Kim Basinger

L.A. Confidential

Year: 1997
Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Written By: James Ellroy (novel), Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I consider this to be one of the best movies I have ever seen.  It is a perfect movie and that puts it in an upper echelon with only a few others.  I see this movie in the same light as The Godfather, Casablanca, or Full Metal Jacket. Movies this good suck you in and make you part of their world.  They leave an impression on you and every time you see them they get better.  This movie is a hit on all levels and it blows me away every single time I see it. I think our timing to reach this movie in the collection is awesome because coincidentally we watched Gangster Squad last night.  That movie has a very similar story line to this one and watching them back to back has given us the opportunity to accurately contrast the two. Gangster Squad wasn’t that great and specifically once put up next to this one it seems like a horrible movie. It wasn’t a horrible movie, it just simply doesn’t compare to this one in any way, shape, or form.

This movie takes place in such an interesting time and place for our country.  Having grown up and spent my entire life on the east coast I have always had a fascination with the wild wild west.  Things were always done a bit differently out there as the rest of the country and authority slowly made their way over through expansion and development.  The West might be different altogether but there is specifically something different and unique about Los Angeles, and the whole Hollywood world.  Right and wrong are different there; it’s a world influenced by corruption, glamour, and greed.  It is influenced by the people that built it and to understand that you have to understand the people that built it.  The men who built the west were men who decided to go for a hundred different reasons.  They went for opportunity, they went to build a new life, and they went for the promise of work, gold, oil, and even fame. They came from all over the country and from a large variety of backgrounds.  They built something out there and the minute others started to notice what they had done they began looking for ways to move in and take advantage of the opportunities now available there.  Well like I said, things are different in the west.  Why let mobsters move into town and run the rackets when the local authorities can simply make all that money themselves? I know that this movie is based in truth but admittedly don’t know enough about the accuracy of it.  Nevertheless it is an awesome story and one that really does garner some more research on my part, eventually.

Curtis Hanson really hasn’t made that many movies that I found impressive but his name always immediately grab my attention.  No matter what else he has done, he was the guy that made this movie and doesn’t that say everything you need to know about him? His camera work and storytelling are so incredible in this movie.  I have always admired how he leads you through the crime scene at the Night Owl and you take everything in together with Detective Exley as he investigates the crime scene.  I love what he does with these three diverse and different police officers and how he manages to make us emotionally invested in all three of them. I love the arc each one of them has as a character and I love the men who were chose to play the parts.  I think the story in this movie is fantastic.  It’s so satisfyingly violent and intelligent at the same time with a little bit of sex and scandal thrown in for good measure.  It is a story that never fails to captivate and hold my attention.  The only other movie I really liked from Hanson was 8 Mile, and that is liked only from an admitted biased opinion based on being a fan of Eminem. Like I said though, it doesn’t matter what else Curtis Hanson has done.  He did this, and that gives him credibility for a lifetime as far as I’m concerned.

When discussing the cast I want to start with Guy Pearce as Detective Exley. Not because I think he was the best, in fact I really don’t like him at all, but his performance is seriously one of the best I have ever seen.  Detective Exley isn’t a likable character and you immediately begin to despise him. As the movie progresses you can’t help but feel differently and the more you watch the more you begin to like Exley.  Pearce plays the part so well and I am literally shocked to find myself so impressed with it every time I see it. He is such a little weasel till he interrogates the Night Owl suspects.  He is such a badass in that scene he doesn’t just deserve but practically comes through the screen and demands your respect by force.  Once he establishes himself as a badass he just continues to keep it up for the whole movie.  Whether he is shooting all of the bad guys, throwing caution to the wind to do what is right, sleeping with his rival’s girlfriend, or manipulating a massacre to his own advantage he is doing it all as a badass.  I love the respect he develops for his rival Bud White and the ass whooping he accepts when he knows he has wronged him.  I have never seen another movie where I saw what Guy Pearce did and thought “wow, he really did a great job in that movie.” I simply don’t like the guy and think he brings nothing to the table.  I can’t deny him this role though; he should have been nominated for it and taken the award home with him.  If he ever showed up for work and really brought it, it was on the set of this movie.

While I am incredibly impressed by the part played by Pearce my favorite is the most popular part played in this movie, by Russell Crowe.  This was Russell Crowe’s first major American role and it set the tone for his entire career.  He has been one of the best leading men of the last fifteen years because he is an outstanding actor. In this movie he burst onto the scene with aggression and brutality.  He plays the tough guy that is underestimated by everybody and proves to be much more than meets the eye.  As the movie progresses we see that he has the intelligence and detective skills to match his brutality.  The character then goes even deeper as we learn about his past and see his softer side when he is with Lynn Bracken.  When he confronts her after finding out about her and Exley you can feel his pain as his anger gets the best of him.  Another scene in which you feel his anger is that of the interrogation scene when Exley shines.  That scene showed us two things, one being that Exley was way more badass than we thought, the other being that Bud White is every bit the badass we think he is and more. This is one of Crowe’s finest roles and I think he also should have been nominated for the part.

