Review


In a confessional, a parishioner talks to small town priest Father James (Brendan Gleeson) about his childhood sexual abuse by a priest. He says he will kill James the next Sunday, because James is a good man and it would be worse and more disconcerting for the Catholic Church than killing a bad priest; in any case the offender has already died. Deeply troubled and conflicted about how to respond, Father James tries to go on with his calling through that week. However, that proves impossible as he is confronted with a troubling variety of spiritual challenges from both his estranged daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) who recently attempted suicide and his own parishioners. In those dispiriting struggles, Father James’ life begins to fall apart during the week as time runs out towards a confrontation that seems to crystallize his values and what he wants his life to be…

Tim Griersen of Screen International praises Gleeson for his performance and the film, calling it “A rich character drama that’s equally eloquent and despairing, “Calvary” carries a weary resignation that feels lived-in and deeply considered.” He cautions that the film might prove to be a hard sell as it examines religious faith and does not fit in an easily marketable genre. Praising “Calvary” for its treatment of its weighty thematic elements, Lauren Ely for First Things wrote, “Is it possible for a film to capture the horror of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church while at the same time presenting a case for the necessity of the institutional priesthood? Against all odds, this is exactly what Irish director John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary manages to do.” In his review, cultural commentator Fr. Robert Barron writes that the film “shows, with extraordinary vividness, what authentic spiritual shepherding looks like and how it feels for a priest to have a shepherd’s heart.” “Calvary” tackles global issues with both humor, intelligence, and sensitivity even if the main topic is a truly difficult one. Being abused by a priest, a person representing God, Jesus an the Holy Spirit and also a person with “direct” contact with the higher power, is of course a deceit of big proportions. A true abuse of power and trust and not something to be taken lightly. We have heard too many upsetting stories the past years of this specific topic and yet it seems that the Church keep on backing up their own and not taking proper action to solve the issue. Brendan Gleeson is magnificent as Father James and the intriguing and strange character gallery (all doing a great job as well) he confront in his daily work helps to keep up a fantastic dynamic in the movie. It´s always a treat to the lovely and talented Kelly Reilly, but I think she should´ve gotten a bit more screen time in “Calvary”. All in all this is a touching, difficult, funny, different and well made movie by John Michael McDonagh. (4 out of 5)

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Undercover San Francisco narcotics cops Sean Kane (Chuck Norris) and Dave Pierce (Terry Kiser) head into a dark alley to meet up with an informant by the name of Tony Montoya (Mel Novak) who promises to break their big investigation wide open by providing the name of the oriental drug ringleader. Minutes later, Pierce is dead after having been shot, hit by a car, and burned. Kane gets into trouble with his boss, Captain Stevens (Richard Roundtree), for sending one of the killers flying out a third story window to his death in full public view right after the incident. Rather than face discipline, and told to keep his distance by his superiors, Kane now decides to quit the force, and sets out to exact vengeance. Kane is not the only one who is angry; Dave’s girlfriend, reporter Linda Chan (Rosalind Chao), is too, and she vows to bring the drug gang down herself by way of investigative reporting and public exposure. However, when Linda uncovers the secret that Kane and Pierce never found, she, too, is killed. Kane sets out for revenge, and so does Linda’s grieving father James Chan (Mako Iwamatsu). Together they get to the bottom of things and bring down the drug gang, and its unexpected leader…

“An Eye For An Eye” is one of Chuck Norris more well known movies I reckon, but has a weaker plot line then the more dynamic and not too bad “Good Guys Wear Black” in my point of view. It´s a simple vengeance b-movie with pretty ridiculous action sequences (and some truly poor acting at times….) and with bad guys that looks like they have been taken from a James Bond movie from the 70s. Christopher Lee´s participation is a pretty good hint at 007. I reckon the powerful Richard Roundtree is a bit wasted as he doesn´t get that much screen time and the same goes for the striking Rosalind Chao. Nah, this is pretty half assed if you ask me, a not one of Chuck Norris better ones. (2 out of 5)

