<p>Rutger Hauer expresses his displeasure with his agent over being cast in 'Dracula 3D'</p>

Rutger Hauer expresses his displeasure with his agent over being cast in 'Dracula 3D'

Credit: Film Export Group

Review: Silly and stupid 'Dracula 3D' is career nadir for Dario Argento

HitFix
F
Readers
n/a
One of the most oft-filmed stories in film falls flat in latest incarnation

CANNES - Dario Argento made his directorial debut the same year I was born. He has literally been making horror films as long as I've been alive, and his first nine horror features are arguably one of the best runs any filmmaker in the genre has ever had.  I consider "Suspiria" to be one of the towering accomplishments in all of horror, a true nightmare that makes almost no literal sense but that manages to wrap the viewer in a perverse and pervasive sense of dream.  His influence can be felt in hundreds, if not thousands of films at this point, and it would be impossible to overstate how good he can be when he is at his best.

"Dracula 3D" is pretty much the direct opposite of his best.

My first and perhaps most fundamental issue with the film is that Bram Stoker's novel has been adapted so many times and in so many ways that any new adaptation really should find something to add to the conversation.  Why else would you want to make a Dracula film?  The character has been portrayed in any number of settings, and there have been adaptations both faithful and almost completely reinvented.  The bare bones of the Stoker novel have been so thoroughly stripped of meat at this point that it seems almost pointless to return to it as source material.  Still, the right filmmaker and the right cast could make it seem fresh, and the right take on things could convince me that I'm wrong about the property.  It's certainly happened before.

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<p>Daniel Craig arrives at a Shanghai casino in Sam Mendes' &quot;Skyfall.&quot;</p>

Daniel Craig arrives at a Shanghai casino in Sam Mendes' "Skyfall."

Credit: Sony Pictures

Analysis: First 'Skyfall' trailer is gorgeous and brutal

HitFix
A
Readers
C+
007 looks like he's going to be an unstoppable force this time around

Yes, even though I'm at a film festival, I still feel compelled to weigh in on the first trailer for "Skyfall," the new James Bond film.

As a lifelong fan of the series, one of the things I find most interesting is watching the way the aesthetics of Bond have shifted over the years to reflect wherever mainstream film has gone.  You can look at a Bond film and get a sense of what was going on culturally at the time it was made.  They are reflections of their moments, time capsules with a body count.

Hiring Sam Mendes for this 50th anniversary edition of the series was an interesting choice because of how different James Bond is than anything he's shot before, but just based on this teaser trailer, I'd say it looks like that gamble has paid off handsomely.  This is a gorgeous introduction to the new film, and I love the word association opening.  Daniel Craig's Bond is wound tighter than any previous incarnation, and that's one of the reasons I love him in the role.  HIs Bond takes full advantage of that license to kill, and not just so he can make a pithy joke and move on.  He is a cultured ape, a brute who just happens to look good in a tux, and he is dangerous.

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<p>Emmanuelle Riva gives a harrowing and beautiful performance in Michael Haneke's heartbreaking 'Love,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Emmanuelle Riva gives a harrowing and beautiful performance in Michael Haneke's heartbreaking 'Love,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Credit: Sony PIctures Classics

Review: Michael Haneke's 'Love' expertly charts the dissolution of self

HitFix
A
Readers
A
In what may be his most human film, Haneke captures a couple in their twilight

CANNES - For the vast majority of his career, Michael Haneke has had a well-deserved reputation as a master of cinematic cruelty.  His best films have felt like cruel pranks on his audience, underscored by a deep contempt for human weakness.  I have always had an uneasy relationship with his work, admiring him on a technical level but afraid of each new film and the razor's edge contained within.

"Love," his new film, made its debut today in competition at the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival, and while it is unmistakably his, this may be the single most humane picture he's ever made.  Beautiful and sad, the film is essentially a two person piece, with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva playing a French husband and wife in their twilight years.  The film opens with police breaking down the door of their apartment.  Covering their mouths and noses to protect from a smell, they search the apartment, finding one bedroom door sealed with tape.  When they finally get it open, they find a body on the bed, dead and covered in flowers.  With the next scene, Haneke takes us back in time to the beginning of the process that ended in that room, and it is a crushing experience he has crafted.

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<p>Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur co-star in the largely inert new film 'Beyond The Hills,' one of the most disappointing films of this year's Cannes Film Festival.</p>

Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur co-star in the largely inert new film 'Beyond The Hills,' one of the most disappointing films of this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Credit: Sundance Selects/Wild Bunch

Review: 'Beyond The Hills' wants to incite but only manages to bore

HitFix
C-
Readers
A+
Cristian Mungiu's new film simply can't connect the dots

CANNES - Cristian Mungiu arrives at Cannes this year as a sort of conquering hero, finally bringing a full-length follow-up to his breakthrough hit, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," which won the 2007 Palme d'Or.  This is only his third film, and all three have been invited to the festival, which certainly makes it seem like this is a home for him and for what it is he has to say as a filmmaker.  Considering it's taken him five years to make his third film, it's safe to say that expectations were running high when "Beyond The Hills" made its debut two days ago.

