October 23, 2014

Movie Review – Mission: Impossible II

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  John Woo
Year Of Release :   2000
Principal Cast :  Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Anthony Hopkins, Rade Serbedzija, William Mapother, Dominic Purcell, Roland Kronmeyer.
Approx Running Time :   123 Minutes
Synopsis:   IMF Agent Ethan Hunt returns to duty to track down a lethal poison gas threatening to kill millions around the world, unless a terrorist’s demands are met.
What we think :  Like being trapped in an elevator with somebody suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Mission: Impossible II rankles the nose and offends the spirit. Bereft of coherence or logic, devoid of passion, and brimming with pompous, gargantuan action that means little, this sequel to DePalma’s sl0w-burn success is borderline unwatchable. If you removed the copious slow-motion in this thing, you’d have a 30 minute travelogue of Australia.

 

John Woozy

I want to take you on another journey. Back to the end of the 20th Century, in an era of explosive pop-culture expectation perpetuated by the massive phenomenon of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. That film, the first Star Wars film in over a decade, was perhaps the most anticipated film of the 1990’s (hell, there’s even a film about the expectation for Phantom Menace!), until it actually came out and people realized they’d been duped into paying to see a film that was the creative equivalent of a person taking a dump on your chest. A year later, in 2000, John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II came out and, wouldn’t you know it, did almost exactly the same thing. John Woo is most assuredly a far better director than George Lucas, so expectation for MI2’s quality was undoubtedly founded on the history Woo had with a film camera – the man was fresh off Face/Off, the Travolta/Cage starrer that was an insane gangbusting joyride of a thing, and had a cult following from his Asian films like The Killer and Hard Boiled, among others. Here in Australia, Tom Cruise was enjoying a sort-of position as “adopted son” thanks to his marriage to “our” Nicole Kidman, and the fact that a large portion of the movie was filmed on our shores only added to the attention it received here. So you have Tom Cruise, John Woo, and an expectation that the franchise would deliver a superior film to the one DePalma delivered barely four years previous. Again, expectation; a film fans folly.

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October 22, 2014

Movie Review – Mission: Impossible

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Brian DePalma
Year Of Release :   1996
Principal Cast :  Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristen Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Emilio Estevez, Karel Dobry, Dale Dye.
Approx Running Time :  110 Minutes
Synopsis:   IMF Agent Ethan Hunt hunts down the extremely valuable NOC list before all the spies across Europe are hunted down and killed.
What we think :   Tense, exciting spy thriller has Tom Cruise in top gear as a superspy, much like James Bond only without the sexy-suave attitude, and although the film plods through some minor talky moments, has more than enough twists and turns to keep this genre fan happy.

 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…..

I want to take you on a journey. A journey back into the mid-90’s, to a time when not ever film was a remake, reboot, sequel or imitator. The idea of bringing old TV shows to the big screen was still in its infancy, to the point where it could be argued that Tom Cruise’s production of Mission: Impossible, directed by Brian DePalma, was the jump-off point for Hollywood to start mining the small screen for ideas. The world was simpler then too – before 9/11 and the War On Terror, all cinema had to worry about with its spies was whether they’d prevent a nuclear explosion in the former Soviet Union, or if the Queen had her crown jewels stolen. That was about it. The brain-bending concept of a Mission: Impossible movie had all the hallmarks of Hollywood trying to create their own James Bond, a sophisticated, technologically adept super spy who cracks cases and undertakes missions that nobody else (without tights and a cape, anyway) would even consider. Enter Tom Cruise, in pre-couch-jumping popularity, married to Nicole Kidman, and who came to this project off the success of roles in hits like A Few Good Men, The Firm, and Interview With A Vampire only a few years prior. The thought of Tom Cruise as an uber-spy wasn’t exactly scoffed at (back then), and the film’s potential was solidified by the addition of a number of big name casting decisions, particularly Jon Voight (father of Angelina Jolie), Jean Reno (The Professional) and Kristen Scott-Thomas (The English Patient). With DePalma directing, would Mission: Impossible stack up to the task of retooling the classic television series for a new audience, or would it…. ahem, self destruct in five seconds?

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October 21, 2014

Vale – Gerard Parkes

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 4:53 pm
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Gerard Parkes (in The Boondock Saints) – 1924-2014

Gerard Parkes, a Canadian actor best known for his appearances in Fraggle Rock and the Boondock Saints franchise, has passed away.

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October 20, 2014

Movie Review – How To Train Your Dragon 2

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Dean DeBlois
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast :  Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, TJ Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington.
Approx Running Time :   112 Minutes
Synopsis:  When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.
What we think :  Dazzling, exciting, terrific animated sequel delivers tons of fun, some nice characterizations, and some truly jaw-dropping animation. With a stunning voice cast and spot-on storytelling, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is dynamite.

**********************

No more training required.

2010’s How To Train Your Dragon was one of the more out-of-the-blue success stories for animated films that year, so it was no surprise that a sequel would eventually flush down the Hollywood pike – naturally, the concern was just how much effort was put into that sequel, and whether it would stack up against the original film’s quality. Helping the sequel along was the success of the animated television series based on the franchise, set between that film and this; reprising their roles on the big screen, Hiccup and Toothless needed a big-screen story to accompany them, to justify the added…. size, if you will. Dragon 2 had to not only recapture the allure of the original, but it needed to enhance and, if possible, supersede it. Where many sequels tend to coast on the coat-tails of the preceding film, Dragon 2 actually attempted to enlarge the world the franchise inhabits; was it, however, a success? Or does Dragon 2 merely retread similar material, albeit with some utterly stupendous animation?

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October 18, 2014

Cinematic Universes: How Many Do We Really Need?

Filed under: Opinion — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:00 pm
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Marvel has a lot to answer for.

In many ways, Hollywood has always taken advantage of the Next Big Thing, what with the glut of war films, romance films, heady dramatic films and all manner of pulp-inspired dreck flooding cinemas since the industry came into being over a century ago. Today, there’s a larger problem rife within Hollywood’s dollar-sign-lovin’ suit-brigade. In the last decade, the rise of Marvel Studio’s enormously successful Cinematic Universe, inhabited by easily identifiable heroes like Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, et al, has bloated the coffers of the industry’s main players, the fallout being that the flow on effect – to Sony’s Spider-Man franchise (which is ailing badly, creatively speaking) and Fox’s X-Men franchise (which isn’t) – has been to boost the profile of these “tentpole” releases, as well as the swollen budgets and box-office receipts.

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October 17, 2014

Movie Review – Alexander (Director’s Cut)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   Oliver Stone
Year Of Release :   2004
Principal Cast :  Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Plummer, David Bedella, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Brian Blessed, Gary Stretch, John Kavanagh, Nick Dunning, Joseph Morgan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Denis Conway, Neil Jackson, Rory McCann, Tim Pigott-Smith, Toby Kebbell, Connor Paolo, Elliot Cowan, Patrick Carroll.
Approx Running Time :   167 Minutes
Synopsis:   The story of Alexander, King of Macedonia, as he strives to increase his kingdom by conquering the known world.
What we think :  Bold, epic, committed film version of the life of Alexander The Great is also a gargantuan misfire – somehow, not even Oliver Stone could make this film work (and he tried four times!). Colin Farrell is a great Alexander, and the rest of the cast do solid work, but the talky script and uneven narrative, lacking cohesive tone or even decent plot, makes for a clunky movie. The soaring score from Vangelis often feels more like elevator music, and Stone concocts some terrific battle sequences, but in the end, the audience can’t invest in anything because it just flat-out sucks.

**********************

Fortune favors the bald.

