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The Neon Demon Trailer


The Neon Demon follows the journey of its protagonist Jesse (Elle Fanning) when she makes the move to Los Angeles as an aspiring model. Jesse is a young female that has been recruited by a fashion designer, as the typical girl from a small town with big dreams who wants to make it big in the modelling industry. However Jesse is not your typical model as she is described as a dangerous girl in the sense that the narrative soon takes a sinister turn. 

Continue: The Neon Demon Trailer

Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson - Shots of a host of stars as they arrived to the Opening night of The Heidi Chronicles which was held at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, New York, United States - Thursday 19th March 2015

Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson
Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson

Alessandro Nivola - A variety of stars were photographed as they arrived for The New Group 20th Anniversary Gala which was held at the Tribeca Rooftop in New York City, New York, United States - Monday 9th March 2015

Alessandro Nivola

Alessandro Nivola - A variety of stars were photographed as they arrived at the 2015 Roundabout Theatre Company Spring Gala which was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York, United States - Monday 2nd March 2015

Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola

Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer - The 87th Annual Oscars - Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Beverly Hills City Hall - Arrivals at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Oscars - Beverly Hills, California, United States - Sunday 22nd February 2015

Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer
Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer

Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer - A host of stars were photographed as they attended the Vanity Fair Oscar Party which was held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Beverly Hills City Hall in Los Angeles, California, United States - Monday 23rd February 2015

Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer
Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer
Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer

Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer - A host of stars were photographed as they attended the Vanity Fair Oscar Party which was held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Beverly Hills City Hall in Los Angeles, California, United States - Sunday 22nd February 2015

Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola

Alessandro Nivola - Shots of a variety of stars as they took the the red carpet for the premiere of the movie drama 'Selma' which was held at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York, United States - Sunday 14th December 2014

Alessandro Nivola

Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola - Opening night after party for The Elephant Man held at Gotham Hall - Arrivals. at Gotham Hall,, Gotham Hall - New York, New York, United States - Monday 8th December 2014

Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola
Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper

Christopher Bannow, Amanda Lea Mason, Marguerite Stimpson, Scott Lowell, Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper and Alessandro Nivola - The first preview curtain call for Bradley Cooper in Broadway's The Elephant Man at the Booth Theatre. - New York, New York, United States - Saturday 8th November 2014

Christopher Bannow, Amanda Lea Mason, Marguerite Stimpson, Scott Lowell, Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper and Alessandro Nivola
Christopher Bannow, Amanda Lea Mason, Marguerite Stimpson, Scott Lowell, Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Heald and Bradley Cooper
Christopher Bannow, Amanda Lea Mason, Marguerite Stimpson, Scott Lowell, Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Alessandro Nivola, Kathryn Meisle and Henry Stram
Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola
Christopher Bannow, Amanda Lea Mason, Marguerite Stimpson, Scott Lowell, Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola
Scott Lowell, Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola

Patricia Clarkson, Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Cast - Stars of Broadway's new show 'The Elephant Man' attended a photocall which was held at Sardi's restaurant in New York City, New York, United States - Tuesday 21st October 2014

Patricia Clarkson, Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Cast
Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola
Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson

Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola - The 66th Annual Writer's Guild Awards, held at the Edison Ballroom - Arrivals. - New York, New York, United States - Sunday 2nd February 2014

Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola
Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola
Emily Mortimer
Emily Mortimer
Emily Mortimer
Emily Mortimer

Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Alessandro Nivola and Paul Herman - The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 18th January 2014

Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Alessandro Nivola and Paul Herman
Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Alessandro Nivola and Paul Herman
Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Alessandro Nivola and Paul Herman

Amy Adams, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena, Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Röhm, Jeremy Renner and Robert De Niro - The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium - Press Room - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 18th January 2014

Amy Adams, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena, Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Röhm, Jeremy Renner and Robert De Niro
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams
Colleen Camp, Alessandro Nivola, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Pena, Elisabeth Röhm, Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams

Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Michael Pena - California - West Hollywood, California, United States - Saturday 18th January 2014

Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Michael Pena
Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Michael Pena
Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Michael Pena
Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Michael Pena, Paul Herman and Robert De Niro
Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Colleen Camp, David O. Russell, Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Michael Pena

