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Toronto 2010: “The Town,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “The Town,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

When people seemed genuinely surprised that “Gone Baby Gone” was a solid directorial debut for Ben Affleck, I was not among them. Anyone who paid close enough attention would’ve known a guy as sharp as Affleck would have the capability to pull together something that was compelling and naturally well-cast, given he can stock up on actors he knows are underutilized. So it is with some frustration that it appears he’s taken a step backwards with “The Town,” a crime thriller that is good more of the time than it’s not, but suffers from the fact it should’ve been great.

As has been noted frequently, Affleck is back in his hometown of Boston, not in Dorchester where his slow burn adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s “Gone Baby Gone” was set, but in the wild, wild north of Charlestown, which is noted in the film’s first title card as the birthplace of “more bank robbers and armored car thieves than anywhere else in the world.” Once again co-writing with Aaron Stockard, “The Town” is also an adaptation — this time, of Chuck Hogan’s “Prince of Thieves” — and it turns out for the most part, Affleck’s sensibilities are well-attuned to the needs of an action film, which “The Town” is far more so than his last.

With a great sense of how to raise the stakes on any given scene or when to cut the tension with a clever one-liner, Affleck injects a real crackerjack energy into the story of two childhood friends-turned-bank-robbers (Affleck and Jeremy Renner) who attract the attention of an FBI task force agent (Jon Hamm) after one of their scores leaves a witness (Rebecca Hall). “The Town” eventually travels down the relatively well-worn road of having Affleck attempt to find a way out of the criminal life, inspired by a romance with Hall’s bank manager after initially seducing her for information, conflict with the illegal aspirations of Renner, but it rarely feels stale. (In fact, the film’s three robbery sequences are amongst the most gripping this side of “Heat.”)

09102010_JonHammBlakeLivelyTheTown.jpgAffleck amps things up visually wherever possible, rarely holding on a shot for longer than a few seconds unless a character is going through some deep introspection and playing with camera speed whether it’s a slow-mo of a lighter being thrown into a gas-doused van or the sped up overhead location shots that give the film a bit of a ’90s vibe. However, his interest in expediency seems to get him in trouble every now and then, whether it’s a few too many 360 degree pans (one knows it’s a little much when it’s in an office setting) and in getting some of the little things right about his characters.

Hall, who admittedly I recently predicted as one of the actresses expected to do well in Toronto, is handcuffed at times to a character that makes some exceptionally bad decisions, seeming a little too forthcoming to Affleck’s MacRay about the FBI investigation regarding the robbery she has no idea he was involved in, and subsequently doing something that seems less like a character motivation than a plot point in the second act. Likewise, Blake Lively’s turn as Affleck’s longtime friend with benefits is about as out of place as the Jason Derulo song that plays in the background during her introductory scene in a shaggy Boston pub. (While some might suspect this is because of Lively’s abilities as an actress, it has far more to do with an undercooked arc.)

Meanwhile, hopes that Jon Hamm would finally find a role worthy of his talents on the big screen will likely be disappointed to find a variation on Don Draper who is invulnerable almost to the point of parody, despite the fact that he’s basically grasping at straws when investigating McRay’s crew. It is one of the weaknesses of “The Town” that Hamm’s Adam Frawley always seems miles behind MacRay, even though he has the arrogance of Hamm’s “Mad Men” alter ego.

09102010_JeremyRennerTheTown.jpgIronically, the best of the central characters may be the one least developed by the screenplay — while MacRay is saddled with daddy issues (Chris Cooper gets a strong jailhouse scene as his incarcerated pops) and a burgeoning desire to do right by his new girlfriend, his partner-in-crime James Coughlin has no such restrictions. This allows Renner to run wild, delighting in a thick Baw-ston accent and an unpredictability that unsettles even those close around him. It’s a performance that’s thrillingly alive and like the film itself, he prefers to shoot first and ask questions later.

“The Town” opens wide on September 17th.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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