Friday, September 30, 2011


No planned trips to the theater this weekend.  The excellent 50/50 opens today.  I'd like to see it again at some point soon.

Just sent back the fantastic doc Bill Cunningham: New York to Netflix -- something ships today -- not sure what it is...

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Von Trier is a fucking maniac.  Of course I'll be seeing this.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The great American movie Moneyball centers on our great American sport -- baseball -- but is less about the sport itself and more about the people behind the scenes, most of who constantly grapple with one constant feeling: disappointment.  Baseball, after all, is a sport based on winning and losing, and Moneyball's lead character, Billy Beane (the wonderful Brad Pitt in full movie-star mode), the general manager of the Oakland A's, will stop and nothing in order to come out on top.  But because baseball is a game, only one team can say that they’ve won the “final game of the season.”  This is what Beane has been striving for his entire career, and the endless quest to win that final game will likely forever drive him as a competitor.  In terms of bucking the standard conventions of your typical sports movie, the brilliance of Moneyball lies in how it doesn't take a rote approach to telling a story focused on a sport that we’re all familiar with.  Much like last year's The Social Network (the two films share the invaluable Aaron Sorkin as writer) this is an "inside-the-machine" movie, looking at the sport of baseball from an analytical and statistical point of view.  But rather than bogging down the narrative with numbers and esoteric jargon to the point of confusion and/or boredom, Sorkin, and his estimable co-screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fisher) have shaped Michael Lewis's book into an emotional journey for Beane, as a coach, father, and friend.
Choosing to center your film on the notion of “sabremetrics” was a bold and unique decision.  And considering the numerous starts and stops for Moneyball throughout its development, it’s remarkable that director Bennett Miller (Capote) was able to deliver such a clear cut vision (Steven Soderbergh was set to direct before the movie collapsed over “creative differences.”)  Taking a niche subject and a somewhat unfilmable book and turning it into a quietly powerful film is no easy task, so much credit needs to be given to Sorkin and Zaillian.  If you know their work, you’ll hear Sorkin’s witty, satiric voice in the rapid-fire dialogue, while the fluid structure, which deftly mixes flashbacks of Billy Beane’s subpar minor and major league career as a way of making correlations to what Beane as a manager was going through with his team, can be traced to Zaillian’s guiding hand in the organization department.  And instead of giving you a saintly approach to the head-coach role, as written, Beane is a man of steadfast convictions, willing to ruffle feathers, and more than happy to berate and fire people who aren’t valuing his new found philosophy.  Many of the film’s best scenes take place within the team’s closed-door strategy meetings with the scouts, all of whom were either phenomenally well cast or the real deal.  What Sorkin and Zaillian have done so well is that you don’t need to be a baseball expert to understand the sometimes arcane, economics-based approach to the sport that is on display.  Moneyball is an “inside-baseball” movie, something that really hasn’t been done before, and it sits right next to Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, and Bull Durham as one of the best films to spotlight our national pastime.

But the key to Moneyball’s success is the rapport between Pitt and Hill, who both deliver Oscar worthy performances.  Pitt hasn’t been this out-right-likable and charming in years, and it’s a treat watching him literally transforming into his generation’s Robert Redford right before our eyes.  There’s an animal magnetism to Pitt as actor, and as he’s gotten older, the lines in his face and around his eyes have begun to express a vulnerability that was absent in his earlier work.  Pitt plays Beane as a man trying to be a better father to a daughter that he doesn’t get to spend enough time with, and as such, no matter how much of a thorn-in-the-side he is to his teammates (he makes many selfish decisions in an effort to preserve his vision), you’re always on his side.  Look at this performance and then contrast it to the tough-love-S.O.B. dad in The Tree of Life – this is a banner year for Pitt who has had a chance to stretch his range in ways that many people won’t really notice.  And Hill, the Apatow class-clown who has been killing it in every raunchy comedy made over the last 10 years or so, is a perfect partner for Pitt.  The two men couldn’t be any more different when it comes to performance style, personality, appearance, and expectation.  Hill, playing a fictionalized version of real-life-stats-guru Paul De Podesta named Peter Brand, gets the lion’s share of the movie’s laughs, but also registers strongly as a dramatic presence.  Without their bond, Moneyball wouldn’t be as powerful as it ultimately becomes; the two men teach each other about themselves and about the sport that they love.  It’s great to see Hill get a chance to do something serious, and between his work here and in last year’s dark comedy gem Cyrus, my guess is we’ll be seeing lots more from him in the future.  It should also be mentioned that Philip Seymour Hoffman is effortlessly good as Art Howe, the put-upon manager who has to deal with Beane’s unconventional methods.

