Haywire

Romeo is Bleeding Olin

The scene starts out typically enough. An exhausted, blood-covered man jumps into a car and peels out of the area with a prone, bloodied female body lying in the back seat. As he drives away, however, she watches. Before he can notice the change, she’s turned around, raised her legs, and wrapped them around his neck. It’s equal parts sadistic and erotic as she perches on her shoulders, her skirt riding up to reveal her garter belt and panties. She isn’t serious and focused, but delightfully cackling, her eyes closed as if she just heard the funniest joke. He swerves left and right, struggling for air and failing to stop her as blood smears all over the car. He crashes and is knocked unconscious. With her hands cuffed behind her back she crawls to the front, kicks out the windshield, grabs an envelope with her teeth, and wiggles her way out. She isn’t impervious to pain. When she falls to the ground she cries out, but pulls herself to her feet and wobbles off, kicking off her remaining stiletto to run away. When Gary Oldman drove off with Lena Olin in the back of the car in Romeo is Bleeding, the incomparable actress revealed the joys of female evil and the potential inherent in leg-based violence. The male gaze, quite atypically, merges with feminism in moments like hers. There is a sexual element of provocation mixed with a feminine release as she attacks with the very body part that differentiates […]

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Film_Teddybear_613411a

One of the things I love about the latest Fast and Furious movie (whatever it’s called, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 6 or my own title, “Planes, Tanks and Automobiles”) is its casting. Not only is the ensemble made up mostly of hyphenate professionals who weren’t originally actors (including a wrestler, a bodybuilder, a former Miss Israel, a couple music artists, a couple martial artists), but a few of them are rather fresh faces to film, new to the franchise and surely on the rise in their movie careers. As much as I look forward to seeing what each does next, I’m also excited to have a new reason to spotlight the fairly recent breakthrough performances that likely got them this gig. In addition to using the opportunity to recommend those films, none of which has been seen by nearly as many people as will see a Fast and Furious movie, I’ve compiled a broader list of movies to now watch after seeing Fast & Furious 6. It’s partly a way to note some of its forebears and possible influences without going my usual negative route of criticizing this as a derivative work. It’s obviously imitative to a degree yet it’s also highly original in some of its stunts and their execution. Besides, just as in music we should accept and appreciate derivatives for their potential to lead fans backward to their (often better) predecessors. Of course, there are some reminiscent predecessors I’d rather not choose to recommend (Cars 2, […]

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The Best Action Movies of 2012

Movies are many different things to many different peoples. A film may tug at your heart strings, tickle your funny bone, or change the way you look at the world. But sometimes all you want from a movie is an adrenaline shot straight to the heart, a testosterone booster right to the balls, or whatever the female equivalent of getting really hyped up over an action film is. 2012 didn’t see the apocalypse, but it did see a bunch of cinematic ass-kickery, the best of which is counted down here for your pleasure.

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Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh is one of the most prolific filmmakers of our era. Though his early retirement is immanent, he’s released more films – and a greater variety of films – in his twenty-three years of directing than some filmmakers helm in a lifetime. Since bursting on the American independent film scene in 1989 with sex, lies, and videotape, Soderbergh has made studio blockbusters and micro-budget experiments, strange remakes and films that blur the line between narrative and documentary, not to mention semi-biopics of public figures as diverse as Spalding Gray, Che Guevara, Erin Brockovich, and Channing Tatum. He’s been a leader in exploring the possibilities of new digital filmmaking technologies, and it seems there isn’t a genre or scale of filmmaking that he hasn’t yet touched. He’s even made a film that you’ll never see. Last week, the trailer for Side Effects, Soderbergh’s last theatrical film and his penultimate film project (the final, final one being the made-for-HBO Liberace biopic Beyond the Candelabra), made its debut on the web. So with the supposed final days of an impressive career by a prolific filmmaker upon us, here’s a bit of free film school from a guy that considers both George Clooney and Sasha Grey his muses.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! It’s a light release week, but some of the titles include Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, the WB’s Felicity, a Bosnian dramedy, a really bad Sammo Hung movie and more! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie Ric Meyers brings his book, Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Book, to life in a documentary that feels alternately like a home-made passion project and a fun, informative and enthusiastic look at martial arts cinema. Narrator Yuri Lowenthal talks with a casual and spirited voice as he walks us through the history of kung fu movies and the filmmakers both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Clips from dozens of classic movies, new movies and movies you’ve probably never heard of are spread liberally throughout alongside animation, knowledge and personality. Meyers’ conclusions are sometimes a bit wonky, but it’s a fun and fast watch for genre fans.

