Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jason Butler Harner, Jeffrey Donovan, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, Amy Ryan, Geoff Pierson, Gattlin Griffith, Colm Feore, Denis O’Hare, Devon Conti
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 8.1

Another film based on a true story about Wineville Chicken Coop Murders committed in California in 1928 but, unlike Longford, the audience was dragged to sympathize with the victims. In this case, I wonder if Lord Longford would want to campaign for a release of Gordon Northcott the way he campaigned for Myra Hindley.

The victims of the murders were young boys. Although Gordon Northcott was convicted for 3 murders, it was believed that the number of the victims could have reached as many as 20. During the murders, he was ‘assisted’ by his nephew, Sandford Clark.

The film began with the disappearance of Walter Collins, the son of Christine Collins on March 10th 1928. Unsuccessful to find the missing boy, the Los Angeles Police Department were under heavy pressure from the public. In the movie, the public were represented by Reverend Gustav Briegleb who already critizing the LAPD for its incompetence, corruption, and excessive violence outside the justice system. Several months passed and one day the police informed Christine that Walter had been found. However, upon meeting the boy, she believed that the boy was not Walter but was told to just take him home. After a while, she found out physical differences between Walter and the boy: that Walter was taller and not circumcised. When she brought the matter to the police, the LAPD insisted, through Captain J.J. Jones that the boy was indeed Walter. Eventually, her persistence made Captain Jones to put her into a mental institution. This implied that the LAPD could not afford the public humiliation of being mistaken. Meanwhile, Detective Ybarra was assigned to deport a boy who happened to be Sandford Clark. It was from Clark that the Collins’ case eventually solved.

In a matter of acting performances, I believe that Angelina Jolie, Jason Butler Harner and Jeffrey Donovan deserved the applause, as well as Geoff Pierson who portrayed Sammy Hahn, the defense attorney who represented Christine Collins. While Jolie managed to play the character of a woman who was deemed ‘second class’ during that period, struggling to fight for finding the truth regarding her son, Harner gave me the impression of a serial killer with no sense of guilt. Shown relaxed and somewhat mentally disturbed, he finally trembled in fear when facing death itself. Jeffrey Donovan also successful in delivering the image of the authority that would do anything to avoid public humiliation. Scenes during the trial when Sammy Hahn questioned Captain Jones were very good, although it was rather short. John Malkovich could have been impressive if only his character performed more dialogues, but given that his role was rather small, his fine performance was overshadowed by the ones I’ve mentioned earlier.

I think the story was well told, and that the suspense factor was kept going throughout the film. Focusing on not just the murder, but the themes of that era such as violence by the police and the suppression of women. For those unaware of the conditions of that period, especially regarding the latter, it should come to mind halfway through the film when Christine was admitted to the mental institution. Despite the plot put the image of the authorities on the negative side, it was after all, managed to balance it through Detective Ybarra and that in the end, the system worked. From Eastwood himself, he said that Gordon Northcott was an ideal candidate for a capital punishment of crimes against children although public display of the execution should be considered as barbaric (as seen near the end of the movie).

Overall, watching the movie was a great experience to me. Especially after finished watching Longford which had the same theme, but of different perspective. While Longford promotes forgiveness, Changeling condemns the crime. Looking at Gordon Northcott’s case, one would most likely refuse to provide forgiveness to the man. Yet, there is one significant difference here: Northcott only served 2 years in prison before he was hanged to death, while Myra Hindley served more than 30 years before she died. One question arises: had Gordon be sentenced to life imprisonment, would he able to redeem his crimes? Unfortunately, no one would be able to answer that. This movie also acts as a reminder on how things were when women were treated as second-class citizens. Even now, in some countries, this still happens.

As for the final score for the movie, I give it an 8.0.


Directed by Andrew Stanton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, & Pete Docter
Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 8.6

WALL-E took place in the year 2885, 700 years after the earth was evacuated due to overwhelming quantity of garbage covering it. A single unit of Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class (WALL-E) was still active on the planet while other units had broken down. Its only companion was a cockroach. During its time cleaning up the garbage, WALL-E collected loads of items which caught its attention such as lighter, light bulb, and a video tape. It seems that WALL-E was capable of evolving from a mere mechanical being with no emotion into a sophisticated one with emotions.

WALL-E one day encountered EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), that was given a directive to probe earth for the existence of vegetation to ensure that its ready for a re-colonization. Somehow, possibly due to watching too much of the video tape that it found, WALL-E fell for EVE. EVE itself was capable of experiencing emotions, too. Perhaps, 700 years since the first creation of the robots aboard the Axiom, they managed to evolve like WALL-E and became machines with feelings. Later, EVE found the plant that WALL-E found among the garbage and immediately contacted its ship. EVE was later picked up and brought to the Axiom. WALL-E went along with the ship and then arrived aboard the Axiom where it encountered various characters (man and machines) and experienced a thrilling adventure that led to a new chapter of mankind (mankind aboard the Axiom, of course).

