Tag Archives: Jason Clarke

Save a Prayer

The Devil All the Time

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

“Lord knows where a person who ain’t saved might end up.”

Indeed. The constant fight to overcome the worst in ourselves lies at the heart of The Devil All the Time, director Antonio Campos’s darkly riveting realization of Donald Ray Pollock’s best-selling novel.

Bookended by the close of World War II and the escalation in Vietnam, the film connects the fates of various characters living in the small rural towns of Southern Ohio and West Virginia.

Arvin (Tom Holland), the son of a disturbed WWII vet (Bill Skarsgård), fights to protect his sister (Eliza Scanlen) while he ponders his future. Husband and wife serial killers (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) look for hitchhikers to degrade, photograph and murder. A new small town preacher (Robert Pattinson) displays a special interest in the young girls of his congregation.

It’s a star studded affair—Mia Wasikowska, Haley Bennett and Sebastian Stan joining as well—but every actor blends into the woodsy atmosphere with a sense of unease that permeates the air. No stars here, all character actors in service of the film’s unsettling calling.

Pollock’s prose created a dizzyingly bleak landscape where Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy might meet to quietly ponder man’s inhumanity to man. Campos unlocks that world courtesy of Pollock himself, who narrates the film’s depravity with a backwoods folksiness that makes it all the more chilling.

As rays of light are constantly snuffed out by darkness, Campos (who also co-wrote the screenplay) uses Pollock’s voice and contrasting soundtrack song choices to create a perverse air of comfort.

Redemption is a slippery aim in and around Knockemstiff, Ohio, and grace is even harder to come by. With a heavier hand, this film would have been a savage beating or a backwoods horror of the most grotesque kind. Campos and his formidable ensemble deliver Pollock’s tale with enough understatement and integrity to cut deeply, unnerving your soul and leaving a well-earned scar.

House Divided

The Aftermath

by Hope Madden

While there are a number of fine points to James Kent’s The Aftermath, novelty is not among them.

You don’t need to know the plot, you just need to glimpse the movie poster: Jason Clarke is married to Keira Knightly; Alexander Skarsgård lives in their attic.

What happens, do you think? Any guesses?

It’s a love triangle you’d have to have your eyes closed to miss. No, the plot is not going to surprise or, to be honest, particularly entertain. Give Kent and Aftermath credit, then, for mining its backdrop for genuine tension, not to mention fascinating historical detail.

Knightly is Rachael Morgan, wife of a British colonel (Clarke, obv). She joins him in his post-victory assignment in what’s left of Hamburg, 1946. He’s been given the home of a German architect, Herr Lubert (Skarsgård), and in Morgan’s compassion (and naivete), he invites the former owner and his teenage daughter to stay on rather than face the harsh realities of the camps.

Clarke—who too often plays cuckolded husbands to waifish beauties and handsome houseguests—offers a sympathetic turn as a grieving man coming to grips with both a crisis of conscience as well as profound grief. Through him we glimpse the chaos of a divided city, conflict and hatred still echoing through rubble-strewn streets.

He’s intriguing, as are those minor characters who orbit his military life: the rogue Aryans still loyal to the cause, comrades taking pleasure in continuing to punish Germans, and the teenage girl lurking in the shadows of his own home.

Though the film continues to direct your attention to the beautiful people struggling against their desires, it’s angry adolescent Freda Lubert (Flora Thiemann) whose silent contempt compels attention. She’s wonderful, creating a spoiled, misguided character who’s hard to like and harder to predict.

It’s a nice distraction from a film that is otherwise as unsurprising as any you’re likely to see. Knightly and Skarsgård perform admirably in blandly familiar roles. And, of course, they look glorious. But pretty as they are, every moment they’re onscreen you’ll wish to be back out in the ruins of Hamburg with the actual characters.





Fish Story

Serenity

by George Wolf

NIGHT. FISHING BOAT CABIN. DESPERATION HEAVY IN THE AIR:

McConaughey takes a long, emphatic drag on a cigarette, then downs a shot of rum, his constantly wet t-shirt screaming for mercy.

Hathaway vamps in from the thunderstorm, wearing a hat pulled down low and a raincoat from the “nothing underneath” collection at Victoria’s Secret.

