Smokin’ Aces

No brains, but tons of bullets.

Director Joe Carnahan, a noted master of disaster, lets his cast unload all their holsters, and then some, in this wild ‘n woolly Vegas-set shoot-em-up.

The big names are aplenty, but there’s no guarantee of making it out alive, even if you sit atop the marquee.

The plot, or what there is of one, centers on a mad scramble to either kill, or protect a magician who’s about to go stool pigeon on the Mafia.

The coocoo bird has plenty of tales to tell once he starts singing, unless he gets plugged first.

 

Dazed and Confused

It was the best day of their lives.

Tracking a group of Texas teenagers as the 1976 school year winds down, director Richard Linklater helped launched careers while defining introspective comedy for a generation.

The film is all about the journey — one long, mellow, puff-puff-pass of a trip.

Lives intersect, big decisions (at least in the moment) are made, and everyone contemplates their place in the bigger universe outside their small-town setting.

You got Affleck and Milla, Parker Posey and Joey Lauren Adams, and, as the cherry on top of the sundae, McConaughey at his most McConaughey.

Alright, alright, alright.

 

Gone Baby Gone

Embrace the pain.

There isn’t a whole lot of happiness on display in this riveting crime thriller, which follows the disappearance of a young Boston girl.

Lives are ripped apart, on both sides of the law, in a beautifully bleak tale based on a book by Dennis Lehane, who gave us the equally hardscrabble Mystic River.

Ben Affleck, kickstarting a second career as a director, lets his powerhouse cast rip into the material, full to the brim with betrayal, angst, and hard-luck people chasing redemption.

Hits like a shot to the gut, and stings for a very long time.