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Midnight Special Review

Excellent

Gifted director Jeff Nichols takes on another genre in his fourth film with actor Michael Shannon, after Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter and Mud. This one's an involving character-based sci-fi adventure made in the style of classic films like E.T. or Close Encounters. As the characters are thrown into an extraordinary situation, the story gradually reveals its fantastical secrets without resorting to the usual overblown blockbuster formula, which makes the movie remarkably resonant and genuinely thrilling.

Shannon plays Roy, a man who is on the run across Texas with his 8-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) and his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), who's now a state trooper. And the FBI is on their trail, investigating the religious cult they escaped from. Led by the defiant Calvin (Sam Shepard), the cult seems to have been centred around the unusual ability Alton has to gather information from government satellites. Which is why the FBI is so intent on tracking him down. Working with the FBI, NSA Agent Sevier (Adam Driver) is fascinated by Alton's abilities, and he begins to worry what might happen if the boy is captured. Meanwhile, Roy and Lucas have reunited with Alton's mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and are continuing their journey across the American South. And time is clearly of the essence, since Alton is growing seriously ill.

Writer-director Nichols skilfully keeps the audience gripped by the central mystery, dropping in hints and revelations along the way that slowly build up to the final big picture. This forces the viewer into the same perspective as the characters, who don't have a clue what's going on but are gripped by the possibilities of what they're witnessing. This also makes it impossible to predict where the story might go next as it cycles through action, humour, emotion and exhilarating drama. Through all of this, the actors all offer beautiful textures in their characters, underplaying even the most intense scenes to make them feel strikingly realistic.

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Midnight Special Trailer


Alton is a very special young boy who has been given a unique gift. When his father, Roy, finds out that Alton is in trouble with his freedom - and life - in jeopardy, Roy takes matters in his own hands and kidnaps his son. On the run and being hunted by religious extremists and special agents, Roy takes to the road with his close friend in order to protect his son.

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'August: Osage County' In Toronto: Why This Darkly Funny Drama Won't Win Oscar Hearts [Trailer + Pictures]


Meryl Streep Julia Roberts Juliette Lewis Abigail Breslin Benedict Cumberbatch Ewan McGregor Sam Shepard

August: Osage County premiered at this week's Toronto International Film Festival to a storm of excitement from early critics and Oscar nudging. However, a few days later the dust has settled around John Wells' adaptation of Tracy Letts' award-winning play and we are able to catch our breath and collect our thoughts.

August Osage County
Meryl Streep Shines In
August: Osage County As A Ferocious Mother.

Director John Wells' movie has been praised for its immersive scene setting and its out-of-the-park performances from an all-star, yet respected cast that includes Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Abigail Breslin.

Continue reading: 'August: Osage County' In Toronto: Why This Darkly Funny Drama Won't Win Oscar Hearts [Trailer + Pictures]

August: Osage County Trailer


The Weston family know they are probably one of the most dysfunctional families around, but they do understand that sometimes it's best to stick together. Violet Weston is the family matriarch suffering from mouth cancer and heavily addicted to prescription drugs which only gets worse after the apparent suicide of her husband Beverly. As the funeral approaches, Violet's three daughters Barbara, Ivy and Karen and their families arrive at the house they grew up in, along with some other estranged relatives, hoping to get the whole ordeal over and done with fairly quickly. However, things don't go as smoothly as they, perhaps naively, hoped as they discover a whole load of closet skeletons they'd rather have not known about.

'August: Osage County' is a remarkable dark comedy directed by multi-Emmy winning John Wells ('The Company Men') and based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name by Tracy Letts ('Bug', 'Killer Joe'). It has been produced by George Clooney and Harvey Weinstein and is a warts-and-all story about the trials and tribulations of family affairs, uncovering both the heartwarming and the heartbreaking secrets that underline all families. It is set to be released in the UK on January 3rd 2014.

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August: Osage County Unites A Stellar Cast Of Actors, Headed By Meryl Streep


Meryl Streep Julia Roberts Abigail Breslin Ewan McGregor Chris Cooper Sam Shepard

The trailer for August: Osage County hit the airwaves today and, if you didn’t know that was a film you wanted to see, you should now. Generally, just the presence of Meryl Streep on the castlist is enough to get a film onto the list, but August has a lot more going for it as well, with a cast, absolutely packed with star power - Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch all star in this tale of a family reunion and a family breakdown and (hopefully) one final reunion. The film, directed by John Wells, centers on a dysfunctional Oklahoma family whose drug-addicted matriarch, Streep, is dying of mouth cancer.

