Category Archives: Action

Memento (2001)

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

— Leonard Shelby

It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and  Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.

I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.

As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.

Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.

He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.

Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.

The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.

But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.

Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.

Rating: 9/10

The Birds (1963)

Don’t they ever stop migrating?

— Annie Hayworth

You know how much I love Alfred Hitchcock movies. He is the only director that I have reviewed at least five on his movie at the time of the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair series. The Birds is another movie that I crossed off that list. It was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Visual Effects. This movie that did not make me feel the same way about birds as Jaws did with sharks.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) goes into a pet shop in downtown San Francisco to pick up a bird that she had ordered. Her bird had not come in the time it was supposed. She had to wait until a dashing young man comes into the store, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) mistaking her for the a worker there. Mitch asks Melanie about what type of bird is best for his sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). He wanted lovebirds. They begin to chat each other up until he leaves.

Melanie decides to surprise Mitch by buying the lovebirds and leave them out on his apartment. She learns that he is out-of-town for the weekend. He is visiting his family in Bodega Bay. She drives to Bodega Bay to find out where the Brenner house is located. She visits the local schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) to ask her about the family home which across the bay. She charters a small boat to sneak birds into the house.

When she crosses back across the bay, she is attacked by seagull. She and Mitch thinks that it is a fluke until the birds of the town start going crazy and start attacking all the residents of the town. The town becomes under siege with seagulls, crows and blackbirds for neighboring towns.

The movie for the most part is unsettling to watch, but I didn’t completely buy into it. I have to say who the hell get killed by a bunch of birds. What, do they peck you to death? It sounds ludicrous to me.

Did anybody get the feels that there is something more about Melanie and Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy)? Did you get the sense of a man being a attracted to a version of his mother? I got that feeling big time.

Judgment: The movie is unsettling to with, but it won’t make you afraid of birds.

Rating: 7.5/10

Buried (2010)

I’m buried in a box. I’m buried in a box!

— Paul Conroy

Buried was one of my most anticipated movies of 2010. I never got the chance to see in theaters, because it was so hard to find it. When I saw it on the shelf, I had to picked it up. I thought the concept of one man onscreen for a 90 minutes movie sounded interesting to me especially if its Ryan Reynolds. The movie is enjoyable but it’s not 127 Hours.

Iraq, 2006. A CRT contractor, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in complete blackness. Paul realizes that he is bound and gagged. He manage to get himself free. He pulls out a Zippo lighter to shed light on that he is in a wooden crate. He tries to break the crate open, but he realizes that it is buried underground in the middle of the desert.

Paul hears a cell phone vibrating near him. He picks it up, but the script is in Arabic. He misses the call. He dials 911 and tries to explain to the operator (Kali Rocha) about what happened to him. He was taking kitchen supplies to a community in Baqubah when his convoy was ambushed by insurgents. The rest of the contractors were killed and he is the lone survivor. The operator cannot help, because 911 is US service. No use for the Middle East.

Paul frantically calls his family, but they don’t pick up. Then, he tries his wife, Linda’s (Samantha Mathis) cell. Straight to voicemail. He gets the number to the FBI from 411 and explains his dire situation, but he is constantly being transferred to different people. He finally gets in touch with Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson) that works with the program to help people in Paul’s situation.

There is the problem of him being in the box. Paul calls the missed call and it is from his captor, Jabir (José Luis García Pérez) who thinks that Paul is a soldier. Paul thinks that Jabir is a terrorists. They both have misconceptions of each other. His captor wants to see him suffer and holds another fellow CRT member, Pamela Lutti (Ivana Miño) captive. He has two hours to get 5 million dollars or he will be buried alive. With only a cell phone with half of battery power left, a Zippo, a pencil, a faulty flashlight and a pair of glow sticks, he doesn’t have that much time left.

I thought that it was an interesting concept of all the action happening in a confined space like a makeshift coffin. I felt there was something not right about the way the action went. How could Paul be buried underneath the ground and constantly breathing hard, screaming, yelling? The oxygen would have run out fast by halfway through the movie. There was a moment in the movie where I said, “What the fuck?” The movie lost me for a bit.

