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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Ellen Barkin

Johnny Handsome (1989)

It kills to look so good.

Due to a disfigured face, John (Mickey Rourke) has spent most of his life either being ridiculed, or never understood. The only thing that he really knows to do in life is set up heists and have them to according to plan. And for his latest one, everything works out perfectly, with all of the money being taken, and very little casualties, until, well, he gets double-crossed and left to be arrested by the cops. John is soon taken into custody where a doctor who specializes in facial-reconstruction surgery (Forest Whitaker) wants to test something out on John and see, if at all possible, he can get him to look like a normal person. It works, but of course, John himself has a lot to get used to, with people not staring at him any longer. And then, sooner than later, John’s out of jail, back on the streets, and ready to be an everyday, law abiding citizen. But before he does any of that, he wants to get revenge on the two criminals, Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) and Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen), who screwed him over in the first place.

Eric Stoltz?

Johnny Handsome is an odd movie because, as is the case with most of Hill’s movies, it seems like it wants to be two different one simultaneously. There’s one aspect that wants to be this goofy, high-concept heist-thriller with guns, action, violence, drugs, booze, and cursing, but then there’s this other, that wants to be a thoughtful, quiet and small character-study about this guy Johnny and how he learns to get along with life after finding a new lease on it. By no means has Hill ever been considered the most perfect director for heart-warming tales of humanity, so obviously, the later story doesn’t quite work out for him.

But at least the former does.

And yes, that’s exactly where Johnny Handsome works, in the grit and the action of the tale. As is usually the case, Hill knows how to craft a solid action-sequence, whether it’s a heist scene, or a brawl between two characters, and it just goes to show you what the guy can do, when the material is there for him to play around with. Sure, has he had better action movies on his plate than this one here? Sure, but it also helps that Hill gets a chance to revel in the sleeze that this tale sometimes promises getting to the nitty gritty of. Of course, it doesn’t quite go as far as it should with that, but it gets close enough to make it feel like a worthwhile effort, on the part of Hill’s.

It’s just that, once again, the movie also wants to be something of a stern, serious character-study that, at the center, does have something interesting to say about Johnny himself. But of course, it’s trapped in this wild and rather wacky B-movie that knows what it is, when it’s doing its thing, but when it’s getting away from that, it feels weird. It’s as if Hill knew that there was some true dramatic promise with this premise and did want to develop it a tad bit more, but also didn’t want to scare too many others away from how melodramatic he was able and willing to get.

It’s an odd mix-and-match Hill has to work with here and honestly, in the hands of a much better director, it probably would have worked. Not to say that Hill isn’t a good director, but you can tell his specialties do heavily lie on action, not drama.

I’d hang with them. Maybe not rob a bank, but definitely hang.

But hey, at least the cast is pretty great.

Mickey Rourke, in what would probably be one of the last performances for awhile where he actually seemed to give a crap, does a solid job as Johnny, even though, like I’ve said before, he may be in a tad bit of a different movie. He’s doing his usual cool, calm and collected brooding thing we’ve seen from him before, which may seem a tad dull, but makes sense in the general sense of the story and just who this character is. It would have been nice to see him play this character in a less messier movie, but hey, at least Rourke’s good here.

The real fun from the cast comes from the supporting side. Lance Henriksen is evil and detestable as one of the baddies who rip-off Johnny; Morgan Freeman plays a cop who is on Johnny’s ass from the get-go and seems to push him way too far at times; Elizabeth McGovern is very much playing it serious like Rourke, but is interesting enough to watch; Forest Whitaker plays his doctor character a little creepy, which works; and Ellen Barkin, well, steals the show as Sunny Boyd. As Boyd, Barkin gets to let loose, showing that she can be beautiful, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, never allowing you to fully trust her, but also kind of love her, too. She clearly came ready to play and it’s why her performance is the one worth remembering when all is said and done.

Consensus: Even despite the mess it eventually becomes, Johnny Handsome still gets by on its thrills and excitement given by its talented ensemble.

6 / 10

Oh, there’s the Mickey we all know, love and recognize. Basically, right before he started boxing, for some reason.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Connoisseur
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Down by Law (1986)

lawposterSome of your best friend’s are found in prison. Not high school.

