Category: Crime


The Double Hour

April 23rd, 2011 — 9:28pm

***

The Double Hour sp– This Italian film with English subtitles is billed as a romance, a robbery and a mystery and the movie itself is given a subtitle of “nothing is what it seems” That about sums up this well done thriller. You are not sure what is real.  Is it a dream? Is it the main character ‘s mind playing tricks on her or is something else going on here? This reminds us a little bit of the outstanding French film Tell No One which we saw a couple years back. Director Giuseppe Capotondi in his first full feature film initially establishes the story through the eyes of Sonia (Ksenia Rappaort) an attractive hotel chamber maid who is shown connecting with Giudo ( Filippo Timi) after a session of speed dating although you may have some doubts as to what your eyes are really seeing. In the second half of movie we realize we are seeing things from Guido’s point of view as he thinks that he understands the reality of things. While the storyline will dip into the unconscious in more than one way, it doesn’t really give us any Freudian psychodynamics. Needless to say this is the kind of a movie that you will probably understand better the second time you see it but we think once is a enough if you pay close attention. The movie was chosen for distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films at the Toronto Film Festival by Head of Acquisitions Peter Goldwyn ( grandson of Sam )  who is betting that word of mouth will move this film around the art houses and boutique theatres that show the best of the foreign films. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign

Henry’s Crime

April 1st, 2011 — 6:28am

****

Henry’s Crime-sp  Henry (Keanu Reeves) is sort of a nebish, stumbling through life as a toll collector on what seemed to be the New York State Thruway,  in a a loveless marriage to Debbie ( Judy Greer). He just seems to have no purpose in life.  Through no fault of his own, he ends up in jail for a crime he really didn’t commit and serves a year in the clinker. He meets Max  (James Caan) an old timer who was once a con or  “confidence” guy who isn’t even sure he wants out on parole even if he could. Henry’s life is about to change after Julie (Vera Farmiga in a great spirited performance) an actress rehearsing for a play in Buffalo runs into him in a chance meeting. Shortly before this meeting Henry has found a goal in life as nefarious as it might be. There is a play within the movie and a Chekhov play at that, which is driven by love, emotion and suspense. At the same time the life of the characters are filled with suspense, drama, passion and the fun of a heist movie plot. Director Malcolm Venville in his second feature film and American debut, seamlessly moves back and forth between these two dimensions  building to a great movie climax in which we heard out loud reactions from the  audience watching the play within the movie  as well as from our audience viewing this screening. Our reaction was very positive and we recommend that this movie not be missed. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Crime, Romance

Conviction

October 8th, 2010 — 7:54am


*****

Conviction sp- This is  a true story of a man convicted of a bloody murder in a Boston suburb in the 1980s .  There are witnesses who say that he told him he did it and there is blood typing evidence (this is before DNA analysis) which strongly suggests it was him. The only thing going for him is his sister who is sure that he didn’t do it. You have seen this relatively simple plot play out many times on television on Dateline, 20/20 or on similar programs. The only difference here is that you have another magnificent performance by Hillary Swank playing Betty Anne Waters who is going to take the next 18 years of her life completing High School, going to college and then law school in order to see if there is way to get her brother his freedom. You also have Sam Rockwell, playing the  brother Kenny,  in a performance that should earn him an Academy Award nomination. The screen play by Pamela Gray and  the direction by Tony Goldwyn gives us pieces of their childhood which clarifies their great devotion to each other. The struggle of Betty Ann to become a lawyer and her determination to find the evidence that would be the key to saving her brother allows us to understand this person. Her interaction with Kenny similarly provides insight into his pain and bravado.  The difficult lives of the people in the community where this happened and the very questionable actions of the police and district attorney Martha Coakley (who subsequently was defeated in the recent  US Senate race in Massachusetts to replace Kennedy)  was brought out by a stunning performance of Juliette Lewis who played one of the witnesses who recounts what really happened to make her testify against Kenny. We had the good fortune to meet at our preview screening Swank, Rockwell, Lewis, the real life Betty Anne Waters and her good friend and fellow law student Abra Rice who was well played in the movie by Minnie Driver. They confirmed that truth is stranger and at times more unbelievable than fiction. I recall reading about the well known lawyer Barry Scheck, who was depicted in this movie, and wondering about his decision to devote his career to  the Innocence Project where the new science of DNA matching is applied to old crimes. It turns out that over 250 innocent people have been freed from prison due to his efforts. There is one particular line in this film stands out in this regard as Swank as Betty Ann remarks that if Massachusetts had the death penalty her brother would have been killed before she had chance to make a case for his innocence. Swank, speaking for herself at our screening told how making this movie allowed her to understand the unique life affirming experience that these people went through. Watching this film also gave the audience the opportunity to share this journey.(2010)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama, History

The Town

September 27th, 2010 — 6:45am

****

The Town rmThe Boston Police Department is not going to like this movie. Ben Affleck obviously dove head first into this film, being director, lead actor and co-writer. His character Doug MacRay is a home grown product of Charlestown section of Boston where there have been more bank robbers per capita than any other place in the U.S.A. He and his buddy James Coughlin played by Jeremy Renner and a bunch of other guys blast open the movie pulling off one of those heists. There is plenty of action in this movie including one of best car chase scenes that we have seen since Gene Hackman in The French Connection quite a while ago. You really get to know and understand MacRay and can’t help caring about him and rooting for his relationship with Claire Keesy (Rebecca Hall) the bank manager of the opening robbery who end up being sympathetic bed fellows. Casting Jon Hamm    (of tv Mad Man fame) was a great choice as the opposing FBI agent along with Titus Welliver (the “bad” DA in The Good Wife tv series) who is his trusty assistant. The entire cast of characters is quite believable which is a tribute to their great acting, fast pace and the outstanding directing by Affleck who kept us on the edge of our seats. There also is a sensitive insight into how in some communities and families, young people get drawn into a life of crime from which it is very hard to extract themselves. The question is whether you can suspend reality and swallow the story line when the band of thieves faces down the entire Boston PD including  their SWAT teams and our hero ultimately attempts to do a payback to his beloved town.(2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Crime, Drama, Romance

The Visitor

September 9th, 2010 — 8:51am

The Visitor* * * *
The Visitor
– nf – When a movie is able to shine a fresh emotional and insightful light on some aspect of the immigrant issues in this country, it deserves our attention. Screenwriter and director Thomas McCarthy brings this film to us shortly after bringing out the acclaimed The Station Agent. In this current movie we have Walter Vale who is a depressed, isolated widowed economics professor at a Connecticut college. He comes to Manhattan to deliver a paper at NYU and finds a young couple from Syria and Senegal living in his rarely used flat. Tarek, the young man portrayed by a new comer Haaz Sleiman, plays the African drum and connects with Vale who has yearning to create music perhaps because his late wife was pianist. As the professor finds that he has a knack for playing these drum rhythms, the story also focuses on the evolution of this character who is played by veteran actor Richard Jenkins, well known especially for his work on the TV series Six Feet Under. In the commentary on the Netflix DVD, Jenkins said that he waited a lifetime for a role such as this one . The immigrant issue erupts when Tarek, on a fluke, is picked up by the police and placed in a detention center. This devastates his girl friend Zainab sensitively played by Danai Guriria in her first role since NYU acting school. Rounding out the mix is an experienced actress Hiam Abbasses as Tarek’s mother who comes from Michigan when her son stops his daily phone calls while locked up. We see how the mother and girl friend are even afraid to visit Tarek since they are all “illegal” The emotional interplay between these four actors is outstanding as their characters represent people from three different cultures. The disruption and destruction of hopes and aspiration of the three non-citizens is expressed in a memorable scene which Jenkins releases his pent-up emotions which is reminiscent of the well known frustrating outcry of Peter Finch in the 1971 movie Network . You come away from this film not with any answers but with a sense of the pain of the people who are living these scenarios every day. 2008

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Musical, Romance

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

September 9th, 2010 — 7:01am

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - 2010* * * *
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
– nf – This is the Swedish portrayal of the first of the three popular novels by Stieg Larsson. There is an American film of this novel due out in 2011. One of us read the trilogy and the other did not. When you have read the book, you are aware of all the subplots, relationships, twists and turns that are left out and of course you pretty much know how the mystery is solved. With a few exceptions, the movie followed the book fairly closely. The one of us who didn’t read the book was pretty much able to keep track of the somewhat complicated plot and the various Vanger family members which could be a tad confusing. The male lead here is not a crusty or a brilliant detective but rather an investigative journalist by the name of Mikael Bolmkvist (Michael Nyqvist) who has just been convicted of libel with a pending jail sentence and has been asked to investigate the disappearance of a the niece of wealthy Henrik Vanger which occurred about 40 years before. The female lead is not the typical beautiful women you might expect to see in this situation but rather a very unusual 26 year old girl name Lispeth Sallander (Noomi Rapce), boyish, attractive, body piercings, dresses in black, rides a motorcycle. and has the huge dragon tattoo on her back. As a child she has had some type of psychiatric care and requires a guardian to manage her finances but is a brilliant computer hacker and has a photographic memory. There is violence, sex and nudity at times in combination but all in the service of the plot, not overdone, but enough to clearly deserve the R rating. The story will pull you in and the direction by Niels Arden Oplev captures the gamut from the beautiful outdoors in Sweden to the effects of painful violence. Despite it being almost 2 and half hours, the film does not drag at all. If you like this movie and are a fan of the late Stieg Larsson who didn’t get a chance to see the great success of his work, there are two more Swedish movies in the can which complete his trilogy and then there is the American version of the first book which is coming out next year. I also heard that additional stories were found on the author’s computer. The Netflix DVD which we viewed had an interview with Noomi Rapace who was quite impressive as she described how she approached her role and inhabited Lispeth for 1 1/2 years while the three films were being made. 2009

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign, Mystery, Thriller

The Hangover

September 8th, 2010 — 8:10am

The Hangover* *
The Hangover
– nf – We know that this movie won a Golden Globe for the Best Comedy. We also know that young people ( probably mostly guys ) about to get married or those who just got married find this film really cool and quite funny. We even laughed and thought some parts were quite creative and amusing! However we can’t really recommend that you spend 96 minutes with this movie unless of course you just want to chill out and fantasize a bachelor party – out on the town in Las Vegas! The premise here is that 4 guys from LA take a car ride to Vegas because one of them is getting married in a few days. They get wasted and drugged. When three of them wake up in their hotel suite they can’t remember what happened the previous night, find a tiger and a baby in the room but the groom to be is missing. And that is not the half of it. !! The three guys ( Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper) bounce all over Las Vegas trying to find their buddy and they end up finding out a couple of other things that they have no idea had happened to them while they were whacked out of their minds.. Maybe at least one of the characters discovers something worthwhile about himself that he didn’t realize before. Unless this storyline is really up your alley, we suggest that you pass on it. 2009

Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Crime

Casino Jack

September 6th, 2010 — 8:42am

Kevin Spacey* * *
Casino Jack
– sp – Jack Abramoff was a very successful but very greedy Washington lobbyist who now sits in a federal jail serving out his 4 year prison term scheduled to released later this year. Director George Hickenlooper had the idea to tell his story and enlisted writer Norman Snider to put together the screenplay based on the facts of this true story.

