REVIEW: MAN ON FIRE

 

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Equalizer)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Marc Anthony (Hackers)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Giancarlo Giannini (Hannibal)
Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall)
Jesús Ochoa (Only God Knows)
Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2)

In 2003, burnt-out ex-CIA (SAD/SOG) Paramilitary operations officer and former U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer John Creasy (Denzel Washington) visits his old comrade Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who runs a security firm in Mexico. Because of the extremely high rate of kidnappings in Mexico City for ransoms, wealthy businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hires Creasy through Rayburn to guard his nine-year-old daughter “Pita” (Dakota Fanning). However, Samuel is having money problems and intends to keep Creasy on only long enough to satisfy the requirements to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita. Creasy suffers from alcoholism, depression and severe guilt as a result of his former black ops work. Drinking heavily, Creasy attempts suicide with his pistol, but the cartridge fails to fire when he pulls the trigger. He calls Rayburn, who says that “a bullet always tells the truth.” At first, Creasy distances himself from Pita, but soon he becomes a surrogate father to the girl, allowing him to stop drinking and find a purpose in his life.One day, while Creasy is escorting Pita from her piano lesson, a group of gunmen try to kidnap her. Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, including two corrupt policemen, in a shoot out, but he is shot multiple times and collapses from his wounds, and the abductors escape with Pita, who Creasy had commanded to flee, but returned to the collapsed Creasy. Creasy is hospitalized, but is moved to a veterinary hospital by Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), a senior agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), who suspects Creasy will be killed by rogue police. Meanwhile, the Ramoses agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of “La Voz” (“The Voice”) (Roberto Sosa), the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring. Samuel’s attorney, Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke), and police detective Victor Fuentes (Jesús Ochoa) arrange for the ransom money to be collected from Samuel’s kidnapping insurance policy, then delivered to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of “La Hermandad”, a powerful crime syndicate composed of corrupt police officers, who steal the money and kill The Voice’s nephew in the process. The Voice notifies the Ramoses that Pita will be killed in retribution.Creasy leaves the hospital before fully recovering, swearing to Pita’s mother Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he will kill everyone involved in her daughter’s abduction. Rayburn helps Creasy purchase black market firearms, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and explosives. Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating kidnappings, and Manzano also offer their support. Creasy tracks down low-level operatives involved in various stages of the kidnapping, torturing each for information about other operatives, then killing them in brutal ways, eventually learning from Fuentes, who is revealed to be the “president” of “La Hermandad”, that the bags they stole at the ransom drop contained only $2.5 million of actual currency while the rest was blank paper.Creasy finds Kalfus murdered and then finds evidence of his questionable financial dealings with Samuel. He confronts Samuel and Lisa for the truth behind the kidnapping. Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus’ plan to stage Pita’s kidnapping, so he could pay off business debts by fraudulently collecting the insurance money. He planned to keep $5 million for himself and split the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He was told that Pita would watch cartoons for a couple days and be returned after the ransom was paid, but Fuentes, who had been promised a cut of the money by Kalfus, became greedy and betrayed him and Samuel to try and take the entire ransom for himself. Samuel held Kalfus responsible for the botched drop and confesses to killing him after learning that Kalfus knew about Fuentes’ corruption. Creasy then leaves Samuel with a pistol and the misfired round, which works for Samuel when he commits suicide.Using the information provided by Creasy, The Voice’s identity is revealed by Manzano to be Daniel Sánchez, who Mariana exposes on the front page of her newspaper. Creasy sneaks into the home of Sánchez’s ex-wife and children, and is shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), whom Creasy then captures. Creasy calls Daniel Sánchez and threatens to kill all of his family unless he gives himself up, but Sánchez reveals that Pita is still alive, and offers her in exchange for Aurelio and Creasy. Creasy and Pita share a tearful goodbye before he surrenders himself to Sánchez’ men, as Pita is released into her mother’s arms. Creasy dies peacefully from his gunshot injuries. Daniel Sánchez is later killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest raid.Style trumps substance in Man on Fire, a slick, brooding reunion of Crimson Tide star Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott. Prolific screenwriter Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, L.A. Confidential) sets a solid emotional foundation for Washington’s tormented character, and Scott’s stylistic excess compensates for a distended plot that’s both repellently violent and viscerally absorbing. Man on Fire is roughly on par with Scott’s similar 1990 film Revenge, efficiently satisfying Washington’s incendiary bloodlust under a heavy blanket of humid, doom-laden atmosphere

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REVIEW: FINDING NEVERLAND

CAST

Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands)
Kate Winslet (Insurgent)
Julie Christie (Troy)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Dustin Hoffman (I Heart Huckabees)
Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel)
Joe Prospero (My Uncle Silas)
Ian Hart (Enemy of The State)
Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting)
Mackenzie Crook (Almost Human)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)

