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George Michael: Freedom (2017)
George Michael: Freedom
The world was shocked by the news that music icon George Michael had died, Christmas Day 2016, from natural causes (as a result of dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and a fatty liver), aged 53. This film, which he directed himself, alongside David Austin, was completed two days before his sudden death, so additional material was added, it serves as both a celebration and a tribute of the life and career of the acclaimed singer-songwriter. George Michael was born 25th June 1963, he formed the pop duo Wham! in 1981, alongside Andrew Ridgeley, and they had great success with many Top 10 and chart-topping songs, including "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)", "Young Guns (Go for It)", "Bad Boys", "Club Tropicana", "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Freedom", "Everything She Wants", "Last Christmas", "I'm Your Man" and "The Edge of Heaven". In 1984, George recorded some solo work, including Number One songs "Careless Whisper" and "A Different Corner", and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)", the duet with Aretha Franklin, before the breakup of Wham! in 1986. George released his first solo album, Faith, in 1987, hit songs from the album included "I Want Your Sex", "Faith", "Father Figure", "One More Try" and "Kissing a Fool", the album went on to win at the Grammys, the MTV Video Music Awards, the BRITs, and the American Music Awards (awards then were normally given to black artists). His second solo album released was Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, featuring hit songs "Praying for Time", "Freedom '90" (the music video does not feature George, he directed it, it features supermodels, including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford), "Waiting for That Day", "Heal the Pain" - which later became a duet with Sir Paul McCartney, "Cowboys and Angels" and "Waiting (Reprise)", but George refused to appear on the album cover, or do any real promotion for the album, it went on to win at the BRIT Awards. He released many songs and went on stage, including "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" - the duet with Sir Elton John, "They Won't Go When I Go" (a Stevie Wonder cover), "Living in the City" - live duet with Stevie Wonder, a collaboration with Adamski on "Killer/Papa Was a Rollin' Stone", singing "Desafinado" with Astrud Gilberto, "Too Funky" (his final single with Sony), and a cover of "Somebody to Love", with Queen as part of the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. But George went on hiatus from the music industry, leaving record label Sony, he went to court about ending his contract, he felt he had no control of his work, he lost the case and was out of work for five years, during this time he also suffered the death of his partner, Brazilian dress designer Anselmo Feleppa, who died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage. He finally returned to music in 1996, releasing his third solo album, Older, which featured the songs "Jesus to a Child", "Fastlove", "Spinning the Wheel", "Star People" and "You Have Been Loved", the album went on to win at the MTV Europe Awards, the BRITs, and The Ivor Novello Awards. During the late 1990s, George came out as gay, following his arrest for lewd conduct in a public toilet in Los Angeles, he released songs "Outside" (his "coming out" song), "As" - the duet with Mary J. Blige, and "If I Told You That" - the duet with Whitney Houston. George's fourth solo album release was Songs from the Last Century, but none of the songs on the album charted, he also suffered the devastating news in 1999 that mother Lesley had cancer, she died a year later. The fifth and final solo album George released was Patience, with many songs from it charting in the early 2000s, including "Freeek!", "Shoot the Dog" 2DTV animation in the music video, "Amazing" and "Flawless (Go to the City)". In the late 2000s and early 2010s, George released many compilation albums, including Twenty Five, and released songs including "An Easier Affair", "December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)" and "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" duet with Tony Bennett. The documentary features many clips of George's personal home footage, his appearance on BBC Comic Relief the first Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, his guest star appearance in the Extras Christmas Special, and his performance at the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony. It also features a cover of "Fastlove", a ballad version by Adele (she famously performed it live at the Grammys, and swore requesting to start again), and a new version of "A Different Corner" a duet with Chris Martin, plays in the end credits. Introduced by Kate Moss, with contributions from David Austin (friend and manager), Emmanuelle Alt (editor of French Vogue), Tony Bennett, Mary J. Blige, Naomi Campbell, James Corden, Cindy Crawford, Clive Davis (Whitney's manager), Tracey Emin, Linda Evangelista (model), Jean Paul Gaultier, Liam Gallagher, Ricky Gervais, Sir Elton John, Tatjana Patitz, Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Christy Turlington (model) and Stevie Wonder. This film really makes you realise how much George Michael changed the music industry, touched many people across the world, how talented he was both writing and his brilliant voice, featuring great use of archive footage, George narrating a lot of it himself, a most watchable music documentary. Very good!
