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Premiere Screening Of STARZ Original Limited Series Flesh And Bone

Kevin Brown, Moira Walley-Beckett, Tovah Feldshuh, Irina Dvorovenko, Raychel Weiner , Damon Herriman - Premiere screening of STARZ Original Limited Series Flesh and Bone at Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York - NYC, New York, United States - Monday 2nd November 2015

Kevin Brown, Moira Walley-Beckett, Tovah Feldshuh, Irina Dvorovenko, Raychel Weiner and Damon Herriman
Creator, EP, Flesh, Bone and Moira Walley-Beckett
Creator, EP, Flesh, Bone and Moira Walley-Beckett
Kevin Brown, Moira Walley-Beckett, Lawrence Bender and John Melfi

Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures And Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' 'Max'

Boaz Yakin - Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' 'Max' at the Egyptian Theatre - Arrivals at Egyptian Theater - Los Angeles, California, United States - Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Daniel Gillies
Dejon LaQuake
Francesca Capaldi
Francesca Capaldi
Francesca Capaldi

LACMA 50th Anniversary Gala

Lawrence Bender and Guest - LACMA 50th Anniversary Gala sponsored by Christies - Arrivals at LACMA - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 18th April 2015

Lawrence Bender and Guest
Lawrence Bender and Guest
Lawrence Bender and Guest
Lawrence Bender and Guest
Lawrence Bender and Michelle Box
Lawrence Bender and Michelle Box

2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Raymond Kelly and Veronica Kelly - 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party held at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood - Los Angeles, California, United States - Sunday 2nd March 2014

Warner Music Group Annual Grammy Celebration

Lawrence Bender and Guest - Celebrities attend Warner Music Group Annual Grammy Celebration at Sunset Tower Hotel. - Los Angeles, California, United States - Sunday 26th January 2014

Lawrence Bender and Guest
Lawrence Bender
Lawrence Bender and Guests
Lawrence Bender and Guest

Safe Review

Like a bullet to the head, this movie has no time for subtlety, charging through a series of violent shootouts that are strung together into one cacophonous, chaotic chase. It finally finds some humour in the final act, but by then it's too late to save us.

Ex-cop Luke (Statham) is working as a cage fighter when he runs afoul of the Russian mafia, because they lose millions stupidly betting against him.

Brutally hunted by the boss' son (Sikora), Luke is contemplating suicide when he spots little Mei (Chan) being chased by the Chinese mob. Suddenly kicking into gear, he rescues her and discovers that she's a numerical prodigy who has memorised an important sequence of numbers. But now the Russians, Chinese and a gang of rogue cops led by a New York police captain (Burke) are all after them.

Continue reading: Safe Review

Countdown To Zero Review

This riveting documentary about nuclear weapons becomes deeply worrying as it outlines a seriously unstable global situation, carefully exposing how easy it would be for a terrorist to set off a nuclear bomb.

The hypothesis comes from John F Kennedy: "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness." And gifted filmmaker Walker kicks off with images of horrific terrorist attacks all over the world, noting that if terrorists get hold of nuclear weapons they won't hesitate to use them. Especially since al-Qaeda's stated goal is to kill 4 million people, as many as they say the West has killed in the Arab world.

Continue reading: Countdown To Zero Review

Inglourious Basterds Review

Finally turning his hand to the war-movie genre, Tarantino unsurprisingly pays homage to classic B-movies. And even though it's long and indulgent, this is a deeply entertaining romp, crafted to perfection by Tarantino and his amazing cast.

German Col Landa (Waltz) is notorious in Nazi-occupied France as a "Jew hunter", but the young Shosanna (Laurent) has slipped through his fingers.

Years later, she's running a Paris cinema and planning outrageous revenge against the Nazi high command who will be attending a premiere starring a famed war hero (Bruhl). Meanwhile, American Lt Aldo Raine (Pitt) has challenged his team of Jewish commandos to bring home 100 Nazi scalps each. And their operation is about to converge on Shosanna's cinema, thanks to a German actress double-agent (Kruger) and a British spy (Fassbender).

