The Counselor

March 9, 2014

Note: I have seen the 20-odd-minute longer Extended Cut and not the Theatrical version. Also: More spoilers than usual. Not that it matters.  

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The Counselor doesn’t care what you think of it.  It just doesn’t.  It’s an admirable quality in this instance, and doubly so when you consider the pedigree: First screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy (who has entered the cinematic pantheon to some degree when his book No Country Old Men was adapted into a Best Picture winner), directed by Ridley Scott, supporting roles for Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz and a host of character actors to boot.  Despite all this, or maybe because of its gravitas-heavy position before a camera began to roll, it really just doesn’t give a damn what you think.  None of which is to say it’s a good movie, though it is certainly an interesting one, even in a somewhat limited “your mileage may vary” sort of way.  If you can handle (or, preferably, relish) the hard-bitten cynicism that dwarfs most modern noirs, this might be for you.  If you can handle long exchanges that probe the nature of existence to varying degrees of success, then it might be for you.  If you can appreciate that the McGuffin spends the entire film traveling in a septic truck – yes, the thing everyone wants is submerged in shit – then this might be the film for you. Read the rest of this entry »

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Prisoners

October 4, 2013

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Much has been made of the death of mid-budget adult dramas and thrillers in the movie marketplace, and not without a great deal of truth.  Box office and, consequently, studio budgets (or is it the other way around?) are sinking more and more money into tentpole affairs looking to do huge dollars, and the modestly sized films that might appeal to an older audience are shut out.  The reasons of this are many and certainly debatable, but either way, it should be quite refreshing for a well reviewed (and festival hit) independent feature to top the box office.  There are few, if any, special effects and so little bombast in Dennis Villenueve’s Prisoners that it’s so-far moderate success (in the admittedly barren September/October period) might seem laudable on its own.  Of course I’m ignoring the success of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, but there’s something slightly different about Serious And Significant Films About History/Race that is just plain different from a thriller.  The problem is that Prisoners is, while cinematic in duration and even somewhat in ambition, it isn’t terribly successful. Read the rest of this entry »

Pain & Gain

April 26, 2013

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When I read Pete Collins’ bizarre, incredible “Pain and Gain” story, recounting the events in the mid-90s of the “Sun Gym Gang”, my first thought was, “this is a Coen Brothers film.”  The elements were all there: deluded moron criminals, ever increasing amounts of absurdity, horrific events that seamlessly combine tragedy and farce.  I already knew at the time that it was set to be Michael Bay’s next picture, however, and when I eventually saw the trailer, I predicted it would be crass, stupid, and not at all respectful of the real crimes or the victims.  I was basically right about all of that, and yet… Read the rest of this entry »

With the rebirth of scripted television and the rise of original cable programming came the need for networks to establish an identity to rope in new viewers.  Gone were the days of four broadcast networks wheeling out their new shows over the course of a month and people picking and choosing; original programming is now year-round and there are a lot more outlets to choose from.  As such, cable networks have developed brand identities in the hopes of building a core audience of faithful viewers who are always willing to check out their new shows because they have certain expectations.  FX is largely male-oriented and ‘edgy’, HBO is high-quality content for the discerning viewer, USA is light entertainments, and TNT hews closer to broadcast drama procedurals.  AMC has been in the original series game for five years now, and off the back of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, they’ve gained enough critical acclaim (and the awards that go with it) to see themselves as the only true rival for HBO’s high-quality crown.  The idea, I think, is to not have any particular genre niche to cater to, but rather to create and maintain a stock of exceptionally good shows that anybody who likes good TV can tune into and enjoy.  Their biggest hit to date, The Walking Dead, complicates this, of course, as it is a fairly mediocre show that doesn’t transcend its zombie trappings at all, but like HBO and True Blood, AMC won’t complain about a hugely successful money maker.  The Killing, based on the acclaimed Danish series Forbrydelsen, on the other hand, is clearly attempting to rise above its crime genre roots and become The Next Great Thing.  At that it fails miserably, but for reasons that go beyond simple execution.  Read the rest of this entry »