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Gina Carano in Haywire

Gina Carano’s claim to fame is that she can stomp people into the ground while, simultaneously, looking fabulous. So far she’s used these seemingly at odds traits to build a promising little career in entertainment, originally by being the first MMA athlete to bring real mainstream attention to the female fight game, and lately by transitioning her physical skills to the acting world. We got our first look at how Carano will fare on the big screen earlier this year in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, where the budding actress proved (in a starring role) not only that she could be just as alluring and magnetic as the biggest actresses working in Hollywood today, but also that there was a certain action magic to be had when your lead actress is able to perform all of her own fight scenes, probably better than any stuntwoman would be able to. Carano’s character in that film was overly stoic, however, and everything she was asked to do there seemed to be crafted to emphasize her natural looks and physical skills, and to de-emphasize any real emoting or serious acting that her inexperience might not yet be able to handle. That approach isn’t going to be able to last forever though, and now that Carano is signing up for a couple new roles, we might start seeing for the first time what she really has to offer as an actress.

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If you’re just catching up with us, Junkfood Cinema head honcho Brian Salisbury and I have made the dubiously sane decision to trek 20+hours across the country to attend ActionFest, an upstart film festival focusing exclusively on badass action films. It’s a long drive from Austin to beautiful Asheville, NC, but we’ve made it relatively unscathed and have two full days and 9 fest films under our collective belt. You can read about those first two days here and here. It is with little sleep and much caffeine that we make our way back to the Carolina theater for the third and final day of ActionFest 2012! We started day 3 with the first of 2 secret screenings on the ActionFest schedules. Rumors were flying, even as we were in line, but none turned out to be correct. The film was Sleepless Night which had previously played Toronto and our own beloved Fantastic Fest. Brian had already seen it so he went up the lounge to “work” (I’m fairly certain he drank beer and ate chicken). Despite trying to see it twice at Fantastic Fest, circumstances conspired to keep me from seeing the last 30-40 minutes or so. OK fine, the first time I just fell asleep. In any event, my dad and I stuck around for the French flick to which Warner Bros. has already purchased the remake rights. We rushed out as the credits rolled and managed to only miss the first minute or two of Goon. Yeah, […]

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Gina Carano in Haywire

When you think of the typical action hero, the image that immediately leaps to mind is undoubtedly that of a bloody, bandana-clad dude with a massive gun, or a rouge tough guy cop, or perhaps a macho kung-fu master. In other words…males. While action is a genre long dominated by men, there have been a few notable (read: 100% ass-kicking) action heroines that have left their own indelible mark: Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. To that list, we must now certainly add Gina Carano, star of Steven Soderbergh’s recent action thriller Haywire. Gina however had the advantage of being a certified badass long before throwing her first punch on screen. She is a longtime student of Muay Thai, a former champion MMA fighter, and was in fact involved in some of the first sanctioned female fights in MMA history. With knockout after knockout Carano, an undeniable knockout herself, proved that beauty and strength were far from mutually exclusive. Her work in Haywire, coupled with her successful MMA career, inspired the head honchos at ActionFest to create a new award for which she will be the first recipient. The Chick Norris Best Female Action Star Award, playfully adapted from the name of fest founder (and action legend in his own right) Chuck Norris, celebrates the contribution women have made and continue to make to action cinema. We got a chance to talk to Gina about the award, about Haywire, and, oddly, […]

