Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Internal Affairs (1990)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #8

Synopsis: Richard Gere plays a nasty, crooked cop. Jeez, what crawled up his ass?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Dennis Peck knows his way around the law. He can launder money, run a scam, fix a bad rap. He can even, for the right price, arrange a murder. ‘Trust me,’ he says, ‘I’m a cop.’ Richard Gere is Peck and Andy Garcia is Raymond Avilla, the investigator determined to bring Peck to justice in this supercharged police thriller.”

What Did I Learn?: Richard Gere wants us to believe he is among the most virile of men, because he bangs nearly every woman in this movie, except for Garcia’s lesbian police partner.

You Might Like This Movie If: There’s a young hothead at your place of work and you want to know how to make him angry.

Really?: 1) After Peck shoots an associate in the head at point-blank range, I wonder if he’s going to have trouble convincing the ballistics investigators the wound came about from a shootout. 2) Let’s see...Peck has been wounded, and the cops are now looking for him. What better place for him to hide than his adversary’s apartment? Come on...

Rating: Internal Affairs is an ok (not bad, not great) police thriller. Gere provides a show-stealing performance as a sleazy police officer (Garcia, on the other hand, mostly walks through his part until it’s time for him to explode, at which point he wildly overacts), until the script turns him into some sort of weird psychopath mid-way though. And coming from a less Politically Correct time, Internal Affairs also traffics in a number of stereotypes, including the frumpy lesbian and the hot-headed Mexican-American.

Ok, one final complaint: at one point, Avilla beats up Peck, who later Pearl Harbours Avilla. Shouldn’t the movie have ended with a fistfight, so we would know which of the two is indeed the tougher cop? 6.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Big Easy (1986)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #7 (Click the link to read Matthew Coe Hill’s spirited review of this film)

Synopsis: She’s a little frumpy, he’s a little sleazy; together, they knock boots and solve crimes in The Big Easy!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “When a hood’s murder triggers a bloody gangland drug war, detective Remy McSwain (DENNIS QUAID) is on the scene. He’s a smooth-takin’ cop who fits right in with the easy style of Cajun country. Remy meets his match in Anne Osborne (ELLEN BARKIN), a no-nonsense Assistant District Attorney in town to investigate police corruption. At odds from the moment they meet, their electrically-charged attraction keeps the sparks flying.”

What Did I Learn?: 1)  If you’re going bald, don’t buy a bad toupee. It’s cruel, but your chums in the office will take great delight in ripping it from your head and throwing it around the room.

Really?: So wait...Remy and Anne are lovers, yet she doesn’t recuse herself from prosecuting him for accepting a bribe? And after Remy beats the charge, he actually wants to patch things up with her? Come on...

Rating: Action definitely takes a backseat to the romance/sex scenes in The Big Easy (Ellen Barkin is pretty sexy in this film) . It’s an enjoyable movie, although both Quaid and Barkin are obviously acting (he has a strange, manic energy, while she overdoes the frumpiness), and the ending is a bit just know that Remy can outsmart those two clowns.  7/10 stars.

Monday, February 27, 2012

One Good Cop (1991)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #6 (Well, Michael Keaton isn’t so much a bad cop as he’s a good cop who’s forced to rip off a drug dealer in order to make some fast cash)

Synopsis: Michael Keaton plays the only NYC detective who isn’t on the take.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Michael Keaton (Batman) delivers a critically acclaimed performance as Artie Lewis, an honest and dedicated police detective in this suspenseful, action-filled movie. Keaton becomes the legal guardian of three orphaned girls when his partner (Anthony LaPaglia, Betsy’s Wedding) is killed in a drug raid. During his investigation of the vicious drug ring responsible, Keaton finds his life – and that of his family – on the line!”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re thinking of robbing the local drug kingpin at gunpoint, you might not want to throw a crumpled-up $20 bill in his face, just the way he did to you a few days earlier.

Really?: It’s no wonder Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman, as it becomes apparent he can beat up anybody – even when he gets double-teamed by street thugs.

