Tag Archives: joe pantaliano

The Fugitive – Review

6 Feb

Isn’t it a shame that I’ve met people who firmly believe that straight up action movies do not qualify as artistic film making and refuse to label any of them “classics?” I find it hard to believe that people can still think like that when movies like The Fugitive exist and has gotten overwhelmingly positive acclaim. Based off of a t.v. series that ran from 1963 to 1967, Andrew Davis’ The Fugitive not only serves up a heaping dish of intelligent storytelling and one of the most intense performances of the ’90s, but also just a very entertaining thrill ride packed with plenty of action and adventure.

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Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is one of Chicago’s go to vascular surgeons and is also graced with a large house and a beautiful wife (Sela Ward). Kimble’s life is completely turned upside down when his wife is killed and he is charged with her murder and sentenced to death. While being transferred, the group of prisoners he is with attempts a break out which crashes the bus allowing Kimble to make his getaway and start his search of the one-armed man that is actually the perpetrator of his wife’s murder. Unfortunately for Kimble, Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), who has a reputation for being relentless, is hot on his trail, but neither of them could have guessed how deep the conspiracy that they’ve been tossed into actually goes.

There’s so many things to talk about with The Fugitive, so trying to get my thoughts evenly together is a bit of a challenge. That’s kind of a compliment in and of itself, but I digress. The most important thing to me is how the movie is written. It’s such a tight story with each scene the perfectly compliments one another. Nothing in the movie feels excessive or unnecessary, which is definitely a good thing for a movie that runs over 2 hours long. The story pretty much hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the resolution. This kept me completely into it the entire time. Not to mention the amount of grand set pieces strewn throughout. One particularly memorable sequence happens during a St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was never in the script and improvised on the spot. That’s some clever film making.

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Because the writing of The Fugitive is so tight, the whole movie just works. I can’t say that I was bored at any point throughout the narrative of this movie. That’s not to say that there isn’t any downtime, because there’s plenty that’s used to build the characters and thicken the plot in ways that it needs to be. This isn’t just stupid thrills that exist for cheap reasons. I mentioned before the memorable scene that takes place during the St. Patrick’s Day parade and how it’s a very well executed scene. There’s another scene that may actually be the most famous from the movie where Kimble successfully avoids a crashing train. The way the stunt was set up required so much planning and used an actual train that I really can’t help but admire it. That’s part of what sets this movie a step above the rest in terms of the action genre.

Finally, the performances in this movie are really something else. Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones are the two big names in the movie, but there are also some great supporting cast members like Joe Pantaliano and Julianne Moore. Ford works great as Kimble and his personality makes the character feel very natural and makes him someone the audience can really root for. Ford just has a knack for making heroes seem like everyday guys. The real scene stealer, however, is Tommy Lee Jones who actually took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He really seems to be going above what he normally does and even went so far as to make up a lot of his most famous lines on the spot. That just shows how deep into the character of Samuel Gerard he really was.

The bottom line is that The Fugitive is one of the best action films ever made and shows that action films can be considered art in how they’re made and how well the narrative is constructed. Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones give two memorable performances that serve as highlights of their career and was even garnered with 7 Academy Award nominations. I’m sure at this most people have already the pleasure of viewing this contemporary classic, but if not it really is necessary viewing.

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Bound – Review

29 Jan

Well with a new year comes new movies, and one that I’m really gearing up to see is the Wachowski’s newest film Jupiter Ascending. I don’t know if it’s gonna live up to my excitement, but what better way to get ready for it than talking about one of their earlier movies, their directorial debut in fact. When The Matrix arrived on the scene in 1999, it blew audiences into the stratosphere, but before that was a little, yet critically acclaimed, film called Bound. I didn’t know what to expect going into this movie, so my I went in not expecting too much, but what I got was a fantastic neo-noir film filled with sex, violence, and tension that forces you to the edge of your seat.

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Corky (Gina Gershon), an ex-con and professional thief, has been hired to renovate an apartment that just so happens to be down the hall from mafia launderer Caesar (Joe Pantaliano) and his girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly). The job starts innocently enough until Violet begins taking interest in Corky and the two begin a relationship behind Caesar’s back. Finally getting sick of the lifestyle, Violet confides in Corky that she wants out and to start a new life with Corky, and the only way to do that is to steal $2 million of stolen mafia money right from under Caesar’s nose. Corky soon concocts a plan and the two lovers set it into motion, but it soon begins to go very wrong when suspicions arise and bodies start piling up, literally.

To me, the Wachowskis are almost too cool. The Matrix movies (and yes, I mean all three) are some of the coolest examples of film making that I can think of. Cloud Atlas was an incredibly ambitious film, but I can’t really offer my thoughts on Speed Racer since I haven’t seen it. Now I can add Bound to the list of really cool work that the Wachowskis are responsible for. Like I said before, I really had no idea what to expect going into this movie, but what I got was a claustrophobic neo-noir with some of the tightest writing I may have ever seen. It’s not rare for the suspense of a movie to make me excited and tense, but the suspense in Bound didn’t seem to end at a certain point, and not only that but it was paced so well. It kept me needing to see what happened next by stretching out certain scenes, but I never felt bored during the entire two hours this movie was on.

