During the latest episode of CinemAddicts, I expressed a few reservations about watching Scorched Earth. Upon first blush, the post-apocalyptic/Western mash-up seemed like a cheap B-movie that would end up as a huge waste of time.
The good news is that the film is directed by Peter Howitt, the director behind the excellent Gwyneth Patrow flick Sliding Doors, and Gina Carano, so memorable in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, serves as the lead. Along with Sliding Doors co-star John Hannah in the mix, the movie actually surpassed my low expectations.
Earth is now a wasteland where breathing clear air and drinking clean water is a luxury, as survivors need breathing masks and filtering systems simply to stay above ground. Attica Gage (Carano) is a no-nonsense bounty hunter who tracks down criminals simply for profit, refusing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Her biggest target is Jackson (a delightful, scenery chewing Ryan Robbins), a ruthless leader of cutthroats who’s lording over a fear ridden town. Attica eventually ingratiates herself into Jackson and his crew, hoping to find a moment to catch him off guard and compete her mission.
Hannah is Doc, Attica’s nurturing and sarcastic mentor who advises her not to steer clear of Jackson to no avail, and the story’s third act features the pair attempting to ride out of this destructive, one-horse town alive and kicking.
Howitt is clearly a fan of Westerns, and Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy is clearly an influence on this picture. Though it doesn’t have the narrative gravitas of a Leone flick, Scorched Earth has its share of solid action scenes (along with a refreshingly game Carano) to keep this boat afloat. As proven by Haywire and now Scorched Earth, Carano is more than capable of carrying her own film – hopefully there’s much more lead roles to come down the pike.
Scorched Earth, now playing in select theaters, is also available on Digital HD and On Demand.
Seen last month in the first rate suburban nightmare Mom and Dad, Nicolas Cage continues his run of excellent work with Looking Glass. Directed by River’s Edge filmmaker Tim Hunter, the feature centers on Ray and Maggie (Nicolas Cage, Robin Tunney) a dysfunctional couple who buy a motel that’s housed in a mysterious, and possibly dangerous, small town.
The motel has a crawlspace that connects all of the rooms in the motel, and thanks to double sided mirrors Ray is able to explore his voyeuristic tendencies. Ray’s thrills are short-lived after a murder takes place on the property, and a sheriff (Marc Blucas) believes Ray might be the number one suspect!
Cage is at his unhinged best with Looking Glass, and Tunney (just like Blair in Mom and Dad) proves she’s more than up to the task to verbally spar with the actor (their scenes together are electric). Hunter infused Looking Glass with a graphic comic book, B-movie style aesthetic, and that pulpy flavor absolutely works with Looking Glass. Coming out February 16 in theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD, Looking Glass is a must see for Cage fans and, more importantly, devotees to well executed, if not lurid, thrillers.
Other films discussed on CinemAddicts is the Rebecca Hall/Dan Stevens relationship drama Permission and the punk rock feature Bomb City. Both open February 9. Take a listen below to the latest episode of CinemAddicts!
As proven with Miss Sloane,Jessica Chastain proves that she’s at home with rapid fire dialogue, and now she teams up with the master of that aesthetic with Oscar winning scribe Aaron Sorkin. His feature directing debut Molly’s Game is the true story of how skier Molly Bloom (Chastain) became the operator of a high stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York. Also the author of a bestselling book based on her poker days, Bloom was also in trouble with the law, and Idris Elba co-stars as the lawyer who helps Bloom through the legal process. The picture features standout work from Chastain and hopefully she’ll be remembered come Oscar nominations time.
Also covered on the latest episode of CinemAddicts is Blame and American Folk, two indie January releases that also deliver Grade A narratives. Our divergent opinions on Call Me By Your Name (I loved it) is also covered on the show – take a listen below and feel free to comment!
In another era, John Hawkes (The Sessions, Four Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri) would be a leading man who’d line them up at the local movie theater. But this isn’t the age of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, or even Gene Hackman, and if one doesn’t have “movie star” looks that person plies his trade as a character actor .
But Hawkes is one example of how character actors often have more presence than the actual star of the project, and it’s great to see him front and center in Small Town Crime. Directed by brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms, the feature focuses on an ex-cop named Mike Kendall (Hawkes) who has turned his life into a living hell thanks to his alcoholism. Drinking like a fish on a daily basis, Mike often wakes up with no idea of his location, and his decision to go behind the wheel while drunk should irritate many a viewer.
