- Robert De Niro as Sam
- Jean Reno as Vincent
- Natascha McElhone as Deirdre
- Stellan Skarsgård as Gregor
- Sean Bean as Spence
- Skipp Sudduth as Larry
- Jonathan Pryce as Seamus O’Rourke
A thrilling and exhilarating spy thriller cast to perfection and filled with excitement and intrigue, Ronin blends political undertones with pulse-pounding action for a film that will leave you breathless.
Ronin begins with a group of operatives from different agencies who have turned mercenary meeting in Paris. Present are quick thinking Sam, unassuming Vincent, getaway driver Larry, German tech expert Gregor and Spence . Assembling them is Irishwoman Deirdre, who informs the men of why they have been summoned. They are to obtain a metallic briefcase from Nice, of which the contents remain clouded as her superiors won’t reveal what is inside it. Doing this won’t be easy as it is heavily guarded, yet with all the skills of the group it could be achieved. Yet each of the group is weary of the other and simmering distrust builds slowly. Spence is exposed as a fraud by Sam and subsequently dismissed for his gung-ho attitude. Despite this hiccup, Deirdre sets in motion the plan with all involved receiving money and if they can get their hands on the case a larger sum. They put the plan into action and initially it seems as if the case is in their sights and for the taking. Yet loyalties become blurred and betrayals take centre stage as everyone vies for the case and the hunt begins for the mysterious object. In the game of spying, trust is something hard to come by and that is especially the case as Sam teams with Vincent to discover who out of the team is lying and what the case could possibly represent for the respective parties willing to kill for it. The chase is very much on in this spy thriller.
John Frankenheimer is excellent in his direction of Ronin; creating a sense of unease right from the slow-burning start. He is well equipped at building tension before unraveling the divided feelings and machinations of the group as they pursue each other for the mysterious briefcase( which in itself takes influence from Alfred Hitchcock and his love of the MacGuffin). A scintillating and cool script offers up exciting action and well-rounded characters in a constant game of dangerous cat and mouse. I like to be surprised in a spy thriller and it was provided in many forms in Ronin. Red herrings are tossed in and with all the distrust on display, it is a maze of a story that grips like a vice. The fact that the characters all have mystery to them about their affiliations and past careers gives the brain an exercise as you try to pinpoint who among the international crew is betraying who and the loyalty of each. A part of Ronin that marks it out as something special is its refusal to dumb things down for the audience. It treats them with respect and allows their imaginations to fill in what isn’t said between people. The spectre of the Cold War is very much on the film and this in turn aids Ronin with the political slant and the feeling of an old-fashioned movie, sparked with modern intrigue. As convoluted and complex as the story becomes, Ronin doesn’t short change us on the action front. And when I say action, my oh my there is some creative highlights present. Most of all it is the car chases through the streets of France that provide the appealing and gripping centre of Ronin. These car chases are not glamorized and achieve a realistic edge to them that sets it way above the average chase scenes. You are left gasping for breath at the sheer intensity of these frenzied pursuits and that is in the best possible way. A classy and building score is just the ticket for conjuring the necessary tension and ghost of the Cold War that weighs heavy on the characters.
Whoever assembled the vast international cast of Ronin deserves a massive pat on the back as they did superb in their selection. Heading it is the wonderful Robert De Niro in a fantastic performance. With a quick wit, keen intellect and cynical attitude, his Sam is a character that we root for in the scope of the shifting maze of loyalties. He shares great chemistry with Jean Reno, who is equally as good as the quiet but very skilled Vincent. Out of the group of characters, these are the two that have an implicit trust throughout and have each others back. And with De Niro and Reno in the roles, they come to life vividly. As the lone female of the cast, Natascha McElhone infuses Deirdre with an icy personality and stand offish tendency, which makes her even more mysterious in the cloak and dagger proceedings. Stellan Skarsgård is marvellously cast as Gregor, who appears to be on the sidelines in the initial stages but reveals an unseen ruthlessness as the mission gets more intense. Sean Bean is present in mainly the first half of Ronin and he has the right bravado for his part as the lying Spence, who doesn’t quite have the stomach for this kind of spy work. Skipp Sudduth as the getaway driver has a smaller role that is still impressive, along with Jonathan Pryce as someone very interested in the briefcase too.
Ronin is everything you could ask for in a spy film. It has atmosphere, excellent characters and espionage unease. Not to mention the fact that it knows how to deliver the thrills when needed and blow you away.
Recently, I’ve been adding different features and expanding my viewing options on here. And I did notice that in the past my butt posts have been very popular. Now it has been a while since I last did a butt post, as I wanted to concentrate more on movies and television reviews, but seeing the popularity of them left me thinking. So I decided to put it you guys, do you want to see more butt posts on my blog? Or should I just leave them and do other things? I would love to hear your responses as you guys keep my blog going.
- Anthony Hopkins as Charles Morse
- Alec Baldwin as Bob Green
- Harold Perrineau as Stephen
- Elle MacPherson as Mickey Morse
An exciting adventure thriller that wisely eschews the desire to be just about non-stop action, The Edge keeps interest throughout thanks to a cool script and good acting from the leads of Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. It isn’t the kind of film that is going to garner awards, but it is still entertaining and has some welcome changes to what we have come to expect.