The trailer shows some trademark Streep moments in the film, but it also highlights the roles of Roberst and Lewis as antagonistic sisters and everyone seems to work well enough together to create a believable picture of a family on the brink of collapse. The film is based on Tracy Letts’ 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which received shining praise on its release in 2007. When "August: Osage County" played at the Ahamson Theater in 2009, Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote: "The play’s pedigree could be expanded in ways both high and low, but 'August' brews its own distinctive mix of tragicomic gravitas and florid pop." The film adaptation is due for an early November release. Did someone say Oscar bait?

Continue reading: August: Osage County Unites A Stellar Cast Of Actors, Headed By Meryl Streep

Killing Them Softly Review


Excellent

Moral murkiness makes this hitman thriller gripping to watch, mainly because we're never quite sure where it's going. Even though it's set in 2008, Australian director Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James) shoots it like a 1970s thriller, which gives the whole film a superb sense of moral murkiness. And since it's based on a 1974 novel (Cogan's Trade by George Higgins), the film has an almost timely feel to it, using offbeat rhythms and complex characters who refuse to do what we want them to do.

At the centre is Jackie Cogan (Pitt), hired by a bookish mafia executive (Jenkins) to clean up the mess after a mob card game was robbed. The problem is that the two guys behind the heist (McNairy and Mendelsohn) are dimwits who have no idea what they've stumbled into. But Cogan is also annoyed by mob bureaucracy, which takes far too long to get anything done. And he's even more short-tempered with his old pal Mickey (Gandolfini), who he brings in to bump off a middleman (Liotta), except that Mickey is too interested in alcohol and sex to get the job done properly. Clearly, Jackie will have to do everything himself.

Pitt plays the role with a terrific sense of world-weary charm. He has no time for the losers around him, but takes pride in his work, preferring to kill his targets softly rather than causing pain. Meanwhile, Gandolfini is playing an alcoholic twist on Tony Soprano, Jenkins is doing his usual officious schtick, and Liotta is a more soulful version of the mafioso he's played many times before. By contrast, McNairy and Mendelsohn are hilariously clueless. Like characters from a Coen brothers movie, they're likeable even though we never have any hope that they'll get anything right.

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Killing Them Softly Trailer


Jackie Cogan is the enforcer in an organized mob. He becomes the key investigator when a raid takes place at a poker game by two men armed with shotguns who manage to make off with $100,000 when the game was supposed to be protected by the gang. Jackie sets out to find the robbers but when he discovers that they are just two loud-mouthed amateur delinquents, he cunningly uses them to find out who was really behind the heist, pretending to befriend one of them, Steve Caprio.

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Blackthorn Review


Excellent
Plaintive and perhaps too slow-moving for mainstream audiences, this finely made Western cycles through a rather long, complex narrative. But it's thoroughly involving, with terrific characters and an engaging emotional punch.

It turns out that Butch Cassidy didn't die in a hail of gunfire in 1908 Bolivia after all. Now calling himself James Blackthorn (Shepard), he's still living there 20 years later with his girlfriend Yana (Solier). But after he decides to return home, he's waylaid by Eduardo (Noriega), a city-slicker who has embezzled thousands from a brutal businessman. Their ensuing adventures spark memories of Blackthorn's days as a young outlaw (Coster-Waldau in flashbacks) with the Sundance Kid (Delaney) and Etta Place (McElligott), chased to South America by the dogged lawman McKinley (Rea).

Continue reading: Blackthorn Review

Darling Companion Trailer


Beth and Joseph Winter have been married for several years but lately, she feels that he is growing more distant from her and more absorbed in his work as a surgeon. Everything changes, though, when Beth spots a stray dog on the side of the freeway. After persuading her daughter to back up, Beth decides to adopt the dog and names him Freeway.

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Safe House Review


Good
With a cool Cape Town setting and constant sweaty, kinetic violence, this entire film plays like a wildly thrilling segment from a Bourne movie. It's sharply well-made and acted, but nothing about it remotely scratches beneath the surface.

Matt (Reynolds) is a low-level operative watching over the CIA's Cape Town safe house. After months of sitting around waiting, he finally gets to host a notorious guest: most-wanted rogue agent Tobin (Washington). Then violent thugs assault the place and Matt takes Tobin on the run, calling his handler (Gleeson) in Langley to get help from senior agents (Farmiga and Shepard). But there's clearly a leak in the ranks, and Tobin is obviously carrying something both the good guys and bad guys want.

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Safe House Trailer


Matt Weston is a young CIA agent who, for the past year, has been bored by his inactive post in Cape Town. Matt is a "housekeeper" who aspires to be a full-fledged agent, a loyal company man who is waiting for an opportunity to prove himself. That opportunity seems to present itself when Matt's new 'guest' proves to be the most dangerous man he's ever met.

