REVIEW: 12 STRONG

Starring

Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Michael Peña (Ant-Man)
Navid Negahban (Homeland)
Trevante Rhodes (The Predator)
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Geoff Stults (The Finder)
Thad Luckinbill (La La Land)
Ben O’Toole (Hacksaw Ridge)
Kenny Sheard (John Wick 2)
Elsa Pataky (Fast & Furious 8)
Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street)
Taylor Sheridan (Veronica Mars)

Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong (2018)Mitch Nelson, a US Army Captain with Green Berets Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595, is moving into a new home with his wife and daughter on September 11, 2001, after receiving an assignment to staff duty under LTCol. Bowers. As news of the devastating terrorist attacks that day break, Nelson volunteers to lead 595 into Afghanistan. Bowers initially refuses, but veteran soldier CW5 Hal Spencer, previously scheduled to retire, persuades Bowers to give Nelson command of 595 again, as well as volunteering himself for the deployment. After leaving their families, 595 travels to Uzbekistan on October 7, 2001. After being briefed and evaluated by COL Mulholland, Commander of 5th Special Forces Group, Nelson and 595 are picked to fight alongside Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum.ODA 595 is inserted covertly in Afghanistan aboard an MH-47 Chinook flown by 160th SOAR. They land 40 miles south of Mazar-i Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city and a longtime stronghold of the Taliban, where they meet Dostum. Six of the 12 members, led by Nelson, leave with Dostum to the mountains, while the other six remain in a fortified camp nicknamed “The Alamo” under Spencer’s command. Dostum is attempting to capture the northern Afghanistan city, while battling Taliban leader Mullah Razzan, who rules local communities brutally under strict Sharia law, and has murdered several people, including Dostum’s family.Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong (2018)Although the warlord is initially skeptical of Nelson’s abilities, Nelson gradually earns Dostum’s respect. In one battle, however, Dostum makes a tactical error, costing several casualties. Nelson accuses Dostum of acting carelessly with the lives of his men and of withholding valuable information, while Dostum retorts that he still feels that Nelson, and the U.S., is not willing to pay the potential price of the conflict, and tells Nelson that he needs to use his heart and mind to “be a warrior” instead of a soldier. The two eventually reconcile, and, after splitting off a three-man element under SFC Sam Diller to strike a Taliban supply route, and being joined by Spencer’s half of ODA 595, continue to work together. They win several victories with Dostum’s leadership and manpower and American airpower, making significant progress towards Mazar-i Sharif. Suddenly, however, Spencer informs Nelson that another ODA, 555, has been dispatched to support Atta Muhammad, another Northern Alliance leader, who is Dostum’s political rival. When Nelson is forced to tell Dostum, the furious warlord and his men promptly abandon 595.Following Dostum’s departure, Nelson plans to continue operating against the Taliban with his Americans and the few Afghan fighters remaining with them. Encountering a large force of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters and armored vehicles, ODA 595, rejoined by Diller and his element, uses air support to eliminate many of the fighters and most of the armor, but are discovered and attacked. Spencer is critically injured by a suicide bomber, and the team is about to be overrun under heavy Taliban and Al-Qaeda pressure when Dostum returns with his forces. Carrying out the US Army’s first cavalry charge of the 21st century, the American and Northern Alliance forces disperse the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and Dostum tracks down and kills Razzan. After Spencer is medevaced, Nelson and Dostum continue to Mazar-i-Sharif but find Atta Muhammad has beaten them there. Against expectations, Dostum and Muhammad meet peacefully and put aside their differences. Impressed by Nelson and the Americans’ efforts, Dostum gives Nelson his prized riding crop and tells him that he will always consider Nelson a brother and fellow fighter but remember that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. Spencer ultimately survives, and all 12 soldiers of ODA 595 return home after 23 days of almost continuous fighting in Afghanistan.The film’s penultimate moment shows a photo of the Horse Soldier Statue in New York City, based on the soldiers of ODA 595 and their victory in the early stages of the response to the September 11th attacks, dedicated to all United States Special Forces. The film then ends with a photo of the actual members of ODA 595, in combat fatigues, upon whom 12 Strong was based.Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong (2018)Perhaps not the best war movie ever made and a bit predictable, but a truly well done and well acted insight into the first response to 9/11. Yes we win. Guess what? We won in real life too. It’s about the journey not the well known destination. It’s a ride, on horseback. Enjoy it for what it is. The

