Showing posts with label Crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crime. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Review: "SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG" is Still Beatin' Some White Ass

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 184 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song (1971)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
Rating: MPAA – X; re-rated R in 1974 
EDITOR/WRITER/DIRECTOR: Melvin Van Peebles
PRODUCERS: Jerry Gross and Melvin Van Peebles
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bob Maxwell
COMPOSERS: Earth Wind & Fire and Melvin Van Peebles

CRIME/DRAMA/ACTION/THRILLER

Starring:  Melvin Van Peebles, Simon Chuckster, Hubert Scales, John Dullaghan, Johnny Amos, Mario Van Peebles, Megan Peebles, and Max Van Peebles

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is a 1971 action-thriller, drama, and crime film from writer-director Melvin Van Peebles.  It is considered a seminal black exploitation film or “blaxploitation” film, being one of the first that kind.  The film focuses on a Black man who goes on the run after brutally beating two police officers, with help from other marginalized people and outsiders.

After saving a black protester (likely a Black Panther) by brutally beating the two cops who were brutalizing the protester, Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles), an apolitical sex performer goes on the run from the white pigs and other white law enforcement types.  He heads for Mexico with help from the black community and disaffected Hell’s Angels, and he also meets many unique characters on the way to freedom.

Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback Baad Asssss Song is considered by many people to be the film that ushered in the blaxploitation film wave.  With its emphasis on fighting “the man” (the white power structure, in particular corrupt city officials and policemen) and graphic and gratuitous sex, the film is the prototypical blaxploitation film.  However, there is likely no other film like this one in its portrayal of police corruption and the of the racist attitudes that prevail among white law enforcement officials.

Structurally, the film has a bare and simple plot, and the script is absent of story and character development.  In a many ways, the film itself is more impressionistic than literal, while the theme is literally against white oppression and (evil) white cops.  Van Peebles in collaboration with Earth, Wind, and Fire, the R&B group who would go on to have huge crossover success on the pop charts provide a constant musical backdrop for the film.  So sometimes, this movie seems like an overly long music video.  In spite of its narrative shortcomings, Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song is bold stroke in using film to not only communicate messages and ideas, but to also be used as a means of protest.  The film is the work of an artist/firebrand; one must open up to feelings, experiences, emotions, and thoughts that are alien in order to get to the art, and when you get it, Sweetback will be like nothing else.

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

EDITED:  Sunday, July 14, 2024


NOTES:
2020 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Monday, July 8, 2024

Review: Netflix's "BEVERLY HILLS COP: AXEL F" is a Delightful Surprise

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 29 of 2024 (No. 1973) by Leroy Douresseaux

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024)
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPA – R for language throughout, violence and brief drug use
DIRECTOR: Mark Molloy
WRITERS:  Will Beall and Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten; from a story by Will Beall (based on characters created by Daniel Petrie, Jr. and Danilo Bach)
PRODUCERS:  Jerry Bruckheimer, Eddie Murphy, and Chad Oman
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Eduard Grau (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Dan Lebental
COMPOSER:  Lorne Balfe

COMEDY/ACTION/CRIME

Starring:  Eddie Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot, Damien Diaz, Kyle S. More, Luiz Guzman, and Kevin Bacon

SUMMARY OF THE REVIEW:
--Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is probably the closest in spirit and tone to the 1984 original film.  It is one of Eddie Murphy's better recent efforts.

--The members of the original cast that manage a return in this new film work quite well and don't seem to be hear for nostalgic purposes.

--The new characters are quite good and are worthy of returning

--Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is surprisingly really good and certainly worth a original fan's time and viewers new to franchise may end up wanting to go back and discover the original after this film.


Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a 2024 American buddy-cop film and action-comedy directed by Mark Molloy and starring Eddie Murphy.  It is the fourth entry in the Beverly Hills Cop film franchise, and it began streaming July 3, 2024 on Netflix as a “Netflix Original.”  Axel F finds Axel Foley returning to Beverly Hills after his estranged daughter's life is threatened.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F opens in Detroit, Michigan.  After more than four decades on the job, Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) of the Detroit Police Department is still wrecking cars and tearing up the city via his maniacal car chases in his bid to capture criminals.  He has managed to remain on the job under the supervision of his friend, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser).  Axel's latest antics, however, leads to Jeffrey's retirement.

As Axel contemplates this situation, he gets a call from his old friend, Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), former Beverly Hills Police Department detective turned private investigator.  Axel has a daughter, Jane Saunders (Taylour Paige), from whom he is estranged.  She has taken on the case of a young drug dealer, Samuel Enriquez (Damien Diaz), who has been accused of murdering an undercover cop.  Billy informs Axel that Jane is in grave danger

Axel flies to Beverly Hills, but he quickly discovers that Jane doesn't want to have anything to do with him.  He also learns that the young policeman, Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), investigating the Enriquez case, also has a complicated relationship with Jane.  Although Axel's other old BHPD buddy, former detective and now, Chief John Taggart (John Ashton), is happy to see him, Taggart is reluctant to take on the Enriquez case.  He seems to have deferred most of it to Captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon), a well-dressed cop who acts mighty suspiciously.  It will take a mix of old pals and new friends to help Axel Foley unravel a dangerous conspiracy, but will Axel do more harm than good?

This year (2024) is the 40th anniversary of the original theatrical release of Beverly Hills Cop (1984), which I recently watched for the first time in over thirty years.  Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F succeeds where the other sequels came up short, but it successfully replicates the best moments from the original film.  There are four spectacular car chases that hold the viewer's attention and don't at all seem contrived or desperate to capture the spirit of what came before it.  Plus, the “Axel F” theme (composed by Harold Faltermeyer) dominates the film's soundtrack in so many different ways that I could not help but think of the original film, which usually makes me feel good.

Director Mark Molloy gets the best out of the supporting cast, even the old guys, who look really old forty years after their debut in the original film.  Still, the script gives the classic characters much to do so that they don't seem extraneous.  Kevin Bacon is Kevin Bacon, and that usually means something quite good, as it does here.  The new characters – Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Bobby Abbott and Taylour Paige's Jane Saunders – are good enough to carry a fifth film – if that becomes a necessity.

Of course, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is about Axel Foley, and that means Eddie Murphy, who doesn't need a director to tell him how to be him.  Still, I think Mark Molly helps.  Eddie was Eddie in the Coming to America (1988) sequel, 2021's Coming 2 America (which originally streamed on Amazon Prime Video), and that time, Eddie being Eddie yielded tepid comedic results.  So I'm giving credit to the director and the screenwriters, Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten, for making Axel F something more than just another nostalgic sequel.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is surprisingly entertaining and delightful.  It is way better than I thought it would be, and I must say that I won't wait thirty years to watch it again.  I have never attempted to watch Beverly Hills Cop III (1984), of which I've heard bad things, but Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F makes this third shot at a sequel a charm.

