Mark Johnson

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Royal Ascot 2015

Damien Lewis, Mark Johnson and Helen McCrory - Royal Ascot 2015 held at Ascot Racecourse - Day 1 at Royal Ascot - Ascot, Berkshire, United Kingdom - Tuesday 16th June 2015

Royal Ascot 2015

Damien Lewis, Mark Johnson and Helen McCrory - Damien Lewis during trophy presentation - Ascot, Berkshire, United Kingdom - Tuesday 16th June 2015

Damien Lewis, Mark Johnson and Helen McCrory

4th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards

Mark Johnson - 4th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel - Beverly Hills, California, United States - Thursday 19th June 2014

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson

4th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards

Mark Johnson - 4th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, United States - Thursday 19th June 2014

Chasing Mavericks Review


Weak

Despite a number of exhilarating surfing sequences, the interesting true story of surf legend Jay Moriarty is transformed into another dull Hollywood biopic. Painfully family-friendly, it's all so relentlessly smiley and sun-kissed that we wonder where the real story and characters are amid the sticky schmaltz. Even so, it's so beautifully shot that it holds our attention, especially when the cameras are riding the waves.

By the time he was 9 years old in 1987, Jay (Timberline) was already an expert on the tides in his home town of Santa Cruz, California. Watching the surfers every day, he longs to get out there himself. His mother (Shue) is a sleepy alcoholic and he never knew his father, so he adopts salty old surfer Frosty (Butler) as a mentor, even though he's not sure he wants the job. Especially since he's doing everything to avoid his own wife (Spencer) and baby. But Frosty sees Jay's natural talent, and seven years later Jay (now Weston) has the confidence to ask Frosty to teach him how to ride the mavericks, mythical monster waves that only come along every few months.

With its absent father and drunken mother, the script never feels like more than an after-school special, complete with a bat-wielding bully (Handley) and a surf babe (Rambin) who chastely flirts with Jay whenever they meet. Frosty even sets Karate Kid-style pointless tasks for Jay to teach him the bigger picture. But this set-up is so trite that we never have even the slightest doubt about where it's going. And the characters all feel like cliches rather than real people. The three women are especially wasted, but at least they add spark to their roles.

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We are Family Foundation Honor Awards

Suzanne Johnson and Mark Johnson - The 2013 We Are Family Honors Gala at Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom - Arrivals. - New York City, United States - Thursday 11th April 2013

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark Review


Excellent
This inventive horror film plays to our deepest childhood fears. It's like a demented variation on The Borrowers, and first-rate acting and effects work combine to thoroughly creep us out.

Shy, artistic 8-year-old Sally (Madison) moves across the country to live with her architect dad Alex (Pearce) and his designer girlfriend Kim (Holmes) in a massive old Rhode Island mansion. But she soon starts hearing strange noises, and after discovering a boarded-up basement studio, things start getting a bit freaky. But how can she convince her sceptical father and the stepmum she doesn't trust that there's something in the house that wants to tear the family apart? Even after the handyman (Thompson) is attacked, Alex continues his renovations so he can lure a buyer (Dale).

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review


Good
This third instalment in the Narnia series changes the director and studio, as well as the setting (from the land to the sea). The result is a rousing adventure that's enjoyable even if it still feels rather sanitised.As war rages in Britain, Lucy and Edmund (Henley and Keynes) have left London to live with their obnoxious cousin Eustace (Poulter). One day when he's taunting them about tales that they were royalty in Narnia, a painting comes to life and pulls all three of them into its watery depths. Rescued by now-King Caspian (Barnes) and his first-mate mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Pegg), they embark on an epic voyage in the ship Dawn Treader, sailing off the edge of the map on a quest to restore balance to the kingdom.The story is much more cinematic than other Narnia chapters, and director Apted makes the most of both the ship and the islands they visit along the way, adding a sense of scale and scope. Clever camerawork makes the digital creatures feel more matter-of-fact (to everyone except the horrified Eustace), and only a few dodgy effects (mainly the mermaids and a dragon) let things down on the technical side.In addition, the actors are more relaxed this time, giving more confident, natural performances. Franchise newcomer Poulter is especially good, walking the fine line between being a loathsome jerk and a needy young boy. So it's a shame that the plot feels so simplistic, composed of a series of set pieces as the ship stops at various ports of call and our heroes encounter seemingly random inhabitants who helpfully give them information to continue their journey.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review


Weak
In Clerks II, uber-slacker Randal described the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a series of endless walks. Nothing but nonstop, pointless treks. One has to wonder what his reaction would be to the overwhelming ambulation in the two Chronicles of Narnia films. While The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had origins and mythos to highlight, Disney's latest entry in the franchise, Prince Caspian, requires a more minimal setup. All returning director Andrew Adamson has to offer as a result is more shoe to footpath action, with the occasional CGI-sparked battle to break up the constant strolling.

It's been a year since Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) Pevensie have been to the magical land that they once ruled as kings and queens. However, 13 centuries have passed in Narnia, and a race of humans known as Telmarines have overrun the kingdom. They have systematically killed off almost all the creatures, and rule by blood and violence. Within the court, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), brother of the late King Caspian IX, has taken over and threatened the life of the true, titular heir (Ben Barnes). With the help of the returning foursome, Prince Caspian will rally the remaining Narnians, leading them to victory over their evil oppressors.

