Tag Archives: Amy Adams

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Every few years, if we’re lucky, we get a science fiction movie as good as Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, a cosmic miracle of a film. Built around the ages old trope of aliens invading earth, and even throwing shout outs to sci fi flicks of yore (Robert Zemeckis’s Contact, Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day to name a few), it ultimately is completely it’s own thing and there has never been anything quite like it ever before in the genre, or in Big Hollywood. Villeneuve, whether working in crime, thriller or mind-fuck territory, has always proudly broke the mold and blasted new crevices into seemingly charted out tonal territory. It’s only fitting that a SciFi outing from him is something remarkable, and he terraforms the genre to incredible thematic plateaus here. Amy Adams is reliably terrific as a linguistics guru brought in by the government to try and communicate with a mysterious race of extraterrestrials, shadowy beings who have illegally parked their mammoth, monolithic ships systematically all over the globe. What do they want? Why are they her? Tensions rise when the military (Forest Whitaker gives the obligatory general role his trademark brand of implosive compassion) and the CIA (Michael Stuhlburg does paranoia to a turn) butt heads over what to do, while a snarky mathematician (Jeremy Renner, excellent) has his own ideas. Adams develops an inspired way of both understanding these beings via their unique brand of written language and imparting to them our English words, or at least a variation. The scenes inside their ship are so haunting and atmospheric we get the sense this is real footage we’re sneaking a peek at, and the government may bust in and raid our TV room any moment. The beings themselves are a visually intriguing bunch, like dreamy space elephant/whale/spiders who evoke a strange, genuinely alien aura. But time is running out, and if Adams can’t make both their language and intentions clear, the big guns of fear and ignorance threaten to come out and play. The film has an important, uplifting message that communication should always supersede violence, a hard truth but a necessary one. My favourite aspect of this film is its elliptical final act, and anyone who has already seen it knows what I’m talking about. Much of the film, although artistic, is straightforward, but Villeneuve really plumbs the fathoms of human consciousness and pulls forth ideas that not only are rarely explored this maturely onscreen, are also very difficult to understand in linear, analytical fashion. It’s this drive to push his audience, to dole out just as much brain and soul candy as eye candy into our cinematic trick or treat bags that’s the reason he’s such an important, landmark filmmaker, and it’s a joy to see such films take centre stage at the multiplex. With key supporting work from the great Tzi Ma and a ghostly original score by the late maestro Johan Johansson that eerily inhabits the film like an alien force all its own, every individual and element involved combine to give this film something special and rare: a genuine sense of wonder.

-Nate Hill

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A Nice Day for Superman’s Return by Kent Hill (PART 2)

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In the early days of writing for PTS, I did a little piece on Superman Returns (which you’ll find here:https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/08/31/a-nice-day-for-supermans-return-by-kent-hill/). It was, if you like, a hymn of praise to a glorious afternoon, when the exaltation of the moment, combined with the wave of nostalgia – and the fact it was my birthday – all blended together on the day of the premiere of the first Superman movie in a really long time.

Of course, as is the case with a lot of films, a second viewing broke the spell. What I was left with was something of a mixed bag of emotions that I still ponder to this day. How did it all go wrong? What happened to the Bryan Singer who had recently made X2 (which was great)? Were there too many cooks in the kitchen? Was the whole thing a multi-million dollar rush job? Should they have rolled the dice and made Superman Lives? (Hell, YES!!!)

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Since writing that initial piece I have had the good fortune to have a chat with a couple of the people who were there during filming. Composer/Editor John Ottman (our chat here:https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/10/28/chopped-and-scored-an-interview-with-john-ottman-by-kent-hill/), produced a beautiful score (one of the last I remember directly leaving the theatre and purchasing), as well as doing a fine job in the cutting room. And Robert Meyer Burnett assembled an excellent and comprehensive set of behind the scenes features, successfully documenting the making of the movie here in Sydney, Tamworth and also early stages of pre-production in the US (our chat here:https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2017/08/17/the-making-of-a-conversation-with-robert-meyer-burnett-by-kent-hill/).

Today I was sent another great behind the scenes glimpse from my friend, filmmaker and co-screenwriter Sean Ellis, who edited the footage (see here:https://vimeo.com/262035539/ea3164da85). There is even a moment when you can see Robert going about his stock-in-trade in documenting the making of the picture.

There has been more of Superman on the big screen since then. Admirable attempts, but, far from that iconic and wondrous unification of elements which saw the 1978 film explode onto screens, and into our hearts and minds for evermore. Now, I like Cavill in the role, and with the climax of Justice League there appeared a glimmer of hope. That maybe they buried the moody/brooding Superman, and with his resurrection would also be born a welcome return to form?

