The Killers

“Sylvester, unless you want to renew your partnership with the late Johnny North, I suggest you tell us everything and anything we want to know.”

These are the words whispered into the ear of Sylvester by Charlie Storm, played by the timeless badass Lee Marvin. Originally adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story in 1946, The Killers was actually a TV movie that was deemed to violent for the small screen, which then saw it’s release in theaters.

There are a few differences from the two adaptions, in which many view this as the superior of the two.

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The Plot 

  • Two contract killers, Charlie Storm and Lee, are paid to kill Johnny North, a high school teacher and former race car driver who is told ahead of time that the hit men were coming for him, yet he doesn’t try and escape.
  • Charlie, unable to understand why North didn’t try to escape before they got there, looks to investigate Johnny’s past.
  • In their investigation, they find out North was involved with a woman named Sheila, who was the mistress of a mob boss, Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan). They cut their ties once Johnny discovered this, yet offers to help them pull a heist on a bank,
  • As the truth is coming together, the killers have turned front the hunters to the hunted.

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What I Liked

  • As a fan of director Don Seigel, I can see how he started to formulate his own directing style in this early work. He’s methodical in his pacing and really expoitls the violent nature of his characters in the blink of an eye.
  • The complexity of Johnny North felt authentic. He’s a man driven not by passion but blind love, and he sacrificed his own common sense to obtain his desires.
  • The character of Lee was an ntereguing one. He comes of as psychopathic yet we don’t see much malicious tendencies. Almost as if he really believes murder is just an everyday occurrence and it’s funny to him. Not complex by any means, but a nice twist to the story.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Ronald Reagan was a terrible choice to play the mob boss. He made a living in Hollywood playing likable characters. The role he played in this film was utterly unconvincing and would have altered my view of this film greatly had he gotten more screen time.

Should You See It?

  • Absolutely! As a matter of fact, you can watch it right below.

She’s So Lovely

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Directed by Nick Cassavetes and written by his late father John Cassavetes, a pioneer in the independent film sector, She’s So Lovely tells the story that makes us wonder just how strong love really is.

“Would you continue to love your partner if they were a homicidal maniac that’s been locked up in solitary confinement for 10 years” is how Nick approached this question. This film is part melodrama and in many ways a black romantic comedy, because we can see how love does indeed make fools of us all. It makes us “rock the boat.”

The Plot

  • Like so many of Cassavetes’ films, we have a woman named Maureen, the eccentric and hard nosed lover of Eddie (Sean Penn), a personality equal to that of Maureen Robin Wright Penn), who hasn’t come home in three days.
  • When her neighbor Kiefer (James Gandolfini) invites her in for a drink to calm her down, he gets to drunk and sexually assaults her. Eddie shows up a day later, but he isn’t told the truth.
  • A couple more and Maureen tells Eddie what happened.  He brutally beats Kiefer, goes and gets drunk at a bar because Maureen didn’t tell him the truth from the beginning and accidentally shoots an emergency response member in a drunken tirade.
  • After spending 10 years in solitary confinement, Eddie is released and is told that Maureen is married to man named Joey (John Travolta) and has two children with him, but also has a child from her’s and Eddie’s past.
  • Eddie arrives at Maureen’s, giving her an ultimatum to come back to her or stay.

What I Liked 

  • The film attempted to keep the spirit of a true Cassavetes feature that shows us that all families are dysfunctional, and most times irrational. Why? Because we’re human beings. Irrationalism is the centerpiece of why we make decisions, be it for ourselves or loved ones.
  • The casting was every underrated. This is a film that casted a handful of actors who are viewed as borderline insane for their craft and the characters they played. Watching them all gel together was humorous, but in a good way.
  • I also like how the movie was reference in an episode of Entourage.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The film seemed to lack a real resolution. Yes, in the ending we have a decision, only after a bizarre 40 minutes of her contemplating her indecisiveness.
  • The film felt too fast paced. Cassavetes’ films would span hours because he wanted to show real human emotion go up and down. Here, it’s too fast to really empathize with any one chacter.

Should You See It?

  • This is not a movie for everyone. Most of you will probably shut it off within 4o minutes, despite it only being about an hour and a half. If you enjoy watching whacked out characters and nonsensical romance that still makes more sense than romance movies today, then check it out.

