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June 2012

Malice, Texas

MOVIE REVIEW
Killer Joe (2012)

Killer-joe-movie-review-matthew-mcconaughey-emile-hirsch
Skip Bolen/
2012 Seattle International Film Festival

William Friedkin's broiling film version of "Killer Joe" is uncompromising, uncompromised and alluringly grubby, catching all the black comedy laid out for the taking in Tracy Letts's play while mining a few new seams of Southern-fried dysfunction to boot. Collaborating again after "Bug" — which stared unswervingly into two unhappy people coming unglued in a closed room — they turn "Killer Joe" into a broader farce: a film prepared to admit that whole families can go so far off the rails that the only fair response is to laugh at the poor tortured bastards and learn.

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The Value of Nothing

Cosmopolis-movie-review-robert-pattinson-george-touliatos
Stone Angels

David Cronenberg's skills as an adapter of existing stories (eight of his movies have originated in other works, says a back-of-the-envelope calculation, even without counting "The Fly") are seeming more robust than ever, as he moves away from body horror and dives deeper into the life of the mind. And it's appropriate that, after "A Dangerous Method" dramatized debates about human sexual drives in the form of two erudite talking heads, he should tackle Don DeLillo's "Cosmopolis," in which a deeply disturbed young man wanders off the edge of sanity under his own steam, talking constantly while articulating hardly anything definable at all.

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Three-Martini Naked Lunch

MOVIE REVIEW
Cosmopolis (2012)

Cosmopolis-movie-review-robert-pattinson-paul-giamatti
Stone Angels

The two prospective core audiences for this collaboration between cerebral auteur David Cronenberg and teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson will each have a pertinent question in mind before entering the cinema: Younger Pattinson fans looking for more of his tortured “Twilight” smoldering may ask themselves just how digestible this apparently adult and difficult film will be. Cronenberg watchers may be equally curious as to how the film stacks up at this particular juncture of his career. The director is currently three films into a relatively restrained mainstream phase of a recurring cycle. Last time, in the early 1990s, he brought a similarly respectable diversion to a juddering halt with “Crash” following the failure of “M. Butterfly.” With “Cosmopolis” being the first Mr. Cronenberg-penned screenplay since “eXistenZ” and “A Dangerous Method” widely criticized for lacking bite, hopes are high that “Cosmopolis” might be a return to the edgier Mr. Cronenberg of old.

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Nothin' but a Groupie Time

MOVIE REVIEW
Rock of Ages (2012)

Rock-of-ages-alec-baldwin-tom-cruise
David James/Warner Brothers Pictures

The first 30 or so minutes of “Rock of Ages” are as much fun as Hollywood has allowed itself to have lately. Unfortunately, the movie then makes the classic mistake by most rock bands in the middle of a show: It switches the pace to a bunch of boring ballads.

But to set the scene: Country girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) walks off a bus onto the Sunset Strip in 1987 and immediately meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a barback at the famous rock club The Bourbon Room. Drew convinces his bosses, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand), to hire Sherrie, which makes her first day the last show of famed band Arsenal before its lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) goes solo. Dennis needs the Arsenal show to go well, as the club is under threat from protestors led by the mayor’s wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Stacee has his own problems: His manager (Paul Giamatti) is a tool; he has to be interviewed by Constance (Malin Åkerman) for Rolling Stone, and no one likes his pet baboon. And these plot turbulences are expressed through cock-rock songs from the ’80s: Guns N’ Roses! Poison! David Lee Roth! Pat Benatar! Foreigner! Extreme! Warrant! Bon Jovi! Def Leppard!

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Spaceballs

Prometheus-charlize-theron-idris-elba
Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox

Fan fiction can be fun, but even the good stuff usually crumbles when faced with the simple question "Why bother?" The urge to revisit the "Alien" universe and shine $130 million worth of 3-D clarity into one of its perfectly satisfying corners of ambiguity isn't inherently a bad idea, although anyone hoping for "Prometheus" to show the actual Space Jockey from the first film or how he ended up on LV-426 is going to be disappointed when none of that happens. Instead the film shoots for the moon, declaring from the off that his mysterious species is responsible for life on earth and has been beckoning us to the stars ever since; a plot whose stab at religiosity shares more DNA with "The X-Files" than anything else, right down to the mutating black oil that the Space Jockeys use to create their monsters. "Prometheus" is fan fiction writ very, very large.

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In Space No One Will Hear the End of It

MOVIE REVIEW
Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus-logan-marshall-green-noomi-rapace-michael-fassbender
Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox

Revisiting the “Alien” universe was always going to be a risk for Ridley Scott. “Alien” was the film that cemented his reputation as a visionary auteur and is rightly regarded as a classic, a sublime example of atmospheric horror. Three sequels of varying quality established a sprawling world, one that Mr. Scott had long hinted that he was interested in exploring further — his interest particularly piqued by the mysterious Space Jockey, whose fleeting glimpse in his original work posed questions that have never been answered. While “Prometheus” puts that quandary to bed, its ambitions and scale are far loftier than merely acting as a prequel to the series — which proves to be a refreshing yet frustrating approach.

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