The Conversation (1974)


What a STUPID Conversation.

The Conversation (1974)I thought that I would’ve been able to get far more reviews out of my Film Criticism class than I did.  It was a class where I watch movies and write about them, for God’s sake!  How could I not just take my assignments and add a few more penis jokes and release them to my readers?  I’ll tell you how: because most of the movies we watched were boring and pretentious.  I didn’t even want to talk about the boring, black and white movies that we had to watch from week to week.  How would you all want to read about them?  The movies that I did choose from this class to review for you guys were the least pretentious.  And also they were in color.  Perhaps that’s how I judge pretention: strictly based on the color palate.  Well let’s see if I liked it as I review The Conversation, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, and Teri Garr.

A surveillance expert named Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) has been tasked by The Director (Robert Duvall) to record a boring conversation between two people (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) about Christmas shopping or some shit.  He edits the tapes with his colleague Stan (John Cazale) and goes to turn it in to The Director, only to find that he’s out and he would have to leave it with his assistant Martin Stett (Harrison Ford), which was not part of their agreement.  So he keeps the tapes until he can meet with The Director as agreed, and he decides to go to a convention for surveillance gear.

Does it sound like nothing happens in this movie?  That’s because it doesn’t.  At least it doesn’t until the very end when some big reveals are dropped, but without spoiling the big reveals of this movie I can only really talk about what sounds like a really boring movie.  The movie was not what I expected it to be.  When it opened I thought it was going to be about snipers because they were watching people through a scope.  It turns out to be about surveillance.  And more specifically, the surveillance of two people having a boring conversation.  I assume this is to be a metaphor for the audience, who will spend ¾ of this movie watching people have boring conversations and wondering what the point is.  If I wasn’t watching this movie for a class, I would’ve checked out at about the halfway point … and it would’ve been my loss.  It ends really strong and exciting.  I didn’t see the first reveal (the reason that the two people were being recorded) coming, and I didn’t see the second reveal (the actual subject of the conversation) coming.  And the way they handled it was very exciting and suspenseful.  It finally made the movie feel like it was worth watching, but it takes so long to get there I don’t know that I’d actually recommend it.  You have to sit through a lot of boring to get to a reason to like the movie.

The performances were all great, so at least the people that are into that sort of thing will have something to watch for most of this movie.  Gene Hackman was great, but the movie never really required him to stretch his acting chops until maybe the end.  I did think it was a little weird that he was a surveillance expert at a conference for surveillance gear but thought nothing of it when that douche bag guy slipped a pen into his jacket.  They make microphones around that size, don’t they?  Oh well, probably not worth thinking about.  Also, Robert Shields played a mime in this movie and I got to wondering: Is a mime’s sole purpose in the world to be annoying?  It seemed to be the mission of this mime in the beginning of the movie.  I’ve never heard of anyone that likes mimes so how is it ever a job anyone takes?  And speaking of annoying: what was the deal with the guy waiting outside the phone booth that started tapping on the door the second he arrived at it?  The world doesn’t move at your schedule, asshole!  This is how lines work!

The Conversation is a good movie that I don’t feel confident in recommending because, to people like me, it requires far too much patience to reach the point where it’s worth the wait.  Nothing seems to happen in the movie until the last 15 minutes of the movie, when the movie reveals itself to the audience and finally becomes worth the 100 minutes you’ve already trudged through, but you must still sit through those 100 minutes to get it.  If that sounds like something you’re able to do, or if you just want to see Gene Hackman being pretty great, then I would recommend this movie.  Otherwise you can skip it.  The Conversation gets “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder” out of “This conversation is over.”

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Heartbreakers (2001)


If I Were a Guy, I’d Do You.

Back from my October Horrorthon, I decided that I needed to try to focus on some outstanding requests that I’ve had building up.  The first one I decided to take a look at was from my friend Grabooski.  A while ago, the ‘Booski requested two movies of me that I kept putting off.  I think I was thrown off by how random the two movies seemed to be, and also put off by the fact that they seemed more like chick flicks.  But I’ve never reviewed a movie for her, so I decided to do one of her movies first.  I knew about the movie that I picked because I saw the poster for it and specifically decided not to ever watch it ever.  But that was before I took requests.  Now that I do, I wouldn’t even bother acting like there is something that I wouldn’t watch.  And so, to expand my horizons, I decided to review Heartbreakers, written by Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, and Stephen Mazur, directed by David Mirkin, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Gene Hackman, Nora Dunn, Anne Bancroft, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Carrie Fisher, and Kevin Nealon.

Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Page Conners (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother-daughter con artist team.  We start our journey with them watching as Max cons small-time Mafioso Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta) into marrying her, and then getting a divorce on the first day by getting Page to seduce him into cheating on her.  After collecting the settlement, they are confronted by an IRS agent (Anne Bancroft) who informs them that they owe a lot of money in back taxes.  This forces them to head to Palm Beach to find one last big score.  They pick a tobacco baron named William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman), whose addiction to his own product has significantly reduced his time amongst the living.  While Max is working on him, Page finds a bartender named Jack (Jason Lee), who stands to gain a large sum of money if he sells his bar, and Page decides to try to take on this con on her own, behind her mother’s back.

