25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: MY NAME IS EARL – CHRISTMAS EPISODES

MAIN CAST
Jason Lee (Mallrats)
Ethan Suplee (Chasing Amy)
Jaime Pressly (Mom)
Nadine Velazquez (Flight)
Eddie Steeples (Home Alone 5)

WHITE LIE CHRISTMAS

GUEST CAST
Brett Butler (Anger Management)
Blake Clark (50 First Dates)
Earl remembered always ruining Christmas for Joy, buying her useless presents for the Christmases of 2002, 2003 and 2004. He decided that he would win her a car to make up for his past mistakes, and entered a competition with Randy and Catalina to keep their hand on a car as long as possible, and whoever was the last to be touching the car would win it.The DJ, who names himself Johnny Bubblewrap announces that the competition is starting. However, Earl foolishly let go of the car to shake Randy’s hand, meaning that he was out. Randy promised not to let go of the car for him, and Earl left to cross another item off the List. He went to see Dodge and Earl Jr., as several years ago he and Randy had broken their bikes that Joy and Earl got them for Christmas. He went over to ask Joy what colors that would want, and as he did he met Buzz and Connie Darville, who Joy had told that Earl was fighting in the war in Iraq, and acted shocked to see him.Over the next few days, Earl pretended to be married to Joy after she said he would ruin Christmas if he told them the truth. One day while Buzz and Joy were at the mall with Dodge and Earl Jr., Earl brought the boys new bikes into the trailer. Inside was Connie, Joy’s mother, standing up – despite the fact that she needed a wheelchair. She admitted to Earl that she had a gambling problem and had been spending lots of money from the family business on gambling. Earl agreed not to tell anyone, so as to not ruin Christmas. Meanwhile, Randy and Catalina ended up as the last two on the car, but Catalina said she did not want to win it for Joy, she wanted to keep it herself. Randy was upset, as he wanted to help Earl with the List. Catalina ended up winning, but when the DJ asked for her Social Security number, he realized that she was an immigrant and she fled. Randy won by default and gave the car to Earl.
That night Earl saw Connie stealing the car he got for Joy. He went up to her and she said that she had to go to the Indian casino to gamble. Earl chased her on one of the boy’s bikes, but found her walking back. She admitted that she lost the car in a bet, and repeated her now trademarked phrase “Don’t you judge me”. Earl was angered, and when the two arrived back to the trailer they awoke Joy, Buzz and Darnell. Each secret was revealed; from Connie’s fake dialysis, to Joy and Earl not really being married, to Joy and Darnell. They argued all night as to whose secret was worst, but when the morning came and Dodge and Earl Jr. came out to see their new bikes, the arguing stopped and everyone had a good Christmas. Earl then felt that he could cross Joy’s Christmas off his List.
The first Christmas episode is a classic seeing Earl trying redeem himself after all the Christmas’s he ruined for his Ex. Also having to pretend to still be married to her whilst her parents are still in town. Brett Butler did a great job as Joy’s Mother.

Y2K

GUEST CAST
Silas Weir Mitchell (Grimm)
Timothy Stack (Raising Hope)
Earl decides to make up for #24, “Stole a red ‘Take-a-number’ machine” from a local Bargain Bag. He brings along Donny Jones, Joy and Darnell to help cross the item off. However, Randy runs into the store and takes the ticket machine from him, not wanting to part with it. Earl remembers back to why Randy did not want to part with it; in Christmas 1999 Earl stole presents from a house while Joy, Donny and Randy distracted the family with carols.
They go back to the Crab Shack, where Darnell explains Y2K to them, and says that life will not be able to continue without computers, all of which will break down. They all decided to stock up on supplies, and hide in Donny’s sister’s basement. As the timer hit midnight, all the lights in the house went out. They all thought that the Y2K myth was happening, but in fact it just happened because Donny’s sister had not paid her electric bill, and her electricity ran out on January 1, 2000. As the morning came, they planned to go out and loot, but found that there was no one in any of the streets. Donny worried everyone by saying that the computers had used them for fuel, and they ran back to Donny’s sister’s. They were unaware that there was a parade on New Year’s Day, which is where everyone was. They went to the Bargain Bag and each claimed their own section of the store. However, when they began to need things from the other sections, crime broke out. They managed to settle their disagreements by using the Take-a-number machine that Randy was so unwilling to give up in 2006. As they woke up on the morning after Y2K, they found the store filled with shoppers ready to take advantage of the new January deals. They snuck out sheepishly, confused as to why there were hundreds of people everywhere. Back in 2006, Earl managed to talk Randy into giving up the machine, and he crossed #24 off his List.
Although it is unusual to have a second Christmas episode in the same season as the first its still brilliant. The Gang thinking they are the only mortals left on earth is hilarious.

BORN A GAMBLIN’ MAN

GUEST CAST
Marlee Martin (Excision)
Gregg Binkley (Galaxy Quest)
Nat Faxon (The Cleveland Show)
Abdoulaye Ngom (VR Troopers)
Jonathan Slavin (Free Enterprise)
It’s Christmas time, and Earl is trying to make up for #146, stole gay Kenny’s lunch every day at fifth and sixth grade. He decides to make 246 bologna sandwiches for Kenny. Meanwhile, Randy is trying to find a way he can finally make his move on Catalina, finally building up the courage after his encounter with the cat lady. Meanwhile, Joy continues to pursue her goals of staying out of jail. Her deaf lawyer, Ruby, tries to teach her to control her anger in a courtroom. After a question that is designed to trigger an angry response (“And you’ve been a slut for how long?”), Joy has an outburst on Ruby’s translator, Doug. She calmed down, and Ruby asked another question through Doug that insulted Joy’s children, causing another attack. Joy was sent to a support group by her lawyer, but due to budget cuts in Camden County people with all different types of problems met in one session which, whilst less effective, was much cheaper. Joy was angered at being sent to such a session, but the group leader told Joy that she had a “disease” that was not her fault, the sound of which she liked. She went back and told her lawyer, and Doug suggested she tried some prescription drugs for her anger.
Earl went to take the sandwiches to Kenny, who had just broken up with his boyfriend. Despite being uncomfortable around homosexuals, Earl felt compelled to stay and listen to Kenny. He explained that he wanted to be more manly as it is what most men want these days, and asks Earl to teach him to be like him, as everything about him suggests manliness. Earl agreed to help him out. They started out by going to the Crab Shack, where Catalina was wiring some money back home to ensure that the men who visit her village each week don’t cut off her brother’s fingers. Whilst there, Earl noticed Rosie the bookie, and decided to invite Kenny to gamble. He placed a bet on a dog, and won several times, earing himself and Earl quite a sum of money. With the money he won, Earl bought some new tyres for the El Camino and decided that, as a manly task, Kenny could change them. He went over to Kenny’s house, where he found that he had lost everything in his house due to the gambling that Earl had introduced him to. He went to the support group that Joy attended, and the group leader figured out that gambling was Kenny’s way of numbing his childhood problems. The group leader then turned on Earl and asked him if he had a gambling problem, which he denied and quickly left to go and bet some more.
After winning all of Rosie’s money at the Crab Shack, Earl was still hungry for gambling. He was approached by a man who told him to go to a place in East Camden where there would be some gambling action at 2:00am that night. Earl went along and found himself at a chicken coop that was surrounded by many people, all betting on which square of the pen the chicken would excrete in. After the place closed, he found an overseas betting phoneline where he could bet on all kinds of things, including who would win the elections in the Congo, which once again he won. Randy meanwhile continued to plan for his big night with Catalina. He took her purse and tried to find things she liked; assuming that she was a fan of tic-tacs, keys and tampons as he found them there. He began to set up the motel room with bubble wrap on the floor, which he knew she liked as it reminded her of the shooting in her childhood. To keep her away, Earl took Catalina to the chicken betting pen. Whilst there, Earl saw Kenny, who admitted that he couldn’t stay away from gambling. Earl encouraged him to stay and gamble, but Catalina said she had to go to start her shift at Club Chubby, and stop by the Crab Shack to wire her money home first. Earl gave her his car keys and told her to go, saying he would wire the money on his way home. She stressed how important it was for the money to get there, but he ignored her and continued gambling. Earl felt confident that he would win once again, and made the decision to bet Catalina’s money along with his own. However, before the bet could finish Randy called Kenny and told him that Catalina had been found speeding because she was late for her shift at Club Chubby. She tried to run but already was in her stripper clothes, so did not get far. He also said that once they found out she was an immigrant, she would get deported. Earl realized it was his fault Catalina was late, and he rushed back to the motel, with all his winnings, to find an upset Randy alone in the room, waiting for Catalina who he knew would never come.
Whilst things did not work out for Randy and Earl, Kenny managed to face his problems and realized that the way to move on was to not copy Earl, but to talk about them. Joy tried her anger pills in the hopes that her “disease” would finally pass. Randy decided he wanted to tell Catalina how he felt, and set off for Mexico with Earl, who wanted to fix all the problems he had caused.
This episode is essentially a set up for the next South of he Border (Part 1 & 2), Earl accidentally being responsible for Catalina getting deported is heart breaking, but his decision to venture to Mexico to get her back is brilliant and leads nicely into the next two episodes.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER – PART 1 & 2

