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Entries in Ewan McGregor (36)

Saturday
Feb142015

Bad Movie-thon

Jose here. Ah, it’s Oscar season and all movie lovers can talk about is who was snubbed or who will and should win. While basking in the glow of acclaimed movies and conversations about the merits of sound editing and screenwriting is nothing to frown upon, most people forget that new movies are released each week, yes, even during Oscar season. And yes, most of these releases are of dubious quality, but sometimes you can only watch your favorite Best Foreign Language Film nominee so many times before you want to go see something new, right?

But what to choose among the pile of critically lambasted offerings that 2015 has brought us so far? I saw a bunch of them, to bring you this concise report.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan272015

Sundance Quickies: Dope, Last Days in the Desert, Nasty Baby

Nathaniel reporting from Sundance with three quick takes

DOPE
The biggest sale at Sundance was this no-stars comedy about three geeky high school seniors who are obsessed with 90s hip hops (that's a character detail and joke factory -- not the plot). Malcolm (Shameik Moore joyfully charismatic in the lead role) a Straight A student who dreams of Harvard and his two best friends Jib (Tony Revolori - just as strong as he was in Grand Budapest Hotel) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons from Transparent in her feature debut) live in "The Bottoms" an impoverished crime-ridden neighborhood. Malcolm gets mixed up with Dom (Rakim Mayers aka A$AP Rocky), a local dope dealer, and soon the three friends are on the run from cops, drug dealers, gang members and continually out of frying pans and into other fires. The film it most reminded me of is Go (1999) for its parade of memorable characters, smart fast comedy, and crime plot but this one is lighter.  Dope has inarguably high energy and fresh laughs for the first hour but, like many comedies, it overstays its welcome as it wants to be taken more seriously in the second half (tightening the second hour before release would be of huge benefit). Regardless, those huge laughs, great racial politics jokes and its hugely endearing trio could well make it a sleeper smash. B/B+

Funny Coincidence: I saw this directly after The Diary of a Teenage Girl and both movies feature a shot of a horny teenage girl licking a photograph. In this case it's lesbian drummer Diggy licking the 2 Live Crew album cover. Ha!

LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT
In this film, shot in natural light by that DP without peer Emmanuel Lubezki, Ewan McGregor plays Jesus near the end of his 40 day fast and desert wanderings. McGregor also plays the Devil which gives this film the entertaining kick it needs to survive lots of contemplative moments / scenes of Jesus just staring into and walking around the desert thinking about the shit that Sons of God think about.I liked the film's invention of a troubled family Jesus meets (Ciarin Hinds and Tye Sheridan as father/son -- though thankfully their dramatic parallels to Jesus and his  "Daddy" as Satan hilariously calls God are not so neatly correlative as to be obnoxious.) Satan wears a beautiful dangly gold earring (I guess because vanity is evil? Or because they wanted to make fun of one earring wearers?) but otherwise he looks exactly like Jesus. The film is by Rodrigo Garcia, a director I've always wanted to love given his actressexuality -- though weirdly this film is almost entirely male -- but have never been able to because his films tend to be a bit sleepy. This one is smartly reined in at 98 minutes but it does feel a bit slight, exercize-ish, despite the heavy topic. B-/C+

Ewan McGregor revealed in the Q&A afterwards that he did a lot of studying to play Jesus (scriptures, books, etcetera) and none to play Satan ("the devil came naturally"). Hee!

NASTY BABY
Kristen Wiig just keeps on overachieving, doesn't she? After conquering comedy she keeps on impressing in dramatic roles, too. She's got a beautifully authentic rapport with writer/director/star Sebastian Silva (who is most famous for his Golden Globe nominated terrific Chilean film The Maid). Silva and Wiig play Freddy & Polly, best friends who'e been trying to get pregnant for months but it hasn't been working. They enlist Freddy's hesitant boyfriend Mo (Tunde Adebimpe in his first feature since 2008's Rachel Getting Married -- he was the guy Rachel married!) to do the sperm donor duty. Meanwhile a crazy neighbor keeps harassing everyone on the street and Freddy struggles to realize his art project "Nasty Baby" in which he wants to explore how disgusting babies of all kinds are by investigating their "gross cuteness" -- it gets a big laugh in context, trust -- and he plans to explore that by rolling around naked making baby sounds? It's a video installation, just go with it. It's all an ultra specific urban slice of life dramedy -- so ultra-specific in fact that I assume this will be a very hard sell for many. Making it even more difficult for potential audiences is the sharp left turn it takes into uncomfortably suspenseful territory toward the end. But despite what will surely be a hard road to find its natural fanbase, I admired it for being so wholly itself... or maybe its two selves. Or its three selves? The end credits are set to the cast doing roller disco for totally inexplicable but delightful effect. And the cast -- including the little seen Mark Margolis (who you'll recognize from Darren Aronofsky's movies) as a protective old gay in the neighborhood -- just felt wonderfully organic. B