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The Grey

Once again Liam Neeson stood up to the January graveyard slate of movies, and once again Liam Neeson took charge. The Grey took top honors this weekend, proving that the combination of Neeson and good, adult action is the way to go when you want to make some decent coin. It wasn’t up to the standards of films like Taken ($24.7m opening weekend in 2009) and Unknown ($21.8m opening weekend in 2011). Considering the R rating, the lack of star power outside of Neeson (Dermot Mulroney isn’t what he used to be, and the wolves themselves don’t have a great agent yet), and Joe Carnahan not being the golden boy when it comes to box office returns, The Grey‘s $20m is still a respectable debut. Neeson isn’t losing clout as quickly as Katherine Heigl, whose One For the Money came in at #3 with $11.7m. That’s slightly lower than expectations, but looking at Heigl’s track record, her opening numbers seem to be whittling down further and further. Since Killers in 2010, Heigl’s opening numbers have progressively gotten smaller and smaller, dropping from $15.8m to $14.5m for Life As We Know It in 2010 and $13m for New Year’s Eve early last month. A change of pace for Heigl might be in order, or, when all else fails, the DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD market is not a bad option to take.

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The Reject Report - Large

Not to be confused with Reject Report, The White, which is what happens after we do battle with the Balrog. Reject Report, The White is never NEVER wrong. But in our current form we have to take into account things like star power and demographics and mass appeal, the kinds of aspects that go into making a film financially successful. This week sees three new movies wanting that success and one Oscar contender expanding to wide release. Liam Neeson fights wolves, Sam Worthington faces a ledge, and Katherine Heigl takes on…money, I guess. I’m not really sure. Only one of these movies can be the victor while the other two scrounge for scraps to make up $10-15m. Not even worth the effort really. It’s the Reject Report, and you shall not pass. Okay, now you can pass. Go ahead.

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Underworld Awakening

Vampires are still on the menu when it comes to nice sized box office morsels, as Underworld: Awakening, the fourth film of the franchise, sunk its teeth in and made its mark on the weekend take, the film series, and January openings as a whole. The only of these lists Awakening‘s opening of $25.4m tops is chart for this weekend. That’s a return for the series, whose third entry, Rise of the Lycans, debuted in the #2 spot behind Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and who can really contend with Kevin James? I mean, really?

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The absolute worst thing you could say about Steven Soderbergh’s latest film is that its lead, Gina Carano, is consistently out-acted by Channing Tatum. On its surface and for obvious reasons that’s a pretty damning statement. But when viewed as a whole performer instead of just an actress you quickly realize that Carano has a very particular set of other skills. Skills she has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make her a nightmare for people like Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and other male stars with recognizably pretty faces. A nightmare for them, but entertaining as hell for the rest of us.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in his favorite Jedi robe, grabs his lightsaber and heads out to see the latest George Lucas movie…and boy does he look stupid. After realizing that Red Tails has nothing to do with the color of creatures’ backsides in the Tattooine cantina, he then dresses in his favorite “Team Jacob” tee shirt to see the latest vampire/werewolf movie. Again, he looks ridiculous. Finally, he sulks into a movie theater showing the new Steven Soderbergh film, falls in love with new action star Gina Carano and is happy.

