ABC Film Challenge – Crime – R – Raising Arizona (1987)

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Writer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Screenplay)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman, William Forsythe, Sam McMurray, Frances McDormand

 

Plot: When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family’s quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated.


Tagline – Their lawless years are behind them. Their child-rearing years lay ahead.

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Laugh Out Loud Comedy

 

Story: Raising Arizona starts as we meet H.I. McDunnough (Cage) a petty thieve that has a habit of robbing convenience stores, he falls for police officer Ed (Hunter) and after his third spell in prison he decides to settle down with Ed and hope to start a family.

When the couple learn they can’t have children, their lives take a turn for the worse until rich businessman Nathan Arizona Sr (Wilson) has 5 babies, believing they can help, they steal one of the babies and the events of the film follows them trying to keep the baby and avoid the law.

 

Thoughts on Raising Arizona

 

Characters – H.I. McDunnough has been in and out of prison for the last decade each time getting closer to the arresting officer, deciding he wants to go clean he gets married and plans to start a family, only for his past to come back and haunt him forcing him to return to the life of crime. He is a character that has fallen into the life of crime and just can’t get out of it. Ed is a police officer that hasn’t had the best life, she falls for H.I. getting married and wanting to start a family. She learns she can’t have child, turning to a life of crime to get her own child. Nathan Arizona Sr is the father of the five babies willing to pay anything to get his son back legally or not. Gale is one half of criminal buddies pairing of H.I. that after breaking out of prison turns to his friend for help.

PerformancesNicolas Cage is wonderful in the leading role, where we see him show moments of his crazy level while giving a performance you will remember. Holly Hunter is great too where we see her create a performance where you feel for the pain and confliction her character goes through. When we look at the supporting cast we do get good performances from everyone that will give us enough to enjoy what we saw.

StoryThe story here follows an unlikely couple that decide to take a child because they couldn’t have one of their own. We follow the build up to their relationship and focus on how the couple’s life had the ups and downs before the incident.  By using a very real situation people could go through by not being able to have children and showing the fact the adoption process isn’t the fairest on the people that would offer a good home is important for the film. the hapless events the couple go through adds to the story and as with most of the Coen bothers movies we get lots of arcs that come together to add up to a final act which pts everything together.

Comedy/CrimeThe comedy in the film comes from the events that the couple must go through, usually coming from H.I. actions in what is a crime world where he is a petty criminal taking any advantages he can.

SettingsThe film takes us to the open America where money would be tight leading to the mistakes being made by the people who are just desperate for anything to come their way.


Scene of the Movie –
The diaper chase.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The baby forgetting scenes.

Final ThoughtsThis is a classic crime comedy that shows us just how talented the Coen Brothers are, we get to see the best of Cage and a story which can be enjoyed by all.

 

Overall: Crime Comedy that is a must watch.

Rating

 

 

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Edward Norton Weekend – Primal Fear (1996)

Director: Gregory Hobilt

Writer: Steve Shagan, Ann Biderman (Screenplay) William Diehl (Novel)

Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Terry O’Quinn, Andre Braugher

 

Plot: An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.


Tagline – Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real.

Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brilliant Thriller

 

Story: Primal Fear starts when the Archbishop is murdered, all clues point to bloody covered Aaron (Norton) as the murderer, he shy stuttering alter boy. When former district prosecutor Martin Vail (Gere) turned defence lawyer sees this as a spotlight for his new career direction and going against former colleague Janet (Linney) and her boss the district attorney Shaughnessy (Mahoney) the case goes to trial.

When Martin learns that Aaron has a split personality disorder with a much more aggressive Roy doing the dirty work for Aaron and the bigger picture of the motivation behind the murder comes to light.

 

Thoughts on Primal Fear

 

Characters – Martin Vail is the lawyer, he once was one of the biggest prosecutors in the city but has turned his back on that career to become a defence lawyer. He sees this case as the one that will give him his big break as a defence lawyer doing this case for free. He has a strong trusted team, he is made out to be a womaniser, though we never see him hit on anyone, only that he once had a fling with Janet in the past. Janet is the prosecutor that is taking the case, she is the one taking over Martin’s role and with a previous relationship with him. She knows this will be a career maker for her and is enjoying going head to head with her former mentor. Shaughnessy is the District Attorney that wants the death penalty and will not let Janet forget this. Aaron is the shy alter boy that is accused of murder but with him being found covered in blood even if you can’t see him doing this murder, Roy is the aggressive personality next to Aaron that knows the truth and seems to be the release of everything Aaron holds in. Shoat is the judge trying to control the case in what lawyers are trying to pull for their wins. Molly is psychologist that is studying Aaron trying to figure out what his mindset learning about Roy.

