Last week's big On Demand release was the controversial Zero Dark Thirty, which found itself in the middle of the debate about "enhanced interrogation techniques." This week's is the controversial Lincoln, which found itself in the middle of a debate about its accuracy, and about the way its story sidelined the African Americans it was ostensibly about to tell yet another story about a white messiah.
My pros and cons about the movie have nothing to do with these issues; I am not a historical scholar, nor did I read Team of Rivals (the Doris Kearns Goodwin book on which the film is loosely based). The pros: Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in the title role, which joins his Daniel Plainview and Bill the Butcher to make a hat trick of classic American historical characters; the bevy of beloved character actors who dot the film that will have you yelling, "What the hell, HIM TOO?" in just about every other scene; the delightfully baroque insults politicians hurl at each other in the halls of power. The cons: Tommy Lee Jones's ratty wig; the oppressively dim lighting; the comically long running time. On balance, it's worth seeing — but maybe break up your viewing with a nap or two.
Derek Cianfrance's new movie, The Place Beyond the Pines, is a winding local epic about two generations of men failing at life in the rural-suburban sprawl of Schenectady, New York. Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and their screen sons are at the center of things, but there's another guy tucked into the story who steals every moment he can. His name is Ben Mendelsohn. You've seen him before. He's a That Guy.
In the two weeks since our last post, a glut of trailers flooded the Internet, some good, some bad, some in between. So in an effort to be as thorough as possible and dedicate at least a few words to these cinematic appetizers, we reached way back into our arsenal of gimmicks to bring back the “One-Sentence Trailer Reviews.” Like last time, one of us had an easier time sticking to the plan than the other. (Guess who?)
Rembert and Dan
Now You See Me (June 7)
Silver: I had no idea Now You See Me existed, but after watching the trailer for this Prestige/Ocean’s Eleven/Robin Hood/Social Network/Batman Begins mash-up, it has quickly jumped to the top of my 2013 “must” list.
Browne: The only item on my "things that really don't exist" list that tops zombies and owls is magic. NEXT.
You can't blame the marketing folks behind Killing Them Softly — the third movie from Australian writer/director Andrew Dominik, after Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — for pushing it as something along the lines of "coolest man alive Brad Pitt straight-up assassinating some mf'ers." Just know that if you go ahead and catch Killing this weekend, that's not quite what you're getting into. Adapted by Dominik from George V. Higgins's 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade, the movie offers a lean and restrained (but still very murder-y!) low-stakes crime story — a couple of bumbling cons get hired for what seems like an easy score, a card-game robbery, and things get complicated — and presents it as a tale about "capitalism — about chasing a buck" in the depressed 2008 U.S. economy. Last week I sat down in a Waldorf-Astoria hotel room with Dominik (who looked particularly dapper in a bespoke suit, shoulder-length hair, and with an American Spirit in hand) to talk about Killing.
The hometown nostalgia survived longer than the turkey hangover on the Hollywood Prospectus podcast. To kick off the holiday movie season, Chris Ryan and I invited fellow Philadelphian (and Grantland's resident Cinemetrician) Zach Baron to talk about one of the best films of the year, Silver Linings Playbook (2:50). We three former Friends School League rivals dug deep into why SLP is a sports movie for non-sports fans, why its optimism matters (particularly for Eagles supporters), and why we loved it for reasons beyond its inclusion of the Llanerch Diner (try the snapper soup!) and Jennifer Lawrence in spandex. Lest the gushing cause the Schuykill River to flood, we also talked a bit about the rest of the big releases coming in December, including Killing Them Softly, The Hobbit, Zero Dark Thirty, and the inevitable juggernaut that is Les Misérables.
Silver: Brad Pitt should just forget about mass-appeal fare like Moneyball and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s so perfectly suited for characters that exist on the fringes — 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Inglourious Basterds, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Even if they’re expansive thematically and visually, Pitt is a performer who shines when he’s more understated, so smaller, more intimate narratives like Killing Them Softly play to his strengths. With KTS, Pitt reunites with Jesse James writer/director Andrew Dominick, and looks at ease playing a sleazy enforcer called in to “clean up” after a gangster’s card game gets held up. Although this film feels a little cheekier, it definitely exudes a Drive vibe. Like Nicolas Winding Refn, Softly director Dominick appears to have infused his offshore sensibilities and visuals into this inherently American story (Dominick is from New Zealand). I’m also looking forward to seeing Pitt and James Gandolfini onscreen together again. The two of them had terrific chemistry in Gore Verbinski’s underrated The Mexican.