Moviecrazed
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NOVEMBER 2009

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, J. K. Simmons, Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Stephen Lang, Rebecca Mader, Glenn Morshower, Waleed Zuaiter, Terry Serpico, Nick Offerman, Billy Lockwood

Directed by Grant Heslov
Written by Peter Straughan

Smoke House Pictures

 

Remember when the U.S. government gave the green light to a unit of  “psychically gifted” nut-cases who were trained to stare really hard at randomly picked goats until the four-legged conscripts literally dropped dead?

Chances are that you do not remember this gung-ho military gang, officially named the New Earth Army and equipped to whip around the globe staring lethally at lots more than an occasional shipment of goats.  One reason you may not remember these programmed patriots is that their heyday was way back in the 80’s, and another is that their bosses in Washington made sure their activities remained top secret. A third reason is that the New Earth Army may be a figment of Jon Ronson’s imagination. But Ronson insists that his 2004 book, “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” is solid, if loony, fact, not fiction.

Whatever the case, director Grant Heslov and star George Clooney—the team that delivered “Good Night, and Good Luck”—and British author Peter Straughan, who adapted  Ronson’s book, want us to believe that most of what is depicted here, from Reagan’s White House to the beatings and waterboardings of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, is as true as today’s headlines. Including a bold, perhaps successful scheme to reactivate the New Earth Army and plunge its eccentric warriors into the middle of the American adventure in Iraq.

Clooney is top-billed as Lyn Cassady, a mysterious, mercurial member of the New Earth War who, early in 2003, surfaces in Kuwait, where he claims to be a trashcan salesman on his way to Iraq. Ewan McGregor plays Bob Wilton, a clueless reporter looking for a story who doesn’t realize he’s found one when he hooks up with Cassady; Jeff Bridges is Bill Django, an eternal, laid-back hippie who somehow summoned the energy to create the New Earth War, with more than a little help from LSD; and Kevin Spacey is Larry Hooper, a recent, wise-ass recruit to NEA who may be capable of treason.

And you thought the Inglourious Basterds were a wild bunch. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

PRECIOUS

 

Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Maria Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz, Kimberly Russell

Directed by Lee Daniels
Written by Geoffrey Fletcher
(Based on the Novel 'Push'
by Sapphire)

Lionsgate

Her name is Gabourey Sidibe and she has never acted before. Yet she tops the list of potential Oscar nominees for Best Actress of 2009. Click here for A. O. Scott's New York Times review of Gabourey's shattering performance in "Precious." --Guy Flatley Now Playing

 

BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS


Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Coolidge, Fairuza Balk, Shawn Hatosy, Shea Whigham, Xzibit, Denzel Whitaker, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Tom Bower, Brandi Coleman, Irma P. Hall


Directed by Werner Herzog
Written by William M. Finkelstein

Nu Image Films

If you had the warped pleasure of watching scruples-deprived cop Harvey Keitel chisel, cheat, screw, masturbate, sniff, shoot, swill, and sob (particularly over the rape of a gorgeous young nun by a gang of inglourious New York basterds) in Abel Ferrara's 1992 dark, overheated "Bad Lieutenant," why would you bother to see this remake?


Maybe because the setting on this occasion is not hopelessly decadent New York, but moderately decadent New Orleans. And the auteur x-raying this infected turf is not Abel Ferrara, notorious for his bad taste, but Germany’s legendarily uncompromising Werner Herzog, director of “Even Dwarfs Started Small,” “Aguirre, The Wrath of God,” “Stroszek,” “Woyzeck” and “Fitzcarraldo.” Also, there is no nunsense on display here, only the plight of Eva Mendes as a severely put-upon prostitute.


In place of Keitel, who played the conspicuously nameless Bad Lieutenant, we get Nicolas Cage, an actor who never said no when invited to go over the top. He plays Terence McDonagh, a homicide detective who’s promoted to the rank of lieutenant after performing an uncharacteristic act of heroism during Hurricane Katrina—an act that leaves him with chronic backache. Showing symptoms of being rotten to the core, McDonagh uses his badge as a free pass to pursue relief from his pain with illegal drugs, and he is not above feeding his hunger for cocaine and Vicodin by means that are beastly at best. For those who stand in his way, you can bet there will be blood.

Dope, alas, is not McDonagh’s only weakness. The lieutenant is also insatiably hooked on sex, which means truly hard times for the ladies of the Big Easy night. Among those assisting or hindering this flawed man of the law on what could be a journey to the depths of hell or to spiritual salvation are Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Coolidge, Fairuza Balk, Shawn Hatosy, Xzibit, Denzel Whitaker, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Irma P. Hall. --Guy Flatley Now Playing


THE BLIND SIDE

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates, Lily Collins, Jae Head, Ray McKinnon

Written and directed by John Lee
Hancock

Warner Bros. Pictures

Perpetually perky Sandra Bullock plays perpetually perky Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy white Memphis wife and mom who plucks Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a black high-school football player, from his drug-cluttered neighborhood, settles him into her spacious, if not quite palatial, abode and zeroes in on the challenge of making him a world-renowned star quarterback.

Sound a little hokey and studio-contrived? Can’t blame you for thinking so, but this scenario is ripped from real life. Leigh Anne Tuohy and Michael Oher did in fact form a warm, homey bond and continue to reap significant rewards on and off the playing field.

Does that mean "The Blind Side" will go down in cinematic history as another "Chariots of Fire"? See the movie and judge for yourself. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

BROKEN EMBRACES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomea, Tamar Novas, Ruben Ochandiano, Marta Aledo, Agustin Almodovar

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar

Sony Pictures Classics

The innovative, boldly emotional Pedro Almodovar shot this Hollywood-style film noir in Madrid and other Spanish locations. According to what Almodovar told Variety’s John Hopewell, the story, told largely in flashback, begins in the 90s, moves forward to the present, and is reminiscent of Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” and Vincente Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful.”

The central character is blind writer Harry Caine, who, in happier days, was a distinguished director named Mateo Blanco. On one level or another, Almodovar says that “Los Abrazoz Rotos,” as his film is known in Spain, deals with fate, guilt, unscrupulous power, the eternal search of fathers for sons, and sons for fathers. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

MAMMOTH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


Gael Garcia Bernal, Michelle Williams, Marife Necesito, Sophie Nyweilde, Jan Nicado, Martin Delos Santos, Tom McCarthy

Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson


IFC Films

Leo and Ellen, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams, have it all—beauty, wealth, a sexy marriage, a smashingly chic New York loft, and an adorable 8-year-old daughter named Jackie (Sophie Nyweilde). And, of course, there is a live-in nanny. Her name is Gloria (Marife Necesito) and she not only plays substitute mom to Jackie but scrubs toilets as well. She also takes a lot of not-so-subtle abuse from her spoiled-rotten employers.

Why doesn’t Gloria look for a decent job? Because, selfish and insensitive as they may be, Leo and Ellen do pay well. And lots of money is what Gloria needs so that she can support her mother, her brother and her own two children back in the Philippines. If you think everything will end on a warm and cuddly note for Leo, Ellen, Gloria and all their kin, you may be in for a big shock. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

THE ROAD

 

Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Molly Parker, Garret Dillahunt, Michael K. Williams, Brenna Roth

Directed by John Hillcoat
Written by Joe Penhall

Weinstein Company

It is impossible to imagine words more vivid and haunting than those employed to depict the end of our world in “The Road.” So you mustn’t count on being perked up when you slap down your bucks at the box office for this Australian adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 masterpiece.

Cormac who? Cormac McCarthy—you know, the novelist who provided the Coen Brothers with their most merciless scenario ever in 2005’s “No Country for Old Men.” Enough said?

Assuming director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall remain faithful to their source, whatever shred of pleasure you may derive from their film will be coated with monstrous pain. Here's the way The New York Times’ Janet Maslin, in her 2006 review of the book, described the journey of mankind’s last father & son team as they trudged down “The Road” to post-apocalyptic nothingness...

“The ruined setting of ‘The Road’ is strewn with terrible, revealing artifacts. There is one lone bottle of Coca-Cola, still absurdly fizzy when all else is dust. There are charred corpses frozen in their final postures, like the long-dead man who sits on a porch like ‘a straw man set out to announce some holiday.’ Sometimes these prompt the father to recall ‘a dull rose glow in the windowglass’ at 1:17 in the morning, the moment when the clocks stopped forever.

"The weather is bitter, the landscape colorless, the threat of starvation imminent. There is also the occasional interloper or ominous relic, since the road is not entirely abandoned. Spear-carrying marchers on the road offer hints about recent history. Groups of people are stowed away in hidden places as if they were other people’s food supply. In a book filled with virtual zombies and fixated on the living dead, it turns out that they are.”

If you caught Viggo Mortensen in "A History of Violence," “Eastern Promises” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, you will not be surprised by his bravura turn as the driven dad in “The Road.” You will almost certainly be stunned, however, by the awesome performance of Kodi Smit-McPhee as Viggo’s son. The lad was 11 years old at the time of the film's shooting. Click here to read a recent New York Times article about this phenomenal duo.
--Guy Flatley Now Playing