Moneyball doesn't end in the last scene with the last play of the game on the final pitch in the bottom of the ninth.  It's not that sort of movie and doesn't want to be; it couldn’t be less interested in final-pitch heroics if it tried.  Wally Pfister’s intimate cinematography captures the sport in all of its glory when that sort of thing is called for, but instead takes a casual approach to the action, following Beane around relentlessly as he tries to figure out what his next move will be.  Mychael Danna’s subtle yet highly effective musical score helps underline the big emotional beats without ever grandstanding or calling attention to itself.  But what’s truly exceptional about the film is that it definitely does deliver a rousing, totally satisfying emotional release upon its conclusion, despite not bowing to the “final game” or “impassioned coach’s speech” cliché that we’ve seen a hundred times already. And when thought about at length, one realizes how the message of the film (echoed by Pitt’s daughter singing the lyric “You’re such a loser, dad” during the end credits) is that losing is part of our culture, and at the end of the day, it’s more about how you conduct yourself as a person than it is about how many games you’ve won.  In that sense, it’s very similar to Peter Berg’s fantastic high school football movie Friday Night Lights; it’s not about winning or losing, but about how the game has been played.


Monday, September 26, 2011


Drive is a masterpiece for many reasons, and represents a sort of cinematic trifecta for Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, who’s last two films were the brutally funny biopic Bronson and the trippy, dreamy, meditative Viking epic Valhalla Rising.  Refn is a name that nobody outside of film criticism or film geekdom is aware of, but if there’s any luck, his subversive touch will be felt all over Hollywood in the years to come.  He’s made recent claims of being a “fetishist filmmaker,” and that he’s interested in masochistic characters who feel the need to suffer for their redemption.  That’s clearly true if you’ve seen his work.  But what’s most interesting about Refn is how much of a sly stylist he is, and how he’s constantly looking to upend the conventions of the genre he’s working in.  It’s no shock that Refn took home the Best Director award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for Drive, as the film is essentially a European neo-noir set in Los Angeles, with numerous nods to the films of William Friedkin and Michael Mann (Thief and To Live and Die in L.A. are referenced numerous times), all of it spotlessly directed.  That Drive functions, primarily, as a perfectly constructed slice of attitude and style, similar in somberness and tone to Mann’s brilliant digital-duo of Miami Vice and Collateral, isn’t to say that Refn and his gifted writer, Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove), have glossed over plot and characters.  In fact, one of the best things about Drive is how much is conveyed with so little, in terms of actual dialogue.  Refn is a visual filmmaker first and foremost, and Amini’s spare and exacting screenplay plays to Refn’s immense visual strengths.   The “movie-movieness” of Drive is a major reason why the film is so exciting.  While viewing, you’re always aware of the fact that you’re watching a movie, set within a definable and familiar genre, yet Refn is able to cleverly manipulate, engross, and surprise you to the point of near suffocation.

