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27th Annual Producers Guild Of America Awards - Arrivals

Lori McCreary , Gary Lucchesi - 27th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza - Arrivals at Hyatt Regency Century Plaza - Los Angeles, California - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 23rd January 2016

Lori Mccreary and Gary Lucchesi
Lori Mccreary and Gary Lucchesi

27th Annual Producers Guild Awards

Lori McCreary , Gary Lucchesi - 27th Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Producers Guild Awards - Century City, California, United States - Sunday 24th January 2016

Lori Mccreary and Gary Lucchesi
Lori Mccreary and Gary Lucchesi

The Vatican Tapes Review


With its above-average cast and a gritty, realistic tone, this exorcism thriller is a lot more involving than most. Not only is it packed with demonic mayhem, but the complex characters make the drama much punchier, setting up the audience for several big jolts. Even so, the plot builds slowly, finally reaching its most intriguing twist right at the very end, so the credits start rolling just as things get properly riveting.

The title refers to a secret archive under the Vatican run by Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) and his assistant Imani (Djimon Hounsou). It contains files and lots of tapes of demonic possession, including scenes of 30-year-old Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley). She has a happy life with her cute boyfriend Pete (John Patrick Amedori) and tough-but-kind dad Roger (Dougray Scott), but starts acting a bit strange whenever a raven is nearby. As her behaviour gets more erratic, she is assisted by Father Lozano (Michael Pena), who takes a personal interest in her case. But things spiral far beyond Lozano's expertise, so he calls the Vatican for help. And when Bruun arrives in America to meet Angela in person, he's unnerved to discover that this might not be a demon: she could be the Antichrist.

The screenplay cleverly weaves in news reports and current events to make everything that happens feel grounded in real life. As it continues, the biblical and fantastical flourishes intriguingly fit into this context, while director Mark Neveldine delays tipping over into effects-based action until the final act. This means that the film quietly unnerves the audience from the start, using CCTV footage and some enjoyably scary touches that add to the atmosphere. As a result, the actors are able to flesh out their characters. Dudley gives Angela a strong personality that lingers even after the presence inside her starts to take over. As the three priests, Pena, Andersson and Hounsou don't have much to do, but they add subtle details to their scenes.

Continue reading: The Vatican Tapes Review

The Age Of Adaline Review


Like Benjamin Button, this drama plays around with the human lifespan, is slickly produced and feels far too serious for its own good. There's a sweeping romanticism to the premise, but it's ultimately so sentimental that it becomes rather corny. Fans of Nicholas Sparks-style movies will adore every golden-hued moment and yearning glance. More cynical viewers will enjoy the premise and performances, but will find the tidal wave of plot twists too yucky to bear.

In present-day San Francisco, Adaline (Blake Lively) is preparing to change identities as she does every decade or so. She's been 29 since a fateful accident in 1933 stopped her ageing process, due to a convergence of random factors at the time of a car crash, and she doesn't want to arouse suspicion. The only person who knows her secret is her daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn), who after all this time now introduces herself as Adaline's grandmother. Then the dashing Ellis (Michiel Huisman) tenaciously starts pursuing Adaline, and Flemming encourages her to stop running. So she decides to let herself live for a change, travelling with Ellis for a weekend to meet his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker). But fate has a few more surprises in store.

The story is told by an omniscient narrator (Hugh Ross) and camerawork that often stares down from a godlike point of view, as if Adaline has no say in her own story. And without a sense of humour or irony, it's tricky for a film audience to root for her. The story is engaging, and it's enjoyable to watch the events unfold, but the moment the plot loudly clanks into gear the film becomes difficult to like. Revelations and coincidences pile on top of each other in the story's final act, making everything both achingly emotional and suspiciously convenient.

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I, Frankenstein Review


Even with its relentlessly cliched production design (trenchcoats and flickering candles galore), this raucous gothic thriller deploys enough visual flash to hold our attention. The gigantic effects-heavy action sequences are eye-catching and sometimes exciting, and there are elements of the story that almost begin to resonate before the script veers off in another more simplistic direction.

