Thursday, March 26, 2020

Blow the Man Down plus some brief comments concerning She's Gotta Have It, Inside Man, and American Gangster

Fargo Moves to Maine

Review and Comments by Ken Burke

I invite you to join me on a regular basis to see how my responses to current cinematic offerings compare to the critical establishment, which I’ll refer to as either the CCAL (Collective Critics at Large) if they agree with me or the OCCU (Often Cranky Critics Universe) if they choose to disagree.

                                          Blow the Man Down 
             (Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy)   rated R
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): With scant in-theater-activity for new cinematic releases on a virtual-worldwide-scale at present,* Two Guys’ best hopes about fresh material for this blog come from streaming options, most of which—based on their brief-content-blurbs—aren’t enticing me much at all.  A notable exception, though, is Blow the Man Down, a feature-debut from screenwriters/directors Cole and Krudy (both with limited careers so far [although I hope we see much more from them with future projects] in short films, TV [although Krudy was a camera intern on Black Swan {Darren Aronofsky, 2010}]).  What they give us here is an already-highly-praised-story set in a Maine coastal town where winter’s in the souls of some of the residents as well as in the snow-covered-landscape (one of the many effective-similarities in tone, along with a little in content, to Joel and Ethan Coen’s amazing Fargo [1996], one of the highest compliments I can give any film).  In short (prior to swerving into spoiler territory), the young adult daughters of a matriarch in this port are left in crisis because now-deceased-Mom used their family home as loan-collateral to keep the family fish shop alive but they’re now on the verge of default.  Mary Beth (left above), the younger, more-impulsive one—ready to go back to college, leaving more-restrained Priscilla with this debacle—takes out her frustrations at a local bar, meets up with a smooth charmer, soon has reason to run away from him; fearing for her life, she stabs him with a harpoon, then hurries home to get help from Pris, ending up with the body crammed into an ice chest, dumped into the ocean (so you can imagine how this all unfolds later if these events don’t rate spoiler status).  As complications arise for our protagonists we’re treated to a grand performance by Margo Martindale as the local madam being pressured by old friends to close down her business, nasty happenings by others connected to her establishment, and growing concern from a local cop that the Connolly girls aren’t as innocent as they’d like to portray themselves.  You’ll have to catch this one on Amazon Prime, well worth it if you already subscribe or it seems there’s a 30-day-free-trial awaiting (for that matter, Netflix and Hulu [among others?] appear to be offering similar-introductory-options).

*For domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters, weekend of March 20-22, 2020, Box Office Mojo shows few results, just 18 venues as shut-down-directives increase, with a bit under $4,000 in total grosses.  In contrast, China re-opened 507 theaters (about 5% of their large market) but took in under $2,000. 

