After hearing of director Sidney Lumet’s passing, I wanted to see more of his movies. I saw Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead on the self and I picked it up. I knew very little about the movie except a couple of key plots points. I don’t know if I don’t get it or the movie was not very good.
Nanette (Rosemary Harris) is opening up Hanson Jewelry Store when a robber comes in pulls out a gun and demands her to put the jewels and cash into a pillow case. The robber orders Nanette to stand at one corner of the store where he is trying to get to the last display, but it’s locked. As he struggles to unlock it, Nanette pulls out a gun and shoots the robber. He retaliates. She shoots him again, killing him.
The getaway driver, Hank (Ethan Hawke) speeds away from the scene. What you need to realize is that Hank was a part of robbing his parents store. He does not do this alone. His older brother, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the mastermind behind it all.
The movie is a giant jigsaw puzzle that needs to be put together to figure out why the circumstances happened the way that they did.
The genesis behind the plan to get quick money. Andy is embezzling money from his real estate company. He has problems performing with his wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei) and he has a meeting with his coke dealer, Justin (Blaine Horton) at his apartment.
Hank is the dumb brother to Andy’s genius. Hank is having difficulty paying his rent, behind on child support to his daughter with his ex, Martha (Amy Ryan), because he has to pay for a private school education for his daughter. Hank is also having an affair with Gina under Andy’s nose.
Andy comes up with the idea to rob their parent’s store so it would be a way to get money without anyone getting hurt. They know the safe combinations, the keys to the displays, the code to the alarm system and everything.
But the initial plan begins to change when Andy says that he will not be a part of the robbery and that Hanks has to do it alone. Andy doesn’t want that to happen. He enlists the help of Bobby Lasorda (Brían F. O’Byrne) to pull off the robbery. That’s when the perfect victimless crime goes wrong.
The movie goes forward and backwards, jumping from different perspectives of the main characters. At times, I got really bored. Do I need to see this scene again for one brother’s POV and the other’s POV. It was draining. I could not follow what was happening. I had a lot of questions than answers by the end of the movie. Was Andy gay? What happened to Hank and Gina? How did Andy and his father, Charles (Albert Finney) know the same bookie?
Judgment: It was not a pleasant watch for me.
You don’t know what I can do! You don’t know what I can do, what I’m gonna do, or what I’m gonna be! I’m good! I have good things and you don’t know about! I’m gonna be something! I am! And don’t fucking tell me I’m not!
— Dirk Diggler
Since Julianne Moore has been wisely picked as the next LAMB Acting School 101, I thought I would revisit some the movies that she has made that made us fall in love with her onscreen. First is the movie that nobody thought would get made because of the subject. Nobody has a made a Hollywood mainstream picture about porn before. Julianne was nominated from an Oscar for her supporting work as well as Burt Reynolds and director Paul Thomas Anderson for his script for Boogie Nights. This movie is still memorable to watch and it is not because of the last shot of the movie. Get your minds out of the gutter.
The movie borrows the life story of legendary porn star John Holmes and his involvement in the Wonderland murders in this movie to a certain point. Recast in the role of John Holmes is 17-year-old high school dropout, Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a down on his luck young man who is blessed with a tripod in his pants. He works for Maurice TT Rodriguez (Luis Guzmán) at his club, Hot Traxx as a bus boy.
Major porn director Jack Horner (Reynolds) spots Eddie and wants to put him in his upcoming movie that he is shooting soon. He considers the offer. Looking upon the coiled snake in his briefs, Eddie thinks that is his ticket out of his humdrum life in Torrance with his ice queen of a mother, (Johanna Gleason). Jack decides to thrown in a ringer with the willing mouth of Rollergirl (Heather Graham), which prompts him to further audition with Rollergirl in home he shares with motherly Amber Waves (Moore).
