People had been telling me to stay clear of this one but to my complete surprise (and to the surprise of those who warned me to stay away), I liked this one. I mean, it’s not something I think I would buy for my personal collection but I would definitely watch it again, mostly because so much happens in each frame I’m sure I missed a lot of action. Yes, it is violent, but like the Kill Bill movies, the violence seems “unreal.” The type of violence I just cannot stomach is “real” violence like Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart. I mean, those violent incidents happened (something quite similar if not what is actually on the screen). The violence in Sin City is unbelievable and so far-fetched though it’s still not “rehearsed” like one of my least favorite films of all time, A Clockwork Orange. In that Kubrick film, the violence is choreographed to music…almost like a ballet. I don’t mean that kind of “unreality” when talking about Sin City. It’s more like “comic” violence…which is not just a coincidence since this film is based on a series of graphic novels by Frank Miller (who also co-directed the film). OK—moving on from the violence…the structure of the film is unique. Three story lines all get their own screen time, only to merge in the end. The first story shows an aging, ill cop who needs to save one last victim from the clutches of a ruthless, evil criminal. The next story revolves Marv, a harsh, mean thug with a heavy heart of a hooker who died in his arms. (No, I’m not joking.) The final story deals with a good guy who’s trying to save the woman he loves from the bad guys, all while saving the world at the same time. Shot in black and white, this film is like a modern day film noir movie on speed. It’s faster and sharper than any classic noir but keeps that same “femme fatale” feeling of the films of the 1950s. Visually, this is a creative and stunning film…something you might not ever see again. Story-wise, it’s also sharp and innovative.

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Based on a novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Richard Russo, this film is a small, unsung gem…just like the book. Telling the story of Sully, an aged laborer rural New York State who, between his quirky friends and bad health, is not having an easy time of it at late. Russo excels in stories like this…about small towns and small heroes who don’t do the big, grandiose things to get noticed…they do the little things that usually do not come with any form of notoriety…or even appreciation. They are the fathers and sons of the Everyman…and Newman is always your perfect Everyman…even here, in the twilight of his years. Quirky and slow in parts, this film, like the novel and Russo’s other novels, unveils itself slowly and cautiously. But, the unveiling process is a great ride!

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John McClane, I have to confess, is one of my favorite movie characters in contemporary cinema. From the first time we met him in 1988’s Die Hard, he has always been there to save the day, no matter who the bad guy is, what the obstacle is, or how old he is. It is now almost 20 years later and McClane is still going strong…maybe even stronger than ever. And, even after all the bruises and bullets and stabbings, he’s still got the goods to add two hours of pure entertainment to our hectic schedules. The plot of this one is pretty convoluted, but the guts of it are that a former computer security employee for the government got mad and wants to show America how angry he is by stealing billions from the country. McClane, once again, finds himself embroiled in this mess, not seeking out any trouble, but rather having trouble find him. Bruce Willis, born in 1955, does not show any wear and tear here…though I’m assuming the stunt team does more for him that they did in the previous outings. He gives McClane that perfect cocky attitude and the right mix of butt-kicking thrown in. The action sequences here are phenomenal…almost as good as the first. If I didn’t know better, I would think McClane was really caught in some of those precarious situations, rather than having them be computer generated. This just proves that even though times have changed, McClane and his Die Hards do not.

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True, Lucky Number Slevin has flaws but what action film made today doesn’t? And considering that unlike most actions film, this one has a clever plot and some semblance of intelligent characters, I was able to overlook the few problems with the film. From the excellent cast (all of whom give wonderful performances…including Josh Hartnett who I have dismissed in the past as just a pretty face) to the sharp twists and turns that keep the audience riveted, this film keeps the pace up and the tension high…what more can you ask for in a action film? But, this film goes above and beyond even those meager expectations of today and adds some true smarts to this often-silly genre. Lucky Number Slevin begins with the Josh Hartnett character getting caught in a case of mistaken identity. The identity he is mistaken for is asked by two different crime bosses to kill two different people. Along the way, he meets Lucy Lu who helps him decide what to do in his deadly predicament. This film could have easily also been made into a stylized thriller rather than a shoot-‘um-up action flick. I would say that VERY FEW action movies of today (use The Fast and the Furious series as an example) would stand alone without the explosions and fight scenes. Lucky Number Slevin would be just as good, if not better, a film without all of that extra added special effects.

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This is the one that started it all…we are introduced to John McClane, from the NYPD, for the first time. We like him, though we see he has an edge. And he’s troubled about his estranged relationship with his wife, who accepted a lucrative job in Los Angeles months ago and ended up moving up the corporate ladder quicker than expected. Even without seeing any back story, we know instantly that John is not an “L.A” kind of a guy. So, take this worried, disgruntled man and put him in a skyscraper where he is the only one who is not taken hostage when a gang of slick international terrorists come to rob the joint…to say that his adrenaline kicks in is a vast understatement. All John can think about his that his wife is in danger and he needs to save her. And that means he will go to any lengths, which he does with gusto, humor and incredible vigor. This film became the late 1980-1990s icon of the action film. Films, for years after this one, used the “man trapped someplace alone with baddies” formula. But, none of those imitators came close to the rush of the one and only (and the original) Die Hard.

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