Casino (1995)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese (Screenplay) Nicholas Pileggi (Book)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak

 

Plot: Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia underboss and a casino owner, for a trophy wife over a gambling empire.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Long Crime Drama

 

Story: Casino starts as we see the rise of mobsters Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Pesci) two friends that get involved in the casino industry, Ace is the calm face of the operation keeping the casino in order with the money going to the people it needs to, Nicky does the dirty work beating down the people who go against the casino.

As Ace runs the casino smoothly along with his new wife Ginger (Stone), he keeps the casino clean making more money than he would with other the books work. Nicky continues to do the dirty work as he wants to make as much money as possible from the casinos but his methods brings in the attention of the authorities, getting himself banned from every casino in Vegas.

Over the time the two clash over business as Nicky style flashes the spotlight on Ace, leading to the two friends becoming strained and broken.

 

Thoughts on Casino

 

Characters/PerformanceAce is sent to Vegas to run the books through a casino for the mob, he keeps the business going well but when his friend Nicky interrupts the business, Ace finds himself needing to defend himself through the trial. Nicky is the hot head that joins the casino industry to keep an eye on Ace’s back but soon he finds himself trying to take over Vegas by force which leads to the problems between the two.

Performance wise, De Niro and Pesci both give great performance in what is easily their strengths the crime world, the rest of the cast do great jobs through the whole film.

StoryThe story does balance both the stories of Ace and Nicky but you can’t help but feel this is very long, the film is nearly 3 hours long and is a giant flashback because we see Ace killed in the opening scene. This is a crime story you feel we have seen before and it was nice to see the balance between the violent and the calm reasons for running the businesses.

CrimeWatching how the crime world is run from the calm front and the violent front does come off interesting in places but is slightly rinse repeat.

SettingsVegas always makes for a wonderful setting for a crime story because we all know the vices within the city through the 70s and 80s.

Final ThoughtsThis is too long for the story being told, yes the performances are good but it in the end the drawn out story feels forced throughout.

 

Overall: Long crime drama.

Rating

 

 

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Videodrome (1983)

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: David Cronenberg (Screenplay)

Starring: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Debbie Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley

 

Plot: A sleazy cable-TV programmer begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a very unusual fashion when he acquires a new kind of programming for his station.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Classic Game Changing Movie

 

Story: Videodrome starts as we get to see cable TV President Max Renn (Woods) as he is looking for the next show for his network which will continue to push the boundaries for his audience. When Max learns from one of his technicians Harlan (Dvorsky) about an extreme torture show known as Videodrome.

Becoming obsessed with Videodrome he shows his new flame, radio presenter Nicki Brand (Harry) who wants to become a contestant on the show but just what is the marketing for this show, is it real or is it well staged?

Diving into the truth of Videodrome we see how Max starts to question his own reality when he starts hallucinating which leads him to find the truth through Bianca O’Blivion (Smits) in what is one of the most shocking outcomes you could imagine.  

 

Thoughts on Videodrome

 

Characters/PerformanceMax Renn is the typical president of a television network, he is always looking for the next show which could give his network the spike they require. He quickly becomes obsessed with learning the truth about Videodrome only to be sucked into the world it has created. Bianca is one of the potential people behind Videodrome while Nicki is a love interest that wants to be on Videodrome.

Performance wise, James Woods was brilliant in this leading role easily become the star of the show with the rest of the cast all doing good jobs throughout.

StoryThe story is one that is well before its time, when you look back now and see how people wanted to find the next level of television shows like we do now this offers up a look at just how far things could go. This story does have plenty of mystery about where everything could end up going and does have moments that make you react as simple as what the hell is going on but they are all worth it when it comes to the final outcome.

Horror/Sci-FiThe horror in this film is filled around the gore effects going on and Max questioning just what is going on. The sci-fi world created shows us an extreme level of where television shows could go.

SettingsThe settings are not the most impactful but do all work for where the story goes.

Special EffectsThis is a practical effects exhibition showing us just what you can do if you know how to use them.

