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Showing posts from August 30, 2015

Review: Ragtime

A sprawling look at New York in the early 1900s, with an eventual focus on African-American piano player Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard Rollins Jr.), who arrives on the doorstep of a white couple (rigid James Olson and the warm-hearted Mary Steenburgen) to reconcile with his beloved Sarah (Debbie Allen), whom the couple have taken in, along with her baby. Apparently Coalhouse abandoned them, but he claims he did so because he needed to go away and make money to support them. Unfortunately the reunion is to be short-lived due to tragedy. Coalhouse is already incensed that some racist white firemen (led by Kenneth McMillan) have vandalised his car and there isn’t a damn thing he can do about it, so that this latest tragedy sends him right over the edge and he takes drastic measures to demand compensation for the vandalising of his car or else! This involves Coalhouse and his newly formed band of brothers holing themselves up in a local library building and claim to have rigged the place w…

Review: Deadfall (2013)

Set in the wintry wilderness, Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are a possibly too close brother and sister who have just pulled off a casino robbery and are headed for the Canadian border. Unfortunately, a car accident gets in the way of those plans, and Bana is subsequently forced to kill an investigating state trooper. Bana then suggests they split up, with Bana laying low in a cabin trying to stay hidden from investigating cops. Wilde hitches a ride with Charlie Hunnam, a recent parolee (and Olympic Silver medallist boxer!) headed home for Thanksgiving, who has already gotten himself in enough trouble to send him back to the slammer if it catches up with him. Poor Hunnam has no idea what he’s in for, nor do his estranged parents Kris Kristofferson (apparently unforgiving of his son’s misdeeds) and Sissy Spacek (a peacemaker), the former a retired lawman himself, whose house is near the border. Treat Williams plays the chief of police whose misogynistic treatment of young officer Kata Mar…

Review: Planes: Fire and Rescue

Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) receives the devastating news that he has broken parts inside of him (a shonky gearbox) that are too outdated to replace. His racing career over because he can’t risk going to top speeds, Dusty is at a loss to what to do with himself now. However, a fiery mishap later and he decides to join the fire and rescue crew as a water-dumping plane. Ed Harris provides the voice of Blade Ranger, the veteran plane of the fire and rescue crew, whilst old favourites Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett), Skipper (voiced by Stacy Keach), and Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher) make small return appearances.

Unlike the animated “Doc Hollywood” rip-off “Cars”, Disney’s “Planes” pretty much told its own original story, albeit a clich├ęd one. It was no world-beater but it was nice and looked terrific. Unfortunately, this 2014 sequel from director Bobs Gannaway (“Leroy and Stitch”) and screenwriter Jeffrey M. Howard (who wrote “Planes”) is a pretty big disappointment. Opening t…

Review: 22 Jump Street

Same as last time, except they’re posing as college students to stop a drug dealer. Hey, don’t blame me, the characters themselves talk non-stop about this being the same damn film, and it’s true. Wyatt Russell plays a dim star football player who has an awkward relationship…or something with Channing Tatum’s Jenko, but might also be the culprit. Amber Stevens is the pretty college girl that Jonah Hill’s nerdy Schmidt falls for. Peter Stormare phones it in as a crook. Ice Cube is still angry. Yadda Yadda.

I questioned co-writer and star Jonah Hill’s apparent fandom of the classic 80s TV series “21 Jump Street” with the 2012 big-screen version. It really had nothing at all to do with the TV show outside of the premise, which it then went on to use for comedic purposes. If thought of as “Superbad 2”, the film provided a few laughs, I suppose. But I was disappointed. Well, here’s the 2014 sequel from returning co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatba…

Review: Pompeii

Kit Harrington plays Milo, captured by the Romans in 79AD and as a slave, is forced to compete in the gladiatorial arena. He falls for Cassia (Emily Browning), betrothed to the ruthless Roman Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). All three find themselves in Pompeii (which Corvus is interested in taking over) for a typical gladiatorial spectacle, but the city of Pompeii seems doomed to meet an Earth-shattering fate. Literally. Did I mention that Corvus is the meanie who wiped out Milo’s family when the latter was a kid? Well, he did (Or at least his henchman did, on Corvus’ orders). Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays Milo’s African gladiator buddy Atticus (!), whilst Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris play Cassia’s parents, rulers of Pompeii who are nonetheless too weakly positioned to stand up to Corvus.

If this 2014 film from director Paul W. S. Anderson (whose “Resident Evil” and “Death Race” were a tad underrated, but whose “Three Musketeers” got what it deserved) wasn’t so concerned with rippin…

Review: Maggie

Set in a near-future US where a virus called Necroambulism has slowly turned the infected into zombies. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a loving father who brings his infected daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) back home to their Midwest farm. He is warned that Maggie only has mere weeks left before she is completely turned, and he is given advice on what to do when the time comes. The local sheriff says that when the time comes, she will need to go into ‘quarantine’ like the rest, whilst a doctor/friend says he has three options; 1) Take her to quarantine immediately, 2) Give her exactly what the doctors give her in quarantine (said to be very painful) but allowing her to die at home, and 3) End it now and quickly (a bullet to the head). Schwarzenegger tries his best to prolong any kind of finality, seemingly unable to kill his own daughter, but even more strongly refusing to let the doctors do it. This is his daughter, changing or not. This will be his family’s loss, and he wants it to h…

Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare

Charlton Heston is a salvage boat captain who boards the supposedly derelict ship during one helluva storm. After some searching he comes across a weathered and distressed-looking man, who claims to be first officer Gideon Patch (Gary Cooper). Apparently the captain of the ship died, and the rest of the crew have long abandoned ship. Patch is sketchy on the details and claims he’ll tell all at a court of inquiry, but in the meantime Heston will just have to trust him. This is especially so when Heston struggles to get back aboard his own vessel and must instead travel aboard the Mary Deare with a possibly unstable Patch. Richard Harris plays the antagonistic second mate on the Mary Deare, who will testify against Patch, Ben Wright is Heston’s first mate, Alexander Knox is the insurance investigator, Peter Illing is the untrustworthy owner of the ship, whilst Cecil Parker, Michael Redgrave, and Emlyn Williams play the various judicial figures in the second half. Virginia McKenna has a …

Review: The Protector 2

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Kham (Tony Jaa) finds himself in all manner of trouble when his elephant goes missing. You see, someone tried to buy Kham’s elephant, but Kham refused. However, the interested buyer soon turns up dead, and the dead man’s martial arts enthusiast nieces (!) assume Kham to be the killer. It’s actually gangster RZA behind the killing, and his chief enforcer known only as No. 2 (Marrese Crump) kills one of the girls, beats up Kham and takes him and the surviving niece away to meet LC (RZA). There he is given the task of killing a politician, or both the girl and his beloved elephant will be killed.

In a fair and just world, Tony Jaa and Scott Adkins would be the biggest action stars on the planet. Jaa made a helluva splash initially with the straightforward martial-arts flick “Ong-Bak”, whilst Adkins has the looks, fighting skills, charisma, and acting ability to stand out from the pack. Whilst it seems like it may be too late for this stardom to ha…

Review: The Cardinal

Stephen Fermoyle (Tom Tryon) is a young Catholic priest who, throughout the years must contend with tests of his faith from both external matters (racism in the American South, the rise of Nazism in Austria), and those more close to home. Chief among the latter is his wayward sister (Carol Lynley) who wants to marry a nice Jewish boy (John Saxon!). When her family disapproves (despite Saxon offering to convert to Catholicism) and Tryon finds out she has also had pre-marital sex to boot, Lynley loses her faith, leaves home and takes up with a slimy nightclub act (Jose Duval), before things take an even worse turn that will rock the then Father Fermoyle’s faith to its core. Dorothy Gish and Cameron Prud’homme play Fermoyle’s parents, Burgess Meredith is a frail priest, John Huston and Raf Vallone play Fermoyle’s Catholic mentors, Ossie Davis is an African-American priest looking for Vatican assistance with some local rednecks who destroyed his church, Joseph Meinrad plays real-life Aust…

Review: The Big Chill

A group of friends- late 60s activists- come together for the funeral of one of their brethren. They then spend the weekend together at the country home of married couple Kevin Kline and Glenn Close, reminiscing, lamenting the current state of their lives, arguing, rekindling romances, etc. They also eventually acknowledge the obvious, that their old friend has killed himself, and that most of them hadn’t stayed in touch with him and vice versa. Also spending the weekend is the girlfriend of the deceased (Meg Tilly). Tom Berenger is the TV star who seems almost embarrassed of his fame, JoBeth Williams is the unhappily married woman Berenger is clearly pining for. William Hurt plays a former radio shrink now floundering with a drug problem and a large helping of glib cynicism and aimlessness. Jeff Goldblum plays the trashy journalist and serial flirt. Mary Kay Place is the single woman hearing the ticking (biological) clock.

Although critics tend to prefer John Sayles’ earlier “Return …