“It’s a Good Day” says New #MadMax: Fury Road Int’l Trailer. Yeah, But For What?!

Tom Hardy, Mad Max Rockatansky, Mad Max: Fury Road,  movie, photo, trailer, Charlize Theron, George Miller

From the looks of this 67 seconds of hot, angry, sweaty, flaming mayhem…the answer is “to blow some shit up!”.

Warner Bros. has just released a new (and completely insane) Japanese trailer for this summer’s sure-to-be-blockbuster, Mad Max: Fury Road. And we thank them for it. Given the long road from inception to release that this film has traveled and is still traveling, the WB deserves kudos for not just keeping this in the front of moviegoers’ minds, but chomping at the proverbial bit.

Despite the fact that this clip is only a tad more than one-minute long, it not only compacts and condenses what was in the previous full-length trailer, it does provide some bits of new footage. How do they do that, you might well ask? By moving at the speed of sound and not wasting a nano-second of screen time on anything that isn’t racing, burning, screaming or better yet, exploding. There’s no room for flab in this post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Take a look:

Mad Mad: Fury Road is the fourth film of George Miller‘s Road Warrior/Mad Max franchise co-written and directed by Miller. The post-apocalyptic action film is set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and most everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world of fire and blood exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order… There’s Max (Tom Hardy), a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And… Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.”

Mad Max: Fury Road with Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Nathan Jones, and Hugh Keays-Byrne, takes over the world on May 13-15, 2015, depending on where you are in it. (A May 13 premiere in France suggests an appearance on the Croisette, no? The Cannes Film Festival also begins that day.)

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.

 

Another Look at Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard in Macbeth!

Macbeth, Scottish play, Shakespeare, movie, still, Marion Cotillard, Michael Fassbender

Another new image has just been released from Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth. It again features Michael Fassbender as the titular Scottish Laird, this time speckled with blood as he gazes adoringly at his “Lady M”, Marion Cotillard.

This photo follows the two that surfaced just ten days ago.

No release dates for the film have yet been announced, and imdb still lists a vague “2015”. I have to wonder though, given that the publicity stream has started to flow, whether that might be moved up to late 2014 – you know, awards season. It won’t make Cannes next month, since that schedule has already been announced (or is a late edition possible, given that Fassbender has a high profile film like X-Men: Days of Future Past about to open around the same time?), but it could make Venice or TIFF. If a trailer arrives in the next month or so, I’d say 2014 will be a safer bet, with or without a festival appearance. JMHO

Macbeth is directed by Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders), from a script by Jacob Koskoff and Todd Louiso, based on Shakespeare’s play. It also stars Sean Harris, Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor and Elizabeth Debicki.

It Ain’t Easy for a Princess: New Trailer for Grace of Monaco

movie, still, trailer, Tim Roth, Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco

via imdbpro

There is a new trailer for Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco, that would appear to give us a better idea of what the film is actually about, and what it is not.

The trailer would have us believe that the film is not just a pastiche of Nicole Kidman posing in beautiful period costumes and doing an impression of Princess Grace, (a role for which Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Rosamund Pike, Amy Adams, January Jones -really?- and Elizabeth Banks were among those considered) but it is about what the official synopsis has always told us:

The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.

Set in 1962, six years after the fairy tale wedding (which set the standard for televised fairy tale weddings)  as Grace née Kelly struggled to reconcile  a longing to return to the big screen, thanks to tempting offers  from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, with her role as a monarch of a European principality as well as wife to a Prince and mother to two small children.

Add to this Rainier’s modernization of an ailing Monaco was being thwarted by French premier Charles de Gaulle who wanted to impose French taxation on Monaco, and reclaim the principality for France, by force if necessary.

That sounds a lot heavier than your average biopic about a beloved style-icon. Take a look:

Back in January, I mentioned that Grace of Monaco had, after Harvey Weinstein’s controversial move to pull it from  The Weinstein Company schedule (after having moved it from 2013 awards contention to March 2014), leaving everyone to speculate about just how awful it must be, Variety  announced that the film will open the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival.

