Plot: Marty (Colin Farrell) is trying to finish a screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths.” His writing stalls due to a bout of writers block, and unintentionally becoming involved in a serious mess his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) created. Billy is a professional dog-snatcher with his partner in crime Hans (Christopher Walken)…they steal dogs and collect money when the desperate dog owners graciously reward them for their pup’s safe return. But when they steal a particular Shih Tzu, belonging to crazed, Shih Tzu-loving gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson), Marty’s involvement with this theft-gone-wrong provides some much-needed inspiration.
Playwright Martin McDonagh’s writing hits a unique pitch between dark, bloody satire and interpersonal conflicts that makes his finest work play like a combination of Quentin Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin. From “The Pillowman” to “A Behanding in Spokan,” McDonagh’s plays tend to begin with a ludicrous premise filled with colorful characters whose struggles eventually become real enough to allow for moving finales. With his second feature-length directorial effort following the gangster farce “In Bruges,” you have to look closely to see beyond the absurdities and appreciate the insight, but that’s only because the two ingredients are fused together with such enjoyably wacky finesse. —Eric Kohn, Indiewire
-Anything with Christopher Walken is brilliant-
Plot: A drama-thriller based on the life of mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) whose balancing act of being a contracted killer and devoted family man catches up with him. Michael Shannon is too underrated. The lack of acknowledgment for last year’s Take Shelter makes me hope he’ll get recognition this year.
A finely chiseled thriller that reflects the cold-blooded efficiency of its murderous subject in every frame and detail, “The Iceman” expertly unpacks the story of frighteningly prolific contract killer Richard Kuklinski. Holding its own among the numerous films and series about New Jersey mobsters, no-nonsense hitmen and their long-suffering wives and children, this latest effort from Israeli-born director Ariel Vromen is a model of lean, incisive filmmaking fronted by a commanding Michael Shannon and backed by a terrifically offbeat supporting cast. Grim subject matter and frequent, spasmodic violence will draw a limited but discerning arthouse audience. —Justin Change, Variety
Plot: Amour follows an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, both retired music teachers in their 80s with a daughter living abroad. When Anne suffers a stroke, paralyzing her on one side of her body, the boundaries of love and coping will be tested. Here’s a plot so uncomfortable, one everyone chooses not to think about, that it’ll be worth the watch.
As it turns out, Amour is no spaced-out horror film. It’s an intensely clear-eyed and tender, at times almost voyeuristically intimate look at what happens to an aging, agreeably married couple when one of them starts to slip away. You may be thinking, “Ah, the prestige Euro version of an Alzheimer’s movie-of-the-week,” but Amour, in fact, is a great deal tougher and more mysterious than that. Does Amour sound hard to watch? At times it is. Yet it’s also transfixing and extraordinarily touching, perhaps the most hauntingly honest movie about old age ever made. —Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Plot: Reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his brother Jack (Zac Efron) return to their hometown in Florida to investigate a case involving a man on death row (John Cusack). I have the same dissatisfaction with Zac Efron that I do with Robert Pattison, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope he can create a career outside of his teenybopper image. Plus, Nicole Kidman, the ever-timid and reserved woman in interviews, knows how to deliver a good performance. White trash Nicole? I’m in.
Instead of getting all prestigious after the success of Precious, Lee Daniels has gone even more down and dirty with The Paperboy, a tasty wallow in sordid goings-on down South in 1969. Basking in a funky, disreputable feel despite its prestigious source material and classy cast, the film has been crafted to resemble a grungy exploitation melodrama made in the period it depicts, which might mystify the uninitiated but gives Paperboy an appealingly rough and rasty texture. —Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
Plot: Motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) (Drive 2.0?) considers committing a crime to support his newborn child, only to come in conflict with cop-turned politician (Bradley Cooper). [There’s still no trailer for this film yet…]
The Place Beyond the Pines springs from the atmospheric tension that comes from not knowing how each scene will play out. Those familiar with director Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) will likely have some idea of what they’re in for, though “The Place Beyond the Pines” has better pacing and far less muddled themes than his first feature film. There is true beauty in the despair that pervades “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a film plotted out in triptych, a treatise on the moral compromises we all make to protect and provide for our loved ones. The real art of “The Place Beyond the Pines” is the innovative plot construct, which can only be compared to films such as “The Godfather” and “A Prophet.” No, “The Place Beyond the Pines” isn’t as good as either of those films, and it’s not nearly as watchable as either (less overall arc, too weighty throughout), but it certainly heralds the arrival of a vibrant director. It’s not the type of film anyone outside of “serious” film fans will have the patience for, but it’s no less the accomplishment for the total lack of comfort it provides an audience. —Laremy Legal, Film.com