Category Archives: Crime

Die Hard

Well this isn’t really a christmas tradition. I’d like it to be, but it still sort of is. Every year around christmas time I usually end up watching Die Hard again. Not every year and usually not on christmas eve like this year, but generally Die Hard gets a re-watch around the holiday. Personally, I’d like to make it more of a tradition.

Anyways as odd a choice as Die Hard maybe be to watch on Christmas Eve, it is set on that day. It technically takes place during the holiday. It’s sort of hard to tell. McClane’s wife is at a Christmas party in Nakatomi tower and they do allude to it a couple of times.

Anyways Die Hard is a bout this cop from New York who comes out to visit his wife in LA (she also has their two children). He stops by the christmas party and shit hits the fan shortly after. Some Germans led by Hans Gruber hijack the party and get up to some nonsense. McClane hides and basically fuck shit up. Eventually the police get involved and things get worse. In the end good triumphs, but that’s hardly a surprise. Really describing the plot to Die Hard seems kind of pointless. In my mind it’s a well known movie, but there are plenty of people unaware of it.

Anyway, I’ve always liked Die Hard. It’s a nice shoot ’em up, blow shit sky-high extravaganza. That and the movie has some pretty sweet lines and is actually funny. It’s a great action movie or comedy by itself for the most part and the two elements combined really work.

The actors though are the reason why. I like Bruce Willis. He’s great as John McClane. I’m assuming it’s his most notable role. I also recall reading somewhere that like 90 percent of his dialogue was improvised, so if that’s true, even more kudos for the man, because he has some great lines. Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker. Alan Rickman is also great as Hans (I love that Jeremy Irons plays his brother in the third film). He’s a great actor and does a great job at villains (though he he has amazing comedic timing). The supporting cast is great to. Reginald VelJohnson (Family Matters is probably why you recognize him), does a great job as does Paul Gleason. They both kind of play character types they are well known for and they do such a good job at it. The terrorists are all pretty good small roles as well. Same for some of the office workers or police/FBI. Not big roles, but they do a good job for the jokes they’re put in there for.

I feel like I should say more, but I can’t think of a lot to add. The dated references are great, especially if you catch them. I wonder how many people know who Roy Rogers or Arafat are. The edited version for cable is interesting to watch, because the film has a fair amount of explicative so editing them for cable is fun to listen to. Especially Willis’s catchphrase.

So yeah. I love Die Hard. Great action-comedy. If you haven’t seen it you should and hell, maybe you’ll make it a holiday tradition as well. It’s a good enough movie for it and even if you ignore the holiday bit, it’s a great movie.

Now that I’ve watched the first one, I’ll probably be watching and reviewing the others soon.

Limitless

If only I could somehow organize everything in my head and focus. In a sense that’s what Limitless starts out as. A struggling writer ends up taking a pill that gives him a burst of nonstop adrenaline in addition to organizing whats in his head and allowing him to learn faster. Essentially his brain becomes a supped up computer.

Limitless is riddled with plot holes. I don’t know how you could expect it not to be. The film is outrageous and that’s kind of a good thing. It isn’t supposed to be realistic. You know the first clue to that? They don’t ever attempt to explain the drug. The movie takes a nifty idea and just tries to have some fun with it. I liked that. Still, there are some holes that are frustrating and the movie isn’t quite even. The tone tends to fluctuate and at times the story was a bit wandering. The ending was really good. It’s actually a bit of twist maybe. On one hand I expected it. It made sense, but in the back of my mind I kept going, nope won’t end that way. The movie is about drugs really, so the studio wouldn’t let it go that way. I’m kind of glad they did.

The visuals were pretty damned good though. I really liked the cinematography here and the style worked. The music was also great as well. It did a great job of matching up with the film. That and the Black Keys “Howlin’ For You” was a great choice, but I love that song anyways.

The acting was ok. There weren’t any glaring performances that blew. Bradley Cooper is hard to take seriously at first. I mean the half-assed attempt to make him look like a bum didn’t really work. I did however, like the effect they used on his eyes. The man has some lovely blue eyes to begin with, but when he’s drugged they make a point of highlighting that. Not sure if contact were used at some point, but I sort of noticed the effect. Anyways, he kind of falters in some of the more dramatic moments, but overall he did a pretty good job. Robert DeNiro was DeNiro. I don’t know how much he was really even acting, but he was still great despite the small screen time. He still kicked Cooper’s ass.

Not an amazing movie, but it had enough working for it to keep it a fun, fast, visually striking flick that keeps your attention for most of the movie. Usually if they start loosing you, they ratchet things up real quick to bring you back in.

