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New DVD Releases: December 8, 2009

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

These are the movies arriving on DVD this Tuesday: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince“, “Julie and Julia”, and “Public Enemies“.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Priince DS 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Advance Style A

Synopsis: Though HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN director Alfonso Cuaron still holds the crown for best film in the series, David Yates is making an attempt at a coup with HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Dark, gleefully funny, and beautifully shot, this adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel should please fans despite numerous changes to the 650-page source material. In this sixth film in the series, Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) inevitable confrontation with the dark wizard Voldemort grows closer, and Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) wants the young student to be prepared. He guides Harry through a memory of a young Voldemort, but an important moment is missing. Harry must extract this memory from the new Hogwarts teacher, Horace Slughorn (a perfectly slimy Jim Broadbent), who is as eager for fame as he is reluctant to revisit this painful moment. Meanwhile, romance rules the school of witches and wizards, with Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) refusing to admit their feelings for each other. Harry also harbors a secret love of his own: Ron’s younger sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright). But despite his crush, Harry keeps an eye on Snape (Alan Rickman) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), who may be responsible for attacks on the school. HALF-BLOOD PRINCE deftly balances the humor of Hogwarts heartbreak and the thrills of dark villains attacking the school. The cast is as talented as ever, and the youngest members–Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson–have developed their talent well. However, this film is most remarkable for its fine cinematography from AMELIE director of photography Bruno Delbonnel. Using a muted palette, Delbonnel makes Hogwarts look hauntingly beautiful in a way that fans have never seen. There’s always plenty of fun and adventure in the series, but this entry boasts impressive visuals as well.

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, David Bradley, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Cave, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Frank Dillane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Natalia Tena, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Bonnie Wright; Directed by: David Yates

Julie and Julia
Julie and Julia 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Advance Style A

Synopsis: Meryl Streep is Julia Child and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme.

Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends…until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.

Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond; Directed By: Nora Ephron

Public Enemies
Public Enemies DS 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Style A

Synopsis: Johnny Depp and Christian Bale emerge from two of the biggest blockbuster series of all time (Pirates of the Caribbean and Batman, respectively) to star in this crime drama from HEAT director Michael Mann. Depp stars as charismatic 1930s gangster John Dillinger, whose notorious bank robberies have turned him into a celebrity during the Depression era. The rise in crime has J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) desperate to have his newly created FBI take down gangsters such as Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd (Channing Tatum), and “Baby Face” Nelson (Stephen Graham). Enter Agent Melvin Purvis (Bale), an ambitious crimefighter sent to Chicago to capture Dillinger and his gang. The criminal has evaded the law before, but he is drawn to the Second City by the beautiful Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard). Though PUBLIC ENEMIES boasts big names, it feels more like an arthouse offering than a typical gangster picture. With its intimately shot violence and 1930s setting, the film is more BONNIE AND CLYDE than GOODFELLAS. Mann and director of photography Dante Spinotti alternate between hand-held, high-quality digital cameras and more traditional film stock, giving this crime drama a carefully composed, thoroughly modern look. But the casting of the leads is vintage Hollywood: Depp could be the modern incarnation of silent star Rudolph Valentino, and Cotillard’s wide-eyed beauty–and talent–would fit right in with the starlets of the golden age. Everyone else, including Bale, fades into the background, but it’s hard to complain when Depp and Cotillard give such magnetic performances.

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Jason Clarke, Rory Cochran, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, John Ortiz, Giovanni Ribisi, David Wenham, John Michael Bolger, Bill Camp, Matt Craven, Emilie De Ravin, Don Frye, Spencer Garrett, Shawn Hatosy, Peter Gerety, Stephen Graham, John Hoogenakker, Branka Katic, Domenick Lombardozzi, David Warshofsky; Directed By: Michael Mann

Movie Review: Julie and Julia

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Julie and Julia 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Style A

Not quite haute cuisine, but a tasty dish nevertheless thanks to Streep.

Filmmaker Nora Ephron transports viewers to the Paris of the 1950s and the New York City of this decade in her tale of two true stories Julie & Julia. Combining the biographies Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, Ephron’s Julie & Julia follows cooking icon Julia Child (flamboyantly, lovingly played by Meryl Streep) in her years in postwar France as she becomes the celebrated chef and author we remember today. The secondary storyline follows Julie Powell (Amy Adams), as she seeks an outlet during her soul-crushing time in New York after 9/11 and finds much needed joy in both blogging and cooking.