I am and always have been a huge fan of Kevin Spacey.  The character of Lester Burnham he would play a couple of years later taught me quite a bit about life.  I do not know what has happened to him these days though.  He is an incredible and academy award winning actor who has simply fallen off the map for some reason.  The last thing I saw him in was Horrible Bosses and it wasn’t one of his finest roles.  As Jack Vincennes he is the sleazy cop that suddenly finds purpose in himself again.  He has been dirty for so long he forgot about all the right reasons he joined the force for in the first place.  As he begins to realize those things he starts to discover the skills that got him to the top and he uses them to do the right thing.  Until doing the right thing gets him killed that is.  That’s how it happens for the bad guy that decides to do good though, it’s an irony that is worth dying for to make that character a martyr. Vincennes became a martyr and a hero with his dying breathe by finding out the cleverest way to warn Exley. All past digressions forgiven, he died a hero and might have ended up with his name plastered somewhere in the city of Los Angeles. I don’t know what has been up with Kevin Spacey but I will always have my eye on what he is doing because within him are more performances of this caliber, I know it.

The rest of the cast was just as stellar and on point as the three most important I have already discussed.  James Cromwell is a fantastic actor and can play any part in any movie.  He can do it all pretty good but it turns out he can pull off mastermind villain pretty well as we see in this film. David Strathairn plays one of his best roles as Pierce Patchett. I have always liked Strathairn; he carries an air of dignity with him that makes him great for roles like this.  I am a big fan of Danny DeVito and like what he brought to the movie as well.  I have mentioned many times that I don’t like where his career has now led him but I think for the majority of his time in the business he has been very successful.

Kim Basinger won the Academy Award for this movie and was the only one to win the award for any of the performances in the movie.  I don’t understand that and practically consider it a crime.  I think she did a good enough job as Lynn Bracken but I don’t know how her performance warranted that kind of reward when some of the others weren’t even nominated. This movie was without a doubt her greatest performance as an actress but I don’t think she had much competition from her other roles.  Basinger is one of those women who made her career on her looks and not her talent and truthfully she has just never done it for me.

I honestly believe this movie is better each and every time I watch it.  As I already said I think this is a perfect movie and the fact that it seems better every time I watch it only reinforces that opinion.  As for Gangster Squad, it just didn’t have the raw and real element that this one had.  I knew things were going to be like that when we first met Josh Brolin’s character and he “Jack Bauer-ed” a room full of armed men. It’s just a bit too over the top and unrealistic.  When Bud White got angry he whooped ass on anybody within reach but not even he would have assaulted a crime base single handedly and walked out all hunky dory.  I think Sean Penn played an exceptional part as Mickey Cohen but even he was a bit over the top and exaggerated for effect. Gangster Squad is a film for the amateur movie fan but this movie is for those of us who really appreciate the art of film making.

This is a flawless movie and is without doubt worth your time.  It isn’t a movie that gets a lot of replay on TV and it isn’t brought up on a regular basis these days.  That is a crime.  This movie deserves its own three night weekend on AMC like The Godfather gets.  It’s that good of a movie and if you haven’t seen it I suggest you seek it out and take the time to watch it.  Incredible film that will always be one of my favorites.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan loves this movie and wrote a ton so in true Amber fashion, I will keep it short. This is a great crime movie. It captures your attention and keeps it throughout. The actors are perfect for their roles and do such a great job. It’s a really good flick that is definitely worth watching.

LAconfidential

Oh no. Another poster where they are trying to fit in way too many characters. This is not very successful either. Don’t miss the faded out guy right beside the word confidential. They also cut off Basinger’s head at the top with a solid black bar for the names. Bad call. The best thing about this poster is the marketing/advertising ploy behind the whole thing. Who is the target audience for this movie? Men. What do [some] men love? Boobies. That’s all any man really needed to see to want to see this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Lady in the Water (2006)

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Batman (1989)

Year: 1989
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: San Hamm

RYAN’S REVIEW

Now this is more like it, Batman the way he is supposed to be portrayed.  I don’t know what they were thinking in the 60s, but they weren’t taking the character or genre seriously.  Batman isn’t a know it all do-gooder in a costume, he is a dark and haunted character that breaks the law in order to enforce it.  Batman is a good guy, but he is one of those “the ends justify the means” kind of guys which makes him more of a good guy/bad guy hero.  One thing is for certain and that is that Warner Brothers loves making movies about him, they have made both good and bad decisions about the franchise. By next summer there will have been seven live action Batman films from the studio over the past 23 years, and that wouldn’t have been possible if this movie wasn’t awesome. Batman has a great suit in this film, the Batman emblem on his chest is my favorite, I’ve always like the yellow and black best.  The Batmobile is totally badass, with a shield and the ability to be voice operated from anywhere.  The action figures and accessory toys from this film where what I played with as a 5-7 year old in the late 80s early 90s so I can assure you, all the bat gadgets were awesome.  With so many different incarnations of the character there has always been specific emphasis on how Batman, the Batmobile, Bruce Wayne, and certain other recurring aspects of the series differ from one another.  Some Batman films failed, but this one didn’t, this one set the bar high for the franchise.

