Category Archives: Crime

The Heat

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

The Heat doesn’t open until late June, but had a special free screening at ‘Girlie Night’ at the Alamo. As I take my responsibility to provide reviews to the masses seriously (and I like things that are free), I put up with Girlie Night and having to turn in my phone and get screened to ensure I wasn’t bringing in any recording devices to the screening.

The Heat is a buddy movie starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and is directed by Paul Feig, whose last film was the mega-hit Bridesmaids. While The Heat is very formulaic, predictable, and probably a little longer than it needs to be, the bottom line is that this is a very funny movie and that’s all that really matters. Bullock plays the by-the-book, full-of-herself FBI agent. McCarthy is the do-whatever-it-takes, break-all-the-rules street cop. They get paired together to try to break up a drug ring and butt heads for a while, but eventually bond and unite to go after the bad guys.

McCarthy, as usual, is very funny and this movie has a lot more laughs than her previous movie, Identity Thief. I thought Sandra Bullock started a little slow, but she definitely warmed up and got into the fun as the movie went on. I felt they had a good rapport and liked that, in addition to the laughs, at the end you cared about their characters and their friendship.

This isn’t quite as raunchy as Bridesmaids, but it does have a fair amount. Unless that bothers you, this movie will definitely be worth seeing.

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Trance

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with its subject of memories lost then regained, it’s a crime thriller that keeps you guessing, so I won’t tell even what most reviews expose. James McEvoy superbly plays a high end art auctioneer that has amnesia so he can’t remember where he stashed the $150M Goya painting to avoid it being grabbed during a heist at a Christies like auction. Rosario Dawson is the hynotherapist he hires to delve into his forgotten threads of memory. Vincent Cassell is the lead thief who alternatively appears inscrutable and ultra violent. Rosario is excellent as someone whose voice can hypnotize most men, not to mention her stunning appearance. There’s a jaw dropping scene when she appears to give James exactly what he wants (remember, I won’t give it away); I almost knocked over my Diet Pepsi. The convoluted exposure at the end helps you understand the plot finally, and keeps you talking and thinking as you leave the theatre. Pay attention and you will enjoy!

The Place Beyond the Pines

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Why the weird title? It’s the translation for Schenectady, the film’s setting. I didn’t learn this until after watching the film, which made me keep wondering where are the pines and what place are they talking about. So, consider this a spoiler that actually improves your viewing experience – no need to waste time wondering about the title. Ryan Gosling kicks this movie off with a terrific sequence of him walking from his trailer at a carnival right into his role as motorcycle rider inside a metal globe along with a couple of others. I will not give away any of the plot other than to say the following:

  • Ryan Gosling is fantastic, compelling to watch as his character both exhibits deep flaws while recognizing, sometimes only minutes after doing something stupid, how he continually makes bad decisions. His humanity shines through and you don’t doubt his sincerity (OK, you might have doubts), while you feel highly skeptical about his chances for a successful life.
  • Eva Mendes makes a startling first impression, appearing as one of the most beautiful figures in cinema that I can recall ever seeing. Pay attention, because she’s not as compelling later on.
  • Bradley Cooper is also terrific, playing a more complicated character than he did in Silver Lining’s Playbook, maybe the best performance of his career.

The film is structured in three parts, with each part’s story line connected to the prior part. Not all parts are equally excellent, but the ending is perfect, and I never got bored for the whole 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

First – thanks to Bill for the info on the title – I’m sure  I would have been distracted the whole time without his explanation.

I liked this movie a lot but not quite as much as Bill.  I agree with Bill that Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper were excellent with Gosling being the hilight (and I was oh so impressed with Goslings high jumping ability in the bank scenes!).  The other performances were great too.  I especially liked Ben Mendelsohn as Gosling’s friend.

While Bill really liked the ending I liked the first 2 segments more than I liked the third.  I found those a lot more interesting and thought the last third was bit contrived to bring the story together and just wasn’t as compelling to me.  And maybe I’m just a little denser as  I didn’t know how to interpret the final scenes (so I couldn’t spoil the ending of this movie if I wanted to).    But this is definitely worth seeing.

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The Call

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

The Call is a terrific suspenseful thriller starring Hallie Berry as a 911 operator, super-competent, cool under pressure, but wracked with guilt and anxiety when she fails to save a desparate caller, and when she ignores her own advice not to develop an emotional connection with the callers. I won’t give away any of the plot, because the less you know the more you will enjoy it. I was skeptical that this simplistic scenario would hold my interest, but it certainly did, reminiscent of other movies such as Speed, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 and Phone Booth, where the protaganist, typicaly an ordinary citizen doing his job, has a limited amount of time to resolve a life threatening situation. Good, time tested formula, well done here. Hallie is excellent in a non-glamourous role

Halle Berry-The-Call-DivaWhispers

Side Effects

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5 

Side Effects is a crime thriller with a lot of plot twists, a good director, and a very good cast.  I  expected to like it a lot. Despite all of that, the plot just seemed unrealistic to me, and despite the fun of trying to follow the twists and turns, I was disappointed. If there’s a lawyer is reading this entry who saw this movie, I’d love your view on whether some of the plot is realistic or if there are legal checks and balances that make this unrealistic.

