REVIEW: TWO FOR THE MONEY

CAST

Al Pacino (Simone)
Matthew McConaughey (EDTV)
Rene Russo (Thor)
Armand Assante (Judge Dredd)
Carly Pope (Arrow)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Jaime King (Sin City)
Ralph Garman (Yoga Hosers)

Brandon Lang (McConaughey) is a former college football star who, after sustaining a career-ending injury, takes a job handicapping football games. His success at choosing winners catches the eye of Walter Abrams (Pacino), the slick head of one of the biggest sports consulting operations in the United States. Walter takes Brandon under his wing, and soon they are making tremendous amounts of money.

Lang’s in-depth knowledge of the game, leagues and players brings in big winnings and bigger clients. Abrams’ cable television show, The Sports Advisors, skyrockets in popularity when he adds Lang’s slick “John Anthony” persona to the desk, infuriating Jerry Sykes (Jeremy Piven), who up to now has been Walter’s in-house expert. Lang’s total image is remade — new car, new wardrobe and a new look with the assistance of Walter’s wife, Toni (Russo), a hair stylist.

Things suddenly go south, however, when Lang begins playing his hunches instead of doing his homework. He loses his touch and is even physically assaulted by the thugs of a gambler (Armand Assante) who lost a great deal of money following Lang’s advice. Lang and Abrams’ once-solid relationship sours. Lang’s new high-rolling lifestyle depends entirely on his ability to predict the outcomes of the games. Millions are at stake by the time he places his last bet, and Abrams grows increasingly unstable. (Abrams is a recovering gambling addict and alcoholic, among other things. Toni tells Lang early on that Walter’s life is “held together by meetings; if there’s an ‘anonymous’ at the end of it, he goes. He has to.”). He secretly begins gambling all of his own money on Lang’s picks and becomes suspicious that Lang is having an affair with his wife.

The film concludes with Lang’s predictions coming true for the last game, both of which he allegedly determines by flipping coins in a bathroom, as he leaves New York and takes a job as coach of a junior league football team.

Not a great movie by any means, but some truly fine acting from the trio of stars. The supporting cast also gives solid roles despite the skimpy script. If gambling of any sort, and sports gambling in particular, is of interest to you, then this is a movie to recommend. Otherwise see it for the actors, not the story.

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REVIEW: THOR: THE DARK WORLD

CAST

Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of The Lambs)
Christopher Eccleston (G.I. Joe)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Zachary Levi (Chuck)
Ray Stevenson (Punisher: Warzone)
Tadanobu Asano (Mongul)
Idris Elba (Pacific Rim)
Rene Russo (Get Shorty)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Sucide Squad)
Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact)
Clive Russell (Sherlock Holmes)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Benicio Del Toro (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Chris Evans (Injustice)
Ophelia Lovibond (4.3.2.1)

After learning about a new powerful foe that even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must embark on another dangerous mission. This time, the risk is much more personal than it ever has been for this powerful hero. With both Asgard and Earth facing the chance of destruction, he must sacrifice everything by reuniting with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in order to save us all. This forces Thor to request help from the most unlikely of characters. If they aren’t able to stop the ominous danger that approaches us, then this universe will belong to the darkness.

Picking up a couple years after the previous Thor motion picture, this sequel gets started rather quickly. A bulk of the plot is carried from the perspective of Jane Foster and her intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings). While there’s still a small amount of humor to be seen in the beginning from Asgard, the majority of it comes from the humans.

The casting is excellent. Chris Hemsworth returns in the role of Thor.  Natalie Portman is pretty solid, as she always is. While this isn’t the most memorable performance of her career, she’s convincing as Jane Foster. Anthony Hopkins is a satisfying Odin, as he was in the previous picture. However, the real star of Thor: The Dark World is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He’s clearly one of the most charming and entertaining actors to portray a role from the Marvel universe. While he always seems to receive good material, Hiddleston’s delivery is simply unparalleled.

When it comes to the visual department, always expect incredible effects. Thor: The Dark World looks fantastic from its opening scene until the quick scene after the credits. The make-up, costumes, and special effects blend together in an impeccable fashion. These elements aid audiences in becoming a part of this universe.

 

REVIEW: THOR

CAST

Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of The Lambs)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Colm Feore (Gotham)
Idris Elba (Pacific Rim)
Ray Stevenson (Punisher: Warzone)
Tadanobu Asano (Mongul)
Josh Dallas (Red Tails)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Rene Russo (Get Shorty)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)

As the film opens, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is moments away from ascending to the throne of Asgard. The coronation is cut short by invading frost giants seeking to reclaim what was once the source of their power. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) — the omniscient ruler of the Norse gods as well as the father of Thor — had long ago taken precautions to stave off those sorts of threats, and the small invading force is almost immediately vanquished. Still, Thor is incensed: ancient enemies of the Asgardians having actually stepped foot inside the palace…the untold havoc they could have wrought. The only rational response, to his mind, is to wage war on the frost giants’ realm of Jotunheim — to exterminate those savage beasts once and for all. Thor mistakenly believes a swift, merciless retaliation would be following in his father’s footsteps. The difference is that Odin knows all too well the heavy price of war; Thor does not. Despite an express command from Odin, who yet still reigns as king, Thor enlists the help of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston),


Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, and Josh Dallas) to strike back. With the unyielding might of Mjolnir at his side, Thor mercilessly slaughters dozens — perhaps hundreds — of the greatest warriors under the command of King Laufey (Colm Feore). Thor’s thirst for vengeance threatens to consume the entire frostbitten realm — not to mention the lives of his closest allies — but the battle is cut short. Odin storms in to restore the uneasy peace between Asgard and Jotunheim that, until now, had lasted for millenia. Just as Laufey had suffered heavy losses, so too must Odin. An enchantment is cast upon Mjolnir that only one who is worthy can lift it. Thor is stripped of his armor and his title. Then, Thor too is cast aside, forever exiled to the realm of Midgard…or, as the creatures inhabiting that oversized ball of mud call it, “Earth”.

Trapped in an unfamiliar world. Powerless. Alone. Well, “alone” doesn’t last all that long. The atmospheric effects of Bifrost — the opening of the rainbow bridge to Earth — had already attracted the attention of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who’s been doing some post-grad physics research in this sleepy, remote stretch of desert in New Mexico with colleague Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and snarky assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings). With the occasionally reluctant help of his newfound friends, Thor tries to adjust to what he’s certain will be a brief derailment on Midgard, and he does what he can to prepare for his return home. Still a seasoned warrior despite a lack of mystical armament, Thor even battles his way through a government stronghold in an attempt to reclaim Mjolnir. Triumph is snatched away from him when Thor discovers the hammer’s enchantment has deemed him unworthy, and his sorrow only grows upon receiving a message from his brother Loki…that the toll this ordeal has taken on their father was greater than even the mighty Allfather could bear…that Thor is doomed to live among the mortals forever. Being cutoff from his homeland means that Thor has no idea what sorts of machinations have wrapped their fingers around the throat of Asgard, and the havoc that results soon spills over onto Earth.
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Kat Dennings shoulders a lot of the comic relief, and she manages to connect every single time she steps up to the plate. The fish-out-of-water humor — a god trapped in a backwater New Mexico town that seems content to live as if it’s still 1954 — is more inspired than usual. There’s even a running gag with Jane plowing into Thor with her SUV, and, yeah, the good-ol’-boys in town react to a magical hammer falling from the sky by throwing a big-ass barbecue. It’s fun but never dumb or overly cartoonish, and Branagh walks that delicate line flawlessly.Having an accomplished actor like Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair clearly brought out the best of all the actors.  Thor explores what heroism is in a way that resonates so much more truly and more deeply that most comic book adaptations. The film delivers the visual spectacle and awe-inspiring action you’d hope to see in a summer tentpole without losing sight of its smartly crafted screenplay or impressively rich characterization.

REVIEW: GET SHORTY

 

CAST

John Travolta (The Punisher)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Rene Russo (Thor)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Dennis Farina (Luck)
Delroy Lindo (Gone in 60 Seconds)
James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly)
Jon Gries (Men In Black)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs)
Alex Rocco (The Simpsons)

In Get Shorty, John Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a mobster who works out of Miami and is affiliated with a big time thug named Ray Bones (Dennis Farina). Ray is a violent man who doesn’t like to be messed with, and Chili takes care of business for him. Ray sends Chili out to Las Vegas to collect on a sizable debt owed to him, but once he’s there, a casino big wig talks Chili into rerouting over to Los Angeles to collect an even larger amount owed by a filmmaker named Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). Harry is an eclectic man, who produces and directs low budget b-grade horror movies out of California. When Chili heads out that way and gets a taste for filmmaking industry, he figures he can use the skills he learned while working in the mafia to produce his own movies, with a little bit of help from Harry.

Soon Chili gets involved with Harry and his cohorts – Karen Flores (Rene Russo), a b-movie actress and Harry’s go to girl for all of his films; Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo), Harry’s money man who gets all of his disposable income and investment capital from selling drugs; and Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), Karen’s ex-husband who happens to be a pretty recognizable star in Hollywood, something his insanely inflated ego is only all too happy to tell you about. Weir’s nickname happens to be Shorty.

While Chili and his new friends are out in LA making movies, Ray Bones is wondering what happened to him and so he heads out to California to check things out for himself. Chile begins to fall in love with Karen as they spend more time together, and a whole lot of people are going on about a locker at the Los Angeles airport that’s got a whole lot of money stored inside of it.

John Travolta  plays his role with just enough smugness to remind us he’s a hood, but at the same time as the movie goes along and he gets involved with Karen and starts to make his film, we find he’s not a totally unlikable guy – and he never loses his cool. Travolta delivers the dialogue perfectly, as does the rest of the cast, notably Hackman and DeVito who are both great in their supporting roles. Dennis Farino does an admirable job playing the heavy, and seeing James Gandolfini in a small role playing a bodyguard is fun as well.

The main reason to see the film t is for the fun and witty story, and solid performances.