Gangster Squad Recap

Jamie

Mickey Cohen is a menace to LA and police officer John O’Mara ain’t letting it fly. No way, no how. He’s tasked with assembling a squad of police officers to clandestinely take apart the evil gangster’s criminal empire. Can they stop Mickey before it’s too late? Find out in… Gangster Squad.

How?! John O’Mara don’t take guff from nobody, especially those that aim to dirty his beloved LA like gangster Mickey Cohen. Unfortunately he also doesn’t take guff from nobody so O’Mara is tasked with creating a misfit squad of gangster hunters (what to call them, though?) whose smarts and toughness will combine to take even less guff than Cohen (if you can believe it). Will they go out and murder Cohen right away? No! That would be too boring. Instead they aim to dismantle his empire while keeping him alive and figure out what his dastardly plot is to take over the West Coast (hint: it doesn’t matter). The squad goes about punching and shooting people to great effect, while also totally getting with Cohen’s main squeeze. Cohen is obviously none too pleased with this and he proceeds to punch and shoot a bunch of people until he figures out who the gangster squad is. After that it’s all out war and they punch and shoot some more until one of the squad is dead and their families threatened. All seems lost, except remember… no guff. O’Mara scrapes together a warrant for Cohen’s arrest and there is a big showdown at the Plaza. Shooting. Punching. Punching. Shooting. O’Mara takes Cohen down and cleans up the streetz. THE END. So the big question: was Mickey Cohen’s downfall because he took too many guffs or maybe, just maybe, he didn’t take enough (yah dig?).

Why?! I mean, Mickey Cohen is a psycho. No need for more explanation on that front. As for our boy John and his gangster squad, well they just want to do good in a world where people too often let money dictate their morals. Other cops are being bought, but they didn’t fight in WWII to let their home descend into crime. No! Not the Gangster Squad™.

Who?! Anyone who’s anyone knows that Ryan Gosling was part of the Mickey Mouse Club and so he’s got those dancing and singing chops for days. Lesser known is that he’s an actor-turned-musician (my favorite) and released an album as part of the rock duo Dead Man’s Bones in 2009. According to wikipedia he performed under the alias Baby Goose… OK.

What?! As I looked at the beautiful chiseled features of Josh Brolin I of course wondered to myself, “Is there a way that I could look like that granite rock of a man?” and the answer is yes. I can wear the very gun holster that he wears. Now if only I can figure out how to sound just like Nick Nolte (hint: it involves smoking cigarettes and gargling whiskey for 5000 years).

Where?! This feels like it’s the most LA movie ever. They are talking all kinds of Hollywood stuff all day. We see the Hollywoodland sign, they are talking about the movie biz, and references to Brentwood are dropped in as if the audience would be like “Jeez, Brentwood, amiright?” and nudge each other whenever it’s mentioned. A.

When?! Secret Holiday Film Alert! In the beginning you’re like “wait… is this set around Christmas?” And then the film slowly becomes more and more christmasy until we have Sean Penn screaming “Here comes Santy Claus!” as he shoots up a christmas tree in slow motion. It’s actually pretty hilarious. B+.

Overly stylized, very dark, choppy at times, and steered heavily into cliche. But I also didn’t think it was all that bad (if that makes sense). I let it wash over me like a sultry LA night and had a fine time watching it. I think the acting was pretty great (other than Penn who legend says is still chewing the scenery) and the story interesting. So all in all: not the worst. As for Future Kick, I actually really liked it. Super weird and fun production involving robots and a colony on the moon and virtual reality and organ harvesting. And there’s really nothing more beautiful than an ending that asks the question, “maybe everything you just watched was meaningless.” I’d gladly watch any film that implies that the whole thing was a dream. My one big critique: we needed more martial arts. Somehow T.N.T. had way more impressive martial arts than this one did. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Jamie and I threw away our official LAPD Cobra Division badges in prep for this film. We’re off the books! Time to murder a bunch of people! Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I remember when this come out this was a very exciting film for some corners of the internet. It checks off a bunch of boxes: a group of guys smashing up some gangsters, the late-40s/early-50s west coast period piece, and a crazy cast. And then it just fizzled out to rather lackluster reviews. I guess we’ll see if it ages well? What are my expectations – I want Sean Penn to basically be Nic-Caging all over the place. I want him to actually eat some scenery during a scene, like literally break off pieces of the set and eat it.

The Good – I like the period setting. The story is interesting. Emma Stone is excellent as always, and I really like the group of actors they got for the Squad. I really couldn’t ask for much more from what the film promised: a bunch of cops are going to bust up some gangsters, the end. There isn’t really much more to expound on here, but be assured that I actually liked this film quite a bit.

The Bad – I can definitely see why Sean Penn’s performance sunk the film for critics, he is so over the top it is very very distracting. I also think the story ends up pulling a punch or two and just retreating to the safety of what is ultimately a very predictable series of events. The biggest crime is killing off Ribisi which is by far the most obvious choice of how to “shake up” the Squad during the film. The outside shot is to kill off Brolin, and then making Gosling dry himself off to lead the Squad to victory. Apologies if somehow all of these events are part of the “true story” that it is all adapted from … I doubt it. Finally, the film is just kind of directed / structured sloppily with the least interesting bits, somehow, being the bits involving the Gangster Squad.

The BMT – It is certainly a weird BMT. Long ago we were rather insistent that we were going to do Amelia starring Hilary Swank … and then we just didn’t. Straight dramas don’t tend to fit into our traditional cycle genres. So it is nice to do a straight drama that is considered bad. Did it meet my expectations? Not really. I didn’t think Sean Penn was that bad, even though I can see why people hated it at the time. And that is really what it needed. Once you think that is fine … the movie isn’t that bad, so no, I don’t think I’ll be sending this over to people as a bad movie recommendation.

Roast-radamus – I think we have a very strong Setting as a Character (Where?) for Los Angeles (we can’t let Mickey Cohen take our city!!!) and Secret Holiday Film (When?) where the entire end of the film takes place during Christmas complete exploding Christmas display in slow motion. Other than that I could maybe see a nod for Good from me specifically, but I guess we’ll see.

