Shaft-Movie-Review

Shaft Movie Review

“Shaft” is the current 2019 version of the continuing story of John Shaft that was started in 1971. “He’s a complicated man – But no one understands him but his woman” – you know, the theme song by Isaac Hayes. Well then, “Shaft” later appeared in 2000, when Samuel L. Jackson took over the main role from Richard Roundtree. Now, with this movie, there is trifecta of “Shaft”. This new version has Jessie Usher playing a newest generation of “the cat that won’t cop out, when there’s danger all about”. Can ya dig it? You’re damn right!

 

JJ Shaft (Jessie Usher) was raised by his mother Maya (Regina Hall) because she was afraid of the violence that followed her husband, John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson). JJ grew up not knowing that his father was a fearless private detective in Harlem. He had a major bad attitude that matched his bad-ass skills. JJ is much meeker and more gentrified, being raised by his Mom. But law enforcement was in his blood. He became an FBI Agent, well – actually – he is a Computer Data Analyst. JJ is far from the guns and violence and the street thugs, or so he thinks. A friend of his is found dead of an overdose. But his childhood friend Sasha (Alexandra Shipp), who is now a nurse, knows that he was killed, and it was made to look like an OD.

 

JJ Shaft takes time from his FBI duties to go and find his father, John Shaft. Shaft has not seen JJ in close to 20 years, and he wonders why the kid seems like a wimp. John Shaft has no filter and says whatever the F*** that he wants. So, there is a little bit of stress between the two of them. Since the death of JJ’s friend also ties back to a drug kingpin, John Shaft is very interested to find out more. JJ and John go and start checking into some seedy places to find out things that some very scary people want to keep private. Sasha is not amused with the blunt attitude of Mr. Shaft (senior). But she also finds some clues that lead the detectives onto the right trail. Maya has also come back into New York City for a date, but she does not know that JJ is working with John Shaft.

 

There are some assassins that are out to kill John Shaft and in son JJ. They attack them in different places, where JJ is with Sasha and wher John is around Maya. They both get the best of both of teams of thugs, sent by a mysterious source. Later JJ and Sasha go to explore a warehouse that they think is a link to drug smuggling. Sasha gets abducted and taken as a hostage, and JJ goes to his dad for help. John Shaft knows that he could also use some assistance. So, he goes and gets another person to help them – the original John Shaft (Richard Roundtree). He is the uncle (or father?) of the current John Shaft, and he knows New York City and Harlem scene since, when – going back at least to 1971…

 

“Shaft” is a politically-incorrect, trigger-rich environment of crazy laughs and misadventures. It is not for the faint-of-heart or for people who could be easily offended. If that might describe you, then “yo’ better keep yo’ ass away!” (as John Shaft might say). It is designed to teeter over into crude language, violent behavior and irreverant humor. This movie is that much better for doing that, and pulling no punches. It skids out of the boundries of ‘polite company’ into a uproarious down-n-dirty gutter crawl through the funniest adventure ever found in Harlem. Samuel L. Jackson is given full reign to go off the rails in his portrayal of John Shaft. He rides that role hard and puts it away wet. With top-notch help from Regina Hall, Jessie Usher and Alexandra Shipp – the movie is a full-tilt boogie blast of fun. Then, bring on the original Shaft – Richard Roundtree – at the end, and it’ll blow the roof off the joint.

 

“Shaft” uses the Hard-R rated power of Samuel L. Jackson to deliver one wild Harlem ride. “You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother. Shut your Mouth !”

Shaft

Director Tim Story
Writers Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow
Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp
Rating R
Running Time 1h 51m
Genres Action, Comedy, Crime

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El Chicano Movie Review

“El Chicano” is a dark and gritty view into a Hispanic gang-run neighborhood, with an emphasis on the ‘hood’. It relates the legend of a mysterious motorcycle-riding vigilante called El Chicano. He attacks the criminals and gang-bangers and brings them to justice. He is kind of a Ghetto Ghost Rider, without the flaming skull. The drug-infested East Los Angeles area is like “Mean Streets” with Salsa beats. El Chicano targets the drug pushers and killers, the bangers and cartel leaders. He takes a magical Aztec knife and uses it to kill the baddest of the bad. He becomes a boogie man for the criminal underclass, a type of “Usual Suspects” character ‘Keyser Soze’ of the Barrio.


Three young boys grow up in the East Los area, and one night they see El Chicano in action. A local gang leader is stabbed, and the roar of the black motorcycle is heard screeching away. A local cop named Gomez is on the scene quickly, but El Chicano is gone. The young boys are grown up twenty years later, and each has gone separate ways.  Detective Diego Hernandez (Raúl Castillo) is now on the right side of the law. But his twin brother Pedro has served time in prison, and now is dead. The other childhood friend is a top-level gang leader named Shotgun (David Castañeda). Most of Shotgun’s crew of thugs has been killed in a mass slaughter. Detective Hernandez is handed the case with his new partner Detective Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo). They have a day to determine what is going on, because the FBI is hot on the trail of a cartel boss. The cartel is trying to get into the Barrio, and the killings might be related. However, Diego Hernandez is worried, because all the murdered thugs have a tattoo.

This odd tattoo is the old nickname of Diego Hernandez’s twin brother Pedro, and the tattoo also has their birthday. How is his dead brother related in any way to the thugs that worked for Shotgun, and is this related to the cartel?  Detective Hernandez and Detective Martinez transport the lone survivor of the killings, until they are ambushed. The last survivor is killed, and all ties to crime lord Shotgun are gone. The two Detectives report to their boss, Captain Gomez (George Lopez). The street cop from years ago is now the Police top dog. He is working to keep the FBI away, but the heat is rising. Detective Hernandez and Detective Martinez are in the middle of a stakeout to watch Shotgun and the cartel guys. But there is more violence and murder, but this time it is not aimed at a thug in the back seat.