Rating: One Good Cop isn’t a terrible film, but it unsuccessfully tries to be both a warm-hearted family drama and a gritty, action-packed thriller. Oh – and I didn’t buy the sugar-coated ending, either. 6.5/10 stars.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #5

Synopsis: Junkie cop learns it’s a bad idea to bet against the hometown team.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “HARVEY KEITEL (‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Sister Act’, ‘Bugsy’, ‘Thelma and Louise’) gives the most searing performance of his celebrated career in director ABEL FERRARA’s critically acclaimed film of a dangerously out-of-control cop succumbing to his personal demons as he investigates a brutal crime.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) I really didn’t need to see a shot of Harvey Keitel’s junk. 2) If you already owe your bookie $60K and he’s threatening to kill you, it might be a bad idea to go double-or-nothing.

Really?: Does Keitel’s character ever do any paperwork, attend meetings at the precinct headquarters, or attempt to solve any criminal cases? It seems as though he spends all of his time doing drugs, making foolhardy wagers and getting angry at the Mets.

Rating: While I like Harvey Keitel as an actor, and he definitely delivers a magnificent performance, Bad Lieutenant is sleazy, pointless and depressing. I cannot recommend this movie.  5/10 stars.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Narc (2002)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #4

Synopsis: It’s 105 minutes of greasy cops harassing junkies in the dead of winter.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Jason Patric stars as Nick Tellis, a suspended narcotics officer recruited to investigate the murder of Michael Calvess, a rookie cop killed under mysterious circumstances. Tellis is teamed with Calvess’s partner, Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), a hot-tempered renegade who’ll stop at nothing to avenge his friend’s death. As Tellis and Oak follow a shadowy trail through the seamy drug underworld, the lines start to blur – between right and wrong, good and evil, and justice and revenge.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re dealing drugs, don’t buy an expensive TV set. The cops will take great delight in smashing it when they “toss” your place.

Really?: Why does Oak wear a suit and tie all the time? Who is he trying to impress...the drug dealers?

Rating: Narc is gritty with a capital G. It’s an unpleasant film with a lot of graphic violence, but Patric and Liotta deliver powerful, top-notch performances as emotionally-damaged cops who have been on the streets a bit too long, and the story is engaging. (The film was also partially shot in Toronto, and if you’ve ever been to City Hall, you’ll recognize a certain stairwell) Narc is an example of low-budget filmmaking at its best. 8.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

LA Confidential (1997)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #3:

Synopsis: Backstabbing keener, violent hothead and social-climbing narcissist join forces to solve murders in 1950s LA.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Three cops (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce), a call girl (Kim Bassinger), a mysterious millionaire (David Strathairn), a tabloid journalist (Danny DeVito) and the Chief of Detectives (James Cromwell) fuel a labyrinthine plot rife with mystery, ambition, romance and humour.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re hated by your fellow police officers as a no-good snitch, the best way to regain their respect is to blast a few suspects with an Ithaca Model 37 shotgun.

Really?: I realize Kevin Spacey’s character gets a case of the guilts, but come on...why would he leave a perfectly good $50 bill behind as a bar tip?

Rating: LA Confidential drags in places, none of the characters are terribly likeable (although Guy Pearce provides a complex performance as Ed Exley, an ambitious, backstabbing cop who nevertheless believes in justice), and it loses something after DeVito's character departs, but it’s a well-written, and deeply engrossing film. 9/10 stars.

Training Day (2001)

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #2:

Synopsis: Modern-day Serpico learns the ropes from evil version of Shaft.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In a powerful departure from his frequent good-guy roles, Denzel Washington plays the fiercely charismatic Alonzo Harris. Cruising the ‘hood in his flashy low-rider G-ride, laying down the patter of his twisted crimefighting logic, Harris both attracts and repels as he becomes the kind of thug he’s supposed to collar.”

What Did I Learn?: If your new boss asks you to smoke something, don't. Just don't.

Really?: 1) So wait...Ethan Hawke gets the crap kicked out of him (twice) earlier in the day, takes a beating from Denzel, falls on the hood of a car, and he’s still able to get the drop on his (presumably) tougher partner? 2) Most honest cops would have walked away after Denzel used a phony search warrant to rip off a poor family. 3) I realize Denzel’s character needs some fast cash, but come on...he allows a rookie he doesn’t even know to witness him commit a murder, several armed robberies, assault and battery, a home invasion with phony documents and attempted bribery all on the guy’s first day!

