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MCM London Comic Con at ExCeL London

Saul Rubinek - MCM London Comic Con at ExCeL London - Day Two - London, United Kingdom - Saturday 26th October 2013

Saul Rubinek

Barney's Version Review


Good
Based on the novel by Mordecai Richler, this film traces some 35 years in the life of its central character. More observational than plot-driven, its real strengths lie in performances that vividly draw out everyday emotions.

Barney Panofsky (Giamatti) has had an event-filled life that not many people quite understand. His first marriage to Clara (Lefevre) in 1970s Rome was short, but his second back home in Montreal (to Driver) was even briefer, as he met wife No 3, Miriam (Pike), at the reception. His later years are haunted by a detective (Addy) who's determined to prove that Barney killed his best friend (Speedman) back in the 80s. And then there's his feisty dad (Dustin Hoffman), smart kids (Jake Hoffman and Hopkins) and a too-friendly neighbour (Greenwood).

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Barney's Version Trailer


Finding love has never really been a problem for Barney. Having been married once before, he thinks his marriage to 'the second Mrs P' is going to be it, he's finally ready to settle down. After all, you couldn't hope for more when you're marring a beautiful princess with 'a wonderful rack'; however when Barney lays eyes on Miriam, a guest at his wedding, he knows his marriage is a total sham and a huge mistake.

Continue: Barney's Version Trailer

Unforgiven Review


Extraordinary
"I do not like assassins -- or men of low character." Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood face off in one of the best westerns ever made -- make that the best western ever made -- produced some 50 years after the prime of the western era. Eastwood plays a reluctant assassin trying to raise money to save his small farm, kids, and sick pigs, while Hackman's much-abused sheriff aims to stop the killing.

The dialogue is fantastic, with Eastwood utterly believable in his testifying to the evils of whisky, and Hackman totally at ease with saying he "et it." Richard Harris's English Bob is an unforgettable pansy of a villain, and the widescreen cinematography is lush during the day, ominous during the invariably rainy nights.

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The Singing Detective Review


Weak
"I'm a prisoner inside my own skin." So says Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr), hack novelist and lifelong sufferer of psoriatic arthropathy, a horrific disease that has left him with barely functioning limbs and an appalling welter of blisters and rashes over every inch of his body. Dark spews rage at everyone who comes near him, from his fed-up wife (Robin Wright Penn) to the gaggle of aloof doctors who occasionally drop by to put him on a different drug.

To get away from the misery of his day-to-day existence, Dark retreats into a 1950s film noir fantasy world straight from one of his books, where he's a handsome band singer who moonlights as a gumshoe. In the fantasy, he gets tangled up in a plot revolving around a dead blonde dame, the sinister Mark Binney (Jeremy Northam) who hires Dark to investigate her murder, and a couple of palookas in sharp suits (Adrien Brody and Jon Polito) who keep trying to bump Dark off. Unfortunately, the fantasy starts getting mixed up into Dark's real life - Chandler-esque gangsters showing up at his bedside, and hospital staff bursting into renditions of doo-wop hits that Dark's alter ego would have sung in an L.A. nightclub - and he has trouble keeping them separate.

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Bad Manners Review


Grim
The Big Chill gets all serious-like (think Woody Allen in his lousy, "serious" days) when four adults converge on a Hamptons-esque home for a weekend, rubbing one another entirely the wrong way. A squabble over $50 and the nature of computer-generated music becomes a launching pad for innuendo, which might have been enticing had any of the characters been interesting. The exception is Caroleen Feeney, cast as a vamp and used rather one-dimensionally, but she's still quite a heartbreaker. Based on Gilman's play Ghost in the Machine.

Wall Street Review


Excellent
Since the initial release of Wall Street, Oliver Stone's giant-sized 1987 fable, it's been said a million times: Greed Is Good. With those three words, Michael Douglas, as uber-corporate raider Gordon Gekko, defined the tone of not just a single movie but perhaps of an entire decade (even though that's a paraphrase of his actual quote).

The phrase, now famous via Douglas's Oscar-winning performance, was initially uttered by Ivan Boesky, the 1980s business biggie who thrived on doing whatever it took to become rich, and paid the price as a result. Director/co-writer Stone, with Douglas at the epicenter, erects an overdone behemoth of a movie that, like Boesky himself, is an ageless -- and, at times, clich├ęd -- cautionary tale.

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Dick Review


Terrible
In this new 70s comedy opening just in time for the anniversary of Woodstock, we follow characters Betty (Kirsten Dunst), and Arlene (Michelle Williams) on a wacky journey through Washington, D.C. following the Watergate Scandle.

The two are spotted in the White House by a gaurd who originally saw the girls at Watergate the night of the burglary. The two are taken to the infamous "West Wing" where they meet and fall in love with President Richard "Dick" Nixon, played by Dan Hedaya, and very well I might add. Unfortunetly Hedaya's very entertaining performance of Dick couldn't save this already ill-fated non-comedy.