Zack (Tom Waits) is driving out late one night on the town when all of a sudden, he gets pulled over by the cops and brought in on a bunch of drugs. They weren’t his, but the cops don’t want to hear it, so they book him and now he’s forced to spend a certain amount of time in the clink. Same goes for Jack (John Lurie), who was also set-up by someone he thought he could trust. Now, he’s sharing a cell with Zack and while it takes some time for them to get used to one another, they eventually become good cell-buddies, joking around, relating and whatnot. Then, in walks foreigner Roberto (Roberto Benigni), who got arrested for a way different charge: Murder. However, Zack and Jack eventually take to Roberto and altogether, they forge a plan to get the hell out of jail and hopefully, on with the rest of their lives. The only issue is that getting out of jail is the easy part – it’s not getting caught and thrown back in the slammer that’s the hardest.

"Sing something."

“Sing something.”

What’s perhaps so interesting about Down by Law is that while it’s definitely a movie about a bunch of inmates, in prison, and trying to escape, the movie is actually not all that about the escape itself. There’s not all that much planning of where someone has to be at an exact point, who’s going to help out on the inside, the outside, and just how every part of the plan is going to go down. Most movies dealing with inmates breaking out detail this at great-length, but for writer/director Jim Jarmusch, it doesn’t really seem to matter.

In fact, it’s the inmates themselves who provide the most interesting story in the first place and it’s through them, that we get to learn a little bit more about the way Jarmusch sees the world. The one thing that there’s no denying about most of Jarmusch’s movies, is that they’re definitely quirky, sometimes, to a fault, but here, he seems to have dumbed that down a bit; Roberto can get a little silly at times, but that’s mostly because Benigni is such a clown, it’s hard not to, at the very least, chuckle at this character. Nope, interestingly enough, Jarmusch gives us a smart, compelling and sensitive character-study about three odd-balls, meeting up in the worst places of them all, and yeah, making something out of it.

In a way, ensuring to us, the rest of the world, that there is some hope for those inmates out there.

Still though, the movie isn’t trying to preach in the slightest; if anything, it’s just giving us a better glimpse into lives of three individuals, who we either don’t always see get their stories told, or when we do, they’re usually filled with drugs, violence and a whole lot of rape. Down by Law is a very different beast in the subgenre of prison movies, but it’s still a compelling one, even if the movie never does take us out of the one single cell that these guys live in. It’s not suffocating, though and it easily could have been – Jarmusch is working with some larger-than-life characters and cast-members that it helps make his movie pop and excite, rather than just drown in its sorrow and misery.

We get it, Roberto. You love your wife.

We get it, Roberto. You love your wife.

Something that Jarmusch will do in the future for sure, but thankfully, not here.

And yes, with Waits, Lurie, and Benigni, Jarmusch showed his knack for assembling a very odd cast, putting them together, and seeing what sort of odd magic happened. Luckily for him, and especially us, the three all have great chemistry and are more than willing to have us believe in some sort of budding relationship between the three of them. Aside from being together, they’re all very good, too – Waits is cool and bluesy, Lurie is a bit brooding, and Benigni’s as vibrant and wacky as you’d expect him to be, but he is still grounded, so that you do believe in him, as a person, not just another one of his characters.

That said, Down by Law does take a sort of different turn in the last-act and it works, and sort of doesn’t. The movie doesn’t go the conventional route out in ending itself, but by doing that, may have been too subtle for its own good. Jarmusch’s films always seem to have this problem, in that he himself seems to afraid to show any real, big emotion with his characters, that when it comes time for the emotional-button pushing, he backs away. He’d much rather take a hand-shake or high-five, than a hug or kiss, and honestly, sometimes we need that hug or kiss.

Only sometimes.

Consensus: With a talented ensemble and some of Jarmusch’s snappiest writing, Down by Law is a smart take on the prison movie subgenre, aiming more for character-development, than plot-mechanics.

8 / 10

Nowhere to go but East. Or East? Or, well, I don't know.

Nowhere to go but East. Or East? Or, well, I don’t know.

Photos Courtesy of: Generation Film!

Hands of Stone (2016)

Never say “no mas”.

