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“The Next Three Days”
a review by Darby O’Gill

How far would you go for what you believe to be true, even if what you believe could be wrong? That’s the question the new Paul Haggis film The Next Three Days dares to ask. You might remember Haggis from his Oscar award winning film Crash, which had an amazing sense of realism that helped ground the film, and The Next Three Days is no different. Now, I’m not a big Russell Crowe fan. That is, I dislike him, but do find myself enjoying his films from time to time. This just so happens to be one of those times. Crowe brings a great sense of believability to the professor he plays that is suddenly thrust into a world that is truly foreign to him. Crowe normally plays confident badass heroes, but in this film he is unsure of himself, desperate, and getting his ass handed to him more than not. The movie is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was shot completely on location. The city of Pittsburgh plays a pretty big part in the movie. The prison they filmed at is right down the road from my wife’s father’s old house in Squirrel Hill. I’ve driven by it like a hundred times, so seeing it in the film gave me that “hey I’ve been there” feeling. I’ve never lived in Pittsburg, I’ve only visited over the years, but I think the movie manages to capture the atmosphere of the area amazingly well.

In The Next Three Days, a family living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh has their lives turned upside down, when early one morning Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) finds herself being arrested for murder. Her husband John Brennan (Russell Crowe), a college professor believes his wife has been wrongly accused, and after a few years of litigations and appeals, John quickly realizes that his wife could quite possibly spend the next twenty years of her life in prison. The realization is not lost on Lara as well, and when she tries to take her own life, John decides to do the unthinkable… Break his wife out of prison! That’s righ; it’s a prison break film. But, the thing that makes it great is that it’s not a Hollywood version of a prison break film. The Next Three Days takes an everyday man and brings him into a heist style situation. Now, there are some parts that don’t play quite as well as others, but the movie does work on a whole, and has a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s got drama, suspense, action, and even romance. Some could even argue that The Next Three Days is actually a love story. The movie also plays the “did she or didn’t she” card pretty well. I think the only reason this movie works as well as it does, is because of Paul Haggis’ directing. It’s not going to win him an Oscar this year, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

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“The Town”
a review by Darby O’Gill

It looks like Oscar season is officially upon us, and Ben Affleck is more than ready to prove that Gone Baby Gone wasn’t just a one time fluke. With The Town, he not only proves his point, but also manages to somehow make an even better movie at the same time, which is an impressive feat since he added actor to his already long list of duties on this film. I will admit that I’m not the biggest Ben Affleck fan. And, I have made my fair share of jokes about him writing, or lack there of on Good Will Hunting. But, I must say he’s proving himself to be one heck of a director. Gone Baby Gone was a nice simple story with some outstanding performances, but The Town is stepping it up in more ways than one. Once again set in the gritty real world of a Boston borough, bank robber Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), a second generation criminal, finds himself capturing a glimpse at an honest life; ironically thanks to the help of his last victim. In an uncharacteristic move, Doug’s team takes a young bank manager, played by Rebecca Hall, hostage, only to release her moments after their getaway. It’s not until later that they find out that she’s a local, living in their neighborhood, and might just possibly be able to identify them after the fact. The hot tempered and violent member of the group, brilliantly played by Jeremy Renner, would like to just simply kill her. But, Doug wants to see if she knows anything first, and puts himself in a position to befriend her. As you can guess this is where things get complicated. Unlike Gone Baby Gone, the story this time around is much more multi-layered. There are multiple relationships being explored here, as well as some fantastic action sequences, which is an impressive addition to Affleck’s directing résumé. The movie also has an outstanding performance from Blake Lively, as a drugged out ex-girlfriend of Doug’s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Oscar nomination come her way for this role. I wasn’t familiar with her work on Gossip Girl, but when I found out that that was her in this movie, I was blown away. Some might say it’s a little heavy handed, but I think Affleck has a real knack for getting these gritty performances from his actors. To top the whole thing off, we also get one hell of a finale, as Doug and his crew attempt to pull off one last job, and steal from the cathedral of Boston itself, Fenway Park. I’ve got to tell ya, I grew up just outside of Boston, and have been to a many a game in that beloved park, and this was definitely a highlight for me. To see a heist movie sequence shot in the actual substructure of Fenway was amazing! I can only imagine that it was a dream come true for Affleck to shoot as well. I really can’t wait to see the behind the scenes footage of that shoot, on the DVD. I never thought I’d be saying this… But, Ben Affleck is proving to be one hell of a director.