Decided to go under the tutelage of Horner, Eddie meets some of his co-workers like the man who tries to be hip, but fails miserably, Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), the black superstar, Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker), the everyman, Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Little Bill (William H. Macy) who has to keep tabs on his cheating wife (Nina Hartley), the cameraman Kurt Longjohn (Ricky Jay) and the sound guy that develops a crush on Eddie, Scotty J (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
The producer of Jack’s films, The Colonel (Robert Ridgely) asks Eddie to change his name into something that he is comfortable with. He decides on his name from a dream that he had, Dirk Diggler. On his first day on set, he is natural having sex in front of a room full of people with Amber. Dirk quickly becomes the number one male porn star in the business with the fancy clothes, polished cars and the awards. As is customary with stardom, what goes up must come down. This is all about Dirk’s tumultuous journey in the industry.
The movie is playful with the bad porn dialogue the actors have to recite, but there is also some touching moments Rollergirl gets called out in during the exam, Amber trying to talk to her son or Dirk’s downward spiral were devastating to me.
I loved the performances from Mark Wahlberg’s first leading role in a film was beyond what I expected from a former pants-dropping rapper, Burt Reynolds was calm, cool and collected and of course, Julianne Moore looked like she was in 1970s with her fiery red hair, freckles on her porcelain skin and her demeanor as Amber Waves. It was her laid back presence that give her notice during the 1998 award show season.
Judgment: This is the best movie about the porn industry ever created.
I know how to do it now. There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They’re all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due.
— Caden Cotard
Charlie Kaufman’s indecipherable directional debut, Synecdoche, New York has been discussed, examined and picked apart since it came out in 2008. I knew the bare essentials about the plot before watching one frame of the movie. I wanted to love this movie. I wanted to like the movie. I wanted to movie to end.
Kaufman made a pessimistic view of life in general. It’s like that old adage, we die a little bit everyday. Caden Olstad (Philip Seymour Hoffman) exemplifies that perfectly as he obsesses over his own mortality read papers about Harold Pinter dying and bird flu. Certain moments of his life are spent worrying that he has a new disease.
His self-fulfilling prophecy comes true when he was shaving, the sink explodes with a piece hits him on the forehand. Caden goes to get stitches where he learns that he has a “condition” that none of the doctors who say any further. It was never explained what condition he had. Caden thinks he’s dying.
He is dealing with the crumbling marriage to Adele (Catherine Keener). Their marriage counselor, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis) is not making things any better with his cold disposition. Caden tries to put all of himself in his production of Death of a Salesman casting younger actors, Tom and Claire as Willy and Linda Loman (Daniel London, Michelle Williams). It gets great reviews, but Adele couldn’t care less.
Adele has an opportunity to show her macroscopic work in Berlin. She goes with her friend, Maria (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her daughter, Olive (Sadie Goldstein). Before leaving, Adele asks Caden what will be his contribution to the world would be when he dies. Caden becomes obsessed to find his masterpiece when he gets a MacArthur grant. Did I mention there are huge gaps in time here? From 2005 to 2009 when he gets the grant.
Caden spends all of his time with his play about death doing a Mike Leigh style where the actors interact and Caden takes whatever their reactions into the script. People come in and out of his life like his assistant, Hazel (Samantha Morton) or striking up a relationship with his lead actress, Claire. People die all around him and he is wondering why they have to go before he does. He is too busy preparing to die already. As the year go on, Caden becomes trapped in creating his own world that he can’t see what’s in front of him.
I believe that Kaufman over shot his debut a little bit. He does some far out concepts that somehow if it’s a doorway going into the mind of John Malkovich, a woman finding a savage man raised by apes, retelling the double life of a game show host who allegedly moonlighted as a hitman, actually creating a fictional twin brother, and a machine that would erase your bad memories away. What’s up with the burning house? Caden watching Olive dance? That woman that mistakes him for Ellen? The ending was a head scratcher.
I didn’t hate this movie. I thought it was too ambitious for its own good.
These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we fucked up the endgame.
— Charlie Wilson
When I was working out recently on the stationary bike, I heard on CNN that Charlie Wilson, the Congressman that almost single-handedly ended the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia died recently at the age of 77. I have never seen the big screen adaptation of this story, Charlie Wilson’s War until now. Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the FBI agent who was part of the trio that put an end to the Cold War. It is a fascinating bit of history trapped in an uninteresting narrative.
Based on the book by George Crile, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols transports us to the Cold War era circa 1980 where the Soviets invaded Afghanistan a year before. The unlikely hero of this story is a skirt-chasing, booze-swilling Texas Congressman Charles Wilson (Tom Hanks). He overhears the plight of the Afghani people during a wild house party seeing a news report by Dan Rather. The Afghanis feel that the Americans are not listening to their cries for the necessary weapons to defeat the Soviets.
Charlie wants to do something about the covert conflict without inciting World War III. He tries to raise funds for the conflict, but nobody could do anything. America has a wait-and-see approach to when the Soviets run out of supplies to finally do something.
By sheer happenstance, Charlie gets a call from a wealthy oil heiress who tries to do something thing with the conflict, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). She urges Charlie to go to Pakistan to see the Afghani refugee camps there after a roll in the hay for old time’s sake. Charlie books a trip to Pakistan with his trusty executive assistant, Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams) at his side.
Charlie meets the refugees that shared with him horror stories that the Soviets would do. Defectors would be run over by military tanks, children had limbs blown off from field bombs that looked like toys or the Soviets would slit the throats of children while the parents watched in horror.
Charlie wants to have the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to supply enough weapons to stop the Soviet helicopters. He enlists the help of a CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to help put together a task force to get the necessary weapons for the Afghanis to combat the Soviets.
This was supposed to be a comedy of errors about the mostly unlikely of people that would be instrumental for the greatest covert operation in US History, but I was mostly uninterested with the path to end the Cold War. Having two hours of weapons jargon thrown at you would make you bored off your tits. What the fuck is going on? What the hell are you talking about? Why should I care about every minute detail?
Hoffman was very good as the nonsense CIA agent that is not afraid to tell somebody to fuck themselves. They were glorious moments. The rest of the movie I could have done without. This movie is tedious to watch. I didn’t care about this boozehound trying to be a hero or the Dallas reject with the “angular face”. The Sorkin dialogue was nice, but I thought it tried to be a comedy about dramatic events.
Judgment: I was largely disappointed with this film. I wish this movie was documentary instead.
Stephen Jay Schneider chose this movie as one of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” He compiled a massive list from the classic to the obscure for his anthology. The most worthy movies are chosen to be on this list. Every year, there is a revision to include the most essential movies to be on the minds of film buffs everywhere.
I was disheartened that Magnolia was chosen as one of the movies that the 1001 Movie Club has to review. I have seen this movie after it made a big splash at the Oscars in 2000. When I saw the film, I did not have the best things to say about the movie. I have chosen not to see the movie again; I am basing this review on memory.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson interweaves almost a dozen tiny stories that seems to not to mesh that somehow thinly interconnects. The narrator Ricky Jay shows the random ironic coincidences of life. One story revolves around a hapless police officer, Jim Kurning (John C. Reilly) is called to the scene of a dead body being discovered in the closet of a woman, Marcie (Cleo King). As the night progresses, other officers that arrive to the scene are ignoring his assessments about what happens.
The anchor of the story is about a television producer, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) on his deathbed. He is succumbing to late stage cancer, and is cared for by his male nurse, Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Earl asks Phil to find his estranged son, Frank, because his much younger wife, Linda (Julianne Moore) is trying to get enough morphine to euthanize him.
Mackey (Tom Cruise) is self-help “guru” with a foul mouth that teaches man about manipulating women into having sex with them. His plan, “Seduce and Destroy” have men going in droves to listen to his polemics about gullible and dealing with the power of cock. After his seminar, a sly reporter, Gwenovier (April Grace) interviews Mackey about his bullshit rhetoric until she fins a chink in his armor.
A former game show wiz kid, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) tries to get his life back into order to his former glory. The game show storyline also incorporates a former game show host of “What Do Kids Know?” Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) that recently finds out that he has cancer. He seeks out to reconnect with his cokehead daughter, Claudia (Melora Walters) to tell her. In addition, there is a stage father, Rick (Michael Bowen) that pushes his son, Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) to win the prize money to help out with his acting career.
