Movie Tickets: "Goon," "Marley," and a Peter Falk Retrospective

Our picks for the best in film over the next seven days.
Sean William Scott stars in the minor-league-hockey flick Goon, opening today at West End. Photograph courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Sean William Scott stars in the minor-league-hockey flick Goon, opening today at West End. Photograph courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.


Goon

In 1977, Paul Newman starred in a profane, violent,
and absolutely hilarious movie about a minor-league hockey team, which
was met with mixed reviews but eventually became a cult
classic, and probably the most revered movie about the sport ever
made. That movie,
Slap Shot, figures heavily into many reviews of
Goon, also a profane, violent comedy about
minor-league hockey. The comparisons have largely been favorable, too;
combine critical
love with a limited release, and a lot of buzz around the
Internet from fans of sports flicks, and this too might just have
the makings of a future cult classic.

The film stars
Sean William Scott as a lovable lunkhead who’s
recruited from the stands to be a minor-league enforcer (the guy who’s
not particularly skilled
at offense or defense, but can deliver pain to the other team
like nobody else) after the coach sees him knock out a player
who attacks his friend in the stands. This despite the fact
that he has no real hockey experience. There are, of course, love
interests and violent on-ice rivalries, just like the scruffy
classic comedy to which this is being compared.

View the trailer. Opens today at West End Cinema.


Just One More Thing: Peter Falk Remembered

Last year after Peter Falk’s death, I made a regular Saturday afternoon date with my Netflix queue to watch old episodes of

Columbo for a number of weeks following the news. The
show might be otherwise unremarkable–a formula-following police
procedural
with a parade of big-name guest stars, as was common for that
type of program back in the ’70s and ’80s–except for the distinctive
presence of Falk as the “I’m not a dumb guy, but I play one to
fool crooks” detective. Falk, with his gruff speech and that
cockeyed gaze thanks to his one glass eye, had the face and the
quirks of a lifelong supporting character actor: He should
have been one of those guys you always see in movies, but can
never remember his name. But Falk brought a subtlety and sensitivity
to his work that was truly special, and one only needs to see
his turn in
John Cassavetes‘s
A Woman Under the Influence to realize he was not just
a lovable character actor, but also a massive talent. That film, along
with a couple of his other
Cassavetes collaborations, will screen over the next few months
at the AFI, along with a number of other titles for a total
of ten Falk classics. In addition to the Cassavetes titles
(which I think remain his best work), there’s also
The Brink’s Job, a heist comedy directed by William Friedkin;
Wings of Desire, Falk’s turn as the earthbound contact for Bruno Ganz’s angel in Wim Wenders’s most celebrated work; collaborations with
Blake Edwards and Frank Capra; and Falk’s best-loved role to many, as the grandfather in
The Princess Bride. Things get underway this weekend with one of his earliest roles, the crime drama
Murder, Inc., for which he received an Oscar nomination.

View the
trailer
. Murder, Inc., the
retrospective’s first film, screening this
weekend. Starting Sunday at the
AFI, and
continuing through June.


Marley

Despite the longstanding popularity and international
fascination with reggae star Bob Marley, even three decades after his
death, there’s never been a major documentary about his life.
His family maintains strict control over his music and legacy,
and finally decided to grant the access required for such a
project a few years ago. The film was worked on by both Martin
Scorsese and Jonathan Demme before eventually landing in the
hands of director
Kevin Macdonald. A director of both documentaries (Touching the Void) and narrative features (The
Last King of Scotland), Macdonald is a straightforward
storyteller, and his approach to Marley is as traditional as can be. He
begins with Marley’s
birth, ends with his death, and hits the time between largely
chronologically, with plenty of interviews with friends and
family, archival footage, and old photographs. And of course,
Marley’s music, which provides the constant soundtrack to the
film, maintains a constant presence, even though the film is
more a documentary about Marley’s life than his work. Macdonald
takes great pains to concentrate on aspects of Marley’s life
that tend to be downplayed in his usual public perception, including
his very calculated rise to the top, his large degree of power
in Jamaican politics during the height of his fame, and his
constant womanizing. A fascinating and long-awaited portrait of
a fascinating figure.

View the
trailer
. Opens today at E
Street
Cinema
.


Sextette

What movie featured a Beatle, a member of the Who, one
of the earliest heavy metal stars, a future James Bond, one of
Hollywood’s
earliest sex symbols, and a future morning television host?
That would be
Sextette, a bizarre musical sex comedy from 1978 that
starred a then-84-year-old Mae West (in what would be her last movie) as
an
aging sex symbol on a trip with her sixth husband (played by
Timothy Dalton). She’s accosted by a range of strangers and ex-husbands
(including Ringo Starr, Tony Curtis, and George Hamilton), who
all seem obsessed with trying to get her into bed; there are
also appearances from Regis Philbin, Dom Delouise, and Keith
Moon. The movie was beset by difficulties ranging from West’s
inability to remember lines or even to see well enough to walk
around the set unassisted; it’s garnered minor cult status
just for being such an unmitigated disaster, and is
surprisingly off-the-wall for such a star-studded production. All of
which
makes it perfect fare for the Washington Psychotronic Film
Society, which screens it next week.

View the
trailer
. Monday at 8 PM at
McFadden’s. WPFS
screenings are free, but a $2 donation is suggested.


Hanezu

Japanese director
Naomi Kawase was not yet 30 when she won the
Best New Director award at Cannes in 1997, and has had her films at the
festival a number
of times in the years since, winning the Grand Prix ten years
after that first award. Despite her excellent reputation in
the south of France, as well as much of the rest of the world,
her films haven’t made much headway in the US, and the latest,

Hanezu, is no exception. It played at Cannes last
year, but never found US distribution. The National Gallery of Art will
host a
screening this weekend, however, giving local audiences a
chance to see this typically elegant work from the director. The
film, a meditative work as concerned with the natural world as
with its characters (as her work often is), looks at a love
triangle in a rural community between a woman, her live-in
boyfriend, and the woodworker with whom she’s having an affair.

View the
trailer
. Tomorrow at 4:30 PM
at the National Gallery of Art.

Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week:

Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol

It’s always a pleasant surprise when, many movies into a longstanding franchise, one finds a film that actually outshines
any of the rest of the entries in the series. That’s what we got late last year with the fourth installment of the
Mission: Impossible series, with Pixar director
Brad Bird trying his hand at live action for
the first time, and proving he’s just as skilled with people as he is
with pixels. Bird
takes an unremarkable plot–a tired one even, largely left over
from Cold War-era Russian fearmongering–and infuses it with
new life by using it as a simple framework to show off his
formidable visual skills. The result is among the finest action
movies in recent memory, with some truly dazzling set pieces
that make full use of the large-format Imax technology Bird used
to shoot much of the film. Show it on the biggest screen you’ve
got at home, and you may feel like you’re about to fall from
the tallest building in the world right along with Tom Cruise.

You can read my complete review over at NPR.

Special Features: Some reportedly very in-depth and extensive making-of features, which are apparently much more detailed
than standard DVD-extra fare, along with commentary-accompanied deleted scenes.

View the trailer.

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