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Archive | September, 2015

Movie Breakdown: The Walk (Noah)

September 30, 2015

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The Impression:

Robert Zemeckis has managed to sort of bulldog his way through the lingering memory of some of his awful films based on the fact that he made Back to the Future and Forrest Gump. That said, Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like he got yanked directly out of a Pepe le Pew bio-pic and ya’ll know how much I hate stereotypical French squirrels.

The Reality:

Robert Zemeckis is one of the last, real, legitimate “filmmakers.” And I don’t mean that in the sense that we’re plowing into an age where the bevy of very talented directors aren’t making fantastic films, because we aren’t, and, well, they are. It’s more that Zemeckis is still of the mind that films don’t need to be overly serious or subdued or not bursting at the seams with visual fireworks and, most importantly, fun. The Walk tells the story of Philipe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the Frenchmen who strung a cable between the World Trade Towers in the 1970s and then, well, walked across it. There could be a version of this film that focused on the more serious aspects of Petit – his unstoppable drive, his dismissal of friends of family in the quest for his goal, etc. – but Zemeckis isn’t making that film. Instead, he’s making a film that is one part bio-pic (the most lagging part of the film) and nine parts exhilarating pseudo-heist film. And man does he pull out all the stops, for better or worse. This is a FILM in big bold letters. The type of movie you shouldn’t, hopefully won’t be allowed to watch on some dinky laptop screen while your significant other snores through her mouthguard next to you. This is a film that needs to be watched on the hugest, most epic IMAX screen you can find, one so large that every time JGL’s character steps onto a thousand foot high rope, your stomach beats a hasty retreat into your throat. It’s a big, bold, visually captivating film – you know, like they used to make – that doesn’t seem to mind toeing the line of grating theatricality at times. Because it certainly does. The film is bookended, and cut through, with this sort of film-length monologue given by Petit (while standing on a CG-Statue of Liberty) and though JGL does a fine job of capturing the many facets of this mime-like, thrill-seeking, man-boy, it just feels like high school theater. Add to this Zemeckis’ decision to overlay every important scene with JGL’s description of not only the events of the scene, but his roiling emotions, and the shine of Zemeckis in full Hollywood mode can dull a bit. That said, The Walk is a film that will win you over. It jubilantly embraces the beauty of cinema as an engaging, whole-hearted medium, and if you, uh, walk out of the film without a warm shine of enjoyment, well, go back to watching Mumblecore flicks.

The Lesson:

JGL’s performance as Philipe Petit is his star-making role. That is all.

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Show Of The Week

September 30, 2015

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ACL takes over Austin this weekend, and I totally get it if that’s where all of your attention is set to go.  However, I don’t think it would hurt if you took a moment to look ahead to Fun Fun Fun, and that’s why I’m highly recommending that you attend the fest’s Rock & Bowl Club House at Austin Saengerrunde this Friday.  Three SOTO favs are playing – Shannon And The Clams, Cool Ghouls, Tele Novella – and there will be free bowling, vintage arcade games, chill zones, give aways and a lots more.  Sounds like a blast to me.  $10 to get in.  Grab tix here.

Here are some other shows I’d consider attending …

Tonight:
- Wilco, William Tyler at Stubb’s
- Teen Daze, Heavenly Beat at Stubb’s

Thursday:
- The Mynabirds, Bad Hats, Moving Panoramas at the Mohawk
- Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine And The Goddamn Band at Emo’s
- Leopold And His Fiction, In The Whale at Stubb’s

Friday:
- A Giant Dog, Slim Twig, Milezo at The Sidewinder
- Helmet at the Mohawk
- TV On The Radio, Boots at Emo’s
- Leon Bridges at the Parish

Saturday:
- Golden Dawn Arkestra, Think No Think, CAPYAC, Wonderbitch, Brendan Bond, GoodFieldHotelApperations, The Blind Owls, DJ Chiquita Bombita at the Mohawk
- The Decemberists, Olivia Chaney at ACL Live at the Moody Theater
- Royal Blood, Bass Drum of Death at Emo’s
- Ditch The Fest Fest with Hikes, Sip Sip, Chipper Jones, Click Clack, Mobley, Dezorah, Sometimes a Legend, The Human Circuit, Hovvdy, Comforter, Artificial Earth Machine, Hooky, Good Talk, Tamarron, Rikroshi, Food Group, Cactopus, Patch, The Love Sprockets, Mean Girls, Trouble in the Streets, Caterwaulrus, Alaska, Dreamboat at Empire Control Room

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Quickdraw: The Mantles, Protomartyr, Pujol, Pity Sex, Expert Alterations

September 29, 2015

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Music!  Enjoy.