“I still love you, high school sweetheart, and now you have to save me…and our child,” she purrs. “Take my abusive husband Jason Clarke out on your fishing boat, feed him to the sharks, and I’ll give you ten million dollars.”

SMOKE, DRINK, STARE, T-SHIRT SOMEHOW WETTER INSIDE.

Yes, the noir is strong with Serenity, with familiar tropes laid so heavy you know something must be up. So when writer/director Steven Knight finally does make his pivot a la Gone Girl, the real eyebrow-raiser is why.

Knight, whose career has shown flashes of brilliance (Eastern Promises, Locke), takes his latest in some wild directions, almost none of which make much sense. There’s plenty of pretty island scenery, “fish on the hook” and “one that got away” symbolism, along with some random supporting talent (Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou) that feels as wasted as the leads.

The spoon-feeding that’s waiting at the end of Serenity is well-intentioned but structurally misguided, landing so far from the mark that just embracing that early Body Heat wave and riding it out might have made for a better crash.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbrOMrjhyvI

 

 





The Spirit Rooms

Winchester

by George Wolf

Helen Mirren in a haunted house? Could be fun.

But let’s be honest, Helen Mirren in a bouncy house sounds fun, too, but we come to Winchester looking for some solid frights as well. Instead, we get a mostly nonsensical mishmash of jump scares and music stabs.

Directors/co-writers the Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers, Jigsaw) dive into the legend of the Winchester house, the mysterious mansion in California with endless oddities and rumors of spirits restless after meeting death at the barrel of a Winchester rifle.

Mirren is family matriarch Sarah Winchester, still grieving from the losses of her husband and child in 1906. She orders constant construction on the house, building room after room for the wandering spirits, and the Winchester company board sees an opening.

Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), battling demons of his own, is hired to stay at the mansion and evaluate Sarah’s sanity, hopefully returning a verdict that would force her out.

Bumps in the night ensue.

Mirren and Clarke both rise above the material, which is pretty weak. The Spierigs can build no simmering tension or creepy atmospherics on the order of say, The Woman in Black (a very effective PG-13 haunter). Winchester is built only from standard “boo!s” and lazy red herrings.

Boo indeed.





Back, Just Like He Said

Terminator Genisys

by George Wolf

It would be nice if Terminator Genisys put the final ribbon on the iconic franchise. Not because this fifth installment is that bad, but rather because it’s just good enough to leave you with more satisfaction than disappointment.

Much of that comes from the blast it generates rehashing the pasts of parts 1 and 2 – hugely popular films that have earned a permanent place in pop culture – and conveniently dismissing 3 and 4. Smart move.

To get there, though, we have to wade through a script overloaded with time-hopping threads requiring repeated explanations that still can’t quite keep the head scratching at bay.

In 2029, Resistance forces led by John Connor (Jason Clarke) have won a critical victory against Skynet, but John knows there is still work to be done.

His goal is the destruction of their time machine. He finds it, but too late to prevent Skynet from sending a terminator back to 1984 to kill John’s mother Sarah (GoT‘s Emilia Clarke). John’s right hand man, a certain Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers to go back and protect her. Sound familiar?

So Kyle basically drops in on the first film, but things have changed. Sarah knows what’s up, the original terminator is met by an “aged” model (Arnold) already serving as Guardian, and then the “liquid metal” version from T2:  Judgement Day wants to play, too!

Screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier set a nice hook (young Arnold fights old Arnold!) but when the altered timelines and memory fragments keep coming, you may need to choose between keeping up and giving up.

The saving graces are the moments of fun that do cut through, usually via Arnold and his “old, but not obsolete” machine on a mission. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: the Dark World) gives him some impressive, if not entirely original set pieces, but others don’t seem worthy of the blockbuster budget. It’s a hot then cold scorecard the film can never shake.

It wants to do so much, but is never able to sustain any solid momentum. Snappy dialogue sours, action is derailed by more exposition, and sci-fi complexities mount. In short, the polar opposite of what made the first two films such a hoot.

But that steel, hard-to-kill heart still beats in Terminator Genisys, just enough to use every ounce of good will it earns.

So is this really hasta la vista? Check box office totals for the final answer, but stay past the credits for a pretty big clue.

 

Verdict-3-0-Stars