Jeffrey Wright

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

Editor’s note: Our review of Only Lovers Left Alive originally ran during this year’s SXSW, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens theatrically. Director Jim Jarmusch‘s (Broken Flowers, Dead Man) films have never been for everyone. They’re experimental in a variety of ways, but, for good or bad, they are always Jim Jarmusch films. However, sometimes too much Jarmuschiness can agitate even his own fans. His last film, The Limits of Control, never shied away from testing its audience’s patience in part because its awareness of itself was far too often distancing. That’s not the case with his latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive, a movie that maintains its focus, emotional investment, and laughs from start to finish. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) have been lovers for hundreds of years. They’re true romantics, but they are on opposite sides of the world. Eve is living in Tangier, while Adam is in the rotting city of Detroit. Time is relative when you’re immortal, but still, it’s not easy for them. The distance becomes an issue when Adam, a shy goth rockstar, is feeling more lost than usual without her. She immediately packs her favorite novels, books a flight, and comes to Adam’s side. It should be mentioned that they’re also vampires, which explains why they’ve been alive for so long.

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series-7-the-contenders

It’s too bad I already recommended The Running Man this month (for post-Ender’s Game viewing), because even more than the first Hunger Games movie it really fits well with the new second installment, Catching Fire. But that’s okay, you can still add that to this week’s bunch of movies to see. I just won’t include it below. The same goes for Battle Royale, the most obvious movie to highlight for being similar to this franchise, though that one does make more sense as something to recommend after the first movie. Should Battle Royale II: Requiem take its place now that we’re talking about The Hunger Games 2? I haven’t seen it and hear it’s really terrible and it doesn’t seem to coincide plot-wise, so no. Instead I’ve got 12 other movies better worth your time as you wait for the first part of Mockingjay to hit theaters and continue the abruptly halted narrative of the Hunger Games story. As usual, the list will probably involve some spoilers if you haven’t seen Catching Fire.  

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quarter quell katniss

You didn’t think that just because society had transformed into a dystopian nightmare where children are forced to murder each other for sport while the rich clap along that we would totally abandon Twitter, right? If the newly released posters for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that call for the citizens of Panem to #celebrateyourvictors are accurate, then some form of the social networking site is alive and well in the future. The new series of one-sheets [via First Showing] depict the group of Hunger Game victors who are now forced to participate in the Quarter Quell, as if winning that last tournament wasn’t bad enough. Featured are: Cashmere and Gloss of District 1 (Stephanie Leigh Schlund and Alan Ritchson), Brutus and Enobaria of District 2 (Bruno Gunn and Meta Golding), Beetee and Wiress of District 3 (Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer), Finnick and Mags of District 4 (Sam Claflin and Lynn Cohen), Johanna of District 7 (Jena Malone) and of course, Katniss and Peeta of District 12 (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson).

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A Single Shot

A gun. A dead woman. A box of money. A (sort of) innocent man. A hunt. While David M. Rosenthal’s A Single Shot doesn’t shy away from some conventional-to-the-point-of-cliché plot points for his latest feature, the crime drama packs a punch thanks to its stellar cast, stunning cinematography, and a horror-tinged score that continually leaves its audience on edge. Oh, and the violence. Did we forget the violence? There’s violence. Penned by Matthew F. Jones (who adapted his own novel for the script), A Single Shot is a suitably intense showcase for star Sam Rockwell’s dramatic chops. As lonely loser John Moon, the film rests on the actor’s ability to engage and excite his audience, a feat that he mostly pulls off with ease. A near-wordless opening sequence plunges us deep into both John’s day-to-day life and the shocking event that will turn everything upside down for him, as John sets off to illegally hunt deer in the quiet woods near his home. It should be a day like any other, but a tired and emotionally drained John gets turned around while pursuing a deer, and one of his shots makes contact with something other than his intended prey.

