Month: December 2013

Cop Land

Year: 1997
Directed By: James Mangold
Written By: James Mangold

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a Christmas present to myself.  I got a little carried away Christmas shopping online a couple of weeks ago and bought a few movies for myself for good measure. I had seen this movie for the first time recently and was thoroughly surprised by how much I liked it.  I remember when it came out and can’t figure out why it took me so long to see.  Nevertheless this is a really interesting story with a great cast, all of whom delivered excellent performances.

You can say what you want about Sylvester Stallone but I have always been a fan.  The thing I like most about this movie is that I think for the first time I watched him in a movie and was really impressed by his performance as an actor.  This role got him out of his comfort zone and for once he did something drastically different.  I thought it was a really compelling performance and gives us an idea of the potential Stallone had if he had ever branched out more. His career could easily be targeted for plenty of criticism but I grew up with many of his movies and some are dear to me.  I think he is often reaching too far in his efforts to stay in the lime light but I can’t help but admire him on some level.  He has really overcome quite a bit to be an actor and to enjoy the success he has achieved.  When Stallone was born he got stuck in the birthing canal and had to be pulled out by forceps.  In the effort to get him out the doctor accidentally caused paralysis to his face and within his mouth. It’s the reason Stallone has such a difficulty speaking and has that awkward movement with his mouth.  When he initially wrote the film Rocky he specifically wrote it with minimal dialogue from his character to attempt to mask the disability.  If I am not mistaken he has had many operations to try and fix the problem that met with moderate success.  He is capable of much more than he was forty years ago when he was working on the first Rocky. So whatever you think about Stallone keep in mind that the guy overcame quite a bit to get where he is today.

This movie came out as the Stallone/Schwarzenegger power years were becoming more and more distant in the past.  During the 80s and early 90s there was a time when these guys were on top of the world but by 1995 their time seemed to be over.  They have both made efforts to get back into the game over the past several years with some success but things will never be liked they used to be for these guys.  When Stallone made this movie he went against the norm.  He actually gained weight to play the part (40 pounds) and while he does have his moment in the end it’s still not a role that compares to all the other action roles he has played in the past.  He received great reviews for the role but Stallone has actually claimed that the role hurt his career because the weak box office results made it difficult for him to get parts for the next eight years.  I don’t think that is the case, his career was already dragging and in truth he always had his ups and downs.  Anytime Stallone had trouble in his acting career he just went back to the basics, doing another sequel for either Rocky or Rambo.  In the end that is what he did again as nine years after this film he went back to both franchises with a 6th and 4th film for each.  I happen to think Rocky Balboa was one of the worst movies I have ever seen but Rambo wasn’t as bad.  Stallone has found new success with the Expendables of late but the time for a movie like that has passed and I’m not down with those anymore.  As a lifelong fan of Stallone I take the guy for the good and bad but most of the good is long behind him now.  Personally I would like to see him accept his age and go after more roles like the one we saw in this film.  Of all of his films I literally think this was the best he ever did acting and believe that he is capable of doing it again.

While Stallone makes the easiest talking point for this movie there is plenty to be said about the film as well as the rest of the cast.  It’s a mob movie about cops and that’s an interesting dynamic.  Those charged with serving and protecting the rest of us are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard but sadly this is often not the case.  The men who are supposed to be the good guys are often in the position to be as bad as they want if they choose and plenty of them choose to do just that.  It’s a low paying and thankless job that makes the decision easy on men with low morals to begin with.  The cops we see in this film are as dirty as they come and they have all gathered together to live in the same neighborhood, Cop Land if you will.  They run the town themselves while the introverted sheriff is more than willing to turned a blind eye and what is really going on. The sheriff has had an unlucky life in which he was never able to accomplish what he really wanted.  He turns the blind eye because he wants so badly to be part of this group of men he oversees.  He had always wanted to be one of them but couldn’t pass the test due to his hearing disability.  They know what he wanted out of life and it gives them an opportunity to sweet talk him into anything they want simply by including him from time to time.  When the sheriff’s eyes are finally open he rises to his station in life and does the right thing against all odds.  It was a great role for Stallone and he did an excellent job playing it.  It’s really a pity he isn’t proud of it himself.

