Archive | Films-U-Missed

Films-U-Missed: ‘Snow On Tha Bluff’ Represents “The Hood” Like Few Movies Have

Films-U-Missed: ‘Snow On Tha Bluff’ Represents “The Hood” Like Few Movies Have

Films-U-Missed: ‘Snow On Tha Bluff’ Represents “The Hood” Like Few Movies Have

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Films-U-Missed write up, but while recently watching Snow On Tha Bluff and considering that our Ten Movies ‘The Hood’ Loves The Most list is our most popular post ever, this seems a good time to bring it back into the fold. Bluff is the very definition of a “hood movie” (it would likely make a similar list if being redone today) and is being hailed by rappers as one of the realest films about hood life in recent memory, with the likes of Killer Mike and B.O.B. making references to the film in their rhymes. Those references will likely only grow as the movie continues to gain steam 3 years after its making. It currently has found new life on Netflix streaming and is a bit of a hot button film for those that love hood films as well as deeper comments on American society at large.

Bluff stars Curtis Snow, a hustler, gangster, robin hood of sorts who lives his life in the forgotten and depressed “Bluff” area in Atlanta. Snow slangs crack and robs others for drugs and money with his team of cohorts. He balances life as a father with a mother he is no longer with and is the very definition of living a life of violence. The movie opens with a robbery and ends with an odd sense of hope. In between, there is death, a baby inches away from crack being cut up on a table (which caused protests at the film’s premiere), numerous bouts of guns and drug use and a general sense of despair (though the protagonists in the film don’t ever really let you feel it too much until it hits close to home in one scene.) This is a part of America that is apparently ignored, yet you would liken it to Syria if you saw this portrayed on the news. Poor doesn’t begin to describe Curtis’ hood, so he hustles to survive.

Snow on tha bluff pic

Curtis Snow hustles his way through the Bluff all day, every day.

This drama is often depicted through hip-hop music and Hollywood has concocted it’s attempts at showing this realism numerous times over the years (notably to strong effect in Menace II Society). Still, the urgency and reality of the robberies and drug use in Bluff is never something that could pass through a studio system and see the light of day. It’s as much a documentary as anything and as Snow and his “niggas” push through their lives on the daily grind, for viewers it’s intoxicating and hopeless, but for the characters it is their reality. They know nothing else and therefore continue on in their struggle. Many have wondered about the reality of the piece and whether or not it is a true documentary, and while the answer is rather easily revealed, the fact that there is this debate is a positive development for the piece.

It was with “The Wire”‘s Omar (Michael K. Williams) financial assistance that got this piece moving. The film is entertaining, sad, funny, intriguing, beguiling, depressing and a mix of so many more potential reactions for witnesses. It gets people thinking and talking, or at least aims to. Some say it glorifies violence and drug use, but I can’t see the glory in it at all, if the final outcome is simply to smoke and drank a bit more and live to see another day. While it may indeed be senseless, for me, it’s as real a depiction of the Bluff or other hood areas most people don’t have access to or ever care to acknowledge even exist. Word is Snow is attempting to turn his life around after surviving a vicious box cutter attack to the neck. Once can only hope he is successful in this endeavor having survived the life that he’s led to this point. The film can shed light on it all for viewers but for the participants the mayhem goes on and on. There’s no bluff in that.

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Films-U-Missed: David vs. Goliath Coming of Age Story ‘Three O’Clock High’ (1987)

Films-U-Missed: David vs. Goliath Coming of Age Story ‘Three O’Clock High’ (1987)

Films-U-Missed: David vs. Goliath Coming of Age Story ‘Three O’Clock High’ (1987)

I’ve always had fond memories of 1987’s Three O’Clock High. I could vaguely remember the basic storyline over the years, bullied kid fights school monster, but didn’t remember the details or execution, until a recent re-watch. This is an underrated film, bordering on cult-classic for me. The film stars Casey Siemaszko as high school nerd Jerry Mitchell opposite Richard Tyson’s Buddy Revell. Revell, a kid with a tortured past who’s been kicked out of various schools all for fights/kicking the asses of adults, staff, and students alike, comes to a new high school, where upon Mitchell is assigned the task of penning a “welcome” story on the fairy-tale monster for the high school paper.

The film is from a different era – there is a high school store on campus, where kids purchase books, supplies, etc. – but still has the usual thematic elements of quality entertainment. There’s the David vs. Goliath story, the nerd who’s secretly in love with the hottest chick at school, while the nerd’s goth girl-friend is secretly in love with him, friend vs. foe, etc. As I re-watched the film anew, I was wondering why this never became a hit like so many other high school classics of the same era, like Can’t Buy Me Love or Sixteen Candles for example. The answer is two-fold in my mind.

Three O'Clock High Pics

Believe it or not, these dudes are the same age. Bully Revell meets nerd Mitchell.

First, the film lacks the humor central to these types of films. This is actually a brooding, quasi-intimidating sort of film, almost like a would-be horror film with the bully scary and the hunted, who is challenged/forced into a fight at the end of the school day (it all takes place in one day, essentially), constantly on the defensive. In that regard, it almost plays like a drama or thriller, not the comedy it probably was promising audiences at the time. Additionally, and perhaps a weaker argument, is that there were no known faces in these roles – no stars. That probably kept it from becoming a hit later on down the road, as in a “remember when such and such made this” sort of film, but doesn’t really hold up when it came out, considering most of these types of movies made stars out of the leads and not the other way around (in theory). Still, the film cost $5m estimated and only earned $3.5m domestic roughly. Sad.

Three O’ Clock High concludes with a solid finale, a good denouement and interesting story with quality pacing throughout. It hits several of the right notes, albeit without the slam-bang humor many would likely want. (Be on the lookout for Jeffrey Tambor and Phillip Baker Hall in supporting roles.) The movie deserves to be seen really and IMO holds weight when compared to some other 80’s (and certainly 90’s and beyond) “high school growing up” type of films. Do yourself a favor some day when you have 90 minutes to kill and check it out. If you’re not expecting a ton of laughs, you’ll likely enjoy the romp, particularly I suppose, if you grew up during that era.

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Films-U-Missed: 2012’s ‘The Raid: Redemption’ Movie Review

Films-U-Missed: 2012’s ‘The Raid: Redemption’ Movie Review

Films-U-Missed: The Raid: Redemption Movie Review 

The Raid: Redemption was one of those movies that came into my consciousness via word of mouth. This isn’t entirely uncommon, but usually I choose my movies on my own with some reviews sprinkled in. This film wasn’t even on my radar, which makes for a bit of a unique story. Anyway, the film – made even more mysterious by the fact that when I sat down to watch it, I had no idea what it was about – is an Indonesian martial arts film mixed with drama with a relatively miniscule $1.1 million budget. When I sat down to watch it all unfold, I came away pleasantly surprised.

I am not a huge martial arts film type of guy. The Jackie Chans, Bruce Lees and Jet Lis of the world don’t particularly move the needle for me. That is not to say I am averse to them, but they don’t get me excited to see a film. So, while The Raid: Redemption has tons of fun martial artistry in the film, I am rarely blown away by the “innovation” of it. What made The Raid fun was the actual bit of dramatic story to the film. So, a bit more about that is necessary I guess.

The Raid redemption pic

Gun vs. Knife is rarely a fair fight.

The Raid stars Iko Uwais as Rama, a rookie cop who is entering a drug lord’s project building trying to take him down once and for all. Rama is about to have a child, as his pregnant wife awaits his safe return. Rama and a 20-some member SWAT team embark on their quest to enter the project tenement and capture the drug lord. The names are less relevant than the story, as Rama sees his team of neophytes begin to get obliterated after they are discovered by the drug lord and his innumerable henchmen. All the while, Rama is uncovering a surprise as to who is involved with the drug lord.

‘The Raid: Redemption’ Rules As A Martial Arts Movie

Rama finds out that his brother is deep undercover as a cop in tight with the drug lord. He is so deep in fact, that he may be beyond saving. Additionally, Rama’s team ends up dwindling to a small few, with the henchmen piling on the surrounded cops and shooting them to death. Using martial arts is one of the only ways Rama can kick some ass, so therefore the movie continues to gain steam as his skills continue to come out. All the while, he is protecting a bloodied mate and trying to figure out whether to leave (hopefully, alive) or go after the drug lord, which might have been a raw deal from the start. It’s fairly heady stuff.

The Raid Redemption pic

The inability to truly fly marred the henchman’s fight ability little.

Mike Shinoda of “Linkin Park” and his own solo rap career “Fort Minor” helped bring awareness of the film to American audiences. He also performs on two songs of the relatively cool, up-tempo soundtrack. That soundtrack helps to support an increasing number of choreographed fights as the movie moves along, between Rama and the henchmen as well as the drug lord’s top fighter and the cops. There is some impressive bone breaking, neck snapping and some unique death sequences throughout the film. What ties it all together is a cool story with a nice ending that doesn’t sell out. Director Gareth Evans will undoubtedly be a name to watch for, as he directs with flair here.

