Tag Archives: Crime Dramas

Thin Ice

Midwest insurance salesman Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear) hatches a get-rich-quick scheme that depends on him gaining possession of a rare and precious violin, but his planned score results in wild and unexpected consequences. Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup and Lea Thompson co-star in this meditation on lying and its consequences, written by sisters Jill and Karen Sprecher (Thirteen Conversations About One Thing).

Rating: 8 out of 10

The only reason I watched this movie is because it popped out of the Red Box by mistake. I literally knew nothing about this movie when I started watching. But the Red Box machine’s mistake became my surprise fortune. Now that’s good movie karma!

Greg Kinnear leads an excellent cast as a truly unlikable human being. He swindles people in business, cheats on his wife, doesn’t take care of his finances or family, and when pushed to his limits, will cover up a murder. This is one of those movies where there’s no good guy to root for. It’s definitely not filmed like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but the script has the feel of it. Kudos to the Sprecher sisters for writing an intriguing script that unfolds very nicely, keeps the intensity at a great level, and inspires great performances by Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup, David Harbour and Lea Thompson.

This is a movie where nothing goes right, there are no heroes, and no possibility of a positive outcome. Sounds bleak, right? Well, it works very well with the balance of some humor. Bad deeds lead to more bad deeds, and they keep piling up. As the audience, we feel the tension build. the danger grow, and the risks get higher. It’s an entertaining movie, for sure.


Convinced that her brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), has been unjustly convicted of murder and incompetently defended by court-ordered attorneys, high school dropout Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school in order to represent him in his appeal. Inspired by a true story, director Tony Goldwyn’s stirring drama also stars Melissa Leo, Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher and Clea DuVall.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This is the kind of story that is too good for a writer to make up. I loved the idea of a sister being hell-bound to prove the innocence of her brother after he was sentenced to life in prison.

The director, Tony Goldwyn, weaves a nice story, telling both the back story of the brother, the sister, and their childhood. We also get the narrative of the present, as the sister uncovers the mystery of proving her brother’s innocence. I was glued to the story and never bored. It never felt long or drawn out, despite the many legal hurdles they the siblings face throughout.

The performances in this film are excellent. Rockwell and Swank deliver memorable roles. This is a really well made film that didn’t get a lot of love. It should have.


Dejected by the futility of his tedious life, bitter small-town resident Bill (Brendan Fletcher) takes matters into his own hands by constructing a bulletproof outfit, picking up his semi-automatic weapons and attempting the largest killing spree ever seen. Written and directed by controversial filmmaker Uwe Boll, this ultra-violent action movie features jarring handheld camerawork and original dialogue largely improvised by the cast.

Rating: 0 out of 10

Welcome to the Rampage review. I’d like to share some adjectives to describe the film and its director. Uwe Boll is a talentless, worthless, brain dead, passionless, soulless, blind, and creatively DOA director. His script is disgusting, stupid, pointless, and probably written in crayon. And the film itself is offensive, irresponsible, ugly, and flat out horrendous.

It would be impossible for me to truly clarify my hatred of this movie. You want to know the plot? A college age kid puts on a Kevlar armor body suit and murders innocent men, women, and children by the dozens. Why? It’s not really explained nor does it need to be. This film is so bad, the only thing that offended me more than the senseless violence was the senseless script or lack thereof. How in the hell does this classify as entertainment? I am not offended by violence when it is relevant to a story. ” Taxi Driver,” “Fight Club,” and “The Passion of the Christ” all had extreme violence that served a purpose. This film seems to think murder is somehow entertaining. Now, how is it different than your typical slasher films? That’s easy. There’s no suspense, no buildup, no justice, and no fighting back from any protagonist. We, as an audience, basically sit and watch the main character slaughter people. Thanks Uwe Boll. You just reminded me why you made our “top 5 worst directors working today” list. Stay the hell away from the movie business. I say with no hesitation, “Rampage” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

The Man Who Wasn’t There

In this black-and-white film noir by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit, No Country for Old Men), Billy Bob Thornton stars as Ed Crane, an aimless barber who’s dissatisfied with his life in a small northern California town in the summer of 1949. His wife’s (Frances McDormand) infidelity presents Crane with an opportunity for blackmail that he thinks will turn his life around … but his scheme lays bare even darker secrets that eventually lead to murder. James Gandolfini co-stars.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Coen Brothers float from genre to genre the way that David Bowie floats from music style to music style. They decide on a script, make the film, and tell a great story. There really is no weak part to their filmmaking. They weave a great tale, always get first rate performances from the actors, and have a keen visual eye for interesting camera angles and visual trickery to illicit an emotional response.I think when all is said and done; they are in the top 5 of American filmmakers ever.

