Showing posts from October 18, 2015

Review: The Equaliser

Denzel Washington plays a guy with a mysterious past as a bad arse, who now lives a ‘normal’ existence working at a hardware/home improvement store (Think Bunnings, if you’re Australian, Home Depot if you’re American). He’s well-liked by colleagues (despite dispensing dietary advice, which would result in a punch to the face from me, you judge-y bastard!), but doesn’t socialise much. One night at a diner he witnesses young prostitute Chloe Grace Moretz getting a little roughed up by her pimp, and he can’t help but act. His violent actions, however, alert the attention of Russian gangsters at the controls of the whole operation, who send out a no-nonsense bad arse of their own (Marton Csokas) to deal with Washington. In roles that seem to have bits and pieces missing (presumably to be found on the cutting room floor) Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo appear briefly as figures from Denzel’s past.   No, I will not change the spelling, Americans are wrong. They just are. I was worried

Review: The Big Boss

Bruce Lee travels from China to Thailand to reunite with relatives. At the suggestion of cousin James Tien, Lee gets a job at the local ice factory (no, not the drug ‘ice’), and quickly learns that screw ups on the job aren’t very well tolerated. He also quickly learns something else: After a couple of family members go missing after having a talk with the ‘manager’, he does a little investigating and uncovers that the ice factory is really just a front for a drug operation. Although Lee has promised his late mother that he will not get into fights, he realises that he must take a stand…and break a few wrists. I mean, ‘Bruce Lee listens to him mum and picks daisies’ wouldn’t make for much of a film, would it?   This 1971 martial arts film from writer-director Lo Wei was Bruce Lee’s first starring vehicle, and although not up to the standard of the later “Fist of Fury” (also from Lo Wei), it’s pretty good. To be honest, I think Lee gets rather lost in the shuffle in the film’

Review: Welcome to Woop Woop

Jonathon Schaech is a small-time American hustler who escapes to the Australian outback when the fit hits the shans. He gets tangled up with a loopy chick (Susie Porter) who basically tricks him into staying with her in a weird, seemingly backwards small town of Woop Woop. The town is overseen by her big, burly father (Rod Taylor, in a rare appearance back home late in his career) who makes sure no one ever leaves Woop Woop, else they want to get shot. Maggie Kirkpatrick plays Porter’s flatulent, beer-swilling mother, Dee Smart and a blond Paul Mercurio play other locals, and an almost unrecognisable Richard Moir runs the local radio. Rachel Grifffiths plays Schaech’s girlfriend back in the States, where Tina Louise also has a cameo. Barry Humphries turns up in one scene as a grotesque character much closer to Sir Les than Dame Edna.   I wouldn’t want to suggest that the career of Stephan Elliott was completely ended by this 1997 dud (The international flop “Eye of the Behold

Review: The Legend of Drunken Master

Jackie Chan stars as Wong Fei-Hung, exponent of the title kung-fu style, forbidden by his stern father (Ti Lung, less than ten years older than Chan!) because it renders Chan a drunken embarrassment. His father is a doctor, who also runs his own martial arts school, whilst Chan’s more supportive stepmother (Anita Mui) runs a mah-jong racket out of the family home, unbeknownst to Ti Lung. However, as much as his father disapproves of Chan’s fighting, let alone ‘drunk-style’ fighting, Chan will indeed need to rely on his fighting skills to take on a smuggling ring (seemingly headed by a British Ambassador), after he mistakenly picks up the wrong package on a train. Ken Lo (Chan’s real-life bodyguard) plays the fearsome lead henchman, whilst Andy Lau has a cameo as a powerful official who aids Chan and his father at one point.   I continue to find Jackie Chan films frustrating, and this 1994 sort-of follow-up to “Drunken Master” is a classic example. I just can’t quite get into

Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp plays a brilliant A.I. scientist, who along with wife Rebecca Hall is aiming for an A.I. that not only thinks but feels. A group of radical luddites feel threatened by this and (led by Kate Mara) attempt to assassinate him. He isn’t shot dead, but is poisoned to the point where he will slowly die. Being a bit of a mad scientist, Depp’s reaction to this is to focus ruthlessly on his work, and aided by Hall he decides to scan and upload his mind into a computer. Once inside the computer, Depp seems to be gaining enormous power at a rapidly expanding rate. He even manages to come up with nanotechnology to heal people. Unfortunately, as Depp’s army of patched-up people grows, everyone starts to get a little…a lot worried about where this is all headed. Everyone except loyal Hall, that is, who just doesn’t see it. Paul Bettany plays a concerned colleague and family friend who is a little more circumspect about technology, Morgan Freeman plays another scientist, Cillian Murph

