Tag Archives: Josh Brolin

Spike Lee’s OLDBOY

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For a film directed by Spike Lee, written by Mark Protosevich, and starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olson, Sam Jackson, and Sharlto Copley, OLDBOY gets a lot of unwarranted and obnoxious criticism. Of course, the original film is terrific, and a game changing cinematic explosion; as is this film. It’s a reinvention of the remake wheel.

Those who have seen the original film, or know quite a bit about it, know the beats. They know the twists and turns. The remake offers something new and refreshing as it builds upon what made the original film great, only to accentuate it. The third act big reveal is darker, the main character has more of a backstory, and there are newly formed characters that flesh out the story.

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Josh Brolin has rarely been better. He gives a transformative performance as the deplorable Joe Doucett. Within the first few pages of Protosevich’s script, he not only manages to make Doucett unlikable, he makes you loathe him. Yet as the film closes its second act, we begin to root for him, waiting for him to rise up and get his revenge. Brolin is fantastic, he physically and mentally transforms, and it is a marvel to watch.

Sharlto Copley still remains one of the best actors who has yet to reach a broader audience, and he turns a chilling and demented performance that is even more transgressive than the root of the antagonist’s motivations in the original film.

Part of one’s cinematic journey is acceptance. More times than not remakes are immediately cast out of a cinephile’s pallet. Especially when that remake is a film that the highbrow’s hold so sacred and dear as if they were the first to discover it.

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The beauty of the remake is that it takes the source material very seriously, even rooting a lot of what is on screen from the original Manga graphic novel. The film isn’t a shot for shot retelling, nor is it a lazy attempt to capitalize on a sexy foreign property; it’s a parallel retelling of an ultra violet and taboo story that most often Hollywood is afraid to touch.

While some may not particularly care for the film, at the very least they should appreciate the craftsmanship and seriousness this film was given and spend less time trying to score points with like minded peers with tunnel vision regarding the original film.

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B Movie Glory: Slow Burn


Slow Burn is.. odd, to say the least. Living up to its title, it pretty much goes nowhere, tagging along with James Spader and Josh Brolin as they stumble around in the desert, both hitting on treasure hunter Minnie Driver, who constantly outwits them. This kind of lower budget, steamy stuff just seems to have a licence to languish, in the sense that story is of little concern, it’s more about mood and episodic character interaction than anything else. Spader and Brolin are doing the ‘Of Mice & Men’ shtick here, playing two hapless escaped convicts, one a sharp tongued weasel (Spader) and the other a dimwitted lug (Brolin). They’re kind of lost, in both perpetual arguments and the vast Mojave around them, when they run into Driver, whose presence, and the idea that there’s a whole whack of diamonds buried out there somewhere, inevitably stirs things up. The diamonds belonged to her parents, and there’s hazy scenes relating back to a tragedy involving her gypsy father (Chris Mulkey, briefly) and a mysterious character played by Stuart Wilson who serves as pseudo-narrator as he wanders around out there too. Got that? It’s ok, they barely explain it better than I just did, I’ve seen the thing twice and I’m still not sure how it all adds up either. Sweat, sand, sensual looks snuck between Brolin and Driver, dreamy atmosphere, threats of violence from Spader’s overacted, crazy eyed moron, a treasure hunt and general lack of cohesion is all you’ll find out here in this desert. Good for an absent minded watch or for background noise, not much else though. 

