Willem Dafoe

MGM

William Friedkin‘s 1977 classic Sorcerer finally hit Blu-ray last week, and it marked my first viewing of the film. Before you give me grief, know that I had seen and loved The Wages of Fear, and I was just holding out on watching the remake until it came in a Friedkin-approved version. It should surprise no one that I found Sorcerer to be as fantastic as the original, but my favorite Friedkin film remains unchanged. Not only did To Live and Die in L.A. introduce the world in 1985 to the bow-legged joy that is William Petersen, but it’s also a remarkably successful mix of dark sensibilities, characters with depth and honest excitement. It’s an intelligent thriller that makes no guarantees as to the morality or life expectancy of its characters, and its pacing and energy help make it eminently re-watchable. The DVD includes a handful of extra features (never ported over to the Blu-ray for some reason) including an alternate ending, a deleted scene, a making-of featurette and a commentary track from the director. He has an interesting approach to recording one, but he’s a fascinating speaker all the same. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

As proven by all of his previous films, Wes Anderson understands comedy, drama, music, writing, and structure. He’s been lauded as having an original voice for comedy and drama, but one thing he doesn’t get enough credit for? His action chops. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and his newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, all have their share of action, and each one of their set pieces are wonderful. They came in small doses usually, but The Grand Budapest Hotel is a full on action thriller, completely done with Anderson’s sensibilities. And an action movie from Wes Anderson is as delightful, and as busy, as it sounds. The film jumps around a few different moments in time, but it’s mainly set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka during the 1920s. Zubrowka is the home of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a lavish establishment visited by old ladies who come solely for Monsieur Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) companionship. Gustave is the smoothest hotel concierge in all of Europe, and it’s easy to see why: he’s charming, he treats his clientele with the utmost respect, and, at least in some cases, he genuinely loves his guests. One of his most beloved is Madame D., a woman in her 80s who’s at her liveliest when she’s with Gustave. Soon after her visit she’s murdered, and Gustave is the #1 suspect in the case. Chased by Madame D’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), his ruthless sidekick Jopling (Willem Dafoe), and fascists led by a typecast Edward Norton, Gustave is forced […]

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Anton Yelchin in ODD THOMAS

If Edgar Wright had sex with an episode of Gilmore Girls and the happy couple gave birth to a child who was repeatedly dropped on its head during its formative years, that offspring just might grow up to become the new Stephen Sommers film, Odd Thomas. Please, allow me to explain. Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a fry cook in the small Southwestern town of Pico Mundo, but while he likes to keep his life simple and free of clutter like motor vehicles, 401k accounts, and premarital sex, he actually has a fairly complicated secret. He sees dead people. That should be enough for any man, but on occasion Odd also sees fibrous phantoms he calls bodachs that appear in anticipation of pain, suffering, and bloodletting. He starts seeing swarms of them around town, and soon Odd’s investigating a stranger he fears may be planning a devastating attack on his friends and neighbors.

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Odd Thomas

The life of a man named Odd Thomas is bound to be anything but normal. Anton Yelchin, as the titular odd man, is just an average everyday diner cook who can seemingly see otherworldly creatures and conjure up gateways to hell. His paranormal powers get him, along with his trusty gal pal Stormy (Addison Timlin) mixed up in some spooky business in their quiet southwestern town — where apparently every surface is just crawling with ghosts and ghoulies. Based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name, the supernatural comedy-action-thriller (supromedacthriller?) has been in the works for quite some time, but was delayed indefinitely in July 2013. The film is back for a February release in full force, meaning the clock is ticking to get a trailer up and out. While nearly anything featuring both Willem Dafoe and murderous ghost-demons interacting in the same vicinity usually gets a must-see stamp, based on the (fairly hefty at 2:27) trailer, this one might be getting a pass.

