Boiler Maker Redemption

Small Town Crime (Theaters-NA; Streaming-January 2018) Rated: R  —  Runtime: 91-92 M Small Town 2018minutes

Genre: Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDB – 6.6/10

Amazon – 4.0/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore – 68/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Awards: None

Directed by: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms

Written by: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms

Music by: Chris Westlake

Cast: John Hawkes, Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster, Anthony Anderson

Film Locations:  Utah

Budget: $NA

Worldwide Box Office: $NA

Mike Kendall (John Hawkes) is a big-time drunk and a small-town ex-cop.  A small-town ex-cop because he is a big-time drunk. Riding shotgun, too drunk to drive, with his uniformed partner; occurring immediately before he becomes an ex-cop, in the wee hours of night, they pull over a car and the driver shoots and kills Mike’s partner.  Mike, because he was drunk, is thrown off the force and he sinks further into the bottle but truly believing the police will forgive, forget and hire him back.

Coming around from his nightly bender, Mike finds a badly bloodied girl by the side of the road. He rushes her to the hospital but she soon dies and the death is ruled a homicide.  Seeking redemption, Mike sets out to solve the murder, dragging his family, bartenders, hookers, pimps, grandfathers, and assorted none-too friendly cops along for his burlesque, but borderline professional investigation, into multiple gruesome murders.

The Nelms brothers have woven a fateful crime story worthy of the Cohen brothers’ The Big Lebowski or Fargo. Less comedic than Lebowski and less dramatic than Fargo but all three display the same irreverent contempt for criminals and their slapdash, albeit, serious and consequential, escapades.  The Nelms’ writing and directing are reminiscent of Dragnet’s Friday, just the facts — ma’am.  Watching the movie you wish they would develop some of the more interesting sub-plot lines but in the end the movie does just fine without the added knowledge or clutter.

The acting is superb.  John Hawks is masterful in delivery but he really pulls you in and along with his bumbling style and looks.  His appearance and his face are one with a character that has been on a multi-year drunk.  Gaunt and not too pretty he somehow succeeds in getting you to cheer for him no matter how much his bum nature comes into full gnarly view.

A fun movie, not too serious but captivating just the same.  A worthy addition to pulp fiction and film noir. Escapism with a style all its own.

 

Alone

High Noon (Theaters-1952; DVD-May 2004) Rated: TV-PG  —  Runtime: 84-85 minutesM High Noon 1952

Genre: Action-Drama-Suspense-Thriller-Western

els – 8.5/10

IMDb – 8.0/10

Amazon – 4.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.0/5

Metacritic Metascore – 89/100

Metacritic User Score – 8.4/10

Awards: 4 Academy, 4 Golden Globes

Directed by:  Fred Zinnemann

Written by:  Carl Foreman

Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin

Cast: Gary Cooper, Lloyd Bridges, Grace Kelly

Film Locations:  Burbank, Columbia State Historic Park, Iverson Movie Ranch, Jamestown, Tuolumme, Wanerville; all in California, US

Budget: $730,000

Worldwide Box Office: $8,000,000-18,000,000

Will Kane (Gary Cooper), a soon to be retired lawman from a small, quite, town of dusty streets in old west New Mexico, is getting married and taking his new Quaker wife (Grace Kelly) away for a fresh beginning in another town; to raise a family and run a store.  Moments before they are to leave they learn that Frank Miller, a convicted murderer that Kane and a local judge captured, convicted, and sent to prison has received a pardon from the governor. Miller is coming in on the noon train to settle the score. Waiting at the train station for Miller is his younger brother and two other shifty varmints, eagerly providing guns and muscle to back him up in his all-consuming quest for revenge.  Kane attempts to round-up a pose to face Miller and his gang, but all the town folk decline and insist, instead, that he leave town, a suggestion heartily supported by his pretty young wife.  Knowing that if he ran Miller would follow, Kane stays to make his stand now rather than later: alone.

