Trailer: The Company You Keep

Outside the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford is kind of a cottage industry for earnest political tinged thrillers. The Company You Keep is indeed one of these, focusing on the trials and tribulations (and family) of two Weather Underground members. It came and went without a peep at the 2012 edition of TIFF.

But.

What.

A.

Cast!

Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Susan Sarandon, Sam Elliott, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Shia LaBeouf, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, and Stanley Tucci.

Furthermore, it’s penned by Lem Dobbs (The Limey) and scored by Cliff Martinez (Solaris, Drive)

Blindspotting #11 – Barry Lyndon and Doctor Zhivago

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Though I came up short by one post for the year – except for November, I’ve posted all my Blindspotting posts monthly at my own blog before pulling them to RowThree in batches – I’m happy with the 22 first time watches of classics I managed to squeeze in this year. I plan to keep up the two per monthly post strategy in 2013, if only because it enables some interesting comparisons between films. I hope to publish my proposed set (complete with pairings for each month) early in the new year.

 

If there’s one thing we likely all have in common when comparing lists of “major” films we haven’t seen, it’s that we have a couple of those Epics missing. You know the ones I mean: the 3+ hour epic love stories, epic period pieces and epic historical dramas that tend to be a bit foreboding. You’ll usually find one of them among our top movies of all time, but there’s a stack of others whose weighty nature and lengthy run times make viewing them seem like, well, “homework”. In many cases they turn out to be a joy to behold – quickly engaging, filled with characters of depth, chock full of interesting turns – and even feel much shorter than they really are. But when you hit one that doesn’t connect with you…Well, let’s just say that time crawls at around the same pace as it does when you’re in the dentist chair. And even though two great filmmakers were at the helm for this month’s choices, that was my concern with both films – two that have been sitting on my shelf for much, much longer than I’m comfortable admitting.

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I will admit it’s an odd reaction for me to have to a Kubrick film since I’ve loved everything else he’s done (short of his first features before the great The Killing). But Barry Lyndon struck me as a different beast and one whose apparently slow meandering nature might wear thin over its 184 minutes. Aside from knowing it was the tale of a farm-raised young Irish man who finds his way into the aristocracy of 18th century Britain, I knew nothing of the story. So the changing fortunes of Barry (Part 1 of the film is entitled: By what means Redmond Barry acquired the style and title of Barry Lyndon) throughout were unexpected and kept me engaged. Even more surprising was that the film is really somewhat of a comedy. Not laugh out loud by any stretch, but the ups and downs of Barry’s life after he leaves his village (along with many of the narrator’s comments) brings an almost farcical tone to much of the film. Though Barry has a promising life ahead of him (born to a genteel family and bred to be a lawyer), his father is killed in a duel. While his mother stays a widow, Barry struggles to deal with his first love Nora – she tries to get him to be more assertive by hiding a ribbon on her person, but he seems too meek to search her for it. After she shows interest in a British army captain (who would relieve her family of its debt), Barry challenges him to a duel and is forced to leave town afterwards. He’s actually a bit of a selfish dim-witted putz when you get right down to it and as he begins his travels, there’s a moment where I wondered how long I could stay invested with that kind of character. Fortunately, as mentioned above, fate seems to have a push/pull battle with Barry as it keeps changing things up on him – he swears he’ll remain a gentleman, gets pulled down again, new opportunities are once again presented and the cycle repeats. He gets robbed, joins the army, deserts the army, is forced to rejoin when found, learns “bad behaviour” from other low-lifes in the army, saves the captain who forced him back into service, is sent to spy on an Irish nobleman, etc. He’s like a cipher at times, so it’s not surprising when he can suddenly be heroic, fight well or handle weapons masterfully. Ryan O’Neal doesn’t bring a whole lot to the character, but his blank slate performance actually fits Barry Lyndon perfectly.

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A Month Of Horror 2012 – Chapter 3

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Eight-inch floppy disks! Aaaaah!!

