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Harry Brown

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***½

I don’t reckon you’ve got long. Seen that before. Gut wound. The slug’s probably torn right through your liver. Mate of mine in Ulster got caught in sniper fire. Bullet blew his inside out. He screamed for a good 10 minutes. We couldn’t send a medic in, the section was too hot. So we all took cover… and watched him die. I’ve never told that… to anyone… you should’ve called an ambulance… for the girl… 

I have never watched Death Wish, but I know that this is a British, better version of that movie.  Michael Caine portrays Harry Brown as an old man who barely remembers his badass past.  Fortunately, the movie does not take cheap shortcuts to get an AARP member kicking ass, like Liam Neesom in Taken. Of course, both of those actors come from East of the Atlantic, not that that AARP would reject anyone for membership–it does not care if you are retired, so why bother checking if you are American?  For the most part, the movie seems depressingly realistic and manages to maintain that reality throughout Brown’s resurgence.  I hope that Michael Caine keeps getting starring roles before his career finally comes to a close.

X-Men: First Class

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***½

Go fuck yourself.

The above quote was probably the biggest laugh of the movie and the best usage of a PG-13 1 F-bomb in a long time.  On the other hand, the PG-13 constraints seemed to chafe Matthew Vaughn who wanted to have Magneto (Michael Fassbender) stab someone in the hand.  Twice.  In the comics Magneto can grab onto the iron in the blood stream, that must explain why ze German’s (Ludger Pistor, recognizable as the Swiss banker from Casino Royale) hand did not bleed either time.  That duality pervades this movie.  In one scene, the acting, writing and style all fit perfectly together, while the next scene will abruptly end or unintentionally leave you laughing.

With that in mind, here’s a rating of the actors/characters in the movie:
1. Charles Xavier was ably performed by James McAvoy, who did more than channel Patrick Stewart.  Unfortunately he cracks one too many bald jokes (2)…you know, just in case you forgot that Professor X goes bald.   Either you got it and laughed the first time, or didn’t, in which case how would you get the second one?  Also, kid Xavier was just as awful as kid Mystique.
2. Mystique showed a range of personality heretofore unseen in her character, so good job Jennifer Lawrence.  Who knew from her amazingly depressing role in Winter’s Bone would  lead to this pleasant version of Mystique.  There is a nice nod to Rebecca Romijn (by changing her appearance to look like the actress from the first 3 films)when she is trying to seduce a fellow mutant.  As I said, her kid version was awful, which stands in stark contrast to…
3. The first three minutes, which Vaughn wisely took from X-Men.  That opening to X-Men shocked audiences then, and nothing could really top it as an introduction to Erik Lensherr/Magneto, so why try?  To follow up (X-Men/X2 director)  Bryan Singer’s Oscar worthy scene with that shitty scene between the kids was doubly pathetic.  But Vaughn redeems himself by having Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) execute Erik’s mother in front of him.  Michael Fassbender showed that he could play a Nazi killer in Inglourious Basterds, and he brings all of that to the table in the beginning of this movie.

I could go on and on, but let’s suffice it to say that Kevin Bacon held his own as a big bad guy; January Jones did a good job of wearing the White Queen costume; Rose Byrne was utterly wasted in this as a Scottish accent-free Moira MacTaggert; and Jason Flemyng was unrecognizable as Azazel–which is too bad since I always enjoy his performances.  The explosions were as great as promised and the film was at least better than X-Men: Last Stand which I somehow gave 3.5 stars a few years back, which means this one has to get at least that many as well.

Today You Die

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**

Same shit, different toilet

This was a pretty humorously bad movie.  Steven Seagal was Steven Seagal and the movie just let him down.  Treach, aka Anthony “Treach” Criss showed real promise as a fellow criminal who aids Seagal in his quest to recover the millions that a setup, or double cross bank heist cost him.  The movie spends a surprising portion of its 90 minutes in a prison, which is great because the actors they found to play the cons had some interesting looks.  It’s probably more realistic than most prison movies with their actor-y looking inmates.  Besides Treach, the highlight to this movie has to be the the way the heist is shot.  The freeze frames helped me appreciate the shock on the guards’ faces and the pace of the action.

 

Psycho

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****

A boy’s best friend is his mother. 

