Category Archives: Movie

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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Flight

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I would rate Denzel higher, as he is the movie, other than the remarkable flight crash (no spoiler!) scene at the outset. I cringed during this ultra-realistic flight crash, and will try to forget it by the time I take my next flight. This movie is more enjoyable than Leaving Las Vegas where it was just painful to watch Nicholas Cage drink himself to death. Flight has a predictable story arc, where Denzel needs to hit rock bottom as an alcoholic (flight pilot!), but he makes it captivating while the focus is on the post-flight investigation (was he drunk!), and his union rep and lawyer try to help him clear the charges. One side note: is anyone else bothered as I am by Denzel’s tooth situation? He’s always working his mouth, and it’s distracting to me, then the big teeth sometimes seem to get in his way when talking. Denzel will probably get an Oscar nomination, because he takes the ultimate sacrifice of any Hollywood actor trying to show he’s a great actor: he lets loose with a flabby body, and loses any six pack abs he may have chiseled (with trainer, cook and whatever supplements are needed) in prior action films. His character here is conveyed by his body, and expressions as much as his dialogue. Let’s see Tom Cruise match that!

Silver Linings Playbook

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Very well done, thanks to superb casting of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Deniro. The story is straightforward – manic guy meets cute depressed girl, while his parents try to keep him centered and calm – but it’s elevated by the great chemistry, the captivating Lawrence

amid not terrible sub-plots: dance contest and dad Deniro is rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan who bets the farm. I really enjoyed it, especially the couple of moments where one of the leads gets upset in their own intense way. Not a depressing movie, and in fact, an uplifting message (no spoiler since it’s in the trailer).

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I also liked this movie.

In addition to good performances by Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, I also enjoyed Jacki Weaver (Cooper’s mother), John Ortiz (Cooper’s long time friend) and Chris Tucker (Cooper’s friend from the mental institution). This was Tucker’s first screen appearance in 5 years. To drive home the point that lots of people have issues in our hyperactive world, all of the characters in this movie have their own problems to deal with.

As Bill points out, Russell made some interesting plot points as director, but the very end gets pretty formulaic for a romantic comedy. I felt the final little bit of advice from De Niro (also shown in the previews) was unnecessary, but overall I really enjoyed and recommend this movie.

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The Sessions

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 put of 5

The Sessions is a touching movie based on the autobiographical writings of Mark O’Brien.  O’Brien was a writer who spent most of his time each day in an iron lung after coming down with polio at the age of 6.  At 38, he decides to lose his virginity with the help of a sex surrogate. This is a well-told story, with some humor thrown in, of a man who despite the his terrible misfortune strives to get and give the most out of life.

The performances by John Hawkes (as O’Brien) and Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate are excellent. The physical limitations of his character makes Hawkes’ performance even more impressive.

While not for everyone, The Sessions is a very good and emotionally uplifting movie.

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Skyfall

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Roger Ebert called this a film that reinvigorates Bond, and I totally agree. From the beginning scene it made me smile, with a fresh car/motorcycle chase scene – on top of Istanbul roofs, through the markets, on top of a train! I would think after all these years, and the Bourne movies, that chase scenes could not be new, but Sam Mendes, the director, out does all expectations. Judi Dench has a big role as M, and she knocks it out of the park. Daniel Craig is perfect, starting out as a burnout, and then coming back to save the day. Most Bond movies are known for the distinctiveness and quirks of their villains, and here Javier Bardem comes up with a doozy. I won’t explain what he’s obsessed with, but it’s believable with a cool back story (I have a bone to pick with that, mainly the fact that he’s clearly not English-born, wondering how he could have gained the position he once had). And there’s fresh blood with a young computer geek as Q and Ralph Feinnes as M’s beaurocratic boss, Mallory. The female counterparts are great as well, with Berenice Marlohe as the femme fatale

and Naomie Harris as Bond’s sharpshooting colleague Eve

The story slows down towards the end, before building up to a fiery and in my mind perfect ending.

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I didn’t like Skyfall as much as Bill.   The opening set piece was great.  Delving into Bond’s backstory a little was good.  The Bond girls were good (although they seem to play less of a role than in old Bond movies).  I thought Daniel Craig and Javier  Bardem were good.  Although while I liked Bardem’s acting I thought this was one of the weaker Bond super villains since his goal was not world domination.

I did have problems with parts of the plot and script.    While I happily suspend disbelief (as required for these types of moves) about their ability to survive the action sequences (including riding motorcycles at full speed on roofs, jumping on to a moving train, driving the wrong way at full speed through traffic, not getting hit when automatic weapons are being fired at you, somehow picking out the door the master criminal went through, etc.  I cannot silently sit by when they  imply that MI6 is as  incompetent as this move makes them out to be.  I’ve seen too many Bond movies for that! (See spoiler alert section for one example).

As for the script, at one point  M gave a speech about how the threats the world faces today are different and we need to be vigilant.  Doe anyone not know this?

Ah, I just figured out the other thing that was gnawing at me.  The plot of the old grizzled crimefighter being burned out, shirking his duties and dropping off the grid for a while before coming back  to action seemed like something I had just seen.  Batman!!

Despite the major  bitching and moaning it is still a Bond movie and the action is good so if you’re into this type of movie you should think about going.

SPOILER ALERT ON: Do not read anymore if yo have not seen the movie! Clearly, I’ve been working for IBM too long.  When MI6 recovers the computer of a master computer hacker  who has already hacked the MI6 computers  you would expect them to  treat that computer with extreme care.  Instead I watch in disbelief as  the new young whipper snapper Q  connects it to the MI6 computer network without a care in the world!! With what appears to be multiple ethernet cables!!  I’ll take the experienced old Q any day (if he hadn’t died) over the new  arrogant, know it all one.
SPOILER ALERT OFF.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I really enjoyed this coming-of-age movie about a shy high freshman trying to come to terms with issues in his life and the friends he makes that help to bring him out of his shell. This movie has been out a while and is an art house movie but, if you can find it, definitely go.

This movie is at times sweet, sad, and funny and does a good job of showing what the high school experience can be like. Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies does a good job as the shy freshman dealing with some issues.  It’s a nuanced performance that shows his highs and lows. Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter) and Ezra Miller play seniors with issues of their own who befriend him.  Both are very good but I thought Ezra Miller was excellent. He was also great last year in We Need To Talk About Kevin and is an actor to watch.

 Bill I’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

If you are a teenager you should see this movie. If you once were a teenager you should see this movie. If you are not yet a teenager, you should wait, otherwise you might not want to be a teenager.

On its surface, this film is filled with cliches: the bullied high school kid, the jock bullies who love to trip the nerd carrying his lunch tray, the band of outcasts who befriend him, the gay best friend, the female “best friend” who is slotted (in his mind at least) to eventually become his girl friend, the search for ending his virginity…BUT, it’s got an amazing sense of life, captured in a few perfect scenes, that makes you realize that cliches are based on the truest reality. Ezra Miller plays the gay best friend as an original character, exciting, charismatic, and so genuine you will be amazed. Emma Watson, as the queen of the outcasts is similarly captivating. You won’t for a second wonder why the main character (Logan Lerman) falls so in love that he’s at times speechless in her presence. The parents are not cliches, they are believably distracted and ignorant to the day-to-day trials their son is going through, all the while thinking they are super sensitive to his emotional life due to past events. The brother and sister, while given so little screen time and less dialogue, are amazingly shown as real people and will bring tears to your eyes. Finally, you realize that this is a movie driven by child abuse, and what people do to get over it, or not get over it. I won’t give away the incredible moment when the viewer realizes what’s happened, but it gave me insight into what kids go through and try to regain a normal life. I considered giving this film a 4 star review, but realized it’s better than other 4 star movies in its essence.

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Argo

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I really enjoyed this movie which is based on true events during the Iranian hostage crisis during the late 1970s. I had totally forgotten that six Americans escaped and hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador. This is the story of the efforts by the CIA and the Canadians to sneak the six out of the country before they are discovered by the Iranians.

Ben Affleck stars and directs. He is turning into a good director; his previous film was the excellent The Town. He give a sold performance and also gets good performances from the always excellent John Goodman, Bryan Crasnton, Alan Arkin, and several supporting actors/actresses.

The film does a good job of recreating the embassy takeover and the environment in Iran at the time. It’s hard to believe that was over 30 years ago. The film also creates tension for an event where the outcome is known while throwing in some timely humor. The movie takes some poetic license to increase the tension but that is OK. Argo is definitely worth seeing.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Echoing Bill’s review above, it’s a terrific, suspenseful, fast moving film, that surprised me given the fact that the ending is known to all of us in advance. Some random thoughts: 1) If you were one of these embassy workers hiding out in Tehran in the middle of the unpredictable hostage crisis, your life depending upon remaining un-recognized, especially when you are trying to escape via the major airport, wouldn’t you shave your mustache, or dye your hair, or get a new hairdo? 2) If you were the “Exfil” (not sure what that stands for) expert from the CIA (Ben Affleck’s character) and posing as 1 of a 6 person film crew, prepared to be questioned by the Revolutionary Guard about everything from who’s financing the film, to what is the plot, and what is the back story for each of the crew,  would you keep your crew housed in the Canadian ambassador’s house while you stayed in the nice high rise hotel? 3) If you were the CIA honcho leading the operation from HQ (an excellent Bryan Cranston), and you needed a phone manned from the film company in case an Iranian Revolutionary Guard decided to test Affleck’s “proof” that it’s a legitimate film, wouldn’t you staff a local LA based CIA agent at the phone 24×7 in case they called? In fact in 1979 wasn’t it technically possible to route an LA phone number directly to CIA HQ? 4) Finally, given the time difference (10 or 11 hours ahead of LA in Tehran), how likely is it that when they try to board the flight from Tehran (it’s light out, so it’s probably before 7 pm in Tehran) that the film company is working and manning its phones when you call to check? (6 pm in Tehran would be 7:30 am in LA). All quibbles I know, and since it’s a real story, there must be legitimate answers.

It is fascinating at the end, so be sure to sit through the beginning of the credits, to see how closely certain scenes matched the real scenes as documented from the 1979 events. And the actual people are shown, who are stunningly close to lookalikes to the actors. All except for our man, Ben, who in no way resembles the real (hispanic) Tony Mendez. I guess Benecio Del Toro, Javier Bardem and Ricky Martin (ha) were busy when they cast this film. What’s next for Ben, playing the lead in a remake of Malcolm X?

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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!

Sister

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

This film is about the relationship between a skeletal 12-year-old, Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein, in a great, charismatic yet naturalistic performance), a theif/hustler amid the rich in a French ski resort and his beautiful, sad, older sister, Louise (Léa Seydoux, in an equally compelling performance) who can’t hold a job any longer than she can hold a man or whatever money that falls in her hands (often from young Simon).  A secret is uncovered to the audience abruptly and is stunning when you think about it, making their story even more touching. There’s some funny scenes, some mostly off-screen violence, and lots of empathetic juxtaposition between two people struggling to get food to eat every day while surrounded by the well-to-do who don’t even notice them. The political aspects are powerful yet subtle, and this is not a movie that today’s teenagers will flock to, but I am confident that the readers of Billandbillmovies will appreciate this artful film.