Ed Harris

Ed Harris in Appaloosa

HBO’s Westworld remake has been on a roll when it comes to casting, nailing down Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and James Marsden in the last few weeks. Take a lesson, everyone else in Hollywood: if you’re going to remake something that really has no business being remade, the least you can do for everyone is throw in a few actors that can make it palatable. The latest addition to J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan‘s robo-cowboy epic is better than all those other schmucks combined (no offense, Sir Hopkins, but your role is almost 100% guaranteed to be non-robotic, so we’ve had to dock you a few coolness points). According to Deadline, HBO has snagged Ed Harris for a key role in the series (currently at just the pilot stage), as “The Man in Black.” Another actor was announced via The Wrap at the same time: Ptolemy Slocum, who had a recurring role on the HBO series Looking. But all we know is he will be playing a man named Sylvester. 

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The Face of Love

With the already-announced The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg, and a chance for everyone to get what they’ve always dreamed of (two Jake Gyllenhaals) with Enemy, 2014 is already shaping up to be the year of the doppelganger. Two more films are turning doubles into a trend by giving us Zoe Kazan and Ed Harris duplicates. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Though Ed Harris is a performer who most people would recognize at this point, he’s still not exactly what one thinks of when they think of a “movie star.” While he’s not exactly a “that guy” character actor who constantly shows up playing small roles, he’s not quite a leading man either. He’s more likely to show up in a movie as the guy behind the guy, just one step behind the hero, or even as the villain, someone who’s probably just as essential to a story as the hero but doesn’t get nearly as much of the credit when box office receipts and reviews start rolling in. Harris is more often than not the highlight of every film he appears in, and he has the chiseled looks and piercing eyes of a leading man, but for some reason he’s never quite broken through to that next level of Hollywood where he’s gotten the opportunity to get the big, showy roles and anchor the big, expensive films. Whether that’s because casting agents think that he’s lacking some sort of intangible quality that makes one a star or just that Harris himself prefers to make a living and build a career doing smaller, often more interesting work isn’t clear. But what is clear is that he’s been one of the best actors working regularly over the last few decades, he’s always a welcome name to see pop up on any casting list, and we now have reason to celebrate, as there’s […]

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Sweetwater Movie

As we all know, whenever someone wants to get revenge in a Western, they have to first strip naked and stand poignantly beside a campfire on an otherwise pitch black night. Sweetwater continues that tradition when Sarah Ramirez (January Jones) starts killing a bunch of people that did her wrong. The Sundance movie also features Jason Isaacs as a murderous preacher and Ed Harris as a tap-dancing sheriff, and it currently doesn’t have a US release date (straight to DVD?). The trailer is a faulty kind of mash-up attempting to make it simultaneously seem like 3:10 to Yuma and Django Unchained. So, not great. You’ll also notice that they don’t showcase a ton of speaking from Jones (a bad sign), but with the possibility of Harris and Isaacs going over the top, there might be some gold in them hills.

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A154_C004_01309L

Like the real-life nuclear submarine that went missing from the Russian fleet in 1968, the film Phantom sailed into theaters pretty much under many people’s radar. A smaller production boasting names like Ed Harris, William Fichtner, and David Duchovny in the cast, it is being distributed by RCR Distribution. However, it is getting a wider release than some, including the stars themselves, anticipated. Harris plays the commander of this Russian sub as it goes rogue under mutiny. It is inspired by a true story, which is detailed in the book “Red Rogue Star” by Kenneth Sewell, who also served as a consultant on the film. In the real incident, the sub went undetected for years before being eventually and partially raised from the ocean floor.

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review phantom

They really don’t make enough submarine-set thrillers. They’re a rare breed, an incredibly small sub-genre if you will, and that’s a shame as most of them are pretty damn good. Obvious suspects like Das Boot and The Hunt for Red October sit alongside less celebrated films like U-571 and Below. A personal favorite is Tony Scott’s Crimson Tide which found real suspense and excitement in a story anchored by two powerful lead performances. For better or worse, there’s more than a little of all five of those movies recognizable in the new film, Phantom. Set in 1968 and based on a fairly startling true story, the movie brings to life the final mission of a decorated Russian submarine captain tasked with delivering an old diesel sub to its Chinese buyers. He’s also been instructed to add two “special project” technicians to the crew with a secret mission of their own. Once the boat hits the open ocean the newcomers take control and reveal the purpose of their presence and of the mysterious addition to the sub’s exterior.

