Movie Review: “Dom Hemingway”

Starring
Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Emilia Clarke, Demian Bichir, Kerry Condon
Director
Richard Shepard

It’s been nine years since writer/director Richard Shepard burst onto the scene with the hugely entertaining black comedy “The Madator,” and with the exception of his underseen 2007 follow-up (“The Hunting Party”), he’s spent most of that time as a hired gun for various TV shows. But he’s finally back with a new movie featuring a character that could rival Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast” for the title of Most Polarizing British Gangster, which is quite the feat considering that the British crime genre is jam-packed with loud, brash and over-the-top personalities. Apart from Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan, however, none come even close to being as memorable as the title character of Shepard’s latest film, which is pretty much the only reason why it works at all.

Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is an expert safecracker who has spent the last 12 years serving a prison sentence after refusing to rat out his boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir). And now that he’s finally a free man, Dom wants what is rightfully owed to him, so he heads to Mr. Fontaine’s estate in the French countryside with his best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant) to collect his reward for keeping his mouth shut all those years. But after a strange chain of events leaves Dom penniless mere hours after he’s gifted a small fortune, he heads back to London in an attempt to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke), who wants nothing to do with him.

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Blu Tuesday: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Grudge Match and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

WHAT: Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and the band of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) continue their quest to reclaim Erebor. Along the way, they must contend with orcs, giant spiders, humans and the Elvenking himself in order to reach the Lonely Mountain, where Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) dwells.

WHY: For as much fun as “The Desolation of Smaug” is at times, the film suffers from many of the same problems as its predecessor. Not only are there too many subplots, but the story is bursting at the seams with so many characters (including new faces like Beorn, Bard the Bowman and Tauriel) that not even Bilbo is given very much to do this time around. The dwarves, meanwhile, are treated like background characters, with only a few truly standing out, like Thorin, Ken Stott’s Balin and Aiden Turner’s Kili, who’s part of a Peter Jackson-invented love triangle with Evangeline Lilly’s elven warrior Tauriel and Orlando Bloom’s Legolas. In fact, though it may not have been a popular decision with fans, the Legolas/Tauriel scenes (which are mostly action-oriented) are some of the best in the movie. The barrel escape from the Elvenking’s dungeon, in particular, is even better than the Goblin Town sequence from “An Unexpected Journey.” But if you thought that the first installment was too long, Part Two only further proves that expanding the book into three movies wasn’t the wisest decision. Jackson spends so much time on trivial material that when it comes time for Bilbo and the dwarves’ big showdown with Smaug, you just want him to get on with it.

EXTRAS: The two-disc release includes a documentary hosted by Peter Jackson detailing the daily routine on set, four additional featurettes on shooting pick-ups, post-production and the musical score, the 2013 live event “In the Cutting Room” and Part Two of the location featurette “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth.”

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Grudge Match”

WHAT: 30 years after their last fight, boxing rivals Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) agree to come out of retirement for one final match when boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) makes them an offer they can’t refuse: the chance to prove who’s the best once and for all.

WHY: The idea of pairing Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro in a boxing movie may sound great on paper, but only if it had been made during their “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” days. Watching the two aging actors step back into the ring decades later is not only embarrassing for them, but the audience as well, particularly when the movie is built around a bunch of unfunny old geezer jokes and lame callbacks to their respective boxing characters. The script is also weighed so heavily in Stallone’s favor that you already know who will win before the fight takes place. It certainly doesn’t help that De Niro seems physically incapable of going 12 rounds with Stallone, though to be fair, it’s Kim Basinger who looks the worst of the three, almost as if she’s been in a few fights of her own. The only thing that “Grudge Match” has going for it is Alan Arkin’s wiseass trainer, but it’s not nearly enough to forgive Stallone and De Niro for agreeing to make this humorless piece of fluff.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release boasts a behind-the-scenes look at filming the final fight, interviews with former boxing champs like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes, an alternate opening, two alternate endings, deleted scenes and a pair of featurettes with Kevin Hart.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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Movie Review: “The Raid 2″

Starring
Iko Uwais, Afrin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad, Oka Antara, Yayan Ruhian
Director
Gareth Evans

After directing what many consider to be one of the greatest action movies in history, Gareth Evans would have been excused had he buckled under the pressure. After all, they say that your sophomore effort is the most difficult, but what many people seem to forget is that “The Raid: Redemptionwas Evans’ sophomore effort, and he’s managed to follow it up with a film that’s not only just as good, but at times even better. “The Raid 2” is a very different beast compared to its predecessor – a slower, operatic crime saga with a lot more moving parts that require the necessary time to develop them properly. And while it would have been all too easy to give audiences a rinse-and-repeat sequel that offers nothing new, it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker like Evans go for broke with such a strikingly ambitious continuation to his 2012 cult classic.

Picking up several hours after the events of the first movie, honest cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is informed by one of his superiors that the only way he can protect himself and his family from being targeted for retaliation is to go undercover and find the source of corruption in the city’s police force. Following a two-year stint in prison where he makes friends with Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of respected Jakarta crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), Rama is hired upon his release to work for the syndicate as an enforcer. But when a turf war between Bangun and the Japanese yakuza is instigated by a third party hoping to take over after the blood has dried, Rama must fight for his life once again with new alliances formed and a group of dangerous killers standing in his way.

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Audra Van Hees in a stars & stripes swimsuit

Inspired by the release of the new “Captain America” movie this weekend, we have a beautiful photograph of actress and model Audra Van Hees sporting a lovely stars & stripes swimsuit.

Audra is an actress and model based in New York City. You may have seen her in the pages of GQ Italy and Maxim, as well as in the film “A Guy Named Rick.” You can also look for her in the thriller “Muck” which is set to be released this summer. She is currently working on two more films, and was just featured at the Fashion 2.0 Awards as the award presenter.

You can follow Audra on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get a peek into her daily life, and check back as we’ll be featuring more incredible photos of her soon.

Audra IMG_5779Jwm

  

Movie Review: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Starring
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford
Director
Anthony & Joe Russo

There’s been a lot of talk about comic book movie fatigue these days, but the people at Marvel Studios clearly aren’t letting that affect their productivity, because just like fellow Disney-owned company Pixar, they’ve continued to deliver the same high-quality films as when they started. Granted, it’s only a matter of time before Marvel’s unblemished track record is ruined by a “Cars 2,” but “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is not that movie. In fact, it’s a major improvement upon the character’s first solo adventure, trading in the period war setting for an old-school conspiracy thriller that addresses real-world issues like national security. It also has some really cool action beats, occasional bits of humor, and perhaps most importantly, a better storyline for its titular hero.

Since being thawed from his icy slumber and aiding in the defense of New York in “The Avengers,” Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has become a full-fledged member of S.H.I.E.L.D, but he’s still learning to adapt to the modern world and the questionable methods that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) employs to ensure that it remains safe. When S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes compromised by people within the organization, however, Steve is forced to go on the run alongside fellow operative Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), in order to smoke out the traitors and stop them from assuming control of a secret fleet of aircraft carriers designed to eliminate threats before they happen. Standing in their way is a super-powered, metal-armed assassin called the Winter Soldier who looks suspiciously like someone from Steve’s past.

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