The Blue Room trailer (9.28.14 release)

You may be familiar with French actor Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solace, Cosmopolis, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Munich, A Secret, Love Is the Perfect Crime, the Mesrine films), but I believe this is his first theatrical feature as a director (he’s done a bunch of shorts and some television work).  It’s an adaptation of a book by acclaimed French crime novelist Georges Simenon, who happens to be the 20th century’s most widely published author, but who probably isn’t read in the States as much as he is in Europe.  Simenon was friends with the likes of Jean Renoir, Jean Cocteau, Federico Fellini, and Henry Miller.  The Blue Room looks really fantastic, and I’m guessing it’s not presently on most Americans’ radar.

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Interstellar trailer (11.7.14 release)

I think Christopher Nolan is a great director… but… he’s also so enamored of puzzle box structure that often his films are all cerebellum and no heart, to the extent of being ultimately pointless on a storytelling level.  From what I’ve read, Nolan feels that Hollywood itself has lost a lot of its heart, and that we no longer have the kind of big Hollywood blockbusters that are inspiring and can truly strike a resonant chord in the audience; instead, things have degenerated into lots of entertaining but ultimately pointless eye candy.  Similarly, in the past several decades funding and focus has shifted away from NASA’s space program.  I believe that as we grow older, we can often limit ourselves by shifting our focus solely onto what we’re doing and what we have, trying to manage our lives in their current state while letting our dreams and aspirations go; and that it can be incredibly harmful and dangerous to us as human beings to remove hope, promise, and inspiration from our outlooks.  So much of our energy and drive comes not from youth, but from our potential and the belief that we can do anything with our lives– a belief that we ourselves retire after a certain age and making certain choices, but one that is essential to our continued growth as well as our state of well-being.  To retire that kind of forward-thinking, and to resolve ourselves to lives without potential that exist only to manage the slow decline of our own mortality, is to prematurely accept not only death, but defeat, and to shift our focus to one of ultimate hopelessness.  And yet that is what so many of us do once we settle on certain choices of career, and lately what it often feels like humanity is doing on a larger, global scale.  The advances in technology in the last twenty years– the internet, smart phones, social media and the like– have transformed global communication but have also shifted our focus inward in a very self-critical and self-damaging way.  We’re no longer focused on or potential, but on self-destruction.  If we are to continue to grow and evolve, we need to recast our focus outward and on moving forward, not just on managing our troubles.  It’ll certainly be interesting to see if Interstellar addresses this, and if Nolan can deliver on the kind of inspirational blockbuster that engages the heart and inspires us on a national, and even global, level to think bigger and be bigger.  It would be a leap forward for Nolan, and its the kind of film we really need right now.  If he can achieve that, this could easily be the movie of the year.

Frank trailer (8.22.14 release)

So I just saw Frank today and plan to get a review up shortly, in between the other four reviews of films I saw recently at TIFF. And since I hadn’t been back to posting on this blog when the trailer hit several months ago, I figured I’d post the trailer now. Frank is a very specific kind of film that occupies a corner of the universe all its own, and reading a review on it just won’t mean very much if you have no concept of the film itself.  So here it is. Michael Fassbender as you’ve never not seen him before.

Nightcrawler trailer (10.31.14 release)

Another day, another trailer for a festival favorite with an early rumored Oscar nomination, this time for Jake Gyllenhaal.  It certainly looks as though he’s been building to this performance over the last few years with the likes of End of Watch, Prisoners, and Enemy.  He’s lost some weight for the role of aspiring crime photographer Lou Bloom, nothing like Bale in The Machinist or McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, but just enough to physically transform into a leaner, hungrier character.  And that weight loss also makes his eyes, already normally pretty big, seem to pop with feverish intensity.

In some ways, Nightcrawler seems the kind of character study and commentary on life in America during a sinking economy that was more prevalent in the 70’s, and its main theme of media eating away at society an evolution of movies like Network, updated for the internet/TMZ generation.  Rene Russo has been gone for almost a decade now, but her recent appearances in the Thor films may have led to her being cast here, and it looks like a noteworthy performance and perhaps even a possibility for a supporting actress nomination as well.  And Bill Paxton appears to be doing more naturalistic, subdued work that some of his lighter, breezier, more mannered and theatrical performances.  This is also the feature directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, brother of Tony. Tony gave us Michael Clayton, Duplicity, and has been the main screenwriter and architect behind the theatrical Bourne franchise. Most recently, Dan wrote The FallReal Steel, and co-wrote The Bourne Legacy, which apparently led to a deal to direct his own script.

I’m very excited for this one, and hope that the energy we see in the trailer carries throughout the feature.  In a world post-C.S.I., elements like paparazzi and crime photographers racing to beat police to crime scenes, and even altering crime scenes, may not be 100% new or original, but if updated and done right this may strike a nerve in the current climate, particularly if Gyllenhaal’s performance can deliver on the promise shown here.

Published in: on September 18, 2014 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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St. Vincent trailer (10.24.14 release)

There may not be anything here we haven’t seen before, but it’s Bill Murray as we love him best… curmudgeonly and simultaneously corrupting and guiding today’s youth.  It also came in third place recently at TIFF for this year’s audience award (the winner was The Imitation Game, and the first runner-up was Learning to Drive).  It’s got supporting work from strong performers like Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd, smaller turns from Terrence Howard and Naomi Watts, and the kid opposite Murray (Jaeden Lieberher) appears natural, genuine, and unassuming, which is often not the case with young actors. People are loving Murray’s performance, and there’s talk of a possible Oscar nom.

