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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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From the Last 25 Years


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#1 LawrenceA

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Posted Today, 01:10 PM

The Frankenstein Theory - I give the filmmakers credit for trying something new with the Frankenstein mythos, but they fail to deliver much of anything interesting. Jonathan Venkenheim (Kris Lemche) has commissioned a documentary film crew to travel with him to the frigid far north of Canada near the Arctic Circle. It's there that he believes the still-living creature from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can be found. Venkenheim posits that Shelley's novel was actually a fictionalized account of a true occurrence, and he knows this because it was his family, the Venkenheims, that created the monster. As the creature was an experiment in eternal life, Jonathan thinks the creature still exists, and he wants the film crew to help prove it. Also featuring Heather Stephens, Brian Henderson, Eric Zuckerman, Joe Egender and Timothy V. Murphy. 

 

This is presented in the rapidly-tiresome "found footage" faux-documentary format. The story would have made a good 45-minute TV episode, but as a film, even at a short 86 minutes, it drags on too long, especially when [SPOILER] the creature isn't shown until the last 5 minutes, and then never very clearly. [END SPOILER] The producers were responsible for the 2010 movie The Last Exorcism, which I felt was one of the better "found footage" films, but that and this have the same problem: these projects work better when the cast is made up of unknowns. But when they're populated with recognizable actors and actresses from TV and films, the "reality" is quickly shattered. I give the movie a 7/10 for the concept, but ultimately the film gets a 4/10.

 

 

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#2 LawrenceA

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Posted Yesterday, 07:30 PM

Force of Execution - Bone-headed action movie that's as clumsy as its title. Despite the bigger names on the poster, the actual lead is Bren Foster as Hurst, a highly-skilled fighter and muscle man for crime lord Alexander Coates (Steven Seagal). After an assignment goes wrong, Hurst is fired from his job, but not before being beaten so badly that he's left a cripple, unable to use his hands. Cut to 6 months later, and Hurst is barely surviving as an alcoholic bum. Recently paroled criminal Ice Man (Ving Rhames) is making his moves to usurp local power from Alexander, and Hurst will have to clean up his act in order to help his old employer. Also featuring Jenny Gabrielle, Marlon Lewis and Danny Trejo. It was odd seeing Seagal playing a secondary role, and a criminal at that, even if he's supposed to be the "good criminal". Rhames is slumming it here, although he seems to be playing more and more of these two-bit gangster roles. Foster is an unremarkable actor but he seems to handle the action scenes well enough. Trejo has a scene later in the film that takes things into unexpected territory.   4/10

 

 

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#3 LawrenceA

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Posted Yesterday, 04:45 PM

Firestorm - Slick, CGI-heavy Chinese action film starring Andy Lau as a determined police detective in charge of a squad that is after a violent gang of robbers. Gordon Lam co-stars as Bong, as recent parolee who immediately joins back up with the gang in question, much to the displeasure of his lover Bing (Chen Yao). Also featuring Jun Hu, Ray Lui and Michael Wong. The actors are all good in their roles, with the emphasis on Lam as the two-faced parolee. Lau does well, but he doesn't get to show off any of his usual devilish charm. The plot is pretty routine, though, and many of the CGI effects take things into absurd, physics-defying territory, which is jarring when most of the film has a gritty realism.   6/10

 

 

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#4 LawrenceA

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Posted Yesterday, 10:52 AM

Enough Said is another favorite of mine that I should probably see again: It's been a while. As I recall, the film's title is ironic, n'est-ce pas? Because Julia Louis-Dreyfus's character doesn't say enough at the right moment? I thought the film showed how easily one can fall into a social mistake (even as an adult) that just grows out of control. Such a wonderfully simple idea that works so well.

 

And wasn't this Gandofini's last film? Released after his death? (I believe so on both counts.)

 

It was released after his death, but he had one more that premiered later, in 2014, The Drop, with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. That was excellent as well.



#5 Marianne

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Posted Yesterday, 10:38 AM

Enough Said - Mature, very funny romantic comedy from writer-director Nicole Holofcener. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a masseuse and divorced mother of a teenage daughter that's about to move away for college. Eva's loneliness is becoming acute when she meets Albert (James Gandolfini), an affable divorced father of a teenage daughter about to move away for college. Despite Albert's physical appearance being outside of Eva's normal type, they hit it off and start a clumsy, heartwarming middle-aged love affair. Also featuring Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson, Michaela Watkins and Eve Hewson. Holofcener's script has a lot of great dialogue, brought to life beautifully by the two stars. Recommended.  8/10

 

 

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Enough Said is another favorite of mine that I should probably see again: It's been a while. As I recall, the film's title is ironic, n'est-ce pas? Because Julia Louis-Dreyfus's character doesn't say enough at the right moment? I thought the film showed how easily one can fall into a social mistake (even as an adult) that just grows out of control. Such a wonderfully simple idea that works so well.

 

And wasn't this Gandofini's last film? Released after his death? (I believe so on both counts.)


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#6 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 10:19 PM

The Family - Luc Besson directs this mob comedy set in Normandy, where the criminal-turned-informant Manzoni family has been newly moved by the Witness Protection Program. Father Giovanni (Robert De Niro) has decided to write his memoirs, while mother Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) is begrudgingly trying to fit into yet another community. Daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) is dealing with young love when she is smitten with a young teacher at her new high school, while son Warren (John D'Leo) is busy setting up his own criminal mini-empire. Exasperated Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) knows that it's only a matter of time before the family blows their cover and has to be moved again. Also featuring Vincent Pastore, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jimmy Palumbo and Jon Freda. There are moments here that work, a few laugh out loud bits, but more of it is strangely perfunctory, hitting the notes you'd expect. The three veteran leads (De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones) do what little they can with their roles, but only De Niro is given much to do. The children fare a little better, but they often feel like they're in a different movie. The last section of the film, which turns into a standard action film complete with big explosions, is also undercooked. Besson was one of the more interesting new directors in the 1980's and 90's, but since he's sunk into writing and producing an endless stream of mid-to-low level action junk, even his rare directorial efforts seem listless.   6/10

 

 

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#7 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 07:35 PM

Fading Gigolo - Uneven, lightweight but agreeable comedy from writer-director-star John Turturro. He plays Fioravante, friends with out-of-business bookstore owner Murray (Woody Allen). When Murray approaches Fioravante with an offer to sleep with an acquaintance of his for $1000 dollars, Fioravante reluctantly accepts. After he does the deed and collects his money, word of his prowess gets around, and Murray soon has Fioravante seeing clients all over the city. One client is a lonely Hasidic housewive (Vanessa Paradis) and they develop a deeper relationship. Also featuring Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Liev Schreiber, Max Casella, Michael Badalucco, Aida Turturro, David Margulies and Bob Balaban. Turturro seems an unlikely gigolo, but he does a good job, and it's fun seeing Woody in a purely acting role. The film, with it's open and deep roots in NYC, fits with Woody's oeuvre, even if he didn't direct it.   6/10

 

 

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#8 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 05:27 PM

Europa Report - Indie SF film shot in a faux documentary format. Mankind sends the first mission into deep space, headed to Europa, one of the moon's of Jupiter, where water trapped beneath thick ice may hold the first extra-terrestrial life. They run into several problems on the way, and once there, things get worse. The cast includes, Christian Carmago, Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Anamaria Marinca, Dan Fogler, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Embeth Davidtz. This may have been more interesting if it had been presented as a straight-forward narrative, but I found the fake documentary style, using lots of "web-cam", "helmet-cam" and "security-cam" footage to be endlessly irritating.    5/10

 

 

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#9 LawrenceA

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 03:10 PM

Enough Said - Mature, very funny romantic comedy from writer-director Nicole Holofcener. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a masseuse and divorced mother of a teenage daughter that's about to move away for college. Eva's loneliness is becoming acute when she meets Albert (James Gandolfini), an affable divorced father of a teenage daughter about to move away for college. Despite Albert's physical appearance being outside of Eva's normal type, they hit it off and start a clumsy, heartwarming middle-aged love affair. Also featuring Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson, Michaela Watkins and Eve Hewson. Holofcener's script has a lot of great dialogue, brought to life beautifully by the two stars. Recommended.  8/10

 

 

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#10 LawrenceA

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 11:15 PM

Enemies Closer - Bland Canadian action movie stars Tom Everett Scott as a park ranger working on an island on the US/Canadian border. He gets confronted by a man from his past (Orlando Jones), but before they can resolve their issues, a group of French-Canadian mercenaries show up, trying to locate a downed airplane full of heroin. The mercenaries' leader (Jean-Claude Van Damme) will stop at nothing to get his hands on the drugs. Also featuring Linzey Cocker, Zachary Baharov and Kris Van Damme, Jean-Claude's son, who has appeared in several of his father's recent films. This is generic and forgettable, but the aging Van Damme has a bit of fun as the villain, even if his hair looks a bit clownish. Directed by Peter Hyams and filmed in Bulgaria.   5/10

 

 

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#11 LawrenceA

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 07:41 PM

Ender's Game - Science fiction adventure based on the critically acclaimed novel by Orson Scott Card. Asa Butterfield stars as Ender Wiggin, the most gifted student in a para-military training program. Some years previously, Earth was attacked by an alien race known as the Formics, and it barely survived. Now mankind has rigorous training for new soldiers and commanders for the time when the Formics return, and children prove to be the most adept at operating the remote drone systems. Ender shows great aptitude, and the head of training, Col. Graff (Harrison Ford), promotes the young savant to the next level of training, held in outer space orbit. It's there that Ender must prove himself capable in the face of mounting obstacles and pressure. Also featuring Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and Ben Kingsley.

