Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Heist Movies


I'm on vacation right now. I mean that literally. As you are reading this, I'm sleeping in (or possibly just going to bed). No wild and crazy nights for me, though. Just taking advantage of not having to be a slave to the alarm clock. I feel like I'm stealing time. I also stole a little time to even create this post. While my family were all taking a little siesta after a long day of spending what little money I have, I pulled out the laptop and got busy. Completing this post means I pulled off a great heist. And that's what this week's topic is for Thursday Movie Picks hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Okay, so that was pretty weak. Best I can do with my brain also on vacation. Once again playing it fairly straight this week, but hopefully with some unique picks. Let's get to it.

Harlem Nights
(1989)
The story concerns Sugar Ray (Richard Pryor), who runs an after-hours joint in Harlem with his adoptive son Quick (Eddie Murphy) during the Prohibition Era. Ray's trying to keep a pretty low profile, but is getting some pressure from big time gangster, Bugsy Calhoun (Michael Lerner). The heist comes in the film's second half as they decide to try and steal a boatload of Calhoun's money before getting out of town. This is one of my favorite Eddie Murphy flicks. He wrote, directed, and starred in this one. However, he was far from the lone star in the cast. He was joined in excellence by Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Danny Aiello, Robin Harris, Michael Lerner, Arsenio Hall, and brother Charlie Murphy in a bit role. More memorable than any of them is Della Reese in a role quite different than anything she's ever done.


Bound
(1996)
At first, we think Violet (Jennifer Tilly) is the stereotypical gangster's moll. She's been with Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) for quite a while, but is looking for bigger and better things. The chance to get them shows up in the form of Corky (Gina Gershon). She's an ex-con who has just been hired as a plumber in the apartment building where Violet and Caesar live. The two fall in love (or just lust) and quickly hatch a get rich plan: steal a bunch of mob money and pin it on Caesar. This is the directorial debut of the Wachowskis who would go on to helm The Matrix and Cloud Atlas among other things. I also like to call this one The Moment I Fell in Love with Jennifer Tilly.


JCVD
(2008)
The letters of the title are actually the initials of the film's star Jean-Claude Van Damme. He is playing himself, sorta. He is a down-on-his-luck actor with money troubles, unable to get into a decent production, embroiled in a nasty custody battle over a daughter that wants nothing to ado with him, and back in his native Brussels. While there he goes into a post-office/bank to receive some money via wire transfer. At that moment, some thugs burst in and start robbing the place. There's your heist. Of course, it turns into a hostage situation. Once the bad guys recognize Van Damme they try to use him to their advantage. The question becomes does he really get involved with them in a way that will profit him or is he playing along until the cops can get things under control? This is a contemplative film where the star sheds the action-star bravado and openly discusses his own career and personal issues. Seriously. Depending on how you feel about Van Damme movies take this as either a warning against or a ringing endorsement for JCVD because it is nothing like the rest of his catalog. Nothing.


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24 comments:

  1. I've only seen bits of JCVD as the stuff I saw was something I liked as I hope to see it as a whole to make a full opinion of it as I'm glad Jean-Claude Van Damme is making a comeback and not make an ass of himself like that fat, tubby bitch Steven Seagal.

    Harlem Nights I thought was alright. It's a messy film but it had some funny moments. Bound.... now what straight man didn't enjoy that film? :)

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    1. I highly recommend JCVD, but I wouldn't go so far as to say he hasn't been making an ass of himself. In the years since he's made tons of straight-to-DVD action flicks no one cares about. He does however, have The Expendables 2 and the Kung Fu Panda flicks.

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  2. I haven't seen any of these, but I've at least heard of Harlem Nights. It's been a long time since I've heard Jennifer Tilly's name anywhere.

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    1. Bound is pretty much Tilly's crowning achievement. It's an excellent film, aside from the girl-girl stuff.

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  3. BOUND. YES. That film is so freaking good. Girl-on-girl does nothing for me but THAT... *fans self*

    I REALLY want to see JCVD. Love him so and this one got really good reviews. Nice to see him expand his range a bit.

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    1. Bound has me fanning myself, too.

      Please check out JCVD. It really is like nothing he's ever done.

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  4. First of all Happy Vacation! It's always nice to get away.

