John Seale was retired. Then George Miller dangled a "Mad Max" movie in front of his face and, well, how can an Aussie say no? The 40-year veteran jumped right into the maelstrom Miller and his team were conjuring in the desert of west Africa and, along with killer second unit teams, captured one of the most innervating experiences of the year in "Mad Max: Fury Road." Oh, and he turned 70 years old while doing all of this.
Last year's edition of the Cannes International Film Festival brought with it the usual early awards possibilities. Some went the distance (Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" in a number of categories). Others fell short (Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner"). But while Sundance is certainly stepping up its awards-relevance game, the Croisette is where people really start pondering how the film year will shake out once the Oscar drums start banging late in the fall.
Before Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale shuffled off to retirement, only to be lured back into the fray by director George Miller for the virtuoso stylings of "Mad Max: Fury Road," he clocked a lot of hours working with filmmaker Anthony Minghella. The two collaborated on three major productions: 1996's "The English Patient," 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and 2003's "Cold Mountain."
The 1999 entry is, full stop, a masterpiece of modern cinema. With shades of latter-day Hitchcock pulsing through a narrative wound uncomfortably tight, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" might be the finest work Minghella, who passed away in 2008, ever committed to the screen. It features more than just evocative, but rather outright palpable atmosphere and a detailed sense of place. Minghella coaxed incredibly layered performances out of actors like Matt Damon, Jude Law (Oscar nominated for his work), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett and, as ever, told the story visually in captivating ways.
If at first you don't succeed…
Last year's big Universal Pictures/Angelina Jolie (Pitt) prestige fall/winter release, "Unbroken," didn't exactly make Oscar season waves upon arrival. But the actress/filmmaker was hard at work on her follow-up throughout, so I'm sure that did a lot to take her mind off how many nominations the film wasn't receiving (and how many nasty things were being said about her in hacked corporate emails). And so she and the studio will give it another go later this year with "By the Sea," starring Jolie and husband Brad Pitt.
Jimi Hendrix is proving popular for the big screen lately. Last year brought with it John Ridley's "Jimi: All Is By My Side" with Spirit Award nominee Andre Benjamin in the starring role. Now comes word that Legendary Pictures will finally move ahead on developing a biopic about the musician with "Captain Phillips" helmer Paul Greengrass set to direct.
Within the next two weeks Pixar will officially debut its latest animated feature, "Inside Out," at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It's the Disney division's first new movie since "Monster's University" which hit theaters almost two years ago. Pixar will make up for the long absence by also releasing a second picture, "The Good Dinosaur," in November. While Pixar steps back into the spotlight its sister division, Walt Disney Animation Studios, is taking 2015 off after an incredible run of back to back animated Oscar winners, "Frozen" and "Big Hero 6." Walt Disney Animation Studio's next film is "Zootopia" which doesn't hit theaters until March, 2016. Today, they finally revealed who will be voicing the move's main characters.
If HBO's Scientology documentary "Going Clear" is any indication, the American public is hungry for damning exposés on the Hollywood establishment. Enter "An Open Secret," a new documentary by Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg ("Deliver Us from Evil," "West of Memphis") that shines a light on the sexual exploitation of young boys in the entertainment industry.
Everything about the general details of "Ricki and the Flash" is like a giant flashing "YES" sign to me: Jonathan Demme directing Meryl Streep as a rock star going back to her roots, from an original screenplay by Diablo Cody. I've been quietly sort of stoked for this film all year. And now we get a taste thanks to the first trailer.
There are a number of movies with familiar faces premiering at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival this month, but Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario" might feature the most intriguing trio of them all.
I've been eager to see Bill Condon get back on top of things. Hopefully that "Twilight" gig kept the gas tank full, but "The Fifth Estate" apparently didn't work out (I confess I never saw it). I'm super intrigued by his forthcoming live action "Beauty and the Beast," but in the meantime, we have "Mr. Holmes" opening this summer.