Today’s recommended Writer: John Ridley Pt 1 of 2

John Ridley is one of the most versatile of writers, starting out doing writing for such shows as MARTIN and FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR he would follow that up with some of the most accomplished novels, screenplays, and films of the waning days of the 20th and new days of the 21st century.

For me his loose HARD LUCK pulp trilogy of STRAY DOGS, LOVE IS A RACKET and EVERYBODY SMOKES IN HELL are the books that made me a John Ridley fan. They are a series of exhilarating mystery novels, that share only a thematic sensibility but a successful one, of a hard luck or down on their luck protagonist, trying to navigate a world completely out of his control.

Stray Dogs

Love Is a Racket

Everybody Smokes in Hell

These would spawn two equally excellent films, Namely U-TURN based on STRAY DOGS and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Sean Penn and Jennifer Lopez, and COLD AROUND THE HEART written and directed by Ridley and starring David Caruso, Kelly Lynch and Stacey Dash, both excellent, intimate, dark noirs/neo-noirs in the vein of films such as BLOOD SIMPLE and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.

Unfortunately both films were released in 1997, the year of Blockbusters such as TITANIC, GOOD WILL HUNTING, FIFTH ELEMENT, MEN IN BLACK, as well as the year of the crime film/neo noir JACKIE BROWN, LA CONFIDENTIAL, LOST HIGHWAY, THE GAME. It was just a case of bad timing, and these great movies getting squeezed out at the box office.

Unfortunately I think what the financial under-performance of the films, specifically COLD AROUND THE HEART robbed us of most, was more work from John Ridley as director. I think in any less big-budget heavy year, his COLD AROUND THE HEART would have done for him what ONE FALSE MOVE did for the career of Carl Franklin, or the aforementioned BLOOD SIMPLE did for the Coen Brothers.

As it is both films are available on DVD (unfortunately Director’s Commentary versions aren’t yet out there) and can be appreciated for the stylish and compelling films they are.

And they led into the next phase of John Ridley’s career.

U Turn: Price your copy here

Cold Around the Heart: Price your copy here

-End of Part I-

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL 2011 Movie Review!

So based on the fantastic, kick-ass trailer, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:GHOST PROTOCOL was one of my most eagerly anticipated films of 2011. So finally seen, with a 1st time Live-Action director Brad Bird at the helm, what is my verdict?

Well first it’s worth setting the scene, I saw this in IMAX, not IMAX 3D or 3D, but IMAX. Parts of this film were shot in the 70mm IMAX format, but not in 3D. So yeah I have no problem, viewing a film shot in IMAX in IMAX.

Well let me rephrase that, seeing this in IMAX is not a problem. Payment the exorbitant markup to see this in IMAX… big problem.

When the cashier said $15.50 I actually had to pause, for a less anticipated movie I would have told him forget it and either not see it in IMAX (which I notice theaters are making it difficult to do, offering either no regular non-Imax, non-3D showings, or these showing only seldom and at inconvenient times) or just wait for DVD.

I can understand seeking to increase revenue in a down market, but attempting to fleece and extort your existing customer base may not be the way. You end up with people like myself, who actively will seek out less IMAX movies and movies in general, because of such price gouging at theaters.

A $15.50 ticket?!! Really?? You’re talking what, a 50% markup over regular ticket prices? That is just not good.

So already you’re creating the wrong mindset for people going into the film, the way my brain, and a lot of peoples brains work, Anything $10 or less, is kind of an impulse buy. You look at the 2hrs of big screen entertainment, and you justify it as $5/hr. Not horrible.

But suddenly cracking $15, and it’s suddenly a purchase that registers in your brain as expensive. You start getting thoughtful about the money spent, which is not really what you want consumers doing, questioning if they are getting value, getting their money’s worth.

It’s a dangerous habit to get the customer into, making a movie ticket less impulse buy and more potentially over-priced money-waster.

So it’s with that mindset a bit in my head I enter the darkened IMAX theater.

This theater being one of AMC’s retrofitted pseudo Imax theaters/Midget Imax theaters, it is not a real 5 story high, 70 foot wide screen (yet another reason I balk at paying the exorbitant prices), that said it is a very large screen for a multiplex.

And obviously they are trying to at least give you something to kinda justify that expense because man, they really had the sound and bass cranked, the picture looking great. I’ve seen IMAX movies at this theater before, and they raised the game for this movie. I sat there looking at the seven trailers prior to the movie, having my chest pummeled by sound, and my eyes dazzled, and I have to say… , I was impressed.

And the seven trailers?

