REVIEW: TWINS

 

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Hercules In New York)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Kelly Preston (Jerry Maguire)
Chloe Webb (Sid and Nancy)
Bonnie Bartlett (Firefly)
Trey Wilson (Raising Arizona)
Marshall Bell (Starship Troopers)
David Carusco (CSI: Miami)
Maury Chaykin (Entrapment)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Tom McCleister (Million Dollar Baby)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Sven-Ole Thorsen (Mallrats)
Heather Graham (The Hangover)

Julius Benedict and Vincent Benedict are fraternal twins, the result of a secret experiment carried out at a genetics laboratory to combine the DNA of six fathers to produce the perfect child. To the surprise of the scientists, the embryo split and twins were born. The mother, Mary Ann Benedict, was told that Julius died at birth, and not told about Vincent at all. Vincent was placed in an orphanage run by nuns in Los Angeles and believes his mother abandoned him. With no one but himself to rely on, Vincent escaped from the orphanage and became an indebted, small-time crook. Julius was raised on a South Pacific island by Professor Werner, where he engages in intense physical training and extensive study. Each twin is unaware of the other’s existence.On Julius’s 35th birthday, Julius discovers he has a twin brother. With Professor Werner’s blessing, Julius proceeds to the United States to find his brother. Julius discovers that Vincent lives in L.A. and eventually tracks him down in jail for unpaid parking tickets.Julius bails Vincent out, but Vincent does not believe his story and abandons him in a car park. Julius pursues Vincent to his workplace and finds him being beaten up by Morris Klane, a loan shark enforcer. Julius subdues Morris, earning Vincent’s trust and respect. He later meets Vincent’s girlfriend Linda Mason and enters a romantic relationship with her sister Marnie. Over dinner, Vincent shows Julius a document he stole from the orphanage that shows their mother is actually still alive, but believing that she abandoned him at birth, Vincent shows no interest in finding her. Julius tracks one of their six fathers to the address on the document. The father directs Julius to Mitchell Traven in New Mexico, the other professor who headed the experimentVincent steals a late-model Cadillac Sedan de Ville for his chop shop contact and finds a prototype fuel injector in the trunk that was to be delivered to an industrialist, Beetroot McKinley, in Houston, for five million dollars. Vincent decides to pose as the delivery man and deliver the fuel injector himself so he can collect the money and pay off his debts. He reluctantly allows Julius, Linda and Marnie to accompany him to New Mexico to find professor Traven. Mr. Webster, the real delivery man, begins pursuing Vincent. In New Mexico, Traven reveals the truth to the twins and directs them to Santa Fe, where their mother lives in an art colony. On the way to Santa Fe, the twins are accosted by the Klane brothers, but they fight them off for the last time. At the art colony in Santa Fe, a painter informs Julius and Vincent that their mother has died. They leave, unaware that the painter is in fact their mother, Mary Ann, who didn’t believe their story.Vincent bitterly heads to Houston alone to deliver the prototype to McKinley, leaving Julius and the girls behind in New Mexico for their safety. Julius chases after Vincent, and finds him seconds after the exchange with McKinley. Webster appears and kills McKinley, demanding the money from Vincent. Julius intercepts Webster in order for Vincent to escape, but Vincent returns and agrees to give Webster the money to save Julius. Webster decides to kill them anyway for seeing his face, but Vincent kills him by unloading a heavy chain onto his head and burying him. Julius and Vincent return both the prototype and $4 million (Vincent skimming $1 million), and use that along with the reward to start a consulting firm. Their publicity reaches the art colony and Mary Ann learns that her sons are alive. She violently confronts Traven for concealing the truth and tracks Julius and Vincent down to their workplace. Sometime later, Julius and Vincent marry the Mason sisters. Both marriages produce twin children, and the couples are last seen meeting their mother and Professor Werner on an outing.I’m a big Arnold fan so I enjoy most of his films and this is easily the best comedy he’s ever done. The movie is just hilarious and fun to watch Arnold and Devito make a good team.