Alessandro Nivola - Entertainment Weekly Screen Actors Guild Party at Chateau Marmont - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, United States - Friday 17th January 2014

Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola
Alessandro Nivola

American Hustle Trailer


Irving Rosenfeld is one of America's most talented con artists but his world of ladies and luxury is hanging in the balance when threatening circumstances force him, along with his temptress business partner and lover Sydney Prosser, to lend his talents to a sting operation set up by the FBI and led by the slightly unbalanced agent Richie DiMaso. Together they set out to uncover the corrupt campaigns behind Carmine Polito, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey and a powerful political operator. However, Irving's wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld is getting more and more suspicious of her husband's business life and, with his lewd extramarital affairs getting more and more daring, it isn't long before she is driven to extreme lengths to uncover her private issues while in the meantime threatening the stability of the whole operation.

This gangster drama features an all-star cast that will keep you gripped from start to finish. It has been directed by the Oscar nominated David O. Russell ('Silver Linings Playbook', 'I Heart Huckabees', 'Three Kings'), who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Eric Singer ('The International') in his second feature film. 'American Hustle' will be released in cinemas over in the UK on December 20th 2013.

American Hustle Movie Review - Click Here To Read

Howl Review


Extraordinary
Oscar-winning documentarians Epstein and Friedman turn their skills to a narrative feature. Sort of. This is essentially a movie based on a poem, but it also tells a remarkable life story and grapples with hugely important issues.

Published in 1956, Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl launched the Beat Generation with its mix of soulful yearning and rage at injustice. When the publisher (Rogers) faces charges that the poem is obscene, Ginsberg (Franco) refuses to attend the trial in San Francisco. And after hearing the lawyers (Strathairn and Hamm) and witnesses (Parker, Daniels, Nivola and Williams), the judge (Balaban) rules in favour of both artistic expression and freedom of the press.

Continue reading: Howl Review

Goal II: Living The Dream Review


Weak
As its name implies, Goal II is a sequel, but what you may not know is that it is actually the second part of what will likely be the only European soccer trilogy ever filmed. In this episode, young Mexican-American soccer genius Santiago Munes (Kuno Becker), having made it from LA to one of Britain's top "football" clubs in Goal I, now gets to "live the dream" as a world-famous soccer star.

No sooner is he Britain's brand new sensation than Santi is traded away to the Valhalla of European soccer, Real Madrid. He's happy to go, even if it means putting stress on his relationship with his British fiancée Roz (Anna Friel). Whisked off to Spain, he finds himself sharing a locker room with Beckham, Ronaldinho, Zidane (all appearing as themselves), and Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola), an old-time and rapidly aging British soccer star who shows Santi what this world of Ferraris, mansions, and bosomy Spanish sluts is all about. The painfully sincere Santi is wide-eyed but virtuous and only gets into trouble when photographers catch him in what they mistakenly believe to be naughty acts. After seeing the photos herself, poor Roz is bereft in rainy Newcastle.

Continue reading: Goal II: Living The Dream Review

The Eye (2008) Review


Terrible
While it may be cliché to say it, the Asian horror phenomenon is officially dead -- and Jessica Alba killed it. Six years after Hong Kong's Pang brothers unleashed the original creepshow, those horror bottom feeders at Lionsgate have delivered The Eye, a mandated PG-13 retread. While it would be nice to say that the time spent in greenlight limbo aged the frightfest and it's slightly hackneyed organ transplant premise like fine wine, the truth is that all we end up with is overripe cheese.

Sydney Wells (Alba) is a famed concert violinist. At the age of five, a fireworks accident left her blind. She tried surgery at age 12, but it didn't work, so for the last 15 years, she's spent her life sightless. Now, big sister Helen (Parker Posey), who feels responsible for her condition, sets up another procedure. Sydney receives a set of donor corneas, and within weeks, she is seeing again. She's also having hallucinatory visions of burning people, suicidal school children, and a weird shadowy visage with a mouth full of ghost fangs. Seems the previous owner of these eyes died mysteriously and wants Sydney to experience the same visual hell she lived through -- and there is nothing our heroine, or her determined doctor (Alessandro Nivola) can do to stop it.