Julia, who lives in Paris with her fellow former OSS officer-turned-husband Paul (Stanley Tucci), finds her ambition later in life, becoming the first American woman to study at the Cordon Bleu. She then spends years co-writing with her colleagues Louise Bertholle and Simone Beck what will become the landmark book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a still-highly influential tome that taught Americans there was more to eat than canned, frozen, or processed foods and that cooking could be a joy.

The film’s parallel contemporary storyline follows Julie, a New Yorker pushing 30 who has yet to find anything near the success that her friends have and who can never seem to finish anything she starts, such as her novel. She works as a call center rep for an agency overseeing the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. It’s a demoralizing job, but Julie finds the perfect outlet in cooking. A huge fan of Child’s, Julie devotes the next year to cooking all 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and documenting it in a blog. She becomes obsessed with completing the herculean task, much to the chagrin and neglect of her long-suffering but devoted husband Eric (Chris Messina). Powell’s blog soon becomes so popular that she, like her idol, finds success as a culinary book author.

Surprise! Streep is the best thing about this movie and the biggest reason to go see it. While her male contemporaries, such as De Niro and Pacino, have almost become caricatures of themselves, Streep simply gets better and — pun intended since it’s a foodie movie — more delectable with each movie she’s been in lately. Julie & Julia caps off a grand run she’s had in recent years of being the best thing in often so-so movies. Streep nails Julia Child’s distinctively haughty voice, and brings the late cooking icon to vivid life with equal parts charm, warmth and humor. (She even seems to have grown taller and bigger built to play the role.) Much as she did in last summer’s Mamma Mia!, Streep appears to be having a blast being in the movie and so the audience has fun watching her. The result is another crowd-pleasing, scene-stealing, and likely award-fetching performance.

Unfortunately, she has to share the movie with other characters and therein lies the biggest problem with Julie & Julia. Whenever Streep/Child is not on-screen, the viewer loses interest — and the movie loses steam — despite the efforts of so many other talented actors. Tucci (who also appeared in the sumptuous foodie flick Big Night) fares best as Julia’s husband Paul; he gentlemanly cedes the spotlight to Streep. He knows he’s here to play the supporting spouse role and that’s it, but he nevertheless imbues Paul with a quiet strength and stature (which is ironic given how much Julia towers over him). Likewise, Chris Messina, who had a memorable and moving role in Away We Go, plays Julie’s “saintly” husband as the personification of patience is a virtue. But that aside, the movie’s Eric is a bore.

Jane Lynch, Linda Emond, and Frances Sternhagen make noteworthy appearances, but it’s Adams who is burdened most with having to match Streep, whom she shares no scenes with. The shadow of Julia Child is cast over the entire movie, and Julie Powell’s ambitions and accomplishments simply pale in comparison. Julia taught Americans that “culinary arts” are two terms that really do belong together, leaving behind books that still influence foodies and chefs. Julie wrote a blog, followed someone else’s recipes, and got a movie made about her within six years of the events depicted.

It’s fascinating how both Child and Powell used then-burgeoning mediums — television and the Internet, respectively — to reach audiences and make their mark, but Child’s accomplishments dwarf whatever success Powell earned. It’d be like making a dual biopic of Steven Spielberg and those guys who remade Raiders in their backyard. It’s no contest. (At least this movie provides a fairer and more accurate portrayal of bloggers than any other film has thus far.) Ephron is no stranger to tackling parallel plots, namely in Sleepless in Seattle. But in this case Child’s story is just more entertaining and engrossing than Powell’s, so Ephron’s overall film suffers as a result.

As portrayed here, Julia had a zest and an appreciation for life, smiling and cooking her way through good times and bad. She loved her husband, with each of them treating the other as a full partner. Julie, on the other hand, comes across as a self-absorbed, neurotic whiner in comparison. Perhaps it can be chalked up to generational differences, although, in fairness to Julie, life in romantic post-war France and beleaguered post-9/11 New York City obviously beget two entirely different attitudes and experiences. Maybe Julia wouldn’t have been so cheery had she worked thanklessly in a cubicle dealing with grieving loved ones.

