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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 April 2017 - 04:45 PM

Another great film. I would have ranked it higher than you did, but that's really neither here nor there.

 

Another great and wrenching film on this subject is The Magdalene Sisters. Warning: Watch with a box of hankies, not for its sentimentality but for the despair that these girls endured. The film is very powerful.

 

I have to say that in Philomena when [SPOILER] they discover that her son had died years ago, I was genuinely moved.


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#42 Marianne

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 03:41 PM

Philomena - Touching true story from director Stephen Frears starring Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, a BBC reporter who loses his job amidst a scandal. He eventually decides to get back into the game by doing a human interest story centered around Philomena (Judi Dench), a retired Irish nurse who was forced to give up her first born (out of wedlock) child for adoption. Martin agrees to help Philomena track down her son, and the two embark on an unlikely road trip from England to Ireland to the US to find him. Also featuring Michelle Fairley, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Barbara Jefford, Peter Hermann, and Mare Winningham. There is some genuine moments with Dench, who gives her usual top-shelf performance, and I found Coogan funny, although I know he and his persona can be divisive. There is a lot of tearjerking sentimentality, as well, but I didn't find it too sappy. It was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Judi Dench), Best Score (Alexandre Desplat), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope).   7/10

 

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Another great film. I would have ranked it higher than you did, but that's really neither here nor there.

 

Another great and wrenching film on this subject is The Magdalene Sisters. Warning: Watch with a box of hankies, not for its sentimentality but for the despair that these girls endured. The film is very powerful.


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#43 LawrenceA

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 01:05 PM

The Power of Few - Terrible indie multi-character crime drama. The same 20 minutes of time is told from various perspectives, each telling connecting to the others in one way or another. A young man (Devon Gearhart) decides to rob a store for medicine needed for his baby brother; a pair of young people (Jesse Bradford and Q'orianka Kilcher) find love; a pair of cops (Christian Slater and Nicky Whelan) are trying to stop a terrorist attack; a pair of homeless guys (Christopher Walken and Jordan Prentice) wander around and cause trouble; and a pair of gangsters (Anthony Anderson and rapper Juvenile) are looking for revenge. Also featuring Moon Bloodgood, Tione Johnson, Derek Richardson and Larry King as himself. This was poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly executed.   4/10

 

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#44 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 11:35 PM

Philomena - Touching true story from director Stephen Frears starring Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, a BBC reporter who loses his job amidst a scandal. He eventually decides to get back into the game by doing a human interest story centered around Philomena (Judi Dench), a retired Irish nurse who was forced to give up her first born (out of wedlock) child for adoption. Martin agrees to help Philomena track down her son, and the two embark on an unlikely road trip from England to Ireland to the US to find him. Also featuring Michelle Fairley, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Barbara Jefford, Peter Hermann, and Mare Winningham. There is some genuine moments with Dench, who gives her usual top-shelf performance, and I found Coogan funny, although I know he and his persona can be divisive. There is a lot of tearjerking sentimentality, as well, but I didn't find it too sappy. It was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Judi Dench), Best Score (Alexandre Desplat), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope).   7/10

 

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#45 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 08:28 PM

Phantom - Cold War submarine thriller starring Ed Harris as a troubled Soviet sub commander given one final command before retirement. He's put in charge of a very old diesel-engine sub that's ordered deep into the sea to conduct top secret experiments. When Harris learns that the testing may trigger WWIII, he decides to try and stop it. Also featuring David Duchovny, William Fichtner, Jonathan Schaech, Jason Beghe, Dagmara Dominczyk, Derek Magyar, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kip Pardue, Jordan Bridges and Lance Henriksen. This is purportedly based on a true story that "brought the world closer to nuclear destruction than the Cuban Missile Crisis". It makes for a fairly standard submarine movie, with a dash of military philosophy and Cold War politics. Harris is excellent, as usual, although Duchovny seems miscast. Maybe he was looking to broaden his range. Henriksen has little more than a cameo at the beginning, but this marks my 70th movie featuring him.  6/10

 

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#46 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:03 PM

Pawn - Cliched hostage crime drama set primarily in a small diner where a trio of thugs, led by cockney brute Derrick (Michael Chiklis), hold the customers and workers at gunpoint in an effort to get access to the place's safe. Recent parolee Nick (Sean Faris) is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and gets strong-armed by the criminals into being their mouthpiece to the police surrounding the place. Police negotiator Jeff (Common) wonders why this gang of killers would cause this much trouble simply to rob a small diner. Also featuring Nikki Reed, Forest Whitaker, Marton Csokas, Stephen Lang, Jessica Szohr, Max Beesley, Jonathan Bennett and Ray Liotta. The title should clue you in that all things are not what they seem, and certain scenes are replayed to show a different perspective. Most of the characters are one-note, and many of the bigger names in the cast aren't much more than cameos. Chiklis cast as a cockney is a bit of a stretch, but seeing as how every other movie has a Brit or an Aussie cast as an American, turnabout is fair play on occasion.   5/10

 

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#47 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 04:32 PM

Parkland - Multi-character drama that concerns people in Dallas, Texas involved in one or another with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. They include the hospital staff that worked on both Kennedy, and later Oswald; the secret service agents on the president's detail and in the Dallas office; the FBI office in Dallas; and the family of Lee Harvey Oswald. The cast includes Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Zac Efron, Colin Hanks, Tom Welling, Ron Livingston, David Harbour, Austin Nichols, Mark Duplass, Gil Bellows, Jackie Earl Haley, Rory Cochrane, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Glenn Morshower, and Gary Grubbs, who was also in JFK.

 

There are some good performances here, particularly from Giamatti, Dale and Thornton. Weaver, who plays Oswald's mother, is a bit much, and I think her character's "quirks" were a kind of slap at JFK assassination conspiracy theorists. Little, if anything, is mentioned about that subject except for Weaver, and a brief exchange between Zapruder and the editors of Life magazine wherein Zapruder requests that frames be removed from his film of the assassination "in order to maintain the president's dignity", a request that the Life editor warns will fuel conspiracy speculation. The ultimate trouble with the film is that it really doesn't offer much to the assassination narrative. The reactions of those involved, ranging from sadness to anger to disillusionment, were felt by most every American. There's a brief sequence at the end that shows some of the real-life people portrayed in the film and their eventual fates, but even that fails to illuminate anything meaningful. Tom Hanks was among the many producers on the film.    6/10

 

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#48 LawrenceA

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 01:56 PM

Paranoia - Silly techno-thriller starring Liam Hemsworth as a young employee at a major NYC tech company, Wyatt Mobile, run by Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). Wyatt wants Hemsworth to infiltrate the company of his former mentor and chief rival, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), and steal the prototype of a revolutionary new mobile device. Hemsworth reluctantly agrees, but finds himself in more danger than he expected. Also featuring Amber Heard, Julian McMahon, Embeth Davidtz, Josh Holloway, Lucas Till, Angela Sarafyan, Kevin Kilner, and Richard Dreyfuss. While this is intended to be suspenseful, I found myself bored through most of it. Liam Hemsworth isn't the most charismatic of movie stars, and Oldman and Ford both phone their roles in, although Ford does look different with a shaved head. Instantly forgettable.    5/10

 

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#49 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 11:35 PM

Pain & Gain - Crime comedy based on a true story stars Mark Wahlberg as a knuckle-headed body builder and personal trainer in 1994 Miami. He decides to kidnap an obnoxious local businessman (Tony Shalhoub) and force him to sign over all of his property and money, and he recruits a couple of other body builders (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Anthony Mackie) to help in his plan. The only trouble is, all three would-be kidnappers are hopelessly clueless, and their mistakes keep piling up. Also featuring Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Bar Paly, Peter Stormare, Tony Plana and Ed Harris. This was probably the most enjoyable movie directed by Michael Bay that I've seen, but that's like saying what your favorite disease is. This is played more for laughs than anything else, and all three actors playing the criminals are great at playing dumb, dumber and dumbest. Like most Bay films, after an hour or so I started getting a headache from the hyper-kinetic style.   6/10

 

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#50 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 08:21 PM

Out of the Furnace - Gritty drama that has all the right ingredients but fails to add up to anything. Christian Bale stars as Russell, a Pennsylvania steel mill worker and ex-con. He tries to look after his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Army veteran of several tours of duty in Iraq dealing with PTSD. Rodney starts bare-knuckle boxing for seedy loan shark John Petty (Willem Dafoe), which unfortunately for them both brings them into contact with hillbilly psycho Harlan (Woody Harrelson). When Rodney goes missing, Russell is determined to find him. Also featuring Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Tom Bower and Sam Shepard. While this look at the decay and rot inside America's rust-belt has the right visual grime to relay the hopelessness of the characters, the script seems half-baked. It seems to want to be a 70's-style revenge film, but is ashamed of that at the same time, so it doesn't really work as a drama, a thriller or an action movie. The performances are mainly good, and one wishes they were in service of a better movie. Affleck and Harrelson are both stand-outs, while the under-cooked subplot involving Bale and Saldana's failed romance does no favors for either. This was from Crazy Heart (2009) director Scott Cooper, and after the success of that film, this seems to meet the usual "sophomore slump" of most acclaimed new filmmakers.    6/10

 

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#51 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 05:15 PM

Open Grave - Indie thriller featuring one of the most overused scenarios of the past 15 years: a group of people wake up in a remote location with no memory of who they are, where they are, or what's going on. They slowly take stock of their surroundings and each other, while brief flashes of memory hint at sinister doings. Featuring Sharlto Copley, Erin Richards, Joseph Morgan, Max Wrottesley, Josie Ho, and Thomas Kretschmann. I've seen this set-up more times than I can count. The eventual revelations are marginally intriguing, but they don't come until the very end. The journey there is grim, grungy, bloody and not all that enjoyable. Filmed in Hungary.   5/10

 

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#52 LawrenceA

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 02:14 PM

Only Lovers Left Alive - Writer-director Jim Jarmusch's take on the vampire tale. Tom Hiddleston stars as Adam, a centuries-old vampire residing in Detroit, where he spends his endless hours writing music that he doesn't want anyone to hear. He has an unknowing human acquaintance named Ian (Anton Yelchin) that brings him musical instruments and other sundries, but otherwise Adam's only contact with the outside world is when he gets blood from a helpful doctor (Jeffrey Wright) at a nearby hospital. Adam's been in the doldrums for a while, so his vampire "wife" Eve (Tilda Swinton) travels from Tangiers to spend some time with him. Also featuring Mia Wasikowska, Slimane Dazi and John Hurt.

 

Jarmusch's film tend to ramble along with a seeming aimlessness, and this one is no exception. His previous excursions into genre films (Dead Man, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai) proved to be among his better efforts, in my opinion, but this one fails to achieve as much. Perhaps it's that I'm more familiar with the vast amount of vampire stories of the past, so this film's look at the inevitable boredom of immortality, the parallels between drug addiction and vampiric blood craving, or the hazards of disease and/or modern medicine on blood-consumers, are topics I've already seen before. The performances are fine, and Hiddleston personifies the dissolute rockstar recluse to a T. I also enjoyed some of the verbal quips by John Hurt. With several of Jarmusch's films, it has taken me time to warm to them, so perhaps with repeated viewings I will like this one more.    7/10

 

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#53 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 09:17 PM

Olympus Has Fallen - Macho, flag-waving action fest starring Gerard Butler as Secret Service agent Mike Banning. He's on the presidential protection detail, but after a tragic event, he transfers over to the Treasury Department. He's not present when the White House is attacked by North Korean Special Forces led by terrorist Kang (Rick Yune) who take President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) hostage. Banning makes his way to the White House, and it's up to him alone to rescue the president before the North Koreans can destroy our nuclear arsenal. The large cast also includes Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster, Radha Mitchell, Melissa Leo, Cole Hauser and Ashley Judd. Director Antoine Fuqua brings some gusto to the action scenes, although the use of CGI instead of traditional bullet squibs is noticeable and distracting. There are a lot of cliches at play here, and some eye-rolling moments of patriotic sentimentality. This was enough of a hit to generate a sequel in 2016, and there was even another presidential peril movie released later in 2013, White House Down, which I liked a little better, but not much.   6/10

 

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#54 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 07:30 PM

