Brad Pitt

20th Century Fox

David Fincher‘s Fight Club wowed audiences with his typical technical brilliance and sharp use of CGI, but it remains an amazing piece of work fifteen years later for its narrative, social commentary and fantastic black humor. Misunderstood and under-appreciated by many upon its release, the film has gone on to earn legions of fans over the years, and listening to the commentary track featuring Fincher, Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter (one of four commentaries on the disc) opens up an even more detailed appreciation of the film. It’s actually one of the very first commentary tracks (or “auxiliary tracks” as Fincher calls them) I ever listened to many years ago, and the discovery that we had yet to cover it here made it well worth a second listen. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Fight Club.

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Fury Movie

By the looks of the Fury trailer, David Ayer found some not-so-secret plans in a forgotten bunker, dusted them off and followed them to the letter in order to create one more World War II film for the pile of World War II films. All the cliches are here. Empty fields with random explosions, the rookie, the crusty leader, the Jarhead-esque ennui, tanks jousting, one last job, impossible odds and Jason Isaacs. As a bonus, Brad Pitt sounds like he chugged cough syrup before every take. Unbelievably flat delivery in hand, I can only assume that they’ll discuss how disillusioned he is at length while he wanly recites koans like “war never ends quietly.” What does that even mean? It’s one of those statements that’s moronic yet desperate to be profound. Not to mention that wars end quietly all the time. A signature and refusal to shake hands in an isolated train car sometimes does the trick. At any rate, check out the trailer for yourself:

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Brangelina in Mr and Mrs Smith

In 2005, the world as we knew it was a much different, much simpler place. Brad Pitt was still married to that cute girl from Friends, Jennifer Aniston, and she wasn’t painted as a sad, baby-less spinster in every tabloid that was having a slow news day. Angelina Jolie was still a successful actress best known for making out on the red carpet, wearing a vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck, adopting children on her own and completing humanitarian aid work around the world. All peachy, right guys? But when Pitt and Jolie co-starred in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the spy movie that was more about the super attractive leads sucking face while being pretty together than it was a traditional thriller, universes collided and Hollywood — nay, Earth — was never the same again. Just a few months after the film’s premiere, Pitt and Aniston got divorced. He famously became involved with Jolie soon after, and they now have six children and successful careers to rest on. (Don’t worry; Aniston’s doing just fine for herself, too.) Although they’ve kept busy with ample projects, Pitt and Jolie have never worked together again since their infamous turn in Smith. But that’s about to change, with The Hollywood Reporter signaling that the couple is working on a “mystery project,” likely based on a script that Jolie wrote several years ago.

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Brad Pitt 12 Years a Slave

After the first Sunday of March, movie star Brad Pitt might be an Academy Award winner — not for his acting, but for his role as producer. His production company, Plan B, has been deployed since 2006 as a platform for making films (many that star or co-star Pitt, and a few that don’t) largely outside of the franchise and sequel mentality that a name brand like Pitt would otherwise be subject to. Pitt is hardly the first example of an actor who exchanges celebrity capital for some industrial and artistic autonomy – examples of powerful actors who have used the capacity of producer to buck the studio system go as far back as Humphrey Bogart – but Plan B is unique particularly because it’s been utilized as a means for Pitt to rather self-consciously define himself against any conventional understanding of his movie star image. Rather than use the production arm as a means for gritty, challenging, Hollywood-unfriendly lead roles (as Bogart did with In a Lonely Place), Pitt is casting himself conspicuously on the margins of his own work, often in supporting roles that have in common characters who somehow omnisciently perceive a bigger picture than what’s available to the foregrounded characters around him. These are characters that exist inside and outside the narratives of their films simultaneously.

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extrait_the-curious-case-of-benjamin-button_5

It’s now been five years since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released. Maybe I’m alone, but it hasn’t felt like five years. That’s fitting for a movie that deals with the power, or curiosity, of time. Upon its 2008 release David Fincher‘s epic was a modest success. The pricey drama was a hit with audiences, but it wasn’t exactly a universally loved film. Some Fincher fans considered it one of his lesser works and, as they were ever so fond of calling it, “Forrest Gump 2.” If The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of his lesser works, which it is not, then this Fincher guy sure is talented. It is also no Forrest Gump 2, because Fincher’s film is far more thoughtful, moving and honest than Gump. That’s not to say the movie isn’t without its problems. Eric Roth‘s script is often a tad on the nose  – “you never know what’s coming for ya”  and the hummingbird — but, more often than not, this F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation is deceptively dark. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is about living life to the fullest, but this is a movie where death is a constant reminder. Nothing lasts forever, not even New Orleans. With that said, Fincher still shows his softer side, and that sincerity opens itself up to easy criticisms, both fair and unfair. What we can all agree on is it’s an extraordinary vision following an unextraordinary man. Benjamin’s a normal man dealing with even more normal problems, despite his disease, and […]