The plot of Drive is standard and sturdy, rounded out with character actors who let their faces explain most of their back-stories.  Ryan Gosling, who at this point seems incapable of turning in anything less than a great performance, stars as the nameless Driver, a man who lets his actions do all the talking.  Hollywood stunt driver by day and freelance getaway wheel-man by night, he’s the classic, silent type for this type of fare – think Alain Delon in Le Samourai or Ryan O’Neal in The Driver.  He falls in love with his neighbor, a quietly effective Carey Mulligan, who is raising her young son and waiting for her criminal-type husband (a wiry Oscar Isaac) to get out of prison.  Once released, he talks Driver into helping him out on a seemingly easy robbery, which predictably goes bad, thus forcing Driver to step in and figure out what’s what and who’s who.  The hoods that stand in his way include the Oscar-baiting Albert Brooks who is deliciously nasty as the head-honcho-villain, Ron Perlman as a put-upon Jewish gangster, and Bryan Cranston as an allegiance-testing mentor figure who may not be all that he seems.  Again, as mentioned, all of this is classic genre material, nothing out of the ordinary, but perfectly acceptable and intriguing.  What makes Drive great is watching how Refn and Amini put their characters through their paces, subverting genre expectations almost the entire way, all the while tying up all loose ends by the finish, and yet still providing a denouement that leaves plenty of food for thought.

Based on a novel by James Sallis, Drive gets to play off the notions of reality and Hollywood trickery.  Because Driver is a Hollywood stunt-man, so used to escaping near death situations and always performing the most dangerous of tasks on set, he’s a guy who has built up an artificial sense of indestructibility and importance.  So, when confronted with immediate physical danger, he doesn’t blink an eye; he’s used to being ready to go that everything comes natural to him.  There’s no overt stress.  Cool as a cucumber as they’d say.  This creates for a dangerous and edgy atmosphere; when you have a lead character who thinks that nothing can stop them it makes for an unpredictable time at the movies.  Refn, no fool to the fact that Hollywood and reality oh-so-often imitate one another, draws parallels between the controlled environments of the movie-sets that Driver operates on, and the way Driver tells his perspective clients the rules of how he operates in his getaway car.  He’s not there to help, not there to hold a gun – he’s there to drive.  He’s a man built by discipline and order, following a specific set of codes, never sharing too much externally, but still emotional enough to understand how other people are feeling, and sympathetic enough for the audience to root for, no matter how nasty he can become.  The duality of Gosling’s role is rich and deceptively complex.
Refn’s sound and visual fury must also be addressed.  Utilizing a kitschy, catchy blend of semi-obscure 80’s pop and Mann/Friedkin-esque background synth, the score and musical selection in Drive amps up the events of every scene and instantly places the film in a hyper-realistic context.  Then, when coupled with the indelible images of master cinematographer Newton-Thomas Sigel (Three Kings, The Usual Suspects) and the precision of Refn’s overall mise-en-scene, a perfect marriage between image and sound is firmly in place.  Refn’s love of slow-motion creates instantly dreamy sequences in an otherwise starkly literal film.  The way time and space slows down during key scenes (the elevator scene; when Driver pulls into his parking garage and observes the thugs who have just worked over Standard’s face) increases tension and creates forward momentum.  And when Cliff Martinez’s ambient, extremely stylized score kicks in, you’re off to the races.  As with his previous films and much like Quentin Tarantino, Refn demonstrates a clear understanding of how music supports images, and vice versa, and how the use of silence can be just as important as any loud sound effect or eclectic musical cue.

