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Posts Tagged ‘” Mary Elizabeth Winstead’

John Krasinski, Margo Martindale

John Krasinski, Margo Martindale

“THE HOLLARS” My rating: C+

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

John Krasicki’s strengths as an actor — a sly sense of humor, emotional openess, a charitable view toward his own and other actors’ characters — are also on display in his feature film directing debut.

But despite a cast to die for and some heartfelt sentiment, “The Hollars” is a near miss, a movie in which everything seems just a degree or two out of whack.

Jim Strauss’s screenplay is yet another dysfunctional family dramedy.

Illness in the family brings NYC office drone John Hollar (Krasinksi) back to his middle American hometown. He leaves behind his pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) and a dead-end job — what he really wants to do is write and illustrate graphic novels.

Ma Hollar (Margo Martindale) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Even with that against her she shows more common sense than the menfolk of her clan, who are more or less eccentric idiots.

Dad Hollar (Richard Jenkins) lives in an emotional bubble of denial. Whenever he steps out of that bubble he collapses in tears. And he’s run the family’s plumbing business into the ground, forcing him to fire his oldest son Ron (Shallot Copley), who now lives in the basement.

Ron is a near-moron who is stalking the ex-wife with whom he has two little girls. And he harbors some absurd notions about minorities (he assumes that his mother’s surgeon, an Asian American, must be a master of at least one martial art).

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**, 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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Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb

Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb

“KILL THE MESSENGER” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Oct. 10)

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Apart from featuring Jeremy Renner’s best screen performance since “The Hurt Locker,” the new film “Kill the Messenger” is noteworthy as a throwback to the good old days before around-the-clock cable news.

We’re talking about a time when the ink-stained wretches of the newspapers were widely viewed as, well, as kind of heroic.

Badly paid, sure, and probably morally reprehensible in matters of alcohol and other forms of hedonism. But these journalists happily clung to the idealistic notion that their job was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and in films like “All the Presidents Men” newspaper reporters shined a light on corruption and criminality.

“Kill the Messenger” is based on the  career of Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News who in the mid-1990’s, while covering the crack cocaine epidemic, stumbled upon a seemingly incredible story: To fund a rebel army battling the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, the Contras had been smuggling countless tons of cocaine into the US.  The ensuing scandal became known as “drugs for guns.”

Webb never alleged that the CIA was behind the program, only that the CIA must have known about the drugs and tolerated it.

In other words, during the same years that Nancy Reagan was telling America’s kids to “just say no,” our government was allowing a flood of dangerous drugs to inundate the country’s inner cities. Most of the victims of this scourge were black.

Written by Peter Landesman and directed by Michael Cuesta (a veteran of Showtime’s “Homeland”), “Kill the Messenger” starts out as a sort of journalistic procedural.  Renner’s Webb stumbles across a secret government document that suggests a partnership between the government and a major drug trafficker.  Then, through dogged research, interviews, and travel to Central America and Washington D.C., Webb puts together a story that will rock the country and win him major journalism awards.

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead battles "The Thing"

“THE THING” My rating: C (Opening wide Oct. 14)

103 minutes | MPAA rating: R

We’ve already seen two very good versions of “The Thing” (based on the classic sci-fi/horror story “Who Goes There?”), so anyone making yet a third “Thing” had better bring some new ideas to the table.

In the case of the film opening today, first-time feature director Matthijs van Heijningen and writer Bill Lancaster attempt to stir things up by making our protagonist a woman.

That’s it?  That’s the big twist?

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