Category Archives: Crime

The Girl on the Train

Bill I’s Rating – 3 out of 5

I was going to avoid this film due to its relatively low score on Rotten Tomatoes but when I read a positive recommendation from my friend Leslie Waltzer, I decided to give it a shot on a slow weekend. It’s been compared to Gone Girl, and I agree with those comparisons that it’s not as good, but still kept my attention, and watching Emily Blunt’s excellent portrayal of aforementioned train girl, she is captivating, while I tried to figure out what’s going on. Is she nuts, obsessive, schizophrenic, scorned ex-wife, jealous wannabe trophy wife, deluded alcoholic, or a sane person just trying to do the right thing. I won’t tell here. I can recommend a much better film, The Ones Below.

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I’m not sure why I saw this movie either.  There was so much hype about this book that I read it before the movie came out.  I didn’t really like it because there were no characters in the book that I liked.  I guess I watched the movie to see if they made any more characters more likable.  Maybe a little but this won’t make my top ten list.

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Black Mass

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Black Mass is the story of crime boss Whitey Bulger and his relationship with the FBI prior to his 16 year life as a fugitive.

I liked this a lot.  It is reminiscent of Goodfellas (although not as good).  Johnny Depp gives a great performance as Bulger – nice as can be one minute and then a psychotic murderer the next.  Joel Egerton (who Bill and I both liked in The Gift) was also awesome as Bulger’s FBI handler.  He gives a really nuanced performance as someone heading into the abyss as he lets Bulger use him and forgets what his true role is.

This also has a great supporting cast.   Benedict  Cumberbatch plays Bulger’s brother, a powerful Boston politician.  Peter Sarsgaard is terrific as a drug addict.    David Harbour is also a standout as an FBI agent.

If you like this type of movie  (and don’t mind violence) this is definitely worth seeing.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

I liked it a lot, same as Bill C, although my rating is closer to a 4- or even 3+, because it’s not close to Goodfellas or Departed (another film that is based on Whitey Bulger, although fictional). I think I liked Ben Affleck’s Town better. This film apparently sticks close to the book written by Boston Globe reporters. I lived in Boston during the heydey of Whitey, and all I knew was that the major crime figure in town was free to walk around while his brother Billy ran the state senate, as the most powerful politician around. This movie doesn’t show really the crimes other than whacking his enemies, or supposed friends, or his scheming, rather it’s a character study of a sociopath, played compellingly by Johnny Depp, and the incredible gullibility/blindness/one-mindedness of the FBI as they focus on the Italian mafia as they let Whitey do his thing, supposedly giving them valuable information, which of course is mostly bogus or invented by his Southie buddy on the FBI. I really liked when they cut to the Winter Hill Gang members who end up informing on Whitey, in order to shave years off their sentences. So, overall an enjoyable couple of hours, and standout performance by Depp and others, but a somewhat cliche story portrayed in a straightforward fashion.

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The Connection

Bill C’s review – 3 out of 5

The Connection is a french thriller set in the 1970s.  A magistrate (Jean Dujardin from The Artist) devotes his life to bringing down a finch drug syndicate.  It’s a companion piece to the French Connection, only made 40+ years later and from the perspective of the  French justice system.

While not  as gritty (or as good) as the French Connection this also  has a gritty view as a cop gets totally caught up in his job and puts everything at risk.

If you don’t mind french subtitles this is an above average film.

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Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Michel in Drafthouse Films' The Connection (2015).
Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Michel in Drafthouse Films’ The Connection (2015).

Furious 7

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

When you get to the 7th event in a series like this it’s pretty hard to out-do the stunts from the previous films.  Furious 7 gives it it’s best shot and you’ll either  enjoy the effort  and the absurdity of the stunts or hate the movie.  Luckily I was in the mood to go along for the ride.

This was also the farewell to Paul Walker who dies in an automobile accident before the film was finished. The film was delayed as they rewrote the movie to incorporate his departure and to use his brother to shoot his final scenes.  While the film manipulated your expectations with his farewell  they did an ok job here.

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22 Jump Street

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

22 Jump Street is the sequel to 21 Jump Street starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum graduating  from cops going undercover as high school students to cops going undercover as college students.

