Cinecast Episode 428 – The Undependables

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Twer the day of the big game. Which makes theaters and restaurants nearly empty. Ergo, Kurt and Andrew are very happy and indulge in the old fashioned style Cinecast complete with an hour long review of Hail, Caesar!, long discussions in each of The Watch List titles and many an unrelated tangent. The popularity of James Cameron’s Avatar continues to baffle the boys while the unpopularity of “lesser” Coen Brothers fare is equally stupefying. We ask for listeners help with casting the next Third Row Productions screenplay that’s in the works. Also Jerry Seinfeld is back with a new season of “talking shop” with comedians in (usually) cool cars. Doesn’t seem like much, but all of the fun adds up in this 3+ hour, old-school Cinecast. Listen up, we’ve got all your secret shit right here!

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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Review: Hail, Caesar!

“Squint! Squint against the grandeur!” so the film director can be heard offscreen during a series of dailies, which unspool in a Hollywood Studio screening room midway through Hail, Caesar! If the Coen Brothers did not definitively poke their finger in the eye of the crass factory of dreams that is tinsel town in Barton Fink, they take another look, albeit a more broader and effervescent one, at the foibles of making pictures in the late 1940s. Considering they use the same fictional studio, Capitol Pictures (“Where the writer is king!”) one might think of their latest as the loosest of sequels to that 1991 Cannes winning film. More interestingly, Hail, Caesar! is a playfully spiteful grab-bag of in-jokes in old Hollywood and the own eclectic filmography.

Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix, Capitol Pictures’ executive producer, problem solver, and media fixer, a character loosely based on the real man of the same name, who served the same function for MGM (and was thought to be complicit in the death of the original on-screen Superman, George Reeves.) The Coen’s give us an exceptionally busy 27 hours in the life of Mannix, the span of time between two Catholic confessions, where the devoutly converted catholic obsesses over the minutiae of his marriage and personal life, while compartmentalizing, and fully omitting, the myriad of sins of his profession.

A job that entails supervising four movies being shot on the studio lot, all plagued by problems in their own unique ways. The sword-and-sandals, ‘Jesus Picture’ star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney, sillier than ever – an injoke reminiscent of Steve Buscemi’s ever decreasing mortal remains in the Coenography) is missing, and the gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton, both underused), the sailor tap-dancing musical has an alarming case of closeted gayness (and a wonderful cameo from the Highlander frenchman, Christopher Lambert), the Busby Berkeley mermaid picture has a star (Scarlett Johannson, in a glorious Noo Yawk accent) and whose fish tail is getting more ill-fitting by the hour due to a pregnancy scandal about to break, and a Euro-flavoured drawing-room melodrama has been saddled with an aw-shucks singing cowboy leading man (Alden Ehrenreich in a breakout performance) who is far, far out of his depth.

Mannix navigates this shifting sea of apocalyptic problems (at one point, a mushroom cloud is presented on screen in the manner of The Hudsucker Proxies‘ Hula-Hoop), strung together by the Coens with their penchant for noir-ish plots, with an almost savant-like talent that is the antithesis of both the Dude, Jeff Bridges’ boozy and drugged flailing in The Big Lebowski, or Billy Bob Throton’s Ed Crane, the quietly ambitious Barber in The Man Who Wasn’t There. Whitlock’s kidnapping is abetted by both by a spiked drink and a dry cleaning truck, so they are clearly nodding to both, while demonstrating there are so many orthogonal directions to take neo-noir that the surface has only been scratched in the past 75 years.

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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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Review: Sicario

On a current affairs note, Denis Villeneuve’s effective cops, cartels, and spooks procedural, Sicario, stands a good chance at giving Donald Trump a popularity bump in the Republican primary. The film offers atrocities galore in the Mexican border-crossing and drug-trafficking space. Graphic imagery abounds – headless corpses suspended from bridges out in the open in Mexico, still others are wrapped in plastic buried and buried in the drywall of a suburban home just north of the border. The film is clear and concise in laying blame on the 20% of the drug using first world; that which motivates a market driving ever escalating violence and crime in the second world. This in turn always threatens to spill over permeable class, government, crime and international boundaries. The film is talky when it needs to be, but never loses focus that it is, above all else, a wicked little genre film hellbent on demonstrating, and demonstrating often, the effortless cool of Benicio del Toro.

The intensification of the drug war, by way of ethical slippery slopes, is shown from the point of view of seasoned SWAT leader, Kate Macer, played by Emily Blunt as equal parts steely tough and human vulnerability. She (and we) are always the last to know everything as she is thrown to the wolves by her boss (Victor Garber) into a covert and vague CIA operation headed by one Matt, (Josh Brolin with a kevlar smile and flip-flops) and the mysterious Alejandro, who is some sort of private contractor. They jet around Arizona and Texas, trampling citizens rights. They, as it is euphemistically phrased, ‘shake the trees’ in Juarez, Mexico, illegally avoiding any semblance of due process and getting into a rather impressively staged shoot-out in a traffic jam on the Mexican side a border crossing. The word ‘sicario’ is either Hebrew or Mexican for ‘hitman’, at its core, the film postulates the ever-shifting goalposts of federal law enforcement (both American and Mexican) while slowly revealing the broken conscience of both States – as if someone thought to remake Soderbergh’s Traffic and shoot it over the template of Michael Mann’s Heat awash in dust motes, artillery and desert sunsets.

