<p>Anna Kendrick tries to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt deal with the idea of dying young in '50/50'</p>

Anna Kendrick tries to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt deal with the idea of dying young in '50/50'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in affecting, understated '50/50'

HitFix
B+
Readers
n/a
True-life story makes for a simple, affecting film

Jonathan Levine's been working in a minor key so far as a filmmaker. 

His first film is the still unreleased "All The Boys Love Mandy Lane," a determined twist on slasher formula and iconography, and he followed that up with the coming-of-age story "The Wackness," and in both cases, I've got a solid case of like.  I think he's interesting, and it feels to me like he's warming up.  That's not an insult, either.  I think Rian Johnson is still warming up.  I like "Brick," and I really like "The Brothers Bloom," but those aren't the movies he'll be known for.  Those are still ahead.  He's a guy who is going to keep getting better.  You can see it in the way he grows from first to second film, and in the ambition of what he's doing.  Levine is that kind of filmmaker.  I look at his movies, and I can see that he's smart, that he thinks about what he's shooting, that there's a real heart in there.  Those movies are genuinely told, sincerely meant, and even if I don't love them, I like what they represent, a filmmaker who's working towards something.

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<p>This pretty much sums up Andrea Arnold's entire approach to adapting Bronte's classic novel 'Wuthering Heights'</p>

This pretty much sums up Andrea Arnold's entire approach to adapting Bronte's classic novel 'Wuthering Heights'

Credit: Film 4/HanWay Films

Review: Andrea Arnold's 'Wuthering Heights' is beautiful, but disappointing

HitFix
C
Readers
D
Dramatically inert, it's more of a photo exhibit than a film

Andrea Arnold has only made a few films so far, but both "Red Road" and "Fish Tank" demonstrate a clear sense of voice and style.  She's got a great visual sense, and she is very good at creating a sense of dramatic tension, drawn out in some cases to the point where it's almost unbearable.  I would have happily gone to see anything she brought to the festival this year, but the notion of her tackling a piece of material like "Wuthering Heights" was particularly appealing.  It seemed like a strong dramatic place for her to start, and I had no doubt she would find a way to make it her own.

Having now seen the film, I'm not surprised that the Venice Film Festival gave a special award to the cinematography by Robbie Ryan, who also shot her two previous films.  His work here is spectacular, and there is a tactile quality to the film that goes beyond anything 3D could offer.  The problem is that aside from the cinematography and that sensual quality it lends to the film, there's nothing else about "Wuthering Heights" that I can recommend.  You might as well re-title the picture "Andrea Arnold's Photography Exhibit On Themes From 'Wuthering Heights'," because this is a still life.  It's a non-motion picture.  It is dramatically inert, and almost baffling in the way it misses the mark.

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<p>Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen play dress-up in the oddly unsatisfying 'A Dangerous Method'</p>

Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen play dress-up in the oddly unsatisfying 'A Dangerous Method'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: David Cronenberg's oddly restrained 'A Dangerous Method' never quite connects

HitFix
C+
Readers
A+
For a film about the men who defined kink, the film lacks heat

David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors of all time.  His body of work, and I use that word knowing full well it has a double meaning when you're referring to Cronenberg, is one of the most demanding and rigorously intellectual of anyone in any genre.  He has long been fascinated by the relationship we have with the bodies we occupy, and he successfully made the jump from overt horror to adult-minded drama, something not every filmmaker is able to accomplish.

Yes, Wes Craven, we all still remember "Music Of The Heart."

When Cronenberg signed on for "A Dangerous Method," it sounded like a perfect match between filmmaker and material.  After all, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were two of the men who helped define the vocabulary we still use to discuss sexual psychology, and Cronenerg is, after all, the guy who made "Crash."  Not the silly "racism is bad" one, but the "hey, I could always use that hole" version.  This is a man who knows kink.  This is a man who has pushed boundaries so hard they've crumbled.  Who else would think to put a VHS-eating vagina in James Woods's chest?  I walked into "A Dangerous Method" wide open and ready for anything.

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<p>Oh, sure, he's just relaxing here, but give this man a hammer, and suddenly 'Drive' becomes flat-out terrifying</p>

Oh, sure, he's just relaxing here, but give this man a hammer, and suddenly 'Drive' becomes flat-out terrifying

Credit: Film District

Review: Ryan Gosling cranks up the cool in Refn's remarkable thriller 'Drive'

HitFix
A-
Readers
A
Plus Albert Brooks is scary... who knew?

Nicolas Winding Refn seems like an unlikely artist to be the guy who is making a career for himself as the pre-eminent bard of movie machismo, but that appears to be the case. 

