The Town - Ben Affleck is good actor, not a great one. He is handsome, yet not quite Cary Grant handsome. He is a skilled director, but not quite the auteur. So in a way, it is perfectly fitting that an effort written, directed and starring himself culminates in The Town. As far as crime dramas go, The Town ranks as almost excellent. It also seems like one of those films that, no matter how entertaining, is doomed to be forgotten (no thanks to an utterly forgettable title) in the ever growing pile of very good crime dramas.
Set in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and touting that hood's proclivity for turning out bank robbers, the film begins with a heist orchestrated by four townie buds sporting skeleton masks. The caper goes off without a hitch, except that an alarm gets sounded. The crisis situation leads the gang to take a precautionary hostage in the form of assistant manager, Claire (played to perfection by Rebecca Hall*) for whom our hero, Doug MacRay develops an instant fascination. Well, Claire comes through shaken but mostly unscathed and little suspecting that she's being stalked by Ben Affleck. Meanwhile the crime gets the attention of the FBI and soon crack agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) is on the case. Frawley doesn't take long to link our quartet to the crime in question. All he needs is time to build his case, as in just enough time for Doug and Claire strike up a romance!
Part of the problem with The Town is how closely it sticks to formula. Aflleck, the thug with the heart of gold, sees a better future and wants out. You've seen it before. And he tries! Yet no matter how fast he runs, it's never quite fast enough for his past. This is a guy with a LOT of monkeys on his back, namely his partner (Jeremy Renner as the gang's loose cannon), a drugged up ex (Blake Lively, slutty and all but unintelligable), his imprisoned father (Chris Cooper, grufflly superb in his 5 minutes) and his de facto crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite as the most terrifying florist you'll ever encounter). Doug wants nothing more than to book it out of town with his best lady, but it seems like there is always that one last job to do...or else. Oh, and the last job is worth sticking around for, by the way. It's a doozy.
Affleck manages to breathe relatively fresh life into a oft-told tale, and his costars do their part to elevate the film to near excellence. I want to rave about this movie, and my rating is a good one. If only The Town weren't so, I don't know, Afflecky. 4.0 McBones
The Devil's Backbone - Loved Pan's Labyrinth? You'll love this just as much! Taking place in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, Guillermo del Toro uses this setting to spin one of the spookiest ghost stories ever crafted. As a horror piece, TD'sB is masterful, but del Toro always gives your brain something extra to chew on. Hit up Netflix, turn off the lights and wait for the one who sighs to come a-calling. 4.5 McBones
*Rebecca Hall meets my 3 criteria for supreme beauty:
1) Long, brown hair
2) Brown eyes
3) Fucked up teeth