I wouldn’t say Heartbreakers was a bad movie, but I also couldn’t bring myself to act like it was good.  Probably the first thing I noticed about the movie is that it was entirely predictable.  Around the point of the IRS thing in the story, I could’ve guessed how the rest of it was going to turn out.  I guess I couldn’t have predicted that they were going to entirely forget to wrap up the Gene Hackman story though.  Did they get his money?  Did they get nothing?  Did the police suspect the strange woman he had been spending all his time with?  Or are we just going to forget about that storyline and jump back into the Jason Lee love story?  Probably that one.  This could easily be tolerable if the movie was entertaining, but it sadly fell short.  It just wasn’t funny to me.  There were maybe one or two mildly amusing moments in the movie, but one or two will not sustain me for over two hours of movie.  If it had ended about a half hour earlier when it should have … well … I probably still wouldn’t have found it very entertaining.  And I’m always confused about how that happens when they have the good sense to hire some really funny people to act in the movie.  Kevin Nealon, Sarah Silverman, and Zach Galifianakis were all in this movie.  You couldn’t have asked their opinion on punching up a few jokes?  Instead, you have a joke where a guy dies by falling over and hitting his face on a statue’s penis, a penis that then ends up in his mouth while he’s on the floor.  I wrote that same joke once … when I was 10.  It got lots of laughs.  I ended up spending a good portion of the movie focusing on these two women and their abilities as con women.  They did not seem all that great at their job.  When they reveal that they are con women early in the movie, they are super blunt about it, revealing everything at a gas station with all the wig removal and conning a guy into buying their gas.  Was I not supposed to have figured that out a long time ago?  When I saw Jennifer Love Hewitt for the first time, I knew they were con women.  Well, first I touched myself, and THEN I knew they were con women.  Later in the movie, I started to realize that they weren’t that good at it.  Why would they leave their money in a bank, especially if they weren’t going to pay the IRS?  Even though you know they have money and would be afraid of government investigation, why would you con someone in organized crime?  That just seems dangerous.  If you’re going to decide to take on an unnecessary Russian accent to woo your target, shouldn’t you learn more than the word for “Yes” and the lyrics to a Beatles song about the USSR?  Or at least try to stay out of situations where someone might find out that you didn’t do your research and learn the language?  And how did it take them so long to figure out that they should perhaps ask the mobster who shows up in love with Max how they should dispose of the dead body they had created?

All that being said, I’d say the real reason to watch this movie is the performances.  Well, not so much the performances as the performers.  And not so much the performers as Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt being really hot.  I found the movie predictable, a little dumb, and extremely rarely funny, but they were able to keep me watching by having those two lovely ladies wearing some skimpy clothing through the greater majority of the movie.  I spent most of the movie trying to figure out which one I’d rather have.  Physically, JLH is hotter, and almost to a ridiculous extent.  When they were talking about how fast they could get a guy to marry them, I was thinking that 3 months seems like a long time and either woman could probably get me to do it way faster than that.  But I actually think Sigourney could do it faster.  I mean, she’s got way more nerd cred.  She was in the Alien movies AND Ghostbusters.  And did you see the underwear she wore on her honeymoon with Liotta?  Ridiculous.

For as much as I thought Heartbreakers was predictable, too long, and not funny, I didn’t really find the movie painfully bad.  And I think it’s entirely based on Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hotness.  There are people that may find this movie funny.  I wasn’t one of them, but I could see it happening.  But if you’re a guy and you can’t watch a movie with Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt dressed skimpy and hot, then there’s a very good chance you like penis.  You can check this movie out on Netflix streaming if vagina is more to your liking.  Heartbreakers gets “I love a woman who eats raw meat” out of “Isn’t that the same shoe you wanted to jam up my ass?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Quick and the Dead (1995)


We Both Have Guns.  We Aim, We Fire, You Die.

Westerns are some of my favorite movies, so including it as a category in my contest was a given.  What wasn’t a given was which movie it would be.  Being a fan of the genre, it could have been any number of movies.  I’ve already reviewed True Grit, so that was out.  I really like the Unforgiven, but it’s a little too slow for my tastes so I don’t think it’d make it as my favorite.  It could’ve been any number of Sergio Leone and/or Clint Eastwood movies, but I don’t have that much love for older movies.  That being the case, one western movie caught my attention, so I picked it.  Going into it, I remember being very fond of this movie, but wasn’t sure how well my memory holds up.  So I’m throwing the dice and hoping that I was right in thinking I really liked the Quick and the Dead, written by Simon Moore, directed by Sam Raimi, and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Roberts Blossom, Gary Sinise, Kevin Conway, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Mark Boone Junior, Tobin Bell, Jonothon Gill, Lennie Loftin, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Josef Rainer, Pat Hingle, Raynor Scheine, and Olivia Burnette.