:The Mantles – Hate To See You Go:  The Mantles have a way of drawing me in and holding tight.  Hard to tell whether it’s more their familiar-feeling music or the stellar songwriting.  All Odds End is due out October 16 via Slumberland.

:Protomartyr – I Forgive You:  This is one rambly, Parquet Courts-esque track, and it’s great.  I can’t wait to spend a lot of time with Protomartyr’s upcoming album.  The Agent Intellect is due out October 9 via Hardly Art.

:Pujol – Sleepy Doni:  I had this new Pujol single stuck in my head before I even got done listening to it for the first time.  It’s a slice more playful than his usual stuff.  The Kisses EP is due out November 27 via Bartertown CO-OP.

:Pity Sex – What Might Soothe You?:  Judging only by this track, Pity Sex seem to be aiming for a bigger, better and crisper sound on their upcoming LP.  That’s exciting.  White Hot Moon will be out in 2016 via Run For Cover Records.

:Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked:  First of all, I love the title of this track (it’s also what the album is called).  Secondly, Expert Alterations are one of the best new bands to come out of 2015.  I’m fully expecting their debut LP to be stellar.  You Can’t Always Be Liked is due out October 30 via Kanine.

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Sweet Spirit

September 28, 2015

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My sister’s wedding dominated my weekend and now Fantastic Fest is set to consume my Monday, so instead of a Quickdraw today (look for one tomorrow) I’m just tossing out a single track.  On the bright side, the song is from one of my favorite local acts, Sweet Spirit, and it’s super catchy.  So, since it’ll be lodged in your head for the rest of day anyways, it’s all you really need.  Enjoy.

:Sweet Spirit – Rebel Rebel:

Cokomo is due out October 16 via Nine Mile Records.  See the band October 26 at Hotel Vegas.

Bonus Videos:

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Movie Breakdown: Sicario (Noah)

September 28, 2015

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The Impression:

Denis Villeneuve makes great films. Seriously. Incendies, though hinged on a pretty singular plot occurrence, is beautiful, gripping and horrifying. Prisoners was, if I’m remembering correctly, my favorite film of a few years back, and the story about what people do in states of crisis is brilliant. So, a film about drug cartels starring my number two lady crush Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benecio del Toro that’s shot by Roger Deakin? Good lord, wild squirrels couldn’t drag me away.

The Lesson:

Denis Villeneuve isn’t reinventing the wheel with Sicario. This isn’t a film about drug cartels and the American government that, if you’ve ever seen/read anything about drug cartels, is going to introduce you to a new perspective on the horrifying shit-show that particular situation is. Sicario is a quintessential drug film. Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, an idealistic FBI agent who works the kidnapping beat on the border of America and Mexico. After discovering a “murder house” a stones throw from the border wall (amongst other things) she’s recruited by grinning spook Matt Graver (Josh Brolin using his Bush charm to devastating affect here) to join a cross-agency “team” aimed at the cutting off the head of the drug cartel snake. Part of this “team” is Alejandro (Benecio del Toro being fucking the very best Benecio del Toro), a mysterious figure who’s bad in an interrogation, good with a gun, and about as dangerous a human as you might imagine BDT would play in a drug cartel movie. The story is this: idealism in the drug war is a dangerous thing and over the course of two beautifully shot, beautifully paced, shockingly disturbing hours, Villeneuve explores in various degrees of depth just how bad the drug cartel situation is. By placing Kate Macer as the avatar for the audience and literally telling her, and us, almost nothing about the situation she’s plowing head first into, Villeneuve is able to rope the viewer in as complacent part of everything that takes place. When Macer, Graver and Alejandro gun down two cars of assassins at the border, it brought my stomach into my mouth, partially because Roger Deakin shot the shit out the scene, but more so because you’re so in the head of Blunt’s Macer (a workshop study in how to make a bland, by-the-books character remarkably interesting) that you as the viewer have no idea what’s going to happen. And when it does, well, it’s fucking gruesome. Villeneuve isn’t dumb, and he trickles out the information to Macer and the viewer slowly and with purpose, each scene becoming a slow unveiling of just how fucked up this whole border situation is. This is not a film that will recalibrate your beliefs on the connections between the workings of the US government and the criminal aspects of border Mexico, but I don’t believe that Villeneuve intends it to be. Instead it’s his take on an extremely present scenario, a true master of the genre turning his gaze towards a well worn subject. And, to be quite honest, it is nearly a perfect film experience.

