Jeremy Renner Doesn’t Believe in Conspiracy Theories…

Kill the Messenger, movie, poster, Jeremy Renner

…but I’m guessing he soon will.

Watch the first trailer for the new political thriller, Kill the Messenger, from the writer of “Homeland” Michael Cuesta, making his feature debut.  This had completely fallen off my radar and I had forgotten all about it until yesterday’s announcement that a trailer was forthcoming. Some pundits, however, are already putting Jeremy Renner on their ridiculously early awards season lists, as a possible best actor nominee. (C’mon. It’s only MAY. Putting those things out there too early unduly influences the minds of movie-goers, in my humble opinion. Besides, if we’re making early predictions, I’m calling Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel.)

Kill the Messenger is based on a true story. Renner plays journalist Gary Webb, who exposed the CIA’s involvement and knowledge of the smuggling of cocaine into the United States. Webb’s publications put him and his family in the crosshairs of the agency who threatened to ruin his life and career.

“Some stories are just too true to tell.” Indeed.

In this first trailer we get a glimpse of costars Oliver Platt, Michael K. Williams, Michael Sheen, Rosemarie Dewitt, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ray Liotta. Pretty good cast, that!

Kill the Messenger opens in the US on October 10 and in the UK on 28 November. Me, I love a good conspiracy theory (not to mention it will be nice to see Renner in a role he can sink his chops into again), so I’ll be front and center with my popcorn. How about you? Interest piqued?

1st Snowpiercer Trailer for Mass Consumption!

Snowpiercer, movie, poster, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Jamie Bell

Finally! A green-band trailer for Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, and one that would seem to give us a better idea of what we can expect, at least in terms of narrative. The visuals, at least in my humble opinion have always been stunning.

In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.

Take a look:

via JoBlo
Here’s the international red-band trailer:

via Yahoo

This is a film that’s been trying to make it out of the gate for a long time. Director Bong Joon-Ho, who wrote the screenplay with Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re DeadSidney Lumet‘s last film), makes his English-language debut with Snowpiercer, discovered the French graphic novel, “Le Transperceneige”, on which it’s based, in late 2004 during pre-production of The Host. Rights were secured in 2005, but filming didn’t begin until April 2012. It went into post in July of that year and debuted in South Korea in August of 2013. It’s already screened in the rest of the world, including a stop at this year’s Berlinale, so the US gets it last, but at last we get it, thanks to the cutting-edge arm of The Weinstein Company, RADiUS-TWC.

With an international cast that includes Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris, I hope it finds an audience. Sequels are already being planned based on other books in the series.

Snowpiercer gets a limited (there’s that word again – grrrrr) US release on June 27. Hopefully more cities will follow, but I have a feeling it will fare better via OnDemand.

What do you think? Will you look for it?

Bit of trivia: Bong and his production designer, Ondrej Nekvasil, designed the train to resemble a 1970s nuclear-powered submarine. Both the train and a sub from that era would have a similar average speed of 50km per hour.


World War Z Enlists Steven Knight!

Steven Knight, director, writer, Locke, World War Z 2, sequel, movie

Now THIS is exciting!
The man who locked Tom Hardy in a car and picked a street fight with Jason Statham, Steven Knight, the writer/director of Locke and Redemption, will, according to Variety, write the script for the sequel to World War Z.
WWZ, as you’ll recall, was that wildly successful zombie flick from the summer of 2013 starring Brad Pitt. You know, the one plagued by rumors of trouble, reshoots, director Marc Forster’s incompetence, tension on the set, you name it…before it came out and shut everyone the hell up? Earning over $540 million worldwide, it is Brad Pitt’s top grossing film.
The original was based on the novel by Max Brooks with a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother of director Joe) and Drew Goddard. The sequel will have none of those things, so this announcement that the script is in such good hands is a welcome one.
In addition to pulling double duty, both writing and directing both  Locke and  Redemption (aka Hummingbird – I liked it. Too few saw it),  Knight created the BBC’s answer to “Boardwalk Empire”, “Peaky Blinders” (whose 2nd season will feature his Locke star Tom Hardy), wrote the screenplay for David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, and was nominated for an Academy Award for the script for Dirty Pretty Things (his first feature film and which starred Chiwetel Ejiofor).


