Son of a Gun

If you want to see Ewan Macgregor whoop some ass, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to see him steal some gold, you’ll get a twofer here. This movie was entertaining credits to credits.

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Son of a Gun (2014)
Cast

Ewan McGregor as Brendan Lynch
Brenton Thwaites as Jesse Ryan “JR” White
Alicia Vikander as Tasha
Jacek Koman as Sam
Matt Nable as Sterlo
Tom Budge as Josh
Nash Edgerton as Chris
Damon Herriman as Wilson

Directed by

Julius Avery

Written by

Julius Avery

Other Info

Crime, Thriller
Rated R
1h 50min

There is so much going on in this film other than robbing gold. Still, I kept getting excited about the scenes where gold was involved. There’s something primal about that I think. What child hasn’t wondered what a gold bar is worth? What movie watcher hasn’t wanted to hold one. That may be why the director chose it.

My one issue with this move is that entirely too much is going on. In the prison scenes, the guards are all victims. Much of the cast’s background is only scantily explained. For this reason, it lost a star with me which doesn’t mean I disliked it, just that it could have been better.

We get to see Ewan MacGregor kick ass. He may become the next Liam Neeson after this one. He never struck me as a tough or even large man but when he steps on screen he commands the rooms, the fights, and all things in his way. This level is the best one to defend this movie on. MacGregor has never been better in a thrill I have seen him in. You could be perfectly justified going to see it on that aspect alone.

This film tells a story that involves jail, but it’s not a jail film. There’s a girl but not much romance per se. There’s a grand elaborate scheme but you don’t get too many details, and as I said earlier there is the gold. Just a little more backstory on the some of the characters would have helped.

I’m beginning to think gore in crime thriller is becoming required by the studios. There is a lot of blood and gross scenes. I’m waiting for the crime thriller that doesn’t lean on blod and guts unmercifully to tell a thrilling story about crime. Having said that, this is a really fun film and it contains many of the modern conventional approaches to ts genre. Ewan Macgregor is excellent and really commands the screen. I recommend this movie highly.

The Baytown Outlaws

“All right you got a job. You clean toilets or cut grass or whatever the hell it is you do. This is what I do. I shoot people in the face.” Brick Oodie

Info from: IMDB
The Baytown Outlaws (2012)
R | 1h 38min | Action, Comedy, Crime

When three redneck brothers agree to help a woman save her godson from an abusive stepfather, they become targets on the run from an odd cast of characters.

Director: Barry Battles
Writers: Barry Battles, Griffin Hood
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Longoria, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

This film is for uncomfortable silences with dates for your daughter as you’re waiting for her to get ready. It’s a Jim Dandy way to get the message across that you see the wisdom in violence and you will do no more than chuckle after he’s been killed. I’ll have to keep it around for when my two girls start dating.

“The Baytown Outlaws’ is no Tarantino film. Still, it clearly aspires to be with the subject matter, twangy bass string guittar solos, and the like. For such poor acting and script, I was impressed so many famous actors are in it: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Langoria, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster all grace the screen. As I said earlier, there may be appeal with very young boys, say 10-15. You know the ones who only recently put down their cap guns and bows and arrows.

Beyond that I see very little that would hold the long term attention of Tarantino fans. Thornton is frightfully bad as the boss, that needs to be said. It didn’t get me interested in “Bad Santa 2” he’s filming now. For bad acting, almost no believability (for example where are the cop cars?) and little originality, the film lost some points with me. I don’t recommend it.

It might have done better as an HBO series where the characters had time to develop and the audience could care over time. As a full length movie, it’s a B movie, I don’t care who they cast in it. I aim to promote and sell people on original ideas. For example, “10 Cloverfield Lane.” I’m getting weary as a critic go to see the same movies played with different title again and again. There are a few moments that are memorable, (see below.

This short scene is my favorite gag, a near success at a Tarantino moment:

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

The lives of three young women and why they became punk revolutionaries is the main idea of “Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer.”

Pussy_Riot-A_Punk_Prayer_PosterIt’s a real situation and a real “group” (instead of a band) that protests the Soviet Union through punk songs and performance art. They claim to be non-violent, which is good. In some of their protest situations they have been threatened and violence has been enacted against them. Three visionaries of the group: Mariya Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova occupy the film’s content and their stories are inspiring or enraging depending on your political and moral point of view. I found these three women and their art hugely inspirational. I think we forget in America what freedom is and that at some point, it needs to be sacrificed for.

These three women feel that Russia needs to get more progressive. By that I mean, women should be allowed to have a life with or without men.

They also feel there should be a clear separation between church and state. More than anything, they detest the policies of Vladimir Putin, the current leader of the Soviet Union. Many of their songs decry his regime. I liked the open and forward thinking of the women but some of their techniques, such as the naming of their group and some past indiscretions on film, in my opinion are not as universally embraceable as they could be. I’m writing a review about their documentary but I cringe a little creating the title with the word “pussy” in it. Is there another way we could name this group without fanning the flames of the conservatives? I am no revolutionary but I might recommend to Pussy Riot a slightly more marketable and palatable approach to its persona.

