Friday, July 22, 2016

The Transporter (2002)

A professional getaway driver searches for a shipping container of smuggled slaves.

The perfect brainless action picture, done up to a fault. This is the first one in the Jason Statham franchise, who is the undisputed King Kraft Velveeta of the silver screen. Smooth and cheesy, he plays Frank, ex-military of course, which by rote gives him mad fighting and coping skillz.

The sheer stupidness of the action is off the charts. Deflecting a missile with a tea tray, finding a parachute in a cropdusting plane and landing on a truck, etc. And we love it, and we will take it, in order to watch the amazing Statham, whose awesomeness lies in the fact that he can deliver this to us with a straight face.

I've heard that originally Frank was supposed to be gay, which was suppressed by the producers to appease action fans, by introducing Qi Shu as his doting girlfriend. Despite this, there are a few treasures in there to keep the myth alive, such as Frank's punctilious air, his home, rolling around in grease with a bunch of guys, an underwater air-kiss, odd open-legged crotch fighting oddities etc. I'm all for it, and If you watch the film with this premise in mind, it makes it way more interesting.

I have shamefully not seen any of the other films in this franchise, but I plan to get a bucket of chicken wings, a few Shock Tops and go to town.

Quickie Review


Friday, May 8, 2015

Fresh (1994)

A smart 12-year-old drug dealer plots his way out.

Wow.  Just wow.  Michael lives in a group home, goes to school, and then to his afterschool job selling crack for the local major dealers.  He's a quiet but smart kid.  Unaffected.  Resourceful.  The local dealers like him, think he's cute.  And they underestimate him.

When he has had enough, he decides to get out by playing the dealers against each other, brilliantly setting them up.

His intense situations are enhanced by visits to the park to visit his estranged father (perfectly played by Samuel Jackson) who schools him on chess and life.

Young Sean Nelson is phenomenal.  He carries the weight of this movie without flash or overacting.  His performance is right up there with any tenured movie actor.

One of Giancarlo Esposito's most memorable performances as well, as a slick, smarmy heroin dealer with an interest in Michael's sister.

The Writer/Director, Boaz Yakin does a superb job of telling a great story effectively and simply, without any extra bells or whistles.

One of my all-time favorites.  Such a great film.

I got
the stupid

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Station Agent (2003)

A solitary man with dwarfism inherits a railroad station in NJ.

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) plays Finbar McBride, a simple, solitary man, who likes trains, and finds himself inheriting a remote train station.  Interrupting his solitude is Joe, a chatty food truck proprieter (Bobby Cannavale), and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a damaged woman.  We get to watch a 3-way friendship develop over the course of the movie.

Dinklage is so incredible, he has such a force of personality, such a strong presence as a person, that despite his short stature, he exerts a calmness and formidability that the other 2 gravitate towards.  Cannavale's unyielding chattiness and Patricia Clarkson's quirky sadness fill out a deep and satisfying trio of characters.

Usually these small indie movies can be unsatisfying due to more of a focus on characters than plot, but in this case, it's perfectly done.

Quickie Synopsis
Become Friends

Friday, December 19, 2014

Falling Down (1993)

A desperate man gets into violent altercations while trying to get home to his family.

Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) is a smart but disturbed man who is fed up with modern society's greed, callousness, and cruelty.  He abandons his car in a traffic jam on the thruway, walking through a dangerous area of L.A., getting into one altercation after another.  He accumulates an increasingly lethal array of weapons along the way, which he is not shy to use.

On his trail is Detective Prendergast (Robert Duvall), a gentle cop on his last day before taking his clingy wife to Arizona for their retirement.  His gung-ho commanding officer despises him and wants him to go quietly, but Prendergast cannot let it go.

What's really interesting is that we are made to empathize with Douglas' situation, but not the man himself. His complaints are all of ours.  We've been layed off.  We've been refused breakfast at McDonalds at the 10:31 cutoff.  We've all had the bait and switch pulled on us by corporate business. We've dealt with rude, greedy shopkeepers, and bullies.  And we all just want to get home to our family.

But we are not empathetic to the man however. He's violent and gets an empty satisfaction out of giving people their "just desserts".  So you can't root for him. You can't take your eyes off him either.   This is my favorite Michael Douglas role (and his as well).

Quickie Synopsis

bad guy?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wing Chun (1994)

Female Kung-Fu expert protects her village from bandits.

One of the best all-around Kung Fu flicks you will see. Michelle Yeoh  is perfect as a calm, melancholy kick-ass tofu chef.  What's nice is a lack of blood and gore, and superb slapstick kung fu action.  Lots of slobbering local men and a wacky tofu-shop lady for a little silly comedy thrown in.

