Tag Archives: Jason Clarke

[Review] – Zero Dark Thirty

6 Jan

Zero Dark Thirty

Title: Zero Dark Thirty
Year: 2012
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo, Edgar Ramirez, Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language
Runtime: 157 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 95

Finally I get to watch Zero Dark Thirty. Let me tell you something out front, I don’t intend to get into any of the hot topics that have been surrounding this movie, at least not spend the whole review talking about. I won’t talk about whether it’s pro-Obama, or whether it’s pro-torture, or whether it got improper access to classified information. On the one hand I don’t think I’m really classified to talk about those things with any kind of credibility (though, obviously, that hasn’t stopped most people with an internet connection to do so) and on the other hand I’m here to talk about the merits of Kathryn Bigelow‘s latest as a film. And as a film this is an undeniable masterpiece.

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[Trailer] – The Great Gatsby

20 Dec

The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann‘s adaptation of The Great Gatsby was originally supposed to be released a few days from now, vying for some of the awards attention. Then it was pushed back until next year’s summer which, considering the already crowded late-year slate we have right now, may have been the right move, plus the novel always felt more summery than anything, right? In any case, to tide us over until the film arrives, we’ve now have a second trailer for it, which you can watch below.

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[Review] – Lawless

20 Sep

Title: Lawless
Year: 2012
Director: John Hillcoat
Writer: Nick Cave, based on the novel by Matt Bondurant
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Dane DeHaan
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Runtime: 115 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Metacritic: 58

Man was I excited to get to watch Lawless. It came from John Hillcoat, the Australian director responsible for giving us the gritty The Proposition and The Road and who would, consequently, seem to be a damn fine pick to tell this story. That story? One adapted from Matt Bondurant‘s 2008 novel The Wettest Country in the World, about his grandfather and great-uncles, the Bondurant Brothers and their bootlegging business during the Prohibition down in Franklin County, Virginia.

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[Trailer] – The Great Gatsby

22 May

When Baz Luhrmann was announced to adapt The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest novels of all-time, you kind of knew what to expect. This is a guy who likes over the top and stylized visuals, and the material here was perfect for that kind of approach. Now, however, you can take an actual look at how it’s all shaping up, with the first trailer just released for the movie available for your viewing after the cut.

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[Trailer] – Lawless

25 Apr

John Hillcoat‘s follow-up to The Road is finally upon us, and the trailer for Lawless really does look pretty damn brilliant, so if you weren’t excited for this one before I’d recommend to adjust your expectations accordinly now. Watch the trailer after the cut.

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19 Jan

Title: Trust
Year: 2011
Director: David Schwimmer
Writers: Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger
Starring: Liana Liberato, Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Jason Clarke, Noah Emmerich, Chris Henry Coffey
MPAA Rating: R, disturbing material involving the rape of a teen, language, sexual content and some violence
Runtime: 106 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Metacritic: 60


David Schwimmer is mostly thought of as the guy with the least successful post-Friends career out of the 6 people who were legitimate American sweethearts from 1994 to 2004. Jennifer Aniston has obviously been in a lot of movies, most recently the hilarious Horrible Bosses (which I gave a B+ to) which saw her in a different light than what we’re used to. Lisa Kudrow had HBO’s The Comeback which was hilarious but unfortunately got cancelled after thirteen episodes, but now has found new success with Web Therapy. Courtney Cox had FX’s Dirt which ran for a couple of seasons and is now starring in ABC’s Cougar Town which has a pretty passionate following. As for the guys, Matthew Perry had Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the more recent Mr. Sunshine, both of which failed, but still, he’s been out there. Matt LeBlanc had the disappointing two seasons of the spin-off Joey but has now found new life thanks to Episodes, the Showtime series that sees a fictionalized version of himself and for which he just won a Golden Globe last Sunday.

David Schwimmer, on the other hand, well, he’s been nowhere to be seen, really. He’s been heard as the voice of Melman the giraffe on the Madagascar films, and he directed the Simon Pegg film Run, Fatboy, Run which I thought was funny enough but nothing special. Well, now he’s back again, though still behind the camera and not in front, but Trust is actually something special, it’s a film that shows he’s sort of realizing his full potential. I really, really liked this film a whole lot, and while there’s still a sense that Mr. Schwimmer has a ways to go to know to really craft a fully cohesive story and learn how to create some tension, his skills as far as directing his actors are undeniable, the performances he gets from his entire cast here, which obviously include some truly talented folks, are just tremendous.

