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Movie Reviews – Creed

Movie Reviews – Creed

Movie Reviews this week looks at the Rocky spinoff movie Creed starring the very impressive Michael B. Johnson (The Fantastic Four) as Adonis Johnson, son of the legendary Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers, we only get to see flashbacks of the original Creed), no genuine Rocky fan needs an introduction on, and ofcourse Sylvester Stallone as the iconic Rocky passing the flame to his younger incumbent.
We join the movie as Adonis is in a foster home; actually in detention for getting into one of his regular fights, whereupon he gets a visit from Mary Anne Creed, played by Phylicia Rashad, we know her better as Mrs Huxtable from the Cosby show, who takes him away from the foster care life and he lives with her in a life of luxury. We would assume that most people would be happy to settle with such a life having had such a disruptive upbringing.
We find Adonis years later in a cosy business job, but true to form he is not satified or getting any pleasure from. He clandestinely fights in underground boxing tournaments in Mexico, where he is so far undefeated. He prompty hands in his notice to his cosy office job, much to the dismay of his mother, he goes to Philadelphia in search of the legendary Rocky to train him as a professional boxer. It turns out Adonis is no stranger to boxing after having fought in Mexico with a record of 15 fights and 15 wins, but he wants the world stage something underground boxing tournaments cannot give him. Rocky on the other hand is more content running his restaurant business and seems to have left his old boxing life behind (which came as a little bit of a surprise, as it wasn’t that long ago that he stepped into the ring). Rocky initially refuses to train Adonis, but knowing that Adonis is his great friend’s son, the desire to make him a better fighter, and to continue something of legacy with his friend’s son is just too great an opportunity to pass by.
The theme in Creed is similar in many of the Rocky themes, the personal struggle to be the best regardless of what life throws at you. Romantic interest for Adonis is the gorgeous Tessa Thompson (Selma, who looks very similar to one of the Huxtable’s daughters) who plays Bianca, an alternative pop musician.
The fight scenes are realistic, and even genuine boxing fans would be hard pressed to dismiss the boxing scenes as made for tv, as the trainers and routines they go through looks like the real thing. Creed is a fantastic movie along the themes of the Rocky saga, that will ring a bell with any Rocky or boxing fan.

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) with Adonis (Michael B. Jordan)

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Movie Reviews – Birdman: Or(The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Movie Reviews – Birdman: Or(The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Movie Reviews this week looks at the odd mix of comedy and drama aka dramedy Bird Man or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, starring the always impressive Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice), and Edward Norton (American History X).

It stars Keaton as Riggan a former tv super hero of the titular name, who is now considerably older, and now a washed up actor. He invests everything he has into a play about love, aided by his daughter Sam, played by the gorgeous Emma Stone (The Amazing Spiderman), and helped by a charismatic stage veteran Mike played by Edward Norton.

We get to see the action from a documentary style angle, and it is charming to see the actors move from one room to the next and continue their impromptu conversations, and those conversations are what makes this movie stand out, not only are those conversations relevant they are also hilarious.

Matters get complicated as the teaser for the show begins to run into all manner of troubles, notably Riggan getting irritated with Mike as he doesn’t seem to follow the rules, and would rather have things authentic so as to be believable for the audience. Riggan also has unresolved issues with his long suffering ex Sylvia played by Amy Ryan (Escape Plan).

Riggan has risked everything into the play, and having squandered his fortune from the Birdman movies, this is all he has left, and despite pleas from Sam that he is no longer relevant and should move on, Riggan is determined to see the play through, even against an outwardly hostile critic, Tabitha played by Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland).

Added to all this, he is hearing voices that remind him of his old super hero life, but alarmingly we the audience are unable to figure out if he is still sane, or whether the voices and what he does are real or he is going delusional.

Bird Man is one of the oddest movies you will see all year, in terms of improvisations, oddity and tongue in cheek diagloue it has it all, and you can see why it did so well at the oscars, it’s self deprecriating humor trying to be relevant in a world that has passed you by is not lost on the audience and more importantly its stars; and the acting from the theatre point of view is top notch all through.

Riggan (Michael Keaton) has a conversation with his younger alter-ego

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Movie Reviews – Nightcrawler

Movie Reviews – Nightcrawler

Movie reviews this week looks at the dark thriller Nightcrawler starring the always dependable Jake Gyllenhall (Prince of Persia: Sands of time), as a down on his luck loner, seeking to get into a business that will earn him an income.

Contrary to the name of the movie, this is not related to a comic superhero, but the name given to on the scene videographers that film incidences of homicide, and accidents for local nightly news.