The Long Goodbye

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Raymond Chandler is one of the most iconic mystery writers the world has ever witnessed. His prose is so vivid in documenting the landscape and hallucinating atmosphere of Los Angeles  that you felt as if  you were living under the California sun. His hardboiled, no nonsense detective Philip Marlowe has become the quintessential for aspiring mystery writers to craft their own PI’s from. Marlowe is a wise cracking, top shelf liquor drinking independent that represented what every man wanted to be. Having been portrayed by Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell, Marlowe had continued to carry this “man’s man” image, that is, until Robert Altman came along.

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Robert Altman famously said that Chandler felt Marlowe was at his core a loser, except he turned him into a false winner. Altman, being the genre bender and revisionist that he was, turned Marlowe into a laid back, chain smoking satire on PIs. That and updating the setting from 1940s LA to the early 1970s counterculture hangover, The Long Goodbye was nonetheless a treat to see.

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The Plot

  • Marlowe is approached by his friend Terry Lennox and is asked to give him a ride to Tijuana because he and his wife Sylvia are getting separated.
  • Marlowe arrives back and is approach by two detectives who said that Lennox killed his wife. Marlowe refuses to believe it but is released from captivity after the station receives word that Terry committed suicide.
  • Marlowe then is hired by a woman named Elieen Wade to find her husband Roger. His search leads him to a detox center where Roger is being extorted for money.
  • Once Roger is home,  Marlowe is ambushed by gangster Marty Augustine who says Terry was running down to Tijuana to traffic money for him.
  • At the boiling point of the film, it is an accumulation of revelations that contain collusion, double crossing and set ups that make the mystery genre so attractive.

What I Liked

  • Elliot Gould was a perfect casting choice to play an alternative take on Phillip Marlowe. He carried himself like a mope to the point where we can see he isn’t the casa nova that Bogart portrayed Marlowe as, yet carried a sense of confidence that only a laid back, west coast 1970s PI could have. Additionally, his cracking and witty remarks made me feel as if this film was an honest parody.
  • I really enjoyed watching the architecture throughout the film, especially at the wade house. A nice beach side home to conduct investigations for murder and missing persons doesn’t sound as bad as it seems.

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What I Disliked

  • As much as I loved the reinterpretation of Chandler’s novel, I would have like to see the film share more qualities with the book, particularly with the plot. As someone who looks at detective films as a journey to get lost in as opposed to finding answers, this film felt a little too watered down (though most adaptions of Chandler’s novel are).
  • With that being said, it’s a little bit of a conflict to say that because that is what Altman was trying to achieve. We watered down Marlowe to the extent of a casual man who does investigates the same way he lives. It was simpler, reflecting a “less is more philosophy.” So while I may be dissatisfied with it, I accept it.

Should You See It?

  • This is an old school movie  that I feel everyone can enjoy. It humorous enough during the slow paced scenes and give an eccentric view at the city of Los Angeles. I highly recommend it.

The Revenant

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The Plot

  • Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the leader of a group of hunters who get ambushed by the Native Americans.
  • A handful of them escape, including Glass’s son, and begin a survival exploration on foot back to their home front.
  • While scouting out the land the next morning, Glass is brutally attacked by a bear, in which he kills before the bear takes his life. He is unable to move or speak, leaving him to be viewed as dead weight by another hunter in the pact, John Fitzgerald.
  • When the group splits up momentarily, Fitzgerald plans to kill Glass. Glass’s son, however, knows this plan and tries to stop him, but Fitzgerald kills him in the process.
  • Glass witness this. The remaining two hours of the film is Glass recovering from his injuries and traveling to track down Fitzgerald to get his revenge.

What I Liked

  • The cinematography was outstanding. Emmanuel Lubezki used only natural lighting while filming this picture. It felt as if he was capturing the eighth wonder of the world into a single camera lens that absorbed the audience in a breath taking fashion.
  • Tom Hardy did a fine job in the role of John Fitzgerald. He displayed enough emotion for a convincing performance, while still acting ferocious that brought tension to the screen.

