Black Swan (2010)#

Black Swan is an exploration into one's struggle for search of perfection. Are you willing to lose yourself completely for the sake of your art and passion? Take your body and mind to limits you never dreamed were possible? Natalie Portman gives a brilliant performance as a young aspiring ballerina given a chance of a lifetime to play the lead role in Swan Lake. Portman's portrayal of Nina the ballerina is what makes this movie so captivating. The entire movie depends on Natalie Portman's performance and Darren Aronofsky couldn't have picked a better actress for this film. Her transformation into a ballerina is one of the most compelling performance by an actor I have seen since Robert de Niro's role as Jack LaMotta in Raging Bull. You can see the physical and mental training she put herself through in order to get ready for this role.
The use of various camera techniques and well as the imagery of mirrors create a very personal atmosphere. You can literally feel her pain, fear, self-doubt, and mounting paranoia as she prepares for her role as the Black Swan. All I can say is that Natalie Portman really showed her range and maturation as one of the best young actresses around today. This is a mature film intended for an adult audience, so just keep that in mind if you do decide to watch this movie. This film was much darker than I expected it to be, and if you don't mind some graphic images, Black Swan is definitely a film worth checking out. How far are you willing to sacrifice your body and mind to achieve perfection?

#IMDB-8.8/10 (#55 on Top 250)
Rotten Tomatoes- Critics- 88%, Audience- 90%
Yong's Rating- 9.5/10 (Highly recommended)


When in Rome (2010)

When in Rome is a romantic comedy featuring Kristen Bell. This movie is exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's an average romantic comedy at best. Bell plays Beth, a career oriented woman who only cares about her job. Guess what? She's a gorgeous woman who has bad luck with relationships. Where have we seen that before? Pretty much every generic romantic comedy out there. When Bell accidentally steals some coins out of the fountain of love in Rome during her sister's wedding, she unknowingly casts a love spell on a group of guys. Apparently its a common knowledge in Rome that if you take coins out of a fountain you make the person who threw in the coin fall in love with you. With a group of love crazed suitors following her, Bell must decide whether the man she fell in love with is really in love with her or just under a spell.
The only thing that may have saved this movie was Kristen Bell's charisma and charm. But, her talents as well as that of the cast seemed wasted due to the poor writing and bad premise. There isn't much to see in this movie that you haven't seen before. Skip this one unless you are a big fan of Kristen Bell or some of the cast members.

Rotten Tomatoes- Critics- 16%, Audience-44%
Yong's Rating- 5/10 (Skip it)


Mother (2009)

I was pleasantly surprised by Mother. It was one of the best movie I've seen recently. Mother is a thriller about a desperate mother trying to prove the innocence of her mentally challenged son. A gruesome murder of a high school girl in a small Korean town shocks the community. The blame falls on a mentally challenged young man who doesn't have an alibi for the night of the murder. Without much resources, the mother does everything in her power to save her son. The film goes much deeper than its simple premise. It is sure to keep you well entertained. The best part about this movie is the performance of Hye-ja Kim. It was one of the best performance by an actress I've seen in a long time. Her portrayal as the desperate mother is so real and you can literally feel her love for her helpless son. So if you are in a mood for a smart and mature thriller, go check out Mother.

Rotten Tomatoes- Critics-95%, audience- 84%
Yong's rating-10/10 (must see)

Grown Ups (2010)

What can go wrong with a buddy comedy featuring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider? These guys are all funny, and can each carry a movie all by themselves. What can go wrong? Well, how about lack of effort. It almost seemed like these guys just met up for a weekend and put in just enough effort to come up with a decent buddy comedy. With the amount of talent in this movie, maybe I expected a little too much.
Death of a mentor and childhood basketball coach reunites a group of buddies for the first time in many years. The funeral provides a chance for the friends to reminisce about their childhood and rekindle their friendship. It also gives them a chance to form a stronger bond with their family. Grown Ups does have a lot of laughs and can be quite enjoyable. If you are looking for some light comedy and physical humor, this movie has plenty of it. I felt there was just a lot more potential for this movie with such a talented cast.Well, if you are fan of any of the comedians in this movie, it may very well be worth your time. Just lower your expectations a tiny bit.