Continue reading: The Eye (2008) Review

Grace Is Gone Review


Very Good
There are bad choices made by characters in films that infuriate the audience, as nobody can understand why the people on screen would have any reason to do what they are doing. There are also bad choices made by characters which can be instantly understood, as they're the kind of unintelligent behavior which pretty much all those watching can understand doing themselves, given the situation. And since the lamentable choice made by Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) early on in Grace is Gone comes not long after he has discovered that his wife has been killed while serving in Iraq, it would be the rare viewer who wouldn't understand at least some part of why he did it.

Stanley's problem is that the news of Grace's death -- delivered solemnly on a beautiful day by a pair of soldiers who seem carved from headstone granite -- leaves him not only without a wife, but also as the sole provider for a pair of daughters: 12-year-old Heidi and 8-year-old Dawn (played with radiant smarts by, respectively, Shelan O'Keefe and Grace Bednarczyk). So, faced with the horrible news and unsure of when and how to break it to the girls, Stanley hides. A stolid manager at a Home Depot-style store in their quiet Midwestern town, Stanley is the embodiment of dull routine, making it all the more exciting for the girls when he tells them that they're taking off and heading for Enchanted Gardens, a Disneyworld-type theme park where Dawn has always wanted to go. Maybe that will be the right place to tell them, he figures. It's a horrendously bad plan, but given the quiet normalcy of the day and the massive tragedy which Stanley is suddenly tasked with landing on his daughters, it's not shocking at all that he would disappear into a fantasy of sorts, where maybe Grace hasn't died. So off they drive in the SUV with the yellow ribbon magnet on the back, girls curious but thrilled at the sudden adventure, father gripping the wheel tightly while anguish eats him alive from the inside.

Continue reading: Grace Is Gone Review

Face/off Review


Excellent
It's hard to remember the whooshing sighs of disappointment from his fans that greeted John Woo in 1996 when, after so many half-steps and mis-starts, he made his big Hollywood debut with the stolen-nuke thriller Broken Arrow. Having left the Hong Kong business on a high with 1992's psychotic near-parody Hard Boiled, Woo did a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick -- 1993's Hard Target, which was heavily botched by studio interference but still contained some brilliant work -- before deciding to go seriously Hollywood. For Broken Arrow, he toned down his trademark mix of ultra-violent flourishes and teary-eyed humanism to concentrate on doing a by-the-book mid-'90s action flick that was generic in the extreme but raked in the money. The next year, though, Woo proved it had all just been an extraordinarily canny maneuver to allow him to make Face/Off, possibly the greatest, and definitely the most exuberant, action film to come out of the studio system in that decade.

A schizoid doppelganger mind-bender wrapped around your standard ticking-bomb scenario (it's hidden somewhere in Los Angeles and could take out the whole basin if detonated -- or something), Face/Off is an utterly lunatic film in the best possible way. Originally a futuristic thriller, the script was retooled for a modern-day setting, keeping several of its sci-fi elements but focusing more intently on its personality-shifting aspects which seemed to come straight out of Woo's international breakthrough, The Killer. An FBI agent, Sean Archer (John Travolta) has been hunting jet-set super-criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) for years. For Archer, it's gone beyond personal to haunted obsession, particularly after Troy tried to shoot Archer but missed and killed his son instead. After a gonzo opening sequence involving a Humvee/private jet showdown on a runway and about ten thousand expended rounds (mostly fired by people flying sideways in slo-mo, of course), Archer's team brings down Troy.

Continue reading: Face/off Review

The Darwin Awards Review


Good
Poor Finn Taylor can't catch a break. By all reports he's the nicest guy in the world, and he typically toils for three or four years on each indie flick he directs. When they finally hit the screen they flop. His last outing, Cherish, was a bizarre story about a cop falling in love with a girl under house arrest who he's assigned to watch. I guess it wasn't bizarre enough, though. I had to reread my review of it just to fully remember what it was about. Cherish bombed with a $180,000 gross.

Four years later, Taylor drops another oddball flick on us, and the trouble is obvious before frame one. For starters, the name of the movie is The Darwin Awards, which sounds like it's going to be a documentary about those nutty people who kill themselves doing stupid things, thus earning posthumous "Darwin Awards" (as written up in a series of books of the same name) for ridding the gene pool of their DNA.