Judgment: It was a nice experiment that needs a few tweaks.

Rating: 7.5/10

The Big Easy (1987)

Just relax, darlin’. This is the Big Easy. Folks have a certain way o’ doin’ things down here.

— Remy McSwain

The Big Easy is probably one of my favorite Dennis Quaid movies. It’s not because the movie is great, but this is the sexiest role that he has ever been in. There is something alluring about this gorgeous man having that New Orléans accent that hypnotizes you. Quaid is from my hometown of Houston, Texas so I wanna keep up with my fellow Houstonian.

The Big Easy refers to New Orléans, Louisiana and Det. Remy McSwain (Quaid) is being plucked from his bed, snuggling with a stuffed crocodile to be the first to response to a murder. A man is found facedown in a fountain. McSwain’s boss, Captain Jack Kellom (Ned Beatty) tells him that it might the start of a gang war between the mob guys. They call them wiseguys.

Assistant District attorney Anne Osbourne (Ellen Barkin)  is assigned to the case, but she is also looking into the deep corruption in the police force. There are accusations of bribery, tapering with evidence, extortion and murder. Remy uses his charms to woo the bloodhounds from off their backs. He says that it’s the New Orléans way of doing things. Sometimes you have to bend the law to get the job done.

Anne tries not to fall for his charms, but he slowly lowers her defenses until she is ready to pounce. He pounces hard. She is reluctant to get involved with him, but the passion outweighs any code of ethics. Everything is fine, but Remy gets caught in a hairy situation that he might not get out of.

The movie is eye candy first. There is nothing deep and meaningful about this movie for me. There is a mystery element that was brushed to the side until the end of the movie. It felt like an afterthought. There were some points in the movie that I wanted to slap Anne to say that he is not good for you, girl. You gotta admit that he is sexy as hell.

Judgment: You get the chance to watch Dennis Quaid stripped down. Nuff said.

Rating: 6.5/10

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.

— Sir Bernard Pellegrin

2005 was my snobbiest year to date, because I didn’t see that many of the Oscar nominated films of that year. When Brokeback Mountain came out, it was the end-all-be-all for me. The adaptation of John Le Carré’s book, The Constant Gardener was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz Best Supporting Actress. The movie is a solid effort that swept under the rug.

after coming from his Oscar nominated direction of the seminal movie, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles followed up with this movie. A diplomat from the British High Commission, Justin Quayle (RalphFPiennes) leanrs of the death of his wife, Tessa (Weisz) from his colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston). They go to a morgue in Loki, Kenya to identify her body. People think that it was an accident, but others think that it was an assassination.

Quayle is reminded to the times that he has had with Tess. He was filling in a lecture for his friend, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) when the idealistic Tess challenged him about the actions of the US to go to war with Iraq. They have a mutual attraction with each other and quickly marry. Tess wants to go to Africa with Justin so she could do something about the AIDS crisis on the continent.

After Tess’ death, reports surface that Tess was supposedly having an affair with her African escort, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé). Quayle wanted to know why Tess was killed. It could have been from her probing into the pharmaceutical  companies of KDH and Three Bees who are using the African people as lab rats. She wanted to expose the companies for suppressing clinical trails, especially the adverse side effects, for a drug called Dypraxa that would suppose to treat tuberculosis. Justin wants to continue Tess’ crusade and investigate her death when everybody in his life is telling him to leave well enough alone.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie when I was watching the first half of the movie. I have seen movies that are heavy-handed with political messages like Syriana, Rendition or In the Valley of Elah. They will jump a subject down your throat, and you want to turn off the movie. Don’t talk at me. Let me understand what you are saying. When the conspiracy begin to unravel, the movie really started become intriguing where Justin’s life could be in the same peril as Tess’.

It did make me think about how the African people are portrayed as a continent of expendable people. With the rampant AIDS infections, famines, rebel child soldiers, and the ethnic cleansing; it shocks me that almost nothing is being done to help the African people. It makes me sad and angry that they have to fend for themselves.

Judgment: A taut thriller through and through.