We join the movie with Louis Bloom played by Jake Gyllenhaal, actively looking for a job, he finds himself some construction materials, and without hesitation pockets them, and proceeds to sell them to any one who is willing to pay for them. The audience is left a void as to how Louis became this desperate but doesn’t get in the way of the story. He makes a good pitch as to why he should be hired, after obtaining the construction materials to a local construction firm, to which he is bluntly put down, despite his best effort, the prospective employer tells him that he will not hire a thief, which Louis nor the audience can argue with.

At this stage you are wondering if you can possibly side with our protagonist and his moral centre is certainly whatever works in getting him where he wants to be.

By some off chance he happens to come across Joe Loder played by the stalwart Bill Paxton (Big Love), filming a car crash for the local news, and queries how to get into that line of work.

Eventually he ends up meeting with Nina Romina played by the gorgeous Renee Russo(Thor, Lethal Weapon 3), and you can tell immediately there is some kind of romantic interest, albeit initially it is all from Louis. His attempts to flirt with her are met with “I am twice your age”.

Louis luckily finds some footage that Nina would like to air, and with an eye for what sells, he focuses on this line of work, competing with Joe in the process, to be the first to get to any macabre story.

Nina and Louis have a somewhat platonic relationship, and the audience is taken through Louis’s obession to initially filming items that are news worthy to bordering on creating the news, which could become problematic for all concerned.

Nightcrawler is a fascinating insight into a world most of us have never seen; a paparazzi obsession with gore and violence, and Jake Gyllenhaal gives an Oscar worthy performance in this dark thriller.

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the newsroom

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Movie Reviews – Ex-Machina Film

Movie Reviews – Ex-Machina Film

Movie Reviews this week looks at the fascinating sci-fi dark drama Ex-Machina.

It stars Domnhall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) as Caleb a young programmer who has won a prize to work on a project along with his employer Nathan; played charmingly by Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, something about his intense stare reminds me of a young Al Pacino), the owner of the largest search engine in the world (the equivalent of Google in this fictional piece).

We join the movie as Caleb is flown to meet his employer on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere; we get an idea of just how well off Nathan is, as Caleb asks the pilot; as they have been flying over expanse greenery for some time, when they will reach Nathan’s property, and he mentions matter-of-fact that they are already there. The helicopter pilots drops him off a good distance away from the house, and tells him “that this is the closest he is allowed to the house”, which signals curiosity as to what Caleb has let himself in on.

Like many aspiring programmers and indeed employees in awe of being invited into their employer’s home, Caleb is eager to impress his employer having been picked miraculously for this once in a life time opportunity. He tries his best to engage on an intellectual level with Nathan, once he is told the purpose of his visit is to conduct a “Turing test” on an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), called Ava, played by the gorgeous Alicia Vikander (Seventh Son). As explained in the movie the Turing test is to determine if an A.I. can fool a human into believing he/she is not dealing with an A.I.

Nathan gives the impression that these are just two guys hanging out, while Caleb gets hooked in by Ava, and the audience themselves are not quite sure if Ava is genuinely conscious or part of her programming. This theme may have been visited numerous times in other movies, but not quite like this, and the audience will be spellbound, as the lines of antagonist or protagonist are not clearly defined.

This is a fascinating look into A.I. from a different standpoint that has been delved into in other movies, and the audience is drawn in trying to figue out if it will all end well for any party.
Calum(Domnhall Gleeson) discusses with Nathan (Oscar Isaac)

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Movie Reviews – Homeland Season 1

Movie Reviews – Homeland Season 1

Movie Reviews this week looks at the fascinating terrorist thriller, Homeland starring the gorgeous Claire Danes (forever immortalised as Juliet opposite Leonard DiCaprio’s Romeo) as Carrie Mathison, an analyst for Homeland Security following the aftermath of 9/11.
This differs from many crime thrillers, in that our protagonist is not quite as well adjusted as we are used to seeing, notably being that Carrie is bipolar, something she has hidden from her superiors at Homeland Security, the main reason being she would lose her security clearance, and the trust of all who have heeded her suggestions over the years, notably Saul Berenson, played magnificently as a father figure by Mandy Patinkin (something about him is extremely familiar but I can’t seem to pinpoint where I saw him).

The series follows the miraculous capture and return of an American POW held in Iraq for 8 years, but not before Carrie’s source tells her that an American POW (Prisoner of War), Nicholas Brody played amazing well complete with an American accent, by Damian Lewis; has been turned, i.e. has defected for the most wanted terrorist post Osama Bin Laden, Abu Nazir played by Navid Negahban.

Carrie takes this information as gospel, and her disorder coupled with the firm belief that Brody is her guy, causes her to scrutinise every bit of information she obtains, to the point that the audience is beginning to wonder if she is going over the edge in pursuit of someone that could well be innocent.