I was seriously surprised with this film. I remember watching the trailer and seeing the names that were attached (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis) and I was sold. But something about it being “a David Schwimmer film” had me feeling a bit cautious. And yet we got a director who took a hard job and who nailed it really, because the traumatic situations and the family situations and the whole psychological aspect of Trust are tough to handle by themselves, let alone tackle them all together head-on, and yet Mr. Schwimmer succeeds at that job incredibly well. And like I said, the performances he gets from his actors are so intense and gut-wrenching it’s impossible not to admire this film, the veteran actors are obviously all very good on their own, but Mr. Schwimmer’s skills are really evident when you watch the performance of the young Liana Liberato.

Ms. Liberato is the girl in charge of playing Annie, the fourteen-year-old who lives in a Chicago suburb with her parents, Will and Lynn (the characters of Mr. Owen and Ms. Keener), who are really loving parents but ones that have slightly neglected Annie, paying a bit more attention to her older brother, Peter, since he’s about to head off to college and they’re helping him with the arrangements and such. As a result, Annie’s spending quite a lot of time online, chatting to Charlie, a boy she met online. So, yes, Trust is a story about an internet pedophile predator and his naïve and vulnerable young victim, and Mr. Schwimmer is so good in that he never once dumbs down the action for us, he’s super smart in his incisive look at the repercussions, looking at everything that happens to Annie and her family with sympathy, for sure, but not one that will ever shy away from the harsh realities of the situation, never once getting preachy and never once going overboard with the material.

As Annie starts falling for Charlie, he asks her to finally meet in person, face to face, and of course she eagerly agrees. And that’s when we realize Charlie is not sixteen, but in his mid-thirties, and yet he’s a comforting figure, he makes her feel like he understands her, and once he persuades her into going by his hotel room, he rapes her. And I cannot overstate how incredible the performance by Ms. Liberato is, the way she plays Annie’s innocence, her young idealism, her readiness to trust and her capacity to be hugely hurt; as great as the rest of the actors in this film are, it’s she that had to carry the film, and she really does. Mr. Schwimmer shows an awareness about today’s society, a culture that sexualizes young girls, perfectly shown in Will’s work as an advertising exec in which young girls are used on billboards to sell a brand; and yet we have Annie who’s not a character from Thirteen, she’s a nice girl, not sexually advanced at all, and yet this is what falls on her.

Annie confides to a friend about what happened with Charlie, and eventually the police are notified and we get to know that the guy is actually a sex offender who they’ve been after for quite some time. Mr. Schwimmer strays away from delving too deeply into the causes of the crime itself, and instead focuses a lot on the consequences, the emotional results of such a horrible crime; Will, especially, is hugely devastated by what happened, becoming obsessed with finding the man that raped his young daughter. What I loved the most is how respectful Mr. Schwimmer is of Annie’s feelings, how he represents her vulnerability, how he understands that other than the physical rape, the loss of her virginity, what weighs probably more on Annie is the psychological rape, the gossip about her at school, the destruction of the ideals she had about falling in love, the loss of her space and privacy by the FBI investigation surrounding her.

Trust is a truly powerful film, as Annie starts confiding in her therapist, played as well as always by the great Viola Davis, we start seeing the huge appeal a pedophile can provide to a young, vulnerable girl. And in the impact it all has on her parents we see some really tough scenes in which Will’s anguish is overpowering, as he becomes more interested in vengeance than in getting over it; the scenes between Mr. Owen and Ms. Keener being some of best parts of the film. This is an incredibly perceptive piece of filmmaking by a director I didn’t quite realize was ready to provide something like this quite yet, one that shows expected forms of evil in Charlie and more unexpected ones in the society it presents, one that has in Liana Liberato a tremendously gifted young actress, capable of shining a light on a reality that exists more and more in today’s world in which digital connections are more easily defined.

