Impressive #CrimsonPeak is Vintage Guillermo del Toro

Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, movie, poster

Contrary to those ads you’ve been seeing and the trailers with Nick Cave‘s “Red Right Hand” playing beneath it, make no mistake, Guillermo del Toro‘s Crimson Peak is a true Gothic romance that just happens to have ghosts in it (as well as copious amounts of blood and blood-like substances).What it is not, is a horror movie. The director himself has not called it that. He’s actually compared it to Hitchcock, particularly Rebecca or George Cukor’s Gaslight (both of which are apt comparisons), but it is as a horror film, that it is being marketed. It was shot February through May and completed in December 2014, but Universal wanted to release it at Halloween, so here we are in October 2015. Make no mistake, there are thrills and chills, and it’s full of murderous intent and malice-aforethought, but no real “scares”, at least in terms of what movie-goers born post-Freddie Kruger and weaned on the Paranormal and Insidious series’ as well as remakes of Halloween, The Fog and Poltergeist, would consider truly scary.

Mia Wasikowska is Edyth Cushing, an aspiring novelist, whose biggest champion is her wealthy industrialist father (Jim Beaver). Her aspirations make her something of an outsider to her social climbing contemporaries who prove that the male publishing world isn’t alone in thinking she should be concentrating on getting a husband.  So of course, it is is Edyth that the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a rakish English demi-noble (his title, “Baronet”, is thrown around a lot) plucks from the bouquet of dewy young things presented to him upon his arrival in turn-of-the-century Buffalo. He quickly marries her, after the shocking (and incredibly brutal) death of her father, who had objected to the match on grounds we are not immediately privy to (made known to him by his hired detective Holly, played by Burn Gorman), then whisks her away to a molding, crumbling estate back in (extremely) rural England, full of ghastly secrets and even ghastlier ghosts.

When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak.

The film, written by the director and Matthew Robbins (Mimic) who started it in 2006 and finally finished during filming, is visually stunning in typical del Toro style. All of the colors are rich and over-saturated. Both Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain often look like they belong in a Pre-Raphaelite painting. A lot of the sumptuous fabrics used in designer Kate Hawley‘s costumes are vintage, from the period depicted. The set design (all of which was built from the ground up specifically for the film by art director Thomas E. Sanders) is, in a word, incredible. Every scene, particulary once the film moves to spooky Allerdale Hall, could have been captured by an artist’s brush as well as the lens of Danish cinematographer Dean Laustsen.  del Toro has said that he wanted his movie to look like a Technicolor Mario Bava film (Bava was a painter before he was a director/cinematographer) and, JMHO, he’s succeeded. (You will hear about Crimson Peak come awards season. It will be up for all of the technical awards – as it should be.)

But this film owes as much to Bava as it does Hammer Studios in its hay-day. Charlie Hunnam‘s Dr. McMichael is a “good guy” straight out of their repertory company. The grand score, by Fernando Velasquez, and the dialogue, particularly in the early scenes, is straight out of a period-perfect Penny Dreadful (speaking of which, there are shades of the Showtime series as well – again, not a bad thing at all), with a lot of stilted delivery of the phrase “my child”.

Watching Wasikowska and Hiddleston, it’s hard to imagine Emma Stone and Benedict Cumberbatch in their roles. Hiddleston, in particular, was made for this type of film (if you haven’t seen his tortured, soulful vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive, remedy that. Immediately) and the site of him in white tie and tails is indeed impressive and utterly swoon-worthy. Wasikowska gets to be the heroine of her own story, in a departure from the Gothic formula. del Toro has imbued her with the intelligence and resiliance to not only recognize the dastardly shenanigans of her new husband and his creepy sister, but to defend herself against them.

The Sharpes are a tragic pair, certainly not your typical villains, created by equal parts nurture and nature, and it is Jessica Chastain’s Lucille that is the beating pulse of this movie. Lucille is fierce and determined, with a stare that is both ice cold and blazing with intensity. She doesn’t go full-tilt bozo until the final reel, but it is a payoff the film has been ratcheting toward from the start and what we’ve been waiting for. (Even then we feel some small measure of sympathy for her.) I don’t want to spoil anything, particularly since most of the plot twists are easily untangled while you watch, but trust me – there are monsters and there are monsters.