These women spend at least 6 months in jail (I lost track after all the updates and frankly am too lazy to look up this significant particular). When they address the court or the press, it is breathtaking. They scribble tomes while behind bars and nearly every time they read their words, they are met with unguarded applause. These is something to these revolutionaries but the movie feels at times as if much of it is staged. If not staged, the movie sometimes feels like HBO camera crews are betting on a worldwide interest in a documentary. This to me is gauche. Not everything can be captured in a documentary. Would Johnny Rotten want to be followed by HBO? How about Ghandi? Hmmm, maybe? Having said that, this movie reminds me of the times I fought to be outside the “system.” So many people these days, especially our youth, accept their position playing video games and being bored. We don’t have to accept the role society gives us. We can break out and be original. It could start by protesting the things we dislike in society. I wonder if many American kids would risk going to jail to try and make the government change. Let’s hope more American kids get that message from Pussy Riot.

Dead Man’s Shoes

Revenge films can really be cathartic. I think it gets to our mortal core the same way some Shakespearean plays do. A big thanks to Emma and her excellent review that got me curious.

“God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” Richard

Dead Man’s Shoes (2015)
Cast
Paddy Considine

as Richard

Gary Stretch

as Sonny

Toby Kebbell

as Anthony

Directed by
Shane Meadows
Written by
Paddy Considine, Shane Meadows, Paul Fraser
Other Info

Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

Who hasn’t been wronged and dreamt of getting the perpetrator back? I think it’s essential human nature to enjoy a good revenge film. This is one of those. Richard is the elder brother of Anthony who is bullied and derided by a group of guys in the neighborhood. When Richard is away in the service, the jeering and mistreatment becomes more severe. This is revealed to the audience in flashbacks.

I like the rawness of this film. It was made on a shoestring budget and the actors are not well known in the US as far as I can tell. Paddy Constatine (Richard) has some work under his belt. It’s a film released in the UK so the cast may be more famous there. We find that Richard has developed skills akin to a mercenary fight while in the service. This is ample reason for the group who taunted and maimed to worry. Richard weaves his revenge slowly. I am reminded of the aphorism: “The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.”

This is a film to see that will provide all sorts of discussion questions. After watching it, make sure you have time to get tea or coffee. It has a twist at the end that may not make sense at first and I certainly did not see it coming. It’s no Disney ending by any means. I think it’s well written and well made however, possibly more eloquent than Disney could ever make a revenge film.

I won’t watch this one twice, it’s a bit disturbing. Watching it once is a must for all movie fans but I think you’d have to be a bit twisted to watch this a second time. When you recover from a tidal wave do you hope for the next? There are many things here left open-ended about the perpetrators and even Richard himself. I think we are meant to play with the scenes in our head to put them into a sensible context. At the beginning we see Richard and Anthony together, in the middle we don’t and at the end there is a revelation altogether different about the time and what has happened since Richard left for the military.

There are some of the most heinous scenes in this. It wasn’t as bad as the “Snowtown Murders” but pretty close. Once threat scene is probably the most intense I’ve ever seen. Richard threatens Sonny, one of the perpetrators. The movie has some great scenes and that one is one of the best in my opinion. I pulled one star off because there could have been more character development and the time jumping around was a bit confusing for me. Other than that, this is among the best revenge films I’ve seen. I recommend it.

Hounds of Love (2016)

“Brave audiences will be rewarded.” That was what Variety said on the film’s poster. I couldn’t help but be curious about that. It’s well written! I hope I can come up with a few like that in my review! The abduction of a 16 year old girl by a twisted sex-obsessed couple makes for a grisly, suspenseful plot.

Hounds of Love (2016)
1h 48min | Crime, Drama, Horror | 12 May 2017 (USA)

Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted from a suburban street by a disturbed couple. As she observes the dynamic between her captors she quickly realises she must drive a wedge between them if she is to survive.
Director: Ben Young
Writer: Ben Young
Stars: Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry

Ben Young did a great job directing this Australian based film. He is known for Something Fishy and Bush Basher. I found his vision astounding. It’s likely he met with some opposition making this film. It is indeed twisted as it takes you into the lair of this criminal sex ring where abduction, rape, and murder are commonplace. When the girl is chained, we are chained. It also a very personal movie the way it is filmed at such close range.

I like how it’s realistic. The acting on the part of the young girl’s mother is top class. You want so badly for her to discover where her daughter is, she’s a really great actor. If you can get through the horrors inside the house, you will indeed be rewarded. Te details aren’t necessary here, it’s a typical psycho-sex thing going on here but there is indeed something that makes this film special in that genre. Ashleigh Cummings’ character has to use psychology to drive a wedge between the couple if she is to survive. That process makes this film highly entertaining and definitely worth your time. I can’t think of anything they could improve upon. While the subject matter is highly graphic, and that may put off a handful of viewers, I still say they hit the bullseye with this as thriller, crime, drama. I give it my highest recommendation.

10/10

Watch Now From $3.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Baby Driver (2017)

This film has done extremely well at the box office. It’s an exciting tale of a young man with an interesting history and an uncanny talent for driving a getaway car. I’d be remiss to not mention there is some great music in the background here.