GUEST CAST
John Leguizamo (Spawn)
William Schallert (Green Lantern: First Flight)
Emilio Rivera (Bones)
Ray Santiago (Ash vs Evil Dead)

Catalina got deported back to Mexico when it was revealed that she was an illegal immigrant in the United States. Earl blamed his gambling as the reason she was caught. He and Randy are preparing to take their first plane ride to Mexico to rescue Catalina! Joy had been taking pills in order to relax for court. She was a new woman. Earl and Randy weren’t even able to recognize her with her new attitude. She even loaned Earl her luggage for their big trip. Darnell missed Joy’s feisty side, especially when it came to their annoying neighbors.Randy and Earl were surprised to learn that they needed to get passports to go to Mexico. Earl was having a difficult time keeping his eyes open for the picture. So, Randy put a picture of eyes over Earl’s eyelids in order to make the photo work. Randy and Earl were on their first plane ride. Earl had all types of questions for the flight attendant and he was annoying other passengers. He ended up getting himself and Randy kicked off the flight and then had to find another way to get to Mexico. Earl decided to see a doctor for a sedative to calm his flying fears.

When Earl’s sedatives wore off while they were on the plane, he and Randy were forced to leave once again. They had no choice but to take the bus to Mexico in order to rescue Catalina. At the bus stop, Earl wanted to get a taco, but Randy was too afraid of missing the bus. He tackled Earl and the two began to fight and Randy persisted to drag him onto the bus.Earl realized how much Randy loved Catalina and got on the bus. Before the bus could drive away, a man with a gun got on board and kidnapped Earl. The bus drove away and Earl was left with two men armed with guns

Randy took the bus to Catalina’s village. He took a sandwich and some flowers that he had found on a table. A woman embraced Randy, thinking that Randy carried her deceased son’s soul. After talking to the woman, she said she would take Randy to Catalina, so long as they got one night with the man who carried their dead son’s soul. Randy agreed. Darnell had to take care of confronting the new annoying neighbors since Joy was in the midst of her sudden streak of kindness. He decided to take them treats. Darnell got tired of all the questions the neighbors asked him, so he quickly fled their trailer. The people who kidnapped Earl happened to be Catalina’s uncle, Diego, and her little brother. When they learned that Earl wanted to rescue Catalina, they agreed to help him. Before that, however, Earl had to accompany the guys on their crime spree. Earl explained that he couldn’t commit crimes because of his list. He explained karma to Diego. Diego then said he would try to improve his karma. While Earl was staying the night with Diego and his crew, Randy was staying the night with the family who had agreed to help him out. Both Randy and Early realized that they hadn’t spent a night apart in a really long time. Earl and Randy were united. While Randy went to go change, Earl walked around the village. Catalina spotted him, gave him a huge hug, and said she would marry him. Diego had told Catalina that Earl would marry her for American citizenship. Earl had no idea what Diego had done. Randy was hurt that Catalina was considering Earl as her hero. Earl wanted Randy to believe him the he had no idea that Diego was setting up a marriage proposal. Randy accused Earl of stealing his thunder. He had desired to be the hero! Darnell was tired of the neighbors taking advantage of Joy’s kindness. It wasn’t until one of them threw a stray beer can and it hit her son’s head that the old, not-so-tolerant Joy paid the neighbors a visit. She said her happy pills would completely wear off in three days and then she would return.  Earl fails the tests to marry Catalina and lets randy rise to the challenge, which he does and they are able to bring Catalina back to America.

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A Great two-parter and is a good extension of the previous episode, it was good to see Randy take the lead go after the woman he loves. Joy being nice was funny and disturbing but was not long before she turned back to her true colours.

EARLY RELEASE

GUEST CAST
Craig T. Nelson (The Skulls)
Michael Rapaport (The 6th Day)
Raymond Cruz (Training Day)
Earl packs to leave prison, while Catalina, Darnell, Joy and Randy wait for him in the parking lot. Earl is shocked when Ron tells him that he’s not on the list of prisoners being released today, or the extra pudding list. In shackles, Earl confronts the Warden, demanding to know why he reneged on their deal. The Warden has a new deal: Earl scratches his back, it won’t itch, and he won’t throw Earl in solitary. Earl makes the deal, but knees the Warden instead of his shaking his hand, and is promptly led off to solitary.
The point of solitary is to break down a prisoner’s mental state by keeping him alone for 24 hours a day. Earl feels fortunate the state allows him prayer service once a week, and a shower and hour of recreation daily. Still, it’s not going very well since the Warden had him locked in a metal box with only a small hole to look out. Earl decides to stay in his cell and find better ways to fill his time, like charades and going crazy. Finally, on day 60, Earl caves to the Warden’s demand to get the prison ready for Christmas. Sensing Earl’s delicate condition, Randy offers to take him to the yard or let him lie down, wishing there were more options. Earl decides it’s time to bust out, and gets the old gang back together with Randy, Frank and Paco. Frank had made several failed escape attempts, and warns Earl not to disguise himself as too pretty of an infirmary nurse, or try to hide in a pile of discarded mattresses. While doing the Warden’s errands, Earl is inspired by a rat tunneling in the ceiling, and decides to vanish down the rat hole. In order to find where the rat hole leads, Earl and Randy break into the Warden’s office, where Randy draws the prison blueprints on Earl’s back. They can get through the ventilation system to the loading dock, but they’ll still have to make it past the front gate, where all vehicles are searched. Randy points out that not all the vehicles are searched. Ron refuses to search the local church van, because the last time he did, he got the runs for two weeks, and he’s not taking any chances.
Frank has made a zip gun with only one bullet, but Randy accidentally shoots it off. Franks melts down Earl’s bedsprings to make another bullet, and the escape plan gets underway. Catalina shanghais the church van, and Darnell and Joy disguise themselves as a nun and priest to sneak into the prison and hold a very loud church service. Randy follows Earl, Paco and Frank into the ventilation shaft. Sadly, Earl and Randy fall through the ceiling onto the Warden’s desk. Earl grabs the gun, and holds the Warden hostage. Randy plays video games while Earl tries to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Paco and Frank escape to the loading dock, where Darnell has taken out a guard with a “Vulcan Neck Pinch”. When Darnell goes into the ventilation shaft after Earl, Paco and Frank steal Joy’s nun outfit, hijack the van and escape. Earl has taken the Warden’s clothes, but can’t bring himself to complete his Warden disguise by shaving his moustache, when Darnell falls through the ceiling on top of Randy. he Warden tells Earl that he will now spend his life in prison, when Darnell recognizes the Warden as a 1980’s porn star who once shot a movie in his apartment. Knowing that this information could ruin his wife’s career as well as his marriage, the Warden releases Earl, who passes Paco and Frank being returned to prison on his way out. Seems that when Paco caught a glimpse of Catalina on the road, he steered the van into a police car.
This was the episode many fans were waiting for finally seeing Earl released from prison, Once again the producers do Christmas in two halves there’s this episode and the following one that take place at Christmas which is nice because it gives you more to watch at Christmas.

