Better Living Through Chemistry (2014)
In my world, Sam Rockwell can pretty much do no wrong.
In Better Living Through Chemistry he plays a pharmacist with a basic, uneventful life. His life gets turned upside down when he starts a crazy love affair with a gorgeous customer (Olivia Wilde). The pharmacist gets tangled up in a mess of drugs, sex, and problems with the police.
The movie was written and directed by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Michelle Monaghan, Ray Liotte, Jane Fonda, Ben Schwartz, Peter Jacobson, and Ken Howard.
This movie looks like it will be good for some laughs.
The film is set to release on 03/14/14.
Cop Land (1997)
Cop Land is the first movie that I remember hearing about where an actor or actress severely changed their weight for a part in a film. Sylvester Stallone gained 40 lbs. for his role in the movie. I remember thinking how crazy he was for doing that. 40 lbs. is a lot of weight to gain, and it is a lot more to have to lose again. Now, 16 years later, I realize that it was just Stallone’s awesome dedication to doing what he loves that allowed him to do what was necessary for his role in Cop Land.
The film is about an army of corrupt New York City cops with ties to the mob who buy themselves a chunk of New Jersey. They are virtually untouchable until the sheriff of their little “Cop Land” (Sylvester Stallone) becomes wise to their ways.
The movie was written and directed by James Mangold and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Janeane Garofalo, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent, John Spencer, Arthur J. Nascarella, Edie Falco, John Ventimiglia, Robert John Burke, Michael Gaston, Bruce Altman, Tony Sirico, Frank Pellegrino, Vincent Laresca, Victor Williams, Paul Calderon, and Malik Yoba.
They brought in all of the big guns to make this film. The cast list is so staggering that I am sure that I left someone out. You couldn’t ask for a better cast in a movie.
Because of the type of movie Cop Land is, and especially because of the cast, you can expect a lot of violence and language, but mostly, powerful performances.
Cop dramas don’t get a whole lot better than this one. Cop Land is one of those movies that gets better every time that I watch it.
It is interesting because a number of actors in the film were cast against type. Guys who usually play bad guys are now playing cops. But, it works out because some of them are corrupt. So, I guess they are just bad guys with a badge.
It is no surprise that the movie has a bit of a Goodfellas (1990) and The Sopranos feel to it, because a number of the cast members were in those shows. A couple of them were also in the film Beautiful Girls (1996).
With so many great actors in the movie, none of them really stood out over another because they were all acting on the same level.
Overall, Cop Land is a unique, underrated cop drama that packs a big bang. Like a fine wine, it gets better with age.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
Crossing Over (2009)
Crossing Over is a Wayne Kramer written and directed movie that fell through the cracks. Kramer is known for Running Scared (2006), The Cooler (2003), and most recently Pawn Shop Chronicles (2013). Running Scared was excellent and The Cooler and Pawn Shop Chronicles were both very solid films. Crossing Over did not appear to me like it would be any good. I wanted to give it a try however, because Kramer usually makes quality movies and the noteworthy cast includes Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis, Alice Eve, Alice Braga, Mahershala Ali, Josh Gad, Michael Cudlitz, and Marshall Manesh.
Crossing Over is about multiple stories of immigration to the United States. It follows multiple immigrants from all over the world who are trying to become legal citizens in Los Angeles. Some go through the proper process of trying to become legal citizens, while others try to do so illegally or skip the process altogether. Sometimes their stories intertwine and other times they do not. The film also follows the lives of the people who are trying to help these immigrants to become legal and also the ones who are trying to deport them. It deals with how sometimes mixing different cultures together can clash and how sometimes it can bring people closer together. It is all different perspectives on immigration in America.
The movie jumps all over the place from story to story. There is not a lot of character development because the movie is trying to tell too many stories instead of concentrating on one. As a result, it is hard to feel anything for the characters and it turns into a jumbled mess.
Ford gave a standout performance in the film. He was not given a lot to work with, but he managed to be likable anyway. He single-handedly tried to hold the broken pieces of the movie together, but there is only so much that one actor can do.
