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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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For five of the sexiest stars alive, things are about to get pretty ugly. In The Counselor, out Oct. 25, Michael Fassbender stars as a lawyer who invests in a drug deal that leads him to tangle with some very shady – and cruel – people. Directed by Ridley Scott and written by No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy, “it’s a great group of actors playing enticing characters you haven’t seen on the screen before,” says producer Nick Wechsler. Among them are Javier Bardem and his real-life wife, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt, who sports a cowboy look reminiscent of his breakthrough role in Scott’s 1991 hit Thelma & Louise. “Brad has a lot of confidence,” Wechsler says, “and you’ll see him play a cool character with enormous amounts of clever, dark wit. He delivers an extraordinary performance.”

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas | R |


Gosling reunites with his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, but while their earlier effort was a brilliant study of violence and silence, this one is bloody and inert. The actor plays Julian, a drug dealer in Thailand harangued by his dragon-lady mom, Crystal (Thomas), after a sword-wielding cop (Vithaya Pansringarm) kills his brother. Thomas is divine, giving a banshee shriek of a performance despite the movie’s shtick of having people pose and declaim rather than just talk. Gosling, though, is as expressive as a brick, his blank face an odd contrast with the buzzing set design. But the sword is the real star, slicing off limbs and heads, aerating human flesh. I’d suggest it was poetic, but that would imply that the film has something to say.

The Conjuring

Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor | R |


This movie was so scary I cried. Granted, I’m a bundle of barely repressed childhood phobias, but The Conjuring, based on a true story, is terrifying. Plagued by a spirit attacking her kids in their new house, mom Carolyn (Taylor) begs paranormalists Lorraine (Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Wilson) for help. Better known for their work on the Amityville Horror case, the pair get to work battling the family’s demons. The plot is standard issue, but the great cast and director James Wan’s clever shots and perfect pacing make for exquisite psychological torture.