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The Equalizer Review


Little more than a paint-by-numbers action thriller, it's anyone's guess why the filmmakers have bothered to make a connection with the 1980s TV series of the same name. Because this film bears almost no resemblance to it. Instead, this is a reunion of Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua, who last collaborated on the Oscar-winning Training Day. And since it's packed with brutal violence and questionable morality, that's clearly where this movie's roots truly lie.

Washington stars as Robert, a meek shelf-stacker at a DIY warehouse store in Boston. He can't sleep at night, so he heads to the local diner to read classic novels. That's where he meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), a teen hooker who is having problems with her psychotic Russian pimp (David Meunier). Ever so quietly, and clearly relying on some external source of income, Robert goes about helping Teri secure a free future. But when he offers to settle her debts, the pimp and his thugs just laugh at him. So Robert mercilessly kills them all, drawing on his secret past as a black-ops agent. The problem is that this puts Robert at odds with the top Russian boss Teddy (Marton Csokas), who heads to Boston to get even.

In standard action movie tradition, Robert works his way right through the entire Russian mob, along the way cleaning up Boston's corrupt police force before the requisite final confrontation. His only distraction is a brief visit to his old CIA boss (Melissa Leo) and her husband (Bill Pullman) for a bit of moral support and added starry cameo value. Yes, there isn't much about this movie that doesn't feel concocted for the box office, which means that the story is both achingly predictable and littered with gaping plot-holes. And with Washington in the focal role, everyone else fades into the woodwork. Moretz is excellent but badly underused, while Csokas is never given much to do with his one-note villain.

Continue reading: The Equalizer Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review


There's nothing very original in this spy thriller, but director Branagh gives the film a weighty sense of importance that at least makes it feel important. He can't make up for the flimsy plot or cliched characters, but he can coax shaded performances from the cast to grab our interest. And while the action is never as coherent as a Bourne movie, it at least has a sense of gravitas about it.

For yet another reboot of the Tom Clancy franchise, we go back earlier to follow Jack Ryan (Pine) as he is inspired by the 9/11 attacks to leave his financial studies and join the Marines. Shot down over Afghanistan, he undergoes a gruelling recovery and is recruited by CIA operative Harper (Costner) to work undercover on Wall Street, monitoring terrorist fund movements. A decade later his girlfriend Catherine (Knightley) has no idea what his real job is, so when she surprises him on a business trip to Moscow she ends up in the middle of an operation to investigate shady Russian businessman Cherevin (Branagh), who's behind some sort of imminent global attack.

The film's brisk pace focusses on Jack's motivations all the way through, so we understand his earnest desire to serve his country. Although we can't quite figure out how he developed all these he-man skills working behind a desk in a bank. Not only is he adept at firearms and hand-to-hand combat, but he can ride a motorcycle like a stuntman! Fortunately, Pine's everyman persona makes him easy to identify with and bodes well for future franchise instalments. Opposite him, Costner is marvellously lean and cool, Branagh has terrific lip-less menace and Knightley does her best in the standard underdeveloped female role.

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Stars Of 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' Scrub Up For Los Angeles Premiere [Pictures]

Chris Pine Keira Knightley Kevin Costner Tom Clancy Mace Neufeld

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit will look to once again draw audiences in to see Tom Clancy's most famous literary creation take on the terrorist world for the sake of American freedom. The fifth Jack Ryan film to date, the cast and crew of the spy title gathered at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles for the film's premiere on Wednesday, 15 January, scrubbing up nicely for the glitzy event.

Chris PineKeira Knightley
Stars Chris Pine and Keira Knightley were the main attractions at the Los Angeles premiere

Director Kenneth Branagh, screenwriter Hossein Amini and hands on producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura have brought Ryan wilfully into the modern age with Shadow Recruit and as you could probably tell from the casting of Chris Pine as the titular Ryan, the film incorporates a younger cast for a franchise enabling launchpad of a movie. Pine rolled up to the premiere of the film looking sharp in a black, tie-less suit and sporting a cheeky bit of stubble, strolling down the red carpet to pose for photos with fans and answer some questions. Before the premiere, the actor and some of his film associates were on hand to discuss the film and its possible direction at a Paramount press conference (via Cinema Blend).

Continue reading: Stars Of 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' Scrub Up For Los Angeles Premiere [Pictures]

Los Angeles Premiere Of 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'

Kevin Costner Christine Baumgartner - Los Angeles Premiere of 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' at the TCL Chinese Theatre - Red Carpet Arrivals - Hollywood, California, United States - Wednesday 15th January 2014

Kevin Costner, Christine Baumgartner and Jack Ryan
Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner, Christine Baumgartner and Jack Ryan
Kevin Costner, Mace Neufeld and Jack Ryan

Invictus Review

Based on John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy, this is an almost too-inspirational story of the integrity and wisdom displayed by Nelson Mandela as he tried to unite his fractured nation. And Freeman was born for this role.

After 27 years as a political prisoner, Nelson Mandela (Freeman) was released in February 1990 and four years later became South Africa's first democratically elected president. Caught between the black majority's yearning for revenge and the white minority's fear of violence, he tenaciously plots a course of reconciliation. His focus becomes the Springbok rugby team, a loathed symbol of white rule. Working with team captain Francois Pienaar (Damon) as the 1995 Rugby World Cup approaches, he knows that getting the whole country behind them will unite people more effectively than political willpower.

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The Los Angeles Premiere Of 'Invictus' Held At The Academy Theatre

Ken Watanabe - Ken Watanabe and wife Yumiko Los Angeles, California - The Los Angeles premiere of 'Invictus' held at the Academy Theatre Thursday 3rd December 2009

Ken Watanabe Yumiko and Ken Watanabe

The Omen (1976) Review

The Omen is not as serious a movie as it appears. Coming to the modern audience as the infant in a Holy trinity of satanic, apocalyptic horror films, including The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, The Omen arrives leaden with reputation and expectation. Its story is renowned, its sequences remembered, and its delicious score is an iconic pop-cultural phenomenon. On the surface of things, Richard Donner's film matches its Trinitarian peers shock for shock. However, as little Damian proves, not everything is as it seems. Though garbed in the accoutrements of its satanic predecessors, it is at its core a story of gross implausibility and squandered potential, a schlocky piece of fluff shot and cut with unwarranted earnestness. When poked and prodded, when the hair is cut away, the film is essentially a pretty good bad movie.

The story of the devil's son born to the American politician begins with a moment that only reveals its ridiculousness in retrospect: when Ambassador to Italy Robert Thorn's (Gregory Peck) first-born dies moments after birth, he is offered, and accepts, an abandoned child as replacement. He does this so that his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) is spared the torment of the death. I know politics is pragmatic, but really. With any moral quibbles twitched away by a few hard long stares, the Thorns take up shop in England when Robert receives a promotion. The years pass in dreary montage and Damian (a creepily cute Harvey Stephens) grows to age five in blissful British tranquility. Naturally, when his nanny (Holly Palance) hangs herself on his sixth birthday, announcing "It's all for you Damian," things change.

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Asylum Review

As cool and chiseled as star Natasha Richardson's face, Asylum (based on a novel by Patrick McGrath) is set for the most part at a high-security insane asylum in northern England in 1959. Richardson plays Stella Raphael, whose husband Max (Hugh Bonneville) has been made deputy superintendent at the hospital, meaning a long spell among the mad and their repressed warders for Stella and their son Charlie (Gus Lewis). At the best of times, Stella seems like she'd have difficulty fitting in, but with her aloof and depressed air, cigarette held high in one hand, martini in the other, she seems downright ogre-ish to the provincial locals. Stella smokes at her kitchen table, asking the maid, "How did my predecessor fill her time?" Consumed with work, Max is hardly any help, and even Charlie doesn't seem able to keep Stella's attention.

At least there's a handsome mental patient who's allowed to work in the grounds near the Raphael's house, giving Stella reason to get up in the morning. For those not as terminally depressed as Stella, it would seem a negative that Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas) had been put in the asylum for butchering his wife; but hey, a girl's got to keep busy. Director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) and screenwriter Patrick Marber (Closer) don't waste much of the audience's time before bringing Edgar and Stella together in a brutal coupling in a half-ruined greenhouse that shows, in one simple and uninterrupted shot, more heated passion than a half-dozen other films' frantic editing and sensuous lighting could manage. The heated connection between the two is so believable that all the events which follow from their affair - including, but not limited to, Edgar's escape - and the depths of darkness into which nearly all the characters are plunged, seem nothing less than utterly inevitable.

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Patriot Games Review

Out with Alec Baldwin and in with Harrison Ford -- as CIA analyst Jack Ryan becomes caught up in an international incident again as he lectures in London, throwing so much action at us that we are meant to forget they switched the lead actors on us.

Turns out it doesn't matter much. Ford is of course a talented action/adventure hero, maybe the best ever. It's too bad that this Jack Ryan adventure has less epic-ness than Red October; it's written small, with Ryan caught up in an IRA attack on British bigwigs. After capping off a few of them in an impromptu streetfight, Ryan finds his family hunted down in America. Eventually -- of course -- he has to save them (using his litany of superspy tricks and tactics).

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Sahara Review

Nearly 25 years ago, Paramount Pictures struck gold with a film about an archeologist-adventure seeker named Indiana Jones. His quest to unravel mysteries and conquer evil around the world remains one of the most thrilling stories of its kind. Based on the trailer, Sahara, with its treasure-hunting hero Dirk Pitt, would appear to embody many of its predecessor's markings. Yet, what's lurking behind all of Sahara's explosions, one-liners, and plotting enemies is a monotonous, unsatisfying trek through an endless desert that would even have Dr. Jones scrambling for a new crusade.

Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk, the carefree leader of an exploration team working to recover lost artifacts from the ocean floor off the coast of Western Africa. Dirk is infatuated with the story of a captain from an ironclad American Civil War battleship who owned the last known U.S. gold dollar. As luck would have it, this ship just so happened to journey from Virginia to the nearby nation of Mali after the war. With the permission of his boss Admiral James Sandecker (William H. Macy), Dirk and his team, including his wiseass sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), are given three days to search the Niger River for the ship and the lost gold coin.

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The Sum Of All Fears Review

The biggest mystery in The Sum of All Fears is not how terrorists manage to smuggle a nuclear bomb into downtown Baltimore. Rather, it's how CIA operative Jack Ryan, formerly played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, has suddenly become 30 years younger and has turned into a junior agent at the CIA with only a few months of experience. In the hands of Ben Affleck, Ryan is no longer the commanding veteran he once was in films like Patriot Games. Now he's little more than a jerky teenager with a hot girlfriend and a chip on his shoulder.

I won't try to explain the metamorphosis of Ryan because it's never mentioned in the movie (and no, it's not a prequel; the film takes place in the present). Central to the plot is the hunt for an old nuclear bomb lost by the Israelis in 1973 and recovered, sold, and rebuilt by various arms dealers, terrorists, and neo-Nazi groups decades later. Their idea is to blow up the bomb in the U.S., blame it on the Russians, ignite a massive nuclear response from both sides, and -- in the greatest stretch of imagination ever to strike a Hitler enthusiast -- somehow survive WWIII and seize control of the world in the aftermath.

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Clear And Present Danger Review

Jack Ryan returns for a third outing in Clear and Present Danger, reuniting Harrison Ford's Ryan with director Phillip Noyce, who also directed Ford-as-Ryan in Patriot Games.

Too bad that with plenty of raw material (notably Willem Dafoe as an American mercenary working in Columbia), Danger comes up awfully short. For starters, what is our CIA hero doing poking around in the Colubian drug trade? Sure, he's rooting out a huge conspiracy that goes all the way up the U.S. political ranks, but must we be subjected to endless Latino stereotypes en route to that? Clancy is always at his best when he's dealing with terrorists or Russians. Here we have a plot (nearly 2 1/2 hours in length) that trots out the usual exploding drug factories and endless cartel assassinations. Ryan's escape from a troublesome mission is infamous for the bad guys' repeated inability to hit a near-motionless target.

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Bless The Child Review

Yes, August is upon us and with it comes the second appearance of the twice-yearly dumping ground for Hollywood. Like the February doldrums, August brings us films filled with fading stars and awful storylines that weren't deemed good enough to break even after a big summer marketing campaign, nor will they be able to go toe to toe with meatier fare during Oscar season.

And to open August, enter Bless the Child, possibly the worst movie I've seen this year. Well, after Mission to Mars.

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The Hunt For Red October Review

If any film in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series stands out as the best (or even a truly great movie), it's The Hunt for Red October. It was Clancy's first book starring the unlikely hero and the only film to star Alec Baldwin as Ryan. Baldwin does a great job here -- portraying Ryan not as a gung-ho commando, as Harrison Ford would interpret the role, or as a know-it-all brat, as Ben Affleck would shamefully turn in down the line.

Baldwin is perfect, but his sparring partner, Sean Connery, is even better. As a Russian sub captain defecting to the U.S. -- and bringing his titular, silent sub with him -- Connery turns in yet another memorable performance, full of ballsy gusto and cocksureness. Supporting players run the gamut from Sam Neill to James Earl Jones (the only real fixture in the Jack Ryan cycle) to Tim Curry.

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The Saint Review

The Next Big Franchise [Well, I guess not - Ed.] hits theaters this Friday, with all the trappings of a sequel-destined event. Infused with a backstory to set up the past of its nameless hero (Val Kilmer) as something of a "rogue James Bond with a guilty conscience and a Volvo," The Saint is as improbable as it is entertaining. With a plot revolving around a successful cold fusion experiment developed by miniskirt-clad scientist Emma (Elizabeth Shue) and the Russian Mafia's enlisting of the Saint to "steal the formula," it would be easy to sit back and laugh at the film's goofiness. However, Kilmer comes off as so engrossing and delivers his wryly hilarious lines with such precision that you end up forgetting the bad techno soundtrack and the series of unlikely coincidences that drive the picture to its inevitable end. And while that obviously-altered-to-make-it-happy ending is truly annoying, it's The Saint's combination of action and comedy that make it a worthwhile trip.

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