Ben Mendelsohn

Mississippi Grind

Gambling addict Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is down on his luck. He’s got nothing left to lose. He has all his cards on the table. He’s gotten a bad hand. He’s rolling the dice. All those cliches? They apply to Gerry, because they’re true (that is, after all, how something becomes a cliche — it’s true first and then true a lot). But although Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden‘s Mississippi Grind tackles a well-worn cinematic storyline (remember The Gambler? that came out mere weeks ago!), the atmospheric and and beautifully crafted feature mostly overcomes its genre brethren to pump fresh blood into the material, with stellar turns from both Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds bolstering the material still further. Gerry is a loser of the highest degree — a loser who might actually enjoy losing — and he’s gambled his life away until he’s got next to nothing to show for it. His wife has left him. He never sees his daughter. He owes money to Alfre Woodard (just go with it). He hates his job. He drives a Subaru. The only thing that brightens Gerry up even a little bit is a nice poker table and a cheap glass of whiskey. The second that the cocky, confident Curtis (Reynolds) walks into one of his regular joints, Gerry is done for, because Curtis chooses him to befriend and Curtis someone special. Curtis is a lucky charm.


20th Century Fox

Two powerful men — brothers from other mothers and great friends since childhood — find their relationship tested when the father of one (but guardian to both) makes it known which of the two he prefers. Division, betrayal and mass casualties soon follow as the two former best of friends become the worst of enemies. Marvel’s Thor films tackle this setup with a sense of fun, Shakespearean drama and a believably strained bond between Thor and Loki. Ridley Scott‘s equally mythical take on a similar subject is adapted from a slightly older source material than the comics, but the result is something far more ridiculous and far less engaging. Exodus: Gods and Kings aims for an epic feel built on the back of a personal, emotionally-fueled feud, but neither the big nor the small conflicts ever achieve the intended effect and instead leave viewers with a bloated, scattershot and unnecessary take on a familiar tale.



Yes, I suppose you could watch the just-released trailer for Unbroken and be all inspired by the part-Olympic hero, part-WWII hero Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell. But why would you, when you could see O’Connell melt a razor blade into the backside of a toothbrush and swing it at an authority figure? I vote “prison shanking” every time. This extreme opposite of Unbroken‘s “be inspired until the inspiration pours from every orifice” approach comes from the new prison drama Starred Up, from director David Mackenzie. Well, new-ish — the film released in its native United Kingdom back in March, but it’ll be getting a limited release here this August. So us American folk get a Starred Up trailer all our own. Here, O’Connell plays Eric Love, who decided early on that his name would be an ironic one, and thus spent most of his youth getting in and out of prison. In fact, he’s so skilled at getting himself locked away that the authorities have decided to transfer him early, from the juvenile facilities to the adult ones, even though he’s just a teen (which is what the phrase “starred up” refers to). And that’s where he’ll meet two very important people. One is a prison psychologist, played by Rupert Friend, who really wants Eric to turn his life around. The other is Eric’s father, played by Ben Mendelsohn, who happens to be a con himself in the very same prison. The three of them then proceed to play tug-of-war with Eric’s future.


Jonah Hex

Not much is yet known about a new Western that’s in the works called Slow West, but when one of the only things that’s known about it is that its cast is going to feature a trio of talented actors headed up by the current master and ruler of all our acting affection, Michael Fassbender, then that’s really all you need to know to be on board—especially coming so soon after the disappointment of hearing that Fassbender was going to do a Western with Jane Got a Gun, and then having him drop out and nearly doom the project when everyone else started following suit due to heartbreak. News of Slow West’s existence comes from The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, who says that the project was brought up to him by Fassbender during a conversation they were having at the Telluride Film Festival. While it’s true that the story was likely published just so the journo could rub it in all of our faces that he got to hang out with Fassbender while swilling some no doubt expensive hooch, his report contained too many other details to be seen as just hearsay. Bamigboye was also able to get the name of a director and two of Fassbender’s co-stars, for instance.


