REVIEW: RUNNER, RUNNER

CAST

Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Ben Affleck (Justice League)
Gemma Arterton (The Voices)
Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War)
Oliver Cooper (Project X)
Michael Esper (American Gun)
Yul Vazquez (Traffic)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)

Richie Furst used to have a lucrative career on Wall Street; this history prevents him from receiving tuition assistance at Princeton, so he funds his master’s degree by referring students to online gambling, for which he receives a cut. After the dean threatens to expel him for these activities, Richie tries to win his tuition using his excellent poker skills in online gambling, but he loses all his money to a cheater, something he is able to prove by statistics.Richie travels to Costa Rica to confront Ivan Block, who runs the biggest empire of online gambling websites in the world, including the one Richie lost his money on. After Ivan sees the statistics, he finds coders have coded the software to allow them to cheat. After firing those involved, Ivan tells Richie he’ll pay him millions per year to stay in Costa Rica and assist with the site.Richie slowly begins a romantic relationship with Rebecca Shafran, ex-lover of Ivan, who appears to have no objections. Ivan has Richie blackmail a gaming affiliate with videos of his infidelity to force him to sign with Ivan. FBI agent Shavers kidnaps Richie and threatens to ruin his life in various ways if he does not assist in a conviction of Ivan Block. Shavers cannot do anything legally as he has no authority in Costa Rica, but he takes advantage of this to use tactics that would be illegal and unethical for law enforcement inside the United States. Ivan tells Richie that everyone in the organization ends up confronted by Shavers at some point.Over time, Ivan’s organization is revealed to be less than ethical. He sends Richie to bribe Costa Rica gaming director Herrera with too small a payment, which leads to Richie being beaten. Ivan tells him it comes with the territory of such a lucrative career. When Richie tries to leave the country, Shavers has drugs planted in his bag and offers to overlook it if Richie agrees to cooperate. A local police officer reveals that the police dislike Ivan but that he would buy his way out of any trouble and destroy whoever tried to take him down. Richie’s friend Andrew Cronin, who works on the software design for Ivan, suggests that Ivan is running a Ponzi scheme; the players’ accounts have no actual money, and Ivan uses the money as his own bank account, keeping just enough to allow players to cash out when they need to. Aware that Richie might be wanting out, Ivan buys the massive poker debts of Richie’s father and brings him to Costa Rica, using him as a hostage.Ivan throws Herrera and his bodyguard into the river to get eaten by the crocodiles, but pulls them out before they are eaten. Cronin disappears and is later found nearly beaten to death. Thanks to Rebecca betraying Ivan, Richie finds out that Ivan has been setting him up all along; Ivan is about to move his operations out of Costa Rica, planning to leave Richie behind as the fall guy. Richie gives out massive bribes to local officials, including low-level police officers. When the movement day hits, Ivan calls to sarcastically apologize to Richie, telling him he will be busted, as Ivan flies away on a private jet. When Ivan lands, he finds he has been betrayed: the bribed pilot has instead flown him to Puerto Rico, an American territory. Shavers and other FBI agents move in to arrest him as Richie and Rebecca fly away on the private jet. Shavers says they’re free to go because Richie left a flash drive for him containing sufficient evidence to convict Ivan.This movie was a fictional, largely accurate and very entertaining portrayal of the on-line gambling industry … a wild, wholly and unregulated billion dollar industry. The acting was good, the glitz entertaining and kept my interest from the opening scenes to its end.

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REVIEW: HANSEL & GRETAL: WITCH HUNTERS

CAST

Jeremy Renner (Avengers Assemble)
Gemma Arterton (The Voices)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Pihla Viitala (August)
Derek Mears (Friday The 13th)
Robin Atkins Downes (Babylon 5)
Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street)
Zoe Bell (Raze)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)

Abandoned by their father deep in a forest, young Hansel and Gretel enter a gingerbread house and are captured by a cannibalistic witch. The witch forces Hansel to continuously eat candy to fatten him up, and enslaves Gretel, ordering her to prepare the oven, but the siblings outsmart her and incinerate her in the fire of the oven. In the fifteen years that follow, Hansel and Gretel become famed witch hunters, slaying hundreds of witches. The pair find that they are somehow immune to spells and curses, but the incident in the gingerbread house has left Hansel diabetic. He needs a shot of insulin every few hours or he will get sick and die.

Hansel and Gretel arrive in the town of Augsburg and immediately prevent Sheriff Berringer from executing a young woman named Mina for witchcraft. Mayor Englemann tells the crowd that he has hired the siblings to rescue several children presumed abducted by witches. Berringer hires trackers for the same mission in the hopes of disgracing the mayor and cementing his power. All but one of the sheriff’s party are killed that night by the powerful grand witch Muriel, who sends one man back to the town tavern as a warning to the locals. Hansel and Gretel, along with the Mayor’s deputy Jackson, capture one of Muriel’s witches and interrogate her. They discover that the witches are preparing for the coming Blood Moon, where they plan to sacrifice twelve children in order to gain an immunity to fire. Muriel, accompanied by her witches and a troll named Edward, attack the town and abduct the final child. Muriel kills Jackson and launches Gretel out a window, rendering her unconscious. Gretel is rescued by Ben, a local teenager who is a fan of theirs and plans to be a witch hunter himself. Hansel grabs onto a fleeing witch by her broomstick, but falls and is lost in the forest.

The next morning, Hansel is found hanging from a tree by Mina. She takes him to a nearby spring where she heals his wounds and makes love to him. Gretel searches for Hansel in the forest but is attacked by Sheriff Berringer and his posse. The men capture and beat Gretel before being stopped by Edward, who kills the sheriff and his men. Edward tends Gretel’s wounds and tells her that he helped her because trolls serve witches. Hansel and Gretel reunite at an abandoned cabin, which they discover is both a witch’s lair and their childhood home. Muriel appears in front of them, telling them the truth of their past. She reveals that Hansel and Gretel’s mother was a grand white witch named Adrianna who married a farmer. On the night of the last Blood Moon, Muriel planned to use the heart of the white witch to complete her potion. She found Adrianna too powerful and decided to use Gretel’s heart instead. To get rid of Adrianna, Muriel revealed to the townspeople that Adrianna was a witch. The townspeople burned her alive and hung Hansel and Gretel’s father. Following this revelation, the siblings battle Muriel before she stabs Hansel and abducts Gretel for the ceremony.

Hansel wakes up with Mina, who reveals herself to be a white witch. She heals his wounds again and uses a grimoire to bless Hansel’s arsenal of weapons. Hansel, Mina, and Ben head out to disrupt the Blood Moon Sabbath. Mina begins slaughtering dark witches with a Gatling gun, while Hansel squares off against Muriel’s witches and frees the children. Edward defies Muriel’s orders and releases Gretel before Muriel throws him off the cliff. Muriel flees on a broomstick, but Ben manages to shoot her and forces her to crash. Hansel goes after Muriel while Gretel stops to revive Edward. Hansel, Ben, and Mina follow Muriel’s trail to the original gingerbread house. Muriel wounds Ben and kills Mina before Hansel shoots her several times, knocking her into the house. Gretel arrives and the pair engage Muriel in a brutal fight that ends with Muriel being beheaded with a shovel. They burn Muriel’s body on a pyre and collect their reward for rescuing the children. They head out on their next witch hunt accompanied by Ben and Edward.

A very enjoyable fantasy horror film.  Good fun if not taken seriously this is a tongue in cheek very gory and over the top film. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton somehow play it completely straight as Hansel and Gretel while everybody else including Famke Jensson as a witch the pair are after and Peter Stormare as the sherriff of a small town ham it up completely. With impressive special effects and good action scenes and the ending seems to set up a sequel. A great fun film.

REVIEW: CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010)

 

CAST

Sam Worthington (Avatar)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Ralph Fiennes (Red Dragon)
Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First CLass)
Gemma Arterton (The Voices)
Alexa Davalos (Angel)
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Izabella Miko (The Cape)
Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones)
Polly Walker (Caprica)
Pete Postlethwaite (Solomon Kane)
Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz)
Alexander Siddig (Kingdom of Heaven)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)

In ancient times after defeating their predecessors, the Titans, the gods divided the Universe among themselves. Zeus took the skies, Poseidon took the seas, and Hades was left with the Underworld upon being tricked by Zeus. The gods created the mortals, whose faith and prayers fueled the gods’ immortality. As time passed, however, mortals began to question and soon resist their creators, angering the Olympians. A fisherman named Spyros finds a coffin adrift in the sea, discovering a baby, Perseus and his mother Danaë. Spyros decided to raise Perseus.

As Perseus and his family fish from a boat, they watch soldiers from the city of Argos destroy a statue of Zeus. Infuriated at this desecration, the Gods unleash the Furies who attack the soldiers and destroy the fishing vessel. Only Perseus survives and is found by a group of the soldiers. Perseus is brought before King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, who are celebrating their campaign against the gods. Queen Cassiopeia brashly compares her daughter Andromeda to the gods and boasts that she is more beautiful than Aphrodite. The revelry is cut short by the arrival of Hades, who has been given leave by Zeus to punish the mortals for their defiance. Hades threatens to unleash his monster the Kraken against Argos, unless Andromeda is offered as a sacrifice. Before leaving, he reveals that Perseus is a demigod and the son of Zeus.

Perseus meets Io, who confirms his origin. Io also reveals that she has watched over Perseus his entire life. She has always protected him for he is the only one who can defeat the gods. Perseus leads the King’s Guard to the Stygian Witches, looking for a way to kill the Kraken. After being betrayed by the power-hungry Hades, Zeus gives Perseus a sword forged on Mount Olympus and a winged horse named Pegasus. Perseus refuses both, but the captain of the King’s guard named Draco keeps the sword for when Perseus needs it. Soon after, they are attacked by Calibos, an agent of Hades. Draco severs the beast’s hand and Calibos flees. The band give chase but are attacked by giant scorpions called Scorpioxs that spring from spilled drops of Calibos’s blood. They are saved by a band of Djinn, non-human desert sorcerers led by Sheik Suleiman where the remaining Scorpioxs are tamed by the Djinn. The Djinn also wish for the gods’ defeat and lend their aid to Perseus and his band.

The group arrives at the lair of the Stygian Witches and learn that to kill the Kraken, they must obtain and use the head of Medusa, a gorgon who resides in a temple in the Underworld. Any living creature that looks on Medusa’s eyes turns into stone. Perseus, Io, Suleiman, Draco, and his remaining men, Solon, Eusebios, and Ixas, cross into the Underworld. The men enter Medusa’s temple lair while Io, being a woman and forbidden from entering, remains outside. Medusa kills all three of Draco’s men. Suleiman and Draco both wound the gorgon, sacrificing themselves in the process. Perseus finally beheads her by using his reflective shield to see her with his back turned. As he leaves the temple with Medusa’s head, Calibos appears behind Io and fatally stabs her. Perseus and Calibos fight where upon finally accepting that he is a son of Zeus, Perseus picks up the Olympian sword and stabs Calibos through the chest, who with his last breath urges Perseus not to become a God.

Before dying, Io urges a reluctant Perseus to leave her and save Andromeda and Argos. Then she dissolves into a golden ethereal vapor. Pegasus appears and Perseus mounts the flying horse and hastens back to Argos as the Kraken is released. The people of Argos seize and bind Andromeda to offer her to the Kraken. Meanwhile, as people die in the Kraken’s wake, the balance of power on Olympus shifts. Hades reveals he does not require the faith or worship of mortals (as Zeus does), as he has learned to survive on their fear. Hades then effortlessly subdues the weakened Zeus. Riding the black Pegasus, Perseus arrives at Argos and exposes Medusa’s head to the Kraken, which makes eye contact just before it is able to reach Andromeda. The Kraken, petrified, slowly turns to stone and shatters. Prokopion, the insane leader of the Cult of Hades, tries to kill Perseus, but Kepheus stops him and is stabbed, before both are killed when the kraken’s petrified hand falls on them. Hades appears, intending to finally kill Perseus. Perseus, calling upon Zeus, throws his sword at Hades. A lightning bolt engulfs the sword and the blast sends Hades back to the Underworld.

Perseus rescues Andromeda, who is now the rightful Queen of Argos. Andromeda asks Perseus to stay by her side as King, but he declines. Perseus also refuses another offer of godhood from Zeus, who then proclaims that if Perseus is to live as a human he should not be alone and revives Io.

The moviet keeps moving without feeling too chopped up and thankfully there’s a minimum of shakeycam or MTV overediting to accompany the overdose of testosterone. Big on spectacle and short on charm, it’s a very different animal to Harryhausen’s film (there’s even an injoke about that version’s irritating mechanical owl), but as long as you’re expecting that it’s one of the better action adventures of recent years.

REVIEW: THE VOICES

CAST

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans)
Anna Kendrick (Into The Woods)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Ella Smith (Cinderella)

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is an upbeat man who works at a bathtub factory, and lives in a modified apartment above a bowling alley with his dog Bosco and his cat, Mr. Whiskers. Jerry is a man with an innocent, almost child-like demeanor, and suffers from delusions and hallucinations that manifest in the form of his pets talking to him. Bosco often represents his good intentions while Mr. Whiskers represents his more violent nature. One day, his manager compliments his hard work and chooses him to help organize an employee barbecue, and he gladly accepts the opportunity to work with his workplace crush, a British woman named Fiona. The following day he asks her out on a date. She initially agrees, though with reluctance, but then stands him up to go to a karaoke party with two other girls who work with her in the accounting department at work, Lisa and Alison. After the party, Fiona’s car won’t start, leading her to flag down Jerry as he drives by. Fiona offers to take him out for a late dinner to make up for standing him up on the original date, but on the way, Jerry accidentally hits a stag which crashes through his windshield. Jerry’s hallucinations show the deer crying out in pain and begging Jerry to kill it so he slits the deer’s throat. Fiona, terrified, runs off into the woods. Jerry pursues her and accidentally stabs her. Apologizing for his actions, Jerry kills Fiona to end her pain.