See Crimson Peak and see it at a theater in all its glory. I’m not usually one to endorse what I consider marketing gimicks, but I highly recommend IMAX for this one.  It deserves the biggest screen  you can find. Come back and let me know what you think.

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Watch Hiddleston, Chastain, & Wasikowska in the Eerie 1st Trailer for Crimson Peak!

Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, movie, gothic horror, poster

At last we have have the creepy first trailer for director Guillermo del Toro’s eagerly awaited Crimson Peak!

The production has been shrouded in secrecy. For over a year all we knew was that it went into production shortly after Pacific Rim finally wrapped, and del Toro cast one of his stars from that film, Charlie Hunnam, in this new one. Oh, and it’s a horror movie. That fact alone, coupled with the  name of the visionary director responsible for the multi-Academy Award nominated fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth as well as the Hellboy films, was enough to send fanboys into a frenzy of ever-more impatient speculation. Then he cast three of the best actors working today, and whose careers were already white-hot: Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska.  Suddenly it wasn’t just the fanboys chomping at the bit for news, although del Toro used San Diego Comic Con to effectively “launch” the film, revealing sets and costumes.  The director described the film as a “hardcore…gothic romance with supernatural elements”.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.

The film is set in Victorian-era England and Hiddleston is the charismatic suitor, Sir Thomas Sharpe, who sweeps writer Edith Cushing (Wasikowska)  off  her feet and takes her back to his ancestral home, Crimson Peak, where she encounters his jealous sister Lady Lucille (Chastain), as well as the family ghosts and skeletons.  Take a look:

Hunnam plays Dr. Alan McMichael. The rest of the cast includes Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope, Doug Jones, Bruce Gray, Jim Beaver and Emily Coutts.

Legendary and del Toro are hard at work on Pacific Rim 2 (One of 27 films in various stages of development on del Toro’s slate, inluding new versions of Frankenstein as well as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it’s due in 2017). I’m sure Legendary hopes that Crimson Peak will pump some cash into their coffers after the dismal failure of Seventh Son (what the hell was Julianne Moore thinking??).  The film doesn’t open until October 16, so we still have quite a few months to wait, and I’m sure we’ll get a few more trailers before then, in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it bowed during Cannes or TIFF Midnight screenings. But ultimately it means we will finally have a worthy fright-fest in time for Halloween.

 

 

*Total Film

Stoker: The Latest Hitchcock Homage

Stoker poster - Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode

In 2012 there were two movies based on the life of master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. The first was “The Girl”, a made-for-HBO flick that focused on Hitchcock’s relationship with Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds and later, Marnie. The second was simply titled, Hitchcock, and it focused more on the director’s relationship with his wife Alma Reveille during the making of Psycho.

Hitchcock, arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and his work continue to fascinate audiences and influence other movie makers nearly thirty-three years after his death.

The latest quasi-homage is Korean director Chan-wook Park’s  (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) long awaited English-language debut, the ultra-creepy Stoker, which bowed at Sundance at the end of January. Reactions seemed to be generally enthusiastic with little gray area. Screeners either loved it or hated it. Variety, for one, loved it, calling Stoker a  “…splendidly demented gumbo of Hitchcock thriller, American Gothic fairy tale and a contemporary kink all Park’s own…”  The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde however, calls it “silly melodrama” and “self-parody”.  Having just seen it for myself, I think that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Stoker is a tale of psychological as well as physical terror that follows India Stoker, played  by a brilliant Mia Wasikowska, an introverted young girl (woman?) whose personal and sexual awakening arrives with the unraveling of a macabre family mystery involving the death of her beloved father “by a cruel twist of fate” and the arrival of her seemingly charming uncle (Matthew Goode).  It’s a sort of Gothic version of “Hamlet” with India as both the Danish prince and Ophelia, since as soon as Charlie arrives he appears to start to romance her mother Evie (Nicole Kidman).

First-time screenwriter Wentworth Miller (yes, that Wentworth Miller), admits to having been influenced not only by  Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” but by Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.  His script landed on the 2010 Black List*

Take a look at the first domestic  trailer:

Before we even see her, we hear Kidman’s sigh, followed by scenes of idyllic family life as she begins, “You know I’ve often wondered why it is we have children and the conclusion I’ve come to is we want someone to get it right this time. But not me.” Then we see her face, “Personally, speaking I can’t wait to watch life tear you apart,” That is one hell of a (terrifying) opening.