Knight’s been busy lately, too. Already in the can is Seventh Son, due out next February starring Ben Barnes, Kit Harington and Julianne Moore, Lasse Hallström’s The Hundred Foot Journey with Helen Mirren, which is in post-production and finally, there’s Edward Zwick’s chess movie, the currently filming Pawn Sacrifice with Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber as his arch-nemesis Boris Spassky.


Still more promising news: the announcement that Knight will tackle the sequel to World War Z follows word that Pitt is in talks to star in an as-yet-untitled Knight-penned romantic thriller set during World War II.
Plot details, casting and release dates for WWZ2 are thus far unknown. We’ll keep you posted. I’m already in. “What are your thoughts, Hobson?”*

Steven Knight, director, writer, Hummingbird, Redemption, World War Z 2, sequel, movie


*Sir John Gielgud in Arthur.

Only Lovers Left Alive: A Romantic Vampire Tale for Grown-ups

Only Lovers Left Alive, movie, still, Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton
Only Lovers Left Alive, an official selection of Cannes 2013, is stylish, hip, sexy and smart, all of which are things I’m generally in favor of. It’s also, despite the scenes of Jim Jarmusch’s creatures-of-the-night (the word vampire is never used) imbibing “the good stuff” from delicate cordial glasses and antique flasks (or even “on a stick”), the most sanguine vampire tale I’ve ever seen.

Actually, it’s a film that is more about eternal love, not just eternal life; a character study in which our Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) just happen to be vampires. Other than their quest for a blood supply untainted by the poisons of modern life, they fill their endless lives much as we mortals do: searching for ways to amuse themselves as well as give meaning to their existence. Twilight, this is not.

We will learn that Swinton and Hiddleston are lovers, that they have been married for centuries, that they are soul-mates. But from the first scene, we already know they are connected even when they’re apart. The film opens with intertwining shots of the two, spun to the tune of “Funnel of Love”. ( I thought I was listening to the song played at half speed so that Wanda Jackson sounded less like Minnie Mouse on helium than I’ve ever heard, but it’s actually director Jim Jarmusch’s band, SQÜRL with singer Madeline Follin, of Cults.)

Adam, who refers to humans as “zombies”, is a musician, who is hiding out under the perfect cover of a decimated Detroit. His devoted “Renfield” is manager/enabler Ian (Anton Yelchin), who would love to be able to promote him so that Adam’s music could reach a wider audience, but Adam won’t have it. The zombies love his music, but he ‘vants to be alone’. He collects antique instruments and shuns modern anything, unlike Eve who embraces the technology that allows her to stay connected to Adam. Sensing Adam’s growing despair, which is only confirmed via a Skype chat (the Rube Goldbergian way in which Adam has rigged his antiquated analog devices to accomplish this task is comical, yet indicative of what an intelligent mind can come up with when one has all the time in the world),  Eve decides to make the transatlantic journey to see him, despite the intrinsic difficulties of traveling by day.

Eve is a seeker, and a lover of knowledge, currently residing in Tangier. She’s worldly and as much of the world as reclusive Adam wants to shrink from it. I’m not sure the part wasn’t written specifically for Swinton, she is just so perfectly cast, and her chemistry with Hiddleston is palpable. (I know I’ve mentioned that Michael Fassbender was Jarmusch’s original choice. I, as I believe you will, have no trouble embracing Hiddleston as Adam.)

Watching Eve make her travel arrangements is just one of the sly and witty ways that the script pokes holes in well-known vampire lore. It also hints at the possibility of the presence of vampires throughout history. Adam gave an adagio to Shubert. Christopher “Kit” Marlowe (John Hurt) is not only “alive” but a vampire and used the “illiterate” Shakespeare as his front to continue to “get the work out there” long after his supposed death. There are also odes to the same lore that the script deflates eg: vampires must be invited to cross a threshold. And there are things that Jarmusch may have made up, yet seem like they should be part of the myth, for instance, vampires also need permission to remove their gloves, which they always wear in public. I’ve never heard of that one (or have I just forgotten it? Anyone? Bueller?)

Adam plays word games with a hematologist (Jeffrey Wright) who calls himself Dr. Watson, that he bribes for access to pure blood. He calls himself first Dr. Faust then Dr. Caligari. Eve expresses her love for Jack White, who has always looked a bit like a vampire, although to my knowledge, there have been no rumors of blood drinking.