SNOW WHITE & HUNTSMAN- An action packed updating of the Snow White myth

MAN ON THE LEDGE- Intriguing looking heist film

JOHN CARTER- I hated the first trailer for this film, however this new trailer actually looks great,

UNDERWORLD:AWAKENING- I’m no fan of this francise, having only seen bits of previous movies, but this trailer looks good if not great. And I’m always game for a Werewolf movie. RISE OF THE DARK KNIGHT- I have my problems with Nolan’s films. Unlike most I’m not a fan, that said this was a decent enough trailer

GI JOE: RETALIATION- I hated the first GI Joe Movie, however this one actually looks good. Mostly due to Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

THE TITANIC in 3D- There’s one person I don’t bet against when it comes to 3D, and that’s James Cameron. If James Cameron puts his name behind something it’s good enough for me. And watching the trailer I was reminded of all the people who have spent years deriding Titanic, who are going to end up eating their words as they pay to see it a 2nd time in 3D. Fan boys are an odd breed with selective memory, and they like to bash what is successful and popular, just because it is successful and popular. TITANIC became thw largest grossing movie of its time for a simple reason, because it was an effing epic movie, and because people could not stop seeing it.

A lot of fan boys have this revisionist memory, almost attacking things for being popular, forgetting that at the time they enjoyed the movie just as much as everyone else. But in hindsight, and with some posing it becomes the rage to bash on TITANIC. A similar film is SUPERMAN returns, that was a darling when it came out, everyone was raving about the plane scene and the bullet to the eye, but suddenly in blogs and podcasts and the peanut gallery it becomes revised as a bad movie, by the same ones who enjoyed it at the time. So yeah the fickle and schizoid ranting of fanboys I let go in one ear and out the other, quality tells. And quality says, while it’s not going to make a billion dollars in theaters again, it’s going to do very respectable business for a revival film.

I’m pretty sure there was a 7th one, but I can’t remember what it was.

Okay, enough with the trailers… onto the feature.

Brad Bird’s transition from animation to live action can only be called… impressive and epic.

Wow, from first frame to last, what grabbed me was just how brilliant and accomplished this film looked. how the heck does a first time live-action director pull off a film on this scale.

It is a gorgeous looking movie, stylishly filmed, and action packed. It’s easily the best of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series, and the performances… I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.,.. Tom Cruise is one of Hollywood’s best actors, and that he has maintained giving 110% in his work, even while dealing in the meat-grinder that is the press, and with fickle fanboys, is only to be applauded.

Agree or disagree with Cruise’s beliefs if you choose, though how that’s anyone’s business but his I don’t know, but what he puts on the screen can not be questioned. He’s a star, the likes of which we seldom see anymore. Add to that wonderful performances by his IMF (the use of that acronym kept tripping me up, I would immediately think International Monetary Fund (Boo! Hiss!) rather than Impossible Missions Force (Yay! Hurrah!) team-members, namely Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton; fantastic stunts, beautiful locales, and bone crunching action and you have a fun ride at the movies.

Thant said, it’s not perfect. The pacing is a bit uneven, bordering on long, and the script at brief times is a bit by the numbers. I think it probably could have benefited from tighter editing and a shorter runtime, that said I was quite satisfied for the film to play out at its pace.

All in all it’s a solid ***1/2 out of **** and is definitely one I’ll be adding to my DVD collection. B+.

35 praised films that completely disappointed me+ 10 derided films that I Enjoy!

    35 praised films that completely disappointed me


TRIANGLE- 1st 15 mins is intriguing, once they hit the ship, tedious does not begin to describe it. A 30 minute twilight zone episode stretched to feature length

Taken (2008/I)- Overrated. See instead MAN ON FIRE (known as FLAMES OF VENGEANCE in the Portuguese poster shown) or DIE HARD LIVE FREE or 16 BLOCKS.

Man on Fire / Out of Time
Man on Fire (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition) (See all Crime Movies & TV)

TAKING OF PELHAM 123 2009- See the original instead

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (See all Suspense Movies & TV)

HOSTAGE- fantastic opening credit sequence but goes down hill from there

There Will Be Blood (2007)- despised it. See instead GIANT or NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

HURT LOCKER- overrated and ultimately empty. See instead GREEN ZONE.

Rogue- Insipid, boring and idiotic crocodile film.

Primevil- Crocodile movie. Mediocre

From Within (2008)- Intriguing beginning that unfortunately paints itself into a haphazard and unsatisfying conclusion. Suicide, religious fundamentalism, witchcraft, and mysterious deaths, intriguing build up that chokes on the ending. See instead THE CHILDREN

Children (See all Mystery Movies & TV)

The Abandoned (2006)- looks great, but ultimately pointless and empty. See instead SAUNA


Sauna

PREDATORS- Weak script, weak performances, Adrian Brody is miscast and offers a poor performance. See instead PREDATOR, PREDATOR II, or ENEMY MINE

DOG SOLDIERS- moronic characters, poor writing, uninteresting direction, see instead DESCENT

THE MIST- just overblown acting, and an ending that was drained of any impact. stick to the audio book, it’s far, FAR better. See instead IT.

