Trailer: Autómata

Automata

Ah, Millennium Entertainment, the 21st century Golan-Globus, only with slightly bigger budgets and lots and always a movie star at the centre. This is the company that brought us 88 Minutes, Trespass, and The Expendables franchise. Occasionally it works out for them, as in Bad Lieutenant: New Orleans or The Paperboy, but mostly it is easy, marketable but derivative and forgettable stuff without an auteur director at the helm.

Spanish produced science fiction action/empathy flick Autómata looks like a mix of I, Robot and Elysium with a dash of Cherry 2000, considering the presence of Melanie Griffith as a robot scientist. Robert Forster and Dylan McDermott are here for some support work (along with the voice of Javier Bardem).

Animator and Visual Effects-man Gabe Ibáñez follows up his mystery thriller, Hierro.

Jacq Vaucan, an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation, routinely investigates the case of manipulating a robot. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity.

Friday One Sheets: So Many Expendables

The ever expanding roster of soldiers of fortune in Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables franchise gets a handsome black and white photo shoot, and a trailer just in case you are not photo gallery’d to death. If there is ever a case of character-posters getting out of hand, I present it below, tucked under the seat. But I will give it this, the black and white, minimalist style here with the lighting equipment visible in the frame does impart the overkill-basics ethos of the series.

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Review: HAYWIRE

Welcome to January, folks – the month when studios tend to dump their dogs into the theatres. If you are not looking to play catch up on the pre-Christmas derby of Oscar hopefuls working their way to a wider release or partaking of the blockbusters deemed too ‘holiday’ for the summer season, you may be on the prowl for one of those buried gems of quality nestled amongst the Hollywood trash heap. Steven Soderbergh makes a solid case for the no-nonsense action thriller, and a bid for a few of your shekels, with Haywire. The film does nothing particularly novel. Another expendable super-spy chase slash revenge picture of which there were at least three of last year – Colombiana, Hanna and Ghost Protocol – and features neither an extravagance for expensive set-pieces nor the over-inflated high stakes. But what then separates this from last year, or a multitude of straight-to-video Jason Statham vehicles is this classic Roger Ebert bon mot, “It’s not what you do but how you do it,” which certainly applies here; even something that feels like this particular filmmaker could do in his sleep has such a precise polish and rhythm that not a second of this film feels superfluous. There are enough little touches and intangables to forgive Haywire for having nothing whatsoever to say other than Soderbergh knows his craft. The film is a walkthrough of all the things that director favours and have been showcased in his prolific c.v. The film knows to be lean and mean and is completely unpretentious about its execution.

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Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In” [teaser]

If there’s one director that can be called truly an auteur, it’s Pedro Almodóvar. Since I’m a lover of anything unique, it’s no surprise that his latest, The Skin I Live In, is one of my most anticipated films of the next year. Arguably the most prolific foreign director of this generation, surprisingly this is Almodóvar’s first step into the realm of horror; at least “horror” as Pedro sees it.

Ever since his wife was burned in a car crash, Dr. Robert Ledgard, an eminent plastic surgeon, has been interested in creating a new skin with which he could have saved her. After twelve years, he manages to cultivate a skin that is a real shield against every assault.

In addition to years of study and experimentation, Robert needed a further three things: no scruples, an accomplice and a human guinea pig. Scruples were never a problem. Marilia, the woman who looked after him from the day he was born, is his most faithful accomplice. And as for the human guinea pig…

The trailer (actually just a quick scene) has finally arrived as a treat for all of us not lucky enough to be at Cannes this year. Not sure how I would categorize this scene. Is it creepy or comical or emotional? Likely a conglomerate of all three when put into context of the film. It’s been a while since Banderas has been in anything worthy of mention, but after having seen Almodóvar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! earlier this year, I have no doubt he’ll be back on the top of big name stars by year’s end with Pedro’s (and Soderbergh’s) help.

Thanks to Twitch for the above synopsis and the heads up on the trailer…

 

 

Almodóvar and Banderas Reunite (for Horror!?)

 

Though the recent mini-marathon (now considered to be sort of a slow walk) of Pedro Almodóvar films has taken a seat on the back burner for now, I’m nonetheless pleased and uber-excited to find out today that Almodóvar’s next venture into film will tackle the unexpected genre of horror. Excited? Why yes, yes I am.

It’s been about twenty years since Pedro worked with a then fairly unknown Antonio Banderas in 1990’s Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down! (our review). But now the prolific director and actor have decided to reunite for what will be “the harshest film [he’s] ever written.”

The picture is titled La Piel que Habito which means, “The Skin I Live In.” It’s the story of a plastic surgeon’s (Banderas) revenge on the man who raped his daughter. With Almodóvar’s apparent love for Hitchcock (obviously present in his last film, Broken Embraces (review) I’m sure we can expect something pretty special and interesting considering this is the first time either director or actor have tackled this genre.