At age 72, after a few brushes with death and the notorious mafia, legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement to coach world-class Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán (Édgar Ramírez). It’s a job that many other trainers would take, let alone, come out of a retirement for, but it’s one that Arcel feels as if he has to do, if only to teach Duran a thing or two about manners and living life like a peaceful, everyday citizen in the United States of America. After all, growing up, Duran had to constantly fight his way through childhood and to ensure that no one ever brought him down as a person; now that he’s older, muscular and more than capable of beating the hell out of whoever steps in his way, he’s definitely not stepped down. But now that Duran wants to face-off against the one and only champ, Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond), he’s more than ready to settle down, listen to his trainer and win the title that he feels he has earned after all of the years and hard-work that he has put in.

"Get up, you wimp!"

“Get up, you wimp!”

With the troubled production, constant delays on its release-date, and late-August release, you’d honestly expect Hands of Stone to be an utter piece of crap that no one wanted to see. Thankfully, it doesn’t turn out that way; it’s the kind of movie that you can tell had a clear agenda on its mind while being made, but for one reason or another, so many backstage politics got involved that after one cut too many, the movie lost its train of thought. It’s the perfect case of a good movie, unfortunately, being tarnished and ruin by the sole fact that it had one too many people’s wallets involved, so therefore, it had to suffer the consequences of having a whole lot in it, but essentially, not being about a single thing.

Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie, just a very messy, unclear and unfocused one.

The one thing that it does get right, thankfully, is the actual boxing itself. Writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz keeps Hands of Stone from ever getting boring, moving at a quick, fast and efficient pace that hardly ever lets up, even when it is featuring a bunch of people, sitting in a room, and talking about Jimmy Carter the Panamanian Canal. But where the movie really moves, is in its boxing.

Sure, the boxing isn’t as realistic as say, a real fight that you’d check out on PPV (that’s still a thing, right?), but it doesn’t matter – when it’s on, you pay attention and you have some fun. You feel every punch, hold, broken bone, sweat, blood-drip, and everything else that goes hand-in-hand with boxing, so much so that after awhile, you’d sort of just wish the whole movie stayed in the ring and never even bothered to go outside of it.

Because yes, unfortunately, when it does go outside of the ring, it gets pretty bad.

For one, Hands of Stone is, like I said, a messy movie. It has a lot to talk about race, family, power, the government, sports, and so on and so forth, but at the same time, doesn’t really have much of anything to say about them in the slightest. Take, for instance, De Niro’s Arcel, a character who is probably deserving of his own movie, but here, is saddled with playing second-in-command and has a very brief, very random bit where he’s trying to settle a dispute with his long, lost and estranged daughter that literally none of us have ever heard about. It seems like the movie itself knew this, so rather than having her show back up and make some sort of sense to the whole movie, she’s literally never heard from again.

Why, though?

We can't really see what you've got going on underneath the suit and tie, but hey, we're going to assume you've got some pretty big muscles.

We can’t really see what you’ve got going on underneath the suit and tie, but hey, we’re going to assume you’ve got some pretty big muscles.

Also, while I’m at it, why does the movie seem to bring up relations between U.S. and the Dominican Republic, yet, at the same time, never really have much of anything to say about them? And also, why are we learning so much about Durán’s upbringing and hotshot attitude, yet, at the same time, never actually knowing anything more about him besides that? The movie seems to present a whole bunch of stuff, but keep it all at such a surface-level, that after awhile, you don’t even know what it is.

Is it a boxing movie? Or, is it an unfinished cut of one?

Either way, the movie does thankfully stay entertaining all throughout, which mostly has to do with the fact that the pace is quick and the cast is quite good. As stated before, De Niro is good as Arcel, who probably deserves his own movie, just like Edgar Ramirez’s Durán does, as well. In fact, Ramirez is so good here, that he makes it very clear that possibly, some time down the road, he could give it another go, under a new writer, director, and studio, because there’s truly something here, to this person and this person’s tale that makes me want to see more of him and how he goes about his day-to-day life.

Unfortunately, we do get to see some of that here, but it’s in a movie that doesn’t seem to care, or know what to do with any of that rich material.

Consensus: With so much going on, Hands of Stone can’t help but feel and seem like a mess, but an entertaining one because of its fast-pace and good cast, which both deserve way better than what they’re given.

