Tag Archives: Steve Buscemi

Con Air (1997) Review

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Con Air

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe
John Cusack as U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin
John Malkovich as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom
Steve Buscemi as Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene
Ving Rhames as Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones
Colm Meaney as Agent Duncan Malloy
Mykelti Williamson as Mike “Baby-O” O’Dell
Rachel Ticotin as Guard Sally Bishop
Director: Simon West

Cameron is a wrongly convicted prisoner who is going to be released when his plane is hijacked by other criminals. While they seize control of the plane, he attempts to wrest control and return home.

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When it comes to the 90s and especially for Nicolas Cage, Con Air is one of the quintessential action movies, even if I wouldn’t consider it one of the all time best. I rewatched it after many years after seeing it for the first time, and it was even more enjoyable than I remembered it being. It is absurd, yet thrilling, and constantly entertaining from beginning to end.

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One thing that everyone will say is that Con Air is very over the top and ridiculous, it is almost insane that this movie was made at all. It just runs with whatever ridiculous happens, no matter the absurdity, and it just keeps escalating and escalating. Its very noisy, and nothing about the movie is subtle. It is helped by a light tone and the simplicity of the plot, which is basically Die Hard on a plane. Nicolas Cage is a prisoner going home on a plane full of convicts, and the convicts take over the plane. This movie is always moving, with rarely a dull or boring moment. I also love how confident this movie is, there is an earnestness to the movie, even with the tongue in cheek and self-aware moments, which gives it a real personality. There are even certain choices that are played completely straight, but come across as unintentional comedic, and that adds to the movie if anything. Its really hard to criticise the writing of the movie because any negative you could find in it also serves as a positive (on an entertainment level at least). What I will say without spoilers is that once everything with the plane is done, there is a final action segment to conclude the movie. It is still enjoyable, but does feel a little tact on.

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There is a stacked cast with plenty of recognisable names here, and everyone delivers in their parts. They know what kind of movie they are in and are committed to the film despite the goofiness. Nicolas Cage leads this movie with long hair and a wonky Southern accent. Even though its not one of his all time best action roles, its one of his most memorable. He’s likable, easy to follow, and has some memorable moments and delivers some fun one liners. John Cusack is also good as a US Marshal who helps Cage along the way. The standout is John Malkovich as a menacing and great villain, I really don’t think the character and movie would’ve worked as well without Malkovich. Supporting villains including Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo are solid, and Steve Buscemi is a scene stealer.

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Something that also helps the movie is the direction by Simon West. Its so overblown yet well filmed, stylistically it is the epitome of 90s action cheese. The action is entertaining and intense, the camera movements are great, and everything from the fight scenes to the shootouts are crafted well. The score is wonderfully bombastic, and is operating at the right tone and feel for this movie.

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Con Air is the most Michael Bay movie that isn’t directed by Michael Bay. It has the right amount of absurdity, earnestness, and self-awareness, made even better by Simon West’s solid direction, and an ensemble of enjoyable performances led by Nicolas Cage. It is a lot of fun, and is a great candidate for the ultimate popcorn movie. If you like action movies especially those which are incredibly over the top, I think Con Air is worth checking out.

The Island (2005) Review

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The Island

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Tom Lincoln/Lincoln Six-Echo
Scarlett Johansson as Sarah Jordan/Jordan Two-Delta
Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent
Sean Bean as Dr. Merrick
Michael Clarke Duncan as Jamal Starkweather/Starkweather Two-Delta
Steve Buscemi as James “Mac” McCord
Director: Michael Bay

Futuristic thriller about a contained, seemingly utopian facility in the mid-21st century. The residents hope to be chosen to go to the Island – the last uncontaminated place on Earth, but when one inhabitant discovers that there are sinister forces at work, he and a female friend make a daring escape.

