Town, The – A Movie Review

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Sep 182010
 

Doug MacRay is an unrepentant criminal, the de facto leader of a group of ruthless bank robbers who pride themselves in stealing what they want and getting out clean. With no real attachments, Doug never has to fear losing anyone close to him. But that all changed on the gang’s latest job, when they briefly took a hostage–bank manager, Claire Keesey. Though they let her go unharmed, Claire is nervously aware that the robbers know her name and where she lives. But she lets her guard down when she meets an unassuming and rather charming man named Doug not realizing that he is the same man who only days earlier had terrorized her. The instant attraction between them gradually turns into a passionate romance that threatens to take them both down a dangerous, and potentially deadly, path.

Genres: Drama, Romance, Crime/Gangster and Adaptation; Running Time: 2 hrs.; Release Date: September 17th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.

Directed By: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper

We went to see this movie this afternoon at Veterans 24. The theater was pretty full even at 1:30.

Ben Affleck has proved he is a competent director. That’s not to say this was a mind-blowing movie, but it was solidly directed, well acted, well directed movie with some humor at moments and some intense action sequences.

The movie follows Doug MacRay, a bank robber who pursues a woman he and his crew had taken as a hostage during a heist. Relationships get complicated and the usual drama follows. Ben Affleck can be surprisingly affecting in his roles – he is a rather likable character despite being a crook. His other crew are not so memorable – Jeremy Renner is an interesting portrait, but nothing seen before. He is the typical bad ass who eventually steps beyond his bounds. Honestly, I don’t even remember or care about the other two guys.

The woman, played by Rebecca Hall, does a solid job as Claire Keesey. We see her hardships, her torment and anguish (albeit a bit too much). The chemistry between her and Affleck is not really there, but hey, it’s basically an action movie. Blake Lively seems out of place as MacRay’s former lover. Jon Hamm plays a standard role as the hard driving cop who will stop at nothing. And Affleck’s bosses are funny but not really memorable.

Most action sequences are fast paced and suspenseful (though the heist all seem like I’ve seen them before).

The plot was stretched a bit thin, and some of the motivations of the characters baffled me a bit. Some things were just unclear with the characters, and a lot of loose ends were not tied up. However, it’s not really a big deal to me, as I enjoyed watching it and I took it for what it was: an action film with a little heart.

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Oct 212007
 

The KingdomWhen a terrorist bomb detonates inside a Western housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an international incident is ignited. While diplomats slowly debate equations of territorialism, FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) quickly assembles an elite team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman) and negotiates a secret five-day trip into Saudi Arabia to locate the man behind the bombing. Upon landing in the desert kingdom, however, Fleury and his team discover Saudi authorities suspicious and unwelcoming of American interlopers into what they consider a local matter.

Director:
Peter Berg

Genre:
Action, Crime, Thriller, Drama

Cast:
Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman, Jeremy Piven, Richard Jenkins, Kyle Chandler, Frances Fisher, Danny Huston, Kelly AuCoin, Anna Deavere Smith, Minka Kelly, Amy Hunter

FBI Agent Fleury’s crew finds a like-minded partner in Saudi Colonel Al-Ghazi, who helps them navigate royal politics and unlock the secrets of the crime scene and the workings of an extremist cell bent on further destruction.  With these unlikely allies sharing a propulsive commitment to crack the case, the team is led to the killer’s front door.

This movie ends up feeling like an episode of ’24’. The cast are great though especially Piven and Foxx, but Cooper and Garner seem criminally underused in the film. The film is harrowing in parts and the scenes involving Bateman and the extremists are some of the most tense scenes seen .

The Kingdom is exciting, well acted and tense but almost ruined by the restless hand-held camera-work. I simply do not understand why some directors think that this technique adds anything to a movie. Presumably it is intended to replicate a documentary style by conveying a sense of urgency and excitement but the effect is simply headache-inducing.You get no time to focus on any one scene as the camera twitches from one angle to another.

