Ray Liotta

ritter

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that always keeps its promises. Yesterday we promised we’d be back soon with Cinderella’s second evil stepsister, and today we deliver. Given her spindly, spider-like limbs, her silky black hair, and her porcelain skin, it was probably only a matter of time before Krysten Ritter ended up acting in a Tim Burton movie. The girl is basically goth catnip. So, appropriately enough, a report out of Deadline is saying that she just joined Burton’s next project, Big Eyes. This one will see Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams portraying 50s and 60s art sensations Walter and Margaret Keane, and Ritter playing Margaret’s outgoing friend, DeeAnn, who urges her to come out of her shell and stop letting her fast-talking husband take credit for her weird paintings of kids with big eyes.

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The Iceman

When you see in a film synopsis that Michael Shannon is going to play a serial killer/hitman, it’s safe to assume that you are poised to see an amazing performance. And, yes, in Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman (Vromen co-wrote with Morgan Land), Shannon more than fulfills your hopes and dreams as real-life serial killer turned mob hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski. He claims to have killed over 100 men over the course of his killing career while at the same time being a fiercely devoted husband and father to his wife Deborah (Winona Ryder) and their daughters. The film perhaps suffers from some structuring issues, making Kuklinski’s story somewhat fuzzy at times, but on the whole, it delivers with its amazing performances from Shannon and the stellar ensemble cast, as well as with its beautiful, unrelentingly dark cinematography.

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PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

Note: Andrew Robinson’s review originally ran during TIFF 2012, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond the Pines is broken up into three chapters. We open with Luke (Ryan Gosling) coming back into town with the circus and finding out that he has a son. He decides to stick around, but since he’s unable to make a living to support his family, he begins robbing banks using his skills as a professional motor bike rider. The narrative is then handed over to Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a police officer heading into politics and struggling with family matters. The film takes its time in making sure that we get a good grasp on each character as there’s very little overlap in screen time between each. The reckless rise of Gosling’s bank robbing spree and the troubled rise of Cooper’s political/social standing in the world parallel one another beautifully. What the film truly discusses is what someone is willing to do selflessly for others. While, morally, Cooper and Gosling’s acts are complete opposites of each other, their motivations start out in the same place, the intention to provide for their family. Luke’s robbing banks was never about himself; he never wants to take credit for them, reflecting his clear shame. Cross’s actions are one of motivations head-butting his own desires, even at the expense of his son’s affection.

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Jim Carrey

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s the casting roundup with news about a talking raccoon, a frog puppet, a famous dog, a beautiful woman, and David Hasselhoff’s shorts. So far Marvel’s next big thing, The Guardians of the Galaxy, has been a great source of casting rumors, but not yet a generator of any casting confirmations. We’ve heard about a bevy of actors who might play Star-Lord, a handful who might be Drax the Destroyer, and now the Latino Review is reporting that director James Gunn and company are reaching out to both Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler to inquire about their availability for the film. What roles might they play? Perhaps they could provide the voices for either the big tree guy, Groot, or the little raccoon guy, Rocket Raccoon. I mean, it would just be too weird if either of them actually showed up playing a live action role, wouldn’t it? Definitely. Even hearing Sandler’s one goofy voice he uses coming out of a CG character’s mouth would just be too weird already. Let’s hope that rumor is completely off base.

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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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Andrew Dominik

Killing Them Softly is both a surprising and unexpected return for director Andrew Dominik, whose name has been missing from the big screen for five long years. What’s most surprising about the film is that it’s not much more commercial than his previous film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a movie which didn’t nearly get its due back in 2007. His latest film is, however, unsurprising in terms of theme: the power of the dollar. After Jesse James didn’t light the world on fire financially, Dominik found it difficult to get other projects off the ground, so money must have been on his mind. And, according to Dominik, it was, and that’s a part of how we got his new political crime picture, Killing Them Softly. Here is what writer and director Andrew Dominik had to say about the film’s slightly cartoonish approach, why the crime genre is so appealing, and the trials and tribulations caused by Jesse James:

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Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

