Sam Shepard

review cold in july

Editor’s note: Our review of Cold In July originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) awakens one night to a noise elsewhere in the house. Fearing an intruder, he retrieves a gun from the closet, tells his wife to stay put, and cautiously moves towards the living room. Seconds later, a young burglar’s deceased body falls onto the couch with a bullet through the eye. The town sees Dane as a hero, and the sheriff covers up the fact that the burglar was unarmed, but the quiet family man is left unsettled by the incident. Complicating things further is the recent parole of the dead man’s father, Russel (Sam Shepard). Dane attends the funeral from a distance but is surprised by a face to face encounter with Russel that makes it clear the man is not the forgiving type. When Russel makes the threat that much clearer with a frightening visit to Dane’s home it becomes clear the two men are in for an unavoidable collision. And then the story moves in an entirely new and unexpected direction.

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cooper

43-year-old Scott Cooper didn’t direct his first feature film until he was 37.  2009’s Crazy Heart scored Jeff Bridges his first oscar, and it also made Cooper a director on the rise. The film cost only $7m and went on to earn more than $47m worldwide, making it both a critical and financial smash. That’s not a feat we see often, but for Cooper, he couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming result for his debut. His follow-up, Out of the Furnace, is an entirely different kind of film, featuring an ensemble cast, life and death stakes and suspense. Before it premiered at AFI Fest last month, one of the producers compared Out of the Furnace to The Deer Hunter, inferring that they didn’t set out to make a film that goes down easy. The talent in attendance clearly stated their intention: they wanted to make a movie about America. Not the big booming cities, but the small towns that have been left in financial turmoil. That wasn’t the story Brad Ingelsby‘s set out to write in the beginning. “The original screenplay was based on the idea of a man who gets out of prison and must avenge someone,” says Cooper, delving into the film’s subtext. “The rest all comes from a very personal experience. As I said in those opening remarks [at AFI], I wanted to show the turbulent world we’ve lived in the the last five years. I thought it was important to express my personal and artistic worldview through that lens, and out comes Out of the Furnace.”

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Film Title:  Out of the Furnace

Editor’s note: Our review of Out of the Furnace originally ran during this year’s AFI Fest, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in theatrical release. Sometimes it seems like the future is rapidly approaching, with more and more information being digitally consumed and smartphones attached to the palm of almost everyone’s hand, but there are still places that are untouched by time, where family and community are paramount. It may seem like a simpler life, but Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace shows just how difficult life in an industrial community on the decline can be. Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) are two brothers trying to carve out fulfilling lives for themselves in the wake of hard times and the deteriorating health of their father. Russell is a good man who seems content to work hard for his family and his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), but Rodney is more of a loose canon. As a solider recently called back for another tour overseas, the younger Baze brother is wrestling with some serious demons.

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Mud

If there was one film missing from our 2013 film guide, I’d say it was Jeff Nichols‘ Mud. Although he only has two films under his belt, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, Nichols has quickly risen to prominence as an A-list art house director. With Mud, the filmmaker finally has his chance to move into the mainstream, and this first trailer for the film does a decent job of pushing it as something easily digestible. Take a peak at Jeff Nichols’ newest film (via Yahoo! Movies):

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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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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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Scott Cooper’s followup to 2009’s Crazy Heart has been making a lot of headlines lately due to all of its impressive casting announcements. Out of the Furnace is a movie about an ex-con trying to get his life together after getting out of prison. Unfortunately, the world is a tough place to live in, and bad things happen. So when the protagonist’s little brother gets caught up in some shady dealings that have an unfortunate end, he finds himself in a situation where he has to turn his new leaf back over to the dirty side, in order to seek revenge. A huge chunk of the cast has already been filled out by signees that were made official just a few days ago. Christian Bale has long been locked for the role of the lead character, Russell. And after his casting came names like Casey Affleck, who’s playing the little brother who meets a tragic end, Zoe Saldana, who is the Bale character’s love interest, and Sam Shepard, who’s all set to play his uncle, Red. Only one thing’s left: who’s going to play the villain? Every good crime movie needs a good bad guy, and with the cast that Out of the Furnace already has in place, not just any old actor will do for this one. You bring in somebody unestablished—without any chops—and he’s going to shrink when standing next to screen presences like Bale and Affleck. No, this movie needs a big damn personality, and if a […]

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Confirming some long-rumored casting picks, and even throwing in a surprise or two, Relativity Media has just sent around a press release detailing confirmed casting for Scott Cooper‘s Out of the Furnace. After the critical success of his directorial debut (which was nominated for three Oscars, ultimately winning two, including Jeff Bridges’s long-deserved first Academy Award), Cooper has been attached to a number of projects, but Out of the Furnace will be his first film since 2009. The release confirms that Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard are set to star in the gritty drama. Bale has been on board as lead Russell Baze since August, but this is the official confirmation of his role. Affleck and Saldana have been attached to the film since March as Bale’s younger brother and love interest, respectively, but back then, Robert Duvall was mentioned to take Shepard’s role as the Baze brothers’ uncle, Red. Still up in the air? The villain role – once rumored to be played by Viggo Mortensen or Billy Bob Thornton. At this point, they could cast anyone in this role, as the current cast is a fantastic collection of talents.

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If Hollywood has taught us anything about the CIA it’s that those bastards really can’t be trusted. The exception to the rule is that the lower the character is on the agency’s totem pole the more honorable and good they’ll most likely be. They’re naive idealists who have yet to be molded by the big, bad world into heartless, morally bankrupt pricks motivated by warped patriotism and self interest. Which brings us to Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), a low level agent stationed at the same, boring post for the last twelve months. He’s a “housekeeper” at a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, and every day he waits for a coded call alerting him to the imminent arrival of an incoming “guest.” The call finally comes when Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) mysteriously turns himself into the local US embassy after a decade on the run as an ex-agent turned traitor and killer. He’s moved to the safe house and immediately interrogated via water-boarding and harsh language. But when the inaccurately named safe house is attacked by a gaggle of heavily armed men Weston finds himself tasked with his guest’s safety and on the run from killers both foreign and domestic. The result is a film that offers no surprises in its story or character arcs but still manages to thrill with some stellar action sequences and two talented and charismatic leads. (That’s right. Two.)

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Jeff Nichols

One of my most anticipated films of the year is Jeff Nichols‘ Mud. Nichols is behind one of, if not the, best films of 2011: Take Shelter. With only two pictures under his belt, he’s quickly established himself as a filmmaker to get excited about. Earlier today Nichols was kind enough to make the time for an interview to discuss Take Shelter, for the upcoming Blu-ray release. We discussed an array of topics, and Mud was briefly covered. Nichols was hard at work in the mood swing-sounding editing room when we spoke, and although he stated he’ll have clearer answers for the movie once it comes out, the writer-director shared enough details to give us a small sense of what to expect from Mud. After talking about the love-hate relationship with editing, the joy of shooting the Mississippi river with 35mm anamorphic cameras, the no bullshit (and awesome) attitude of Sam Shepard, Nichols touched upon the themes of the film:

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When Mateo Gil’s Blackthorn was first announced, the film sounded like a cheap attempt to capitalize on the good name of the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But while George Roy Hill’s film (from William Goldman’s near-perfect script) mixed adventure and humor, Gil’s take on a late-in-life Cassidy strikes something more serious, a film that shows a character rarely portrayed as the hero in gun-slinging Westerns – the ruined elder.   The film reimagines the fate of Cassidy (played here by Sam Shepard), finding him living out the sunset of his life in Bolivia under the name James Blackthorn. But Cassidy is lonely sans Sundance Kid, and longs to return home to die. As he sets out on his faithful stead, all seems aligned for the once-wild man to quietly return home to the United States. But when Cassidy gets mixed up with a brash young law-breaker (Eduardo Noriega), thanks to both circumstance and temperament, that plan’s off – and a new one is on. The first trailer for Blackthorn hints at the more melancholy side of Cassidy in between a rash of pistol-shootin’ battles alongside his new sidekick, and that’s the intriguing element of Gil’s film (with a bullet). Saddle up and check out the trailer after the break.

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Criterion Files

Some films represent to many the indefinable expression of a dream. Often times it’s nightmarish, as that’s what we can easily discern as being particularly dream-like because those are the dreams we tend to never forget. They haunt us, indefinitely, and some filmmakers are keen to capture that sense of uncomfortable fear of the odd, or non-understandable. Filmmakers like David Lynch and David Cronenberg seem to know it and are willing to explore and share it.

Then, there are some films that don’t necessarily look a dream, but feel like a familiar one that you don’t fully remember; because it’s too grounded to feel fantastic, but too gorgeously free so as to feel slightly detached from reality. It’s dramatic, but not “dramatic.” It’s not void of human emotional expression, but not entirely engagingly emotional. It’s both wonderful and disturbed. It’s affectingly confusing to your senses. Like a dream.

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Spanish director Mateo Gil’s look at the last days of Western legend Butch Cassidy, Blackthorn, has been picked up for distribution. The film made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, and is set to play at Cannes as well, but Magnolia Pictures has already scooped it up and is prepping it for a theatrical release later this year. The film stars Sam Shepard, who is no stranger to screen westerns, as Cassidy, and sees him supported by names such as Stephen Rea, Eduardo Noriega and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau. This is Gil’s first English language film, and the first feature length film that he has directed at all in 12 years. He is a prominent screenwriter, however, and has written things you might have heard of like the Javier Bardem film The Sea Inside, and the basis for Vanilla Sky called Abre los ojos. Why is Magnolia taking a chance on this film? The man who negotiated the deal, Tom Quinn, explains, “With an amazing cast and incredible locations, Mateo Gil has created a Western for the ages. Sam Shepard is unforgettable as Butch Cassidy, with a command performance that is a high point in an amazing career.” That sounds exciting to me, but I imagine that Magnolia picking up this film has a little something to do with the fact that True Grit just made a jillion dollars at the box office as well. Is this some early indication that the Coens’s success in the Western genre could be bringing […]

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Movies We Love

Monkeys? You think a monkey knows he’s sittin’ on top of a rocket that might explode? These astronaut boys they know that, see? Well, I’ll tell you something, it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially one that’s on TV. Ol’ Gus, he did all right. Ol’ Gus is Gus Grissom, the second US man to be shot into space, though his ride becomes tarnished when he loses his capsule, the hatch blowing before it can be pulled from the water.

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brothers_movie_review1

Jim Sheridan’s ‘Brothers’ remake is a fine, old-fashioned drama starring Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Like many of Sheridan’s other movies, it’s all about family.

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published: 10.30.2014
B-
published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
C-
published: 10.24.2014
C-


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