Film Brief: Baby Driver

There were many moments of exhilarating fun, and other parts that dragged it down.  End result: Baby Driver soars above most films of its ilk.  7/10

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Film Brief: The Accountant [u]

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Just as quickly as The Accountant builds up periods of true entertainment, it dashes them on the rocks.  Sort of like when the Chargers are up by 3 touchdowns going into the fourth quarter: you know they’re going to lose.  5/10

Notes: Comparison: strangely enough, I didn’t think of any other films when watching this one.  Maybe because in the dull moments I was thinking of enchiladas.  Other: Normally I don’t include the trailer for movies I don’t recommend, but I hold no animosity toward The Accountant.  I was very fond of certain moments and most of the cast — centered on Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick.  But as I said the film was bungled… or fumbled, to draw back the Chargers analogy.

You could even say it’s some kind of masterpiece compared to the dismal Girl on the Train.

UPDATE (1/28/17) — Yes they dropped the ball here.  But there’s a nice entertainment factor that shouldn’t be wiped away.  And Anna Kendrick… gotta love her.  6/10

VOD Log: Two Step

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Credit to my sister for bringing this low budget indie to my attention.  Two Step features a good, tense storyline driven by one mean hombre.  But a movie needs depth.  6/10

Availability: Netflix, iTunes

Two Step - text blockComparison Notes: (all recommended, and better examples of what Two Step was trying to achieve): I’ll See You in My Dreams, Last House on the Left, Eden Lake, Vacancy

Cinematic Greats: 48 Hrs.

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A great movie and an 80’s flashback in one!  Sometimes a movie just hits all the right notes.  That may sound clichéd, but hear me now and believe me later: 48 Hrs. is a fantastic, funny as hell movie with a great Dirty Harry-inspired villain and a thrilling storyline — much more than one could expect in Eddie Murphy’s debut.

If you never saw it, do yourself a favor and catch 48 Hrs., an essential picture that holds its place among the many great movies of the period.

Availability: Netflix

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Cinematic Greats: Bound

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Terrifically fun, highly stylized modern film noir with lots of dark humor — in 2008, I wrote:

Bound, 1996, with Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, is a delightful mob movie with a twist – the mobster, played uniquely with humor by Joe Pantoliano, becomes the target of a plot against him by his wife (Tilly) and Gershon.  I saw this in the theater when it came out.  It is the only movie I can think of where after about 10 minutes into the film, I was literally on the edge of my seat for the duration of the picture.

Bound - text blockRoger Ebert awarded his highest rating:

“Bound” is one of those movies that works you up, wrings you out and leaves you gasping. It’s pure cinema, spread over several genres. It’s a caper movie, a gangster movie, a sex movie and a slapstick comedy. It’s not often you think of “The Last Seduction” and the Marx Brothers during the same film, but I did during this one–and I also thought about “Blood Simple” and Woody Allen. It’s amazing to discover all this virtuosity and confidence in two first-time filmmakers, Larry and Andy Wachowski, self-described college dropouts, still in their 20s, from Chicago.

So in other words, for a dose of the Wachowskis, you’re better off watching Bound — even a second or third time — than opting for their most recent offering, Jupiter Ascending.  It’s funny that Bound ended up a somewhat forgotten film, while their Matrix enterprise became completely ubiquitous, a staple of cinema.

BONUS!  Bound’s available on Netflix.

Film Brief: Cold in July

Cold in July - posterI must be on a roll — 3 good movies in theaters in a row!

Now maybe it had something to do with the Texas setting, but the first half of Cold in July was echoing in my ear No Country for Old Men.  The consistent, compelling pacing and ever-unfolding storyline gave me a similar feelingCold in July as the Coen brothers’ triumph.  An old fashioned crime thriller with a terrific performance at its center, Cold in July runs in stellar warp mode for a good long while before finding itself muddled a bit with clichés in the latter half. On balance: 7/10

* * *

Comparison Notes (all recommended): 48 Hrs., Thelma and Louise, No Country for Old Men, Prisoners (2013)

Cold in July

Trailer

It’s A Simple Plan to Watch a Great Movie

A Simple Plan poster

Oooohh this is a good movie.  Billy Bob Thornton emerged in 1996 as a refreshing new presence in Hollywood with the terrific Sling Blade, and went on to do more great things, the best of which was A Simple Plan (1998).  It’s about a group of men who decide to gamble with their lives.  Roger Ebert gave it his highest rating:

“You work for the American Dream–you don’t steal it.” So says a Minnesota family man early in “A Simple Plan,” but he is only repeating an untested theory. Confronted with the actual presence of $4 million in cash, he finds his values bending, and eventually he’s trapped in a horror story of greed, guilt and murder.

In-depth analysis by scholar Jane Hill shows how this movie may be thrown aloft and into the context of classic literature (from Wikipedia/iBooks):

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Although Richard Schickel links the film to Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and a number of reviewers make note of its similarities to the Coen brothers’ Fargo, as well as to such classic films as John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, it is through even deeper intertextual roots that Smith and Raimi reveal their complicated ideological statement regarding the state of the American dream at the end of the twentieth century… Smith and Raimi transpose three specific sign systems, or texts, central to the western canon: Shakespeare’s Macbeth, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Through their complicated interweaving of these language “systems,” the filmmakers achieve a new articulation of the relationship between the American dream and ambition, between Christian morality and capitalistic expectations.

This is a truly outstanding drama and highly recommended.  Ebert again:

“A Simple Plan” is one of the year’s best films for a lot of reasons, including its ability to involve the audience almost breathlessly in a story of mounting tragedy.