CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin
Llewelyn Moss, a veteran turned welder, is in way over his head when he stumbles across a deal gone wrong in the middle of the Texas desert. When he finds the money involved in the deal, he decides to keep it for himself. He’s not a thief, just an everyman who is unaware of the repercussions that follow such a foolish decisions. The most devastating of those repercussions comes in the form of a hitman named Anton Chigurh, a somewhat unstoppable force of evil who at the same time manages his own twisted sense of principles. The sheriff of the rural Texas county, played by old timer Tommy Lee Jones, is on both their tales, while dealing with own mortality in the process. The Coen Brothers make what is possibly their masterpiece in adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel as a somewhat apocalyptic thriller where civilization appears to be thriving to the naked eye, but only on the surface. In reality, everything is changing. No longer do people act civil as they once did in the sheriff’s heyday. Law enforcement and justice are dying breeds in a world where money and the violence that stems from it reign as the eventual victors. Rated R.
CAST: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Mark Strong
Director Kathryn Bigelow and journalist turned screenwriter Mark Boal team up again after their monumental success with The Hurt Locker. In similar fashion, they tell a true story about what would become The Greatest Manhunt In History. For almost a decade, America searched unsuccessfully for Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks in New York City. Finding, and eventually killing him in a Navy Seal operation, became a story all its own. Who found him? Who killed him? How did America get to there? In reality, there are many answers, some we may never know. For the sake of drama, the principal architect is a woman working for the CIA, who no one seems to be on the same page with…ever…even though she always seems to be right. The first two thirds of the film touch on what goes into finding someone, including torture, or “enhanced interrogation”. These scenes no doubt proved controversial, but really don’t seem to support or condemn the practice. In Boal’s journalistic fashion, it simply tells us what happened. All of that and more detective work on Chastain’s part leads to the final third of the film, which deals with the raid itself. Though most (if not all) Americans know how this story ends, the thriller style camera work is so heart stopping and the direction so fantastic, it’s like;y the audience won’t even know who or what will emerge from the shadows next. Rated R.
CAST: Jerin Julia, Brandon Hearnsberger, Christie Guidry Stryk
The only somewhat amusing aspect of this medieval train wreck is the pun title and the tagline: Chivalry is Dead. Ho ho student filmmakers. Yes, it’s probably student made, and yes, this film begs to be part of the ‘so bad it’s good’ club, but it clearly didn’t read Ed Wood’s comprehensive guide on the subject. There’s nothing funny, charming, or even accidentally entertaining in this confusing bore about a knight being resurrected so he can kill a bunch of people in a tin suit with a sword. The heroine is a teenage girl named Marla, whose mother died and left her a scrapbook containing clues about her future battle with a guy in the gym (that’s how he’s credited for some reason) who becomes possessed by a knight from the 16th century. That scrapbook probably gets more screen time then the actual knight. People are gonna die. People are gonna learn life lessons. And people are gonna square off in a climax where they learn the most valuable of those lessons whilst defeating their enemy. Thou noble movie goers should stayeth clear from thy nonsense filmmaking. Not Rated.
CAST: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill
There was quite a bit of hype surrounding the long demanded adaptation of one of the most famous, and controversial, pieces of fiction in the Batman canon. This could be in part that it’s the first animated version of the popular 90s series that warranted an ‘R’ rating, which, spoiler alert, was totally unwarranted. Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, the story seeks to understand the origins of Batman’s most famous nemesis, The Joker. The maniacal laugh, courtesy of long time voice actor Mark Hamill, started somewhere, and Batman seeks to find out where it all began, to prevent further destruction and chaos emerging from their years-long stalemate. The biggest problem with this film is the opening thirty minutes, which have nothing to do with The Joker, or his relationship with Batman. It begins with an unnecessary prologue involving Barbara Gordon, the commissioner’s daughter who eventually becomes Batgirl. There was a reason for this add on (it wasn’t in the novel), but it drags on longer then needed, and paints Barbara in damsel-like role, making her an unsympathetic character. The runtime is also concerning. At 76 min, there isn’t enough to make the film what it could have been. Nevertheless, much like Batman and the Joker were destined to fight forever, it’s safe to assume voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were destined to voice the two icons forever. Rated R.
CAST: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Director Abdellatif Kechiche’s tragic love story between two young women is less a romantic folly then it is a study of adolescent curiosity. It’s run time is over three hours, but there’s a point to the journey. It opens with a look at the high school life of Adele, a somewhat distracted teenage girl who enjoys things like food and American cinema. The first act is a chronicle of her failure to maintain her first male relationship. She doesn’t know why, until she meets Emma, an older and more experienced soul who hangs out in the fancy art world. The two are immediately smitten with each other, and begin a passionate romance that trickles into Adele’s formative years. The film was noted for its especially graphic sex scenes, which warranted the dreaded NC-17 rating. This fine piece of French filmmaking is in no way pornography, despite what some might initially think. These scenes serve as part of the bigger picture involving two people who are in love and who, eventually, will separate. The pain and joys of both are impossible to show without some of the more passionate aspects of their relationship. To pull this story off, one needs two formidable actresses to convey emotional performances unlike any others in their careers, past or going forward. In this respect, it should be noted as the first (and only) film where the Cannes coveted Palme D’Or was awarded to the director and the two main leads. No one deserved it better in the history of the competition. Rated NC-17.
