Watch the Brilliant First Clips from #Macbeth with #MichaelFassbender!

Macbeth, Michael Fassbender, movie, poster, Marion Cotillard, Justin Kurzel, Shakespeare, Scottish play

Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth will have its (eagerly awaited) world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow (May 23), as the final film in the main competition. (Bit of trivia. While it’s the third* film version of Shakespeare’s play to appear in Cannes, it is  the first to screen in competition.)

To celebrate, StudioCanal has just released two clips. At the risk of appearing to be a Fassbender fan site (since my last post was also about a Fassy film. What can I say, he’s about to have a HUGE year), I have to share them. Sweet baby jeebus, please let the rest of this film look as good as these tiny snippets!

The first clip, the appropriately titled “Battle” shows Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, with his friend and ally, Banquo (Paddy Considine) on one side and Jack Reynor as Malcolm on the other, as they prepare to fight in service of their king, Duncan (played by David Thewlis).

The mist shrouded Scottish Highlands are certainly used to good effect. The clip also reminds us that in those days, if you were tall enough to hold a sword, you were old enough to fight, as there seem to be a lot of teenage boys in the mix. As for the style, personally I can’t wait to see more. I like Kurzel’s choice to intercut the adreneline fueled, angry rush of one fighting force toward the other, with a silent, slow-motion, almost balletic clash. A battle scene shot like that (which, granted has been used poorly in less subtle ways since Zack Snyder made it popular with 300. I don’t anticipate cartoonish splatters of blood to fill the screen) makes the fight more personal, the combatants rendered individually rather than an angry, noisy clash of swords and bodies, where it’s impossible to tell who’s doing what to whom.

Speaking of 300, is it just me or is Fassbender’s leap an Easter Egg for fans who remember Stelios’ athleticism?

Stelios, 300, Michael Fassbender, Macbeth, photo, athleticism

The second clip, “Coronation” gives us a brief glimpse of the gorgeous (even under a veil) Marion Cotillard as Lady M, Sean Harris as Macduff and Elizabeth Debicki as his lady:

Even in that brief look, it’s clearly evident that the Macduffs are not happy with the precedings. But the biggest take-away for me is that stunning opening shot to this clip. I have rewatched it several times now and I’m just in awe of the way Kurzel and his director of photography, Adam Arkapaw (who worked with the director on The Snowtown Murders**), used the rays of the sun streaming through the cathedral windows to such great effect. They create a cross-hatch pattern that naturally blurs the background which makes the figures surrounding the throne stand-out in bas relief, despite the fact that they are in shadow.

Both of these snippets are short, but full of foreboding, the tension high, especially in the latter.

Macbeth, a duke of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Macbeth will get a UK release on October 2 (which curiously predates the opening of the BFI London Film Festival by five days. This seems like a natural choice. Oh well. No one asked me.). No US dates announced yet, but Harvey Weinstein won a bidding war for the rights and he’s already said he’s positioning it for an awards season push. Expect it in November or December.

*after 1971’s version directed by Roman Polanski and director Claude d’Anna‘s French version in 1987.

**The Snowtown Murders is on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

There’s More to Life Than Just Surviving in New UK Trailer for #SlowWest w #MichaelFassbender

Slow West, movie, poster, trailer, Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, John Maclean

This new trailer, just released to flog the UK release of first-feature director John Maclean‘s Slow West, is a lot more revealing, despite its short length, than the domestic version we got last month.

This time around we get Michael Fassbender‘s voice-over, as well as a better look at Ben Mendelsohn (always a good thing) and a brief glimpse of Rory McCann.

The story is a sort of Old West Romeo and Juliet/classic western mashup that sees Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Jay Cavendish travel to the American west of the late 19th century from his native Scotland, all to find the girl he loves (Caren Pistorius), whose father (McCann) has spirited her away. Of course, Cavendish is the proverbial fish out of water, stranger in a strange land, take your pick, in need of his own rescue. Enter Silas (Fassbender – who also produced, and developed the script with Maclean), who becomes his mysterious “chaperone”.

Ben Mendelsohn, doing one of the things he does so very well, is the villain of the piece. (Or at least one of them. Maybe the one who fits most squarely into that box.)

Far from giving everything away, the trailer gives us just enough new material to keep not only keep our interest piqued, but makes us eager for more. Fassbender’s performance has been compared to Clint Eastwood (of whom he’s a huge fan) as well as Burt Lancaster, both favorably I might add. Not sure I see either of those two, yet, but I can’t wait to judge for myself. A24 will release Slow West, which premiered in January at Sundance, in the US this coming Friday, May 15 (limited) and on 26th June in the UK.

