action, crime, drama, movie, movie review

October 1st, 2017 Movie – Smokin’ Aces

smokin' aces

Holy cow, can you believe it is already October? This year has absolutely flown by, kind of like today. My apologies for the late post with today’s movie but I had to go in to work for a couple of hours today, then there was football to watch. So, when today’s movie came out in theaters, I remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked somewhat interesting but I never got around to seeing it as there was a lot going on in my life back then. I would eventually pick it up during a Blockbuster run, which would be the first opportunity I have to watch it so let’s see if it was worth the wait as I watch today’s movie, Smokin’ Aces.

The plot: The FBI has been systematically targeting the Mafia, with Primo Sparazza being the last vestige of power withing the Mafia. The FBI have been working on turning Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Las Vegas magician, into an informant. As Agents Donald Carruthers and Richard Messner are maintaining surveillance on Sparazza when the overhear one of Sparazza’s underbosses, Serna, is on the phone talking about how Sparazza has called in a specialist known as “The Swede” and offers him $1 million to bring back the heart of Israel. Serna decides he will go against Sparazza as part of a power grab and will hire two girls that he has dealt with before to take out Israel before hand but worries about how when word hits the streets about the bounty, more people will be going after him. The next day, Jack Dupree, a bail bondsman, is talking with two former cops, “Pistol” Pete Deeks and Hollis Elmore about Israel at the same time that Deputy Director Stanley Locke is discussing Israel’s connection to Sparazza. Locke then starts telling them of the different hitmen that will now be after Israel in order to collect the bounty; Georgia Sykes and Sharice Watters (the two women that Serna had spoke of), Pasquale “The Plague” Acosta (a legendary expert in torture), the Tremor brothers (a trio of neo-nazi speed freaks), and Lazlo Soot (a master of disguise). Dupree has been hired by the law firm that represented Israel to bring him back for his next court appearance. Elsewhere, Locke informs Carruthers and Messner that Morris Mecklen, Israel’s agent, is working with Locke on an immunity deal and he sends them to Lake Tahoe to grab Israel and make sure nothing happens to him. In Lake Tahoe, Israel is nervously waiting to hear back from Mecklen and has Sir Ivy, his head of security, get rid of the hookers he had the night before and order some new ones while Israel yells at Hugo, another bodyguard/hanger on, about semen stains that got on his coat. Elsewhere, Serna’s associate meets with Sykes and Watters to discuss how they will be getting into the hotel and up to Israel’s room while Dupree, Deeks, and Elmore meet with Ripley “Rip” Reed, the lawyer that hired Dupree to bring Israel back for his court appearance. Carruthers and Messner arrive in Lake Tahoe and wait for Locke’s signal that the deal is on and Messner spends the time reading the file on Freeman Heller, an FBI agent that had gone undercover but was killed by Sparazza. Acosta shows up at the hotel, posing as an FBI agent and asks to speak with the hotel’s head of security while Dupree is talking with Deeks and Elmore and shows them hotel staff uniforms he acquired but they are shot down by the Tremor brothers, who take the uniforms and throw the bodies in the lake. At the hotel, Soot has killed someone and works on making a latex mask to use in his disguise when Hugo shows up and Soot kills him and takes his place. Israel is on the phone with Mecklen, who tells him they need to make the deal now or else the FBI will nullify any protection agreement and Israel agrees and says he will give up Sparazza’s group as well as his own crew, unaware that Sir Ivy was listening in. Locke informs Carruthers and Messner and they head over to the hotel to ensure Israel doesn’t make a run for it and Carruthers calls ahead to try and reach security but Acosta has killed the head of security. At the lake, Elmore is shown to have survived the shooting while Carruthers and Messner receive word of Dupree’s death and learn about the hotel security uniforms that he purchased are missing and it is shown that the