Watch: Russell Crowe Looks to Make a Splash with Directorial Debut, The Water Diviner

poster, Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner, movie, trailer
I can’t seem to finish the discussions of films I have actually seen because I’m constantly being distracted by teasers of what’s yet to come. *ooo shiny!*

The latest cinematic bauble to catch my eye is the first trailer for Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner.

The actor has been hard at work on the film for more than a year, but has managed to keep it pretty well under wraps, which makes this look at the some actual footage all the more enticing and exciting.

Crowe not only directs, but stars in the film as Connor, an Australian farmer who has sent three sons off to fight in “The Great War”. The film begins in 1919, almost three years since the Battle Of Gallipoli (the mere mention of which brings to mind images of a young Mel Gibson in Peter Weir’s fantastic film. It’s probably safe to assume that Crowe learned a thing or two from Weir). All three of his sons fought there, none of them came home. So Connor makes the trek to Turkey to find his missing boys.

The trailer leads us to believe that we’ll get flashbacks that will give us insight into Connor’s past relationships with his sons and why he’s compelled to make this trip. We also get flashes of their mother, Connor’s wife, played by Jacqueline McKenzie. It appears their relationship was a bit rocky, but it also appears that she was the final impetus for Connor’s journey. Which begs the question, is she alive or dead? Because it also seems like there will be some canoodling between Connor and whomever it is that is played by Olga Kurylenko. It’s obvious she figures into his quest in some way.

But enough of me, take a look at this:

JMHO, but based on this first trailer, Crowe has shown a surer hand on the tiller than a lot of his hyphenated peers *coughRyanGoslingcoughNicolasCagecoughMadonnacoughalthoughevencallingheranactorisastretch*. If the film is half as good as this self-assured trailer would suggest, it will be a lot closer to a Dances with Wolves or Braveheart than a W.E. or Lost River.

I love that Crowe decided his first time behind the camera should be a home-grown affair. It’s an Australian story, filmed primarily in Australia with an Australian cast and crew.

The screenplay was written by Andrew Knight, known primarily for Australian tv and Andrew Anastasios, a first-time scriptwriter. The cinematography, which the trailer teases exceptionally well, particularly with the shots of the sand storms, is by Andrew Lesnie, who has worked extensively with Peter Jackson, including all six of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings films. I expect great things. The score was composed by David Hirschfelder (Australia, The Railway Man, Elizabeth). The film costars Aussies Isabel Lucas, Ryan Corr and Jai Courtney.

The Water Diviner opens in Australian and New Zealand on December 26, and the UK on 23rd January, but no US dates yet. I have no doubt one will be forthcoming.

This featurette goes further to show Crowe’s ties to the material and what it means to him, and the Australian people as a whole.


Pierce Brosnan Back In Bond Mode *UPDATED with TRAILER*

Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, movie, still, The November Man

Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko in The November Man

An auspicious beginning, yes?

Pierce Brosnan stars in a new thriller, November Man, for his Dante’s Peak director, Roger Donaldson. Donaldson, director of The Bank Job with Jason Statham and No Way Out and Thirteen Days with Kevin Costner, usually knows his way around the genre, 2011’s Nic Cage opus Seeking Justice notwithstanding.

In November Man, Brosnan plays an ex-CIA operative who, just when he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in, for a very personal mission. He finds himself pitted against his former pupil (Luke Bracey) in a deadly game involving high level CIA officials and the Russian president-elect.

The film will also give US audiences a chance to get to know Bracey before the controversial (*eyeroll*) remake of Point Break, in which he’ll inhabit the wetsuit that used to belong to Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah.

As for Brosnan, it’s been twelve years since he hung up his tux and drained his last martini as James Bond in 2002’s Die Another Day.  He’s had a couple of action roles, like After the Sunset and Seraphim Falls, but nothing that makes use of his “particular set of skills”.  These first four just-released images give us a hint that agent Peter Devereaux might be a return to form. He’s even got a cool car!

Based on a novel by Bill Granger, with a screenplay by Michael Finch (Predators) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion), November Man costars Olga Kurylenko, Will Patton (No Way Out), Eliza Taylor and Bill Smitrovitch. Hopefully we’ll get a trailer soon, since the movie opens in the US on August 24.  Hey, by then we’ll be tired of the blockbusters and will be looking for something to tide us over before the Big Guns of Awards Season are rolled out. I’m in. How about you?

Spoke too soon! Here’s the first teaser trailer!

Looks like fun. JMHO


Centurion: Bloody Good Saturday Matinee!

I’ve seen it at last! “Centurion” has come to the booming metropolis that is Boston and is playing on exactly one screen (which is actually across the river in Cambridge.) At least it’s at the very cool eco-friendly, intellectually superior theater that gets all of the foreign and art-house flicks; the one frequented by adults who know how to behave at the cinema and without the sticky floors. Bonus! Yesterday afternoon, I made the pilgrimage. (Sorry Idris, you’ll have to wait until next week.)

As has already been documented on this blog, I’ve been looking forward to Centurion for quite some time and for a quite a few reasons. First, I’ve been a fan of Neil Marshall’s since 2002’s “Dog Soldiers”, not to mention I’m a huge fan of Michael Fassbender. I’m not going into a blow by blow or a typical review, but in mentioning Marshall’s first feature film I believe I’ve found a good jumping-off point.

