18 items from 2016
There's no doubt that Robert De Niro is a great actor, but there's also little argument that his cinematic choices since the turn of the millennium have been rather questionable. As a result, like various acting legends who've reached their elderly years, these days he's been labelled a 'paycheck actor' in various reviews for films like "Dirty Grandpa," "What Just Happened" and "Killer Elite".
Why has this happened to not just him but many other famed acting legends of the 1980s and 1990s? One of De Niro's old co-stars and highly respected actress in her own right, Illeana Douglas, has a theory and says the fault lies less with De Niro and more with the current movie-making environment. Appearing on Bret Easton Ellis' podcast recently, she spoke about her own experiences working with him on films like "Goodfellas" and "Cape Fear":
"I think that, and I can only »
- Garth Franklin
We don't get many screen talents that defy simple categorization as much as Juliette Lewis. One minute she's raw and dangerous then vulnerable and timid the next, her humor at once bawdy and passive. Even when playing a supportive girlfriend trope, she always draws you in with a flash of the unexpected. She's so consistently arresting and specific that you forget how disimilar some of her characters are.
Filmmakers of late aren't giving her the type of heavy lifting she can handle, even though her heyday 90s work (including her Oscar nominated Cape Fear performance) still deliver on repeat viewings. Of course her most unpredictable turn was in the early 2000s with the launch of her rock band The Licks, developing a rock persona as vivid as her screen performances and then some. Of her screen peers that have stuck around, none of them kick this much ass.
Michael Rapaport's documentary short on Lewis, »
- Chris Feil
They’ve made some of the best thrillers of the past six years. We list some of the best modern thriller directors currently working...
Director Guillermo del Toro once described suspense as being about the withholding of information: either a character knows something the audience doesn’t know, or the audience knows something the character doesn’t. That’s a deliciously simple way of describing something that some filmmakers often find difficult to achieve: keeping viewers on the edges of their seats.
The best thrillers leave us scanning the screen with anticipation. They invite us to guess what happens next, but then delight in thwarting expectations. We can all name the great thriller filmmakers of the past - Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, Brian De Palma - but what about the current crop of directors? Here’s our pick of the filmmakers who’ve made some great modern thrillers over the past six years - that is, between the year 2010 and the present.
To think there was once a time when Jeremy Saulnier was seriously quitting the film business.
“To be honest," Saulner told us back in 2014, “Macon and I had really given up on our quest to break into the industry and become legitimate filmmakers. So what we were trying to do with Blue Ruin was archive our 20 year arc and bring it to a close. Really just revisit our stomping grounds and use locations that were near and dear to us and build a narrative out of that.”
Maybe this personal touch explains at least partly why Blue Ruin wound up getting so much attention in Cannes in 2013, signalling not the end of Saulnier and his star Macon Blair’s career, but a brand new chapter. But then again, there’s more than just hand-crafted intimacy in Saulnier’s revenge tale; there’s also its lean, minimal storytelling and the brilliance of its characterisation. Blue Ruin is such an effective thriller because its protagonist is so atypical: sad-eyed, inexperienced with guns, somewhat soft around the edges, Macon Blair’s central character is far from your typical righteous avenger.
Green Room, which emerged in the UK this year, explores a similar clash between very ordinary people and extraordinary violence. A young punk band shout about anarchy and aggression on stage, but they quickly find themselves out of their depth when they’re cornered by a group of bloodthirsty neo-Nazis. In Saulnier’s films, grubby, unseemly locations are matched by often beautiful locked-off shots. Familiar thriller trappings are contrasted by twists of fortune that are often shocking.
Here’s one of those directors who can pack an overwhelming sense of dread in a single image: in Sicario, his searing drug-war thriller from last year, it was the sight of tiny specks of dust falling in the light scything through a window. That single shot proved to be the calm before the storm, as Villeneuve unleashed a salvo of blood-curdling events: an attempted FBI raid on a building gone horribly awry. And this, I think, is the brilliance of Villeneuve’s direction, and why he’s so good at directing thrillers like Sicario or 2013’s superb Prisoners - he understands the rhythm of storytelling, and how scenes of quiet can generate almost unbearable tension.