A truly classic western filmed in black and white under Foreman’s spartan script and directed by Zinnemann in real-time at a parsimonious and fast pace.  The stark cinematography provides the tension inherent in the plot, always pushing the viewer onward to the next scene, straight ahead or around the corner.  The acting was absolutely first-rate.  Gary Cooper won a best actor Oscar for his efforts and had a supporting cast that included some of the greatest names in Hollywood; Lloyd Bridges, Grace Kelly, Otto Kruger, Eve McVeagh, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Morgan, and Lon Chaney Jr.  What a lineup.  Finally the movie included the legendary theme song Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’ aka The Ballad of High Noon written by Dimitri Tiomkin and preformed by Tex Ritter; a hardy but forlorn synopsis of the movie’s plot.

The film, when previewed for the press was greeted with derision.  Due to the critics proclaiming the movie a failure the producers decided not to release the movie.  Tiomkin then bought the rights to the theme song and released it with Frankie Laine singing the lyrics, becoming an immediate worldwide hit.  Because of the public’s  positive reaction to the song, the movie was released a few months later, eventually garnering Tiomkin 2 Oscars for movie’s theme song and score.

The movie, released in 1952, played in theaters during Korean War and McCarthy’s Red Scare: the hunt for communists in US government and private institutions, especially Hollywood.  The movie was, and still is, believed to be an allegorical expression of the downtrodden, the just David standing tall against the unjust and unproven allegations. Standing up to the Goliath known as Joseph McCarthy.  During this time being branded, with or without proof, by the scarlet, hot iron C of communism was the end of many careers in the US.  The movie tried to push back and with all things Hollywood, feigned righteous innocence.

Without, or maybe even with, the knowledge of the Red Scare, the movie today is seen more as good versus bad without the partisan grey over-prints.   The right and the small meeting the wrong and the mighty.  Fighting the good fight whatever the odds. Being small doesn’t make you weak.  Being alone doesn’t make you wrong.

 

Dishonorably Spent

Avenge the Crows: The Legend of Loca (Theaters-NA; Streaming-December 2017) Rated: TV-MA —  Runtime: M Crows 201796 minutes

Genre: Action-Crime-Drama-Thriller

els – 3.0/10

IMDb – 5.4/10

Amazon – 4.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – NA/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 5.0/5

Metacritic Metascore – NA/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by: Nathan Gabaeff

Written by:  Nathan Gabaeff

Music by:  Spencer Brock, Nathan Gabaeff

Cast:  Danay Garcia, Michael Flores, Cesar Garcia, Lou Diamond Phillips, Danny Trejo

Film Locations:  Los Angeles, US

Budget: $NA — Low-Budget Indie

Worldwide Box Office: $NA

Loca (Danay Garcia), is a down on her luck gangbanging, murdering, thieving, slutty, drug dealing, junkie with a bad temper.  She’s the movie’s protagonist, the champion, the heroine who screws everyone and everything just to become a little more amoral and mercurial than yesterday. She’s the object of a prison gang’s mysterious hit sanction, which she must defend herself and her innocent cousin against and, just to thicken the plot, she must outsmart and outflank a Mexican drug cartel and the opposing LA street gangs.  All by tomorrow.

This is  Nathan Gabaeff’s second effort as a writer and director, the first being the poorly received 2016 Boost, also featuring Danay Garcia and Danny Trejo.  Avenge the Crows is a low-budget film that comes across as being written and directed as an allegorical, non-judgmental documentary of gang life on the streets of LA, complete with flickering static and choppy breaks in the film.  The story is brutal and stupid, the violence and sex are cheap, bordering on pointless. Then there’s the dialogue capable of contradicting itself  in the same scene.  Garcia tells her cousin that it must be the RR prison gang that is responsible for stalking them and then in the next sentence tells her cousin that the gang has no Earthly reason to stalk them.  Well, which is it? How do you arrive at the conclusion that it’s the RR gang when you have no reason to suspect them.

There is some good acting in this movie, Phillips and Trejo, despite the screenplay and direction, but that doesn’t include Danay Garcia.  The women can’t act, but as long as she keeps taking her clothes off the money folks will keep casting her.

Gabaeff was able to pull in some of the most recognizable names in Hispanic acting; Garcia, Phillips, Trejo, for this low-budget movie.  I can’t fathom how he was able to convince these actors sign up for this stinking dog of a movie and, sadly, he has more of these losers in the pipe-line.

