REVIEW: A KILLING AFFAIR

CAST

Peter Weller (Odyssey 5)
Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands)
John Glover (Smallville)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)

MBDKIAF EC003WWII era West Virginia. In a rural area, there’s a thoroughly despicable character named Pink Gresham (top character actor Bill Smitrovich), a mill foreman who not only screws over his employees, but cheats on his wife Maggie (Kathy Baker) to boot. Shortly into the story, Maggie finds Pink dead, and is then visited by a stranger, Baston Morris (Peter Weller). Maggie finds herself drawn to Baston, even after he informs her that he’s murdered her husband. The balance of “A Killing Affair” shows how their relationship develops, as she struggles between possible feelings for him and an understandable amount of distrust for the man. Is Baston really on the level with her? He hides out on her homestead while the law searches for him.1184327_full

This marked the directing debut for screenwriter David Saperstein (“Cocoon”), who adapted the novel “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday” by Robert Houston. This viewer didn’t mind so much the fact that it is a pretty sordid story (with some interesting revelations along the way), but overall it lacks any truly intriguing features). It’s got some decent period atmosphere, some mild titillationa draggy pace, and no on screen violence, but what it does have is a sympathetic, appealing performance by Ms. Baker. Weller is passable as the earnest, somewhat enigmatic Morris. Smitrovich is perfectly vile in his brief time on screen. And John Glover is solid, if not utilized to his full potential, as Maggies’ brother who is also the local priest. The film does also have a lovely score by ever reliable John Barry.

 

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REVIEW: CATCH AND RELEASE

CAST

Jennifer Garner (Elektra)
Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
Sam Jaeger (Hart’s War)
Juliette Lewis (Romeo is Bleeding)
Joshua Friesen (Long Lost Son)
Fiona Shaw (Fracture)
Tina Lifford (Babe)
Georgia Craig (Good Luck Chuck)
Sonja Bennett (Elegy)

In Boulder, Gray Wheeler attends the funeral of her fiancé, Grady, on the day they were supposed to be married. Gray seeks solitude behind a shower curtain, where she unintentionally listens to Grady’s best friend, Fritz, having sex with a waitress. Later, Gray visits an attorney to find out what will happen to Grady’s estate. Grady did not have a will, and the marriage had not happened, so Gray is not able to inherit his money. The attorney reveals that Grady had an investment account with a million dollars in it, which Gray knew nothing about. Gray realizes that she can no longer afford to rent the house that they had picked out. With the help of Grady’s other two close friends Dennis and Sam, she puts her things into storage and moves in with them. Fritz also comes to stay, which causes tension between him and Gray. Gray discovers that Grady transferred $3,000 every month to an unknown person.Gray finds Grady’s cell phone and listens to a string of messages from a woman asking about money. Gray asks Fritz for answers (as the number is California where Fritz lives), and he reveals that Grady had a son, whose mother depended on the money she received from him. Fritz tells Gray that the boy is eight and that he was conceived before she and Grady were involved. Gray is upset further when Grady’s mother, Mrs. Douglas, asks her to return her engagement ring. She refuses and keeps the ring. The other woman, Maureen, and her son, Mattie, come looking for Grady. Gray learns that Mattie is actually 4 years old and realises the affair happened while she and Grady were together. Gray confronts Fritz, but they end up in a passionate kiss.Gray does not want anything to do with Maureen, but the guys are reluctant to send her away, and they all get to know each other. Sam and Maureen develop a connection, while Gray and Fritz have become intimate. On a day trip to a river, Sam teaches Mattie to fly fish, while Dennis admits that he has feelings for Gray. Later, Dennis is upset to learn that Gray and Fritz are an item. Gray tells Dennis that her relationship with Fritz is “less than nothing”, not realizing that Fritz can hear her. He believes she does not love him and returns to Malibu.Grady’s mother insists that Mattie take a DNA test before letting him inherit Grady’s money. The test shows that Grady is not Mattie’s father. Maureen is unsure how she can support Mattie without Grady’s monthly payments, so Gray offers Mrs. Douglas her engagement ring in exchange for a lump sum payment to Maureen, but Mrs. Douglas refuses.The group gathers at the dedication ceremony for the peace garden that Dennis has built to memorialize Grady. Mrs. Douglas gives Maureen a certified check and tells Gray to keep the ring, saying that all she wanted was her son back. Dennis moves out of the house, and Maureen and Mattie move in with Sam. Gray goes to Malibu and finds Fritz playing with his dog on the beach—they embrace and kiss.All-in-all, “Catch & Release” is a quick-paced, light-hearted, romantic comedy, which chronicles love, loss, and finding love again. Highly Recommended!

