Crime

September 5, 2018

(Ep. 109): Killing American Style – Movie Commentary: September 2018

Killing American style
1990 ‧ Thriller/Action ‧ 1h 30m

Well it’s not Samurai Cop…

Welcome back to the Simplistic Reviews Movie Commentary! Today we pop in another Amir Shervan film, Killing American Style. It’s the 80’s and of course Amir will recycle from his masterpiece Samurai Cop; location, music and beefy men with long beautiful hair.  The terrible acting mix with cheesy fight scene is the best part along with its nonexistent script. Killing American Style is no Samurai Cop. It’s not as funny nor crazy but still a entertaining film except for one thing – rape.

The amount of creepiness is beyond anything we have seen before. There really isn’t a need for rape in a movie, especially when the story line doesn’t call for it. A simple walk into the room with the door closing gets it point across, what we get here is out of control and unnecessary. Killing American Style is a fun Sunday film to drink and laugh at, just look at that title. But when your looking for another Samurai Cop don’t look at Killing American Style, it’s in a league of its own.
                       

November 11, 2014

Nightcrawler

TURN

Nightcrawler – Turn

Coming off of the heels of my review of “Zodiac” I liken that review to more of a catchup and brush up on Jake Gyllenhaal and where he is as an actor. The more I see, or re-watch of his career I wonder why he isn’t as popular as most other actors of his ilk. I really don’t think there is an actor working right now that takes as many chances and transforms himself as often outside of maybe Christan Bale. He takes on difficult roles, owns them, and is still able to play someone that we the audience slightly relate to. This brings me to his latest role, another turn in his career that you could also call a career-defining role. That film is “Nightcrawler” a gritty neo-noir in the vein of “Drive” “Network” and a dash of “Collateral.”

“Nightcrawler” takes the classic trope of following the American Dream to extreme, but somehow, necessary lengths. Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a small-time crook looking for a chance to prove himself. Fate knocks at his door one evening when he witnesses a woman being rescued from a burning car by two police officers. It’s not the women’s distress that catches his attention however, it’s the cameramen who capture the harrowing rescue which appears on the news the next day. Being the go-getter that he is, Bloom procures funds to buy a camera and decides his calling is to “nightcrawl.”

Finally capturing some useable footage, Bloom delivers the goods to late-night news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo) and the two begin a working relationship much to the chagrin of Nina’s co-worker Frank Kruse who finds the “if it bleeds, it leads” method of news broadcasting lacking. Bloom continues to thrive in his new calling and teams up with Rick, a homeless Angelino looking for a shot, just like Bloom.

The stakes reach their apex after Bloom and Rick witness a deadly home invasion which leaves three people dead. Sensing a breakthrough, Bloom puts all the pieces together in order to not only get the best news story, but to create the news himself.

There is a lot that could be given away in my synopsis, so I’ll stop right here because all the fun of “Nightcrawler” is to actually go on this twisted journey that features some of the best acting to date from Gyllenhaal. His take on Lou Bloom, starting from a scab who is stealing manhole covers and reselling them to a scraper, to a video camera-wielding scab making real money and becoming his own boss. One scene which stands out is Lou and Nina’s discussion about compensation for footage which Lou is trying to sell. While Nina tries to stonewall him, Lou knows everything he needs to say in order to shut her down and not only gets what he wants, but turns the tables in favor of his eventual endgame.

There is a lot of talk about “Nightcrawler” also being the “Network” for this generation. Well, having seen “Network” I say that is a pretty easy comparison being that this film is namely about the sensationalism of violence in our society and the apathy that news directors have in order to keep showing up the worst of humanity. Russo’s turn as Nina Romina is very similar to Faye Dunaway’s turn as Diana Christensen. Both are cutthroat newswomen, but unlike Christensen, Romina, while she thinks she is in control, is overtaken by Bloom who knows much more than she thinks he does. This also brings up a good point; how we obtain information in this day and age. Unlike 1976, there really wasn’t a precedent for the Internet and the sharing of information at a massive scale. Lou is able to position himself where he knows more about Nina than Nina almost does which gives him all the advantage he needs in an situation, which leads to some of the film’s best, and intense, scenes.