The sequel is almost as funny as the first.  The movie doesn’t take itself seriously so they feel free to make fun of everything from the absurdity of them pretending to be college students to film sequels to their own film persona. Some of the humor doesn’t quite hit the mark, but a lot does.

The film has a bunch of cameos cameos and you should stick around during the closing credits. If you liked the first one, you’ll definitely like this. But  it’s not necessary to have seen the original to enjoy this above-average comedy.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I really enjoyed this, even better than 21 Jump Street from what I can recall.  It’s over the top and nuts in some scenes with not much down time between the laughs. Bill mentioned the closing credits….they are as funny as anything, and at the very end there’s a 3 second funny bit. Ice Cube has a real good scene where he goes ballistic. Channing Tatum is so good, and of course Jonah Hill never disappoints. Perfect summer fun film!

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Bill C’s Review  – 4 out of 5

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest quirky, highly-stylized comedy from Wes Anderson.  He is one of the few filmmakers that can be identified by watching just a few frames from his films.  His films are visually stunning through his use of colors, the way he tracks people and action, and his stylistic use of special effects.

For those not familiar with Anderson, he is the director of The Royal Tenenbaums, Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and Moonrise Kingdom—all really good movies, with The Royal Tenenbaums being my favorite.

The Grand Budapest Hotel  is more of a dark comedy starring Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustav, the head concierge in a central European hotel during the dark days before a fictionalized version of WWII  as seen through the eyes of the new lobby boy, Zero.  The plot deals with the murder of one of the frequent hotel guests, the search for the murderer (after M. Gustav is accused) and a priceless painting, and the friendship between M. Gustav and Zero. While this is not continuously laugh-out-loud funny, it is funny throughout even though it’s also a bit sad/melancholy at the end.

As usual with Wes Anderson films, there is a large ensemble cast, including many Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Edward Norton, and Owen Wilson.

Wes Anderson fans should definitely see this movie, and if you’ve never seen one of his films, you should give him a try.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Leo Dicaprio gives an unforgettable performance as Jordan Belfort, the real life broker who rose from middle class “pond scum” errand boy at LF Rothchild to create his own empire at Stratton Oakmont, a high class name where he can teach other middle class millionaire wannabees to sell shit (aka stocks) to the greedy clients who don’t know any better. In one of the best scenes of the film, in fact of any film, his mentor, played wondrously by Matthew McConaghay, schools him that the point is not to increase the clients’ wealth but to increase his wealth by pushing the clients to keep making deal after deal, thereby generating COMMISSIONS for the broker. Jordan learns fast, and jumps into penny stocks where the commissions are much more, with much more opportunity to skim. This 3 hour film takes its time in seeing how these ravenous, mostly testosterone fueled, sales folks get pysched up for the game, much like a high school football team, except this is fueled by coke and hookers (well, unlike most high school football teams). Jonah Hill is fantastic as his partner in crime. The is a Scorcese film of course, with a voiceover like Goodfellas; in fact, with a protaganist like Ray Liotta’s character in Goodfellas, who comes from the middle class to strike it rich and goes out of control with his drugs, women and most of all unstoppable lust for the game. The downfall is also fascinating, with an unforgettable, and hysterical,  scene of Jordan and Jonah taking too many qualudes and then trying to make some quick decisions. A highlight for me was the newcomer, Margot Robbie (an Aussie with a believable Long Island accent), who believably stuns Jordan when he first lays his eyes on her, and of course, sets his mind to have her as one of his prize possessions. She never falls into caricature as a one dimensional jewelry obsessed bimbo, and in some ways serves as the audience’s point of view as Jordan spirals down.

I don’t think it’s among Scorcese’s top 3 films, or maybe even top 5, but it’s fun as hell and better what most other directors can do on their best day.

PS, for a sobering insightful perspective from the daughter of one of Belfort’s cohorts, read this: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2013/12/an_open_letter_1.php

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

This is great film making if not a great film.  Scorcese is fearless in the choices he makes and he gets the most out of his cast.  DiCaprio is definitely deserving of an academy award nomination and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jonah Hill gets a nomination for the second year in a row.  He’s not just a funny man, he can really act.