Continue reading: The Darwin Awards Review

Goal! The Dream Begins Review


Weak

Burdened with the most optimistic title since Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Goal! The Dream Begins is indeed the first part of a trilogy that will eventually take a soccer-mad kid from Los Angeles to the World Cup. But first, he's gotta get out of the barrio; good thing there's a cliché-ridden story arc to get him there.

This chapter brings young Santiago Munez (Mexican telenovela hunk Kuno Becker) to grubby Tyneside, U.K., a destination most sun-addicted Angelinos would only consider a Dream if they were going to play Premiership soccer. Fortunately, after a scout from Newcastle United observes his ball skills, this is exactly Santiago's fate. Soon he's saying adios to his undocumented immigrant family, including Dad, who'd rather his son pursue the American dream of mowing other people's grass. Somehow Santiago gets a passport, and off he goes.

Continue reading: Goal! The Dream Begins Review

The Sisters Review


Bad
Films have certain advantages over stage plays - locations can shift, laws of physics need not apply, and characters can do more than stand around and talk ad nauseam. Unfortunately, no one shared this world of possibilities with the makers of The Sisters, an aggressively frustrating and ultimately nonsensical waste of time and talent.The titular Prior sisters, hyper-literate and unlikable to a one, are conveniently categorized archetypes capable of little beyond petty bickering. There's the oldest, Olga (Mary Stuart Masterson), cold, repressed, and overly rational; the middle, Marcia (Maria Bello), whose vicious unhappiness has turned her into predatory shrew; and baby Irene (Erika Christensen), the idealistic peacemaker. The family, along with brother Andrew (Nivola), a spineless placeholder, and various relatives and hangers-on, assembles regularly for festive occasions as heartwarming as a pack of coyotes fighting over a kill.The melodrama is intimate but overly full of histrionics: Marcia is trapped in an awful marriage to an equally bilious psychologist and tempted into an affair - after approximately an hour of acquaintance - with a former student of her father's (Tony Goldwyn); two different professors (one acerbic, the other puppyish) are in love with the oblivious Irene; the entire family hates Andrew's trashy fiancée, Nancy. Each conflict plays out in vicious familial attacks and endless, self-congratulatory, falsely profound dialogue.The Sisters is based on the Chekov play Three Sisters, and I will title that Problem #1: It sticks too closely to the devices of the original. In Chekov's time, an unhappy marriage was permanent, love could be so socially unacceptable it was rendered unmentionable, and repression was a legitimate way of life. In a modern setting, the confines are simply not as limiting as the characters would like to believe. Marcia makes no secret of being violently miserable in her marriage and communicates with her husband solely in hurled vitriol, and yet she stays! For no good reason! This isn't a tragic character; she's a woe-is-me-martyr, and impossible to like for it.Problem #2 is in the adaptation of the piece from a stage play to the screen. I'd guess that, in the process, Richard Alfeiri was reluctant to make any significant alterations to his original or offer many concessions to the medium, because this reads exactly like a play. That isn't a complement; these characters do nothing but talk. In a stage setting, audiences are willing to put up with florid language, but for film, the dialogue is ridiculous. Characters pack every sentence with as many 50-cent-words possible - why say "live" when "inhabit" has so many more syllables? During one (of many) heated arguments, one sister actually says to another, "You do not understand my complexities enough to analyze and categorize me!" I wish I were making that up, or that it were an anomaly. But no, they are all so pleased with themselves, with their endless babble about the "nature of their truth" that every sentence furthers the desire to slap each and every character. Hard.Probably the biggest problem with The Sisters, however, is how great a waste it is. Despite the irritating script and visuals that are so sporadically fanciful that it looks as though Arthur Allan Seidelman is discovering the effects features on Final Cut Pro and wants to show them off, the cast is uniformly stellar. Bello's Marcia is deplorable, but she acts the hell out of her; same goes for Masterson and Elizabeth Banks as the uniformly reviled Nancy. All, really, are much better than the material given, so it is unclear what possessed such a rock-sold cast to sign on to such a screenplay, but at least their presence makes the film occasionally bearable.

Jurassic Park III Review


Excellent

Dinosaurs!

