Trailer: Stronger

If Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day wasn’t your thing, and you are yearning for a less ‘rah-rah-rah’ story about the Boston Marathon bombing, well, I am not entirely sure you will get that with David Gordon Green’s survivor story, Stronger. While it focuses less on ‘finding those responsible’ and more on ‘dealing with the trauma’ of these incidents, it is definitely swinging for the fences in terms of Oscar-bait kind of performances. Nothing wrong with that when you have Jake Gyllenhaal doing the heavy lifting. Gyllenhaal has proven over the past decade that he one of the best American actors working today, whether it be in a weird arthouse thriller like Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy or Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, or in mainstream Hollywood adult movies such as Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoner, or Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition.

Jeff, a 27-year-old, working-class Boston man who was at the marathon to try and win back his ex-girlfriend Erin. While waiting for her at the finish line the blast occurs, and he loses both his legs. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, his battle has just begun as he tackles months of physical and emotional rehabilitation with the unwavering support of Erin and his family.

Trailer: Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja

To rave reviews (and this trailer is not afraid to splash a lot of them on screen) at Cannes, Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja is currently enjoying a very successful release in South Korea. It will play Netflix world-wide on June 28th. The first teaser, along with Tilda Swinton’s viral-style teaser, was to guarantee mandatory viewing spot for this year. To those who really want to get a look at the ‘super-pig’ at the heart (emphasize on heart) of the story, this trailer offers that in spades. It also features a curiously sweet cover of Nine Inch Nails “Something I Can Never Have,” which I like a lot more than the usual, ‘slow choir cover’ of an angsty pop song. The trailer also features a lot more Paul Dano, but mainly the focus remains on An Seo Hyun and her creature. Fun fact, to those who watch all the credits here, British Author, Jon Ronson (“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”) who writes about empathy in an sharp and accessible way, is also the co-writer of the screenplay.

Teaser: Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja

It is the Korean auteur’s second collaboration with Tilda Swinton (after Snowpiercer) and his second creature feature (following 2005s The Host.) Netflix has ponied up some large cash for, Okja, a science-fiction animal-cloning story that, judging by this Netflix-Korea teaser, is a mixture of English and Korean language. Other than that, it gives you the tone of the piece, as a good teaser-trailer should.

Ahn Seo-Hyun, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Lily Collins also have major roles. The film pops up on Netflix in June.

Review: Nocturnal Animals

For the engaged 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 film 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 endearingly funny, and yet, simultaneously scared the absolute shit out of me. The remainder 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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Trailer #2 for Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

The second trailer for Tom Ford’s sublime sophomore feature, Nocturnal Animals is cut out of order compared to the actual film, but feels like it is more ‘in order’ than the first trailer. If that makes sense. There is a lot of editing trickery going on here, which is par for the film itself. If you want big dollops of Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon, well, then this ought to do the trick for you. See this movie when you can, it is one of the best films of the year.

Nocturnal Animals opens in NY & LA on November 18th and goes into wider, but still limited release in other markets on November 23rd.

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.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Everest

everest-posterDirector: Baltasar Kormákur (101 Reykjavík, Jar City, The Deep, 2 Guns)
Writers: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Producers: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Evan Hayes, Tyler Thompson
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 121 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


What could possibly drive a man or woman to attempt to climb Mount Everest, almost 30,000 feet above ground, the highest mountain on the planet? Risking their lives for this treacherous journey to do something practically impossible, people make the trek every year, despite knowing the likelihood of death, and the grueling conditions that have taken so many who scaled those same heights. Baltasar Kormakur’s epic new film Everest may not get into the nitty gritty of the psychology behind such madness, but it does explore in excruciating detail the most notorious real-life tragedy that has been suffered on top of that great beast. Known simply as the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, competing teams of climbers led by Rob Hall (played by Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) faced the summit on May 10th, 1996, only to be met by a ferocious storm that took the lives of eight people. It was the deadliest day on Mount Everest until 2014, and Kormakur brings it to life in a heart-stopping recreation that chills the bone.

Earlier this year saw the release of the blockbuster extravaganza San Andreas, which played natural disaster for cheesy popcorn thrills. Everest could have gone a similar route, taking this tragedy and amping it up for the cheap seats, as the events offer plenty of opportunity for jaw-dropping sequences depicting the ravaging potential of mother nature to decimate human beings who test her limits. Instead, Kormakur demonstrates his commitment to authenticity, pushing his actors to their physical brink by bringing them to real locations in order to capture these agonizing conditions as realistically as possible. That dedication pays off tremendously, as Everest seamlessly combines the on-location footage with scenes shot in studio, and embellished with CGI, for an experience that is frighteningly in your face, never showing any cracks in where the real environments end and the generated ones begin. It allows for an extremely immersive journey that takes the audience right into the heart of the beast with these climbers, making you shiver in your seat as you feel the chill. Or maybe that shaking is from the pure suspense that the director draws out of one heart-stopping sequence after another once the storm hits.
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Cinecast Episode 411 – We Wanna See The Business

Despite seeing nearly 100 films combined at TIFF 2015, Ryan from The Matinee and Kurt indulge Andrew by getting out to the multiplex to see the latest Johnny Depp performance, as James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass. We have a spoiler discussion on that, but needless to say, no one was overly pleased with Andrew for suggesting it. Kurt and Ryan attempt to wrassle TIFF to the ground after 11 days of shared screenings and food. They, in part, hash out the bests, the beasts and the worsts (or in the cast of Love 3D, the wurst) of some of the films on hand.

But wait, there is more.

Ryan and Andrew have a Watch List which includes re-evaluated Spielberg, various Afflecks and a new-ish film starring Matthew Broderick. Hunker down with your favorite blankie, take out your blue contact lenses, and settle in for the show!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

 
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Trailer: Demolition

Clever, sharp, funny, maybe mean spirited, this is Jake Gyllenhaal in his prime, and it appears that Jean-Marc Vallée sees fit to channel this energy into his latest film, Demolition. Frappé this together with music introspection and metaphor, and you have the film that is opening this years Toronto International Film Festival. Hopefully it is not too sentimental in the end.

Oh, and Chris Cooper, please work more. Thanks.

Trailer: Everest

It is never going up the mountain in these types of films that is a problem. It is always coming back down. Jason Clarke, sporting his native Aussie accent (not seen other Hollywood Blockbusters such as Zero Dark Thirty or Dawn of Planet of the Apes) accompanies a great cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Michael Kelley, Josh Brolin and Sam Worthington up the side of the worlds tallest peak, while their wives, most prominently Keira Knightley (also, possibly Emily Watson and Robin Wright who are also in the cast) hold their breath and cry on the other end of a telephone.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur is a master at what he does, in whatever genre, and he manages to keep the humanity balanced with expectations of genre. See his other triumph over disaster effort, The Deep, which is really quite excellent.