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Red Rock West (1993)
Twists, twists and more twists.
Red Rock West is one of those tight noir thrillers we rarely see anymore. It's well paced, well acted and doesn't leave us with loose ends or unanswered questions so typical in this genre.
Nicolas Cage stars as Michael, an unemployed Texas roughneck, desperate enough for a job to drive all the way to Wyoming for potential employment. He is honest to a fault, but always on the dark side of fate.
After failing to obtain gainful employment, Michael stumbles into the Red Rock bar where the owner Wayne (J.T.Walsh) mistakes him for a contract killer he summoned from Dallas, hired to do in his lovely but lethal wife Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle).
Wayne gives Michael the necessary details and a down payment for the hit on the adulterous Suzie. With no intent on following through, Michael accepts the money and then sets out to warn Suzanne of her impending demise. He also mails a letter to the local sheriff exposing the plot and splits.
As fate would dictate, Michael is not going to be rid of the situation that easy. While leaving in a violent rainstorm, he runs down Suzannes lover. Of course Michael being Michael, he takes him to the local hospital where it's discovered that he's also been shot.
The sheriff is summoned and as luck would have it, Wayne is also the local law. Michael manages to escape while being taken on that last ride and is subsequently picked up by the real "Lyle from Dallas" played with murderous glee by the quirky Dennis Hopper. After discovering that they're fellow marines, Lyle insists that Michael join him for a drink at, where else, the Red Rock bar. There Wayne realizes his mistake and soon he and Lyle are in hot pursuit of Michael who falls willingly into Suzannes waiting arms.
As the pace picks up we learn that Wayne and Suzanne are really wanted armed robbers, on the lam for a multi million dollar theft. Getting the money now becomes the films central focus with a series of betrayals, double crosses and murders.
The film was very well cast. Nicolas Cage was typically low key, Dennis Hopper and Lara Flynn Bolye assumed their respective roles with more than ample ability. The best performance was by the late J.T. Walsh who was menacing without appearing to be. Walsh was a great character actor who left us much too soon.
Marc Reshoskys photography utilized many unique angles which added to the suspense and plot development. The film was further enhanced by John Dahl's tight directorial style and Morris Chestnut's rapid fire editing.
Panic Room (2002)
Stall for the inevitable double cross.
Besides being a thrill a minute actioner, Panic Room clearly exemplifies the fact that there's no honor among thieves.
Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart give above board performances as Meg and Sarah Altman. The two latest statistics of the broken family syndrome, they have just moved into a majestic house in Manhatten.
Unfortunately for them, their home has been targeted by a trio of thieves intent on liberating millions of dollars in bearer bonds hidden inside. The three consist of Burnham (Forest Whitaker) Junior (Jared Leto) and Raoul chillingly portrayed by Dwight Yoakam.
It is only after the three are inside that they realize the dwelling is occupied. Yet the stakes are so high, they decide to pursue their quest. Awakened by the intruders, Meg and Sarah take refuge in the covertly installed panic room. As was revealed early in the movie, the room is virtually indestructible and the thieves spend the majority of the film trying to gain access to it. Not only do they want to get to Meg and Sarah, but the treasure they seek is in the room.
During their endeavors Junior and Raoul engage in a power struggle, while Burnham just wants to get the whole thing over with.
They are really creative in their attempts to get the Altmans to open the door, trying everything from poison gas to beating Meg's soon to be ex husband to a pulp. Meg and Sarah are just as creative in seeking outside help.
As time races along and it becomes clear that the room is impregnable, the inevitable falling out occurs between Yoakam, Leto and Whitaker.
I really liked the clip at which the movie progressed. There are more than enough tense moments, tight spots and fisticuffs to keep your attention. Performances were first rate and convincing, especially Dwight Yoakam as the cold blooded Raoul.
There were several flaws however. Early on while Meg and Sarah are initially examining the house, Meg reveals to us that she is extremely claustrophobic, yet throughout the remainder, she shows no such symptom's even though she is confined in the panic room. Another is when the real estate agent demonstrates that the panic room door will not shut if anything is obstructing it, much like an elevator door. Yet later, it slams firmly shut on Raouls hand.
Despite these minor flaws, Panic Room is exciting, suspenseful and will have your heart skipping a few beats.
The desert is no place for a breakdown.
Breakdown is a white knuckled, edge of your seat thriller. Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan star as Jeffrey and Amy Taylor, an urbanized couple crossing the Nevada desert and running into more trouble than they ever imagined.
After a near accident they stop at a convenience store where they encounter a rough hewn local (M.C.Gainey), who unbeknownst to them sabotages their vehicle. Little do they realize, they have been targeted by a gang that specializes in kidnapping, robbing and killing out of state travelers.
Later, in the middle of the desert, their vehicle stalls. An eighteen wheeler rolls up to assist them and the helpful driver, Red Barr (J.T.Walsh), gives Amy a ride to a nearby diner.
Jeffrey meanwhile tinkers with their Jeep, gets it running and soon arrives at the diner. Amy is not there and hasn't been seen. Frantic, Jeffrey begins searching for her and runs into Red who denies having ever met either of them.