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Blackthorn Trailer


Butch Cassidy is infamous for being a bank and train robber and the leader of the Wild Bunch Gang, which included the criminals Elzy Lay, George Curry, Laura Bullion and Harry Tracy. He is perhaps well known for committing his crimes with Harry Longabaugh, also known as the Sundance Kid and Longabaugh's girlfriend Etta Place.

Continue: Blackthorn Trailer

Fair Game Review


Good
This provocative, fascinating true story is told with so much righteous rage that the politics overwhelm the personal drama. Terrific acting and a sharp, brainy script hold our interest, but we never properly feel the emotional punch.

Valerie Plame (Watts) is a high-level CIA operative juggling teams in a variety of locations. In the wake of 9/11, her focus is on investigating Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programme. Her husband, Joe Wilson (Penn), is the expert sent to Niger to investigate uranium rumours, but he finds no evidence.

And this is backed up by Valerie's discoveries from scientists in Iraq. So when Joe hears George W Bush lying in a State of the Union address, he writes a rebuttal. Enraged, Bush administration official Scooter Libby (Andrews) releases Valerie's identity.

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Billy Crudup and Sam Shepard Wednesday 17th March 2010 Billy Crudup attending a performance of Sam Shepard's 'A Lie of the Mind' at the Acorn Theatre New York City, USA

Billy Crudup and Sam Shepard

Brothers Review


Good
This remake of Susanne Bier's 2004 drama is an equally powerful story of family tensions and how violence affects more than just the victim. But the original Danish film's strained melodrama translates here as well.

Sam Cahill (Maguire) is a loyal Marine getting ready to head back to Afghanistan with his men. His wife Grace (Portman) is trying to be strong for their young daughters (Madison and Geare), but his stern father (Shepard) couldn't be prouder. Just before he ships out, Sam's black-sheep brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) gets out of prison and, when Sam is reported killed in action, he rises to the challenge to help care for Grace and the girls. But several months later Sam is found, and what he experienced has left him dangerously paranoid.

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Sam Shepard Wednesday 6th January 2010 'Objects of Life' opening reception at Robert Miller Gallery New York City, USA

Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard

Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard - Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard New York City, USA - walk arm-in-arm through Soho Wednesday 2nd September 2009

Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard

Brothers Trailer


Watch the trailer for Brothers

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Sam Shepard Tuesday 3rd March 2009 'Ages of the Moon' world premiere at The Peacock Theatre Dublin, Ireland

Sam Shepard
Moya Brennan and Sam Shepard
Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard, Fran Sheridan and Jim Sheridan
Sam Shepard and Jim Sheridan

Black Hawk Down Review


Terrible
"It's about the facelessness of war!" exclaimed a colleague. "The compositions are stunning, with action going on in the foreground and background. It's a dynamic and apocalyptic visual experience!" This, to me, is madness. Black Hawk Down has been mistaken, in its bloated self-importance, for being cinematically and politically relevant. Take away its timely guise of patriotism, and it's a real horror show, more about murder than military prowess. Without the morally repellant "kill 'em all" subtext (young white boys mowing down the savages), you're left with something merely incoherent.

Two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters go down in the mazelike streets of Mogadishu during a routine search-and-capture mission, leaving 100 G.I.'s stumbling around enemy territory with limited resources until the rescue Rangers show up. It's been oft-compared to having almost two full hours of Steven Spielberg's masterful 30-minute Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan, which sounds good on paper only because Ryan suffered by following up its amazing visual prologue with a glut of character-driven monologues to invest personality within each soldier before he get killed. But Spielberg understood the basic precepts of documentary filmmaking: no matter how chaotic things got, we always understood where the soldiers were, and where they were going. Black Hawk Down, by removing exposition and cohesion, couldn't care less.

Continue reading: Black Hawk Down Review

Bandidas Review


Bad
In the history of really silly wigs, Dwight Yoakam's long, crimped black hair in Bandidas has gone and snuck its way into the top ten. It's part of the silliness of the film that stops it from being a truly terrible movie. That being said, there's no other compliments I can ratchet out for this sucker.

It's the old west and things aren't well. Tyler Jackson (Yoakam) has used a six-shooter to take over much of the land in Mexico, and wants to use all of this to make connections and money through big time land developers. He makes a mistake when he shoots the father of Maria (Penélope Cruz) and poisons the wealthy father of Sara (Selma Hayek). After some squabbling over class, they decide to pair up as bank robbers and steal all of Jackson's money, getting tips from retired bank robber Bill Buck (Sam Shepard, why?). They eventually pair with a forensic psychologist (Steve Zahn) who starts falling for both the girls as they plan to breach Jackson's big vault.

