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Showing posts from August 16, 2015

Review: Happy-Go-Lucky

Sally Hawkins is the aptly named Poppy, an irrepressibly cheerful, working class 30 year-old single woman who lives in a flat with her best mate and doesn’t take anything remotely seriously, innit. Poppy, a primary school teacher, has decided to learn how to drive, after her bicycle is stolen, innit. Her instructor is Scott (Eddie Marsan, brilliant) a no-nonsense, taciturn grump who is about to experience his own personal hell with a woman who has no notion of personal space/privacy, never stops giggling and teasing him, and has a serious inability to focus on the task at hand about 99% of the time. Their sessions can’t end soon enough for Scott, innit. Meanwhile, we see Poppy at work dealing with a troubled student, having flamenco lessons with an hilariously passionate teacher (Karina Fernandez), and having a strange encounter with an unpredictable homeless man that shows for all her irritating qualities, Poppy really does care. Innit.

INNIT?

I’ve put off watching this 2008 Mike Leigh…

Review: The Valley of Decision

Set in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s, Greer Garson plays a young Irish woman who gets hired as a maid working for steel mill owner Donald Crisp. Her embittered, wheelchair-bound father (Lionel Barrymore) is enraged, blaming his former employer Crisp for a workplace accident years ago that left him in his current state. Nonetheless, Garson soon finds herself accepted by the family, and is particularly noticed by Peck, though their romance is tentative due to their class difference. Labour disputes form an important subplot, with Preston Foster playing a dull would-be suitor for Garson, who is also the union head looking to compromise before things get out of hand. Gladys Cooper plays Peck’s mother, who is quite fond of Garson, and Jessica Tandy is a friend of Peck’s family, who would like to be much more than friends with Peck. Peck’s siblings (who are far less interested in the family mill than he) are played by the scheming Dan Duryea, and the bratty but far more likeable Marsha Hunt …

Review: Gravity

Sandra Bullock stars as rookie astronaut Ryan Stone, who is guided by the laidback attitude of more experienced astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). They are performing a fairly simple repair on the Hubble telescope when Mission Control sends word of a Russian satellite being hit and a shitload of debris is hurtling in their direction. They are unable to do anything about it before the shuttle is struck. They find themselves drifting through space before Kowalski manages to tether himself to Stone, and they soon discover their shuttle is damaged and the crew dead. They are all alone in the vast emptiness of space. And that’s just the beginning, folks.

An extremely simple but extremely effectively told story, this 2013 space-drama from director/co-writer Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) is a real winner, easily one of the best of the year. In fact, there’s only one false moment in the entire film, an ill-advised moment with Sandra Bull…

Review: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Dalmatian Pongo (voiced by Rod Taylor) tries to set his struggling songwriter master up with a woman, who has her own female Dalmatian named Purdita (voiced by Cate Bauer), and it’s a match made in heaven, not just for their respective owners, but for the dogs, too. Soon, fifteen Dalmatian pups are born, and while their masters are struggling to keep up with their finances, they refuse the interest of one Cruella De Vil (voiced by Betty Lou Gerson), who wants to buy the puppies for obviously nefarious purposes. Undeterred, Cruella has her two bungling minions kidnap the pups (minus their parents), throwing them with a larger litter of pups she has already acquired. It’s up to Pongo and Purdita to come to the puppies’ rescue and stop Cruella from turning them into a fur coat!

Continuing my look at Disney animated films throughout the years, this was the first time I had actually seen this 1961 film directors Clyde Geronimi (“Peter Pan”, “Lady and the Tramp”), Hamilton S. Luske (“Pinocc…

Review: Judge Dredd

Set in a hellish future where America is divided into the post-apocalyptic wastelands and the more pleasant-looking city areas known as Mega Cities. Law and order is tasked to Judges, who are like detectives, law enforcers, and judicial figures all wrapped into one. The title character (played by Sly Stallone) is one of the most respected and feared of all Judges. However, when some conspiratorial forces see the freeing of a psycho former Judge named Rico (Armand Assante), Rico sees Judge Dredd framed for murder. Found guilty, Dredd receives some mercy from the Chief Judge (Max von Sydow), and instead of being sentenced to death, he’s merely banished to the wastelands. Do we think Dredd is gonna find his way back and exact some of his tough justice on Rico and whoever is behind him? Diane Lane plays a relatively inexperienced Judge, Jurgen Prochnow is another Chief Judge, Rob Schneider plays a petty crook who finds himself having to align himself with Dredd (and vice versa) when they’…

Review: Wagons East!

