by Tony Johnson 10.14.2015 46 days ago
at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spoonful of Cinema: 99 Homes

Andrew Garfield, the actor most famous for his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the not-so-amazing The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, has a lot going for him. He first came onto the scene when he brought Eduardo Saverin to life and put a tasteful pulse of humanity into David Fincher’s sublimely cold-blooded The Social Network back in 2010, for which he picked up a Golden Globe supporting actor nomination. As if that wasn’t enough, he also makes up a half of a very formidable Hollywood power couple with Emma Stone. So, with the world at his fingertips, on the brink of bona fide stardom, Andrew Garfield decided to star in a relatively small-budget limited release directed by Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes. The picture is a small-time crime flick with a modern angle pitted around Garfield’s lead character, Dennis Nash. When Nash’s work as a roofer runs out, he and his mother and his son are evicted from their longtime family home. They are forced to move into a hotel, and their funds are running out when Nash goes to the office of the real estate agent that evicted his family to recover stolen tools. But when his allegations are denied, Nash instead finds himself carrying out repair jobs for the local real estate operator, Rick Carver — the very man who evicted Nash and his family. By the end of the day, Nash agrees to continue his work with Carver, and before you can say, “Here we go,” things begin to spiral out of control. Carver is not an honest real estate mogul, and he isn’t personable in even the simplest of ways. “Don’t get personal about real estate,” he repeats throughout the film. It contradicts the very reason that Nash is so desperate to make more money working for Carver. For Nash, having a house isn’t a financial opportunity to flip for profit later on. It is an opportunity to keep his son from living in a run-down motel, and to keep his mother in a space where she can run her personal hairstyling business. It is an opportunity to keep from being woken at night by screaming motel-stayers. An opportunity to live somewhere that your son is not constantly barraged with the smell of cigarette smoke. To keep your son in the same school with his friends. To give your family a future. The socio-economic and values-based chasm between the two characters is extreme. While Nash is a down-on-his-luck blue-collar type with a conscious and a family he so desperately wants to provide for, Carver uses the county map as a board for what he describes as “a rigged game. By the winners, of the winners, for the winners.” Carver also could give a damn about his family — he cheats, and treats his daughters like dogs who prefer ice cream to Beggin’ Strips. Rather than spend quality time with his kids, he spends quality cash on them to cover up any wounds. Nash’s somewhat reluctant assistantship to Carver grows into a prominent role for the former roofer, who spends his days stealing appliances from government-owned homes, evicting squatters and re-selling the previously stolen appliances. The story serves to propose a series of unasked questions regarding the morality of such eviction processes. When Carver removes personal desires and factors from home owning, he tilts into the realm of the sociopath, treating unfortunate eviction subjects as hindrances to monetary gain rather than victims of monetary gain gone wild. Carver is a one-dimensional, single-minded dickhead of a boss, sharply played by veteran actor Michael Shannon. Shannon astutely narrows in on what makes Rick Carver tick. Cold, pragmatic and impatient, Carver seems practically impervious to psychological analysis. He is a monster much at home in a world where money is lord and people are only peasants whose purpose is to serve the royalty. But where does 99 Homes bring Andrew Garfield’s career? Does it give him the opportunity to truly dominate a lead dramatic role? I’m not so sure. He is on point, and feels authentic as the poor working-class hero Dennis Nash, which is surprising considering Garfield’s background playing a multi-millionaire venture capitalist in The Social Network and Spider-Man. I understand that Nash is desperate to restore some sort of dignity to his family’s life. I believe him when he briefly grieves over his son changing schools. But I wasn’t clinging to him. I didn’t feel any sense of desperation at the prospect of his losing out to the system rigged against him. I felt compelled to care, but I didn’t feel I would be crushed by a horrific outcome. There is still something else to explore with Nash, and I don’t think we saw it ourselves. Andrew Garfield gets a good role in 99 Homes, but it might not be the role that he’s been searching for. He gets a ton of screen time and a winner’s share of the script. He pulls off a subtle Floridian accent that is noticeable but non-invasive, and he really knows how to get us to panic every once in a while. But I couldn’t bring myself to declare Garfield an absolute winner for his job-well-done in 99 Homes. 99 Homes is pretty solid. The film, the lead role and its lead actor have something in common. They are all only a few steps from greatness. But I can’t tell you that I’m sure how they might get there. For now, and for Andrew Garfield, hopefully good enough will just have to do. Grade: B-