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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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DF-08470.CR2

Willem Dafoe is a chameleon, and everyone knows it. He’s ruled as Emperor to the Green Martian Tharks, done a painfully human portrait of Jesus, terrorized Spider-Man, eaten a bird as Max Schreck, and, of course, convincingly played a Huey Lewis and the News fan. Yet, that handful of roles doesn’t even begin to cover half of the shapeshifting Dafoe has done over his career. He can carry a picture, light some sparks with only a few minutes of screen time, or, in the case of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, have his voice do all the work. In Out of the Furnace he plays John Petty, a low-rent gangster Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck) does underground fights for. All of Dafoe’s scenes either involve Affleck, Christian Bale, or Woody Harrelson. Working opposite of those three isn’t exactly a bad day’s work. Dafoe has acted with some of the best (including himself in Spider-Man) and the topic of what makes a compatible scene partner came up when I spoke with him recently.

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As depressing as it may be, dogs are often the first casualties of a movie trying to drum up a little emotional involvement. As a dog lover (and as someone who conveniently gets dust in my eyes every single time a dog buys it in a film), I’d prefer one joint contract, signed by the entire film industry, making all pooches, past and present, fictional and non-fictional, off limits. It’ll never happen. Proof of this comes from John Wick (and from common sense), an upcoming thriller that, according to Deadline Hollywood, just cast Willem Dafoe in one of its leading roles. Dafoe will play Marcus opposite Keanu Reeves’ eponymous character, both hit men forced to combat each other due to circumstances that all began with dog death. Reeves’ dog is murdered. Reeves murders dog murderer. The dog murderer (as is usually the case in crime thrillers) turns out to be the son of a seriously well-connected mobster, who sends Dafoe after Reeves. But of course, the two men are close friends, leading to the kind of conflicts that normally crop up when one friend is paid a handsome sum to shoot the other in the face.

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Tomorrow You

Apparently, today is Random Movies You Didn’t Know Existed That Star Michelle Monaghan Day in Trailerville so, on the heels of the diamond-encrusted trailer for Penthouse North, here comes a sweat-soaked look at Tomorrow You’re Gone. Did you think that Penthouse North looked forumalic? Oh, get ready for Tomorrow You’re Gone. Also starring Willem Dafoe and Stephen Dorff because, hey, they need jobs, too, the film is a “one last job” thriller (the trailer actually uses the “one last job” term in splashy text, so two points for honesty) that pits recent parolee Dorff against string-puller Dafoe. Dorff’s attempts to go straight and keep his new lady (Monaghan) safe go awry when Dafoe calls in return on a debt. You know the rest. Check out today’s other random Michelle Monaghan trailer after the break.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s been out of work since casting agents seem to be treating the week between Christmas and New Years as one prolonged food coma. If there’s one thing that Jurassic Park taught us, it’s that nature finds a way. Well, casting finds a way too. In a week where there isn’t any news getting leaked to the trades, leave it to Albuquerque Business First to break a new scoop. The eagle eyes over at The Film Stage noticed that, in an article about how that Michael Fassbender-starring rock and roll comedy called Frank is coming to town to shoot, the local source managed to break the news that Maggie Gyllenhaal is coming to town with it. Her involvement in the film sees her joining a cast that includes not just Fassbender, but two of the young MVPs of 2012, Domhnall Gleeson and Scoot McNairy, as well. Which, you know, makes her one of the luckiest ladies in the world.

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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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Johnny Depp to Start in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Notoriously meticulous director Wes Anderson seems to be speeding up his usual development process – which generally produces a new film every three years – and putting together the pieces for his next project. Hot on the heels of his successful, pubescent kids dancing in their underwear movie, Moonrise Kingdom, comes The Grand Budapest Hotel, an Anderson-penned script that is said to feature an ensemble cast, but is a mystery as far as character breakdowns or synopsis are concerned. News of the new Anderson project broke a little over a week ago, when Twitch reported they’d heard the director had begun casting on a new film, and that he was in various stages of negotiations with Johnny Depp, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and Angela Lansbury. A list of names that talented and notable may sound like wishful thinking, but a report from Deadline Clute now confirms that at least some of it is true. Not only did they get their hands on the title of the film, but they’re also reporting that Depp has been wrapped up and is officially set to star.

