Monday, January 30, 2017

Mish Mash 11 (Hell or High Water, The Nice Guys, 16 Blocks, A Man Apart)

Hell or High Water

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Solid piece of film here about brother bank robbers.  The only thing is it feels a little aimless.  These two guys clearly had a fairly meticulous plan in place but they seem to free wheel it towards the end.  I think the filmmakers didn’t know where to take these characters exactly so there’s this sloppy weird action movie type ending that doesn’t quite fit in my opinion.

This was written by Taylor Sheridan who also wrote Sicario and that was another picture that doesn’t fully come together.  There are a few excellent scenes like when they transport that drug lord over the border and the opening drug raid.  But everything else is kinda forgettable.  Hell or High Water is better and that’s encouraging for Sheridan’s career.  Hopefully he’ll keep improving and I’m definitely interested in his next project.

So this isn’t a must see but there’s plenty of good stuff for a one time watch.

The Nice Guys

Image result for the nice guysReal fun movie from Shane Black who wrote Lethal Weapon and directed Iron Man 3.  Russell Crowe (The Next Three Days) and Ryan Gosling (Only God Forgives) work well together as a strong man weak man duo.  They’re both bumbling detectives though which I wasn’t expecting.  Crowe has more success primarily through brute force and not actually piecing shit together.  Gosling is better at detecting but his own laziness and carelessness prevent him from getting anything done.  So they need each other to form one halfway decent gumshoe.  It’s good chemistry and good character writing.

Image result for the nice guys shootoutThe story is way more confusing than it needs to be but that’s typical Shane Black who likes to cram in too many plot points and villains.  Don’t get me wrong, I love his work but he needs help to reign some of his shit in and give the material the focus it deserves.  It’s really fantastic to see him still writing though and even make the leap to successful director.  I’m just so proud of you man.

Overall this one’s alright.  It doesn’t quite harken back to the type of action filmmaking that Black was involved in when he was younger but you can tell it was made with a veteran’s touch.  A veteran that’s trying his best to incorporate some modern styles and sensibilities.

16 Blocks

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This was Richard Donner’s (Maverick, Assassins) last feature from 2006.  He’s always made solid movies and this isn’t a bad one to go out on.  Bruce Willis (The Last Boy Scout) plays a washed up alcoholic cop that has to escort a witness (Mos Def (Cadillac Records)) sixteen blocks to a grand jury by a certain time.  The only problem is some folks want the witness wiped out so this short jaunt turns into a gauntlet of bad guys and bullets.

The plot is a fantastic simple idea that incorporates both a ticking clock element as well as a destination objective.  It’s also cool that it’s dirty cops that want this guy dead because they fully take advantage of the huge resources at their disposal to get the job done.  And I’m not really spoiling anything here because this is all revealed within the first half hour.  Plus it’s not about the who or the why, but how the hell is a burned out cop with a bad leg and a regular Joe Def supposed to survive this situation?

Image result for 16 blocks david morseDonner and/or writer Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) may have been influenced by John Woo a bit because there’s one particular scene that’s ripped straight from his playbook.  Willis and villain David Morse (The Long Kiss Goodnight) are separated by two walls after a shootout and Morse calmly bullshits with Willis about how he can’t survive the situation and etc while they each reload their guns.  Most of the picture takes place in Chinatown too including this scene, so I really do wonder if the filmmakers were going for a poetic angle to the whole piece.  You know, two sides of the same coin, do people change, if you know your enemy and yourself you have nothing to fear kinda shit.

It’s unfortunate the film sorta falls apart in the third act with too much damn deus ex machina.  But up until then this thing is pretty riveting.  I recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a concise action thriller.

A Man Apart

Image result for a man apartA straight up rated R Vin Diesel (xXx) cop action movie where he’s got a haunted past, plays by his own rules and the whole shebang.  You see he busts this drug lord in Mexico so the cartel seeks revenge by taking out the wifey (Jacqueline Obradors (NYPD Blue)).  But don’t worry ‘cause Diesel and partner Larenz Tate (Menace II Society, The Postman) are from the streets, not like your average narco cops, so they know how to deliver justice through unconventional means.  They play Russian roulette, kidnap top tier distributors and sneak back into Mexico to take down the assholes that ruined Diesel’s life.

Really the problem I have is this one’s just too generic.  You’ve seen this movie many times before and it’s not the best take on the formula by offering nothing new or all that interesting.  The picture’s competently made though and totally works for what it is.  In fact this is some of the best acting I’ve seen from Diesel.  The part where he wakes up in the hospital and finds out his wife is dead is well done and the scene where his wife dies in his arms is extremely tragic.  He’s about to call 911 but they both know she won’t make it so instead they have their last moment together uninterrupted gazing into each other’s eyes one last time.  Guys, it’s really fucking sad.

Image result for a man apart larenz tateTate helps to brighten thigs up by either shining that big ol’ infectious smile of his or always being there when Diesel needs him.  I mean Diesel asks him to do some seriously illegal shit where there’s a very good chance neither of them will survive.  By the way it’s important to mention that the cartel isn’t after Tate, only Diesel.  Yet with a family of his own, including a little kid, Tate still decides to risk it all to help his buddy out.  Wow, this is a helluva good friend.