The cast included Rooney Mara (from the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. Tatum’s role is very small, so don’t go see this film just because you are a big fan. Rooney Mara was excellent. Most reviews seem to like Jude Law’s performance, but I thought he was a little over the top.

I seem to be in the minority on this review, so while I didn’t really like this movie, you shouldn’t let my cynicism about the plot stop you from seeing it.

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Side-Effects

Killing Them Softly

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I had mixed emotions about this movie. Brad Pitt stars as a hit man sent to find the folks who hit a mob-backed poker game and restore confidence so the games can be resumed. Pitt gives a fine performance as a no-nonsense enforcer who clearly sees what must be done to restore order. While he’ll willingly kill if needed, he likes to do so as efficiently as possible without causing the victims any unnecessary angst. His superiors (as represented by the always excellent, always understated Richard Jenkins) refuse to see things so clearly and make things more difficult than they need to be.

For the most part, I liked the movie as a character study of Pitt out to do his job and I found the plot fairly interesting. The point of the movie is to show the parallels between how the mob world and business/political worlds work. The movie takes place during financial meltdown and the presidential campaign in 2008. At first it’s interesting how they intersperse the movie plot with some of the Obama speeches, but they do a ton of this and, if you haven’t figured it out by the end of the movie, they let Brad Pitt give a speech to make sure you get it.

I thought they could have toned down one very violent scene. It’s funny–I can watch a Tarantino movie with hundreds of people getting killed and losing limbs without it bothering me, but this one did troubled me due to its realism and focus on a single person.

Overall I liked this film, but this is a luke-warm recommendation.

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I agree with Bill’s lukewarm review. I found it watchable, but the tenuous link to 2008 politics and greed in greater society was a big stretch and not insightful or compelling at all. Yes, people are greedy, but I can’t relate to these hit men (as thoughtful as Brad’s character is, when he kills them so quickly they don’t feel any pain) or small-time idiot thiefs. I kept waiting for the point, for some underlying reason to care about any of these characters. I found James Gandolfini’s wheezy fat hit man for hire character who’s seen better days to be the most fun to watch, but he’s also the most despicable character in the film. Bill references Tarantino, whoI think was probably an inspiration for the film makers here, but it’s missing the excitement and style, leaving mainly the graphic violence and the characters spouting dialogue that sounds like it should be interesting.

If you want to see greed, big time money up for grabs, suspense about a dead body, and a characters you care about, spend your 2 hours or so seeing Arbitrage with Richard Gere, much better than this.

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Seven Psychopaths

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

Is this a nutty, inconsistent, bloody, misogynistic movie? Yes it is! Is it also great fun, with classic moments and lines from Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson, and an unpredictable plot that makes this the ultimate meta-movie? Yes! The main character, played as an alcoholic straight man Colin Farrell, is struggling to write a movie script and all he has to start with is a great title (same as this movie), and his BFF (nutcase Sam Rockwell) does all he can to help him out, including identifying real-life psychopaths he can fit into the script, while he goes about his dog-napping sideline to help his other buddy, Walken, pay for his wife’s cancer surgery. Need I mention this is a comedy? The cast is terrific, including I have to mention again the ultimate Christopher Walken, Tom Waits (I recognized him, after not seeing seen him since 1976 when I approached him back stage at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre), Harry Dean Stanton (not too many lines of dialogue for Harry, in fact, maybe none) and Gabourey Sidibe (also not many lines, but stuck in an unforgettable scene with ultra-gangster Woody). And fans of Boardwalk Empire will enjoy seeing two stars from that series in the opening sequence (the dude who plays Rothstein and the young Jimmy Darmody). I don’t think they needed much time on the set given the short screen time they are given. It’s a meta movie because the psychopaths in the movie become the psychopaths in Colin Farrell’s script. Be sure to sit through the ending credits (the first minute) to see the perfect ending. If you are squeamish about bullets and knife play, or don’t get the humor in the over the top misogynism (it’s tongue in cheek!), then go see Here Comes the Boom), but if you are true fan of Bill and Bill, check this out!

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I finally saw this movie and just wanted to add a few quick thoughts:

– I want to complement Bill on a really excellent review.  Not only is the review insightful, but I learned the meaning of a new word, misogynistic!

– While all the actors were great, I thought Sam Rockwell stole the show.

– If you like this movie, go rent In Bruges by the same director.  I liked Seven Psychopaths and recommend it, but I liked In Bruges even better.