The film will be based on the book “Tarantula” by Theirry Jonquet and thanks to ThePlaylist, we’ve found a synopsis of that book aver at Amazon:

Richard Lafargue is an eminent plastic surgeon haunted by dirty secrets. He has an operating theatre in the basement of his chateau and keeps his partner Eve imprisoned in her bedroom, a room he has equipped with an intercom and 300-watt speakers through which he bellows orders. Eve is only allowed out to be paraded at cocktail parties and on the last Sunday of each month, when the couple visit a young woman in a mental asylum. Following these outings, Lafargue humiliates Eve by forcing her to perform lewd sexual acts with strangers while he watches through a one-way mirror. In alternating chapters, Jonquet introduces seemingly unrelated characters: a criminal on the run after murdering a policeman, and an abducted young man who finds himself chained naked in a dark chamber, forced to endure all manner of physical torture at the hands of a mysterious stranger, whom he calls Mygale, after a type of tropical spider. All of these characters are caught in a deceitful web, doomed to meet their fate.

Holy balls. If Pedro keeps from holding back any punches, this could be a pretty intense little (or not so little as the case may be) genre film. In Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!, Banderas played a little bit of a psychopath true, but it was fairly lighthearted and comical. Almodóvar says that Banderas’ character here is “brutal… I could have continued with a puerile guy with an overpowering power of seduction, but this guy is a real psychopath.”

Sadly no Penélope Cruz here, but the prospect of a terror inspired film from someone with the eye for detail, color and composition as Almodóvar can’t be higher. Shooting starts this summer and this just went straight to the top of films I most anticipate for 2011.

Bring. It. On!

 

Finite Focus: The Client is Always Wrong (Desperado)

Having just caught The Losers, a sort of the 80s action and ‘splotions throwback in earnest stupidity with the stylistic nudge-nudge-wink-wink most definitely not in that era, my first point of entry into the films blend of super-cool-posturing and bantering snark was Robert Rodriguez’s big(ger) El Mariachi sequel/reboot Desperado. And it was not just the ‘keep moving the plot along’ speed of the film, like all the interstitial guts were removed in the editing process, but also the Zoe Saldana – Jeffrey Dean Morgan sex scene seems to be very much like the abridged Salma Hayak – Antonio Banderas candle lights and slo-mo playboy spread.

But enough of comparisons, let us talk of the indomitable Steve Buscemi! Here is a character actor who can be goofy overkill (watch how he puts out is cigarette) and confiding and very serious but also be quite self-aware. Basically, Buscemi’s body language is (more-or-less) the tone of the film. Heck, his character is even named “Buscemi.” In the below scene he is fishing for information by putting himself in a dangerous situation, a bar full of idle criminals and thugs, and proceeds to insult them without exactly insulting them, and intimidate them (as much as Buscemi can be intimidating, a joke likely borrowed by the casting agent of Con Air) not by his own presence, but by being harbinger of El Mariachi (but here re-invented a vengeance driven superhero). Hey don’t shoot the messenger!

Watching Buscemi enter the bar (comically full of trophy antlers), take a seat despite a distinct lack of hospitality, and be pleasant and intimate with the bartender is exactly the sort of weightless fun we like in a big silly action picture. Although it adds just an extra touch of goofy that had the (in my experience in talking with action-nuts) effect of actually putting people off the film. Much like Kick-Ass, the line of what you are willing to take in terms ‘wanting real’ and ‘wanting fantasy’ and the suspension of disbelieve varies from audience to audience. But still, you can’t knock the pure promise of fun and mayhem that is offered in the opening sequence of Desperado, and Rodriguez’s willingness not to ever get to serious with his premise. Throwaway fun? Sure. But cotton candy is good once in a while.

Almodóvar Marathon: “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down!” (1990)

 


STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Victoria Abril, Loles León, Julieta Serrano

The first film from Almodóvar I’ve come across that is straight up comedy – at least the first one I remember laughing out loud with so often. As I continue through this leisurely marathon, I expect that I’ll find another comedy somewhere within his filmography, but I’m skeptical that I’ll find one with such darkness, bizzarity or brazenness in its contempt for its characters and almost subversive pondering of male/female sexual politics.

