Rising Sun (1993)

Rising Sun

(R) 2h 9min

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 rcs0411@yahoo.com

Director: Philip Kaufman

Writers: Michael Crichton (novel & screenplay), Philip Kaufman (screenplay), Michael Backes (screenplay)

Stars: Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Harvey Keitel

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (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.



The Wire (2002-2008)



Plot Summary: Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers, and law enforcement.

Creator: David Simon

Stars: Dominic West, John Doman, Deirdre Lovejoy

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must Own)  This is, quite simply, one of the best television shows ever done.  It dramatizes real Baltimore issues, using characters based on real Baltimore people, but the topics are universal.  Each season has its own spin, and you can trace the rise of technology throughout this critical period in world history.

From afar, the series appears depressing: drug dealers and users, overworked and underfunded police officers, politicians (doesn’t even need an adjective), underequipped educators, and newspapers on the brink of becoming obsolete.  But it’s much more than just a bleeding-heart expose on how bleak our Nation’s urban centers are; there are very entertaining stories here, with great multiple plotlines.

The actors skillfully bring out a superb script, which is extremely impressive given that, according to IMDB, many of the minor characters are played by real-life police officers, politicians and former criminals. In fact, many of the former criminals who act on the show were previously arrested by the real-life cops who act on the show!  There are too many great performances to list every one, but my favorites are (in no particular order): Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield, a real Machavellian motherf*cker; West as James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty, an anti-hero who drinks and whores like a pirate; Michael K. Williams as Omar Little, basically a gay Robin Hood who robs drug dealers; Idris Elba as Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell, thug businessman; Chad L. Coleman as Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise, an unlikely people’s champion; Gbenga Akinnagbe as Chris Partlow and Felicia Pearson as Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson, the hood-assassin versions of Batman and Robin; and Aidan Gillen as Thomas ‘Tommy’ Carcetti, an aggressive politician who desperately tries to toe the line between his ideals and his ambitions.

I couldn’t think of how this series could have been better until I read on IMDB: “The writers/producers briefly considered doing a sixth season about the influx of Latinos into Baltimore.  But none of them knew enough about Baltimore’s Latino population to write about it so the idea was dropped.”  Damn, that would have been great.

In the Cut (2003)

(R) 119 mins

(R) 119 mins

Plot Summary: After getting entwined in an affair with the police detective who’s investigating the murder of a young woman in her New York City neighborhood, insular schoolteacher Frannie Avery begins to suspect that her lover was involved in the crime.

Cast: Meg RyanMark RuffaloJennifer Jason LeighNick DamiciSharrieff PughKevin BaconYaani KingHeather Litteer

Director: Jane Campion

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  Halfway through the movie, I still wasn’t sure what it was about, and the twist was pretty predictable…but the acting was top notch, the dialogue was solid, and some scenes were so steamy that I recommend you watch this with your significant other.

Bad Ass (2012)

(R) 90 mins

Plot Summary: A Vietnam veteran who becomes a local hero after saving a man from attackers on a city bus decides to take action when his best friend is murdered and the police show little interest in solving the crime.

Director: Craig Moss

Writers: Craig MossElliot Tishman

Stars: Danny TrejoCharles S. Dutton and Ron Perlman

Serious Jest:  (Worth Watching)  This is a straightforward OG-shows-these-young-bucks-what’s-up flick, but it’s pretty entertaining.  Although some of the events are cheesy and/or ridiculous, they seem to be deliberate camp.  Trejo is extremely likeable, and this is one of those times that you can actually root for his character instead of just admire how thorough he is.  In contrast to the rest of the dialogue, which is so corny it’s actually funny (again, I suspect it’s purposefully campy), the insults hurled between Trejo and John Duffy are conventionally witty and hilarious.  This is a good movie to throw in during a hurricane party–assuming your power’s not out–like I did during Sandy.

Life (2007-2009)


Plot Summary: A former police officer returns to the force after having been wrongly imprisoned for years.

