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Posts Tagged ‘John Goodman’

**, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman

John Gallagher Jr., Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman

“10 CLOVERFIELD LANE” My rating: B

105 minutes | MPAA rating:PG-13

Intensely claustrophobic and impeccably acted, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a mind-messer of a thriller with a forehead-slapping payoff.

In the wordless opening sequence, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packs her bags and flees her apartment, leaving behind a wedding ring and a ring of keys.

She’s cruising through the Louisiana countryside at night — listening to radio reports of a catastrophic electrical blackout along the Gulf Coast — when she’s involved in a bone-jarring accident.

Michelle (that’s her name) awakens in a musty cinderblock room, her leg in a splint and a chain limiting her mobility. Enter big beefy Howard (John Goodman), who explains that he pulled Michelle from the wreckage of her car and brought her here, to a bunker beneath his farmhouse. She should be thanking him for saving her life.

According to Howard, the world has come to an end. He’s not sure if it’s the result of nuclear or chemical war. Maybe it’s the doing of the Russians. Or possibly space aliens. (The film’s title, a reference to the 2008 found-footage alien invasion flick “Cloverfield,” should put canny viewers on alert.)

In any case, the air above ground is deadly and Howard announces that they’ll be holed up here for at least a year or two.  But not to worry — he’s been planning for this day for a long time. The bunker has enough supplies and equipment to easily keep three people alive.

Oh, yeah, there’s a third resident of the bunker.  Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) is a mildly goofy good ol’ boy about Michelle’s age who for the last decade or so has been hired by Howard to work on the bunker.  At the first sign of trouble he showed up at Howard’s door. He seems like a doofus, but he may have more going on than can be gleaned at first examination.

Emmett assures the panicked Michelle that despite Howard’s ever-present sidearm and rampant paranoia, their host is an OK guy.

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Bryan Cranston as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

Bryan Cranston as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

“TRUMBO” My rating: B 

124 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Bryan Cranston is very good as Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter/Communist/bon vivant/savage wit who won two Oscars under pseudonyms while blacklisted for his politics.

But who would have predicted that “Trumbo” would practically be stolen out from under the multiple Emmy winner by Helen Mirren and John Goodman?

It’s a surfeit of riches.

Dalton Trumbo was contradictory, infuriating, self-righteous, pompous, and wickedly funny. He was very well paid and lived on a sprawling California ranch (earning criticism for being a “swimming pool Soviet”) but appears to have been utterly sincere about making the United States a better place.

He joined the Communist Party of the U.S. largely out of his opposition to fascism in Europe (and, let’s be honest, at home as well). That came back to bite him in the ass after WWII when America went Commie crazy and the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed Trumbo and other Hollywood leftists in a search for Red influence in popular entertainment.

Ten of these unfriendly witnesses refused to answer questions, standing on their Fifth Amendment rights and the fact that joining the Communist Party was perfectly legal.

They were convicted of contempt of Congress (Trumbo publicly acknowledged that he was indeed hugely contemptuous of the bullying Congress), spent a year in prison and emerged to find themselves unable to work in the film or television industry.

Most saw their careers ruined. Trumbo began cranking out screenplays under fake names. Much of his work of this period was pure exploitative schlock, but two of his scripts — for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One” — won Oscars, although of course Trumbo could not acknowledge they were his work.

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Diane Keaton, John Godoman

Diane Keaton,  farting dog, John Goodman

“LOVE THE COOPERS”  My rating: D+ 

97 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Love the Coopers” the dysfunctional family holiday movie gets big-name treatment. The results are exceedingly unlovely.

It’s not just that director Jessie Nelson’s Christmas-themed comedy tries to shock us with raunch and cynicism before going all squishy soft in the last reel.  Lots of pretty decent films (“Bad Santa,” “Home for the Holidays,” “The Family Stone”) have assumed the same trajectory.

It’s that Steven Rogers’ screenplay is so blatantly unfeeling, cobbling together standard-issue ideas and characters for a sort of Pavlovian-inspired emotional release.

“Love the Coopers” (the title invokes memories of the inexplicably beloved “Love, Actually,” and like that earlier film gives us several interlocking stories) takes place mostly in a picturesque suburb outside Pittsburgh PA.  Here quaint homes, a steady snowfall and lush woodlands evoke a Norman Rockwell atmosphere.

Emotionally, though, there is no peace in the valley.

For starters, after 40-some years of marriage Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman, Diane Keaton) are calling it quits. They will break the news to their assembled clan after “one last perfect Christmas.”

Happy holidays, everybody.

Several plots eventually meet around the Coopers’ dinner table.

Daughter Eleanor Cooper (Olivia Wilde) is so reluctant to see the rest of her family  that she settles into the airport bar for some fortification. There she meets Joe (Jake Lacy), a soldier on leave who is charming despite being a Republican.

In an agonizing montage Eleanor and soldier boy engage in a comic ballet on an airport moving sidewalk. It is so gosh-awful “cute” theaters should lay in a supply of insulin.

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Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

“THE GAMBLER”  My rating: C

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The protagonist of “The Gambler” is an infuriatingly self-centered, stubbornly self-destructive mess. Except that he’s being sold to us as a romantic, devil-may-care rugged individualist.

Sorry, I’m not buying.

In the opening moments of director Rupert Wyatt’s film (a remake of the Karel Reisz melodrama from 1974), Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) drops in on an illegal casino in the basement of a sprawling seaside LA mansion. He heads immediately for the blackjack table.

Jim doesn’t mess around with strategy. He bets everything he has — $10,000 — on a turn of the card. When he wins, he then bets all of that on the next hand.  This continues until he loses everything and walks away with empty pockets.

Actually, his pockets aren’t empty.  They contain  $250,000 in I.O.U.s from Mr. Lee (Alvin Ing), the Korean gangster who runs the establishment, and from Neville (Michael K. Williams), a well-heeled local banger who sagely observes: “I think you’re the kind of guy who likes to lose.”

Owing so much to such unpleasant characters would be enough to make most of us curtail our gambling activities. But not Jim. He wheedles and begs until he gets another loan, loses that money, and then shrugs when the heavies show up to demand payback.

Jim is what is known in the trade as a “degenerate gambler,” a guy who couldn’t stop if his life depended upon it — which in this case it does. Ironically, during daylight hours Jim is kinda respectable — a published novelist who teaches college-level English lit — although from what we hear of his lectures, his class should be called “Early 21st Century Pretentiousness.”

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monuments_men“THE MONUMENTS MEN” My rating: C+ (Opening wide on Feb. 7)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Most of  the films George Clooney has directed  — “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Ides of March” — have found him stretching himself, developing a style that was part indie edgy and part Hollywood classic, with a choice in topics that skewed liberal and humanistic.

His latest, “Monuments Men,” based on the real-life exploits of art experts who recovered masterpieces stolen by the Nazis, hits the Hollywood classic part perfectly. In fact it feels exactly as if it could have been made by a big studio in the early 1960s.

It’s been lushly produced, carefully scripted, tastefully shot. But edgy it isn’t…there’s hardly a moment here that doesn’t seem to have been painstakingly  weighed and thought out in advance.

Clooney — with a trim ‘stache and graying temples that make him look remarkably like a mature Clark Gable — portrays Frank Stokes, an art expert who creates a unit within the U.S. Army with the sole purpose of tracking down and saving art masterpieces looted by  the Germans.

He recruits a decidedly un-military bunch of art specialists, most of them pushing 60, who must undergo the rigors of basic training before they can be deployed to recently-liberated Normandy to begin their search.

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inside llewyn 2“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS” My rating: B+ (Opening Dec. 20 at the Glenwood Arts)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

I freakin’ love “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coens’ moody, bitterly funny, dead-on accurate recreation of the early ’60s New York folk scene.

I love it despite the fact that it’s a downer — similar in mood to “Barton Fink” — and that its protagonist is a talented but selfish sphincter.  I love its atmosphere, I love the music.

Of course, the main character is a dick, and I might  love the film even more if it showed even a teeny bit of heart, but then it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers movie.

We meet our titular protagonist, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), playing and singing in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight club in 1961. Llewyn (pronounced Lew-In) is performing a traditional song called “Hang Me Oh Hang Me,” and he’s really, really good.

Of course he’s also a folkie purist, a snob, and an artiste whose uncompromising vision pretty much rules out anything like commercial success. He’s like a perverse King Midas — everything he touches turns to crap.

The film follows Llewyn as he drifts around the city during a cold snap. Wearing nothing but a threadbare sports coat and a muffler, his touseled hair blowing in the frigid breeze, our man could almost be a character out of Dickens. (Clearly, the Coens have  studied the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” LP.)

He’s got no home so he crashes where he can. He spends a night with a Columbia University professor and his wife, and inadvertently lets the couple’s big orange cat escape. Locked out of the apartment, Llewyn has no option but to carry the feline about on his chilly perambulations.

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Michael Parks, a gay-bashing preacher in "Red State"

Iconic indy filmmaker Kevin Smith gets serious — well, sort of — with “Red State,” his self-distributed melding of political/religious satire, action film and slasher/horror gruesomeness.

Think Fred Phelps meets the Waco standoff by way of a “Hostel” flick.

The movie is several things at once, some elements more successful than others. But for all of its borderline naive satire and paranoia it cannot be easily dismissed, if only because Smith is working here with some very talented actors who elevate the material into something quite watchable.

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