Hello, 2002 Louisiana. It’s nice to finally get to know you. This episode of True Detective opens with a flashback to the fateful year, with a gradually balding Marty Hart getting ready to beat the s**t out of the two 18-year-olds who slept with his high school aged daughter. And beat the s**t out of him he does. Clearly, Marty has not changed much since 1995. Think back on what he did when Lisa, the first woman we saw him cheat on his wife with, took home another man. He beat down her door and threatened the man with violence. He’s "protecting his manhood" by way of tearing down the men who take what he sees as his women.
We follow Marty to The Fox and Hound pub, carrying tampons he bought presumably for his wife and daughters. Enter Beth (Lili Simmons), and our memories are stretched to the second episode when Marty and Rust Cohle visited the whorehouse that housed underaged girls. In 2002, Beth is legal and smoking hot to boot. And what does Marty do? He buys her drinks, goes to her house, and returns to his adulterous form.
While Marty is sleeping with a younger version of his wife, Rust continues his investigation into the Dora Lange case. Rust finds more cases of missing children along the coast, cases that weren’t seen as criminal. He pays a visit to the old revival tent preacher, Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham), and finds out the man quit the trade because he stumbled across child pornography in the church's possession. When Joel brought up the photos to local religious institution kingpin Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), he sidestepped the issue and tried to blame the photos on the preacher.
Rust visits Kelly Rita (December Ensminger), the young woman he and Marty rescued from Reggie LeDoux’s drug compound when she was just a girl. She comes out of her catatonic state to scream about the face of the man who held her captive. Again in this episode we see a juxtaposition between the two detectives. On the one hand, Marty is sleeping with the girl who was a child prostitute — does anyone remember how disgusted he was by the child prostitution ring? On the other, the child Rust visits is weak and fragile, without the benefits of Beth's veneer of strength. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t both equally vulnerable and equally in need of some serious therapy.
Back to 2012: the present detectives bring in Maggie, now divorced from Marty. This is the first time we see the story from her perspective. In 2002, she finds a nearly naked photo of Beth in her husband's phone, and reacts quite interestingly. She calmly goes downstairs, watches her children with a look of pride as their obvious dislike of their father is apparent, and remains calm with him. The detectives ask her about Rust, and all she has are positive things to say about him.
Rust visits the famous Tuttle. He beats around the bush through their interview; at the end of their chat, Rust admits he’s working on a case about dead children and women, but earns no information. They part ways congenially, and it’s not until Rust returns to the station and is suspended without pay that we hear how unhappy Tuttle was about the interview.
We’ve now followed Maggie to a bar where she orders the same drink as Beth — a dirty vodka martini — and approach a younger man. But the next time we see Maggie, she's at Rust's front door, bottle of wine in hand. She lets herself in and says she knows Marty is cheating again, and asks Rust if he knew as well. He denies it, but we can't imagine that the master sleuth Rust really had no idea.
And then what we’ve been anticipating this entire season finally happens. But it isn’t some deep love affair between the two. Maggie seduces Rust, but the sex is almost impossible to watch. We know why, Rust knows why, and she admits why. Marty will never forgive her for sleeping with his partner. She needed this way out.
The show ends the way it began, with Marty fighting for his honor. He and Rust really go at it outside the station house, the fight ending with Rust quitting the job and terminating his partnership with Marty.
One last time, we return to 2012. Marty has finally walked out of the interview. If Rust is what the detectives are insinuating him to be, a cold-hearted killer, the newly stoic Marty won’t hear any of it, and won’t help them in their quest for the truth.
Sex, lies, fights, betrayal. We are finally seeing True Detective take form. We watch as everything begins to make sense, while there is still so much to learn. This episode closes with 2012 Marty driving away from the station house and a truck honking wildly behind him. He pulls to the side of the road and waits for his old partner Rust to approach the car, asking him to follow him to the bar for a long overdue conversation.
Dammit, this is going to be the longest week ever.
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.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.