REVIEW: MACHINE GUN PREACHER

Starring

Gerard Butler (300)
Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Madeline Carroll (Mr. Popper’s Penguins)
Kathy Baker (Saving Mr. Banks)
Souléymane Sy Savané (Goodbye Solo)
Mandalynn Carlson (Small Town Santa)

Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)In South Sudan the LRA are attacking a village and force a young boy to attack a woman. Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is an alcoholic drug-using biker from Pennsylvania. On his release from prison, he finds that his wife (Michelle Monaghan) has given up her job as a stripper, because she has since accepted Christ as her saviour. Initially infuriated by his wife’s decision, he returns to his routine of partying and using drugs like heroin with his fellow biker friend Donnie (Michael Shannon). One night while on a bender with Donnie, he almost kills a vagrant. He is shaken by the experience, and the day after allows his wife to persuade him to go to church with her, where he is eventually baptized and offered salvation.Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)Sam soon finds a stable job as a construction worker and later starts his own construction company. Later, on a missionary trip to Uganda to build homes for refugees, he asks one of the SPLA soldiers watching over them to take him on a trip to the north, to Sudan. The soldier warns him that it is a war zone, but upon Sam’s insistence they go. They arrive at a medical tent in Sudan. As the soldier moves off to talk to some people, Sam is roped in by a female doctor to help lift a lipless Sudanese woman onto the examination table. That night as they lay on their beds at the relief station, they hear noises outside, and when they look out, Sam and the soldier see large numbers of Sudanese children swarming around to sleep outside the building.Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)The soldier explains that their parents send them to sleep over here because it is safer than staying in their own village. Sam wakes up the children and gets as many as he can fit to sleep in their room for the night. The next day Sam and the soldier follow the children back to their village only to find that the LRA has burnt it down and killed their parents. One of the children runs after his dog and is killed by a hidden landmine. Sam cradles the dead child and cries, the experience traumatizes and changes Sam. After returning home, Sam has a “vision from God” and decides to build an orphanage for the children of South Sudan, as well as a church in his own neighborhood that will be “open to all” without judgement.Gerard Butler and Souleymane Sy Savane in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)After its completion he begins preaching at his church, and helps his old friend Donnie get sober and find God as well. He soon returns to Africa and despite vocal opposition, builds the orphanage. One night after it is built, the LRA attack it and burn it to the ground. Sam then phones home, telling his wife what has happened and that he is giving up. She reminds him that the orphans have been through worse but they have not given up, and that he should not give up and tells him to rebuild the orphanage.Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)After the orphanage has been rebuilt, he and his friends from the SPLA are attacked on the road by the LRA, they manage to chase off the small force of the LRA that attacked them. They search the area and discover a large group of Sudanese children hiding in a ditch not far from the road. Since they can not take all the children in one trip, Sam chooses to take the ones who need medical attention along with a few others on their first trip back to the orphanage. However, upon returning to the spot as quickly as he could, he finds that the LRA killed and burnt those he had left behind. This causes Childers to lead armed raids to rescue children from the LRA.Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)He returns home to the U.S. disgruntled and exasperated about the lack of money for the project. He also feels disconnected from his community; he is disgusted by the excess displayed and petty “problems” of his family and friends, as well as their apparent apathy toward the children of Sudan. Sam even goes far as to neglecting his family and beating up a biker at a bar for making racist comments about the children. Meanwhile his friend Donnie breaks his sobriety and ends up dying from an overdose, this pushes Sam further into negativity and despair. He sells his business and boards a plane for Sudan. His faith and mission is revitalised when an orphan boy tells his personal story to Sam. The boy tells him that if he allows hatred to fester in his heart, his fight against injustice fails. Sam also rekindles his emotional attachment with his family over the phone. The next day he engages with the camp actively. Later he goes out with SPLA and rescues a caravan full of children who were kidnapped by LRA. The end credits include black and white pictures of the real Sam Childers, his wife, daughter, and his orphanage in Sudan. The pictures are followed by a short black and white home video clip of Sam talking about his work.Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher (2011)There are so many powerful moments in this movie that it is hard to pin point any without spoiling the plot. This is not a movie that you should take a date along to; or anyone who is squeamish or unsettled by blood and guts. This is a movie that takes the audience in the palm of their hands and opens their eyes to the blunt reality and the truth of genocide. It is similar in that way to Hotel Rwanda but I found this movie even more graphic and unsettling in many ways. This is a movie you should watch at all costs although you may not want to see it again. It is hard hitting, powerful, emotional but most of all thought provoking.

