Saturday, June 20, 2009


Day 172 - 6/21/09 - Movie #171

BEFORE: OK, not a "cop" film specifically, but since the last 3 films were about kidnappings, I thought I'd work in a fourth...

THE PLOT: While in Paris attending a conference, Dr. Richard Walker's wife Sondra mysteriously disappears. When the French police prove to be of little help, he begins the search by himself.

AFTER: Let this be a valuable lesson - always make double-SURE that it's your bag that you pick up from baggage claim at the airport. This movie is well-titled, since that's how it made me feel - it's very frustrating to watch the situation spiral out of control as Harrison Ford's character stumbles around Paris, following random leads, hoping one will lead him to his kidnapped wife.
This guy's no Indiana Jones - heck, he's no Richard Kimble.

It seems that the French police are completely ineffectual - good to know - but I'm not sure that I follow the logic that says it would be better to deal directly with the kidnappers. They've already proven what kind of disreputable people they are - so how can they be trusted?

RATING: 5 out of 10 croissants

Along Came a Spider

Day 171 - 6/20/09 - Movie #170

BEFORE: The sequel to "Kiss the Girls" - apparently novelist James Patterson has a thing for taking titles from nursery rhymes. His other Alex Cross books include "Roses Are Red", "Jack & Jill" and "Pop Goes the Weasel" - can "Humpty Dumpty - the Movie" be far behind? Third movie in my Morgan Freeman mini-fest within Cop Week.

THE PLOT: A congressman's daughter is kidnapped from a private school by an insider who calls Det. Alex Cross, sucking him into the case even though he's recovering from the loss of his partner.

AFTER: If I read crime novels (which I don't, mostly I stick to Star Wars novels and trivia books), I'd totally check out this Patterson fellow. These crime stories are a little clunky, but very realistic, not flashy like "Die Hard" or other blockbuster-y films - which may explain why only a couple of his books have been adapted into films. I realize that a good thriller should have a lot of twists and turns, but this had maybe one too many for my taste.

Supporting work this time by character actors Dylan Baker, and F.O.H. Jay O. Sanders makes another appearance. And it pays to read the credits - the young son of the Russian premier is played by Anton Yelchin, who grew up to play the new Chekhov in the recent "Star Trek" film.

RATING: 6 out of 10 payphones

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kiss the Girls

Day 170 - 6/19/09 - Movie #169

BEFORE: I can't pass up the chance to watch 2 movies in a row with Morgan Freeman playing cops - OK, so he's a forensic psychologist in this one, that's a type of cop, right? Let's not split hairs...

THE PLOT: Police hunting for a serial killer are helped when a victim manages to escape for the first time.

AFTER: Brett Butler had a joke once about how most criminals might kill you, but rednecks will KEEP you... Freeman's Alex Cross gets involved when his niece becomes one of the abducted women - but in the real world, I'm not sure they'd let someone work on the case if they had such a personal connection. Cross makes a few mistakes in the course of the investigation - but it's good to see a cop who's not infallible. Most movies would feature a 30-something Superman-type. Good supporting work from 3 "Hey, it's THAT guy..." actors - Bill Nunn, Brian Cox, and the great Jay O. Sanders. A tight, tense little thriller.

RATING: 6 out of 10 carving knives

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gone Baby Gone

Day 169 - 6/18/09 - Movie #168

BEFORE: I'm intentionally going in to this one not knowing too much about it, other than it's about a child abduction, and got great reviews in 2007.

I solved a small mystery of my own yesterday - I figured out where the little store that's selling DVDs for $5.99 is getting their stock. I found out last week that the big Virgin Megastore in Times Square closed about a month ago, and I had a feeling that this tiny store, DVD Funhouse, opened up shortly after that. Sure enough, when I went there yesterday (picked up 5 more DVDs), they were using plastic bags with the Virgin logo. The clerk confirmed that they've burned through most of Virgin's stock and now have another supplier - but I'm just glad to learn that I haven't been buying bootlegs or stolen merch...

THE PLOT: Two Boston area detectives investigate a little girl's kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.

AFTER: First off, let me say that the abduction of a child is a horrible, horrible thing. You can pinpoint the when and the where, but almost certainly once you start to learn about the who, what and why, you're probably not going to like what you find out.

But this movie is more concerned with the ripple effect - how does this affect the parents, the cops, the entire city? Casey Affleck plays a P.I., the only person who is able to work with both the cops and the criminal element of South Boston. Southie seems to be filled with alcoholics, drug dealers and pimps (and those are the nice neighborhoods...) but this feels authentic somehow. More so than "The Departed", say - so much that I'll probably be tawkin' with my Bah-ston accent tomorrow, and heading down to the packie to get some scratch-ahffs.

A word about Boston accents as seen on film - either an actor can do it right, or they shouldn't even try. When it's done wrong, it pisses me off, but when it's done right, it wahms my haht. (I grew up about 1/2 hour drive from the Boston city limits) Most of the actors here do a fantastic job with it - (easy-peasy for Casey Affleck, probably more difficult for Amy Madigan) but look at a film like "The Departed" - Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg have it down, but Martin Sheen's accent is more Brooklyn than Brookline. (It should be pronounced "cahp", not "coh-uu-ohp") What, is he fekkin' re-TAH-ded or somethin'?

The child abduction turns out to be the tip of a very dirty iceberg, and (without giving anything away) the movie sets up the most difficult moral dilemma imaginable, raises a bunch of questions, and then proves there are no easy answers. I didn't think much of Casey Affleck's acting chops - until now. Great supporting work by Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and "Hey, it's That Guy!" mainstay John Ashton (from "Midnight Run" and "Beverly Hills Cop")

The only quibble - this can't be taken as a symbolic representation of ALL child abduction cases. That would be a more difficult movie to make, indeed.

RATING: 7 out of 10 Cuttys (and a tall-boy)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hot Fuzz

Day 168 - 6/17/09 - Movie #167

BEFORE: I don't know too much about this film, except that it got pretty good reviews in 2007, and it stars Simon Pegg, who played the new Scotty in the recent "Star Trek" film...

THE PLOT: A top London cop gets transferred to a small town and paired with a witless new partner. On the beat, the pair stumble upon a series of suspicious accidents and events.

AFTER: It's funny that I watched this right after "Turner & Hooch" - both films feature by-the-book, over-efficient policemen who are stationed in small towns (but wish they were in larger cities - Sacramento + London), and who need to learn to lighten up. Pegg provided the comic relief in "Star Trek" by being, well, comical - but here he's funny because he's so super-serious about his job.

Nicholas Angel's arrest record outshines the other London cops, so he's sent away to the tiny village of Sandford. In true "buddy cop" fashion, he gets paired up with Danny, the inept son of the police chief. Angel teaches Danny how to be a better cop, and Danny teaches Angel how to unclench and visit the pub. When townspeople start dying, the mystery doesn't seem that difficult to solve (especially if you've ever seen an episode of "Scooby-Doo"), but then there's a series of hilarious twists - this is a British comedy at heart, after all. It all builds to a climax that manages to spoof action movies, while also being the ultimate expression of one. If this film represents the future of Brit comedy, then bring on the future!

This Simon Pegg guy has some serious (and comic...) range - Jim Broadbent and Timothy Dalton were great in supporting roles. Cameos from Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, Edward Woodward, Cate Blanchett (!), Peter Jackson (as a thief dressed as Santa), and (I'm guessing) a who's who of contemporary British comedy.

RATING: 8 out of 10 pints of lager (could have been a 9, but minus 1 for being a bit too gore-y)

"Hot Fuzz" directly references "Point Break", which is also on my list - so I could watch that film next, but I'm saving that for my "Heist" chain rather than Cop Week...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Turner & Hooch

Day 167 - 6/16/09 - Movie #166

BEFORE: You can fault my choice of movie, but I assure you there is a method to my madness. In the 1980's the "Buddy Cop" movie was all the rage, and each movie seemed to be trying to one-up the last. White cop teamed up with black cop, Chinese cop teamed up with Russian cop, Sylvester Stallone teamed up with Estelle Getty (I kid you not). 'Tango & Cash", "Red Heat", "Cop and a Half", etc. Why they never teamed up an alien cop with a zombie cop is beyond me.

THE PLOT: A detective must adopt the dog of a dead man to help him find the murderer.

AFTER: Before he was Tom Hanks, Superstar, he was Tom Hanks, actor, and this is the kind of work that an actor must occasionally do. This seems like an exercise in filmmaking - we know all we need to know about Turner from his morning routine - shaving, showering, tweezing, polishing his shoes, pressing his pants. He's fastidious, anal-retentive and borderline OCD, so it's most upsetting when a jowly, drooly dog tears up his house. I initially thought this dog was a Presa Canario, but it turns out to be a Dogue de Bordeaux, also called a French Mastiff.

