The Bank Job: Great Film!

I’ve loved movies far back as I can remember. But in the past few years, I’ve watched fewer and fewer movies. Part of this is because Lisa doesn’t much care for movies, so we don’t watch them as a “couples activity”. Another reason is that TV has gotten better and better. With Dexter, The Fixer, Pushing Daisies, Ashes to Ashes, Lost and a dozen other great shows broadcast directly into my home, why go to the movies?

Yet another reason I don’t watch a lot of movies these days – the main reason, in fact – is because movies don’t challenge me any more. We’re all familiar with romantic comedies, right? Boy meets girl, some problem comes up that keeps boy and girl apart, and the problem is resolved at the end of the film (which either involves driving at top speed to the closest airport or a party scene full of people dancing to classic pop songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or some such dreck). Predictable, right? To me, all movies are like that these days… unless you go the other route and watch nothing but Lars Von Trier or David Lynch movies, which are “anti-predictable”… so much so that you want to bang your head against the wall.

This is why I was so surprised by recent film The Bank Job. All I knew going into it was that it was “based on a true story” and that it starred Jason Statham (who could be one of my favorite actors if he’d stop appearing in shitty movies). Given how much I love Guy Ritchie films I figured it’d be just another Brit gangster film… and boy was I wrong!


Staham plays a guy called Terry. He owns a failing used car business somewhere in London in the 1970s. He’s apparently borrowed money from a less than legitimate resource, because two “debt collectors” show up one day and smash up the two decent cars Terry has to sell. He needs money to pay his loan shark off… and quickly.

As if by magic, one of Terry’s old flames, Martine (Saffron Burrows), shows up one day with a plan: a branch of Lloyd’s Bank on Baker Street is having their alarm system replaced, and so the bank will be without a working alarm system for a couple of days while the upgrade takes place. Terry quickly assembles a team of low-level criminals and puts the plan in motion. They rent a leather goods store a couple of stores down from the bank, then begin tunneling under a chicken takeaway to get to the vault, which is stuffed with cash, bonds and jewels.

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. It’s neither accident nor coincidence that Martine shows up with a bank robbery plan just when Terry needs lots of money. Martine, it seems, was busted trying to bring a not insignificant amount of drugs into the country. At some point during her short incarceration, an MI-5 agent (Britain’s version of the FBI*) offers her a deal: get a gang together and rob the Lloyd’s Bank (and specifically, safety deposit box 118) and not only will they let her go, they’ll even let her keep any of the loot they take from the robbery!


One might wonder… “what sort of thing could be so serious that MI-5 would not only encourage someone to rob a bank, they’d offer immunity to them and let them keep their ill gotten gains?” How about photographs of Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, involved in an interracial orgy?

Worse yet, the photographs are owned by Michael X, a pimp, drug dealer and illegal casino operator who took up the “Black Power” cause in the UK. He was the first non-white to be prosecuted for violating the Race Relations Act when he publicly urged the shooting of any black women seen with a white man. MI-5 is desperate to lock up Michael X, but as long as Michael X threatens to turn the photographs over to the media, they’re powerless to stop him.

As happens with intricate plans, things don’t quite work out the way anyone had planned. Martine was supposed to keep her deal with M-I5 a secret and let everyone else take the fall for the robbery. When she confesses the real motive behind the robbery to the gang, everything changes. And when they find a gangster’s ledger that contains records of hundreds of police bribes and compromising photographs of a high-ranking Member of Parliament (both of which are completely unrelated to the safety deposit box with the photos of Princess Margaret)… well, things get really complicated.

I won’t spoil the movie for you any more… like I said, things do work out in the end, but like I also said, it’s not exactly in the way most of them intended. The most interesting thing about this film is the “based on a true story” label. How much of this story is real, and how much of it is mere speculation?

Much of the details that make up the movie are still classified by the British government (Michael X’s file, for instance, is sealed until 2054). The film’s makers claimed to have an “inside source”, who was identified in press reports as “George McIndoe”. And it appears that the filmmakers went to decent lengths to match what’s known about the incident with the film (the store they rented was indeed called “Le Sac”, and the takeaway was called “Chicken Express”, for example). And of course, Princess Margaret really existed, as did Michael X. So who knows. What I know is that the film is wonderfully entertaining. It far exceeded my expectations, which more than I can say about most films these days!

* – OK, the FBI and MI5 are quite different, actually. But for the purposes of this post, they’re close enough.

Juno Robbed!

Well, my favorite movie of the past year – Juno – was nearly shut out of this year’s Academy Awards, with Diablo Cody winning for Best Original Screenplay as its “only” award. As I predicted, No Country For Old Men mopped up: the Cohen brothers took home awards for Best Movie, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay while Spain’s Javier Bardem took home the award for Best Supporting Actor. Frankly, I’m stunned. Gobsmacked, even. In my “picks post” I said that I “needed 20 cups of coffee to make it through the movie”. To be honest, that was a bit of an exaggeration. The movie is OK, I guess. But bleak, very bleak. Juno was, in fact, the only “non bleak” movie in the running this year, and was also the only movie up for Best Picture that I’d encourage my friends to go see. Oh well…

I managed to go 9-10 this year, which doesn’t seem that bad until you realize that three of my wins are due to The Bourne Ultimatum sweeping the technical categories. Taking Bourne out of the equation, I went 6-10, which is pretty awful. But not as awful as the Tilda Swinton’s acting in Michael Clayton. Didn’t anyone in the Academy see Gone Baby Gone? Sure, the film’s ending was pretty stupid… but Amy Ryan nailed that part. I absolutely loathed her in that film, almost to the point of wanting to hit her… and that’s exactly how her character should have been played.

Daniel Day-Lewis winning for There Will Be Blood? I guess. I didn’t dislike the film, or Day-Lewis’s acting in it… It just seems that he took the “Bill the Butcher” character from Gangs of New York and toned it down a little. Viggo Mortensen, on the other hand, was incredible in Eastern Promises. Hey Academy! You realize that Viggo is American, right? That he was born in New York, right? I guess it doesn’t hurt that Viggo’s co-star in the film was Naomi Watts, who I think is just as cute as a button. Hey – you know who Naomi Watts reminds me of? Imagine if Claire Danes had grown up to be pretty… I think she’d look like Naomi Watts. Instead, Danes got uglier as time went on, then went and had some weird plastic surgery or something. Ewwwww..

Javier Bardem beat Casey Affleck for best supporting actor? Meh – I saw that one coming from a mile away.

What I didn’t see was Marion Cotillard winning for La Vie en Rose. I didn’t see the film (is it possible to have negative interest in seeing a film?), but if Ellen Page wasn’t going to win, and if Cate Blanchett wasn’t going to win, then I don’t give a damn who wins.

Is it just me, or is Helen Mirren kind of hot for a 63 year-old?

Why no Brad Renfro in the “In Memoriam” tribute? Was he not a member of the Academy? If not, what do you have to do to get into the Academy? Renfo was in 21 films, exactly 1 more film than Heath Ledger, who was included in the tribute. Hmmmm. At least ABC muted the audience applause this year. It seems like in past years the “In Memoriam” tribute had turned into “The World’s Least Tasteful Popularity Contest”.

Oh well, enough of all that. With TV getting better and better these days, I’m kind of looking forward to the Emmys on September 21 more than the next Oscars.

My 2008 Oscar Picks!

So I’m sitting at my desk on Thursday afternoon when the thought crossed my mind: “Oh crap! The Oscars are this Sunday!”

You see, I had.. uhhh.. “obtained” copies of almost all the movies in this year’s Oscar race; I’ve had some them as far back as last September. I had not, however, actually seen most of them. So from Friday night until the wee hours of Sunday morning, I watched seven of the movies below. And boy, are my eyes tired! I am “cinematically exhausted”, if such a thing actually exists.

And so… below is my list of Oscar picks for 2008. My picks are in RED. Keep a couple of things in mind when you read my choices:

  1. This list is of the nominees I want to win, not necessarily nominees I think will win. I predict the awful No Country For Old Men (a movie I needed 20 cups of coffee to get through) will clean up this year.
  2. I tried to be objective as possible, and decide each award on its own merits. I did my best to stay away from “Johnny Depp has been in so many great movies, he really needs an Oscar”, “George Clooney was robbed in 2005″ and\or “Hal Holbrook is getting old, this might be his last chance to get an Oscar!” I will admit, however, that a previous Oscar win did have an impact in one category this year: best supporting actor. Personally, I thought that Philip Seymour Hoffman was great in Charlie Wilson’s War; had he not won the Oscar for Capote in 2005, I probably would have picked him this year.
  3. Categories in strikethough are categories that I either don’t have an opinion on (“Best original song”), or films I did not have the chance to see (Such as “Best Live Action Short Film”).