The violence in Drive is worth addressing, because, well, this is a viciously bloody and at times savage film that’s part of a genre that lives and breathes on new ways of killing people.  Drive is set in a world populated by murderers and psychopaths, degenerate strip club owners, and mob bag-men.  It’s not a nice world.  People are mean.  They carry knives and they like to use them; not since Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises have there been this many slit throats.  The threat of physical violence hovers over every scene of Drive.  This is a talent of Refn’s, as in both Bronson and Valhalla Rising, there was a palpable sense of dread in every scene.  In Drive, people are shot, stabbed, head-stomped, finger-crushed, and drowned.  Most of these deaths are bloody and messy, as they should be.  But, nothing ever felt gratuitous or unnecessary, as everything that happens within the narrative is logically connected and holds up to scrutiny.  If there are plot holes in this film, they were not outright and obvious.  And, it must be said, like Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick, Refn has a distinct way of depicting movie violence, that both feeds off of the horrors of the situation, and the dangerous, slick way that violence can act as emotional catharsis for both the characters and the audience.  One specific scene in Drive – let’s call it the “elevator scene“ – is an instant classic because of the way Refn plays with tone and expectation, the real and the fake, and sensual and the savage.  Through the use of slow-motion cinematography and a dreamy, trance-inducing piece of music, Refn takes Gosling’s character from love to hate in a matter of moments, a tonal switch that is massively bold and visceral to the extreme.  With the woman he loves on one side of the elevator and the man sent to kill them on the other, it’s a sequence that will put hair in places on your body where there isn’t any.
Drive is an exhilarating piece of pop art for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Refn seems to be in such total command of his craft that it’s bracing to see a film of such strict exactitude.  The last time a genre thriller felt this seamless from scene to scene was No Country for Old Men, and while Drive may not have anything as profound to say about man and the nature of violence within men as the Coen brothers’ film did, Drive feels as controlled and clock-work-precise as that Oscar winning masterwork.  Drive exists mainly as an exercise in style, a film made by a filmmaker who was obsessed with finding the images that Mann, Hill, and Friedkin left on the cutting room floor back in the mid-80’s.  It’s as tightly scripted as you could ask a movie to be, and the performances are all in perfect harmony with one another.  And because of Refn’s artsy sensibilities and the fact that he got his movie made outside of the Hollywood system, Drive defies what you’ve come to expect from a “car-movie” or an “action-picture.”  Just watch how the opening car-chase sequence is shot and edited and you’ll notice how things are subtly different in Drive.  This is the sort of pure-cinema offering that filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and Paul Thomas Anderson will adore, a movie steeped in genre-based tradition yet excited by the possibilities of the fresh and new. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Will Ferrell has never been as dark or as sad as he was in Everything Must Go, a very good but very depressing movie about a guy who is thrown out of his house by his wife and who drinks himself into oblivion while living on his front lawn, selling his personal possessions.  There are many dark laughs in this little film, and Ferrell proves yet again that when asked to actually give a real performance, he’s more than up to the task.  It’s just that the film feels slightly overbearing, and you get the sense while watching that everything in the end might not actually be OK, which, I guess, is what happens in real life.

Merantau is 100% ass-kicking thanks to writer/director/editor Gareth Edwards and Silat (an Indonesian form of martial arts) specialist Iko Uwais.  The plot is simple – save the girl and fight like hell – and despite some questionable performances (the bad guys clearly got cast because of their fighting abilities…) the film succeeds thanks in no small part to Uwais’s amazing physical abilities and the fluid and coherent way the action was conceived by Edwards.  The bittersweet ending was a nice touch, and there are more than a few wince-out-loud moments during the frequent, bone-crunching, blood-spewing fights, that were mainly shot in long, unbroken takes.
I’ve always liked Mel Gibson as both an actor and filmmaker (Apocalypto and Braveheart are masterpieces), and while he’s very good in The Beaver, the film suffers from never really knowing what it truly wanted to be.  Director Jodie Foster has certainly made an interesting picture about mental illness but because of the tonally confused script, the movie never balances out in a truly satisfying way, despite many great individual scenes and moments.  All of the performances are sharp, with Gibson perfectly cast as the puppet-wielding crazy-man, Anton Yelchin as his disapproving son, and Jessica Lawrence as Yelchin’s messed-up love interest.

It’s no surprise that Ed Norton and Robert De Niro are great actors, and as usual, they deliver the goods in Stone, a brooding and semi-successful psychological thriller with religious overtones and questionable morals.  Milla Jovovich is pretty good as Norton’s slutty girlfriend who seduces De Niro into letting her man out of prison early, but the film never truly convinces when it comes to the various relationships between the characters.  An interesting sound design was employed by director John Curran, but he should have worked out his script a bit more before shooting.