Justified (Season 1 & 2)

I believe I heard about Justified from listening to Doug Benson’s, Doug Loves Movies podcast. I vaguely remember him saying he thought it was a great show. That or some other podcast, but I’m pretty sure it was his. Anyways, the mention of the show being good and Timothy Olyphant was enough to spark my interest.

The show Justified is currently on FX (season three will air in the spring I guess). The show essentially revolves around Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) who works in Kentucky and was born and raised in Harlan County. Raylan is trigger happy, which is what a lot of the show is ultimately about in a way.

I love the show –  all two seasons. I actually was going to post a topic about season one, but I was already halfway through season two. I just got hooked. That and season two features more tie-ins, but that’s something for later.

So season one is and isn’t great. Overall it was amazing. At times I was sort of upset that most episodes stood alone. They didn’t run together, but were basically solving a “case” or issue per episode and usually didn’t relate. That changed by the end of the season, but initially it was disappointing a bit just because it felt like they wanted to have a continuous flow, but were held back by the possibility of not being renewed or something. Minor issue.

Season two was great. They improved some things from season one and you could tell they were more comfortable by that time. The show seemed to take on a larger scope to me. That and a lot of season two is basically all one big story. Actually I don’t there was an episode that wasn’t connected to the main story, which makes it hard to not keep watching.

The writing on the show is pretty good. The stories are interesting, but they aren’t really cop/detective/CSI story lines which is refreshing. the dialogue is pretty good to. It’s partly what makes the show funny, which it surprisingly is. It doesn’t stand out, but really there’s a lot of humor in the show. The characters are probably the best aspect of the show. There are a wide variety of characters that are reoccurring, even minor ones. That for one is nice to see. It also helps that they’ve bothered to detail these characters. Even the henchmen have names and identities that make you remember them. Raylan and Boyd (Walton Goggins) are the best characters to watch. They’re paired with each other from the beginning and that keeps cropping up throughout the two seasons. They do a good job developing the pair, especially Boyd. The only character and subsequent story that doesn’t work for me is the one with Raylon’s wife, Winona. It just doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the show and get’s way to much time in season 2.

The cast is really good. Timothy Olyphant is great, though I guess a lot of people don’t like him, which I could sort of see. Personally I think he’s great to begin with, but I think he fits this role really well. I really liked him in The Crazies as the Sheriff there and I unfortunately have yet to see Deadwood, but he seems to do these roles very well. Walton Goggins is better though. Boyd is an interesting character, but Goggins really brings him to life. I’ll refrain from elaborating, but the “speeches” he frequently gives (depending on where you are at) are amazing. They actually reminded me of Michael Parks in Red State at one point. M.C. Gainey is pretty kick-ass in season one as well. Jere Burns is amazing as well. I recently saw him in Breaking Bad and he still bugs me. He’s one of those guys you recognize, but can’t place (at least I couldn’t). I go on IMDB to find out about him and I can’t quite figure out where I saw him first since he’s been in so many things. Great actor.

Season two though is were the casting really hit me, particularly with the casting of the Bennett family. I think everyone of them was great. Margo Martindale as Mags is amazing. Totally worth the Emmy nod (as were Goggins and Olyphant – none won). Jeremy Davies was great as Dickie. Actually he’s one I wish had more screen time.

There are so many people I’m failing to mention cast wise, but I can’t mention them all. That would be a couple of posts on it’s own, because everyone is really fucking good in this show.

One of the things I liked is how dual season one and two are. Season one focuses on a sort of patriarchal family set up with the Crowder’s and in some instances Raylan’s issues with his father. Season two shifts two a matriarchal family head with Mag Bennett and actually Aunt Helen becomes more important as does Winona. One of those little things that fascinated me, that may or may not be intentional. I do love the matriarchal family though. Animal Kingdom is a great film with a matriarchal head of a criminal family and season two of Justified reminded me of that.

The music is really good in the show, but I already enjoy bluegrass and blues. The shows opening is actually great. The footage at least is really cool. The them would be great if it cut out the rap. The rap just doesn’t fit for starters and it isn’t that good, though the lyrics are fitting.

Anyways, I could go on and one, but I already have a lengthy enough post. Basically start watching Justified because it is worth it. Thanksgiving is coming up so everyone on a break should sit and watch this. It’s only two seasons to watch the whole thing so it’s not a lot. I did it in a  week and I still have classes.

 

Just watch the first episode and see if you can resist.

