Michael Madsen

December 10, 2012

Happy Holidays: Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs – Cool

Disclaimer:  Reviews this month will either be listed as Crappy or Happy Holidays.  This in no way is saying that certain movies are bad or good, but rather will make you feel good or happy, or depressed or crappy, but on occasion crappy will mean just that, a big pile of crap.  Glad we cleared that up, now enjoy the reviews.

20 years ago I was eight years old, and Quentin Tarantino had made his first film and it was playing at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.  Being eight I was more interested in Nintendo, Saturday Morning Cartoons, and watching “The Goonies” for the 100th time.  Tarantino in no way had been engrained into my brain….yet.  Come 1994, “Pulp Fiction” is released.  I’m still a little too young to fully grasp that two movies had been made within two years of each other that would change the way I thought, wrote, and viewed film.  But more on that later, let me tell you why “Reservoir Dogs” is the coolest movie to grace cinema in the last 20 years.

This past Tuesday I went to my local multiplex to see “Dogs” as it was intended, on the big screen (thank you Fathom events for giving audiences the chance to see classic movies again in a theater setting).  It was quite an experience to think this is how people were watching this same movie 20 years ago at Sundance or even Cannes.  It was incredible to be honest.  The crowd looked a little young, like scenester hipster kids who just heard about QT after “Inglorious Basterds.”  But I digress.

“Dogs” is the tale of six strangers handpicked by crime boss Joe Cabot, played by Lawrence Tierney, to hold up a jewelry store and steal a large stash of diamonds.  Without fail, the heist turns sour with several of the men getting killed and the survivors questioning what happened, and thinking that one of the crooks might actually be a police informant.  Simple right?  Well, it actually is a relatively common plot device used in crime films, but Tarantino weaves a narrative that is anything but.

The main thing that sets Tarantino’s movies apart from other common fare is the narrative construction that moves forward and backwards through time with ease.  Sure, flashbacks are used where we meet Mr. White, played by Harvey Keitel, Mr. Blonde, played with maniacal perfection by Michael “why don’t I get more work in Hollywood” Madsen, and Tim Roth as Mr. Orange, but the non-linear storyline was something relatively new in Hollywood 20 years ago, and while many try to duplicate it, rarely can anyone replicate it like Tarantino.

Normally in films with murderous criminals we don’t feel remorse or anything in common with them, but its funny that as soon as these criminals open their mouths and start talking about the meaning of a Madonna song, why tipping in a restaurant is a biased idea, or whether Pam Grier played the role of Christie Love, you forget that these guys are bad guys because they talk just like you and I.  This is another trademark of Tarantino; he makes you feel empathy for characters that can be supremely evil and sadistic, and by sharing a common bond, such as love for Blaxplotation movies, or music from the 1970s, you feel a kinship, which is incredible even while someone is having their ear cut off with a straight razor.

While “Dogs” might not be Tarantino’s magnum opus (I’ll reserve that for another review upcoming), it still stands as a touchstone for independent film in the early 1990s, and encouraged young filmmakers to go out and try their hands at movie-making.  Without “Dogs” you probably wouldn’t have movies like “The Usual Suspects,”  “The Way of the Gun,” or “Lucky Number Slevin.”  While all of those films are cool, they will never have the far-reaching influence of “Reservoir Dogs.”

Fun Fact:  A reference to a female thief named “Alabama” is made by Joe Cabot to Mr. White.  You might remember another female criminal named Alabama Whitman from the Tarantino-penned “True Romance” from 1993. 

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.


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