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Phantom

Phantom tells the story of a submarine that goes rogue after a distinguished Captain is set on a mission, but joined by a group of technicians from the “Special Projects Institute,” headed by David Duchovny, who may have other motives in mind. The true nature of this mission, and why Captain Demi (Ed Harris) was selected to head it, is the question Phantom attempts to unravel. When creating the score, composer Jeff Rona visited the submarine director Todd Robinson was filming on and found himself inspired by the sub itself, discovering musical elements in the metallic valves and hydraulics. This use of “found sounds” (something greatly utilized in Nathan Johnson’s score for Looper) is not only a creative way to make a distinct score, but it helps to incorporate subconscious elements into the music that  relate back to the film itself. The sounds Rona collected while on the submarine ended up becoming the foundation of the film’s theme, and the score itself. However, technology did more than just manipulate these sounds into music; it also allowed Rona to collaborate with a fellow musician is Austria to create additional instrumentation that would round out the sound of Phantom. Go behind the scenes with Rona to see how he created the thrilling and mysterious score for Phantom.

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Snow Piercer artwork

Whether due to coincidence or collusion, 2013 is the year three of South Korea’s best film directors will premiere their English language debuts. Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand will hit screens first in January, while Park Chan-wook’s Stoker will follow suit a few months later. Both films look to exist firmly in their director’s respective wheelhouse leaving Bong Joon-ho‘s Snow Piercer as far more of an unknown entity. One of the biggest questions has now been answered though as The Weinstein Company has reportedly picked up distribution rights for the film in North America, the UK and a few other English-speaking regions. No official release date has been set, but Deadline seems to believe a Summer 2013 premiere is to be expected. Snow Piercer is based on a French graphic novel called Transperceneige and plays out almost exclusively aboard a futuristic locomotive. The world has become an iced-over post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the only real safety is on this train which is constantly in motion. The last vestiges of humanity live aboard distinctly divided along class lines, but rumors of a rebellion from the lower decks reach the one-percenters living above and threaten to derail mankind’s last hope.

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It seems that when it comes to tales of good and evil – we often see anything besides good winning and evil losing as some kind of a cop out. Like… we’d rather see the villain fall to their death or be eaten by hyenas than learn the error of their ways -something that’s more than evident in Disney films, which have featured both killer hyenas and high places. But, you know – when a bad guy ultimately turns good, if done right, it’s way better to watch. More often than not they still usually end up dying horrible, so there’s that too, but at least they die good. There’s probably going to be a lot of spoilers below.

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Culture Warrior

There are those on the right who have said that Game Change is a partisan smear. At the same time, some on the left may have gone into the program expecting a SNL-style “look-how-dumb-Palin-is” work of predictable affirmation. But while hit jobs and hagiographies might make for effective 30-second political ads, they can’t sustain a two-hour block of television. Game Change, by contrast, is a gripping (though by no means perfect) two-hour block of television. But the term “block of television” does not necessarily carry the same connotations as “TV movie.” The distinction here is important. Game Change’s central thesis is not a political point about either John McCain or Sarah Palin as candidates (what could a TV movie possibly say that’s new or urgent in this respect?), but is instead a lamentation about how our political landscape is determined (on all sides of the ideological spectrum) by the media cycles of Celebrity 2.0. HBO has been preoccupied for quite some time by the major chapters in American history, rolling out expensive and impressive miniseries detailing the canonical moments that Americans learned about during their primary education: whether it be The Revolutionary War and the stories of the Founding Fathers (John Adams (2008)), WWII (Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010)), or man’s journey to the moon (From the Earth to the Moon). However, HBO’s original programming has also taken microscopic examinations of recent, not-so-canonized history with smaller-scale projects like Recount (2008), Too Big to Fail (2011), and, of […]

