The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part V: The Limey

When it comes to things that could be added to make movies better, I have a tough time thinking of something to top the addition of an English gangster. I really don’t know why, but it seems their funny accents and ruthless attitudes give a fresh and bad-ass spin on things. So when a movie is centered on an English mobster, it’s destined to be one of my favorites. Not long ago I discovered an English gangster movie that somehow slipped under my radar, and once I saw it – Sweet Jesus – it blew my mind. That movie is The Limey.

The titular limey is portrayed by Terrance Stamp (Superman I & II, Red Planet), one of the most singularly frightening men on the planet. Throughout his career, Stamp has made other English tough-guys like Malcolm McDowell look like Travolta. Compared to the man who told the world to “Kneel before Zod,” we are all women. Here he plays Wilson, a recently paroled convict who must come to the United States to investigate the death of his daughter. The papers say it’s an accidental death, but of course Wilson doesn’t buy that.

Wilson travels to Los Angeles and meets up with his daughter’s friends played by Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren. The friends caution him to let it go, they buy the accident even if Wilson doesn’t. When the violence starts to unfold, it’s almost with a casual brutality. Wilson kills as naturally as he breathes. There’s not an iota of nerves in the man.

What really makes The Limey great is the fact that as the movie proceeds, everything occurs very naturally in relation to the characters. The story is ultimately a requiem for Wilson’s daughter; the tale of a man who pushed his family away by living a life of crime. Most crime movies feature stoic characters going through the paces of a caper or mystery but are cold at the core. The Limey is an exception; it has an emotional tug not often seen.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11,12,13, Out of Sight, Traffic) and written by Lem Dobbs (Dark City, The Score) the movie sports a slightly-too-stylized look that maybe could have been toned down to make the movie grittier. At first, the style kind of trips over itself, but by the time the action picks up the movie is firing on all cylinders. The Limey is one of Soderbergh’s movies that slipped between the cracks of Out of Sight and Erin Brokovitch. That’s too bad, because really this movie is a gem that shouldn’t be missed.

– Meller

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part IV: Sunshine

The most recent entry into TBMYNS is somewhat of an enigma to me. This movie is a recent release with a major director and cast, yet it seems that nobody saw it. And wow, that’s a mistake. It seems that together director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland are slowly working through the genres, doing one picture in each of drama (The Beach), horror (28 Days Later) and finally sci-fi with the stellar (pun intended) Sunshine.

Sunshine is a movie with a simple premise, stated in the opening voiceover of the movie. “Our sun is dying. Mankind faces extinction. Seven years ago the Icarus project sent a mission to restart the sun but that mission was lost before it reached the star. Sixteen months ago, I, Robert Capa, and a crew of seven left earth frozen in a solar winter. Our payload, a stellar bomb with a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island. Our purpose, to create a star within a star. Eight astronauts strapped to the back of a bomb. My bomb. Welcome to the Icarus Two.” And it only gets better from there.

Sunshine is a movie that grabs hold and doesn’t let go. What begins as a tense interpersonal drama evolves into something much more frightening as the film progresses. The events on board the ship are so engrossing that it is easy to forget the fate of the world hangs in the balance of their mission, no easy task. I went into Sunshine with very little conception of what I was seeing, and I was supremely impressed by the twists and turns that the story takes. Sunshine is definitely a sci-fi film, but it crosses into other genres so effortlessly that it is astounding.

Part of what makes Sunshine so great is the cast. Leading the way is none other than the scarecrow himself, Cillian Murphy. Murphy plays Robert Capa, the physicist and man in charge of the biggest bomb ever created. This is ultimately his movie, but there are strong supporting performances by Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis and Troy Garity. Evans plays as a foil to Murphy, and the two begin as enemies stuck together on board the same ship. Byrne serves as the love interest, while Curtis is engrossing as the ship’s psychiatrist who is obsessed with looking into the sun from the ship’s observation deck. Garrity plays the second in command, and he is deeply flawed and human, often acting out of selfish impulses rather than for the good of the mission.

