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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...Or at least that's kind of what this movie reminds me of in only the most
basic ways. This film is okay, with good performances and a mildly-engaging
plot, but the finale is kind of lackluster. Mulholland Falls is where the
elite L.A. Hat Squad takes unwanteds to teach them a lesson. Nick Nolte is
the world-weary boss. This is not one of his best performances, and he seems
to overact just a little bit. Chazz Palminteri is his best friend, a
short-tempered member going to sessions with a psychiatrist to help deal
with his anger. Meanwhile, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen have little to do,
though a scene where Madsen tries to pick the lock on a gate to a military
base rather than have Penn blow it off is a funny bit.
They are trying to figure out how a girl found out in the desert was killed. Apparently impact with the ground did it. She was Nolte's mistress for six months during his marriage to Melanie Griffith. The trail leads to Gen. Thomas Timms (John Malkovich) who also knew the girl as his mistress. Malkovich turns in another good supporting role as a cancerous military man. Treat Williams, one of the officers and the real bad guy, turns in a fairly mediocre job.
All in all the movie falls short, but it does include some nice uncredited turns by Bruce Dern as the Chief of Police, and Rob Lowe and "CSI"'s William Petersen as a couple of hoods. (The latter of which is taken to the title location)
This was one of my favorite "Mystery!" series. This was something of a
precursor to shows like "CSI" and "Without a Trace," and ten times
better. Robson Greene is DI Dave Creegan, a workaholic who works in a
fictional British unit called Organized Serial Crime (OSC). Creegan
received a bullet in the head some time back, and was brought back to
life through the miracle of medicine, now walking a tightrope on the
edge of sanity as the semi-suicidal detective hunts down serial killers
and other perps through his gift for thinking like they do. Creegan's
partner, DI Susan Taylor, is a no-nonsense type whose method for
solving cases is quite the opposite of Creegans. DC Mark Rivers, also a
key player, is as far removed from Creegan as possible, a by-the-book
detective who is just as content to wait for back-up as jump into the
fire. There were some excellent shows, but the first season is by far
the best, starting off with a perverted and villainous suspect
portrayed by Ian McDiarmid, of "Star Wars" fame.
Perhaps this show lacks some of the class that made earlier shows such as "Prime Suspect" such a treat, but the only thing on "Mystery!" to match it as of yet is probably the most recent American-produced Tony Hillerman adaptations.
Nick Nolte is well-cast as the average tough, somewhat maverick cop who gets
involved in a case involving an escaped convict and his partner and their
psychopathic rampage through San Francisco. He's forced to enlist the help
of fast-talking incarcerated con man Eddie Murphy, who has dealt with one of
the killers in past. Murphy insists he be let out for 48 hours in order to
secure a stash of money he has that the killer wants. Nolte and Murphy are a
mismatched pair, Murphy being the sly young criminal, Nolte being a tough,
somewhat ignorant cop who tires easily of his partner's fast mouth and
wayward way of giving information, and constant attempts at getting a
There's one good scene where Murphy walks into a redneck cowboy joint with a bet about what it takes to be taken seriously as a cop, and trades places with Nolte as a detective trying to get information on where one of the guys is. Later on, Nolte and Murphy get into a fight because Murphy won't say what he knows the escaped killer is after.
Walter Hill creates one of the best cop movies ever, and a perfect movie to act as Murphy's first real vehicle for his comedy style. However, this is not comedy like, say, "Trading Places." This movie is more the comedy style of the first "Lethal Weapon" movie. Alternately serious and funny.
Maybe Danny DeVito and Bette Midler should collaborate more often. The
two times they did it was comedy gold. While this movie is not as flat
out hilarious as "Ruthless People," it should still be enjoyed by the
same people who love that movie. It starts with a prologue stating how
Verplanck, New York was the location where they decided to launch the
Yugo line of cars in America. As a result, everyone in town, including
the police, drives a Yugo car, and they all have catchy license plates
like UGOMONA, ELLEEE, and OH RONE.
