Review: Triple 9

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When you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, life is pretty great 99% of the time. The 1% it isn’t that great is when you want to see that small film on the big screen. In this case I drove 100 miles in one direction to see a film on opening weekend that I have been excited to see for months now. Sometimes the movie going general public surprises me. Here is a film that stars…well lets just say this film has so many great actors in it, it maybe easier to list who wasn’t in it. The film opens on the same weekend as the “blockbuster” Gods of Egypt, that happened to be this year’s first flop(who didn’t see that coming?). I really thought this crime noir might surprise the box office. Triple 9 finished 5th at the box office this weekend with $6.1 million and very little coverage and fanfare. With a budget of $28 million, this is far from a hit, but should still make a decent return on investment after its full theater run and DVD release.

So is this film worth going to the theater for or should you just wait for the DVD release to watch it at home some quite night?

This film has a great ensemble cast with a lot of noir fan favorites. Casey Affleck plays the clean cop that wants to make a difference. Woody Harrelson plays his Uncle who isn’t such a clean cop and has a lot of power in the police force. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the head of the team of thieves who is not just doing this job for the money, but to save his son. Gal Gadot plays the mother of that son and her sister runs the Jewish Russian mob.  Kate Winslet plays the sister that is the head of the Jewish Russian mob. Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus and Clifton Collins Jr. make up the heist team, some are cops, some ex-military. As a bonus,Teresa Palmer plays Affleck’s wife.

This makes a modern noir stew of people doing the wrong things for the right reasons, double crosses, crooked cops of various degrees, and just plain evil men and women using whoever they can to get what they want. All these characters could be the main character in their own neo-noir film and all are interesting and entertaining in their own ways. I liked all the actors in this film. The standouts in this film?  Woody Harrelson, though he does nothing new here, he is David Douglas Brown from Rampart with a little bit more control of his anger or Marty Hart from True Detective with less family issues, but still has plenty of problems to make him an interesting hardboiled detective. Kate Winslet plays something totally different than what I have seen her do in the past as the female mob boss with no heart. Both were great, just for different reasons.

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This film has some interesting cinematography with a very film noir feel. No, it isn’t in black and white, but you do get a feel of black and red, as you can see from the posters and I found that coloring throughout the film. John Hillcoat is one of those directors that consistently makes good films, but seems to stay under the radar. If you haven’t seen Lawless, do it! I look forward to seeing more from Hillcoat in the future.

So back to our original question, is this worth going to the theater to see? I enjoyed this film and found it an above average movie. This film doesn’t cover any real new ground, but twists up old themes into a story I found complex and well put together. The acting is top notch and though it isn’t an instant classic I would say noir fans will enjoy this film and it is worth going to a matinee to see it, even if that matinee is 100 miles away.

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Favorite Tidbit: Look for Michael Kenneth Williams in a small role like you have never seen him before. If you are not looking for him, you may miss him.

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News: Hap and Leonard Teaser

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How is excited for this show! Based on the books of Joe Lansdale and starring James Purefoy, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Christina Hendricks. Check out the short article and teaser below.

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/12/17/hap-leonard-teaser-sundancetv

Review: Inherent Vice

I’ve been waiting to watch this for months! I take that back, years! This first came on my radar when I heard Robert Downey Jr. was attached to play the lead role. I still would love to see that by the way. I went right out and bought the book by Thomas Pynchon, but I never finished it. I’ve tried to read three of his books now and have only completed one. He is a brilliant author, I just can never commit to the book long enough to get through them. I may go back and give this book another try. Paul Thomas Anderson directed and wrote this for the screen. I really like Anderson’s work and really want to re-watch his last neo noir, Hard Eight.

