Daily Archives: October 3, 2012



Frozen River     Hollywood was delinquent when it finally gave an Oscar to Melissa Leo for 2010’s The Fighter; she should have won two years earlier for her role in this dramatic thriller, in which she plays a hard-bitten mother of two boys who gets involved in human smuggling on the New York-Canadian border.  The movie, from first-time writer-director Courtney Hunt, has atmosphere up the wazoo, with a near-perfect mixture of blue-collar pathos and nail-biting suspense.  The connection is Leo, who manages to garner empathy for a “trailer trash” mom who’s alternately heartless and heartbreaking.  Release:  2008  Grade:  B+






The Snowtown Murders     Snowtown is a two-hour journey into hell that — assuming you don’t leave the room — grabs you and doesn’t let go.  It’s the story of Australia’s most notorious serial killer, John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), whose sinister charisma sucked in disciples and ultimately led to a rented building filled with bodies soaking in acid.  Everything and everyone in this film is depressing — not just the killings, but also the joyless, blue-collar lifestyle of suburban Adelaide.  Unpleasant stuff, to be sure, but also powerful, and Henshall is unforgettable.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B+





Cortex     This nifty little French thriller is notable for its unusual hero (old) and setting (a home for people with Alzheimer’s).  Andre Dussollier plays a retired detective who doesn’t remember his own son, but whose cop instincts tell him that fellow patients are dying under suspicious circumstances.  Dussollier is magnetic, but Cortex’s pedestrian plot has a few too many holes.  Release:  2008  Grade:  B-






Carnage     Near the beginning of Carnage, after meeting the liberal Longstreets (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) and the conservative Cowans (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet), Brooklyn parents meeting to discuss a playground scuffle between their sons, my feeling was, “I don’t want to spend an entire movie with these people.  They are all smug and annoying.”  I changed my mind thanks to some terrific actors and a bottle of Scotch that loosened their tongues and stripped away their social armor.  Director Roman Polanski simply sets up shots and lets his actors roll.  The result is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with a wicked sense of humor.  Release: 2011  Grade:  B+


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