REVIEW: HIT ME

CAST

Elias Koteas (Crash)
Laure Marasc (Interview With The Vampire)
Jay Leggett (Another Day In Paradise)
Bruce Ramsey (Killing Zoe)
Kevin J. O’ Connor (Van Helsing)
Philip Baker Hall (Bruce Almighty)
William H. Macy (The Closer)
Jack Conley (L.A. Confidential)

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Based on Jim Thompson’s ‘A Swell Looking Babe’, ‘Hit Me’ is about a bellhop – Sonny – getting involved in a scheme to steal $500,000 from high-end, illegal poker players. The swell looking babe is a French girl, Monique, and Sonny thinks his share of the money will allow him to start a new life with her. That isn’t going to come easily. Monique is unreliable, hooked up with the criminals, and has suicidal tendencies. The path of love never does run smooth, does it? As in the book, Sonny is an interesting character, fuelled by three elements – his love of Monique, his hatred of his job, and his refusal to accept help to care for his disabled brother, Leroy. Sonny is over his head in it all, and once the heist goes pear-shaped, he’s frantically scraping around to try a make it clear.MSDHIME EC001Elias Kotsas does a decent job playing Sonny. He looks a lot like Robert De Niro and effectively gets across one of De Niro’s big skills – playing desperate psychosis. At times this can veer into comedy, and it’s unclear whether this is always intentional. Kotsas acts emotions very physically – mock-humping the air before he goes into Monique’s room and pepping himself up by jumping through four different positions before meeting the main poker player. As in Thompson’s novels, ‘Hit Me’ presents a world where no character can be trusted. Even the “good guy” – Sonny – is as shady and money grabbing as the rest, at one stage happily considering becoming a cocaine dealer. It’s film noir taken to its limits… not in terms of visual style but in terms of characterisation.image-w448Stacked up against the beautiful economy of Mamet’s ‘Heist’ or Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Hit Me’ does drag a little and doesn’t have quite enough twists and turns to merit lasting over two hours. And, whilst shot cleanly and effectively, it lacks cinematic impact. However, there’s a nice undercurrent of philosophising over the nature of survival and, whether you’re a Thompson fan or not, you could do worse than checking out this interesting little movie.

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REVIEW: THE SESSIONS


CAST

John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Helen Hunt (As Good as It get)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
Moon Bloodgood (Terminator: Salvation)
Annika Marks (Grace)
Adam Arkin (Halloween: H20)
Rhea Perlman (Cheers)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Robin Weigert (Deadwood)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander 2)

In Berkeley, California in 1988, Mark O’Brien is a poet who is forced to live in an iron lung due to complications from polio. Due to his condition, he has never had sex. After unsuccessfully proposing to his caretaker Amanda, and sensing he may be near death, he decides he wants to lose his virginity. After consulting his priest, Father Brendan, he gets in touch with Cheryl Cohen-Greene, a professional sex surrogate. She tells him they will have no more than six sessions together. They begin their sessions, but soon it is clear that they are developing romantic feelings for each other. Cheryl’s husband, who loves her deeply, fights to suppress his jealousy, at first withholding a love poem that Mark has sent by mail to Cheryl, which she eventually finds. After several attempts, Mark and Cheryl are able to have mutually satisfying sex, but decide to cut the sessions short on account of their burgeoning feelings.

One day sometime later, the power goes out in the building in which Mark lives, causing the iron lung to stop functioning and making it necessary for Mark to be rushed to the hospital. However, he survives and meets Susan Fernbach, a young woman with whom the audience senses he will finally find happiness. The film then cuts to Mark’s funeral, held sometime later, and attended by four of the women he came to know and care for, including Cheryl. Father Brendan gives the homily and Susan reads the poem he had previously sent Cheryl.As a whole, the film doesn’t shy away from much. The sex “therapy” sessions are depicted as realistically as possible and are both funny and touching. Ben Lewin’s direction is simple yet it manages to adequately depict O’Brien’s world without sensationalizing it. It’s an all round simple tale that is well told. This is an adult drama that will make you laugh, cry and look more positively at your own life. There aren’t many films that do that these days.

REVIEW: JURASSIC PARK III

CAST

Sam Neill (The Piano)
William H.Macy (The Cooler)
Téa Leoni (Ghost Town)
Alessandro Nivola (The Eye)
Trevor Morgan (The Glass House)
Michael Jeter (The Fisher King)
John Diehl (Nixon)
Laura Dern (Everything Must Go)
Mark Harelik (The Big Bang Theory)
Linda Park (Star Trek: Enterprise)

Ben Hildebrand and 12-year-old Eric Kirby go parasailing around the waters of Isla Sorna. An unknown creature attacks and kills the boat crew, forcing Ben to detach the line; he and Eric drift towards the island. On the mainland, Dr. Alan Grant has become famous after his involvement at Jurassic Park, while Ellie Sattler is married and has two children. Grant discusses with Sattler how raptors are far more intelligent than they had previously believed. At a dig site, Grant’s assistant, Billy Brennan, demonstrates how he can use a 3D printer to replicate a Velociraptor larynx.

Paul and Amanda Kirby, a seemingly wealthy couple, offer Grant funding for his research if he will give them an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. Desperate for research support, Grant reluctantly agrees. He flies there along with Paul, Amanda, Billy, and the Kirbys’ mercenary associates, Udesky, Cooper, and their pilot Nash. On the plane, Grant learns that the Kirbys actually plan to land on the island. When Grant opposes, he is knocked out by Cooper and wakes to the sound of Amanda using a megaphone. This attracts a Spinosaurus, which devours Cooper and Nash, and causes the plane to crash into the forest. Fleeing, the survivors briefly lose the Spinosaurus, only to encounter a Tyrannosaurus rex. The Spinosaurus returns, but the group escapes while the two carnivores fight each other. The Spinosaurus overpowers the T. rex and kills it.

Grant learns the Kirbys are actually a middle-class divorced couple, who are looking for their son Eric, and Amanda’s boyfriend Ben, who have been missing on the island for eight weeks. Later, the group finds the parasail with Ben’s corpse attached. The group takes the parasail, and then encounter raptor nests. They find an abandoned InGen compound, where Amanda is ambushed by a raptor. The group manages to trap it, but it escapes and contacts the rest of its pack. The group flees into a herd of Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus, causing a stampede, separating Grant and Udesky from the others. Grant retrieves Billy’s satchel, while Udesky is killed by the raptors.

Grant suspects the raptors are searching for something, while observing two of them communicating. He is then ambushed and cornered by the raptors, but is rescued by Eric, who managed to survive in an overturned water truck. The next day, Grant and Eric hear Paul’s satellite phone ringing and are reunited with the Kirbys and Billy. Paul explains that he gave the phone to Nash before he was devoured, before the group is attacked by the Spinosaurus. After the group escapes, Grant discovers Billy took two raptor eggs to use for funding, which provoked the raptor attacks. He decides to keep the eggs to ensure the group’s survival. The group unknowingly enters a large aviary used to house Pteranodons, which attack the group and fly away with Eric. Billy rescues Eric by using Ben’s parasail, but is then attacked and seemingly killed by the Pteranodons. The rest of the group escapes the aviary, unintentionally leaving the door unlocked. They make their way downriver using a boat.

That night, the group hears the phone ringing buried in the faeces of the Spinosaurus and retrieves it. As rain falls, Grant tries to contact Sattler, but the Spinosaurus attacks the boat. Grant and Paul scare it off by setting the boat’s fuel on fire. The next day, the group makes their way towards the shoreline, but are surrounded by the raptors once again. The eggs are surrendered to the raptors, while Grant uses the replicated raptor larynx to confuse the pack, who run off with the eggs. The group flees to the coast and find that Sattler had called in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to rescue them. They discover that Billy, while seriously injured, is still alive. As they leave the island, they see the Pteranodons flying free, and Grant muses they are looking for new nesting grounds.Overall though, “Jurassic Park 3” is well-acted, generally passably written (by “Election”‘s Alexander Payne and two other writers) and offers up just what it says it will – 90 minutes of solid thrills, well-staged and consistently exciting. It certainly won’t go down as one of best films films, but I definitely thought it was  most entertaining.

