Plot Summary: At the offices of a Japanese corporation, during a party, a woman, who’s evidently a professional mistress, is found dead, apparently after some rough sex. A police detective, Web Smith is called in to investigate but before getting there, he gets a call from someone who instructs him to pick up John Connor, a former police Captain and expert on Japanese affairs. When they arrive there Web thinks that everything is obvious but Connor tells him that there’s a lot more going on.– Written by email@example.com
Director: Philip Kaufman
Writers: Michael Crichton (novel & screenplay), Philip Kaufman (screenplay), Michael Backes (screenplay)
Stars: Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Harvey Keitel
Serious Jest: (Don’t Bother) The actors are capable across the board, but the story is just very cheesy and often predictable, with some of the plot “twists” not developed enough to make sense.
Plot Summary: Teenagers at a juvenile detention center, under the leadership of their counselor, gain self-esteem by playing football together.
Director: Phil Joanou
Writers: Jeff Maguire, Jac Flanders (film “Gridiron Gang”)
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Xzibit, L. Scott Caldwell
Serious Jest: (Worth Watching) An inspiring true story. As you see in the credits, a significant number of movie quotes came straight from the real Sean Porter, who appears to be white. I guess Hollywood wanted to avoid the white-savior trope, but given how great this real-life story is, they didn’t need to reverse whitewash it…then again, Johnson played the hell out of this role (even if it’s not a huge stretch in range). And if you are a football fan like me, there was plenty of action with good camera work to maximize your enjoyment of the games.
Plot Summary: A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan
Serious Jest:(Must Watch) The film is set mostly in the 1920s, but the hokiness of some of its scenes (although, according to IMDB, “Virtually every event depicted in the film appears as cited in legal documents, with dialog often taken verbatim from court transcripts”) and its sappy score are straight out of the 1990s. However, all of that is overcome by tremendous acting performances, especially from Jolie (but not Eddie Alderson, who was not convincing as Sanford Clark), as well as by the incredible story, which is mostly true.
I can’t believe that this could happen to somebody. This is yet another frightening example of the dangers inherent in handing over unchecked power to any law enforcement organization. If we do not pay attention to history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Additionally, this story reminds me of the value of today’s technology and social media. While many complain about how much easier it is to invade someone’s privacy, it is also a lot easier to expose corruption. Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant…these cases are not a new trend developing amongst police departments. This kind of rampant corruption and abuse of authority has existed for long before anyone can remember. But now we finally have the tools to expose them.
And it’s not just the police. As an attorney, I have personally stopped a mental health professional from wrongfully committing a person to a mental health institution over what basically amounted to a petty verbal argument between the doctor and the patient.
Respect to Straczynski for getting this movie made. This is where filmmaking crosses over into activism. If someone just told you the facts of this case, you might struggle to fathom how this would play out in actuality…how many people would have to screw up, be complicit, or just flat out do nothing to perpetuate this evil…and just how many people would have to decide to do the right thing, even at risk to their own career, financial interests, or even personal safety, in order to unf*ck this mess. This movie very effectively portrays how this unfortunate situation could very plausibly go down…and while there are many more checks and balances today to help prevent some of the previous injustices from happening again, perhaps some who would previously dismiss all police corruption and mental health abuse as wild conspiracy theories might have their minds changed just a little bit by this film.
Plot Summary: A serial killer pins his crimes on two college students who gave him a ride.
Director: Dave Meyers
Writers: Eric Red (screenplay & 1986 film), Jake Wade Wall (screenplay), Eric Bernt (screenplay)
Stars: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton
Serious Jest: (Don’t Bother) According to IMDB, Red was credited as a screenplay writer for this movie, but had no part in writing it (aside from writing the 1986 film). I haven’t seen the 1986 version, but if it was any good, I don’t blame him for wanting to distance himself from this version.