As the title suggests, this black little whodunit concerns who opted to rid the small town of Verplanck of its nastiest inhabitant, the matriarchal hag Mona Dearly (Midler, who chews up every inch of the screen in her "Rashomon"-esque flashback scenes). Police Chief Wyatt Rash (Danny DeVito, playing against type as the straight man), is determined to find out, even if nobody else cares to help. It's come at a bad time, because he's trying to help his daughter Ellie (Neve Campbell) plan her big wedding to mild-mannered land-scaper Bobby Calzone (Casey Affleck), who has just ended up short-handed after his beer-guzzling partner Jeff Dearly (Marcus Thomas, the epitome of slackerdom) takes a leave of absence. Bobby also seems unnaturally concerned with the the death of a woman who meant only bad things for him.
The characters, while bordering on cartoons, are played tongue-in-cheek, and you know the actors had fun doing it. There's the chain-smoking waitress Rhona Mace (Jamie Lee Curtis), who's having an affair with the deceased's husband Phil (William Fichtner, who walks away with the movie as a complete scumbag), and Bobby's overbearing brother Murph (Mark Pellegrino). The cops are just as zany, with Peter Coyote as the do-gooder lieutenant, and Paul Ben-Victor and Paul Schulze (Ryan Chapelle from "24") as a couple of bumbling idiots who seem to be good for one thing, looking out for Numbers One. There's Katherine Wilhoite as Lucinda, the lesbian folk-singer mechanic, and the great Tracey Walter is on board as the local fisherman who nobody really knows much about. Add in a foul-mouthed, alcoholic priest, and a funeral director who's also an amateur pornographer (Will Ferrell before he became huge), and it's a feast for those with a twisted sense of humor.
The opening credits make for a brilliant, atmospheric piece of escapist
entertainment that's full of little nods to the comic strip. All the good
guys are good, all the bad guys are bad, and the film is jam-packed with
familiar character actors covered in gruesom make-up to hi-lite their
Warren Beatty, as Dick Tracy, is the ultimate tough guy straight man, incorruptable, calm usually, always a better fighter than the other guy, and rarely one to push the limit on legality. Al Pacino, as "Big Boy" Caprice steals every scene he's in as a hunch-backed gangster in some unnamed metropolis of 1930s gangsters. Maddonna plays the kind of person she'd probably play best, Breathless Mahoney, a nightclub singer and femme fatale with her own little agenda going. Gleanne Headly is Tracy's tough-talking, fiercely independent long-time girlfrined. And then there's The Kid, a funny little street urchin Tracy takes in, who models himself after his surrogate father, and saves Tracy when the detective has accepted his fate of being blown up.
The supporting players are a Who's Who of character actors. Charles Durning is the chief of police. Dick Van Dyke is the District Attorney, who's bribed by Big Boy's goons to keep him on the streets. Dustin Hoffman has a humorous turn as Mumbles, the snitch whose dialect is so indecipherable the cops can't make head nor tail of what he has to say. R.G. Armstrong is Pruneface, one of the rival gangsters Big Boy forms a special allegiance to in order to create a network of crime spreading throughout the whole city. Mandy Patinkin is 88 Keys, the piano player for Breathless's show. Paul Sorvino plays Lips Manlis, Breathless's former benefactor until Big Boy gives him "the Bath." James Caan wears relatively little make-up in his performance as the only gangster who won't go along with Big Boy's grand plan. William Forsythe and Ed O'Ross are Big Boy's enforcers, Flattop and Itchy.
This movie retains all of the corn of the comic strip, plus it is full of vibrant colors. Almost all the suits are elaborate in blues and greens and yellows and reds. All the colors of the rainbow are found in this movie--and then some! The matte paintings that are used truly realize this world as two-dimensional, only acted in three-dimensional sets. The humor is plentiful. Al Pacino fills the shoes of his character like no other character he's played before or since. Big Boy is kind of crazy, and kind of self-pitying. He's an eccentric little man who takes pride in quoting our Founding Fathers and likening himself to great political leaders. The man with the plan, always looking for the smartest way to do business.
This is an excellent modern noir, made all the more harrowing by the fact
that it was based on incidents that occurred in rural Pennsylvania in the
summer of 1978. Sean and Chris Penn play Brad and Tommy Whitewood, living
with their mother and her boyfriend in a ramshackle house in Pennsylvania.
