Tune to The 2 Guys Named Chris Show every Monday to get the scoop on the latest new films and releases to DVD from a Canadian point of view. Julie Crawford, Film Critic for The Vancouver Courier, gives her two cents worth every Monday morning on Rock 92.
This is the first film Eastwood has starred in since 1993 where he didn’t direct. He plays Gus Lobel, legendary baseball scout with the Atlanta Braves and, thanks to failing eyesight, official grumpy old guy, abusing just about everyone in sight, including his only daughter Mickey (Amy Adams).
The film had the potential to make a statement about aging in our society (and pack the same punch as Gran Torino), had it not been for Eastwood whispering lines like “How old are you, sonny?” at the audience. Unrealistic characters, forced dialogue; even Justin Timberlake showing up as Mickey’s love interest can’t save things. This film is more Bad News Bears than Moneyball, a rare strike-out for the Oscar-winner.
Amy Adams is in this one too, as the wife of a so-called philosopher and cult leader who strives to gain mainstream acceptance through his books and seminars in the early 1950s. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, who leads a group of followers believing in past lives and alien influence. Dodd strikes up a powerful relationship with Freddy (Joaquin Phoenix), an unstable WWII vet and drunkard who likes to put jet fuel in his cocktails.
Phoenix gives an Oscar-worthy performance here and director Paul W.S. Anderson (Magnolia) does a great job of creating a terrifically tense and creepy buildup: only problem is, there’s no payoff. The pace remains the same throughout the film, so that it becomes a series of snapshots rather than a riveting story. Despite brooding lensing and provocative subject matter (with unmistakable parallels to Scientology), The Master only half draws us in.
In order to appreciate the Avengers, you do have to get up to speed on the other movies: Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. This one begins where Thor left off, with the greek god’s half-brother Loki (Michael Sheen) assembling an alien army that will take over the Earth. Loki is after the tesseract, this raw energy source that will make him all-powerful, so Samuel L. Jackson decides to bring the world’s best superpowers together to form a heroic alliance. We’ve got Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Before these guys can work together as a team, there are plenty of ego-clashes between characters, which is good for a few laughs, though Downey Jr. as Iron Man gets the best lines. Each superhero gets an equal slice of time, there’s a great variety off visual effects… All in all a superb superhero film.
There are at least five versions of this DVD with varying special features including alternate openings, extended scenes, gag reels, a featurette about assembling the ultimate team, commentary by director Joss Whedon and more.
Damsels in Distress
Director Whit Stillman had huge hits with Metropolitan and Last Days of Disco in the 1990s and then disappeared. Damsels In Distress stars indie fave Greta Gerwig as the leader of a posse of pretty college girls whose mission is to date frat boys who are stupider than they are, as a kind of social outreach, and also to save suicidal students by giving them donuts and tap-dancing lessons.
Film is very atmospheric, contains some sharp dialogue and a few funny scenes, but it’s deliberately vague. A big musical number ending comes out of the blue, and the situations that the girls finds themselves in become repetitive. Ultimately it’s a self-absorbed piece of filmmaking from Stillman.
All Reviews Written and Credited To Julie Crawford
Prohibition movies usually take place in the speakeasies of Chicago and New York. This one goes to the source of all that violence, where fires from illegal stills dot the hillside and local folk churn out ‘shine for the big cities. They called Franklin County, Virginia, “the wettest county in the south” in 1931, because the law and the moonshiners had an agreement and got along fine before the feds came in and ruined business. Doing a good trade are the Bondurant brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBoeuf, Jason Clarke), but right around the time feds come in, an ex-dancing girl (Jessica Chastain) wanders into the Bondurants’ bar, looking for a job. When eldest brother Forrest refuses to pay up to the lawman from the big city (a menacing Guy Pearce), he starts a blood war between the law, the gangsters (Gary Oldman) and the locals.
This may be a career-making role for LaBoeuf and maybe for Tom Hardy (Batman, This Means War) who mumbles through half the movie but gets the best lines: “It is not the violence that sets man apart: it is the distance he is prepared to go.” Lensing is appropriately tobacco-washed and the true-story screenplay feels authentic, right down to the origins of those NASCARs.
From the team that brought you the very funny Forgetting Sarah Marshall. A couple (Emily Blunt, Jason Segel), due to great job offers, puts off their wedding for five long years and in the meantime faces all sorts questions about whether they should even be together in the first place. Segel and Blunt are both fantastic but the problem is the movie’s tone and its length (over 2 hours long): though it was billed as a romantic comedy, it gets mired in seriousness for a good chunk of time. Good performances, some laughs, but in dire need of a chop job.
Snow White and the Huntsman (out Sept. 11)
A fairy tale for grownups centering on the evil queen (Charlize Theron), who sucks the life out of nubile young maidens in order to stay young. Stepdaughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart) has been locked up in a tower since she was a little girl, but when she escapes one day, the queen sends a woodsman (Chris Hemsworth) into the dark forest to bring her back. Good doses of violence mixed with magic in the form of dark armies, a troll, that sort of thing. There’s a fresh love triangle between Snow, the Huntsman and the Prince, but story overall gets lost in the impressive visual effects and stunts, so this is more about spectacle than substance.
Extended edition is packed with extras including a 360-degree set tour, a piece on reinventing the fairy tale, commentary with director Rupert Sanders, editor and visual effects supervisor, and much more.