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Jerry & Tom Review


OK
Two hitmen look back on their lives while holding down day jobs as used car salesmen. Hooked yet? Indeed, this is one of the stranger films to come along lately, and it's obvious it didn't click with audiences. Cue Showtime to pick it up without a theatrical release. Bizarre structure and a we-mighta-killed-celebrity-[fill in the blank] makes for an interesting couple of hours, but that's about it.

Lakeboat Review


Good
All aboard the Seaway Queen, as actor-turned-director Joe Mantegna hustles a group of David Mamet regulars onto an enormous steel delivery ship plying the Great Lakes in order to read from one of Mamet's early plays, Lakeboat.

Despite the High Seas setting, the film takes the form of merely a series of conversations among various characters on the boat. Central to them is grad student Dale (Tony Mamet, David's brother), working the boat to earn money during the summer. Then there's an ornery captain (Charles Durning) and his number two (George Wendt). There's a strange fireman (Denis Leary) who stays below deck. There are horny guys (J.J. Johnston and Jack Wallace) who argue the merits of Steven Seagal and his toughness. There's also a lovable deckhand (Robert Forster) who teaches Dale a thing or two about life, love, and so on.

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Baadasssss! Review


OK

"Baadassss!" is Mario Van Peebles' fond commemoration of his cantankerous father's bull-headed cinematic audacity. An unblinking, if slightly golden-toned, account of the making of Melvin Van Peebles' violent, dark, gritty and groundbreaking "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song," it's a clear labor of love, and so much the better for it.

"Sweetback" -- a "ghetto Western" about a slick, taciturn pimp who becomes a hunted man for killing a couple thug cops who beat a black militant -- scared the hell out of Hollywood, yet its success ($15 million in limited release in 1971) gave rise to scores of shallower imitators that became the blaxploitation genre of "Coffy" and "Shaft."

Getting the divisive, patently anti-establishment film made was a nightmare of financing and bounced checks ("Baadasssss!" implies that drug money was to be used before Bill Cosby stepped in), of casting (writer-director Melvin played the lead when he couldn't find the right actor), of union problems (the industry guilds were practically all-white at the time -- and expensive), of controversy (an X rating), and of distribution (only two privately-owned theaters would touch it at first).

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Dick Review


OK

Imagine a pair of bubble-headed teenage girls plunked down in the middle of "All the President's Men," then transform the major Watergate players (Nixon, Woodward, Bernstein, Liddy, et al) into oafs, and you have the recipe for "Dick," a nimbly-witted marriage of teenage social slapstick and political satire.

A cross-generational comedy that quickly lays out historical details for the uninitiated, then sets about clowning with the fuzzier facts, the movie stars Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of dim and giggly 15-year-olds who stumble onto the Watergate break-in (one of them lives in the hotel), then become witnesses to President Nixon's cover-up, after being spotted on a White House tour and appointed "official White House dog-walkers" in order to keep them close and find out what they know.

Since their lives revolve around lip gloss and Bobby Sherman, it takes these two ditzes a while to catch on. After getting lost in the executive mansion, their new buddy President Nixon (a perfectly cast Dan Hedaya) plays off the document-shredding they've seen as a crafts project. "Paper mache is a hobby of mine," he grunts, momentarily unfurrowing his brow.

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The Contender Review


Grim

Writer-director Rod Lurie is to political thriller cinema what Jackie Collins is to romance novels: high-gloss trash. The difference is that Lurie takes himself seriously.

Earlier this year his preposterous nuclear countdown yarn "Deterrence" was released after sitting on a shelf for two years. It starred Kevin Pollack as a US president snowed in at a Colorado greasy spoon getting unsolicited advice from a peanut gallery of patrons as Saddam Hussein's son revealed a secret nuclear arsenal pointed at our shores. Even more ridiculous than the plot was the "just kidding" manner in which it concludes.

Now comes "The Contender," a lurid yet didactic gavel-to-gavel drama about a vice presidential appointee embroiled in a sex scandal.

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The Singing Detective Review


OK

Ironically, "The Singing Detective" probably would have been better without the awkwardly integrated songs that signal frequent shifts into fantasy for the picture's acrimonious anti-hero -- a second-rate pulp novelist hospitalized with literally crippling, full-body psoriasis that serves as a metaphor for his rampaging inner demons.

As an acerbically droll psychological drama about the writer's noir-fiction imagination slowly seeping into his tormented reality, this new adaptation of the highly acclaimed 1986 BBC miniseries (both were written by the late Dennis Potter) has many layers of mesmerizing Freudian substance, brought vividly to life by Robert Downey, Jr's fearlessly hostile but slowly warming performance.

Playing Dan Dark -- a bitter soul trapped in a grotesquely scabby, arthritic body -- Downey seethes with such animosity toward the whole world that when his doctors break into a low-budget production number lip-sync of "At the Hop" or his ointment-applying nurse (Katie Holmes) coos "Mr. Sandman" in a sexual daydream sequence, the film overshoots its intended farce because such silliness is so out of character for a man this bitter and full of bile.

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