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The James Bond Files

No single character that spans more than twenty films can do it on his or her own, and James Bond is no exception. While James Bond is unquestionably the focus of the Bond films, he is supported by various key characters over the years. Some of these characters have been essential in setting him up on his missions, while others have been there to offer comic relief or general background. While James Bond is the only character who has appeared in every single James Bond movie ever made, certain characters have helped in out in almost every one. In fact, if you’re talking the legacy of James Bond, some of the actors behind the supporting characters have been featured in the most movies over the years. When the Bond franchise was rebooted in 2006 with Casino Royale, some of these characters were lost completely while others were left to be introduced in later films, but they have been as essential to the franchise as the gadgets, guns and girls that change from film to film

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Fans of writer Matthew F. Jones have a lot to celebrate. His novel “A Single Shot” is about to be turned into a big screen thriller, and the names attached are enough to make even the most hardened film cynic squeal with glee. Deadline Charlottesville reports that production has now begun on the adaptation, which is under the direction of David M. Rosenthal (Janie Jones) and stars a cast that includes names like Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Joe Anderson, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Riley, Ophelia Lovibond, and Melissa Leo. Jeez, Mr. Rosenthal, you had me at Sam Rockwell. But for those not sold just at the sight of all those talented names listed together, take a look at the Amazon plot synopsis of Jones’s novel:

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Remember those trailers for Stephen Daldry‘s adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that we all cringed at? Well, how could you forget – they stick with you in a very off-putting way. Disappointingly, most of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close replicates that experience. Daldry’s a fine filmmaker, and with a script from Eric Roth – a writer who’s delivered his fair share of modern classics – one should expect more from their collaboration. What their combination delivered is a mostly stilted, heavy-handed, and, quite often, wrongly manipulative experience. I won’t dismiss the film as being “blatant Oscar bait,” seeing as it’s well-intentioned and earnest. Unfortunately, those intentions, in execution, feel false and empty. A real heart isn’t here to grab onto; only an artificial and cold one. The film constantly says how Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) affects all these people he meets, but it never shows it. There are little glimpses of the child interacting with people on his quest, and whatever his effect may be holds no weight. The only emotional beat that somehow works is between Horn and Jeffrey Wright, despite the scene leaving one with the thought of, “Well, how’s this going to impact Wright’s character?” Sure, he’s seeing the beauty of a child desperately trying to find an answer, but in the grand scheme of things, the effect will probably be as powerful as a nice Christmas card: makes you smile and maybe makes your day, but a few days later, you’re no different.

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If there’s any true horror movie this Halloween, it’s eclectic filmmaker George Clooney‘s The Ides of March. The play adaptation follows a hopeful and naive young hotshot, Stephen Myers, as he loses all of his morals to get ahead, which is apparently what the world of politics requires. If someone in the film sticks to their respectable rules, things most likely won’t turn out too well for them. Like a great paranoia thriller, everyone’s constantly on edge about their place on the political food chain. However, The Ides of March isn’t so much a film about politics, but the downward spiral of a once idealistic campaign runner. Clooney’s fourth directorial feature is a dark and cynical character drama underneath the surface of a low-key thriller. Co-writer/producer Grant Heslov (director of the very underrated The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Clooney delved into the idea of trying to stick to one’s rules in a bloodthirsty world with Good Night and Good Luck, but while that story lent itself to a more optimistic feel, the duo took a far more cynical approach with The Ides of March. Here’s what Heslov had to say about getting this dark character drama made, the film’s idealist-turned-ruthless protagonist, and why he doesn’t wake up dreaming about writing in our spoiler-filled conversation:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strips down to his boxers and starts a new training regimen to make him look more like Huge Jackman. He’s got a head start, considering his torso looks almost like Jackman’s… if you turn it upside down. After duking it out with some robots in a boxing ring, Kevin tries his hands at politics because it’s the kind of business where you don’t necessarily have to look like Ryan Gosling to get a young hottie like Evan Rachel Wood. But the primary system leaves him depressed and cold, so he takes a trip to the Sudan to play target practice with some warlords. He hears the Sudan is simply lovely this time of year.