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bayona

Zombie fans were ready to attack World War Z with their criticisms well before it even hit theaters. Not only was there every indication going in that the film had very little to do with its source material, a book by Max Brooks that was wildly popular with horror fans, but there were also constant reports of troubles with the script and the budgeting of the movie, problems that eventually resulted in its entire ending being re-conceptualized and re-shot. Those aren’t exactly the kind of indicators that instill confidence in potential customers. Really, by the time World War Z came and went from theaters, all of the talk that went down in the build up to its release proved to be a moot point though. Not only did the film prove to be a financial success despite all the doom and gloom from film pundits that proceeded its release, but it also proved to be just about as much of a failure with critics as it was a success at the box office—and for reasons that had nothing to do with how far it diverged away from its source material.

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outofthefurnace

“There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show.” The above summary is of an an impromptu speech The Wire showrunner David Simon delivered at “The Festival of Dangerous Ideas” in Sydney this week. Simon’s work as producer has been characterized by a distinct effort to represent the “great horror show” America he mentions – the America without social mobility, the America where people are left to survive in the marginal social position they’ve inherited, the America without special interest groups to make a perpetual underclass visible in the media and worth pandering to for politicians’ votes. The Wire, as Simon attests directly, sought to represent the conditions and lives of people who are “economically worthless,” a series that lent a rare lens to ordinary people’s endurance in the face of total invisibility in the public sphere. Mainstream contemporary movies and television shows have, perhaps until very recently, almost exclusively surveyed the lives of those with considerable economic worth: audiences with expendable income that can be advertised to during commercial breaks or be expected to buy most movie tickets. But Out of the Furnace and Killing Them Softly – both of which take place in 2008 and were released almost exactly a year apart – offer an incisive lens into a hermetically sealed, economically deprived, and otherwise underrepresented American underclass.

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In the future, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford will be regarded as a classic. It’s a haunting epic packed with beauty and brutality thanks to Roger Deakins‘s finest cinematography, Brad Pitt‘s best performance to date, and a narrative that conforms to zero biopic conventions. However, at the time of its release writer/director Andrew Dominik‘s adaptation was a box office dud, grossing less than $4m across the globe on a $36m budget. A part of the problem was that it wasn’t the Jesse James movie Warner Bros. wanted. They were thinking Unforgiven, not two and a half hours of obsession and regret. Heck, they probably would’ve preferred American Outlaws, the other recent financial (and creative) misfire starring Colin Farrell as a plucky Jesse James. To a degree, that’s fair on the studio’s part: wanting the most commercial movie possible from what’s now considered a non-commercial genre. The movie went through various edits due to Warners disliking of Dominik’s cut, but, despite their efforts, what they released still wasn’t the shoot ‘em up they were hoping for. Instead the result was something people have developed an immense passion for since its 2007 release. This Saturday in New York City there’s a revival screening of the film, and several sites (including us) have used the event as an excuse to praise the flop. If you’re in New York and have the time and money, do not miss out. The Assassination of Jesse James is a theatrical experience every one of its acolytes should experience. One of its greatest […]

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Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

The idea of robbing banks and trains should conjure up images of brazen cowboys and the spaghetti western music of Ennio Morricone, but instead, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford depicts a stark world left in the wake of these famed outlaws, full of melancholy and restlessness. Jesse James has a very distinctive look and feel thanks to the cinematography, the acting from the film’s two leads and the costumes — all of which give Jesse James an almost mournful tone. There’s one other element that solidifies that dirge-evoking spirit. The film may have come out six years ago, but with a revival screening poised to take place this weekend, it felt time to revisit Nick Cave and Warren Ellis‘ score, a work which embraces the mystery and magic that is the story of Jesse James as it is told through the unreliable perspective of its narrator Bob Ford (Casey Affleck).

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Jesse James

It’s strange to think that we’re in need of a revival (and a “revival” in the truest sense of the word) of a film that’s not even a decade old and that features star turns from big names like Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell, but such is the case when it comes to Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The critically beloved (it has a strong 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though we think that should still be a fair bit higher) box office flop (it pulled in less than $4m at the worldwide box office in a very small release, a real mess considering its reported budget of $30m) is currently set for a two-night revival at New York City’s own Museum of the Moving Image, and that’s just the beginning. The best part of getting Dominik’s modern masterwork back on the big screen is that it comes care of an admiring fanbase. The new revival, amusingly titled “No Eulogies,” is hitting the big screen thanks to cinephile and big time Jesse James fan Jamieson McGonigle, whose admiration of the film extends so far that he recently told the New York Times that he thinks “It’s the best film that’s come out since 2000.” McGonigle originally conceived of the revival as something of a bachelor party, as he already has his own print of the film to screen and considered his plan on marrying next year at the museum a good […]