This is a star studded cast featuring many men regularly cast as mafia men playing the same type of part only in a blue uniform.  Robert De Niro checks in as the dreaded IA officer who polices the other cops.  Harvey Keitel is the big dog leading the corrupt police officers in his crew.  Ray Liotta is the wild card who used to be in with Keitel but now operates on the outside so to speak.  Michael Rapaport has never been an exceptional actor but he has played many exceptional parts.  In this movie he is the officer who screws up royally and becomes a liability for the others.  Robert Patrick is an awesome actor who brings a great presence to any role he plays, in this film he looks ridiculous in that mustache but still manages to pull it off as the enforcer type for Keitel.  Janeane Garofalo really goes against the norm in this one playing a cop and doesn’t bring the same type of character we usually see from her on screen. Making this a true mob movie about cops we also have several cast members in small roles that would go on to play parts on The Sopranos such as Pauly Walnuts, Phil Leotardo, Carlo Gervasi, and Carmela Soprano just to name a few.

I really enjoyed this movie and felt I was at a loss for not having seen it over all these years.  One of the things I liked about it personally, aside from how great Stallone played the part, is that the part of the sheriff reminds me hands down of a guy that I work with.  The Sheriff had this shy awkwardness to him and his mannerisms that are just spot on with a man I work with.  The guy I work with is a character.  For reasons nobody can remember we call him “the Juice” and sometime he comes in flavors.  Depending on his garb, style of hair, or simply something strange that he does we have a variety of names that apply to him.  Such as G.I. Juice, Dr. Juice, The Juicelhoff, Papa Stache Juice, Grizzly Juice, Dapper Juice, and the list goes on and on.  The guy is really one of a kind and he is good humored when we pick around with him.  I can’t stress enough how much Stallone reminds me of our Juice in this movie and that makes it specifically special to me.

photo (10)

Here is an image of the Juice.  This guy is truly one of a kind.  He is the Juicelhoff flavor of Juice in this image.  If you notice the chest hair he exposes us to in this garb you might understand why we call him the Juicelhoff on a day like this.  (We just merged his name with Hasselhoff).  This guy may be different but he has a heart of gold and he brings an interesting character into our lives at work.  I always appreciate the characters in life, because we all have a role to play in the stories we create in our lives.  In our work place this guy is a character that brings a quality we all find endearing and he is a valuable member of our work family.

This movie hasn’t made any noise in the last fifteen years or so and hasn’t had the staying power that other films like it have enjoyed.  I don’t specifically know why but I think it deserves the attention that plenty of others do.  It’s a good movie with an interesting story and a great cast.  I don’t know why it took me so long to see myself but once I did I wasted little time making it part of our collection.  I think it deserves its spot on the shelf and I think it is worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I actually thoroughly liked this movie. It was the least cheesy I have ever seen Stallone. I thought the concept was interesting and the cast was well done. The poster didn’t hold up to the movie for me because…

cop_land

…it’s another montage of characters and scenery. Really the designers just can’t be blamed anymore. The clients are in control. The movie powerhouses are in control. Appeal to this x audience and put in the city. OH we can get more viewers in the theaters if we show five guys on the poster instead of one. Insert eye roll here. I just think simple is better and more intriguing. Which is kind of what you want the audience to feel right? Intrigued? It’s just my little opinion, but I think less is better. Having said all that, this one isn’t as bad as most of the montage posters that I have looked over. It’s not by far my favorite poster obviously but it’s not the worst either.

