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There's nothing worse than hipster bootleggers, with their hats, vests and striped pants.
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"LAWLESS" (R) HHH
TOM HARDY, SHIA LABEOUF, JESSICA CHASTAIN, GUY PEARCE, JASON CLARKE, MIA WASIKOWSKA
The first serious dramatic effort of the welcome fall movie season is a solid one, highlighted by captivating performances by Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain.
Hardy plays the stoically tough and seemingly invincible patriarch of the Bondurant family--Depression-era bootleggers extraordinaire from Virginia's Franklin County.
With a captivating performance that may solidify her star status, Chastain plays the enigmatic and slightly damaged showgirl from Chicago who shows up to work at the Bondurant roadhouse.
She arrives at a calamitous time in Franklin County, where a multitude of stills in the hills earned it the nickname "wettest county in Virginia."
The Bondurants face off against an ambitious prosecutor who joins forces with a pit bull of a special deputy (Guy Pearce), a dandy who wears tight suits with bow ties and dons kid gloves when it's time to spill blood. The rural pride of the Bondurant clan slams head-on into the federal agents of change, revealing the self-serving, greedy aims of both sides.
Three things make the film work: Hardy's low-key delivery of the uniquely principled bootlegger, Forrest, violence that's extreme but thankfully brief and authentic backdrops that make you feel like you're deep in the Appalachian hills.
Shia LaBeouf--as the slightly flashy younger Bondurant brother, Jack--gives what is probably his best performance to date, expressing torment and sadness when called on.
But he's still miscast, and nowhere near as believable a Bondurant as Hardy or the nicely scraggly Jason Clarke, who plays brother Howard.
Still, the young actor does create sparks with Mia Wasikowska, who has an interesting turn as Bertha, a young woman whose preacher father wants her to have nothing to do with the Bondurants.
The film's not perfect, but it delivers an interesting look at a time and place where white lightning was the biggest--and sometimes bloodiest--thrill of all in one Virginia county.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, sexuality/nudity. 115 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER" (R) HH
RASHIDA JONES, ANDY SAMBERG, ELIJAH WOOD
When it comes to life and love, is it more important to be right, or to be happy?
That's the eventual theme of a slightly uneven but unexpectedly sweet film about two best friends who also happen to love each other.
The film works because Celeste is played by Rashida Jones, a talented actress who struggles convincingly with the question above.
She loves, and has always loved, Jesse (Andy Samberg), but can't quite turn him into the husband she wants.
So they separate, but never successfully manage to stay apart from each other until a few others come into the mix and complicate their respective searches for love and happiness.
There's a silly but compelling chemistry between the two actors, and Jones has more chops than she's been given credit for.
It doesn't all end up perfectly, but then, neither does life. Or love.
Rated R for language, sexual content, drug use. 91 min. [RF]
HOW WE RATE 'EM
H Don't waste your time.
HH Nothing special
HHHH A must-see
MC: Marquee Cinemas, 540/710-0401
PV: Paragon Village 12