REVIEW: BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

CAST
Ben Affleck (Argo)
Henry Cavill (Immortals)
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Diane Lane (Hollywoodland)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal)
Jeremy Irons (Lolita)
Holly Hunter (Crash)
Gal Gadot (Fast And Furious 6)
Scoot McNairy (Monsters)
Tao Okamoto (The Wolverine)
Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead)
Michael Shannon (Boardwalk empire)
Michael Cassidy (Smallville)
Ray Fisher (The Astronaut Wives Club)
Ezra Miller (Trainwreck)
Harry Lennix (Dollhouse)
Joe Morton (Speed)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy)
Jason Momoa (Stargate Atlantis)
Jena Malone (Saved)
Callan Mulvey (Zero Dark Thirty)
Rebecca Buller (Sirens)
Emily Peterson (The Jamz)
Joseph Cranford (Better Call Saul)
Kevin Costner (The New Daughter)
Eighteen months after the destructive attack by General Zod in Metropolis from Man of Steel, Superman has become a controversial figure. Daily Planet journalist Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego, has moved in with Lois Lane. Bruce Wayne, who has operated in Gotham City as the vigilante “Batman” for nearly two decades, sees Superman as a potential threat to humanity. After learning of Batman’s activities, Superman also views him as a threat, and seeks to stop him via the Daily Planet articles authored by him as Kent.
Wayne learns that Russian weapon-trafficker Anatoli Knyazev has been contacting LexCorp’s mogul Lex Luthor. Meanwhile, Luthor tries to convince Senator June Finch to allow him to import Kryptonite retrieved from the Indian Ocean following the results of Zod’s terraforming attempt, claiming to use it as a “deterrent” against Kryptonians, but she denies the request. He also makes side dealings with Finch’s subordinate and demands access to Zod’s body and the Kryptonian scout ship.
Wayne attends Luthor’s party at LexCorp, where he meets mysterious antiques dealer Diana Prince, and retrieves data from the company’s mainframe. The data drive, however, is stolen by Prince, who later returns it to Wayne after she is unable to decrypt the data. While decrypting the drive at the Batcave, Wayne has a dream of a post-apocalyptic world, where he leads a group of rebels against Superman. He is snapped out of the dream by an unidentified time traveler, who warns him of Lane’s crucial role in the distant future, and urges him to find “the others”. Wayne later realizes that Luthor is not only experimenting with Kryptonite, but also investigating metahumans. One of them is Prince herself, who is an immortal warrior. Wayne admits to Alfred Pennyworth that he plans to steal the Kryptonite to weaponize it, should it become necessary to fight Superman. Batman pursues a convoy carrying the Kryptonite to LexCorp, but Superman interferes and orders him to cease his activities.
Luthor orchestrates a bombing at a congressional hearing where Finch is questioning Superman on the validity of his actions, which have resulted in deaths of civilians. The bomb kills dozens of people, including Finch. Frustrated with failing to save people, Superman goes into self-imposed exile. Batman breaks into LexCorp and steals the Kryptonite, planning to use it to battle Superman by building a powered exoskeleton, and creating a Kryptonite grenade launcher and a Kryptonite-tipped spear. Meanwhile, Luthor enters the Kryptonian ship and learns of its functions, as well as recorded alien worlds.
Luthor kidnaps Martha Kent, Clark’s adoptive mother. He reveals that he has manipulated Superman and Batman by fueling their animosity of each other. Luthor forces Superman to fight and kill Batman in exchange for Martha’s life. Superman tries to reason with Batman, but Batman instigates a fight and ultimately gains the upper hand thanks to the kryptonite grenades. Before Batman can kill Superman with the spear, Superman urges Batman to “save Martha”, whose name is also shared with Wayne’s late mother. Lane arrives and explains the situation, convincing Batman that Superman is not a threat. Upon learning of Luthor’s plan, Batman leaves to rescue Martha, while Superman confronts Luthor on the scout ship. Surprised at his own defeat, Luthor executes his backup plan, unleashing a genetically-engineered monster with DNA from Zod’s body and his own. However, Diana Prince arrives unexpectedly. Revealing her metahuman nature, she joins forces with them to fight the creature. However, they are soon outmatched by its power, as it is can absorb and redirect energy. Realizing that it is vulnerable to Kryptonite, Superman retrieves the Kryptonite spear and attacks the monster. With Batman and Prince’s help distracting it, Superman impales the creature. As it dies, the creature stabs and kills Superman with one of its bone protrusions.
Luthor is arrested, and while speaking to Batman he gloats that Superman’s death has made the world vulnerable to powerful alien threats. A memorial is held for Superman in Metropolis. Clark is also declared dead and Wayne, Lane, Martha, and Prince attend a private funeral for him in Smallville. Martha gives an envelope to Lane which contains an engagement ring from Clark. After the funeral, Wayne reveals to Prince that he plans to form a team of metahumans, starting with the ones from Luthor’s files, to help protect the world in Superman’s absence. After they leave, a faint heartbeat echoes from Clark’s coffin and the dirt around it begins to levitate.