Michael Shannon Gives Chills as Real-Life Contract Killer

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The story of Richard Kuklinski (portrayed here by Michael Shannon) is one of those true crime tales that you simply can’t believe. It’s too crazy to be true, but it also has that “made for the movies” vibe.  
by Jac Kern 04.23.2013
Posted In: TV/Celebrity, Humor, Is this for real? at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

On April 29, 1972, Kings Island opened its gates for the first time, welcoming guest from Cincinnati and across the country to its world of rides, games and overpriced snacks. The next year, America watched the country’s first family visit that very park — no, not the Nixons, the Bradys! In an episode filmed Aug. 20-24 1974 that first aired on Nov. 23, The Brady Bunch’s architect dad Mike pitched some expansion plans for the park and brought the whole gang along to enjoy attractions like Hanna-Barbera Land and The Racer. Forty years later, the Bradys are at it again. Barry Williams (Greg Brady), Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) and Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) will return to Kings Island May 19 for four live shows, autographs and photo ops. Am I the only one who had no idea Cincinnati’s Golden Child, Nick Lachey, has ties to the Kardashian Klan?! Nick and Kim dated briefly in 2006 after he and Jessica Simpson split, and in a recent interview with Details, Nick reveals the shocking claim that Kim LIVES for the papz, who somehow showed up during a private date. Thank God he ended up with former MTV VJ, Vanessa Minnillo. They seem to have a relatively normal, happy relationship and I can say this with confidence because I regularly read her mommy/lifestyle blog even though I don’t have a baby or a life. :-/ Hey, check out this sloth and cat hanging out: Now, I know I’m about to get tarred and feathered for dissing sloths, but watching this, I kept thinking sloth was about to hand-deliver cat to death’s door. Kristen Bell, please don’t hate me. NBC will debut a new comedy May 23 that takes place (but is not actually filmed) in suburban Cincinnati. Save Me stars Anne Heche as a housewife who develops the ability to communicate with God after a near-death experience, and she lives in none other than "Indian Hills." As a lifelong Cincinnati resident, I find it impossible to say “Indian Hills” without an unsophisticated twang. It sounds like how us simple peasant folk would mistakenly identify the most affluent neighborhood in Cincinnati. Indian Heels. In fact, I could swear that when I got accepted into a certain all-girls private institution for high school and my parents tried to politely warn me that all my friends would be richer than me, they said, “You’ll probably meet a lot of girls who live in Indian Hills!” A scathing email that the president of Delta Gamma at the University of Maryland sent to her sorority sisters has been making its rounds this week and, in case you missed it, here’s Michael Shannon’s dramatic reading of the text. Because if anyone can make this insane, delusional letter seem any crazier, it’s Nelson Van Alden. The video is NSFW, unless you happen to work as a Delta Gamma house mother. People like to personify “Amurca” as a blue-collar, Budweiser-drinking, NRA card holder. Nevermore, says former CEO of Anheuser-Busch and heir to the beer fortune, Adolphus A. Busch IV. Busch publicly announced the resignation of his lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association amidst recent gun control controversy, surrounding the organization. Check out Busch’s letter here and crack open a cold one for standing up for what’s right!

Premium Rush

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Writer David Koepp steps behind the camera to capture the visceral thrills and adventures of an NYC bike messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) assigned to deliver a package that a certain cop (Michael Shannon) doesn’t want to see make it to its destination in time.  

The Runaways (Review)

Rock & Roll biopic hits the right notes

0 Comments · Thursday, April 8, 2010
Music video director Floria Sigismondi trains her eye on the early days of punkish girl rockers as Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) hook up with producer impresario Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) and set the stage for what would become the runaway success of women in the game of sex and Rock & Roll. Sigismondi gets a running start at what will likely turn into a long career in the long-form spotlight. Grade: B.