B+
7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, July 7, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, July 4, 2024

Review: Original "BEVERLY HILLS COP" is Still Crazy and Cool

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 28 of 2024 (No. 1972) by Leroy Douresseaux

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Running time:  105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – R
DIRECTOR: Martin Brest
WRITERS:  Daniel Petrie, Jr.; from a story by Daniel Petrie, Jr. and Danilo Bach
PRODUCERS:  Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Bruce Surtees (ASC)
EDITORS:  Arthur Coburn and Billy Weber
COMPOSER:  Harold Faltermeyer
Academy Award nominee

COMEDY/ACTION/CRIME

Starring:  Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, Jonathan Banks, James Russo, Stephen Elliot, Gilbert R. Hill, Art Kimbro, Joel Bailey, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Reiser, Michael Champion, and Damon Wayans

Beverly Hills Cop is a 1984 American buddy-cop film and action-comedy directed by Martin Brest and starring Eddie Murphy.  This year (2024) makes the 40th anniversary of Beverly Hills Cop original theatrical release (specifically December 1984).  The film was the first entry in what would become the Beverly Hills Cop film franchise.  Beverly Hills Cop focuses on a cocky young Detroit cop who pursues a murder investigation in Beverly Hills where he must deal with a very different culture and a very different police department.

Beverly Hills Cop opens in Detroit, Michigan.  There, we meet Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), a plainclothes police detective.  As the story begins, his unauthorized sting operation goes sour resulting in a disastrous high-speed chase.  Axel's reckless behavior earns him the ire of his superior, Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill), who threatens to fire him unless he changes his ways.

Axel returns to his apartment to find his childhood friend, Michael “Mikey” Tandino (James Russo).  After doing a stint in prison, Mikey got a job as a security guard in Beverly Hills, California via a childhood friend of both Axel and Mikey's, Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher).  However, Mikey has gotten into something dangerous, and it costs him his life.

In spite of threats from Inspector Todd, Axel travels to Beverly Hills and visits Jenny at her place of employment, the “Hollis Benton Art Gallery.”  There, he discovers that the gallery's owner, Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), is involved in something very shady, and that he also likely had Mickey killed.  Meanwhile, Axel runs afoul Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox) at the local precinct of the Beverly Hills PD.  Bogomil has two of his detectives,  Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Sergeant John Taggart, trail Axel.  Can the street-smart Axel convince Rosewood and Taggart to help him discover exactly what Victor Maitland is doing?  Or will Axel end up sharing the same tragic fate as Mikey?

It has been well over 30 years since I had watched Beverly Hills Cop in its entirety.  As far as I can remember, I definitely saw it in a movie theater sometime in December 1984, likely with some or all of my sisters.  I may have watched it once or twice more before the 1980s came to an end.  In anticipation of the just released sequel, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (a “Netflix Original”), I decided to watch the first film again.  Just for starters, the film's soundtrack is still perky, although a bit quaint.  Harold Faltermeyer's score, especially the instrumental title tune/theme, “Axel F,” still seems pitch perfect for this movie, as if nearly four decades had not passed.

I wondered if I would like it as much as I did the first time I saw it, and I absolutely loved it back then.  This film made Eddie Murphy, for a few years, the biggest star in Hollywood.  Watching Beverly Hills Cop now, I feel as if I have fallen in love with it again.  Beverly Hills Cop was originally meant to be a star vehicle for Sylvester Stallone and be a straight action film.  Instead, it became an Eddie Murphy star vehicle, and a comic action film that has numerous funny moments, most of them executed by Eddie Murphy.  Here, you can see what made Murphy a transcendent star; he has true movie star qualities and loads of charisma.  Still, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton have their chances to be funny as Rosewood and Taggart, respectively.  Of course, Bronson Pinchot as the museum employee, Serge, steals every scene in which he appears.  He would go on to use this role to launch himself into television stardom.

As funny as Beverly Hills Cop is, it retains some of the edge that was probably in the early versions of its screenplay.  The beginning of the film shamelessly displays the inner city ruins of Detroit.  There are also multiple violent deaths, beginning with Mikey's, but I find that the excellent car chase scenes and gun battles are a bit of pop movie fun that balance out the poverty, deprivation, and violent firearm deaths that pepper this film.

Director Martin Brest, who made a career out of turning plain genre films into something just a bit more special, eagerly keeps his camera on his star.  Brest records every last bit of Murphy's talent, star power, and comedy modus operandi on the way to making Beverly Hills Cop a cop movie like nothing audiences had seen before or have seen since.  In spite of its sequels, Beverly Hills Cop remains one of a kind, and is surprisingly (at least to me) still crazy as heck and funny as hell.

A
8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, July 4, 2024


NOTES:
1985 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Daniel Petrie Jr.-screenplay/story and Danilo Bach-story)

1985 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations:  “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Eddie Murphy)

1986 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Score” (Harold Faltermeyer)


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, June 14, 2024

Review: "BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE" is the Best Buddy Cop Action-Comedy in Decades

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 of 2024 (No. 1969) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024)
Running time:  115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPA – R for strong violence, language throughout and some sexual references
DIRECTORS:  Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
WRITERS:  Chris Bremner and Will Beall (based on characters created by George Gallo)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, Chad Oman, and Will Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Robrecht Heyvaert (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Dan Lebental and Asaf Eisenberg
COMPOSER:  Lorne Balfe

ACTION/CRIME/COMEDY

Starring:  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez, Alexander Ludwig, Jacob Scipio, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Melanie Liburd, Rhea Seehorn, Tiffany Haddish, John Salley, Quinn Hemphill, Dennis Mcdonald, Tasha Smith and Joe Pantoliano

SUMMARY OF THE REVIEW:

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is the best entry in the series to date

The comic timing and humor of Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett is unleashed in his best work of comedy in ages. Lawrence gives this movie so much energy, and he kept the audience where I saw this film laughing almost the entire time.

Will Smith as Mike Lowrey is a solid action-movie hero. Smith, who is also quite funny in this film, makes sure that Bad Boys is truly an explosive, violent action flick.

I unequivocally recommend this film to fans of the “Bad Boys” series and to fans of both Smith and Lawrence.


Bad Boys: Ride or Die is a 2024 American action, crime, and buddy cop film directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, better known as “Adil & Bilall.”  It is the fourth entry in the Bad Boys film series, which began with 1995's Bad Boys, and it is a sequel to Bad Boys for Life (2020).  In Bad Boys: Ride or Die, Detectives Lowrey and Burnett, the “Bad Boys,” have to take on their own department and a group of professional killers in order to clear their late captain's name.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die opens four years after the event depicted in Bad Boys for Life, Detective Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) marries his physical therapist, Christine (Melanie Liburd).  However, at the reception, Detective Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) suffers a serious medical emergency, but worse is to come.

The FBI claims it has discovered a paper trail which proves that the late Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano) was tied to drug cartels.  Determined to stop the posthumous tarnishing of Capt. Howard, Mike and Marcus discover that Mike's imprisoned son, Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio), has information that might help their case.  Eventually, Mike, Marcus, and Armando must join forces with new Miami PD Captain Rita Secada (Paola Núñez) and the remains of her “AMMO” (Advance Miami Metro Operations) unit – Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig).  In order to clear Capt. Howard's name, however, Mike and Marcus' crew will have to take on a vicious killer, James McGrath (Eric Dane), and his secret mole inside the Miami PD.