The beauty of this series is that it keeps you at the edge of your seat, we are never quite sure if Carrie, acting purely from her desire to prevent another 9/11 or is acting out as a result of her disorder is unravelling before our eyes, in between the strain on Brody’s relationship with his wife Jessica played by the gorgeous Morena Baccarin (Stargagte SG-1), who had a fling with Mike Faber played by Diego Klattenhoff; one of his best friends while they all assumed he was dead, either way the buildup through Homeland Season One, although slow at first makes for mesmerising viewing towards the finale.
Homeland Season 1
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The Ides of March

The Ides of March

Movie Reviews this week looks at the George Clooney produced and directed The Ides of March, starring George Clooney (Ocean’s 11) and Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) as Stephen Meyers and Governor Mike Morris respectively.

It tells the story of the Democratic primaries to find out who will lead the Democratic party in the soon to be held presidential elections, but as the William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar inspired title hints at, the focus of the movie is on the background incidents involving the media spin doctors, who mainly represent Governor Morris, Stephen Meyers and Paul Zara played by the always impressive Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War).

We join the story as Stephen tests out the microphone and surroundings ahead of a much anticipated debate between Senator Morris and his main rival for the Democratic Presidential Nominee. Not much is focused on the other candidate, in fact we hardly hear a word from him during the entire movie, instead the focus of the movie surrounds the backroom shenanigans in the world of political spin doctors, which Stephen and Paul are well adapt at; as they try to give Senator Morris every advantage in the race to the Democratic Presidential Nominee, against the opposition’s spin doctor, Tom Duffy brilliantly played by Paul Giamati (Shoot Em’ Up).
It also stars the gorgeous Evan Rachel Wood (almost unrecognisable from The Wrestler) playing Molly Stearns, an intern who has joined Senator Morris’s team, and immediately sets her eyes on Stephen, there is an amusing scene where Molly asks Stephen how old he is, he asks her, how old does he look like, she says questioningly “30”? To which he replies “You think I’m 30”? Just as she is about to apologetically guess again, he tells her he is 30, when asked to guess her age, he says 20, she replies that he is correct, and the conversation moves into the morality of such a young girl being with “such an old man”.

It turns out that Senator Morris’s campaign has hit something of a cul de sac, as they require the 356 delegates of a Senator Thompson played charmingly by Jeffrey Wright (fantastic as Colin Powell in W); or else they might lose the Primary, Tom Duffy is also eager on the task of getting Senator Thompson on board, as his vote is the difference that can decide the winner.

As political movies goes, The Ides of March is a fantastic movie with some brilliant acting, dealing with a plethora of political issues such as loyalty, integrity and the things that some are willing to do for what they believe is right. It comes as no surprise that The Ides Of March is touted as being a firm favourite for several Oscar nominations.

Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) with his political adviser Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) in The Ides of March
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Warrior Movie

Warrior Movie

Movie Reviews this week looks at the highly acclaimed martial arts drama Warrior.
It stars the very impressive Tom Hardy (Bronson) as Tommy Conlon complete with an American accent, as a war vet, who happens to arrive at the door step of his estranged father Paddy Conlon played by the always dependable Nick Nolte (The Fisher King).
It turns out the reason for the estrangement is that Paddy was a violent husband, and his wife took one of her sons Tommy to get away from him.
Even though Paddy tells his son he has been sober now for a 1000 days, Tommy is not impressed, and it turns out that Tommy is here for the main reason of a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) tournament with a prize money of $5 million, and is as detached from his father emotionally as you can get.
We find out Paddy has another son Brendan played by Joel Edgerton (Smokin’ Aces), who he is also detached from, a physics teacher who spices up the lessons in class to gain the attention (and it must be mentioned he does it very successfully, there is a memorable moment where he tries to get the class to understand Newton’s first law, Mass equals acceleration with a baseball bat). Brendan’s has a lovely wife Tess played by the gorgeous Jennifer Morrison (House) and two lovely daughters. It turns out Brendan is behind on the mortgage and is facing foreclosure. Telling his wife that he is bouncing at a local club, he enters into a MMA competition at a parking lot, that is caught on Youtube, much to the surprise of his students in his Physics class. Although he wins the bout, his wife isn’t neither is his faculty head at the school, and he is given a leave of absence.
With Brendan facing certain foreclosure he explains to his wife that entering the MMA competition with the five million prize money is their only way out, she reluctantly agrees but not before putting up a fight as she recalled the last time he was in a bout and she had to pick him up from the hospital. Brendan turns to his friend and long time trainer Frank Campana played by Frank Grillo (Minority Report)to get him in shape for the tournament, while Tommy turns to his father, although they are at loggerheads most of the time, Tommy knows his father is a very good trainer, and Tommy intends to use the money for an army comrade’s family. With some of the biggest names in MMA coming to the tournament you wonder if Brendan especially has made a fatal mistake.

