Category Archives: crime

No. 84 EASY RIDER (1969)

Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are.

On the surface Easy Rider is a late-sixties film about sex, drugs and bikes – and not necessarily in that order. But when you watch further you realise why this movie made America change the way it looks at itself. Easy Rider is considered to be a very real and innovative look at a chaotic time period – a movie that was the first real indie distributed by a major company. This was also one of the first movies to have a soundtrack of previously recorded music. According to Peter Fonda the music in the film is mostly from his and Dennis Hopper’s record collections. So let’s get into the mood with one of the movie’s classic tracks:

                                              Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

In the movie two bikers Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt, aka Captain America (Peter Fonda) make a major drug deal with a LA connection (Phil Spector). With the cash safely tucked away in the stars and stripes gas tank of Captain America’s bike, they head to Mardi Gras for the last party before retiring to Florida. On their way through Vietnam-era America they pick up a hippie hitchhiker (Luke Askew) and take him to a struggling commune in the desert. While driving thru a small-town Billy and Captain America manage to get arrested for parading without a permit. In the jail they meet an alcoholic ACLU lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson). Hanson joins Billy and Captain America on their road trip only to find brief joy in smoking grass for the first time before he meets his grisly end in the hands of Southern rednecks. Wyatt and Billy continue their quest. They finally reach New Orleans and join the Mardi Gras after honouring Hanson’s memory by visiting “the best whorehouse in America” (which they were planning to do together). Billy’s and Captain America’s celebrations climax with a couple of hookers (Karen Black and Toni Basil) and some LSD at a local graveyard. Will they make it to Florida to retire? That’s for you to decide after Billy and Captain America are once again met with bigotry and hatred just because they ride motorbikes and have long hair.

                                           What you represent to them is freedom

Produced by Fonda and shot by Hopper Easy Rider paved the path for socially relevant and documentary-style movies. It takes a sober look at the end of the flower-power era and a country that has lost its ideals. Most of the dialogue was improvised and the realism in being stoned comes from – well – really being stoned. The Mardi Gras sequence was shot first on 16 mm film. At this point Hopper and Fonda had gathered a crew out of their friends and acquaintances. According to both of them it was such chaos and a lot of the people quit because of Hopper’s antics, so after that they hired a professional crew and screenwriter.

                                            You’re stoned out of your mind, man

Both Fonda and Hopper deliver excellent performances as two friends looking for something, yet not quite knowing what. This is the movie that made Jack Nicholson a movie star and he is enigmatic as Hanson who puts into words what everybody is feeling.

                               But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em

Easy Rider is filled with symbolism – from tossing of the wristwatches, stuffing money into the stars and stripes gas tank to scoring “junk” on a junkyard. It starts as a road trip movie with long sequences of Billy and Captain America riding through iconic American landscapes in the style of Westerns, but it ends with a much deeper look at the ignorance and narrow-mindedness that too often results in unnecessary violence. I found the end such a shock that it will stay with me for a long time. This is a movie that everybody should watch and it would hopefully make them more open-minded.

click to watch video Roger McGuinn - It's Alright Ma

You know Billy, we blew it

No. 92 GOODFELLAS (1990)

As far back as I can remember; I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.

All you need to know about this movie is the following two words: Martin Scorsese. This on its own should make you want to watch Goodfellas. I must admit that this was my first time seeing this particular Scorsese movie – I have seen more recent ones like The Departed, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York and The Aviator. All great movies, but a tad bit violent. Though the thing about Scorsese and violence is that even though violence goes hand in hand with almost all of his movies, yet he does not glorify violence by any means. Scorsese’s violence is always messy, ugly and well – violent. He portrays violence how it is – an unthinkably horrible act.

Goodfellas is based on a book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also co-wrote the screenplay with Martin Scorsese. “Wiseguy” is a true rise-and-fall story of a real-life mobster, Henry Hill. As Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) says in the beginning of the movie – he always wanted to be a gangster. So from a young age Henry starts hanging out and running errands for the neighbourhood’s mob boss, Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino). He then starts pulling jobs with Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), who are part of the same mob crowd. There are several milestones in Hill’s life: first arrest, wedding to Karen (Lorraine Bracco), mistress number one, mistress number two, jail term and running around behind the mob boss’ back dealing cocaine. But the most profound moment is the murder of Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), when everything changes for Henry. From there begins the fall that concludes on one cocaine-fuelled day in 1980.

Anything I wanted was a phone call away.

