Prisoners

discs toad road

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Toad Road James (James Davidson) is a slacker, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for meaning he sits around all day doing nothing. Instead, he sits around all day smoking, popping, and snorting anything he and his friends can get their hands on, but that starts to change when he meets the new girl, Sara (Sara Anne Jones). She’s new to the drug scene, he introduces her, and she gets hooked just as he wants out. He agrees to one last trip with her. Shrooms in hand, the two head out to the legendary Toad Road to investigate rumors of the seven gates of hell. It goes according to plan until he wakes up to discover she’s disappeared. Writer/director Jason Banker’s debut feature is low budget, raw, messy, unsure of itself, and yet oddly mesmerizing. The “horror” element introduced via the title feels almost like an afterthought added to make the film more marketable, but the core of the film works as a frequently intense and often painful look at the obvious and not so obvious struggles that come with drug addiction. The doomed love story adds to the film’s tragic allure, but the real life fate of Miss Jones sadly cements it. [DVD extras: Commentary with writer/director Jason Banker and friends, deleted scenes, featurettes, booklet]

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There’s a moment about halfway through Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling, occasionally brilliant yet sharply uneven film Prisoners that finds Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki do something that we’ve seen so many detectives do in movies before: in a bout of frustration, he swipes his arms across his cubicle desk, violently sending his evidence and other materials into a labyrinthine clutter. But this fit of anger ends up leading to a serendipitous discovery – the chaotic new arrangement of papers on the floor reveals for the detective a clue that had been hiding under his nose in plain sight the whole time. This is moment is, in short, a cliché. Yet on the other side of cinematographer Roger Deakins’s lens, the moment takes on a plentiful, foreboding, and eerie quality. The muted tones, carefully composed yet slightly agape mise en scène, and rich depth of field collectively transform a moment we’ve seen so many times before into something considerably more. Through brilliant lensing, a cliché is elevated into the possibility that something, anything can happen in the detailed and uncertain world of this film.

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REW-FFWD

“Stop your cinema. Wake up.” Denis Villeneuve’s 1994 short film, REW-FFWD, wants to jerk you violently out of your comfort zone. In a way this makes it a forerunner to the French Canadian director’s new thriller, Prisoners. Yet while the new film is a star-studded psychological thriller, with the mainstream participation of Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, REW-FFWD is an odd little experimental “psychodrama.” Its violent assault on the audience is at times rudimentary, but this only adds to its enigmatic and staunchly independent voice.

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Prisoners 2013

If you’ve seen a recent trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners and bemoaned that it seemed to give the entire plot away – a pair of girls are kidnapped on Thanksgiving, and their terrifically angry and upset dads (played by Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard) capture and imprison man they think is responsible (Paul Dano, mewling it up), intent on beating him until he breaks – that’s a good thing, because the final product is trip into darkness that makes even extreme vigilantism the least shocking element of its twisted story. A thriller that doesn’t so much come with twists as puzzle pieces that cleverly slide into place across the course of its (incredibly engaging) 146-minute runtime, Prisoners is filled with a near-constant sense of tension and dread. Even the most seemingly benign scenes posses a low level of fear, and the final hour is heavy enough to leave audiences shaking (and shaken). The basic plot of Prisoners is indeed the one laid bare in its trailers – two sets of families, celebrating Thanksgiving together, discover that their young daughters have gone missing during the afternoon. Panic sets in quickly, and our various parents (Jackman and Maria Bello as one set, Howard and Viola Davis as another) swiftly assume the roles they will play during the duration of the film. Jake Gyllenhaal joins their fold as Detective Loki, a mysterious local cop who has never left a case unsolved, and one who certainly seems to have walked into a piece of […]

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trailer prisoners

Despite screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski‘s script earning raves all around Hollywood, Prisoners wasn’t exactly fast tracked. If you recall the project’s development, a series of talent were on and off the film, from directors Bryan Singer and Antoine Fuqua to stars Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio. Even Mark Wahlberg was attached at one point, who, from the start, served as a key cheerleader for the project. According to Guzikowski, Wahlberg was one of the script’s biggest and most important fans. “Mark Wahlberg was the first person to champion it.” After that stamp of approval “everything got more and more attention.” Guzikowski wrote Prisoners as a spec script, and without Wahlberg, Prisoners and Guzikowski’s career would not have blossomed the way that it has. “He was totally pivotal in getting the film made. That endorsement helped it get around.” He went to write the modest hit Contraband for Wahlberg. While both features are drastically different, they feature a race against the clock tension. To keep that tempo on high, Guzikowski says, “You have to keep the visual of it all in mind. It has to have a musical sort of pacing. I think the best thrillers have a real rhythm to them.” As for where that rhythm comes from, it’s all about the drama. “That pace is informed by however the characters are feeling. I think that’s they key to making that ticking clock.”