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review the counselor

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a man in love, but he is also a man who may have gotten himself in over his head when it comes to some of his more “off the books” business dealings. A lawyer by trade, The Counselor (who is only ever referred to as that) has also teamed up with some interesting partners and gotten himself involved in the business of drug smuggling, and nothing goes as it should. From its very first moment, The Counselor brings its audience into a world where nothing is shied away from. Director Ridley Scott creates a highly-stylized environment where every detail is accounted for, and this is also a world where the characters are as compelling as their surroundings. The Counselor is a man who can make even the most mundane conversation, whether talking about the clarity of diamonds or the fabric of lingerie, feel vital and important. Unfortunately, Cormac McCarthy’s script fails do the same. Fassbender’s Counselor has an almost rhythmic cadence when he speaks that makes you want to hear more, but McCarthy’s script keeps him from saying anything of real substance or helping to paint a clearer view of who this man truly is.

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mar

Globally, World War Z made over $535M dollars this summer. For a movie that cost in the neighborhood of $200M, that’s not a bad haul, especially when you take into account the bad buzz leading up to the film’s release. General moviegoers probably couldn’t have cared less about the third act of a film being reshot, but for most movie nerds, it’s a knee-jerk warning sign. A movie that requires reshoots always draws negative attention despite presenting an opportunity to get some pickup shots, a scene to add some clarity, or in the case of World War Z, a whole new act. Even in the age of special features, we’ll probably never get to see the original ending that the reshoots made irrelevant. At the end of the day, the bad-buzz-creating gamble paid off with this well-liked zombie hit. Speaking with the film’s director Marc Forster it was obvious how happy he was to see World War Z not get chewed up at the box office like some foresaw.

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WORLD WAR Z

The reports of World War Z’s inevitable death at the box office were greatly exaggerated. Between those anticipating another Ishtar and others conducting pre-emptive autopsies, many presumed the movie’s very public production woes — script overhaul, scrapped ending, expensive reshoots, ship-jumping collaborators — would act like a deadly infection, poisoning the movie’s buzz and making its survival at the box office unlikely. Instead, it went on to gross $536m internationally. It’s a turn of events that surprised more than a few, but if you take a closer look at the film’s much publicized rewritten third act, the success may not have been a surprise to World War Z itself. That’s because those last 45 minutes symbolically represent not just the film’s eleventh hour overhaul and its awareness of the dangerous movie-killing risk it was taking, but also its confidence that it would succeed. Warning: World War Z spoilers ahead.

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true romance hopper

Tony Scott‘s True Romance is probably one of my top ten all-time favorite movies, which is kind of weird since Badlands is one of my top five all-time favorite films. Or maybe it’s appropriate that this is the case. I’m sure that one of the reasons I fell in love with this movie is because of how directly it’s inspired by and references the earlier Terrence Malick film. Notice I make the distinction between movies and films. Scott made movies, Malick makes films. Scott also made a movie I like that directly references another of my all-time favorite films (Enemy of the State –> The Conversation). I was sad when Scott died particularly because I was hoping he’d eventually cover all my top shelf titles (just imagine what he could have done with Duck Soup!). Then again, maybe he’d have just redone himself, the way he did with Domino, which is like a bad remake of True Romance. Anyway, True Romance turns 20 years old this week. Warner Bros. released the movie on September 10, 1993, and it came in at #3 for its opening weekend, behind reigning champ The Fugitive and fellow newcomer Undercover Blues (uh?). In honor of the anniversary, let’s take a look at some scenes we love. It was hard to narrow down, of course, so we went with major character moments.

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Cameron-Diaz-and-Penelope-Cruz-toppless-in-the-trailer-for-The-Counselor

The first teaser trailer we got for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor didn’t have much meat to it at all. We were introduced to a brief scenario where a wire stretched across a road caused a motorcycle accident, we caught a glimpse of Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt sporting silly hairdos, and then a shapely woman crawled across the hood of a car. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that let you know what the movie was all about. The new full-length trailer for the film though, well—it doesn’t really tell you all that much either. Actually, the new trailer contains about as much plot info as one of those obtuse “next week on Mad Men” teasers. But it does give us glimpses of a handsome and reluctant Michael Fassbender getting in over his head with some shady business, Bardem playing the devil character who convinces him to get involved, Pitt playing a bringer of doom, and Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz sharing a moment of danger-laced flirtation. So, even if we still don’t really know what this movie is going to be about exactly, who cares? It’s clearly got everything.