Billionaire Charles Morse accompanies his much younger model wife Mickey on a photo expedition to Alaska. Also along for the shoot is fashion photographer Bob Green. Charles is a quiet and introspective man who reads a lot and has a very good memory. Lately, he has come to believe that his beautiful wife may be straying with the slightly arrogant Bob. He can’t prove this, but it does bother him. So when Bob wants to employ the services of a local man and persuades Charles to come with him and his assistant Stephen, it seems strange that he should go. Though edgy as he suspects Bob of coveting his wife, Charles goes along anyway, if anything it seems to confirm suspicion. Yet when they can’t find the man, they search around for him among the huge wilderness. This is cut short as the plane crashes into the wilderness, killing the pilot. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, the three men make a stab at returning to safety, which is thwarted by death traps and power of nature. Soon enough, unprepared Stephen is killed by an enormous bear that is stalking them. Left now are Charles and Bob, whose differences are vast and opinions of the other are far from glowing. Thankfully, Charles has an excellent memory and having read about the wild, puts his knowledge to good use as he and Bob journey for what could be safety. Over time and worn down by the surroundings, Bob warms to Charles a lot more and the two begin to share a slow but slightly uneasy kinship. Yet the seeds of doubt are still present and could break apart the fight for survival and return to civilisation. And there is also the rather large and savage bear on their tail that refuses to rest until the two men become its next meal. Hacking through dangerous terrain and braving the extreme elements, Charles and Bob must find a way to finally overcome animosity to work together. Yet can their differences and grudges thaw in order for them to pursue survival in a dangerous climate?
I’m not the biggest fan of director Lee Tamahori. His later efforts following this film, mainly Along Came a Spider and Die Another Day, leave a lot to be desired. But I have to say that his direction here was actually atypically skillful and took me by complete surprise. If only he continued to direct like he does here, he could be a credible director. Stunning and accomplished camerawork makes the wilderness locations eye-catching in beauty and amount of scope it conjures up. It also successfully suggests the enormity of the two men’s plight as they are often shown small a against the trees and mountains they journey through. One of the best areas within The Edge is the screenplay from David Mamet, that is punchy and fresh. It takes a rather simple set up and embellishes it with wit and depth, both of which are rather lacking in many other adventure action films. It is most successful in the characters of Charles and Bob, who while they seem to develop something of a respect for each other, still have an underlying feeling of tension to them. And The Edge while witty and dramatic, doesn’t leave the action by the wayside. Far from that, it has some amazing action scenes, particularly the bear attack sequences, that act in accordance with character development and for the most part hold up in a taut way. I was very impressed and surprised by how well the film came together. Though The Edge is far from flawless; the main issue is that it’s rather overlong and stretches things a bit too much. Though with that being my only niggle, it is safe to say that The Edge is a film I genuinely found myself thrilled by. A mood enhancing score does wonders, while offering glimmers of hope for the stranded men.
It is the cast of The Edge that elevates what could have been a routine exercise. Anthony Hopkins is his intelligent and memorable best here, peppering his role with an unassuming demeanor and splashes of humour. The role of Charles is one where knowledge provides power and endurance is something he gains from his harrowing experiences. And it must be stated that Anthony Hopkins, being the professional he is, contributes a very good performance to The Edge that provides it with substance. Alec Baldwin similarly impressed me with an unexpectedly vulnerable turn as the shallow but cracking Bob. Vulnerability is not normally a word I would associate with Alex Baldwin, but he pulls it off admirably and his chemistry with Anthony Hopkins is what keeps the film ticking over. Because the main basis of the film surrounds Hopkins and Baldwin, the supporting players are not given much to do that is memorable. Harold Perrineau is good in his relatively small part of the doomed Stephen, but his character is merely a plot device. The same goes for Elle MacPherson who plays the model wife of Anthony Hopkins. She is beautiful that is true, but her part is pretty thankless.
An unexpectedly well done action thriller that has refreshing character development and some fantastic dialogue, The Edge is definitely underrated stuff that while far from perfect, knows the balance between action and drama and can supply both effectively.
I wanted to get back into the swing of things by writing about television again. This time I decided to find a show that I’d never watched prior to this. I settled on Alias, a spy/ action series that I’d heard of but never saw before. Anyone who regularly frequents my blog will know of my love for the spy genre and a strong female character. These are both provided in Alias, as well as pulse pounding action, cool missions, deepening mysterious twists and some excellent character development. So here is my review of the first season of Alias. Caution, spoilers will follow.
