Matthias Schoenaerts

Guillaume Canet earned the goodwill of many with his immensely potent 2006 thriller Tell No One, before the misjudged – and like this film, much too long – Little White Lies came along and eroded plenty of that promise. However, Canet returns with his latest feature, and the busload-full of skilled actors he has brought with him damn near ensures a compelling sit, even if the film’s ponderous pacing and resulting length do detract somewhat from its finer qualities. A remake of 2008’s French film Rivals – which starred Canet himself – Blood Ties begins in 1974 New York as Chris (Clive Owen) is released from prison after a 12-year-stint for murder. While welcomed warmly by his father (James Caan), Chris is received less so by his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a respected policeman who is nevertheless called upon by his family to take him in. Adding to the drama is the litany of anguished lovers sitting on the periphery; Chris shacks up with a gorgeous young receptionist named Monica (Mila Kunis), much to the chagrin of his drug-addled hooker ex-wife Monica (Marion Cotillard), while Frank continues to pine for a former flame he broke it off with, Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), whose current relationship with the dangerous Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) is on the rocks.

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Ray Liotta

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column that lives on because Kate Erbland was goodly enough to step in and keep it going for a couple days. Let’s all thank Kate. Thanks, Kate. Usually when movies are already filmed it means that their casting process has been completed. Not so for a Robert Rodriguez film, though. This guy does pretty much every job on his sets and relies on studio assistance for very little, which allows him to play by his own rules and march to the beat of his own drummer. Sometimes that opportunity for flexibility can result in movies that feel like they’ve been slapped together by a madman, but sometimes it leads to a movie being able to make amazing last minute additions, like how his in-production Sin City sequel just added Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, and Jeremy Piven to its already-stacked cast. Indiewire isn’t sure which characters they’re going to be playing, but probably that doesn’t matter much. Liotta and Piven always just play themselves, and Temple, well…she can do anything she wants.

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Josh Hutcherson

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column that has updates on the careers of some promising young talent. And Matthias Schoenaerts. Josh Hutcherson is one of the hottest young actors in the business right now, but when you first hear that he’s negotiating to star in a movie about Pablo Escobar, it sounds a little confusing. Never fear though, because Deadline has an explanation. Paradise Lost is the movie about Escobar that’s being written and directed by Life of Pi actor Andrea di Stefano and is starring Benicio Del Toro as the infamous drug lord. The reason that Hutcherson is said to be negotiating for the lead role is because, while Del Toro gets to do the showy stuff as Escobar, Hutcherson’s character is the one whose eyes we see the story through. If he signs on he’ll be playing an Irish surfer who falls in love with Escobar’s niece and then has to meet her murdering, drug-dealing uncle. Colombia sounds fun.

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Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone is a beautifully shot film, filled with unexpected turns, raw scenes of bloody violence and emotion, and contains some of the best performances of the year. Based on Craig Davidson’s short story collection of the same name, the film focuses on aimless sometimes-professional fighter Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and his adorable five-year-old son Sam (the gifted Armand Verdure in his film début), who are in somewhat dire straits. Ali has just recently taken responsibility for the boy from his mother (who is never seen) and feeds him from other people’s garbage that he finds on a train they take en route to live with his sister Louise (Céline Sallette). When working as a bouncer at a club one evening, Ali intervenes in a scuffle involving the beautiful Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), who he eventually drives home. She lives with her boyfriend, but Ali still leaves his number in case she ever needs him. As it turns out, she does. Stéphanie is an orca trainer at Marineland and an accident causes her to wake up in a hospital with her two legs amputated. Depressed and alone, she calls Ali on a whim, and the two become deeply intertwined as they suffer through their personal demons and give each other a certain greater purpose. Ali feeds off the violent energy of his bloody, bareknuckle fights, while Stéphanie craves the charge of working with the dangerous orcas, but they are able to satiate certain needs through each other’s company.

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Rust and Bone follows the character of Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) as he tries to make his way through life as best he can. We first see him with his son, Sam (Armand Verdure), on a train, collecting scrap food from receptacles. They’re heading towards his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), who he’s planning to stay with for a while. He ends up getting a job with a security company and has a chance encounter with a woman, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), who trains whales at a water park. There is an accident at the park, and Stephanie ends up losing her legs. The film takes us through Alain’s experiences as he sees all of these relationships through. Alain is a character of much contrivance. He comes off mostly as a drifter with little to his name. His inability to pity Stephanie is what benefits her as we watch her recovery, but at the same time we see him have the same approach to how he handles his relationship with his sister and his five-year-old son. His response to anything he can’t quite control is to lash out at it, with scenes of him shouting and punishing his child. In one moment we see him throw his son across the room, and the child ends up hitting his head on a table. We see so many moments in which he’s being loving and compassionate, but in times when things aren’t good he almost can’t manage to keep being loving.