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I had some recollection of The Island, having first watched it many years ago. I remember it starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, and being one of the better Michael Bay movies. I decided to revisit it and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

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The Island has an interesting setup and premise, and I found the story to be interesting. I won’t say what the plot is about as I think it’s best going into it not knowing the reveals beforehand. It does have some interesting ideas, and occasionally it attempts to raise some interesting ethical scientific questions about its subject matter. Some of the topics can even be thought provoking. The premise has an interesting sci-fi concept that could’ve been explored and made into something special. Unfortunately by the end, the film is an overblown action movie. The film would’ve been better if it had a stronger focus on the heavier ideas it had. The plot itself seems to be divided into two very different halves. The first half is an intriguing look into a particular facility of people, where the lead characters played by McGregor and Johannsson try to figure out the truth about where they are. There were cool concepts introduced and solid worldbuilding here, in fact the movie takes a surprising amount of time to establish its world and characters. The second half of the movie takes place after most of the major reveals have been given, and turns into a fugitive action flick, with not much story or character development. This is where the film really stumbles, it’s just the two main characters on the run with intense chase scenes and doesn’t do much with the dystopian aspect. The two halves don’t really fit together that well. Second half aside, there are still some other issues with the film. Despite the interesting ideas, The Island doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of the genre, and still has a formulaic plot. There are some plot conveniences and some of the dialogue is a little rough. It also lacks in character development, even with the lead characters. It does feel a little too long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes, not helped by the inconsistent pacing. However it does keep you entertained throughout the runtime.

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On the whole, the cast play their roles really well. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are pretty good as the lead characters despite the lack of character depth and development given to them. McGregor particularly gets to do more in the second half of the movie (without getting into spoilers here). The supporting cast are solid too, Steve Buscemi is entertaining in a supporting role, Sean Bean delivers in the main villain role, and Djimon Hounsou makes for a threatening supporting antagonist as a mercenary sent after the main characters.

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Michael Bay directs this movie, and you can recognise this almost immediately. It contains many of his tropes and trademarks, from the style of cinematography, product placement, and more. However I still think this is probably one of his most restrained movies. The cinematography is slick and it has a near future look and feel to it, where the tech is sci-fi, but doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of possibility. The action sequences are generally fun and creative, with the chase scenes particularly shining. There is definitely an overload of action by the end, but I don’t have a huge amount of complaints about the action itself. There is definitely quite a lot of shaky cam used and it was a bit much at points, but it does add some urgency to these scenes. Unsurprisingly, the movie also features a large and rousing score from Steve Jacoblonsky and works quite well for this film.

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Despite its ideas and promising premise, The Island is nothing special as far as sci-fi movies go. However, I was still reasonably invested with the plot, the acting is good, the action is fun to watch, and I was entertained throughout. I’m aware that some people really don’t like Michael Bay’s movies, but for what it’s worth, I think it’s one of his best, and definitely worth checking out.

The King of Staten Island (2020) Review

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The King of Staten Island

Time: 136 minutes
Cast:
Pete Davidson as Scott Carlin
Marisa Tomei as Margie Carlin
Bill Burr as Ray Bishop
Bel Powley as Kelsey
Maude Apatow as Claire Carlin
Steve Buscemi as Papa
Director: Judd Apatow

Scott (Pete Davidson) has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.

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I heard of The King of Staten Island more recently. All I knew was that it was directed by Judd Apatow, and that I heard from a lot of people that it was meant to be quite good. I saw a trailer for it so I knew of the general plot, but still I really didn’t know what to expect going in. The King of Staten Island is a heartfelt and decent comedy drama, with quite a lot of good parts to it, and it is worth watching.

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From what I can tell, this movie is a semi auto biographical film to lead actor Pete Davidson, it feels quite personal, and it definitely benefited from that. The script is written quite well with both Apatow and Davidson being involved with the writing. The humour is good and does hit the beats most of the time, at least 80% of the time. While The King of Staten Island is a dramedy, it is a little more of a comedy than a drama, but there are some mature topics involved, and I think that the movie at least handled them better than I thought it would. I think my biggest problem with the movie is that it does feel quite drawn out. I’m used to watching movies that are 2 hours and 15 minutes long but that’s an absurd length for this movie. Not to say I was bored throughout or anything, I liked watching the movie, I just felt it could’ve been trimmed a bit (even though I can’t single out particular moments that should’ve been cut). With all that being said, I don’t have too many issues with the movie by the end, I liked the way the story went, and it was definitely heartfelt. I have trouble connecting with just about all coming of age movies and this movie is no exception, nonetheless there was a lot of passion put into this movie and you feel that throughout.