BAD EARL

GUEST CAST
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Alyssa Milano (Poison Ivy 2)
Gregg Binkley (Galaxy Quest)
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Earl may have gotten out of prison, but the prison isn’t quite out of him. At his Welcome Home party at the Crab Shack, Earl tells Darnell he feels good, but truthfully, he doesn’t know how he feels. Karma has Earl confused, since doing good things hasn’t done him any good, and the only way he got out of prison was by doing something bad. Randy retrieved Earl’s List, but Earl decides to get his life back in order before getting back to the List. After losing their room at the Motel, Earl and Randy are forced to stay in the laundry room, which has a lot of other people sleeping in it. As an ex-convict, the only job Earl can get is a demeaning one delivering foreign food, and the uniform has him feeling grouchy. He’s surprised to deliver food to Ralph, who’s been living the good life, masquerading as an old man named Stan Johansson. After Ralph escaped from prison, Stan’s widow Doris took him in, and dressed him in her dead husband’s clothes. As long as he wears them, she thinks Ralph is Stan. Doris gets nervous with strange men in the house, so Earl and Randy have to keep sleeping in the laundry room. Hoping to make Earl feel better, Randy picks #205 off the list, because mistletoe sounds Christmas-y. A few years ago, Earl caused stripper Mistletoe to fall off the stage while fooling around with Randy’s laser pointer, leaving her needed to wear a brace for two years. Earl doesn’t apologize, and Randy reminds him that he usually uses his nice guy voice when he talks to people on the List. Earl doesn’t want Mistletoe to choose what he’s going to do to make things up to her while she’s pissed off at him. Still, she wants him to feel the humiliation of being laughed at on stage. Earl dons short shorts and tassels to do a shift at Club Chubby. Feeling stressed, he steps outside to smoke, only to see Ralph drive by in Stan’s hot convertible Cadillac, and this proves to be the final straw for Earl. Seeing Ralph living the high life while he is homeless and broke, Earl decides that if karma existed, something good would have happened to him by now. As a result, Earl gives up on karma, throws away his List and stalks off.
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Earl, Randy and Ralph hang out at Club Chubby. Ralph smacks Catalina’s ass, but when Earl tries the same thing, she gets mad at him, since she expects more of him. Catalina doesn’t like the new Earl, but he claims that he’s reverted back to the old Earl, before the List. The guys go back to Joy’s trailer with a few strippers, since Joy and Darnell are out of town. Jumping around, they tip the trailer over. Joy and Darnell aren’t happy to find the trailer tipped over, and now Earl and Randy have nowhere to stay. Earl steals Stan’s clothes while Ralph’s in the shower. Now Doris thinks that Earl is Stan, and kicks Ralph out of the house in his underwear. He also throws out Randy, not wanting him to blow the scam, forcing him and Ralph sleep in the car outside of Doris’ house on Christmas Eve. The next morning, the whole gang shows up at Doris’ house for an intervention and everyone tells Earl (except Ralph, who thought they were teaming up to kick Earl’s ass) how much they preferred him when he was doing the list. Randy, in particular, gives a heartfelt speech about how much he enjoyed doing nice things and meeting interesting people when he was helping with the list and he now doesn’t like being bad again but wants good Earl back. Earl, however, doesn’t care and tells everyone how much he hates them for ruining his Christmas. In the commotion of the intervention, Ralph steals Stan’s clothes back. Wearing pajamas, Earl leaves in disgust. He decides to give up on karma, but running out into the road it catches up on him and he is run down by a car. Before passing out, Earl catches a glimpse of the driver. It’s Billie Cunningham, Frank’s ex. He remembered his feelings for her whilst in prison, and thought that finally, karma has brought him a good thing. As Billie goes to get help, she is hit by another car, and winds up unconscious in the road, lying next to Earl.
Dealing with the aftermath of being released from prison Earl decides to scrap Karma and we see how it ends up for him. Another good Christmas episode, the only downside is the cliffhanger ending.

ORPHAN EARL

Hal Landon Jr. (The Artist)
Eric Lange (Lost)
 Joy was about to go in to the Crab Shack when a scruffy guy approaches her asking for her $20 as he and his wife had run out of gas and his wife had to sell her hair for baby formula, Joy tells him it’s a sad story and if he came inside everyone would love to hear it but she tells his story so everyone would laugh at him this remained Earl of someone he conned. A couple of weeks before Earl discovered Karma he and Joy saw an advert on TV about orphans in Africa Joy realized could make a fortune by scamming people and Earl, Joy and Randy went around telling people they were helping children in Africa.  After getting a $100 cheque Earl tells Randy who thought they were telling the truth that it was a scam.
Earl and Randy went to the house that sent them the cheque years ago to apologise to the owner Arthur Hill, Randy talks to Earl about writing a book about how non-food things taste.  When Earl talks to Mr. Hill he discovered that Joy was still carrying on with the scam and sent pictures of Earl Jr. just to get a $100 cheque from Arthur every month. At the trailer park Randy asks Darnell if he could taste his hair for his new book while Earl tells Joy it’s cruel to con Mr. Hill but Joy tells him if he told Arthur the truth he’ll ruin Christmas for the trailer park. Joy was so proud of her scheme that she bragged about it, so two of her friends Tammy and Sylvia made their own schemes to get more money from Mr. Hill, Earl tells Joy that it’s wrong but she wouldn’t listen. Earl talked to Randy wondering what to do about Mr. Hill’s money when Randy notices in the newspaper that Arthur died of a stroke, Earl shows the paper to Joy who sees that Mr. Hill leaved his money to the three fake charities Joy is excited but Earl tells her that he is going to cross Mr. Hill off his list by making sure she and her friends didn’t get the money. Earl and Randy break in to Mr. Hill’s house to get his will to prove the charities were fake but Joy, Tammy and Sylvia were following them, Earl hears them when their van’s radio goes off and gives the will to Randy so he could walk to the office while the van follows Earl thinking he has it. Randy gets out of the car while Earl drives off but Joy jumps out and tells him to give her the will, then she and her friends went to Mr. Hill’s lawyer, Mr. Fischer, for the money but Earl who knew Joy would follow Randy had told Mr. Fischer everything. Mr. Fischer thanks Earl and after he leaves Mr. Fischer told Joy, Tammy and Sylvia that he could make their charities legal if he could have sex with Tammy and $5000, after getting the money Mr. Fischer gives them fake cheques and calls Earl to say he got the money. It turns out Earl had pulled a scam and Mr. Hill wasn’t dead Earl had just arranged for him to go on a vacation to National Rodeo Championships for a few days, the best way for Joy to think in was really was to make Randy think it was really so she would get greedy, Earl had planted a fake will in Mr. Hill’s house and Joy would get the will of Randy if he gave it to him. Mr. Fischer was actually the scruffy guy Joy made fun of and Earl would give the money back to Mr. Hill when he came back then told Randy that it was a scam.
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When Mr. Hill return from his vacation Earl told him the whole story and gave him the money, Mr. Hill was upset so Earl takes him to the trailer park to laugh at the people there, to discover it now looked like a third world country. Tammy lost her pluming and her water heater busted, Sylvia lost her heating and her curtains caught fire while warming herself by the oven and Joy lost her refrigerator and flies started to fill her house causing her family to sleep outside. Mr. Hill gave Joy, Tammy and Sylvia cheques to repair the damage, Earl doesn’t understand why he’s helping the people that conned him but Mr. Hill told Earl that when helping those fake charities he thought he was helping people and that made him feel good, now he was helping people for real. Mr. Hill’s generosity had an effect on Tammy and Sylvia as they gave their money to charities on the street, Earl gave Randy a book with all his taste notes in it and got Joy’s refrigerator back for Christmas.
Season 4 put the show back on track and this episode is no exception a great story, with some great twists and turns, with a sweet ending.

