Mini Reviews (quick opinions on many movies)

The Taking of Pelham 123


Director Tony Scott’s remake of Joel Sargent’s 1974 film “The Taking of Pelham 123,” is about a group of men who hi-jack a subway car and hold the passengers for ransom.   The new “Pelham” lacks the suspense, humor, wit, comic tension and New York attitude of the original.  While Denzel Washington does a fine job of shouldering the film, John Travolta is way over the top and James Gandolfini seems to be collecting an easy paycheck as an uninspired New York mayor.  Rent the original instead.

Whatever Works

While unlikely to take its place among Woody Allen’s better films, “Whatever Works” is a silly, light, self-derivative farce, starring Larry David as a comically misanthropic former college professor.  I think that in Larry David, Allen may have found his ideal proxy to give voice to his usual obsessions: the expanding universe, the meaninglessness of life, the role of luck, younger women and the Marx Brothers (Karl and Groucho).  Is it funny? Yes, it has its moments.  Hey, whatever works.


 In “Tetro” Coppola takes a family melodrama and dresses it in a variety of styles from film noir to the surreal, combining black and white sequences with color segments and utilizing multi-layered images.  He has taken advantage of the digital tool box now available to film makers utilizing it in a way that is emotionally appropriate to the story.  However, the narrative is convoluted and, at points, difficult to follow.  While Coppola has gone to a certain point experimentally, I think that he needs to dial back and find a happy medium for telling stories in a more straight forward manner while, at the same time, not hamper his creative spirit.

Star Trek

 “Star Trek” is fresh, fun, involving, thoughtful and a natural lead in to the TV series and movies.  I mean Captain Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew as youngsters!  It’s irresistible!  OK, I got a little confused about some of the science, something to do with black holes and time travel, but I got the over all story.  Plus, it has Leonard Nimoy as an older Spock giving the proceedings an added touch of class and legitimacy.

Food, Inc.

 All of the fascinating and frightening details about the way our food is prepared prior to finding its way into our supermarkets is expertly and efficiently conveyed in producer-director Robert Kenner’s new documentary “Food, Inc.” Diabetes, E. coli, meat ripened with Ethylene gas, manure ground into meat, hamburger meat treated with ammonia to kill E. coli, former food executives controlling the FDA and USDA, too much corn and the disconnection from an act as intimate as eating all come together, like a falling row of dominoes, showing how poorly thought out actions aimed at the bottom line can have far reaching, harrowing consequences.





In this day and age of computer animated films crammed with celebrity voices “$9.99” is a refreshing, inventive, quirky, not-of-this-world yet very much grounded in it, animated film that plays with our expectations of the animated form.  Using lo-tech stop motion animation, “$9.99” tells a series of interlocking stories about loneliness, the search for meaning and the need for love while seamlessly combining the every day with the fantastic.

Terminator Salvation

Unnecessary prequel to 1984’s “The Terminator” shows us more of what the “man vs. the machines” future, glimpsed briefly in the original, looks like.   It is loud, noisy and confusing.  If you’ve seen the original you already know “Salvation’s” premise and so the information here is largely redundant.




About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 20, 2009, in mini reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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