Eventually Jeffrey is taken prisoner by Red's gang who are holding Amy hostage. They want the $90,000.00 Jeffrey has in the bank back in Massachusetts. The money doesn't really exist, but is a ploy Amy is using to stay alive.
Events really ignite as Jeffrey uses his wits to escape and turn the tables on his adversaries.
After freeing Amy, a wild, edge of your seat, chase scene ensues. There is some spectacular stunt driving and car crashes sure to please the action aficionado in all of us, followed by a final, cliff hanging confrontation.
Performances by the cast were top notch. There is great chemistry between Russell and Quinlan. The late J.T.Walsh, M.C.Gainey and Jack McGee are superb character actors and were well cast in their respective roles.
Jonathan Mostow both wrote the story and directs. His stylish use of bizarre camera angles really adds to the terror and suspense. The only flawed aspect I detected, was that Red Barr's wife was unaware of his activities in spite of him having a barn full of stolen property right next to their home. All in all however, an action packed nail biter.
District 9 (2009)
District 9 is certainly not what I expected. Hoping for another action packed, effects laden, edge of your seat sci-fi epic, I was sorely disappointed. Even scenes from the previews implied that there might be some kind of intense confrontation on a grand scale between humans and aliens. Instead, we are again being lectured, better yet indoctrinated, as to what's proper and what isn't. It was like sitting through the remake of the Day the Earth Stood Still all over again. The theme of "man is bad" is really starting to wear thin. How many more seminars on politically correct behavior is the movie industry going to have us sit through?
Nearly the first half of the film is told in a "you are there" perspective like "Cops", hand-held camera and all. We accompany security forces as they raid a squalid ghetto in Johannisburg, South Africa and begin evicting the alien residents who came to Earth some twenty years ago. Humanity has grown intolerant of them and they are to be resettled in a new and improved concentration camp. The aliens of course resist and are gunned down at the slightest provocation.
Sharlto Copley stars as Wikus van der Merwe, the head of the conglomerate MNU's security forces. He is assigned the task of cleaning out the alien ghetto and we see from the start that it is a job beyond his capabilities. He stumbles, fumbles and bumbles and eventually is exposed to a fuel the aliens have been synthesizing for the last twenty years. He immediately begins to mutate into an alien and of becomes the target of a huge manhunt, so now the tables are turned.
This reminded me of Vic Morrow's scene in Twilight Zone the Movie where he faces the Ku Klux Klan. Van der Merwe is now dependent on the aliens for his survival. As the film reaches it's conclusion, the pace does pick up. There are shoot outs, crashing spaceships and great CGI effects. The alien ship which has hung menacing above the city for decades leaves Earth and Wikus completes his transformation.
Another big problem for American audiences is the fact that the cast are all unfamiliar faces. Their accents and speech is so Afrikaaner, that subtitles are used even when they're speaking English. There is nothing unique or original here. The movie is like "Cops" meets "Alien Nation". The special effects are superb but alas are wasted on such a trivial, mind numbing endeavor.
Edge of Darkness (1943)
Look to Norway...........
Edge of Darkness is what Hollywood used to be about. Younger viewers will probably be shocked that indeed movies were once made that extolled virtues such as self sacrifice, heroism, patriotism and courage against overwhelming odds. While the setting is in Norway, it reflects what America once believed. There is no political correctness here. Pacifists and collaborators are viewed as traitors. Tolerance for the invader is unthinkable.
Told in flashback we learn that a small Norwegian village has been under German occupation for several years. The Germans routinely harass, abuse and generally ride rough shod over the locals whose tempers have reached the boiling point. The Germans feel free to take what they please while the inhabitants struggle to exist.
Slowly but surely the villagers, led by Gunnar Brogge (Errol Flynn) began fighting back by engaging in acts of sabotage, defiance and even assassination. The Germans counter with ever harsher regulations and measures. After receiving guns from the British, the people rise up and engage their oppressors in a climactic battle of annihilation. Yes, there was a time when guns were recognized as instruments of freedom.
The performances in this film were outstanding. One can only cheer when Karen Stensgard (Ann Sheridan) proclaims "To a free Norway". Equally good performances were wrought by Helmut Dantine, Walter Huston and Richard Fraser. I particularly enjoyed Frasers transformation from a meek pastor who wants peace at any price, to a Tommy Gun toting avenger who saves the lives of soon to be executed hostages. Equally impressive is Hauptmann Koenig's (Helmut Dantine) wide eyed frightful exclamation, "You didn't see them, they just kept coming and coming...", when his headquarters is under siege.
Very effective was the soundtrack which was dominated by the strains of "A mighty Fortress is our God".
As the movie concludes we hear the voice of FDR invoking viewers to "Look to Norway" if they doubt why we were engaged in that titanic endeavor known as World War II..
"This could be one of the biggest day's of your life.........don't make it your last."
What makes "Dillinger" an edge of your seat actioner is Warren Oates' tongue in cheek portrayal of the legendary bank robber. Oates staggers back and forth between being likable and cold blooded, much like the real John Dillinger. His character development is masterfully on key.
