Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Looper" - Rian Johnson (2012)

At the very start of "Looper," we're treated to an assassination within a matter of seconds.  It's quite startling and goes a long way to establishing both the premise and tone of the film.

In the new sci-fi thriller, we're introduced to a future where time travel exists, but it's controlled by thugs.

Actually, in this future, time travel does not yet exist, but it will in the future-future.  That's right, hope you have your thinking caps on because the plot of this film is incredibly convoluted.


"Looper" takes place in 2044 in an unnamed town in Kansas.  A Looper is an assassin who kills people who are sent back in time to face their deaths.  That way, the bad guys in the future don't have any messy remains to dispose of.
Neat, huh?


And, of course, because the future criminal world doesn't like any loose ends, they have a habit of sending back old guys who used to be loopers to be executed by their younger selves.

And that's where our trouble starts.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Joe, an assassin who lives a charmed life filled with violence, drugs and sex, until he's expected to kill his future self, played by Bruce Willis.

The film also features Emily Blunt who plays a woman whose telekinetic son may or may not grow up to be a notorious mafia kingpin.

"Looper" reunites Levitt with director Rian Johnson, who collaborated on the sensitive but brutal high-school gumshoe film, "Brick," and this film has a similar, decidedly indie feel.

"Looper" is the best mainstream science fiction film since 1998's "Dark City."

It's brually violent and features a complicated, sordid and conflicted anti-hero.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Looper" Featurette

Rian Johnson's "Looper" reunites the director with Joseph Gordon Levitt.

The film comes out this Friday, but here's a featurette about the problematic concept of time travel.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Compliance - Craig Zobel (2012)

“Compliance” clearly wants to be either a rigid psychological thriller or a profound statement on sexual sadism.
It is neither.
The film takes place mostly in the backroom of a fast food restaurant as a prank phone call, over the course of a few hours, leads to a rape.
But Craig Zobel’s screenplay, based on a true story, can’t keep up with its concept.
It starts with a great deal of promise as the tension starts to build, but the focus shifts quickly from the victimization of Becky, our protagonist to absolute wonder over the stupidity of the characters.

As the employees continue to believe the caller, who claims to be a policeman demanding a strip-search of a young girl, it’s impossible to believe none of them would question the caller’s credibility.
The film makes the case that at least some of the workers have been duped and are victims, just like Becky and that’s a conclusion I found strikingly offensive.
The employees are complicit in the crime, not only the manager, Sandra, who takes point on the search, but also co-workers like Kevin and Marti, who seem to know something is wrong but don’t help their friend.
The concept “Compliance” is based on is interesting and should have produced a thought provoking film.
Sadly, writer/director Craig Zobel just doesn’t have the capability of pulling that off.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Dracula" Restoration Featurette

Here's a featurette about the restoration of Todd Browning's 1931 masterpiece, "Dracula."

Friday, September 7, 2012

"House at the End of the Street" Featurette

God knows if "House at the End of the Street" will be any good.

 As a skeptic of PG-13 horror films, I doubt it, but hell, I'll see it and keep an open mind.

Here's a featurette about the film.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Looper" Score Featurette

"Looper" once again teams up Joseph Gordon-Levitt with director Rian Johnson.  

I thought "Brick" was brilliant, so I'm excited.

This is a featurette about the score for the film.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"The Cabin in the Woods" - Drew Goddard (2012)

If you only see one film this year about human sacrifice, for Jesus' sake, don't let it be "The Hunger Games."


"The Cabin in the Woods" is a simultaneously funny and scary horror film that comes out on blu-ray and DVD later this month.
Tension between city folk and hillbillies is just one of the fun elements of "The Cabin in the Woods."

The story is very familiar.  We follow a group of young people on a retreat into the woods where death and dismemberment awaits them.
The twist is the entire scenario is being controlled by a bunch of people in a lab.

Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford play the puppet masters who crack jokes like a sadistic Waldorf and Statler.

Seeing "The Cabin in the Woods" is the most fun I've had watching a movie in a very long time.

