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The relationships that exist between people – and the motivations that drive them – are often the best fodder for storytelling. The reasons we do the things we do and the people for whom we do them can be the purest distillation of our character.

Novelist Donald Ray Pollock has a knack for evoking the dark side of that equation; his books are packed with the brutality and evil that people do even while feeling utterly justified in doing them.

That sense of physical and emotional violence is omnipresent in “The Devil All the Time,” an adaptation of Pollock’s 2011 novel of the same name. Directed by Antonio Campos from a screenplay he co-wrote with his brother Paulo, the film is set in midcentury West Virginia and Ohio and follows a sprawling collection of different characters through narratives whose connections – both overt and subtle – constantly ebb and flow toward one another.

It’s a story of sin, of the evil that even the pious are capable of if they can convince themselves of the righteousness of their acts. It’s a striking representation of the time and place, to be sure, while also featuring an incredible collection of talent in the cast. But that unrelenting representation of the dark side of human nature, the ongoing parade of terrible people doing terrible things for terrible reasons – it’s a lot. The bleakly entangled constancy of sex and violence and power and religion is frankly exhausting, though the excellent performances and quality filmmaking make it worth the undertaking nevertheless.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:55

Grave consequences – ‘Pet Sematary’

Considering Hollywood’s concurrent current trends toward embracing reboots and Stephen King properties, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that a number of the Master of Horror’s past filmic adaptations are ripe for revisitation. Particularly when you take into account the runaway critical and commercial success of 2017’s remake of “It” and the notorious unevenness of previous screen adaptations.

This brings us to the latest King remake “Pet Sematary.” This new film – based on King’s 1983 novel of the same name – follows the 1989 version helmed by Mary Lambert. It tells the story of the Creed family and their move to rural Maine, where in the woods behind their new home, they stumble upon a dark place – a place where death is no longer an end, but rather the beginning of a much more horrifying tale.

However, while the assembled cast is stellar and co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer are not without skill, the end result doesn’t quite clear the bar set by either the novel or the original film. That isn’t to say that this version is without merit, but those with a deep-seated affection for those previous works will likely find themselves a little disappointed.

Published in Movies
Monday, 28 January 2019 15:19

Fish out of water – ‘Serenity’

Usually, our feelings about movies are fairly easy to work out. We liked it or we didn’t like it. We got it or we didn’t get it. And we’re usually able to see why someone else might like or dislike a film even if our own feelings are opposing. Obviously, there’s plenty of gray area, but for the majority of movies, it’s a binary situation – “good” or “bad.”

But every once in a while, you get a movie that is so inexplicable, so bizarrely conceived, so bats—t crazy that the binary is out the window. It isn’t “good,” it isn’t “bad,” it’s “what in God’s name did I just watch?”

“Serenity” very much falls into that third category.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself “Really? I saw the trailer for that movie and it looked pretty straightforward to me.” And you’d be right, as far as that goes. The trailer DOES make it all look pretty straightforward. But rest assured – it is not. At all.

For its first half, “Serenity” is nothing special, a sort of beach noir thriller. The pieces are a little ill-fitting, but it’s all fairly conventional. Meanwhile, the second half of the movie hinges on a Shyamalan-on-acid twist, one of the weirdest narrative turns I’ve seen in a mainstream movie in years. Maybe ever.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 13:31

Zero Dark Thirty' on target

Film recounts the hunt for Osama Bin Laden

It's a sign of a gifted filmmaker when a director can find a way to tell a story whose ending is already known and still instill it with urgency and intensity. It was actually a good year for those sorts of films 'Argo' and 'Lincoln' both told tales whose conclusions we already knew.

However, those stories both exist very much in the past, in worlds that are different than the one in which we currently live. That isn't the case with 'Zero Dark Thirty,' the latest film from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. This film is drawn from the past, yes, but from the very recent past a past that is close enough to burn bright in the memory of everyone who sees the film.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 14:30

They fought the law and the law won

Lawless' an ambitious attempt that falls just short

The Prohibition Era was a time of outlaws and folk heroes. The government fought and continually lost - a constant battle against the bootleggers and gangsters that arose following the illegalization of alcohol. Their jobs weren't made any easier by a general populace that mostly disagreed with the law and often casually violated it.

This is the world of the Bondurant family, a group of Virginia brothers that rose to prominence through their Depression-era bootlegging exploits. 'Lawless,' based on the book 'The Wettest County in the World' by Matt Bondurant, follows the brothers as they are finally confronted by the law.

Published in Movies

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