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The first Thor film was good, Avengers Assemble was brilliant, The Dark World was great, this is the third solo movie for one of the key heroes in the Marvel Universe, and I was very excited to see it. Basically it is two years after the Battle of Sokovia, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been imprisoned by the fire demon Surtur (Clancy Brown), during his unsuccessful search for the Infinity Stones. Surtur reveals Thor's father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) is no longer on Asgard, and the prophesied Ragnarök will destroy his realm, once Surtur unites his crown with the Eternal Flame that burns in Odin's vault. Thor breaks his chains and defeats Surtur, claiming his crown, believing his has prevented Ragnarök, returning to Asgard he finds that Odin is actually his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is disguise, Thor forces Loki to help him find their father. With the help of Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) on Earth, Thor and Loki find Odin in Norway, he explains that he is dying, he reveals that he has a firstborn child, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who was sealed in a prison long ago, Odin's passing will allow her to escape. Hela is known as the "goddess of death", she was leader of Asgard's armies, and had conquered the Nine Realms with Odin, but she imprisoned and written out of history after Odin feared she had become too ambitious. Odin dies, and Hela released from imprisonment appears, she destroys Thor's hammer Mjolnir, Thor and Loki try to flee through the Bifröst Bridge, but she pursues them and forces them out into space. Hela travels to Asgard, destroying its army and the Warriors Three, she resurrects the ancient dead who once fought with her, including the giant wolf Fenris, and appoints Asgardian Skurge (Karl Urban) as her executioner. Hela plans to use the Bifröst to expand Asgard's empire, but all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry Heimdall (Idris Elba) has stolen the sword that controls the Bridge, he has gathered the rest of Asgard's citizens to hide away. Thor crash-lands on Sakaar, a garbage planet surrounded by wormholes, he is captured by bounty hunter Scrapper 142, aka Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and taken to the planet's ruler, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). There Loki has already become ingratiated, but Thor will serve as a gladiator, Thor recognises 142 as a Valkyrior, a legendary force of female warriors who were killed defending Asgard from Hela long ago. After his hair cut shorter, Thor is forced to compete in the Grandmaster's Contest of Champions, the undefeated champion turns out to be Thor's old friend the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), they fight, with Thor eventually summoning lightning to almost defeat the Hulm, before the Grandmaster sabotages the fight to ensure the Hulk's victory. Still enslaved, Thor attempts to convince Hulk and 142 to help him save Asgard, but neither are willing to help, Thor manages to escape the palace and finds the Quinjet that brought Hulk to Sakaar, Hulk follows him, he is only transformed back into Bruce Banner seeing a recording of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) for the first time since Sokovia. The Grandmaster orders 142 and Loki to find Thor and Hulk, 142 decides to help, after reliving the deaths of her fellow Valkyrie at the hands of Hela, Loki helps the group to steal one of the Grandmaster's ships they then liberate the other gladiators, including Korg (Taika Waititi, also directing), to stage a rebellion. Loki attempts to betray his brother to gain a reward from the Grandmaster, but Thor anticipated this and leaves him behind, he is soon found by the gladiators, while Thor, Banner and 142 escape through a wormhole to Asgard, where Hela's forces are attacking Heimdall and Asgard's citizens. Banner becomes Hulk again, fighting Fenris, while Thor and 142 battle Skurge and the resurrected warriors, Loki and the gladiators soon arrive to help, the citizens are evacuated boarding the large ship, a repentant Skurge sacrifices himself to allow their escape. Thor and Hela battle, Thor loses his eye during the fight, he has a vision of Odin that helps him realise only Ragnarök can stop Hela, so while Hela is distracted, Loki finds Surtur's crown and places it in the Eternal Flame, Surtur is reborn and destroys Asgard, seemingly killing Hela. Thor and the others escape with the remaining citizens aboard the Grandmaster's vessel, forced to watch the prophesied destruction of their home, Thor is crowned king, he decides to take his people to Earth, the mid- credits sequence sees them pursued by a large spaceship, and the post- credits sequence sees the Grandmaster encountering a group of his former subjects, who are still rebelling. Also starring Rachel House as Topaz, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, Zachary Levi as Fandral, Luke Hemsworth (Chris's brother) as Actor Thor, Sam Neill as Actor Odin, Matt Damon as Loki Actor, Charlotte Nicdao as Actor Sif and Stan Lee as the Barber. Hemsworth remains great as the strong willed and heroic warrior, Hiddleston makes a welcome return being nasty and making snide quips, Blanchett looks like she's having a blast as the over-the-top but gorgeously wicked villain, and there is great support from Ruffalo, Goldblum, Hopkins and Cumberbatch. Whereas previous entries have been a little technological and filled with complicated bits, this takes things back to basics, just creating a simple story of a prophesied apocalypse and the hero needing to save the world, but what makes this entry much more interesting is not just the brilliant special effects and fight sequences, but there is much more comedy as well, very witty dialogue and deliberately silly stuff, overall it is a fresh, highly entertaining and exciting action adventure film. Very good!
