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Showing posts from August 2, 2015

Review: Sink the Bismarck!

A WWII film dramatising the sinking of the powerful German battleship The Bismarck. Kenneth More plays the no-nonsense, rigid Captain Jonathan Shepard, newly assigned as Director of Naval Operations. On the opposing side of things is Nazi Admiral Lutjens (Karel Stepanek), proud and ruthless. Dana Wynter plays a WREN 2nd Officer, whilst smaller roles are filled out by Geoffrey Keen (A.C.N.S.), Sir Michael Hordern (as the Commander of the King George V), Maurice Denham (as Commander Richards), and Esmond Knight (as the Captain of the HMS Prince of Wales), who actually served on the HMS Prince of Wales during this real-life incident, though much of the film is devoted to War Room strategy. Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow appears as himself to lend authenticity and gravity to the events.

Based on a book by C.S. Forester (“The African Queen”), this 1960 fact-based film from director Lewis Gilbert (“You Only Live Twice”, “Damn the Defiant!” and “Alfie”) and screenwriter Edmund H. Nort…

Review: Sex Tape

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz play a once hot-and-heavy couple whose sex life has taken a back seat in the more recent years of their marriage in favour of work and child raising. However, they get an inspired idea to ship the kids off to Grandma’s for the night so they can get their groove on…and film it! Supposedly comedic hilarity comes about when Segel ignores his wife’s request to delete it the next day, proud of his efforts with the horizontal mambo. Unfortunately Segel, who likes to give iPads with his own personally selected music choices on them to friends and family, has accidentally uploaded the footage to every…single…person who owns one of the iPads. It’s now a race to locate each of the iPads before anyone sees it. However, they hit a snag, though you’ll need to see the film to find out what that is. Rob Lowe turns up as Diaz’s rich nebbish boss, Rob Corddry (Is there a less funny person more pervasive in cinematic comedies today?) plays a friend of the randy couple, and …

Review: 12 Years a Slave

The true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an African-American and a ‘free man’ (with a wife and kids, too) from New York who is abducted, transported to the South, and sold into slavery. At first he’s the property of plantation owner Benedict Cumberbatch, who is somewhat well-meaning and kinder than most. Unfortunately, he is constantly picked on by nasty foreman Paul Dano (Why is it always the foreman who is a brutal prick in these kinds of stories?), so Cumberbatch has him sold elsewhere for fear that Dano will kill him otherwise (or maybe it’s vice versa?). Sadly, his new master, played by Michael Fassbender is a cruel and brutal man, who has a thing for one of his female slaves (Lupita Nyong'o), which makes his wife (Sarah Paulson) jealous and spiteful. Really, really spiteful. Will Solomon ever regain his freedom and see his family again? Michael K. Williams plays another slave, Paul Giamatti plays a slave trader, and Alfre Woodard plays a slave turned kept woman …

Review: The Informant!

Supposedly based on a true story, a moustachioed and nerdy Matt Damon plays a mild-mannered biochemist and VP at an Illinois agricultural company specialising in adding lysine to its products. One day he discovers a mole in the company who is selling them out to the Japanese. So the FBI are called in, and Damon tries to help them out. He also tells the FBI (represented by Scott Bakula and a wasted Joel McHale) that the company is involved in price-fixing, and soon they have him acting as an informant/spy for them against his own company. However, one soon starts to question Damon’s motives in all of this, and possibly even more than his motives. Melanie Lynskey is Damon’s wife, while Clancy Brown has a small role as one of Damon’s superiors.

Although Matt Damon gives a commendable and interestingly milquetoast performance in the lead, I simply never got on the wavelength of this 2009 film from aloof director Steven Soderbergh (“sex, lies, and videotape”, “Ocean’s Eleven”) and screenwr…

Review: Plymouth Adventure

The story of the Mayflower’s voyage to America in 1620 as hard-bitten, frankly disagreeable old sea captain Spencer Tracy transports pilgrims to the New World (i.e. Plymouth Rock). One such pilgrim is puritan Gene Tierney, whom Tracy drunkenly tries to make it with at one point. Van Johnson plays a simple carpenter aboard the ship, with Leo Genn (as William Bradford, future Governor and Tierney’s husband), John Dehner (who as Gilbert Winslow, narrates the film), and Barry Jones (as William Brewster, who comes aboard with somewhat of a radical reputation- and a printing press) amongst the more notable pilgrims. Lloyd Bridges plays Tracy’s bullying first-mate.

