Saturday, July 12, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS: Two on Netflix--Out of the Furnace and Dear Zachary

Excuse the language, but profanity provides the most apt description for this 2013 Scott Cooper film.  

1. This movie is depressing as sh*t.
2. Woody Harrelson is scary as f*ck.
3. Christian Bale acts his ass off.

The critics were very 50/50 on this one, mostly because they found it to be a tired, poorly written and pointless script about machismo and revenge.  Despite that it could have been a much better film were it more focused, I actually still liked this movie very much.

The cinematography is outstanding, capturing the grimly realistic and painful place where people work crappy, carcinogenic jobs, but couldn't even tell you what 'carcinogenic' means. The characters were all very plausible and authentic. Along with the aforementioned, the cast is comprised of a stellar group of folks who can really act: Forest Whitaker, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, and Willem Dafoe.

I cannot say enough about Christian Bale. Of course, he's a terrific actor, but I appreciated his performance more in this film than in any other of his that I have seen. He has three incredible scenes with Zoe Saldana.

It is no easy feat to establish the depth of a relationship in three scenes, but in this case they do it so successfully that, as a watcher, you believe it and you feel deeply moved by it. The first scene together caught my eye because it felt so authentic and, well, loving. Just a brief scene, but truly you felt this man and this woman were in love...really in love, not the cheesy movie-love. It set up so well their next scene together that I shed a tear and I read that other people who saw the film also cried at this second scene. Who can do that? Establish such a connection in one quick scene that the next time you see this couple together you are moved to tears?

Anyway, I should let you know that the film is pretty violent in spots, bleak and depressing throughout. I did enjoy it, though, and I would watch it again to see Christian Bale's performance. He's that good.

This 2008 documentary by Kurt Kuenne is one part love-letter to his best friend, his best friend's son, and his best friend's parents, and one part Dateline murder expose. 

The direction is sharp and clever and keeps things moving. It also manages to memorialize these events, and Andrew Bagley, in a way that is never maudlin, yet utterly heartbreaking at every turn. 

I remember seeing Andrew's story on Dateline, but having some prior knowledge of it did not lessen the impact of this documentary at all.  The sequence of events following the actual murder are shocking and devastating. It's well done and worth seeing. Have some kleenex handy, though.

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