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.
Continue reading: Midnight Special Review
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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Meryl Streep's performance as a gorgon mother has been lauded in this family drama.
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.
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.
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.
The film seems like perfect winter viewing - heavy, but heart-warming and laden with star power.
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?
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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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.
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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.
Continue reading: Brothers Review
Sebring spent 11 years filming Smith, from her Gone Again comeback album after leaving music behind to raise a family (husband Fred Sonic Smith and two children Jackson and Jesse) in a home in Detroit up to a few years ago, where she is seen raging against the criminal acts of George W. Bush. The center point of the film is a cluttered room filled with memorabilia from Smith's life, the room getting more and more cluttered with detritus (like the cover of Bringing It All Back Home) as the years and the film wear on and she comments on her life and times.
Continue reading: Patti Smith: Dream Of Life Review
Wim Wender's film opens with Travis wandering in a Texas desert. Lost for four years, Travis' brother, Walt, travels to Texas to claim him and takes him back to Los Angeles where Walt lives with his wife and Travis' son. Given Travis' absence, his son has all but forgotten about him -- causing Travis to clean up his act and get his life back in order. Given that Travis doesn't say a word for the first 20 minutes of the film, it's a little bizarre when the film focuses solely on him in the second and third acts -- turning a blind eye to Walt and his wife, who have been moving the story along for the first half.
Continue reading: Paris, Texas Review
Shocking? Well. Anyone who reads Andrew Dominik's revealing sentence fragment of a title in its entirety already understands what's going to happen in this movie.
Continue reading: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford Review
Geller plays a vacant waif who's on the run from something bad that happened in Texas. Could it have something to do with the car accident she was in when she was a kid? Or how about that phantom stranger we keep seeing flashbacks of? When Geller does return to Texas on business, she starts seeing things and cutting herself. Saved by a grizzled stonewashed denim guy after a near assault, Geller learns that the secret to her hallucinations, the ghostly stalker, and her sour social life lies somewhere deep in the dusty heart of Texas.
Continue reading: The Return (2006) Review
Howard Spence (Shepard) is an aging movie star, famous for his roles in westerns, whose life has disintegrated into a boozy, narcotic haze. In the opening scene Howard steals a horse from the set of the movie he's working on and takes off through the desert with no particular destination in mind. Much like Harry Dean Stanton's character in Paris, Texas, Howard simply wakes up one morning and abandons his life.
Continue reading: Don't Come Knocking Review
The dog in question belongs to the titular Walker Payne (Jason Patric), who's the resident rogue of his little Illinois burg. Laid off from the coal mine at the film's opening, Walker kicks about for some other way of getting by, biding his time in the local watering hole, racking up more notches on his bedpost, and generally charming the pants off everyone - with the exception of the ex-wife (Drea de Matteo), who hates him with a near volcanic passion. Williams was smart enough to give such so much of the film over Patric, a generally underused performer who can slip into moroseness if not nudged out of his corner. The early stretches of the film are concerned with little else but Walker and his dog as they scrounge about town, and it's actually not half bad considering how little is going on. But then the plot starts to kick in, along with the problems.
Continue reading: Walker Payne Review
The blandly-titled Leo is the story of the titular boy (Davis Sweat), the illegitimate son of a sudden widow (Elisabeth Shue), who corresponds with a felon (Fiennes) via mail. Felon gets out, and these two men slowly converge upon one another, though something odd about the movie compels us to wonder if there isn't a deeper connection. Some big names parade through the film, almost at random, including a mopey Sam Shepard and a ridiculously over-the-top Dennis Hopper, who strikes the film's most curious note when he cracks an egg and smears it on Deborah Unger's thighs.
Continue reading: Leo Review
Billy Bob Thornton's latest film, which examines a Texas cowboy trying to find his dreams in 1949 Mexico, is a tale I might have been interested in. But like that lousy comedian, Thornton's delivery positively stinks. And, what's worse, I couldn't find the punch line anywhere.
Continue reading: All The Pretty Horses Review
In the allegory-seeking hands of director Agnieszka Holland (Total Eclipse), no opportunity is resisted for family dinner flashbacks where sinister dad Sam Shepard knocks over the turkey and throws young Gary around the room. Religious fervor is represented through wide-eyed mania in Shepard's resident madman and Amy Madigan's Carrie-tinged Mormon mother. More interesting are the prison scenes (shades of Oz), where Ribisi and Koteas are boxed in by walls of glass, steel, and wire frames. Unfortunately, the two ferociously talented lead performers are encouraged to conform to Actor's Studio emoting--Koteas can't keep still, Ribisi's hands are constantly kneading handy props (and, barring that, are continually rubbing away thinly veiled tears).
Continue reading: Shot In The Heart Review
Thanks to papa John (Husbands, Gloria), the name Cassavetes has come to symbolize intrepid, no-apologies filmmaking and the unconventional human interaction within Now, 15 years after the maverick's death, his heir has traveled to the opposite pole, adapting a Nicholas Sparks novel into a standard tearjerker, filling the screen with handfuls of manipulative Hollywood clichés.
Continue reading: The Notebook Review
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
From the opening shot, where we see the top of Nicholson's half-bald, hair-transplanted head, The Pledge is an exercise in stomaching an ugly truth. Body parts, pony-tailed girls splotched with blood and bruises -- this isn't a film about happy endings and human triumph. Suspected sex perverts lurk down every road in The Pledge, causing Nicholson's character, a retired homicide detective, so much angst that he becomes his own worst enemy.
