Sean Furst

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The Numbers Station Review


Grim

There's an interesting, timely idea in this espionage thriller, as well as adept leading actors who are able to make the most of the script's dry wit. But the film is ultimately sabotaged by a clearly low budget and lacklustre direction that fails to connect the dots of the story. Even with some clever touches, the plot is resolutely fuzzy, and since it never comes into clear focus it's difficult for us to care what happens.

The title refers to radio stations governments have used for decades to broadcast strings of numbers that are decoded by covert field operatives. One of these agents is Emerson (Cusack), whose job is to clean up messes around America. But after a nasty incident he's having second thoughts about his career, so his boss (Cunningham) reassigns him to a numbers station in rural England, where his task is to keep an eye on civilian cryptologist Katherine (Akerman). Then the station is suddenly compromised, leaving Emerson and Katherine locked inside while a gang of baddies tries to break in.

Director Barfoed gives the movie a nicely haunted quality that builds a strong sense of menace. Cusack adds his trademark cynicism to the mix as a man who resorts to brittle humour to mask his torment over the death of a teen girl on an earlier mission, made worse by the fact that Katherine is now a "loose end" here. And so is he, for that matter. Akerman is a superb foil for him, giving Katherine a spiky braininess that catches Emerson off guard: if he's falling for her, he can't kill her. Can he? These themes are thoroughly involving, even if the script never goes anywhere with them.

Continue reading: The Numbers Station Review

Daybreakers Review


OK
Yet another entry into the post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie catalog, this stylish film at least has a sense of its own absurdity. While it plays everything dead straight, it also has a lot of fun with the rules of the genre.

It's 2019, and a virus has turned 95 percent of the population into vampires.

The problem is that as humans become extinct the vampires are starving for blood. So haematologist Edward (Hawke) is looking for a blood substitute, driven for profits by his aggressive boss (Neill). Trials aren't going well when Edward runs into some humans (including Karvan and Dafoe) who have a radical alternative: a cure for vampirism. But Edward's human-hunting military brother (Dorman) isn't happy about this.

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First Snow Review


Weak
What is it about Guy Pearce that makes him so attractively insular, even when he's playing an obnoxious halfwit who sells bargain basement linoleum? Last year, he started strong with his brooding performance in John Hillcoat's brutal The Proposition and ended as the only graceful note as Andy Warhol in the otherwise abysmal Factory Girl. Though it premiered at last year's Tribeca Film Festival, it's taken close to a year for someone to pick up First Snow, along with both Lonely Hearts and Comedy of Power, which also premiered at Tribeca last year. With the 2007 edition of the festival a paltry month away, a look at one of its more well-attended and well-received pieces is apt.

Pearce plays Jimmy Starks, a walking grease bucket of a salesman who is waiting for his car to get fixed when we first meet him (as if the name left any room for ethical clarity). Jimmy is trying to sell everyone: He attempts to sell a jukebox to a bar owner (he already has one), tries to sell his intellectual cynicism to a fortune teller (J.K. Simmons, playing it surprisingly low key), and tries to sell his respect to his colleagues and coworkers (William Fichtner and Rick Gonzalez, respectively). When the fortune teller tells him that he will go tits-up when the first snow hits, Starks responds with impervious flaunting and jittery paranoia. Self-aware and gaunt with confusion and doubt, Starks begins to take action to ensure he won't die. Not an easy charge with a vexed ex-partner (Shea Whigham), sneering and prodding through late night phone calls.

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The Woods Review


Terrible
In 2003 director Lucky McKee put out a quiet and little-seen horror film called May. After much prodding, I finally watched the thing, and, well... that was what the fuss was all about?

McKee returned earlier this year with a follow-up, another "thinking man's" horror film that didn't garner the same attention. It barely got a theatrical release (which I could convince none of my critics to go see), and I can't find any reports of its box office gross aside from a blunt "$0."

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Everything Put Together Review


Good
Radha Mitchell is good but just shy of totally believable in Marc Forster's (Monster's Ball) Everything Put Together, wherein Mitchell plays a new mother who loses her infant to SIDS after a single day out of the womb. The emotional range on display in this film is impressive as Mitchell's friends abandon her and she has trouble admitting what happened to others -- and its ending is very compelling. Still, the film has to be carried on Mitchell's ability to portray an immediate and deep psychosis, which (thankfully) she pulls off more often than not.

The Cooler Review


Excellent
They say every dog has his day... but not Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy), the unluckiest man in Vegas. He always loses, no matter what the odds. For starters, his wife divorced him, both his son and his cat ran away, the plants in his apartment are all dead, and he can never sleep because the people in the apartment next to his have loud sex every night. You'd think someone with luck this bad would never step foot inside a casino...

But one day, he does. And sure enough, it costs him everything. Bernie loses all his money and can't repay his debt to the Shangri-La casino ,owned by his friend Shelly (Alec Baldwin). Instead of killing Bernie, Shelly takes a baseball bat to his knee and forces him to work at the casino until his debt is repaid. What good does Bernie do at the casino? Well, Bernie's bad luck is contagious. With his mere presence at a poker table, he immediately turns winners into losers. "I do it by being myself," he explains. "People get next to me and their luck turns." (Shades of Intacto.)

Continue reading: The Cooler Review

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