A Movie A Day #122: The Lost Capone (1990, directed by John Gray)


Chicago.  1915.  Up-and-coming gangster Al Capone (Eric Roberts) berates his younger brother, Jimmy (Adrian Pasdar), for not being aggressive enough in a street fight.  Not wanting to follow his brothers into a life of organized crime, Jimmy runs away from home and eventually finds himself in Harmony, Nebraska.  Claiming to be a World War I vet named Richard Hart, Jimmy impresses everyone with both his marksmanship and his incorruptible nature.  Soon, the new Richard Hart has been named town marshal.  While Al Capone is taking over the Chicago rackets, Richard is keeping the town safe with his Native American deputy, Joseph Littlecloud (Jimmie F. Skaggs), and starting a family with the local school teacher, Kathleen (Ally Sheedy).  When illegal liquor from Chicago starts to show up on a nearby Indian reservation, Richard Hart comes into conflict with the Chicago Outfit and his secret is finally revealed.

There is a sliver of truth to this made-for-TV movie.  Al Capone really did have a brother named James, who ended up changing his name to Richard Hart and working as a prohibition agent in Nebraska.  Otherwise, the movie changes so many facts that it is hard to know where to begin.  In real life, Al and James Capone grew up in New York.  James, who was actually several years older than Al, ran away from home not to escape Al’s bullying but because he wanted to join the circus.  (Al was only 9 when James ran away.)  James changed his name to Richard Hart not to keep people from realizing that he was related to Al but because he admired silent screen cowboy William S. Hart.  Though James did work in law enforcement, he never came into conflict with Al Capone’s organization and, in fact, regularly visited Chicago.

The Lost Capone is a forgettable mix of western and gangster clichés, featuring a notably stiff performance from Adrian Pasdar in the lead role.  It does feature two of the strangest performances that I have ever seen.  Eric Roberts, complete with a phony scar, playing Al Capone is just as weird as it sounds, while Ally Sheedy plays a wholesome and always smiling teacher but delivers her lines in the same halting tone of voice that she used as the “basket case” in The Breakfast Club.

There is probably a good movie that could be made about the life of James Capone/Richard Hart but The Lost Capone is not it.

A Movie A Day #115: Zero Tolerance (1994, directed by Joseph Mehri)


In Zero Tolerance, Robert Patrick plays Jeff Douglas, an FBI agent who is sent down to Mexico to pick up a recently captured drug dealer.  Ray Manta (Titus Welliver) is the head of the White Hand drug cartel and he is not happy about having been arrested.  When Ray tells Jeff that his entire family is being held hostage and will be killed unless Ray is allowed to escape, Jeff demands that Ray give him his word that no harm will come to his wife and children.  Ray gives his “word of honor,” not realizing that his associates have already killed Jeff’s family.  Jeff is now out for revenge and he is not going to let the FBI, with its rules and procedures, stand in his way.  Jeff is not only out to get Ray.  He is also going to track down and kill every member of the White Hand, which includes everyone from Mick Fleetwood (yes, that Mick Fleetwood) to Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter (playing almost exactly the same role that he played in Marked for Death and Only The Strong) to Ator the Invincible himself, Miles O’Keeffe.

(How much keeffe is in this movie?  Miles O’Keeffe!  Ha ha, that never gets old!)

Robert Patrick is one of those actors who can make any movie worth watching and Zero Tolerance, an otherwise forgettable revenge flick, is proof of that.  No one plays a revenge seeking killing machine with as much panache as Robert Patrick.  After his family is killed, Patrick crosses the country, stopping everywhere from New Orleans and Las Vegas and seeing vengeance with a determination that almost makes Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood seem mellow by comparison.  This is the type of movie where Robert Patrick literally drives his car through the side of a helicopter and, even after the helicopter explodes, still emerges unscathed.

There’s only one man who could pull that off.

Robert Patrick.

A Movie A Day #103: Mobsters (1991, directed by Michael Karbelnikoff)


The place is New York City.  The time is the prohibition era.  The rackets are controlled by powerful but out of touch gangsters like Arnold Rothstein (F. Murray Abraham), Joe Masseria (Anthony Quinn), and Salvatore Faranzano (Michael Gambon).  However, four young gangsters — Lucky Luciano (Christian Slater), Meyer Lansky (Patrick Dempsey), Frank Costello (Costas Mandylor), and Bugsy Siegel (Richard Greico) — have an ambitious plan.  They want to form a commission that will bring together all of the Mafia families as a national force.  To do it, they will have to push aside and eliminate the old-fashioned mob bosses and take over the rackets themselves.  When Masseria and Faranzano go to war over who will be the new Boss of all Bosses, Luciano and Lansky seen their opportunity to strike.

I love a good gangster movie, which is one reason that I have never cared much for Mobsters. Mobsters was made in the wake of the success of Young Guns and, like that film, it attempted to breathe new life into an old genre by casting teen heartthrobs in the lead roles.  There was nothing inherently wrong with that because Luciano, Lansky, and Seigel were all still young men, in their 20s and early 30s, when they took over the Mafia.  (Costello was 39 but Mobsters presents him as being the same age as they other three.)  The problem was that none of the four main actors were in the least bit convincing as 1920s mobsters.  Christian Slater was the least convincing Sicilian since Alex Cord in The Brotherhood.  As for the supporting cast, actors like Chris Penn and F. Murray Abraham did the best that they could with the material but Anthony Quinn’s performance in Mobsters was the worst of his long and distinguished career.