So we don’t get Robert Downey Jr. as our main character,”Doc,” we get Joaquin Phoenix.  Not a bad second choice, if you ask me. Supposedly Anderson thought Downey Jr. was a little to old for the character. Doc is visited by his ex-girlfriend who is our femme fatale for this tale and is played by Katherine Waterston. She has a new boyfriend who happens to be a real estate mogul played by Eric Roberts, worth a lot of money. Robert’s wife and current boyfriend have a plot to get rid of him and want our femme fatale to help. This leads us on multiple cases for Doc that all seem to be intertwined. Doc has a love hate relationship with his police connection, “Bigfoot” played by Josh Brolin. Doc is also dating assistant D.A. Reese Witherspoon while broken up with his femme fatale. He takes on a case for Jena Malone who is looking for her husband Owen Wilson. We have great actors cast in minor roles such as Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and Maya Rudolph as Doc’s secretary. We also get an interesting scene with porn star Belladonna showing her acting chops and former MMA fighter Keith Jardine playing a Neo-Nazi bodyguard. There are to many great little appearances to list them all, but you get the idea.

This movie is long at almost two and a half hours, but it is worth it! We have no idea where it is going and how are hero will ever get out of this mess. This film is highly praised by critics, but is not well liked by the general public. I loved it! This is not a film you can be distracted while watching, because every little conversation is important to the story. I think people who really like great cinema will love this and those that don’t, won’t like it. I plan to buy this on Blu-Ray as it is one of those films where you will learn new things on each viewing. I highly recommend this to everybody. Maybe it is just me, but after watching this I think I will go get some pizza now.

Favorite Tidbit: According to Josh Brolin, Thomas Pynchon, who keeps a pretty low profile, appears somewhere in this film. There are a couple of theories on where in the film he appears, but nothing is verified yet.

Review: The Gambler

The Gambler is a neo noir film from last year and I was finally able to see it on Blu-Ray.  The reviews are a mixed bag for this film.  I got to say I really enjoyed it.  I loved the noirish cinematography, the story and the performances. Reading some of the headlines for the negative reviews for this film, mention how it don’t stand up to the original.  I’m the first to jump on the” re-make is unnecessary” camp and understand where these people are coming from.  I, unfortunately have never seen the original(though I hope to someday) so I went into this film with no preconceived idea of what to expect.  Maybe this is why I enjoyed it so much.

This film is based on the original screenplay by James Toback and tweaked for a new generation by William Monahan who has done some great neo-noir and crime films.  The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt.

This film stars Mark Wahlberg as our anti-hero main character.   He is a writer and a professor, but that is second to being a gambler.  We also have Jessica Lange as his mother.  Brie Larson as his brilliant student and his romantic interest as well as perhaps his saver.  We have Michael Kenneth Williams and John Goodman as opposing gangsters. We also have Williams’ co-star from The Wire,Domenick Lombardozzi, showing up as Goodman’s top henchman.

Our story starts with Wahlberg gambling in a Korean gambling den.  He is playing blackjack and doing very well at first, he then loses.  The Korean’s want their money, Williams offers Wahlberg $50,000 to try to get even, he doesn’t.  He then goes to Goodman for a loan.  Goodman reminds him that Williams will kill him if he doesn’t pay back his debt.  We then find Wahlberg at his day job as a professor.  We take off from there as he juggles his debt, his family, and his class of students.

I really liked the neo noir filming style in this film.  One of the things you will notice while watching this is each person our protagonist owes money has their own color,the Korean’s color is green, Michael Kenneth Williams’ gang has the color black and John Goodman’s color is red. I first picked upon this in the scene where Wahlberg is waiting to be picked up by Lombardozzi.  I noticed all the cars are white, grey and black in a wash of Land Rovers and BMW’s we see Lombardozzi pull up in a bright red Porsche Cayenne.  There are a lot of beautiful noir like scenes in this from the smokey gambling halls, to a grayed out class room, to the neon lights of a casino.  I also loved the soundtrack for this film and how it was used.  Also pay attention to Wahlberg’s suit throughout the film and how it changes.

Like I said, I really liked this film, but I have not seen the original.  I think if you go into this with fresh eyes and do not compare it to the original you may enjoy it too.  I would love to hear from those lucky enough to see both of these films and what your thought on both are.

Favorite tidbit: Mark Wahlberg dropped 61lbs for his role going from 198lbs to 137lbs, to show the characters lack of caring about his health and well-being.