Mike may have affection for his adopted sister (Octavia Spencer) and her husband (Anthony Anderson), who’s also his drinking buddy, but they can’t stop his downward spiral. Upon the discovery of a dying woman who’s abandoned on a deserted road, Mike immediately rushes her to the hospital but to no avail. Determined to find her killer in hopes of actually rejoining the force, Mike gradually becomes reengaged with life, proving that when halfway sober he’s actually a great detective. Daniel Sunjata and Michael Vartan play cops who don’t want Mike anywhere near the investigation, with Robert Forster and Clifton Collins Jr. helping Mike out as the victim’s father and an all too confrontational pimp. Caity Lotz (Legends of Tomorrow) also stars a prostitute who may be hiding a thing or two from Kendall.
Fans of such neo-noirs like Blood Simple, where the hard boiled crime is slightly tempered by comedic undertones, should gravitate towards Small Town Crime. Running a lean and mean 91 minutes, the effective thriller is powered by a charismatic and memorable performance by Hawkes. Credit goes to the directors for filling out their narrative with a talented ensemble, but unfortunately their ultimate purpose is to service the narrative’s top dog. That’s a minor quibble, as it’s great to see Hawkes anchor his own film for once, and the Nelms brothers prove they have no trouble delivering an engaging narrative.
Small Town Crime may not reach the big stakes level of some of its cinematic influences, but that’s just fine. If you didn’t already know Hawkes is a star, then Small Town Crime should lead you in the right direction.
The film hits select theaters and On Demand January 19.
By now, many have seen the trailers for Downsizing, the new Matt Damon film in which a number of the Earth’s population undergoes a process of miniaturization supposedly for the betterment of the world. But while the trailers do highlight some of the more humorous moments of the film, like Matt Damon, you should all get ready for the transition.
The Alexander Payne-directed film does suffer a bit from trying to figure out what it wants to be, much like its central character of Paul Safranek (Matt Damon). The film starts off as a bit of a light comedy with some social commentary as Safranek and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) struggle through their day-to-day life trying to make ends meet. Paul is a people pleaser, often going out of his way for others, and wanting to give his wife what he thinks she desires. Upon reconnecting with a college friend (Jason Sudeikis) who got “small,” Paul is intrigued by the fresh start it seems to have given him and he and Audrey investigate joining Leisureland, one of the top resort establishments where their paltry savings translates to a sizable windfall.
The “size” jokes are sly and the actual resizing process is an intriguing visual, but poor Paul hopes for the future he always wanted to give his wife are dashed when she has second thoughts at the last minute, leaving him miniaturized and she skirting off to her family and friends leaving him high and dry. But while the early portion of the film seemed light and bouncy, the remainder is more of a dramatic piece with Paul finding his place in a new world.
A downtrodden Paul spends his next year separating from his wife, moving from his luxurious house to an apartment, taking a miserable job in telemarketing after giving up his occupational therapist position in the real world and seemingly wandering adrift in his new world. But his loud and very frank upstairs neighbor Dusan (Christoph Waltz) takes Paul under his wing and introduces him to a new world. It is through this association with Dusan and a number of his associates that Paul begins to start his journey to understanding who he is within the changing world around him.
Dusan is a capitalist cad, finding the ways to exploit the downsized world, who also employs a Vietnamese activist named Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chou) who was imprisoned and downsized before losing her leg in a human trafficking operation. It’s Paul’s fascination with Ngoc that begins his transformation, first reclaiming a bit of his old self through assisting with her leg, and then being increasingly pulled into her orbit. Through his journey of self-discovery, Paul suffers a few highs and lows, but his hopefulness remains key to the film’s pacing and plot.
While there are light moments in Downsizing, it becomes more of a think piece, with Damon’s character thrust into situations we all may eventually face within our own lives. His journey is one worth following and one that will no doubt have the audience questioning how they would handle the same situations, which could be inevitable within our world. Downsizing is part comedy, part social commentary, part wake-up call for our future, which at times is uneven, but is fully worthy following. The film may not be for everyone, but it’s a movie that should make you think and have you talking upon leaving the theater.
The great news about this episode of CinemAddicts is there are a ton of great movies that are being reviewed. November featured the top releases Lady Bird and the transcendent Call Me By Your Name, and both films are covered on the show. Unfortunately, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which is receiving its share of excellent reviews, simply didn’t float my boat (it doesn’t reach the cinematic heights of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone).
Although there’s a formal review embargo on The Post, reactions to the film have been allowed. The bottom line is that this is Steven Spielberg’s strongest film in years (possibly since Munich) and features solid work from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The Post is this year’s frontrunner for Best Film, and don’t be surprised if Spielberg wins a Best Director Oscar.
Other films covered on the program include Molly’s Game, which features an A-list performance from Jessica Chastain. and two excellent Westerns (The Ballad of Lefty Brown, Hostiles). Check out the latest installment of CinemAddicts below!!