StreetCreditReport.com – Finally! We finally are back in the zone where people actually have lists. And indeed this film is on the AV Club list (number 8) and on the IndieWire list (number 14). And I think it would end up on a worst of gangster film, and worst of films set in the 40s lists if you really pressed it. Pretty good cred, critics really hated this film!

You Just Got Schooled – Lightning quick one as a semi-endorsement of The Flophouse Podcast which did this film all the way back in 2014. They’ve come a long way since then in how the podcast is structured (this was back when they all lived in New York still and Elliott was Dan’s boss at the Daily Show), but overall I thought it was a funny listen. Just the right level of Elliott Kalan random asides to make what isn’t a very interesting bad movie interesting. And ultimately I agree with his assessment: if I saw the film on television I would probably be fine with watching it, and it is actually maybe closer to a good good movie than a bad bad movie (but definitely not a good bad movie).

Bring a Friend Analysis – And as with any Sean Penn film you just have to watch a Chris Penn feature alongside it. This time? It’s the very promisingly named Future Kick, which I know for a fact I’ve seen as a vhs tape on the Red Letter Media studio’s shelves. I think the film throws a lot at you to consume in the first 25 minutes of the film, with a dystopian world with a Elysium-like moon base, and escaped automaton bounty hunters, the last of which is played by Don “The Dragon” Wilson. For a bit there I was kind of barely holding onto the story (which seems to be a trend with 90s straight-to-VHS features, just incomprehensible). But by the end it saves itself with strong and entertaining performances by Wilson and Meg Foster. The end is also very amusing as it (spoilers) goes for the classic “this entire film was a dream” ending. I’m going to give it a B+. I wish it was a bit clearer in premise and martial arts action early, but the back half is, I think, a rather fun balls-to-the-wall ridiculous straight-to-video feature.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Gangster Squad Quiz

It’s time to kill some gangsters, seeeeeee. But the thing is? I kind of got ‘sploded by a stick of dynamite while chasing these gangsters, got a concussion, and can’t remember a thing. Can you remember what happened in Gangster Squad?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) Let’s start with a straightforward one: describe the Gangster Squad, who is in it?

2) What is the Gangster Squad’s plan to take down Cohen? Like … they aren’t going to go up and shoot him in the face right?

3) What event makes Gosling become a full-throated member of the Gangster Squad.

4) What is Emma Stone’s presumed job with Mickey Cohen? In reality she is naturally just his girlfriend. Why does Emma Stone eventually run away and then turn on Cohen?

5) How does the Gangster Squad get the arrest warrant for Mickey Cohen?

Answers

Gangster Squad Preview

Patrick drags himself, broken and bleeding, onto the highway shoulder. His captors would be back, but he just needs a second to think. Just then a dark limousine pulls up and an intimidating figure rolls down the window. “So you escaped. Good,” the man says, chomping down on a cigar, “that makes our lives a little easier. Get in.” Patrick hesitates, but when he looks back up the highway he sees Lost and Found’s truck driving erratically back down the road in search. Hopping in he asks the man who he is and why he was following him. “We have a mutual friend in Nic… Nic Cage,” he says as Patrick’s heart leaps. “He still holds out hope that you two can save the world. I’m not so sure, especially after you so easily fell into Sticks and Stones’ trap. But you don’t let down Nicky. Not in this world… or any other.” Patrick’s blood has run cold… Sticks and Stones… no wonder they seemed so familiar. “You’re with my squad now, so relax,” he finishes as he and his companions load their guns. That’s right! We’re using Anthony Mackie from Runner Runner to go to Gangster Squad starring… everyone basically. It was a classic style-over-substance critique for the film that dropped it into BMT territory and we pounds like BMT tigers going after BMT prey. Let’s go!

Jamie zooms through the air, taking his hanglider to the limit. As he skirts the highest building in New Angeles he sees a figure lean out of one of the windows. Jamie happily waves at him, but stops when he sees the crossbow. His beautiful hanglider takes an arrow her majestic wing and only through the immense power of his biceps and pilot skills is he able to land safely. Steam rises from the street and neon lights flash as his hanglider companion slides out of the mist on a skateboard. Jamie’s heart sinks when he sees the gun in his hand. “Welcome to the future,” the man says, “Where you either fight… or you die.” That’s right! We are pairing the Sean Penn Gangster Squad with the Chris Penn futuristic martial arts (?) film Future Kick. It starred one of the best kickboxers of all time, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and is about kickboxing robots. Don’t think there’s more to say than that. Let’s go!

Gangster Squad (2013) – BMeTric: 14.7 

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GangsterSquadIMDb_RV

(Ooooo the first one in a while that started really high and is regressing down instead of up. I do know that there are fans of this film, mostly due to the stellar cast.)

Leonard Maltin – 2 stars –  In 1949 L.A., police chief William Parker (Nolte) hires square-jawed WW2 veteran Brolin to assemble an elite team that will work under the radar to bring down ferociously ambitious gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn, in an outlandish performance), who wants to take over California. Garishly colorful but ludicrous, despite a promising start; a comic-book rendering of a fascinating true story as reported by Paul Lieberman in his book of the same name. Worth a glance for Maher Ahma’s stylish production design.

(Well I got my semi-colon so I can’t complain. An absolutely epic review though which honestly mostly just describes the film? Like, the actual review boils down to: Penn is crazy, the film is ludicrous, but worth a watch just for the production design alone.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlbN5cQKZik/

(I AM THE FUTURE! It does look very stylish, and I like the song. But it also looks a little too badass for its own good. Showing the true story of taking down crooks using their own criminal ways is one thing … but this is arguable the glorification of extrajudicial punishment which is a whole other thing. But we’ll see.)

