Thursday, April 7, 2011

2 Brief 2011 Movie Reviews: The Adjustment Bureau; Kill the Irishman

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Director - George Nolfi
PG-13; 106 min
Matt Damon  - David Norris
Emily Blunt  - Elise
Anthony Mackie - Harry
Terence Stamp - Thompson

Do humans have free will, or are we all just puppets with pre-destined fates? This is the over-arching question and premise of The Adjustment Bureau, a film I am happy to say I found very well made with a story that flowed well and, as long as you can shrug off a few hard-to-believe-the-characters-would-actually-do-that moments, a film that posits some interesting scenarios but never pushes things on us which would make it too preachy or over-bearing.  Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have wonderful chemistry in a film where you absolutely must believe in the chemistry for anything to work, and a supporting cast of characters including Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp who hold sci-fi/spiritual powers as they live and move among people, checking their architectural maps of our lives to give a nudge here and there to make sure we stay on the correct paths.  I thought lots of things were just right in this film, including the pitch, the cast, and the running time, making this one of the rare films I had very little interest in seeing but am very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

**** out of 5

Kill the Irishman (2011)
Director - Jonathan Hensleigh
R; 106 min
Ray Stevenson - Danny Greene
Vincent D'Onofrio  - John Nardi
Val Kilmer - Joe Manditski
Christopher Walken - Shondor Birns

With a gritty look and feel, Kill the Irishman brings us back to a time when Cleveland was in a mafia war surrounded by unions, and in the middle of it all was Danny Greene.  As is often the case in the crime world, a lower level thug can sometimes raise through the ranks to obtain power and prestige through sheer will, charisma, and some broken skulls.  Ray Stevenson does a good job for most of the film keeping us interested in the story of Danny Greene, though he does have a small habit of taking us in the direction of a made-for-tv-movie feel at times, which is really my main critique of the film, of course that is probably just as much to blame on some of the writing for certain scenes which just felt out of place.  A really nice supporting cast helps bring this story to life as we witness a film based on true events in Cleveland, OH in the 1970s that saw some thirty+ car bombings in one summer alone and is the basis for the eventual downfall of the heads of all the major crime families in New York.  It is nearly impossible to watch a film like this and not make some comparisons to the great and beloved mob movies we all know and I suppose I am having trouble grading this one because it never reaches any level of specialness for me, but overall it is well done and a great way to spend a few hours.

*** and 1/2 out of 5

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