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I haven’t seen Pete Davidson in anything and didn’t really know he was even though I heard of his name a few times, but he gives quite a strong performance as Scott in this movie. Given that the whole film is basically based off his life, as you can expect that it would automatically add to his performance, and he’s good. It’s a fully realized, nuanced and real performance, and is definitely the centre to this film. At the same time, the rest of the cast including Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow and Steve Buscemi also give good some performances and really do well their parts for the movie.

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I’ve only seen Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin from Judd Apatow, he directed both well and they’re decent, and he also directed The King of Staten Island quite well too. There’s not really much to say about the direction in this movie, it’s at the standard that you’d expect. I don’t really have any complaints about it, but it’s very clear that the focus is much more on the writing and the acting, and that’s alright.

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The King of Staten Island was actually pretty good. I don’t think I like it to the extent that most people do, and I do have some issues with it, especially with the overindulgent length that could’ve been a bit smaller. At the same time, most of the humour works, the writing is good and heartfelt, and the acting is great, particularly from Pete Davidson who gives a standout performance. I say it’s worth checking out when you get the time.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Cast:
Bill Murray as Chief Cliff Robertson
Adam Driver as Officer Ronald “Ronnie” Peterson
Tilda Swinton as Zelda Winston
Chloë Sevigny as Officer Minerva “Mindy” Morrison
Steve Buscemi as Farmer Miller
Danny Glover as Hank Thompson
Caleb Landry Jones as Bobby Wiggins
Rosie Perez as Posie Juarez
Iggy Pop as Coffee Zombie
Sara Driver as Coffee Zombie
RZA as Dean
Carol Kane as Mallory O’Brien
Selena Gomez as Zoe
Tom Waits as Hermit Bob
Director: Jim Jarmusch

In the sleepy small town of Centerville, something is not quite right. The moon hangs large and low in the sky, the hours of daylight are becoming unpredictable, and animals are beginning to exhibit unusual behaviors. News reports are scary, and scientists are concerned, but no one foresees the strangest and most dangerous repercussion that will soon start plaguing Centerville: the dead rise from their graves and feast on the living, and the citizens must battle to survive.

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The Dead Don’t Die is a movie I heard a little bit about for a month or so. I knew that it was a zombie movie that was anticipated but people felt rather mixed on when it released. It’s also got a great cast, with the likes of Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and more involved. It’s also the first movie that I’ve seen from director Jim Jarmusch, whose other films included Paterson and Only Lovers Left Alive (movies I’ve heard about but never got around to). Having only seen The Dead Don’t Die, I’m just going to assume that this is his worst movie.

All I knew going into this movie is that this was a zombie comedy, I was going in completely blind otherwise and so had no other expectations. This movie certainly has some weird humour throughout. I really do like deadpan humour, but I never knew it was possible for a movie to be too deadpan, to the point where the humour just completely disappears from them movie. I assume it’s somewhat trying to be comedic however, because if you look at the movie from a serious perspective, it’s even worse. So outside of some certain moments, it was neither serious nor funny, so I’m not exactly sure how to take most of the movie. The horror doesn’t even exist here, the few times that have some attempt at it are very weak. So you’d think that maybe it’s meant to be working on a deeper level with the story. Well there is some social commentary that the movie throws in throughout about materialism and the like, and it is incredibly ham fisted and blatant, none of that works either. So really the movie doesn’t work in any regard, not as a comedy, not as a horror, and it’s not a deep movie with important things to say about anything.

Despite the great cast, they can only do so much. Adam Driver, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton come across the best here, with Driver and Murray as a pair of cops, and Swinton as an undertaker who also happens to be a samurai (or something). Driver actually does manages to elevate some of the scenes he’s in, with so many of his deadpan delivered lines being amongst the only funny parts of the movie. The rest of the cast don’t really do much, with Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez and Tom Waits being okay in their parts but but weren’t particularly memorable.