I was surprised by how long Janet Leigh was in the film.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find actors like Martin Balsam and Vaugh Taylor amongst the cast.  The most impressive aspects of this classic are its score and Anthony Perkins’ performance.  A nice reunion for several of the actors is in the Sidney Lumet version of Murder on the Orient Express.  I can see why many people consider this film Hitchcock’s finest.

IMDb’s Best of the 2000’s

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When I look up the films I’ve rated on IMDb I have two competing hopes for my beliefs–validation and individuality.  That’s why I have decided to compare my lists to IMDb’s voters.  Maybe this will show me a few movies to watch.

IMDb:                                                                Mine:

1. Dark Knight                                                The Proposition
2. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King       The Fellowship of the Ring
3. City of G-d                                                   United 93
4. The Fellowship of the Ring                        The Bourne Supremacy
5. Memento                                                      Zodiac
6. Two Towers                                                 Dark Knight
7. Spirited Away                                              Pan’s Labyrinth
8. The Lives of Others                                   Hot Fuzz
9. Amelie                                                           The Lives of Others
10. The Pianist                                                Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

I have 3 of their top 10 films.  Even so, I disagree with Dark Knight’s #1 status, and think that the wrong Lord of the Rings film made it.  Moreover, The Two Towers should not be anywhere near the top 10!

The Proposition does not even crack the top 50 of the decade, but I imagine that if more people saw it, that its rating would increase.  The same is true for United 93.  The Bourne Supremacy  is not as highly regarded as Ultimatum, but I think that goes to how the fight scenes that seemed exotic in Supremacy were more palatable following hits like Batman Begins.  Zodiac is an unnerving film that does not have the payoff of most serial killer stories, but I love it.  Hot Fuzz is a comedy, and those never seem to rank as highly as dramas, or even action movies.

Pan’s Labyrinth comes in at #16, so it’s also very highly rated.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon used to be much more appreciated than it is now.

I thought that City of G-d was really good, but would not have considered it as a top 5 film.  I have not seen Memento since 2001, but it still made my top 10 for that year.  The only film on the list I have not seen yet is Spirited Away.  Amelie was alright, but it did not really hit me the way it seems to hit most people.  On the other hand, I bet if I watched The Pianist again, that would still stack up.  This was fun for me.

L’Auberge Espagnole

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**½

It was like I’d always lived in this mess. Their bickering was like the constant drone in my head since childhood. 

The first ten minutes of this film were brutal to get through and the pay off was not so great.  The attempts to seem stylized mostly grated on me, but thankfully the filmmaking turned more traditional for the bulk of the film.  That said, I probably bring a bias against Radiohead-hip music from the early 2000’s.  The same is true for studying abroad.  I look at those things as a part of my life that I have not moved on from.

The upside to the film is that it has four spectacularly gorgeous women, who are all gorgeous in different ways.  It says something when Audry Tautou was the least attractive of the group!  The other three were Judith Godreche (new to me), Cecile de France (unrecognizable from Around the World in 80 Days) and Kelly Reilly (the reason I watched the film, although I forgot that until I saw her on screen).  These women revolve around a loser (Romain Duris)–the French version of a Judd Apatow man-child.  If the film had ended with 5 minutes to go I would have credited it with a fantastic ending–by having the loser walk up the steps towards Sacre Couer.  Showing him walking around Montmarte (I actually recognized the steps he walked up and the yellow cafe across from it)  with his internal monologue, “It was a neighborhood Parisians never visit.  I was a foreigner among foreigners.”  But this film failed to show that ingenuity, so why start at the end?

*Full disclosure, I just added the sequel to my Netflix queue.  What can I say, I really liked the women in the first film and most of them are back in Russian Dolls.

Stagecoach

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****

Luke Plummer and the Kid. There would be a lot more peace in this territory if that Luke Plummer had so many holes in him he couldn’t hold his liquor. 

This classic Western finally put John Wayne into a starring role.  The basic story is about a group of people traveling by stagecoach through some state West of the Mississippi.  The pace is brisk and the mishmash of characters are entertaining.

While they seem like archetypes they each have their own personalities and show the power to rise above their seeming limitations.  The climactic scene where the stagecoach finally gets attacked by the Apache does not stand amongst the great Western fight scenes of all time.  That said, I was still impressed by how they shot it–lots of horses, lots of guns, a team of galloping horses leading the stagecoach.  Most impressive of all was John Wayne, who looked svelt and like a real-life hero cowboy.  Oh, and Andy Devine was di-vine.  That joke is even funnier if you know what he looks like.

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