All posts tagged Crime

Recent DVD Release: Jack Reacher

Published May 13, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelolo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall.

Rated: PG-13.  Action/Crime.  Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes.

How can Tom Cruise pull off the most bad ass dudes on screen and be such a fruit in real life?  The guy is a great actor.  Just take a glance at his extensive resume: Top Gun, Risky Business, Cocktail, The Color of Money, Mission Impossible, War of the Worlds, etc.  Nobody does cool, calm & collected, bordering cocky, bad ass like Tom.  Jack Reacher is a perfect example of Cruise’s signature role.  Ross and I recently embarked on one of our long road trips, which seem to breeze by with the help of audio books.  Additionally, we had just heard from one of our trusty film sources, Kevin, that Jack Reacher was worth a look.  I spotted a collection of three Reacher novels by author Lee Child and decided the plots sounded right up our alley.  Especially after our failed attempt at listening to the unbelievably horrendous 50 Shades of Grey.  Arguably some of the worst writing of the 21st century.  Anyhow, I thought it would be cool to get a feel for Reacher as a character prior to viewing the movie.  This was a good move.  Although Jack Reacher is based on the ninth book in the series, One Shot, the three novels we listened to really gave us a feel for the tone of the story and Reacher as a chracter.  I found the film clever, witty and deliciously entertaining.  But then again, as much as I want Tom to disappoint me, he rarely ever does (See ‘Eyes Wide Shut’).

Maria didn’t mention our favorite Cruise role, as Roy Miller in Knight and Day.  Probably because we’re two of the few who’ve seen it.  Trust me on this one, rent it or buy it or watch it on HBO.  Cruise and Cameron Diaz are awesome together, and the movie is funny, thrilling, ridiculous and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  “We should have sex.  I think we’d have really great sex.”  Okay, Jack Reacher.  I had never heard about the character and the series of books until the movie came out.  Maria bought us the first three books on CD and they were very entertaining.  The insight into what makes the guy tick vastly increased my viewing pleasure as well.  In this one Reacher, an ex-Army criminal investigator who now drifts from place to place, has come to Pittsburgh to take care of a sniper who killed five people.  The guy was caught quickly, open and shut case.  Not quite.  Even though he knows Reacher would be coming to kill him (they had a history), he specifically asks for him.  Jack teams up with Helen (Pike), the reluctant defense attorney and daughter of the D.A. (Jenkins), and the truth begins to unfold.  Can you say conspiracy?  Jack Reacher is an honest man, a brilliant investigator and of course, a great fighter.  He is also a vigilante, and he will kill your ass if you deserve it.  In the books he’s 6′ 5″, Cruise is 5′ 6″, but he somehow works in the part.  The guy really is pretty frigging good.  I remember Interview with a Vampire.  No way did I EVER picture him as Lestat, but sure enough, he killed that one too!  

Cruise is definitely surprising.  And although he may not exactly be my cup of tea, he’s good at his craft.  Ross & I do love Knight and Day.  His role as Roy is quite possibly the most lovable character I’ve seen him play.  Charming and still a serious bad ass.  Tom epitomizes the Hollywood guy that you want to hate in reality.  But for some reason, I still find him entertaining on screen.  Jack Reacher is a film you can feel safe about.  I wasn’t thinking what I often do, “Can I have my 2 hours back?”  I felt invested in the story and enjoyed having someone to root for.  A classic tale of right versus wrong always appeals to me.  And this one has sequel written all over it.  I’m game, but I think I can wait for the DVD.

Oh, I’m positive there will be sequels, plural.  There are 17 more Reacher books and counting.  I’m sure there are die hard fans of the series that would disagree with me, but Cruise is made for the role.  $220,000,000 gross box office worldwide isn’t Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Iron Man money, but I’m guessing it’s enough for at least a couple of more installments.   Robert Duvall showed up late as the character Cash, a kind of Morgan Freeman to Batman-type relationship with Reacher that I enjoyed, and I hope he’s back for the sequels.  Maria and I have two more road trips planned for this summer, and we’ll definitely try to find more Jack Reacher on CD.  It’s not award winning, life affirming or world changing literature; just good old fashioned, American fun.  And he maybe a glazed over, Scientologist nut job in real life, but old mister “Born on the 4th of July” sure knows how to entertain us.