Final ThoughtsThis will always be a true classic on how to push the special effects limits, we get pushed as far as we can with them that are truly amazing for the time.

 

Overall: The violent classic we all know off.

Rating

 

 

John Hurt Weekend – Contact (1997)

contactDirector: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: James v Hart, Michael Goldenberg (Screenplay) Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan (Story)

Starring: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, David Morse, William Fichtner, James Woods, Angela Bassett, John Hurt, Rob Lowe, Jena Malone

 

Plot: Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: It Is All What You Think

 

Story: Contact starts by showing us Ellie Arroway (Malone as young and Foster as main) as she spends her life searching in space for answers especially after her father Ted (Morse) dies when she is young. She clashes with fellow scientists who try to make her show her own potential in David Drumlin (Skerritt).

After Ellie and her team make the discovery that will change the world forever she gets thrown into the world of politics rather than her comfort zone of science. The world has come together with this new discovery and once they uncover the message the worlds smartest minds have to build the machine while selecting the one-person pilot to finally answer the questions being sent through space and time.

Contact is a sci-fi film that gives us the idea of communication from outside our own known radio waves. I liked how this only looks at the science versus the religion, there is no silly looking at destroying like most alien films. There is a lot of science talk which is one of the few negatives in this film but it is needed. When it comes to films like this I can see people getting bored even though it I a rewarding watch by the end.

 

Actor Review

 

Jodie Foster: Eleanor Arroway has spent her life searching space for any sort of communication, many scientists in her own field question her motives as they see so much potential and wasted talent. When she finally makes contact she is forced to team up with the very people that tried to stop her but she will finally get the answers she has been looking for. Jodie does a great job in this role as we see her clash with different obstacles in her way.ellie

Matthew McConaughey: Palmer Joss is an author who has been working on a book trying to question science’s impact on the religious world. Believing in different things than Ellie the two make for a very interesting couple. He gets left with a big decision which could change his relationship with Ellie. Matthew does a good job in this supporting role without really exceling.

Tom Skerritt: David Brumlin is the head of scientific research that knows Ellie has potential even after pulling the plug on her work. When the discovery happens he tries to take the praise and ends up going up against Ellie to be part of the mission. Tom is good in this role playing a character that is always out for himself.

John Hurt: S R Hadden is the financer behind all of Ellie’s work, he is very secretive but is willing to make appearances to fill in the gaps on her works. John gives us a very good cameo like performance as the mysterious millionaire.

Support Cast: Contact has a big supporting cast that all offer different opinions on the situation at hand, we get to see how each opinion could affect what is going on.

Director Review: Robert ZemeckisRobert brings his brilliant style to this film to tell a story that could become complicated or even boring but flows lovely throughout.

 

Mystery: Contact gives us plenty to question as we wonder are we alone in the solar system.

Sci-Fi: Contact enters us into the idea that space isn’t as empty as we once thought.

Thriller: Contact does pull us in as we simply don’t know what will be found going into the machine.

Settings: Contact uses the settings well to show us in the scientific world would be dealing with if everything became a reality.
Special Effects
: Contact uses great effects to show how the machine actually works but otherwise doesn’t turn to them.

Suggestion: Contact is one I will always recommend as I like to see how people will answer the question. (Watch)

 

Best Part: Journey.

Worst Part: Slightly long

Favourite Quote: Ellie ‘I’ll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it’s just us… seems like an awful waste of space. Right?

 

Believability: No

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

Similar Too: Interstellar

 

Oscar Chances: Nominated for one Oscar for Best Sound.

Box Office: $100 Million

Budget: $90 Million

Runtime: 2 Hours 30 Minutes

Tagline: A message from deep space. Who will be the first to go? A journey to the heart of the universe.

Trivia: Just like their characters in the movie, in real life Jodie Foster is an Atheist and Matthew McConaughey is a devout Christian.

 

Overall: Scientific film that truly will keep you wondering about what you want to believe

Ratingcard

Halloween Kingathon – Cat’s Eye (1985)

Banner-1logoDirector: Lewis Teague

Writer: Stephen King (Screenplay)

Starring: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, Robert Hays, Candy Clark, James Naughton

Plot: A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror.

