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Showing posts from January 17, 2016

Review: Dumbo

Very simply the story of the title elephant, born with huge ears that see him ostracised and ridiculed by circus animals and patrons alike. They’re so big, the poor little think keeps tripping over himself. With Timothy Mouse (voiced by Edward Brophy) as his one and only friend, Dumbo ends up acting as a circus clown, bumbling about for everyone’s amusement. However, those very same ears that saw him be the object of derision end up being his greatest asset when he uncovers a special talent.

Due perhaps to its slim 64-minute running time, this 1941 Disney animated flick seems to get forgotten somewhat when people discuss their best-ever efforts like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Pinocchio”, and “Fantasia” (the latter of which I hate, mind you). I personally wouldn’t put it in my Disney top three (“Pinocchio”, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, and “Peter Pan”), but it definitely deserves a healthy spot among the next tier of ‘classics’ like “Robin Hood”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “…

Review: Taken

Liam Neeson plays a former CIA agent and overprotective father, who gets to use his ‘particular set of skills’ when his 17 year-old daughter goes to Europe with a girlfriend (Katie Cassidy) and ends up kidnapped and used in sex trafficking. Neeson happens to be on the phone with his daughter whilst she is abducted and whilst obviously a gut-wrenching moment, tries to get as much information about her whereabouts and the abductors from her as possible. Working on a clock, he has to track her whereabouts on little information (she even lied and told her parents she was going to go on a museum-viewing holiday, but really went to follow U2 on a European tour), or else she’ll be lost to the seedy sex slave trade forever. Famke Janssen plays Neeson’s bitter ex-wife, now married to a well-cast Xander Berkeley, playing a super-rich guy character we’re clearly meant to kinda hate at first. Leland Orser gets to play a rare good guy role, as one of Neeson’s old CIA buddies who gets him a gig ear…

Review: Into the Storm

A hellacious super-storm as experienced by storm-chasers both hi-tech (Matt Walsh, Jeremy Sumpter, and single mum Sarah Wayne Callies) and hillbilly (annoying YouTube thrill-seekers played by Kyle Davis and Jon Reep), a local teenager (Max Deacon), his crush (Alycia Debnam-Carey), his brother (Nathan Kress), and his assistant principal father (Richard Armitage).

Although it won’t earn any awards for screenwriting, this 2014 disaster movie is at least a significant upgrade from the dopey 1996 attempt at this kind of thing, Jan De Bont’s clichéd “Twister”. Directed by Steven Quale (“Final Destination 5”) and scripted by John Swetnam (“Step Up: All In”), this one has a significant FX upgrade from the earlier film, and takes itself more seriously than the “Sharknado” franchise. In fact, while it takes some time to get going, the film ends up just stepping over into recommendation territory. It would’ve been even better if it weren’t for the idiot yokel YouTube storm chasers, who are a con…

Review: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Sam Rockwell stars as Chuck Barris, kind of a horny loser sleazebag who works his way up the TV ladder to become the producer/creator of 60s and 70s TV shows like “The Dating Game”, “The Newlywed Game” and eventually “The Gong Show”. However, this film suggests Chuck had a double life around this time. He meets the shadowy Jim Byrd (George Clooney), who offers him a job as a CIA hitman! Before long he is accompanying “Dating Game” contestants on their free trips…so that he can take care of ‘business’. Drew Barrymore plays Chuck’s loyal wife, Rutger Hauer plays a hard-drinking German spy for ‘our’ side, Julia Roberts turns up as a CIA op even more shadowy than Byrd, Krista Allen plays the hot chick who humiliates Chuck in the grotto of the Playboy mansion, and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Barrymore’s roommate whom Chuck was dating before falling for Barrymore. Various familiar contemporaries of Chuck provide ‘talking heads’ commentary from time to time.

Although not his best film as directo…

Review: Devil’s Knot

Based on the true story of three murdered young boys in West Memphis circa 1993; Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers, and the heavy metal-loving, supposedly Satan-worshipping trio of teens rounded up as being the most likely suspects for the crime, on the flimsiest of evidence, and the particularly surly attitude of the no doubt Satanically inclined Damien Echols. I mean, the guy’s named Damien, right? He’s totally the son of the devil. Or a Metallica fan and practising Wiccan who just doesn’t much like authority. Could be that, too. The other two young men are Jason Baldwin, and intellectually ungifted Jesse Misskelley, whose ‘confession’ seems awfully dubious to say the least. The God-fearing, frankly ignorant locals pretty much condemned these young men right off the bat, and the cops (led by Gary Gitchell, played by Rex Linn) were eager to get this whole thing wrapped up ASAP, and use the flimsy evidence of Misskelley’s ‘confession’ to do so. However, what if these…

Review: Texas Killing Fields

The title refers to an area in Texas where over the course of 30 years several dozen women have been abducted, murdered, and dumped in the fields in cases that are unsolved. These real-life killings, however, serve as mere backdrop to the fictional story involving two detectives (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Sam Worthington, the former having moved from New York with his family, the latter having a perpetually angry disposition) investigating a serial murder case in Texas. Thing is, the murders are happening just outside of their jurisdiction, they’re only getting involved at the request of fellow detective Jessica Chastain, who just so happens to be Worthington’s rather hostile ex-wife. Hard arse Chastain (who does have jurisdiction) and Morgan team up to investigate one line of thinking, whilst Worthington (who doesn’t want to go out of his own jurisdiction, let alone for his ex-wife) goes off on his own line of investigation. Along the way we meet various characters, including…

Review: Wild Card

Jason Statham stars as Nick Wild, a Vegas problem solver and problem gambler whose aid is requested by a friend (Dominik García-Lorido), after she is brutalised and raped by a slick jerk gangster (Milo Ventimiglia, natch). Most of his work seems to be of the violent variety, and here his rather efficient, but brutal methods of seeking retribution for Garcia-Lorido only humiliate and anger Ventimiglia into wanting revenge. As a side issue, Wild also helps out a rich, wimpy tech geek (Michael Angarano) who wants to be brave like Wild. Meanwhile, Wild (who dreams of getting enough money to leave Vegas for Corsica) wins and predictably loses a lot of money at the Craps table, as he is addicted to gambling...or addicted to losing. Or something. Max Casella plays a guy who hires Wild to lose a fight with him to make him look tough to Sofia Vergara. Anne Heche plays a diner waitress (or maybe is one, now. Who knows?), Hope Davis (doing a lot with practically nothing) plays a friendly casino …

Review: Serpico

Set between 1960 and 1972, this is the story of New York cop Frank Serpico (Al Pacino), whose idealistic ways, cultured interests, and hippie, plainclothes manner of dress put him at odds with his co-workers who don’t understand what he knows: They can’t get anyone to co-operate with the police if they feel like cops don’t speak their language. He also doesn’t much go for their rather violent interrogation methods of dealing with suspected criminals, either. When he uncovers a mountain of corruption on the force, his refusal to participate further has him isolated. Finally, Serpico joins up with a politically-connected, equally straight-shooting cop (played by Tony Roberts) to try and get something done about the police corruption. Unfortunately, they’re not getting anyone high-up to listen, and all it’s doing is putting a huge target on Serpico’s back. Cornelia Sharpe and Barbara Eda-Young play the two women who come into Serpico’s life, both finding it difficult dating a cop, let al…