Mark Strong

Vertical Entertainment

A woman alone at home hears a noise in the other room and goes to investigate. She finds a window open that she thought she had closed and soon discovers why — an intruder is in the house and armed with a knife and malicious intent. But as she’s races in fear from one room to the next another man becomes visible to us while she runs right past him. What the what? John Washington (Mark Strong) is a memory detective. With a combination of hand-holding and a little bit of coaxing he can enter a person’s memories, whether they be formative or traumatic, and while he can’t interact with them his observations reveal information that can be used later in therapy or criminal trials. It’s a good gig if you can get it, but John is forced onto sabbatical after his latest trip down someone else’s memory lane finds his own recollections leaking in resulting in him having a seizure. He returns after a months-long sabbatical to take on the case of a potentially disturbed teenage girl named Anna (Taissa Farmiga). He probably should have taken a longer sabbatical.

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mindscape

Is House of Wax and Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra really enough of a name that movies can sell themselves by giving him a Tarantino-esque “Presented by” credit in their advertising? Likely not, but that’s not stopping Warner Bros. from trying to sell a new supernatural thriller called Mindscape with his name anyway, even though he’s just involved as one of its producers. The most unusual part of this development is that Mindscape isn’t the sort of subtitled, genre-heavy pick that studios usually pull these sorts of tricks on—actually it’s a pretty intriguing-looking thriller that’s seemingly performed completely in English, and it has big time movie star Mark Strong’s handsome and compelling face at its center to boot. Add in a supernatural element wherein Strong’s character can enter people’s memories and an up-and-coming young actress in Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, American Horror Story), and this is exactly the sort of movie that audiences don’t mind giving a chance to. No offense to Mr. Collet-Serra, of course. I’m sure his help is appreciated, and maybe this is just a marketing strategy that they’re using in Spain? Click through to watch the trailer.

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LWS Catacombs

Low Winter Sun is a dark show, and I mean that in the most simple-minded way possible. In keeping with the series’ themes of urban decay and existential despair, it’s in the shadows that the characters work, wait, and wax poetic about green emerald eyes (my brown ones are rolling). The cinematography’s heavy reliance on grays, browns and blacks – and the frequent difficulty of making out what exactly is happening in a scene – is supposed to heighten the show’s mysteries. It’s a visual technique that The X-Files pioneered and used to maximum technique – but that was a show built on suspense, where the unknown was lurking in a corner, poised to attack. Low Winter Sun is a drama – and one nearly devoid of suspense at that (though not by design) – so I’m not sure that obscuring the action and depriving the audience of details and nuances through low lighting and contrast really serve a purpose on this show, other than the unnecessary one of providing it with a “look.”

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Low Winter Sun

When Frank yells “No rounds!” at his boxing ref, he just wants to keep moving, even if all he can do is stumble and take punches. Last night’s episode of Low Winter Sun, named after Frank’s demand, takes its cue from its title – and moves much more than the last two atmospheric-heavy installments. So, okay, Frank’s plan to wait out the clock until Brendan’s case goes cold – yet another black eye for the DPD, as well as another feather in Lt. Dawson’s cap of shame – isn’t the most dynamic plot development to happen to a TV character. But with the unwitting help of an eyewitness, who comes forward about seing a black man and a white man – or was he Mexican? Or Arabic? – Frank gains one more crucial step ahead of IA detective Boyd. We also had some more character moments with Joe: his mercy toward Katia, his tender scenes with his mom (which are both darling and creepy), his angry statement “I should’ve killed her” while praying in church. Other than verbally sparring with Frank, it’s not really clear what Joe can do while Boyd investigates him and Frank fails at finding Brendan’s killer. Wasn’t Joe supposed to help Dani with her eaten-by-dogs victim?

