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3470 reviews in total 
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Nancy Drew takes up killing, 12 October 2014

At the age of 12, Rachael (Mila Kunis) is held captive by Patrick Bateman along with her babysitter. She manages to escape leaving behind a dead Patrick. She doesn't tell anybody and becomes fascinated with psycho killers. Six years later, she's an ace student eagerly attending professor Starkman (William Shatner)'s class. She is pushing to be the new class assistant and on the fast track to the FBI. But the school administrator doesn't let freshmen apply. That's before she was murdered by a hooded killer. Brian (Robin Dunne) is a scheming rich boy with poor grades who is underhandedly pushing for the same job.

Mary Harron is gone. Of course, Christian Bale is nowhere to be seen. That's not all there is to the changes. The tone is all light weight. It feels like Nancy Drew takes up killing. That music just makes everything worst. So one must abandon the original to see this movie for what it is and not what one wants it to be. A serial killing Nancy Drew is not the worst concept. I wish it was done better and without that annoying music. About halfway thru, there is a nice little reveal. It changes the tone temporarily to something better but it changes back. That music and the comical tone just makes this movie feel very cheesy. Even the final reveal which is nice cannot save this.

cliché sentimental movie and that's fine by me, 12 October 2014

Cale Crane (Dakota Fanning) lives on a horse farm with no horses. Their farm is holding on with her mother Lily (Elisabeth Shue) working as a diner waitress. Her father Ben (Kurt Russell) doesn't get along with his father Pop (Kris Kristofferson). Ben trains horses for the rich owner Palmer (David Morse) who races his horse despite Ben's advise. The horse is injured and Palmer wants to put her down. Palmer fires Ben. Ben takes the horse for compensation. Partly through obsession, partly through skills, partly with love, and the hard work of everybody including Manolin (Freddy Rodriguez) and Balon (Luis Guzman), they bring her back to health. It's a roller-coaster ride when they find out that she is infertile.

This is an unabashed sentimental movie. Russell is great as the strong solid father under pressure. It's a good move that his character is healing the horse for the money rather than any moral stance. Fanning is adorable enough and spunky enough. It's a terrific underdog story. The movie is full of familiar clichés. It's probably too overloaded with them but Russell and Fanning make them work most of the time.

Nighthawks (1981)
not the best cop pairing and odd for them to battle a terrorist, 12 October 2014

Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) are two tough NY cops fighting street crimes who are transferred to an anti-terrorism squad. Deke wants to get back with his ex Irene (Lindsay Wagner). Heymar Reinhardt (Rutger Hauer) is a terrorist also known as The Wulfgar Command. His bombings in Europe is causing chaos against the west. Then he fights and kills one of his cohorts. He goes on the run to NYC where he continues to create havoc. Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport) has been hunting him for a long time and is brought in to lead the anti-terrorism efforts.

It would have been better to have the police come after Wulfgar after he commits the first attack in NYC. It would be more realistic for police to take the threats lightly without any actual evidence of an impending attack. It's also more dramatic for the police to be behind and trying to catch up. Not to mention that it makes no sense for the anti-terrorism squad to pull two street cops to fight a threat that may not even exist. The confrontation between Deke and Hartman in the police meeting room seems awkwardly wrong. Sly and Billy Dee never develop enough chemistry for a police buddy duo. They are not always together. Nevertheless, it has some good grittiness. The three leads are good at their roles especially Rutger Hauer. It makes up for some of its deficiencies.

Epic and compelling human drama, 12 October 2014

Union soldier Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is horribly wounded. Instead of allowing the surgeon to cut off his foot, he rides into the Confederate lines intending to commit suicide. It proves to be a distraction that wins an Union victory. The admiring visiting general gives him any position and he chooses to go west before it's gone. The isolated outpost is deserted after the disappearance of the soldiers. He is alone with his horse with only a wolf to keep company. The neighboring Lakota tribe makes contact and gives him the name of Dances with Wolves. Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) is the leader, Wind In His Hair (Rodney A. Grant) is the wild young buck, and Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell) is a white woman adopted into the tribe ever since she was a child.

This is both an epic and a compelling human story. It's a western but even more than the old formula. The comic relief that is usually in the old western like Maury Chaykin and Robert Pastorelli are instead used as characters of quirky madness. Kevin Costner gives the film's quiet leading man. The thing that truly sets this apart from the normal Hollywood western is the authentic attempt at native characters and culture. It's not only their sincere attempt at the language and the use of native actors. It is that they are human beings. The communication problems is done expertly. That doesn't always happen even in modern movies. Graham Greene is excellent as a leading voice of the Lakota Sioux band.

A missing element in the comedy group, 11 October 2014

Fabious (James Franco) is the heroic perfect son of King Tallious. Thadeous (Danny McBride) is the pathetic lazy brother. After defeating the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), Fabious proposes to marry the virgin Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) who he rescued from a tower. Fabious's Knights Elite led by Boremont (Damian Lewis) ridicules Thadeous. Julie (Toby Jones) is a courtier. When Belladonna is kidnapped by Leezar, Thadeous is forced to go on the quest with Fabious. On the way, they are rescued by the skilled fighter Isabel (Natalie Portman) who agrees to travel together.

Danny McBride is a little too mean-spirited. It's good that he's pathetic. It's off-putting for him to be so bitter. I feel like there is a missing element in the comedy group. It needs a goofy fun guy that somebody like Seth Rogen could play. There is a lightness that is missing from this comedy. The jokes are adolescent but workable and sometimes even funny. The addition of Natalie Portman is good but she comes in after around half of the movie is over. Her best quality is to be the straight man calling out McBride. She improves the group dynamics markedly. I want her in the movie earlier. I just think that something is missing from the Franco McBride pairing.

Hanks a little too jokey, 11 October 2014

David Basner (Tom Hanks) is a lovable cocky successful Chicago ad exec who just got promoted returning from vacation. He wants his boss Charlie Gargas (Hector Elizondo) to make him partner. Then his mother (Eva Marie Saint) leaves his father (Jackie Gleason). He must shuttle between his stubborn crass father, and his mother who is happy with her new found freedom. Donna Mildred Martin (Bess Armstrong) is his best friend and high school sweethearts. He is trying to land a big airline account and uses his charm on the owner Andrew Woolridge (Barry Corbin). He sleeps with the media director Cheryl Ann Wayne (Sela Ward) who turns out to be Woolridge's daughter. His father does nothing but complains and is struggling. Then he gets fired from his salesman job.

This movie tries too hard to be jokey. Director Garry Marshall is allowing Hanks to clown around a little too much. The broad comedy doesn't quite fit seeing how he's suppose to be a professional sweet talking the client. He is playing strictly as a wild creative ad exec who jokes around. The broad jokes don't fit either when the movie tries to move into more serious territories. The serious stuff has a bit more heft and that's due to genius of Jackie Gleason. He and Hanks have pretty good chemistry. I also have a minor problem with the over-use of montages to drive the story forward. It's lazy writing.

Overwrought plodding political melodrama wears thin, 11 October 2014

Jack Burden (Jude Law) is a Louisiana newspaper reporter. Willie Stark (Sean Penn) is the parish treasurer for the small town of Mason City. He is tired of the rampant corruption and isn't running again. Then a schoolhouse collapse brings Stark back but this time to run as governor with the help of political operator Tiny Duffy (James Gandolfini). Burden knows that Stark is only there to split the poor crackers' votes. After political strategist Sadie Burke (Patricia Clarkson) let the cat out of the bag, Stark goes populist hick against Duffy and the upper class. Stark wins by a landslide and he is confronted by the elite. Stark hires Burden as an adviser after he quit the newspaper. Duffy now works as the lieutenant governor. Sugar Boy (Jackie Earle Haley) is his scary driver. Burden's godfather Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins) is very influential and joins the effort to impeach Stark. Stark assigns Jack to find some dirt on Irwin. Brother and sister Adam (Mark Ruffalo) and Anne Stanton (Kate Winslet) are Burden's childhood friends and the upper class children of a former governor. Stark's womanizing ways starts with Sadie Burke, everyone wearing a skirt, and eventually Burden's first love Anne Stanton.

