Colin Pryce is a Louisiana congressman who becomes a hero in the eyes of all US residents surrounding the Gulf of Mexico when he decides to take action to help those affected by a severe BP oil spill. Many citizens have had their livestock taken from them, with hundreds upon thousands of shrimp and fish killed in the area, and he seems to be the only one making any move to ease the devastating environmental and financial impact. With the help of his wife Deborah Pryce, he wins respect for his charismatic and inspiring speeches, but he almost destroys all that when human temptation gets in the way. A whirlwind affair becomes a nationwide scandal when he is seduced by a beautiful young woman, and it's all he and his family can do to lessen the blow for his disappointed followers by continuing his campaign to address those who still need his help.
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French filmmaker Luc Besson continues to combine family themes with intense violence (see Taken), but at least this film has a wry sense of humour about it. Director McG refuses to take the story seriously (see Charlie's Angels), balancing the escalating body count with a silly father-daughter drama to make this an enjoyably absurd guilty pleasure.
Kevin Costner stars as Ethan, a veteran CIA hitman who finds out that he's only got three months to live. So he retires and returns home to Paris to reconnect with his ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and their now-teen daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld). But just as he discovers a family of immigrants squatting in his flat, the vampy CIA operative Vivi (Amber Heard) appears and coaxes him back into service for one last job, paying him with both cash and an experimental cancer treatment. So as he tracks down international arms dealers, he's also trying to bond with Zooey over three days of babysitting while Christine is away on business. But of course this is also just when the violence breaks out.
McG does a great job of cutting back and forth between these two story strands: the tetchy-sweet fatherly stuff and the action-man shootouts, car chases and fist-fights. Ethan even has to interrupt a spot of torture when Zooey gets in trouble at school. This wildly bizarre mixture of goofy sentimentality and vicious brutality takes in all of Paris' picturesque landmarks. And since this is a Luc Besson script, it's only a matter of time before the two elements merge for a big climax. Yes, everything is ludicrously predictable, but there's just enough spark to keep us entertained.
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Joe is a fiercely determined 50-year-old woman whose sexual drive has taken over her entire life. Her story of how she ended up injured in an alleyway and subsequently being nursed back to health by the curious Seligman deepens and darkens in this half of the story, as she relays tales of how her sexuality has caused so much damage. In a bid to somehow recover from her nymphomania, she attends a therapy group, but she also can't resist meeting a therapist of a different kind as she finds new and more dangerous ways to challenge herself and her sexuality. Her pleasure through pain has led her to a potential job with a group of criminals who are looking for somebody to inflict pain on their victims. But with such instable people around her, just how close is she to landing in some serious trouble?
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Joe has always known she's been completely obsessed with sex ever since she was a young girl. Her excessive desires would see her meet man after man after man, eventually with little ability to remember who was who. Her fantasies were extreme; she wanted to rebel against the idea of love by allowing herself to be used by men as if she were an object. When she finds herself lying in an alleyway in her fifties having been badly beaten by an as yet unknown perpetrator, she is rescued by a charming older man named Seligman who takes her to his home and offers her a pick-me-up and a bed for the night. It's there she uncovers her entire sexual history, though with none of the joy it brought her as a young woman. Instead, she is despondent and filled with a heart-breaking self-hatred as Seligman tries to offer some wise words of comfort.
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Ethan Runner is a formidable Secret Service Agent ready to retire from his dangerous employment in a bid to spend more time with his wife and teenage daughter, who is unaware of his real job and is in the process of forgiving him for leaving her and her mother for his job. However, after contracting a deadly illness, he discovers that he could be dead within days if he doesn't take a dose of a new experimental drug that's only available from exclusive governmental sources. With Secret Service authorities determined to keep Ethan on side given that he is one of their best agents, the drug is offered as a reward if he completes one more assignment. But with it coinciding with his duties as a father, just how is he going to manage to juggle his professional and his family life at the same time?
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A mysterious illness sweeps the world causing people to experience horrible grief before losing their sense of smell. This creates a challenge for Glasgow chef Michael (McGregor), but that's easy compared to the next epidemic: terror followed by the loss of taste. So with his assistant (Bremner), he experiments with temperature and texture to keep customers happy. Meanwhile, Michael falls for Susan (Green), an epidemiologist trying to figure out what's happening.
People are adjusting to the changes, but the next wave involves rage and hearing loss. How long can human resilience endure?
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Battle in Seattle is a high-octane depiction of the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, Washington in late November 1999, where motives and duties are contradictory, confused, and unsettled. The non-violent protest groups end up embroiled in the very violence they abhor. Seattle Mayor Tobin (Ray Liotta) wants to appeal to the law-and-order police and to the protestors. (The night before the demonstrations he shows up both at a rally for the WTO and a rally against the WTO.) The law enforcement officials attempt to maintain the peaceful protest while at the same time chafing at the bit and waiting to crack heads. When violence erupts at the WTO protests, all the groups scatter and run blindly in all directions, and the National Guard appears to mop it all up.
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Add to that a fine ensemble cast to bring us into it. The two brothers of the title are Michael (Ulrich Thomsen), a career military man who seems to excel at everything, and his no-good brother Jannik (Nikolai Lie Kaas, Reconstruction), for whom Michael is both a role model and an impossible standard to live up to. Jannik's love and respect for Michael, on the other hand, is intertwined with the rebelliousness that comes of this inadequacy. To make the point and to make the relationships clear, the film starts with Michael picking Jannik up when he's released from prison and suggesting, on the ride home, that he should apologize to the victim of his crime. Such propriety. Jannik's prison time wasn't adequate punishment for Michael's high standards.
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With a heart as black as exhaust-stained slush, The Ice Harvest is based on a novel by that jolliest of writers, Scott Phillips (A Simple Plan). Taking place over one long, frozen and grimy Christmas Eve in Wichita, it all starts with Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer for the local crime syndicate, handing off a bag to his cohort, Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton), the bag containing over $2 million they stole from the Kansas City boss, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). Vic hides the money and he and Arglist split up for the night, aiming to get the hell out of town in the morning. Being a noir patsy, Arglist proceeds to drink, draw far too much attention to himself, flirt with the local fatale (Connie Nielsen, dead wrong for the job at hand), and get more and more suspicious about Vic's motives. Paranoia ensues when one of Guerrard's gunsels starts poking around the seedy joints that Arglist has been hanging out in.
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The facts are these: In 1945, as the American army is pushing back the Japanese in the Philippines, Tokyo has issued an order to exterminate every prisoner of war, an order enthusiastically carried out in the beginning of the film, which recreates an episode in which 150 U.S. POWs were covered in gasoline and set on fire. The Americans know that as they advance, the Japanese will do the same thing at every camp they get close to, and that the American Sixth Army is only days away from the camp at Cabanatuan, with over 500 prisoners - a starving and miserable bunch who survived the Bataan Death March and three years of privation only to face murder just as their fellow soldiers approach. So a team of 121 soldiers, mostly inexperienced Rangers, are ordered to sneak 30 miles behind Japanese lines and liberate Cabanatuan. It's a jury-rigged, rag-tag sort of mission, with the soldiers knowing it's a suicide detail, but also knowing they couldn't stand not to try.
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