Robin Wright

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

The Oscar Hopefuls is a new series that allows us to take a dive into the Oscar race. Instead of focusing on the marketing campaigns or the buzz, we want to focus on what really matters: the movies and performances themselves. This will include deep dives into individual movies and musings on various categories throughout awards season. Originally I had intended to kick this series off with a look at a spectacular movie that will likely be overlooked. However, today a topic was brought to my desk that feels equally deserving of the space. That great movie, to be named later, will be the focus of the next edition of The Oscar Hopefuls. For now, I’d like to focus on a topic that’s always been important to me: leading ladies. Over at The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg writes about A Year without Best Actresses in response to a Gregg Kilday article at the Hollywood Reporter about the lack of quality Best Actress candidates in comparison to the wealth of choices in the Best Actor category. And while there’s much to be said about the balance between male and female leads overall, I’m not entirely sold on the lack of quality candidates in 2014.

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cong

When it comes to independent films and major releases, animation is fairly underutilized medium. There are exceptions, but for the most part, it’s generally used for kid-centric stories or to paint a lush, if slightly more adult, world. That’s why movies like A Scanner Darkly and The Congress are so special. They use animation for drama and to express ideas that go beyond a few pretty shots. Both films shouldn’t be compared past that point, but they are both emotional, visual, and mental exercises — rides that you either go along with from the start or don’t. If director Ari Folman‘s The Congress grabs you from its first frame, then expect a rich science-fiction film packed with commentary, ideas, laughs, tears, and beauty.  Speaking of beauty, Robin Wright (played conveniently by Robin Wright) has lost it, at least according to some slimy agist studio executive we meet working at Miramount. She’s now 44 years old. That usually means for actresses their careers are winding down, but after years of “bad” choices and choosing family over work, Robin isn’t the big deal that she once was. The offers aren’t coming in, at least not the offers she’s interested in — she wouldn’t ever dare to take part in a science-fiction film.

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Robin Wright in The Congress

Stardom is a fundamentally contradictory experience for audiences. On the one hand, we can feel like we know a star intimately as a human being, despite the many roles that they play and despite the fact that they do not know us. We carry our past knowledge of the star onto each new project. And every time a star is captured by a camera, a brief record of them is made, in a moment solidified for a seeming eternity. Marlene Dietrich may be long deceased, but in revisiting any close-up fashioned from Josef von Sternberg’s films, she can feel as immediate to us as she was to the cameras eighty years ago. On the other hand, a star is always both more and less than a human being. Stars are the foundation for an industry of magazines, brand names readily available for peddling products, personalities to be mimicked, fashion icons to aspire to, and economic conditions for a film’s making and marketing. We can experience fleeting moments of intimacy with a star image, but the industry that makes stardom possible continually alienates us from a polished, selectively represented human being before us. It is through this dual capacity of stardom that stars continue to exist well after the physical lives of the people who embodied them. These inherent tensions between personhood and media are explored in great depth in Ari Folman’s new film The Congress, a film that uses the strange condition of stardom and the technological advancements of the current […]

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House of Cards

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Netflix gifted its subscribers with the full second season of its hit series, House of Cards, featuring a slam-bang season opener that left viewers reeling (and tweeting copious versions of “OH MY GOD”) and that pushed already-nefarious characters to new levels of both evil and unlikability. No, there’s no rule that characters need to be charming or likable or aspirational, but it sure is nice to watch a show that stars someone (anyone) whose actions you can respect and admire. The Underwoods and their lackeys have always been particularly underhanded, but the second season has already shoved them into new realms and practices of what is best described as over-the-top, unrelatable, and outsized evil. These are bad people doing very bad things, and as fun as it might be to watch them inflict their brand of political and personal striving on enemies, deserving or not, they are not the kind of characters anyone can actually root for. But if you can’t back the two lead characters of a series, who can you? Spoilers ahead for the first episode of House of Cards’ second series premiere.

