The Too Old to Die Young Teaser


Here’s one for the cinemaphile’s glossary.totdy.jpg

In cinema circles, an Auteur is described as “a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie” (Wikipedia). I’ve looked at films as a three-way set of responsibilities. You have the writer, because without the story, there’s nothing. You’ve the Director, who takes that Writer’s vision and presents it on film, and then there’s the cinematographer, who makes sure that the Director’s work is well-lit and shot. I feel all three roles can tip the ownership of a film in anyone’s favor. A great story can be damaged by a bad director, and a good director can try to the make the best out of a bad story. On top of that, you could also have bad movies that look really good.

There are a number of directors out there who fit this designation. Brian DePalma, Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Terrence Malick (who shows up every half a decade with a film) David Cronenberg, Richard Linklater,  Jean-Luc Godard (who I’m learning a lot about lately), the list is a large and heavily argued one. Each person has their own picks and favorites.

For me, Nicolas Winding Refn fits that role. With films like Valhalla Rising, Drive , Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon, it’s hard not to recognize the color contrasts and flow of his stories. In writing this, I also found out that Refn is colorblind, which makes what he’s done so far more amazing for me.

Refn’s latest project for Amazon Studios is a series called Too Old to Die Young. The most anyone really knows is that is supposedly “explores the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles by following characters’ existential journeys from being killers to becoming samurai in the City of Angels.”

Here’s a teaser starring Miles Teller, Callie Hernandez, Jena Malone, John Hawkes and William Baldwin. It appears to still carry that wild color scheme and may possibly be just as dark and brutal as his previous work. I’m curious as to whether they’ll stick with a standard approach or follow True Detective’s style of a single writer/director pair for all of the episodes. Either way, we’ll find out when it releases next year.

Musical Sequence of the Day: “Head over Heels” from Donnie Darko (dir by Richard Kelly)


Hi, everyone!

Well, Val is having some internet issues so it’s going to be a few days until she’s able to do another music video of the day.  So, until she returns, I’m going to fill in with some of my favorite cinematic musical sequences!  These are scenes that made brilliant use of music.

And what better way to start things off than with the Head Over Heels scene from 2001’s Donnie Darko.  Directed by Richard Kelly, this scene not only makes brilliant use of the Tears For Fears song, Head Over Heels, but it also manages to introduce every character and set up almost every important relationship in the film.

It’s brilliant but I always find myself wondering what Drew Barrymore had against Sparkle Motion.

To quote Val, “Enjoy!”

What if Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees — 2016 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 20152014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010!)

ten

Best Picture

*American Honey*

Arrival

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land

Love & Friendship

A Monster Calls

Moonlight

The Neon Demon

The Nice Guys

andrea-arnold

Best Director

*Andrea Arnold for American Honey

Shane Black for The Nice Guys

Barry Jenkins for Moonlight

David MacKenzie for Hell or High Water

Nicholas Winding Refn for The Neon Demon

Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-6-04-38-am-1024x447

Best Actor

Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys

Tom Hanks in Sully

Chris Pine in Hell or High Water

Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool

*Denzel Washington in Fences

arrival

Best Actress

*Amy Adams in Arrival

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship

Viola Davis in Fences

Sasha Lane in American Honey

Emma Stone in La La Land

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch

mahershala-ali-moonlight

Best Supporting Actor

*Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

Tom Bennett in Love & Friendship

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water

Alden Ehrenreich in Hail Caesar!

John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane

Patrick Stewart in Green Room

giphy

Best Supporting Actress

*Naomie Harris in Moonlight

Felicity Jones in A Monster Calls

Riley Keough in American Honey

Jena Malone in The Neon Demon

Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky

Angourie Rice in The Nice Guys

screen-shot-2016-07-13-at-11-13-42-am

Best Voice Over and/or Stop Motion Performance

Auli’i Cravalho in Moana

Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Dory

Ginnifer Goodwin in Zootopia

*Liam Neeson in A Monster Calls

Art Parkinson in Kubo and the Two Strings

Charlize Theron in Kubo and the Two Strings

hell-or-high-water

Best Original Screenplay

American Honey

*Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land

The Nice Guys

The Witch

hero_arrival-tiff-2016-2

Best Adapted Screenplay

*Arrival

The Jungle Book

Love & Friendship

Moonlight

A Monster Calls

Sully

kubo-main_0

Best Animated Film

Finding Dory

*Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

Sausage Party

The Secret Life of Pets

Zootopia

maxresdefault

Best Documentary Feature

The Confessions of Thomas Quick

Holy Hell

O.J.: Made in America

Rigged 2016

Weiner

*The Witness

hero_american-honey-tiff-2016

Best Casting

*American Honey

Everybody Wants Some!!

