Staff Picks Movie Archive 2009

The reviews expressed on this site are the opinions of the reviewer and do not reflect the views of the Santa Fe Springs City Library.

Quarantine

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

This American remake of the Spanish film Rec takes place entirely inside a small Los Angeles apartment complex. A news reporter and her camera crew follow a Fire/Paramedic team into the building on a call. They find themselves stuck inside the building along with the residents when the CDC quarantines the entire structure due to an unknown virus. Trapped with all their satellite communication cut off, the residents have no idea of what is going on, until someone’s non-cable TV gives them the grim news…then the hunt is on! While the Spanish original is much better, Quarantine delivers plenty of bloody, spooky surprises as the trapped residents and their unexpected “guests” try to find a way to deal with their predicament. The end is a complete shocker. - Review by SD

Sunshine Cleaning

Directed by Christine Jeffs

Rose Lorkowski works at dead end cleaning jobs to make ends meet. But when fate forces her hand, she turns to her unreliable sister to help her start a crime scene cleanup business called Sunshine Cleaning. As Rose would say: "It's a growth industry!" This sweet, optimistic, but hard-hitting film deals with life and death in a compassionate, and sometimes humorous, way. - Review by JR

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Directed by Seth Gordon

This short documentary chronicles the search for gaming gold -- the world record in Donkey Kong. Set by Billy Mitchell in 1982, the world record is challenged by a gamer/family man, Steve Wiebe. It's good versus evil as the gamers circle one another, complete with a supporting cast of eccentrics. Completely hilarious at times, nail-biting at others, this film will have you shaking your head at this oddball cast of characters. - Review by JR

Gran Torino

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood at his best: Curmudgeon with a heart of gold. Gran Torino combines action and suspense with a tender pathos. Luckily it never gets saccharine. Definitely relevant to today’s issues; it explores the combining of different cultures into a once white suburban neighborhood. The main character is the Gran Torino itself, representing all of the things in our culture that have disappeared such as: wastefulness, disregard for the environment, and a certain kind of jingoism only a big car can provide. So depending on your views, you may admire these out of date virtues or you may root for a change of heart! Gran Torino is well worth an evening in front of the TV. Enjoy! - Review by HK

Frost/Nixon

Directed by Ron Howard

A political rumble in the jungle, exquisitely acted with all the pathos of a Greek tragedy. Suspenseful battle of wills that was entertaining from start to finish. - Review by HK

The Lives of Others

Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

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Deeply engrossing and subtly nuanced film about the East German Stasi's clandestine look into the lives of creative artists they suspected of subversion. The most moving character development belongs to the Stasi officer who moves from hard-line rigidity to silent rebellion. An incredible film, it won an Academy award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. - Review by JR

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Directed by Rob Cohen

A fun, action packed movie for the whole family, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor once again features Brendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell. While Rick and his wife Evy grow bored with “retired” life in the country, their son Alex is heading an expedition of his own in China. After finding the famous dragon emperor’s tomb and arranging a grand exhibit of its relics in Shanghai, Alex finds himself and his parents in the middle of a plot to bring the centuries-old Dragon Emperor back to world domination. There are great fight scenes, fabulous sets, and surprises galore! - Review by SD

Bottle Shock

Directed by Randall Miller

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This movie is about how a blind taste testing in Paris in 1976 put Napa Valley on the map as a place for world-famous wine. Originally set up as a publicity stunt by London wine merchant Steven Spurrier, his travels through wine country become a journey of discovery that is mirrored by the emotional journeys the other characters take as they decide on their futures in the wine industry. Filled with sun-drenched scenes of Napa in all its glory, Bottle Shock is a glorious blast from the past, complete with a retro-rock soundtrack. - Review by SD

The Dark Knight

Directed by Christopher Nolan

I confess -- I was one of those people who thought that Heath Ledger received a pity Oscar. All that changed after I watched this movie. Ledger puts on a disturbingly gruesome portrayal of the Joker that will have you cringing. Even though it's a bit long (2 1/2 hours), the action in the film is stellar and keeps the film moving along at a nice pace. Word of warning -- this movie is really not for kids. - Review by JR

3:10 to Yuma

Directed by James Mangold

I love Westerns, and I especially love great Westerns -- and this one qualifies. Christian Bale is wonderful as the farmer turned marshall and Russell Crowe is brilliant as the bandit taken to the train and to justice. The interactions between these two strong characters propel the film, the supporting cast is strong, and we all root for Christian Bale to succeed! A fantastic film, though not for the squeamish -- they use their firearms to maximum effect. - Review by JR

The Family that Preys

Directed by Tyler Perry

The Family That Preys was a very good film. The cast was amazing and the story line was very well thought out. I truly enjoyed this film. - Review by RM

Spellbound

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz

OK, I admit it. I thought this movie would be boring -- a cure for insomnia. I mean, how exciting can a documentary about the National Spelling Bee, well, be? But it was gripping, suspenseful, and dramatic. In a word: W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L! - Review by JR

Brick

Directed by Rian Johnson

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Brick is an excellent movie about a sophisticated highschooler, Brendan, who gets mixed up in cocaine trafficking in order to save his ex-girlfriend from being murdered by The Pin, the head of the whole operation. Brendan acts like a detective, trying to find out all the dirt he can, to take the bad guys down while still coming out clean. It's rated R due to violence and drugs, and I recommend it for all adults interested in a modern day film noir suspense thriller. - Review by DZ

Strictly Ballroom

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Before he took us to Australia or the Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann made a film about competitive ballroom dancing. Over the top visually and dramatically, it recounts the story of two young partners who break all the established rules. The costumes are worth the price of admission! - Review by JR

Big Fish

Directed by Tim Burton

With his father near death, Will Bloom seeks to find the truth behind the tall tales and lies his father used to describe his eventful life. The audience is taken through a series of flashbacks which depict the life of Will’s father as was described to him. We see love at first sight, giants, and as the title suggests, a big fish. This is a beautiful, heartwarming film that takes you on a wave of emotions leaving you with a tear-jerker ending. It is an excellent film to share with the family (with the PG-13 rating it does require some parental guidance). This is one of my favorite films of all time and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. - Review by DZ