The Counselor

header discs all is lost

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. All Is Lost Robert Redford stars as a man sailing solo who encounters trouble out at sea. He awakens to the impact of his sailboat colliding with a derelict shipping container and quickly sets about trying to fix the damage before catastrophe occurs. His experience grows increasingly precarious, and soon he’s fighting against nature and circumstance for his very life. Writer/director J.C. Chandor‘s follow-up to the excellent Wall Street drama Margin Call is even more engaging, but it accomplishes the feat through an opposite degree of dialogue. While that film was filled with fast-talk and lots of it, Redford’s character is the only one onscreen here leaving him no one to talk to but himself. (Sure, that didn’t stop Sandra Bullock from being a lonely chatterbox in Gravity, but this is a smarter movie.) The drama and suspense build naturally here as we work alongside the sailor in his efforts, and the script treats viewers as intelligent enough to follow along without needing every detail spelled out. This is a beautiful film about strength, resiliency, and the will to survive. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]

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Brad Pitt 12 Years a Slave

After the first Sunday of March, movie star Brad Pitt might be an Academy Award winner — not for his acting, but for his role as producer. His production company, Plan B, has been deployed since 2006 as a platform for making films (many that star or co-star Pitt, and a few that don’t) largely outside of the franchise and sequel mentality that a name brand like Pitt would otherwise be subject to. Pitt is hardly the first example of an actor who exchanges celebrity capital for some industrial and artistic autonomy – examples of powerful actors who have used the capacity of producer to buck the studio system go as far back as Humphrey Bogart – but Plan B is unique particularly because it’s been utilized as a means for Pitt to rather self-consciously define himself against any conventional understanding of his movie star image. Rather than use the production arm as a means for gritty, challenging, Hollywood-unfriendly lead roles (as Bogart did with In a Lonely Place), Pitt is casting himself conspicuously on the margins of his own work, often in supporting roles that have in common characters who somehow omnisciently perceive a bigger picture than what’s available to the foregrounded characters around him. These are characters that exist inside and outside the narratives of their films simultaneously.

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2013review_trailers

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets). Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time.  What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

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review the counselor

The Counselor is one of the most cinematic and uncinematic movies of the year. It’s the former because director Ridley Scott used  the production to craft a beautifully uncomfortable atmosphere, truly evoking the themes, ideas, and visuals of scribe Cormac McCarthy‘s writing. Yet, it’s uncinematic because, to no one’s surprise, McCarthy loves to do things his own way. The movie doesn’t give you conventional exposition, backstory, or whatever else audiences might expect from easily digestible and normative filmmaking. The lead, The Counselor (Michael Fassbender), isn’t given a name. Why? Because he doesn’t need one. But the film isn’t vague – it tells you everything you need to know. The script itself is a slightly different matter. The people who loathed The Counselor, of which there are many, based on its D Cinema Score and a current rating of 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, would have torn the screen apart if  Scott used everything that McCarthy provided for him on the page. The script is just that good. Scott’s final product contains both minor and major deviations in McCarthy’s script (which reads more as a novel than a traditional screenplay), and following are ten of the most notable changes.

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Don Jon

When it comes to creating a score for a specific film, the music normally needs to stay within a specific genre to reflect the film’s mood and reinforce its emotional core. You can expect an action film to have  a driving sound that keeps pace with the momentum on screen, a drama will be full of soaring strings, and a horror film will build the tension and accent the inevitable scares. But lately, certain scores have been breaking the rules and incorporating multiple musical genres into a single film, and doing so with surprisingly successful results. Don Jon and The Counselor are two films that may not seem like they have much in common, but the scores for each featured different musical genres and proved these unusual combinations actually can work.