Directors – Ruben Fleischer – (Known For: Zombieland; 30 Minutes or Less; Future BMT: Venom; BMT: Gangster Squad; Notes: Is married to Emma Stone’s publicist, Emma Stone introduced them. They got married in 2012, so all of that definitely happened prior to Fleischer presumably casting Stone in this film.)

Writers – Will Beall (written by) – (Known For: Aquaman; BMT: Gangster Squad; Notes: Was a story editor for Castle for years, and then developed the Training Day show as well. He is tapped to write the up coming Conan sequel starring Schwarzeneggar.)

Paul Lieberman (book) – (BMT: Gangster Squad; Notes: He wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 24 years, which is where he researched and wrote the book the movie is based on.)

Actors – Sean Penn – (Known For: Mystic River; Fast Times at Ridgemont High; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; The Tree of Life; The Game; Angry Birds; I’m Still Here; The Thin Red Line; Being John Malkovich; Carlito’s Way; Risky Business; 21 Grams; U Turn; Fair Game; Milk; Bad Boys; Taps; Dead Man Walking; This Must Be the Place; At Close Range; Future BMT: It’s All About Love; The Weight of Water; All the King’s Men; Hugo Pool; Crackers; BMT: Shanghai Surprise; The Gunman; Gangster Squad; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actor for Shanghai Surprise in 1987; Notes: Somewhat notably gave David Spade a tattoo somewhere outside of New York (he wasn’t licensed) during SNL. Recently he gave Spade a second tattoo as well.)

Ryan Gosling – (Known For: Blade Runner 2049; The Big Short; First Man; Remember the Titans; La La Land; The Notebook; Drive; The Nice Guys; Crazy, Stupid, Love.; Blue Valentine; The Place Beyond the Pines; The Ides of March; Fracture; Only God Forgives; Song to Song; Lars and the Real Girl; Half Nelson; The Believer; The Slaughter Rule; Future BMT: Murder by Numbers; All Good Things; Stay; BMT: Gangster Squad; Notes: Was a child actor, primarily with Beaker High and Young Hercules, and has been nominated for two oscars.)

Emma Stone – (Known For: The Favourite; Superbad; Zombieland; La La Land; The Help; The House Bunny; Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); Crazy, Stupid, Love.; The Amazing Spider-Man; Easy A; The Amazing Spider-Man 2; Friends with Benefits; The Croods; Irrational Man; The Interview; Battle of the Sexes; Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping; Magic in the Moonlight; The Rocker; Future BMT: Aloha; Unlikely Hero; BMT: Movie 43; Marmaduke; Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; Gangster Squad; Notes: Won the oscar for La La Land. Broke out with Superbad which was genuinely her first feature film.)

Budget/Gross – $60–75 million / Domestic: $46,000,903 (Worldwide: $105,200,903)

(Not good, although that isn’t that far off from the budget for Rambo 4 and the eventual gross, and for some reason Stallone places $100 million worldwide as the market for the success of a “small-ish” film. So maybe this is a success … less opportunity for product placement in a period piece though.)

#24 for the Crime Time genre

gangstersquad_crime

(Weirdly of the now six crime films we watched, this is the highest grossing. This came right at the peak of the post-2008 financial collapse boom in crime based films. You can discuss the psychology of that trend amongst yourselves.)

#9 for the True Crime genre

gangstersquad_truecrime

(The first true crime film we’ve watched. Other potential options: The Black Dahlia, Texas Killing Fields, King of Thieves, and Wonderland (2003). We could just polish those right off.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 32% (64/202): Though it’s stylish and features a talented cast, Gangster Squad suffers from lackluster writing, underdeveloped characters, and an excessive amount of violence.

(Stylish seems to be the name of the game here. And I knew it! Excessive amounts of violence is code for “I feel uncomfortably with how they seem to be glorifying extrajudicial punishments here.” Dollars to donuts.)

Poster – Gangster Sklog (A-)

gangster_squad_ver2

(This is checking off a lot of boxes for font, spacing, and look. A little too stylish for its own good maybe and dark in tone, but I think they are doing an homage to an era of film I’m probably not knowledgeable enough about to really appreciate. Still good though.)

Tagline(s) – No names. No badges. No mercy. (A+)

(Uhhhhhh, yah. This is what I want. All day every day give me that clear, concise, and clever tagline with flow for days. This is pretty much perfect.)

Keyword(s) – police vigilantism; Top Ten by BMeTric: 83.1 RoboCop 3 (1993); 58.5 The Mod Squad (1999); 58.5 Alex Cross (2012); 55.6 Leatherface (2017); 54.6 Max Payne (2008); 51.7 The Crow: Salvation (2000); 48.0 Samurai Cop (1991); 46.3 Machete Kills (2013); 45.8 Edison (2005); 42.8 Exit Wounds (2001);

(I’ve actually seen Machete Kills, it is awful. I think I watched it outside of BMT for the Razzies or something. We’ll finish these up at some point )

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 19) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Nick Nolte is No. 3 billed in Gangster Squad and No. 4 billed in Zookeeper, which also stars Sylvester Stallone (No. 3 billed) who is in Expendables 3 (No. 1 billed), which also stars Jason Statham (No. 2 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 3 + 4 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 19. If we were to watch Stay, The Island, and The Black Dahlia we can get the HoE Number down to 14.

Notes – In the movie, the Gangster Squad is assembled to go after Mickey Cohen. However, in real life Chief W.H. Parker set up the squad to prevent other gangsters from taking over Cohen’s rackets after Cohen went to prison on income tax evasion. Whenever the squad learned that out-of-town gangsters were coming to Los Angeles to try to set up new operations, the Gangster Squad would kidnap them, beat them up (some rumors say torture) and then send them back to wherever they came from with the warning that if they ever returned, they would be killed. (Fun facts)

There are two surviving members of the original gangster squad, and they, along with relatives of the deceased members, came to visit the set.