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

What Happens: Mary Margaret Connolly has died so we begin our tale in Easter Cove, ME at her funeral (after an opening scene establishing the total-nautical-foundation of this community, especially with fishermen singing the old sea shanty yielding this film’s title) where daughters Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) will soon find themselves on a collision-course because while the former is content to attempt to keep running the family business (selling local catches at Connelly Fish) the latter’s resentful she’s spent the last year when she could have been off at college back in her hometown helping take care of ailing Mom; Mary Beth’s further frustrated when Priscilla admits they’re going to lose their house because Mom leveraged it to raise money to keep the store going, then couldn’t make the payments.  Mary Beth storms off to the local bar to vent her frustrations before leaving soon to go back to school; however, after a few drinks and flirtation with Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach)—who claims he just won the lottery but may be referring to meeting up with her—she’s soon driving his car (badly) to his dumpy place, right by the docks.  They stop, he inspects the damage, opens his trunk; she’s horrified by the sight of blood, tries to run away, but he’s hot on her trail so, fearful for her life, she stabs him with a handy harpoon, then finishes him off with a brick.  Soon, she’s back home with Priscilla asking for help; her sister calls the police, hesitates to follow through (not sure at all how convincing the story will be about Mary Beth having to commit murder), hangs up, agrees to aid Sis with whatever tactic they can come up with which results in attempting to stuff Gorski‘s body into an ice chest in his home, but first Priscilla has to use her handy fish-slitting-knife to cut off his arms to fit him into his makeshift coffin.  Once he’s securely packed away, they dump him into the ocean (the fishermen appear again, singing about “blood red roses”), hoping his disappearance will somehow not be traced back to them (despite later police suspicions about that phone call).  The most interested person in town about Gorski‘s apparent-vanishing is Enid Devlin (Margo Martindale), madam of the town’s well-known-yet-normally-discreet-brothel, where he acted as her manager.  Complications ensue quickly, though, when a body’s found floating in the cove; however, rather than Gorski it’s Dee (Meredith Holzman), one of  Ms. Enid‘s girls, leaving fellow-hooker Alexis (Gayle Rankin) furious about the death of her (as we'll discover) lover, pointing an accusatory finger at Enid.  Enid‘s got further problems from a cluster of the town’s elder citizens—Susie Gallagher (June Squibb), Doreen Burke (Marceline Hugot), Gail Maguire (Annette O’Toole)who agreed, along with Mary Margaret (co-owner early on), years ago for Enid to launch her enterprise to help keep visiting sailors (and locals) in line, but with these recent scandals they now defiantly want her to abandon the operation.

 Of course, we couldn’t be satisfied with so little (!) complication in this story so it takes on another major wrinkle when Priscilla realizes she no longer has her knife (inscribed with “Connolly Fish”), so Mary Beth pokes around in Gorski’s mini-warehouse of a room, instead finds a bag of cash (about $50,000) which should have been enough incentive for the Connolly sisters to pay off their debts, but how dull would that be given all of the intrigue established by this point?  Oh, I forgot to mention, Enid also went to prowl the debris in Gorski’s room, but she was looking for the money, instead finding the knife which she keeps to bring pressure on the Connollys when the time is right. ⇒It’s getting clear by now Gorski killed Dee, presumably at Enid’s direction because she realized Dee was skimming cash from her tricks so Enid wanted the money back; further, we learn Dee was shot rather than drowned, so we remember Mary Beth saw a pistol in Gotski’s glove compartment just before he opened his trunk, revealing all that blood; to cap this off, now we might also remember a strange early scene where—during Mary Margaret’s funeral, which Enid didn’t attend because they’d grown apart after the girls were born, causing MM to drop out of co-ownership of the brothel, raising her daughters with good moral values, as Priscilla tells us in voiceover at the beginning—we see Enid looking out a window, watching a guy chase a young woman through the snow, so putting this all together we understand Enid ordered the hit on Dee, yet Gorski doubled-crossed her by taking Dee’s stolen cash (explaining his “won the lottery” comment to Mary Beth) so you have to tally all this up yourself to fully appreciate it.  But, even when we think the tension’s been resolved, first by Mary Beth agreeing to turn herself in to young Officer Justin Brennan (Will Brittain)—who’s developing a crush on her even as his suspicions grow about what’s happened to Gorskithen changing her mind to join Priscilla in meeting with Enid as they hand over the bag of cash in return for the knife (after a confrontation where Enid tries to keep the knife in return for splitting the money, with the proviso the girls will eventually come to work for her, but then she collapses from drunkenness as they leave with the knife), the final twist comes when Alexis sneaks up on dozing Enid, suffocates her with a pillow, takes the cash as she skips town quickly, allowing us to depart the creepy confines of Easter Cove as we see Susie Gallagher cleaning up the ice chest Gorski was put in by the Connelly sisters, so we realize his body’s come ashore but Mary Margaret’s old pals (who always appreciated her help) hide it, protecting Priscilla and Mary Beth.⇐