Overall the movie was hard to enjoy because it jumped around way too much. It was a waste of a quality cast and it was a waste of time. This is by far Wayne Kramer’s worst movie.
I rate this movie a 4 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Run.
Note: Michael Cudlitz has been in 3 Wayne Kramer movies: Running Scared, Crossing Over and Pawn Shop Chronicles.
Jim Sturgess and Josh Gad were both in the film 21 (2008) together.
It’s always interesting to me to find different movie connections.
The Iceman (2012)
The Iceman is the chilling true story of one of the most famous contract killers named Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon). He was known as “The Iceman.” Kuklinski was believed to have killed at least over 100 people. He had ties to the mob and he had his family convinced that he was a businessman.
The movie is directed by Ariel Vromen.
This is another limited release movie with a huge cast that also includes Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, Robert Davi, David Schwimmer, John Ventimiglia, Danny A. Abeckaser, James Franco, and Stephen Dorff.
Why does a movie like this have such limited release? The only answer that I can think of is that a film about a real-life serial killer is not a topic that would be popular to the general public. We all know that is not true with all of the hardcore violence in movies and television these days. So, the question still remains and I don’t have a real answer for it.
I knew absolutely nothing at all about “The Iceman” before watching The Iceman with the exception that he was a real hit-man at one point in time, and I had seen the trailer for the movie. What I learned about the guy from the movie was creepy and insane. It kind of makes me want to read the book that the movie was based off of written by Anthony Bruno called “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer.”
Michael Shannon has been a wonderful character actor ever since his first film appearance in Groundhog Day (1993). In more recent years he has successfully made the transition to making movies as an awesome main character. This trend started when he made Take Shelter (2011). In The Iceman Shannon is electrifying. His performance is nothing short of deserving Oscar gold. He was extremely convincing as a stone-cold murdering lunatic with a love for his family.
Chris Evans was unrecognizable at first, but very entertaining.
Winona Ryder made a big comeback in Black Swan (2010). In The Iceman, I think that she successfully clinched her comeback into the spotlight. She brought talent to the movie not seen out of her since the 90s. Dare I say another person from this film deserves an Oscar? She should at least be nominated.
I would say that 2012 is the year that Ray Liotta died as an actor and then was resurrected. He looked and acted like death in the unwatchable Killing Them Softly (2012). He was resurrected in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) and he became his old bad-tempered self again in The Iceman.
The rest of the cast was there to put all of the pieces of this true serial killer story together.
As expected, the movie was brutally violent and loaded with f-bombs. What I did not expect was the strong presence that each of the main characters had on screen. They each did an outstanding job in becoming the real people that they were playing and telling their terrible story on film. Their performances made the movie powerful and worth watching.
I think that it is worth tracking down a theatre that is actually playing this movie and checking it out for yourself, that is, if you are a fan of true crime films.
I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
Happy Birthday to Chazz Palminteri! He turns 61 years old today.
Chazz was born Calogero Lorenzo Palminteri. It’s a good thing he goes by Chazz because I don’t think anybody could become famous with a name like Calogero.
Palminteri is known for his gangster/crime dramas. He usually plays the tough-guy gangster in charge.
The two also acted opposite each other in the gangster movie satire comedy Analyze This (1999).
Chazz was on the right side of the law in The Usual Suspects (1995).
He didn’t seem to know which side he was on in Running Scared (2006).
His performances are usually pretty explosive, so it should be amusing so see him in videogame form. Tomorrow you will be able to play the new Uprising add-on for Sony Playstation 3’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II. This add-on has already been available for Xbox 360 gamers for about a month. As part of the map pack there is a new Zombies experience called ‘Mob of the Dead.’ Chazz contributes his voice to the character Salvatore ‘Sal’ DeLuca. He joins the likes of Ray Liotta, Michael Madsen, and Joe Pantoliano who are all most known for their roles in gangster movies. Famous gangster movie icons killing zombies, let me just grab my controller.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
The Place Beyond the Pines was not exactly what I expected it to be. The film was unique because there were multiple layers to the story as well as to each of the characters. The storyline flowed nicely even though each layer of it seemed to change who the main characters were. The mood of the movie was rough and intense throughout with a darkness that few films are capable of.
Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt driver whose life gets turned upside down after finding out that he is a father. In order to try to provide for his kid, he quits his job and begins robbing banks. Avery (Bradley Cooper) is an honest cop. Eventually both men’s paths cross.
The film is written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.
Gosling is cast against type. He does not usually play the rebel outlaw type, but he proves once again that he is capable of widening his range as an actor because he nails his part.
Cooper has a strong presence and when his character arrives, it changes the whole dynamic of the movie.
I felt like Mendes did a good job, but we could have gotten more out of her character. I fault the writers for that. She did great with what she had to work with, but her character could have been developed better.
Liotta seems to have resurfaced after being pretty washed up the last few years. In this film he carried himself like the Ray Liotta of old. He did not seem like the train wreck that he was becoming. This was a welcomed surprise.
Both Cooper and Gosling continue to make smart decisions when it comes to which films to act in. This film is guaranteed to keep them both in the spotlight.
The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie filled with tough subject matter mixed with raw emotion portrayed by a fantastic cast of actors who are very passionate about their work. This combination makes for a very exciting and suspenseful film about people leading hard lives.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (click on the title for my full review)
The film looks like a cross between Drive (2011)(good) and Killing Them Softly (2012)(bad). In Drive Ryan Gosling is a stunt driver turned driver for hire. In The Place Beyond the Pines it appears like he is a stunt motorcycle driver turned bank robber. It seems that Eva Mendes plays a very similar character in The Place Beyond the Pines that Carey Mulligan plays in Drive.
Overall the movie looks pretty dark in a similar way to that of Killing Them Softly. Also, Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn are in both of those movies. Both actors played very scuzzy characters in Killing Them Softly and I think they have continued that trend in The Place Beyond the Pines.
The wildcard in The Place Beyond the Pines is going to be Bradley Cooper. In recent years Cooper has proved that not only is he a supremely capable and extraordinary actor, but he has also chosen his movies very wisely. Gosling is great and Liotta has that ability as well, but we have seen them in this type of movie before. Cooper, I think, will be the deciding factor as to whether or not this movie is any good.
On paper, a movie with this cast should be a slam dunk. It does look good enough to see in the theatre, but I’m going to be a little skeptical.
The movie directed by Derek Cianfrance and it is set to release on 3/29/13.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
It was one of the worst movies that I have seen all year and the worst Brad Pitt movie that I have ever seen. It should have been called killing the audience quickly. It was literally that horrible. I almost asked for a refund on my ticket. Thinking about it now, I should have gotten a refund on my ticket. You would have to pay me to watch that movie again.
With as excellent of a cast as this movie had, you would think they could do no wrong. Even if the storyline is bad, the actors will make it better right? Wrong! It was almost as if they tried to make it bad.
Scenes with Brad Pitt were bearable to mediocre. Scenes without Brad Pitt made me almost physically sick.
The movie was successful in portraying drug addicts, alcoholics, and overall skuzzy people in a very realistic way. When you weren’t watching people cussing up a storm, drinking themselves to death, getting stoned out of their minds, getting shot in slow motion, or beaten to a bloody pulp, then all they were doing was blabbering back and forth to one another. The majority of the dialogue of the movie was diarrhea of the mouth except for when Brad Pitt or Ray Liotta was talking.
It was almost as if Brad Pitt was in a different movie than everybody else and they edited him in to their train wreck of a film to try to make it better. Instead of actually making it better, it just gave you a couple moments break from being terrible whenever Pitt was in a scene.
Do yourself a favor and stay far away from this movie. Save your time and money by not seeing it. I wish I had.
I rate this movie a 2 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or, run? Run.