The Raid is not a perfect film and unless you are fluent in the language, you have to read the sometimes quick to pass by subtitles which can take you out of a few moments here or there, but not much. There actually is not a lot of dialogue needed in the piece, as it is all shot in one location essentially and the action paces the film, which allows the viewer to experience the movie visually – the way a film like this should be taken in anyway. The Raid is a quality movie, particularly for fans of martial arts films as you will undoubtedly get a lot of fighting and there is a lot of gore in the piece. If it sounds up your alley, don’t delay and check it out ASAP. Enjoy.

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Films-U-Missed: 2010’s The Man From Nowhere (Ajeossi)

Films-U-Missed: 2010’s The Man From Nowhere (Ajeossi)

Films-U-Missed: 2010’s Korean film ‘Ajeossi’ aka ‘The Man From Nowhere’

What happens when a quiet pawnshop owner takes a liking to a young girl who is a frequent visitor of his establishment? In a nutshell – all sorts of shit. Cha Tae-Shik has a mysterious past as a man who supposedly takes girls behind close doors unnecessarily to perform acts of “who knows what.” So-mi is the curious precocious type who visits Cha Tae-Shik. In a world where the drug-trafficking underbelly uses children to not only perform drug runs but then kills them and sells their bodyparts to the highest bidder, that’s the “all sorts of shit” I partially referenced. The Man From Nowhere leads somewhere.

It’s revealed that Cha Tae-Shik has some serious survivalist and kick-ass skills, as a former CIA agent who pretty much makes ‘The Rock’ look like a pussy. Part Bruce Lee, part Steven Seagal and almost a part of Neo from The Matrix, when Tae-Shik takes a liking to So-mi and discovers that she is in danger (aka kidnapped), he will do whatever he can to save her. That “whatever” entails figuring out a drug-ring, busting balls on baddies and trying to find her (hopefully before it’s too late), all while he’s dodging and fighting the cops for other crimes against humanity. Tae-Shik is stuck between a rock and a hard place far too often.

The Man From Nowhere movie pic

'The Man From Nowhere's Cha Tae-Shik kicking some serious booty.

‘The Man From Nowhere’ Is a Stellar Film With Top-Notch Storytelling, Action and Presentation

The Man From Nowhere reveals that Tae-Shik is indeed from somewhere. His past is detailed and tragic, revealed in flashbacks. I’ll leave that for all of you who will no doubt be seeing this film soon. Nowhere is continually exciting, has a great level of suspense, a very slick and compelling presentation, as well as an interesting twist to its conclusion. Director Jeong-beom Lee does a great job keeping everything in order, though there is the occasional over the top character, common to the genre in Asian films, which borders on taking you out of the procedures on occasion. Alas, it’s a small price to pay in an otherwise very good film.

Being a Korean film, Nowhere may instantly warrant comparisons to another fantastic Korean film, Oldboy. While the country of origin may be the same and the style and look do have some crossovers, the overall films are very different. That being said, 2010’s Nowhere is a very worthy film in its own right, with a distinct – at times enthralling – appearance and a thoughtful, engaging storyline. The Man From Nowhere should find its way to your TV set sometime soon. You’ll be entertained and thankful I helped lead you there.

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Films-U-Missed: 2003’s ‘The Man of the Year’ (O Homem do Ano)

Films-U-Missed: 2003’s ‘The Man of the Year’ (O Homem do Ano)

Films-U-Missed: ‘The Man of the Year’ or ‘O Homem do Ano’ from 2003

O Homem do Ano, aka The Man of the Year, is a Brazilian film from a director hailed as “the Quentin Tarantino of Brazil,” Jose Henrique Fonseca. The film is set in Brazil, and stars Murilo Benicio as Maiquel, a man who loses a bet and must dye his hair, of all things…blonde. The film plays on the way this event changes his life. For those that hear “Brazil and gangster film” and think City of God, you’ll be off-base, but this is still a solid pic.

First off, he meets a lovely young hair stylist named Cledir, who helps Maiquel perform the deed. Her looks naturally captivate him and her kind words over his changed look, inspire confidence. Maiquel and Cledir go on a date, their first stop to show that he has paid his debts in a public watering hole. There he receives the expected ribbing and ends up in a confrontation with a local thug. The Maiquel of old, seemingly, would let this pass. The blonde-coiffed one however, seeks out said thug at the appointed time and murders him in front of the thug’s girlfriend, Erica. Word of the murder quickly spreads and Maiquel gains instant fame.