Warrior is a very intriguing movie, and you feel for the characters as their desperate fight for survival physically and emotionally takes its toil.
Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) in Warior

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Repo Men

Repo Men

Movie Reviews this week looks at the futuristic sci-fi drama Repo Men.

It stars Jude Law (Cold Mountain) as Remy and Forest Whitaker (mesmerising in The Last King of Scotland) as Jake.

In the world we currently live in, you may borrow money from a bank or a loan provider, and if you can’t keep up with the payments, the bank or loan provider can seize your property or your goods.
In the world of Repo Men, instead of property being taken if you are unable to keep up with your payments, it is organs that have been loaned out, and the Repo Men are responsible for removing artificial organs from people who are unable to keep up with payments, and this they do literally.

A company that has made it possible for those requiring liver transplants and various other organs that need replacing to get artificial ones, but they have to continue with very excessive payment terms, or else Remy and Jake will be sent to remove their property.  We are first introduced into what Remy does from the start of the movie as he retrieves organs from an unfortunate individual, as he puts it “If you can’t pay your mortgage the bank comes and takes it…If you can’t pay for your car the bank comes and take it…If you can’t pay for your organs I come and take it”, and he shows us what he does complete with gore, and I must say this movie isn’t for the faint hearted, it is full of gore and violence than most Hollywood mainstream movies.

It also stars the drop dead gorgeous Alice Braga (I Am Legend) as Beth, who has had a stream of artificial body parts right down to her eyes, whom Jake and Remy had been previously assigned to repossess.

Repo Men obviously has a great deal of analogy with debt collection in the world today, you could literally substitute the organs with any other type of secured debt, and the results could frighteningly be the same. Matters take a sudden twist when Remy in the line of duty finds himself needing the artificial organs he routinely removes from others, and when the inevitable happens and he is unable to keep up the payments, it leaves some in the company they work for; with some hard choices to make, and as is customary with new insight when you are now the victim, it leads to Remy questioning the validity of such a practice, and the motives of the company as a whole.

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Remy (Jude Law) and Jame (Forest Whitaker) prepare to go out on a raid

Next 3 Days

Next 3 Days

Movie reviews this week looks at the suspense thriller The Next 3 Days, starring Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock), as a couple John and Lara Brennan with a young son Luke played by Ty Simpkins.

We join the movie as John and Lara are having dinner in a restaurant with another couple, Mick and Erit played by Michael Buie and and the gorgeous Moran Aitas (You don’t Mess with the Zohan) respectively. During the meal Erit makes some innuendo regarding John, to which Lara doesn’t take kindly to, this sets the scene by director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, the screenwriter of the award winning Million Dollar Baby and Crash; for the audience to be in two minds about Lara’s character.

The plot takes a surprising turn, when back at home, the police pay a visit to Lara, and arrest her for suspicion of murder to the shock of all.

It transpires that the victim is her boss, and that the police have witnesses stating she has had arguments with her boss, but the damning evidence is the victim’s blood on her coat as well as her fingerprints on the murder weapon, not to mention a witnesses sees her speeding car, moving away, while the victim lay dead; to which even their sympathetic lawyer states “there is no way she is getting out of prison”.

This leaves John with only one other option, to break her out of prison.  He meets Damon Pennington played by the stalwart Liam Neeson (Taken), who has escaped from numerous prisons, and has written a book about his experiences; for advice on what to do in the theoretical possibility that he would need to break someone out of prison from the city, on hearing that John lives in Pittsbugh, Damon sighs with melancholy, that since 9/11 every major city had to have a lock down policy, and Pittsburgh is one of the cities that can shutdown all major roads in fifteen minutes, Damon also tells him that he would need a lot of money, as he puts it, “if you run out of money, you run out of friends”, and to be prepared cover all angles, to look for regularity in the tasks of the guards, and where there is a lapse in these duties is where an opportunity exists.

You wonder if John can actually pull it off, he seems a mild mannered school teacher, and having the guile and toughness for what he is attempting to accomplish might be way above him.

Paul Haggis captures the despair, and desperation of John and Lara superbly, and although you are rooting for them both, you can’t help but wonder if something bad is just around the corner.
As suspense thrillers go, The Next 3 Days will keep you at the edge of your seat throughout.

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In happier times, John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) Brennan with Luke (Ty Simpkins)