Sydney Bristow(Jennifer Garner) to everyone else around her appears to be just an average young woman; a grad student taking English as a subject while leading a seemingly reasonable and uneventful life. Yet she has a very big secret, she works for SD-6, a covert part of the CIA where she is a well trained and immensely capable spy. Naturally keeping her identities from mingling is difficult for Sydney, yet it gets a lot more complicated and dramatic when her unsuspecting boyfriend Danny proposes. Feeling that she has to be honest with someone she plans on being with for a long time, Sydney reveals the truth about her spy work. Yet by telling Danny of her true nature, danger and tragedy soon follow. Her revelation is overheard by her superiors, in particular the cold and calculating Arvin Sloane(Ron Rifkin), and as a result Danny is killed for what he knows about the organisation. Devastated by this, Sydney does not know which way to turn. Her estranged father Jack(Victor Garber) arrives on the scene and drops a massive bombshell. SD-6 is not a branch of the CIA at all, but the very enemy Sydney believed she was fighting against, as well as the fact that he’s a double agent. Reeling from this, Sydney goes to the real CIA with her information and is quickly recruited to act as a double agent due to her skills. She is assigned a handler in Michael Vaughn(Michael Vartan), who she at first clashes with but then comes to an understanding with. Sydney is determined to bring down SD-6, even though being a double agent is an extremely risky move. So off she goes on double missions: which consist of recovering specific objects pertaining to a historical figure called Milo Rambaldi(who Sloane has an obsession with) or information for SD-6 and at the same time bringing knowledge and more evidence to bring down the organisation for the CIA with similar counter missions. This danger plays out as Sydney attempts to keep her identity hidden from her friends and SD-6, even as one of her closest friends, reporter Will Tippin(Bradley Cooper) begins to conduct his own investigation into Danny’s death not realising what he’s getting himself into. Her main colleagues at SD-6; Marcus Dixon(Carl Lumbly) and gadget man Marshall Flinkman( Kevin Weisman) are also in the dark about the nefarious organization’s true purpose, which poses another challenge for Sydney as she cares about them both but can’t reveal herself. Knowing her own mortality is one the line, Sydney suits up in a rash of disguises as she executes her work and begins to slowly destroy SD-6 from the inside. There’s also the matter of her stained relationship with her father to contend with, as well as things from the past like the “death” of Sydney’s mother that remain mysterious, before slowly coming to light.
From the very first moments Season 1, I knew that Alias was going to be something I’d enjoy. It’s hard to put my finger on why, but I’ll give it a good try. From the talented imagination of J. J. Abrams, Alias flourishes into a show of many layers to it, from action to mystery and even touches of drama. Alias employs some very good cliffhangers, that have you wanting to know what’s going to happen next as Sydney’s globetrotting missions get more thrilling as they continue. Taking influence from the Bond movies, Alias has the title sequence play as one mission finishes and another begins which is generally in the middle of an episode, quickening the impact and continuing the trend of having us biting our nails by the end of each episode. These techniques help the episodes flow into each other, craft nifty cliffhangers and are on point with keeping things very interesting in the long run.
Alias thankfully doesn’t dumb things down in the way that some action films or television can, instead showing off more personal and unexpected parts to compliment the thrills of which there are a lot. The quick pace of the show(perfectly blended with a whole host of electronic and techno music) is efficiently offset with the quieter moments when we see Sydney growing as a person and attempting to keep her secret protected. Not enough spy series or movies develop the characters in my book; the people are usually super strong and largely impervious to threat. Yet the character of Sydney is refreshingly different, because while she is very strong physically and emotionally, at the end of the day she’s got a vulnerability and depth to her that sets her apart from the pack. There is fun to be had with Alias watching as Sydney is each episode dressed up in an array of unusual costumes and brightly coloured wigs in order to carry out her missions. Some of the get-ups are pretty outrageous but this adds to the fun to be had as the scripts stop it from falling into completely ridiculous or inane territory with witty lines, references to parts of possible fantasy and action never far from view. Season 1 reveals itself as a strong and twisting starting point for a show that officially has me hooked. Standout episodes are a plenty, particularly the opening episode ‘Truth Be Told’ that unravels in the middle of the action and fills in the gaps in a non linear structure. The action packed ‘Doppelgänger’ is a real treat that is almost cinematic in execution and should be applauded for the balance between thrills and emotional drama. Creepiness is brought in among the many tonal differences of the show in ‘Reckoning’ and ‘Color Blind’, where Sydney has to go undercover as a mental patient in a horrifying asylum in Romania that is shot with the atmosphere of an old horror movie. ‘The Prophecy’ is one of the most eventful and entertaining episodes, as well as having Roger Moore feature in a guest role. And you can’t ask for a better season finale than the one provided, which answers some questions yet leaves us with questions for Season 2 Not every episode is stellar( then again what show has a season of constantly amazing episodes?), but the vast majority are extremely well orchestrated and executed. It would be impossible for me to write about every great episode as I would be here all day.
The excellent work of Jennifer Garner in the part of Sydney is what really makes the show tick. She is the beating heart of Alias and the one who most requirements fall upon as it’s primarily her story. And let me say that Jennifer Garner doesn’t miss a beat. Garner displays how Sydney’s world and what she thinks she knows is crumbled away and she is left to fight to get some semblance of it back. Her anger, intelligence, sadness and fear are all very palpable from the beginning of the show. Sydney clearly is anything but an uninteresting character and emerges as a well-developed, strong and resourceful woman having to juggle each side to her life that threatens to overflow if she isn’t careful. As much as Sydney is the mistress of concealment, Jennifer Garner brings out an emotional honesty to her that displays how Sydney may be a kick ass spy but she’s still a human being of genuine emotion. I simply cannot imagine anyone else playing the fighter that is Sydney both in the physical and emotional ways that Jennifer Garner brings to the table. Michael Vartan has the required smarts, eagerness and good looks that are great in the part of CIA officer Vaughn, who grows to be more attached to Sydney than he expected. The two have sparks but the show hints at them rather than just immediately make them an item, letting them grow closer over time. Victor Garber portrays Sydney’s enigmatic father Jack, whose fractured relationship with his estranged daughter plays in heavily throughout the narrative. Garber excellently gets across the reticence of Jack to reveal specific information which at first makes him seem uncaring, when in actual fact it is his way of shielding his daughter from even more danger than she often finds herself in. He is revealed to be a deeply compassionate man not afraid to take violent action to ensure the safety of Sydney. The dynamic of the two has the required awkwardness and unease to it that makes that part of the series mysterious yet with a growing near trust. Ron Rifkin is on hand for the creepy villainy and dedicated to the job tendencies of the corrupt Sloane, who slowly becomes suspicious that there is a mole in his organization. Just with a simple look, Rifkin gets across the darkness of this man and also a strange depth. Carl Lumbly and Kevin Weisman are solid as two of those working at SD-6: the loyal and well-meaning Dixon and geeky gadget master Marshall. Lumbly plays his performance as subtle and understated, while Weisman revels in the amusing tics of the awkward Marshall who comes up with some baffling but useful gadgets. Bradley Copper excels as the determined reporter Will, who out of unrequited love for Sydney, investigates the mysterious events around her and finds a lot more than he bargained for. Merrin Dungey stars as Francie, Sydney’s best friend and has the right chemistry with Jennifer Garner to create a convincing bond between these two. It helps the way the show balances Sydney’s dangerous double life with a sense of normality when she’s seen with Francie. She has probably the most ordinary role in the scope of the series, but it’s meant to be like that.
- Truth Be Told – A+
- So It Begins – A
- Parity – B+
- A Broken Heart – B
- Doppelgänger – A+
- Reckoning – A
- Color Blind – A
- Time Will Tell – B-
- Mea Culpa – B+
- Spirit – A
- The Confession – B
- The Box Part 1 – A
- The Box Part 2 – A-
- The Coup – C
- Page 47 – B+
- The Prophecy – A+
- Q & A – C+
- Masquerade – C-
- Snowman – B+
- The Solution – B+
- Rendezvous – A
- Almost Thirty Years – A+
An excitingly intricate show that keeps you on the edge of your seat, Alias has now become a fast favourite of mine as Season 1 draws you into it so effectively and fills it with mystery, espionage and a remarkable heroine. This has me super stoked for Season 2 and what it may have to offer in the way of twisting narrative and thrills.
Along Came a Spider
- Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross
- Monica Potter as Jezzie Flanagan
- Michael Wincott as Gary Soneji
- Dylan Baker as Ollie McArthur
Alex Cross returns to the cinema screen, following his appearance in Kiss the Girls. Yet Along Came a Spider is not the best film as a thriller due to the way it slowly plays out and overload of twists that do it harm. Some shining moments are there, mainly an excellent Morgan Freeman and some good suspense. But sadly these traits are not enough to cover this leaky film that slowly falls apart.
Washington, D.C. Detective and forensic psychologist Alex Cross retires from the force after heading a sting operation that goes terribly wrong when his partner is killed. Feeling guilty for it despite it not being his fault, Alex retreats into himself while trying to come to terms with his emotions. Meanwhile, there is something in the works that will bring Alex back into the police work once more. It all begins with the kidnapping of Megan Rose, the daughter of a senator, from her prestigious school. The man who has kidnapped her is her teacher Gary Soneji, who has complex motives that he slowly teases out. He is the one who brings Alex back into the fold by contacting him and taunting him. Special Agent Jezzie Flanagan is held accountable for the breach in security as she was the one who was keeping watch over young Megan, and she is determined to find Megan out of guilt. Brought on to the case albeit with some reluctance, Alex partnered with Jezzie and with the aid of Detective Ollie McArthur, plunges into the complex case that shows that the kidnapping of Megan was just the tip of the iceberg for Soneji. Alex deduces that wants to be notorious for his crimes, but there are many other unanswered questions at play. A complex game is afoot now and Alex is determined to break it. Along with Jezzie , Alex sets out to uncover the motives and reasons before it is too late. But how can you catch a criminal who seemingly wants to be known but is effortless at being elusive?