Creator: Rand Ravich

Stars: Damian LewisSarah Shahi and Adam Arkin

Serious Jest:  (Casual Watch)  This show’s concept was brilliant.  The cast was mostly awesome (especially Lewis, with outstanding supporting performances by Garret Dillahunt and Gabrielle Union).  After the first episode, I thought for sure that this would be a 5-mug show.  Unfortunately, over its 2 seasons, it turned out to be a mix of great creativity without the attention to detail and follow-through necessary to bring it to its full potential.  The overall storylines and individual-episode plots were interesting, unique, and entertaining, and the dialogue was even pretty witty.  I even liked the Buddhist voice-overs with lessons relevant to each episode.  However, too many scenes seemed hokey and/or contrived.  It felt like a bunch of effort and intelligence was spent on thinking up concepts for intriguing and entertaining characters and stories, but little effort was spent on fitting that creativity into a believable story.  If your show is about police and murders, you should probably research some of that subject.  For example, somebody needed to tell the directors and writers that it is not always appropriate for a policeman to draw his weapon in every circumstance.  Although this series did not live up to its full potential, it was entertaining, and I did not feel that my time was wasted watching it.

Edison Force (2005)

(R) 97 mins

Plot Summary: Justin Timberlake, in his feature-film debut, stars as a reporter fresh from journalism school who uncovers a hot story of lies and deception within the Edison police department, and does everything in his power to unravel it.

Additional Cast: Morgan FreemanKevin SpaceyLL Cool JDylan McDermottJohn HeardCary ElwesRoselyn SanchezPiper Perabo

Director: David J. Burke

Serious Jest:  (Worth Watching)  This film was surprisingly mediocre, given its all-star cast.  We’ve all seen this plot done before, and there was nothing very distinguishing about the way that this movie was written.  Additionally, the audio/visual quality gave it the feel of a B movie, instead of one loaded with A-List actors.  Some of the dialogue and action was hokey, as well.  And more character development might have helped me to care more about the characters…except in the case of LL Cool J & Roselyn Sanchez: LL actually stole the show with his best performance I’ve seen, and Sanchez once again delivers “The Girlfriend Experience” (see my review of The Dilemma for an explanation, as applied to Jennifer Connelly).  Also, there are some very cool action scenes, like the opening one, which sets a very high bar that, unfortunately, the movie later fails to uphold…too bad, because at the beginning of the film, I thought I’d found a hidden gem of a movie.  All in all, this flick is worth watching because its cast is awesome, and the actors look like they’re having fun with their roles, especially Morgan Freeman, who even shows us some of his dance floor moves.  Also, as a lawyer, the following quote rang very true to me: “Justice is a lot like journalism.  Sometimes the most important questions are the ones you decide not to ask.”

El Rescate Perfecto (2009)

43 mins

Watch it for free at Hulu!

Studio: Imagina US

Plot Summary: This documentary relives the dramatic success of one of the most exciting rescue missions in recent history, to liberate from the clutches of the guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) 15 hostages, including 3 U.S. citizens and former Columbian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.  The film includes accurate dramatizations of some of the events, in collaboration with the Columbian Army.  The stunning interviews of former hostages Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, and Corporal William Perez tell of the conflicts and suffering that the hostages lived through before being rescued.

Serious Jest:  (Must See)  This documentary is completely in Spanish, without a subtitle option, but for Spanish-speakers, the story is too good to pass up.  The conflict between FARC and the Columbian government is fascinating by itself.  In 2008, FARC held up to an estimated 40% of Columbian territory, having expelled the Columbian police and army from these mostly-jungle-and-mountainous areas, and sustaining itself with involvement in the drug trade, agribusiness, robberies, and kidnappings.  As if that wasn’t enough of a black eye to the Columbian government, FARC managed to kidnap a Columbian presidential candidate from a high-class family, with heavy ties to the French government, during her campaign!  The details of this rescue mission are unique, and may lead to a discussion about ethics in the way that it was conducted, particularly in the use of a humanitarian-organization disguise.  Did the ends justify the means?