Mark Duplass gets a lot of laughs in the small, earnest, and very funny indie comedy True Adolescents, a minor work that isn’t really about anything tangible or plot-centric, but rather, a slice of slackerdom that shines a light on a character who needs to grow up extremely quick.  I’d call it a coming-of-age story in more ways than one, and the greatest strength of Craig Johnson’s debut feature is how he blends three very different yet similar characters into a small story of understanding and misunderstanding.  The rough and tumble vibe of the flick works well when you think about the type of people you’re observing.


Friday, September 23, 2011


Moneyball again tomorrow.  Can't wait to hear the dialogue again. 

From Netflix is Merantau.  It looks sweet.  And it's the first film from the director of The Raid.

Killer Elite looks like cheesy, B-movie fun...I'll wait for the Blu Ray more than likely.

I need to go and see Drive again very, very soon...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011



I have a theatrical and a Blu Ray round up coming soon.  Our Idiot Brother, Contagion, Moneyball, and Drive will be discussed in depth.  At home I've caught up with Everything Must Go, Stone, The Beaver, and True Adolescents.  Stay tuned...


Amazing score and fantastic 80's cuts.  Cliff Martinez is an animal this year (his work on Contagion is equally brilliant).  Can't wait to grab this CD.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Funniest movie of the year.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The Tree of Life

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Super 8
Our Idiot Brother

Saturday, September 17, 2011



Just watched David Lynch's outstanding mind-fuck Mulholland Drive for the first time in roughly 10 years.  What an amazing piece of work.  I'll be damned if I understand it all but it's truly something else.  Makes for a great double-bill with Southland Tales.


Friday, September 16, 2011


Finally -- Drive this Sunday afternoon.  So pumped it's not even funny.  I worship at the altar of Refn.

From Netflix is the indie comedy True Adolescents.  Just sent back Unknown.  Total shit-burger.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Moneyball is wonderfully written, sharply directed, and features the best "movie-star" performance from Pitt in a long time (possibly ever). Hill is perfectly cast as Podesta, bringing lots of laughs to the surprisingly funny script (you can clearly see both Sorkin and Zaillian's hands all over the script), and Hill and Pitt have dynamite chemistry (the trade deadline scene was my favorite). The terrific, almost ambient score (loved the frequent Explosions in the Sky-esque guitar riff) is balanced beautifully by the numerous (and startling) moments of silence, which really help bring you into Billy Beane's psyche. In many ways it's definitely this year's The Social Network, except here, you're not watching a group of prissy ass-holes bickering over money and fame, but rather, the story of a deeply charismatic GM with a serious love for baseball who is starved for something new in the sport that he's been involved with all his life. Moneyball is right up there with the best sports movies ever made.