 

Silk (2006 – Chao Bin-Su)
Within the first 20 minutes of Silk you’ve seen ghosts, a discovery that may lead to anti-gravity, a cop with incredible eyesight and a facility for reading lips, and an obese Canadian photographer. How do these elements fit together? And can they possibly do so without imploding? And what about the cop’s dying mother, the silk that ties the energy of the ghosts back to the real world, daylilies and facial tumors? Despite some treacly moments, it does manage to bring all these threads together, but certainly struggles along the way. Using straight dramatic moments, a bit of gore, some thriller aspects and ghost story elements, the film tracks the mystery of a boy ghost that a research team has trapped in a room. The entire story revolves around an anti-gravity discovery called a Menger Sponge which apparently traps energy and therefore can be used to counter gravity. A side effect is its ability to trap the energy of ghosts as well as allow us to see them. It really strains while trying to explain all these abilities and fumbles away most of the larger ideas it strives to get across. The moments with the ghosts remind one of Ju-On somewhat, but they never quite hit the proper atmospheric dread those films had and occasionally some of the scenes deteriorate into plain silliness. Particularly when they essentially ignore the reality that they’ve set up and start creating new boundaries for the ghosts. Also, I suppose that I shouldn’t pick on details, but when the cop opens fire on a crowded subway (shooting bullets sprayed with liquid Menger Sponge and aimed at a ghost only he can see), it’s rather baffling that the subway could pull into the next stop, have no one run screaming from the train and then close its doors and pull away with him remaining inside. And yet, there were some fine spooky images that, although they never quite “got” to me, were nicely realized.

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Demon Seed (1977 – Donald Cammell)
This particular demon seed is not the kind you might be expecting…One of the early “artificial intelligence is dangerous” warning films, this Julie Christie vehicle (based on a Dean R. Koontz novel) is chock full of wonderfully designed lab and ’70s “super-computer” equipment. Proteus 4 is the name of the big computer brain that has just been brought online and, though the government has plans to use it for some mundane number crunching, the computer scientists are still happy that they can use 20% of its cycles for beneficial research in health and environment sectors. The human brain behind the whole operation is Alex Harris and once he taps into Proteus 4 from one of his home terminals shortly after it goes online, he quickly realizes that the artificial brain has already figured out that humanity isn’t worth its CPU cycles. Proteus 4 wants to be let out of its box and allowed to acquire whatever knowledge it can on its own – a request that is quickly denied. But Proteus 4 has a backup plan…By going through the home terminal, it takes over the automated systems in Alex’s house (he has surveillance cameras, robotic arms and other machines to handle daily chores) and imprisons Harris’s wife Susan (the two are separated and he has just left the house for a few months). It gets a bit hit and miss from this point on as Susan (as played by Christie) jumps to hysterical behaviour far too quickly and shows no ability to use logic – a shame, because you always want to like Christie while she’s on screen (in pretty much any role). Proteus 4’s plan involves her because it wants to create its own offspring in order to vicariously explore the world. Yeah, you can see where this is going now right? It wants to impregnate Susan with its own synthetic sperm to create a new step in human evolution and manages to capture her and tie her down for numerous tests, the actual insemination and for the month long, speeded-up fetal development. Though you have to give the film credit for just going for its concept and letting it play out, it would’ve been nice to give Christie a bit of respite…

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Would you like to know more…?

Sunday Bookmarks: March 14-20

 

