Say what you will about David Ayer, but the man has staked out some territory. From Training Day to Dark Blue to S.W.A.T. to End of Watch, he's written some of the grittiest L.A. cop dramas of our time. Not only that, but he's attracted some killer talent to his projects, including Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for his Training Day role; Ethan Hawke, who was Oscar-nominated for his performance in the same film; and now past Oscar nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Kendrick to End of Watch (which Ayer also directed.)
The premise is explosive: A couple of uniformed L.A. cops (Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) stumble on a drug stash house; as a result, they run into some problems from a Mexican cartel. But up to the point that happens, you're mostly watching a couple of dudes just kicking around, shooting the shit, giving us a glimpse at the camaraderie that develops between partners.
Clint Eastwood, as Grantland recently attempted to passionately convince you, is a pretty cool dude in totality. It's maybe been hard to remember ever since he talked to a chair, but it's true. For right now, though, we may just have to do the whistle-and-avoid-eye-contact thing a little bit longer. Trouble With the Curve, Eastwood's first onscreen role since 2008's Gran Torino, didn't hit big at the box office this weekend, managing an underwhelming $12.7 million. In a regular year, that might not make much of a difference when it came to Clint rallying Oscar votes. In this year, the year in which Clint talked to a chair, the lackluster numbers means his current "downward slope" narrative sticks. The worst part of all of this? With Curve playing to semi-vacant theaters, a nation of movie bloggers must resist, with all their might, the undeniable lure of a solid "Eastwood/empty chair[s]" formulation.
Silver: Why is my excitement for this at The Hobbit and new episodes of Arrested Development levels? Because, in my opinion, writer/director Martin McDonagh is as close to a literary savant as my generation has ever had. He’s a playwright turned filmmaker whose first feature, In Bruges, was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. With that film, he skillfully appropriated his highly engaging, engrossing, and often disturbing style and humor from the stage with such plays as The Leenane Trilogy, The Aran Islands Trilogy, The Pillowman, and A Behanding in Spokane. And similar to In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths seems like it will ground itself in a simple genre (Bruges is to British Gangster Flick as Psychopaths is to Caper Comedy), but will inevitably play within that construct by utilizing multiple dramatic forms and tools to create a film that is truly distinctive. Onstage or onscreen, actors like Farrell, Rockwell, and Walken have all proven themselves to be as comfortable with McDonagh’s method, and are to his work as William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon are to David Mamet’s. And if none of this has convinced you that Seven Psychopaths is worth seeing, will the promise of Tom Waits casually sitting on a brick fence petting a rabbit do it for you?
Silver: A star-studded cast featuring a mix between established Hollywood stars and fresh up-and-coming faces, some badass gangster dialogue, visceral imagery, and violence, violence, violence. But enough about The Untouchables. Sub out Chicago for Los Angeles, Penn for DeNiro, Brolin for Costner, Gosling for Garcia, and Nolte for Connery. The only difference here is that The Untouchables was directed by Brian DePalma when he was at the top of his game and Gangster Squad is helmed by Ruben Fleischer, who’s coming off the unwatchable 30 Minutes or Less. And something tells me that Gangster Squad writer Will Beall’s credits (ABC’s Castle) aren’t quite what David Mamet’s were when he wrote The Untouchables. Gangster Squad appears to be lifting so much from The Untouchables that I’d be disappointed if it didn’t contain a scene where a baby carriage rolls down the steps of a train station during a bloody gun fight. (Which, for you film fans, was lifted from Eisenstein’sBattleship Potemkin.)
Unlike somepeople, J.J. Abrams sees his highly lucrative franchises through to the end. He's nearing an agreement to direct Star Trek 2, the sequel to 2009's $260 million-grossing original. The only problem: He won't finish writing and shooting in time for the June 29, 2012 release that Paramount had hoped for. So the studio will open G.I. Joe that weekend instead, since they can probably knock that one out in a week or two. Grade: B+ [Deadline]
Jennifer Lopez is expected to sign a deal this week to return to the judges' table for the next season of American Idol. She was presumed to be holding out for more money and a chair farther from Steven Tyler. Grade: B [HR]