“Killing Them Softly”
Director Andrew Dominik has made three films in 12 years. He’s been very vocal about his frustration with filmmaking. But it doesn’t stop him from creating entertaining character studies that are rich in detail and social commentary. In his last film “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” he surrounded Brad Pitt with a cast of great actors and led them into some magic places where they could investigate immoral men made into pulp heroes. Pitt returns here as a hitman, which in itself has received antiheroic status. The plot is simple enough. It’s 2008 and two dummies rob a card game run by the mob that causes the local mafia’s economy to stall. It sounds a little familiar, right? Mirroring the criminal cannibalism during the fall of Wall Street, Pitt hammers home the leading hitman. It doesn’t have the scope of Jesse James, but the stylistic approach works to boil down a big concept into a hard-hitting example. Subtle and soft it ain’t, but the cast kills – worth a watch.
These images of a tsunami rampaging across the land, ripping apart families and turning an urban area into a wasteland have become really familiar in the last few years. But rarely is it done quite this impactful. Director Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio Sanchez first teamed up for “The Orphanage,” a Spanish-language thriller that never took the emotion or character development out of the thrills. Based on the true story of a family separated by the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, everything hinges on characters. The filmmakers deliver the scenes of water and destruction as a brutal offering. The aftermath is depicted just as unflinching. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor put together fabulous portrayals of parents put in extreme situations of survival. This film does more than keep its head above water. It provides a disaster movie with real emotional force – worth a watch.
“History of the Eagles”
A band’s success is not only based on discography, it also factors in the influence the musicians hold. When assessing the Eagles’ success it’s not only the band’s music, it’s also the solo music from these desperados. Life’s been good to them so far. The band’s long run is a diverse mix of genres – rock and pop, tinged with country and blues and soul – a lot of members taking it to the limit. Director Alison Ellwood knows how to capture the drama of an iconic band who lived in the fast lane and blew it. Starting as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, the Eagles ran originally from 1971 until 1980 and regrouped several times since 1994. All while shuffling members, suffering through drug problems and hotels in California and lawsuits and lying eyes and egos and nights full of heartaches and “Miami Vice” and Don Henley’s drum-fro hairdo. You’ll see what it’s like to be a prima donna rock star in the ’70s. You’ll remember how many Eagles’ songs you actually like. And it’ll give you a peaceful, easy feeling – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge