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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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#41 LawrenceA

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 05:21 PM

Man on a Ledge - Pedestrian thriller starring Sam Worthington as a disgraced cop serving a 25-year prison sentence. He escapes from jail and sets in motion an overly-elaborate scheme to prove his innocence. He checks into a luxury high-rise hotel and steps out onto the balcony in an apparent suicide attempt. While the police try to negotiate his surrender, his ultimate plan is only just beginning. Also featuring Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, Anthony Mackie, Titus Welliver, Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, William Sadler, Kyra Sedgwick and Ed Harris. Worthington is pretty terrible in the lead, and his Australian accent keeps coming and going. Bell and Rodriguez make for an enjoyable couple, though.  6/10

 

 

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#42 LawrenceA

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 02:24 PM

The Magic of Belle Isle - Minor, corny drama from director Rob Reiner stars Morgan Freeman as an alcoholic former Western writer who is confined to a wheelchair. His nephew (Kenan Thompson) brings him to a house in a quiet lake community to hopefully dry out and recuperate. Freeman begrudgingly begins making connections with his neighbors, including a beautiful single mother (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters. Of course he makes the emotional journey toward peace of mind. Also featuring Fred Willard, Jessica Hecht Boyd Holbrook and Kevin Pollack. The movie has a gentle allure, but it really doesn't rise much above the standard Hallmark Channel movie, except for the acting department. For fans of wholesome, fell-good fare.    6/10

 

 

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#43 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 10:13 PM

The Lords of Salem - Rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie's fifth live-action feature stars his wife Sherri Moon Zombie as a Salem, Massachusetts radio DJ who receives a mysterious record one day. She plays it over the radio and it has an odd effect on those who hear it: some are entranced, while others get dizzy or suffer headaches. Sherri begins seeing weird figures, and the people around her start acting strangely. A local expert (Bruce Davison) on the history of wtchcraft tries researching the record, supposedly from a group named "The Lords of Salem", and he discovers there may be ties to witch burnings 300 years ago. Also featuring Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Sid Haig, Judy Geeson, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Patricia Quinn, Maria Conchita Alonso, Michael Berryman, Lisa Marie, Barbara Crampton and Andrew Prine. Zombie has a tendency to wear his influences on his sleeve, and this film has obvious stylistic nods to The Shining and The Exorcist. He also has Quentin Tarantino's habit of casting stars from B-movies of the past, and it was nice seeing several here, like Geeson, Foster, Quinn and Prine. The first half of the movie is very atmospheric, and even actually creepy, but by the second half things get a little too vague and disjointed, with the final denouement a bit of a letdown. Still, I admired many of the moody scenes, and I wonder if there's a longer cut somewhere that may have evened the film out a bit.   6/10

 

 

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#44 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 07:50 PM

Lockout - Terrible science fiction action movie from executive producer Luc Besson stars Guy Pearce as Snow, an ex-CIA tough guy framed for murder. His only chance for leniency lies with rescuing the US president's daughter (Maggie Grace) who has been stranded on an orbital space prison where the prisoners, normally kept in cryo-sleep, have escaped and taken control of the facility. Snow must shoot and punch his way to safety while spouting sub-1980's action movie zingers. Also featuring Peter Stormare, Joseph Gilgun, Vincent Regan and Lennie James. The action is badly choreographed and photographed, Pearce is miscast as a Bruce Willis-type action hero, and the script is horrible and derivative, so much so that John Carpenter recently won a plagiarism lawsuit against the makers of Lockout for its similarities to Escape from New York.   4/10

 

 

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#45 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 03:09 PM

Lay the Favorite - Stephen Frears directed this comedic misfire based on the memoirs Beth Raymer (Rebecca Hall), a former stripper from Florida who moves to Las Vegas and starts working for a sports betting guru (Bruce Willis), invoking the ire of his jealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). She later moves to New York with nice guy Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) and ends up working with sleazy bookie Rosie (Vince Vaughn). Also featuring Laura Prepon, Frank Grillo, Wayne Pere, Wendell Pierce, John Carroll Lynch and Corbin Bernsen. Hall, an English actress who usually plays sophisticated ladies in films like Frost/Nixon and Vicky Christina Barcelona, is actually very good as the seemingly bubble-headed American Beth. This was also an against-type role for Bruce Willis, who has been playing almost all action film roles for the last decade. Here he gets to play a bit of a schlub and stretch a bit. Unfortunately, the story isn't very interesting, and the pacing is all off. This definitely ranks among Frears lesser efforts.      5/10

 

 

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#46 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 01:26 PM