Detective Diego Hernandez has lost a brother, and now he has lost a partner. He investigates what his brother Pedro had done when he got out of prison. He finds a secret hideaway that contains the black motorcycle that he last saw as a kid. Back then it was being ridden by El Chicano when he eliminated many bad guys. Diego is tired of having the gangs and the cartels win the street battles. So, he trains and gets in shape, so that he can carry the magical Aztec knife and go after the evil thugs. He gets his black cape and death-skull face mask. He will be ready to take back the streets as the mystical magical El Chicano. The cartel guys and Shotgun are now on the run from the avenging force of “El Chicano”…

This “El Chicano” movie has a lot going for it. There is a street-wise feel to the scenes and the story is built up organically. Diego has a slow transformation into the El Chicano character, and it feel real and earned. The moves of El Chicano when attacks and fights several thug henchman at once are swift and brutal. He would make “John Wick” proud. The movie is seeped in the Hispanic culture of respect for the dead, and ‘El Chicano’ is seen as an avenging angel. He is ready to force retribution on the cartel and drug lords. He is there to take back the streets.

There are a few times when it seems to be a low-budget movie. But for the most part, it gets the same milage for action and fight scenes as the big budget movies. The acting is low-key and many of the extras look like they come ‘Straight Outta East Los’. The cast is pretty good, but basically unknown. Only George Lopez has a high profile background. Co-writer Joe Carnahan has done some really good stuff in the past, and his efforts are well used in this script. The overall quality of this movie is very watchable, even when it did not have the richest budget.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile Movie Review

If you head into this movie thinking, even hoping, you’re going to see a slasher film, you have to adjust your expectations. With this, director Joe Berlinger tells you the story of an evil man and what his evil mind allowed him to ultimately become. Since we don’t actually see the consequences of his actions, we are able to (much like the woman he was living with who was completely in the dark about him) put the murders he committed aside and instead see who he could have been. I feel compelled to mention that this movie does not glorify a serial killer! See more about that in my interview with the director.

Here’s the link.


Anyway, Ted Bundy had everything he could have wanted. Why was this the route he chose? As you watch, you can’t help but wonder what motivates someone to murder. Something drives him to commit the most unspeakable horrors one could think of. Why? The movie doesn’t focus on the acts of what Bundy did by showing us, but by allowing us, even forcing us, to think about them.

That he walked amongst us, lived a seemingly normal existence… and that you could know a Bundy, too, is a frightening thing to ponder but ponder you will. Berlinger, known for his true crime documentaries, one in particular called ‘Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,’ was certainly the best person to take on this task. He knew the subject and examines everything.


Ted Bundy is being played by Zac Efron. The actor wanted to shed some of his ‘High School Musical’ image and dig deeply into something against type. He certainly picked the right part for that. In my interview with him, Joe Berlinger said this of Zac getting the role, ‘…Zac wants to play with his teen heartthrob image in that way, I respect that. And, also, as a documentarian, it gives me a little piece of reality to break into the movie-making process. The fact that, in real life, he has this profile of teen heartthrob… that is very similar to the effect that Bundy had on women. I found that a nice piece of reality I could play with.’

While in character, Zac was appealing in all the ways that Bundy was. Not known for this sort of role but perfect for it, you can see the serial killer in his face. The way he gives off little hints of his condemnable actions, with just a simple mouth curl at the right moment, the use of his eyes… he proved himself here. With this performance, he gives you the man that Bundy’s girlfriend Liz (Lily Collins) saw but you also see underneath the mask. That’s what worked so brilliantly. At first, you’re obliged to see Ted as just a person, not as the monster you know he is. They do walk among us. We don’t know who they are. They could be who we’re with. Just contemplating that alone makes this a good crime film to see. It was important that we see a good portion of the film through Liz’s eyes.


With this approach, the audience was able to garner sympathy for her and see the larger picture. Eventually, the strikes against him can no longer be denied. However, his crimes don’t seem to matter to some. We move on from Liz to see Bundy’s point of view and through the lens of another woman. She is someone who clearly has a low opinion of herself.

Bundy takes advantage of both of these women, but you can tell that he loves one and is simply using the other. This is a fascinating look into his double life. He charms women, he charms his victims, he even charms the law. Scenes of what he does and the ultimate reason he’s getting away with things will surprise and enrage you. The film is slow paced but once you see what Berlinger is going for, it will engage you and you’ll walk away unable to get the movie and Zac’s performance out of your mind temporarily.

John Malkovich is superb as the judge in Florida who says the words the title is based on. His reverence for Bundy is strange to witness and hard to accept but his duty to the law holds up and he gives Bundy the sentence Bundy didn’t expect. Death. How we get to this moment, is worth seeing so I must recommend the film, as well as Berlinger’s documentary.

If you haven’t yet, join Netflix and watch ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile’ today. Watch the four-part series, too.

The Highwaymen Movie Review

Clever cinematography pulls you in but it’s the script that grabs and holds you. Very well written, ‘The Highwaymen’ resuscitates and retells us the story of Bonnie and Clyde from a different angle. From the point of view of the law. More specifically, this film is about the two friends and retired Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer (Costner) and Maney Gault (Harrelson), who brought Bonnie and Clyde down when even Hoover’s FBI had all but given up. Unlike the 1967 Arthur Penn film, ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ we see here why it was essential these criminals be stopped rather than praised for who they were. A stylized tactic used by the filmmakers to keep their evil, rather than their appeal, at the forefront was to keep the image of the pair virtually unseen until the moment of their demise. You see them, just not very clearly and certainly not as they were almost idealized in ’67.

The film ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ admired by both the writer, John Fusco (Hidalgo, Young Guns) and director John Lee Hancock (The Founder, The Blindside) of ‘The Highwaymen,’ did exactly what the public in 1934 did but in a very different way. We see the flash but then, it’s so subtle that you, this new audience, can focus more clearly and see what Bonnie and Clyde actually were… monsters. They made them look glamorous, like heroes, larger than life and something to cherish. After all, they were stealing from the rich and giving to the poor… right? Not exactly. In fact, not at all. What sets the two films apart most is that the idolization of who these people were, is not done.

It’s made clear that these two lived lavishly, virtually as celebrities, but it also exposes that had taken advantage of everyone along the way, used them, and that they were immoral and corrupt. They wanted more of everything and weren’t afraid to kill to get it. Nice people! And this version of events shows you that they, seems Bonnie, in particular, were cold to the core and needed to be stopped. They don’t get bloody because to tell the story it doesn’t need to. However, the filmmakers show you and tell you all you need to know to be instantly rooting for the men who take up the case. When Frank learns of how many officers have been ‘dropped,’ that’s all he needed to hear before he was willing to strap on his gun again. More like several guns, as is depicted in a scene where he goes shopping and makes a store owners entire year. Guns, maps and each other were all they had and all they needed. One particular moment with a map is used as a little wink to the audience to make us widen our eyes and linger for just a moment, wondering, ‘How did they get anywhere before they had their phones to guide them?!’ 

Cinematographer John Schwartzman, who worked with Hancock on ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ makes the landscape an essential character in the film as it paints a vivid picture of the nothingness of life at the time. It shows us why people may have become so desperate and certainly why someone would have admired these soulless individuals for striking back at ‘the man.’ People had nothing else, so they cheered them on. In my interview with him, John Fusco let me in on something he learned in his research. Bonnie always wanted to be a Broadway star. She was stealing for herself and Clyde was doing the same thing. It’s a shame that people ever spent one moment believing this couple were anything but rubbish.

Anyway, the chemistry, the writing, the cinematography, the acting, the score… everything comes together to make this old story seem refreshing. Fusco’s take on period pieces is always rich and layered. Though his scripts, while he shows you one thing, you’re learning so much more. ‘The Highwaymen’ is no different in this respect. He has written a damn good story about old cops helping the new bring down the bad guys. He leaves nothing out, even taking time to point out that bringing down the bad girl was an issue for some at the time. Mostly because ‘she was just a little bitty thing.’ I want you to see this. I want you to believe me. I’ll be honest, it’s a tad slow at times, but it doesn’t drag one bit, nor does it dissatisfy.
*After watching, stay for more information at the end.

‘The Highwaymen’ comes to Netflix on March 29, 2019.
See it now in select theatres.

HERE IS THE LINK TO MY INTERVIEW WITH JOHN LEE HANCOCK AND JOHN FUSCO

My interview with John Lee Hancock and John Fusco of ‘The Highwaymen’

As you should posthaste, I recently watched the highly entertaining Netflix Original ‘The Highwaymen.’ Having enjoyed it so, I couldn’t wait to converse with the men who created the film, director John Lee Hancock and writer John Fusco.

The two are incredibly passionate, inspiring, intellectual, kind and talented as hell.

With films such as ‘Hidalgo,’ ‘Thunderheart’ and ‘Young Guns’ to his name, it only makes sense that John Fusco would write about a Texas Ranger bringing down notorious gangsters. This chat will fill you in as to how, over years of interest and research into crime, these particular felon’s lore developed in young John Fusco’s mind to appear on your screen.  

His partner in the project, John Lee Hancock, who’s from Texas, couldn’t have been a better choice to bring John’s tale to life. Known not to shy away from making ambitious, real-life dramas, Hancock directed ‘The Alamo,’ ‘The Blindside,’ and ‘The Founder’ and now Fusco’s story about Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson), which tells us about these two Texas Rangers. They’re friends as well as lawmen who came out of retirement in 1934 to retire the vicious Bonnie and Clyde and the Barrow gang. Unlike the 1967 Arthur Penn film, ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ we see why it was important that they are stopped rather than praised for who they were. Read here how this film came to be.           

TMC: What inspired you to share this story?

Fusco: I grew up with a real fascination with outlaws and gangsters. I think you can look at my work and realize that. (Smiles) So, when the 1967 Arthur Penn movie came out, I was in my pajamas at the drive-in with my mother and father, and it just continued to fuel my fascination with Bonnie and Clyde. So, I wanted to know everything I could, after that movie, about them. I had these books that my mother didn’t want me to have that graphic crime scene photos… I was obsessed. But as I started researching, I realized ‘Wow. You know what? They weren’t Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.’ They killed a lot of people, left a lot of victims and destroyed a lot of lives during The Depression. But, along with that, the portrayal of the protagonist, Frank Hamer or ‘Hammer’ as they called him in the movie, was so far off the mark that it was troubling to me as a young person. So, I started researching Hamer’s life and saw that no one ever abducted him, tied him up in the back of a car, spit on him, sexually taunted him, put him in a rowboat and shoved him across a lake. He didn’t go out and kill them out of revenge for some vendetta. In actuality, he was one of the greatest law officers of the 20th century. He took on the KKK singlehandedly, kind of exemplifying that one riot, one ranger ethos. He was a really cool western hero to me as a kid.
So, suddenly, here I was going from gangster worship to, ‘Wow! Hamer kinda got a bad deal in this.’ And so, I grew up waiting for someone to do his story on some level and it never happened. Eventually, as my writing career was going on, it was still in the back of my mind. And it had nothing to do with the corrective or answer to the Arthur Penn movie, which, I have to say, I recognize as a watershed film, a cultural touchstone and I’m part of that filmmaking generation who was inspired by it. There’s no denying that. I just felt like the side of the story about two retired Texas Rangers coming out of retirement to enter the gangster era is a really cool western. Kind of that elegiac ride the high-country type of story.

Hancock: For me, John was there from the start and wrote it, so I was just reading the script that came to me and being from Texas, I knew some of Frank Hamer who’s one of the most legendary Texas Ranger. Of course, I knew some of Bonnie and Clyde. But for me, I just… I’m a huge fan of the ’67 film; watched it all the time. It wasn’t so much Bonnie and Clyde, I was really drawn to the dark journey of these two men who have a terrible gift, and their gift is they’re blood hunters. And they know it’s going to be ugly, they know what it’s going to look like; what’s at the end of the road waiting for them. And there’s no one they can talk to but each other. So, it’s kind of a ‘men loving men,’ ‘these two guys together’ that drew me. And I looked at it as, if anything, a companion piece to ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ Not to say you’re not aware of it while you’re making the film, I mean, of course, you are. You’ve got one of the more famous cinematic scenes is the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde so you approach it and go, ‘What can we do that’s different?’ Not as an answer to it, not as pushback or anything, no. You don’t want the comparison… you can’t outdo the operatic ballet of bullets, which was fantastic. So, you go, ‘Okay. Well, our option is, we’re going to play it in real-time. Nothing’s gonna be slow mo. Everything’s gonna be real. It’s going to be brutally violent. And it’s going to be bloody and it’s gonna be as promised. It’s gonna be worse than promised.’ And then, the heavy weight that carries with these guys. There’s no joy at the end of this. They walk away with more soil on their souls. That’s what drew me to it. That kind of heavy, dark, lonely journey.

Fusco: I think that what John recognized in that, is what we really set out to mine. The story is the weight that these two guys carry from the things they’ve done and the thing they have to do to finish out… that moral gravitas.    

TMC: Did you take poetic license with the conversation between Hamer and Barrow’s father?

Fusco: Well, the conversation actually happened. It happened in a different chronology. It happened in Arcadia, Louisiana, in the aftermath in which he approached Frank and said, ‘You did what had to be done, I don’t hold it against you, and I understand. We’ve all been through hell with this thing.’

TMC: Going to the two leads, Hamer and Gault seemed like an old married couple. They had a friendship but also worked well together. Did one or both of you approach it from that angle? To show on screen more of their friendship or how well they worked with one another? Which was more important?

Hancock:  You’re always hopeful… the thing you don’t want to do it, ‘Let’s flashback to the time when Maney and Frank were in their twenties in south Texas,’ or something like that. You’ve got a certain imperative, even though I’m the first to recognize that it’s not a, ‘will they catch them or not?’ We all know what happens. It’s about trying to make the journey interesting. So, for me it was… I was hopeful that when you saw these guys together, in the car, with the rapport, with the dialogue that John’s written, that we would understand the legacy of their friendship. Just the fact that Frank drove all the way to Lubbock to see if Maney might be up for the job speaks to that. To me. And then hopefully you can get them on the road and that, that would be inherent.

TMC: I liked how we saw Bonnie and Clyde throughout the entire film and then at the climax, it really resonates on multiple levels visually because of their betrayal. What was the inspiration behind that? Was it in the script? Did it get developed along the way?

Hancock: It’s twofold. It was in the script. John described it in such a way that you never quite got the look that you wanted out of ‘em. When I came on board, I thought this was an exciting opportunity to have two very different visual styles to play that meet up at the ambush site. So, talking to John Schwartzman, our great DP (Director of Photography), I said I wanted to shoot it like a graphic novel. I want all the stuff with Bonnie and Clyde to be highly stylized frames with amazing, beautiful, poppy clothes… shiny cars. I want it to look fast. I want it to look sexy. I want it to all that for two reasons. One, because that’s how the public in 1934 thought of them. And two, the way I might view the movie if I weren’t involved with it is, ‘No. I get this. I’ve seen Penn’s movie. They are sexy and the cars are fast and they’re amazing and beautiful and all that.’ And then when they enter the naturalistic part of the movie, we stay with Frank and Maney through a more naturalistic style when they enter it and they pull up and get a good look at their face, we see that they’re scrawny kids.
So, on the one hand, the public in 1934 has been duped, that we’ve come across, and hopefully the audience has been duped, as well. Saying, ‘It’s not what I expected.’ It’s not like, ‘Ha-ha! I gotcha!’ Pull the rug out. It’s more of a, to me, ‘Everything about this enterprise is ugly and now I’ve got to kill kids on top of it.’

TMC: The movie implicitly condemns Bonnie and Clyde’s violence. The movie also touches upon these men, that they’re also murderers. They’ve done some terrible, bloody things. There’s a moment in the film where one of them rejects an interview about their killing of Bonnie and Clyde but now you’ve made a movie about that. Do you think that the movie runs the risk of sensationalizing the violence that these men carried out?

Hancock: It doesn’t bother me. For one, I would take exception to calling them murderers as a blanket statement because if you’re an officer of the law and there’s a person shooting at you, you need to shoot them.
That didn’t come into the definition we—

Fusco: (Leans in) No, no. ‘Manhunters.’

Hancock. Yeah. They were manhunters. They were going after the bad guy and the bad guy has this and you could go case by case with a hundred different files maybe and find something. I wouldn’t disagree; I’m not a historian. I think calling them blanket murderers is 100% incorrect. Legally.

TMC: Well, yeah, legally. I was referring to the stories of when they broke into a place and shot a bunch of people before they could put their hands up. Some may see that as unethical and more murder than punitive justice.

Hancock: I would go with it being unethical and certainly a gray area. In that time and place, it was, unfortunately, more commonplace than one would think. Did they come to this story without flaws? Without demons? Without their own stuff? No, they don’t. They’re not perfect human beings and I think that’s part of that journey that we’re talking about, that they regret. I think that’s what the story is about. The burden you carry with that terrible gift. So, I would agree that, yes, this is not… these aren’t completely righteous men doing the right thing. They are doing what they think is necessary. Even the governor thinks that their style of doing things is not ‘PC,’ even though that wasn’t a term in 1934.

