Trailer or Spoiler: Starring The Stath

Homefront, Jason Statham, movie, poster

via imdb

…and his manly muscled head.

It’s time for another edition of America’s favorite gameshow, “Trailer or Spoiler?” In this week’s episode we find our favorite follicularly-challenged, granite-jawed hard man, Jason Statham, playing another in a long line of  follicularly-challenged, granite-jawed hard men, this one an undercover DEA agent who ends up in a Louisiana backwater that also happens to be the backyard of meth kingpin James Franco (with a neck so red it glows).

Statham is Phil Broker, a former DEA agent (of course) and single dad  who moves his daughter (Izabela Vidovic), to a seemingly quiet bayou to escape his troubled (of course) past. The peace of Broker’s new life is quickly shattered when he discovers that it is teeming with meth-makers crawling around on the sordid underbelly of his small town. Caught in the cross hairs of local druglord Gator Bodine (yes, that really is the character’s name and yes that really is James Franco) Broker must get back into action (of course) in order to save his daughter and the town.

So, it’s Statham vs Franco in a fight to the death! (Any guesses as to whose?)

The movie is Homefront and it just debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival…

I kid. No, it didn’t. But the trailer has just come online. Take a look:

So did we just see the whole thing in 2 ½ minutes or what?

Don’t get me wrong, when I go to see a Jason Statham movie, I pretty much know what I’m in for, and in most cases I count on it. But then again, so does everyone else who buys a ticket to a movie starring The Stath.  So why have the producers and/or Millennium Films decided that they need to spell it out?

It can’t be the cast. Aside from wild card Franco (is it me or does he look positively Satanic in that poster?), the cast includes Kate Bosworth (in a role she was born to play), Rachel Lefevre, Clancy Brown, Frank Grillo, and Winona Ryder (whom I’ll lay odds turns out to be the Cajun queen with the heart of gold who decides to help Broker and then dies for her trouble).

It can’t be the screenplay, which was written by Sylvester Stallone. And before you poo-poo that statement, remember that Sly has an OSCAR for writing the screenplay for Rocky. He can string a sentence together very well. It’s the enunciating he has a problem with. He wrote it for himself many years ago, but it never got off the ground. Smart enough to know that he’s now a little long in the tooth for the part, he enlisted his Death Race 2000 and Expendables I, II (and III) costar, Statham.

Stallone based his script on the novel by Chuck Logan, author of a series of crime novels (which also include “Hunter’s Moon, “Absolute Zero”, “Vapor Trail”, and “After the Rain”) featuring the Phil Broker character. (Franchise potential? The Stath needs a new one: Crank, The Transporter, The Expendables and now the Fast & Furious franchises aren’t enough.)

It can’t be the director. Gary Fleder will never be mistaken for an auteur or an artiste, but he could be considered “solid”. He actually made one of the better film versions of a John Grisham novel, Runaway Jury. (It’s not the best, but it has one hell of a cast and is wonderfully re-watchable.)

Homefront (which I keep getting confused with the television show from the early 90’s with Kyle Chandler) even has a score by the prolific Academy Award nominated composer, Mark Isham.

So what is it? The trend is for trailers that are too long and give too much away, if not I the first one, like we see here, or in the aggregate since by the time a film is released there can be five or more, when you add in tv spots. Just my humble opinion, but it seems to me that The Suits don’t have enough faith in John Q. Ticket-buyer to be able to appreciate all of the above and so must be spoon-fed, even a jar of Jason Statham.

Homefront opens in the US on November 27. (Thanksgiving weekend. Family, turkey, pumpkin pie, finished off with a dollop of The Stath? Wild horses couldn’t keep me away)

Until our next episode, please feel free to tell me how off base I am, below.

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Get to Know the Frontrunner: More Very Early Oscar Talk‏‏

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, movie

image via The Wrap

Back in July I made a prediction that, on the face of it, should be no big deal, but in our skewed reality, is: that there would be at least two black actors nominated for Best Actor Academy Awards this year (and neither of them named Denzel).

There could be a third if Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is any good. I have no doubt Idris Elba will be, but the movie will have to kill for him to get any buzz. Then there’s Isaiah Washington in Blue Caprice. It’s possible his name could be in the mix as well. Given that there are only five slots to fill, that may be pushing it. “When, oh when, are they going to match the number of acting and directing categories to the number of Best Picture nominees?! It makes no sense! If we have 10 BP’s then we should have 10 Best Director nominees, if we have 8 BP’s, we should have 8 BD’s etc, etc.” *shakes fist in general direction of AMPAS*  Okay, rant over.