I think the UK trailer manages to outcreep that one.  If the domestic version made it seem like Kidman was the villainess, this one puts that into doubt and emphasizes how truly bizarre Wasikowska’s India actually is:

Park is known for gore, shocking twists and expressive visuals. A film maker as non-conventional as he is would appear to be taking a step toward the conventional with Stoker given the increased budget and big name Western cast, but it’s a baby step. The visuals, including the fast forward and stop-motion photography and the flashbacks that melt in and out of the present and the future, are impressive as well as expressive.  It’s rife with symbolism (flowers and India’s shoes, the spider that disappears under the hem of her skirt, the repeated close-ups of eggs) Park’s affinity for Hitchcock is obvious. He’s said that his interest in film making started with Vertigo. There can be no mistaking the references to not only Shadow of a Doubt, Goode’s character is “Uncle Charlie” after all, but he also bears physical resemblance to the star of Rope and Strangers on a Train, Farley Granger.  Costume designer’s Kurt & Bart had to have had not only the lanky build of both actors, but the sophisticated style of the costumes from both of those earlier films, in mind when clothing Goode. The movie looks at once modern and dated. It’s apparent that it’s set in the present, but is somehow askew. The people, places and things all seem like they come from an earlier time. The gorgeous (yet slightly crumbling) family manse is another character in the film and emphasizes the isolation and alienation of the people living in it.

There were all sorts of rumors surrounding the casting of this film. Every young actress in Hollywood was considered before Wasikowska got the role of India. At one time Clive Owen, Joel Edgerton and Michael Fassbender were attached as Charlie. Colin Firth was announced, but dropped out and Goode replaced him. I almost wish I didn’t know that as I watched the trailers. I couldn’t help but imagine what any of those actors would be like in the role. Watching the finished product however, none of them came to mind. Goode’s seductive Uncle Charlie more than made up for his lackluster Ozymandias (Watchmen). Kidman, no stranger to making eclectic films with some of the world’s most brilliant and controversial directors, beginning with Gus Van Sant (To Die For), Jane Campion (Portrait of a Lady), Lars von Trier (Dogville) to Lee Daniels (Paperboy), plays Evie Stoker as wound tighter than a drum. But while you think you know her at the beginning of the film, your perceptions will be turned on their head by the end of it.

The supporting cast is steller as well. Dermot Mulroney appears as the deceased Stoker patriarch.  Jacki Weaver, Oscar nominated for Animal Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook is ill-fated Aunt Gwen. Alden Ehrenreich, who can be seen in Beautiful Creatures and Lucas Till from X-Men: First Class also appear.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Aunt Gwen is “ill-fated” since that’s pretty much given away in the trailer, but I will say that this movie has a high body-count. Take a closer look at that poster up top. The three attractive actors look like a prettier version of the Addams Family. It certainly emphasizes the “American Gothic” aspect that Variety mentioned. (“Do N0t Disturb the Family”? How about the rest of us?) What saves a film chock full of images including blood-spattered wild flowers, ritualistic bonfires, clandestine burials and actors who all look like they are both driving someone and being driven mad, from tipping over into the land of either full-on gruesome or parody is the feeling they’re all in on the joke.  As the tension mounts and more of Charlie’s motivations as well as modus operandi are revealed along with India’s less than typical reactions to them, the film walks the tightrope between suspense and camp mostly by virtue of the terrific performances from the three leads.

In one of the film’s best and most powerful scenes, Uncle Charlie joins India at the piano. We’ve already seen him “playing with” her mother, tentatively. She thinks she’s “teaching him”.  Charlie and India, however, play a complex and hypnotic duet that is clearly meant to suggest something besides piano playing. (The duet composed by Philip Glass for the film is stunning. Wasikowska took three months of intensive lessons to believably play it onscreen.) The next thing we know she’s out trying to seduce the local bad boy. Their date does not go well. India ends up in the shower in a scene that dissolves from Hitchcockian to DePalma-esque.

Nothing ever happens exactly like you think it will (or like the trailers and tv spots have led you to believe that they will.) The characters aren’t exactly likeable so we never really root for anyone, although I did “like” the ending. I can understand how some viewers would think the whole thing adds up to a visually exciting mess, but I can also side with those who thought it was brilliant fun. Park Chan-wook isn’t going to be everyone’s cuppa in any language (I’m looking forward to seeing what Spike Lee does with the American remake of Oldboy). I don’t think Stoker is a film I need to add to my collection, but I did enjoy it while I was watching it, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. While I don’t usually give a recommendation quite so ambivalent, I can recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of the original master, Alfred Hitchcock.

*An annual list of the best unproduced scripts circulating in Hollywood. See 2010’s here and marvel at how many you recognize as having been made since.

Michael Fassbender is Gonna Suck…Blood

Some good news for a Monday: The invasion of Hollywood blood suckers continues and no, I don’t mean agents. I’m referring, of course to vampires, which have gone from hot to ubiquitous in recent years. Proving as resilient as Dracula himself, there is apparently no end to the inventive permutations the fanged -ones lend themselves to.

Aside from the classical, Victorian image of the suave and sexy Count in perpetual fancy dress (Frank Langella in 1979’s Dracula still makes my knees weak), over the years there have been pretty, brooding vampires (Interview with the Vampire from 1994, Dracula 2000 and all of the Twilight films), space vampires (1985’s Lifeforce), MMA Ninja vampires (the Blade Trilogy), trailer trash vampires (1987’s Near Dark), lesbian vampires (2009 Vampire Killers), dominatrix-lesbian vampires (1983’s The Hunger – anyone remember the short-lived offshoot tv series in 1997?) Speaking of tv, there are the Cajuns of "True Blood" and the Abercrombie & Fitch models of "The Vampire Diaries" (and don’t get me started on the original British version of "Being Human’s" Aidan Turner-holy schnikey!)

While the emo kids of the Twilight Series might be fading into the sunset, (or is it dawn?) we have the quasi-historical stylings of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, to look forward to next year. (I am looking forward to it-it has such a crazy cast that I just have to see it. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln?) Just when it seemed the craze had wound down and played itself out, we get news that two of film’s most iconoclastic directors, Neil Jordan and Jim Jarmusch, both have vampire-themed pics in the pipeline.

The Hollywood Reporter announced last week that Jordan has cast Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as mother and daughter (!!) vampires in Byzantium from a script by Jane Eyre scribe Moira Buffini.

Yesterday it was announced that Jarmusch will make an as yet untitled vampire love story. What really has my socks rolling up and down about this news is that he has reportedly cast Michael Fassbender (rapidly becoming the hardest working man in show biz-and yes, I said that too. Get used to it) as a freakin’ VAMPIRE! "Uncle Peter! My smelling salts!"* Oh yeah, and Tilda Swinton and Mia Wasikowska will be in it too. Needless to say, I will be keeping a close eye on more news about this one.

Filming will reportedly begin in early 2012.

*with a tip o’ the pin to Margaret Mitchell and a wink to KB

Part Deux: Dance of the Demented Poodle

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…or “Popcorn for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”

When I started the post about four films worth seeing that were all opening on the same weekend, I really hadn’t intended to see them all on that same weekend.  The project sort of took shape of its own volition and I felt compelled to see it through.

One of my very good friends and I used to do movie marathons on occasion and I think our record was six. In one day. We’d study the logistics and map out the theaters and show times as well as timing our travels around the city with the precision of a general leading an invading army into battle.  I also know that there are bigger, more well-traveled, more extensively-read bloggers than I who regularly attend something called the annual “Butt-Numb-a-Thon”, where they watch movies for 24 hours straight. My point is, it was certainly no hardship to see four films in a weekend. I don’t regret spending my weekend at the movies.  I just didn’t get much else accomplished that’s all. Oh well.

First up, on Friday night, was Limitless.

It is an entertaining film as long as the viewer is able to check the 20% of their own brain currently in use at the door. There are some serious plot holes and some threads that are just left flapping in the breeze, however, it’s also a lot of fun if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bradley Cooper must have been sleeping with Director of Photography, Jo Willems.  He looks fantastic in this movie. The camera certainly makes good use of the actor’s amazing eyes.  There are lots of closeups. It’s also worth noting how much better looking he gets, the smarter he gets. As if it’s not enough that with the drug there are no limits (Limitless, get it?) to what he can do and achieve with his brain, we have to add sex into the mix or else it’s all for naught. (Apparently the filmmakers are unclear on the concept that smart and talented is sexy.)

Willems certainly wasn’t sleeping with Anna Friel. In her first scenes (which are flashbacks) I thought I was looking at Evangeline Lilly before I remembered Friel was in the movie. By the time she shows up again, she is truly unrecognizable. I know it was makeup, but sheesh. (Either that or the dissolution of her long-time relationship with David Thewlis has REALLY taken its toll!)