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LWS Goat Rodeo

Low Winter Sun is a familiar show. Its grim, weary atmospherics aside, the cop drama has little to add to the current television landscape. The Shield did police corruption with more coked-up verve, The Wire with more smarts and empathy, and almost any network procedural offers more satisfying whodunnits. Low Winter Sun‘s one point of pride, then, is the queasy, jittery partnership of convenience between Frank (Mark Strong) and Joe (Lennie James). “We’re married, Frank. For better or for worse. We’re all each other’s got,” says Joe, whose fate is bound to Frank’s after the two killed Joe’s former partner Brendan McCann in the series’ pilot. They are dissimilar in the ways we expect of buddy cops – Frank is introspective but stoic, Joe is more cutthroat, a dissembling man who likes to hear himself talk. (Also, has the show yet revealed who Frank’s official partner is?) Low Winter Sun‘s boldness and originality comes from its willingness to challenge our preconceived notions of mismatched partners. Far from “brothers in blue,” they’re simply shackled together by one unfortunate if inevitable decision and haven’t yet figured out how to coexist without periodically choking the other with their shared chain.

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Low Winter Sun

In the same way that humanity doesn’t really begin until Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge and are banished from the Garden of Eden, the current spate of critically acclaimed dramas are interested in the scramble for resources and connections when civilization collapses and chaos takes over. Tony Soprano is haunted by the rank-and-file efficiency of the greatest generation’s mobsters. Don Draper joins the political and commercial elite just as the whole lot is about to be pushed off their perch. Walter White gleefully embraces megalomaniacal nihilism when terminal cancer excuses him – or so he thinks – from traditional morality. Set in America’s most dysfunctional city, Low Winter Sun toes the line established by its cable drama predecessors with the added disintegration of Detroit mirroring its crumbling institutions. Its police force is so corrupt that partners can’t rely on each other – in fact, the pilot begins with Joe Geddes (Lennie James), a veteran cop, murdering his partner Brendan McCann (Michael McGrady), with the help of Frank Agnew (Mark Strong), another brother in blue. “Screw the blue code of silence,” says Lt. Charles Dawson (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), their boss. Loyalty has no place here. The criminals, too, are without a code. “There is no old school anymore,” says one coke dealer, implicitly dismissing the short, old man in the sharkskin suit who comes by his bar in an executive car for his protection money.

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review blood

Crime-related dramas usually do one of two things well. They’re either interested solely in the mystery itself, or they’re more focused on the characters and their journey into darkness. In rare cases, like David Fincher’s Zodiac or Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder, a movie can nail both halves with equal skill and effect. Blood takes the second path, eschewing any real mystery or suspense to focus on two brothers, both in blood and in blue, whose investigation into a teenage girl’s murder leads to a crime of their own. They’re soon tasked with solving the very crime they committed, and as the pressure to close the case mounts the fragility of the two men’s lives begins to crack. Unfortunately they crack and crumble in the ways viewers will most likely expect.

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independenceday

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s currently wondering what the President’s new house is going to look like in the Independence Day sequel. And it’s also got news about new gigs for bombshells like Paz Vega and Kelly Brook. It’s true that Will Smith is such a highly paid star these days that Roland Emmerich has said he isn’t even going to try to get him to come back for his upcoming Independence Day sequel, but he also said that some of the other names from the first movie are going to return, and in a recent conversation with Movies.com he confirmed two of those names. Said names are Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, who you’re probably familiar with. Now all we need is confirmation that Judd Hirsch is going to be back as Goldblum’s dad, and then we can all breath a sigh of relief. Those two had crazy chemistry.

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Welcome to the Punch Trailer

For a movie made for $8.5 million, Welcome to the Punch is strikingly polished. While that’s a prominent amount of cash, writer and director Eran Creevy makes every penny count. For the brisk 93-minute running time, Creevy makes his routine thriller fresh enough to turn the gruff cop “with something to prove” and cool-minded criminal “pulled back in the game” scenario play exceedingly smoothly. When we’re first introduced to James McAvoy’s Max Lewinsky, he’s in hot pursuit of Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) and his goons, all of whom are dressed as suavely as possible. Max ignores orders to wait for backup — because whoever waits for backup? — and ends up chasing Sternwood by foot while his team rides off underground on dirt bikes. Max catches up with Sternwood, and the encounter goes as good as it can for the unarmed Max: he ends up with a busted kneecap. From the score to the composition, it’s a fantastic opening that establishes everything we need to know, especially the sleek style of Creevy’s film and his two leads.

