Category Archives: Crime

The Heat (2013)

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The Heat

The Heat

Uptight FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) couldn’t be more incompatible. But when they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies. From Paul Feig, director of “Bridesmaids.” (c) Fox

Another movie I never intended to see. As much as I like both Bullock and McCarthy, the ads for The Heat just made it seem awful. (D disagrees, he thought the ads were fine) It was getting impressive reviews, though, and when friends saw and recommended it firsthand, we decided to give it a shot.

Funny. Laugh out loud in a lot of places. The script is iffy, the direction – eh. The movie is saved from mediocrity by the quality cast – especially Sandra Bullock who is as endearing & funny as she has ever been, and seems to be getting better looking with age.

Melissa McCarthy is a funny woman who, unfortunately, seems to believe more is never enough. Her roles just get more & more over the top, usually dampening my enjoyment – The Heat is no exception. However, if you enjoyed her character in Bridesmaids, you will enjoy her character here. She commits to the portrayal 100%, and you have to give her some respect for that.

It is a bit coarse (credit that to McCarthy) and so definitely not for everyone. Still for a movie that had some very unappealing advertisements, this ended up being quite appealing after all.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 66%; Audience 75%

Safe (2012)

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Safe

Full disclosure: I like my action movies with a lot of action. I like a high body count with minimal gratuitous blood. I like clever fight choreography that respects the laws of physics rather than relying on wires and/or CGI. I like Jason Statham as a good, but flawed, man who is willing to do what it takes to save the day – or the girl. Safe delivers on all those criteria. (note that a quality script doesn’t really factor – though it helps)

The story here finds Statham, a mediocre cage-fighter with big secrets in his past, suddenly thrust into a three way turf war that threatens to end the life of a young girl. Russians, Chinese, Police – all the ingredients for “a body count that rivals classic John Woo.

One of the bad reviews claims the movie is

…little more than an excuse for Statham to do what Statham does better than anyone else: look stern while punishing bad guys.

Don’t see how that is a bad thing. In fact, the reviewer claims ‘Safe’ is “everything that is wrong with action movies“, clearly missing the point of action movies.

A reviewer with a clearer understanding of the genre writes:

[Jason] Statham blasts his way through his biggest body count in this satisfying, one-note action film designed very specifically for Statham fans who know his acting limits as well as he does.

Indeed.

Because of the high body count, despite the relative lack of blood & gore, there are still several of my friends who would give this a pass – so only three on the WOM scale. However, if shoot ’em up action flicks float your boat, this one should satisfy.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 57%, Audience 62%

The Dark Knight (2008)

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The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

When Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent launch an assault on the mob, they let the clown out of the box, the Joker, bent on turning Gotham on itself and bringing any heroes down to his level.

Heath Ledger won The Golden Globe which reminds me of something. I’m sure this will get me no end of flaming comments, but here goes….

I saw The Dark Knight, and it was fine. It was a Batman movie, it was enjoyable – but it was nothing near what the hype suggested it would be.


* I can’t stand Katie Holmes. I think her acting is just fine, but her personal life has rendered her nearly intolerable. However, replacing her with Maggie Gyllenhaal was ridiculous. Gyllenhaal was nowhere near appealing enough to have us believing the major characters were both in love with her. Holmes is much more attractive physically and as Rachel Dawes.

* Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors, ever since his appearance in Empire of the Sun. He is a performer who you can count on to deliver a quality performance, and in Batman Begins, I think he did. For some reason, this time out, he decided to adopt an odd verbal style. While in the suit, he was nearly unintelligible. His first foray as Batman was great, this time I wanted to smack him upside the head and yell, “spit it out!”

* And, this will really get me in trouble, Heath Ledger . . . not that great. Much like his performance in Brokeback Mountain, where he did a poor imitation of Karl Childers, Ledger relies on affectation rather than acting. It is tragic that he died, but that doesn’t make his performance better – it makes it poignant and sad, but not better. I didn’t feel anything for this Joker but confusion – as to whether it would have gotten anywhere near the positive press if Ledger hadn’t died. I have nothing against the guy, but seriously, if you watch that performance objectively, does it truly deserve to effusive praise that has been heaped upon it?

All in all, The Dark Knight was full up to the brim with overacting. The early Batman films were big, cartoony movies – overacting fit. These latest films seemed to be aiming at more grown-up, more serious – the performances should be tailored to fit.