Stephen King’s It (See all Mystery Movies & TV)

REC 2- Awful sequel, that gets wrong everything that worked about the original. See instead REC or ROMANSANTA

Drag Me to Hell (2009)- I found it okay, to a little less than okay. Beginning was very good but It lost me somewhere in the middle and never got me back. The whole seance/possession thing I found completely idiotic. See instead EVIL DEAD 1, EVIL DEAD 2

DARKNESS and NAMELESS- not horrible, quite intense and effective in places, but undermined by too much cliches, stupid character actions and poor endings. In general just poor writing

DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT- This is a very compelling film through most of its run time, but just completely collapses at the end. “Let me show you my abs”? Really??? WTF? That’s your ending?! Made me mad and ruined an otherwise strong film.

KING OF THE HILL (Spanish)- Beautiful looking film, not bad, just not satisfying, and questionable plot contrivances, but not a bad film. But put here because not as great as it has been touted.

RUINS- Tedious

CREEP- brain-dead mutated Subway killer flick

SIN CITY- misogynistic, reductive tripe. Absolute garbage.

NATURAL BORN KILLERS- One of my most disliked films. Right up there with SIN CITY.

SHOOT EM UP- It just bored me

MR. BROOKS- Way underwhelming, bordering on mediocre “serial killer with a twist” flick. See instead the fantastic, but vitually unknown Jeff Goldblum flick, MISTER FROST.

Mr. Frost [VHS]

DISTURBIA- A poor man’s REAR WINDOW, not horrible, just not good.

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS- Stylish and well made, just morally offensive and bankrupt. Zombie’s viewpoint is to sympathize and root for the serial killers rather than the victims or law enforcement. He even does this with HALLOWEEN… not something I buy into,,, ever

BATMAN BEGINS- Interesting beginning, tedious middle, stupid ending. See instead BATMAN (1989) or THE DARK KNIGHT(Only Nolan movie I like)

MACHINIST- Brad Anderson directs intriguing films, that tend to either spin wheels to a telegraphed conclusion (SOUNDS LIKE), or tread water to an empty forgettable conclusion(SESSION 9 and MACHINIST)

BUG- It tries for Cronenberg body horror, but marries that to just an annoying and tedious storyline

Dead Silence (2007)- average to bad, see instead MAGIC or DOLLS

INCEPTION- Don’t get me started, I’ve discussed Nolan and the emperor’s clothes enough

MEMENTO

PRESTIGE

PUNISHER- Thomas Jane version— ugggh, see instead PUNISHER the Lundgren version, reviled by many it’s actually an impressive flick

**********

    10 derided films that I enjoy!

SKELETON KEY- hugely underrated New Orleans Gothic tinged horror film

The Skeleton Key (Widescreen Edition) (See all Mystery Movies & TV)

THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL- absolutely adore this movie. One of my favorites.

The House of the Devil [Blu-ray] (See all Horror Movies)

WAR OF THE WORLDS (Remake)- Yeah it’s a fad to bash Tom Cruise. But fads aside he’s a fantastic actor, and this is a strong flick.

HANCOCK- Horrible name for a movie, horrible posters, box art, horrible marketing. But under all this damaging comedy labeling, is actually quite a compelling and strong film, with a great third act. Rename this THE INSURANCE POLICY (OF THE GODS), use some serious marketing and posters, and you could re-release this to DVD and continue to clean up on this film (it made in theaters over 300 million domestically).

TITANIC

PUNISHER- Dolph Lundgren version, and I really like it. Ninjas, brooding anti-heroes, nice action scenes and Louis Gossett Jr, what’s not to like. Big fan.

The Punisher (See all Art House Action Movies)

FF- I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, it was nice goofy fun, and enjoyed it a lot more than the dire SIN CITY or BATMAN BEGINS

JUDGE DREDD- everyone agrees the comedy relief, courtesy of so-called comedian Rob Schneider was a horrendously bad idea, but there are some fantastic iconic scenes in this film, the best is Max Von Sydow’s walk into the Cursed Earth. Movie is worth it for that scene alone.

Judge Dredd (See all Crime Movies & TV)

TRANSFORMERS 2- Not great, but definitely good and visually stunning.

PISTOL WHIPPED- I liked this Seagal straight to DVD flick the first time I saw it, but every single time I’ve seen it since, I like it more. Plus a fantastic opening credit sequence, and a solid ending. A lot of fun. “You cremated now MFer!”

Pistol Whipped (See all Mystery & Suspense Thrillers)