5.5 / 10

The weirdest sequel to Joy, ever.

The weirdest sequel to Joy, ever.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Cobbler (2015)

Soles and souls. Get it?

Small-time cobbler Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) lives a simple life to where he goes about everyday the same. He goes to work; fixes shoes; has coffee; talks to a neighbor of his (Steve Buscemi); and continues the same pattern, the next day and so on and so forth. It’s not great, but Max is a very relaxed dude, so he doesn’t fret about it too much. That’s why, when suddenly, he puts on his father’s old pea-coat and jumps in somebody else’s shoes and realizes that he can look, sound and be somebody that’s not him, but the shoe’s owner, then he can’t help but give this newfound trick a whirl and have some fun with it. However, what starts out as a little bit of fun to get him out of his somewhat boring, uneventful life, Max then finds himself way in over his head when he gets involved with some shady gangsters, and even shadier real estate agents who might be looking to destroy his old neighborhood. This then leads Max to spring into action and use his talents for the greater good of not just those around him, but society as a whole.

It’s understandable why a lot of people despise Adam Sandler and what he’s become. At one point, he was the brightest, best thing to hit the comedy world, but slowly but surely, he began to take on vanity projects that literally just became humorless paid-vacations for him and his buddies, that people, for some reason or another, would still throw shackles of money at, just so that they could see what variation Sandler and co. would make on the fart joke next. However, with last year’s Blended box-office receipts not being exactly what he maybe originally had hoped for, Sandler seems to be, ever so slightly, heading back to his old ways, taking up smaller-projects that not only challenge his audience to see him in a new light, but also challenge him as an actor.

You've been caught, Crawley!

You’ve been caught, Crawley!

And I, for one, am all down for this. Punch Drunk Love is not just one of the better rom-coms of the past decade or so, but also shows that Sandler isn’t just a good actor, but one that can really take over a film, while also showing us darker, more frightening sides to his persona that may have not been there before. Of course, in the years since, Sandler’s hands at drama haven’t always paid-off, but more often than not, he finds his own ways back to the genre, reminding us all that Sandler, first and foremost, is an actor. Even if Men, Women, and Children wasn’t everybody’s favorite, but you can’t discredit Sandler for that, as he was fine in it.

So, with all that being said, I think it’s obvious to know that I was definitely looking forward to the Cobbler. Not because it featured a premise that didn’t seem something out of Sandler’s wheelhouse, but because it was directed and co-written by none other than Thomas McCarthy himself; the kind of film maker that doesn’t just take a paid-gig for the hell of it. He takes time with his movies, which is why a huge part of me had high hopes for this movie and seeing where it took Adam Sandler, the actor, next.

Sadly, it all blew back in my face.

See, the Cobbler may seem like it has promise on the surface – it’s a whimsical take on the old saying that your mom, dad, grand-parent, teacher, inspirational-figure has said to you in the past, “Walk in another person’s shoes and then judge them.” Well, the premise here is that saying, but told literally. Adam Sandler gets in people’s shoes, turns into them, and goes around all of New York City causing all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes, this leads to him just walking around with a shit-eating grin on his face and dining and dashing out of fancy restaurants, but for awhile, it’s entertaining.

Then, things get real weird, real quick. There’s a possible murder that may or may not happen in the middle of this movie and as soon as it occurs, the tone totally changes from being light and lovely, to dark, disturbing, and even mean. Without saying too much, the murder that occurs is bloody and in-your-face, which then hints at there being a more dangerous story to be told underneath all of this goofiness, but soon, the movie abandons that. Instead, it keeps itself going with the humor and wacky hijinx, that have all but lost their favor; in fact, they feel like a cop-out to get past the fact that we literally just witnessed some character’s murder on the screen. Now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to laugh it off as just a simple whatever?!?

Uhm, sorry. Last time I checked, when a character suddenly gets killed in a movie, it should be treated as drama, and not just as a passing-joke amongst pals.

