Countdown to the Oscars: Movie Reviews!

Feb 20, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Books & Tales, Jacob Alvarado, James Garcia Jr., Lorie Lewis Ham, Margaret Mendel, Movies

by KRL Staff

Over the next six days KRL is going to review the 10 Oscar nominated movies–one a day. Yes I know that doesn’t add up to 10, however we have already reviewed four of them and we will be re-posting those here as well! So enjoy our Oscar countdown and please share with us your thoughts on who you think should win in the comment section! Instead of a brand new post for each movie–we will be adding a new movie to this post every night so be sure and come back right here every evening to see what we’ve added.

The Social Network
Reviewed by Lorie Lewis Ham

With eight Oscar nominations, including best motion picture, The Social Network is a fictional version of the story of the beginnings of Facebook, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. While it doesn’t actually claim to be anything but fiction, it does appear to be based on many actual events including the lawsuits against Zuckerberg by the Winklevoss twins, claiming that he stole the idea from them.

Most early reports showed that Zuckerberg was less than happy about this unauthorized portrayal of him as a socially awkward, egomaniac, however this January he appeared on Saturday Night Live during a skit about the movie, so one has to wonder just how upset he really was. During his appearance he stated that he had finally watched the movie, though his only comment to Jesse was that it was interesting.Perhaps he was just doing damage control.

With a well written script by Aaron Sorkin, whom I love, and a musical score by Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, this movie is very interesting and a mirror on the online world most of us now live in thanks to Facebook. The acting is also top notch.

However I think what I enjoyed most about this film was the feeling that the Internet has opened up a whole new world for young entrepreneurs; given them a feeling of, hey I can do this too. Maybe I can’t become a billionaire, but I can follow my dreams and succeed. I hope this film inspires many young inventors and entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and see where they take them. It was also exciting to think about the fact that an idea can come from anywhere—even out of being rejected by a girl. Who knows what new worlds may be opened up to us by the next Mark Zuckerberg out there somewhere.

Whether fiction loosely based on fact, or flat out truth, either way this was an interesting and entertaining movie and possibly my top pick for an Oscar of those that I have personally seen. Next choice for me would have to be Inception, however I know many people on staff are routing for The King’s Speech. Why not share with us in the comment section below your top picks and join us on Twitter Sunday night to keep up to date on the Oscars live! @kingsriverlife

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language

Note: This was the only movie for which I could not find a working trailer.

Toy Story 3
Reviewed by Jacob Alvarado

Move over little kids, I’ve waited 11 years to see this movie. I have grown up with these beloved characters and was excited to see them in a new adventure. We join Woody and the gang as they face a new predicament in the toy world. Their owner, Andy, is now 17 and leaving for college. His mother wants him to go through his room and either toss stuff or put it in the attic.

The toys find themselves accidentally being donated to a daycare center called Sunnyside. When they arrive, they are greeted by tons of toys — including Barbie’s old love interest Ken. The toys are governed by a strawberry-scented bear named Lotso Huggin Bear. Most of Andy’s toys are loving it there but Woody is bent on getting home to Andy before he leaves for college. No sooner does Woody leave than the other toys realize that Sunnyside isn’t such a sunny place. Lotso is a bear who doesn’t like change so puts the gang in a room full of toddlers and keeps the other toys in a room of more mature kids. Woody has to return to Sunnyside and save his friends but still get back to Andy before time runs out.

This movie is really good; it is probably the best Toy Story to date. Although it is a bit darker for the Disney franchise, it will bring the kid out in you. We get so attached to these characters, they become part of the family. When they are in danger, we are on the edge of our seats. When they are having fun, we’re right there laughing with them. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time that the Toy Story gang embarks on another grand adventure.

Jacob Alvarado is 18 years old and a contributor to our Teen Talk section, oft bringing us an inside look at local theatre due to his love of performing.

Black Swan
Reviewed by Jacob Alvarado

Ballet is probably the hardest type of dance out there. For Nina, played by Natalie Portman, it is life. She wakes up every morning and trains her body for auditions for the lead in Swan Lake. It’s the role of a lifetime, but it comes with a price. Not only would she be the Swan Queen, but the swan alter ego, the Black Swan.

Black Swan begins with Nina stretching and her ex ballerina mother watching her with a stare that could cut glass. She has been preparing Nina for this moment her whole life. When Nina gets to the audition, she meets a competitor named Lily, who also wants the lead role. After a very intimate meeting with the director, Nina feels like trash and is then informed she has won the role of the Swan Queen. The rehearsals begin and Nina is put to the test. Lily and her begin a strange friendship—one that resembles a tiger being forced to share a bed with a lamb. As the opening night approaches, Nina is becoming like the Black Swan full of rage and sensuality. She has to choose, does she let the blackness enter her heart or does she let the delicate white swan fly?