But...the real kicker of the night was getting the unnanounced chance to see a 10 or 15 minute sizzle reel for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It could have been shorter than that, but honestly, I totally lost track of time due to the massive levels of excitement. As the lights went down for Moneyball, the footage just started, with Christopher Plumber in close-up, talking about some dark family stuff. I'm saying to myself -- this isn't Moneyball -- nor is it the Karen-O trailer that we've all seen -- what's going on here!? And was like watching a mini-version of the final film, but not in a bad way. If it's possible, I'm even more anxious to see what Fincher has cooked up based upon what I saw tonight. I've seen the first two Swedish films (haven't read the books) and found them to be good mysteries with some great scenes and performances but nothing that was mindblowing. This movie isn't going to stretch Fincher as a filmmaker, and yeah, the material is completely within his comfort zone, but if this particular story had to be re-imagined by Hollywood, I can't think of another director for the job. In short, from what I saw tonight, the film looks INCREDIBLE, with an icy visual style that harkens back to Seven and The Game (a film I adore). Mara looks extremely intense and Craig looks appropriately weathered and intrigued by all the things going on around him. The score that was used was very TSN-esque, very low-level, almost a constant electronic humming, that then progessed and crescendoed into an explosive finale. Combined with all the dark and nasty and exciting imagery on display (snippets of lesbian sex, the infamous assault sequence, violence, car-chases, general deviancy) the reel got a huge charge out of the audience, with lots of chatter and buzzing after it was over. I think some people were perplexed as to what they were watching as it clearly wasn't a trailer, and at these free screenings, they typically don't show trailers (maybe one). And, now having seen some real footage from the film with dialogue and characters and plot points established, I guess you can't rule out the film from getting the "genre" nomination (think District 9) at the Oscars. One thing's for sure -- it's gonna make a shit-ton of money at the box office, despite the clearly hard-R that they've gone for. And I loved how after the on-screen "A Film by David Fincher" credit came up, there was a "Screenplay by Steven Zaillian" credit; not since the first trailer for Bad Boys II do I remember a trailer that gave an in-name shout-out to the writers (Shelton, Stahl, and Hancock got credited). All in all, another terrific night at the movies. This fall has been sensational so far: 50/50, Contagion, Warrior, Moneyball, and now Drive(!) this weekend, and we're not even done with September! It's gonna be a great few months coming up...

Oh, and it's worth noting the audience respone to Moneyball, which was extremely favorable. Mixed demographics, almost every seat taken, people of all ages. A huge round of applause greeted the film at the end, people laughed in all the right places, and Pitt and Hill cast a spell on the entire crowd with their back-and-forth. For a movie that's all about words and people talking, people were amazingly courteous and respectful, which is shocking, because these free screenings tend to always bring out the winners and morons. But not tonight. It might've had something to do with the fact that there were four security guards pulling people out of the theater for using phones. But I'd like to think that when a good story is being told that people are enjoying, they'll all shut the fuck up and do what they're there in the theater to do -- watch the movie. Not text their friends or chit chat or browse google every 20 mins. Moneyball is a very quiet movie at times, so it can easily be ruined by unappreciative audiences. Based on what I saw tonight, this movie will be a big hit and have terrific word of mouth. And for a sports movie that avoids almost every sports movie cliche in the book, that's saying something. Loved it.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Could watch this movie at any point on any day for any length of time.  Easily Jim Mangold's masterpiece, and the best thing Sly has ever put his name on, other than the original Rocky (but Copland is probably a better movie at the end of the day).



Steven Soderbergh's Contagion looks terrific -- gonna check it out on Sunday.

I'd love to see Warrior again at some point...

Just sent back The Beaver (it was decent) so no new Netflix for this weekend.

Just got passes for a sneak of Moneyball next Wednesday night. 

Win Win and Unknown are potential HD On Demand options...

Just grabbed the Blu of Hanna as well...AWESOME movie...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011



Susanne Bier doesn't mess around.  All of her films are intense and deeply emotional experiences, and of the ones I've seen (Brothers, After the Wedding, Open Hearts, and Things We Lost in the Fire, which I feel is her finest work) she's demonstrated that she's incapable of making a bad film. In a Better World fully deserved its Best Foreign Language Oscar last year, despite a few contrivances/cliches that Bier has mostly avoided thus far in her career.  It's a powerful, multi-continent look at violence within our society and how it affects various cultures. The layered screenplay (co-written by Bier and Andres Thomas Jensen) creates extremely interesting character arcs for all of the major characters, in particular the two pre-teen boys, who are the central focus of the narrative.  The film asks questions that are all around us every day: when is violence warranted, when is it intolerable, and how can we all co-exist when so many of us have totally different viewpoints on life and how to live it?  The biggest difference between In a Better World and her previous work is that Bier's films have all had a very raw, hand-held visual aesthetic which has helped drive home the stories being told.  To say that In A Better World is the prettiest film she's made would be an understatement; there were numerous shots of extreme beauty in the film, which when contrasted with the dark themes being explored, created an interesting juxtaposition of imagery and content.  I'm thinking that's the reason why the film connected so well with the Academy; they like to be reminded of humanity's shortcomings while still looking good for dinner.  Nevertheless, the film is perfectly acted, obviously heartfelt, and another strong piece of work from a filmmaker who I really admire.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I love the coke-fueled decadence of Oliver Stone's screenplay, and Brian De Palma's visually flamboyant direction has never been this operatic or over-the-top.  And Giorgio Moroder's score...a thing of beauty...