-Nate Hill

Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man: A Review by Nate Hill 

Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man is one of the most scummy, awful, overblown ridiculous shit masquerading as a movie that I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. It’s also entertaining on a level that suffocates you with unpleasantness and knowing stupidity at every turn. Verhoeven has taken what could have been a fascinating and suspenseful premise and turned it into a one note, bottom feeding genre pile of piss that is pretty hard to sit through. Scientifically inaccurate (not that that matters in this terrain) relentlessly unpleasant, super awkward and an all round disaster, it’s still pretty compelling to witness, like a school bus on fire. It’s a wreck to be sure, but there’s plenty of glee to be found, if you’re feeling masochistic. Kevin Bacon has laid down a path of many asshole characters over the years, but Dr. Sebastian Caine just takes the cake. He’s an egotistical, psycho sexual maniac in charge of an underground research lab, working on a brand new cheeseball formula to make the invisible man. He’s creepy and possessive with his girlfriend  (poor Elizabeth Shue) callous to his lab staff (Josh Brolin included, before his second coming, as well as Kim Dickens) and an all around jerk off. But that’s really nothing compared to what happens when the formula works, effectively turning him invisible, with a few nasty side effects. He goes from a nasty dude to an all out monster as he starts to arbitrarily prey and perv out on his co workers in their underground bunker, going full on Lon Chaney with a side of Ted Bundy in a grating performance that is a career sinkhole for Bacon. I read Ebert give golden praise to the special effects in a scene where he teansforms from visible to invisible, but i have no idea what he was smoking that day because they are an abysmal effort. Verhoeven always has a sort of knowing layer of hedonism blanketing his work, but this one takes it to a whole new level. Hey, at least there’s a cameo from the always welcome William Devane! The rest is just a vomitorium. There’s a sequel floating around out there with Christian Slater, I’m curious but have never have come across a copy. 

DENIS VILLENEUVE’S SICARIO – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

“You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”

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SICARIO is a blunt unveiling of the dark side of America’s foreign policy.  Set on the Mexican border, the film follows a shadow team made up of different agencies shaking down drug cartels, all the while the team plays kingmaker by rearranging power.  The plot and political commentary is dense.  Not once does the film come across as heavy handed, nor does it preach bias.  In turn, it makes the film that much more powerful and brutally honest.

The brilliant cinematic team of filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins (who are reteaming for the untitled BLADE RUNNER sequel) are a force to be reckoned with.  Villeneuve keeps a taut and thrilling pace, while Deakins composes remarkable visuals frame by frame.  Taylor Sheridan’s icy script, Johann Johannsson’s score, and Joe Walker’s editing complement the film in a perfect way, keeping the tight narrative intact while balancing such heavy subject matter.

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The cast is led by the idealistic Emily Blunt, supported by the realist CIA man Josh Brolin, and the lethal assassin Benicio Del Toro who all give career high performances and play off of one another in a way that meshes the film together wonderfully.  Blunt is amazing.  She’s more than a badass woman with a gun; she’s the heart of the film.  She’s out for blood after members of her team get killed on a cartel raid in the opening scene, and she’s lured in by the affable Brolin, promising to cure her bloodlust if she comes along on his secret mission.  Most importantly, the reality of what the team is doing slowly starts to grind at her, and she quickly begins to realize that what they are doing is not the “right” thing to do.

Benicio Del Toro is the standout in an already masterful film.  His stoicism is this mysterious fuse that is slowly burning.  The entire film, we know nothing about him, until the third act where we learn everything in one short and impactful scene.  The scene is so jaw dropping, that even upon rewatching the film; you can’t believe it is actually happening.

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There are few Hollywood films that are as bold as SICARIO.  The thematic elements are heavy, as is the brutal violence, but what the film is saying is what makes it so powerful.  Sometimes America needs to bring down the iron fist to be the overall good guy.  Regardless of morality or holding ourselves to a higher standard, the world needs a shadow team like the one in SICARIO to help restore and counter the evil powers that be in this world.

Victor Nunoz’s Coastlines: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Victor Nunoz’s Coastlines is a nice small town drama with some top players all giving fine work, causing me to wonder why more people haven’t heard of it, and how come it didn’t get a wider release. In any case, it’s low key and really captures the quaint rural vibe of less densely populated areas in the states. The cast is absolutely to die for, consisting mainly of very distinct, frequently garish actors who all play it dead straight and relaxed, which is a huge switch up for most of them. Timothy Olyphant plays Sonny Mann, an ex convict recently released from prison, quietly arriving back to his Florida hometown, and the dregs of the life he left behind. His Pa (the ever awesome Scott Wilson) is conflicted by long simmering resentment, and the love for his son buried just beneath. Sonny reconnects with his best friend Dave Lockhart (Josh Brolin), who has become the town’s sheriff in the years gone by. Sparks fly between Dave’s wife (Sarah Wynter) and Sonny, creating a rift between the two and illustrating Sonny’s unavoidable knack for creating trouble for himself, and those around him. Further tension comes along when the town’s local crime lord Fred Vance (William Forsythe at his most genial and sedated) tries to strong-arm Sonny into assisting with nefarious deeds, using his younger brother Eddie (Josh Lucas) to convince him. Even when tragedy strikes and these characters go head to head, it’s in the most relaxed, laconic way that permeates southern life. Robert Wisdom has a nice bit, Angela Bettis shows up as a girl with a thing for bad boys, and watch for the late great Daniel Von Bargen as the local Sheriff. This one fits nicely into a niche that leans heavily on small town drama, dips its toes ever so slightly into thriller territory, and is a charming little piece that’s worth a look to see these actors on an acting sabbatical.  