Only time will tell whether DC cinematic universe can recapture, in part, its days of honor. Lighting, as I once said, has already struck (circa 1978 with Donner’s film), now all we are left with is the thunder and its echoes. Do I hate Superman Returns? No. It was, in this man’s opinion, a valiant attempt to resurrect the Man of Steel after a long slumber – yet for all its magic, it didn’t cast a spell of significant longevity – though it wasn’t as silly as Superman’s CG shave in his most recent big screen outing.

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I have a dream, as it was once uttered, that one day the grey clouds will part, the blue yonder shall emerge in all its heavenly brilliance and, there in the stillness, a figure traveling faster than a speeding bullet will rip across the vast firmament and we’ll look up in the sky – and maybe, just maybe, another magical retelling of the adventures of the most romantic of the superhero cast will descend –  there we’ll find another great Superman movie?

 

Tom Ford’s NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

Tom Ford is a cinematic anomaly. With little traditional filmmaking experience he’s taken cinema by storm and with his most recent directorial and screenwriting effort, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, Ford has created an immaculate and haunting masterpiece.

The film is a magnificent web of truths, the lies we tell ourselves, the selfishness we guise in our actions, and a love that was so fierce and passionate that when it ends the only comparable feeling is death.

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It’s deep, complex, and heavy. Ford does anything but hold our hand, but he does an incredible job guiding us through a narrative that is so thick and murky, one slight mistake or hiccup would make the film an incoherent mess.

The performances are all stellar. Amy Adams gives a purposefully reserved turn that keeps her at arm’s length for anyone she interacts with, occasionally allowing vulnerability to slip through the cracks, allowing us a peak at her inherent toxicity.

Jake Gyllenhaal embarks on yet another revelation of a performance, blending into the picture in a way that is impossible to see any other actor in. Michael Shannon gives the best performance of his career as a character who if a lesser actor took on the role, it would be a one note character that would not serve as big a purpose.

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey does an unbelievable job, helping construct a visual narrative that is as beautifully sweeping as it is terrifyingly haunting. It’s his best, and most important work to date. Ford re-teams with composer Abel Korezeniowski, who creates an atmosphere so dark and dreamy, the visual imagery is that much more impactful.

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Production design by Shane Valentino and costumes by Arianne Phillips further create two simpatico worlds of high excess and dusty noir, that is unlike any other film ever made. The films aesthetics are flawless, without a single blemish or crack that supports the already taut and visceral narrative Ford carefully takes us through.

Ford’s audacity knows no bounds, and cinema needs more films like this. His previous film, A SINGLE MAN hit all the cinematic marks, making it one of the best debut directorial efforts of all time, it’s so good that it was impossible for Ford to ever outdo himself. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS blows A SINGLE MAN out of the water. It’s not even close. It’s a film that’s brute nature and frightening themes delivers a cathartic ending that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Whatever Ford does after this is almost irrelevant, he has already become a cinematic titan on his own accord, and we should all be in awe.

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PTS Presents Writer’s Workshop with Eric Heisserer

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unnamed-1Podcasting Them Softly is beyond thrilled to present a chat with screenwriter Eric Heisserer, whose new science fiction film, Arrival, hits theaters this weekend! Riding a wave of stellar reviews and showcasing the directorial talents of Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, the upcoming Blade Runner 2049), Arrival has all the makings of an instant genre classic, and we were honored to be invited to take part in the official media junket for the first time. We’d like to extend an extra special thanks to the publicity departments of Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures, Lauren Woods at PMKBNC, and Eric himself for making this happen! Hope you enjoy this fast but informative discussion about one of our most anticipated films of the year!

BATMAN V SUPERMAN DAWN OF JUSTICE – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

“That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.”

Zack Snyder’s BATMAN V SUPERMAN DAWN OF JUSTICE is unlike any superhero film we’ve seen before. It is brazen and it is bold, it is disjointed and over packed with setting up the new DC Universe. When I say that this film is a complete mess, I mean it in the way of how APOCALYPSE NOW is a complete mess. BvS cannot be compared to any existing, non-universe, DC film that came prior, and it certainly cannot be compared to anything that Marvel has done. Marvel likes to follow a template. They know what works and what doesn’t, and they certainly do not take many risks at all. BvS takes risk after risk after risk, and by doing so Snyder has made a remarkable film.

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The casting of Ben Affleck as the fifty year old Bruce Wayne/Batman was a brilliant move by Snyder and Warner Brothers. We know who Batman is. We’ve seen Batman’s story countless times. There’s nothing more that can be said about him. Michael Keaton was perfect, Val Kilmer was admirable; George Clooney fully admits his turn almost killed Batman, and the Bale/Nolan trilogy was a godsend to the Batman’s onscreen presence. Now, we get to see the version of the Batman that some of us have always wanted, and a lot of people didn’t even know they wanted. We see what comes after everything we have seen prior. The Batman is older; he’s even more cynical and jaded. He’s given up on hope and resorted to his anger, his vengeance. He has become a killer.