The Lesson:

I’ve been fairly appalled as of late by the experiences regarding violence in films I’ve run into at various screenings in San Francisco. There is nothing funny or redemptive or even uplifting about Sicario. It is a brutal movie that highlights the role of deception and violence in our shared operations with Mexico as well as the horrifying web of crime that seemingly drives almost everything forward. Yet, at times in this film, people laughed when people died, at one point a man start clapping in what, when you see this film, is the most shocking portion of it. It’s as if we’ve digested the violence of our daily lives and in response, perhaps even in an effort to process it, American audiences now associate violence with action films, where laughter and cheering seem respectable responses. Here’s your lesson: they’re not.

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Movie Breakdown: The Martian (Noah)

September 28, 2015

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The Impression:

Andy Weir’s The Martian is possibly my least favorite book I’ve ever read from start-to-finish. Trite, boring, and told through the eyes of the type of nerd you’d shoe off your porch with a broom, it is, handily the only book I’ve read all the way through solely so no one could use the fact that I hadn’t finished the book against me in a debate on its merits. That said, an adaptation is a wonderful way to make a shitty book great (Gone Girl for example) and under the inconsistent, but sometimes masterful eye of Ridley Scott, it could be amazing.

The Reality:

There are two types of book adaptations: one, a fantastic book that is so good someone feels it needs to be turned into a film and more often than not it crashes and burns on the rocky plains of its own hype. Or, two, an excessively shitty book that when put into the hands of a good screenwriter and director becomes more than the sum of its parts. The Martian is, thankfully, the latter. The story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon in one of the best roles of his already weighty career), an astronaut who gets stranded, by himself, on Mars and must use his own ingenuity to not only survive, but find a way off a completely barren planet was, in book form, a low-brow sci-fi slog masquerading as what dumb critics referred to as “hard sci-fi.” Director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard manage to mine the skeletal remains of the book to find a story not only of survival, but of one imbued with humor and a sense of the great wonder of outer-space. Weir’s version of Mark Watney was a nebbish nerd who optimistically smiled into every situation, peppering his lengthy diatribes on science with pop culture references that made me want to burn the book, then self-immolate myself, but Damon manages to maintain the humor (and this is a very funny movie) but to inject not only a sense of urgency, but a sense of wonder that makes it believable that this very mundane man, might be able to make survival on Mars into a sort of adventure. And Scott makes this the very best sort of adventure story, the one where the stakes are so high – the life off a singular human being – that every moment, every error, every bit of luck makes you want to jump out of your seat and scream. It isn’t just Damon and Scott’s film though, the wide cast of scientists and other scientists and astronauts are rounded out by a slew of big actors taking character roles. Jessica Chastain shows off a gritty underside as the captain who left Watney behind. Michael Pena continues to showcase himself as the best and brightest of the new class of character actors. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Daniel Glover – the list goes on and on, with each actor bringing their considerable skills to fill out an ensemble that never falters for a moment. It would’ve been hard for this film to be worst than the source material it came from, but it’s more than that, it’s a beautiful, though low-key testament to the power of science, and the hope it can still instill in humanity.

The Lesson:

Ridley Scott thinks NASA is full of good looking women.

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Hip Hop Hooray (Leah)

September 25, 2015

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Ever thought to yourself, “Self, man I think I’d like hip-hop if it weren’t for all that rapping?” Well, here’s your chance to enjoy it rap-free with my mix of instrumentals provided below! Happy zoning out to these sweet beats, friends.

:Hudson Mohawke – Chimes:
:Prof – Bar Breaker:
:Bootsy Collins – If 9 was 6 (Prince Paul Remix):
:Chaos And Order – Logan’s Mind:
:Jaylib – McNasty Filth:
:Black Milk – Danger:
:Pete Rock – Pete’s Jazz:
:J Dilla – Time – The Donuts of the Heart:
:Flying Lotus – Osaka Trade:
:DJ Shadow – I Changed My Mind:
:Doomtree – Beacon:
:Dizzy Bull – Soul Connection:
:Alexander Spit – Said the Joker to the Thief:
:BPos – We All Gotta Get It:
:Mr. Scruff – Nice Up the Function:

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Joanna Newsom

September 24, 2015

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As I’ve said before, I love Joanna Newsom.  I find her voice and her music entrancing, and anything new from her is always a high priority listen for me.  So, naturally, I have her latest single for you.  It’s a bit dense, but I think it’s worth all the time you can give it.  Enjoy.

:Joanna Newsom – Leaving The City:

Divers is due out October 23 via Drag City.