At the end of Eve’s journey, she and Adam reconnect in a dozen sexy, slinky, sultry ways, including sinuously dancing around his crowded manse in silk dressing gowns (wouldn’t it be nice if Denise LaSalle and Charlie Feathers experienced career resurgencies?) and driving through the desert of Detroit at night, discovering its lonely beauty. Their reunion, however, is interrupted by the arrival of Eve’s irresponsible and uncontrollable little “sister” Ava (Mia Wasikowska). Although both Adam and Eve (as well as Marlowe) had dreamt of her arrival, it was anticipated with dread.  Ava’s bratty antics become the catalyst for all that follows, including the funniest lines in the movie.

Example: Adam and Eve watch a body melting in acid. “That was visual”.  (You just have to see it.)

Jim Jarmusch doesn’t like digital cinematography and wanted to shoot on film, but could not due to budgetary constraints. He and his director of photography, Yorick Le Saux, whose last English-language film was Arbitrage, worked with low lighting (they were after all, shooting entirely at night) and experimented with a variety of lenses until they were able to achieve the look they wanted, one that approximated “film”. However they got there, they’ve found a prism of color in the blackness and the result,  in which the cold dark night of Detroit is contrasted with the exotic warmth of the Morocco where Eve lives and walks among the locals, is mesmerizing.

Adam and Eve glide along to the trance-like soundtrack provided by SQÜRL (which includes Carter Logan, and Shane Stoneback, in addition to the director), and Dutch minimalist composer Jozef Van Wissem, with a guest appearance by Yasmine Hamdan, the singer for Soapkills, the first indie/electronic band in the Middle East, and nod their heads in unison to the beat. Jarmusch has given his immortals a “been there and done that” insouciance, but if there’s one thing that they still can’t get enough of after all these years, it is each other.  So, aptly, we are left with Adam and Eve, determined to survive, if only so that they can continue to be together.

Ultimately, Only Lovers Left Alive is a hypnotic paean to the mysteries of true love.

“Make me immortal with a kiss.” – Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus



Bit of trivia that may or may not have been intentional: One of the books that Eve packs for her trip to Detroit is a catalog of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work. Jeffrey Wright’s film breakthrough was as the title character in Basquiat.


Watch: There Are Some Ruthless People in 1st Trailer for Life of Crime

 Life of Crime, Elmore Leonard, Switch, movie, trailer, Jennifer Aniston, still

Life of Crime, a film based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  Now that a release date has been set, we have the first trailer.

I am a big fan of Leonard and while it would be nice if they’d kept the title of his novel, “Switch”, in this case, it was probably because of the title of another Jennifer Aniston flick, The Switch with Jason Bateman. Ironically, the title of that movie was changed from the infinitely more interesting The Baster.

Beyond the similarities of the titles of two completely unrelated films, this trailer reminds me so much of 1986’s Ruthless People that I had to wonder if that movie was also based on Leonard’s book.   It was not, although the plots are so similar I’m surprised that Leonard didn’t sue Dale Launer, the writer of Ruthless People.  (He didn’t, but apparently the estate of O. Henry did.  Although Launer claimed that he didn’t consciously lift anything from O. Henry, it was ruled that the movie resembles “The Ransom of Red Chief'” to such a degree that O. Henry now shares script credit.)

Sure, there are details that are different, for instance the kidnappers in the earlier movie are a couple who’ve been cheated by a the nasty Dan Hedaya and kidnap his wife (Bette Midler) ” in retaliation, without knowing that their enemy is delighted they did”.

No one would ever mistake Jennifer Aniston for Bette Midler, but the plot of Life of Crime, simply put is, “The wealthy husband of a kidnapped wife doesn’t want to pay her ransom.”

Seriously, is it just me? No it isn’t. Despite the fact that no one seems to be mentioning the similarities now, back in 1986, this film was in development at 20th Century Fox with Diane Keaton attached as Mickey Dawson, but the project was shelved for that very reason.

Oh well, there will be plenty of double crosses and plot twists that could only come from the mind of the late great Elmore Leonard, so I’m in. Take look at this:

“Switch” is actually a prequel to “Jackie Brown”.  In Life of Crime, Mos Def (using his given name Yasiin Bey) and the ever-brilliant John Hawkes play younger versions of the characters played in the Quentin Tarantino film by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert DeNiro.  Pretty good casting, JMHO.

Life of Crime, directed by Daniel Schechter with Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Will Forte, and Mark Boone Junior, opens in the US on August 29.





