From the advertising this looked like an amoral violent comedy with the funniest dialogue of the year, but it turned out to be a deep story about forgiveness with the funniest dialogue of the year. According to the Internet, the movie is actually racist, anti-feminist, and not deep at all, so I am wrong, but I had a great time.

Frances McDormand wants to shame sheriff Woody Harrelson into continuing the search for her daughter’s killer, but Woody is dying of cancer and finally kills himself, causing the town to turn on Frances. Sam Rockwell, a horrible racist cop working for Woody, who badly beats Caleb Landry Jones (playing a nice guy for once), is fired by new chief Clarke Peters, then tries to do the right thing for once by helping Frances. Lucas Hedges, having a big year, is Frances’s son, John Hawkes her ex, Peter Dinklage her partner in crime, and Abbie Cornish Woody’s wife.

Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Begin Again) is an awkward teen who likes a guy (“bad boy” Alex Calvert), is liked by a different guy (cartoonist Hayden Szeto), hates her brother (Blake Jenner of EWS!!) and has a best friend (Haley Lu Richardson, kidnappee in Split) who starts dating the brother. So far, so typical. But the sparkling dialogue and the work by Woody Harrelson as her patient, smartass teacher should ensure this movie’s place in Teen Film Eternity, to run on cable (or streaming or whatever) for generations.

David Ehrlich’s review got our butts into the theater:

Unfolding like a symphony of small humiliations, there isn’t a moment in this movie that doesn’t feel at least vaguely familiar, and there isn’t a moment in this movie that doesn’t feel completely true … the scenes with the highest potential for hokeyness are the ones that Craig and her cast most relish … When shit gets heavy between Nadine and her brother, both Steinfeld and Jenner tap into a sense of depth so real that it almost seems alien to the genre.

The Woody & Matty show, with the always great Woody Harrelson playing against the newly relevant Matthew McConaughey. Woody’s kinda your middle-of-the-road cop, asshole, closed-minded, cheating on wife Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gone Baby Gone, Mission Impossible 3), and Matty is his alcoholic, loose-cannon, dark and moody partner. In 1995 they famously tracked down and killed a couple of cultist child-abductor/murderers, in 2002 their partnership broke up and in 2012 they’re being interviewed by a couple of guys – Michael Potts (Brother Mouzone of The Wire) and Tory Kittles (Miracle at St. Anna) – investigating similar murders.

Matty’s after the powerful people in charge, suspects their involvement in the cult cover-ups, mainly Reverend Tuttle, cousin of the governor. The interviewers suspect Matty’s involvement, and the show gives him the usual crazy-investigation den, a storage unit covered in line-linked documents, words and icons. Ultimately (after driving a couple witnesses to suicide, or more probably well-covered-up homicide) they track down a scarred house painter they missed the first time around and chase him through a stone maze which is apparently a real thing in Louisiana, which is incidentally a state I’d like to avoid forever. Interesting to hear all the “Time is a flat circle” mumbo and talk of fourth-dimensional perspectives from the star of Interstellar.

With Kevin Dunn (Veep) as their boss, Lily Tomlin as Michelle’s mom and Detective Lester Freamon as a pastor (not for the first time). Written by Louisiana novelist Nic Pizzolatto, directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre). It came highly recommended, but only became a must-see for me when I learned about the Handsome Family open. I thought this was a miniseries or one-season deal, but apparently not, as the not-as-well-reviewed second season is airing now with a Leonard Cohen open, boo.

First time I’ve seen this in a while, watched in lovely HD.

I think Ben Chaplin (Bell) was the only major Thin Red Line actor to return in The New World, but I never recognize him when I watch it. He’s the thick-browed guy with traitorous wife Miranda Otto (later Tom Cruise’s wife in War of the Worlds).

Blu-ray outtakes: Witt gets berated by John C. Reilly. “Made a mistake getting in this discussion.” Don Harvey gets berated by Paul Gleeson. After Danny Hoch gripes about Lt. Gleeson, Pvt. Larry Romano drunkenly confronts his superior. Private Nick Stahl freaks out after bayoneting an enemy. Bizarre conversation between Witt and sniper Mickey Rourke. Taking Japanese prisoners, one can’t walk. Bell brings his divorce letter to Clooney, who makes good on his earlier comment that he’ll always be available for questions. And a doctor sends Adrian Brody home for his leg injury after Witt dies.

The on-disc interviews are fascinating. It feels strange, though – the actors speak of the movie as Malick’s personal vision, so it’s all Terry this and Terry that, and the absence of his own perspective in the extras makes it seem like reminiscences of a dead artist. Of course it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to participate, that’s just the impression I got. After actors there’s editing, source novel/author, and music (Hans Zimmer says Terry wanted the music to ask questions, not answer them).