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Johnny Whitworth gets the Mark Strong Award for “Good Actors Cast in Tiny Parts in Big Movies”. And in this film, Friel shares it with him. I’ve been waiting for Whitworth to break out since The Rainmaker. Still waiting.  I’m hoping this will also lead to bigger things for Friel. “Pushing Daisies” was terrific, but it ended over two years ago. She’s also in the much anticipated (by me) London Boulevard. Hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

I loved Andrew Howard’s Russian gangster. A lot of the reviews I’ve read seem to be saying that an old school villain like Gennedy has no place in a movie like this, with such a modern premise.  I disagree.  Considering how he became involved with Morra, I think what came next is entirely plausible (within the unplausible context of this story.) Granted, I do have to agree that more could have been done with the character and his relationship to Cooper’s, but this wasn’t his story. And if you’re going on the ride at all, you have to be prepared to endure the bumps.

I have to say DeNiro is more DeNiro than we’ve seen in a long time, but he’s still not as DeNiro as he could have been. This was the DeNiro of Righteous Kill not Heat (to contrast two films with both DeNiro and Pacino).  Regardless, he’s always a joy to watch.

Abbie Cornish was underutilized. JMHO, but anyone could have played Lindy. Maybe you disagree.

I really enjoyed the trippy techno soundtrack music. I think I’ll have to see the movie again before I decide whether or not to add it to my collection.

I have to say, Roger Ebert summed up Limitless perfectly: “{It} only uses 15, maybe 20 percent of its brain. Still, that’s more than a lot of movies do.” I recommend it, although it will lose nothing in the translation from big screen to home viewing.

On Saturday morning, me and a handful of geeks bounced into the theater to see Paul. I’m quite sure some of them had already seen it at least once. The excitement in the air was tangible. The movie did not disappoint. It was, in a word, hilarious. The script, co-written by its two stars, must have contained a reference to every sci-fi movie made in the last 30+ years. (I’m sure I missed some of the references and will have to see it again if I hope to catch them all.) Filming part of the movie at Comic Con (and indeed using it as the jumping off point for the plot) was inspired. It was obviously a labor of love and a valentine of sorts to comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds.

Seth Rogan as the voice of Paul, is pitch perfect. I honestly can’t remember when, since "Freaks and Geeks", that I’ve enjoyed a performance of his more.  It’s also evident in his voice that he was enjoying himself as well. Indeed, it looked to me like everyone involved was having a great time. Perhaps that’s because I was following Simon Pegg’s Tweets while they were making the film, but I don’t think so.  I suspect there will be one hell of a blooper reel on the dvd (or at least I hope so.)

I’m trying to remember a comedy team with which to compare Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Their timing can be compared to Abbot and Costello or Martin and Lewis, and Nick Frost certainly has the sweet charm of a Lou Costello or 50’s era Jerry Lewis, but Simon Pegg is nowhere near as arch as Bud Abbott or as suave as Dean Martin. Over the course of three films and a television series, their chemistry has not been diluted at all, probably owing to the fact that they are close friends. Some of the best laughs in Paul come from just a look or a tilt of the head between them. Indeed, the bromance is at the heart of the film. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, it is also very sweet, in an ET kind of way, as well as a ‘we all have to grow up sometime and realize our true potential’ kind of way.

While I don’t remember most of the soundtrack, I will say it was nice to hear some ELO again.

I recommend this one as well and again, I don’t think it will lose much in the translation to home viewing.

After the credits rolled on Paul, I went immediately in to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

The opening credits of a film should be used to set the tone for the movie, but rarely are they to such good effect as for this film.  We get our first taste of the incredible 70’s flavored R & B soundtrack that is to come and the bold graphics reminded me of countless movies from the 70’s from Shaft to Death Wish to Prime Cut. I even got a bit of an Across 110th Street vibe, although that one is set in New York and this is totally an LA movie.

I’ve read a couple of references in reviews of this movie to both The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould and Twilight (Not the one with the vampire angst, the one with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and James Garner.)

The former is an updated (at the time) take on Raymond Chandler from the 70’s in which Gould played Philip Marlowe and the latter is about an aging ex-cop turned PI. It was made in the late 90’s, but they share a "feel" with this movie. It was definitely this particular flavor of LA that the director was going for.

