Forget it Jake, it’s Tinsel town. David Cronenberg’s latest, a dark Hollywood satire called Maps To The Stars, gets a noir influenced poster; all smoke visages full of scheming and pensive anger. Somehow this film has eluded me in its Canadian release both at TIFF in 2014 and in commercial release a few months ago. The film is gearing up for its US release, so expect to hear more about the film in the coming weeks. For now enjoy this classic styled one-sheet specific to the upcoming American roll-out. If there is ever a Faye Dunaway biopic to be made, Julianne Moore makes a startling case for it here.
There are some who believe that Good and Evil are two very distinct objectively defined entities and that things and ideas are black or white, true or false, moral or immoral. Some would say that thought could be extended to define people in these terms and to categorize them in one of two camps: “Pure as the driven snow” and “Face of an angel” OR “Pure evil” and “Rotten to the core” (phrases we all use to describe people with no middle ground). Of course, these are a fool’s definition and try to provide easy answers to explaining behaviours that please or enrage us. The “truth” is that it all depends on your perspective and viewpoint. The landscape is made up of thousands of shades of grey and they are all relative. And speaking of relatives…
The sibling rivalry within East Of Eden and the spousal feuding of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf traverse many degrees of that light to dark spectrum between good and evil. Hurting the one you love is always a complicated and confusing thing to do and that’s certainly the case in both films. You could be forgiven, however, if you didn’t see a lot of shading in that good/evil spectrum during the onslaught that is Virginia Woolf. From the first words spoken, it feels like a two hour blitz of spiteful bile and vituperative arguments. Most of the insult flinging occurs between the middle aged George and Martha, but they aren’t shy in sharing it and spreading it around. George (Richard Burton) is a History professor who lives within the campus grounds with his wife Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and after an evening at a school social (with a few drinks) they set about their favourite sport – a little verbal sparring with each other. It seems to begin harmlessly – a barb here, a curt word there – but as it escalates, one can tell this is much more than just tiredness and booze stirred together into a cranky cocktail. It seems to be their lifeforce. The only way they can get through the day at this stage of their lives together is by tearing each other down. Even the moments of true passion which still exist between them can’t stem their craving for a verbal attack fix. “I disgust me” says Martha, sounding every bit like a drug addict. And when the young couple Nick and Honey arrive for some nightcaps (Nick is a new professor that Martha flirted with at the social event), the mixture of booze and disgust becomes downright toxic for all.
Mamo rings in the New Year with a potpourri discussion of the news of the last few weeks: Ant-Man, Sam Raimi, Steven Soderbergh, awards season, The Interview, The Hobbit, and more. Welcome to 2015!
A cobbled together list of some of my favourite moments from 2014’s films as well as older ones I saw for the first time this past year…
- – The story of creation in Noah – beautifully composed as it also worked in evolution and epic timescales into the mythology of the story.
- – “SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!! SPACESHIP!!” – The LEGO Movie.
- – The Grand Budapest Hotel – every perfectly centred frame.
- – Those final credits of 22 Jump Street – they’re funny cuz their true…
- – Being in the same theatre with Caroll Spinney (the puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch) and James Randi within the same week during Hot Docs.
- – The breathless car chase in Nightcrawler.
- – The bracing last 10 minutes of Whiplash.
- – The wonderful sing-a-long in A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (more fully described here).
- – And then followed later in the film by the gut punch…
- – The docking scene and entry into the black hole sequence from Interstellar.
The big list of awesome movies from the third row’s 2014 experience is just around the corner – we’re just waiting for some last minute screenings to show up in the next week or so. In the meantime, we’ve had some time to sift through all the tunage from 2014 and along with other movie-blogging friends have put together this nice list of great sounds of 2014. There are 1000 movies released each year, but there are tens of thousands of albums. So by no means did any of us get to them all, but here’s a sampling of all our favorite listens over the last 365 days.
Hi, there! Remember me? I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things in the third row this year, so I figured why not jump back in with a massive and massively solipsistic post all about things I personally watched in 2014!
Row Three’s big group post listing everyone’s Top Ten Films of 2014 will be out later this month, but I’ve been curtailed in my new release viewing this year and only had seven or eight films to choose from for 2014, so I opted to celebrate films I saw in 2014 regardless of release year in a number of hopefully entertaining categories. In keeping with my 2014 stance against evaluation, there is no winner in each category, nor ranking within them, nor strict limits on how many films could be in each category. Here’s my complete list of 2014 watches.
I will try not to include major spoilers, but for some categories I may have to in order to talk about why I chose the films I did. So just…keep an eye out, I guess.
[originally posted at The Frame]
Whether in premise or character or storytelling, these are the films that made me think the most this year, sometimes for days or weeks after seeing them.
No film I saw in 2014 has a better premise than Snowpiercer, which envisions society as post-apocalyptic train segregated between haves and have-nots, complete with class warfare, rebellion, military subjugation, brainwashing, idealism, and cynicism. It’s very high concept, and gives you a lot to chew on, both about this society as its envisioned, and about our own in relation to it.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Most people (rightly) point to the first half of this film as the more iconic and memorable, but a lot of the depth and thoughtfulness is really in the second half, as we see what happens when these troops, trained by the drill sergeant from hell in the first half’s boot camp, actually hit Vietnam and discover how lacking any type of training is for the real hell of a war like Vietnam. The second half is messier, but it’s intentionally and thought-provokingly messy.