Adore Movie

The trailer for Adore, and presumably the movie itself, leaps unstoppably from one impulsive decision to the next. It’s the adult drama version of a horror movie where we’re yelling for them not to go up the stairs (or not to have sex with their best friend’s son), but they do it anyway. Why don’t movies ever listen to their audiences? A lot fewer people would get slashed by masked killers, and a lot fewer women would give in to the impulse to feel what the fruit of their friends’ loins does to their loins. The women of Anne Fontaine‘s (Coco Before Chanel) new movie are Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), two childhood friends who now have children of their own. On what looks like a Blue Lagoon-style bit of isolation with their sons, Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) and Ian (Xavier Samuel), things heat up, a ton of bad decisions are made, and the sons swap moms. So, yes, it’s basically the prestige version of this. And, yes, it’s incredibly sexy:


Place Beyond TIFF

Note: Andrew Robinson’s review originally ran during TIFF 2012, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond the Pines is broken up into three chapters. We open with Luke (Ryan Gosling) coming back into town with the circus and finding out that he has a son. He decides to stick around, but since he’s unable to make a living to support his family, he begins robbing banks using his skills as a professional motor bike rider. The narrative is then handed over to Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a police officer heading into politics and struggling with family matters. The film takes its time in making sure that we get a good grasp on each character as there’s very little overlap in screen time between each. The reckless rise of Gosling’s bank robbing spree and the troubled rise of Cooper’s political/social standing in the world parallel one another beautifully. What the film truly discusses is what someone is willing to do selflessly for others. While, morally, Cooper and Gosling’s acts are complete opposites of each other, their motivations start out in the same place, the intention to provide for their family. Luke’s robbing banks was never about himself; he never wants to take credit for them, reflecting his clear shame. Cross’s actions are one of motivations head-butting his own desires, even at the expense of his son’s affection.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Today was basically Godzilla day on the Internet. All sorts of news regarding Legendary Pictures’ reboot of the big green guy’s film series broke, and some of it involves casting. THR broke the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was being looked at to star, but one of their writers, Borys Kit, was then quick to point out that his potential involvement in the film is long dead. Variety writer Justin Kroll then jumped in with the news that a few names that are still possibilities for the project are Henry Cavill, Scoot McNairy, and Caleb Landry Jones. All of this news comes with a special thanks to /Film, who compiled all the chatter into a tight little narrative. Even though things between Gordon-Levitt and Godzilla didn’t work out, don’t let that make you think that he’s going to go an entire week without being attached to a high profile project. In more Gordon-Levitt news, Deadline has word that the in-demand actor has just signed on to play a big role in Robert Rodriguez‘s Sin City sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Apparently he’s going to be playing Johnny, a role that was meant to go to Johnny Depp at one point, and that is said to be a core character in the overlapping parts of the film’s story lines. This comes at the same time as news that Gordon-Levitt’s possible involvement in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t going to end up happening, which is essential information if you happen to be exhaustively journaling all […]


Stewart and McKellan

What is Casting Couch? Despite the fact that the movie business seems to be slow to get back to work after the long weekend, it’s a column that’s managed to dig up a couple exciting casting coups. Bryan Singer out-scooped everybody in the news breaking business today when he suddenly started tweeting big updates on how the cast for his upcoming X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, was developing. He started off small by first confirming that a few members of the First Class crew would be returning. He tweeted, “I’d like to officially welcome back James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, & Nicholas Hoult to #XMEN for #DaysOfFuturePast.” But then he got a little crazy and started confirming rumors that actors from his original X-Men movies will be joining the film as well by tweeting, “Thrilled to announce @ianmckellen118 (Ian McKellan) & @SirPatStew (Patrick Stewart) are joining the cast of #XMEN #DaysOfFuturePast #magneto #professorX More to come…” Do you think we could get scenes where old Professor X and Magneto meet young Professor X and Magneto? The head spins with awesome possibilities.


