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The Killing Fields (1984)
Heart wrenching and compelling
"The Killing Fields" is something I recommend every person watch. The Khmer Rouge were one of the most evil organizations on the face of the Earth and without a doubt committed the worst acts of genocide in my lifetime. Even worse than Bosnia and Rwanda. Original estimates put the death toll at one million, later the number was upgraded to two million. The Khmer Rouge were not sub-human, that implies they had some humanistic qualities. They were in-human. To do those sorts of things you must have no heart, no feelings, and no soul. To them, human life is not cheap. It is worthless. And to allow these vermin to carry out this program of degradation and mass slaughter gives the whole world a black eye, not just America. America was involved in Vietnam, which spilled over into Cambodia. We were "responsible" for that, although it most likely would have happened anyway. To allow it to continue unabated for the next decade was the real crime. I suppose the real question here is "Should America be the world's policeman? And if not, who will be?" The easy answer is "No. The U.N. is the world's policeman." But the U.N. has proved itself time and time again to be unreliable at best and at worst completely useless. I honestly don't know if the U.S. has the right to interfere in foreign affairs. But if the U.S. doesn't do something, no other country will. And these kind of atrocities will continue in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere until the world ends.
At Close Range (1986)
Wow. A scary and chilling ride.
This is one hell of a true story. Almost too wicked to be true yet true it is. Sean Penn is electric in At Close Range. Penn plays the role with the attitude of a 16 year old, who thinks he's smarter than his dad. He isn't. This becomes obvious about 1/3 thru the film. Christopher Walken is the Main Attraction here make no mistake about that. God he was a perfect choice and I mean perfect. Walken's Big Brad Whitewood is very clever, alluring, charming, and extremely deadly. Penn's Little Brad is like the apple who fell from the tree and rolled down the hill it was on for a quarter of a mile. Walken has a crew that is capable and proficient. Penn has a crew that couldn't even complete high school. Dim bulbs is the term I would use. Walken's men are the suburban versions of Scorsese's Goodfellas. They don't look like thieves, they look like killers who are also professional thieves. At Close Range starts off looking like your basic crime film and then escalates to Walken and his gang committing acts of unspeakable evil that some criminals wouldn't even contemplate. All of these guys were bad bad bad people and whom no one would be sorry to see go to prison for the rest of their lives. Why Walken has not given an Academy Award nomination for this I am still trying to reason out. Perhaps because he was given one for the Deer Hunter I suppose but still one was in order. When you see Walken's face come out of the dark of night into his house's screen door and see Penn, he doesn't show shock. He doesn't show fear. He doesn't even blink. That is the mark of a true master criminal and/or psychotic. He gives him no emotion whatsoever then slowly the Cheshire Cat smile and invites him right in. You can't buy that kind of sinister inhumanity. You have to be born with it or learn it for yourself. And what Big Brad Whitewood did defies belief. Certainly without question one of the best films of 1986.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
But it leaves you asking at the end "So what?" Really, so what? The acting was good, the cast was spectacular, and even the script was fine (even if it was loaded with too many curse words). I just feel that a film should never leave you thinking that question. A film should never ever ever do that to the viewer. Which to me is interesting only from the standpoint that any Mamet film I've ever watched has never done that. Not House of Games, not Heist, not even Spartan. So why this film? I suppose it's due to the fact that the audience wants some kind of justice for these dreary souls and they don't get any. Even Spacey's character, who is a jackass by the way, isn't taken down for his bad managing skills and complete lack of salesmanship knowledge. At least give us Baldwin's character's head or somebody halfway important. The feeling that all of these guys were monumental losers with the possible exception of Pacino's Romo just weighed you down and gave you a mixed feeling of disgust and shame. If this is what being a salesman is cracked up to be, then I'm relieved I have never been one.
Hard Times (1975)
A worthwhile picture
Bronson was a legend to many people all over the world, including myself. And I have always harbored warm feelings for Coburn, perhaps I see a lot of my personality mirrored in his acting. The fights were terrific. I spent the whole film waiting for the big brawl that we knew was going to take place. It was well worth the wait. And to be honest, I wasn't sure what was gonna happen there. That aura of the unknown did a nice job of capping off the ending. I loved Bronson, and I loved Coburn. And I was very sad when they both passed away. They were two talented actors and good men. I've never heard an unkind word towards either. Bronson's wife has a small and relatively insignificant role as well. She was beautiful.
