The Iceman is a film suited to Michael Shannon’s sensibilities as a man who masks hidden rage better than any other modern actor. It is the true story of Richard Kuklinski, a hit man for the mob who ultimately killed dozens and dozens of people while managing to carry on a family life with a wife and children who never knew his true identity. The mob elements are familiar, but The Iceman is not a film about organized crime so much as it is a strict character study about a psychopath, a serial killer who turned his evil desires into a profession. And as this picture is more character driven than focused on a plot, or the inner workings of mafia business, I cannot think of an actor I would rather watch in this role than the great Michael Shannon.
Author Larry Taylor
I could easily work my way through the plot of Die Hard in traditional review fashion, but is that what we really need at this point? Don’t we all know what happens in Die Hard? I would assume, if you weren’t at least aware of what the film is, essentially, you wouldn’t be reading material on film websites. I have decided to take a different approach and discuss what makes Die Hard the finest modern action picture of all time. Even as technology has advanced, nothing comes close to the power and cultural resonance in John McTiernan’s action opera. It is the first and, perhaps, the only true masterpiece of pure action. There are maybe a few others on either side of Die Hard that could fall under that heading, but none as withstanding as it has been. Even as sequels have been pushed out over the years – each varying in quality and purpose – the original Die Hard remains seminal.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints lends itself to a familiar cinematic tradition of young lovers skirting the law. In the vein of Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands, two masterpieces of doomed love, this new feature debut from writer/director David Lowery exists in a world we all know, in a setting we have seen before, and with characters whose motivations have been divulged in countless stories in films past. Maybe this set up is doing a disservice to the film, but I don’t think so. Familiarity is fine if it is done well, and done with performances that outweigh what is expected. That is the strength of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, acting that overshadows genre tropes, beauty in cinematography, and a score and soundtrack that separates the film from its predecessors. It isn’t better than the films which inspired it, but it is different.
There was no subtle message in District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 science fiction thriller that managed to grab a Best Picture nomination. Apartheid was front and center in the picture, made into an allegory with aliens, but the characters were loose and limber and the emotional pull of the story was undeniable. Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi allegory, Elysium, is just as heavy handed as District 9, functioning as an obvious comparison/indictment of immigration and health care, only it doesn’t have the advantage of being well thought out, emotional, or particularly engaging. Everything important this time around is rushed and wafer thin characters serve only to be thrust into action scenes. And while I do admit the action scenes are exciting and intensely violent at times, they aren’t enough to salvage the movie as a whole. They aren’t enough because, ironically, they are too much.
Sometimes a film has no higher hopes or aspirations than to just be entertaining. Not every film is the best, or the funniest, or the most complete, but those films that never set out to be anything other than what they are seem to function properly. 2 Guns is such a film, a whimsical, breezy action flick that is comfortable in its own skin. Nothing here is new, and it isn’t necessarily trying to be new; this is just a great example of a solid cast giving it their all and having some fun, and their fun shows on the screen. It also helps to mask the issues with the muddled plot, the clichés, and an ending that fizzles more than it pops.
Even though Meatballs had been released a few years earlier and Caddyshack was a sensation in 1980, Stripes was really the coming out party for a new team of comedy geniuses. It was the biggest hit for these new comedians at the time. The seventies belonged to the likes of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Gene Wilder; with Stripes, the country was introduced to the fresh new talents of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and director Ivan Retiman. This trio, with Dan Aykroyd, would take the 80s by storm, and Stripes was the jumping off point for Murray and Ramis to take the reins. It also manages to be a sort of reactionary satire of the state of the military in the early 80s, post Vietnam, when damage control was in full effect.
It’s hard to believe that Pacific Rim isn’t based on some previous medium. These days, the only big budget summer action blockbuster extravaganza to come around has to be adapted from a comic book, or a video game, or some previous avenue of pop culture. When I first looked into Guillermo Del Toro’s new actioner, my first questions were “how is the video game this came from?” Or “where is the graphic novel?” I was surprised, pleasantly, to find out there was no prior history to Pacific Rim; this was all original in a way. What a daring move by Warner Brothers, and what a sad state of affairs that this is a daring move at all. And while Pacific Rim is technically “original,” the bones of the picture are undoubtedly cobbled together through familiar stories. That doesn’t change the fact that it is a whole lot of fun, and a fresh new story to enjoy.
It’s never a good sign when a film is mired in all sorts of production chaos rumors, from bloated budgets to on-set feuds to reshoots and edits and delays and just collectively bad vibes. There is, more often than not, fire beneath that smoke. But if there were a film that could overcome such nasty rumors, I would have placed my bets on World War Z. After all, it stars Brad Pitt, is produced by his own company, Plan B, and has some thrilling advertisements. Pitt hits more often than he misses, and my faith was in his corner. I know this all sounds like a set up to say World War Z is terrible, but I’m not saying that exactly. It isn’t terrible. It just isn’t very good. Remember when you r mother would tell you “I’m not mad, just disappointed?” It feels a little like that.
Only when I sat down to try and rate the five best performances of Brad Pitt’s career did I realize how truly magnificent Pitt has been as an actor. Perhaps it is his larger-than-life celebrity, his matinee-idol looks, his tabloid marriages, or his stinkers along the way, the greatness of Brad Pitt as a pure actor feels overlooked when compared to his peers. This list grew daunting as I scanned his career and certain films that have been out of consciousness for years resurfaced for me. This list, of course, is not everyone’s list. But all things considered, these were the performances from Pitt that not only show off his greatest acting moments, but display the diversity of an actor many may not necessarily recognize as diverse.
In the not-so-distant future, crime is at an all-time low across America, unemployment is less than 1%, and the economy is stable and thriving. This is because one night every year, from 7pm to 7am, all crime has been made legal, from petty thievery all the way up to murder. This night is called “the purge”, mandated by government law as a means of release for citizens. An emergency broadcast alert even scrolls across the screen once the night of the purge begins. This is the basic premise of The Purge, the new film starring Ethan Hawke, a film which begins with a grand idea loaded with implications and discussion points, and decides to abandon all of this in favor of a home invasion thriller.