Every Single Article Written by Russell - All 140
The Australian Outback seems to occupy the same place in the Australian consciousness that the western frontier occupies in the American consciousness. It’s a harsh, rugged, unforgiving territory that seems to regularly double as a spiritual battleground for the desperate and unfulfilled. It’s a place where men learn to be men, and women…well, they just tend not to be there. Last Ride, starring Hugo Weaving and newcomer Tom Russell, is a grim yet somewhat uplifting coming of age story in that tradition. It’s also a fine movie in its own right.
With Gone Baby Gone, writer/director/producer/actor Ben Affleck showed that he could stand behind the camera and direct a competent film. With The Town, he showed that his first feature wasn’t a fluke, that he was actually a good director. With Argo, Ben Affleck comfortably joins the ranks of America’s best living filmmakers and easily outpaces any other actor/director currently working in Hollywood. Forget Robert Redford, George Clooney, or Clint Eastwood. Based on his first three movies now, Ben Affleck has been remarkably more consistent at turning in great movies than any other actor/director this side of Cassavetes. Argo is one of the best all around pictures of the year, benefiting from a fantastic script, brilliant performances, and sure handed direction.
In writer/director Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, an alcoholic screenwriter (Colin Farrell) and his psychopathic buddy (Sam Rockwell) band together to write a screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths.” Of course, since one of the co-writers is a free-spirited psychopath and the other is a self-pitying alcoholic, it doesn’t take long before they run afoul of a psychopathic gangster (Woody Harrelson). Christopher Walken, of course, balances out the cast as a pacifist psychopath, and Tom Waits turns up as a bunny-carrying psychopath. Why not?
There’s been a big announcement in the world of comic books, movies, and comic book movies, guys. Yesterday, David Fincher and Eric Powell took to Kickstarter to fund a demo-reel for their proposed feature film adaptation of The Goon, the most twisted, demented, inventive comic series around. It’s really hard to classify the series except to say that it’s a hodgepodge of ‘30s gangster flicks, B-horror movies, and slapstick comedies. In short, the comic series is a beautiful, manic piece of pop art.
After the brilliant Cabin in the Woods came out earlier this year and skewered pretty much every other horror movie ever made, I found myself wondering if filmmakers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard had broken the horror genre. Could horror movies ever be scary again after every technique and trope in the genre had been painstakingly deconstructed and mercilessly mocked? Well, the answer to the question comes in the form of Sinister from director Scott Derrickson, and that answer is a resounding “yes!” Sinister is one of those rare horror movies that (mostly) eschews cheap thrills and opts instead for instilling a sense of lingering dread in its audience. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you wanting to make sure that your home security lights are working and that all of your doors are locked after you get home from the cinema.
In early ‘80s, Tim Burton worked as an animator for Disney. He wasn’t very good at fitting into the Disney mold, so instead of working on major productions, he was relegated to making short films based on his own ideas. During this period he made two excellent short films, Vincent and Frankenweenie, which held the distinction of being absolutely unlike anything Disney had ever produced before. Thirty years later, Burton has dusted off the old property to make a feature length film which is almost identical to every other Tim Burton movie made in the past couple of decades.
The characters in Taken 2 have no idea how revenge is supposed to work. In the first film, Liam Neeson kills his way through dozens of shady Eastern Europeans to save his daughter from a sex trafficking ring. In this sequel, Liam Neeson takes revenge on family members of the dead baddies from the first movie who try to take revenge on Liam Neeson for taking revenge on the people who kidnapped his daughter. So…yeah…
I’m a fan of the pulp writer Robert E. Howard. His Conan the Barbarian short stories are the granddaddy of the sword and sorcery genre, and for all their savagery and simplicity, they remain great reads to this day. With Solomon Kane, Howard traded in the broadsword of the barbarian for a cutlass and the loincloth for the wide brimmed hat of the Puritan. Enter Solomon Kane, director Michael J. Bassett’s adaptation of Howard’s lesser known creation. On the whole, the movie is a fairly enjoyable adaptation of Howard’s work, but the Bassett’s ambition unfortunately exceeds his ability by a wide margin.
Is this really the fantastic weekend for movies that I think it is or am I just in an unseasonably good mood? End of Watch from writer/director David Ayer is another fantastic movie that was somehow released in the traditional cinematic dumping ground of September. Yesterday, I gave a high rating to Dredd for being an exhilarating throwback to the great action movies of the ‘80s; today, I’m giving a positive review to End of Watch for being almost the complete opposite of Dredd. If Dredd excelled at presenting pure fantasy to movie goers, End of Watch excels at pulling movie goers into a gritty, realistic world.
After seeing Dredd, I’m tempted to take back every negative thing I’ve said about the month of September. Yeah, I’ve spent the last few weeks subjecting myself to terrible movies, but then along comes this little gem, a gem that gives me the same giddy excitement I felt when I saw the original Robocop as a kid. Dredd is an unpretentious, super-violent, super-fun, blood-and-guts thrill ride. Oh, and it’s also the best comic book movie of the year.