They are strung out on drugs half the time and can't find employment. After
a fight with his mother's boyfriend, Brad goes to live with his father, Brad
Whitewood Sr., played perfectly by Christopher Walken as a rural country
hick. Walken heads a gang of thieves comprised of his two brothers and a
couple of buddies. Tracey Walter, as his psychotic loser brother Patch, is
particularly notable. Brad Jr. and Tommy try and prove themselves by
organizing friends to steal tractors for their father. Mostly they're just a
bunch of punks who don't want to find real work, so Whitewood's gang seems
like an easy, exciting way of making money.
Brad Jr. is also in love with Terry, played by Mary Stuart Masterson in her debut. She's pretty, young, and innocent. And while she has no problem with the fact that he's making his money by illegal means, his father grows to find her bothersom.
Things take a turn for the worse when Brad Jr. goes out for his first real job with his father's gang. After pulling off the job, they all celebrate, where they see a former gang-member and known snitch, Lester talking to a police detective. They take Lester for one last ride, where he tells them about a committee organized to investigate Witewood. It may be nothing, and Brad Jr. watches, horrified, as they kill Lester.
Later on Brad Jr. is arrested during a tractor theft, and is held in the hopes he'll break, and he almost doesn't. When he finally does spill, his father starts eliminating everyone who could testify...everyone.
Christopher Walken owns this movie as the gang leader. He's first introduced as a nice enough guy who just happens to be a criminal. Still, he doesn't look any worse than his own sons as far as morality is concerned. His country bumpkin persona works well with some clever bits of dialogue. James Foley creates an excellent noir set among the cornfields of Pennsylvania, away from the dark city streets, where such trappings are usually found. It is a suspenser that ranks with the best of the decade.
I don't know what to really say about this show. I loved the adds for it,
and I'm a sucker for gangster movies and the like. I never would have
pictured David Paymer as a mob boss, but he does a fine job. I felt
like--and this is just after watching one episode--the mob syndicate
of the show has yet to fully develop its characters into three-dimensional
people, unlike the FBI, who seem much more real so far. I really hope this
doesn't become a kind of cops-and-robbers thing, following two opposite
sides, yet always making you want the "good guys" to win, and bring down
I would have never figured Richmond, Virginia for the setting of a long, drawn-out mob sting operation, but I like the idea for a change. Rather than the cold streets of New York or Chicago, or flashy environs of, say, Miami, they put a bunch of syndicate crooks in one-time capital of the Confederate States.
So far, while in pursuit of a low-level mob affiliate, an FBI agent exchanges shots with the crook and both are killed, right in front of the agent's partner. A young widow has just graduated Quantico, all in an effort to eventually make it to anti-terrorism and avenge the death of her husband in the Pentagon of 9-11. She's about to fill the shoes left behind by the afore-mentioned dead agent. Two agents inform a petty crack dealer his life may be in danger because of a tape taken from four days prior, when Malloy (Paymer) interrogated a man, beating him savagely with a lead pipe, learned he worked for the crack dealer, "Crazy Jazz," dealing drugs to Malloy's nephew, Jimmy. (The scene is probably the reason there's a "Viewer Discretion Advised" on this show.) Later on, newly recruited ex-con Roy, in a mad dash, shoots Crazy Jazz, threatens his buddy, and kills an innocent bystander, much to the chagrin of Malloy, and his lieutenant, Donovan Stubbin, who stood by as his friend went nuts. But apparently Roy is actually undercover, and it was all just a way of getting the dealer into Witness Protection.
The show definitely has potential, but only time (and ratings) can tell.
It is kind of creepy how closely Christopher Plummer mimics Mike Wallace.
Not that they look terribly similar, but he truly embodies the veteran "60
Minutes" reporter in a terrific performance, and he's just the icing on the
Russel Crowe, delivering another riveting performance (and Oscar-nominated) is Jeffrey Wigand, a scientist recently fired from the tobacco company he worked at because he figured out that nicotine is indeed addictive, while the company's official stance on the subject is otherwise. Crowe, with white hair and makeup, looks like hes in his fifties, but he was really only about 34. Honestly, I often forget just how young he is given his roles.