After years of a disturbing uptick in PG-13 horror movies, the horrific violence, profanity, nudity and sex in the film is more than welcome.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In 'Lawless,' Nick Cave crafts a new murder ballad

CANNES, France (AP) -- Writing the Prohibition-era bootlegger crime film "Lawless" -- his second realized script and largest movie production yet -- taught Australian songwriter Nick Cave certain foundational lessons of Hollywood moviemaking.

   "I learned that it's a waste of time to graphically kill animals in scripts," Cave says, laughing. "It's going to hit the cutting room floor."

   The education and development of Nick Cave, screenwriter, continues with "Lawless," a tale of three bootlegging brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke) in rural 1920s Virginia. In adapting Matt Bondurant's novel, Cave was predictably moved to include scenes from the book of a pig's slaughter and a dead calf's birth, but had to settle for gangster gunplay and an ominous atmosphere alive with the constant threat of sudden brutality.

   The film marks Cave's continuing dalliance with screenwriting, "an extracurricular" activity, he calls it, along with novel and poetry writing. That's in addition to his "No. 1 job" as a musician and frontman of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the currently dormant Grinderman.

   "I became a script writer with absolutely no idea of how to write a script whatsoever," says Cave, who also wrote the 2005 Australian outback Western, "The Proposition." "I still feel a bit of an outsider in that regard. If I can maintain that approach to screenwriting, it can continue to be enjoyable. But as soon as that's gone and I understand the process, I don't think I'll have much interest in writing scripts at all."

   Violence has been a rich vein for Cave since he emerged in the 1980s with the London-based punk outfit The Birthday Party. As a theatrical lyricist of spare fables, his gothic songs of death and mean men with a "red right hand" have often carried a murderous gravity and narrative bent.

   Like the bloody "Proposition," "Lawless" is another kind of murder ballad for Cave, one populated with colorful characters compelled by primal urges.

   "I don't know where that comes from except that it's a particular talent I have to write about that stuff," says Cave, a native of rural Victoria who now lives in Brighton, England, with his wife and twin sons. "Whether that's from being a country boy walking around the ranges with a shotgun as a child and all that sort of stuff, but that was very much what my childhood was like."

   Cave spoke in an interview first in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where "Lawless" competed for the Palm d'Or, and again by phone from Los Angeles, where he's recently recorded a new album with the Bad Seeds.

   Erudite and droll, Cave, the son of an English teacher and librarian, is an engaging subject whose dry wit captivated Cannes more than the star power of the film's cast, which also includes Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain.

   LaBeouf attached himself to the script early on and stuck with the project through delays due to financing. He remained with it because of Cave's screenplay and the prospect of working with director John Hillcoat, a friend of Cave's who also directed "The Proposition."

   "When a man says to you, `I'm planning on making "Goodfellas" in the woods,' it's really hard to get away from that idea," says LaBeouf.

   Cave says that the larger size of "Lawless," which the Weinstein Co. is releasing in theaters Friday, "opened my eyes to how film is made," referring to the necessary compromising of a project with many interested parties.

   But screenwriting remains a fascinating process for Cave, who says it comes far more natural to him than songwriting. Despite the 54-year-old's decades in music, he calls songwriting torturous.

   "Songwriting is something where I have to go into a room on my own and battle it out and squeeze out these songs," says Cave. "It's like giving birth out of the tiniest of apertures. It's painful and it's kind of bloody, whereas writing scripts, I feel like a little boy."

   When Cave writes a script, he simultaneously is considering the score. For "Lawless," he wanted to avoid the Americana route, wary of competing with T-Bone Burnett's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. Instead, he and Bad Seeds violinist Warren Ellis went for a "raw, punky feel."

   The score is thus full of countrified versions of more recent rock songs not typically done that way, most notably bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley singing the Velvet Underground tune "White Light/White Heat." Cave believes the song, which is about methamphetamine use, connects the film's criticism of Prohibition with contemporary anti-drug policy.

   Though Cave now finds himself an in-demand screenwriter, he says it reenergizes him for his "bread and butter" occupation.

   "Screenwriting is something I use to help keep the process of songwriting alive," he says. "If that's all I was doing, I would have dried up or gone into a real decline years ago with songwriting. I'm always coming back to songwriting. In fact, I'm always running back to songwriting screaming."