  • Why see ‘Don’t Look Now’?
    Coming to BluRay and rep screenings in the UK: “In hindsight, ‘Don’t Look Now’ is the perfect mixture of Roeg’s abilities as a teller of mysterious stories and as one of the most accomplished cinematic stylists ever to peep through a viewfinder. The film smashes up chronology and pieces it back together in a deviously strange order, so we get constant hints and suggestions of dark events to come. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are utterly convincing as the central couple who flee to Venice to retain a focus on their messed-up lives.”
  • Notes on Charlie Sheen and the End of Empire
    “No, what this moment is about is Charlie Sheen solo. It’s about a well-earned mid-life crisis played out on Sheen’s Korner instead of in a life coach’s office somewhere in Burbank. The mid-life crisis is the moment in a man’s life when you realize you can’t (won’t) maintain the pose that you thought was required of you any longer—you’re older and you have a different view of life and this is when the bitterness and acceptance blooms. Tom Cruise had a similar meltdown at the same age in the summer of 2005, but his was more politely manufactured (and, of course, he was never known as an addict). Cruise had his breakdown while smiling and he couldn’t get loose, he couldn’t be natural about it. He’s always essentially been the good boy who can’t say “Fuck You” the way Sheen can.”
  • An Interview with Greta Gerwig at SxSW
    Greta Gerwig is no stranger to SXSW. Her new film, “The Dish & the Spoon,” marks the sixth time she has had a movie in the festival in an film career that has stretched the same number of years. This new film, directed by Alison Bagnall, about a woman and a young man (Olly Alexander) who bond during a tumultuous time in their lives. Ms. Gerwig’s acting style, which A.O. Scott lauded for its “apparent absence of any method,” is employed in this intimate, primarily two-character study.
  • Bernardo Bertolucci has a 3D Project
    “Cult Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci said in an interview for his 70th birthday on Wednesday that he will be making his first 3D film this year saying it was like riding on a “flying carpet” […] “I want to use 3D in a different way from what we have seen in films like ‘Avatar’ or other films characterised by special effects,” he said.”
  • Is Netflix Abandoning Its Business Model Again?
    With the production of David Fincher/Kevin Space HBO-styled TV DRAMA, It looks like a new strategy is here. In the great tradition of the network and cable game, make themselves a “must carry.” I wouldn’t be shocked to see them in the bidding for hockey or trying to make a deal to stream Major League Baseball or something like that before long. If they are going this way, no one show “airing” 13 times a year is going to keep customers paying $8 or more a month. If Netflix becomes a thrift shop, with content here and there and everywhere, the churn will get worse […] This choice, combined with the exit of Criterion and the abandonment of Red Envelope, their previously stab at original content, clearly tells us that Netflix sees no future in quality film lovers as a primary audience for the service. Fair enough. But it will be interesting to see when the cineastes get the message.”
  • Zediva – A Clever End Run Around the Movie-Streaming Gremlins
    “It lets you listen to the director’s commentary, turn on subtitles and change languages. It lets you enjoy your movie for two weeks instead of 24 hours, starting and stopping at will. It offers the 100 biggest movies for streaming on the very same day the DVD comes out. It sidesteps any meddling by the movie companies, HBO contracts and studio lawyers. And here’s the best news of all — are you sitting down on your favorite movie couch? The price is only $2 for one movie or $1 if you buy a 10-pack. There’s no signup fee, no monthly fee, no hardware to buy. Zediva’s secret is so outrageous, you may think it’s an early April Fool’s prank. But it’s no joke.”
  • Is Matthew McConaughey Really Shirtless in Every Movie?
    “Conventional wisdom likes to assume that Matthew McConaughey has taken his shirt off in every single one of his movies. True, McConaughey is not shy when it comes to going bare chested on-screen and in public, but is he really sans shirt in every one of his movies?” Yes, Movieline actually checks out each and every one of them to be sure.

 
 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

 

New “Red Riding” Trailer [Disappointed]

As I mentioned in the comments section when the first trailer for this film was released a couple of months ago, the visuals are very handsome. I still basically agree with those sentiments, but this trailer is so full of terrible it kind of overshadows any of those interesting ideas. Even the potential for an interesting twist isn’t really enough for me to shrug off the fact that basically this looks like Twilight all over again with the way the brooding Pattinson look-a-likes wander the village (“If you love her… you’ll let her go” **eyes roll**). For some that sounds like an amazing concept. For me, it sounds like a way to completely destroy what would otherwise be an interesting and update take on the classic fairy tale. And what is with that music(?)… ugh!

With Amanda Seyfried in the lead, the film also stars Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, and Julie Christie. You can see them all on March 11th.

 
 

First trailer for Catherine Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood”

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I was aware that Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood was going to provide a fresh approach to the classic story but I didn’t really give it much thought beyond that. It’s probably best that I didn’t because had I thought about it or read some of the descriptions floating around, I may have been disappointed by the trailer but as it stands, I’m just a little… surprised.

Set in a medieval forest, the film stars Amanda Seyfried as Valerie, a young woman (in a red riding hood) in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) an orphaned woodcutter, but her parents want her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Valerie and Peter plan to run away together but when Valerie’s sister is taken by the werewolf that stalks the woods surrounding the village, their plans are thwarted. So how does the awesome Gary Oldman fit into this picture? He’s the priest/werewolf hunter the town calls on to rid them of the beast. Other notables along for the ride include Lukas Haas, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen and the fabulous Billy Burke (apparently Hardwicke likes Burke as much as I do).