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Rust and Bone

Here in the U.S. a lot of casual hate gets aimed at the French. The jokes are usually about surrendering during wars, hairy ladies, or what have you—the lame jokes aren’t important—it’s the “what have you done for me lately” attitude they reveal that’s important. Sure, the French gave us the Statue of Liberty all those years ago, but what have those cheese nibblers done for us lately? Turns out, quite a lot. And probably the three best things they’ve given us over the course of the last half decade or so are screenings of Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète, Marion Cotillard’s stunning face, and M83’s stellar last few albums. For these things we should be grateful, and because the trailer for Rust & Bone reveals to us a new Audiard movie that contains both the music of M83 and the luminous face of Cotillard, we should be ecstatic. Pretty music and pretty faces aren’t the only thing Rust & Bone has to offer either, turns out it’s got a pretty crazy-sounding story as well. Though the new trailer for the film is a little abstract, and completely without dialogue, we already know that the plot details the life of a whale trainer (Cotillard) who loses her legs and then falls into a relationship with an underground fighter (Matthias Schoenaerts). Which, you know, is nothing if not unique.

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Michael R. Roskam‘s Bullhead is unquestionably a film about physical transformation and eventual deterioration. The Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film centers on Matthias Schoenaerts in a star-making performance as the unhinged and undeterred Jacky Vanmarsenille, a cattle farmer with too many secrets to count. Most of them are obscured by his raw power and terrifying size, and Schoenaerts had to beef up considerably to the play the role. The actor had to add roughly sixty pounds of pure muscle to his frame – a feat that seems all the more impressive when you see a non-Bullhead Schoenaerts, who is considerably less beefy (and far less terrifying) than Jacky. But how to did Schoenaerts pack on the muscle essential to playing his role? And just how much did the strain of that gain impact his actual performance? In an exclusive special feature clip from the new home video and digital release of Bullhead, we learn a little bit more about what fueled Schoenaerts’ transformation – and it’s one hell of a change. Learn how to become a Bullhead with a not-as-supple-as-he-used-to-be Matthias Schoenaerts and 2,400 tins of tuna fish after the break.

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The Paperboy John Cusack

Last year’s Cannes Film Festival featured this year’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance thanks to the inclusion of the wonderful The Artist in competition, and though the films seem to have been chosen for their artistry and provocative subtexts more than any really commercial pointers (as always happens the year after the festival is deemed “too commercial”), there have been some seriously fine performances this year as well. There wasn’t an Uggy this year, but there was a murdered pooch in Moonrise Kingdom, a bitey Killer Whale in Rust & Bone, and a striking performance from an armadillo in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, so we’ll have to wait and see who emerges with the best animal performance. Probably won’t come from Madagascar 3 though…so for the time being, let’s stick to the humans.

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Rust and Bone could well have failed. In many other hands the story of a killer whale trainer who loses her legs but finds strength and her resurrection in an unlikely relationship with an underworld bare knuckle boxer with a good heart…well, it could have been a monstrous amalgamation of Rocky meets Free Willy with the contrived over-sentimentality of Steel Magnolias. But in the hands of Un Prophet‘s excellent helmer Jacques Audiard, the film swerves the “cancer story”/Oscar baiting stigma that some will accuse it of thanks to a simple but engaging central story and two award-worthy performances from its central actors. Marion Cotillard plays said whale trainer – Stephanie – who loses her legs after a performance accident, and who regresses rapidly to a self-destructive stagnating state, but who finds hope and the capacity for her own resurrection through a relationship with Matthias Schoenaerts‘ bare-knuckle boxer Ali, who lives hand to mouth by any means before his underworld fights offer him and his son some opportunities for a slightly better life. Having briefly met Stephanie before her accident, Alain helps her to find herself again not through pandering or pity, but simply by offering his help and his company, and you have to give credit to Audiard that his story never strays towards saccharine, made-for-TV style sentimentality.

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Editor’s note: This review was originally published as part of our Fantastic Fest 2011 coverage on October 16, 2011. But because this bonafide FSR favorite is hitting limited theaters this Friday, February 17, we’ve decided to re-post so that more of you can get intrigued by this modern masterpiece. Fantastic Fest is always my favorite week of the year. The lineup is jam-packed with great films, many that have already garnered buzz on the internet or at other festivals, but plenty more that I’ve heard nothing about. Every year I’m surprised by some films and completely blown away by others. This year, I was surprised and blown away by the same film, Michael Roskam’s Bullhead. If I told you that Bullhead is a brooding character study that would be true. If I told you that Bullhead tells a story about Belgium’s illegal hormone trade, the mafia that moves the chemicals, and the beef farmed from the animals injected with those chemicals that would be true too. But I doubt either of those facts would make you want to see this film. I’ll admit that it sounds boring and a tad ridiculous. It’s not. It’s an engaging, intelligent and powerful film that sticks with you.

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