me a bit of Melissa Leo a few years ago with “Frozen River.”

Director Debra Granik, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Anne Rosellini from a novel by Daniel Woodrell captures the look and feeling of isolation and desperation. Shot in muted greys and faded blues by cinematographer Michael McDonough, “Winter’s Bone” seems like a world drained of all color and vibrancy, and it sucks you in with powerful performances and fantastic old fashioned storytelling. This is one of the best films of the year.

Theater: Capri Theater, Montgomery, Alabama
Time: 730 pm
Date: August 18, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Z At the Movies - Episode #1

Hey check out my new video reviews!

Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/user/MrJakeziegler#p/a/u/2/-hgARP1aLc4

Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/user/MrJakeziegler#p/a/u/1/u-2qFaTvKAw

Part 3 - http://www.youtube.com/user/MrJakeziegler#p/a/u/0/HDfQ9tRC8hE

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Distributor: GKIDS
Release Date: March 5, 2010
Genre: Animation
Running Time: 75 minutes
MPAA Rating: Unrated

When the Oscar nominations were announced last year, the biggest shock came in the Best Animated Film Category. Expected nominees “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Up” all had their names called, as did “The Secret of Kells.”

Wait, the Secret of What? The French / Belgian / Irish movie wasn’t even released in the United States until March 5 (making almost $40,000 on one screen, and it never made it to more than 37), two days before the Oscar ceremony. So this proves that the animation branch actually watches their screeners and sees all of the eligible films, and their nomination made it possible for theaters like Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater, where I saw it, to play this terrific little film.

The film takes place in the ninth century, where Viking leader Abbot Cellach (the inimitable Brendan Gleeson) is trying to build a wall around his village to keep everyone safe from attacks. Cellach is in charge of his nephew Brendan (Evan McGuire), who is forbidden to enter the forest around the village.

Meanwhile, Brother Aidan shows up in town to work on the Book of Kells, a mystical creation that opens Brendan’s eyes and mind. Brother Aidan needs help with the book, and asks Brendan to get him a special kind of ink in the very forest that Cellach forbids Brendan from going into. Of course Brendan goes, and he gets in over his head. Luckily for him, a fairy named Aisling shows up to help him navigate his way around the creatures in the forest.

The story follows a fairly obvious arc and few surprises are to be found, but “Kells” is nothing short of stunning to look at. In the era of CGI, hand drawn animated films are becoming rarer and rarer. It was no match for “Up” at the Oscars, but this is one of those films where the nomination was the award.

Theater: The Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha, NE
Time: 415 pm
Date: May 19, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010


Distributor: Columbia Records
Release Date: June 22, 2010 (DVD)
Genre: Concert
Running Time: Approx. 180 minutes
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Set List

1. London Calling
2. Badlands
3. Night
4. She’s the One
5. Outlaw Pete
6. Out in the Street
7. Working on a Dream
8. Seeds
9. Johnny 99
10. Youngstown
11. Good Lovin’
12. Bobby Jean
13. Trapped
14. No Surrender
15. Waiting on a Sunny Day
16. Promised Land
17. Racing in the Street
18. Radio Nowhere
19. Lonesome Day
20. The Rising
21. Born to Run
22. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
23. Hard Times (Come Again No More)
24. Jungleland
25. American Land
26. Glory Days
27. Dancing in the Dark
28. Credits (Raise Your Hand)
 BONUS – The River, Glastonbury 2009
 BONUS – Wrecking Ball, Giants Stadium 2009

I’ve been a fan of Bruce Springsteen for as long as I can remember liking music. When I was young I had “Born in the U.S.A.” on tape and I still remember listening to the first three tracks on side one, and then flipping the tape over because when “Darlington County” ends on side one, “Glory Days” begins on side two. I believe I just dated myself.

Three times I’ve seen Springsteen in concert and of course I can’t pick a favorite (though the Vote for Change Tour at Cobo Hall in Detroit in 2004 would probably be it if I were forced to choose). Springsteen is known for marathon concerts in the three hour neighborhood and possessing way more energy than any other 60-year-old on the planet. The Boss and his band from E Street look as if they’re having the time of their life every single time, as if this is where they all belong.

Springsteen leads the band of merry men and women on guitar and lead vocals of course. Joining him is Roy Bittan on the keyboards; Clarence Clemons on saxophone, percussion, and vocals; Nils Lofgren on guitar and vocals; Garry Tallent on bass guitar; Stevie Van Zandt on guitar and vocals; and the mighty Max Weinberg on drums. Joining them are Soozie Tyrell on violin and vocals; Charlie Giordano on accordion, piano, organ, and vocals; and Curtis King Jr. & Cindy Mizelle on vocals and percussion. Oh, and Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem sings with Boss on “No Surrender.”

