Casualty-notification officer Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) delivers devastating news to families of fallen soldiers in "The Messenger."
Cop Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) talks to Frankie (Eva Mendes) in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans."
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Elk Grove rates a '10'
The Elk Grove Theatres, part of the Classic Cinemas dynasty in the Chicago area, Wednesday will officially open four new auditoriums, bringing its theater count to 10. The new rooms will feature stadium seating, and the seats in all 10 auditoriums have already been upgraded to Carrera leather.
(Psst! Two of the new screens will open early Friday, but it's a secret, so don't tell anyone.)
Elk Grove Village President Craig Johnson will join Classics executive Willis Johnson for a "big ticket tearing ceremony" at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the theater, 1050 Elk Grove Town Center.
Reel Life review: "The Messenger"
They're called casualty-notification officers.
Their mission is to go to the homes of fallen soldiers to notify their NOK (next-of-kin) of their deaths in the line of duty. It's a terrible job, and in Oren Moverman's painfully intimate, exquisitely detailed "The Messenger," Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster bring strength, pain, loneliness, honor and a rainbow of other conflicting qualities to their roles as military messengers of doom.
Captain Tony Stone (Harrelson) has been married three times, twice to the same woman. Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Foster) has no family or personal commitments.
They don't really like each other at first. But they begrudgingly find common ground as they carry out their mission in a series of masterfully executed vignettes that tell us everything we need to know about the families of the fallen within 30 seconds of meeting them.
Most next-of-kin disintegrate into tears and cries. One father (Steve Buscemi) nearly attacks Will in a scary eruption of displaced anger. One young widowed mother (Samantha Morton) takes compassion on the soldiers for the job they have.
Will becomes infatuated with her, and breaks the law of the messenger, that he must never touch or fraternize with the NOK.
"The Messenger" is a bold and rare war movie that sidesteps conventions of the genre. No violent flashbacks, no easy-to-read emotions or dumbing down to a mass audience. No clichés.
Harrelson and Foster give galvanizing performances, despite concerns Harrelson was too much of a "hippie" to be a soldier. Under the direction of Moverman, who heads to the front of the Hollywood class with this inspired drama, the actors achieve an intensity that resonates with us long after the movie has finished.
For what Moverman and "The Messenger" have done is to inject a messy mixture of duty, uncertainty, reality and humanity into a domestic war movie. It's both a wonderful and terrible thing to behold.
"The Messenger" opens today at the Music Box in Chicago. Rated R for language, sexual situations, nudity. 105 minutes. . . . 1/2
'Beaches of Agnes'
The After Hours Film Society presents "The Beaches of Agnes," by 81-year-old French filmmaker Agnes Varda. It's an autobiographical portrait of a self-described forager, searching the world for images that capture her fancy. It will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Tivoli Theater, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. General admission is $9.
Reel Life review: 'Turning Green'
The dark Irish comedy "Turning Green" never quite finds its proper comic tone as it gleefully immerses us in a raucously nasty, noirish tale of a sexually self-abusing teenager who becomes a successful pornography distributor and eventual killer.
"Turning Green," originally one of the runners-up in the "Project Greenlight" contest from a few years back, stars newcomer Donal Gallery as James, an Irish lad raised in the U.S. who returns to the Emerald Island with his kid brother Pete (Killian Morgan). James needs money, and when he meets a porno supplier, he rakes in the green (hence the double-meaning of the title).
Local gangsters Bill the Bookie (Alessandro Nivola) and Bill the Breaker (Timothy Hutton) don't like this, and try to set the upstart kid straight about making money on their turf.
Where the first half of "Turning Green" bounces along on Gallery's comical, cynical view of life as he applies his American entrepreneurial skills to his benefit, directors/writers Michael Aimette and John G. Hofman let the air out of the second half, a lame, anticlimactic letdown.
"Turning Green" opens today at the Pipers Alley Theater in Chicago. Not rated by the MPAA, but suggested for mature audiences only. 85 minutes. . .
Three horror tales - "The Evil of Frankenstein," "The House That Dripped Blood" and "Dr. Cyclops" - will be shown for one $10 admission, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Call (773) 875-7582 for details.
Reel Life review: 'The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans'
Werner Herzog's loose and loony remake of Abel Ferrara's NC-17-rated, 1992 crime drama "Bad Lieutenant" doesn't just star Nicolas Cage. It unleashes him in the kind of over-the-top, no-holds-barred performance that has become his hallmark.
His lieutenant, Terence McDonagh, is so bad, he constantly shoves drugs in his nose, racks up humongous gambling debts, claims a high-end prostitute as his girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and misuses the justice system to his own benefit with unabashed arrogance.
Set in a post-Katrina New Orleans, "Bad Lieutenant" depicts not just the city's physical rot, but the moral decay in which McDonagh, his amoral partner (Val Kilmer) and underworld thugs (led by Xzibit's drug lord) operate.
The plot - the cops investigate the murders of a family involved in drugs - is merely an inviting hook for Herzog's corrosive sense of black humor (McDonagh's lizard hallucinations are a hoot), and an opportunity for Cage to blow the barn doors off a neo-noirish tale of tepid redemption.
"The Bad Lieutenant" opens today at the River East 21 and the Century Centre in Chicago, and the Evanston CineArts 6. Rated R for drug use, language, sexual situations, violence. 121 minutes. . . .
A sold-out 'Life'
For three months, Chicago's Kamelya Alexan worked on the set of "The Dark Knight" in the Windy City. She funneled all of her earnings into making a 21-minute film called "One Simple Life," a drama about a man afflicted with schizophrenia. Her movie's premiere at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Skokie Theater, 7924 Lincoln Ave., is sold out. Her movie will be shown again Feb. 22. Mark your calendars!