This was directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, Straight Outta Compton) who did the upcoming Fast & Furious 8.  I wonder if he got the job based on this little film he did with Vin earlier on.  Anyway because of the connection get ready to see this picture reviewed to death on the internet.  And yea, I jumped on it.  I couldn’t help it.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Image result for zodiac 2007I’ve liked this movie more than most ever since it came out and with this last viewing I’m ready to call it a masterpiece.  I greatly appreciate that David Fincher and co told the straight up story of the Zodiac killings without throwing in unnecessary subplots or taking creative license with the case.  Ok, there are maybe like two subplots but they’re so brief it doesn’t even matter. 

This is a dense fucking film and they did a fantastic job cramming in twenty plus years of police work.  You can’t just watch this one casually.  You have to be engaged for the entire run and even then it’s hard to keep up.  Most likely you’ll have to see this multiple times to get ahold of all the names and places that are constantly being spewed out.  That could’ve been a serious negative (and a lot of folks definitely see it that way) but in this instance there’s simply a shitload of info that all applies.  You gotta find a way to stick it all in there.

Image result for zodiac 2007There’s an argument to be made that this should’ve been a documentary but I really dig the few movies that sort of combine narrative and documentary.  For example Spotlight is another one that doesn’t fuck around and presents the straight up investigative work without getting bogged down in clich├ęd Hollywood crap.  This style works and more pictures should be made like that.  The story is interesting and exciting enough that you don’t need to add contrived extra components.

And in terms of cinematics Fincher crafted some excellent horror moments.  I’m not sure how intentional that was though because I think everyone would classify this as a thriller and not a horror film.  But that scene when Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners)) visits the guy who ran the movie house and he thinks he hears something moving around upstairs when they’re in the basement is creepy as a sonuvabitch.  There’s also the part when the Zodiac sabotages a lady’s car and then gives her a lift and tells her that right before he kills her he’s gonna throw her baby out the window.  Or even when the psychotic bastard ties up this innocent couple and stabs them in their backs repeatedly is goddamn terrifying.

Image result for zodiac 2007By no means is this picture for everyone.  In fact it will probably only appeal to a small group that are both interested in the Zodiac case and not mind the rapid fire unleashing of mountains of evidence and findings.  And you also have to be ok with the fact that these murders were never solved and the movie leaves it that way.

There’s something about these huge crazy unsolved cases like Jack the Ripper, the Black Dahlia and the Bordens that continue to captivate.  And so far Zodiac is the best picture I’ve seen that showcases a high profile case like that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Mosquito Coast

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Allie Fox (Harrison Ford (Air Force One)) is fed up with America’s bullshit and decides to bail on her.  He packs up his wife, two sons and two daughters to live in South America (Belize I think).  To be fair he doesn’t only seem to be pissed at America but all of the developed world.  He wants to live as far from civilization as possible so he can craft his own new one.

The first thing Allie does is buy a tiny village in the middle of the jungle and puts its inhabitants to work building housing, communal structures, planting fields, an irrigation system, etc.  He’s created his own little paradise without electricity, gas, telephone or any other modern conveniences.  Well, that is until he builds a giant fucking ice machine.  Now he’s got air conditioning and ice.  But some assholes try to muscle in on his territory and they clash and you’ll have to see this to find out what happens.

The story is fascinating and fucked up.  Allie essentially brainwashes his family into thinking America doesn’t even exist anymore and does whatever he must to keep his own vision afloat.  He’s too proud to ask for help and too crazy to see that he’s hurting the people that love him.

Image result for the mosquito coastIf you’ve ever wanted to see Harrison Ford in a different kind of role then here you go.  I never thought he was the best actor.  I mean he’s cool as hell but he always plays himself more or less in every role.  Here he gets to stretch out as an eccentric and brilliant but deeply flawed man.  His rantings and philosophies on life are stimulating and extreme.  Ford channels that overflowing anger to be the highlight of the movie.  Actually he’s too over the top for you to take the character very seriously but he’s a lot of fun to watch nonetheless.

Image result for the mosquito coastUnfortunately the film as a whole isn’t great but the characters and plot are really intriguing.  It feels very bookish (which for me is almost always not a good thing) and that makes sense considering it’s based on one.  (By “bookish” generally what I mean is there are ideas that sounded good on paper but don’t work out so well on screen) This probably works much better in that medium where there’s more leeway to imagine Allie’s twisted reality.

With some minor tweaking, the right director and right cast this could’ve been a masterpiece.  But you know, I still recommend it.  The story is different and Allie’s phobia laden world view is thought provoking, even if it’s totally fucked in my opinion.

One last thing, I gotta say I love this fuckin’ poster with an uncomfortably close shot of Ford’s face where he looks disheveled and wearing an extremely suspicious and offbeat expression.  The poster is like Allie, uncompromising.

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