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Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a software engineer formerly employed by ENCOM. He wrote several video games, but another engineer, Ed Dillinger (David Warner) stole them and passed them off as his own, earning himself a series of promotions. Having left the company, Flynn attempts to obtain evidence of Dillinger’s actions by hacking the ENCOM mainframe, but is repeatedly stopped by the Master Control Program (MCP), an artificial intelligence written by Dillinger. When the MCP reveals its plan to take control of outside mainframes including the Pentagon and Kremlin, Dillinger attempts to stop it, only to have the MCP threaten to expose his plagiarism of Flynn’s hugely successful games. Flynn’s ex-girlfriend, Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan), and fellow ENCOM engineer, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), warn Flynn that Dillinger knows about his hacking attempts and has tightened security. Flynn persuades them to sneak him inside ENCOM, where he forges a higher security clearance for Alan’s security program “Tron”. In response, the MCP uses an experimental laser to digitize Flynn into the ENCOM mainframe, where programs appear in the likeness of the human “users” who created them. Flynn quickly learns that the MCP and its second-in-command, Sark (Warner), rule over Programs and coerce them to renounce their belief in the Users. Those that resist are forced to play in martial games in which the losers are destroyed. Flynn is forced to fight other Programs and meets Tron (Boxleitner) and Ram (Dan Shor) between matches. The three escape into the mainframe during a Light Cycle match. When Ram is mortally wounded and dies, Flynn learns that, as a User, he can manipulate the reality of the digital world. Flynn needs to stop Sark and the MCP with the help of Tron & Yori and retrieve the evidence against Dillinger…

“Tron” was disqualified from receiving an Academy Award nomination for special effects, because the Academy felt at the time that using computers was “cheating”. At the time, computers could generate static images, but could not automatically put them into motion. Thus, the coordinates for each image, such as a lightcycle, had to be entered for each individual frame. It took 600 coordinates to get 4 seconds of film. Each of these coordinates was entered into the computer by hand by the filmmakers. Many Disney animators refused to work on this movie because they feared that computers would put them out of business. In fact, 22 years later Disney closed its hand-drawn animation studio in favor of CGI animation. Hand-drawn animation was ultimately resumed at Disney at the behest of new creative director John Lasseter, also head of Pixar- ironically a computer animation company. All the live action that occurred inside the computer was filmed in black and white, and colorized later with photographic and rotoscopic techniques. Although the film was an initial failure, the arcade video games based on it proved to be a tremendous hit and actually out-grossed the film. Due to the poor return at the box office, following this film and its predecessor The Black Hole (1979), Disney Studios did not make another live subject film for ten years. The film was well received by critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars and described the film as “a dazzling movie from Walt Disney in which computers have been used to make themselves romantic and glamorous. Here’s a technological sound-and-light show that is sensational and brainy, stylish, and fun”. However, near the end of his review, he noted (in a positive tone), “This is an almost wholly technological movie. Although it’s populated by actors who are engaging (Bridges, Cindy Morgan) or sinister (Warner), it is not really a movie about human nature. Like [the last two Star Wars films], but much more so, this movie is a machine to dazzle and delight us”. Ebert was so convinced that this film had not been given its due credit by both critics and audiences that he decided to close his first annual Overlooked Film Festival with a showing of “Tron”. InfoWorld’s Deborah Wise was impressed, writing that “it is hard to believe the characters acted out the scenes on a darkened soundstage… We see characters throwing illuminated Frisbees, driving ‘lightcycles’ on a video-game grid, playing a dangerous version of jai alai and zapping numerous fluorescent tanks in arcade-game-type mazes. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’s just what video-game fans and anyone with a spirit of adventure will love-despite plot weaknesses.” In his review for the Globe and Mail, Jay Scott wrote, “It’s got momentum and it’s got marvels, but it’s without heart; it’s a visionary technological achievement without vision”. As of July 2013, the movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes rated the film at 71% on its Tomatometer, based on the reviews of 48 critics. A consensus statement for the movie said, “Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.” Weirdly enough I never saw “Tron” or “The Black Hole” when they came out (until this year), but bought the graphic novels from both movies and I guess I was excited to read them. This was something new and boundary breaking in the early 80s. I reckon that this is also the downside for me, I didn´t see “Tron” in 1982 and created an emotional connection to it then, like I did with “Star Wars”. Seeing this “unique” film today is not very exciting if you ask me, because it´s just not an exciting movie. But, the story is there, it´s just not handled properly. I simply see all the dodginess that most likely looked great in 1982 and it didn´t make the 10 year old me inside jump of joy as he might have done then. Which was a disappointment as I have waited to see this for years and now when I finally did, it lost all the magic you thought it contained infront of your eyes. But, it made me a bit nostalgic about arcade games and arcade game halls, as I used to love going to those places and play when I was a kid. And it was nice to see the lovely Cindy Morgan. (2 and a half out of 5)