The Gilroy trio of Dan, Tony, and John, who direct, produce, and edit, respectively, create a vision of Los Angeles that is lively, dreamlike, and something out of a horror film all at the same time. However, my one minor gripe is the score of James Newton Howard. The score simply doesn’t seem to fit the setting of this seedy underbelly of LA. It’s a little too…..chipper? And this isn’t even to say that the score is bad, it just doesn’t fit.

Overall, “Nightcrawler” is everything it sets out to be; a social commentary with top-notch acting, solid action sequences, that looks great to boot. As it stands now, Gyllenhaal’s performance is by far my favorite of the year, and it will be a shame if he’s not one of the five nominees for an Oscar this year.

Fun Fact: Gyllenhaal lost over 20 pounds in order to obtain the gaunt look of Lou Bloom.

July 12, 2013

(Turn on the TV) The Bridge

AGAIN

The Bridge – Again

FX is known for putting out fantastic programming.  Just look at the catalog; “The Shield,” “Justified,” “American Horror Story,” “Louie,” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Of course I’m missing a few, including “Archer” but you look at their lineup either currently or in the past, and you see the quality.  This brings me to FX’s newest show “The Bridge” a look at crime on the border of Texas and Mexico.  After watching the pilot I was left thinking, “again?”

“The Bridge” is based on the Swedish TV series “Bron” which deals with crime on the Denmark-Sweden border.  Who’d of thought; crime in Denmark and and Sweden, I thought that only happened in Steig Larsson novels.  In this American version, two cops, Diane Kruger, who is ironically German, and Demian Bichir, who is in fact Mexican, so that helps, both find a body on the US-Mexico border.  It’s discovered that the body was cut in half and comprised of two different bodies.  Intrigued?

Moving from the plot aspects to the character aspects for a second, I just want to comment on the character Sonya Cross, or North, depending where you read her character’s name from.  Now this is the third show in the past year where the creators decided to go the now-cliched detective route, namely giving the main detective symptoms of Aspergers.  We’ve had “Sherlock” on the BBC, “Hannibal” on NBC, and now “The Bridge” on FX.  There used to be an age where cops or detectives had the cliche of having a gruff exterior with a soft interior, usually involving “a past event” that shaped their character, but now we are stuck with detectives and cops who have some sort of autism.  It was cute the first time, but personally I think it’s time find a new cliche.

Being that the pilot was an “extended pilot” (clocking in at just over 90 minutes as opposed to your standard 60 minute program) we get some extra time with our main characters and our “killer.”  Yet, I didn’t really feel any type of investment with either North or her Mexican counterpart, Marco Ruiz.  The stakes seem higher for Ruiz who is balancing both personal and professional business in one of the most corrupt cities in Mexico, whereas the only thing we know about North is that she is a little off.

Stylistically, if you took the film “Savages” and gave it the Michael Mann treatment, that’s exactly how “The Bridge” looks, which means it looks great.  I would even say that it even has a little “No Country For Old Man” vibe with the look and feel of the desert landscapes.  They always say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Overall, “The Bridge” has potential, but in a TV landscape with every cop and procedural show trying to one-up the other when it comes to violence, gory, and autistic detectives, where does this show fit?  Being it’s on FX, the pedigree is there, but it’s where they decide to go with the characters that really matters.  If I want to see gory murders and detectives with problems I’ll stick with “Hannibal.”

Fun Fact:  According to The International Boundary and Water Commission, the US-Mexico border is approximately 1.954 miles long.

September 24, 2012

Mulholland Falls

Mulholland Falls: Falls
(1996)

(Story from IMDB)
In 1950’s Los Angeles, a special crime squad of the LAPD investigates the murder of a young woman.
“This isn’t America, Jack. This is L.A.”