De’aundre Bonds’ first film role in ten years. He served ten years in prison for manslaughter. (There is no additional information about the killing, but good for him, seems to still be acting a bit)

Two of the reasons Ryan Gosling decided to make the movie was because he wanted to act in a scene with Sean Penn and shoot a Tommy gun. He was disappointed when he found out he didn’t have any scenes with Sean Penn. (I guess that means he shoots a Tommy gun)

Nick Nolte, who portrays Chief W.H. Parker, previously played the leader of the gangster squad in Mulholland Falls (1996). (WHAT)

Robert Patrick lost 30 pounds for the part, in order to look more like a “cowboy”. (Weird, but okay)

The big nightclub in the film was originally an old furniture store that was converted. Bellflower, CA–where this was shot–was hit hard by the 2007 recession, and the production company was able to take over a main street in the city and turn it into period Los Angeles.

The film is based on a series of L.A. Times articles that were turned into a book written by Paul Lieberman. He turned those stories into a book..

Ryan Gosling’s character makes a joke where he pretends that the only famous Mickey he has heard of is Mickey Mouse. As a child, Gosling starred in MMC (1989). (Huh, I wouldn’t have caught that)

Ryan Gosling agreed to join the film in exchange for the studio financing his directorial debut Lost River. (B-b-b-b-b-b-ut I thought he wanted to shoot a Tommy gun!)

Nick Nolte portrays Police Chief W.H. Parker. The real W.H. Parker was in his mid-40’s during the time this movie is set. Nick Nolte was 71 years old when the film was released. (He also sounds like he has smoked all of the cigarettes in the world)

The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2010 Blacklist; a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.

Body count: 59.

The movie culminates in a giant shootout at the hotel in which dozens of gangsters are mowed down by Tommy guns. The leader of the squad, Jack O’Mara (Josh Brolin) assaults Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and arrests him for murder. In real life, Mickey Cohen was arrested for tax evasion. Also, by the time Cohen was imprisoned in 1961, the real Jack O’Mara was retired and watched the trial as a civilian.

Runner Runner Recap

Jamie

Richie Furst is a former Wall Street guru turned Masters student who is cheated out of his tuition on an online poker site. Taking his evidence to the site’s founder he is offered everything he’s ever wanted: wealth and ladies. And he only has to become a criminal to get it! Can he escape his life of crime (and get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in… Runner Runner.

How?! Richie Furst is a poor widdle former Wall Street guy who, having been unjustly robbed of his wealth due to the financial crisis, is now forced to get his Masters from Princeton (gross). Trying to make ends meet for tuition in the only legal way he knows how, he loses all his savings playing online poker. Given that he’s way too smart to lose he suspects treachery and uses big ol’ computers and his brain to discover that what happened is mathematically impossible. He decides to go straight to the source and confronts the owners of the poker company in Costa Rica and is all like “math, bitch.” The founder, Ivan Block, is impressed by his bravado and big brain and decides to give him a job and everything he’s ever wanted: ladies, money, and power. Richie of course suspects nothing of getting such an offer from an obviously terrible criminal like Ivan and is like “OK,” like a dope. From there he continues to act like a dope by throwing away all his scruples to blackmail and bribe people just like Ivan tells him too. Even when FBI agents are all up in his business he’s like “but Ivan said…” because he’s actually an idiot. However, when his friends start to bail on the company and one discovers that it’s actually a Ponzi scheme set up by Ivan, it finally dawns on him that literally everything is pointing towards him being involved in a terrible criminal activity. Uh oh! When his dad is used by Ivan as a bargaining chip, Richie has had enough and starts to set up an elaborate scheme to get the upper hand on Ivan. So when Ivan turns around and tries to move the company to Antigua, leaving Richie as the fall guy, Richie is already one step ahead and bribes the pilot to reroute his plane to Puerto Rico. Once there, Ivan gets arrested and Richie, with his big ol’ brain and his new girlfriend, fly off into the sunset. THE END

Why?! We can start from the beginning. We know that Richie is motivated mostly by greed. He feels somewhat robbed by having earned a bunch of money on Wall Street and watching all his money disappear while others got away with millions. He again feels somewhat robbed when he loses his tuition money in a rigged online poker game. This double swindling of our boy Richie apparently breaks his brain because this turns him into a criminal motivated only by greed. We even see him blackmail a guy who is about to have a new baby by purposefully tempting him with hookers and filming it. That’s just a shitty move, man. I know the guy is also shitty for giving into the temptation but our main character is just clearly a terrible person for purposefully setting all that up for a business deal. In fact, I’m not sure why I’m making this section so long. The motivation here is greed across the board. We are forced to watch a bunch of greedy assholes for two hours and it sucks. 

Who?! There is a very brief cameo by the DJ Deadmau5, who is DJing Ivan Block’s very exclusive party. It’s funny to think that in Hollywood you can be like, “hey we need a bunch of money to get Deadmau5 to DJ the fake party for the movie in order to lend credibility to the scene,” and then they just have a massive party and Deadmau5 is shown for less than a second. Also Laurence Mason (aka Lord Nikon and the reason we watched this terrible film) goes uncredited because his scene as the Governor of Antigue got cut… but don’t worry I saw it on the DVD extras. And indeed, totally unnecessary to the film.

What?! Lots of the classics in this one: cars, TVs, phones. I do like JT being like “no thanks” to the expensive stuff people are drinking because he can’t get enough Bud Light. Also they hide all of the evidence of Ivan Block’s nefarious deed in boxes of cereal, but mention that they use cereal that no one wants to eat… always makes me curious why companies would agree to have their cereal used in a film where the main character is like “that cereal is gross.”

Where?! Fantastic fantastic fantastic setting film. We start in Princeton and jump straight over to Costa Rica, which plays a prominent role in the plot. I’d have to look around but this almost certainly will be the top Costa Rica film we’ll get for BMT. Add it to the (imaginary) map! A

When?! The beginning of the film takes place in December most likely as it’s somewhat cold in Princeton and our boy Richie leaves just before finals (but don’t worry, he got extensions). From there it’s all lost to time. He could have been working for Ivan for a few months or over a year. Hard to tell. D.

I haaaaaaaaaaaaaated this film. I actually found it hard to watch. Despite being an objectively nice looking film (can’t go wrong with an exotic locale), I couldn’t understand how they wrote a film where I never cared what happened to any of the characters. I didn’t care whether he got the girl. I didn’t care how Richie was going to get out of the clusterfuck he got himself into. I just didn’t care. He was a criminal and a terrible person and I’m supposed to care about whether he gets out of the jam he’s gotten into through his own greed? No thanks. I’m not even sure whether the plot was coherent (probably not). And I’m not sure the acting is all that good (almost certainly not). I didn’t care. Because this movie sucked and I didn’t want to watch it. Not since Mile 22 have I had a collection of bozos I cared less about. Patrick?  

Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! This film had too little exciting poker action, and a little too much garbage people doing garbage things to each other and making me hate them … you know? Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I didn’t have much hope for this film to be honest. Here’s the thing, we always kind of get forced into films in the chain reaction category towards the end of the year. Regardless, I suppose I was most excited for the Costa Rican settings, I want to see those vistas! What were my expectations? Again, low low expectations, but if there could be some thrills and the film didn’t make me hate the main character and gives me something to root for I would have been delighted.

The Good – Not much. I mean, it looks good. They do a lot with the interesting setting. It certainly focuses on a unique subject as far as a film goes. Online gambling doesn’t get much play in Hollywood. I like Affleck and he does a good amount with the role in the end. And he gets his comeuppance. But otherwise it is pretty rote nonsense.

The Bad – JT is genuinely awful and it is kind of no wonder he doesn’t get a lot of leading man roles. He’s a decent second banana, but he isn’t a very good main character. Speaking of which the main character is a garbage person, and I did not care for a moment whether he lived or died. He did so many bad things in the end he kind of deserved everything he was getting. The glorification of these terrible people exploiting gamblers and living glamorous lives in the Central America doesn’t really make a compelling movie in my opinion.

The BMT – Naw screw this movie. I have no intention of ever watching this again. It does have the setting going for it. We would have watched it either way eventually I imagine as it is far and away going to be the best Costa Rica movie ever released. Plus it got actually destroyed by the critics, and it isn’t the worst goal to watch every sub-10% Rotten Tomatoes film ever made … there aren’t really that many of them. Did it meet my expectations? No, JT is a terrible person in this film and I didn’t care if he lived or died. That’s all I wanted with this film and it did the exact opposite.

Roast-radamus – I actually think this has a decent shot at the Bad section of the awards as I think both Jamie and I really didn’t like the film. I initially couldn’t remember a good Product Placement (What?), but then Jamie reminded me that JT guzzles Bud Light throughout which is awesome. I think looking through the rest of the things the only obvious one is Setting (Where?) and honestly it could win it. It is such a Costa Rica film it is amazing. Every country should get such a terrible film made in / about it in my opinion.

StreetCreditReport.com – Incredibly despite being a relatively rare sub-10% Rotten Tomatoes film it gets nary a mention on the year end lists. Only a small dishonorable mention on IndieWire. I would think this is maybe like … the second worst gambling film available. I’m of course referring to 21 as being the worst. It may not have gotten as bad of reviews, but I can assure you it is terrible. It didn’t help that the book that movie is based on (Bringing Down the House) is fantastic, and they just completely throw it out for … again, wait, it just ends up being a weird techno-thriller with a love story. It is the same movie! Two peas in a pod showing the evolution of gambling from Vegas card counting to online fraud … great.

Sklognalysis – Ohhhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiit. It’s back. You see I have like 40 films to watch over the next few weeks so I couldn’t really be bothered to go with my original plan of watching Rounders. Instead I’ll go through some thoughts I had on thrillers after watching Swimfan and Runner Runner. With Swimfan I was rather upset. You see, in that film a high school student cheats on his girlfriend with a psycho who then proceeds to frame him for murder, dope him with steroids, and generally destroy his life. In Runner Runner you have a greedy garbage person getting stuck in a jam because of his greed and terrible behavior. You see the difference? In Runner Runner the consequences were proportional to the misdeeds of our protagonist. Which made me think of how thrillers like these are often morality tales of a sort. You commit a sin (lust in Swimfan, greed in Runner Runner), you get punished, you find redemption. But the punishment has to be proportional to the crime. You blackmail a family man and bribe some officials, you get framed for drug trafficking in response. You cheat on your girlfriend in high school and … fill in the blank, but the answer isn’t that your friend is killed, you get framed for his murder, and you get doped with steroids to ruin your life … that isn’t proportional, you see? This could, perhaps, be something fairly common in many genres across the board, but thrillers seem the most appropriate. The tension of seeing someone succumb to base desires, acts often left unknown and unpunished, getting punished in a spectacular and terrifying way, and narrowly escaping to find redemption is thrilling. I guess that is where Runner Runner fails … Timberlake doesn’t just succumb to base desires, he dives head first into a pile of money like Scrooge McDuck and just expects to get away with it like a goober. It just makes you feel gross. I’ll leave it at that, but I’ll be looking at other movies for such desires going forward for sure.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Runner Runner Quiz

Let me see. What is the last thing I remember … I remember getting the shit kicked out of me by a bunch of people and then feeding another guy to an alligator … Whatever, do you know what happened in Runner Runner?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) Justin Timberlake, much like in real life, is a super genius. Why is he at Princeton, and what is he getting a degree in?

2) But soon our boy JT (super genius) is cheated while playing online poker with Ben Affleck‘s online gambling company. Where does JT find Affleck, and what is his grand plan to get his ill-betaken gains back?

3) And now JT is rolling in the dough. Problem in it turns out Affleck wants JT to do all kinds of gross / illegal stuff. Naturally, JT does all of these happily because … I guess because he’s a bad guy. Wait, I thought he was our hero? … Whatever, name the two super gross things JT does for Affleck.

4) After that things pretty swiftly go to shit. He’s being squeezed from two sides, by the FBI who want to arrest Affleck, and by Affleck himself. What are both sides using to squeeze him?