Goodfellas is not your ordinary gangster film. This does not make you want to be a gangster and unlike in The Godfather, you do not see the gangsters living in big mansions. You see them fighting for survival every day and night. As the real Henry Hill puts it – it was anything but the American Dream.

                 Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.

I don’t think I even need to address the issue that Scorsese is probably the most genius director of our century. The greatness of Goodfellas comes down to Scorsese’s brilliance as a director. And also to his advice to actors who according to Scorsese should not act like the people they are portraying – instead they should behave like them. This gives the movie that magic intensity and sense of reality.

                                                       I don’t mean no disrespect!

The use of voice-over narrative in Goodfellas is just genius. It increases the level of the relationship between Henry and the audience by giving it more intimacy. The casting is perfect. All fantastic performances – Liotta, Pesci – who won an Oscar for his performance -, De Niro, Sorvino… I could go on and on. One of the interesting performances comes from Scorsese’s mum, who plays Tommy DeVito’s mum in that famous dinner scene. Martin Scorsese’s own roots are deep in the Italian-American community in New York – not that different from the neighbourhood is Goodfellas.

Sure, mom, I settle down with a nice girl every night, then I’m free the next morning.

There are many excellent scenes. One is the nightclub scene between Pesci’s and Liotta’s characters. Scorsese shot it with a medium shot (no close-ups), so that the audience is able to see how the people around Tommy and Henry behave. You can see the expressions on their faces changing from laughter into alarm.

                                            Funny how? What’s funny about it?

The 3rd act in the movie is basically Henry paranoid running around and going home to stir pasta sauce; and then the same again and again – all the time with the same intensity level. Brilliant! Another talent of Scorsese is to take a small detail and blossom it into art – like in the prison sequence the most memorable thing is how thin Paulie cuts the garlic.

Now take me to jail

So has Goodfellas earned its number 92 spot on the list? Absolutely! It’s also a movie, which should be watched more than once to truly appreciate its brilliance.

Today everything is different; there’s no action… have to wait around like everyone else.

THE AMERICAN (2010)

You cannot deny the existence of hell. You live in it. It is a place
without love.

Ok, so I will watch any movie with George Clooney in it. I even suffered thru Leatherheads (2008) and that was painful! But no such experience with The American, which is based on the novel “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth. This is a stylish and artsy thriller. The plot is quite simple and the pace is slow at times. There is lots of coffee drinking and gun building and not that much dialogue. But the acting is stellar and the movie is gorgeously shot and directed by Anton Corbijn, whose background in photography shines thru.

I am no good with machines

Jack (George Clooney) is an assassin with a burnout and a newfound respect for life. His last job did not end well. Because of the “no friends” policy, it ended even worse for his Swedish lady friend. Now he is on the run hiding from gun-toting Swedes with vengeance. Jack’s contact in Rome, Pavel (Johan Leysen), suggests hiding in an Italian hilltop town while the Swedish problem is taken care of. Jack is determined to quit his killing ways, but agrees to take a last job building a custom-made assassin rifle. He obviously missed the memo, which said that it is always bad when somebody tells you to consider something as your last job. Jack heads for the hills. While having secret rendezvous with a mysterious assassin Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) about the last job, Jack manages to have heart-to-hearts with a local priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and use the services of the local brothel. Jack becomes drawn to another lost soul, the gorgeous prostitute Clara (Violante Placido). They fall in love. That’s when the past and the angry Swedes catch up with Jack. Thankfully the rifle is finally ready and delivered to the buyer, so Jack gets ready to move on. But are Jack and Clara able to find peace together or was Jack right to be suspicious about the purpose of the rifle?

   It’s Jack

This movie was filmed in the gorgeous Abruzzo region of Italy. In Castel del Monte the town’s dentist closed his practice and had a message on his answering machine explaining that he was “unavailable, due to his appearance in a Hollywood film.” When shooting the market scene in Sulmona the actor playing the cheese lady got a lesson from the real cheese vendor how to sell cheese. This proud vendor did not care that the crew was in the middle of shooting the scene; she saw that the actor was doing it wrong and walked into the scene to give directions.

The American provides a new harder look for George Clooney. A loner who is suffering long-term consequences of his past life – a role he has not played before. Anne Carey, who is one of producers of The American, says that audiences trust Clooney. She also points out that Clooney is an iconic actor and audience trust was very important with this character.