For an animated film, WALL-E is impressive. It is packed with a lot of stuffs, from the idea of evolution (from a mere mechanical beings to sophisticated machines), the global ‘thrashing’ of earth (literally), the danger of losing real social interactions (such as obesity, loss of bone structure, and of course either cloning (because humans aboard the Axiom had very little variations) or externally induced reproduction, and the risk of being outsmarted and outcivilized by machines) and of course about heroic sacrifice. These issues raised throughout the movie were the major power of the flick.

Not only great in the plot, but also the visuals and the characters design were great. How the behaviors of the characters were visualized reminded me of silent movies where visuals speak louder than dialogues. It also nicely associating itself to 2001 : Space Odyssey with Auto modelled after HAL 9000. The details of the scenes were also wonderful. From the barren earth to the void (well not so void just outside the earth because some garbage were obviously scattered around earth) space, and aboard the Axiom, everything fit the plot perfectly. Also, the end credit sequence was also nicely done. Don’t miss it.

In short, for me, WALL-E was the most enjoyable of all Pixar’s movies that I’ve ever seen, beating my previous favorite: Finding Nemo (also by Andrew Stanton). One thing that bugged me until the end was that plant. Wouldn’t plants instantly screwed when exposed to the space? Why it was still seemed fresh aboard the Axiom? Nevertheless, my vote for WALL-E: 9.5.



Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Lindsay Duncan, Andy Serkis
Release Year: 2006
IMDB rating: 7.8

“If people think that makes me weak... or mad... so be it. That is the path I am committed to. To love the sinner, but hate the sins. To assume the best in people, and not the worst. To believe that anyone, no matter how evil, can be redeemed... eventually.”

The quote above is the essence of this excellent British drama about how Lord Longford campaigned for the parole of Myra Hindley, one of the Moor Murderers. It is implied by the movie that Myra Hindley’s case brought a significant impact for Lord Longford’s life.

Beautifully played, the story was rather an emotional experience to me. Jim Broadbent played brilliantly, displaying that spirit and persistance in Lord Longford’s character, as well as somehow a deep disappointment and possibly regret, but never anger towards Myra Hindley nor Ian Brady. Myra Hindley was played by Samantha Morton who, also very good, while Andy Serkis portrayed Ian Brady. Lady Longford was played by Lindsay Duncan who was equally great in portraying a wife frustrated (but later understood and accepted it) by her husband’s campaign over the parole of one of England’s most notorious female serial killer.

The plot was great. I felt like I wanted to condemn the killings of five children, but on the side of Lord Longford’s argument, it was also valid (in my view) to be forgiving. Not to love the sins, but not to hate the sinners. Of course, if I was at the side of the family of the victim’s side, I would probably have a very different opinion. This movie, I believe, was about forgiveness rather than condemning the evil, because that’s what Lord Longford’s character really was. Mocked by the public by his Hindley’s campaign and also by his anti-porn campaign, Lord Longford kept on doing what he had been doing, even near after his death in 2001 at the age of 95.

The strength of the movie is in the acting performance of the cast. All of them did well to make this movie one of my favorites. The story, however, was clever enough to drag the audience's focus on the outrageous crime, but rather on the faithful and compassionate efforts of Lord Longford.

Final score: 9.0.



Directed by Jay Roach
Written by Danny Strong
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Laura Dern, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Ed Begly, Jr., Bob Balaban, Bruce McGill
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 7.6

Another movie with political theme, Recount was distributed by HBO and won 3 Emmy Awards for outstanding made-for television movie, directing for a miniseries, movie or a dramatic special (Jay Roach), and single-camera picture editing for a miniseries or movie. Laura Dern won the Golden Globe Award for her role as Katherine Harris (best supporting actress in a series, mini-series or TV film). The film focused on the dispute over the results of presidential election in the state of Florida in 2000, how the Democrats struggled to get a recount while the Republicans struggled to defend the initial results of the vote.

While the events were real, some elements of the movie were fictionalized, according to Jay Roach. Regardless of this fact, however, I really enjoyed watching it. Just like W., the power of this movie lies in the performance of the entire cast. Although I must admit that Recount was better in setting up the plot. I could feel the suspense leading to that fateful decision by the Supreme Court. The movie clearly tilted towards the Democrats. This went on throughout most of the film, but in the end I felt that the balance of favor was restored.