Bonus Video:

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Show Of The Week

September 23, 2015

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The good folks at Do512 have gone and built a crafty app for themselves, and this Saturday they’ll be celebrating the release of it at Empire Control Room & Garage with White Denim, Christian Bland & The Revelators, Gloves Collective and Yelo.  You have to be there.  Not only is the app good and totally worth supporting, but my favs White Denim are playing!  They’ve slowed things down due to members of the band being involved in other music-related gigs (Bop English, Leon Bridges), so it’s essentially a rare performance.  Don’t miss out.  RSVP for the show by downloading Do512′s new app.

CONTEST: If you prefer a more “guaranteed entry” kind of thing, you can enter to win a pair of fancy guest list spots through SOTO by sending an email HERE.  I’ll pick a winner Friday morning.

And now, more good shows!

Tonight:
Thee Oh Sees, Spray Paint, Future Death at Hotel Vegas
Destroyer, Jennifer Castle at the Mohawk
Ratatat, Hot Sugar at ACL Live at the Moody Theater
Thundercat at Holy Mountain
Langhorne Slim & The Law at the Scoot Inn

Thursday:
This Will Destroy You at Holy Mountain

Friday:
Hard Proof, Magna Carda, Major Major Major, Chipper Jones, Mobley at Holy Mountain
Budos Band at the Mohawk
Yonatan Gat, Tele Novella, Big Bill, The Harms, The Rotten Mangos at the Sahara Lounge
MS MR, Circa Waves, Crater at Emo’s

Saturday:
A Giant Dog, The Crack Pipes, Sleeping Pills at Hotel Vegas
Eagle Claw, Not in the Face, Feral Future, Tia Carrera, Destroyer of Light at Holy Mountain
Other Lovers, Jackie Venson, Ray Prim at The Blackheart
Blind Pets, ThinkNoThink at Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.

Sunday:
Mike and the Moonpies, East Cameron Folkcore, Harvest Thieves, Ben Ballinger at Holy Mountain

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Ringo Deathstarr

September 22, 2015

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I woke up in a pure shoegaze kind of mood, and then promptly noticed that Austin’s own distortion-conjurers Ringo Deathstarr just put out a new single from their upcoming album, which is titled Pure Mood.  Coincidence?  Yeah, I think so.  Or maybe the band is just in my head?  I don’t know.  Either way, let’s all just key in on the how they’ve long been a great act and that their new song is really damn good.  Enjoy.

:Ringo Deathstarr – Guilt:

Pure Mood is due out November 20 via Club AC30.

Bonus Video:

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Quickdraw: Big Grams, Shmu, Birthmark, Club 8, Dan Friel

September 21, 2015

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Music!  Enjoy.

:Big Grams – Lights On:  Here’s the latest from Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram).  The previous single felt like Phantogram guesting on a Big Boi track, and this one is pretty much the other way around.  Both work.  The act’s self titled debut is due out September 25 via Epic.

:Shmu – Pictionary:  Austin’s own Shmu is Sam Chown (of Austin’s own Zorch).  If you like experimental pop music, then he needs to be on your radar.  SHHH!!!! is due out October 30 via GTZ Records.

:Birthmark – Suit Of Armor:  Just in case you don’t know, Nate Kinsella (American Football) is the main brain behind Birthmark.  This new pop tune of his is a bit dramatic, but I dig how well crafted and catchy it is.  How You Look When You’re Falling Down is due out October 16 via Polyvinyl.

:Club 8 – Love Dies:  I got really excited when I received a press release about Club 8′s upcoming album.  In their 20 years of existence, I’m not sure they’ve ever done anything that didn’t sound absolutely beautiful.  Pleasure is due out November 20 via Labrador.

:Dan Friel – Life (Pt. 1):  I love Dan Friel.  The former Parts & Labor-member just always churns out the most inspired, punk-enthused bits of instrumental glory.  Life is due out October 16 via Thrill Jockey.

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Ryan Adams

September 18, 2015

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I’ve been obsessed with Taylor Swift’s 1989 for months now.  At first I think it sort of started as a joke (playing Blank Space off of those terrible TouchTunes machines that are in bars), and then something clicked and made me realize just how brilliant that album is on all fronts.  In all honesty, if I had actually paid attention to it last year, it would have been a Top 5 release for me.  Hell, I love it so much I may even put it on my year-end album list for 2015.  BAM.

Anyhow, Ryan Adams has assembled a front to back cover of 1989, and I’m pumped about it for two reasons.  1)  It’s Ryan Adams!  2)  It’ll give me one more reason to continue on jamming 1989 like it owes me money.  Below you’ll find Adams’ somber take on Bad Blood.  Enjoy.