Above the Law (1988)
The Best film Seagal ever did
The whole CIA thing was magic. No one had ever done a story like this on them before. Well not a believable one anyway. Henry Silva was what gave "Above the Law" acting legitimacy. His character Kurt Zagon easily makes my list of top ten favorite villains. Henry Silva was 60 years old at the time. I hope I look that good when I'm 60. Wow. A guy I knew once said when he first heard Silva say "I'm gonna teach you never, never to fu@k with my opium!" that he had only one reaction. "Whoa." That sums it up better than anything I could have come up with. This is the side of the CIA that nobody publicly wants to talk about. Wars, drug dealing, assassination, torture, illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and the epic sized criminal conspiracy that naturally accompanies it. If anyone can be truly be above the law, these guys are it. No oversight, no accountability, and no rules. Not the kind of individuals you want to mess with. Unless you are Steven Seagal. Lol.
The Juror (1996)
A Mixed Bag
A compelling story and yet the camera work makes it seem like a made for TV movie. A good cast yet some cheesy acting and ridiculous situations. Alec Baldwin is believable and strong while Demi Moore is not. What makes this film worth watching is the surprise ending which did come as a little bit of a shock. That and the solid Italian-American actors who signed on to make The Juror realistic. Baldwin's character is a sick deranged bastard and any crime family who would even consider recruiting a guy like that gets what they deserve. I really thought they had him towards the end, and in real life, they would have. The Juror had it's moments but isn't what I would call a barn burner, watchable at best.
Road House (1989)
It helped cement Patrick Swayze as a star (after Dirty Dancing that is) but it wasn't what I would call the motion picture event of the decade. It mostly involved Swayze beating the crap out of a ton of guys and saying something genuinely funny before or afterwards. Sam Elliott did a wonderful job of assisting with ass kicking and the humorous lines. And yes, before I neglect to mention it, Kelly Lynch is a gorgeous woman. A so so actress with a beautiful face and body. I wouldn't give her an Oscar but I'd marry her so it all works out. Ben Gazzara is the only one in Roadhouse who appears to be acting. He is convincing as the filthy rich jerk who runs the town.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
A Good and Entertaining Eastwood Production
Clint Eastwood, like John Wayne before him, always gave the audience what they wanted. But in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot his character shows you a deeper side to his character than what we had seen before. He becomes attached to his friend and partner Lightfoot, played brilliantly by Jeff Bridges. Bridges has always been one of my favorite actors due to this performance. The bond between the two men is evidenced by the last scene they are together in. It was one of the most emotional scenes I have watched. And George Kennedy was terrific. His character, Red Leary, is unlikeable, mean, and ultimately villainous, yet one comment me makes in the film gives him the mystique of actual honesty and shows you that Eastwood's character is not as bad as he would have you believe he is. If there is a moral to this film it would be that there is a price to pay for everything and even when you win you can still lose something. It's a classic Eastwood and a fun ride.
American Gangster (2007)
A Great, Great Gangster Film
No Oscar nominations for Washington, Crowe, or Scott? Are you fricking kidding me? And I was becoming convinced that the Academy had turned things around with its celebration of Martin Scorsese's The Departed. Washington's performance of Frank Lucas is twice as good as his portrayal of Alonzo in Training Day. What are we getting tired of phenomenal performances? This is Crowe's best work since "A Beautiful Mind" people. And what about Ridley Scott, he hasn't been right on the money like this since Gladiator. And what does this film get? Two nominations. Not eight, not five, two. This is the film to buy this year, alongside We Own the Night and Gone Baby Gone. I admit, I don't love every single film that Denzel has done but I can't ever question the quality of his performances, even if I didn't like that particular picture. But I loved this one. I loved him, I loved the fact that it was a real story, and I loved how it was told. You can't expect any more from a film than that. As far as I'm concerned, this was the best film of 2008.
