Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian; The Road), probably my favorite living author, makes his feature film screenwriting debut in The Counselor and gets some noteworthy help in bringing the project to fruition. Ridley Scott directs this gritty tale of a respected lawyer (Michael Fassbender) whose becomes involved with an illegal business deal and soon finds himself immersed in the world of drug trafficking. Brad Pitt, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Cameron Diaz round out the cast in this highly promising collaboration. My only hesitancy is that McCarthy’s other foray into screenwriting, the 1977 public television film The Gardener’s Son, is my least favorite of his works, though Tommy Lee Jones didn’t change a word of his play Sunset Limited for HBO and it turned out fine. No Country for Old Men also began as a screenplay, which helps explain the ease with which the Coen Bros. were able to adapt it. I’m not expecting The Counselor to be quite as accomplished, but think it won’t be that far off.
Continuing the week’s grisly theme, We Are What We Are looks at the Parkers, a reclusive family of cannibals whose dietary traditions are threatened when human bones wash up after a flood. The film sports no huge names, but the faces of Kelly McGillis (Top Gun), Michael Parks (Red State), and Julia Garner (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) are sure to ignite a few mental light bulbs. Director/co-writer Jim Mickle’s Stake Land is generally considered one of the better recent vampire films, so perhaps his latest will join the ranks of the superior contemporary cannibal flicks.
Johnny Knoxville transforms into 86-year-old Irving Zisman one more time for Bad Grandpa, the latest Jackass stunt. On a road trip to reunite his “grandson” Billy (Jackson Nicoll) with the boy’s father, the pair submit all sorts of unsuspecting onlookers to their social deviance, leaving a trail of wreckage in their wake. The trailer alone features wedding crashing and entering a drag-tastic Billy in a North Carolina beauty pageant, where he busts into a Little Miss Sunshine-like striptease, so there’s no telling what ridiculous surprises await. Still, considering all the critical crap these films have taken, I’ve had a blast watching each of these misadventures and have a feeling I’ll be laughing a lot with this one as well.
Friday also marks the second and final week in the Carolina Cinemas’ Music Madness series. This new batch of films focuses on the rock/R&B side and includes the Searching for Sugar Man view-alike A Band Called Death; a profile of the renowned Alabama studio Muscle Shoals; Good Ol’ Freda, a reminiscence of the Beatles by their titular secretary; and Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, about the cult Memphis band. As with last week’s hard rock and metal offerings, the movie times are staggered throughout the day to encourage a mini-festival experience and tickets may be purchased either as a discounted bundle ($32) or individually. If you only see one, check out A Band Called Death, though if you keep reading you’ll see that the big screen isn’t the only way to watch it.
Fleeing the Scene
Good guys Machete Kills and Prisoners are honorably discharged while Escape from Tomorrow and Romeo & Juliet have been transferred to Guantanamo. The quartet of Music Madness Vol. 1 films likewise skedaddle to make room for their kinsmen while the Concussion and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane experiment also concludes its one-week run.
On Netflix Instant
While I would never discourage someone from seeing a film on the big screen, A Band Called Death may also be streamed in the privacy of one’s home. Joining it are the recent Carolina alums Populaire and Haute Cuisine (suggesting that Concussion and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane may soon follow), plus the excellent sorta-recent doc Dirty Wars.
Other 2013 offerings include Wrong, which may be the year’s most accessible (and enjoyable) weird movie and the supposedly disturbing Maniac remake starring Elijah Woods. More disturbing still is the Worst of the Year trend rolling on with 21 & Over, a film so bad it makes you wonder if Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) has multiple personality disorder. Should you choose to go that route, be sure to counteract those Hangover-knockoff ills with a healthy dose of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. You’ll be glad that you did.