Seven Psychopaths

Add Comment on October 08, 2012 by David Ehrlich
Seven_psychos

It's easy to understand why Martin McDonagh, an exceptionally accomplished playwright, is transitioning towards the cinema: Violence. Sure, there's an immediacy to an onstage slap, and when Stanley Kowalski rages at Stella the audience gasps because the brute's abuse feels so horribly possible. On the other hand, when was the last time you saw a Broadway show detonate a cow above the orchestra pit (an event seen in McDonagh's Oscar-winning short, Six Shooter)? McDonagh may not fetishize violence, but it's a vital conduit for his artistic expression, like fields of wheat for Terrence Malick or cutaways of roadkill for Lee Daniels. McDonagh's first feature, the quietly loved In Bruges, was an existential treatise enlivened by making its bullet-points with actual bullets.

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The Paperboy

Add Comment on October 04, 2012 by Amy Nicholson
Paperboy

How can the courts be sure only guilty men are sentenced to death row? It's simple, says inmate groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman): their favorite sexual position. Such is the logic—and the fixation—of The Paperboy, Lee Daniels' engrossingly gonzo melodrama about a murderer, the woman who loves him, and the boy who loves her. Because alleged killer Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) prefers, ahem, receiving to giving, Charlotte is convinced of his innocence, and not only agrees to marry him, but also enlists reporters Ward (Matthew McConaughey) and Yardley (David Oyelowo) to prove the truth.

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Taken 2

Add Comment on October 03, 2012 by Amy Nicholson
Taken

Were you appalled at Liam Neeson's 32-person body count in 2008's Taken? Congratulations, you're qualified to be a villain in Taken 2. This sequel picks up months after Neeson slaughtered Paris to protect daughter Maggie Grace's virginity from the highest bidder, and finds him flustered to realize she may be giving it away for free to secret boyfriend Luke Grimes. But first, we see the Albanian cemetery where seven corpses—a mere fraction of Neeson's kills—are being mourned by their loved ones and bitter boss (Croatian character actor Rade Šerbedžija). Director Olivier Megaton (Colombiana) shows us the wailing mothers of the evil dead, a rare sight for any action film, before he reintroduces us to Neeson's own family.

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Smashed

Add Comment on October 01, 2012 by Mark Keizer
Smashed

In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a saying: "When wallowing in your self-pity, get off the cross—we need the wood." In Smashed, director James Ponsoldt's modest character piece, self-pity—along with the histrionics that often accompany it in these types of dramas—is so tactfully avoided that humility becomes the source of the movie's power. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, previously employed as eye candy in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is the emotionally accessible, unaffected center of this story of one woman's battle with alcoholism and equally pitched battle with recovery.

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Frankenweenie

Add Comment on October 01, 2012 by Pete Hammond
Frankenweenie

The horror-loving Tim Burton gives a classic boy and his dog story a Frankenstein spin in Frankenweenie, a feature-length adaptation of his own delightful 1984 short in which a science-obsessed kid named Victor brings his pet dog back to life after a tragic accident. Shot in glorious black and white and beautifully voiced, this magnificent stop-motion cartoon is alive—"it's alive!—with laughs and heart. Hilarious, exciting, touching, scary and richly entertaining, this Disney entry for the Halloween crowd should make waves at the box office way beyond what Burton's Dark Shadows approached earlier this year.

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Life of Pi

Add Comment on September 29, 2012 by Vadim Rizov
Life_of_pi

Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's mega-selling novel Life Of Pi is technically adept, mildly engaging and thematically pedantic. In the early 1970s, young Piscine "Pi" Patel (Suraj Sharma) and his family leave Indira Gandhi's India for a fresh start in Canada. Pi's father is a zookeeper, so they're sharing their cargo ship with his former animals, which they plan to sell as capital. But after a tremendous storm sinks their cargo ship, Pi finds himself alone on the water and forced to learn how to survive alongside testy tiger Richard Parker. The 3D is eye-popping and the film lively with incident, but serious tonal control issues and a sense of over-weaning grandiosity tip it towards kitsch.

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Won't Back Down

Add Comment on September 26, 2012 by Amy Nicholson
Won_t_back_down

Daniel Barnz's education drama opens like a horror movie with a bleachy close-up of a frightened girl who winces when gunfire explodes from the back of her school room. The shots sound effects from a classmate's video game, but the teacher doesn't care—she's on her cellphone, lazily ordering the dyslexic 8-year-old to read faster without actually helping her learn how. Who will come to the girl's (Emily Alyn Lind) rescue? Not the principal, but mom Maggie Gyllenhaal, a tattooed barmaid who could've used a good education herself, is going to give it a heck of a try. Won't Back Down makes grand drama of bureaucracy, positioning Gyllenhaal as the knight slaying 400 pages of government paperwork in order to wrest control of her daughter's elementary school.

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