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Aural Fixation - Large

Audiences have been eagerly awaiting the release of soon-to-be retired (or so was once widely claimed) Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, Haywire, after advanced screenings confirmed what the trailer suggested – a literally kick-ass time at the movies. Starring a Hollywood unknown, Gina Carano is known more for her mixed martial arts skills and those skills are put to the test on the big screen as she goes up against a powerful boys club comprised of the likes of Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Fassbender. Playing a black ops solider betrayed by her company, Carano is forced to not only figure out why she was double crossed, but do so while trying to keep herself from being killed in the process (and leaving an impressive body count of her own in her wake.) Soderbergh turned to composer David Holmes to create the musical landscape for a film that is not only action-packed, but also dramatic, thrilling, emotional, even funny at times and overall – fun. But what made this film such a fun time at the movies? Many factors of course (the story, the actors, the direction), but the element that seemed to keep this idea of playfulness running throughout was provided by the score, and almost subconsciously so. Holmes is no stranger to scoring a film that flips the script every other scene and forces the audience to not only try and keep up with the action, but unravel the truth behind the story as well. He […]

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The Must See Movies of January 2012

With the gut-wrencher Shame, an uncomfortably funny Young Adult, Spielberg’s heart-string pullin’ War Horse, a high-flying Tintin adventure, the shining return of Cameron Crowe, the oversized popcorn blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the overlooked hilarity of Carnage, the pulpy thrills of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the subdued near-masterpiece that is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, last month was a pretty fantastic time at the movies. Now we’re entering January. While this time of the year is usually a dumping ground — and we’ll be getting plenty of films of that low-caliber — there’s a surprising amount of films to check out this month, mainly the award-ready expanding releases.

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The Munsters are Coming Back

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that sometimes leads with television news. You know, for the kids. Wait, so the guy who brought the world Pushing Daisies will be doing a modern reboot of The Munsters for NBC? That’s actually not a bad idea. In fact, it could be a lot of fun. Dear NBC, find the person who made this decision — because I know they weren’t the same asshole who pulled Community from the midseason line-up — and promote them to sole decision maker person at NBC. That is what is required of you if you’re going to stave off the loss of my love. That, and more Parks and Rec, please.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that would like you to know that you should not be afraid, for there is far more news in tonight’s edition than the title above might suggest. The title is just a tease to whet your appetite for destruction. Today marked the first official day of shooting on Skyfall, the new James Bond film. The photo above was tweeted out by @007, the official James Bond twitter account, revealing the board for the first shot. In related news: Roger Deakins is shooting this movie? Awesome.

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Moving away from the feature-length hand sanitizer commercial that was this year’s Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh returns to the screen with another one of his trademark all-star cast outings, but one with significantly more ass-kicking delivered at the hands (and feet) of a particularly-picked leading lady. In Haywire, Soderbergh lets loose cinematic newcomer Gina Carano, a real-life MMA fighter who can more than hold her own with the boys club that rounds out the film’s cast (including Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton). Packaged as a double-crossing spy thriller, Haywire is big on impressive and crowd-pleasing fight scenes, but the film fizzles when it comes to delivering a particularly clever story for all those flying fists to play out against. The meat of Haywire’s plot is just a standard double-cross story that’s pumped up with the sort of stylistic flash and flair that Soderbergh can deliver handily. Carano plays a highly skilled ex-Marine who now works in the “private sector” on black ops jobs that involves messy endeavors like extraction and assassination. Carano’s Mallory Kane is very good at her job, good enough that she’s often a special request (an “essential element”) for a number of her company’s various contracts, a fact that irks her boss and ex-flame Kenneth (McGregor). Mallory is dispatched for an extraction job in Barcelona that goes well enough, but her performance there directly leads into her next job, a gig that’s ostensibly presented as glorified babysitting, done in […]

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Steven Soderbergh is perhaps the most versatile director working today. He hates to be pinned down, he enjoys non-actors acting, and he revels in action as much as dialogue. With Haywire it seems he gets to combine a lot of his creative interests into one throat-crushing experience. The trailer has hit, and it feels like every story ever told about an agent that’s the best of the best of the best being taken out back by her government. Of course, when it all goes wrong, she wants to know why and seek revenge. Beat by beat, it’s been told a hundred times, but Soderbergh is also a storyteller with tricks up his sleeve, and as for pure action, Gina Carano looks like she’ll pull everyone’s kidneys out through the hole she rips in their shoulders. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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