REVIEW: GANGSTER SQUAD

CAST

Sean Penn (Mystic River)
Josh Borlin (Men In Black 3)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-man 1 & 2)
Holt McCallany (The Losers)
Wade Williams (The Dark Knight Rises)
Lucy Davenport (Alice In Wonderland)
Nick Nolte (Cape fear)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Giovanni Ribisi (Some Girl)
Anthony Mackie (Captain America 2)

John Aylward (Armageddon)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)
Jack McGee (The Fighter)
Mireille Enos (Hanna TV)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Josh Pence (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jon Polito (The Crow)
Lance Barber (Young Sheldon)
Michael Bacall (Death Proof)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Derek Mears (The Flash)
Frank Grillo (Mother’s Day)
Sullivan Stapleton (300: Rise of An Empire)

In 1949 Los Angeles, gangster Mickey Cohen wants to control all organized crime and argues with local mobster Jack Dragna that they should not allow the East coast mafia to run the town. Meanwhile, LAPD Detective Sergeant John “Sarge” O’Mara raids a Cohen-owned brothel to save a woman from being raped, gaining the attention of Police Chief Bill Parker. Parker believes that more drastic measures need to be taken against men like Cohen, and tasks O’Mara to begin waging a guerrilla campaign against the mobsters. He tells O’Mara (a former OSS commando during World War II) to use his special operations training, learned at Camp X during World War II, and to select a small team that will work without badges or official support from the police.
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O’Mara’s pregnant wife Connie suggests choosing unorthodox veterans like himself, as young high-performers would likely already be on Cohen’s payroll. With Connie’s help, O’Mara selects a small squad of cops: black street officer Coleman Harris, wiretap expert Conwell Keeler, gunslinger and sharpshooter Max Kennard, and Kennard’s Hispanic partner Navidad “Christmas” Ramirez. O’Mara also attempts to recruit his partner Sergeant Jerry Wooters, but Wooters has become lazy and complacent in his job and refuses. Wooters keeps in touch with childhood friend Jack Whalen, who provides him with information on Cohen. Wooters also meets and begins a secret relationship with Cohen’s etiquette tutor Grace Faraday.
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The squad’s first mission is to bust up an illegal Cohen casino in Burbank, California, but things quickly go bad as O’Mara and Harris are captured by corrupt Burbank police who were guarding the casino. Wooters has a change of heart after witnessing the death of a young boy he had been helping out and attempts to shoot Cohen. Whalen stops him and tells him that O’Mara is going to be turned over to Cohen, prompting Wooters to rescue the men from the Burbank jail. Deciding that they need more information on Cohen’s operations, Wooters and Keeler break into Cohen’s house and place an illegal wiretap inside his TV. The men are seen sneaking out by Grace, who agrees to keep their secret. Using the information from the wiretap, the group conducts several successful raids on Cohen operations. After a particularly violent raid on a Cohen drug shipment, Keeler begins to question what they are doing but is re-assured by O’Mara. The media begins referring to the men as “The Gangster Squad”, and Cohen pushes his men to find out who they are. Keeler deduces that Cohen is building a large wire gambling business somewhere in town, and warns O’Mara that if they don’t take it out before it becomes operational Cohen will become too big for even them to stop. Keeler uses wire transmissions to locate the building, and the squad wipes it out. An enraged Cohen realizes that the Gangster Squad must be honest cops when he discovers that none of his money was stolen.
Sean Penn, Holt McCallany, Jon Polito, and Emma Stone in Gangster Squad (2013)
Cohen suspects that his house is bugged and begins searching for the tap. Grace overhears Cohen and fears that he knows about her relationship with Wooters. With the help of a maid, Grace escapes Cohen’s house and meets Wooters, who takes her to Whalen and tasks him with getting her out of town. Cohen finds the bug and begins feeding false information to Keeler. Cohen lures the Gangster Squad into a trap in Chinatown, but Wooters arrives in time to alert the men to the trap. While the men are distracted in Chinatown, Cohen hits several targets himself. Cohen’s bodyguard Karl Lockwood finds Keeler’s listening post and kills him while Cohen goes to Whalen’s looking for Grace. Cohen murders Whalen in front of Grace, who hides from him. O’Mara’s house is hit by a drive-by shooting, the stress of which causes Connie to give birth to their son in their bathtub.
Grace agrees to testify against Cohen for the murder of Whalen, and O’Mara uses her testimony to get a warrant for Cohen’s arrest. The squad arrives at Cohen’s hotel to arrest him and an intense firefight breaks out. Wooters and Kennard are wounded, while Cohen and Lockwood escape. O’Mara pursues them down the block, assisted by a mortally wounded Kennard and his sharpshooting skill. Kennard, with Ramirez’ help, shoots Lockwood just before he dies and O’Mara and Cohen engage in a brutal fistfight that ends with O’Mara eventually beating Cohen to his knees. As a crowd gathers, a bloodied O’Mara walks away and Cohen is arrested for Whalen’s murder.
Sean Penn and Josh Brolin in Gangster Squad (2013)
As Chief Parker had told them, the Gangster Squad is never credited in taking down Cohen. Grace’s testimony ensures Cohen is sentenced to 25 to life at Alcatraz, where he is welcomed violently by Whalen’s friends. Grace and Wooters stay together and he stays on the force, while Ramirez and Harris become partners on the beat. Ramirez is shown patrolling with Kennard’s signature Colt Single Action Army on his hip. O’Mara quits to live a quiet life in Los Angeles with Connie and their son.
Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Pence in Gangster Squad (2013)
This is great fun, it isn’t the greatest film ever made, the most original or anything like that but it doesn’t waste a second and that’s the way I like it.