:Ryan Adams – Bad Blood (Taylor Swift Cover):

1989 will be out digitally on September 21.

Bonus Videos:

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Widowspeak

September 17, 2015

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While tooling around this morning I came across Widowspeak covering Third Eye Blind’s How’s It Going To Be, and it just completely hit the right spot.  Back in my teen days I blasted TEB’s self titled debut all the time, and that song in particular was my favorite (well, next to Semi-Charmed Life, of course).  Widowspeak’s version is sparse and sad, but so is the song lyrically, so it works really well.  Enjoy.

:Widowspeak – How’s It Going To Be (Third Eye Blind Cover):

The band currently have a full length, All Yours, out now on Captured Tracks.  No word yet on when the Two Covers 7″ will be released. See them at Lambert’s on October 17.

Bonus Video:

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Movie Breakdown: Black Mass (Noah)

September 17, 2015

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The Impression:

I don’t know if there’s been a more invigorating trailer this year than the one for Scott Cooper’s newest film Black Mass. I mean sure, it features Johnny Depp not in some sort of hideous face paint, but, from everything I’ve seen, it might be a new leaf being turned.

The Reality:

From a superficial standpoint, Black Mass is a fantastic film. Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger turns in his best performance since he started shifting towards kabuki theater. The supporting cast is across the board excellent with standout performances by Joel Edgerton as the success-obsessed cowboy cop John Connolly and Benedict Cumberbatch as a powerful politician and Bulger’s brother. The cinematography is gorgeous, Masanobu Takayanagi turns on his slower, more cerebral Scorsese filter and each scene incrementally threatens to jump off the screen and strangle you. So why didn’t I absolutely, one hundred percent love this movie? It doesn’t have much of a soul. As good as Depp is, and as good as the cast around him is, the script, or director Scott Cooper’s approach to the script, never transcends the trappings of the story. It’s a great story – a truly evil man working the government in an alliance – but because Cooper and screenwriter Mark Mallouk never dig deep enough into the motivations of the characters present, it can’t ever become anything more than a well made film, albeit one lacking an entirely formed soul.

The Lesson:

I have to say that I think our history of flashy gangster flicks has desensitized our audiences to a dangerous point. This isn’t a funny movie, almost ever, but time and time again throughout the screening people laughed as Bulger murdered and murdered and murdered. It was, at times, more chilling than the pale blue of Depp’s enhanced eyeballs.

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Movie Breakdown: Everest (Noah)

September 17, 2015

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The Impression:

Great cast, but a trailer and a promise of IMAX excitement that makes me think this could be all visual flash and no substance.

The Reality:

Everest feels like a 1980s event film. It’s a big film with a star-studded cast (Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kiera Knightly, etc,) that recreates one of the worst moments in the history of Mt. Everest, but it never loses its heart: the story of a bunch of people who, for a variety of reasons (stupid or otherwise) got stranded on a terrible mountain in a terrible storm. The film tells the story of Rob Hall’s disastrous attempt to scale Mt. Everest (an event recorded in John Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air) with a crew of experienced, but still, paying clients. Director Baltasar Kormakur turns away from embellishing a story that’s already heartrending and visceral in a sense that poured cold into my bones, and decides instead to focus on the small mistakes that lead to a troupe of 19 men and women being stranded 30,000 feet above sea level. The film doesn’t try and push terribly hard to get a strong pace going, instead it builds and builds and builds, the disaster at the heart of the film clearly creeping up, until the audience is tearing at their eyes and ears, just waiting for something awful to happen. Kormakur doesn’t hit every nail on the head – Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of a mountaineering peer is one note and limited by a script that gives him nothing to do and there’s a whole lot of the film dedicated to building up the over-crowding of the mountain because of summit tourism that never really becomes anything – but, still, for the most part, the film works. Especially in terms of capturing the shittiness that climbing Mt. Everest is. It’s cold and hard on your body and brutal in terms of exertion and when the credits rolled I had no desire whatsoever to set foot on a peak like that for the remainder of my life. Jason Clarke continues to prove himself to be an exceptionally talented leading man (the kind we don’t see too much of in Hollywood anymore) and Josh Brolin turns in a nuanced performance as a red-state millionaire with an adrenaline addiction and a heart of gold. This isn’t a blockbuster, though it’s marketed itself that way. It’s a solid piece of filmmaking that never sells itself out for cheap emotion, but instead tells a real story with real consequences.

The Lesson:

Sam Worthington shows up for a few strong scenes in this film, and it made me think that the right role (a small one) in the right film (a smart, but adventurous one) could really let this badly looked upon Aussie shine.

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