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What I Disliked

  • The film felt pretentious to me. The director,  Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a fine filmmaker. Getting his start in Mexico, he directed three films known as the “Death Trilogy” which includes a personal favorite of mine, Amos Perros.
  • These films were made on a low budget and explored challenges in narrative, complex characters, and originality in story. Since then, he went to make Birdman, which even though it was a big production, still stayed true to his craft and auteur-style of filmmaking.
  • The Revenant, in my opinion, was Alejandro trying to top himself from last year. He lost sight of his complexity that made him so distinguishable. This movie provided little plot, no complexity to the characters and just felt like he was out to make an inspirational film of applause that turned out flat.
  • Also, I believe DiCaprio didn’t deserve an Oscar for this role. Yes, writhing in pain for two and a half hours takes talent. But for God’s sake, he either lied in a hole or was carried by his crew members for nearly a third of the film. There’s other performances he should have won for other than this. This picture below accurately reflects my mentality.

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Should You See It?

  • Looking back, I could have gone with or  without seeing this movie. I’m glad I saw it because I’m able to analyze it as such, but there is no way I would watch it again. If you’re someone who has a short attention span, don’t see it. You may be at wonders by the geography of the land, but it only last for so long.
  • If you are someone like me that enjoys a very developed plot, than I wouldn’t recommend it. Although it does have some intense and bloody scenes like the video below.

Basic Instinct

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Michael Douglas had quite the string of success that sprung in the late 80s and extended all the way through the 90s. He was someone that could be play the blue collar everyman in one film and portray the white collar elite in his next film. In Basic Instinct, he takes on a static role as detective Nick Curran, who progressively loses sight of his own intentions and allegiance to his colleagues.

The Plot

  • Nick Curran is investigating the murder of a former rock star, who was stabbed to death with an ice pick in the middle of sexual intercourse.
  • The investigation leads them to their main culprit, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone).
  • As Nick comes dives deeper into the investigation, and deeper into Catherine’s cerebral mastermind, he finds himself infatuated with her, leading him to be blinded by the facts and not being able to decide who’s innocent and who’s guilty.

What I Liked

  • Sharon Stone gave such a seductive performance that captivated me the moment she spoke. I felt as if I wanted her to lie to me. I didn’t want to know the truth about her, because he mystery was part of her sex appeal.
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s influence is prevalent. Between the score and experimental camera angles to create suspense, along with the beautiful yet deadly blonde, it was a decent modern approach to capturing Hitchcock’s style of filmmaking.

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What I Didn’t Like

  • The ending. I won’t spoil it, but you’ll be disappointed. The whole film felt like a it was taking you into a house of mirrors. You get lost because you can’t decipher what path you must follow to escape, yet your intrigued by the dizziness. And then one mirror breaks and you see through the illusion.

Should You See It

  • If you’re in the mood for an erotic thriller that also provides a decent plot similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock or author Lawrence Block, then I recommend it. If you are someone, however, that doesn’t have patience for exploitation of overly sexualized performances, then perhaps it isn’t for you, but don’t be afraid to give it some of your time.

*Before you check out the film, look at some of these memes that reference the film. images.jpeg

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Harper

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The Plot

  • A true  forgotten gem and a classic gumshoe flick that in the backdrop of 1960s Los Angeles that includes kidnapping, double crossing, bizarre cults and at it’s heart, love and lust.
  • A charming actor that exemplified suave on screen, Paul Newman starred in a 1966 mystery film Harper, based Ross McDonald’s novel The Moving Target.
  • Newman plays the role of private investigator Lew Harper who is hired by a woman named Elaine Sampson (played by the great Lauren Bacall) to locate her husband Ralph Sampson after he suddenly disappeared while flying back to LA from Las Vegas.
  • The on-screen dynamics between of former femme fetale Lauren Bacall and Newman is special, for it sets the pace for the rest of the film. Take a look

  • The case was brought to him district attorney and personal friend Albert Graves (Arthur Hill) who also informs Harper of Ralph’s egocentric personality and unfaithful acts he’s committed against his wife.
  • On this journey of collusion and treason, Harper soon discovers that those close to the situation cannot be trusted either. Everyone becomes a suspect and Harper could find himself in deep waters if he doesn’t keep his cool and play his cards right.

What I Liked

  • What makes Harper great was the nostalgic elements Harper incorporated into its theme.
  • This film was one of the first homages to the “Film Noirs” of the early 40s that captured the cynical nature of people and was one of the first private investigation films that gave us a close look into deceptive glamour of Los Angeles.
  • Newman showed the same commanding control that Bogart portrayed in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep but with his own boyish affability. He was always in control without having to flex his muscle or show too rugged emotion.
  • The dialogue as well was witty and engaging, especially between Newman and his co-star Pamela Tiffin.