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Rush

With the mega popcorn movie season over we’re starting to see summer recap articles flooding in, and so far, most have painted summer 2013 as underwhelming or downright horrible. Maybe some of those writers just didn’t see White House Down. But, in general, this past season was packed with a variety of good-to-terrific options, from the likes of Frances Ha, Only God Forgives, and The Way, Way Back to The Great Gatsby, Fast & Furious 6, and This is the End. There were a lot of gratifying offerings. There were letdowns, too, but what summer doesn’t have a few disappointments? The same will go for this fall movie season, which, as of right now, is looking excellent. Here are 10 movies that should make going back to school, work, or whatever else you got going on a little more tolerable:

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TIFF

It happens at every film festival, and this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is no different – a string of titles are announced that sound almost laughably similar, either thanks to their actual titles (there’s a film called October November and one called September? Are you kidding me here?) or their overriding themes (no, you didn’t imagine that there are two films about regular dudes who discover creepy doppelgangers that are also both based on novels at this year’s festival). How will you ever unravel such strange mysteries? As a public service, we’ve compiled a guide to some of the most confusingly similar films at this year’s TIFF. Who’s going to be the first person to forget that Paradise is a standalone and Paradise: Hope is part of a trilogy? Not you! After the break, learn to tell the difference between Bastardo and Bastards, find out just who Joe and Belle and Therese and Violette are, unravel the mystery of dueling doppelganger-centric features, and find out if Love is the Perfect Crime has anything to say about Life of Crime (hint: it doesn’t).

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Hugh Jackman

How far would you go if someone you loved was kidnapped and you thought you knew who did it? How much duct tape is involved? In Prisoners, from director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies), a father has to face that question after his little girl and her best friend are taken. Hugh Jackman stars here as the despondent dad, Jake Gyllenhaal plays lawman Detective Loki (an Avengers tie-in?), and the rest of the cast is rounded out by some heavy-hitting names. The trailer gets right into the middle of the moral tangle, but watch it at your own risk because it looks like it gives away a ton:

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trailer prisoners

The National Association of Theater Owners recently made a formal request to studios to shorten theatrical trailers to a maximum two minute run-time. The impetus here is as much to speed up the movie pre-roll time for theater-goers as it is to cut back on possible spoilers or a simple excess of information. It appears Warner Bros. didn’t get the memo before cutting the first trailer for the upcoming thriller Prisoners. Hugh Jackman plays a father whose young daughter goes missing along with a friend, but when the detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) assigned to the case is forced to release the main suspect (Paul Dano) for lack of evidence all hell breaks loose in the lives of everyone involved. Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and Viola Davis co-star for director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies). To be clear, the trailer doesn’t appear to give away spoilers, but it does show more of the story than is necessary. Check out the fairly intense trailer for Prisoners below. It’s okay if you press ‘stop’ at the 1:50 mark as you should already be well intrigued and interested by that point.

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James Marsden

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column whose Wizards of Waverly Place fandom is finally coming in handy. That upcoming comedy where Elizabeth Banks tries to juggle being a person with loose morals with being a person with career goals, Walk of Shame, has just added another actor. According to Variety, James Marsden has joined the film. There’s no word on what sort of character he’s going to be playing, and seeing as the film is about a series of adventures that occur as Banks’ character tries to get from the scene of a one night stand to a job interview across town, that leaves a lot of possibilities open. Will Marsden be a romantic foil? Just someone who pops in briefly for a humorous interaction? We don’t know, but since we all saw Death at a Funeral, what we do know is that Marsden can do goofy comedy. Hopefully this one will give him another chance to act silly.

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Han Solo

What is Casting Couch? It’s a casting news column that’s been talking way more about a movie based on a racing video game than it imagined it would be. Read on for more information. It’s bound to get pretty annoying following every rumor that pops up about the new Star Wars movie between now and 2015. But, let’s face it, when comments start getting thrown around about Harrison Ford playing Han Solo again, even vague rumors start to get pretty interesting. So, when Inside Movies announced that they have sources claiming that Ford has reversed his famously grumpy position on Star Wars being lame, and that he, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher are now all “upbeat” about more movies getting made, geeks everywhere instantly started salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. Let’s try to not let this Star Wars thing get out of hand—but Harrison Ford might play Han Solo again, y’all!

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You’ll first get a chance to see Aaron Guzikowski‘s writing when Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, hits theaters in March of 2012, but his Black Listed script for Prisoners may finally see the light of day soon as well. According to Twitch, Incendies director Denis Villeneuve has signed on to make it his English-language debut. The story concept is streamlined – a man’s daughter is kidnapped, and he decides to take the law into his own hands by kidnapping who he thinks is the kidnapper. That last part leaves a big window open to fool around with the classic revenge tale, and we’ll undoubtedly learn more about what got the script onto the Black List in the first place. Villeneuve has proven himself to be more than capable, but the road to making films in Hollywood is a notoriously treacherous one for even the best foreign directors. Still, it’s great to see him progress and attempt to reach a broader audience (since he and that audience deserve each other). Now, is Liam Neeson available or should someone else get a shot?

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Leonardo DiCaprio is moving from one thriller, the recently released Shutter Island, to another, the upcoming Aaron Guzikowski-scripted drama Prisoners. The film has been making the rounds for a while — at one point Antoine Fuqua was set to direct, but has since moved on. According to Deadline Hollywood, the film follows “a small-town carpenter who takes matters into his own hands when is daughter and her friend are kidnapped.”

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christianbaleprisoners

The process is in the early stages, but a major star has just signed on to a spec script by a new writer. Bale will be joining Prisoners with Bryan Singer attached to direct.

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The Hollywood Reporter is going bonkers over Aaron Guzikowski, or at least the news that his feature debut as a writer has been the most sought after thing to grace Hollywood this week.

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