Irwin Winkler

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Survivor Review


OK

Unusually gritty and grounded, this terrorism thriller avoids the pitfalls of most overwrought action movies by creating characters and action situations that are unusually believable, even if the plot itself feels badly undercooked. The problem is that there isn't a clear sense of what's at stake here, because screenwriter Philip Shelby insists on continually blurring the mystery by withholding key details until he's ready to reveal them. So the cleverly played old-style suspense never quite pays off.

It opens at the US Embassy in London, where new security chief Kate (Milla Jovovich) has been alerted to the fact that terrorists are trying to get visas to enter America. Working with the ambassador (Angela Bassett) her team leaders (Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster), Kate narrows in on a suspicious doctor (Roger Rees) who's an expert in explosive gasses. But a shocking bombing stops her short, framing her as the villain. Now she's being chased not only by the Americans, but also a British inspector (James D'Arcy) and a ruthless assassin known as The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan). And Kate knows that she's the only one who can stop the nefarious plot, whatever it might be.

This is one of those films that enjoyably pushes its central character over the brink, so we can't help but root for Kate to get out of this seriously messy situation and save the day. Jovovich plays her in a plausible way as a capable woman who has no choice but to fight back and try to survive, because she's the only one who knows that she's not the real threat here. Everyone else is extremely shadowy, although McDermott gets to show a heroic side, as does the terrific Frances de la Tour as the only embassy staff member who believes that Kate is the good guy. Meanwhile, Brosnan gives a remarkably effective performance as a cold-blooded killer.

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The Gambler Review


Weak

With a strangely simplistic screenplay by William Monahan (The Departed), director Rupert Wyatt and his cast struggle to dig beneath the surface in a meaningful way. Mark Wahlberg does what he can in the lead role as a self-destructive gambling addict, but since he's never remotely likeable it's impossible to care what happens to him. It's decently made, but without strong characters or a resonant message the movie ultimately feels like a vanity project that's gone wrong somewhere along the way.

Wahlberg plays Jim, a swaggering university professor who torments his brightest student Amy (Larson) in front of the whole class. But she knows that he's also unable to pass a blackjack table without losing a small fortune. And it's probably money he owes to someone. Indeed, he's accruing such severe debts to a gangster (Michael Kenneth Williams) that he turns to his millionaire mother (Jessica Lange) for help, knowing that if she gives him the cash he'll gamble it away before settling his accounts. So he also turns to tough loan shark Frank (John Goodman), who stresses to Jim the importance of paying up and getting out of the betting world for good. But Jim seems incapable of even a shred of self-control.

It's virtually impossible to connect with a character this one-sided. Aside from his literary intelligence, there's nothing remotely redeeming about Jim, so it's difficult to escape the feeling that he's getting just what he deserves. And it gets worse when he starts romancing Amy, a nubile girl barely half his age. Wahlberg never plays Jim as anything but an unapologetic loser who has orchestrated his own misfortune. So why should we care what happens to him? At least the side characters interject a bit of complexity, most notably Lange and Goodman, who command the entire film with just a couple of scenes each. The usually terrific Larson barely registers in an underwritten role that makes very little logical sense.

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AFI FEST 2014

Irwin Winkler - Photo's from the American Film Institute's festival 2014 and the premiere screening of 'The Gambler' at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States - Monday 10th November 2014

Irwin Winkler
Irwin Winkler
Irwin Winkler

World premiere of 'The Gambler'

Irwin Winkler - Photo's from the American Film Institute's festival 2014 and the premiere screening of 'The Gambler' at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States - Monday 10th November 2014

Picture - Irwin Winkler and Guest , Saturday 16th June 2012

Irwin Winkler - Irwin Winkler and Guest Saturday 16th June 2012 BMW Beverly Hills Hotel Event at Beverly Hills Hotel

The Mechanic Review


Weak
Remade from Michael Winner's 1972 thriller, this action movie can't be bothered to get as dark and edgy as it should be. But the cast members keep us watching, even as things turn unnecessarily grisly.

Elite hitman Arthur (Statham) lives a solitary life in a New Orleans bayou with his stinking wealth and exquisite taste. But he's shocked when his boss (Goldwyn) gives him his next assignment: to kill his mentor Harry (Sutherland).

Arthur is a cool professional, but now he's also wracked with guilt. So he takes Harry's wastrel son Steve (Foster) under his wing, teaching him the assassination trade and letting him practice during a few jobs. But the work gets increasingly dangerous, and soon it becomes apparent that Harry was set up. Revenge is in the air.

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'Round Midnight Review


Excellent
In 1986, director Bertrand Tavernier turned his attention to... the growth of jazz in 1950s France, courtesy of black American expatriates? An odd choice for the director of Coup de torchon -- and featuring Martin Scorsese in a supporting role no less -- but Tavernier could write his own ticket at the time, and write it he did.

The story is as threadbare as something that might have been conceived over bottomless goblets of wine at 3am in a smoke-filled Montmartre jazz club. Francis Borler (François Cluzet) is absolutely obsessed with sax player Dale Turner (real-lilfe musician Dexter Gordon), to the point where he leaves his pre-teen daughter at home and spends his nights sitting outside clubs in the rain while Dale plays his sax inside.

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Rocky Review


Excellent
With Rocky, cinematographer Jimmy Crabe worked with director John G. Avildsen to rethink the look of the city of Philadelphia. Consisting of a scant few shots of the familiar monuments and parks, Crabe, who was later diagnosed with and succumbed to AIDS in 1989, turned the city into miles of sleet-swept streets, soiled corner stores and nausea-green gymnasiums where wannabe athletes spend their time until they make their way to any of the dozen cheap basement bars scattered throughout the terrain. If the star of Rocky is Sylvester Stallone, his co-star is the atmosphere of cold and piteous hope that cultivates around the titular amateur boxer.

In hindsight, the first chapter of the rigorous franchise has a healthy leg-up on the rest of the films and feels uniquely homegrown in tone. It's almost basic mythology at this point: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone at the peak of his durability) works for a two-bit loan shark as freelance muscle while he trains to become a boxer and does amateur bouts for 40 bucks a pop. It's his nickname, The Italian Stallion, which catches the eye of heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) when the champ is looking for a gimmick. Creed is more of an entrepreneur than an athlete: When someone calls the gimmick "American," he quips back, "No, it's smart."

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At First Sight Review


Weak
Val Kilmer regains his sight, goes crazy, and loves up Mira Sorvino in this largely maligned rendition of Flowers for Algernon. Sheesh... the least they coulda done was throw in a little gratuitous nudity... ya know, blind guy's gotta see with his hands and all.

Rocky Balboa Review


Good
When last we saw Rocky Balboa, our prized overachieving contender (played to monosyllabic perfection by Sylvester Stallone) had prevailed in a street fight against his protégé, Tommy "Machine" Gunn (Tommy Morrison).

The Italian Stallion may have triumphed that day, but the feel-good franchise long since had thrown in the towel. Rocky V did more damage to the character's legacy than Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang, and Apollo Creed combined. It issued a crushing TKO to a collection of films that celebrated victory in the face of impossible odds, and it left a horrible taste in fans' mouths. By all accounts, the final bell had rung on Rocky.

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Home of the Brave Review


Grim
Irwin Winkler's Home of the Brave is notable for being the first major narrative, non-documentary film about the Iraq War and, more specifically, veterans of that war adjusting to life back home afterward. Unfortunately, that's about all it will be notable for. A politically timid and artistically confused misfire right from the start, the film is an argument for the rule that filmmakers often need years of distance from a big historic event before they are able to make something out of it. Home of the Brave won't exactly come to be known as this war's version of The Green Berets, it will most likely be forgotten, good intentions or no.

A strictly by-the-book opening segment places the film in a firebase in Iraq run by a unit of National Guardsmen. A batch of them are rounded up to guard a medical convoy going out on a humanitarian mission into a nearby town. It's painfully clear from the start that an ambush is coming (for one, the unit just found out they're demobilizing back to the States in a couple of weeks) and everything prior to that is stilted Audience-Character Identification 101. The firefight itself is as clumsily handled as just about everything else in the film, leavening the generally poor choreography with some shockingly moronic actions on the part of the Guardsmen, many of whom act as though they'd never been trained for combat.

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The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight Review


Terrible
As much as I like Hervé Villechaize, it's pretty impossible to like much about The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, a mob slapstick comedy that features Tattoo is one of a bunch of hapless thugs who want to get rid of the local heavy (Lionel Stander) so they can take over in his stead. Too bad the crew, you know, can't shoot straight... and though they try endlessly to get rid of him, they just can't manage to do it.

That's pretty much the story, with rising star Robert De Niro strangely inserted into the movie to take advantage of his upcoming celebrity (he's a bicycle racer that falls for the gang leader's (Jerry Orbach) kid sister (Leigh Taylor-Young, completely lost here). The bulk of the film has Orbach and co. scheming endlessly to off Stander's Baccala, and over and over it fails to amuse us, even when a live lion is thrown into the mix. That's the film. If it weren't for Villechaize, there'd be nary a laugh in the whole movie, and even that kind of comedy is hardly highbrow.

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De-Lovely Review


Good
In a darkened room an elderly man sits at a piano. He's barely outlined by light from a window, his face obscured in shadow. Then, a light fades up, spotlighting him, followed by light everywhere. Thus starts De-Lovely and its style of self-aware artificiality. It purports to be the life of composer Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) but there's little more here than a grand retrospective of his ingenious touch with a pop song and an attempt at scandalizing his personal, bisexual life.

Like a symphony that's incomplete because all the notes aren't available, what I didn't get out of this is a three-dimensional portrait of the subject. The show, structured as a dead or dying man's vision of his life played out like a movie and stage production, is loaded with talent and a detailed recreation of his period. The portrayal of the swank, rich life is as festive to behold as it is off-putting. The world in which Porter whirls and commands with assured, inevitable success is an alien one. Rather than feel a part of it, we are there to revel in the entertainment.

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