Fans of Twin Peaks will note that Lara Flynn Boyle had a small role in Mobsters.  She played Luciano’s girlfriend.  Unfortunately, other than looking pretty and dying tragically, she was not given much to do in this disappointing gangster film.

Trailer: Transformers: Age of Extinction (Official)


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I know, I know, another Transformers extravaganza coming this summer. As if the last two wasn’t enough to swear me off the franchise. Well, guess what this one doesn’t have any of the actors from the first three and drops in a whole bunch of new ones to play war with the aforementioned robots who are more than meets the eye.

Instead of Shia LaBeouf in the lead role screaming like the most unheroic lead ever we get the manly man Mark Walhberg himself playing a Texas dad out to protect his daughter from the men in black while jump starting a rusted Optimus Prime on his spare time.

This fourth film looks to be a new start for the franchise that we all thought ended with a bang and a whimper with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but there were still more Transformers that never made it to the bigscreen and what better way to do that than make a fourth. So, it looks like fans finally get Grimlock and the Dinobots plus a Decepticon that looks to be Galvatron.

Again, I will be seeing this (it’s like the scifi blockbuster version of Saw) just for the fact that it doesn’t have Shia LaBeouf for people to listen to scream shrilly every two or three minutes. Plus, it has Optimus Prime wrestling and then riding Grimlock.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is ready to make our eyes explode on June 27, 2014.

Super Bowl Trailer: Transformers: Age of Extinction


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Yes, it is another Transformers film about to descend on the population this coming summer.

Could we finally get a quality one after the last two which got worse and worse with each new entry? I can’t say for sure, but this fourth entry does have one thing going for it and that is the lack of Shia LaBeouf. Instead we get Mark Walhberg in the lead human role. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee return with new robots filling in the rest.

If there’s one thing about Transformers: Age of Extinction that will get me to see it once it comes out is the fact that it has Grimlock and his merry band of Dinobots finally making their appearance. Yes, Grimlock and that’s all I need.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is set for a July 27, 2014 release date.

Film Review: Man on a Ledge (dir. Asger Leth)


The newly released film Man on a Ledge is about a man (played by Sam Worthington) who checks into a hotel room in New York City and then climbs out on a ledge and threatens to jump off unless a specific hostage negotiator is brought in to talk him off the ledge.  We quickly discover that Worthington isn’t just a depressed jumper.  Instead, he’s got a really lengthy and overly complicated back story.  It turns out that he’s a former detective who used to moonlight for a venture capitalist and then one day, he was accused of stealing a priceless diamond and destroying it.  This resulted in him getting sentenced to 25 years in prison but when his father is reported to have died, Worthington is released from jail for a day so he can attend the funeral.  So, Worthington escapes and then ends up out on a ledge as part of a massively complicated plan to prove his innocence.  His name, by the way, is Nick because people named Alvin are never the stars of action movies.

Meanwhile, the cop that Nick demands to speak with is a hardened, veteran hostage negotiator and she’s played by Elizabeth Banks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Anyway, Nick asks for her because he knows that the last guy she tried to talk out of jumping apparently jumped off a bridge.  Since Banks failed her last time out, her efforts to talk Nick off the ledge are cautiously observed by another detective, this one played by Edward Burns.  Banks is totally and completely miscast here and she has next to no chemistry with Sam Worthington.  However, she does have really good chemistry with Edward Burns.  Seriously, they would make a really cute couple and I would buy any issue of Us Weekly that had them on the cover.

Meanwhile, the guy that Nick is accused of stealing from just happens to be in a building across the street where he’s conducting some sort of generically evil business deal.  He’s a painfully thin, almost sickly man and, whenever he was on screen, I found myself wondering how his head managed to stay balanced on his body.  At first, I thought maybe it was the Red Skull waiting for the sequel to Capt. America to start filming.  However, on closer inspection, he turned out to be respected character actor Ed Harris.  In this film, Harris plays a ruthless capitalist who would have gone bankrupt if not for the insurance money he got as a result of Nick supposedly destroying that diamond.  Anyway, Harris appears to be enjoying playing a bad guy and he’s so over-the-top in his evil that you don’t really mind that he’s another one of those “I-should-kill-you-now-but-first-we-talk” type of villains.

Meanwhile, there’s two other people who are taking advantage of all the chaos caused by the man on the ledge to break into Harris’s building.  They’re played by Jamie Bell (who looks a lot like Casey Affleck in this film) and telenova veteran Genesis Rodriguez.  As you watch Bell and Rodriguez sliding down heating ducts and scaling elevator shafts, you can’t help but marvel at just how overly complicated everyone is making things.  Still, Bell and Rodriguez have a lot of chemistry and they’re fun to watch.

