Thriller

review shadow dancer

Editor’s note: We’re re-running Scott’s review from last year’s Berlinale Film Festival as Shadow Dancer opens this weekend in limited theatrical release. The image of the bomb is an apt one for Shadow Dancer. As a hunk of parts with a timer, there’s nothing naturally threatening about a bomb; it’s the explosion that matters. Hitchcock was right, and in this IRA thriller from James Marsh, incendiary devices are all over the place. Some are literal, most are figurative, and Bomb Theory abounds. It opens with the shocking death of a young boy, surrounded by his family as blood pours from a bullet hole in his chest. It’s a direct insight into the fight the members of the IRA hold as sacrosanct and the guilt that the boy’s sister feels over sending him out into the streets on a simple errand. That sister, all grown up, is Collete McVeigh (achingly performed by Andrea Riseborough). After dropping off a suspicious bag in a tube station, she’s picked up by the authorities and taken to see Mac (Clive Owen) who dangles the promise of hard jail time in front of her until she turns reluctant informant for the MI5. The people she’s betraying forced her into a war, but they’re also her family.

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Jackpot Film Review

Oscar is having a bad day. When we first meet him, he’s lying underneath a massive woman clutching a shotgun at a strip club full of corpses. The police are obviously curious as to his connection with all this death and destruction. As Oscar sits in the interrogation room of the police station, he relays a bizarre tale of soccer betting winnings, of gangsters, and of murder. Is Oscar a liar, a killer, or just completely out of his mind? More and more, the collected nations of Scandinavia are proving to have an unparalleled mastery of the crime film. Whether it be a brutal descent into the depths of human ugliness like Sweden’s Millennium Trilogy or something intricately tense and darkly comedic like Norway’s Headhunters, it’s gotten to the point that the assemblage of the words Scandinavian and crime film are enough to heighten many a film geek’s excitement and expectation. Sharp as a concealed knife, and dripping with black comedy, Jackpot proudly takes it place beside the best of this budding new wave of rule-breaker cinema from the north of Europe.

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The Words 2012 Movie

In Limitless, Bradley Cooper played a struggling writer dealing with a creative block with a deadline staring him down from all angles. His special lady friend was searching for a last straw, and things were looking down until he cheated his way to literary success by taking a pill that made him super smart. In The Words, Bradley Cooper plays a struggling aspiring writer dealing with a creative block and stacked bills staring him down from all angles. His wife (Zoe Saldana) is searching for a last straw, and things are looking down until she buys him an old satchel, and he cheats his way to literary success by taking someone else’s old manuscript and claiming it’s his own work. There are obviously, most likely, a ton of differences between the two thrillers, but it’s funny to see Cooper digging into the failed writer mode again – especially since production on The Words started three months after the release of Limitless. Joking aside, it’s got a great cast with Olivia Wilde, J.K. Simmons and Jeremy Irons alongside those already mentioned, and if nothing else, Irons looks like a major reason to check this out. The man is menacing, and so is this trailer:

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Arbitrage Movie

The feature narrative directing debut of writer and documentarian Nicholas Jarecki features a flaming car, a businessman, and way too much money on the line to tell the truth. Arbitrage – starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, and Brit Marling – is the story of a car accident that threatens to derail the gravy train of a morally-questionable man facing a large merger. The trailer makes a huge impact. It’s incendiary and thrilling, hopefully marking the arrival of a stunning work of drama. Not too bad for a movie channeling a super sexy macro-economic pricing theory. Check it out for yourself:

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Rob Reiner

The creepiest picture of Rob Reiner of all time brought to you by the news that he’ll be taking a break from romantic comedies and non-romantic comedies to make You Belong to Me – the ominously-titled thriller from writer David Murray. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie focuses on a psychiatrist who shares his own life with his patients. According to Reiner, the story involves “a deep psychological bent to it and a big twist in the end that [he] didn’t see coming.” It’s easy to forget that Reiner was the director who made Misery in 1990. Under the fluffy pile of When Harry Met Sally and Princess Bride, he knocked out one of the best Stephen King adaptations on the books. The point? He’s got cold blood somewhere in him, and it’s more than a little exciting to see him return to the genre. Maybe he can convince Kathy Bates to cameo.

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Daniel Stamm‘s A Necessary Death is like a shot of whiskey that’s easy to pour but not easy to drink. His directorial debut (which won him the job for The Last Exorcism) follows a film student making a documentary about a man preparing for, and going through with, his suicide. It’s difficult territory to be certain, but it’s handled with grace, humor, and more than a few touching moments which make the horror of the inevitable and the twisting emotions growing in the film crew that much harder to handle. It’s an excellent movie, and Stamm joins us to delve deeper into its creation (and audience’s reactions). Download Episode #138

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? There are people that look like you out there in the world. As varied as we are, there are 7 billion of us, and more than a few are bound to have traits that line up eerily well. One example? When I was in college, I got a ton of emails one day congratulating me on being featured on College Humor and being praised for how much beer was involved. When I checked the site, I found a picture of me standing on a stack of 30 cases of beer. Only it wasn’t me. It was some random college dude who looked almost exactly like me. And loved beer. In Bryan Khorge and Marcus Niehaus‘s short, Robert (Niehaus) faces a far more dangerous version of that phenomenon. While the camera work isn’t anything to write home about, it’s a sharp idea executed well with some sinister (and often fun) results. Think of it as science fiction with only half fiction. Check out more of his work here. What will it cost? Only 10 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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J.J. Abrams

According to Variety, J.J. Abrams‘s Bad Robot and Paramount are working together to develop a spec script purchased from Matt Stuecken (associate producer on the soon-to-be-seen  G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and Josh Campbell. It’s a small budget, science fiction thriller, and there’s literally no more information than that. Most likely, per Abrams’s request. Finding a director could be a crucial element in discovering some excitement here beyond the basic idea of having Abrams produce something with both science and fiction involved. But there’s the larger question. Is Abrams’s name and his usual sense of mystery enough to get you interested in something he’s producing?

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Editor’s Note: This review originally ran as part of our Fantastic Fest coverage, but it hits select theaters this weekend, so it’s time to check it out once more. Headhunters has an instinct about it that’s cutthroat with a smile. It’s a comedy of errors with a gun pointed at its head, and it all works with an intensity that manages to be thrilling right up to the end. In the movie, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is in over his head (which he considers already too low to the ground) because he thinks his wife (Synnøve Macody Lund) needs the finer things in life. He’s a well-respected job placement rep, connecting the highest salaries to the biggest companies, but he has to supplement his lifestyle by stealing art. When he catches wind of a new client (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) with a criminal career-endingly expensive lost masterpiece, he jumps at the chance, but there are forces much larger at work which see him running from his life and fighting for his marriage.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? In an effort to make the everyday terrifying, director Victor Miralles has created a sparse view from underground in Metro. Who knew passing through the turnstiles could get so Kubrick-ian? It’s a subway designed by M.C. Escher’s evil twin. Quiet, disturbing and endless. What will it cost? Only  minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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According to Anne Thompson, Roadside Attractions picked up Jamie Bradshaw‘s sci-fi thriller Branded. The film is set in a future where corporate entities have created brands which make the entire population complacent, and one man fights against them to expose the truth. Hopefully the product placement will be as hilarious as it is ironic. “The most powerful weapon on earth today is not a gun or a disease, nor is it even visible to many,” says Bradshaw. “It is Marketing.  Marketing is the power to control your desires and change your mind, and if you look closer there is something about it that is not of this earth.” It stars Ed Stoppard (Brideshead Revisited), Leelee Sobieski and Jeffrey Tambor. It sounds like a fantastic, timely concept, and for the life of me I can’t figure it out, but I really want to eat a Doritos-shell Taco Bell taco right now. Maybe this finally make people realize what a sharp, satirical masterwork Josie and the Pussycats really was. Pink is the new cross-platform pass-along rate. Or something. Also, it’s important to note that this project has nothing to with the television show Branded (which was featured in The Big Lebowski). Regardless of all that nonsense, the movie should be headed to theaters this September.

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The legendary Cloris Leachman is a salty woman with brass buttons. Her latest conquest is the suspense thriller – working alongside, seriously, Tara Reid in The Fields. Kevin Carr sits down the Oscar winner to discuss what scares her, her work with Mel Brooks and why she owns a porn shop in an upcoming movie. Plus, Eric D. Snider and Rob Hunter go head to head Movie News Pop Quiz-style, and the discussion turns to spoiler sensitivity. Download Episode #130

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Remember a time before 1995 when movies were loaded with rainbows and puppies? Strawberry ice cream poured out of every frame. Then Se7en came along. Then things got really interesting. David Fincher‘s second effort at feature filmmaking caught a storm, and it was one filled with melancholic grime and depressing endings. Also there was something about a box and what was in it. The state of thrillers changed forever, and, while many copycats tried to pick up the scraps Se7en left in its wake, none would recapture that initial sense of dread when John Doe screamed at Detective David Mills, the killers hands covered in blood. Paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it? Well, with this week’s Commentary Commentary, we’re hoping the track we’ve selected paints a couple of dozen more. David Fincher, Brad Pitt, and Morgan Freeman lend their voices and insight into this commentary track for Se7en. If for no other reason, this track should already be looked into for including Freeman, who has one of the greatest voices this side of a certain Sith. So, without any further ado, here are all 25 items we learned from listening to the Se7en commentary. Now to find out what’s in that box.

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Why Watch? Compelling camera work, tension ringing the doorbell at all hours of the night, and a chilling reality make this a fun/terrifying little flick. Ben (Nils Althaus) and Nina (Nina Buhlmann) joyously return home from a night of drinking only to continue the hard Tequila-filled work in their apartment. After falling asleep, Ben keeps falling into nightmares and reality becomes hard to grasp. By the way, “halbschlaf” means “a light sleep” in German. Sweet dreams. What will it cost? Only 7 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films.

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The use of drones in military exercises is becoming a more and more popular topic of debate and discussion. It’s a glimpse into the possible future of war where avatars can do the recon and, to some extent, the fighting in place of human soldiers and airmen. FilmNation is keen to explore the issue with a thriller from Five Minutes of Heaven writer Guy Hibbert. Until recently, Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel was on deck for the project – titled Eye in the Sky – but The Playlist is reporting that with him out, visual dynamo Tarsem Singh is actively pursuing the gig. “It’s about a drone attack, and what it means to the people playing with their thumbs in Nevada, what it means to the people saying, ‘Go ahead and strike,’ what it means to other politicians at war in Europe, and what it means to the people on the ground where it happens [in East Africa]. There are people who become collateral damage around the globe in a lot of ways. It’s a really contemporary, emotional piece,” said Singh. The director also claimed he should know in about a week whether he got the job or not, which means you’ll know in about a week as well. At any rate, the giant film, featuring 62 acting roles would be a challenge for the director who is normally known for crafting effects and flat characters – not intricate thrillers with a ton of moving parts.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson have both signed to star in No Good Deed – with a script from Aimee Lagos (who wrote and directed the incredibly strong 96 Minutes). It’s a cool project with a high concept kidnapping plot where a former District Attorney invites a stranger having car trouble into her home. There’s your good deed right there. No doubt it won’t go unpunished. The best part of the news is that Elba’s Luther director Sam Miller will be making this his return to directing after a decade away from the feature film camera. His attempts of the late 90s were, not great, but his television work has been both extensive and impressive. Hopefully this will be a solid partnership and a great film – which is aiming for a Spring start. It’s a safe bet that Henson will star as the former DA, but it’s unclear whether Elba will be the stranded man or another main character. But really, does it matter? It’s Idris Elba. No matter where they stick him here, he’ll crush the role. And by “they,” I mean “he,” because he’ll be Executive Producing as well.