A Late Quartet - Character drama about a classical string quartet in NYC who have been together for 25 years. It's the eve of their new musical season, but as they gather to rehearse, various problems and resentments threaten to destroy the group. First violin Daniel (Mark Ivanir) is passionate about music but fails to make any connection with people until he begins mentoring Alexandra (Imogen Poots), the daughter of two of the other members. Second violin Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is chaffing in his secondary position, and wishes to have the showier first violin position. Viola player Juliette (Catherine Keener), who is married to Robert, is struggling with their faltering marriage and her strained relationship with her daughter Alexandra. And cello player Peter (Christopher Walken), older than the rest and dealing with the recent death of his wife, learns that he has early stage Parkinson's, and that his playing days may be over. Also with Liraz Charhi and Wallace Shawn.

 

The performances by the 4 stars are all good, with Walken the stand-out. It's been some time since he got to play a serious dramatic role, having been relegated to comedies or crime/action movies, and he shows some very nice, quiet emotional moments. Fans of classical chamber music will also find much to enjoy, I think.   7/10

 

 

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#47 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 07:05 PM

Justice League: Doom - Animated film featuring the greatest heroes of the DC Universe: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter and Cyborg. In this adventure they face off against the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage, who has recruited his Legion of Doom, comprised of the enemies of the Justice League members, including Bane, Metallo, Cheetah, Star Sapphire, Mirror Master and Ma'alefa'ak. Savage helps devise a way to kill each member of the League, getting them out of the way so that Savage's plan for global domination can go unimpeded. Featuring the voices of Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Nathan Fillion, Susan Eisenberg, Michael Rosenbaum, Paul Blackthorne, Claudia Black, Bumper Robinson, Carlos Alazraqui, Olivia d'Abo, Alexis Denisof and Carl Lumbly. This was entertaining for what it is, with the same mediocre level of animation as most of these animated superhero movies. The story was interesting, even if a few of the scenarios are silly even for comic book story writing.   7/10

 

 

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#48 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 05:50 PM

Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe - Stand-up comedy concert featuring Gaffigan's commentary on child birth, children, McDonald's and Subway, exercise and more.    7/10

 

 

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#49 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 02:06 PM

Jayne Mansfield's Car - Odd Southern family comedy-drama, set in 1969, from writer-director Billy Bob Thornton. He also co-stars, along with Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick and Katherine LaNasa, as the children of Alabama family patriarch Robert Duvall. He receives word that his ex-wife and the mother of his kids has died in England. Her husband (John Hurt) and his two children (Frances O'Connor and Ray Stevenson) will transport her body back to Alabama for burial, and the two families have the expected culture clashes. These are exacerbated by the tensions of the times, with some anti-Vietnam War sentiment, burgeoning notions of free love and drug experimentation lending to the chaos. The cast also includes Shawnee Smith, Ron White, Irma P. Hall, and Brent Briscoe. The large, interesting cast does good work, and I enjoyed spending time with them, although at 126 minutes it seemed a bit long. Thornton, a native of Arkansas, avoids the usual Southern caricatures and lazy mocking humor, instead going for original characters from the humor flows naturally. The film does meander a bit too much, though.   7/10

 

 

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#50 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 09:17 PM

The Brainwashing of My Dad - I skipped ahead in my viewing to watch this 2015 documentary as it was free via Amazon Prime and I had been hoping to see this since I first heard about it. The filmmaker, Jen Senko, decided to make this film after watching her father change from a kind, caring, fun-loving man into an angry, vicious, hate-spewing grouch, and tracing this attitude change to when he began listening to right-wing talk radio and watching Fox News full time. The movie traces the roots of right-wing media, back to the days of the John Birch Society and the end of McCarthyism to the birth of the modern rightwing media apparatus out of the Nixon White House, the nationalizing of talk radio via Rush Limbaugh, the debut of Fox News TV, and the tactics they each use to manipulate their listeners/viewers. You also see testimonials from people all over the country who have "lost" friends and family to the pervasive "hate machine". Matthew Modine narrates. I've thought that the rightwing media has been a cancer on American society since I first started hearing it myself on the radio in the late 1980's, and I've watched/listened to it get worse as the years have gone on, leading to its peak in the last presidential election. I wish those who get their news from these sources would watch this, but I know it's not likely. Recommended.    8/10

 

 

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#51 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 06:48 PM

Jay & Silent Bob Get Old - Writer-director Kevin Smith has had a lucrative second career as a raconteur, traveling the college circuit where he puts on stage shows consisting of him taking questions from the audience and answering with long, rambling usually humorous stories. It's not quite stand-up comedy and it's not quite a lecture series. He also does online podcasts where he speaks with friends and co-workers, often leading to the same long, funny stories. This DVD features three shows from a UK tour: one in London, one in Manchester and one in Edinburgh. This combines the two types of Kevin Smith shows: it's done live on stage with a large audience, but instead of questions from the audience, it's done podcast style, with Smith joined behind a table by his frequent co-star Jason "Jay" Mewes (Clerks, MallratsChasing Amy, Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks 2), who actually does the majority of the talking in these shows. All three shows are funny in a dumb, profane way, and the two have natural chemistry, but I can't recommend this to anyone but Kevin Smith or Jason Mewes enthusiasts.   6/10

 

 

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#52 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 03:25 PM

Jack Reacher - Action/thriller from writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, based on the popular series of novels by Lee Child. Tom Cruise stars as the title character, a former Army MP and investigator who agrees to help a Pittsburgh defense attorney (Rosamund Pike) in the case of a mass killing committed by a sniper. When Reacher begins to look deeper into the case, he realizes that a frame-up may be in place, and that the killings had another, hidden significance. Also featuring David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Richard Jenkins and Robert Duvall. Cruise was said to be looking for a potential franchise to age into as he hit his 50's, and Reacher is a good role to do it with, although Cruise's short stature runs against the book's character description. There is some good tough-guy dialogue, and some well-done action scenes, but the movie seems a bit long at 130 minutes. German director Herzog is a hoot as the film's villain, and this movie has a simple, straight-forward approach that reminded me of many action films from the late 80's through the 90's.    7/10

 

 

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#53 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 12:52 AM

The Hunt - Danish film from director Thomas Vinterberg starring Mads Mikkelsen as a recently divorced kindergarten teacher who gets accused of sexual abuse by one of the students. The accusation snowballs into multiple kids claiming to be victims, with the residents of the small town all turning against the teacher. This is a heartbreaking, infuriating movie that deftly handles the subject matter with the nuance it deserves. There have been many cases similar to this in the news, and the difficulty in proving one's innocence, or trying to put one's life back together, is enormous. Mikkelsen is outstanding in the lead, as are the young girl who plays the primary accuser (Annika Wedderkopp) and the young man playing Mikkelsen's confused, angry son (Lasse Fogelstrom). Recommended.

 8/10

 

 

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#54 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 09:57 PM

House at the End of the Street - Lackluster thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Chicago high schooler who moves with her mom (Elisabeth Shue) to a small town. They get a great deal on their new home because the title house next door was the scene of a double homicide four years earlier when a teenage girl murdered her parents with a hammer. Now the house is occupied by the killer's older brother (Max Thieriot), a sad but handsome fellow who becomes friends with Lawrence, despite the townsfolk treating him like a pariah. And they may have a point, as he has a secret...Also featuring Gil Bellows. The thriller elements don't really come into play until the last 30 minutes, and the previous hour+ is devoted to a rote, rather dull romance. This also has to be one of the worst looking Hollywood movies that I've ever seen, with really terrible cinematography, from the framing to the lighting.   5/10

 

 

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#55 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 06:41 PM

Holy Motors - I had high expectations for this French surrealist film from director Leos Carax. Denis Lavant stars as a...who knows? He spends his day traveling around Paris in the back of a white stretch limo driven by Edith Scob. He has several "appointments", which involve him dressing up in elaborate make-ups and costumes and acting out various scenarios. First he's an old crippled woman begging for change, then he travels to a factory-like movie studio to do some motion-capture work (that turns literally cartoonishly pornographic), then he dresses as a deranged homeless guy who kidnaps model Eva Mendes from a photo shoot in a cemetery, and on and on. There is no plot, there are no characters, really, just Lavant dressing up and meeting various, usually unnamed people and then leaving (that is, when he isn't killed, which he is a few times, only to be alive again in the next scene). 

 

I got no sense of the director's meaning, if he had any, and all I felt was that he had a bunch of random scenes written out in a notebook that he couldn't write a full script around so he decided to just film them all as a dream-like stream-of-consciousness exercise in pretentious self-indulgence. I've read that some people saw this as a symbolic look at an actor's life (blah) and others say that it's a statement on films in general and the process of digitization (didn't see that at all). I don't think all films need to have a point, necessarily, but if one is lacking, then I would hope the visual or audio sides of things would be innovative or at least interesting, neither of which I found true here. I was terribly disappointed in this, and if it wasn't for Lavant's performance, I would have scored it lower than a 4/10.

