Saturday, December 9, 2017

"THE HATEFUL EIGHT" (2015) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from the new Western-mystery film, "THE HATEFUL EIGHT". Directed by Quentin Tarantino, the movie stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Walton Goggins: 


"THE HATEFUL EIGHT" (2015) Photo Gallery




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Sunday, December 3, 2017

"3 DAYS TO KILL" (2014) Review




"3 DAYS TO KILL" (2014) Review

Although I have seen Kevin Costner appear in movies recently, they have mainly been in supporting roles. So image my surprise when I discovered that he had a leading role in a film that recently hit the movie theaters. I heard a good deal of negative press about it, but due to sheer boredom, I decided to go see it, anyway. 

Written by Adi Hasak and Luc Besson, and directed by McG; "3 DAYS TO KILL" is about veteran C.I.A. agent Ethan Renner, who is manipulated into carrying out one last mission for the agency, in exchange for an experimental drug that might cure his cancer. The story begins in Berlin where Ethan and a team of fellow agents converge upon a hotel to find and capture "The Albino", lieutenant to an arms trafficker called "The Wolf". The operation's leader, assassin Vivi Delay, has been informed that "The Wolf" is selling a dirty bomb to some terrorists. "The Albino" becomes aware of the trap when he recognizes one of the C.I.A. agents. Renner manages to shoot "The Albino" in the leg, but not capture him. And the veteran agent passes out.

When Renner regains consciousness inside a hospital, his doctor informs him that he is dying of brain cancer and that the disease has spread to his lungs. Renner realizes that he had spent most of his career keeping it a secret from his estranged wife Christine and daughter Zoey and damaging his relationship with them. He becomes determined to fix his relationship with his family upon his return to Paris. However, his efforts are threatened when Vivi Delay approaches him with a deal - to find and kill "The Wolf", in exchange for an experimental drug that could extend his life significantly. He reluctantly accepts in order to get more time with his family. 

I could say that "3 DAYS TO KILL" failed spectacularly at the box office. But since it ended up making a profit of seven million dollars, perhaps I will limit my observation to a failure to become a bit hit. The critics really raked this film over the coals. The only positive comments I have heard about this film came from my boss, who thought it was pretty good. One could say . . . what does he know? Well, I saw the movie, because I could not find anything else to do. And honestly? I rather liked it. In fact, I liked it a bit more than Kevin Costner's other Winter 2014 film, namely "JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT". Why? I thought "3 DAYS TO KILL" was a more original film. Renner's mission to hunt down and kill a notorious arms dealer did not strike me as particularly original. But when Besson and Hasak added the element of a doomed agent dying of cancer, an experimental drug and family problems . . . well, I found myself spellbound by the story. Perhaps other moviegoers and critics would have preferred a more unoriginal tale. I certainly would not have appreciated it. All I can do is sigh with relief that "3 DAYS TO KILL" proved to be such an odd and if I may say so, entertaining film.

The movie also featured some top-notch action sequences, deftly shot by McG and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast; and skillfully edited by Audrey Simonaud. The scenes that especially come to mind are the original attempt to snatch "The Albino" in Berlin, Renner's kidnapping of Mitat Yilmaz, limousine driver for "The Wolf", an attempt on Renner's life at a local grocery store, Renner's killing of "The Albino" at a subway and the final action sequence in which Renner goes after "The Wolf" at a party held by the parents of Zoey's boyfriend. I also enjoyed Arogast's photography of Berlin and especially Paris, considering that the story is set in the late fall. The costumes designed by Olivier Bériot and Roemehl Hawkins not only struck me as very chic, but perfect for a clothing boutique.

As much as I liked "3 DAYS TO KILL", it had its problems. I must admit that the idea of an experimental drug that can cure cancer seemed to be stretching it a bit, despite its originality. I really hate to say this, but I found Amber Heard's character, Vivi Delay, rather hard to swallow. Actually, I rather disliked the character. She seemed rather over-the-top to me, reminding me of some over-the-top Bond villain or villainess - despite the fact that she was a protagonist. And honestly? Amber Heard is not John Travolta or Al Pacino, who can be hammy with style. My last problem with "3 DAYS TO KILL" has to do with the last action sequence. As much as I liked it, I found it rather flawed. The biggest mistake that Besson, Hasak and McG did was inter-cut Renner's last attempt to kill "The Wolf" with scenes of his daughter Zoey and her boyfriend Hugh, cuddling and who knows what else, in a private room of the club. It just did not work. Especially since the moments with Zoey and Hugh did not really add to the action sequence.

Although I was not impressed with Amber Heard's hammy performance, at least I was impressed by Kevin Costner and other members of the cast. What can I say about Costner? Well . . . he gave a performance that reminded me why I became a big fan of his so many years ago. I was especially impressed by how he balanced the professional and private lives of his character, Ethan Renner. Hailee Steinfeld, who had made such an impression in her Oscar-nominated performance in 2010's "TRUE GRIT", proved to be equally impressive as Renner's strong-willed and slightly eccentric daughter, Zoey. Connie Nielsen made a nice impression as Renner's ex-wife. Unfortunately, I wish she could have been in the film a little longer. Both Richard Sammuel ("INGLORIOUS BASTERDS") and Tómas Lemarquis gave impressive performances as the arms dealer "The Wolf" and his lieutenant "The Albino". Eriq Ebouaney gave a charming performance as the West African who squats in Ethan's Paris apartment, along with his family. But the performance that I found really entertaining was Marc Andréoni's portrayal of Mitat Yilmaz, limousine driver of "The Wolf". Like Costner, he did a first-rate job of balancing his character's dangerous profession and his private life as a family man with a great deal of sharp humor.