Once a movie that i was extremely nervous about stepping into, just happened to turn out to be my favorite superhero movie, and probably will for years to come, very interesting aspect of the movie was using the flaws of the first installment of the comic book universe and building upon those mishaps to create a much better and more compelling story. In this Ultimate Edition, there are both Theatrical Version (151 mins, in both 2D and 3D) and the Ultimate Version (extended Cut, 182 mins, only in 2D). I would strongly recommend the Extended Cut, because the extra information is helpful to tie in different events.

REVIEW: JONAH HEX

 

Image result for JONAH HEX UK DVD
CAST
Josh Brolin (Gangster Squad)
John Malkovich (Red)
Megan Fox (Jennifers Body)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Will Arnett (The Lego Movie)
John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom)
Tom Wopat (Django Unchained(
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
Julia Jones (Twilight: Eclipse)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)
Seth Gabel (Arrow)
Aidan Quinn (Practical Magic)
Rance Howard (Small Soldiers)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)
Lance Reddick (John Wick)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead)
Josh Brolin and Michael Fassbender in Jonah Hex (2010)
During the American Civil War, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) served as a Confederate cavalryman until his commanding officer, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), a general for the Confederates who is obsessed with the fall of the Union, ordered him to burn down a hospital. Hex refused, and was forced to kill his best friend, Turnbull’s son Jeb. After the war, a vengeful Turnbull and his right-hand man, Burke (Michael Fassbender), a psychopathic sadist, tie up Hex and force him to watch as his house is burned down with his wife and son inside. Turnbull then brands Hex’s face with his initials, “QT”, and leaves him to die of thirst or exposure. Days later, American Indians find Jonah and revive him with their mystical powers. While they did manage to bring Jonah back from the dead, it is stated that they couldn’t bring “all of him back”. As a result, Jonah acquired the ability to, as long as he maintains physical contact with the corpse, temporarily resurrect and communicate with the dead; the corpse physically and mentally brought back to physical condition prior to death (apparently, only Jonah sees them restored like that. To everyone else, they continue to seem decayed and lifeless). It is also explained that the fresher the dead, the quicker that body begins to burn up as they are being touched. Once contact is broken, the corpse instantaneously reverts to its former, lifelesscondition. When Turnbull apparently dies in a hotel fire, Hex satisfies his hunger for vengeance by turning to bounty hunting.
Josh Brolin and Megan Fox in Jonah Hex (2010)In 1876, Hex rides into the town of Stunk Crick with four dead outlaws and demands his bounty, only to realize that the mayor and sheriff have no intention of paying, intending instead to kill Hex for his own bounty. Hex instead kills them and several sheriff’s deputies, collects his bounty from the dead mayor’s pockets, and leaves. In another part of the country, Turnbull, alive and well, orchestrates the hijacking of a train carrying components of a classified weapon, slaughtering its military guards and civilian passengers alike. When informed of the theft, President Grant (Aidan Quinn) surmises that Turnbull is planning a terrorist attack for July 4, during the celebration of the American centennial. Grant instructs Army Lieutenant Grass (Will Arnett) to find Hex and hire him to stop Turnbull. Jonah goes to a brothel and spends the night with Lilah (Megan Fox), a prostitute attracted to the disfigured man for more than just professional reasons. As Jonah prepares to leave the next morning, Grass’ men burst in and tell Jonah that Turnbull is still alive. They show him a captured thug from the train hijacking who told them Turnbull is headed northwest, before dying during interrogation. But Jonah briefly resurrects the man and learns that he has no knowledge of Turnbull’s whereabouts; the best he can do is tell who recruited him, ex-Colonel Slocum (Tom Wopat), who is running an illegal deathmatch pavilion in South Carolina, to the southeast.