The direction is the first part of the film that makes problematic probably the best word befitting of Along Came a Spider. Lee Tamahori doesn’t seem to know a thing about pacing a thriller, although he starts strong he can’t keep any momentum up. The film slowly descends into run of the mill shenanigans and even when it does have good parts, they are sadly overshadowed by the weaknesses of the plot. Like I said, there are some good moments of suspense generated. These consist of the opening in which the partner of Cross is killed after the operation goes awry and a rain-soaked set piece where Alex and Jezzie are confronted with Gary Soneji. These provide two highlights of a picture, that sadly lacks a punch. And with the script, I’m all for a few twists but Along Came a Spider tangles itself into oblivion with its attempts to be clever. I must say that I enjoyed Kiss the Girls better because its story kept you involved, whereas with this film it drifts away and becomes mundane. A score from Jerry Goldsmith, who is one of my favourite film composers, is appropriately suspenseful and imaginative, injecting the film with good helpings of both which the mixed movie requires.
As flawed and up and down as Along Came a Spider proves to be, Morgan Freeman portraying Alex Cross is simply brilliant. Freeman once more plays his part with a great deal of respect and shrewd intellect, as Alex is reluctantly drawn back into his job as detective by the quite baffling and twisting case presented to him. His gravity, quietly unassuming personality and keen insight of the character is what really keeps this movie going, even when it slips into contrivance and ridiculousness. Although I’ve seen Monica Potter in other good parts, her role as Jezzie Flanagan here is not one of them. The character is meant to be conflicted and guilt ridden, but she comes off as emotionless. Now I don’t know whether this is the fault of the script of Potter or the script, but the role just is not a good one. Even when later on they expand on her character, it’s too little too late. Michael Wincott is a lot more successful in his portrayal of the kidnapper Gary Soneji, who has motives that are hard to figure out. He isn’t an over the top villain, instead a quietly intelligent and often pitiful man with a warped world view. All of that is made clear and interesting due to Michael Wincott and his good work. In the main supporting part of the detective assigned to the case, Dylan Baker is given scant to do but remains quite memorable.
While the music, some tension and a reliable Morgan Freeman performance can be gleaned from Along Came a Spider, it is not enough to create something that will linger in the mind.
The Jungle Book
- Neel Sethi as Mowgli
- Ben Kingsley as Bagheera
- Bill Murray as Baloo
- Idris Elba as Shere Khan
- Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha
- Giancarlo Esposito as Akela
- Scarlett Johansson as Kaa
- Christopher Walken as King Louie
When I was first informed that they were doing another version of The Jungle Book, combining live action with CGI, I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical over how successful it would turn out. I’m happy to report however that this interpretation from Disney is a triumph in almost every department, while adding some new touches to the adventure tale. Trust me, you’ll be blown away by this version of the beloved story.
Mowgli is an orphaned man cub, who is raised by a pack of wolves deep in the Indian jungle. He was brought there by the panther Bagheera, who watches out for the young and wild boy. While the wolves treat him as family, the leader of the pack Akela, disapproves of the boy using tricks considered human and wants him to be more like a wolf. Raksha, a female wolf acts as a strong mother figure for Mowgli and considers him her son. Yet as Mowgli grows older, the threats to him become more pronounced. The main one is the reappearance of the evil tiger Shere Khan, who strikes fear in the heart of all the other animals. Having been burned by humans in the past, Shere Khan has a deep hatred for man and seeing Mowgli vows to kill him. Fearing for the safety of young Mowgli, Akela has Bagheera take him back to a man village where it is hoped he will be safe from Shere Khan. Mowgli doesn’t want to leave, but sees that the danger posed to him is great. Yet getting to that village is no easy task as Mowgli and Bagheera become separated and he must fend for himself. Thankfully he encounters Baloo, a lazy but lovable bear who he quickly forms a bond with. Yet there is peril to be found in the jungle in many forms and with Shere Khan attempting to draw him out, it comes down to Mowgli to discover where his place in life is.
Jon Favreau directs with a sure hand, crafting The Jungle Book as an entertaining yet heartfelt production of massive scope. The CGI is quite simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring, worthy of every ounce of praise that has been aimed at it. Nary a frame of The Jungle Book is wasted due to the precision of the direction and the sheer majesty of everything going on. Everything in this Disney production looks so life-like, you could almost touch it and taste it with your senses in every shot. The jungle comes alive on the screen, resplendent with dangers and adventures for young Mowgli, as well as the audience too. In a different move, the darkness quota is significantly raised like never before. This gives The Jungle Book that something else that balances being a fun adventure with some genuine moments of danger. Moments that signify this shift are plentiful; from the large snake Kaa revealing the past of Mowgli while reeling him in to a large and menacing Orangutan-resembling ape King Louie, who wishes to harness the power of fire. And the biggest one is having Shere Khan as a ferocious beast who was scarred by man and looks frightening from the very moment he appears. I must say this new direction of making things darker really impressed me because it infuses the film with probably the darkest presentation of the source material yet doesn’t forget the atmosphere of fun that children and adults alike can enjoy. The coming of age elements are brought out with deeply riveting and soulful results as Mowgli attempts to find his place. An excellent music score highlights the thrilling adventures and soul of The Jungle Book. It was also a blast hearing some of the songs from the 1967 animated version, but done in other ways to distinguish it and not make the film a remake.
