Review: Triple 9

“The monster has gone digital,” warns Woody Harrelson in a fashion that only Mr. Harrelson can. As bedraggled detective cleaning up the mess of a bank manager whose vault was just not only breached in a daylight heist, but documents of his families whereabouts are left behind by the thieves as a threat. Triple 9 is a gritty fusion of the dirty cop drama, and the ‘one last job’ thriller. Mostly it feels like the last hurrah of the ensemble heist film. With GPS, closed circuit cameras, and other omnipresent technologies, pulling off a smash-and-grab bank job seems as foolish as grabbing a few strapped stacks on impulse on the way out the door only to find them loaded with dye packs.

John Hillcoat, the hard-boiled Australian behind gritty outback western The Proposition, apocalyptic father-son survival tale The Road, and family bootlegger drama, Lawless, is determined to make his audience wallow in the complex cesspool of crime and law-enforcement of inner city Atlanta. The gangs are bad, at one point a trio of severed heads sit idly on the hood of a classic automobile, but the militarized police force is worse. Hillcoat has always been interested in the messy outcomes of complex (and not so complex) masculinity, and he has a fine ensemble of bold character actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr. and Norman Reedus, a squad consisting of active and ex-police and marines who are in deep with, of all things, an orthodox Jewish faction of Russian mafia.

Sporting Star-of-David bling and exceptionally big hair, Kate Winslet’s thickly accented Irina Vlaslov is tougher than any of these compromised men as she tightens the screws on in a way that is reminiscent of Kristin Scott-Thompson’s angry-icicle matron in Only God Forgives. She has leverage on these men in a manner too convoluted to get into here, but suffice it to say that the strength of Triple 9 is that of a pot-boiler par excellence. As the plot vacillates between criminal brotherhood and domestic drama, neither in great detail, there is nevertheless an undertow towards finding out what is going to happen next.

As Harrelson’s pot-smoking, half-drunk super-cop offers advice and sniffs the air for the schemes of dirty cops, Ejoifor tries to get his Ex (a wasted Gal Gadot) to share custody of their son, and Paul continues to break bad, it is Casey Affleck who quietly steals the film as a rookie cop that is somehow both naive and world-weary (welcome to the 21st century folks.) In a different film, Affleck would be front and centre, here he blends into the background until he does not, his performance is a coup of sorts, a combination of acting talent, and directional choices.

There are some who might suggest that this would all work better in the ubiquitous long-form TV format, but I disagree. Sometimes there is a case to be made for a smaller dose of something. Triple 9’s familiar, yet akimbo, clusterfuck of organizations and individuals (with a dash of geopolitics?) has just enough visual panache – a grimy 35mm aesthetic with occasional splotches of bright pink – combined with its ensemble of abundance to pass muster as termite art. It is the kind of adult entertainment, along with the far more thoroughbred Sicario and far, far more abstruse The Counselor, that has been on the endangered species list from movie studios for some time. It is well worth spotting these rare beasts in the wild before they are gone.

Trailer #2 for John Hillcoat’s Triple 9

Here is faster paced, more plot and character heavy UK trailer for the increasingly awesome looking new John Hillcoat picture, Triple 9. A collection of corrupt cops attempt a massive heist, and to distract the rest of the cities branches of law enforcement, they plan to murder one of their fellow officers to create a ‘999’ call which would have most of the police in the city converge in a location as far away the robbery as possible. Featuring the very well stocked cast of Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and Kate Winslet.

Triple 9 hits US theatres in February 2016, and apparently the European market will get a chance to see it as well, albeit no release date is indicated in the trailer.

Trailer: Triple 9

This little slice of nastiness from John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road), a director who knows his way around balancing bleak and heart, looks to be pushing the envelope of Sicario and Training Day as far as it can go.

Triple 9 has elements of the militarization of police, the war of attrition with crime and violence (severed heads abound), and everyone thrown into the blender. Props to whoever came up with the kids ‘this little piggie’ to score this trailer, because it is damn effective with the imagery on display.

The cast is beyond stacked: Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and somewhere in there is Kate Winslet. All stuck in John Hillcoat’s murky grime. I cannot wait to wade into this urban warzone in February 2016.

Cinecast Episode 298 – An Unorthodox Fishing Method

 
Watch List! Watch List! Watch List! Andrew, Kurt & Matt get together to talk a wide gamut of film watching: John Dies at the End, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Proposition, Dazed & Confused, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, and several more. The show has long tangents on the career of Don Coscarelli, Stephen Baldwin’s sordid resume and the Justice system from Damien Echols to Jeffrey MacDonald to Matt’s Uncle.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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Review: Lawless

Director: John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road)
Screenplay: Nick Cave (The Proposition)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min


I don’t think that this is the film that John Hillcoat or Nick Cave wanted. That’s not to say that Lawless is bad – far from it. In fact, I’d say that there are quite a few moments of brilliance, which is to be expected considering the enormous talent involved. Yet, just like the title was altered from The Wettest County in the World to The Promised Land to The Wettest County to, finally, Lawless, one gets the sense that producers had a hand in more than simply a title change.