When Oliver Stone’s biographical film of controversial historical figure, Alexander The Great, arrived in cinemas in 2004, it was met with the wet critical acclaim of a sodden turd. Bereft of audience investment and scorned by both critics and casual audiences (because critics aren’t “casual audiences”, apparently), Alexander suffered the ignominy of being nominated for a slew of Golden Raspberry awards, as well as being something of a box office bomb, only barely making back its production budget of $155m. After such a dismal result, Warner Bros allowed Stone to return to the editing bay to produce a “Director’s Cut”, smoothing out many of the film’s troubling subplots, extraneous sequences, and other material audiences felt didn’t quite work. That was in 2005, a year after release. In 2007, Stone again went back to the well, this time throwing everything he liked into the film, producing a 214 (!) minute “Final Unrated Cut”, which restructured the film from the ground up, and added a whole heap of backstory into the narrative. Not content with this, Stone re-edited the film for a fourth time, producing the “Ultimate Cut”, in 2012, which was shorter than the “Final” cut, and once again tried to smooth out narrative lethargy and characterization troubles. Is Alexander the kind of film that warrants four distinct versions of the same film? Not one jot, if I’m honest, although it’s brave of both Stone and Warner Brothers to even try; at least they did try, something which can’t be said of a lot of film-makers today, content to release substandard material and actually call it “art”. Alexander might not be a success either financially or creatively, but the effort cannot be understated. While I lacked the dedication to really go the whole hog in watching all 4 versions of this film, I felt qualified enough with this Director’s Cut to give it a shake on DVD and reappraise a story now a decade old, see if it still stinks like it did originally.

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October 16, 2014

Vale -Elizabeth Pena

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 2:43 pm
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Elizabeth Pena – 1955-2014

American actress Elizabeth Pena, who appeared in films such as Jacob’s Ladder and Rush Hour, has passed away.

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October 15, 2014

Movie Review – Easy Virtue (1928)

Filed under: Alfred Hitchcock Collection,Hitchcock's British Films,Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Alfred Hitchcock
Year Of Release :   1928
Principal Cast :  Isabel Jeans, Robin Irvine, Franklin Dyall, Eric Bransby Williams, Ian Hunter, Violet Farebrother, Frank Elliot, Dacia Deane, Dorothy Boyd, Enid Stamp Taylor.
Approx Running Time :   80 Minutes
Synopsis:   A divorcée hides her scandalous past from her new husband and his family.
What we think : Bland, innocuous romantic drama from Hitch, with a palatable story and character sliding down like fast-food. Hitch’s technical skill seems to have gone missing; the film isn’t as showy or as stylish as some of his other work (not even his earlier work!), and there’s an almost mechanical feeling about his direction here. Easy Virtue bases itself on scandal and mystery, but lacks grace or depth.

**********************

If people were only honest, all this crap wouldn’t matter.

Divorce. It’s an ugly word, although perhaps nowadays it is a little less influential on society’s perception of one who’s been through it, thanks to our apparent ability to wed and divorce almost at will – one third of marriages end in divorce, a staggering statistic that remains among on of modern culture’s more taboo topics. In the 20’s, however, people who were divorced apparently became social lepers, if the premise and execution of Hitchcock’s 6th available film are any indication. Released in 1928, Easy Virtue is a story about divorce, and the embarrassment and stigma surrounding it – in the early 20th Century, people just didn’t get divorced, because “’til death do us part” actually meant something. Weirdos. Hitchcock was still finding his way with different genres and stories, easing himself into something comfortable (obviously becoming most famous for his thrillers and mysteries than anything else), so to watch a film with a romantic premise, love and secrets, is something truly bizarre. Hitchcock, making an early romantic genre flick? Interesting – is it up to the same level as his other, earlier work, which had to that point included a thriller, a comedy, a sporting movie, and a drama? (more…)

October 13, 2014

Movie Review – Bad Neighbors

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Nicholas Stoller
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Lisa Cudrow, Craig Roberts, Hannibal Buress, Halston Sage, Ali Cobrin,
Approx Running Time :   97 Minutes
Synopsis:   A happily married couple are horrified to learn a fraternity has moved into the place next door. Tensions rise when said couple call the cops on the party boys, and things escalate from there.
What we think :  You know that old saying, the one that goes “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”? Bad Neighbors (or just Neighbors if you’re outside Australia) is one of those comedy films that is just far, far too loud. Which means I’m too old. Obnoxiously ribald, smothered in crass, and hard to watch an actress of Rose Byrne’s caliber descend to this kind of material, Bad Neighbors is offensively unfunny and tediously stupid. Seth Rogen is his usual self, Zac Efron is kinda cool, but the rest of this mess is just a hodgepodge of bad, badder, and worse decisions.