This is a movie about the worst of the human condition and its degrading impulses. It passes on declaring any judgement; moral, ethical, or legal; neither for nor against: pathetic.  The movie is artistically dead and morally bankrupt.

God Will Come

Blade Runner (Theaters-1982; DVD-2001) Rated: R — Runtime: 117 minutesM Blade 1982

Blade Runner 2049 (Theaters-October 2017; Streaming-January 2018) Rated: R — Runtime: 163 minutes

Genre: Action-Drama-Mystery-Science Fiction-Suspense-Thriller

els – 8.0/10 (1982); 7.5/10 (2017)

IMDb – 8.2/10 (1982); 8.2/10 (2017)

Amazon – 4.3/5 stars (1982); 3.6/10 (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.5/10 (1982); 8.2/10 (2017);

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.0/10 (1982); 4.1/5 (2017)

Metacritic Metascore – 89/100 (1982); 81/100 (2017)

Metacritic User Score – 8.8/10 (1982); 8.2/10 (2017)

Directed by: Ridley Scott (1982); Denis Villeneuve (2017)

Written by: Hampton Fancher and David Peoples (1982); Hampton Fancher and Michael Green (2017); Movies Based on the 1968 Story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Music by: Vangelis (1982); Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (2017)

M Blade 2017Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young (1982); Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas (2017)

Film Locations: Burbank–Los Angeles, US; London–Surrey, England (1982): Budapest–Etyek–Hungary; Iceland; Mexico; Almería–Andalucía–El Ejido–Sevilla, Spain; Nevada, US (2017)

Budget: $28,000,000 (1982); $185,000,000 (2017)

Worldwide Box Office: $33,139,618 (1982); $258,978,008 (2017)

In a not too distant dystopian future, replicants, or bio-engineered humans are created to perform tasks humans can’t or won’t do.  Due to their greater than human physical attributes they are relegated to planets beyond  Earth, kept as slaves and forever banned from humanity’s home planet.  The replicants, in case they escape their captivity, are created with built-in fail-safes; a four-year life span and sterility.  Blade Runners (Harrison and Gosling) are bounty hunters hired to retire, kill, fugitive replicants. In the first Blade Runner movie Ford hunts down replicants that want to live beyond their 4 years of existence. In the second Blade Runner, Gosling, a replicant himself and a Blade Runner, a rather bizarre twist causing serious cognitive disconnects, searches for the replicant miracle: the spawn of a replicant, reminiscent of the 1993 Jurassic Park fail-safe: the all-female dinosaurs couldn’t reproduce but they found a way.

Philip K. Dick in his 1968 book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, explores the meaning of human life. What distinguishes humans from replicants or any sentient life?  These two movies follow a similar path as the book, a similar plot but eventually go deeper; delving into man’s ability to create life, to control life, to supplant God. If creation is the mark of God does man reach godhead by creating a likeness of himself?  What are man’s responsibilities as a creator; what are his duties to his children?

In a symbolic scene from the first movie, Roy (Hauer), leader of the renegade replicants, is reaching his pre-programmed death as he pursues Deckard (Harrison) for destroying his vision of salvation from the fail-safe. As his death advances he loses control of his hand muscles and to stave off the inevitable he pushes a square nail through his palm and out the other side to stabilize the involuntary contractions. A painful suffering from, or possibly for, his creators’ designs. Roy finally reaches Deckard who is slowly slipping from the roof of an apartment building.  As Deckard’s grip gives way, Roy clasps his wrist and pulls him to safety; the hunted saving the hunter. As the two sit on the roof and face each other, Roy’s life slowly leaves him as he recites his eulogy:

“…All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

The creation dies having shown mercy and empathy.

The second movie explores the miracle of birth that couldn’t happen.  A birth from the womb of a replicant, a birth of a detached and lonely creature, but a true gift to humanity.  A child that transcends our being by giving us our memories.  Memories that make us whole and real: human.  A child burning bright, leaving a future by leaving a past, but denied progeny.  She is Asimov’s 1951 Foundation Mule; a conqueror and a giver, but sterile.

