Missing mothers, lost wives, abusive and indifferent father substitutes — Looper may be a movie powered by time travel, but its emotional fuel is abandonment. The new film from Brick director Rian Johnson is a clever, clever contraption about trading in your future to feed your present, and the lost boys and regretful men who willingly embrace such a bargain already believe they have nothing to live for or look forward to. Thirty years of kicking around with a lot of cash in your pocket looks like a pretty good bargain when you're gazing down at it from in front of all that time, but when those last few days are running out, you might not be so ready to go. more »
The new Universal Soldier picture, the latest in the series about genetically-modified supermen raging against their government creators, is a curious exercise in cognitive dissonance; here you have an action flick high on gory, bone-crunching slicing and dicing and kicking and punching — everything star and Ben Affleck doppelganger Scott Adkins (Undisputed II and III) can possibly do to evoke oohs and aahs in 3-D in the serious-faced, beefy fashion of his '80s and '90s predecessors — and yet director John Hyams didn't sound completely delusional this week at Fantastic Fest when he said his UniSol fourquel was influenced by David Cronenberg, Michael Haneke, and (yes, I see it, kinda!) even art house provocateur Gaspar Noe.
Clint Eastwood is not the type of movie star to disappear into a role, especially not at this point in his career. He's more icon than actor, and a grumpy, bristly icon at that. Tonewise, there's not actually that much separating the improvised shtick Eastwood offered to the Republican National Convention in August and the scripted routine (by writer Randy Brown) he goes through at the start of Trouble With The Curve. On the small screen he addressed an empty chair. On the big one he talks to his penis, which is not cooperating with him in his morning micturition. In both cases, he's gruffly displeased. more »
It says something about how the LAPD tends to get portrayed in the movies that when Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are introduced on screen at the beginning of the surprising cop drama End of Watch, it feels like it's only a matter of time before they plant evidence on someone, steal drugs or money, beat or kill someone without warrant or let loose with something terribly racist. more »
It's a big week for the filmmaking Paul Andersons. Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master opened in a handful of cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, and Paul W.S. Anderson's Resident Evil: Retribution in theaters everywhere (in 3D and otherwise). While The Master offers up a immersive, abstract look at an unstable man being courted by the head of a cult-like movement, Resident Evil: Retribution in its own way also departs from the usual narrative confines of moviemaking. It's the closest thing you'll find yet to a recreation of a video game sensibility on the big screen — which is in line with the franchise's source material — and makes for a memorably unsettling if not particularly satisfying viewing experience. more »
Channing Tatum goes back to high school — again — in Jamie Linden's 10 Years. This time, the only thing undercover is his longing for ex-prom date Mary (Rosario Dawson), which Tatum's Jake attempts to drink away before it catches the attention of longtime girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Tatum's real-life wife, gamely playing second fiddle) and Mary's new husband (Ron Livingston). If you're wondering how two former flames could show up to a reunion unprepared to see the other coupled-up, the answer is eventually addressed: Jake doesn't use Facebook because he's "technologically ignorant." Behold, our brave new world of breaking bad news — online ignorance is bliss.
The Master, the new film from Paul Thomas Anderson, is the story of a spiritual duel — the battle for a soul — though only one of the participants perceives it as such. Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the mystic of the title, is the leader of a young movement not unlike what evolved into a certain real life one well entrenched in the entertainment industry. It's 1950, and he finds a stowaway on his ship, a drunk vagabond who claims to be an able-bodied seaman and who asks for work. The man's name is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), he fought in the war, and he's not mentally stable, either because of his experiences in battle or because stability was just never meant for him.
Billionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a cheat. He cheats on his wife (Susan Sarandon) with his mistress, and on his mistress (Laetitia Casta) with his job. And for his job as CEO of one of those mysteriously mighty hedge funds that control the world in Arbitrage, he'll cheat everybody: the IRS, his daughter and business partner (Brit Marling), the buddy who loaned him $412 million, and the fellow mogul Miller wants to acquire his company so he can, of course, spend time with his family, even though the idea confuses them. “I'm just trying to imagine what we would do?” laughs Marling.