That’s an 11-piece band, and they’re able to achieve a sonic perfection with each other. I heard once that the band didn’t even know what they were playing but knew which song it was going to be based on how Springsteen counted off.

“London Calling” is a barnburner of a setlist, starting off with a rousing version of The Clash hit that gave the DVD its name and rolling through a number of other classics new and old. Springsteen is generally really great at mixing his old and new material in his concerts and this one is no different.

This concert is currently available on DVD, but I was also able to see it the local art theater here in Montgomery, albeit a truncated version with songs 8-21 and 23 (I think that’s right) cut out. In whatever form you can see it in, fans of Bruce Springsteen will no doubt be pleased with this DVD.

Theater: Capri Theater, Montgomery, Alabama
Time: 730 pm
Date: September 26, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Distributor: Sony
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 120 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13

How many times a day do you check your Facebook account – five? 10? 20? Have you ever stopped to thank Mark Zuckerberg for creating the most popular and highly addictive social network site of all time? Did he steal the idea? Possibly. Did he stab his best friend in the back on his way to becoming the world’s youngest billionaire? Probably. But the bottom line is at the end of the day, Mark Zuckerberg created the greatest invention of my lifetime and that alone makes him a worthy subject for a biopic written by Golden Globe nominee Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”; “The American President”; and “Charlie Wilson’s War”) and directed by Oscar nominee David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Zuckerberg in a performance that’s sure to earn him his first Oscar nomination. I along with many others first noticed Eisenberg as an actor to watch in 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale,” and this is the performance that years from now people will look back on as the moment Eisenberg arrived as an actor.

The film opens with Harvard student Zuckerberg and his Boston University girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) at a bar, engaging in intellectually exhausting conversation. One could unknowingly walk in on this scene and immediately know that Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay (based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich).

Erica grows weary of Zuckerberg’s arrogance (borne from his intelligence) and curtly ends their relationship. Zuckerberg storms back to his dorm to drink more beer, and starts blogging. With a desire to forget about his now-ex, he comes up with a project for himself. He hacks into the Harvard house student directories, steals all the females’ pictures, and creates a site called FaceMash.com, in which people see two pictures side by side and vote on which one is hotter. The site attracts so much traffic that the Harvard network completely shuts down. He’s given academic probation and becomes a social pariah, even more so than before.

Face Mash gives Zuckerberg an idea. Around the same time, a group of social elites – identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence with Armie Hammer’s face digitally imposed onto his body) and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella, the late Anthony’s son) have a similar idea. They approach Zuckerberg about working on their project – a dating site, but exclusive to Harvard students. Zuckerberg quickly agrees, although future communication with Zuckerberg becomes quite difficult. Then out of nowhere, The Facebook, a Mark Zuckerberg production, pops up online. The “Winklevi” and Narandra are agog. He stole their idea.

At least that’s their story, as told through depositions that took place several years after the debut of The Facebook (the “The” would later be dropped). This is only one of the two lawsuits Zuckerberg is wading his way through. The other is from his former best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who supplied the initial money for the project and was named CFO, only to later be pushed out and left in the cold by the nefarious Sean Parker (deftly played by Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster.

At least, that’s his story. One of the fascinating aspects of “Social Network” is that it shows many points of view but rarely lets us inside the mind of its hero/anti-hero/villain/whatever works for you, Mark Zuckerberg. Is it because Zuckerberg himself is often not mentally invested in the things going on around him, preferring to live in the Facebook world he created, where lines of code are more important than maintaining a relationship with your best friend and CFO?

Fincher expertly weaves the story back and forth through time, using the depositions to set up flashbacks that tell the story of Facebook’s creation. The reason the movie works as well as it does is that Fincher (along with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) creates suspense from the events that happen when a creation becomes wildly successful and friendship is involved. It may be about the invention of Facebook, but it could have been about the creation of anything, which is the sign of a great movie.

One scene in particular that stuck out to me was late in the film when Zuckerberg runs into Erica at a restaurant. Erica is out with a group of friends, people Zuckerberg doesn’t know. He wants to talk to her alone for a minute. She insists that whatever he has to say he can say in front of them. This scene is a like a microcosm of the way Facebook works. Anything you say to someone can be seen by people you don’t know if they’re friends with the person you do know.

