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Showing posts from November 8, 2015

Review: The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark

Elliott Gould is strapped for cash and looking for a gig. A qualified pilot, he is offered an opportunity by Vincent Gardenia to fly a bunch of animals and a missionary (Genevieve Bujold) to an island. Two annoying orphans (Ricky Schroder and Tammy Lauren) manage to stowaway on board too, but before Gould can get truly irritable (and believe me, strident animal lover Schroder really does grind Gould’s gears), they find themselves faced with an even bigger problem. Due to a plot contrivance involving a cassette player that frankly isn’t worth getting into, the plane has swayed way off course in the middle of the ocean. They soon find dry land in order to make a crash landing on a remote island. Seemingly deserted, it is in fact the current home (for 35 years!) of two long-displaced Japanese fellas (John Fujioka and Yuki Shimoda), who still think their country is at war with the US and are initially wary of Gould. Before long, though, everyone’s chummy and working on a way to get off th…

Review: Julius Caesar (1953)

Set in politically treacherous Ancient Rome, Louis Calhern plays the doomed and arrogant title character, plotted against by the insidious Cassius (Sir John Gielgud) and the more conflicted Brutus (James Mason). Marlon Brando is Marc Antony, looking to take down the conspirators of his fallen emperor. Edmond O’Brien plays co-conspirator Casca, with Deborah Kerr and Greer Garson appearing briefly as the wives of Brutus and Julius Caesar, respectively. A host of familiar character actors have peripheral roles (among them Michael Ansara, George Macready, Michael Pate, Edmund Purdom, and as two crowd members, John Doucette and Lawrence Dobkin).

This 1953 adaptation of the Shakespeare play from writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”, “Sleuth”)has a lot of star power and for the most part it comes off rather well, and certainly more consistent than the 1970 version. In what surely must be one of the greatest casts ever assembled, top honours go to Sir John Gielgud and James M…

Review: The Two Faces of January

Set in Athens, Greece, rich sophisticate Viggo Mortensen and his much younger wife Kirsten Dunst come across Greek-speaking American tour guide Oscar Isaac. The latter is somewhat of a charmer and small-time con artist, but the married couple (Mortensen in particular), appear to be hiding something shady too. Mortensen doesn’t trust Isaac in the slightest, but Dunst takes a liking to him, and it’s clear that Isaac takes a real liking to Dunst, as he offers to be the couple’s personal tour guide. However, all is indeed not right with Mortensen and Dunst, and Isaac finds himself tangled up in their mess as well. The rest you will have to discover for yourself.

Written and directed by Hossein Amini (the screenwriter of “Drive” in his directorial debut) and based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, this 2014 film is one of those movies where you keep waiting for the real story to get started, only to come to the end realising that nope, this really was the story after all. Given that early on …

Review: Hour of the Gun

Beginning with the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral, this film concerns the ruthless vendetta waged between Wyatt Earp (James Garner) and the gang of outlaws led by Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan). When Clanton and his boys hit Wyatt close to home, this just makes town marshal Wyatt crave justice even more. However, tubercular right-hand man Doc Holliday (Jason Robards Jr.) is worried that Wyatt is making this too personal, and not just about legal right and wrong. Is it justice he is seeking, or cold-blooded revenge? Jon Voight plays Curly Bill Brocius, one of Clanton’s men, William Schallert plays a judge, Albert Salmi plays the lawyer for the Clantons, and Michael Tolan plays Pete Spence, another Clanton gang member Wyatt seeks out.

Director John Sturges (“The Magnificent Seven”, “The Great Escape”, “Bad Day at Black Rock”) apparently made this 1967 western to make up for what he saw as a lesser version of the Wyatt Earp/OK Corral story previously with “Gunfight at the OK Corral”. This…

Review: Taxi Driver

Robert De Niro stars as Vietnam veteran and NY cab driver Travis Bickle, an extremely isolated and psychologically unstable man whose social ineptness leads to further isolation, and an unhinged desire to wipe the ‘scum’ off the streets. An unfortunate attempt at wooing a pretty blond political campaign worker (Cybill Shepherd) then sees him attempt to help a teenage hooker (Jodie Foster) get away from her sadistic pimp (Harvey Keitel). Eventually Travis’ deranged mind fixates on assassinating a political candidate. The streets are awash with filth, and Travis Bickle has a (an unsound) mind to do something about it. Peter Boyle plays Wizard, a veteran cabbie who tries to give Travis some advice, Joe Spinell is Travis’ boss, Albert Brooks is Shepherd’s nerdy co-worker, and Martin Scorsese himself turns up briefly as an enraged husband sitting in the back of Travis’ cab one night.