Another case in point: the highway sequence in Sicario, where Emily Blunt’s FBI agent is stuck in a traffic jam outside one of the most violent cities in the world. Villeneueve makes us feel the stifling heat and the claustrophobia; something nasty’s going to happen, we know that - but it’s the sense of anticipation which makes for such an unforgettable scene.
Prisoners hews closely to the template of a modern mystery thriller, but it’s once again enriched by Villeneuve’s expert pacing and the performances he gets out of his actors. Hugh Jackman’s seldom been better as a father on the hunt for his missing child, while Jake Gyllenhaal mesmerises as a cop scarred by his own private traumas.
Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin may be the most effective psychological thriller of recent years. About the difficult relationship between a mother (Tilda Swinton) and her distant, possibly sociopathic son (Ezra Miller), Ramsay’s film is masterfully told from beginning to end - which is impressive, given that the source novel by Lionel Shriver is told via a series of letters. Ramsay takes the raw material from the book and crafts something cinematic and highly disturbing: a study of guilt, sorrow and recrimination. Tension bubbles even in casual conversations around the dinner table. Miller is an eerie, cold-eyed blank. Swinton is peerless. One scene, in which Swinton’s mother comes home in the dead of night, is unforgettable. Here’s hoping Ramsay returns with another feature film very soon.
Morten Tyldum - Headhunters
All kinds of thrillers have emerged from Scandinavia over the past few years, whether on the large or small screen or in book form. Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters is among the very best of them. The fast-paced and deliriously funny story of an art thief who steals a painting from the wrong guy, Headhunters launched Tyldum on an international stage - Alan Turing drama The Imitation Game followed, and the Sony sci-fi film Passengers is up next. It isn’t hard to see why, either: Headhunters shows off Tyldum’s mastery of pace and tone, as his pulp tale hurtles from intense chase scenes to laugh-out-loud black comedy.
Granted, Joel Edgerton’s better known as an actor, having turned in some superb performances in the likes of Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty and Warror. But with a single film - The Gift, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in - Edgerton established himself as a thriller filmmaker of real promise. About a successful, happily married couple whose lives are greatly affected by an old face from the husband’s past, The Gift is an engrossing, unsettling movie with superb performances from Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as well as Edgerton.
A riff on the ‘killer in our midst’ thrillers of the 80s and 90s - The Stepfather, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and so on - The Gift is all the more effective because of its restraint. We’re never quite sure who the villain of the piece is, at least at first - and Edgerton’s use of the camera leaves us wrong-footed at every turn. The world arguably needs more thrillers from Joel Edgerton.
If you haven’t seen The Gift yet, we’d urge you to track it down.
David Michod - Animal Kingdom
The criminals at play in this true-life crime thriller are all the more chilling because they’re so mundane - a bunch of low-level thieves, murderers and gangsters who prowl around the rougher parts of Melbourne, Australia. Writer-director David Michod spent years developing Animal Kingdom, and it was worth the effort: it’s an intense, engrossing film, for sure, but it’s also a believable glimpse of the worst of human nature. Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver play villains of different kinds; the latter a manipulative grandmother who looks over her brood of criminals, the former a spiteful thief. Crafting moments of incredible tension from simple exchanges, Michod launched himself as a formidable talent with this feature debut.
Affleck’s period drama-thriller Argo won all kinds of awards, but we’d argue his earlier thrillers were equally well made. Gone Baby Gone was a confident debut and an economical adaptation of Dennis LeHane’s novel. The Town, released in 2010, was a heist thriller that made the most of its Boston setting. One of its key scenes - a bank robbery in which the thieves wear a range of bizarre outfits, including a nun’s habit - is masterfully staged. With Affleck capable of teasing out great performances from his actors and staging effective set-pieces, it’s hardly surprising he’s so heavily involved in making at least one Batman movie for Warner - as well as playing the hero behind the mask.
The quiet, almost meditative tone of Anton Corbijn’s movies mean they aren’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, but they’re visually arresting and almost seductive in their rhythm and attention to detail. Already a celebrated photographer, Corbijn successfully crossed over into filmmaking with Control, an exquisitely-made drama about Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis. Corbijn took a markedly different direction with The American, a thriller about an ageing contract killer (George Clooney) who hides out in a small Italian town west of Rome. Inevitably, trouble eventually comes calling.
Corbijn’s direction remains gripping because he doesn’t give us huge action scenes to puncture the tension. We can sense the capacity for violence coiled up beneath the hitman’s calm exterior, and Corbijn makes sure we only see rare flashes of that toughness - right up until the superbly-staged climax.
A Most Wanted Man, based on the novel by John le Carre, is a similarly astute study of an isolated yet fascinating character - in this instance, the world-weary German intelligence agent Gunther Bachmann, brilliantly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Tragically, the film proved to be one of the last before Hoffman’s death in 2014.
Mention Greengrass’ name, and the director’s frequent use of handheld cameras might immediately spring to mind. But time and again, Greengrass has proved a master of his own personal approach - you only have to look at the muddled, migraine-inducing films of his imitators to see how good a director Greengrass is. Part of the filmmakers’ visual language rather than a gimmick, Greengrass’ camera placement puts the viewer in the middle of the story, whether it’s an amnesiac agent on the run (his Bourne films) or on a hijacked aircraft (the harrowing United 93). While not a huge hit, Green Zone was an intense and intelligent thriller set in occupied Iraq. The acclaimed Captain Phillips, meanwhile, was a perfect showcase for Greengrass’ ability to fuse realism and suspense; the true story of a merchant vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, it is, to quote Greengrass himself, “a contemporary crime story.”
We can’t help thinking that, with a better marketing push behind it, Triple 9 could have been a much bigger hit when it appeared in cinemas earlier this year. It has a great cast - Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Anthony Mackie and Aaron Paul as a group of seasoned thieves, Kate Winslet cast against type as a gangland boss - and its heist plot rattles along like an express train.
Hillcoat seems to have the western genre pulsing through his veins, and he excels at creating worlds that are desolate and all-enveloping, whether his subjects are period pieces (The Proposition, Lawless) or post-apocalyptic dramas (The Road). Triple 9 sees Hillcoat make an urban western that is both classic noir and entirely contemporary; his use of real cops and residents around the film’s Atlanta location give his heightened story a grounding that is believable in the moment. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the scene in which Casey Affleck’s cop breaches a building while hunkered down behind a bullet-proof shield. Hillcoat places us right there in the scene with Affleck and the cops sneaking into the building behind him; we sense the claustrophobia and vulnerability.
Hillcoat explained to us in February that this sequence wasn’t initially written this way in the original script; it changed when the director and his team discovered how real-world cops protect themselves in real-world situations. In Triple 9, research and great filmmaking combine to make an unforgettably intense thriller.
Jim Mickel - Cold In July
Seemingly inspired by such neo-Noir thrillers as Red Rock West and Blood Simple, 2014‘s Cold In July is a genre gem from director Jim Mickle (Stake Land, We Are What We Are). Michael C Hall plays an ordinary guy in 80s America who shoots an intruder who breaks into his home, and becomes drawn into a moody conspiracy that takes in crooked cops, porn and a private eye (who's also keen pig-rearer) played by Don Johnson. Constantly shifting between tones, Mickel’s thriller refuses to stick to genre expectations. In one scene, after Hall shoots the burglar dead, Mickel’s camera lingers over the protagonist as he cleans up the blood and glass. It’s touches like these that make Cold In July far more than a typical thriller.