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Fight Club

Quick! Think of a beloved, bold, classic, cult film with Oscar caliber performance and craft that you’d never want to see remade or reimagined. Now imagine the medium you’d never want to see that film remade or reimagined within. Was your answer Dirty Dancing as a web series? First of all, no, that’s the wrong answer and, second of all, that sounds delightfully terrible. No, the right answer was Fight Club and “graphic novel.” Too bad. In the crush of the weekend’s massive influx of Comic-Con news, an announcement from author Chuck Palahniuk got a bit lost in the fray, and it’s finally managed to get around days later. Palahniuk appeared at the convention for a number of reasons – to sign books for fans, to appear on a panel called “Ode to Nerds,” to clearly be very good to his admirers, and to slyly announce that he’s working on a sequel to his “Fight Club.” The author slipped the news in during his panel when asked what he was working on next, and while it’s heartening that it’s Palahniuk who is working on this so-called sequel, we’re finding it very hard indeed to get excited about the potential for any sort of follow-up to his original vision, particularly in graphic novel form. Collider passed along the news, straight from the author’s official site (called “The Cult”) about the process of the new novel and the bare bones of Palahniuk’s vision for it. If you’re not interested in getting clear-cut […]

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teaser counselor

Of the many high profile films opening later this fall Ridley Scott‘s newest has seemed to exist in a rather quiet little bubble. It’s strange considering the director’s pedigree as well as that of his very recognizable and accomplished cast. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are marquee names, and more than that they’re also considered to be some of Hollywood’s sexiest stars. The most impressive selling point for me though is that they’re all over 35 years old, meaning this just may be that rarest of Hollywood films… a big, dramatic thriller for adults. The Counselor comes from the pen of Cormac McCarthy, but unlike The Road or No Country for Old Men, this represents a departure for the writer in that it’s an original screenplay. The story follows a lawyer who finds himself involved in the dirty world of drug dealing millionaires who own cheetahs. Check out the first teaser below.

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wwz07

Spoilers Ahead: This article contains advanced talking points for Marc Forster‘s World War Z. We recommend reading it after you see the film. I know. It’s pretty futile starting up a list of unanswered questions regarding a popcorn flick about vaguely defined zombies co-written by Damon Lindelof. But just because something is futile doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I haven’t read the original book by Max Brooks, which apparently doesn’t matter given how little the movie resembles the text. I also haven’t followed every little piece of the production, but that shouldn’t matter either since the movie on screen should stand alone. However, where there is some relevance to explaining something on screen by the issues of the rewrites and reshoots and such, so I do try to mention it if I’m aware of it. Speaking of the infamous production problems, they do tend to factor into narrative flaws and holes and confusion like those I raise below. Additionally the expectation that the story of World War Z will continue in sequels means the filmmakers might be choosing to flesh out some stuff later on. And of course, as usual, some of the questions are not answerable at all because they’re more criticisms in the form of a hypothetical query or simply disagreements with how the movie was plotted or how the characters thought or acted. All in all, let these talking points first and foremost serve as a means to discuss the movie in full without concern for spoilers.

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KenBurnsWorldWarZ

World War Z is not a very faithful adaptation. By placing it during the war, director Marc Forster and star Brad Pitt have fundamentally altered Max Brooks‘ after-the-fact oral history. Which is understandable. They wanted a big-budget, globe-spanning adventure, and that’s hard to squeeze out of a guy traveling the world calmly speaking with survivors. The movie is out this weekend (Rob’s review), and we couldn’t help but wonder what it would have looked like if it were a little more faithful to the book. So we turned to our old pal Sleepy Skunk to make a video that imagines what Ken Burns‘ version of World War Z would have been like. For all of you aching for a zombie documentary, here’s a small piece of alternate history.

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review world war z

Zombie movies come preloaded with some fairly clear-cut expectations. Unless they’re going the comedic route, a la Zombieland or Return of the Living Dead, a zombie flick should be scary, feature folks shambling running rising from the dead, and show lots of gory flesh-munching and grievous bodily harm. Or, you know, they can just make it up as they go along. World War Z chooses that latter route, and the result is a PG-13 zombie film that offers very little to chew on, but while it fails as an entry into the zombie sub-genre it finds a little bit more success as an action/adventure with an unconventional leading man. Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is new to the stay-at-home dad thing, but his past job as an elite problem-solver for the government used to being dropped into international hot zones comes in handy when a family drive through Philadelphia is interrupted by a zombie apocalypse. His old governmental cronies come calling, and after a terrifying night holed up in an infested apartment building Lane and company are airlifted to the safety of an aircraft carrier. The catch is that in exchange for his his wife (Mireille Enos) and children’s loosely guaranteed safety they expect Lane to head out into the big, undead world in search of patient zero and a cure.

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