Tag Archives: cinema

David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints


Downbeat yet beautifully moving, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was a surprise for me, a visual and emotional bouquet of muted style, lighting and music that instantly transports you to the time and place it lives in, as well as beckoning you straight into the characters’s hearts, hearts which all have the capacity for love and reverence, or the blackest of deeds. The people in this film are just that: human beings, not caricatures moulded by the written word, you feel every pang left by a violent act in both victim and perpetrator, and sit alongside them as they wade through heartbreak. A soulful Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck play two outlaw lovers who cause a deafening shootout with police in the stunning prologue, both killing and wounding multiple officers. The outcome sees Affleck jailed hundreds of miles away and Mara left alone to give birth to and raise a daughter he may likely never meet. He does get out though, and meanders his way through rural Texas to find them, when trouble arrives once again, as it always does. A local policeman (Ben Foster) has grown fond of Mara, while her stern father (Keith Carradine) takes notice of Affleck’s return and bristles up real good. At it’s heart this is a tragedy, even if on the surface one sees potential for a love story. There’s a Bonnie and Clyde vibe to be sure, but it’s as if we are privy to what happens in a ‘lovers on the run’ tale after the fact itself, as if the film begins at the end of a conventional such story, and achingly shows us that happy endings simply don’t exist, especially for people like this. Now, there’s been obvious comparisons to Terence Malick’s work, which are of course somewhat warranted, but this film is it’s own beast. Brought to shimmering life by the lens of cinematographer Bradford Young and blessed with a mournful lullaby of a score from Daniel Hart, this one shakes and stirs the viewer with a gorgeous look at beauty through the crystalline prism of sorrow. 

-Nate Hill

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Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker


Despite being a fairly dull film overall, Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker has a few redeeming qualities that almost put it up there with other far better efforts in the wartime espionage subgenre, namely a terrific score from Hans Zimmer and one of the most flat out badass George Clooney actions scenes you’ll find anywhere in his career. It’s a shame the film you find these qualities in is a heavy handed, by the motions anti-terrorism headbanger that says and does nothing we haven’t seen a million times over. Clooney is the seasoned military man, on a globetrotting mission with Nicole Kidman’s intuitive agency analyst, tracking down several Russian nukes that were lifted off a train somewhere in Europe during a painfully static opener. There’s a radical out there played by French actor Marcel Iures, hiding as a piano teacher of all things, biding his time till he gets to go kaboom somewhere stateside and get revenge for some horrendous misdeed against his family. He’s actually the most interesting character, thanks to Iure’s obvious talent and the near sympathetic light they’ve painted his character in. The film is so by the numbers it’ll put you to sleep though, and the positively supersonic score from Zimmer feels like it deserves a better film. Still, you can’t go wrong with the sequence just after a droning car chase where Clooney has T-boned the baddie’s ride and trapped him inside. George promptly steps out, walks over and empties an entire fucking clip into this guys face, it’s pretty much the coolest thing the he’s ever done onscreen. Too bad the film as a whole couldn’t keep up with the organic, intimate level of energy infused into this one moment, we could have gotten something memorable. 

-Nate Hill

A Civil Action


A Civil Action is a quiet, sobering tale of gross corporate evils and one lawyer with the stones to stand up to it all. John Travolta can be the skeeviest slimeball, the most affable Everyman, terrifying arch villain or unwavering hero in his work, he’s just that adaptable. His character here is a small time lawyer in a four partner firm that can barely afford a collective pot to piss in, and are in dire need of a case. In a local county, there’s suspicion of a factory dumping lethal toxic waste into the nearby rivers, causing the death, illness and birth defects among many children. Problem is, it’s a ruthlessly expensive case that could bankrupt their entire firm, and the rival lawyer (Robert Duvall) is an Ivy League bigwig who could bury them. Travolta is steadfast though, calmly and methodically tackling one obstacle at a time with compassion for the victims, determination to smoke out the corruption and a reserved charm that puts the film in a relaxed yet pressing groove. The cast here is absolutely unreal as well. Standouts include James Gandolfini and David Thornton in heartbreaking turns as blue collar workers affected by these misdeeds, Dan Hedaya as a malicious perpetrator, William H. Macy and Tony Shaloub as Travolta’s firm partners, Daniel Von Bargen as a belligerent witness, as well as further work from John Lithgow, Harry Dean Stanton, Zelijko Ivanek, Mary Mara, Sydney Pollack, Stephen Fry, Paul Ben Victor, Michael P. Byrne, Josh Pais and more. It’s never too hectic though, despite having so many characters and being a courtroom drama, a sub genre usually steeped in fire and brimstone melodrama. There’s a sad, quiet aura to the proceedings here. The damage is done, and all these people are looking for is a little recognition, compassion and a settlement to ease the strife thrown at them by a very callous and uncaring bunch of people. Travolta is the harbinger of catharsis, a warmhearted man who gets invested in so deep that it isn’t about the money anymore for him, it’s about helping those in need. Powerful, understated stuff. 

