Jackie Brown Movie Review – 1997

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Crime, Drama, Thriller

Year: 1997
Creator(s): Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Forester

Mild Spoilers

Written By: William R Wortham

Most crime dramas are good examples of plausible real life cruelty and psychological extremes. Flicks like L.A. Confidential are good psychological pieces on both criminals and corruption, and often based off true events. Jack Brown is a boring film about people randomly smattered about with a predictable ending. Oddly enough if you want to skip seeing a majority of the film just read the synopsys of this, because you aren’t missing much. Compessing every scene and character development into one paragraph is pathetic. Yet, somehow, this films seems to do this with great ease.

It’s a very cut and dry detective story that leaves nothing to the imagination. Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is a standard PI whos’ approched one day by Jackie Brown. After some flash backs and very long drawn out scenes things will slowly develop. I found a lot of them totally uninteresting because they were worthless converstations about generic things. This sours any kind of story development by distancing emotionally impactful scenes with scattered scenes. The whole point of a film is to keep people guessing, not drag things out beyond developmental archs.

One of the more tedious moments was when one of the side characters dies. It didn’t build drama well, and considering how shallow the characters are it was easy to predict. Common sense would have behooved many in this film and its like they blantantly ignored all of it. Unlike Hitchcock where you can’t see whats going on or its left up for grabs as to what happened, many scenes don’t do much to convey any emotion. It’s very blunt and the rest of the shots throughout the movie are the exact same.

All the characters are one-dimensional, with most of the character development basically summerized in a few minutes. This works for some movies, but it kills it for me when the top 5 main characters are as deep as a puddle. I can’t care about characters who are so predictiable and who lack any form of intelligence. Many in the film are more emotionally driven rather than by any kind of logic. Most gangster films involve smart criminals who get away with things due to subtle dialoge and cohersion. This had none of that.

On a postive note, for a Tarantino film, it’s totally out of the norm. Its lacking in huge amounts of gore and blood, unlike most of his films. In Pulp Fiction, no one was really a good guy or bad guy. Everyone was equally selfish, and eventually met a brutal end. Jack Brown is one of the few that ends on a high note and it might please some audiences. All of the characters, even though boring, were a lot less over the top compaired to his other movies.

I don’t know if I can recommend this movie, or hate it either. It was really well shot and everyones performances were up to snuff. Underwhelming scenes, a guessable story, and underdeveloped characters kill the rest of the film. If you want something simply written with farmiliar faces watch this film. I would skip it if you hate things that are completely banal.

4.5/10

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

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WARNING: Mild Spoilers

Harry Hart owes a life debt to a fallen friend, Lancealot, whilst working for a socially elites group of people who are Britain’s best undercover spies called: Kingsmen. They all take names from King Arthers fairy tales, and some even exude qualities of their mythical counter parts. Regardless, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin grew up as a social delinquent. He eventually gets arrested and calls on the Kingsmen to get him out of trouble. They do and decide to recruit him for their undercover training program.

I consider most British comedies wittier then most American comedies due to well placed sight gags or very well crafted dialogue. This one lacked in some areas on good gags and smarm, but it made up for with well crafted crass humor. Colin Firth played the straight man to Taron Egerton‘s young and foul mouthed teenager. Many examples can be seen in the various trailers out there. Other times its simple pokes at American stereotypes or in your face violence. Oddly enough I found myself snickering at some of the violent scenes involving a racist church group they eventually investigate. Other times it was at the blatant references to just about every other spy film ever made while still trying to formulate a ironic style of humor while still honoring the genera.

I didn’t care for the film’s jumbled development. Many times Taron Egerton’s character jumps between lovable dumbass to killing machine back to being a arrogant prick. You’d think after months of training he’d know how to do something simple like open a parachute. Also the anti-US American undertones were a tad obnoxious. They were consistent and only seemed to be berating the ‘evil corporate American companies are trying to kill you’ lunacy that seems to plague every other story now-a-days. Also it isn’t plausible that one of the crucial parts of the story involves mass genocide and all the billionaires in the world just being OK with it. Because once society has toppled what good is their money? Who will run their power plants or make their food? Oh wait. No one will, because everyone is DEAD. There’s a definite spike between different styles of humor after a main character dies. In the beginning it’s a mixture of mellow, wit, wry, and crass humor. After the main character dies then it becomes oafish and pure crass. It isn’t that its too jarring, but it’s REALLY noticeable. So if you think all of a sudden the jokes become crappier then thats just letting you know you’re near the end of the movie.