I knew nothing of Brad Furman before this film and judging from his CV on imdb, there’s not much to know. I’m not sure what anyone saw in him to make them think he was capable of making a multi-million dollar movie, let alone one with any nuance, but, JMHO, I think their faith was justified. I really like what he did with this. 

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The story itself was one you’d think would be more at home on the mean streets of New York, but instead they used LA (because the writer of the books did, I realize) and made it almost another character.

The color palette was very muted, almost washed out. This was the LA where ordinary people live and work. As McConaughey’s character Mick Haller rolled down the streets in his late model Lincoln, he did so past railroad tracks and cement gulleys (like in To Live and Die in LA) or small houses.  It was all very sun bleached, not quite seedy, but by no means glamorous. (I actually think the house in the hills in which Haller lived was used in Twilight, although I won’t swear that was the film.) They seemed to be using natural lighting.  Everyone, with the exception of the preternaturally cool Ryan Phillippe’s character, had a sheen of sweat that would come from existing in the heat of Southern California.

I can never get enough of William H. Macy. He’s one of the most talented actors alive and when he shows up looking like he could be Easy Rider-era Dennis Hopper’s younger brother, you know you’re in for a treat. He’s not on screen for nearly long enough. The same can be said of Michael Pena and John Leguizamo, who tones down the crazy in this one. Speaking of toning down the crazy, Frances Fisher finally dimmed her hair color so she looks less frightening. Ironic.

Uber-Douche played an Uber-Douche (although to be fair he was also a sociopath. Not sure if he is in real life or not.) I suppose I ought not to continue to refer to Ryan Phillippe in this manner, but I thought I should carry it through from my last post. I just don’t get his appeal. What was “pretty” in his 20s is now just “soft” in his 30s, and it’s just too much and yet not enough for me to take seriously.

I do have to say, that Marisa Tomei looks incredible. Better than she did at 25. As an actress, she’s light years from where she was at 25 or even 29 (when she won an Oscar.)

That funky soundtrack is worth coming back to. There are some original classics, some remixes and some that were complete modern remakes and they all completely jibe with the film; a soundtrack in the truest sense. In any case, I will be adding it to my collection.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey went a long way toward redemption in my eyes with this one. Speaking of eyes, one of the things he’s always done really well is to let his emotions play through his and he uses that talent to good effect here. Even before this movie was finished, I was thinking about how I wanted more of this character.  This felt like it was somewhere in the middle of the series and I know that there are many more books featuring Mickey Haller. I want to know how he got where he was and where he’s going next. I wouldn’t mind seeing this become a franchise, as long as they continue to do them right.

The Lincoln Lawyer was not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Finally, on Sunday morning, came the film that I was undoubtedly looking forward to the most: Jane Eyre.

Oh, Focus Features, I forgive you for so shamelessly toying with me. Your film was well worth the enhanced anticipation you created by making me wait an additional week and in fact, you had me at the title card.

Cary Fukunaga, with all of two major films on his resume has positioned himself to be a cinematic force to be reckoned with. It’s staggering, considering how young he is, to think of the career that is ahead of him. Back-handing away any notion of a sophomore slump, he followed up the beautiful Sin Nombre with the equally beautiful and haunting Jane Eyre. On the surface, these two films could not be more different, but at their core they are both about the fragility and resilience of the human spirit. Fukunaga has created a film as beautifully and deftly as any old world master would put paint to canvas.

I’ve seen many versions of this story and they all have something to recommend them. This one is my new favorite.  Screenwriter Moira Buffini’s choice to land us in the middle of the story and use flashback to fill in the gaps helped to make it seem fresh. It was the most atmospheric and gothic production, although two recent BBC versions came close, that I can recall. It was again augmented by the use of natural light, which in those days meant a few candles and a hearth.  When Jane creeps through the dark hallways of Thornefield Hall holding a single candle, we only see as much as she sees, all of us waiting for something to jump out of the darkness. There is an instance where the entire audience did jump and it happens in broad daylight (well, as broad as it gets in the north of England,) but I won’t spoil it here.

The chemistry between the two leads was palpable from their first exchange. When they are onscreen together, everything and everyone else falls away. This scene that I showed you a few weeks ago, encapsulates all of that (and would have shown again if my post weren’t "too big".)

What I said at the time,This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.”

