Tag Archives: Jeremy Piven

Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Trying to produce a successful sequel to a groundbreaking film nearly a decade later is always going to be a hurdle in every way from preserving originality to breaking new ground to keeping the magic alive. Robert Rodriguez faced quite the task in picking up the reins of Sin City: A Dame To Kill so many years after his original film revolutionized aspects of filmmaking, and this was never going to feel as fresh or innovative as the first, but I still love it, it’s still firmly rooted in the gorgeous and terrifying world of ‘hyper-noir’ lifted from the pages of Frank Miller’s comics and the stories here, although quite different from the first, are just as brutal and poetic. However, whether or not you are a fan of this film overall there is one indisputable factor that makes it amazing, perhaps even more so than the first and her name is Eva Fucking Green. Casting Basin City’s scariest, sexiest femme fatale was always going to be a hurdle and I remember everyone from Rachel Weisz to Angelina Jolie being considered. Green is an actress of unreasonable talent, intimidating presence and staggering sex appeal and she is devilishly divine as Ava Lord, the black widow spider in human form, a psychopathic bitch who ruins the lives of anyone who gets close to her, most notably Josh Brolin’s square-jawed incarnation of Dwight. This is the film’s most effective story mostly because of her and because it’s an OG Sin City yarn whereas the other two are brand new material Miller dreamed up for this film. Other vignettes include Joseph Gordon Levitt as a hard luck gambling man looking for retribution and Jessica Alba’s now borderline maniacal Nancy, out for bloodiest revenge against mega-villain Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for the death of her guardian angel Hartigan (Bruce Willis in ghostly visions). The other strongest point of the film is Boothe, who had one quick but deadly scene in the first film, Rodriguez expands his role into full fledged, cigar chomping, homicidal scene stealing frenzy here and he’s gotta be one of the craziest, over the hill comic book villains ever put to film. I will concede that this film doesn’t have the propulsive, elemental momentum of the first. There’s a staccato, circus sideshow vibe that’s different from the fluidity of the first’s narrative, which was more well oiled than every humming automobile under its hood and had this organic flow that was almost intangible. But the visual beauty, playfulness in colour vs black & white, cheerful brutality and startling nihilism, everything else that made it special are all still at play here and I refuse to see it get written off as some dud sequel, because it’s far better than that. Not to mention that Rodriguez once again assembles an absolute bonkers cast including Mickey Rourke once again playing that big lug Marv, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Julia Garner, Dennis Haysbert stepping in for the late Michael Clarke Duncan, Marton Csokas, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Jaime King, Alexa Vega, Jamie Chung, Lady Gaga as a friendly truck-stop waitress, Christopher Lloyd as some freaky doctor who can only operate after a shot of smack and Stacy Keach in a bizarre cameo as basically Jabba the Hut in a fancy suit. Try shaking a stick at that lineup. It’s true this doesn’t have the same monochrome lightning in a bottle magic of the first but it’s still more than worth the attention of anyone who enjoys spending time in this world and appreciates gorgeous looking, star studded, unforgiving things dark pulp artistic cinema. Plus it deserves a watch just for Eva Green as probably my favourite femme fatale ever committed to celluloid, she’s that good.

-Nate Hill

Stephen Hopkins’ Judgment Night

Who remembers Judgment Night? I do, and I’m only randomly bringing it up because I had a dream about it last night where I was a character in the movie, and if you’ve seen this thing you’ll know just how nerve wracking any dream about it would be. It’s one of those greasy 90’s ‘all in one urban night from hell’ thrillers that’s pulpy, over the top, formulaic yet absolutely captivating, in this case because of the villains. So basically there’s four dysfunctional yuppie bros headed from the burbs into darkest downtown Chicago for the basketball game. They’re played by Cuba Gooding Jr, Emilio Estevez, Jeremy Piven and Stephen Dorff, four varied and interesting personalities who clash even before conflict finds them. On their way home through an especially gross part of town they accidentally witness a gang of criminals full on execute a disloyal homie, and from there the thugs make like jackals and hunt our boys through the nightmarish urban jungle with plans on slaughtering them one by one. Now, the top dog thug is played by Denis Leary, who is a solid choice because even when he’s playing good guys you still get the sense you can’t really trust him. He’s a verbose, sociopathic animal here and he’s backed up by perennial badass Peter Greene as his second in command, the two of them making genuinely memorable villains. Director Stephen Hopkins (The Ghost & The Darkness, Predator 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3) has real talent in evoking thick, tangible atmosphere be it jungle, urban sprawl or dreamscape and he makes the slums of Chicago look like a fiery vision of hellish alienation and hidden danger around any cluttered, garbage strewn alley or rooftop. The script mostly follows the breathless, brutal pursuit motif but there’s also some clever bits of social satire thrown in, particularly in Leary’s scenery chewing dialogue and rants. The fun lies in watching him and Greene stalk, terrorize and try to kill the four bros though, and it’s all executed very well. Good times.