His "Pusher" trilogy is a marvel of soap opera plotting and bad guy behavior, and he made Kim Bodina feel like the world's greatest unknown movie star, a Danish Tony Soprano.  His film "Bleeder" is about the rejection of comfort and love, with violence shown to be this seductive, necessary piece of some people's chemical make-up.  His big breakthrough moment seemed to be "Bronson," which I reviewed in the very early days of this site, and that movie is all about transforming yourself into a giant battle-hardened beast and then punching your way through life.  "Drive" is, aesthetically speaking, an early Michael Mann movie.  It's a small doomed little character piece, with Ryan Gosling giving a great movie star performance, self-aware and stylized to an extreme. 

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<p>Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr raise some serious hell in Bobcat Goldthwait's primal scream of a movie, 'God Bless America'</p>

Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr raise some serious hell in Bobcat Goldthwait's primal scream of a movie, 'God Bless America'

Credit: Darko Entertainment

Review: Bobcat Goldthwait opens fire with 'God Bless America'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A-
An angry cry for kindness spattered in blood and wrapped in filth

Bobcat Goldthwait referred to himself as "that guy from 'Police Academy'" onstage tonight after the premiere of his latest film as a writer/director, "God Bless America," and it's interesting to see just how he's developed as a comic voice in the nearly thirty years I've been aware of him.

If you weren't a big stand-up comedy nerd back in the '80s, maybe you don't know what the landscape was like.  There was an explosion of venues coast-to-coast, and as a result, there was suddenly a glut of stand-up comedy.  The new American Dream was suddenly "write a good stand-up set, get on Carson, get your own sitcom, make a mint, and win."  And much of that stand-up was the same, totally homogenized observational crap that sounded like it came from the same awful jokebook.  The guys who broke through, who really stood out, were guys who came at it from their own particular angle, who had a unique voice.  And if there's one thing you can say about Bobcat Goldthwait, he absolutely had a unique voice.

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<p>U2 rehearses new arrangements of the songs from 'Achtung Baby' during the making of the documentary 'From The Sky Down'</p>

U2 rehearses new arrangements of the songs from 'Achtung Baby' during the making of the documentary 'From The Sky Down'

Credit: Showtime

Review: 'From The Sky Down' offers intimate look at U2 recording 'Achtung Baby'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Director of 'It Might Get Loud' does solid job with artistic retrospective

I distinctly remember the release of "Achtung Baby."  I had not lived in Los Angeles for very long at that point, and I was still forming my groups of friends.  There was one guy in particular who was every bit the lunatic for music that I was for movies, and once we met at Dave's Video, where we both worked, we became fast friends.  While music has always been an important thing to me, it was almost always as background, as soundtrack to other things, and even the albums that were important to me were albums I soaked up by osmosis more than anything.

But on a night in mid-November, I found myself at Tower Records on Ventura, long gone now, waiting in a big line for the release of the first album in three years from one of my favorite bands.  I saw them live for the first time on the "Unforgettable Fire" tour when they played the Omni in Atlanta, and then I saw them again for "Joshua Tree."  I felt like they lost something moving from smaller venues into stadiums, and that second show had none of the intimacy that I found so riveting the first time I saw them.  I felt like the bombast of "Rattle & Hum" had led them in a rough direction artistically, and so I was curious to see if they could win me back over as a fan. 

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<p>Clive Owen and Jason Statham play a lightning round of Quien Es Mas Macho? in 'Killer Elite'</p>

Clive Owen and Jason Statham play a lightning round of Quien Es Mas Macho? in 'Killer Elite'

Credit: Open Road Films

Review: Jason Statham butts heads with Clive Owen in semi-successful 'Killer Elite'

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
'Based On A True Story' action movie stretches crediblity, but breaks bones with style

The only way you could make a Jason Statham movie more preposterously macho would be to add Clive Owen as the bad guy, right?  Well, if that sounds like heaven to you, prepare yourself for the battle of the glowering English thugs that is Gary McKendry's fitfully successful new action movie "Killer Elite."  It's not connected in any way to the James Caan/Robert Duvall movie "The Killer Elite" that Sam Peckinpah made, but it's exactly the sort of story that I could see Peckinpah getting interested in.  Guys and their complicated moral codes, the way loyalty drives people to extremes, the cost of violence over the course of a lifetime… all of these themes are present in the film written by McKendry and Matt Sherring based on the novel "The Feather Men" by Ranulph Fiennes.