    I saw Harlem Nights so long ago I have only vague memories of it but enough to know it's a good fit. It's the only one of yours I've seen this week. Bound is one I've considered from time to time but something has kept me away. I've been trying to fill in gaps in my viewing though so I'll have to give it a try. JCVD is however a gap that I think will remain so. I think the last one of his films I watched that I didn't think totally sucked was the one with Rosanna Arquette and that was YEARS ago.

    I love heist movies so there was a veritable feast to choose from but I managed to get down to three and an extra which is a classic of the genre.

    The Italian Job (2003)-Sleek adventure of a pair of heists, betrayal and revenge among a group of thieves most of whom are honorable in their way. Beautiful locations, a jaunty tone and sprightly performances by the entire cast filled with familiar faces make this a cut above. Everybody’s good but Seth Green and Mos Def stand out.

    Dog Day Afternoon (1975)-On a hot summer day in Brooklyn what starts as a poorly planned bank heist quickly devolves into both a hostage situation and a media circus when it becomes a police standoff. Brilliant Sidney Lumet directed film features three award caliber performances at its core from Al Pacino, Charles Durning and John Cazale.

    5 Against the House (1955)-Two college buddies Ronnie and Roy are pulled in briefly in connection with the attempted robbery of a Reno casino in which they had no part. Waiting to be released Ronnie overhears one of the cops say the casino can’t be successfully robbed and becomes obsessed with figuring out how to plan the perfect heist. Initially just an intellectual challenge until one of their other buddies, violent war vet Brick, discovers the plan and forces them to proceed involving the unsuspecting Al (Guy Madison) and his girlfriend, nightclub-singer Kaye (Kim Novak) along the way. Decent heist film that is rare among 50’s film in its allusions to Brick’s war experience (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) being at the root of his erratic behavior.

    Honorable Mention-The Asphalt Jungle (1950)-Ex-con Dix (Sterling Hayden) plans to steal a cool million in jewels. He gathers a team of small-time crooks together to pull the job, which is a success until a stray bullet kills one of the men. As they scramble to cover themselves the men become entangled in a web of treachery and murder. John Huston keeps the tension tight in this landmark noir that provided the first real step forward for Marilyn Monroe in the small part of Angela, one of the men’s kept woman.

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    1. Oh, I think you'll enjoy JCVD. This is not some Van Damme action flick. In fact, there is hardly any action at all. It sits completely apart from the rest of his filmography.

      Haven't seen The Asphalt Jungle, but that's been on my radar for a while. Never heard of 5 Against the House. It sounds interesting, though. I have seen The Italian Job and Dog Day Afternoon. I had big fun with the former, and the latter is just flat out brilliant.

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  5. I haven't seen any of these films but Harlem Nights sounds like a fun caper. The Van Damme film actually sounds pretty good as well. Not sure about Bound as not into seeing girl on girl whatever

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    1. There is the girl-girl aspect of Bound, but it's an excellent film around that portion of it.

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  6. Harlem Nights!!! Sean would be so happy to see it here.

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    1. Cool. Love hearing that someone else is a fan of this.

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  7. Jennifer Tilly...yes! I so need to see Bound. It always seemed sexy as hell, and I have new found love for Gina Gershon since watching Killer Joe. Hope your vacation went well. Glad you got some time to sleep. That's what my breaks are all about, bro.

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    1. Bound is very sexy. Hope you get to see it soon. Gershon was amazing in Killer Joe. She was perfectly skanky in a perfectly skanky movie.

      Yes, I got plenty of sleep, much more than I usually do. Thanks!

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  8. I liked Harlem Nights a lot more than I thought I would. It reminded me a great deal of The Sting in almost entirely positive ways.

    Good call on Della Reese, who is (at least for me) the main reason to see this. Just watch your pinkie toes.

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    1. It's a very fun movie. And definitely watch your pinky toes.

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  9. Bound!! Everyone was talking about this film at uni and we all sat down to watch it but for some reason we never got past the DVD menu. I need to see this!

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    1. Lol. Sounds like there was a party going on. I'm not mad at that. Do see it, though.

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  10. Such a fun selection Wendell! Man I haven't seen Harlem Nights in ages!

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  11. I've not seen any of these. Rififi is amazing btw if you get the chance.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I have heard that before so I should get on it.

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  12. I'm curious about JCVD, I heard it's good quite a lot.
    Hey, just to let you know, your links that you entered at my Thursday Movie Picks post for the last two weeks or so is for your Storm/Adverse Weather post instead of your current post.

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    1. Hmmm. That's what I get for trying to do it from my phone. I'll see if I can fix them tonight when I get home.

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