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Because studio execs are still strangely demanding that directors include human beings in their films, Stealth provides us three Navy test pilots who were chosen to fly the top-secret, experimental Talon planes. Played by Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Josh Lucas, they're sort of a holy trinity of hotness, flying their sleek craft in perfect formation, and eager for whatever life-threatening emergency gets tossed their way. Unfortunately, they've just been saddled with a fourth wingman: an unmanned plane named EDI, for Extreme Deep Invader, which sounds like something purchased by seedy men in certain disreputable shops on the dark fringes of the San Fernando Valley. The three are none too happy with having EDI along on the secret mission they're given early in the film: Take out a Rangoon high-rise that's empty save for a number of high-level terrorists. And they're resentful not just because EDI talks like HAL's drugged younger brother, but because they're worried about getting replaced by machines, which is just what their commander officer (Sam Shepard) wants to happen - with a little help from a shadowy buddy of his in D.C.
Continue reading: Stealth Review
Unfortunately, Snow Falling on Cedars, directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), is a prime example of an unsuccessful interpretation of a tremendous novel.
Continue reading: Snow Falling On Cedars Review
In a vain attempt to copy the success of The Matrix, Silver has delivered another turkey of a summer movie. In Swordfish, John Travolta -- who has the largest face in the world and looks like a troll with his Eurotrash haircut -- stars as Gabriel Shear, a mysterious member of an equally mysterious black-op/covert government agency run by a U.S. Senator (Sam Shepard in one of his worse roles to date). And Gabriel is need of a hacker to, ahem, "construct a worm program, pop the firewall, upload the Trojan horse worm, and download the funds" from some shady backdoor government account with a $9 billion balance in order to fund some type of covert war on anti-American terrorism.
Continue reading: Swordfish Review
Needless to say, things didn't turn out that way. One very large problem is that Almereyda is new to the documentary biz and doesn't seem to have figured out how things work. Normally a visual innovator in his films like Nadja and the aforementioned Hamlet, Almereyda leaves the camera static, hoping that his subjects will provide all the necessary drama. They don't. Penn looks to be in full Mr. Hollywood mode, reading a newspaper and barely paying attention, while a shaggier-than-usual Nolte is in the throes of some chemically-induced meltdown; Harrelson and Marin just look happy to have been asked along.
Continue reading: This So-Called Disaster Review
Susan Sarandon and Sam Shepard are the quirky and dysfunctional parents of eight brothers (played by Robert Sean Leonard, Sean Astin, etc). Sarandon is always packing and repacking and threatening to move out of the house with humorous melodrama while Shepard has constant headaches and moments of psychosomatic blindness that are caused by stress. One of the brothers is in the military and the film takes place during the time of the Gulf War. All of the family converges from various parts of the globe in order to be together, in wait for news of their brother/son, who is missing.
Continue reading: Safe Passage Review
Amid the music-video dogfight sequences (including a trulyspectacular slow-motion crash and a scary pilot-eject at 35,000 feet) andgratuitous shots of requisite hottie Jessica Biel in a bikini, screenwriterW.D. Richter ("Big Trouble in Little China") slips in undercurrentsabout the dangers of win-at-all-costs counter-terrorism and a solid search-and-rescuethird act that has little to do with the crazy runaway plane.
Biel ("Blade:Trinity"), Josh Lucas ("SweetHome Alabama") and Jamie Foxx (contractedto a supporting role before "Ray"put him on Hollywood's A-list) play hot-dogging Navy pilots who make upan elite emergency strike force in ultra-high-tech jets that fly in toblow up terrorists and stolen nuclear warheads on a moment's notice. Thespecifics of these incidents are often off-the-charts ridiculous, and theyget even more so after the team is forced to accept the computerized planeinto their ranks as an experiment. When a lightning strike turns its circuitsinto B-movie bunk ("EDI is war plane. EDI must have targets,"it declares in a menacing monotone), the fight is on to bring the thingdown.
So far, so bad. But as the plot unfurls, there's almostalways something extra in its folds. Director Rob Cohen sets the stagewith satellite shots showing worldwide locations, then zooms in and inand in to catch up with realistic (albeit CGI-generated) canyon-chargingflight sequences jazzed up further with creative editing. He hires greatactors like Sam Shepard and Joe Morton for supporting roles as the pilots'clashing commanders, one of whom knew the dangers of the rogue plane andlet it fly anyway.
Continue reading: Stealth Review
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
Gifted director Jeff Nichols takes on another genre in his fourth film with actor Michael...
Alton is a very special young boy who has been given a unique gift. When...
Coarse and not exactly subtle, this dark drama might disappoint viewers expecting a more traditional...
Tracy Letts adapts his own prize-winning play into a blistering depiction of one of cinema's...
When news gets round about a gold discovery in the Klondike region of the Yukon,...
The Weston family know they are probably one of the most dysfunctional families around, but...
Russell Baze lives in a rundown, underprivileged neighbourhood where he works full-time at a steelworks...
Writer-director Nichols continues to get inside the heads of his characters with this involving but...
Ellis and Neckbone are two fourteen year old boys from Mississippi who, after crossing a...
Moral murkiness makes this hitman thriller gripping to watch, mainly because we're never quite sure...
Jackie Cogan is the enforcer in an organized mob. He becomes the key investigator when...
Plaintive and perhaps too slow-moving for mainstream audiences, this finely made Western cycles through a...
Beth and Joseph Winter have been married for several years but lately, she feels that...