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.

REVIEW: NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

CAST

Kate Beckinsale (Underworld)
Matt Dillon (Crash)
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
Alan Alda (M*A*S*H)
Angela Bassett (Green Lantern)
David Schwimmer (Freinds)
Courtney B. Vance (Flashforward)
Noah Wyle (Donnie Darko)
Julie Ann Emery (Masters of Sex)
Michael O’Neill (Transformers)
Jamey Sheridan (Arrow)

Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) is an ambitious reporter for the Capital Sun-Times. When she discovers a fellow mother at her son’s school, Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga) is working as a covert operative for the CIA and recently returned from Venezuela, where she was investigating an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, she confronts her and requests confirmation. Erica refuses to cooperate, but Rachel has no doubts about the veracity of the report, and her story becomes front-page news with the support of editor Bonnie Benjamin (Angela Bassett) and Avril Aaronson (Noah Wyle), who serves as the newspaper’s legal counsellor. Because revealing a covert operative’s identity is a treasonous offence and because the individual who leaked the information to Rachel is a potential threat to national security, special Federal prosecutor Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) convenes a grand jury and demands to know who her source is, information she refuses to divulge. High-profile attorney Albert Burnside (Alan Alda), hired by the newspaper to defend Rachel, is certain his personal friendship with Judge Hall will facilitate matters and is shocked when his client is jailed for contempt of court.Days become weeks, and then months, during the course of which Van Doren is murdered in a politically motivated attack. Yet Rachel steadfastly defends the principle of confidentiality, a position that eventually estranges her husband Ray (David Schwimmer), alienates her young son Timmy (Preston Bailey), and costs her embattled newspaper millions of dollars in fines and legal fees. However, Dubois is only interested in Armstrong’s original source. Armstrong pleads to Dubois that she could never give up her source as they would have to deal with the consequential ramifications of the death of Van Doren. Burnside even argues her case before the Supreme Court, but they decide against him 5–4, citing the overriding concern of national security.Eventually, Judge Hall decides to release Armstrong from jail, as he is convinced she will never divulge her source and, therefore, cannot be pressured through continued incarceration. On the day she is released, Dubois has the U.S. Marshals arrest her for obstruction of justice and convinces her to take a deal for a shortened sentence rather than go to trial. She agrees to two years in prison, with the possibility of early parole for good behavior. As Armstrong is taken to the facility, she reminisces about her time as a volunteer at Timmy’s school, and when she spoke to Van Doren’s daughter, Alison, who revealed to her on a school field trip that her mother worked for the government and recently went to Venezuela on “business”, thus revealing Alison as the original source.Excellent thought provoking film, such a shame it did not get a wider release. Well acted by whole cast.

 

REVIEW: THE THING (2011)

CAST

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield lane)
Joel Edgerton (The Gift)
Ulrich Thomsen (Festen)
Eric Christian Olsen (Tru Calling)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World)
Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones)