 

REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars)
Mike Colter (Zero Dark thirty)
Finn Jones (Game of Thrones)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)
Rachael Taylor (The Loft)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers RPM)
Elden Henson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones)
Ramón Rodríguez (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Simone Missick (K-Town)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Wai Ching Ho (Cadillac Man)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Chuck)
Peter McRobbie (16 Blocks)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Marko Zaror (Machete Kills)

 

The Defenders is Marvel’s best Netflix show, hands down.  While the crossover between Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage can occasionally veer into a fragmented set of mini-episodes early on, the awesome foursome eventually unites to form a show greater than the sum of its parts. The street-level superheroes provide a fantastic eight-episode run with high stakes, a frenzied pace and, most importantly, effortless chemistry.Things don’t start off that way, though. The opening pair of episodes read almost as a greatest hits collection of each hero’s respective shows before the narrative eventually relents and shoehorns the plot in a comically convenient way for the four to come together. The lack of instant gratification can be grating, but this is easily relieved by the fun interaction between fan-favourites that leads up to the team-up. Misty Knight and Jessica Jones’ brief scenes are worth the price of admission alone and there are a few, shall we say interesting, crossovers you won’t see coming. Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event is unleashed upon New York and The Defenders, each following their own leads, stumble into each other’s paths in the same building. And then things get good. Really, really good. Unsurprisingly, The Hand are the villains of the season and are led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. Her performance is tempered by an unidentified terminal illness which spurs her character on and at least drives her away from the realms of cartoonish MCU villain as  she has an actual character arc rather than the bland go there, be evil trope of prior bad guys. When the show does focus on The Defenders (and, in fairness, that’s 90% of the time) the show is a rollercoaster of wisecracks, quips and, yup, Jessica Jones’ side-eye. It’s glorious fun and, for my money, feels like a much bigger event than The Avengers ever was. There’s a spine-tingling moment, complete with an inspirational score bubbling up in the background, where the four heroes unite to take on a foe at the midway point which ranks as an all-time great Marvel moment.Yes, The Defenders run is short, but those thinking a mere eight episodes won’t cut it can have their fears put to rest. Coupled with Game of Thrones season 7’s clipped seven-episode run, it feels like we’re reaching a watershed point in television where shows don’t need to be chained to a long episode run anymore. Barely a second is wasted in The Defenders: Every quiet character moment is poignant and fleshes out something or someone; every action sequence leads to something bigger, better, and more shocking; and every one-liner and on-the-nose dig at Iron Fist will make you laugh. Nothing outstays its welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: DELIVERY MAN

CAST

Vince Vaughn (Swingers)
Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Andrzej Blumenfeld (The Pianist)
Simon Delaney (The Conjuring 2)
Bobby Moynihan (Duck Tales)
Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland)
Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction)
Matthew Daddario (Breathe In)

David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is a hapless deliveryman for his family’s butcher shop, pursued by thugs to whom he owes $80,000. His girlfriend Emma, an NYPD officer (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant with his child. One day, David returns from work to find a lawyer representing a sperm bank (where he gave 693 donations and earned a sum of $24,255 during his student years) who tells him that the clinic gave his samples to women in the clinic and that he has fathered 533 children. Of those, 142 have joined a class action lawsuit to force the fertility clinic to reveal the identity of “Starbuck”, the alias he had used.David’s friend and lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) represents him as he tries to keep the records sealed. He provides David with profiles of each party to the lawsuit: David searches for them, finding moments for random acts of kindness. David considers identifying himself; but, after the thugs assault his father, he agrees with his lawyer to counter-sue the sperm bank for punitive damages. He wins the lawsuit, receives $200,000, and keeps his identity a secret.David has regrets and thinks about revealing his identity. However, if he chooses to do so, he would lose the $200,000 that he won in the countersuit. He reveals to his father that he is Starbuck. His father decides to pay off David’s debt. David finally reveals his identity on Facebook. He goes to Emma’s house and finds that she is going into premature labor. At the hospital, his baby is born, he proposes to Emma, and many of the children show up to see him.I’m not a fan of Vince Vaughn. And the premise for this movie sounded terrible – the advert made it sound particularly slapstick, like it would basically be one long jerk-off joke. The title – as a play on words of “delivery” is cheap. But the film, once you get past the initial set-up of the character as one of life’s losers, is really good.