A bunch of people from the western town of Prosperity are fed up with the robbing and violence of the Wild West, and decide they want to go East. They enlist the services of hard-drinkin’ wagon master James Harlow (John Candy) to take them there. Harlow, in addition to being a grumpy drunk, harbours a dark secret from his past that is slowly revealed. Richard Lewis plays a Louisiana surgeon (!), John C. McGinley is a flamboyantly gay bookseller, William Sanderson basically plays ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Russell Means is your standard Native American stereotype, Robert Picardo is a meek banker (think the kinds of roles Elisha Cook Jr., Karl Swenson, and John Qualen used to play), Gailard Sartain is a rich railroad tycoon, and Ed Lauter is a hired gunman named Slade, but you can call him Wile E. Coyote.

Although Michael Moore’s “Canadian Bacon” was released after it, this 1994 western-comedy from hack director Peter Markle (“Youngblood”, “El Diablo”) was the last film of loveable comedian/actor J…

Review: All is Lost

Robert Redford runs into serious trouble when his yacht hits a shipping container that was floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean, causing considerable damage. He manages a quick fix, but it’s obvious that this will only be temporary and he’s gonna need every bit of inner strength he has to keep from losing all hope as things worsen.

More “Cast Away” than “The Life of Pi”, this 2013 film from writer-director J. C. Chandor isn’t as good as either of those two films (or Chandor’s own previous film “Margin Call”), but if you like Robert Redford and don’t mind minimalist, dialogue-free films about harrowing subjects, this is pretty well-done. I have misgivings about the film’s rather confusing ending, and I think some back-story on the main character would’ve helped make the film even better, but it’s still a pretty good film.

Full-credit to Robert Redford here, he’s always been known as more of a movie star than actor, but at age 77 he hasn’t aged gracefully and seems willing to acce…

Review: Bound

Lesbian ex-con handywoman Corky (Gina Gershon) and gangster’s moll Violet (Jennifer Tilly) make eye contact one day in an elevator with the latter’s low-level mobster lover Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). It seems like lust at first sight, and soon Violet is asking Corky (renovating the apartment next door) over for simple tasks that are clearly just a way to see her again. They quickly become lovers, and before long Violet has ideas about leaving the violent Caesar for her new love. Or is she just using her as an excuse to flee? Anyhoo, Violet and Corky conspire to screw Caesar out of $2 million of mob money Caesar is currently holding for Mafioso Mickey (John P. Ryan, in his last big-screen role), an extremely violent man, who nonetheless has a soft spot for Violet. Unfortunately, when Caesar realises the money is missing, he doesn’t flee like Corky and Violet had anticipated. Thinking that the money has been switched by Johnnie (Christopher Meloni), son of Mickey’s boss Gino (Richard C. S…

Review: The Mexican

Brad Pitt plays Jerry. Jerry’s kind of an idiot. Employed by mobster Bernie (Bob Balaban), Jerry is sent to Mexico on a mission to find and retrieve the title antique handgun, much sought after. Jerry’s girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts) is pretty pissed off that Jerry (who, as I’ve said, is an idiot) would rather go gallivanting across Mexico than head to Vegas with her, with Jerry figuring it’ll be a quick job and he can meet up with Samantha afterwards. Unfortunately, the job proves anything but quick or easy. Meanwhile, a fed-up Samantha has decided to leave Jerry and head to Vegas on her own, but hitman Leroy (James Gandolfini) proves a roadblock, kidnapping Samantha in the hopes of getting Jerry to hand the gun over to his employer. Leroy, however, proves to be the very reason for never judging a book by its cover. He’s a gruff guy initially resistant to conversation, but slowly Samantha starts to wear down his armour to find he’s not such a bad guy…aside from all the brutal an…

Review: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

A man enters a hospital and kills a patient. He then douses himself in petrol and lights himself on fire. When the police chalks things up to drug-fuelled lunacy, doctor Tom Atkins says ‘Drugs, my fat arse’ (well OK, not those exact words) and along with the murdered patient’s daughter (Stacey Nelkin), conducts his own investigation. The end up in a rather suspicious small town that seems to be overseen by a local toy company currently running annoying ads for Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. Just what are they up to? Joshua Miller can be seen early on as one of Atkins’ kids, whilst Dan O’Herlihy is the Silver Shamrock owner Conal Cochran.

Although not as bad as “A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy’s Revenge” or “Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan”, this 1982 film from writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (who directed the underrated miniseries “IT”) is crass, stupid, and not scary. The film comes from the same producers (though this time John Carpenter and Debra Hill are among the…