Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Heist Movies


So, okay. I would be lying if I said that Steven Soderbergh's 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven wasn't the first thing that came to mind. I love it. It's a blast. The scene where Elliott Gould recounts the "Three Most Successful Robberies of Las Vegas Casinos" alone is enough for inclusion on any list of Heist Movies. Alas, I've picked it before. Don't want to repeat.

I'd also be lying if I said the same about the 1973 Best Picture Winner, The Sting, a brilliant con game within a con game culminating in one satisfying heist. I'll just send you over to my February Blind Spot post for that one.

I'm going for the same vein, though, this Thursday as part of Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. Movies where teams are assembled to steal not only money, or other things of worth, but also to steal something bigger, even world-saving or life-changing.

Here are my picks:

Point Break
dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 1991


Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is the newest recruit at the field offices of the FBI in Los Angeles. Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) is a full-time bro, a surfer, an adrenaline junkie, leading a string of bank robberies, all committed by four guys in masks of Ex-Presidents (LBJ, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan), recently on the radar of washed-up Agent Pappas (Gary Busey), now saddled with the new guy. Utah must go undercover and surf to pin down his man. Will the lifestyle overshadow his drive to do so? This is, quite simply, the most perfect action movie ever made, in my opinion. Bigelow's direction is just so tight. Some of the action sequences are literally beyond any explanation...pre-CGI. And the prize is so much more than the money, the money is just a means to an end. "100% pure adrenaline!" Bodhi says. "Some people jab a vein for it. All you gotta do is jump."

Three Kings
dir. David O. Russell, 1999


Operation Desert Storm is done. Nothing accomplished and feeling letdown by the lack of action, Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) finds just what he's looking for when he and his partner, PFC Condrad Vig (Spike Jonze), find a map of bunkers in an Iraqi prisoner's ass. Along with Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) and the disillusioned, soon-to-retire Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), Troy and Conrad go on a mission find the Kuwaiti gold stolen and hidden by Hussein's Republican Guard. This is a movie that becomes so much bigger than anything about its first act ever lets on. The heist is simply a catalyst for an ever-impending understanding of the devastation of a people we, in America, never learned anything about. Added to this, it is one of the coolest, most entertaining movies I've ever seen. And that soundtrack tho.

National Treasure
dir. John Turteltaub, 2004


This one is for my wife, an American history buff like none other. Question: Is this movie absolutely preposterous? Sure. It's like The DaVinci Code for American middle school kids. FACT! And that's precisely why it's so much damn fun. I have seen this movie a dozen times, and it never fails to crack me up, hold me on the edge of every delightful development and heist-within-heist, and it literally teaches us (through its various conspiracy theories) some real truths about the history of America. Leave your Nicolas Cage hate at the door, and save me the time it will take to prove you wrong. He is great here, and he is almost always great. Deal with it!

The Missing Fisti Pick of the Week

Man on Wire
dir. James Marsh, 2008


So, if you followed Fisti's Four Ways a Best Picture last summer, then you already know that Brittany, Wendell, Jeffery, Drew (of course), and I came down to this film as the best "Best Picture" winner of the last fifteen years. Winner of Best Documentary Feature, this film is an emotional rollercoaster. It is equal parts biography, heist film, and triumph. The story of Phillipe Petit, the dude who Ocean's Eleven-ed his way to the top of the World Trade Center's two towers, hung a cable, and walked across, then danced back, is one of a man who may very well be the most daring, amazing, lovable, life-filled person of the 20th century. His story is elegantly told by British director James Marsh through archive footage, newspaper stories, interviews, and expertly composed reenactments. It is glorious. See it immediately, if you haven't already.

P.S. I hope somebody picks Jackie Brown today. I am in Tarantino fatigue after my Directed by... post on his work and couldn't pick it here. 

20 comments:

  1. I
    Over National Treasure and the sequel. It is loads of fun. I haven't seen the other 2 but the 2nd one has been on my"to watch" list for a while now. I remember when the first one came out and thought it silly but now, after reading this, it is on my huge list to see. I want to see this documentary so much. I watched the film last month which I though was quite good and freaked me out with the heights.

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    1. The doc is way better than the feature. Check it out for sure!

      Also, if Three Kings is the one you've put off, I highly recommend you check it out.

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  2. Man on Wire! I love that it's your bonus pick. I've seen all three of your other ones, but it's been a long time. My husband loves National Treasure though, he watches it every time it's on TV.

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    1. Thanks! National Treasure is great fun. That's how I saw it first. On TV...over and over. Your husband sounds like a guy I'd get along with. Lol.

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  3. I haven't seen any of your picks, but I'm interesting in seeing Point Break. And I picked Jackie Brown because Tarantino is Tarantino.

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    1. See Point Break. So 90s. So much fun. So badass.

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  4. Oy! Point Break, so ridiculous but loads of fun as well. As I said the other day it's been years since I've seen it but I do remember Keanu's gnarly take on the surfer dude agent and Swayze's absolutely enormous mountain of hair.

    The same turn of phrase I used for the first applies to National Treasure, so ridiculous but tons of fun. I'm not much for Nick Cage but he's the right actor for this and I love Justin Bartha. I'm also a history buff so that adds a little something extra to the picture for me as well.