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

Verdict: Suspenseful Trilogy of Terror

Story: Cat’s Eye starts with a cat running from a rabies infested dog Cujo going past a car called Christine before escaping and hearing a girl Amanda (Barrymore) crying for help, before getting caught and locked away.

Time to meet Dick Morrison (Woods) who is trying his hardest to quit smoking and he heads to the a clinic with different methods with Dr Vinny Donatti (King). The methods of quitting smoking involve Dick getting watched every minute of every day and if he should smoke one of his loved one will pay with ever increasing methods, he has four strikes or he is out.

With that story finished our cat ends up in Atlanta where it runs into gamblers Cressner (McMillan) who is dealing with his cheating wife’s new boyfriend Johnny Norris (Hays). Cressner gives Johnny a one time bet, walk around the ledge of his building and he can take his wife, money and freedom but otherwise he will end up dying trying or be framed for a crime.

The final tale of terror is about a family Sally Ann (Clark) husband Hugh (Naughton) and daughter Amanda (Barrymore) who the cat comes to but Amanda is being traumatised by a troll like creature while the cat just wants to protect her.

Cat’s Eye brings us three perfectly balanced tales of terror that keep you on edge from start to finish of all of them. Each chapter has a slight twist on what it used to focus on, with one being paranoia based, one all suspense and the final one almost a creature features. I like how each story takes advantage of its about 30 minute run time to get the most out of ideas and loved how the cat ends up walking into each story too. If you love a trilogy of horror films this will work for you. (7/10)

Actor Review

Drew Barrymore: Amanda is the young girl from the final chapter of the story who is having bad dreams but wants to adopt the cat after it comes to her family’s home. She is also the girl calling the cat on its adventures. Drew does a good job in this role even if the cat and troll seem to be the main characters. (7/10)

James Woods: Dick Morrison is a business man who has a smoking problem, he wants to give up and turns to Dr Donatti who promises he will quit smoking even if he has to go to extreme measures. When the paranoia of being watched takes over will he be able to quit, that is the question. James does a good job in this role showing he can play this style of role perfectly. (7/10)

Alan King: Dr Vinny Donatti is the doctor running the clinic whose extreme methods push Dick to the edge of paranoia but he knows he can get the results required. Alan does a good job in this role filling it with terror throughout. (7/10)

Kenneth McMillan: Cressner is the gambler who will gamble on absolutely anything, but this time he wants to teach his wife’s lover a lesson while he tortures him into going around his building. Kenneth makes for a good villainous character. (7/10)

Robert Hays: Johnny Norris is the victim of Cressner’s games who has to walk around the ledge of the building for his freedom. Robert has a good terror filled performance here. (7/10)

Support Cast: Cat’s Eye doesn’t really have too many supporting character but each one helps the main character in the story enough.

Director Review: Lewis Teague Lewis does a good job balancing the three stories and gives us different types of horror in each one. (7/10)

Horror: Cat’s Eye gives us three different styles of horror and each one ends up getting pulled to the limits. (8/10)

Thriller: Cat’s Eye will keep you on the edge of your seat through each different story. (8/10)

Settings: Cat’s Eye uses different settings for each story which works to help the horror happen. (8/10)
Special Effects: Cat’s Eye has good effects for the most part but has a couple that don’t always look as good now. (7/10)

Suggestion: Cat’s Eye is one for all the horror trilogy fans will enjoy because you can easily skip on if you don’t like to sound of it. (Horror Trilogy Fans Watch)

Best Part: Middle Story.

Worst Part: I would like to have seen more from the first story.

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

Similar Too: Creepshow

Oscar Chances: No

Box Office: $9 Million

Budget: $7 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Tagline:  Through the eye of the cat, a twisted tail of macabre suspense from the author of CARRIE, The SHINING and THE DEAD ZONE.

Overall: Good series of horror films from a horror master.