With the help of a corrupt Washington aristocrat, Adleman Lusk (Wes Bentley), Turnbull tracks down and steals the remaining components of the weapon he is seeking. When Hex confronts Slocum in South Carolina, Slocum refuses to talk, sarcastically telling Hex to ask Turnbull’s dead son, Jeb, where his father is. Jonah says that is a good idea, then overpowers Slocum’s men and throws Slocum himself into the ring, to be killed by his own fighters. After setting fire to the ring, he frees a dog being tormented by Slocum’s handlers, which starts to follow him around. In a cemetery in Gettysburg, Jonah digs up and resurrects Jeb Turnbull (an uncredited Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Jonah apologizes for killing Jeb, and says that his father has to be stopped before he murders more people. Jeb reveals that his father is at Fort Resurrection, and then returns to the afterlife.
After entering the fort, Hex sees plans for the “superweapon” that Turnbull has stolen and assembled. In another part of the fort, Turnbull explains to Burke that the weapon was designed by Eli Whitney for the U.S. military, but they refrained from building it after realizing it was simply too powerful to ever consider using. Jonah confronts Turnbull, killing several of his men, but Turnbull escapes and Hex receives a near-fatal wounding from Burke, but is able to escape. He collapses in a field, hovering near death for several days. Turnbull, anticipating that Hex will return, sends Burke to bring him “something Hex loves.” Burke kidnaps Lilah from the brothel. Turnbull test-fires the “superweapon” on a small town in Georgia, which is leveled to the ground, killing hundreds of civilians. When President Grant receives the news, his aide reports that they have no idea where in the country Turnbull will strike, and that they do not have enough military manpower to guard every centennial celebration. Hex is found by his Native American allies, who perform a ceremony that heals him. Back on his feet, he relays a message to Lt. Grass that Turnbull plans to attack Washington, D.C., then rides to Independence Harbor alone to stop him.
Josh Brolin in Jonah Hex (2010)
When Jonah attempts to infiltrate the harbor where Turnbull’s ironclad warship is anchored, Burke spots him and attacks him. Hex overpowers and kills him, then uses his powers to bring Burke back from the dead, just so Hex can incinerate his body completely. Jonah prepares to shoot Turnbull but Turnbull holds Lilah at gunpoint and forces Jonah to surrender. Turnbull chains Jonah and Lilah in the hold of his ship and tells Jonah that he wants him to watch as the Union is destroyed. The ship leaves harbor and steams toward Washington, D.C. A monitor commanded by Lt. Grass intercepts Turnbull, but is quickly destroyed with the weapon, which has been mounted on the bow.
In the hold, Lilah picks her handcuffs and frees herself and Jonah. She holds off the guards with two pistols while Jonah rushes up to the deck to stop Turnbull. Turnbull gains the upper hand and orders the weapon to fire. The weapon blankets Washington with a volley of delay-action bomb shells, and Turnbull gives the order for the trigger shell to be launched. But Hex and Turnbull’s fight takes them down into the engine room, where Hex throws his tomahawk into the weapon’s belt feeder, trapping the trigger shell. He then brutally beats Turnbull and traps his neck in a gear, before saving Lilah. The pair jump into the water just as the trigger shell ignites in the engine room, killing Turnbull and all his men. The next day, President Grant rewards Jonah with a large sum of money, a full pardon, and offers him a job as Sheriff of the entire United States. Jonah declines, but assures the president that if they need him, they’ll be able to find him. Lilah is waiting for him outside the White House, and they leave the city together. In the last scene, Jonah visits Jeb’s grave to apologize for having to kill his father, then rides out of the cemetery with his dog.
Josh Brolin in Jonah Hex (2010)
This is another example of a fun movie that doesn’t deserve anything like it’s poor reputation would suggest

REVIEW: VANILLA SKY

CAST

Tom Cruise (Knight and Day)
Penelope Cruz (Grimsby)
Cameron Diaz (Bad TEacher)
Kurt Russell (Big Trouble In Little China)
Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl)
Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones)
Timothy Spall (Rock Star)
Tilda Swinton (Constantine)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Ivana Milicevic (Casino Rtoyale)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Alicia Witt (Two Weeks Notice)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Mark Bramhall (Alias)
Brent Sexton (God Friended Me)
Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad)