5) What was Affleck’s crime, how does JT get all of the evidence to implicate him, and how does he get him to the FBI?

Answers

Runner Runner Preview

Poe flips his bat, admiring the bodacious bomb he just hit to left field. As he crosses home plate he is greeted by a scowling Rich, “Isn’t it about time we bust these guys and get that tech? You’ve done enough showboating for the both of us.” Now it’s time for Poe to scowl, “Showboating? I think you’re slump has you a little jelly. Besides, this is all part of the plan. How else are we supposed to get to the tech if we can’t get close to Brock? A star player only hangs with a star player like me,” and with that he bumps Rich out of the way. “Locker room talk, am I right?” he says, sitting down next to a laughing Brock. Rich goes back to sit with Blaze. “Stupid Brock, stupid Poe. Whatever, I’m not jelly. He’s jelly. Besides, I’m not playing that badly, right Blaze?” But Blaze just looks at him. “Shit.” Just then an out of breath Bryce runs up. “Rich! I was wrong. This is just boring ol’ baseball.” He knew it! “I just stopped by the computer lab and saw some people playing a game. I asked what it was and they said it was some new tech. Something big.” Rich is intrigued. Perhaps they are finally on the right track. He turns to tell Poe the news, but sees him charging the mound after taking umbrage at a late called strike. Rich shakes his head sadly and turns back to Blaze and Bryce, “We’ll have to split up and take this on ourselves. We’ve lost Poe. He’s in too deep. Alright, so what’s this game you saw?” Bryce scratches his head, “well, it just looked like online poker to me, but no one ever seems to win.” That’s right! This week we’re moving ever forwards in the Chain by jumping from Armageddon with Ben Affleck to Runner Runner. This was a Justin Timberlake vehicle that I had no interest in seeing at the time and continue to have no interest in seeing. Great. Laurence Mason (aka Lord Nikon) had a bit part in the film. It counts. Let’s go!

Runner Runner (2013) – BMeTric: 45.7 

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(… Runner Runner came out in 2013?! Anywho, this is an amazing rating which just sticks at 5.6 no matter what. It is actually genuinely its rating: substantially below average. Maybe people just don’t give a shit about poker films?)

RogerEbert.com – 2 stars –  As an exercise in style, “Runner Runner” has its moments, especially early on, but some of Affleck’s torpor seems to infect the film itself after a while. Inventive framing and shot selection give way finally to let’s-get-this-done conversations, filmed in unimaginative shot/reverse-shot style.

(Yeah the entire review is kind of a hit on Affleck for being a bit too big to allow the film to end on its own terms, instead it had to accommodate him as a star and the film suffers.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFPqyNvNzvU/

(Do you need me to do it again! That is the Extraordinary Measures moment for the film. I always remember that from the trailer. Looks super generic and boring though.)

Directors – Brad Furman – (Known For: The Lincoln Lawyer; The Infiltrator; The Take; BMT: Runner Runner; Notes: Is attached to direct an upcoming Mel Gibson project, War Pigs.)

Writers – Brian Koppelman (written by) – (Known For: Ocean’s Thirteen; Rounders; Runaway Jury; The Girlfriend Experience; Solitary Man; Future BMT: Knockaround Guys; Walking Tall; BMT: Runner Runner; Notes: Big into the gambling scene which is basically what all of his films focus on.)

David Levien (written by) – (Known For: Ocean’s Thirteen; Rounders; Runaway Jury; The Girlfriend Experience; Future BMT: Knockaround Guys; Walking Tall; BMT: Runner Runner; Notes: Wrote / created smash hit Billions. Also has written crime novels.)

Actors – Ben Affleck – (Known For: Dazed and Confused; Triple Frontier; Gone Girl; Good Will Hunting; The Accountant; The Town; Field of Dreams; State of Play; Argo; Daredevil; The Sum of All Fears; Dogma; He’s Just Not That Into You; Shakespeare in Love; Mallrats; Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back; School Ties; Chasing Amy; Clerks II; Boiler Room; Future BMT: Surviving Christmas; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Reindeer Games; Suicide Squad; Man About Town; Pearl Harbor; 200 Cigarettes; The Third Wheel; Live by Night; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Justice League; Smokin’ Aces; BMT: Gigli; Runner Runner; Phantoms; Paycheck; Armageddon; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Actor in 2004 for Daredevil, Gigli, and Paycheck; Winner for Worst Screen Combo for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2017; Winner for Worst Screen Couple for Gigli in 2004; Nominee for Worst Actor in 2002 for Pearl Harbor; in 2005 for Jersey Girl, and Surviving Christmas; and in 2017 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Nominee for Worst Actor of the Decade in 2010 for Daredevil, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Pearl Harbor, and Surviving Christmas; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple in 1999 for Armageddon; in 2002 for Pearl Harbor; and in 2005 for Jersey Girl; Notes: Ya’ll know Ben Affleck. Rumor his next project, I think called The Last Duel, is the first team up between him and Damon since Good Will Hunting.)

Justin Timberlake – (Known For: The Social Network; Trolls; Friends with Benefits; Black Snake Moan; Bad Teacher; Inside Llewyn Davis; Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping; Shrek the Third; Alpha Dog; Trouble with the Curve; Future BMT: Yogi Bear; Southland Tales; Edison; On the Line; The Open Road; Wonder Wheel; In Time; BMT: The Love Guru; Runner Runner; Notes: Married to Jessica Biel. Got in a spot of trouble by taking a selfie in a voting booth, whoops!)

Gemma Arterton – (Known For: Murder Mystery; Quantum of Solace; The Boat That Rocked; RocknRolla; The Girl with All the Gifts; The Voices; The Disappearance of Alice Creed; Byzantium; The Escape; Tamara Drewe; Their Finest; Gemma Bovery; 100 Streets; A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures; Song for Marion; Future BMT: Clash of the Titans; St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold; St. Trinian’s; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; BMT: Runner Runner; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters; Notes: Interestingly enough according to wikipedia she was born with extra fingers which were then removed. Fun.)

Budget/Gross – $30 million / Domestic: $19,316,646 (Worldwide: $62,675,095)

(That is a terrible domestic take. Kind of amazing it didn’t do better actually. I would have thought some people would have just gone and seen a Timberlake / Affleck film out of habit. Maybe made back the budget worldwide, but it would have been close.)

#51 for the Crime Time genre

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(Crime Time! It is extremely depressing that films surrounding criminals absolutely peaked right after the financial crisis. Like that is the only way people could get a grip on it. Either in the glorification of comeuppance of criminals.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 8% (9/120): It has an impressive cast and an intriguing premise, but Runner Runner wastes them on a bland, haphazardly assembled thriller with very little payoff.

(Hmmmm. I’m only a thriller kick though. Methinks I can get something out of this. That being said 8% is astonishing low. Reviewer Highlight: The actors hit the jackpot, but only in terms of their paychecks. The audience gets a tension-free, tight-assed, Casino ripoff that leaves them thoroughly fleeced. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)

Poster – Renner Renner: The Jeremy Renner Story (D+)

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(The poster used for the DVD cover is better than this one, but we default to IMDb as presumably they know better than us what the primary theatrical poster was. This is not good. It’s got an overall blue tone that’s OK, but pretty much everything else kind of sucks. I would say it’s the most boring poster ever if I didn’t know the poster for The Tourist exists. Look at that… it’s almost a masterpiece in being a boring piece of shit.)

Tagline(s) – Play. Or be played. (C-)

(I mean, I guess it has something to do with the plot and it’s not overly long. But not clever and generic to book. Blah on top of blah.)

Keyword(s) – poker; Top Ten by BMeTric: 74.5 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011); 64.9 In the Mix (2005); 63.6 Boat Trip (2002); 51.4 McHale’s Navy (1997); 50.8 Iron Eagle II (1988); 49.1 The Specialist (1994); 47.5 MacGruber (2010); 45.7 Runner Runner (2013); 44.0 Unaccompanied Minors (2006); 40.4 The Break-Up (2006);

(Incredible that Runner Runner made it on.I only vaguely remember MacGruber’s poker scene, doesn’t he just lose all of his money immediately? Great film.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 14) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Ben Affleck is No. 1 billed in Runner Runner and No. 1 billed in Gigli, which also stars Al Pacino (No. 7 billed) who is in 88 Minutes (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 3 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 1 + 7 + 1 + 3 + 1 = 14. If we were to watch Pearl Harbor we can get the HoE Number down to 7.

Notes – Although set in Costa Rica, the majority of the scenes in the movie were filmed in Puerto Rico. (SETTING ALERT. That is a high quality setting)

In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly Gemma Arterton said on Runner Runner (2013) “It made me stop wanting to be an actor. The whole thing wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t the type of thing I enjoyed watching or doing. I had a moment where I thought, ‘Okay, I got into this because of Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier and now I’m making action movies.’ Not that I wouldn’t ever do [action movies] again but I realized then that it wasn’t for me and I decided to do more theater and collaborate with people.” (Lol, holy shit, Runner Runner made Arterton look at herself in the mirror and change her life!)

Canadian EDM star Deadmau5 makes an appearance as himself at a party playing a set. (Cool)

The Shorts Skyvan aircraft taking off near the end of the movie, is the same one that was used for the movie Welcome to the Jungle (2013), with tail number N106SW, and it was the property of MN Airlines until late 2014. (And now is presumably owned by a movie studio? Weird)

Armageddon Recap

Jamie

When an asteroid is found to be hurtling towards Earth, NASA has to turn to a group of oilmen led by Harry Stamper to figure out how to blow it up. Can Harry become an astronaut, learn to trust AJ (the hotshot boyfriend of his daughter), and stop that asteroid before it’s too late? Find out in… Armageddon.

How?! We open with the destruction of a space shuttle mission and parts of several major US cities (naturally, this is Michael Bay) and NASA scrambles to figure out what it was. Turns out a giant asteroid is on its way and boy howdy do they need some help figuring out how to drill a hole in it and blow it up (I feel like there’s a metaphor here). Who you gonna call? Harry Stamper, duh. But he’s also going through his own major catastrophe as he’s just found out that his cocky hotshot partner is dating his daughter. Oh no! That’s just as bad as that asteroid stuff. No time to figure it out though because the government comes and brings him to Houston. There they are like, can you help us? And he’s like “not with these jokester astronauts. Me and my bozo gang of misfits have to be your astronauts.” So they get the gang together, go through some real intense training, and then remember what they are fighting for by visiting family and going to a strip club (to two most american things you can do). The plan is to get some fuel from the Russian space station, swing around the moon, and land on the asteroid, but things immediately go wrong when the junky Russian space station blows up. They swing around the moon but get caught in asteroid debris and one of the spaceships go down, including AJ. Noooo. The other spaceship overshoots the landing spot and has to drill through an iron plate. It’s slow going and they keep breaking parts of the driller and it looks like all is lost when the drill monster truck blows up and flies into space. Things start going nuts with the government trying to blow up the nuke from the surface and people getting “space madness,” but unbeknownst to everyone AJ is being a total hero and he and a few of the others make their way from their wreck and arrive in time to save the day. AJ pushes that drill monster truck like no one has ever pushed a drill monster truck before and totally gets that nuke in there (still feeling like a metaphor), but uh oh! The nuke can’t be detonated from the surface! Someone will have to step in. That man is Harry and he gives a rousing speech to his daughter and saves the goddamn world! After coming back everyone forgets how shitty everyone was before and greet them like heroes. THE END.

Why?! You’re probably all like “for humanity, duh.” *shakes head sadly* you learned nothing. It’s for love, man. Love. And your eyes, your eyes, your eyes. They tell me how much you care. Ooooh yes, you will always be… my… endless looooove. Armageddon.