All in all, Sunshine is a movie that should not be missed. This tension filled thrill ride has no lulls and its unflinching look at the flawed personalities of the crew will draw in even the staunchest opponents of sci-fi. Unless you are a movie buff living in NY or LA, you missed this movie in theaters, so go out and rent it now.

– Meller

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part III: Get Carter (No, The Other One)

Trifecta readers – I know that I have been absent for quite some time, rendering this feature all but forgotten. My bad. If you cared. I was cranking out and polishing my first screenplay, Leopard, so at least there was a reason. Now all I have to do is sell the damn thing (Does anyone know an agent they wanna refer me to? Anyone? Please?). Now that it is done, I am proud to bring you volume three of the best movies you’ve never seen: Get Carter.

I’ve always said, and the majority of the world seems to agree with me, that remakes pretty much suck. They tend to take a few plot points from the original and redress them up in shittier settings, try to darken the tone, and toss in a few “Big Name” actors. However, when the original is darker than hell and stars one of the biggest names of the time, why the fuck would anyone ever try to remake it? I can’t claim to understand it, but nonetheless, in 2000 they remade one of the best revenge movies of all time, Get Carter.

The good version of Get Carter was released in 1971. Michael Caine stars as Jack Carter, a London gangster who must return home to Newcastle following the death of his brother. Obviously, it all goes to hell from there as Carter sets out on a bloody revenge kick to punish anyone and everyone responsible for his brother’s death.

Before Michael Caine started filling the niche market of stereotypical English servant, people thought his full name was Michael Fucking Caine because in every movie he seemed to be either boning or killing everyone in sight. Get Carter is no exception to this trend as he does plenty of both in the movie. At one point, two villains make the mistake of interrupting Carter mid-bone and he fends them off with a shotgun while still completely naked. They can’t decide which they’re more afraid of, the gun…or well, “the gun”. And that’s about as polite as Carter gets. He kills just about everyone in the entirety of Newcastle, regardless of reason. And he doesn’t let anyone hide behind that bullshit excuse of being a woman either, especially when he forces his brother’s ex-girlfriend to strip naked before giving her a fatal dose of heroin and framing a local mob boss for her murder.

Mike Hodges directed and wrote the screenplay based on Ted Lewis’s novel Jack’s Return Home, which also spawned a blaxploitation feature less than a year after Get Carter. He does a superb job, filming his first of what will be many London gangster movies. Caine is fan-fucking-tastic, of course, as the titular Carter. Hell, people in 1971 London were crying for the movie and Caine to be banned due to the “soulless and nastily erotic…virtuoso viciousness” of the film. It’s that bad-ass. Go see it now.

– Meller

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part II: The Long Goodbye

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If you’ve gone to college, you’ve undoubtedly watched and loved The Big Lebowski. It’s likely that you’ve thought to yourself, “Cool! White Russians!” Maybe you were impressed by the humor, maybe it was Sam Elliot’s slick western narration, or maybe you’re just a stoner who likes seeing other stoners on screen. It’s doubtful you appreciated the classic film noir elements present, the way its story is similar to classics such as The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity, but they are there nonetheless. It’s an updated take on noir, no doubt, moving the detective from the 1940’s to the early 90’s, and it is in this respect that Lebowski owes a huge debt to one of the best movies you’ve never seen: The Long Goodbye.

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Directed by Robert Altman, The Long Goodbye follows the classic detective Phillip Marlowe (Played by Elliot Gould here, and once played by Bogart in 1946’s The Big Sleep) in a twisting story kicked off by Marlowe’s desire to clear his friends name after he is accused of murder. The story is adapted from Raymond Chandler’s novel also titled The Long Goodye, but the movie takes some liberties with the story that really set it apart. Like Lebowski, The Long Goodbye is set in the time of the film’s production, in this case the early 1970’s.