Rating: Denzel Washington delivers a stellar performance as one of the scummiest cops to ever (dis)grace the silver screen, which is why I’m giving this film 6.5, instead of 6 stars. Training Day is a fun movie, yet it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend one’s sense of disbelief as it progresses. By Act Three, the film is basically a cat-and-mouse chase and fight spectacle. 6.5/10 stars.

Serpico (1973)

Pacino Film Fest Movie # 12

Salute to Bad Cops Movie #1 (Truth be told, Frank Serpico was actually a very good cop, but the NYC Police Department was pretty dirty in the early 1970s)

Synopsis: Hippie cop discovers payoffs aren’t groovy.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Al Pacino’s classic portrayal of Frank Serpico established him as one of today’s most versatile actors. ‘SERPICO’ was based on the true story of a New York policeman who discovers that honesty is not expected to be part of his job. He endures scorn and mistreatment from his fellow cops while attempting to perform his job with integrity.”

What Did I Learn?: Nobody wants to hear your sob stories.

Really?: Wouldn’t Serpy’s girlfriend have known that introducing him to friends as a cop was a major uncool? Couldn’t she have said: “he works for the city”?

Rating: Serpico is a fascinating story of police corruption. While the movie looks and feels like a time capsule from a bygone era, it's actually a timeless story. 8/10 stars.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Godfather Part III (1990)

Pacino Film Fest Movie # 11

Synopsis: Michael Corleone is back in action! Watch him host a bunch of lavish parties, be a supportive dad, re-connect with his estranged wife, and, the Pope?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “ONE OF THE GREATEST SAGAS IN MOVIE HISTORY continues!”

What Did I Learn?: You obviously can’t trap lightning in a bottle for 16 years.

Really?: 1) Is it easy to stab somebody with a pair of eyeglasses? 2) How does Andy Garcia “become” the new Don if the Corleones have been pretty much out of organized crime for the past decade or so? What sort of organization or power base does he inherit? 3) So wait...Andy Garcia (who looks nothing like James Caan, by the way) lusts for Sofia Coppola over Bridget Fonda...and she’s his first cousin??! No. Way.

Rating: The Godfather Part III is far from being the worst film ever made, but it’s a Godfather movie, which means people had high expectations. What’s wrong with this movie? Where does one begin...Sofia Coppola’s terrible acting is just the tip of the iceberg. The movie is set in 1979, but unlike the previous films, it doesn’t look or feel much like a period piece. Instead, Part III struck me as a series of gala events strung together. And while the previous films examine the gradual corruption of Michael Corleone’s soul, in Part III, he’s basically an all-American dad, and Andy Garcia is portrayed as a “good guy” gangster who wants to save the old neighbourhood from drugs and street crime. Sorry, but I ain’t buying it.  5/10 stars.

The Godfather Part II (1974)

Pacino Film Fest Movie # 10

Synopsis: Crime pays.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “THIS BRILLIANT COMPANION PIECE TO THE original The Godfather continues the saga of two generations of successive power within the Corleone family. Coppola tells two stories in Part II: the roots and rise of a young Don Vito, played with uncanny ability by Robert De Niro, and the ascension of Michael (Al Pacino) as the new Don.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s tough for a man to earn any respect if his drink of choice is a banana daiquiri.

You Might Like This Movie If: Pacino and De Niro in the same film? That’s just gotta be awesome!! Oh wait...

Really?: 1) If I had a chance to examine a solid gold telephone, I think I would at least take a glance at it. 2) You have to be one cold-hearted son of a bitch to whack your own brother. Does that happen very often in real life crime families? Wasn’t exile a better, and less guilt-inducing option?

Rating: The Godfather Part II is one of a very rare breed: a sequel that’s better than the original. Still, I’m sticking to my zero-to-ten scale. 10/10 stars.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Godfather (1972)

Pacino Film Fest Movie # 9

Please click the links to read my reviews of The Kid Stays in the Picture (the story of Robert Evans, the Paramount studio head who was instrumental in making this movie) and The Freshman, co-starring a guy who looks a lot like Vito Corleone.

Synopsis: Old guy with marbles in his mouth embraces the spirit of Take Your Kids to Work Day.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S EPIC MASTERPIECE features Marlon Brando in his Oscar-winning role as the patriarch of the Corleone family. Director Coppola paints a chilling portrait of the Sicilian clan’s rise and near fall from power in America, masterfully balancing the story between the Corleone’s family life and the ugly crime business in which they are engaged.”

What Did I Learn?: If the Mafia really wants to buy out your casino, take the money.

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to enjoy something rich and...cheesy.

Really?: 1) Is the Mafia really as cold-bloodedly rational as portrayed in this film? The bad gangsters kill Sonny, and nearly kill the Dad, and yet they expect the rest of the family to negotiate in good faith afterwards? I strongly suspect that if somebody whacked Tony Soprano’s kids, he would probably go apeshit. 2) So wait...the movie producer invites Tom Hagan (Robert Duvall) over to his home, gives him the grand tour, and even prepares a delicious dinner just so he can blow up and throw him out?

Rating: I don’t always agree with the VHS jacket blurb, but “epic masterpiece” is an accurate description of The Godfather. 10/10 stars.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Pacino Film Fest Movie # 8

Synopsis: It’s two hours and 37 minutes of Hoo-wah!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Al Pacino delivers the performance of a lifetime in this heart-wrenching and heart-warming film from Oscar nominated producer/director Martin Best.”

What Did I Learn?: A bombastic, profanity-laden speech from an authority figure will get you off the hook every time.

You Might Like This Movie If: You love seeing red Ferraris on-screen.

Really?: I like this movie – I really do – but its plot revolves around Charlie (Chris O’Donnell) making two rather implausible decisions: a) sticking up for a bunch of guys he doesn’t like, even though he’s in danger of losing his scholarship and getting drummed out of boarding school, and b) accompanying Lt. Col. Slade to New York on the spur of the moment, instead of going home and placing a call to Slade’s niece. Oh, and do the airlines allow former servicemen to carry firearms on domestic flights?

Rating: Scent of a Woman is a little tough to believe in places, but it’s a nice movie, and Pacino richly deserved his Oscar. 8/10 stars.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heat (1995)

Pacino Film Fest Movie #7

Synopsis: Aging 1970s-era acting legends fire assault rifles, beat up tougher opponents and bang much-younger women in order to show the kids they still got it.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “When Al Pacino and Robert De Niro square off, Heat sizzles.”

What Did I Learn?: If the police are looking for you, and you’re about to make a clean get-away with both the money and a cute girl, don’t make a pit stop for revenge.

Really?: 1) What was the point of making Waingro a prostitute-murdering serial killer in his spare time? He’s a slimeball – we get it. The movie’s already too long. 2) If you know the cops have been tailing you, and a detective asks you to join him for a coffee, are you really going to admit to his that pull off robbery scores, and threaten to kill him if he gets in your way? How did De Niro know Pacino wasn’t wearing a wire?

Rating: Heat is an enjoyable popcorn-movie action thriller, and it does contain some good performances (Pacino wildly over-acts in places, however) but I have a couple of complaints: a) at 170 minutes, it’s far too long, and b) none of the characters are terribly likeable or sympathetic. The film has plenty of action and slick moves, but it’s tough to care about any of these people by the end. 7.5/10 stars.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Pacino Film Fest Movie # 6

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed version of Death of a Salesman.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Times are tough at Premiere Properties. Shelly ‘the machine’ Levene (Jack Lemmon) and Dave Moss (Ed Harris) are veteran salesmen, but only Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) is on a hot streak. The new Glengarry leads could turn everything around, but the front office is holding them back until these ‘losers’ prove themselves.”

What Did I Learn?: Unless you don’t mind being continually harassed by slimy, dishonest boiler-room salesmen, don’t ever fill out a corporate survey, or ask for more information on buying land.

You Might Like This Movie If: You could use a motivational pep talk.

Really?: As much as I love Alec Baldwin’s “coffee is for closers” speech, I had a hard time believing that middle-aged salesmen would willingly subject themselves to his abuse. If they weren’t meeting their sales quotas, I also strongly suspect that Mitch and Murray would simply replace them with some high-powered young punks.

