Denzel Washington

The Siege

Year: 1998
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: Lawrence Wright, Menno Meyjes, and Edward Zwick

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an interesting film because it centers on terrorism in the pre-War on Terror world. The New York skyline is even topped by the Twin Towers in many shots. It’s interesting not only because of how the War on Terror actually unfolded but because the movie still serves as a warning for what could happen. In today’s climate there is just as much danger of this movie becoming a reality as there was during the decade after 9/11.

I have never liked the stereotyping of Muslims into terrorist because you can’t let radicals from any religion cast a net over the entire populous. Yes there are radical Muslims that want to do harm, but by the same token there are radicals in all religions that are all equally as dangerous. When you let xenophobia and racism take the front stage you are going to have a lot of innocent people caught up in the middle. When the focus turns from the actual perpetrators to an entire demographic of people then it simply becomes a witch hunt and in this country we should know the dangers involved in such a thing.

Muslim does not mean terrorist, just as terrorist does not mean Muslim. When people lose sight of that difference we are in danger of seeing what happened in this movie become real life. During the War on Terror the U.S. did detain plenty of terror suspects but they never went as far as to set up camps in the middle of the city and start locking up every person that fit their demographic. With the way the current popular presidential candidate talks we may still have to fear this movie turning into reality.

I hate the current talk about both immigration and Islam because it is being fueled by a “political” leader. I live in the south where so many rednecks are being egged on and amped up in their natural racist mentality. Not all people around here are like that but even the quiet racists are starting to feel comfortable voicing their opinions when out of ear shot of  specific people. It bothers me as a human being because what used to be nothing more than a joke with these people has turned into hopeful longing. As if it is even appropriate, or even practical, to shut down immigration and try to block Muslims from entering the country. These ideas set us back as a country and civilization to such an unfortunate degree. The U.S. is a nation made up of immigrants from all over the world, and not just the white ones. People need to be reminded of that and not exasperated to thinking we should build walls or bar entry to anybody over religious alignment.

This movie shows us a perfect example of the innocent victim that can get caught up in the middle of this scenario. Tony Shalhoub plays the part of an FBI Agent of Arabic descent whose son is locked up after martial law is declared in New York. It doesn’t matter that he is a federal agent, it doesn’t matter that he and his family are US citizens, and it doesn’t matter if he or his family actually did anything wrong. His son fit the demographic so he was caged like an animal in the camps set up by the military. There are people just like Shalhoub’s character all over this country, but there will be no way to differentiate once profiling takes the center stage. When Brown equals bad it doesn’t matter who anybody is because they are nothing more than a suspect at that point.

While this movie has really interesting content matter I don’t think it translated into a really great or memorable film. Denzel Washington does his best but I have never been sold on the guy and this movie is no different. I think Bruce Willis in his smaller part actually brought more to the film, as did Shalhoub. I don’t really care for Annette Bening’s character cause she is just too all over the place and sleeping with the enemy to boot.

This movie may not really be worth your time if you are looking for something entertaining but the lesson that it bears makes it worth it. It’s a lesson that only grows more important as time goes on. We can never go forward as a nation and civilization by taking steps backwards. Subjugating people is something we should have learned from in the past and movies like this can serve as a reminder that it’s a really bad idea. For that reason alone I think this movie is worth your time and that is why I own it.

NEXT MOVIE: Silence of the Lambs (1991)

 

 

 

 

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Ricochet

Year: 1991
Directed By: Russell Mulcahy
Written By: Fred Dekker and Menno Meyjes (story), Steven E. de Souza (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I came across this movie on late night TV about 9 years ago and found myself entranced. What a fantastic and demented story about revenge.  It has a cool 90s feel to it too. I specifically remember going out of my way on the following day to find a copy of it and buy it.

I distinctly remember how much I disliked Denzel Washington when I came across this movie. I have never had a very fond opinion of him but specifically remember having a big problem with him winning the Academy Award in 2003 for Training Day. I have still never revisited that movie so my old opinion still stands. Yet, having a bad opinion of him I was so surprised by his performance in this movie. I have always thought he had a chip on his shoulder about something, he just comes across as such an angry actor to me. In this movie he isn’t like that though, he’s so loose and seems to genuinely be enjoying himself.

