Category: Crime


Queen and Slim

January 7th, 2020 — 7:39pm

***

QUEEN & SLIM-rm

This is a road trip movie but under tragic circumstances. It is directed by Melina Matsoukas with a screenplay by Lena Waithe based on a story by her and James Frey. It stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. The film opens as we meet a black couple who are on their first Tinder arranged date. Things go wrong in what should have been an innocuous police stop. Within a few minutes, it turns into a horrendous situation where the young woman is shot in the leg and the police officer is killed. We follow the frightened couple as they flee and become labeled as wanted criminals. We get insight into the prejudiced environment that could allow such a situation to develop. We also come to see how family and friends as well as friends of friends try to help this couple survive against the unfair forces that are pitted against them.

If you were someone who grew up being taught that the police are fair and are your friends, you will be clearly reminded that certainly this has not been the case for many people in the United States, especially many people of color. The message of this film is important and terrifying but the film left something to be desired. (2020)

 

 

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama

The Irishman

December 26th, 2019 — 5:31am

***

The Irishman-nf

Despite the fact that this film is directed by Martin Scorsese, and stars Robert De Niro, as Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and features Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa along with other great actors such as, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, and others, we suggest that you think twice before committing yourself to this three and a half hour movie. The story is based on an excellent book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” by Charles Brandt, which MB reviewed more than seven years ago (click here to see the review).

At the beginning of the film we meet an older Frank Sheeran as he is reflecting how he turned into a gangster and a ruthless murderer. There is not any clear explanation how a seemingly sensitive man who cared about his family could emerge as this serial killer. There is a suggestion that his experience in World War II might have primed him for this way of life.

The screenplay, based on the book by Charles Brandt, is written by Steven Zaillian, who previously wrote the story for Schindler’s List, which may account for how he is able to suggest emotional turmoil, although it is often not fully explained. The movie features flashbacks where the actors are skillfully “de-aged” as we encounter earlier events in the lives of their characters. One of the central themes is an insight and explanation into the death of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who was an important character in this movie and whose body in real life was never found after he was eliminated. Unfortunately, the inordinate length of this film only underscored its inability to help the viewer really understand any of the characters

If you are drawn to gangster movies and enjoy the work of this cast of actors and the renowned director, you might find this collection of unending “rub-outs” of interest but be sure you have lots of popcorn or your favorite snack to help you persevere (2019).

Your comments are welcome below:

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama

Just Mercy

December 17th, 2019 — 6:55am

*****

Just Mercy- rm

This is an amazing true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a black attorney who is fresh out of Harvard Law School and travels to Alabama with the purpose of trying to save the lives of falsely incarcerated prisoners who are on death-row awaiting execution. He teams up with Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), a woman with a similar dedication who becomes the operations director of their newly formed Law Center For Equal Justice. Stevenson begins visiting Alabama’s death-row and meeting prisoners scheduled for execution. The main focus of the film was on his interaction with Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was sentenced to die for a crime, it became clear he did not commit. His case was based on the testimony of a man who was providing false information in order to avoid charges for another crime of which he was accused. In addition, the testimony of many friends and family of Stevenson who were at a party with the accused at the time of the murder were not considered worthy evidence to exonerate the condemned man. While the main focus is on one case, we also meet other prisoners on death-row and witness a very painful scene of an execution. It became clear that the unfair cruel treatment of prisoners was a residual of slavery and continued prejudice in this country.

The movie is based on a memoir of the same title by Bryan Stevenson, which was an outstanding book (click here for book review). This book was transformed into this excellent movie by Andrew Lanham and Destin Daniel Cretton, who also directed the film. It is a riveting heartbreaking cinematic experience, which we highly recommend (2019).

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama

The Good Liar

October 23rd, 2019 — 12:56am

****

The Good Liar- sp

When you put together Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen with a really good story with twists and turns, big surprises and even some roots in Nazi Germany, you know you are going to have a riveting movie. These two iconic actors are at the top of their game. The screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher based on the novel by Nicholas Searle requires you to pay close attention or you may miss some of the subtleties where the storyline is taking you. Special kudos to director Bill Condon who guided this complicated but yet fascinating movie. Do not be surprised if the talents of these great actors are once again recognized during award season. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama

The Kitchen

August 7th, 2019 — 8:58pm

*****

The Kitchen-sp

Three wives of gangsters take over their husbands’ racketeering business after the men go off to prison for a couple of years. The women show that they can kick ass and clearly establish a new genre of women tough gals. There is nothing comedic about these characters but two of them are played by established comediennes, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish. The other character is inhabited by veteran actress Elisabeth Moss.

