I don't get it.
At this point, the "Resident Evil" film franchise is for fans only, and no casual viewers need apply. The continuity from film to film seems to pick up mere seconds after the previous movie ends, and in the case of this latest effort, "Resident Evil: Retribution," it's a movie that seems to exist entirely as a phrase between two commas, a resolution of one cliffhanger, a ton of empty exposition, and another cliffhanger for the inevitable "Resident Evil: Boss Fight" or whatever the hell they'll call the next one. If you haven't been keeping up with the films, the opening of this one will be a case of a prolonged image that looks "cool" but that is utterly baffling on any sort of storytelling level.
Seems par for the course in this film, though. The opening titles play over a looooong series of shots of things runnings backwards in slow motion, with Milla Jovovich coming up from underwater, into the air, landing on a tanker ship that is under attack, explosions contracting into themselves, bodies flying up onto their feet as bullets race out of them. It's all staged on a scale that is impressive to observe, and as this massive sequence finally builds to include what seem to be hundreds of airships racing away from the tanker, then pausing and reversing and beginning the attack in forward motion at full speed, it's such a strange, pointless double-back that you could stop the film there and just embrace it as a perfect example of what to expect from the film as a whole.
I don't get it.
One thing is increasingly clear: Terrence Malick is a man on a very specific aesthetic mission.
When I was at Cannes in the summer of 2011, there was no film that was more heavily discussed or anticipated before it screened than "The Tree Of Life." I felt like I was lucky to be there for the film, and there was a sense that everyone had made it their top priority for the festival. The discussions afterwards were intense and ongoing all week, and I dare say no other film was covered quite as extensively during that fest.
Here in Toronto this week, though, I've gotten none of that surrounding the debut of "To The Wonder," Malick's new movie, and in the few conversations I've had with other people, it seems like the notion that he's got two more films coming in the next year or so and another major ongoing one in development has made him "just another filmmaker" as opposed to the figurative Sasquatch of Cinema that he was for so long. I'm thrilled he's suddenly found this new productivity and that he's got a producing team in place who are able to help him realize all of this newfound creative energy, but it does mean that it's less of an event now. There's a reason the world rarely freaks out at the news that there's a Woody Allen film coming out. Something that happens every eleven months or so is not particularly noteworthy, no matter what the final film turns out to be.
Watch: Woody Harrelson on how the cast is handling a new director on 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
I feel like I've done something on the magnitude of a thousand interviews in the last week. I'm sure it's actually only something like ten or twelve, but when you're juggling those with a full festival screenings schedule, it can seem overwhelming.
One thing that makes it worthwhile, though, is when you check in with someone who has always been fun in interviews, and that's a fair description of Woody Harrelson. Every single time I've chatted with him, it's been fun. There was one night in a wings restaurant when he showed up unannounced and joined us, and he was as sharp and funny and immediately friendly as you could have hoped, and then at press day after press day, he shows up with the right attitude about these things. Yes, we're all there doing a job, but no, it doesn't have to be like pulling teeth. If you talk to him like a real person, he'll do the same, and he's one of my favorite people to bump into on a press day.
I think the thing I like most about Ben Affleck these days is that he didn't wait for someone else to rescue his career. He took control and he rescued himself.
"Argo" is the latest film from Affleck as a director, and I think it's a huge leap forward for him. I liked "Gone Baby Gone" more than I liked "The Town," which I thought was well-made but not a particularly great script. This time out, Affleck is working with a wonderful piece of material, telling a captivating true story, and he's put together an ensemble that any actor would be thrilled to be part of, all in service of a film that absolutely feels like it could make awards-giving groups happy while also serving as a cracking piece of entertainment. Those two things don't always go hand in hand, and Affleck deserves credit for taking what could easily have been a dry historical moment and turning it into as tense a thriller as you'll see in a theater all year.
Joss Whedon is having one of those years that most filmmakers only dream of having, and the real winner is the audience.
First, the film that he co-wrote and produced, "Cabin In The Woods," was finally released after it sat on a shelf for two years because of financial problems at MGM, and it would have been easy for that film to have gotten permanently lost. instead, it was met with open arms by genre fans, and it seems like it is well on its way to its rightful place as a cult classic. Then "The Avengers" conquered the summer and finally gave him a monster box-office hit he can call his own, an important step if he's going to have an sort of career longevity working on the bigscreen. And now, finally, we've got "Much Ado About Nothing," a micro-budget personal take on Shakespeare's play, cast largely with actors who will seem very familiar to people already fans of Whedon's work.