Rating: 8/10

The Untouchables (1987)

I want you to get this fuck where he breathes! I want you to find this nancy-boy Eliot Ness, I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES.

— Al Capone

I was so excited that The Untouchables was being shown on BBC America over the weekend. I have not seen the film in a while. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. This is the movie that brought Sean Connery the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Some people think that Brian De Palma is a hack director, but you cannot tell that the shootout in the train station was not an exercise of tension, suspense and keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.

The Untouchables is the big screen version of the 1950s television series that explored the adventures of Special Agent of the Treasury Department, Detective Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) abiding by the laws that he swore to uphold.

He has trouble doing this because 1930s Los Angeles is filled with corruption, violence and murder. The main culprit is the notorious gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro) that has the police department and the judicial system on his payroll. Ness believes that he has the intel on a shipment of Canadian whiskey ordered by Capone. It turns out to be a ruse and Ness has egg on his face.

Ostracized at the force, Ness has a chances meeting with a beat cop named Jim Malone (Connery) who turns out to be a mentor to him. Ness wants to form a new task force with some unlikely characters like a mousey accountant that was hired to look into Capone’s books, Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) or a fresh recruit that has a dead on shot, George Stone (Andy Garcia). They form the titular team.

They begin to taken down Al Capone’s liquor hideouts. Capone is not happy and wants to make Ness’ life a living hell.

I am a sucker for period action films with gangsters, liquor and tommy guns.

Judgment: This movie is perfect for me. I think this is a guy film like The Shawshank Redemption and Fight Club.

Rating: 8/10

127 Hours (2010)

You know, I’ve been thinking. Everything is… just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.

Aron Ralston

After I was puzzled by the massive success of Danny Boyle’s last directorial effort, Slumbog Shit-in-there, I wanted to see if he could redeem himself with the 219th Film of All-Time on IMDb, 127 Hours. It recently received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. I was happy that the movie expanded this weekend that I could finally watch it. It is a fantastic film.

Best Actor nominee James Franco plays Aron Ralston who penned the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” after his ordeal. The setting takes place  in April 2003 where Aron is hiking in Moab, Utah where he slips trying to climb Blue John Canyon where he gets his right forearm crush beneath a boulder. As the title suggests, Aron is stuck in the canyon for almost a week with little food and water.

Aron tries in vain to remove the rock from sheer brute strength. Survival mode kicks in where Aron tries to chip away at the rock with a cheap pocketknife that eventually dulls it. As the hours drag on, Aron has to deal with the brutal elements of extreme hot and cold, malnutrition, dehydration and having the sense of claustrophobia. Feeling a sense of his impending doom, Aron uses his video recorder to document his harrowing journey to break free.

Slowly, his mind beings to drift away to his parents played by Treat Williams and Kate Burton, not being in his sister, Sonja’s wedding (Lizzy Caplan), recalling his fling with Rana (Clémence Poésy) and having a chance meeting with lost hikers, Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn). Soon, Aron has to make a choice between killing a part of himself or killing his whole self.

I have never been so physically moved with a movie that would make me weak in the knees. That’s what this film has made me feel afterwards. It’s no surprise that there is an arm-cutting sense in this movie. I thought that it would more gruesome than it actually was. It was a brief bit of horror on-screen. The film actually made me want to throw up. That has never happened with a gory horror movie. That has to say something about Danny Boyle’s way of directing. His fernetic pace actually work here where Aron is slipping into a claustrophobic madness.

Judgment:  My faith is restored for Danny Boyle. Case closed.

Rating:  *****

The Town (2010)

This is the not fucking around crew so get me something that looks like a print because this not fucking around thing is about to go both ways.

— FBI S.A. Adam Frawley

Oh, my goodness. You guys! It sucked being away from the blog and I missed you all. I’m not totally back, but I wanted to give you something to tide you over. Last weekend I went to movies to watch Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, The Town. Let me just say that I loathe this title. It’s so plain and simple. Feelings aside, I wanted to see this film because I was put off by Affleck’s first film, Gone Baby Gone. I wondered what his second effort would yield. All I can say is don’t  watch the threaterical trailer it would spoil it for you.

