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Showing posts from July 6, 2014

Review: Mud

Set in small-town Arkansas, 14 year-old Tye Sheridan and his pal Jacob Lofland come across a boat hanging in a tree. They find out that the boat is the current abode of a dirty-looking stranger (Matthew McConaughey), who goes by the name Mud. They get to talking, and before long they are friends, with the boys even bringing food for the man, who appears to be hiding from authorities. The details only slowly reveal themselves, but involve a murder (justifiable homicide, so says Mud), and a somewhat trashy local girl (Reese Witherspoon), whom Mud claims is his girlfriend, and whom he is waiting for. Meanwhile, Sheridan’s mother (Sarah Paulson) and embittered father (Ray McKinnon) are experiencing turbulent times, whilst Lofland’s laidback uncle (Michael Shannon) starts to wonder what the kids are up to. Joe Don Baker and Paul Sparks play the mean-spirited father and slimy brother of the man McConaughey killed, and are looking for revenge/justice/retribution. Sam Shepard has a small part…

Review: Killing Season

Robert De Niro plays a retired American military man who has secluded himself up in the Appalachian mountains, resisting his son Milo Ventimiglia’s invitation to his own grandson’s christening. John Travolta (who needs to quit with the goofy, tacked-on facial hair obsession already) plays a former Serbian paramilitary dude who has travelled to the US supposedly to go hunting in the mountains. We know pretty early on, however, that Travolta has a personal beef with De Niro that goes back to the Bosnian-Serbian conflict in the mid-90s. Travolta claims to be Bosnian, and De Niro doesn’t immediately recognise him. Unfortunately, before he has time to, this hunting enthusiast is about to become the hunted, as old wounds are re-opened, as well as a few fresh wounds. However, don’t think shrapnel-embedded, psychologically scarred old De Niro is gonna be easy pickings, there’s still life in him yet.

Beware any film featuring Robert De Niro and John Travolta that you’ve never heard of. When th…

Review: The Way Way Back

Nerdy, introverted 14 year-old Liam James is on vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her arrogant douchebag boyfriend (Steve Carell), and it looks like it’s going to be a hellish time at Carell’s beach home. That’s until James ventures to the local water park and meets owner Sam Rockwell, who gives him a summer job, and kinda mentors the kid, though mostly just trying to get the sullen teen to break out of his shell and have some damn fun. He also strikes up a relationship with AnnaSophia Robb, the teen daughter of trashy divorcee neighbour Alison Janney. Meanwhile, Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry play acquaintances, the former of whom Carell has a wandering eye for. A pregnant Maya Rudolph plays a water park employee, alongside a depressed Jim Rash and laidback Nat Faxon.

Take a little bit of “Meatballs”, add a dash of “The Descendants”, and a sprinkling of “Little Miss Sunshine”, and you get this disappointingly clichéd, derivative film from writer-director Jim Rash. I had heard…

Review: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

As the title suggests, this 1975 comedy from directors Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam (the latter of whom would go on to direct “Time Bandits” and “The Fisher King”, whilst the former helmed subsequent Python films “The Life of Brian” and “The Meaning of Life”), is the irreverent British comedy troupe’s interpretation of the story of King Arthur (Played by Graham Chapman as a noble but pompous and irritable sort), and his Knights of the Round Table, in their quest for the holiest of grails. The performers play several roles each (Michael Palin playing the most at 12), with the main characters being Arthur and his Knights. John Cleese is the heroic, but recklessly violent Lancelot the Brave, who could learn a thing or two about subtlety. Michael Palin is Sir Galahad the Chaste, whose virtue is tested by the buxom women of the Castle Anthrax. Eric Idle plays Sir Robin the Not Quite So Brave as Sir Lancelot, whose unfortunate exploits are joyously retold by his band of minstrel followers …

Review: The Power of One

Set in South Africa during the 30s and 40s, this is the story of orphaned P.K. (played as an adult by Stephen Dorff) picked on by the other boys at boarding school for being an English South African amidst a bunch of Nationalistic Afrikaners. He is mentored through life by three people; German pacifist Doc (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who teaches him about life and plants. Geel Pete (Morgan Freeman) a black slave who teaches P.K. how to box, which will lead P.K. to become a driving force for an attempt at social change among the races in South Africa. Finally there is the Headmaster (Sir John Gielgud), the chief academic influence in P.K.’s life, and the inspiration for P.K. to teach literacy to blacks (which is illegal at the time). Fay Masterson plays the daughter of the Afrikaner Nationalist President, whom P.K. romances, to her father’s obvious disapproval. Daniel Craig plays a childhood tormentor of P.K.’s, grown up.

Let’s forget about Bryce Courtenay’s novel and whether this 1992 film …

Review: Oliver and Company

Set in New York, Oliver (voiced by Joey ‘Woah’ Lawrence) is an orphaned orange pussy who finds himself hooking up with a bunch of stray pooches, led by streetwise Dodger (voiced by Billy Joel), and who work (i.e. steal) for human Fagin (voiced by Dom DeLuise). Poor Fagin is in financial dire straits, in debt to nasty mobster Sykes (voiced by Robert Loggia). Cheech Marin (as excitable Chihuahua Tito), Roscoe Lee Browne (as melodramatic bulldog Francis), Sheryl Lee Ralph (as sassy Afghan hound Rita), and Richard Mulligan (as the ironically named Einstein, a somewhat thick Great Dane) voice the other pooches, with Bette Midler voicing Georgette, a spoiled diva poodle Oliver runs into when unwittingly adopted by a rich (but lonely) young girl.

Disney animation was not churning out masterpieces in the 80s the way it used to in the 40s and 50s, but this 1988 film from director George Scribner (a former animator in the only feature-length directorial gig of his career) is quite enjoyable. Sc…

Review: The Emperor’s Club

Told largely in flashback from the POV of a long-serving ancient history teacher (Kevin Kline) at a posh school about to have a 25 year reunion commemorating and recreating the school’s infamous history quiz (which makes school seem like a warm up for an appearance on “Jeopardy”, but never mind). We see the early days of his tenure as he tries to impart not only knowledge to his students, but also a sense of honour, integrity, and character. Enter troublemaker Emile Hirsch, a non-conformist smart-arse who clearly has the smarts, and Kline feels he shows genuine promise. But does he have the quality of character? Fellow students are played by Paul Dano and Jesse Eisenberg, whilst Rob Morrow and Edward Herrmann are among the faculty. Stephen Culp and Patrick Dempsey play the middle-aged versions of Paul Dano and Jesse Eisenberg, respectively, whilst Harris Yulin is Hirsch’s unfeeling politician father, and Embeth Davidtz is the woman Kline loves but can’t have.

Based on a short story by…