    The only one that didn't thrill me is Three Kings. I wasn't too impressed when I watched it and have forgotten most of it now, it fits well though.

    Glad you mentioned Man on Wire. I watched it expressly for the Four Ways a Best Picture series and it was wonderful and fascinating. Great picks!

    Love heist movies so getting to three was tough, so tough I ended up with four! But I just couldn't leave my bonus off, it's such a classic of the genre.

    The Italian Job (2003)-Sleek adventure of a pair of heists, betrayal and revenge among a group of thieves most of whom are honorable in their way. Beautiful locations, a jaunty tone and sprightly performances by the entire cast filled with familiar faces make this a cut above. Everybody’s good but Seth Green and Mos Def stand out.

    Dog Day Afternoon (1975)-On a hot summer day in Brooklyn what starts as a poorly planned bank heist quickly devolves into both a hostage situation and a media circus when it becomes a police standoff. Brilliant Sidney Lumet directed film features three award caliber performances at its core from Al Pacino, Charles Durning and John Cazale.

    5 Against the House (1955)-Two college buddies Ronnie and Roy are pulled in briefly in connection with the attempted robbery of a Reno casino in which they had no part. Waiting to be released Ronnie overhears one of the cops say the casino can’t be successfully robbed and becomes obsessed with figuring out how to plan the perfect heist. Initially just an intellectual challenge until one of their other buddies, violent war vet Brick, discovers the plan and forces them to proceed involving the unsuspecting Al (Guy Madison) and his girlfriend, nightclub-singer Kaye (Kim Novak) along the way. Decent heist film that is rare among 50’s film in its allusions to Brick’s war experience (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) being at the root of his erratic behavior.

    Honorable Mention-The Asphalt Jungle (1950)-Ex-con Dix (Sterling Hayden) plans to steal a cool million in jewels. He gathers a team of small-time crooks together to pull the job, which is a success until a stray bullet kills one of the men. As they scramble to cover themselves the men become entangled in a web of treachery and murder. John Huston keeps the tension tight in this landmark noir that provided the first real step forward for Marilyn Monroe in the small part of Angela, one of the men’s kept woman.

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    1. When Keanu works he really works, and Point Break is proof of that. Swayze is the best. Miss that guy.

      Cage and Bartha make a great comedic combo. And the history, even the distortion of it, is so much fun in those films.

      I really need to see The Italian Job. It looked like a blast. I just never got to it. Dog Day Afternoon is a genius pick. Love that film. "ATTACA!!!" John Cazale is so great in that film. Great picks, Joel!

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  5. NATIONAL TREASURE!!!! How could I forget!?! I absolutely adore how preposterous it is, and BOY is it EVER preposterous.

    I was in the same boat with Ocean's Eleven, which is really a perfect heist movie, but I picked it already for con artists week. The bonus pick of Man on Wire is genius - it's not a heist but it's told like one, which is just brilliant.

    I've never seen Point Break or Three Kings. That needs to change though.

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    1. Haha! I never thought so many of you would be keen on my National Treasure pick. It is so much fun. I love the heist element of the telling of Petit's story. Such a good idea.

      Yes. See Point Break. It's a fun, easy watch, even if it is a bit violent at times. Three Kings is a piece of overly stylized brilliance. I love that film.

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  6. Great picks! I enjoyed all of these movies. And Man on Wire, yes! Inspired choice and love that it's the Missing Fisti Pick.

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    1. Thanks, man! I took the fun route this week. All of these movies are a joy to watch.

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  7. Man on Wire is an inspired pick! Such a great film.

    Im quite keen to finish watching Three Kings and finally watch Point Break. I think the latter is on my 'can't believe I haven't seen this yet' list.

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    1. Thanks! I love Man on Wire so much. Watch Point Break now! It is so much damn fun. Expertly made action movie.

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  8. Most people would have probably gone with Heat, Oceans 11 and Inception but this is a cool list of films you've picked as well.
    Admire the uniqueness.
    I really like National Treasure too. Dont get the hate that film gets. Its pretty damn fun which is all that really matters. Really like Point Break too for all te reason you mentioned above but cant say Im too much of a fan of Three Kings

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    1. Thanks, Khalid. I'm always trying to keep it fresh. And National Treasure is a blast and really well made. You know how critics are....

      Three King is brilliant if totally show-offy, which I know can turn people off.

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  9. I'm curious about Point Break, it has a lot of fans and I know it was remade recently too.

    I like Three Kings when I saw it but I really can't remember much of it now. But I do I remember that it was the first time I saw that thing where they follow bullet as it goes through the flesh and the inner workings of organs or something like that. Later CSI would copy and continue doing the same thing.

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    1. Yeah. I won't go near that remake. No way. That is a movie that needs no remake. It is a masterpiece of an action movie, if a bit dated. Three Kings uses plenty of visual gimicks, but they all work remarkably well for me.

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  10. Three Kings! What a perfect choice. I need to watch that again soon.

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    1. Thanks! I love that movie. Bought in Blu-Ray last year but have only watched it once.

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