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Breach

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Feb 232007
 

BreachBased on the true story, FBI upstart Eric O’Neill enters into a power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was ultimately convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. (view trailer)

Directed by
Billy Ray

Genres
Drama / Thriller

Cast
Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Davison, Jonathan Watton, Tom Barnett, Jonathan Potts

Breach is based on the true story of the capture of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent responsible for many treasonous acts against the United States. Chris Cooper is excellent throughout in portraying a Catholic family man who goes to church constantly with his wife and kids while hiding his sexual perversions. Ryan Phillippe is Eric O’Neill, Hanssen’s new assistant who is assigned by boss Laura Linney to keep tabs on Hanssen to use as evidence against him. Caroline Dhavernas as Eric’s European wife who wants Eric to come clean about his job, Gary Cole as another agent, and Dennis Haysbert as Linney’s superior round out the fine cast in a film that slowly but surely builds up suspense in the various ways of snooping that brings the bureau closer to catching Hanssen in the act of treason. Don’t expect James Bond or Alias action here. Do expect an excellent drama about an agent who almost slipped from the FBI’s hands.

Chris Cooper, already an established actor, gives the performance of a lifetime. Cooper convincingly portrays the smugness, cockiness, and “holier than thou” attitude which eventually (in my eyes) led to Hansen’s downfall.

The movie is tense and moves swiftly without compromising the story line. Ryan Phillipe is equally impressive as the young FBI employee who is brought on to earn Hansen’s trust and find out what made him tick.

This is a must-see – I saw it with about 100 people … and from what I heard, almost everyone was still talking about it afterward as they walked out and in the bathrooms – and all were great comments.

Definitely an early Oscar contender for 2008 in my opinion.

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October Sky

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Mar 132005
 

October Sky (1999)The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner’s son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father’s wishes.

Directed by
Joe Johnston

Genres
Biography, Drama, Family

Cast
Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chris Owen, William Lee Scott, Chad Lindberg, Natalie Canerday, Scott Miles, Randy Stripling, Chris Ellis, Elya Baskin, Courtney Cole-Fendley, David Dwyer, Terry Loughlin, Kailie Hollister

“October Sky” is a film that will steal your heart, fill your mind with vivid imagery, and lift your spirit. The tale of Homer Hickham and his dream of creating a rocket seem so simple at first, especially when the film is set in a mining town, where the future is as clear cut as the lumps of coal in the mine. But Homer cannot follow in his father’s footsteps. With the encouragement of Miss Riley,(a friendly teacher), members of his father’s staff, and his friends, Homer attempts to make his dream a reality.

Yet as in any true to life story, there are many stops along the way. Director Joe Johnston lowers us into the coal mines, where we witness the chilling plight of miners stooped beneath a ceiling of rock. With lit helmets and bent posture, they resembled alien insectoids more than humans in the darkness. The hacking coughs of the miners and the blackened faces were a constant reminder of the danger the miners faced in their work.

Contrasting the mine shaft’s lugubrious load are the images of Homer and his friend’s rocket launches. Underneath the blue bowl of sky, rockets are placed upon a pad and launched into the stratosphere…And nothing can match the scene when Homer sees Sputnik for the first time.

Yet what makes the film so endearing is the relationship between the characters. Homer’s father is a classic hardened man…but he has a soft side as well. We see that he does love his son, despite their many arguments. The love and support of Miss Riley is evident as well. Best of all, the film is uncomfortable. It doesn’t tie everything up in a nice bow. It tears at you, lifts you up. It keeps an air of reality, which is important in a film like this.

This film can be considered a complete work. At first, I was disappointed that the film did not continue with Homer’s life. I didn’t want it to end. Then I realized…that’s what a good film does to a person. If it has done its job, you won’t want it to end. And “October Sky” accomplishes just that.

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American Beauty

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Jun 262004
 

American Beauty (1999)

A man tells his tale of how he turned his miserable life around and turned everyone else’s upside down as a result.

Directed by
Sam Mendes

Genres
Drama

Cast
Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards, Barry Del Sherman, Ara Celi, John Cho, Fort Atkinson, Sue Casey

VHS

Very emotionally intense movie. I enjoyed this film.

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