The supporting cast of Richard Dreyfus, Michelle Phillips, Harry Dean Stanton and Ben Johnson all play their parts to the hilt. I especially enjoyed Johnson's steely eyed portrayal of FBI agent Melvin Purvis. With his no nonsense attitude, he epitomizes the iron fisted stereotype of the depression era G-Man.
The rip roaring gun battles will definitely keep your attention. Director John Milius makes the most of his firearms expertise. The legendary shoot out at Little Bohemia displays incredible realism as the cast is pummeled about by the heavy recoiling Browning Automatic Rifles. Automobile's and people alike are riddled with reckless abandon by the famous Tommy Guns of yesteryear. You could almost swear live ammunition is being used. The audual and visual effects are first rate in spite of the films tight budget.
Another interesting aspect is the films digression into semi documentary mode featuring the exploits of other depression gangsters like Machine Gun Kelly. We are made aware that the Dillinger gang were not the only ones terrorizing the Midwest.
Costumes, antique cars and sets are historically accurate. The mens suits in particular are quite gaudy and accurately reflect the style of those days.
There is never a dull moment and the movie paces itself at a rapid clip. While not a masterpiece, "Dillinger" is an accurate and entertaining retelling of the rat-a-tat-tat era.
Public Enemies (2009)
Drab, dreary, dismal but a cure for insomnia.
I will concede that Michael Mann is a topnotch director, but his latest endeavor simply doesn't cut it.
Public Enemies comes across as a low budget bust. Considering the funding, top notch leads and well known supporting cast I expected much more.
The biggest problem is the sound quality and many times lack of it. During dialog scenes, it sounds like the filming is taking place in a soundproof booth, much like a soap opera without any background noise at all. During shootouts the machine guns sound like cap pistols, which really detracts from the realism. The action is so poorly choreographed that sometimes it's hard to follow the sequence of events.
Obviously Mann was trying for an intense drama and not an shoot 'em up. However for all the weapons to emit exactly the same sound makes one wonder where the sound effects techs got their training.
While watching, I fondly recalled John Milius' "Dillinger", with it's superb action scenes, realistic gun battles and first rate effects in spite of it's low budget. With Milius at least a BAR sounded like a BAR and not a cap gun.
Character development was bizarre to say the least. The FBI was portrayed as nonthinking brutes while the gangsters were all the philosophical type??? Way too much time was devoted to Dillinger waxing nostalgic about his childhood. If you want an action packed, guns blazing shoot 'em up which is even more historically accurate, rent "Dillinger".
The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
Long awaited, but disappointing.
The remake of Pehlam hit the big screen today and was not worth all the hype it's received. The plot follows the same formula as it's predecessor, but has neither the polish or sophistication.
What was originally an action/adventure flick in 1974 has now become a droning talkathon between it's two main characters Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) and psychopath "Ryder" (John Travolta). They engage in a numbing exchange that will have you slumping in your seat in short order.
Granted, the script is passable, but I think most viewers were expecting more action and excitement, rather than verbal judo and will be sorely disappointed.
In the 1974 version Walter Matthau was self assured and confident while Robert Shaw cold and calculating. The two characters complemented each other. Now we have Washington as a panic stricken 'what do I do now' type and Travolta a homicidal lunatic who occasionally blasts a passenger just to rouse us from our slumber.
As far as character development, there is none. We don't care about the hostages because they are strangers to us throughout. Even the other hijackers are just props wandering about the set while Washington and Travolta engage in small talk.
The two high points of the movie are when the subway car is unleashed for a high speed ride after being abandoned by the hijackers and the killing of two of the hijackers in a volley of bullets reminiscent of The Wild Bunch. Other than that, the flick is pretty tame.
One glaring error sure to be noticed by todays savvy viewers is when Garber is handed a gun by a cop who then demonstrates the manual safety, incorrectly at that. Later the gun morphs into the type with no manual safety. Oh well, that's Hollywood.
"The world must know we aren't all like him" -Gen. Henning von Tresckow
Tom Cruise's latest endeavor is a masterpiece of cinematic effort. Valkyrie tells the story of the last known attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Cruise heads a distinguished cast that includes Kenneth Branaugh, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy and Christian Berkel. Also starring in a minor role is East German refugee turned actor Thomas Kretschmann.
The tale unfolds with Col. Claus von Stauffenberg serving with Rommels forces in North Africa. It is immediately clear that he is disgusted with the war, Hitler and the course of events. After being seriously wounded he is transfered to the army high command in Berlin, where he falls into the company of several very senior officers who share his views. They want to avert the total devastation of Europe and Germany and make peace with the Allies.
While on leave at his home in Bamberg, Stauffenberg formulates the notion that he can use operation Walkuere (Valkyrie) to bring down Hitler's government. Valkyrie was originally Hitler's plan to save his government in the event of mass civil unrest or his death. Stauffenberg realizes that with some revisions it can be used to install a new government. The only catch is that Hitler must be killed for the plan to succeed.
With some careful maneuvering Stauffenberg is reassigned to a senior position in the reserve army that gives him access directly to Hitler. He revises Valkyrie and Hitler approves it without even reading it as he is so impressed with Stauffenberg's knowledge of Wagner's operas.
The plan as conceived by the conspirators is to kill Hitler and then claim the SS is attempting a coup. The reserve army will be activated and arrest senior SS and Nazi officials. The Ministries of War, Interior and Propaganda will be seized as well as SS Headquarters, effectively imploding the government. Members of the conspiracy would then be appointed to senior government and military positions.
A bomb is obtained and Stauffenberg travels to the sweltering forests of East Prussia where Hitler has his headquarters. An initial attempt is canceled when SS Reichfuehrer Heinrich Himmler does not appear at the briefing. A second briefing is scheduled but one of those small but significant twists of fate intervenes. Instead of being held in Hitlers concrete, windowless bunker, where the explosion is sure to kill everyone, it is moved to a wood conference room with plenty of windows, which nullify the effect of the bomb. The bomb is placed next to Hitler and Stauffenberg flies back to Berlin after witnessing the explosion.
Meanwhile in Berlin, General Olbricht (Nighy) was supposed to have activated the reserve army, but is having an attack of nerves. Stauffenberg manages to get things moving, but soon the plot begins to collapse due to Hitler having survived the blast. The plotters are soon rounded up and executed in the most brutal of fashions to include being hung from meat hooks with piano wire. Generals Beck (Stamp) and von Tresckow (Branaugh) commit suicide.
The conclusion is a documentary type review of everyones fate. It is amazing the vast array of people involved, yet the Gestapo never stumbled onto the plot.
Character development was superb. The performers play their parts flawlessly. We are concerned for their well being and can sympathize with their fear and dedication to their cause. One can imagine the inner terror they feel. Clearly exemplified is the fact that there were decent, honorable and courageous men in the German army who chose self sacrifice for their country's well being.
The performances, detailed sets, costumes and script were all first rate. Bryan Singer's iron fisted directing was incomparable as the story sped along with edge of your seat, nail biting intensity.
Special kudos to executive producer John Ottman who also wrote the very effective soundtrack and did the films editing.
The only flaw I detected was during the credits where Josef Goebbels' name is spelled "Joseph" Goebbels. I would highly recommend this film without reservation.
A travesty of "film making".
Had I known this film was made by The Asylum, I would have passed it by. The plot, if you can call it that, was ripped off from "The Core" and "Star Trek". It concerns a teleportation devise that instead of sending it's passengers to Stuttgart, Germany, lands them in the center of the Earth. The remainder of the film involves the feeble and unbelievable rescue attempt, which isn't even worth discussing. The sets were totally unconvincing, as in various scenes a blue sky, clouds and even the Sun are visible. Indoor scenes were obviously filmed inside a warehouse and the special effects are pathetic even by 1950's standards. As for the script, I've seen more creative writing on the walls of public bathrooms. The producers had to really try hard to assemble a cast as talentless as this one. Better performances have been exhibited by corpses. The scantily clad females run around in sheer panic while the males try to appear robust and masculine, but fail miserably. If you suffer from insomnia definitely rent this film, if you want to be entertained, rent the original with James Mason.
Dramatic, heart wrenching and thought provoking.
Sahara can easily be called one of those movies that "they don't make like that anymore". It espouses courage, sacrifice for the greater good and democracy. It is brilliantly written and wonderfully scored.
The plot is simple, allied forces are being routed as the Germans in North Africa drive toward Alexandria and the Suez Canal. Sgt. Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart), an American tank commander begins a southward retreat along with his crew. While withdrawing they encounter a shot up British aid station and it's occupants who hitch a ride. They include along with the British soldiers, a South African, and a Frenchman. They eventually pick up a British Sudanese with an Italian prisoner (J. Carrol Naish). After abandoning the Italian, Joe decides to take him along. His morality is stronger than his hatred of the enemy. The contrasting characters played by Bogart and Naish are the most interesting. Bogart, the tougher than nails type and Naish a pitiful shadow of a man who later discovers his inner bravery.
Badly in need of water, the group is guided toward the only close source by the Sudanese. Unbeknownst to them, a much larger German force is headed for the same oasis. After shooting down a German plane and capturing it's pilot the group reaches their destination, locate the well and begin the task of hoarding the small amount of water there.
Soon enough the Germans advance scouts show up, quickly followed by the main force. At this point Joe and his group decide that just maybe it's worth the effort to hold the well and delay the Germans, even if no one ever knows of their sacrifice. A series of skirmishes follows is which both sides suffer heavy losses. During a lull in the fighting one of the best lines in the script is uttered when Joe and the British officer are commenting on the enemy. "Those men out there, have never known the dignity of freedom" states the Captain. That dignity and knowing that freedom is worth fighting and dying for, helps the beleaguered group persevere. The Germans, whose situation is much more dire, begin tossing away their guns in exchange for water and a mass surrender ensues.
While en route to allied lines with their prisoners the force runs into a British patrol. They come to realize that their action and sacrifice has played a role in allowing the British to regroup at El Alamein and stop the Germans. It was the turning point of the war. They DON'T make them like this anymore.
The score by Miklos Rozsa has just the right effect at the proper moment. It's rousing when required, but heartwarming during those sad and touching moments, such as when the British Sudanese is shot, but manages to give the thumbs up, letting his compatriots know that he successfully intercepted and killed the German POW who had escaped during the fighting. All in all, a truly entertaining epic.
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
Laughs, sex, laughs, sex and even more laughs.
With remaking The Heartbreak Kid, The Farrelly Brothers show us they are indeed the kings of rude and crude. This current release bears only a slight resemblance to the 1972 original with Charles Grodin and Cybil Sheppard.
Ben Stiller is Eddie, a middle aged bachelor still unmarried and without any foreseeable prospects. He is the butt of constant harassment from friends and family alike, especially his father Doc (played by his real life father, Jerry Stiller).
Eddie is always the fifth wheel at social functions where he is under unending encouragement to hit on any available woman. He typically passes up opportunities which only adds to his frustration.
One fateful day he rescues Lila (portrayed by the incredibly beautiful Malin Akerman) while she is being mugged. Being Eddie, he fails to exploit the encounter, but she doesn't. She later bumps into him at his sporting goods store and romance blossoms with a little persuasion from Doc.
Seeing this as probably his only chance in this lifetime to connect, Eddie marries Lila after knowing her only six weeks. They head out on a Mexican honeymoon and at this point is where the fun begins.
While enroute to Cabo San Lucas, Lila demonstrates her unique ability to sing along with every song played on the radio, much to Eddie's chagrin. It is now dawning on him that Lila may not be the one after all. As the story progresses she becomes more coarse and unbearable. Their night time liaisons are less romance and more apt to be wanton sexual flings during which Lila screams at Eddie to "cock" her and "jackhammer" her.
Fortunately for Eddie, a severe sunburn leaves Lila confined to their room and he has a chance encounter with Miranda (Michelle Monaghan). She is not the alluring beauty Lila is, but has a much sweeter disposition and there is instant chemistry between her and Eddie, who now takes every chance to meet with her while scheming and lying his way out of spending time with Lila. You can see where the plot is leading, but there is a surprise twist in which Eddie does NOT get Miranda in the end.
My favorite character was the wisecracking desk clerk Uncle Tito (Carlos Mencia) who was always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. There was also a roving mariachi band who appeared to know only one tune and were popping up at the most inappropriate moments.
All in all, The Heartbreak Kid was sidesplitting adult entertainment filled with great one liners and in your face antics. Stereotypes abound and it is definitely not for children.
The Brave One (2007)
A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.........
The Brave One is not your typical vigilante movie, in reality it shouldn't even be classified as such. Jodie Foster's character, Erica is a victim. She has been victimized by criminals, NYC laws and an apathetic police force.
Initially Erica is a typical New Yorker who sees the world through rose colored glasses until reality hits her square in the face in the form of a brutal attack. Her fiancé is killed and she barely survives. She immediately notices that she's not the same person and lives in a perpetual state of fear. Fear of going outside, fear of the person walking behind her, fear of the course her life is taking. She is plagued by flashbacks not only of the attack, but of the times spent with her fiancé.
Realizing she is alone and helpless against criminals, Erica goes to a gun shop is search of a means of defense. The clerk informs her of the hoops she has to jump through just to get a license and she resorts to her only other avenue, the black market.
After acquiring a gun, Erica doesn't become a vigilante, she simply refuses to be a victim and instead fights back when confronted. She's in the right place at the right time and deals with criminals who up to now have been slipping through the cracks of a fractured justice system. After several of the shootings, we are reminded of the criminals extensive history and wonder why the hell they're on the streets.
I found only two glaring errors in the film. First is the premise of the original mugging. Surely two New Yorkers would have enough sense not to go into a park after dark. Second was the police detective offering her his gun to execute the final criminal. It simply wouldn't happen. Other than that, The Brave One is an excellent character study of those traumatized by crime and how they are forever haunted by it.
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Not so subtle Hollywood propaganda piece.
Shoot 'em up is nothing more than Hollywood pushing it's agenda in the worst possible way, by exploiting what it hates. In this case the target is guns. There is no entertainment here, simply a pathetically, thinly veiled attempt at indoctrination.
While stunts and shootouts are rampant, there is barely anything resembling a plot and technical errors involving firearms abound, no doubt because the makers figured the target audience was totally unfamiliar with guns. In one scene Paul Giamatti is whining because his pistol is out of ammunition. However, the slide on the gun is forward, indicating the gun has at least one more round in it. In another Clive Owen is pointing out the various components of his gun, but indicates a safety where none is located. Both indeed are too ignorant to possess firearms.
Slurs against gun owners, guns and the Second Amendment are tossed out with monotonous regularity. One scene has Giamatti shrieking out "Guns don't kill people, but they sure help". In another, after killing his intended target, Owen proclaims "How's that for your Second Amendment"?
I was really surprised that the top notch cast of Paul Giamatti, Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci were conned into participating in this Josef Goebbels indoctro-fest. Proof that most performers will say or do anything if the money's right. If you're looking for solid entertainment, great action, a plot and meaningful dialog, skip this one.
52 Pick-Up (1986)
Tight fisted gritty realism.
52 Pick-up is a film that successfully combines those wonderful noir elements of seedy neighborhoods, coldblooded killers and a no nonsense script.