By the way, the kung fu choreography is top notch.  If you don't know Yuen Woo-ping, learn him now.....(choreographer and action director for Kill Bill, The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Drunken Master, Iron Monkey, Kung Fu Hustle, and a score of others)

My wife is not a huge Kung Fu fan, but she greatly enjoyed this one.

Quickie Synopsis

Smash This
Pan of Tofu
If You Can

Friday, July 11, 2014

Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

2 unlikely damaged people fall in love.

If you're looking for a love story waaay off the beaten path, this is a good one. Minnie is a damaged lady working at a museum.  She has no luck with men, hangs out at the movies with her elderly co-worker, and has been falsely lured by Hollywood romance.

Seymour Moskowitz is a broke, aimless car valet with an impulsive personality, long hair, and a hell of a mustache.  These two tug, fight, and scramble their way into a relationship.

The original indie director John Cassavetes unleashed this on the heels of Easy Rider.  This director is known for improvisation and rough filming style, so beware, this is not a polished looking movie.

That being said, Gena Rowlands is strikingly beautiful and shows so many facets. Seymour Cassel goes balls out with his heart on his sleeve ("I think about you so much I forget to go to the bathroom.")   and looks like a desperate, aging hippy.  What a couple these 2 make.

Seymour says the line, "If you think of yourself as funny, you become tragic.", which kind of defines the movie for me.  It is funny, but you can't laugh.  Very sweet romance and watchable for sure.

Quickie Synopsis

Monday, November 25, 2013

The American (2010)

A hitman does one last job in Italy.

Don't watch this film if you're looking for a glossy, trendy action flick.  This is a different kind of movie. There's minimal dialogue.  The pacing and plotting are somewhat more along the lines of a 70's Charles Bronson film.  It takes its time, doesn't reveal too much, and doesn't foreshadow the action.

George Clooney is good for the most part-- don't go looking for Seth Gecko here. His character is calm, competent, and thoughtful.  But it does fit with the style of the movie, and it works.

Also, check out the stunning Italian actress, Violante Placido....nom nom nom...

You'll not find any major revelations, lessons, or crazy plot twists, etc.  It's a simple story. And overall a pretty good movie.  So eat a bowl of polenta and enjoy.

Quickie Synopsis:


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bad Grandpa (2013)

Johnny Knoxville plays dirty 86-year old Irving Zisman, who begrudgingly drives his 8-year old grandson Billy across the country to live with his lowlife father.

 This plot is used to tie together a bunch of mostly physical gags pulled candid-camera style on real people (ala Borat). The twist is Knoxville, who has a penchant for crashing shopping carts and taking hard shots to the nuts. Add some extreme prosthetics and a remarkably ballsy 8-year old kid and well, you get the idea.

Any comedy movie consisting of gags held together by a simple story will be hit and miss, that comes with the dinner. This one is more watchable than most, due to the chemistry between Knoxville and amazing young Jackson Nicholl, who steals scenes regularly.

This is fairly tamer than you would think, and kind of sweet actually, but if your wife doesn't dig the Three Stooges, or appreciate rubber genitalia (in a movie that is), don't take her. Four Giant Smiles from me, well worth a night out for some laughs.

Quickie Synopsis
call you

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

A nutty group of California high school students and their shenanigans...

This is the ever loving mother of High School-coming-of-age movies.  It can righteously be called a classic.

Sean Penn gave birth to the definitive "stoner" character, Spicoli, and rules it with an iron fist.  He steals every scene he's in outright.

It's a good mainstream cross-section group of HS students -- Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Brian Backer are the "nice" kids, weaving their way through the search for love.  Robert Romanus is the slick operator.  Sean Penn is the stoner.  Judge Reinhold is the fast-food-working-regular-guy.  Phoebe Cates is the precocious sex kitten. And the wonderful Ray Walston (my favorite martian) is the harsh history teacher, Mr. Hand.

What keeps this film from spiraling out of control, is that just about every character has a distinct shift as they come to terms with the consequences of their actions.

However, life lessons is not what this film is about.  It is about fun, pure and simple.  And it is a hoot to watch.

Quickie Synopsis

Hey Bud,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Idolmaker (1980)

The Idolmaker (1980)

A music manager turns ordinary young men into singing idols.

Ray Sharky gives a killer high-octane performance as Vincent Vacarri, an intensely driven music manager who transforms a high school kid and a small-time sax player into national superstars.

The ultimate stage mother, he injects every move, every note, and nuance into his performers, and we're all along every step of the way on this ride.  Tremendous supporting cast including Joe Pantoliano, Tovah Feldshuh, and Peter Gallagher.   You can feel the raw nerves the first time this kid walks onto a stage, and the thrill as he breaks through to the audience.

The performance scenes are marvelous.  Hats off to director Taylor Hackford, who pulled them off so precisely.