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Friday One Sheet: Guns and Pinstripes (Lawless)

A series of character posters for John Hillcoat’s period gangster picture, Lawless (Formerly The Wettest County In The World) features swanky clothing, groomed hair and brandished firearms. The bold red typesetting promises that there will indeed be blood. These are handsome, and look great as a set, but I am mesmerized by that massive part (Moses & the Red Sea) in Guy Pearce’s hair.

Check out David’s quick thoughts on the film.

Movies I Watched at the 65th Cannes Film Festival 2012

With the 65th Cannes Film Festival enjoying one of its most (potentially) impressive line-ups in years I was lucky enough to attend the festival this year. Due to work and financial constraints I could only make the first few days of the festival, but I still managed to squeeze in 10 films (and the last half of Project A on the beach). So to give you my thoughts on what I watched, plus to rub it in for those who weren’t there, here are capsule reviews for everything I caught.

A couple of my friends and colleagues are still there and plan to record some podcasts during the festival, so keep an eye out at Blueprint: Review for those. I recorded a couple with them last week so check those out over there too.

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Director: Tsui Hark
Screenplay: Tsui Hark
Starring: Jet Li, Xun Zhou, Kun Chen
Country: Hong Kong
Running Time: 121 min


Tsui Hark’s latest martial arts extravaganza is entertaining and handsomely mounted but rather uninspired and clumsily plotted. There are a few too many characters too and it gets a little confusing at times. It’s not as enjoyably crazy as Hark’s previous offerings either which was disappointing but it is action packed and still fun to watch. The 3D is OTT which does it favours at times, adding depth to the lavish and extravagant sets, but distracts at others with a barrage of items being thrown at the camera.

Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Edward Norton
Country: USA
Running Time: 94 min


Wes Anderson’s new film is charming and enjoyable but ultimately very slight. The central romance is a little too creepy to anchor the emotional core with the kids acting like adults all the time, but Anderson’s style takes centre stage and it’s clearly lovingly crafted, making for a very pleasant and easy watch. Maybe that’s faint praise but it’s hard to come up with a better way to describe the experience. I certainly enjoyed it at least.
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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

The Proposition

2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, John Hurt, Emily Watson.

Without venturing into the realm of gushing hyperbole, I am uncertain that I would be capable of providing my thoughts on The Proposition. At its very core, it is a story of utilizing the ends to justify the means – kill a monster (your elder brother, purveyor of atrocities), save a saint (your younger brother, tragically along for the ride), so to speak. In this version of the tale, however, nothing is black and white, with dulcet tones of gray (a)morality seeping through every frame – the viewer is fully capable of empathy for the protagonist, but there is no semblance of a cliché ‘rooting interest.’ The acting, particularly from Winstone, Pearce, Watson, and the always impressive Hurt, is top-notch, and painfully believable. The score and cinematography are brilliant, drawing you into the well-crafted environs without hesitation. And yes, I am painting with broad strokes, with the hope that those who have not yet seen The Proposition will do so immediately, and experience the film without bias or stilted expectations … beyond my own admiration.
– DOMENIC

Mission to Mars

2000 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen.

Made a deal with Andrew that if I rewatched Mission to Mars he would rewatch Red Planet. Clearly, I got the short end of the stick. I have grown to like a handful of DePalma’s films, and know all too well how inconsistent he is with the quality he puts out. I remember loathing this film when I saw it in the cinema; now, over a decade later, I am merely seething. The film does a decent job of depicting Mars, more so than Red Planet, and it pleasures in the afterglow of Kubrick’s 2001 with all of the play inside the spaceship. The script, however, is insufferable, eye-rolling on repeat insufferable. The difference between this and Red Planet is Red Planet never forgets it is a b-movie, and while some of its dialogue is equally bad it is contained within a film that is shorter and lighter, it feels like a dumb escapist movie whereas Mission to Mars feels like it is trying to teach you something about humanity. The final revelation of what is on Mars and what it means is all celestial and self-important and misses the mark so entirely it is laughable. Also, I will take Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss over Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins (and Jerry O’Connell!) any day. Don Cheadle, what the fuck are you doing in this movie?! It hurts to watch him try his hardest to make the dialogue work, if there was ever proof of his talents it is how hard he tries to make something out of nothing in this script.
-ROT

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John Hillcoat is THE Shiznick

Seriously. You can’t really get any cooler that John Hillcoat. The Proposition, The Road, Red Dead Redemption: The Man from Blackwater… he’s not exactly cruisin’ the mainstream but he does things his own way and I can totally get behind that.