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“The American”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Take the Bourne movies and give them a heavy dose of Ritalin and what you’ll get is The American. It’s probably one of the most realistic spy movies ever made, which could be a good or bad thing. On one hand you get a beautiful sense of reality, and on the other you get to experience it all in real time. I’m not kidding; you’d better bring a lunch. The American is based on the novel A Very Private Gentleman, and it shows. I haven’t read the book, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s a pretty faithful interpretation of the source material. Mostly because it feels like you’re watching a book. There is a lot, and I mean a lot, of quiet time. You know that time that’s spent inside the character’s head while you’re reading? The only thing is, when you’re reading the book, you get to read those thoughts, but when you’re watching the movie, you just basically get to watch him think. It’s really quiet.

George Clooney gives an outstanding performance, as does the rest of the cast. But, Clooney’s ability to bring the complexity and soul of this character to life with just a few looks, is clearly a credit to his talent. We might not be reading the book, but Clooney acts the hell out of those thoughts. The other thing that’s really nice about the performance is that he’s troubled. He’s confident, but at the same time he’s almost oozing anxiety. I also really like the choices that director Anton Corbijn made in the overall look of the film. I love that he changed Thekla Reuten’s character’s hair each time we see her. When Jack (George Clooney) first meets Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), she’s a brunette, then a blonde, and then a red head. Once again, I didn’t read the book so I’m not sure if Mathilde’s hair changes in the novel, but I liked it just the same.

I know that The American is getting mixed reviews, and I honestly can see why. If you go in to it expecting an action packed spy thriller, like the trailer implies, you’re going to be really disappointed. Not only disappointed, but maybe even pissed. It’s such the polar opposite of that description that the term false advertising does come to mind. The American is definitely the type of movie you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy. I wasn’t in that frame of mind when I went to see it. I was ready for the movie the trailer sold me on, which is not the trailer I’ve attached below. I wanted to represent the movie a little better for you here. I think after reading this review and seeing the trailer below, you’ll have better idea of what to expect. The more I thought about the movie after seeing it, the more I liked it. I think my rating reflects that, but I’m almost positive it would have been a lot higher if I had actually known the kind of movie I was about to see before hand. I think it’s definitely going to be an Oscar contender later this year, and is well worth checking out. That is, if you ready yourself for a really nice, slow moving, character study. We’re talking sail pace here people.

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“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
a review by Darby O’Gill

I’m going to try and do the best that I can to explain exactly what’s going on in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It’s based on a graphic novel series by Brian Lee O’Malley, but it’s not a comic about superheroes, it’s more of a romantic/comedy heavily laced with video game pop culture. Take that and add the one of a kind vision of writer/director Edgar Wright and you got pure movie magic. Wright is best known for his mixture of comedy and action in such films as Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is more like that of his earlier work on the BBC TV series, Spaced. And much like Spaced, Pilgrim uses a sense of everyday life, but mixes it with creative camera movement and flashy pop culture references, to give the movie a look and feel that can only be described as Edgar Wright at his best.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is just your average twentysomething slacker, whose garage band has just managed to recruit its first female groupie, and knows that fame and fortune can’t be too far behind. But, life as Scott knows it is about to change forever, when the girl of his dreams rollerblades her way into his life. Some girls come with baggage, but Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) comes with her own League of Evil Exes, and if Scott wants to be with her, he’s going to have to defeat all seven of them. This is where the video game references kind of come into play. It’s more of a parallel really, like that of The Warriors, where the main character’s journey is laid out in the format of levels. And the fights seem to mirror the reality of musicals, but instead of breaking out into song when emotions get to their breaking point, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World they just breakout into fights. I personally prefer the latter. It’s like Street Fighter meets When Harry Met Sally, with maybe a splash of Clerks. The other thing I really loved was Wright’s use of text in the film. It’s so well integrated into the look and feel of the movie, that it really sticks with you after words. The feeling that you have when you leave the theatre is amazing. I couldn’t tell you the last time a movie got me this fired up after seeing it. Is it going to win an Academy Award? Probably not, but the bottom line here is that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is hands down the best movie of the summer, if not the year! No, really. It could even be my favorite Edgar Wright movie to date. I’ll need to see it a few more times, and I can guarantee that I will, before knowing that for sure. But, one thing I do know for sure is that you have got to go see this movie!

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