 

The source book was a huge hit, winning most of the SF book awards, and it routinely gets named as the best SF novel of the decade. However, in the near 30 years it took to reach the screen, many of the book's innovative looks at future warfare (likened to video games) and even the story structure (which is very similar to the Harry Potter series that came decades later) have lost their luster. Butterfield does okay in a difficult role, but much of the film is taken up with the kind of generic military basic training tropes that have been cliches for 75 years. The zero-gravity laser-tag games they play are also tedious (shades of the Potter films and their game of Quidditch). There were several books in the series, and I'm sure the producers were hoping for another successful franchise, but this failed to make much of an impact at the box office, hampered in part by controversy over some things said by novelist Card that spurred calls for a boycott. Still, SF enthusiasts and boys of a certain age may find more to enjoy here.   6/10

 

 

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#12 LawrenceA

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 02:56 PM

Dracula: The Impaler - Tedious low-budget horror about a group of annoying American high school grads (that all look like they're pushing 30) who take a Euro-trip to Castle Dracula, but not the "tourist trap" that everyone else goes to. This is the castle where Dracula sold his soul to the devil. When they arrive, they are greeted by a beautiful woman (Diana Busuioc) who acts as their hostess. Things seem creepy but harmless, but soon members of the party start meeting gruesome ends. Also with Christian Gehring, Christina Collard, Teo Celigo, Marcienne Dwyer, Rocco Nugent, Mark Jacobson and Gregory Lee Kenyon as Vlad III. This takes the Dracula mythos and uses them in a sub-standard slasher movie scenario, with irritating young couple fighting and flirting before being picked off one by one. This is listed as a Full Moon Production, but I think it was just an acquisition. Skip it.   3/10

 

 

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#13 LawrenceA

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 01:17 PM

Dracula: The Dark Prince - Utterly ridiculous High Fantasy version of Dracula, set sometime between Dracula's 15th century "origin" but before the events in Bram Stoker's novel. The immortal Count Dracula (Luke Roberts) rules over the Carpathian mountain region of Eastern Europe, using his army of demonic soldiers to do his bidding. He's after a mystical weapon called the Lightbringer, which is in the hands of a band of heroes led by Leonardo Van Helsing (Jon Voight in a putty nose), the ancestor of Abraham. When Dracula becomes convinced that one of the heroes, Alina (Kelly Wenham), is the reincarnation of his long-dead beloved, he has her kidnapped, and it's up to the other do-gooders to rescue her. Also featuring Ben Robson, Holly Earl, Stephen Hogan and Richard Ashton. The look of the production design is similar to an episode of the syndicated 90's show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, but the script is even below that standard. This comes across like a lesser effort from the Syfy Channel. Filmed on location in Romania.    3/10

 

 

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#14 Marianne

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 11:41 AM

Don Jon - This was marketed as a typical rom-com, but it's definitely not. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars as Jon, a slightly meat-headed NY bartender and Lothario. He can't make any lasting relationships, though, because he has a problem that's an epidemic with young men of a certain age: he's addicted to pornography, particularly internet porn, and it's warped his perception of how real love lives should work. When he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he decides to better himself and break his addiction, but it's easier said than done. He also strikes up an unlikely friendship with an older woman (Julianne Moore) that he meets in night school. Also featuring Glenne Headley, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke and Tony Danza. This is often crude and rude, but it's also genuine and touching and very funny. The entire cast is very good, and Gordon-Levitt really shows his maturity as a filmmaker. Recommended.   8/10

 

 

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Another good one, and I agree with you: I wouldn't call Don Jon a romantic comedy. I thought it tackled some serious issues and didn't shy away from them, although there was some humor.

 

That marketing byline at the top of the poster, although technically true for the first half of the film, doesn't capture the entire plot. But I can probably say that about 99.99 percent of all movies!!!


