Indie Snapshot: Carnage

by Ethan Alter December 16, 2011 5:58 am
Indie Snapshot: <I>Carnage</i>

To borrow the title of the opening number from March of the Falsettos, Roman Polanski's new film Carnage could also be entitled Four A-Holes in a Room Bitching. An adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, the film unfolds in a single location in real time with an exceptional quartet of actors (Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly) circling each other like hungry sharks, biding their time before going in for the kill. Thanks to the cast's nuanced performances and Polanski's fluid camerawork, the movie never tips its hand too strongly towards its stagebound origins. By the time Carnage's 80 minutes are over, the space these characters share -- a sizeable Brooklyn apartment -- has practically become their (and our) whole world. Life may exist beyond its walls, but all that matters is what's taking place in that room.

Indie Snapshot: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

by Ethan Alter December 9, 2011 3:50 pm
Indie Snapshot: <i>Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy</i>

Originally published in 1974, John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is generally regarded as one of the author's finest books, as well as one of the most gripping and accurate depictions of the spy game ever committed to paper. It certainly serves as a striking contrast to the globe-trotting heroics of secret agents like James Bond and Jason Bourne. Le Carré's protagonist, veteran MI6 spook George Smiley, may not peel around corners in Aston Martins, challenge international criminals to heated games of baccarat or bed every woman in sight, but in his own quiet, methodical way, he always gets the job done.

Indie Snapshot: Shame and Coriolanus

by Ethan Alter December 2, 2011 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Shame</i> and <I>Coriolanus</i>

Don't let the NC-17 rating scare you off -- Shame is one of 2011's very best movies.

Indie Snapshot: Thanksgiving Round-Up

by Ethan Alter November 23, 2011 12:59 pm
Indie Snapshot: Thanksgiving Round-Up

Avoid the crowds at the multiplex by seeking out some of these independent films over the long holiday weekend:

The Descendants: Blue Hawaii

by Ethan Alter November 16, 2011 6:00 am
<i>The Descendants</i>: Blue Hawaii

Writer/director Alexander Payne, the darkly comic mind behind Election and Sideway, returns after a seven-year hiatus with The Descendants, which easily ranks as his most heartwarming feature to date. It's also his least provocative and prickly, but hey, we all get a little sentimental in our old age. And because this is the guy who made Election after all, his version of "sentimental" isn't the usual gooey Hollywood treacle like The Bucket List or The Help. The Descendants still has a certain bite to it, dwelling, as it does, on the characters' all-too-human foibles and frailties. It's the kind of movie where no one is beyond reproach... even the woman that's lying in the hospital in a coma from which she'll never wake up.

Indie Snapshot: The Rum Diary, The Double and The Other F Word

by Ethan Alter October 28, 2011 4:45 pm
Indie Snapshot: <i>The Rum Diary</i>, <i>The Double</i> and <i>The Other F Word</i>

Johnny Depp goes gonzo, Richard Gere sees double and rockers become fathers in this week's round-up of indie offerings.

Indie Snapshot: <i>Martha Marcy May Marlene</i>, <i>Margin Call</i> and <I>The Swell Season</i>

A young girl escapes from a cult, a Wall Street financial firm goes into meltdown and a charming real-life love story comes to an unhappy end in this weekend's batch of indie movies.

Puncture: Captain America, Attorney-At-Law?

by Ethan Alter September 23, 2011 4:24 pm
<i>Puncture</i>: Captain America, Attorney-At-Law?

Filmed before his starring role in Captain America: The First Avenger, but getting a belated theatrical release after that summer blockbuster raised his profile, the legal drama Puncture gives Chris Evans a chance to prove he can play more than just 'roided-up action heroes or the dreamy guy in rom-coms like The Nanny Diaries and next week's What's Your Number. For his part, Evans seizes the opportunity and runs with it, making the most of the role of flamboyant lawyer, Mike Weiss, whose brilliance in court is matched only by his bad behavior outside of it. Never one to turn down a line of cocaine or casual sex with random strangers (a hobby that costs him his marriage), Mike is a walking disaster area, but the chaos that is his personal life only serves to fuel his sharp legal mind. That's really the only reason his friend and business partner Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen, who also co-directed the film with his brother, Adam Kassen) hasn't dropped him from their struggling firm -- he may be a deeply flawed human being, but Mike is simply too good a lawyer to kick to curb.

Restless: Live Like You Were Dying

by Ethan Alter September 16, 2011 12:27 pm
<i>Restless</i>: Live Like You Were Dying

Since striking box-office gold with 1998's Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant has split his time between the kinds of small-scale indie experiments that launched his career (think titles like My Own Private Idaho, Gerry and Paranoid Park) and more mainstream fare pitched at a wide audience (Finding Forrester, Milk). His latest film, Restless, is a well-meaning, but wildly uneven attempt to offer moviegoers the best of both worlds. Written by novice screenwriter Jason Lew after apparent marathon viewings of Hal Ashby's 1971 classic Harold & Maude, the narrative follows the romance that blossoms between a pair of death-obsessed teenagers, Enoch (Henry Hopper, son of the recently deceased Dennis) and Annabel (Mia Wasikowska). Both of them have good reason to be fascinated by the great beyond: Enoch's parents were killed in a car crash that almost claimed his life as well. Annabel, meanwhile, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and, in the best case scenario, will only be walking and talking for three more months. In other words, this isn't the most convenient time for her to strike up a new relationship. Viewed another way though, maybe the timing is just right.

The Family Tree: Not An American Beauty

by Ethan Alter August 26, 2011 3:58 pm
<i>The Family Tree</i>: Not An American Beauty

Sam Mendes and Alan Ball's 1999 Oscar winner American Beauty has a lot of sins to answer for, one of which is the subsequent existence of movies like The Family Tree. Like its predecessor, this irritating "ain't the suburbs wacky?" dark comedy tells the story of a dysfunctional family that's made up of the tightly-wound, sex-obsessed fortysomething patriarch Jack (Dermot Mulroney), his bitchy wife Bunnie (Hope Davis) and their snarky adolescent daughter Kelly (Brittany Robertson). There's even a religious nut in the form of their teenage son Eric (Max Thieriot), who has recently found God and now spends much of his time shooting the shit (as well as a few firearms) with his pastor, Reverend Diggs (Keith Carridine). It's all so familiar that while watching the film, you may feel as if you stepped into a time machine that's transported you back to that pre-iPod, pre-Netflix era of the late '90s.

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