Despite Kevin Spacey played the lead role as Ron Klain, I felt more impressed with Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt’s performances. Yes, Hurt’s screen time was rather short, but his portrayal as Warren Christopher was absolutely great, and this was perfectly matched by Tom Wilkinson’s portrayal of James Baker, the one took the lead in the Republicans in dealing with the recount issue. Laura Dern was the only actress that made significant impression in the movie. Her role as Katherine Harris was outstanding and surely enjoyable. Another top performer was Ed Begley, Jr. who played as David Boies. Although entering the stage halfway into the movie, his play was great. Bruce McGill who played George Tenet in W. played as Mac Stipanovich here, a Republican lobbyist. His was a good one, but it was a minor role in the movie, just like Bob Balaban’s role as Ben Ginsberg.

Again, the power of this movie lies in the acting performance, with top performers like Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, and Laura Dern. Additionally, the pace set for it made it a better movie than W. In the end, I remembered when Ron Klain asked James Baker that whether the right man won, and Baker said yes. That question posed other questions: “What would have happened had Al Gore won Florida?”, “Would the economy slumped like what it happening today?”, “Would 9/11 ever happened?”, “If 9/11 happened, would Gore invade Iraq in retaliation or would he invade Afghanistan instead?”, and perhaps the core question: “Would Gore be a better president than W.?”. All these questions must have lingered at least once on most people after watching Recount. Unfortunately, those questions have nothing but hypothetical answers.

I give this movie an 8.5.


Directed by Oliver Stone
Written by Stanley Weiser
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss, Toby Jones, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Scott Glenn, Bruce McGill, Noah Wyle, Jennifer Sipes, Ioan Gruffudd.
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 6.8

The George W. Bush’s biopic tells the chronicle of his journey from the his early days in Yale until the decisive pre-emptive strike on Iraq in 2003. It was not a movie condemning the 43rd US President for his government of the most powerful nation in the world. Rather, director Oliver Stone tried to approach it from the personal side of W. How he felt that his father had never felt satisfied for anything that he ever achieved, and that his brother Jeb was always his father’s favorite. Despite some acceptance later after W’s successful campaign as the Governor of Texas, and later his victory to become the President of the United States, the relationship between W. and his father remained somewhat cold.

Interestingly enough, according to the movie, it was this family problem that pushed W. into alcoholism, and then his conversion into Christianity which, ultimately made him convinced that he was selected personally by God to become the President of the United States. His decision to invade Iraq was described as an act to finish what his father couldn’t but should have finished years before during the first Gulf War. It was also described that there was a disagreement among his aides regarding the invasion on Iraq, where on one side Colin Powell and George Tenet (played by Jeffrey Wright and Bruce McGill, respectively), were reluctant, while on the other side the rest of the aides, noticeably Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss and Scott Glenn, respectively), were urging for taking the initiative of attacking Iraq despite the absence of any proofs regarding WMD.

If this film was intended to let us see things from the perspective of W.’s private life, then this movie had accomplished that mission well. The cast were absolutely great. I think all of the actors deserved the credit, especially Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Bruce McGill, and Jeffrey Wright. I didn’t write ‘actresses’ because their roles were trampled by the brilliant plays by the actors. Thandie Newton got only minor role as Condoleezza Rice, while Elizabeth Banks seemed to be unable to impress me. Richard Dreyfuss managed to deliver that cunning look of Dick Cheney, while Jeffrey Wright was very good in portraying the reluctant Colin Powell.

Yet, the top performers, I think, were Josh Brolin and James Cromwell. The frustration of the young W. and his eventual great confidence (after his conversion) were played brilliantly by Josh Brolin. I was especially impressed with James Cromwell’s performance during the scene where he was defeated during the 1992 election. The devastated look from his face was a perfect act. I could not help but sympathize for that, but well, that’s politics.

Oliver Stone’s choice to tell the plot by moving forward and backwards throughout the movie was enjoyable. One event lacking exposure here was the 9/11, and it should be noted that along with the softer view on W., this movie implied that W. was rather a victim of the people surrounding him, especially in Iraq issue. But in the end, the main strength of this movie lies in the acting prowess of the actors. Whether there were historical inaccuracies in the movie, I don’t know, because I won’t bother too much to research the details. And in politics, there will always be disputes over the facts. I'm no W. sympathizer, but I’d give it an 8.0. It was a great film, but not spectacular.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay by Eric Roth & Robin Swicord, adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemying
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 8.4

What’s it like to be born old and die as a baby? Well, that’s what happened to Benjamin Button. Adapted from a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was indeed a curious film.