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Back in 1973, one United States Senator Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus), the chief delegate diplomat in negotiating the terms of the end of Vietnam War, made a deal in Paris, France with Kuong Yen, the North Vietnamese negotiator. The deal called for Yen to release certain key CIA POWs in exchange for Morgan setting up a death-trap for an elite group of CIA assassins, known as the Black Tigers. The treaty signed, the Black Tigers were sent into the jungles of ‘Nam to their unknowing demise, under the guise that they were on mission to liberate American POWs. However, the truly important thing to understand is that the negotiators failed to realize one thing: the commando’s team leader was one Major John T. Booker (Chuck Norris). So, needless to say and despite all odds, Booker survives. As do the four men wise enough to have remained in his general vicinity. Five years after returning from Vietnam, Booker, now living in Los Angeles, California, with a hobby of race car-driving, is now working as a political science professor at UCLA. During one of his lectures a bright young female reporter joins in, Margaret (Anne Archer), who starts asking some very specific questions about the botched rescue mission. It seems that someone is slowly killing all the surviving members of the special forces team. Booker is suddenly thrown back into his past when Morgan’s appointment as Secretary of State spurs Yen to blackmail his ex-negotiations buddy into making good on his unfinished deal: the extermination of the Black Tigers…

“Good Guys Wear Black” is a reasonably action packed 70´s B-thriller, but not over the top as you would normally see in a Chuck Norris movie. We have a conspiracy thriller foundation in this movie, that goes over into classic Chuck Norris martial art action or sequences at times. But, I think the balance between the dialogue driven structure and the action is pretty ok. The movie is actually well shot cinematography wise most of the running time, but it has it flaws for sure. Even the most famous scene when Booker jumps into the windscreen of a car you can see without problems it´s not Norris doing the stunt. For being a Chuck Norris (hardly the best actor in Hollywood) movie, I must say it´s not too bad. I saw this many years ago, and it was kind of fun to re-see it again. And it was a pleasure to see how striking and beautiful Anne Archer was back then. (3 out of 5)

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Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are co-workers at Chicago craft brewery Revolution Brewing, where they spend their days drinking and goofing off. They are perfect for each other, except that they are both in relationships: Kate is with Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick). Jill presses Luke to see if he is yet ready to talk about marriage, which he promises he will be sometime soon. Luke is busy brewing beer and Kate handles phone calls to set up the anniversary party for the brewery. Later, at the brewery party, Chris invites Luke and Jill to join him and Kate for a trip to his family’s cottage. During the trip Jill and Chris go for a long hike in the woods, where they end up kissing. Luke and Kate spend the whole trip drinking and staying up late alone together, including a bonfire on the beach. After the group returns home, Chris decides he needs to talk to Kate and the two break up. Newly single Kate insists the whole brewery crew go out the next evening for drinks, to celebrate her ‘singleness’, and that night she ends up sleeping with a co-worker, Dave. When Luke hears about this he is angry at both Dave and Kate, and spends the whole day pissed off, snapping at both of them, but eventually apologizes for his behaviour. Jill decides to go away for a week with some friends from college. During this trip, Luke and Kate go out for dinner and fall asleep together on the couch. Luke agrees to help Kate clean out her old apartment and move the next day, and at the end of the day Luke falls asleep on the bed. Kate joins him. During the next morning, Luke invites Kate to dinner to celebrate the move, but then cuts his hand while helping her move the couch. Kate is squeamish about the blood and unhelpful. An impatient driver, blocked by the moving van, yells at them and starts a fight with Luke. After Luke ends up with a fat lip, Kate calls Dave and another co-worker to help finish the move. Dave invites Kate to go out for drinks, and she tells Luke that she wants to go, rather than going to dinner. Luke is annoyed, and an argument ensues.Returning home, Luke finds Jill has returned home early, and she is crying. She confesses to kissing Chris while at the cottage, tells Luke how guilty she feels about what happened, and that she really loves him and wants to marry him. Luke forgives Jill and lets her know that he still loves her and wants to marry her. The next day at work Kate and Luke awkwardly interact and then eventually end up sitting together at lunch. They each offer one another food items before they crack a smile, and drink a beer…

