Trailer: Trespass Against Us

Despite a turn for intensity at the end of this trailer, do not be fooled, Trespass Against Us is kind of Sundancey-cute for all of its big themes of sins of the father, academia-vs-‘school-of-life’ and the United Kingdom’s social isolation of gypsies. It’s a glossy package perfectly suited for middle-brow consumption.

The very high profile cast including Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson and Sean Harris (going full retard in this one, and defying the old Robert Downy Jr. commentary on this – he is excellent here, but not featured at all in the trailer. First time director (he is normally a documentary guy) Adam Smith goes for smaller moments, but cannot resist a ‘big finish’ that the movie seems to completely earn, but is nevertheless (kind of) pulled off by the sheer magnetism of Fassbender’s presence. At this point, by my editorializing, you can guess I caught this at TIFF where it debuted to kind of muted satisfaction afterwards. Trespass Against Us passes the time, but hardly leaves much of an impression. Considering all the car chases in the film, your mileage may vary.

Micro Teasers: Ghost In The Shell

After years of false starts and unfulfilled promises, the live-action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s influential animated feature, Ghost In The Shell is coming with Scarlett Johansson in the lead role (and Michael Pitt, Beat Takeshi and Juliette Binoche on support). Throughout a recent episode of Mr. Robot, a series of 6 second micro teasers showed during the commercial breaks, and they have been re-constructed to form a teaser trailer of sorts, and the result is a creepy Under The Skin (ish) vibe going here. Which I quite like.

Blu-Ray Review: Cat People

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Screenplay: DeWitt Bodeen
Starring: Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph
Country: USA
Running Time: 73 min
Year: 1942
BBFC Certificate: PG


CCat People is a film I saw a long time ago and have vague fond memories of, so I was keen to check out The Criterion Collection’s UK Blu-Ray release. I thought it might also get me in the mood for the usual October horror movie celebrations we film bloggers like to partake in.

From the title, Cat People sounds pretty silly and trashy, and, by all accounts, it was originally intended to be a cheap crowd-pleasing fright-fest. RKO Pictures were in trouble after Citizen Kane proved an expensive commercial failure on release (which is surprising to hear now). So they hired writer Val Lewton as a new producer for the studio, strictly to make low budget horror movies to help recoup some cash. His first film was Cat People and, although he did keep it under budget as promised and it made a lot of money, he turned a potentially daft concept into something quite poetic, subtle and intelligent.

The film sees the beautiful Serbian fashion sketch artist Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon), now living in New York, meet and quickly fall in love with Oliver Reed (not the booze loving actor, but a character played by Kent Smith). The couple get married soon after, but cracks soon appear in their relationship as Irena refuses to consummate the marriage. She believes in an old legend from her home town about the ‘cat people’ – those who had turned to witchcraft, devil worshipping and other wicked sins through their slavery to the Mameluks, who were driven out by King John. John had these sinners killed, but some escaped to the mountains, to become cat people. Supposedly these half human, half feline creatures kill those that they kiss, so, believing she is one of their descendants, Irena is afraid of the consequences of taking her new husband to bed.

The waters are further muddied when Reed’s work colleague Alice (Jane Randolph) confesses her love to him and, aided by the cracks appearing in his new marriage, he reciprocates. As Irena begins to suspect something going on between the two, her jealousy unleashes a dark, possibly cat-like side.

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Curtis Hanson: 1945 – 2016

Friend and lover of movies, director Curtis Hanson has passed on to the next plane of existence yesterday afternoon. According to reports from the Los Angeles Police Department, Hanson (71) died as the result of a heart attack.

Hanson is probably best known for his stylistic, neo-noir drama/thriller L.A. Confidential, which won him the Oscar for best writing as well as best supporting actress trophy for Kim Basinger. Not to mention its seven other nominations including best picture and best director.