I thought I was prepared. I thought I’d seen it so often that the magic had worn off, that I couldn’t possibly “feel it” the way I did the first time I saw it. I was wrong. Think about the frame of that scene a thousand times larger, with that voice booming out in Dolby THX (or whatever the hell the sound system at your local theater is)…imagine that and you’ll begin to get an inkling. It not only still took my breath away, but it rocked me to my toes. It was quite simply…erotic. Considering that the participants were both fully clothed and only their hands touched, that’s saying something.

Beyond all of that, (and frankly because of all that, Fassbender and Wasikowska could have been acting on a bare stage,) the English country side was used to spectacular effect. Just as LA became another character in The Lincoln Lawyer, so did the moors of northern England in Jane Eyre. It is easy to forget that England is geographically such a small country when there seem to be so many vast areas that appear to remain untouched, natural and wild and mostly uninhabited. In the film, as in the novel, the harsh landscape is a reflection of Jane’s life. We see it flower and bloom very briefly when Jane does, but for the most part it is harsh and unyielding.

The supporting cast, led by Dame Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell as St.John Rivers, is all marvelous, as is befitting a movie made in a country where it appears every one of its citizens lives to act.

I must also mention the score by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli. (He won in ’07 for Atonement and was nominated for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.) Gorgeous, just gorgeous. Actually, lush is a better word.  It’s not too early for me to predict another nomination.

JMHO, but the entire thing was utterly swoon-worthy and I can’t wait to see it again. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this one and I’d go so far as to say, see it, if at all possible, on the big screen. It will no doubt play well at home, but the sight and sound of 10 ft. tall Fassbender is worth the price of the ticket.

May I also just reiterate what a joy it is to see a movie at an art-house where only adults go to see movies? Not only were there people waiting for the doors to open for the first showing of the day (and not just for Jane Eyre, but obscure films like Poetry,) but inside the theater you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire movie. (Unlike Limitless where I had to endure the five kids from the nearby technical high school that acted like they were on a field trip and came in 15 min. in, parked themselves next to me in the front row and proceeded to talk to the screen and to each other the entire time. Between them and the transient loudly SNORING at the end of the row, you people are lucky you didn’t see me on the news.)

Thus endeth my weekend at the movies.

As always, thanks for reading. Next up, Win Win on Wednesday night!

“Ohhh Rochester…” Another Fassbender Post

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I like my books a little hard boiled, a little rough around the edges, if you will, but if I have to read a ‘romance novel’, I prefer the classics. 

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I tend to gravitate toward what are known as ‘Byronic heroes’ like  Captain Wentworth in “Persuasion” by Jane Austen, Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”,  Dorian Gray from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, and Steerforth from Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield.” And then, of course, there is Edward Rochester from Charlotte Bronte’s  Jane Eyre”

“Jane Eyre” has been filmed many, many times (the first dates back to 1910) and unlike some other translations of novel to screen, there have been many excellent adaptations, including but not limited to Robert Stevenson’s film from 1943 with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine as well as Franco Zefferelli’s 1996 version featuring William Hurt and the underrated Charlotte Gainsbourg. Anna Pacquin played the young Jane.

When I heard that there was to be yet another cinematic retelling of this classic novel, my first reaction was to wonder whether or not we really needed one.  We just had the PBS/BBC co-production in 2006 with the great Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson (“Luther”). And after the last one that I saw, 1997’s BBC adaptation starring Ciaran Hinds as Rochester and Samantha Morton as Jane, (which in turn followed closely on the heels of the Zefferelli film)  I thought ,“That’s it. Hinds is the definitive Rochester. I’m done, show me no more.”

…and then Cary Fukunaga had to go and cast Michael Fassbender. Oh my sweet hell…

 

Moviefone exclusive clip:

If this scene is indicative of the rest of the movie, then the film will be absolutely pitch perfect. Watch it again…notice the way that they inch toward each other…

 (Actual conversation between me and one of my besties:

KB: How did she pull away???? She’s a better woman than me…

 Me: I don’t know. I mean, I know it’s acting, but still! A will of iron!

 KB: You MUST lean toward the screen, hoping to get to his mouth

 Me: Or at least hoping Jane will…     I think part of it is that Fassbender doesn’t appear to be that much "larger" than Jane and then there’s that voice. You don’t expect that voice…

 KB: No you don’t, but WE knew it was there…)

This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.