The setting of this film is Hell’s Kitchen in New York City in the late 1970s. The story is written by Ollie Masters and is based on a comic book series by her and illustrated by Becky Cloonan and Ming Doyle. First time director Andrea Berloff who has credentials as a writer and actress definitely establishes herself as a big league director. Not only does she capture the vibes of New York City in the 70s with wonderful photography but   she infuses this movie with great action scenes of numerous murders and other violence as well as various confrontations intermixed with tension, humor and great timing with many surprises.

We believe that this movie stands a chance to become a classic gangster film with its own distinctive flavor. It certainly would be the definitive woman gangster film even surpassing Bonnie and Clyde and may very well be in the top tier of this genre. (2019)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Crime, Drama

Leaving Neverland

March 16th, 2019 — 8:54pm

****

Leaving Neverland-nf

Four-hour two-part documentary film directed by Dan Reed

Ten years ago, Michael Jackson, “King of pop”, one of the greatest entertainers of all time died at the age of 50 of a combination drug reaction and a fatal heart attack. He had been married twice, once to the daughter of Elvis Presley and had four children. He himself as a child was the youngest member of a musical group known as, The Jackson 5. Michael Jackson endured two criminal trials with allegations that he had committed child abuse and was found not guilty.

This four-hour documentary (divided into two 2-hour segments) focuses on two men probably now in their 30s who described in great detail their relationship with Michael Jackson. As young children, they had won dance contests in the style of their idol. Michael Jackson then befriended them both and their families, at different times. He brought them to his palacial home in Los Angeles known as Neverland. The boys were ages 7 and 10, when they met Jackson.

This documentary film focuses mainly on these men with camera close-ups during most of their speaking. They recounted their childhood and their relationship with Jackson and how he befriended them despite their wide age disparity, along with their families. There were also interviews with family members including the boy’s mothers, siblings and the film also had various film clips. There was a haunting musical score in the background throughout the film.

Both men clearly and unequivocally described how Jackson became their close friend and their buddy, but also frequently would sleep in his bed with them in his Neverland estate. Jackson made them feel he loved them and they loved him. This continued with various intervals between the ages of seven until they were in their mid-teenagers and even then, they kept up a relationship. The young men also described how Jackson sexually molested them from their earliest relationship which included touching, kissing, masturbation, as well as oral and anal sex. These encounters occurred while the boy’s mothers and other family members who believe Jackson was a great family friend were often in a nearby room. These relationships continued for years and included talking on the phone and traveling to various cities staying in great hotels and frequent dinner together with their families. The story is amazing. It is also heart wrenching as we see as adults both men now married with their own young children now struggling with their awareness of what they have gone through. You can imagine how devastating it became not only for them and for their mothers who realized that they had unwittingly allowed their sons to be subject to the most severe deception and molestation.

Although the film was quite convincing, it should be mentioned that there are still Jackson supporters who dispute the veracity of the accounts of these two men. The story was quite riveting and conveyed so well the joys followed by the pain of the young men and the families of those involved.

The film was well done.Perhaps at times it dragged a little, or was too repetitious. However, the viewer cannot help, but be amazed how these two boys and obviously many others were deceived, seduced, and deprived of their childhood innocence by the actions of a man who himself must have been a very damaged person.(2019)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Documentary

Saint Judy

February 20th, 2019 — 4:03pm

*****

Saint Judy-sp

This is a great story. We meet Judy Wood (Michelle Monaghan), a young idealistic attorney who wants to specialize in immigration law. She is overwhelmed being assigned numerous cases by her new boss (Alfred Molina) but she still makes an all-out effort with each of her cases. At the same time, she is a single mom, recently divorced, trying to participate as much as possible in the raising of her young son (Gabriel Bateman). We see her getting fired for not bringing in the big bucks for her law firm. We follow her as she opens a storefront law office as the only attorney with a young intern as her assistant. The story then focuses on one young Afghan woman client, Asefa Ashwari (Leem Lubany) who is seeking asylum in the United States. She had rebelled against the poor treatment of young girls and women in her country by defiantly setting up a school for girls who were not allowed to have an education. She was arrested and received the most horrendous treatment imaginable in jail. She was able to escape to the United States where her plea for asylum is now being considered. If she is denied this request, she will be returned to her native country where she almost certainly will be murdered by her family for her defiant actions.

