Michael Stuhlbarg

adam driver archangel

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Even though he’s only in the film for a few minutes, Adam Driver is one of the most talked-about actors in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. Of course he is, because when he’s on screen you can’t look at anything else. It’s that combination of rugged handsomeness and gigantic freakishness that captures your attention, and a lot of it has to do with our familiarity with him being almost solely from his role on Girls. This year he also got to break out a little more with Frances Ha, but he’s still fairly new to acting, having been a United States Marine just over a decade ago. Really, he’s had a fast rise to a scene stealing bit part in a Best Picture hopeful (and I might actually be referring to last year’s Lincoln, or maybe the previous year’s J. Edgar?), since he only graduated from Julliard in 2009. It was that year that he scored his first screen credit in an episode of The Unusuals. In 2010, he acted in a pilot for an HBO series called The Wonderful Maladys, which wasn’t picked up. But he did wind up on the channel with the movie You Don’t Know Jack, his first feature. Not his first film, though. That would be a short that debuted a few months earlier titled Archangel.

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Seven Psychopaths

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter with a serious case of writer’s block. “Seven Psychopaths” is his latest script, but there’s one big problem with it. The title is all he’s written so far. He needs some inspiration to make his characters and his story come alive, but where is an Irishman with a drinking problem and relationship issues going to find that spark of originality? As with most of life’s questions, the answer here is Sam Rockwell. More precisely, it’s with his good friend Billy (Rockwell). Where Billy goes trouble follows, and that trouble is currently in the form of a pissed-off gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who’s violently distraught over the loss of his pooch Bonny (Bonny the ShihTzu). It seems Billy’s primary source of income is a scam he runs with his friend Hans (Christopher Walken) involving the dog-napping and subsequent return for reward of wealthy peoples’ pups. Snatching Bonny has opened up a can of murderous worms as Charlie hunts down those responsible and Marty finds himself caught in the blood-spattered middle of it all. On the bright side he’s getting inspiration for all seven of his fictional psychopaths, but none of that will matter if he doesn’t live to finish the screenplay. Seven Psychopaths is exactly the film we should expect from the man who created the wickedly great In Bruges. It’s whip-smart funny, deliriously violent and deceptively heartfelt. And good god does it have the most aggressively awesome ensemble cast of all time.

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Men in Black 3

Men in Black II is one bad sequel. Everything the first film got right the second film painfully got wrong. Will Smith played Will Smith, the funny-for-two-minutes pug from the first film sang because someone thought it was funny, a two-headed Johnny Knoxville showed up for some reason, and Rosario Dawson was just, well, kind of there. That’s what the second installment was in a nutshell: “just there,” a limp and lifeless blockbuster. How does this 10-years-later sequel fare in comparison? Saying it’s a vast improvement is too easy, since even if this third installment is utterly banal, it’d still look favorable in comparison. For the most part, Men in Black III corrects past mistakes, even going as far to capture some of the original film’s magic. The film begins with Boris, played by an unrecognizable Jemaine Clement escaping a prison (which is on the frickin’ moon!). Once Boris has broken out, he plans to get revenge on the man who took his right arm: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). The villain travels back to 1969 in attempt to kill the younger K (Josh Brolin), who also foiled his world domination scheme. To save his partner, a much older J (Will Smith) travels back in time as well, where he enters the world of a less advanced MIB and less grumpy K. And, of course, he runs into other 1960s staples: racism and Michael Stuhlbarg as a kind-hearted alien named Griffin.

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It’s hard to overstate just how amazing it is to consider a big-budget, major studio-produced 3D family adventure centered on Georges Méliès. Before now, the work of the early cinematic innovator, whose movies (most famously 1903’s A Trip to the Moon) revolutionized and advanced special effects, has been relegated to film history texts and brief snippets of televised specials. If there’s one filmmaker to make Méliès matter again, to introduce him to a mass audience, it’s Martin Scorsese. After all, the Oscar-winning legend is not just one of the foremost cinematic masters, as a noted film preservationist, he’s among the chief protectors of the long, glorious and frequently threatened legacy of the motion picture. In Hugo, Scorsese transforms the trappings of a 3D holiday picture into a loving tribute to Méliès and the earliest masters of the cinematic dream factory. From the structure of its narrative, to the details of its plot, and the industrialized nature of its majestic visuals, this is a film infused with the joy and wonder of movies. Set amid the glittering magic of Paris in the early 1930s, the film follows 12-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who secretly lives in a train station. Hugo, who winds the station’s clocks, dwells inside a labyrinthine interior comprised of enormous grinding gears, rising steam currents, and other elaborate metallic concoctions. Among the latter is a non-functioning automaton brought home by Hugo’s late father (Jude Law), which the young man works on incessantly in the hope that he can bring […]

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It’s fascinating that the director of Taxi Driver is the man who put this together. Martin Scorsese once again shows his versatility by tackling Hugo, an adaptation of the popular children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Interestingly, it look like he’s channeling Chris Columbus here with a healthy dose of Lemony Snicket. Yes, it looks fun and silly, but this trailer makes it look a bit too childish (and features far, far too much of Sacha Baron Cohen falling down and smashing into things Kevin James-style).

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