Sure, those of us who are followers of Mr. Fassbender’s work have seen it. We saw it in doomed Esme1, in (again doomed) young Stelios2, in Lt. Archie Hickox3,  (What is it with the dying?) There were hints in Connor in Andrea Arnold’s brilliant Fishtank, but while brimming with sexual magnetism, he was at the very least a cad, at worst a predator. It was there in Azazeal from “Hex”, but he was, you know, Satan. (Byronic heroes are supposed to be, like Byron himself “mad, bad and dangerous to know”4, but that’s taking things to an extreme.)  

I submit the closest we’ve gotten, to this point, was Thomas Rainsborough in 2008’s mini-series “The Devil’s Whore.” (If in doubt, watch episode 4. It’s on youtube,) but Fassbender fans have never seen him play a romantic hero like this.

We have been waiting for a role like Edward Rochester. 

Rochester is stern and not particularly handsome, but he and Jane are kindred spirits. He is the first person in the novel to offer Jane lasting love and a real home. Although he is Jane’s social and economic superior, (men were widely considered to be naturally superior to women in the Victorian period) Jane is Rochester’s intellectual equal and moral superior. He is a true ‘Byronic hero’.

 

The Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following traits:

  • Arrogance
  • intelligence and perception
  • cunning and adaptability
  • suffering from an unnamed crime
  • a troubled past
  • sophisticated and educated
  • self-critical and introspective
  • mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
  • struggles with integrity
  • possesses the power of seduction and sexual attraction
  • exhibits social and sexual dominance
  • emotionally conflicted, moody, perhaps even bi-polar
  • a distaste for social institutions and norms
  • is an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
  • disrespect of rank and privilege
  • jaded, world-weary
  • cynicism
  • self-destructive behavior

Three of my favorite actors, Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy and yes, Michael Fassbender can tick off a great many traits on this list, which is undoubtedly part of why I’m drawn to them.  In a bit of verisimilitude, Hardy has played Heathcliffe. Butler, the titular role in The Phantom of the Opera, (which although it’s not my favorite among the characters that he has played, it does fit the bill to a tee.) Now Fassbender has Rochester. 

Jane Eyre would seem to be an odd choice for wunderkind Cary Fukunaga’s second feature film. His first, 2009’s Sin Nombre, was nominated for and won numerous festival and critics association awards, but nothing about it suggests that its director was ready to deliver a fresh, sexy, nuanced take on a classic of Victorian ‘chick-lit.’

Based on a trailer and two clips, Australian actress Mia Wasikowska looks to become the definitive Jane Eyre. Physically she’s perfect; frail and small one moment, but hinting at an inner strength. Plain enough to appear ordinary and then beautiful with the transforming power of love. She may have a difficult name, but she is one of a crop of current ‘IT girls’, and an extremely talented one. Since appearing as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, she’s played one of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s kids in The Kids Are Alright and in addition to Jane Eyre, she has two other completed films due for release in 2011 and is currently filming The Wettest County in the World with Tom Hardy.

As for Michael Fassbender, I’ve talked about him a lot on this blog. (Hit his tag on the left and the posts will come up.) He is already “obsessed over by cool people”5, and I’d like to think I can count myself in that number. His Rochester will become just another arrow in his artistic quiver. It may not even be the most interesting performance we see from him this year, since he’s already got Carl Jung (David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method) and Magneto under his belt.

Jane Eyre is released in the US on 11 March 2011.

Official site: trailers.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/janeeyre/

(trailer and clips can be found here)

ivillage exclusive clip: www.ivillage.com/exclusive-clip-jane-eyre/1-h-321698

1.       Francoise Ozon’s Angel, 2007

2.      Zack Snyder’s 300, 2007

3.      Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, 2009

4.      Lady Caroline Lamb

5.      Nathaniel Rogers, TheFilmExperience.net 10 February 2011

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Speaking of Magneto…

I never saw any of the other X-Men films, although I tried to watch the Hugh Jackman prequel Wolverine (operative word being "tried"). I’ll see X-Men:First Class for two reasons 1. Matthew Vaughn, director of Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass. We love Matthew Vaughn  and 2. Michael Fassbender.  "Peace was never an option."  *shudder…thud*

Here’s the trailer along with commentary by Fassbender and MTV’s Josh Horowitz


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In other news, it has been confirmed that The Weinstein Co. has indeed purchased the US distribution rights for Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus! As I’ve already postulated, this really bodes well for the film’s prospects.