Friday, September 18, 2015

In Cold Blood review – still chilling Capote adaptation

There’s a televisual brashness to Richard Brooks’s 1967 film version of Truman Capote’s true-life reportage classic, now on cinema rerelease. It’s strange to think how fast things were working: the book had been published the previous year and the killers executed the year before that.
Robert Blake and Scott Wilson play Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, the two young drifters and ex-cons who broke into a Kansas farmhouse, expecting to find a safe full of money, slaughtered the family and got away with a paltry amount in cash.

Capote’s non-fiction novel brooded on the sheer pointless nightmare, and so does the film, to some extent; the killers’ casual excitement at the prospect of murderous violence is still chilling. But there are ellipses here in which the film averts its gaze from the horror, deferring the key murder scene to the end. And there is a more high-minded emphasis on Blake’s psychiatric disorder and broken family home.

The movie features a fictional choric reporter called Jensen (Paul Stewart), a stoic and traditional-looking newspaperman – very different from the dandyish Truman Capote. Watched again now, In Cold Blood looks similar to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (which is explicitly referenced) and it is a missing link between Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Psycho (1960).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

L'Eclisse review – Antonioni's strange and brilliant film rereleased

Sphinx-like … Monica Vitti in L’Eclisse
Michelangelo Antonioni’s mysterious and disquieting 1962 film L’Eclisse (The Eclipse) is rereleased in UK cinemas for the first time in 10 years: a twilight zone of anxiety and alienation in which the director displays his ability to slow time down a stop and allow his characters to wander in an eerily untenanted landscape. He had a knack of making Rome look as empty as the middle of the night – in the middle of the day. Did his film intuit the emptiness of growing postwar prosperity, or just have its own strange vision of the aftermath of nuclear attack?

When I last watched L’Eclisse, for a feature about the Antonioni centenary in 2012, I found myself worrying that it looked dated: especially the startling “blackface” party scene. But watching it again now, I find myself gripped as never before, and the “African” scene is bizarre, stylised, and I think the point is to jab at the leisured classes’ casual racism.

The carina-brutta beauty of Monica Vitti was never more sensual or sphinx-like than here in the role of Vittoria, the well-to-do young woman who embarks on a difficult, doomed affair with Piero (Alain Delon), the nervy, conceited young stockbroker making money for Vittoria’s mother (Lilla Brignone) – who herself has become addicted to the thrill of day-trading.

The film really is visionary: it has a gift for unearthly images to compare with Fellini: the crashed car resurrected from the water with the hand of its dead joyrider visible is unforgettable. But it also discloses an enigmatic void in its own strange, hectic little love story: almost as if extraterrestrial forces are preparing this ground for some uncanny incursion.

Antonioni opens up a sinkhole of existential dismay in the Roman streets and asks us to drop down into it. What a strange and brilliant film it is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bruce Willis, Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg star in new Woody Allen film

Stars line up for Woody Allen … Bruce Willis, Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg
Woody Allen’s hold over Hollywood’s casting directors appears as strong as ever, as Bruce Willis, Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg have all signed up to appear in his next project, which is due to begin shooting later this year.

Eisenberg is a repeat collaborator, having already featured in the 2012 ensemble movie To Rome With Love, but Willis and Stewart will be making their first Allen. film. However, Willis will not be entirely unfamiliar with the director’s working methods as his then wife Demi Moore appeared in 1997 film Deconstructing Harry.

As is customary, no details or title have been announced for the new film, which is due to be produced by Allen’s regular partners: his sister Letty Aronson, agent Stephen Tenenbaum (who has worked on 15 Allen films) and cable-TV tycoon Edward Walson.

Allen is readying his current project Irrational Man, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as an academic who has an affair with a student (Emma Stone), for release in July 2015. Allen also signed up to make an as-yet-unspecified TV series for Amazon Prime, due to be available in 2016. It is not clear if his commitment to Amazon will affect his regular film-a-year schedule.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Girl on the Train film to be set in US not UK

‘It could take place in any commuter town’ … Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train. Photograph: David Levene/for the Guardian
The film adaptation of bestselling mystery novel The Girl on the Train is set to be shifted to the US from its original English setting, it has been reported.

The film rights to the book were optioned before its publication by Hollywood studio DreamWorks, and in a recent interview with the Sunday Times, its author Paula Hawkins said it was likely to take place in “upstate New York”. However, she said: “I’m not really concerned about the repositioning as I think it is the type of story that could take place in any commuter town.”

Inspired by Hawkins’ own commute to work, The Girl on the Train is a thriller about a woman whose curiosity about a house she can see from her train carriage leads her into a missing persons inquiry. The novel, described as “the new Gone Girl”, has topped the charts in the UK and US, and broke the record stay in the UK No 1 slot held by Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

Hawkins also appears unconcerned to exert authorial control over the planed film, a la EL James, saying: “I don’t want to be involved … let them get on with it.”

The Help’s Tate Taylor is to direct the film for DreamWorks, from a script by Erin Cressida Wilson. Emily Blunt is the favourite to land the lead role.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ted 2 beaten by Jurassic World and Inside Out at US box office

All dressed up and nowhere to go … Ted 2
Seth MacFarlane’s rowdy comedy sequel Ted 2 failed to live up to expectations this weekend at the US box office, opening in third place on a disappointing $32.9m behind enduring powerhouses Inside Out and Jurassic World.
Jurassic World once again topped the chart for the third week in a row, Colin Trevorrow’s dinosaur disaster epic scoring another $54.2m in its third week on release and becoming the first film to hit $500m in North America in 2015. Pixar animation Inside Out was not far behind, pulling in $52.1m for a two-week total of $184.9m.

Some experts had predicted the weekend might see three films hitting $50m in North America for the first time ever. But Ted 2 ultimately struggled to compete with a double dose of box office firepower. The sequel, featuring Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried and the voice of MacFarlane as the foul-mouthed talking teddy bear title character, eventually dipped much lower than 2012’s Ted ($54.4m on debut). It has also suffered from middling reviews in comparison to its predecessor, which was one of 2012’s biggest sleeper hits and went on to make $549m worldwide.

“You have to remember that no one expected Ted to do what it did,” Nicholas Carpou of studio Universal told the Hollywood Reporter. “So for Ted 2 to do $33 million in a very crowded weekend isn’t bad. And we have a very good chance of playing out. Ted 2 will be a successful film for us.”

The only other wide release this weekend in a hugely competitive marketplace was the family-friendly adventure film Max, about a dog who returns from duty supporting US marines in Afghanistan to be adopted by his handler’s family after surviving a traumatic experience. Boaz Yakin’s drama, which cost just $20m to make, landed in fourth spot with $12.2m on debut.

US box office chart, 26-28 June

1. Jurassic World: $54.2m, $500m
2. Inside Out: $52.1m, $184.9m
3. Ted 2: $32.9m - NEW
4. Max: $12.2m - NEW
5. Spy: $7.8m, $88.3m
6. San Andreas: $5.2m, $141.8m
7. Dope: $2.8m, $11.7m
8. Insidious: Chapter 3: $2m, $49.7m
9. Mad Max: Fury Road: $1.7m, $147m
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron: $1.6m, $452.4m