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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 23 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 34
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Trouble in Texas - Bleakly sparse Bodies is a sensational old-school Western noir
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS
Opens August 23


Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) has broken out of prison. His sweetheart, Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), still resides in the same small Texas town in which four years prior the two of them robbed a local bank. He went to jail, with extra time added because he took the blame for shooting deputy sheriff Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster). She's more or less cleared of all charges even though her involvement is far more heinous then most realize, this treatment in large part due to the intervention of father figure, friend, and local criminal ringleader Skerritt (Keith Carradine). He's good at keeping his hands clean, by all accounts a trusted and valued part of the community, and even though he's as dirty a player as anyone, his words go a long way - meaning Ruth comes out of this mess relatively unscathed.

Why has Bob escaped from prison? What's taking him back to Ruth and his hometown? Will Skerritt allow him to return? And what of Patrick? He's been looking out for Ruth, keeping track of both her and her four-year-old daughter for reasons he can't quite comprehend, his attachment to the young woman more intimate, and in many ways life-altering, than he initially realizes. It's a bit of a mess, and as much as Ruth still loves Bob she's not sure she wants him back in either her or their child's lives, the world having changed in so many ways since the last time they were together.

For fans of '70s-style Midwestern criminal noirs like Thieves Like Us, Badlands, and McCabe & Mrs. Miller, writer/director David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints is borderline essential. Stripped down, playing in a world Cormac McCarthy or Elmore Leonard would happily call home, the movie is a quietly devastating journey into heartbreak, crime, family, and redemption that had me captivated right from the onset. It is a moody morality play where what goes unsaid is every bit as important as, if not more so than, the actual spoken dialogue.

I could eat up films like this by the ton. Lowery's follow-up to his 2009 debut St. Nick treads a well-worn path but does it with style, vitality, emotion, and panache. The director doesn't spell things out, playing things as close to the vest as possible. He lets events happen naturally, without any extra incentives, everything moving with the simple eloquence of a soft summer's breeze rustling through the Texas hill country. These are complex, intricately detailed characters, yet ones who also follow extremely familiar archetypes, making them continually fascinating yet also intimately relatable.

MAGNIFICENT MARA
It helps that all four of the leads, especially Mara and Foster, are superb, the former delivering her second, award-worthy performance of 2013 (the first coming in Side Effects). She really goes all out, investing so much of herself inside Ruth it's hard to know where the performance begins and the character ends. She disappears within the woman's worries, insecurities, and desires, her love for her child all-encompassing even though her longing for Bob's caresses hasn't subsided one single bit in the four years since the two were separated.

Foster is also excellent, his work as Sheriff Wheeler a lesson in subtle dexterity that defies easy descriptors. He shares a sensational climactic scene with Mara that blew my mind, the pair showcasing an uneasy symmetry and a hardscrabble chemistry that ends up bringing forth all the film's themes and ideas with visceral, emotional electricity. Affleck also soars, and even though Bob is without question the most archetypal of all the characters he manages to imbue him with depths and passions Lowery's script only hint at.

Then there's Carradine. His presence almost feels essential, his connection to the material apparent right away. There's not a lot on the page as far as Skerritt is concerned, and in many ways we know all we need to about him the moment it is revealed he's the criminal power working these small-town Texas streets. He adds a needed gravitas, and while he knows what is going to happen and why, he never once allows that information to cloud his judgment or keep him from doing what he feels is in the best interest of Ruth and her child.

There are a few hiccups. A cadre of heavies show up about halfway through and aren't exactly well-developed, while the reasons behind Bob's prison break aren't exactly shocking. There are some major coincidences at the end which, in some ways, are admittedly kind of silly, a climactic shootout extremely well-staged, photographed, and choreographed even if it doesn't make much logical sense.

At the same time, Lowery has done a tremendous job bringing this to life. Bradford Young's (Pariah) cinematography is top-notch, while the editing by Craig McKay (The Silence of the Lambs) and Jane Rizzo (Compliance) has a hypnotic lyrical quality that's undeniable. Daniel Hart's (St. Nick) score is something else, his eerily quiet cadences adding just the right touch magnifying the mood and the ambiance Lowery is working overtime to create. Ain't Them Bodies Saints doesn't rewrite the rulebook or transform the genre in any way that's new or different - and that's OK. When a movie is as close to perfectly constructed as this, when the acting is this universally excellent, not being the most original noir in the backwoods Texas hill country is just fine with me.