O Homem Do Ano movie pic

Maiquel in 'O Homem do Ano' is harder than Cypress Hill.

What spawns is a rags to riches tale of sorts, in the vain of Scarface-light. Fonseca’s direction is more focused on story with violence mixed in and Maiquel’s rise is less “to riches” but still from “anonymous to somebody.” Various story elements stand out, including Erica’s “you killed my boyfriend, now you must take care of me” storyline, which changes the destiny of Maiquel’s life. They form a poor-man’s Bonnie ‘N Clyde of sorts, which is all interesting and fun. Throw in a fun-loving pig who meets a tragic end, and leads to the pig’s killer’s subsequent comeuppance, and you have a nice little tale that keeps the viewers attention. Thank you, Amazon Prime Watch Instantly.

The Man of the Year is not really Tarantino-like, save for some scenes of violence, but it lacks the humor that QT peppers on, but perhaps that is lost a touch in translation. The movie is based on a novel, the film is stylish, the performances are solid and the tale, believable. O Homem do Ano makes for a quality film experience, which may not make your all-time favorite list, but still leaves a good impression. One that Bill, the pig, unfortunately does as well. For gangster aficionados – appointment viewing. Check it out.

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Films-U-Missed: 2001’s Academy Award Nominated ‘Elling’

Films-U-Missed: 2001’s Academy Award Nominated ‘Elling’

Films U Missed: Elling – A Movie Review

Elling, a Swedish-film from 2001, has all the charm and wit reminiscent of a Jean-Pierre Juenet film, like Amelie. Elling is a small comedy about a pair of misfits who end up in a boarding home as adults and then are released into the public to live their own lives. They face a world of uncertainties, life moving at a speed too fast for their general comfort. But the film explores their awakenings and ultimately their growth as individuals in Oslo, Norway.

Elling is the lead character in the film of the same name. He’s a diminutive man with many insecurities, but intellectual curiosity continuously bubbling beneath the surface. His roommate in the boarding house, and in the apartment they share when released, Kjell Bjarne (KB for this review) is a brutish giant who cares and thinks of sex during 99% of his days. The duo become perfect foils for one another. When Elling zigs, KB zags.

Elling movie pic

Kjell Bjarne celebrates his moment of achievement for all.

As adults they are given their own rooms in a large apartment, being looked after by Frank Asli. Frank wants them to become assimilated into society to show that they can indeed function on their own. The duo make it their first order of business to move their beds into a shared bedroom, so that they can feel like they did in the boarding home. Not quite the results that Frank was looking for. Whether its answering the phone, visiting the store for groceries or actually venturing out of the house for something more, each endeavor becomes an adventure.

‘Elling’ Has Stellar Performances By Sven Nordin and Per Christian Ellefsen

As the duo grows, and learn to actually grate on each other like a married couple, the film’s paces pick up. KB falls for a neighbor, who’s an apparent drunk with a child yet to be born. Alas, KB is smitten to the chagrin of Elling. Elling, on the other hand, ventures to an underground poets reading, sipping on orange sodas and meeting a strange man in the process. An unlikely new friendship is forged. The movie, Elling, has all the trappings of a nice tongue in cheek comedy, a fish out of water play for viewers to revel in.

Elling and KB, acting as the excited school kids they mentally are, eventually get to go away on a weekend with their friend and potential KB lover for a final act of adventure. The weekend brings some new drama and adventure. The film wraps up with a huge, hang in the air reveal, which fills director Peter Naess’ film with an appropriate moment of discovery. Elling is a pleasure to watch for fans of independent, idiosyncratic, small time cinema. Cute and worthy as a film you likely missed.

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Films-U-Missed: Layer Cake

Films-U-Missed: Layer Cake

2004’s ‘Layer Cake’ Signaled The Rise of Two Big Hollywood Stars

Director Matthew Vaughn’s coming out party also signaled the rise of one of the biggest acting names in Hollywood in Layer Cake star Daniel Craig. He’s now referred to as “Bond. James Bond,” however back in 2004, Craig was still a relative unknown having acted in a few roles of note, most recognizably in Sem Mendes’ Tom Hanks vehicle Road to Perdition. But Layer Cake gave Hollywood the authority to recognize the talent of Craig, take a chance and turn him into a star.

Craig (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) plays an unnamed, mid-level drug dealer in Cake. A smart man, with a plan to quit the drug game once he’s made a cool million. He is rightfully on the cusp of doing so when his boss asks a favor of him, which leads to all sorts of problems for the non-gangster. Craig is part of a deep plot to essentially set him up and kill him, but he is naturally underestimated while he learns the ways of gangsterism in the British lands.