Grade: A-

Texas Killing Fields

24 Nov

Title: Texas Killing Fields
Year: 2011
Director: Ami Canaan Mann
Writer: Don Ferrarone
Starring: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jason Clarke
MPAA Rating: R, violence and language including some sexual references
Runtime: 105 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%

And so we arrive at the fifth stop in the Jessica Chastain Breakout Tour 2011. I, like many, have been making note of the fact that Ms. Chastain is becoming tremendously ubiquitous this year, using the whole of 2011 as one huge coming-out party to establish herself as one of the very best even though she’s only been at it for a year, a party that isn’t stopping anytime soon, with Coriolanus and Wilde Salome still to come. The thing is that not only has Ms. Chastain seemingly been in every other film this year, not only has she been good in them, but she’s been in some spectacularly great films. I mean, The Tree of Life is masterpiece which I gave a perfect score to, The Help I gave an A- to, I awarded a B+ to The Debt and gave an A to the last film of hers I had seen, Jeff Nichols’ brilliant Take Shelter. Her perfect streak, however, ends with Texas Killing Fields, which I just saw.

Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Chaistain is perfectly fine here, and the film is actually a decent enough crime thriller, but it just wasn’t original at all to me, and I can’t recommend it because of that, because it’s just giving us stuff that we’ve seen in way too many films of its kind before. Not to mention that I thought the cast, which also included Sam Worthington (who also starred in The Debt with Ms. Chastain), Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the awesome Chloë Grace Moretz had much more potential than what was realized on-screen.

We’re thrown into the Texas bayou, where of course pretty horrible stuff happens more than in your average location, and which gives us these two local detectives trying to figure out the murder of a young girl. Look, the film does its job, I want to make that clear, it tells an above-average crime story in its center and fills the gaps in with looks at small-town police work and daily life, even if the latter two it doesn’t do as effectively. Still, it’s good that we get to know the places and the faces, especially when we have fine actors doing the telling, I just thought that this kind of stuff is the sort we can find in just as good a quality, if not better, in a couple of the procedurals currently on TV.

Don Ferrarone, a former DEA agent an advisor on films such as Man on Fire and Enemy of the State, makes his screenwriting debut here, with directing duties falling onto the equally unexperienced Ami Canaan Mann, who had only directed another feature-length film and that was back in 2001 and was little-seen (though in the interim she did direct an episode of Friday Night Lights, the best TV series of all-time in my humble opinion), she’s the daughter of Michael Mann, who acted as a producer here and I’m guessing paired her up with Mr. Ferrarone who acted as an advisor on his Miami Vice film adaptation. The thing is, it kind of shows in this film that they were a pair that hasn’t had much experience crafting these films, because while the atmosphere feels believable and sucks you in, the character development is just super messy and does nothing to keep you engaged in the proceedings.

It’s that lack of detail that made this film one I wouldn’t really recommend, because while the players assembled in front of the camera are all great, Mr. Worthington actually delivering one of the better performances I’ve seen of him, the plot and dynamics of this whole film just seem rehashed from one too many TV shows which was what lost my attention. Not to mention that, in the moments that the film deviated from the formulaic approach, it went way off the rails and had me lose my grasp on the story, with scenes that didn’t always follow each other and the role of the characters not always super clear. You got presented to stuff that seemed vital and then you lost sight of them, the elements were there for this to be a really decent little crime thriller but it’s just to messy to get its act together, literally.

The good thing, like I said, is that however messy the direction otherwise is, Ms. Mann shows a great hand at creating a really effective atmosphere in this film. The quiet moments, the interrogation scenes, the car chase, those were all really well done. And the cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh (an Oscar-nominee for The Piano and who will also work with Michael Mann on his upcoming Luck pilot for HBO) was really effective, making every location seem like a place in which something huge was happening. So yes, there were some good parts, and the performances by absolutely everyone involved here were great, it’s just that the plot structure was all over the place, and once you got past the police case, which wasn’t all that interesting to begin with, you’re left with characters that you can’t really invest on because they’re so underdeveloped, no matter who’s playing them. It’s a respectful attempt, but I couldn’t help but feel that Texas Killing Fields would have worked much better as some kind of supersized pilot episode for an upcoming network procedural.

Grade: C+