Meanwhile, NYC television reporter (played by Kyra Sedgwick) is running around the streets of New York, asking random bystanders how they feel about the prospect of Nick jumping.  Apparently, she is an old enemy of Elizabeth Banks’ though that whole plot line is dropped as soon as its brought up.  Still, the audience in my theater chuckled when Sedgwick dramatically rolled her r’s while introducing herself as “Suzie Morales.”

Meanwhile, there’s a bearded guy watching Nick up on the roof and he suddenly decides to go all Occupy Wall Street on the movie’s ass and starts shouting, “Attica!  Attica!” before then blaming it all on the 1%.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t put on Guy Fawkes mask at any point during all of this.

Meanwhile, the entire city of New York is obsessed with the man on the ledge and, if nothing else, they all end up acting exactly the way that people who have never been to New York City (like me) assume that people in New York act.  By that, I mean all the extras are all like, “Yo, Paulie!  There’s some man on a ledge!  Stop breaking my balls!” 

Meanwhile, there’s one final twist to the film’s plot that I can’t share without spoiling the film.  So, I’ll just say that it involved someone working at the hotel and I figured out the twist about 3 minutes after this character first appeared.  This is one of those twists that if you can’t figure out on your own then you need to hang your head in shame.  Seriously.

This film packs a lot of plot into 90 minutes of screen time and, not surprisingly, the end result is a bit of a mess.  This is one of those films where every single character attempts to solve his or her problems in the most needlessly complicated and implausible way possible.  Still, almost despite myself, I enjoyed Man on a Ledge.  It’s just all so silly and stupid that it becomes oddly likable.  The film also has two nicely done chase scenes and some of the scenes where Nick attempts to manuever about on the ledge made me go, “Agck!”

Seriously, I don’t do heights.

Quickie Review: The Town (dir. by Ben Affleck)


If someone just five years ago told me that Ben Affleck would turn out to be a director whose work has been some of the better crime drama/thrillers of the past decade then I would declare shenanigans on that individual. Ben Affleck might have won an Oscar for helping write the screenplay for Good Will Hunting, but his career since could be labeled as being one of a joke (Gigli) interspersed with huge paycheck projects (Armageddon) that showed his range as an actor.

This is not to say that Affleck has no talent in front of the camera. I just believe that early in his career after winning his Oscar he got fooled into thinking that everything else since would be Easy Street paved in gold (financially and critically). To say that it hasn’t turned out to be that way (though he did make a ton of money) would be an understatement. But one thing happened while Affleck’s acting career was heading nowhere but down. He got behind the camera as a director and his very first time directing a feature-length film he would make one of 2007’s best films. I speak of his film adaptation of the Dennis Lehane crime drama, Gone Baby Gone. He didn’t just direct the life out of that film, but he also the screenplay with the help of Aaron Stockard.

The two of the them would collaborate once again on Affleck’s latest Boston-based crime drama, The Town. He wrote the screenplay and directed the film and pulled in some wonderful performances from an ensemble cast which included Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver and Pete Postlethwaite. Fellow site writer Lisa Marie already reviewed the film in detail and her review pretty much put down into words exactly what I thought of the film. I will say that I would swerve slightly away from what she considered some of the flaws in the film.

The Town was adapted from Chuck Hogan’s novel, Prince of Thieves. I would consider the screenplay and dialogue as a major strength of the film. While at times it did seemed to follow the step-by-step and by-the-numbers heist thriller story the screenplay itself didn’t ring false. I liken this film to another heist film which shared some themes and similarities. Michael Mann’s Heat also dealt with the cops-and-robbers foundation. Where Mann’s film had a much larger and epic scope to its storytelling it still boiled down to two groups of determined men playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse. The women in both film were written just enough that they had distinct personalities, but in the end they were motivations for the men in the film.

Affleck shows that he doesn’t just know how to direct, but continues is reputation as being one very good screenwriter. One just has to be reminded that he is now 3-for-3 when it comes to screenplays he has written which have turned out to be great ones. While he doesn’t have the same flair for words as Tarantino or Mamet when it comes to the screenplay. What he does well was to create an efficient script which flowed from scene to scene. Tarantino’s screenplays are great, but at times he does allow himself to overindulge his inner-film geek and create dialogue that might be Sorkin-like in execution. What I mean is that as great as the dialogue sound there’s no way people really spoke like this to each other. Affleck’s screenplay for The Town felt very natural and even with Jon Hamm’s less than great performance the film had a natural and genuine sound to it’s dialogue.

That’s one flaw pointed out by Lisa Marie that I would disagree with her on. The other two I can see her point, but it bothered me none. Though if I ever took on a life of crime I would hope I find someone just like Rebecca Hall’s Claire. Now there’s a woman who stands by her man no matter what.

I think in the long run this film might just be seen as one of the best of 2010 and some critics have already dubbed it so. While it’s prospects come awards season time is still up in the air I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up nabbing one of the ten Best Picture nominations when the Oscar nominations get announced. It would be well-deserved and would just prove that Affleck’s career in the film industry might just be hitting its stride. Who would’ve thought it would be as a writer-director and not as an actor.