I'd seen Bad Boys (1995) and Bad Boys II (2003), so I had to see Bad Boys for Life in preparation for Bad Boys: Ride or Die.  It is a good idea to see the 2020 film because quite a bit of its plot and many of its character carry over into the new film.  Being somewhat familiar with the Bad Boys film franchise will make the already enjoyable Bad Boys: Ride or Die even more enjoyable.

I think the thing that makes Bad Boys: Ride or Die such a joy to watch is that the team of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence seems to be re-energized.  In Bad Boys for Life, Lawrence looked a bit bloated and slow, but here in Ride or Die, he has recovered his comedy mojo.  Now, we get a Martin Lawrence that is like the Marty-Mar who was at the height of his powers in the 1990s.  He kept me and the audience with which I saw Ride or Die last night in stitches.  Lawrence was a constant barrage of comedy one-liners and comic riffs, and none of them seemed contrived.  I'm happy for him because Lawrence has not been this good in well over a decade.

Will Smith's notorious slap has apparently not delivered a knock out to his talents as a film actor and movie star.  I can't speak for the rest of y'all, dear readers, by I ain't canceling Will over that.  Smith is most solid as an action movie hero in the Bad Boys franchise, and he is at his best here.  Smith is quite funny himself, but as a gun-totting, pop-capping deliverer of justice and vengeance, Smith is as good as any other movie star.  In Bad Boys: Ride or Die, Will Smith is as sturdy and as robust as Bruce Willis was in Die Hard and in its best sequels.  As of right now, Smith is the king of action cinema.

Now, I won't act as if Bad Boys: Ride or Die is without problems.  The plot strains credulity; honestly, it us obvious that Capt. Howard is being framed, but in order for the narrative to work, the audience has to act as if such a scenario as this would happen.  Still, the directorial team of Adil & Bilall have made magic with their two entries in the Bad Boy series, and have delivered a new film that should thrill audiences throughout the summer movie season.  Bad Boys: Ride or Die even has a cameo by the series' original director, Michael Bay.

8 of 10
A
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, June 14, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, June 1, 2024

Review: "BAD BOYS FOR LIFE" Takes a Bit to Come to Life

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 of 2024 (No. 1968) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Running time:  124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPA – R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use
DIRECTORS:  Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
WRITERS:  Chris Bremner, Peter Craig & Joe Carnahan; from a story by Peter Craig & Joe Carnahan (based on characters created by George Gallo)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Will Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Robrecht Heyvaert (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Dan Lebental and Peter McNulty
COMPOSER:  Lorne Balfe

ACTION/CRIME/COMEDY

Starring:  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio, and Theresa Randle

Bad Boys for Life is a 2020 American action, crime, and buddy cop film directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, better known as “Adil & Bilall.”  It is the third entry in the Bad Boys film series, which began with 1995's Bad Boys, and it is a sequel to Bad Boys II (2003).  In Bad Boys for Life, Detectives Lowrey and Burnett, the “Bad Boys,” face off against a mysterious killer whose campaign of revenge is centered on Lowrey.

Bad Boys for Life opens in Mexico at the Santa Maria Ixcotel Prison.  There, Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) escapes with the help of her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio).  Isabel is the son of the late cartel kingpin, Benito Aretas, and she wants revenge against the men who helped take down her husband twenty-four years ago.  Armando, a highly-skilled criminal, savvy fighter, and vicious killer, is the instrument of her revenge.

One of those men is Detective Lt. Michael “Mike” Lowrey (Will Smith), and Armando comes close to killing him.  Mike is a hard man to keep down, and he wants payback.  His boss, Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano), wants Mike to let a new, tech-driven police unit, called “AMMO” (Advance Miami Metro Operations), hunt the shooter.  Mike doesn't like that, especially as his former girlfriend, Lieutenant Rita Secada (Paolo Nunez), is head of AMMO.  Even worse, Mike's longtime partner, Det. Lt. Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), has retired and wants to stay that way.  But when things get worse, will the Bad Boys be forced to unite for one last ride?

I still laugh at the fact that the film that became 1995's Bad Boys was originally written for actor-comedians, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz.  Bad Boys would go on to become a signature entry in the filmographies of both eventual Oscar-winning actor, Will Smith (King Richard), and Martin Lawrence, who would go on to star in such films as Big Momma's House (2000) and Wild Hogs (2007).  The duo eventually reunited for 2003's Bad Boys II.  Because the fourth entry in the Bad Boys series, Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024), is about to be released, I decided to go back and watch and review the one film in the franchise that I had not seen in its entirety, Bad Boys for Life (2020).

A close friend told me that he thought Bad Boys for Life was bad.  I did find the first hour to be rather poorly developed.  After all, Lowrey and Burnett seem pretty slow in figuring out that the shootings of Lowrey and others are obviously related.  All these veteran cops and young, smart, new-school law enforcement are working on this case, and they are as clueless as can be.

However, in the film's second hour, directors Adil & Bilall make the most of their creative cohorts, especially their stunt coordinators, lighting department, and film editors in order to deliver a film that is fast-paced and slickly violent.  The filmmakers also bring out all of the colors and life in both the Miami and Mexican locations  Adil & Bilall do their best to summon the spirit of Michael Bay, the director of the first two films.  I wonder what he thought of the new directors' homage to his style.  I must say that Adil & Bilall eschew Bay's over-the-top theatrics for a slick visual, action style that is more focused on the characters than on sweeping shots and a deafening score and soundtrack.

In some ways, Bad Boys for Life is this series' best entry.  Yes, Martin Lawrence looks a little pudgy in the face, but his comic timing and humor eventual rev up.  Will Smith still looks lithesome and on the edge.  While it starts clunky, Bad Boys for Life doesn't show its age, but it does show that – surprisingly – there is still life in these cinematic bad boys.


7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, June 1, 2024


NOTES:
2021 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 win: “Outstanding Motion Picture” and 1 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Will Smith)


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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Review: "BAD BOYS II": What'cha Gonna Do 'Cept Watch This

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 114 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bad Boys II (2003)
Running time:  147 minutes (2 hours, 27 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and action, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content
DIRECTOR:  Michael Bay
WRITERS:  Ron Shelton and Jerry Stahl; from a story by Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley and Ron Shelton (based upon the characters created by George Gallo)
PRODUCER:  Jerry Bruckheimer
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Amir Mokri (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Roger Barton, Mark Goldblatt, and Thomas A. Muldoon
COMPOSER:  Trevor Rabin

ACTION/COMEDY/THRILLER/CRIME

Starring:  Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Gabrielle Union, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, Jordi Molla, Gary Nickens, Jason Manuel Olazabal, John Salley, Henry Rollins, and Dan Marino

Bad Boys II is a 2003 American buddy-cop film and action-comedy from director Michael Bay.  It is a sequel to the 1995 film, Bad Boys, and is also the second film in the Bad Boys film series.  In Bad Boys II, loose-cannon Detectives Burnett and Lowrey investigate the flow of illegal drugs into Miami and end up on the middle of a battle for control of the ecstasy trade.

In a crowded field of auteurs, director Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon) strives to become the director god of action movies; indeed, he may already be there.  He returns for the sequel to Bad Boys, the film that put him on the map as a big time director of insane gunfights, fiery explosions, and slow motion ballets of unabashed violence.  And since we must not worship any god before the god, this Zeus of adrenaline films unleashes a film of wall-to-wall mayhem that overwhelms the audience to paranoiac exhaustion just to show us what he can do.

Bay is fortunate (if a god can ever be called fortunate) to have two talents who are very good at what they do, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.  It’s ironic that these roles weren’t originally written for them, but the two actor/comedians have made the bad boys, Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) of Bad Boys II, their own because Burnett and Lowrey could not exist without them.

The plot is a confused half-assed muddle involving stereotypical Russian, Cuban, Jamaican, and redneck drug dealers battling it out in Miami for control of the ecstasy trade.  If that wasn’t addled enough, Marcus’s sister, Sydney (the beautiful and sexy Gabrielle Union), is an undercover DEA agent caught in the middle of some mismanaged surveillance operation of a Russian and Cuban money-laundering scheme.

Smith and Lawrence are absolutely wonderful as the bad boys.  They have to be because they’re on a very short list of actors whom Michael Bay cannot overwhelm with his thunderous conflagrations of balls-to-the-walls violence.  Smith is pure bravado, sweating confidence with cartoonish machismo.  His physical bearing and rapid-fire delivery of his dialogue create a seamless presence in the film that leads you to believe that Smith is always Lowery, even when you know that a stunt guy has to step in every now and then.  He’s no bossy director’s action marionette or pretty boy A-list actor frontin’ like he’s all that.  Smith is all that.

When he has good material, Martin Lawrence is a riot act of physical and facial humor.  He’s a comedian, born to make us laugh despite his own personal demons.  Lately, he’s sold himself for movies that treat him like a minstrel, when he’s at his best skewering the mainstream.  In Bad Boy II, he reveals himself to be the best graduate of the Richard Pryor school of facial contortions, which Lawrence uses to grand effect to make us believe that the film’s juggernaut of violence actually scares him.

Even the overwhelming performances of Smith and Lawrence are almost no match for the overwhelming violence of Bad Boys II, but the actors are game.  They do an admirable job keeping up with the exploding body parts, flying corpses, decapitated corpses, defiled corpses, gunshot wounds, gratuitous ass shots, the bare breasts of a naked corpse, flying cars, disintegrating cars, exploding cars, car wrecks, car crashes, and flesh wounds to the buttocks.  There was a point early in the film when I was sure that Michael Bay was a fabulous artist of the absurd, cinema his canvas, and wanton violence his raw materials.  The action was great and invigorating, the violence was cathartic and deliriously funny, and I wanted to revel in the excess.  Lawrence and Smith were so on that I screamed with the kind of laughter I reserve for classic Richard Pryor, Mel Brooks, Marx Brothers, Lenny Bruce, and Burns and Allen.

After awhile, I realized that this was as much popcorn cinema as it was art.  I still believe that Bay is on to something.  One day, we will see him a great filmmaker who pushed the envelope with his inventiveness and imagination, but in Bad Boys II, he went too far too soon.  It’s more popcorn than an even an audience ravenously hungry for Circus Maximus bedlam can stomach.  With this film, Bay made the mistake that Martin Scorsese did with Gangs of New York:  end the picture early enough and he has a cinematic classic, a truly great film.  Overstay his welcome, and the director spoils his film.

As mean-spirited as this film gets, I’d still recommend this to die hard action fans and fans of Smith and Lawrence.  I’d only recommend that they just have a bib ready for when you spit up from overeating this cinematic pandemonium.

6 of 10
B
★★★ out of 4 stars

Edited:  Monday, July 1, 2024

NOTES:
2004 Image Awards (NAACP):  3 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Will Smith), and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Gabrielle Union)

2004 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Film: Best Soundtrack”


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Review: "BAD BOYS" Has Had a Surprisingly Long Life

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 113 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bad Boys (1995)
Running time:  119 minutes (1 hour, 59 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense violent action and pervasive strong language
DIRECTOR:  Michael Bay
WRITERS:  Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, and Doug Richardson; from a story by George Gallo
PRODUCERS:  Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Howard Atherton
EDITOR:  Christian Wagner
COMPOSER:  Mark Mancina


ACTION/COMEDY/THRILLER/CRIME

Starring:  Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Joe Pantoliano, Tcheky Karyo, Theresa Randle, Marg Helgenberger, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Saverio Guerra, Michael Imperioli, and Karen Alexander

As usual, a cog in the Hollywood system had written an action/comedy for Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, two funny white men.  Perhaps, the white studio bosses never thought of persons of colors playing the parts and playing them not only well, but also better than the actors of the default skin color.  By happy accident, two tremendously talented comic actors, who also happened to be men of color inherited the parts, and, thus was born Bad Boys.  Lord knows, we can never again think of Lovitz and Carvey, two milky-white Americans, as proper for these roles, not that there’s anything wrong with one’s skin color being that white.

Bad Boys is a 1995 American buddy-cop film and action-comedy directed by Michael Bay.  Bad Boys focuses on two savvy, Black detectives who try to protect a witness to murder while also investigating the theft of heroin from their police precinct’s evidence room.

Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) are two hip detectives; at least they seem cooler than their Miami PD colleagues, but they can take the heat that comes with their job.  As the film begins, they’ve already made a major heroin bust, but a gang of well-equipped thieves breaks into the precinct’s evidence room and steals the dope.  Obviously, the raid is an inside job, so the precinct takes the blame.  Burnett and Lowrey’s Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) feels the heat and returns it to the boys, putting the onus on them to find the dope.  Making matters more complicated, they get saddled with protecting Julie Mott (Tea Leoni) a murder witness somehow connected to the smack thieves.

According to stories from the set of Bad Boys, director Michael Bay, Lawrence, and Smith hated the script, so they ad-libbed a lot of the dialogue.  This was Bay’s first feature film, but he’d made a name for himself directing music videos for Tina Turner and “Wilson Phillips” (among others) and commercials for Nike and Budweiser (among others).  Bay brings all the visual flair and clichés you could expect from music videos: quick-cut editing, dark alleyways full of steam, sexy chicks, and hot cars.  He mixed in car chases, tremendous explosions, cartoonish violence, and gunfights with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.  Smith and Lawrence brought the comedy and the hip sensibility to play the characters so over the top that you’d think they were heroes right out of a comic book.  It works to an extent.  Bad Boys is a very funny, exciting, and visually agile action movie.

If anything, it’ll be remembered for its African-American leads, unusual for an cop buddy movie/action flick.  Beyond that, Bay introduced his over the top visual style that he would bring all his heart-pounding, action vehicles:  slow motion camera buzzing around a posing action stud, panoramic shots of the sky, narrow escapes from devastating fire balls, etc.  Bad Boys is pleasant and fun, nothing important, but it stands out in the white bread world of Hollywood action romps.  Certainly, Lawrence and Smith are more believable as renegade cops than say, Josh Hartnett or Ben Affleck.

6 of 10
B
★★★ out of 4 stars

Edited:  Friday, June 28, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, May 2, 2024

Review: "RESERVOIR DOGS" is Still Running These Mean Streets

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 20 of 2024 (No. 1964) by Leroy Douresseaux

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and language
DIRECTOR:  Quentin Tarantino
WRITER:  Quentin Tarantino
PRODUCER:  Lawrence Bender
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Andrzej Sekula
EDITOR:  Sally Menke

DRAMA/CRIME

Starring:  Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Randy Brooks, Kirk Baltz, Edward Bunker, Quentin Tarantino, and (voice) Steven Wright

Reservoir Dogs is a 1992 drama and crime film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino.  It is Tarantino's debut film and is the film that brought him to the attention of movie audiences, film critics, and movie studios.  Reservoir Dogs focuses on the aftermath of jewelry heist gone wrong as each surviving criminal tries to find out which of his cohorts is a police informant.

Reservoir Dogs opens in a diner and introduces eight gangsters.  The boss is Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), and he and his son, “Nice Guy” Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn), are plotting the heist of jewelry store that has obtained some pricey, fine-cut diamonds.  Joe has put together a crew to pull off what seems like a routine robbery, and he has given them nicknames or aliases so that they don't know each other's “Christian names.”

Larry Dimmick (Harvey Keitel) is “Mr. White.”  Freddy Newendyke (Tim Roth) is “Mr. Orange.”  “Toothpick” Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) is “Mr. Blonde.”  The other three are “Mr. Pink” (Steve Buscemi), “Mr. Blue” (Edward Bunker), and “Mr. Brown” (Quentin Tarantino).

However, the heist turns out not to be routine because it was like the cops were waiting for them.  Now, two of the six robbers are dead.  Four of them are hold-up in a warehouse.  One of them is grievously wounded, and one of them has shown up with a young police officer, Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz), he kidnapped.  If they are going to make it out of their current predicament, however, they are going to have to discover which of them ratted the rest out to the police.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the original theatrical release of Quentin Tarantino's most famous film, Pulp Fiction.  It's also the 30th anniversary of the film's debut at the 47th Cannes Film Festival.  Before I take a look at that film in its entirety for the first time in thirty years, I decided to go back and watch Reservoir Dogs in its entirety for the first time in over thirty years.

Over the last few decades, I have seen many films referred to as “neo-noir,” because they are modern versions of “Film-Noir.”  This term refers to the stylized Hollywood dramas – especially crime dramas – of the 1930s to the 1960s.  The 1940s and 1950s are seen as the classic period of Film-Noir.  I believe that Reservoir Dogs is legitimately neo-noir because it recalls two of my favorite Film-Noir classics, John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956), especially the latter of which Reservoir Dogs borrows several ideas and elements.  Early on, it is also clear that the nonlinear narrative that Tarantino uses in Reservoir Dogs is similar to that of Akira Kurosawa's classic period drama, Rashomon (1950).

Reservoir Dogs introduces audiences to what would become Tarantino narrative hallmarks:  pop culture references; gory violence, hard-hitting action, nonlinear storytelling, and a heady mixture of songs from the 1960s and 1970s.  In this case, the music is introduced by an unseen radio DJ, K-Billy, voiced by comedian and actor, Steven Wright.  At the time, however, those didn't feel like hallmarks.  They were new, and over thirty years later, they still feel new, not like things that are now director trademarks which in many ways define Tarantino's career and process.  Even watching the film now, I see them as clever flourishes from a young director with a lot of potential.

Yes, the dialogue does not always sparkle, but every moment of this film bursts with potential even.  That is true even when the nonlinear storytelling reveals that the entire process of the jewelry store heist seems like a thing inadvertently built on a house of holes.

Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Steve Buscemi provide the strong performances that often keep Reservoir Dogs from seeming like a shallow work of plagiarisms.  The bring depth, weight, and substance to ideas that might falter in the hands of lesser talents.  Chris Penn and Lawrence Tierney make for a believable father-son duo, and the film's lone Black actor, Randy Brooks, as the police official, Holdaway, dominates every scene in which he appears.

Thirty-two years later, I am now wondering why I haven't watched Reservoir Dogs more often.  It, along with Tarantino's next two feature films, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (1997), form Tarantino's purest filmmaking period.  Without the big budgets he would get in his twenty-first century films, he had to be clever about the places he flexed himself, whereas now he can indulge his every whim.  His characters were vulnerable and living on the margins as regular people, low-level criminals, and cheap hoods.  In his films of the last two decades, the characters are flashy anti-heroes and rebels played by some of Hollywood biggest stars.  Reservoir Dogs has not aged well simply because it has not aged.  It still feels like a star recently born.

8 of 10
A
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, May 2, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint or syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Review: Stanley Kubrick's "THE KILLING" is Still Killer Noir

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 85 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Killing (1956) – B&W
Running time:  85 minutes (1 hour, 25 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Stanley Kubrick
WRITERS:  Stanley Kubrick with Jim Thompson for additional dialogue (based upon the novel by Lionel White)
PRODUCER:  James B. Harris
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Lucien Ballard
EDITOR:  Betty Steinberg
COMPOSER:  Gerald Fried

FILM-NOIR/CRIME/DRAMA/THRILLER

Starring:  Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Elisha Cook, Jr., Marie Windsor, Ted DeCorsia, Joe Sawyer, James Edwards, Timothy Carey, Joseph Turkel, Jay Adler, Kola Kwariani, and Art Gilmore (narrator)

The Killing is a 1956 American Film-Noir thriller and crime drama from director Stanley Kubrick.  The film is based upon the 1955 novel, Clean Break, from author Lionel White.  The film follows a veteran criminal who assembles a five-man team to help him pull off a daring racetrack robbery.

Mention Stanley Kubrick’s name and most film fans will immediately think of his films such as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, or later Kubrick films like The Shining and Full Metal Jacket.  Not many will remember the film that first earned him the notice of Hollywood heavyweights like Kirk Douglas and Marlon Brando, a terrific little film-noir gem called, The Killing.

After spending five years in Alcatraz, ex-convict Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) decides that if he’s going to commit crimes, the reward should be worth the risk, and he’s found one that’s very worth the risk – a million dollar heist of a racetrack.  Clay masterminds a brilliant and complicated scheme to steal $2,000,000, and recruits several conspirators including track employees and a crooked cop.  The only flaw in Johnny’s near-perfect plan is that one of his gang members, George Peatty (Elisha Cook), tells his shrewish wife, Sherry (Marie Windsor), about the planned robbery, and she shares it with her boyfriend.  Add a little dog and things get complicated very quickly.

The Killing is one of the best heist films I’ve ever seen.  A superb cast of character actors, most used to playing tough guys, policeman, and shady types, gives this film a solid Film-Noir atmosphere and creates a edgy, taunt little thriller that you can’t stop watching until its concluded.  Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Clay as a firm, no-nonsense guy that any hood would follow, and in a quiet, subtle fashion, he gives this film added edge.

Stanley Kubrick shaped The Killing using a non-linear structure, in which the narrative moves backwards and forwards in time.  Many viewers will recognize non-linear structure as a Quentin Tarantino signature style in such films as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.  In fact, Tarantino credits The Killing with influencing his decision to shape his film narratives in a non-linear structure.

The film has a few problems that keep it from being a truly great film.  Art Gilmore’s narration is poor, delivered in that stereotypical monotone used for crime films.  Some of the dialogue is a bit too stiff, and the film drags much of the first half hour.  However, The Killing pays off the viewers’ patience quite handsomely in the form of an excellent crime film about small time hoods masterminding the perfectly plotted heist.

8 of 10
A
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Original Post:  Sunday, June 03, 2007

EDITED: Wednesday, May 1, 2024


NOTES:
1957 BAFTA Film Award:  1 nomination: “Best Film from any Source” (USA)


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint or syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Review: Phoenix is the Man in Woody Allen's "IRRATIONAL MAN"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 51 of 2023 (No. 1940) by Leroy Douresseaux

Irrational Man (2015)
Running time:  95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA –  R for some language and sexual content
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Woody Allen
PRODUCERS:  Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Edward Walson
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Darius Khondji
EDITOR:  Alisa Lepselter

COMEDY/DRAMA/MYSTERY/ROMANCE

Starring:  Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Joe Stapleton, Nancy Carroll, Betsy Aidem, Ethan Phillips, Jamie Blackley, Nancy Giles, and Tom Kemp

Irrational Man is a 2015 comedy-drama, romance, and mystery film written and directed by Woody Allen.  The film focuses on a college professor who finds the will to live after committing the act of murder and the young student who falls deeply in love with him.

Philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives in Newport, Rhode Island with some acclaim.  He joins the faculty of (fictional) Braylin College where he will teach “ethical strategies.”  Abe is depressed, is experiencing an existential crisis, and sees no meaning in his life.  He drinks excessively and considers suicide.

Despite his tormented state, Abe catches the attention of two women.  The first is chemistry professor, Rita Richards (Parker Posey), and the second is Jill Pollard (Emma Stone), one of his students.  Each is crazy about him in her own way.  Abe's relationship with the two really goes nowhere … at first.

Abe hatches the idea of murdering Judge Thomas Augustus Spangler (Tom Kemp), an unethical family court judge who is plotting to take the custody of her children away from a woman.  Plotting and committing murder has given Abe's life a sense of purpose that he has not felt in ages.  For various reasons, however, both Rita and Jill suspect Abe of Judge Spangler's murder.

Coup de chance, the film Woody Allen says will likely be his final directorial effort, was released in France in September (2023).  Because of the controversies surrounding Allen the last few decades, especially the last five years, the film may not get a U.S. theatrical release.  In anticipation of seeing Coup de chance, I have decided to watch the recent Woody Allen films that I missed, beginning with the most recent that I had not seen, Irrational Man.

Some of Woody Allen's films have previously focused on a lead character who is involved in murder or commits murder.  Examples include Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Match Point (2005).  Having murder as subplot gives Allen's films an edge they don't normally have.  Irrational Man seems to drift with no purpose until Abe Lucas actually commits murder, and suddenly this film seems like a totally different movie from what it was during its first half.  Frankly, Irrational Man seems to be asleep for at least half its runtime.

I find myself entirely sympathetic with Phoenix's Abe Lucas.  Of course, I would feel differently if this were a real murder victim that was friends or family to me.  As it is, I find myself really liking the post-crime Abe Lucas, and I found his later, darker turn to be a bit alluring.

Phoenix gives life to a character that Allen does not develop very well.  As the narrative moves towards its conclusion, Phoenix makes Abe feel richer, and the character might have improved even more with a longer runtime, more because of what Phoenix would do rather than what Allen would not.  Emma Stone is whiny and unlikable as Jill Pollard, but Parker Posey makes the best of horny Rita Richards.  I wish Rita had more screen time.

Irrational Man is strictly for Woody Allen fans, although Phoenix is the one who saves this film and uplifts it.  So Joaquin Phoenix fans may find something in Irrational Man to like, also.

6 of 10
B
★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, December 6, 2023


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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Review: "JOHN WICK: Chapter 4" is Too Long, But Keanu is Still Hot

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 42 of 2023 (No. 1931) by Leroy Douresseaux

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)
Running time:  169 minutes (2 hours, 49 minutes)
MPA – R for pervasive strong violence and some language
DIRECTOR:  Chad Stahelski
WRITERS:  Shay Hatten and Michael Finch (based on characters created by Derek Kolstad)
PRODUCERS:  Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dan Lausten (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Nathan Orloff
COMPOSERS:  Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard

ACTION/THRILLER/CRIME

Starring:  Keanu Reeves, Bill Skarsgard, Donnie Yen, Shamier Anderson, Ian McShane, Clancy Brown, Marko Zaror, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Aimée Kwan, George Georgiou, and Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick

John Wick: Chapter 4 is a 2023 action and crime-thriller starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Chad Stahelski.  It is a direct sequel to 2019's John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and is the fourth film in the John Wick film series.  Chapter 4 finds John Wick facing off against a new enemy who has powerful alliances around the world and who can turn John's friends into John enemies.

John Wick: Chapter 4 finds the legendary assassin and hitman, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), hiding in the underground lair of the crime lord known as “The Bowery King” (Laurence Fishburne).  Wick prepares to unleash his revenge against the High Table (the entity that rules the assassins guild) and its current “Elder.”  In response, the High Table tasks one of its members, the Marquis Vincent Bisset de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), to kill John Wick.  The Table gives the Marquis unlimited resources to kill John, and the first thing he does is punish Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the New York Continental hotel, for failing to kill Wick.

The Marquis puts a twenty-million dollar bounty on John Wick's head, and then, enlists Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind, retired High Table assassin, to kill his Wick, who is an old friend of John's.  Despite all the Marquis' machinations, John Wick has devised a plan to defeat him and to be freed of the High Table.  To do that, John will need help from a number of erstwhile friends and allies and also from one strange new friend or enemy, The Tracker a.k.a. “Mr. Nobody” (Shamier Anderson), and his resourceful dog.

I have been a long time fan of actor Keanu Reeves.  I have enjoyed and even loved Reeves in films like the original Point Break (1991) and in The Matrix film trilogy, beginning with The Matrix (1999).

Thus, I was very interested in seeing the original John Wick (2014), but I didn't see it in a theater.  I was interested in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), but I didn't see those in a theater, either.  I was very interested in seeing John Wick: Chapter 4, but I was put off by its runtime.  So I didn't see it in a movie theater.

Now, I've seen it, and I'm glad I waited.  I would have been pissed to sit in an uncomfortable movie theater seat for almost three hours for the way-too-long John Wick: Chapter 4.  Most of the film's narrative is story padding, and the filmmakers could have easily shaved an hour from this film's runtime without really changing the story.  I will say that Chapter 4 is a beautiful-looking film.  The cinematography, production design, locations, and lighting are museum quality.  Yes, the action and fight scenes are spectacular, but some of them, like the entire “Arc de Triomphe” car chase and fight, went on for far too long – for all their inventiveness.