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review a most wanted man

The 9/11 attacks were planned from the beautiful, immigrant-friendly city of Hamburg, and Germany swore afterwards that it would never happen again. In addition to tightening security for those coming into the country, part of their efforts to stop terrorist cells from operating so freely within their borders included the creation of a small intelligence unit whose sole purpose is prevention. Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) heads up the team (which also includes Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss), but his latest mission challenges more than his skill-set and determination. It shakes his drive, moral compass, and dedication to “making the world a safer place.” A Most Wanted Man is exactly what you’d expect from the director of The American, and while that assessment will mean different things to different people the film remains a meticulously crafted adaptation of John le Carre‘s bestselling novel.

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Adore Movie

The trailer for Adore, and presumably the movie itself, leaps unstoppably from one impulsive decision to the next. It’s the adult drama version of a horror movie where we’re yelling for them not to go up the stairs (or not to have sex with their best friend’s son), but they do it anyway. Why don’t movies ever listen to their audiences? A lot fewer people would get slashed by masked killers, and a lot fewer women would give in to the impulse to feel what the fruit of their friends’ loins does to their loins. The women of Anne Fontaine‘s (Coco Before Chanel) new movie are Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), two childhood friends who now have children of their own. On what looks like a Blue Lagoon-style bit of isolation with their sons, Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) and Ian (Xavier Samuel), things heat up, a ton of bad decisions are made, and the sons swap moms. So, yes, it’s basically the prestige version of this. And, yes, it’s incredibly sexy:

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The Congress

Ari Folman‘s The Congress appears to play its hand quite quickly – the Cannes film’s first trailer opens with a shot of star Robin Wright being talked to by a faceless man as if she were, well, Robin Wright. Sure, this is a slightly skewed “Robin Wright” (it doesn’t seem as if this Robin starred in House of Cards, but damn if it doesn’t seem like she started her career with The Princess Bride), but it’s a version of “Robin Wright” nonetheless. And someone has a proposition for her. At first, it all seems relatively straightforward – a Hollywood studio (“Miramount,” which certainly looks like another studio that ends in “-mount”) wants to purchase the rights to Wright’s likeness and, thanks to technology, that essentially means they will scan every bit of her (not just physical, by any means) and use it to “star” in any film they see fit. It’s not a great deal, but it might be her last shot, so she takes. Obviously, it’s not all going to end well, but Folman’s film subverts our ideas of what would follow from such a deal, and it all goes totally wild, nuts, and (maybe even) amazing, as The Congress unfolds into vibrant animation and stirring score, with a possibly epic adventure thrown into the mix. It’s really one stunning trailer, and our hopes for the final film are now suitably high. Um, also? Wright might have animated sex with animated Jon Hamm (it certainly sounds like him). You’re sold now, right? Get a taste for The Congress after the break.

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House of Cards

The similar structure of their titles isn’t the only thing Game of Thrones and the new Netflix series House of Cards have in common. The first is set in a brutal Medieval-style fantasy world, and the second is set in present-day Washington, DC, but the scheming and lustful grabs at power are pulsing wildly at the heart of each. Of course they have their differences as well. Since Cards focuses on House Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), it’s maybe more exact to call it a version of Game of Thrones told almost explicitly through Tywin Lannister’s point of view. The congressman is aggressive and shrewd in his search to become President, but as the complete 13-episode season of the show (or 13-hour movie-you-have-to-keep-pressing-play-to-see) proves, there are other combatants willing to protect their interests just as fiercely and just as intelligently.

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Commemorating the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride, director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman (also the author of the source novel) and stars Robin Wright (“Buttercup”), Wallace Shawn (“Vizzini”), Chris Sarandon (“Prince Humperdink”), Mandy Patinkin (“Inigo Montoya”), Carol Kane (“Valerie”), Cary Elwes (“Westley”), and Billy Crystal (“Miracle Max”) all gathered at NYC’s Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday as part of a New York Film Festival special event screening. This marked the first time in almost 26 years that they have watched the film with an audience, re-experiencing the saga of Buttercup and her Westley (and all swordsmanship and kissing involved). Throughout the film, which sold out the 1,086-seat Lincoln Center venue, attendees of all different ages loudly applauded and hooted for their favorite lines and for the first appearances of their favorite characters. They were worked up into a fervor, more closely resembling a ribald grindhouse crowd than one at a typical NYFF screening. This large-scale showing injected new life into The Princess Bride, and it is especially great that the audience was so responsive, given that the cast sat through the film and were able to witness the extreme appreciation of their work firsthand.

