Jacob’s Ladder

Dir: Adrian Lyne, 1990. Starring: Tim Robbins, Danny Aiello, Elizabeth Pena. Mystery/Thriller.

A shell-shocked Vietnam veteran “Jacob Singer” (Robbins) finds his sanity begin to crumble as he sees demons coming out of the woodwork, trying to destroy him. He meets up with his old comrades trying to discover what sort of experiments the military did to them.

Bruce Joel Rubin’s screenplay is darkly spiritual and explores the mysteries of the mind. It is shocking, strange, and rides the line of sanity. The script is well structured and has a far darker tone than Rubin’s preceeding film, Ghost. Its use of time and space manipulations to unfold a mystery is very well done.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 29, 2009 4:28pm

Chopper

Dir: Andrew Dominik, 2000. Starring: Eric Bana, Bill Young, Kate Beahan, Simon Lyndon. Drama.

Loosely based on his autobiography written from behind bars, Chopper is the story of legendary Australian criminal Mark "Chopper" Read who garnered fame with his claim that he had killed up to seventeen people.

Andrew Dominik’s screenplay adaptation is wonderfully colorful and peppered with Aussie colloquialisms, while also being naturalistically brutal and raw. It is the type of story that pulls no punches and hits you in the face like a locomotive.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 28, 2009 5:56pm

The Limey

Dir: Steven Soderbergh, 1999. Starring: Terrance Stamp, Peter Fonda, Luis Guzman, Lesley Ann Warren. Mystery / Thriller.

An ex-con straight out of prison travels from the U.K. to sunny Los Angeles to uncover the hidden truth of his only daughter’s mysterious death in a fiery car crash. What he finds is a world that is completely foreign to him and he goes on a rampage to settle the score.

The screenplay by Lem Dobbs is a gritty, darkly comic take on the classic revenge film—a sort of American version of Mike Hodge’s classic Get Carter. The script is lively and uniquely told, providing some wonderfully original moments and dialogue.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 27, 2009 12:47pm

Basquiat

Dir: Julian Schnabel, 1996. Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Benicio Del Toro, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman. Drama.

In Julian Schnabel’s intimate portrait of an artist, Jeffery Wright exploded on the film scene as Jean-Michel Basquiat, a graffiti artist turned international painter. The story is about his rise and fall amidst the New York elite, his friendship with Andy Warhol, and the women he loves.

After a successful painting career, Julian Schnabel (Oscar nominee for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) made his feature debut as a writer-director in this tribute to the life of his friend. His screenplay is simple, but efficient and his direction is gentle and compassionate -- bringing out wonderful performances from a brilliantly cast group of actors. He also does a great job of incorporating the music to define the times and emotions of the moment.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 27, 2009 12:32pm

Lord of War

Dir: Andrew Niccol, 2005. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke, Bridget Moynahan, Jared Leto. Action.

Lord of War is a morality tale about a gunrunner’s rise and fall in a world bent on violence and greed.

Andrew Niccol (Gattaga) wrote and directed this darkly comic story of an international arms dealer. His screenplay is interesting, satirical, and well-paced. The film’s direction is stylish, quick, and greatly entertaining. Niccol has a sharp eye for details and finds the humor underlying the business of death -- or at least the irony of the lifestyle.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 27, 2009 12:05pm

U-Turn

Dir: Oliver Stone, 1997. Starring: Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte. Mystery / Thriller.

"Bobby Cooper" (Penn) is a wandering gambler whose car breaks down in some lost Southwestern town where he’s pulled into a web of lies, deceit, and murder.

Oliver Stone (W) directs one of his most re-watchable and entertaining films in a long and ambitious career. He creates a sinisterly fun Neo-Noir within the confines of a funky cowpoke town. The film maintains a strong mood throughout, with special attention paid to the details, and at a pace that never lets up.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 9, 2009 11:45am

Milk

Dir: Gus Van Sant, 2008. Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Diego Luna, and Emile Hirsch. Gay Cinema.

Milk is the true story of gay-rights activist Harvey Milk who was the first openly homosexual man elected to public office.

Dustin Lance Black won the Academy Award for his screenplay, which is tense with information, but never loses sight of its human content. The story has a dynamic structure and has many scenes that pack an emotional punch.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Apr 8, 2009 12:01pm

The Proposition

Dir: John Hillcoat, 2005. Starring: G. Pearce, R. Winstone, D. Huston, E. Watson, D. Wenham, and J. Hurt. Westerns.

The Proposition is story of a lawman (Winstone) down under that gives a career killer (Pearce) the chance to save his little brother from the gallows if he can find his older brother (Huston) and execute him.

Written by musician Nick Cave of Bad Seeds fame, the script is brutal, authentic and filled with fantastic period dialogue. Every character is brilliantly realized - no true heroes or absolute villains - just multi-dimensional people wrapped up in a tragic place. Cave and Warren Ellis provide the film’s score with is a glorious mixture between primal sounds of the native culture, mixed with contemporary instruments.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Mar 20, 2009 5:52pm

A History of Violence

Dir: David Cronenberg, 2005. Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt. Mystery/Thriller.

Tom Stall is a peaceful diner owner living in a small town with his wife and children until one day a group of dangerous men show up, unwinding a mystery.

Based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vincent Locke, Josh Olson’s subtle screenplay is taut, raw and engrossing. Because the subject matter is so dark and without a hint of the supernatural, it would be hard to tell it came from a comic book. But all in all, it is one of the best adaptations from the medium to hit the big screen so far.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Mar 18, 2009 12:17pm

Sexy Beast

Dir: Jonathan Glazer, 2000. Starring: Ray Winstone, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane. Mystery/Thriller.

After spending lives in ill repute, Gal and Aitch, along with their wives, have found peace in the hills of Spain, until a former colleague crashes the party and all hell breaks loose.

Ray Winston (The Departed) plays “Gal,” a soft-spoken teddy bear of a man just trying to enjoy a calm life in Spain with his ex-porn star wife. As much as he wants a peaceful existence, the London mob has no plans to let this skilled safecracker walk away from the show.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Mar 16, 2009 1:39pm
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