Tremor brothers are wearing the uniforms to infiltrate the hotel. Meanwhile, Sykes dresses up as a prostitute and plans on infiltrating the penthouse with the other hookers while Watters is set up in a hotel across the street with a sniper rifle to cover her. Carruthers heads into the hotel while Messner heads to the lake to investigate the shooting. Back in Washington, Locke is given a file concerning the Heller case and after he reads it, he is told to contact the Director and he says not to tell Carruthers or Messner. Inside the hotel, Carruthers tries to find out where the security office is and when Acosta, who is wearing a security uniform, is pointed out to him, Carruthers goes to talk to him and has him take him to the penthouse. Meanwhile, Ivy confronts Israel about the deal he made while outside the bathroom, Soot kills the other bodyguard. In the elevator, Carruthers notices Acosta’s fingers and realizes that the security guard is one of the killers and the two end up attacking and shooting each other. Meanwhile, Ivy tries to shoot Israel but Israel throws a playing card at him, cutting Ivy close to his eye and he ends up firing blindly. When security enters the penthouse, Israel has them arrest Ivy for Beanie’s death. Security shuts down the elevators but the Tremor brothers hot-wire the one they are in and have it continue towards the penthouse. In another part of the hotel, Sykes opens up the elevator and finds Carruthers and Acosta’s bodies but she ends up being trapped when Messner shows up. Sykes has Watters help her try and shoot her way out of there but she is shot by Acosta, who is then shot by Carruthers. As Messner and the other agents drag Carruthers and Acosta’s bodies out of the elevator, Sykes manages to close the doors and have it continue towards the penthouse. Meanwhile, Watters sees a hooker, who was killed in the crossfire, and thinking it is Sykes, begins firing wildly into the building until she runs out of ammo. Outside the penthouse, The Tremor brothers kill all of the security guards but Ivy manages to kill Jeeves and Lester Tremor. As Darwin moves to kill him, the elevator opens and Sykes walks out and threatens to shoot him and he quickly jumps into the elevator to escape. As Locke arrives with some more agents, they head to the penthouse to find Soot had drugged Israel and take him into custody. Messner is running up the stairs as Ivy and Sykes are heading down and they have a brief face-off but Sykes says she didn’t kill the men in the elevator and he chooses to let them go and continues upstairs. Watters sees Sykes being carried out of the building by Ivy just as some FBI agents arrive to arrest her and she ends up being killed. Soot manages to escape custody and shed his disguise, then leaves the hotel while Acosta is shown being carried out on a stretcher but he is still alive. Darwin also manages to escape but as he heads to the car park to get away, he is confronted by Elmore, who shoots him. Messner reaches the penthouse and asks to be told what is going on but Locke tells him to head back to Washington for a debriefing. Messner defies orders and heads to the hospital to confront Locke, holding him at gunpoint. Locke shows him Sparazza and Buddy and explains that they are father and son and that the Swede is actually a famed heart surgeon and through a series of unfortunate events, people misunderstood what Sparazza had intended and thus the resulting blood bath ensued. Locke says that Soot was given the contract to retrieve Israel so they could do a heart transplant for Sparazza. Messner is shocked that Locke will allow this but Locke tells him that Sparazza is actually Heller, the FBI agent Sparazza supposedly killed. Heller’s superiors thought that he had gone rogue and had him killed but Heller survived and so the FBI used reconstructive surgery to save his life. Messner is upset about the fact that Locke kept them in the dark and Locke threatens to fire him before telling him to go back to Washington. As Locke goes to talk with the doctor and some other agents, Messner enters the room that Israel and Sparazza are in and locks the door. He then sits in a chair between the two men and unplugs both of their life support machines, then places his gun and badge on the floor and watches Locke and the others try to get in as Israel and Sparazza die.

Smokin’ Aces met with mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A violent mess of a movie, Smokin’ Aceshas some Quentin Tarantino’s style but not much of his wit or humor.” The movie was the feature film debut of Alicia Keys and Common, both of whom are Grammy winning artists. Smokin’ Aces was a mild hit at the box office, earning $57.1 million off of a $17 million budget and a direct to video prequel was released in 2010.

This was a decent movie but all of the different sub-plots kind of made it a trainwreck. The acting was good, with Ryan Reynolds (Messner), Jeremy Piven (Israel), Ray Liotta (Carruthers) all did good jobs in their roles. I also liked several of the other characters, such as Chris Pine (Darwin), Ben Affleck (Dupree) Alicia Keys (Sykes) and Common (Ivy). The story was interesting but I think the director tried to have too many characters involved in the story, which was meant to distract the FBI from the main objective against Israel but it made the movie a lot more confusing. The way they tried to involve all of the characters and use them actually seemed to waste a lot of time in the movie and if they had fewer characters, the pacing would have been better. As for the twist ending, it honestly didn’t feel like much of a shock because they seemed to set it up early on, then decided to scrap it, then go back and make it an official twist ending. The special effects were pretty good and this was actually a lot bloodier than I thought it would be, certainly bloodier than the trailers indicated. It is a good movie but it had potential to be a lot better.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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crime, movie, movie review, thriller

September 11th, 2017 Movie – Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

sin city 2

Whenever I think of this movie, the phrase “Strike while the iron is hot” always comes to mind. Now I know the literal meaning of the phrase has to do with smithing and metal working but it also has come to mean take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. In Hollywood, this means that if you have a successful movie, you should try and do a sequel fairly quickly in order to take advantage of people’s liking the first movie enough that they would want to see the sequel. In regards to today’s movie, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, several reasons kept this movie from being filmed immediately after, which probably contributed to it’s failure at the box office.

The plot: [Just Another Saturday Night] Marv crawls out from a car wreck and has no memory of how he got there. After taking his medicine, he examines himself and finds a bullet wound in his arm that he figures is an hour old and the body of a frat boy nearby but he still can’t remember anything. Trying to recall his steps, Marv realizes that since it was Saturday night, he had probably started the night at Kadie’s, watching Nancy dance. After leaving there, he was drinking in an alley when he caught four frat boys setting winos on fire. When he confronts them, one of the boys tells him to mind his own business, calling him “Bernini Boy” but Marv mishears it as Bernie, then shoots him in the shoulder. When Marv continues to move towards them, the boys run to their car and Marv jumps onto the side as they drive off but ends up being slammed into a police car. Marv smashes through the windshield and throws the cops out of the car, then proceeds to keep the frat boys from returning to the university, forcing them up the hill towards the projects, where he finally crashes his car into them. Marv sees another frat boy close to death nearby and stomps on his throat to kill him, then heads after the remaining two boys. As Marv enters The Projects, the two remaining boys are on a rooftop watching him and the one with the gun takes aim at Marv. Before he can shoot, several arrows whip by them and land at Marv’s feet. Marv signals “his old neighbors” to remind them who he is, then has them shoot the two boys. instead. Making his way to the roof, Marv has his old neighbors kill one of the boys, then asks the boy who shot him why he called him Bernie. The boy explains that Bernini is the brand of coat he has on and Marv thanks him, then yells out for a knife, which he uses to slit the boy’s throat. As Marv comments on how nice the coat is, he wonders where he got it, as well as the gloves he is wearing, but he can’t remember.
[The Long Bad Night: Part 1] A young gambler named Johnny arrives at Kadie’s and after flirting with a waitress named Marcie, has her accompany him to the slot machines. After he hits a jackpot, he asks another waitress where the “real action” is and is directed to the back of the bar, where Senator Roark runs a poker game. Hitting the jackpot on another slot machine, he takes Marcie with him as a good luck charm and heads to the back to buy into the poker game. Roark allows him to play and as they are playing, none of them are aware of Nancy watching them from a hole in the wall, her attention focused solely on Roark as she aims the gun from her act at him. Johnny ends up winning everyone’s money and after collecting his winnings, he goes to leave. One of the players, who is a cop, warns him to get out of town but Johnny says that he can’t miss tomorrow’s game then gets in his car with Marcie and heads out on the town. Inside the club, Nancy is starting her act on stage but she has become a drunk after Hartigan’s death. Hartigan’s ghost enters the bar and watches as Nancy points her gun at Roark as he is leaving, then at herself, and comments that one day she will pull the trigger and begs her not to take revenge for him but to live her life. Meanwhile, Johnny and MArcie are enjoying themselves when all of his credit cards are suddenly declined. As Johnny walks Marcie back home, he notices two men following them and he quickly beats them down before they can jump him. Seeing a limo pulling up, he tells Marcie to meet him at his hotel, then gets in the limo, where Roark is waiting for him. Roark says that Johnny embarrassed him and so in retaliation, he has his men use a pair of pliers to break the fingers in Johnny’s playing hand and then throws him from the limo. He then gets out and shoots him in the leg. Roark then tells him that he recognizes Johnny as one of his illegitimate sons but tells him that he only had one son, Roark Junior, and he would never claim Johnny. Roark leaves Johnny lying there and Johnny swears revenge on Roark.
{A Dame To Kill For] (This story takes place before the events of The Big Fat Kill) Dwight McCarthy is trying to put his violent past behind him and make a living as a private detective and taking pictures of a businessman named Joey having sex with a hooker named Sally. After they finish, Dwight goes to leave but when he sees Joey is about to kill Sally, Dwight saves her and takes her back to Old Town, then heads back to his office to develop the pictures. After taking them to his client, he returns home only to get a call from Ava, his former lover, who asks him to meet her. Dwight knows he shouldn’t, but he goes to the saloon to meet with Ava, who begs for his forgiveness. When Manute appears to take Ava home, Dwight starts to stand up to him, prompting Marv to offer his aid if needed, but Ava tells Dwight it is too late for her and she leaves with Manute. Dwight gets worried so he heads to the mansion Ava lives in and sneaks onto the grounds. He sees Ava skinny dipping in her pool and comments on how she doesn’t looked abused when the mansion’s security catch him. Ava apologizes to Dwight and heads inside while Manute proceeds to beat Dwight into unconsciousness. Dwight is thrown out of a car in front of his place and he is surprised to find his car there. When he heads inside, he finds a naked Ava waiting for him and tries to get her to leave but she refuses and ends up seducing him into bed. After they have sex, Dwight asks her to tell him what is going on and she tells him about her husband Damien and how he and Manute torture her and she knows one day they will kill her. When Manute shows up to take her back, Dwight tries punching him but he has no effect and Manute punches him out of his window, then escorts Manute back to the mansion. Dwight heads to Kadie’s and recruits Marv to help him and they head for the mansion. When they get there, they split up, with Marv taking out the guards and then battling Manute, beating him and taking out one of his eyes. Meanwhile, Dwight makes his way inside and confronts Damien, who tells Dwight that he is being lied to by Ava. When Damien pulls out a gun, Dwight punches him and accidentally kills him. Ava then reveals that she tricked Dwight into killing Damien so she could have all of his money, then shoots him several times, eventually knocking him out a window. Marv grabs Dwight’s body and makes their escape, with Dwight telling him to head to Old Town. When they get there, Gail is upset that they had cops following them into Old Town but when Dwight calls out her name, Gail rushes to his side and has Miho get some help. Back at the mansion, Ava is talking to two detectives, Mort and Bob, about what happened and starts seducing Mort, who calls her later that night and she continues to seduce him, convincing him to come to the mansion. Back in Old Town, Dwight regains consciousness and Gail tells him that the cops are looking for him but they will take care of that. When Goldie and Wendy show up and want to kick Dwight out of Old Town, threatening to have Miho kill him, Gail tells them that Dwight stays and tells Miho that she owes her life to Dwight, causing her to sheath her sword. Meanwhile, Mort is falling in love with Ava, though his partner tries to convince him she is up to no good. Dwight undergoes facial reconstruction and while he is still bandaged up, he pays a visit to Manute’s hospital room and warns him to stay out of his way. Meanwhile, Mort is heading to Old Town to get Dwight and when Bob tells him to turn the car around, Mort kills him, then comes to his senses and kills himself as well. Ava has a dinner party and speaks with mob boss Wallenquist to try and make a deal to control Old Town and Wallenquist says he has a specialist from Texas that he can bring in. Manute meets the specialist at the train station but the specialist, who is really Dwight with a new face, says he has his own ride as a disguised Gail pulls up and they follow Manute to Ava’s mansion. When they get there, Manute leads Dwight away from Gail and has him searched, then says he recognized Dwight and takes him to see Ava. Outside, Gail lets Miho out of the trunk of the car and they begin killing all of the guards. Meanwhile, Dwight pulls out a hidden revolver and shoots Manute with it but when he doesn’t kill him, starts fighting with him until Ava grabs one of Manute’s guns and proceeds to shoot him with it. Ava then approaches Dwight and tries to seduce him again but as she kisses him, Dwight shoots her, then holds her as she dies.
[The Long Bad Night: Part 2] Johnny goes to see Kroenig, an unlicensed doctor, and has him do what he can to tend to his injuries. As he heads back to his hotel, he worries about Marcie and Roark possibly going after her. Sneaking in through the window, he finds Roark waiting for him and his men show him the dismembered corpse of Marcie. Roark threatens to shoot Johnny, causing Johnny to jump back out the window, but Roark tells him he likes seeing Johnny in this condition. Trying to figure out his next move, Johnny heads to a diner and a waitress takes pity on him and give him a dollar, which he then uses back at Kadie’s to play the slot machines and win some more money. Taking his winnings, Johnny buys back into the poker game but he ends up folding his first couple of hands, prompting Roark to taunt him. When Johnny goes all in on a hand, Roark calls him and Johnny ends up winning, then tells Roark that he beat him twice, and people will always remember that, prompting Roark to shoot him and then tell his men to get rid of the body so they can keep playing.
[Nancy’s Last Dance] Nancy goes to visit Hartigan’s grave and lay some flowers on it, unaware that she is being followed. The police lieutenant that was following her reports his findings to Roark and tells him about Nancy’s actions but Roark is dismissive of it and says that she can drown in her own sorrows. Meanwhile, Nancy continues her downward spiral since Hartigan died and Hartigan’s ghost continues to watch as she blames him for leaving her alone. Nancy cuts her hair and heads to Kadie’s to do her act, making it more sexual than normal, which causes Marv to worry about her and leave. After her act, Nancy smashes the mirror, then uses a shard to start cutting up her face. The next day, Marv enters the club and when he sees Nancy’s face, asks her who did it and she tells him Roark. The two leave, taking out some bikers in order to her their weapons, and then head for Roark’s mansion. Nancy works on taking out the perimeter guards while Marv heads onto the grounds and deals with the guards inside. When Nancy enters the mansion, she finds a wounded Marv kneeling at the top of the stairs and quickly kills the last guard, then gives Marv a cigarette and tells him to rest. She heads to Roark’s office and shoots at him but only hits a mirror casting his reflection, while the real Roark shoots her. Roark then taunts her by shooting the gun out of her reach and shooting her in the leg before going to finish her off. Suddenly, Roark sees Hartigan in the mirror and turns to look for him and when he turns back around, Nancy had managed to grab her gun and shoots him in the shoulder, then approaches him and finishes him off.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For met with mixed to negative reaction from the critics, holding a 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A Dame to Kill For boasts the same stylish violence and striking visual palette as the original Sin City, but lacks its predecessor’s brutal impact.” The movie was a mixture of original “Sin City” stories (“A Dame To Kill For” & “Just Another Saturday Night”) as well as two new stories (“The Long Bad Night” & “Nancy’s Last Dance”), which were written exclusively for the film. Although the character of Shellie played a part in the story “A Dame To Kill For”, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez decided to retire her in the film version in respects to the late Brittany Murphy, who played her in the original movie, but they could not do the same for Manute’s character, as he played too big a role in the story. The movie was a box office bomb, only pulling in $39.4 million off of a  $65 million budget.

The sequel curse definitely hit this movie but this is still a pretty good movie. The acting was good, with Mickey Rourke (Marv), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Johnny), Josh Brolin (Dwight), and Powers Boothe (Roark) doing a good job in their roles. I also liked Dennis Haysbert, who did a good job in taking up the role of Manute following Michael Clarke Duncan’s death. The two stories that were already written were great and I did like the new story “The Long Bad Night” and while I did think it was interesting to see the effect Hartigan’s death had on Nancy, I thought the “Nancy’s Last Dance” story felt too much like a fan service fluff piece in order to appease fans who wanted to see more of Jessica Alba. The film technique and special effects were just as good as the original movie and the occasional bits of color really added to the visual aspect of the movie. Not as good as the original but definitely a fun movie to watch.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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