This movie was probably one of the best psychological thrillers I have seen in a long time. This movie is rated R and for good reason. There are many scenes filled with adult situations that many people might find uncomfortable. I loved the cinematography, the way the camera followed each move of the dancers’ feet. If you like dance, this is a perfect movie for you.

Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.

Jacob Alvarado is 18 years old and a contributor to our Teen Talk section, oft bringing us an inside look at local theatre due to his love of performing.

Here is a reposting of the KRL review of Oscar nominated movie True Grit.

True Grit
Reviewed by Lorie Lewis Ham

First off, I have to say I’m not generally a fan of Westerns, but True Grit has so much more to it than just it’s setting of the old West. As a child, I grew up on Westerns as my dad was a big fan and I vaguely remember watching the original with John Wayne playing Rooster Cogburn. I’d have to say from what I can remember that Jeff Bridges did an excellent job of taking on a character once played by the great John Wayne.

The movie is more a story of a young girl set on vengeance for her father’s death and the grumpy old marshal, Rooster, whom she hires to help her track down his killer. The relationship that forms between the two, and the softer side of Rooster that comes out as this movie plays out, is one of its best parts. I also really liked the girl, Mattie Ross played by Hailee Steinfeld, and look forward to seeing more of her. She was tough and strong, and very much against the norm for that time period, and for only being 14. Matt Damon, playing Texas Ranger LaBoeuf added some fun comic relief to the story.

I decided to see this movie because a couple of our teen staff were interested in seeing it and I’m glad I did. One of them, Jesus Ibarra, wanted to see it because he is a fan of Jeff Bridges, and he enjoyed the movie as well, and said he was not disappointed in Bridges performance.

So if you enjoy Westerns I’d say definitely see True Grit. Other than the violence, it could even qualify as a family movie, and seems very true to the style of old Westerns. It was directed by the incredible Coen brothers which is another plus, and you can see their hand in it here and there. If you don’t like Westerns I’d say why not give it a try anyway as the story is very good. Not in my top ten, but definitely enjoyable and pretty clean as well.

Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds.

The Kids Are All Right
Reviewed By Lorie Lewis Hams

Of all of the Oscar nominated movies this year, The Kids Are All Right is the only one that I just didn’t like. I couldn’t even finish it.

The premise actually sounded like it could be interesting. Two teenaged kids of a lesbian couple decide they want to know their biological father (or sperm donor). It all starts out innocently but things get very complicated very quickly. I really liked the father, Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo, and I liked the kids. Actually, I liked most of the characters. The character I couldn’t stand was the one played by Annette Benning—I know she’s a fictional character but there were moments I wanted to slug her—which I imagine shows what a great actress Annette is, to be able inspire such strong feelings.

I didn’t get very far into the movie before I became frustrated with the problems in the relationship between the two women; their relationship for me was a distraction from the more interesting premise of bringing the father into their lives. Sure an action like that would cause tension, but there were obviously a LOT of problems between them before this ever happened. This movie quickly turned into a story about a very dysfunctional home and very confused people, and the unnecessary graphic nature of some of the scenes took away from the story.

Honestly, it felt like just another movie about a bad relationship with one member of the couple being controlling and sometimes cruel, and the other ending up cheating. Some would argue that this movie is realistic, and perhaps it is, but it just didn’t appeal to me. What could have been an interesting, even heartwarming, story just seemed derailed by everything else. Seldom do I leave a movie unfinished, but this time I was just fed up. Perhaps it all had a happy ending (although from a couple of other reviews I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like it), I don’t know, but I just couldn’t get past the rest to get to the ending happy or otherwise.

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use

Here is a reposting of KRL’s review of The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech
Reviewed By James Garcia Jr.

At first glance, the new motion picture The King’s Speech appears to be the type of film that only long-winded critics would wish to spend hours discussing, and where we might expect to see advertisements of the film adorned with the dreaded header: in select theaters. I was one who thought that, and if you are one of those as well, I ask you to give me a moment of your time, because we could not be any more wrong.

