Posts tagged with “brad pitt”
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012/IN THEATERS) The trailers for this film had me seriously intrigued—Brad Pitt teaming again with Andrew Dominik, the down-under director who brought us “The Killing of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” with Pitt as Jesse James. That film is a true small masterpiece if I’ve ever seen one (check out my review on SML—I’m a big fan) and this one promised great actors—Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard—along with some snappy dialogue and some Johnny Cash tunes. Wow. That was the preview, mind you, not the movie. When you actually sit down to watch the film, what you get first are two talkative scuzzy hoods—Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn)—meeting with dry cleaner/mob guy Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) to plot a robbery. Sounds good, yes? The plan is to rob a card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), a guy who not long ago confessed that he had robbed his own game and brought the law down on everybody. So the idea is that a second robbery will be pinned on Markie who will take the heat while the real robbers enjoy the cash. The robbery goes down as planned and this sets in motion the appearance of Brad Pitt as Jackie—a mob enforcer brought in by a suit (Richard Jenkins), who tasks him with taking out all parties involved in the robbery, including Markie and the two scuzz-bags. Jackie brings in his buddy Mickey (Gandolfini) to help but learns over time that Mickey has lost it to booze and broads, so in the end he handles it all pretty much by himself. The screenplay, written by Dominik, is based on a novel by George V. Higgins entitled “Cogan’s Trade.” Higgins famously also wrote “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” which was made into a terrific film in 1973 starring Robert Mitchum as Eddie. “Cogan’s Trade” was actually set in Boston but Dominik has moved the film to a bombed out New Orleans and insists on bringing in a message to us viewers about the downfall of America and our underbelly of money and selling out. So he updates the film to late 2008—just before Obama’s election—in the middle of the economic crisis and he adds endless over-voiced yammering about the state of our country on CNN or talk radio during scenes set in cars and bars. Do gangsters watch CNN? Is it running in your average mobster bar? Do mob guys listen to talk radio? Who knows? It seemed odd to me and off-putting. But lots in this film is that way—including rough editing, self-conscious dialogue, and plenty of slow-motion violence—a strange combination. So I can see why the film has a relatively low rating among viewers. Nonetheless, there are some fabulous performances in there (including a solo piece from Gandolfini about a woman in Florida) that make the film worth watching. Use your best judgment but don’t go out of your way for this one. Too bad. This is a seriously talented director. We’ll hope for better in the future.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012/IN THEATERS) Clint Eastwood’s new film is his first since “In the Line of Fire” (1993) in which he acts but didn’t direct. But his hand is evident since Robert Lorenz, the film’s first-time director, has helped produce Eastwood’s last 12 films and was a second-unit director on others. So the straightforward storytelling and filmmaking we’ve come to expect from Eastwood will seem familiar. As for the story, this movie is the “anti” Moneyball. Remember the old guys in that movie—the scouts sitting around the table– who argued with Brad Pitt and Seth Rogen’s computer-based statistical approach to baseball? Well, in Trouble with the Curve, they are vindicated. In fact, by the end, Eastwood’s Gus Lobel has beaten the computer guys hands down, even while he’s losing his eyesight to macular degeneration. Let’s hear it for the old dudes! The story is pretty simple: Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is facing old age and the possible loss of his job as a recruiter for the Atlanta Braves. His only daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) is a hotshot lawyer looking to become the first female partner at a firm in the city. She’s a no nonsense woman with a shaky relationship to her father who was widowed at an early age and sent her away for much of her childhood. But it’s clear that she has his passion for the sport and a talent for spotting talent also. Gus is heading out for his make-or-break recruiting trip to North Carolina when Mickey turns up. She’s been sent by his best friend and colleague Pete (John Goodman) who knows about Gus’ big problem and his unspoken need for help. While on the road, the two hook up with Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher discovered by Gus now turned recruiter for the Red Sox. Johnny has an eye for Mickey and slowly begins to thaw her lawyer’s tough front. Cast as the “bad guy/ambitious rival of Gus” in the flick is Matthew Lillard who had a similar role in “The Descendants”—he played the sleazy real estate agent who was having the affair with George Clooney’s wife. How ironic for Lillard! But he does play sleaze-balls well. This film is corny and predictable but still enjoyable. It moves slowly right up until the end when suddenly it kicks into gear and finishes with a flourish. I’m recommending it for Matinee viewing….something light, with funny parts and plenty of Eastwood playing his “Gran Torino” old guy/curmudgeon role. Adams is fine and solid, but not exciting, and the same can be said of Justin Timberlake, who basically adds some comedy and romantic charm to the piece. The folks in the theater where I saw this film gave it a thumbs-up. See what you think.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009/DVD) Roger Ebert recommends seeing all Quentin Tarantino movies twice before judging them. Good advice. I found the movie, after two viewings, to be fun and classic Tarantino—violent, yes, but more than worth it. One advantage of watching the film on DVD is the opportunity to take a break after Chapter 3 (of 5 total). Up until then, the story is moving along in a fairly straight-forward manner. We have been introduced to Christoph Waltz as the incredibly smooth “Jew Hunter” Colonel Landa and to Brad Pitt as “Aldo the Apache” with his Basterds. We’ve gotten to Paris by Chapter 3 where Melanie Laurent (Shoshana from Chapter 1) makes her re-appearance as Danielle Mimieux, owner of the cinema where the final act will largely take place. Chapter 4 opens with a tutorial on German cinema, delivered by an unrecognizable Mike Myers as British high command and continues on to a lengthy but fabulous game (literally) of cat and mouse in a French basement bar. I won’t spoil the ending by describing Chapter 5 but let’s just say it’s PURE Tarantino. As for the acting, it’s largely very good. While the Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson chemistry of Pulp Fiction is lacking, it’s true that Christoph Waltz—sure to be nominated for an Oscar for Supporting Actor– single handedly steals the show. And hey, Brad Pitt is clearly having fun here, along with Mr. Tarantino. Good for them.
Be sure to check out this great post which describes the German reaction to the movie—worth the read.