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Showing posts from November 1, 2015

Review: Hercules (2014)

Although there are tales of his heroic exploits, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is now a haunted mercenary plagued by visions of a violent family tragedy. He and his followers (who include Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane) are offered a gig to protect Thracian ruler John Hurt from an invading army of what are believed to be centaurs. Along the way Hercules and his men also train Hurt’s people (mostly farmers) to defend themselves. However, all is not as it appears. Joseph Fiennes turns up as an effete but evil king, Peter Mullan plays Hurt’s general, and Stephen Peacocke plays a Thracian with a grunge-era hairdo.

To say this is the best “Hercules” movie to date is probably to damn the film with faint praise, and it’s been a long time since I saw any of the Steve Reeves films. However, fact is this 2014 Brett Ratner (“Red Dragon”, “After the Sunset”, “Tower Heist”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”) film is certainly better than “The Legend of Hercules”, the Disney animated “Hercules”, TV’s “Hercules: Th…

Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

UFOs appear at various places around the world, including Indiana where Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has a close encounter while out driving one night. Whilst Roy is haunted by this experience and visions of a strange mound, his wife (Teri Garr) and children are unable to cope with his increasingly disturbed behaviour. More sympathetic to Roy is a young woman (Melinda Dillon) whose toddler son (Cary Guffey) is taken away by aliens one night. Meanwhile, scientist Francois Truffaut and American translator Bob Balaban are investigating various strange phenomena across the globe and seemingly preparing for a rendezvous with whatever is out there trying to communicate with us. Roberts Blossom plays a UFO-obsessive old coot in a small role.

I’ve seen this 1977 Steven Spielberg (“E.T. The Extra Terrestrial”, “Jaws”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Minority Report”) favourite three times now, the second time being the ‘Special Edition’. The first two times I just didn’t get into it, but seeing it…

Review: SEAL Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines

Tom Sizemore oversees a team of Navy SEALs (led by the fabulously named Lex Shrapnel. That can’t be a real name, surely!) on an unsanctioned mission in the Congo to stop the sale of weapons-grade uranium. First they must locate a CIA informant played by AurĂ©lie Meriel, who apparently has vital information on the big baddie behind it all. Leroy Gopal turns up as the nasty African warlord also standing in their way.

Although IMDb claims this 2014 action flick is part of the “Behind Enemy Lines” franchise, I’m not sure if it’s a direct sequel or merely a spin-off to its own tangentially related “Seal Team Eight” series of films. None of the “Behind Enemy Lines” films have that much in common besides the title (here it’s the subtitle, though) and vaguely similar war movie plotting. What I do know is that Director/cinematographer/co-writer Roel Reine (“The Marine 2”, “Death Race 2”) once again shows that he knows a lot more about directing/photographing a film than he does about casting or…

Review: On the Waterfront

Marlon Brando is former promising boxer Terry Malloy, now working on the docks without much in the way of ambition or direction (Or as he memorably puts it, he’s ‘a bum’). His older brother Charley (Rod Steiger) is the legal counsel for local mafia-backed union head Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), and the younger Terry looks up to his older and supposedly wiser brother. Friendly gets Terry to do the odd dirty job, and early on we see him setting up another guy to be roughed up by Johnny’s thugs for being uncooperative (i.e. a ‘stool pigeon’). They kill him, something Terry was unaware would be the case. He subsequently takes care of the deceased’s beloved pigeons atop the apartment building. However, it’s not until he meets and slowly ingratiates himself into the life of the dead man’s young sister (Eva Marie Saint, in her film debut), that Terry starts to think and question what’s going on. Will he take a stand against the bullying Johnny? Tough-talking preacher Father Barry (Karl Mal…

Review: Showgirls

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) hitches a ride to Vegas with dreams of becoming a dancer in a chorus line (not “A Chorus Line”, though). After being robbed on her first day in Vegas, she is quickly befriended by seamstress Molly (Gina Ravera), who works for a local Vegas hotel. She ends up getting a gig stripping at a club owned by a total sleaze (Robert Davi, natch). Her dreams are bigger, however, and she is spotted by Cristal (Gina Gershon), the bitchy (but aging) star of the Stardust hotel’s big show, as well as by the entertainment director of the hotel, Zack (Kyle MacLachlan). Both take a keen interest in Nomi, though her relationship with Cristal is often frosty, and Nomi seems to pursue Zack (Cristal’s lover) to get at Cristal’s fragile ego. Soon Nomi’s quest for stardom seems to see her lose her head, as she seems as though she will step over anyone to get what she wants, leaving kind-hearted Molly singularly unimpressed. Glenn Plummer plays a womanising choreographer who has…

Review: Crossroads (1986)