I grew up watching John Lithgow play the foolish yet humorous part of Dick on 3rd Rock from the Sun. I thought it was awesome when I saw him as a bad guy for the first time in Cliffhanger, but this is different. In this movie he’s not simply a bad guy, he’s a straight up psychopath with one man in his cross hairs. Motivated by the prospect of revenge Lithgow’s villainous Earl Talbot Blake perseveres for seven years in prison planning all the while what he will do to exact that revenge. I thought his plan for revenge was what made this movie interesting. I love a good bad guy and Lithgow’s Blake fits the bill. He is cunning and ruthless with no inhibitions what so ever. Driven only by hate he is the exact type of person you don’t want to get on the wrong side of.

This is a cool movie and I like it, but it literally provokes nothing more from me than what has already been written. I think if you have the opportunity to see this one you are in for a surprising treat. I don’t know how likely that is because this seems to be a generally forgotten movie. It’s a cool story with interesting plot twists and good performances. That makes it worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Remember the Titans


Year: 2000
Directed By: Boaz Yakin
Written By: Gregory Allen Howard

RYAN’S REVIEW

I sometimes find myself in the oddest of situations in life. Just so happens this time I’ve found myself all alone in a house that literally sits atop a mountain in the Appalachians. What did I bring with me to assist in occupying time on this getaway? Well Halloween is approaching so I bring all the horror movies we have set aside for the month with me. So, I’m on a mountain, desolate area, completely alone and on my own watching a series of movies where people in this exact situation I myself am in get haunted or traumatized. Well after three in a row I found myself in need of a feel good movie. Fortunately I brought a couple of our “R” movies and this feel good movie just happened to be up next. Can’t think of a better pick me up right now.

I don’t generally go for these feel good movies because they are all the same. This one came out when I was in high school though and it left an impression on me. Aside from Any Given Sunday there are no other football based movies we own save for this one. I am a fanatical NFL fan who loves football at all levels but I don’t usually like movies about football. Granted, like any normal guy, I cry my eyes out during Brian’s Song but as of yet that one isn’t part of our collection, though it should be. This is a rare exception to my standing idea of football movies because of how its release correlated with my own age. It is a good movie though.

This movie is also against the grain for me because I hate the racial content. Racism is the product of ignorance and it’s an ugly thing to watch. I find this feel good vibe to it off putting as well because things just aren’t that simple. It troubles me to no end that in the year 2015 things not only aren’t getting better but they literally seem to be getting worse. We learn nothing from the past and as a society in general we lack understanding of one another.

My tone is all off in this post. I do like this movie but frankly I’m just pissed off at it now. Here I tried to use it as a pick me up and all it has done is made me cry for the last thirty minutes. Damn this Disney football film with its Brian’s Song moments.

The cast of this film is very strong, even though I think Denzel Washington and Will Patton both overdo it a bit now and again. The young Hayden Panettiere is adorable and awesome. I like the chemistry Wood Harris and Ryan Hurst had on screen. Both have managed nominal success as actors but honestly back when this came out I expected more out of both of them. I like Will Patton an awful lot and I think he fits this role well. I think Denzel is great as Coach Boone but as I said earlier I think both actors overact in this one. They both lay it on a little think too when it comes to either choosing sides or being understanding of one another. I feel like what they do in this movie pretty much amounts to a dick measuring contest neither is willing to back down from.

In my efforts to achieve a pick me up with this movie I hopelessly failed. I wanted to lift the gloom of so many scary films back to back but only found a gloom of different sorts. I wanted good vibes but only got the tear jerking moments of people dealing with adversity and overcoming personal differences to work together. So this movie did nothing but piss me off this time around. If you’ve seen one of these typical Disney movies about sports then you have missed nothing. If you like these type of movies then it’s one you should definitely see it. Otherwise I wouldn’t call it worth anybody’s time. I like it because it got me at the right time and place 15 years ago but I’d have most likely never seen it had that not been the case.

NEXT MOVIE: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

American Gangster

Year: 2007
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Steven Zaillian, Mark Jacobson (article)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I thought I was wrong about this movie.  I had seen it in the theater and wasn’t overly impressed but assumed I had to have been distracted.  Nobody agreed with me and after so long I began to question my initial judgment.  When I started it for the second time I found that I wasn’t in the mood for it and it sat on our shelf unwatched until I came up with this brilliant idea for a 4th of July themed series of reviews.  I have now given it my best effort.  I literally put in headphones and watched this movie completely consumed.  I gave over 100% of the two most observant senses and gave the film my best effort, in the name of the 4th of July! However, while I can see why this movie appeals to others I just simply hate it.  I feel like it is the most over exaggerated film cashing in on the pretext of being based on a true story. While I can accept that it is a good film I just don’t think there is anything that distinguishes this movie from other gangster films.

I know that this film is based on a true story.  I am from the area Frank Lucas hails from and he was actually interviewed on local radio stations when this movie was coming out. I think it’s really cool to see a movie about a local guy that really hit it big in the seedy underground of New York but I don’t know about his portrayal in the film.  All I’m saying is that Frank Lucas was not the Godfather and this movie is just all wrong for me.  In so many ways it is just more of the same without anything to set it apart.  I am a huge fan of Russell Crowe and I like Ridley Scott as well.  I am not a Denzel Washington fan.  Yet I find with this movie I don’t like Russell Crowe and I actually think Denzel Washington turns in one of his finer performances.

Of course the character of Frank Lucas is the better part. He is part Godfather and part Robin Hood in this film.  Albeit this Robin Hood doesn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor. He offers herion at discounted rates, and this just messes up everything for everyone.  The real mobsters don’t have the same type of quality heroin and they can’t buy it for what Frank Lucas is selling it to the consumer for.  Boo Hoo and Blah Blah.  The mega rich criminals have been robbed of an opportunity to make even more money and they have to pick on the kind and generous Mr. Lucas, who is just trying to do right by everybody with his generous nature, and reasonable rates on HEROIN.  Gotta love the guy, this Frank Lucas is portrayed in a manner that is totally contradictory to his actions.  I do appreciate his sudden and savage violence but that is only there to wake the audience up during what is otherwise a dismal film.  I can’t stand the man with the noble nature who earns his fortune doing something so despicable.  If you are gonna do it that’s one thing, but if you are going to do it you need to be Avon Barksdale or Stringer Bell and not the Don Corleone/Robin Hood we see in this film. No offense to Denzel, I think he was awesome in this part.  I just think the part was a little over the top and poorly written.

Russell Crowe is an actor that never ceases to amaze me, but I just can’t see it with this performance.  Granted he is great, he is a pro all the way and does his job well but I don’t think he does anything exceptional. To start with he plays the kind of character that nobody is going to like.  Who is going to pull for the straight laced cop among all the dirty ones when he is going after a criminal you are set up to pull for? If you want to make Serpico make Serpico, but don’t put so much of the focus in a film like this on him because it throws off the whole film.  I get that this is a story about both men but I think there would have been better angles to take that could have made a better film. You could cut half of Russell Crowe’s scenes and replace them something that builds up a different part of his character and achieved the same result.  There is undoubtedly more to the man than simply his honesty so let’s note his honesty and move on to more of what makes him character worthy. You have to admit a role is bad if Russell Crowe can’t even make something out of it but I’m sure plenty of people will argue the contrary point.

I love gangster movies and typically find something to like about all of them but I have failed to do so here.  I totally immersed myself in the film but cannot find myself wrong in my initial reaction to the film.  I don’t think it does anything at all to distinguish itself and I think it is one of Ridley Scott’s weakest films. Denzel did a great job but he can’t save what just isn’t any good.  I don’t know how accurate this movie is and truthfully I don’t think it matters.  There is too much to the story that we simply don’t see and all this film offers are exaggerated highlights to something that undoubtedly has more to offer. This film threw a bunch of big names on the screen and sold us on the pretext that it was based on a true story.  The key word in that, as always, is “based.” Sure there was a real Frank Lucas, I have heard him on the radio and know it for a fact, but I doubt this is an accurate representation of who the man really was and what he did.

I give this film two thumbs down and regret doubting myself enough to purchase it for the collection. If anybody I know personally is reading this feel free to text me if you want this copy.  I think the movie is so bad I will freely give it to whoever will take it off my hands.  In fact, if I don’t get that message I may just leave it on the curb with a note that says, “take me but watch at your own risk (your time will be wasted).”

Final note on the film: after writing all of this I did the most minimal of research to find that the movie is widely regarded as 99% false.  Basically there was a Frank Lucas and he did sell heroin but beyond that nearly everything you see in this film is false.  That only reinforces the hate I am developing for this film I wasted THREE viewings on.  I can’t bare to have a friend take this off my hands, if you happen to see a copy left on the street with a note on it then you may be looking at the very same one I am about to throw out.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Year: 2004
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
Written By: Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris

RYAN’S REVIEW

I watched this movie when it first came out and thought it was great.  Having just watched it the day after seeing the original I feel much differently.  I didn’t know at the time that it was a remake and had I known I probably would have avoided it altogether. I am reminded of my feelings when Red Dawn was remade because when that film came out I specifically tried to talk people out of seeing it.  I think it is asinine to remake a film that was about a specific conflict that is over and rewrite it to adapt to a different time. Both Red Dawn and this film were originally made about The Cold War, and that conflict is long since gone. These movies do not translate to this time and I think it is an insult to the originals to make them again.

This film isn’t quite as bad as the remake for Red Dawn. I have not seen the remake for that one and won’t see it on principle but this remake isn’t as bad because there are some correlations between the times.  I think there is an obvious correlation between The Cold War and The War on Terror that we had in the decade following 9/11.  Both have to do with a “culture of fear” that is driven by the media and government for political purposes.  Still, while that can somewhat justify the remake it doesn’t excuse it. This movie flat out doesn’t compare to the original and having seen now what it was supposed to be I can see little to understand what I saw in it to begin with.

The only positive thing I have to say about this film is the casting of Meryl Streep.  I don’t actually think anything about her performance was exceptional but simply the fact that she was cast to play the part was a good idea.  She plays the same part played by Angela Lansbury in the original and Lansbury did such a great job that there were big shoes to fill.  Lansbury was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the original and I said in our review of that film that she was specifically great in the movie.  I don’t think Streep did quite as well but that doesn’t change the fact that choosing her was a good idea.  Streep is a very accomplished actress having been nominated for an Oscar a whopping 17 times and winning the award 3 times.  Casting her to follow in the footsteps of Angela Lansbury at least shows the effort to take this remake seriously and create something just as good as the original.  Although, I can’t stress enough how much of a failure that effort turned out to be despite casting her in the role.

You could argue that the same type of effort was made in casting Denzel Washington in the role originally played by Frank Sinatra, but I won’t.  I won’t argue with the fact that Denzel is far and away a better actor than Sinatra ever hoped to be but I am not a fan and didn’t much care for his portrayal in this film.  I liked this movie enough to buy it but that was before I knew how good the original was.  Having said that let me tell you that this movie is not worth your time and I encourage anyone interested to see the original instead.  It is far and away better than this movie in every way possible.

AMBER’S REVIEW

For me, this one was easier to follow. Maybe because it is set in modern day, but ultimately I think it may be the stellar cast. (Not to discredit the older version, which was filled with amazing names) I loved how well Meryl Streep did in this role. She is just so amazing. She can go sweet to creepy to cutthroat all in a day it seems. She is flawless. The ironic thing here for me too is that the movie was pretty much the same story, but set in different times, yet it worked so well. History can and does repeat itself and I think this is a nice fictional way to show that.

poster3

I totally like the 1963 version of this poster better. I think it is important to show Denzel’s face on this one, but I think it could have been a better direction to mimic or update the old one. I think that would have been really clever. I think they sort of do that on the DVD cover though, so I’ll give some credit where credit is due.

The typography is big and bold which most poster designers like to do these days even 10 years later. All I see though, with the stars out to the side is the Team America title on that poster. It even makes me giggle.TeamAmericaLogo

Ok, so it’s not really THAT close, but still not too, too far off. (Still giggling). In any case, a really good movie, mediocre poster. Nothing terrible, nothing amazing.

NEXT MOVIE: Man of Steel (2013)

Inside Man

Year: 2006
Directed By: Spike Lee
Written By: Russell Gewirtz

RYAN’S REVIEW

Let’s face it; the bank robbery movie has been done to death.  This movie quickly gets the regular things out of the way and then distinguishes itself quite nicely. Early on we see a time jump that clearly lets us know that the police are clueless; they have no idea who perpetrated the crime.  So we are left to wonder as the robbery unfolds how exactly the criminals manage to succeed and what exactly they are after.  This one will keep you guessing and intrigued all throughout. It has an excellent cast and a wild story that threads a great web of mystery.

I have never really been a fan of Spike Lee, although I do like that all his movies are referred to as “A Spike Lee Joint.” I do not think he is a bad director; I have just never been a fan of his specifically.  In fact I think this is the only movie he has made that we own.  I have never seen Malcolm Xbut it has been on my list of movies to watch for over ten years now.  It is completely possible I have just not seen enough of his work; I just haven’t liked the few that I have seen.  This one was incredible though, he did an excellent job in putting the film together.  His camera angles are all great, his sets look good, and more importantly his movie kept me interested and guessing the whole time.

I’m not a big Denzel fan either but I cannot deny his talent. He has a great track record and will be remembered forever for his talent, but I have just never been a fan.  Personally I feel that he brings too much racism into his films. I specifically hate racism and it always bothers me.  He has always had a knack for playing the black man being persecuted, a role that needs to be played.  My problem comes specifically from his role in Remember the Titans.  He was great in that movie but there was one scene where he got into a confrontation with Will Patton.  It bothered me because Patton played a character that was on Denzel’s side, yet Denzel treated him like he was being judged.  I know that is how the character was probably written but still feel Denzel overplayed the part and was trying to get a specific point across.  For whatever the reason it bothered me. I can’t think of any other immediate example but that one is specifically the reason I don’t like him.  He has also made many movies I have enjoyed and this one is one of them.  Denzel fits the part well and delivers his performance as a seasoned pro.  I am not a fan of his but my opinion should not matter because his talent speaks for itself.

This was another good role for Clive Owen in 2006 but for whatever reason I find myself wondering “what happened to Clive Owen?” in 2012.  I have always like Owen but his career seemed to fizzle out somewhere over the last few years.  In fact, looking over his track record it is arguable that this was the last movie he made worth any salt.  He is listed as filming the sequel to Sin City and I am very hopeful for that. (Check that, in the time it has taken to publish this post -waiting on my wife’s input- Clive Owen’s part in Sin City 2 has been recast. Josh Brolin is now playing the part that Owen played in the first movie. It makes sense because in the first movie he is said to have a new face, but it still blows. I’d take Owen over Brolin any day.) Despite Owen’s drop in popularity I think he undoubtedly has more to offer as an actor. Speaking of actors who have fizzled out, I think this was a great role for Jodie Foster as well.  I have always liked Foster and I think she was really badass in this movie.  I am a really big fan of Willem Dafoe and I like any movie a little bit better when he is in it.  I spotted Daryl Mitchell in a small supporting role and wanted to mention him because he was awesome in Galaxy Quest

Movies are always a little bit better when they center on Nazis somehow and I love how this movie brought that into the story line. As the story unfolds things only get more interesting. The cops don’t know what was going on, they know who did it but can’t prove it, anybody can be a suspect, and no money was taken.  This is a crazy mystery for a long time and then it all comes together so perfectly.  There was a larger game being played in this one and it kept us all on the edge of our seats.

I think this movie is worth your time because it is awesome.  There is something deep down inside of all of us as movie fans that undeniably make us love the bank robbery movie.  This one manages to bring something new to the table so it is something we should all be in to.  The bank robbery movie may have been done to death but this movie proves there is still something great to be offered in the scenario.  If you haven’t seen this movie then you should give it a chance and I hope you enjoy it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is a really cool movie. Denzel is such a likeable actor. What I mean by that is even when he is playing an unlikable character, you still like the job he did acting that part. He is that good. I am aware that Ryan doesn’t like Denzel Washington, but here we split and disagree. I really like this movie and I think you would too.

insideman

This movie poster is SUPER cool. It looks like the designer had free range to do something really creative. They have all of the needed information, but it is arranged in such an unusual manner. Love it. I love the colors, I love the fonts, and I love the grid. LOVE IT.

NEXT MOVIE: Interview with a Vampire