It is, then, no fun to report that "Beyond The Hills" feels like a pretty serious misstep, overthought and overwrought, with some big ideas buried beneath a leaden approach and a cast that simply can't enliven material that never manages to lurch to life.  I don't fault him for ambition, and I can certainly see how the film's core idea could be a springboard for great drama.  It just doesn't feel like the execution pays off any of the material's potential.

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<p>Caleb Landry Jones stars in Brandon Cronenberg's decidedly icky 'Antiviral'</p>

Caleb Landry Jones stars in Brandon Cronenberg's decidedly icky 'Antiviral'

Credit: Alliance Films

Review: 'Antiviral' is promising first film from second generation director

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
Brandon Cronenberg is most definitely his father's son

CANNES - Well, as the old saying goes, the diseased and throbbing apple does not fall far from the penis-shaped flesh tree.  Or at least, that's a variation on the old saying that seems applicable when you're talking about the debut film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of the king of body horror, David Cronenberg.

"Antiviral" is playing here as part of the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, and I walked into it knowing nothing aside from Cronenberg's parentage. I wasn't even sure if it was in the same general realm as the work that made his father a legend in horror.  After watching a steady stream of people bolt for the exits during the film's screening, I think it's safe to say that he has inherited his father's knack for making people deeply uncomfortable about topics that are personal to the point of feeling invasive.  I don't think he's just imitating his father, either.  While there may be some thematic similarity, Brandon Cronenberg has made a darkly comic, deeply unpleasant first film that deserves to be considered on its own merits.

Caleb Landry Jones, last seen on movie screens as Banshee in "X-Men: First Class," stars here as Syd March, a guy who works for a company that specializes in selling celebrity diseases to people.  Yes, you read that right.  Celebrities make exclusive deals with biotech firms which harvest their various illnesses, distill them, and then inject them into regular people who want to share something in common with their favorite movie star or model.  Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) is one of the most important of the clients that are signed by the company that Syd works for, and as the film opens, we see him infecting a fan named Edward Porris (Douglas Smith) with Hannah's herpes, right where he would have caught it if she kissed him.

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<p>The indestructible Bondurant brothers go to war with a deranged special agent trying to shut down their bootlegging operation in John Hillcoat's Cannes entry 'Lawless'</p>

The indestructible Bondurant brothers go to war with a deranged special agent trying to shut down their bootlegging operation in John Hillcoat's Cannes entry 'Lawless'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Hillcoat's 'Lawless' makes great use of Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
Prohibition-era hillbilly mythmaking at its finest

CANNES - John Hillcoat has carved out a very strong presence in world cinema with just a few films, and while I respect both "The Proposition" and "The Road," I would have a hard time claiming to love either of them. His new film, "Lawless," made its debut at Cannes first thing Saturday morning, and the most striking thing about it at first glance is that Hillcoat seems to have learned some new shades as a filmmaker, and for the first time in his career, it feels like he's actually having some fun.  It helps that he's got Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeaouf, and Guy Pearce heading a strong ensemble cast, and that the based-on-a-true-story script by Nick Cave is a rowdy bit of hillbilly mythmaking, a purely American tale written in blood and bullet casings.

Matt Bondurant's book, "The Wettest County In The Word," tells the story of his family's role in the bootlegging trade of the '30s in Franklin County, Virginia.  Forrest (Tom Hardy) is the hard-boiled center of the family, the balancing point between the wild, untamed lunacy of big brother Howard (Jason Clarke) and the hesitant, good-natured Jack (Shia LaBeouf).  They each have their skills, and they all help perpetuate the legend that Bondurant boys are invincible, a story that began when Howard was the only member of his platoon to return home after World War I. 

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<p>Hushpuppy afloat in her Daddy's boat in the big wide world of The Bathtub in the remarkable 'Beasts&nbsp;of the Southern Wild'</p>

Hushpuppy afloat in her Daddy's boat in the big wide world of The Bathtub in the remarkable 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild' a haunting, beautiful American fairy tale

HitFix
A-
Readers
B+
Sundance sensation lives up to the hype at its Cannes debut

CANNES - Fiercely original, richly imagined, and blessed with one of the great child performances, "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" may have made its premiere at Sundance this year, but it was embraced wholeheartedly by crowds at Friday's Cannes Film Festival, and for good reason.  Horribly beautiful and deeply felt, the film is a spectacular example of how much more important imagination is than budget, and it may be the first great new fairy tale on film since "City Of Lost Children."