This movie is all style but no energy. Everybody is putting in a heavy effort. The direction is weighted down. The movie sinks under all that heaviness. The dialog is tedious and spoken as if the world depends on it. There is no life in either Steven Zaillian's directions or script. The story moves so slowly that Zaillian may have been lost in the grandness of the attempt. Sean Penn and James Gandolfini are all mannerisms and impersonations. I guess Sean Penn's overacting can be excused because of the character. It doesn't make it any more appealing. Jude Law is surprisingly lifeless. It's just all so tired.

C.O.G. (2013)
great acting from Corey Stoll in supporting role, 11 October 2014

David (Jonathan Groff) takes a break from his ivy league world for an apple picking job. He's a spoiled, self-assured bookworm. His Mexican co-workers don't understand him. His boss Hobbs (Dean Stockwell) barely tolerates his lack of work ethics. Jon (Denis O'Hare) is handing out religious flyers titled COG. His friend Jennifer is suppose to join him but she leaves the job for a new boyfriend. Curly (Corey Stoll) drives the forklift at the apple plant. After an awkward night with Curly, he abandons his job, somebody steals his money, and he only has Jon to help. He stays with Martha (Casey Wilson) and her family. His atheism, his lack of a love life, his sexuality, and his attitude are all challenged.

I think the story is meant to be quirky comical. However that is not the prevailing sense from director Kyle Patrick Alvarez. Groff's character is too much of an annoying know-it-all. After all, that is the character as written but it would be more effective if he does what he does because of clueless kindness. The one great character is played by Corey Stoll. He does a fun disturbing performance. It's too bad that he's only a supporting character, but he's a good one. This never got funny. Sometimes it got disturbing. It may have even gotten profound although that could argued either way. The ending is somewhat truncated which is problematic for some people. I'm not one of them. Movies don't have to be about resolving something. I just didn't get involved in David's journey.

Eastwood perfect for the role, 11 October 2014

Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is a no non-sense secret service agent who is stilled haunted by his failure at the Kennedy assassination. He has a young eager partner Al D'Andrea (Dylan McDermott). They investigate Joseph McCrawley as a possible threat to the president. Then Frank gets a call from McCrawley (John Malkovich) who is fixated on him. Agent Bill Watts (Gary Cole) in charge of the presidential detail doesn't want to hear it but agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo) is interested. Frank gets back on the presidential detail with the help of mentor Sam Campagna (John Mahoney).

Despite its two hours running time, director Wolfgang Petersen weaves a tightly wound thriller. Clint Eastwood is the perfect choice for the world wearied expert agent. John Malkovich has a creepy menace to him. Also I love the wooden gun. It's not a complicated story but Eastwood keeps our attention throughout.

Oldboy (2013)
Lost the surrealism, 11 October 2014

It's 1993. Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is an angry ad exec who misses his daughter's 3rd birthday for a business diner. He is a womanizing drunk. He gets kidnapped and finds himself imprisoned in a motel-like room. He gets gassed periodically. He watches news report that he is assumed to have raped and killed his ex-wife. He vowed to clean up his act and makes an escape attempt 20 years later. He gets gassed again and finds himself in a suitcase trunk in an open field. He is led to nurse Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen) working at a mobile clinic. He reconnects to an old friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli) who was the last guy to see him. Chucky helps him investigate who it was that imprisoned him. Joe passes out and Chucky calls in nurse Marie. Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson) is the prison warden. The mysterious stranger (Sharlto Copley) is threatening his daughter. Then the stranger offers him vindicating evidence, his daughter's safety, $20 million in diamonds and the promise to kill himself if Joe can find out who he is and why he did it.

It is hard to rate this because I saw the original first. That takes the surprise twist ending out of it for me. Director Spike Lee is doing a very straight logical interpretation of the surreal Korean original. It's dark and stark. It doesn't really have the magic and the weird left turns that the original keeps taking. The constant straightening out leaves this movie cold and unimaginative. It becomes nothing more than a revenge movie with a twist. Worst of all, Spike Lee left out the live octopus eating. I do like the final poetic ending. That is a nice little surreal touch.

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