“The Debt” was a film festival hit last year, and was scheduled for a December 2010 release. But studio shenanigans delayed its debut until last week. But even though it hit theaters in the doldrums of late summer, it is a solid espionage thriller. Hear our Labor Day take, which adds up to a Popspotting score of 8 out of 10.
Even the best secret agents carry a debt from a past mission. Filmed on location in Tel Aviv, the U.K., and Budapest, “The Debt” stars Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain as Rachel, Tom Wilkinson and Marton Csokas as Stefan, and Ciarán Hinds and Sam Worthington as David. All three face off against Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel, played by Jesper Christensen.
The film is directed by Academy Award nominee John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”), and the screenplay is by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, and Peter Straughan. It’s adapted from the 2007 Israeli film “Ha Hov” (The Debt).
First up is “Heat,” written and directed by Michael Mann, which also stars Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, and Ashley Judd. (We don’t even get around to Danny Trejo or Natalie Portman, and many other stars.) This stylish cat-and-mouse thriller follows DeNiro’s Neil McCauley, a professional thief, and Pacino’s Lt. Vincent Hanna, veteran LAPD homicide detective.
Then it’s on to “Goodfellas,” a Martin Scorsese masterpiece which stars Ray Liotta, Paul Sorvino, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and a dozen other great actors. We follow Liotta’s Henry Hill, who says up front, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” He’s taken into the Lucchese crime family by Sorvino’s “Paulie” Cicero, Pesci’s Tommy DeVito, and DeNiro’s Jimmy “The Gent” Conway.
Would you have picked a different pair of epic DeNiro films? Is there another iconic actor that should get some Popspotting love? Let us know!
For Movie Monday, a “Neo Pseudo Noir” double feature pairing “The Big Lebowski” and “Brick.” Both bring unique, contemporary takes on the classic noir genre, whether it’s following “The Dude” through Los Angeles or untangling a high school conspiracy.
“The Big Lebowski” (1998), the work of Joel and Ethan Coen, stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Julianne Moore. A certified cult classic, it’s the inspiration behind the annual “Lebowski Fest in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Brick” (2005) was written and directed by Rian Johnson, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Noah Fleiss, Lukas Haas, and Emilie de Ravin. It was championed by the guys at Filmspotting, one of our favorite podcasts and one of the inspirations for Popspotting.
Not bowled over by this double feature? Then suggest your own film pairing, or share some ideas for a theme!
When we saw Steve Carrell was cast in a comedy with both “Crazy” and “Stupid” in the title, we figured we’d be getting yet another take on “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” But it turns out that this movie, directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, focuses mostly on “Love.” This movie was a surprisingly smart but still comedic exploration of adult relationships (and those that aspire to adulthood).
“Crazy Stupid Love” stars Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon, plus Jonah Bobo and a noteworthy turn by model-turned-actress Analeigh Tipton.
This Movie Monday podcast also includes a bonus review by Jen of “Glee in 3-D,” a movie she saw opening weekend with Katie, our teen “gleek” daughter.
Today we tackle “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the origin story of the most unflinchingly patriotic of Marvel superheroes. The film is set in a plausible but still fantastic period in American history, as the “Star-Spangled Man” takes on the most classic of baddies: power-hungry Nazis. The film stars Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Hayley Atwell.
Grievously omitted from our discussion was the character of Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper, who provided a great and necessary link between the world of “Captain America” and the contemporary Marvel superheroes (and superhero movies). Of course, we’re not well versed in the comic book world, which we amply demonstrate in our review.
So what else did we miss? What did “Captain America” get right, or wrong, in this fifth installment in the Marvel cinematic universe?
As our last week before Comic-Con begins, we check out “Horrible Bosses,” a raunchy, dark comedy starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis. They have horrible bosses played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell. And there are quite a few other familiar faces, including Donald Sutherland, Julie Bowen, and Isiah Mustafa.
You just have to trust these three smart, capable hard workers when they say they can’t possibly seek employment elsewhere, leaving murder as the only way out.
On this 4th of July holiday, we celebrate two films in which veteran warriors battle for their own kind of independence. (Okay, we tried.) Jen dubs this the “Ancient Warriors with Sketchy Accents” double feature, and we take a look at a cult classic and a bonafide blockbuster: “Highlander,” from 1984, and “Gladiator,” from 2000. Admittedly, Christopher Lambert and Russell Crowe have very little in common in these two films… except, perhaps, in not delivering the most memorable performances in each. Nonetheless, even if you’ve seen them before, they’re certainly worth a rewatch.
We’d love to hear your take on “Highlander,” or “Gladiator,” or your suggestions as to other “double feature” pairings or themes we could tackle!
It’s been five years since we’ve heard from Lightning McQueen and his friends from Radiator Springs. The original “Cars” wasn’t the strongest Pixar film, but still a favorite of our family. “Cars 2” picks up the pace and takes us around the world, and into the world of international intrigue, with a spy plot that director John Lasseter says was inspired in part by the Jason Bourne movies. Tow Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) takes a more central role, and we meet new characters (including a British pair voiced by Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer). There’s car geek trivia and movie references, and like “Wall-E,” there’s even a subplot of social commentary. Even a so-so Pixar flick is a good flick by any other measure, so this sequel offers a pretty good ride.
This week, we take a break from the multiplex and dig into our movie collection to share our love for two great films: “Jackie Brown” and “Out Of Sight.” Both films feature a slimy ATF agent named Ray Nicolette, and are adapted from Elmore Leonard novels. And while directors Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh have very different styles, these films have more in common than you’d think.
“Jackie Brown” (1997) stars Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton. “Out of Sight” (1998) stars George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, along with Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, and Don Cheadle (and, yes, Keaton).
For “Movie Monday,” we hope to cover a mix of new releases and past favorites, but we’d love to know if you have a preference. And as far as diving into older films, if you’ve got a pick or two to share, or even a complementary “double feature,” we’d love to hear it!
As “slobbering fanboys” of J.J. Abrams, we’ve been looking forward to “Super 8” since the moment we first heard about it last year. Written and directed by Abrams, and with Steven Spielberg aboard as executive producer, the movie has been shrouded in secrecy and promoted with an air of mystery. Now that “Super 8” has finally hit the big screen, was it worth the wait?
We think so. “Super 8” is at once an unapologetic tribute to classic Spielberg films like “E.T.,” “The Goonies,” and “Close Encounters,” as well as a straight-up, full-bore alien-slash-monster flick. It’s a touching coming-of-age story, fortified with a healthy serving of explosions and gotcha moments. Although the alien-slash-monster plot fell just a little short, the spectacular young cast made up for it with more than enough heart.