Cinecast Episode 444 – Gorgeously Sleazy

And the summer theatrical season continues to be of zero interest to our heroes. Luckily the De Palma retrospective is about to kick off at the TIFF Lightbox and continues all summer long. So we’ll loosely follow that schedule for the time being. Last week we reviewed De PalmaNiro in Hi, Mom and this week we keep going with the Travolta vehicle, Blow Out. From there, we move on to a little more delightfully trashy fare from William Friedkin and Tony Scott. Lastly Danny Boyle never gets enough credit for his amazingness.

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: Triple 9

“The monster has gone digital,” warns Woody Harrelson in a fashion that only Mr. Harrelson can. As bedraggled detective cleaning up the mess of a bank manager whose vault was just not only breached in a daylight heist, but documents of his families whereabouts are left behind by the thieves as a threat. Triple 9 is a gritty fusion of the dirty cop drama, and the ‘one last job’ thriller. Mostly it feels like the last hurrah of the ensemble heist film. With GPS, closed circuit cameras, and other omnipresent technologies, pulling off a smash-and-grab bank job seems as foolish as grabbing a few strapped stacks on impulse on the way out the door only to find them loaded with dye packs.

John Hillcoat, the hard-boiled Australian behind gritty outback western The Proposition, apocalyptic father-son survival tale The Road, and family bootlegger drama, Lawless, is determined to make his audience wallow in the complex cesspool of crime and law-enforcement of inner city Atlanta. The gangs are bad, at one point a trio of severed heads sit idly on the hood of a classic automobile, but the militarized police force is worse. Hillcoat has always been interested in the messy outcomes of complex (and not so complex) masculinity, and he has a fine ensemble of bold character actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr. and Norman Reedus, a squad consisting of active and ex-police and marines who are in deep with, of all things, an orthodox Jewish faction of Russian mafia.

Sporting Star-of-David bling and exceptionally big hair, Kate Winslet’s thickly accented Irina Vlaslov is tougher than any of these compromised men as she tightens the screws on in a way that is reminiscent of Kristin Scott-Thompson’s angry-icicle matron in Only God Forgives. She has leverage on these men in a manner too convoluted to get into here, but suffice it to say that the strength of Triple 9 is that of a pot-boiler par excellence. As the plot vacillates between criminal brotherhood and domestic drama, neither in great detail, there is nevertheless an undertow towards finding out what is going to happen next.

As Harrelson’s pot-smoking, half-drunk super-cop offers advice and sniffs the air for the schemes of dirty cops, Ejoifor tries to get his Ex (a wasted Gal Gadot) to share custody of their son, and Paul continues to break bad, it is Casey Affleck who quietly steals the film as a rookie cop that is somehow both naive and world-weary (welcome to the 21st century folks.) In a different film, Affleck would be front and centre, here he blends into the background until he does not, his performance is a coup of sorts, a combination of acting talent, and directional choices.

There are some who might suggest that this would all work better in the ubiquitous long-form TV format, but I disagree. Sometimes there is a case to be made for a smaller dose of something. Triple 9’s familiar, yet akimbo, clusterfuck of organizations and individuals (with a dash of geopolitics?) has just enough visual panache – a grimy 35mm aesthetic with occasional splotches of bright pink – combined with its ensemble of abundance to pass muster as termite art. It is the kind of adult entertainment, along with the far more thoroughbred Sicario and far, far more abstruse The Counselor, that has been on the endangered species list from movie studios for some time. It is well worth spotting these rare beasts in the wild before they are gone.

Trailer #2 for John Hillcoat’s Triple 9

Here is faster paced, more plot and character heavy UK trailer for the increasingly awesome looking new John Hillcoat picture, Triple 9. A collection of corrupt cops attempt a massive heist, and to distract the rest of the cities branches of law enforcement, they plan to murder one of their fellow officers to create a ‘999’ call which would have most of the police in the city converge in a location as far away the robbery as possible. Featuring the very well stocked cast of Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and Kate Winslet.

Triple 9 hits US theatres in February 2016, and apparently the European market will get a chance to see it as well, albeit no release date is indicated in the trailer.

Cinecast Episode 415 – Get on with the Task

We’ve got a lot to get to this week! Almost too much. First up is Danny Boyle’s version of Steve Jobs. Despite not seeing any other iterations of his story, I think it’s safe to say we’d call this the best one. It’s been/will be a banner year for westerns in 2015 and though there are some minor quibbles with Bone Tomahawk, Andrew and Kurt mostly had fun hanging out with it – one of us more than the other. For October scares, we take a trip into the snowy Haunted House of Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here. Then it is off to Africa (or is it Netflix?) with Cary Fukunaga, where Idris Alba stars in the gorgeous but brutal Beasts of No Nation. For the Watchlist, Andrew does Flyway and Kurt talks David Mamet and Oliver Stone. Whew!

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: Triple 9

This little slice of nastiness from John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road), a director who knows his way around balancing bleak and heart, looks to be pushing the envelope of Sicario and Training Day as far as it can go.

Triple 9 has elements of the militarization of police, the war of attrition with crime and violence (severed heads abound), and everyone thrown into the blender. Props to whoever came up with the kids ‘this little piggie’ to score this trailer, because it is damn effective with the imagery on display.

The cast is beyond stacked: Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and somewhere in there is Kate Winslet. All stuck in John Hillcoat’s murky grime. I cannot wait to wade into this urban warzone in February 2016.

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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Review: Contagion

With no prologue, no set-up, we’re thrust into Day Two. Gwyneth Paltrow is visibly fighting a bug; she’s shaky, she’s sniffly, she’s sweating and shivering at the same time. Not how you want to feel while traveling through a busy airport, but this is more than just a personal discomfort. The next few moments track, via a frenetically-scored montage, the movements of every person she’s come into contact with in the past few hours, and all the things they touch. A martini glass left on a bar, a tiny bathroom shared by dozens of airline passengers, a touch of a hand using a railing to swing out of a bus – these innocuous commonplaces all become harbingers of death, each touch hitting us viscerally.

From there, the film spreads out like the virus, pulling in the CDC and the World Health Organization to investigate this Minnesota woman’s quick demise and the already world-wide spread of the disease through Hong Kong, London, China, Chicago, and more. Every angle gets its moment (and sometimes it seems like little more than a moment), from Matt Damon’s grieving husband and frightened father to Laurence Fishburne’s seasoned CDC coordinator to Kate Winslet’s professional but deeply sympathetic field agent to Marion Cotillard’s WHO investigator to Jude Law’s conspiracy theorist blogger to Gwyneth Paltrow’s unsuspecting viral carrier to Jennifer Ehle’s brilliant scientist, and more. If these sound like types, that’s because they are. The film has so many stories it wants to tell that each one is perhaps understandably underdeveloped, relying on familiar types and star power to give them power.

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I Believe in the God of Carnage

…And his name is Roman Polanski. He wreaks havoc of awesome with every piece of celluloid he touches and now he’s got another A-list set of stars to carry on the tradition in this seemingly dark comedy based on the play by Yasmina Reza.

Two sets of parents meet an apartment to talk over the violent dispute between their 11 year-old sons on the school yard. Slowly, what starts as friendly banter turns into verbal blood-shed. aka Carnage.

Maybe a little bit more over the top yet light-hearted version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? See the trailer below and make the call. I for one have a new most anticipated film for this year…

 

 

Trailer Round Up (Contagion, Thing, Sherlock Holmes, Hugo)

Lots we missed this week, so let’s get to it. This is all star-studded, big budget material in today’s round-up. And you know what? It all ranges from pretty good to damn near amazing; starting with Mr. Soderbergh (and Matt Damon and Gwynneth Paltrow and Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet and John Hawkes and Larry Fishburne and Bryan Cranston and Jude Law and awesomeness). Ladies and gentlemen,

Contagion – – :

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Heavenly Creatures 15th Anniversary Re-Release (UK only)

 
 

Thanks to Andrew for bringing this item to my attention, even if it is a bit of a tease. To coincide with an upcoming 15th Anniversary Blu-Ray release of Heavenly Creatures, small British distributor Peccadillo Pictures is going to give it a limited theatrical re-release. Peter Jackson’s Oscar nominated departure from splatter comedies (Braindead, Bad Taste, Meet The Feebles) is likely the main reason (along with The Frighteners) why New Line Cinema gave him the massive, in budget and scope, Lord of the Rings project (after the Kiwi director campaigned for actively.) Of course, it being Kate Winslet’s film debut is also of interest to many fans and admirers of her work over the past decade and a half. The fact that she is an excellent and nuanced performer right out of the gate should come as no surprise. Here she plays one of two girls accused and convicted of patricide. Melanie Lynskey (Up in the Air, The Informant!) has the role of narrator Pauline Parker, from whose diary the film is adapted. The girls obsessive relationship around literature and popular culture in 1950s New Zealand is compelling stuff when combined with Jackson’s flair for whimsical (and gritty) visuals.

Considering the similarly themed (and titled) The Lovely Bones which ended up more or less a popular and critical failure, it is safe to call Heavenly Creatures his best written film, but despite it being more of a drama, it doesn’t eschew his penchant for high-fantasy and big special effects, only they are used much more sparingly here. Coupled with some nice film and musical hommages, this makes for great viewing on the big screen, so you folks across the pond should head out to your cinema on September 12th if it is playing in your neighborhood. We’ll overlook the math on this announcement, considering the film original came out in 1994, perhaps it took it an additional two years to get to the UK while Miramax (at their peak in terms of indie prestige) in the US jumped on it pretty fast.

On a side note, this film seems to be plagued with poor and half-assed DVD releases, I know my early Miramax release is possibly the worst looking film I have in my collection (inexcusable for such a handsomely shot picture) and while it has been out in Canada on Blu Ray for some time, apparently that release is pretty bare bones and in the wrong aspect ratio to boot. We will see if Peccadillo’s eventual release is done with as much TLC as them giving the film a theatrical repertory release.

For much more on the film, you can go back into the MOVIE CLUB PODCAST archives for the Heavenly Creatures episode.