Mickel’s teaming up with Sylvester Stallone next; we’re intrigued to see what that partnership produces.
As a filmmaker, Scorsese needs no introduction. As a director of thrillers, he’s in a class of his own: from Taxi Driver via the febrile remake of Cape Fear to the sorely underrated Bringing Out The Dead, his films are full of suspense and the threat of violence. Shutter Island, based on the Dennis LeHane novel of the same name, saw Scorsese plunge eagerly into neo-noir territory. A murder mystery set in a mental institution on the titular Shutter Island, its atmosphere is thick with menace. Like a combination of Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man and Adrian Lyne’s cult classic Jacob’s Ladder, Shutter Island’s one of those stories where we never know who we can trust - even the protagonist, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
After the trial by fire that was Alien 3, David Fincher found his footing in the 90s with such hits as Seven and The Game. In an era where thrillers were in much greater abundance, from the middling to the very good, Seven in particular stood out as a genre classic: smartly written, disturbing, repulsive and yet captivating to look at all at once. Fincher’s affinity for weaving atmospheric thrillers continued into the 2010s, first with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a superb retelling of Stieg Larsson’s book which didn’t quite find the appreciative audience deserved, and Gone Girl, an even better movie which - thankfully - became a hit.
Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel (and adapted by the author herself), Gone Girl is both a gripping thriller and a thoroughly twisted relationship drama. Fincher’s mastery of the genre is all here: his millimetre-perfect composition, seamless touches of CGI and subtle yet effective uses of colour and shadow. While not a straight-up masterpiece like the period thriller Zodiac, Gone Girl is still a glossy, smart and blackly funny yarn in the Hitchcock tradition. If there’s one master of the modern thriller currently working, it has to be Fincher.
See related John Hillcoat interview: Triple 9, crime, fear of comic geniuses Jim Mickle interview: Cold In July, thrillers, Argento Jeremy Saulnier interview: Green Room, John Carpenter Jeremy Saulnier interview: making Blue Ruin & good thrillers Denis Villeneuve interview: Sicario, Kurosawa, sci-fi, ugly poetry Morten Tyldum interview: The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch, Headhunters Paul Greengrass interview: Captain Phillips & crime stories Movies Feature Ryan Lambie thrillers 15 Jun 2016 - 06:11 Cold In July Triple 9 Shutter Island Gone Girl David Fincher Martin Scorsese John Hillcoat Directors thrillers movies »
With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.
Forget the Cloverfield connection. The actors who were in this film didn’t even know what the title was until moments before the first trailer dropped. Producer J.J. Abrams used that branding as part of the wrapping for its promotional mystery box, but the movie stands perfectly alone from 2008’s found-footage monster picture. Hell, 10 Cloverfield Lane perhaps doesn’t even take place »
- The Film Stage
The Talented Mr Ripley
28 Days Later
Cabin in the Woods
30 Days of Night
Kill Bill: Volume One
Deep Blue Sea
8 and above.
Red looks good on you
0 and above.
That was a bit bloody tough for you
4 and above.
Bleedin' hard huh?
Continue reading »
- Benjamin Lee
A family beset by autism, bulimia, alcoholism and extramarital canoodling squares off against the world-ending prophecies of Anasazi canyon-dwellers in “The Darkness,” a kitchen-sink horror movie so over-the-top that even the actual kitchen faucet runs mysteriously. At some point in the production process, co-writer/director Greg McLean must have believed he was making John Cassavetes’ “Poltergeist,” but this odd fusion of psychodrama and supernatural hokum gets away from him. Though better cast and considerably more ambitious than a typical PG-13 frightfest, “The Darkness” succumbs to the bloodless shocks and assaultive sound effects that plague its generic peers. The film may siphon a few million indiscriminate dollars on opening weekend, but will recede into the shadows quickly thereafter.