Fusco: That’s a really thoughtful question. For two years, Barrow and Parker were out there killing. When the law tried to do ‘legal’ roadblocks and get them to surrender, a lot of that was, ‘There’s a woman with him. There’s a girl with him.’ These law officers were killed. They had three-thousand rounds of armor-piercing ammunition in the damn car.

Hancock: When they found them.

Fusco: Yeah. They had three Browning automatic rifles fully loaded, ten Colt automatic pistols, three loaded shotguns, other handguns. I always described it as, kind of, a runaway train with hazardous materials in it. It had to be stopped. Hoover and a 1,000-man dragnet, for two years, was not able to catch them. It got to the point where, ‘We gotta go to a dark place and bring out two guys who come from another era; who come from the old-time Ranger school. But it is interesting because Hamer was a humble, quiet guy who did not want to talk about this stuff. Turned down Tom Mix for a movie offer. Turned down $10,000 for a book deal.

Hancock: I think the reason, and I don’t know this to be true but, in my heart and mind, I think the reason that Frank Hamer took on a job that… he didn’t need the money, why did he take this on? I think it galled him. They were more than small-town heroes. They were national heroes and in the international press. I think it galled him that people were being made famous for things they should be ashamed of. He was an old-school guy. I think that’s what put him behind the wheel of his wife’s car to go out… because he didn’t need the money. And maybe that’s an old fashion sense of right and wrong but I think that’s who Frank Hamer was. Did he always do right? Nope. Like Ma Ferguson says in the movie, ‘You leave me to answer for the blood.’ Yeah. They get the bad guy but it ain’t pretty. The whole thing is an ugly enterprise which is why, at the end of the movie, the thing I really wanted to come across, and why we shot at the actual location, wasn’t just because it was authentic and cool and creepy and all that, which it was, it was that there was a pervasive sense over the crew and the actors, ‘We gotta help them recreate it. One, the anxiety and, ‘Here they come. Here they come. Here they come.’ And I’m gonna keep firing until my gun is empty. It’s overkill. There’s no doubt about it. When that car comes to a stop, there’s no joy in Mudville. By all the reports, ‘It’s done and I’m glad it’s done and it’s worse than I thought it would be.’ Then, as bad as that is, to see what happens in Arcadia. Which, by the way, was toned down in the movie. There were thousands more people. They were trying to cut off Clyde’s trigger finger and his ear. They cut off locks of her hair.

Fusco: They were putting their handkerchiefs in Bonnie’s blood.

Hancock: Taking pieces of the car… it was grotesque. They loved ‘em when they were alive. They loved ‘em when they were dead.

TMC: Would that be the start of a revolution of Bonnie and Clyde’s efforts? And their response… was it revolutionary in terms of how the public perceived what they were doing and how the public perceived what Frank and Maney were doing to try and stop them?

Hancock: Revolutionary in what way, from a police tactic standpoint?

TMC: Yeah. And the way we respond to things. You know, with social media today, something’s on there and the world reacts. Back then, you had to wait two or three days before you read something about what was going on and yet, as you just pointed out, there were dozens of people who were cheering and crying over their deaths. Celebrity status. Their reaction to the law enforcement side of it was very dark and was unprincipled, yet they were both men of moral conviction. I think that signaled a change in the way I think about their tactics and how we react to things.

Hancock: I don’t know. It’s interesting. The legacy of the ambush and everything is…. we could fill this room with historians now who’d disagree about everything, trust me. About every single thing. But the fact that the posse, the six of them, decided never to talk about it and no one could write about it until the last person, everybody was gone except the last person… and who knows how much to believe of what came out or whatever, but we do know that the Parker family and the Barrow family were very open in public. They invited everybody in—

Fusco: (Jumps in) They toured with the crime doctor who bought the death car and went on tour with it, with Bonnie Parker’s mother Emma and Henry Barrow who had little patches of Clyde’s trousers’ that he was killed in, that he’d sell. They traveled, they toured with the car.

Hancock: There’s a funny letter from Bonnie’s mom about Frank Hamer saying, ‘Those guns weren’t stolen. They’re our property. You must return them.’ (Laughs) Yeah, right.

Fusco: They were stolen from an armory. It’s a great question and I don’t know if I’m grasping it right, but public sentiment did start to turn at Grapevine Texas. Easter morning, those two patrolmen on motorcycles who came up… one, it was his first day on the job. He kept his shotgun shells in his pocket, which we reference, but he did that because he was afraid that if he took a spill on his bike, the gun might inadvertently kill somebody. An innocent person. So, he had to try and get his shells and the gun. He was scheduled to be married two weeks later, and his widow wore his wedding gown to his funeral. And, so those stories started to leak and little by little, the public started to feel like, ‘Well, wait a minute.’ My mother remembers her Scottish immigrant father, my grandfather, being obsessed with True Detective magazine following this saga, it was like a Soap Opera. She remembers the day they got Clyde and Bonnie. ‘Really? They’re gone? They’re dead? These lovers on the run.’ No one ever talks about those victims. The Native American, full-blooded Chickasaw, who had worked so hard to become a deputy sheriff in a white town, had a family, and Clyde killed him with a 30-caliber rifle. And all the families who had been left on the breadline. And children raised without fathers during the depression, who had to endure, had to watch this celebrity… like, you know, ‘I’m a young man and I gotta go to work because my dads’ been killed by these two who everybody’s glamorizing. So, there was a certain groundswell of, ‘Wait a minute. Who are these two?’

TMC: Did you purposefully add Hamer waving at the FBI plane and at Hoover because he really only got involved when something was successful?  

Fusco: Yes. That was my intention in the script, yeah. Hoover really resented Frank Hamer and resented the fact that he was on the case. They weren’t the FBI at that point. It was like the fledgling FBI. It was the birth… right at the beginning. There were other FBI on the ground who did recognize, ‘We got a real pro out there and he might be old school but…’ But Hoover resented him and resented the fact that it took him two years… for two years, he couldn’t get him. This guy (Hamer) went out using Comanche tracking skills and caught them. But really got under his skin was that something came up in the press, it was, ‘Dillinger’s still out there and nobody’s got ‘im.’ And Hamer said, ‘Well, Mr. Hoover would like to have a conversation about that.’ Hoover didn’t like him.

TMC: Frank was a tracker. I can barely operate my phone. (They laugh) Is that a lost art or still in practice today because I find that kind of thing fascinating.

Fusco: As do I. I studied tracking. It’s a real passion of mine. Hamer studied with the Comanche and really appreciated that skill. A lot of the old-time Rangers did. It only exists in one law enforcement area right now and that’s a group at the border which is all Native American patrol called the Shadow Wolves. They use traditional tracking methods. So, they train border patrol and federal officers in using those old tracking methods.

TMC: (To Fusco) I was reading in the notes… says you were, to quote you, ‘Always fascinated particularly with what is underneath the veneer and myth of folklore.’ And I’ve seen that in your screenplays. ‘The Highwaymen,’ obviously, ‘Thunderheart’ and ‘Young Guns.’ What drives that for you as a writer? Is it pure curiosity, do you dig into it or are you always looking to—

Fusco: I think it goes back to the first story I told about being a kid and being fascinated by Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde. I used to sit and stare at those photos and say, like, ‘How did this Billy the Kid, this diminutive, little bucktooth outlaw in New Mexico, rise to this iconic level? How did that happen?’ And why were there forty-two movies made about him, where did this legend of the left-handed gun come from and the fact that he was this lone gunfighter who whistled sad ballads. You know? What I found was that if you dig underneath the veneer of the legend, you find the history. It can be a lot uglier and more crude, but it’s always more fascinating. And then to explore how that history becomes myth and why. And I think that really applies to this movie.

TMC: Are there other stories you’re itching to tell?

Fusco: Oh, yeah. There are some coming up.

Hancock: Keep me posted! (They both laugh)

TMC: Some of the towns Frank and Maney drive through are very poor. There are a number of establishing shots, kind of, showing the destitution people are living in. A lot of people who celebrated, even the criminal violent acts of Bonnie and Clyde saw them as the common man’s hero. Someone has a line in the movie about how they hate the banks.

Fusco: Banks are the devil.

Hancock: They rob banks and the banks rob from me.

TMC: So, a lot of people saw them as hitting back at the establishment. What were you trying to convey by showing how poor these towns were while also demonstrating how horrible these crimes were? There’s sort of a disconnect between, ‘They’re robbing from the people who are hurting us but they’re also hurting other people.’

Hancock: I think that they were, kind of, given a pass because hatred was so great for the banks and that was the overriding feeling. You know, the farms, the stores, your houses. The banks were taking them all. Everybody’s hurting. They want them to be Robin Hood. They’re taking from the rich, but they’re not giving to the poor. They’re robbin!’ They’re not Robin Hood. But you need a hero when you’re in that deep, dark place. You want a hero and you want somebody’s who’s going to strike out at ‘The Man.’

Fusco: And I think the ‘Lovers on the Run’ element, that really appealed to the people and Bonnie and Clyde… they played into it. They saw this and were acting out a sick fantasy of being movie stars. Bonnie wanted to be a Broadway star. Clyde wanted to be a famous musician. It was almost like, ‘If we can’t be famous, we’re going to be notorious.’ They were very aware. As John has said before, ‘They were branding before branding.’ If they had Instagram, they would have been on.

Hancock: They’d have a lot of followers. They’d be tweeting every day. Even more than Trump.

Fusco: Like Dillinger at the time… saw himself as a John Gotti. He felt that he had class, and I’ll admit, I didn’t know a lot about Dillinger, but he saw himself as a bona fide Robin Hood. He was robbing big, hardcore banks and was feeding money back to the people. He would write to the papers and say, ‘Please don’t mention Bonnie and Clyde in the same article with me. Those are pintsized punks who are killing gas station attendants.’ Circulation was plummeting during The Depression. Newspapers were going under. Publishers were like, ‘What’s going on?’ People did not want to read about depressing, economic news. They were interested in three things. Sports heroes, movie stars and flashy gangsters.

TMC: If it bleeds, it leads.

Fusco: Yeah. And so, that’s what was getting the ink and Bonnie and Clyde really played into that. Bonnie always referred to her public. ‘I don’t want my public to think I smoke cigars so please let them know I was just posing with Clyde’s cigar for the shot.’ It’s incredible. It’s… it’s an incredible story.

Yes, it is. ‘The Highwaymen’ is a unique way to look at Bonnie and Clyde. This film is a great example as to why it’s important there are writers like the noble John Fusco out there. He helps us view different angles of every story. Admirably, he gives us a glimpse of this legacy from a standpoint we might not otherwise have marched on to view. He gives us the foundations of it, the truth, the barbarity and John Lee Hancock was the precise ally for him to jump in with. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them a little here.   

HERE IS THE LINK TO MY REVIEW OF THE FILM

Triple Frontier Movie Review

‘Triple Frontier’ opens in select theaters and will be available on Netflix March 13. Other projects coming to Netfix is ‘The Highwaymen’ with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. It’s directed by John Lee Hancock who directed ‘The Blindside,’ ‘The Founder’ and ‘Saving Mr. Banks.’ Also coming is ‘The Irishman’ from Martin Scorsese, a gangster drama that has him once again working with Robert De Niro. Netflix is doing everything right and doing it well. Their latest original films are proof that they’re aware of when they have a good thing on their hands. ‘Triple Frontier’ is no different. It’s about five former special forces operatives who, after several years removed from serving, reconvene for a reconnaissance mission that could lead to a fortune. If all goes well, they intend on stealing Lorea’s, a vicious drug lord, entire fortune out from under his nose.

We see that the friends are likable men with character flaws that we all have, plus a strong love of family and a military background so right away you feel for them. They’ve given so much to country yet feel they’ve been left behind. They miss the days of service and, most likely, the respect they received while in uniform. With the help of Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia’s (Isaac) girlfriend Yovanna (Arjona) they learn where he lives and where he stashes his riches. Several issues arise in the planning, especially when they learn that he lives in the South American jungle, but nothing they can’t handle.

They’re skilled in the task that awaits them but are they up for it mentally? They’re different men than they used to be and have with family to consider. The team who used to go into battle for a purpose are now ruminating over whether going into a life of crime to help themselves is worth it. Can they break the oath they once took? Some struggle with that but all doubt washes away when they see that what was a possible twenty-five-million-dollar score turns into 100’s of millions!

When they get a look at the loot they weren’t expecting to find, they’re like kids in a candy store. They behave as such, as well. Lorea has stacks and stacks of cash. Where they find it, I’ll let you learn by watching. Without spending a moment’s attention as to the amount of the haul, they need to seize as much of it as they can and run if they want their mission to succeed. As I said, they NEED to get it and get moving but that’s not necessarily what they end up doing. This scene is intense. In fact, you’ll see the movie is extremely exciting in a bloody opening scene, but you haven’t seen anything yet!
Once they hit the house tension builds and doesn’t slow down. As they fill their getaway vehicle, they realize that getting the cash from Lorea’s house to their own is going to be brutal. Is it ever! You’ll start to worry when their greed gets the better of them and they miss their ‘hard out.’ They’ve arranged a time frame to get in and get out and know exactly what they’re capable of within that window. They’re also aware of what can go wrong if they stray from the plan. Nothing can go wrong with Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis (Affleck) in charge. He has a clear head and will keep them on schedule. But then again… he has had some money issues. Once he sees the stash, he doesn’t want to leave one cent behind for Lorea and, being human, the plan fades from his mind. It’s a sign they’re in serious trouble by the simple fact that he’s been the logical one all along. Now, because of their selfishness, everything threatens to quickly get out of hand.

I enjoyed watching this story develop. The camera work and locations that were chosen made it easy. I threw support behind the characters and was mentally involved with them straight off the bat. I wanted them to succeed in their efforts to rob a gangster of everything he has. The strong performances and wonderful introductions of each character have something to do with the bond they have with the audience. They, especially Santiago, feel they’re deserving of a better life than what they live. He talks these men into doing something they weren’t interested in doing and, as one might do when they see a boatload of tax-free money, they take it. It then becomes a, ‘can they keep what they risked everything for?’ story. Near the end, you’re as invested as they are and are just as broken by whether or not they’ll return with anything.

How that plays out is what’s so entertaining about ‘Triple Frontier.’ Director J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year, All is Lost) has put together an incredible film that will have you on the edge of your seat. It would have been a better story if writer Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and the ‘The Hurt Locker,’ had given us a definitive statement at the end. He wants his men to be seen as heroes… you just want them to win. You’ll champion them on as they struggle to cross the Andes and safely arrive home with their prize, but he leaves us hanging with a gesture of goodwill. Luckily there’s one little moment that questions what the ending could be. Is it up for you to decide or there’s a part two on the way? I’m up for that if it goes that direction. You will be, too.

If you like a rollercoaster ride of desperation, despair and intrigue in your films… this is one to see.  

‘The Highwaymen’ starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson coming soon to Netflix!!

The outlaws made headlines. The lawmen made history. From director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), THE HIGHWAYMEN follows the untold true story of the legendary detectives who brought down Bonnie and Clyde. When the full force of the FBI and the latest forensic technology aren’t enough to capture the nation’s most notorious criminals, two former Texas Rangers (Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson) must rely on their gut instincts and old school skills to get the job done.

*Launches globally on Netflix on March 29 with exclusive theatrical engagements beginning March 15th.

Distributor: Netflix

Cast: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, Kim Dickens

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Written by: John Fusco

Producer: Casey Silver

Executive Producers: Michael J. Malone, John Lee Hancock, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Costner, Rod Lake

Music By: Thomas Newman

Cinematography By: John Schwartzman

Production Design By: Michael Corenblith

Costume Design By: Daniel Orlandi


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Triple Frontier Trailer

TRIPLE FRONTIER


DIRECTED BY
 | J.C. Chandor

STORY BY | Mark Boal

SCREENPLAY BY | Mark Boal and J.C. Chandor

CAST | Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona

SYNOPSIS | A group of former Special Forces operatives (Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal) reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for self instead of country.  But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival. Directed by Academy Award® nominee J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost, A Most Violent Year) and co-written by Chandor and Academy Award® winner Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty).

*In select theaters on March 6, 2019

and globally on

Netflix March 13, 2019

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Visit netflix.com/triplefrontier

In Theaters March 13, 2019

http://www.fandango.com

Everybody Knows Movie Review

One thing for sure is that writer and director, Asghar Farhadi, lives up to expectations. Having worked in the business since 2002, in 2011, he launched himself into major notoriety with his film, ‘A Separation,’ where he was adorned with awards. In fact, he was the first Iranian filmmaker to win an Academy Award®. Similarly, he was the first Iranian filmmaker to be nominated for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, better known as the ‘Bafta.’ This made him so successful that Farhadi was listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in the year 2012.

Now that I’ve introduced you to the writer/director of ‘Everybody Knows,’ I’ll tell you about the movie. With the help of an extremely clever trailer and the talents of the Oscar-winning, real-life couple, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, what Farhadi has essentially done here is lead you in one direction yet take you somewhere completely unexpected.

You wander into the film believing the story will be more about love, the trouble that sometimes comes with it and about Laura (Cruz) and Paco’s (Bardem) past together and are surprised with more of a mystery. The story is about those very things but not in the way you’d think which makes the yarn that much better.

We meet Paco, who has a winery, and Laura, who has traveled from Argentina to Spain with her children to attend her sister’s wedding. Paco has wisdom to share with us such as the only difference between grape juice and wine is time. Lines such as this makes you think their relationship may have aged in the same manner… like a fine wine. When Laura first gets there, her very social and gregarious teenage daughter Irene (Campra), prances about getting as much attention as she can. However, it turns out that she also gets the attention of someone in need of money and suddenly we’re in a film centered around her abduction.

Farhadi wrote a script that does a good job of keeping you interested in what’s going on and what will ultimately happen. You get sucked in right away but where he went vastly wrong was when he introduced us to the victim of the kidnapping. Irene is anything but a likable character. She’s an obnoxious spoiled brat, trouble for her mother and the kind of person you’d dodge rather than treasure to be anywhere near. I can’t figure out why she was written to be so annoying when the movie ends up being centered around everyone caring for her safety. Had she been more likable, it would have been more heartbreaking for the viewer. This is in no way a reflection on the actress who did a superb job, especially near the end. Speaking of acting, Cruz is excellent as a distraught and tortured mother. Her performance was convincing. She laments about what’s next and is tearful throughout most of the film. She’s needed to be and is believable in her concern. Unfortunately for the audience, you don’t quite feel for her. See the earlier paragraph regarding her daughter’s irritating attitude for what I mean. We just needed Irene to be more of an appealing person for us to take on her mother’s pain.

The story becomes a less complicated narrative when the set up for the kidnapping, and how and why it gets pinned on a certain person, (a land dispute) is made clear at the wrong time. On the surface, the dispute is quite exaggerated and contrived. Now onto the title. Let’s get to just what it is that everybody knows. And I mean everybody, including Laura’s current husband, by the way. It seems that Paco is the only person who doesn’t know. It turns out that Irene is Paco’s daughter. In a small town, everyone talks and unless the man doesn’t have ears how does he not know the big secret? In fact, this bombshell is something you’ve long suspected. When it’s revealed, with his hair graying from the stress for some reason, what Paco does with the news is to use his money to pay the ransom. This seems as though it may have been the aim all along.

 

The ending is strangely elusive but leaves it open for a sequel which is puzzling yet a bit intriguing. If Farhadi nails the characters a little better, I’d be up for it. What would make it even better is if he were able to have the same cast. ‘Everybody Knows’ is an acceptable crime, drama with a good plot and is beautifully shot. It has gorgeous locations which are accentuated by the brilliant cinematography of José Luis Alcaine (Volver, The Skin I Live In) who has an immense amount of work behind him. For you to get the full benefit of his work, seeing this on the big screen this weekend would be the best way to watch this film.

 

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Destroyer Movie Review

This crime-drama is stirring, and Nicole Kidman gives her best performances in a long time which should be admired on the big screen. She’s haunting as Erin Bell, a veteran police officer in L.A. who comes face to face with the turmoil of her past when she was an integral part of a covert operation that went horribly wrong. She’s now a shadow of her former self. She’s no longer being taken seriously and receives little to no respect from her fellow officers. The latter being mostly because she has no respect for others or herself. She’s hardened after the undercover effort trying to capture a nefarious gang of bank robbers leads to her losing almost everything she ever loved.

Director Karyn Kusama (Æon Flux, Jennifer’s Body) has chosen Julie Kirkwood (The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Hello I Must Be Going), as her cinematographer… a wise decision. Together, they’ve built for you an extremely suspenseful story. Every movement of the camera spirals you further into Erin’s out of control world, bringing you down with her. Lighting is used brilliantly to focus and force your attention to Erin’s overall mood. Excessively heavy music by incredibly diverse and talented composer, Theodore Shapiro, who has an exceptional body of work and worked with Kusama on ‘Jennifer’s Body,’ keeps you involved by setting an intriguing and intense tone from the word go. For this, you’ll be rather appreciative. It’s eerily good.

 

A tattoo on a dead body and some money marked with blown dye packs pulls Erin back into needing to find Silas (Toby Kebbell), the leader of the brutal gang who got away with the murder of her partner turned lover, Chris (Stan). In gritty flashbacks, we see more of why she’s so jaded and more of what she’s fighting for. We find out she has an angst-ridden daughter named Shelby (Pettyjohn). Shelby not only pushes Erin away but challenges her at every turn. She’s ill-tempered and questions her mother’s authority over her. Due to Erin’s horrible parenting and boozing, Shelby becomes bitter and clings to any bad boy who’ll have her and take her away someday.  She needs someone, anyone, to be that person who’ll truly love her. It’s apparent Erin hasn’t the capacity to love. Her love was gunned down along with Chris.

 

We continue to meet the supporting characters of the narrative as the backstory builds and moves into the discovery phase. The clue’s come and holes are filled. What’s penetrating about the script is that it has Erin on a mission to not only unpack a case that will lead her to the criminal who took her sanity but that will also bring her back to her life. As in many films of the genre, we don’t see what’s necessarily going on and there are a few moments where the audience will experience an epiphany or two.

See this. The cinematography must be experienced. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen all year. Julie Kirkwood captures the complexity of each character’s drive, pain, guilt, anger, and lust so passionately that, though you may not like them, you’re mesmerized by them and cheer them on. ‘Destroyer’ is solid and is perfect entertainment for any weekend at the movies.