La La Land

Moonlight

Hell or High Water

Green Room

screen_shot_2016-06-27_at_12-07-59_pm-0

Best Cinematography

American Honey

Arrival

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

*The Neon Demon 

sc-love-friendship-mov-rev-0516-20160516

Best Costume Design

The Conjuring 2

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

*Love & Friendship

The Nice Guys

The Witch

nexe7yaw8wstad_1_b

Best Editing

Arrival

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

*La La Land

Moonlight

A Monster Calls

the-neon-demon-1-0-0

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

Doctor Strange

Everybody Wants Some!!

Hail, Caesar!

*The Neon Demon

Best Original Score

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

*La La Land

Moana

Moonlight

The Neon Demon

8a308a7e50428af372a418faee4de0a47288a895

Best Original Song

*”Audition (The Fool Who Dreams)” from La La Land

“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

“Waving Goodbye” from The Neon Demon

“I’m so Humble” from Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping

“Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street

“Go Now” from Sing Street

americanhoney1

Best Overall Use Of Music

*American Honey

The Conjuring Part Two

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Neon Demon

Sing Street

10-cloverfield-lane-cast-530x298

Best Production Design

Arrival

Don’t Breathe

Green Room

The Neon Demon

La La Land

*10 Cloverfield Lane

review-hacksaw-ridge

Best Sound Editing

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

*Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

A Monster Calls

Sully

sully-river-impact

Best Sound Mixing

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

Hacksaw Ridge

A Monster Calls

La La Land

*Sully

deadpool

Best Stunt Work

Captain America: Civil War

*Deadpool

Doctor Strange

Hacksaw Ridge

Jason Bourne

The Legend of Tarzan

00815280-a136-11e6-9c2b-d92941131f56_cumberbatch_thumb-png-cf

Best Visual Effects

Arrival

*Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

A Monster Calls

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

13 Nominations — La La Land

1o Nominations — Hell or High Water

9 Nominations — Moonlight, The Neon Demon

8 Nominations — American Honey, Arrival, Kubo and the Two Strings, A Monster Calls

6 Nominations — The Nice Guys

5 Nominations — Deadpool, Love & Friendship

4 Nominations — Captain America: Civil War, Hacksaw Ridge, Hail Caesar!, Moana, Sully

3 Nominations — Doctor Strange, Green Room, Sing Street

2 Nominations — The Conjuring 2, Everybody Wants Some!!, Fences, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch, Zootopia

1 Nomination — The Confessions of Thomas Quick, Don’t Breathe, Eye in the Sky, Holy Hell, Jason Bourne, The Legend of Tarzan, O.J.: Made in America, Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping, Rigged 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sausage Party, The Secret Life of Pets, Weiner, The Witness

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

4 Oscars — American Honey

3 Oscars — La La Land

2 Oscars — Arrival, Moonlight, The Neon Demon

1 Oscar — Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Kubo and the Two Strings, Love & Friendship, A Monster Calls, Sully, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witness

Will the Academy agree with my predictions?  Probably not but we’ll find out on Tuesday!

2-ten

Playing Catch-Up: The Neon Demon (dir by Nicholas Winding Refn)


the-neon-demon-elle-fanning-900x0-c-default

What to say about The Neon Demon?

See, this is a film that you have to be careful about discussing.  From the moment that it premiered at Cannes last year, The Neon Demon was the love-it-or-hate-it film of 2016.

Those of us that loved The Neon Demon really, really loved it.

And those that hated it — well, let’s just say that they really, really hated it.  They complained that The Neon Demon was exploitive.  They found the subject matter to be sordid.  They accused the movie of being both pretentious and ultimately pointless.  The plot made no sense, they complained.  The film was overlong and featured about a handful of false endings.  It almost seemed as if Nicholas Winding Refn was taunting anyone who expected him to make a typical melodrama about life in Hollywood.

All of that is true but, honestly, what were these people expecting?  As a result of the success of Drive, many people have made the mistake of thinking that Nicholas Winding Refn is a mainstream director.  He’s not.  Refn is a provocateur.  He is a director who often dares his audience to walk away.  In The Neon Demon, each false ending challenges the audience’s assumption about how a story — any story — should end.  Some people, I’m sure, would complain that Refn is all style and no substance.  However, The Neon Demon is about a world where one’s worth is determined by their style.  Style is substance.  The world of The Neon Demon may be empty but the film is not.

For all the debate about the film’s deeper themes (or lack of them), The Neon Demon‘s story is a fairly simple and deliberately familiar one.  A teenage runaway comes to Hollywood, finds some success as a model, and discovers that the world of show business is not as romantic as she may have initially believed.  When we first see Jesse (Elle Fanning), she’s posing for her boyfriend and she’s pretending to be dead.  Death, beauty, and sex go hand-in-hand in The Neon Demon.

