Last week we featured the stellar white poster for the J. D. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost) directed New York City crime flick, A Most Violent Year. Now we have the trailer which shows Oscar Isaac getting a bit freaked out at being accused of criminal behaviour in his ‘honest business,’ and Jessica Chastian shedding single tears on more than one occasion. Albert Brooks is in there too. While nothing exceptional exactly jumps out here, I’m pretty happy there are directors like Chandor makeing films that would be right at home in the 1940s or 1970s. That is to say, I will be there will bells on when the film opens on New Years Eve.
I am kind of in love with all the whiteness in this design. Jessica Chastain’s dress almost fading into the hill below witch she is facing a surprisingly sparse 1981 New York City skyline. At least I think it is Chastain on the poster, it is hard to tell with her back to us. She is there, also presumably with Oscar Isaac who is again likely trudging through the Big Apple in the snow.
I have no idea what the film is about, the large font tagline is vague, but intriguing, but I suspect it will be a chilly affair.
Clearly designed as a studio knock-off with the intent of ‘raising-the-bar’ on the horror of both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, with Death Wish helmer Micheal Winner bringing a puerile trash-factor to the proceedings, The Sentinel is not lacking in crazy moments. From being over-cast to the point of ludicrousness (characters played by Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, Jose Ferrer, Eli Wallach, and Jerry Orbach add very little to the story considering their star power), to dress-up parties for cats, to graphic onscreen masturbation, to using bonafide disfigured people to represent the minions of satan. The film has it all if you are looking for an exploitive bit of insensitivity to just about, well, everyone.
Allison Parker (Cristina Raines), a young fashion model looking for her own apartment in New York City, stumbles across the best deal in town, an spacious, fully furnished brownstone in Brooklyn with a wicked view. A gracefully aging Ava Gardner is her realtor in a small role.
In short order, Allison discovers the place has some of the craziest inhabitants in the city, including a ghoulish priest that does nothing but stare out the window, some crazy ballerinas and a chatty old fellow (Burgess Meredith, fantastic) who is never seen without a bird on his shoulder, and a pussy cat in his arms. These downsides she discovers over the course of a punishing several weeks culminate in an increasing series of feinting spells, flashbacks to her suicidal teenage years, and hallucinations of naked old men wandering into her bedroom. As they pile up, her lawyer boyfriend (Chris Sarandon) not only seems useless at helping her cope, but might even be in league with all of the crazy people. Everyone in her current state of reality seems hell-bent (literally) on terrorizing her, except a younger priest (John Carradine) who looks over the elderly priest in the attic, and has some longterm plans for Alison.
The Sentinel culminates in a whopper of a climax, that is as nutty as anything ever put on film in the 1970s, and that is saying something. In other words, the film is never boring.
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Focusing more on the progression of the story this time around and featuring a lot more (Academy Award Nominee) Jonah Hill, the second trailer for Martin Scorsese’s has as much bombast and excess (and slow motion) as ever. It’s great, and rather at odds with the litany of shoddy blockbuster/tentpole trailers of late, but rather than give us more images (and there are plenty more here) can we just get this movie in the cinema all ready?
Brooklyn-based folk singer Bill plies his trade in seedy bars, performing in a red jumpsuit and helmet and explaining that he is a visitor from the planet Hondo. The backstory is his daughter’s favorite bedtime story as well, and he faithfully recounts to her the journey of General Trius and his search for a new homeworld for the Hondonians, as a comet slowly but surely makes its way toward a collision course with Hondo. Upon reaching Earth, the story goes, General Trius planned to release a virus that would clear out humanity in preparation for Hondonian take-over. Instead, he heard music for the first time and decided not only to spare Earth, but to live among them and become a musician.
With such an unlikely premise begins one of the most charming and heartwarming films I’ve seen in quite a while – exactly the kind of experience you always hope for when you go into a relatively unknown quantity. Future Folk is a real band, a duo that has been performing in New York City for years using this backstory, one even more elaborate than what is on offer with tiny budget and short runtime, but the film takes this imaginative approach to music performance and realizes it in such a delightful way, its breeziness is its charm. Nils d’Audlaire is not an actor, but plays Bill/Trius with a sweet naturalism, while bandmate Jay Klaitz (who has Broadway, film, TV, and video game credits) carries the more overtly comedic side of the film as the Almighty Kevin, come from Hondo to try to get the mission back on track.
An exceptionally tall girl in an orange dress with a piece of red-velvet cake on a plate and a lanky New Zealander with a video camera meet on the subway headed for Coney Island. They chat. They separate. They meet again. Could it be fate? Could it be the romance of both their lives? So begins the premise of Love Story, which is part Rom-Com, part art-experiment, part documentary. The woman is Masha, a Russian beauty who Kiwi filmmaker Florian Habicht hired to be his girlfriend for the making of the film. Their meeting is staged, as is Florian’s quest to find her afterwards. He solicits on-the-street advice from a charming rouges gallery of New Yorkers on how to proceed with his relationship-slash-film with the girl, including at one point climbing right into a taxicab occupied by a lady stock-broker to ask for seduction advice for a possible sex-scene (more on that in a moment.) In one of many fourth wall breaks, you not only get the seduction advice (“play the shy card”) but you also see the stock broker sign the documentary release form from a stack that Habicth carries around. If nothing else, it shows the power of a man and a movie camera and a built in conversation in a city of extroverts – and that even the most guerrilla of filmmaking projects still has a lot of paper work.
There is a shot early on in Steve McQueen’s Shame, a frame filling close-up on Carey Mulligan as she sings a desperate, melancholic version of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” that is such pure cinema, albeit in a highly stylized and perhaps melodramatic form, but it gets at truth. Mulligan portrays Sissy, the emotionally need sister to Michael Fassbender’s, intimacy challenged Brandon, and her song, performed in an upscale New York City club is one of only a couple fleeting moments that she gets through to him emotionally. Earlier, for a instant or two, you see Fassbender’s face slightly out of focus with low lighting, the visage of a skull, as if to imply he is a drug addict or dying or dead. Shame is a movie about unfulfillment in a time and age where anything is possible, instant gratification for a buck, at any time during the day, particularly in a city like New York.
Brandon has some sort of successful corporate job, and a solid relationship with his boss, David. Despite David’s established domestic life, a wife and two kids await at home, the two of them cruise the nightclubs with after work. David is all manic and eager to please as he tries to pick up, whereas Brandon is silent, mysterious, cool. Brandon has a lot more success at the bars, leading to a series of one night stands. In the mean time, a steady diet of internet pornography, the occasional stalking of an random attractive woman on a subway train. That scene, actually a pair of scenes which form narrative bookends for the film, is also telling. There is an instant, honest – if that is the right word – attraction between this married woman and Brandon, a glance that recalls Nicole Kidman’s speech about mental infidelity and lust Eyes Wide Shut. This woman flashes her wedding ring as if some kind of ward, and nonplussed, Brandon practically chases her up the platform. She escapes, if only narrowly. A tryst with a co-worker in the film further underscores the tug and push of Brandon’s particular condition, there is a hint that something intimate and real might come out of things, and that shuts him down. It must be terribly confusing for her, after they share a warm and charming evening of food and conversation the night before. The movie flits from the woods and incandescent lighting of street level New York clubs with the press of flesh and life, to Brandon’s stark black and white apartment, trapped and isolated on the umpteenth floor of a glass and steel condo. Displacement is further underscored when Brandon listens to a series of desperate answering machine messages which echo in the cold space.