Lady Gaga

I don’t usually watch music videos but earlier today Amber showed me the video for Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” To be completely honest I thought it was so weird I found it unnerving.  It’s the kind of thing that made me afraid I might have nightmares about it.  I consider myself a pretty open minded person but I feel haunted by how strange that video is.  I don’t know much about Lady Gaga but I did know she was a little out there.  I feel like I should have been prepared but somehow it still seemed to unnerve me.  I couldn’t look away either, like it reached out and snatched my attention in a firm grip.  I actually like the song and find it quite catchy but what the hell is wrong with that woman right? Am I wrong or have I just gotten “too old for this shit“?

Machete

Year: 2010
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

This film has lost its appeal on me.  I am a big fan of Robert Rodriguez and everything he does but I have to admit this one doesn’t seem as awesome to me as it did three years ago.  I thought Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse films was far and away superior in every way to the half that Tarantino did and three years ago I loved that he was taking it a step further.  His fake Machete trailer was really cool and I thought he did a great job carrying that style and intentional exaggeration into a full feature length film.  My problem now is that Rodriguez simply hasn’t done enough in the years since.  I thought this movie was great three years ago but for it to be all this talented filmmaker has worked on since has simply disappointed me.  

I thought that Sin City was incredible and loved what Robert Rodriguez did with it, but after eight years of waiting for the sequel my patience is running thin.  For me, it has created a bit of resentment towards this franchise because this franchise has continued while that one has done nothing.  I have yet to see Machete Kills but haven’t really felt compelled to either because I think this film was enough.  I love Danny Trejo and like him getting the opportunity to be an even bigger badass than he already is but I have just wanted more from Rodriguez over the years and haven’t gotten it.  The sequel to Sin City has finally been made and is set to come out next year but that will be a nine year gap between movies.  I think it’s been too long but I still look forward to it and hope it is worth the wait.

This film was an idea first conceived in 1993 when Rodriguez was making Desperado in Mexico.  When he was shooting the movie the locals had no idea what the movie was actually about or who was in it but they all gravitated toward Trejo when he was on set thinking he was the star of the film.  Rodriguez told Trejo then that he needed to start working with blades and eventually they would collaborate on this.  For the next 15 years Trejo stayed on Rodriguez about the idea to the point that Rodriguez told him he didn’t have to call about it all the time and could simply text him about it.  To this Trejo said “Machete don’t text,” a line Rodriguez thought was funny and eventually put into the film.  Robert Rodriguez has done many great things throughout his career but something I have always liked specifically about him was his propensity to use Trejo in all his films.  Danny Trejo is a badass, and I have loved him in everything from the Johnny 23 to voicing Octavio on King of the HillBeing credited with over 260 roles the man is a relentless worker and there is really no end to naming the great roles he has played either in bit parts or in larger roles.  I do really like him finally getting to play the lead and loved this film at first because it put him in the spotlight.  Having lost its appeal on me though I’ll admit he overdoes it quite a bit in this movie.  Of course that is the point of the movie, but it doesn’t do anything to make the film endearing when there are now reasons to be frustrated with it. If nothing else there is one thing I do want to mention before I move on from Trejo.  He has certainly gotten an awful lot out of one of the coolest tattoos of all time.  If you know Danny Trejo at all then you know exactly what I am talking about but if you somehow missed it here is an image:

Trejo is getting older now, approaching the age of 70 if you can believe it.  The fact that he is just now getting the spotlight and taking hold of it like a man half his age says a lot about the kind of person he is.  This guy never stops working, and while he may make more B-movies than anything else he has still made such a significant impact.  Granted this movie and its sequel technically should count as B-movies they were made like that intentionally and both received worldwide distribution like any other big budget movie.