Jesse’s an interesting character, one who constantly challenges our assumptions.  At first, Jesse seems like a typical innocent.  She’s a virgin who is so introverted that she can barely carry on a conversation.  She lives in a cheap apartment, under the menacing gaze of her sleazy landlord (Keanu Reeves, having fun playing his skeezy character).  She has a boyfriend and on their dates, she tells him about how she’s always dreamed of being a star.  It’s only as the film progresses that you start to realize how little you actually know about Jesse.  That she’s a runway is implied early on.  We never learn what led to her running away.  In fact, we learn next to nothing about who she was before she appeared in Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, Jesse is everything that the fashion industry values.  She’s beautiful and, even more importantly, she’s young.  We watch as Jesse goes to a casting call and we’re struck by the blank-look on her face.  We wonder if there’s anything going on underneath the surface.  Jesse has hallucinations, seeing a shining triangle and kissing her own reflection.  Someone asks her what it’s like to be desired.  She replies, “It’s everything.”

Jesse befriends Ruby (Jena Malone), a makeup artist who lives in a gigantic mansion, overlooking an empty swimming pool.  When Ruby isn’t working in the fashion industry, she works at a morgue, applying makeup to corpses and occasionally engaging in necrophilia.  She makes the dead beautiful so that they can be buried looking their best.  Again, beauty and death are intertwined throughout The Neon Demon.

Ruby has two other friends, Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee).  They’re both models, struggling to maintain their careers even as younger models, like Jesse, continue to flood into Los Angeles.  Gigi has had so much cosmetic surgery that none of her original features remain.  Gigi is neurotic and fearful.  Sarah, on the other hand, is confident and sarcastic.  When asked what she did the last time another model screwed her out of a job, Sarah calmly replies, “I ate her.”

Sarah isn’t necessarily joking either.  Without giving too much away, The Neon Demon features, among other things, a character eating an eyeball that another character has just thrown up.  Not surprisingly for a Refn film, there’s a lot of blood in The Neon Demon.  It’s a film that opens with fake blood and ends with very real blood.

Combining the visual sense of Dario Argento with the thematic concerns of Jean Rollin, The Neon Demon is a triumph of pure style.  The visuals are so strong that it’s impossible to look away, even when the film’s themes are deliberately obscure.  The Neon Demon is a surreal journey into the dark side of Hollywood, a mixture of ennui, alienation, decadence, and sacrifice.  It may not always make sense but it’s always fascinating to watch.

Personally, I think The Neon Demon would make a great double feature with La La Land.  Two triumphs of style, two very different views of Los Angeles.

The New Trailer For The Neon Demon Really Puts The Red Into Red Band!


This new trailer for The Neon Demon really puts the red into red band!

Okay, I’m not sure what that means but it sounds nice and clickbaity so I’ll go with it.  Anyway, The Neon Demon is the latest film from Nicolas Winding Refn.  Refn, of course, is still beloved around these parts for directing Drive

….which, come to think of it, is a film that I oddly have no desire to sit through again.

Isn’t it funny how that happens sometimes?  You see a film and you know it’s great but, whenever you have a second chance to watch it, you’re just like, “Hmmm…no, once was enough.”

Will I want to rewatch The Neon Demon?  I have no idea but Jena Malone is one of my favorite actresses and Elle Fanning was heartbreakingly good in Somewhere.  There are a few moments in the trailer that made me think of both Maps to the Stars and Lost River (and that’s not a good thing) but then there were other moments that made me think of Under The Skin (and that is a good thing!)

Anyway, this trailer is NSFW so watch it from the safety of your own car…

Sci-Fi Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 (dir by Francis Lawrence)


Mj

It’s finally over!

It probably sounds like I’m really excited that the final Hunger Games adaptation has been released.  It may sound like I’m happy that the saga of Katniss Everdeen and her life in Panem has finally come to an end.  And, to a certain extent, I am.  After everything that Katniss has been through, she deserves some peace and, fortunately, the series has ended before Jennifer Lawrence got bored with playing the role.  (To see what happens when actor gets bored with an iconic role, check out Daniel Craig in Spectre.)  Even though I think it can be argued that Mockingjay Part Two is the weakest of all the Hunger Games films, it still allows both Katniss and the actress who brought her to life to go out on a high note.

