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Showing posts from 2012

Seven Psychopaths

Finally, a story.  So reads the screenwriter's epitaph, according to the old joke.  That dilemma, the unending quest for a good story, is one that Marty (Colin Farrell), an Irishman living in Hollywood, understands all too well.  His agent calls to remind him that his next screenplay is due.  Unfortunately, Marty has made little progress, beyond a bold if rather literal title:  Seven Psychopaths.  Thus begins the film within a film, or perhaps film about a film by another Irishman, Martin McDonagh, also in Hollywood and lapsing into a major sophomore slump after his surprising debut, In Bruges (2008).  Seven Psychopaths might be only the second full-length feature for Mr. McDonagh, but for his part, he already seems to be a writer running desperately short of ideas.

The subject matter in Seven Psychopaths, aside from the screenwriter's dilemma and, well, psychopaths, is hit men.  Such was the subject of McDonagh's vastly more original debut, In Bruges.  Perhaps it constit…

The Sessions

It wasn't cinematic, complained a friend after a screening of The Sessions.  Much as I might like to disagree with that friend, if only to make her life more difficult,  it's a fair criticism of the film written and directed by Ben Lewin.  Mr. Lewin's film, based on the story, "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate," by Mark O'Brien often plays like a television movie and not a terribly distinguished one at that.

Mark O'Brien was a journalist, poet and advocate for the disabled.  The contraction of the polio virus during childhood deprived him of the use of his limbs for the remainder of his life and often confined him to an iron lung.  Moving about Berkeley on a motorized gurney, he was able to complete a bachelor's degree in English literature in 1982.  Illness prevented him from completing a masters degree, but he was still able to pursue a career in journalism.  After writing an article on sex and disabled people, he was forced to confront fears about his ow…

Looper

What a drag it is to take out the trash.  This applies to you or me, hauling a drawstring bag full of god knows what down to the garbage can or dumpster.  It applies also to the existential grind of being a Looper.  It's 2044 and there's still something the matter with Kansas.  The good news is that in 30 years time travel will be possible.  The bad news is that this temporal byway is going to be plied mainly by the criminal element.  There will be the occasional need to travel back and forth to make sure matters in both the past and future are as they should be to those in charge.  But there's also the traffic of unfortunate souls given a one way ticket back to 2044 so they can be summarily killed and their body disposed of.  This is taking out the trash Looper-style, as Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explains, speaking with the terseness of a film noir anti-hero.
The vague though technology savvy mafia in Looper send their victims back to 2044, Joe tells us, because i…

Argo

What strange suburb of Boston is this?  Well, we're no longer in Dorchester, Southie or Charlestown for the latest film from Ben Affleck.  Instead, it's the turbulent streets of...Southern California.  Actually, it's sites in the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park and a disused airport terminal in Ontario, California which are made to resemble the teeming streets of Tehran at the start of what Americans know as The Iran Hostage Crisis.

Argo, Mr. Affleck's third film as a director concerns itself with a generally forgotten episode of that 444-day crisis called "The Canadian Caper."  Six Americans managed to escape the frightening storming and takeover of the U.S. Embassy by Islamist students and militants and find shelter in the residence of the Canadian ambassador, among other hiding places.  C.I.A. agent Tony Mendez (Affleck), an expert in "exfiltrating" people from dangerous locations, concocted a cover story in whi…

Lawless

Those merry Australian lads - director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave - are back.  And yes, there will be blood.

Hillcoat and Cave collaborated quite impressively on The Proposition (2005), which plays like a combination of Greek tragedy and violent revenge Western , set in the aptly forbidding setting - time as well as dusty space - of 1880's Australia.  Cave, usually occupied singing his cheery songs as the leader of The Bad Seeds and Grinderman, also wrote and acted in Hillcoat's first full-length feature, Ghosts...of the Civil Dead (1988).

While Lawless doesdepict a sanguinary conflict between a resolutely independent family of moonshiners and corrupt law enforcement representatives, it might well have seemed a colorful lark to Hillcoat, whose last project was a grim adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (2009).

For the film at hand, Cave has adapted the novel, The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant. Mr. Bondurant is a grandson of Jack, the …