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Alicia Vikander cast as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Only supporting actress winners are allowed to play this role!

"What on earth can Alicia bring to this role, and why bother? Good luck." - Tom F

"How long must we wait for Dianne Wiest as Lara Croft!?" - Mike

 

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Monday
Sep292014

NYFF Surprise! While We're Young: Or, The Kids Are All Wrong

Our NYFF coverage continues with Matthew Eng on this year's surprise screening -- which was less of a secret than usual this year, continually hinted at by the NYFF themselves, even spoiled ahead of time by IndieWire...

Ben Stiller & Naomi Watts star in "While We're Young"

Noah Baumbach is showing his age.

Not that this is the first time, mind you. Anyone who stuck through his exquisitely harsh and thus totally divisive Greenberg will surely remember Ben Stiller’s crusty, titular protagonist sourly announcing to a party full of fuzzed-out twentysomethings, “I hope I die before I end up meeting one of you in a job interview.”

There’s something instantly more pronounced about Baumbach’s evident unease towards the current generational divide in his latest adult dramedy, While We’re Young, in which Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as Josh and Cornelia, a deceptively comfortable urban couple who are surprised to find themselves befriended and seduced by Jamie and Darby, a married pair of kind-eyed, porkpie-wearing, Bushwick-dwelling hipsters, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. What starts as a casual, multi-generational friendship soon transitions into something more consuming, as Josh, a struggling documentary filmmaker whose sophomore follow-up has taken ten years to finish, finds himself both aping and inspiring Jamie, who just so happens to be an aspiring documentarian himself. [more...]

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Monday
Sep292014

Watson & Lerman: Our wallflowers are making news

Manuel here to bring you some news on your favorite wallflowers.

Sam, otherwise known as Emma Watson, she of amazing feminist speeches at the UN, has been cast alongside Daniel Brühl in the Chilean set Colonia. I was worried there'd been some white-washing here but as it turns out Emma and Daniel are playing a German couple that gets embroiled in the violence and political unrest of the 1973 military coup. The film is directed by Florian Gallenberger (an Academy Award winner for Best Live Action Short) and has begun shooting in Luxembourg.

Charlie, aka Logan Lerman is about to be everywhere as Fury, that Brad Pitt-fronted World War II tank movie revs up its promotional machine. The film released a couple of character posters although the term is a misnomer since everyone but Brad gets to share their poster. That said, all of the posters look gorgeous, as if they were all advertisements for some military-inspired fashion spread.

(Oh, and I couldn't mention both these wallflowers without pointing you to Ezra Miller's new band's music video).

I love checking up on old co-stars as in my head each film is a bit like a graduating class. As Perks alumni go, this trio seems to be doing quite well for themselves, no? Are you excited for Emma’s movie, a clear step in the right direction as she grows into more adult roles? Are you not exhausted enough by war dramas to follow Pitt and Lerman into the testosterone-heavy Fury?

Monday
Sep292014

Fun Fact: Celebrities Spend Way More Time Promoting Movies Then Making Them

Case Study #215,031. Cate Blanchett still on the Blue Jasmine tour 15 months after the US premiere with a screening at the Zurich Film Festival this week. 

(Remember how satisfying it was when she won the Oscar in March? Easily the most deserving Best Actress win in at least a decade.)

Sunday
Sep282014

Denzel Still Rules The (Box Office) World. But Why No Artistic Risks?

Is there any movie star more consistent than Denzel? Pro: No matter what he makes, it opens big. Con: Maybe that's because he's just not a risk taker. He may be our least adventurous megastar.

TOP O' THE BOX OFFICE
1 EQUALIZER $35 million NEW
2 MAZE RUNNER $17.5 (cum. $58) Review
3 BOXTROLLS $17.2 million NEW best animation studio right now

On the stage he only appears in time-tested prestige pieces (Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson or Shakespeare plays). Onscreen he only makes two kinds of movies: disposable action thriller flicks & would-be prestige dramas. The Equalizer, adapted from a television series, is obviously one of the former. People won't remember he made it in a couple of years as a newer model surfaces to replace it. 

Washington hasn't altered this pattern in twenty years -- take a look for yourself if you don't believe me -- unless you count his curiousity about directing (both of his efforts were pitched towards awards gold but neither The Great Debaters nor Antwone Fisher won Oscar nominations). In the first decade or so of his stardom things were a teensy-bit rangier since the prestige pieces were sometimes full-fledged costume dramas (he doesn't do those anymore really) and the mainstream flicks were sometimes romantic (nix on that, too, nowadays). There were even one or two comedies (gasp)!

It'd be nice if he got the balance better. Many major stars try the '1 for them, 1 for me' approach to maintain both audience favor and critical ardor. But it's easy intead to imagine that Denzel Washington's preferred pattern of '5 for them, 1 for Oscar' might actually be a result of 'all for me'; maybe he just has extremely limited taste in movies? It wouldn't be the first time a bonafide superstar had no interest in cinema as art

Viola and Denzel in their 2010 Tony winning roles. The following year Viola won box office gold with The Help. But still no film version of FENCES.