Going back to his roots, Affleck’s latest tells the story about the bank robbery capital of the world, a Irish majority suburb of Boston called Charlestown. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, the leader of a group of bank robbers who have honed their skills to pull off the perfect heist. Along for the ride is the loose cannon of group, Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), the tech guy, Desmond Elden (Owen Burke) and the getaway driver, Gloansy Magloan (Slaine).

During one of the group’s robberies, Doug forces to the bank manager, Claire (Rebeeca Hall) to open up the bank vault. She is clearly frazzled because she has a semi-automatic gun pointed at her with a bunch of guys in scary Rastafarian-like masks. Doug almost takes pity on her and tells her to calm herself and she would not get hurt. When she opens the vault, things go awry when somebody is trying to open the front doors, and Jem’s short fuse cause craziness. Jem butts the assistant manager with his gun and takes Claire as a hostage.

Eventually, Jem lets Claire go not without taking her driver’s license, but Jem thinks that Claire will be liability and needs to be taken out, because she lives in their neighborhood and might go the cops. Doug doesn’t want that to happen, so he volunteers to track her town, because he has an inexplicable pull towards Claire. He lies to Jem that he couldn’t find her and starts to have a relationship with her.

Meanwhile, the FBI S.A. Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) and his partner, Dino Ciampa (Titus Welliver) are quick on the robbers trail and they would do anything to bring these guys down. Things gets complicated when Doug and Claire’s relationship is threatening the bonds of the brotherhood.

After a month and half of not watching a movie, I was feening for it like crack. Even though, I’ve never tried it. Don’t try it, kiddies out there. I had the choice  to see this, Easy A or try to see Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I think I might have picked the wrong film. I’m not saying that this movie is bad. It was fine. The first third of movie was boring as all get out. I was checking my watch a couple of times. Having a movie about the bad guys doesn’t work when you have Ben Affleck robbing banks for their boss, Fergie the Florist (Pete Postlethwaite)  and he is trying to get into Rebecca Hall’s pants. It didn’t gel with me.

I did enjoy the action elements of the film with the standoffs at the banks, the shootouts and the comic touches in the film, but the romance part of the film killed the movie for me. Besides that the ending of the movie is completely predictable that I knew who was going to survive and who wasn’t.

Judgment: This makes me want to revisit Gone Baby Gone again.

Rating: **1/2

Children of Men (2006)

I can’t really remember when I last had any hope, and I certainly can’t remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what’s left to hope for?

— Theodore Faron

I have meant to watch Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of P.D. James’s novel, Children of Men. I have heard nothing but good things about this movie. It is now the 189th Film on the IMDb Top 250 Films list. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. I wondered at the end of the movie, why the hell didn’t I see this movie sooner?

The movie’s setting takes place in the dystopian world of 2027 London where the world’s population is descending into chaos after the world became infertile. The reason for the phenomenon has not been known until certain events could shed light on the plight of humanity’s survival. There is a countrywide crackdown on illegal immigrants that are brought to refugee camps.

The main person that we fellow is a former activist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) who is working soul-sucking 9-to-5 job where he was almost killed in a bomb blast getting coffee. The world is in mourning over the death of the youngest person in world who was a little over 18. He skips out on work to visit another former activist friend of his, Jasper (Michael Caine) is a hermit living in the middle of woods growing marijuana in his house.

Jasper tells Theo about “The Human Project” which is a secret government project that could help cure the infertility in women. Theo doesn’t believe a place existed. When Theo world is rocked when he is abducted by Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Patric (Charlie Hunnam) and Ian (Paul Sharma) who are members of the Fishes, which is an underground guerrilla group that is fighting for the rights of the immigrants.

The leader of the group is actually Theo’s ex, Julian (Julianne Moore) who wants Theo to do a big favor for her. She wants Theo to get transit papers for a “fugee girl” that is trying to get out of the chaos of London. Theo is resistant to do it when Julian offers him $5,000 pounds, he reconsiders it. He goes to his cousin, Nigel (Danny Huston) to ask for the papers. All Theo could get is joint transit papers, which means that he has to go with the girl.