The story begins with the obviously troubled marriage of Harry and Barbara Mitchell (Roy Scheider and Ann Margret). You immediately can tell that things are not right simply by the way they look at each other.
We soon learn that Harry is having an affair with a nude model, Cini (Kelly Preston). Unbeknownst to him she was hired by a trio of blackmailers to set him up in a compromising position that they filmed.
The trio are wonderfully cast. John Glover is the cold and calculating Alan Raimy, the brains of the bunch. Clarence Williams III gives a chilling performance as Bobby Shy, a heartless killer devoid of all pity. Little known Robert Trebor excellently portrays Leo Franks, a whining, pathetic loser who is simply not in the same league as Alan and Bobby.
On a visit to his mistress, Harry is intercepted by the trio who show him the film they've made of him and Cini. One of the funniest lines in the movie is delivered here when Alan says to Harry, "you rascal".
Harry is required to pay $105,000.00 to get the film and avoid exposure. As luck would have it, Barbara has been chosen to run for the Los Angeles city council. Any scandal would doom her political career.
Harry decides that there's no way he's going to pay. This elevates the stakes and the trio decide that swift and brutal action is called for. Alan stages a break-in of Harrys home and steals clothing and Harry's P-9 pistol. Harry is now forced to watch a second film, except this is a filming of Cini being murdered by Harry's gun.
Harry now decides his only option is to fight back. He brilliantly does so by turning the trio on each other in a series of clever moves and ruses, beginning with the spineless Leo. As the saying goes, there is no honor among thieves. The trio immediately begins to self destruct with deadly consequences.
This film is well paced and has enough twists and turns to more than keep your interest. It is however far too graphic for younger viewers.
Night Crossing (1982)
Outdated, but true and inspiring.
This movie accurately portrays the struggle life was for the typical East German. Watched by the secret police, friends and coworkers, most easterners simply existed.
The Strelzyk's and the Wetzel's were two families that decided they weren't going to take it anymore.
Despite the extreme danger involved in escaping to the West, they feel the rewards far outweighed the risks. John Hurt and Beau Bridges, portraying the respective family heads hit upon the idea of flying over East Germany's heavily fortified border.
There are tense moments as they gather and jimmy-rig the necessary materials for the flight. They work their day jobs and construct the balloon at night, right under the noses of the authorities, one of whom is Strelzyk's neighbor (Klaus Loewitsch).
The first attempt, involving only the Strelzyks, ends in failure when the balloon crashes just a few yards from the border. The crashed balloon is discovered by border guards and an relentless search begins for the conspirators who are determined to try again. With sales of materials being closely monitored Peter and Guenter still manage to procure bits and pieces of cloth with which to construct a second balloon for their nail biting escape to freedom. The film also features a heartwarming and effective soundtrack by the late Jerry Goldsmith.
The Eden Formula (2006)
An abomination from Hell !!!!!!!!!
I gave this movie a single star only because it was impossible to give it less.
Scientists have developed a formula for replicating any organism. In their lab(a run down warehouse in L.A.), they create a T-Rex. A group of industrial spies break in to steal the formula and the remainder of the film is one endless foot chase.
Of course the T-Rex(a rubber puppet)gets loose and commences to wipe out the cast. It has the amazing ability to sneak up within 2 or 3 feet of someone without them noticing and then promptly bites their head off.
One cast member escapes in a police car and spends the remainder of the film driving aimlessly through the city. She is of such superior mental ability that she can't even operate the radio. She never makes any attempt to drive to a substation or a donut shop and appears hopelessly lost.
The T-Rex wreaks havoc throughout the city, there are blazing gun battles and buildings(cardboard mock-ups)blowing up, but a single police car, or the army, nor anyone else ever shows up. Such activity must be commonplace in Los Angeles.
We can only hope that a sequel isn't planned.
Great attention to detail with minor flaws.
Make fun of Roger Corman if you will, but The St. Valentine's Day Massacre is probably the best retelling of that notoriously bloody day in American history.
The film is conveyed to the viewer with Walter Winchell like narration by Paul Frees, who initially introduces us to the main personalities with mini biographies.
With the exception of Jason Robards, casting is well done. Participants sneer on cue and strut around in garish pinstripe suits, cigars clenched in their teeth. Robards is simply too tall, slender and thin faced to portray short, stubby Al Capone.
Lionel Newman's semi-jazzy score sets the mood for a bullet riddled gangster opus. You just know there's going to be a high body count. What appealed to me most was the attention to detail lacking in most movies of this type. The cars, the costumes, the sets, all transport you back to the free fire zone known as 1929 Chicago. One complaint, many of the submachine guns used in the movie were the World War II version of the Tommy Gun and of course the massacre occurred many years before the war. Maybe the props dept. didn't have enough of the vintage guns and had to make due.