Shortly after his birth on November 11th 1918 in New Orleans, Benjamin was abandoned by his father, Thomas Button. His mother died shortly after giving birth. Thomas Button left Benjamin just outside of a nursing home, where later his foster mother, Queenie would find him and raise him as her own son. Thought as having a short life, Benjamin grew up younger day by day. At the nursing home, he met Daisy, and both became friends.

Afterwards, Benjamin met Captain Mike Clark who owned a tugboat Chelsea and decided to work on the boat. A few years later, Benjamin left New Orleans and travelled around the world aboard the Chelsea with Captain Mike. He met Elizabeth Abbott in Russia, a British woman, and having an affair with her, and just after she suddenly left with her husband just after Pearl Harbor was attacked (December 8th 1941), Benjamin also decided to join Captain Mike and his crew to be enlisted by the US Navy. The captain and most of the crew died after an encounter with a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean.

Benjamin returned to New Orleans in 1945. He met Thomas Button who revealed the truth surrounding his real identity and his real parents. However, by then Thomas Button was already dying, and soon after his father died, Benjamin went to New York to meet Daisy who by that time had become a successful dancer. The story then progressed with Benjamin growing younger while Daisy getting older. In the end… Well, I guess I won’t spoil the story here.

As a reminder, Eric Roth wrote Forrest Gump, and Benjamin Button is, I think, a counterpart of Forrest Gump. The mood was set to be dark, just the opposite of the cheerful tone of Forrest Gump. While a lot could have been exploited by this movie, Benjamin’s capability to experience many historical events during his curious life was severely limited to that encounter with German U-Boat. It could have been a lot better to pit him against historical figures and events yet keeping tab on the dark setting.

The romantic path taken by the movie was also similar to that of Forrest and Jenny. First encounter, farewell, reunion, farewell again, and reunion again. What separates both movies was that Benjamin aged backwards.

Visualizations were great as we could see the transition from the era of early 20th century towards the early 21st century. The plot, however, was meant to be gloomy, but I felt that the negative mood wasn’t strong enough to drag the audience’s emotion. Color play was lacking, but I guess it was meant to be in line with the mood of the movie. Special effect was very good in making the little Benjamin looked like an 80 years old person.

Acting was pretty good. Although not spending too much screen time talking, Brad Pitt’s performance could be seen from facial expression throughout the movie. Cate was also good, but I’ve seen better perfomances from her. Jared Harris and Taraji P. Henson, however, were impressive in the early part of the movie as Captain Mike and Queenie, respectively. Also, Julia Ormond who played as Caroline, did well despite her short screen time. I guess, after all, the plot limited the acting capacity of the characters.

A lot of people think that this is a great movie. But I’d rather think that this could have been a great movie. It’s just it didn’t go all the way to the dark side. Rather, it only went halfway there. If it was meant to be dark and depressing, make it so. Yet, the movie only gave me a mild negative emotion rather than going all out. That said, the acting was also could have been perfect. Mind you, we got Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett here, who could perform perhaps any roles out there. Brad could do a variety of accents like in Seven Years in Tibet and Snatch. Too bad that both talents only exploited partially here.

As an additional information, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is being nominated for 13 Oscars: best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actress (Taraji P. Henson), best adapted screenplay, best film editing, best cinematography, best art direction, best costume design, best makeup, best original score, best sound mixing, and best visual effects.

In the end, I’d rate the movie as 7.0. Visually and emotionally brooding, but the make-up was quite convincing, I think that (the make-up) what could bring this movie an Oscar.


The Red Baron

Directed by Nikolai Müllerschön
Written by Nikolai Müllerschön
Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer, Lena Headey, Joseph Fiennes, Volker Bruch, Til Schweiger, Tino Mewes, Maxim Mehmet, Branislav Holicek
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 5.9

The story of the legendary Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron (Der Rote Baron), the top ace pilot from the World War I. The ace scored 80 victories (although some debates remains on the real number of victories) before he was killed in action in April 21st 1918. Also a subject of dispute, the person who was credited with the kill was Captin Roy Brown, an RAF officer depicted in the movie by Joseph Fiennes.

I was rather disappointed with the movie. First and foremost, the story was tilted towards the romance between Richthofen and Nurse Kate Otersdorf (Lena Headey) and towards the somewhat frustrated Richthofen with the continuing losses of his friends in combat missions. This, in turn, spoiled the whole great potential for exploiting the heroism that were there, either from the Allied side, or even the German side. As I’ve known, Richthofen’s era was the age of heroes, as if every ace had his own legendary feats. In the movie, only a few got covered, like Werner Voss (48 kills), Lothar von Richthofen (40 kills), Ernst Udet (62 kills), and Kurt Wolff (33 kills). If only the movie was willing to view the era from both sides, it would have been a lot better. Nevertheless, it’s fair enough to say that given the title, it would naturally focus on Richthofen.

