Trailer: Trespass Against Us

Despite a turn for intensity at the end of this trailer, do not be fooled, Trespass Against Us is kind of Sundancey-cute for all of its big themes of sins of the father, academia-vs-‘school-of-life’ and the United Kingdom’s social isolation of gypsies. It’s a glossy package perfectly suited for middle-brow consumption.

The very high profile cast including Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson and Sean Harris (going full retard in this one, and defying the old Robert Downy Jr. commentary on this – he is excellent here, but not featured at all in the trailer. First time director (he is normally a documentary guy) Adam Smith goes for smaller moments, but cannot resist a ‘big finish’ that the movie seems to completely earn, but is nevertheless (kind of) pulled off by the sheer magnetism of Fassbender’s presence. At this point, by my editorializing, you can guess I caught this at TIFF where it debuted to kind of muted satisfaction afterwards. Trespass Against Us passes the time, but hardly leaves much of an impression. Considering all the car chases in the film, your mileage may vary.

Trailer: X-Men Apocalypse

It is big and loud, as I suppose an apocalypse should be. The latest X-Men feature will breeze into cinemas after the left-field success of Fox’s Deadpool movie. If this is Fassbender & Lawerence’s last kick at this particular can, the third of the ‘period-piece’ reboot of the franchise, it looks like they are going to go out with a lot of action and a lot of characters. Brian Singer returns to direct, and here is hoping that among all the chaos of this particular chapter, there is more than a little time for some character building and social allegory that the franchise has been so good at under his watch.

Contained in this new trailer is a chance to see Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as a young Cyclops, and Oscar Isaac caked in CGI and make-up as the seriously-full-of-himself heavy. (When they asked him if he was a god, he said, “yes.”)

Trailer: The Light Between Oceans

Derek Cianfrance has quite a number of fans in these parts, particularly for his break-out arthouse hit, Blue Valentine and his more complex, if flawed, followup, The Place Beyond the Pines. His films aim for a kind of heightened misery at the cause of circumstance, and how his characters tackle these emotional challenges.

In adapting M.L. Steadman’s book, The Light Between Oceans he looks to continue in this vein. The story of a couple, played by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who find a baby girl washed up to their lighthouse home, only to discover many years down the road, the mother of the child, played here by Rachel Weisz continuing her phase of crying a lot on screen (see also, The Lobster and Youth, shows up and forces a dilemma on the non-biological parents who have raised the child for 4 years or more.

The gorgeous cinematography and camerawork here (see trailer below) by Adam Arkapaw (True Detective, Macbeth, Animal Kingdom) looks very much in the style of Emmanuel Lubezki, that I hereby will be referring this film henceforth to, The Tree of Strife.

The film comes out in September 2016.

Review: MacBeth

With its meticulous framing, bold editing and sparsely sumptuous cinematography, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of the most straightforward of Shakespeare’s plays has as its closest cinema-analogue, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising. Indeed, Macbeth is bold in its visuals, opaque in its emotional spaces, brutal in its violence, and the chilly Isle of Skye locations evoke medieval eras where the halls of men were dwarfed by endless open spaces. It was, quite frankly, surprising just how much it made HBO’s Game of Thrones, which films in Ireland, a quick hop south and west, look small and visually unambitious. In the golden age of television, the convergence of directors, actors, and production design between TV and Feature Films, there is clearly a domain of one: complex plots and characters, novelistic storytelling, and the other: pure, overwhelming audiovisual power.

You perhaps know the story well. A noble warrior in Scotland is convinced by his wife to murder his king to speed up succession. The guilt drives him mad, and more murders are called for to sustain power, before the consequences are fully reaped. And there are witches who coin the term ‘hurly-burly’ to describe the whole sordid affair. One thing that is either in the Bard’s text, and I have somehow missed it in the past, or it is freshly integrated by Kurzel and his screenwriters (one of latter is High Fidelity actor, Love Liza director Todd Louiso), is that of coldhearted ambitions being driven by the loss of children, or the lack-there-of. The film opens with the death of one the Macbeth’s children, a baby girl, to an unexplained illness, and quickly follows up with the loss of the other child to war. It is never made unequivocal that either of these are in fact the offspring of the pair, but the framing of the opening funeral in one scene, and later, the way MacBeth applies war paint to the boy-soldier, firm but delicate, laced with unspoken pride, seems to imply such. The boy’s death recalls the silent horrors of Russian masterpiece Come And See. Is Macbeth’s hunger for power and nation building driven by the loss of his own? A corrupt lust or desire for stronger leadership to prevent further civil wars? Either way, it underscores the tragedies to follow. On a somewhat unrelated note, there is also the addition of a small girl to the trio of Witches making them either a fearsome-foursome or a family. Combine that with a children’s choir performance piece in the middle the film, and one can see the emphasis of ‘the future’ in this telling of the play.

Michael Fassbender brings the type of raw, implacable energy that he does for director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), and is equally handy with a soliloquy or a sword. Sometimes he does both simultaneously. His slow loss of sanity in the back half gloriously subverts his charming smile, making it a mockery of the actors effortless charisma. Marion Cotillard’s Lady MacBeth is played, at times, more tragic than Machiavellian, at times her lonely stares into the camera threaten to conjure Maria Falconetti. It makes the character either complex or poorly written and realized, I couldn’t tell. The iambic pentameter and original text of the play are intact and when on screen instead of on stage, tend to mute the emotional components of the characters, which is handily made up for by the sheer visual portentousness (and yes, occasional glorious splendour too!) Want to get an idea as to how the final battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker should have been shot? Look no further than the ‘forest is on fire and ash is in the air’ battle of broadswords between MacBeth and MacDuff late into this film. It is epic, intimate, and unholy in its cinematic brawn.

It is the supporting cast however, that elevate Macbeth in terms of emotional engagement. David Thewlis as the trusting, no-nonsense King Duncan; clad in leather and cloth over velvet and gold. Paddy Considine brings pathos and modesty to Banquo, a father is betrayed by his Thane in the worst possible, his only crime being loyalty to the crown and his son. And then there is Sean Harris, he who plays the craziest, deadliest type of villains, from the Harry Brown and A Lonely Place To Die to Mission Impossible 5, playing strongly against type as the noble MacDuff who loses his family to MacBeth’s ever increasing paranoia (shades of Lord Stannis/Sir Davos thread in the most recent chapter in Westeros.)

In short, while I was not emotionally caught up in this 2015 incarnation of Macbeth, I was nevertheless deeply engaged in sheer visual power of the thing that Shakespeare himself called, ‘this bloody business.’

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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Get Your Cast to Mars – Bonus Episode: Ridley Scott’s The Martian (And Prometheus)

Get Your Cast To Mars is a three part micro-podcast focusing on the planet Mars. In anticipation of Ridley Scott’s blockbuster spectacle The Martian, join Matthew Brown and Kurt Halfyard as they consider the red planet as an image, an idea, and a somewhat rare place visited in the cinema of the past 100 years.

BONUS EPISODE! We look at a stranded Matt Damon as he sciences the shit out of Mars, represented here as a logic-problem to be solved by a capable optimist. Because this is a bonus episode, we also compare and contrast The Martian to Ridley Scott’s previous, far more misunderstood, science fiction film, Prometheus. In both cases, the spacefaring crews land on new worlds but are not ready to meet their maker.

Viewing Syllabus: The Martian (2015) and Prometheus (2012).

All three episodes + the bonus episode are available for streaming (see table of contents below) directly from the site, or are a part of the RowThree podcast feed, ready for you to send them to whatever electronic device you prefer.


The complete adventures of Matt and Kurt go to Mars:

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Friday One Sheet: Lady Macbeth

Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders, and currently directing Assassin’s Creed) offers up a visceral adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and has two very power stars in the lead roles: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. When you have stars this good looking, you damn will put them on the poster. And indeed, the above poster eschews text and credit blocks to keep the focus on Ms. Cotillard. (Fassbender in his warpaint is tucked under the seat.) I often refer this kind of no nonsense design ‘South Korean’ style, because that country often likes a simple enhanced photograph to sell their blockbusters.

The only drawback to this, is that it doesn’t tell you the supporting cast contains David Thewlis, Sean Harris, Paddy Considine and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. villainess Elizabeth Debicki in supporting roles.

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Blu-Ray Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut

Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Based on a Graphic Novel by: Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage
Country: USA/UK/Canda
Running Time: 142 min (Rogue Cut) 126 (Theatrical Cut)
Year: 2014
BBFC Certificate: 12 (although the commentary is rated 15)

I like to moan about super hero movies. There seems to be an endless stream of them nowadays with these extended universes and such, so I’ve grown very tired of hearing about them. 90% of online chatter seems to surround the latest super hero movie trailer or casting news. Personally I couldn’t give a s**t about most of it and become a snob hiding in the corner with my indie movies and classic re-releases. However, despite my grumbling, I’ve actually enjoyed most of the super hero films I’ve seen during this decade-and-a-half boom.

One of last year’s super hero movies that I liked quite a lot was X-Men: Days of Future Past. So when I was offered a chance to review the new Rogue Cut of the film, I decided to break away from my usual snooty high-brow/classic/cult posts to join the mainstream.

I won’t go into too much detail about the plot for X-Men: Days of Future Past as most of you will already have seen it. Basically, in the future, the world is a bleak and desolate place, particularly for mutants who are being hunted and killed by the all powerful Sentinels (big evil robots that can take on mutant powers). The X-Men have a plan though. They send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back into the subconscious of his 1970’s self to change events surrounding Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), Charles Xavier (a.k.a. Professor X, played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a. Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender) which led to the development of the Sentinel programme, spearheaded by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).

What The Rogue Cut adds in its 16 extra minutes, alongside a couple of minor changes here and there, is, as you might have guessed, a role for Rogue (Anna Paquin). She was a major character in the first couple of films, but was left on the cutting room floor when Days of Future Past hit cinemas. In these re-instated scenes she is saved from experimentation by Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Bobby/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) so that she can help the wounded Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) keep Wolverine in his former subconscious.

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