Cold in July (2014): Innocence Lost

Michael C Hall and Sam Shepard in Cold in July
The 2014 film Cold in July is another offering from the team that brought you Stake Land and in a sense, this new film is also about innocence lost. In the first movie, that starred Damici, it is the young protagonist being trained by Mister who loses his, in the new film by the team of Nick Damici and Jim Mickle, it is Michael C. Hall’s character Richard Dane who falls.

Based upon Joe R Lonsdale’s 1989 novel of the same name, Cold in July stars Hall as a “everyman” who shoots an intruder in his house and his life begins a rollercoaster trip of twists and turns that change his world. Initially he is stalked and threatened by the ex-con father of the man he killed, Mr. Russell, played by Sam Shepard, and he turns to his friend on the local police force Ray Price (Nick Damici) for help.

The police catch Russell and tell Richard that the man is back in prison. When Dane is at the police station, he sees a wanted poster with the name of the man he shot; the picture on the bill looks nothinglike the dead man. The frame shop owner tries to question Price about the discrepancy and the detective blows him off. Heading down to the station, he sees the police taking Russell out of jail. They put him on train tracks, inject him and leave him to be killed by an oncoming train. Dane saves the man and puts him in his late father’s cabin.

The two men dig up the man Dane shot and Russell learns that the body in the coffin is not his son. Russell calls a friend from Houston, Jim Bob (Don Johnson) who comes to help his Korean War comrade. It turns out that Russell’s son worked for the Dixie mafia and turned state’s evidence. He is now under the witness protection program and the police are helping the man to disappear.

Shepard’s character wants Jim Bob to find his son and Richard volunteers to help. When the men find Freddy Russell, the film takes yet another darker turn and Dane gets in even deeper.

Hall plays a man who finds himself firmly immersed in the underbelly of southern crime. Porn films, snuff movies, the Dixie Mafia and wholesale bloodshed all leave the man shaken and changed by the end of the film. The arc for Richard Dane is a long and complex one. At the beginning when his neighbors are starring at the man who inadvertently killed an intruder in his home, Dane is uncomfortable with his notoriety.

“I didn’t mean to shoot him,” Richard says. When he shakingly loads his pistol, it is obvious that the man is nervous and scared. Later when he confronts the man in his living room, the clock striking is the trigger that makes him shoot. The camera shows the vividness of the victim’s blood and later focusses on the couple cleaning up the crime scene and revealing just how destructive death is.

Later on, when Dane joins up with Jim Bob and Russell Sr, he slowly gets acclimatized to weapons and being around them but he still hesitates to pull the trigger. A tendency that almost costs him his life and that of his two comrades. The film moves from what could have been a question of morality and the cost of taking another man’s life into a modern noir of grim proportion.

The hunting down of the con’s son and the discovery that Russell’s offspring is beyond evil is as shocking as the video tape that they take from the giant thug they encounter at Freddy’s house. All three of the male protagonists knock their performances out of the park. Shepard as Russell is a wraith, full of remorse, rage and deadly intentions. He does not suffer fools and his life has been harsh.

Dane has lived the existence of the small town businessman. He has a wife and child, is well thought of in the community and has never killed anyone before. His gradual descent into the hellish underworld of pornography and the Dixie mafia is shocking and Hall convinces that his character will never be the same again.

Don Johnson as the Houston private eye and war friend of Russell is bigger than life and plays Jim Bob as a jaded man who has seen it all and paid the price. One can easily imagine that Richard Dane knows exactly how both men feel at the end of the film.

As a genre, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici have placed Cold in July in a category that could be called Southern Gothic Noir. At 109 minutes, the movie moves at a good pace and never drags. Some sequences of the film feel a bit like Cape Fear but not for long. The shape and direction of the movie changes quickly soon after and the viewer is taken into unknown territory.

Michael C Hall is well known for his portrayal of the serial killer with a difference in Dexter. The actor has given a brilliant performance in this film and his fans will not be disappointed with his work on Cold in July. This is a real 5 out of 5 star film that enthralls from the first frame to the last. It is streaming on Showtime at the moment.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Critic Verdicts…Who Cares?