So What? As I noted in last week’s posting, given how the coronavirus/COVID 19-pandemic-situation’s closed down many cinema theaters around the globe, I wasn’t sure how we’d be able to keep offering reviews of current films—which may still be an ongoing problem, although as I noted previously Universal’s testing the streaming waters by allowing a few of their current theatrical-releases to become now-available-via-streaming (how other studios may respond to this tactic has yet to be clarified, but Disney’s already in the act with Frozen 2 [Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck; 2019—sorry, Two Guys didn’t bother then, not about to start now, despite its massive success of being #3 worldwide for 2019, #10 all-time-globally with grosses of $1.45 billion] available on Disney+ since March 15, 2020)—but then I got a reprieve with the debut of Blow the Man Down on Amazon Prime streaming (which normally isn’t cheap; my wife signed up long ago at $99 a year for deliveries of various items that were becoming too difficult to find in local shops), just as we’re paying about $24 a month for the combo Netflix package of once-a-week-DVDs plus streaming; however, both of them seem to be offering a trial package of free access for a month (Hulu’s apparently got a similar deal of a free intro month, then, if you wish to continue, their no-ads-streaming’s $11.99 monthly, with-ads $5.99) so you might want to check these out for the many cinematic (and TV series) options you’d get for the time when most of us will likely be in (semi-?) quarantine during the Shelter-in-Place-duration because I think we’ll be watching a lot of movies in situations such as this during these opening months of spring with hopes our public interactions will return as we move into the warmer months of the summer. For now, though, if you’re already signed up with Amazon Prime or wish to try it out for a free month (with Two Guys in the Dark getting nothing no matter what you do with any of these streaming/DVD rental services) I think you’d have a grand old time with Blow the Man Down, which has rightly been compared to some of the fascinating-yet-macabre tonalities of films from the Coen Bros.  (Blood Simple [1985] and Fargo easily come to mind for me.)

 Further, as with the Coens’ films there’s a good bit of humor (assuming you can laugh at a woman cutting the arms off a corpse to successfully cram all of it into a large ice chest; maybe you had to be there to fully appreciate what could be considered funny in such a situation, but at least the act itself is only shown from the perspective of the camera on Priscilla’s face as she steels herself up with the word “coleslaw”* before slamming the blade down) mixed in with the haunting-dramatic-elements emphasizing just how weird the elements of our lives can be, especially when put into the context of a well-conceived, well-made film, in this rather-rare-case one focused on its female characters where the males are just in secondary roles** of self-defense-murder-victim (his demise maybe even more justified than the one setting all the chaos in motion in Thelma and Louise [Ridley Scott, 1991]), suspicious-but-stymied-cops (well, actually in-charge-Officer Coletti [Skip Sudduth] allows his long-standing-connection to Enid [along with easy-implications he’s a regular at her “B & B”] to blind him to the inquiries of junior-Officer Brennan until he can no longer ignore what’s happening in this less-than-tranquil-fishing-port), plus largely-non-consequential-story-interactions.

*This word's a cap-off to an earlier moment in the scene where Priscilla has to encourage Mary Beth to buck up, overcome her squeamishness (if not impending nausea) to deal with eradicating Gorski's dead body, which she’s responsible for.  The older sibling reminds the younger one of an incident when they were kids and Mary Beth was teased by some boy about her aversion to a neighbor’s coleslaw; the kid called her a “pussy” for refusing to eat it, so just to show him her toughness she swallowed her disgust (along with this cabbage concoction), finished it all off (while barely containing herself from gagging in the process).  This reminder-encouragement allows Mary Beth to help stuff Gorski into his makeshift coffin, just as it allows her steadfast-sister to plunge ahead with the gruesome business of mutilating the corpse in order to have room to close the lid.  ⇒When they toss it “overboard” they attached an anchor to weight it down, but very late in the film we briefly see the ice chest bobbing in the waves so somehow their plan went awry,⇐  just as situations often turn against original intentions in stories from Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock.

