In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply pointed stories about women's lives. So this drama weaves together three narratives with distinct female perspectives. Based on short stories by Maile Meloy, these tales only barely intersect, but they echo similar themes in a striking rural Montana setting.
In the central story, Beth (Kristen Stewart) is a young lawyer who drives four hours twice a week to teach a night class, where she develops a fan in a young rancher (Lily Gladstone) who has a secret crush on her. Meanwhile, Laura (Laura Dern) is another lawyer representing an injured worker (Jared Harris) who took a small financial settlement before learning that he would never physically recover. And then there's Gina (Michelle Williams), who is building a home in a gorgeous location with her strained husband (James Le Gros) and surly teen daughter (Sara Rodier). They need a pile of old sandstone that has been sitting for some 50 years next to the home of a man (Rene Aberjonois) everyone's afraid to talk to.
All of this is set against Montana's big-sky landscapes, sumptuously captured on-screen by cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt. Everything is crisp and wintry, and Reichardt cleverly designs the film in a simplistic, insightful way that quietly focusses on unspoken interaction between the characters. Yes, much of this movie is completely silent, as these women consider the realities of their lives. This of course allows the actresses to make the most of their characters, adding weight and depth to each scene, often without saying a word.
Continue reading: Certain Women Review
Clearly drawing heavily on films like John Carpenter's The Thing as inspiration, Fessenden builds his characters from the ground up before hurling them to the wolves. He's helped by a cast that's sharp as a tack, particularly the roaring and bear-like Ron Perlman as Ed Pollack, an oil company operative gung-ho on getting machinery up to their station as quick as possible, by any means necessary, and screw the environment. Facing him are a couple of "green flags" -- one of whom is the gloomy notebook scribbler, scientist James Hoffman, played close to the vest by the always reliable James LeGros -- environmental do-gooders hired by the company as sort of eco-fig leaves whom they want to pressure to sign off on impact statements so the drilling can begin. In between are Abby Sellers (Connie Britton), a tough-as-nails type caught in a love triangle, the dazed and confused mechanic Motor (Kevin Corrigan, nailing it), and their Native American cook Dawn Russell (singer Joanne Shenandoah).
Continue reading: The Last Winter Review
Julianne Moore, who has kept her talent for comedy a secret, plays Rebecca, a successful (if neurotic) actress who spends much of her time spurning advances from her bored, sex-addicted stay-at-home husband, Tom (David Duchovny). Tom's best friend is Rebecca's younger brother Tobey (Billy Crudup, ditto on the keen and heretofore hidden comedy prowess), a slacker freelance writer who is far more preoccupied with his therapist, his parking spot, and his own mortality than he is with the mounting frustration of longtime girlfriend Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an aspiring children's book author with a ticking biological clock.
Continue reading: Trust The Man Review
The story is your basic high-concept Hollywood action premise. Utah is a young, eager FBI agent assigned to the Los Angeles bank robbery task force. His crusty veteran partner, Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), has been trying for years to bring down a highly professional crew of bank robbers called the Ex-Presidents (known as such because they disguise themselves with novelty masks of former presidents during their robberies). Despite the ridicule of his colleagues, Pappas has long held the belief that the Ex-Presidents are surfers who use the robbery money to fund their presumably lavish lifestyle. So, with nothing else to go on, Pappas and Utah come up with the plan that Utah will go undercover as a surfer in order to infiltrate the beach-loving subculture and bring down the Ex-Presidents.
Continue reading: Point Break Review
She's a cute tomboy named Maddy (Kristen Stewart, Panic Room), a determined mountain climber-in-training who idolizes her dad (Sam Robards) and helps her overworked mom (Jennifer Beals). She's got two pint-sized buddies: Gus (Max Thieriot), a mini-Mr. Fix-It who loves go-karts and really digs Maddy, and Austin (Corbin Bleu), a crack technology whiz who also really digs Maddy.
Continue reading: Catch That Kid Review
Well, the lackluster Groove eventually made a little over a million dollars at theaters, despite a crush of marketing and hype. (Blair Witch earned $140 million in the U.S.) And Harrison slipped back into obscurity.
Continue reading: November Review
Employing feverish flashes of iconic imagery to unsettlingeffect (as Aronofsky did in "Pi" and "Requiemfor a Dream"), director Greg Harrison buildsa non-linear storyline (like Lynch's "Lost Highway" and "MulhollandDrive") of seemingly conflicting memoriesthat keeps circling back to that fateful day, its events taking differentshapes each time.
Played with frazzled intensity by Courtney Cox-Arquette,the woman is an art-school photography teacher whose world turns disorientinglycold, foggy, gray, loud and claustrophobic (kudos to cinematographer NancySchreiber and composer Lew Baldwin) as she copes with grief and guilt thatseem to manifest in headaches, stomach pains and fainting spells.
But her reality -- or perhaps just her perception of it-- really begins to twist when a mysterious photo taken outside the storeon the night of the murder turns up in her slide carousel during a classlecture. Then her TV begins inexplicably broadcasting security-camera footagefrom the night of the shootings.
Continue reading: November Review
In the 1996 modest and little-seen relationship comedy delight "Walking and Talking," writer-director Nicole Holofcener demonstrated a preternatural knack for capturing the bonds between women with her candid and vicarious style of emotion honesty and funny, true-to-life dialogue. But her second independent film, "Lovely and Amazing," fails to find the same spark as it eavesdrops on a family of gratingly neurotic and insecure women.
Sad-eyed Brenda Blethyn, a specialist at screwed-up moms ("Little Voice," "Secrets and Lies"), is the emotionally messy matriarch, who spends most of the movie in the hospital due to complications from liposuction surgery. Doped up on painkillers and more depressed than usual (in part because her flirtations with her plastic surgeon aren't getting anywhere), she still has complaints about her daughters at the ready.
"One's really f**ked up," she tells the doctor, "and the other one isn't married."
Continue reading: Lovely & Amazing Review
It may be an adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most famous dramas, but "Scotland, PA" is anything but deadly serious. It's deliriously funny, fast and loose, accessible to the uninitiated, and full of surprises.
Who'd have thought murder and madness of "Macbeth" could become a black comedy set in a 1970s fast food diner? Who'd have imagined the three witches, who open the play with their ominous predictions, as pothead hippies with a Magic 8-Ball? Or Macduff, the general who swears revenge for his king's murder, as a police lieutenant played with deadpan delight by Christopher Walken? Who could have imagined TV sweetheart Maura Tierney ("Newsradio," "E.R.") would make such a deliciously conniving, yet sympathetically human, bitch-on-wheels Lady Macbeth?
Oh, pardon me. That would be Pat McBeth, wife of the most under-appreciated burger flipper at Duncan's Diner. Joe McBeth (James LeGros) -- "Mac" to his friends -- is a wage slave schmoe with what he thinks is a great lifetime ambition: To pitch his "revolutionary" vision of opening a drive-through window to his boss, who will be so impressed that he'll make Mac his new manager.
Continue reading: Scotland, Pa Review
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