**********************

I’ll bite – comedies that rely on stupid people making stupid decisions to draw out a laugh irritate me more than they entertain, so naturally I read the synopsis of this film, a tit-for-tat lets-be-nasty flick, with a fair amount of disdain. Prejudiced? Yes. Warranted? Absolutely. Here in Australia, we already have a long-running soapie show called Neighbours, so the promotional department tagged “Bad” onto the title just to make sure dumb people knew they were going to watch a dumb movie, not a dumb television show. Bad Neighbors is the kind of bad taste “adult” comedy that bases its entire premise on a bunch of people being idiotic, and not like actual people. For some, that might make for an entertaining night in front of the box, but for an old fart like me, this represents all that’s crass, ugly and terrible about American comedy. The fact a terrific Aussie actress like Rose Byrne is involved just makes this bitter, asinine comedy pill even harder to swallow.

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October 10, 2014

Movie Review – Contact (1997)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   Robert Zemeckis
Year Of Release :   1997
Principal Cast :  Jodie Foster, Matthew McConnaughey, Jena Malone, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, David Morse, Jake Busey, Rob Lowe, Geoffrey Blake, Max Martini.
Approx Running Time :  150 Minutes
Synopsis:   A scientist discovers a message sent from beyond the stars, and learns that within it, the ability to travel through interstellar space is introduced – the race is on to find the lucky person who will represent humanity to our first encounter with alien life.
What we think :  Zemeckis’ predilection for visual effects almost overcome this terrifically acted dramatic work, as the search for extraterrestrial life reaches a pivotal moment in human history. Spiced with some delicious thematic material about faith, science and the grey area in between, Contact works as both a straight-up fictional drama, and as an examination on what might happen the day we learn we’re not alone in the universe.

**********************

“If it is just us….. what an awfully big waste of space…”

Since humans first gazed upwards at the moon and stars, and wondered what was out there, we’ve constantly had a fixation with all things universal. From exploring our immediate planetary neighbors, such as our Moon, Mars, and planets beyond, to sending equipment beyond the borders of our solar system and into the furthest reaches, as well as building telescopes which allow us greater vision into distant systems of nebulae and supernovae, humanity’s quest for greater understanding of our place in the universe has never waned. Untold trillions of dollars have been spent in the name of research into extraterrestrial activity – from finding water on Mars to hopefully, one day, discovering life on another world. Here on Earth, entire subcultures exist dealing with the concept of extraterrestrial life visiting us, the idea of UFO’s and “the Government” covering this all up. Hollywood has promulgated various ideas about aliens – be they benevolent or aggressive – and society, for the most part, tends to look upon the idea of alien visitation not as a question of if, but more like when. Contact, released in 1997 and directed by Who Framed Roger Rabbit helmer Robert Zemeckis, digs a little deeper into alien communication than simply exploding buildings and human decimation, attempting to infuse real-world possibilities of the scenario with the idea that faith in God (or other supreme deity), something the vast majority of humanity has, works counter-intuitively to it.

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October 9, 2014

Vale – Geoffrey Holder

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 7:23 pm
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Geoffrey Holder – 1930-2014

Trinidad-born stage and screen legend, Geoffrey Holder, has passed away.

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Vale – Marian Seldes

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 7:07 pm
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Marian Seldes – 1928-2014

American actress Marian Seldes, whose career spanned nearly 7 decades, has passed away.

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October 8, 2014

Movie Review – They Came Together

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director : David Wain
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Max Greenfield, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, Melanie Lynskey, Ed helms, Noureen DeWulf, Michael Ian Black, Michaela Watkins, Randall Park, David Wain, Jack McBrayer, Kenan Thompson, Ken Marino.
Approx Running Time :  83 Minutes
Synopsis:  The story of how Joel and Molly met, hated each other, overcame a bunch of obstacles, and fell in love. The ultimate Romantic Comedy.
What we think :   I admit it, I laughed even in spite of myself. A film that made a funny trailer couldn’t possibly hold it together for its entire running time, not when it’s basically every single trope from romantic comedy films shoveled together to form a “generic rom/com” on purpose, could it? Actually, They Came Together is pretty funny, mainly thanks to the earnest performances of Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, both of whom give this film the charm and wit it needs to do its thing. Not to mention the cavalcade of cameo appearances from comedy alumni scattered throughout.