What the movie illustrates well is how a person might not consider themselves a dog person (or a cat person), but if they spend enough time with an individual dog (or cat), they can become a Hooch, or Roscoe (or Fluffy) person. Hanks is a little over-the-top here - the dog is actually a more restrained actor. And between this movie and "Cast Away", I've seen entirely too much of Tom Hanks in his underwear.

RATING: 6 out of 10 cans of beer

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kindergarten Cop

Day 166 - 6/15/09 - Movie #165

BEFORE: Another film that I've seen bits + pieces of, but never watched the whole way through... This will be my last Schwarzenegger film for now, since I don't have a good copy of "Total Recall" (it's running on the Sci-Fi Network, but my rule prohibits watching movies with commercials...) and I'm going to save "Jingle All the Way" for Christmas-time.

THE PLOT: A tough cop is given his most difficult assignment: masquerade as a a kindergarten teacher in order to find a drug dealer's ex-wife.

AFTER: What was that about not working with kids and animals? Ah-nold brings a pet ferret into the classroom, so he actually breaks both rules here. I don't know, this is supposed to be a really funny movie (one of my wife's favorites) but I just wasn't feeling it. I'd heard the funniest lines so many times before ("It's naht a TU-mah!") that they didn't have much impact on me.

It's a great concept - a big tough cop being worn down by a bunch of 6-year olds, but I thought that the montage of a large Austrian bringing order to a classroom of kids, with all the marching, came a little bit too close to some kind of Hitler Youth camp for me. Plus I wish they had given Pamela Reed something else to do except spend half the movie recovering from stomach flu (or was it food poisoning - when she wasn't sick, she was always eating...great stereotyping...)

RATING: 5 out of 10 erasers

Schwarzenegger Week is over - but I'm kicking off Cop Week!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Last Action Hero

Day 165 - 6/14/09 - Movie #164

BEFORE: This should be like the ultimate Schwarzenegger film - all the killer action scenes, but done in sort of a self-parodizing way, so partially comedic. I've seen bits of this before, but never watched it all the way through.

THE PLOT: A young movie fan gets thrown into the movie world of his favorite action film character.

AFTER: This film got something of a bad rap, because it came at the end of a decade full of action films, from "Die Harder" to "Lethal Weapon 3" and so on - obviously Ah-nold was a big part of that, so by 1993 audiences had sort of burned out on this sort of thing. But because part of the film takes place in the "action-movie" world, and part in the "real" world, it manages to be both the ultimate action film, and a parody of the genre at the same time - very shrewd.

There are a ton of cameos and a LOT of inside references here, including a snippet of "Hamlet" starring Laurence Olivier - Hamlet's "play-within-a-play" structure is the obvious precursor to this "action movie-within-an-action movie" storyline. And the teacher who is showing "Hamlet" to the class is played by Joan Plowright, who was Olivier's second wife - nice. (I liked the glimpse of how Arnold would play Hamlet, complete with large-caliber handgun... "To be or naht to be...I say...naht to be!")

Young Danny gets thrown into the on-screen world of his favorite action hero, Jack Slater, and uses his knowledge of action-movie conventions to help Slater out. He recognizes that Slater's old partner, played by F. Murray Abraham, can't be trusted. Why? Because he "killed Mozart" in that other movie. Slater wonders, "Who is this Moe Zart person?"

There's an interesting reference to Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" at the end, too, as the magic movie ticket pulls the personification of Death (played by Ian McKellen) off the screen and into the real world. How many action-movie fans would get a Bergman reference, I wonder?

The villain's plan to grab characters from classic cinema - Dracula, King King, Hitler - into the real world is an interesting one. There's at least another movie's worth of ideas there. The showdown happens at the premiere of the new Jack Slater film, where the real Schwarzenegger is in attendance - so once again we see TWO Arnolds on the screen at the same time. Good to also see my buddy Tom Noonan in a double-role as well, as the Ripper and himself.

It's too bad that it's so hard to find kids who can act well - the star of this film is only slightly better than Jake Lloyd was in "Star Wars: Episode I". Never work with kids or animals, they say...

RATING: 7 out of 10 sticks of dynamite (8 minus 1 for bad child acting)