Locke Is a Ride You Want to Take

Locke, Tom Hardy, movie, review

Chances are, if you’re taking the time to read this, you’ve already made up your mind about whether or not you’ll see a movie in which nothing happens other than a man gets in his car, drives all night (which is what Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive sounded like it would be about, but don’t confuse it with Roy Orbison) and talks on the phone (relax, he has Bluetooth). Truly. That’s what it’s about and that’s all that happens. Or is it?

All of that might not seem even noteworthy if we were talking about a play, in fact I can well imagine someone picking up the script for writer/director Steven Knight’s Locke and deciding to mount a stage production (especially given that film seems to be the most fertile field from which the theater is now harvesting ideas), but for Knight and Tom Hardy to do what they do in a movie is a feat of daring.

It’s even difficult to talk about Locke without spoiling it. But on the off chance that you are still on the fence (or worse, haven’t heard of it), how else do I (or anyone) get you to see this film? I can tell you that you need invest less than an hour and a half of your time, which is true. I know you can think of at least five films that were a lot longer and were totally unworthy of your time and attention, not to mention your ducats. (I’ll bet Adam Sandler’s name appears on your list at least once, am I right?)

I can tell you that if you don’t see it you’ll be missing out on a singular bit of film making with a tour de force performance by Hardy – which is also true and I am far from the first person to use that phrase. If all you know of Tom Hardy is either Eames from Inception or Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, then it’s time you were introduced to a different side of the man. The part of Ivan Locke was written for him* and it is one of those roles and performances that, after one has seen it, one will never be able to imagine anyone else doing it. If he weren’t so utterly engrossing, it would be difficult to forget that all we’re doing is watching someone steer a car.

The journey begins when Locke, a Welsh construction foreman, gets in that car at the end of another day on a building site.  Before we know anything else about him, we know that he’s just made a conscious choice to turn right instead of left. It is over the course the film that we learn why that was such a momentous decision. It starts with the first phone call. Ivan’s wife and two sons are expecting him home to watch a big football match on television. He’s promised his boys he’ll be there and when Locke informs them he won’t be back in time, we know he’s not in the habit of breaking promises to his children.

Nor is he in the habit of letting down his employers. The next day, a day on which he will not show up for work, he is due to supervise a major concrete pour, a job on which a lot of money, as well as  the structural dependability of a tall building, is riding.

So what could possibly cause this usually solid and conscientious man to suddenly abandon his responsibilities?

He made a mistake. One very costly mistake.

About eight months before this night, Ivan had a brief encounter with a woman named Bethan (Olivia Coleman – heard, but not seen).  He barely knows Bethan, as he matter-of-factly informs his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson), but she’s pregnant and he’s “the cause”. Upstanding Ivan has decided that regardless of the circumstances in which the child was conceived, it is his responsibility to be there for his or her birth.

Of course, once all of this is out in the open, the next eighty minutes are spent dealing with the fallout. Because he’s got it settled in his mind, he expects his wife to accept this bombshell as well.  He’s more worried about the concrete and having to leave the details to an underling (who drinks). It becomes clear to us why this is so difficult for him during a particular speech in which he rhapsodizes the properties and capabilities of good cement.

Ivan is determined to see the job through, and his determination keeps him calm as he talks the increasingly worked-up Donal (Andrew Scott “Sherlock”) through the steps he must take to ensure that everything goes as planned.

Ivan Locke is a soft-spoken man, and that is meant in every sense of the term, but he’s also a man with an excessive, perhaps even obsessive, need for control. It is obvious that Locke believes that doing the right thing is all. When he tells his son, “I’ll fix it and it’ll all go back to normal,” we are concerned that he might be coming unglued and are holding our breath waiting for the explosion.
While we feel his desperation and watch Ivan’s world crumble, Hardy’s voice never wavers, the Welsh cadences becoming almost hypnotic as he issues instructions and provides information to the people closest to him, including his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels “Law & Order: UK”) and his family, whose world he has just blown to pieces. He’s trying to keep steady the delicate balance of his life, with construction on one side of the scale and destruction on the other.We see it by watching Hardy’s face.

Locke never loses control until he’s addressing his father. We know the father isn’t in the car, but is he absent or invisible in Ivan’s life? I think these scenes have been misunderstood. They are not a misstep by Knight, providing too much backstory, as some have asserted. When Ivan looks in the rearview mirror, we see his own reflection. What Ivan sees is his father, something it becomes more and more apparent he wants to avoid becoming. This is, in fact, why he’s on this road on this particular night.

