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Life of Crime (2013)
This Crime Pays with Laughs and 70's Style
Life of Crime is a wonderful, quirky little gem from writer Elmore Leonard who specialized in off-beat characters, fast moving plots and catchy dialogue. The film doesn't feature explosions or car chases but, what it does have are a stable of terrific characters colorfully brought to life by a veteran cast of actors in Tim Robbins, Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def and John Hawkes.
Director Daniel Schecter who also adapted the screenplay has done a great job pulling this film together and highlighting all of the wonderful 1970's nuances into a wonderful pastiche. Life of Crime based on Leonard's novel Switch is a solid adaption and perhaps the best representation of the characters and mood Leonard creates in his books. The action has a methodical pace, but, it is never boring.
The plot is simple but, absorbing due to the strong performances by the leads as well as some very comical character turns from Will Forte as a Country Club tennis pro with an interest in Aniston. Mark Boone Junior is both menacing and memorable as a Natzi sympathizer with an armory of guns and rifles at hand's reach. Isla Fisher is terrific as a clever mistress whose machinations just might pay off.
The humor is dry and there are several good laughs throughout. Overall Life of Crime is a well-directed, tightly constructed and entertaining caper film that packs some suspense , humor and solid performances into it's compact 90 minute running time.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006)
Bone-Headed Plot, Bad Movie
This is simply an atrocious film. How people are rating this so high is incomprehensible. The acting is awful. There is zero chemistry between the leads, the killer was as scary as a toad and had the delivery of a really bad voice-over actor on a dubbed film. Hockey executives are getting offed by a disgruntled former player. The writer and director should have been sent to the Penalty Box for this weak effort. There is absolutely no suspense or intrigue, the characters are boring and there isn't a single twist. There are so many superior French thrillers like Tell No One, Read My Lips and Point Blank, Bon Cop Bad Cop however, isn't in the same stratosphere. Stay far away from this mess or watch a hockey game it will be much more exciting than this terrible film.
The Three Musketeers (1973)
This Musketeers Film is the One for All!
This is the quintessential telling of this rollicking, adventure tale. Director Richard Lester does a marvelous job of capturing the hilarity and thrills of this swashbuckling story. George MacDonald Fraser's screenplay delivers the essence of Dumas' story and retains many of the key characters and pertinent situations.
The production values are top notch with gorgeous scenery and sparkling costumes. The casting is superb with Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed and Frank Finlay as the three musketeers. Michael York with his matinée idol good looks does a bang up job as the bumbling country boy D'artagnan who is equal parts daring and chivalrous.
The heavy's here are delectable with Christoper Lee at his dastardly best as Rochefort the evil henchman of the equally wicked and cunning Cardinal Richilieu played to the hilt by Charlton Heston. Roy Kinnear is delightfully droll as D'artagnan's servant planchet. Raquel Welch the iconic 70's pin up is both gorgeous and absurdly humorous to boot. This is by far one of the hallmark performances in Ms. Welche's cannon of work.
There are numerous beautifully staged sword fighting sequences. There are also many authentic looking scenes of 17th century France both among the peasant class and the nobility that give this films a rousing, full bodied atmosphere and bristle. This is a superb entertainment, with high comedy, deft thrills and top drawer talent, this Three Musketeers is the One for All!
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Grand Daddy of Disaster Films and an Epic Adventure
Without question one of the all-time, most exciting adventure films ever made. What stands out particularly about this classic is that it was made long before things such as blue screen and computer graphic imaging reared their ugly heads. All of the startling and captivating effects in this film were accomplished by actually turning sets upset down, outlandish stunts and highly creative production design that gives the audience a first hand feeling of an upside down ocean liner bobbing on the high seas.
The POSEIDON ADVENTURE is the grand daddy of the disaster film. In addition to it's eye popping effects it sails on the merits of its first rate cast. Jack Albertson and Shelly Winters are perfect foils as a retired married couple, Red Buttons exudes pathos and great likability as the shy loner, Ernest Borgnine unleashes bravado and fury as the stubborn New York cop who continues to oppose preacher Gene Hackman every step of the way throughout their escape attempt to the ships' hull.