-Nate Hill

Olivier Assayas’s Boarding Gate


Olivier Assayas’s Boarding Gate is a fascinating and frustrating chamber piece that may have been more effective as a stage play. At any rate it certainly leaves an impression, thanks to two vivid, jagged edged performances from it’s leads, Asia Argento and Michael Madsen. Assayas is apparently known for patiently pacing his work, but this one takes the term ‘slow burn’ and gives it a whole new dimension of meaning. I won’t bother trying to outline the plot as it’s more mixed up than iPod headphones coming out of your pocket, except to say that Argento and Madsen are two former lovers who shared some extremely kinky sex before betrayal, greed and corporate espionage got in the way, and now play a psychosexual game of cat and mouse for most of the film. Madsen is the cruel bigwig with ice-water coursing through his amoral veins, Argento the manipulative, caged animal harlot and it’s fun seeing the two exchange smouldering looks and violent outbursts in between trying to ruin each other. This isn’t everyone’s thing, and many will give up on it purely because it ambles along on it’s own time, also for being quite the unpleasant affair through and through. I’ve never seen any of Assayas’s other work, but he certainly knows his way around a camera here, giving each shot gauzy, excessively focus pulled style and intimate close ups of our two stars. They are the best thing about the film, Madsen his usual gruff, enigmatic roughneck and Argento exuding exotic, danger tinted sex appeal. I can’t really say if it’s my thing either, to be honest, but it has it’s moments, and never slouches into something unoriginal. A true curiosity. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Scam


Scam is a breezy, Miami Vice-esque TV movie that no one saw. Nothing remarkable, but the cast has fun with the seedy crime thriller plot, and no doubt got to vacation in the Caribbean locale where this was filmed between takes. Christopher Walken never misses a beat, even in inconsequential fluff like this, and he’s fun here as shady FBI agent Jack Shanks, who is stalking a couple scam artists working the local beat. Gorgeous Maggie (Lorraine Bracco) lures men out of bars, spikes their drinks real good and then her and her violent boyfriend (Miguel Ferrer) rob the poor fuckers blind. Walken is wise to their act and entraps her for his own agenda, which involves lifting sensitive floppy disks from the clutches of a nasty crime lord (Daniel Von Bargen). Seamy, sweaty and oh so sleazy, it’s pure early 90’s cheese that has aged not too shabbily. Bracco and Walken have sexy chemistry, while Ferrer’s rabid dog thug livens things up, as does a wonderfully over elaborate, sun baked plot. Good times. 

-Nate Hill

The Crow: Wicked Prayer


Out of the multiple attempts at The Crow sequels, Wicked Prayer is the most legendarily awful. You’d think that after two rainy, urban set, near identical efforts that a switch up to the New Mexico desert for an Aztec, satanic theme might just be grand, but nope, they dicked it up royally. Even with a cast as cool as they were able to lasso into this mess they couldn’t make it work. The Eric Draven avatar here is a trailer trash troublemaker named Jimmy Corvo, played by Edward ‘John Connor’ Furlong, who hasn’t exactly brushed up his acting skills since his iconic turn in T2. Corvo is in love with Lilly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the daughter of a local chief (Danny Trejo lol) who despises him. Also running around is Luc Crash (David ‘Angel’ Boreanaz), an occultist whacko who wishes to use his body as a vessel for Satan and… rule New Mexico I guess? Joined by his psychotic little hoe girlfriend (Tara Reid) and four thug henchman aptly named after the horsemen of the apocalypse, he needs a couple human sacrifices, and who better than young lovers Jimmy and Lilly? Furlong is resurrected via that good ol’ blackbird, of course, and sports the worst makeup job since.. I don’t know since what to be honest, it’s an equally horrendous and hilarious look. He goes looking for vengeance against Crash and his ilk, and all sorts of silly supernatural nonsense ensues, yada yada. You’d think that such a concept would have been great, but everything is handled so poorly, the budget seems lower than the filmmaker’s standards of quality, and Dimension should be ashamed to have to slap their classy label on this roadkill of a four-quel. As if all that wasn’t enough wasted talent, Dennis Hopper shows up arbitrarily as a jive talking, white 70 year old pimp who has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and whose dialogue as well as delivery will have your eardrums bleeding out in minutes. Please, please avoid this at all cost. 

-Nate Hill

John Woo’s Windtalkers


John Woo’s Windtalkers is a brutal, somber, joyless affair, a muddy and hopeless war picture that contains little of the ethereal poise of stuff like The Thin Red Line or heroic muscle such as Saving Private Ryan. As long as you can adjust and tune into it’s frequency it’s a well made, sorrowful look at the American effort against Japan, particularly a mission involving a regiment whose task is to protect Native Navajo code breakers that can detect messages fired off by the enemy. A mopey Nicolas Cage is their shell shocked leader, pressing his men onward into territory that no doubt contains the same horrors he witnessed before the film begins. We find him in a trauma ward initially, cared for by a kindly nurse (Frances O’Connor), until Jason Isaacs cameos as the recruitment officer who spurs him back into action. His troupe is composed solely of excellent, distinct acting talent and they help the film considerably. The Navajo are played by Adam Beach and Roger Willie, giving grace and nobility to two men who are out of their depth and terrified. Peter Stormare, Christian Slater, Noah Emmerich, Mark Ruffalo, Brian Van Holt and a standout Martin Henderson are the rest of the troops, each getting their moment to shine within the unit’s cohesive arc. Woo is an odd choice for a war picture, and his stylized flair for bullet ridden action is nowhere to be found in these bleak, bloodied trenches, trading in suits and duel wielded glocks for faded camo and muted rifle fire. The action is neither cathartic nor poetic, simply a concussive cacophony of combat that offers little aesthetic pleasure, forcing you to find the value in empathy towards these men, and as long as you can do that, you’ll get something out of it. 

-Nate Hill