We only see Hardy, but while he (and therefore we) listen to various voices over the phone, we are able to picture so much of Ivan’s world, including the family life that proves to be so fragile, the people with whom he works that had heretofore seemed to hold his competence in such high regard, even Bethan’s lonely existence. (Her repeated requests for him to say that he loves her, along with his refusal because they “hardly know each other,” is heart breaking.)

Steven Knight, who has only one other feature to his credit as director, the Jason Statham starrer Redemption (aka Hummingbird), which made nary a blip on the radar in this country (I liked it. It had problems, but Knight got an actual performance out of Statham – something the great Taylor Hackford couldn’t do with Parker), manages to dial up the stress by careful degrees. I wanted to smash that damn Bluetooth and its automated call-waiting voice. I’m sure Ivan did too, deep down.  Knight also knows when a respite is needed, injecting a bit of humor here and there, like Donal’s description of the Serbian road-gang and the city councilor who doesn’t want to be bothered because he’s “in an Indian restaurant!”

Improbably, this movie about a man in his car becomes a roller coaster of ups and downs so that when some good news finally comes, we don’t trust it and continue to hang onto that breath we’ve been holding.

What we see takes place almost in “real-time”, just not in one continuous take. There was some very clever editing involved. They filmed this eighty-five minute movie sixteen times over the course of seven nights, which by movie-making standards is the equivalent of a nanosecond. Technically, it is still a movie, but this is practically guerrilla filmmaking.
At one point Hardy claimed that he had no idea what his lines were going to be before he said them and simply read them from cue cards. Given his performance (and that Knight wrote those lines specifically for him), that’s difficult to believe. It’s doubly so when you factor in Hardy’s growing reputation for having a laugh at the expense of the press. One recent prank involved a remark uttered to one unsuspecting journo, which was then, of course, picked up to boomerang all over the web, that despite the fact that he’d recently been hired to play Sir Elton John in a new biopic, he couldn’t “carry a tune to save {his} life”. The producers were quick to quash that one. Brits (and Celts) are a cheeky lot.
Ivan’s belief that he can make everything all right again reminded me a lot of Maggie at the end of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”. It will be true because he’ll make it true through sheer determination and force of will.  There are those that think that the film doesn’t have a lot to say, other than to deliver the terrible news that a single bad choice can ruin your life. But the film is not just a cautionary tale about the dangers of one night stands. Because while it is true that at the end of the ninety minutes it appears that Ivan has lost all of the things he started with…job, family, professional respect…he has retained his self-respect, which is even more valuable to him… and he has hope. And hope is everything.


*Bit of trivia: on Ivan’s car we see very clearly a sticker for “Help for Heroes“, a UK military charity that provides assistance to wounded British veterans. It’s an organization near and dear to Tom Hardy’s heart.

The First Trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar Has Landed!

Interstellar, poster, trailer, movie, Matthew McConaughey, Christopher Nolan

Not wanting to be outdone by all of the hullabaloo in the South of France, Warner Brothers and Paramount* have just dropped the eagerly awaited, first full-length trailer for Christopher Nolan‘s space opus, Interstellar which features Matthew McConaughey in his first post-Oscar flick.

This is also Nolan’s first since The Dark Knight Rises and details surrounding the film have been more closely guarded than the formula for Coke or the combination to the vault at Ft. Knox (seriously – look it up on imdb and it says “plot unknown”). Even after watching the trailer repeatedly, I’m still not exactly sure what it’s about. It seems that the human race has finally made such a mess of this planet – to the point that we’ve run out of food – that space travel is no longer a pipe-dream, but a necessity.

Jessica Chastain also stars, although I’d forgotten she was in it until I caught the brief glimpse of her standing in burning field, as does Anne Hathaway whom it took me a 2nd viewing to realize that was her underneath the space helmet.  I did catch a peek of Casey Affleck, along with David Oyelowo, who seems to be doing a take on his Rise of the Planet of the Apes stuffed shirt, and Nolan mainstay Michael Caine. Timothee Chalamet and Twighlight’s Mackenzie Foy play McConaughey’s kids. The film costars Wes Bentley, Topher Grace, David Gyasi, Bill Irwin, Elyes Gabel and William Devane, John Lithgow, and Ellen Burstyn, plus a cameo from Matt Damon.

Interstellar takes off on November 7, 2014 on most of the planet, including the US and the UK (positioned smartly for awards-season attention). More will surely follow before then, maybe even the plot.


*and they didn’t even have anything to do with Grace of Monaco.