The dialog to “Drinking Buddies” was improvised. Instead of a script, the actors received outlines which covered the major plot points and were told each day what had to happen in that day’s scenes. Relying heavily on improvisation is a key feature of the Mumblecore film movement. He said, “knowing that the structure was already pretty heavily in place, it was about letting the actors own their characters, and have a big say in the clothes that they wore, and in the interactions that they have with each other.” He added: “The improv was used to mainly make the middle of the movie more complicated, and less predictable that a typical romantic comedy would be.” Swanberg also stated “They need to be listening to each other and reacting honestly and I need to be paying really close attention because there’s not a script to fall back on. The goal of doing it that way is to keep everybody engaged and create situations that feel fun and natural”. Filming took place in Chicago, Illinois in July 2012. The film was shot in an actual brewery, called Revolution, where one of the female brewers named Kate was the basis for Wilde’s character. The actors actually drank real beer during the filming and even did real work for the brewing company. Because there was no script and the making of the film was so up in the air, the actors would show up on set often not knowing what they would be filming that day. Ron Livingston arrived in Chicago (where the movie was filmed) one day before he was scheduled to work, but then received a call telling him that filming was ahead of schedule so he would be working that day and that he would be filming “the break up scene”. Livingston knew that his character had a relationship with Olivia Wilde’s character and to a certain extent with Anna Kendrick’s too, so when he arrived on set, he had to ask the director which one of the two he was breaking up with and why. “Drinking Buddies” is a a bittersweet and funny comedy about relations, both friend relations and love relations, and this movie is powered by great performances from all involved but predominantly from Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson. Their acting is so relaxed and on the spot, so you feel your watching more of a documentary. The story is just based on everyday dialogues and everyday happenings and yet Swanberg and his actors manages to really engage you in the “non” action within the daily interactions on the screen. The tension and chemistry between Wilde and Johnson and their characters goes through the screen and that is such strong pillar in the movie. It just feels real and honest, maybe due to the fact that the director let the actors improvise throughout the movie. “Drinking Buddies” is a solid example on truly great acting and that a movie can just be about daily interactions and yet be intriguing and interesting. (3 and a half out of 5)

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Ten years before freeing American POWs in Vietnam, Colonel James Braddock (Chuck Norris) was held in a North Vietnamese POW camp himself run by the sadistic Colonel Yin (Soon-Teck Oh), who forces the prisoners to grow opium for a French drug runner, and tries to get Braddock to sign a long list of war crimes he has supposedly committed. During his team’s time in captivity, they are relentlessly subjected to various forms of humiliating torture, and Braddock is being told that his wife has left him and remarried. Braddock must escape and rescue his fellow prisoners from Yin before they all perish…

“Missing in Action 2: The Beginning” (1985) was filmed back to back with “Missing in Action” (1984), and was supposed to be released first. However, when the producers realised the second film was the better of the two, they released it first and called it “Missing in Action 2: The Beginning” a prequel. This is of course a B-movie actioneer as the first one, but here we actually deal with the hardship of POW captives and the atrocities they suffer while in the camp during most of the running time, before Chuck falls into his classic action hero role and saves the day. Chuck is not as wooden as he normally is until he breaks out of the camp, which is a relief to see. This is an 80s no brainer action movie and you get exactly what you expect to get. (2 and a half out of 5)

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Dixie (Jonny Owen), is a postman from South Wales, and a music fanatic. All his life he’s dreamed of discovering a great band and then one day, trawling through YouTube, he finds them… ‘The Premature Congratulations’. He hunts them down and offers them his management services. They are young, arrogant, sexy and utterly magnificent. Putting their demo on a cassette tape, Dixie heads out onto the streets of London… Innocent, wide-eyed Dixie embarks on a roller coaster ride through the most infamous industry of them all. His partner and his sanity through it all is his soulmate Michelle (Vicky McClure). Every day is a battle for Dixie, totally broke and working for nothing to get his beloved band gigs, their egos grow with their stardom. The more successful The Prems get, the greater the chances are of Dixie losing them. He has to decide what are his real priorities in life… his love of music or his love for Michelle…

“Svengali” tries to be a feel-good comedy pinpointing the things we hold dear in life and if you have to choose what do you go for. The story is there, even if it´s not a unique one. However, I think this fails due to the partly amateurish result and in several cases the acting (the band is awful) plus the general set-up. Jonny Owen and the lovely Vicky McClure do justice to their characters, but it´s the rest that doesn´t really follow no matter how many famous guest cameos that shows up. “Svengali” won´t end up on my to see list. (2 out of 5)

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