Wall Street (1987)
The film that defined a generation
It was the 80's. It was my generation. Well, close enough. Most motion pictures cannot boast this. And very few leave such a lasting impression twenty years later. Michael Douglas made this film. It was his greatest achievement. Fatal Attraction made him the most money, but Wall Street gave him the status as a leading actor that he enjoyed afterwards. Gordon Gekko represents everything a man secretly wants to be. Rich, successful, handsome, powerful, and admired. The foundation behind his persona is built on deception, lies, backstabbing, manipulation, and naturally, greed. Insatible, all consuming, greed. What this film is really showing you, at its most purest form, is a deal with the Devil. Bud Fox is Faust, and Gordon Gekko is the Devil. Not literally, but figuratively. The deal is made right there in Gekko's limo. Give me your full commitment(his soul), and I will give you fantastic wealth beyond your wildest dreams. Fox's flaw is that he believes he can be an equal partner with Gekko. He jumps at this one chance after he has thought about the serious consequences and still does it. But you cannot be "partners" with the "Devil". It just doesn't work that way and never will. Gekko's flaw is that he believes he can screw everyone in sight and get away with it. They are both ultimately wrong. This film was made as a cautionary tale concerning the excesses of the Eighties. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And greed will be our downfall. Oliver Stone was right on both counts. Americans know this but still haven't really learned it. Greed is not good.
Mr. Brooks (2007)
Not what's expected
And I mean that in a good way. I had a feeling that this was going to be another Silence of the Lambs or something of that nature. Wrong. It was much better. I will not give any major plot details up here. I will say it's very worth watching. Costner's acting career was seeming to "dwindle" in a sense but this in my mind was a comeback. Quite a comeback. And whoever decided to put William Hurt next to him should get a salary bonus. These two guys gelled excellently. I as a rule do not enjoy serial killer films this was a notch above anything i've seen recently of that genre. Costner's character was both remarkable and remarkably devious. What a combination. Costner made a wise decision to sign up. Even Demi Moore didn't disappoint. Her career has received a shot in the arm too. I will watch the sequels if they are made. Well done!
A very good adaptation
The best since "The Shining"? Just might be. I read that this is the only selection that Stephen King has re-read that scared him. Watching the film, I can see why. It is a horror story that makes your blood run cold. Samuel L. Jackson's part is small but effective. He has that air of respectability and the demeanor of a guy who sits in a large expensively furnished office of a major hotel and perhaps, might have a fondness for sending postcards. Jackson was a nice touch. Cusack's character is believable, likable, and of course, stubborn as a donkey. The third trait gets his rear end into serious trouble. We can all exhibit that sort of mulishness at times and knowing when to listen to someone can be the best way to prevent disaster. If he had this knowledge, there would be no story. And everyone loves a good story. I'm also looking forward to "The Mist" and "Pet Sematary". King's bucks just keep rolling in and I can't say he doesn't earn them.
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
You won't regret watching this
The first thing I have to say is the cast rocked. Harris and Freeman were top picks. Casey Affleck manages his part well. Yes, he's not a leading man, but his character didn't need a Russell Crowe type actor to play him. The storyline is good, even if the characters come off a tad cartoonish. The same could have been said for "Mystic River" if the acting hadn't been so spot on. This film's plot is the reverse of "Mystic River". In Mystic River, the victims become the purpetrators. In "Gone Baby Gone", the purpetrators are ultimately, the victims. These two films share a common theme. There are no good guys. There are no clear cut distinctions between good and evil. Right and wrong become viewpoints rather than right and wrong. And isn't this the "truth" of life I mean the real truth? The kind of truth they don't teach in schools or churches. Ben Affleck hits paydirt. Maybe his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will be made after all.
Mona Lisa (1986)
Hoskins finest performance
Bob Hoskins most likely should have won the Oscar for Mona Lisa, a crime love story if such a thing exists. One of the three best British crime films, the other two being "Get Carter" and "The Long Good Friday". Hoskins is George, a getaway driver fresh out of prison who agrees to be a driver for a call girl. Michael Caine has a smaller yet noteworthy appearance as the mob boss Mortwell. I personally would have liked to seen Caine have more screen time in this but if he had, he might have upstaged the two leading parts and therefore would have been a bad idea as far as the story goes. The viewer likes George, admires George, and some more than others know in a way, what its like to be George. We identify with his plight having been in similar situations albeit with less danger involved. This film does leave the audience with a few unanswered questions. I believe I know what those answers are. I am not one hundred percent sure that I am correct. But I don't think it's important to know all the answers here. The situations are clearly defined and what happens is no mystery either. I will say that the ending is typical of films made in that decade and the decade previous to it. I can't say I will watch this one regularly but it is remarkable.