 

REVIEW: THE RUM DIARY

CAST

Johnny Depp (Blow)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight)
Michael Rispoli (Kick-Ass)
Amber Heard (Zombieland)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break)
Marshall Bell (Total Recall)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Karen Austin (Summer Rental)

Paul Kemp is an author who hasn’t been able to sell a book. He gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he meets Sala, who gets him acclimatized and tells him he thinks the newspaper will fold soon. Kemp checks into a hotel and while idling about on a boat in the sea, meets Chenault, who is skinny-dipping while avoiding a Union Carbide party. Kemp is immediately smitten with her. Kemp and Sala immediately go on a drinking binge, which earns Kemp the enmity of his editor, Lotterman. Kemp also meets Moburg, a deadbeat reporter who can’t be fired. While waiting for an interview, Kemp meets Sanderson, a freelance realtor, who offers him a job writing ads for his latest venture. Sanderson is engaged to Chenault, who pretends not to know Kemp.Later, Kemp moves in with Sala, who also rooms with Moburg. Kemp begins to see the poverty of San Juan, but Lotterman doesn’t want him to write about it, as it’s bad for tourism. Moburg returns with leftover filters from a rum plant; they contain high-proof alcohol. Moburg has been fired, and rants about killing Lotterman. Kemp visits Sanderson and spies him making love to Chenault. He meets Zimburger and Segarra, who want him to help with a real estate scam. Later, Sala and Kemp go to a restaurant and berate the owner for refusing them service; Kemp senses that the owner wants to kill them, and he and Sala beat a hasty retreat, pursued by angry locals. The police arrive and break up the fight, then throw Sala and Kemp in jail. Sanderson bails them out.The next day, Kemp meets with Sanderson’s crew, who tell him that the US military is relinquishing the lease on some prime real estate, and is asked to pick up Chenault from her house. Kemp and Chenault share a moment, but resist temptation. Zimburger takes Kemp and Sala to see the island property, then they head to St. Thomas for Carnival. Kemp finds Chenault, and they wind up on Sanderson’s boat. Sanderson berates Kemp for involving Sala in the deal. At night, they go to a club, and a drunk Chenault dances with local men to provoke Sanderson, with whom she has been fighting. The owners of the bar beat up Sanderson and throw Kemp out of the club. Chenault is left behind at the bar, but where she ends up is not known.The next day, Chenault is gone, and Sanderson tells Kemp that their business arrangement is over. When Sala and Kemp return home, Moburg tells them that Lotterman has left and that the paper will go out of business. He also sells them hallucinogens, which they take. Kemp has an epiphany while under the influence, and resolves to write an exposé on Sanderson’s shady deals. Lotterman returns, but won’t publish Kemp’s story. Chenault shows up at Kemp’s place, after Sanderson disowns her. Out of spite, Sanderson withdraws his bail, meaning that Kemp and Sala are now wanted by the police. Moburg also tells them that Lotterman has closed the paper. Kemp decides to print a last issue, telling the truth about Lotterman and Sanderson, as well as the stories Lotterman declined.To make money to print the last edition, Kemp, Sala and Moburg place a big cockfighting bet. They visit Papa Nebo, Moburg’s hermaphrodite witch doctor, to lay a blessing on Sala’s prize cockerel. They win, but return to the office to find that the printing presses have been confiscated. Kemp continues his quest, leaving Puerto Rico on a sailboat. The end credits explain that Kemp makes it back to New York, marries Chenault, and becomes a successful journalist, having finally found his voice as a writer.Personally I loved every minute of this film and think it’s truly underrated

REVIEW: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

CAST

Robert Pattinson (Twilight)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Christoph Waltz (The Green Hornet)
Paul Schneider (Lars and The Real Girl)
Jim Norton (American History X)
Hal Holbrook (Lincoln)
Richard Brake (Spy)
Ken Foree (The Devils Rejects)
James Frain (Gotham)
Sam Anderson (Angel)
John Aylward (Alias)
Brad Greenquist (Pet Sematary)
Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Andrew Connolly (Patriot Games)

