Thrillers

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The lethargy inherent in being in between two of the biggest holidays of the year has made this week kind of a dead zone for movie news, but a couple of studios have still been throwing us bones by delivering extended previews of what they’ve got coming up in the next year. Just yesterday we were treated to the first four minutes of zombie comedy Warm Bodies, and today Warner Bros. is upping the ante by bringing us the first six minutes of their upcoming Maniac remake. Six minutes! That’s two more than yesterday. At this rate, tomorrow we may get to see the first eight minutes of something. And then, eventually, entire movies will get released without us having to pay for them at all. What a world.

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Trance

With the release of his Best Picture winner, Slumdog Millionaire, in 2008 and his critically acclaimed follow-up to that film, 127 Hours, in 2010, Danny Boyle appeared to be a director whose career had finally broken through to the next level. He had always made cult films that were popular among certain niche segments of the filmgoing audience, but now he was a mainstream brand, the sort of director whose name and credits could sell future products. The only problem is, we’re creeping up on 2013 and we still haven’t seen any new projects from him. That isn’t for lack of effort on Boyle’s part, though. He’s actually had another movie filmed since back in 2011. And not just any other film, a really cool-sounding throwback to his gritty crime origins called Trance that features work from actors as talented as James McAvoy, Vincent Cassell, and Rosario Dawson. The reason we’ve yet to see this film is because Boyle spent so much time directing that big, dumb Olympics opening ceremony, then did some work on the stage, that it’s only been recently that he’s been able to go back and cut together all of the footage he shot for Trance.

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Black Rock Trailer

As if relations between the sexes weren’t strained enough already, along comes Black Rock, a new thriller from writer Mark Duplass (from everything) and director Katie Aselton (The Freebie) that looks like it’s going to fan the flames further, ensuring that we get at least another year of clueless nincompoops publicly declaring their unsettling opinions about rape. The basic story follows three ladies (Aselton, Lake Bell, and Kate Bosworth) who trek out to an isolated island where they used to have camping trips when they were young; you know, to rekindle lost youth or something. When they’re out there though, the island proves to not be as isolated as they thought. They happen upon a group of three very male hunters (Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson, and Anslem Richardson), one of the ladies gets a little frisky with a bearded gentleman around the campfire, and then he gets way handsy and his buddies suddenly turn super-psychotic. While it doesn’t seem like this story ever reaches Straw Dogs or I Spit on Your Grave levels of grossness, things then degenerate into a battle of survival between the sexes that seems to have more than a little bit of that revenge movie/backwoods horror vibe crossed with a smidge of the Surviving the Game/Hunger Games man-being-hunted trope.

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Broken City Trailer

There are two kinds of dangerous men in the world: those that have been treated like they’re important for so long that they start to feel like the rules don’t apply to them, and those that have been beat down for so long that they stop caring about the consequences. In Allen Hughes’ (of The Hughes Brothers fame) new film Broken City, Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg are called upon to play one of each. Crowe’s character is a well-manicured but corrupt big city mayor who does what it takes to get what he wants. Wahlberg’s is a scruffy, down-on-his-luck ex-cop turned private dick. The intrigue of the film comes when Crowe’s character hires Wahlberg’s to tail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and get some evidence that she’s been cheating. Once he does, that’s when the murders, cover-ups, and dirty pool starts happening. Suddenly Wahlberg is sucked into a downward spiral of noir badness, and Broken City becomes a battle of brains vs. brawn between its two stars.

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Tom Wilkinson

Not only is Joel Edgerton a burgeoning star who looks like he’s on the brink of big things in the acting world, he’s also a creative type who’s been writing scripts and directing shorts for a while. So it should come as no surprise that the upcoming thriller, Felony, has his name on its credits as both the writer and the star. As we learned back in May, Felony is being directed by Matthew Saville (Noise) and will star Edgerton as a generally good officer of the law who makes a big mistake followed by a big moral compromise when his driving home drunk leads to an accident and then his lying about it. As it does in most thrillers, one decision bereft of morality inevitably leads to a downward spiral of very bad things. Seeing as the film is set to go in front of cameras in late October, the time to fill out the rest of the cast is nigh, and Saville has got himself off to a great start by bringing the experienced and exceptional Tom Wilkinson into the fold. Wilkinson, of course, is a veteran name who’s been working regularly since the early ’80s, but most recently you’ve seen him in joints like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Conspirator, and The Ghost Writer. Here he’ll be playing the role of Detective Carl Summer, the police investigator who arrives on the scene following the Edgerton character’s accident.