REVIEW: COLUMBUS CIRCLE

 

CAST

Selma Blair (Hellboy)
Amy Smart (Road Trip)
Kevin Pollak (Mom)
Jason Antoon (Two Weeks Notice)
Robert Guillaume (Big Fish)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Beau Bridges (Stargate: Atlantis)
Samm Levine (Pulse)
Jason Lee (My Name is Earl)

Abigail Clayton lives alone. Very alone. In fact, the attractive heiress has not left her Manhattan loft apartment for almost two decades. The famous daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Abigail disappeared from the prying eyes of the press and the intrusiveness of her family on her 18th birthday, the day she received her massive inheritance. During years of self-imposed isolation, Abigail has had contact with only two people-her building’s Concierge, Klandermann, with whom she communicates via notes-and Dr. Raymond Fontaine, a longtime family friend and her sole confidant for most of her life. When the death of her elderly neighbor prompts NYPD Homicide Detective Frank Giardello to launch an investigation, the agoraphobic Abigail is distressed to find him outside her door, asking to question her. Having tried to acquire the dead woman’s now vacant apartment to ensure her privacy, Abigail is further upset when her requests go unanswered, and new tenants Lillian and Charlie move in. A intelligent and suspenseful script makes this outstanding film a real treat. Sharply directed and beautifully filmed, Columbus Circle is easily ranked in the top ten tension filled movies in the last decade. The cast is truly incredible and the performances are unforgettable. It is, however, Selma Blair’s stunning work here that really sets the screen on fire. Her smoldering beauty is only exceeded by her gifts as an actor and as the protagonist in the film, she gives what is nothing less than the performance of her career. She carries the story with grace and gravitas and because of her the story never loses momentum up to its shattering climax. One shock is followed by another as each surprising layer of this onion-like plot is peeled back, revealing the almost overwhelming truth.

REVIEW: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

CAST

Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia)
John C. Reilly (Step Brothers)
Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts)

Teenager Kevin Khatchadourian is in prison after committing a massacre at his high school. His mother, Eva, once a successful travel writer, lives alone in a rundown house and works in a travel agency in a town near the prison, where she visits Kevin. She looks back at her memories of him growing up as she tries to cope with the anger and hostility of her neighbors, who know she is Kevin’s mother.Kevin is detached and difficult even from childhood. Eva has problems with identifying as a mother and has trouble bonding with Kevin, who appears to loathe her and behaves in whatever way he thinks will torment her the most. As a baby, he cries incessantly, but only around her; as a child, he resists toilet training, rebuffs Eva’s clumsy attempts at affection, and shows no interest in anything. He behaves like a happy, loving son when his father is watching, and reverts to sullenness only when he is alone with his mother. While he is still small, Eva’s frustration with his intractability drives her to throw Kevin against the wall, breaking his arm. They return from the hospital with Kevin’s arm in a cast. When his father, Franklin, asks how he broke his arm, Kevin covers for his mother with a lie, using this incident later to subtly blackmail her into giving in to demands, like skipping her errands to take him straight home after school.When Eva tries to talk to her husband about her increasing concern about Kevin’s problems, he dismisses her concerns and makes excuses for Kevin’s behavior; he has never seen Kevin’s dark side and so he doesn’t think anything is wrong with Kevin. The only real affection and interest Kevin shows towards Eva occurs when he is confined to his bed with a fever and she reads him a book about Robin Hood. When reading the part of the story where Robin competes in Prince John’s archery contest, Kevin snuggles with Eva and spurns Franklin when he interrupts the story. Franklin gives him a bow and arrow set and teaches him archery, and Kevin soon becomes an excellent marksman. He continues to practice and graduate to bigger bows as he gets older.Eva and Franklin have a second child, Celia, who is lively and cheerful. However, her birth does nothing to lessen the tension within the family, as Kevin immediately shows disdain and jealousy towards her. A few years later, Celia’s pet guinea pig is killed and she is blinded in one eye by an incident with a caustic cleaning fluid. Eva is convinced Kevin is responsible, whereas Franklin insists these events were accidents and that their son is blameless. This pattern of suspicion on Eva’s part, combined with Franklin’s unflagging defense of Kevin, ruins their marriage, and Franklin approaches Eva with the subject of a future divorce. Eva comes to fear her son, as she sees growing evidence of Kevin’s pleasure in hurting others.This eventually leads to the massacre, when Kevin locks the gymnasium doors with bike locks and murders multiple students with his bow and arrow. As Eva arrives at the school from work, along with the other concerned adults, the police cut through one of the bike locks, and Eva knows Kevin is responsible. Kevin voluntarily walks out, turning himself over, and revealing himself to be the killer. Eva finally arrives home, only to find the house empty and dark. In the backyard she discovers the arrow-penetrated corpses of Franklin and Celia, whom Kevin had killed before the massacre. On the second anniversary of the massacre, Eva visits Kevin in prison. Kevin is anxious because his transfer to an adult prison is about to happen. Eva asks him why he committed the murders. Displaying rare vulnerability, Kevin responds that he used to know but is no longer sure. Eva gives Kevin a hug and says her good-byes while he is taken away.The acting from the cast is first rate. As an unwilling mother to a boy ill at ease with the world, Tilda Swinton gives surely her most accomplished performance as Eva, Kevin’s mother. No doubt it is only the subject matter of the film that prevented her from receiving an Oscar nomination. John C Reilly is fantastically understated in his role as Kevin’s father, careful not to take the viewers attention away from Swinton. Both  Ezra Miller is chilling in his depiction of Kevin. This film is certainly not for everyone. It is a challenging watch and will no doubt create a sense of unease in the viewer that will last from the first scenes to long after the final credits have finished rolling.

 

REVIEW: THE ASSASSINATION (AKA Assassination of a High School President)

CAST

Bruce Willis (Sin City)
Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense)
Reece Thompson (Dreamcatcher)
Michael Rapaport (Hitch)
Kathryn Morris (Cold Case)
Luke Grimes (American Sniper)
Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham)
Zoe Kravitz (Divergent)
Zach Roerig (The Vampire Diaries)

Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson) is a less than popular high school sophomore with a dream to get into Northwestern University’s summer journalism program. Although Bobby claims he’s a great writer, he’s never finished an article for St. Donovan’s School Newspaper. The editor-in-chief Clara, (Melonie Diaz), assigns Bobby to do an article on Paul Moore, the student body president. Bobby attempts to get an interview, but is unable to get a story out of Paul and is bullied by Paul’s friends. Paul is the star of the basketball team and on a game night, Paul takes a fall and injures his knee. The next morning Principal Kirkpatrick (Bruce Willis) discovers the SATs have been stolen from a safe in his office. Kirkpatrick rounds up his “usual suspects” of high school misfits along with Bobby to question them. The group is innocent but Kirkpatrick warns them all to watch their step.When senior Francesca Facchini (Mischa Barton) solicits Bobby’s help tracking down the set of stolen SATs, Funke uncovers a story. He sets on a large scale investigation and links Paul Moore to the crime. He writes an article pointing the finger at Paul. Kirkpatrick forces Paul to open his locker and the SATs fall out. As a result of his sleuthing, Funke becomes one of the most popular kids at St. Donovan’s. Clara decides to submit Funke’s article to Northwestern which earns Bobby a scholarship to the summer program. Funke wins the respect of everyone from Principal Kirkpatrick to the kid that farts on him in Spanish class and Francesca takes Funke to homecoming. As Funke’s popularity grows so do his suspicions. Paul confronts Bobby, proclaiming his innocence, stating that he got into Cornell but decided to take the test again to see if he could get a better score. Funke begins to wonder if the president really stole the SATs or if he’s just a pawn in a conspiracy.Funke investigates even deeper into the lives of Paul’s shady friends, all members of the Student Council. He discovers their involvement with drug dealing. The Student Council had actually stolen the SATs along with other tests throughout the year, modifying the marks of the best students to make them doubt their test-taking abilities and turn to the Student Council for speed-like “study drugs”. Funke says that while Paul wasn’t a part of the scam, group ringleader Marlon Piazza (Luke Grimes) has Paul framed to avoid being caught. Funke also finds out that Francesca led him along the entire time to keep him from finding out the truth. Francesca and Marlon, step-siblings, are revealed as lovers.Funke confronts the group in the principal’s office. Marlon threatens to have Funke thrown out the window and frame it as a suicide, but his threat and confession are heard on the school’s intercom system. When Funke entered the room, he secretly turned on the microphone; Funke’s friends save him from being thrown out the window and Kirkpatrick rushes into the office, followed by the student body and Francesca. Francesca attempts to gain Funke’s trust again, only to be shut down and left to deal with Kirkpatrick’s punishment.The script is tight and interesting, if very slightly predictable (anyone with even a cursory knowledge of film noir could guess the direction that Micha Barton’s character was going to take in the end), but the actors did a great job with their material, and the director kept the visuals interesting without going over the top on sex appeal or exaggerating the lifestyles of high school students; nobody drives a Porsche, nobody lives in a mansion, none of the girls are perfect barbie dolls, etc. The director deserves credit for staying away from these tropes and the characters benefit greatly for it. Overall, a very good movie, and very much worth watching.