Friday
Oct242014

Scandinavians in London: New Films From Those 'Royal Affair' Lovers

A couple more reports from London and Chicago festivals heading your way. Here's David on three new films starring either Alicia Vikander or Mads Mikkelsen, who formerly sizzled together in Denmark's recent Oscar nominee "A Royal Affair" - Editor

Alicia Vikander

That Testament of Youth was made the Centrepiece Gala at the festival seems, sight unseen, predictable: supported by the Mayor of London, the Gala slot is one of the few that really demonstrates the festival's support of homegrown cinema, and the story told here is as British as you can get. 2014 marks the centenary of World War I, and with it comes this adaptation of Vera Brittain's iconic memoir. James Kent's film keeps his focus to the period of the war itself, beginning at its end; Vera (Alicia Vikander) looks oddly distraught amidst the celebrating crowds packing London's streets. Testament of Youth is a compassionate reminder of the emotional and physical toll of war on a whole nation - which is what Brittain's memoir proved too, in 1933, not long before the second, more devastating war hit.

Kit Harington and VikanderWhile the film is impeccably upholstered, with Consolata Boyle's costumes and Robert Hardy's photography particularly impeccable, it's the character work that makes Testament of Youth such an involving experience, especially through the veil of a 'period' film. Vikander is quite simply luminous, but the camera is drawn as much to the stubborn, robust manner she gives Brittain as much as it is the softer romanticism of the character's winsome independence. The film is decorated with familiar faces giving sturdy turns along the way: Miranda Richardson, Dominic West, Emily Watson and Hayley Atwell all have their striking moments.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep222014

BAZ DAZZLED!

Manuel here with some Spectacular Spectacular news!

This one goes out to those Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin fanatics out there (there’s still a number of us, right?). Since releasing The Great Gatsby ...sorry, two-time Academy Award winner The Great Gatsby, Baz has been flexing his muscles elsewhere: he directed some beautiful shorts for the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibit at the Metropolitan museum, he directed the musical stage adaptation of Strictly Ballroom currently playing in Sydney, and threw quite the lavish party (does he throw any other kind?) to commemorate the opening of Melbourne’s newest mall, Emporium. We’ve also been hearing whispers of him possibly directing the long-gestating Stanley Kubrick project on Napoleon for HBO. While we wait, those of us in the tri-state area (or those visiting) may get our Baz-fix from the holiday windows at Barney’s this winter in what the retail company is calling a “Baz Dazzled Holiday”; a title which is equal parts flamboyant, ridiculous, and flashy which is to say, Baz in a nutshell.

Style. Fashion. Razzle-dazzle. It really feels like a match made in Spectacular Spectacular! heaven. Let’s throw suggestions out here for what Baz & Martin might come up with for Barney’s. Are you hoping for some holiday pop mish-mash worthy of a Shakespearean couple, or maybe for a 1930s glitzy winter wonderland?

Also, I wouldn’t be doing this news tidbit any justice if I didn’t in some way shoehorn in this picture, taken during New York Fashion week of Baz and his two Moulin Rouge! stars, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor which Nat may have missed in his TIFF-frenzy. They do make quite the dapper trio, don't you agree?

Sunday
Aug102014

Son of a Gun. Brenton Thwaites, Anyone?

Here's a new movie poster for Son of a Gun (which will be released by A24 at some point) starring our beloved Ewan McGregor as a notorious criminal and rising star Brenton Thwaites as his young protege.

The protege is expected to help his mentor escape from prison.

A happy belated to Brenton who turned 25 yesterday! He leads The Giver next weekend (albeit with ample support from not one but two legends: Bridges & Streep) which is his fourth release already this year... so basically he's this year's version of Male Australian Hollywood is Trying To Make Happen. Australia is just relentless at hogging the male starring roles, yes?  I have the sneaking suspicion he's going to be like the boy version of Alison Lohman and his age will be impossible to pin down onscreen for decades to come and maybe he'll play teenagers when he's 40? You'd think it would be creepy for a 25 year old to play 16 year old Elle Fanning's love interest in Maleficent but he didn't look a day over his 16th birthday in that, right? I once saw an interview with him where he claimed that The Blue Lagoon (1980), a movie he was then remaking, was "a hundred years old" which annoyed me in the highly specific way only smug teenage  'I know nothing of the past and I'm proud of it!' comments can. That movie is only 9 years older than he is so I guess he's 91.

But that's quite a tangent.

What I meant to say was that I find it interesting that young male stars often rise up through this movie phase of being "mentored" in one way or another onscreen by an older famous star  (Cruise and DiCaprio did that, Brad Pitt did that spiritually with Robert Redford directing him who he was then often compared to, Jai Courtney is in the process of doing that with Bruce Willis and Russell Crowe, etcetera) like a sort of box office insurance policy in case they can't cut it since the older star will still draw crowds. Young female stars don't regularly have that phase usually just leading movies straightaway or co-starring with men instead of other women. Anne Hathaway is a notable exception given that her Princess Diaries and Prada film-carrying/star-making gigs would fit perfectly within this typically male star-building formula. Except that her vehicles were about make-overs... but let's not split hairs.