Newcomer Neel Sethi, as the only physical performer in the film, is naturally convincing as the curious and rebellious Mowgli. Considering that he would have been acting against nothing, he marvellously conveys a big load of emotions and reactions that never ring false for a second. The voice cast for the animals that inhabit the jungle are expertly employed and add their own inflections to their parts. I have always found Ben Kingsley as an actor to have something of a stately presence and this feeling of authority is reflected in his voicing of Bagheera, which emanates with wisdom and firmness. The amusing and always joyful Bill Murray is inspired as the honey-guzzling Baloo, who provides the comic moments of the film with a dash of classic Murray sarcasm. A real standout among the voices is Idris Elba as the evil Shere Khan. His booming, resonant voice utilized to maximum effect that makes the creature genuinely scary and filled with rage. Reverberating whenever he shows us, Elba’s voice is a clear winner. The assured and nurturing inflections from Lupita Nyong’o as the motherly Raksha pull out the emotional centre of the story and go a long way to creating moving results. Giancarlo Esposito has the required feelings of strength and leadership in voicing the head wolf of Akela, while the seductive voice of Scarlett Johansson colours the segment with her as Kaa the snake with a hypnotic impact. Christopher Walken’s distinctive voice is put to excellent use as the gigantic King Louie, with him sounding like something of a dodgy deal maker in the gangster mode and a menacing force. As strange as that combination sounds, it works wonderfully for this creation.
Imaginative, lushly directed and filled with something for everyone, The Jungle Book is a wonderful film in every way. Whether it’s the visuals, cast or the story, every department pulls tether to breathe fresh life into the well-known story and put a new stamp on it. I can’t think of a movie of late that has left me so thrilled and excited to talk about.
- Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
- Jason Miller as Father Karras
- Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
- Lee J. Cobb as Lieutenant William Kinderman
- Max Von Sydow as Father Merrin
Still a supernatural horror classic that retains its sense of unease, building tension and creepy goings on, The Exorcist provides all the necessary chills along with a focus on themes of faith and religion to examine deeply. Equally disturbing and gruesome, The Exorcist is brought to life under the talented direction of William Friedkin and the exceptional playing of the cast.
Chris is a famous actress who is currently on location in Georgetown filming the last parts of a movie. Her amiable and devoted 12-year-old daughter Regan is with her and though Chris is busy, any time she gets free she so spends with her daughter. Yet strange things begin to slowly take shape after Regan plays with a Ouija board. She exhibits erratic behaviour, she swears constantly and becomes increasingly violent to those around her. Chris, obviously disturbed by all of this, takes her daughter to medical experts. Yet even after extensive tests are performed, there is no explanation for what is happening to Regan. Things get worse as her appearance continues to deteriorate and her violence increases into something very frightening. What no one knows or seems to able to fathom at this point is that Regan is possessed by a demon which takes ever more control of her day by day. A distraught Chris is at the end of her rope as she tries to save her daughter from the horror she is subjected to. As a last resort, she enlists the help of Father Damian Karras, a priest who also has a degree in psychiatry. He himself is going through a crisis of faith as he reels from guilt over his mother’s death and how he wished he had been there for her more. He comes to investigate the case( after having already spoken to Lieutenant William Kinderman , who is himself looking into the strange events after the death of someone close to the family) and is shocked by his findings, as it becomes very clear that a demon has taken residence within the young girl. He considers exorcism to be a last resort, yet when is other ways of getting the demon out fail, he knows that an exorcism is what is needed. The fact is that the faith of Karras is under threat anyway so he knows that he will need to employ the expertise of someone whose faith and will is stronger than his. That person is Father Merrin, who has dealt with exorcism in the past and despite getting on in age, is strong when it comes to doing battle with evil forces. Yet could this case of possession be a step too far for Father Merrin? Whatever the case, it’s going to take every ounce of strength within both men to drive this demon out.
I think many people tend to focus on the graphic and gruesome parts of The Exorcist, forgetting that the build up as orchestrated by Friedkin is actually just as effective. He cranks up the tension in the early stretches as the behaviour of Regan changes, yet doesn’t rush anything. This may surprise many who may have not seen the film and believe it is a scare a minute movie. If anything the scares of The Exorcist are generated by the pain of the characters as well as the horror that colours the second half of the movie. Friedkin’s work is utterly marvellous in the ways it taps into deep fears of loss of faith and the safety of a child, observed best in the pursuit of Chris to save her daughter and the two priests doing everything they can to reclaim her soul from the clutches of evil. Without the arresting direction and measured build up from Friedkin, The Exorcist would have nowhere near the amount of creepy impact it has. By slowly suggesting the horror that will come, when in the last act it lets loose it is damn terrifying to witness. And like with any film of a certain age some of the special effects lessen, The Exorcist surprisingly still stands up in that department; mainly because there is the story underneath it all to back up the gory and malevolent spirit of the piece. And memorable scenes are found in abundance throughout the running of The Exorcist. Regan’s transformation into a foul-mouthed demon that is scarred and vomit’s bile, the arrival of Father Merrin displayed as a lone light casts his shadow on the house where he must confront evil and the climactic exorcism that will no doubt give you shudders of terror. I could go on listing the iconic moments of the film, but then this review would become boring. The use of sound in this film is pretty marvellous, with an ambient atmosphere crafted from the humming but ominous music.