This movie, like most of Rodriguez’s films, has a lengthy and impressive cast.  The flawlessly beautiful Jessica Alba has a large part and actually appears naked at one point in the movie.  Don’t be fooled however because she has a no nude clause in her acting contract. Rodriguez is a whiz with making movies simple using his computer to do things digitally.  In the shower scene where we see a nearly naked Jessica Alba she was covered while shooting and it was digitally removed later.  Michelle Rodriguez, no relation to the film’s director, is an actress I usually cannot stand.  For years she was constantly playing the exact same role over and over again but of late she has started to impress me.  I actually thought she looked smoking hot in this movie and I have never thought so before.  I haven’t really seen her play different roles of late but somehow she seems better in them.  I’m thinking specifically of this film and of Avatar when I thought she gave a great performance.

I think this was possibly one of the coolest things Steven Seagal has ever done.  I have always regarded Steven Seagal as silly and never taken him serious as an actor.  I do not think his performance in this movie, while awesome, did anything to change that perception. When Seagal comes up I don’t think of his film career first but of that show I never watched where for some reason he tagged along with police and went on busts.  I thought the concept of that show was so bizarre.  What the hell is this guy doing right? Who is Steven Seagal to ride around with police and be involved with busts?  Did the heart to heart convos he had with perps after they were busted change any of their lives? Did I miss out by not watching this show? If anybody out there watched it I would really like to know about it, leave us a comment and tell us something about it.  Somebody out there really must love Seagal and I am always curious why.  He regularly gets a specific week dedicated to him and his movies on AMC.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen enough of his films but I had seen enough as far as I was concerned. Seagal fans tell me I am wrong.  Have I just been missed out all these years and is Seagal really something special? If I have missed something that is worth my time leave me a comment and let know what I should check out.

Chris Cooper was originally offered the part of the corrupt senator but he refused the part because he thought the script was bizarre. When Robert De Niro took the part it suddenly became much easier for Rodriguez to get any other star he wanted in the film.  We see a couple of his regulars as well.  Cheech Marin reprised his role from the original trailer.  Marin appears in most of Rodriguez’s films but has really put together an impressive body of work since simply being half of a popular pothead duo.  Tom Savini is also here as an assassin and for the first time in a Rodriguez film he doesn’t die.  You can also see Rodriguez’s sisters playing two nurses who are part of “The Network.”

When we sat down to watch this movie last night I was really looking forward to it.  It had been a while since we had seen it and I loved it when it came out.  To be honest I really just couldn’t get into it and found the whole experience really disappointing. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood, I don’t know but for whatever reason I just didn’t love or really even like this movie when I watched it last night.  I think the action and choreography of the fights are great, both of which are specific talents of Rodriguez.  I like most of the actors and still like the campy style of the film but the endearing quality was just lost on me this time.  I don’t want to go into the film too much because I can’t bring myself to criticize Rodriguez or Trejo.  There is still plenty to like about this movie but when you watch it you just need to understand that it does some things on purpose and take it for what it is worth. It’s meant to be over the top and when that is done on purpose it’s altogether different than the stupid films that do it honestly. This movie didn’t do it for me last night and I don’t think it’s going to be one I regularly revisit but I still think it is worth your time to see at least once.

AMBER’S REVIEW

macheteThis movie is okay. I remember really liking it the first time I watched it, but having watched it again, I just don’t know. There are some parts I love and parts I loathe.

This poster kills me. Rodriguez kills me too. He and Tarantino both think they have found this awesome way to stand out-by making their signature that looks like its straight out of the 70s era. This can be fun and a really good idea, but it only works when the movie is set in the same era. I mean seriously guys; move on with the design inspiration. The title sequences included. Their movie ideas are incredible, but the graphic design that goes into their ideas is horrible.

This poster is a montage of the characters. You all should know by now how much that kills me. At least there is a big cheesy explosion in the background. In this case cheesy works, since the whole movie is in fact very cheesy. I don’t like this poster at all. I don’t even like the typography. I have never been a fan of anything looking too much like a WordArt image. I think there was room to make this better and the opportunity was missed here.

NEXT MOVIE: Magnolia (1999)

Did Richard Harrow Die?