How do you even begin to capture something as delicate, ethereal, and feral as the performance of Quvenzhane Wallis, who stars as Hushpuppy, the film's main character and narrator?  It's one thing to imagine a world of washed-out beauty like The Bathtub, but it's quite another to make it such a tangible and well-realized place that it feels like you just stumbled across it and set up cameras there.  Director Benh Zeitlin and his entire crew deserve accolades for finding a way to create such a carefully detailed world on what looks like a very tight budget, and for sticking to an ambition that feels totally uncompromised in execution.  It would be impressive enough if it was just a case of great art design, but then to populate the world with this iconic, fascinating people struggling to survive in a world that wants them to disappear is nothing less than humbling to behold.

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<p>Aniella Arena is the star of Matteo Garrone's biting look at the madness of our modern media age, 'Reality'</p>

Aniella Arena is the star of Matteo Garrone's biting look at the madness of our modern media age, 'Reality'

Credit: Fandango Portobello

Review: Garrone's 'Reality' a biting satiricial Job story for the age of reality TV

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
Another strong entry from the director of the acclaimed 'Gomorrah'

CANNES - Matteo Garrone made an international splash with his film "Gomorrah" in 2008, an unblinking look at the modern Mafia in Italy, and deservedly so.  The film had a remarkable sense of time and place, and there was an unvarnished honesty to it that stripped away decades of cinema's romanticism of organized crime.  This morning, his new film "Reality" made its debut, and it is a wildly different type of film, a biting social satire about the modern age and its media-driven obsession with fame.  It is a Job story, at times quite funny, at other times painful, but always shot with a precise, masterful eye, and impeccably performed by the entire ensemble.

"Big Brother" is a global phenomenon at this point, and it seems based on the reading I've done that it is bigger in several countries than it is in the US.  Domestically, it's a solid ratings performer, but in some places, it seems like it is a pop culture juggernaut.  In "Reality," Garrone looks at the pervasive influence of the show and the way it drives one poor bastard in particular completely mad, and the way the film is structured, it makes its points clearly and with a brute force wit.  It helps that Aniello Arena, who stars as Luciano, has a great movie face and a lovely soulful quality that shines through even in the film's strangest or darkest moments.  Garrone makes this an experiential movie, almost all of it absorbed from Luciano's perspective, and he is a captivating lead.

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<p>Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard struggle towards uneasy peace in 'Rust and Bone,' Jacques Audiard's competition selection at this year's Cannes Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard struggle towards uneasy peace in 'Rust and Bone,' Jacques Audiard's competition selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Marion Cottilard and Matthias Schoenaerts devastate in Audiard's 'Rust and Bone'

HitFix
A
Readers
A+
A beautiful piece about the scars that define us lands early knockout blow at Cannes

CANNES - We all pick up scars as we move through life, some visible, others not, and it is how we deal with these physical and emotional traumas that defines who we are.

Jacques Audiard has been steadily putting out small films of enormous power for the past decade or so, and I first tuned into his work with "Read My Lips" in 2001.  "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" came next, and for many people, "A Prophet" was the moment they realized just how strong a clear a voice he has as a filmmaker.  Because of that film's international success, there was much expectation focused on the 8:30 AM screening of his new film today at Cannes, and based on the trailer I'd seen for it, I walked in expecting one film.  Instead, I got something much richer, more prickly, and more deeply felt than I expected, and I am once again convinced that Audiard is a major voice, an artist of note, and a gifted humanist filmmaker.

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<p>Menna Chalaby and Bassem Samra star in 'After The Battle,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Menna Chalaby and Bassem Samra star in 'After The Battle,' one of the films in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival

Credit: Cannes

Review: Awkward and angry 'After The Battle' fails to fully capture Arab Spring

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
Sincere in its intentions, the film never manages more than polemic

CANNES -Well-intentioned, unfortunately, is not enough for a film to work.  If it were, then most films would be great and that's simply not the case. 

Yousry Nasrallah's new film, "After The Battle," has huge ambition, and on that level, I can certainly empathize with the film's goals.  Set during the Arab Spring of last year, the film tells the story of Reem (Menna Chalaby), an Egyptian woman who works in television commercials, who is incredibly passionate about the possibility of a new democracy in Egypt.  She's tired of dealing with the way women are treated in Egyptian society, and she believes that the revolution has a chance to change things.  Her beliefs are challenged when she meets Mahmoud (Bassem Samra), a horseman who was part of the "Battle of the Camels," where armed camel and horse riders swept into Tahrir square to attack anyone who was staging anti-Mubarak demonstrations.  Very quickly, the protestors turned the horsemen away, attacking and injuring many of them, including Mahmoud, whose image ends up on YouTube, a symbol of the way the country is rejecting old values.

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