-Nate Hill

Danny Cannon’s Phoenix

Phoenix is a half forgotten, neat little Arizona neo-noir noir that isn’t about much altogether, but contains a hell of a lot of heated drama, character study and hard boiled charisma anyways, which in the land of the crime genre, often is an acceptable substitute for a strong plot. Plus, a cast like this could hang around the water cooler for two hours and the results would still be engaging. Ray Liotta is terrific here in a mid-career lead role as an a police detective with a nasty temper, huge gambling problem and just an all round penchant for trouble. He’s joined by his three partners in both crime and crime fighting, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and Anthony Lapaglia. There’s no central conflict, no over arching murder subplot and no orchestrated twist or payoff, it’s simply these four sleazy cops just existing out their in the desert on their best, and it’s a lot of sunbaked, emotionally turbulent fun. Liotta vies for the attentions of a weary older woman (Anjelica Huston, excellent) while he’s pursued by her slutty wayward teen daughter (Brittany Murphy) at the same time. He’s also hounded by eccentric loan shark Chicago (Tom Noonan with a ray ally funny lisp) and trying to close countless open cases in his book. Piven and hothead Lapaglia fight over Piven’s foxy wife (Kari Wuhrur) too, and so the subplots go. The supporting cast is a petting zoo of distinctive character acting talent including Glenn Moreshower, Royce D. Applegate, Giovanni Ribisi, Xander Berkeley, Al Sapienza, Giancarlo Esposito and more. I like this constant and obnoxious energy the film has though, like there’s something in that Arizona sun that just drives peoples tempers off the map and causes wanton hostility, a great setting for any flick to belt out its story. Good fun.

-Nate Hill

Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla: A Review by Nate Hill

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Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla was the third British crime comedy caper for the director, and it could have easily been the misstep that signaled him wearing out his welcome. Happily I can tell you that it’s a winner, and although not as cracking as Lock Stock or Snatch, it sinks into its own distinct groove that’s fairly removed from it’s two predecessors. Once again we are treated to the life and times of a bunch of hoods and gangsters in London, but not the grungy, back alley soup kitchen London that we’re used to from Ritchie. No, this is a glistening, prosperous London, filled with real estate money ripe for the taking and developers making underhanded deals with shady businessmen. The climate has definitely changed in Ritchie’s aesthetic, but the characters remain the same, just as witty, eccentric and chock full of piss and vinegar. The story centers around the wild bunch, a cozy little clan of East end petty thieves led by One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba). Their third musketeer is Handsome Bob, played by a hilarious Tom Hardy who has a secret up his sleeve that spills out in what is the most adorable scene Ritchie has ever written. The gang is hired by a mysterious chick (Thandie Newton) to rob some dudes, and that’s where the trouble starts. Elsewhere in town, arch gangster Lenny Cole (a frothing Tom Wilkinson) negotiates a land deal with dangerous russian billionaire Uri (Karel Roden switches up his trademark psychosis for smooth talking menace here) that hinges on a missing painting. Lenny dispatches his right hand bloke Archie (Mark Strong, subtly trolling us) to find it along with his rock star nephew Johnny Quid. Got that? Nevermind, half the fun is the how and not the why of Ritchie’s stories, and I find it best to just let the flow of it wash over you as opposed to thinking out each detail and missing the sideshow. Toby Kebbell is off the hook as Quid, a wiry stick of dynamite and a comic force to be reckoned with, truly the most exciting performance of the film. Ritchie has a knack for bringing out the funny side in actors, even ones that aren’t usually the type to make you laugh. Strong is terrific, with a few carefully timed moments of sheer hilarity that deftly make you forget how dangerous he is. Ludacris and Jeremy Piven are fun, if a bit out of place as two event promoters. Butler and Elba have an easy-peasy rapport that’s light, friendly and believable. Wilkinson dances between alpha assuredness and aging buffoonry nicely, always commanding the scene and oddly reminding me of Mr. Magoo. There’s a playful tone to this one, glitzy and celebratory in places where Snatch was grim and sketchy, and the whole affair feels like a new years party with a bunch of old friends. Watch for cameos from Matt King, Nonzo Anonzie, Jimi Mistry, Mundungus Fletcher and Gemma Arterton. Very fun stuff.