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Last Tuesday was the 25th anniversary of the theatrical openings of The Princess Bride, and this coming Tuesday sees the release of a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of the movie, which features a new two-part retrospective documentary. Also on Tuesday, a new print of the fantasy adventure classic will screen during the New York Film Festival, complete with a reunion of actors Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane and director Rob Reiner (no Fred Savage? Inconceivable!) for a post-film conversation. So, we’ve got a new Scenes We Love this week to honor the beloved comedic romance (don’t call it a rom-com), and maybe this sounds like an impossible task. After all, if you love one scene from The Princess Bride, you love them all. We could just say, we love that 100-minute-long scene in which a stable boy-turned-pirate fights a giant, a genius and a swordsman in order to rescue a princess from kidnappers and then stop her from marrying an evil prince, all as it is told by an old man to his grandson. Then just embed the film in its entirety (if it were available this way). But we can isolate a handful of favorites — that’s six scenes, if we go by Count Rugen’s hand — and if there are any others you wish to bring up, we invite you to do so.

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A Man Most Wanted

Back in February it was reported that there was a new adaptation of a John le Carré novel being developed, and that it was looking to put Philip Seymour Hoffman in a leading role. It all sounded very exciting, but Hoffman’s involvement wasn’t official. Well, some time has passed since then, details on the project are starting to solidify, and the crew has even started to put together a cast of familiar faces to join Hoffman in supporting roles. But first, let’s recap exactly what this project is. A Most Wanted Man is a story about a half-Russian, half-Czech immigrant who comes to Germany—scarred and starved—looking for his father’s lost fortune. His past is mysterious, his motives are suspect, and eventually his pursuits get the attentions of a British banker and a young female lawyer, who both try to help them in their own way, and who end up forming a strange love triangle in the process. There’s no time for romance, however, as the man’s arrival also gets the attention of a group of spies from three different nations, and soon all of the players converge in ways that are likely steeped in intrigue and double crossings.

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Word on the street is that Oren Moverman‘s Rampart is pretty damned good. It stars Woody Harrelson as an LAPD cop in the wake of the Rampart scandal in the 1990s. It also features Ice Cube, who doesn’t at all still represent the LA of the early 1990s. The thing is, even if the movie were terrible, this poster would still be awesome. It looks absolutely stunning, and we’re giving one away. Plus, one (1) lucky winner will get a Harrelson-signed script to go with their new wall art. How do you enter? Excellent rhetorical question! Here’s how:

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When Jeremy said he needed someone to fill in on Commentary Commentary so that he could focus his energies primarily on South by Southwesting, I simply replied, “As you wish.” But then I was left with a conundrum. What movie should I watch the commentary track for? After rifling through my DVD collection I ended up with a handful of possibilities, and I wound up choosing The Princess Bride for one reason: when else would I ever listen to the commentary tracks on this movie, if not now? The Princess Bride is so much fun, such a whimsical experience, that if you’re going to put the DVD on, you want to watch the movie. You don’t want to hear some old guy rambling over all of the classic lines. Consequently, this thing has been sitting on my shelf essentially since DVDs began, and I still haven’t listened to either the Rob Reiner or the William Goldman commentaries. So, here we go, I’ll take the hit and give them a listen, pick out all the interesting stuff, and you can go about your usual business of properly soaking in all the action, adventure, and romance the next time you need to get your Princess Bride fix.

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Over Under - Large

When thinking about which films I consider to be overrated, I keep coming back to two different categories. First there are the art films that get embraced by the movie geek community and praised to high heaven for their crafting, whether they really makes for an exceptional overall movie-going experience or not. And then there are the movies that get overrated by the mainstream. They’re mostly sentimental movies that tug on the heartstrings, with characters that hit low lows, but then achieve some new victory. Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump is definitely the latter. It’s a movie that seems designed solely to make parents and grandparents nod knowingly at historical incidents they remember and then tear up when a sad part rolls around; but they love it for it. Being There was nominated for the Palme d’Or and even won Melvyn Douglas an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor back when it came out, but it’s a movie I never hear mentioned these days. As a matter of fact, other than the little bit of nostalgia that remains for Harold and Maude, I would say that Hal Ashby is a director whose career has been kind of forgotten by my generation of film fans. That’s a shame, because the man did some great work, and this film in particular has one of the last great performances by the legendary Peter Sellers.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr pulls out his screening schedule, which looks like a gambling addict’s racing form. He bounces from huge, mainstream releases to minor indie award contenders. Facing motion-capture CGI, tattooed bisexual investigators, cross-dressing waiters, silent film actors, and a lead star who is literally hung like a horse, Kevin tries to make sense of the seemingly countless releases this holiday week. Exhaustion from this process makes it impossible to buy a zoo or face the 3D end of the world, but his movie stocking is full, nonetheless.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr decides he’s going to learn history from Hollywood. After all, why not when three out of the four major releases are based on or inspired by a true story. He learns about the true history of baseball with Moneyball (and was sorely disappointed it wasn’t called Monkeyball because a movie about monkeys playing baseball would have been awesome). Then he learns all he needs to know about marine mammals and depressed children in Dolphin Tale. Finally, he faces the cadres of screaming tweenage girls to see Taylor Lautner in ABduction. That’s based on a true story, right?

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A couple days ago a red band trailer for David Fincher’s upcoming adaptation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” hit the Internet and made the rounds among movie blogs and message boards. It wasn’t really clear if it was an unintentional leak, or if it was put out to look as an intentional leak as a bit of viral marketing that fit in well with the hacker status of the female protagonist, or maybe if it was just a trailer released without much fanfare due to its pseudo NSFW status. But none of that really matters anymore. Now we’ve got an officially released trailer for the film that looks a heck of a lot like the leaked one, but is all high definition and pretty, and doesn’t have any bits that are naughty (sorry, side boob lovers). So what does this trailer have in store for us? Nothing shocking really; but enough to get my blood pumping anyways. This little bit of advertising is quick, kinetic, and full of energy. It’s got a hip re-imagining of a Led Zeppelin classic, a very digital, very typical of David Fincher aesthetic, very gorgeous production design. Also, it probably can’t help but remind me a lot of that one movie I saw… you know, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The trailer is a reminder that I’ve already heard this story, already solved this mystery, already lived alongside these characters, and it can’t help but feel awfully familiar. But it looks awfully damn pretty […]

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Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. I was in third grade, under the creepy Catholic tutelage of Sister Hermina (she refused to die!), and the lesson on Lincoln’s presidency had come to dramatic and shocking conclusion. Granted, those aren’t the words I would have used to describe it at the time, but I do recall feeling frustrated, confused, and angered at the tall, bearded man’s death. So why open a film review with a reference to a grade school history lesson? Because the film in question, Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, feels like a two-hour lecture on some of the very same material. Viewers learn about the coordinated assault against Lincoln and two members of his cabinet, the capture and conviction of those responsible, and their subsequent hangings for the crimes. While the material here is more detailed than the lesson taught by zombie nun it’s also presented dryly, without any real energy, emotion, or drama, and very much in the spirit of a made-for-television movie. It doesn’t help matters that Redford uses his directorial lectern to include some incredibly unsubtle and politicized comparisons to our own modern day battles between personal freedoms and national security.

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I’ve been skeptical of this remake since it was first announced late last year, but as the cast starts to take shape I’m slowly coming around. First came word that Daniel Craig would play disgraced journalist and super sleuth Mikael Blomkvist – fine. Then came the news that Stellan Skarsgard had been offered the role of Martin Vanger, a suspect in the 40-year-old cold case the story revolves around – excellent. Now we know that Robin Wright (formerly Penn) is in talks to play Millennium magazine publisher and occasional Blomkvist lover, Erika Berger – sounds about right. The Erika Berger role is small but significant. While not huge in the first novel, the role figures a lot more prominently in the following two books (and presumably movies) and the idea is that Wright would return for both. As far as I’m concerned this remake is still completely unnecessary, but I have to admit that this casting is great. Wright is the perfect combination of beauty and brawn and I think she can pull it off. Of course we’re still waiting on the decision that will make or break this movie. The filmmakers are on the hunt for the young actress who will play the title character, and given the incredible performance by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version, whoever is chosen will have some awfully big shoes to fill, and some pretty rabid fans to win over.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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