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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In 2005, Robert Rodriguez adapted the comic book Sin City into a film with help from its creator Frank Miller who co-directed it. Convincing the veteran comic book writer/artist to come on board was a smart move on the filmmaker’s part as it assured that Miller’s luridly violent noir tales would be faithfully translated. This was achieved through a then-groundbreaking green screen environment that allowed Rodriguez to place his actors in Miller’s stylish world with a striking look comprised of black and white with strategic splashes of color. This innovative approach attracted a star-studded cast that included Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro among others. The final result dazzled audiences and was a commercial success.

A sequel seemed inevitable, but instead Rodriguez went on to team up with Quentin Tarantino on the box office misfire that was the Grindhouse double bill (2007) while Miller applied the Sin City aesthetic to a disastrous adaptation of Will Eisner’s comic book The Spirit (2008). Over the years, talk of a sequel surfaced occasionally with the likes of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie being mentioned in potential leading roles. Nine long years later and the stars (and money) aligned for Rodriguez and Miller to reunite with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014). The film promptly tanked at the box office and received mixed to negative reviews. What happened? Did Miller and Rodriguez wait too long? A green screen-heavy film is no longer a novelty. Two cast members with characters in the film had passed away and some roles have been recast. The general consensus seems to be that they waited too long to make a sequel and interest in the film had waned.

Some might complain that A Dame to Kill For is just more of the same. As a big fan of the first film this is not necessarily a bad thing. After seeing Sin City, I wanted to see more of Miller’s stories brought to life. In addition to adapting A Dame to Kill For and the short story “Just Another Saturday Night” from the Booze, Broads, & Bullets collection, Miller created two new stories specifically for the film – “The Long Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance.” By doing this, he has given the fans a real treat by offering two stories where the outcome is not known and introducing new characters into this universe.

In “Just Another Saturday Night,” Marv (Rourke) wakes up amidst a car accident unable to remember how he got there. He proceeds to recall what happened via flashback on a snowy Saturday night. This segment is a nice way to reacquaint us to the brutal yet darkly humorous world of Sin City. “The Long Bad Night” introduces us to Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a confident gambler who decides to take on Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the most powerful man in the city, in a high-stakes poker game and gets more than he bargained for. It’s a lot of fun to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt square off against Powers Boothe, the former playing a young upstart and the latter an evil, influential man.

The centerpiece of the film is “A Dame to Kill For,” which features Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) as a private investigator taking photographs of a businessman (Ray Liotta) cheating on his wife with a hooker (Juno Temple). When the man tries to kill her, Dwight intervenes. He has a tortured past, which involves keeping his homicidal impulses in check. Afterwards, Dwight gets a call from an ex-lover by the name of Ava Lord (Eva Green), a beautiful woman married to a very rich man. She’s in some kind of trouble and he finds himself drawn into her tangled web yet again. He soon runs afoul of her imposing bodyguard Manute (Dennis Haysbert) who proceeds to work him over. Realizing that he’s out of his depth and bent on rescuing Ava, Dwight enlists Marv’s help, which only complicates things in typical noir fashion.

In “Nancy’s Last Dance,” Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is an exotic dancer still haunted by the death of her lover John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and is obsessed with avenging his death by killing Roark, the man responsible for it. Over time, she’s counseled/haunted by Hartigan’s ghost, which drives her increasingly crazy.