The director’s last film was “Chasing Mavericks,” a biopic of surfer Jay Moriarity starring Gerard Butler, but Hanson had to leave that production toward the end of shooting in 2011 due to what was said at the time to be complications following his recent heart surgery. Michael Apted completed the film and the two shared credit on it.

His project just prior to “Chasing Mavericks” was the HBO film “Too Big to Fail” — about the efforts to save the U.S. economy from the abyss in 2008 — for which he received two Emmy nominations.

– Variety

For me personally, my first experience with the director was in 1992’s The Hand that Rocks the Cradle; which possibly hasn’t aged very well but at the time was a fairly hearty thriller that I believe audiences cheered for and was a commercial success – and indeed was nominated for a few awards itself. But of all his films, the one I would most certainly like to go to bat for is the 2000 dramedy Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas.

It’s too bad we won’t get to see more from this director who was kind of an “every three years” kind of film maker. Which is often the sign of someone contemplative and caring about his craft. You will be missed by many sir. God speed.

Trailer: Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s sophomore film, Nocturnal Animals is among the best films I have seen this year! This trailer is both hauntingly accurate and subtly misleading. In other words, it is a good way to advertise a great film! There are too few psychological thrillers made these days, and of them, even fewer are as excellent as this one. Based on the 1993 novel, “Tony and Susan,” by Austin Wright, the story follows An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) who is haunted by a violent and vaguely threatening novel written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal).

I caught this at TIFF this year, and it was the best thing I saw at the festival.

Nocturnal Animals opens in NY & LA on November 18th and in limited release in other markets on November 23rd.

TIFF 2016 Review: Nocturnal Animals

 

If you are an honorable cinephile, right from the opening credit sequence of Nocturnal Animals, you will know you are in good hands. Hyper-glossy and daringly un-commercial in the same breath, it puts some fine Lynchian bonafides on the table early. Then the camera pulls back from this tone-setting overture to reveal that these seemingly context free images (which will remain unspoilt by me, but might prevent the film from playing in a multiplex near you) are very much present, and in fact are part of the gala launch of a Los Angeles art gallery.

The curator and architect of the exhibit (but, tellingly, not the artist) is Susan, played by Amy Adams in heavy make-up, and chunky jewelry. The deep lighting makes her red hair stand out like smoldering coals in the dark. Forget for the moment director Tom Ford’s penchant for enhancing surfaces, Adams delivers an understated inner-performance entirely with her eyes and posture. Mere seconds on screen and you can immediately deduce she is unhappy with the not only the exhibit but with her many if not most of her life choices.

Later that evening, Susan is abandoned to stew in her own juices by her husband (Armie Hammer) who is the kind of high-stakes businessman that is required for a cross-continental flight upon a moments notice. Nocturnal Animals is a film about we process our thoughts when alone, versus reacting in the company of others.

It is also a master-class in ‘show-don’t-tell’ filmmaking. A brief domestic conversation, prior to her husbands exit from the film, is practical and efficient. We learn that their glass and concrete mansion and designer lifestyle is on the verge of bankruptcy, but again, the body language and framing suggest that money, in and of itself, is the least of their problems, matrimonially.

The very same evening, Susan receives a package in the mail from her previous husband, whom she has not spoken to in nearly two decades. The manuscript of his soon-to-be published novel is included with a personal note thanking her for the inspiration (and life experience) provided finally write something significant. The book shares the name of the film, but the film is adapted from Austin Wright’s 1993 novel, “Tony and Susan.”

Tony is the name of the character in the book that Susan reads, a man whose family is threatened and jeopardized on a lonely West Texas highway by a gang of good ol’ boys led by an extraordinary effective, and completely unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who has come a distance from Kick-Ass and wins the Tom Hardy award for chameleon-like disappearance into a part.

