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Entries in Liam Neeson (13)


Supporting Actor Has No Frontrunner

Oh sure... Liam Neeson you say. So did I at one point. But Silence is looking like an increasingly imaginary film, don't you think? I'm not dumping him from the predicted lineup just yet though The Supporting Actor Chart has a ton of movement post-festival explosion.

The biggest chart debut goes to Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy in Jackie (they love actors as real famous people and he's typically strong) while Michael Shannon moves on up for stealing the entire show in Nocturnal Animals. And with the eyebrow-raising news that Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is not debuting for critics before its NYFF premiere, have we been overestimating that film? What a strange decision! 

Finally what to make of the men of Moonlight? They're all terrific but due to the triptych nature of the film, not a one of the men is in more than a third of the picture. My favorites were Trevante Rhodes (the lead character as an adult) and Mahershara Ali (a major figure in the first third) but you could fill up a whole supporting actor category with the men in Moonlight. No really. Here they are...

The Men of "Moonlight"

Mahershala Ali
as Juan

Alex R Hibble
as "Little"

Ashton Sanders
as Chiron

Andre Holland
as Kevin 

Trevante Rhodes

as "Black" 

With apologies to Jharrel Jerome who plays Kevin as a teenager and is also really good (but we have to stick to five because them is the rules)


TIFF Quickies: A Monster Calls, Colossal, Santa & Andrés

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto Film Festival 

A Monster Calls (JA Bayona, USA/Spain)
This fable about grief and growing up will surely be someone's favorite movie. Alas, it isn't mine. A Monster Calls is a simple fantasy about a boy named Connor (Lewis MacDougall) whose mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer. His grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and father (Toby Kebell) attempt to console him but the only solace Connor can find is in visitations from a giant tree monster (voiced by Aslan... excuse me, Liam Neeson) who promises to tell the boy three stories in exchange for the boy's own. The film is somewhat moving and fantastically visual in its three animated stories within the movie; they're sensory overload mashups of computer generated imagery, watercolor fluidity, and bold color choices. In both its earthbound and magical moments, though, A Monster Calls is relentlessly gilding the lily. It's so concerned with putting its parables over that its' constantly explaining them and telling us how to feel about grief and loss. Still, Bayona's movie is always coming from a place of compassion and humanity which can be a godsend in the soulless landscape of CGI heavy movies. While the tech elements are strong, particularly sound and visual effects (though why does the creature look so much like Groot?),  it all comes down to the boy and his mother if you want the tears. MacDougall & Jones are beautifully cast as they both look and feel like mother & son. MacDougall, who made his debut as a Lost Boy in Pan last year, impressively carries the movie with something like ease while filling up all the unspoken spaces with heartbreak and fury about his impending loss. Felicity Jones half-gone feeling in her final scenes provides generous Oscar clipping. If only the movie had given the emotions more room to breathe and to speak for themselves. If trees can walk and talk, and demand that we listen, feelings deserve the same respect. Less CGI and scripted preaching, more intuitvie tears, please. [Animated Stories Within the Movie: B+ /Movie: C+ ]

Colossal (Dir. Nacho Vigalondo, Canada)
Finally a movie that Hathaway fans (*raises hand high and shamelessly*) and the "Hathahaters" can enjoy together. This oddball movie from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo places Anne Hathaway at the center of a kaiju movie. Nope, she's not a scientist or a hero - believe it or not she's the kaiju. Yes, she's Colossal's rampaging beast destroying Seoul ... not figuratively but actually! She's also "Gloria" a drunk who gets thrown out of her boyfriend's apartment (Dan Stevens) and ends up returning to her hometown where she takes a job with a former friend (Jason Sudeikis) who still harbors a crush. When Gloria realizes she's unknowingly wreaking havoc all the way around the world she's even more freaked out by her self destruction and drunken blackouts. If that all sounds like it might work better as a midnight madness short, you could be right. Colossal starts brilliantly with a priceless perfectly-pitched prologue in South Korea with a little girl and her dolly. Though it's numerous twists have a kind of welcome insanity, the length of the thing, and particularly its deadly over-investment in the Jason Sudeikis character (to the detriment of Gloria's own emotional arc) undoes it. Lop off an entire half hour of this film's running time and it might just work as a delightfully weird and funny cult oddity but as it is Colossal is something of its own kaiju, an lumberingly awkward, self-destructive beast which keeps crushing the precious little movie its building. [Anne Hathaway's Willingness to Do This Project: A / Movie: C+]

Santa & Andrés (Dir. Carlos Lechuga, Cuba/Colombia)
Havana born director Carlos Lechuga takes aim at the disconnection of idealogies amongst Cubans in this 80s set drama about a homosexual writer deemed a dissident and the woman assigned to monitor him to keep him from contacting international press and delegates at a local political event. Initially this drama's slow burn doesn't seem to be paying off with a dull first half hour and lots of shots of Santa & Andrés warily staring at each other and barely speaking. But their eventual emotional, if not political, understanding is wonderfully portrayed by the actors and smartly delineated in the screenplay. What the patient filmmaking lacks in verve it makes up for in insight, with each painfully tentative kindness between them feeling like a precious miracle in a climate of hopelessness. B


