Film Review: Allied (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


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Earlier today, after deciding to take a break from watching the Lifetime films that have been steadily accumulating on my DVR, I went down to the Alamo Drafthouse with my BFF Evelyn and we watched the new World War II romantic adventure film, Allied.

Now, you should understand that I’m an Alamo Victory member and one of the benefits of my membership is that I get a free movie for my birthday!  (My birthday was on November 9th.  The offer’s good for up to a month after the big day.  Pretty nice, no?)  I have to admit that there’s a reason why I wanted to see Allied for free.  I knew that, since this big movie with big stars and a big director was being released at the start of Oscar season, I would have to see it eventually.  Add to that, Allied is current somewhat infamous for being the movie that contributed to the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Apparently, Brad had an affair with Marion Cotillard while making this movie.  I knew I had to see Allied but I didn’t want to pay for it because, quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to be very good.

I mean, the trailer looked awful!  The trailer was a collection of war film clichés and, as happy as I was to see Brad without that raggedyass beard that he tends to have whenever he’s trying to be a serious actor, it was still hard to ignore that he essentially looked like a wax figure.  Then you had Marion Cotillard, looking as if she’d rather be playing Lady MacBeth.  Judging from the trailer, Allied just didn’t look very good.

Having now seen Allied, I can say that the trailer does the film a great disservice.  Not only is Allied far more entertaining than the trailer suggests but the trailer also gives away the film’s big twist!  Seriously, this twist occurs about 75 minutes into a 120 minute film and, if it was sprung on you without warning, it would totally blow you away.  It would leave you reeling and reconsidering everything that you had previously seen.  But since the twist is highlighted in the trailer, you instead spend the first half of the movie impatiently waiting for it.

You probably already know the twist.  But I’m still not going to reveal it because maybe there’s one or two of you out there who have managed to avoid the trailer.  Instead, I’ll tell you that Allied is a World War II romance.  It opens in Casablanca, with Canadian secret agent Max Batan (Brad Pitt) working with Marianne Beausojour (Marion Cotillard).  Marianne is a legendary member of the French Resistance.  It doesn’t take long for Max and Marianne to fall in love and soon, they’re having sex in the middle of the desert, making love in a car while a sandstorm rages all around them.  Max eventually marries Marianne and they have a daughter.  But around them, the war continues and both of them find themselves struggling to determine who they can and cannot trust.

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As directed by Robert Zemeckis, Allied is a big movie, one that is frequently entertaining and yet occasionally and frustratingly uneven.  Allied feels like its less about recreating history and more about paying homage to the World War II and espionage films that Zemeckis watched when he was growing up.  It’s a technical marvel, featuring not only sandstorm sex but crashing airplanes and a painstaking recreation of Europe in the 1940s.   The film is full of seemingly random details, many of which don’t add much to the narrative but they do contribute to Allied‘s oddly dreamlike feel.  This is the type of film where espionage is discreetly discussed at a party while Gershwin plays on the soundtrack and British airmen casually snort cocaine in the background.  When Marianne gives birth to Anna, she does it outside while bombs explode around her.  When the baby is finally delivered, a group of nurses applaud.  It’s all wonderfully over the top but, occasionally, the narrative lags.  Zemeckis sometimes seems to be torn as to whether or not he’s paying homage to or deconstructing the genre.  As a result, some scenes work better than others.  (There’s a lengthy sequence involving a note containing false information.  It’s obvious that Zemeckis is trying to pay homage to Hitchcock’s Notorious but he never quite manages to pull it off.)

Despite what I previously assumed as a result of seeing the trailer, both Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are well-cast.  Cotillard is one of the few actresses who feels at home in a throwback film like this one and she does a good job keeping the audience guessing.  (Of course, if we accept that Allied is essentially Zemeckis’s cinematic dream of World War II, Cotillard serves to remind us of Inception and its multiple layers of dream logic.)  Brad Pitt, meanwhile, should consider playing more roles without his beard.  After watching Daniel Craig sulk through four James Bond films, it’s nice to be reminded that, occasionally, an actor can actually have fun while playing a secret agent.

Allied is uneven but entertaining.  Don’t let the trailer fool you.

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And here are the Phoenix Film Critics Nominations!


