Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Color of Money (1986)

A few quick thoughts to begin this post.
The Hustleris a much better film than this sequel. Watch it before looking up Martin Scorses's follow-up effort from 1986.

It's too bad the only pairing of Paul Newman and Tom Cruise is in a so-so film.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio earned a best supporting Oscar nod for The Color of Money. Why do we rarely see her in movies now?

I watched The Hustler at the incredible State Theatre in Traverse City, Mich., in June. It's a must watch for fans of Paul Newman. His character, pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson, and his relationships with his girlfriend and chief nemesis in pool made for compelling viewing.

Here, Felson's involved with Janelle (Helen Shaver), a bartender at his business. There's no drama with their relationship. She gets upset when Felson decides to hit the road with young pool prospect Vincent Lauria (Cruise). Ho-hum. Jackie Gleason didn't say a lot as Minnesota Fats in The Hustler. But he carried himself with a very serious demeanor. A glare from him was withering. Cruise's Vincent is just annoying. More interesting are brief appearances by John Turturro and Forest Whitaker as other pool players on their way up.

Vincent has plenty of talent, but this young buck is immature. That could explain why he's working in a store for children and wears a T-shirt with his name on the front. His girlfriend, Carmen (Mastrantonio) is the brains of the operation. She gets what Felson wants to do. Turn Vincent into a money-making machine hustling pool. "We've got a racehorse here, a thoroughbred," Eddie tells Carmen. "You make him feel good. I teach him to run."

But too often Vincent tosses aside Eddie's advice and loses the chance to make plenty of cash as a result. Teacher and student part ways. Eddie decides to play again. They meet again at a nine-ball tournament in Atlantic City. Could a showdown be in the works?

Newman won an Oscar for his work here. He should have won following nominations for earlier films such as The Verdict and The Hustler. Those were standout roles.

The Color of Money offers viewers some very sharp shots of pool action. The soundtrack is extremely varied, from Phil Collins and Eric Clapton to Robbie Robertson and Mark Knopfler.

But this film just doesn't have a killer punch. Too bad.

RATING: 7/10

FUN FACTS: I didn't notice him, but Iggy Pop appears as a pool player.

A nod to The Hustler? A bartender puts a whack of cash on a game. Here, it's Alex Ross. He stood in for Matt Damon during filming of Good Will Hunting.
The Color of Money was one of four films for John Turturro in 1986. Off Beat, Gung Ho and Hannah and Her Sisters were the others.

The Color of Money was just Mastrantonio's third feature film. She was an extra in another Scorsese film, The King of Comedy, followed by Scarface.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Battlestar Galactica (2004)

My best friend has long praised television's second go-round of Battlestar Galactica.

I purchased the one-disc, three-hour miniseries several years ago. That DVD was finally viewed this month. I waited much too long.

It's worth watching.

Battlestar Galactica, at least the start of the five-year series, doesn't grab me by the throat like Kiefer Sutherland's 24 did. But, this sci-fi drama does boast intriguing storylines, some good action scenes and a cliffhanger that definitely teases for upcoming episodes during Battlestar Galactica - Season One.

Let's keep the plot recap simple. Humans create cylons to make life easier. Cylons decide to kill masters. Armistice reached. Cylons disappear, for decades. Cylons return, but have evolved - at least partially - from machines into very realistic looking humans. Faux human Number Six (Tricia Helfer) seduces Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis), a specialist in artificial intelligence. With his help, cylons disable defence capabilities of Twelve Colonies. Almost all of mankind is wiped out. Battlestar Galactica, about to be decommissioned, isn't affected by cylon sabotage efforts. Credit skipper Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos) and his aversion for networked computer systems.

Galactica becomes the sole major fighting vessel to survive cylon attack. Visiting low-level government minister (Mary McDonnell) becomes president after all more senior cabinet ministers are wiped out. Ragtag collection of ships that have escaped destruction are under Galactica's protection. The war is over. Adama suggests there is distant hope - a mystical place called Earth. He doubts it exists, but wants to give his crew and surviving humans hope.

What lifts Galactica up every so often is some very clever dialogue. A flight technician offers, "I hate this part," when Galactica prepares to jump through space. "Go find me some bullets, chief," is Adama's order to his second-in-command, a great crusty Col. Saul Tigh. Adama gets another good line when he meets a human at a munitions dump with a mysterious illness. "Must be your allergies," he suggests as said man struggles during a radiation storm.

Watch this mini-series and there's plenty of reasons to keep watching. Will Baltar sell out the remaining humans to the cylons? The president has a serious illness. What impact will that have on her ability to govern? Tigh has a problem with the bottle. Will that affect his judgment in a moment of crisis? Are there human-looking cylons on board Galactica?

Get on board, folks. This looks like an interesting ride.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Edward James Olmos was Lieut. Martin Castillo in a major television hit of the 1980s, Miami Vice.

Mary McDonnell was Kevin Costner's love interest in Dances with Wolves.

Tricia Helfer played Farrah Fawcett in a Behind the Camera TV movie.