MV5BMTU5NTUxOTkxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk0MzY2MjE@._V1_Vanilla Sky didn’t really have it easy in the year of its release. On top of being a Hollywood remake of the critically-acclaimed Spanish film, it also had to contend with the debut of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and the wider distribution of Nolan’s Memento — both of which generated buzz by accomplishing similar things in superior ways — earlier that year. Therefore, the field was crowded in the psycho-puzzle subgenre, and the twisted story of David Aames’ conflict of romantic pursuits and amnesiac murder mystery wasn’t, in a literal sense, anything new.MV5BMTU3NDE1ODA3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk4NTA4MTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Crowe tweaks the narrative, though, by emphasizing the protagonist’s legacy as the heir to a publishing empire, accentuating his recklessness with the business end of things and a general self-awareness of the tools at his disposal: charisma, wealth, and appearance. That makes it all the more intriguing to watch his casual tryst with clingy actress Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) evolve beyond his control, and to see it all deconstructed by a beautiful but comparatively commonplace dancer, Sofia (Penelope Cruz), who immediately steals his heart.MV5BMjAwMjc2MTg4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM5MDM2MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1528,1000_AL_Cruise admirably embraces the understated commentary on his persona through his character’s carefree place of power and his thorny relationship with his father, with his easy charm and building anxiety driven by writer/director Crowe’s good-natured style of human interaction. An immediate spark ignites between his character and Sofia within, unsurprisingly, a cluttered celebration of the greatness of David on his birthday, and it stays credible throughout the film due to how Penelope Cruz’s down-to-earth wit and allure drags him out of the clouds, shaping into a poignant love story. The standout performance, however, emerges in Cameron Diaz with arguably the best turn of her career, encapsulating obsession and one-way affection in a beautiful shell that’s both sympathetic and unsettling, the cloud over David’s happiness.MV5BMTc4MjU0MDY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzg1MTUyNA@@._V1_SX1522_CR0,0,1522,999_AL_Infusing ethereal tracks by composer (and wife) Nancy Wilson and Icelandic band Sigur Ros with classic and contemporary melancholy pop songs, director Crowe again uses his musical awareness to heighten the visual and dramatic tempo in Vanilla Sky. Instead of directly enveloping scenes in the feel of a time period or the clear emotional state of a character, however, his musical selection here transports the audience through the complicated space of David Aames’ mind, guiding the film in both similar and differing tonal directions to that of Amenabar’s original intents. Crowe’s attunement to sound mixes intriguingly with the growingly abstract nature of David’s telling of the events, embracing an attitude that’s somewhere between the earnest warmth of the director’s previous pictures and the disappearing grip on reality within David’s psychosis. Overt sentimentality does get in the way of establishing a consistent suspenseful mood, but that duality also becomes one of the film’s distinguishing attributes as the tone shifts between those margins.MV5BZDRkOGQwNWItZjQ1ZC00MjU0LWJiZTUtZWIwMjZkMTdhNWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Along the way, Cameron Crowe never lets the viewer forget that this is a narrative being spun by an imprisoned man in a latex mask, divulged to an inquisitive psychiatrist as he builds a case for David’s mental state surrounding a murder accusation. Paired with the evocative perspective of Braveheart and Almost Famous cinematographer John Toll, surreal cues emerge through the film’s visual language that suggest there’s more to everything than what we’re shown, where little details scattered about — photographs, drawings, even the mole on someone’s body — begin to play with the perspectives of both David and the audience’s trust level in him. It’s at this point where Vanilla Sky pulls the curtain back on what it’s really about, descending into the pandemonium of nightmares and unreliable narration through warped science-fiction that recalibrates just about everything that’s transpired thus far. Crowe doesn’t get carried away with it all, either, keeping a firm grip on what’s safe to be deduced and not as the film shapeshifts into a psychological thriller.MV5BZmQ0YmE1MTMtYWQ2ZS00ZDNhLWIzOTctNjk4YTQ1YmQzZDZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Vanilla Sky tumbles down that rabbit hole in a wild, slyly unsettling climax to the tragic mysteries of David’s life, both revealing the truth of what’s going on and inviting different interpretations to what it all means through layered clues, more flashes of images and whispers in the distance. It’s unsurprising that heavy emotion speaks louder than thematic lucidity in Crowe’s ending, the most divergent part of the film from the original; however, the bittersweet nature in how it feeds into the choice between moving on with one’s life or perpetuating an illusion says enough. Despite tiptoeing around some rather dark elements, it leaves the audience with a degree of cathartic optimism hanging in the air alongside swelling atmospheric music and painterly surroundings, yet there’s also the lingering sensation that everything hasn’t been, and won’t be, fully answered. Whether repeat viewings will bring that more into focus depends on the viewer, but thankfully experiencing the sweet and sour of David’s life is compelling enough to continue doing so anyway.

REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL

CAST

Henry Cavill (The Immortals)
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire)
Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Antje Traue (Seventh Son)
Harry Lennix (Dollhouse)
Richard Schiff (Seven)
Christopher Meloni (Underground)
Kevin Costner (Waterworld)
Ayelet Zurer (Daredevil TV)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal)
Mackenzie Gray (Smallville)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Julian Richings (Doom Patrol)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
David Lewis (Unspeakable)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Chad Krowchuk (RV)
Aaron Pearl (Stargate SG.1)
Jacqueline Scislowski (Power Rangers Beast Morphers)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Rebecca Buller (Sirens)

film_supermanreturns_featureimage_desktop_1600x900The planet Krypton, unstable from years of industrial mining, faces impending destruction. Jor-El, chief advisor to Krypton’s supreme council, recommends a full-scale evacuation of the planet’s inhabitants. Before any action can be taken, soldiers led by General Zod, an old friend of Jor-El’s, launch an uprising and arrest the councilors. Realizing that Krypton is doomed, Jor-El steals genetic codes sought by Zod and infuses them into the DNA of his infant son, Kal-El – the first naturally born Kryptonian child in centuries. Donning his old armor, Jor-El sacrifices his life to allow his son to escape on a preprogrammed spacecraft. Zod orders the rocket’s destruction, only to learn that forces loyal to the council have suppressed the rebellion. In a brief trial, Zod and several of the surviving rebels are convicted of treason and sentenced to the Phantom Zone seconds before Krypton explodes.
8610986058_9dfa00c53c_bFollowing Jor-El’s coordinates, the ship crash lands on Earth in Smallville, Kansas. A childless couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, find Kal-El and raise him as their own, naming him Clark. As he grows up, Clark becomes an isolated young man as a result of developing superhuman powers. He then learns his true origins from Jonathan, who urges him to keep his powers hidden. Several years later, Jonathan dies in a tornado while refusing to let Clark save him. Burdened by guilt, Clark leaves to travel the world under several aliases, seeking a new purpose.
man-of-steel-was-pretty-boringLois Lane, a reporter at the Daily Planet in Metropolis, receives an assignment to investigate the discovery of a Kryptonian scout ship in the Canadian Arctic. Disguised as a worker, Clark enters the ship and activates its central computer using a key left by Jor-El, allowing him to communicate with an artificial intelligence modeled after his father. The AI explains that Clark was sent to Earth to guide its people, and presents him with a Kryptonian uniform bearing his family’s symbol. While following Clark, Lois inadvertently triggers the ship’s security system. Clark uses his powers to rescue Lois before donning the uniform and testing his ability to fly. Lois attempts to have her supervisor Perry White publish an article on the incident, but he refuses to do so without proof. After tracking down Clark, Lois eventually agrees to keep his secret safe.
MAN OF STEELEscaping the Phantom Zone, Zod and his crew travel to Earth after intercepting a transmission from the scout vessel. Deducing that Kal-El is nearby, they broadcast a global address demanding that he surrender or risk war. Clark meets with the U.S. Army and agrees to comply, with Lois joining him as a hostage. Zod reveals that he possesses advanced terraforming equipment salvaged from Kryptonian outposts, which he intends to use to transform Earth into a new Krypton. His science officer, Jax-Ur, extracts Clark’s genes to create Kryptonian colonists who will exterminate humanity and build a society based on Zod’s ideals of genetic purity. With help from Jor-El, Clark and Lois escape and warn the Army, just as Zod orders an invasion.
superman_man_of_steelGiven the codename “Superman”, Clark destroys the terraforming platform, while his human allies launch a suicide attack, killing Zod’s troops. Vowing to eradicate humanity himself, Zod battles with Superman, and the two eventually crash into a train station. Zod turns his own heat vision on a group of passengers, but Superman kills him. Now the last surviving Kryptonian, Superman persuades the Army to let him act independently, so long as he does not turn against humanity. To allow access to dangerous situations without attracting attention, Superman is hired as a freelance reporter for the Daily Planet.man_of_steel_hero1The most striking thing about Man of Steel is how grim it is compared to the previous Superman entries. Christopher Reeve’s Superman was confident and heroic, but here Henry Cavill’s rendition doesn’t seem so sure of himself. He can take off flying much faster though, and isn’t afraid to throw a few punches. The tights that Christopher Reeve wore have been replaced here by a more menacing chain-mail suit. The movie’s general atmosphere is pretty dark, with a blue tint given to the entire movie and a score by Hans Zimmer that is quite a contrast to that of John Williams in the earlier movies. However, it seems like the Superman comic books have recently taken a dark turn as well.  Keeping an open mind while watching Man of Steel, I accepted most of the liberties being taken and enjoyed it for what it was.