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Like Danny Boyle and Kevin Smith both did so well in their debut films, the setting of Bound, for the most part, takes place in two apartments. Of course it reminded me of Shallow Grave a lot more than Clerks, but what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need a lot of set pieces and locations to make an intense movie. I don’t want this review to turn into a film essay, but it’s such an interesting choice to keep the action and story in such a confined place. Just think of the title of the movie: Bound. The characters are not only bound to each other and the plan they concoct, but also the small area of their apartments. This also just goes to show how excellent the writing is in this movie. It’s easy to have big shoot outs and chase scenes to create suspense, but creating suspense out of silence and confinement takes talent.

I feel like the word to describe this movie is simply just “cool,” which makes sense because noirs are traditionally thought of as being a really cool style of film making. Bouncing off the excellent screenwriting comes excellent dialogue that are, at the risk of sounding redundant, performed by a really cool cast. Like his characters in The Matrix and Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Joe Pantaliano proves once again that he’s really good at playing a scum bag. It’s fun to hate Pantaliano’s character, but it’s also fun looking down on him and laugh at how pathetic he is. The real focus of “cool” in this film revolves around Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly. I love seeing badass women in movies, but seeing two badass women as leading characters in a noir film is just a dream come true.

Bound is one of the most impressive debut films I’ve ever seen, and as I mentioned before can join the ranks of debut films like Shallow GraveThe Following, and Clerks. It also reenforces the idea that less can often be more in creating a suspenseful and intense film. The cinematography combined with the stylistic camerawork and exceptional screenwriting makes me wish that in some alternate universe, I made this movie. It’s almost intimidating. The bottom line is that the Wachowskis are two very talented film makers, and solid evidence can be seen at their first attempt at a feature film. It’s almost too awesome.

Bad Boys & Bad Boys 2 – Review

13 Sep

When people hear the name Michael Bay, it is usually greeted with eye rolls, hearty laughs, or jokes about explosions. That being said he has almost become a cartoon of the Hollywood lifestyle. But before all the jokes he was a music video producer, which definitely accounts for aspects of his style. Then, in 1995 he entered the movie scene via Jerry Bruckheimer and and Don Simpson with Bad Boys.

Mike Lowry (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are two tough guy, trash talking cops operating out of Miami. When their biggest bust is stolen from the police station and a witness (Téa Leone) is threatened in a connected incident, Mike and Marcus make it their personal mission to protect her, reclaim their bust, and stop the foreign drug lord (Tchéky Karyo) that is responsible from making the biggest deal of his career.

I will say that Bad Boys was a good starting point for a hit-or-miss action director like Michael Bay, unfortunately, this film lacked in so many areas that I can’t recommend it. The whole thing felt hollow from the jokes to the action to the characters. I enjoy brainless action films, especially when they make me laugh, but they have to have worthwhile action to make up for everything else. Bad Boys had a few nice action set pieces, but not enough to carry it.

The chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is really great, and usual their banter is funny but it gets old really fast sometimes. In the middle of an otherwise good action sequence, we are forced to listen to them argue. They argue enough in the downtime to be funny. Don’t ruin these action scenes with too much talking! Also, these fun scenes are too few and far between for them to be spoiled, but the film makers managed to.

Michael Bay has talent. I firmly believe that he does, and there are moments where I see it glimmering through the mess. Some camera angles are interesting and well thought out, but when the rest of the movie is unappealing, than what’s the point? He really shines in the final action sequence when the movie finally begins to pick up, then lo and behold it’s over.

 

I guess that bottom line for Bad Boys is that it had potential, but it was wasted. I went in not expecting too much, but got a lot less in return. With that in mind I hoped that Bad Boys 2 would make up for its sloppy predecessor. With a run time of two and a half hours, it better be pretty damn entertaining.

 

Mike and Marcus are still the same trash talking cops even after all the years of being on the force. When the largest import of ecstasy is being brought into the country via a Cuban drug kingpin Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà), Mike and Marcus are tasked with not only stopping the shipment, but also with protecting Marcus’ sister (Gabrielle Union) who is also a DEA agent.

Bad Boys 2 is bigger, louder, crazier, and all around better than the original. This is exactly what I wanted the original one to be. Sure, it has its fair share of problems, but it is still a very entertaining action film that made me laugh and also provided some excellent action set pieces.

 

The first thing I thought of was the late, great Tony Scott sitting Michael Bay down and giving him advice on how to make Bad Boys 2 a better film. I’m pretty positive that never happened, but there are many stylistic similarities to this film and Tony Scott’s. There are crazy yellow and orange filters mixed with over the the top kinetic camera work. I have a soft spot for this style, so automatically I was enjoying myself.

The jokes are ten times better this time around, and the chemistry between Will and Martin has stayed strong. Unfortunately, the movie does suffer from a main problem that the first one had. When there’s a crazy action sequence going on, it keeps getting broken up by the two main characters bickering. Again, it’s funny to a point, then it just gets annoying.

While the action may be more entertaining and the story more intriguing, it is still way too long, and some of the acting is horrible. Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jordi Mollà, and Joe Pantaliano knock it out of the park. Gabrielle Union on the other hand is pretty terrible.  It seems Bay just needed a beautiful woman, kind of like Téa Leone in the first film.

 

Michael Bay’s first attempt at a feature film was flawed beyond repair, but by the time its sequel showed up, he already matured as an action film maker. The Bad Boys films are a mixed bag, but one half of the package is very entertaining. I always think that you need to watch the first of a series to appreciate the second or third, but if you don’t share this logic then skip the first Bad Boys all together and move on to the second.