The Sessions (2012)
I remember this independent film being talked about on Film 2012 with Claudia Winkleman and Danny Leigh, it looked like something interesting, and it had some good names in the cast, so I was looking forward to it. Basically in 1988, in Berkeley, California, Mark O'Brien (Golden Globe nominated John Hawkes) is a journalist and poet, when he was younger he contracted poliomyelitis, and spends his life completely paralysed, requiring assistance to eat and drink, wash, get dressed and move around, and he has an iron lung (a mechanical respirator) to breathe on his own at night. Due to his condition, Mark has never had sex, he tried unsuccessfully to propose to his caretaker Amanda (Annika Marks), and he senses he may be near death, he decides he wants to lose his virginity. After consulting his priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy), being a devout Catholic, and after talking to a sex therapist, he gets into contact with professional sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Helen Hunt), she explains that he is not like a prostitute, because it is not business, she will teach him everything to have a future loving sexual relationship. Cheryl tells Mark that they will have no more than six sessions together, with the goal of intercourse, Mark has the sense of touch, and he is maintain an erection, but he cannot masturbate and has never been close to a naked woman, so on their first session, after Cheryl undresses him, and she undresses, it does not take long for him to ejaculate when he gets overexcited. As they continue their sessions, they have to move location, to a motel, Mark continues to get overexcited when Cheryl allows him to touch her, and when she does try to get to the point of helping him to have intercourse, so she is patient in helping him get to the point where he can control himself, but they talk as openly as they can about things, without getting too much into her personal life. It becomes apparent, through the sessions, that Mark is developing developing romantic feelings for Cheryl, she is trying to remain professional, but Cheryl cannot help herself having feelings for Mark as well. Cheryl's husband Josh (Adam Arkin, Alan's son) loves her deeply, he is aware of what she does with her clients, hearing about Mark however he cannot suppress his jealousy, he withholds a love poem Mark sent Cheryl by mail, she does eventually find this. After several attempts, Mark and Cheryl are able to have mutually satisfying sex, but Mark makes the decision to make their fifth session their last, she agrees cutting their session short is will stop their burgeoning feelings. One day after the last session, Mark officially no longer a virgin, there is a power cut where he lives, his iron lung stops functioning, he uses his stick to use the telephone to call his friend for help, but he drops his stick before he can call emergency services. Mark however does survive his ordeal after being rushed to hospital, it is there that he meets and falls in love with a young woman named Susan Fernbach (Robin Weigert), throughout his life Mark had relationships with three women. In the end, Mark has passed away following complications from bronchitis, his friends and the women he came to know and love, including Cheryl, are attending his funeral, Father Brendan gives a thoughtful and personal eulogy, and Susan reads Mark's favourite poem, which he previously wrote for Cheryl. Also starring Moon Bloodgood as Vera, W. Earl Brown as Rod, Blake Lindsley as Dr. Laura White, Jarrod Bailey as Tony, Rusty Schwimmer as Joan, Rhea Perlman as Mikvah Lady and Ming Lo as Clerk. Hawkes gives a good performance as the sexually inexperienced and naive disabled man threatened by guilt from his beliefs, but desperate to fulfil his needs, Hunt is very good as the surrogate willing to teach him the tools he needs for the future, she seems comfortable being nude a lot of the time, and Macy is great support as the free-thinking priest helping him through the dark times and offering comforting advice. It is a very simple story, a man who cannot move losing his virginity, and slowly he has feelings for the woman who will eventually do it with him, and she feels the same, the fact that the story is true gives the film some depth, but it is not just a serious and schmaltzy film, it leaves room for a witty script and some funny moments as well, all in all it is a likable comedy drama based on a true story. Worth watching!
When I got the latest copy of the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, this German film was one of the latest entries, I found out it is one of the few films (like Timecode or Russian Ark) that was created in one single shot, so I was really looking forward to it. Basically Spanish girl Victoria (Laia Costa) moved to Berlin, Germany three months ago, she works in a cafe on a meagre wage, she does not know anyone in the city, and she does not speak much German, the only common language around her is English. One night, at around 4 o'clock in the morning, Victoria leaves a club, after enjoying drinking and dancing, she meets four young men who were rejected entry, they are "Sonne" (Frederick Lau), "Boxer" (Franz Rogowski), "Blinker" (Burak Yigit), and "Fuß" (Max Mauff). The men invite Victoria to walk through the city, she agrees, after the men steal alcohol from an all night shop, they all go onto the roof of an apartment building, where they drink and smoke marijuana together. Victoria says she needs to leave to open the cafe she works at in a short time, Sonne has been flirting with her since they met, he suggests accompanying her, she agrees, Boxer tells Sonne to return soon, it is implied the four men have something important to do this night. Victoria and Sonne arrive at the cafe, the two are alone inside, Sonne notices a piano and tinkles on it, he dares Victoria to play something, she masterfully plays one of the Mephisto Waltzes, Sonne is impressed and deeply moved, she tells that she had dreams of becoming a concert pianist, but at music school she was told was not good enough to continue. Shortly later, Boxer arrives extremely nervous and agitated, he demands Sonne leave with him immediately, the four men steal a car at the front of the cafe and drive away, only to return moments later, because Fuß is highly intoxicated and has fallen unconscious. A desperate Boxer demands Sonne to ask Victoria to replace Fuß and help them, Sonne reluctantly does so, he tells Victoria that Boxer was helped by gangster Andi (André Hennicke) while in prison. Now Andi demands Boxer pay him back, Andi has asked Boxer to get three allies for a meeting, none of the four men know the purpose of it, Sonne is surprised when Victoria immediately agrees to help, Victoria drives Sonne, Boxer, Blinker and Fuß (lying in the back of the car) to the meeting place, a parking garage. There Andi, surrounded by several armed men, demands that the four rob a certain bank this morning for 50,000, Andi will take 10.000 as payback, leaving them with the rest, the four agree to the robbery when Victoria is threatened, they are armed with guns, and forced to take drugs to make them more alert and aggressive. Blinker has a panic attack while Victoria is driving, but the others calm him down, Boxer feels guilty for involving Victoria and say he will rob the bank alone, but the others, including Victoria, tell him they will still help, the robbery goes smoothly, although the car stalls, it is left in a back alley. The four escape, euphoric after the successful robbery and still under the influence of the drugs, they return to the club to celebrate, Sonne and Victoria share a kiss, but they are thrown out when Blinker and Boxer strip naked on the dance floor. Outside, they remember has been left unconscious Fuß back in the car, returning to the back alley they find the police have already found it, they panic and try to leave, but police in plain clothes spot them. Boxer, Blinker and Sonne draw their guns and a shootout ensues, Blinker is hot and left by the other three, Boxer implores Sonne and Victoria to take the money and flee while he confronts the police. Sonne and Victoria manage to enter an apartment building unseen, they enter one of the apartments and take a young couple hostage, they take a change of clothes, the couple have a baby, they take it with them, Victoria promises the crying mother her child will be left somewhere for her to find, she and Sonne encounter the police on the staircase, assumed to be a young couple they are allowed to leave the building. They leave the baby in front of a café across the street and get a taxi to a nearby hotel, Victoria reserves a room while Sonne waits, writhing in great pain, on their room Victoria notices Sonne has been shot, once in the room he lies down in the bed. Sonne watches the news, it shows that Boxer died during the shootout, and Blinker died being taken to hospital, Victoria sees Sonne is bleeding profusely and calls an ambulance, but Sonne dies, Victoria breaks down crying, eventually she pulls herself together, takes the bag of cash and walks out of the hotel. Costa gives a great performance as the young Spaniard drawn into a bank job filled with numerous consequences, Lau is equally good as the man she fancies, the chemistry between them works well, it makes us care about them during the chaotic stuff, the techniques to keep the camera in one single shot (it took three attempts to complete it), going many places across the city, are remarkable, it really is a captivating drama. Very good!