There’s a part of me that cringes a little when I think about all of the films that were released as a direct result of the success of The Hunger Games.  The Giver, The Maze Runner, Divergent, Tomorrowland, the list goes on and on.  I’ve reached the point where I can now say that I am officially sick of sitting through adaptations of Young Adult dystopian fiction.  And yet, I was still excited to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two (even if that title is way too long and unwieldy).  Regardless of the number of mediocre films that it may have inspired, The Hunger Games franchise has always remained compelling.

So, how was Mockingjay Part Two?  Obviously, it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film.  The pacing is totally off, characters appear and disappear almost at random, and it’s all rather confusing.  If you haven’t seen the film that came before Mockingjay Part Two, I imagine that you would be totally confused by this film.  But, when viewed as the fourth part of one gigantic epic story, the whole thing is rather brilliant.

When the film opens, Katniss is still being used a prop in Alma Coin’s (Julianne Moore) revolution.  The majority of the film deals with her journey into and through the capital.  She wants to track down and assassinate President Snow (the wonderfully evil Donald Sutherland) whereas Coin just wants to use her as a symbol to solidify her authority.  As Katniss quickly realizes, there’s not much difference between Snow and Coin.  However, it takes one great tragedy for Katniss to truly understand the truth about the Alma Coin and her revolution.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll already know about and be prepared for that tragedy but it’s still a heart-breaking moment.

It’s also the most important moment in the franchise, one that reminds us that The Hunger Games has always been far more politically sophisticated (and thematically darker) than all of the films, books, and fan fic that has been inspired by it.  This is a seriously dark and, some would say, cynical movie and, as a student of history, I appreciated that.  I appreciated that Mockingjay didn’t try to force a happy ending on us and I also appreciated the fact that Mockingjay didn’t buy into the simplistic Manichaen worldview that is currently ruining worlds both real and cinematic.  The film’s final scene may be hopeful but it’s never naive.

It’s a bit unfortunate that Mockingjay had to be split into two separate films.  Mockingjay Part Two is full of exciting moments but there’s also a lot of scenes that feel like filler.  You get the feeling they were included to make sure that Mockingjay Part Two’s running team was equal to the other films in the franchise.  This is a film that features a lot of genuinely exciting action and some truly emotional moments.  It’s also a film that features a lot of speeches.  If only both parts of Mockingjay could have been released as one six hour film.  I would have watched it!

The film also features the final performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the rule of Plutarch.  Hoffman is not in many scenes and reportedly, he died before filming two of his biggest scenes.  Those scenes were rewritten and his dialogue given to other actors.  At one point, Woody Harrelson starts to read a letter that was written by Plutarch and it’s a sad scene because you’re aware that, originally, Hoffman was meant to deliver those lines in his trademark style.  As it is, Hoffman only appears in a few minutes of Mockingjay Part Two and he doesn’t do much.  But, when the film briefly features his bemused smile, you’re reminded of what a great actor the world lost when Philip Seymour Hoffman died.

Of course, the entire Hunger Games franchise has been full of great actors.  Jennifer Lawrence brought Katniss to wonderful and empowering life and one of the joys of Mockingjay Part Two is getting to see her bring the character’s story to a close.  But even beyond Jennifer Lawrence’s rightly acclaimed work, the entire cast of the franchise deserves a lot of credit.  I’ve always loved Donald Sutherland’s interpretation of President Snow and he’s at his best here.

For that matter, if there ever is another Hunger Games film or a Hunger Games spin-off, why not make it about Jena Malone’s Johanna Mason?  The way that Malone delivered her angry and frequently sarcastic dialogue was definitely one of the film’s highlights.

Regardless of whether there are any future films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two is a worthy conclusion to a great story.

(By the way, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, December is science fiction month here at the Shattered Lens!  We hope you enjoy it!)

Previous Hunger Games Reviews:

  1. Quick Review: The Hunger Games (dir by Gary Ross)
  2. Review: The Hunger Games
  3. 44 Days of Paranoia: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  4. For Your Consideration: Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part One

Batman v. Superman Finally States It’s Case to the Public


 

BatmanvSuperman

A funny thing happened to the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer that was set for a release at a special IMAX screening event next week. No one bothered to tell someone with a cellphone not to secretly record the trailer. A lo-res cam version of the first teaser trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was leaked just hours after Disney released the second teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Warner Brothers scrambled to take down the lo-res trailer and made sure to use their power to threaten with legal stuff if people continued to disseminate the illegal recording. During the 24 hours since the leak someone with a much more cooler head over at WB decided to just go the Avengers: Age of Ultron route (that film’s first teaser was also leaked ahead of a planned event) and release the hi-res version of the teaser trailer instead of waiting days for the planned screening event.

So, here’s the very first teaser trailer as Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment finally make their case that whatever Disney and Marvel can do they can do as well.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is set for a March 25, 2016 release date.