Film Review by Kam Williams
Jackie Chan Teams with Johnny Knoxville for Familiar Unlikely-Buddies Flick
Jackie Chan made dozens of martial arts movies in his native Hong Kong prior to finding phenomenal success stateside in 1998 co-starring with Chris Tucker in the buddy-comedy Rush Hour. Their pairing as unlikely-partners proved so popular that they returned to the well to shoot a couple of sequels in Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3. And Jackie further milked the familiar formula in outings opposite Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights.
Despite being perhaps a little long-in-the-tooth to still be doing such stunt-driven adventures, the sixty-something matinee idol is back with Skiptrace, a slight variation on the theme co-starring Johnny Knoxville. Knoxville is known for Jackass, the TV and film franchise in which he and a coterie of deranged confederates perform an array of death-defying feats.
Here, he reprises some of his greatest hits, like rolling down the street in a barrel. The same can be said of Chan, as so many of the picture's chase and fight sequences have a feeling of deja vu about them. Nevertheless, a treat is in store for the unintiated, especially youngsters who've never seen either of these leads ply his trade before.
In Skiptrace, Jackie plays Hong Kong detective Benny Chan, and Johnny co-stars as Connor Watts, an American gambler on the run from a Russian casino owner (Charlie Rawes) he fleeced to the tune of a million dollars. At the point of departure, Benny's partner Yung (Eric Tsang) is murdered by a mysterious mobster known as The Matador, and he makes it his mission to bring the creep to justice.
Meanwhile, half a world away, Johnny just happens to witness the kidnapping of Yung's daughter Samantha (Bingbing Fan). So, that makes him invaluable to Benny when the two subsequently cross paths, as much as the detective dislikes the idea of cooperating with a slippery con man.
Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Skiptrace overall is a globe-trotting affair which unfolds at a dizzying pace in the course of visiting a variety of ports-of-call all across the planet. The multi-layered whodunit eventually builds to a big showdown at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal back in Hong Kong, where the case is very satisfactorily resolved.
Though he's certainly no Chris Tucker, Johnny Knoxville does prove a decent enough accomplice for Jackie Chan's endearing combination of antics and acrobatics.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive content, profanity, drug use and brief nudity
Running time: 107 minutes
Distributor: Saban Films
To see a trailer for Skiptrace, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWUjtb0i7dg
Monday, August 29, 2016
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Posted by Kam at 8:50 AM
Friday, August 26, 2016
Posted by Kam at 12:12 PM
Posted by Kam at 10:31 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Film Review by Kam Williams
Career of Boxing Legend Roberto Duran Revisited in Revisionist Tale of Redemption
Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) is considered by most fight experts to be, pound-for-pound, one of the greatest boxers of all time. The intimidating icon earned his nickname "Hands of Stone" by virtue of his prodigious displays of punching power.
Born in Panama in 1951, Roberto exhibited promise from the moment he first entered the ring at the age of 8. He turned pro at 16 and assumed the World Lightweight title at Madison Square Garden in 1972 after Ken Buchanan (John Duddy) failed to answer the bell for the 14th round. Roberto went on to knock out over 50 foes en route to compiling an impressive 62-1 record as a lightweight before moving up in weight class.
By the time he retired in 2002, Roberto would also hold the world welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight titles. But despite that incredible feat, he appears fated to be best remembered for crying "No mas!" before quitting midway through his Welterweight World Championship rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond). And although he would eventually return to the ring, that one display of cowardice effectively overshadowed his sizable subsequent achievements.
Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express), Hands of Stone is a reverential biopic which humanizes Roberto while putting a positive spin on his indelible stain. This version of his story blames Duran's failing on his parasitic manager, Carlos Eleta (Ruben Blades), as well as on pressure from the big fight's promoter, Don King (Reg E. Cathey).
Here, we're treated to the backstage specter of a burnt-out Roberto bemoaning his being exploited. "I worked all my life. I didn't have any fun, when I was a kid." Truth be told, not only did he begin boxing young, but he married at an early age, too, 17. And his wife Felicidad (Ana de Armas) was only 14 when they tied the knot. FYI, the couple went on to have 8 children and are still together 47 years later.
If the movie has a flaw, it's in the fight scenes which leave a lot to be desired. Anyone expecting cinema verite on the order of Rocky or Raging Bull, for which Robert De Niro won an Academy Award in 1981, is destined to be disappointed.
Speaking of De Niro, he plays the legendary Ray Arcel who came out of retirement over death threats from the Mafia to train a teenaged Duran. Before you can say "Burgess Meredith," he whips the promising protege into fighting shape, and it's just a matter of time before his diamond in the rough's rags-to-riches dream becomes a reality.