Continue reading: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review

Shooter Review


Weak
As the hero of Shooter, Mark Wahlberg narrows his eyes into a piercing stare, delivers his bite-sized chunks of dialogue under his breath, and maintains a constant state of muscle flex so that each vein in his ropy arms sticks up like a speed bump on an elementary school driveway.

Wahlberg even boasts the ideal name: Bob Lee Swagger. The surname ensures he's all attitude. The fact that he goes by three monikers means he's a bona fide presidential assassin, situated in a class above Lee Harvey Oswald.

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The Natural Review


OK
Robert Redford is beloved for his roles in numerous films, but his work in The Natural has to rank as one of the few on top, despite the fact that, with a $48 million box office, it hardly ranks as one of his bigger hits.

The film remains, next to Field of Dreams, one of the world's oddest baseball movies. Roy Hobbs (Redford) is a child wunderkind at the game. After playing some ball at a carnival, he's summarily shot in the chest by a femme fatale (Barbara Hershey), who is clearly working for agents that want him not to be the greatest player of all time, which Hobbs says he aims to be.

Continue reading: The Natural Review

The Wendell Baker Story Review


Grim
Oh, the world is one sweet nectarine to the boys in the frat pack. While Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell owned the summer with Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson was filming You, Me and Dupree with Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon (hit!) and Vince Vaughn was filming The Break-Up with Jennifer Aniston (again: hit!). While all this was happening, the group's indelible straight man, Luke Wilson, was busy peddling around his writing/co-directing/acting venture, The Wendell Baker Story. Even though 3 members of the frat pack make appearances in the film, there's something not quite "fratty" about The Wendell Baker Story.

Wendell Baker (Luke Wilson) has charm oozing from his pores but can't do much more than make friends with it. He makes fake IDs with his friend, Reyes (Jacob Vargas), for illegal aliens that just jumped the fence. Wendell also has a woman who loves him, but of course, he can't tell her he loves her back. That girl is Doreen (Eva Mendes), who runs into the arms of a grocery store owner (Ferrell) when Wendell gets sent away. When he returns, settled on getting his life straight and winning Doreen back. He is set up to work in an old folk's home, ample for his dreams of owning his own hotel one day. Trouble comes when he uncovers a scheme to fake old people's death and actually send them away to be slaves at a small farm house, owned by the mother of Neil King (Owen Wilson), the head nurse and a supreme sleaze bag. With the help of three wily retirees (Seymour Cassel, Harry Dean Stanton, and Kris Kristofferson), Wendell plans to win back the girl and uncover the scheme.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Review


Grim
Since the first comparison made with C.S. Lewis' Narnia fantasy series is to his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, it is worth noting that - as recently mentioned in the New Yorker - Tolkien hated the Narnia books because their ideological underpinnings constrained the fiction itself. Tolkien was as devoutly religious as Lewis but you didn't see the hobbits going to church on Sunday; Middle Earth was a pretty pagan land where mythology, not theology, was the rule of the day. Lewis was a different sort, of course, and though the seven Narnia books were brilliant fantasy, they also had an irksome tendency towards preachiness. This same problem afflicts The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the (potentially) first Chronicles of Narnia film, a crass product of merchandised morality from Disney and Walden Media, a media company owned by Christian evangelist billionaire Philip Anschutz.

Director Andrew Adamson makes his live-action debut here after the two Shreks, but it's an easy transition for him, given that a good portion of the film has a CGI/character complexity ratio about as high as the last few Star Wars films. Although Narnia doesn't lend itself well to the cheeky pop culture reference-o-rama that Shrek did, it shares those films' same treacly sentimentality and market-researched plasticity.

Continue reading: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Review

Bugsy Review


Excellent
After writing, directing and starring in one of the most politically intriguing films of the 1990s, Bulworth, Warren Beatty vanished. He only resurfaced in 2001 in the deplorable Town & Country, which had been finished since 1999. There was no loud announcement of quitting Hollywood, he just stopped acting and started complaining about the Governator.

A consummate leftist, Beatty was always into politics and into political filmmaking, or films that took on big topics at least. So, the question must be asked why he would decide to star as one of the most flamboyant, vain gangsters of all time, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Not only did he act in the film, he was the reason it started. Beatty wrangled up James Toback to write the thing and then snagged Barry Levinson to direct the picture, and decided that the focus of the film should be the end of Siegel's career/life.

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How to Eat Fried Worms Review


Weak
Remember cute little Hallie Kate Eisenberg, the curly-haired "Pepsi girl" who pretty much charmed the pants off of everybody? Yeah, well, she's 14 years old now, and, let me put it nicely, she's got a bit of a Haley Joel Osment/Macauley Culkin-as-grown-ups thing going on. Let's just hope she stays off the sauce, because even though she may have utterly lost that precociousness, she at least has a shot to stay out of rehab.

Oh yeah, and there's this movie she's in, an adaptation of the beloved 1973 novel How to Eat Fried Worms. I remember loving this book when I was a kid, but today I can't really remember the actual plot (except there was a lot of worm-eatin' in it). Maybe that's for the best. The word is that the film has taken some liberties with the book, but aside from modernizing the story, I couldn't really tell you what was different.

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Mark Johnson

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