REVIEW: PERFECT STRANGER

CAST

Halle Berry (Catwoman)
Bruce Willis (Red)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Richard Portnow (Hitchcock)
Gary Dourdan (CSI)
Florencia Lozano (One Life To Live)
Nicki Aycox (Jeepers Creepers II)
Gerry Becker (Spider-Man)

Under the pen name David Shane, reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry) and researcher Miles Haley (Giovanni Ribisi) are investigating conservative Republican senator Stephen Sachs, who has been having secret sexual encounters with his male interns, despite his publicly antigay agenda. The story is shut down, however, when the source clams up and Rowena’s editor, a supporter of the senator, puts a stop to the story. The editor also insists she take a vacation and will not take no for an answer. While walking home, Rowena meets her childhood friend, Grace Clayton (Nicki Aycox), who seeks her help in taking down Harrison Hill (Willis), a wealthy advertising executive. Grace gives Rowena her e-mails as proof of their extramarital affair, which Hill recently ended.A few days later, Grace is found dead, drowned and poisoned with belladonna, leading Rowena to suspect Harrison. Grace was revealed to be in her first trimester of pregnancy. With Miles’ help, Rowena goes undercover, under the alias of Katherine Pogue, as a temporary worker at his company, H2A at 7 World Trade Center. While setting up gift bags for a Victoria’s Secret collection launch, she meets fellow worker Gina. Gina gives her information about the questionable lifestyles of the senior management of H2A. Hill is revealed to be rich because of his wife, Mia Reinhart-Hill. If she divorced him, he would be penniless, revealing the reason why he keeps his affairs with female workers secret. Rowena flirts with Hill both online and in real life (not realizing the online Hill is actually Miles), but is warned to stay away by Hill’s lesbian PA, Josie. When Hill catches her snooping, believing her to be a corporate spy, he fires her.At Miles’s apartment, Rowena discovers a shrine to her and explicit pictures of Miles and Grace. Miles arrives home and Rowena confronts him; he defends himself by providing evidence that Hill had access to belladonna for poisoning. She goes to the police, who arrest Harrison for the murder of Grace. After Hill’s conviction, Miles visits Rowena. He then tells her that he knows she is the real killer and has been using this investigation to frame Hill. Rowena flashes back to a memory of her father attempting to molest her, and her mother subsequently bludgeoning him to death with a fireplace poker. A younger Grace watches from her window as they bury his body. Grace has been blackmailing Rowena with this knowledge. Miles describes in detail how she had plotted the murder to end Grace’s blackmail and pinned the murder on Hill. Miles asks how she intends to keep him quiet, implying she might sleep with him, since he has long lusted after her. However, Rowena stabs him to death and ransacks the kitchen. She then calls the police, claiming to have been attacked by Miles and that he might have been the real murderer. The film ends with a man looking out of a neighboring window, presumably having witnessed what really happened.Perfect Stranger has a good story, with a surprising twist; the lead cast has the names of Halle Berry, Bruce Willis and Giovanni Ribisi; unfortunately, the screenplay does not work well since it does not create an empathy of the viewer with the characters, which have dirty secrets. In the end, this film is a good and forgettable entertainment.

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: TED 2

CAST

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Mark Wahlberg (The Other Guys)
Amanda Seyfried (Pan)
Jessica Barth (Next)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight)
John Slattery (Mad men)
Patrick Warburton (Get Smart)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: Ds9)
Bill Smitrovich (The Phantom)
Cocoa Brown (Big Fat Important Movie)
John Carroll Lynch (The Founder)
Jessica Szohr (Love Bite)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon)
Sebastian Arcelus (Split)
Dennis Haysbert (Heat)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Patrick Stewart (Ameircan Dad)
Nana Visitor (Star Trek: Ds9)
Ralph Garman (The Lego Batman Movie)
Ron Canada (Wedding Crashers)
Maggie Geha (Gotham)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Bobby Moynihan (The Secret Life of Pets)
Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)
Taran Killam (122 Years a Slave)
Dustin Ybarra (US)
Avan Jogia (Shaft)
Martin Klebba (Left Behind)
David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider)

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) has been divorced from Lori Collins for six months. Meanwhile, his best friend Ted (Seth MacFarlane), marries his girlfriend, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). One year later, with their marriage is beginning to break-down so they decide to have a child. As Ted can not have children, John agrees to help Ted find a sperm donor, They asked Sam J. Jones but he refuses due to a low sperm count, they try unsuccessfully to break into Tom Brady’s house and steal his sperm. Ultimately, John offers to donate his sperm.Despite Ted and John’s efforts, Tami-Lynn’s historical drug use has rendered her infertile and the couple decide to adopt. As background checks are carried out, Ted brings his legal status as a person into question. The state authorities of Massachusetts declare Ted property rather than a person, resulting in the loss of his job at a grocery store – shortly after reassuring a customer (Liam Neeson) that buying a box of Trix, as an adult, will not bring him to any harm. Furthermore, his marriage to Tami-Lynn is annulled.John suggests that they take the state to court, and their case is assigned to a novice lawyer pro-bono, Samantha Leslie Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). The three bond over their love of marijuana as they prepare to present the case.Meanwhile, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), Ted’s life-long stalker and would-be abductor, is now employed as a janitor at the headquarters of toy company Hasbro, in New York City. He convinces the company CEO to hire an expert attorney (John Slattery) to ensure that Ted maintains his status as property, therefore leaving him open to seizure by the firm to create more living teddy bears.Despite Samantha’s best efforts, the court rules against Ted. Disheartened but desperate, the trio contact Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman), a highly respected civil rights attorney, hoping he’ll take the case and overturn the court’s decision. Driving to Manhattan to meet him, Ted crashes into a hidden marijuana patch, where Samantha and John realize their attraction for each other. The next day, the trio meet Meighan, who is sympathetic to Ted’s plight but ultimately refuses the case, as he believes he has not significantly contributed to humanity due to his juvenile slacker lifestyle.Ted, angry at the injustice and jealous of Samantha and John’s new relationship, runs off. Donny follows him as he wanders into the New York Comic-Con. Once inside, Donny attempts to kidnap Ted, who flees and contacts John for help. John and Samantha arrive at Comic-Con and search for Ted, arriving as Donny is about to cut him open. As they make their escape, Donny cuts the cables holding up a model of the USS Enterprise and it swings towards Ted. John pushes Ted out of the way, takes the hit, and is knocked unconscious. Ted identifies Donny and he is arrested.At the hospital, Samantha, Ted and Tami-Lynn rejoice when John recovers. Patrick Meighan decides to take the case, telling them he has been inspired by John’s selflessness and Ted’s emotions over his fallen friend. Meighan gets the ruling overturned by demonstrating that Ted is self-aware, that he feels complex emotions, and is capable of empathy. Outside the court, Ted re-proposes to Tami-Lynn. After they are re-married, Ted and Tami-Lynn, adopting the surname of “Clubberlang”, adopt a baby boy, whom they name Apollo Creed, while John and Samantha happily pursue their own relationship.A good laugh, even  better than the original in my opinion. If you like Ted/Family Guy/other Seth Macfarlane shows, I’d definitely recommend this

 

REVIEW: TED

CAST

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Mark Wahlberg (The Other Guys)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Joel McHale (Spider-Man 2)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Aedin Mincks (New Girl)
Patrick Warburton (Get Smart)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Matt Walsh (Semi-Pro)
Jessica Barth (Next)
Bill Smitrovich (The Phantom)
Alex Borstein (Family Guy)
Ralph Garman (Yoga Hosers)
Jessica Stroup (Prom Night)
Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon)
Ryan Reynolds (Buried)
Norah Jones (My Blueberry Nights)
Tom Skerritt (Alien)
Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show)
Robert Wu (Hot Tub Time Machine)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Melissa Ordway (17 Again)
Tara Strong (Sabrina GOes To Rome)

In 1985, 8-year-old John Bennett is a lonely child living in Norwood, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, who wished for his new Christmas gift—a jumbo teddy bear named Ted—to come to life and become his friend. The wish coincides with a shooting star and comes true; word spread and Ted was briefly a celebrity.27 years later, John (now 35) and Ted are still living in Boston, and are still staunch companions enjoying a hedonistic life. John is dating Lori Collins, who is from Philadelphia. As their anniversary approaches, Lori hopes to marry John but feels he could not move forward with Ted around. John is hesitant about making Ted leave, but he is persuaded to act when they find Ted at home with four prostitutes.John finds Ted his own apartment and a job at a grocery store, where Ted begins dating his coworker Tami-Lynn. Lori learns that John has been skipping work—using her as an excuse—to continue to spend most of his time with Ted. John and Lori are invited to a party put on by Lori’s womanizing manager Rex, but Ted lures John away to a party at his apartment with the offer to meet Sam J. Jones, the star of their favorite film, Flash Gordon. John intends to stay only a few minutes but gets caught up in the occasion. Lori finds John there and breaks up with him. John blames Ted for ruining his life and tells him to stay away.John and Ted confront each other about their ruined friendship and they fight but manage to reconcile. To repair John’s relationship with Lori, Ted arranges for an old lover, singer Norah Jones, to help by having John express his love for Lori with a song during her concert. He does an off-key rendition of All Time High by Rita Coolidge and is booed offstage. Lori is touched by the attempt and returns to her apartment where Ted confesses about his role in John’s relapse and offers to leave them alone forever if she talks to John.Lori is persuaded, but Ted is kidnapped by Donny, an obsessive stalker who idolized Ted as a child. Donny plans to make Ted his brutish son Robert’s toy. Ted manages to reach a phone to contact John but is immediately recaptured. Realizing Ted is in danger, John and Lori locate Donny’s residence and track him to rescue Ted. The chase leads to Fenway Park, where John punches Robert, but during the chase, Ted is damaged and falls onto the field ripped entirely in half. A police car arrives, forcing Donny to flee. John and Lori gather Ted’s stuffing and Ted relays his wish that John be happy with Lori before dying from his injuries.Unable to accept Ted’s death, a distraught John and Lori attempt to repair Ted, which proves useless. Feeling guilty about the incident, Lori makes a wish on a shooting star. The next morning, John hangs his head while looking over Ted’s dead body. Fortunately, Ted is magically restored and reconciles with John and Lori, encouraging them to resume their relationship. John and Lori are married (with Sam Jones as the presiding minister), and Ted comfortably accepts having a life of his own as he and Tami-Lynn continued their love affair. Sam Jones attempts to restart his career and moves into a studio apartment with Brandon Routh. Rex gives up his pursuit of Lori, goes into a deep depression, and dies of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Donny gets arrested by the Boston Police Department for kidnapping a plush toy, but charges are dropped. Robert hires a personal trainer, loses a significant amount of weight, and goes on to become Taylor Lautner.Comedies are hit and miss, or run out of steam towards the end. Ted, however, is not one of these and this is why it is probably one of the best and most original comedies I have ever seen. Perhaps the plot is fairly standard, but with the creator of Family Guy at the helm, things don’t always go the way you expect.

REVIEW: COLD MOUNTAIN

 

CAST

Nicole Kidman (Bewitched)
Renee Zellweger (Jerry Maguire)
Jude Law (Spy)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood)
Brendan Gleeson (Troy)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Ray Winstone (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands)
James Gammon (The Iron Giant)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim)
Jena Malone (Sucker Punch)
Lucas Black (Fast & Furious 7)
Taryn Manning (The Breed)
Emily Deschanel (Bones)
Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins)
Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising)
Philip Seymour (The Ides of March)
James Rebhorn (Big Lake)
Melora Walters (The Butterfly Effect)

 

MV5BZjZlMzRlOGQtMzViMS00NDk4LWFmOWUtZDRiZWZjYWE3Y2ZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTYxNzc0NjU@._V1_When North Carolina secedes from the Union on May 20, 1861, the young men of a rural, provincial, North Carolina backwater known only as Cold Mountain hurry to enlist in the Confederate military. Among them is W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a carpenter who has fallen in love with Ada (Nicole Kidman), a minister´s daughter, and finds their whirlwind courtship interrupted by the American Civil War.

Cold Mountain 550Three years later, Inman finds himself in the trenches of Petersburg, Virginia, during the Battle of the Crater. Union soldiers tunneling beneath Confederate fortifications detonate over 300 kegs of gunpowder, in a futile attempt to undermine the position prior to their assault. As the ill-fated attack begins, Oakley (Lucas Black) an old acquaintance of Inman’s from Cold Mountain, is impaled on a bayonet and mortally wounded. Inman rescues him from the fighting and takes him to a field hospital. Later that day Oakley dies in the hospital, with Inman and Stobrod Thewes (Brendan Gleeson) beside him. The next night, Inman, along with his Cherokee friend Swimmer (Jay Tavare), are sent to flush out surviving Union troops trapped behind their lines. During the raid, a burst of friendly fire kills Swimmer and seriously injures Inman. As Inman lies in the hospital near death, he has a letter from Ada read to him in which she pleads with him to stop fighting, stop marching, and come back to her. Inman recovers, and—with the war drawing ever closer to an inevitable Confederate defeat—decides to go home to Cold Mountain.

On his journey he meets the corrupt preacher Reverend Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is about to drown his pregnant slave lover. Inman stops Veasey, and leaves him tied up to face the town’s justice. Exiled from his parish, Veasey later rejoins Inman on his journey. They help a young man named Junior (Giovanni Ribisi) butcher his cow, and join him and his family for dinner. Junior leaves the house after the feast, the women in Junior’s family seduce Veasey, and Junior’s wife, Lila, tries to seduce Inman. Junior returns home with the Confederate Home Guard, and both Inman and Veasey are arrested and led away with other deserters. During a subsequent skirmish with Union cavalry, Veasey is killed and Inman left for dead. An elderly hermit living in the woods (Eileen Atkins) finds him and nurses him back to health.
Cold Mountain
Inman later meets a grieving young widow named Sara (Natalie Portman), who is raising her infant child Ethan alone; he stays the night at her cabin. The next morning, a party of Union foragers arrive demanding food. Sara orders Inman away for his protection, but he hides only a few feet away from the house. The leader, Nym (Richard Brake), and his lieutenant harass Sara, steal her livestock, and leave Ethan in the cold, though the third soldier (Cillian Murphy) attempts to keep the baby warm. Nym tries to rape Sara but both he and the lieutenant are killed by Inman. Inman forces the kind forager to surrender and lets him go, but as the latter flees, an enraged Sara fatally shoots him. In parallel with Inman’s adventures, the film follows Ada’s wartime experiences. Ada is a city gentlewoman who only recently moved to the rural farm named Black Cove. She met Inman on her first day at Cold Mountain and had a brief, chaste romance with him the night before he left for the army. Shortly after Inman leaves, Ada’s father (Donald Sutherland) dies, leaving her alone on the farm with no money, food, or livelihood, and with little prospect for help, as the young, able-bodied men are off at war.
nicole-kidman-cold-mountain-qa-1Ada is completely inept at working the farm, having been raised as a southern lady. She manages to survive thanks to the kindness of her neighbors, one of whom eventually sends Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) to her. Ruby is a young woman who has lived a hard-scrabble life and is very adept at the tasks needed to run the farm. Ruby lives at the farm with Ada, and together they take the farm from a state of disaster to working order. Meanwhile, Ada writes constant letters to Inman in hopes of meeting him again and renewing their romance. The two women form a close friendship and become each other’s confidantes. They also are friends with the Swangers (James Gammon and Kathy Baker), who live down the road from Ada’s farm Black Cove. It is at the Swangers’ well that Ada “sees” a vision of Inman coming back to her in the snow, surrounded by crows.
During the war, Ada and Ruby, and other members of their community, have several tense encounters with men of the Home Guard. This branch of the Home Guard is led by Captain Teague (Ray Winstone), whose grandfather once owned much of Cold Mountain. He and his deputies hunt deserters, partially with the goal of Teague’s seizing their land. Teague also lusts after Ada. Although the purpose of the Home Guard was to protect the South and its citizen population from the North, they have become violent vigilantes who hunt and often kill deserters from the Confederate Army, and terrorize citizens who they believe are housing or helping the deserters. This includes the Swangers’ sons, who, by torturing their mother, they coax out of hiding and kill. Esco Swanger—the family patriarch—is also killed protecting his sons.