Second thing that I deeply disappointed with this movie was the fact that the crucial combats in Richthofen’s career were omitted. His rise to fame were not told. It was all of a sudden that he was already a flying ace. Then, the day he got wounded in the head was also depicted only by showing his plane landing after he got shot. Even more unbelievable was his last combat which sparked debate even today, the encounter with Captain Roy Brown from the RAF that led to Richthofen’s death, was omitted. Suddenly, the movie presented me with Roy taking Kate visiting Richthofen’s grave. This also the same with the death of Werner Voss, a very close friend to Richthofen, who just, well told as already dead. No depiction of how he died whatsoever.

The Real Manfred von Richthofen

Third thing that I considered negative was that the movie was in English instead of German. It would be a lot better to see the actors speaking in German rather than in English with German accent. It was like that horror watching the Valkyrie trailer with Tom Cruise doing German accent. This led to a big hit in the cast’s acting, because with most of them German, it would be a lot more realistic and convincing if the dialogues were written in German.

All was not lost, however, as the crew managed to present the planes in great details, including the paintings and the colors of both the Flying Circus (Richthofen’s Jagdgeschwader 1 unit) and also those of the Allied side. Unfortunately, the aerial combats lacked suspense. When for example, Friedrich Sternberg (a fictitious Jewis pilot made up to be a representative to the many Jewis pilots who served the German empire during WWI), was shot down and his plane crashed. I could feel nothing. Not loss, just maybe thinking: “Oh well”.

The Real Flying Circus

Truly, from visuals I was barely impressed, from the drama set by the plot, I felt empty. As for the acting, given the poor choice of the language, this had led to ruin the cast’s potential to act convincingly. Facial expression was just not enough, I believe.

Final score: 4.0. I hope one day we would have this movie remade.


The Fall

Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, & Tarsem Singh
Starring: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, Marcus Wesley, Robin Smith, Jeetu Verma, Leo Bill, Daniel Caltagirone, Marcus Wesley, & Julian Bleach
Release Year: 2006
IMDB rating: 8.0

An awesome treat to the eyes, The Fall not only excelled visually, but also the story was captivating.

It began in a hospital where a child named Alexandria was being treated after she fell and broke her arm. While recovering there, she met with Roy Walker, a Hollywood stuntman who got injured after his latest stunt to impress his girlfriend but later lost her to an actor who also played in the movie. Depressed and getting suicidal, Roy told Alexandria stories so that he could use her to steal morphine from the hospital dispensary. Alexandria’s imagination of the story blended various people from her life, including the people from the hospital. The Indian who was imagined as one of her acquaintances from India (instead of a Native American) in her home, the Italian explosives expert Luigi who was imagined as Roy’s one-legged friend that Alexandria thought was a pirate, Charles Darwin who was imagined as one of the hospital’s employee, Otta Benga the slave who was imagined as the ice delivery man, and the Black Bandit who later revealed imagined as Roy himself. As for Governor Odious and his fiancee, Alexandria imagined them as the actor that she met at the hospital and Nurse Evelyn, respectively.

Essentially, it was a tale of redemption, how Roy struggled to overcome his depression and how Alexandria played a big part in it. How it ended was not a typical fairy tale ending, but I’ll let you readers see it for yourself. In the end, as Alexandria said, it was not just Roy’s story, but it was also hers.

The movie was shot in various locations around the globe, giving it an exotic look. From South Africa (the hospital scenes), India, the Butterfly reef in Fiji, all the way to Bali (the Mystic’s scenes). Not only that Tarsem managed to blend great combinations of colors in this movie, he also made a lot of the scenes to look attractive by using clever angles for taking the shots. The angles, the costumes, the colors and the ‘arrangements’ of the characters were all a joy to behold.

Acting was great, especially by the two lead roles Roy Walker (Lee Pace) and Alexandria (Catinca Untaru). The child actress did extremely well here. Director Tarsem Singh even gave some room for improvisation on her role. Also, from the behind-the-scenes feature, I found out that during the early stages of the filming, Lee Pace ‘acted’ as if he was disabled without perhaps most of the crew, including his counterpart Catinca, knowing that he could actually walk. This was done on purpose to make Catinca able to ‘connect’ more to Lee’s role as a disabled patient. It was the interactions between Roy and Alexandria that this movie was all about.

As the final vote, for visual excellence, great acting, and captivating story, I gave it a 9.0.