These are movies examining the meaning of God, what it is to be God. An examination of the burdens of God. An investigation into what it means to strive towards godhead. An investigation of paths taken and not taken.  An inquiry into our will to die for our creations or to live with them. Will God come when we become gods?

All Chan, All Good

The Foreigner (Theaters-September 2017; Streaming-January 2018) Rated: R  Runtime: M Foreigner 2017113-114 minutes

Genre: Action-Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.1/10

Amazon – 4.6/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore – 55/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Written by: David Marconi (screenplay), Stephan Leather (novel)

Music by: Cliff Martinez

Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Film Locations:  London, England; Larne, Northern Ireland

Budget: $35,000,000

Worldwide Box Office: $140,793,485

Quan (Chan), a widower, lives a quiet London life, looking after his only daughter and his restaurant, his only major concerns are the boys chasing after his beloved teenaged girl.  Then a new IRA faction blows up a bank, killing his little girl, who was shopping at a dress shop adjacent to the bank, and Quan’s life and priorities change. He wants to know who killed his daughter, who was responsible.  He wants justice.  When the officials are unable to give him any names or promise any arrests, soon, he organizes his vigilante squad of one and slowly narrows down the possibilities; Jackie Chan style, but without malice for dogs or the innocent.

Jackie Chan steps past his normal fun side, giving the audience a taste of his drama and emotional acting abilities, and proves that his serious character portrayals are real, believable and effective.  Not since his role as a morose handyman in the 2010 Karate Kid have I seen him in such a convincing dramatic role, but this time the screenplay (Marconi) and supporting actors are not relegating him to a least common denominator of mediocrity and cheesiness.  The screenplay flows well, it’s coherent, and has enough twists to keep you guessing, but it does have a flaw, and unfortunately its a big one. Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy role is muddled, his level of involvement and guilt in the IRA bombing is never completely resolved. Maybe it’s intentional but it adds clutter to the plot and its conclusion. That aside, this is a typical Martin Campbell film, full of action, intrigue and entertainment, always spot on and fun; ok, maybe the Green Hornet was a dud, but usually his films are a must see, as is this one.

This was a fun action-drama to watch.  Jackie Chan displays what made him famous, his martial arts moves, but in the film he also displays his serious side and lets us know that, yes, he can play that part.

Raw Infamy

Last Rampage (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 92-93 minutesM Rampage 2017

Genre:  Crime-Drama-Mystery-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 5.4/10

Amazon – 3.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.1/5

Metacritic Metascore – 49/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Dwight H. Little

Written by:   James W. Clarke (book), Alvaro Rodríguez (screenplay)

Music by:  Tobias Enhus, Richard Patrick

Cast:   Robert Patrick, Heather Graham, Bruce Davison, Chris Browning

Film Locations:   Club Ed Film Set – 150th Street E, Lancaster, California, US

Budget:   NA

Worldwide Box Office:  $6,294

This is a true tale, lifted from the pages of James W. Clarke’s 1999 book: Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison. It’s a story of the gruesome, murderous crimes committed by a pair of maniacal felons following their escape from prison. The movie portrays sociopaths Gary Tison (Patrick) and Randy Greenawalt (Browning) in their twisted, bloody run from the state police and justice, through the barren, dry hills of Arizona.

Gary Tison, a hypnotic, Charles Manson like figure, begins his criminal life as a petty thief but quickly escalates to a major felon by taking the life of a prison guard. Greenawalt, a thoroughly remorseless and creepy individual, executes two truck drivers while they sleep, and is a suspect in several similar murders. Both men are serving life for their homicides. Miraculously the two get themselves transferred, for “excellent behavior”, to a low-security jail on the outskirts of Florence, Arizona where, with the help of Tison’s 3 matriarchally, brainwashed and programed young sons, plan their escape. The boys casually waltz into the prison on visitor’s day, whip out their guns, demand the release of Tison and Greenawalt and the 5 of them drive off into the dusty Arizona countryside, somehow staying one step ahead of the law. Death of the innocent and innocence follows Tison and Greenawalt in their lurching, chaotic escape to Mexico. For 10 days, killing grounds are everywhere and anywhere they meet the unwary and the innocent. For 10 days, the young boys’ probity, their innocence, slowly drains away to the horror that is their father.