The premise of the movie is simple. Al Capone and George "Bugs" Moran have been battling each other for control of Chicago's $300,000,000.00 illicit liquor industry. Both gangs mow each others members down with monotonous regularity and Capone wants to deliver a fatal and lasting blow to the Moran syndicate. He and his cohorts formulate a plan, actually a very good plan to lure Moran to a specific location on a specific day at a specific time. There are even lookout's assigned to watch the location so that they can cue the hit team as to Morans arrival. The one flaw in the plan is that the location is a hang out for the Moran crowd and will be full of people by the time he gets there. Another gangster is mistaken for Moran and the killers arrive prematurely. We all know what happens next as the Moran gang is blown into the hereafter.
One last detail, as the gangsters are being shot, they fall into the exact same position as the real thugs did in the original massacre. "Frank Gusenburg" even lands on a chair as the real one did decades ago. If you look closely, you can see the great Dick Miller, as one of the killers disguised as a cop and Jack Nicholson as a hit man. All in all, The St. Valentines Day Massacre is worth watching both for it's historical and entertainment value.
Touching, beautiful, heartwarming.
The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn is an eloquent story told in the most basic of terms. Sidney Poitier portrays Noah, who at 91 still leads an active though unfulfilling life. He stays busy every waking hour and has virtually no life outside his daily labor. He keeps potential friends at arms length, but goes out of his way to be a good neighbor. His routine varies little from day to day and he is haunted by the unsettling events of his early life. Unknown to Noah, a group of investors have targeted his land as a potential site for development. Noah rejects their initial efforts to purchase his land outright, so they hatch a scheme to have him declared incompetent so he will be committed and removed. Dr. Valerie Crane (Mary-Louise Parker), a clinical psychologist will be their weapon. But like everyone else who comes in contact with Noah, she is touched by his openness, honesty and simple philosophy. She becomes his ally and defender. After contacting several of the townspeople she realizes how positively Noah affects the lives of those around him, despite his inability to show open affection toward them. Noah is soon taken into custody for an forced evaluation based on sham allegations, but the effort is sabotaged by Dr. Crane. The Developers then try harassment in an effort to drive Noah off his land. Valerie is injured trying to halt their plot and Noah comes to her rescue. While visiting her in the hospital Noah at last begins to drop his emotional block against those who love him. He finally allows Sarah McClellen (Dianne Wiest), who has had a decades long crush on him, to get close. Because of all the opposition, the investors abandon their plans and the new Noah will live a new, fuller life. The film is very effective in showing how love, friendship and understanding is so much more important than money, career and greed. Poitier is well cast and very effective as Noah who is content to live a simple, uncomplicated life.
Chilling, by any standard.
This documentary is probably the most incise ever made on Auschwitz and the final solution. From it's humble inception as a detainment center to the camps vast expansion as history's largest killing machine, no detail has been omitted.
Featured are archival footage of the camp along with reenactments based on historical documentation and eyewitness testimony from inmates and guards alike. Computer generated images show in frightening detail every aspect of the attempt to exterminate the Jewish people.
At five hours in length, many will consider the film far too long. However if you are searching for a fact filled account of how this and the entire concentration camp system was operated, then this epic should be watched. This feature is narrated by actress Linda Hunt in a matter of fact monologue, but the images presented are what hold your attention.
In the beginning, Auschwitz was constructed by Russian POW's, most of whom perished in the effort. It was built in an obscure corner of Poland along the rail line between Krakow and Vienna. It was surrounded by such solitude, that SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler considered establishing a sub-headquarters there.
As the war progressed the final solution loomed ahead and Auschwitz was chosen as a operations center for developing an efficient method of killing over 11,000,000 Jews within the Reichs borders. After several attempts it was decided that cyanide based poison gas was the most economical way of committing mass murder and soon trains were rolling into Auschwitz on a regular basis.
Gas chambers were quickly constructed along with crematoria to handle the vast number of victims. By 1944 the war had turned decisively against Germany and the Red Army was soon advancing into Poland. The Nazis increased the rate of killing and even extended the rail lines so that the trains arrived right at the gas chambers.
One aspect of the war exposed in detail, was how the Allies, though fully aware of the camp, refused to bomb even the rail lines leading to it. Former inmates recount how they witnessed bombers flying overhead, only to have their hopes dashed when nothing happened.
We are also introduced to the rogues gallery who kept the camp running. SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Rudolf Hoess was the commandant, who kept the machinery of murder running virtually until the Russians were at the gates. Several guards are also interviewed, none of whom have any remorse for their actions or corruption. The movie concludes with the execution of Hoess and several of his underlings. By then the viewer is left both spellbound and speechless.
Der Untergang (2004)
Probably the best movie portraying the Third Reichs' death.
Downfall is primarily based on the writings of Traudl Junge, Adolf Hitlers final secretary. She is portrayed in the movie by Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara.
The movie begins in late 1942 in Rastenburg, East Prussia, where Hitler is picking his final wartime secretary. It would appear that Junge is chosen primarily for being a native of Munich, where Hitler spent part of his early life and created the Nazi party.
We are then fast forwarded to April 1945 where the Third Reich has been reduced to a few smoldering blocks of rubble in the center of Berlin. The city is under constant bombardment and crossing the street is a life threatening venture.
The majority of the scenes take place inside the Fuehrerbunker where Hitler and his die hard followers prepare for the end. We see Hitler as only a shell of the man he used to be. His hand trembles constantly, his posture stooped and his stride is a wretched shuffle. He is still however the pitiless creature, without remorse for his actions. His strongest desire is to destroy everything and everyone around him.