Rating: Brilliantly-written by David Mamet, and beautifully filmed (neon lights look amazing against rain-swept streets and wet glass), Glengarry Glen Ross boasts a murderers row of acting talent, including Alan Arkin and Kevin Spacey. It’s truly a masterpiece. 10/10 stars.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Pacino Film Fest Movie #5

Synopsis: Michael and Fredo Corleone perform God-awful bank job.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “On a blistering Brooklyn afternoon, two optimistic losers set out to rob a bank. Sonny (Al Pacino), whose frantic brain can race for hours without reaching a conclusion, is the mastermind. Slow-witted Sal (John Casale) is the follower. And disaster is the result.”

What Did I Learn?: In the early 1970s, even much of New York's gay community thought same-sex marriage was a strange idea.

You Might Like This Movie If: it pleases you to know that crime rarely pays.

Really?: I realize this movie was based on a real-life robbery-turned-hostage crisis, so I have to wonder if the real Sonny actually allowed one of the tellers to play-act military drill procedures with his rifle.

Rating: I’ve never particularly liked hostage-taking dramas for the simple reason that they’re usually pretty depressing, and you can see the ending a mile away. There are some strong performances in Dog Day Afternoon (Charles Durning is particularly good as a level-headed cop who tries his best to keep things from spiralling out of control), but it’s a bit too long, and a little dull after awhile. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Devil's Advocate (1997)

Pacino Film Fest Movie #4

Synopsis: Old Scratch decides he needs yet another lawyer on his payroll.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Hotshot attorney Kevin Lomax’s 64-0 case record has brought him a tempting offer from an elite New York firm. But the job Lomax accepts isn’t what it seems. The Devil is in the details.”

What Did I Learn?: Satan rides the subway.

Really?: So wait...if the Devil has the ability to impregnate women, why does he need his son to create the Anti-Christ? Wouldn't Kevin be the Anti-Christ? If not, why can’t the Devil do it himself?

Rating: Pacino is great, Keanu Reeves is...Keanu Reeves (I’m not a huge fan), and Devil’s Advocate is a fun and engrossing film with a few flaws – the largest being an overly long Act Two. Kevin’s wife quickly descends into madness, and instead of realizing there’s something seriously wrong (the soon-to-be-murdered business partner reveals Kevin’s name has mysteriously been on the company charter for decades, but does he actually investigate? Noooooooooo....), he plunges headfirst into his job and doesn’t figure things out until the last ten minutes when everything is revealed, anyway. 7/10 stars.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

City Hall (1996)

Pacino Film Fest Movie #3

Synopsis: Guy from Louisiana is shocked – shocked – to discover corruption in New York City politics.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Veteran politician Mayor John Pappas (AL PACINO) and idealist Deputy Mayor Kevin Calhoun (JOHN CUSACK) are masters at the art of compromise, back room politics and brokering the deals that keep the city running like clockwork. They thought nothing could stop the power machine they so carefully built.”

What Did I Learn?: If you want to make a doctored probation report look authentic, get the dude’s officer to sign it, not the top guy in the department.

Really?: 1) Bridget Fonda’s character wants a witness to accompany her as she meets a drug dealer to hear his side of the story. Who does she bring? The Deputy Mayor – and they don’t even know each other that well!  2) In the first half of the movie, we discover that Cusack’s Deputy Mayor is so busy he basically doesn’t have a social life. In the second half, he apparently has enough free time to allow for late-night meetings, trips to Buffalo to meet with exiled probation officers, and other sleuthing activities.

Rating: City Hall is an enjoyable drama with a number of strong performances (Danny Aiello is quite good as a mobbed-up ward boss who only wants to enjoy a good Rogers and Hammerstein musical), although the storyline tends to meander, and Bridget Fonda doesn’t have that much of a part. 7.5/10 stars.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Insider (1999)

Pacino Film Fest Movie #2

Synopsis: It’s 158 minutes of Russell Crowe looking sad as slow, depressing music plays in the background.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket:The Insider recounts the chain of events that pitted an ordinary man against the tobacco industry, and dragged two people into the fight of their lives.”

What Did I Learn?: Hezbollah is a bunch of pussies.

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to see Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes take on those evil tobacco companies. (Funny how they never mentioned this in the film...)

Really?: Do tobacco companies have anything better to do with their time and money than harass former employees? (Imagine my surprise when I learned the FBI investigated the death threats to Jeffrey Wigand’s family and concluded – based on interviews with his ex-wife – that he probably faked them).

