Kevin J. O'connor

Kevin J. O'connor

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The Master Review


Excellent

This jagged, meandering exploration of a Scientology-style movement is hauntingly mesmerising and packed with meaty performances. As he did in There Will Be Blood, writer-director Anderson is exploring how people control and influence each other, this time focussing on a twisted mentor-protege relationship that's strikingly well-played by Hoffman and Phoenix. 

The story takes place just after the war, as seaman Freddie Quells (Phoenix) struggles to overcome his physical and psychological injuries and fit back into society. After drifting across America, he stows away on a boat captained by Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who is known as the Master to followers of the Cause. He takes Freddie under his wing and coaches him to tap into his eternal soul by exploring who he was in past lives. So Freddie becomes part of the family with Dodd's strong-willed wife (Adams), doubtful son (Plemons) and more gung-ho daughter and son-in-law (Childers and Malek). And Freddie's stubbornness both annoys and challenges Dodd.

It's fascinating to watch these two men develop a tight connection while quietly jostling for power. The cycles of interaction make the film lurch in fits and starts as Freddie tries to elevate himself using Dodd's process, but continually finds another way all his own. In other words, both men are using each other to work out their own inner turmoil. While Hoffman gives a layered performance that bristles with quiet shadows and superficial bravado, Phoenix contorts his body and face into a man who has literally been crumpled up by his past. Meanwhile, the darkly intense Adams sneaks up and steals every scene she's in.

Continue reading: The Master Review

Picture - Kevin J. O'Connor and John... Chicago, USA, Saturday 21st November 2009

Kevin J. O'Connor and John Aranza - Kevin J. O'Connor and John Aranza Chicago, USA - attend the signing in the shop Horrorbles Saturday 21st November 2009

If... Dog... Rabbit... Review


Weak
Promising film starts out great then turns into yet another predictable caper-gone-awry homage to The Killing. A rather unfortunate vanity production from first-time writer/director Modine. Special award for having the worst title in the history of movies (though it is "explained" in the credits).

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Tanner '88 Review


Good
Originally made as a series for broadcast on HBO during the 1988 presidential primary season, Robert Altman's Tanner '88 charts the unsuccessful presidential bid of a fictional Michigan congressman named Jack Tanner (played by Altman stalwart Michael Murphy), beginning with the New Hampshire primary and continuing through the Democratic National Convention. The series was written by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau on an episode-by-episode basis in order to stay abreast of actual developments in the '88 campaign; it ran for 11 episodes then and is currently slated for a mini-update of four new episodes. And just in time for the upcoming elections, the Criterion Collection has made the entire series available on DVD.

Politics have changed in the past 16 years - they had to have, right? - but the first thing that strikes you upon revisiting Tanner '88 today is how familiar this whole circus seems. Squint your eyes, change the names - throw in, say, a Dick Cheney and remove a Bob Dole or two - and the experience of watching Tanner '88 seems eerily close to watching current campaign coverage on CNN. In a clever, recently filmed introduction to the first episode (one of these new intros appears before each of the 11), Tanner remarks in a modern "interview" that the business of campaigning changed after that year. After '88, he says, "the curtain on [candidates'] private lives got pulled back... In '88 Johnny Carson might have done a couple of slightly risque jokes about Hart. But ten years later Jay Leno is doing six blowjob jokes a night on Clinton." Except that the candidate is make-believe, everything about this sentiment sounds authentic. Political campaigns did indeed move closer to show business; the only question is when?

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The Mummy Review


Unbearable
Normally, when a movie is really bad, the best part of watching the film is watching the previews. When watching The Mummy, Stephen Sommers "not-quite-a-remake-but-really-is" of the 1921 version, I didn't even get that satisfaction. I think one of the previews was good, but not good enough for me to remember its title. I remember that Jan de Bont is coming out with a new chic horror film called The Haunting or something equally cheesy, which looks to be worse than his last one. I also remember seeing a preview for a new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that didn't even dare put his name on it after him having been in the double-trouble combination of Eraser and Jingle all the Way.

So, when the movie was as bad as the previews, I was not a happy camper.

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Deep Rising Review


Terrible
Awfully hackneyed and barely entertaining, this Die Hard/Poseidon Adventure/Leviathan knockoff has so little going for it one scarcely knows what to mention in its review. Famke Janssen, always a riot, is even toned-down to blandness as a jewel thief plying her trade on a luxury ship. When Treat Williams and (unbeknownst to him) the band of criminals he is carrying on his speedboat cross paths with the cruise liner, all havoc breaks loose. Whoops -- there's also a monster-from-the-deep to throw a wrench into the works. Explosions, "witty one-liners," and the Williams as the unlikeliest of action heroes make this one yet another throwaway.

Van Helsing Review


Grim
Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker receive zero writing credit for Stephen Sommers' lopsided Van Helsing, and you can hear the immortal authors breathing a sigh of relief from beyond the grave. The novelists' legendary creatures may receive prominent placement in Universal Studio's big-budget rollercoaster ride, but the half-baked ideas propping up the mediocre monster mash belong solely to writer/director Sommers - for better or for worse.

Van Helsing ends up as a high-concept adrenaline rush that never stops generating lesser concepts over its elongated 145-minute run time. Wheels start turning when Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) funds the creation of the Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley) to power a machine that will allow the vampire's offspring to live. The prince of darkness is trying to please his voracious brides, while the final descendent of a line of Transylvanian vampire hunters (Kate Beckinsale) is trying in vain to stake the brute before he ends her life. The wild card in this mix is Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), a hired gun with a guilty conscience working for the Catholic Church to vanquish various evil beings.

Continue reading: Van Helsing Review

Kevin J. O'connor

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