 

 

REVIEW: WILD

CAST

Reese Witherspoon (Devil’s Knot)
Laura Dern (Jurassic Park)
Gaby Hoffman (Volcano)
Thomas Sadoski (John Wick)
Keene McRae (CBGB)
Michael Huisman (Game of Thrones)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Brian Van Holt (House of Wax)
Cliff De Young (Flight of The Navigator)
Jan Hoag (Scream Queens)

In June 1995, despite a lack of hiking experience, recent divorcée Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) leaves Minneapolis, Minnesota, to hike 1,100 miles of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail[6] on a journey of self-discovery and healing. During the hike, Strayed reflects in flashbacks on her childhood in Minnesota and memories of her mother, Bobbi Grey (Laura Dern). Bobbi’s death from cancer sent Cheryl into a deep depression that she tried to numb with heroin and anonymous sex, which eventually destroyed her marriage to her husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski). After finding out she was pregnant, Strayed got an abortion and resolved to hike the trail to redeem herself.Strayed begins her trek in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. On the first night, she discovers she has brought the wrong type of gas for her stove and is therefore unable to cook food. After a few more days, Strayed meets Frank (W. Earl Brown), a farmer and construction worker who takes her in for the night and with his wife offers her a home-cooked meal and a warm shower.Strayed meets a hiker named Greg (Kevin Rankin) who agrees to meet her at Kennedy Meadows, California. Upon arrival, she meets a camper named Ed (Cliff DeYoung) who helps Strayed strategically lighten her overweight backpack and convinces her to replace her undersized hiking boots with a new pair, to be delivered to a future stop on the trail. Strayed continues her hike into Northern California despite Greg’s warnings of deep snowfall. After removing a boot to remove a loose toenail, the boot accidentally falls down an inaccessibly deep slope, forcing her to continue the journey wearing sandals reinforced with duct tape. Strayed’s best friend Aimee sends her provisions to stops along the trail, including letters that congratulate her on her progress. Strayed also receives letters from her ex-husband Paul along the way. On the morning of Day 58, Strayed is out of water and desperately licks the dew off her tent. Dehydrated and near exhaustion, she siphons water from a muddy puddle. While she waits for her water to disinfect, two hunters approach, one making suggestive remarks that leave Strayed feeling threatened and vulnerable. This causes her to quickly leave and run away. Strayed makes her way out of California and arrives in Ashland, Oregon, where she meets a man named Jonathan (Michiel Huisman), with whom she attends a concert and later spends the night. Days later, Strayed arrives at Mount Hood National Forest and encounters a friendly group of young hikers who share their experiences. The hikers recognize her from the signatures she’s been leaving in the hiker’s record books along the PCT. Strayed frequently leaves quotes or poems that are meaningful to her along her journey.One rainy day, Strayed finds a llama that escaped from a young boy hiking with his grandmother. Strayed chats with the boy, who asks her about her parents. After she mentions her mother’s death, the boy sings “Red River Valley” to Strayed, saying it is a song his mother used to sing to him. As the boy leaves, Strayed breaks down and cries. On September 15, after hiking for 94 days, Strayed reaches the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, ending her journey. At various points along the trail, including at the end of the bridge, Strayed encounters a red fox, which she interprets as carrying the spirit of her mother watching over her. She reflects that, four years in the future, she will remarry, five years after that have a son and one year after that have a daughter named Bobbi, after Strayed’s mother.I really enjoyed this film. It’s based on a true story and has plenty of atmosphere and feelings. The extras are also good, especially how Reese Witherspoon contacted the Author of the book and asked her if she could make it into a film as she liked the book so much. I highly recommend this film.