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.
There are some big things brewing in the Disney vat, comic book fans. Ever since that little movie called The Avengers came along, the whole industry has been wondering what Marvel's next step will be — and Disney CEO Bob Iger may have just revealed it.
Yesterday, Iger announced the news that the film's director Joss Whedon (of Firefly and Buffy fame) would return to write and direct The Avengers 2. On top of that glorious announcement, Iger also revealed another interesting tidbit of information: that, as part of the deal, Whedon would help develop a new live-action television series for ABC, featuring Marvel characters. What's that? A Whedon-esque return to television, with superheroes!? Why don't I just hand over all my empty DVR space now!?
Of course, now that we know that TV is in Disney/Marvel's lens, the question becomes: what will this show be about? Or, perhaps more importantly, who will it be about? There are hundreds of characters in the Marvel repertoire, some (like Iron Man) more prolific than others (say, Squirrel Girl or Doorman). Since there are so many to choose from, I tapped into my limited comic book knowledge to dredge up some potential characters who may be swell candidates to lead an Avengers-themed TV show — and just for the hell of it, I cast it, too.
The Attractive Leading Man: Nate Richards (Iron Lad)
Played by: Logan Marshall-Green
One obvious choice for a TV-ready leading man is Nate Richards — strapping, handsome, and with a killer twist: he grows up to become Kang the Conqueror! Talk about interior conflict.
***The Best Friend: Eli Bradley (Patriot) Played by: Michael Jordan In order to fill the best friend slot, Bradley would have to be demoted from the leader of the Young Avengers (a group that itself would make for an excellent primetime program). But Iron Lad and Patriot would be the perfect television echoes to Iron Man and Captain America's cinematic sparring.
The Love Interest: Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) Played by: Laura Osnes You know what they say: when you can't get the rights to Spider-Man, you get the next best thing... Spider-Woman. Who would blame you for getting Broadway belle Laura Osnes into a form-fitting suit?
***The Hunky Mentor: Piotr Rasputin (Colossus) Played by: Joe Manganiello The network would have to drop Piotr's heavy Russian-ness in favor of something more American-casual. Like Pete.
*** The Sensitive One: William Kaplan (Wiccan) Played by: Aaron Tveit Kaplan could easily act as the real heart of the show — a young superhero struggling to come to terms with mutant villains and his sexuality.
*** The Sassy Chick: Emma Frost Played by: Margot Robbie True, Frost can be villainous, but sometimes cold-hearted bitches can be the most fun. Screw that — they're always the most fun.
*** The Precocious Child: Franklin Richards Played by: Chandler Riggs Only because Kiernan Shipka wasn't available.
*** The Celebrity Villain: Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) Played by: Terry O'Quinn Who's the first season's Big Bad? None other than crime boss Kingpin, as played by the cueballed O'Quinn. This, of course, is brilliant casting.
***And Ann B. Davis as Aunt May Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker[Photo Credit: Marvel; WENN]MORE: Joss Whedon to Write, Direct 'The Avengers 2' ‘Avengers’ Fever Spreads: ‘Justice League,’ 'Wonder Woman' Movies Find Writers Post-'Avengers': What's Next for the Marvel Heroes
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]