If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t worry.  I’m sure that Hollywood will make a movie about these events at some point in the future.  In the meantime, you can read Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Columbian Jungle, a book by the 3 U.S. citizens about their capture, captivity, and rescue.

Fargo (1996)

(R) 98 mins

Synopsis: Jerry Lundegaard’s inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen’s bungling and the persistent police work of pregnant Marge Gunderson.

Director: Joel CoenEthan Coen (uncredited)

Writers: Ethan CoenJoel Coen

Stars: William H. MacyFrances McDormand and Steve Buscemi

Serious Jest:  (Must See)  What an introduction to Minnesota!  This one’s a classic.  Like most Coen Brothers flicks, there is a slow-but-deliberate, suspenseful pace to this movie, with dark comedic undertones, and a heavily incorporated setting through scenery and culture.  It often has the feel of a Western, but set in a winter wasteland.  The dialogue is extremely witty and engrossing, and the characters are terrifically quirky and interesting.  Every one of the excellent actors in this film nail their roles, from Macy (who, according to IMDB, basically resorted to stalking to get his role), to Peter Stormare (whose non-verbal acting was downright impressive), to Larissa Kokernot (Hooker #1)…however, McDormand stole the show with her “Minnesota Nice” demeanor–Chief Gunderson is one pregnant woman you don’t want to mess with!  Disregard the text at the beginning of the film claiming that it is based on a true story; according to IMDB, the Coen Brothers admitted that they threw that out there to make viewers more willing to suspend disbelief.  My one complaint about the movie is that it seems to disregard police jurisdictional issues.  Otherwise, this is a solid film, which you should make time at some point in your life to see.

Kiss of Death (1995)

(R) 101 mins

Synopsis: Ex-con Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) wants to put a whole lot of distance between himself and his past. But when his cousin, Ronny (Michael Rapaport), shows up begging for help with one more heist, Jimmy agrees. Of course, things go sour (big surprise!), and Jimmy is the de facto fall guy. All he can do is play the pawn in a police plot to bring down a psychotic gangster named Little Junior (Nicolas Cage).

Additional Cast: Samuel L. JacksonHelen HuntKathryn ErbeStanley TucciVing RhamesPhilip Baker HallAnthony HealdAngel DavidJohn CostelloeAnne MearaLindsay J. WrinnMegan L. WrinnKatie Sagona

Director: Barbet Schroeder

Serious Jest:  (Must See)  Even after more than 15 years, this is a solid film, with a compelling plot, a suspenseful story, and a plethora of great actors bringing to life entertaining dialogue in a captivating script.  In fact, the characters played by Cage, Rapaport, Caruso, Jackson, Tucci, and Hunt are among my favorite roles in which I have seen those actors.   It is not the type of movie you watch again and again, but you should make the time to watch it once.

Striking Distance (1993)

(R) 103 mins

Synopsis: Coming from a police family, Tom Hardy ends up fighting his uncle after the murder of his father.

Starring: Bruce WillisSarah Jessica Parker

Supporting actors: Dennis FarinaTom SizemoreBrion JamesRobert PastorelliTimothy BusfieldJohn MahoneyAndre BraugherTom AtkinsMike Hodge,Jodi LongRoscoe OrmanRobert GouldGareth WilliamsEd HooksLawrence MandleyJulianna McCarthySally WigginAndrea MartinSuzanne Vafiadis,Ken Rice

Directed by: Rowdy Herrington

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Serious Jest:  (Don’t Bother)  This movie was very generic, relying on popular actors and big explosions/action sequences to distract the audience from a weak plot and script.  Also, those flashy effects are presented with a total disregard for realism, like when two cars crash and explode into a huge fireball.  The only way you enjoy watching this is by laughing at the crap Hollywood got away with in the 90s.