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Contagion – Steven Soderbergh tries to paint realistic picture of what would happen should an unknown virus start to work itself into the world population.  It appears that many celebrities would become sick and die in the event.  A massive all-star cast is brought together to work through an admirable but unspectacular exercise in disease cinema.  Since the film is more occupied with the details of society quickly crumbling away we don’t spend enough time with any one character to develop much repore with any one the numerous thespians on hand.  Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburn, Kate Winslet, Gweneth Paltrow, Jude Law and many more all show up because their director friend is making a notable flick.  Damon and Fishburn are as close to leads as the film gets, Damon playing an immune man whose wife , Gweneth Paltrow, was the first victim and Fishburn playing an embattled head of the CDC.  Something tells me this may have worked a little better as one of Soderbergh’s low budget, no star efforts.  Contagion is passable and okay in most ways but it’s dramatically passive and ultimately feels a touch pointless.  But if you’ve ever wanted to see Paltrow get her skull sawed off in and autopsy and have her face half peeled off, this is your chance.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – Little, nasty monsters live in the basement of a gothic mansion and want to eat your child.  That’s pretty much the gist of this spooker from first time director Troy Nixey and over-talented writers Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins.  Nixey has a suspenseful style which is easy to appreciate and having Del Toro on as a producer and writer would seem like a great advantage, but the screenplay is the problem here.  Dark is hamstrung by cliched characters who behave in the stupid ways that people in films like this typically do.  Guy Pierce is stuck playing the skeptical parent whose daughter keeps telling him monsters are trying to get her while all the time he frets about architecture.  Katie Holmes is here trying to have a career.  She’s actually one of the few bright spots of the movie.  11 year old Bailee Madison doesn’t make for a very precocious lead either.  Having a sullen, downbeat kid who pops pills for anxiety disorders was a poor decision.  Del Toro is an incredibly imaginative filmmaker so seeing him churn out and approve of such rudimentary storytelling is kind of shocking.  Fans of horror flicks will get just enough mileage out of it, others not so much.

Warrior – How the Hell a movie set around the world of MMA could be this good is beyond me.  Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play long separated brothers who find themselves falling back into the world of mixed martial arts fighting.   Hardy’s a sullen, pained vet of the Iraq war looking to take care of the family of a fallen comrade.  Edgerton is a physics teacher falling behind on an upside down mortgage, on top of which he’s been suspended from his job for moonlighting as a fighter.  Both actors turn in top tier work and if that weren’t enough, they’re almost overshadowed by a career best performance from Nick Nolte as their recovering alcoholic father.  Nolte has flirted with degrading self parody for a long time but if anyone doubted he still had the heart or ability to captivate a viewer, wash those thoughts away.  His is Oscar worthy work.  This movie is a real achievement, about regret and forgiveness, not just lugheads beating the piss out of each other.


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