Peter Macneill

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The Hanging Garden Review


Grim
Canadian potboiler and freak-out session, this bizarre look at family relations won't resonate with any audience. Unless, of course, you're a prodigal gay son who has lost about 200 pounds and see delusions of a younger, fatter, you. Then it'd be right up your alley.

A History Of Violence Review


Excellent
Those well schooled in the history of cinema (or who've just seen a movie or two in their time) cannot help but look at the scenes of idyllic content occupying most of the beginning of A History of Violence without knowing that something bad is coming to bust up this happy family unit. Of course, they're helped along by the fact that the film opens on a chillingly calm scene - composed almost entirely of one tracking shot - in which a pair of laconic crooks on the lam execute a number of people in a small motel with about as much emotion as they'd use to pick up their dry cleaning. While the killers and the happy family are obviously on a collision course, it's not the violent impact that matters so much as the almost more shocking aftermath, and the secrets it may uncover.

Viggo Mortensen (in a welcome return to acting after too much time barking orders in elvish and swinging a broadsword from horseback) plays Tom Stall, a family man who runs a diner in a small Indiana town. He's not originally from the town, but he's been there long enough that everyone has long ago accepted him as one of their own. It's a normal life, Tom's young daughter has nightmares and his geeky teenage son Jack gets picked on at school, but other than that, things are good. Then the killers come into the diner right before closing, and just as they're about to execute a waitress, Tom springs into action, gunning them both down in spectacular fashion. Tom becomes a local celebrity but seems traumatized by the whole affair, wishing it could just be put behind him.

Continue reading: A History Of Violence Review

A History Of Violence Review


Grim

David Cronenberg is out of his element in "A History of Violence," and it shows.

The director best known for an edgy, uncanny, sometimes gruesome style of cerebral macabre tries to put his stamp on this graphic novel adaptation about the humble owner of a small-town diner (Viggo Mortensen) thrust into a dark world of mobsters and a confrontation with his own identity. But the film feels fresh and vital only in the darkly humorous opening scene, involving two cold-blooded thugs checking out of a motel, and during the second act in which Mortensen's family comes under threat after he spontaneously shoots the very same thugs (with their own guns) when they attempt to violently take over his restaurant.

As a result of his heroism -- and the suspicious precision of his kill -- members of the Philadelphia mafia who saw Tom Stahl (Mortensen) on TV soon come to town convinced he's one of them -- the runaway brother of a crime boss who left a lot of gangland untidiness in his wake when he disappeared some 20-odd years before.

Continue reading: A History Of Violence Review

The Caveman's Valentine Review


Weak

"The Caveman's Valentine" is a terrible title for an intelligent movie. It sounds like some B-grade fright flick from the 1950s with screaming blondes in strategically torn outfits being abducted by ape men found living on an uncharted island.

As it turns out, this "Caveman's Valentine" is actually a provocative, stylized psychological thriller/murder mystery about a one-time musical genius long ago driven out of a normal life and into homelessness by acute paranoid schizophrenia.

Played with an astonishing array of nuance by cinematic chameleon Samuel L. Jackson, Romulus Ledbetter is a disheveled, massively dreadlocked, ranting but misunderstood madman. His mind has become a tangled, delusional plane where an unseen evil -- an omnipotent adversary with powerful ray weapons -- conspires against him to take over the world.

Continue reading: The Caveman's Valentine Review

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