PerformancesRichard Gere is fantastic in the leading role, you see here how he shows the desperate he is to win this case. Laura Linney is strong in her role which must go against Richard Gere. Edward Norton gives one of the best debut roles of any actor in the history of film, he is disturbed when needed and calm when Aaron and crazed when Roy. The supporting cast are great too without taking the spotlight of the rest of the cast.

StoryThe story follows the trial of a disturbed young man accused of murdering an archbishop. While the court case unfolds like you would expect with twists coming from every corner and evidence coming to light through nearly every witness. As a fan of courtroom dramas this plays into everything I enjoy and I love watching crimes get solved in a courtroom. The story is very well paced and even being over 2 hours long doesn’t feel like you are giving the film this much time.

Crime/MysteryThe crime focuses on the murder and what gave the killer motivation, the mystery plays into the motivation too and just how the shy timid altar boy could have committed the murder.

SettingsThe film uses the courtroom for most of the scenes, we have the location involved in the crime too which shows how the lawyers are operating on both sides of the case.


Scene of the Movie –
The final twist.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I would say the side case Martin worked on being touched on through the main case gets slightly annoying.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the best courtroom dramas of all time, with a crime which does balance the line between what would be considered a bigger crime and performances that could be considered the career best for members of the cast.

 

Overall: Courtroom delight.

Rating

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh (Screenplay)

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas hedges, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones

 

Plot: A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.


Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Darkly Humorous

 

Story: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starts as Mildred Hayes (McDormand) puts up three billboards in a quiet road questioning how Willoughby (Harrelson) hasn’t solved the case of her daughter’s rape and murder. Fellow officer Dixon (Rockwell) who has a chequered past is enraged by the signs, while officer Willoughby tries to clean up the situation and prove there isn’t enough to solve the case, but with his dying he does want to solve the case before he goes.

As the billboards stay up longer, the town starts to become divided on the support in catching the killer and Mildred does to extremes in her battle with Dixon to get the case solved.

 

Thoughts on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Characters – Mildred Hayes is a mother that has run out of patience when it comes to the police finding the killer off her daughter, she did have the full support of the town, but this stunt pushes the people away even if it could get her the killer to identify themselves. Willoughby is the lead investigator in the case, he has done everything he could to solve the case, but he is now facing his own battle with cancer, while keeping the peace in the town. Dixon is the hot-headed police officer that clashes with Mildred and anyone who supports her in finding out the truth.

PerformancesFrances McDormand shows us that she can reach the Fargo levels whenever the material is given to her, as she shines through as the best part of this movie. Woody Harrelson is great again this year, showing us he can step into any role and be great. Sam Rockwell is wonderful too as we see that this cast is filled with talent character performers.

StoryThe story shows the extremes of losing a child, the stress of noting being able to solve one of the worst cases in the town. This does turn into a character studio on the people involved and how their lives need to move on without a chance of every being able to. It is hard to describe this story in much more depth because it is interesting, it does have a lot going on that keeps us wanting to see where the film will go.

Comedy/CrimeThis does use dark humour throughout as we are seeing the effects of the crime on people’s lives, don’t expect to see an investigation though, we are focusing on the relationship between the mother of the victim and the police.

SettingsThe film takes place in this small town where everyone seems to know everyone, so they have all felt the effects of the crime, this helps when things start to get exposed.


Scene of the Movie –
Window smashing, it is a well shot single looking take.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The answer is frustrating.

Final ThoughtsThis is a dark humour that can be enjoyed by the fans of that genre, it does have a good subject matter but doesn’t get to a level in the story that I enjoyed watching.

 

Overall: Dark comedy through a serious subject matter.

Rating

 

 

Mississippi Burning (1988)

Director: Alan Parker

Writer: Chris Gerolmo (Screenplay)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R Lee Ermey, Gailard Sartain, Michael Rooker

 

Plot: Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Difficult to Watch but Brilliant Thriller

 

Story: Mississippi Burning starts by taking us to 1964 Mississippi where we see a group of civil rights activates executed on the road. Agent Rupert Anderson (Hackman) and Agent Alan Ward (Dafoe) get assigned to the case where they must work with local Sheriff Ray Stuckey (Sartain).

In the middle of the racial tension the colour divide is still strong here with the Ku Klux Klan ruling the neighbourhood, Agent Ward is open to anyone for information, race isn’t an issue for him, Agent Anderson is similar but also knows how to handle the tension by being more discreet. When the agents find themselves targeted the inexperience Ward calls for more agents starting a full task force in the town as they search for the missing civil rights activists.