But I love me some Keanu Reeves, and because he dominates this film, I can enjoy it.  I couldn't stop watching him.  If just about anyone else were the star, I would have stopped watching John Wick: Chapter 4 after an hour.  The supporting cast also helped me enjoy a movie that I basically did not find as enjoyable as the series' previous entries.  I can never get enough of the great Hong Kong actor and martial artist, Donnie Yen, and I'm always down for more Laurence Fishburne.  Shamier Anderson and the dog that is his co-star add some nice new flavors to this series.  Bill Skarsgard is magnetic as the Marquis, and a spoonful of Clancy Brown (as “the Harbinger”) helps the average movie go down.  Also, it was great to see the late Lance Reddick (1962-2023) as Charon one last time.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a fifth John Wick movie down the line, and I won't see it in a theater either – if the runtime is around three hours.  But for John Wick fans, John Wick: Chapter 4 is a must-see for the main reason to see all of them – Keanu Reeves.

6 of 10
B
★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Review: "THE EQUALIZER 2" is Brutal and Personal

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 40 of 2023 (No. 1929) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Equalizer 2 (2018)
Running time:  121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for brutal violence throughout, language, and some drug content
DIRECTOR:  Antoine Fuqua
WRITER:  Richard Wenk (based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim)
PRODUCERS:  Antoine Fuqua, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Eldridge, Mace Neufeld, Alex Siskin, Michael Sloan, Steve Tisch, and Denzel Washington
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Oliver Wood (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
COMPOSER:  Harry Gregson-Williams

ACTION/CRIME/THRILLER

Starring:  Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Orson Bean, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Jonathan Scarfe, Kazy Tauginas, Garrett A. Golden, and Sakina Jaffrey

The Equalizer 2 is a 2018 action movie and crime thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.  It is a sequel to the 2014 film, The Equalizer.”  Both films are based on the television series, “The Equalizer,” which was created by  Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim and was originally broadcast on CBS from 1985 to 1989.  The Equalizer 2 finds Robert McCall out to make the people who murdered someone he loves pay for their crimes with their lives.

The Equalizer 2 opens on a train headed to Istanbul, Turkey.  Robert “Bob” McCall (Denzel Washington) is about to serve his unflinching brand of justice on man who kidnapped his daughter in order to punish his ex-wife.  McCall still lives quietly in Boston, where he works as a Lyft driver and assists the less fortunate, the exploited, and the oppressed.  Among the people he is currently helping include Samuel “Sam” Rubinstein (Orson Bean), a Holocaust survivor trying to recover a painting of his sister, Magda, who died in a Nazi death camp.  Lately, he has taken an interest in Miles (Ashton Sanders), a troubled African-American teen who lives in the same apartment building.  Miles has tremendous artistic talent, but he is also being recruited by a violent, drug-dealing street gang.

However, the big action is in Brussels, Belgium.  There, Robert's friend and former DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) colleague, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), is investigating the apparent murder-suicide of DIA “agency affiliate” and his wife.  That investigation costs Susan her life.  McCall begins investigating Susan's murder with the assistance of her colleague and his former DIA teammate, Dave York (Pedro Pascal).  Determined to avenge Susan's murder, McCall will have to go deep into his past and risk endangering people very close to him.

With his Oscar-winning turn in 2001's Training Day, Denzel Washington proved to be a convincing bad guy.  With 2010's The Book of Eli, Washington showed that he could be a bad-ass, kick-ass, action hero with fancy martial arts-styled moves.  The first take on The Equalizer allowed Washington to blend hero and anti-hero in a visceral mix.  So in anticipation of The Equalizer 3, I decided to see The Equalizer 2, of which I have seen bits and pieces on television over the past few years.

In the original film, the screenplay by Richard Wenk had McCall constantly in peril or made it seem as if he were in danger even when he was not.  Wenk returns for the sequel and delivers a script that adds compassion to the standard revenge thriller.  McCall can be a gentle soul helping a teen go through growing pains that are filled with danger, and he can lend a kind ear to an old man whose current quest could be the real thing or the result of a failing memory crashing from the accumulation of data over a long life.  On the other hand, McCall will also break a mutha down to the blood and bone if he deserves such a reckoning, even if it means killing him.

The Equalizer would be a standard revenge thriller if its avenger were portrayed by just any other movie star, but Denzel Washington is a consummate professional and charismatic actor.  That means he can deliver the meat and potatoes and the art to every performance – whether it is Shakespeare on stage or Hollywood entertainment product destined for the multiplex.  In this second film, Washington super-charges his performance in order to make the personal so personal that it is murderous. 

Director Antoine Fuqua plays Washington's skills for everything he can get out of this brilliant actor.  Fuqua is an impressive director in his own right, especially when it comes to dark, violent, dramatic thrillers, such as Shooter (2007).  Together, Fuqua and Washington deliver in The Equalizer 2 a film that slightly surpasses the original.  I find myself endlessly fascinated by it because The Equalizer 2 is a really good thriller.

7 of 10
A-
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


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Friday, June 9, 2023

Book Review: "THE WAY OF THE BEAR" Takes the Readers Deep into Greed and Murder

THE WAY OF THE BEAR – (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel #8)
HARPERCOLLINS

AUTHOR: Anne Hillerman
ISBN: 978-0-06-290839-1; hardcover (April 25, 2023)
286pp, B&W, $30.00 U.S., $37.50 CAN

The Way of the Bear: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel is a 2023 hardcover original novel from author Anne Hillerman.  It is the eighth novel in her “Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito” book series, which began with Spider Woman's Daughter (2013).

This series is a continuation of the “Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series” written by Hillerman's late father, bestselling author, Tony Hillerman (1925-2008).  The father's novels are the basis for “Dark Winds,” a television series from the cable network, AMC, and its streaming service, AMC+.  In The Way of the Bear, Chee and Manuelito find themselves caught up in a case that involves fossil harvesting, greed, rejected love, and murder.

The Way of the Bear opens in December.  Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito and her husband, Sgt. Jim Chee, have traveled to San Juan County, Utah to the place known as “the Valley of the Gods,” near the Bears Ears National Monument.  Chee is on assignment for the Navajo Nation Police Department, and his job is to convince Dr. Chapman “Chap” Dulles, a wealthy fossil hunter and paleontologist., to donate money to a fallen Navajo police officers fund.

Bernie has gone along on the trip and uses the time to visit Bears Ears for relaxation, contemplation, and exploration.  This has been a difficult time in her life for both personal and professional reasons.  While there, she has a terrifying encounter involving a pickup truck that tries to run her down.  One of the truck's passengers even shoots at her.  And after that, Bernie helps a young couple deliver their baby in the middle of the night.

However, an unexpected death on a lonely road outside of Bears Ears for raises questions for Bernie and Chee.  They didn't plan on being involved in a murder, but they also wonder why a seasoned outdoorsman and well-known paleontologist freezes to death within walking distance of his car?  A second death, and apparent murder, brings more turmoil and mystery. Who is the unidentified man killed during a home invasion where nothing much seems to have been taken? Why was he murdered?