What rounds this story off nicely is the backstory of Vincent, and the inevitable problems that arise from his obsessive personality.  What could easily have become a happy-dappy one-dimensional biopic turns into a legitimate tale of success, struggle, and redemption.

This one is over 30 years old and still fresh.
A first rate movie from start to finish.

Quickie Synopsis
I just wanna take you.....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hesher (2010)

Hesher (2010)

An aimless heavy-metal badass infiltrates a grieving family.

I went into this expecting the cliche.  You know, a charismatic good-hearted knucklehead who, through his wisdom and wild shenanigans, brings a family together after a crisis.

Not really.

Well, it kinda goes there, but unlike you would expect.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a reckless, impulsive guy who lives for the moment.  And despite his smiling eyes, he's not all that wise.  And at the moment you expect something profound from him, well....keep waiting.   He's pretty much just a shithead.

Look though in Gordon-Levitt's character for the little slivers of reflection and honor that break through, just barely.  Restrained and well done.

Rainn Wilson plays completely against type, bearded, and morose. Natalie Portman (who produced) plays an unsure, awkward girl and makes it look easy to boot.  Devin Brochu is a 12-year old who can actually act-- go figure.

This is a small indie-type movie that skillfully evades convention.  OK, it does have the standard indie offbeat meaningful gesture toward the end, but it's an interesting watch.

Quickie Synopsis

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New York Stories (1989)

New York Stories (1989)

Three 40-minute stories set in madcap Manhattan, each by a famous director.  Scorsese/Coppola/Allen in that order.

Interesting pick for a rainy movie night.

First story features Nick Nolte as a successful painter feeding off his obsession with his young, pretty live-in assistant (Rosanna Arquette).  By far the best out of the 3.  A finely crafted angst-fest!

Second tale features a privileged 12-year old girl's mild shenanigans in an upscale hotel.   Fast forward past this.  It is drivel.  Why Francis, why?
Leave this story.  Take the cannolis.

Third gem by Woody Allen features a middle-aged man tortured by his opinionated nudnik of a mother.  Typical Woody here, it is a refreshing dessert after the first 2.

Worth seeing overall.  Meatloaf hit the nail on the head for this one:

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Quickie Synopsis

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rock of Ages (2012)

Rock of Ages (2012)

Rock of Ages Survival Guide

Ok, I got caught off guard with this one, and here’s some advice that might help virgin viewers of this film.

Prepare yourself, and gear up mentally beforehand.  It is a musical.  Be prepared for all the cliché 80’s songs you can possibly stand.  They will be used, abused, fondled, spindled and mutilated.  That’s a given.   Do not waste your cynicism on this film.  Every affectation will be brutally perpetrated.

Don’t base your opinions of this movie on your like or dislike of 80’s music.
Don’t base your opinions of this movie on musical pureness or integrity.

In the finale you will hear “Don’t Stop Believing”.  This will be your  hardest “suspend your cynicism” test.  I did not put a spoiler alert for this because it’s no big surprise really.  Take the gun away from your head.  This is the inevitable ending to this movie and cannot be avoided.  Just be thankful it does not drag out too long.

If you can follow the instructions above, it’s pretty enjoyable overall.

Quickie Synopsis

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Food Inc. (2008)

Food Inc. (2008)

A scary look of how a handful of corporations are engineering and mass-processing our food.

Imagine you're a farmer getting sued by giant Monsanto Corp. because you planted your own seeds instead of using their genetically engineered ones. Chickens are now raised in half the time they were 50 years ago.  And twice as big. And re-engineered to have more breast meat.  Cows are being force-fed corn cause it's cheap and makes them fat. And sick.  This is an exploration into how our food is being engineered and mass-processed.

Makes you want to start raising chickens on the fire escape.  And put the kids in bunks, cause you'll need space for the pigs.  Just don't get the genetically engineered ones...

You won't want to eat any more after watching this movie, so get extra popcorn.

"The industry doesn't want you to know the truth to what you're eating.
Because if you knew, you might not want to eat it."

Quickie Synopsis

House Of Flying Daggers (2004)

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

A carefree policeman breaks a beautiful kung fu rebel out of jail. Not much not to like here. It's all good.

Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) plays a blind kung fu expert, Takeshi Kaneshiro as the carefree cop, and Andy Lau (Shaolin) as the intense cop. These 3 super-strong leads mesh well together, each one fascinating and watchable in their own right.

The cinematography is downright stunning, along with the action. Highly stylized, intense beauty of movement, much in the Crouching Tiger way-- if you liked that, you'll love this. Good plot, lots of espionage. And of course flying kung-fu-ers.

Many memorable scenes and images.  If you haven't recently had a fight to the death in a bamboo forest, there's an excellent one here to guide you.   If there was one criticism I could make, it's that they were very liberal with the flying knife physics, but I got over that, gave in to the style, and was enchanted.

Quickie Synopsis: