Movie Reviews – September 2012

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The Imposter
Indomina Releasing   
In Theaters: 09.21
Almost 20 years ago, Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, got into an argument with his family, ran away from home and disappeared. For three years, the Barclay family thought the worst had happened, but when a phone call from authorities in Spain claiming to have found Nicholas reignited their hope, that’s the moment when Bart Layton’s documentary really enters the world of the bizarre. The individual claiming to be “Nicholas” was actually Frédéric Bourdin, a twenty-something con artist whose list of criminal actions would shock the majority of most outlaws. While Bourdin has his reasoning for attempting to portray a missing child to escape his past, the darker question resides with the Barclay family and why they went along with such a strange story when so many elements and characteristics were too farfetched to believe. Bourdin is seven years senior to the real Nicholas and speaks with a strong European accent, both characteristics which should have easily been caught by the Barclays, but were not. Why? Were they too enamored with the idea of locating their lost son/brother, or was there something else much more horrific they were trying to conceal? Layton explores both possibilities and unravels the story with precision in timing and key plot twists, keeping the audience members guessing every step of the way. For a story that’s too wacky to be true, Layton offers well crafted dramatizations and candid one-on-one interviews with both sides of the tale that will make you question who’s telling the truth. Choose your side however you will, but no one can deny the entertaining quality of Bourdin, who comes across as a smarmy felon, too satisfied with his terrible actions. –Jimmy Martin

Lawless
The Weinstein Company
In Theaters: 08.29
Adapted for the screen from Matt Bondurant’s novel, The Wettest County in the World, by Nick Cave (who also co-wrote the soundtrack with Warren Ellis), director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) sets his sights on the brutally violent days of Prohibition and the true story of the Bondurant brothers, a trio of siblings who found underground fame and fortune in the bootlegging business in the backwoods of Franklin, Va. While Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) simply focus on the setup’s current operations and act as the group’s enforcers, the youngest of the pack, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), yearns to expand the family business. In order to do so, he must expose their system to some unruly gangsters, including the notorious Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) and avoid arrest from Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce), a psychotic police officer, hell-bent on shutting down the rural regime. Hillcoat’s period piece reiterates the basic elements of many of the genre’s creations before it, and the filmmaking style is reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing, but it’s the acting that separates itself from the herd. It’s been a long time since LaBeouf was allowed the opportunity to shine rather than scream “Optimus” repeatedly. However, it’s Hardy and Pierce who carry the majority of the film’s appealing moments. Hardy replaces his mask from The Dark Knight Rises with a pair of brass knuckles and unleashes blow after jaw-crushing blow to justify the indestructible mythos behind his character. An unnatural-looking Pierce, on the other hand, is perfect as the slimy lawman who, while only performing his occupational duties, makes viewers want to cheer for the lawbreakers’ illegal actions. Now, that’s a villain! –Jimmy Martin

Rose Tattoo: Live in 1993 from Boggo Road Jail
MVD/Umbrella   
Street: 05.22
Rose Tattoo is one of those few Australian bands that have managed to define Oz rock for the rest of the world. Their hard-working, sweaty and venomous take on heavy blues rock brings the entire sunburnt continent into focus. If you know them at all, it is most likely due to one of their Aussie hits like “Bad Boy for Love,” “Rock’n’Roll Outlaw” or “We Can’t Be Beaten.” All of these songs were chart-toppers down under, and all of them made it onto this live DVD. This performance was recorded by a reunited Rose Tattoo in the early ‘90s (they had broken up in the 1980s) at a notorious Australian prison. The concert is typical Rose Tattoo: heavy on the slide guitar, thumping drums and bass, and searing vocals courtesy of Angry Anderson. The crowd loves them, and the energy they bring helps the band realize their full potential. They blow through about a dozen songs, including a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.” In all, it’s a good concert film, an hour of solid blues rock in front of a nostalgic crowd. Although I’m not entirely sure what appeal there is for a stateside release of a 20-year-old performance of a moderately popular Australian band, I can say that, if you’re into hard-hitting outlaw rock, then this is probably for you. –James Bennett

Sleepwalk With Me
IFC Films
In Theaters: 09.07
Hearing Ira Glass introduce Mike Birbiglia on the radio show, This American Life, has always brought an anticipatory grin to my face. Birbiglia is a master storyteller, telling confessional tales about his life that are guaranteed to both make you laugh and squirm uncomfortably in your seat from the awkward situations he’s always getting into. First spawned as an off-Broadway, one-man show, Sleepwalk With Me is a translation of Birbiglia’s comedy act adapted for the silver screen, polished to perfection with the help of Ira Glass. Like it should, Sleepwalk With Me begins with Birbiglia’s character, Matt Pandamiglio, driving in a car and speaking directly to the camera, starting with his classic opener, “I’m going to tell you a story … and it’s true.” The overall plot is a collection of the stories from his act, pieced together into a narrative about a self-deprecating bartender who’s trying to balance his rising career as a comedian and his increasingly more serious relationship with his girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose), all while struggling with a sleeping disorder that causes him to act out his dreams. Birbiglia’s character interrupts here and there to continue narrating the story and go on a few tangents, and the film is intertwined with hilarious clips of his stand-up act—well, “Matt Pandamiglio’s” stand-up. Birbiglia fans will recognize all the material from his various media outlets, but don’t let this keep you from watching—the film interpretation gives a fresh perspective on the content that I guarantee will leave you laughing, no matter how many times you’ve heard the jokes. –Esther Meroño

The Words
CBS Films
In Theaters: 09.07
The Words is a fascinating, multi-layered drama that sets one story upon another, forcing viewers to question their own morals and the amount of compassion we can share with those who have made terrible mistakes. Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) stands before a captivated audience as he begins to read excerpts from his latest novel. As he speaks, the world of Rory (Bradley Cooper) and Dora (Zoe Saldana) comes to life. As a struggling writer still asking for financial relief from his father, Rory idolizes those who lived the same life before him and never dares to forsake his dreams, but after countless rejections, the end of the dream is near. While searching through an antique briefcase his wife purchased as a wedding present, Rory discovers a beautifully written masterpiece and subsequently submits the manuscript as his own, which, in turn, transforms the aspiring author into the biggest name in the world of publishing. As his monetary status skyrockets and his fears are laid to rest, all would seem perfect for Rory, until an old man (Jeremy Irons) surfaces, claiming to know the origins of the text. Directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal have crafted an Inception-like, multi-tiered storyline that stays enchanting on every level. Every actor delivers strong, solid performances, but it’s Irons who stands out with a role that’s powerfully assertive with an underlying source of benevolence and heartbreak. It may be a tad early to say, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Irons receiving accolades once award season is upon us for his achievement in the Supporting Actor category. –Jimmy Martin