The King’s Speech is based on the true story of the Duke of York and the terrible speaking problem that practically debilitated him for his entire life. When King George V passes away, older brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) becomes King. However, wanting to marry a twice-divorced American Socialite more than being King, he abdicates, reluctantly elevating his stammering younger brother (Colin Firth) to the throne. Taking the name King George VI, with Great Britain standing before the shadow of the Second World War, (Firth) battles to find his voice with the assistance of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Weeks ago, this appeared to me to be one of those smart, Oscar-worthy films that no one would want to see outside of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Yet with every week, this film seems to be generating more and more positive buzz, and opening in more and more theaters. Billed as a historical drama, I can tell you that this heart-warming and magical film is so much more. My friend and fellow author, Nicole Hadaway, mentioned that the film had “no dull moments and no wasted scenes” and I found her assessment to be right on target. Typically, Firth and Rush are great in everything that they do; but here we have an awesome and understated performance by Guy Pearce, usually stealing the spotlight in whatever film he’s in; and another from Helena Bonham Carter, playing the wife of King George VI, who seems born to play the role. I have found that Carter has been doing quite a few quirky roles of late that have failed to impress me. In this, however, I found her performance quietly powerful, conveying more with a facial expression than others could do with words.

In fact, the entire film is brilliant. It has humor, wit and powerful moments by not only the main cast, but the supporting actors as well that will bring tears to your eyes more than once. When the screen went dark for the final time, I was actually hoping for another scene. Our audience actually clapped along with the credits and this rarely happens during a film that I have attended. This film is easily the best film I saw in 2010. If there was something else, I certainly cannot remember it now.

James Garcia Jr. is an ongoing contributor to our Downtown Doings section and a long-time resident of Kingsburg where his debut novel, Dance on Fire, is set.

Winter’s Bone
Reviewed By Lorie Lewis Ham

Winter’s Bone the movie, is based on the award winning novel of the same name written by author Daniel Woodrell. I have not yet read the book so I can’t speak as to how the movie version compares, but it too may be on its way to winning awards as it is another of our Oscar nominees. (watch for a review of the book in the March 5 issue)

The movie features a 17 year old girl (16 in the book) named Ree, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who lives in the Ozarks. She is trying to take care of her mentally ill mother and two younger siblings while her dad has gone missing after being charged with making drugs. Things are difficult for them and they are struggling just to eat. Ree’s life is made that much harder when she finds out that her father has put their home up as bond and if he does not show up to court they will lose the house and land.

Determined not to let her family down, Ree decides she is going to find her father whatever it takes and faces much opposition from family and neighbors who are also involved in the local drug trade.

While Winter’s Bone moved a little slowly for me at times, and it’s not really my type of movie, you have to admire the strength of character of this young woman who refuses to give up even after being beaten. Jennifer Lawrence definitely deserves her Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role—her portrayal of this character is powerful and inspiring.

Rated R for some drug material, language and violent content.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

Here is also a reposting of KRL’s review of Oscar nominated movie Inception:

Reviewed by Jesus Ibarra

Christopher Nolan redefined what it meant to be a superhero with his masterpiece The Dark Knight and, in Inception, he aims to redefine what reality itself means. I believe this is far superior to any of his other films. He wrote, produced and directed this ambitious Science Fiction film — sometimes blurring the lines of genre with crossover to action, drama and thriller. The movie is in a word, complicated; it’s hard to explain it without spoiling it but, as someone who hates spoilers, I’ll be careful how much I reveal.

Left to right: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Dileep Rao, Ken Watanabe

With an ensemble cast lead by Leonardo DiCaprio, we enter a world where it’s possible to share dream states and one’s subconscious. The technology was developed by the military to train soldiers since time passes more quickly in our subconscious than in the real world. Enter Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) who’s covert team is tasked with theft of the innermost secrets from the world of corporate espionage. That’s called extraction — now he’s presented with the ability to do something that will give him what he really wants in life, Inception. The idea being that, instead of stealing ideas, he can plant them. What seems easier in theory proves extremely hard. That endeavor provides the movie’s basic premise yet Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio pull us into Cobb’s own story, one that’s equally compelling and weaves into the original plot line beautifully. That’s all I can really say about the story without spoiling it because every scene in this movie counts, there are no wasted moments.

Inception posterThis, for me, is now the standard for film; it tells a story, shows character growth and creates action that is practical (when it’s not, you can’t tell). This has officially become my favorite movie of all time. The main reason is it does something that no movie I’ve seen has done: I still can’t get the ending out of my head — it has remained with me since the moment I left the theater. Everything about this movie is amazing. I don’t think I can praise it more than I already have. Just go watch it already, you won’t be disappointed (unless you confuse easily, then wait for DVD). If you can afford to watch it in IMAX, do so as the visuals and audio are amazing.

Inception is now available on DVD.

Jesus Ibarra is 18 years old and an ongoing contributor to our Teen Talk section; with a love of all media, he’s always on the lookout for the best finds.

127 Hours
Reviewed by Zachariah Zendejas

On Saturday April 26, 2003, climber Aron Ralston hikes through Blue John Canyon, enjoying a day of adventure, exercise, and thrills. However, what Ralston doesn’t know is that his day of fun will quickly transform into a nightmare, lasting days.

In 127 Hours, a movie based on a true story, James Franco, who has been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance, portrays real-life mountain climber and canyoneerer Aron Ralston, who becomes trapped in a crevice in the earth, in Moab, Utah, when he attempts to explore the cavern. As Ralston began his descent, a boulder he chose to stand on collapses under him and Ralston falls past the boulder, further into the cavern and stops only when the boulder crushes his hand and part of his forearm against the cavern wall, trapping him, literally, between a rock and a hard place.

After the fast-paced and strong beginning to this thriller/ drama, Ralston realizes that his life is in danger, because he hasn’t many supplies and no one knows where he is. With this revelation, Ralston begins to take desperate measures to ensure his survival.

The movie seems to stay true to the actual event that the real life Ralston endured with scenes containing flashbacks of his life, and his slipping grasp on reality soon after telling himself “do not lose it”.

Though much of the dialogue is between Franco and his camcorder and several flashbacks, the tension of the film is delivered through Franco’s sickly appearance, desperate calls for help (though many were faded out and covered with music), and his belief that someone would find him.

The movie has an “acid-trip” quality due to the rush of images and information thrown to the viewer; however it connects well with the mindset of Ralston, who began to hallucinate due to lack of food, water and sleep.


Through superb writing, excellent directing, and Franco’s authentic performance of a desperate and dying man, 127 Hours earns its several nominations including best actor, best film, and best writing for an adapted screenplay.

Rated R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images.

Zachariah Zendejas is 19 years old and attends Reedley College full-time working toward a degree in English. He is an aspiring writer who hopes to do some freelance work for magazines or newspapers.

The Fighter
Reviewed by Margaret Mendel

In reviewing The Fighter the interesting thing was that I already knew how the story ended before I went into the theater. I’m a fight fan and I’ve seen Mickey Ward in the ring quite a few times and I knew that his brother, Dicky, was his trainer. What I didn’t know, and what The Fighter depicted so well, was what his family life was like.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fight fan’s movie in my opinion, with a fair amount of boxing and brawling, though unlike other ‘underdog becomes hero’ boxing movies, this flick took such a close look at Ward’s family life that I nearly felt voyeuristic while sitting in my theater seat.

The story opens with an HBO film crew following Dicky, played by Christian Bale, and Micky, played by Mark Wahlberg, as the two men demonstrate what Dicky does for his day job as a road paver. Dicky is a has-been boxer hooked on crack and believes that HBO is making a documentary about his comeback efforts. With the HBO film crew in tow, the movie takes a walk down the streets of Lowell, Mass., a town that looks like it has seen better days. Then the story line takes a quick turn and the movie goer is catapulted right into the Ward family melodrama with the mother, Alice, played by Melissa Leo, as the promoter of her sons boxing careers and the head honcho in the household.

The uncomfortably close vantage point of the camera and the use of muted light and color gave me the impression that this movie could have actually been a documentary about a boxing crazed Irish Catholic family. There was a claustrophobic feel in every interior scene with family members sitting cheek to jowl on the couch or any available chair with everyone agreeing that Dicky had once been the Pride of Lowell and now it was Micky’s time to shine. Yet, the fights that Alice has so far been able to pull off for Micky have only made him look like a loser and not a contender.

This is a movie about a complex family system, the love of two brothers, one sucked into drug addiction with the other brother struggling to find his own way in the boxing world as he passively lets Alice direct his life. When Micky finds a love interest, Charlene, played by Amy Adams, and she convinces Micky to get outside help with his boxing career, the family is turned upside down. Within this family system there are not only two brothers, but seven sisters as well. None of the sisters play a major role in this movie but as a group they are a force to be reckoned with.

After I’d seen The Fighter I watched some clips from a couple of Micky Ward’s fights. I saw two women in the audience, one who looked just like Alice with short cropped blond hair and the other one a young, long-haired beauty, strikingly resembling Charlene. They were standing next to each other clapping, shouting and jumping. In Micky’s corner there was a guy yacking away, pouring water over the sweaty boxer’s head and he looked just like Christian Bale but he was the real Dicky.


I was disappointed that the movie didn’t take the viewer all the way to the Arturo Gotti fights. But then that’s another movie.

Rated R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.

If the Oscar countdown has put you in the mood to go out and see a movie, check out what is now playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website.

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Margaret Mendel was born in San Jose and has a Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of San Francisco & a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Currently residing in New York, she has had several short stories and articles published.



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