What else can I say about "3 DAYS TO KILL"? I would never regard it as one of the best action movies I have seen. And it certainly had its flaws. But I did end up enjoying it, much to my surprise, especially since I found the screenplay written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak rather original. More importantly, I thought the screenplay was well served by energetic direction from McG and first-rate performances (well, most of them) from a cast led by Kevin Costner.

Monday, November 27, 2017

"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.07) "Long Live the Mayor"




"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.07) "Long Live the Mayor"

For the past several years, I have always believed that the Season One episode, (1.08) "Rogue River" was the one in which "JERICHO" really came into its own. But after watching (1.07) "Long Live the Mayor", the episode that first aired a week before "Rogue River", I think I may have made a mistake. .

In this episode, Gray Anderson’s return to Jericho brought about a great deal of emotions from some of the townspeople. Especially from two people in particular. This all started when Gray had volunteered to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who had left town in (1.03) "Four Horsemen". They left to search for outside news following the nuclear attacks. Jake had immediately returned with news of a plane crash that involved Emily Sullivan's missing fiance, Roger Hammond. Another "Horseman", Shep, disappeared for good, due to guilt over the death of citizen during the fallout in the second episode. I do not recall who the third Horseman was, but Gray remained missing for three episodes before his return in this one.

Gray's news turned out to be a mixed blessing. He revealed a disturbing tale of the fatal beating of a FEMA driver by drifters outside of Topeka, Kansas - a fate that he managed to avoid. Gray also revealed that the New York Police Department had found a nuclear bomb in a van minutes before it was set to destroy the metropolis. However, both Lawrence, Kansas and Washington D.C. were destroyed. Gray's experiences on the road eventually led him to suggest to Eric Green that all of Jericho's recent newcomers - including the Hawkins family - be interrogated, in case they turned out to be threats to the town. Of course Gray’s interrogation of the Hawkins family took place in "Rogue River". But as I stated earlier, his news affected certain characters.

The news about New York City being spared from destruction, thanks to the NYPD brought a great deal of relief for the sixteen year-old Skylar Stevens, whose parents had been in the Big Apple when the bombs fell. And since Dale Turner – another one of Jericho’s adolescents without any parents – was the one who delivered the good news, the two became closer friends. However, the destruction of Washington D.C. proved to be another matter. IRS agent Mimi Clark originally came from the nation’s capital. When Stanley Richmond, at whose farm she was staying, gave her the news, she realized that she had lost all of her family and close friends. Both Robert and Darcy Hawkins were present when Gray disclosed Washington’s fate and the two eventually told their oldest – Allison. Naturally, Allison discussed the loss of her friends with Robert. She also revealed that Darcy had a boyfriend who also perished.

"Long Live the Mayor" also featured the second appearance of James Remar as Emily’s estranged criminal father, Jonah Prowse. His appearance provided an opportunity for some excellent performances by Remar and actress Ashley Scott, who portrayed Emily. It also included Jake’s only kiss with local schoolteacher Heather Linsinki. I wish I could say that I found their screen kiss impressive. But I would be lying. It seemed apparent to me why producers Jon Turteltaub, Stephen Chbosky, and Carol Barbee did not bother to develop any further romance between the two. However, I am certain there are Jake/Heather shippers who feel otherwise. Also in this episode, Mayor Johnston Greene’s illness finally sends him into septic shock after two episodes. With no drugs available to cure him, April tells the Greene family in a rather tense scene that he needs the antibiotic Cipro within the next 12 hours or he would die. Jake and Eric decide to head for the town of Rogue River, the location of the nearest major hospital, in order to procure the drug for their father. 

A great deal of interesting moments and excellent performances filled this episode. But three scenes, featuring three performances really stood out for me. The first performance came from actor Michael Gaston as the opportunist Gray Anderson. In the scene that featured Gray’s revelations about the news outside of Jericho, Gaston portrayed Gray as a man frightened by the horrors he had witnessed and learned during his journey around Kansas. The second performance came from Alicia Coppola, who portrayed Mimi Clark. She gave a superb performance as a Mimi first pretending that she was not shaken by the bad news regarding Washington D.C. and later, releasing her despair in a marvelous rant that should have earned her some kind of acting nomination. Finally, there was April D. Parker, whose Darcy Hawkins faced the triple task of dealing with the destruction of Washington D.C., the death of Doug, her former lover, and Robert’s discovery of said lover. One would think that Darcy would crumble over a series of crisis. Being a strong willed woman, Darcy holds her own. But in a quiet, yet marvelous performance given by Parker, Darcy finally reveals her true feelings about moving to Jericho, Doug, and how Robert’s profession had endangered their marriage and family life. Her outburst culminated in a phrase that perfectly described the Hawkins marriage before their arrival in Jericho - "House of Secrets". Parker’s performance was another that should have earned an acting nomination.

The episode ended with Heather admitting to Emily that she might be falling Jake, Dale and Skylar becoming closer than ever after she invites him to stay at her house, Stanley trying to help Mimi deal with her grief, Gray determined to investigate the Hawkins family and other newcomers, Emily managing to procure Jake’s old car from Jonah for the trip to Rogue River, and the Hawkins marriage still in a precarious state. The episode also ended with Jake and Eric on the road to Rogue River to find medication for an ailing Johnston. And their journey to Rogue River would end in consequences that will resonate throughout the rest of the series' television run.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"ARROW" Season One (2012-2013) Photo Gallery


Below are images from Season One of "ARROW", the CW adaptation of the D.C. Comics hero, the Green Arrow.  Created by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg; the series stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen aka the Arrow:


"ARROW" SEASON ONE (2012-2013) Photo Gallery