Archangel

I think Daniel Craig is a pretty good actor, but part of me still holds a grudge for him being cast as Bond. He just didn’t fit the bill, though he does a great job at the new version of Bond that they’ve created. When Craig was first cast as Bond one of my cousins hopped on the bandwagon and praised him. I sat and watched part of Archangel with him while my family was visiting, but not much. Now it’s been a few years and I’ve finally gotten around to checking the TV movie/mini-series out because Craig is in it.

Archangel takes place in Russia and deals with the clash of old and new Russia or the lack thereof. There’s a secret dealing with Stalin and Craig’s character being a Professor with a ton of knowledge on Stalin obviously wants to find this supposed diary and of course shenanigans ensue. Sort of.

Sounds something like dan Brown book right? You’re not far off. It’s based off of a novel by Richard Harris who writes mostly historical fiction novels similar to this. I never read Archangel, but I have read a few of his others and the books are really good. From what I recall they had a bit more action and suspense in them than this TV mini-series. Dan Brown’s books also have a lot more action in them, though neither are really action movies/books.

Daniel Craig was good and I suppose the rest of the cast wasn’t to bad, though nothing to call home about. I suppose I can see the argument that Craig hardly looks like a professor.

The series itself didn’t amaze me. The first episode wasn’t to bad. It showed some promised and seemed well produced. After that though, things just went down hill. There just wasn’t enough oomph or pizzaz, whatever your favorite word is.

The Next Three Days

I never know what to make of thrillers. There are plenty of good ones and they set the bar high. Unfortunately there are plenty of thrillers that get churned out that just don’t work. It’s a hard story to tell and I think audiences are very critical of these movies. Heck, I’m pretty sure people criticize the great ones. I’ve always been a fan of them though, which makes it even more frustrating when trying to decide whether I want to watch a new one or not. Advertising isn’t always great.

I initially was torn about The Next Three Days. It looked like it might be pretty good, but the premise was just insane. A guys wife (Crowe and Banks) get’s sentenced to prison for supposedly killing someone. Determined that she’s innocent, Crowe ultimately starts planning how to break her out of prison. Seems a bit farfetched and really it is. I hate to sound like a broken record, but no movie is perfect and I actually think thrillers tend to be one of the most flawed movies. The amount of twists and turns that we require of these films makes them more prone to be screwed up and The Next Three Days is no exception.

Apart from the premise being absurd (to me at least), my big problem was with the lack of character development. We focus so much on Russell Crowe trying to plan this break out that we only get a certain kind of development from him. The character does develop, but for me I didn’t know who he was to begin with. I never felt like there was enough backstory provided for him or Elizabeth Bank’s character for that matter for me to really know what to make of them. John (Crowe) was presented as an intelligent guy because he was figuring all of this nifty stuff out. I just felt like a it more backstory to who they were would’ve helped. It’s hard to agree with the character’s motives to begin with, but it could be done. Unfortunately we don’t really know the characters well enough. Of course there are a number of other things nit pick about, but that didn’t bug me so much.

The acting was really good though, which is helped make up for the plot issues. Russell Crowe turns out a solid performance as does Elizabeth Banks and the rest of the cast. The acting was actually pretty damned good. I’m not a fan of Crowe in general though. I tend to like his movies, he tends to pick really good ones. I’m just not a fan of him though and I’ve never been able to place why exactly.

One of the other faults of the film though is the timing. Things are paced a bit awkwardly and some of the scenes seem thrown in simply so that they can be used for later purposes. The whole thing with Olivia Wilde for example. The ending was great though. Again criticize them plot holes and how unrealistic it is all you want, the pacing was pretty damned good and I though they kept the suspense going pretty well. By the very end things died down. They dragged it out a bit to long, but still the ending overall made up for the rest of the movie being on the slower side.

It’s far from crap and I enjoyed it. It’s nowhere near great, but it’s better than most thriller or mystery styled movies that get churned out.

 

How to Beat the High Cost of Living

I’m always unsure of what to expect from older comedy films like this. In general I’m a fan of them, including the ones that are quite honestly sort of crap. For someone my age I’m probably a rarity in that I’ve probably seen more comedies from the 60’s-80s than current ones being made, though I also watch more films than most of my friends so who knows.

How to Beat the High Cost of Living isn’t unique on to many levels I suppose. The film sets up three women, who of course are friends, who come across hard times financially and of course to solve that problem they devise a scheme to rob the local mall. Considering the last movie I watched was Tower Heist, it really is interesting how similar all of these heist comedy films are and you can see the same places where they usually succeeded or falter.