 

 

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#56 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 02:49 PM

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - All of the movies that I've been watching lately have been first-time watches,  but this is a re-watch. I'll be watching the two follow-ups for the first time soon, and I thought I needed a refresher on this one to recall the story points and characters. This is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings films, coming 9 years after the release of the final, Oscar-winning installment of that series. This film had a torturous pre-production, with rights issues tied up with the legal woes of MGM, a process that dragged on long enough to see the exit of director Guillermo Del Toro, with LotR director Peter Jackson returning to helm instead.

 

Based on the very slight children's book by J.R.R. Tolkien, the story has been greatly expanded and elaborated on. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a homebody hobbit who is conscripted by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) to join a group of 12 Dwarves, led by the hero Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim the Dwarven city of Erebor from the clutches of the dragon Smaug. On their journey they encounter orcs, goblins, trolls and more. The cast includes Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Lee Pace, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, James Nesbitt, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy and Barry Humphries as the Goblin King.

 

There's a lot of things to like here, from amazing fantasy landscapes and architecture, to beautifully done CGI creature creations. However, there's quite a bit that annoyed me, too, such as several terrible songs, and some irritating characters, including a few of the Dwarves, the Goblin King and the Mountain Trolls. And the 182 minute running time may be daunting for some. When I watched this the first time, I gave it an 8/10. After this re-watch, it drops to a   7/10.

 

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#57 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 10:43 PM

A Hijacking - Danish drama about Somali pirates hijacking an empty freighter in the Indian ocean on its way to India. The narrative is split between the events on the ship, seen through the eyes of the ship's cook (Pilou Asbaek), and the home office of the shipping company back in Copenhagen, seen through the eyes of the CEO (Soren Malling). On the ship, the cook, along with the ship's captain and chief engineer, are kept separate from the rest of the crew, and they live in a state of perpetual terror and discomfort. The CEO back home is faced with negotiating a ransom price with the pirates. The stress on both of the film's central characters builds throughout, and it's played very well by both actors. The following year's Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks got more press here in the US, but I haven't seen that yet, so this seemed fresh to my eyes. Recommended.   8/10

 

 

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#58 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 07:14 PM

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction - Shaggy, rambling documentary look at longtime character actor Stanton. Large portions of the film are close-ups of Stanton as he sings various blues, country and rock songs in his warbly 85-year-old voice. There are also lengthy clips from his various films, and interviews with collaborators such as Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard and David Lynch. This is more of a mood piece than a straight-ahead look at his life and career, and his (sometimes dark) philosophies on life in general take precedent over Hollywood anecdotes.    6/10

 

 

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#59 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 05:51 PM

Great Expectations - Mike Newell directs this adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. the fourth version that I've seen. In 19th century England, a young boy named Pip (Toby Irvine) runs across an escaped prisoner (Ralph Fiennes) and he agrees to bring the man some food and a file to escape his chains. Although the authorities capture the prisoner, he thanks the child for his act of kindness. Pip is soon sent to entertain an eccentric rich woman named Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter), and to play with her female ward Estella (Helena Barlow). Many years later, the now grown Pip (Jeremy Irvine) is informed by shady lawyer Mr. Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane) that a rich benefactor has bequeathed the boy with enough money to live the life of a London gentleman. Pip tries to fit into high society, but certain revelations make that difficult, as do the class distinctions that seem to never go away. Also featuring Holliday Grainger as the adult Estella, Jason Flemyng, Sally Hawkins, Ewen Bremner and Olly Alexander as Pocket.

 

This version has terrific costumes and sets, with the period re-created with much care. However, something is missing in the end result, and the film is curiously soulless. I didn't find Irvine particularly compelling as Pip, although I liked Fiennes, Flemyng and Alexander in their roles. Despite the widescreen, full color vistas, I still prefer the 1946 David Lean version.      6/10

 

 

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#60 LawrenceA

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 11:47 PM

Grabbers - Enjoyable comedy/monster movie from Ireland. Eager young Dublin cop Lisa (Ruth Bradley) arrives in an island community south of the mainland. She'll be spending a few weeks filling in for a vacationing native, and she'll be teamed with alcoholic cop Ciaran (Richard Coyle). It should be a quiet couple of weeks, only a strange meteorite crashes into the sea nearby and bloodthirsty tentacled creatures come ashore. It's up to the two cops to rally the townsfolk and fight back the monstrous horde. Also featuring Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse and Bronagh Gallagher. This neatly balances the humor with the thrills, and a cast of winning performers makes this a must-see for genre fans. Beautiful shots of the Irish coastal landscapes help, too.    7/10

 

 

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