The Long Good Friday (1980)
The best London gangster movie ever
Watching it for the first time I had no doubt why it was listed as number six on the top 50 best British films of all time. This was Bob Hoskins most dynamic and biggest role as Harold Shand. Helen Mirren does a fine job as his second wife and Eddie Constantine is strong as well as the American Don. This film has a complicated and shrouded plot that makes it deeply engrossing to watch and shocking as it gradually unfolds. I had to run out and buy this one pronto. Thank God they did not dub Hoskin's voice and completely ruin the movie. A extremely successful hit in the U.S. and a monument to good film making. And what an ending!
We Own the Night (2007)
Best movie I've seen this year (so far)
The script was tight, the casting was perfect, and the action was thrilling. One of the people I was watching the film with said especially the car chase scene. It was the best part. I'm going to wait until I've seen two other films to be released shortly before I make the announcement that it was indeed my pick for best film of 2007. But I will say it was dynamite. Phoenix was the best choice for the main character, an "I'm certainly not a nice guy but I'm not a drug dealing murderer either" role. The logical pick today for this type of hero. Walhberg surprised me by undertoning his character, a direct reversal of his "Sergeant Dignam" in The Departed. Good plan and it worked well. Duvall pulls his role off nicely too by giving a sincere performance rather than coming off corny. A real emotional and deep experience not to be found in most of the movies released recently. Look for it to be nominated for awards and maybe even snag a few.
10th & Wolf (2006)
Pleasantly surprised at the intensity of this sleeper
It had a legitimate cast, though I was a little disappointed in the screen time of some of the actors and you can figure out which ones I'm referring to if you have also watched the film. It seemed to take some time in getting around to the heart of the story, particularly at the beginning. And there may have been some parts that did not need to be included, but it was still more than watchable, notably in large part to Giovanni Ribisi. He is more believable in this role than most people including myself would give him credit for. It is Ribisi, in fact, who is the star of this film, not Madsen. Madsen just has the "central character" role. Yet Madsen I felt did not screw up his part. He just wasn't interesting. His character screamed one-dimensional and static just like most "good guy" roles do. He wasn't even a good guy. There weren't any good guys here. Not him, not La Cosa Nostra, not the Sicilian and his Mafia, and certainly not the FBI agents. The Feds were, after the Sicilian Riggio naturally, the worst lying backstabbing scum of the show. And you know what? I didn't mind the fact that they were all evil. Because 90 percent of the human race is and the other 10 percent don't care enough to do anything about that fact. Now that's realism on the silver screen. The ending left me feeling satisfied and even a little sad which is not a bad thing. It must mean I actually cared about the characters. And yes, I'm buying this one. My only gripe is that it didn't get some large financial backing behind it and go wide release. But from Lion's Gate, that isn't too surprising. They lacked the bankroll to make "10th & Wolf" into a "Godfather" and that is a true pity. That being said, it is a decent picture.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
The best performance I have seen out of Piven
And the only reason why this film is getting 9 stars out of 10 from me instead of the full ten is because I wanted to see more of Jeremy Piven. God he is good and was the obvious yet smart choice for this role. Not to take away from everyone else they did a super job but this is Piven's moment of glory. The raw emotion coming out of this guy is unreal. This performance puts to rest once and for all any doubts I had as to whether he is a talented actor. He most certainly is. I wish every actor in Hollywood displayed the same kind of feeling and humanity that this guy does. The wild characters and a original storyline plus Piven make for one super film. The action is intense and Smokin' Aces doesn't disappoint. The ending is fitting enough and somewhat of a surprise I had another one going in my head even before settling into my chair. I don't recommend many new films out there but people see this one. Smokin' Aces is a blast and entertaining to the max.
Not as good as Suspiria
I own this film and I was not wowed. The gore and violence is repellent and the storyline mimics that of Suspiria. Suspiria, while the dubbing is bad and the soundtrack dreadfully repetitive, it's still thrilling and intense. Inferno is not as compelling or chilling. I can't say I'm ever going to view this one again. Perhaps but very doubtful. If I did yard sales, my copy could accidentally find its way into it. So in all fairness to you, I can't recommend watching it. Not even once. Save yourself some time and try another horror classic that has slipped under your radar. I still say the best one is "The Wolf Man" starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Claude Rains.
Get Carter (2000)
Worse remake ever? No way!
First things first, I want to clear something up. The critics are wrong again. Worst remake ever? Get serious. Not even close. Has any of this armchair experts bothered to watch the new "Stepford Wives" or "Planet of the Apes"? I can easily list two dozen remakes that sucked far far worse. With that out of the way, I want to say I liked Stallone he was a obvious choice and especially Mickey Rourke. Rourke had just the right mix of sleaze ball zen master attitude and macho coolness to pull it off. Caine was a perfect addition to the mix. Test audiences agreed. Rachel Leigh Cook was a tad weak but not bad. Same goes for the actress who played her mother. McGinley as Con McCarty was both funny and enjoyable. Loved his character the most. Even though it's not a loyal remake, it is a fun and hip remake.