Colin Firth was decent as a stern sophisticated person without giving into his past experience with roles. Mark Strong played a good guy for once and while not showing a lot of strength in anything he did seem to know how seem convincing he was a master of all trades. Mark Hamill is a bumbling professor and plays it rather well. It’s different since he usually plays a stronger male role, even as a villain. Taron Egerton was good as a jackass, but most of his acting was reactionary due to the script so I don’t think it’s a good example of his acting. Samuel L Jackson was great as the villain, but it seemed like he needed to tighten up some areas and be a little more aggressive or assertive. Other wise he was rather good and made someone with a lisp rather creepy.

Most spy films that try to be comedies fail by hiring writers who don’t know how to blend the two genera or the comedy becomes too experimental. This was a nice balance of everything without having one genera overpower the other. The characters were likable, even if mildly cliché. The story might be bland to some people, but how everything is set up separates it from the rest of the genera. Kingsman might not go down as a comedy classic, but it will definitely be brought up in conversation frequently.

See it in theaters.

7.5/10

John Wick Movie Review

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A hitman retires and gets married. His wife gets cancer and dies. As a parting gift she orders a dog to be delivered to him a few days after her death. Things are going well and eventually he starts to get his life back together. He even starts carrying out a regular schedule. Then his past life comes back to haunt him.

This was a good revenge film, but they spend the first hour of the movie building up John Wick (Keanu Reeves) as being one of the most bad ass people walking the face of the Earth. Then for some reason everyone decides to try and kill him anyway. Other then that and one glaringly large error that is unrealistic of any mobster, its a quality action film. It mixes enough action without making it too intense (see: The Legend of Drunken Master). It also mixes the atmosphere with random slow parts to give some comic relief and carry the story along (see: The Rundown). Its also refreshing that it doesn’t rely off of older Hollywood action movies for dialogue or action scenes.

For example for a mobster based film there was a significant lack of cursing. Yes, cursing can heighten some situations, but in this genera it’s become contrived and its sometimes distracting from the actual dialogue at hand. When cursing becomes your favorite adjective, verb, and noun it’s a sign that its hiding a bland story. Another example is that in this action film when a car fell off a high platform it DIDN’T explode. Sorry, but that always bugged me. Just because something falls from a considerable height doesn’t mean its going to blow up, nor can. Also there is a good blend of side characters that actually do something. In many movies, especially action movies, side characters get no play through out the film and then are usually brought back up at the end (see: the entire Die Hard series) just to close them out. In truth many side characters don’t have any purpose being there and are usually filler.

Keanu Reeves was more of a dick in this role. This is refreshing since he’s usually the goofy good guy. This only makes me wish he’d get more roles like Constantine. Willem Dafoe instead of being a usually creepy character is actually really good as a guardian angle like figure in the film. Which is also refreshing to see since he’s usually the bad guy, or one of the bad guys. Other various guest appearances from well known faces were also awesome to see. Like John Leguizamo was the chop shop owner, Ian McShane was the owner and lush of the bar, and even Kevin Nash of WWF fame showed up. Shoot even Dean Winters (Law and Order, 30 Rock, and Rescue Me) was a main villain. Sure he probably got typecast for this role, but hes still good at being a asshole. Also Adrianne Palicki was great as a villain, but I think needed more screen time. To a certain extent it’s like a “it’s a that guy/girl” movie where they include familiar faces everywhere. That isn’t done too often, but I thought it was neat, because with “that guy” like people in the Hollywood industry you do get a certain level of good, or better, acting quality and it was rather apparent with all of them.

Every once in a while a quality action film comes on that reminds us all why we love artistic violence. This is one of those movies. It’s explosive, fast paced, and incorporates enough of everything to make what is usually a cliché genera into a really fun revenge movie. The quality story helps movie it along and makes it easy to look over . Take a few friends to see it and then get loaded afterwards.

7.5/10

Spring Breakers Movie Review

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3 spoiled brats at college get bored and want to go to Florida for Spring Break. So they go bug their friend Faith (Selena Gomez) for money. She doesn’t have any so they hatch a plan to rob a local dinner. They successfully rob it with ease and little regret. Later they’ve taken a bus down to Florida and while partying and get busted for violating a local noise ordinance. After this they are busted out of prison by Alien (James Franco) which is where the core of the film starts.