Who?! Hail to the Chief! We have the election of an unnamed President to the BMT Hall of Presidents played by Stanley Anderson. Has he played the President in other films? Why yes. In The Rock, also directed by Michael Bay and also the greatest film ever made. Does that mean those two films take place during the same presidential term? Probably. Also need to shoutout the least heralded member of the Armageddon crew: Noonan, played by Clark Brolly. I did not remember this character until this viewing and he really does get short shrift when all is said and done. As Ben Affleck is crying over Owen Wilson’s body he just kinda implies that Noonan was also killed on impact. Who is Noonan?!

What?! Some real iconic product placement here for Animal Crackers. There is probably some more blatant placement for Nokia or TAG Hauer, but the Animal Cracker scene is perfection. I don’t want to close my eyesssss. I don’t want to falll asleep. Cause I’d miss you babe and I don’t want to miss a thaaaaannnnngggggggggg. As for props there are some real gems here. A Stamper Oil hard hat?! AJ’s space costume?! How do I choose just one?

Where?! We got scenes all over the place. These are the types of films that really would help cover a large portion of a world map. But really this is set in Texas and Space… a solid choice for the catchall setting, Space. As specific as needed and quite necessary. A.

When?! I do not believe that they make it clear when the film takes place. Seems like the summer given the sweltering look of NYC in the beginning. Usually I’m all like “but only if I could get my hands on some props,” well from the website above I can… they purposefully don’t have any dates on it. So I think they never really make it clear other than to say that the events of the film take place over almost exactly 18 days. F.

Armageddon is the greatest film ever made. Patrick?… oh, should I elaborate on that? I sat down to watch this movie and was like “It’s pretty late, I’ll watch half the movie and then finish it tomorrow.” Three hours later, with tears streaming down my face, I finished watching Armageddon. I literally didn’t want to close my eyes… didn’t want to fall asleep… cause I’d miss Armageddon and I didn’t want to miss a thing. Now, just to be clear, when I say Armageddon is the greatest film ever made I don’t mean that it’s like the best film ever made or anything crazy like that. It just hits all the right buttons for me and allows me to forgive all the bad visual effects, scientific inaccuracies, ludicrous plot devices, and the fact that Michael Bay films America like it still is 1957… even when astronauts are flying souped-up space shuttles to an asteroid to plant a nuke using a monster truck space drill. I forgive all that because Ben Affleck is playing with animal crackers and is like “I hope other people are doing this, because otherwise what are we fighting for,” and Bruce Willis telling his daughter that he’ll look in on her from time to time before sacrificing himself for the good of humanity. As A1 steak sauce would say, it gets me right here *points to heart*. Patrick?

‘Ello everyone! Sometimes for BMT we re-watch a film we’ve seen before to give it the real BMT treatment. And sometimes we … watch a film for the like 50th time and revel in it and make fun of all the no-fun-having critics who hate explosions and America. Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – You think I didn’t already know everything about Armageddon? The most interesting things were that it was nominated for several Oscars. More rare than you would think for BMT. You’d think more terrible films would still manage the technical awards. And that this was the most successful Michael Bay film outside of the Transformers films, which is also fun.

The Good – Uh … this film? The film is good? More seriously, the first half of the film is very fun. Just balls to the wall grumpy Bruce Willis telling the eggheads at NASA what’s what about drilling in space. Lots of funny characters, lots of funny lines, and great visuals that hold up. The cosmonaut character is still the best as well. Just absolutely the funniest. The last third is a bit melodramatic, and the asteroid set … has problems. But the movie is gosh darn entertaining. I would watch it again right now if you asked me to.

The Bad – The asteroid set is ludicrous. I think if they had had a bit more time they could have whipped something together that looked fine … but it doesn’t. Very melodramatic, and basically the definition of inserting a romantic subplot into an action film for no reason (and Bay would repeat the same mistake in Pearl Harbor). Some bits here and there are problematic (Buscemi suggesting he committed statatory rape being played for laughs isn’t great), but hey, it’s an action film in 1998.

The BMT – There is, in my opinion, more good than bad here. I don’t think this film comes out to the same reviews these days. I think it gets a very respectable “good for what it is” like … 50-60% on Rotten Tomatoes released today. So no. Of course it isn’t BMT. It is too good. I will never accept this film isn’t good. It is like Hook, I saw it at just the right time to love it and it’ll always tug at that bit of nostalgia. I can’t help myself.

Roast-radamus – Can we get a Where? for the asteroid? No? I’m going to give it a What? (Product Placement) though. What product? NASA and the US Military of course. Legitimately this is US propaganda, but whatever, I love it. Something about this film screams Why? to me. Is it a MacGuffin? No, but the entire thing about the 800 foot hole they are trying to drill on the asteroid is just too much. How they are all so sad when they are only at 250 feet. When they are so happy when they cross this arbitrary point. It is just so good. I have a sneaking suspicion this is a shoe in for Good as well because … well, just read my review.

StreetCreditReport.com – As usual, all of these films have a lot of cred already because Siskel and Ebert put it on their worst of list for 1998. And crazily … I can’t find any other lists where it was mentioned. There are so many bad disaster films it doesn’t even get close to the lists it seems. So good for Armageddon, it ain’t got the cred.

You Just Got Schooled – You may or may not have heard of the notorious Ben Affleck Armageddon audio commentary. The most famous bit is when he talks about how he asked Michael Bay why they couldn’t just send astronauts up to drill on the asteroid, and Michael Bay told him to shut up. (1) His Michael Bay and Billy Bob Thornton impressions are second to none. (2) His on set stories are really interesting, like about how much stuff leaked in from other projects, and how crap everything looked when you are actually doing it. (3) He basically has the same opinion as me about the patriotic aspects, he says he’s mostly a cynic about such things, but something about Armageddon he likes and he finds really powerful. People think he was drunk, but I think he was mostly just tired. If you listen to the entire thing, he is far too coherent for way too long while watching the entire film for the drunk idea to hold much water. A+ audio commentary, especially this svelte 30 minute cut which is just Affleck and not the other people:

Cheerios, and back to you Jamie!

Cheerios,

The Sklogs