by J.D. Rhoades
This past weekend, I finally got around to seeing THE KILLER INSIDE ME, in which Casey Affleck starred as Jim Thompson’s sociopathic sheriff Lou Ford. Not only that, I got to see it on the brand spanking new Blu-Ray player I’d gotten for my birthday (thanks, hon!).
Seeing the movie reminded me that I’d written about it back in June as one of the films I’d been looking forward to seeing over the summer. Well, you know how it is. Best laid plans an all that. But I did end up seeing it, as well as most of the other ones on the list. I went back and looked at that June 2 post, just to see…how did my expecatations hold up?
What I said at the time: I didn’t think Affleck could pull off Patrick Kenzie in GONE BABY GONE, but damned if he didn’t do it, and I do love me some Jim Thompson. And it’s got Jessica Alba, apparently getting nekkid. So this one’s on my list.
Yes, Jessica does get nekkid, as does Kate Hudson, and they both get way kinky with Casey Affleck. It was a pretty faithful adaptation of Thompson’s book, which means it was dark, twisted, nasty, and one should not expect anything even close to a happy ending. Some of the violence was difficult to watch, but then, it was supposed to be. The people who decried the movie for its portrayal of violence against women were, I think, missing the point. Yes, it was ugly. Ford is an ugly character who does ugly things.
So how did I like it? Well, I reacted to it the way I do to Thompson on the page: I was horrified, but couldn’t look away. My only complaint was Affleck’s high, grating Texas twang, which came close to sounding whiny.
What I said at the time: Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I cannot wait for this movie. I don’t know anything about the director or any of the near-unknowns starring in it, but Daniel Woodrell’s book was as dark and brutal a slice of redneck noir as you’ll find anywhere. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as a light and frothy date movie.
This movie was freakin’ awesome, from the Oscar-worthy performances of Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, to the absolutely note-perfect re-creation of the lives of the desperate and dirt-poor in the rural South. No, definitely not a light and frothy date movie, but the distilled essence of redenck noir. Riveting.
What I said at the time: Why? Why does this this movie exist? What was wrong with the original (the only movie to star two future state governors) that someone felt it needed to be remade? Is there any way Adrian Brody can pull off deathless lines like “If eet bleeds, ve can kill eet” and “GET TO DA CHOPPAAAH!” with the same panache as the Governator? We think not.
Okay, Adrian Brody’s no Ahnuld, and no one in the band of killers dropped onto the Predator Planet to provide sport for the dreadlocked aliens possesses the sheer badassery of Jesse Ventura or even Bill Duke (although the always wonderful Danny Trejo comes close, he’s out of the move far too soon). No fall-on-the-floor funny lines like the ones in the original, although there are some sly references to other movies sprinkled throughout. Still, all in all, a decent action flick, and better than I expected.
What I said at the time: Looks an awful lot like a rip-off of the 1982 film MY FAVORITE YEAR, another movie about a hapless underling trying to keep a wacked out, substance-abusing star together long enough to make the big show. Russell Brand plays the Peter O’Toole role in the update, and while Brand’s no O’Toole, he’s still pretty damn funny, as is Jonah Hill. A definite maybe.
I laughed. Sometimes I laughed hard. The leads did not disappoint, and some of the send-ups of rock-star excess were a scream, like Brand’s disastrous “African Child” video, which one magazine called “the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid.” And who the hell knew that Sean Combs/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/whatever could be so funny? I walked around for days singing “stroke the furry wall…”
What I said at the time: How could this possibly go wrong? Well, plenty of ways actually. It could be a mess. It could also be the most brain-meltingly awesome movie ever. I have got to be there to find out.
Not a disaster, but not brain-meltingly awesome, either. Mostly Stallone, with a little Statham, while the other action stars weren’t’ really given enough chance to shine, especially Jet li, who was just wasted here. Competent, but disappointing considering its potential.
So what have you read/seen/listened to in the past few months that either exceeded or disappointed your expectations?