After only about five people paid to see Andrew Dominik‘s beautifully poetic The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the popular belief was that any director in that position would follow up his ambitious financial failure with something more commercial. While Killing Them Softly has far more public appeal than Jesse James, Dominik has fortunately made another film unafraid to polarize. Set in 2008, following the economic collapse, mobsters have been seeking easier ways to make a quick buck or two, there is no clear order left, and, in this America, as the smooth contract killer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) puts it, you’re on your own. Cogan — who’s sort of the protagonist — is brought down to New Orleans after a series of robberies hit Markie Trattman’s (Ray Liotta) poker games. With criminals afraid to play and spend their money, it’s Cogan’s job to get them back to playing, by finding the two men responsible for the latest theft, two big time losers named Frankie (Scoot McNairy, now holding the record for the most number of irritating characters in a single year) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn). This reads as all fairly simple, but there’s more to this story than the trailers have been leading us to believe. Killing Them Softly is, in fact, almost more of an angry, loud voicemail left for the politicians who aren’t all that different from the lost, scrambling criminals we see in the film.

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The Details

Hollywood does not look favorably upon suburbia. It’s understandable of course, what with all the illusory perfection and white picket fences, but from Little Children to American Beauty to Home Alone we’ve seen time and again that surface innocence hides infidelity, unhappiness and abandoned children setting deadly traps made from household items. That trend continues with Tobey Maguire‘s latest film where he plays Jeff Lang, a man who seems to have it all. A beautiful wife, a healthy little boy, a job and a home in the suburbs… what more could he want? But when a raccoon starts digging holes in his perfect back yard a chain of events is set in motion that threatens it all. The links in that chain, henceforth known as the details, are a mix of the mundane and the ridiculous, and almost without exception they see Lang behaving like a complete and utter bastard. There are laughs along the way, but as one bad domino after another falls before him he grows further and further away from a believable character we can relate to, and therein lay the film’s biggest issue. Things become a bit too outrageous and Maguire’s dueling expressions of surprise and bemusement aren’t enough to carry viewers along.

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The Details trailer

Though Mean Creek director Jacob Aaron Estes’ latest project, The Details, debuted all the way back at Sundance 2011, it’s just finally gearing up for a real theatrical release come November 2. Why has it sat on the shelf for so long? Maybe it’s just because the idea of watching Spider-Man act like a jerk for a couple of hours is something of a hard sell. From the looks of the film’s new trailer, The Details is a character drama that sees Tobey Maguire cheating on his wife, banging Ray Liotta’s wife, getting another woman pregnant, contemplating murder, toilet training raccoons, appreciating latte art, chatting with Kerry Washington, chatting with Dennis Haysbert, and trying out religion. Okay, so maybe there isn’t anything wrong with those last few things, but the first couple are pretty bad. Is this going to be the sort of lead character who audiences can relate to?

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Writer/director Ariel Vromen (Rx) has chosen an interesting subject for his latest film, The Iceman; a New Jersey native named Richard Kuklinski who served as a mob hitman and killed somewhere between 100 and 250 people between the mid 50s and mid 80s, all without his wife and kids having any idea how he put food on the table. Vromen’s film follows Kuklinski from the point where he met his lady love and first got into organized crime back in the 50s, all the way to his capture and incarceration in 1986. It explores his psyche, his methods, and the way New Jersey fashions have gotten increasingly more ridiculous as the decades have gone on. Oh yeah, and one more thing… it’s got Michael Shannon playing the title role. Given what an intense, captivating actor Shannon has developed into over the years, any movie that puts him in a starring role is pretty explicitly setting up his performance as being its main attraction, so it feels necessary to spend a lot of time talking about how he does. Unsurprisingly, he’s good. Kuklinski was best known for being merciless and unflappable, and Shannon gets that across by doing a silent, stone-faced, De Niro type thing that feels authentic in its competence and menace. As his turn in Take Shelter proved, Shannon is best when he’s got repressed emotions boiling just beneath the surface of his skin, and the role of the dangerous killer playing wholesome family man gives him multiple chances […]

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Michael Shannon in The Iceman

t’s been a big week for Michael Shannon. Just seven days ago his latest film, Premium Rush, hit theaters and earned the man heaps of critical praise for his quirky, Dick Tracy villain performance as a dirty cop; and now the trailer for his latest starring vehicle, The Iceman, has hit the net. This is big news because, oh boy, does this true telling of the life of contract killer Richard Kuklinski look like it’s going to be a doozy. Detailing the life of a hired gun all the way from the late ’60s to the early ’80s, The Iceman doesn’t just give Shannon a chance to do that intense, conflicted, rolling sea of emotions just beneath the surface of his skin thing that he does so well, it also gives him the opportunity to experiment with all sorts of ridiculous facial hair combinations. Oh wait, and who’s that? Why, it’s Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and his sleazy Lemmy beard looks like it wants to get in on the action too.