Maria’s Rating:  3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3.75 Gummies.


TV Talk: Banshee

Published March 19, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Antony Starr, Ivana Milicivec, Ulrich Thomsen, Frankie Faison, Hoon Lee, Matt Servitto, Demetrius Grosse, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Ryann Shane, Rus Blackwell, Anthony Ruivivar, Lili Simmons, Ben Cross.

Airs Friday at 10PM on Cinemax.  Action/Crime/Drama.

Banshee is a nonstop collision course of endless plot twists and unmitigated action.  There is never a dull moment.  No episode could be considered disappointing.  It’s the first series on Cinemax that we’ve seriously followed.  Banshee came across my radar when I first spotted an advertisement boasting the same producers of my beloved True Blood, including a nod from the renowned Alan Ball.  You can already imagine what the sex scenes must be like – mixing the likes of Skin-a-max and True Blood production.  We’ve recently embraced our titles as nitpickers and that is a true representation of us.  However, we allow quite a bit of artistic freedom with Banshee.  Although we are quick to point out the unusual amount of crime in this fictional town and the unlikely circumstances surrounding the core of the unconventional plotline.  Banshee embraces its ridiculous nature.  The show features some restless Amish, greedy gangsters, career criminals and simple townies.  A compilation of interesting characters whose lives are intertwined in this small Pennsylvania town.

More happens in Banshee, PA than in NYC!  The premise of the show is very cool.  An ex-con (Starr) fresh out of jail, goes in search of his girlfriend who helped him steal $10 million worth of diamonds, and is in hiding.  He finds out where she is from an old accomplice, Job (Lee), who is a gay, computer genius, quasi-ninja Asian dude.  Starr arrives in Banshee and goes to the local bar to have a drink and some food, and strikes up a conversation with the owner/bartender Sugar Bates (Faison).  In classic Banshee fashion the shit immediately hits the fan.  Two local thugs walk in looking for protection money from Sugar, and unfortunately for them, the other patron at the bar is the freshly hired Sheriff Lucas Hood.  A vicious fight ensues and Sugar and Starr are left alive.  They bury the dead, and through sheer luck, Hood’s cell phone rings and Starr is able to assume his identity.

The plot is refreshingly original and wickedly entertaining.  There are plenty of sub-plots featuring the supporting cast of characters, but not so many that it leaves your head spinning.  Banshee is an action fan’s dream come true and a gritty guilty pleasure.  I can’t wait to see what kind of twists and surprises they’ll have in store for viewers in 2014.

Season 1 just wrapped and like Maria said, we can’t wait to see what’s next.  We’ve pretty much put our nitpicking on hold for Banshee, as Maria said earlier.  Maybe it’s a bit unfair, but all the hard to believe things in The Following that have us on the verge of dumping that show, don’t seem to matter in Banshee.  The Sheriff has a knock down, drag out fight in public with an MMA champion and wins, and we don’t care.  He collars the local, formerly Amish, crime boss of the town Kai Proctor (Thomsen) for murder.  Gets T-boned by some other bad guys on the way to jail and ends up fighting free with Proctors help – then lets everybody go; and we cheer.  Banshee has regular Amish, gangster Amish, an Amish whore who bangs Lucas, Russian mobsters, an ex-champion boxer, clueless FBI agents, Native American casino owners, biker gangs, a police force not afraid to be vigilantes and so much more.  Every episode is a shotgun blast in your ear, a giant line of coke, and a dip into the ocean in January with the Polar Bear Club all rolled into one.  It’s not for everyone, but if you like non-stop, somewhat mindless action, with characters that you love and hate, Banshee is great fun.  See if you can find this first season and give it a shot, I’m guessing you’ll be back for more.


