There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
S2E3: Tonight's episode of Hawaii Five-0 featured two completely different storylines -- one that only spanned the hour and another, involving Kono, that looks like it'll factor into the entire season, or at least the foreseeable future. First, the former ...
A Navy SEAL, Clay Garcia, is found dead in a tent, with initial reports ruling it a suicide. But Joe White, (recurring guest star Terry O-Quinn), a former SEAL trainer knows that couldn't be the case, so at McGarrett's request, Max reopens the case, quickly deeming the death a homicide.
So the investigation begins: Five-0's first order of business is to question Garcia's wife, who reveals that the couple had fallen out of love and that she was more or less having an affair with her restaurant boss -- who McGarrett pegs as an obvious suspect but who turns out not be involved.
It is then that McGarrett and Co. retrace Garcia's steps and more or less trip over the real story: Deep in the mountains, near where Garcia's body was discovered, they find a multimillion-dollar marijuana-growing operation complete with booby traps and hidden cameras. They realize that Garcia tripped up one of the traps and was caught by his captors and probably killed.
Only ... that's just part of what really happened! It isn't until another SEAL turns up dead -- under very similar cover-up circumstances, no less -- that the gang realizes someone has it out for the Navy SEALs, SEAL Team 9 in particular. Following some further investigation, Five-0-plus-Joe learns that a drug-cartel war is to blame, with one man, Hector Ruiz (aka the Chameleon), as the ringleader. They know to look for him, and where to look for him, but unfortunately he's about to take out another member of SEAL Team 9 -- in a skydiving mission. In the end, as is usually the case, the gang brings the bad guy to justice and save the good guy.
As for that aforementioned Kono story ...
Laid off from Five-0, bored and just flat-out suffering from feelings of low self-worth, Kono starts hanging out with the wrong crowd. Like, the really wrong crowd; we're talking traitorous. Towards the end of the episode, she takes a meeting with a onetime detective, Frank Delano (guest star Billy Baldwin), who was kicked off the force for corruption and who offers her a potential gig serving up advance intel on the Hawaii Police Department's whereabouts and plans. At least for now, it appears as though she accepts. Fortunately -- or unfortunately -- Kelly is following her every move. Stay tuned!
TOP FIVE MOMENTS FROM TONIGHT'S EPISODE
1. Max walks into Five-0 headquarters literally looking like Inspector Gadget, which McGarrett verbalizes -- to which Max replies, "Reopening a closed case without authorization is considered risky."
2. During the mountain sequence, in which the guys learn of the marijuana operation, Kelly steps over a tripwire, which almost causes a shotgun-shell booby trap to automatically activate, and it makes for a tense few moments -- with Joe and McGarrett trying to prevent it from going off and Kelly sweating bullets as he’s forced to stand still and wait to see if a chunk of his body will be blown off. (It won't be.)
3. Realizing they’re being watched, McGarrett, Joe and Kelly purposely draw the marijuana growers out from their bunkers and turn the tables on them, setting up booby traps of their own -- including yanking down an entire tree to block their camouflaged Jeep Wranglers!
4. This cool quote from the characteristically cool Baldwin (to Kono), seconds after his character is revealed: "I don’t trust cops who don’t drink -- especially ex-cops. So have a drink."
5. The climactic scene, in which a drugged SEAL is dropped from a plane -- only to be rescued by McGarrett and Co. Because they can skydive too!
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.