Gladiator

Dir: Ridley Scott. 2000. Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix. English. Action

A modernized take on the sort of old Hollywood ancient Roman epic that updates the sword and sandal genre with plenty of ass kicking spectacle and a powerful central performance from Russell Crowe as a Roman general who seeks vengeance after losing his family at the hands of a corrupt prince and is forced to fight as a gladiator in Rome’s coliseum. The film’s populist hero and themes went over big with audiences turning Crowe into a mega star in the process.

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Posted by:
Matt Messbarger
Nov 5, 2008 7:55pm

Commando

Dir: Mark L. Lester. 1985. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger. English. Action.

First off, it is important to note that even horrible films can be hugely entertaining and Commando may be the most defining example of this. Structurally the film has no arc whatsoever. It is simply a few minutes of set up and then the rest is simply conclusion. But what a wonderfully cheesy journey it is as Arnold mows down hundreds of hired thugs single-handedly and seeks justice against the men who dare take his daughter.

Although Schwarzenegger hit his peak as an action star later in James Cameron’s True Lies, this and Predator are the most fun of his eighties films, following the huge success of The Terminator. As “John Matrix” (how’s that for a name?), Arnold is one beefy, mean fighting machine. Introduced to us in typical montage, we know him to be a hard worker (as he carries a log bigger than a man) and that he is a great dad (feeding fawns in the forest with his daughter). After that, through the blatant exposition by the cardboard “General Franklin Kirby,” we learn that he is no mere man. Matrix is as bad as they’ve ever had to come out of Special Forces.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Nov 1, 2008 6:21pm

Copland (The Director's Cut)

Dir: James Mangold. 1997. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta. Action.

Garrison, New Jersey is a pleasant place to live. Just over the Hudson River from New York City, this calm suburb is home to many NYPD police officers. These men who spend their days fighting crime on the streets of the Big Apple built this community in order to provide a safe haven to raise their families. But thing are not always what they seem, when the cops are corrupt and the law in Garrison is whatever they deem it to be.

The story kicks off on the George Washington Bridge. Officer Ray Donlan (Kietel) decides it’s best to fake the death of his nephew, Murray “Superboy” Babith (Rappaport), to avoid what could be seen as a racially motivated murder at the hands of a cop. That decision begins the spiral what will unfold, spilling over into their humble little community.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Sep 23, 2008 5:34pm

Scarface

Dir: Brian De Palma. 1983. Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham. Action.

As the U.S. is flooded by Cuban refugees, forced out by Fidel Castro, two criminals land in a detention camp in Miami. They are Tony Montana (Pacino) and his right-hand-man, Manny Ribera (Bauer). The two men assassinate a political target inside the camp and it opens the door for them into the drug syndicate in Florida. The story of Scarface is that of the rise of Tony Montana to become the predominant drug lord of his time.

Inspired by Howard Hawk’s 1932 Gangster classic by the same name, Oliver Stone’s screenplay has coined some of the most used nomenclature in cinema. “Say hello to my little friend” may be the most imitated line of screen dialogue in history. Having won an Academy Award previously for writing Midnight Express, Stone certainly understood the drug culture of the time. His script captures a raw truth in the way people speak and treat each other, out of their minds, railed on blow. Structurally, the film is very classically designed, much like a Greek tragedy. It explores the ambition necessary to wear the crown of power and the violent end that comes to all those who do.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Sep 13, 2008 2:44pm

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Dir: Doug Liman. 2005. Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie. English. Action.

After five or six years, John and Jane Smith find themselves in a marriage gone stale. That is until a little spice is thrown into the mix, and they come to realize they are both professional assassins, working for rival outfits.

In Doug Liman’s (Swingers, Bourne Identity) Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play the suburban couple with some serious skeletons in their closest. The film opens as the couple seeks marriage counseling and it becomes clear that the passion has all but drained from their love life. But when they are both sent out to neutralize the same target, their gun sights become turned on each other, with good comic effect.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Jul 30, 2008 4:47pm

In Bruges

Dir: Martin McDonagh. 2008. Starring: Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson. English. Action.

In Bruges opened and closed here in the US without much notice. For all I know, it had a similar reception around the world. But for my money, it is one of the most interesting films 2008 has yet produced.

It begins simply enough, as a sort of fish-out-of-water buddy comedy with Ray (Colin Farrell), a streetwise Dubliner, suffering through his forced stay in Bruges with his partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson). Ray cannot bear the "medieval fairytale land" that is Bruges; Ken cannot seem to get enough of the place, with its historic churches and picturesque canals.

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Posted by:
Will B
Jun 18, 2008 4:25pm

Jackie Brown

Dir: Quentin Tarantino. 1997. Starring: P. Grier, R. Forster, S. L. Jackson, R. DeNiro, M. Keaton, B. Fonda, C.Tucker. English. Action.

Jackie Brown (Grier) is a struggling middle-aged flight attendant who gets popped smuggling laundered cash into the country by a two eager-beaver cops (Keaton & Bowen). They give her two choices—prison or her help nabbing weapon’s dealer, Ordell Robbie (Jackson). But they don’t account for a third option—with the help of stand up bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Forster), Jackie plans to out con everyone one of them.

Based on Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, Jackie Brown is a beautifully woven intermixing of characters and styles of two very talented dark comedy writers. Tarantino’s most significant change was with the title character—making her a black woman, rather than Italian. I think this change made the film almost like a Blaxploitation movie for the modern age. It’s as if Grier’s character, “Coffy,” had to conform as she grew older, but was still not a woman to mess with. The plot is clever and the dialogue, razor sharp.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
May 10, 2008 4:34pm

The Kingdom

Dir: Peter Berg. 2007. Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Ashraf Barhom, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman. English. Action

When my mom gets pissed she watches Die Hard. She cackles and punches the air and I can see her falling in love with Bruce Willis a little each time. She gets so worried about all those people and his poor feet, but then he kicks those pompous, spoiled, rich, foreign bastards ass and the world is a little safer and easier to bear. When my step dad gets angry - and I mean the silent, stewing, breath-holding, heart attack courting angry, he watches Desperado. He is El Mariachi in Antonio Banderas form sidling up to and blowing the heads off of spoiled, rich, foreign bastards with a busty Salma at his side. What could be better? What rosier glasses to see the world through when you are in a snit?

My justify and release anger movie of the week is The Kingdom. First it's just a good movie. The script is tight with just enough workable action movie traits to keep me entertained and involved. The characters are familiar - you've seen them a dozen times before in different movies and different combinations and here they are again, ready to hang tough and go all the way. In The Middle East no less! But wait. Something's different. The fearless leader - god bless you Jamie Foxx - really is smart and not just some kid with a chiseled jaw pretending to problem solve. The feisty female/ berserker is my on-again girl crush, the AWEsome Jennifer Garner. Chris Cooper, once again pulling his weight, and Jason Bateman whose struggle to survive is is a fist in your heart, fill out the team work roster.

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Posted by:
Jessica Kaman
Dec 29, 2007 4:19pm
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