Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain or this year's American Pastoral), but they're so rich and provocative that they can't be ignored. For his directing debut, writer-producer James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) adaps this story as a tightly controlled period drama with blackly comical edges and darkly personal emotions.
It's set in 1951 New Jersey, where the young Marcus (Logan Lerman) is preparing to leave home for university in Ohio. His parents (Linda Emond and Danny Burstein) are worried that he will make the same mistakes that are ruining teens' lives across the country at the moment or, even worse, head off to fight in the Korean War. But Marcus is a very serious kid, focussed on making his own decisions about what he wants to do. He certainly wants nothing to do with his crazy roommates (Ben Rosenfield and Philip Ettinger) or the Jewish frat-house, whose leader (Pico Alexander) is desperately trying to recruit him. And then there's the pressure he's getting from the university dean (Tracy Letts). He's much more interested in the enigmatic Olivia (Sarah Gadon), a young woman who constantly surprises him.
Yes, this is essentially a coming-of-age drama about a young man making the shift from his loving family to take control of his own destiny in the big bad world. But it's much more complex than that, as it weaves in political and topical themes. The conversations are riveting, as Marcus' atheistic beliefs provoke everyone he meets. This leads to a stunning centrepiece scene, a blistering 15-minute argument between Marcus and the dean that's like a battlefield set-piece with subtle attacks, bomb blasts and surprising outcomes. Through all of this Schamus maintains the beautifully tailored appearance of the period, when the carefully muted surfaces obscured the churning, world-changing ideas underneath.
Continue reading: Indignation Review
First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on a true story, he avoids the usual cliches and formulas, which makes it an unusually thoughtful film. On the other hand, this means that it lacks the excitement we expect as events spiral into some extremely stressful situations. Instead, the film relies on underlying tension, strong thematic resonance and another committed performance from Daniel Radcliffe.
Radcliffe plays Nate, an FBI agent who is a bit of a loner, teased by his colleagues for his nerdy lifestyle. But this is what his superior Angela (Toni Collette) notices about him, and she thinks he'd be perfect for an undercover assignment infiltrating a neo-Nazi group that might be planning a horrific terrorist bombing. So Nate shaves his head and studies up on the white supremacist cause, befriending a racist skinhead (Seth Numrich) and his trigger-happy pals, then meeting their leaders Gerry and Andrew (Sam Trammell and Chris Sullivan). Nate's main target is the underground radio broadcaster Dallas (Tracy Letts), who is stirring up his listeners by channelling bigotry into conspiracy theories. Is he the one planning to explode a dirty bomb somewhere in Washington DC?
The film has a dark, gritty tone that remains internalised all the way through, focussing on Nate's perilous job: if he betrays his true feelings about these reprehensible white-power ideals, it's more than likely that these men will kill him. Radcliffe is excellent in the role, quietly convincing these thugs that he's committed to the cause while still maintaining his friendly, helpful personality. Since there are no women in the movement, it's great to have Collette in such a pivotal, powerful role. Angela is a feisty blast of energy in the film. And Letts is also remarkable as a man whose complexity deepens the more we get to know him. In many ways he's the true villain of the piece, encouraging hatred among his vulnerable audience.
Continue reading: Imperium Review
Nate Foster is a young FBI agent who's selected to go undercover and infiltrate a group of neo-nazi thugs. The right-wing terrorist group is constantly planning and scheming to cause chaos and hurt anyone who doesn't fall into their supremacist society.
Nate's never been the most outgoing agent, mainly working on desk duty but when his superior agent asks him to begin field duty he doesn't quite understand just how deep he'll have to go to make a case against the terrorists. As he becomes a more embedded in the group, Nathan realises just how dedicated to their cause these people are.
Nate must remember who he truly is whilst trying to trick his new allies into thinking that he's one of them. As ideas evolve and plots begin to emerge, Nate realises the extent of their next mission and possible destruction it will cause.
This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in the White House in December 1970. The only details about this collision of two icons come from a few eyewitness accounts, as well as the photograph they took together. So the screenwriters have some fun with it, weaving in quite a bit of comedy that encourages actors to chomp merrily on the scenery. It's entertaining to watch, but the script misses the chance to add meaning on the situation.
Elvis (Michael Shannon) is the one who initiates this meeting, concerned about the growing protests on the streets of Washington, DC. So he flies to Los Angeles to collect his long-time friend Jerry (Alex Pettyfer) then heads to the capital to meet with his nutty colleague Sonny (Johnny Knoxville) and pitch himself to President Nixon (Kevin Spacey) as an undercover FBI agent who can infiltrate the nation's youth. Since it's obvious that all Elvis wants is a federal ID badge, Nixon brushes the whole idea of a meeting aside until his advisors (Colin Hanks and Evan Peters) convince him that it would be a great PR move. So just before Christmas, the two men finally meet up, and they discover that they have more in common than either expected.
Because of the absurdity of the set-up and the wackiness of the period styles, the movie feels rather a lot like an extended sketch comedy that's largely improvised by an up-for-it cast. These two men are both such big personalities that a meeting like this would be hard to believe if it weren't for the photographic evidence. The conversation between Presley and Nixon is surreal and hilariously random (and largely fictionalised). Shannon and Spacey are having a great time prowling around each other, pouncing with a punchline at every opportunity, so watching them is riveting. Mercifully, they underplay the impersonations, capturing the men with tiny details of movement and vocal inflection rather than relying on lots of make-up. Although Shannon does have that hair and costume.
Continue reading: Elvis & Nixon Review
The film Indignation is a screen adaptation of Philip Roth's novel of the same name which was released in 2008. The film is set in Ohio in the 1950's and is centred around the character Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) a working class Jewish boy who has moved to the conservative college in Ohio on a scholarship. On the move to the college this now means that he is exempt from being selected to fight in the Korean War.
Continue: Indignation Trailer
When Dr. Michael Burry discovered that the housing market in the US relied upon a series of bad loans in 2005, he knew there was profit to be had. He even went as far as moving on from his multi-million dollar Scion Capital LLC hedge fund in a bid to short the market and take advantage of the vulnerable housing deals. But he wasn't the only one with plans to accrue wealth off the back of financial disaster; Steve Eisman was a hedge fund manager who had a lot to say against the greedy banks, as did Cornwall Capital partner Ben Hockett and Deutsche Bank trader Greg Lippmann. These are financial outsiders that are about to show the banks a serious lesson when they use their economic skills to bring them down with a brave move in the credit default swap market.
Continue: The Big Short Trailer
Laila Robins, Raza Jaffrey, Tracy Letts, Guest, Maury Sterling, Nimrat Kaur, Michael OKeefe and Numan Acar - 21st Annual SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards at Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center - Arrivals at Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center, Screen Actors Guild - Los Angeles, California, United States - Sunday 25th January 2015
The Realistic Joneses brings Will Eno's witty take on a dark family comedy to Broadway.
The Realistic Joneses – Will Eno’s new absurdist comedy, starring Tracy Letts, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Michael C. Hall – seems to tick all the boxes. Not only does it have an all star cast, the premise also seems nearly foolproof. Bob (Tracy Letts) and Jennifer (Toni Collette) are struggling to communicate, caused or exacerbated by his rare — and maybe fatal — illness. The couple have become distant from one another. This is when John (Michael C. Hall) and Pony Jones (Marisa Tomei) move in next door. Eventually the two couples find that they have more than a last name in common and reach out to each other in some unlikely ways.
"The Realistic Joneses" is Will Eno's first Broadway effort.
The quirky dialogue and relatable story are some of the things that critics have praised in the play.
Continue reading: "The Realistic Joneses" - Not So Realistic, But Still Worth Seeing
Tracy Letts adapts his own prize-winning play into a blistering depiction of one of cinema's most dysfunctional families ever. It's still rather theatrical, throwing a mob of top actors into a room for what feels like a fight to the death, but it's so well written and so beautifully observed by the actors that we can't look away. And of course Meryl Streep walks off with the show.