Jesse Eisenberg owns this movie with a magnetic performance that is sure to command some awards attention. He plays Zuckerberg as too smart for his own good, although on several instances he is shown to be not as cruel as his rough exterior may suggest. As young lawyer Marylin Delpy (Rashida Jones) tells him: “you’re not an asshole, you just try so hard to be one.” Eisenberg pulls of the complex feat of taking a character with innumerable reasons to dislike him and somehow making him sympathetic at best and wholly compelling at worst. Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake are nearly as impressive as the physical representations of Zuckerberg’s id and ego.

Facebook has become such an important part of our pop culture and the way we communicate with each other that a film was inevitable. For the film to come along this early in Facebook’s history and be this sharp, this perceptive about its place in our society is nothing short of remarkable. This is a work of pure genius. “The Social Network” is one of the best films of the year.

Theater: RMP Festival Plaza 16, Montgomery, Alabama
Time: 200 am (private screening)
Date: October 1, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Distributor: Sony Classics
Release Date: June 11, 2010
Genre: Foreign
Running Time: 115 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated

I’ve known that Coco Chanel was a famous fashion designer for quite some time, but never knew enough about fashion to really know why. Now thanks to last year’s “Coco Before Chanel” (directed by Anne Fontaine and starring Audrey Tautou) and this year’s “Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky” (directed by Jan Kounen and starring Anna Mouglalis) I know a little bit more about this pioneering woman.

Based on the 2002 novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh, “Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky” obviously focuses on the relationship of the two title characters. The film opens with a performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” which was quite reviled at the time, although Chanel seemed to possess great admiration for it. Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) becomes depressed and is forced into exile by the Russian Revolution. Since she appreciates his music, Chanel thinks it only logical that he and his family move into her spacious home.

I reveal nothing by telling you straight up that Chanel and Stravinsky waste little time engaging in an affair. As most affairs tend to do, the affair becomes quite obvious rather quickly. The film doesn’t let the performances go over the top, and that is what makes the characters interesting. When Stravinsky’s wife Katarina (Elena Morozova) confronts Chanel about the affair, they speak in matter of fact tones and don’t succumb to histrionics.

This is the first film I’ve seen Mouglalis in, and she carries it with a businesslike sturdiness. Chanel is a very introverted woman, and Mouglalis captures that emotional stoicism with admirable grace. Mikkelsen is more outwardly emotional and conflicted, which gives their affair the necessary conflict to get it where it will ultimately end up.

“Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky” is an excellent companion piece to “Coco Before Chanel,” and both films created an interesting experience in learning about someone I knew very little about before.

Theater: Capri Theater, Montgomery, Alabama
Time: 730 pm
Date: August 23, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Distributor: Sony Classics
Release Date: April 16, 2010
Genre: Crime Drama
Running Time: 127 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

I’ve often wondered what I would do if I end up single and retired. If you’re retired criminal investigator Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín), you go back and revisit a brutal rape and murder from 25 years ago and write a book about it.

The story takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, an area I know little about but my friend Jeff Richardson has been there. Anyway, the crime was “solved” back when it happened, but Esposito was never happy with the resolution. The dead woman’s husband, banker Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) has so much love for his deceased wife Liliana Coloto (Carla Quevedo), that it breaks Esposito’s heart. It haunts him.

In his quest to find the truth, Esposito is joined by his alcoholic colleague Pablo Sandoval, played by Guillermo Francella, a noted Argentine comic who effectively uses his comedic skills to enhance an enormously dramatic film. Of course there’s also a woman involved, Esposito’s boss Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil). It is obvious in the interactions between them that both have things to say to each other but won’t say them out loud. The performances rely not only on the words they say but the words they don’t say, the secrets they keep behind their eyes.

Directed by Juan José Campanella (who has directed episodes of “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “House”), “Secret” deftly weaves back and forth between 1974 and 2009 for a tale that is tacitly engaging and thoroughly fascinating. It explores themes of love, loss, revenge, justice, closure – and it does it in ways you wouldn’t expect. It effectively builds suspense without calling attention to itself. The subtlety is the beauty of it.

“Secret” surprisingly won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film last year over the more well known “The White Ribbon” and “A Prophet (Un prophète),” and while I was initially skeptical I can see what drew voters to it (I still would have voted for “Prophet” though). This is a film that wriggles its way under your skin and stays there for weeks afterward.

Theater: Capri Theater, Montgomery, Alabama
Time: 730 pm
Date: June 30, 2010