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.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
After being cursed by delays The Wolfman Hollywood’s latest spin on the popular werewolf myth finally bares its ugly fangs in theaters this week. Predictably the film is a train wreck of a debacle -- one would expect nothing less from a notoriously troubled production that saw its original director Mark Romanek abandon ship just two weeks before the start of shooting -- but The Wolfman’s problems stem less from the late-game addition of helmer Joe Johnston who at the very least delivered a terrific looking film (its gorgeously eerie Victorian aesthetic evoking a palpable exquisite sense of dread is by far its best feature) than from the misguided efforts of its producer and star Benicio Del Toro.
The Wolfman is the brainchild of Del Toro an ardent horror fan who conceived the film as an homage of sorts to the low-budget “monster movies” from the ‘30s and ‘40s that he loved dearly as a child. It’s fashioned as a loose remake of 1941’s The Wolf Man a film that both established Lon Chaney Jr.’s performance as the definitive take on the character and introduced aspects of the werewolf legend now considered sacrosanct. The notion that a werewolf can be felled by an item made from silver for example owes its origin to The Wolf Man.
But Del Toro feels all wrong in the role of Lawrence Talbot the prodigal son of a 19th-century English aristocrat whose fateful encounter with a bloodthirsty lycan the same creature that brutally murdered his brother just days prior triggers his unwitting initiation into the accursed tribe of feral man-beasts. Del Toro's resume of low-key understated performances marked by a muttering often imperceptible delivery in films like Traffic and The Usual Suspects suggests a skill set better suited to playing another famous movie monster one significantly less loquacious than his character in this movie. Seriously -- the guy should have remade Frankenstein instead.
Playing an American-bred (but English-born we’re told) character in an 1890 setting looking uncomfortable in period attire surrounded by such “proper” British actors as Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt and fully annunciating all of his line readings for the first time that I can recall Del Toro appears hopelessly out of place in The Wolfman.
Things only get worse unfortunately when Del Toro’s character transforms into the dreaded werewolf. Each time the moon is full the film transitions with increasing ridiculousness from a somber Victorian drama into a hard-core horror flick replete with grisly shots of torn flesh exposed spines and severed limbs. The first overly gruesome attack triggers a kind of nervous laugh more from the shock than anything else. The second invites an amused uneasy chuckle which soon snowballs into an outright belly laugh. And the effect soon spreads to the dialogue the outrageous gore rendering the film's mannered melodrama strangely hysterical.
Of all the Wolfman players only Hopkins seems to get the joke reveling in his manipulative mischief as Talbot's inappropriately glib stoutly aloof father. If only he'd let his castmates in on it.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Comedy is king.
In what is obviously a strong indication that moviegoers want to laugh more than anything, the new heavenly comedy Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, ruled at the box office over the four-day Memorial Day weekend with a smashing $86.4 million*, stealing the crown from reigning champion The Matrix Reloaded. The sci-fi sequel came in second with a meager $45.6 million, down 60 percent from its strong opening last weekend.
Bruce Almighty's three-day total of $70.8 million makes it the best non-sequel comedy opening of all time, as well as the best Jim Carrey opener ever, toppling his personal best Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which opened in November 2000 at $55 million.
Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco told Reuters she had expected the film to open in the $50 million to $60 million range. "I think it's a very moral film," she said.
While Carrey was obviously the key attraction, co-star Jennifer Aniston's presence and the romantic elements possibly accounted for the larger-than-usual female turnout. Women accounted for 53 percent of the audience, according to exit polling data, Reuters reports. Carrey's movies usually do best with young males.
But the record-breaking doesn't stop there. Bruce Almighty also becomes the second best Memorial Day opener ever, although the record still belongs to The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which opened in 1997 and took in $90.1 million over four days. And to add a little icing on the cake, it looks like this may turn out to be the best Memorial Day weekend in box office history with an estimated grand total of $155.8 million, beating out last year's record holder of $152.4 million.
Despite this weekend's big holiday grosses, this year has largely seen sub-par box office numbers, although comedies are showing a lot of muscle. In addition to Bruce Almighty, Bringing Down the House opened in early March and stayed on top for several weeks for a cume of $129 million, while Anger Management opened April 15 with $42 million and is still on the top 10 list with a cume of $131 million. In fact, of this weekend's 10 best, six are comedies.
This could be good news for the upcoming comedies including Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (June 13) and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (July 2).
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty debuted on top with an ESTIMATED four-day take of $86.4 million at 3,483 theaters. The film's $24,806 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this weekend.
The film follows a down-on-his-luck TV news reporter who blames God for all his problems--so God challenges him to take on the job and see if he can do it any better.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded came in second with an ESTIMATED $45.6 million at 3,603 theaters ($12,666 per theater). Its cume is approximately $209.5 million.
In the trilogy's second installment, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue their battle against the Machines both in and out of the Matrix as mankind has just 72 hours before the destruction of the human city of Zion.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Daddy Day Care dropped to No. 3 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $18 million (-26%) at 3,472 theaters (+64 theaters, $5, 184 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.1 million.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
20th Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United moved down a spot to fourth place in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $13 million (-40%) at 3,067 theaters (-423 theaters, $4,258 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $192 million, heading towards the $200 million mark.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Another comedy made its debut at No. 5 this weekend. Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws took in an ESTIMATED $9.1 million in 2,652 theaters with a $3,443 per theater average.
In this remake, two prospective fathers-in-law meet for the first time on the eve of their children's nuptials, and the wedding cake literally hits the fan.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
In sixth place was 20th Century Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love, which took in an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-41%) in 2,118 theaters (-5 theater; $2,427 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.6 million.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Buena Vista's PG rated The Lizzie McGuire Movie fell a notch to No. 7 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-33%) at 2,118 theaters (-540 theaters, $1,889 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.3 million.
Directed by Jim Fall, it stars Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg and Yani Gellman.
Buena Vista's PG rated 'tween comedy Holes held onto eighth place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $3 million (-27%) at 1,762 theaters (-470 theaters, $1,703 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60 million.
Directed by Andrew Davis, it stars Rick Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LeBeouf.
Sony Pictures' R-rated psychological thriller Identity dropped three places to ninth in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-46%) at 1,590 theaters (-606, $1,635 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49.1 million.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and Alfred Molina.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy Anger Management also fell three rungs to come in 10th place in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-51%) at 1,809 theaters (-667 theaters, $1,327 per theater). Its cume is approximately $131.8 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $155.8 million, just barely up a percent from last week when they totaled $154.6 million.
The Top 12 were up two percent from last year when they totaled $152.4 million.
Last year, Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones stayed at the top of the box office Memorial Day weekend in its second week in release with $60 million at 3,161 theaters ($18,983 per theater); Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man also stayed put at No. 2 in its fourth week with with $35.8 million at 3,876 theaters ($9,240 per theater); and Warner Bros' Insomnia debuted in the third spot with $26 million at 2,610 theaters ($9,988 per theater).