** Although you wouldn’t know it with a quick skim of the IMBd listing where the 3 actors listed in the top blurb are men, 3 of the opening singing-fishermen, so here’s a case where the detailed cast list is given in order of appearance rather than star-power-importance, the same as below with She’s Gotta Have It, whereas Inside Man and American Gangster go with celebrities first in the detailed lists and the short blurbs; I guess the lesson here with IMDb is always peruse the detailed list to see who the famous actors truly are in a movie's listing because if they’ve just put them in chronological-appearance-order you might never even know that one of your favorites is in the cast.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Because Blow the Man Down is available on Amazon Prime rather than in theaters I have no figures to report to you regarding ticket-sale-income nor home viewership,* although I can report it’s been lauded at a rarely-seen-degree by at least some of the CCAL, with Rotten Tomatoes critics giving it their massively-high-result of 99% positive reviews (75 of them when I went to “press,” so that’s a substantial-enough-sample to be very impressive) while the usually-more-stingy-folks at Metacritic proved true to their reputation by yielding a 72% average score (18 reviews in their case; more details on both of these critics-accumulation-sites in the Related Links section of this posting much farther below, whereas you’ll find the same type of RT, MC details for the others I’m highlighting this week as links within their comments much closer below).  I wouldn’t have known about this funny/gruesome-winning-combination had it not been for critics calling attention to it in my local-San Francisco Bay-area-newspapers (thank heaven they’re still in publication/ delivery, not just for movie news either), so maybe there’ll be more of these types of discoveries in upcoming Two Guys postings or maybe not, depending on the quality of what’s newly-available on various streaming services.  While it’s not likely we’ll find such a treasure as Blow the Man Down very often it’s great to know such quality films can be found in other locations than public theaters; speaking of theaters, though, I can only hope the coronavirus-dictated-shutdowns allow us back out in public sometime later (Sooner? But only if safe, so listen to the medical professionals, not our economy-obsessed-President.) this year so that Blow … might get the necessary theatrical release, even in very limited form, required for 2021 Oscar consideration because I think we’ve got real contenders here for the categories of Best Original Script (Cole and Krudy) as well as Best Supporting Actress (Martindale), yet I know it’s very early in the year to make such a statement.   (Although Annie Hall came out in April 1977, went on to win Best Picture, Best Director [Woody Allen], Best Original Screenplay [Allen, Marshall Brickman], Best Actress [Diane Keaton] while Fargo was released in March 1996, winning Oscars for Best Actress [Frances McDormand] and Best Original Screenplay [Joel and Ethan Cohen]—even with that early debut, Gene Siskel said “You won’t see a better film this year,” to which I heartedly agreed at the time, still do, was nominated for such but (sadly) lost Best Picture to The English Patient [Anthony Minghella].)