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Full disclosure: I have not read Jonathan Safran Foer‘s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I read his Everything is Illuminated and it just wasn’t my bag, so it’s fair to say that a part of me has been dreading the latest film adaptation of one of his novels. Stephen Daldry‘s take on the material seems a bit pre-packaged for the proper type of awards season buzz, what with its heavy hitter cast (Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, and Jeffrey Wright), the vaguely stunt-y casting of its young lead (Thomas Horn, a non-actor who reportedly got the part after his win on Jeopardy!), and a Christmas Day release date. There’s also the very premise of the book. The plot centers around young Oskar Schell, a kid genius who loses his dad in the 9/11 attacks. After Oskar finds a key in his dad’s belongings, he sets out to find out the meaning behind the key. Of course, he discovers much more along the way. And while that all sounds sort of twee and innocent and sad, I had a feeling about how the material would be brought to the screen, a bad feeling that’s only aggravated by this first trailer for the film, which you can watch after the break.

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Let’s just be honest here and admit that George Clooney is one incredibly attractive guy. I’m referring to more than just his roguish charm, unflappable sense of humor, and boyish grin of course as his most appealing characteristic is his professional ethos. He’s popular, wealthy, and capable of being cast in as many big budget films as he could want, but he consistently returns to to smaller, more personal films that tell stories and explore ideals that he values even when it earns him flack. That and his villa on Italy’s Lake Como make him someone that I would not rush to kick out of my hypothetical, friends only, no-touching-unless-we’re-having-a-pillow-fight bed. As an actor he’s balanced studio pics like the Ocean’s Eleven films with smart, adult thrillers like Michael Clayton and The American. As a director he’s countered the brilliant Good Night, and Good Luck with… Leatherheads. Okay, bad example, but the point is the man has range. Check out the trailer for his latest directorial effort below.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr recovers from a full day of watching Armageddon back-to-back to crawl back to the multiplex. He re-lived the last eight minutes of Source Code over and over, thoroughly confusing himself. Then he stumbled into the theater next door to learn about the true meaning of Easter from Russell Brand and James Marsden. Things take a decidedly creepy turn when he watches Insidious and wets himself more than once. This led to a very unfortunate scene while he watched the sexual-predator cautionary tale Trust. No one would believe him it was just wee wee.

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Source Code really solidifies a suspicion we all have had about director Duncan Jones: he’s a real people person. Yes, unlike most sci-fi filmmakers, there is very little cynicism or dread to his films. While both Moon and his successful sophomore effort, Source Code, do explore the idea of man abusing science, ultimately, there’s a huge amount of hope in his work. Not only that, but he follows generally fun and – if a tad flawed – good people. That’s right, there’s no mopey, emo action lead in Source Code. Colter Stevens, the hero of the film, is the Han Solo archetype. He’s charming, brash, and sometimes, thinks more with his fists than his head. Stevens is quite similar to Duncan Jones’s previous antagonist, Sam Bell. There’s an everyman quality to both leads. They’re not macho. They’re not invincible. And they’re both flawed individuals. Like Bell, Stevens doesn’t shy away from acting like a jerk here and there. The predicament he’s in – once again, just like Sam Bell – raises ethical questions. Although Source Code isn’t entirely hardcore science-fiction, Jones does what all classical films of genre should do: ask a few questions. If you’ve ever seen Jones an interview before, then you already know he’s a personable and fun-seeming filmmaker. He manages to take that upbeat spirit of his and interject that good nature in his films, and as was the case with Moon, it works. WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers.

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Last year, David Bowie’s son directed a film about Sam Rockwell being stranded all alone on the other side of the moon while his equipment and his mind fell apart. It was brilliant. That’s why it’s so exciting to see that his new film Source Code will be premiering as the opening night gala feature for the SXSW Film Festival in March 2011. The film focuses on a government program that allows agents to enter into the bodies of other people in the last moments of their lives. The program is used to make Jake Gyllenhaal relive a horrific train bombing over and over again until he can stop it from happening. The official synopsis from the SXSW press release is as follows:

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The Criterion Collection debuted two great releases last week with Ang Lee’s Ride With The Devil, and Sidney Lumet’s The Fugitive Kind. We didn’t have a chance to check either of these titles out yet, but we think both are worth talking about.

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Our European correspondent Loukas checks in with an early review of Quantum of Solace from across the pond, and it looks like it’s just as badass as we’d hoped for.

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