Still as he tops the charts yet again with another violent man-fantasy, one wishes he would use his clout for good. Why isn't he using that financial and creative muscle to push important work to the screen? Couldn't he at least do the right thing in a completely self-serving way? Why not try for a third Oscar for Fences? Supposedly he's going to direct and star in it but things never seem to get moving towards actual filming and there've been rumors that he's doing it for roughly, oh, ever. Denzel and Viola Davis, his original co-star, who has more than earned another big screen big opportunity lead role after the box office / awards success of The Help, both won Tonys on stage. What's more it's positively insane that nobody ever adapts August Wilson's plays for the big screen. Viola has starred in three of them on Broadway, winning two Tonys in the process. Why isn't this a primary mission for the actor to get at least a few of them on the big screen - preferrably with Viola starring - since he has more money than God, they're important works in African American history, and he also produces now?! 

Denzel could get Fences done quickly if that's what he really cared about getting done. There is no way that the money wouldn't be there immediately if he said "sure I'll do that action movie. But Fences is what I'm doing next. And until I do it no more waving guns around for you!" There is nobody who isn't an idiot in Hollywood who would say no to helping him get it done with gazillions for more gunplay on the line the following fiscal year.

But back to the now ~ What did you see this weekend?

Sunday
Sep282014

NYFF: Whiplash: The Passion of the Drummer

The NYFF coverage continues. Here's Michael on Oscar buzzing Whiplash...
 

Terence Fletcher is a notoriously demanding music teacher whose go-to story is about how Charlie Parker got a cymbal thrown at him by drumming great Jo Jones when Parker choked onstage at a jazz club as a teenager. To hear Fletcher tell it, that public humiliation was the impetus for Parker to dedicate himself to his craft and become the jazz legend known forever as Bird. Knowing this about Fletcher, it’s little surprise that freshman Andrew Neyman’s gets a metal chair thrown at his head for the crime of being off tempo on his first day on drums as a member of Fletcher’s elite studio band. 

To be clear, that’s thrown at his head, not near his head. Damien Chazelle’s blistering Sundance smash Whiplash makes it clear that this is not the story of a hard-assed but wise teacher who applies tough love to coax the best out of his students. Fletcher’s behavior crosses the line quickly and often. His “lessons” are often little more than playing interrupted by slurs, slaps, and cruel mind games. It’s as if he learned how to teach by watching Alec Baldwin’s Glengarry monologue on a loop. 

To Fletcher, there is no such thing as too far, because any student capable of greatness needs someone like him to test his or her mettle against. [more...]

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Sunday
Sep282014

Yes No Maybe So: "blackhat"

It's a challenge to keep up but better late than never, right? What do you make of blackhat in trailer form? It looks like another robust thriller from the (Michael) Mann. The movie is due in mid January and should provide nice counterprogramming to the two diammetrically opposed types of movies that tend to play in that month: studio prestige movies aiming for Oscars vs. mainstream studio dumping ground movies that they know aren't strong enough to compete for holiday or summer dollars.

Let's take a look through our Yes No Maybe So prism. And the first yes is obviously diversity in casting!

YES

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Sunday
Sep282014

NYFF: At Odds Over 'Two Shots Fired' and 'La Sapienza'

The New York Film Festival has started, and here is Glenn on a pair of films from Argentina and Italy, 'Two Shots Fired' and 'La Sapienza'.

As film lovers, and especially as film critics, we like to think we view films from a purely neutral place without bias or prejudice. That feeling of going into any film with a blank slate of emotions, taking films on a case by case basis where there’s the possibility of liking literally anything that gets thrown our way. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s as far from the truth as you could get. Whether it’s an actor or a director, a genre or even a region, sometimes there are things we just do not like or respond to as viewers. I freely admit to there being many personalities whose presence in front or behind a camera I find a struggle and while the the quality of the material they have to work with can fluctuate, sometimes you just have to admit that somebody or something is not for you.

Such was the case after seeing Two Shots Fired and La Sapienza, two films with seemingly little in common. The Argentinian and Italians films do share, however, a style. This certain storytelling aesthetic that aims for faintly quirky, film’s that trade in an excessively dry, often tangential, random humor that is delivered in monotone voices by a cast that sound more like they’re doing a table-read for a badly scripted soap opera. The actors’ robotic body movements suggest a disconnect between character and emotion, but which ultimately does more to distance the viewer from the film than anything else. When a character gets to express actual emotions in the same way a real human would it’s positively elating.

In Martín Rejtman’s Two Shots Fired, I liked a late-in-the-runtime turn of events that sees the return of a character who disappeared after the opening sequence. Sadly it goes nowhere as characters shrug it off and carry on with their lives as if the entire enterprise was for nothing. Eugéne Green’s La Sapienza has more virtues, which make its weaknesses even more disappointing. Its photography is suitably lush and the many, many shots of beautiful Italian architecture are gorgeous to behold, but the story that runs around them is like slowly watching life be drained out of a painting. Such rich possibilities are never taken advantage of.

 Both films’ arch sensibilities kept me at arm’s length from engaging with them in any way. They sit in between stylistic minimalism or flamboyant visual expressiveness, utilizing none of the virtues of either. I had similar issues with Greek “weird wave” titles like Dogtooth and Attenberg, but found much more of interest in their stories and visual storytelling to still be more or less on side despite other quibbles. I found the Argentinian and Italian films incredibly hard to latch on to; this emotional coolness (or detachment, whatever you like to consider it) leaving no hook for me to hang on to. Given how few notes are in their registers, if you don’t ‘get’ them from the start you’ll be at a loss for the duration.

Two Shots Fired screens on Monday Sep 29 (8.45pm) and Tuesday Sep 30 (3pm).
La Sapienza screens on Saturday Sep 27 (3pm) and Sunday Sep 28 (12.15pm).