The movies funny, but in a subtle way I guess. To me, there are comedies that are just funny because of how things arise and then there are comedies that are funny due to a more elaborate set up of jokes. This movie falls into the first category to me. I didn’t feel like there were a lot of gags meant to make you roll on the floor laughing, but the overall tone of the film was pretty upbeat and there are funny moments. The humor for the most part is pretty clean, which I was sort of disappointed in. I kind of hoped Jane Curtin and Fred Willard’s presence may have allowed for some spicier content.

The acting was good all around. Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin, and Jessica Lange were all good and worked well with each other, although I still feel like they didn’t actually have that much screen time together. I may be wrong, but the movie seemed to have them off following their own stories and occasionally meeting up briefly. Fred Willard has a small part, which sadly isn’t much. He’s not bad, but it’s a bit part where he really doesn’t get a chance to be funny. Eddie Albert is also decent for his small screen time as Jame’s father. Hopefully people recognize the name or man, Garrett Morris, who like Jane Curtin appeared early on in SNL. Sadly he also has one scene (which seems to be most of his parts). He’s great in it, but it’s probably only a minute long.

Overall it was a good film. Not the greatest of its type and considering the success of most of the cast it’s kind of odd that it wasn’t better or a bit raunchier than it is. Still worth checking out depending on your taste in comedies.

Tower Heist

I saw Tower Heist yesterday because of the cast, particularly Eddie Murphy. Still, I kept ym expectations down.

I liked Tower Heist. It is what it is: an escapist comedy. The movie is riddled with problems, but most movies are, especially comedies. I think people forget about suspension of belief with movies, especially comedies. In general comedies aren’t supposed to be realistic. They wouldn’t be comedies than, since humor tends to rely on exaggeration in some form. I mean even “great” comedies like Ghostbusters or The Blues Brothers clearly aren’t realistic. And really that was one of the biggest faults of the movie. It’s obviously not realistic and it has plenty of holes and issues with the story and more so if you try analyzing it to much.

Of course the movie isn’t original either, although at least they toyed slightly with our current climate. Still, how many heist movies are there and how many of those are comedies? There are plenty and they usually do decently because it’s a pretty straightforward set up. Some of the jokes are the same in the movies, but it doesn’t mean they can’t work. It’s about sitting down for less than two hours and just escaping and hopefully laughing, which I did. Tower Heist isn’t the best of anyone’s career (hopefully), but it wasn’t the worst. It was somewhere around mediocre and I don’t think it was trying to be anything more than that. I think people gave the movie a lot of hype partially because of Eddie Murphy’s appearance. People expected Beverley Hills Cop or 48 Hours and that’s not what this movie was trying to be. It isn’t even Ocean’s 11. It was funny though. I laughed enough to satisfy watching the movie and the audience I was with laughed a lot. I do have to say though, that the movie starts a little slow as far as humor goes. The set up for the film isn’t riddled with jokes.

My biggest problem with the film actually is the cast. There were a lot of goog to great actors here and everyone was at least ok. I don’t think anyone bombed. My problem comes from the supposed “Rat Pack” established here. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck and Michael Pena didn’t have great chemistry in my opinion. Ocean’s 11 may not be the greatest example, but that movie had an ensemble cast where at least a number of that “gang” had at least decent chemistry with each other. Tower Heist lacked that. Part of the problem is the characters themselves I think. Each actor played a role they’ve had before for the most part. They played toned downed versions of what they’ve done more than once and while it was something of a positive I feel like it might’ve had a part in why the characters didn’t fit well. I also have to note that this is not a “comeback” for Eddie Murphy. He’s not bad, but he’s not where he was in the 80s. I didn’t really expect his performance to be up there, but something to be aware of.  Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, and Gabourey Sidibe are all great and in some respect probably do a better job than the main characters.

I’m going to chose to ignore any comments on Brett Ratner’s direction. I don’t really have any strong thoughts on the man. I liked Rush Hour (1 & 2) and Red Dragon unlike some of his others films. I can see where he may be bit a of a dick, but that wouldn’t stop me from watching one of his movies. The comedies he’s made are similar and at least halfway decent. Hardly the worse movies ever made. That and comedies seem to be able to do well as long as the have a good cast and writing. The director just needs to let them do their thing and keep them on task.

The movie could have been better. The talent in the cast was there. Heck, if Murphy or Stiller had aided in the writing of the movie it probably would’ve been a great help. That’s not the case however and what we’re left with is a movie that I’d  be fine with re-watching on TV or DVD somewhat regularly, but it’s not going to be a favorite. I don’t regret seeing it the theater, though if you are selective of what you go to the theaters to see I would probably pass.

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