So, after this, the movie then decides it needs to have baddies for Max to defeat and by this point, the comedy is so far gone that it’s not at all funny, even if it tried to be. The one-joke premise of this character walking in other people’s shoes and turning into them, turns stale and gets old by about the third time he tries to steal somebody’s bundles of money. But then, the movie gets darker when we’re introduced to violent street gangs and Ellen Barkin’s character; who are both connected in a convoluted manner that I didn’t even bother to think about the second it was introduced to me. All I knew is that both sides owed each other money somehow and we’re both looking to do bad things, to seemingly innocent people.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

But, like I said before, by this time, the movie had already lost me. Which makes me wonder: Just what the hell was Thomas McCarthy doing being stuck with this junk? Better yet, why did he write this to begin with? It would make sense if he was just enlisted to be the director solely for money purposes (although I generally think this was considered “an indie”), but the fact that he actually co-wrote with this with somebody else, already shows that he had some hope in these uneven, uninteresting material to begin with. Whatever the reasons behind McCarthy’s decision to take this movie and make it his own, is totally left up in the air, but all I have to say is that I’m really looking forward to Spotlight later this year.

Which brings me to the next aspect of this movie worth discussing, and that’s Adam Sandler himself. It’d be hard to hate on Sandler here, because he’s literally doing what it seems like the director’s calling on for him to do: Act bored. That’s the way his character is written and I guess that’s exactly how Sandler plays it. Not to mention, it’s a tad hard to really judge Sandler’s performance here, considering that the majority of this movie features his character playing other character, which means that Sandler’s presence gets thrown to the sidelines in favor of some recognizable character actors.

Oh, and Method Man.

Yes, Method Man is in fact a key supporting player in the Cobbler, which actually works against and for the movie. It works for the movie because Method Man’s actually a solid actor, but least when you expect him to be here. Sure, he’s good at playing an a-hole gangster that constantly seems like he’s about to beat the crap out of someone if he doesn’t get his way, but when his character’s soul gets taken over by Max, it’s actually where most of the humor of this movie comes from. Method Man has to play a sweet, more nerdier-version of his character, which is both interesting and odd, but still worth watching because he does well with it.

Then, on the other hand, the movie doesn’t know whether they want to make this character a good guy, or a bad one. He’s a dick that beats his wife, robs people, and threatens lonely, little cobbler’s like Max, but at the same time, there’s still not enough backing-information to make it okay for us to see him get treated the way he does in the later-half of this movie. And even though there’s many more supporting players in this movie (among them are the likes of Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and even Dustin Hoffman), when Method Man ends up becoming your most memorable one, you’ve got something of a problem.

But you’ve got a bigger one when Method Man actually becomes the best part of your said movie.

Consensus: Promising in its premise, the Cobbler wants to be light, funny, and whimsical, yet, goes through so many tonal-transformations, that it makes it very hard to get involved with what happens, let alone actually laugh.

2.5 / 10 

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich prick, you.

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich mofo, you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

It seems like Todd Phillips must really like some Hunter S. Thompson himself.

Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), go on a three-day romp from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Motoring across the Mojave Desert on the way to Sin City, Duke and his purple haze passenger ingest a cornucopia of drugs ranging from acid to ether.

After seeing ‘The Rum Diary‘ for the bore that it was, I realized that I needed to see the one and only Depp and Thompson connection that everybody’s been talking about for so long. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

I haven’t really been all that familiar with a lot of Hunter S. Thompson‘s stuff but I can say that from what I know and hear, his shit is really crazy and out-of-this-world. This film is really freakin’ weird and it’s all about the insanely-real, and drug-influenced nightmares that go through this guy’s head when he’s taking LSD, coke, and some other crazy stuff that I didn’t even know existed. The whole film feels like a pretty long acid trip, which is much thanks to director Terry Gilliam.

Gilliam is great at these very eccentric and trippy set pieces that really get inside of your head and wonder just if what you are looking at is real, or all just a dream/imagination. Gilliam makes from what I hear pretty unfilmable stuff, and makes it damn realistic but not without making a lot of these drug-induced nightmares very funny and just very crazy to watch. Gilliam was the perfect choice for this type of film and even though this definitely isn’t the type of film that will make you wanna do some drugs, there is still a lot here that shows what it’s like to be on drugs and just how effed up your perception of reality can actually be.

