American Hustle

I finally went to see AMERICAN HUSTLE today, and it was well worth the wait. (Not the trailers though, every single one failed to register, but that’s their problem.) David O Russell has delivered a very darkly funny and often quite hysterical film about con artists and those who would use them for their own ends. The whole all-star cast is great, with Christian Bale and Amy Adams as the main cons, Bradley Cooper as the Fed who wishes to squeeze them for his own personal ambitions, Jennifer Lawrence as Bale’s wild card wife with her own con going on, and lots of great supporting roles by Jeremy Renner, Robert DeNiro, Louis C.K., Michael Pena, many of whom have worked with Mr. Russell in prior films. After an admittedly slowish start, the odds keep stacking up and the stakes escalate. I had this constant wicked grin spread across my face and many titterings of laughter escaped my lips. It may not be a deep picture but it was certainly a real hoot to watch, and everyone was having a good time. Recommended!

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Dallas Buyers Club

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is a fantastic piece of work. Thoughtful, gritty, sad stuff. Matthew McConaughy is a real fighter here, and Jared Leto is excellent. Deals with HIV, AIDS, and early AZT trials, and how alternative treatments were rendered illegal and crushed out by Big pharma and the FDA. The Buyers Clubs were the means by which one could get these alternatives, and I learned a hell of a lot about the process. Levelheaded filmmaking, no bullshit. McConaughy can do anything, he’s so good.

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Twelve Years A Slave

I followed up Dallas Buyers Club with TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. I had been eagerly anticipating this film and only now finally had a chance to see it. I figure those who would have seen it have already seen it, so I doubt I’ll sway anyone either way. Steve McQueen (who directed the excellent HUNGER and the interesting SHAME) has crafted a meticulous, painterly and harrowing portrayal of Solomon Northup, a black freeman who was kidnapped into slavery and endured all manner of denigration and degradation under several masters. Chiwetel Ejiofor brings humanity and a great reserve of strength to the role, and if nothing else this film is a very sobering lesson in American history that many would rather not stir up. There wasn’t any moralizing or cathartic bloodbaths as per DJANGO UNCHAINED. Alas, if only this film had more stirring moments such as Django I would have been more moved and made heated, but its restraint and gravity held back far too much. For those who think I would have desired more shootouts or more violence to arouse my passions, that is not the case. It was sad, and melancholy, and preserved under glass. I didn’t walk out of the theatre pissed off or bothered, and that’s too f**king bad.

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I went to see MUD at the Bridgewater Library this evening, after a long day of stage crewing and a quick dinner of soup. The film was really good, I had meant to see it in theatres but didn’t get the chance. Matthew McConaughy is the titular Mud, a man on the run who enlists the help of two local boys to help him escape. It’s an interesting mix of boy’s adventure/coming-of-age story and a more mature adult escapism of a different sort. These elements were very well handled by the cast and crew, and the production was a big shot in the arm for Arkansas. Director Jeff Nichols and DP Adam Stone worked together on TAKE SHELTER, another movie I very highly admire. Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon have good supporting parts, and the two boys, played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, were very naturalistic and carry the film well. Mr. McConaughy is of course a natural for the part, and director Nichols wanted him since he first wrote the script. All in all a great example of American independent filmmaking, and something to encourage and promote in this awful wasteland of comic book films and tentpoles. Once again, Hollywood, figure this stuff out!

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This Is The End

I went to see THIS IS THE END, which seems to have resurfaced in theatres after first appearing earlier this summer. I’m kind of glad it came back, as I certainly laughed a lot. Seth Rogen and the gang hole up at James Franco’s house during an impending apocalypse, and as all hell breaks loose around them they squabble over food, survival and other stupid shit. Craig Robinson is quite good, able to be obscene yet sympathetic, and Danny McBride’s crass boarishness is always a pleasure (?) to watch. Channing Tatum has a very brief and hilarious cameo near the end, and Michael Cera shows how big a scumbag he really is (herf). Lots of gigantic demon wang on display, not sure how that happened, and the end was quite crass and self-congratulatory, which seems to suit this film just fine. Fun while I was there, not sure I’ll remember much by tomorrow. Except for Tatum, bleh heh heh! (Watch, and you’ll see!)

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The World’s End

Genre double bill at the Carmike! Part 1: THE WORLD’S END

The final installment in the Cornetto Trilogy planned by director Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) and actor Simon Pegg, it details the adventures of Gary King, whose heyday was in the 90s and whose life never went anywhere since. He enlists his four childhood friends, all showing reserve and reluctance, to go back to their hometown to complete a 12 pub drinking fest that they never finished as teenagers. When they arrive they find that things aren’t as they seem, and yet with sheer persistence and stubbornness Gary is determined not to let the rapidly escalating events get in his way of a nice tall glass of bitters.

As a study of nostalgia, conformity and humanity it is surprisingly dark yet still quite funny, and goes farther than the other two installments in exploring English small town life and its denizens. The film ends in a tragic sense, though not in the way I at all expected. I commend Simon Pegg for playing a right bastard, and the filmmakers for having the integrity to see through with what happens when a right bastard has the final word. Suffice it to say it is apocalyptic.

Do go see it, the film did not do so well this past weekend, and it would be a shame to let it bow out so quickly. It made me cry a bit towards the end, and I always recommend those sorts of films!

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You’re Next

Genre double bill at the Carmike! Part 2: YOU’RE NEXT

I followed up with this effectively brutal and brutish film about a well to do family that holds a reunion at a remote country estate. Things go bad fast when masked home invaders start to pick them off one by one. Luckily, Erin, the girlfriend of one of the siblings (Sharni Vinson, tough and resourceful) knows how to take care of things, and does just that.

I can safely say that aside from Erin pretty much no one in the film is sympathetic, likeable, or remotely fascinating on any level other than as blood spurting vessels of self-entitlement, hate or sociopathic indifference. Do not let this rule out seeing the film! I rarely see stalker/slasher films this well handled or suspenseful. The 80s synthesizer soundtrack is delicious and hit all of my buttons. The bloodshed was copious and cleverly executed.

This film also did lousy at the box office this past weekend, so go check this one out too. At least for the ending, which had me howling with wildly inappropriate laughter. And for all of it, for those into the horror scene.

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Pacific Rim

I saw PACIFIC RIM last night and it was a fantastic monster vs. robot movie. I cannot deny the giddy pleasure I felt from witnessing such matinee mayhem. When compared to other films this year that were even more violent and apocalyptic, this one did not make me feel guilty or disgusted. If I see it once more in theatres it will be on an IMAX screen, as the bigger the better to view the brilliant special effects and sheer size of the film. See it for Guillermo Del Toro, and for monsters!

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North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST is pretty brilliant, and presses all the buttons in such lovely fashion. Slowly but surely I am revisiting the Master’s work, and rediscovering how filmmaking should be done. Also, Cary Grant is a consumate performer, and is fully in tune with the suspense, absurd humor and sexy sophistication of the story. As it should be.

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VERTIGO. Wow. I finished Alfred Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST earlier, and was jazzed by it, but this film is on another level. The obsession of Jimmy Stewart was incredibly tough and cruel. Kim Novak as the source of his fixation, so trapped as she is by guilt and love, is a tragic figure. Mention should go to Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart’s sensible yet ultimately shutout girlfriend, she was the one warm and human figure in this world of madness. And dare I should forget Bernard Hermann’s incredible score, which drives home the sadness intermingled with romance in such a beautiful manner. The ending will take your breath away. The rawness of the film will last me a long time. Onto more Hitchcock!

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