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#15 LawrenceA

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 11:52 PM

Don Jon - This was marketed as a typical rom-com, but it's definitely not. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars as Jon, a slightly meat-headed NY bartender and Lothario. He can't make any lasting relationships, though, because he has a problem that's an epidemic with young men of a certain age: he's addicted to pornography, particularly internet porn, and it's warped his perception of how real love lives should work. When he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he decides to better himself and break his addiction, but it's easier said than done. He also strikes up an unlikely friendship with an older woman (Julianne Moore) that he meets in night school. Also featuring Glenne Headley, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke and Tony Danza. This is often crude and rude, but it's also genuine and touching and very funny. The entire cast is very good, and Gordon-Levitt really shows his maturity as a filmmaker. Recommended.   8/10

 

 

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#16 LawrenceA

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 07:28 PM

Dom Hemingway - Uneven crime comedy featuring a bravura lead performance from Jude Law as the title character, a loquacious slimeball and safe-cracker finishing up a 12 year stint in prison. When he's released. he sets out on unfinished business: reuniting with his crime partner Dickie (Richard E. Grant), collecting the money he's owed from crime lord Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir) for keeping his mouth shut all these years, and reconnecting with his estranged daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke). Of course, none of these things works out quite the way Dom hoped, with his abrasive mouth constantly getting him into trouble. Also featuring Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter and Madalina Diana Ghenea. This joins the ranks of films like Chopper and Bronson where the lead actor undergoes a major transformation to play a loutish thug. Those previous films were based in reality, though, and Dom is strictly fictional, and unfortunately, the situations that he's put in aren't very compelling. I kept thinking how much better it would have been for Law as this character to have been in one of Guy Ritchie's crime thrillers.  6/10

 

 

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#17 LawrenceA

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 03:14 PM

Djinn - Corny horror film steeped in Arabic and Islamic folklore. Aiysha Hart and Razane Jammal star as a married couple trying to cope with the grief of their recently deceased infant child. The husband gets offered a transfer from NYC to the United Arab Emirates, the wife's home country, to run a new highrise building on the coast. They agree, but when they arrive, they begin having unexplained encounters with supernatural forces which may tie into the region's legendary history of the djinn, a pseudo-demon of Arabic myth. This was directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw MassacrePoltergeist) although there's nothing here to indicate anything but standard TV-movie production. This is different in that it was a co-production with Abu Dhabi, and most of the dialogue is subtitled Arabic. But in form it doesn't differ much from most of the B-grade jump-scare ghost movies of the last 15 years or so.   4/10

 

 

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#18 LawrenceA

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 01:28 PM

Blue Jasmine is a good one! Cate Blanchett was fantastic in the lead role. I also liked Woody Allen's Irrational Man.

 

I still have Magic in the MoonlightIrrational Man and Cafe Society in my stacks to watch.



#19 Marianne

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 01:26 PM

Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen film starring Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, a woman used to living the good life thanks to her rich businessman husband (Alec Baldwin). However, when he turns out to be a crook, Jasmine's left with nothing. She's forced to go to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and try to put a life together, despite her lack of skills and a deteriorating mental state. Also featuring Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis CK, Alden Ehrenreich, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tammy Blanchard, Max Casella and Andrew Dice Clay. Banchett won the Oscar for Best Actress, and she's very good, showing many layers to the fragile, high-strung Jasmine. Hawkins was also a nominee,  for Best Supporting Actress, for her turn as the more blue-collar sister who always gives her sister the benefit of the doubt. Allen's script is also very good, switching back and forth to show Jasmine's past and how it bleeds into her present. The obvious shadow of A Streetcar Named Desire is also an interesting aspect. I thought that, along with Match Point and Midnight in Paris, this ranks among Allen's best since 2000. Recommended.    8/10

 

 

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Blue Jasmine is a good one! Cate Blanchett was fantastic in the lead role. I also liked Woody Allen's Irrational Man.



#20 LawrenceA

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 01:09 PM

Dead Man Down - Clunky revenge thriller stars Colin Farrell as a Hungarian-American (!) whose family was killed by gangsters years earlier. He has spent that time going undercover to implement a convoluted plan for slow revenge against everyone involved. His mission is complicated when he gets confronted by his neighbor (Noomi Rapace), who witnessed Farrell committing a murder. She blackmails him into getting revenge for her against the man who caused a car crash that left her face heavily scarred. Also featuring Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, F. Murray Abraham, Franky G and Isabelle Huppert. This has its moments, and the leads are fine in their roles, despite their ethnic miscasting (Rapace is supposed to be French). The many twists and turns of the plot, though, get a bit hard to take seriously. This was directed by Niels Arden Oplev, who directed the Swedish TV version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also with Rapace.   6/10

 

 

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