“The Law Is Shot to Hell” Watch 1st Trailer for #SlowWest with #MichaelFassbender

Slow West, Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Mclean, western, Ben Mendelsohn, Rory McCann

Sundance Film Festival poster for Slow West

It has been clear since the days of Jonah Hex, that any western which included Michael Fassbender would not be your typical “oater” or “horse opera” in the vein John Wayne or even Gary Cooper (super duper! C’mon, you know you totally heard Peter Boyle in your head). This would have been true of Jane Got Her Gun, if he’d stayed with the project, and it’s certainly true of Slow West. We’d had hints of its  unconventional nature from the few stills released following the film’s debut at Sundance, but now we have proof with the first trailer.

The film is writer/director John Mclean‘s feature debut after having helmed a few well-received shorts including Man On a Motorcycle and Pitch Black Heist, also starring Fassbender. In Slow West he plays Silas, a “mysterious drifter” who throws in with a 16 year-old Scottish immigrant (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The kid, in true knight errant fashion, is on a quest to find his lady love (Caren Pistorius), whose father (Rory McCann) has spirited her off to the wilds of the American west.

Despite the fact that Fassbender is playing a sort of outlaw Friar Laurence to this 19th century Romeo and Juliet, it would appear that the film is still awash with grubby, saddle-sore villains as well. The always fantastic Ben Mendelsohn (I remember when I saw Animal Kingdom for the first time. Joel Edgerton was already making a name for himself, but everything else I read said that James Frecheville* would be the break-out star. No one predicted it would be Mendelsohn who is suddenly required to be in all the movies. And have you seen “Bloodline” on Netflix?  Do it! Now! As usual I digress.) as Payne, the leader of a gang of money-hungry, cold-blooded bounty hunters, is one such character.  The actor apparently took a shine to Payne’s furry coat. He wore it to the Sundance premiere.

Take a look at this:

trailer via JoBlo

Those lucky enough to have already seen the movie have raved about Mclean’s debut, calling it a fairy tale about doomed romance and unlikely families, defined by its “sharp wit”, and “absurdist violence” remininscent of Tarantino.  When can I buy my ticket!

Produced by the team from The King’s Speech and Shame, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, among others, including Fassbender, Slow West moseys into the Tribeca Film Festival April 18. Its May 15 US opening doesn’t preclude a stop on the French Riviera first, so I wouldn’t be surprised if its included in the upcoming Cannes Film Festival lineup as well. The UK gets it on 26 June.

*last seen in The Drop with Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini

Jane Got A Gun and (FINALLY) a Release Date

Jane Got A Gun, Natalie Portman, movie, photo, Gavin O'Connor, Joel Edgerton

A film whose troubled beginnings will almost certainly overshadow its box-office, Jane Got A Gun, has finally been taken off the shelf and is set to be dusted off and released to US audiences in September (which could mean a festival bow at TIFF or Telluride).

In case you’re unfamiliar with “the saga of the making of Jane Got A Gun”, I’ll recap:

The screenplay was plucked from The Blacklist* back in 2011 and when production began it was originally set to star Natalie Portman as Jane Hammond and Michael Fassbender as her ex-lover Dan Frost and Joel Edgerton as villain John Bishop, with Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) at the helm. By what was to have been the first day of filming, Fassbender had already left, supposedly because delays had resulted in “scheduling conflicts”, Edgerton had taken Fassbender’s role with Jude Law as the bad guy. Then came reports that Ramsay had walked on that first day. It was weeks before anyone had a clue why and to this day, all anyone will say is “difficulties with producers” (one of whom, it’s worth mentioning, is Natalie Portman).

By the time cameras did eventually roll, the production had lost Law, because he only signed on to work with Ramsay,  who was replaced by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior). Law was replaced by Ewan McGregor.

Got it?

Anyway, to celebrate the fact that this potential cluster-fuck will finally see the light of day, Relativity (oh dear) has dropped these first-look images, which you can see below.

Young and pretty with a soul of pure steel, Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) is a good girl married to one of the worst baddies in town. When her husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) turns against his own gang, the vicious Bishop Boys, and returns home barely alive with eight bullets in his back, Jane knows it’s time to ditch the dress for a pair of pants and strap on her own gun. As the relentless leader John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) gears up for revenge, Jane’s best hope for her family’s survival rests with her old love Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) – a gunslinger whose hatred for Bill is only slightly overshadowed by his love for Jane. Together Jane and Dan spring clever traps, luring Bishop’s men to certain death just as their old feelings for each other resurface amidst the flying bullets.