Two groups occupy the Bunker. The regular combat soldiers who can't believe the insanity around them and Hitlers clique who plan mass suicide while still hoping for a final victory.
Junge is quite attached to Hitler, but is still unsure which group she belongs to. Laras tender beauty and doe eyed innocence are great attributes in her state of confusion. She goes to and fro in the descending madness, unsure of what to do next.
Ganz' rendition of Hitler is certainly unequaled. He is the raving monster one moment and the kindly grandfather type the next. He is capable of squeezing a child's cheek while simultaneously causing the deaths of untold millions.
During the final siege of the city center bedlam reigns supreme in an orgy of drunkenness, celebration and suicide. Groups of roving executioners wander the streets, murdering people at random, but many still escape Russian retribution. This film certainly reflects well the death of a regime.
One Way Out (1996)
What a load of C**P!!!!!!!!!!!
The fact that financing was actually found to make this travesty is appalling and miraculous. That Michael Ironside would lend his name to this abomination is nothing short of heart stopping, no one can possibly be that hard up for cash. The script, if you can call it that, deals with an ex con teaming up with a bunch of other misfits and they then proceed to go on a multi state crime spree whose main objective seems to be stealing as much junk food as possible. Scenes seem to have been shot in back alleys, hovels and condemned property. Shoot outs and chases are everything but, and acting isn't even third rate. The cameraman seems to be having a seizure throughout. The lighting, sets and soundtrack are minimal and if you've heard of any of the performers, you're way ahead of me.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Definitely not a classic.
Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds remake can only be described as a letdown. After all the hype there is nothing but a flawed endeavor in which the dazzling ILM special effects dominate. There is a cast of hundreds, but they're all technicians unseen by the camera.
According to the plot, the Martians buried their war machines on Earth about a million years ago in preparation for it's conquest. Why not take the world then, before man even existed rather than wait a million years?
This film also reinforced my belief that just because Tom Cruise is in a movie, doesn't mean it will be enjoyable or well made. Most of his on screen time is spent yelling at his family members. We're stuck in one long domestic disturbance.
Josh Friedman's and David Koepp's screenplay is so weak and unoriginal they borrowed lines from the original 1953 release. Anyone remember "Once they begin moving, no more news comes out of that area"? If you think you've heard it before, you have. Cute, but hardly original.
Viewing the 2005 remake only makes the 1953 original seem all that much better. Byron Haskins iron fisted directorial style kept one on the edge of their seat throughout. Despite half century old technology and flawed science the 1953 version is more frightening, entertaining and riveting. The war machines are more original, futuristic and high tech compared to Spielbergs clumsy, clanky, stumbling tin cans, which signal each other with foghorns.
Spielbergs heart simply wasn't in it. He's admitted to almost abandoning the project after the release of Independence Day, which more mirrors the 1953 original. Maybe he should stick to dinosaurs. However, credit where credit is due. Dakota Fanning's performance was probably the best of all involved. The special effects are unbeatable. I've never seen buildings collapse, highways cave in or freeway overpasses turn to rubble more realistically. Unfortunately special effects do not a movie make.
Independence Day (1996)
War of the Worlds updated.
Upon viewing Independence Day I immediately noticed that it was basically a remake of The War of the Worlds (finally). Initially the Earth is the victim of a devastating attack by alien beings. Faced with extermination mankind forgets it's petty quarrels and unites to battle the other world invaders. As in the War of the Worlds, conventional weapons are useless and even nuclear bombs have no effect. Finally a "virus" helps ensure a successful outcome (as opposed to bacteria). The acting in this movie is nothing great. Character development is just so-so and stone faced Bill Pullman is a bad choice for an inspiring leader. What really makes things happen are the dazzling special effects and David Arnold's sweeping score. Roland Emmerich's fast paced directorial skill keeps the story moving in spite of the B grade acting. However Randy Quade's portrayal of a chronic alcoholic is outstanding. This seems to be a favorite role of his, to the point that he's being type cast. All in all this movie is entertaining, enjoyable, and even patriotic. I highly recommend it.
Unrealistic to say the least.
Despite its big name cast, to include Michael Caine and Max von Sydow, Victory leaves one feeling flat. Something like what is envisioned here simply could not have happened during WWII because allied soldiers would have never put themselves in the position of even remotely offering the Germans a chance at a propaganda coup. The plot basically revolves around former English soccer player Michael Caine, now a POW, having a chance encounter in a prison camp with German officer von Sydow. The two basically hatch the plan of a soccer game between allied prisoners and the German national team. This is where the plot starts to unravel. Caine makes numerous demands such as excellent food, housing, uniforms, etc. and gets them all...very unlikely! The game it is decided, will be held in Paris. Again wouldn't the Germans be more apt to choose Berlin where they could exert total control over the goings on, rather than risk some fiasco in occupied but still hostile Paris? Of course the ending is no surprise as is typical in war movies of this kind. It's all been seen before, not even Bill Conti's brilliant score, probably the best thing about this movie, can save it.