Charlie O’Brien, Circus Vargas’ owner, encounters an elderly man named Jacob Jankowski, who is separated from his nursing home group. The two strike up a conversation and Jacob reveals he had a career in the circus business and was present during one of the most infamous circus disasters of all time, equal in seriousness to the 1944 Hartford circus fire and the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus wreck.Jankowski tells his story to O’Brien, starting in 1931 when he was a 23-year-old veterinary medicine student at Cornell. During his final exam, he is informed that his parents were killed in a car accident. His father has left huge debts, and the bank was foreclosing on Jacob’s home. Feeling there is no point in returning to school, and having no home to go to, he jumps onto a passing train where he meets a kind old man named Camel.Jacob wakes up the next morning and discovers that he jumped on the Benzini Bros. circus train. He sees a beautiful young woman named Marlena Rosenbluth, and meets August, the circus’s ringmaster, head animal trainer, and Marlena’s husband. Jacob reveals he studied veterinary science and August hires Jacob as a vet for the circus animals after Jacob tells August that Silver (a show horse) has laminitis. August instructs Jacob to fix Silver and keep him performing as long as possible. But Jacob cannot bear to see Silver’s suffering and takes it upon himself to tell Marlena and shoots Silver. August is furious with Jacob’s decision to euthanize Silver against orders. To show Jacob who is boss, he threatens to throw him off the moving train — telling him that an animal’s suffering is nothing compared to a man’s, and that Jacob must carry out all of August’s future orders if he wishes to keep his job.August eventually procures Rosie the elephant as Silver’s replacement. He invites Jacob to his car for dinner and cocktails with him and Marlena. Jacob watches the married couple flirt and dance in front of him, but it becomes clear that their relationship is complicated because August is possessive, jealous and rough with Marlena. In the next few weeks, August becomes frustrated when Rosie seems impossible to train. August is brutal with Rosie, beating her with a bullhook when she fails to follow orders. After a brutal beating that August gave to Rosie when she ran away after fleeing from the event and dropping Marlena, Jacob realizes that the elephant only understands Polish commands. After that, Rosie performs beautifully and the circus enjoys a short period of success. While working together to train Rosie, Jacob and Marlena fall in love. After August discovers this, he cruelly taunts the two. Marlena discovers that August plans to throw Jacob from the train and they run away together, hiding in a local hotel. Soon after consummating their relationship, they are ambushed by August’s henchmen who drag Marlena away and beat up Jacob.Jacob returns to the circus to find Marlena. Marlena tells Jacob that his friends Walter and Camel were thrown from the train and killed. Several circus employees have become fed up with August’s murderous cruelty and unleash their revenge by unlocking all the animals’ cages while the big top tent is jam-packed with an audience enjoying Marlena and Rosie’s performance. Jacob attempts to find Marlena in the chaos and August attacks him. When Marlena tries to stop August from beating Jacob, he turns his fury on her and chokes her, while one of August’s henchmen beats Jacob. Wade and Grady, two of Jacob’s best friends and one of the circus workers save Jacob and he sees Rosie hit August on the back of the head with an iron stake, killing him. As a result, Benzini Bros. is officially shut down, and no one is charged with releasing the animals.Back in the present, Jacob explains to O’Brien in flashbacks that he returned to Cornell and finished his degree. He and Marlena took several horses and Rosie, and got jobs with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Jacob worked as a veterinarian and she continued to perform with Rosie. They married, had children and kept Rosie until her death. He took on a job as a vet at the Albany Zoo and after more children and many happy years together Marlena died. O’Brien then asks Jacob to work as the ticket taker, which Jacob agrees to.I would recommend anyone who wants to see a well-played and twisted but unique storyline to see this movie whether you read the book or not, it was one of the best movies I have seen in a while. It really is amazing story that will make you cry,mad, and laugh all at the same time.

REVIEW: KILL THE IRISHMAN

CAST

Ray Stevenson (Punisher Warzone)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil)
Vinnie Jones (Arrow)
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Linda Cardellini (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Tony Dartrow (The Sopranos)
Robert Davi (The Goonies)
Fionnula Flanagan (Yes man)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)
Laura Ramsey (The Covenant)
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas)
Mike Starr (Radio Days)