I was expecting a scary movie with a masked killer stalking a deaf woman, but that is another film with exactly the same title, but I went along with it anyway, directed by Mark Tonderai (House at the End of the Street). Basically Zakes Abbot (Waterloo Road's William Ash) and his girlfriend Beth (In the Club's Christine Bottomley) are driving on a rainy night on the M1 motorway, both are tired, irritable, and bickering continuously about their fragile relationship. Beth is eager to tell Zakes she cheated on him, but cannot find the right moment, she falls asleep in the passenger seat, moments later Zakes misses an exit, carelessly cuts up a large white truck, skids in the road and barely avoids a collision. The truck violently overtakes Zakes, before both vehicles stop for traffic, as the truck stops, the tailgate flips open, revealing a naked woman bound and bloodied in a cage, screaming for help, before Zakes can get closer, the door is slammed shut. Zakes panics and wakes Beth up to tell her what he saw, they immediately call the police, but the truck's licence plate is covered by dirt, so they describe the truck and where they are. When they stop again for traffic, Zakes gets out of the car to take a photo inside the truck, but he and Beth argue when he refuses to get any more involved with the situation. Stopping at the next service station, Beth officially breaks up with Zakes and walks away, she calls her friend to come and collect her, believing she will change her mind, Zakes waits for her in the car. Then Zakes sees the large white truck pull up, he watches the driver (The Living Daylights' Andreas Wisniewski, whose face is never seen), a man in a dark, hooded jacket, get out and go inside. Zakes follows minutes later to look for Beth, but she is missing, he gets panicked and goes looking in the ladies' toilets, where two security officers throw him out and do not his explanation. Zakes then finds Beth's necklace in the car park, he believes she has been taken by the man in the truck, but his car wheels have been slashed by a group of rowdy football fans, so Zakes steals a car from the station and follows after the truck. Meanwhile, one of the security guards decides to watch the CCTV to see if Zakes was telling the truth, he sees Beth in the footage, but he is killed by the other security guard before he can do anything, the other guard is associated with the kidnapping. Zakes finds a truck stop, it contains many identical trucks, a police car arrives, Zakes is handcuffed and arrested for trespassing, he explains what is going and begs the officer to help him, the officer agrees to check the trucks, but he is attacked and killed. Zakes escapes from the car, he runs through the woods with the man following him, he returns to the service station, but he cannot call the police, he is now believed to be a criminal, so he steals another car and returns to the truck stop. Zakes parks and stops to catch his breath, suddenly a bloody woman comes to the window, claiming she was kidnapped, he lets her in the car, he says he needs her help to find her girlfriend, but his phone battery dies, so he drives to a farmhouse he saw to call for help, now he has a witness to back up his story. The elderly couple in the farmhouse let them in cautiously, the woman Zakes picked up offers to call the police, but she cuts the line, revealing herself to be part of the kidnap, she calls the hooded man, kills the elderly couple, and then attacks Zakes. Zakes wakes with his hands nailed to the floorboards, he realises the woman is not who she said she was, he manages to get himself free before she can kill him, he stabs her in the eye with one of the nails. Bleeding and exhausted, Zakes takes the woman's mobile phone and heads back to the truck site, he uses the elderly couple's dog to trigger the security flood lights, while the truck driver kills the dog offscreen and the coast is clear, Zakes gets inside before the security system is reactivated. Zakes finds Beth chained outside in a cage, she tells him the man has the keys, he quietly goes inside the shedhouse, where he finds several other women locked up and gagged, begging for help, they are being used for human trafficking. Zakes grabs the keys from the man's clothes and returns to Beth to help her escape, promising to come back for the others, the man realises someone is hiding on site, he calls the woman's phone, which Zakes has on him, the man follows the ringing. However Zakes has hidden the phone on the seat of an empty truck, he is hiding in a forklift truck, the man steps in the right spot, and Zakes pushes a button in the crane to release a heavy load container, the man is crushed to death, Zakes runs back to help Beth, she has already released herself, the two reunite and sob with relief. Also starring The Trip's Claire Keelan as Wendy, Trainspotting's Stuart McQuarrie as Thorpe, Robbie Gee as Chimponda, Peter Wyatt as Mr. Coates and Brazil's Sheila Reid as Mrs. Coates. You can tell this film is low-budget, it is a fairly simple format, a "curiosity killed the cat" situation, with a sulky but likable lead trying to save his girlfriend from a nasty unseen truck driver, similar in ways to the Spielberg movie Duel, it is pretty slow the majority of the time, but it does get tense just enough to keep it interesting, a reasonable thriller. Okay!
