Showing posts from March 31, 2013

Review: Torn Curtain

Julie Andrews plays the fiancée and assistant to American scientist Paul Newman, whom she discovers might be defecting to the Russians. Wolfgang Kieling is Gromek, Newman’s assigned bodyguard, who has a fascination with American slang. Gisela Fischer is also impressive in the small role of Dr. Koska, one of Newman’s ‘comrades’. Lila Kedrova turns up late as a curious Polish Countess looking for a ‘sponsor’ so she can get into America.   1966 Alfred Hitchcock ( “Psycho” , “Shadow of a Doubt” , “Sabotage” ) film is easily one of his weakest, a surprisingly dull, dour spy film that seems so impersonal compared to his great films like “Strangers on a Train” , “Vertigo” , or “Spellbound” . The leads are miscast; Newman might have often played unlikeable characters, but they’re usually more interesting characters (he’s actually not in the film enough, if you ask me), and his disinterest in the project (and perhaps in the director, if rumour has it correctly) shows here. A much bett

Review: New Year’s Eve

A bunch of famous people walk on screen and say a bunch of stuff pretending to be a group of New Yorkers going about their day (and evening) on the title date. Some of the characters from one story will also bleed into another one, ala “Love Actually” . Hilary Swank is the workaholic in charge of seeing that the ball drops in Times Square at midnight. She hits a few snags along the way, forcing her to re-hire electrician Kominsky (Hector Elizondo) to fix things in time. Michelle Pfeiffer is a lonely, mousy secretary who ropes in messenger Zak Efron to help her complete her bucket list (Seriously, this really is part of the movie). Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers, meanwhile, compete with other couples (including Til Schweiger) to ring in the New Year with a newborn win a cash prize. No, I’m not kidding. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele get stuck in an elevator. The latter is a back-up singer to Jon Bon Jovi, and is expected to join him in the Times Square sing-song festivities.

Review: Murder!

Actor Herbert Marshall serves on a jury that convicts actress Norah Baring of the murder of a young woman in the same acting group. He’s the lone dissenting voice, and unhappy with the decision made, decides to play detective. Phyllis Konstam and Edward Chapman run the local theatre. Esme Percy plays a female impersonator.   Pretty good early Hitchcock ( “Vertigo” , “Shadow of a Doubt” , “Strangers on a Train” ) whodunit from 1930 unfortunately has a conclusion I could see coming a mile away, and a voice-over for the characters’ inner thoughts that has become tired nowadays. Marshall is particularly good in the lead, and I’d suggest “12 Angry Men” is a little indebted to this film for one sequence (not to mention Hitch’s own, later “Stage Fright” which contains one helluva similar premise). Memorable climax, even if the culprit is obvious fairly early on. Perhaps that’s a sign of the film’s vintage, though I wouldn’t exactly say the film has dated.   The screenplay is

Review: Drive Angry

Nic Cage stars as the mysterious and possibly supernatural John Milton, who is trying to track down cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke). King killed Milton’s daughter and having kidnapped his granddaughter, plans to sacrifice the baby to apparently bring about Hell on Earth. In order to make his pursuit, Milton hitches a ride with struggling waitress Piper (Amber Heard). Meanwhile, an ambiguous, droll figure who calls himself ‘The Accountant (William Fichtner) is in pursuit of Milton, for reasons only gradually revealed. David Morse turns up as an old mechanic buddy of Milton’s, Tom Atkins is a hard-arse lawman also pursuing Milton, and Charlotte Ross has a small but memorable role that juxtaposes sex and death in a way you might never have considered.   Directed by Patrick Lussier (the superior, schlocky remake of “My Bloody Valentine” ), this 2011 example of quasi-grindhouse filmmaking will be enjoyed by about 10% of the movie-going population, whilst the other 90% wil

Review: Dragon Eyes

Former MMA star Cung Le stars as an ex-con recently released who walks into a town needing a clean-up of local drug gangs and corrupt cops (chief among the latter is one Peter Weller, “Robocop” himself). Good thing he’s a martial arts exponent, tutored in prison by the no-nonsense Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Kristopher Van Varenberg (son of Mr. Van Damme) turns up as a corrupt cop, similar to the one he played in his dad’s vastly superior “Assassination Games” .   Ever since “Replicant” , Jean-Claude Van Damme’s performances have gotten better and his films have been consistently watchable (especially “Replicant” , “Until Death” and “The Expendables 2” ), save for a few missteps here and there (notably “Derailed” and “The Order” ). However, this 2012 offering from director John Hyams (the surprisingly not bad “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” ) and writer Tim Tori is a clichéd, derivative (especially if you know your Kurosawa and Charles Bronson), and lethargic af