Continue reading: Inglourious Basterds Review

Killshot Review

An exceptionally difficult gestation period that spanned many years, many casts, and many studios destined Killshot to the DVD bin, and it's an unfair fate. While there may not be much innovation in this good vs. evil showdown between a crazed killer for hire and a divorcing couple hiding in the witness protection program, the quality of the A-list cast's performances do deserve a tip of the hat.

Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, the story sets half-Indian contract killer Armand "Blackbird" Degas (Mickey Rourke) loose in Detroit, where he puts a bullet into the skull of Hal Holbrook, of all people. When he meets equally dangerous and trigger-happy career criminal Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in a bar, the two decide to team up to finish off an extortion job Richie has set into motion at a real estate agency. Pay me $20,000, he has told the broker, or I'll burn down your inventory.

Continue reading: Killshot Review

Reservoir Dogs Review

Now here's a stellar directorial debut from some guy named Quentin Tarantino.

Before he became a household name, Tarantino stunned us all with this low-budget tale analyzing the before-and-after (and remarkably very little of the "during") of a diamond heist. Set largely within the confines of one warehouse, the movie is so chock full of witty and quotable dialogue ("Mr. Brown? That sounds too much like Mr. Shit. ") and eye-popping scenes (when, say, the suspected cop is doused in gasoline and has his ear cut off) that it has become an instant classic. Not incidentally, it also remade both the heist movie and the gangster flick, spawning countless imitations, just like later Tarantino works would do.

Continue reading: Reservoir Dogs Review

An Inconvenient Truth Review


We are all so going to die. Al Gore says so.

In the deeply scary documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore shows more personality - and poses some even more devastating consequences - than he did in his entire election campaign. The issue of global warming is clearly one that is close to Gore's heart, as he took to the road after his failed presidential bid on an international lecture circuit to raise awareness and inspire action on the near-crisis levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the havoc they are already wreaking on the planet.

Continue reading: An Inconvenient Truth Review

The Chumscrubber Review

The starry-eyed cross-breed of American Beauty and Donnie Darko, here comes The Chumscrubber, another self-righteous satire on self-absorbed parents and their estranged offspring. With the over-extended reach of a callow teenager, it fails to conquer its peaks of social relevancy. But it does have a titular headless video-game anti-hero, who, like the film's residents, uses his head as a weapon and presides over the film like a post-apocalyptic master-of-ceremonies.

A facetious voice-over -- "This was the best of all possible worlds" -- introduces brooding loner Dean Stiffle (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot), a teen caught between dueling self-helper parents, who's soon to discover his dead friend Troy (Josh Janowicz) behind the house of his party-throwing mother, Carrie (Glenn Close). Weeks later, Dean's best-selling psychiatrist-author father, Bill (William Fichtner), therapy-talks Dean sick about his lack of grief. Dad's cure: More of the same pharmaceuticals Dean's school's already drowning in.

Continue reading: The Chumscrubber Review

Kill Bill: Volume 2 Review


Editor's Note: Last year I let Sean O'Connell and Jeremiah Kipp go at it -- Tarantino style -- over the merits of Kill Bill: Volume 1. The results were classic: O'Connell loved it, Kipp despised it. With the second installment of the highly-anticipated flick, the tables are turned. Now O'Connell's got his blade sharpened, and while Kipp is hardly a convert, he at least has a few kind words for the movie. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy round two of this battle royale!

Sean O'Connell: "the thrill has been completely abandoned"Movie geeks love comparing Quentin Tarantino's work to that of other celebrated directors, but the maverick filmmaker mostly reminds me of burned-out monster rockers Guns N' Roses.

Bear with me, because the analogy makes sense. In 1987, the astonishingly successful "Appetite for Destruction" turned G&R into global superstars, in much the same way that Pulp Fiction blasted Tarantino into the Hollywood stratosphere in 1994. Pressured to follow up their iconic works, both artists immediately cranked out forgettable fluff (see "G N' R Lies" and Jackie Brown, respectively). Eventually, though, each moved on to create overstuffed two-part epics - the "Use Your Illusion" albums for Guns and now the Kill Bill flicks for Quentin - that contain ingenious individual parts but don't add up to entertaining wholes.

The drop-off in energy, style, and coherence from last year's Kill Bill: Volume 1 to its bloated, disinteresting counterpart is so drastic and extreme that you can hardly believe they come from the same director, let alone conclude the same storyline. The tonal shift swings from playfully sinister to somber and sadistic, as Uma Thurman's revenge-seeking character The Bride spends two-plus hours being whipped, beaten, stabbed, shot and buried alive, all so she can repay Bill (a confident and friendly David Carradine), her former boss and infrequent lover who tried to murder her on her wedding day.

Say what you will about Volume 1 - and many commented on the copious amounts of bloodshed and violence - but it was never dull. The thrill has been completely abandoned in Volume 2, which trades its buckets of crimson blood for pages of dry dialogue that explore the history of these characters but bring us nowhere new. Tarantino loses us in mounds of useless exposition on regret, payback, and pain. It was far easier to swallow The Bride's bitter quest for revenge than this. Tarantino's self-adored mysticism, on display when Uma trains with kung fu master Pai Mei or finally confronts Bill, doesn't quite grab us as quickly or hold us as tightly.

Back to the "Use Your Illusion" analogies, which are endless. "Illusion I," if you recall, was known for its yellow cover (like Uma's yellow track suit in Volume 1), while "Illusion II" sported a blue cover (like the blue dress Uma wears to fight Bill here). Critics largely dismissed the "Illusion" albums as massive ego trips, though fans argued that you could collect tunes from each album and make one great record. I'd argue that you could take the better elements of both Bill films and streamline them into one terrific 2.5 hour vengeance ride. What happened to Harvey "Scissorhands" Weinstein? Can't he bear to stand up to his golden child?

Guns N' Roses broke up after the "Use Your Illusion" experiment without releasing another album of significance. Time will tell if a similar fate awaits the once-gifted but woefully unshackled Tarantino.

RATING: [][]

No swordplay at the dinner table!

Jeremiah Kipp: "even the steadfast may not feel rewarded"While Kill Bill: Volume 2 does not redeem its garbage predecessor, and indeed falls into many of the same pitfalls, it almost works as a domestic tragedy played against the backdrop of samurai swords and western shoot 'em ups. If Quentin Tarantino were able to resist his gleeful bursts of eye-popping sadism and his insatiable desire to reference all his favorite B-movies, grindhouse drive-in flicks, Japanese chop-socky actioners, John Ford, Sergio Leone, and whatever else he's stored up in his oversaturated junk food mind from those years at the video store, maybe he'd actually be able to deliver a human story and an allegory for a mismatched relationship killed by a broken heart.

The first volume completely failed, narratively and thematically and as entertainment, a mere aimless shuffle of Tarantino's reference-laden funhouse. This one starts off on the wrong foot with a goofball wedding rehearsal culled straight from The Beverly Hillbillies and Hee-Haw. Immediately followed up by a shot lifted from The Searchers, those who hated Volume 1 as much as I did may be bracing themselves for another two hours plus of the same "applaud if you're winking" chicanery.

That's when David Carradine shows up as Bill, and even though the scene inevitably climaxes with his gang massacring everyone in the wedding party, there's a moment of genuine life when he faces off against The Bride (Uma Thurman), a woman he loved that left him for another, and took his baby with her. Bill's a sadist and a killer, and stays true to his nature. But before that superficial action movie posturing takes hold, we're given a glimpse at real pain: a crack-up between two tough old bastards, Bill and the Bride, who can't admit how much this hurts them.

With his wizened features and gaunt frame, Carradine is a strong iconic presence. He conjures up memories of movie lore from his east-meets-west TV-series Kung Fu. The only other east and west comparisons are those drudged up by Tarantino's movie lore; Carradine is a part of that lore but his B-movie star presence has a bona fide history behind it. Sadly, Uma Thurman cannot hope to match it, and her performance still feels wrong. She doesn't convey charisma or ferocity, only a model's petulance and an ability to pose like a Charlie's Angel. No surprise that she faces off against Daryl Hannah as one of the assassins she has to kill before getting back at Bill. It's an aged, sun-baked version of the same thing: Looks pretty, can't act.

