Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Ice Harvest |
Full Screen Edition
Actors: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Lara Phillips, Bill Noble (III), Brad Smith
A WICKEDLY FUNNY THRILLER ABOUT A MOB LAWYER'S PLAN TO STEAL MONEY FROM HIS BOSS ON A DARK & ICY WINTER'S NIGHT. THIS IS FILLED WITH MAYHEM & LETHAL SURPRISES THAT WILL KEEP YOU LAUGHING & GUESSING UNTIL THE VERY END.
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Noir and Noel and Nuance: Excellent Movie, Entertaining Back
Richard L. Pangburn | Bardstown, KY USA | 03/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is more than just another last-man-standing suitcase-full-of-money movie.
John Cusack plays an everyman, a lawyer who has sold out to the values of corporate corruption. With mixed feelings, he steals over two million dollars from the local mob on Christmas Eve, then plans with Billy Bob Thornton to make a break for it later on Christmas Day.
The mob boss (Randy Quaid) finds out and sends a hit man to get his money back, and the movie plot is about John Cusack trying to avoid getting killed by them.
The movie has been pretty much panned by almost every critic to review it, although Roger Ebert praised it enough for three stars. I loved it and loved the book before it. I realize that I am in a small minority in this regard.
What makes THE ICE HARVEST work for me is its noir blend of saltiness and satire, its mixture of comedy and karma.
The comedy here is based upon the hypocrisy of Christmas in this era of corruption and greed. All of the liars and killers and thieves in this movie talk about Christmas, about being home opening up presents with their kids. If you don't get that, I guess you won't see the comedy. It is nice that it is set in Wichita, Kansas, especially if you have read Thomas Frank's WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?
The opening graffiti above the urinal, "As Wichita Falls Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls," is a repeated line of jazz that caused an existential crisis for the film's French translator who had trouble distinguishing between "falls" as a noun and "falls" as a verb with a misplaced execution, Wichita Falls not being in Kansas but in Texas.
The author of this blood red graffiti is not revealed until the end of the film, at which time its coded karmic message seems clear, "what goes around, comes around," or "as ye sow, so shall ye reap."
The backstory segments are generous and entertaining, including a segment where the movie is discussed by book author Scott Phillips and the screenplay authors, Robert Benton and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo, author of STRAIGHT MAN and EMPIRE FALLS.
John Cusack is endearing as an everyman who has gone too far with a fantasy and now is just trying to survive.
Billy Bob Thornton is menacing as Vic. His idea of winning is the American way, giving lip-service to religion and humanist values while embracing ruthless materialism.
Oliver Platt plays a jolly-faced loser, John Cusack's hapless doppeldinger, addicted to sexual conquests and alcohol, now married to Cusack's former wife. He seems to be an extention of the drunks who played in GROUNDHOG DAY.
Connie Nielsen vamps it up, a cross between Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake. She's a tribute to a different era, like the femme fatale in WHO'S AFRAID OF ROGER RABBIT?, not really bad, just drawn that way. The book fills the character out more and speculates more on her background as an abused woman who learned how to survive, a hardened refugee from the war in Bosnia.
Randy Quaid is terrific as a capitalistic Christian mob boss murderer, sad to be doing business when he could be home celebrating Christ's birthday.
This movie has fun poking fun, with style and karma, with a moral and a motto. As Jon Stewart says, "IN GOD WE TRUST" is our motto, and we place it where it can be read on every dollar bill in this film, "right where Jesus would have wanted it.""
Why are so many people down on this flick?
Arthur Martin | Toledo, OH United States | 02/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a fan of John Cusack, and a fan of FARGO-ish dark caper comedies, this was a perfect combo -- lean, smart, and entertaining. I have no idea why so many people seem to LOATHE this movie.
This is easily the best flick Cusack has been in since 2000's HIGH FIDELITY and the wait was painful. His character is a bit of a throwback to his role in THE GRIFTERS, but with a hint of additional warmth.
Admittedly, this movie was marketed all wrong. Advertising this Coen-brothers-like neo-noir as being from "The director of GROUNDHOG DAY and CADDYSHACK" is like advertising MUNICH as being from "The director of 1941 and JAWS." Sure, it's true, but it gives people the wrong expectation.
I say, give it a shot."
"Charlie, I hate to say this but you're a nice guy"..."I'm s
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 03/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First a disclosure--this film isn't for everyone. This is sort of the anti-"It's a Wonderful Life". There are always great movies that are lost in the shuffle of holiday releases. Somehow this fine film was overlooked during the holidays. No word of mouth, no buzz and no worthwhile advertising heralded this films arrival. Lucky for you and me we have DVD to save this film from having to be rediscovered in ten or twenty years as one of the funniest film noirs to come out in years and one of the best films of 2005. Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) plots the perfect crime-stealing $2 million from his boss with his partner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) that goes horribly wrong in this black comedy set on Christmas Eve. Charlie believes that the perfect crime can be committed as long as you have character something that Charlie admits he can't have otherwise why would he be committing this crime? In the meantime he has to deal with his drunk buddy Pete (Oliver Platt) who has married his ex-wife, a lawyer who is being blackmailed for a photo of his indiscretion and a mob heavy looking for him that Charlie suspects knows all about his planned heist. Thank God this project came along as I was afraid that one of our generation's great comedic leading men was going to continue to be wasted in projects like "Must like Dogs". Ramis manages to capture just the right note desperation, comedy and madness that infect all of these unhappy people on what is supposed to be the warmest night of the year.
The chilly surface of the film is captured perfectly here. The cool looking surface of the film mirrors the subject matter. Detail and clarity are exceptional. The 5.1 presentation sounds quite nice but keep in mind that this is a comedy with action not an action comedy. There's a difference-the former focuses primarily on highlighting the dialogue the latter the explosions. The film is available by the way in both a 1.85:1 widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen presentation.
The special features are pretty good. "Cracking the Ice" features screenwriters Robert Benton ("Kramer vs. Kramer", "Places in the Heart"), Richard Russo ("Nobody's Fool," "Empire Falls") and novelist Scott Phillips discussing the creation of the story covering it from a unique angle-from the moment that Philips came up with the idea for the novel through the adaptation process for Ramis' film. Benton discovered the book recommended it to Russo. The three writers interview each other. Interestingly both Benton and Russo thought it was perfect for a film while Phillips felt it was not good material for a film despite the fact that he had spent months previously to writing it working on screenplays.
"Beneath the Harvest" features director Ramis, producer Ron Yerxa, actors Connie Nielsen, John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton discussing what the film is about and what attracted them to the project. Ramis is the most interesting of the group revealing what attracts him to comedies like this (let's just say it's a dark philosophy). Cusack focuses much more on what he liked about playing Charlie his character in the film and what drew him to playing such an unfortunate character. One of my favorite actors Oliver Platt mentions what he feels is the core of the story and what makes it work so well. Interestingly Ramis came to the project AFTER the script was written and admits he went back to read the novel after he read the screenplay. While he loved the screenplay he wanted to see if there was anything the writers had missed (probably the writer in him talking) and found that they had captured it perfectly. It's a solid "making of" featurette although nothing spectacular.
"Analysis of a Scene" is pretty self explanatory discussing the difficulty in creating one scene involving the lake. The scene was central and crucial to the success of the film. Ramis and the producers had their team create a mini-lake that they digitally enhanced for the sequence. They all knew though that they needed to have a physical location to sell the scene beyond the digital enhancements. They used melted paraffin to crate the look of the ice in the scene making it easier (and safer to shoot the sequence). We also have a very funny outtake where Thornton plays the scene in his character of Carl from "Sling Blade".
Ramis provides an amusing blow-by-blow commentary track that's quite amusing. Strangely you can access his commentary tracks via both the special features menu and language but can't turn it off via both menus. The special features are great for this set my only complaint is that you can't turn on and off the commentary track via your remote (something I like to do if I've just watched a scene and want a scene specific commentary) via your remote. Other than that whomever Universal hired to do the special features did a exceptional job overall.
A suspenseful black comedy that lost its way into the glut of holiday releases, we're lucky to have home video to appreciate this terrific black comedy. This is truly a gem of a film. Yes, it's cynical and dark but it's funny as hell. Ramis has crafted the antithesis of "It's a Wonderful Life". It's a tonic for the dark soul and funny bone regardless of the type of year you watch it.
A neo noir in the same vein as Fargo
Cubist | United States | 02/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Right from the opening shot director Harold Ramis establishes the icy coldness of the film's wintery, mid-western setting. It's a shot of John Cusack huddled in a long, black coat, bracing himself against a chilly wind in such a way that you can almost feel the cold, it is that tangible. The opening credits play over a montage of establishing shots that show off the geography of the city through a gun metal blue filter. Ramis knows how to create the right atmosphere as Charlie goes from one murky, seedy bar to the next.
The Ice Harvest is done in the same tradition as other anti-Christmas movies like The Ref and Bad Santa but perhaps its closest cinematic cousin is Fargo in the way the violence is depicted: surprisingly awkward, bloody and brutal. Ramis refreshingly moves away from predictable fare like Analyze This and Analyze That with this off-kilter crime comedy. It's a movie that doesn't follow the usual beats. For example, the actual crime takes place before the film even starts. Charlie and Vic are supposed to be partners in crime and yet we rarely see them together until 50 minutes into the movie.
Ramis constantly subverts our expectations at every turn. The fun of this kind of movie is trying to anticipate the various plot twists and the surprises as characters reveal their true nature. One thing that is true about neo noirs, they rarely end well and Charlie is going to have to navigate very dangerous waters if he's going to survive the night. The Ice Harvest follows an unpredictable trajectory with Charlie as the only constant.
There are two alternate endings, both in which things don't turn out so well for Charlie. The first one is much more haunting while the other reunites Charlie, Vic and Renata and is not as strong.
"Outtake with Billy Bob Thornton" is an amusing take on a scene with Cusack where Thornton reprises his Carl character from Sling Blade (1996) much to everyone's amusement.
"Cracking the Story" features a conversation between screenwriters Richard Russo and Robert Benton and author Scott Phillips. It's a spirited, informative and entertaining discussion.
"Beneath the Harvest" is a standard if not informative making of featurette that mixes cast and crew soundbites with clips from the movie. There is also some decent, on-location footage including shooting a scene on a very cold, rainy night.
"Ice Cracking: Analysis of a Scene" examines the icy lake scene - the centerpiece of the movie. It shows how the filmmakers created a lake, the ice in it and so on.
Finally, there is an audio commentary with director Ramis. He does occasionally delve into some character motivations and the film's themes. This is an okay track but Ramis could have used another participant to fill in some of the lulls."