Birdman trailer (10.17.14 release)

I’m posting a pair of trailers for the upcoming Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film Birdman.  The first one is a teaser, and it’s brilliant and arty, but it leaves the viewer wondering what the hell is going on beyond the central conceit.  The international trailer reveals more of the plot and supporting performances, and while it might not be as succinct a nugget of brilliance, it demonstrates more of the film’s reach while continuing to promise an awful lot.

At surface level, Birdman is about a washed-up Hollywood comic book movie franchise star (not unlike Keaton post-Batman) trying to prove something to himself with a self-produced vanity Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.  The film has been killing at festivals, partly because of the meta aspect, but also based on the strength of the performances.  It’s also uncertain from the trailers how surreal the plot is– i.e. how much of this is in Riggan Thomson’s (Keaton’s) mind and how much may not be. Keaton’s role is said to require several different sides of the actor, and that on all levels he’s pulled it off to an incredible degree.  The film is already being touted for Oscar nominations, particularly for Keaton, and it may put him back on the A-list in a big way.  It’s not so much a discovery, but a re-discovery– reminding us of the many things he can do, and do exceedingly well, and putting them all in one package at a time when we may be wondering why Keaton’s profile has receded in the last 10-20 years as much as it has.  Beyond that, the supporting performances are being talked about across the board as very strong to career bests; it’s also the first comedy director Inarritu has worked on, and the first shoot he’s described as enjoyable.  He previously directed Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful.  The first three are all brilliant films with strong ensembles, but also dark and bleak and often unrelentingly hard to watch.

After Babel, Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga parted ways, and as a result both of their careers stumbled.  Biutiful had a lot of potential behind its story concept and boasted a stellar central performance from Javier Bardem, but the film had a tighter, more personal focus with only one storyline that was a departure for Inarritu.  And as if it were possible, Biutiful was perhaps Inarritu’s darkest, bleakest film, while also not really delivering.  It felt as though Inarritu were using it to ask some questions as an artist, questions that he didn’t yet have an answer to, and as a result the film felt meandering and a bit lost.  It appears that with Birdman, Inarritu has answered those questions and found a confident direction forward.  To add to the immersion, Birdman is comprised of very long takes that required the actors to approach it more as a stage play, with most of the cuts hidden so that the film generally feels seamless.  It’s one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I’m equally excited to see where Inarritu goes next.

Whiplash trailer (10.10.14 release)

Just saw this the other day at TIFF, and loved it.  It’s so well done and has such energy behind it that it feels like it’s about 20 minutes long.  Miles Teller should probably get an Oscar nom for his performance, but I have a feeling that probably won’t happen. He’s just not a big enough name yet, and there are plenty of other higher-profile names that will likely, and perhaps comparatively undeservedly, take all of the nomination slots.  A supporting nod for J.K. Simmons may be more realistic.  But no matter, don’t deprive yourself of this wonderful film when it releases in October, and check out both the trailer and the additional clip below for a taste.

Published in: on September 12, 2014 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kill the Messenger trailer (10.10.14 release)

An impressive cast, an incredible true story… but what has me most excited is the director, Michael Cuesta.  He works really, really well with actors and has worked with lead Jeremy Renner before in 12 and Holding.  His first feature was the critically-acclaimed L.I.E., and then he found himself working in cable television on the likes of Six Feet Under, Dexter, and Homeland, while making the occasional indie.  With Renner’s current high profile, Kill the Messenger may take Cuesta’s career to the next level, and he’s more than ready for it.

Gone Girl trailer (10.3.14 release)

Fincher.  Need I say more?  On top of that, I’m really curious to see Affleck’s acting these days.  You can learn a lot about acting from directing, and he did such a bang-up job with Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town and Argo and has become a pretty great actors’ director.  I think he’s learned that less is more, and I’m curious to see what he does under Fincher’s direction.  I’ve also recently read the book, which is pretty good– I should have a review up for it in the next week at most.  And then there’s Carrie Coon, who’s been killing it lately on The Leftovers.  She’s not who I would have pictured in the role she’s playing, but I’m still very curious to see what she does with it.  That’s true of much of the rest of the cast, from those have been perfectly cast like Neil Patrick Harris and Kim Dickens, to those like Tyler Perry who have been cast somewhat against type but look equally compelling.  I’ve also read that Gillian Flynn has changed the ending somewhat from her novel, and I’m curious to see what she’s changed and how.  Although I really liked the book, there were some things about the ending that didn’t quite work for me, so I’m very interested to find out what’s different in this version.  Hopefully the film will be the better for it.

A Walk Among the Tombstones trailer (9.19.14 release)

This may look like just another Liam Neeson thriller, but I’m interested in it for several other reasons.  First off, it’s been in development for about 10 years, and at one point was set to star Harrison Ford with D.J. Caruso directing.  Second, it co-stars Dan Stevens, who’s been making some pretty interesting choices post-Downton Abbey, and Ruth Wilson of Luther.  Third, it’s an adaptation of a Lawrence Block novel.  And perhaps most importantly, Scott Frank has adapted the screenplay and directed the film.  Frank wrote the Kenneth Branagh film Dead Again and the Jodie Foster film Little Man Tate, he adapted both Out of Sight and Get Shorty, and he directed the Joseph Gordon-Levitt film The Lookout.  The combination of Frank and Neeson working from Block source material has me hopeful that this will be a high point among the recent Neeson action offerings.

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