Screen shot of Grey and Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey  continues to spark a bit of controversy as various critics (but not this one) have given their learned verdict about the film, but really…Who cares? Certainly not the housewives who helped to make the book by middle-aged author E L James a runaway bestseller. Her target audience aren’t looking for Shakespeare between the sheets here – or is that between the whipping posts – they are looking for fantasy.

A dreamy escape from normalcy and the ever present pressures of trying to fit into the demanding world of modern feminism. These millions of fans have taken off their freedom and hung it temporarily in the closet while they enjoy the mastery of a self centered sadomasochist. It doesn’t hurt that the male protagonist is unbelievably wealthy, and powerful, with the added bonus of being drop dead gorgeous to the female audience.

Christian Grey was going to be Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy. He changed his mind quickly after being cast and backed out citing contract obligations with the hit television show he stars in. While fans of the book worked themselves into a frenzy over who would replace Charlie, the daughter of Melanie Griffiths and Don Johnson, Dakota Johnson, was named as the actress who would show all as Anastasia Steele.

I personally have not gone to see the film.  While still on the list for new screeners there is an issue of transportation as Phoenix is over 90 minutes away and I have no vehicle, but even if travel was not an issue, I would not be rushing to see it.

I am not a prude, after hearing about the bloody books, (James – who started out writing fan fiction about Twilight – wrote another two sequels to the original sex fantasy for the middle-aged and middle-married heterosexual female fans) an E-book of the first tale was downloaded and read.

While not being a housewife (Or feminist who fantasizes about it?) who yearns to be dominated by a man, I found Fifty Shades of Grey to be entertaining to a degree. James has a deft touch writing about the sex scenes while bludgeoning the reader with a female “heroine” who strains belief. Are there really college upper-grads who can manage to be that naive?  But, in reality,  are there any fans who care that her naivety is as real as ersatz eggs?

I doubt it.

Today’s world reeks of sexuality and sensuality. Children are being sexualized at an alarming rate and the art of coitus is being practiced by teens who are barely past puberty. James has proven that, while she may never equal the great authors, she knows what sells.

One cannot go on the Internet without discovering that in today’s world sex apparently equals pain of some sort. Sorry chaps, but despite what you’ve been told by those who want to salve your ego, size does matter. The bigger the better and all the more to hurt you with my dear.

Oh and if I can slap you around a bit and degrade you in the process that is the harsh icing on that bitter cake. Granted in the books, Anastasia is a somewhat reluctant but willing victim. Eventually liking the act of being submissive (while maintaining that ridiculous naivety throughout) and actually not managing to emotionally age by the end of the first book.

However…

As I’ve said, reading the book provoked responses from me that were surprising. It is erotica, no doubt about that and, while not the finest, it causes the blood to rush and one can only imagine that the female fans must be ready to attack the first bloke they run into after reading a few chapters, or seeing a few reels…

Which may be the main reason I  not to watch the film version after learning that Hollywood was going to rake in the money from the author’s fans. An entire cinema full Fifty Shades of Grey fans who sit in their seats squirming with excitement and imaginations running overtime is a frightening prospect.

*I mean, seriously? Have you seen how women act around male strippers?*

Critics of the male variety must have been mad to attend a non press preview, which I am sure existed, who cares what the rest of the world thinks. Women who are fans will go regardless of what some educated reviewer thinks.

So forgive me if I pass, the bloody book wasn’t that erotic or well written. Even if, like the old Heineken advertisements used to say, it “hits the parts that others can’t reach” for the female audience.

12 February 2015

Charlie Hunnam the Truth Comes Out?

Charlie Hunnam the Truth Comes Out?

After the surprise announcement that Charlie Hunnam and the studios co-released stating the the Sons of Anarchy actor would not be playing Christian Grey after all, Fifty Shades of Greyfans have been wondering why the change of heart.

Charlie Hunnam May be Joined by Dakota Johnson as Filmmakers Scramble

Charlie Hunnam May be Joined by Dakota Johnson as Filmmakers Scramble

Female fans of Fifty Shades of Grey are mourning the news that E L James’ favorite choice to play Christian Grey will not be Robert Pattinson now that Charlie Hunnam has stepped down. And now it looks like Dakota Johnson may join her ex co-star as the filmmakers scramble to find a replacement for their Sons of Anarchy casting choice.

Fifty Shades of Grey Finally Cast Let the Bondage Begin

Fifty Shades of Grey Finally Cast Let the Bondage Begin