The Drop


Viewed – 08 September 2015  DVD

The moderate hype surrounding this relatively low key crime drama is that it was the final performance of acclaimed actor James Gandolfini, who rose to iconic status in the hit TV show The Sopranos playing charismatic mob boss Tony Soprano.  Add to this the pairing of him with current hot property Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) and this was a more than alluring prospect for an evening’s entertainment.

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Hardy plays Bob, a softly spoken, likable bartender at a local establishment that is used as a ‘drop’ for mob money that’s then handed over to a local Chechnyan gang. Gandolfini is Marv, former owner of the bar and cousin to Bob. Following a hold up one night however, Bob & Marv find themselves in debt to the gangsters and must figure a way of getting the stolen money back. At the same time Bob befriends a local girl who has more than a few problems herself.

As the final role for Gandolfini, this offered up little that wasn’t seen in The Sopranos and isn’t much of a stretch for the actor, even though he clearly still had presence. His character is also a little confusing and I found it hard understanding some of his actions. Hardy fairs better and clearly it’s his film and he again brings to the table a quiet, moody character that he seems to do in every film, with that hint of underlying rage. Noomi Rapace appears as the troubled love interest and is decent also, with her friendship with Bob proving the backbone of the story. For a crime drama this was less about people getting whacked and more a character-piece, but didn’t stand out in any particular way despite a screenplay from famed author Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island).  Enjoyable at times and has a good ending, but overall a little too lightweight for it’s own good.

Verdict:  3 /5

Killing Them Softly


Viewed – 20 March 2013  Blu-ray

Brad Pitt has been out of the spotlight of late, what with his rocky relationships and unsightly beards … but I was glad to hear of this crime thriller, with the Pitster (yes, I just said that) sporting a goatee, slicked back hair and shades … and basically being a bad-ass.  Shame then I suppose that it takes quite some screen time before he actually arrives in this above average thriller.

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This follows the story of two wet-behind-the-ears crooks who get given the task of robbing a poker game run by the local mob  Pitt plays a hit-man hired to step in and figure out who screwed who, and hopefully not ‘wack’ the wrong guy.  Add to this small but memorable appearances from Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, and all the ingredients are here for a decent piece of entertainment.

Set during the Obama / Cain election campaign for some reason, this attempts to be a bit of a commentary on the American way of life, but much of that went over my head.  More interested was I in the sharp, engrossing dialogue, good performances and first-rate direction from Andrew Diminik (cult Ozzy film ‘Chopper’) who brings no end of style and panache to proceedings, with some showy camera work and clever use of CGI.  This had shades of Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann at times, and the presence of actors from both Goodfellas and TV’s The Sopranos all set the scene perfectly.  Sometimes the dialogue drags on a bit and it’s a little lacking in action, but with some infrequent but jolting moments of brutal violence and a good soundtrack I came away suitably impressed.

Verdict:  4 /5

Where The Wild Things Are


Viewed – 05 June 2010  Blu-ray

Now going into this I had no previous knowledge of its source material other than it being based on a children’s book, and so as you can imagine, this very unusual story of a young, hyperactive boy with no friends and whose parents are separated, was at first something I found hard to get into.  You see after running away from home, the boy somehow finds himself in a forest inhabited by wierd talking monsters, huge goat, bird etc  inspired creatures who at first see him as their next meal – then grow fond of him as he declares himself their king and sets about helping them rebuild their village.  Now these creatures act like human beings, with complex relationships and ‘issues’, all of which are prown to falling apart at any moment.

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The Man Who Wasn’t There


Viewed – 30 May 2008  Television

I’ve always been a fan of The Coen Brothers. The sibling directors have constantly delivered with the likes of Millers Crossing, Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou? and especially the sublime The Big Lebowski proving some of the most perfectly crafted and enjoyable films I have seen.  This one came about during a bit of a hiatus when they delivered big studio-backed fair such as Intolerable Cruelty and The Lady-killers which many consider miss-steps in their otherwise un-tarnished reputation. I myself didn’t enjoy ‘Cruelty, and feel the name was fittingly ironic.

Yet this gentle and fascinating murder mystery about a quite Barber who suspects his wife of having an affair was decidedly the Coens on form again – small town with likeable, fascinating characters that seem worthy of their own films alone. Billy Bob Thornton has the kind of face and personality born for a Coens film, and he doesn’t disappoint – and add excellent support from Coens regular Francis McDormond along with James Gandolfini complete with beautiful black & white cinematography and this sits proudly along with the Coens best.

Verdict: 4 /5

The Sopranos – an appreciation.


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I dunno if I ever said on this BLOG, but I am currently collecting all of the Sopranos series 1-6 (have up to 5…only two more box sets to go!), and must confess to being a complete and utter geek when it comes to the exploits of charismatic New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (played every episode to my total awe by James Galdolfini).

Now as we all know, this is a movie website, so I now hear you ask…what is a TV show doing on here? Well compared to some shows like Lost and 24 perhaps, The Sopranos has its routes in gangster films, and often pays homage to the classics like The Godfather and especially Goodfellas, where even some of that great film’s cast make up part of the show’s major character actors. Firstly we have the beautiful, sexy but highly professional Doctor Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) who of course was Ray Liotta’s wife in Goodfellas. Then do you remember the kid in the upstairs room who served the guys drinks in Goodfellas, but came worse off to psychotic Tommy (Oscar winning Joe Pesci)’s gun after a bit of back-answering? Well step forward Michael Imperioli who play’s Tony Soprano’s slightly wet-behind the ears nephew Christopher Multisanti – my personal favourite character.

Add to this pedigree the likes of Frank Vincent, Joe Pantoliano, Steve Buschemi, Steve Van Zandt, Dominic Chianese to name but a few, and the movie-gangster heritage is clear. At the head of all this as mentioned is James Gandolfini, who as Tony is both a family man and a ‘family’ man…if u catch my drift. You see, usually for this kind of material, the mobster’s actual flesh and blood family are more just set dressing – it’s not what we’re here for…and of course we just want gangsters doing some gangster ‘shit’. Not so with The Sopranos. This is as much a suburban drama about the goings on of a family home as it is a violent and thrilling gangster yarn. Also take into consideration that Tony is often at his therapist (Lorraine Bracco) due to suffering mysterious panic-attacks…and there is obviously more to this whole deal than meets the eye.

I think The Sopranos can appeal to a much broader audience than just die-hard gangster fans. Yes I love gangster films…but put it this way, my Mom is hooked and she doesn’t do on-screen violence, sex, nudity or bad language – and this has it all…but because it also has ‘heart’ she see’s past all the bad stuff (as she might put it) and still comes away thirsty for more.

So anyone who has either avoided The Sopranos because they don’t ‘do’ gangster stuff…take another look – you may be surprised. Oh and those that just haven’t seen the show…it’s never too late as my fairly late to the show collecting of the entire series shows…and now that’s it’s all done in the states but for the plethora of (finger’s crossed) awards…now is as good a time as any to “get yourself a gun” (to quote the opening credits superb song). Bada Bing!!