Ruby’s estranged father Stobrod, a Confederate deserter and a violin player, arrives, reconciles with her, and convinces her to make a coat for his intellectually challenged banjo player Pangle (Ethan Suplee). Ruby finds herself drawn to mandolin player Georgia (Jack White). While camping, Stobrod, Pangle, and Georgia are cornered by the Home Guardsmen led by Teague. Pangle unintentionally reveals the band as the deserters Teague is seeking. Georgia is hidden a few feet away and witnesses the shooting of Pangle and Stobrod. He escapes to Black Cove Farm and informs Ruby and Ada, who rush to the campsite to find Pangle dead and Stobrod badly injured. Ada helps Ruby remove a bullet from Strobrod’s back, and they decide to take shelter in some cabins in the woods to avoid Teague and his men.
At this point the two story lines come together. Inman, half-dead from starvation, finally reaches Cold Mountain and is almost killed by Ada before she recognizes him. They later consummate their love and spend the night together.  The Home Guardsmen, however, soon find them, having captured and tortured Georgia to learn that the women are harboring deserters. In the ensuing gunfight Inman ambushes and kills Teague and most of his band, but Teague’s violent young lieutenant Bosie (Charlie Hunnam), escapes up the mountain. Cornering him near the top, Inman urges him to surrender peacefully, but Bosie draws, forcing him to fire; both men are mortally wounded. Ada goes after Inman, and finds him just as she saw him in her vision at the well… coming back to her in the snow surrounded by crows. He dies in her arms. The film ends several years later with Ada, Ruby and their families celebrating Easter. Ruby has married Georgia, and the two have a young daughter and an infant child. It is also revealed that Ada’s night with Inman has produced a child, Grace Inman.MV5BMTQwNTE5MjE4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDc2ODAxNw@@._V1_A very intense and sometimes moving movie experience with a brutal battle sequence, and indeed many further violent incidents both at Cold Mountain itself and indeed on ‘Inman’s’ journey. The film harbours many fine performances from it’s star-studded cast-list. Well worth a re-visit or indeed a first viewing.

REVIEW: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

CAST
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
Josh Hartnett (Lucky Number Sleven)
James Woods (Another Day In Paradise)
Kathleen Turner (Serial Mom)
Michael Pare (Bloodrayne)
Scott Glenn (Daredevil lTV)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
A.J. Cook (Wishmaster 3)
Hayden Christensen (Awake)
Sherry Miller (Bitten)
Melody Johnson (Goosebumps)
Andrew Gillies (Mutant X)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Joe Dinicol (Arrow)
Jonathan Tucker (Westworld)
The story takes place in the sleepy and decaying suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the 1970s, as a group of neighborhood boys, now grown men acknowledging in voice-over (narrated by Giovanni Ribisi who speaks for the group as a whole) reflect upon their life-long obsession and memories of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17, and whose beauty had bewitched them as teenagers. Strictly unattainable due to their Catholic and overprotective, authoritarian parents, math teacher Ronald (James Woods) and his homemaker wife (Kathleen Turner), the girls — Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A. J. Cook), Bonnie (Chelse Swain), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), and Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall) — are the enigma that fill the boys’ conversations and dreams.
 The film opens in the summer with the suicide attempt of the youngest sister, Cecilia, as she slits her wrist in a bath. After her parents allow her to throw a chaperoned basement party intended to make her feel better, Cecilia excuses herself and jumps out her second story bedroom window, instantly dying when she is impaled on an iron fence below. In the wake of her act, the Lisbon parents begin to watch over their four remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family from the community and heightens the intrigue and air of mystery about the girls to the neighborhood boys in particular, who long for more insight into the girls’ unfathomable lives. At the beginning of the new school year in the fall, Lux forms a secret relationship and short lived romance with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the school heartthrob. Trip comes over one night to the Lisbon residence to watch television and persuades Mr. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the upcoming Homecoming Dance by promising to provide dates for the other sisters, to go as a group. After winning Homecoming king and queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch the group and have sex on the school’s football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep and Trip, becoming disenchanted by Lux, abandons her. At dawn, Lux wakes up alone and has to take a taxi home. Several years later, Trip will admit to wrongfully abandoning Lux, but ironically confesses that he has never gotten over her.
Having broken curfew, Lux and her sisters are punished by a furious Mrs. Lisbon by being taken out of school and sequestered in their house of maximum security isolation. Unable to leave the house, the sisters contact the boys across the street by using light signals and sharing songs over the phone as a means of finally sharing their unrequited feelings. During this time, Lux rebels against her repression and becomes promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of the house late at night; the neighborhood boys spy and watch Lux in action from across the street. Finally, after weeks of confinement, the sisters mysteriously leave a note for the boys, presumably asking for help to escape. When the boys arrive that night ready to run away with the girls, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. She invites them inside to wait for her sisters, while she goes to start the car, leading the boys to believe they will soon elope with the girls. While they wait, the boys briefly fantasize the group of them driving blissfully away on a sun-soaked country road.
Curious, the boys wander into the dark basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie’s dead body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Horrified, they rush upstairs only to stumble across the dead body of Mary. The boys realize that the girls had all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact moments before: Bonnie hanged herself; Mary died by sticking her head in the gas oven shortly after; Therese died by taking an overdose of sleeping pills and Lux, being the last one to go, died by Carbon monoxide poisoning, when she left the car engine running in the sealed garage. But there is no sole explanation why.
Devastated and puzzled by the suicides of all their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon quietly flee the neighborhood, never to return. Mr. Lisbon had a friend clean out the house and sell off the family belongings, especially those belonging to the girls, in a yard sale; whatever didn’t sell was put in the trash, including the family photos, which the neighborhood boys collected as mementos. When the house is emptied, it is quickly sold to a young couple from the Boston area. Seemingly unsure how to react, the adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing happened or that the Lisbons ever lived there. But the boys never forget about the girls however much they try, though everyone else eventually does. And the girls will forever haunt them and remain a source of grief and lost innocence for them, long into adulthood. As the film closes, the men acknowledge in voice-over, saying that they had loved the girls. And that they will never find the pieces to put them back together, to understand why the Lisbon sisters went to be alone in suicide for all time.
This is a great film, despite the tragic end. Nicely shot and superb acting. The best film I’ve seen Kirsten Dunst in.

