A New York City bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) picks up an envelope for a rush delivery. A crooked cop (Michael Shannon) wants
said envelope. The cop spends the next hour and a half chasing the messenger. That’s
essentially all there is to
Premium Rush. Does there need to be anything more? Most of the early reviews suggest not.
This year may go down in history as the year in which filmmakers remembered the best
action films don’t need to be overthought. Simplicity is the way to go with these
flicks. So we have films like Steven Soderbergh’s excellent
Haywire, which has little more plot than “double-crossed secret government operative beats
up a bunch of people” and the incendiary Indonesian martial arts flick
The Raid: Redemption, which is nothing more than “cop tries to fight his way out of a high rise full of
criminals.” In keeping with that tradition, Koepp uses that flimsy envelope as an
equally flimsy excuse for lots of high-speed biking through the streets of New York.
If the chases are good enough, that’s all that’s really necessary for a solidly entertaining
end-of-summer popcorn flick.
One of the most uncomfortable thrillers you’ll see this year,
Craig Zobel’s new film tells a story that would be completely unbelievable but for the fact that
all the most shocking elements of it happened in real life. Taking the so-called “strip-search
prank-call scam” of the
’90s and early ’00s, in which a man made calls to mostly fast-food establishments
pretending to be a police officer and convinced dozens of managers to strip-search
young female employees, Zobel concentrates on one of the most awful of the 70 reported
incidents that happened over the course of a dozen years. The film is a chilling look
at just how easily we are swayed by perceived authority, and while the film does offer
viewers a reprieve by allowing them some distance from events, the fact is that many
people would do the same thing put in the movie’s scenario, which makes it all the
You can read my full review over at
View the trailer. Opens tomorrow at E
An elderly former burglar, played by
Frank Langella, is given a robot to help him out as he gets further into old age and is less able
to care for himself, but winds up training his new companion to help him pull minor
heists around his small upstate New York town. What sounds like a goofy premise is
actually the foundation for a surprisingly emotional look at aging, loneliness, and
the ways we interact with technology. It’s also a fantastic showcase for Langella,
who perfectly conveys the confusion and sadness of man who is all too aware of the
ways his once-sharp mind is beginning to fail him.
The Chauvet Cave in southern France is home to some of the oldest cave paintings known
to man, as well as some of the most well-preserved, thanks to the cave being completely
sealed off from the outside world for thousands of years, until its discovery in 1994.
Werner Herzog was given access to the caves in 2010 to make a documentary, and in typically contrarian
Herzogian fashion, he reversed his formerly stated opposition to 3D filmmaking and
shot the caves in 3D in order to demonstrate the depth and contours of the cave in
ways 2D doesn’t allow for. The Goethe-Institut’s presentation isn’t the 3D version,
but this is Herzog, so the 3D is hardly the only attraction. As is his habit, he finds
oddball characters associated with the cave to interview and waxes philosophical about
the people who made the paintings. But he also knows when to let the images speak
for themselves, and allows
Ernst Reijseger’s gorgeous soundtrack to be the only sounds heard as his cameras gracefully track
along the cave walls. Also in typically Herzogian fashion, he can’t resist a bit of
his trademark “ecstatic truth” approach to documentary filmmaking, adding a not-quite-factual
postscript about albino alligators near both Chauvet and a local nuclear plant, suggesting
that their lack of coloration is a mutation caused by the nuclear plant. Tying this
left-field flight of fancy back in to the rest of the film is part of the usual intellectual
fun of watching a Herzog documentary.
This French-Canadian production attracted a number of awards north of the border last
year, including top prize at the Vancouver Film Festival, and the award for best film
by a first-time director at the Canadian version of the Oscars, the Genie Awards.
The film looks at a couple who meet at a rave, have a one-night stand, and, as the
night goes on, begin revealing more and deeper secrets to one another.
Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week:
One of the very best movies of 2011 finally is available on disc in the US this week:
Asghar Farhadi’s fantastic, multilayered drama,
A Separation. The film picked up the Best Foreign Language Academy Award earlier this year and
was on practically every top ten list out there, honors that were hugely deserved.
Farhadi takes the story of an Iranian couple who are splitting up and manages to make
a film that touches on issues of politics and religion in that country without ever
losing sight of the emotional core of the film. It’s deceptively simple, and deeply
moving. You can read my full review from last year over at DCist.
Special Features: Commentary from director Asghar Farhadi as well as two interviews
with the filmmaker, one a 30-minute post-screening Q&A, and the other an eight-minute
one-on-one interview in which he talks more generally about how he became a filmmaker
and his overall approach to filmmaking.
View the trailer.