Despite the shortcomings of the Julie half of Julie & Julia, the film nevertheless still offers viewers a satisfying meal. It’s funny, heartfelt and escapist fare that will leave your mouth watering at all the meals prepared during the course of the movie — although to be fair, it’s the meals that Child prepares that leaves the viewer with a hearty appetite. Powell’s will leave you wondering how good the pizza was at the parlor she lived above.

New Movie Releases: August 7, 2009

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Style A

Nora Ephron adapts Julie Powell’s autobiographical book Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen with this Columbia Pictures production starring Amy Adams as an amateur chef who decides to cook every recipe in a cookbook from acclaimed celebrity chef Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) in order to chronicle it in a blog over the course of a year. Streep’s Devil Wears Prada co-star Stanley Tucci re-teams with the actress as Child’s husband.

Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond; Directed By: Nora Ephron

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra DS 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Style A

G.I. Joe,” the live-action feature based on Hasbro’s line of action figures.

While some remember the character from its gung-ho fighting man ’60s incarnation, he’s evolved. G.I. Joe is now a Brussels-based outfit that stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international co-ed force of operatives who use hi-tech equipment to battle Cobra, an evil organization headed by a double-crossing Scottish arms dealer. The property is closer in tone to “X-Men” and James Bond than a war film.

Cast: Channing Tatum, Brendan Fraser, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid, Rachel Nichols ; Directed By: Stephen Sommers

A Perfect Getaway

A Perfect Getaway Movie Poster Print - Style A

Honeymooning couple Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) is hiking an eleven-mile trail in Hawaii when they cross paths will ex-military man Nick (Timothy Olyphant), who earns their trust by helping them navigate a particularly treacherous mountain cliff. A few yards later, the trio runs into a group of girls whose parents are begging them to return home following reports that a honeymooning couple has been murdered on one of the other islands. The suspects in the killings are a young white couple, and when Cliff and Cydney meet Nick’s frees-spirited girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez), tensions start to rise. The further the foursome walk together, the more delicate the balance of trust and suspicion becomes.

Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Steve Zahn, Marley Shelton, Kiele Sanchez, Chris Hemsworth Katie Chonacas; Directed By: David Twohy

Meryl Streep Unleashes Her Inner Child

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Meryl Streep as Julia Child

Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie and Julia

You could always count on Meryl Streep to give a great performance, but now the 60-year-old’s become a bankable movie star, too.

The transition began with The Devil Wears Prada which earned Streep another Oscar nomination and the attention of Hollywood after the comedy scooped up an unexpected $327 million US globally.

Her follow up as the headliner in the film version of the popular musical Mamma Mia! was the mega-hit that made the difference. While Streep missed out on an Academy Award nomination, she shared the glory of the picture’s bountiful box office of $603 million US world wide.

Even last year’s Doubt, featuring Streep as a stern nun, managed to attract $51 million worth of business and win her another Oscar nod.

So writer-director Nora Ephron couldn’t believe her good fortune when Streep agreed to play celebrated cookbook author and TV icon Julia Child in her film Julie & Julia which opens on Aug. 7.

Not only did the filmmaker get the best person for the job, she also received a green light for the movie when Streep came on board.

“It’s always hard to make a movie that isn’t about a video game,” notes Ephron, “but Meryl’s the hottest actor in America right now so that was very helpful to me.”

The peculiar thing is that Streep’s in only half of the comedy, which is adapted from two books. One is Child’s autobiography, co-written with Alex Prud’homme, recalling her time in Paris during the 1950s with husband Paul (Stanley Tucci from The Devil Wears Prada). The other portion is Julie Powell’s modern-day memoir and blog Julie & Julia which outlined how Powell (played by Streep’s Doubt co-star Amy Adams) became obsessed with Child when she decided to cook, in 365 days, each of Child’s 524 recipes from her famous book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

The movie, written by Ephron, interweaves both stories but, as usual, it is Streep who stands out by recalling Child’s distinctively chirpy voice and rambunctious behaviour without lampooning it.

And that’s good news for Streep fans. Despite her new position as a commercial powerhouse, her craft hasn’t suffered.

“I seem to have more choices in the last five years than in the previous five years,” notes Streep while smiling bashfully during a recent interview. “Part of me thinks it has to do with the fact that there are more women executives making decisions because everything starts with what gets made.”