Literally and metaphorically, “The Darkness” is half a world away from the barebones ferocity of “Wolf Creek,” McLean’s debut feature from a decade ago, a tense and grisly thriller set in the Australian Outback. »
- Scott Tobias
"I always liken myself to the bearded lady," says Juliette Lewis. "Because I'm an actress turned musician, a woman doing male-dominated rock & roll. ... I'm the oddity at the freak show, you know?"
Lewis is speaking with Rolling Stone from New York City where, in a few hours, she'll be attending the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of a new documentary on her musical life, Hard Lovin' Woman. The Michael Rapaport-directed short, which will be available on Red Bull TV beginning April 23rd, chronicles Lewis' mid-2000s turn away from a »
Both versions of this film have very similar plots—based on the novel “The Executioners” by John D. MacDonald—but the approach of the respective directors are so different that the two films become very distinct. The original 1962 version of Cape Fear is a Hitchcockian suspense drama, while the 1991 remake is more of a slasher film. Both films tell the story of an obsessed ex-con/rapist who manipulates the loopholes of the law in order to stalk a man he hates. It’s interesting to see the same story interpreted so differently.
The 1962 version starred Gregory Peck, one of the greatest actors of his—or any other—generation, along with Robert Mitchum, who is wonderfully menacing as the villain. It was directed by J. Lee Thompson, »
- email@example.com (Rob Young)
Actor Michael Rapaport went behind the camera for his second music-related doc, Hard Lovin' Woman. His subject is long-time friend Juliette Lewis and her passion as a budding rocker in the band Juliette and the Licks. "The title came from a song — probably my favorite song — and she just tears it up," said Rapaport at the Deadline Photo Studio at the Tribeca Film Festival. "People that know her from movies like Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers and What's Eating Gilbert Grap… »
Looking back now – three decades later – it’s hard to believe that the idea of an archaeologist as The go-to film hero was, oftentimes, a guarantee to bring in the punters and create a big-money blockbuster movie! Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, King Solomon’s Mines, etc. all graced the big screen to varying degrees of success during the mid-80s; and yes, it was Spielberg’s film that reignited the genre but it took Cannon Films – the purveyors of low-budget, high-concept big screen bonanzas – to really put the fun into this now-buried treasure of a genre.
- Phil Wheat
The New Yorker Richard Brody discusses the films he saw at SXSW as part of the narrative jury
Tracking Board has the audience award winners from SXSW
Fandor celebrates great female film editors in a new 5 minute video
Film School Rejects celebrates Mary Elizabeth Winstead's compelling humanity across multiple genres
Towleroad Sally Field on parents and gay kids
Vulture new Must Read column from Mark Harris on the Academy's diversification efforts
Variety ...and director Wes Ball tweets and open letter to fans about the injury and Dylan's recovery
Guardian a biopic about Michael Jackson's chimp (no really) will be a stop motion animated feature
- NATHANIEL R
To mark the release of Cape Fear on 28th March, we’ve been given 3 copies to give away on DVD. Sam (Gregory Peck) is a small-town lawyer whose worst nightmare comes true when the criminal he helped put away returns to stalk his beautiful young wife (Polly Bergen). Sam is legally powerless to keep Max
The post Win Cape Fear on DVD appeared first on HeyUGuys. »
The swamp-thing progeny of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Night of the Hunter” (with a little “Cape Fear” thrown in), “My Father Die” offers blood-and-thunder Southern-gothic excess both tempered and heightened by vivid directorial texturing. Writer-helmer Sean Brosnan’s debut feature after several shorts isn’t exactly a horror film, but this thematically simple, aesthetically complex revenge tale will find strongest initial support among fans at genre fests, with word of mouth there possibly spurring niche theatrical pickups as well as more assured home-format sales.