Lawrence (who made Water For Elephants and the music video for Gone Till November) turns in a much better Hunger Games movie than the last guy did. This movie will, of course, be best remembered for bringing together both mid-2000’s Truman Capotes: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones. New additions to the movie’s revolutionary team include Jeffrey Wright (also in Only Lovers Left Alive this year) and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman).

Just like the book, plus a bunch of good actors (hello, Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson), minus all depth or feeling, and with the worst camerawork I’ve seen in years. Ross made Pleasantville and his DP shot all the latter-day Clint Eastwood pictures, so what happened here? The soundtrack is nice, anyway.

full title:
Emma Stone-starring Soulmate-seeking Rom-com Drive-In Double-Feature

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

From the co-writers of Cats & Dogs and Bad Santa, and also the writer of Tangled. Emma Stone has big eyes, and we didn’t know what she’s doing in the movie, but figured we missed that while in traffic on Moreland for the first 15 minutes of the film. Turns out it’s the surprise ending that she’s Steve Carell’s grown daughter, and the joke’s on poor Steve since his sweet daughter is dating Ryan Gosling, the sex machine who irrationally befriends Steve and gives him dating advice. Steve needs this since he’s divorcing Julianne Moore for sleeping with coworker Kevin Bacon. Steve’s son Bobo is infatuated with a 17-year-old Analeigh Tipton. Thanks to twitter, I know that the night Katy and I were watching this movie, Analeigh was reading Ender’s Game and watching Oliver & Company while sick in bed. But in the movie she takes nude photos of herself, prompting Zodiac killer John Carroll Lynch to attack Steve, starting a big comedy fight, after which Steve and Julianne are perhaps hopeful that they can maybe be friends again or something, because they are soulmates, just like Gosling and Stone, Bobo and Tipton, and everyone has exactly one soulmate, whom they will definitely meet and have a chance to date, and if you let that person go you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.

Friends With Benefits (2011, Will Gluck)

Emma Stone was in this too, but who was she? Let’s see… it was past midnight and Katy and I bought pops. Ended up not raining, which is good, but too humid and lethargic to do anything but watch the stupid movie. So Emma Stone, not positive who she was, but Justin Timberlake (who has alzheimerin’ dad Richard Jenkins) is wooed to New York City by hottie headhunter Mila Kunis (who has drunkie undependable mom Patricia Clarkson). Justie and Mila become best buds, then no-strings-attached fuck-buds (Katy says this beat the actual No Strings Attached, which starred Ashton Kutcher, so duh). They both have huge commitment phobias because of their wacky parents but it turns out they are soulmates, and they know if they let each other go they’ll regret it for the rest of their lives. Shaun White appears in a would-be-funny cameo if anyone gave a shit about Shaun White (Tony Hawk is way cooler).

More interesting than the romance and the carefully-positioned cameras and sheets to conceal nudity was the movie’s subversive commentary about the pretty young idle rich. A spate of recent documentaries make out fashion and magazine/newspaper businesses to be unforgivingly high-pressure, but Justin is the art director of GQ and seems to have plenty of time off, as does Mila, who’s the kind of person who places high executives at GQ and Amazon. The only “work” we see Justin do (besides discussing typefaces with homosexual sports editor Woody Harrelson – times new roman?!) is deciding between two things presented before him – this cover or that cover? This article or that article? Both times his decision is reversed by someone who is not his boss, and a photo shoot is turned into a gay dance party by homosexual sports editor Woody Harrelson, making Justin seem increasingly like Tim Robbins in the Hudsucker Proxy, a highly-paid poster boy, grinning and pursuing his soulmate while the real work is being done elsewhere.

From the director of Emma Stone’s breakthrough Easy A (though it was Crazy Stupid Love that was full of Scarlet Letter references) and the cowriters of an upcoming film about “a relationship expert who cannot keep his own love life in order.”

From the acclaimed director of Girls Guitar Club and Between Two Ferns, and the writer/producers of a reality prank show. Supposedly there was uncredited script doctoring by the writer of Dreamcatcher. So it wasn’t going to rival Shaun of the Dead for quality, but it was lightly amusing.

I’m not familiar enough with recent teen-sex comedies to recognize stars Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) and Emma Stone (Superbad and The House Bunny). I might’ve known Jesse – he’s the older brother in The Squid and the Whale, someone or other in The Village and the main dude in Roger Dodger – but mainly he just reminded us of Michael Cera. Jesse is our nerdy rule-following narrator who meets badass Woody (really a sensitive guy who has experienced loss, and who loves Caddyshack) and then scam artist sisters Emma and Little Miss Sunshine (of Little Miss Sunshine). The movie’s world is impressively empty – no other packs of survivors except for a lone Bill Murray (and incidentally, I haven’t seen a celebrity-playing-himself get shot to death in a comedy since Harold & Kumar 2) and a cameo by Mike White in flashback.