Based on a graphic novel, the story picks up where Mary Shelley's novel left off, as the monster (Eckhart) is attacked by demons that want to study his non-human existence. He's rescued by gargoyles, angelic protectors of humanity, and taken to their Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who names him Adam and enlists him in the demon-killing cause. Although her second-in-command (Courtney) isn't so sure. Over the next 200 years, Adam hones his skills before returning to Lenore just as the demon Prince Naberius (Nighy) is launching his evil plan to re-animate a dead army with the help of sexy scientist Terra (Strahovski) and Dr Frankenstein's journal. In other words, all hell is about to break loose.

Annoyingly, every time the plot begins to get interesting, writer-director Beattie indulges in another vacuous action set piece that's as irrelevant as the 3D. There's a decent story in here about the nature of the human soul, religious fervour and moral tenacity, but the film only uses these things as devices to make the dialog sound intelligent. Which is tricky since Beattie directs his cast to deliver their lines in growling, blurting monotone. Eckhart's voice-over narration is particularly dull. And this over-earnest tone leaves every potential relationship as a non-starter.

Continue reading: I, Frankenstein Review

Stand Up Guys Review


Frankly, if you put Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in your movie, you don't really need to worry about the script: we'd happily watch them do just about anything on-screen. And here they sieze every hint of humour, drama and action to keep us entertained and make us care about their characters. Indeed, they maintain their dignity by refusing to give in to the screenplay's lazy old-age jokes and convoluted plot.

The story kicks off when Val (Pacino) gets out of prison after 28 years behind bars. His only remaining friend is Doc (Walken), who lets him stay in his humble apartment. But Val wants to get back in the game, and tries to get Doc to abandon his austere retirement. Then Val learns that Doc is only alive because gangster Claphands (Margolis) is forcing him to kill Val on his release - an act of vengeance against both of them. With nothing to lose, they liberate their dying buddy Hirsch (Arkin) from hospital and decide to go out with a bang.

Screenwriter Haidle seems to want this to be a geriatric Apatow-style comedy, as these men continually talk frankly about their sex lives (including of course a tired Viagra joke). But this is more squirm-inducing than amusing. And director Stevens lets the action set-pieces drag on too long, trying to crank up the energy by giving every scene a madcap spin. But none of this was necessary with these actors: they are geniuses at adding zing to even the most weakly written and directed scenes, keeping us engaged by constantly upstaging each other. They may be past their prime, but they prove that there's plenty of life still in them. 

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The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Enjoyably twisty but too shallow to be fully satisfying, this legal thriller lopes along at a pleasing pace through its overlong running time. But it's watchable mainly because we know there will be at least one big twist in the tale.

Mick (McConaughey) runs his successful L.A. law practice from his vintage Lincoln. He has a daughter with his public-prosecutor ex Maggie (Tomei) and works closely with his private-eye pal Frank (Macy). His new case involves the wealthy Louis (Phillippe), who claims he didn't violently assault a prostitute.

But the more Mick and Frank look into things, the fishier they get. And Mick will need to do some unorthodox things to win the case against the tenacious D.A. (Lucas) and achieve real justice.

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Gamer Review

Bursting with their trademark visual style, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) attack the screen with this twist on the virtual reality genre.

Unfortunately, the film is a cacophonous mess without a single interesting character.

In the nearish future, roleplay game-maker Ken Castle (Hall) has made his fortune with two games that let people live vicariously through others: the sex-and-party Society and the war-and-destruction Slayers. The twist is that the gamers are controlling actual people due to nano technology implanted in the performers' brains. In Slayers, they're all death row inmates firing real bullets, and the global megastar performer is Kable (Butler), controlled by rich geek Simon (Lerman). But Kable longs to escape and find his wife (Valletta), and a renegade hacker (Bridges) sets his escape in motion.