All of this preamble aside, let us get to the point. Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, despite the fact that his performance as Oscar Grant III is undoubtedly worthy,  cannot be considered a a sure bet for a nomination, by any stretch. Unless Focus Features mounts a campaign for him, possibly including a WIDE rerelease of the film, Jordan might not have enough momentum. It is only September after all, and his movie, while technically “still playing” in a handful of places, has come and gone from cinemas some time ago. (It wasn’t in that many to start with.)

The other actor that I mentioned, Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, after just two triumphant festival appearances, is now being considered a lock for a nomination. Some are going so far as to already call him the “frontrunner”.

So the name Chiwetel Ejiorfor is about to become ubiquitous and before the end of the year we’re all going to learn to pronounce it. (It’s not that hard: Chew-eh-tell Edge-ee-oh-for. In my head I call him “Chewy”. That’s awfully familiar, and he might not like it, I realize.)

And now that you have a face to the name, you can stop saying “Who?” You already know who he is. He’s been making movies, really good movies, for the last fifteen years, beginning with Amistad directed by Steven Spielberg in 1997. in addition to a thriving career in British theater, for which he’s already been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), he’s been nominated thrice for a Golden Globe (“Tsunami: The Aftermath”, Kinky Boots and “Endgame”) twice for a British Independent Film Award (Dirty Pretty Things, Kinky Boots), and once for an Independent Spirit Award (Talk to Me), as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award. This last as part of the ensemble cast of Sir Ridley Scott’s American Gangster with that guy called Denzel and Russell Crowe.

Aside from the roles that have garnered awards attention, there has been just general acclaim for his roles in Four Brothers, Serenity, Inside Man, Children of Men, Red Belt, Salt, and lest we forget, Love, Actually. (Yes, that was him.)  So, an Oscar nomination should really be next, in the grand scheme of things.

If you need more, there’s another film that debuted last week in Toronto and also coming out this year, Half of a Yellow Sun, a drama set during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s- early 1970’s “that brings together the lives of four people during the struggle to establish an independent republic” in which Ejiofor plays Odenigbo, a radical academic and Thandie Newton plays Olanna, his independent-minded sophisticate girlfriend. Half of a Yellow Sun will also be part of the lineup for the BFI London Film Festival next month.

Speaking of London, Playing on your televisions around the same time that 12 Years a Slave is released to theaters will be the BBC miniseries picked up for American audiences by Starz, “Dancing on the Edge”. Ejiofor stars as Louis Lester, the leader of a “black jazz band {that} becomes entangled in the aristocratic world of 1930s London as they seek fame and fortune.” It sports a cast that includes Matthew Goode, John Goodman, Anthony Head, Jenna Louise Coleman and the late great British comedian Mel Smith. It looks all kinds of terrific, in my humble opinion. Take a look at the trailer:

Probably the only other guaranteed nomination in this category is Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyer’s Club. Hell, that was practically inscribed in granite the first time anyone saw a picture of Matty whittled away to nothing. Now reports are coming out of Telluride and TIFF that, yes, he is just that good (though the movie itself is uneven.)

Again, I haven’t seen either of these movies yet. I’m basing my assumptions solely on the trailers, word of mouth from people who have seen the films and some understanding of how these things usually work.

If McConaughey has, in fact, delivered a bravura performance, he has too many other factors going for him not to earn at least a nomination. The accounts I’m reading say he is brilliant in the film (even if he is supposedly overshadowed at times by his supporting costar Jared Leto.). I’ve already talked a lot about the fact that he’s in the middle of an amazing career transformation and resurgence, which Academy voters will want to acknowledge. In fact, there has already been awards buzz for another McConaughey performance this year, the title role in Jeff Nichols‘ Mud. (It is quite possible that McConaughey will be up against another member of the 12 Years a Slave cast for Supporting Actor nods: Michael Fassbender.)

In Dallas Buyer’s Club, McConaughey plays a real life hero, another nugget of pure Academy gold, and then the icing on the cake, to mix my metaphors, he went through that drastic physical transformation, dropping an unhealthy amount of weight to look the part of an AIDS patient wasting away. The Academy is a sucker anytime a gorgeous actor or actor is willing to “ugly themselves up” for a role (eg: Russell Crowe in The Insider, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, Kate Winslet in The Reader). They get an almost automatic nod. Then again, maybe it’s so liberating that they give fantastic performances. Certainly those I’ve mentioned are worthy.

So that’s Jordan, Ejiofor, and McConaughey. Benedict Cumberbatch could get a slot for The Fifth Estate, and one will surely go to Tom Hanks for Captain Philips, just because…Tom Hanks. (What’s odd is that at this juncture, no one is talking about Forest Whitaker for The Butler, or rather, they’ve stopped talking about him, but that could change, too.)

This is really reading the tea leaves here, but I can feel in my bones that it’s going to come down to Ejiofor and McConaughey. This almost me somewhat sad for Matty. Doesn’t it usually happen that there’s one actor, who gives a fantastic performance to be sure, but of whom everyone says “It’s their year”, and are rewarded almost as much for toughing it out and beating the odds, being a “nice guy”, as much as for a single film? While all of that can surely be said of McConaughey, I’m looking at you Sandra Bullock – as well as you Jeff Bridges. Remember Colin Firth, who was so good and so deserving for A Single Man in 2010? Bridges swooped in and scooped his award because he made himself relevant again by single-handedly saving a slight little movie (Crazy Heart) from going straight to dvd and reminding Academy voters of his body of work and the fact that he’d never won. I’m not suggesting that Dallas Buyers Club is in the same category as Crazy Heart, but will the award go to Matty for similar reasons? (Or will it go to Bruce Dern? He’s winning raves for Alexander Payne’s Nebraska – including Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival – and he hasn’t been nominated since 1978 for Coming Home.)

Ah, but here comes the spoiler; someone who needs to be, should be, recognized for the performance of a lifetime in a once-in-a-lifetime film. How could the role of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave be anything but? Chiwetel Ejiofor knew it the moment he read the script and wasn’t sure he was prepared to take on such a life-changer (in terms of the character he’d have to inhabit as well as the notoriety it would bring). If the actor wasn’t up to the task, the movie would collapse around him and by all of the accounts coming out of just two film festivals, that is certainly not the case. The mere five minutes in this featurette would seem to bear that out as well:

Okay enough of the blind prognostications. I’ve put my crystal ball away until I’ve actually had a chance to see these films and the performances in question, at least for today and as far as the Best Actor category is concerned.. Given that most of us plebes still have months yet to wait, there’s a lot more speculation to be done.

*At least no one will have to contend with Colin Firth again this year (playing another real person, this one with crippling PTSD). The Weinstein Company has just picked up Railway Man, but contrary to earlier rumblings, won’t release it until 2014.  Harvey’s on fire up there in the Great White North. He’s successfully pocketed this one along with two more for next year: Can a Song Save Your Life from Once director John Carney starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo as well as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, the three hour/two part romantic drama with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, both of whom will probably figure into next year’s speculations.

Next Year’s a Locke for Tom Hardy – updated

(Yeah, yeah, you think it’s easy comin’ up with a clever title every time? You try it.)

Tom Hardy, Locke, movie

I’ve been trying to say what I wanted to say about both Tom Hardy and Locke for over a week now. Time to get this down before the movie comes out and renders this moot.

It has been far too long, in my humble opinion, since Tom Hardy has been on the big screen. He hasn’t had a movie in the theaters since last summer’s Lawless. Of course that was the last of three films released in 2012: First there was This Means War (oh well, every actor needs one of these on their resume. He’s not the first to be the best thing about ridiculous movie) which was followed by a little film called The Dark Knight Rises.

While I (along with legions of others) may have missed his face (and that mouth….where was I? Oh yeah. Sorry), I know that he’s been hard at work on several film projects (as well as a few humanitarian efforts). I could say that I believe that 2014 will be a HUGE year for Hardy, but I’ve had that thought before.

He’s been “on the verge” for a long time. I’ve been a fan since 2008’s Rocknrolla, but I really thought that after the rest of the world discovered him in Inception in 2010, that Warrior in 2011 was going to make him a household name. Wrong. It took a superhero flick in which his face was covered for all but 3 seconds of screen time to do that. As usual, I’m ambivalent about an actor I’ve long considered a “hidden jewel” gaining the popularity they deserve. Sometimes, maybe even often, an actor does his best work before the glare of the spotlight finds him and he becomes a tabloid regular. On the other hand, if more people had known who he was and had subsequently gone to see Warrior, he may not have been robbed of the awards-season attention he deserved. His Tommy Conlon breaks my heart every time I see it.

But I digress. 2014 will finally see the long awaited release of George Miller’s much delayed Mad Max reboot, Fury Road which also stars Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and a few stick bugs  Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Abby Lee and Riley Keough. At least that’s what we’re still being told. As of this writing, the movie has several weeks of reshoots scheduled for November.

“Not a good sign” you say? True, there have been nothing but bad omens surrounding this project since its first inception way back in 1985.  Mad Max: Fury Road was originally conceived to be the fourth Mad Max flick for Mel Gibson. For myriad reasons, too many to list here, including a couple of wars, that obviously didn’t happen. There was even talk of doing it as an animated film featuring Gibson’s voice. Again, no go. Writer/director Miller persevered, however, and reconfigured it as a reboot, eventually casting Hardy in 2010

The plague of production problems continued. When cameras were finally set to roll in 2011 in the Australian outback, unseasonable and heavy rains turned the area into the Garden of Eden instead of the “back of beyond” and new locations had to be secured. In the meantime the cast scattered to do other projects. When they finally got back together and cameras rolled in mid 2012, the film faced numerous shutdowns, budget over-runs (Warner Brothers sent suits to Africa to watchdog Miller), and charges from the Namibian government that the production permanently damaged indigenous plant life. Filming itself was physically grueling and took a toll on Hardy and Theron.  Now they’re facing nearly a month more of African filming.

