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Showing posts from June 28, 2015

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac stars as the title character, a folk singer in and around NY’s Greenwich Village scene in the early 60s (Pre-Bob Dylan, so it’s really just about to take off). Llewyn, who isn’t easy to like, is clearly struggling in his pursuit of his dream. He relies on friends and acquaintances to let him sleep on their couch, as he has no real home of his own. His agent is pretty ineffectual, his musical partner has recently killed himself, his sister doesn’t ‘get’ him, his dad is in a nursing home, and he seems to have had a thing with fellow musician Carey Mulligan, only now she’s reluctant to let him crash at her place or even really speak to him. She’s pregnant and can’t be sure whether it’s his or not, thus she’s pretty pissed off and wants Llewyn to pay for an abortion. He has also found out that he has a child he never knew about from a previous relationship. We follow his adventures during one week in his life, meeting all kinds of people and doggedly determined to make it as a…

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Set in a fictional Eastern European nation (Then why reference Budapest?), author Tom Wilkinson recalls how as a younger man (played by Jude Law) he stayed at the title hotel, which was well past its used-by date. It is here that he met the owner (played by F. Murray Abraham) who in turn tells him the story of how he as a young immigrant came to first work at the hotel (and now played by Tony Revolori) under the tutelage of the hotel’s head concierge, Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes). The death of a wealthy eccentric (Tilda Swinton) propels what counts for a plot in this film. Edward Norton turns up as a fascist military man, Harvey Keitel is a tattooed prisoner, Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody play weirdo antagonists of Gustav’s, Jeff Goldblum is a family lawyer, and lots of other familiar faces turn up (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Lea Seydoux, etc.)

The world is divided into two types; Morlocks and Eloi. Wait, no wrong story. The world is divided into those who get Wes Anderson fi…

Review: Night Train to Lisbon

Jeremy Irons plays a rather lonely academic professor in Switzerland, teaching languages. One day he saves a despondent young Portuguese woman from jumping off a bridge, but before he knows it, she has run off. However, she has left behind a book that takes the professor’s fancy. Written in Portuguese, it’s an autobiographical tale written by Amadeu do Prado (Jack Huston in flashbacks), and concerns the revolutionary goings on in the country in the 70s. Although not normally the impulsive type, he’s so taken by this book (and presumably the young woman) that he abruptly leaves his post and heads for Lisbon to track down the author. Once there he manages to locate the author’s sister (Charlotte Rampling), a haunted-looking woman extremely reluctant to talk at all. However, a friendly optician (Martina Gedeck) leads him in the direction of her elderly uncle, Tom Courtenay. Now in a nursing home and extremely difficult, he was one of the author’s revolutionary colleagues. Bruno Ganz and …

Review: The Bridge on the River Kwai

A bunch of British WWII POWs under the command of Col. Nicholson (Sir Alec Guinness) enter a prison camp overseen by the rigid Japanese Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), who expects all prisoners to help construct the title bridge. The equally rigid Col. Nicholson, however, informs Col. Saito that he will not allow his officers to do so. Thus a battle of wills ensues, though one side has a ‘hot box’. So there’s that. Nicholson, by the way, refuses to let his men plan any escapes, because his superiors have ordered that they surrender. Shaking their heads at all this are British medical officer Maj. Clipton (James Donald) and a cynical American POW Shears (William Shears). Shears actually manages to escape, and the second half of the film has him and a British Major (played by Jack Hawkins) plan on blowing the bridge up once completed.

Although not without flaw, this 1957 David Lean (“Oliver Twist”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “A Passage to India”) WWII film is one of the best on the subject of …

Review: The Trip to Italy

Comedians and frequent collaborators Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take on another tour of fine dining and comedic riffing, this time throughout Italy. Meanwhile, Coogan is seeking a closer relationship with his son, whilst Brydon is seemingly unhappy and restless in his marriage. Oh, and they also have Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ playing in the car for some reason (Hey, I have the album too, don’t get me wrong, I just think it’s really random to find it in this).

Like the terrific predecessor, “The Trip”, this 2014 follow-up from director Michael Winterbottom (“9 Songs”, “24 Hour Party People”, “The Killer Inside Me”) was first seen on British TV in several parts. Unlike the terrific predecessor, this one’s not terrific. In fact it’s more of the same, only worse, and with a few key changes that are absolutely not for the better. Both films are essentially faux-documentaries with the leads playing versions of themselves, and featuring actors playing the leads’ families and …

Review: If There Be Thorns

Moving the story of siblings/lovers Cathy and Christopher (Rachael Carpani and Jason Lewis) ahead several years sees the duo playing happy families with their two kids Jory (Jedediah Goodacre) and Bart Jr (Mason Cook). Trouble comes when Cathy and Christopher’s estranged mother Corrine (Heather Graham) secretly moves in next door and tries to ingratiate herself into the two boys’ lives. Jory isn’t interested, but Bart Jr. (the offspring of Cathy sleeping with her mother’s lover) can’t help but be intrigued. Also making an impression on the boy is Corrine’s creepy manservant John Amos (Mackenzie Gray, who might remind you a tad of Angus Scrimm from the “Phantasm” movies), who knows all of his family’s dirty secrets and hands the boy his grandfather’s diary. Just what is John Amos’ deal? And what will happen once Cathy and Christopher inevitably meet their new next door neighbour?

I am reliably informed that the series of Virginia/VC Andrews books are fun trash, but this 2015 TV movie f…

Review: Lone Survivor

Based on a true story from 2005 about a group of Navy SEALs (played by Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch) on a top secret mission in Afghanistan. They are assigned the task of killing an important Taliban leader, but when communications with their base breakdown and a decision by team leader Wahlberg to be lenient towards some approaching goat herders proves unwise…the four soldiers are in the fight of their lives up in the mountain terrain. Eric Bana plays their commanding officer back at base, and the notorious Dan Bilzerian (seriously, Google the guy) plays another soldier.

Aside from a title that bizarrely gives everything away, this 2013 true war story is easily the best film to date from director Peter Berg (“Very Bad Things”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Battleship”, “Hancock”), who also adapted the Marcus Luttrell memoir himself. It’s certainly Berg’s best-looking and most traditionally shot film to date. Cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler (“The Taking o…

Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Set as the 70s give way to the 80s, idiotically macho newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is back and he’s still a moron. Pushed aside by the San Diego newsroom (via boss Harrison Ford) in order for wife/co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) to tackle the news desk on her own, Burgundy’s world- and marriage- fall about. He becomes a lousy drunk who can’t seem to hold down a job, not even hosting a dolphin show at Sea World. But then he gets a call about a gig at a proposed 24 hour cable news channel centred in NY, and thing might just be about to pick up. This despite the fact that he gets racially inappropriate with new producer Meagan Good, who happens to be black. He gathers together the old team of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, whose character had been dabbling in porn…or pet photography, it’s hard to tell), sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner, who had been working at a supremely redneck fast food chain), and space cadet weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, w…