Everything kicks off when Beverly Weston (Shepard) goes missing, leaving his ruthlessly straight-talking, pill-popping wife Violet (Streep) to assemble the family in their rambling Oklahoma home. They have three equally feisty daughters: Barbara (Roberts) is a tightly wound bundle of anger with an estranged husband (McGregor) and surly teen daughter (Breslin) in tow; Karen (Lewis) is a free-spirited floater with yet another random boyfriend (Mulroney); and Ivy (Nicholson) is fed up with being the dutiful daughter who stayed close to home. Also on hand is Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Martindale), whose husband (Cooper) is the family patriarch now that Beverly is gone, which means their son (Cumberbatch) feels even more useless than normal.
What plot there is centres on skeletons rattling out of closets and relationships imploding spectacularly. The film is a series of brutally intense encounters between people who probably still love each other in vaguely undefined ways and express it through bitter bursts of witty cruelty. Streep has the meatiest role as the imperious Violet, who knows a lot more than she's letting on. And her chief rival is Barbara, played with unnerving intensity by Roberts. The only person we even remotely like is Mattie Fae, and the always-superb Martindale finds all kinds of layers in the character.
Continue reading: August: Osage County Review
Mandy Patinkin, Tracy Letts, Nazanin Boniadi, Jackson Pace, F. Murray Abraham and Navid Negahban - The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 18th January 2014
Chris (Hirsch) is in big trouble with a local gangster (Macaulay), and to raise some cash he proposes to his father Ansel (Church) that they kill his mother, Ansel's ex, for the insurance money. The problem is that Ansel's vampish new wife Sharla (Gershon) wants her cut. And the policy is in the name of Chris' innocent little sister Dottie (Temple). When they hire Joe (McConaughey), a detective who moonlights as a hitman, they're unable to pay up front. So he asks for Dottie as a retainer.
Continue reading: Killer Joe Review
Working from Tracy Letts' adaptation of his own play, Friedkin gives us a five-character chamber piece, set in a downtrodden motel room out in the sticks. Bi-curious basket case Agnes (Judd) works as a waitress in a redneck bar by night, and shacks up in a motel room, in a pot-, coke-, and booze-induced stupor by day. It's her meager defense against the onslaught of just-paroled ex-husband Jerry (a beefed-up and amusing Harry Connick Jr.), who drops by to inflict verbal and physical abuse, not to mention dredging up memories of her long-lost son. The woman's only respite is her girlfriend, R.C. (Lynn Collins), a fellow waitress who's a tad too freewheeling for the reserved Agnes. Twitched-out and fragile, she meets her perfect match in the taciturn Peter (Shannon), a war veteran who harbors traumas of his own. Soon after they hook up, Peter becomes increasingly convinced that his body's been colonized by bugs -- bugs laying eggs and traveling up and down his bloodstream. Peter claims to be an escapee from a government medical lab where he was the subject of nefarious tests. He suspects the bugs were bio-engineered by the government to be tools for mind control. Before you know it, Bug has become a full-blown freak show, fueled by military-industrial conspiracies, and styled after Macbeth as the paranoid Peter and the needy Agnes become obsessive partners in mutual destruction.
Continue reading: Bug (2007) Review
Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...
First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...
Nate Foster is a young FBI agent who's selected to go undercover and infiltrate a...
This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...
The film Indignation is a screen adaptation of Philip Roth's novel of the same name...
Who would've thought that Elvis and Richard Nixon would become allies? When Elvis sporadically showed...
When Dr. Michael Burry discovered that the housing market in the US relied upon a...
Tracy Letts adapts his own prize-winning play into a blistering depiction of one of cinema's...
This film's unhinged plot constantly catches us off guard with its bizarre twists and turns,...
On my way out of William Friedkin's latest Bug, I overheard a gentleman in the...