To his eternal consternation, Judge Dredd(Karl Urban) is saddled with… MoreTo his eternal consternation, Judge Dredd(Karl Urban) is saddled with a new partner in the person of Cassandra Anderson(Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with subpar scores but with promising psychic abilties. They are called to investigate a triple slaying. While attempting to talk to some suspects, they come across Kay(Wood Harris) who Anderson says has a 99% chance of being involved with another murder which is enough to detain but not to shoot on sight. That's when the judges' problems start, courtesy of Ma-Ma(Lena Headey), the local drug kingpin.
The surprising thing about "Dredd," an entertaining and violent throwback that feels like a long lost John Carpenter 70's B-movie, is that along with its references to Greek mythology(if so, then who is the minotaur in the maze here?), it's that after some middling independent movies, this of all things turns out to be Olivia Thirlby's coming out movie, cast very much against type. Seriously, this is her film, as almost everything we see in this exaggerated detailed world is through Anderson's eyes and how this changes her.(It also explains the real reason why Anderson does not wear a helmet.) And it is fun watching Dredd as his vaunted rules slowly lose meaning in such a chaotic running situation. While the psychic abiltiies are a contrivance, admittedly they do keep the movie running smoothly. However, "Dredd" could have definitely used more of Lena Headey which one could say of most movies, really.
In "A Bird of the Air," Lyman(Jackson Hurst, of "Drop Dead Diva") is a… MoreIn "A Bird of the Air," Lyman(Jackson Hurst, of "Drop Dead Diva") is a loner who works nights for the New Mexico highway department. Otherwise, he spends his free time taking classes at the local community college and eats at a nearby diner. That holds true until an exotic parrot drops into his lap at the trailer where he lives. While researching the true owner of the parrot and the meaning behind his enigmatic sayings, Lyman runs into Fiona(Rachel Nichols, of "The Inside," "Alias," and "Continuum" but not the Rachel Nichols who works for ESPN), an itinerant librarian.
"A Bird of the Air" is a engaging and amusing romantic comedy that refreshingly relies on a cute dog for its charm this time around, instead of the usual cute baby. Beneath the surface, the movie is about the quest for knowledge and how that can improve one's life, with the mythical west as a background. That's not to mention Rachel Nichols' winning goofy performance in a definite change of pace for her.
While driving around Paris with a bloodied body in his back seat,… MoreWhile driving around Paris with a bloodied body in his back seat, Julien(Vincent Lindon), a university professor, thinks back on happier times like him and his beautiful wife Lisa(Diane Kruger) going at it like rabbits, even with the infant son they have. That all changes when Lisa is convicted of killing her boss. Fearing that she cannot survive prison for long, Julien gets desperate thoughts in what he can do to help.
"Pour Elle" is a Hollywood-style thriller about the crazy things we do for love that of course Hollywood screwed up when it turned it into "The Next Three Days" by taking the former's elegant shorthand and turning it into the latter's drawn out longhand. Plus, I'll take the more vulnerable and expressive Vincent Lindon over Russell Crowe. Granted, "Pour Elle" still is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, as it suffers from a daft plot and a mismatched couple. But it moves so quickly that it does not really allow the audience to ask many questions along the way.
"Closed Curtain" starts with a writer(Kambozia Partovi) arriving at a… More"Closed Curtain" starts with a writer(Kambozia Partovi) arriving at a beach house. Hidden in his luggage is a dog which the regime in Iran is taking a very hard line against. That is depicted by some very graphic news footage, so the writer takes the batteries out of the television so the dog will not be traumatized any more. He also puts up curtains all around the house. That however does not stop siblings Reza(Hadi Saeedi) and Melika(Maryam Moghadam) from knocking on his door while on the run from the authorities. So, while Reza looks for a way out, he leaves behind his sister, while warning about her suicidal tendencies.
"Closed Curtain" is proof positive that you can't keep a good man down or a good director from making movies. And it's especially impressive considering what Jafar Panahi has concocted here, a story told on two separate levels of reality, and without an effects shot either.(I mean yes there are sound effects used in order to emulate action just off camera but those don't really count.) That is done in the most playfully meta way possible to show the Iranian authorities and the world at large what kind of movies Panahi could make if only he were allowed. Except that is exactly the kind of movie he has made, with an emphasis on such Iranian taboos as dogs, suicide and unrelated men and women inhabiting the same space. And just remember that it is not showing off if you are this good.
"For Ellen" starts with Joby(Paul Dano), a musician, driving into a… More"For Ellen" starts with Joby(Paul Dano), a musician, driving into a snow bank when he eats and drives one morning. He is in the middle of nowhere to finalize the divorce with his estranged wife Claire(Margarita Levieva) but then balks at the fine print. At least, in the meantime, he gets an invitation for home cooked lasagna.