Hackman is also very strong playing a role completely opposite of the no holds barred Poppeye Doyle in the FRENCH CONNECTION however with equal fervor and determination as he seeks to deliver his desperate band to safety. A young Pamelue Sue Martin pines for Hackman while her younger brother Eric Shea provides some timely laughs along with ship board knowledge.
Director Ronald Neame does a superb job navigating his actors around the real ship the Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California however, through camera effects the ship appears to be cruising the far reaches of the ocean. Neame creates terrific suspense and packages a wonderful twisty, adventure.
The POSEIDON ADVENTURE has developed cult status because it is such a thrilling and exciting story brought to life by gut wrenching special effects, top notch performances and a wonderful story from writer Paul Galico's original novel. Don't miss it.
Hard Rain (1998)
Suburban Poseidon Adventure - Action Reigns
Finally caught this film on cable and thoroughly enjoyed it. A rain drenched town flooded to the gills with Christian Slater as an armored truck guard protecting three million from a band of outlaws. This is a suburban Poseidon Adventure with many superb set pieces that continuously entertains and includes some great moments of suspense. Watching bandits blaze through high school corridors on Jet Skis in pursuit of Slater was a great highlight. In an age before CGI dominated every film it is refreshing to see practical - not animated effects with actual water flooding the roads, homes, alleys and buildings of a small Indiana town.
Slater and Minnie Driver have a nice chemistry and Morgan Freeman always strong turns in a top notch performance. Some nice cameo appearance from Betty White and Richard Dysart liven up the action and add a few chuckles along the way. There are few adventure films today that provide the same escapist entertainment as Hard Rain. Put this one in your queue, it's solid entertainment where action and suspense reign hard.
Cassandra's Dream (2007)
Terrific Suspense Yarn from Woody
Woody Allen's latest foray into the thriller realm is an extremely compelling story of family ties and murder. Before the murderous game is afoot Allen spends a good deal of time setting up his characters with multiple layers and nuances.
Two regular working class English brothers each hoping their rich uncle will help them out financially must first complete a murderous task. What makes this film so intense and highly suspenseful is that Woody Allen has created a pair of very believable characters in Ian (Ewan McGregor) and Terry (Colin Farrell). As they conptemplate the dreadful task of murdering an associate of their uncle, we are sucked right into this frightening dilemma with them.
Allen's movie is so strong because it examines the daunting task and repercussions accepted by the brothers. This is not some standard Hollywood, glossed over, thriller where people are knocked off and life goes on. Woody Allen ratchets up the tension in every frame and his film is so exciting because it is so very real. McGregor and Farrell turn in some terrific performances as the two brothers.
McGregor is in top form as the manipulative, deal maker. Without question Colin Farrell has turned in his most memorable performance yet. Farrell's character Terry is a very gentle soul, a complete opposite from anything he has ever played, a stellar performance that is both beautiful and tragic. Cassandra's Dream is a very entertaining film, it will make you think, it will make you squirm and it will stay with you long after you've exited the theater.
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
One of the All-Time Comedy Classics
One of the funniest comic romps to ever hit the silver screen. Ryan O'Neal is perfect as Howard Bannister; a bumbling musicologist who cannot seem to elude the precocious, disaster prone clutches of Barbara Streisand's Judy Maxwell.
Streisand really sparkles here and is a riotous foil to O'Neal. Madeline Kahn, in her feature debut, is flat out hysterical as Howard's overbearing fiancée Eunice. This is a classic, screwball farce where four mixed up plaid bags are the ingredients to side-splitting mayhem.
Director Peter Bogdanovich does an excellent job of serving up an array of perfectly timed comic set pieces which his troupe of seasoned character actors and stars deliver with lunatic aplomb. There are non- stop bits, one liners, a hilarious hotel hallway scene with slamming doors, zany slapstick fights and a comic crescendo which features the most masterful and madcap chase sequence up, over and around the hills, steps and streets of San Francisco.
This is a tremendously funny film that will keep you giggling continuously whether it is your first viewing or your twenty-first.
À bout portant (2010)
Highly Charged Suspense Thriller
Point Blank is an adrenaline charged thriller that will keep you riveted to the screen. Fred Cavaye's latest film pits Samuel Pierret,a male nurse and everyman, into a twisted crime plot. Pierret is propelled into the action when his wife is kidnapped and he must deliver an injured patient to her captors to assure her safety.