I read the letter in the link that Bill included and I came away with a different view then the letter writer.  I didn’t view this as glorifying Belfort and his cohorts as they came across as pretty despicable, screwed up, selfish  and sad characters (while admittedly they had a good time along the way).  As Belfort narrated the movie I guess this took more of his view of the activities and was not supposed to be a portrayal of actual events as EVERYONE at his firm  (including the women)  seemed to get caught up and approve of the debauchery going on around them (drugs, sex and throwing little people  is frowned upon where I work).

I read that the initial cut for the film was 4 hours!  Even at 3 hours this movie definitely could have been tighter and shorter.  While I didn’t need it this movie did remind me to check the RunPee app on my phone before the movie stated so I would be prepared.  I think Bill originally recommended this app and it is a worthwhile app to have.  In addition to letting you know slow parts in the movie in case you need a break  it also lets you know if you should stick around at the end of the movie due to any added scenes at the end of the credits.

Definitely not his best but definitely worth seeing if you like Scorsese.

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Here’s Margot Robbie as a service to our male readers:

American Hustle

Bill I’s Review: 4.5 out of 5

This is a perfect movie. Not perfect technically, as it has some questionable plot points and diversions. Perfect in that it enthralled me throughout and I left the theater smiling. It’s like going to your neighborhood restaurant and experiencing a transcendent gourmet meal. You don’t expect it, since it’s a typical dish (plot about some con men, corrupt politicians and FBI sting), but the ingredients are high quality (top actors, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, all great), the atmosphere and lighting are perfect (the music, the cinematography), the service impeccable (David O. Russell directing) and by the end you walk out realizing that everything combined so that you had the best meal (film) experience you can remember. It’s based on the Abscam sting of congressmen taking bribes, aided and trapped by the FBI, but it takes liberties so that it poses as fiction. Reminiscent of Goodfellas (the 70’s style, the voice over, the mobsters getting in and out of trouble. and of course Robert Deniro), it carries you along from scene to scene while you watch in glee as Bradley Cooper goes from obsessive love to mamma’s boy to batshit on his boss, Christian Bale as the con man with the comb-over and pot belly fast talks his marks into giving him money for nothing, Jennifer Lawrence goes from nagging wife to manipulating, drunk bombshell. It’s a comedy, one of the best of the year. I want to see it again!

Bill C’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

This is a very entertaining movie and becomes only the second movie to get a  coveted 4.5 rating from both of us.

There’s not much to add to Bill’s review.   I loved the directing of Russell and his use of music from the period (It added to the Scorsese feel of the film).  All the actors were great.  In addition to the ones Bill called out Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner were right up there with the others.

This is one you shouldn’t miss.

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Christian Bale (left) as Irving, Amy Adams as Sydney, and Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso make Abscam-era fireworks.

Out of the Furnace

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

Out of the Furnace is a mediocre film (at best) with a really good cast. Any movie with Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker should be better than this. Bale, Harrelson and Affleck were excellent and probably got this up to a mediocre rating.

The film centers around two brothers, played by Bale and Affleck. They live in a dying steel mill town and their lives are spiraling out of control. After Affleck’s character disappears,  Bale decides to take matters into his own hands and seek revenge.

This film clearly had high aspirations. I think director Scott Cooper was emulating The Godfather and going heavy on the symbolism during one sequence when he kept cutting between a deer hunting sequence and a pivotal scene for two characters. This also had a heavy Deer Hunter-feel as a story about a couple of lost souls.  But this film didn’t live up to those aspirations. I thought the movie was slow and didn’t think the plot was very good.  While most of the plot was straight-forward, the last frame of the movie (as pointed out by one of our readers) was really confusing and lacked clarity. There are many movies where ambiguous endings work, but this was not one of them.

Bottom line is if you haven’t seen this movie yet, skip it. There are a ton of other movies just opening that look a lot better.

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Graceland

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Graceland is a very good thriller set in the Phillipines.  When the daughter of the chauffeur of a politician mistakenly gets kidnapped the chauffeur will do whatever it takes to get his daughter returned safely.  He needs to deal with the kidnappers, police (who suspect him of being involved) and his boss (to getthe ransom paid).

The movie deals with the seedy, corrupt side of Filipino society – child prostitution, corrupt politicians and police. The story is well written with good plot twists and things are not always as they seem.

This one might be tough to find in theaters (it’s no longer in Austin) but is worthwhile if you can find it.

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