Recent DVD Release: End Of Watch

Published February 25, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo, David Harbour.

Rated: R.  Crime/Drama.  Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

It was refreshing to watch a buddy cop movie where the protagonists weren’t caricatures of policemen making bad jokes, or corrupt, or dealing with corruption.  End of Watch is the story of partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Pena), and they are most certainly serious peace officers.  They patrol the worst streets of L.A., and yes they are young and eager but also very competent.  And you truly get the feeling that these guys care about the job, each other, and want to make a difference for the better.  The film is shot from the viewpoint of a school project of Taylor’s, and he has a camera with him all the time, much to the chagrin of his sargeant and fellow officers.  The faux documentary style is unique, but some of the quick jerks and changing angles were a bit reminiscent of the fantastic, long-running TV series NYPD Blue.  We follow Taylor and Zavala as they answer calls to some extremely dangerous places and situations, and it makes you think that the real-life men and women doing these jobs are definitely not getting paid enough.

End of Watch was unique, adrenaline pumping and suspenseful.  This is not my favorite genre of movie and I wasn’t especially excited to see it, but it was surprisingly charming.  Gyllenhaal and Pena have an on screen chemistry that is not only believable, but also a pleasure to watch.  The banter between the longtime partners appears genuine and would lead any viewer to believe that the actors bonded in real life as well.  Anna Kendrick is not to be overlooked.  She does a spectacular job as Gyllenhaal’s love interest.  Her career has seriously blossomed over the past few years with notable performances in Up in the Air, 50/50 and Pitch Perfect.  I would never have guessed that she would be the most successful actor (at least regarding roles) to come out of the Twilight series.  End of Watch has a gritty style of filming that makes it sometimes difficult to watch, especially during some of the chase scenes and action sequences.  I understand the desired effect the director was trying for and I commend him for taking a risk.  However, the filming style was vastly overshadowed by the fantastic acting.

The film was superbly acted, no doubt.  The group of actors that portray the street gang are chillingly menacing.  As the story continues, Taylor and Zavala in the performance of their duties tumble into some truly serious criminal activity that is way over their heads.  It is here and into the climactic scene where the movie loses me just a bit.  I was reading this article the other day in Entertainment Weekly that was about how we’ve become a nation of nitpickers when it comes to movies and TV shows.  Man, am I guilty as charged there.  Maria and I are forever breaking down what’s wrong with Homeland or The Following or Dexter or Boardwalk Empire.  I just get so pissed off when common sense is ignored or when the outskirts of what could happen in real-life are stretched to their limits and beyond.  I know I should just enjoy the ride, but I can’t.  And there is a moment near the end of End of Watch that I found myself screaming at the screen.  I’m not going to spoil anything because we don’t do that, but I know Maria was in the same place I was.  It certainly didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it definitely dropped it down a notch or two.

I’m a fellow nitpicker and proud of it.  Judging entertainment is one of my favorite outlets.  That is what defines us as Americans and as people.  It’s what makes some stuff amazing and other crap mediocre.  Well, let me step off my soap box for a minute and finish up my assessment of Watch.  I enjoyed this movie, mainly because it had tons of action keeping me on the edge of my seat and it was something new.  It’s exciting to see somebody try something a little bit different, even if it doesn’t fully translate.  My praises slightly waned at the ending, but not enough to allow me to discount the entire film.  Perhaps we have become exceptionally critical, but I think we’ve contributed to making entertainment better.  The recent offerings on television and movies reflect the high standards we’ve adopted.  The important thing is that we each have the freedom to go see what movie we want, follow whichever shows appeal to us and read any book that piques our interest.  I may strongly disagree with the millions of readers who liked 50 Shades of Grey, but I sure as shit support your right to enjoy it.  So watch what you want, enjoy what you like and feel free to bash anything as you see fit.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummies.



Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths

Published October 22, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring:  Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson.