A black-and-white opening sequence finds the dirt-poor Rawlings brothers running wild in Louisiana bayou country, where the teenage Chester (Chester Rushing) promises to initiate the pubescent Asher in the mysteries of sex via willing young neighbor Nana (Trina Lafargue). Unfortunately, their dad, Ivan (former British pro boxer Gary Stretch), considers her his own property — never mind that he’s still married to the »
- Dennis Harvey
Our series on remakes continues with a film which is more of a duplication than an actual remake. This week, Cinelinx looks at The Omen (2006).
If you’ve seen the original version of The Omen (1976) and then you watch the remake from 2006, you have to ask “Why did they even bother?” The remake was barely even a remake. It was a shot-for-shot, scene -for-scene copy of the original. Released on the 30th anniversary of the original, it offered absolutely nothing new, except a more modern cast and some mediocre CGI effects. Other than that, this is a completely unnecessary, gratuitous photo-copy of the first version.
About this film Rolling Stone Magazine wrote, “Not since Gus Van Sant inexplicably directed a shot by shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho has a thriller been copied with so little point or impact”. Recently, we did a dissection of the Van Sant remake of »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Rob Young)
Comically perfect neighbours court over the Cape Fear inlets in another adaptation of the North Carolina slushmaster. It’s almost watchable – until a phony last twist
At around the 90-minute mark, The Choice makes a choice. It could, if it wanted to, just call it quits. By this point we’ve essentially witnessed a full three-act story, albeit a fairly slight one. It’s a courtship film with a few hurdles, reversals and, eventually, a happy ending. Ninety minutes is, as any film exhibitor will tell you, a suitable length for a feature. But The Choice is based on a Nicholas Sparks book, and produced by the same North Carolina-based author of vaguely Christian sentimental pap. And as is his trademark, the story can’t just be simple: it needs some sort of ludicrous last-minute conflict and ridiculous twist. The Choice chooses this well-worn path, give us about another 30 minutes, »
- Jordan Hoffman
Yes, that really is veteran acting legend Robert De Niro baring his nipples and loving it much too much. It’s like Warldorf from The Muppets has suddenly stood up and ripped his clothes off on the balcony. If you’re wondering what the hell is going on, this is a scene from new comedy Dirty Grandpa, which casts De Niro alongside Zac Efron as a lecherous relative who revels in the half-naked antics of spring break.
Sleaze isn’t a word you’d associate with a performer whose CV oozes quality. Ooze is certainly the order of the day here however! Though if you look back at the great man’s work you’ll find a fair few characters whose morals were lower than an alleycat taking a swim in a sewer.
So before we get too outraged that De Niro is sullying his reputation in a lower-than-lowbrow gross-out romp, »
- Steve Palace
The Friends of Eddie Coyle, 1973.
Directed by Peter Yates.
After his last crime has him looking at a long prison sentence for repeat offenses, a low level Boston gangster decides to snitch on his friends to avoid jail time.
Eddie Coyle is a small time gun runner for an organised crime outfit in Boston. He knows the game. He knows when to keep his mouth shut and what happens to those who do not. They call him ‘Fingers’ due to an incident with his hand, an open drawer, and someone’s foot closing that draw on his hand. It’s a constant reminder of the life he chose.
We enter the film with Eddie in trouble; caught smuggling contraband and it’s not his first time which means another stretch in jail. But Eddie is 51 years old, »
- Amie Cranswick
Serial killer movies are like westerns or gangster flicks; there are all levels of them from cheap slasher exploitation to procedural ones where the heroes are scientific-minded detectives and all sorts of variations in between. Mojave, written and directed by Oscar winner William Monahan (for writing The Departed) is the existential and psychological type. It stars Oscar Isaac, Mark Wahlberg, Garret Hedlund, and Walton Goggins. With that cast and pedigree, you would expect Mojave to be a major release, but the new film has slipped quietly into few theaters this weekend with little fanfare. It’s seriously flawed and I understand why the studio had little faith in it, but it has its moments and for adventurous moviegoers it’s worth seeking out.
- Tom Stockman
18 items from 2016
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