29th Jun2014

Cold in July – Film

by timbaros

images-196Two television stars, one big and one who used to be big, pair up in the new film Cold in July. It’s a film that would actually play better on the small screen then the big screen.

Dexter’s Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, who works as a farmer to support his pretty wife and young son in a cozy clapboard house somewhere in America. One night while they are asleep, a burglar breaks into their home and Dane, in a moment of panic, shoots and kills him. Both Richard and his wife Anne (Vinessa Shaw) are stunned and frightened by this especially as their young son was sleeping in the next room. Richard is cleared of any murder charges by the local police – they say the killing was justified. But one person in town feels like the killing was unjustified, and that is a man who thinks it was his long lost son who was killed. Enter Ben Russell (Sam Shepard). He’s a town loner living on the outskirts in a run-down shack. He wants to get even with the Dane family, and he starts stalking them, driving by their house, shooting at their house, it appears he wants revenge. But Dane is skeptical about the burglar he killed, he insists it was not Russell’s son, and it turns out that it’s not actually Russell’s son, but unfortunately we never find out who it was that Richard killed as Russell’s son appears later in the film. Another unexplained part of the movie is that the local police try to kill Russell, we don’t know why, but luckily Dane was nearby and was able to save him.
Now enter private detective (and exbig television star) Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson – formerly of Miami Vice). He’s been sent to investigate the murder and shows up in town as you would expect a man with the name of Jim Bob Luke would look like – a true cowboy – hat, boots and a southern accent. Who’s hired him is not explained.
To make a long story (110 minutes), Jim Bob and Richard, who are now best friend’s with Russell, search for more information, not about the man who Dane killed, but about Russell’s son and his whereabouts. How or why the plot takes this turn is not explained. They discover Russell’s son is involved in the making of snuff films (where woman are killed while in the act of a sexual act). This leads, predictably, to showdown between father and son and who’s going to take the first shot to kill each other. This plot device is supposed to be somehow related to Dane and the relationship he has with his son as Dane is front row and center when this showdown takes place. And before this showdown, him and the other two men were able to fight off and shootdown lots of other men. Not believable in the very least!
The acting in Cold in July is fine. Hall neatly steps out of his television persona to be credible in this role. Shepard doesn’t have much to do as his character doesn’t have much of a personality to work with. It’s up to Don Johnson to bring excitement to the movie in an otherwise confusing film. He embraces his role as the detective, providing a spark and more. He’s an actor who plays well on both the big and small screens. For what it’s worth, Cold in July is better viewed on the small screen, where I recommend you should watch it.


30th Jan2014

Out of the Furnace – Film

by timbaros

images-86Out of the Furnace stars one of the hottest actors in the business today – Christian Bale. It is a film produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott, among others, and it also stars Oscar-winning actors Forest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe, and Oscar-nominated actors Woody Harrelson, Cassey Affleckand Sam Shepard, unfortunately, the film just does not work.

Bale is Russell Baze (not a very good name for a main character), he works in the local steel mill (in a dark, polluted town somewhere in Pennsylvania). His father is near death, watched over by Russell’s younger brother Rodney Baze Jr. (Affleck), back home and physically and mentally scared from serving time in the military. One evening after visiting his father and heading back home to his wife Lena (Zoe Saldana), he crashes into a car and kills its two occupants. He is sent to prison (which happens too suddenly, there is no trial – so the movie takes us directly from the car crash to Russell being in prison). It is not clear how long he is in prison for, but he is there long enough to miss his father’s funeral. Also, his wife has left him for the local police chief (Whitaker – who doesn’t have much to do in this film).
Having no choice but to move back into his father’s house, he learns that his brother is involved in illegal fighting and also owes local man John Petty (Dafoe) a lot of money. Russell advises his brother to work in the mill, to stay clean, to make their dead father proud. But Rodney has a lot of anger, hostility, and aggression, so it appears that he needs to fight. He also needs to repay Petty, and while Russell tries to help out paying some money towards the loan, Rodney goes ahead with one final fight. Unbeknownst to Rodney, Petty also owes money to Harlan DeGroat (Harrelson), a local drug dealer who, with his thugs and addicts, have some kind of control of the local area. For reasons not very clear, Petty tells Rodney to throw the fight, which he does, and it has bad implications for both men. It is up to Russell to seek revenge and get even, leading to a very predictable showdown with DeGroat.
With so much talent on board, you would think that Out of the Furnace would and could be a contender for awards, but unfortunately it is quite the opposite. The script is too predictable, there seems to be chunks of scenes that are missing, the main characters are given very strange names (Harlan DeGroat? Russell Baze?) and the final scene, the showdown, is not dramatic at all. It could’ve been a better film because in its development stage it had DiCaprio attached to star and Scott attached to direct. Director and writer Scott Cooper directed Jeff Bridges to his Oscar-winning performance in 2009’s Crazy Heart, however, for Out of the Furnace, it seems like he called in sick a few times during shooting. And his script, written with Brad Ingelsby, is frustrating and not comprehensive. While the cinematography and landscape of rural Pennsylvania is in line with the plot of the film (dark, moody), and the performances are what you would expect from the caliber of actors involved, overall Out of the Furnace is literally dead on arrival.