I'd heard a lot about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, everyone recommended it to me, but, for some reason, I thought it was blah. I never read the books. Then, I watched the movie, and OMGWOW! I was absolutely fascinated! Impressed! Addicted! It was the best movie I've seen in years and it's just so… deep and insightful and psychotic and Lisbeth Salander is all a character should be and a million things more. I still need to read the books — I liked the two first movies so much, I can't bring myself to read them, scared it'll ruin the movies for me, but I know I should — and I will, eventually.
Disappointed? The Social Network. Everyone spoke so highly of the movie, as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. And I thought it was a complete average movie. Nothing exceptional about it. Just extremely overrated. I sure as heck hope it doesn't win the Oscar.
Completely agree about WINTER'S BONE. Saw it, love it, raved & raved to everyone. I found that if people were prepared for a movie set in a place (the Ozarks) rarely seen on film, about a young woman who struggles to save her family, others loved it, too. People who weren't prepared were a) confused b)hated — it like the women I overheard in the ladies' room line.
My other favorite movie not mentioned here is FROZEN RIVER. It's set in upper NYS or maybe Maine & it's about a financially-struggling single mother who in association with an Inuit (?) woman, smuggles illegal aliens into the US when the river separating the 2 countries freezes. The job is dangerous, the two women don't trust each other, some of the illegals resent having to depend on — erk! — women. The film looks great, cold & frozen, & the performances stand out…Melissa Leo!
THE KING'S SPEECH is well-done but a by-the-numbers audience pleaser. Won't harm you, not toxic. It does the job, but that's about all. The performances, btw, are very good.
Just want to comment on The Expendables, which was both better and worse than I expected. I'm with you on the Jet Li comment totally. And I'll expand on it by saying to Stallone as a director, if you've got one of, if not THE best martial arts actors in the planet in your film, when you actually DO decide to give him something to do, don't use so many quick-cut edits that the viewer can't see what he's doing. Did you do that because Dolph Lundgren can't act OR fight? If you want an example of how to take a couple great martial artist actors, let them do their thing and NOT screw it up, go watch the fight scene in The Forbidden Kingdom in the temple between Jet Li and Jackie Chan.
Just finished reading Robert Crais' THE SENTRY and Tess' THE SINNER (catching up on the Rizzoli & Isles series) Both were as great as I expected.
As for movies lately — my mother taught me "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
As for TV, this season's V has gotten much better and I am looking forward to the 2nd season premiere of JUSTIFIED starting tonight on FX.
Fun post, JD. Thanks
Interesting to see pre and post views like that, JD, especially from a professional film screenwriter and journalist who has straddled both worlds the past 10 years or so. I adore the original "Predator", everything an action flick should be and enjoyed "Predators". Classy look, interesting characters and enough action to keep me entertained. Who knew Brody could pull that off.
Itching to see "Winter's Bone" after you write up and thanks to seeing "Frozen River" finally like Ruth recently. In terms of movies that have stoked my fire here in the UK, I would recommend "Monsters" (brave UK sci-fi effort), "Splice" (more Brody and my Atom Egoyan fave Sarah Polley) and "The Way Back" (another epic film from Peter Weir, great cast).
Can't wait to see "The Town", "Get Low", "Barney's Version" and "Unstoppable" on DVD, although latter would have been great on the big screen if I had got my behind in gear to watch it.
Keep 'em coming, JD, fun column.
PS. Interested to hear if anyone has seen "Hereafter". Interviewed the screenwriter Peter Morgan and he had mixed emotions about it as Clint basically shot his first draft.
There's a book, "Blind Your Ponies," by Stanley Gordon West, that glued me to my chair. I opened it expecting to read about a part of the country I don't know much about (Montana). Instead, a great cast of characters picked me up and took me there. It's a story built around basketball, but so much more. I'd anticipated a good read but never expected that the characters would live on with me weeks and months after I read the last page. It's so wonderful when a book does that!
Of all of those, I've only seen a few minutes of The Killer Inside Me, but was not compelled to watch further (time and mood being the culprits, not the movie), and The Expendables.