The story focuses on Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and his close friendship with her sons named George, Jack, Peter, and Michael, who inspire the classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Following the dismal reception of his latest play, Little Mary, Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia and her four young sons in Kensington Gardens, and a strong friendship develops between them. He proves to be a great playmate and surrogate father figure for the boys, and their imaginative antics give him ideas which he incorporates into a play about boys who do not want to grow up, especially one named after troubled young Peter Llewelyn Davies. Although Barrie sees this family as wonderful and inspirational, people question his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. Sylvia was a widow: her husband died from cancer and left her with four boys to raise on her own. Barrie’s wife Mary, who eventually divorces him, and Sylvia’s mother Emma du Maurier, object to the amount of time Barrie spends with the Llewelyn Davies family. Emma also seeks to control her daughter and grandsons, especially as Sylvia becomes increasingly weak from an unidentified illness. Along the way, Barrie goes on these adventures with Sylvia and her boys. He too is a boy at heart and spending time with the family is special. Barrie and his wife did not have any children of their own. Barrie takes those adventures he has with the boys and sees within them and makes it into a play, Peter Pan.
Producer Charles Frohman skeptically agrees to mount Peter Pan, despite his belief that it holds no appeal for upper-class theatergoers. Barrie peppers the opening night audience with children from a nearby orphanage, and the adults present react to their infectious delight with an appreciation of their own. The play proves to be a huge success. Barrie is all set for his play, but when Peter arrives alone to the play, Barrie goes to Sylvia’s house to check up on her, and misses the show. Peter attends the play and realizes the play is about his brothers and Barrie.  Sylvia is too ill to attend the production, so Barrie arranges to have an abridged production of it performed in her home. He gets the actors, props, and musicians together in the Llewelyn Davies house. At the end of the play, Peter Pan points to the back doors and implies that Sylvia should go off to Neverland. She takes the hands of her boys and slowly walks out into Neverland. The living room and backyard transform into Neverland and Sylvia continues to walk on her own.

In the next scene everyone is at Sylvia’s funeral. Barrie discovers that her will says that he and her mother should look after the boys, an arrangement agreeable to both. The film ends with J. M. Barrie finding Peter on the bench in the park where they first met after Peter ran off from the graveyard. Peter is holding his book where he wrote the plays that he ripped apart and that his mother glued back together for him. Barrie sits down and puts his arm around Peter to comfort him. They both fade, and all that is left is the bench.

Peter Pan’s story may be told repeatedly, the process and struggles of his conception by Barrie have been done more than adequate justice by this film. It is a visual feast that will interest adults and children alike, and may be the best alternative to other failing versions of Peter Pan as it tells the story of the original boy who never grew up

 