Rust and Bone is essential. It’s life and death. It’s like fucking at a funeral. It throws the grit of existence in your face and while you reel at our insubstantiality and balk at our crudity as human beings, it shows you that love is the only transcendent force we possess. What separates man from beast.
There is no doubt it will polarize. There is nothing commercial here apart from the pulling power of Marion Cotillard. Cinematographically it is an expressionistic essay; intellectually, a two-hour conversation with its filmmaker. And physically it is a kick in the teeth, a depiction of poverty, sex and violence which crosses most known codes of acceptability.
The course of equal opportunity raunchy comedy never did run smooth. Like Bridesmaids, Bachelorette is a foray into proving that ladies are capable of wielding gross-out humor just as ably as the gentlemen, with the obvious comparison piece being Todd Phillips' The Hangover. Written and directed by first-timer Leslye Headland (who previously worked as a writer on Terriers) and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Bachelorette sends its trio of dysfunctional bridesmaids into all kinds of night-before-the-wedding misbehavior, including cocaine use, falling-down drunkenness, physical altercations, promiscuity, theft and general nastiness.
But then, as if afraid that all of this misdeeds will drive the audience away, the film tries to add a last minute portion of heart, explaining away the actions of its three main characters as the result of damage and pairing them all up with guys to get them through to an at least temporary happy ending.
With the out-of-nowhere success of 2016: Obama’s America, the nation could finally have a conservative counterpart to Michael Moore. I say the nation rather than the Republicans, because a balanced box office is good for us all, at least as a reminder of our right to oppose the current government and make a profit in doing so. Similar to Moore’s release of Fahrenheit 9/11 during the summer of 2004, author-turned-filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza offers a one-sided, first-person documentary that challenges the incumbent President during his campaign for re-election. Unlike his liberal predecessor, however, D’Souza, who co-directs with writer/producer John Sullivan (Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed), doesn’t have much to fall back on in the way of entertainment value and so only delivers a transient attraction for the anti-Obama crowd.
Are exorcisms culturally specific? The concept behind The Possession, a solid, Jewish-inflected B-movie riff on The Exorcist from director Ole Bornedal, can't help but leave you wondering. Sure, a Catholic priest can attempt to take care of a demon, but when your child's inhabited by a dybbuk — a malevolent spirit from Jewish folklore — you might need someone who can specialize. more »
As rollicking and rough as a drive down a dirt road with no suspension, Lawless is a tale of three-bootlegging brothers from Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia, who are, in the words of one character, some "hard-ass crackers." Directed by Australia's John Hillcoat (The Road) and written by musician Nick Cave (who's adapted Matt Bondurant's historical novel The Wettest County in the World), Lawless is, like their last collaboration The Proposition, a kind of remixed Western at heart. It's a story in which the law and the outlaws are equally outsized and dangerous — and a world in which the fighting has nothing to do with keeping order and everything to do with displays of strength. more »
Like the Paranormal Activity films and their cinematic ancestor Poltergeist, The Apparition takes place in what may be the least naturally atmospheric setting out there — suburban California. There's something welcomingly off-kilter about dropping a supernatural tale in a location so inherently mundane. It's straightforward enough to spin scares out of creaky mansions in remote areas, cavernously empty hotels and abandoned asylums, but sunny tract housing doesn't naturally lend itself to spookiness, which makes it all the more immediate and unsettling when a movie manages to make such a thing work.
The indomitable bike messenger played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush is named Wilee, as in Wile E. Coyote, the less successful half of Looney Tunes' eternal desert chase duo. A few minutes into the movie, however, it becomes clear he's more like the Road Runner: Wiry and whippet thin, Wilee darts through Manhattan traffic on his fixed gear bike — chain lock wrapped around his waist — thumbing his nose at the NYPD and evading the dogged pursuit of corrupt detective Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon). No Chamois Ass is he. more »