While the first Jurassic Park was mediocre and the second film god-awful, Jurassic Park III finally gets the formula right. These movies were never meant to be science heavy or overly sentimental; they should've been what #3 is -- an amusement park thrill ride packed wall-to-wall with dinosaurs and more dinosaurs, clocking in at less than 90 minutes with as little dialogue and subplot as possible. Plus, big bonus -- no Jeff Goldblum!

Instead of Goldblum, JP3 brings back Sam Neill as the slightly grizzled Dr. Alan Grant who seems happy to put his terrifying up-close dino experiences behind him. Grant and his new protégé Billy (Alessandro Nivola) are once again looking for funding for their research, and are coaxed into accompanying a new wealthy benefactor -- Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) and his wife Amanda (Téa Leoni) -- on a fly-over of the second Jurassic island, Isla Sorna. But things turn ugly when the Kirbys announce they plan to land on the island to search for their 14-year-old son Eric (Trevor Morgan) who was conveniently lost there while paragliding. When the group ends up crash landing in the jungle, the movie becomes a race to see who will get off the island and who will become lunch. (Sounds like a cool idea for the next Survivor.)

While dialogue has never been these films' strongest suit, JP3 remedies this by having less of it. Regardless, the writers behind this screenplay-of-fewer-words are pretty impressive: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor are the minds behind Citizen Ruth and Election. It comes off as a bit like how a dumb movie turns out when it's penned by smart people (like a Wayne's World) -- lots of action peppered with throw-away goofball lines like, "They weren't making dinosaurs; they were playing God."

As evidenced by dialogue like that, JP3 doesn't take itself too seriously, which is perhaps its saving grace; and it pulls no punches when taking potshots at the other two movies. For example, when Grant finds Eric (or, rather, after Eric rescues Grant), Eric tells the scientist, "I've read both your books. I liked the first one better than the second." Also, the so-called millionaire Kirby turns out to be a plumber. So much for a repeat of John Hammond.

Above all, JP3 packs in more dinosaurs per square inch than any other JP film before it. This time, big, angry reptiles are coming out of the sky and water as well as land, and the filmmakers even introduce a dino to rival the T. Rex, a massive monster called Spinosaur (that's right, dino-fighting). And, of course, the raptors are back, and now they can communicate with each other (don't ask, evolution's a bitch). Most importantly, none of the humans try to fight the dinosaurs themselves, so we won't be seeing any unbelievable scenes of kids knocking out velociraptors with a few gymnastics kicks.

Efficiently crammed with lots of thrills, Jurassic Park III may come off as a little bit like a big-budget B-movie, but you're not likely to have a better time at a blockbuster this summer. It's just loud, smash-and-crash monster movie fun at its finest.

The DVD extras focus on the film's special effects -- surprisingly, very little CGI, very many animatronic legs and jaws.

Continue reading: Jurassic Park III Review

Love's Labour's Lost Review


Good
Film musicals are a tough sell these days. It's either the annual Disney animation vehicle or it's Edward Norton dancing to swing music. I could probably count the last five years worth of decent musicals on my left hand. The juxtaposition of dialogue with song and dance always seems to remind me of the tragedies of my high school drama days. Those damn tights. The bad pancake makeup.

Kenneth Branagh's latest Shakespearean opus, Love's Labour's Lost, falls into the category of an ingenious experiment gone horrible wrong. Like a bartender with one too many vodka-tonics on his breath, Branagh mixes one of Shakespeare's lesser-known comedies with the music of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and places everything in 1939 France. Think the Rat Pack in some bad 1960s film.

Continue reading: Love's Labour's Lost Review

Mansfield Park Review


Very Good
What is it about Jane Austen? This box-office stalwart has inspired five major film adaptations in the '90s (six counting the excellent BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice in 1995).

I think I know what Austen's secret is: Her books are recent, but not modern. Her central characters have good manners and triumph over bad marriages or economic straits, instead of succumbing to their own vices or whining too much about their problems.

