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Showing posts from January 3, 2016

Review: American Gangster

The true story of enterprising Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) and the too-honest cop on his tail, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). Lucas, who began as driver for kingpin Bumpy Johnson (an excellent cameo by Clarence Williams III), took over when his boss died, and came up with an idea of importing drugs directly from the source in Vietnam, thus cutting out the middle-man (this is in the late 60s through the 70s, by the way, during the Vietnam War). Considering himself a smart businessman, he sells a high quality drug called Blue Magic at a relatively cheap price, and has a strict code of business and behaviour that involves he and his people, keeping a relatively low-profile. He even gets himself a gorgeous and exotic Puerto Rican wife (Lymari Nadal). Roberts, meanwhile, is hated by his colleagues for turning in $1 million in drug money intended for payoffs. His partner, meanwhile, becomes addicted to drugs. So, professionally, he’s a saint, but he’s going through a b…

Review: Boys Town

Spencer Tracy plays Father Flanagan, who in an attempt to stop kids from turning into the death row inmates he visits in their final moments, decides to set up the title home for wayward young boys. He believes reform schools will only lead to the kids turning to crime and gangs. They need more than such harsh environments, they need a nurturing home. Mickey Rooney plays Whitey Marsh, a wannabe tough young hooligan who will prove to be one of Father Flanagan’s toughest assignments, as Father Flanagan attempts to prove that ‘there’s no such thing as a bad boy’. Henry Hull plays Flanagan’s slightly stuffy and sceptical business partner, whilst Bobs Watson turns up as the cute-as-a-button Pee Wee, a young boy who has a thing for the sweet stuff.

This is a nice, harmless, and enjoyable movie from 1938. It’s also a showcase for the talent and frankly unbeatable screen presence of Spencer Tracy, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of real-life Father Flanagan. Directed by Norman Taurog (“Ski…

Review: Jimi: All is By My Side

The early days in the musical career of blues-rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix (played by Andre Benjamin, AKA Andre 3.17- what? Oh alright, Andre 3000) as he makes the move to London in 1966-67, and also dealing with the women in his life as he is just on the verge of riding the meteoric wave of success. Imogen Poots plays Linda Keith, the posh former girlfriend of Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards (played in the film by Ashley Charles), who shacks up with Jimi. That is, until he leaves her for Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell, better than this film), and a far more volatile relationship begins. Ruth Negga turns up as a pot-stirrer of a temptress, who is the third woman in Jimi’s life depicted during this brief period.

Even if this 2014 biopic had been wonderfully well-made, interesting, and exceptionally acted, it’s still founded on at least one piece of bullshit according to one of the real-life figures depicted in the film. With that one piece of bullshit (that really, the person …

Review: American Sniper

The true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), said to be the most lethal sniper in American military history, with a confirmed 150+ kills during his four stints in Iraq. Sienna Miller is Taya, Chris’ wife back home, Keir O’Donnell plays Chris’ younger brother Jeff, who also enlists and becomes quite shaken by his experiences.
Firstly, a little semi-tangential context about the filmmaker at the helm here, and all the political hype surrounding this film. I think it’s relevant, as the film, its source and its director often seem to cause political debate. Despite foolishly debating an empty chair at a RNC for cheap laughs, and previously starring in a bunch of right-wing cop flicks in the 70s and 80s, director Clint Eastwood (“Play Misty For Me”, “Mystic River”, “Jersey Boys”) comes across as more of a Libertarian than a Republican or Conservative to me. I mean, I wonder if the folks at FOX News have heard his views on Gay Marriage or Climate Change? However, he claims…

Review: Curse of the Golden Flower

Set in China’s Tang dynasty, where surface-level happiness within the royal household, hides a whole family of rotten apples. The Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat- a masterstroke of casting, the guy is 100% commanding screen presence) presents an image of integrity and majesty, but is secretly (and slowly) poisoning his estranged wife Empress Gong Li (who wears gold-tinged lipstick!), who in turn is carrying on an affair with stepson the Crown Prince (whom she sees as the heir to the throne), and is also slowly going mad from the poison. The easily-manipulated stepson, devoted to his mother (who might have devious plans of her own) is however, in love with the daughter (Li Man) of his mother’s doctor. And unlike his brothers, he has no designs on the throne whatsoever. Jay Chou (a pop idol, and really quite good here) is the middle child, a well-meaning sort, and dutiful soldier who has just returned from battle, attempting to prove his worthiness. Youngest child Qin Junjie, just sulks in the co…

Review: Shane

Farmers and homesteaders are being bullied by cattle baron Emile Meyer and his men. Coming to the aid of homesteader Van Heflin and his family (Jean Arthur, and son Brandon de Wilde) is mysterious stranger Shane (Alan Ladd). Accepting a gig as a handyman and a place to stay, Shane is an ex-gunfighter of some skill, and has little trouble defending the property against Meyer’s goons (including his brother, played by western veteran John Dierkes), and barroom bully Ben Johnson. This earns him the hero-worship of young de Wilde, much to his pacifist mother Arthur’s horror. Things get interesting when Meyer hires infamously dangerous gunslinger Wilson (Jack Palance), who quickly takes to intimidating homesteaders and farmers like Douglas Spencer, Edgar Buchanan, and brave, but foolish Elisha Cook Jr. A showdown between the two skilled gunfighters looks inevitable.

A favourite western of many, but I’m afraid I’m not the biggest fan of this 1953 George Stevens (“A Place in the Sun”, “The Di…

Review: This is Where I Leave You

After finding his wife in bed with his douchebag boss (Dax Shepard, natch), Jason Bateman gets even worse news the next morning. His sister (Tina Fey) calls him to inform him that their father has died, and that the family are to gather together to sit Shiva, the week-long Jewish mourning ritual. Never mind that dad was largely an atheist and surgically-enhanced mum (Jane Fonda) isn’t even Jewish, this was what the old man apparently wanted. Along for the week are somewhat straight-laced oldest son Corey Stoll (who stayed in the home town to work for the family business), and the baby of the group Adam Driver, an immature idiot who likes to stir shit at extremely inappropriate times and is engaged to his older psychologist (Connie Britton). Kathryn Hahn plays Stoll’s wife, who desperately wants to get pregnant, Timothy Olyphant plays the next door neighbour and Fey’s ex-boyfriend, whose slight brain injury was caused by a car accident years ago. Seeing him again brings up all kinds of…