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Showing posts from April 2, 2017

Review: Apocalypto

Set in the ancient Mayan age (presumably around the 1500s), warrior Rudy Youngblood is living a relatively humble existence, with a loving wife (Dalia Hernandez) who is pregnant with their second child. This happy, hunter-gatherer sort of existence is soon shattered when a war-minded tribe (led by nasty Raoul Trujillo) invade the village to torture, rape, and kill everyone in sight. Youngblood manages to lead wife and child to a safe hiding place (a big hole in the ground), but soon he is captured and set to be filleted in some kind of ancient ritualistic sacrifice. How will he escape and rescue his wife and kid? The bizarrely named Morris Birdyellowhead (!) plays Youngblood’s wise, respected warrior father.

Bloody, exciting, and picturesque 2006 Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”, “The Passion of the Christ”, “The Man Without a Face”) flick is like an ancient, visceral variation on “The Most Dangerous Game”. It starts out looking like it might be a little more thoughtful than that (it’s not du…

Review: Mischief

Set in the American Midwest in the 1950s, Doug McKeon plays a virginal dork with a crush on local hottie Marilyn (Kelly Preston, whose entrance indeed evokes another Marilyn of the 1950s). McKean strikes up a friendship with newly arrived young hood Chris Nash, who got expelled from his last school. Nash is everything McKeon isn’t, and the latter kinda idolises the former. Nash decides to get McKeon laid, and given his girl of choice is the unattainable Marilyn, it’s probably no easy task. Meanwhile, Nash finds himself interested in a girl named Bunny (Catherine Mary Stewart), currently dating a preppy dick bully (D.W. Brown). Throw in a geeky girl (Jami Gertz), Marilyn’s dorky dad (Graham Jarvis), and Nash’s abusive father (a pre-“The Stepfather” Terry O’Quinn, thoroughly wasted), and you’ve got yourself a movie.

Meandering, unfunny, and mostly poorly cast 1985 comedy from director Mel Damski (“Yellowbeard”, “Legendary”) probably wanted to be somewhere in between “Losin’ It” and TV’s…

Review: In the Heart of the Sea

Author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) visits an elderly Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), hoping to get the scoop on what happened on the voyage of the Essex in the early 1800s. The crux of the film flashes back to tell the story of the voyage in search of whale oil, and particular the stressful relationship between first-mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) and rich, but far less experienced captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), who thoroughly resents the former’s input. Storms, starvation, and petty stubbornness ensues. Michelle Fairley plays Nickerson’s wife, Tom Holland plays the young Nickerson, and Cillian Murphy plays the second-mate.

Based on a novel from 2000 by Nathaniel Philbrick, this 2015 seafaring flick from director Ron Howard (“Parenthood”, “Backdraft”, “Apollo 13”, “Ransom”) tells the story of author Herman Melville’s chief inspiration in writing the classic “Moby Dick”. I’ve read neither Melville’s novel nor Philbrick’s, but as scripted by Charles Leavitt (“The Mighty…

Review: The Hard Corps

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a troubled Desert Storm vet hired by Vivica A. Fox to act as a bodyguard to her wealthy boxer brother Raz Adoti, who is receiving death threats from a rival. No one trusts the unstable Van Damme, especially Adoti, but when his co-worker and buddy is killed in the line of duty, Van Damme’s all they’ve got left.

Y’know, I’m still amazed that JC puts a genuine effort into his performances these days, long past when his big-star status has left him, and especially when one considers how lazy Steven Seagal has become. But not all of the films the Muscles from Brussels has made post-cinematic career are worth seeing. This bland 2006 action-drama is not one of the better collaborations between Van Damme and frequent director Sheldon Lettich (the watchable “Double Impact”, and the excellent “Wrong Bet/Lionheart”), with Lettich also writing the screenplay. It’s a pretty uneventful affair that not even a fine lead performance from Van Damme nor a slumming Vivica A…

Review: Up in the Air

A pitch-perfect George Clooney stars as superficially charming Ryan Bingham, a corporate layoff guy who is hired by companies to basically do their dirty work for them. A glib loner, Bingham also goes on the motivational speaking circuit to lecture people on having no attachments or baggage in their lives, and indeed he lives 322 days of the year on the road, living most of his days in hotels and collecting flying miles in order to become part of an exclusive 10,000,000 mile club (which is nothing like the mile high club, by the way). And he only ever travels with enough stuff for one suitcase. He considers his somewhat estranged sisters to be more of a minor annoyance than anything else, and his only real contact is with executive Vera Farmiga, who is basically Bingham’s female equivalent. They meet up at their mutual stops for casual sex with no strings attached. Bingham is perfectly happy and comfortable with this lifestyle, but all that is about to change, as scumbag boss Jason Ba…

Review: The Return of Frank James

Henry Fonda stars as Frank James, the former gunslinger and James Gang member (alongside deceased brother Jesse), who is left seething when the Ford brothers are convicted of Jesse’s murder but pardoned by the governor. So what’s left for Frank to do but go after the Ford brothers (John Carradine and Charles Tannen) himself. Jackie Cooper plays Frank’s excitable young friend, who thinks himself a man and wants to prove himself. Gene Tierney is a nosy female reporter who takes a liking to Frank after an initial misunderstanding. Henry Hull is a curmudgeonly but likeable friend of Frank’s, a former lawyer turned editor, whose legal skills come in handy when Frank’s loyal black farmhand (Ernest Whitman) gets framed for Frank’s crimes.

Enjoyable 1940 Fritz Lang (“Western Union”, “Man Hunt”, “Clash by Night”, “Rancho Notorious”, “Ministry of Fear”) western, a sequel to “Jesse James”, with Fonda joined by Tyrone Power as Jesse. It’s a somewhat formulaic mixture of comedy and tense drama, ge…

Review: Tale of Tales

The Queen of Selvascura (Salma Hayek) longs to have a child, but has thus far proven unsuccessful. She is told by a soothsayer-type that if her husband The King (John C. Reilly) slays a sea dragon, she will be with child. After the deed is done, the King dies, but The Queen does indeed fall pregnant, as does a servant girl. Sixteen years later and the two blond-haired boys grow up the best of friends, much to the Queen’s displeasure. The second story has a randy King (Vincent Cassel, who else?) who falls for the enchanting voice he hears coming from a window. Not seeing the songbird’s face he is eventually mortified to find that it belongs to an old woman. In the third story, The King of Altomonte (Toby Jones) becomes obsessed with a flea, keeping it as a pet and even feeding it until the point where it grows to dog-size (!). It dies though, and The King is heart-broken. Meanwhile, his lonely daughter Viola (Bebe Cave) is of marrying age, and The King reluctantly offers her hand in ma…

Review: (500) Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, who aspired to be an architect, but in the meantime took up a job writing greeting card messages, and eventually his aspirations fell by the wayside. Tom falls for his boss’ new secretary Summer (Zooey Deschanel), and eventually they do form a bond. However, Summer makes it clear to Tom that she’s not interested in anything serious. Tom, for his part, has made it abundantly clear that he very much is interested in something serious. Yeah, this isn’t gonna go smoothly. Geoffrey Arend plays Tom’s best friend and co-worker, whilst Chloe Grace Moretz is Tom’s strangely sage younger sister.

A lot of people seemed to really like this 2009 (un)romantic comedy from debut feature director Marc Webb (who went on to make “The Amazingly Unnecessary Spider-Man”), but I wasn’t quite feeling it. It’s very well-acted by the two extremely appealing leads, the characters are somewhat likeable (if flawed), but for what it was trying to do here, I don’t think it quite come…