Baby Driver (2017)
R | 1h 52min | Action, Crime, Music | 28 June 2017 (USA)

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm

The director had this idea for quite some time before it became a film. I always enjoy movies where the director had a long term vision he fought for. Before this film, his accolades include Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013), made with recurrent collaborators Simon Pegg, Nira Park and Nick Frost. While still in the prime of his career, he has proven he is a capable director.

The casting was effective but perhaps one of the weaker aspects. Kevin Spacey sort of worked as the killer boss who grows a heart. We needed more hate for Baby from Jamie Foxx, that could have saved his impression with me. The actor who played “Baby,” Ansel Elgort, is 23 but appears to be much much younger in his skinny jeans and RayBans. I think some younger viewers will identify with his character because he is in fact so young looking and doing such a crafted thing as driving a getaway car. It’s fantasy on so many levels.

I loved the choice to cast Lily James. She is the most normal, well developed, character in the film. And mind you, there is very little character development here: it’s a car chase film.

The story is, in a shortened way, that a boy is an orphan and learns to drive really really well. Then he becomes a getaway driver. Then he wants out and meets a waitress. He doesn’t get out. There are several heists and exhibitions of speed. He gets arrested. The girl dotes on him. The boy gets out. His name is not really Baby (big surprise) it’s Miles and the movie ends in a dreamlike sequence of Miles driving off into the sunset with the girl.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really had fun watching this film. I was actually surprised how much I liked it, the title was a little off-putting. There are lots of car chase movies out there and as time moves forward there are likely to be more. This is a cool movie. I don’t know if it’s as “special” as a lot of people are saying. It is probably because some scenes are synchronized to the music and that is undeniably cool. The story of the protagonist was lacking for me, I didn’t buy in. I didn’t like most the songs chosen and I felt the bad guys were miscast. Those aren’t important issues though, this is a winner film. If you go for a fun car chase and heist film, you’ll get your money’s worth. I recommend it.

7/10

Following (1998)

Long before Christopher Nolan directed the Dark Knight, he created a sleepy noir film called Following. He definitely has a lot of us following him now and it all started with this first visionary film of his. This is streaming now on Metflix.

Following (1998)
R | 1h 9min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 5 November 1999 (UK)

A young writer who follows strangers for material meets a thief who takes him under his wing.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell

Plot
This is a film with a very odd beginnng. A man is questioned as to why he follows people and he responds that it is a fixation. He isn’t out to hurt anyone, he just follows people. If that isn’t creepy enough, he does get into stealing and harming people when a criminal he is following decides to teach him his ways. What ensues after that is the meat of this movie.

My Thoughts
The actors are all excellent. I found it more interesting to learn about why he follows people than to see the details of breaking and entering. I think it’s a universal fear that someone would go through our private things when we’re out of the house. The dialog in this film is engaging and draws you in. The characters feel real and you can see how the director went on to be so successful. It is slow however and takes a long time in between “happenings.” For that reason I’d say you could miss it and be okay but fans of the noir genre and of Christopher Nolan will find it delightful as a sort of novelty. I recommend it for those types.

6/10

The Accountant

I love watching a film I know hardly anything about that has mediocre scores on Rotten Tomatoes and that surprises the hell out of me to be on my best films of the year list. Watching the Accountant was like that for me.

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The Accountant
Cast

Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal

Directed by

Gavin O'Connor

Written by

Bill Dubuque

Other Info

Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
R
Fri 14 Oct 2016 UTC
128min
IMDB Rating: 7.4

The rest of this review may contain spoilers

This is a film of two worlds: 1) a history and upbringing of an autistic boy and 2) The path of adulthood and a career for that boy after becoming a man. As it turns out, high functioning autistic people make ingenious accountants. Ben Affleck is this man and he is so good, many underground crime bosses use him to “uncook” their books. Let me reiterate, he is really good at it.

We are catapulted from stories of his youth where his father mercilessly trains him to fight a exist alone to his life as a criminal accountant who’s cool as a cucumber. If you heard he was doing well and not getting caught year after year, you might think to yourself, “Ok, so what’s the problem. This guy has it made.” Wrong. There are some real issues that would prevent the average person from being happy in his shoes. First, he can’t have relationships. His autism gives him tunnel vision and he is literally unable to walk away from projects. He attempts a relationship with Anna Kendrick but it never really pans out because of his disorder. In more than one way, it gets in the way.

In this film we see what Affleck’s character can do as a result of his father’s horrifying training. He is a machine when it comes to fighting. He is able to see details no one else does and this makes him not only an accounting weapon but also what we might call a para-military soldier and killer.

So, these are just some if the amazingly creative particulars written into this gem of a film. Affleck is at the top of his game. There are many shoot-em-ups from which he generally emerges victorious. I loved every minute of this film. They say people with autism are on a different level than the rest of us. This film shows that shouldn’t be looked down on. Someone with autism, trained in this way, could save the world. Would he be happy though? The jury’s still out.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.

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Luke Cage
Cast

Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard

Written by

Cheo Hodari Coker

Other Info

Action, Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
TV-MA
2016
55min
IMDB Rating: 7.6

Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.