No, after you ... Playfully subversive You're Next is a grisly lark
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

YOU'RE NEXT
Opens August 23


College professor Crispian Davison (AJ Bowen) has brought his young, ex-student girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) home to meet the folks. His parents, Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton), are celebrating their anniversary, and they've invited all of their children to their secluded New England home for a reunion. Spoiled sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz) is there with her latest beau, Tariq (Ti West), as is egotistical eldest Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his haughty wife, Kelly (Sarah Myers). Rounding things out is the youngest sibling, Felix (Nicholas Tucci), his Goth girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) straggling along behind looking as if she'd rather be anyplace else.

At first things go as you'd expect. The bickering, the joking, the prodding, the jabs at one another's weight, career choices, ambitions, desires, failures, etc., etc. - all of it is spat out across the lavish table. But things take a turn when arrows begin to fly through the windows, destruction and dismemberment following in their wake. Seems a trio of masked killers is outside, seemingly intent on massacring the family one by one, and if the Davisons can't put their petty squabbles and insignificant insecurities behind them then they might as well give themselves up for sacrifice and hope death is quick.

You're Next is not your typical home-invasion horror-thriller. Filled with inventive twists and turns, showcasing a heroic transformation that would cause Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver to rise to their feet in unabated cheers, the movie is a witty, gory, and unexpectedly exciting hoot filled with scares and laughs aplenty. It doesn't so much break genre convention as it uses inherent clichés against the audience in ways that feel fresh, oftentimes invigorating, everything building to a rousingly, if suitably cynical, bloodthirsty climax I adored.

Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are probably best known for being two of the minds behind the V/H/S franchise, but that 2012 cult favorite and its superior 2013 sequel are only part of the story. They also made the 2010 mumblecore serial-killer horror entry A Horrible Way to Die, and while the film was far from perfect it showcased an assured directorial talent and a confident storyteller working in tandem to play with genre and expectations in ways that were uncomfortably exciting.

The pair ascend to the next level here, their careful and meticulous deconstruction of the home-invasion thriller coupled with their fresh take on slasher-film clichés combing to make You're Next one of the summer's most unabashed, if gruesomely sadistic, surprises. It's a fun romp, watching one survivor rise to the challenges presented while the surviving members of the Davison clan crumble into self-doubt and insecurity a singular hoot. None of the characters are what they appear to be, making the stupidity behind a great deal many of their actions not as ludicrous and as laughable as they might initially appear.

AN UNLIKELY HEROINE
Vinson steals the show. The unexpected focal point of much of the life or death activity going on inside the house, the Aussie actress gives Erin shadings and layers the script hints at but doesn't flesh out in great detail. Who she is and why she is so able to think rationally just as chaos erupts around her is a mystery worthy of garnering answers to, Vinson revealing little facets of Erin's personality and her history only as required, amplifying her emotional journey in the process. It's a confident performance, direct and confident yet also laced with just the proper amount of uncertainty, mania, and fear, the actress going all-out to make her character one of the more complex and intriguing female figures we've seen this summer.

In many ways You're Next is an easy movie to say too much about. Even talking about Vinson and her character takes away some portion of surprise, insinuating that Erin lives a bit longer than most of the others do. Worse would be if I were to dive into the layers of subtext and subterfuge buried (not all that deeply, but still under the surface) within Barrett's intricately constructed script. Heck, even the best bits, many of which are amazingly quotable, of dialogue would require a spoiler warning if I were to repeat them, and while nothing that happens is hardly groundbreaking or new that doesn't make any of it less enjoyable.

Bottom line? You're Next, a movie Lionsgate has been for whatever reason sitting on for almost two years, waiting for what they felt was the best release date, is another genre effort this summer that, along with The Purge, V/H/S 2, and The Conjuring, proves horror isn't as dying a cinematic breed as some might think. More so, it's arguably the best of the lot, the finished product a grisly lark ranking as one of 2013's finest achievements.






Holy rollers - Ta'Rea Campbell works miracles in Sister Act
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Apocalypse not yet - Satirically pointed World's End walks in its predecessors' footsteps
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Janelle Monáe announces Seattle show
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A familiar face - Meet Rebecca Davis, the greatest actress you never knew
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Flapper fiesta - You really oughta go to Sound Theatre's wild party
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Ballet for burlesque - My cis-limit exploration in the world of dance
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Neighbours Pageant celebrates 20 years on Sunday
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Kiki with D: Change is in the air
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Nickelodeon star comes out as Gay
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Trouble in Texas - Bleakly sparse Bodies is a sensational old-school Western noir
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No, after you ... Playfully subversive You're Next is a grisly lark
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Transitioning to greatness
A conversation with Gay-friendly musician Brendan James

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Northwest News
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Letters
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Prison Break star breaks out of the closet - Wentworth Miller reveals he is Gay in letter to Russian film festival
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