REVIEW: HOLLYWOODLAND

 

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Ben Affleck (Gone Girl)
Adrien Brody (Predators)
Diane Lane (Man of Steel)
Bob Hoskins (Hook)
Robin Tunney (The Craft)
Kathleen Robertson (Bates Motel)
Caroline Dhavernas (Hannibal)
Dash Mihok (Gotham)
Brad William Henke (Lost)
Molly Parker (Lost In Space)
Vladimir Jon Cubrt (Hannibal)
Ted Atherton (V-Wars)

south-park-the-end-of-serialization-as-we-know-it-645x370In June 1959, Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a Los Angeles private investigator more interested in generating an income than in devotion to his clients, is spying on the wife of a man named Chester Sinclair to find if she is cheating. On a visit to his own ex-wife Laurie, Simo learns that his son is upset over the recent death of actor George Reeves, who played Superman on television. Reeves was found dead inside his Beverly Hills home with a gunshot wound to the head, which police ruled a suicide.south-park-the-end-of-serialization-as-we-know-it-645x370Simo learns from a former police colleague that the Reeves suicide has aspects that the cops don’t want to touch. Sensing the potential for making a name for himself, Simo begins investigating and notes several apparent conflicts with the official version of Reeves’s death. He also bickers with Laurie over his failures as a father, particularly now when his son seems so troubled.ben-affleck-hollywoodland

Years previously, in 1951, Reeves (Ben Affleck) is a charming man whose acting career has stalled since appearing in Gone with the Wind. He catches the eye of a beautiful woman and they end the night in each other’s arms. In the morning, a newspaper photo reveals to Reeves that the woman is Toni Mannix, the wife of Eddie Mannix, the general manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Frightened that an affair with a studio boss’s wife will destroy what is left of his career, Reeves is angry that Toni did not tell him. She claims to have an open relationship with Mannix and tells him not to worry. The much wealthier Toni begins to buy Reeves expensive gifts such as a house, a car and jewellery. Reeves lands the starring role in the television series Adventures of Superman, based on the comic book hero. The role makes Reeves famous and gives him a steady income, but he longs for more “serious” work and is uncomfortable with the public’s stereotype of him as Superman, resulting in snickers when he is seen on screen in the war film From Here to Eternity.south-park-the-end-of-serialization-as-we-know-it-645x370As the years pass, Reeves becomes bitter at being a kept man and at Toni for not using her clout to help his career. He barbeques his Superman costume to “celebrate” the program’s cancellation in 1958. He also meets a young woman in New York City, actress Leonore Lemmon, and leaves Toni for her. Toni is broken hearted and furious and seethes at her “mistreatment” by Reeves. Simo initially suspects that Leonore might have accidentally shot Reeves during an argument and imagines how the scenario might have played out. Simo is beaten at his home by thugs, apparently working for Mannix, who are trying to scare him off the case. This and other evidence leads Simo to suspect that Mannix was the one who had Reeves murdered. Simo has a vision of how that killing would have occurred.

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Sinclair murders his wife, having grown impatient waiting for Simo’s report. A guilt-plagued Simo gets drunk, then visits his son’s school, where his inebriation scares the boy. Simo visits Reeves’ manager, Arthur Weissman, who has a home movie that Reeves shot to promote some wrestling work. Reeves’ sadness and disappointment with his life is on display in the footage. Simo’s final imagined variation on Reeves’ death concludes with the actor shooting himself. This is the most vivid of the three scenarios, and Simo imagines himself in the upstairs bedroom watching the suicide. Each of the scenes imagined by Simo begins with Reeves playing guitar and singing “Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Green Eyes)” in Spanish for his house guests. After each of the three imagined renditions, Reeves says goodnight to his guests, then retires to his bedroom upstairs, just before the gunshot. Reeves’ quest for success and Simo’s realization of parallels to his own existence cause the detective to re-evaluate his life. Simo watches another home movie, this one of himself and Laurie and their son in happier days. He goes to Laurie’s house wearing a suit and tie, greeting his son hopefully.ben-affleck-hollywoodland

Hollywoodland intercuts a biopic of the last eight years in the life of actor George Reeves. It also  flawlessly evokes the 1950’s visually and tells a compelling neo-noir tale about ambition, greed, sex and the lure of stardom. A Must see.

