Going in Style

Posted on April 6, 2017 at 5:31 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Mostly comic peril and violence, issues of aging and illness
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 7, 2017
Date Released to DVD: July 31, 2017

Copyright Warner Brothers 2017
Copyright Warner Brothers 2017
Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin are such a dream team that we almost forget how weak this remake of the 1979 George Burns “Going in Style” is. It is always a pleasure to see these old pros, and in this heist story the real theft is every scene they are in from anyone else in the cast.

As in the original, which co-starred Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, it is the story of three old guys who rob a bank. This time, the script by Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent,” “Hidden Figures”) leverages the post-financial meltdown Trump era animosity toward banks and big multi-national corporations that consider the pensions they promised their long-term employees as just another stream of revenue to redirect to investment bankers and CEOs. Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin) are not just proving that experience and wiliness will triumph over youth and overconfidence; they are a new version of Robin Hood, seeking justice for the little guys.

The men are all retirees from the same manufacturing company, which is moving all of its operations out of the United States and cancelling all pension plans. Joe, whose daughter and granddaughter (Joey King) live with him, has had to stop making the mortgage payments that tripled after his rate went up, and his home is in foreclosure. Willie’s dialysis is not enough any more and he will die if he does not get a new kidney. When Joe’s meeting at the bank about his mortgage is interrupted by a bank robbery, it looks like a way for him to solve his money problems.

The three leads give it their best, and there is simply nothing better than that. Their enjoyment in each other and in the chance to have some fun as the movie’s heroes is palpable. And it is a joy to see the still-lovely and very game Ann-Margret as a grocery store clerk with a crush on Al. “SNL’s” Kenan Thompson and Siobhan Fallon Hogan are bright spots, but the gifted Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd, Josh Pais, and Peter Serafinowicz (“Spy”) are vastly under-used in one-dimensional roles. This especially disappointing from director Zach Braff (“Garden State”) and screenwriter Theodore Melfi, who seem to think that their only choice here is to make a thinly imagined, tiresomely formulaic, numbingly predictable story. Topical references notwithstanding, the movie is more outdated than the 1979 original.

Parents should know that this film includes armed robberies, guns, serious illness, marijuana, drinking and drunkenness, some strong language, sexual references and non-explicit situations.

Family discussion: What did each man find the most persuasive reason to rob the bank? What was the most important advice they got?

If you like this, try: the original version with George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, and “Tower Heist”

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Comedy Crime DVD/Blu-Ray Family Issues Remake

Where You’ve Seen Them Before: Cast of “Going in Style”

Posted on April 4, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Copyright 2017 Warner Brothers

The remake of “Going in Style,” like the original, is about a trio of retired men who rob a bank, with all three characters played by acting legends. This version stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin, all Oscar-winners with decades of brilliant performances. And the co-star is one of my all-time favorites, Ann-Margret.

Morgan Freeman: Best remembered as Red in “The Shawshank Redemption,” Hoke in “Driving Miss Daisy,” and God in the “Bruce Almighty” and “Evan Almighty,” and the deep, rich-voiced narrator of films like “March of the Penguins,” Freeman won an Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby.”

Michael Caine: His breakthrough role was in 1966 as the ladies’ man title character in “Alfie,” and he has delivered iconic performances in everything from period drama (“The Man Who Would be King”) to literary adaptations (an Oscar-winning performance in “The Cider House Rules”) to Alfred in the Batman movies. His distinctive voice and Cockney accent have inspired many imitators.

Alan Arkin: He won an Oscar for playing a raunchy, drug-addicted grandfather in “Little Miss Sunshine,” and his other great performances include a confused Soviet submarine captain in “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!,” an isolated deaf man in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” and a cynical Hollywood executive in “Argo.”

Ann-Margret: Her most iconic roles showcased her fiery hair, creamy skin, flashing turquoise eyes, gorgeous figure, seductive purr, and the unmatched energy and flair of her dancing, but she showed her ability with dramatic roles in “Carnal Knowledge” and the television film “Who Will Love My Children?”

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Actors For Your Netflix Queue Movie History Where You’ve Seen Them Before

Alan Arkin Interview: Sam Fragoso’s Talk Easy Podcast

Posted on August 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Sam Fragoso’s new Talk Easy podcast series about movies is excellent, and his interview with Oscar-winner Alan Arkin is truly a gem.

Alan Arkin is one of the all-time greats. Here’s the original trailer for the wild comedy, “The In-Laws.”

And in “Argo” as a cynical movie producer.

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Actors

Grudge Match

Posted on December 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Grudge_Match poster

Not that this is going to come as a surprise to anyone, but this movie is not just bad, it is sad.  The stars of two of the greatest boxing movies of all time are not just slumming here.  They trash their pasts and ours, too, with a bunch of jokes about prostates, jock itch, hookers, the financial rewards of Kardashian sex tapes, and what “BJ” stands for.  If you think it is hilarious for a father and grandfather tell a child that “BJ” stands for butterscotch jellybeans — wink wink nudge nudge — then this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.  Oh, and a prison rape joke.  When the end credits list the roles in the film as “tranny hooker” and “puking boxer,” you get the idea. Plus, there’s an extended scene with a bucket of horse urine.

“Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone from “Rocky’) and Kid (Robert De Niro from “Raging Bull”) play former light heavyweight champions who fought each other twice, one win for each.  They bitterly dislike each other  for personal and professional reasons.  But they agree to throw some punches for a computer game.  Footage of them scuffling at a video game studio in green motion capture suits goes viral and the impulsive and ambitious son of their former promoter (Kevin Hart) persuades them to fight each other for real.  Cue the training montage and the jokes that ended up on the cutting room floor from “Grumpy Old Men.”
grudge-match-ring
Razor agrees to the fight because he needs the money.  He is broke, losing his job, and caring for his old trainer (Alan Arkin).  Kid agrees to fight because he wants to win.  He’s doing fine financially, with a car dealership and a bar called “Knock Out.”  In one of several sad, soggy call-outs to previous greatness, his shtick-y puppet routine in the bar is a reminder of the brilliant end of “Raging Bull,” when an overweight Jake LaMotta tries to perform in his nightclub.  It still rankles him that he lost the last bout with Razor and he is sure he can win this time.

Kim Basinger shows up as the real reason for the feud.  And there’s a long-lost son who happens to be just the guy to get Kid back in shape, starting with getting the fighter to stop those breakfasts of Scotch and pancakes.  The son’s name is BJ and he is played by John Bernthal, the only person in this movie who comes off with any class and dignity, even when the script calls for him to forgive a man whose idea of babysitting is to take a child to a bar while he goes off to have sex with someone he just met in the parking lot.  Poor Alan Arkin for the second time in 2013 is stuck with the role of the guy who insults the staff at his assisted living facility and is supposed to be funny just because it’s an old guy being crude.

There are many, many jokes about how old these guys are.  They are bad.  There are winking references to their better work.  They are awful.  So is this movie.

Parents should know that this movie includes extremely crude sexual references and very strong and vulgar language for a PG-13, as well as a car crash and boxing violence with some graphic images of injuries.

Family discussion: Why does Kid want to fight? Who were you rooting for and why?

If you like this, try: “Rocky” and “Raging Bull”

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Comedy Family Issues Sports

Stand Up Guys

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm

A little bit “Goodfellas” and a little bit “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” this is a life-in-a-day story about aging criminals.  Unlike Ferris, these guys have had too many days off and are very happy to return to their old haunts and activities.

Val (Al Pacino) gets out of prison after 28 years.  He has been a “stand up guy.”  He never told on his friends.  One of those friends is there to pick him up, still in the same car he had back when Val went away.  They greet each other warmly. “You look like s***.”  “You look worse.”  A brief hug feels “weird.”  But that’s just their way of saying how glad they are to see each other.

Val is eager to get back in the game, meaning food, alcohol, girls, and stirring up trouble.  But he is not the only one whose life has been on hold.  Doc has been waiting for Val to get out of prison because he he missed his friend but also because he has a job to do.  A thuggish and brutal crime boss named Claphands (Mark Margolis) has a hit out on Val and he insists that Doc be the one to do it.  Val wants to live it up because he just got out of prison.  Doc wants to help him live it up because he will have just one more night before he is killed.  Val gets the picture pretty quickly.

So, they round up their old friend Hirsch (Alan Arkin), who is in a nursing home breathing from an oxygen tank and steal a car that happens to belong to two other thugs known for their brutality (“These are the kind of guys who take your kidney and don’t even sell it”).  They go out for an outrageous joyride that includes a couple of visits to a sympathetic madam (Lucy Punch), some big meals, a bit of breaking and entering and light robbery, a visit to the emergency room for a very intimate procedure assisted by a nurse they knew when she was a child (Julianna Margulies of “A Good Wife”), a game of pool, a poignant but courtly slow dance that seems directly lifted from Pacino’s own “Scent of a Woman,” an impromptu burial, some revenge beat-downs, some thoughts about life and aging and  a friendly young waitress with beautiful eyes.  “It’s like the old days,” says Hirsch.  “No, it’s better.  This time, we can appreciate it.”

The story is preposterous, but the coincidences and improbabilities (like the almost-complete absence of any other people) just add to the fairy tale or dreamlike quality.  The story could almost exist as a fantasy created by the imprisoned Val.  It is not just Val and Doc who want a chance to show their vitality and know-how in the face of their mortality.  Pacino, Walken, and Arkin show all of that and the pure joy of performing in the knowledge that they are better than ever.  “That’s got no flavor, no style,” one of them says dismissively.  These guys have all the flavor and style in the world and it is always fun to see them show it.  And this time, we can appreciate it.

Parents should know that this film has constant very strong and crude language, explicit sexual references and situations including nudity, Viagra use and prostitutes, criminal behavior, references to rape, drinking, smoking, drug use, and extensive violence with some disturbing images with characters injured and killed.

Family discussion:  What is the difference between Val, Doc, Claphands, the Jargoniews and Wendy in the way they set and enforce rules?  What makes someone a “stand up guy?”

If you like this, try: “Midnight Run,” “Gran Torino,” and “Going in Style”

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Comedy Crime Drama
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