The realistic courtroom scenes, some of which are held in a small trailer in the prison where she is being detained are absolutely chilling and riveting. The logic of the U.S. law is very clear but heartbreaking.

Tremendous credit must be given to the screenwriter, Dmitry Portnoy, and director and producer, Sean Hanish, who worked hand in hand to get this film made. In fact, it was just about an impossible task to get the financial support for the film until President Trump was elected and this country became aware of the real meaning of the immigration crisis.

But the most amazing thing about this story is that it isn’t a story at all. Judy Wood is actually a real-life person whom the movie so realistically portrays. In fact, we met her at a preview screening along with the director and screenwriter.

This movie has drama, tension, emotion, surprise, great acting that may bring a tear to your eye, and perhaps inspire a young man or woman to decide to become a lawyer. The highest compliment that we can give to it, is to say that it reminded us a little bit of the classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (2019)

Any thoughts or opinions are welcome in the comment section below.

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Crime, Drama

Can You Ever Forgive Me

February 17th, 2019 — 9:42pm

*****

Can You Ever Forgive Me?-sp

When Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a talented writer who profiled famous writers of her time was no longer able to sell her books, she turned to forgery, creating and selling letters in the style of Dorothy Parker, Fanny Brice, Noel Coward and others. She befriended an equally lonely gay man (Richard E. Grant) who for a while helped her with her con artist scheme.

This is a true story based on the memoirs of Ms. Israel with a screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty. The film was directed by Marielle Heller. Ms. McCarthy dominates the screen portraying the very sad life of Ms. Israel. Both her performance and that of Mr. Grant deserved the Oscar nominations which they received for their performances.

As the title implies, you will come away from this cinematic performance with a melancholy feeling, but you also will know you have seen an excellent movie. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Crime, Drama

Icarus

February 6th, 2019 — 1:58am

**** 

Icarus-nf

 The title of this documentary film comes from Greek mythology where Icarus was the son of a man who created a huge maze under the court of King Minos of Crete where a half man half bull creature lived. While the connection to this film may be somewhat convoluted there are at least two characters in the movie who can be viewed as larger than life evil people. One being Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the man who is in charge of the anti-doping lab for Russian athletes and the other I would identify as Russian premier Vladimir Putin who supported and promoted this immoral and illegal activity.

We may have missed the exact details how and why the producer first became connected with Dr. Rodchenkov. It appears that the movie maker Bryan Fogel was an amateur competitive cyclist. He somehow learned that Dr. Rodchenkov located in Russia not only ran the Russian testing labs for Russian athletes but also knew how to have athletes inject themselves with performance enhancing drugs and not be caught when there was subsequent urine testing. We are not sure how and why the good doctor, after several Skype conversations with Bryan Fogel, agreed to teach him how to inject himself and significantly improve his competitive cycling performance.

However this amazing film then goes on to show in vivid documentary form how the Russian competitive athletes who are competing in a variety of international sports including the Olympics regularly, illegally injected themselves with performance enhancing drugs. In addition, Dr. Rodchenkov was the person who designed an elaborate testing procedure for all athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The procedure as it appeared to the outside world was foolproof with several techniques to guard against illegal cheating and manipulation of urine samples. However, in fact, the set-up allowed the Russians to cheat and have their athletes test clear while they were doped up with these illegal drugs. The movie ends with Dr. Rodchenkov going into the witness protection program in the United States and Bryan Fogel producing this award winning, fascinating and very revealing documentary movie. (2017)

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Documentary, Sport

Everybody Knows

February 6th, 2019 — 1:56am

 

***

Everybody Know-sp

Veteran Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi brings together Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz (who happen to be married to each other) to this Spanish film made in Spain.

Laura (Cruz) and her husband (Ricardo Darín) come to Spain from Argentina with their two children to celebrate a family wedding. Things get complicated when their thirteen-year-old daughter is abducted and held for ransom. Why is Paco (Bardem) a close friend, wiling to sell his share of the vineyard to pay the ransom? Who are the kidnappers? The scenery, the acting and the characters are quite attractive and intriguing. In the end however, the storyline was not quite believable but it was an interesting ride. (2019

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign, Romance

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