Tim Burton was at his best when he made this movie, also making Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands in the years before and after.  I am a Tim Burton fan and I am a big fan of his two Batman films.  He has such an interesting ability to be both dark and colorful at the same time.  The choice of Michael Keaton to play Batman was apparently criticized but I still think he has been the best actor to play the role.  Christian Bale is great in the newer movies, but Bale has no upper lip, something important when only the lower half of your face is visible in the costume.  I doubt I would have loved the choice of Keaton in 1989 myself but having grown up with him as Batman I tend to be more accepting and think of it as the role he was made for. I have never been a Jack Nicholson fan, with few exceptions and this movie is not one of them.  I know Nicholson is legendary for the amount of money he made on this film but even before The Dark Knight I didn’t really think he was suited well for the part.  He was old even back in 1989 at 52 years old, I tend to think the Joker should be young.  You can’t cast an old man who shows his age and the ageless arch-enemy of Batman.  I know I am in the minority on this issue though, Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker made him a legend just as much as the money he made on the movie did.  I don’t think Kim Basinger was anything special in this movie but she didn’t have to be either.  It’s a rule of thumb that a comic book film must have a hot chick/love interest.  Kim Basinger served those purposes perfectly as she was in her youthful prime and on the way to a much more successful career. I don’t usually mention the musical score of a movie but Danny Elfman’s score for this movie deserves special mention.  The musical score for any movie should set the mood and guide the viewer through the movie.  The music should counter balance with the scenes to invoke the right emotion or build anticipation.  The score of this movie does both those things and more, Danny Elfman is a great composer.

I have been a little overly interested in Batman lately as my anticipation for the long-awaited Dark Knight Rises continues to build.  Over this summer I have read several Batman graphic novels actually including Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and The Long Halloween.  The middle two are exceptionally well done and I would suggest them to anybody because they are awesome.  I have developed a new appreciation for the character and have really high hopes for Christopher Nolan’s next installment.  I’m afraid that the newer Batman films have been so good that they make this one and its sequels forgettable, but I hope that’s not the case.  This movie is a classic, a great Batman film, and the beginning of a long-standing franchise.  It is worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Doesn’t Michael Keaton make and incredibly sexy Batman? I mean, I get it…he is no Christian Bale (whom I apparently am the only non-fan of), but for me, I just get giggly whenever I hear him say “I am Batman” for the first time. Does anyone remember when Michael Keaton was the “it” guy in Hollywood? Younger generations may not, but I do. I was younger, but I remember. Wow, that never really went anywhere did it. This Batman movie was the first in this series and I think it played as a catalyst for serious comic book movies. It did for me anyway.

This Batman movie actually won an oscar for Best Art/Set Direction. I think that suits a Tim Burton film to a tee, don’t you. The plot of this film is intriguing, I believe because Jack Nicholson is just so damn scary. I don’t think I would ever want to run into him somewhere, especially after seeing him as the joker. Anything I see him in I automatically revert back to him as the Joker. Scary. I give this film two of my thumbs up and I think you should definitely watch it if you like Batman and comic book movies. These are original and beautifully directed, so check them out.

NEXT MOVIE: Batman Returns (1992)

8 Mile

Year: 2002
Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Writer: Scott Silver
Awards Won: Best Original Song, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

8 Mile Movie Image

RYAN’S REVIEW

Eh, this movie really doesn’t belong.  Its presence in our collection is merely a tribute to the fame and success of Eminem at the time. He was on fire in 2002 and while this movie is mostly ridiculous he does have his moment in it.   While this role didn’t require him to show very much range I do think that it was a successful venture for him.  I think Eminem delivered a remarkable performance considering he had zero experience, and if nothing else we got some good music out of the film.  The right elements are there for a successful film, Curtis Hanson, Brian Glazer, and the credible, recent academy award winning actress Kim Basinger.  Nevertheless, it’s like a Rocky movie about rap, a long boring trek to 10 minutes of excitement. While at the time of its release I did really enjoy the film, I have since outgrown rap and find the movie mainly ridiculous.  I still think that it belongs in the collection however, it reminds me of a different time in my life.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is not one of my favorite films in the least. While I appreciate a movie that follows a troubled soul, I feel I can’t really personally relate to the storyline. I am not part of the rap culture and therefore I find it hard to put myself into the movie, which I usually like to try and do. I do however really like the music that Eminem creates; it contains so much pain and personal strife that it can be relatable to anyone who has had a tough time in life. He should stick to rapping and not acting. Kim Basinger is an actress I can take or leave, but in my opinion she looked way to good and young to be the mother of Eminem. Ryan said it right when he wrote, “a long boring trek to 10 minutes of excitement.” The battle was great, but damn was it a boring journey to get there. All in all this is one of my least favorites on the DVD shelf.