“The Man Who Wasn’t There” is their take on film noir and they do a terrific job. It’s not perfect; “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men” were perfect. But for film noir, it’s great. A lot has to be said for the film’s editing. This is a film that relies a lot on silence. The main character (played note perfect by Billy Bob Thornton) is a man of few words but deep thought. His narration accompanies the film wonderfully and fills in the blank spaces. Much of the dialogue is one way. A character talks to Billy Bob and he just nods. His quiet demeanor leaves an aura of unpredictability to his character that keeps the film moving. You never know what’s bubbling underneath the surface. Is it rage? Anger? Fear? Sadness? Happiness? We don’t always know and it leaves a lot to our imagination.There’s also first rate work here by the entire cast. James Gandolfini, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, and particularly Tony Shalhoub as the eccentric and fast-talking lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider are awesome all around.

The problem with the film is the few loopholes in the story that made little sense to me. If Billy Bob’s character was trying to move on from his wife and create his own life, why did he pay through the nose for a top flight lawyer? It seemed closed and shut that he eliminated two problems at the same time: his wife and her adulterous lover. Also, for a guy who seems to think out every deal, he couldn’t see that the man starting the dry cleaning business was a scam? The last reel of the film is a disappointment because the setup was so good. But all in all, I highly recommend it, particularly if you love old black and white film noir.

The Killing of John Lennon

Lifting dialogue directly from notorious assassin Mark David Chapman’s real-life journal, director Andrew Piddington paints a chilling portrait of the man who infamously shot John Lennon outside his New York City apartment building in 1980. The film chronicles Chapman’s trek from his home on the islands of Hawaii to Lennon’s home on the island of Manhattan, where he made history by murdering a living legend.

Rating: 6 out of 10

I was too young to remember at the time, but if you ask anyone 40 or older where they were when they heard John Lennon was shot, they all seem to remember in detail. It wasn’t just a murder by a dangerous psychopath; it was also the end of an era. It signified the end of free love with the 60’s and 70’s mentality and ushered in the 1980’s era of egotism, greed and cynicism. The teenagers of The Beatles era were now grown up and without one of their heroes.

I am personally biased when viewing this film because I love John Lennon’s music. I didn’t live through the era to truly experience what it meant to people but I certainly appreciate the power of his words and music every time I listen to his beautiful songs. So, watching a film based on the man who murdered such a beloved artist the world over was difficult. To the filmmaker’s credit, they really didn’t try to paint Chapman as Satan nor did they try to garner sympathy for him. Instead, they filmed a pseudo documentary based on the court records and Mark David Chapman’s book that he wrote after the murder. The portrait it paints is of a man deeply disturbed and filled with anger and resentment of the world around him. He can’t find his place anywhere and reads “The Catcher in the Rye” and identifies with the main protagonist and his view of a planet full of “phonies.” He then begins to obsess over John Lennon’s phoniness at the phrase “no possessions” from the song “Imagine.” He then decides he has to kill John Lennon so that the message of “phonies” can get out by inspiring people to read “Catcher in the Rye.” Still with me? Yep, that’s one crazy bastard! Personally, I think Chapman was disgusted with himself. He thought of himself as a big phony that was married and settled down and yet couldn’t stop obsessing over other people’s lives. He was a huge loser who wanted to attach himself to one of the most beloved people on the planet in a permanent way.

As far as the film goes, it’s well made and executed and features a brilliant performance by newcomer Jonas Ball. It really tries to bring you in the mind of a psychopath, viewing the world as he does. Unfortunately, I’m sane and his thought patterns repulsed and confused me. So, I’m giving this film a semi-positive review because it was well done but approach at your own risk. It pulls no punches and the outcome is just as devastating even though you know it’s coming.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Centered on the 2008 financial crisis, director Oliver Stone’s follow-up is a modern-day ode to unfettered capitalism and, of course, greed.

Rating: 7 out of 10

If you had told me a couple of years ago that Oliver Stone would be making a sequel to one of his early films, “Wall Street” might have seemed the least likely. The original, while one of my favorite films of the 1980’s, wraps itself up perfectly and appeared to have no further storyline to persue. It turns out there was more good than bad to this movie, which features some of Oliver Stone’s best writing since “JFK.”

A lot of the dialogue between the main characters is believable, interesting, and likeable. Stone seems to understand these people very well and picked the right actors to execute it. Shia Lebouf, who is clearly wasting his talent making bullshit Michael Bay movies, is excellent here as the young and determined Wall Street executive who’s hoping to discover the next great investment while doing his best to maintain his relationship with Carey Mulligan’s character — who just happens to be the daughter of ruthless tycoon Gorgon Gekko. Michael Douglas returns in the role of Gekko and, despite being older physically, more than makes up for it by giving a very cerebral and cunning performance in his second go-round. While all of the performances and dialogue are excellent, I can’t help but feel that Stone had very little reason to make this film. It’s certainly not necessary to show us Wall Street has become more high tech: we know. It certainly wasn’t necessary to let us know that Gordon Gekko is a self-centered asshole: we knew. And getting more into the family drama and less into the double crossing and underbelly of the Wall Street system: not smart.

So, I recommend this film if you like the first one but as more of an epilogue to the first than a true sequel.