Continue reading: Mansfield Park Review

The Clearing Review


Very Good
There's tension in them there trees, and hopefully some cash for Fox Searchlight in the form of counter-programming. Surrounded by a sea of summer popcorn escapist vehicles, the rock-solid kidnapping thriller The Clearing feels like a frigid and somber snowball dropped into the heart of the Arabian Desert. We're typically not trained to accept weighty emotional dramas in the dog days of July, though when one this good rolls through, let's hope it has a better survival rate than said lump of frost.

The adult-oriented character piece delves headfirst into the natural landscapes of the Southeast - primarily Georgia and North Carolina - to hide the criminal wrongdoings of kidnapper Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) and his valuable target, Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford). While the men work their way to an undisclosed location in the woods, Clearing continues to focus on the consequent people affected by the impromptu abduction - from Wayne's wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), and their children (Alessandro Nivola, Melissa Sagemiller) to the businessman's mistress (Wendy Crewson).

Continue reading: The Clearing Review

Junebug Review


Very Good
Phil Morrison's Junebug is about a Chicago man returning home to North Carolina, where he introduces his new wife to his family. Curious, then, that the man occupies so little of the film. When the couple arrives in North Carolina, George (Alessandro Nivola) recedes into the background; he's absent from pivotal scenes where Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meets his parents (Scott Wilson and Celia Watson), his brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie), and Johnny's pregnant wife Ashley (Amy Adams) and spends time with them.

The choice to deny us time with George, which could be spent showing more of his relationship with his new wife, or dropping further clues as to why his brother resents him deeply, is all the more puzzling considering Morrison's (and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan's) eye for characters and detail. The Southern family is not altogether pleasant, but nor are they corn-fed caricatures; Madeleine, who is on the trip mostly to recruit a Southern outsider artist for her Chicago gallery, is well-meaning and only self-centered in the most human ways. Celia Watson masters the low-key hostility of a vaguely, perpetually annoyed mother; the family's varying degrees of wariness toward their new in-law feels right, though it's rarely articulated.

Continue reading: Junebug Review

Best Laid Plans Review


Good
Straight-to-video movies usually do so for a reason, but Best Laid Plans just may have gotten a bum rap. Centered around a complicated scheme between Nivola and Witherspoon (fiesty as ever, here) to steal a valuable Civil War artifact in order to pay back the subject of an earlier crime, things get progressively more complicated until the enexorably uninspired conclusion. While it's a relatively tepid thriller, Best Laid Plans actually had me sit up on the edge of my seat once, and any chance to see Witherspoon in handcuffs is certainly an opportunity not to be missed.

Laurel Canyon Review


Very Good
What a shock: There's licentious sex going on up here in the Hollywood Hills. I say "up here" because Laurel Canyon, Sunset Blvd., etc. is my 'hood. So, to those who might take the events of this movie as a generalized portrayal of the area, let me assure you that it's strictly on a lot by lot basis. These hills are crawling with people from the movie and music industries, some of whom might actually resemble the characters of Laurel Canyon. Double shock.

This intimate drama (by director Lisa Cholodenko) deals with the effect a liberal living standard might have on a young, impressionable, Harvard graduate with a conservative nature and great looks. She's Alex (Kate Beckinsale), the fiancé of Sam Bentley (Christian Bale), who needs to come to Los Angeles to complete his residency at the renowned Hausman Neuropsychiatric Institute. The move to a quiet hillside home will enable Alex to complete her dissertation on Drosophila Genomics, the world of chromosomes and centimorgans applied to the reproductive aspects of the fruit fly. No dummy, this lady.

Continue reading: Laurel Canyon Review

Junebug Review


Weak

"Junebug" has received much praise since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, and I don't understand a bit of it.

A returning-home drama centered on a artsy newlywed couple (Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz) from Chicago visiting the Southern family of folksy, dysfunctional, uncommunicative, bump-on-a-log suburban rednecks from which the husband fled several years ago, it's a dreary, stagnant story about people who make no effort to think or grow.

Director Phil Morrison certainly nails the film's atmosphere with simple, static shots of empty spaces that capture the humid North Carolina pace of life, and he offers up fantastic little moments of body language that speak volumes about various characters. But when the characters are as chronically useless and emotionally stunted as this bunch, it's darn near impossible to care.

Continue reading: Junebug Review

Time Code Review


Good

Perhaps the most extraordinary experimental film ever unleashed outside the confines of the art house circuit, "Time Code" is a confident and daring attempt by director Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas," "The Loss of Sexual Innocence") to plant his flag on the barely-explored shores of 21st Century filmmaking.