Since seeing the final episode of Boardwalk Empire season 4 this has been the question nagging me day and night.  I have been a big fan of Richard Harrow since he first met Jimmy Darmody in season 1.  He’s a hit man missing half his face, that’s awesome. Beyond the mere intimidation his appearance invokes he is an interesting character beyond that.  The show has invested a significant amount of time developing the character and it seems too soon to take him from us just as he has entered Nucky’s service. I always felt the show was building to an inevitable union between Richard and Nucky.  I have been very happy to see it finally happen but will be equally as disappointed if it is over so soon.

I’ll admit that the outcome didn’t look good to me.  I think what the show left us with gave us every reason to think he was dead but left the door cracked just the tinniest bit for him to come back.  We clearly see him on the verge of death but in true HBO fashion there is a seed of doubt left in the mix. I hope he hasn’t died not only because I love the character but because what happened in the final episode is no way for him to go out.  He has never failed to make a hit when he was set on doing it and his first misstep cost him and others gravely.  I don’t care for the fact that Chalky’s daughter caught the bullet meant for Dr. Narcisse, but I will be patient and see where it goes next season.

In the meantime I’d be really interested to hear what anybody else thinks about the fate of Richard Harrow.  I want more of the Tinman. He is too good a character to simply die alone under the boardwalk.  He hasn’t accomplished enough to die yet and to go out after a mistake would be a disservice to who he was and what he brought to the show.  I think that he has probably died but the fan in me hopes very much that he lives to see another day and does great things in season 5.  What do you think? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Love Actually

Year: 2003
Directed By: Richard Curtis
Written By: Richard Curtis

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s Christmas time and we have the happy coincidence to start the month with a Christmas themed film.  We aren’t going to do a themed month for the holiday like we did in October but this just happened to be our next film and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  This is a movie I have no qualms about admitting to how much I like.  It’s a chick flick if I have ever seen one and it took Amber quite a while to twist my arm into seeing it.  Once she did I was thoroughly surprised with how much I enjoyed the film and it’s provides me with a rare opportunity to recommend a film I normally wouldn’t.  This movie may fit every possible requirement to qualify as a chick flick but the movie is both funny and heartfelt.  It’s a touching film that even the most stone hearted man might find himself both laughing and crying over.

There could be plenty to cover in this film but I’m inclined to keep it simple on this one.  While I did like the film, it is what it is and I am not going to over analyze a chick flick.  I specifically like Bill Nighy in this movie.  He is a really funny actor that I have liked in many movies but in this one he is just over the top funny.  “Kids, don’t buy drugs….become a rock star and they give them to you for free!” I love the guy that randomly buys a plane ticket to America to marvel the women here with his British accent.  The fact that it works so well for him is hilarious because it is probably true.  While exaggerated in this movie there is still plenty of truth to the idea that American women will fall all over any English guy just because of his voice.  I love the stand-in actors played by Martin Freeman and Joanna Page. The way they keep having small talk while simulating sex scenes is hilarious.  It’s really funny that this guy is building up the courage to ask a woman out while he is going through the motions of sex with her.  The casual way he responds to the director’s suggestion that he massage her breasts is so funny.  It’s a bit sappy, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to really liking the Colin Firth story line too.  That part of the story is in full blown chick flick mode but it’s clever and touching all the same. I normally wouldn’t admit to it but the story line got me on a deep down lovey dovey level that doesn’t surface very often.