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“Hey!”…….. “Thanks.”

Anyone who has ever watched a stupid Hollywood romantic comedy film will find this film hilarious. I mean, it is hilarious. Take any rom/com you’ve seen, take the serious out of it, and you will find They Came Together. All those hours of enduring Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl, Matthew McConnaughey, Kate Hudson and/or Amy Adams and/or Ryan Gosling traipsing through New York on their quest to find love in the Big Apple, complete with cliche after cliche after cliche – rom/com’s really are the Mills & Boon of cinema – will come into sharp focus for this film’s pointed arrow of parody. They Came Together does to romantic comedies what the Scary Movie franchise does to… well, scary movies, and you know what? It really did work. I actually guffawed more than thrice, which is a sharp indication of just how amusing I found this one. I mean, just how more filled with innuendo can the film’s title actually be?

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October 6, 2014

Movie Review – Sound Of Music, The

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- Summary -

Director :  Robert Wise
Year Of Release :   1965
Principal Cast :  Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Charmain Carr, Nicholas Hammond, Heather Menzies, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Kym Karath, Peggy Wood, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson, Marni Nixon, Daniel Truhitte, Ben Wright.
Approx Running Time :   174 Minutes
Synopsis:   An ex-nun and her widowed lover hide behind his children to face down some Nazis. Oh, and they sing.
What we think :   There’s a reason this film is one of the greatest musical movies ever made; timeless, effervescent, captivating, lavish – all words which could describe The Sound Of Music’s astonishing longevity and popularity. Utterly enchanting decades down the line, you’re a hard-hearted person if you don’t enjoy this one.

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One of my favorite things.

Ever been in a bad mood? Ever had a really crappy day, and need a little pick-me-up to make things better? Instead of sticking on Teen Moms or the umpteenth series of Survivor, perhaps I could recommend a little film called The Sound of Music instead. What’s that? You’ve never heard of this film? F@ck off, everyone’s heard of The Sound Of Music. Huh? Never seen it? Consider this your education, my friend. The Sound Of Music is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – film musicals in all of Hollywood history. Pound for pound, song for song, it’s easily the most memorable, and remains among the most commercially and critically successful of its type ever filmed. It out-box-officed Gone With The Wind, that’s how successful this thing was. Every little girl who grew up, every showman who ever dreamed of producing a Broadway production, every nun who dreamed of singing to children; this film transcends all boundaries of race, creed, and social topography, remaining as toe-tapping joyful as it was on initial release. It’s just so joyful, so simply majestic in its uplifting, positive manner and tone, you can’t help but be carried away to the Austrian alps alongside Maria, the Captain, and all those adorabubble children.

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October 3, 2014

Movie Review – Prince, The (2014)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Brian A Miller
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Bruce Willis, John Cusack, Rain, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Jessica Lowndes, Jason Patric, Jonathan Schaech, Jesse Pruett, Gia Mantegna, Courtney Turk, Jay Oringer.
Approx Running Time :   90 Minutes
Synopsis:  A retired New Orleans crime boss (and widowed father) is forced to team up with his best friend to return to the crime world when his daughter is kidnapped by an old rival.
What we think :  New Orleans-based pot-boiler is intense, but meanders. Kinda like a low-brow Taken, mixed with a hint of Goodfellas, The Prince offers a lot to audiences but delivers relatively little. All style and no substance, this film isn’t as good as it seems to think it is. For a lazy-day run-n-gun, there’s better elsewhere.

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The Fresh Prince of Dead Air.

The American obsession with crime and the morality and nobility of the Bad Guy continues apace with The Prince, a semi-competent thriller featuring a square-jawed-but-flummoxed Jason Patric, a bored-looking’ Bruce Willis, and a creepy-as-hell John Cusack. Set in New Orleans, The Prince is essentially a rundown and rescue flick, tinged with revenge, mixed with some slight buddy-comedy schtick between Cusack and Patric; it follows the basic codes of the genre, adds in some violence, vague sexualisation of a teenager, and a bunch of people who can’t shoot for shit. In short, The Prince is a dead-on cracker for the film it is, but offers nothing new whatsoever to audiences clamoring for some new or exciting action dynamic.

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