One step too many

Anton Corbijn directed this movie in a style of a western, with influences from Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. Corbijn was attracted to the screenplay because it deals with seeking redemption and morally changing your life. How a gun chances a man was also an interesting theme to Corbijn.

Violante Placido (Clara) has said that she finds the ending endearing. She thinks that all of us can come to a point when we think our life cannot change, so in that’s sense the characters can give you the possibility to realize that you can free yourself.

Come away with me

I found The American to be a sad story about a man who wants to change, but at the end the universe is against it. The lesson of this movie might be that while the past is past and you can change, sometimes you are like Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights and just cannot catch a break.

Cuby and the Blizzards – Window of my Eyes

No. 74 THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?

The Silence of The Lambs opens with a scene in the woods. Mist is gathering. A young woman is jogging alone. The caption says “Near Quantico”. Eerie music is playing. The camera cuts to the woman’s feet pounding the ground faster and faster. Then the focus shifts back to her face and then to the surroundings. And back to the feet again. The music is building up the promise that something horrible will happen at some point. Suddenly somebody is running to her yelling her name. When he turns around, we see FBI on his cap.

What a brilliant opening scene! And to think that the original idea for the first scene was a drug bust. But thankfully Jodie Foster, who plays Clarice Starling, managed to convince the director Jonathan Demme to change that scene.

                                                             Do you spook easily, Starling?

The Silence of The Lambs is one of the best crime dramas to this date. It was the first crime movie to win five Oscars and it has inspired so many movies. Entertainment Weekly voted it as the fourth scariest film of all time. And I wholeheartedly agree. I have chills even thinking about Dr. Lecter and his taste for meat – human meat.

                                                             My precious…

This movie is based on a novel by Thomas Harris. It tells a story about a rookie FBI agent, who is sent by a veteran agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit to interview a psychopathic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Dr. Lecter used to be a brilliant psychologist. He also has an uncanny ability to get inside your head. Agent Crawford warns Starling not to share any personal information with Dr. Lecter. She does it anyways. However, doing so she manages to get Dr. Lecter to help the FBI to catch a loose serial killer “Buffalo Bill”, who kidnaps young women and skins them. But she is also letting Dr. Lecter loose inside her head.

I have chills and they are multiplying…

The screenplay is full of suspense and witty lines. The acting is excellent. Jodie Foster is great as the young agent, who has so much to prove in a male world of FBI. Not to mention that this movie created one of the most memorable villains in the movie history – Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). It is so easy to forget that Hopkins only has a little bit more than 16 minutes of screen time, so powerful and memorable is his interpretation of this cannibalistic serial killer. When Hopkins read the script for the first time, he had a hunch that Lecter’s personality would fascinate people. But even he could not imagine the lengths that this fascination would reach. Hopkins read the script 250 times (only his part) to get to know his character. This is something he does with all his roles. He was able to convince Jonathan Demme and the costume designer Colleen Atwood that in the scenes when Lecter is moved from Baltimore, he should be wearing a white jumpsuit instead of the normal yellow or orange to make his character feel more clinical and unsettling. I think that summons up Dr. Lecter quite well. You are scared of him, but at the same time Anthony Hopkins makes you feel sorry for Dr. Lecter’s circumstances. That truly is great acting!

                                                                 I am having an old friend for dinner…

Jonathan Demme uses impressive directorial shots and thus manages to catch the suspense masterfully. One of the best scenes is towards the end of the movie is which Demme uses twin frames of Clarice ringing a doorbell and FBI agents charging into a house. Another reason why this movie is so memorable is the score by Howard Shore. It accentuates the script. Like in all the good movies, all the separate aspects work well together. Even though this movie scares me, I do feel compelled to watch it again from time to time.

Don’t forget your phone call… Is it coming from inside the house???!!!

THE OTHER GUYS (2010)

 

You girls stay here and get your type on

Epic! A movie that should not work – actually works. The Other Guys is a movie full of fast action sequences and even faster humor. It has more funny one-liners than Jimmy Carr’s stand-up and more high-speed chases than The French Connection. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are two mismatched NY police officers – Terry Hoitz and Allen Gamble. One is a peacock, who just wants to fly and the other is a paperwork loving ex-pimp.

Proud peacock – there might be a job opening at NBC

Their big chance to serve and protect to max comes when the two badass supercops P.K.Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) run out of luck. Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson do a brilliant job as the over-the-top-rock-star-cops. Their entrance is only topped by their exit!