Frank’s Thoughts on Mark Pellington’s I MELT WITH YOU 2011

I am a Man

Now I remember

I am divorced

I can’t get hard

I love my wife

I don’t love her

I lie to myself

My mother is dead

I’m rich

I’m a failure

We forget

I am the bread winner

I am married

I am a failure

She left me

I’m under 50

I’m just like my father

I’m nothing like him

I’m over 21

I can fuck

My kids need me

I’m losing my hair

I need glasses

I am afraid

I love you

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     I MELT WITH YOU is one of my absolute top five films of all time.  I have two top five films, one made up of my favorite films, and one made up of the best films that I have seen.  I MELT WITH YOU is in both top fives.  I would like to preface this post by saying that this film is incredibly hard to watch.  It is an in your face, fast burning film that does not pull any punches what-so-ever, and the film takes dark leaps that you don’t think it will.  This is a film, that last time I checked has an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes and was dubbed the worst film of 2011.  That’s all bullshit.  The problem with I MELT WITH YOU is that the director, Mark Pellington (ARLINGTON ROAD, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES), uses this film as a mirror, and holds it inches from your face.  What you see in the reflection is real, raw and the unapologetic truth about who we are, and what we hide from others and ourselves.

     I equate the film to being very THE BIG CHILL esq, the plot of the film is about four middle aged friends, Richard (Thomas Jane) who is a “failed” writer and now a high school English teacher, Jonathan (Rob Lowe) a high-end general practitioner who is taking money in exchange for prescriptions, Ron (Jeremy Piven) a fraudulent investment banker, and Tim (Christian McKay) an artist who has lost his soul mate in a crash he caused, and these four have gotten together for a weekend every year since they all graduated college together.  The weekends are loud, drug induced and partying that makes THE WOLF OF WALL STREET look like a PG rated film.

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     The first act of the film is laugh out loud funny, with the four friends partying their ass’ off and reminiscing about old times.  The chemistry the four actors have is absolutely paramount, and looks and feels incredibly genuine and the comradely overflows through the screen, and you feel like one of them, hanging out, taking pills and drinking whiskey.  It’s all fun and games.  A great time.

     There are many messages, themes and realities this film conveys, but at the bottom of all that is the foundation of love.  These men love each other more than anything, it’s a bond that is not easily achieved, and can never be broken.  They love each other, regardless of their individual failures and successes, it doesn’t matter.  The four of them are always there for one another.  Nothing will ever change that.  Nothing will ever change the love and support they have for one another, until it does.

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      The second act of the film takes an incredible, and I mean incredible, dark turn.  Everything in the film is turned upside down, causing the characters to deal with the reality of what happened, and the bigger picture of the reality of a pact they made when they graduated college together.  This causes them to reexamine who they are, what they’ve become, and how far away they are from who they once were.  How they didn’t stay true to themselves, and became hypocrites.

     Richard (Jane) is the realist and the leader of the group.  He was in love once, it didn’t work out, and spent the rest of his life having sex with a vast amount of women.  Richard is the idealist, reminding the rest of the friends who they once were, who they have become, and why they haven’t stayed true to themselves, and each other, and he reinforces the pact they made, signed with their blood.

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     Jane gives his finest performance, and that is saying a lot, from BOOGIE NIGHTS to THE MIST, he is always incredible and has an emotional depth and range to bring any character he plays to life.  Fleshes them out, and makes them real.  Jane’s affability rolls over into his character, where he’s the “cool” high school teacher.  His students like him, and we like him.

     Rob Lowe gives his finest dramatic performance as Jonathan, the broken doctor who set out to help people, make them better, give them hope.  He turns into the biggest hypocrite of all, and sells prescriptions to his wealthy patients, and loses himself, and the oath he took, and somewhere before that, loses his wife and son.  His wife is remarried and their son calls the stepfather Daddy.  Jonathan is a broken man who has lost his way, much like the rest of them, slowly going through life without any progressive momentum.

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     The four actors: Jane, Lowe, Piven and McKay give soul bearing performances.  I can’t think of many ensemble casts that not only provide the best they can be as an actor, but also showing us an incredible emotional range.  This film is truly special, and it is remarkable in every way possible.  I’ve been watching films seriously for the past fifteen years, and there has not been a film that is grounded in reality and as heavy, deep, moving and self reflective as I MELT WITH YOU.  After all this film is about the purest form of love, and these four love each other so much, they stop the world and truly do melt with each other.

This film is available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime.