Who has a more intimidating face than Michael Shannon? This is an actor who just breathes intensity. He twitches and sneers with scary effect, often appearing as though he can barely hold his rage in. Heck, this guy just recently proved he could recite a simple email with awesome effect. Clearly, he knows what his strengths are, and capitalizes on them. He is almost always the most interesting actor in a scene, because he has such an unpredictable delivery that we wonder what he’s going to do next. His talents are on full display in Ariel Vromen’s crime film The Iceman (2012). Here, we get to see Shannon at his best: constantly on edge, nearing the breaking point, chewing scenery as if it’s bubblegum. In a vacuum, this is some of Shannon’s finest work. It’s unfortunate the film isn’t as good as he is.
There have been a lot of important events in the history of sports, but the biggest and also one of the significant events in American history, the breaking of the color barrier, is a story that needs to be told. Thanks to Academy Award-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland of L.A. Confidential, it is coming to the screen once again in 42. This isn’t the first time a movie has been dedicated to Jackie Robinson; in fact, Robinson himself starred in The Jackie Robinson Story back in 1950. But enough time has passed that we have younger generations that don’t know about him or don’t remember the challenge in overcoming the color barrier.
I remember the first time I saw Divine. (I imagine most people remember their first time with her.) It was in the late 1980s at a midnight screening of Pink Flamingos. The minute she came on screen, my jaw dropped, and I knew I was in for something wonderful. A lot gets made of the dog-poop-eating scene, but let me tell you, the whole damn thing is amazing. Partly because the director, John Waters, is a crazy, sick genius, but also because Divine is just so mind-blowingly-over-the-top-willing-to-do-anything great. This story about “the filthiest person alive” is compulsively watchable while still being truly disgusting. The new documentary, I Am Divine, opening at South by Southwest Film Festival and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, tells the story of Divine’s life, and shows the evolution of both Divine the character and Divine the person. (Note: I will be using both male and female pronouns in this review as Divine the character was female, but Divine the person was a man, and preferred to do interviews out of character.)
The South Asian tsunami is given a face that makes it as real as possible for those of us who can only imagine the destruction in The Impossible. Leaving aside the controversies this film has raised, including the changing of the family at its core from Spanish to British and the fact that Caucasians are used to show what happened to a predominately Asian population, this is an effective story of human spirit against adversity. By giving us characters based upon people who suffered but did not lose anyone, we can observe the pain, but never sink into it.
Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Really? The 32nd President of the United States? The man who rescued us from the Great Depression and dealt with the looming threat of World War II? The camp counselor from Meatballs and the smarmiest Ghostbuster was going to play one of the greatest presidents in American history? Really? Many people are probably struck by this casting when they first hear of the new period drama Hyde Park on Hudson. Truthfully, Murray is quite good and probably the least problematic part of this very mixed bag of a movie.
If I had to name the three directors most responsible for my love of movies, I would list Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, and Woody Allen. (You can throw in Ernst Lubitsch and Michael Curtiz to round out the top five, if you’d like.) Hitchcock is always at the top. Shadow of a Doubt is probably my favorite, but the film I go back and forth on the most is Psycho. I love it, but that last scene at the end just drives me crazy. I did, however, have the wonderful experience of watching it with my daughter when she was about 15 and had no knowledge of the story’s plot. About a third of the way in, when the person she assumed was the protagonist dies a grisly death, my daughter turned to me and asked “What the freak [not the word she used] kind of movie is this?” An awesome one, Little Bug. Upon watching the new movie Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi, I asked myself the same question. “What kind of movie is this?” I’m not sure I know the answer to that.
Simply put, Steven Spielberg’s new film Lincoln is amongst the best he’s ever made and is one of the best of the year. It’s an unusual departure for the director, in that this is probably the most verbose work he’s ever done. But by working on a project that is intelligent and mature, he has treated us to an indelible portrait of one of the most omnipresent figures in history. Surprisingly, this isn’t an epic. It is intimate, emotional, and thoroughly engaging.
The older you get, the tougher it is to make friends. Family, jobs, responsibilities…life gets in the way. So to actually make new connections with people in your twilight years can be a rarity indeed. Old Goats is the story of three seniors who manage to make just such a connection.
In October of 1997, the family of Nicholas Barclay received a phone call from Linares, Spain, claiming their missing son had been found. Three years earlier, on June 13th, 1994, Nicholas had called his mom for a ride, but his older brother didn’t want to wake her and told him to walk home; he never arrived. He was a troubled child, and many people assumed that he ran away from home—which he had done on a previous occasion—but, after awhile, his family came to believe that there must have been foul play. Fast-forward to 1997 and the call from Spain. They are told Nicholas is in custody without any identification papers. His sister, Carey Gibson, leaves Texas to fetch him, and upon arrival in Spain, is convinced that the boy presented to her is, in fact, her brother. He seems secretive and different, but she believes his story and is able to reassure the Spanish authorities of his identity. She and Nicholas fly back home, where he is welcomed back into the arms of his family. There are some inconsistencies; his eyes are now brown and he has aged considerably, but these are explained away by the details of his story.