REVIEW: BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS

 

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Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider)
Eva Mendes (Hitch)
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Xzibit (Derailed)
Fairuza Balk (Almost Famous)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls)
Tom Bower (Die Hard 2)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
J.D. Evermore (CLoak & Dagger)
Gary Grubbs (Battleship)

Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans opens with the image of a snake swimming through the flood waters of New Orleans, and you’ll have go a long way to find a more apt metaphor to kick off a picture with. What follows is a wholly indescribable mishmash of the slick and the stank, the cool and the campy. It is, at risk of putting too fine a point on it, almost exactly the film you’d expect Herzog and Nicolas Cage to come up with together. What it is not is a sequel, remake, “reboot,” or “re-imagining” of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant. It is a different story, about a different guy, in a different place, and told in a completely different style (Ferrera’s film is a stark, gritty, grim character study, and Herzog’s picture, while frequently disturbing, plays as a pitch-black comedy). All it has in common with its namesake is that it is about a thieving, whoring, druggie cop; the carryover of the title (reportedly at the insistence of the two films’ shared producer Edward R. Pressman, who wanted a straight remake and should have known better if he was hiring Herzog) will probably confuse more than it will assist.

The story begins in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans cops Terence McDonagh (Cage) and Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) survey their deserted station house and discover a leftover prisoner who is about to drown in the rising flood waters of his cell. They contemplate betting on how long it’ll take the water to kill the poor sap, but McDonagh ends up diving in to save him, hurting his back in the process. “I’m gonna write you a prescription for Vicadin,” his doctor tells him, and our junkie cop is off and running.

Six months later, McDonagh is in the throes of a full-on drug addiction, tooting up in his car on the way into a crime scene. The scene is the gruesome, execution-style slaying of a family of five; the patriarch was apparently a low-level drug dealer. Solving the crime becomes, in his words, his “primary purpose”–well, that and getting drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

Broadly speaking, we find Herzog working within the framework of a glossy, well-produced, star-driven thriller; however, Nicolas Cage is no typical star, and this is no standard procedural. The actor has spent too much of the last decade slumming and sleepwalking through mindless paycheck pictures like Knowing, Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous, and the soul-crushing National Treasure series, but every once in a while (I’m gonna say the last time was Lord of War) he gets his hand on a role with some power to it, and turns up the juice. This is the best work he’s done in years, a deliriously unhinged performance that you can’t take your eyes off of. He plays this guy from the outside in–the sheer physicality of the performance is impressive, not only in the expected addict’s tics but in his peculiar walk (he uses an odd sideways lope, as if the gun in his belt is throwing him off balance) and strange speech patterns (as he becomes more addicted, he uses a chewed-up, stylized speaking voice that sounds like a contrivance but totally works within the context of the characterization). He indulges himself a bit, sure; he resorts to mugging in some of his close-ups, and the sheer theatricality of the performance may turn some viewers off. But it’s a risky, impressive piece of work.

William M. Finkelstein’s screenplay has some good scenes (including at least one that reminds of, and rivals, the shock value of that horrifying traffic stop in the original Bad Lieutenant) and a sound structure that allows for the indulgences of its director and star; it somehow seems perfectly logical that, midway through, McDonagh ends up heading to Biloxi with a fifteen-year-old witness and his dad’s dog so that he can pick up his hooker girlfriend. The character is written with complexity beyond his vices; it is unfortunate but true that McDonagh is good at being a cop (even if he’s not a “good cop”). He’s got steady instincts, and he’s strong in the interrogation room. If only he weren’t having all those pesky hallucinations.

The screenplay provides a darkly comic motor to the picture, and much of it is played at that pitch, with great success–Cage’s jittery explosion at a pharmacy clerk and his gun-waving interrogation of two elderly women build to juicy and explosively funny comic payoffs. It’s got such a wicked and knowing sense of humor, in fact, that the mere phrase “property room” becomes a punchline by the picture’s end. It is, my no means, a “funny” movie in any kind of traditional sense, but it uses dark humor as a weapon to keep its viewers on their toes, adding to the unpredictability and oddball, insane style of the piece.