Review: Nightcrawler

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a scavenger/thief who, although socially awkward, has boundless ambition and a motor-mouth. One night he spots an opportunistic freelance TV cameraman (Bill Paxton) doing his thing and cashing in big selling the footage, and a lightbulb goes off in Louis’ head. He buys himself a police scanner and a video camera, and he’s off and running. At first he runs into some trouble for getting in the way of crime/accident scenes and stepping on the toes of the more ‘legitimate’ camera people. But Louis is as persistent as he is ambitious, and eventually he happens upon some juicy footage that no one else has gotten to yet (sometimes before the cops even get there, I might add), taking it to struggling TV news head Nina (Rene Russo). He tries to ingratiate himself into a permanent gig selling footage for her, whilst he also becomes bolder and more unscrupulous in his methods of getting the best footage (And also bolder in his demands of Nina). He also takes o

Review: Whiplash

Miles Teller plays an aspiring jazz drummer and freshman at a prestigious music school who gets hired by instructor J.K. Simmons to join his exclusive jazz band. At first, Teller is overjoyed, but quickly learns that his instructor is a highly volatile, profanely insulting, ultra-demanding perfectionist. Is he trying to push his students to their limits in the hopes of making them great, or is he just an arsehole whose behaviour might prove to have psychological effects on them? Teller’s unconditionally loving but perhaps less ambitious dad Paul Reiser (in one of his few genuinely solid performances) starts to worry that it is indeed the latter at work here. Meanwhile, Teller plucks up the courage to ask cinema employee Melissa Benoist out on a date, but can he juggle a relationship with his musical pursuits? Chris Mulkey turns up briefly as a relative who doesn’t quite get Teller’s chosen field of study/career (Teller’s arrogant attitude doesn’t much help bridge the gap, either).

Review: The Men

Marlon Brando plays a WWII soldier paralysed from the waist down due to a shot to the spine. He arrives at a spinal injury ward run by the compassionate yet matter-of-fact doctor Everett Sloane. He has a rough time of it with the other patients at first, as he’s surly and incommunicative and they’re a bit tough on him. He’s clearly not dealing with not only his physical injuries but the psychological toll his injury is taking on him. He won’t even see his loving fiancĂ© Teresa Wright. However, she conspires with Sloane to find a way to get through to him. Jack Webb plays a cynical paraplegic patient who sees himself as a realist.   This 1950 Fred Zinnemann ( “The Search” , “High Noon” , “From Here to Eternity” ) war/drama about wounded/disabled WWII soldiers is no “The Best Years of Our Lives” , but it does have a well-cast Marlon Brando giving one of his least mannered performances in his film debut. Scripted by an Oscar-nominated Carl Foreman ( “High Noon” , “Bridge on the R

Review: Rambo III

Sly Stallone once again plays psychologically scarred soldier John J. Rambo, this time going into action in Afghanistan when his mentor Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) is kidnapped by nasty Russians (led by master thespian Marc de Jonge). He also finds himself among Afghani Freedom Fighters led by the benevolent (and awfully Greek-sounding) Spiros Focas. Yep, the Afghans are noble warriors here. Kurtwood Smith appears in a few scenes as an Embassy official who tries to get Trautman and Rambo’s help, which Rambo initially refuses.   The original “First Blood” was a terrific, relatively even-handed post-Vietnam film, but the following two sequels were exclusively profit-driven films with a decidedly more right-wing political agenda. As such, they are far less interesting films for those of us who never worshipped the ground Ronald Reagan walked on. This 1988 third entry into the series from director Peter MacDonald (Van Damme’s unsuccessful “Legionnaire” ) and co-writers Sly St

Review: The Boxtrolls

Set in the town of Cheesebridge, ruled by the pompous aristocrat Lord Portley-Rind (voiced by Jared Harris), who sits around with his cronies being all snooty and sniffing cheeses, wearing their big white hats. Underground, though, live The Boxtrolls, so named because…they’re trolls who wear boxes. Yeah. Among them, though, lives a young boy (voiced by Isaac Hampstead Wright) who goes by the name Eggs…‘coz he wears a box that says ‘Eggs’ on it. Eggs doesn’t actually know he’s human…even though he looks nothing like a Boxtroll and speaks perfect English. Bright boy that one. Anyhoo, the dastardly Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley) covets a big white hat and sees exterminating all of the Boxtrolls (whom the community have blamed for ‘kidnapping’ Eggs) as his ticket to getting one. Yep, that really is a Holocaust surrogate you’re detecting. In a kids movie. Wow. Snatcher also wants to eat cheese…even though it does very strange and very disgusting things to his face. You