Actors Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green slip seamlessly into the Sin City world. It helps that they have that old school noir look, especially Brolin with his chiseled tough guy features and gravelly voice – perfect for his character’s voiceover narration. In no time, the actor makes you forget that he plays a character once portrayed by Clive Owen. Gordon-Levitt is excellent as the young newcomer with a secret and manages to elicit sympathy for his ultimately doomed character. Green plays Sin City’s reigning femme fatale. The stunning actress has an alluring, exotic look and can turn a vulnerability on and off at will all the while playing a cold-hearted manipulator of men. Green gives key line deliveries the right venomous spin that makes Ava Lord a fearsome figure in this world.

It’s great to see Mickey Rourke return to the role of Marv, a character he inhabits so well. He brings a world-weary charm and a much-needed dose of dark humor to the film. Powers Boothe, who only had a minor role in the first film, gets a much meatier part in A Dame to Kill For and it’s a lot of fun to see him sink his teeth into such a deliciously evil character. Unfortunately, Jessica Alba is once again miscast as Nancy, the stripper with a heart of gold. While she looks the part, the actress doesn’t have the chops to pull off the tricky evolution of character that goes from sweet girl traumatized by the death of loved one to a revenge-obsessed vigilante. Miller’s stylized dialogue needs to be delivered a certain way. Some actors can pull it off and others can’t. Alba falls into the latter category and it becomes painfully obvious in her segment. Even her dancing is unconvincing.

While it no longer has the technological novelty factor as an incentive (shooting it in 3D really didn’t help either), there is certainly no other film out there that looks like Sin City. There have been a few imitators since, most notably The Spirit and Max Payne (2008), but the look of the film is so specific to its universe that few have dared to emulate it. Rodriguez has said that with the first Sin City he held back somewhat stylistically for fear that it would be too much for audiences. Emboldened by its commercial success, he took the look further and made it even more faithful to Miller’s comic book. So, there are things like Ava being rendered in black and white accentuated with red lips and green eyes, and visual flourishes like Marv recounting past exploits while a tiny car chase revolves around him, or the moody storm clouds that hang heavy in the cemetery where Nancy visits Hartigan’s grave. And why not? It’s not like the characters or the world they inhabit are based on any kind of reality. They exist in a hyper-stylized neo-noir universe drenched in atmosphere.

The dialogue in A Dame to Kill For is riddled with clichés and the characters are drawn from archaic stereotypes, but that’s the point. Miller is paying homage to the Mickey Spillane crimes stories he clearly idolizes. The film immerses itself in noir clichés and wears them proudly like a badge of honor, refusing to make any excuses for trading in them. There’s really nothing more to it than that, which may make the film seem instantly forgettable, but Rodriguez’s film never aspires to be art as it is unrepentedly sexual and violent with very few if any redeeming characters. The first Sin City film came out at the right time and tapped into popular culture zeitgeist. A Dame to Kill For is not so lucky, but you have to give Miller and Rodriguez credit for sticking to their guns and delivering another faithful adaptation of the comic book, which may only appeal to fans and probably won’t convert the uninitiated.

INHERENT VICE – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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There are unfilmable novels and then there is Thomas Pynchon, the premiere post-modern novelist responsible for legendary tomes like Gravity’s Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. He is known for producing dense, complex novels that explore themes such as racism, philosophy, science and technology while fusing theological and literary ideas with popular culture references to comic books, films, urban myths and conspiracy theories. Satire and paranoia are common currencies that he uses in his novels. And that’s only scratching the surface.

The 1960s were an important decade for Pynchon. It was at this time that his novels V. and The Crying of Lot 49 were published and the bulk of Gravity’s Rainbow was written. He would revisit the ‘60s again from the perspective of the 1980s with Vineland and, most recently, with Inherent Vice, which was published in 2009. The latter novel has been considered his most accessible work since Lot 49 and has been adapted into a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, the American auteur responsible for such memorable efforts as Boogie Nights (1997), There Will Be Blood (2007) and The Master (2012) among others.

Possibly informed by Pynchon’s stint in Manhattan Beach, California during the mid-‘60s, Inherent Vice is part stoner comedy/mystery and part lament for an era that was all but gone by 1970 when the story takes place. If the ‘60s was about having your head in the clouds then the ‘70s was about having your feet on the ground. Like its source material, the film plays fast and loose with notions of plot and story, riffing on elements of a Raymond Chandler-esque mystery through a counterculture filter.

Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator of the rumpled variety. One night, he’s visited by an ex-girlfriend by the name of Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) whose latest boyfriend, Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), a big-time real estate developer, and his wife are involved in some kind of shady scheme. Doc soon finds himself framed for murder, Shasta disappears (as does Mickey) and he runs afoul of hardass Los Angeles police detective Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin). During the course of his investigation, Doc finds himself immersed in the bizarro social strata of California culture, including a drug-addicted surf musician (Owen Wilson), a member of the Black Panthers (Michael K. Williams), a cokehead dentist (Martin Short), and a secret cartel known as the Golden Fang.

Inherent Vice is the second collaboration between Anderson and actor Joaquin Phoenix and the former may have found his cinematic alter ego. Working together brings out the best in both of them with the actor delivering another excellent performance. He portrays Doc as a peaceful hippie P.I. content to coast through life surrounded by a cloud of pot smoke, but is thrust into a strange world when an ex-lover comes back into his life. He acts as our guide on this journey and the key to navigating the sometimes murky narrative waters is to never lose focus of the primary mystery: the disappearance of Shasta. Doc represents the peace-loving idealism of the ‘60s and who is confronted by all kinds of outlandish people that represent the aggressive excessiveness of the ‘70s.

Anderson populates Inherent Vice with a stellar cast of supporting actors that includes Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, and Martin Short, all of whom bring this collection of oddball characters vividly to life. Some may find the cavalcade of recognizable movie stars distracting but, on the contrary, they act as important signposts along the way to help us keep track of the numerous characters Doc encounters during his investigation.

Josh Brolin gets the most screen-time of the supporting cast as Bigfoot Bjornsen, a throwback to cops of the early ‘60s, complete with crew cut and deep loathing of hippies like Doc. Initially, Bigfoot starts off as Doc’s primary nemesis, but over the course of the film he reveals a frustration with his lot in life, displaying a grudging mutual respect. Brolin certainly has the imposing frame to play Bigfoot and wisely plays the role straight, which makes several of his scenes that much funnier because the uptight character is a product of a bygone era that clashes with the more easygoing Doc as much as the excessive culture of the ‘70s.

The trailers for Inherent Vice are misleading in the sense that they sell the film as some kind of madcap comedy and while there are some out-and-out funny scenes, like Martin Short’s cocaine-addicted dentist, there is a melancholic tone that permeates most of the film expanding on “The High Water Mark” speech Raoul Duke gives late in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) as he laments the death of ‘60s idealism. Inherent Vice even ends on a surprisingly emotional moment that is quite affecting. Instead of going for quick, comedic beats, Anderson applies the aesthetic he used in There Will Be Blood and The Master by breaking the film down into lengthy, dialogue-heavy scenes between Doc and one of the many people involved either directly or tangentially to Shasta’s disappearance, which may test the patience of some expecting the stylish zaniness of something like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While Terry Gilliam’s film reflected Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo sensibilities, so too does Inherent Vice reflect Pynchon’s peculiar sensibilities. Like the book, Anderson takes his time and lets you sink into Pynchon’s world, which is certainly not an experience for everyone.

Several reviews have compared Inherent Vice to Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998), but they are only similar on a very superficial level. Anderson’s film is its own thing – a shaggy dog journey through a corner of Pynchon’s universe that the filmmaker has brought faithfully and lovingly to life. Much like Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (2012), Inherent Vice is made by and for fans of Pynchon’s novel, which will leave the uninitiated out in the cold, struggling to follow a film that may seem like an incoherent mess, but is actually quite faithful to its source material with huge chunks of the author’s prose coming out of the characters’ mouths. You shouldn’t have to see a film more than once to “get it,” but there are some that reveal themselves in more detail and whose nuances are appreciated upon repeated viewings. This is such a film. As Pynchon himself once famously said in response to the complexity of his novel V., “Why should things be easy to understand?” The fact that one of Pynchon’s novels has been adapted into a film is quite a significant accomplishment. That it successfully translates his worldview is even more noteworthy.