A touching, revisionist tale of redemption presenting the sensitive side of a pulverizing pugilist.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 105 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Posted by Kam at 7:05 PM
Monday, August 22, 2016
Film Review by Kam Williams
Inspirational Biopic Revisits Barack and Michelle Very First Date
Who would ever think of making a movie just about Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Obama's (Tika Sumpter) first date? Richard Tanne would, that's who, and he makes an impressive directorial debut with this inspirational biopic chronicling a very eventful day in the lives of the future President and First Lady.
The story unfolds in Chicago during the summer of 1989 when Michelle was already employed as an attorney and living back home with her parents (Vanessa Bell Calloway and Phillip Edwad Van Lear). Barack had just finished his first year at Harvard law school and had landed an internship as her assistant at her prestigious, white-shoe firm.
Apparently, he was so instantly smitten with Michelle that he could barely contain himself. So, she had to politely remind him of the the office's strict rule against fraternizing among associates. Nevertheless, when she refused to consider a romantic rendezvous, he pitched her on the idea of attending a business meeting with him.
Once Michelle grudgingly agrees, Barack arrives late, yet is too cocky to be embarrassed about either his tardiness or the gaping hole in the floor of his rusty jalopy. What the skeptical object of his affection doesn't know is that he has added a picnic, a museum and a movie to their planned itinerary.
Again, Michelle balks, but consents only after reminding her self-assured suitor that "This is not a date." Nevertheless, the smooth-talking chain smoker presses on with his own agenda, with the Art Institute of Chicago being their first port-of-call. And while perusing paintings by the legendary Ernie Barnes, Barack began broaching personal subjects.
The two continued to get to know each other over sandwiches in the park, with the discussion touching on everything from family to faith to blackness to the meaning of life. So, Michelle had a decent measure of the man by the time they headed to the South Side rec center where Barack had once worked as a community organizer.
The icing on the cake proves to be an inspirational speech that's nothing short of presidential which he delivers there to the discouraged denizens of the crumbling 'hood. Michelle's floodgates finally open, undoubtedly helped along by one woman's (Deanna Reed Foster) approval of her as the first sister she's ever seen Barack with. Next thing you know, the two lovebirds head to the theater to see Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, before capping off the evening with a little canoodling while sharing an ice cream cone.
Southside with You is a syrupy soap opera readily recommended for ardent Obama admirers. The predictable love story has a tendency to telegraph its punches, since its familiar plotline sticks to what's already public knowledge. Overall, this plausible account of the blossoming of love between Barack and Michelle serves up a pleasant, if sanitized version of their romantic launch en route to an historic rendezvous with destiny!
Very Good (3 stars)
Distributor: Miramax / Roadside Attractions
Posted by Kam at 2:25 PM
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Jeff earned his first Oscar nomination in 1971 for Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later, he received his second nomination for his role in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In 1984, he landed more kudos via a Best Actor nomination for Starman. In 2001, he was honored with his fourth Oscar nomination for his work in The Contender, a political thriller co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen in which he played the President of the United States.
In December 2010, his reunion with the Coen Brothers in the critically-acclaimed Western True Grit landed him his sixth Oscar nomination. The same month he was seen in the highly-anticipated 3D action-adventure TRON: Legacy. Jeff reprised his role of video-game developer Kevin Flynn from the classic 1982 film TRON. with the help of state-of-the-art technology. The picture featured him as the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a younger version of himself.
Prior to Crazy Heart, Jeff was seen in the war comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats, playing Bill Django, a free-spirited military intelligence officer, who is the leader of a secret group of warriors in the army. Additionally, he has starred in numerous box-office hits, including Seabiscuit, The Fisher King, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Jagged Edge, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Blown Away, Fearless and American Heart.
In 1983, Jeff founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding children around the world. He also produced the End Hunger tel-event, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The show featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production to educate and inspire action.
He is currently the national spokesman for the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry campaign that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America. Another of Jeff’s true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the actors, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved.
Jeff’s photographs have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibitions of his work in New York, Los Angeles, London and San Diego. In 2013, he was the recipient of an Infinity Award, presented by the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.
The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale, but in the fall of 2003, powerHouse Books released Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of his photographs taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.
In August of 2011, Jeff released his self-titled major label debut album for Blue Note Records. Multiple-Grammy Award-wining songwriter, musician and producer T Bone Burnett produced the album. It is an organic extension and culmination of his personal, professional and music friendship with Burnett, whom he has known for more than 30 years.
The critically-acclaimed album was a follow up to his first solo effort 'Be Here Soon,' on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, California label he co-founded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland and rock legend David Crosby. In 2014, he released his first live album 'Jeff Bridges & The Abiders Live' and has been touring off and on when he is not working.
Jeff and his wife Susan divide their time between homes in Santa Barbara and Montana. Here, he talks about his latest outing as wily Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton in Hell or High Water, a cat-and-mouse crime thriller co-starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster.
Posted by Kam at 1:10 AM