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Welcome to the Punch Trailer

Between Wanted, Danny Boyle’s upcoming Trance, and Eran Creevy’s Welcome to the Punch, James McAvoy is making a nice little cottage industry for himself out of starring in stylish, slick actioners. In the upcoming Punch, McAvoy stars as a straightlaced detective who has spent much of his career chasing after Mark Strong‘s Jacob Sternwood who has, in turn, spent most of his career being a  criminal. Sternwood is a bit of a changed man, though, and he’s about to really switch things up when he teams up with McAvoy’s Max Lewinsky to help uncover a conspiracy that has something to do with that bullet in Sternwood’s son’s stomach and all that weird writing on his hand. It’s all very glossy and shiny and slick and pretty to look at it and more than a touch confusing. Try to figure out what’s going on amongst all the pretty colors in the newest trailer for Welcome to the Punch, after the break.

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Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 12.33.05 PM

A fair amount of critics are touting Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty as her masterpiece. While Bigelow has definitely directed films in her decades of filmmaking that are comparable to the overall quality of Zero Dark Thirty, it is great that between this and her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, she is getting the acclaim that she deserves. What does set Zero Dark Thirty apart from the rest of the Kathryn Bigelow oeuvre is that is a far more deliberate and slower paced film that her others. At about two-and-a-half hours, it includes only perhaps two or three major “action/suspense” scenes, which are all impeccably executed in her usual fashion. Mostly, however, the film follows the mental unraveling and rise to power of CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) as she follows a seemingly-circumstantial hunch, which results in her looking over Osama bin Laden’s body bag. The film certainly is successful in what it sets out to do. Through Chastain’s Maya, it is a more nuanced study of the disappointments of losing the war on terror against Al Qaeda and then fighting back, resulting in less of a fist pump of exultation, but more of a quiet recognition of accomplishment.

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Welcome to the Punch Trailer

Over the last half-decade or so James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men: First Class) has proven himself to be one of the most relatable young lead actors currently making a name in the film world. Conversely, Mark Strong (The Guard, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has spent his time playing a steady stream of dastardly villains. What would happen if you took the positive and negative forces of these two guys’ careers? It turns out you’d get a trailer for an action movie called Welcome to the Punch, and, honestly, the results look to be pretty generic. Sure, this movie seems to be full of enough gun fights and explosions to keep your attention, and there’s a mystery about some scribblings on a hand to add some extra intrigue, but other than that Welcome to the Punch seems to be the same urban crime drama with tough cops and slick robbers scowling at each other—all presented in an icy blue color palate—that you’ve seen a thousand times before.

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Christoph Waltz

What is Casting Couch? It’s a daily roundup of all the casting news you care about, and maybe (probably) one or two items you don’t. Some info has finally leaked about James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller’s upcoming sequel to The Muppets. Turns out it’s going to be a caper movie, somewhat along the lines of The Great Muppet Caper, but with more of an international flair. How international? So international that THR is reporting they’re closing in on signing Christoph Waltz to play one of the main, non-Muppet roles—that of an Interpol inspector. Other important parts for humans are said to include a Russian femme fatale and a male lead with mysterious intentions. Actors looking to land the part should start sending in their shifty-eyed head shots now.

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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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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads to the desert to hide in a cave, hoping against hope that some mystical bald alien will beam him to Mars so he can make a pass at the ridiculously gorgeous Lynn Collins in a brass bikini. Unfortunately, no one came to his rescue, so he snuck into an abandoned house in upstate New York to terrorize some people. Again, no one came. That left Kevin to skip his movies this week so he could go to the library and find a book that would allow him to curse Eddie Murphy into not speaking. He hasn’t been heard from since.