Rating: The Insider seems a bit like two movies in one. When the action focuses on Russell Crowe (Jeffrey Wigand), it’s dull and depressing...quite often, he drives home and finds the tobacco company did something truly dastardly, and he gets mad. In the second hour, however, the action shifts to Pacino as the veteran newsman, and things become much more interesting. 7.5/10 stars.

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Football Movie #5

Pacino Film Fest Movie #1

Synopsis: Pro football is a sleazy enterprise that’s run by greedy owners who: a) chew up and spit out their players and coaches, and b) don’t give a crap about the cities that host their teams...GO SHARKS!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Life is a contact sport and football is life when three-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone and a dynamic acting ensemble explore the fortunes of the Miami Sharks in Any Given Sunday.”

What Did I Learn?: Hookers who look like Elizabeth Berkley cost $1000 an hour, or $5000 for the night.

Really?: I realize Oliver Stone didn’t get permission to use real NFL teams and logos, but come on... a team (Dallas Knights) based upon the Knights Templar, complete with a Masonic Eye of Providence symbol? Wouldn’t that creep out the locals?

Rating: Any Given Sunday is an entertaining, yet rather run-of-the-mill football film. AGS contains plenty of good performances (still, Oliver Stone’s critics have a point about his inability to write believable female roles...nearly every woman in this movie is some combination of materialistic and catty) but it suffers the same basic problem as The Program: we know that pro-football is all about money, and that it doesn’t treat its players all that well, yet the film somehow expects us to care if Pacino and his money-grubbing gang of toughs win their games or not. (BTW: James Woods, this blog’s favourite unlikeable guy, makes an appearance guessed it: an unlikeable doctor). 7.5/10 stars.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Program (1993)

Football Movie #4

Synopsis: College football is sleazy enterprise which corrupts academic institutions, chews up and spits out young athletes, and prostitutes the coaches and senior staff... GO TIMBERWOLVES!!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Follow the lives of a group of young athletes who come together from different worlds to pursue a dream in The Program – an inside look at the gritty, action-packed world of Top 10 college football... you’ll catch the excitement of football season year ‘round when you grab this big-screen winner today!”

What Did I Learn?: If you terrorize your new girlfriend by taking her on a death-defying motorcycle jump off the highway into a gravel pit - and she later agrees to see you again - she’s a keeper!

Really?: So wait – a ‘roided-up player beats up, and almost rapes a female student, and her Dad puts the team ahead of his own daughter by refusing to press charges? Does that happen in real life?

Rating: The Program is an entertaining (and not terribly flattering) look at US college football. It’s not a bad movie, but it has a fundamental problem with its storyline. We see the corrupting influence of big-money sports on the players, the university, and even the poor coach (James Caan gives a great performance as a man who must continually sacrifice his principles, his family, and even his self-respect for the good of the team), and yet everyone plays the good little soldier, and nobody ever has a “I can’t do this, anymore” moment.”That’s realistic, if a bit depressing, but why are we supposed to care if the Timberwolves win? I certainly didn’t. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day (1993)

Ok, Groundhog Day is obviously not a football-related film, but it’s February 2nd...what else were you expecting?

Synopsis: Grumpy weatherman has *loopy* day.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Bill Murray is at his dry, wisecracking best in this riotous romantic comedy about a weatherman caught in a personal time warp on the worst day of his life.”

What Did I Learn?: “Insurance salesman” is a dead giveaway for nerdy and boring.

You Might Like This Movie If: You can’t get enough of Bill Murray interacting with furry rodents.

Really?:’s hard to fill in this category, considering most of Bill Murray’s actions seem consistent with the film’s premise (ok, letting the groundhog take the steering wheel was a little goofy) although you could point out a few technical bloopers. Interestingly, Groundhog Day never offers an explanation for why the time loop occurs in the first place, although I don’t think it actually needs one.

Rating: Groundhog Day is one of my favourite films. It’s funny, clever, touching, thought-provoking, and extremely well-written. It works on many levels: romantic comedy, full-length Twilight Zone episode, self-improvement lesson, etc. Chris Elliott and Andie MacDowell are great, but Murray provides a tour-de-force performance as a not-so-nice guy who suddenly has a lot of time to think about the meaning of his life. 10/10 stars.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

North Dallas Forty (1979)

Football Movie #3

Synopsis: It’s 119 minutes of Nick Nolte grumbling about chronic pain.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Nick Nolte stars in this brutally honest entertainment about one man’s rebellion against the bureaucratic, manipulative world of professional football. Based on the popular novel by former Dallas Cowboy Peter Gent, NORTH DALLAS FORTY depicts Nolte as an aging ballplayer who, through a woman he meets, is drawn away from the masculine, violent world in which he has lived so long. In doing so, he finds himself at odds with the team’s management.”

