All posts by nlclement

After spending close to a decade working in Hollywood, Nick Clement has taken his passion for film and transitioned into a blogger, critic, and entertainment reporter. His work has been published in Variety Magazine, and at numerous websites, including Hollywood-Elsewhere, MovieViral, Back to the Movies, Taste of Cinema, and Awards Daily. Some of Nick's favorite filmmakers include Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, and Billy Wilder, with favorite films including The Tree of Life, Goodfellas, Heat, Back to the Future, Fitzcarraldo, Zoolander, and Enter the Void. He's currently writing a book on Tony Scott's filmmaking career.

DANIEL ESPINOSA’S LIFE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Despite a generic title and trailers that felt fairly derivative, the new sci-fi horror thriller Life, from director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Snabba Cash, Child 44), takes its familiar genre ingredients and twists them just enough, never overstaying its welcome at a brisk hour and 40 minutes, and provides some solid late winter entertainment that arrives with a considerable mean streak running through its R-rated bones. Gorgeously shot by master cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and featuring a particularly awesome musical score by Jon Ekstrand, the beautifully designed film opens with a nearly 10 minute single-take opening shot stunner, before all hell breaks loose on an international space station that’s doing some potentially dangerous testing on the first alien life-form found on Mars. The trailers have done a very good job of hiding many of the film’s most explosive moments, so I’m hesitant to say much more than I already have, and while not mind-blowing, this is the sort of bluntly effective genre entertainment that gets the job done. Everyone in the sturdy cast sells the material like pros, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson doing the heaviest of the lifting, while the final moments kick the movie up a full notch on the overall enjoyment scale. This is a surprisingly ruthless and effective piece of outer-space nastiness, with a killer of a finish.

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JAN DE BONT’S SPEED — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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This is a totally smashing, R-rated action-adventure film, made back in the good-old-days-90’s before the obnoxious and lazy practice of smothering your film in needless, endless CGI became the new norm; no swirling vortexes in the sky to be found here! Joss Whedon and Graham Yost’s zippy and propulsive screenplay presents fully fleshed out characters that are sympathetic and still resemble actual human beings, while the villain that dominates the narrative is especially well-considered and performed by Dennis Hopper. Cinematographer turned director Jan de Bont never crafted a better film while sitting in the helmer’s chair, bringing his innate widescreen visual sense to each robust set-piece, with ace lenser Andrzej Bartkowiak doing some seriously muscular work behind the camera. The pulse-pounding musical score by Mark Mancina amps up the thrills to the max, with leading man Keanu Reeves dropping one of his signature performances, with Jeff Daniels, Sandra Bullock, Alan Ruck, Joe Morton, and many more all doing invaluable back-up work. I can vividly remember seeing this on the big screen on opening night, and how it sent shivers of excitement down my spine. And the best part – this is a movie that proudly holds up over 20 years later, casually brushing off the watered-down, PG-13 competition that has been plaguing the genre for years.

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FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S TETRO — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Tetro is a beguiling film, definitely underrated and rarely discussed; I think it’s one of Francis Ford Coppola’s most interesting and personal films that he’s ever crafted, and I love how the narrative and visual style work to cast this spell of heightened familial discord with a nearly dreamy aftertaste that sometimes makes you question everything you’re being presented with. Set in Argentina, Tetro dives into the lives of two Italian brothers who are natural born rivals, and how the artistic passions that are found in their family have come to define them as men and as artists. Shot in smoky, gorgeous black and white by the eclectic and painterly cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. (his work here apparently caught the eye of Paul Thomas Anderson who drafted him for The Master), Tetro unfolds with a graceful sense of classical storytelling, with shades of noir thrown in to jazz up the background. Vincent Gallo and current flavor of the month Alden Ehrenreich were both superb as the quarreling brothers prone to verbal combat, while everyone in the mostly unfamiliar supporting cast all provided passionate performances. Coppola apparently wrote the script for Tetro while he was editing his divisive Youth Without Youth, and looked to independent European financiers to produce this esoteric yet still accessible piece of cinema.

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BRIAN DE PALMA’S PASSION — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Brian De Palma’s sleazy, slick, and super-sexy neo-noir Passion from 2012 has all the director’s trademark ingredients: murder, deceit, jealousy, split-screens, Pino Donaggio, sapphic tendencies, stedicam shots that go on forever, dreams, twins, kink, 70’s, 80’s, and so much more. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace absolutely killed it and clearly had lots of fun playing two highly sexualized women; they were both delectable pawns for De Palma to playfully mess around with. The film is a sort-of-remake of Alain Corneau’s 2010 thriller Love Crime, but with De Palma drastically changing the ending to his film. José Luis Alcaine’s shimmery cinematography took maximum advantage of the stylish production design and the gorgeous faces and bodies on display; his superb work with Pedro Almodovar no doubt left a strong impression on De Palma, as Alcaine’s innate understanding of how to light women is in full effect all throughout Passion, which was shot on 35mm film and mostly on location in Berlin. While not a masterpiece like Femme Fatale, Passion is an extremely fun and self-reflexive effort from the master of the macabre that shows that when provided the chance, he can still deliver over the top thrills with elegant visual panache.