I thought that the stories were somewhat interesting, but not so much that I could be invested in most of them. The only part of the movie that marginally liked was the Earl Partridge storyline. I thought that it was very poignant. The ending was huge WTF for me. Really? Really! Tom Cruise got the most acclaim for this movie, because he was a leading man taking a supporting role in an ensemble movie. His personal segment was not that intriguing, but when he shows up in another one. That was great.
1001 Movie Club Approved
Judgment: Why do I feel like a Crash all over again?
To all our listeners, this is what I have to say – God bless you all. And as for you bastards in charge, don’t dream it’s over. Years will come, years will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song. Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world.
— The Count
Pirate Radio is Americanized version of the British film, The Boat That Rocked that was released earlier this year across the pond. The television trailer advertised this movie as a single American deejay taking a stand to the British government. That is not entirely true. So much have been cut out that it makes the story boring. It did.
In 1966, radio stations in Britain play less than forty minutes of rock and roll music a day. There is a single boat called Radio Rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that broadcasts 24 hours of rock and roll.
A young man, Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent to the boat, because he was expelled from school for smoking some grass. His godfather, Quentin (Bill Nighy) is the owner of the pirate radio station. Carl is introduced to the various deejays there like The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Angus (Rhys Darby), Dave (Nick Frost), Simon (Chris O’Dowd), Mark (Tom Wisdom) and Bob (Ralph Brown).
Carl becomes one of the helpers with News John (Will Adamsdale), Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke), Felicity (Katherine Parkinson) and Harold (Ike Hamilton). The pirates want to stand up to the status quo.
The British government wants to shut down the pirate radio station by Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branaugh). He thinks that the music is corrupting the youth to drink, fornicate, and experiment with drugs. His only mission is to shut down the radio station within a year.
Alistair enlists Twatt (Jack Davenport) to help shut down the station. First, they have it to illegal to advertise on the station. It seems to work, but the station brings back a retired deejay, Gavin (Rhys Ifans) to woo the advertisers back. The Count is threatened by Gavin’s arrival.
Alistair has grown impatient with Twatt “going for the jugular”. Twatt finds a way to shut them down when a fisherman’s distress call is blocked. They try to get the public on their side by January 1; pirate radio will be illegal because the endangerment of fisherman on the open seas, The Marine Offenses Act.
I thought that the movie was be about the the government trying to shut down the pirate radio station, but it’s not. I had to have these twists and turns about coming of age and paternity determination. It’s like a dead fish wrapped in the newspaper sitting on the deck for a week. PSH tries so hard to recapture his Lester Bangs persona, but it falls short here. The classic rock & roll music was the redeeming quality this movie.
Judgment: A watered down movie that doesn’t keep your attention afloat.
Goddamn you Walter! You fuckin’ asshole! Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the FUCK, has anything got to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?
— The Dude
The #158 Movie of All Time on IMDb: The Big Lebowski has been a divisive film since its release in 1998. Some people have since it and dismissed as garbage, upon a second viewing they loved it. This is the first time that I have seen it. I am tittering between it being pure genius and pretentious bullshit.
The unemployed bum simply known as “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges) becomes the anti-hero of this story. Being mistaken for a millionaire that share his real name Jeff Lebowski (David Huddleston), a pair of thugs rough him up. During the encounter, one of the thugs pees on his “prized” rug.
The Dude seeks out the other Lebowski to get him to pay for the rug. This action leads to chain of events that spiral out of control. Lebowski and his manservant, Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) want to get Lebowski’s young wife, Bunny (Tara Reid) back who has been kidnapped.
The Dude is mixed up with a trio of nihilists (Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges), a pornographer, Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara), Lebowski’s feminist daughter, Maude (Julianne Moore) who all want something from him. There is also his bowling buddies, Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) that want to occupy his time.
This movie is a mind fuck. You wonder when the ending credits start; did the Coens take LSD when they conceived of the movie? In the beginning, the characters carried on some inane conversations that go around in circles. It infuriated me. “We get it! Move on.”
The sequences go from dark to slapstick to tripped out. I had no idea what I was watching. I tried to make some sense out of it. I concluded with this.
At the core of this movie, you have to understand that every character is living in their own universe. They are self-absorbed, needy, and selfish. The only way the monotonous conversations make any sense is that nobody is listening to each other. Perhaps for a split second before they launch into their polemics about urine soaked rugs, mistaken identity and bowling etiquette.
My mind needs time to digest what I seen.
Judgment: This movie should be watched more than once to understand it fully.
Rating: ***1/2 (with wiggle room)
I’m gonna fuck you so hard, you’ll be coming out of your ears. Fuck you…— Allen
I watched Todd Solondz’s Happiness last night. People were praising this movie about the subversiveness of suburban life and controversial topics. I was bored out of my mind. I wasn’t as disgusted as I was with Towelhead. This movie is an easier pill to swallow.
The story centers around the Jordan family. It’s an ensemble piece about this particular family trying to find “happiness” in their lives. Some people’s versions of happiness differs from others. It’s weird, because this people are miserable in their lives.
It starts out with Joy (Jane Adams) dumping Andy Kornbluth (Jon Lovitz), because of his looks. It’s ironic that Joy is not exactly a bombshell herself. She is very plain, boring recently turned thirty-year-old woman that has no ambitions in her life. Andy eventually places a curse on her.
The next storyline centers around Joy’s older sister, Trish Maplewood (Cynthia Stevenson) and her psychiatrist husband, Bill (Dylan Baker). They are living in a sexless marriage, where both parties are content with it. Bill develops feelings for his young son, Billy’s (Rufus Read), classmates. He masturbates to teenybopper magazines in the back of his car. He also has fantasies about going on a mass shooting rampage.
A deviation to this subplot is another one involving Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that is obsessed with the last Jordan sister, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle). He wants to have nasty, freaky-deaky sex with her. He searches throughout the phone book to speak to her.
There is also the subplot with the disillusion of the marriage between Lenny and Mona (Ben Gazzara, Louise Lassar), the parents.
Judgment: I would suggest this movie more than Towelhead. It deals with taboo subject matter but it doesn’t donkey punch you with it.
Adapting his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Doubt, John Patrick Shanley directs this thought provoking film with great actors, masterful dialogue and leaving you thinking the actions onscreen.
The setting takes place in 1964 Bronx Catholic school, St. Nicholas. A young, impressionable young nun, Sister James (Amy Adams) witnesses what she thinks is misconduct on the part of the progressively-minded, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and an Black altar boy, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster).
Sister James confesses what she thinks she saw to the hardcore disciplinarian principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep). Armed with this new information, Sister Aloysius launches a campaign to oust Father Flynn out of the Parrish.
The movie consists of basically four major scenes: the confession, the confrontation of Father Flynn, the heart-to-heart between Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis), and the final showdown between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius.
I will highlight one person that floored me, twice. Viola Davis who plays Mrs. Miller. Her scene was transcendent that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, what she said, and her complacency. She blew everyone away. She deserves an Oscar for this role.
The author wants to figure out, did Father Flynn have inappropriate relations with Donald Miller or not? With my eagle eyes, I looked for clues, facial expressions, voice inflections, involuntary behavior. I know with certainly that Father Flynn did it.
I also believe that he at least molested three of the kids. Look at the kids faces, their behavior. You will know.
These are the questions that I asked myself, Why did Father Flynn stuff Donald’s undershirt into his locker? In the hallway, when Father Flynn ignored Donald, Donald felt wounded? When the boys gathered together, why did Donald look longingly at the Father? Why did Jimmy (Lloyd Clay Brown) have that hurt look on his face? Why did Father Flynn single out William London (Mike Roukis) about his dirty fingernails? Why did he resign? Why did he want to ignore the question or change the subject?
The only criticism I have about this film is including the kids in the movie. It swayed my decision one way without a doubt in my mind. Some people are saying that they should have Donald’s perspective. It would be a waste of time. Donald would lie to defend Father Flynn or have an outrgeous explansion that the adults would not believe him.
This was a good film that blows a good majority of the Oscar-baity movies out of the water.
My rating: ****1/2 stars.