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TIFF 2015 Review: Sicario

On a current affairs note, Denis Villeneuve’s effective cops, cartels, and spooks procedural, Sicario, stands a good chance at giving Donald Trump a bump popularity in the Republican primary. The film offers atrocities galore in the Mexican border crossing and drug trafficking space. Graphic imagery abounds – headless corpses suspended from bridges out in the open in Mexico, others are wrapped in plastic buried and buried in the drywall of a suburban home just north of the border. It is clear and concise in laying blame on the 20% of the drug using first world which motivates a market driving ever escalating violence and crime in the second world. This in turn always threatens to spill over permeable class, government, crime and international boundaries. The film is talky when it needs to be, but never loses focus that it is, above all else, Sicario is a wicked little genre film hellbent on demonstrating, often, the effortless cool of Benicio del Toro.

The slippery slope intensification of the drug war is shown from the point of view of seasoned SWAT leader, Kate Macer, here played by Emily Blunt as equal parts steely tough and human vulnerability. She (and we) are always the last to know everything as she is thrown to the wolves by her boss (Victor Garber) into a covert and vague CIA operation headed by one Matt, (Josh Brolin with a kevlar smile and flip-flops) and the mysterious Alejandro, who is some sort of private contractor. They jet around Arizona and Texas, trampling citizens rights. They, as it is euphemistically phrased, ‘shake the trees’ in Juarez, Mexico, illegally avoiding any semblance of due process and getting into a rather impressively staged shoot-out in a traffic jam on the Mexican side a border crossing. The word ‘sicario’ is either Hebrew or Mexican for ‘hitman’, at its core, the film postulates the ever-shifting goalposts of federal law enforcement (both American and Mexican) while slowly revealing the broken conscience of both States – as if someone thought to remake Soderbergh’s Traffic and shoot it over the template of Michael Mann’s Heat awash in dust motes, artillery and desert sunsets.

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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.

Trailer: Sin City 2 (A Dame To Kill For)

It has been inching towards a decade since Robert Rodriguez’s no shades of grey comic book noir Sin City hit theatres. I recall the trailer for the 2005 film quite well, as it was cut with skill, verve, and rhythm. Here, the trailer for A Dame To Kill for, seems to only serve the purpose to remind us of the property and those few characters who survived (The Cop, The Stripper, Marv and apparently the dirty senator played by Powers Boothe) while introducing some fresh acting talent – Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s not all that sexy or involving though, it’s just there.

Cinecast Episode 339 – Well, There it Is.

What does a 30 year old Oscar winner, a critically panned melodrama and the shocking death of a fine actor all have in common? They form the basis for discussion on this weeks Cinecast. Andrew & Kurt look back at the multitudinous highlights of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s career, each offering a top performance list. We then dive deep into the 1984 Project with Milos Forman’s much fêted Amadeus. A Shakespearean-inflected tale of a 17th century court composer plotting the demise of his musical rival when he cannot deal with the melange of Wolfgang Mozart’s genius and crassness, Antonio Salieri fluctuates with all the hand wringing conflict, squandered piety and delightful vulgarity in front of him. In the meantime, Kurt does some hand-wringing of his own over his enjoyment of Jason Reitman’s Labour Day, and the young director’s career to date. A very small watchlist rounds out the show. Also, appy-polly-wollies in advance for an overly long opening bit.

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: Spike Lee’s Oldboy

Here comes Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-Wook’s crazy, ultra-violent comic book flick Oldboy. The fans of the original are legion, for many it was a key introduction to South Korean cinema in the early 2000s, and there has already been a fairly large debate as to what this remake can amount to. But never count out Spike Lee, whose only truly straight-up genre picture was 2006’s Inside Man, which is a feat of filmmaking par excellence. Unsurprisingly, when drunken ad-man Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) gets mysteriously locked in a cell for two decades, Lee chooses to dwell on major American emotional and political beats on TV. Already, I see them taking a slightly different approach with the daughter (Elizabeth Olsen) and the jailer (Samuel L. Jackson) but they also seem to be keeping the original films signature set-piece, a lengthy fight with a hammer. I expect the rest of the film to be interesting with Lee at the helm, perhaps even better than Scorscese’s remake of Hong Kong genre-film touchstone Infernal Affairs. Time Will tell.

Have a look at the first Red-Band trailer for Spike Lee’s Oldboy, below.