REVIEW: KILL THE IRISHMAN

CAST

Ray Stevenson (Punisher Warzone)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil)
Vinnie Jones (Arrow)
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Linda Cardellini (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Tony Darrow (The Sopranos)
Robert Davi (The Goonies)
Fionnula Flanagan (Yes man)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)
Laura Ramsey (The Covenant)
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas)
Mike Starr (Radio Days)

In 1960, Danny Greene and his childhood friends Billy McComber and Art Sneperger are longshoremen at the Cleveland docks. Meanwhile, the members are exploited by corrupt union boss, Jerry Merke and the leadership of the ILA union urges Greene to run against him. Meanwhile, Sneperger can’t pay a gambling debt to Cleveland Mafia Capo John Nardi. In return for Sneperger’s debt being forgiven, Greene supplies Nardi’s crew with goods stolen from the docks. Merke finds out, demands a cut of Greene’s profits, and then sends an enforcer to kill him. Instead, Greene beats up the enforcer, then beats up Merke, throws the union leader out of his office, and is later elected union president. He improves the working conditions at the docks while continuing his dealings with Nardi.Greene’s corruption is exposed by the Plain Dealer newspaper and Cleveland Police Detective Joe Manditski, who grew up with Greene in Collinwood, arrests him. Bankrupt and facing prison, Greene plea bargains to lesser charges in return for becoming an FBI informant and being banned for life from organized labor. Greene is released and moves his unhappy wife and daughters back to Collinwood. Nardi gets him work as an enforcer for Hungarian Jewish loan shark Shondor Birns, and later helps pitch a deal to Mafia Capo Jack Licavoli: Greene will force the city’s garbage haulers to join the union Licavoli controls. Greene, McComber, Sneperger, and ex-Hells Angel Keith Ritson terrorize many into joining, but Greene’s friend Mike Frato refuses. Licavoli orders Greene to kill Frato, but Greene balks because Frato has ten children. Nardi tells him privately, though, that, “You wanted to play in the big leagues. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t wanna do.”As Greene prepare’s to kill Frato with a car bomb, he learns from the FBI that Sneperger has returned to gambling, and has become an informant for Manditsky. That night, Greene assigns Sneperger to set the bomb under Frato’s car and presses the detonator as he does it. An enraged Frato later shoots at Greene in a park. Greene returns fire, kills Frato, and is arrested for murder, but released after Frato’s driver tells Manditski that Greene acted in self-defense. Having had enough, Greene’s long suffering wife leaves him and takes the children. Greene sees his elderly Irish neighbor, Grace O’Keefe, being evicted. He intervenes, pays her rent, and she gratefully gives him her father’s gold Celtic cross to wear for protection. Greene begins to use his money and connections to help other Irish-Americans in need, and earns the nickname “The Robin Hood of Collinwood”.Greene wants to open his own restaurant, and asks Shondor Birns to help him. Birns arranges a $70,000 loan from the Gambinos, but Birns’ courier buys cocaine with the money and gets arrested. Birns and Greene argue over which of them should pay back the money; when Greene refuses to pay, Birns hires a hitman to kill him. Greene narrowly escapes, and later kills Birns with a car bomb. After Mafia boss John Scalish dies, both Nardi and Licavoli are considered for succession. Licavoli is chosen due to his closer ties to the Five Families and decides to charge Greene 30% “street tax” for doing business in Cleveland. Greene refuses to pay, crudely mocks Licavoli’s Italian heritage, and vows, “The Irishman’s in business for himself now.” An outraged Licavoli has Greene’s house blown up, but he survives. He then attempts to demote Nardi and take away his crew, only to have the latter join forces with Greene. Vowing to take over Cleveland together, Greene and Nardi start by organizing the murders of Licavoli’s associates, many of whom are blown up. Thirty-six car bombings occur during the summer of 1976, drawing national attention and humiliating Licavoli. After failing multiple times to kill Greene, Licavoli is forced to humbly ask Genovese boss Anthony Salerno to help him kill Nardi and Greene.Having learned of this from the FBI, Greene claims that he wants to leave Cleveland and buy a ranch in Texas, but needs to raise $2 million. Wishing to size up their enemies, Greene and Nardi travel to New York and invite Salerno to invest in the ranch. After they leave, Salerno orders his associates to hire professional hitman Ray Ferritto to kill them both. Nardi is killed in a car explosion, McComber dies in a bombing at the Cleveland docks, and Ritson is shot near his house. Detective Manditski lets Greene know that a master killer is after him. He offers Greene protection, but is told, “My enemies will be taken care of.” After a dentist’s appointment on October 6, 1977, Greene notices Ferritto driving by slowly, and accepts that he is about to die, giving his gold cross to an admiring boy. Ferritto detonates a bomb on the car next to Greene’s, killing Greene instantly. An epilogue, by Manditski, reveals that the investigation of Danny Greene’s murder led to the collapse of the Mafia, not only in Cleveland, but all over the United States.I’m not a big fan of biopics or mobster films like this.  With that said the film is more fascinating and entertaining than most others of it’s type. The actors are all good and well cast, especially Stevenson. He’s always been a cool action bad ass in films before but here he’s really given a chance to show off his acting abilities and range. His performance combined with Hensleigh’s better than average directing make the film one definitely worth checking out. Probably especially if you’re a fan of the genre.