Rated R.  Comedy/Crime/Drama.  Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

I’ve tried to pick my favorite psychopath, but it proves quite a task with casting like this.  Just take a peek at the rundown of actors involved in this film listed above.  Walken is always a selling point for me, personally.  Add to that Tom Waits, two beautiful women that you’ll no doubt recognize on screen – if not by their names (Abbie Cornish & Olga Kurylenko) and a special guest appearance by two of my favorite Boardwalk Empire characters, Michael Pitt (the late Jimmy Darmody) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein).  Not that casting is a definitive slam dunk in any film, but it helps generate a certain feel for the production at hand.  The vibe you should probably gather from this present selection of characters is a violent one…lots of blood and guts.  Not gore necessarily, but spatter.  Seven Psychopaths had a similar feel to the 2008 critically acclaimed “In Bruges” – and with good reason.  The very same man, Martin McDonagh, wrote and directed both films.  He most certainly has a style, as I had the inkling before we conducted further research.  I would describe McDonagh’s style as intensely dark and brutally humorous.  Nonetheless, even if you don’t like the style of Seven Psychopaths, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be bored.  The confluence of characters in this film is a trainwreck and you won’t be able to avert your eyes, even if you hope to.

Maria and I have had a run of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” lately.  First, the same night we watched the movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, we caught Louis C.K.’s stand-up act where he talks of his ‘man crush’ on Ewan McGregor.  Now just days after watching the quirky, but entertaining, In Bruges, we went and saw Seven Psychopaths.  Written and directed by the same man McDonagh, as noted by Maria above.  She was indeed all over the similarities between the two movie’s styles, as she pointed it out to me minutes in.  McDonagh loves to put serial killers, murderers and other odd characters in unexpected settings.  And though he certainly doesn’t mind shedding some blood – dialogue and character development are his real strengths.  In Seven Psychopaths, he tells us the story of alcoholic writer Marty (Farrell, who he cast in In Bruges as well), who has a name for a movie and little else.  His good friend, the oddball, struggling actor Billy (played by the always fantastic Rockwell: Green Mile, Cowboys and Aliens et al), has some wonderful suggestions for Marty’s movie and would love to be involved in the writing of the screenplay.  In the meantime Billy and his friend Hans (the legend, Walken) steal people’s dogs to make ends meet, waiting until they put up a reward, then cashing in on the return.  Unfortunately for them, they steal the dog of true criminal psychopath, Charlie (Harrelson), who loves his dog more than any human being.  As you may guess, it’s at this point that the Shih Tzu really hits the fan.

Fantastic pun sweetheart.  One of my favorite things about this plot is that it kind of follows the evolution of Marty’s screenplay.  McDonagh cleverly intertwines the development of the screenplay with the unfolding story that his viewers watch on screen.  We don’t want to give anything away, as there are some interesting twists and turns.  However, suffice it to say that this plot line is engaging, groundbreaking and drastically original.  Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges are similar in style, but the themes and colorful storylines are brilliantly diverse.  The longer removed from viewing the movie, the more impressed I was with its composition.  It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to give credit where credit’s due.  Seven Psychopaths is refreshing and a pleasure to watch.  Especially in the present movie business where recycling and reinventing old ideas is the new trend.

I agree with you on several points.  Martin McDonagh’s writing is a breath of fresh air of originality, in a predominantly unoriginal time for movies.  Also, we have to be careful what we divulge about the plot, it would be easy to say too much.  And, the more I think about Seven Psychopaths, the more I like it.  I would add that I think it’s the kind of movie that should be seen again, perhaps when it comes out on DVD.  The things you know the second time around will give you clarity from the opening scenes through the end.  Not exact comparisons for sure, but The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense could be examples of the point I’m trying to make.   Time will tell if Seven Psychopaths can be mentioned in the same breath as those two classics.  But the exquisite acting by the four lead actors, coupled with superb writing, give it the feel to me of a movie that will get even better with age.  

Calling all psychopaths…

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.