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Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt

Stephen Gaghan isn’t exactly a household name, but he’s a creative type whose work you’re likely familiar with. Not only does he have a hefty screenwriting résumé that includes titles like Rules of Engagement and Traffic, but he was also the writer/director of the George Clooney vehicle, Syriana. Why is this all important? Because The Wrap has news about what his next project is going to be, and it sounds pretty interesting. The film, which is being produced through Lionsgate, is called Candy Shop, and it’s said to be something of a crime thriller. The story’s protagonist is a deep cover operative dedicated to fighting an evil global organization who ends up losing everything and having to give up the life. Retirement doesn’t prove to come too easy though, because soon after he disappears into Brooklyn to live out the rest of his days as a fairly anonymous beat cop, he finds that the exact same organization he was dedicated to bringing down is operating right in his new neighborhood. If that doesn’t sound exciting enough, get a load of the actors that Gaghan is already courting to join his cast…

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Carey Mulligan

Though Carey Mulligan is an actress who’s shown quite a big of range in her young career, she’s generally always been cast as the nice girl, the one who’s going to end up being a victim. She was the naive girl who got her feelings trampled in An Education, the bright student who would never get to achieve her dreams in Never Let Me Go, and the struggling single mother in Drive – all roles that made her easily relatable to the audience, but which didn’t allow her to explore her dark side. Well, according to a report from THR, that’s about to change. Apparently Mulligan has been pursuing the lead role in a darkly comedic thriller called Nancy and Danny, and her pursuits have been effective enough that she’s now in negotiations to take the part. The movie is about a scheming woman who comes back to her hometown after her plans to make it in the big city fail. Once back, she wastes no time scheming to land a high school crush, using people as pawns, and involving herself in get rich quick schemes that go terribly wrong. The film sounds like a less cynical and more sinister version of Young Adult, and has been described as being similar in tone as Gus Van Sant’s To Die For.

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The Letter Trailer

Ever think that Winona Ryder always looks like she’s creeped out about something? Ever think that James Franco always looks kind of creepy? Then The Letter is the movie for you. Because, from the looks of its new trailer, it seems like that’s pretty much the only thing the movie is about. Sure, there’s some talk about bad dreams, and some talk about poisoning people, but what’s definitely clear is that Ryder spends 90% of the movie either looking creeped out or screaming, and Franco spends 100% of the movie staring at people like a total weirdo (or doing unseen things to their nether regions while staring like a total weirdo). Given the vague nature of the advertising, I guess we need to turn to Lionsgate’s official synopsis  for the film to discern what it’s really about. According to their blurb, “Martine Jamison (Winona Ryder) is a NY theatre director beginning rehearsals for a new play starring her boyfriend Raymond (Josh Hamilton) opposite a young beauty. They are joined by an unknown newcomer, Tyrone (James Franco), who develops a peculiar fascination with Martine and is openly hostile to all others. As rehearsals continue, Martine has periods of disorientation that quickly deteriorate into vivid hallucinations as she becomes convinced someone is trying to poison her. As Martine’s mental state devolves she begins to rewrite her play… and art and life become inseparable.”

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With his last film, Rubber, French director Quentin Dupieux proved that he could make a movie that has an inanimate object serving as its main character and have it not only refrain from being completely ridiculous, but actually turn out kind of moody and interesting. His tale of a serial-killing tire wasn’t exactly high art, but it wasn’t the sort of non-self-aware schlock that you might expect from a film with such a ludicrous plot description either. So it’s interesting to see that his new project, Wrong, takes a completely mundane plot and seems to inject it with more craziness than you could shake a stick at. On its surface, Wrong is the story of a man (Jack Plotnick) who loses and then goes on a quest to recover his dog. But, if the film’s new trailer is any indication, said quest doesn’t go at all how he imagined it would. What results is a mind-bending mixture of comedy and thriller that doesn’t seem like it should work on the page, but which looks interesting enough that you have to hope Dupieux has what it takes to pull it off.

