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.

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 405 – SPECTRE-tacular

 
Kurt is back from Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, and he might have a thing or two to say about the movies, the town and the folks at that festival. At nearly two hours we can only say brace yourself for genre-overload. But first, Matt Gamble joins Kurt & Andrew midway through the conversation on Christopher McQuarrie’s installment of the Mission Impossible franchise. Kurt loved it. Andrew liked it. Matt, well, Matt watched it. Practical stunts, exceptional set-pieces and the ass-kicking talents of Rebecca Ferguson and a cleaned up and ready for prime time Sean Harris are all on the conversational docket. While there is no full “True Detective” segment this episode (we’ll cap the remaining three off, next time) there is a full Watch List for your listening pleasure, and Matt does briefly chime in on this season of “True Detective,” along with the doc on Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau remake disaster, and Adam Sandler’s Pixels. Andrew covers off the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer and its direct-to-Nexflix sequel. Finally we settle the Mara Rooney / Kate Mara confusion (sort of).

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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Friday One Sheet: Clean Shaven Sean

Doesn’t Sean Harris clean up nicely?

The latest character posters for Mission Impossible 5 features the British actor known for playing icky villains or low-lives in small UK productions (remember his Drexl-type drug dealer in Harry Brown or his assassin in A Lonely Place To Die?) or, more recently, seen in big Hollywood productions (as in the gutter-punk geologist who gets lost in the caves in Prometheus).

The rest of the clean (Alec Baldwin and Simon Pegg are also looking sharp) and uncluttered Ghost Protocol character posters can be found here.

ActionFest Review: A Lonely Place to Die

 

Where has the mountain climbing thriller gone? Was it ever here? Sure there was the epic string of them in the 1930s in Germany and a 2008 adventure movie called The North Face, a couple great documentaries (Everest, Touching the Void) and an occasional action film (Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit, K2). I am even tempted to lump in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours which has the spirit of the genre, without actually having mountains. It is the nature of the beast that any filmmaking team doing this sort of movie (particularly in modern times unless you are Guy Maddin) has to be fully committed to such a thing to make it work, green screens and CGI would likely undermine things, but when done right, few genres have such built in potential for white knuckle tension. So, it is nice to see a film in this vein that takes itself deadly serious with no frills. A Lonely Place to Die is all business. Director Julian Gilbey became an avid and experienced climber to make this film, and that kind of commitment seems to have paid off mightily. Opening with three climbers half-way up a particularly rough patch of rock in Scottish highlands, the sequences were apparently shot completely in-camera, and it looks simultaneously gorgeous and precarious. The less experienced climber in the trio, the tourist boyfriend along with his much more proficient girlfriend, fiddles with his digital camera on a ledge to get just the right angle (of himself, mind you) and indirectly causes a mishap that results in a escalating bit of intense panic. Put it this way, multi-tasking has little place on a craggy face at one thousand meters. That, and your mountaineering cohorts trust you not to screw around in these sorts of circumstances. This is mere pre-amble for a lean and mean hybrid of mountaineering the Most Dangerous Game thriller shot in the same region of Scotland as Neil Marshall’s Centurion, and ratcheting up the same level of pressing intensity and suspense as his USA set spelunking horror film, The Descent.
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