Last Rampage, a gritty, no frills look at two demented beings, is structured by Dwight H. Little, the director, to exhibit the criminal monsters in a sharp, glaring  light of fact; a truth that is hideous and raw. A hard white light flooding the scene with no sympathy, no quarter, just evil shown as it is: evil.  A true tour de force in the crime genre with the exception that the opening scene was pointless.

The acting is superb, although Robert Patrick may carry his role as hell’s spawn with him longer than he may wish. Patrick and Browning’s sociopathic characters are displayed with an authoritative, emotionless, punch-to-the-gut performance, inciting the viewer to casually, almost clinically, conclude that death would be good for these two.

Art Imitates Life

American Made (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2018)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minutesM American Made 2017

Genre:  Action-Adventure-Biography-Comedy-Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.5/10

IMDb – 7.2/10

Amazon – 3.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore – 65/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.8/10

Directed by:  Doug Liman

Written by:   Gary Spinelli

Music by:  Christophe Beck

Cast:   Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright

Film Locations:   Atlanta, Ball Ground and Madison, Georgia, US; New Orleans, US; Araracuara, Caqueta and Medellin, Columbia

Budget:   $50,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $135,581,390

Barry Seal (Cruise) is a hustler, a con, a drug smuggling, gun running, money laundering, CIA operative; a Medellin Cartel useful stooge, and all around terrific husband and father who will not let anything get between him and an illicit mountain of cash. Seal is a TWA pilot who can’t make ends meet or fulfill his adrenaline needs, so he turns to flying drugs from South American to supplement his legitimate wages and feed his risk cravings.  He soon attracts the attention of the CIA who need a gofer to conduct business between the agency and Panama’s Noriega. This leads to running CIA supplied guns to Panama and the Cartel in Columbia.  Return flights are loaded with Columbian cocaine netting Seal $2000 per kilogram smuggled.  The amount of drugs involved eventually causes Seal to run out of banks and closet space for his green abundance. The entire story is told with more humor than drama, concentrating on Seal’s/Cruise’s smile and devil be damned style. You know Seal is man without a conscience but he is so darn likable and fun.

American Made is aptly directed by Doug Liman who keeps the focus of the movie light and airy, bordering on silly, against a background of drugs and the ensuing trail of death and ruin; and somehow it all works. Liman last worked with Cruise in the fantastic and critical acclaimed 2014 sci-fi flick: Live Die Repeat: The Edge of Tomorrow.  A little known, but talented writer, Gary Spinelli wrote the screenplay for this movie and auctioned it off to Universal for a cool million back in 2014. At that time Ron Howard was pegged to direct the movie. Filming started around May 2015 and continued off and on until January 2017.

This film is blithely marketed as a true story, a biography. As with all things Hollywood, that statement stretches reality to the breaking point. Barry Seal was a pilot for TWA and he was a drug smuggler; that part is true, after which the rest of the story gets the Hollywood treatment where the truth is pitted against fiction; may the highest gross potential wins.  The CIA part of the story may or may not have happened but the official line is it did not or at least not till much later in time.  Seal was busted for drug smuggling and money laundering and was facing serious time in the pen. He cut a deal with the DEA to help bring down the Columbian Cartels in exchanged for a lighter sentence.  At this point it appears the CIA, in conjunction with the DEA, stepped in to also gather information on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.  Subsequently, Seal, at an airport in Nicaragua, took photos of Pablo Escobar, Ochoa, plus a Sandinista government official, Federico Vaughan, directing the loading of cocaine onto a DEA aircraft.  These pictures leaked out to the general public, after which Escobar placed a bounty on Seal’s life; supposedly $1,000,000 for capture and return to Columbia or $500,000 for his death. In early 1986 Seal was assassinated by Escobar’s hit men in front of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana Salvation Army facility.

Seal’s American Made life is a comedy.  Seal’s real life was a tragedy. Aristotle said in the 4th century BC, that art imitates life, mimesis, whereas Oscar Wilde in 1889 said the life imitates art, anti-mimesis. Here art imitates life, but comedy polled better than tragedy: money wins. Ok, that might be a bit heavy.  It’s a good movie so kick your feet up and pass the popcorn.

 

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