Continue reading: Bandidas Review

Hamlet (2000) Review


Excellent
A new school of acting should be constructed based on the method of Ethan Hawke. I am the first to admit that I enjoy Ethan Hawke in almost anything he does. The reason I like him so much is because he brings the essence of the brooding soul to the screen so well. Hawke plays Tortured Guy so perfectly they should give an award at the Oscars every year and call it the "E. Hawke Award for Best Brooding Performance of the Year". As a natural-born brooder, the character of Hamlet perfectly suits Hawke because the role has always been given to older guys looking to validate their dramatic acting chops. Hawke's Hamlet is the Generation X Hamlet. A Hamlet that uses his "discontent" with the world as a razor against the neck of reality.

This updated 20th century Hamlet is brought to vivid realism by independent director Michael Almereyda. Almereyda places the play in the year 2000, creating the state of Denmark as a huge conglomerate, the slain king a CEO, and Hamlet as a digital video maker. This interpretation sounds almost like it's going to be as much fun as a ten-car pileup on the expressway; you want to turn your head away from in disgust but are strangely curious about what happened.

Continue reading: Hamlet (2000) Review

The Right Stuff Review


Extraordinary
Fortuitous time for The Right Stuff to hit DVD, when the American space program is nearing rock bottom in the court of public opinion.

Based on Tom Wolfe's novel (though heavily inspired by the truth), The Right Stuff follows the formative years of the space race, from 1947 to 1963, when it was us vs. the Russians. The film begins as we first punch through Mach 1 in experimental aircraft and ends with seventh and final Mercury astronaut blasting off.

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Swordfish Review


Terrible

Director Dominic Sena seems to fancy himself some kind of John Woo Jr. But John Woo ("The Killer," "Hard Boiled" and more recently "Face/Off" and "M:I-2") is an action genius who has a gift for turning gun battles into ballet and explosions into art.

Sena ("Gone in 60 Seconds") couldn't care less about art as long as his computer-enhanced mega-blasts are as big, as orange, as slow-motion and as debris-filled as possible. And if he can throw in an innocent hostage being blown apart, so much the better.

After beginning with an ironic but incredibly smug speech by film buff bad guy John Travolta about how Hollywood makes such crappy movies, the opening sequence of "Swordfish" fulfills all Sena's high-gloss, low-brow requirements -- pretty much proving Travolta's point.

Continue reading: Swordfish Review

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Sam Shepard Movies

Midnight Special Movie Review

Midnight Special Movie Review

Gifted director Jeff Nichols takes on another genre in his fourth film with actor Michael...

Midnight Special Trailer

Midnight Special Trailer

Alton is a very special young boy who has been given a unique gift. When...

Out of the Furnace Movie Review

Out of the Furnace Movie Review

Coarse and not exactly subtle, this dark drama might disappoint viewers expecting a more traditional...

August: Osage County Movie Review

August: Osage County Movie Review

Tracy Letts adapts his own prize-winning play into a blistering depiction of one of cinema's...

Klondike Trailer

Klondike Trailer

When news gets round about a gold discovery in the Klondike region of the Yukon,...

August: Osage County Trailer

August: Osage County Trailer

The Weston family know they are probably one of the most dysfunctional families around, but...

Out Of The Furnace Trailer

Out Of The Furnace Trailer

Russell Baze lives in a rundown, underprivileged neighbourhood where he works full-time at a steelworks...

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Mud Movie Review

Mud Movie Review

Writer-director Nichols continues to get inside the heads of his characters with this involving but...

Mud Trailer

Mud Trailer

Ellis and Neckbone are two fourteen year old boys from Mississippi who, after crossing a...

Killing Them Softly Movie Review

Killing Them Softly Movie Review

Moral murkiness makes this hitman thriller gripping to watch, mainly because we're never quite sure...

Killing Them Softly Trailer

Killing Them Softly Trailer

Jackie Cogan is the enforcer in an organized mob. He becomes the key investigator when...

Blackthorn Movie Review

Blackthorn Movie Review

Plaintive and perhaps too slow-moving for mainstream audiences, this finely made Western cycles through a...

Darling Companion Trailer

Darling Companion Trailer

Beth and Joseph Winter have been married for several years but lately, she feels that...

Safe House Movie Review

Safe House Movie Review

With a cool Cape Town setting and constant sweaty, kinetic violence, this entire film plays...

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