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The Ugly Truth Review

It may be the nature of romantic comedies to be predictable, but this movie never departs from the formula at all. And while the cast is watchable, the film simply has nothing original to say.

Abby (Heigl) is a frazzled breakfast TV producer in Northern California, annoyed when the brutish Mike (Butler) is hired to present a male perspective on her show alongside smiling/strained hosts Larry and Georgia (Higgins and Hines). Mike's theory that men are only interested in looks enrages Abby, who is trying to woo a handsome, successful guy (Winter). Even though she's a complete control freak, she agrees to let Mike help her get her man.

Fortunately, the cast is charming and sometimes even funny. Heigl and Butler could do these roles in their sleep, oozing sass while cutely prickling against each other. Both of them are endearing, in a simplistic sort of way, throwing out witty one-liners and indulging in corny banter that implies the chemistry that is completely absent from the film. Much more fun are Higgins and Hines in small scene-stealing roles that are full of eye-rolling innuendo.

For a film about a strong woman, Abby is awfully needy and desperate. All she can think about is finding the perfect man, and we seem to be the only ones who realise that Mike is the only man the script has in mind for her. Meanwhile, for all his macho posturing and chauvinist comments, he's actually a sensitive soul who understands how men and woman connect. In other words, for all of its bluster, the film isn't remotely as edgy as it pretends to be.

All of the script's male-female sparring uses stereotypes and contrived situations to push the romance forward, from the Cyrano-like coaching to the unsophisticated (and unoriginal) vibrator gag. There are no subplots and no subtext at all. Even the sexuality is simplistic: it's just puritanical sniggering. And by the time the film finally addresses something resonant, wondering who could actually love a control freak, the contrived story and shallow approach leave us cold. But since this is a rom-com with likeable stars, that doesn't really matter.

Crank: High Voltage Review

Jason Statham remains the most mysterious of action heroes. Sure, he's muscular and menacing, with a façade both funny and frightening. But take him away from all the bare-knuckled bedlam, and he's nothing but a ready ripped torso. In films like Death Race and The Transporter, he's often nothing more than a cut clothesline to hang stunts on. The same could be said for his work in the grand guilty pleasure Crank. As a man who must find the antidote to a poison he was purposely given, Statham was all adrenaline and attitude. Lionsgate hopes to continue the cult with the mandatory sequel High Voltage -- and you know what, it's a terrific sleazoid treat.

When last we saw Chev Chelios (Statham), the unstoppable hitman had seemingly survived a freefall from an airborne helicopter. Now, he's been kidnapped by Asian mobsters who want to harvest his vital organs. Chelios escapes, soon learning that he must keep the batteries managing his artificial heart charged while Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) tries to figure out a way to put the real one back in. Hoping to find his stolen body part, Chelios scours Los Angeles, running into old girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), insane hooker Ria (Bai Ling), and various criminal types. It seems that all paths lead to a shady Chinese mobster named Poon Dong (David Carradine). In typical Chelios fashion, however, the way is fraught with cops, criminals, and some incredibly crazy circumstances.

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Elegy Review

Not every book is meant to be adapted into a movie. Come to think of it, not every author is meant for celluloid success. Philip Roth has won pretty much every major book prize, save for the Nobel, and he's overdue for that. His books masterfully examine the fragile side of the middle-aged male ego, and how sex and family and desire eat away at men's souls. With Updike, Mailer, and Bellow gone, Roth is the messiah of American literature.

There's just one problem: Books like his make crappy movies. Roth said as much to GQ's Andrew Corsello, adding that he hasn't been pleased with any of the adaptations, especially The Human Stain. Roth's take: "Awful! And the same people have American Pastoral."

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Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans Review

Upon first description, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans appears completely unnecessary, even for one of the Underworld movies, which, like the Resident Evil pictures, are well-practiced in the art of spinning inessential straw into inessential off-season box-office gold. Rise of the Lycans is a prequel, seeking to explain in greater detail the mythology-heavy plot turns discussed so endlessly in the very first Underworld movie: How and why vampires and werewolves came to so loathe each other.

The reasons, it turns out, are not dissimilar to what I faintly recall as the central conflict from the first film: a vampire named Sonja (Rhona Mitra) is in love with a lycan called Lucian (Michael Sheen). The backdrop for their affair is an unnamed and presumably European medieval land rather than an unnamed and presumably European city, though the color scheme remains the same, with everything seemingly lit by a grayish-blue moon.

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Untraceable Review

It would be wonderful if this review of the newest cyber-torture-stalker-thriller could begin with the words "Untraceable is unwatchable," but sadly that would be a lie. Our tastes have very simply become too degraded over the years for us not to have become used to it as studios have continued to shove out purposeless dreck like this. Call it a formula inoculation, as the films keep coming, with only the slightest noticeable tweaks to their dependable structure (as necessitated by the latest spasms in popular culture that allow a soupcon of relevancy to creep in), we very simply get used to it, no matter how awful.

And awful it is. In a desperate bid to glom on to the Internet's evergreen supposed hipness, the script (a lifeless accumulation of the expected by a trio of writers who really should know better) puts us inside an FBI cyber-crime unit where flint-eyed but tender-hearted agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) tracks down the worst of the online worst. Stirring from her bank of computer monitors only to get coffee or crack wise with fellow agent Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks), Marsh is your prototypical wounded female cop with a young daughter and fretful mother at home, and a dead husband in her memory. (If her character had been male they'd have given her a bad temper and a drinking problem, but at least the sarcastic partner bit is gender neutral.) She gets put on the kind of case that (literally) only exists in the movies. Some psycho sets up a website called "Kill With Me" whose hook is that the more people view it, the quicker the subject on camera dies by some fiendish means. The first time out, it's a kitten; after that a person, and then another, and then another...

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Underworld (2003) Review

Underworld's trailer makes it looks wonderfully slick and dark in the tradition of The Matrix and Blade; but after seeing it, you'll realize that everything that seemed dazzling was simply stolen and then abused - from its Dark Shadows-meets-Matrix costumes to its Blade weaponry to its Nine Inch Nails video backdrops. Nothing about Underworld is original; it's a hackneyed, patched-together goth-kid fantasy that I'm convinced was written a 15-year-old boy who wears black eyeliner (think the Saturday Night Live skit "Goth Talk").

Straight out of Marilyn Manson's wet dreams comes the fantastical storyline: For centuries, vampires have battled werewolves, known here as Lycans. It's not really clear why they've been battling, even after the film sort of reveals the reason; so we'll leave it there. The Vampires are depicted as aristocratic sophisticates who prefer fine crystal and Porsches, whereas the Lycans are filthy street thugs who morph into ferocious dog-like monsters.

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Feast Of Love Review

In Godard's Contempt, Michel Piccoli explains the depth of his love for Brigitte Bardot as "totally... tenderly... tragically." The characters in Robert Benton's autumnal meditation on the meaning of love, Feast of Love, all dive into love with blinders on like Piccoli, drowning in their own respective seas of love.

Bradley (Greg Kinnear) is an affable, eternally optimistic schlimazel who runs Jitters, a tiny coffee shop in an Oregon college town, a guy that burbles out statements like, "I think love is everything; the only meaning we have to this crazy dream." Bradley is so likeable and easygoing that he is ripe to be trampled upon by the love beast and he is. Twice. First, his wife Kathryn (Selma Blair) leaves him for another woman. He then falls head over heels in love with cool-drink-of-water real-estate agent Diana (Radha Mitchell), who ends up marrying Bradley, despite her continuing to engage in carnal relations with David (Billy Burke). Bradley relates his stretch of news from the lovelorn to his friend Harry (Morgan Freeman), Harry calmly telling Bradley, "At least this time it's with a guy."

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