With the script allowing us to get know the characters throughout, the actors present do a commendable job in their respective roles. Ellen Burstyn is marvellous in the part of the terrified mother trying to save her daughter from the darkness. Burstyn delves deep into the pain and shock of the character with intelligence, that helps transfer her maternal fears for her daughter on to the audience in the process. Jason Miller brings a sadness and pathos to Father Karras, who has to face emotional and quite literal demons as his faith comes under fire in the increasing horror of the situation. Then of course there is Linda Blair as the initially friendly Regan whose personality morphs into unspeakable evil when she’s possessed. Largely covered in grotesque make up and confined to a bed for most of the performance, Blair considering how young she was at the time really gives a startling performance of frightening intensity. Part of why it’s so effective is how Blair shows the cherubic niceness of Regan in the beginning that is warm and sweet, then once possessed a force of physical and psychological terror. It really adds a lot to the performance and makes the film in general a great deal more terrifying. Lee J. Cobb plays the part of the wily detective investigating the goings on when murder strikes and he does so with an observational quality and sprinkle of humour. And then there is Max Von Sydow as the eponymous exorcist. His role is a small but incredibly pivotal one that he infuses with dignity and wisdom even as his beliefs are tested by the demon in front of him.
A macabre and deeply unsettling horror film, it’s not hard to discern why The Exorcist is held in such high regard. It simply is a creepy exercise in shocking terror that doesn’t forget the characters and has enough food for thought to last a long time.
- Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster
- Ron Leibman as Reuben Warshowsky
- Beau Bridges as Sonny Webster
- Pat Hingle as Vernon
- Barbara Baxley as Leona
An inspiring movie that takes basis from a true story, Norma Rae is refreshingly realistic and filled with a deep heart, best embodied by the bravura work of Sally Field that garnered her many awards of which she was more than deserving of.
Norma Rae Webster works in a cotton mill in North Carolina, just like almost everyone in her small town including her aging mother and father. The place is one that is defined by one industry and it’s almost expected that everyone will work there at one point. Norma is a woman with a reputation in the past of drinking and going from one abusive relationship to the next, as well as having children by different fathers which many people take issue with. She has recently married Sonny who is supportive yet chauvinistic and boorish on occasion. The mill that she works in has taken its toll on both her mother and father over the years and despite not being the most educated person, she is starting to realise the unfairness and harsh treatment from management. Around this time, New York Union organizer Reuben Warshowsky arrives and begins talking of better working conditions, which alarms both management and workers. At the beginning, Norma Rae has resided herself to the fact that she’ll likely always work at the mill, yet with Reuben around and after hearing one of his speeches, she starts to reconsider what she though she knew. Over time and quickly inspired by Reuben, Norma Rae realises that she can’t simply stand back while these poor conditions continue and while originally reluctant to get involved with Reuben, she slowly gets on board with him and starts to see potential in herself as she grows stronger. With growing confidence and bravery to stand up for herself from Reuben, Norma starts a fight for better conditions and Union, even though she is threatened by her bosses, alienated from her husband and shunned by many of her co-workers. Norma finally gets her chance to make a difference in her role as leader and agitator begins to get significant attention.
Martin Ritt infuses Norma Rae with unfussy direction that closely looks at the heroine’s growth and the horrifying conditions of her work. His intimate camera pans over the sheer amount of demeaning work everyone at the mill is put through with the feel of a documentary, never forgetting that the film takes its basis from a true story. Ritt knows exactly how to mix depth of character, politics and inspiring tones as Norma fights for Union despite vast opposition from nearly everyone a around her. Martin Ritt brings a minimalism to the film that places us within the film, never letting us forget the basis of the story and the grit provided from what we witness. A well constructed script strikes the right chords of seriousness and emotion; allowing us to journey with the title character. Also refreshing is while there is something of an attraction between Norma and Reuben, it doesn’t dissolve into an affair which marks it as something different due to the fact that the attraction is more one of admiration than passion. In the odd area, Norma Rae couldn’t have been tightened up a bit but this is a very minor flaw in a pretty effective and moving picture. The music is sparse which lets the audience focus on the unfolding story more, yet the haunting title song ‘It Goes like it Goes’ provides the perfect opening and close to the film.
The ace in the hole is Sally Field, who won a much deserved Oscar for her turn as the evolving title character. I liked the way that Field revealed that Norma is no saint but whose heart and growing strength act as arsenal for her as she slowly becomes a fighter in a marvellous transformation. She makes Norma Rae a relatable character because of how she doesn’t go out to make her a too good to be true heroine, instead painting her as an ordinary woman discovering her worth. It’s an authentic, emotion driven performance that shows Field at her best as there isn’t a beat that she misses when playing Norma, who unearths a power in herself that she never know was there. I can’t speak any more highly of Field’s award-winning turn here, other than to say that she is nothing short of heroic in a tour de force performance. Ron Leibman provides stellar support as the stirring Reuben, who sees potential and strength in Norma Rae, as well as boasting a quick-witted way of taking down opposition. In the part of Norma’s husband, who suspects that her alliance with Reuben is something more, Beau Bridges is appropriately concerned and meaning well, but hampered by his masculine tendencies and big attitude to question what his wife is up to. Pat Hingle and Barbara Baxley respectively play Norma’s parents, whose health has declined due to their torturous work at the mill.