Monday, September 5, 2011


Anything with the name FRIEDKIN on it means that I will see it.


I am oh-so-curious about this little film...

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Just got back from a sneak of Warrior – really strong movie with sensational fight sequences.  It hits you where it counts emotionally, and the three lead performances (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte) are all wonderful and rich.  All three guys seem to occupy an equal amount of the film’s narrative, with Edgerton's character maybe serving as the primary focus, but what director Gavin O'Conner (Miracle, Pride & Glory) and his co-writers have done extremely well is present three different yet similar men all going through various states of emotional distress.  Feeling like a 70's flick in many respects, Warrior has a terrific opening sequence, plunging you right into the familial dramatics that do most of the heavy story lifting, and has an electric final 10 minutes that really send you out of the theater on a high.  Hardy is truly a force of nature in this film; anyone who saw Bronson knows that he's the real deal but here in Warrior he gets to play a sympathetic (yet extremely rough and troubled) character who you truly root for.  Edgerton, so subtle and effective in both Animal Kingdom and The Square (two grade-A Australian crime films), is highly likable and very affecting as the older brother, trying to do right by his family, but also trying to satisfy an inner urge from within himself.  And Nolte, as the ex-trainer/recovering alcoholic father to the two guys, just kills every scene he's in.  Desperately trying to make up for lost time and attempting to set things right at all times, the pain and anguish that comes across in Nolte's performance always feels honest and real; expect a supporting actor nomination for his hotel-breakdown scene alone.  Just the sound of Nolte’s weathered and gravelly voice at this point in his career indicates years of turbulent back story for his character.  And then there are the fight sequences, which are expertly shot and cut at a breathless clip, always feeling 100% authentic (love how they never amped up the punching sound effects), and always easy to follow and understand on a spatial awareness level. I seem to be one of the only people who can tolerate (and outright enjoy) the "skaky-cam" cinematography aesthetic (think Bourne, The Kingdom, Green Zone, etc), but the classical style in which the action was shot in Warrior made the movie feel like a cousin to Rocky or older movies about charismatic fighters.  A nicely proportioned amount of wide shots that show where the combatants are in the ring are included with the customary reliance on medium shots and close-ups; there are a few “in-your-face” punching shots that were reminiscent of the brutal camerawork in Ali.  And without going full-blown “Hollywood-ending” at the finale, the movie comes to as sensible a conclusion as it could come too without feeling overly contrived.  Bottom line – you’re happy with the way things turn out at the end of Warrior, which is great, because upon close inspection, the three lead characters still have a long way to go before all is right between them.  There’s no showing off in O’Conner’s direction, and what I liked the most about the film is how he never rushed his story, and how he took the time to set up a compelling scenario with layered characters who you truly care about and who are all fighting for something important, before pummeling you in the ring with the bloody beat-downs.  This is a kick-ass movie that most people are going to really enjoy, whether or not they’re into MMA/UFC (I’m not in the slightest), and I hope that despite the lack of familiar names (Hardy and Edgerton are terrific actors but nothing close to recognizable stars) that this film is a big hit. 

Friday, September 2, 2011


Got my sneak preview tix for this Sunday's advance screening of Warrior -- looks very manly.

From Netflix is last year's best foreign language Oscar winner In a Better World, from master filmmaker Susanne Bier (Things We Lost in the Fire, Brothers, After the Wedding).

Lots of HD On Demand options...

And I've also scored passes to an early screening (next Wed) of Moneyball, which looks fantastic...

Thursday, September 1, 2011