Ever since the invention of drama, it has been debated whether or not there could be an excellent performance in a lackluster play or movie. Well, I would like to submit the dramatically uneven "For Ellen" as exhibit A. Again, Paul Dano proves he is one of the best actors of his generation, fully embodying his character. But sadly, Joby is the only show here, as the camera cannot leave him alone for a minute, unlike other characters, thus not allowing for any meaningful perspective on the situation. For example, I would have especially liked to have seen events also from Claire's point of view. That's not to mention a perplexing ending which only serves to muddle the movie's message.
"Hide Away" starts with a man(Josh Lucas) arriving at a marina to buy… More"Hide Away" starts with a man(Josh Lucas) arriving at a marina to buy a boat. Unfortunately, it turns out to be something of a fixer-upper, leading him to have much less fun than the other man(Jon Tenney, of "Maxwell & King) there in the midst of a midlife crisis. Of course, the drinking does not help.
Yes, "Hide Away" can be something of a slog, especially early on, as it is never any fun watching a character trying to drink himself to death. But with a little help from a good supporting cast that also includes Ayelet Zurer and James Cromwell, the movie gently shows how none of us are ever as alone as we think we are. Plus, I again admit my fondness for Josh Lucas, along with the area of the country where this movie was made.
In "The Sweeney," London Police's Flying Squad under the command of… MoreIn "The Sweeney," London Police's Flying Squad under the command of Jack Regan(Ray Winstone) makes another stunning bust, interrupting an armed robbery in progress. Only to find out that DCI Ivan Lewis(Stephen Mackintosh) of internal affairs has issues with their use of violence. In any case, DCI Frank Haskins(Damian Lewis) covers for Regan, even as Regan is carrying on an affair with Lewis' wife, Nancy(Hayley Atwell), who is also in Regan's unit. Well, maybe it's a good thing there is a case to distract them all, a jewelry robbery gone wrong.
As befitting a movie based on a television series, "The Sweeney" feels like a cliched extended episode of a police procedural, and one whose complicated resolution I still don't understand. But what separates this from mediocrity is the excellent Ray Winstone, simultaneously tough and sensitive, whose throwback look contrasts with the shining towers of modern London which is also well photographed. And as a bonus there is the thrilling ten minute open air shootout which is probably in the top ten all-time.
In "House at the End of the Street," teenage Elissa(Jennifer Lawrence)… MoreIn "House at the End of the Street," teenage Elissa(Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother(Elisabeth Shue), a doctor, move to a small town. They are able to afford a house because of the murders just across the way years before. All is not doom and gloom, however, as Elissa befriends Ryan(Max Thieriot, of "Bates Motel") after he gives her a ride home one night. So, it is a shame that Ryan is definitely hiding something and/or someone.
As seriously undercooked as it is with its smart initial class consciousness fading into a much more conservative resolution, "House at the End of the Street" has certain things going for it. Namely, its third act plot twist does have a certain nasty logic going for it. Plus, Jennifer Lawrence shows flashes of brilliance while Max Thieriot and a relaxed Gil Bellows are quite good in support.
In "Hello I Must Be Going," Amy(Melanie Lynskey) has been down in the… MoreIn "Hello I Must Be Going," Amy(Melanie Lynskey) has been down in the dumps for the three months since her divorce. So much so, that she has not changed her T-shirt in that time. In response, her parents(Blythe Danner & John Rubinstein) want her very much to get something new for a party they are throwing. And the attempt nearly kills her. But at least Amy is feeling better for the party which has its upside like making out with 19-year old Jeremy(Christopher Abbott). Later, their relationship intensifies before Amy finds out she is the last person to know Jeremy is gay.
"Hello I Must Be Going" is a nice movie that sidesteps many a serious issue. Like instead of depression, the movie is about two people finding themselves after finding each other. While Jeremy is young enough to make things intriguing, he is old enough to keep the story out of Catherine Breillat territory. In any case, Melanie Lynskey makes for a pleasant enough lead in this amiable movie.
And now for something a little different...
In "Pater," director… MoreAnd now for something a little different...
In "Pater," director Alain Cavalier casts Vincent Lindon in this new film he is making that he is also starring in. Cavalier plays an aging French President who appoints a reluctant businessman played by Lindon to the post of Prime Minister. Together, they try to agree on a maximum wage while facing security concerns.
The tricky thing about "Pater" but not the movie within the movie is how hard it is to keep track of what is real and what is not, even with the occasional fade to black. And sometimes this also affects Vincent Lindon when he is not ranting about a new elevator in his building. Although it is worth noting how much the politicians' relationship mirrors that of star and director.
But what makes "Pater" passably worthwhile even as it slogs through its dress rehearsal in spots is the final scene where Alain Cavalier and Vincent Lindon literally turn the cameras on each other.