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 kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
We've trawled through the happenings and the hits, the flops and the fuss to bring you the last 12 months in quiz form.
So, as we ring in 2010, here's your chance to test the old grey matter with 30 posers about the closing year.
Best of luck...
1. Name Kate Hudson's former baseball beau.
a. Alex Rodriguez
b. Derek Jeter
c. Manny Ramirez
2. Who won the 2009 Oscar for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role?
a. Sean Penn
b. Brad Pitt
c. Mickey Rourke
3. And who won Oscar gold in the Actress in a Supporting Role category?
a. Amy Adams
b. Penelope Cruz
c. Viola Davis
4. Name the actress who won damages from U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail after the publication called her "the most irritating actress".
a. Kate Winslet
b. Dame Judi Dench
c. Kate Hudson
5. Name the Russian who gave birth to Mel Gibson's baby in October.
a. Petra Nemcova
b. Oksana Grigorieva
c. Anna Kournikova
6. How many kids does Mel Gibson now have?
7. Which actress fasted for 12 days to highlight the plight of refugees in Darfur?
a. Angelina Jolie
b. Charlize Theron
c. Mia Farrow
8. Which great Brit recovered from a late 2008 coma to start work on his 74th film role this past summer?
a. Christopher Lee
b. Lord Attenborough
c. Sir Ian McKellen
9. Which top TV actress said, "I was named after my great-grandmother. If you look it up it's Greek, but my grandmother was apparently named after an Irish Catholic saint, who had an indiscretion with the Greek god Zeus and was kicked out."
a. Vivica A. Fox
b. Penelope Cruz
c. Calista Flockhart
10. Which movie star quit acting to become a batty rapper?
a. Hugh Grant
b. Joaquin Phoenix
c. Mark Wahlberg
11. Which Irish actor became a dad for the second time this year?
a. Colin Farrell
b. Colin Firth
c. Daniel Day-Lewis
12. She played TV chef Julia Child and Fantastic Mr. Fox's wife in two 2009 films. Name the Oscar winner.
a. Nicole Kidman
b. Julia Roberts
c. Meryl Streep
13. The castmembers of which famous TV sitcom reunited for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm?
14. Which sexy star inhabited Jennifer's Body?
a. Megan Fox
b. Eva Mendes
c. Kate Beckinsale
15. Which Charlie's Angels star died on the same day as Michael Jackson?
a. Cheryl Ladd
b. Jaclyn Smith
c. Farrah Fawcett
16. Which 2009 movie did George Clooney not appear in?
a. Fantastic Mr. Fox
b. The Men Who Stare At Goats
c. The Blind Side
17. Which funnyman had heart surgery in 2009 to replace a heart valve?
a. Robin Williams
b. Pierce Brosnan
c. Alec Baldwin
18. Which box office smash hit featured balloons, an old man and a boy scout?
c. Monsters Vs. Aliens
19. Jaime Pressly, Claire Danes, Marla Sokoloff and Anna Faris all had what in common in 2009?
a. They got married this year
b. They had a baby this year
c. They spent time in rehab
20. Which actress was unceremoniously ditched from the Twilight franchise?
a. Ashley Greene
b. Dakota Fanning
c. Rachelle Lefevre
21. And which filmmaker's daughter will replace her in Eclipse next year?
a. Bryce Dallas Howard
b. Jessica Capshaw
c. Eva Amurri
22. Which Beatle does Aaron Johnson portray in Sam Taylor-Wood's directorial debut Nowhere Boy?
a. Paul McCartney
b. Ringo Starr
c. John Lennon
23. Which British actress was left "mortified" when Esquire magazine named her the year's Sexiest Woman?
a. Kate Winslet
b. Katie Price
c. Kate Beckinsale
24. Name the director of Inglourious Basterds.
a. Steven Spielberg
b. Ron Howard
c. Quentin Tarantino
25. Which British actor played the roles of Scotty in Star Trek and an adventurous mammal in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs?
a. Hugh Laurie
b. Simon Pegg
c. Colin Firth
26. And which original Star Trek castmember was 'beamed up' for the summer sci-fi epic?
a. Leonard Nimoy
b. William Shatner
c. George Takei
27. Name the apt title of tragic movie star Patrick Swayze's memoirs.
a. The Time of My Life
b. No More Dirty Dancing
c. Next of Kin
28. Who will co-host the Oscars in March?
a. Brad Pitt and George Clooney
b. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman
c. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin
29. Which former heavyweight boxing champion played himself in hit comedy The Hangover?
a. Muhammad Ali
b. Mike Tyson
c. Lennox Lewis
30. And, here's a real toughie to finish on... Name Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick's surrogate, who carried and gave birth to the couple's twins.
a. Kim Cattrall
b. Katherine Ross
c. Michelle Ross
Harrison Ford (What Lies Beneath) has signed on to play Fred Cuny, an American aid worker who disappeared in Chechnya in 1995, The Associated Press reports. The as-yet-untitled film is based on David Fanning's 1997 documentary The Lost American and will be penned by Gladiator scribe William Nicholson. Filming is scheduled to begin next year, though it'll likely not be shot on location--then the film would end up being about an American Hollywood star who disappeared in Chechnya.
Barbie's been naughty, and parent Mattel Corp. is none too happy about it. An Argentinean movie, Barbie Gets Sad Too, shows the well-endowed doll having lesbian sex with her Latina maid. Mattel was outraged by Barbie's "performance" and has asked for and received a court order to ban the movie, which was set to debut at Mexico City's Urban-Fest film festival, PageSix.com reports. The movie is a "work of art," according to the festival's director, who allegedly managed to recite that line while keeping a straight face. We're still laughing.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has agreed to pay the state of Connecticut $325,000 for promoting films using phony reviews credited to a Connecticut newspaper. A Sony spokesman reportedly promised that Sony would "never, ever do it again, cross our hearts, hope to die," though eyewitnesses did see him cross his fingers while making that statement.