A lady named Ellen, but referred to almost exclusively as “The Lady” (Sharon Stone), rides into the town of Redemption, where a single elimination quick draw contest is about to start.  The town is run by the ruthless John Herod (Gene Hackman) and the Lady enters the contest shortly after Herod does, and shortly after saving the life of a reverend named Cort (Russell Crowe) who used to ride with Herod.  Then she gets drunk and sleeps with another contestant, Herod’s son “The Kid” (Leonardo DiCaprio).  As the contest movies along, the Lady is revealed to have a deep hatred for Herod, but we find out why slowly.  Will the Lady be fast enough to kill Herod?

Hey!  I was right!  I still really liked this movie.  It’s just badass.  The action is well realized, the directing is great, and the story was very involving.  At first, the movie makes itself seem like it has a pretty obvious story, being all about the quick draw contest.  It would be interesting enough with this, but wouldn’t be anything special.  It’s not until the Lady’s motivations of revenge bubbles up that I started getting more invested in the movie, but it works very well.  She’s definitely got a really good reason for hating Herod, and when it’s finally shown in its entirety, it’s such a horrible thing that happened to her that you can’t wait for her to kill this dude.  Not that he had made himself seem like a likeable character at any point in the movie as everyone hates him, but even he has some decent reasoning for the way he is.  Cort also has a pretty great back story.  As a matter of fact, a lot of the characters in the contest are given enough story that they’re mostly not just bullet fodder.  I would say that one thing didn’t make sense about the story.  If everyone in the town knew how fast and deadly Herod was, why would any of them join the contest?  Cort didn’t have a choice, the Lady had revenge on her mind, and the Kid wanted to earn his father’s respect, but all of the other people should’ve known better.  The dialogue in this movie was also very crisp and most of the characters had a nice snappy line prepared for any old situation.

All of the action in this movie worked very well for me.  Some people might think quick draw shootouts move a little slow, but I appreciate them so long as they build up the tension well leading up to the draw.  And Raimi does it very well, using a lot of quick cuts, close ups on the faces of the contestants, and quick zooms on the clock that will set things in motion.  He also uses the montage a lot, but not in an annoying way.  It just works for getting the lesser contestants taken care of quickly so we don’t waste too much time.  And one of them was the people preparing for the contest, using various period-correct ways of loading their weapons, which would seem to be pretty boring, but I was interested by it.  He also uses shadows and lighting very well, like the part where it showed a guy had gotten shot clean through by having his shadow have a hole in the chest.  There was also a part where a character got his head canoed by a bullet that is one of the coolest and most memorable moments in the movie.  Even with my dim recollection of the movie, I remembered that part before I started watching.

The greater majority of the performances in this movie were just fantastic.  Sharon Stone sets herself up as a badass quick, fast, and in a hurry.  She’s got this gruff, abrasive exterior at all times, but sometimes shows that underneath she’s out of her element and frightened.  I thought this worked excellently for a character, starting her off as the classic, fearless protagonist, but then humanizing her.  Of course, at the very end of the movie she is just straight up badass.  She was almost scary when it came time for the climax of the movie.  Gene Hackman was almost always intimidating.  He played it as almost nice on the surface, but if he was even slightly crossed he turned very intimidating.  He even cracks that intimidating façade slightly when something actually happens that he seems to regret.  He’s mostly holding it back, but you can kind of see a hint of it.  I really liked Russell Crowe’s character in this movie.  He was always made out to be this epic badass and stone cold killer, but he had denounced violence and claimed he wouldn’t pick it up again.  When he did, it was great.  He has a little scene near the end of the movie where he takes out something like six guys in a very short amount of time and it was fantastic.  I liked Leonardo DiCaprio too.  He always had this cocky little twerp attitude, but it was clearly covering up some serious low self-esteem issues that had been beaten into him by his father.  He also performs it very well around the time when he’s going to face his father in the contest where he gets very serious for the first time, and has a very well-acted emotional scene shortly after.

The Quick and the Dead may not accurately be considered my favorite western movie, but I think it’s up there.  It’s a lot of good action, a very engaging story, and some pretty top notch performances to back it all up.  I’ve liked Sam Raimi as a director for a while, and he seems to fit into the western genre very nicely.  It’s not the most groundbreaking movie, but it’s pretty awesome.  Check this movie out.  The Quick and the Dead gets “Me and Jesse James think it’s the best handgun in the world” out of “Is it possible to improve on perfection?”

Congratulations again goes to Chris for guessing today’s movie and winning his third DVD in this contest.  A more paranoid man would begin to think that he’s got cameras in my bedroom and can see the stack of DVDs waiting to be reviewed, but I think I’ll just assume that he’s madly in love with me.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.