It is exceptional that Ford has made a film about a woman that spends the bulk of the runtime sitting on her couch (or bed, or in the bath) reading a book, into one of the most compellingly ‘lean-in’ films of the year. Half of the runtime is devoted to the novel, which is anchored by a Zodiac or Nightcrawler calibre performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and a scene-stealing Michael Shannon as a cancer stricken Texas Sheriff who is both funny, and yet, simultaneously scared the absolute shit out of me. The remaining half is split equally between Susan’s languorous present, and flashbacks to her optimistic courtship with her first husband and youthful writer, Edward; also played by Gyllenhaal.

The cross-cutting and transitional matching shots (note a certain red couch, for instance) provide an invigorating road-map to what the movie is actually about. The editing in this film, the fimmaking in general, is among the best films of the year. And, it is in a genre, the psychological thriller, that is so radically absent, presently, that make this is a breath – a gale? perhaps a tempest – of gloomy air.

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Mamo 455: Vulvaesque

mamo-tiff16

We almost made it out of TIFF 2016 without ever doing a show, but not quite! Joined (and prompted) by special guest star Shelagh Rowan-Legg, we have a look at a couple of remarkable genre films about women – RAW and THE UNTAMED – before diving into MOONLIGHT and the question of representation, as things finally begin to move forward.

As mentioned in the show:

  • Get your tickets to My So-Cast LIVE! here – https://www.universe.com/events/my-so-cast-live-tickets-2G3VPW
  • More information about the Musicale screening of LITTLE SHOP here – http://www.musicale.ca/
  • Get your copy of Shelagh’s book, The Spanish Fantastic, here – http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/The%20arts/Film%20TV%20%20radio/Films%20cinema/Film%20styles%20%20genres/The%20Spanish%20Fantastic.aspx?menuitem=%7B1E8BB86C-2C2C-4769-A440-E6D2CA51E0D6%7D
  • Blu-Ray Review: Paths of Glory

    Director: Stanley Kubrick
    Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson
    Based on a Novel by: Humphrey Cobb
    Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
    Country: USA
    Running Time: 88 min
    Year: 1957
    BBFC Certificate: PG


    Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, but most discussions and plaudits these days tend to focus on his mid to late work. 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining for instance are regularly hailed as pinnacles of the sci-fi and horror genres respectively, as well as cropping up on general lists of the greatest films of all time, and rightly so, but I feel not enough attention is given to his 50’s output. His little-seen first feature, Fear and Desire (which I reviewed a few years ago) is no masterpiece and Kubrick was openly embarrassed about it once he grew more successful. His follow up, the film noir Killer’s Kiss, is a bit clunky, but shows promise in a couple of great set-pieces. However, after these shaky first steps, Kubrick knocked it out of the park with two incredibly sharp and assured films, The Killing and Paths of Glory. Neither made much of a commercial splash on release, but they gained enough critical acclaim for Kubrick to get attached to the big budget Spartacus, which was the beginning of the director’s rise to becoming a household name. These two late 50’s titles are well reviewed, but I don’t tend to see them crop up on as many ‘best of’ lists and neither have been packaged with the big Kubrick box sets that have been released (although this is a rights issue more than favouritism). Well, in early 2015, Arrow gave us a great Blu-Ray package containing The Killing alongside Killer’s Kiss and now Eureka have turned their attention towards Paths of Glory, delivering the wonderful Blu-Ray release it deserves.

    Paths of Glory is based on a true story, set on the front line in France during World War I. A troop of soldiers are ordered to take a German position known as ‘the anthill’. It’s pretty much a suicide mission, which General Mireau (George Macready) is aware of, but his superior, General Georges Broulard (Adolphe Menjou), insists and dangles the carrot of a promotion if he carries it out. Mireau gives the order to the regiment’s Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), who is even more reluctant, but has no choice in the matter. When the day of the attack comes, the first wave out of the trenches takes heavy casualties and the second refuse to go over the top, so the mission is abandoned. Mireau is furious about this and orders each of the three companies involved to pick one soldier to be executed to make an example of the regiment. Dax is furious about this and, being an esteemed criminal defence lawyer before the war, he requests to defend the three soldiers in the court martial.

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