2 Guns (2013)
I missed this film on TV a couple of times, I remember it obviously for the two leading actors, I couldn't guess anything about the plot from the title, so I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised, directed by Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, Everest). Basically criminals Robert "Bobby" Trench (Denzel Washington) and Michael "Stig" Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) are planning to $3 million stashed in the vault of the Tres Cruces bank. Unknown to Stig, Bobby is an undercover DEA agent trying to convict Manny "Papi" Greco (Edward James Olmos) in Mexico, he failed to acquire to use as evidence, so he plans to prosecute Pape with money laundering, he will remain undercover until after the robbery. While Bobby is having a rendezvous with fellow DEA agent and former lover Deb Rees (Paula Patton), he is unaware that Stig is also undercover, he is an Intelligence Specialist with the Navy SEALs, he has been instructed to kill Bobby so the Navy can use the stolen money to fund unauthorised covert operations. During the heist, Bobby and Stig are surprised to find $43.125 million in the vault, after the heist, Stig follows the orders of his commanding officer LCDR Harold Quince (James Marsden), to betray Bobby and escape with the money. But Stig is unwilling to kill Bobby, he shoots him in the shoulder, a flesh wound, then he sees Bobby's DEA badge, not sure what to think, he leaves Bobby in the desert and takes the money. Stig meets with Quince, who tries to kill him when he learns what happened, Stig escapes after learning the money will be transferred to a Navy base in Corpus Christi. Meanwhile a man named Earl (Bill Paxton), head of a shadowy organisation, aggressively interrogates the Tres Cruces bank manager about the stolen money, he tracks Bobby's movements. Bobby goes to Stig's apartment to find where he took the money, Sniper however is outside, watching with a sniper's rifle, Quince has sent a hit squad to attack the apartment, but Bobby and Stig escape. Bobby visits his superior DEA Special Agent Jessup (Robert John Burke) to tell him what happened, but Earl and his men are waiting for him, Earl kills Jessup, frames Bobby for the murder, he makes a deal with Bobby if the $43 million is returned, he will be cleared. Bobby and Stig kidnap Papi to interrogate him in the garage at Deb's house, they find out Earl is a black ops operative to whom Papi reports, and that the stolen money belongs to the CIA. The garage is attacked by another hit squad, led by Quince, the trio end up being captured by Papi and taken to his farm in Mexico, after beating them and receiving a visit from Earl, the pair are given 24 hours to steal the money from the Navy and return it, or Deb will die. At the base, infiltrating Quince's office, Bobby discovers Quince is Deb's boyfriend, they had planned to steal the money for themselves, meanwhile Stig asks Admiral Tuwey (Fred Ward), but Tuway does not the scandal to tarnish the Navy's reputation, Quince evades arrest, as does Stig. Bobby is unable to find the money and thinks it is too late to save Deb, but then he realises the money is stashed in a motel room he and Deb frequented, he goes to help Stig, who is returning to Papi's farm alone to exact revenge. At the farm, Stig is surrounded by Papi's men until both Quince and Earl intervene, Bobby arrives in a car filled with the money, and then blows up the car, scattering the money everywhere, which leads to a massive shootout. During a standoff among Quince, Earl, Bobby and Stig, Earl reveals the CIA have 20 other secret banks, the loss of $43.125 million is only a minor setback, Stig shoots Earl, and Bobby shoots Quince, finally the duo shoot Papi outside. In the end, Bobby and Stig escape, allowing the locals to pick up the million of dollars for themselves, Bobby shoots Stig in the leg as payback for shooting him in the shoulder, they plan to take down the CIA's secret banks and sabotage their black operations, but Bobby reveals to Stig he did not blow up all the money, he has stashed some away. Also starring Patrick Fischler as Dr. Ken, Evie Thompson as Patsy, Dr. Ken's Assistant and Greg Sproles as Chief Lucas. Washington and Wahlberg are perfectly cast as the wisecracking leads, bouncing razor- sharp banter back and forth, and Olmos as the drug kingpin and Paxton being sinister are terrific bad guys, it is a botched up bank job turning into a game of cat-and-mouse with the mob, with well-paced chase sequences, explosions and all guns blazing action, but leaving enough room for a clever plot and twists, a great fun crime drama. Very good!
