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Payback (1999) and Payback the Director’s Cut (2006)—the same movie but not even close. A study in how the editing of a film can completely change it.

Payback is a 1999 American neo-noir crime film written and directed by Brian Helgeland in his directorial debut, and stars Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, and David Paymer.  But in 2006, Helgeland released his director’s cut that hardly resembles the 1999 theatrical version.  The “original” Payback starts off with Mel Gibson (Porter—we don’t know if it is his first or last name) narrating his current predicament; that is, being operated on by some back alley surgeon who takes two bullets out of his back and uses a bottle of booze to sterilize the wound.   Porter’s narration begins to tell a story of crime and betrayal showing that there is truly no honor among thieves.

 

Porter and another criminal named Val Resnik hit a Triad gang for $140,000.00.  They made a clean get away and while they were dividing up the money, Porter’s wife shoots him in the back allowing Resnik to take the entire heist so he can buy his way back into an all-powerful organized crime outfit—for some unknown reason Resnick owed this group $130,000.00 and once paid he was allowed back in.  While Porter is writhing in agony after his wife shot him, Resnick walks up to him and produces a picture of Porter with another woman which was enough to convince his wife to betray and try to kill him.  Both Resnik and the wife leave him for dead.

Somehow Porter makes it to the back-alley surgeon and spends 5 months recovering from his wounds. When he is able Porter sets out to collect his ½ of the heist that was originally agreed upon by the partners in crime.  The rest of the film is Porter tracking down Resnik, dealing with corrupt cops and a well-organized criminal enterprise in order to get his $70,000.00.  Porter is very clever and outwits anyone that stands in his way. Including putting away two very corrupt cops, killing numerous foot soldiers of the “outfit” as well as the enterprises’ underboss and of course Resnick.  Naturally after some grueling fighting and torture Porter recovers his money and gets away with Rosie, a hooker he used to drive for and who helped him in his quest for the cash.

The 1999 theatrical version did well at the box office and world wide grossed approximately $160,000,000.00.   Helgeland went on to make a name for himself, writing and directing such films as LA Confidential, Man on Fire and Robin Hood.  His one big mistake is a film previously reviewed by the JPFmovies staff The Postman—winner of a Golden Raspberry award because it just sucked.

Then in 2006, Helgeland releases Payback Straight Up The Directors Cut.  The new release is materially different than the theatrical version and in the eyes of the JPFmovies staff much better.  The Directors Cut is much darker involving an unappealing hero, little humor, some graphic scenes including one where he beats the shit out of his wife and no neat, happy ending but instead a dead dog (named Porter).  It is a totally different film, gritty edgy and no one in the story is a “good guy.”  But when you think about it, Helgeland was right from an economic point of view to release the 1999 version to the public.  The theatrical version is funnier, easier accessible and more spectacular most of the shots show Porter with a light facial expression, almost smirking, and of course the dog survives.  Unfortunately, much more appealing to a wider audience which translated into $160,000,000.00.

The Director’s Cut is a much better film, but for narrower, hardcore audience and would not have made nearly as much money.  Payback is yet another example of how Hollywood has turned the art of film into nothing more than dollars and cents. JPFmovies recommends that you watch both versions of the film if for no other reason than to see just how powerful editing can be.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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The JPFmovies staff and longtime contributor Tom V. discuss the current state of the American film industry.

The JPFmovies staff and longtime contributor Tom V. discuss the current state of the American film industry.

Hello again JPFmovie fans yeah, we know our staff needs to bring some more game to the table so here is a fresh start.  As anyone who has followed the JPFmovies posts over the years will tell you we have taken the position that Hollywood churns out nothing but crap.  However, after a recent discussion with long time contributor Tom V., we have refined our position, what follows is our discussion with Tom V:

JPFmovies:  It is nice to hear from you again.  During our last meeting about potential reviews you and the JPFmovies staff were considering when you brought up some excellent points.  You have a different take on why the state of the Hollywood film industry is what is it is today.

Tom V: Yes, I do on several fronts.  Look at the advertising/marketing budgets of films like “Fury” an excellent film in my opinion versus some Transformers movie for example.

JPFmovies:  Could you expand on that a little more.  I mean it sounds like you think that Hollywood has become nothing more than a giant spreadsheet and a bunch of focus groups.

Tom V: Yes, that is exactly it.  Hollywood no longer backing classics, they will reluctant will.  Movies like Mutiny on the Bounty, Casablanca, Good Fellas and Reservoir Dogs.  These films are either not made anymore or the studios simply don’t invest in these types of films the way they used.  They seem to have a sixth-grade focus mentality because that is what seems to sell because these films are costly babysitters.

JPFmovies: Well what has happened to the talent that made some of the best movies in history like Sir Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner, Blackhawk Down or Kill Bill?

Tom V.: Over the past couple of years you’ve seen the talent move to Netflix, Amazon Prime and other independent film outlets.  What Hollywood has been regulated too are comedies with singing animals and politically correct films, action films more about the more expensive special effects scenes and other formula driven rubbish.

 JPFmovies: OK so you see all of the talent migrating (both actors and writers) to the new business models like Netflix and Amazon—do this that Hollywood with adjust to these changing times?

Tom V.: It will never happen Hollywood seems to be stuck in a holding pattern of mediocrity.

JPFmovies:  Ok why don’t proven directors like Scott, Tarantino or David Lynch get the resources they deserve?

Tom V.: Because it doesn’t sell as many tickets as a formulaic Transformers movie despite the obvious merit of films like of Blade Runner 2 because their focus groups projected lower profits.  That film for instance should have been made by Netflix or Amazon because it would have been funded and promoted much better.

JPFmovies: So, you believe that the free market has allowed companies like Netflix, Amazon, AMC and others to think outside of the box and make great entertainment for far less money.

Tom V.: Yeah sure.  Amazon and Netflix are on the cutting edge but don’t have the resources to go toe to toe with a company like Paramount—yet.  For instance, the Netflix series Marco Polo was an amazing series had to be canceled because of the $100,000,000.00 price tag for another season—which for a company like Netflix or Amazon which could have probably handled the costs, but they wisely spread those resources to other programs.

JPFmovies:  What are your favorite series to date from Amazon and Netflix?

Tom V.:  Marco Polo for sure from Netflix and Man in the High Castle from Amazon.  And even these films sucked, at least I would have avoided robots beat the crap out of each other yet again.

JPFmovies:  Do you have any predictions for the upcoming Raspberry Awards?

Tom V.: Too early to call.

JPFmovies:  What can we expect your next review to be?

Tom V.: I think it will be Brad Pit’s 2014 film Fury—which cost $68,000,000.00 and took in approximately $211,000,000.00, so these good movies can in fact be profitable. This film defied the odds of the Transformer garbage.

JPFmovies:  Any closing remarks you want to tell the audience.

Tom V.:  The only way you can change the mediocrity of Hollywood is with your pocketbook.

JPFmovies:  Thank you for your time. And we look forward to your next review.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Bottle Rocket (1996)—A Movie of Débuts.

Bottle Rocket did not do well at the box office; by all accounts it was a commercial failure but launched Wes Anderson, Owen and Luke Wilson’s careers by drawing attention from critics and other Hollywood elite.   Indeed, director Martin Scorsese named Bottle Rocket one of his top-ten favorite movies of the 1990’s.

The Bottle Rocket spring board helped Wes Anderson go on to direct two movies I hold in high regard: Rushmore (1998) & The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).  As for the Wilson brothers—well it is common knowledge that both went on to star in various films like Old School and Wedding Crashers just to name a few.  Not only did Anderson direct Bottle Rocket and Owen Wilson co-star in it, they also co-wrote the script.  The only big name in the movie (at the time) was James Caan who played a quasi-gangster.

The film centers on a group of directionless young men living in Texas (in fact the entire film was shot in Dallas, Fort Worth and Hillsboro, Texas).  Dignan (Owen Wilson) “rescues” Anthony (Luke Wilson) from a voluntary mental hospital where he has been recovering from self-described “exhaustion” for the past two years.  Dignan concocted an elaborate escape plan to spring Anthony from the hospital as well as a 75-year plan that he proudly shows to Anthony.  Part of the plan is to pull off several heists and then meet Mr. Henry (James Caan), a landscaper and dilettante criminal known to Dignan.

To begin their training, the two break into Anthony’s house, stealing a predetermined number of objects from a list.  They then critique the heist and Dignan discloses that he took a pair of earrings not enumerated on the list. This upsets Anthony, as he had bought those earrings for his mother.

Bob (Robert Musgrave), the third spoke in this wheel, is a spoiled rich kid who raises marijuana in his backyard and lets his older brother beat him up on a regular basis.  Together, the trio attempt several crimes that stand as monuments of ineptitude and are laughably-executed.  These three are so bad at what they do that not even their victims take them seriously.

Eventually Dignan’s employer and mentor—Mr. Henry (James Caan), allows the trio to pull off a “major” robbery and lets Dignan run as point man for the operation; and, even though the robbery crashes and burns, Dignan passes through the flames of failure, finds self-worth and holds onto his youthful naiveté.

Friendship/family, fitting into society, purpose, self-worth, love, sadness, mischief, sacrifice and redemption- these themes run throughout “Bottle Rocket” (and all of Wes Anderson’s movies); yet, Anderson weaves them together with such soft humor that one can easily forget the gravity of the characters’ pains and frustrations.

I love this movie, but beware it is entertaining only for the quirky.  If you are not into unconventional and subtle humor don’t bother.  Otherwise it is a classic destined for cult status.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Yes We Look At Another Peter Sellers Masterpiece: The Party (1968)

Sellers plays an Indian film actor who somehow was signed up to do a lead part in a Hollywood production called Son of Gunga Din.  The Party (1968) opens as British Imperial forces c.1878 march through an Indian ravine; a wounded native deserter, Hrundi V. Bakshi (Sellers) climbs atop a ridge to bugle a charge. Since this is a set, the clumsy actor overdoes his role by not dying on cue.  Instead he keeps using his bugle again and again and again until his own compatriots turn on him and begin to fire to move the process along.  Later he ruins a shot where he kills an enemy guard by forgetting that he is still wearing his waterproof wristwatch even though the movie is set circa 1878.  Finally, he wrecks the one and only chance of filming the exploding fort with dynamite by tying his shoe on the detonator-plunger.

Sellers is then “blacklisted” by the studio head who mistakenly writes Hrundi V. Bakshi’s name on to the guest list of a dinner party he and his wife are throwing.  Sellers arrives at the party and quickly demonstrates the problems of inviting him.  His shoe is muddy so he tries to casually clean it off in a pool where the clean water rapidly turns black but the shoe floats away.  Using a tree to fish it out, the shoe ends up on a tray of canapés being served to the guests.

In the meantime the problems multiply during dinner when Sellers, the host and guests have to deal with a drunken waiter who serves Caesar salad using his bare hand instead of a utensil.  During the main course, Bakshi’s roast Cornish game hen accidentally catapults off his fork and becomes impaled on a guest’s tiara. He asks the drunken waiter to retrieve his meal and the drunk man complies, unaware that the woman’s wig has come off along with her tiara, as she obliviously engages in conversation.

Bakshi innocently creates more havoc through many awkward encounters with inanimate objects: the house’s bizarre electronic panel is a too-tempting toy causing various appliance to turn on and off as well as broadcasting his voice throughout the house and feeding the parrot with spilling seeds is best recalled with the catch-phrase “Birdie num-num.” Sellers is clearly a fish out of water as he tries to laugh at jokes, not hearing them completely but laughing anyway, or laughing at anecdotes that aren’t funny.  Everyone present compounds the evening’s disorder. The Party soon becomes a gaggle of career-hungry Hollywood fools preying on one another.

Edwards said the 63 page script for the Party was the shortest he ever worked with.  Normally this might be a sign that you are in for a  moronic movie (my guess is that many of today’s “blockbuster” action moviemakers would consider a 63 page script too long), but that is not the case.  The Party is a brilliant and outrageously funny movie that you should see without delay.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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