In one of the better scenes in The Counselor, a wealthy lawyer (Michael Fassbender) buys an engagement stone from a monoglogueing dealer. Many of the characters a Cormac McCarthy protagonist encounters are philosophical, and this diamond seller is true to form. He holds up a beautiful specimen and declares it a “cautionary stone,” and speaks of humans’ hope “to partake in the stone’s endless destiny…At our noblest we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives. That we will not thereby be made less.” But this story is not about people at their noblest. Oh, no. It’s about people who choose see the diamond’s price but not its lesson…and the inevitable, bloody consequences of those choices.
The Counselor is also (unintentionally) about the consequences of filmmaking choices that, oh, let’s say, decapitate a film’s chances for singularity, for hypnotism, for depth.
Prisoners, the first studio flick from indie helmer Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) is a taut crime thriller that allows for deeper interpretations. The script by Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband)slithers and twists, solidly satisfying who-done-it genre rules. The film follows the case of two missing girls, the frustrated officer trying to find them (Jake Gyllenhaal), and their increasingly desperate fathers (Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard). The deep-bench cast also includes personal favorites Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis and Maria Bello.
You’ve probably noticed I’ve cut back on posting movie reviews lately. That’s because I’m trying to focus my extra time on actually writing and making movies, not just writing about them. I’m deep into another draft of a weird feminist Western I’ve been working on for years and in pre-production to direct a sci-fi short written by one of my friends. But I promise to keep reviewing long-discussion-provoking films. And in between those reviews, I promise to give you a list of what I’ve been watching just in case you, like me, are nosy about your friends’ movie and TV habits.
“Hey girl, are you going to see Gangster Squad this weekend? I’m giving myself cancer for the sake of historical accuracy and everything.”
This star-laden period piece is directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less) and written by Castle-scribe Will Beall, based on the book by Paul Lieberman. It tells the story of how a small team of LAPD officers fought mob-boss Mickey Cohen for control of Los Angeles.
In honor of the Christmas Day opening of Django Unchained, let’s look at Quentin Tarantino’s back catalogue. One of the most unique filmmakers working today, Tarantino has a signature style that borrows heavily from ’70s-era genre films, adds in stylized and idiosyncratic dialogue, then mixes it all up with over-the-top imagery. His films often feature shocking violence and revenge themes. I’m ambivalent about the use of both; sometimes I think he’s being exploitative, and sometimes I think he’s rightfully using them in the service of the story or an issue. More study is necessary: At the time of writing, I’ve only seen half of his films (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Inglorious Basterds). I’m making a New Year’s resolution to see the rest.
Bad Pitt fans rejoice: this film has nothing to do with Channel No. 5. Based on the trailer, I’d venture to guess that the world of Killing Them Softly smells more like burnt rubber, rain on gas-soaked streets and stale cigarette smoke.
The film is adapted and directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) from the book Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins. After some rookies rob a mafia card game, enforcer Jackie (Brad Pitt) is hired to bring the local underworld back to status quo. The crime movie has a stellar supporting cast, including Richard Jenkins (I kept wanting to call the tiger in Life of PiRichard Jenkins, instead of Richard Parker), Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini and Scoot McNairy.