Category: Movies

MOVIE REVIEW | The Gambler (2014)

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“You’re born as a man with the nerves of a soldier, the apprehension of an angel.”

When I watched the original version of The Gambler, I went in knowing that movie gamblers rarely win, which is kind of the thrill.  “Because like gambling itself, even though you know winning is a long shot, it’s still exciting to think that there’s a still a slim chance of making that big score”.  Unfortunately, the risk of seeing a totally unnecessary and redundant remake didn’t add any level of thrill to watching an updated, Mark Wahlbergian take on, The Gambler.


Tens of thousands of dollars in the hole already, Jim Bennet (Wahlberg) makes the mistake of trying to gamble is way out.  Soon he’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red and in massive debt to two dangerous loan sharks, Neville (Michal Kenneth Williams) and Frank (John Goodman).  His rich mother (Jessica Lang) comes to the rescue, but why pay off his debt straight away when he can use her cash to gamble and lose even more? (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Papillon (1973)

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“Put all hope out of your mind. And masturbate as little as possible, it drains the strength.”

Steve McQueen is someone I’ve always thought of more as a movie star than an actor.  That’s not an insult.  I think The Great Escape is one of the best movies ever made, and he’s a big part of what makes it so good. But he’s one of those dudes who seemed to get by more on effortless cool, than he did on serious acting chops.  So after years of thinking the McQueen of movies like The Great Escape and Bullit was the only McQueen there was, I was blown away to see him act his ass off, in Papillon.


It’s the 1930s in France, and a group of prisoners are being told that their crimes were so great, their native country has basically disowned them.  They’ll be shipped off to the colonies to do serious hard time on a hellish island in the West Indies.  Wrongly convicted of killing a pimp, Papillon (McQueeen) is one of those prisoners.  On the ocean journey to his new island home, Papillon meets Dega (Dustin Hoffman), a nebbish nerd, convicted of some sort of white collar crime and forgery.  They come to a mutually beneficial agreement that sees Papillon acting as Dega’s bodyguard, and Dega promising to provide Papillon with money to escape when they reach the island. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | American Pimp (1999)

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“They think I could of did a whole bunch of intelligent things with my brain other than try to send these bitches, but this is what I chose to do.”

Documentaries about likeable people are entertaining enough.  But for some reason, I find documentaries about unlikeable people a lot more fascinating.  There’s something about dicks, assholes and evil pricks that makes me hate-watch them with more interest than some awesome person who’s changing the world for the better, or has overcome some terrible adversity.  With American Pimp, I got a strange combination of both.


A series of strikingly open interviews with pimps from all over the country, American Pimp  introduces us to cavalcade of colourful characters, with awesome names like Too $hort, Rosebudd and The Bishop Don Magic Juan.  They tell stories of how they came to be in the pimp game, how they manage the stables of prostitutes and how the world of these people works.  To say they’re manipulative, abusive, violent and misogynistic doesn’t even come close to describing their attitude towards women. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Rosewater (2014)

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“They have decided to kill you.”

In 2009, Jason Jones, a correspondent for The Daily Show, did a standard Daily Show bit.  He went to Iran to cover their elections, and posed as a “spy” while interviewing Iranian journalist, Maziar Bahari.  It was silly and funny and obviously a piss take with Bahari in on the joke.  The only problem is, Iranian leaders aren’t known for their sense of humour or appreciation of silly, funny piss takes.  Soon after, Maziar Bahari was imprisoned and interrogated by government officials for 118 days, with The Daily Show interview used as one of the major pieces of evidence against him.  I guess Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, felt just a little responsible, because when it came time for him to make his first movie, he made the story of Bahari’s imprisonment.  He made Rosewater.


Leaving his pregnant wife in London, Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) heads to his native Iran to cover the upcoming elections.  Armed with a video camera, Bahari meets the new generation of Iranians, who openly oppose the dictatorial leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  When an obviously rigged election sees Ahmadinejad re-elected by a landslide, protests erupt around the city.  Classic Ahmadinejad, he decides arrests and interrogations are the best way to deal with the unrest.  And who better to detain, than a journalist sympathetic to the liberal cause.  A journalist who even lives in the decedent west.  A journalist like Maziar Bahari. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Gambler (1974)

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“Ah, quit lying to yourself. Once you ain’t a virgin no more, you’re a whore till you die.”

Movies centered around gamblers and gambling a rarely setups for happy endings.  It’s clear that George Segal and Elliot Gold’s characters in California Split are never gonna have that one big score and be satisfied to quit while they’re ahead.  The instant Gary Bond goes back to the betting ring in Wake In Fright, it’s obvious that barely breaking even financially is the best he can hope for, while losing a lot more emotionally is a certainty.  Movie gamblers rarely win, which is kind of the thrill.  Because like gambling itself, even though you know winning is a long shot, it’s exciting to think that there’s still a slim chance of making that big score.  And it’s that thrill that’s so infectious in The Gambler.


A college literature professor by day, Axel Freed (James Caan) is much more dedicated to his nocturnal profession as a high stakes gambler.  Opening the movie already $44,000 down, Axel has pushed his bookie (Paul Sorvino as Hips) and his credit to the absolute limit.  Axel contemplates loan sharks before swallowing his pride and borrowing money from his mother (Jaqueline Brookes).  Between his mother and his rich grandfather, Axel has obviously felt invincible, with a safety net there when things get really bad. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI 100*** #71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

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“Hell, these guys deserve to go home as much as I do. They’ve fought just as hard.”

For the last 15 or so years, pretty much all war movies have been shot and edited in a very specific way.  And not just war movies and big battle scenes, but one on one fights in action movies as well.  The camera doesn’t just watch the action now, it’s in it, being rocked by explosions, knocked around by combatants, with shots edited to keep the viewer a little disorientated.  When done right, you get cool, visceral action like in the Bourne movies.  When done wrong, you get incomprehensible shit, like in The Transformers movies.  Right or wrong, they all stole their style from one man and one movie.  Steven Spielberg and Saving Private Ryan.


In one of the most famous scenes of the last two decades of movie making, Saving Private Ryan opens with the storming of the beach at Normandy, the beginning of the allies final push to take Europe back from Hitler.  I hail of bullets and explosions, we focus on the platoon of Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks).  Against all odds, they survive the invasion and are given their next assignment.  When a War Department Colonel (Bryan Cranston) back in America finds out that there’s one poor mother in Iowa who’s about to get four telegrams on the same day announcing the death of four of her five sons, he decides the fifth boy will be sent home safely. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI 100*** #72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

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“Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

The Shawshank Redemption has held its place atop the IMDB Top 250 for as long as the IMDB top 250 has existed.  And while this list can be fickle, to say the least, the enduring dominance of The Shawshank Redemption is impossible to ignore.  Sure, it’s ridiculous that The Dark Knight is currently sitting at number four, but it deputed even higher a back in 2008.  And I assume its slow slide will continue as its novelty wears off, and it will find its rightful place, deep and low.  But The Shawshank Redemption’s place at number one is like my own attitude towards it.  This is a movie that refuses to go away and insists in grabbing me every time I stumble across it.


Drunk and cradling a loaded gun, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) contemplates going home to kill his wife and her lover.  When they’re found dead, Andy is the obvious number one suspect, and despite his claims of innocence, his seemingly cold, remorseless attitude in court sees him convicted of the double murder and sentenced to double life sentences in the titular Shawshank prison.  Once inside, Andy meets the movie’s narrator, Red (Morgan Freeman). (more…)