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The advertising for The Loneliest Planet seems to be selling it on the fact that, while you’re watching it, you’ll have no idea what’s going to happen next. If this is the strategy, then so far they’ve succeeded, because even after watching the trailer, it’s still not all that clear what this movie is about. Two young lovers (Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) are on a backpacking journey together. At first everything seems to be going great – there are images of people kissing in the soft glow of natural light, parading around in their panties, and frolicking together in the glorious majesty of nature; nice stuff – but then things take a turn for the worse. Suddenly there’s creepy whispering in the dark, people frolicking around in their panties, and a horrible, repetitious hacking noise playing in the background. What’s the source of the change in tone? That’s where the trailer plays coy. The promise it provides is that even a small incident, something that takes just a second or two to happen, could completely change our lives and alienate us from the people we love. Which, the suggestion seems to be, would inevitably lead to our lives being full of dread, horror movie imagery, and creepy things happening in the dark (but still plenty of girls in panties).

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The Woman in the Fifth

The basic premise of The Woman in the Fifth is that Ethan Hawke is playing an American writer who moves to Paris and strikes up a romance with a mysterious widow played by Kristin Scott Thomas. After hearing this you probably immediately get visions of the two actors sipping espressos at street side cafes, browsing for books at kiosks set up along the Seine, you know… doing Parisy-type stuff. But The Woman in the Fifth isn’t that sort of movie at all. It’s much darker, and more disturbing. How do I know? Because in the film’s new trailer there’s all sorts of spooky music and Ethan Hawke is talking in Christian Bale’s Batman voice. That’s how.

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Killer Joe

William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist, Bug) latest thriller, Killer Joe, looks gritty, greasy, and gross, the sort of crime movie that makes you feel like you have to take a shower after you watch it. It’s full of bad people making evil decisions; which, according to noir morality, is going to spell certain (and likely bloody) doom for everyone involved. Sometimes watching a movie like that can be a masochistic experience, but when the film in question stars names like Thomas Haden Church, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, an adorable-while-spinning Juno Temple, and a seemingly motivated Matthew McConaughey, more likely than not the experience is going to be fascinating. Killer Joe’s new trailer has violence, matricide, deep shadows, rain storms, Southern accents, dilapidated pool halls, people putting their sister up as collateral, and I think someone gets killed with a can of pumpkin pie filling. It looks moody, and dangerous, and it warns us that the film has an NC-17 rating.

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Have you ever thought that the horrors and anxieties of childhood piano recitals have just never been appropriately captured on film? Ever thought that Speed would have been better if Keanu Reeves had to keep playing “Chopsticks” rather than keep driving a bus? Then Grand Piano is definitely the movie for you. Written by The Last Exorcism 2 scribe Damien Chazelle and to be helmed by Spanish director Eugenio Mira, Grand Piano tells the tale of a formerly famous concert pianist who hasn’t performed in front of people for five years due to crippling stage fright. When he finally does work up the nerve to perform in front of people again, he sits down to his piano to find that a note has been left on his music sheet by a vile terrorist. You see, if he doesn’t play the most perfect concert that he’s ever played in his life, both he and his wife will be killed!

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French actress Isabelle Huppert has been a force in the film world for quite a while now, winning Best Actress awards at Cannes for her work in Violette and The Piano Teacher, and a César for her role in La Cérémonie. Though she’s really only appeared in I Heart Huckabees and episodes of Law & Order: SVU in English-speaking roles (as far as I know?), she’s been a top international actress long enough that most everyone interested in acting and such Stateside should have an idea of who she is. Niels Arden Oplev hasn’t been around the scene for quite as long, but after he took the world by storm directing the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, he solidified his place on the list of filmmakers that everyone is keeping their eyeballs on. His success launching that franchise has led to his latest project, Dead Man Down, signing mainstream names like Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, and Dominic Cooper to its cast. Though shooting on the film started last week in Philadelphia, apparently we’re not at the end of the good news when it comes to its cast.