 

REVIEW: THE SNOWMAN (2017)

Starring

Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (Independence Day: Resurgence)
Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
David Dencik (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Chloë Sevigny (Lizzie)
James D’Arcy (Bates Motel)
Genevieve O’Reilly (The Legend of Tarzan)
Alec Newman (Dune)

Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017)At a remote cabin amidst heavy snowfall, a woman confronts a brutal man named Jonas saying she is going to tell his wife about their illegitimate son. The son overhears this and leaves the house and builds a snowman. Jonas leaves angrily in his car. The woman and her son pursue him, but lose him in the snow. She lets go of the steering wheel, causing the car to drive off the road onto a frozen lake. The boy manages to escape from the sinking car, but the woman stays inside in an apparent suicide.Harry Hole is a brilliant but troubled inspector with the Norwegian Police Service’s Oslo district, struggling with the aftermath of his break-up with his girlfriend Rakel and her new relationship with Mathias, a renowned surgeon. Harry was very close to her son Oleg, who is unaware that Harry is his biological father. Oleg mentions, on an outing with Harry, that his mother (Rakel) refused to let him search for his father. Harry receives a mysterious letter signed with the drawing of a snowman, and is paired with a brilliant new recruit, Katrine Bratt. The two are assigned to a missing persons case of Birte Becker, who vanished from her house after being followed home by a red Volvo.Rebecca Ferguson, Michael Fassbender, and Joakim Skarli in The Snowman (2017)The police receive a report of another missing woman named Sylvia Otterson. When Harry and Katrine travel to her farmhouse to investigate, they find her alive and well. They brush the report off as a prank call and leave, but shortly thereafter a figure wearing a black ski mask stalks and kills Sylvia outside her house, using a wire fastening harness to decapitate her. Harry receives another call about Otterson, and returning to the farmhouse comes face-to-face with her identical twin sister Ane. They search the property and find Sylvia’s beheaded corpse inside her barn, and her head atop a snowman inside an empty storage tank.Jonas Karlsson and Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017)Connecting the letter with the presence of a snowman at the crime scene of the murder with the snowman at the scene of the first woman’s (Birte) disappearance, Harry’s research leads him to a previous case in Bergen, involving a similar set of circumstances. He travels to meet the case’s investigating officer Gert Rafto, but upon arrival learns that Rafto died eight years prior through what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and that the case went cold after his apparent suicide. Inside Rafto’s old cabin, he finds a jacket and a photograph that lead him to realize that Katrine is Rafto’s daughter, and is likely out to find her father’s real killer.Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017)Katrine believes that Arve Støp, a business tycoon implicated in the earlier case, is behind her father’s death. Støp is involved in a high-class prostitution ring overseen by Idar Vetelsen, a doctor working at a clinic all the current victims had visited. Birte’s cell phone begins transmitting again, and the signal is traced to Vetelsen’s house. When the police raid it, they find Vetelsen dead of a shotgun blast to the head, along with the remains of Birte and another victim named Hegen Dahl. Katrine begins to seduce Støp at a fundraiser event, and he asks her to meet him in his hotel room. She sets a trap for him inside, but she is attacked and drugged by a masked figure who severs her right finger and uses it to unlock the biometric security measures on her work tablet, wiping all the data from it. The next morning, Harry sees the impression of a snowman atop his snow-covered car, and inside finds Katrine dead in the driver’s seat.Rakel tells Harry that Oleg has run away after Harry missed a school camping trip which he was supposed to have gone to. Oleg stays at a friend’s house, and when Rakel arrives to tell Harry the two kiss and almost have sex. Mathias calls to tell Rakel that he is picking up Oleg to take him home. Upon returning home, Mathias drugs and ties up Rakel, then does the same to Oleg, taking both of them to a cottage in Telemark. Harry locates the cottage, where he finds that Mathias has Rakel and Oleg hostage with the cutter to Rakel’s throat. Mathias is revealed as the boy at the start of the film, who hated his mother for committing suicide and, thus, abandoning him. Harry attacks Mathias and manages to get the cutter off of Rakel’s neck, losing a finger in the process. Mathias escapes and Harry gives pursuit, chasing him onto the ice. Mathias manages to shoot Harry, but the ice beneath Mathias’ feet suddenly cracks and breaks apart, dropping him into the water below and dragging him under the current to his death. After having his injuries treated, Harry returns to the police precinct, and volunteers for a new homicide case.The movie is really slow-paced at first, it does pick up in the second half though. It’s got a very creepy, disturbing feel to it as well, and Fassbender is good in the lead. The characters aren’t very well developed though, and the movie is mostly just dull. It might be worth watching late one night.

