Kill The Messenger
Rated R for profanity and drug use
Jeremy Renner Riveting In True Tale As Intrepid Investigative Journalist
In August of 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published an eye-opening exposé detailing exactly how the Central Intelligence Agency had orchestrated the importation of crack cocaine from Nicaragua as well as its distribution in the black community of South Central Los Angeles. Entitled “Dark Alliance,” the 20,000-word series was written by Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), an investigative journalist who’d risked life and limb to release the incendiary information.
For, in the midst of conducting his research, he had been asked, “Do you have a family?” by a CIA operative trying to intimidate him into killing the article. The spy agency was ostensibly determined to suppress any facts which might shed light on its covert dealings with the Contras, the rebels attempting to topple the government ofNicaragua.
But Webb, already a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, would not be intimidated and went with the piece. And even though he had supported his shocking allegations with declassified documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, the Establishment secretly enlisted the assistance of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the L.A. Times to discredit him.
These prominent papers pooh-poohed the very notion that the CIA could possibly be behind the dissemination of crack in the inner-city. Nevertheless, “Dark Alliance” became the biggest story of the year, especially among African-Americans, many of whom surfed the internet for the first time in order to read the damning report.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) took to the floor to warn that “Somebody’s going to have to pay for what they have done to my people.” Yet, the revelations seemed to take the greatest toll on Gary Webb, who lost his good name, his job, his career, his home, and even the love of his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt ) in due course.
This shameful chapter in American history is the subject of Kill The Messenger, a sobering biopic directed by Michael Cuesta and starring Jeremy Renner. The film features an A-list cast also including Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Tim Blake Nelson, Andy Garcia, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Robert Patrick and Paz Vega.
However, make no mistake, this riveting thriller is a Renner vehicle, and the two-time Academy Award nominee (for The Hurt Locker and The Town) delivers another Oscar-quality performance as a family man/respected writer slowly turned into a paranoid soul haunted by demons and hunted by Machiavellian mercenaries drunk with power.
A cautionary tale about what might easily transpire whenever the Fourth Estate is willing to serve as the Fifth Column rather than as a government watchdog.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 112 minutes
The Weinstein Company
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexuality
Overcoming-The-Odds Biopic Recounts Rise Of Aspiring Opera Singer
For as long as Paul Potts (James Corden) can remember, all he ever wanted to do was sing. Blessed with a big voice, the chubby boy sang everywhere as a child, whether in the shower, walking down the street, riding the school bus, or in the church choir.
Sadly, this inclination didn’t sit well with the ruffians of Port Talbot, the blue-collar town where Paul was raised. The more he sang, the more they would bully him, and vice-versa.
Fast-forward to 2004 where we find Paul, at 34, pursuing the pipe dream of an opera career and still living at home with his supportive mom (Julie Walters) and skeptical dad (Colm Meaney). Meanwhile, he’s taken a job as a cell phone salesman in order to save up enough money for a master class inVenicewith the legendary Luciano Pavarotti (Stanley Townsend). And he is lucky to have an understanding girlfriend in Julz (Alexandra Roach), a portly pepperpot he met over the internet.
Thus unfolds One Chance, a delightful musical dramedy directed by Oscar winner David Frankel (Dear Diary), best known for The Devil Wears Prada. Here, the native New Yorker has fashioned an overcoming-the-odds biopic revolving around Potts’ real-life exploits as a contestant on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.
The film feels a lot like The Full Monty (striptease) and Billy Elliot (ballet) in terms of the protagonist’s pursuit of an unconventional art form. However, it also is evocative of Notting Hill and Four Weddings And A Funeral in the way it wins your heart via a charming courtship.
A touching, true tale chronicling a talented troubadour’s televised triumphs.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Italian with subtitles
Running time: 103 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening October 10, 2014
Addicted (R for nudity, profanity, graphic sexuality and brief drug use) Screen adaptation of Zane’s explicit page-turner about a successful businesswoman (Sharon Leal) who repeatedly risks losing her family and career in the pursuit of forbidden pleasures. Cast includes Boris Kodjoe, Tasha Smith, Tyson Beckford and William Levy.
Alexander And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (PG for crude humor, reckless behavior and mild epithets) Disney adaptation of the children’s book of the same name about a calamitous day in the life of an overwhelmed 11-year-old (Ed Oxenbould). With Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and Dylan Minnette.
Dracula Untold (PG-13 for intense violence, disturbing images and some sensuality) Origins horror tale about the Transylvanian prince (Luke Evans) who would one day morph into a mythological demon with an unquenchable thirst for human blood. With Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon and Charles Dance.
The Judge (R for profanity and sexual references) Crime drama about a big city lawyer (Robert Downey, Jr.) who returns to his tiny Indiana hometown for his mother’s funeral only to end up defending his estranged father (Robert Duvall) accused of murder by an overzealous prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton). With Vera Farmiga, Dax Shepard and Leighton Meester.
Whiplash (R for profanity and some sexual references) Wunderkind Damien Chazelle wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical drama which won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Coming-of-age drama revolves around the strained relationship of a promising, young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and his perfectionist, studio band teacher (J.K. Simmons). With Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser and Austin Stowell.
Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead (R for profanity, sexual references, graphic violence and pervasive gore) Horror sequel findsNorway invaded by another battalion of nasty Nazi zombies. Co-starring Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, Ingrid Haas, Jocelyn DeBoer and Martin Starr. (In Norwegian, English and German with subtitles)
I Am Ali (PG for mature themes and mild epithets) Reverential biopic about Muhammad Ali as revealed by his personal archives and confirmed by the reflections of many friends, family and fellow boxers. Featuring commentary by George Foreman, Mike Tyson and NFL great Jim Brown.
Kite (R for sexuality, drug use, grisly images and pervasive graphic violence) Revenge thriller about a young orphan-turned-merciless assassin (India Eisley) who tracks down her parents’ killer with the help of her police officer father’s former partner (Samuel L. Jackson). With Callan McAuliffe, Carl Beukes and DeVille Vannik.
The Overnighters (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Dream deferred documentary chronicling the generosity of a Christ-like pastor who opened up his church to alleviate the suffering of over 1,000 oil workers unable to find affordable housing in North Dakota.
St. Vincent (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking, mature themes and substance abuse) Bill Murray plays the title role in this unlikely buddies comedy as an alcoholic misanthrope who befriends the pint-sized son (Jaeden Lieberher) of the divorcee (Melissa McCarthy) next door. With Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd and Terrence Howard.
Stuck (Unrated) Gridlock dramedy about a couple (Madeline Zima and Joel David Moore) forced to get to know each other while stuck in traffic the morning after sharing a passionate one-night stand. Support cast includes Abraham Benrubi, Logan Agayan and Gaby Alcazar.
Waiting For August (Unrated) Child abuse documentary, set in Bacau, Romania, revolving around a 14-year-old girl left in charge of her half-dozen siblings while their migrant worker mother spends the winter and spring employed elsewhere. (In Romanian with subtitles)
You’re Not You (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Bittersweet drama about the unlikely bond forged between a classical pianist (Hilary Swank) with ALS and the brash, aspiring rock singer (Emmy Rossum) hired as her caretaker. With Ali Larter, Josh Duhamel, Marcia Gay Harden, Ernie Hudson and Frances Fisher.