The Bears Ears area, at the edge of the Navajo Nation, is celebrated for its abundance of early human habitation sites and for the discovery of unique and revolutionary fossils.  Instead of being able to appreciate all this, Bernie and Chee are faced with an unprecedented level of violence that sweeps them both into danger.

THE LOWDOWN:  I have been crazy about Anne Hillerman's work since I first read Spider Woman's Daughter.  I had read two of her late father, Tony Hillerman's novels a long time ago, so I requested a review copy of Spider Woman's Daughter from HarperCollins when it was offered to reviewers back in 2013.  It was a fortuitous decision, as the “Manuelito, Chee & Leaphorn” series became one of my favorite modern literary series.

When I read the previous novel in the series, 2022's The Sacred Bridge, I didn't know if I should call it a turning point in the series, but the story did suggest that big changes were ahead for both Bernie and Chee.  Joe Leaphorn did not appear in The Sacred Bridge, nor does he appear in The Way of the Bear, except indirectly, and Hillerman continues to hint at big changes for him.

Like The Sacred Bridge, The Way of the Bear is a solid crime thriller, and at times, a riveting suspense thriller.  In this new novel, Bernie and Chee's lives are constantly under threat – sometimes in unexpected ways.  There is level of danger, menace, and peril that I don't remember encountering in earlier novels.  However, the entries in this series always seem to be moving the characters forward.  Nothing is stale, and the lives of Bernie and Chee are ongoing and evolving.  Even with the danger this story imposes on them, the narrative also gives us a deeper look into them.

As I have done with the previous books, I am heartily recommending The Way of the Bear.  The more I read, the more I learn about Bernie and Chee, and the more attached to them that I become.  As always, I am sad about reaching the end of the story, doubly so this time because it was just a year ago that I read The Sacred Bridge.  The best recommendation that I can give The Way of the Bear is to tell you, dear readers, that I would like to read another book in the series right now.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:   Fans of Anne Hillerman and of her late father, Tony Hillerman, will want to read The Way of the Bear.

A

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"


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Friday, December 30, 2022

Review: Pam Grier is Radiant in "JACKIE BROWN," Tarantino's Best (Maybe) Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 77 of 2022 (No. 1889) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jackie Brown (1997)
Running time:  154 minutes (2 hours, 34 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong language, some violence, drug use and sexuality
DIRECTOR:  Quentin Tarantino
WRITER:  Quentin Tarantino (based upon the novel by Elmore Leonard)
PRODUCER:  Lawrence Bender
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Guillermo Navarro
EDITOR:  Sally Menke
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/CRIME

Starring:  Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Michael Bowen, Chris Tucker, LisaGay Hamilton, Tom Lister, Jr., Hattie Winston, Sid Haig, Aimee Graham, Tangie Ambrose, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymah

Jackie Brown is a 1997 drama and crime film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino.  It is based on Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel, Rum Punch.  Jackie Brown the movie focuses on a flight attendant who schemes with an aging bail bondsman in a bid to defeat both the ATF and her boss who smuggles guns into Mexico.

Jackie Brown introduces 44-year-old, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), a flight attendant for the low-budget Mexican airline, Cabo Air.  She smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for her (kind of) boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a gun runner in Los Angeles.  One day, Ordell's courier, Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker), is arrested, and he snitches about Ordell's business.

Acting on that information, LAPD Detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent, Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton), intercept Jackie while she is returning with some of Ordell's cash, with a small bag of cocaine thrown in.  Dargus and Nicolette use the cocaine to threaten Jackie with serious criminal charges and hard prison time.

Ordell hires bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), of Cherry Bail Bonds, to bail Jackie out of jail.  Feeling trapped between Ordell and the law, Jackie conspires with Max to pretend to give both sides what they want – Ordell the money and the ATF Ordell.  If this heist works, Jackie and Max will secure her future with half a million dollars of Ordell's money.

Jackie Brown is obviously writer-director Quentin Tarantino's ode to 1970s blaxploitation films.  The film is also a star vehicle that Tarantino created for the actress playing the title role in Jackie Brown, the great Pam Grier.  She starred in some of the most fondly remembered and popular blaxploitation films, most notably Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974).  The roles in those two films obviously inspired the role of “Jackie Brown,” although “Flower Child Coffin” a.k.a “Coffy” (of Coffy) and Foxy Brown are action heroes.  Instead, Tarantino makes Jackie Brown a world-weary woman, not an action hero, but a working woman willing to take the action that will help her make her way in the world.

Grier plays Jackie Brown with subtlety and grace, making Jackie comfortable in her skin.  Her sexiness is not forced, but radiates from her, buoyed by her confidence.  Grier makes it seem quite genuine that Brown would one day finally have enough with getting the crappy end of the stick in life.  Jackie takes a chance, and with nothing to lose, she works her magic.  Grier also works her magic, and the audience can believe that she is going to pull off this implausible heist of Ordell's money and also trick the ATF and LAPD by giving them only some of what they want.  Here, Grier gives the best performance of her career, and it is a shame that Hollywood has under-utilized her amazing talent and screen presence.

I have not seen enough of his performances to say that Max Cherry is actor Robert Forster's best performance of his career.  Playing Max revitalized Forster's career, which was mostly stalled at the time.  With charming stoicism, Forster perfectly plays the calm, wise, and a little weary, Max Cherry, one of the most perfect characters that Tarantino ever wrote.  Forster also convinces us that he has so totally fallen for Jackie Brown that he is willing to do everything she wants even if it is everything that he should not do.

I also think that Ordell Robbie is Samuel Jackson's best performance.  Ordell is an example of what would become the stereotypical Samuel L. Jackson character – the menacing, bad-ass Black man who loves to shoot people and curse up a storm.  However, Jackson makes Ordell a man full of angles and twists.  He is coarse with a trashy sophistication; he is menacing, but sentimental in odd ways.  He is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, so he is ultimately a cheap hood with enough low-rent ambitions to make himself a doomed idiot.

Tarantino uses Grier, Forster, and Jackson's performances and those of several others (Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and Michael Keaton) to give his usual style, wit, humor, and rapid-fire bravado traction and depth.  Jackie Brown does not have the snappy banter nor the nonlinear antics of Tarantino's previous film, Pulp Fiction.  Jackie Brown's narrative is a straight story, Tarantino's most substantive film to date.  It may be an ode to blaxploitation and also a smooth heist film, but most of all, Jackie Brown is a character drama.  With a superb soundtrack behind it (focusing on “The Delfonics” 1969 classic song, “Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”), Tarantino uses a slow pace to weave a delightful Los Angeles crime story about the criminal things people do when they are desperate … or in love.

I think that Quentin Tarantino and Pam Grier are a match made in cinematic heaven.  2022 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Jackie Brown's original theatrical release (December 8, 1997).  Jackie Brown has aged well, and for me, it gets better every time I watch it.

10 of 10
A+

Friday, December 30, 2022


NOTES:
1998 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Robert Forster)

1998 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical” (Pam Grier) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical” (Samuel L. Jackson)

1998 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 nominations:  “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture” (Pam Grier)


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint or syndication rights and fees.

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