Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie Review: "The Town"

5. "The Town", based on the novel by Chuck Hogan, is a terrific, taunt thriller that proves Ben Affleck has a lot more to contribute to movies than being a punchline ("Gigli" notwithstanding) and Jon Hamm is far more than the maddest of "Mad Men," Don Draper.

4. Doug MacRay (Affleck), a native of Boston's  Charlestown neighborhood the alleged bank robber capital of the world, falls in love with Claire (Rebecca Hall) the manager of a bank he and his psychotic pal (Jeremy Renner) knock over to open the film.

3. MacRay and his crew come into the cross hairs of FBI Agent Adam Frawley (Hamm), who is more disheveled than Hamm's signature Don Draper, but no less intense, confident and capable.

2. "The Town" brings plenty of breakneck action sequences — including the best-filmed close-quarters urban car chase I've ever seen — and director Affleck coaxes believable, smart and edgy performances out of Pete Posthlethwaite (as a creepy gangster flourist). Hamm, Hall, Renner  and perhaps especially himself.

1. Maybe the most interesting thing about the town is that you don't have to pick a side: Both MacRay and Frawley are equally likable and relatable in their own way and the strength of the film is not the inevitable collision between their characters but the chase in between.

"The Town"
Run time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Rated R‎‎ 
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively and Pete Postlethwaite
Finney's Flicks Grade: A

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie Review: "The American"

5. George Clooney does his Steve McQueen impression in "The American," playing a strong, silent type with a tough job and many loves.

4. Clooney has had enough of his job as an international weapons maker and dealer, a role that recalls McQueen's best work in "Bullitt" and the sparseness of dialogue in "Le Mans."

3. This isn't to imply "The American" is unoriginal or even an homage, but rather poured of a prime vintage — a recall of classic thrillers driven by believable action and the smoldering intensity of a leading man who has little patience for emotional diatribes or overt romantic sentiment.

2. "The American" drags a bit despite a tight 105-minute run time but much credit goes to Clooney who makes the most of his frames without the benefit of exposition.

1. In fact, this is Clooney's best work since "Michael Clayton" and a worthy segue from summer shoot-em-ups to the fall's Oscar hopefuls.

"The American"
 Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Rated R
Genre: Suspense-Thriller-Drama
Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli
Finney's Flicks Grade: B

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Movie Review: "Machete"

5. Fittingly released on Labor Day weekend, “Machete” represents the last of the summer movie dandelion wine and in a summer full of misfires and disappointments it comes tepid, flat and without much flavor.

4. The problem with “Machete” isn’t that it’s a bad movie, it’s that it’s not good at being bad in the way it wants to be.

3. The movie cheats on the promised gore, often quickly cutting away instead of really savoring the bloodlust a la "Dead Alive,” and though the film delivers some quality female nudity and a few laughs (most of which I think were intentional), it’s not quite bad enough to be good.

2. Nobody at the Academy planned to carve any Best Actor or Best Actress statues for “Machete,” but even Robert DeNiro is crummy and annoying in this flick.

1. If nothing else, “Machete” proves looks aren’t everything — the phony trailer that inspired this turn looked good but the finished product wasn’t, Jessica Alba looks good but can’t act and Danny Trejo may have one of Hollywood’s best faces but he’s a step down from Alba in acting.

Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Rated R‎‎
Genre: Action-Adventure‎
Director: Ethan Maniquis
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez amd Lindsay Lohan
Finney's Flicks Grade: C-

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Movie Review: "Get Low"

5. "Get Low" is a character sketch and as such, did well to cast two actors who are the embodiment of characters: Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.

4. Duvall plays crotchety recluse Felix Bush, and man who wants Murray's funeral director Frank Quinn, to throw him the biggest funeral in Tennessee history -- while he's still alive.

3. This sounds like a zany setup, but instead but becomes a study of a man's mettle -- the darkness in Bush's soul, the tension between greed and survival inside Quinn and a meditation on the nature of forgiveness and redemption.

2. "Get Low" also benefits from the sublime efforts of supporting cast, including Sissy Spacek as Quinn's jilted former lover, Lucas Black as Quinn's earnest apprentice, Gerald McRaney's local preacher, Bill Cobb as Bush's last -- and perhaps only -- friend in this world and a terrific soundtrack of 1930s period music.

1. Duvall, though, is the centerpiece and delivers one of the finest performances in a career studded with all-star appearances.
"Get Low"
Run time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Rated PG-13
Genre: Drama
Director: Aaron Schneider
Cast: Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, Bill Cobbs
Finney's Flicks Grade: A

Movie Review: "Winter's Bone"

5. "Winter's Bone" is set in poorest encampments of Missouri's Ozark mountains, but it may be set in Afghanistan for this is not the America most audiences know.

4. This is a bleak, washed-out and chilly encampment on the very furthest fringes of civilization with it's own language and law.

3. Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), the 17-year-old caretaker to her addled mother and two younger siblings, learns her father put the family's shanty up as collateral for his bail on methamphetamine cooking charges and the sheriff informs her that daddy is missing and foreclosure is imminent by the bail bond company.

2. Ree searches for her father and seeks the aid from his meth-making and dealing cohorts, who are also her uncles, aunts and cousins, and faces a familial Catch-22 -- does she surrender her home and watch her family split apart or risk her own death to find her father?

1. "Bone" leaves the viewer with a bone-deep chill that reminds us there are reasons we don't wander into the hills unattended nor ask too many questions of strangers and also provides one of the most compelling watches of 2010.
"Winter's Bone"
Run time: 1 hour, 40 min‎‎utes
Rated R‎‎
Director: Debra Granik
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Kevin Breznahan, Isaiah Stone
Finney's Flicks Grade: A+

Movie Review: "Restrepo"

5. The most telling scene of the powerful Afghanistan war documentary "Restrepo" comes not on the battlefield but outside a small, rickety house when an overburdened U.S. Army officer attempts to talk to elders about wheat and rice crops and modern farm equipment the government wants to bring to the dusty mountain village.

4. The officer talks about the riches that will flow into the village with millions of dollars in modern farm equipment, roads and education that will benefit the poor, war-torn region.

3. The elders, however, are not interested in that: They are upset with the soldiers because they euthanized a cow that got tangled in razor wire near an Army outpost.

2. The Army offers to replace the cow or pay for it by giving the aggrieved tribesman the weight of the animal in rice and beans, but the tribesman want money, about $500, which the Army won't surrender for fear the locals will use it to buy guns or drugs.

1. And so goes America's 21st century war: Her soldiers desperately trying to pass along the riches of a modern society to a primitive culture who just want to know what will be done about their dead cow.

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Rated R
Genre: Documentary
Directors: Tim Heherington and Sebastian Junger
Cast: Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne) of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
Finney's Flicks Grade: A

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