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Drinking Games

Today, Columbia Pictures is releasing the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. In case you don’t want to spend $15 to $20 to see this movie in IMAX 3D, you could always rent the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man and watch it. Heck, the first hour of these films is virtually identical anyway. Ten years ago, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man broke box office records on its opening weekend, on the way to be one of the few movies to gross more than $400m in the United States. We’ll see if Andrew Garfield and Mark Webb can do that with their new movie. But in the meantime, have a few drinks with the older movie and see how it holds up.

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Willem Dafoe delivers a quiet performance in The Hunter, Daniel Nettheim‘s observant character-driven feature debut. It’s a character which relies purely on movement, expression, and action – all internal. The protagonist, Martin, a.k.a. The Hunter, is a man skilled in violence, and that’s about as much as you can say for him for most of the film’s running time. As you would’ve predicted, the character grows in a way of showing warmth and humanity, but, as Dafoe explains, not in a sentimental way. Martin is the type of character who feels at home in the woods wielding a rifle, rather than watching after a pair of children. Do not expect this to be the story of a cold man who in actuality has a big heart of a gold they’re ready to unleash, because it’s far from it. Here’s what actor Willem Dafoe had to say about Martin, directors with intense passion, and Bobby Peru, the ultimate force of nature:

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Editor’s Note: This review first ran as part of our SXSW coverage on March 11, but The Hunter is hitting limited theaters this week. The Hunter is a film of surprising scope and intimacy. On the outside, it’s a basic “dangerous hunting” tale, but on the inside, it’s a story of a man, said hunter (Willem Dafoe), connecting with people on an emotional level for what might be the first time in his life. That reeks of hokiness, but with with an assured directorial hand, most of the drama is calm and collected. A lot of that stems from Dafoe, giving the sort of high caliber performance we’ve grown to expect from him. Martin David is a hunter of the illegal sort, and he’s given quite the challenge: get a sample from a Tasmanian tiger. Not an easy task. When we’re introduced to Martin, he’s shown in isolation, completely out of place in a snazzy hotel room. After his hunting services are acquired by a biotech company, Martin heads down to an unfriendly Australian town to seek out the tiger. He stays at a broken family’s home, where he ends up having to look after and connect with two children whose father may or may not be dead. You see the cold Martin get humanized by the children, as expected – and it’s affective, due to Dafoe.

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Last month was eclectic. We got Disney‘s like-it-or-hate-it box-office bomb, a sweet and violent comedy following the goons of hockey, one ass-kicking and nonstop action picture, an 80s TV show adaptation that was better than it originally had any right to be, and a Tarsem kids’ film that defied most expectations based on that horror story of a trailer. A pretty strong March, and that’s not even counting The Hunger Games. Before we head into the unpredictable summer movie season, we got 30 days filled with a plenty of excellent and probably not-so-excellent releases coming out. Here are 8 1/2 movies worth seeing this month.

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John Carter

This weekend presents you with the opportunity to do many things. If you’re in the Central Texas area, you’re probably hitting up SXSW 2012 alongside the intrepid staff at Film School Rejects and many other fine publications. But if you’re note falling down drunk on the streets of Austin, trying to punch-kick everyone following a screening of The Raid, you may want to escape to another wild wonderland: Mars. Beginning today, Disney is releasing John Carter into theaters. Based on the century-old book “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Carter follows a Civil War veteran who is transported magically to Earth’s red neighbor, where unknowable danger, a classic hero journey and the love of a gorgeous, tough princess await him. Also, he encounters 9-foot tall, four-armed green aliens who sound like Willem Dafoe, vengeful war mongers played by the likes of Dominic West and a CGI-enhanced landscape created by a team led by Pixar alum Andrew Stanton. All-in-all, it’s quite a ride. And to give you an idea of why you should just ignore the poor early buzz and simply enjoy the ride, we’ve compile a list of 7 Very Good Reasons to See John Carter This Weekend. Join us on this magical journey…