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Bryan Bertino crafted a fantastic home invasion flick with The Strangers. It was environmental and terrifying, but it also seemed fresh while playing off of old standbys in the genre. Now, he’ll be joining the handful of directors attempting to breathe life into Found Fauxtage. According to Shock Till You Drop, the writer/director has sold his script for Mockingbird to Universal. The film will focus on a couple that receives a package containing instructions that, if not followed, will yield some bloody results. Also in the package? A camera. Because you can’t have Found Fauxtage without one. It’s an interesting, game-like premise that absolutely has potential, but it’s just great to Bertino getting another project off the ground after the hellish development of The Strangers 2, which will probably not be made at this point. Interestingly, this announcement comes right around the same time that Universal dropped its Stretch Armstrong remake with Taylor Lautner slated to star. In a craven world of giant tentpoles, a movie based off a toy with built-in awareness and a Twilight star just got axed while an original script with a curious premise got picked up. Maybe the tide is turning after all. At least at Universal.

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Back in November, we reported that newly un-retired director Steven Soderbergh’s next film would be a thriller about the world of psychopharmacology called Bitter Pill. Following Soderbergh’s projects has been kind of a roller coaster ride lately though, so having faith that Bitter Pill was actually going to get made was kind of a…ahem, tough pill to swallow. But things are now looking a lot better on that front. While this is still the Scott Z. Burns script that Soderbergh intends to work on, the film has now been retitled Side Effects, a seemingly arbitrary change that at least points to the fact that active work is being done on development. And that’s not even the big news. The big news is that heiress Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is stepping up to fund the film, alongside Open Road Films, who will be handling the domestic distribution. That kind of makes this one a lot more official, and seeing as Open Road is hoping for a release in the first half of 2013, shooting is scheduled to start in April and the casting process should begin ASAP. I would imagine that Soderbergh is calling up Matt Damon and George Clooney as we speak. [THR]

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In the new thriller Faces in the Crowd, Milla Jovovich plays the only woman to see the face of a serial killer who is murdering his way through the city. Unfortunately, she suffers from face-blindness, meaning that her ability to recognize her boyfriend is suspect, not to mention her skill at finding a killer in an urban haystack. In this exclusive clip, Jovovich’s character hits the police department after being attacked on a bridge by the madman, only to be received by a gruff detective played by 150% of Julian McMahon and a frazzled assistant who can’t seem to adlib a solid exit line. What’s funny is that you can either watch the clip right here and now, or simply watch the scene as part of the entire film which is available right now on Netflix streaming. Or you can do both:

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On Halloween night, 1993 River Phoenix cut his own life and acting career short when he died of a drug overdose outside The Viper Room in West Hollywood. Before he died, he had made a strong mark on the movie world with performances in Stand By Me, My Own Private Idaho and an Oscar nomination for his role in Running On Empty. Phoenix appeared in three films that were released in 1993, but there was one left unfinished – a thriller called Dark Blood that dealt with the long-term effects of nuclear testing and saw Phoenix playing a hermit widower living out in the desert awaiting the end of the world. Eighteen years later, director George Sluizer (The Vanishing) is announcing that he plans on editing the film into a completed print and releasing it sometime in 2012. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sluizer plans on requesting that Joaquin Phoenix do some voice over work as a stand in for his late brother. It will be wonderful to see River Phoenix on screen again, but beyond the curiosity here, the film doesn’t sound particularly remarkable. Sluizer had an uneven career, and the script for Dark Blood was written by Jim Barton – who has 5 lesser works to his name. However, the film co-stars Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis, and there’s always the chance that Sluizer can create something as electric as The Vanishing once again.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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