You’re Nicked (A review of The Sweeney)

When I first heard about THE SWEENEY the only thing I knew was that it starred Ray Winstone and he’d be a tough as nails, grizzled, rough & tumble cop. That sold me on wanting to see it. I knew nothing about the fact that it was an extremely popular television series in the 1970s. Nor that it was based upon an actual elite police squad that was taken down for truly working on the gray side of the law, using corruption and illegal tactics to take down bigger bad guys, but in the end being thrown in jail themselves.

In 2012’s THE SWEENEY, the elite police squad is just as gray. They’re the law, but they work outside the law and this isn’t sitting pretty with IID or Internal Affairs as we know them here. In many ways because of the fact that the story itself in over 30 years old and is just adapted for modern audiences with current technology, film style and such it can at times come off as cliché. I personally have NO issues with this, the best crime stories are not about the plot points, but the way they are delivered. THE SWEENEY delivers with bombastic, exhilarating action and intense, very natural acting.

The film as a whole had only one flaw. For the American audience or at least my own ears, I had to actually put the subtitles on. These are some of the thickest, most roughest United Kingdom accents I have ever heard in my life. Ray being the harshest of all, pulling in all his cockney to be a right bastard. That’s isn’t a detriment though, since I’m reviewing a Blu-Ray so subtitles? Just put them up there. Sure for someone who’s blind or can’t read this will be a problem, but do blind people watch action films? And do people without enough education to know how to read bother with films that have complicated plots with twists and turns and tons of character development? Maybe they do… but they can still enjoy this film, because well, if they can do that, then this film will have something for them.

The gun fights are crazy, the car chases are awesome, the cinematography is brilliant. Hell, just for the robbery, shooting and foot chase through Trafalgar Square which is covered extensively on the extras makes this film a must see.

Yet that isn’t the only greatness. There are two co-stars that bring a lot of notable excitement to the film on top of Winstone’s insanity. Hayley Battle, whom American audiences learned to love in Captain America is almost more dangerous and obviously way sexier than Ray (unless you’re thing is old, grizzled, beat up men) and turned in amazing performance. Between Falcon and this she’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This was also the first true star turn for musician Plan B also known as Ben Drew. His George Carter is just as important if not more important than Winstone’s Regan and he delivers a fantastic performance that really carries the film for at least 1/3rd.

THE SWEENEY is available on DVD ($20) and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo ($25) and dropped on April 2nd, 2013 (so you can go buy it now!)

Freedom: A Duo Review of LINCOLN & DJANGO UNCHAINED

America during the time of pre-Civil War and Civil War itself was tumultuous, violent, full of bravery, regime, and the building of a nation that has evolved technologically and lawfully if not spiritually or mentally. The prejudices of the time are still rampant. The attitudes and personalities of the time a constant. The only thing that has changed is how society as a whole looks at these attitudes. From who are president is, to the type of entertainment audiences divulge and live off of.

It is quite fascinating to me that in 2012 two of the most lauded film makers of my generation and what I predict generations to come would approach a time period around the same time although very different, and yet extremely similar.

Over the winter I had the opportunity to see Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s LINCOLN and Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNLEASHED. Clocking in at a combined 5 hours and 30 minutes they are both truly epic films filled with violence, stellar casts, amazing dialogues and what seem like lost opportunities in which even such expansive running times were not enough to deliver all the story and awesome that exists, especially in Tarantino’s DJANGO. There’s so much awesomeness in DJANGO that a comic book adapted from the original script being published by DC Comics.

I saw LINCOLN at the prestigious ZIGFIELD theater with a friend. It was a joint early Academy and SAG screening and Mr. Spielberg presented the film beforehand. A playbill/book was handed out which basically gave out some historical background that didn’t actually make it into the final film. In my opinion Tommy Lee Jones truly steals the film. His performance while still very “him” has a panache and delivery of conviction. His character a true hero of the times, at least as depicted here. History is very unclear and a bit possibly misguided in their presentation of Thaddeus Stevens and film has never been kind to him, probably because of the fact that he was actually a man who truly believed in equality, a rarity in those times and sadly even up till the 70’s. The cast was used in spectacular fashion here, everyone truly got a moment to shine, even the very short appearance by the rarely seen but always enjoyable Lukas Haas. It was an all together wonderful experience as well as an educational one and at least for me showed that Spielberg might still have it, either that or we’ll be able to say “Well at least did a couple good movies” in the future.