*However, this article offers normally-little-known-info on the most-watched-TV shows/movies on Netflix and Prime for March 2-8, 2020, if you’re interested in that type of audience-investment-trivia.
 So, see Blow the Man Down if you can, but, even if you can’t, maybe I can entertain you with my usual wrap-up-tactic of a Musical Metaphor related to the film, which in this case should be the song that inspires the title, a mid-19th century sea shanty where the “blow the man down” lyric refers to strong winds capsizing a ship but in the context of the song it seems to be a warning from the singer about getting shanghaied onto a rough voyage to New York, after being distracted by a pretty woman, with the overall intention seeming to be a warning that’s what’s attractive on the surface may well hide danger, just as the quiet port of Easter Cove hides many a sinful crime (like the old CBS TV series, Murder She Wrote [1984-‘96], easily left you with the sense supposedly-peaceful-Cabot Cove, ME was actually one of the homicide capitols of the U.S. where Jessica Fletcher [Angela Lansbury] had to solve crimes on a weekly basis).  This version of the song’s from Woody Guthrie at although the lyrics in the film are quite different, New England-oriented; David Coffin’s the lead fisherman-singer, seemingly credited with arrangement of the traditional shanties sung as the story progresses so maybe he adjusted the lyrics as well for these tunes that speak to the turbulence of lives lived on and around the high seas.  Still, in thinking about some brief time I’ve spent on the Maine coast and in the Canadian Atlantic provinces in years past I’m also compelled to offer you another Metaphor but one of an ultimately sunnier disposition celebrating sex, a form of salvation rather than condemnation in "Duncan" (from the 1972 Paul Simon album), an action more satisfying than murder.  Just for further fun, though, here’s a live version from May 7, 2011 in Toronto when fan Rayna Ford (from Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador) called out for the song, saying it was her means of learning to play guitar so Paul brought her up on stage to sing it (audio and visual qualities aren’t so good here, but as a performance moment it’s priceless [she does a decent rendition as well]; if you’d still prefer to hear Simon do it live, here he is from Prairie Home Companion on February 6, 2016).  OK, blog faithful, enough boredom, chowder, and survival through being befriended for now.
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
 While I don’t want to present actual reviews of considerably older cinematic experiences in these postings just to keep the blog alive during the pandemic (not at this point anyway; we’ll see what happens as the Shelter-in-Place situation goes on, with one very useful idea I’m mulling over/might turn to suggested by long-time-Two Guys-commentary-contributor Richard Parker), an additional thing for now that might be of some use to you during this deadly-virus-season is recommendations of films I’ve recently watched on Netflix DVD in case you might be interested in seeing any of them (or seeing them again, as has been my case), so just below I’ll give you some contact links for further info along with a brief recap of what I found interesting about them (no stars-ratings, though, as I don’t want to mix in these casual mentions with our list of actual Two Guys in the Dark reviews).  Also, while I got these through Netflix DVD there may easily be other sources so I’ll leave such exploring to you although you can consult (available in many countries worldwide for other viewing options you might also be interested in seeing through free streaming [for services you already subscribe to or decide to invest in] or to rent/buy [that’s where I got my info below which I can’t guarantee the ongoing-accuracy of beyond my posting date, so please check it out for yourself as you wish]).  By the way—and by chance—the 3 noted below are rated R (as is the film above) so keep that in mind depending on whom your viewing companions might be.

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.

                     She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986)   rated R

Here’s the trailer:

 Spike Lee’s debut-feature’s still a compelling watch in its tale of independently-minded, sexually-active Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Jones), a Brooklyn artist juggling 3 relationships (the men are aware of each other, don’t care for sharing Nola): sincere Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), brash Mars Blackmon (Lee), successful/self-absorbed Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell).  It’s clear this is a low-budget, independent, B&W (except for one scene in color where Jamie arranges for 2 dancers to perform in a public park for Nola’s birthday, an odd-intrusion in both style and content from the rest of this conception) statement (with stiff acting by some of the minor characters) that, nevertheless, provides a dynamic alternative to most Black screen presence of the time (which ranged from the highs of Sidney Poitier dramas to the lows of pimps, pushers, and thugs as antagonists in countless mainstreamers to the mixed-blessing of Blaxploitation* movies featuring strong Black characters but—largely except for Shaft [Gordon Parks, 1971] and its sequels—the protagonists were once again often pimps, pushers, and thugs but this time as protagonists for exploited African-Americans to cheer), with financially-successful-characters (Mars the least of them) in legitimate occupations, a Black woman in charge of her life (mostly) and her sexuality (so much so she decides to be celibate for awhile—didn’t last long, though) who’s going through a serious self-struggle about what attracts her in these men (the only ones she’s willing to let into her bed) as well as how to handle their resistance to her sexual freedom ⇒(leading to a very disturbing scene Lee may never fully reconcile with some Black women)⇐ and what she’s truly seeking if she wants to continue in this freedom-based-hedonistic-manner or evolve into something else.  Over the decades, Lee’s certainly made even better films (including the one noted just below), yet the audacity of subject matter here along with a focus on some intriguing, unique characters (introducing Lee’s ability with original, attention-grabbing dialogue) along with a strong sense of the setting (enhanced by interludes of great still photography) continue to make She’s Gotta Have It a worthwhile viewing.  (I’ve never seen the 2 seasons of this story made into a Netflix-streaming-TV series [2017-’19, all 19 episodes directed by Spike], but, if you have [or decide to], the original film would likely be a useful companion piece.)  What meager official site exists is also on Netflix but provides little so maybe this taste of the story (attempted pick-up-lines of no use to Nola) might help extend the trailer.  The CCAL’s been quite supportive with 91% positive reviews at RT, a 79% average MC score; available through Netflix streaming (seemingly not out on DVD at all).