A Monster Calls For A "Visionary Filmmaker"

Laurence here. Have you checked the children? Landing somewhat quietly in a week of splashy comic book trailers was something that looks, frankly, altogether more interesting than both. J.A. Bayona, director of The Orphanage and The Impossible, seems to have found the narrative intersection between both for his new film, A Monster Calls. We only have a teaser trailer so far so we won't give it the full YNMS treatment just yet, but it's an enticing, Burtonesque first glimpse.

Some more information on the film after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Tim's Toons: Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

Tim here. To the right kind of viewer (e.g. the kind writing this review), Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet is THE animated event of 2015. Which does not, unfortunately, turn out to mean that it is THE best animated film of 2015, or even in the running for that title. But let us not accentuate the negative; it's still a special and enormously idiosyncratic little movie, and its failures are honorable.

The film is a long-simmering passion project for producer Salma Hayek, one of the many ardent fans to accrue to Gibran's 1923 English-language collection of essays (Gibran was Lebanese, as was Hayek's grandfather). When, exactly, she decided that the adaptation needed to be done in animation is anyone's guess, but it was exactly the right choice: the book consists primarily of a series of spiritual lessons in the form of prose poetry, with the ghost of a narrative connecting them. The film by necessity fleshes out that narrative considerably and literalizes it, but the meat of the film is still those essays: eight out of Gibran's original 26, each handed off to a different luminary in the world of international animation.

Those eight sequences are easily the best reason to see The Prophet.

Click to read more ...


Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's K-19: The Widowmaker

Anne Marie's 'Women's Pictures series' continues with July's subject Kathryn Bigelow...

Films about the Cold War are an unusual bunch. Whereas most war movies have a streak of jingoism necessary to the action ("fight the enemy, kill the enemy, win the war for God and country!"), the point of films about the Cold War - barring any alternate realities - is to actually avoid conflict. Men in these movies are forever preparing for war, even as they frantically try to prevent it. Instead of fighting soldiers, men fight bureaucracy, accidents, and misinformation. Done poorly, these films can feel like a trip to the DMV: too much paperwork and waiting in line. Done well, the looming cloud of Doomsday can overshadow even the most seemingly insignificant decision. There may be no genre more anti-war than the Cold War Film.

K-19: The Widowmaker, Kathryn Bigelow's first war film, is a fictionalized retelling of the misfortunes onboard Russia's first K-19 nuclear submarine that nearly caused World War III. Amidst government negligence, rushed manufacturing, and political malarky, Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) is assigned to captain the submarine's crew, led by the former captain, Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson). 

Neeson & Ford's Gruff-Off after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Run All Night and the Liam Neeson Ass-Kicking Hierarchy

Michael C. here.  It has been over six years since Liam Neeson reinvented as filmdom’s reigning action hero by making “I will find you, and I will kill you” sound less like a threat and more like a statement of simple fact. Since then, a sort of unofficial franchise has formed around the concept of Neeson as a grim dispenser of violence. This series, not including would-be franchises launches like Battleship and The A-Team, breaks down into three distinct groups. They are:

  • Pure, unadulterated schlock. Only the faintest trace of plot or character. Just Neeson methodically throat-punching his way through an unending supply of sleazy Euro-Villains bent on doing unspeakable things to his loved ones: Taken 1, 2, 3
  • Still schlock, but with bonus bells and whistles. Supporting characters, a high concept premise, and a plot of rapidly escalating absurdity. Slightly less throat punching than the Taken films, but still a lot of throat punching: Unknown, Non-Stop
  • Actual films of substance smuggled into theaters. Under the guise of another Neeson schlock-fest, naturally. Little to no throat punching. Occasional implied wolf punching: The Grey, A Walk Among the Tombstones

For a while it looks like the latest entry in this series, Jaume Collet-Serra’s currently underperforming Run All Night, is poised to join Grey and Tombstones in that elite third group...

Click to read more ...


The only movie theater within 45 minutes of my mom's house 

Nathaniel's annual adventure in Utah begins. We hit Sundance tomorrow.

Sundance (which begins tonight) gives me a good excuse to visit my mom each year. She lives in the middle of nowhere about two hours from the festival. Her town is so small that there's not even a convenience store so I have to drive 15 miles to a the only nearby "town" to get my coffee each morning. I zoom down tremendously flat freeways with cows grazing on either side. When I get my coffee I always glance at what's playing at the local movie theater, the only one in something like a 45 mile radius.

Currently they're showing Meryl Streep ACTING and Liam Neeson killing people. That's a surprisingly apt description of contemporary mainstream cinema out here in the middle of nowhere.