REVIEW: PHONE BOOTH

CAST
Colin Farrell (Minority Report)
Kiefer Sutherland (Pompeii)
Forest Whitaker (Panic Room)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Katie Holmes (Batman Begins)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is an arrogant New York City publicist who has been courting a woman named Pam (Katie Holmes) behind his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell). He uses the last remaining public phone booth in the city to contact Pam. During the call, he is interrupted by a pizza delivery man, who attempts to deliver a free pizza to him, but Stu rudely turns him away by insulting his weight. As soon as Stu completes his call to Pam, the phone rings. Stu answers, to find that The Caller, who knows his name, warns him not to leave the booth, and says he will say hello to Pam for him. He also says he will call Kelly, leaving Stu panicked.
The caller tells Stu that he has tested two previous individuals who have done wrong deeds in a similar manner (one was a pedophile, the other was a company insider who cashed out his stock options before the share price collapsed), giving each a chance to reveal the truth to those they wronged, but in both cases, neither agreed and were killed. To demonstrate the threat, the caller fires a suppressed sniper rifle at a toy robot sold by a nearby vendor; the damage is unseen by anyone but Stu, the caller, and the vendor. The caller demands that Stu confess his feelings for Pam to both Kelly and Pam to avoid being killed. The caller contacts Pam, and puts her on line with Stu, who reveals that he is married. The caller then hangs up, telling Stu to call Kelly himself.
As Stu hesitates, the booth is approached by three prostitutes demanding to use the phone. Stu refuses to leave, having been warned by the caller to stay in the booth and not reveal the situation. Leon (John Enos III), the prostitutes’ pimp, joins his charges, smashes the side of the booth, grabs at Stu in a headlock and starts punching him. The caller offers to “make him stop” and asks if Stu can hear him, which Stu just answers positively, causing the caller to misunderstand Stu and shoot Leon. Leon staggers away before collapsing dead in the street. The prostitutes immediately blame Stu, making a scene over Leon’s body, accusing him of having a gun as the police and news crews converge on the location.
Police Captain Ed Ramey (Forest Whitaker), already suspecting Stu of being the killer, seals off the streets with police roadblocks and starts trying to negotiate to get him to leave the booth, but Stu refuses, telling the caller that there is no way they can incriminate him; the caller proves him wrong, calling his attention to a handgun that was planted in the roof of the phone booth. Both Kelly and Pam soon arrive on the scene. The caller demands that Stu tell Kelly the truth, which he does. The caller then orders Stu to choose between Kelly and Pam, and the woman he does not choose will be killed. While on the phone with the caller, Stu secretly uses his cell phone to call Kelly, allowing her to overhear his conversation with the caller. She, in turn, quietly informs Captain Ramey of this. Meanwhile, Stu continues to confess to everyone that his whole life is a lie, to make himself look more important than he really is or even feels. Stu’s confession provides sufficient distraction to allow the police to trace the payphone call to a nearby building, and Ramey uses coded messages to inform Stu of this. Stu warns the caller that the police are on the way, and the caller replies that if he is caught, then he will kill Kelly. Panicked, Stu grabs the handgun and leaves the booth, screaming for the sniper to kill him instead of Kelly. The police fire upon Stu, while a smaller force breaks into the room that the caller was tracked to, only to find the gun and a man’s corpse.
Stu regains consciousness to find the police fired only rubber bullets at him, stunning but not harming him. Stu and Kelly happily reunite. As the police bring down the body, Stu identifies it as the pizza delivery man from earlier. Stu gets medical treatment at a local ambulance; as he does, a man with a briefcase (Kiefer Sutherland) passes by and says that he regrets killing the pizza deliverer and warns Stu that if his new-found honesty does not last, he will be hearing from him again. The man disappears into the crowd with Stu unable to call out due to being sedated by the paramedics. As he does, someone else is being called from that same line. We only hear him say, “Hello?”.
This is a great movie, excellently written and very emotional. Colin Farrell’s desperation is great, and he has some funny lines. Kiefer Sutherland as the caller is great too, he’s really got the skills for this film and he shines as the uncompromising voice who’s really out to get Stu.

REVIEW: THE CRAZIES (2010)

 

CAST

Timothy Oyphant (Hitman)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Joe Anderson (Hannibal TV)
Danielle Panabaker (The Flash)
Christie Lynn Smith (Bones)
John Aylward (Armageddon)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl TV)
Larry Cedar (Deadwood)

The first five minutes of Breck Eisner’s The Crazies paint an almost comically detailed and earnest, Norman Rockwell-inspired vision of small-town America. The setting is Ogden Marsh, Iowa; the sun is shining, the grass is green, and folks are heading out to a baseball game. It’s such a literal illustration of our traditional Americana iconography that you half expect a shot of someone’s mom pulling an apple pie out of the oven.

Of course, all this follows a brief prologue that indicates the entire town will be on fire two days later, so it’s no big surprise that this Wal-Mar commercial has been set up only to be blown wide open. And it is, quickly; in the midst of the high school ballgame, resident Rory Hamill strolls onto the field with a nosebleed and a shotgun. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) approaches him, calmly; Rory’s got a bit of a drinking problem. Dutton tries to get him to put the gun down, but when Rory raises it, the sheriff instinctively, immediately shoots him in the head, as the whole town looks on.

It’s a whopper of an opening, taut and efficient–a description that could be applied to Eisner’s well-crafted remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 picture. Scott Kosar and Ray Wright’s screenplay telescopes the action a bit, keeping the government officials and soldiers as mostly faceless villains and focusing on Sheriff Dutton, his deputy Russell (Joe Anderson), and his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), the town doctor.

She’s the one who sees the next of the title characters, a local farmer whose wife is worried that “he’s… not right.” She has no idea; the farmer ends up chasing his wife and child into a closet with a knife, and then burns their farmhouse down. Sheriff Dutton eventually pinpoints the cause of the trouble–a recent plane crash appears to have somehow infected the drinking water, and folks are just plain losing their minds. He’s barely put all this together when the military descends upon the town to quarantine the residents, sick and well alike. Dutton, Judy, and Russell manage to escape the quarantine, along with Judy’s nurse (Danielle Panabaker); they spend the rest of the picture trying to escape their now-desolate town. Olyphant’s performance strikes just about the right note; he overplays an early scene with Rory’s widow, but mostly brings the right degree of square-jawed professionalism to the role, grabbing his moments on the fly, when he can. Mitchell’s role is a bit more thankless, but she imbues it with the right amount of steely determination.  Director Breck Eisner is a legitimately talented craftsman.