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review the counselor

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a man in love, but he is also a man who may have gotten himself in over his head when it comes to some of his more “off the books” business dealings. A lawyer by trade, The Counselor (who is only ever referred to as that) has also teamed up with some interesting partners and gotten himself involved in the business of drug smuggling, and nothing goes as it should. From its very first moment, The Counselor brings its audience into a world where nothing is shied away from. Director Ridley Scott creates a highly-stylized environment where every detail is accounted for, and this is also a world where the characters are as compelling as their surroundings. The Counselor is a man who can make even the most mundane conversation, whether talking about the clarity of diamonds or the fabric of lingerie, feel vital and important. Unfortunately, Cormac McCarthy’s script fails do the same. Fassbender’s Counselor has an almost rhythmic cadence when he speaks that makes you want to hear more, but McCarthy’s script keeps him from saying anything of real substance or helping to paint a clearer view of who this man truly is.

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teaser counselor

We’ve got people behaving badly for Ridley Scott, two young ladies sharing a tempestuous romance, Johnny Knoxville doing some terrible things in old-age makeup, Al Pacino hunting down Oscar Wilde, and a dozen other films fighting for your love. It’s another big week for releases (and Javier Bardem’s hair) so here’s your trailer-ized guide to what’s coming out:

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Gravity

It’s October, which means awards season has officially commenced. Last month gave us a taste with Ron Howard’s Rush, Hugh Jackman yelling in Prisoners, and, last but not least, Luc Besson’s The Family. Maybe not that last one so much, but the other two weren’t a shabby way to kick things off. This month has two movies in particular that should blow socks off while also causing a few tears to flow in the process. They’re the obvious suspects, but they both pack awfully heavy punches. There’s also a little talked about science-fiction-ish movie you may want to check out this weekend as well… But there’s more than three movies to see this month. So, without further ado, here are the ten must-see movies of October 2013:

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The Counselor

After a puzzling teaser trailer left us scratching our heads and a first full-length trailer that gave us few details as to the film’s actual plot, the new trailer for Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor is offering the most cohesive look at the film so far. From previous material, we know that Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt have ridiculous costumes, Cameron Diaz writhes around on top of a car, and Michael Fassbender is in way, way over his head after making a massive drug deal. This time, we have a lot more to work with, plot-wise. Fassbender, as the eponymous counselor (or Counsellor, as the international trailer calls it), has grown accustomed to a lavish lifestyle with his fiancée, played by Penelope Cruz. But when legal work can’t keep it up, he turns to Bardem on the other side of the border to help him get into the drug business for some quick, hard cash. Easy, right? Of course, as you’ll see in the trailer below, his totally well-thought-out plan devolves into a violent catastrophe of explosions, bloodshed, and Fassbender tears when the drugs get stolen en route to the trade.

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Cameron-Diaz-and-Penelope-Cruz-toppless-in-the-trailer-for-The-Counselor

The first teaser trailer we got for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor didn’t have much meat to it at all. We were introduced to a brief scenario where a wire stretched across a road caused a motorcycle accident, we caught a glimpse of Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt sporting silly hairdos, and then a shapely woman crawled across the hood of a car. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that let you know what the movie was all about. The new full-length trailer for the film though, well—it doesn’t really tell you all that much either. Actually, the new trailer contains about as much plot info as one of those obtuse “next week on Mad Men” teasers. But it does give us glimpses of a handsome and reluctant Michael Fassbender getting in over his head with some shady business, Bardem playing the devil character who convinces him to get involved, Pitt playing a bringer of doom, and Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz sharing a moment of danger-laced flirtation. So, even if we still don’t really know what this movie is going to be about exactly, who cares? It’s clearly got everything.

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The Counselor header

There’s a definite formula going for Javier Bardem. The wackier his haircut and outfit, the better the man’s performance. Think of that Dorothy Hamill ‘do in No Country for Old Men. Or his oh-so chic cream ensembles and bleached brows in Skyfall. Now gaze at these stills and tell me why I’m so excited to see The Counselor. The Ridley Scott film is an all-star ensemble that pairs Bardem with heavy-hitters like Cameron Diaz, real-life wife Penelope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, and Brad Pitt, as seen through these newly released stills. While the beautiful people are clearly beautiful, Bardem and Diaz are the most interesting to look at; the couple knows how to dress. Flowing caftans, rose-tinted glasses, printed silk shirts – it’s like Hunter S. Thompson was a billionaire drug lord and not just a normal drug user. The film, from a Cormac McCarthy script (No Country for Old Men) centers on a lawyer (Fassbender) who is under the impression that he can make some quick cash by getting involved in the Mexican drug game, and then getting out just as easily. Check out the rest of the new stills after the break.