REVIEW: BATMAN FOREVER

CAST
Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss bang Bang)
Chris O’Donnell (Hawaii Five-O)
Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black)
Jim Carrey (Bruce Almightyg)
Nicole Kidman (The Hours)
Michael Gough (Sleepy Hollow)
Pat Hingle (Talladega Nights)
Drew Barrymore (Charles Angels)
Debi Mazar (Collateral)
Rene Auberjonois ((Star Trek: DS9)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Jessica Tuck (Super 8)
Kimberly Scott (The Abyss)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Don Wilson (Bloodfist)
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In Gotham City, Batman stops a hostage situation in a bank caused by Two-Face, the alter ego of the disfigured former district attorney, Harvey Dent. However, Two-Face escapes. Edward Nygma, a researcher at Wayne Enterprises, develops a device to beam television directly to a person’s brain; Bruce Wayne—with whom Nygma is obsessed—rejects the invention, noting that it “raises too many questions”, and Nygma angrily resigns from his position after killing his supervisor Fred Stickley, and forging his suicide note and footage. Everybody except Bruce is convinced it was a genuine suicide. During a news report, it shows how Harvey Dent became Two-Face: While he was prosecuting Sal Maroni, Maroni threw acid in Harvey’s face; Batman tried to stop him but failed. After meeting Batman-obsessed psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian, Bruce invites her to a charity circus event. There, Two-Face and his henchmen storm the event in an attempt to discover Batman’s secret identity, and in the process murder The Flying Graysons, a family of acrobats who attempt to stop him. The youngest member, Dick, survives and throws Two-Face’s bomb into the river to detonate safely underwater but the rest of the family dies.
Bruce assumes responsibility for Dick and allows him to stay at Wayne Manor. Dick then declares his intention to kill Two-Face and avenge his family’s murder, and when he discovers Bruce’s secret identity as Batman, he insists on becoming his partner, “Robin”. Meanwhile, Nygma becomes a criminal known as the “Riddler”, the master of puzzles and quizzes and forms an alliance with Two-Face. The two work together to steal capital for the mass production and promotion of Nygma’s television device. Using his device, Nygma can read and control people’s minds, and steal their intelligence quotient. At a business party, Nygma discovers Bruce’s secret identity. Two-Face then attacks the party and almost succeeds in killing Batman, but Robin arrives just in time to save his life. Meanwhile, Chase realizes her love for Bruce surpasses her obsession with Batman, but soon discovers that they are one and the same. However, Two-Face and the Riddler later assault Wayne Manor. The Riddler enters the Batcave and destroys most of the equipment, while Two-Face kidnaps Chase; Bruce, meanwhile, is left another riddle.
After solving the last riddle, Batman and Robin locate Two-Face and the Riddler’s lair, Claw Island, where both are separated upon reaching the island. Robin then encounters Two-Face and manages to beat him to the ground; realizing that he does not have it in him to commit murder, Robin helps the villain back up. Two-Face pulls out a pistol and captures Robin. Meanwhile, Batman manages to make his way into the Riddler’s lair, where Robin and Chase are revealed as hostages, bound, gagged with duct tape and held over a watery chasm, giving Batman a choice of saving just one hostage. Batman finds a way to save both hostages, and manages to destroy the brainwave-collecting device. The device’s malfunction drives the Riddler into a mental breakdown in the process. During the battle, while Two-Face tosses his coin to decide Batman’s fate, Batman throws a handful of coins towards him, which causes him to lose his balance and fall to his death while searching for his coin. The Riddler is sent to Arkham Asylum, and Chase is asked to consult on his case. Nygma offers to reveal the identity of Batman to her, but he believes that he himself is Batman, due to his damaged memories. Chase then meets Bruce Wayne outside and tells him his secret is safe. Batman and Robin then continue to protect Gotham City from crime.
It really depends on your point of view, but I find Batman Forever a good film, whilst not as good as it’s predecessors, it is still a good film. The Light Night indeed.