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Arbitrage

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Richard Gere plays a cool billionaire wall street mega-dealer akin to today’s private equity and hedge fund super stars; in fact he could be the same guy from Pretty Woman, just 30 years later, but none the worse for wear, on the surface. His perfect family, perfect society wife (Susan Sarandon) and perfect girl on the side (Laetitia Casta, who started as my all-time favorite Victoria’s Secret model, and is fine here as a French “struggling artist”) all make for a perfect storm, that I won’t give away here. The story gets tense real fast and Richard has to do some fast thinking and acting to keep his world from crumbling. The surprise for me is Brit Marlling as Gere’s daughter and heir apparent in the business.

The other break out performance is by Nate Parker,

as Gere’s unwilling clean-up guy, nowhere near as experienced as Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. Nate puts a face on the collateral damage done by deals gone bad, while Gere and his ilk just write another check. Compelling movie!

End of Watch

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

It starts out as a cop buddy movie, like we’ve seen hundreds of times on film and on tv, but there’s a realism here that differentiates End of Watch, infused by the ultra realism, by the hand held camera (a technique that was irritating to me at times) and especially by the fine acting of Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena, as the aforementioned buddy cops. They have developed a closeness after years as partners that’s like a married couple, a comedy duo insulting each other non-stop and at the end, the core of an extended family that encompasses each other’s wives and families. The plot is not about much more than the day-to-day routine and unpredictable violence and risk they encounter and face head-on like soldiers on the front, reminding me of patrolling Taliban infested villages not knowing when a civilian is your deadly enemy or a victim that needs to be rescued. The tension builds into a climax and then an anti-climax that I both liked and wondered about, from a film making perspective, which I won’t explain here to avoid giving a spoiler. Overall, a terrific film, but not for the faint hearted. And Jake proves he’s one of our greatest actors, which I have believed since he starred in Brothers.

 Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I thought this was a pretty good movie that with a few changes could have been a very good movie. This easily could have been a film adaptation of a Joseph Wambaugh novel–it has all the same elements–although it wasn’t (check out The Choirboys if you want to read one of Wambaugh’s best). A large part of the movie is just everyday police life. End of Watch initially focuses on two partners and daily police life, showing how they deal with other members of the precinct, how they bond with each other, and how they often spend more time and, at times, are more dependent on their partner than their significant other.  Much of their day is spent just cruising in their patrol car but that is punctuated by times of great personal danger or witnessing some truly horrific acts. This movie does a good job of showing that dichotamy and how they deal with it. At the end of this part of the movie you really care about these guys. The last part of the movie deals with the ramifications of of them having unwittingly ticked off the drug cartel.

The partners are played by Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal. They both give terrific nuanced performances showing the ups and downs of their personal and professional lives.

I did have three quibbles with the film:

1) In an early scene, the cops are in a car chase. When they stop the car, the bad guys get out and start shooting. Instead of shooting back from behind their cruiser, the partners jump out from their car and charge at the bad guys with guns a-blazing. No way! But I will say that most other parts of the movie seemed realistic.

2) Bill mentioned the hand held camera. If it had just been Jake Gyllenhaal using a camera, I probably would have been ok with it. But one of the bad guys was doing this too, and not just filming them hanging out, but also planning their crimes. Too much.

3) Bill also mentioned a part at the end. I won’t go into detail either but I thought the director manipulated the move audience unnecessarily.

Despite these things, I still thought the movie was definitely worth watching.

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Lawless

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I had no expectations going into this film, and loved being immersed in the time period (1930), the place (rural Virginia), and mileu (band of brothers running a profitable bootlegging business during prohibition). Into this “lawless” county, the wettest in the country supposedly, where the local sheriff and his boys buy the hootch along with everyone else, steps an over the top villain as new law in town, a sadistic dandy played by Guy Pearce, here:

I was thinking of the recent spate of villians, including Michael Shannon in Hit and Run and Bane in Dark Knight Rises (played I realized by Tom Hardy, who here plays the lead brother – I guess a good guy… sort of, at least you root for him), that Pearce out does them all. There’s plenty of blood spilled, guns shot, and even some young courting (Shia LaBeouf as the younger, and wannabe gangster brother out to prove himself, spies the innocent daughter of local Amish-like preacher, Mia Wasikowka, here

Mia Wasikowska Picture

The plot is pretty simple: brothers want to keep selling hooch, Pearce wants to shut them down and ideally kill them, and lots of bad things happen, seemingly without much forethought. The brothers wait around to get attacked, then they fight back brutally. The wonderful Jessica Chastain supplies the female perspective, as a hardened but somehow vulnerable city girl from Chicago looking for a quiet place to live, and becomes the brothers’ bartender/manager/girlfriend in waiting. Jessica, seen here

can convey her thoughts and emotions without saying anything like almost no other actor I know, and look great while doing it. She inhabits a character, usually 180 degrees different from her prior role, that just amazes me. If you want to escape the current 2012 US, and enter another world for a couple of hours, that seems realistic and historical (movie is based on real life brothers, written by one of their gransons), then check this out.