Al Pacino delivers the standard Pacino acting job as Lowell Bergman, the former "60 Minutes" producer who wants Wigand to be a whistle-blower. He understands that Wigand is being threatened, but he doesn't anticipate CBS not wanting to air the interview. This puts Wigand in danger, and destroys his family life in the process. Pacino doesn't really look or sound anything like the real Lowell Bergman, but his acting talent works for the movie anyway.
Michael Mann achieves another triumph with this fact-based account of recent history. He displays what some corporations will do to keep people quiet, and how network politics can ruin a life.
Everything about this movie clicks. I haven't read the book yet, so I
know to call it "faithful," but I admire the movie for what it offers on
it's own. It looked much better in theaters, where the spectacle of a man
coming in on a hot-air balloon was a memorable moment unto itself, but
fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed to bring you into the action,
the story is so multilayered that you need to see it again (or read the
book) to catch everything.
The performances from Guy Pearce's diabolical role as Mondego, Jim Caviezel's not particularly stunning yet honest portrayal of Edmond Dantes, to the cameo of Michael Wincott as the sadistic warden of the Chateau D'If, and Luis Guzman's somewhat humorous performance--each is done with just enough to keep the story going. Kevin Reynolds, who's most famous previous movie was "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," has, in my opinion, eclipsed his previous success with a movie totally lacking in any modern-day special effects, instead opting to tell a story in the style of the old Errol Flynn and Robert Donat movies of the 1930s.
I like to watch good fencing every now and then, and this movie combines enough of that, political intrigue, period settings and history, and fine performances to set the scene for a great swashbuckler.
For people who enjoy action at the expense of logic, you can't do much
better than this ridiculous flick about an amnesiac teacher in a small
Pannsylvania town who discovers she's a CIA assassin.
Geena Davis plays two very different characters. Samantha Caine is the sweet, confused, amnesiac mother of an eight-year-old girl named Caitlin. She lives with her boyfriend (Tom Amandes) and is a member of the local PTA. Charlie Baltimore is a self-loathing killer who cusses like a sailer and even uses sex as a weapon. Sam makes an uneasy transformation into Charlie as she begins to attract the attention of some corrupt government agents.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Mitch Hennessey, a sleazy, wisecracking private dick who is hired by Samantha, nicknamed "Amnesia Chick", to help her find her past. Jackson is a great source of comic relief. This is not his best role, but I think it's probably his funniest.
Craig Bierko is the main bad guy, Timothy, a former target of Charlie's who has been recruited by the very agency she used to work for, due to budget cuts in intelligence.
This is where the plot shows its age. In a scene at the White House, the President tells the CIA director and Charlie's boss, Leland Perkins, among others, that their money is in health care. And this is the whole basis of the bad guys' plan. Perkins and Timothy are going to kill 4000 people in Buffalo, NY, and blame a frozen Arab man for it, to get funding for more intelligence. Charlie was a relic of the Cold War, and they have no use for her now. The Bush Administration now is so different that such a plan wouldn't be relevant. Healthcare is already a secondary prospect to intelligence and war.
The cast includes Brian Cox as Charlie's mentor. He would later go on to star in a similarly themed, but much more serious movie, "The Bourne Identity," although Ward Abbott was a politician, not a man of action. David Morse is also featured as one of Charlie's targets Samantha mistakes for her fiancé. Neither of these actors last very long in the movie, it moves too briskly for that. The two-hour running time blows by thanks to the break-neck pacing.
Renny Harlin is often cited as one of the worst directors of big-budget action-fests working today. That may be true, so maybe it's Shane Black's script that saves things. Black is perhaps the best writer of action films. "Lethal Weapon" turned into the most successful cop-buddy franchise, I think, in history, with four movies to its credit. Black knows how to give the audience non-stop action and also a few chuckles. Here is probably his most fun, least serious effort, and Harlin complements that by never taking things seriously.
Interested in action and style with fun, believable characters in outrageous situations? This is for you. It ain't "Casablanca," but it sure ain't as shallow as James Bond (no offense to the 007 franchise).
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