The case becomes difficult to investigate for the agents as they find themselves being shunned by both races but also needing to investigate the law in the town as they look for the answers to this case.

 

Thoughts on Mississippi Burning

 

Characters/PerformanceAgent Rupert Anderson is an experienced FBI agent that knows how to deal with racial tension in towns and knows how to get people to talk. He gets frustrated having to work under Ward as he feels like he knows how to work this case better. Agent Alan Ward comes into this case with no experience in the field, he is used to everyone being treated equal and takes time to learn that his by the book methods aren’t going to get the answers required. He does learn from Anderson as the case continues and the two make a brilliant team. Mrs Pell is one of the most important witnesses in the case but it is whether she can be honest about her husband’s Deputy Pell’s where about. Nearly all of the white authority characters are suspects in this film, we literally just don’t know who is the leader but they are all single minded in their cause.

Performance wise, Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are fantastic together in this film, you can see in their performances the difference in characters but not in motives. Frances McDormand is also great through the supporting role and the cast is filled with stars that show their skills.

StoryThe story is based on a real event that happened, so you would have to be sensitive when considering this story too much. The truth is shown to us what the biggest problem in American modern history, the failure of certain states to give up the racial divide. The story is driven by the racial tension which keeps the story on edge from start to finish which makes the story fly by.

Crime/History/MysteryThe crime side of this film is full of all the tension need as we know early on just what has happened but we are left to wonder just how long until the mystery if fully solved. It also shows us the history of these cases that show us just how backwards people’s mindsets were.

SettingsThe film is set in Mississippi which gives us a look at the locations the crimes would have taken place.

Final ThoughtsThis is difficult to watch in places but is also one of the tensest thrillers you will see.

 

Overall: This is a must watch for all thriller fans.

Rating

 

 

Matt Damon Weekend – Promised Land (2012)

promised landDirector: Gus Van Sant

Writer: John Krasinski, Matt Damon (Screenplay) Dave Eggers (Story)

Starring: Matt Damon, Hal Holbrook, Frances McDormand, Titus Welliver, John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucas Black, Scoot McNairy

 

Plot: A salesman for a natural gas company experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the available resources.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good Drama

 

Story: Promised Land starts as we meet Steve Butler (Damon) one of the best salesmen for a natural gas company where he makes the most and cheapest purchases within his company. Steve teams up with Sue (McDormand) to meet the locals of a small town where the natural gas is up for grabs.

What looks like an easy job takes a turn for worse when Frank Yates (Holbrook) challenges the idea of fracking in the town which leads to an environmental guy Dustin Noble (Krasinski) supporting the town. This leads to a battle to make his sell go through with the town turning on him supporting Dustin.

Promised Land is a drama that throws us into the world of potential fracking pros and cons. We get to see how small town America is struggling with money and can get taken advantage of by big businesses. We get to see how even the guy trying to make the deals can fall victim to what is the right to wrong choices being made. The story does flow nicely but in the end it does all come down to an audience member needing to be in the right mood for this film.

 

Actor Review

 

Matt Damon: Steve works for a natural gas company and is one of the best in the business always making the sales. He is on the verge of a promotion but this latest sale which seems so easy takes a turn for the worse when he has to go against an environmentalist while he also falls for a local girl. Matt is good in this leading role.

John Krasinski: Dustin is an environmentalist who has come to the town to warn them of the effects of fracking making Steve’ job very difficult. He is a victim of what happens to fracking and his evidence puts the deal up in the air. John makes for a good opposite to Damon through the film.

Frances McDormand: Sue is the partner of Steve’s, she keeps him in line while keeping her own relationship with her son going. She approaches her deals differently to Steve and is always someone he can throw ideas around with. Frances is good as this supporting character throughout.

Support Cast: Promised Land has a supporting cast that all feel like different members of a tight community the town is with each of their own problems.

Director Review: Gus Van SantGus does a good job directing this showing us Steve’s struggles through the situation.

 

Drama: Promised Land puts us into the morale questions of whether short term money is enough to cover long environmental effects.

Settings: Promised Land puts us in the small town where each moment in the film feels like we are following a small community.
Suggestion
: Promised Land is one to try mostly because the subject isn’t the most popular for the audience to see. (Try It)

 

Best Part: The questions being asked about whether fracking is the right decision or not.

Worst Part: Slightly to campaign heavy.

 

Believability: This is a subject going on around the world at the moment.

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $15 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Tagline: What’s your price?

 

Overall: Very informative drama about the pros and cons of fracking.

Ratingcard