REVIEW: MYSTERY MEN

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Hank Azaria (Godzilla)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
Janeane Garofalo (Wet Hot American Summer)
Kel Mitchell (Kenan & Kel)
Wes Studi (Avatar)
Greg Kinnear (A Few Good Men)
Paul Reubens (Gotham)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speach)
Lena Olin (Alias)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Artie Lange (Rescue Me)
Claire Forlani (Mallrats)
Tom Waits (The Book of Eli)
Gerry Becker (Angel)
Money Mazur (rageing Angels)
Marie Matiko (Xena)
Dane Cook (Good Luck Chuck)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)

In the metropolis of Champion City, the would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city’s most successful superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining (some of them are either dead, in exile, or still in jail), his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding. To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of insane supervillain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush). The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P (Eddie Izzard) and his Disco Boys, Casanova Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash a doomsday device: the “Psycho-frakulator”, which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Casanova Frankenstein’s mansion, discovers Amazing’s capture and informs the others.

After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), the Spleen (Paul Reubens), and the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo). The newly formed team “assaults” Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx (Wes Studi). The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in Chiasmus. They also seek out mad scientist Doc Heller (Tom Waits), who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.
Mystery Men (1999)
The group breaks into Casanova’s mansion during a gathering of several of the city’s gangs; but, while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs of saving the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them.
Mystery Men (1999)
With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion and, by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller’s weapons, manage to subdue most of Casanova Frankenstein’s henchmen. Unfortunately, as the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious’ girlfriend Monica (Claire Forlani) hostage, and proceeds to activate the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city. While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps The Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device and escape the mansion as it implodes.
Mystery Men (1999)
The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue among themselves, one reporter states “Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these ‘Mystery Men’,” but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.

Mystery Men (1999)

The casting is perfect. Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, William H. Macy as the Shoveler, Paul Reubens as the Spleen, Janeane Garofalo as the Bowler, Hank Azaria as the Blue Raja, Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy and Wes Studi as the Sphinx. They all played it straight, which was what sold it given that they’re really ridiculous characters and made you feel for these guys and cheer them on as they bumbled their way through their adventure.  It’s just simply fun.

REVIEW: THE HEIST

CAST

Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Morgan Freeeman (The Dark Knight Rises)
William H. Macy (The Cooler)
Joseph McKenna (Shutter Island)
Wynn Everett (Agent Carter)
Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River)
Breckin Meyer (Road Trip)

Roger (Christopher Walken) is a security guard at an art museum who is only rarely in motion, opting rather to stare at his favorite painting, The Lonely Maiden, a beautiful woman staring forlornly out into the distance. Despite the fact he has a wife, Rose (Marcia Gay Harden), he’s become rather obsessed with the painting. Rose wants Roger to retire so they can move to Florida. One afternoon, Roger learns that several pieces including The Lonely Maiden are to be permanently moved to another museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Unable to follow the maiden, Roger falls into despair until he meets Charles (Morgan Freeman), another guard who has a similar attraction to a painting on another floor of a woman with cats.

George (William H. Macy) is also obsessed with a piece of art, a nude sculpture of a Greek warrior; he often strips down and poses naked beside it during his night shift. Using the advantages between their shifts and experience, George comes up with the idea to steal their favorite works of art and replace them with replicas. Roger volunteers to tag the artworks being shipped, while Charles and George seek assistance in replicating their favorites. Because Charles is a painter, he’s able to do the cat painting perfectly, but he fails in capturing The Lonely Maiden. The men hire a street artist (Breckin Meyer) for that task, forcing Roger to steal Rose’s Florida vacation savings to pay for the job. Rose becomes suspicious and nearly ends up having Roger taken off the volunteer staff. George manages to replicate “his” sculpture and the Maiden copy is also completed.

On the day of the switch, George sneaks into the warehouse in the crate with the statue. He successfully swaps the three marked pieces, but can’t resist stripping down and posing with the statue. A guard shows up, forcing George to hide in the crate without his clothes. The next morning, when Roger and Charlie (with the unwitting accompaniment of Rose) come to collect him, the crate containing George ends up in the wrong van. A panic-stricken Charlie gives chase, and they manage to successfully rescue George, who emerges from the shipping crate unclothed, much to Rose’s shock.

Having pulled off the heist without getting caught, they retire from their jobs and Rose is none the wiser. On a trip to Florida, Roger is enthralled by Rose as she looks out over the ocean because she strikingly resembles the Lonely Maiden pose. Their love life is rekindled. Meanwhile, the three men hide their treasures in a shack on Charles’ apartment roof so that they can go and view them at their leisure. However, when Roger looks at the painting, it doesn’t inspire him like it once did. He smiles and remembers his wife. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, a guard on duty passes a painting and looks at it, smiling.

This is just light, funny entertainment, and there are lots of funny scenes. They are all good, but my favorite is Walken, who is a master comic even though he is more known for his tough guy roles. A very enjoyable movie.

REVIEW: THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

CAST
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight Rises)
Maria Bello (The Closer)
Cameron Bright (The Butterfly Effect)
Sam Elliott (Hulk)
Katie Holmes (Batman Begins)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Renee Graham (The Convent)
Adam Brody (Mr. & Mrs. Smith)
Rob Lowe (Waynes World)
Dennis Miller (What Happens in Vegas)
Nick Naylor is a handsome, smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist and the vice-president of a tobacco lobby called the “Academy of Tobacco Studies”, which for 15 years has been “researching” the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer. They claim that their research—funded primarily by tobacco companies—has found no definitive evidence of any linkage. Naylor’s job consists mainly of reporting the questionable research of the “Academy” to the public and defending Big Tobacco on television programs by questioning opposing health claims and advocating personal choice. Naylor and his friends, firearm lobbyist Bobby Jay Bliss and alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey, meet every week and jokingly call themselves the “Merchants of Death” or “The MOD Squad”. As anti-tobacco campaigns mount and numbers of young smokers decline, Naylor suggests that product placement of cigarettes could once again boost cigarette sales. Naylor’s boss, BR, sends Naylor to Los Angeles to bargain for cigarette placement in upcoming movies. Naylor takes along his young son Joey in hopes of bonding with him. The next day, Naylor is sent to meet with Lorne Lutch, the cancer-stricken man who once played the Marlboro Man in cigarette ads and is now campaigning against cigarettes. As his son watches, Naylor successfully offers Lutch a suitcase of money for his silence. During the drive back, Nick and Joey discuss the beauty of argument.
 Senator Finistirre, one of Naylor’s most vehement critics, is the promoter of a bill to add a skull and crossbones POISON warning to cigarette packaging. During a televised debate with Finistirre, Naylor receives a death threat from a caller. Despite the threat, Naylor still plans to appear before a U.S. Senate committee to fight Finistirre’s bill. Naylor is then kidnapped and covered in nicotine patches. Awakening in a hospital, he learns that the very high nicotine tolerance level resulting from his smoking has saved him from death by nicotine poisoning, but now he is hypersensitive to nicotine and can never smoke again.
Meanwhile, Naylor has been seduced by a young reporter named Heather Holloway. During their steamy fling, the besotted Naylor tells Holloway all about his life and career—information that she happily publishes in an exposé that appears just after the kidnapping. Her article relentlessly bashes Naylor and his work, exposing Lutch’s bribe, the product-placement scheme, and the MOD squad. It accuses Naylor of training his son Joey to follow his amoral example. All public sympathy due to Naylor’s kidnapping evaporates, and Naylor is fired by BR. Naylor falls into depression until Joey helps him recall the integrity in his job of defending corporations that almost no one feels deserve a defense.
Rejuvenated, Naylor tells the press about his affair with Holloway and promises to clear the names of everyone mentioned in her article. He also declares that he will still appear before the Senate committee. At the hearing, Naylor admits to the dangers of smoking but argues that public awareness is already high enough without extra warnings. He emphasizes consumer choice and responsibility and, to the dismay of Senator Finistirre, claims that if tobacco companies are guilty of tobacco-related deaths, then perhaps Finistirre’s state of Vermont, as a major cheese producer, is likewise guilty of cholesterol-related deaths.
BR congratulates Naylor on the speech and offers him his old job but Naylor has a change of heart. Seeing Big Tobacco settling claims of liability, Naylor remarks that he has left just in time. He also mentions Heather was humiliated upon being terminated by the paper for her article and is working as a weather reporter on a local news station. Naylor supports his son’s newfound interest in debating and opens a private lobbying firm. As he consults cellphone industry representatives concerned about claims that cellphones cause brain cancer, he narrates: “Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.”
Full of great lines and a redemptive story arc that is actually believable the films greatest triumph is in the casting which is flawless for virtually every role.

 

REVIEW: WAG THE DOG

CAST

Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Anne Heche (Spread)
Denis Leary (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Willie Nelson (The Dukas of Hazzard)
Andrea Martin (BLack Christmas)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
William H. Macy (The Cooler)
John Michael Higgins (Stil LWaiting)
Suzie Plakson (Red Eyed)
Woody Harrelson (The Hugner Games)
Suzanne Cryer (Veronica Mars)
Phil Morris (Jingle All The Way)
John Cho (Sleepy Hollow)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
Craig T. Nelson (My Name Is Earl)
The President of the United States is caught making advances on an underage “Firefly Girl” less than two weeks before Election Day. Conrad Brean (De Niro), a top-notch spin doctor, is brought in to take the public’s attention away from the scandal. He decides to construct a diversionary war with Albania, hoping the media will concentrate on this instead. Brean contacts Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Hoffman) to create the war, complete with a theme song and fake film footage of a photogenic orphan (Dunst) in Albania.
When the CIA learns of the plot, they send Agent Young (Macy) to confront Brean who convinces him that revealing the deception is against his best interests. The CIA announces that the war has ended, but otherwise maintains the deception and the media begins to turn back to the President’s abuse scandal. Motss decides to invent a hero who was left behind enemy lines, and inspired by idea that he was “discarded like an old shoe” has the Pentagon provide him with a soldier named Schumann (Harrelson) around whom he constructs a further narrative including T-shirts, additional patriotic songs, and faux-grassroots demonstrations of patriotism. At each stage of the plan, Motss continually dismisses setbacks as “nothing” and compares them to past movie-making catastrophes he averted.
When the team goes to retrieve Schumann, they discover he is in fact a criminally insane Army prison convict before their plane crashes en route to Andrews Air Force Base. The team survives and is rescued by a farmer, but Schumann attempts to rape the farmer’s daughter and the farmer kills him. Motss then stages an elaborate military funeral, claiming that Schumann died from wounds sustained during his rescue.
While watching a political talk show Motss gets frustrated that the media are crediting the president’s win to a tired campaign slogan of “Don’t change horses in mid-stream” rather than Motss’s hard work. Despite previously claiming he was inspired by the challenge, Motss announces that he wants credit and will reveal his involvement, despite Brean’s warning that he is “playing with his life”. Motss refuses to back down, so Brean reluctantly has him killed and makes it look as if he had a heart attack. The president is successfully re-elected and a news report about a violent incident in Albania is shown, but it is ambiguous whether this is a true event or simply a continuation of the fictional war.
“Wag the dog” gathers a very good cast to tell a clever story about politics and its close connection to the TV business. Although the story sometimes seems to be topped by real-life events (Clinton-Lewinsky) it still remains a very entertaining flick. This is due to the many great characters and its precise dialogue which delivers a whole lot of sharp little comments on the dirty business of politics.