Lawless: Your Burning Questions Answered

by Ethan Alter August 29, 2012 10:46 am
<i>Lawless</i>: Your Burning Questions Answered

At the tail end of last summer, The Weinstein Company made a bet that adult audiences weary of sequels, comic-book movies and other blockbuster fare would turn out for a straight-up, grown-up thriller distinguished by a cast of respected character actors and a historical hook. That movie was The Debt -- which told the story of a group of retired Israeli Mossad agents who flash back to an operation from the '60s that changed all of their lives -- and it wound up doing solid business, solid enough that the Weinsteins are pulling the same late-summer counterprogramming stunt today with Lawless, a Prohibition-era crime thriller about a trio of bootlegging brothers in Virginia who refuse to bend to the new law of the land or the crooked businessmen who want in on their operation. Directed by critical darling John Hillcoat (best known for the Down Under Western The Proposition) and featuring a heavy-hitting ensemble that includes Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain (who also appeared in The Debt), Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman and... um, Shia LaBeouf, Lawless certainly has the pedigree to be this summer's token prestige picture, but is the whole as great as the sum of its parts? I'll answer that -- and more of your burning questions -- below.

American Hustle: Do the Hustle

by Ethan Alter December 13, 2013 9:31 am
<i>American Hustle</i>: Do the Hustle

Ever since his sophomore feature Flirting with Disaster, I've been rooting for David O. Russell to score a big, fat commercial hit. (I also enjoyed his debut, Spanking the Monkey, but a dark comedy about incest is never going to be Top 10 box office material.) But when the writer/director finally achieved that goal with last year's Silver Linings Playbook, I found myself in the odd position of feeling happy for him while also being disappointed that it wasn't for a better movie. (Granted, The Fighter earned a fistful of dollars as well, but it didn't join the same financial weight class as its successor.)

The Hunger Games – Catching Fire: Now This Is More Like It

by Ethan Alter November 21, 2013 11:55 pm
<i>The Hunger Games – Catching Fire</i>: Now <i>This</i> Is More Like It

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire instantly goes on the short list of sequels that not only surpass the original film, but the source material as well. (For the record, I'd also put the second James Bond outing From Russia with Love and Peter Jackson's thrilling distillation of The Two Towers in that rarefied air.)

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

by Ethan Alter April 30, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"So Jennifer... how much does an Oscar weigh, anyway?"

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

by Ethan Alter April 2, 2013 8:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why bother with other new release when you can just revisit the Marvel Cinematic Universe one more time?

Indie Snapshot: Struck By Lightning

by Ethan Alter January 11, 2013 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Struck By Lightning</i>

Glee's resident nice kid gets darker in the indie comedy Struck By Lightning. Also, our takes on Quartet, Fairhaven and The Baytown Outlaws.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

by Ethan Alter November 27, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Men in Black are back... and nobody cares.

Anna Karenina: Train in Vain

by Ethan Alter November 16, 2012 4:06 pm
<i>Anna Karenina</i>: Train in Vain

As with any new cinematic adaptation of a frequently-filmed Great Novel, the biggest challenge facing the makers of Anna Karenina -- the umpteenth film to be derived from Leo Tolstoy's enduring 19th century romance -- is convincing moviegoers that they really need to see the same story told again. Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard's method of persuasion is to inject a surfeit of audacious theatricality into a novel that modern audiences might consider stodgy and old-fashioned (wrongly, of course, but that's a separate issue). In their conceit, the woeful tale of the titular Russian socialite (played by Keira Knightley, in her third collaboration with Wright) plays out within the confines of a period-appropriate theater, which constantly morphs and changes to become its own world. The motivating idea seems to be that since Anna's tragic story unfolds on a very public stage, the other characters function as both players in -- and spectators to -- her downfall. It's an intriguing approach that's executed with impressive showmanship, but it also inadvertently misses what's at the core of the book: passion.

Silver Linings Playbook: Crazy For You

by Ethan Alter November 16, 2012 11:35 am
<i>Silver Linings Playbook</i>: Crazy For You

Eighteen years and five films into his career, writer/director David O. Russell has yet to make a bad movie, but in the first 15 minutes of his sixth completed feature Silver Linings Playbook (which is based on the book by Matthew Quick), he comes pretty damn close. The film begins with the not-so-triumphant homecoming of Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper), a Philly-based high-school history teacher recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For the past eight months, Pat's been cooling his heels in an institution, where he was sentenced after beating the guy his wife was sleeping with to a pulp. Convinced that being in familiar surroundings would aid in his recovery, his mother Delores (Jacki Weaver) secures his release under the proviso that he'll move back in with her and his father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro). It's a nice thought, but the Solatano household isn't what you'd call a stress-free atmosphere; Dad's got a gambling habit (and a touch of OCD) while Mom is mostly an enabler. Both also have a penchant for bellowing at the top of their lungs, a trait that their son shares. Indeed, the opening act of Silver Linings Playbook is filled with so much yelling and screaming and carrying-on, it's like being trapped at a particularly noxious Thanksgiving dinner... the kind that makes the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade seem like a model of peace and quiet.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

by Ethan Alter November 13, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meet the real housewives of Drug Cartel County.

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