The book was a nonfiction account of a vigilante group in England in the '60s that solved crimes that the police ignored.  There was a particular crime that they spent 14 years trying to solve, and that crime is the lynchpin that McKendry built his movie around.  I'm not sure how much of the book is true or not true, but I'm going to guess that the film has largely fictionalized things while trying to also use that whole "based on a true story" thing has part of the hook of the film.  Too much of this is too thematically constructed, too neat and perfect and planned out, and that's fine when it's a drama.  As a "true story," though, "Killer Elite" stretches credibility pretty far, and it's one of those movies where I'm not completely sure I can recommend it.

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<p>Ryan Gosling gives good smart in George Clooney's new film 'The Ides Of March'</p>

Ryan Gosling gives good smart in George Clooney's new film 'The Ides Of March'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: Clooney's 'Ides Of March' is smart conversation-starter

HitFix
B-
Readers
B+
Film doesn't work dramatically as a whole, but still packs a punch

It will not come as a shock to any moderately-aware adult living in America that modern politics is a shell game for the corrupt, but even if you already know the ideas that fuel George Clooney's latest film as a director, "Ides Of March," there is a certain amount of dramatic pleasure to be taken from watching the exact moment where someone's idealism flickers out and dies forever.  While the film's script has some issues, and there are a few choices that I found distracting, overall, this is a solid adult drama that benefits enormously from a strong and compelling cast.

Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is the assistant campaign manager for Governor Michael Morris (George Clooney), a tough-talking Democratic Presidential candidate still mired in primary season.  Steven and his superior, the much-more-jaded Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), are both confident that they've got a winning candidate in Morris, but for Stephen it goes deeper than that.  Paul's a killer, the sort of campaign manager who puts victory above everything else, while Stephen actually still feels like he needs to believe in the person he's working for, and in Morris, he feels like he finally has that Presidential idea, a good man with good ideas.  Their opponent in the primaries, Sentator Pullman (Michael Mantell), is a faceless obstacle to them, represented mainly by his campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti).  Duffy admires Stephen and the way he works a room, and he makes no secret of the fact that he'd love to hire Stephen away.

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<p>Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya share a not-entirely-normal post-coital cuddle in Almodovar's new film 'The Skin I Live In'</p>

Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya share a not-entirely-normal post-coital cuddle in Almodovar's new film 'The Skin I Live In'

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Antonio Banderas does very bad things in Almodovar's 'The Skin I Live In'

HitFix
B-
Readers
B
Crazy revenge film is most outrageous Almodovar in years

When I was first introduced to the work of Pedro Almodovar, I was in college, and the only local arthouse theater booked a one-week run of "Matador."  This was well before he had become internationally respectable, before he turned into one of the masters of melodrama, when he was still this slightly crazy Spanish indie upstart making sex-soaked movies about death and madness.  "Matador" also marked the first time I saw Antonio Banderas in something, and the two of them seemed to be in tune with one another.  I love when filmmakers and actors have ongoing creative relationships because you see all sorts of interesting things happen over the course of time.  Little wonder, then, that "The Skin I Live In" marks a return to the early crazy grindhouse sensibilities of Almodovar since it is his first collaboration with Banderas in over a decade.

This is a hard film to discuss without spoilers, but I'm going to do my best to not ruin things.  After all, when I walked in and sat down, I knew nothing beyond having seen a few still images, and with a film like this, built around a mid-movie paradigm shift, it is incredibly easy to ruin the experience for someone else with one or two careless word choices.  Based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet, this is a mad scientist film wrapped in a disturbing exploration of gender politics, and it unfolds with an overheated intensity that I found both darkly hilarious and occasionally even moving.

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<p>The poster for Bobcast Goldthwait's new film 'God Bless America.'</p>

The poster for Bobcast Goldthwait's new film 'God Bless America.'

Exclusive: Check out the poster for Bobcat Goldthwait's new film 'God Bless America'

The black comedy premieres Friday night at the Toronto Film Festival

TORONTO - One of the films that I've most enjoyed discovering since moving to HitFix was at the Sundance Film Festival a few years ago, when Bobcat Goldthwait's "World's Greatest Dad" knocked me flat.  It's as dark as dark comedy gets, and it features one of the very best Robin Williams performances in recent memory.

Because of that, it's probably accurate to say that there are few films I am more excited for at this year's Toronto festival than Goldthwait's newest movie, "God Bless America."  I know very little, and that's the way I'd like to keep it.  Right now, I've read a short synopsis, I've seen about three images, and today, we're going to premiere the poster for the movie exclusively here at Motion/Captured.

If you aren't familiar with the film yet, it sounds like Goldthwait is once again working at pitch black, and that excites me.  There are very few people making smart comedies for adults these days, and what I love about the work he's doing these days is that Goldthwait means it.  He's making crazy funny movies, but he's deadly serious about it.

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