A simpler and easier to follow story from the collected works of Mr. Almodóvar I’ve not seen (yet). It follows the struggle and ordeal of really only two characters and sticks with them (and nearly only them) as their situation complicates and unfolds. A beautiful, young porno star named Maria is attempting to make her way into mainstream film making. Hampering her endeavors is an addiction to drugs and a “holier than thou” attitude. The film within the film, “Midnight Phantom”, is put on indefinite hold when Marina disappears for days on end during production. She has been taken hostage in her own home by an escaped mental patient (Banderas) who has developed an unhealthy obsession with Marina. He busts into her apartment, forcibly and violently restraining her and keeping her tied to a bed and gagged; explaining to her that once she gets to know him, he will be a good husband to her and a wonderful father to their children. As the drama unfolds, the balance of power between the two teeters back and forth before slowly shifting to her side and eventually the entire dynamic of their “relationship” is altered in a way that must be seen to be believed.
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Interview With a Vampire Goes Blu

Interview With a Vampire Blu RayI wouldn’t usually point out a Blu-Ray release unless it was of some importance, mostly because I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, but I’d like to use this as a jumping off point to moan a bit about Neil Jordan’s Interview With a Vampire and its associated DVD release (or lack there-of).

Jordan’s film will make it’s way to Blu-Ray on October 14th and though there are no news on extras included in this release, I’m going to go out on a ledge and suggest that you’re likely to see very little if anything extra. The film will be celebrating 15 years next year and in those 15 years, WB has only released the one version of the film which has little extra other than a few introductions. Granted, it’s not exactly the sort of film you expect to see a lot of behind the scenes stuff for but as a fan, I’d love to have some reason to upgrade my DVD which I shelled $30 for nearly 10 years ago. Also worth noting that they’re putting so much attention into this release that they haven’t even updated the cover art – it’s the same exact graphic from the first release of the DVD.

At this point, no news on when or if we’ll ever get a shiny, fan friendly release, but until then, you can find that bare bones edition on store shelves ranging anywhere from $10 to $20 and if you’re looking to add that Blu-Ray edition to your collection, it has a sticker price of $28.99.

I’ll stick with my original release DVD in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get that much anticipated special edition disc. I’m not holding by breath.

The Vampyre Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Unlike Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire, the majority of vampire films (at least those that achieved any level of notoriety) have been presented solely from mankind’s perspective. F.W. Murnau’s 1922 horror classic, Nosferatu, wasn’t so much the story of the evil Count Orlok as it was that of Hutter and his long-suffering wife, Ellen, who found themselves suddenly coping with the threat of having to live across the street from a monster. Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula possessed a dual personality, mixing in equal parts the tale of Mina Seward’s fight for survival with that of Dr. Van Helsing’s quest to defeat the Dark Prince. Despite the fact that the vampires themselves were usually the title characters, their existence in these films was little more than a means by which to challenge the human condition. This is one reason I was so utterly fascinated by Interview with the Vampire, a film in which the bloodthirsty undead finally take center stage. Mankind is barely a supporting player in this film. In fact, we’re little more than the main course.

Louis (Brad Pitt), a 200 year old vampire, longs to tell his story to the world. To this end, he grants an interview to reporter Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater), during which Louis conveys the dramatic details of his plunge into darkness. The year was 1791, and Louis, a New Orleans plantation owner whose wife had just passed away, decided, in despair, to take his own life. Before he has a chance to end it all, however, he meets Lestat (Tom Cruise), a vampire who, with a solitary bite on the neck, grants Louis the gift of eternal life. Shortly after his transformation, Louis begins to question whether such an existence is indeed a gift…or a curse. Plagued by the memories of his life as a mortal, Louis can’t bring himself to kill another human being, and chooses instead to feast on the blood of rats and other small animals. Lestat taunts Louis for his “misguided” morality, yet Louis never forgets what it was like to be human, leaving his ‘life’ as a vampire depressingly unfulfilled.

In Interview with the Vampire, Brad Pitt delivers an extraordinary performance as the monster who can’t escape the memory of his life before the darkness. His Louis despises the fact that he must draw the blood of innocents in order to survive, a direct contrast to Tom Cruise’s treacherous Lestat, who takes pleasure in the kill. When Louis lures a wealthy socialite (Lyla Hay Owen) out into the darkness with the intention of attacking her, he instead winds up murdering the woman’s two poodles, drinking their blood as his intended victim screams for help. While the failure to ignore his own humanity works against Louis at the outset, this very quality will eventually make him the envy of others of his kind, including Armand (Antonio Banderas), the leader of a band of vampires whom Louis encounters one year in Paris. Armand recognizes that Louis, despite his feelings of inadequacy, is, in fact, the perfect vampire; a being who has achieved immortality, yet continues to maintain a very mortal frame of mind.

When it comes to movie monsters (in particular any of the ‘classic’ creatures), it’s usually the pathetic ones, such as Frankenstein’s monster, that gather up most of the audience’s sympathy, while vampires, symbols of the true harbingers of evil, are reviled the world over. In Interview with the Vampire, we get to know these children of the night who were once, and not long ago, mortals just like us. We discover that the craving for blood does not entirely wipe away the guilt for having to spill it, and that, even among the eternally damned, there remains a glimmer of humanity, no matter how many hundreds of years may pass.