In 1960, Danny Greene and his childhood friends Billy McComber and Art Sneperger are longshoremen at the Cleveland docks. Meanwhile, the members are exploited by corrupt union boss, Jerry Merke and the leadership of the ILA union urges Greene to run against him. Meanwhile, Sneperger can’t pay a gambling debt to Cleveland Mafia Capo John Nardi. In return for Sneperger’s debt being forgiven, Greene supplies Nardi’s crew with goods stolen from the docks. Merke finds out, demands a cut of Greene’s profits, and then sends an enforcer to kill him. Instead, Greene beats up the enforcer, then beats up Merke, throws the union leader out of his office, and is later elected union president. He improves the working conditions at the docks while continuing his dealings with Nardi.Greene’s corruption is exposed by the Plain Dealer newspaper and Cleveland Police Detective Joe Manditski, who grew up with Greene in Collinwood, arrests him. Bankrupt and facing prison, Greene plea bargains to lesser charges in return for becoming an FBI informant and being banned for life from organized labor. Greene is released and moves his unhappy wife and daughters back to Collinwood. Nardi gets him work as an enforcer for Hungarian Jewish loan shark Shondor Birns, and later helps pitch a deal to Mafia Capo Jack Licavoli: Greene will force the city’s garbage haulers to join the union Licavoli controls. Greene, McComber, Sneperger, and ex-Hells Angel Keith Ritson terrorize many into joining, but Greene’s friend Mike Frato refuses. Licavoli orders Greene to kill Frato, but Greene balks because Frato has ten children. Nardi tells him privately, though, that, “You wanted to play in the big leagues. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t wanna do.”As Greene prepare’s to kill Frato with a car bomb, he learns from the FBI that Sneperger has returned to gambling, and has become an informant for Manditsky. That night, Greene assigns Sneperger to set the bomb under Frato’s car and presses the detonator as he does it. An enraged Frato later shoots at Greene in a park. Greene returns fire, kills Frato, and is arrested for murder, but released after Frato’s driver tells Manditski that Greene acted in self-defense. Having had enough, Greene’s long suffering wife leaves him and takes the children. Greene sees his elderly Irish neighbor, Grace O’Keefe, being evicted. He intervenes, pays her rent, and she gratefully gives him her father’s gold Celtic cross to wear for protection. Greene begins to use his money and connections to help other Irish-Americans in need, and earns the nickname “The Robin Hood of Collinwood”.Greene wants to open his own restaurant, and asks Shondor Birns to help him. Birns arranges a $70,000 loan from the Gambinos, but Birns’ courier buys cocaine with the money and gets arrested. Birns and Greene argue over which of them should pay back the money; when Greene refuses to pay, Birns hires a hitman to kill him. Greene narrowly escapes, and later kills Birns with a car bomb. After Mafia boss John Scalish dies, both Nardi and Licavoli are considered for succession. Licavoli is chosen due to his closer ties to the Five Families and decides to charge Greene 30% “street tax” for doing business in Cleveland. Greene refuses to pay, crudely mocks Licavoli’s Italian heritage, and vows, “The Irishman’s in business for himself now.” An outraged Licavoli has Greene’s house blown up, but he survives. He then attempts to demote Nardi and take away his crew, only to have the latter join forces with Greene. Vowing to take over Cleveland together, Greene and Nardi start by organizing the murders of Licavoli’s associates, many of whom are blown up. Thirty-six car bombings occur during the summer of 1976, drawing national attention and humiliating Licavoli. After failing multiple times to kill Greene, Licavoli is forced to humbly ask Genovese boss Anthony Salerno to help him kill Nardi and Greene.Having learned of this from the FBI, Greene claims that he wants to leave Cleveland and buy a ranch in Texas, but needs to raise $2 million. Wishing to size up their enemies, Greene and Nardi travel to New York and invite Salerno to invest in the ranch. After they leave, Salerno orders his associates to hire professional hitman Ray Ferritto to kill them both. Nardi is killed in a car explosion, McComber dies in a bombing at the Cleveland docks, and Ritson is shot near his house. Detective Manditski lets Greene know that a master killer is after him. He offers Greene protection, but is told, “My enemies will be taken care of.” After a dentist’s appointment on October 6, 1977, Greene notices Ferritto driving by slowly, and accepts that he is about to die, giving his gold cross to an admiring boy. Ferritto detonates a bomb on the car next to Greene’s, killing Greene instantly. An epilogue, by Manditski, reveals that the investigation of Danny Greene’s murder led to the collapse of the Mafia, not only in Cleveland, but all over the United States.I’m not a big fan of biopics or mobster films like this.  With that said the film is more fascinating and entertaining than most others of it’s type. The actors are all good and well cast, especially Stevenson. He’s always been a cool action bad ass in films before but here he’s really given a chance to show off his acting abilities and range. His performance combined with Hensleigh’s better than average directing make the film one definitely worth checking out. Probably especially if you’re a fan of the genre.