Upon returning home, Bosco suggests he go to the police and confess, encouraging him in saying that he’s a good man and won’t be punished. On the other hand, Mr. Whiskers says there is no shame in killing, but insists Jerry needs to dispose of the body and refrain from going to the police or else he will be severely punished and locked away. Jerry collects Fiona’s body from the forest, and returns home with it. He dismembers Fiona, placing her innards in numerous plastic boxes and her disembodied head inside his fridge. After this traumatic experience, his delusions increase with now having Fiona being able to talk to him. Her tone suggests she forgives him for his actions, but she insists he takes his medication to end his behavior. Jerry takes his pills, and experiences nightmares of his abusive past. When he wakes up during the night, he is groggy, but his hallucinations have ended; his pets no longer speak to him, his apartment is a complete mess with animal waste littering the floor, garbage piling up in bags and up against the walls of his apartment and blood all over his kitchen after cutting up Fiona’s body and Fiona’s head is cold and rotting. He throws away the pills in terror, and the next morning, his hallucinations resume and his happy life is back to ‘normal’. Fiona tries to convince Jerry to kill someone else so that she has someone to talk to, but Jerry insists that he can’t.

Jerry asks Lisa on a date. He develops feelings for her and takes her to his abandoned childhood home, where it is revealed his German mother had confessed to her insanity and was about to be taken away by the authorities when he was a child. When they arrived, she tried to slit her throat, but couldn’t do it herself and so she begged Jerry to finish the job to end her suffering. The police had found Jerry standing over his dead mother with a piece of broken glass and he is committed instead. Jerry sobs in front of Lisa, who comforts him. They go back to her house and spend the night together. When Jerry returns home the next morning, he still feels pressured into killing someone else by Fiona and Mr. Whiskers, and seems unsure of what to do next.

Lisa finds out Jerry’s address through accounting and delivers a gift to his house. When Jerry inadvertently locks himself out, he tries to get back in through the sky light, but Lisa manages to pick the door open using her hairpin. She wanders in and discovers the state of the apartment, as well as the covered head of Fiona, though she doesn’t immediately recognize it beneath the coat covering it. Jerry sneaks up on her, upset that she trespassed into his home, but despite pressure from Mr. Whiskers, he refuses to kill her. Lisa sees for the first time the troubled, delusional man Jerry is, and, frightened, tries to run away, running to the bathroom to hide, and then into his bedroom. Jerry comes in, genuinely trying to apologize for scaring Lisa and she, feeling cornered, attempts to put up an act, insisting they can go back to normal and forget what happened in order to make him let her leave, but when she panics and tries to escape hurriedly, Jerry reacts instinctively, grabbing her by the arms to stop her and throwing her backward back onto the bed and accidentally breaking her neck on the headboard. He apologizes to her as she dies slowly and painfully. After she dies, Jerry cuts her body apart and places her head in the fridge, next to Fiona’s. Other workers from accounting begin to realize Fiona and Lisa have gone missing. When Alison goes to Jerry’s house to ask if he knows where they are, Jerry immediately kills and dismembers her.

Jerry confesses his killings to his counselor Dr. Warren. She tries to call the police, but he takes her hostage into the countryside and forces her to help him. She calms him down and shows understanding, which makes him feel better. Meanwhile, the other workers from accounting break into Jerry’s home (as Bosco runs away) and discover the apartment’s state as well as all the blood, and immediately retreat to call the police. Shortly after Jerry returns home, still holding Warren hostage, the police surround his house and prepare to move in. Jerry takes Mr. Whiskers into the bathroom and then flees down into the basement, breaking a gas pipe while doing so. After rescuing Dr. Warren, the police are knocked back from a huge explosion that was caused by the gas leak.

Down in the bowling alley, Jerry realizes the bowling alley is on fire and he is in grave danger. The voices of Bosco and Mr. Whiskers, no longer taking forms of belonging to a dog and cat no longer with him, speak to him in his own mind, Mr. Whiskers is insisting he get out of there and find another place to live, to hide, so that he may continue killing and feeling alive, and Bosco telling him that there is no place for him in life any longer and that he should let the fire “put him to sleep”. Choosing to stay and end his own misery, he lies down and waits until he finally succumbs to the smoke. In a white void, Bosco and Mr. Whiskers confess that, despite their opposing beliefs, they did like each other, before going their separate ways. Jerry then appears with his parents, Fiona, Lisa and Alison, and he apologizes to the women for killing them. Just then Jesus appears, and they all dance and sing together.

A crazy movie! It’s probably not for everyone, but if you have a sick, dark sense of humour you will likely appreciate it. Ryan Reynolds is fantastic as the troubled Jerry, who has conversations with his cat and dog (which he also provides the voices for) and just wants to fit in. The story is unique and very unusual, there are some truly disturbing moments that might gross you out but it still manages to make even the darkest parts funny.