The problem I think this film has is that a lot of the tone feels a bit uneven. Everything starts off all hilarious and very funny, without any type of real judgment on these dudes and all of the shameful things they do when they are completely drugged up, but that all starts to go away by the end of the film and that’s when it gets pretty dark. It blends right into this depressing kind of a film that doesn’t try to throw any messages about how “drugs are bad” at you, but to me, this still seemed a bit weird considering I spent the whole time just practically laughing at all these dudes.

I also feel like the film is a little too long and some scenes could have definitely been cut out, even though it seems like they were just going along with the material. The whole angle with the little, church girl seemed random and unneeded, and the diner scene where Gonzo totally gets big and nasty seemed very out-of-place for a film like this. It was a little too serious, a little too dark, and a little too sad to be placed in a movie where two guys are just tripped out the whole entire time.

Despite those little problems though, I still had a blast with this film, mainly because of the cast. Johnny Depp is the freakin’ man and totally crazy as Raoul Duke. Depp, as we all know, is perfect at playing these eccentric and cartoonish characters, and what he does here not only made me laugh but just watch his whole performance with happiness knowing just how great he really is with these sort of characters. Benicio del Toro is also totally convincing and crazy too as Dr. Gonzo. They are both great together and it’s funny how two completely different actors with two different styles, can come together on a film and just make everything seem like their having a great time with their roles.

Let me also not forget to mention that there are also tons and tons of cameos from a bunch of A-listers and random celebrities such as Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Flea, Lyle Lovett, Cameron Diaz, and even the man himself, Hunter S. Thompson. Oh and then there’s also Garey Busey, but he’s barely ever hard to miss in any film.

Consensus: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has its fair share of being too long and too uneven, but at other times, still has a direction from Gilliam that is beautifully trippy and inspired, and the cast just makes this whole bizarr-o film seem real without getting too serious.

8/10=Matinee!!

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Sea of Love (1989)

Good ole’ Al Pacino doing what he does best.

Lonely, burnt-out NYPD detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) is on the hunt for a serial killer who uses personal ads to attract potential victims in director Harold Becker’s taut, suspenseful thriller. Unfortunately, Frank falls hard for Helen (Ellen Barkin), the alluring top suspect in the case. Now, their white-hot attraction could save him — or kill him.

Pacino, during the 80’s, was basically doing nothing. He made starred in crap-fests like Cruising, Author! Author!, and the even worse, Revolution. So when this film came out, it was quite a relief to get a film that had Pacino doing something, other than just collecting paychecks.

The film works really well, especially when it comes to its suspense/mystery feel. Everything starts out as your typical thriller, with the murders happening, then when Pacino and Barkin start dating, the slight suspicion in the movie, is that the person you are with, might just possibly be the killer themselves. I liked how they fell in love, because it wasn’t a generic way, they both started out as opposites, and then soon realized there was this sexual attraction between each other, that they both wanted. This is all fairly predictable stuff, but the scenes between Barkin and Pacino are steamy and sizzling.

I have a feeling though that now seeing this, I probably won’t remember it too much after a week or two. I mean it is a good popcorn flick, however, that’s really all it is. It does work as a good “who done it” thriller, but overall, nothing amazing happened. The climax too, felt really dumb, and just totally implausible. We never get any clues, or even an idea, that the person who is actually doing these crimes, actually is, and when it pops up who actually did do it, I didn’t believe it all.

Al Pacino gives off that great, funny man charm, that is Al Pacino. He plays this cop, that at first you feel bad for, cause he hates his life so much, then you realize that this guy is cool as ish, and you want him to prevail in finding the killer. Ellen Barkin is good as this steamy, sexy lady, that steals Pacino’s heart, mostly cause she is just a fire in bed, and who can’t resist that. These two make a good piece of chemistry on-screen, which helps the film in the end. Also, John Goodman, is well, good here, and brings a lot of comedy to the film.

Consensus: Sea of Love has two great performances from Barkin and, the ever so cool Pacino, along with some good mystery, but in the end is just another meaningless pop-corn flick, with an ending, that just doesn’t mean much.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Brooklyn’s Finest (2010)

Reminds me of the good ole days when cops were just dirty, and nobody cared.