There are conflicting reports as to whether these are actually “reshoots” or a planned sequence they were unable to get for various reasons the first time around.

That said, much like January and February release dates, reshoots aren’t necessarily the kiss of death that they once were. (World War Z springs to mind, since it’s still in theaters, as an example of another troubled production; one that turned out extremely well.) So if the movie is good, we may never know and no one will care. If it isn’t, then we can add it to the list of reasons why the movie failed.

Tom Hardy, Mad Max Fury Road, movie

source: AICN

In addition to the much ballyhooed Mad Max: Fury Road, 2014 will see not one, but two Tom Hardy films costarring Noomi Rapace.

Animal Rescue, written by Dennis Lehane from his own short story, is the English-language debut of Bullhead director Michael Roskam, about a lost pit bull, a wannabe scam artist, and a murder, (the cast also includes Bullhead star Matthias Schoenaerts and the late James Gandolfini in his final film), as well as the currently filming Child 44 from the novel by Tom Rob Smith. Set in the USSR during the Stalin-era, Hardy plays a disgraced MGB (Ministry for State Security – which preceded the KGB) agent sent to investigate a series of child murders in a country where crimes of this sort “did not exist”. He soon begins to connect the case with top party leadership. That one is directed by Daniel Espinosa who made his English debut with last year’s Safe House (Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds) but is best known in his native Sweden for Snabba Cash (Easy Money) with Joel “Robocop” Kinnaman. It also reteams Hardy with Gary Oldman.

At last we come to the film that, although it will more than likely see release next year, has actually debuted this year- last week in fact, at the Venice Film Festival.  Locke is a thriller that unfolds in “real time”, written and directed by Steven Knight and exec. produced by Joe Wright (director of Atonement, Anna Karenina etc) . Knight made his directorial debut with Redemption (original title Hummingbird) with Jason Statham (which got only a token release back in June here in the US, but hits DVD on September 24), but he’s also the writer responsible for the just released (and entertaining, but ultimately forgettable political thriller) Closed Circuit with Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana as well as two of my favorite movies of the past few years, Eastern Promises (dir. by David Cronenberg starring Viggo Mortensen) and Dirty Pretty Things (with Chiwitel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou, dir. by  Stephen Frears).

Just prior to doing the limbo under the radar and straight into Venice,  a first clip (not really a trailer – which you can see below) premiered late last month for Locke. Most people were probably wondering why they’d never heard of it. One reason? Knight’s spare, confined space drama (the action in the film never leaves the car and Hardy is in every frame), was shot over the course of just eight nights this past February.

Video removed because it “no longer exists”

“Based on an original screenplay from Knight, LOCKE is the story of one man’s life unraveling in a tension-fueled ninety minute race against time. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has the perfect family, his dream job, and tomorrow should be the crowning moment of his career. But one phone call will force him to make a decision that will put it all on the line.”**

There are other actors credited, including Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger, “Luther”), Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur, “Broadchurch”), Ben Daniels (“Law & Order: UK”, “House of Cards”), and Tom Holland (The Impossible), but they don’t get screen time. Only their voices will be heard. For the eight nights of filming, Hardy drove through and around London while the other the actors (stationed in a hotel) placed calls to his cell phone.

Conceived in November, filmed by February, and despite the fact that it was made for about $2 million and by seasoned professionals, this sounds a lot like guerilla filmmaking. Maybe Knight has established a new genre. Maybe Hardy and company are ‘upscale urban guerillas’.  Or not. I’m all in for this in any case. It will probably get a UK theatrical release via Lionsgate. Hopefully we’ll get to see it on this side of the ocean, if only on VOD.

Hardy also has six other announced titles in various stages of production, so eventually we will get to see him again in something. In the meantime maybe BBCAmerica will let us watch “Poaching Wars”. You could always catch up with some of Hardy’s earlier work like Bronson, Sweeney Todd (not the musical) or “Stuart: A Life Backwards” (if you can find it) or the BBC miniseries “The Virgin Queen” and “Oliver Twist” or even better, go rewatch Rocknrolla or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy again. If all else fails, and you really need a fix, there’s always This Means War. You can find the good parts on YouTube.

Here’s a clip of Tom (an Audi spokesman since 2008) driving another car and having a ball doing it:

(Frankly he could be driving a Big Wheel as long as he narrates the advert)

UPDATE 9/7/13: The North American distribution rights to Locke have just been acquired by A24 in the first major deal of the Toronto International Film Festival.

** IM Global/Anthem Press release from Berlin Film Festival, February 7, 2013