James Caan

mann

Michael Mann‘s Thief  is like a ticking-clock thriller without an actual ticking clock. Frank (James Caan) is in a rush to make up for lost time, to achieve the life he wants, and is represented by his photo. A part of the film’s conflict is that Frank’s life of crime will lead to an inevitable blowup. As Mann would say, he’s a rat in a maze. That idea has sneaked its way into Mann’s later work, from Collateral to Public Enemies to Heat, as his characters are inexorably drawn towards an inevitable outcome for their actions. But it all started with Thief, which has now been released on Blu-ray by Criterion. From the hypnotic sounds of Tangerine Dream‘s score to the sumptuous beauty of Donald E. Thorin‘s cinematography, this 4K restoration of this landmark crime film has made Mann’s “rat in a maze” seem even more immersive. Despite his busy work on an untitled thriller (aka Cyber) Mann spoke with us about his classic directorial debut, offering his thoughts on its style, the virtues of editing as “the ultimate kind of writing” and the unparalleled intimacy of digital cinematography in a post-celluloid age.

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Guillaume Canet earned the goodwill of many with his immensely potent 2006 thriller Tell No One, before the misjudged – and like this film, much too long – Little White Lies came along and eroded plenty of that promise. However, Canet returns with his latest feature, and the busload-full of skilled actors he has brought with him damn near ensures a compelling sit, even if the film’s ponderous pacing and resulting length do detract somewhat from its finer qualities. A remake of 2008’s French film Rivals – which starred Canet himself – Blood Ties begins in 1974 New York as Chris (Clive Owen) is released from prison after a 12-year-stint for murder. While welcomed warmly by his father (James Caan), Chris is received less so by his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a respected policeman who is nevertheless called upon by his family to take him in. Adding to the drama is the litany of anguished lovers sitting on the periphery; Chris shacks up with a gorgeous young receptionist named Monica (Mila Kunis), much to the chagrin of his drug-addled hooker ex-wife Monica (Marion Cotillard), while Frank continues to pine for a former flame he broke it off with, Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), whose current relationship with the dangerous Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) is on the rocks.

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Wes Anderson

Oh, Wes Anderson. Some have already gotten to see his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, and even more will see it as it opens wider this weekend. Without seeing his name on the title cards, it’s easy to spot as one of his projects. The auteur has developed a look and feel all his own – usually constructed by primary colors, detailed set design, Britpop, and Bill Murray. This Texan who often lives in France is idiosyncratic in his storytelling, but he’s also unafraid to put his personal demons onto the screen (in as twee a way as possible). From Bottle Rocket to Rushmore to Fantastic Mr. Fox, his work is usually ridiculously rich and infinitely quotable. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the son of an advertiser and an archeologist.

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The skin-crawling world of Small Apartments is presented without irony or judgment – so it’s not surprising that, in such an off-kilter environment, Matt Lucas’ Franklin Franklin (yes, that’s really his name) sounds relatively sane. Even when he’s off-handedly confessing to the murder of his landlord, Lucas’ delivery is so deadpan that no one takes him seriously – after all, why would Franklin kill anyone? Oh, possibly because (like everybody else in his crumbling apartment building) he’s totally deranged?

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Back in 1990 a Rob Reiner-directed horror thriller called Misery took an underappreciated actor named Kathy Bates and rocketed her to the top of the world. Her portrayal of the homely but psychotic Annie Wilkes got tons of critical praise, had the mainstream talking, and eventually won her a Best Actress Oscar. In 1994 an oddball comedy named Ace Ventura: Pet Detective took a relatively obscure comedian named Jim Carrey and made him one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. That’s not the movie I’m going to be talking about though. The movie I’m going to talk about came two years later, it’s called The Cable Guy, and it was seen as the first disappointment of Carrey’s gigantic post Ace Ventura career. His portrayal of the troubled “Chip Douglas” didn’t register with critics or audiences who previously had no trouble accepting him as a pet detective that talked out of his butt, a walking cartoon character with a booger for a head, and a sociopath named Lloyd Christmas who sold a dead bird to a blind kid. Was Misery really that much better a movie than The Cable Guy? Was Bates’s performance as Annie really that much better than Carrey’s as the unnamed cable installer? Or is this just the case of a movie that was a little bit ahead of it’s time getting a bad rap?

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Quick, name the best film directed by Michael Mann about career criminals. Yeah, you probably just blurted out Heat without giving it a second thought, and you’d be about 58,396 miles from being alone. However, you’d be wrong. Before you start going off about “matter of opinion” and “how can he say these words” repeat these after me. “Heat is NOT, I repeat, NOT, Michael Mann’s best film.” There, now doesn’t that feel loads better? Oh, what’s that? you want to know what is Michael Mann’s best film? Let’s go back to 1981 where Mann offered up his second feature film, Thief, a film about a career criminal trying for his one last score – you can forgive this particular film for that cliche. It was the catalyst for all these other heist films using it that runs over the surface of rainy, Chicago streets. It’s cool. It’s energetic. It features one of James Caan‘s best performances. So, here, in honor of all the inspiration the film brings to Refn’s Drive, we offer up what Mann and Caan had to say about this milestone-of-cool film in their respective careers. You can even go watch Heat afterwards. I’ll forgive, but remember those words.

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; all your candy are belong to us. How many words do I really need expend on this introduction? If you’re a frequent reader of the column, who hasn’t managed to blow himself up building a working replica of Bill & Ted’s phone booth, you are already aware of my affinity for terrible movies and you have wasted more time than you dare admit reading this insufferable column. For those of you who haplessly wandered in hoping to find the nutritional content of the KFC Double-Down or creative Junior Mint recipes, my condolences. But now that you’re here, you should know that the JFC system is threefold. First, I point out the film’s numerous faults; heckling it from the cyberspace balcony like Statler and Waldorf. But then, on a dime, I switch it up and sing the film’s inexplicable praises like a banjo-wielding frog expounding on the merits of rainbows. Finally I will pair the film with an appropriate snack food item upon which you can feverishly chow down like a furry blue monster well on his way to crippling obesity. This week’s delicacy (which is likely to be brought to you by the words cease & desist): Dick Tracy

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In what sounds a bit like Chalk meets Dangerous Minds meets Half Nelson, newcomer Carl Lund’s script for Detached has an absurd amount of acting talent currently stapled to its cover sheet. “Mad Men” firecracker Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu and William Peterson (who some remember from “C.S.I.” but no one seems to remember from Young Guns 2) have signed onto a cast that already includes Adrien Brody, James Caan, Blythe Danner, Marcia Gay Harden, Bryan Cranston, and Tim Blake Nelson. Doug E. Doug is also involved – in case you had any doubts left.

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For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by examining a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today. Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t tie us to a bed and break our feet. Part 1 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Falling Prey to Cruelty and Misfortune” with Misery.

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kevin-reportcard-header

Kevin Carr takes a look at this week’s movie releases, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Informant! and Jennifer’s Body.

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godfather-1

The Godfather, which succeeded in usurping Citizen Kane from the list of Best Movies of All Time, had production woes, sure, but some iconic dialog wasn’t scripted. It came out of nowhere and has taken an honored place in American lexicon. Like Bada-Bing.

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David O. Russell and James Caan

It’s been well-chronicled that Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees director David O. Russell has some ‘tude. But this time, according to James Caan, he has gone too far!

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To hell with Anchorman and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell’s milestone performance so far has been Buddy the Elf.

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