CAST: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard
Eight years set after The Dark Knight, a new masked foe named Bane, former member of the League of Shadows, begins to terrorize the citizens of Gotham City. Their protector, Batman, has been out of commission, due to him being wanted for the murder of Harvey Dent. His alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, is a crippled recluse, rarely interacting with anyone other than his increasingly concerned butler, Alfred. But when Bane steps in with the goal of destroying Gotham City, Bruce decides it maybe time to put on the cape one last time. Indeed, Christopher Nolan decides to cap the trilogy off with this final installment, understandably increasing the runtime to an unprecedented length. Though hardly noticeable due in large part to the fantastic entertainment value, it is one of too many flaws in the story for it to be on the same level as The Dark Knight. Nolan and crew set a new precedent for super hero filmmaking with that masterpiece, so it should be no surprise that the follow-up would disappoint on some level. New characters and a good story keep it better than Batman Begins, as the script focuses more on Bruce Wayne than it does on his gadget wielding identity. Bale has always been a better Wayne then Batman, making his presence in the film all the less forced. What isn’t forced is Tom Hardy’s intimidating portrayal of Bane, a complicated brute whose goals border on the insanity. A fine send off in the greatest comic book adaptation of all time. Rated PG-13.
CAST: Allen Covert, Linda Cardellini, Nick Swardson, Doris Roberts, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight
The occupation “video game tester” sounds pretty cool to a tribe of macho nerds in their late teens who spend their weekends arguing with twelve year olds online while shooting each other virtually. For thirty five year old Alex, played by first time leading man Allen Covert, its a way to escape ever growing up. And he’s okay with that. This is not a redemption tale of a guy who refuses to get a real job, then meets a girl who changes his whole perspective on life in the course of 90 minutes. There is a girl, sure, but she’s a game nerd herself, serving as an executive to oversea the completion of a new game created by a narcissistic wonder kin who talks like a robot when he’s nervous. The title comes from a side plot revolving around economically challenged Alex shacking up with his grandma and two elderly roommates (the trio played by Hollywood legends) turning the movie into “Golden Girls” meets “Cheech and Chong”. Yes, there is a lot of weed smoking in this one, a growing trend (no pun intended) in the comedy genre. Interestingly, it is also one of the first movies compiled mostly with Happy Madison actors without it’s Commander in Chief: Adam Sandler. And it’s much funnier as a result (sorry Adam). Rated R.
CAST: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates
David Lynch’s horror debut is sure to strike debate to all those who watch it’s bizarre unfoldings from its cosmic opening to it’s ambiguous conclusion. Jack Nance plays Henry Spencer, a solitary man who walks the landscape of a desolate industrial wasteland, filled with weird sounds and seldom life. He is told by the mother of a woman he slept with that they are to marry, as the two have conceived a child. The infant is a mutated alien of sorts who is always crying and in constant pain. This puts Henry into a state of insanity that was already on the breaking point. He begins to have visions of his radiator coming to life, his head falling off and being turned into erasers, and his deformed child morphing into a some sort of large monster. What it all means can only be answered by its creator. Whether that makes it a vanity piece or a stern look into a philosophical hypothetical is debatable. One thing is for certain: it one of the strangest movies ever to penetrate the mainstream, thanks largely to thrill seekers who frequent the midnight movie circuit. The most defining trait of this low budget black and white is its sound. There is hardly (if any) moment where there isn’t either non-diagetic music shrieking or a faint hymn of steel equipment smoldering offscreen. Advisory: will require multiple views for those who didn’t walk out halfway through. Unrated.
Even those unfortunate enough never to watch the fantastic 90s TV show Batman: The Animated Series will not feel left out watching this well done film spin-off featuring the mask crusader in one of his finest incarnations. When the film begins, he is already well established as the misunderstood protector of Gotham, but he begins to have flashbacks on when he started out when a woman from his past comes back in his life. This happens simultaneously as another masked figure begins offing a few mob bosses. With a mask, cape, and dark persona, this mysterious vigilante has everyone believing Batman committed the murders, which goes against the Bat’s doctrine of never killing anyone. The film noir storytelling is superb for a cartoon, though the content matter may be too heavy for the young ones the film was geared towards. The running length is short, but the aesthetics are pleasing enough to make it play faster then it already is, particularly Mark Hamill’s brilliant voice acting as Batman’s arch villain, The Joker. Rated PG.
CAST: Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Gregory Peck
Not one of Scorcese’s most memorable films (in terms of ‘Scorcese standards’), but certainly one of frequent collaborator Robert DeNiro’s most memorable roles, this crime thriller is sure to leave lawyers’ beds wet with perspiration, with the same result filling an average citizen’s red cushion seat. Nick Nolte is a family man lawyer who is haunted by the past when a former client of his starts harassing him and his family. The convict is rapist Max Cady (DeNiro) who preaches a biblical agenda to Nolte and his family, in the hopes that he can give them the same redemption he found in his 14 years behind bars. Why this family needs redemption becomes the central focal point of the film. The script knows why Cady is a bad man. By looking at him and his many tattoos, any average Joe would flee the nearest donuts shop hoping a cop might be in there. Cady seeks to exploit the sins of those that walk around without a criminal record. The irony is that he also contradicts himself. As a man who is so defined by God, Cady also seeks revenge, for Nolte had violated his lawyer’s oath by concealing information that could have gotten Cady a reduced sentence. Scorsese nails a solid remake of the 1962 classic with Gregory Peck, who makes a brief cameo as Cady’s new lawyer (in Peck’s last major film role). Rated R.