Rating 70

The Specialist (1994)

logoDirector: Luis Llosa

Writer: Alexandra Seros (Screenplay) John Shirley (Novel)

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Rob Steiger, Eric Roberts, Mario Ernesto Sanchez

 

Plot: A woman entices a bomb expert she’s involved with into destroying the mafia that killed her family.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Pure 90’s Action Entertainment

 

Story: The Specialist starts with Ray Quick (Stallone) and Ned Trent (Woods) planting explosives as they are bomb specialists on a dam but when Ray sees a kid in the car he wants to pull the plug on the execution failing in the process. Years pass by and Ray leaves the forces with Ned also being shamed because of his action.

Ray now works as a private assassin for hire and is working for a sexy voice May Munro (Stone) on the telephone who wants him to eliminate three men who killed her family when she was a child. Ned has also gone into the private sector as he works for the Leon’s Joe (Steiger) and Tomas (Robert) bringing their enterprise into the next level of technology. May has an approach to become close enough to Tomas while Ray figures out whether he should help or not because he isn’t interested in killing anymore. Ray eventually agrees to take part as long as May agrees to follow the rules including never seeing the men again, but if he finds out she is involved he will kill her, while being track down by his old friend Ned, but not everything is what it seems.

The Specialist takes the action film in a slightly different direction because how often have we seen an action hero use bombs as his only means of attack? We usually see the bomb expert as the twisted person trying to kill people. We get the standard revenge idea but we do get plenty of twists and turns along the way that will keep you guessing from the moment Ray gets hired. I will say don’t expect too much peril put upon our leading man until the final third with plenty of planning but not action that we could have had. I think this will go down as a typical 90’s action film that will keep every fan of that era happy. (6/10)

 

Actor Review

 

Sylvester Stallone: Ray Quick is the former soldier and bomb specialist who now works as a private assassin (I think) who gets hired by May to help her take out the Mafia who killed her family, things take a turn for Ray when he finds out an old friend is working for them. Sylvester gives us the typical action star performance here. (7/10)

 ray

Sharon Stone: May Munro is the lone survivor of her family’s killing who hires Ray as well as going undercover to try and get her revenge on the Leon family. Sharon plays the femme fatale well as we know she can. (7/10)

may

James Woods: Ned Trent is the old friend of Ray’s who ends up getting an innocent child killed which leads to both of the men leaving the forces. He now works for the Leon family helping keep the enterprise moving forward. Ned has to work for the Leon’s to figure out who is trying to take out the family. James gives a scene stealing performance here. (8/10)

 ned

Eric Roberts: Tomas Leon is the son who May tries to get close to while undercover; she knows he was the one who was responsible for pulling the trigger on her family. Eric does give a solid supporting performance as the hot headed gangster. (6/10)

 

Support Cast: The Specialist has a supporting cast that all come off as generic gangster film guys who all end up meeting their maker through Ray’s skills.

 

Director Review: Luis Llosa – Luis gives us a typical 90’s action film that will still be enjoyed today. (7/10)

 

Action: The Specialist keeps the action all saved for the bomb moments with excitement happening in the final act. (7/10)

Thriller: The Specialist does keep you guessing to who is on what side throughout the film. (7/10)

Settings: The Specialist keeps the settings easy to follow as most feel like a place a high ranking gangster would be in. (7/10)
Special Effects
: The Specialist uses good effects to create the realistic looking explosion but that is the only thing it is needed for. (8/10)

Suggestion: The Specialist is one for the fans of the 90’s action movies, but don’t expect something truly special here. (90’s Actions Fans Watch)

 

Best Part: Hotel escape.

Worst Part: Slightly slow moving.

Action Scene Of The Film: Final scene.

 

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Awards: Won Two Razzies.

Oscar Chances: No

Box Office: $170 Million

Budget: $45 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Tagline: Killing is his profession. Revenge is her goal. Together they take on the battle against the underworld of Miami.

 

Overall: This is a typical 90’s action film that doesn’t offer anything to the action genre but is entertaining.

Rating 60