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.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
The pharmaceutical arm of Bristol-Myers Squibb has enlisted such stars
as Kirk Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Dana Carvey and Angela Bassett to
appear in a number of ads for their cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol,
the New York Times reported today.
The ads will feature
a questionnaire about the risk factors of heart disease and will urge
people to visit their doctors and to look at the company's website for
After two weeks of dismal results, the box office roared back to life last weekend with total ticket sales of $64.1 million for the top 12 films, up 47 percent from the previous weekend and 22 percent from the same weekend a year ago. Don't Say a Word, starring Michael Douglas, surprised many analysts by opening in the top spot with $17.1 million. Many analysts had predicted that audiences would not be ready yet for such an edgy thriller.
Ben Stiller's comedy Zoolander, which had been the favorite to win the box-office race, placed second instead with $15.5 million.
A third new film, Hearts in Atlantis, starring Anthony Hopkins, debuted in the third spot with $9 million.
There was more bad news for Mariah Carey. Glitter, her first feature, took in less than $1 million, averaging just $772 per screen.
The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Don't Say A Word, 20th Century Fox, $17,090,474, (New); 2. Zoolander, Paramount, $15,525,043, (New); 3. Hearts in Atlantis, Warner Bros., $9,021,494, (New); 4. Hardball, Paramount, $5,156,888, 3 Wks. ($26,263,390); 5. The Others, Miramax/Dimension, $47,85,217, 8 Wks. ($86,694,507); 6. Rush Hour 2, New Line, $2,484,904, 9 Wks. ($219,192,504); 7. The Glass House, Sony, $2,106,341, 3 Wks. ($15,035,267); 8. The Musketeer, Universal, $1,737,540, 4 Wks. ($25,534,375); 9. Rat Race, Paramount, $1,702,628, 7 Wks. ($54,088,903); 10. Two Can Play That Game, Sony, $1,628,848, 4 Wks. ($2,0647,372).
Moviegoers once again proved analysts wrong over the weekend, favoring the R-rated thriller Don't Say a Word, starring Michael Douglas, over the comedy Zoolander, starring Ben Stiller.
Moreover, they flooded back into theaters in surprising numbers, boosting ticket sales by 52 percent over the previous weekend and 26 percent over the same weekend a year ago. Commenting on the estimated $66.2 million take for the top 12 movies, 20th Century Fox's distribution chief, Bruce Snyder, told today's Wall Street Journal, "I think the country is trying to get back to normalcy of some sort."
And entertainment analyst Art Rockwell told Bloomberg News: "The box office hasn't been negatively affected by terrorism. ... People found great relief in going to a movie."
Don't Say a Word
took in an estimated $18 million for an average of $6,422 per theater. Several critics on Friday had voiced skepticism that, given the current national mood, audiences would be attracted to intense thrillers, particularly one set in New York that includes a fleeting glimpse of the World Trade Center. (The film also received a number of scathing reviews.)
Zoolander, analysts' clear favorite to win the weekend race, finished second with $15.7 million for a per-screen average of $6,262.
Hearts in Atlantis, starring Anthony Hopkins was in third place with about 9.5 million, for a per-screen average of $5,445.
The Keanu Reeves Little League film Hardball dropped to fourth place with $5.2 million, after spending two weeks in first place.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Don't Say a Word, $18 million; 2. Zoolander, $15.7 million; 3. Hearts in Atlantis, $9.5 million; 4. Hardball, $5.2 million; 5. The Others, $5.1 million; 6. Rush Hour 2, $2.7 million; 7. The Glass House, $2.1 million; 8. Rat Race, $1.8 million; 9. The Musketeer, $1.7 million; 10. Two Can Play that Game, $1.6 million.
Don't Say a Word,
starring Michael Douglas, is also opening to mixed reviews. The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter, who remarks that the first hour of the film is "pretty scary," says that it eventually "transmogrifies ... totally into Hollywood hooey."
But Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer pronounces it "one of those well-wrought, emotionally overwrought affairs that could easily overwhelm a fragile nervous system." Here, too, critics are suggesting that the movie ought not to be taken too seriously.
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "[It] is a classic race-against-time movie that, once set in motion, ticks along like clockwork. What keeps you hooked are good performances and just enough plot twists. That's not to say the picture is bursting with originality; it's not, right down to the arbitrary timeline. But as it dutifully goes through the expected tropes and inevitable implausibilities of the genre, the movie stays steady on its feet and steadily involving."
But several critics question whether audiences are really ready for thrillers of any kind following the Sept. 11 events. A. O. Scott in the New York Times notes that in Don't Say a Word, "a climactic scene in which a bad guy is buried alive in an avalanche of dirt, dust and falling beams inadvertently conjures up some horrific associations."
The London Sun tabloid, which has taken credit for putting "Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs back behind bars in Britain, said Wednesday that it has been "bombarded" with offers from Hollywood studios to buy the rights to its story about the 71-year-old former fugitive. The Sun, which footed the bill for a private plane to fly him from Rio de Janeiro to Britain in return for an exclusive interview, quoted an unnamed Hollywood source as saying, "This could be the script of the year. It's a great story and studios are queuing up to tell it." The Sun also proposed that Kirk Douglas star as Biggs in the movie. He's "made for the role," the newspaper commented. Both Douglas and Biggs have suffered serious strokes.