You won’t find too many positive reviews out there for it, but this 1952 Clarence Brown (“The Yearling”, “Song of Love”) film is a really easy watch, especially if you like sea-faring films. Spencer Tracy doesn’t exactly give a career best performance but is certainly in fantastically cranky form, even if his 11th hour transformat…

Review: 20 Feet From Stardom

Somewhat similar to “Standing in the Shadow of Motown”, this 2013 documentary from director Morgan Neville attempts to give spotlight and due respect to unsung heroes of the music world, backup singers. It’s a very impressive film with some great stories to tell and some incredible music- and musicians.

Among the backup talents on show here, you’ll probably immediately recognise the name and face of Darlene Love, who rather ironically is best known for playing Danny Glover’s backup (i.e. Wife) in “Lethal Weapon”. She’s the main focus of the film, and certainly has the most commanding physical (if not vocal) presence. I genuinely had no idea that Miss Love (and her group The Blossoms) sang back-up on ‘The Monster Mash’ and ‘Da Do Ron Ron’, among many other hits. You’ve gotta feel for this woman, had producer/murderer Phil Spector not screwed her over, she could’ve been a whole lot more than a backup singer. Instead he used her voice and put other artists’ names on the records.

Also on …

Review: Who Dares Wins (AKA The Final Option)

An anti-nuke demonstration in London turns ugly and a protester is killed. The Brit secret services learn that a militant wing of the anti-nuke movement is planning an act of terrorism at any time now, and they send SAS man Lewis Collins to go undercover and infiltrate the group before it’s too late. The married (with a kid) Collins attempts to get close to their leader (played by Judy Davis), with the cover story that he’s a disgruntled former SAS man who has seen the light. She hires him as security for the group, and before long they are even living together. Ingrid Pitt plays a particularly militant member of the group, Kenneth Griffith plays a communist priest, Maurice Roeves plays Maj. Steele (essentially the Harry Andrews part in this kind of thing as the guy in charge of whipping recruits into shape). Turning up more briefly are Patrick Allen (as a Police Commissioner), Edward Woodward (SAS Commander Powell), Richard Widmark (U.S. Secretary of State), and Robert Webber (an Ame…

Review: Stand Up Guys

Al Pacino is Val, a con who is released after just under 30 years behind bars for a fatally botched armed robbery, and greeted by his old buddy Doc (Christopher Walken), who was also involved in the robbery but Val never ratted him or anyone else out. Doc is as docile and reticent (he spends his days watching TV and painting, mostly) as Val is hyper and horny, but Val wants to party and screw like crazy and Doc hasn’t the energy or the heart to argue or tell him to slow down. There’s a reason for that, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So it’s off to nightclubs and whorehouses (run by Lucy Punch, which doesn’t sound like any brothel I’d frequent. Wait…I mean…anyway) they go as Val has a whole lotta hell-raising to catch up on, clearly ignoring the fact that his body is not quite working at full-speed anymore. At one point they even spring former getaway driver Hirsch (Alan Arkin, natch) out of the old folks’ home to let the old guy live a little too (He wants to go to the brothel …

Review: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

“Adventures in Babysitting” combines with “Working Girl” and “Throw Momma From the Train” as high school senior (Christina Applegate) is forced to grow up after the elderly harridan babysitter hired by mum while she goes on holidays for a couple of months, ends up carking it. Did I mention she was in charge of five siblings for the whole summer? Oh well, they’ve still got all the cash mum left for the babysitter to run things, right? Nope, the old hag had it on her, and someone had the bright idea of getting rid of the body. Hence, eldest daughter Applegate must get a job, though lucky for her, instead of the secretary job she was applying for, Applegate makes such a good impression on knock-off fashion manufacturer Joanna Cassidy that Cassidy hires her as her executive administrative assistant. Applegate’s phony resumé certainly helped, though. She also earns the bitch scorn of co-worker Jayne Brook, and the amorous advances of Cassidy’s sleazy sometimes suitor John Getz (in his elem…