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Showing posts from June 21, 2015

Review: Switchback

We open with a babysitter answering a knock at the door by a grinning dork (Brent Hinkley). After he leaves, the babysitter is almost immediately killed by a masked murderer, and the toddler she was in charge of being whisked away. End scene. R. Lee Ermey plays a Texas sheriff hoping to be re-elected, when it appears a murderer has hit his town. His political rival, by the way, is the Chief of Police, played by a smarmy William Fichtner, always looking to get one over on the sheriff for last minute political points scoring. Anyway, grim-faced FBI agent Dennis Quaid comes to town to inform the sheriff that this is a serial killer they are looking for, one he’s personally been after for years. However, there’s something a little too intense about Quaid’s pursuit here, and a call from his superior indeed lets us know that all may not be well with him. Meanwhile, separate from all this we meet medical school dropout Jared Leto, a hitchhiker who accepts a lift from strapping, cowboy hat-sp…

Review: The Legend of Hercules

Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) is wife to the ruthless King Amphytrion (Scott Adkins!), but is visited late at night by the god Zeus in wind form (!) and the result of their wild and windy night is a baby. Although his name is to be Hercules, he is given the name Alcides by the King, and the boy grows into a man played by Kellan Lutz. Detested by King Amphytrion and half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), he loves the princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss), whom the King sets up with Iphicles, because the King is a dickhead. He then sends Hercules on pretty much of a suicide mission as far away from the kingdom as possible. After the mission fails spectacularly, Hercules and his buddy-in-arms Sotiris (Liam McIntyre) are sold into slavery and trained as gladiatorial warriors by crusty old Lucius (Kenneth Cranham). No twelve labours to overcome here, folks (Well, maybe the lion, but that’s just one). Jonathon Schaech turns up as a grungy-looking Egyptian warrior named Tarak, and Rade Serbedzija has a small…

Review: Gone Girl

Nick (Ben Affleck) comes home one night to find signs of a struggle (traces of blood included) and his author wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. Cops Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit investigate, with the latter firmly and cynically believing that Nick has likely killed his wife. Both Nick and Amy are writers, and both currently out of work. Amy is kind of a celebrity, having been the inspiration for a series of children’s books about ‘Amazing’ Amy, written by her parents. So with Amy being such a beloved and known figure, there’s intense media scrutiny (largely in the form of a Nancy Grace-like TV host played by Missi Pyle) largely pointed at Nick. And as unsavoury details of their supposed marital problems surface (through Amy’s diary, documenting an abusive husband and unhappy marriage), Nick looks guilty as hell. He maintains his innocence however, and stays with his twin sister (played by Carrie Coon), who learns a few things about her brother that even someone as close as she didn’t…

Review: The Four Dragons

Set in Malaysia in 1881, the film concerns four orphans who as adults (played by Michael Chin, David Bao, Robin Ho, and Kuan Fei Jun) are working for a mining operation. Unfortunately, the operation is run by a greedy bastard who plots to kill them and hire cheaper labour instead. Our heroes don’t take kindly to this and plan their revenge. Lots of poorly animated blood ensues.

This 2008 film from debut director C.L. Hor (who has directed two films since) and co-screenwriter Kam Leong Chow (also a first-timer) is apparently the first martial arts film from Malaysia. Also known as “Kinte”, it frankly isn’t up to snuff, I’m afraid. A very stylised film, and at first that’s kinda fun with opening credits design like something out of “300” (Not to mention the nu-metal soundtrack which is much less fun). There’s also impressive sound design early on, rhythmically matching the action on screen.

Unfortunately, the fun wears off about ten minutes into the film, as the stylised look of the fil…

Review: Wild Rovers

Aging cowboy William Holden and his younger associate Ryan O’Neal start to become jaded with a life working for rancher Karl Malden that sees them working for a long time and frankly not getting much out of it. They feel that they are wasting their lives. The younger man gets to thinking about earning some quick cash…by robbing a bank! Holden will take bank teller James Olson to the bank at night to get them some cash, while O’Neal will hold up at Olson’s home with his family as hostages. The robbery goes swimmingly, but a problem arises when Malden hears about the robbery. See, Malden normally wouldn’t wish ill against two men who had been working for him, except that some of the money they stole belonged to him! So he and his sons (a young Joe Don Baker and Tom Skerritt) head out in search of the two robbers. Sam Gilman plays a disagreeable sheep herder, Rachel Roberts is a madam, and Moses Gunn is an old buddy of Holden’s.