I really enjoyed The Expendables. More than I should have. It had no story. But it was a lot of fun. I also watched a behind the scenes documentary about he making of the movies — an hour and a half-long documentary — and it was fascinating and inspiring to see how Stallone really threw himself into writing, directing and starring in this movie, and how hard he worked, even through major injuries, to get it finished. It actually made me really respect the guy.
Barbie, I've got GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO on the Netflix queue (along with the 2 sequels). I just haven't been a able to schedule the time to watch them yet. I'll make it more of a priority. And I still can't muster p enough enthusiasm for a movie about Facebook to watch THE SOCIAL NETWORK.
I almost never watch mainstream animated movies, really go out of my way to avoid them, so it means a bit more when I say this – HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON is a wonderful surprise, smart and charming and funny and poignant.
Ruth, just put FROZEN RIVER on the list. Looks interesting. And yes…Melissa Leo!
Mark, that habit of using "so many quick cut edits that the viewer can't tell what he's doing" seems to be an epidemic in action movies these days. And I totally agree with you on THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.
Totally forgot to mention CAIRO TIME, a small unheralded movie, with Patricia Clarkson. She plays an American magazine editor who goes to Cairo where she plans to meet her diplomat husband for a vacation. Negotiations keep him in Gaza unexpectedly so he sends an Egyptian colleague to show her around Cairo until he gets there. The movie is about the relationship between PC and the Egyptian (a very attractive Arab actor whose name I don't know). And, no, they don't rip their clothes off and immediately fall into bed. Instead the film is an examination of two relationships: the one between the man and the woman; the other between PC and the city of Cairo. She is at first somewhat put off but then, she begins to see what she hasn't seen — and appreciated or feared –before. I found CAIRO TIME subtle, interesting and quite beautifully shot. It's a quiet, thoughtful film so don't expect suicide bombers or muslim fundamentalists.
Glad I'm not alone in my love of GET HIM TO THE GREEK. In contrast, I was terrible disappointed in the Green Hornet, which I thought would provide a similar level of fun but was basically a big mess.
I thought THE TOWN exceeded expectations and have been surprised not to see it nominated for more of the important awards. Maybe the powers that be just don't think Ben Affleck has earned his way out of that Gigli hole yet.
Man my Netflix queue is getting longer and longer…
And yes, I thought THE TOWN was really good. Just the right mix of emotion, good performances, and stuff blowing up.
I agree with The Killer Inside Me. It wasn't pleasant, but it certainly was compelling. I loved Winter's Bone for the acting and the production, and for showing us a part of the country so different from most of ours. I liked Frozen River again for the acting. I also watched a "small" movie called Stealing Beauty by Bernardo Bertolucci, and starring Liv Tyler and Jeremy Irons. Quiet, slow, and planted me in the Tuscan countryside for days. I guess there is something inside that calls for depth. I also think that Casey Affleck is more interesting as an actor whereas as Ben really shines as a director. Interesting post.
I usually avoid books about Salem, being born there and overly sensitive that I am, to the witchcraft trials. I was born there and living either there or in nearby towns while growing up. Probably didn't help having two Langlois ancestors who were tried and jailed for witchcraft, either… okay, well anyway. I wasn't going to read Brunonia Barry's THE LACE READER until I read that it was also set in Marblehead, a place I love and want to move back to some day. I was sold on the setting – silly me – but sooooo very glad that I was interested enough to read a sample chapter. It was wonderful – and so very different! I love that book and I'm looking forward to reading her others.
Sorry – late to the party as always.
Only thing we've seen at the cinema recently has been RED, which we loved in a low-brow kind of way. Dame Helen Mirren as a retired hitwoman who now spends her time flower arranging was just wonderful, even if the Bruce Willis cradle-snatching romance angle was ever so slightly creepy.
Best thing on DVD? UNLEASHED (also called DANNY THE DOG) with Jet Li, Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman. Bought it as part of a three-disc set with two other movies we wanted, and watched it out of curiosity. A FAR better film than I was expecting, not just because of Jet Li's martial arts prowess, but some real emotional pull.