Check out his newest bit of entertainment. Grinderman is a band. It features the awesome Nick Cave. Actually, it’s basically a re-incarnation of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. They have a new studio album dropping later this year and to promote it, they called up their bud John to make a short commercial. It’s only 30 seconds but they’re an awesome 30 seconds.

Thanks for making my day John.

Cinecast Episode 145 – Animalistic Nature

Episode 145:

SPOILERS ALERT!
Fantastic Mr. Fox opens this weeks show on a fantastic note and is followed up quickly by a fantastically epic episode. An Education gets a lengthy (fantastic) mention as well as Cormac McCarthy’s fantastic novel adaptation, The Road – which finally got a slightly wider release last week. Not such a fantastic week in the DVD department but that is more than made up for with fantastic discussions on the fantastic Noah Baumbach, Coppola Siblings, James Cameron and introducing kids to the fantastic Star Wars trilogy. Thanks so much for checking out this fantastic show and feel free to leave your thoughts (let them be fantastic!) in the comment section below. As snobby as we may sound, we love to hear discussion and/or disagreement from any of our fantastic regular or fist time listeners.

Thanks for listening!

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Bookmarks for November 23-30th

What we’ve been reading over the past week or so.

TwinPeaks-still
  • A Top 10: Lengthy Tracking Shots
    From Godard to Scorsese. Showy Shots abound. There are plenty more to add (feel free to suggest in the comment, I am surprised they left out the big D.W. Griffith shot in Intolerance. Or for that matter, The Protector, Brazil, Serenity, Boogie Nights, Satantango, etc. etc. But then again, it is only a top 10.
  • Playboy does James Cameron (no photos!)
    “Avatar is made very consciously for movie fans. If critics like it, fine. I can’t say I won’t read the reviews, because I may not be able to resist. I spent a couple of decades in the capricious world of being judged by those not knowledgeable about the depth and history of film and with whom I would not want to have a conversation—with a few notable exceptions. Why would I want to be judged by them? For me, this past decade has been about retreating to the great fundamentals, things that aren’t passing fads or subject to the whims of some idiot critic. You can’t write a review of the laws of thermodynamics.”
  • SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco on the vertigo of making lists
    “I was fascinated with Stendhal at 13 and with Thomas Mann at 15 and, at 16, I loved Chopin. Then I spent my life getting to know the rest. Right now, Chopin is at the very top once again. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot.”
  • ‘Nine’ Leads Indie Heavy Golden Satellite Nods
    While the awards – handed out by International Press Academy – are generally disregarded as a serious Oscar precursor due to their often inexplainable decisions, this year’s batch is definitely full of worthy nominees, particularly from the specialty sector.
  • More Mainstream Press for THE ROOM.
    “Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” is a train wreck of almost incomprehensible proportions: Whole scenes are out of focus, while others are repeated in their entirety; characters appear without introduction, while others vanish without explanation; and the unfortunate cast engages in behavior that few would consider typical. All of which, of course, makes the painfully overwrought relationship drama one of the greatest comedies ever to be created entirely by accident.”
  • The Road Takes Desolate Journey From Page to Screen
    To deliver “The Road’s” worn and weathered ambience, Hillcoat avoided as much as possible the over-the-top digital approach employed by director Roland Emmerich for his post-apocalyptic spectacle, “2012.” Hillcoat shot “The Road” at 51 real-world locations to give the R-rated film, which opens Wednesday, an extra dose of authenticity.
  • 100+ Cliche Dialogue Lines
    ‘The Definitive List of Cliched Dialogue’ or just another day at the office for those ink stained grinders writing Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Dacacos or Steven Segal flicks.
  • Critical Shift: New Moon vs. Gone With The Wind
    Peter Howell considers what has changed in the critical landscape in how lurid melodrama and hammy acting was received in 1939 vs. 2009.
  • Tres Chic Twin Peaks Photo Gallery
    Quite an awesome (yet creepy) set of on-set photos taken during the taping of Twin Peaks by Richard Beymar.
  • The 99 Most Jaw-Dropping Movie Moments
    We love those movie moments that make us feel like we’ve been swiftly punched in the gut. The shocking scenes that give us goosebumps and gasps at the same time. Because we love those shock & awe bits so much, we’ve compiled our 99 favourites, counting down to the all-time greatest jaw-dropping movie moment.