What I Disliked

  • I feel Harper could have been portrayed more as an antihero, or essentially a protagonist that has character attributes that give us reason to question why we are rooting for them. Paul Newman gave a fine performance adding in his casual and flirtatious style, but I would have liked to see him get dirtier in the trenches.

Should You See It?

  • I would recommend seeing this picture. It’s reminiscent of the classic that you forget your watching a classic. If you’re a mystery fan or better yet a Paul Newman fan, then this movie is for you .

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Blow Out

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Known for his slick dance moves in Saturday Night Fever and his passion for the culture of Amsterdam in Pulp Fiction, John Travolta was the star of the 1981 Brian De Palma paranoia hinged film Blow Out.

The Plot

  • Playing the role of Jack Terri, a soundman for films who catches the sound of a car accident while working, Jack is able to save a woman named Sally (Nancy Allen) from the passenger seat, while a presidential candidate is left to drown.
  • After Jack is persuaded by the candidate’s assistant to forget she was in the car, he grows suspicions and listens to the tapes and suspects this was a successful assassination attempt, leading him down a more sinister conspiracy than he wants to be a part of.

What I Liked

  • Blow Out is as cerebral of a film as you will find in cinema. It immerses the audience into the process by which a man uses his craft to find answers to a complex problem. The decent of Jack Terri’s sanity as he increasingly becomes obsessed with bureaucratic corruption shows Travolta’s contrast as an original actor that excels as a character study.
  • To match with De Palma’s unorthodox camera angels and masterful pan shots, Blow Out is a film that deserves much more accolades than other thrillers from that era.

What I Disliked

  • I’m hard pressed to find something about the picture that I disliked. It carried a suspenseful ambiance that is reminiscent of Hitchcock and gives an ending that is uncompromising. So on this rare occasion, I see nothing wrong with the picture.

Should You See It?

No question about it. It’s a thriller that keeps you engaged throughout the whole story and give you anxiety as it reaches it’s boiling point. Take a look at he trailer below to see if it peaks your interest.

If your interested in reading a more in depth analysis of the film from the development to post production, here is a great article to check out from filmmaker magazine.com

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Less Than Zero

The Plot

  • Loosely based off the 1985 controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero tells the story of Clay Easton’s return to his hometown of Los Angeles for Christmas break.  His trip back is far from graceful, for he sees first hand how his friends have fallen into a downward spiral of drugs, prostitution and broken dreams since he left for college in New York only six months prior.
  • As he begins to hang out with his ex-girlfriend turned model, Blair, she informs him that Julian, a close friend of theirs from high school, is now an addict and cannot control himself anymore, constantly under the influence of cocaine.  She asks Clay to speak with him, much to Clay’s cynicism that see’s no purpose in trying to rekindle a friendship with Julian.
  • As the film progresses, Clay begins to witness the self destructive lifestyles of his peers, with Julian owing $50,000 to Rip, his sleazy yet patient drug dealer that has been loaning out drugs to him and watching Blair becoming a shell of her formal self, leaving Clay to challenge the morals of his friends, his city and himself.

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What I Liked

  • The film brought about an eye popping portrayal of how addiction robs a person of their humanity. Robert Downey Jr. playing Julian was truly a remarkable performance that acted as the nucleus of the story. He was authentic, acted with passion and was sincere in his dialogue.

What I Disliked

  • After familiarizing myself with the movie and now just recently started the book, I’m partially dissatisfied that the film alienated away from the original plot of Ellis’s novel. While addiction is a theme in the novel, it isn’t the centerpiece.
  • The book’s goal was to chronicle how the “MTV Generation” had divorced themselves from their morals, rotting away in the hot, shiny California sun. The film isn’t as explicit as the novel, detracting from its “lost souls” narrative, which would have been a much more intriguing character study.

Should you see it?

  • If you are a literary enthusiast and an admirer of Ellis’s work, then you’ll be dissatisfied with this movie. Personally, I liked the movie. Some of the acting was offbeat, perhaps more melodramatic than it had to be, but I was hooked in as I watched a group of young people go down a dangerous path in life. If you’re the type who stares at a train wreck, this movie is for you.

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If you guys want to know what author Brett Easton Ellis thought about the adaption of his novel, check out the link below!

Bret Easton Ellis on Less Than Zero, Its Adaptation, and Its Sequel Imperial Bedrooms