There is one part of this film that I absolutely hate and it’s the Andrew Lincoln/Keira Knightley/Chiwetel Ejiofor story. The film starts with Knightley and Ejiofor getting married and Andrew Lincoln is Ejiofor’s best man and best friend.  Lincoln is secretly in love with Knightley though and the story culminates at the end with Lincoln secretly professing the love he knows he can never act on for Knightley to her. I think that Ejiofor would be justified in beating his best friend into the dirt after that scene and always regret that it doesn’t happen when I watch the film. What kind of man has feelings like that for his best friend’s wife and then has the nerve to tell her such after she is already married? It’s bad enough that he simply feels that way but it’s the kind of feeling you take to your grave.  His little moment in the end when he lets her read his feelings while his best friend sits unknowingly upstairs is shameful.  It’s cool to look back at this movie now that Andrew Lincoln has reached stardom as Rick Grimes on The Walking Deadbut it’s disappointing to see him play such a douche bag.  Yeah you can look at this movie and say things like “he didn’t actually do anything wrong” or “he never acted on his feelings” but he did.  His actions would only lead to an inevitable affair later down the road one way or another.  They could pick up this story line for a sequel and call it “Divorce Actually.”

There are plenty of other great story lines and performances in this movie as well.  I typically despise Hugh Grant but must admit he delivered a good performance in this movie as the British Prime Minister.  I also specifically like the casting of Billy Bob Thorton as the American President.  He seems to be a bit of a combination President merging qualities from both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  A blasphemous thing to do politically from an American point of view but they can get away with it in a film set in Britain.  I have always been a big fan of Alan Rickman but his role in this movie isn’t the best.  It’s not because of his performance just because of how the role was written.  I feel bad for this guy really because any of us can fall victim to what he went through.  He doesn’t go out looking to start an affair but when a really attractive woman relentlessly pursues him he is powerless to stop it.  He is in the wrong to pursue at all, clearly, but like the previously mentioned American President he was just couldn’t stop himself in the face of a woman throwing herself at him.

Now that I have already mentioned doing this review briefly it didn’t take long for my thoughts to quickly add up.  The last thing I want to mention is the role of Liam Neeson.  A very nice story that he performs well in.  I have joked many times since seeing this movie that my wife is in love with Liam Neeson because of how she reacted to the part.  I’ll set the record straight now. Amber isn’t really in love with Liam Neeson, but this is the movie that started the joke I use to annoy her so.  I like Neeson but don’t understand why he has lowered himself to some of the silly type of film roles he takes now.  I’m specifically talking about Taken and its sequel.  I have heard so many people talk about how good those movies were and I want to look at all of them and ask “why???” Liam Neeson isn’t Jack Bauer or John Rambo and that’s all aside from the point that I think the time for movies like Taken was in the 90s.  Liam Neeson can do better. We see that he is capable of more in this movie specifically, and I literally think he is doing himself a disservice with his action roles.

This is a good movie and a perfect one to see during this holiday season.  There is no shortage of good Christmas films out there and this one belongs in the rotation of such.  When it comes to a chick flick, a guy could sit through a lot worse because not only does this movie not suck but it is quite funny.  So, gentlemen, if you want to please your spouses this holiday season with a film geared more toward her taste than yours then check this film out.  I know it is probably a really appetizing idea to see Christmas Vacation for the 100th time because it never gets old but this one will make her really happy and you will probably find yourself laughing much more than you would have expected.  This movie is without doubt worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I never wanted to watch this movie, let alone love it as much as I do. This is one of my absolute favorites. I really love how it takes different love stories all going on in the same area and ties the people together. The ultimate message of the story is that “love actually is all around us.”

loveactuallyLet’s montage another poster you guys! They managed to fit 10 different people on this poster. And on top of that they gift wrapped the poster. Ugh I hate it. I think it would have been prettier and more effective if it didn’t look like such a cheesy holiday movie poster. The home screen for the DVD is beautiful. It shows a sliced up heart moving in pieces. It is really a strong graphic. I think it would have suited here too. And these people have all already made such a name for themselves that their faces aren’t even needed. I think they could have listed them and it would have been just as effective as their faces.

I am sorry to have to say I hate this poster when I love the movie so much. It’s unfortunate, but true. The typography of the title is okay, not amazing, so at least it has that.

NEXT MOVIE: Machete (2010)