Rotten Tomatoes- Critics-10%, Audience-61%
Yong's Rating- 6.5/10 (worth a look)


Yong's Fantasy Football Studs and Busts

Here's recap of best and worst of this year's fantasy football season.

Fantasy STUDS

Philip Rivers
Mr.Rivers has had a ridiculous year. An absolute fantasy stud at the qb position. This guy was out of his mind throwing to anybody filling in as his receivers.

Arian Foster
Foster rode his hot preseason streak into the regular season. With his breakout first game, some experts called his performance an one time thing. But, Foster proved his critics wrong with his consistency. Available in many wavier wire, one of the best pick-ups of the season.

Mike Vick
No one saw this coming. Kolb was suppose to be the main man in Philly. An early injury gave Vick a chance and he never looked back. Even though ribs injury caused him to miss some time, Vick rewarded his owner who picked him up and stuck with him.

Peyton Hillis
Another player who came out of nowhere. Hillis quickly established himself as a solid RB #1. Hillis was a beast on the field as well as one of the best surprises of the year.

Roddy White
White was Matt Ryan's favorite target and for good reasons. White was one of the most reliable wr this year whether in ppr or non-ppr format.

Antonio Gates-
Mr. Gates was the definition of absolute fantasy stud this year while he was healthy. I'm sure he made his owners very happy when he was productive and carried them to victory on his back for a couple of weeks.

Fantasy BUSTS

Ryan Mathews
Experts were really high on Mathews as the rb to take LT's spot. Some were even calling him the next AP. Boy, were they wrong. Sure, he was slowed down by some injuries but his production did not live up to his high 1st-2nd round draft pick status.

Shonn Greene
Another big disappointment at the rb position. With the departure of Jones, Grenne was suppose to be the man in the strong Jets running game. But, his trouble with holding onto the ball and early emergence of LT significantly cut into his playing time.

Randy Moss
One of the biggest bust at the wr position has to be Mr. Moss. Many had Moss as a top 5 wr going into the season, but he just didn't play up to the hype. Since being traded from the Pats, he has literally disappeared while the Pats has become one of the top teams in the NFL.

Carson Palmer
The Bengals has been one of the most disappointing teams this year coming off of last year's good run. Palmer can't be blamed for all of their troubles, but he sure didn't help with his poor play. He hasn't been the same player since his injury.

DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart
The entire panthers offense can be include in this category , but none has been more disappointing than the Williams and Stewart combo. It seems this will be Williams last year with the panthers.

Beanie Wells/ Entire Cardinals offense
Some slow down was to be expected with departure of Warner but come on! The qb position was horrific, which really hurt Fitzgerald's value. Beanie Wells was projected to be one of the bright spots in this offense but he was a big bust. His health didn't help, but he's making the list anyways. Only bright spot for Cardinals in fantasy- picking the defense that was playing them.

So how was your fantasy season?

Schindler's List (1993) *#@

Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List doesn't attempt to explain or provide answers to how something as horrific as the Holocaust could take place. There is no way any single movie can effectively tackle the immense issues of morality and tragedy brought on by the Holocaust. Spielberg simply uses World War II as a backdrop to tell the compelling true story of Oskar Schindler. The war provides the perfect opportunity for Schindler to make a big profit running factories for the war effort using Jewish workers. At the start of the film, you get a sense that he is simply a manipulative businessman only out to make money. However, as the movie progresses you can see that he truly feels compassion for his workers and the suffering of the Jewish people. Schindler goes out of his way to provide refuge for his workers by using his factories as a safe haven for them. Schindler's (Liam Neeson) compassion and kindness to the helpless workers show the goodness that a person is capable of even in the darkest of times. On the other hand, General Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) personifies the evil that we are also capable of.
Schindler's List tells the story it intends to tell very well and provides an emotional authentic experience for its viewers. It moves slowly and builds up to an emotional climax. The use of black and white for this film perfectly serves to show the gritty and dark nature of the time period. The true legacy of Oskar Schindler is passed on through the Jewish survivors that he helped to save and the future generations of their family.

#IMDB-8.9/10 (#7 on the Top 250)
Rotten Tomatoes- Critics-97%, audience- 96%
Yong's Rating- 9/10 (highly recommended)
@- One of Ebert's great movies.
*One of 1001 movies you must see before you die


Love Actually (2003)

When is it more appropriate time for a heart warming film than the holidays? If you are looking for that feel good movie for this time of year, look no further than Love Actually. This British romantic comedy revolves around the lives of a group of individuals from all walks of life searching for love during the holidays. Whether it is a young shy boy worrying about his first crush or a man being madly in love with his best friend's girl, there's sure to be a storyline that will capture your attention.
This movie is smarter and funnier than the majority of romantic comedies out these days. Even those of you guys who dread rom-coms may find this watchable. The cast is excellent with extremely likable roles. The overall message of this film is that love actually exists everywhere and all you have to do is just look hard enough. Whether you believe that or not, it's good to feel that people are capable of so much love especially during this time of the year.

Rotten Tomatoes- critics- 63% audience- 71%
Yong's rating- 8.5/10 (recommended)


Elf (2003)

Elf is another one of my favorite movies to watch during the holidays. If you still haven't seen Elf yet, just turn on USA network sometime this month. I'm betting there's about 50% chance that it will be playing. Will Ferrell is at top comedic form with his role as Buddy the Elf. If there was some kind elf oscars, he would've won it easily. I mean I was certain that smiling was indeed his favorite. The rest of the cast does an excellent job of supplementing Will Ferrell and setting him up for his jokes.
Elf tells the story of Buddy the elf, who grows up with Santa and the elves on the North Pole without realizing that he is human. Then, one day he learns about his real identity and that his real father lives in New York city. Buddy decides to go on an adventure to meet his father and tell him that he loves him. Buddy soon learns that NYC is a long ways from the North Pole. Even through the tough times, Buddy manages to spread the Christmas cheer and even fall in love with a lovely girl ( Zooey Deschanel).
Elf is just a really enjoyable holiday movie you can watch with everyone in your family. This movie is filled with laughter and a good clean message. Perfect for the holidays. Just remember the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Rotten Tomatoes- Critics- 84%, Audience- 73%
Yong's rating-8/10 (must see for the holidays)


Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)*

There are certain movies I always like to watch during the holiday season. I'm going to review some of those movies in the next few week. I'm starting off with Hannah and Her Sisters, written and directed by Woody Allen. I believe that Hannah and Her Sisters represents Mr. Allen at the top of his game. The writing, cast, acting, music, and cinematography are all excellent. It is the perfect combination of comedy, drama, and intellect. The film is composed of series of vignettes surrounding a group of characters. It flows effortlessly, thanks to the brilliant screenplay, perhaps Allen's finest.
There is Hannah and her sisters, played by Mia Farrow (Hannah) , Dianne Wiest (Holly), and Barbara Hershey (Lee). The relationship between the three sisters is much more complex than it seems at the beginning and as the film progresses the nature of the complexity is explored. Michael Caine plays Mia Farrow's husband, a glorified accountant who lusts after his wife's sister, Lee. Woody Allen plays Mickey, who is Hannah's ex-husband. He is semi-successful television producer. Allen plays the character that he has perfected, a nervous, neurotic hypochondriac. After having to face his own morality, he goes on a search for the meaning of life. It was his search for answers for a reason to continue living through books and religions that I found most interesting and entertaining. And in the end maybe he does find some closure just as he suggests in the movie, "Maybe the poets are right, maybe love is the only answer."
If you are only going to watch one Woody Allen movie, then I highly suggest you make it this one.

IMDB- 8.0/10
Rotten tomatoes- Critics- 93% audience-88%
Yong's rating- 10/10 (must see)
*(one of 1001 movies you must see before you die)