REVIEW: PUBLIC ENEMIES

CAST

Christian Bale (Batman Begins)
Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows)
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Jason Clarke (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Christian Solte (Road To Perdition)
Stephen Dorff (Blade)
Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe)
Carey Mulligan (Wall Street 2)
Emilie De Ravin (Roswell)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Billy Crudup (Watchmen)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring)
Matt Craven (Timeline)
Leelee Sobieski (Roadkill)
Rory Cochrane (Argo)
Casey Siemaszko (Young Guns)
John Ortiz (Fast & Furious)
Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe)
Bill Camp (Joker)
Stephen Graham (This Is England)

After killing Charles Floyd (Channing Tatum), FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Bale) is promoted by J. Edgar Hoover (Crudup) to lead the hunt for bank robber John Dillinger (Depp). Purvis shares Hoover’s belief in using scientific methods to battle crime, ranging from cataloging fingerprints to tapping telephone lines.
In between a series of bank robberies, Dillinger meets Billie Frechette (Cotillard) at a restaurant and woos her by buying her a fur coat. Frechette falls for Dillinger even after he reveals his identity, and the two become inseparable.
Purvis leads a failed ambush at a hotel where he believes Dillinger is staying, and an agent is killed by Baby Face Nelson (Graham), who escapes with Tommy Caroll (Garrett). Purvis requests that Hoover bring in professional lawmen who know how to catch criminals dead or alive, including Texan Charles Winstead (Lang).
Police arrest Dillinger and his gang in Tucson, Arizona, after a fire breaks out at the Hotel Congress, where they are staying. Dillinger is extradited to Indiana, where Sheriff Lillian Holley (Taylor) has him locked up in the Lake County Jail in Crown Point. Dillinger and other inmates use a fake gun to escape. Dillinger is unable to see Frechette, who is under tight surveillance. Dillinger learns that Frank Nitti’s (Camp) associates are unwilling to help because his crimes are motivating the FBI to prosecute interstate crime, which imperils Nitti’s bookmaking racket, thus severing his connections with the Mafia.
Carroll goads Dillinger into robbing a bank in Sioux Falls with Baby Face Nelson. During their escape, both Dillinger and Carroll are shot, and they have to leave Carroll behind. The group retreats to the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin and realize their haul is significantly less than Nelson said it would be. Dillinger hopes he can free the rest of his gang from prison, including Pierpont (Wenham) and Makley (Stolte), but Red Hamilton (Clarke) convinces him this is unlikely.
Purvis and his men apprehend Carroll and torture him to learn the gang’s location. Purvis organizes an ambush at Little Bohemia. Dillinger and Hamilton escape separately from the rest of the gang. Agents Winstead and Hurt (Frye) pursue Dillinger and Hamilton through the woods, engaging in a gunfight in which Hamilton is fatally wounded. Trying to escape, Nelson, Shouse, and Van Meter hijack a Bureau car, killing Purvis’ partner Carter Baum (Cochrane) in the process. After a car chase, Purvis and his men kill Nelson and the rest of the gang. Hamilton dies that night. Dillinger meets Frechette, telling her he plans to commit one more robbery that will pay enough for them to escape together. When Dillinger drops her off at a tavern he thinks is safe, she is arrested. Frechette is beaten during interrogation to learn Dillinger’s whereabouts, which she does not reveal; Purvis and Winstead eventually arrive and intervene. Dillinger agrees to participate in a train robbery with Alvin Karpis (Ribisi) and the Barker Gang, intending to flee the country the next day. He receives a note from Billie through her lawyer, Louis Piquett (Gerety), telling him not to try to break her out of jail.
Through Zarkovich, Purvis enlists the help of madam and Dillinger acquaintance Anna Sage (Katić), threatening her with deportation if she does not cooperate. She agrees to set up Dillinger, who she believes will come to hide out with her. Dillinger and Sage see Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. After the film, Purvis signals other agents upon seeing them leave. Dillinger spots the police but is shot before he can draw his gun. Winstead listens to Dillinger’s last words. Purvis goes to inform Hoover of Dillinger’s death. Winstead tells Frechette, still incarcerated, that he thinks Dillinger’s dying words were, “Tell Billie for me, ‘Bye bye Blackbird'”. Billie sheds a tear – ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ was the song the houseband was playing when Billie and Dillinger first met each other and danced together in a dinner-club. The closing text reveals that Melvin Purvis quit the FBI in 1935 and died by his own hand in 1960, and that Billie lived out the rest of her life in Wisconsin following her release in 1936.
 Depp at his best. Not too be underrated,  A really enjoyable film.

REVIEW: PHOENIX (1998)

CAST
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
Anthony LaPaglia (Analyze That)
Tom Noonan (Robocop 2)
Daniel Baldwin (Vampires)
Jeremy Piven (Old School)
Brittany Murphy (Sin City)
Anjelica Huston (Daddy Day Care)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Al Sapienza (The Sopranos)
George Murdock (Battlestar Galactica)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
In Phoenix, Arizona, Harry Collins is a cop whose compulsive gambling has indebted him to a local gangster, Chicago. As his losses mount and time counts down, Collins resorts to exploiting a young woman, Veronica, that he has picked up to distract his friends in a poker game. Despite the successful distraction, he still loses, and he rejects Veronica’s sexual advances, as he considers her to be bad luck. When Collins drops her off at her house, Veronica’s mother sees her daughter in tears and glares at Collins. Collins later tracks down Veronica’s mother, Leila, and defends himself, stating that he did not have sex with her. Unimpressed, Leila rebukes him, which causes him to reassess his behavior and offer a sincere apology. Surprised by his apology, Leila slowly warms to Collins, and they begin a romance. Having lost his lucky lighter, Collins asks her for a keepsake, but Leila tells him that he must make his own luck and avoid whatever trouble in which he’s become involved.
Meanwhile, Chicago cuts off Collins from his bookies and gives him 48 hours to either repay his debt or murder Joey, a young suspect held in custody. Mike Henshaw, Collins’ corrupt partner, suggests murdering Chicago, but Collins, unwilling to welch on a bet or murder Joey, decides instead to rob Louie, a local loanshark. Collins recruits Henshaw and another corrupt cop, James Nutter, and, over their objections, brings in a more straight-laced cop, Fred Shuster. Unknown to the others, Shuster has discovered that his wife, Katie, is having an affair with Henshaw. Distraught and feeling betrayed, Shuster agrees to work with Lt. Webber to bring down the corrupt cops. However, the robbery is botched when the trigger-happy Henshaw kills Louie before he can open the safe. Collins hires a local locksmith to crack Louie’s safe, and the group splits up. Collins and Shuster arrive at the meeting point, but Lt. Webber is already there; Webber betrays Shuster, killing him, and shoots Collins in the gut. Collins escapes, but Webber steals the money.
Nutter and Henshaw, suspecting that Collins has betrayed them, arrive at the meeting point and discover Shuster’s body. Before they can track down Collins and kill him, they are surrounded by the police. When Nutter attempts to surrender, Henshaw kills him; Henshaw is killed in turn by the other cops. Collins hitches a ride back to town and surprises Katie and Webber, who are having an affair. Over their objections, Collins burns most of the money while denouncing them both for betraying Fred. After alerting the cops to Webber’s involvement, Collins takes enough money to pay off his gambling debt and meets with Chicago. Amused, Chicago accepts the money but mocks Collins’ reluctance to murder Joey; Chicago reveals that he has had Joey murdered in prison and points out that had Collins simply murdered Joey, all of this trouble could have been avoided. Enraged, Collins kills Chicago and his bodyguards, then stumbles back to his car, where he apparently dies of his wounds.
It’s a well shot film, neatly edited, with excellent performances from the entire cast.