It helped, too, that the obsessive foodie Ephron has a decent track record in the romantic comedy department, with gems such as When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, to her credit.

But she didn’t write the script with Streep in mind because she didn’t want to be disappointed if she didn’t get her.

For her part, Streep had more than just the challenge of doing Child on her mind.

“I’m doing an idealized version of Julia,” admits the actress. “But I was also doing a version of my mother who had a similar joie de vivre, an undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life. Every room she walked into she made brighter.”

On the other hand, Streep’s mother didn’t have an interest in cooking – at all. Born and raised in Summit, N. J., Streep had a middle class childhood. Her mother Mary was a liberal and lively commercial artist while father Harry William was a more conservative dad and pharmaceutical executive.

Yet home-cooking didn’t exist in the Streep household.

“I remember when I was ten going to a little girl’s house, and she and her mother were sitting at the table and they were doing something to tennis balls, ” says Streep chuckling at the memory.

“And I said, ‘What are you doing?'” she continues. “And they said, ‘Making mash potatoes.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Mash potatoes come in a box.'”

Yes, they were peeling potatoes. “And I had never seen a real potato,” she says. “My mother’s motto was, ‘If it’s not done in 20 minutes, it’s not dinner. ‘”

Streep can cook “although I wouldn’t call myself a chef.”

And if she needed support and encouragement, she was surrounded by it on set. Ephron and co-star Tucci are above average in the kitchen.

And the Oscar-honoured actress had a long list of Child things to reference, including her TV show The French Chef.

“Julia’s so vivid and she left behind such an articulate trail of her journey in the book that she wrote with Alex (Prud’Homme) and in her cook books, ” Streep says. “Her voice really comes through.”

So does Streep – again – doing what she’s always loved doing. That’s why her recent box office success is unexpected.

“I still feel I am like every other actor,” says Streep matter-of-factly. “I’ve been unemployed more than I’ve worked because of the nature of what I do. So I’ve never gotten used to either working or being out of work.

“It’s a very uncertain life and there are only a few people that would sign up to be married to someone doing that,” she says. “My husband (Don Gummer) is an artist and he understands. So I’m just really glad people aren’t sick of me. ”

She thinks about that for a second. “Even I’m sick of me a little bit,” Streep adds giggling.

But how could that be? You have all those awards and accolades.

“Well, fortunately, the ‘blogosphere’ supplies you with the other side of all the accolades,” she confesses smirking. “Just sign on and get humble.”

Julie and Julia Contest

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Julie and Julia DS 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Advance Style A is giving away a free ticket for a gourmet getaway for one lucky winner.

Inspired by two bestselling memoirs – Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme – Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends… until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.

Tell us who inspires you for your chance to win a Gourmet Ottawa Getaway with private cooking lessons at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa.

Click on the link below to enter the contest.

The Julie and Julia Contest

Julie and Julia

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Julie and Julia DS 1 Sheet Movie Poster - Advance Style A

Release date: Friday August 7, 2009
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Nora Ephron
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Screenplay: Nora Ephron
Producer(s): Amy Robinson, Eric Steel, Laurence Mark, Nora Ephron
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond
Official Site:
Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality
Available film art: Julie and Julia movie posters

Based on Julie Powell’s book “Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen.” Julie Powell recounts how she conquered every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and saved her soul. Julie Powell is 30-years-old, living in a rundown apartment in Queens and working at a soul-sucking secretarial job that’s going nowhere. She needs something to break the monotony of her life, and she invents a deranged assignment. She will take her mother’s dog-eared copy of Julia Child’s 1961 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she will cook all 524 recipes. In the span of one year.

At first she thinks it will be easy. But as she moves from the simple Potage Parmentier (potato soup) into the more complicated realm of aspics and crepes, she realizes there’s more to Mastering the Art of French Cooking than meets the eye. With Julia’s stern warble always in her ear, Julie haunts the local butcher, buying kidneys and sweetbreads. She sends her husband on late-night runs for yet more butter and rarely serves dinner before midnight. She discovers how to mold the perfect Orange Bavarian, the trick to extracting marrow from bone, and the intense pleasure of eating liver. And somewhere along the line she realizes she has turned her kitchen into a miracle of creation and cuisine. She has eclipsed her life’s ordinariness through spectacular humor, hysteria, and perseverance.

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