The kind of film I find myself admiring more than liking, but this 1976 American favourite from director Ma…

Review: ABCs of Death 2

“A is for Amateur”: An assassin has a bugger of a time completing his latest job. “B is for Badger”: A pompous wildlife TV presenter is doing a story on badgers being affected by a local power station when a mutant badger runs amok. “C is for Capital Punishment”: Local townsfolk accuse a man of murder. “D is for Deloused”: Animated weirdness about bugs…or something. “E is for Equilibrium”: Two men on a desert island fight for the affections of a newly arrived woman. ‘Coz they’re both dicks. Or something. “F is for Falling”: About a female Israeli soldier stuck in a tree when a Palestinian with a gun comes along. “G is for Grandad”: A snotty young man moves in with his cranky old grandfather. “H is for Head Games”: Animated nonsense involving two people who pretty much obliterate each other’s faces. Yeah, OK then. “I is for Invincible”: A greedy family attempt to off their mother to get her money. It doesn’t go well. At all. “J is for Jesus”: Religious-y types try to exorcise the ‘gay’…

Review: Van Helsing

Hugh Jackman is Gabriel Van Helsing, who works for the Vatican in secret, ridding the world of evil monsters on orders by Cardinal Alun Armstrong (in a cameo, with a thick Romanian accent to boot). He is sent to Transylvania to tackle Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and his throng of vampires (Elena Anaya among them). Kate Beckinsale plays a gypsy vampire slayer who helps Van Helsing out, whilst her poor brother (Will Kemp) is cursed as a werewolf. David Wenham plays Van Helsing’s assistant Carl, some kind of monk/friar. An unrecognisable Kevin J. O’Connor plays Dracula’s assistant/servant Igor, Samuel West appears early as Dr. Frankenstein, with Shuler Hensley as his monstrous creation, whilst Robbie Coltrane kinda sorta turns up as a gigantic Mr. Hyde.

Oh dear. Stephen Sommers, you sir have gone way too far this time. Turning “The Mummy” into a phony, jokey “Indiana Jones” wannabe with shitty CGI was bad enough (the subsequent “The Mummy Returns” was surprisingly fun, though), but …

Review: The Prize

The setting is a Nobel Prize ceremony in which various luminaries are gathered in Sweden. Paul Newman plays a heavy-drinking, publicity shy author (who needs the prize money) who stumbles upon a plot involving Russian communists, and German-American physicist Edward G. Robinson, who doesn’t seem to be quite himself at the moment. Firstly, he seems to have forgotten that he has already met Newman before the big press conference. Also, one moment he’s patriotically refusing to defect to join the Commies, next minute he appears to be towing the party line. What gives? Elke Sommer plays the blond assigned to make sure Newman doesn’t get too sloshed, with Diane Baker as Robinson’s pretty niece, who hasn’t spent any time with the man until this recent trip. Sergio Fantoni and Kevin J. McCarthy play a couple of the other Nobel recipients, who are always arguing with one another over who stole what idea from whom. Veteran character actors John Qualen and Karl Swenson are Swedish hotel staff, …

Review: Inherent Vice

Set at the beginning of the 70s, Joaquin Phoenix plays hippie private eye Doc, who at the request of his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) takes a look into the disappearance of her married rich lover (Eric Roberts), a real estate developer. The investigation, possibly not helped by Doc’s fondness for weed, takes on a labyrinthine amount of characters and twists and turns involving supposedly dead musicians (Owen Wilson), coke-head dentists (Martin Short), teenage runaways (“Pretty Little Liars” alum Sasha Pieterse in an unfortunate “Big Lebowski” rip-off character), and bizzaro ‘massage parlour’ attendants (Hong Chau). Also turning up are Doc’s occasional lover and Deputy DA (Reese Witherspoon), Doc’s lawyer pal (Benicio Del Toro), a black radical (the ubiquitous Michael K. Williams), and most prominently, a seriously angry police detective (Josh Brolin), a square-jawed cop who hates hippies…and Doc especially. Jena Malone plays the ex-druggie ‘widow’ of the supposedly dead …

Review: Ong-Bak 3

Um…here it goes then. Tony Jaa is back as Tien, in this direct follow-up to “Ong-Bak 2”. This time out, Tien goes up against a tyrannical…er…tyrant Lord Rajasena (Sarunyoo Wongkrachang), who has pretty much given him the “Spartacus” treatment and left Tien for dead. Lord Rajasena has his own problems to deal with anyway, as he is haunted by a ghostly figure known as Ghost Crow, who ends up possessing Lord Rajasena’s body, making him even more evil, I guess. Tien finds himself brought back to full mental, spiritual and physical health by a Buddhist healer (Nirut Sirichanya) and his daughter. Then it’s off to face Ghost Crow/Lord Rajasena and his army in epic battle, with Tien’s spiritual enlightenment and inner peace perhaps giving him an advantage.

This is the one that apparently sent star Tony Jaa running away to a monastery to become a monk, the experience of this film was so frustrating for him. Thankfully for martial arts fans, that vocation didn’t stick and he’s back making films…