Sunday, March 24, 2019

REVIEWS 3.24.2019

ZULU (2013) Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker in a brutally violent cop drama set in South Africa where the rule of law is sparsely applied in the cities and nonexistent out in the boonies. This has everything you want and need in a good policier. Corruption, justice denied and two broken cops looking to make at least one thing right. Wish it had subtitles though. That Afrikaans accent is unforgiving.

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MYSTERY ROAD is an Aussie crime TV series based off the excellent movie of a few years ago. Aaron Pederson returns as a detective sent out to the wall-to-wall f***-all of the Outback to solve the mystery of a strange disappearance. He's joined by local sheriff Judy Davis. Pederson is terrific as always. He's fast becoming a favorite for his various roles in crime and action stories set in Oz. Especially his role in the JACK IRISH series. And Judy Davis is always fun with her brittle charm and trademark smirk. My only quibble with this first season is that it needed a secondary crime sub-plot to pick up the pace and provide a bit more depth to the environment.

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HAPPY EASTER (1984) Energetic serial adulterer Belmondo picks up a teen-aged Sophie Marceau at the airport when his wife is out of town for Easter weekend. When the wife arrives home unexpectedly, Belmondo makes up a preposterous series of lies centered on Sophie being his daughter from a previous relationship. But the poor dope has to keep all those fibs in the air for two days when his wife insists that Sophie spend the weekend with them. VERY funny nonsense ensues with his wife and "daughter" playing him to the point of psychosis. Even translated, Belmondo's over-elaborate lies are hysterical and his comic timing broad but effective. And, being a JPB movie, there's a few great car stunts directed by Remy Julliene with Belmondo behind the wheel for all of them.

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STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK (2018) This one makes me wish I HAD picked a Jenifer Aniston movie. An ambush at a police funeral has the local militia scrambling to uncover which one of them is guilty in order to clear the rest of them of murder charges. Could have been the start of a brutal action movie. Instead it's a gab-fest of characters all speaking in the same voice in an alternate reality where no one reacts as a normal human being would. Zero suspense. Zero humor. Zero humanity. What the movie IS populated with is loads of faux drama, painful exposition, contrivances, contradictions and coincidences. It has one good line that I'm convinced was lifted from somewhere else.

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STATE AND MAIN (2000) David Mamet wrote and directed this clever comedy about a Hollywood film crew arriving at a small town in Vermont. The question throughout the film is, who will corrupt who? Mamet manages to balance a cynical look at movie business politics and a truly sweet romance story. Alec Baldwin, Sara Jessica Parker, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Rebecca Pidgeon lead a great cast in an often laugh-out-loud series of vignettes that tie together to tell a greater story of deceit, lies, compromise and corruption.

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THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (1957) Hardy Kruger is terrific in the lead of this POW flick in the true story of Franz Von Werra, a captured Luftwaffe pilot who was the only German prisoner to successfully escape the English and return to the Reich. Well-done "boys own adventure" approach to the story with lots of suspenseful moments. Werra's crossing of the St. Lawrence River in the dead of winter is particularly harrowing.

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ANTHONY ZIMMER (2005) Sophie Marceau is on the run as the authorities close in on her mysterious drug lord husband. She picks out a random patsy to act as a stand-in and target for the cops and the mafiya thugs hunting for hubby. But that's just the start of this stylish thriller loaded with one turn, twist and reversal after another. Often reminiscent of classic Hitchcock, a tone that's helped along by a very Bernard Herrmanesque score. Once again, that Gallic moral ambivalence at the heart of the movie makes this kind of story click.

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CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION (2001) Woody Allen writes and directs a throwback Hollywood comedy. He's an insurance investigator in 1940 Manhattan with a bitter hatred for the firm's new efficiency expert played by Helen Hunt. Things heat up when Woody falls prey to a hypnotist who turns him into a jewel thief. Light as a feather entertainment and, surprisingly, not played as an homage. Woody resists doing his, always funny, Bob Hope riff and plays this as his own vulnerable nebbish character. A great cast with Charlize Theron a standout, vamping it up as the movie's would-be femme fatale.

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DIABOLIQUEMENT VÔTRE/DIABOLICALLY YOURS (1967) Alain Delon awakens from a coma with amnesia and doesn't remember being married to Senta Berger. That should be his first clue that something's not right. But HAS he lost his memory or is he faking it? And why are his memories different from what his wife and best friend are telling him? The truth unfolds and secrets are unmasked as Delon's memory returns. But he doesn't like what he's recalling. Not sure why the French are so adept at this brand of psycho-drama. maybe it has something to do with moral ambivalence.Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting


THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974) Warren Beatty as a recklessly curious reporter in this assassination thriller that taps into the zeitgeist of America following a decade of political murders that re-shaped the country's narrative. The movie eschews politics for paranoia. One target is an independent, the other a Republican. This movie had a lot of influence on me as a writer as it slyly works in only enough exposition to carry the story and leaves it to the viewer to fill in the rest. It's also shot in a style that often removes us just out of view of the action, like a witness on the scene might be. This only serves to draw us in further. It's also that rare thriller in which the bad guy is faceless and nameless. The closest comparison I can think of is Coppola's THE CONVERSATION. Beatty is ably supported by a fine cast including Paula Prentiss, Hume Cronyn and William Daniels.

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PAPARAZZI (2004) Cole Hauser as an action movie star plagued by a gang of paparazzi led by psychotic Tom Sizemore. This movie has a real 80s vibe even down to the music and is presented as more of a pastiche than an earnest thriller. Like it was programmed to be run on Saturday afternoons on AMC. Though, from the gonzo plotline, it's not hard to see why it was greenlit by Mel Gibson's production company. Mel even provides a brief but funny cameo.

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TRIPLE FRONTIER (2019) In this Netflix production, five combat vets go to the dangerous Tr-Border Region in South America to kill and rob a drug lord. What could have been a tired exercise in action movie tropes becomes a rich, old school, he-man adventure. Unlike so many recent films, we learn what need to know about these characters through their actions. The dialogue is slyly written and delivered and, on the surface the guys speak in platitudes and pat phrases. But there's a sub-text to their exchanges that the actors put across to provide a deeper meaning behind their words and let us in on the bonds, forged in the past, that hold them together. Even in the action, he filmmakers avoid the current de rigueur cliches. These guys are GOOD at their jobs and MURDER their opponents. No faux suspense, back-and-forth, "will they triumph? scenes. The tension in the story grows from the audacity of their plan and the very real risk that it might fail due to a bad decision on their own part or plain bad luck.
I had that increasingly rare "I'm watching a MOVIE!" feeling throughout.
The pedigree shows here. The director did the excellent MARGIN CALL and the writer worked on THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY.
The biggest revelation for me here was Ben Affleck. I've never been a fan.But something has happened on his way to this movie. He is excellent in a role that is restrained and draws you in with every subtle tick and gesture. For the first time ever, I see total conviction in Affleck's eyes.

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