Oldboy - Director Spike Lee remakes the 2003 South Korean thriller with lesser results. Josh Brolin stars as Joe Doucett, a sleazy ad salesman who passes out one night, only to wake up in a nondescript hotel room. He's unable to escape the room, and no one will answer his calls for help, although he is provided with the amenities needed for survival. He spends the next 20 years in this room, and he eventually escapes, determined to learn who held him captive and why, and to reconnect with his daughter, who was only 3 when he was kidnapped. Also starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Michael Imperioli, James Ransone, Max Casella, Rami Malek, Richard Portnow and Samuel L. Jackson. There are several changes made from the original Korean film (which I consider one of the best films of the 00's) which telegraph the film's twists more clearly, and also make a few things make less sense. Brolin is good in the lead, and he has an animal intensity that could be better used in the future. I also thought Olsen was fine, and she's shaping up to be an actress to watch over the next few years. Lee's direction doesn't bring much to the table this time, and while he throws in a few of his now-signature stylistic touches, he doesn't match Park Chan-wook's visual flair. I also didn't care for the gritty, often handheld cinematography. Stick with the original. On a side note, this was my 90th Samuel L. Jackson movie!    6/10

 

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#55 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 04:22 PM

Odd Thomas - Supernatural mystery/adventure based on the novels by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a nice young man living in a small town, and he just happens to be able to see ghosts. He helps those who have been unjustly killed get justice, and both the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) and Odd's plucky girlfriend (Addison Timlin) know of his secret abilities and work with him to right wrongs. Odd has lately sensed that something very big and very bad is on the horizon, and the arrival of hordes of invisible demons known as "bodachs" makes thing even worse. Can Odd figure out what will happen before it actually does? Also featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arnold Vosloo, Patton Oswalt and Leonor Varela.

 

Adapted for the screen and directed by Stephen Sommers (1999's The Mummy), this has a lot to recommend it, but it ultimately failed to come together in a satisfying way for me. Maybe it was the eventual revelation of what the "big event" was, or maybe it was the underwhelming CGI "bodachs". Yelchin was a likable enough lead, and Dafoe gets to play a nice, normal guy for a change. This was planned to be the start of a film series, as there are several books in the series, but this failed to make any impression at the box office (I don't think it was even very widely released), and with Yelchin's unfortunate death last year, any continuance would probably be in the form of a reboot or TV series.   6/10

 

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#56 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 02:03 PM

Nymph()maniac - From writer-director Lars Von Trier comes the third part of his "Depression Trilogy", following 2009's Antichrist and 2011's Melancholia. One night a man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) discovers a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) beaten and unconscious in the street. He takes her home and cleans her up, and over the course of the night, she tells Seligman her life story as a woman with the title condition. It charts her early childhood, her teen and 20-something era (played during these flashbacks by Stacy Martin), and finally her adulthood, where her condition sees the destruction of any semblance of a normal life. Von Trier amassed his usual eclectic cast, including Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Mia Goth, Udo Kier, and Willem Dafoe.

 

The version of the film that I watched was the original director's cut, which runs about 5 and a half hours, split into two volumes. The film features a large amount of very explicit sexual activity. The filmmakers used CGI to place the actors' faces onto the bodies of porn performers, and full intercourse is shown, in a wide number of varieties. Despite this, much of the film is dull, and played very low key. Listening to the quiet voices of Gainsbourg and Skarsgard is akin to listening to psychiatric therapy tapes. There is some beautiful cinematography, and some of the performers are good (I particularly liked Skarsgard), and I suppose some of the performers, like Gainsbourg, Martin and LaBeouf, should be applauded for their courage in letting it all hang out, literally. But the movie is entirely too long for the story told, and I found it to be the weakest of Von Trier's trilogy.   6/10

 

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#57 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 07:29 PM

A Night in Old Mexico - Dopey hokum starring Robert Duvall as Red, a cantankerous old coot (does Duvall play anything else anymore?) who has just lost his ranch. The grandson (Jeremy Irvine) he never knew he had shows up on his doorstep, and the two decide to take a roadtrip to Mexico for wine, women and song. Things get more interesting when they meet a beautiful nightclub singer (Angie Cepeda), but more dangerous when they discover a bag of money belonging to drug dealers who will kill to get it back. Also featuring Luis Tosar, Joaquin Cosio, and Abraham Benrubi. The scenario ranges from trite to implausible, and the characters are corny and cliched. Duvall has a lot of acting tics that, if he's not reined in, can get out of control, and this film is a prime example of that, although I suppose most actors still working at his age (he was 82 when this was made) would be happy with a lead role in a movie. The target audience for this also seems confused, as in many respects it resembles the typical Hallmark TV movie with sappy sentimentality and family bonding, but then it also has several scenes of bloody violence and a lot of coarse language.    5/10