I think the most obvious reason I wanted to watch it was because of the good cast list, but I also hoped it would be worthwhile enough, despite low ratings by critics, based on the book by Stephen King, directed by Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, Wyatt Earp). Basically four childhood friends: Professor Gary "Jonesy" Jones (Damian Lewis), Joe "Beaver" Clarendon (Jason Lee), Pete Moore (Timothy Olyphant) and Dr. Henry "H" Devlin (Thomas Jane) are on an annual hunting trip in Maine. All four of them share telepathic powers, which they acquired as children, after saving mentally handicapped boy Douglas "Duddits" Cavell (Andrew Robb) from bullies and befriending him. Jonesy is able to make the annual trip, despite being a hit by a car six months ago, has a made a mysterious speedy recovery, at the cabin, Jonesy rescues a man named Rick McCarthy (Eric Keenleyside) from the snow, he was lost in the forest. Jonesy and Beaver allow the man to recover, suddenly a herd of animals are seen fleeing outside, followed by two military helicopters that announce the area is quarantined. Jonesy and Beaver return to the cabin to find a trail of blood from the bedroom to the bathroom, Rick is sitting semi-catatonic on the toilet, Rick is thrown from it by a worm-like creature that comes out of his bottom. Beaver attempts to trap the creature under the toilet lid, but it breaks out and kills him, Jonesy tries to escape, but is confronted by a larger alien creature called Mr. Gray, who emits a red-dust and possesses Jonesy's body. Meanwhile, Henry and Pete crash their SUV, to avoid hitting a frostbitten woman from Rick's original hunting party, Henry goes for help while Pete stays with the woman, she also dies and excretes a worm, Pete barely manages to kill it. In Jonesy's body, Mr. Gray tricks and kidnaps Pete, but Jonesy warns Henry telepathically to get away, Henry returns to the cabin to find Beaver dead, and the worm laying a group of alien eggs, to kill all the lavae, he grabs lighter fluid and sets the cabin on fire. Meanwhile an elite military unit, led by the slightly unhinged Colonel Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman), specialising in extraterrestrials, are trying to contain the alien exposure, Curtis plans to retire after this operation, and pass command to second in command and his trusted friend Captain Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore). Curtis and Underhill lead an airstrike into a large forest where the alien spaceship have crash-landed, the aliens using telepathy ask for mercy, but most of the aliens are massacred with mini-guns and missiles, the alien ship self-destructs, destroying the remaining aliens and the two helicopters. Pete is killed by Mr. Gray when he tries to coerce him into cooperating, Jonesy realises the alien possessed his body to gain access to his memories, specifically about Duddits. Henry finds the concentration camp, he realises that all human casualties in quarantine are to be killed, he convinces Underhill to prevent this, going to Curtis and getting himself relieved. Henry and Underhill break out of the camp and head to the home of Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), who is dying of leukaemia, Duddits informs them that Mr. Gray is headed for the Quabbin Reservoir to seed the water with alien larvae. Realising the danger that the planet is in, Curtis leaves the camp in his armed helicopter and tracks down Henry, Underhill, and Duddits, at the reservoir, he shoots Underhill down, he is mortally wounded and dies shortly afterwards. In the reservoir's pump house, Henry uses Underhill's machine gun to kill Mr. Gray's worm, but he cannot decide if Jonesy is possessed, but Mr. Gray exits his body when confronted by Duddits, who is himself an alien from a different race. Both aliens struggle, finally exploding in a cloud of red-dust which briefly resembles a dreamcatcher, now himself again, Jonesy steps on the final alien larva before it can escape and contaminate the reservoir. Also starring Mikey Holekamp as Young Henry, Reece Thompson as Young Beaver, Giacomo Baessato as Young Jonesy, Joel Palmer as Young Pete, Rosemary Dunsmore as Roberta Cavell and Michael O'Neill as General Matheson. Despite having good talent and names in the cast, and good source material of course, unfortunately what is brought to screen is not very well done, the CGI special effects are very average, and the atmosphere is not very effective, there are memorable moments, but not all for the right reasons, a silly but sort of watchable science-fiction horror. Okay!
Sergeant York (1941)
This is one of the titles I always remembered for being listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and watching it I was obviously hoping it would be a worthy one, from Oscar nominated director Howard Hawks (Bringing Up Baby, To Have and Have Not, Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Based on the true story, poor young Tennessee hillbilly Alvin C. York (Oscar winning Gary Cooper) is an exceptional marksman, but cannot find steady work, which strains the patience of his Mother (Oscar nominated Margaret Wycherly). Alvin then meets winsome Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie), he finds strenuous odd jobs, hoping she will marry him, but he is prone to drinking and fighting, and comes to blows to some of his employers. Late one night, during a rainstorm, Alvin is en route to get revenge on a man who cheated him, he is struck by lightning, he survives the strike, but his mule is knocked down and his rifle is destroyed, following this he enters the church house, he vows never to get angry at anyone ever again. The United States declares the First World War, York is drafted into the army, he tries to avoid induction, claiming to be a conscientious objector, York is denied and reluctantly reports to Camp Gordon for basic training, there his superiors discover he is a phenomenal marksman, he is promoted to corporal. York wants nothing to do with the war and killing, his sympathetic commanding officer Major Buxton (Stanley Ridges) tries to change his mind, citing sacrifices others have made in history, Buxton gives him leave to think about it, he promises York an a recommendation for his exemption if he remains unconvinced. Eventually York reports back for duty after pondering, after reading a particular passage in the Bible, blown open by the wind, he tells his superiors that he can serve his country, despite not having everything figured out, leaving the matter in God's hands, he is ridiculed for his beliefs, but his skill for firing his rifle surprises all. York's unit is shipped out to Europe, as part of the Meuse- Argonne Offensive, deadly machine gun fire pins them down, the lieutenant orders Sergeant Early (Joe Sawyer) to try and take the enemy from behind, but York finds himself the last remaining unwounded non-commissioned officer in the detachment, Early places him in command. York's self-doubt disappears, seeing his comrades being shot down all around him, he works his way to a position flanking the main enemy, he is able to force the Germans to surrender, he then forces a captured German Major (Charles Esmond) at gunpoint to force other officers to surrender, they end up with 132 prisoners. York becomes a national hero and is awarded the Medal of Honor, he explains to Major Buxton he was trying to save the lives of his men, he also goes to New York City to receive a ticker tape parade and the key to the city. York embraces the service at the impressive Waldorf-Astoria hotel, congressman Cordell Hull (Charles Trowbridge) guides him through the city and informs him his fame has brought him many opportunities, totalling around $250,000. York mentions his desire to buy the bottomland he wanted in Tennessee, Hull tells him he has the money to buy it, but York rejects the offers, he says that he was not proud of what he did in the war, but it had to be done. When he returns to Tennessee, the people of his state have purchased the bottomland farm, and paid for a house built on the land. Also starring Oscar nominated Walter Brennan as Pastor Rosier Pile, Joan Leslie as Gracie Williams, George Tobias as 'Pusher' Ross, Ward Bond as Ike Botkin, June Lockhart as Rosie York and Dickie Moore as George York. Cooper gives a great performance as the backwoodsman turned national hero, it should be said that the actual battlefield sequences take a while to come on, they are obviously gripping, but this is also about the character interaction, all in all it is an interesting biographical war drama. It won the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Best Sound and Best Music for Max Steiner. Very good!