REVIEW: TOP GUN

CAST
Tom Cruise (Mission Impossile)
Kelly McGillis (Private Sessions)
Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Anthony Edwards (The Forgotten)
Tom Skerritt (Knight Moves)
Michael Ironside (McBain)
John Stockwell (Operation Intercept)
Rick Rossovich (The Terminator)
Tim Robbins (Antitrust)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Meg Ryan (Anastasia)
James Tolkan (Masters of The Universe)
United States Naval Aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw fly the F-14A Tomcat aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65). They, with Maverick’s wingman “Cougar” and his RIO “Merlin”, intercept fictional Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. Cougar is engaged by a hostile aircraft and afterwards is too shaken to land, despite being low on fuel. In defiance of orders, Maverick aborts his landing and assists Cougar despite also being low on fuel. Cougar gives up his Wings of Gold, citing his newborn child that he has never seen. Despite his dislike for Maverick’s recklessness, CAG “Stinger” sends him and Goose—now his top crew—to attend the Top Gun school at NAS Miramar.
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Maverick flies recklessly in part to compensate for his father Duke Mitchell, a Naval Aviator with VF-51 aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) during the Vietnam War. The elder Mitchell died when his F-4 Phantom II was shot down in an incident Maverick refuses to believe was his fault. Goose is cautious and devoted to his wife Carol and child. The two officers are nonetheless close friends and effective partners. At a bar the day before Top Gun starts, Maverick, assisted by Goose, unsuccessfully approaches a woman. He learns the next day that she is Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood, an astrophysicist and civilian Top Gun instructor.
Maverick’s reckless flying both annoys and impresses LCDR Rick “Jester” Heatherly and other instructors. He defeats Jester in combat but breaks two rules of engagement in the process; becomes a rival to top student LT Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, who considers Maverick’s methods “dangerous”; and continues to pursue Charlie. During class she analyzes Maverick’s engagement with the MiG-28, calling it “an example of what not to do”. Later, Charlie admits to him that she admires his tactics but criticized them to hide her feelings for him from the others, and they begin a relationship. During a training sortie Maverick abandons his wingman “Hollywood” to chase chief instructor CMDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf. Although Maverick effectively challenges the older pilot, Viper maneuvers Maverick into a position from which his wingman Jester—who has already defeated Hollywood—can shoot down Maverick from behind, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.
Near the end of the training program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester; the latter attempts to gain a missile lock on the target. Under pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off the engagement. Maverick’s F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman’s aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines, entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing him and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy, killing him instantly.
Although the formal board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilt for Goose’s death, losing his aggressiveness when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him, but Maverick considers retiring. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper’s advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick’s father in VF-51, and tells him classified details that show that Duke Mitchell died heroically. He informs Maverick that he can graduate from Top Gun if he can regain his self-confidence. Maverick chooses to graduate, but Iceman wins the award for top pilot.
During the graduation party Iceman, Hollywood, and Maverick are ordered to immediately report to Enterprise to deal with a “crisis situation”, providing air support for the rescue of a stricken communications ship that has drifted into hostile waters. Maverick and Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman’s reservations over Maverick’s state of mind. The subsequent hostile engagement with six MiGs sees Hollywood shot down; Maverick is scrambled alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose’s death. Upon finally rejoining Iceman they shoot down four MiGs and force the others to flee, and return triumphantly to Enterprise. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor. At a bar at Miramar, Maverick and Charlie reunite.
An early Tom Cruise film, and an early Tony Scott film, this must surely be one the best in it’s genre.