Apparently the 106 minute version of this 1971 western is a…

Review: 20,000 Years in Sing Sing

Spencer Tracy stars as a cocky hoodlum arriving at New York’s Sing Sing prison for a 5-30 stretch, though he thinks he and his slick lawyer Louis Calhern can buy his way into preferential treatment. Unfortunately for them, the Warden (Arthur Byron) is entirely incorruptible and is hell-bent on reforming the young punk whether he likes it or not. Bette Davis plays Tracy’s girlfriend on the outside, whilst Lyle Talbot plays another prisoner.

Although it seems awfully lumpy now, this 1933 prison flick from director Michael Curtiz (“The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”, “Casablanca”, “King Creole”) is well-shot and the acting keeps it from sinking. Louis Calhern in particular steals his every scene, the slippery bastard, and you wish he were in much more of the film.

The film is ultimately not very convincing, it only barely holds up over 70 years later, but the script is the problem here, everyone else does their damn best. So blame the quartet of Courtney Terrett (“Castle on the Hu…

Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is recruited by shadowy William Harper (Kevin Costner) to work for the CIA, investigating global terrorist numbers fiddling. In order to do his job properly he will need to lie to everyone he knows, including the lovely med student Cathy (Keira Knightley) who helped him with his rehab when Ryan was an injured marine, and whom he has subsequently been romancing. Skipping ahead some time and Ryan and Cathy are now engaged, when Ryan uncovers a possible Russian-hatched plot to tank the US economy. Ryan is sent into the field, Russia specifically, to check out the prime suspect, Russian businessman Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). Meanwhile, Cathy is starting to wonder just what it is her husband-to-be really does for a living.

I was never a fan of the two Harrison Ford ‘Jack Ryan’ films, though I liked “The Hunt for Red October” (with Alec Baldwin) and I think “The Sum of All Fears” (with Ben Affleck) is the best of the lot, an opinion likely shared by no one. Th…

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

The hedonistic life and times of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), from his beginnings as an ambitious wannabe Wall Street player to his enjoyment of a wealthy lifestyle of sex, drugs, and financial crime…and then the inevitable hard crash as his criminal ways catch up with him. Jonah Hill plays Belfort’s shiny-teeth sporting cohort Donnie, Matthew McConaughey plays Belfort’s soulless mentor, Cristin Milioti and Margot Robbie play Belfort’s first and second wives, Jean Dujardin plays a Swiss banker, Joanna Lumley is Robbie’s rich Aunt, Rob Reiner plays Jordan’s dad, Kyle Chandler plays a straight-arrow FBI man trying to bring Jordan down, Spike Jonze plays an early employer, and current Fox News ‘expert’ and former cop Bo Dietl amazingly plays himself, as he was Jordan’s own P.I. during this period.

Wrong-headed, unpleasant, but often just plain tedious 2013 film may well be the worst film to date from the respected Martin Scorsese (who has made excellent films like “Raging Bull”, “…

Review: Frailty

On a stormy night in Texas, Matthew McConaughey (chillingly deadpan) walks into FBI man Powers Boothe’s office claiming to know the identity of a long-sought serial killer known as the ‘God’s Hand Killer’. In fact, he says it’s his brother. He then proceeds to tell the cynical but obliging agent a story that goes back to his childhood in the 70s, as we see young Fenton Meiks (Matt O’Leary), his younger brother Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) and their calm, hard-working and decent, widowed father Bill Paxton living what seems a fairly normal, happy existence in ‘Bible Belt’ country. But one night, everything changes. Dad wakes up the kids to tell them of a vision he just had. He saw God...and God wants him and the kids to kill ‘Demons’ for him. The kids go back to bed, not really knowing what to think, and with young Fenton hoping everything will go back to normal. No such luck, a little while later Dad says he’s got a list of ‘Demons’ that God has given to him, and that they must set about kil…