This flick starts strong and features competent performances by good actors (except for Bush’s second-half performance, which gets out of her range, in my opinion; she just hasn’t mastered the thousand-yard stare). However, it’s a lot of build-up for nothing. The effects and action are often hokey, it feels as if some major events were skipped (and not in a good, it’s-better-to-leave-it-to-the-imagination way), and the payoff to the big question throughout the movie is never realized. If I had to describe this film in one word, it would be “senseless.”
Also according to IMDB, “Rutger Hauer, who played the character of John Ryder in the original was offered a cameo, but declined for artistic reasons. Hauer has since said in the press that he has yet to watch the remake, and according to some of his friends he shouldn’t bother.” Smart man.
Plot Summary: A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who’s awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Halsted Welles (screenplay), Michael Brandt (screenplay), Derek Haas (screenplay), and Elmore Leonard (short story)
Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster
Serious Jest: (Worth Watching) This is a very solid film, with a compelling plot and solid cast, featuring two of the most notoriously ill-tempered actors in the business. Who will be the bigger jerk? Watch it and find out!
Also, Foster brings the same leashed intensity that inspired Mark Wahlberg to give up some of his own pay in order to recruit Foster for Lone Survivor. Foster is one of my favorite supporting actors.
You can enjoy this movie as a straightforward classic action Western, or you can delve deeper into the psychological underpinnings, which are spread throughout the movie and which culminate in an ending that can either anger you or inspire a subsequent deep discussion with others who have seen the film.
For Western aficionados, this flick is an instant classic and Must See. For the rest of us, you could live with missing this one, but once you start watching it, you’ll be hooked.
Plot Summary: Living in exile, Hannibal Lecter tries to reconnect with now-disgraced FBI agent Clarice Starling and finds himself a target for revenge from a powerful victim.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Thomas Harris (novel), David Mamet (screenplay), Steven Zaillian (screenplay)
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman
Serious Jest: (Must See) The sequel to The Silence of the Lambs is more creepy than thrilling, and sometimes a little hokey. Moreover, while Moore is an exceptional actress, it just feels different with her playing Starling. Furthermore, the plot is not as sophisticated as SotL.
That being said, the film is entertaining in more of a comedic-horror way. Hopkins is deliciously sinister, the supporting cast is very talented, and there is a classic scene involving the human brain that is worth adding to your pop-culture tool belt. If you’re a fan of Hannibal the Cannibal, you should set aside time to see this flick once, although you shouldn’t go into it with high expectations. If you’re not high on Hannibal, though, this movie will be more of a Worth Watching for you.
Plot Summary: Growing up in a Rio de Janeiro slum, Rocket is able to avoid being drawn into a life of drugs and crime by having a passion for photography.
Director: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund
Serious Jest: (Must Own) I kept hearing that this movie was good, but I never got around to watching it. Having glanced at its cover before, I was expecting something different…more of a sappy romantic tale. Instead, I discovered one of most poignant, suspenseful, exciting, and action-packed tales of a place that I’ve only heard stories about. It catapulted me through a wide range of emotions. Watch this and then try to complain about your “first-world problems.” The City of God is shockingly poor and frighteningly dangerous, yet culturally rich and unexpectedly beautiful.
Meirelles and Lund manage to convey a stark realism through a cast made up largely of actors from Rio favelas who had never acted before, but who stepped up to the task in an amazing way with some intense coaching. The film even features some takes which were not scripted, as well as real coverage from true events. The music masterfully complemented the mood of each scene, while staying true to the beauty of Brazil. The camera work was top-notch (especially for 2002), both in César Charlone‘s skillful employment of the equipment and in the scenery that he captured. Daniel Rezende, the film editor, presented Charlone’s vision at a wonderful intersection of deliberate and thrilling, ensuring that the viewer’s attention stayed captive throughout.
This flick is so good, I wanted to watch it again immediately after the credits rolled the first time around. You will be hooked from the moment the chicken starts running for its life. Make this film the next one you watch.