The Pope is the formidable nickname given to Frank Silva; a businessman who runs a multi-million dollar empire of gambling with his glamorous dockside casino. Luke Vaughn works as a card dealer at Pope's casino, and in a desperate bid to raise 300,000 dollars to pay for his sick daughter's medical treatment, he turns to his boss for help. Predictably, Pope is less than pleased about being asked for money and throws Vaughn out, but little does he know that there's another worker who'll stop at nothing to get a share of the riches. Cox convinces Vaughn to rob the place and they make off with 3 million dollars after a messy shoot-out. However, their plans go slightly wrong at the getaway stage, forcing them to take over a passing bus and holding the passengers hostage. Now, as well as The Pope's savage cohorts on their tail including the bloodthirsty Dog, they have a SWAT team led by no-nonsense female Officer Bajos after them and escape seems futile.
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By taking a fictionalised approach to the Meredith Kercher murder case in Italy, filmmaker Michael Winterbottom sets out to show how tricky it is to find the truth in any case, but he actually ends up proving how impossible it is to make a movie based on complex, unresolved real events. The film has a fascinatingly mysterious tone to it, but never comes together into something the audience can properly engage with, mixing big themes with bizarre filmmaking flourishes that only serve as a distraction.
It centres on Thomas (Daniel Bruhl), a London-based filmmaker who flies to Sienna to make a movie about the case of a student (Genevieve Gaunt) who's been charged with brutally killing her flatmate (Sai Bennett). Thomas immediately locates the foreign press corps, which hangs out together to cynically discuss the case. And he starts working with Simone (Kate Beckinsale), who's writing a true crime book. But Thomas is worried that there are too many layers to the story for a movie, and he becomes increasingly confused after consulting with Edoardo (Valerio Mastandrea), an expert on the case who also wants to be a screenwriter. To try to find the root of what happened, Thomas hires the sexy young Melanie (Cara Delevingne) to show him around town.
All of this is complicated by the fact that Thomas has a coke addiction and is reading Dante's Inferno, which combines with his imagination to cause freak-out hallucinations that make everything even murkier. Winterbottom builds this atmosphere beautifully, but falls short of establishing the fever-dream style of an Italian Giallo horror movie. This is mainly because he's trying to have it both ways, creating a wildly disorienting mystery while at the same time trying to make a pointed comment on how the media exploit a personal tragedy.
Continue reading: The Face Of An Angel Review
In 2007, a young British student was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in the room of an Italian house. Her American roommate is arrested and tried for the murder, but there's a problem. The girl looks far too innocent for anyone to convict her of the horrific crimes she has been accused of. When a journalist and a documentary filmmaker arrive on the scene, they join together to try to get to the bottom of the crime, all the while raking up more and more of the dirt surrounding the case.
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Films about spiritual journeys should be celebrated, as they force us to explore deeper truths about our lives, but this one veers unevenly from comedy to drama to romance as it heads for a less-than-revelatory conclusion. It's nicely shot and some of the acting is decent, but it's difficult to identify with characters we don't like very much, and in the end the film feels as pointlessly gimmicky as its title.
This is the story of London ad executive Callum (Hurn), whose faltering business sparks some sort of internal quest for meaning in life. It doesn't help that his current make-or-break client is a cranberry alco-pop that seems impossible to sell. His bullying colleague Marrlen (Warren) is making his life miserable, so he doesn't really hesitate when he meets the free-spirited Malika (Dray) and she invites him to go camping in her native France. Off they go on a journey into the woods, where Malika separates Callum from his mobile phone, ruins his hand-made shoes and helps him quit smoking, all before sending him deeper into What's Really Important.
Yes, this is familiar stuff, including the usual message about how our lives have become far too busy and interconnected, leaving us unable to understand ourselves anymore. We may be able to identify with this idea, but the film's simplistic, sometimes silly approach doesn't help us explore it in any meaningful way. At least it's nicely shot, with a clever use of the woodland settings, which also appear Callum's dreams of running naked through the forest to practice tai chi by a lake. By contrast, the scenes in his ad agency look tacky and garish, as his colleagues clown around and never actually come up with anything creative. No wonder the business is in trouble!
Continue reading: Do Elephants Pray? Review
Corporal Rains is a young yet committed soldier, when his unit is ambushed behind enemy lines, Rain's formulates a plan to lead his men to safety but when he returns to safe territory he's imprisoned in military prison for insubordination. The only person who sees potential in the willing recruit is a man by the name of Captain Jones, he offers Rain's a way out of prison if he joins his new elite task force, the 30 Commando unit.
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In 1940, Captain Jones (Bean) is assigned to lead a clandestine mission into occupied Norway to capture German technology that could turn the tide of the war. He recruits a team of crack commandos, including the brave hothead Rains (Dyer) and the Norwegian-Yank Steinar (Hennie). But they have a very rough landing in Norway, their spy contact (Miko) isn't who they expect and the ruthless Nazis quickly catch up with them. Can they get in, do their job and get out? Or will they need plan B?
Continue reading: Age Of Heroes Review
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