When Talent Shows Go Horribly Wrong
When I read about this documentary programme advertised, I recognised a couple of the things mentioned that would be included, and I had my guesses of what else may be included, so I was really looking forward to watching. Basically the show was a three hour collection of clips, focusing on the mostly negative moments on televised talent shows, including shows entertainment shows, competitions, dancing shows, sporting shows, the auditions and much more. These moments included embarrassing incidents, inappropriate material, accidents and shocks, presenters going wrong, contestants and their acts going wrong, bad talent, incidents causing controversy and much more, in Britain and/or around the world.
Popular talent shows going wrong included: Britain's Got Talent with Hollie Steel breaking down on the live semi-final singing "Edelweiss"; and Dancing on Ice with Jorgie Porter hitting Matt Evers with her ice skate blade, cutting his face. More popular shows going wrong included: Dancing on Ice with Todd Carty being completely rubbish, including when he stumbled off during a routine; Celebrity Splash USA with Baywatch actress Nicole Eggert doing a disastrous back flip ending in a belly flop on the back; The Great British Bake Off with "bingate", contestant Iain Watters throwing his Baked Alaska in the bin, after it was taken out the freezer by Diana Beard; and Opportunity Knocks in 1976 with host Hughie Green ending the show with a weird preaching political speech, and a rally like brigade band and troops playing and singing, the show was axed a year later and Hughie was replaced. Other popular shows going wrong included: The Voice UK with will.i.am drawing on his buzzer, then accidentally pressing it for an average singer; The X Factor (New Zealand) with new judges, husband and wife Natalia Kills and Willy Moon, being really nasty; and Dancing with the Stars (US version of Strictly Come Dancing) with Marie Osmond fainting and collapsing during judges comments. Judges going wrong included: Dancing on Ice with Jason Gardner making offensive comments to former judge Karen Barber, there were complaints of bullying. Events making news included: Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden wearing a very revealing dress; and The X Factor with contestant Danyl Johnson outed by judge Dannii Minogue following his live performance. Other talent show stuff included: The Presenters (Welsh show to find new presenting talent, hosted by Gabby Logan), with a contestant desperate to be put through, she starts stripping when rejected; Popstars: The Rivals with contestant Nicola Ward quitting the show, turning down her chance to be in the final ten, and maybe be part of Girls Aloud; and teenager Mohammad Jalaluddin sent an audition video for India's Got Talent, attempting a fire stunt, he died from severe burns. Also talked about included: Sky Star Search, a talent show memorable for so many bad acts, including Monty the Juggler who dropped his balls, country singer Penny Steed who forgot her words, and Juliet from Doncaster singing completely out of tune; and the story of child star and Opportunity Knocks winner Lena Zavaroni, she suffered from dangerous anorexia and clinical depression from the pressures of stardom, she died from pneumonia. Singing and dancing shows going wrong included: Your Face Sounds Familiar, from the Phillipines, with celebrity singer Kean Cipriano in prosthetic makeup, to look like both Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder singing "Ebony and Ivory", this is racially offensive; The Xtra Factor with contestant Steve from Staffordshire, who has a large bulge in his trousers while auditioning; Bailando por un Sueño (translated "Dancing for a Dream"), Argentina's version of Strictly, with model Cinthia Fernandez and dancer Gabriel Usandivaras doing a highly erotic and raunchy dance, they are artistic, but it turns into a full striptease, host Marcelo Tinelli tries to calm things down, the channel was fined 3 million pesos; The Gong Show, produced by Chuck Barris, it was a spoof talent show, it featured weird acts with alternative talent before a gong was hit, two girls called the Popsicle Twins sit on stage and lick ice lollies in a seductive manner, then judge Jaye P. Morgan flashes her boobs and lost her job. Further shows going wrong included: Only Fools on Horses for Sports Relief, celebrities doing equestrian, with Nicki Chapman falling off her horse through the fence poles; America's Got Talent with stuntman Ivan the Urban Action Figure failing to jump over a row of chairs on a trampoline, he knocked himself unconscious and was lying on the floor like a plank; and France's Got Talent with acrobatic act Cecile & Roman stuck hanging when the winch motor broke, the woman is caught, and the man was brought down by a cherry picker. The last talent shows going wrong included: Dancehall King & Queen, Florida based show, contestant Fire Flexi dousing herself with a flammable substance on her hot pants crotch and setting herself on fire, she won the trophy; and The Yorkshire Disco Dancin' Championship, recorded live at Romeo & Juliet Nightclub, it sees people in shiny outfits all doing disco dancing, with the same choreography, the show was of its time, but now looks dated.
I had my guesses what talent show moments would be included, the bad ones, the funny ones and the awkward ones, I always enjoy the nostalgia seeing these moments again, but it was good to learn about those I did not know, and the serious stuff as well, overall it was an interesting and watchable documentary.