Despite having aired the openly-gay-themed episode of Ellen when Ellen DeGeneres' character came out of the closet, an ABC affiliate in Lynchburg, Va., refused to broadcast the latest episode of Once and Again because it showed two teenage girls kissing. A spokesman for GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) called it "simple homophobia." We're not quite sure why WSET affiliate management pulled the episode; nobody watches ABC, anyway.
Jerry Seinfeld, titular star of TV's legendary Seinfeld, is making a comeback of sorts to the small screen. Seinfeld has signed a new three-year deal with American Express to make more commercials for the financial institution. It's no wonder why: Seinfeld's previous commercials pulled better ratings than the shows of former colleagues Michael Richards and Jason Alexander combined and ran for longer periods--but that's not saying much.
Hollywood stars (or at least some B listers) appeared at the Michael Awards, the self-proclaimed Fashion Oscars, Monday night. The charitable event, named after Michael Landon, raises money for the National Children's Leukemia Foundation and drew Sigourney Weaver, Cheryl Tiegs, Hallie Eisenberg and Roberta Flack. (Apparently Cheryl Ladd and Debbie Harry were no-shows.)
CSI is looking to break ER's seven-year stranglehold as TV's top-rated drama. For the second week in a row, CSI drew more viewers than ER and leads in average viewers per episode for the season. But in the wacky world of the Nielsen ratings, ER actually has the better rating. Recent rumors purport that the Nielsens were actually started by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris--counting and numbers are clearly her strong suit.
More big names have signed on to new TV shows. John Larroquette (Night Court), Patrick Dempsey and Balthazar Getty signed on to an untitled ABC pilot; Randy Quaid will headline Fox's The Grubbs; NBC's Miss Miami will feature Jonathan Silverman (The Single Guy); and Judge Reinhold is forging a Brave New World on the WB. In related news, ABC has allegedly canceled its fall slate now, avoiding the Christmas rush.
The scheduled Monday night "Face to Face" concert in St. Petersburg, Fla., was canceled when one of the "faces," Billy Joel, called in sick. (Elton John is the other "face" on the billing.) Joel's tour manager said the piano man is afflicted by an "acute upper respiratory infection and laryngitis." The manager said Joel did hand in a note asking that he be excused from the appearance, signed "Joel's mother."
Voters at last night's closing ceremonies of the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford's annual showcase of independent film, were swayed by women's endeavors. Personal Velocity, a movie trilogy about three women dealing with life-altering experiences, won the grand jury prize for dramatic feature and best dramatic cinematography and Real Women Have Curves won the audience award for best dramatic feature.
The grand jury prize for best documentary went to Daughter From Danang, which follows an Amerasian child's search for her natural mother after she was adopted by an American woman. Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, examines the roles of freedom songs in South Africa's battle over apartheid and took the audience prize for best documentary as well as the annual freedom of expression award.
Somali-American community leaders have called for a boycott of Black Hawk Down, charging that the film depicts their homeland's people as savages, The Associated Press reports. Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justica Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, fears the film could create a backlash against refugees who fled to the United States. Omar cited the death of a Somali man punched at a Minneapolis bus stop in October, which triggered accusations in the Somali and Muslim communities of a hate crime.
Two anti-fur protesters claiming allegiance to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) made their way onto the catwalk at Italian designer Donatella Versace's haute couture show in Paris on Saturday, Reuters reports. One woman managed to partially unroll a poster that read "Fur Kills. PETA" before being tackled by security. Stunned audience members included Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, who later exchanged jokes about the incident.
Supermodel Niki Taylor filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Conde Nast (Glamour magazine's parent company), claiming that representatives of British Glamour manipulated and coerced her into exposing scars from her April 2000 car accident for a photo shoot. Taylor claims the photo's publications will result in "irreparable harm" to her career, TheSmokingGun.com reports.
Singer/songwriter Dido won best album and best newcomer at the music industry's NRJ awards in Cannes on Saturday. Jennifer Lopez won best female artist, beating out Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Geri Halliwell and Mariah Carey. Michael Jackson won best male star but was not there to accept his award. The gala kicked off the 36th annual Midem music industry festival.
In Who Wants to be a Millionaire news, seven former and one current star of an Aaron Spelling series will be featured on ABC's Millionaire on Feb. 11, 12 and 13, MediaWeek reports. Scheduled to appear are Shari Belafonte (Hotel), Gabrielle Carteris (Beverly Hills, 90210), Stephen Collins (7th Heaven), Bernie Kopell (The Love Boat), Cheryl Ladd(Charlie's Angels), William Shatner (T.J. Hooker) and Robert Urich (Vegas).
Harry Potter star Rupert Grint has landed a role in a new British film called Thunderpants, Ananova reports. Rupert, who will play a child genius who invents a special pair of pants to help his friend become an astronaut, called it, "the windiest film ever."
For the next 7 days, movie fans who had the opportunity to design the official poster for the upcoming movie Resident Evil starring Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez, will have the power to choose the winning entry. Five semi-finalists have been chosen from more than 3000 entries and their artwork is now posted online at resident-evil-the-movie.com.
Rapper C-Murder has been arrested in the shooting death of a 16-year-old at a nightclub, the AP reports. Police in New Orleans have accused Corey Miller, 30, of fatally shooting Steve Thomas following an argument on January 12, at the Platinum Club in Harvey, La., but the rapper has not yet been formally charged.