trailer_killing them softly

Andrew Dominik is not a prolific director. After bursting onto the scene in 2000 with the violent biographical tale Chopper he waited seven years before releasing the critically acclaimed The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford with Brad Pitt. The film was universally praised by critics, but theater-goers have notoriously short attention spans meaning most of them moved on to something else before they even finished reading the title. (The ‘something else’ in this case was a one-two punch of Resident Evil: Extinction and Good Luck Chuck, so shame on you America.) Five years later and Dominik is finally returning to the screen, and he’s bringing Pitt along with him. Killing Them Softly is a blackly humorous crime thriller about a pair of low-rent amateurs who rob the wrong poker game. Pitt plays a mob man brought in to find and handle the pair, and the film follows his efforts arrange for their demise while interacting with the local criminal element. The film is an adaptation of George V Higgins’ 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade, and while it updates the story to the modern day it keeps the Boston setting that has served the genre so well over the years. Pitt’s joined by Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy. Our own Simon Gallagher was a big fan when he saw it at Cannes, and now the rest of us can get a taste as well with the debut of the highly […]


Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik always had an ominous mountain to climb with his next feature, having polarized opinion with The Assassination Of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, that most tonal and visually textured of revisionist Westerns, but with Killing Them Softly he has certainly at least avoided the black hole that tends to suck young talents perilously down into obscurity. He might not, however, have scored a huge commercial hit. Taking a leaf out of Jesse James‘s book, Killing Them Softly is effectively a post-gangster film, deconstructing the genre and smashing it against the oh-so-contemporary wall built by recessions and austerity measures. The label might still seem to read “gangster,” with the presence of wise guys and henchmen presiding over their own lawless patches of the murky underbelly of normal society, but gone is the aspirational elements of Goodfellas and Casino in favor of a tight-belted, thoroughly modern revision of the gangster ideal. For all intents and purposes, this is the cut-price Cosa Nostra.



J awakens one day to find his mother dead from a heroin overdose. He waits, calmly, while the ambulance attendants take her away, and then he calls the only other family he has. His grandmother, Janine (aka Smurf), picks him up and welcomes him into her home. J soon discovers why his mother tried to keep him away from this extended family… his three uncles along with a friend are involved deep in Melbourne’s criminal underworld including drug dealing, bank robbery, and possibly murder. J’s arrival coincides with a stepped-up police investigation into the family’s activities, and when a seemingly concerned detective singles out J as a possible witness the teen realizes survival of the fittest is no game… it’s a way of life. And death. Animal Kingdom is writer/director David Michod’s debut, and it’s this year’s answer to The Hurt Locker when it comes to pure, unrelenting tension. J is our window into not only the personal realm of one crooked family but also of the dangerous and menacing world outside. His Melbourne streets are the urban equivalent of the African Veldt where everyone is prey until they figure out the rules of nature and their place in it. Michod presents J’s indoctrination into this landscape as an uncertain path between a family determined to maintain their lifestyles at any cost and a police department hell-bent on taking them down by any means necessary. It’s as smart and assured of a film debut as anyone could have hoped, and […]



I’ve mentioned this a few times, but it’s worth saying again: I’ve got a great feeling about The Killer Elite. The Garry McKendry directed thriller is the story of former British special forces members, led by Clive Owen, who are being hunted down by assassins. To their rescue comes a former Navy Seal played by Jason Statham. This week, the production added the likes of Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell and Adrian Young. It also added Chuck star Yvonne Strahovski. That works.


Animal Kingdom

The first trailer for Animal Kingdom, the intense and atmospheric Australian crime drama that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, has hit the web. The film was picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics, and will get an American release sometime this summer. As you will see from the trailer, it’s a film with some big family drama that gets very messy when things begin to fall apart.

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published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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