This movie was just OK for all the controversy and hype it got. It’s very much a exploitation film where there’s plenty of boobies and blood, but little else. The first half of the movie is the college brats complaining about how they are bored. Then there’s a lot of little montage scenes where they’re dorking around and not doing a whole lot. Then, as stated, they rob the local restaurant and go on spring break. Then there’s another LONG montage of them partying and you get to see plenty of boobs, drinking, and drug use (cocaine). Sound exciting? Well it isn’t.

Some will say it’s a satire of the extreme consumer culture based in America, but it isn’t all that funny. Sure there are a few tong and cheek scenes and some really stupid humor where Alien is boasting hard about his ‘cool shit.’ However the girls, with the exception of Faith, are pretty much horrible people. At which, they aren’t likeable in any way and have no problem displaying it or telling other people about their actions. The only reason Alien is even identifiable as human, rather then a psychopath, is that he still has a youthfulness about him, especially when talking about his possessions. However if that’s the whole satire of the film, then you pretty much get it at the beginning of the movie and then it reiterates itself a million times.

Now don’t get me wrong it does have some ups to the film. Much of the montage scenes are beautifully done. Many of them are accompanied well with music that’s both contemporary, fits the tone of the film and the characters well. The sprinkles of humor throughout the film is a nice change of pace and almost light humored. Also the attention to the scenery is really lush and vibrant. It does a good job at capturing the chaos of youthful stupidity.

James Franco did a really great job acting like a complete dumb hood rat. He’s become increasingly impressive considering how diverse his characters are and how well he plays them. He brings a certain creepy vib to the whole movie considering he’s of a unknown older drug dealing man hitting on younger ladies. Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine weren’t all that memorable considering their actions mostly didn’t involve acting. It mostly involves looking drunk, or stupid, happy, and/or partying. Selena Gomez however did a decent job looking sweet and innocent and had a convincing scene where she was upset about the people the druggies they were getting involved with. Other then that the rest of the cast was cold and completely unappealing.

I’d recommend waiting till this comes to Blu-ray or DVD. This is short lived fun and hopefully the Blu-ray should give some more commentary on the movie. The characters are bland and either completely stupid and selfish or cruel and selfish. Regardless there isn’t much here and even the social commentary will be forgotten in time. If you want to see horrible people living wasteful short lives, see this.

5.0/10

6.6/10 – IMDB

Snitch Movie Review

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A John Matthews’s kid starts to deal drugs, with his friend. His friend basically coerces the other kid into dealing drugs. Eventually he says there’s “one last shipment” coming in and convinces the kid to deal drugs again. The DEA catches on and makes the package a sting operation. The kid gets busted and the father works up a plan to help the DEA to bust drug dealers in exchange for a shorter prison sentence for his son.

This was a decent melodrama, but not much else. The trailers market it as some sort of action movie, like most of Dwayne Johnson‘s films. Instead it had a lot of long artistic visuals, that didn’t have anything to do with the story line. Don’t get me wrong it would have been interesting if something happened during the scenes, but nothing important would happen. Most of the scenes were driving or the actors setting up the next sting operation. In Drive it would have long scenes of, well, driving but it was apart of the artistic perspective of the film. It showed the loneliness of the driver. Snitch, well, it basically was moving from one location to another. It had so many of them that there should have been 30 minutes they could have cut out in order to save time.

Then various amounts of melodrama doesn’t pay off in a story we kinda know. The basis of the story is that a guy does things he doesn’t want to do in order to save his kid. Sure this story would have made this telling of that type of story different, but most of the dialogue and many of the situations are predictable. The most practicable scene was where they were tracking one of the drug dealers, Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams), and they do the opposite of what was originally planned during the sting operation. Also the tension was drained immediately since Daniel James (Jon Bernthal) said if they screwed up on something they would have been shot already.

The stronger scenes are with John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) and Daniel James (Jon Bernthal) fighting over the confusing they were facing with all the drug dealers, and sting operations, surrounding them. The constant changes and finding out new facts puts them on edge. Also one of the best is where Daniel loses his cool and verbally fights with his wife over her concern that he’s either dealing and/or doing drugs again. Another was where Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) and John while he came to visit him in prison. They add some depth to the movie, but it doesn’t hold the movie together well considering the quality segments are few and far between.

As for the acting, as the critics are saying, yes this is Dwayne Johnson‘s best dramatic performance so far. Despite that I still say if you want to see a his versatile acting watch The Rundown. He’s funny, serious, and a mixture of other things throughout the movie. The gruff voiced Barry Pepper plays a decent undercover cop and does a convincing job at looking completely exhausting half the time. Hey it’s apart of the job, or at least with that kind of lifestyle/character. Also Jon Bernthal plays a good side character as a over worked ex-con with anger issues and a failing marriage. He does really well in many scenes, but it is too similar to his character, Shane, in The Walking Dead. The only differences is that he isn’t a complete douche for petty reasons and they aren’t running from zombies. Also it was nice to see Benjamin Bratt doing something again, but he wasn’t on screen a whole lot. Also Michael Kenneth Williams does a great job playing a no-non-sense badass, but I think he’s been typecast too much as a thug before. One last notable performance was Susan Sarandon who had a few good scenes where she had to play a stern politician and did it without villainizing the character.

All in all this melodrama is at least worth watching once. For fans of Dwayne Johnson and Jon Bernthal if you’re that interested in seeing how they perform. The scenes are freaking beautiful and the tension half the time does pay off. The other half of the time it isn’t as intense as it should feel. Also the pacing of the movie is slow. The things that really drag the movie down are the long tedious scenes and lack luster dialogue/plot bring that really bring the movie down.

6.5/10

6.9/10 – IMDB

Gangster Squad Movie Review

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Mild Spoilers!

Sometime in the 1950’s the LAPD got tired of the local mob killing their officers. So a few in the department decide to take matters into their own hands and ruin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) business. Sgt. John O’ Mara (Josh Brolin) heads this team and seeks select few for very specific roles. You know the brains, the brawn, the gunman, etc. Meanwhile, Cohen is killing a few people left and right and makes it personal for a few on O’Mara’s team. So as the city falls further under Cohen’s rule the team feels the pressure to end it.

I left the theater both pleased and a little irritated. It was decently paced on the action side and gave the audience enough time to slow down to gather major parts of the story in-between fights. The murders were gory and completely unforgiving, like most gangster films. One of the more impressive things was that they really did well encompassing the jazz joints of the time. Yeah, sure, Hollywood has done it before, but this seemed bigger and more elaborate then most. However it made some of the same mistakes other films had made with gangster films it feels incredibly standard.

It has it’s moments where the mobsters establishes they’re big badasses. It has the moment where one of the main characters has a emotional turning point. It even has the standard brainy guy in the movie to help the team. The basic plot line is very Good vs. Evil, unlike Goodfellas, or even The Departed, where there is some gray in there. In other words: we’ve seen this before. Does it make the movie bad or unwatchable? No. It’s just a little disparaging since the whole point of the movie was about Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), one of the cruelest west coast gangsters of all time, and one would think it would be a little different in its execution or stand out a little differently.

Sean Penn was great, as usual, however there were a few scenes where I think he should have gotten angrier, think Mystic River, rather then punching people in the face. But I guess that’s script discrepancies and not his acting. Josh Brolin is back playing a familiar role as a stern authoritative figure and always pulled it off. Him as the lead character helped hold up half the film. Ryan Gosling was a decent pretty boy detective, but didn’t add too much to the plot. Emma Stone was almost unnoticeable and barely had any lines. Her character was underdeveloped, just like Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena‘s character. Anyway, due to this people don’t really get to see her talents shine, considering how well she’s performed in her other movies. In all honesty I don’t know what she’s doing in the movie considering her character doesn’t historically exist. However, she did a great job looking like a 50s babe. It was also great to see Nick Nolte cleaned up and in a gruff and casual kinda role. His addition did help with the political subplots in the movie.

The whole reason to go see this movie is if you have a action craving. This movie has a few historical bits to offer, but is mostly inaccurate. Like if you search for one of the main characters death, in this case Mickey Cohen whole death and arrest. Which is OK, but I think it would have helped the story some if they added maybe a little more and then extended the film some. All in all it’s really fun to watch, but don’t expect anything too deep or historical.

7.0 out of 10

IMDB – 7.3/10 as of 01/14/13

I feel ashamed for not mentioning him, but Giovanni Ribisi was good as the brains in this film. He would really shine in this if he had more screen time. He does have a few good/funny lines in this too. Its been interesting seeing him act in Ted, Contraband, and even Avatar. He’s proving to be a good actor and I do hope he eventually gets his Oscar.