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Review: The Losers


The Losers

Adapted from the Vertigo comic by the same name, action flick The Losers is a tale of betrayal, deception and revenge. At the center of the plot is an elite black ops U.S. Special Forces team, which tackles search-and-destroy missions across the globe. Things get complicated when a mission into the Bolivian jungle becomes a double-cross, and the team is left stranded in the jungle, presumed dead. All this takes place in the opening credits, and the remaining 80-plus minutes of action, directed by Sylvain White, follow the team as they track down the enemy that betrayed them.

The central characters in The Losers are the Special Forces team members, including "Colonel" Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), tech guy Jensen (Chris Evans), tactical Roque (Idris Elba), driver Pooch (Columbus Short), and sharpshooter Cougar (Óscar Jaenada). The group must first focus their efforts on getting out of Bolivia and back into the U.S. to track down Max (Jason Patric), the ruthless rogue CIA agent who is intent on starting a high-tech global conflict.

Review: City Island


City Island

In the comedic drama City Island, writer/director Raymond de Felitta pairs Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies together as Vince and Joyce Rizzo, a couple that cause more damage by hiding their aspirations than by opening up to one another. Interestingly enough, in The Man from Elysian Fields, Garcia portrayed a man hiding his secret career as a male escort from his wife, played by Margulies. However, City Island is much lighter and palatable fare and with a broader appeal to viewers. 

The Rizzos appear to live a mundane life on the outskirts of the Bronx on City Island. As a corrections officer, Vince Rizzo (Garcia) takes particular interest in young ex-con Tony Nardella (Steven Strait) and decides to bring him home in his custody. Turns out that Vince has many secrets that he keeps from his wife, most importantly that he has an illegitimate son -- guess who? -- and that his weekly poker game is really an acting class. He's afraid of his wife Joyce's (Margulies) temper, although his deception backfires in that she thinks he's having a affair. Meanwhile, his daughter Vivianne (Dominik García-Lorido) is hiding the fact that she lost her college scholarship and is working as a stripper to earn money for school.

DVD Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans


Bad LieutenantThe film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is an odd but effective take on police corruption and the horrors of drug addiction. The film, now available on DVD and Blu-ray, combines a standard police procedural with elements of quirky, drug-fueled surrealism in a dark commentary about the fine -- and often blurred -- line between police work and criminal behavior.

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, the story follows Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage), a New Orleans police sergeant who injures his back while trying to rescue an inmate from a flooded jail cell. McDonagh is promoted to lieutenant for his heroism, but along with the promotion comes the prospect of a lifetime of debilitating back pain.

Six months after his promotion, McDonagh is assigned to investigate the execution-style murders of five Senegalese immigrants. By this time, he's already deeply addicted to painkillers, supplementing his prescriptions with OxyContin, cocaine and whatever else he can pilfer from the evidence room or score from suspects he detains. But McDonagh's substance abuse is only one of his problems; when not hustling his next fix, he's begging his bookie (Brad Dourif) to loan him enough money for just one more bet or paying a visit to his equally drug-addled girlfriend, Frankie (Eva Mendes), a high-dollar prostitute.

As McDonagh leads the murder investigation, it's obvious that he's a very skilled cop. But his true talent seems to lie in complicating his own life. As his gambling debts mount, he goes to extreme lengths to pay them off. He has a run-in with one of Frankie's johns, an abusive but wealthy and well connected thug who vows to get revenge when McDonagh steals his money. McDonagh also takes his rogue-cop interrogation methods way too far, and soon both his job and his life are in jeopardy.

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

You can read more of contributor Laurie Coker's SXSW reviews and features at True View Reviews.

When the PR rep for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo told me not to offer my senior students passes to see the film, my curiosity piqued. Now that I have seen the Swedish (subtitled) mystery thriller, I understand completely. The film will mostly likely garner a NC-17 rating because of some graphic sex scenes and disturbing subject matter. As a huge fan of mysteries, the story intrigued me overall, even though some aspects are predictable, but I'm inclined to admit I found some scenes tough to watch.

Based on Stieg Larsson's novel Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) about a journalist and a young female hacker, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo brings together several unlikely characters, connecting them by way of a 40-year mystery. The story begins with financial reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) being sentenced for three months in prison for filing a supposedly fraudulent story about a well-known businessman, but hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) knows he was set up. From there, the tale moves to Blomkvist being hired by millionaire Henrik Vagner (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of his favorite niece (Harriet) when she was 16.

Review: Clash of the Titans


Clash of the Titans

Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) pays homage to stop-motion king Ray Harryhausen with his own version of Clash of the Titans, based on Harryhausen's 1981 original. Harryhausen's films from the 1950s through 1970s were full of amazing monsters and stop-motion action, most notably Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and One Million Years B.C.  Like Harryhausen, Leterrier brings to life the mythical world of the Greek gods through larger-than-life monsters and the golden ethereal world of Mt. Olympus.

The 2010 version of Clash of the Titans begins with the infant Perseus discovered afloat at sea by a poor fisherman. Perseus (Sam Worthington) turns out to be the son of Zeus but is raised as a man, and watches helpless as his family dies from the wrath of Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld. Mankind is defiant, and the gods retaliate by allowing Hades to teach a lesson to the arrogant king and queen of Argos. With his anger against Hades fueling him, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat the Kraken before it either destroys Argos or takes the sacrifice of the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos). Meanwhile, Hades plots to seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth.

