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Showing posts from January 10, 2016

Review: The Slender Thread

Set in a Seattle crisis clinic, Sidney Poitier stars as a university student volunteer at the centre who receives a call just as the more experienced Dr. Coburn (Telly Savalas) has finished for the night. It’s Inge (Anne Bancroft), a woman in a clearly very distressed state who has swallowed some sleeping pills and won’t tell Poitier where she lives. She wants to die, Poitier needs to keep her awake, alive, and talking to either get her to divulge her whereabouts, or stay on the line long enough for the cops (represented by a wasted Ed Asner) to trace the call and track her down. Slowly we begin to learn slivers of Inge’s sad story, and the problems in her marriage to fisherman Steven Hill, from whom she has been keeping a big secret for a long time.

Even if it might have dated somewhat, this 1965 film from director Sydney Pollack (“The Scalphunters”, “Tootsie”, “Out of Africa”) still offers interest as an insight into how suicide hotlines/helplines were run back in the 60s. It also g…

Review: Two Night Stand

After a bad break-up, Analeigh Tipton gets drunk one night and decides to go on an online dating website. From there she interacts with Miles Teller, and before long she’s at his apartment and having a care-free one-night stand with him. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a night of meaningless sex hits a bit of a roadblock, or in this case snowstorm that forces the duo into the title situation. Now they’re forced to talk and get to know one another. It doesn’t look like it’ll go very well, he’s a bit of a douchy stoner and she’s a bit of a snarky jerk. Jessica Szohr plays Tipton’s roommate, trying to get her out of the apartment for the night so that she can have sex with her boyfriend.

I don’t know if it’s been done before, but the basic idea of this 2014 romcom and its very title certainly seemed like an irresistible idea. Written by Mark Hammer (whose only other credit so far is an episode of “Skins”) and directed by debutant Max Nichols (son of Mike), it’s the kind of thing t…

Review: Interstellar

Set in a future Midwestern America, going through horrific losses of crops and horrible dust storms. Life it seems, is hard for everyone the world over, not just the American Midwest, and it’s predicted to only get worse. The planet itself will likely become uninhabitable for us before long. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former NASA test pilot/engineer and widower, now a struggling Midwest farmer trying to raise two kids. His intelligent, but wilful10 year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) claims ghosts are haunting her room, and when Cooper investigates he notices some very strange dust patterns that appear to be communicating some kind of message. Figuring out that they are co-ordinates, he and young Murph drive off to investigate, leaving teenage son Tom at home with the boy’s realist grandfather John Lithgow. The co-ordinates land Cooper and Murph in a secret NASA base, with NASA having essentially been defunded in these harsh economic times (and with the revelation that th…

Review: Pulp Fiction

Several interwoven stories, some of which are told out of sequence: Bible-quoting Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and pudgy Vincent (John Travolta) are a couple of hitmen for mobster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). We see them on their latest job, sent to the apartment of nervy Frank Whaley and Phil LaMar. A second story sees Vincent charged with looking in on Marsellus Wallace’s coke addict wife Mia (Uma Thurman), as dinner and dancing turn very, very unpleasant soon enough. In another story, Bruce Willis plays a boxer paid by Marsellus Wallace to take a dive. He refuses, and finds himself a marked man by Wallace. However, a shootout between the two results in them enduring a very, very humiliating and nasty encounter with a couple of hillbilly rapists (one played by Peter Greene), and something/someone called ‘The Gimp’. Eric Stoltz and Rosanna Arquette play a drug dealer and strung-out girlfriend, Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer bookend the film as a couple of romantic robbers, Maria de Mad…

Review: Kill Bill vol. 2

We once again join The Bride (Uma Thurman) on her quest for vengeance against the people who left her for dead at the wedding chapel. In this outing she stalks laconic Budd (Michael Madsen) and cold-blooded Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), before finally tracking down the big boss Bill (David Carradine), who has a nasty surprise in store for her. We also flashback to The Bride’s tutelage in martial arts by the cantankerous, white-bearded Pai Mei (Gordon Liu).

The second half of Quentin Tarantino’s ode to martial arts cinema, spaghetti westerns, and other exploitation fare, this 2004 film was at the time his most mature film as far as I’m concerned. I actually agree with his decision to split this story into two halves, because although both are terrific films, this film and “vol. 1” really are stylistically quite different. “Kill Bill vol. 1” was QT’s tribute to Bruce Lee, blaxploitation, and anime, with occasional doses of spaghetti western. This time out, we get something of a Shaw Broth…

Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Set three years after the previous film that left Chicago obliterated. Transformers are now seen as unwelcome on Earth, targeted by CIA Black Ops bigwig Harold Attinger (a ferocious Kelsey Grammer) and his team, who are aided by a Transformer called Lockdown, who acts as a kind of bounty hunter taking out all of the Autobots one by one. Mark Wahlberg stars as Cade Yaeger, a supposed eccentric inventor who turns junk into…stuff. His teenage daughter Nicola Peltz thinks he’s just a bit of a quirky ne’er do well who treats her like some little kid, and she frequently sneaks off to be with her race car driver boyfriend with the suspiciously Irish-sounding Texas twang (played by Colorado-born Jack Reynor, who moved to Ireland at age two). Things get dangerous for Cade when his latest pet project (a busted up truck) turns out to be a rusty old Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). His well-meaning but nervous pal (a perfectly cast T.J. Miller) calls it in to the government, as one is dire…

Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson plays an ex-cop (and ex-alcoholic) who quit the force after an unfortunate shootout incident interrupted his midday drinking session. Now he’s an ‘unofficial’ private detective, who is asked by recovering junkie Boyd Holbrook (they meet at an AA meeting!) to meet with his drug trafficker brother (Dan Stevens). Stevens’ wife was kidnapped, and although he coughed up the money, his wife was brutally murdered anyway. He wants to know who these guys are so that he can have them properly dealt with. However, Neeson soon learns that this isn’t the first time these guys (whom we meet very early, played by David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) have done this. And they’re not likely to stop unless they are caught. Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley plays a street kid who sees himself as a young Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe, and assists Neeson from time to time.

Written and directed by Scott Frank (whose writing credits include “Little Man Tate”, “Get Shorty”, and “Minority Report”), this 2014 …

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Mousy college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) fills in for her ill journalist roommate, interviewing rich young hunk businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Sparks immediately fly, but before they really get involved, Christian has a very specific set criteria for any relationship. He doesn’t ‘do’ relationships in the traditional sense. He just wants sex. No, not love-making. Sex. And not just the usual rumpy-pumpy, either. A carefully laid out (see what I did there?) contract details the very specific sexual acts that Ms. Steele (a virgin, I might add) will be required to engage in, mostly of the S&M variety. Anastasia is initially taken aback by all of this (and upon seeing Christian’s sex dungeon/playroom), but has fallen too far in love with Christian to back out, and agrees to become his ‘submissive’. But can she really handle a relationship with a cold fish who won’t let her in and just wants to tie her up and whip her? Max Martini plays Christian’s loyal chauff…

Review: John Wick

Russian gangster’s dipshit son Iosef (Alfie Allen) takes a liking to the 1969 Mustang of John Wick (Keanu Reeves- who is now in his 50s! Can you believe that? He’s old, and so are you and I!). Wick says it’s not for sale. Dipshit Iosef decides to steal it, have his goons beat Wick up, and kill Wick’s beagle puppy for good measure. Dipshit Iosef done fucked up because a) That puppy was really cute, and was left for Wick by his terminally ill wife (Bridget Moynahan in 8 seconds of useless flashbacks despite prominent billing) as a parting gift as she left this mortal coil, and b) John Wick is a long-retired (but still highly efficient) hired killer for Dipshit Iosef’s gangster father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), who knows what Dipshit Iosef doesn’t: John Wick is gonna rain down with furious vengeance on those who have killed his poor puppy and taken his sweet arse ride from him. Willem Dafoe plays a fellow hitman with divided loyalties, whilst Adrianne Palicki is much less divided in her lo…

Review: Kill Bill vol. 1

Uma Thurman plays The Bride, who wakes from a four year coma, gets out of the hospital, and sets about seeking revenge on her former Deadly Viper Assassination Squad cohorts (played by Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu, and Michael Madsen) who crashed her wedding and murdered everyone in sight, leaving her for dead. Last on her hit list is former boss Bill (David Carradine), but this first part of the story focuses on her tracking down Vernita Green, AKA Copperhead (Fox), and O-Ren Ishii, AKA Cottonmouth (Liu). Chiaki Kuriyama plays O-Ren’s lethal and sadistic Number Two, GoGo Yubari, who wields a ball and chain! Sonny Chiba plays a legendary Japanese sword maker named Hattori Hanzo, Michael Bowen plays a repugnant hospital orderly who drives the now infamous Pussy Wagon, and Gordon Liu plays Johnny Mo, the leader of the Crazy 88s, O’Ren’s henchmen.

And here’s the point at which I started to become kind of a fan of Quentin Tarantino (“Reservoir Dogs”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Jackie Brown…