Affleck’s take on Batman may just be the best one yet. He has resorted to his primal brutish instincts with one goal in mind. He doesn’t want to make Superman submit; he doesn’t want Superman to stand trial and have society serve justice for the atrocity he’s brought to the world. He wants to kill him, and if he can’t, he will die trying. Affleck transforms the Batman into a battle worn warrior. He is a man who doesn’t care about peace and justice, he is a man who has a blatant disregard for hope.

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Zack Snyder is the epitome of a polarizing filmmaker. He has a solid fanbase who are passionate about his films. Snyder has an equally loud echo chamber made up of people who strongly dislike him. Who refuse to give him credit for anything positive. There is not another filmmaker alive who could have made a Batman/Superman film that sets up not only the Justice League, but also an entire new universe to be explored. Zack Snyder, takes everything that was thrown at him: a follow up to MAN OF STEEL, introducing a new Batman without spending a film giving him an origin, introducing Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash, and Aquaman. Snyder not only did all these things, but excelled in a remarkable way.

Yes, it’s another superhero film. Yes it’s another big budget blockbuster. Yes, it’s going to set up multiple franchises that we’ve already seen. But it has never been done in such a magnificent way. Affleck, along with Jeremy Irons as the new Alfred, and Jesse Eisenberg as the smoke screen for the real Lex Luthor, all bring pre-existing gravitas with them. Immediately adding validity to characters so we don’t need to spend a movie a piece building up backstory for them

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Film critics, whether professional or Facebookers/bloggers, who don’t like this film, who are relishing in the critical shitstorm this film received, already made their minds up that they were going to hate this film. Much like IndieWire and a few other websites tried their absolute hardest to sink TRUE DETECTIVE season 2 before it even aired, the way some critics approached the new Star Wars film in a highbrow, disregarding way – DAWN OF JUSTICE suffered much of the same fate, but none of that matters. The film is going to and already has broken box office records, and the dark and dreary foundation of the new DC Universe is set.

There is a striking moment in the film that was shown in the first trailer. The second Robins suit is displayed in the Batcave with spray paint on it: “The joke is on you, Batman!” Not only does this tell us, in part, of why the Batman is so angry and rage filled, but I can’t help but think that is also a way of Snyder saying that to his haters, those who rallied hard against this film: the joke is most certainly on you.

JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY’S DOUBT — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Doubt is an impeccable piece of filmmaking. From the Oscar-nominated writing to the air-tight direction to the spellbinding performances, it’s a precision-tooled work from a master storyteller who has an amazing grasp on what he wants to say. Adapted from his Pulitzer winning play of the same name, writer-director John Patrick Shanley crafted one of the most thought-provoking films from 2008 with Doubt, a piece of work that scorches the nerves because of how vital and possible all of it feels. Set in the 1960’s at a NYC Catholic school, Doubt tells the story of a priest who is accused of improper behavior with one of his altar boys. Philip Seymour Hoffman, forceful as ever, is Father Flynn, a seemingly good and decent man who takes a liking to the only black student/altar boy in the school. The scarily intense Meryl Streep is Sister Beauvier, the main accuser, who teams up with another nun, the fragile Sister James, played by Amy Adams, in order to try to bring Flynn down. Sister James is the one who thinks that something improper has occurred; she doesn’t have definitive proof but she merely thinks that something bad has happened. Shanley asks his viewers to make a decision at the end of the film as to who was right, who was wrong, who was lying, and who was telling the truth. This is a hard film to review without spoiling because there’s little to no fat on the bones of the story, with each scene feeding into the one previous and the one following. Every piercing line of dialogue is important to the overall narrative and every moment in each of the three central performances are so integral to the film’s outcome that it becomes a tricky movie to discuss without giving everything away.

And then you have an emotionally shattering Viola Davis, who stole some heartbreaking scenes as the altar boy’s deeply concerned mother; there’s not a false note played by any of these superlative performers, all of whom were bestowed with Oscar nominations for their riveting portrayals. With Doubt, what I think Shanley was trying to get his audience to ask themselves is: How do we really know what goes on behind a closed-door? Is it enough to simply think that someone has done something wrong before you attack their character? What is a person’s moral compass made up of, and how do we truly know the people we work and live with? How do we decide who is right and who is wrong when all of the facts aren’t made clear? Working with the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, Shanley brought an appropriately chilly visual aesthetic to the film, with Deakins stressing grays and browns and darkly lit interiors with tons of Dutch angles and long takes that maximize the dramatic potency of every face-off between the verbally sparring actors. Every line of dialogue crackles with authority, especially when spoken by Hoffman and Streep, and Adams, in the film’s most layered role, did excellent work, painting a portrait of a confused woman who may or may not have started something she has no way of ever controlling. And most importantly, Shanley knew exactly how to wrap up his story, and during the film’s final, stinging moments, you’ll be left with a lot of fodder for discussion after the final credits have rolled.

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