There are few filmmakers working whose output has been as consistently exciting and rewarding as Paul Thomas Anderson, and there are few films I have anticipated with as much confidence this year as "The Master."
So you'll understand if it unnerves me a bit to find that I don't love it.
I respect it and even admire it, but for the first time, I find myself struggling to connect on that extra level that we reserve for the films that matter most to us. "The Master" is, as was rumored, a fictionalized look at the dynamics that existed in the early days of Scientology, but simply viewing it through that prism, looking for the parallels and trying to parse Anderson's stance on the house that Hubbard built, would be a simplistic way to approach it. Instead, I think the film is really trying to grapple with the way broken or damaged people reach for salvation and balance and the extremes they will suffer in the futile hope that someone else will give them the answers, which is certainly fertile ground for drama.
I can tell you this: we'll definitely be running a Second Look piece about this film after it's in theaters, because it is a remarkable movie experience, one that cannot be digested easily, and any attempt to dig in fully would rob you of the sense of discovery that washed over me as I sat in the theater.
No matter what the subject matter, the combination of Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer would be reason enough to be excited. The novel they adapted, though, is something very special, and a huge challenge for anybody looking to turn it into a film. Walking into the film, I was hoping for something ambitious and different. What I got was one of my two favorite films of the year so far, a movie I'll be returning to again and again, a unique and beautiful work of film art that dares to dream big in a way we rarely see from either studios or independent sources.
Martin McDonagh's film "In Bruges" was one of those tiny movies that many audiences simply didn't notice when it was released, but the people who did see it ended up devoted to it. The film's reputation has grown in the last few years, helped in large part by McDonagh's work on stage, and now he's once again working with Colin Farrell. The result, "Seven Psychopaths," is perhaps the most interesting implosion of narrative convention since "Adaptation," and it works as a comedy first and a commentary on the entire idea of violence as entertainment.
Marty (Farrell) is a screenwriter who is struggling to figure out his new script, a piece called "Seven Psychopaths," and as the film opens, pretty much all he has is the title and one of the psychopaths. His best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), wants to help him with the script. He's convinced that Marty is a great writer and that "Seven Psychopaths" could be a great film. The problem is that Marty wants to write a movie about lunatics, but he wants to find a way to do it without violence, sending a message of peace that will be uplifting, and Billy's pretty sure that's going to be impossible.
One of the best moments of the entire festival for me so far was seeing Rory Cochrane join Ben Affleck onstage during the introduction for "Argo." The two of them co-starred in one of my favorite films, "Dazed and Confused," and it was just great to see them together again. The thing I've always loved most about that movie is the way it captured that feeling of those long, weird adolescent days when curfew was broken and substances were imbibed and nothing seemed to matter except the moment.
Stephen Chbosky's film adaptation of his novel, "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower," is equally adept at evoking the feeling of being young and unfocused and full of potential and desire without focus. It is smart, it is delicately made, and it is played perfectly by its young ensemble cast. I haven't read his book, so I can't tell you how faithful the film is, but I can tell you that it affected me deeply and moved me greatly. It is a wonderful, tender thing, and I hope this is just the beginning of what we see from Chbosky as a filmmaker.
Right now, I'm seeing a tendency among studios to do special free screenings based on demand that they try to calibrate by using various new companies and methods, and it's exciting. Nothing speaks better for a film than screening the film itself, and today, we've got a chance for you to win a local screening of Lionsgate's new release, "Dredd 3D".
It's simple to enter, too. Remember, in the world of "Dredd 3D," there is just one city, but it stretches from Boston to Washington DC, and it's now called Mega-City One. Keep that in mind as you check out what Lionsgate had to say about the event:
Citizens of Mega-City One, the law is on your side! If this is not your city block, simply head on over to The Dredd Report, the number one news source for all things Mega-City One, where you can see if your block has been chosen and enter to win an early screening of DREDD 3D, in theaters September 21.
All you need to do is send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your full name, age, and the city/town where you live, with the subject line "Dredd 3D Phoenix." You can do that any time between now and Monday the 10th at 12:00 noon PST. We'll be sending out e-mail notifications to the winners as well as posting their names here in this article on Monday.