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Andrew Dominik is not a prolific director. After bursting onto the scene in 2000 with the violent biographical tale Chopper he waited seven years before releasing the critically acclaimed The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford with Brad Pitt. The film was universally praised by critics, but theater-goers have notoriously short attention spans meaning most of them moved on to something else before they even finished reading the title. (The ‘something else’ in this case was a one-two punch of Resident Evil: Extinction and Good Luck Chuck, so shame on you America.) Five years later and Dominik is finally returning to the screen, and he’s bringing Pitt along with him. Killing Them Softly is a blackly humorous crime thriller about a pair of low-rent amateurs who rob the wrong poker game. Pitt plays a mob man brought in to find and handle the pair, and the film follows his efforts arrange for their demise while interacting with the local criminal element. The film is an adaptation of George V Higgins’ 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade, and while it updates the story to the modern day it keeps the Boston setting that has served the genre so well over the years. Pitt’s joined by Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy. Our own Simon Gallagher was a big fan when he saw it at Cannes, and now the rest of us can get a taste as well with the debut of the highly […]

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Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik always had an ominous mountain to climb with his next feature, having polarized opinion with The Assassination Of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, that most tonal and visually textured of revisionist Westerns, but with Killing Them Softly he has certainly at least avoided the black hole that tends to suck young talents perilously down into obscurity. He might not, however, have scored a huge commercial hit. Taking a leaf out of Jesse James‘s book, Killing Them Softly is effectively a post-gangster film, deconstructing the genre and smashing it against the oh-so-contemporary wall built by recessions and austerity measures. The label might still seem to read “gangster,” with the presence of wise guys and henchmen presiding over their own lawless patches of the murky underbelly of normal society, but gone is the aspirational elements of Goodfellas and Casino in favor of a tight-belted, thoroughly modern revision of the gangster ideal. For all intents and purposes, this is the cut-price Cosa Nostra.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr fights a battle of wits between the stuffy and overly dramatic Oscar contenders that will be buzzing through the weekend and the genre-specific schlock that is being released with no hope of winning any sort of award at all. Before hunkering down on the couch to watch Billy Crystal time warp back into the mid-90s on Sunday, Kevin skydives into the multiplex to check out Act of Valor. Then he joins a commune to be a modern hippie while watching Wanderlust. Finally, he leaves the multiplex to stalk Amanda Seyfried and her on-screen sister because he believes he’s at least as creepy as the legions of creepy guys in Gone. Oh, and that Tyler Perry movie? He skips that with a wave of the hand and a snap of the fingers. If it ain’t got Madea in it, it ain’t worth watching!

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Talk about non-traditional casting. According to Variety, Ray Liotta is going to play a corrupt cop in A Place Beyond the Pines. Can you even imagine it? Can you even wrap your mind tightly enough around the concept of Liotta being, not only a police officer, but one that’s not totally above board in order to envision how it might play out? Neither can I. Sarcasm aside, even if it is the most obvious kind of typecasting, Derek Cianfrance has got a ton of skill and a lot of talent lined up for his movie that sees Ryan Gosling as a motor cycle racer/bank robber being chased down by Bradley Cooper with a badge. Who better than Liotta to bring a sense of gravitas to a very necessary and particular role? At any rate, it proves the old saying about the corrupt cop character: If you build it, he will come.

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FSR

Kevin Carr reviews this week’s new movies: Observe and Report, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Dragonball: Evolution and Anvil!: The Story of Anvil.

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Observe and Report

We’ve seen Hollywood do paint-by-numbers comedy. Heck, we’ve even recently seen a paint-by-numbers mall cop comedy. But if there’s anything we can say definitively about Jody Hill’s Observe and Report, it is that it doesn’t give a f–k about painting or numbers.

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Warner Bros. has released a brand new redband clip from their upcoming release Observe and Report, from The Foot Fist Way director Jody Hill. It features a show-stealing performance from Aziz Ansari.

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This highfalutin, silly immigration drama from writer-director Wayne Kramer wastes a lot of terrific actors.

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Universal Studios’ prequel to the underwhelming Joe Carnahan action crime thriller Smokin’ Aces now boasts actress Sofia Vergara, who made the announcement while conducting interviews for her latest film, Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail.

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