In the words of another comic book hero, “Flame on”


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 94%, Users 93%

UPDATE: I seem to agree with this guy

No Country for Old Men (2007)

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No Country for Old Men

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

One of the best movies I have seen in quite a while. From the story to the setting, everything here works.

I was unsure going in whether the choice of Josh Brolin in the lead role was wise, but he seemed custom fit as hapless protagonist Llewelyn Moss. There was no question Tommy Lee Jones would deliver, he always gives solid, understated performances. I had heard (who hadn’t) that Javier Bardem gave a stellar performance as contract killer Anton Chigurh – what an understatement. The guy took creepy to a whole new level.

There were several other wonderful performances, but a huge standout for me was Kelly Macdonald as Llewelyn’s wife. Her portrayal of the loyal, and seemingly meek, Carla Jean was every bit as impressive in it’s ‘smallness’ as was Bardem’s. Their inevitable meeting was one of the classic moments in film.

There were two casting errors to my mind; Beth Grant as Carla Jean’s mother was a bit over the top, and Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells, one of Chigurgh’s rivals, was glaringly out of his league.

However, the choice to forgo a musical score was genius. Rather than directing our emotions and reactions via orchestration, the Coens allow the silence to increase the tension. It was a Hitchcockian decision that makes for some edge-of-your seat moments.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 96%; Users 87%

Casino Royale (2006)

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Casino Royale

Casino Royale

In his first mission as 007, James Bond must win a poker game at The Casino Royale, in Montenegro, to stop a criminal who works as a banker to the terrorist organizations of the world, from financing crime and terrorism across the globe.

I must review this only as an action movie – not a Bond film. Though I enjoy Daniel Craig as an actor, he is no Bond. He is too “common” and rough, not a smooth bone in his well-toned body (at least not in this first outing) There are, of course, the usual Bondian staples; breath-taking chases, women falling into bed with Bond, then falling dead… But they don’t quite hold up in Craig’s hand.

The rest of the casting is strong enough, particularly Mads Mikkelsen (as the villainous Le Chiffre), Giancarlo Giannini (Rene Mathis), and Judi Dench (M).

I believe many in my circle will enjoy this one, despite the faults I find with it, so it tilts higher on the Word of Mouth Scale One can only hope that Craig can learn to be a bit more refinied in future installments.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 95%; Audience 87%

The Professional (1994)

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The Professional

The Professional

As visually stylish as it is graphically violent, this thriller directed by Luc Besson concerns Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has been exposed to the sordid side of life from an early age: her family lives in a slum and her abusive father works for drug dealers, cutting and storing dope. Mathilda doesn’t much care for her parents, but she has a close bond with her four-year-old brother. One day, she returns from running an errand to discover that most of her family, including her brother, have been killed in a raid by corrupt DEA agents, led by the psychotic Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda takes refuge in the apartment of her secretive neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno), who takes her in with a certain reluctance. She discovers that Leon is a professional assassin, working for Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob kingpin based in Little Italy.

Not for everyone. As the synopsis says, it is quite graphically violent. It is also…oddly sweet. Damaged souls who find each other and form a new family, a plot device that has been used often – though not often so well.

The story is engaging, the direction is beautiful, the performances are absolutely top notch. You may find Gary Oldman’s turn a bit much, it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it bit of overacting. I found it deliciously psychotic.

And there is simply no way you could watch this movie and not see the future stardom in store for a young Natalie Portman.

It loses a bit on the Word of Mouth Scale because of the violence & language. But, if you can handle a fair amount of blood and cussing, this movie should be on your list.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 79%; Audience 94%

Shadowboxer (2005)

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Shadowboxer

A late-career change of heart leads to a dangerous life on the run for two seasoned assassins whose complex relationship masks a dark past in Shadowboxer, Lee Daniels‘ pulpy film noir. But when Rose is diagnosed with terminal cancer; she decides to carry out one final killing.

Sounds like a good idea and a great cast; Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding, Stephen Dorff.

Unfortunately, it fails miserably. Even the fine acting can’t save this creepy, icky flick.

I’d sooner sit through 32 hours of Congressional committee testimony about imported yarn than watch “Shadowboxer” again.

Violence, sex….it only merits the half star on the Word of Mouth Scale because of the great cast…and Cuba Gooding’s great backside


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 19%; Audience 40%

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