Viola Davis

‘Blackhat’ and the Virtues of Style Over Substance

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A ridiculously attractive, ethnically diverse law-enforcement team glides across a runway in almost-slow motion, clad in sunglasses and slick duds. They’re all stubborn hard cases, but their bristly tension will eventually give way, and they’ll grow to like, respect, and rely on each other. Their dialogue exchanges are sparse and lingo-heavy (“RAT,” “backdoor,” “payload”); the score that accompanies them is minimalist and atmospheric. Their visages are captured with a digital sheen that occasionally veers into a smear; the close-ups are tight, with a faint handheld jitter. Yes, after going MIA for five-and-a-half years, we have a new Michael Mann film. Welcome back, sir. What the hell took you so long?
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‘How to Get Away With Murder’ Needs More Viola Davis, Less of Everything Else

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If you want to know how to get away with murder, you’ll have to keep waiting for a while — who knows how these idiotic law students will fare come the end of the season? — but if you want to know how to get away with creating an addictive hit out of a mediocre story, then look no further than the first nine episodes of How to Get Away With Murder. (Hint: Just add Shonda Rhimes’ name to it.) This might sound harsher than I intend: I actually love How to Get Away With Murder, even though I recognize how frustratingly average it is, how boring any given case-of-the-week can be, how some of the characters fall into lazy boxes (but others, it should be said, are amazingly well written), and how the show focuses way more on steamy sex and rampant infidelity than, well, murder and justice. That said, I’m still completely on board with Murder, terrible plotting, laughable “twists,” and all. Spoilers ahead, of course.
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50 Great Pre-Fame Performances by Famous Actors

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This week, the Criterion Collection is releasing a double bill of the mid-‘60s Westerns The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind, a treat not only for fans of revisionist Westerns and director Monte Hellman, but also for those who admire Jack Nicholson, here seen in two terrific performances that predate his breakthrough in Easy Rider. There’s a specific kind of pleasure in revisiting the early work of actors who would later become famous — not the roles that made them stars, but their earlier, quieter gigs, in which we glimpse an actor just trying to do good work, yet already exhibiting the spark that would mark them for fame. Here are a few of our …Read More