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Showing posts from June 23, 2013

Review: Mean Creek

When a bully (Josh Peck) won’t stop tormenting him, young Rory Culkin turns to his older brother (Trevor Morgan) for help. Along with some buddies (Scott Mechlowicz and Ryan Kelley), and the girl Culkin is crushing on (Carly Schroeder), they decide to teach Peck a lesson in a non-violent way. They invite Peck on a boat trip designed to humiliate him, but with a ruse that it’s actually Culkin’s birthday (Why would Culkin invite his tormentor to a birthday celebration, however?). Unfortunately, the prank goes wrong, someone dies, and everyone else is left to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Bullying is a very serious and important topic to address, so it’s a shame that this 2004 film from writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes (a debutant who has failed to really do anything much since) fouls it up. It’s a disappointingly slight film that ultimately doesn’t say very much at all, despite meandering for quite a long time. It could’ve been something, if it focussed more on the serio…

Review: Confidence

Told in flashback, Ed Burns is Jake Vig, the cockiest con man you’re likely to come across and pulls stings with a regular crew including Paul Giamatti, Louis Lombardi, and Brian Van Holt. Unfortunately, their latest sting sees them take $150,000 from an associate of a kingpin actually named King (Dustin Hoffman). King, who suffers from ADHD (and owns a ‘classy’ strip club), believes the money to have been his, and retaliates by killing one of Vig’s crew. Vig decides to confront King himself and see if they can’t reach some kind of agreement. King wants his damn money, but instead Vig proposes that he instead does a job for King. King agrees, so long as one of his own men (Franky G) tags along. Vig has also recently acquired the services of sexy grifter Lily (Rachel Weisz) as they attempt to take $5 million from King’s biggest rival (Robert Forster), planning on keeping the rest of the loot for themselves after paying off the debt to Hoffman (who is unaware of this). This involves the…

Review: Shame

Michael Fassbender plays a NY exec struggling with an embarrassing sex addiction, whose routine (of masturbation, pornography, casual sex, and prostitutes) is thrown out of whack when his emotionally needy sister (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay and intrudes in his personal space. There is clearly a shared, presumably painful secret in their past that may have influenced their development as human beings. Nicole Beharie plays a co-worker whom Fassbender courts, and maybe even considers breaking his streak of meaningless sexual relationships for something deeper with her.

A lot of people seem to have been deeply moved by this very adult 2011 film from director/co-writer Steve McQueen (“Hunger”). I’m not among them. It’s not so much minimalist as one-note, thin, and repetitive, with only Carey Mulligan’s wonderfully moving turn breathing any life into it (Her Marilyn-esque rendition of ‘New York, New York’ is fantastic). In fact, there are at least three actresses in the film who outact l…

Review: Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown

The plot concerns an angry Michael Jai White (as an ex-MMA star whose career died after some law-related troubles) tutoring a ragtag bunch of youngsters in MMA fighting. They each have their own issues that have brought them here. For instance, Scottie Epstein is a comic book store nerd tired of being pummelled, Todd Duffie (and his giant brick of a head) fights for money so that his mother can stop stripping (!). Joining them are a boxer (Alex Meraz) who fights despite an eye injury that could worsen, and fellow Uni student Dean Geyer as a brooding wrestler with issues stemming from his dad finding a new passion...for other dudes. Epstein generally grates on everyone’s nerves, whilst Geyer and Meraz are no bosom buddies since Meraz’s girl Jillian Murray has started snuggling up to Geyer. Uber-geek teen internet fight impresario Evan Peters turns up to tell of a big ‘best of the best’ fight tournament called The Beatdown, involving 16 fighters and a $10,000 cash prize for the winner (…

Review: Biloxi Blues

Part two in Neil Simon’s trilogy of stories featuring the life and times of one Eugene Morris Jerome (Matthew Broderick). This one centres on his time in basic training at the tail end of WWII, having to contend with a possibly psycho drill instructor named Sgt. Toomey (Christopher Walken) for ten gruelling weeks. This guy is the kind of DI who when he catches you screwing up, will ask you to name someone else to carry out a suitable punishment, and knowing you’ll select a weakling or close ally (Hello, Casey Siemaszko), will ignore your answer and choose the big bully to do the punishment. Basically, he’s a prick. Meanwhile, we also see Eugene’s desire to lose his virginity, visiting a husky-voiced hooker (Park Overall, in the only performance of her career that isn’t irritating) with his fellow soldiers, before romancing a Catholic ‘good girl’ (Penelope Ann Miller, pretty much ditto) while on weekend leave. Corey Parker (who later played Jerome in “Broadway Bound”) plays uptight Jew…