"Masterpiece" is a term too many critics use with too little discernment, but I feel comfortable applying it to Jonathan Glazer's extraordinary sci-fi vision "Under the Skin," which has drawn strong opinions in every direction since premiering at Telluride and Venice last year. Reviews were initially shaky, but as was the case with Glazer's last film, "Birth," nine years ago, it didn't take long for an ardent army of critical defenders to form. The less you know about going in, the better -- but I will say that it proves Glazer to be among the greatest sensualists working in cinema today, and Scarlett Johansson as a movie star of uncommon magnetism and daring. Go see what you think, and report back below; either way, it's not a film any serious film lover can afford to skip.
A story of noble heroes battling to protect priceless artworks stolen from their rightful owners during the Second World War? It sounded like Oscar bait when George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" first turned up on the horizon, and we all know how that turned out. Might it turn out any better with Helen Mirren and Harvey Weinstein leading the charge?
Any readers who have been with us since 2011 (when it topped Kris' Top 10 list and nearly did mine) will know that we at In Contention are paid-up members of Team "Margaret" -- the brilliant, troubled Kenneth Lonergan drama that trickled into theaters three years ago, six years after it began production.
Even if it is just a ploy to shoehorn another pandering award to a popular young star, I kind of dig the MTV's Trailblazer Award as a general concept. It's kind of the opposite of a lifetime achievement honor, reserved for actors or actresses of a young age whose work paves the way for others in the industry. And the first two annual recipients were women, which is nice (Emma Stone in 2012 and Emma Watson in 2013). This year the honor is going to a dude for the first time: Channing Tatum.
I was pretty entranced by John Curran's tracks when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year -- the true story of a young woman trekking 2000 miles across the Outback desert in 1975, it has the pictorial lyricism and subdued intelligence the distinguished Curran's underrated 2006 Maugham adaptation "The Painted Veil," plus a(nother) superb performance from the ever-interesting Mia Wasikowska, oddly but engagingly paired with "Girls" star Adam Driver as the American photographer who documents her journey.
From improbably remote arthouse origins, Québécois director Denis Villeneuve is turning into quite hot Hollywood property. A couple of years after his Middle Eastern melodrama "Incendies" scored an Oscar nomination, his austere formal gifts and taste for high-concept tragedy combined to make his starry but profoundly bleak kidnap thriller "Prisoners" a risky mainstream hit last autumn. The smaller-scale surrealist exercise "Enemy," which premiered near-simultaneously at Toronto and was released in the US last month, took him back to specialty territory, but showed he has enough clout to attract an A-lister like Jake Gyllenhaal to a very eccentric indie. All options are effectively open to him.
Perhaps I'm just getting old, but it doesn't feel like eight years since Davis Guggenheim's climate-change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" was very much in the mainstream conversation -- and, of course, an unstoppable force in the Oscar race.
Last week, we passed along news of a rather intriguing new project for 18-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep: an untitled Diablo Cody script, to be directed by Jonathan Demme, in which she'd play a fame-hungry mother reuniting with her estranged family. Today, a few more choice details were announced, beginning with a title: the film is to be called "Ricki and the Flash." Tastier still: Streep will be unleashing her inner rock chick.
The last time we were talking about Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer" was about eight months ago when word surfaced that Harvey Weinstein was looking to cut 20 minutes out of the film ahead of its North American release. It had already played quite well in South Korea and picked up a fair share of raves across Asia and at this and that foreign film festival.
The film will be released Stateside on June 27, but word comes today that it will see its official US premiere two weeks earlier as the opening night presentation at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Wednesday, June 11.
On March 31, 1999, Andy and Lana (née Larry) Wachowski's "The Matrix" hit theaters. That's 15 years ago today, and it was a pretty significant event.