Rousing yet grounded and touched with straightforward but emotive direction, Norma Rae is an excellent movie that shows the true courage of one woman no one thought much of and Sally Field at the peak of her powers in the role of the eponymous character.
Eye for an Eye
- Sally Field as Karen McCann
- Kiefer Sutherland as Robert Doob
- Ed Harris as Mack McCann
- Joe Mantegna as Detective Joe Denillo
A dramatic thriller, Eye for an Eye starts strong yet quickly goes off course and becomes sub-par. Considering it had potentially thought-provoking material dealing with failed justice and what could happen if we were to contemplate revenge, Eye for an Eye unfortunately lays on the ridiculousness that ultimately undoes it.
Karen McCann has a great husband in Mack, a good job and two daughters in Julie(from her previous marriage) and Megan. Yet her world is turned upside down by savage events that unfold on her youngest daughter’s birthday. Stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, she calls Julie to tell her that she’s going to be late. While on the phone, Julie answers the door to someone who begins attacking the girl, leading to rape and finally her death. Horrified, Karen here’s everything on the phone and is frozen in terror. She then tries to find help, eventually contacting the police. Completely inconsolable when she’s informed of her daughter’s graphic murder, Karen refuses to move on with her life despite the best efforts of her supportive husband to guide her through the unimaginable grief. During this time, one Robert Doob is arrested for the murder of Julie, thanks to the work of Detective Joe Denillo, who is confident that they have a case. Karen thinks this will bring closure as the disgusting Doob will pay for what he did, but she is wrong as it doesn’t turn out that way. Due to a technicality with one piece of evidence, the snarling Doob who it is obvious is the culprit gets off and is now free. This completely shocks Karen and Mack, but most of all Karen who begins to dangerously obsess about Doob. She starts to follow the psychopathic man, detailing his movements and day-to-day activities. Mack, who wants to grieve in his own way and slowly move on, begins to suspect his wife is slipping into obsession, but his actions are futile as his wife won’t listen to him. Meanwhile at the same time, Karen discovers that within the counsel group that she has been attending, there are a few who failed by justice engineer vigilante killings and training. Devastated beyond belief by the cruel murder of her daughter and the inability for anyone to do anything, Karen quietly joins this covert group and begins planning her next move. Yet Doob is still hanging around and is likely to strike again, which firmly makes up Karen’s mind of what she’ll do next. Slowly her rage and disillusion with the legal system completely spill over and she begins to plan killing Doob for all the pain he has caused her. The main question is can Karen really go through with killing him knowing that the consequences could be dire for her if she does?
John Schlesinger may not be at his very best here, but his expertise are competent enough despite how riddled the film is with flaws. Some good tension is generated from his direction, yet even that isn’t enough to make Eye for an Eye a credible movie. Instead of taking a route that could have probed deep questions, Eye for an Eye settles for full on revenge mode as it carries on, without so much as a question of actions or implications. The film may have been a lot better if the issues of vigilantism and the frailty of justice through people’s eyes were presented with significantly more clarity and moral standpoint. Which brings me on to the problematic nature of what Eye for an Eye is trying to be, or in this case doesn’t know what it wants to be. If it was attempting to be a complex thriller posing controversial questions, it doesn’t succeed because a lot of the decisions that the script has the characters make are without thought of repercussion. And when it comes to the scenes of violence and rape there are times when it borders on gratuitous and exploitative. Eye for an Eye just never digs deep enough to bring out the themes it could have explored much better. A rather uninspired score does little to bolster any of the film.
One part of Eye for an Eye that can’t be criticized is the acting, which is one of the few things that keeps you watching despite the problematic source material. In the main role of the vengeful Karen, Sally Field is ideally cast. Always a strong performer in my eyes, Field imbues the film with a lot more emotion than the by the numbers script had and is powerful throughout. Filled with inconsolable rage and deep sadness that won’t be contained, Sally Field does a stellar job in this film that lifts it to watchable level. She deserved a better film to showcase her skills but her performance here is outstanding and emotionally convincing. Kiefer Sutherland is excellent as the utterly repellent murderer/rapist and its a testament to his talents as an actor that the audience feels complete and utter revulsion for him. Providing solid support is the ever dependable Ed Harris whose stoic emotions and firm dedication to his wife are put under threat due to her need for justice. Given little to do but still pretty good is Joe Mantegna as the detective growing concerned about Karen’s actions.
Despite the great cast it boasts, Eye for an Eye is simply a waste of a film that had possibly provocative and serious topics to present maturely and with balance. But instead of that, it can’t provide either dramatic impact or topical discussion on the subject of taking the law into one’s own hands.