Let Brad Pitt and his arsenal of shotguns guide you in your latest cinematic endeavors.
The first time Brad Pitt and writer/director Andrew Dominik joined forces, the results were fairly magical. Though I’ve only seen The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford once, the film has lingered in my memories and resided near the top of my Need to Revisit queue. The two reunite on Killing Them Softly, in which Pitt plays an enforcer hired to “fix things” after some knuckleheads rob a Mob-linked poker game. An hour shorter than his previous film, I’m looking forward to seeing what Dominik does with a modern storyline, and while the supporting cast isn’t quite as impressive as that of Jesse James, the likes of Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, and Sam Shepard will do just fine.
Joe Wright loves a literary adaptation. The director of Atonement and Pride & Prejudice broke out of his novelistic shell with 2011’s uneven Hanna, but returns to the page with Anna Karenina, his third teaming with Keira Knightley. Written by veteran playwright Tom Stoppard, the latest version of Leo Tolstoy’s work takes place almost exclusively on a theater stage. It’s an interesting notion and one that encourages sharp direction and performances alongside Wright’s trademark visual mastery. If only the story of forbidden love under the vengeful eye of Russian high society wasn’t so bleak. Look for my review on Friday.
From the writers of Saws IV-VII (is that really something to brag about?) comes another serial killer flick called The Collection. Apparently, a masked psychopath collects beautiful young women the way some folks do baseball cards. When a young man who escaped his clutches returns to rescue a young girl being held within these confines, the lad must go through a booby-trapped warehouse like an inferior Indiana Jones. All I’m hoping for are a few good scares…and a low enough box office to discourage a sequel. Is that too much to ask?
Fleeing the Scene
Holy Motors and Samsara end their one-week revival, but the rest of last week’s offerings remain. It’s also worth noting that this is likely the last week to see the surprisingly nimble and accessible Cloud Atlas at the Carolina.
Nothing too spectacular this week, though the stop-motion animated Paranorman garnered a lot of love. There’s also the “not as bad as it seems” Men in Black 3, which finally hits its groove when Agent J travels back to the ’60s. Elsewhere is the disjointed moonshine grit of Lawless, a film that wastes a fine cast and suggests that director John Hillcoat and writer/composer Nick Cave shouldn’t work together for a while. Bringing up the rear is the Whitney Houston swan song Sparkle and Step Up 4: Revolution a.k.a. Occupy Miami Goes Dancing.
On Netflix Instant
Nothing of note in the way of 2012 films (that’ll be next week), but there are a great deal of solid titles either returning to streaming or making their “now loading” debut. Of local interest is The Last of the Mohicans, a relic of the days before Daniel Day-Lewis was the most towering actor in cinema. Just in time for a comparison to its remake is the original Red Dawn. The Juno team of director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody reunite on Young Adult, an unexpectedly dark yet (mostly) funny look at not growing up. Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt give standout performances.
If, in the words of Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz, “You ain’t seen Bad Boys II?” here’s the chance to fix that blind spot. More of an essential view is Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity The modern crime classic Sexy Beast menacing turn by Ben Kingsley, is also worth a look, as is the documentary that (for good reason) firmly put Michael Moore on the map. And, just for fun, there’s McLintock!, one of three John Wayne films with an exclamation mark. (Can you name the other two?)