While the story centres on twisted moral dilemmas, this 1970s-set thriller takes such a hesitant, internalised approach that if never lets viewers under the characters' skin. As a result, there's virtually no spark of real life here, despite the presence of several fine actors and a twisty plot that focusses on how decisions affect relationships. It's an oddly muted approach to events that really should have a much stronger emotional jolt.
It's 1974 Brooklyn, where Chris (Clive Owen) has just been released after 10 years in prison. His police detective brother Frank (Billy Crudup) offers help with finding a place to stay, getting a job and escaping his former life of crime, but the options are limited. While trying to reconnect with his junkie-prostitute ex Monica (Marion Cotillard), Chris also begins dating the younger Natalie (Mila Kunis). And he finds himself drifting back into his old gangster role. This causes a conflict of interest for Frank in his work as a cop, especially since he's further compromised by having an affair with Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), whose boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts) he's just put in jail.
Filmmaker Guillaume Canet is remaking the 2008 French thriller Rivals (in which he played the Frank character), and he recreates the period beautifully, shooting the film in a grainy 1970s style that emphasises character over action. So it's odd that the characters feel so thinly written, with most of the ambiguity drained from each moral issue they face. Much of this is because everyone is pushing their emotions away and internalising their thought processes so no one else can see them. But this leaves the audience out in the cold. And as a result, everything feels obvious and inevitable, which makes it impossible to get involved as events escalate. It's as if these people are tragic losers, so no amount of sympathy will save them.
Continue reading: Blood Ties Review
Ewa Cybulski and her sister Magda are Polish immigrants in search of new lives in the prosperous New York City. However, no sooner have they arrived in the US than Magda is quarantined for a suspected illness and Ewa is forced to venture out into the strange new city alone. With nowhere to go and no friends to speak of, a desperate Ewa bumps into a charmingly dapper but dubious man named Bruno Weiss. He agrees to offer her a bed and money-earning prospects, but the job he wants her to do is far from what she was looking for. He enlists her as a prostitute at his entertainment establishment, and it's there Ewa meets his much more pleasant cousin Orlando the Magician who, stunned by her beauty, convinces her that she needs to be happy and helps her find the courage to escape her ordeal.
Continue: The Immigrant Trailer
James Gray - The 2013 New York Film Festival Presents The Centerpiece Gala Presentation of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty at Alice Tully Hall NYC 10 5 13 - NYC, NY, United States - Sunday 6th October 2013
Marion Cotillard is the talk of the Cannes Film Festival for her stirring performance in The Immigrant, James Gray's sensitive movie about the immigration experience in New York, circa 1920. The movie sees Gray re-team with Joaquin Phoenix - after We Own The Night and Two Lovers - though all talk focuses on the French actress' performance as a young Polish woman trying to get a foothold in modern America.
The Immigrant plays a major role in several of the 'Oscars 2014 tips' articles on the internet, though the reception to the movie was a mixed bag. As Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter points out, The Weinstein Company are now likely to focus the spotlight on Cotillard's performance alone in the search for silverware from The Immigrant during awards season. In his review of the film, McCarthy wrote, "Speaking in a completely convincing Polish accent with a slight hint of German due to her character's origins in Silesia and at times speaking in Polish, Cotillard makes the movie, creating a haunted figure who may one day be able to go on to a new phase but is certainly permanently marked by her multiple harrowing ordeals." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw - who offered up a five-star review for Ryan Gosling's Only God Forgives earlier in the week - gave The Immigrant short shrift, though agreed on Cotillard's performance, writing, "Cotillard herself is incapable of giving a bad performance and she certainly carries the movie's opening act, lining up with her ailing sister in Ellis Island, having tensely endured the unspeakable boat journey from the old country."
The Immigrant is in competition for the Palme d'Or at Cannes though bookmakers Paddy Power has the movie at 10/1 to win the prize. The lesbian romance movie Blue is the Warmest Colour is the current frontrunner after a wave of strong reviews.
The Great Gatsby wasn't regarded as the greatest choice to opening the Cannes Film Festival, now it looks an even worse idea.
The 2013 Cannes Film Festival will open on Wednesday (May 15, 2013) with Baz Luhrmann's 3-D version of The Great Gatsby, a throwback to the roaring twenties adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic book of the same name. The announcement caused unrest earlier in the year given that Gatsby would already have been released in the U.S by the time Cannes came round (it was released last week) though there's a couple of other things to worry about.
The Great Gatsby opened in the United States to fairly lacklustre reviews, dampening the buzz surrounding the start of the 12 day Cannes Film Festival. The critics have already seen it. The critics didn't like it very much. "This dreadful film even derogates the artistry of Fitzgerald, who wrote "The Great Gatsby" while living on Long Island and in Europe," said the Wall Street Journal. It holds a score of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Nevertheless, champagne bottles will be popped, deals will be made and Harvey Weinstein will be wandering around deciding which movie to snap up as his next Oscar winner at this year's festival. Stars expected to attend include Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling, Emma Watson and the legendary Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachan. "This is the hardest 10 days of the year for me. There are always three or four movies that are exceptional and you have to find them so it is a detective job," said Tom Bernard, co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics.
And that's a genre we don't see too often anymore: romantic drama. Today's cinematic romances are usually steeped in light comedy (even decent ones like Definitely, Maybe) or predictable form posing as drama. But Two Lovers is hardcore drama, with desire at its center. Or more accurately, two desires.
Continue reading: Two Lovers Review
Meanwhile, the movie forces me to reconsider my own, because it spends a lot more time seeming like a good movie than actually being one. For a film with such an ominous, encompassing title, We Own the Night is content to skim the surface of the NYPD, lacking the obsessive attention to detail that distinguishes other crime-heavy glimpses into bygone American eras as diverse as Gangs of New York, Zodiac, or The Assassination of the Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Even Night's period details feel half-assed and incidental, like background songs that sound more like bits of '90s soundtracks to '80s-set movies instead of 1988 itself. In fact, though an early subtitle says so, the year doesn't even seem to be 1988 in particular but a vague, amorphous "eighties," Wedding Singer style.
Continue reading: We Own The Night Review
Joshua, a long-time Little Odessa expatriate, is called back to the neighborhood to perform a hit on a big shot resident. When he arrives, he encounters his worshipful brother Reuben (Edward Furlong), former lover Alla (Moira Kelly), hateful father Arkady (Maximilian Schell), and dying mother Irina (Vanessa Redgrave). Together, the cast creates a highly dysfunctional family the likes of which you've probably never seen before.
Continue reading: Little Odessa Review
Gray, recently appearing with The Yards at the Boston Film Festival, based his tale of New York City subway vendor corruption on his own father's experiences. The filmmaker has given us a well-composed script, deftly flowing through intertwining relations of families, friends, enemies, and politicians. He sustains a hopelessly dim design throughout the film, even having the mind to steal wonderfully from a few Godfather scenes (he claims by accident), and lifting Gordon Willis' outstanding cinematography with his DP, Harris Savides (on purpose). Gray's direction gives us an overriding sense of doom that retains suspense far beyond that of a second-time filmmaker (his first being 1994's grim Little Odessa). But all that is nothing without Mark Wahlberg.
Continue reading: The Yards Review