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KELLY FREMON CRAIG’S THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Edge of Seventeen is a funny if overly familiar story of a female high school student learning to adjust to her new surroundings and the changing attitudes of the people around her. Hailee Steinfeld is unsurprisingly confident as the lead character, but for me, the real discovery of the movie was Haley Lu Richardson; if her agent is sharp, she’ll be landing some choice projects in the near future. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, the film is certainly perceptive in terms of modern teenage life, but I could have done without the more over the top plot shenanigans, and again, there was a whiff of familiarity and predictability to nearly the entire film. And while well written, some of the dialogue and the exchanges came off as too precious or self-labored; I didn’t truly believe the way some of the people spoke at times during this film.

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Woody Harrelson does some dryly humorous supporting work, while Kyra Sedgwick is given an odd role to play, that of a stressed-out single mom whose role in the narrative feels a little underdeveloped. For me, the big reveal from this movie is Richardson, who was charming and extremely photogenic and seemingly capable of much more than just the “best friend” role. Blake Jenner, who was also good in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some, is a hunk of All-American beef, with a mile-wide smile that reminds of a young Dennis Quaid, while Hayden Szeto delivered some awkward laughs. The film was produced by James L. Brooks, and was critically embraced last fall when it was released to decent if quiet box office results.

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STEVEN SODERBERGH’S HAYWIRE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Haywire demonstrates Steven Soderbergh upending the conventions of the modern spy movie and the Bourne aesthetic, resulting in a cold, calculated, and wonderfully crisp action thriller that strips away any narrative pretense and bloat, favoring classical and exquisitely shot and cut fight sequences with a terse screenplay (written by Soderbergh frenemy Lem Dobbs) that only divulges exactly what you need to know and nothing more. Gina Carano, a former MMA star, isn’t a particularly expressive or emotive screen presence, but what she possibly lacks in charisma she more than makes up for with her intense physicality and grace-under-pressure-confidence during the film’s numerous high-throttle action sequences. Her hotel room blow-out with a game Michael Fassbender is one of the single best fight sequences in any movie. Insanely aggressive, visceral, dangerous, and a hoot to watch, the two of them slam each other around a hotel suite, crashing into tables and mirrors and walls, trading repeated blows, with a static, observing camera capturing each potentially lethal kick and punch with hard-core efficiency.

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Carano is Mallory Kane, a black-ops soldier who’s tasked with doing a mysterious job by some nefarious government officials (Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum in one very nasty sequence) who are looking to use her as bait in a much larger plan of action. She doesn’t realize at first that she’s being set up, but when he makes heads of the situation, she’s off on the run, trying to put the pieces together with the help of a stranger (Michael Angarano) and her Tom Clancy-esque father, perfectly underplayed by Bill Paxton. As usual, Soderbergh acts as his own cameraman and editor (Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard POWER), and the film carries a fleet, slick yet gritty, totally engrossing style that beautifully serves the various action set-pieces and cynical dialogue exchanges.

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David Holmes’ score is jaunty, jazzy, and not the usual for this sort of genre fare; it’s one of my favorite recent scores to any film, a total play-thru on CD, riffing on Bond in some spots, and filled with tons of inspired 60’s and 70’s flair. As he did in The Informant! and on his TV show The Knick, Soderbergh opted for a unique use of nontraditional music in Haywire, which gave the entire film a bracing jolt of originality when compared to other genre efforts. And then there’s the final shot and line of dialogue – I’m not sure if I’ve ever loved two seconds of an action movie more than those moments. I can remember some people in my theatrical screening getting very annoyed by how Haywire finishes. Not me. The brevity of the entire piece is what I love so much, and the fatally sharp closing was a perfect way to fade to black.

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TATE TAYLOR’S THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I very much enjoyed last year’s much-derided thriller The Girl on the Train. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s hardly the worst. I like a good, steamy, erotic thriller, the types of movies that used to be original screenplay spec sales back in the 90’s. But nowadays, these genre thrillers are typically made because they’re based on best-selling novels, which is the case with this flick. Emily Blunt is absolutely awesome as a totally out of control alcoholic who can’t remember the fine details concerning her potential involvement in the disappearance of a local hottie who may or may not be schtupping the entire neighborhood. The gorgeous Haley Bennett is the seductress, Justin Theroux is Blunt’s much-irritated ex-husband, side-of-beef Luke Evans is around as a possible suspect, and Allison Janney and Rebecca Ferguson fill in the margins as a cop and goodie-good-wife respectively. The gorgeous cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Far From the Madding Crowd) stresses visual sensuality at nearly every chance afforded, while the luxury home furnishing production design is nearly pornographic in the same way as the current HBO show Big Little Lies, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

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Director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) might have been a little too tasteful with some of the seamier elements to the narrative, which was adapted by screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Chloe, Fur) from the Paula Hawkins novel; I kept wishing that Brian De Palma had been offered a chance to direct this pulpy-trash because when formally elevated, these types of movies can be very entertaining, as this one was for me. Paul Verhoeven might’ve been a cool fit with the material, too. It’s got a leering, predatory vibe, and while Taylor is a smooth craftsman, I’m not sure he was fully up for all of the kink that was inherent to the material. Still, for its entire running time, I was engrossed and entertained. It’s nothing serious or overly substantial, but it’s a solid thriller made with lots of production polish, and anchored by the magnetic acting chops of Blunt, who can seemingly do no wrong for me as a viewer. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a sizable worldwide hit, grossing $175 million off of a $45 million budget. Danny Elfman’s score is appropriately sketchy.

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