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Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Paul’

Sienna Miller

“AMERICAN WOMAN” My rating: B+ 

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

People can change.

That’s the hopeful message at the core of the often brutally grim “American Woman,” a film that casts American-born, Brit-reared beauty Sienna Miller as a working-class American floozie transformed by tragedy.

Written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Jake Scott (son of director Ridley Scott), “American Woman” (a terribly meaningless title, BTW) offers an unconventional narrative covering 16 years in one woman’s life, leaping months or even years between scenes and often eschewing big dramatic moments for tiny glimpses of  everyday existence.

If you’re looking to compare it to another movie, Bruce Beresford’s “Tender Mercies” comes to mind. As antecedents go, that’s a pretty great one.

At the movie’s outset we meet Debra (Miller), a thirtysomething grocery store clerk living in small-town Pennsylvania with her  daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) and Bridget’s baby boy, Jesse.  Teen pregnancy seems to run in the family.

Debra, it quickly becomes apparent, is a good-time girl who in short skirt and go-go boots is a regular at the local honkytonk.  She is having a shameless affair with a married man, and though she seems a smart-mouthed tough cookie, she’s soft enough to entertain the notion that someday he’ll leave his wife.

This sort of behavior doesn’t sit well with her sister Katherine (Christina Hendricks), who lives across the street with her burly, decent-as-the-day-is-long husband Terry (Will Sasso). Nor does Debra’s mother Peggy (Amy Madigan) much approve of her daughter’s lifestyle. The two are always at each other’s throats.

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Jamie Dornan, ****

Jamie Dornan, Aiden Longworth

“THE 9th LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX” My rating: C-

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“The 9th Life of Louis Drax” has been competently produced and adequately acted.

Nonetheless, I hated it.  Phoniness oozes from every frame (assuming that “frames” even exist in digital film).

In a hospital bed in a special ward dedicated to pediatric coma victims, little Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) vegetates.

Apparently while on a family picnic the boy was thrown off a cliff and into the sea by his father. A statewide manhunt is now underway to track down this paternal monster.

Sarah Gadon

Sarah Gadon

Meanwhile Louis’ mom, the long-suffering Natalie (Sarah Gadon), waits moist-eyed by his bedside. She’s so sensitive. So fragile yet so strong for her son. So freakin’ hot.

Who can blame Louis’ hunky young M.D., Allan Pascal  (Jamie Dornan of “Fifty Shades…” fame), for experiencing flickerings of lust…flickerings which Natalie suggests might be reciprocated, her recent tragedy notwithstanding?

Directed by French helmer Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes” remake, “High Tension”) and scripted by Max Minghella (from Liz Jensen’s novel), “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” is a con job, a not-so-mysterious mystery (I had more or less figured out the truth halfway through) that attempts to mask its predictability with a time-leaping narrative, fantasy sequences and obfuscatory storytelling.

The film begins with a montage of the many times in his young life that Louis Drax has cheated death.  Little Louis narrates this parade of near-horrors, describing himself as accident prone. Well, duh. Electrocution, falls…the kid is almost comically clumsy.

This segment is presented as a semi-playful fable about a little boy who just can’t be killed. It’s borderline charming in an “Amelie” vein.

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eyesky“EYE IN THE SKY”  My rating: B

102  minutes | MPAA rating: R

 

In the wars of the 21st century drones and robots do all the dirty work, directed by mouse jockeys on the other side of the world who risk little more than a case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

But even if you’re one of those remote-control button pushers, it’s still war. It’s still killing. There are still ethical consequences.

Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky” offers a fingernail-gnawing look at this new kind of warfare. Scripted by Guy Hibbert, it’s a taut well-acted thriller that raises all sorts of moral questions — Hitchcock with a conscience.

Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul

At various points around the globe, high-tech warriors gather to capture a husband-and-wife team of Islamic terrorists (she’s a British citizen, he’s an American) operating in East Africa.

The actual takedown will be executed on the ground by Kenyan security forces. The operation will be observed from 22,000 feet by an armed American drone, the mission’s “eye in the sky” operated by an Air Force pilot [Air Force Lt. Steve Watts] (Aaron Paul) from the desert outside Las Vegas.

In charge of the overall mission is a calculating British Army colonel [Col. Katherine Powell] (Helen Mirren), who from her bunker in the English countryside has been directing a manhunt lasting more than six years. She can almost taste the long-awaited victory.

In a comfortable London office a British general (Alan Rickman in one of his last roles) sits with a group of civilian government officials watching it all unfold on closed-circuit television. They’re standing by to give their legal opinions and, ultimately, permission for the mission to continue.

But from the beginning the operation hits snags. The targets relocate to a village in terrorist-controlled territory where ground forces are denied entry.

A sole undercover agent (“Captain Phillips’” Barkhad [Barked] Abdi) gets close enough to set loose a tiny surveillance drone that looks like a large flying insect (apparently our arsenal holds all sorts of marvelous toys); from its fly-on-the-wall vantage point inside the house this tiny spy reveals that the residents are suiting up for a suicide bomb attack.

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triple-9-dom-195_192_T9_KA_R34_RV_3_W10_SL_rgb-e1444670190309“TRIPLE 9” My rating: C+

115 minutes |MPAA rating: R

John Hillcoat’s new crime thriller “Triple 9” is only slightly less apocalyptic than his film of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” And “The Road,” of course, was about the literal end of the world.

With a big cast of fine actors (few of whom, oddly, get to do much acting) and a sprawling urban canvas reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” this is the story of one-time good guys who are now bad guys.

Terrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus) are former military special forces types now earning a living planning big capers on behalf of the Russian mob.  As the film begins they’re pulling off a daring bank robbery that almost goes south (and leaves them covered in red dye) thanks to Russell’s loser brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul).

Chietol Ejiwifor

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Terrell and Russell are so effective at what they do because they have inside help. Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (CliftonCollins Jr.) are police detectives gone rogue. They not only help in planning these crimes, they suit up to participate. And then they help the thieves cover their tracks.

To say that these guys lack a moral compass is an understatement. Matt Cook’s screenplay never asks why or how our protagonists were corrupted; certainly the characters aren’t into soul searching.

But the result is a taut film that feels weirdly uninhabited…as a viewer I’d be at least as interested in how these guys came to this low ethical state as I am in the mechanics of their heists.

Their saving grace is that as bad as they are, they aren’t as bad as the Russian crime tsarina Irina (Kate Winslet), who’s about as hard a lady as you could ever meet.  For this tough cookie pulling the teeth of a couple of miscreants, locking them  in a car trunk and setting the whole thing on fire is all in a day’s work.

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