Hickenlooper spent 30 hours visiting Abramoff in prison to gather as much information as possible to add to their study of the historical documents upon which this movie was based. Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey who plays Abramoff participated in one of these five jailhouse visits and he apparently hit it off quite well with the protagonist despite their being at opposite poles of the political spectrum. If you know the widely reported story of how Abramoff took excessive fees from multiple Indian tribes, was involved with shady business deals and paid off congressmen, landing at least one in jail and causing Tom Delay majority leader of Senate to quit this position and his Senate seat, you may be a little bored as the details are played out. On the other hand, many viewers will be getting a great history lesson at the same time that they are seeing a very well done movie. Barry Pepper is sufficiently nefarious in looks and deeds as Michael Scanlon, Abramoff’s partner who deserved more than he got for punishment. Jon Lovitz plays an almost completely serious role as a not so smart and crooked enough to end up in jail, business associate of Abramoff. Political junkies will love this movie. You can’t help coming away from seeing it without wondering how can we let our political system continue to function without reigning in lobbyists. Hickenlooper related an incident, which he touches upon at the end of the film, where while in jail anticipating his release shortly before the upcoming 2010 elections Abramoff has expressed a desire to collaborate with the Democrats and reveal information that he knows about the Republicans in order to hurt them in this and future elections. While this film is scheduled for wide release and distribution prior to the November election, there is also another movie coming out at the same time about Abramoff, which is an actual documentary and may have the same name as this one. Instead of Kevin Spacey that one will star the real Abramoff. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Crime, Thriller

The Lovely Bones

January 16th, 2010 — 2:44am

The Lovely Bones* * *
The Lovely Bones
– sp – Early in the film, narrator of the story tells you what everyone who has read the book already knows and that is that she has been murdered at age 14 and she will not get a chance to live out the life to which she was looking forward. The movie shows her in the space between living on earth and heaven while she waits for things to be resolved. It was very easy for us to identify with 1970s family and watch the unimaginable horror that they felt after the disappearance and evidence of the killing of their daughter and then to see it dissolve into what we shrinks call complicated grief. The young girl played by Saoirse Ronan an Irish actress with no accent at all who was 13 during the making of the film radiated all the freshness and anticipation that you would hope a youngster would have at that stage of life. That made the tragedy of her murder all the more difficult as we saw the glimmers of her first love never to be realized during her lifetime. However Director and Producer Peter Jackson was intent on making this more than just a good 10 pm Special Victims Unit or CSI TV show. The script that he, his wife Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens wrote based on the popular novel by Alice Sebold created a beautiful ethereal existence for our lost soul where she observes the struggles of her family and the mystery of her unsolved murder. Jackson then brings the special effects for which he is known as other characters in this special place are also introduced. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz are on the mark as the parents and Stanley Tucci is the villain that is any parent’s nightmare. Executive Producer Ken Kamins related that to his surprise the movie “tested off the charts” with young teenage girls who obviously identified with the 14 year old victim and her aspirations and maybe even more so with her younger sister who we see grow to age 18 and become a heroine in her own right. While the movie provided suspense and held our interest, we were too much in pain to even be happy when she eventually makes it to heaven. (2009)

Rachel Weisz

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Crime, Drama

Ghosts of Mississippi

January 16th, 2010 — 1:56am

Ghosts of Mississippi* * * *
Ghosts of Mississippi
– nf – Michael stumbled on this movie on HBO which is available on Netflix. Initially I thought it was another Law & Order or Cold Case TV program. I may have seen before but am very glad I came across it. This 1996 stunning movie directed by Rob Reiner is the story of the persistence of a Jackson Mississippi Assistant District Attorney, played by Alec Baldwin, to retry white supremacist Bryon De La Beckwith played by James Woods who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of this despicable man who assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1963. Whoopie Goldberg plays Myrlie Evers the widow who never gave up her quest to see justice served for this crime and actually was a consultant for this film. The cast also included James Nelson, William Macy and Virginia Madsen. The film was made two years after the front-page courtroom drama, which rectified the failure of two previous trials 30 years previously. It is a reminder of the racism, which existed in the south, at that time and how there are persistent remnants of it. But it also showed how there was change in an evolving south and in our justice system. The American Film Institute in 2008 chose the courtroom scene to be included in its all time list of best courtroom movie scenes. The entire film should be mandatory viewing for new law graduates and probably even for all high school students. The movie certainly touched my emotions. (1996)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama

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