Ralph Macchio plays a classical guitar student from Long Island, studying at Julliard. His passion, however, is the blues, which earns him the ire of his teacher (played by Allan Arbus from “Coffy”, of all people). Macchio tracks down whom he believes to be blues legend Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) in a retirement home. He’s hoping to get the old man to tell him about the rumoured long-lost thirteenth song by the even more legendary Robert Johnson. Willie (an old associate of Johnson’s) tells the kid he’ll tell him everything he knows about playing the song, if he’ll bust him out of the old folks home first. And away to Mississippi they go, running into a young runaway girl (Jami Gertz) along the way. Meanwhile, Willie is haunted by old memories about a regretful deal he made with The Devil at the crossroads years ago. Robert Judd and Joe Morton turn up as ‘ol Scratch and his sleazy assistant, whilst Harry Carey Jr. plays a heat-packing bartender, and Steve Vai has a show-stopping guest …

Review: Very Good Girls

Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen are two best friends on the verge of adulthood enjoying their last summer before college. They’re also virgins. Enter the young man (Boyd Holbrook) who will put a test to their friendship. Ellen Barkin and a dipshit Clark Gregg are Fanning’s parents, whilst politically-minded Richard Dreyfuss and Demi Moore are Olsen’s parents. Peter Sarsgaard is Fanning’s somewhat predatory boss.

An attempt to gloss over an inferior script with the casting of some big names (not to mention Gale Ann Hurd as producer), this 2013 female-centric coming-of-age tale from writer-director Naomi Foner (writer of “Running on Empty”, AKA Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s mum in her directorial debut) is awfully blah. The thing is, casting all of these big names merely alerts you to the fact that they’d all be better off doing something more substantial. A distressingly fat Richard Dreyfuss could play ‘political nerd father’ in his sleep (he’s spectacularly embarrassing here, but it…

Review: Rope of Sand

Burt Lancaster stars as an American diamond hunter/guide in South Africa who has a grudge against Paul Henreid, from one of his previous trips to South Africa. Henreid represents the mining company, and is always on the lookout for people trying to smuggle diamonds out of the country. Henreid and mining company owner Claude Rains believes Lancaster is hiding diamonds, and while Henreid would prefer more torturous methods, the sly Rains (who dislikes Henreid, I might add) has a better idea and enlists the aid of Corrine Calvet and her feminine charms to coax the necessary information out of Lancaster. Calvet (whom Henreid has the hots for) naturally falls for the big American stud. Sam Jaffe plays a doctor friend of Lancaster’s, Mike Mazurki is briefly seen trying to smuggle diamonds in an open wound (!), and Peter Lorre plays a talkative barfly aptly named Toady who is forever sticking his nose in Lancaster’s business.

Star Burt Lancaster was apparently contractually obligated to appe…

Review: Death Wish

NYC architect and family man Paul Kersey’s (Charles Bronson) world and bleeding heart liberal beliefs are shaken to their core when he finds out three muggers (one played by a young Jeff Goldblum!) have killed his wife (Hope Lange) and raped his daughter (in addition to spray painting her bare arse, ‘coz…they can), leaving the latter so traumatised she is rendered vegetative. With no faith in law enforcement, and witnessing crime and filth on every street corner, Kersey’s political views undergo a dramatic shift. He ends up taking up arms and stalking the streets at night to blow away the city’s criminals and thugs. Meanwhile, a dogged police detective (Vincent Gardenia) is alerted to the presence of a ‘vigilante killer’ and attempts to find him and put a stop to his activities. Steven Keats plays Kersey’s well-meaning but weak son-in-law, Stephen Elliott (later to play a humourless authority figure in “Beverly Hills Cop”) plays the police commissioner, whilst you can also spot a youn…

Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral

We follow Charles (Hugh Grant) as he attends several weddings, usually attended by his inner circle of friends and family members. At one such wedding he meets an American named Carrie (Andie MacDowell) and is immediately smitten. Unfortunately, various circumstances see them enter and leave each other’s lives throughout the film without much of a chance to start anything (partly due to Charles being an awkward, reticent git). And then Charles gets an invite to Carrie’s wedding to a boring Scot named Hamish (Corin Redgrave). Charlotte Coleman plays Charles’ flirty flatmate Scarlett, whilst Simon Callow and John Hannah play the gregarious Gareth and good-natured Matthew, who although it isn’t signified in bright neon letters, are a loving couple. Kristin Scott Thomas is Fiona, a bitchy sort who hides a fragility (and longing for Charles) beneath the surface, whilst Anna Chancellor plays Charles’ insecure ex, whom Fiona refers to as ‘Duck Face’. James Fleet and David Bower round out the…

Review: Birdman

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor who achieved stardom with the superhero franchise of the title that began twenty years ago (He left the franchise in 1992. Hmmmm). Now past his prime, Riggan is struggling to prove he can do something outside of the genre by mounting a Broadway play based on a Raymond Carver short story, with Riggan acting as writer, director, and star of the production. He has a lot more than just dollars invested in this endeavour. The pressure starts to mount as opening night approaches, with a brilliant actor (Edward Norton) known for being an ego-driven hassle to work with, Riggan’s occasional lover (Andrea Riseborough) who might be pregnant, his estranged daughter (Emma Stone) whose drug habit may not be behind her, a truly vicious theatre critic (Lindsay Duncan) sharpening her claws in anticipation of Riggan’s failure (How dare a movie actor set foot in Broadway! Yeah, not one of the film’s most up-to-date ideas), and Riggan’s own nagging self-doubt…