Listen, yes there are many issues with this film, but its watchable. I say Falls because it seems to make so many promises to the viewer in the beginning and then Falls as the story unveils. The story could work, but I don’t think it does here. Far fetched? Maybe. The story seems like it wants to be about a group of badass guys who kickass to get their job done in the LAPD. But the director Lee Tamahori seems not to understand where he wants to go with this. It feels like the story would last this long yet the script hinders it and therefor makes the story expire shorter then it would normally. What I mean is its two different films. One in the beginning and one at the end. I don’t know, seems like that, then again I’ve always had a issue with Lee. As a Bond fan all I must say is Die Another Day.
More on that on another day.
But
“A hundred die so that a thousand may live.” 
the cast is pretty great. I enjoy Nick Nolte’s Max Hoover. Chazz Palminteri is always a joy to watch. Jennifer Connelly is…Well Google Mulholland Falls under images, it comes up “Mulholland Falls Jennifer Connelly”… and you will see what I mean. Acting is good, but I feel it tries to be the 1950’s then it being the 1950’s. L.A. Confidential in my opinion is the 1950’s then as opposed to trying to feel like it. L.A also utilizing their characters the right way. Mulholland had Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Daniel Baldwin for no reason. They needed to be used the right way, not have the viewer ask during the film, “Where are those guys?”…Then at the end, boom! They pop up. If you first state in the beginning of a film these guys as a team are badass and can solve problems, then utilizes them. Let them solve this problem as a team. Perfect example of throwing too many people into a film without utilizing what you promise to the viewer.
L.A. works better in this field.
“She was spectacular, wasn’t she?”

The big question between these two films are, if you had to pick? 
L.A. Confidential or Mulholland Falls

Well the two are smilier in many ways. Mulholland Falls came first, L.A. a year later. You will notice there are many times that certain films that come out close together, are the same, story and look wise. The reason this happens a lot in the movie business is during the script selling stage. When you try and sell a script to a studio you sign a piece of paper stating, you will not sue them if they come out with a film like the one you are trying to sell. If the studio passes on the script, they can still make “their own version”. You will notice this happening a lot i.e. (2012’s) Snow White and the Huntsman/Mirror Mirror or (2006’s) The Prestige/The Illusionist.

So maybe L.A. Confidential and Mulholland Falls took part in this stage of Hollywood, not sure maybe they didn’t, thou I find it hard to believe…I pick L.A. Confidential.

Why?

Better Story.

Better Acting.

and it looks and feel’s that of the 1950’s.


August 24, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Wire, Season One

The Wire, Season One – Trendsetting

*Spoilers Ahead*

Back in 2002, HBO was really in a groove.  They had already introduced people to what really goes on in prison (OZ), a funeral home (Six Feet Under) and a New Jersey mob family (The Sopranos).  While this was all well and good, it wasn’t until David Simon and Ed Burns (not that Ed Burns) took us to…..West Baltimore? that things really started getting good.  It’s hard to believe that the best show ever made that no one watched is ten years old now, and that show is “The Wire.”

While I could sum up the entire series in one review, I feel “The Wire” deserves much more respect than that so I will be covering HBO’s finest show over the course of six reviews (one for each season, including a wrap-up review where I’ll rank each season as well as rank the top ten characters on the show).  With that said, on with the show.

“The Wire” was conceived after HBO aired “The Corner,” a six-part miniseries that chronicled a poverty-stricken family trapped in a drug-addled neighborhood of West Baltimore.  Many actors from “The Corner” also appear in “The Wire”  almost making the former a prequel of sorts to the latter.

Season one introduces us to the Barksdale family, a power drug-dealing crew that pretty much has West Baltimore under their control, and the West Baltimore police, lead by Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), a renegade cop with a drinking problem.  Most of the series’ main characters are introduced in the first season, including favorites Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) and Omar Little (Michael Williams).

Each season focuses on a different aspect of the greater Baltimore area, with season one focusing more on how the Barksdale Crew operates, and the methods the police use to try and curb the drug dealing and murders occurring in West Baltimore.

While I am tempted to give away critical plot twists and character development I will hold off and save all major spoilers for the wrap up review, so hopefully you will have a chance to catch up on what I call a milestone in TV, “The Wire.”

 Fun Fact:  Tim van Patten, now of “Game of Thrones” fame, directed the season finale of Season One (Sentencing).

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