It's unfortunate that Carradine drops out of large sections of Volume 2, because those are the passages that flounder. Assassin Budd (Michael Madsen) is a bloated trailer trash monster that briefly turns the tables on the Bride, and puts her through an ordeal of being buried alive. This is Tarantino getting his kicks on watching his heroine suffer, compounded by a flashback where Bill's former trainer, an aged Cantonese master (Chia Hui "Gordon" Liu), does some Karate Kid training with the Bride that puts her through even greater humiliations: verbal abuse, physical abuse, mental torture, and a dog's misery. By the time The Bride escapes (we know this from the start, since she says she's wiped everyone out but Bill in the suspense-killing pre-prologue monologue), only to beat the living hell out of another woman character and give her a humiliating death scene. Tarantino never gives such low-down dirty treatment to the boys, who are too cool to die so pathetically, but he gets off on watching women get flayed. "Do you think I'm sadistic?" Bill asks before shooting his Bride after the wedding reception. Maybe Quentin is projecting, and he doesn't own up to it like Sam Peckinpah did in his finer works.

But those with indomitable patience may find some reward in the final half hour of Volume 2. Admittedly, that's a tall order. There are some very good scenes with David Carradine along the way, playing his tough guy as soft spoken and genteel. (He doesn't need to play up a character everyone else has been talking about for three hours.) But he and Kill Bill really come together at the grand finale, which doesn't play out as the kamikaze swordfight one might pre-suppose. When the Bride arrives to dispatch Bill, he has a few surprises in store for her that make her stay her hand.

This is followed by the appearance of a strange truth serum that feels practically Elizabethan in its use as a story device, as the former lovers get down to the real business of showing who they are. Tarantino throws in a pop culture monologue about superheroes, particularly Superman and Clark Kent, that manages to get beyond its geek surface and into nature vs. nurture, and true faces vs. false ones. Anyone who pretends to like their day job may be able to relate, and once this gets into the dynamic of being with another person, it grows messier, more complicated, and more real.

Genre fans will be happy about those final notes, though. Bill's final exchange with the Bride ranks up there with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro's climactic stare in Heat. It's an epic moment and a rare note of grace amidst the non-stop cartoon carnage (and cartoonization of rape, torture, and hatred of women) and smug hipster/movie brat shenanigans Tarantino bombarded us with -- and it's needless to have broken it up into two sections, or a serial. It's barely worth slogging through the wasteland of Kill Bill: Volume 2 to get there, and even the steadfast may not feel rewarded.

RATING: [][][]

The DVD includes one deleted scene, an extensive making-of documentary, and a live performance of the song that plays over the closing credits (and DVD gives you another chance to see just how self-indulgent this movie is -- the credits are 13 minutes long!).

Aka Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

Fresh Review

Acclaimed, but why? Fresh is the nickname of the prototypical urban street punk (Sean Nelson), who runs drugs for the local hoods when he isn't busy attending dogfights, witnessing murders, visiting his prostitute sister, or playing chess with his homeless father in the park. Presumably, we are meant to sympathize with Fresh because he's a chess player, and hence an intellectual, but when he launches his plan to turn the tables on his drug bosses, it's hard to rally behind him. Extremely disturbing and unnecessarily violent, Fresh plays like Spike Lee for Dummies.

The Great Raid Review

Sometimes you can have the best story a filmmaker could ask for, a giant pile of money and all the best intentions, only to end up with what is ultimately a sub-par piece of work. Such is the dilemma of John Dahl's much-delayed The Great Raid, a gorgeous-looking film about an impossibly dramatic and yet mostly-forgotten real-life World War II rescue mission, which has everything going for it and yet never quite makes it to the finish line.

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.

Continue reading: The Great Raid Review

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