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Willem Dafoe on John Carter

John Carter hits theaters today. And whether you’re buying into the hype that it’s a big-budget film that is destined to fail or you’re listening to the great number of film critics — including our own Robert Levin — who are saying that despite its faults, it’s the first legitimate event film of the year, it’s still going to be hitting theaters. For those seeking more information before a decision is made, we’ve got you covered. Over the next several days we’ll be rolling out conversations with John Carter‘s creative team, including the likes of director Andrew Stanton, producers Lindsey Collins and John Morris, as well as some of the film’s stars. We begin today with an intimate chat held with veteran actor Willem Dafoe, who plays Tars Tarkas, the leader of a Martian species of 9-foot tall, four-armed green aliens who live in the harsh deserts of Earth’s red neighbor. Over the course of our chat, we talk about being a veteran actor who can still perform in physically demanding roles, Andrew Stanton’s directing style and what Dafoe has to say about performance capture and its place in awards season.

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John Carter Mondo Poster

John Carter arrives in theaters today consumed by terrible buzz and reduced expectations, with prognosticators of all stripes predicting a monumental flop for Disney. It’s a 3D, $250m affair that’s tracking worse than the second weekend of The Lorax, they say, and it’s a ridiculously expensive gamble for a first-time live-action director (Andrew Stanton, of Finding Nemo and WALL-E fame). In the press, the narrative has been written: You don’t want to see this movie. And that’s a shame, because it’s actually quite good. It’s sad that we’ve reached a cultural place where a bold, imaginative science-fiction effort like this, a film with beautiful imagery and a well-founded allegiance to gloriously pulpy source material, is so easily dismissed. Not to get all Armond White here, but the contemptible gleeful scorn being heaped on the film by Nikki Finke and others just reemphasizes how little so many people who write about movies actually care about movies. If they gave a damn about, you know, art, they’d have to acknowledge that at the very least this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s century-old novel “A Princess of Mars” harkens back to the grand mid-century Disney tradition of films like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which took great pleasure in immersive production design. You could take or leave the plot, though I’d mostly take it, but there’s no disputing the fact that Stanton has rendered Mars as a complete universe unto itself, full of zooming spaceships and cluttered, towering cities, a weird and altogether […]

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Director Andrew Stanton, being somewhat of the miracle worker that he is, has managed to capture the strengths of the original Star Wars trilogy while avoiding much of what was wrong with the prequels with his John Carter. This Disney epic provides for all of a boy’s basic needs, wants, and desires that Lucas’s prequels didn’t deliver upon. Stanton knows their sweet spot – and yes, I know how creepy that reads – by hitting all the major checkpoints required for them: beefy hero, beautiful love interest, sweet weaponry, non-pandering comic relief, big aliens, and exciting flying things that could not look more like the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi. How do these amazing devices work, you ask? They just do. Stanton treats the more fantastical aspects of John Carter like George Lucas did, “It’s just there, and who cares how it works or how it got made?” Overall, John Carter bears both many connections and thankful distances to the Star Wars series. Just how Luke Skywalker saw the vast universe Lucas created, there’s not one scene of Carter condescending to the mechanics or bizarro nature of the world – Mars, which they call “Barsoom” – he’s thrown into and never saying something along the lines of, “Isn’t this costume goofy, guys? (*wink* *wink*).” When things get silly, Stanton and his cast always play it straight-faced and with nothing but respect, like the original Star Wars films did. Carter doesn’t question the idea of huge white apes, he […]

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Do you have some interest in seeing more from Disney’s upcoming sci-fi adventure John Carter? Chances are that you do, as many of you are probably the types who are (a) familiar with the century-old source material or (b) just into that kind of thing in general. Based on this epic image gallery — 116 stills in all — we can see that Pixar alum Andrew Stanton’s first foray into the world of live-action (sort of) is heavy on spectacle. It’s a big story told over the massive landscape of Earth’s closest neighbor. Sexy martian princesses? Check. All-out war between alien races? Check. Giant white wolf ape motherf&*kers? Boom, you’ve got that, too. Forget whatever preconceived notions you have based on the trailers and check out the slick gallery of images that we’ve left for you after the jump.

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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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published: 11.19.2014
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