I saw Django Unchained at the IFC Center and got lucky enough to meet someone cool on line. The IFC room they used had really weird seats that went way too far back, making it a bit uncomfortable for a three hour film, but I think any theater has that problem, there’s no real answer. This is what I said about the film on Facebook directly after viewing it.

Django is a 3 hour spaghetti Western with some awesome Tarantino dialogue, amazing cinematography and severe waste of some of the talent used. It is not as good as Inglourious Basterds, but it is a very strong movie and for a guy who always says that a movie would be better if it had more nudity, the film delivered there for all genders.

Retrospectively it may have actually been better than Basterds, although with Basterds I never felt like any character was shortchanged, but I still really feel that Zoe Bell was completely unused. I felt her role and her inclusion in the film could’ve led to something quite amazing. We never get the one thing Spaghetti Westerns or any Western really offer. Even the Western comics that Quentin loved. He never get a real one on one battle between the hero and that one tough enemy who we don’t know if he can beat. Not a single villain is a bad ass. They’re all pushovers. Mentally strong and that is shown, but I would’ve loved just one battle where Django had to really fight one on one, mano y mano with a ne’er do well that was more than him and Django had to use HIS wits to defeat. Saying that, the film really paints an intriguing picture of pre-Civil War South, the South that Lincoln would soon have to contend with, the degenerate,m backwards thinking, bigoted racist South. I have to think Django got drafted during emancipation and died in the war or went into hiding and died an old man with not much to speak for but his freedom, yet sometimes… Freedom is all anyone asks for.

Both these films state that, freedom, equality be it by the land of the law or the societal measures, freedom is a thing one should be grateful for, always.

Cloak & Dagger (a further review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows)

My favorite part of Sherlock Holmes: A Book of Shadows involved a flip book. My second favorite scene involved nudity. My third favorite scene involved tons of explosions and some truly fine editing and cinematography.

I’m not sure who the flipbook was made by, but I’m guessing in terms of concept it must;ve been Guy Ritchie or The Mulroney’s idea.

In terms of that film work though, one can Philippe Rousselot, a french photographer/cinematographer who has worked since the 1970s, has won an Oscar, various BAFTA’s and even directed the Cannes’ Palme D’Or nominated Serpent’s Kiss. He also filmed the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes.

I can’t really discuss the nudity without giving something away. Some will hate it, others will applaud, some will find it out of character, others will be able to make the argument that it is in character. I mean there are arguments that can easily be made on both sides for the entirety of Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doye’s writing style was always designed to be open for interpreation. Although the ones who argue that it isn’t, obviously don’t even understand what the hell they’re talking about and I’d be willing to go fisticuffs with any fool who thinks otherwise. Oh and I can assure you I know how to win, but I can’t say how they’ll lose. It could be many ways, broken nose, shattered shoulder, broken solar plexus.

Off my proverbial high horse I truly enjoyed Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, equally as I enjoyed the first film, the Mulroney’s wrote a fine script which based on credits wasn’t doctored. I’ll be buying this one on bluray and probably will watch it anytime it shows up on HBO like I do with the first. Is it a high class film? No, it’s a perfect “popcorn” flick but with a tinge of intelligence so as to make it above the cut.

Imaginary Friends and Letting Go

Got a late start to the day.  Had some food, then watch a movie and then put together a new thing for the bathroom, might paint later with the special art kit that was purchased for me as a gift to try and generate.

The movie was PAPER MAN.  The critics lambasted this one, but I enjoyed it a lot.

It stars Jeff Daniels, Emma Stone, Lisa Kudrow Kieran Culkin and Ryan Reynolds as Captain Excellent.

Daniels is a published but not completely successful, but admired enough author with extreme writer’s block.  His wife is a very rich and on top of her career doctor.  To break the writer’s block, Daniels is going to live in a small house in The Hamptons to clear up his mind and hopefully his life which is in shambles and break the writer’s block.  Kudrow is the wife, Emma is a girl he meets there and Reynolds is his imaginary best friend and superhero.

That’s all I’m going to tell you about the story as I think this is one you should actually seek out and might find inspiring and helpful in pushing one’s proverbial ass off the couch.  Yes, it means sitting on the couch to watch it, but sometimes one needs inspiration to be inspired.

