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Indie Snapshot: K-11

by Ethan Alter March 15, 2013 11:27 am
Indie Snapshot: K-11

Usually the way nepotism works is that the offspring of some famous celeb is able to use his or her prestigious family name to help score the opportunity to write, director or act in their own feature (witness the careers of Scott Caan, Jaden Smith, Sofia and Roman Coppola, etc. etc.). K-11 can be viewed as a case of nepotism in reverse, as it marks the feature filmmaking debut of Jules Stewart, mother of Kristen "Bella" Stewart. A longtime script supervisor, Mama Stewart wrote and directed this micro-budgeted prison drama, which stars Goran Visnjic as a hotshot record producer who ends up in the slammer following a serious bender. But this isn't your ordinary garden variety prison -- no sir, it's a loony bin straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, one that's overseen by a cruel prison guard (D.B. Sweeney) and packed with kooky characters played by an odd assortment of semi-famous actors, from Kate del Castillo and Portia Doubleday to Tommy "Tiny" Lister and Jason Mewes.

Stand Up Guys: Sit Down, Please

by Ethan Alter February 1, 2013 6:00 am
Stand Up Guys: Sit Down, Please

If you've ever dreamed of seeing Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin together in the same movie, well... keep on dreaming. Because whatever deranged feature your mind conjures up while you're sleeping will almost certainly be better than Stand Up Guys the painfully bad crime comedy that finally unites these three acting legends under the guidance of director Fisher Stevens. (Yes... that Fisher Stevens). Not since Pacino squared off against Robert De Niro in Righteous Kill has a single movie so thoroughly blasphemed a set of Acting Gods.

Parker: Jason Statham Loves the ’80s

by Ethan Alter January 25, 2013 1:44 pm
Parker: Jason Statham Loves the ’80s

Forget the Schwarzenegger dud The Last Stand; the most authentic, ridiculous and overall entertaining '80s action movie throwback in theaters right now is Parker, the Taylor Hackford-directed, Jason Statham-starring big-screen version of the crime novel anti-hero created by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake). Although the character has been brought to the screen several times before -- including the 1967 classic Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin, and the compromised 1999 Mel Gibson-led Payback -- this is the first film that has been able to legally use the Parker name. And unlike those movies, it's not an adaptation of Parker's 1962 debut The Hunter, but rather a more recent installment, 2000's Flashfire (although the plot, once again, involves the character being betrayed by his fellow crooks and then embarking on a mission of revenge). But even though it takes place in the period of iPhones and Google, Hackford is very much working in the tradition of seedy Reagan-era crime pictures like John Frankenheimer's 52 Pick-Up and William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A.. Here are five ways in which the mostly satisfying Parker clearly loves the '80s.

Broken City: Forget It Mark, This Ain’t Chinatown

by Ethan Alter January 18, 2013 6:01 am
Broken City: Forget It Mark, This Ain’t Chinatown

If your goal is to make a contemporary version of Roman Polanski's Chinatown, complete with an anti-heroic private eye and a shady land-grab deal overseen by corrupt politicians and businessmen, you'd best bring your A-game. It's too bad then, that the creative forces behind Broken City -- including director Allen Hughes, screenwriter Brian Tucker and star Mark Wahlberg -- only came to play with their B-game. But hey, even second-string teams can eke out a victory now and then and Broken City turns out to be a solid, if unexceptional, urban crime yarn that updates the Chinatown template from 1930s Los Angeles for 2010s New York, although the movie's version of the Big Apple feels a heck of a lot closer to the '90s than today.

Killing Them Softly: With His Song… Uh, Gun

by Ethan Alter November 30, 2012 6:00 am
Killing Them Softly: With His Song… Uh, Gun

Five years ago, New Zealand-born director Andrew Dominik sought to explode the myth of the noble outlaw in his admirable, but dramatically uneven Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Now he's back to expose the seedy truth behind another figure of American legend: the noble gangster. Based on the novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, Dominik's new film Killing Them Softly relocates the 1974 Boston-set crime story to New Orleans circa September 2008, right after the historic financial meltdown that left the United States reeling. The effects of that crisis are heard -- via a steady stream of news reports that blare from TV screens and talk radio stations -- and felt throughout the movie, which presents depicts organized crime as a soulless racket, populated by profit-minded lowlifes who are only separated from the similarly unscrupulous Wall Street fat cats by their dressed-down wardrobe. Forget the old canard about "honor amongst thieves" -- for many of the men who populate Killing Them Softly, honor is a thing that can easily be sold for the right price.

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