*For a little more depth on this 1970s movement, please visit my review of Dolemite Is My Name.
                            Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006)   rated R

Here’s the trailer:

 This seems to be a standard bank-heist-movie, but there’s lots more going on.  It begins with Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) talking directly to us about how he committed the perfect robbery of a large Manhattan bank using only a few masked accomplices who storm into the building, brandish their weapons, round up a few dozen hostages, then settle in while a couple of them dig a hole in a basement storeroom rather than making a quick escape with readily-available-cash from the vault, Russell’s interested only in getting into a specific safety-deposit-box containing a document, several precious diamonds.  Police immediately surround the place, hostage negotiations handled by Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), himself under a cloud of suspicion about missing money from a previous case.  An initial demand of the robbers is for food so boxes of pizza are sent in with concealed listening devices, but the thieves anticipated that, played tapes of an Albanian politician, providing the law with no help.  A subplot involves bank-founder Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) working with political “fixer” Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to protect his assets in that box; through a conversation between her and Russell we learn Case’s fortune came in collaboration with Nazis during WW II, allowing many Jews to die he could have helped save.  Intercut with all this are interrogation scenes with various characters, set after all we’ve seen previously, which we later realize is because when the robbers sent the hostages out of the bank they mingled with them so the cops had no idea whom to arrest.  ⇒As the plot unfolds we find the supposed killing of a hostage was a hoax to keep the police unnerved,  “weapons” were phonies, Russell never left the bank for a week but hid in a portion of that storeroom with a hastily-constructed-fake-wall so his presence went undetected (I guess the hole met his toilet needs), when he finally leaves he bumps into Frazier on the way out, in the box Frazier finds a priceless ring and a note directing him to follow up on Case’s war crimes.  At the end Frazier (cleared of all previous concerns, promoted to Detective First Grade, but too broke to propose marriage to his girlfriend, Sylvia [Cassandra Freeman]) finds Russell slipped a valuable diamond into his coat pocket as payment for the ultimate intention of this “robbery,” to sic the law on Chase, as all the plotters escape capture.⇐  Everything is superb from the clever script allowing us to ponder what the hell’s actually going on, terrific acting from stars and supporting cast (including Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor), a steadily-growing sense of suspense unresolved until the final scenes (not unlike The Usual Suspects [Bryan Singer, 1995]), a fine use of 129 min. of your stay-at-home-time, meticulously crafted by Lee.  There’s now no official site I can find, although you might like this short interview with Denzel (4:00), with knowledge the CCAL liked the movie: RT at 86% positive reviews, MC with a 76% average score; seems to be available for streaming via Amazon Prime, AT&T DirectTV, fubo, and Starz if interested.
                     American Gangster (Ridley Scott, 2007)   rated R

Here’s the trailer:

 In this docudrama, Denzel becomes a major criminal, Frank Lucas, who takes over illegal operations in Harlem (especially smuggling heroin from Southeast Asia with the help of conspirator-servicemen) after the 1968 death of mentor “Bumpy” Johnson (Clarence Williams III), using his new-found-gains (“Blue Magic” sells well as it’s purer than the competition, peddled cheaply so his operation’s all about branding, high-volume-sales) to buy his mother a mansion back home in North Carolina, bring his brothers (including Huey [Chiwetel Ejiofor], Turner [Common]), other relatives to NYC to help manage this fast-growing-operation.  Countering Lucas’ actions as he becomes more well-known (making a spectacle appearing ringside at the famous 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight wearing a chinchilla coat and hat) to Newark's (close to NYC's Hudson River) Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) who’s ostracized by his fellow cops for not stealing the $1 million in cash he found in a hoodlum’s car, so he gets little help trying to get the goods on Lucas, with Manhattan cops led by Nick Trupo (Josh Brolin) threatening him if he continues investigating the Harlem rackets because these guys are making too much from Lucas’ kickbacks.  Frank’s operation faces more serious challenges, though, as local competitor Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding Jr.) takes some of Lucas’s supply, cuts it with deadly ingredients to barely be heroin anymore, then sells it as Blue Magic, with the ultimate problem coming in 1975 with the fall of Saigon, drying up Frank’s supply.  ⇒By this time, Roberts has Frank’s killer cousin under his control, finding out how Lucas smuggled the dope into the U.S. in dead servicemen’s coffins, so with this evidence he’s able to finally arrest Lucas (prevented by Mom and wife Eva [Lymari Nadal] from a revenge run on Trupo after he came to Lucas’ home, stealing his hidden cash, even killing his dog), but he convinces this powerful hood to work with him to arrest corrupt cops, resulting in rounding up ¾ of the NYC Drug Enforcement Agency (Trupo commits suicide), while Roberts, with a newly-minted-law-degree, becomes Lucas’ defense attorney, arguing leniency for his client given the active participation in cleaning up some aspects of the city’s police force; it’s successful as Frank was sentenced to 70 years in prison, released in 1991 after only 15.⇐  As with the others described above, American Gangster results from quality scripting, direction, and acting (with lots of great support to the principals by such pros as Armand Assante as Dominic Cattano [Frank’s rival as head of the Italian Mafia, coexisting with Lucas’ empire], Ruby Dee as Frank’s Mom, RZA and Idris Elba in minor roles); unlike the others, though, there’s little mystery as to what’s likely to happen here (especially with a little Internet searching about the real Frank Lucas, such as this fact vs. fiction video [6:53]; spoilers here too), just fascination with how this conflict between law and disorder works out over time.  If interested, you can visit the official site, explore the details of RT's 80% positive reviews and MC's 76% average score, then consider streaming it from Amazon Prime, AT&T DirectTV, Showtime, or Starz.
 I’m won't attempt to conjure up Musical Metaphors for everything in Short Takes I may call to your attention now or in these next few (?) weeks, but I will provide an ongoing, recurring one that speaks to our coronavirus situation and how it’s changed so many lives, either through sickness (even death for the most unfortunate) or economic misery for those suddenly put out of work now struggling to maintain all their financial obligations (there are lots of donation sources springing up in response, so please give whatever you can to whatever service you prefer) or just the lifestyle-complications for those required/volunteering to semi/full-quarantine in an attempt to prevent further spread of this potentially-deadly-disease.  The Metaphor in question, then, for whatever I may come up with in these upcoming Short Takes suggestions is Joni Mitchell’s "Big Yellow Taxi" (from her 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album*), which should be self-sufficient in its content regarding relevance to this current global situation (“Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘Till it’s gone”), so listen as often as you need to, stay healthy (or recover quickly), celebrate the joys of cinema on the small(er) screen (unless you’ve got a home theater like my brother-in-law; his is almost like being in a small cineplex auditorium) until the new abnormal returns again to normal (whatever that  may be) as life on Earth continues evolving from this new challenge.

*Which references the creative Laurel Canyon (L.A.) music scene of the mid-late 1960s explored in Echo in the Canyon (Andrew Slater, 2018; here’s another review from our March 19, 2020 posting).
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We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about Blow the Man Down: (16:49 interview with co-directors/screenwriters Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy, actors Margo Martindale, Marceline Hugot, Morgan Saylor, producers Alex Scharfman, Drew Houpt and music composer Brian McOmber)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.  You can also leave comments at our Facebook page, although you may have to somehow connect with us at that site in order to do it (most FB procedures are still a bit of a mystery to us old farts).

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world.  I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 19,159 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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