Paul Bettany makes a strong impression with his first film as a writer-director, exploring the big issue of homelessness from a variety of pointed angles. He also casts his wife Jennifer Connelly and his Avengers costar Anthony Mackie in demanding roles. The resulting film sometimes feels a little overworked dramatically, and relentlessly grim, but it's also provocative and moving.
It's set on the streets of New York, where Nigerian musician Tahir (Mackie) is living, having overstayed his US visa. Then he runs into junkie Hannah (Connelly), and the two have an immediate spark of camaraderie that blossoms into a tender relationship. But Tahir is trying to be a good Muslim, while Hannah is indulging in opportunistic crime to fund her habit. A brief respite squatting in an empty luxury home gets them off the streets briefly, so he can help her through withdrawal. And later when he's ill, she nurses him back to health. But finding somewhere to feel safe as winter bites down isn't easy. And desperation drives them to extraordinary actions.
The film is shot in an earthy, offhanded style that feels improvised, allowing Tahir and Hannah to emerge as complex people with a variety of talents and flaws. As they chat, details from their back-stories emerge, sparking anger and wrenching emotion, and drawing them inexorably together. Both Connelly and Mackie give performances that are full of passion. These are intelligent people who have been beaten down by life and don't have a clue where to turn next. So their sojourn in the empty house offers a glimpse into what kind of private life they would make if they had a chance, including borrowing some clean clothes from the vacationing owners ("I look like a zombie Goldilocks," Hannah observes).
Continue reading: Shelter Review
Robert Miller is billionaire hedge fund businessman who at first glance seems to have the perfect life; successful, plenty of money, a supportive wife and a daughter/ business partner willing to take on the company when he retires. However, something much darker is going on underneath as he is struggling to cover up many years of fraudulent activities while trying to sell away his business to a bank. Not only this, but he has also embarked on an illicit affair with the young and beautiful Julie Cote who he attempts to whisk away with him for a while. As fate would have it, Robert finds himself drifting off to sleep in the car as they drive out of town and subsequently fails to prevent a crash that instantly kills Julie. As he attempts to cover his tracks by setting fire to the vehicle, his whole life is on the line with suspicious police officers, a mistrustful wife and a daughter with an unfortunate eye for detail threatening to collapse the empire he has worked so hard for.
This gripping thriller drama premiered in the US in September 2012 and serves as the full-length feature directorial debut of Nicholas Jarecki ('The Informers' screenwriter) who was also responsible for writing the fantastic screenplay.
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin, Chris Eigeman, Graydon Carter, Bruce Altman, Larry Pine, Curtiss Cook, Reg E. Cathey, Felix Solis, Monica Raymund, Gabrielle Lazure, Shawn Elliott, Maria Bartiromo, David Faber, Josh Pais, Alyssa Sutherland, Paula Devicq, Zack Robidas & Betsy Aidem.
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News reporter Adam Carlson is based in a remote part of Alaska, in a town called Point Barrow. As a consequence, there usually is little to talk about in the way of local news. After one news report, which saw him explaining how food can take up to four plane journeys to arrive in town, his boss rings to comment about how 'thin' his stories are. That is, until Adam sees something extraordinary out to sea. It transpires that there are three California gray whales stuck under the ice near Point Barrow. Adam captures the incident on his camera and rings his boss to tell him of his findings.
Adam's report on the whales makes it onto the news, where he tells stunned viewers that the ice the whales are trapped under extends five miles to the ocean. No one is more stunned than Rachel Kramer, a Greenpeace activist and Adam's ex-girlfriend. She rings him up to announce that she will help him rescue the whales. Soon enough, Adam not only has the support of his ex but of the entire town as well, all doing what they can to make a path to the ocean through the ice. Adam and Rachel soon find themselves united under a common goal and they slowly start to fall back in love again.
Starring: John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw, Ted Danson, Stephen Root, Tim Blake Nelson, James LeGros, Rob Riggle, Andrew Daly, Bruce Altman, Gregory Jbara, Michael Gaston, Mark Ivanir and Jonathan Slavin
But even Scott proves that he can't suppress his frosted side forever, thanks to this spirited and undeniably sweet look at the con game spliced with a family drama -- his best work in years.
Continue reading: Matchstick Men Review
Cox plays the role of Big John Harrigan in the disturbing new indie flick L.I.E., which Lot 47 picked up at Sundance when other distributors were scared to budge. Big John feels the love that dares not speak its name, but he expresses it through seeking out adolescents and bringing them back to his pad. What bothered some audience members was the presentation of Big John in an oddly empathetic light. He's an even-tempered, funny, robust old man who actually listens to the kids' problems (as opposed to their parents and friends, both caught up in the high-wire act of their own confused lives.) He'll have sex-for-pay with them only after an elaborate courtship, charming them with temptations from the grown-up world.
Continue reading: L.I.E. Review
Another esoterically engrossing dark portrait of troubled suburban youth, "L.I.E." is part of an emerging indie genre that strives to reveal an ugly underbelly to growing up middle-class in America.
Larry Clark is the director seemingly setting the pace for this trend with 1995's disturbing "Kids" and this year's fact-based "Bully," about a group of Florida teens who brutally murdered the scuzzy leader of their pack. But Michael Cuesta adds a solid, if mismanaged, entry with "L.I.E.," the story of a morally and sexually conflicted 15-year-old delinquent (Paul Franklin Dano) left in an adolescent limbo by his mother's recent death in a car crash along the Long Island Expressway (thus the title) that runs near his house.
His father (Bruce Altman) -- a well-off and quite crooked contractor under investigation by the FBI -- makes only minimal and insincere efforts to show interest in the boy's life. Pop is more interested in sleeping with his plaything girlfriend, who moved in while mom's side of the bed was still warm, and exploiting his would-be grief ("Don't you know about my wife?!" he scolds an insistent investigator).
Continue reading: L.I.E. Review
A post-pubescent "Paper Moon" with a hell of a hair-pin twist, "Matchstick Men" features sublimely winning performances by Nicholas Cage, as an unhinged obsessive-compulsive con artist named Roy, and Alison Lohman ("White Oleander") as his tomboy-cutie teenage daughter Angela, who has such a gift for the grift that it sends her dad into a tizzy of pride, consternation and self-conscious moral conflict.
Her effervescent, skateboarding arrival into his life -- thanks to a new shrink (Bruce Altman) who encouraged him to look up the wife he left pregnant 14 years ago -- dishevels Roy's hospital-corners life. But surprisingly enough, her clothes strewn around his house, pizza dinners and ice cream breakfasts (Roy eats nothing but tuna fish -- from the can) slowly chip away at his neuroses (well that and those new blue pills the shrink is giving him) as our guy begins to enjoy fatherhood.
Soon he's loosened up so much he's ready to break his own rules of playing it safe with small-time flimflams and take a risky shot at a big-money "long con" -- a currency exchange sting on a shady businessman -- that his partner Frank (Sam Rockwell) has been pitching him for months. Of course, Angela wants in on the action too, so in a scene typical of the movie's spontaneous sense of humor, she begins cataloging aloud all her "learning experiences" with boys until he relents in a fluster of hear-no-evil fatherly instinct.
Continue reading: Matchstick Men Review
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