Grace of Monaco has a script by Arash Amel (Erased with Aaron Eckhart)  which landed on the 2011 Hollywood Black List. It also stars Tim Roth as Prince Rainier, Frank Langella, Derek Jacobi, Nicholas Farrell, Parker Posey, and Paz Vega (as Maria Callas!) among others.  The film has supposedly firm release dates scheduled for Europe, including the UK in June. With this new trailer, can a domestic date be far behind, or will Harvey wait to see what the response is when it bows at Cannes?

2 Trailers, 2 Actors – 1 VERY Early Oscar Prediction

Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Coogler

poster via imdb

Having seen an advance screening of first-time director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (it hasn’t opened here in Boston yet), a movie about a real incident involving the death of a young black man,  that was already worthy of inclusion in a national conversation about the state of race relations in the United States, but is now even more sadly relevant given recent events, I can say that at this (extremely) early stage in the race, it is my prediction (and I am far from alone here) that Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) will be recognized with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Take a look at the trailer:

trailer courtesy of The Weinstein Company via YouTube

My pal Harvey and The Weinstein Company are still rolling Fruitvale Station out across the country. If the film, which won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival before bowing at Cannes, is not coming to a theater near you, try to catch it on VOD. You will be hearing a lot more about it.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

poster via imdb

If you’re as addicted to film as I am, you’ve probably already heard a lot about Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.  I’ve been following the film’s progress since it was announced back in August 2011 that it would be the director’s next project, following up Shame which hadn’t even been released at that point.

Watch this:

trailer courtesy Fox Searchlight via JoBloMovieNetwork/YouTube

One might say, judging from that trailer above alone, that Chiwetel Ejiofor, would also be a lock for an Oscar nomination. Fox Searchlight, despite the fact that 12 Years a Slave missed Cannes, (but will probably debut in Venice and/or Toronto) has moved UP the release date from December 27 to October 18 on the basis of what Deadline called “exuberant test screenings”.

12 Years a Slave has, let’s be honest, the aroma of “Oscar bait” all over it. Based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free-born African American, kidnapped and sold into slavery, the cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Quvenzhane Wallis and Brad Pitt (who also produced), among many others. All it takes is two and a half minutes to recognize the power of the piece.

So, one might call Ejiofor a lock. I wish I could. He’s an actor I’ve long admired and I’m thrilled that he’s got a role that,  again, based solely on those two and a half minutes, is a showcase for his talents. However, in the not so distant past, I had that same thought about the star of that other Steve McQueen directed film, the one I mentioned earlier – a little piece of celluloid called Shame. Its star, Michael Fassbender, gave what was, by nearly all accounts, one of the best performances of 2011. He ran away with accolades and acting prizes from Venice to LA. He was nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTAs and SAGs. Of course, we now know, the illustrious Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences didn’t care a fig for all of that and failed to nominate him for an Oscar.

(Fassbender, you’ll no doubt have noticed, appears in 12 Years a Slave as well – his 3rd appearance in a McQueen film, of which there are three – and though it is a supporting role, it is a role we’ve not seen him play before: an out and out villain. He looks to have given another awards-worthy performance. Perhaps he will be recognized this year in the lesser category. Perhaps the Academy feels that the cheeky German-Irishman needs to work up to a Best Actor nod? Maybe his director will get one this time as well.)

So I won’t call Ejiofor a lock, but his post is about something else anyway. This post is about the distinct possibility that some REAL history might be made this year. I realize it’s only July, but I’m calling it right now. It is my hope that come January 16, 2014, that the names of not just one, but two black leading men will be read in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role: the British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor  for 12 Years a Slave and the American actor, Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station. Even better, if the names of their directors, Steve McQueen and Ryan Coogler, were read out as well. No offense Denzel or Forest, but that would be real progress.

Trailer or Spoiler: Justin Timberlake Edition

Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, Inside Llewyn Davis movie

Inside Llewyn Davis – CBS Films via imdb

I can see your furrowed brow as you read that headline. “Huh?”  Stay with me. Justin Timberlake, having grown bored with bringing his own brand of sexy back to people who didn’t know it was missing, has turned his hand to acting more than music these past few years, his new album notwithstanding.