Review: The Yellow Handkerchief


The Yellow Handkerchief

Feelings of loneliness and detachment usually isolate people from the world around them. But these feelings also can bring lonely souls together, bonding them with a shared sense of separation from their families and friends.

This paradoxical notion that separation can unite people is the central theme of The Yellow Handkerchief, a quietly intense film about three disparate strangers who generally trust no one but learn to trust each other while on a road trip through Louisiana. Smartly written, beautifully filmed and powerfully acted, The Yellow Handkerchief opens in Austin at the Arbor on Friday.

The story opens as Brett Hanson (William Hurt), newly paroled after six years in prison, wanders into a rural Louisiana town with a lot of emotional baggage and no idea where life will take him next. He meets awkward, lovelorn teen Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) and sullen teen beauty Martine (Kristen Stewart) after witnessing Gordy's inept and predictably disastrous attempt to impress the girl.

Review: Hot Tub Time Machine


Hot Tub Time Machine

I am a big fan of the 80s -- not as a retro fan, I still own all of the Duran Duran, the Smiths, and U2 vinyl albums I bought on their release dates. I was 22 years old in 1986, and would go "clubbing" dressed like Madonna in "Lucky Star." I loved John Hughes films, but my first film crush was on John Cusack as Walter "Gib" Gibson in The Sure Thing (1985). What could be better than a trip back to my favorite era than Hot Tub Time Machine starring and produced by Cusack himself, especially with Steve Pink (Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity) as director?

Hot Tub Time Machine begans with three buddies dealing with their own personal misery in their early forties, and wistful for the dreams of their youth in the 1980s. Adam (John Cusack) comes home to find that his girlfriend has moved out. Nick (Craig Robinson) is married, but his job at a dog-grooming salon is far from the musical career he had desired when he was young. Adam and Nick's friend Lou (Rob Corddry) is at rock-bottom -- he's a divorced alcoholic who is on a path to self-destruction.

Review: Our Family Wedding


Our Family Wedding

Please welcome contributor Laurie Coker, whose reviews you can also read at True View Reviews.

Romantic comedies always hit and miss with me. I like them, for the most part, but have grown weary of the formulaic plots and pat endings. Still, with fresh writing, quality gags and dialogue, a good director coupled with a fine screenwriter, can make even formulaic fun. Director/co-writer Rick Famuyiwa and screenwriters Wayne Conley and Malcolm Spellman offer some hilarious moments in Our Family Wedding. Had they left out at least three very stupid gags, it would have been a fine romantic comedy. But they did not avoid the silly, actually asinine, defeating what could have been a decent film overall, which will most certainly disappoint some.

One of my favorite actresses, America Ferrera, plays Lucy Ramirez, a young woman who drops out of law school, becomes engaged to an African-American man, Marcus (Lance Gross), who is heading to Laos as a physician for Doctors Without Borders. Lucy does so without mentioning any of it to her very conservative and traditional Hispanic parents, Miguel (Carlos Mencia) and Sonia (Diana-Maria Riva). Making matters worse, on the weekend they arrive, Miguel has a not so pleasant (and racially charged) encounter with Marcus's father Brad (Forest Whitaker). When the families finally meet, things get wild and cultural traditions clash in crazy mayhem.

Review: Terribly Happy


Terribly Happy

Films about small-town decline and despair share many hallmarks. No matter the setting, the themes and stories often are similar, with residents of blighted rural burgs living hapless lives against a crumbling backdrop of poverty and isolation, surviving on a familiar stoicism that barely masks their underlying frustration.

Thus, the brilliantly told story of Terribly Happy -- a Danish import that played Fantastic Fest 2009 and is back in Austin at  the Arbor this week -- has a universal appeal, as it could have happened in any small town from the Australian Outback to the Texas Panhandle. A dark and sometimes darkly comic thriller set in a dreary town near Copenhagen, Terribly Happy has much in common -- in a good way, that is-- with other films about rural life: The locals mind each other's business more often than minding their own, have little use for big-city ways, and rely on their own brand of frontier justice and morality to sort out good and evil. Above all, they welcome outsiders with a mix of suspicion and hostility.

Review: Green Zone


Matt Damon in Green Zone

Known for The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass brings more nonstop action to the screen in the historical action drama Green Zone, inspired by the novel "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. From April 2003 to October 2004, Chandrasekaran was The Washington Post's bureau chief in Baghdad, covering the American occupation of Iraq and supervising a team of correspondents. He lived in Baghdad for much of the six months before the war, reporting on the United Nations weapons-inspections process and the build-up to the conflict.

Director Greengrass joins forces with Hurt Locker cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and re-teams with Bourne lead Matt Damon, who plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. The story begins in the first month of the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, when Miller and his team are dispatched to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in various Iraqi locations, but come up emptyhanded. Everything points to the intelligence being flawed, but high officials stand by their source. Instead of searching for chemical agents, Chief Miller begins looking for the truth. Standing in his way is Washington's mouthpiece Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), who is too intent on advancing his mission to rebuild Iraq as an American-style democracy.

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