Kiss of Death (1995)
Better film than most give it credit for
Everyone agrees that the casting was marque. And that it has great source material. But I feel it gets a bum rap with critics. And Nicolas Cage was exactly what the film needed. I thought so then and I think so now. Color, flash, and style. Something out of the ordinary to give it some desperately needed weight. And Cage makes weight. Literally. That is the strongest look I had seen since Stallone did "First Blood, Part II". Cage is a physical bull and it's impressive. I wouldn't have recognized him if I hadn't seen the trailer with his name on it beforehand. If you never saw this, see it. For no other reason than to be scared of Nic Cage. I was.
Kiss of Death (1947)
Victor Mature's best performance in his life
This movie terrified me something fierce as a child. A great deal of that fear came from watching Widmark. When I think of evil, even today, I see his face peering out from the backseat of a sedan. And yes, pushing the old lady in the wheelchair down the stairs. Note to all, Mature could act. Well. He proves it in Kiss of Death. His terror for his family's safety and his own life is very real and palpable. I can see why people list this movie in the top ten for film noir. It deserves the spot it gets. Right up there with "The Killers" 1946 version, "The Maltese Falcon", and "Key Largo". Worth watching and adding to your private collection.
Cop Land (1997)
My review is here almost ten years after watching Cop Land
I am going to watch this film again this weekend because I admit, it has been a very long time since I first saw it. But here is what I remember. The cast was perfect. Flawless. It was the best casting I had seen since Goodfellas. Stallone, DeNiro, Liotta, Keitel, all top drawer. No complaints there. Yes, the plot did have some bumps and rough spots in it (one must look hard to find a movie that does not) and I personally would have enjoyed some more action (I always do) but all in all I feel it was a much better film that most people give it credit for. Stallone will always be known as Rocky, and that is all well and good, but his acting and effort in this film was commendable. Liotta also shined brightly and Keitel has never disappointed me even when a movie he's in does. DeNiro most likely needed some more screen time but that certainly isn't his fault. I do recommend watching it, flaws and all.
The Departed (2006)
Saw it and absolutely loved it
Will buy it as soon as it hits the shelves at my local video retailer. Now for the movie. It became obvious very quickly why they chose Jack Nicholson (good choice by the way), it was not only because he is a huge name first rate actor (and he is) but because he gave the film the humor and antics that it so desperately needed to break up the drama, tension, and non stop killings. Wise move Mr. Scorsese. I am the first to admit, I am not a DiCaprio fan. But it's the best performance a director has ever gotten out of him thus far. Matt Damon is terrific, Ray Winstone was solid as a rock, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen both good picks, but I have to say I was a little disappointed in Mark Walberg as he struck me as being way too crass and obtuse even for a cop. His character was the only guy I was hoping was gonna get wasted and shoved down a drainpipe far more than Damon's or even Nicholson's character. That having been said, I look for "The Departed" to rake several nominations, and saints willing, some wins as well come Oscar time. Crime fans and drama lovers, flock to this film. I will most likely see it again before it leaves the big screen.
Best cop movie I've seen in the last 12 years
When you have three Academy Award Winners in one picture, it's destined to be terrific or downright terrible. This movie is terrific. The funny thing is I didn't realize how good it was until about four years later. Time has a way of blurring your memory and mine is more blurred than most. You can't forget this one however because it sticks in your head and won't come out. The cinematography is superb and the lines are, in several places, quite unique and memorable. I will always remember at the end, feeling Dormer's (Pacino) insomnia. Literally feeling it. And obviously, I've been there. I once went eight whole days without a night's sleep. Don't ask me how, but I did. And after that much sleeplessness, it begins to mess with you. I have only seen about ten minutes of the original film on which this film is based, not because I got bored and turned it off, but because I didn't realize what I was watching. If I had, I most certainly would have watched the whole thing. Robin Williams was an illogical but certainly credible, deserved, and welcome addition to this film, and anyone who says he plays something other than what he actually plays didn't pay close attention. He is always good for an unexpected performance. Do yourself a favor, study this film. Really study it. A true work of art if there ever was one on film.