 

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#58 Marianne

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 07:00 PM

Nebraska - Touching, low-key comedy from writer Bob Nelson and director Alexander Payne. Will Forte stars as David, a young(ish) guy working a dead-end job in Billings, Montana. His father Woody (Bruce Dern) has been acting erratically lately, and now he's convinced that he's won a million dollars from a letter he got in the mail from a magazine sweepstakes. After Woody is picked up by the police a few times for trying to walk to Nebraska to claim his winnings, David agrees to drive him there just to give him peace of mind. Along the way they stop in Woody's old hometown and reconnect with people from his past. David's mother and Woody's wife Kate (June Squibb) and their other son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) drive out to join in the journey. Also featuring Rance Howard and Stacy Keach.

 

The movie works on several levels. On the surface it's a gently amusing family comedy, but it also works as a portrait of a dying middle America, of dashed hopes and never-fulfilled dreams, of missed opportunities for love and happiness, and a generation reaching its winter years without realizing the American Dream of wealth and easy living. The performances are good from the leads, and I was impressed with Forte, an actor I know primarily from his stint on Saturday Night Live. The movie was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Dern), Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Original Screenplay (Nelson) and Best Cinematography (by Phadon Papamichael, who uses stark and beautiful B & W). This is also one of the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die. Recommended.   8/10

 

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Nebraska was great. Not a false note anywhere. June Squibb is just great as the beleaguered wife of Bruce Dern, who had his first role, I believe, in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. But I digress . . .

 

Will Forte is great too. I thought the film was a touching portrait of a man still yearning for his father's affection more than anything else and it worked beautifully.


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#59 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 04:58 PM

New World - Top-notch South Korean crime drama stars Lee Jung-jae as Lee Ja-sung, an undercover cop deep inside the Goldmoon corporation, a powerful, seemingly-legitimate company that's actually a conglomeration of criminal gangs. When the company CEO is killed, the battle for his successor begins. It's primarily between hot-headed Jung Chung (Hwang Jung-min) and the ruthless Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong). Police Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik) is determined to bring them all down, even if it destroys Lee.

 

This was a very well-acted, well-written modern gangster movie. You don't know who will be more cold-blooded in pursuing their goals, the criminals or the cops. Lee is very good as the conflicted undercover cop, desperate to get out of the criminal life and start a family, but constantly on edge about being discovered and killed. Choi Min-sik, perhaps my favorite South Korean actor, gets some good scenes as the burnt-out veteran cop in charge. But the acting prize goes to Hwang as the volatile, foul-mouthed Jung, who's not as stupid as he at first seems. The film draws comparisons to The DepartedThe Godfather and Johnnie To's recent Triad Election movies, but New World stakes it own ground, and doesn't come off as needlessly derivative.  The emphasis here is on character, and there are none of the usual shoot-outs, although there is some gruesome violence, sparingly and effectively employed. Recommended.   8/10

 

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#60 LawrenceA

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 12:07 AM

Nebraska - Touching, low-key comedy from writer Bob Nelson and director Alexander Payne. Will Forte stars as David, a young(ish) guy working a dead-end job in Billings, Montana. His father Woody (Bruce Dern) has been acting erratically lately, and now he's convinced that he's won a million dollars from a letter he got in the mail from a magazine sweepstakes. After Woody is picked up by the police a few times for trying to walk to Nebraska to claim his winnings, David agrees to drive him there just to give him peace of mind. Along the way they stop in Woody's old hometown and reconnect with people from his past. David's mother and Woody's wife Kate (June Squibb) and their other son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) drive out to join in the journey. Also featuring Rance Howard and Stacy Keach.

 

The movie works on several levels. On the surface it's a gently amusing family comedy, but it also works as a portrait of a dying middle America, of dashed hopes and never-fulfilled dreams, of missed opportunities for love and happiness, and a generation reaching its winter years without realizing the American Dream of wealth and easy living. The performances are good from the leads, and I was impressed with Forte, an actor I know primarily from his stint on Saturday Night Live. The movie was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Dern), Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Original Screenplay (Nelson) and Best Cinematography (by Phadon Papamichael, who uses stark and beautiful B & W). This is also one of the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die. Recommended.   8/10

 

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