The film starts out with an epic foot chase and barely catches its breath before sending its primary characters hurtling across Paris and through the underground. This is guerrilla film making from the old school with the expertise and daring of 70's smashes like The French Connection.
French filmmakers continue to lens spectacular thrillers in the spirit of classic American movies while the US has simply lost its way. The action here is taut and bristling with suspense. There are no ultra- flashy stunts and massive conflagrations just a tight plot and edge of your seat thrills that result from the fast paced nature of story.
The acting here is also top notch. Fred Cavaye is a director to watch his earlier film Anything For Her was remade successfully into The Next Three Days. Cavaye who also scripted the film with Guillaume Lemans, has a great sense about what works and how to generate excitement. This film is not weighed down by useless romance scenes and fake looking cgi effects. Point Blank is a fast moving, well written story that will entertain you.
Tower Heist (2011)
Crowd-Pleasing Comedy Caper Film Delivers the Goods
Brett Ratner's latest is a finely crafted, comedy caper that moves swiftly and elicits great performances from a star studded cast. The story unfolds gradually as we meet a quartet of employees who have been swindled by arrogant building owner Arthur Shaw via a scheme reminiscent of Bernie Madoff.
These four horseman with Stiller as their ring leader decide to pull off an improbable heist. The timely plot mirrors the harsh current economic climate. Alda is especially strong in his arrogant portrayal as Arthur Shaw the owner of the Tower. He nails his role with a relentless, wicked ire in a world where money is king and the working man is a replaceable commodity.
Ben Stiller, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck feature great comic chemistry as the rag tag Robin Hood team. But, it is a bravura comedic performance from Eddie Murphy that brings the biggest laughs as the wise cracking, two-bit hood Slide, a character reminiscent of Murphy's classic roles in Beverly Hills Cop. It is so refreshing to see Murphy back again flexing his comic muscles; the story truly soars when he is on screen.
Once the planning stages heat up the laughs come in a rapid fire succession that kept the audience roaring. There are several very funny sequences with Murphy teaching his robbery apprentices. Tower Heist has the feel of the some of the classic caper films from the 70's like The Hot Rock,The Anderson Tapes and The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3. There's also a nifty nod to the French Connection in a short speeding car sequence filmed below an elevated train track.
What works is a nice combination of drama and grand belly laughs. The straight edge in the early portion helps to set up the latter robbery and the laughs are that much more cathartic because the stakes are higher. The film has a really nice balance between laugh out loud comedy and dramatic tension.
There are some twists and turns and a wild stunt near the end that is so outlandish we buy into it because the film wins us over with its finely drawn characters and Robin Hood and his Merry Doormen theme. Some seamless cgi makes the latter stunt truly sing. Tea Leoni turns in a strong performance as a no nonsense FBI agent and character actor Stephen Henderson is thoroughly engaging as the Lester the doorman. Christophe Becks' smooth, jazzy soundtrack has just the right tempo and feel to it and helps the film hurtle along with a suave, slick style.
Ratner has done a terrific job pacing this film and captures the grandeur and sizzle of New York City with some sweeping aerial shots that really set the mood. The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is such quintessential New York occasion juxtaposed with an adrenaline charged robbery sequence and plenty of humor. Tower Heist is every inch a crowd pleaser, a smartly written revenge tale and one of the best films of its kind lately.
Cold Weather (2010)
If you enjoy watching a series of long, protracted establishing shots with very little story then this is the film for you. For the first forty minutes it's as if the director waltzed away from the camera and forgot to yell cut, as the same screen image continues into a oblivion. These drawn out shots happen frequently during the film and it is about as entertaining as staring at a wall for five minutes.
Eventually, a mystery presents itself when the main character's ex-girlfriend disappears. There is one specific series of clues he follows involving a set of numbers. At first glance it appears to be a clever twist but, on reflection it is such an obscure reference and does not relate to any of the personality traits of the characters.
The rest of the amateur detective work is rather pedestrian, there are really no surprises. The acting here isn't bad, it's just the script which doesn't contain any surprises or twists.
The mystery portion ends fairly abruptly and by that time if you're not fast asleep you will be wondering why you ended up watching this film. There are some nice establishing shots, of waterfalls Oregon scenery but, otherwise an utter bore. How the critics gave this good reviews I will never know. Perhaps they all fell asleep as well and dreamed they saw a good film.