Employee’s Entrance (1933)
This is one of the few films of the year that I planned to write an in-depth post about, but I unfortunately never actually got around to it. Why did I find this piece of apparently Pre-Code fluff so striking? Warren Williams plays a confident, smarmy businessman as he so often does, the general manager of a Manhattan department store trying to keep his business afloat during the Depression – which often calls for reducing staff, making existing staff work longer hours, etc. And this doesn’t even include his horrific treatment of Loretta Young’s character and her fiance, his assistant who he wants unattached to better serve the business. Yet what could’ve been a straight-up underdog film about overthrowing evil Business for the sake of the underlings is actually more nuanced, thoughtful and relevant than I expected; today as in the Great Depression, balancing business and humanitarian regard isn’t always easy.
Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
What? A slightly regarded late Wilder comedy about a pair of bumbling songwriters carrying out an elaborate ruse to get Dean Martin to listen to their songs is “thought-provoking”? Yeah, I know. I’m probably stretching a bit, but of the late Wilder films I’ve watched recently, this one’s sticking with me to a surprising degree, largely because it employs a level of sexual freedom that I wouldn’t have expected even in 1964, when such things were beginning to loosen up, and it does so with a frankness that’s refreshing even though I may not have ultimately agreed with the characters’ actions.
This week Bryan and Jon are joined by Chewie and Sam as they discuss the polarizing Angelina Jolie vehicle MALEFICENT. They discuss the problem areas (there are many), as well as point out the things that turned out better than expected (there are few). Note there are some audio issues. We did what we could. Blame those stupid fairies.
Trigger warning for discussion of rape in context to the “wing” scene.
It’s not exactly new news (for some, the announcement came as an early Christmas present), but Starz has taken on a monumental nerd challenge: continue the story of Ash Williams and his fight against the Evil Dead and try not to piss people off who have been waiting patiently since 1992.
With the sort-of remake/reboot/whatever in 2013, fans of the series got a taste of the old slapstick horror, but for most, it lacked the soul and originality that made the other three in the series so enjoyable. Some liked it. Most, it seemed, complained or were indifferent.
Now, patient fans will have a proper continuation of the franchise with a 30-minute weekly series that will last ten episodes. It will air sometime later this year on Starz. Most importantly, Bruce Campbell is coming back. Sam Raimi is on board as a producer and potential director of the pilot. The plot, according to EW, is as follows:
Ash is living in a trailer park and working his latest thankless big-box store job when a return of the Deadites prompts him to take a road trip with two young co-workers (and, of course, his trusty boomstick).
For his part, Bruce seems confident that Starz will give them plenty of creative freedom, perhaps something that came as a roadblock over the years when it came to financing a Hollywood sequel. As Bruce put it:
35 years later, we don’t want a lot of people bugging us about stuff. We know this series. We know the character. We’re experienced producers, Sam is an experienced director, I’m an experienced actor. Let us do our thing. And Starz has been really supportive in that respect and as a result we’re very happy.
So, what are your thoughts on Evil Dead hitting the small screen? Should a good thing be left alone? Will TV be a better fit for the creative freedom these fellows need? Would you prefer a film sequel? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments!
Director: Angelina Jolie (In the Land of Blood and Honey )
Book: Laura Hillenbrand
Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson
Producers: Matthew Baer, Angelina Jolie, Erwin Stoff, Clayton Townsend
Starring: Matthew Crocker, Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Takamasa Ishihara, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 137 min.
Louis Zamperini is a man whose story has been begging to be turned into a motion picture for decades. A troublemaker in his youth, “Louie” turned his life around as he trained relentlessly as a distance runner, eventually finding his way to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, even setting a record there. Once World War II broke out, he enlisted and found himself stranded at sea for 47 days after a plane he was in malfunctioned while above a vast canvas of open water. His rescue came with a price, as it was the Japanese who found him and sent him to a prisoner of war camp, where he would spend the next two years under cruel treatment until the war ended. Zamperini’s story is one that would be impossible to believe if it weren’t true, and so it’s no surprise that as far back as 1957 (when Universal bought the rights for the story, with Tony Curtis set to play Louie), people have been wanting to see it brought to the screen. It took almost 50 years to do it, but Unbroken tells his larger-than-life tale.
Helping bring Louie’s story back to the eyes of the people in Hollywood who make these things happen was Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, whose 2010 book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” reignited interest in the story and brought it to the attention of Angelina Jolie. With a script worked on by a quartet of legendary names (William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese and the Coen brothers), Jolie took on the monumental task of sitting in the director’s chair for Unbroken. Only her sophomore feature behind the camera, after the quickly forgotten In the Land of Blood and Honey, Jolie has clearly taken influence from plenty of the great directors she has worked with over the years, with Clint Eastwood being the most noticeable. Her approach here feels very workmanlike, very precise but almost to a point of over-calibration, where the distinct familiarity of it all takes something away from what should be a far more significant story. Unbroken is inspiring no doubt, the very nature of Louie’s story guarantees that, but while nothing about it is bad there isn’t anything here that generates much passion either.
Would you like to know more…?