The trailer features quite a few interesting tidbits, including more than a handful of host of Seyfried looking startled which concerns me a little but then, it’s a trailer and I generally like Seyfried so I’m happy to chalk that up to editing. The most striking aspect of this trailer are the visuals. Now, Hardwicke is recognized for her sense of aesthetic (likely stemming from her previous work as a production designer) but I’m thrilled to see that she’s paired up with award winning cinematographer Mandy Walker who also shot Baz Luhrmann’s gorgeous Australia (review) (and was glaringly overlooked for an Oscar nomination).

I have to admit I’m not expecting much from this story but my inner girl is thrilled by what she sees: supernatural overtones, period, romance. Oh yes, this has my name written all over it.

Red Riding Hood opens March 11, 2011.

Trailer is tucked under the seats but it’s also worth a look in HD over at Apple.

Would you like to know more…?

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Short Takes Vol. 1

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Clearly I’m getting behind on the New Hollywood marathon; I’ve actually been watching a good bit, but not finding the right things to say to write about them. So I’m just going to lump together some short thoughts on the films that didn’t inspire me to write a whole post about, or films that others reviewed or are planning to review.

The Graduate

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This is one of the few films on this marathon’s master list that I’ve seen before, but I wanted to rewatch it because I was pretty sure I had missed something the first time around. That first time, I was just barely eighteen and was sure that college would sort out any remaining lack of certainty I had about my future career and life. Four years later, it hadn’t, and I found myself, like Benjamin Braddock, unsure what to do after graduation and drifting a bit, trying to find something to latch onto. I think when I first saw it, I had difficulty understanding Benjamin’s indecision and willingness to just float along after graduating, basically falling into an affair with Mrs. Robinson (the wife of his father’s business partner) because he didn’t have much else better to do. This time, it all worked and fit together much better for me.

The inclusion of Simon and Garfunkel songs was perfect, and made me think about how influential The Graduate, with its detached main character, soundtrack, and mood, has been on films since – especially Indiewood quirky coming-of-age stories. Half of R3 will strangle me for saying this, but there seems a strong connection to Garden State (though even I would agree that The Graduate is a stronger film). My only beef is that the Berkeley sequence, when Benjamin goes to try to win Elaine, loses some interest and waffles a bit too much. On the other hand, the very last shot that’s often berated (by some) is exactly right.

M*A*S*H and McCabe and Mrs. Miller after the jump.

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Easy Riders… : McCabe & Mrs. Miller

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McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a film that didn’t grab me straight away – it’s muddy soundtrack (Altman was working ahead of the recording technology available at the time) and lack of obvious narrative took a bit of getting used to. Maybe it had been too long since I’d watched an Altman film though as once I settled into it and afterward let myself digest what I’d experienced the film more than grew on me. There are no bold stylistic flourishes (visually at least) and no gripping storyline, but it’s a film that you soak up and live in for two hours. The film’s setting, the town of Presbyterian Church, was constructed from scratch for the film (up in Canada), with period detail adhered to as often as possible, down to substituting nails for wooden pegs (according to a vintage documentary on my DVD). This, added to Altman’s trademark overlapping, largely improvised dialogue create a world within the picture that truly feels like a living, breathing place and it’s a place you don’t want to leave when the film reaches it’s bleak finale.

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Review: New York, I Love You

Directors: Natalie Portman, Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Sheekhar KapurFatih Akin, Joshua Marston, Randy Balsmeyer
Writers: Emmanuel Benbihy, Tristan Carné, Hall Powell, Israel Horovitz, James C. Strouse, Shunji Iwai, Israel Horovitz, Hu Hong, Yao Meng, Israel Horovitz, Scarlett Johansson, Joshua Marston, Alexandra Cassavetes, Stephen Winter, Jeff Nathanson,
Anthony Minghella, Natalie Portman
Producers: Marina Grasic, Emmanuel Benbihy
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, Bradley Cooper, Maggie Q, Hayden Christensen, Christina Ricci, Andy Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Blake Lively, Anton Yelchin, Shu Qi, Carlos Acosta, James Cann, Justin Bartha, Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachm
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 103 min.


Three years ago one of my favorite films of the year, Paris Je’ Taime was released to theaters and I was actually taken aback at how much I liked the piece. It was a series of vignettes, each directed by a famous director (from Gus Van Sant to the Coen Brothers to Wes Craven) with a whole slew of great, character actors and A-list stars. Each vignette was a cute little story examining a relationship somewhere within the great culture of Paris. Not necessarily lovers either. There were fathers and daughters, sisters, elderly couples and even a vampire tale amongst many others. Within months it was announced that a follow-up to the film would be coming soon that would take place in New York. So I’ve been waiting the better part of three years to see the sequel of sorts to one of my favorite films of 2007 with another set of great stories told by world class film makers and actors. And finally it is here in America showing to a fairly wide audience.

There had been some grumbling that New York, I Love You wasn’t quite the film its predecessor had been. Quite honestly I can’t fathom that notion as this film is at least the former’s equal; if not superior to the “original.” If you liked Paris Je’ Taime (or loved it as much as I did), there’s no reason to steer clear of this reimagining. It’s got the same amount of heart and inspiration and should capture your heart just as quickly and steadfast as the stories did threeyears ago.
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FWC’s DVD Club: Away from Her

DVD ClubAround these parts, we love great film and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’m always on the lookout for the next best thing in Canadian film. The First Weekend Club is dedicated to sharing the best Canada has to offer and though some of the selections may not always make it to theatres across the border or around the world, there is always the DVD release. Enter the DVD Club.

Every month the First Weekend Club announces a DVD selection along with a special guest – someone involved with the film who will participate and interact with fans in the forum. We here at Row Three also love a great discussion and what could be better than chatting up a storm with the star, director or producer of that film you just watched? Yeah, I thought that might get you a bit excited.

Away From Her

This month’s selection is Sarah Polley’s Away from Her staring Gordon Pinsent, Stacey LaBerge and Julie Christie. For those who haven’t seen it, now would be the time to check out Polley’s fantastic feature directorial debut while those of us who have seen it may want to re-visit the film to part take in some discussion with this month’s guests Gordon Pinsent and Kristen Thomson.

Finite Focus: Beyond The Fragile Geometry of Space (Don’t Look Now)

Dont Look Now One-SheetNicholas Roeg‘s delightfully heavy-handed horror-thriller is one of those films that does not get as much love as it deserves. Much like John Frankenheimer‘s Seconds, it is too difficult, earnest and unwieldy to drop into any specific genre and flirts around the edgier side of cinema. The fact that this film is likely as strong today as it was in 1973 is a testament to the quality film-making and overall lush aesthetics on display.

The blood, the water, glass and the foggy morning are all underscored by a large amount of cross-cutting, which sets up a lot of the visual motifs that the film will keep spinning around when the story moves to Venice. This Finite Focus is the opening scene of the film, and damn, it’ll make you want to find and watch the film right away if baroque horror-thrillers (Dario Argento, Guillermo del Toro, Lucky McKee) are your thing. Don’t Look Now is a very influential film, certainly from a film-school point of view, this is a great modern example of Sergei Eisenstein‘s theory of cross-cutting and indoctrinating emotion via cutting and shifting imagery (see also the three films from Darren Aronofsky who I am guessing is a big fan of Eisenstein.) Steven Soderbergh has cited the films very graphic and experimental sex scene (which uses great intercutting like the below scene) as his inspiration for a previous Finite Focus scene from Out of Sight. Lastly, and this is just a guess mind you, but the little girl running around in Schindler’s List has to be a nod to Don’t Look Now. As you can see from the scene below, Roeg‘s choice of muted browns and subdued greens make the bright red rain-coat (and any blood) jump out of the composition. I love the boy fixing his bike in this scene with the little girl far, far in the background, like a blot of blood. And the hint of premonition via the actions shown on screen, but in particular Donald Sutherland‘s facial expression and action are to be explored for the rest of the film.

The scene below truly is one of those iconic opening scenes that are to be celebrated in challenging and rewarding cinema.