So urgent is Terry Hoitz’s need to prove himself that he kidnaps his partner to force him to go to a crime scene. It does not go according to the plan and they end up with a cocaine-covered car. On the way back it’s Allen Gamble’s time to kidnap Hoitz – with his wooden gun. They start investing Gamble’s huge case about illegal scaffolding permitting, which leads them to discover a financial conspiracy masterminded by a British banker David Ershon (Steve Coogan). At the end of the first meeting with Ershon, Hoitz and Gamble have lost their shoes and made some serious enemies.

There are fantastically funny scenes in this movie like the very quiet fight scene in a funeral and Gamble’s first desk-pop.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrel is perfect! I don’t think anybody else could pull off the always-yelling-trying-to-prove-himself Terry Hoitz better than Mark Wahlberg. Special mention to Michael Keaton’s TLC (don’t go chasing Waterfalls) quoting captain Gene Mauch, who has a second job at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Everything in this movie is over the top – the silliness, the stunts, even the stupidity of the bribes. There is a lot of banter between the two main characters; sometimes going into lengthy debates – like the one about lions v tuna. Even then the dialogue does not lose any speed.

Where did you learn to drive like that? Grand Theft Auto

At the end of the movie the mystery remains about why and how did the bad-guys take Hoitz’s and Gamble’s shoes? And why are all the hot women attracted to Gamble? These are never explained. But tell you the truth, they don’t need to be explained. The funniness lies in the mystery.

If you want to be thoroughly entertained and laugh so that it hurts – this is a movie for you!

At the crime scene.lol. Good tweet!

No. 94 PULP FICTION (1994)

I do love the taste of a good burger

And so do I – love the taste of a good old-fashioned American cheeseburger – nothing beats that. The only thing I disagree with Samuel L. Jackson’s character is the choice of the drink with that burger. Sprite with a burger – really? To me the drink that “hits the spot” with a burger is a Coke.

I decided to start watching the “100 Movies” list with Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – DVD which I actually own. Though I have not watched it for years. Pulp Fiction is considered one of the most influential films of the 1990s with its pitch-black humor and pop-culture touchstones. The film has withstood the test of time — and I think will continue to do so even though a five-dollar milkshake is no longer a joke.

    What’s so special about foot massage?

Once again I was reminded how clever this movie actually is. It is violent like all other QT’s movies, but it is so cleverly written and shot that it holds you from the first scene to the very last. All the main characters are believable and fantastically delivered. They are no saints by any means, but they all show a little bit of vulnerability and – that much talked about – likeability factor. I especially love Samuel L. Jackson’s bible-quoting mob hit man Jules Winnfield. Now there is a man with a mission – obviously his mission drastically changes during the movie. The story unfolds through many twists and turns like a puzzle, which in the beginning might not make any sense but at the end paints a clear picture how all the characters’ lives are intertwined with each other and how one little action causes a ripple effect that changes everybody’s lives.

The movie starts with a scene in a coffee shop in which a young couple – Honey Bunny and Pumpkin – discusses how to better their lives by choosing smarter places to rob. After Pumpkin points out that nobody ever robs coffee shops [yes – wonder why?!], they decide to act on that impulse and rob the place they’re in. From that point on when Pumpkin jumps up waiving his gun around and shouts, “This is a robbery”, you know that this can only go one way – from bad to worse. So clever is the storyline that you find out only at the end of the movie how that situation is dissolved.

QT himself has been quoted saying that Pulp Fiction was always meant to be a comedy. It does have comedic undertones throughout. But for me the most comedic scenes are in “The Bonnie Situation” towards the end of the movie. “The Bonnie Situation” starts with the unfortunate event of Vincent [played by John Travolta] accidentally shooting Marvin in the car in broad daylight while they are driving thru the Valley, where the all-around bad guy Marcellus Wallace, for whom both John Travolta’s Vincent Vega and Samuel L. Jackson’s  Jules Winnfield work, has no friendly places. Even the whole premise of the situation that develops from now on, is so absurd that this does make you laugh or at least grin. Who can watch without laughing the last scene when Vincent and Jules walk out of the first scene’s coffee shop wearing t-shirts and shorts while stuffing their guns into their shorts and still managing to look badass?

If you have never seen Pulp Fiction, I suggest that you watch it. If not for the movie itself then for the killer soundtrack it has. And it does give a whole new meaning to going to powder your nose

Dusty Springfield – Son of a preacher man