The movie also has great music and I went and looked up all the singers and bands:
MARK McADAM
LITTLE JOY
THE INCREDIBLE CASUALS
ALL POINTZ WEST
EARLIMART
MOTHERBOARD
BEULAH

Things about Captain America: The First Avenger in bullet point format for all the bullets that flew in the movie

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• There’s a Winter Soldier figure in the toy line for the film… This has nothing to do with the film, but maybe it does? There are distinct references.
• None of the Howling Commandoes are mentioned by name during the film, only in the credits. That was kind of weird.
• This may be the bets origin story for Steve Rogers ever.
• There are little nods to Marvel history, but they blink or you miss it and also the kind of references that you REALLY need to know your Marvel stuff to really catch. One of them was quite the tease and I hope there’s a chance it makes an impression in later Marvel Studios Universe.
• That super serum is way more powerful than ever. It doesn’t just enhance your body, but your brain. At least that’s how it seemed with how good Cap suddenly got without training and be a dog & pony show for months.
• The dog & pony show sequence was awesome.
• The origin for Red Skull was pretty excellent.
• There was no Strucker or Zemo, although I guess that’d make things complicated
• Peggy Carter is British, I’m not sure if this actually means anything since before the invention of Sharon Carter, Peggy was basically an unnamed girl working in the French Resistance who went on a date or two with Cap.
• Dominic Cooper does a pretty good Mad Men like twist on a Robert Downey Jr. impression, which essentially is what he said he did to prepare for the role in interviews (studied the son and older version of the character from IM2)
• Tommy Lee Jones was pretty awesome for an old man.
• Pre-serum Rogers kind of looks like a bobblehead at times, but it isn’t too bad.

I LOVE the “twists”/re-thoughts on the origin:
• James Barnes and Steve Rogers being the same age and best friends back in Brooklyn
• Red Skull being the first failed super soldier and the twists that the serum can bring out the best or worst in people.
• Rogers having to prove he’s right for the program even though Erskine handpicked him.
• The whole war bond promoter section where he’s wearing a version of the regular costume and the only reason he decides it’s time to go to battle is because he thinks Bucky is a POW or dead and he wants to recover him.
• Then biggest thing is that Captain America has no secret identity. The world knows he is Steve Rogers. That has been done before in comics, in certain ways, but never from “day one”.

The Losers (movie review)

I’ll see your big knife and raise you a classic gun from a Brazilian drug lord

Explosions, a swarmy sadistic and yet wimpy bad guy, cool guys, an okay looking chick (or in some people’s eyes gorgeous, but to me she’s just ok) and original artwork from the artist known simply as JOCK equals a movie that is a lot of fun and well conducted and definitely worth a watch.

Screenwriters Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt first came together to make The Rundown and with The Losers they successfully IMHO, albeit with changes, adapted Andy Diggle’s Vertigo comic in 90 minutes of bombastic action that runs at a steady clip and felt way more than 90 minutes in a good way.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the man, but you know that already. The rest of the cast is good enough and believable for pastiche characters. The strongest definitely is Jason Patric though. He’s a new kind of villain. I’ve been told his character has much less characterization and personality in the comic, basically nothing but a shadow… so Berg, Vanderbilt, White and Jason Patric really had some fun in creating something there.

The best bits in the films are the jokes, Jensen’s T-shirts, topless JDM and one hilarious Patric bit. The best things actually come during the ending credits. They don’t work without the rest of the film, but they are just so perfectly hilarious.

I’ll be very curious to see what Sylvain White’s next film will be as I never saw his Stomp The Yard and I also became curious in his previous work before this, so I did tons of google-fu to find a site that had that stuff… that site is this.

Flesh is an Illusion, Magic is Real

Lord of Illusions still holds up incredibly well. Scott Bacula brings Harry D’Amaur to life, showing his true chops as an actor, but so much credit needs to go Daniel von Bargen as Nix-The Puritan. The only other person on film (IMHO) to play a supernatural cult leader with such precision was Richard Lynch in Bad Dreams. While Bacula and Famke Janssen push the film forward, without the pure evil and sickness of Nix, the film has no energy/no strength.

The film is also probably the only film I know that uses The Magic Castle to such precision, even having sadly departed world class illusionist Billy McComb appear, although under a different name.

Supposedly the book Clive Barker is writing now (has been writing for awhile) features D’Amaur teaming with a few others and taking on Pinhead. That would make a pretty cool film too.

Anyways, the Lord of Illusions itch was in me for weeks and it was sitting on the shelf staring at me “Watch me, Watch me” and I finally watched it again after about 2 years since the last time with actually brand new, clear eyes and I’m glad I did.

If you’ve never seen it, do so… if you have, do so again… it’s just one of those kind of films.