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SPLICE

CAST
Adrien Brody (Hollywoodland)
Sarah Polley (Dawn of The Dead)
Delphine Chaneac (The Pink Panther)
Brandon McGibbon (Saw V)
David Hewlett (Stargate: Atlantis)
Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) hope to achieve fame by splicing animal DNA to create hybrids for medical use at the company N.E.R.D. (short for Nucleic Exchange Research and Development). Their work previously yielded Fred, a dog-sized vermiform creature intended as a mate for their female specimen, Ginger. After successfully mating them, Clive and Elsa plan to create a human-animal hybrid that could revolutionize science. Their employers Joan Chorot (Simona Maicanescu) of N.E.R.D. and William Barlow (David Hewlett) forbid them to do this. Instead, they are to find and extract proteins used for commercial drug production from Fred and Ginger. Clive and Elsa pursue their own agenda in secret. They develop a viable female creature (Abigail Chu).
Although they had planned to terminate the hybrid before it reached full term, Elsa persuades Clive to let it live. The hybrid subsequently becomes aggressive and stings Elsa several times. The hybrid sheds body parts in an effort to escape when they try to destroy her, but they subdue her. They discover that she is aging at a vastly accelerated rate. Elsa discovers that the creature is undergoing mental development such as that of a young human child. Elsa names the creature “Dren” after the creature spells out NERD, having seen the letters on Elsa’s shirt. Elsa subsequently refuses to let Clive refer to her as a “specimen”.
After moving Elsa to a new location for fear of discovery, they find Dren has a dangerously high fever. In an attempt to save her they place her in a large industrial sink full of cold water. Clive places a hand around Dren’s neck and pushes her under the water, seemingly drowning her. However, it is found that Dren is amphibious, though it is unclear whether Clive knew this, having analysed scans of Dren, or whether he did intend to kill her. While studying Dren, Elsa and Clive neglect their work with Fred and Ginger. At a highly publicized presentation of their work, Fred and Ginger savagely fight to the death. It is subsequently discovered that Ginger had spontaneously changed to a male, but Elsa and Clive failed to notice because they were focused on Dren.
Elsa forms a motherly bond with Dren. After Dren attacks Clive’s brother, Gavin (Brandon McGibbon), they move her to an isolated farm. There, Dren develops carnivorous tendencies and retractable wings. She grows into adolescence (Delphine Chanéac) and becomes bored with being locked up in the barn, but Elsa and Clive fear that letting her outside might lead to her discovery. Clive realizes that the human DNA used to make Dren was Elsa’s, not from an anonymous donor as Elsa had told him. When Dren assaults Elsa again, Elsa removes Dren’s stinger and uses it to synthesize the protein for which they had been searching. Dren seduces Clive; Elsa discovers them having sex in the barn and becomes upset. Clive accuses Elsa of never wanting a “normal” child because of her fear of losing control; instead she chose to raise one as an experiment, where control could be assured. Deciding the only solution is to terminate Dren, they return to the farm and find Dren already dying.
William Barlow discovers human DNA in Dren’s protein samples and arrives to investigate. Elsa tells Barlow that Dren is dead and buried behind the barn. However, a winged, male Dren rises from the grave and attacks the group, killing Barlow and Gavin, raping Elsa, and killing Clive before being himself killed by Elsa. Elsa is later informed that Dren’s body contained numerous biochemical compounds for which the company has begun filing patents. Joan offers Elsa, now visibly pregnant, a large sum of money, which Elsa accepts.
A refreshingly sick, in every sense of the word, ‘Splice’ is a film that pays homage to the likes of Cronenberg and Lynch – weird, wonderful, and intellectually disturbing

REVIEW: THE PIANIST

CAST

Adrien Brody (Hollywoodland)
Emilia Fox (Silent Witness)
Michal Zebrowski (Na dobre i na zle)
Ed Stoppard (Branded)
Richard Ridings (Highlander: The Series)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Valentine Pelka (8mm 2)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)

In September 1939, Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish pianist, is playing live on the radio in Warsaw when the station is bombed during Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. Hoping for a quick victory, Szpilman rejoices with his family at home when learning that Britain and France have declared war on Germany. But the promised aid does not come. Fighting lasts for just over a month, with both the German and Soviet armies invading Poland at the same time on different fronts. Warsaw becomes part of the Nazi-controlled General Government. Jews are soon prevented from working or owning businesses, and are also made to wear blue Star of David armbands. By November 1940, Szpilman and his family are forced from their home into the overcrowded Warsaw Ghetto, where conditions only get worse. People starve, the guards are brutal, and starving children are abandoned in the streets. On one occasion, the Szpilmans witness the SS kill an entire family in an apartment across the street during a round-up. On 16 August 1942, Szpilman and his family are transported to Treblinka extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard. But a friend in the Jewish Ghetto Police recognises Władysław at the Umschlagplatz and separates him from his family. He becomes a slave labourer and learns of a coming Jewish revolt. He helps the resistance by smuggling weapons into the ghetto, on one occasion narrowly avoiding a suspicious guard. Szpilman eventually manages to escape and goes into hiding with help from a non-Jewish friend, Andrzej Bogucki, and his wife Janina.In April 1943, Szpilman watches from his window as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which he aided, unfolds and then ultimately fails. After a neighbor discovers Szpilman in the flat, he is forced to flee to a second hiding place. The new room has a piano in it but he is compelled to keep quiet while beginning to suffer from jaundice. In August 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, the Polish resistance attacks a German building across the street from Szpilman’s hideout. Tank shells hit the apartment forcing him to flee. Over the course of the following months, Warsaw is destroyed and abandoned. Szpilman is left alone to search desperately for shelter and supplies among the ruins. He eventually makes his way to an abandoned house where he finds a can of pickles. While trying to open it he is discovered by Wehrmacht officer Wilm Hosenfeld who learns that Szpilman is a pianist. He asks Szpilman to play on a grand piano in the house. The decrepit Szpilman manages to play Chopin’s Ballade in G minor. Hosenfeld lets Szpilman hide in the attic of the empty house. From here, he was regularly supplied with food by the German officer.In January 1945, the Germans are retreating from the advance of the Red Army. Hosenfeld meets Szpilman for the final time promising he will listen to him on Polish Radio after the war. He gives Szpilman his German Army greatcoat to keep warm and leaves. However, this has almost fatal consequences for Szpilman because he is mistakenly thought to be a German and is shot at by Polish troops liberating Warsaw. In Spring 1945, former inmates of a Nazi concentration camp pass a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp holding captured German soldiers and verbally abuse them. Hosenfeld, who is among those captured, overhears a released inmate lament over his former career as a violinist. He asks the violinist if he knows Szpilman, which he confirms. Hosenfeld wishes for Szpilman to return the favor and help release him. Sometime later, the violinist is able to bring Szpilman back to the site but they find it has been long abandoned.Later, Szpilman works for Polish Radio and performs Chopin’s Grand Polonaise brillante to a large and prestigious audience. An epilogue states that Szpilman died at the age of 88 in the year 2000 while Hosenfeld died in Soviet captivity in 1952.While being very hard to watch sometimes, this is a movie that “Schindler’s List” was supposed to be. This movie doesn’t judge anybody, or tries to explain anything – it shows historical events as a reflection of one man’s fate, making a powerful testimony that stays with you long after the beautiful last shot and the end credits are over.

REVIEW: KING KONG (2005)