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Man on a Ledge

“You know, Mikey, one day you’re going to stick your dick in the wrong door, and somebody’s going to slam it,” and that line represents Man on a Ledge in a nutshell. Goofy and laughable, but overall kind of charming. Director Asger Leth, with the assistance of commercial honcho mega producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, has made a through and through B movie. What you’d expect from a movie called Man on a Ledge, you get. It’s all fairly preposterous and thin, and Leth knows not to let it go on too long before its cheesy charms lose steam. The plot, well, you already know it. Anyone who’s seen that trailer has seen it all. For those of you who live under a rock though, Ledge follows Nick Cassidy, played compellingly enough by Sam Worthington and a dodgy accent. Cassidy wants to prove his innocence over a stolen diamond, so like any wise man, he escapes prison and goes to hang out on a ledge. But things aren’t what they seem, as is always the case. As he teases a suicide, his brother Joe (Jamie Bell) and his eye-candy girlfriend, played by the suavely named Genesis Rodriguez, go about robbing the man who may have framed Nick, the snarling David Englander (Ed Harris).

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When HBO wanted to create an adaptation of the best-selling book “Game Change,” about the 2008 presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama, they picked up the phone and called Jay Roach – the director behind Austin Powers and The Fockers who also delivered them the television movie Recount. Now, Roach has covered, semi-fictionally, politics in 2000 and in 2008. Slog through the dialogue between Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt (the Republican strategist) and Ed Harris as McCain, and you’ll be rewarded briefly with who will inevitably be the real star of the show, Julianne Moore slingin’ a down home twang as Sarah Palin. The question is this: with so much going on socially and economically, are we really interested in going back in time to examine a reality television star?

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema: we have come here to chew bubblegum and worship bad movies…and we’re all out of bubblegum. Pursuant to our mission statement, hastily written in soy sauce on the wrapper of a Zagnut bar, every week we will tempt your cerebral taste buds with all the most decadent, delicious treats it doesn’t want to admit it craves. We will slice, dice, chop, and screw the movie; basting it in its own faults along the way. But then it will lovingly bake in our hearts at 98.6° for 3-5 paragraphs until it becomes golden brown with our misguided affection. We will then transform metaphor into substance by offering an actual snack food item paired with the film in order that no part of your insides remain unaffected by this odious column. If losers are always whining about their best, we achieve the complete opposite effect by lauding the worst with a barbaric yawp. Today’s Blue Plate Special: The Rock

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WWE Studios has been producing a steady stream of big, dumb action schlock since ’02, their only real winner being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s starring vehicle, The Rundown. To be fair, they co-produced to Universal’s Strike Entertainment; I imagine someone had the good sense to lock Vince McMahon in a closet during the lion’s share of that film. The wrestling organization’s studio wing has in recent years been playing it up to the PG-13 crowd to cast a wider demographic net, and thus their film library has seen some variation from wooden wrestlers blowing shit up and punching faces. Basically, WWE Studios wants you to know they have a heart– and so we get That’s What I Am, television writer/director Michael Pavone’s big screen feature debut.

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To step out of one’s comfort zone can be a wonderful thing, or a gesture fraught with peril. For evidence of the dangers, look no further than the desperate Salvation Boulevard. A comedy with a religious fundamentalist bent, from a director accustomed to serious fare and starring actors not generally known for their comic chops, the film tries so hard to reach heights of absurdist mania that it falls flat.

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Back in 2006, book critic Barbara Scott claimed that “‘The Long Walk’ is so cinematic that you have to wonder why it has never been made into a movie.” That statement proved to be prescient because now that novel about a handful of prisoners crossing over the planet’s harshest terrain in order to see freedom has been turned into a film by the phenomenal Peter Weir. The director of masterful human stories like Master and Commander, Dead Poets Society, and Witness now has a trailer out there in the world for his latest – The Way Back. It looks treacherous and raw. It appears to be Man vs Nature in all its glory. See for yourself:

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mwl-therock

This week’s installment of Movies We Love is brought to you by Neil Miller’s love for Michael Bay, the number 9, and the word “badass.”

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Viggo Mortensen in Appaloosa

Robert Fure polished his tin star and took a ride through the Old West with Ed Harris’ “Appaloosa” and thought it swell. But it wasn’t perfect. Here’s what worked and what didn’t.

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Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in Appaloosa

Saddle up and take an early look at Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen’s classic western, Appaloosa.

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Boiling Point: Bring Back the 3 Act Structure

Robert Fure can get mad over just about anything. This time, he’s had too much of a good thing and is concerned with a new Hollywood trend that leaves the traditional story arc behind in favor of more, more, more.

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