What appeared to be a lark in a straight-to-dvd crime thriller, 2005’s Edison, continued in 2006’s Alpha Dog, earning him good notices, The Social Network in 2010, and then got real in 2011 when he top-lined Friends with Benefits and In Time (in which JT was asked to do most of the heavy lifting alongside the slight Amanda Seyfried). This year, Timberlake will appear in two films, both slated for fall release and for which there is already (very) early awards season buzz.

Runner, Runner costarring Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie, is currently scheduled to be released in the US on September 27. It’s a drama that centers on the world of offshore online gaming and an increasingly tense relationship between the founder of one such successful business (Affleck), and his protege (Timberlake).

Written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, the team behind Rounders, Runaway Jury and Ocean’s 13, as well as the upcoming Untouchables sequel, Capone Rising with Tom Hardy, and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (among others), Runner, Runner is directed by Brad Furman, best known for The Lincoln Lawyer. All of the above makes it one of fall’s hotly anticipated flicks, especially since it’s Affleck’s first since Argo. (Affleck has himself gone from punchline to bona fide auteur whose mere presence will give whatever he does from here on out a patina of respect.)

The other film has that same shine because it was written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Inside Llewyn Davis premiered back in May at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize, essentially the runner-up to the Palm d’Or.  It stars Oscar Isaac as an aspiring folk musician in the early 1960s. The film, by all accounts, belongs to Isaac and is, after Sucker Punch, Robin Hood, W.E. and Drive, the one that will finally make him a star. The rest of the cast includes Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham and…Justin Timberlake.

The Cannes buzz (it will probably go to Venice and Toronto as well) along with the Coen Brothers pedigree,  finally got the film distribution, and it is currently slated for an awards-friendly (limited) US release date of December 3 (before going wide on the 20th). I’ve had my eye on this one since filming began in Greenwich Village in January of 2012. The Coen Brothers. That is all. When can I buy my ticket?

Since all that these two films have in common is Justin Timberlake, I’m but using him as a jumping off point to introduce a trailer for each.

The name of the game is “Trailer or Spoiler”. Those few minutes of footage for Runner, Runner would seem to be yet another example of a “teaser” that gives the game away. It’s a story that’s already been told countless times: wide-eyed innocent gets a taste of the good life, starts to lose his soul (prodded by the devil’s surrogate), comes to his senses thanks to the love of a good woman and does battle with the devil and vanquishes the evil in his life. But, shouldn’t one have to buy a ticket to find out if it is, in fact, the same old song and dance?

The arc of the plot won’t be a mystery to most (especially since Robert Luketic covered nearly the same territory in 2008’s 21), but is that reason enough to lay it all out in these few flashy feet of footage?  Shouldn’t the producers have enough faith in their material, not to mention their cast, to let them attract ticket-buyers? The fact that Runner, Runner is being released in September and not in, say, November, coupled with this seemingly no-holds-barred first look, does not bode well for the finished produce. Just my humble opinion.

The clip below is not the first, but the third trailer released for Inside Llewyn Davis and while we can put a lot of the pieces together from what we’ve been given, we do still have to use our noodles to get a clear idea of what’s going on here.

We already know the film is about struggling musicians on the cusp of the folk wave about to break in the early 1960s, but does Davis have any talent? We can tell that Isaacs’ title character has some sort of relationship with Carey Mulligan, but the exact nature remains a mystery (even if earlier trailers gave us more of a hint).  Where does Timberlake fit in? Who is John Goodman’s character? Will Davis ever make it big? And why is he carrying around that cat? Will we get to hear more of JT harmonizing with Marcus Mumford?

Perhaps because this film is more a character study than a high-concept adventure/drama, there are still plenty of secrets left to uncover. (Unless of course one chooses to read any of the spoiler filled reviews that came out of Cannes, but that’s another rant for another day.)

Runner-Runner-Timberlake Runner-Runner-Affleck Runner Runner poster Inside Llewyn Davis poster