In 1982, an alien spacecraft is discovered beneath the Antarctic ice by a team from a Norwegian research base: Edvard (Trond Espen Seim), Jonas (Kristofer Hivju), Olav (Jan Gunnar Røise), Karl (Carsten Bjørnlund), Juliette (Kim Bubbs), Lars (Jørgen Langhelle), Henrik (Jo Adrian Haavind), Colin (Jonathan Lloyd Walker), and Peder (Stig Henrik Hoff). Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) to investigate the discovery.They travel to the Norwegian base, Thule Station, located in Antarctica near U.S. Outpost 31, in a helicopter manned by Carter (Joel Edgerton), Derek (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Griggs (Paul Braunstein). After viewing the spacecraft, Kate, Sander, and Adam are told the group also discovered an alien body from the crash, buried in the ice nearby. In the afternoon the body is brought to the base in a block of ice. That evening, while the team celebrates their find, Derek sees the alien burst from the ice and escape the building. The team searches for the creature and discovers that it killed Lars’ dog. Olav and Henrik find the alien, which then grabs and engulfs Henrik. The rest of the group arrive and set fire to the creature, killing it. An autopsy of the scorched alien corpse reveals that its cells were consuming and imitating Henrik’s own.Derek, Carter, Griggs and a sick Olav take the helicopter to seek help. Kate discovers bloody dental fillings near a blood-soaked shower. She runs outside to flag down the helicopter after it takes off. When it attempts to land, Griggs transforms into the Thing and attacks Olav, causing the helicopter to spin out of control and crash in the mountains. When Kate returns to the shower, she finds the blood is gone. The team decides to send a party to the closest base, but Kate confronts them with her theory that the Thing can imitate them and has likely already done so. They dismiss her claims, but Juliette says she saw Colin leaving the showers. When Juliette and Kate look for the vehicle keys to prevent the others from leaving, Juliette transforms and tries to attack Kate. As Kate flees, she runs past Karl, who is impaled by the creature. Lars arrives with a flamethrower and burns the creature just as it assimilates Karl. At nightfall, they burn the remains of the Juliette-Thing and Karl’s body.That night, Edvard, Kate and Lars find Carter and Derek stumbling into base, half frozen. The team refuses to believe that they could have survived the crash. Kate has them isolated until a test can be prepared to verify they are human. Adam and Sander had started to work on a test, but the lab is set on fire in the few minutes it’s left unattended. Kate proposes another test, believing that the Thing cannot imitate inorganic material. She inspects everyone and singles out those without amalgam dental fillings: Sander, Edvard, Adam, and Colin, while herself, Peder, Jonas and Lars are proven human.Lars and Jonas go to retrieve Carter and Derek for testing, and discover they have broken out. As Lars searches a nearby building, he is suddenly pulled inside. The group hears Carter and Derek breaking into the building and rushes to intercept them. In the middle of a standoff, Edvard orders Peder to burn them. Before he can, Derek shoots Peder dead in self-defense with Lars’ gun, but also punctures the flamethrower’s fuel tank, setting off an explosion that knocks Edvard unconscious. When brought to the rec room, Edvard transforms and infects Jonas and kills Derek before assimilating Adam. Kate torches the infected Jonas and Derek’s body before she and Carter pursue the Thing. While the pair searches, Sander is ambushed by the Thing and Colin hides in the radio room and isn’t seen again. They get separated and the Thing, into which Edvard and Adam are now fused, corners Carter in the kitchen, but Kate burns it before it can kill him. They then see an infected Sander drive off into the blizzard and pursue him in the remaining snowcat. While they are pursuing Sander, Kate notices that Carter is wearing his gold earring, reassuring her that he is still human at this point.They arrive at the spacecraft, where it suddenly activates and its engines begin to melt the ice over it. Kate falls into the ship and is separated from Carter. Kate discovers the source of the radio transmission at the beginning of the film, in the form of a giant glowing cylinder with strange geometric blocks forming and shifting apart, the signal still broadcasting. Confronted by Sander, who has transformed into a larger creature, Kate destroys it with a thermite grenade and the explosion deactivates the ship, shutting down its engines. Kate and Carter escape the ship and Carter suggests driving to a Soviet base about fifty miles away, saying that they’d stashed enough fuel in their snowcat to be just able to cover that distance.As Kate and Carter return to their vehicle, Kate notices that Carter is missing his earring and becomes suspicious. She tells him that she knew he was human earlier because he was still wearing the earring, implying she suspects he may have been assimilated while they were separated in the alien ship. Upon hearing this, Carter realizes that the earring is missing and points to his ear while attempting to explain its disappearance and reassure Kate. When Carter points to the wrong ear, Kate realizes he must have been assimilated and proceeds to burn him. She then retreats to Sander’s snowcat and stares blankly as the screen fades black. As the final credits roll, a helicopter pilot, Matias, arrives by morning at the now destroyed Norwegian outpost. He shouts, looking for any survivors. Colin is shown to have committed suicide in the radio room using a straight razor to slash both his arms and throat to ensure the Thing could never get to him. Matias sees the charred remains of the Adam/Edvard-Thing in the snow.Lars, now revealed to be alive and uninfected, orders Matias at gunpoint to show his dental fillings to prove that he is a human. The Thing, having taken the form of Lars’ deceased dog, runs out of the camp. Lars realizes it’s the Thing and orders Matias to start the helicopter. As the dog flees, the two chase it in the Norwegian helicopter, with Matias piloting and Lars leaning out of the open doorway, trying to shoot it with a scoped rifle, thus leading into the events of the 1982 film.The Thing does have its problems of course. The early talkie helicopter scene is obviously a nod to the very original movie in the 1950s. It’s a sad replacement, the 50s version dialogie was arguably filled with some of the richest dialogue for a horror/sci fi film at the time. Also you can feel that the film steps into remake territory with same as for scenes, although some of these are neatly spun on its head- so in the end there is no blood test etc. The effects are sadly all CGI, but they work quite well. Interestingly it’s the close up shots that work the best. The Thing is pretty much a solid homage to what has gone before and fans will love the end credits so hang around!