I don’t want to go into the plot here, since that’s most of the draw of a detective movie, but suffice it to say that it twists and turns with the best of them. The acting is also excellent. Gould does an exceptional job of playing Marlowe, the quintessentially smart-mouthed detective. He gives shit to everyone and takes a fair share in return, yet there’s something so Lebowski about him. His place is a shithole, he has virtually no personal life, and his one friend even calls him “a born loser.” It’s really incredible to watch. The movie features noir veteran Sterling Hayden as a drunken old author who’s absolutely menacing to watch as he goes into his tantrums. Making a small cameo as a jacked-as-hell bodyguard is the governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Long Goodbye also features Mark Rydell as the Jewish gangster Marty Augustine. His act of intentionally deforming his girlfriend’s face has subsequently appeared in many movies since.

But it’s the setting that’s really the star in the Long Goodbye. 1970’s LA is a strange land as we learn. Marlowe’s neighbors are a group of female nudists (nice) and they sit in a circle on the deck all day chanting. When someone asks what they’re doing Marlowe tells them “It’s something called yoga.” There is a mental hospital run by a short, creepy and threatening man. It has to be seen to be believed. Despite the fact that I liked the additions made to the movie from the book purists hated the idea of changing the story so much. But fuck them, they’re wrong. This movie rules. Go watch it now. Besides, how can a movie be not kick ass if its tagline is “Nothing says goodbye like a bullet.”

– Meller

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Part I: The Proposition

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Chances are that the name John Hillcoat doesn’t mean anything to you. You’ve never heard it, but you should have. Hillcoat is the man tapped to direct the adaptation of ‘finally getting the damned recognition he deserves author’ Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, The Road, a book that despite being a post-apocalyptic tale, was selected for Oprah’s Book Club. Now, my problem with that book club aside (I fucking loved it when Jonathan Franzen told Oprah that there was no way in hell she could put his book in that club), The Road is pure McCarthy, bleak, dark, yet beautiful. Thanks to the success of the 2007’s best movie, No Country for Old Men, McCarthy’s works are hot. And if he’s so sought after, you ask, why give this movie to John Hillcoat? Who the fuck is he?

The answer to this question leads me to one of the better movies that no one has seen: The Proposition. In 2005, Hillcoat teamed with writer Nick Cave (as in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) to create this absolutely perfect Australian western set in the late 1800’s. The story follows a very simple premise: Outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce – Memento, LA Confidential) is given the titular proposition by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone – Beowulf, The Departed) – He can save his simple, damaged brother Mikey’s life by killing the worst of the family Arthur Burns (Danny Huston – Children of Men, The Aviator).

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The performances by the three main players are absolutely stellar. Pearce is a likeable, principled villain. He has no qualms about murder, but he’s not a psychopath in any way. Winstone’s Captain Stanley is a simple man with his one desire to “civilize this place.” He recognizes that Arthur must be stopped, even if it means letting the others go. Huston menacingly steals his scenes as Arthur. He goes from torturing, murdering and raping a family to quoting poetry and talking about the beauty of the Outback. In addition to these three, Emily Watson, David Wenham and John Hurt manage to put in very enjoyable smaller performances. Nick Cave, of course, does a great job composing an emotional and haunting score.

The movie flies along headfirst towards its conclusion, never giving the audience a chance to catch their breath. The action is harsh and brutal; it dares you to keep watching, and the payoff is huge. The Proposition is a movie that will stay with you for days, and even two years after first watching the movie; there are still scenes I cannot forget. The Proposition is a movie that doesn’t leave you with a feeling of plot resolution, instead instilling in the viewers a feeling that may very well render them speechless for a few minutes, much in the way that No Country for Old Men does. That ability of Hillcoat’s, to render an emotional and heartfelt ending after a bleak and violent film, is why he is perfect to helm the adaptation of The Road.

– Meller