 

REVIEW: CITY BY THE SEA

CAST

Robert De Niro (Joy)
James Franco (Spider-Man)
Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
William Forsythe (The Rock)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
John Dorman (Gotham)

Vincent LaMarca (Robert De Niro) is a veteran New York City Police Department detective, whose criminal father had been executed for murder, after a child whom he had kidnapped was killed. Vincent has had to live with this stigma hanging over his own reputation, and history begins to repeat itself when his own son, Joey LaMarca (James Franco), a junkie, becomes involved in a drug-related killing. Joey suddenly comes to the attention of Vincent’s current girlfriend, Michelle (Frances McDormand), who was unaware that he even had a son, and she can not understand why Vincent is unwilling to help him.Joey’s girlfriend Gina (Eliza Dushku), who is struggling to stay sober for their infant son Angelo, comes into Vincent’s life, asking him to save Joey. She later abandons the child, leaving him with Vincent. Joey gets deeper into trouble when the local drug enforcer, Spyder (William Forsythe), kills Vincent’s cop partner Reg (George Dzundza). Reg had been helping Vincent to clear Joey’s name, but Joey is blamed for his murder. As his fellow police officers search for Joey as a suspected “cop killer,” Vincent decides to set aside his self-imposed isolation, and to help save his son’s life.City by the Sea is a must see for De Niro fans and a good watch for anyone into gritty dramas

 

REVIEW: ROMPER STOMPER

 

CAST

Russell Crowe (Man of Steel)
Daniel Pollock (Proof)
Jacqueline McKenzie (Deep Blue Sea)
Tony Le-Nguyen (Sword of Honour)
Alex Scott  (Sky Pirates)
Daniel Wyllie (Chopper)
John Brumpton (Red Hill)

A gang of violent neo-Nazis from Footscray, Victoria, Australia, attack three Vietnamese Australian teenagers, in a tunnel at Footscray Station. The gang is led by Hando with his friend and second-in-command, Davey. They meet Gabrielle the day after her sexually abusive, highly affluent father Martin, has her junkie boyfriend arrested, before Gabrielle starts a romantic association with Hando.Friends visit from Canberra; one of whom has joined the Royal Australian Navy. A party at the warehouse follows, the next day two boys go to their local pub. Unbeknownst to them, the owner has sold it to a Vietnamese businessman. Upon seeing the new owner and his sons, they inform Hando and he and his gang arrive and savagely beat the new owner’s sons. A third Vietnamese youth phones for help, before Tiger and several armed Vietnamese men descend upon the skinheads. The Vietnamese outnumber the skinheads and force them to retreat to their rented warehouse, where the Vietnamese ransack the building before setting it on fire.The skinheads find a new base at a nearby warehouse, after evicting a pair of squatters, and plan their revenge against the Vietnamese. Learning that gang members plan to buy a gun, two female friends of the gang depart. Gabrielle suggests the gang burgle her father’s mansion. They ransack the house, beat up Martin, smash one of his cars, and raid his wine collection. Gabrielle tells Martin the burglary is revenge for his years of abuse. Gabrielle reveals to Davey her plan to take Hando away from his violent life. Martin frees himself and uses a handgun to scare away the gang before they can take any of his property. However, Davey begins to have doubts about his violent lifestyle.Gabrielle criticizes Hando’s handling of the robbery, and he abruptly dumps her. Davey announces his intention to leave at the same time and gives Gabrielle his German grandmother’s address, where he will be staying. Gabrielle informs the police of the gang’s location and spends the night with Davey. However, Davey reveals his doubts about his violent lifestyle, having removed the racist patches from his flight jacket out of concern for his grandmother. While Hando is out, the police raid the warehouse and the youngest skinhead is shot in the head after pointing a deactivated gun at the police. The police arrest the rest of the gang. However, Hando watches from a distance and flees.Arriving at Davey’s flat, Hando finds his friend in bed with Gabrielle. Hando accuses her of informing the police, but Davey says they were together the whole time since leaving the squat. Hando convinces Davey to stick by him, and the trio go on the run. They rob a service station, before Hando strangles the Asian attendant to death; and, driving all night, they stop at a beach. The next morning on the beach, Gabrielle overhears a conversation wherein Hando tries to convince Davey to leave her behind. Gabrielle sets their car on fire and admits to phoning the police. Hando attacks her, attempting to drown her in the surf. However, Davey stabs Hando in the neck with his Hitler Youth knife. After the fight, Davey cradles a horrified Gabrielle, watched by a busload of Japanese tourists; and Hando gazes at the ocean as he bleeds to death.The film achieves what it sets out to do. Give the viewer a no-holds barred trip into the destructive lives of social outsiders, and the violence and hatred that follows. Not easy viewing, but I recommend this film to anyone who likes their movies gritty and upfront.