So, what do you think? Will you see it? Does the back story make you any more or less curious about the end result?  For my part, I’m a fan of Gavin O’Connor’s work and he did have a talented cast to work with, regardless of how it was cobbled together. And at least he got to start at the beginning. It’s not like he had to step in mid-stream and finish another director’s work (regardless of how seamlessly he might have accomplished it because he’d probably be lambasted or it anyway *coughMichael Apted**cough*) It’s entirely possible that more films than we know go through similar machinations before they reach the finish line, just less publicly. I suppose I should wait for a trailer, but I’m in.

*The Blacklist is a database of the year’s best unproduced scripts. The list that included Jane Got A Gun also included The Imitation Game, Grace of Monaco, Django Unchained, St. Vincent de Van Nuys, Saving Mr. Banks and Sex Tape.  A lot can happen between the page and the screen.

 

**Chasing Mavericks

What I Missed on My Summer Vacation: Part 3- Michael Fassbender Edition

Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Slow West, movie, western, photo

Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee in a scene from John Maclean’s Slow West

A few years ago, it was announced that Michael Fassbender would appear opposite Natalie Portman in Lynne Ramsey’s western, Jane Got a Gun. Apparently Fassy has “Spidey-sense” as well as that shark-smile, since he bailed on that one rather early, avoiding the stampede for the exits. (For those that don’t know to what I refer, after Fassbender & Portman signed on, they were joined by Joel Edgerton for the 2nd male lead. When Fassbender left, Jude Law took his role. Then Law left and Edgerton stepped in. Then on the day filming was to start, Ramsey quit. That part of the story is still being adjudicated. The movie was eventually made by Gavin O’Connor – Edgerton’s Warrior director – but without Edgerton. The final cast included Portman, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, and Rodrigo Santoro but we’ve seen nary a trailer, and it’s being quietly dumped in the February wilderness of 2015. But I digress)

In any case, for those still desparate to see Michael Fassbender in a western, you’re in luck. He’s made Slow West out in the wilds of Scotland and New Zealand, for director John Mclean, who marks his feature film debut. (Mclean directed Fassbender and his Hunger and Centurion costar Liam Cunningham in the short Pitch Black Heist.) The film also stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In, The Road), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Killing Them Softly) and “The Hound” himself, Rory McCann.

17-year-old Jay Cavendish (Smit-McPhee) treks from the Scottish Highlands to the American West searching for his lady love. He pays a mysterious traveler called Silas, (Fassbender) to protect him.

The above image is the first official look at Fassbender and Smit-McPhee from the film. Look for the movie itself to hit one or many of the fall festivals. Hopefully trailers and release dates will appear as we get closer to Venice and TIFF and Telluride.

 

Frank, poster, movie, Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleason

Domestic poster for Lenny Abramson’s Frank with Michael Fassbender

I’ve been looking out for Frank since way back in November 2012 when filming began in Dublin and Bray before moving to New Mexico in January 2013. It finally premiered at Sundance 2014 (and was a big hit), and has played quite a few festivals since (include SXSW, which features in the film), so there are folks lucky enough to have seen it already, and they all seem to be heels over giant papier-mâché head for it. In addition to Michael Fassbender, the terrific ensemble cast includes Domhnall Gleason (to whom the standard response was “who?” when filming began), Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy.
Frank is the story of a wannabe rocker (Gleason), who talks his way into a band of misfits called the Soronprfbs, led by the titular Frank (Fassbender) who wears a giant fake head on his head, and holes up with them in a remote cabin to record an album.

Despite the fact that his famous face is hidden for the entire movie, Fassbender is winning rave reviews. Being forced to use his body alone to convey expression is apparently liberating rather than constraining. And though it is loosely based on the life of Frank Sidebottom, a giant head-wearing persona created by real English musician and comedy legend Chris Sievey, as well as other real musicians like Captain Beefheart, everything I’ve seen and heard points to Frank being a most refreshingly weird and original film.

Frank finally opens in the US on August 15th. (And once again, I am hopeful that that means in more cities than just NY and LA.) It’s already got a dvd/blu-ray release date for the UK of September 15, as well. In the meantime, take a look at the new images, trailer and the assembled clips below.

Domestic Trailer:

“How Long…”:

“Idiot Shriek”

“Welcoming Smile”:

“…Go With It”:

“…Punch You in the Face”:

“I Love You All”

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.