CAST
Naomi Watts (Birdman)
Jack Black (Gulliver’s Travels)
Adrien Brody (Hollywoodland)
Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted)
Colin Hanks (Roswell)
Andy Serkis (The Hobbit)
Evan Parke (Alias)
Jamie Bell (Fantastic Four)
John Sumner (Power Rangers RPM)
Craig Hall (30 Days of Night)
Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
Tom Hobbs (Winners & Losers)
Jed Brophy (Brain Dead)
William Wallace (Step Dave)
Stig Eldred (Power Rangers SPD)
Latham Gaines (Power Rangers Dino Thunder)
Mark Hadlow (The Hobbit)
Film Title: King Kong.In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, New York City vaudeville actress Ann Darrow has lost her job and is hired by financially troubled filmmaker Carl Denham to star in his new film. Ann signs on when she learns her favorite playwright, Jack Driscoll, is the screenwriter. As their tramp steamer, the SS Venture, makes the lengthy journey to the remote and mysterious Skull Island, Ann and Jack fall in love. Captain Englehorn begins having second thoughts about the voyage, prompted by crew speculation of trouble ahead.
Deep in the southern waters, the Venture receives a radio message informing Englehorn that there is a warrant out for Carl’s arrest due to his defiance of the studio’s orders to cease production. The message instructs Englehorn to divert to Rangoon, but despite his attempt to comply, the ship becomes lost in fog and runs aground on the rocky shore of Skull Island. Carl and his crew explore the island to film and are attacked by vicious natives. Mike, the sound technician and one of the sailors are killed. Ann screams as she is captured, and a loud roar is heard beyond the wall. The matriarch of the tribe vows to sacrifice her to “Kong”, a 25 ft (8 m) tall gorilla. Englehorn kills one of the natives and his crew break up the attack and return to the ship. They lighten their load to float off the rocks and carry out repairs, but Jack discovers Ann has been kidnapped by natives. On the island, Ann is offered as a sacrifice to Kong by the natives. The crew returns armed, but is too late as Kong takes Ann and flees into the jungle. Ann gradually wins Kong over with juggling and dancing, and eventually begins to grasp Kong’s intelligence and capacity for emotion.
Englehorn organizes a rescue party led by First Mate Hayes and includes Jack Driscoll, Carl Denham, Jimmy, Bruce Baxter, Preston, Lumpy, Herb, Choy, and several sailors. The party barely gets outside of the walls before they run into a Ferructus that Hayes kills with his machine gun. The rescue party is then caught in the middle of a pack of Venatosaurus saevidicus hunting a herd of Brontosaurus baxteri, and Herb is killed along with four sailors. The rest of the rescue party come across a swamp where actor Bruce Baxter and two others leave the group. The rescue party makes their way across a giant fallen log, when Kong attacks the rescue party. Hayes, Choy and several other crewmen are killed after being thrown off the log by Kong to the bottom of the cliff, and the rest of the crew is shaken off the log into a ravine; Carl’s camera is destroyed as well. Kong returns to Ann and rescues her from three Vastatosaurus rex, killing them. Kong then takes her to his lair in the mountains. The remaining crew wakes up to find themselves in a pit full of giant insects where Lumpy and two others are killed. Englehorn, Baxter and the rest of the crew returns, and save the last four members of the rescue party (Jack, Carl, Jimmy, and Preston) from the pit. As Jack continues to search for Ann, Carl decides to capture Kong. Jack goes to Kong’s lair, inadvertently waking him. As Kong fights a swarm of flying Terapusmordax, bat-like rodents, Ann and Jack escape. They arrive at the wall with the angry Kong following them, and Ann becomes distraught by what Carl plans to do. Kong bursts through the gate and attempts to get her back, killing several sailors in the process, but is subdued when Carl knocks him out with chloroform.
Back in New York, Carl presents “Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World” on Broadway, starring Baxter and an imprisoned Kong. Ann is played by an anonymous chorus girl, and Kong becomes enraged after realizing that the girl on stage is not Ann. After breaking free from his chrome-steel chains, he wrecks the theater. Kong wreaks havoc around the city and chases Jack in a taxi across town. He knocks him out by stopping his taxi and flipping it, then encounters Ann again. Kong and Ann share a moment on a frozen pond in Central Park until the army attacks. Kong climbs with Ann onto the top of the Empire State Building, where he fights off six F8C-5 Helldiver Navy planes, downing three. Kong is mortally wounded by the gunfire and gazes at Ann for the last time before falling from the building to his death. As Ann is reunited with Jack, civilians, photographers, police and soldiers gather around Kong’s corpse. Carl takes one last glimpse at him and says, “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.”
Film Title: King Kong.
Naomi Watts is fantastic in the Fay Wray role, as is Adrien Brody as her love interest. The beast itself and cinematography are simply astonishing (and any reservations about Black are swiftly pushed aside once the real star of the show emerges). It’s a film that manages to both capture the (romantic) essence of adventure movies from that era and succeed as a modern action adventure.