Sienna Miller Sexy Layer Cake

Risk be damned, when faced with Sienna Miller in "Layer Cake."

Colorful characters abound in Vaughn’s film. Colm Meaney expertly plays Gene, the muscle of his boss. Morty is Craig’s muscle, who settles an old score in the process. The Duke is a loud, obnoxious wanna-be gangster who is in the drug game for the fame and recognition. Dexter Fletcher, known from Guy Ritchie’s (RockNRolla) career-defining Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, is a great con man and Sienna Miller has never been and likely never will be, more fetching than she is here. It’s a wonderful cast and an expert script.

‘Layer Cake’ Captures a Different Side of Gangster Life Than ‘Pulp Fiction’

Layer Cake only made $2.2 million at the U.S. box office and despite it’s $5-6 million dollar budget, only did about that amount of business in it’s native U.K. It’s surprising in retrospect, given the maturity of the film, the actors in it – note another young star in Tom Hardy, soon to be of The Dark Knight Rises “Bane” infamy – and the multiple comparisons that have been made to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.  The comparisons are understandable, if a little unfair, given the different tones of the film. Layer Cake is more slick and subtle, while Pulp Fiction more audacious and sprawling. Both films, of course, stand on their own – they do not need to be inextricably linked.

Daniel Craig Layer Cake

Daniel Craig's XXXX almost meets his maker in "Layer Cake."

Despite a smallish budget, the production values make the film look gorgeous. Vaughn does yoeman’s work here and it’s understandable why he’s continued on to bigger projects (X-Men: First Class). The man who got his start as a producer on the aforementioned Richie film, is a talented auteur indeed. Layer Cake’s locations are vibrant with defined color tones and an overall cool of the gangster life is ever present, even given the innate danger of the game. If you’ve not seen the film, it’s essential you do so if you are even remotely interested in the genre or it’s brilliant cast. I won’t give away the ending, but this layered cake is one to chew on for years to come. So sweet.

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Films-U-Missed: Five Minutes of Heaven Starring Liam Neeson

Films-U-Missed: Five Minutes of Heaven Starring Liam Neeson

Five Minutes of Heaven is a 2009 film starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt about a man meeting his brother’s murderer. It’s based on real events. In 1975, Alistair Little (Neeson) killed Jim Griffen, the brother of Joe Griffen (Nesbitt) in a semi-random act of cold blood, right in front of Joe. Thirty-three years later, the media arranges a “60 Minutes” style face to face interview, where Joe and Alistair can clear the air surrounding the events.

The film uniquely juxtaposes each man’s predicament. Alistair is a changed man, having done 12 years in prison for his transgressions. Joe, meanwhile, has lived with the stigma of his mother blaming him for Jim’s death, with the young Joe doing nothing to “stop it” from happening. Not that he could. Alistair admits to the media that he would have killed Joe, if he had known he was Jim’s brother.

Five Minutes of Heaven refers to Joe’s desire to gain revenge on Alistair, a major twist in the story. Joe simmers with rage that is right beneath the surface at any moment ready to erupt. He is prone to outbursts of anger and has serious trepidation about meeting Alistair; alas he wants to kill him. He can’t do it with the cameras in his face all the time though, so the interview goes astray.

Five Minutes of Heaven Pic

A young Alistair (Neeson) was clearly a Nas and 'The Sopranos' fan as he "got himself a gun."

Alistair is genuinely inflicted with pain over the child that he was, just 17 when he killed Jim Griffen. He has struggled with the idea that he has destroyed the Griffen family; namely Joe, his mother and father, who passed due to heartache over losing Jim. Alistair understands Joe’s pain and seems genuinely interested in an attempt at reconciliation. The murder eats at him daily and he really wants to go on with his life.

Despite being slow, the film takes some unique twists and turns with the leads displaying their anguishing existence in expertly different ways. Heaven made only $13,217 in the U.S. box office, according to IMDB, so it naturally failed to connect with fans. The somewhat ironic thing about that is that Heaven reminds me most of Frost/Nixon, the film that only a year earlier earned kudos for Michael Sheen and grossed nearly $20 million in the U.S. The pacing and tone seem similar to me in my recollection, with this having some serious suspense and even a few moments of genuine action. This is a film that rewards your patience, despite its swift, 90 minute running time. It’s a slow burn that builds to a legitimate crescendo and may be of interest to acting fans or fans of stage-like screen setups.

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