Shooting on hand-held digital video in four continuous takes all running at once, Figgis splits the screen in quadrants like a security camera monitor and fiddles with the audio to draw your eye where he wants it. Then like an orchestral conductor, he unspools a precisely synchronized 93 minutes of raw, unedited, real-time footage, tracking multiple, largely-improvised narratives about a sampling of misanthropic, self-absorbed Hollywood denizens.

Packed with talented, name stars starving for something original to chew on, "Time Code's" has several stories -- some tense and emotional, others cynical and facetious -- unfolding simultaneously and often crossing paths.

Continue reading: Time Code Review

Love's Labour's Lost Review


Good

For a long time I've had a theory that the musical genre couldn't survive the cynicism of modern audiences except as a ironic in-joke, like the "South Park" movie or as a post-modern homage, like Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You."

I couldn't have been more wrong -- and leave it to Kenneth Branagh, a writer-director-actor who has made his name revitalizing old (old, old!) school entertainment -- to prove it by bringing back the kind of weightless musical delight that carried Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to stardom.

For his new adaptation of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," Branagh has re-imagined the buoyant romantic comedy as a classy, corny, 1930s movie musical, complete with uplifting dance numbers and a catalog of favorite big band ditties sung with great enthusiasm (if not great skill) by a quality cast of cheerful actors clearly having the time of their lives.

Continue reading: Love's Labour's Lost Review

Jurassic Park III Review


OK

In 1993, the first "Jurassic Park" took Hollywood's first giant step into the world of computer generated special effects, rendering from scratch huge life-like dinosaurs that genuinely interacted with the humans they chased and chowed on. There were a few tell-tale signs of CGI style that savvy audiences now recognize (soft-focusy skin on some critters, for example). But there wasn't a movie-goer on Earth who wasn't agog at how real those dinos looked.

CGI effects have evolved exponentially in the last eight years and in "Jurassic Park III" the movie's biggest stars are so seamless blended and thoroughly convincing that the very concept of these ancient beasts being a special effect barely even crosses your mind. It only occurred to me once, for about 10 seconds, during a fight between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and this movie's even bigger, meaner baddie called Spinosaurus. Half way through the furious dust-up, it hit me: "Holy cow, these things aren't real!"

I might not even have thought about the effects at all except for being drawn to the extreme deliberateness of the movie's big-budget post-production by the over-amped, over-bearing, Dolby'd-to-death sound effects, apparently designed to shatter eardrums.

Continue reading: Jurassic Park III Review

Laurel Canyon Review


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There's a lot of curious cross-national casting going on in Lisa Cholodenko's "Laurel Canyon," a dysfunctional family dramedy about a lifestyle collision between a pot-smoking, fast-living record producer and her solemn, starchy Cambridge-grad son.

Jane, the party-hardy, pushing-50 mom, is played with flaky roach-clip laissez-faire by the droll Frances McDormand -- who is the only person in the cast using her own accent.

Brit Christian Bale ("American Psycho," "Reign of Fire") puts on an American brogue to play Sam, the son endlessly irritated by his mom's lax attitude toward life, who nonetheless returns to her swimming-pool and music-studio hideaway in the Los Angeles hills, along with his fiancée, when he accepts his first residency at an area psychiatric hospital.

Continue reading: Laurel Canyon Review

Mansfield Park Review


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The latest Jane Austen novel lovingly adapted to film, "Mansfield Park" features a predictably resolute heroine named Fanny Price, a 10-year-old girl from a poor family who is sent to live with wealthy relations at their country estate.

The first thing her aunt says to her is "Let's have a look at you...Well, I'm sure you have other qualities." When her uncle thinks she's out of earshot, he tells his daughters, "she's not your equal," and he insists she live in the servants' wing to prevent her from tempting her male cousins. Nonetheless, young Edmund takes a shine to her and makes her feel at home, which is the beginning of a life-long friendship.

Well, I think we all know where this is going. As witty and wildly engaging as Austen's coy 18th Century romances are, they're nothing if not predictable.

Continue reading: Mansfield Park Review

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