Gary Basaraba

  • 02 August 2011



Suburbicon Review


This film feels kind of like what you'd expect from a collision between George Clooney and the Coen brothers: a comical noir thriller with a hefty dose of social commentary. Essentially two films mashed together, it paints a clever portrait of America in the 1950s with repressed rage, racial unrest and deep-seated greed. But the film's most powerful angle is its story of a young boy's rather nightmarish coming of age.

It's set in 1959 middle America, where Suburbicon is the town of the future, an idyllic place to raise a family. Then the Meyers family moves in, the first black family, and the community blames them when the Lodges - dad Gardner (Matt Damon), mom Rose (Julianne Moore), son Nicky (Noah Jupe) and aunt Maggie (also Moore) - are violently attacked. But an insurance inspector (Oscar Isaac) suspects that Gardner knows more about his attackers (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) than he's letting on. And Nicky knows he does. So as the neighbourhood descends into chaos to protest the Meyers' presence, Nicky quietly befriends their son Andy (Tony Espinosa).

Clooney directs this in a colourful 1950s style, with jaunty music by Alexandre Desplat and vivid production design by James Bissell. This is a community that looks perfect on the surface, but more than a little rotten underneath. And the script lures the audience in with some clever twists and turns that shift perspectives and tones, playing with the way these people are interconnected. Much of this is observed through Nicky's eyes, and he sees everything even if he can't explain why something is happening. All of this builds to a properly intense final act that's laced with wicked humour to gleefully keep the audience off balance. So even as it turns increasingly violent, the suspense and irony keep us entertained.

Continue reading: Suburbicon Review

The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 Review

By Rich Cline


Adapting a steely 1970s hit into a glossy 21st century blockbuster, Tony Scott indulges in his usual flashy pyrotechnics, which almost cover up the gaping craters in the plot. He also encourages his cast to really go for it.

Walter (Washington) is working at the dispatch desk for the New York Subway when crazed gunman Ryder (Travolta) hijacks the Pelham 123 and demands a huge ransom, or else he'll start killing passengers. Ryder refuses to talk to the know-it-all terrorism expert (Turturro), so Walter is pressed into service as a negotiator while the mayor (Gandolfini) gets the cash together. But Ryder and his goons are serious about this and, as the body count grows, the clock is ticking.

Director Scott and writer Helgeland aren't known for their subtlety, and this film is all whizzy style that's more about pure entertainment rather than establishing any actual suspense or character tension. The whole film is a collection of crashing edits, freeze frames, countdown graphics, loud sound effects and cheesily hysterical dialog. In other words, it's great fun. And it gives the cast plenty of scenery to chomp on--especially Travolta, who shows no mercy as he snarls and spits out every line.

Since this is a film about a Subway carriage sitting still in a tunnel, Scott keeps the camera moving at all times. He also manages to throw in a crazed car chase and loads of big crashes for no real reason, as well as orchestrating a painfully contrived reason to get Washington in on the gun-waving action. Not to throwing in several rather overwrought back-stories. By the end, the film has turned into a full-on Die Hard movie, complete with over-the-top violence and some real brutality.

Amid the fabulously enjoyable actors, it's Gandolfini who walks off with the movie using sardonic understatement. The whole film is pretty hilarious, although this clearly wasn't the intention. Scott zooms past plot holes like a runaway train; we barely have time to say "Huh?" before the next bit of action mayhem assaults all our senses. There's not a moment of actual suspense, but it's so big and outrageous that we can't help but hold on for the ride. Continue reading: The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 Review

Sweet Dreams Review

By Christopher Null


All country musicians have movies made about them sooner or later. Patsy Cline got hers in 1985, a dutiful yet uninspired series of vignettes that shaped her life: grueling tours, making it big, car wreck, having kids, and her ultimate, untimely death in a small plane that crashed into the side of a mountain. Sweet Dreams is a fairly bad title for a film about Cline (I assume it will someday be recycled into a film about The Eurythmics), but I suppose her better known works (like "Crazy") wouldn't have made for appropriate titles at all. Jessica Lange turns in a good performance here, though she lip syncs to Cline's originals throughout. A bigger problem is the meandering plot, which makes too much of her abusive marriage and white trash lifestyle, but never really indicates how wildly popular Cline became during her life.