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Perfectionist. Demanding. Hard to work with. David Fincher is a man who hates his own brand but is secure in his own reputation. Of course, it’s a little bit easy when that reputation includes stunning movies and a mind that can operate at an auteur speed in the high-occupancy Hollywood studio lane. He’s a (mostly) accessibly genius, which is rare and which means that we as fans and filmmakers can learn a lot from him. Fortunately, he’s as free with his advice as he is with his nightmarish visions. Here’s a bit of free film school from a living legend.

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Back in 2010, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés got the attention of U.S. audiences by putting Ryan Reynolds in a box for Buried. Now he’s back with an ensemble number that looks at the world of celebrity psychics. The first trailer for Red Lights doesn’t let us in on the secret of whether psychic powers really exist in its world or not, but it raises the question. And what it does reveal to us along the way is that it has an impressive cast that makes it look more than worth checking out. If you want to know more about the film, you can also check out Kate’s review from Sundance – or just check out the trailer below.

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Mark Wahlberg

The list of top name actors who have made their bones starring in adaptations of John Grisham thrillers is long and mighty. Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Matt Damon, even Sir Matthew MaConaughey; they’ve all seen gigantic career bumps after playing a lawyer or something like it in a work that started off as a taut, thrilling book Grisham wrote about lawyers doing lawyery things. Once upon a time movies like The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and A Time to Kill were guaranteed hits at the box office, and their paperback counterparts were ubiquitous in airport lounges.

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McG

McG’s latest film, the spy thriller/romantic comedy This Means War, just hit theaters this week, and, so far, I haven’t really talked to anybody who likes it. That’s pretty par for course at this point though, because it’s rare that I talk to anyone who likes any of McG’s movies. Despite that fact, the guy must be making somebody somewhere some money, because he keeps on getting new jobs. Speaking of which, McG recently talked to The Playlist about what he’s going to be doing next. First off, he described his new project, Puzzle Palace, as a “thriller” that is “tonally similar to Die Hard,” and then went on to give a more lengthy plot synopsis by adding that the film is about, “A kid who has to clear his father’s name by breaking into One Police Plaza in New York, which is the most secure building imaginable in a post-9/11 world. It’s a smaller picture, it’s designed for a [Ryan] Gosling [type actor]. It’s not as small and antithetical as Drive, but it’s not a big giant over-the-top action picture, it’s meant to be a fun, intelligent action character study.” If it manages to be either fun or intelligent, then it will be a huge break from the stupid, visually frustrating things that McG’s done so far; so I’m excited to hear him say that he’s planning on branching out.

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When I first heard about Sebastián Silva’s next movie, Magic, Magic, I had yet to see any of the director’s work, but I was excited at the cast he had assembled, because it was made up mostly of hot young actresses. Since then, some of that has changed. If you’re not yet familiar with Silva, go check out his 2009 film The Maid. It’s a movie that managed to be tense and dramatic just by telling the story of an aging maid worried about losing her position in a prominent Chilean household because of the presence of a new, young au pair. In my opinion, it proved the man to have a sure hand behind the camera, and it put him firmly on the list of directors to watch. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s start getting excited for his new (and apparently newly untitled) thriller that stars some more familiar Hollywood names like Michael Cera, Juno Temple, Emily Browning, and Maria Full of Grace’s Catalina Sandino Moreno.

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Once upon a time, Michael Mann was on my list of directors whose work I always anticipate. His status in my eyes has been diminished a bit over the course of the last decade, but every once in a while he still comes out with an interesting project, like 2004’s Collateral, so rumblings of Mann directing a new movie are always newsworthy to me. Especially since he’s only been doing about one every three years recently. With that in mind, Deadline Lake Forest has some news today that made my ears perk up a bit. Apparently Mann is currently negotiating to direct a spec script called The Big Stone Grid. It’s a police thriller by S. Craig Zahler that’s said to be in the same vein as Se7en and Marathon Man, and that tells the story of two detectives who uncover an extortion ring operating in New York City.

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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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