Without further ado… my picks!


Best motion picture of the year

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Achievement in directing

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel)
Juno (Jason Reitman)
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)
No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James…
Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook – Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away from Her
Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney – The Savages
Ellen Page – Juno

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Ruby Dee – American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

Continue reading “My 2008 Oscar Picks!”

“Harold and Kumar” are back!

Here’s the trailer for the new Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay flick. It looks as funny as the first movie – maybe even funnier! A bit of a warning though: this is a “red band” trailer. Unlike most trailers, which are approved for all audiences and have a “green band” at the beginning, this one’s for restricted audiences and has the rare “red band” at the beginning. There’s also a lot of foul language, drug references and partial nudity in the trailer, so don’t watch it at work!

Pot… Kettle

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the movie industry’s trade group. If you’ve been following the “internet piracy” stories of the past few years, you’ll know that the MPAA has done lots of things to protect its “intellectual property”, from lobbying members of Congress for tougher copyright laws, to hiring lawyers to shut down file trading websites, to hiring third-parties (like MediaSentry) to collect data about people trading movies online, to creating “snitch programs” that monetarily reward theatre employees for turning in customers that illicitly tape movies with video cameras.

So how delicious is it that the MPAA was served a takedown notice earlier this week… for violating someone else’s copyright! The MPAA has been distributing something called a “University Toolkit”. Said toolkit contains the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution along with some popular open-source tools for monitoring networks. The MPAA made the toolkit available free of charge to universities to help them track down illegal content on their networks.

However, as this article at Ars Technica explains, the MPAA did not make the source code of the material available, as is required by the General Public License (GPL) that Linux (and most of the tools included in the download) are published under. In a nutshell, the GPL allows anyone to assemble an operating system and\or software applications as they see fit… as long as they document all of their changes and make the source code available to anyone that asks. In other words, I could take a version of Ubuntu Linux and change every instance of the name “Ubuntu Linux” in the software to “ Linux”… as long as I provide the source code and documentation of what I’ve done to anyone that asks. Or I could take a copy of Ubuntu Linux and make a bootable CD that turns any computer into an “internet kiosk” (like you see in airports)… again, just as long as I provide the source code and document the changes.

The MPAA is (of course) calling the incident a “simple oversight”, but once again it just shows that Big Content is ready and willing to steamroll anyone else’s copyrights in the name of protecting their own.

Random Movie Trivia

– In the film Die Hard: With a Vengeance, a madman has placed a bomb at an elementary school and threatens to detonate it if Bruce Willis refuses to travel to Harlem and wear a sign he had hidden there. In the “theatrical version” of the film, the sign Bruce is forced to wear says “I hate niggers”; in the “broadcast version”, the sign says “I hate everybody”. Because that part of the film was shot on location in Harlem, the producers feared a riot would break out if Bruce wore the “theatrical version” of the sign… so he wore the “broadcast version”. So the TV version of the film has been left unedited, while the version shown in theatres was edited. As you know, it’s usually the other way around.

Pride of the Yankees is a 1942 film starring Gary Cooper as New York Yankee legend Lou Gehrig. One problem with casting Cooper was immediately obvious: Cooper was right-handed, while Gehrig was left-handed. Since the film was released only a year after Gehrig’s death, the producers were certain that the moviegoing public would notice the inconsistency. To solve the problem, everything in the game scenes – all of the uniform numbers and logos, the billboards and scoreboard – were printed in reverse, and when Cooper hit the ball, he’d run to third base, not first. The producers then simply flipped the film over, and Cooper now appeared to be left-handed, and all of the text on the uniforms, billboards, etc. appeared to be correct.

Continue reading “Random Movie Trivia”

But Can She Sing?

Actress Heather Graham has a video out for a song she’s singing in one of her new movies. Have a listen:

Not bad, I guess. But if I’m going to have to listen to a hot blonde actress sing, I’ll wait for Brittany Murphy’s new album, thanks!

Rose Byrne is as cute as a button!

Rose Byrne is an Australian actress. She’s interesting, in that I first remember seeing her on the new FX series Damages, but then she started appearing everywhere: Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, 28 Weeks Later, and even the new sci-fi flick Sunshine. Here’s hoping we see more of her soon!

Rose Byrne