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Director Andrew Stanton, being somewhat of the miracle worker that he is, has managed to capture the strengths of the original Star Wars trilogy while avoiding much of what was wrong with the prequels with his John Carter. This Disney epic provides for all of a boy’s basic needs, wants, and desires that Lucas’s prequels didn’t deliver upon. Stanton knows their sweet spot – and yes, I know how creepy that reads – by hitting all the major checkpoints required for them: beefy hero, beautiful love interest, sweet weaponry, non-pandering comic relief, big aliens, and exciting flying things that could not look more like the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi. How do these amazing devices work, you ask? They just do. Stanton treats the more fantastical aspects of John Carter like George Lucas did, “It’s just there, and who cares how it works or how it got made?” Overall, John Carter bears both many connections and thankful distances to the Star Wars series. Just how Luke Skywalker saw the vast universe Lucas created, there’s not one scene of Carter condescending to the mechanics or bizarro nature of the world – Mars, which they call “Barsoom” – he’s thrown into and never saying something along the lines of, “Isn’t this costume goofy, guys? (*wink* *wink*).” When things get silly, Stanton and his cast always play it straight-faced and with nothing but respect, like the original Star Wars films did. Carter doesn’t question the idea of huge white apes, he […]

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With my review and claim that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a near-masterpiece, I don’t believe it’s possible to get more hyperbolic about this film. Perhaps my fourth viewing, which will inevitably take place soon, could make that happen. Why such grand enthusiasm for a slow-burn “thriller” that’s splitting plenty of folks? Well, go see for yourself. Thankfully for you lot, director Tomas Alfredson‘s film is expanding into 800 theaters today. To further urge you wise readers to go see the film, Focus Features was kind enough to give us these exclusive behind-the-scenes shots of Alfredson shooting the breeze and working with Gary Oldman and John Hurt on set. They’re black and white, meaning they’re all prestigious and such.

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Everyone is currently lining up to fictionally kill the mass-murdering asshole Osama Bin Laden (South Park) for Kathryn Bigelow. It’s obviously a wonderful opportunity for actors to work with the Oscar winner, especially considering how Jeremy Renner’s career blew up after defusing bombs for her. The good news is that all the names that are signing on the line happen to be worth their weight in statues. According to Deadline Destry, Jessica Chastain might continue her dominance with the now-untitled project alongside Mark Strong and Edgar Ramirez (Carlos). Meanwhile, Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) is now confirmed, and Joel Edgerton is double confirmed. Bringing on Chastain, Strong and Ramirez would be a strong move for the production. Bigelow is of course re-teaming with writer/producer Mark Boal for a project that will most likely be controversial due to the subject matter. They’re currently slated for a December release (a date conspicuously after the Presidential election). It’s possible that the date might be moved back due to a congressional investigation into whether the production was given information it wasn’t supposed to have, but December is what to watch for currently. And all of it sounds fantastic. The big question is how star-spangled this thing can get.

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Pixar

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of links and things that will make you smile, make you think and perhaps aid you in getting to that restful state known as deep sleep. Either way, it’s always a pretty fun read. We begin tonight with a new image from Pixar’s Brave, a film I placed on my shortlist as one of the 5 most anticipated movies of the year on my triumphant return to Reject Radio this week. This one shows Princess Merida and her family. There’s so much red hair…

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As I wrote in both my review and interview with Gary Oldman and Tomas Alfredson, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not one’s average spy thriller. The espionage lifestyle we see here is cold, lonely, and harsh. Perhaps the character who represents that the finest is Jim Prideaux, played by Mark Strong. Prideaux, like every other character in the film, descends to worse and worse places, emotionally and mentally, as things progress. The character’s as lonely as can be, and Strong conveys that with every somber and sad look on his face. It’s an interesting contrast to another one of Strong’s performances from this year as Clive in The Guard. A lot of actors discuss how they love variety and go for it — and most genuinely mean it — but Strong seems to be one of the prime examples of someone doing it right. A sympathetic villain, an alien superhero, and an isolated spy make up an eclectic bunch of characters. Here’s what Mark Strong had to say about the catharsis of press, the divisiveness of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and the comfortable amount of takes:

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