“Killing Them Softly”

“America’s not a country, it’s just a business.”

Leave it to Andrew Dominick to bring a simplistic gritty pulp novel like George V. Higgins’ Cogan’s Trade to the bring screen in such a respectable fashion. Higgins’ Boston-set crime tale had all the makings of a great movie already intact with its rich characters, crackling dialogue, and vivid setting descriptions that radiate with authenticity, sometimes darkly comic but also an interesting peering into the underworld of petty Boston crime. Orders come from high ranking, unseen and unnamed characters, some wise guys get whacked, some naïve crooks mistake themselves for professionals, and a detached anti-hero gets himself immersed deeper in his own line of work than he prefers. Donning a new new title, Killing Them Softly, Dominick relocates the story to 21st Century post-Katrina Louisiana; the stylish modernization still feels wholly like Higgins’ original written work, but Dominick has incorporated an overtone of uncertainty and unpredictable change fueled by the economic crisis of the present day. Though the allegory is somewhat heavy handed, Dominick still layers his brisk crime drama with technical maturity and cinematic inventiveness and fills it with a talented cast of character actors, making for a highly enjoyable and absorbing crime flick.

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“Lincoln”: A Critical Reaction (PODCAST)

After a magnificent opening in limited release at the beginning of November (it grossed nearly $1 million in 11 theaters for a staggering per-theater average of $86,000), Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln has successively expanded over the last two weeks, finding a hearty $66 million through three weeks while earning extreme critical praise and enthusiastic commercial reception. With a star-studded ensemble that includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Lee Pace, and more, “Lincoln” is clearly primed for the Oscars, but just how good is it? While James Hausman was greatly disappointed (read his 5/10 here), Zack Sharf is singing its praises and calling it one of the year’s best and most important films. In our new podcast, James and Zack, along with Mike Murphy, sit down to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Lincoln; Is it really a must-see or is it the most pretentious film ever made? Is it Spielberg’s best or just another emotionally manipulative epic? Is Daniel Day-Lewis a lock to win Best Actor? Hit play below to join us in our conversation of everything Lincoln:

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

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Independent Spirit Awards: 3 Must-Sees

If the recent slew of great movies at the marketplace wasn’t a big enough indication, let yesterday’s Independent Spirit Award nominations be your reminder that the 2012 awards season is officially kicking into hyper speed. With the end of the year nearly a month away, we’ve seen mostly all of the big Oscar power players, from Argo to The Master, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Flight, and more, and only 3 big December releases are left to cap off the year (Les Misérables, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained). What most people forget, however, is that the small independent films have just the same amount of momentum as the heavyweights, and the Independent Spirit Award nominations are a great way to sift through the year and figure out which small films could end up making big splashes on Oscar night. If the Spirit nominations are to be believed, than three films are leading the pack to bridge the independent film world and the Academy together; in order to save yourself the “I’ve never heard of this movie!” reaction on the morning of nominations, these three movies are must-sees (all of which are nominated for Best Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards), and, rather luckily, they are all truly inspired pieces of cinema and are three of my favorites of the year:

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Skyfall

Bond is back and he’s better than ever! After 50 years, the suave British Super-Spy has returned for an adventure that will test him physically and mentally. Our host, Charlie Greenwald checks out what viewers thought of the latest James Bond installment, Skyfall.

“Life Of Pi”: A Critical Reaction (PODCAST)

After earning impressive reviews across the board (many top critics called it a visual masterpiece) and grossing $30 million over the lucrative 5-day Thanksgiving weekend, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is shaping up to be one hell of an Oscar contender this awards season. Based off of the 2001 best selling novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi is a highly ambitious family film (a la Martin Scorsese’s Hugo), one that many followers of the book believed would be unfilmmable given the book’s religious subject matter and the story’s focus on a boy and a tiger stuck on a boat for 227 days. Leave it to Ang Lee, however, to turn Pi into a marvelous feature film, one that our own James Hausman gave a praiseful 9/10. In our latest Critical Podcast, James joins Zack Sharf and Mike Murphy to breakdown Life of Pi; just how gorgeous is this film? Is this the best use of 3D since Avatar? Is the story strong enough to support its visual style? Where will the film finds itself on Oscar night? Hit play below to join us in our discussion:

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
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“Trailer Reaction”: Zero Dark Thirty (TV Spot)

Though I’m a fan of “Trailer Reactions” because they can begin to expose the potential strengths and weakness of a particular film, I ultimately respect them because, regardless of how the film turns out, they bring a movie’s title into the public eye, which, as a cinephile, is always a good thing. So, while the latest Zero Dark Thirty trailer may only be a :33 second TV spot, it deserves a reaction nonetheless since it goes without saying that Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker deserves more public attention as its limited December 19th release date draws closer (As for me, I could not be more excited, especially after putting it at #2 on my list of most anticipated Holiday Movies). Perhaps even more warranting of such a reaction is the fact that this half-a-minute TV Spot reveals more about this shrouded-in-secrecy-film than any of the previous full-length trailers have. Between this latest look at the movie and the extremely positive reviews coming out of special screenings on Sunday night, elements of Zero Dark Thirty are slowly coming to light in ways we haven’t seen yet, and if you still haven’t heard of this hunt for Osama Bin Laden movie, stop what you’re doing and watch the latest preview here, I think the films’ ganna be a winner:

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