Surprisingly, I liked this one. I didn’t see it right away after it came out on DVD since I wasn’t sure it was a film for me. But, the relationship of the brothers and also of the father and sons was captivating and kept me watching. Even though I felt parts (especially the ending) went a little too into the “melodramatic” realm, I felt that most of the movie was strong and convincing. Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix give believable performances as brothers initially pitted against each other. When Wahlberg’s character falls victim to a crime Phoenix might be in on. I bought Phoenix’s reaction and turmoil. It’s not the best crime drama ever made but over-all, it’s a good one.

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Gritty and intense, this film is one of the more noir-esque films of the end of the 20th Century. It’s dark and brooding, as film noir films of yesterday, but it is quite brutal, which of course is the sign it’s a movie of the modern era. Brad Pitt plays a newly transferred cop who gets partnered with a soon-to-be-retiring cop, played by Morgan Freeman. The two begins to investigate a series of very brutal crimes based on the seven deadly sins. Freeman’s character is methodical and deliberate. Pitt’s cop is brash and overeager. Together, though, they solve the crimes and find the criminal…but is it too late? The use of a film technique called “bleach bypass” helped the movie get its dark, shadow-filled look. And, boy does it work…because even when nothing sinister is going on, the film retains its stark feel…giving the audience a constant feeling of dread.

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I saw this film months ago in the theater and just recently watched it again on DVD. I must say, I liked it much better the second time around. It has so much intensity that I found I missed a lot on the first showing. Now that I was able to put some of the pieces together of what I had missed, I see what an excellent film it really is. George Clooney stars as the title character, a “fixer” in a large NYC law firm, and he is in sent in to “fix” one the firm’s partners, Arthur, after he’s had a breakdown and is saying vile things about one of the firm’s largest clients, U-North. Clayton soon realizes that all of the “gibberish” Arthur was spewing might be true and after Clayton starts investigating, he finds himself in mortal danger. A strong thriller that is hard to turn away from! But, make sure you pay attention so won’t have to see it twice like me! But, then again, George Clooney is always worth a second viewing. And a third, and a fourth, and a fifth…..

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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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I think right off the bat this film gets a bad rap since it’s unfortunately grouped with the recent films about the Iraq War. That’s unfair, in my opinion, since this is a strong, edgy thriller that deserves to be seen as a THRILLER and not necessarily as an anti-war statement. Tommy Lee Jones plays a father who, at the start of the film, finds out his son, recently back from the war in the Middle East, is missing. Yes, much of the film does deal with the war, since Jones has to find out what happened to his son while he was over there and if it is at all connected to his disappearance. But, most of the story just has Jones searching for the truth and finding bits and pieces of facts and fictions and putting them together to get some answers. Yes, the story has holes, but based how badly this film was received, it was MUCH better than I thought it would be. So, ignore the propaganda – and just enjoy the movie.

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I had heard of this movie but I wasn’t sure why so many people had been asking for it. So, what I’m saying is that I went in with no expectations. And I came out laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. This has to be one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years…close-to-perfect comic writing, timing, acting….everything. Basically, it’s about a hot-shot London cop (Nick) who gets reassigned to a small English village where he thinks he will be completely bored for the rest of his career…but, boy, does he turn out to be wrong. The village police force consists of a bunch of crackpots…one of whom (Danny) becomes Nick’s partner. Some of the repartee between Nick and Danny is just priceless…Danny is quite simple-minded and his slow-wit counteracts perfectly with Nick’s confident policing. When Danny is forced to become a real police officer and fight real crime, the laughs do not stop! I immediately wanted to see Shaun of the Dead, which is the first film written by Simon Pegg (who plays Nick) and Edgar Wright. Sadly, I didn’t like that one as much, but for me, it would be VERY hard to top my Hot Fuzz experience.

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Give this one some time to grow on you…I came close to giving up about 30 minutes into this film. Then, just as I practically had my finger on the STOP button of my remote, the plot settled down and began to come together. I understand what the director (Mike Hodges of Croupier fame) was trying to do in the beginning. He was trying to set the stage of a dark, murky movie by showing us the characters in little segments to make us deliberately confused. Just because I understand what Hodges was doing doesn’t mean I like it. Once the crime has been committed, all of the pieces begin to fall into place and turn a complicated premise into a smart, original thriller. We get to know the characters we had only seen in bits and pieces before. We get to know what led up to the crime that is committed. We get to know some back-story on the main character, played brilliantly by Clive Owen. Owen’s character has turned his back on his former criminal/gangster ways, disconnecting himself from his family and friends, and become homeless (he lives out of his van in the woods and moves from one cash-paying construction job to another). The story hinges on the believability of Owen. We HAVE to believe his character in order for the story to work. Of course, going from gangster to homeless man is quite a personality change. But, is the change sincere or just a weak way to escape his past? Owen, once back around his former friends and “associates,” tries his best to stay clean but crime’s a-calling. Owen fights and fights off his temptation and the question of whether he will win the fight is almost as thrilling as the mystery around crime. The ending, at first, bothered me. I wanted a more solid ending…I wanted to know about the characters and what happened to them. But, as I thought more about it, based on what we know about the Owen character, the ending is just as it should be.

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Not for the faint of heart, this film is one of the funniest comedies I had seen in years. Frances McDormand won an Oscar for playing very pregnant Marge Gunderson…a fabulous character who is most definitely the sharpest person in the film (though that is not really much of a compliment). Marge is a police officer in Brainerd, Minnesota and she gets involved in an investigation involving kidnapping, brutal murder and theft. The script is sharp and hilarious…and the performances are all right on target. But, be warned…it is a DARK comedy. People die. People kill people. This is the Coen Brothers, after all.

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One of Newman’s best roles…in my humble opinion. OK — it also happens to be the role he probably looks his best in. Does that have something to do with it — you betcha! Playing a two-bit street kid, one of his petty crimes finally lands him in a prison…and part of a chain gang. Not wanting to be there, he makes trying to escape his new occupation…getting caught and sent back almost as often as he attempts to flee. Newman is not the only reason to watch here…George Kennedy won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as one of the fellow inmates. And the other prisoners are also great…befriending Newman, cheering him on as he flees, and welcoming him back as he returns. Not a movie for all people…ladies, be where. This is the antithesis of a “chick flick.” But, then again, you can always mute it and just look at Mr. Newman!

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Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a good thriller…with a good ending. Not a great ending (I wish one of the main characters’ story was not left unresolved) but still satisfying. And, maybe famed NYC director Sidney Lumet left that one character’s end unresolved because that’s how life is…sometimes left hanging. From the way it starts to the way Lumet structures the story (told from different POVs), this one is original. Basically, it’s a robbery-gone-awry story which we’ve all seen over and over again in films. But Lumet adds an extra twist here that keeps you guessing until the end. Not Lumet’s best movie…(can anyone say Twelve Angry Men???) but compared to some of the lame thrillers out there, this one is one of the best of late.

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