REVIEW: BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS

 

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Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider)
Eva Mendes (Hitch)
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Xzibit (Derailed)
Fairuza Balk (Almost Famous)
Shawn Hatosy (Alpha Dog)
Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls)
Tom Bower (Die Hard 2)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
J.D. Evermore (CLoak & Dagger)
Gary Grubbs (Battleship)

Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans opens with the image of a snake swimming through the flood waters of New Orleans, and you’ll have go a long way to find a more apt metaphor to kick off a picture with. What follows is a wholly indescribable mishmash of the slick and the stank, the cool and the campy. It is, at risk of putting too fine a point on it, almost exactly the film you’d expect Herzog and Nicolas Cage to come up with together. What it is not is a sequel, remake, “reboot,” or “re-imagining” of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant. It is a different story, about a different guy, in a different place, and told in a completely different style (Ferrera’s film is a stark, gritty, grim character study, and Herzog’s picture, while frequently disturbing, plays as a pitch-black comedy). All it has in common with its namesake is that it is about a thieving, whoring, druggie cop; the carryover of the title (reportedly at the insistence of the two films’ shared producer Edward R. Pressman, who wanted a straight remake and should have known better if he was hiring Herzog) will probably confuse more than it will assist.

The story begins in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, as New Orleans cops Terence McDonagh (Cage) and Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) survey their deserted station house and discover a leftover prisoner who is about to drown in the rising flood waters of his cell. They contemplate betting on how long it’ll take the water to kill the poor sap, but McDonagh ends up diving in to save him, hurting his back in the process. “I’m gonna write you a prescription for Vicadin,” his doctor tells him, and our junkie cop is off and running.

Six months later, McDonagh is in the throes of a full-on drug addiction, tooting up in his car on the way into a crime scene. The scene is the gruesome, execution-style slaying of a family of five; the patriarch was apparently a low-level drug dealer. Solving the crime becomes, in his words, his “primary purpose”–well, that and getting drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

Broadly speaking, we find Herzog working within the framework of a glossy, well-produced, star-driven thriller; however, Nicolas Cage is no typical star, and this is no standard procedural. The actor has spent too much of the last decade slumming and sleepwalking through mindless paycheck pictures like Knowing, Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous, and the soul-crushing National Treasure series, but every once in a while (I’m gonna say the last time was Lord of War) he gets his hand on a role with some power to it, and turns up the juice. This is the best work he’s done in years, a deliriously unhinged performance that you can’t take your eyes off of. He plays this guy from the outside in–the sheer physicality of the performance is impressive, not only in the expected addict’s tics but in his peculiar walk (he uses an odd sideways lope, as if the gun in his belt is throwing him off balance) and strange speech patterns (as he becomes more addicted, he uses a chewed-up, stylized speaking voice that sounds like a contrivance but totally works within the context of the characterization). He indulges himself a bit, sure; he resorts to mugging in some of his close-ups, and the sheer theatricality of the performance may turn some viewers off. But it’s a risky, impressive piece of work.

William M. Finkelstein’s screenplay has some good scenes (including at least one that reminds of, and rivals, the shock value of that horrifying traffic stop in the original Bad Lieutenant) and a sound structure that allows for the indulgences of its director and star; it somehow seems perfectly logical that, midway through, McDonagh ends up heading to Biloxi with a fifteen-year-old witness and his dad’s dog so that he can pick up his hooker girlfriend. The character is written with complexity beyond his vices; it is unfortunate but true that McDonagh is good at being a cop (even if he’s not a “good cop”). He’s got steady instincts, and he’s strong in the interrogation room. If only he weren’t having all those pesky hallucinations.

The screenplay provides a darkly comic motor to the picture, and much of it is played at that pitch, with great success–Cage’s jittery explosion at a pharmacy clerk and his gun-waving interrogation of two elderly women build to juicy and explosively funny comic payoffs. It’s got such a wicked and knowing sense of humor, in fact, that the mere phrase “property room” becomes a punchline by the picture’s end. It is, my no means, a “funny” movie in any kind of traditional sense, but it uses dark humor as a weapon to keep its viewers on their toes, adding to the unpredictability and oddball, insane style of the piece.