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teaser counselor

Of the many high profile films opening later this fall Ridley Scott‘s newest has seemed to exist in a rather quiet little bubble. It’s strange considering the director’s pedigree as well as that of his very recognizable and accomplished cast. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are marquee names, and more than that they’re also considered to be some of Hollywood’s sexiest stars. The most impressive selling point for me though is that they’re all over 35 years old, meaning this just may be that rarest of Hollywood films… a big, dramatic thriller for adults. The Counselor comes from the pen of Cormac McCarthy, but unlike The Road or No Country for Old Men, this represents a departure for the writer in that it’s an original screenplay. The story follows a lawyer who finds himself involved in the dirty world of drug dealing millionaires who own cheetahs. Check out the first teaser below.

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While the rest of the movie-going universe debates the merits of Prometheus, Ridley Scott is busy putting the final touches on the Cormac McCarthy-scribed thriller The Counselor. The film stars Brad Pitt as a lawyer who gets involved with drug trafficking, and already sported the promising supporting cast of Michael the-best-thing-about-Prometheus Fassbender and McCarthy veteran Javier Bardem. According to Deadline Bloomington, another McCarthy veteran (remember All the Pretty Horses?), Penélope Cruz, has officially been added to the cast after being rumored for a role for some time. No word on what character she’ll play, but despite any reservations audiences have had about Scott’s latest star-studded genre outing, this cast in the first script penned by really-freaking-good novelist Cormac McCarthy seems promising. Deadline notes that the film has been described as [sigh...] “No Country For Old Men on steroids,” which promises exactly the opposite of everything that made that Best Picture winner interesting. Principal photography for The Counselor begins this summer.

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We’ve been pretty closely following the development and casting news of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor (written by no less than Cormac McCarthy), and while the bulk of casting so far has been quite exciting (Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt, to name the big guns), this is the first rumor that gives us pause. Twitch Film is reporting that Cameron Diaz has landed a role in the film, one Angelina Jolie was once hotly pursuing. The role of Malkina is one of two big female parts in the film, making this one of Diaz’s most juicy (and somewhat unexpected) gigs yet. While Diaz has yet to show that she’s capable of truly carrying a dark and dramatic role on her own, she has dipped her toe in interesting fare, stuff like The Box, Gangs of New York, and Being John Malkovich. She’s also continued to work on her comedic talents, showing a sort of weird fearlessness in recent roles, particularly the not-so-flattering Bad Teacher. And, hell, she’s even playing the female lead in the Coen brothers-penned Gambit remake, so perhaps Diaz is ready to take the next step in her acting career.

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The casting process for Ridley Scott’s next project, The Counselor, has been an absolute dream for people who like to write down famous people’s names. After going through a laundry list of the biggest actors working in Hollywood, Scott has seemed to settle on the titanic trio of Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt to play the three main male roles in this Cormac McCarthy-penned, lawyer-gone-bad drama. There has yet to be a consensus on who’s going to play the lead female role, that of the Fassbender character’s fianceé, however. The most recent buzz was that Pitt’s real-life fianceé Angelina Jolie was being looked at to come on board, but that never sounded like anything more than a long shot. And, sure enough, a recent report from THR claims that the actress’ role in the upcoming Disney film, Maleficent, would conflict with The Counselor’s shooting schedule.

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When Cormac McCarthy writes a script for Hollywood, it seems that everyone and their brother comes out of the woodwork to try and get a job on the production, right quick. It wasn’t long after it was announced that his original screenplay, The Counselor, existed before it was also announced that Ridley Scott would be directing and Michael Fassbender was attached to play the lead role. And ever since then, there’s been a who’s who of entertainment industry royalty lining up to get in on the fun. Not too long ago it was said that Javier Bardem and Jeremy Renner were being looked at for the two remaining male roles, that of the villain and a drug runner, and that Natalie Portman was showing interest in coming in as the female lead.

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It’s getting to the point where there are so many huge names involved in Ridley Scott’s upcoming project The Counselor that you can’t even write a proper headline about it. Not only does it have a living legend for a director, but this is also a movie that’s being shot from an original spec script from a living legend of an author, Cormac McCarthy. Plus its attached star, Michael Fassbender, is one of the most sought-after future icons in the film industry. And now an upcoming second round of casting decisions have The Counselor set to become an even more studded-with-stars affair. The Playlist has picked up a report from Twitch stating that three huge names are currently in talks to help Fassbender fill out the cast: Jeremy Renner, Javier Bardem, and Natalie Portman.

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Wegottold? Deadline Calabasas, ever an outlet to gracefully announce news, reports that Michael Fassbender is indeed committed to lead the Cormac McCarthy-written and Ridley Scott-directed The Counselor. We’ve known this was a strong possibility for a couple of weeks now, but isn’t it nice to have things confirmed? Even if we apparently need to be loudly “TOLD!” so? What we know about the film has not changed – it’s been described as “No Country For Old Men on steroids” and it’s a modern tale that takes place in the American Southwest. Fassbender will play the title character, “a respected lawyer who thinks he can dip a toe in to the drug business without getting sucked down. It is a bad decision and he tries his best to survive it and get out of a desperate situation.” It’s no surprise that Scott went to Fassbender, who is not only a hot name, but who Scott just worked with on his new Prometheus. It seems a natural (and solid) fit. Scott is reportedly looking to start shooting on May 1, so we might be getting this baby sooner rather than later.  

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Sold. No, really. I’m sold on this project already. Deadline Tucson reports Ridley Scott is now officially signed on to direct The Counselor, from Cormac McCarthy‘s latest spec script (a probable move we reported on last week). But as if the prospect of Scott (who recently seems bent on getting back to his former glory) directing a fresh McCarthy script wasn’t enough to get you excited, word is now out that Scott is looking at his Prometheus star, Michael Fassbender, to lead the film. Again – sold. The Counselor has been described, quite tantalizingly, as “No Country For Old Men on steroids.” The film is a modern tale that takes place in the American Southwest and will reportedly center on “a respected lawyer who thinks he can dip a toe in to the drug business without getting sucked down. It is a bad decision and he tries his best to survive it and get out of a desperate situation.” Hmm, dangerous business, bad choices that consume characters, seedy lifestyles? Sound a bit like Shame, meaning it’s something that Fassbender can do, and handily.

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Not content to just be a highly regarded, hugely successful author whose novels often get made into movies, Cormac McCarthy has decided that he wants to get into the Hollywood spec script writing business himself. Normally I would say that this is a bad plan for the future, but this is Cormac McCarthy…who’s going to pass on buying one of his scripts? The fruits of his screenwriting labors so far are a completed screenplay titled The Counselor, a story about a respected lawyer who tries his hand at working in the narcotics trade (to what can only be assumed are disastrous results). As can be imagined, as soon as there was word that there was a script written by Cormac McCarthy in existence, it was immediately bought up in a big money deal. And coincidentally enough, it was The Road producers Nick Weschler and Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz that scooped it up. When talking about the purchase, Steve Schwartz told Deadline South Shields that, “The spec falls smack in the middle of what everyone responds to with Cormac’s novels…Since McCarthy himself wrote the script, we get his own muscular prose directly, with its sexual obsessions. It’s a masculine world into which, unusually, two women intrude to play leading roles. McCarthy’s wit and humor in the dialogue make the nightmare even scarier. This may be one of McCarthy’s most disturbing and powerful works.” Given such high praise and pedigree it also shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Counselor already […]

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