I’ve mentioned Dog Soldiers before, in reference to where I first noticed Kevin McKidd. The film is a fresh take on the werewolf mythos that actually has a lot in common with Centurion. Both films are about the struggle of the underdog trapped behind enemy lines. In both cases, the “underdog” consists of the remains of what started out as a superior fighting force: in Dog Soldiers, a squad of highly trained British Army soldiers on tactical maneuvers in Scotland; in Centurion, an elite Legion of highly trained Roman soldiers, members of the occupying army in what would later become Scotland.

In both cases, we’re meant to root for the outnumbered few far from home whose only goal has become getting back to it, despite the fact that this cunning and resourceful handful was part of a larger force that was initially trying to wipe out the natives; (Even though in Dog Soldiers the natives were monstrous wolf-human hybrids and in Centurion they only painted their faces blue- they both were there first. Speaking of blue faces…I’m thinking this is where William Wallace got the idea. Or was it from Antoine Fuqua’s “Woads”*?) much the same way that we’re meant to root for the Cowboys vs the Indians in most American Westerns.

Centurion, just as Dog Soldiers was, is filled with Marshall’s trademark blood and gore plus the added bonus of the sounds of axe or sword crunching bone and spear piercing flesh. We also get the similar washed out color palette that makes everything seem that much more bleak and desolate and yet at the same time starkly beautiful, whether it’s the snow-capped Highlands or a Caledonian forest. (Actually the forests in the earlier film were in Luxembourg. I’m glad Marshall has graduated to using actual locations. Parts of The Descent and most of Doomsday were filmed in Scotland as well.)

Both films feature the great Liam Cunningham, (who also starred opposite Michael Fassbender in the exquisitely painful “Hunger”, as Fr. Moran) although unlike in Dog Soldiers, where his Capt. Ryan was a complete prick, he plays a veteran soldier with a sense of humor and capable of compassion, called ‘Brick.’

In fact there are darker takes on quite a few characters that first appeared in Dog Soldiers. “Spoonie” is replaced by Thax, Emma Cleasby’s Megan is replaced by Imogen Poots’ Arianne.

(Thax, Macros, Brick)

…wait…or is she replaced by Olga Kurylenko’s Etain? Elements of Megan’s story have been expanded and then divided up between these two characters. Having said that, I must point out that Etain is quite possibly the toughest, most ruthless female antagonist on film. If you throw in the fact that she does it all without saying a word, she wins hands down.

(Looks can be deceiving. There is nothing tender about what is going on here.)

Sean Pertwee’s Sgt Wells in Dog Soldiers is supplanted by Dominic West’s General Virilus. Both characters are “boysy” men’s men who command respect and inspire loyalty by being “of” their troops, not above them. Virilus is Wells on steroids.

I would have liked to have seen more of Dominic West’s General, but that’s purely selfish. This wasn’t his story. West did what was needed, which was to create a leader that the audience could believe would galvanize a small handful of soldiers into taking action on his behalf and set the plot in motion. Not only did he accomplish that (and look good doing it, even covered in blood and filth) in his few minutes onscreen, but his ‘presence’ permeated the rest of the film.

(Virilus-NOT moshing)

Which brings me to Michael Fassbender’s Quintus Dias. It is easy enough to compare this character to the luscious Kevin McKidd’s Cooper. Both characters exhibit resourcefulness and intelligence beyond their scripted stations. (Cooper is by rank a Private. Kept on the lowest rung of the ladder by his refusal to be blindly cruel for what he perceives to be the sake of it. Quintus is the son of a freed slave turned gladiator, but displays respect for his enemy by learning their language.) Both gain the trust of a local beauty, a loner either by choice or circumstance, who provides aid and comfort. Both characters are also the heart and soul of their respective films. If we don’t believe in either Cooper or Dias, we don’t believe in the road each man travels or care about the final result.

Again, Fassy’s character is a souped up version of his earlier counterpart. Physically, he takes much more of a beating than McKidd ever did, even in the latter’s climactic final fight scene.

(Fassbender didn’t look this buff in 300! Gaaaah!)

This film may not tax Fassbender’s acting muscles as much as it did his physical ones, but it may up his visibility quotient, which I am of two minds about. On the one hand, I’ve seen what happens when the rest of the world gets a hold of an actor I’ve long admired but is considered to be a “hidden gem” and frankly, I don’t like to share my toys. On the other hand, there is a part of me that DOES want everyone to know what I’ve known all along. Fassbender deserves to have a place at the A-List table, as long as we’re talking about the A-List that gets offered the best and juiciest scripts, working with the most talented directors and actors. (He can stay off of that “other” A-List. I personally don’t give a damn if he EVER meets Lindsey Lohan.)

Centurion has all of the elements that a good Saturday afternoon at the movies should have: lots of action, compelling drama with a hero worth believing in, spectacular visuals, rousing score, and an attractive cast. If it fails to find an audience in theaters, and frankly, that seems likely since it’s barely being released, I predict it will find the same kind of loyal cult following on dvd and later on cable television, as Dog Soldiers has done. It is, IMHO, an interesting take on the possible fate of the “lost” 9th Legion (and it managed to beat Kevin MacDonald’s “The Eagle”** to the punch. We’ll have to wait until 2011 before we find out which one seems more plausible.)

*from his “King Arthur”
**still hate that name change.