What Did I Learn?: People must have really liked brown couches back in the late 1970s.

Really?: Would any pro-football team practice its plays (including tackles!) on a basketball court with a hard-wood floor? Did the Dallas Cowboys actually do that?

Rating: North Dallas Forty is a very good, character-driven film. While most of it deals with Nolte’s budding romance with Charlotte (Dayle Haddon) the more interesting relationship is the one between Nolte and his best buddy, the team’s quarterback (Mac Davis). Both are cynical and damaged, but Davis is far better at telling the owners what they want to hear. Take a guess how it eventually ends.  9/10 stars.

The Longest Yard (1974)

Football Movie #2

Synopsis: It’s Cool Hand Burt!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In this rough-and-tumble yarn, actually filmed on-location at the Georgia State Prison, the cons are the heroes and the guards are the heavies. Eddie Albert is the sadistic warden who’ll gladly make any sacrifice to push his guards’ semi-pro football team to a national championship. Reynolds plays one time pro quarterback Paul Crewe, now behind bars for leading State Police on a wild chase in a ‘borrowed’ car.”

What Did I Learn?: Using a syringe to inject flammable liquid into a light bulb is an ingenious way of killing somebody. Thanks for the advice, Burt!

Really?: 1) So wait – the head guard beats up Burt and orders him to refuse the Warden’s offer to assist with the football team. Burt does as he’s told, and the head guard beats him senseless afterwards, anyway? WTF? 2) A once-famous, former pro-football player goes to jail, and nobody makes a move on him in the shower? 2)The only reason the Warden asks Burt to put together a football team of convicts is to provide the guard team with a “tune-up” game. Considering most of the inmates join the team in order to inflict as much punishment on the guards as possible (one guard even gets his neck broken!), I was expecting a clash of visions to emerge, and it never did.  

Rating: More a prison story than a football movie, The Longest Yard is enjoyable fare as long you don’t ask too many questions about the plot. It’s also a little tough to sympathize with Paul Crewe after he: a) smacks around his (admittedly snooty) girlfriend, b) steals and trashes her car after a high-speed chase, and c) beats up a couple of cops. 6.5/10 stars.

Semi-Tough (1977)

I’m not a sports fan, but the Superbowl is fast approaching, so I thought you might enjoy a few reviews of football-related movies. The gridiron theme will continue until we get to Any Given Sunday, at which point Schuster at the Movies will segue into an Al Pacino theme. (And from there, my blog will segue into a Salute to Bad Cops theme once we reach Serpico).

Football Movie #1 (By the way: that is a blue Value Village sticker in the bottom left corner of the image)

Synopsis: Cynical and moustachioed knucklehead competes with sensitive and bearded knucklehead for affections of mixed-up lady...oh, and they play in the Superbowl, too.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Sexy Barbara Jane (Jill Clayburgh) and wayward football players Billy Clyde (Burt Reynolds) and Shake (Kris Kristofferson) have been best friends for years. But when Shake finds enlightenment with a wacky philosophy called ‘IT’, Barbara Jane finds herself falling in love with his new confidence.”

What Did I Learn?: According to Burt, “big girls have big feelings.”

Really?: Would an entire pro-football team really take the time to go through a wedding rehearsal the day before the fucking SUPERBOWL? I don’t think so.

Rating: Semi-Tough is a comedy about football players, yet the sport is pretty much incidental to the plot, which instead focuses mostly on the love triangle between Clayburgh, Kristofferson and Burt. The movie boasts an impressive supporting cast (including Magnum PI’s Roger E. Mosley, Carl Weathers, Bert Convy as a slimy self-help guru, Brian Dennehy and the great Robert Preston), as well as some amusing pot-shots at the 1970s encounter group craze, but it’s not that funny, and the ending needed a re-write. 6.5/10 stars.