Narrated by Kate Thornton, with contributions from Sam Bailey, Dancing on Ice judge Karen Barber, Will Best, Yinka Bokinni, Patti Boulaye, Dane Bowers, Opportunity Knocks winner Bobby Crush, Peter Dickson, Jenny Eclair, Brenda Edwards, Dancing on Ice skater Matt Evers, Steve Furst, Fame Academy's David & Carrie Grant, The X Factor's Danyl Johnson, Ola & James Jordan, Roman Kemp (Martin's son), Alex Mansuroglu, Kym Mazelle, Nina Myskow, Five's Ritchie Neville, Arlene Phillips, Su Pollard, Jorgie Porter, Stevi Ritchie, Sinitta, Hollie Steel, Nicola Ward, Pete Waterman, Jo Wood and Dan Wootton. Very good!
Everyone assumed Saw: The Final Chapter was the last we'd seen of the "torture porn" / "gorno" franchise, featuring Billy the Puppet and the torture traps, but Halloween came along, and this eighth entry, directed by the Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers). Basically criminal Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black) is chased by police to a rooftop, despite warning he activates a triggering mechanism, he is shot and severely injured by police Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and his fellow officers. Elsewhere, five people are being held captive in a run-down barn, each with mechanical helmets, and a metal noose around their neck leading to a wall of buzz saws. A tape recording of John Kramer, aka the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell), explains that to escape they must sacrifice blood, and confess their sins, the chains pull, four manage to survive, cutting themselves, but one man still unconscious is left behind and apparently dies. The next test reveals that captive Carly (Brittany Allen) accidentally caused the death of an asthmatic woman, following a handbag robbery. There are three syringes, one an antidote for the poison in her body, one a saline solution, one a potent acid, she must inject herself with one to save the others from being hanged, volatile group-member Ryan (Paul Braunstein) stabs with all three syringes, Carly's face melts and she dies. During the games, Halloran and his partner Detective Keith Hunt (Clé Bennett) investigate the deaths when the bodies are discovered, Halloran is suspicious of forensic pathologists Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor Bonneville (Hannah Emily Anderson), Logan is a military veteran and former doctor, his wife was killed two years ago. Munsen is kidnapped from the hospital by an unseen assailant, the police rule out John Kramer as the killer, he has been dead for ten years, the police captain orders his body to be exhumed to be sure, Munsen's body is found in the coffin. In another room, Ryan tries to cheat and escape through a door marked "No Exit", his leg is trapped by razor wires beneath the floor, fellow group members Anna (Laura Vandervoort) and Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles, Mario's son) get trapped inside a grain silo. A taped message explains they will be buried in grain, and killed by falling debris, if Ryan does not pull a lever to free them, Ryan eventually agrees, pulling the lever severs his leg, Anna and Mitch are released. Mitch is tested next, a taped message reveals he sold a motorcycle with faulty brakes to a young man, revealed as John Kramer's nephew, resulting in his death, Anna tries to help, but Mitch is lowered into a spiral-shaped blade, and is shredded to death. Logan and Eleanor talk in a bar, then she takes him to her "studio", revealing herself as an obsessive fangirl of the Jigsaw Killer, with replicas of many of his previous traps, she worries this could incriminate her. Detective Hunt has followed them and informs Halloran, Logan convinces his old friend Hunt to not arrest them, mentioning Halloran's past dealings with Edgar Munsen, Eleanor deduces the location of the barn game, Halloran pursues her and Logan. Anna tries to cheat and escape, she is captured by someone in a pig mask, she awakens with a gravely wounded Ryan, both are chained in a room, the hooded figure is revealed to be John Kramer. He reveals he was Anna's neighbour, and that she suffocated her baby in a fit of rage, but blamed her husband, planting the body next to his, making it appear he accidentally smothered the child, her husband committed suicide because of this. John explains that Anna and Ryan have not yet earned their survival, he places a loaded gun inbetween them, saying it is their "key" to their survival, Anna misinterprets this and tries to shoot Ryan, but the gun is rigged, it backfires and kills her, Ryan sobs, realising the key was in the gun chamber, it is now destroyed. Logan and Eleanor investigate the barn, Halloran ambushes them, Eleanor escapes, Halloran pursues her, but is drugged and taken by an unseen assailant, he and Logan wake up chained, wearing collars rigged with laser cutters. The two are told that they must confess all of their sins or else they will die, Halloran forces Logan to go first, Logan confesses he made the mistake of mixing John Kramer's x-rays, causing his cancer to be diagnosed when it was too late, despite confessing, the lasers appear to kill Logan. Halloran confesses and admits allowing many criminals and murderers to walk free for personal gain, the lasers deactivate, then suddenly Logan stands up, he faked his death to make Halloran confess. Logan reveals that the barn game took place ten years ago, he was the man unconscious, John Kramer saved him, feeling he should not die out of error, John subsequently made Logan his apprentice. The bodies found were actually criminals that Halloran allowed to walk free, and were placed in the same tests he was supposed face ten years prior, Logan also reveals that Munsen, one of the criminals allowed free, murdered his wife. But Halloran did not confess all of his sins, and broke the rules, he will die and be framed as the new Jigsaw Killer, the lasers are reactivated, Logan slams the door as Halloran's head is sliced apart. Also starring Edward Ruttle as Matt Michael Boisvert as Lee James, Sam Koules as Melissa, Troy Feldman as Officer Palermo and Shaquan Lewis as Officer Solomon. When I read Tobin Bell was in the cast, I questioned if he was back from the dead, this thought continued all the way through the film, you do have to concentrate a little harder, but the formula has not changed too much, the traps are just as vicious, the amount of blood spill and over the top deaths are nasty, and the story just about comes together for the twist conclusion, a welcome return and a worthwhile horror. Very good!