Julian brings Theo to the place where the girl, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is hidden away at with her guardian, Miriam (Pam Ferris). The group, including Luke ride out to a checkpoint to get her on a boat away from the place when the car is attacked by rioters and Julian is shot. Things go from bad to worse when Theo realizes that Kee is pregnant. Now, he knows that stakes and lengths that people would go to get close to Kee and her unborn child.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this movie because the beginning of movie was fine, but nothing exciting was happening. Then when the revelation of Kee’s pregnancy happened, I was hooked right in. It was a tense=filled ride for that time forward. I wanted characters to be all right. I was afraid when danger would come knocking on their door. I have never been so moved by an ending like I did this one.

The movie felt a lot like The Road is some respects, but this movie had hope and heart it in it. The allegories of the concentration camps, Abu Ghraib, September 11th, the war in Iraq were not lost on me. It reminded me of another movie, Blindness that I didn’t care for that much. This world felt like modern times that it eerily gave us a glimpse into a possible future. After you read this review, go and buy this movie. Watch it, experience it. You will not regret it.

Judgment: I didn’t know how could I recommend this movie highly enough?

Rating: ****1/2

Shadowboxer (2005)

Feeling protected is very seductive.

— Rose

After I saw the trailer for Helen Mirren’s upcoming flick, Red, I thought I was seeing the other movie that plays an assassin. Lee Daniel’s directorial début film, Shadowboxer has some controversy with a scene with Stephen Dorff going full frontal in the movie. Trust me, I saw the pictures and video. Excuse me for going off topic. I knew very little about this movie, except it was about assassins and that’s all I should have known about it.

Mirren plays an aging assassin, Rose that has terminal cancer. The type of cancer was not discussed.  Her companion, Mikey (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) tries to comfort her as she knows that her time is running out. She begins to talk about God, heaven and the afterlife when she receives her last mission from their wheelchair bound handler, Andrew (Tom Pasch). The mission is to take out the wife of a fellow hitman, Clayton (Stephen Dorff).

Clayton conveniently goes on a trip for the hit to happen. Rose and Mikey gain access to the house and take out the bodyguards that are protecting Clayton’s wife, Vicki (Vanessa Ferlito). In the back bedroom, Vicki is talking on the phone with her girlfriend, Neisha (Macy Gray) who tells her to be careful about the company she is keeping. She doesn’t like Clayton at all and not afraid to say it.

After getting off the phone, Vicki noticed that it is eerily quiet.  Rose stealthily comes into the room for the intention to kill her, but she realizes that Vicki is pregnant. She has a change of heart to not shoot this woman. The trauma of the ordeal causes Vicki to go into labor. Rose decides to deliver the baby with the reluctant help of Mikey who thinks that they should finish the job.

After delivering the baby, Rose decides to take the mother and child with them in hiding. Before they do so, she summons Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to come and look at the twosome. He brings along his crack addicted girlfriend, ironically named Precious, played by Mo’Nique, who is jealous of his strange relationship with Rose.

As Rose unofficially retires, she decides to take Vicki and the baby out of the city and into a suburban life, trying to be like a blended family. The strange turn of events does not sit too well with Mikey, being a father figure to a kid that they were hired to kill.

Being that this was Daniel’s first film, I could see that he tried too hard to make a good movie here. It tried to be grand with the musical choices of classical music going into rap music. There were scenes of saturated lights and falling leaves that came straight out of a feminine hygiene commercial. The tone seems off with an assassin story with a family drama and the “comic relief”, which was the lush Neisha. I did not like her in this role. Her voice drove me crazy. I have never been so happy to see a character die in all my life.

As I stated earlier, there is a lot of obvious symbolism here with the older woman, Rose is dying and she wanted to save a woman that is about to bring new life into the world, Vicki. It’s not very subtle. The abundance of crosses is not lost on me about life and death. How do we live our lives and how it all ends? Is there a Heaven or Hell? Will we be remembered after we are gone? Yeah, I get it.

It seems that the movie tried to be a different take on the typical assassin movie, but it ended up being horribly predictable at the end.

Judgment: Google the interesting scenes to save you from sitting through this movie.

Rating: **

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