As I said up above, the movie barely has any horror, honestly Shaun of the Dead is much scarier. If you’re hoping to enjoy it for the gore at least, there’s maybe a few scenes like that but on the whole there isn’t much here. An observation is that for whatever reason, whenever part of a zombie is chopped off or shot, soot or dust comes out instead of blood, I’m not sure whether it’s an artistic decision or because of budgetary reasons but it’s like that in the movie.

By the end of The Dead Don’t Die, I wasn’t exactly sure what the point of all of it was. The jokes don’t land, the scares don’t work, the movie doesn’t entertain, and even if you just go by the message/social commentary, it’s so forced and poorly handled that it deflates the movie even further. I didn’t hate it, but it really gets worse the more I think about it, as it really doesn’t work well in any regard. Not even the cast can fully save it (though Adam Driver has some good moments). I guess if you’re really excited for the movie I guess you could give it a go. It’s harmless but rather forgettable and a bit of a timewaster, so if you’re sceptical about the movie, I’d say it’s not worth it.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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Reservoir Dogs

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Harvey Keitel as Mr White
Tim Roth as Mr Orange
Michael Madsen as Mr Blonde
Chris Penn as Nice Guy Eddie
Steve Buscemi as Mr Pink
Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot
Edward Bunker as Mr Blue
Quentin Tarantino as Mr Brown
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Six criminals, who are strangers to each other, are hired by a crime boss, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), to carry out a diamond robbery. The six strangers are Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), a professional criminal; Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), a young newcomer; Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), a trigger-happy killer; Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), a paranoid neurotic; Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino); and Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker). Right at the outset, they are given false and are completely sure that the robbery is going to be a success. But, when the police show up right at the time and the site of the robbery, panic spreads amongst the group members, and one of them is killed in the subsequent shootout, along with a few policemen and civilians. When the remaining people assemble at the rendezvous point, they begin to suspect that one of them is an undercover cop.

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With Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino established himself as a director to keep an eye out for. His excellent dialogue with the well rounded cast and even the bloody violence makes this an absolute classic.

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Quentin Tarantino movies are often driven by dialogue. Sometimes, some of the dialogue doesn’t have much to do with the plot but it doesn’t feel forced; it actually makes the dialogue even better. In the first scene we don’t really hear anything about the heist; instead we hear the main characters talk about what Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is about and a debate about tipping. The only other writer I can think on the top of my head who has managed to do this is Martin McDonagh. It is also one of the best heist movies despite not even showing the heist. The film shows the events before and after the heist and are presented and written so well, the audience doesn’t need to see the heist in order to get a picture of what happened; the majority of what happened is conveyed through dialogue. It’s also not always placed in chronological order; some of the scenes are mixed around in time.

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The film has a huge cast which consists of Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Laurence Tierney and a cameo by Quentin Tarantino. All the actors are great but the two stand outs are Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen; both of them were absolute show stealers. Michael Madsen in particular has a scene involving the song ‘Stuck in the middle with you’ by Stealers Wheel, which is probably the most famous (or infamous) scene in the movie; it was reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange’s use of “Singin’ in the Rain”. The actors really played off each other well and delivered the dialogue greatly.

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The film is well shot; the cinematography is often overlooked due to the excellent writing and dialogue. While not mind-blowing, the cinematography is good, same goes for the editing. This movie also showed another thing that Tarantino would be using for a lot of his movies; a lot of blood and gore. Some people have argued that the violence is unnecessary but I think it was well done and used. The music is absolutely great and is picked right for the moment; a great example is again “Stuck in the Middle with you”.

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Reservoir Dogs is one of Quentin Tarantino’s best movies. It isn’t for everyone; I can see that, mostly because of the level of violence. But if you think you might like it or if you are a Tarantino fan, who hasn’t seen this movie yet, go see it as soon as you can, you won’t be disappointed.