Antoine Fuqua directs this tense drama about three wildly different New York cops whose paths collide in a Brooklyn housing project, where each must make a decision that will change the course of their lives forever. Cynical, washed-up Eddie (Richard Gere) no longer cares about the job or the rules; cash-strapped Sal (Ethan Hawke) sees a shortcut to solvency; and Tango (Don Cheadle) is torn between conflicting loyalties. Ellen Barkin and Wesley Snipes co-stars.

The film directed by Fuqua, is much like his other police drama, Training Day. It also features that films rookie cop, Ethan Hawke, but is a big disappointment.

The film is written by Michael C. Martin, a one-time subway flagger from East New York. And I can already tell this is his first piece of work, mostly due to the fact it can’t quite find itself. The film has some very powerfully emotional moments, but also has way too many cliches as with its plot: the dirty cop, the aging cop, and the undercover cop fighting with his identity. I have seen this too many times before and wanted something new.

The film reminded me of Pride and Glory that also dealed with Police politics, but almost in a better way. The film does have the feel of one of those old-styled cop films, with its blaring grittiness, and over-the-top violence that comes at many times. The problem is that although Fuqua has got the right look and feel, he doesn’t give out the right emotion. I felt a little bored when these people were talking mostly because its all the same, and isn’t set as being too suspenseful.

Probably the best thing about this movie that really elevates it is its cast. Don Cheadle gives another powerful and realistic performance as the undercover cop, and you actually feel yourself rooting for him more and more. Hawke, once again, plays that bastard that is always causing trouble but plays it well here as well. Also, it was good to see Wesley Snipes back to the screen after a long absence, as he plays one of those lovable villains that we all know and love him for. I think Gere, who I obviously don’t like, didn’t have such a good performance here and I found his story to be the most confusing and actually weakest of the three.

Consensus: Though the signature grittiness and action from Fuqua lies within Brooklyn’s Finest, there are too many uninteresting moments, and difficult paces, but still are backed by great performances from its cast, minus Richard Gere.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Diner (1982)

One of the best places to hang out no matter how old you get is always going to be, the diner.

Set in 1959 Baltimore, writer-director Barry Levinson’s debut film focuses on a group of pals on the brink of adulthood who find solace at the local diner. The late-night banter between groom-to-be Eddie (Steve Guttenberg), best man Billy (Tim Daly), womanizer Boogie (Mickey Rourke), music addict Shrevie (Daniel Stern) and quirky Modell (Paul Reiser) ranges from girls to growing up and getting old. Ellen Barkin and Kevin Bacon also appear.

This movie defines nostalgia…and who doesn’t think about the past…past friendships and experiences…mostly with a smile. It brings you back to a good old time that you used to have with your buddies always discussing topics about life.

This film is not necessarily a coming-of-age film as much as it is a period piece about these friends and their lives. There is one attitude that goes around this film that isn’t very talked about is the fear of women. There are these movies that show these macho guys going around drinking beer, driving motorcycles, and always having a good time. However, in Diner this attitude is a lot more perceptive, these guys are afraid of women and they see them as an undiscovered country as seen by many scenes in this film.

The writing from Barry Levinson in this film is just superb. He really does show he has a knack for hilarious but at the same true realistic dialogue. Many lines in this film are funny, that also go along with the scenes and make the scenes a lot more better, than you would expect.

One of the most extraordinary things that the film does is that we feel like we know these characters our whole lives. Levinson directs the film in a way so that everybody involved in this film gets a chance to show who they are and their personalities. Its one of those films that I actually felt like I understood who these people were, when the film was over.

The one problem I had with this film was that some scenes were very memorable but their weren’t just enough of those memorable scenes. I think the one problem is that the film does lag at points to where it gets borderline boring, but not enough to totally throw my attention away.

The acting by this very young cast is what makes it even better. Out of the whole cast Mickey Rourke is the best I can name. He is a total womanizer having no feelings for the chicks in general, just their bodies, but by the end of the film he makes a great transition to where you see him as a sympathetic heartfelt guy, and I think as charming as he is in this performance, he does one of the best jobs.

Consensus: Diner does lag at points, but has wonderful dialogue, charming performances, and realistic attitudes about life that bring you back to great times in your life that you remember the most and cherish.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!