Linda Cardellini

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Don Draper’s devolution into being completely unlikable is nearing completion. He’s been the perpetrator of selfish office politics, continued his adulterous streak, and now he veered into some really cringe-worthy sadomasochistic stuff with Sylvia. This week’s Mad Men, “Man With A Plan,” written by Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas and directed by Roger Sterling himself, John Slattery, did indeed serve as a heavy critique on Don’s morals, putting him up against his CGC equivalent, Ted Chaough, and how they compare as creative leaders. We also got a healthy dose of Joan, which is always encouraged, as Joan had to discern whether or not a certain kindness was the product of someone trying to get ahead. And some comic moments with Pete and his ailing mother, though this storyline is a tarnished retread of one from the past. Oh yes, and the RFK assassination officially happened.

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I am female. And because of that, I am quite happy that I didn’t have to experience the 1960s firsthand. Really glad, in fact. This week’s episode of Mad Men, “The Collaborators,” written by Matthew Weiner and Jonathan Igla and directed by none other than Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm, offers quite a powerful meditation on the rather hideous manner in which women were treated. Not since last season’s “The Other Woman,” in which Joan is offered as collateral for Jaguar rep Herb has a Mad Men episode created such a palpable unease as you watch female characters get pigeonholed as whores, belittled in the workplace, or deal with their tricky nature of their own bodies. “The Other Woman,” however, was a far superior episode. This one suffered from the heavy-handedness in which nascent director Hamm employed the use of flashback. Several times, he cut from scenes between Don and Sylvia to a tween Dick Whitman arriving with his pregnant mother to her sister’s brothel. These flashback scenes were problematic for many reasons – chiefly because they drove home the thread of “women as unfair sex object” way too hard. While it’s usually a good thing to get the rare glimpse into the man-that-became-Don-Draper, these scenes are largely unneeded. We get the point. Also, in terms of Hamm’s direction in these scenes… it’s obvious. The young bumpkin Dick Whitman looks not unlike Alfred E. Newman. The prostitutes act like stock characters from an old time-y movie, and all other characters look like they stepped out from an […]

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Mad Men Season 6

Now in its sixth season, Mad Men is probably one of the only shows on television that never jumped the shark – it remains as thoughtful and sophisticated a show since its first season. Sure, there have been some mistakes made along the way. But if I’m to judge from this two-hour premiere episode alone (sorry, this will likely therefore be on the long side), entitled “The Doorway,” I don’t think that there’s much to worry about in terms of the show not living up to expectations. In the premiere, a lot of recurring themes from seasons past are revisited – impending death, times that are a-changin’, infidelity, identity – though are these themes should be ever-present, as the show wouldn’t exist without them. Especially now since Vietnam looms even more heavily over the show’s landscape and harbingers of death become even more  pertinent. And, yes, the premiere was pretty damn good. Written by showrunner Matthew Weiner and directed by veteran Mad Men director Scott Hornbacher, it featured elegant, filmic non-linear structure, as well as the intelligent writing that we have all grown accustomed to in the many years of drinking in this show.

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The premise of Return lends itself quite easily over to the plot synopsis of a Lifetime movie. Conveying the unsteady returning home of a soldier isn’t exactly breaking new ground, and it’s not the easiest type of story to tell. Night terrors, big breakdowns, and digging holes in the backyard, all tonally difficult and usually trite scenes. None of those scenes are in Return. In fact, writer/director Liza Johnson‘s film relies a good deal on silence, not so much on “loud” drama. For the film’s star, Linda Cardellini, that’s what she seemed the most taken with. As Kelli, Cardellini plays messy, flawed, and extremely difficult without ever giving a “big” scene to explain it all. Here’s what actor Linda Cardellini had to say about how to pronounce Cannes, how little details can inform a performance, and relying on silence:

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Both last month and this month are shaping up to prove that this time of the year doesn’t only serve as a dumping ground for Mark Wahlberg action movies and another indistinguishable Katherine Heigl horror movie. So far we’re off to a great start for 2012, and I sure hope it continues that way. With another Heigl rom-com nowhere in sight, I believe we’re all clear for now. Honorable Mentions: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (got terrible buzz out of Butt-numb-a-thon, but it’s still got Ciarán Hinds, one of the best actors around, playing the devil) and Chronicle (apparently it’s better than it looks).

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I heard good things about Liza Johnson‘s Return after its Cannes premiere, and since then I’ve been watching out for it. Why? Well, for the most ultimate of starters, it starts Linda Cardellini, an actress I wish we saw more of. The last time I saw Cardellini appear in a film was in James Gunn‘s (awesome) SUPER, and that was only a cameo. She could make your heart wrench or fly on Freaks and Geeks, and it’s a real shame Cardellini hasn’t yet had any feature films to work with that give her that type of strong material to work with. But apparently Return does. Even the reviews that didn’t praise Return as a whole made special mention of Cardellini’s performance. The trailer for the film has an impressive low-key and claustrophobic buildup, and you can definitely see where the praise for Cerdellini is coming from. And, hey, Michael Shannon. Check it out after the break.

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As you might know, Kill the Irishman is based on a lot of true stories. It’s also based on what little can be known about those true stories. Starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Linda Cardellini, and Christopher Walken, the film focuses on Danny Greene, a brutal man in league with the mob during the rough and tumble times of 1970s Cleveland. Fortunately, Cleveland looks exactly the same, so setting it in the 1970s wasn’t a big deal. The movie is out on DVD this week, and included in the special features is a documentary about the real-life story. This clip is a little bit sad, a little bit grotesque, and it’s a stirring reminder of the violence that men do.

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It’s still unclear what to expect from Jonathan Hensleigh’s Kill the Irishman, but Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer and Linda Cardellini are involved, so it hardly matters. The plot focuses on a man the mob just can’t kill. Also, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer are in a movie together, in case you didn’t hear before. In this clip, Linda Cardellini plays a brazen barmaid who gives Ray Stevenson’s character a smile and pick up line that would melt steel.

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Writer/Director James Gunn has done many things. Most recently, he’s become a beloved Twitter celebrity and delivered the uber-popular web series PG Porn. But beyond that, he makes movies.

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