And finally, to wrap up today’s excursion into awards season, here are the Phoenix Film Critics Nominations!  As soon as you look over these nominations and see if your favorite film made the list, be sure to go back and read Patrick’s review of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny and Jedadiah Leland’s review of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace!

BEST PICTURE

Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Room
Spotlight
BEST COMEDY FILM

The Big Short
Dope
Joy
Spy
Trainwreck

BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian

BEST MYSTERY OR THRILLER FILM

Bridge of Spies
Sicario
Spotlight

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Anomalisa
Inside Out

The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

The Assassin
White God
Youth

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Amy
Best of Enemies
Cartel Land
He Named My Malala
Listen to Me Marlon

BEST HORROR FILM

Bone Tomahawk
Crimson Peak
It Follows
Unfriended

BEST MUSICAL

Amy
Pitch Perfect 2
Straight Outta Compton

BEST ACTOR

Michael Caine, Youth
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Brie Larson, Room
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Jacob Tremblay, Room

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

BEST DIRECTOR

Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Alejandro Inarritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

BEST SCREENPLAY

Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Bridge of Spies
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Spotlight
Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

BEST SCORE

Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL, Mad Max: Fury Road
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies

Here’s The Trailer for MacBeth!


Hey, did anyone else ever do high school theater and get violently admonished for loudly yelling “MacBeth!” while wandering around backstage in her underwear?  Or was that just me?

Anyway, here’s the first U.S. trailer for the upcoming Shakespeare adaptation, MacBeth!  This version stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and, judging from the trailer, it certainly looks dark and gloomy.

Watch it below!

 

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for July!


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It’s shaping up to be a strange Oscar race.  Here we are halfway through the year and, yet, there are no front-runners.  Some very acclaimed films have been released this year and yet, few of them seem to be getting the type of buzz that usually accompanies a surprise Oscar nomination.  Last year at this time, there was cautious buzz for Grand Budapest Hotel while almost everyone felt pretty safe assuming that Sundance favorites like Boyhood and Whiplash would be players in the Oscar race and many of us were highly anticipating the release of films like Birdman and The Imitation Game.  (For that matter, a lot of people were also still convinced that Unbroken would win best picture.  The buzz is not always correct but still, the buzz was still there.)

This year, some people are hoping that Mad Max: Fury Road will somehow break through the Academy’s aversion to “genre” filmmaking.  (And seriously, the Doof Warrior deserves some sort of award, don’t you think?)  Quite a few are hoping that Ex Machina will not be forgotten.  Personally, I have high hopes for Inside Out.  The buzz around Bridge of Spies is respectful, largely because it seems like the type of film that usually would be be nominated.  (That said, this film also seems like it could bring out the worst impulses of both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, leading to a movie that will have more in common with The Terminal than with War Horse.)  Carol was beloved at Cannes.

So there are definitely possibilities out there.  When I made my Oscar predictions for this month, I didn’t quite have to blindly guess as much as I did way back in January.  But still, it cannot be denied that — as of right now — this race is wide open and there’s a lot of room for surprise.

Below, you’ll find my Oscar predictions for July.  You can also check out my previous Oscar predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brooklyn

Carol

I Saw The Light

In The Heart of the Sea

Inside Out

Sicario

Suffragette

The Walk

Youth

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Marion Cotillard in MacBeth

Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks in Concussion

John Cusack in Love & Mercy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Harvey Keitel in Youth

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette

Jane Fonda in Youth

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Best Director

John Crowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

Ron Howard for In The Heart of the Sea

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Robert Zemeckis for The Walk

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Lisa Marie’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For June


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It’s time for our monthly edition of Lisa’s Too Early Oscar predictions!

This is our first entry since the Cannes Film Festival.  As a result of Cannes, former contenders like The Sea of Trees have been dropped from the predictions.  Meanwhile, new contenders like Michael Caine and Sicario have emerged.  I have also added Pixar’s Inside Out to my list of predictions because a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes demands the consideration.

(Unfortunately, adding Inside Out meant dropping The Good Dinosaur.  Though it could happen, I find it hard to imagine two animated films receiving best picture nominations.)

If you want to see how my feelings on the race have developed, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, and May!

And without further ado, here are Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for June!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brooklyn

Carol

The Danish Girl

In the Heart of the Sea

Inside Out

MacBeth

Sicario

Suffragette

The Walk

Best Actor

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Caine in Youth

Michael Fassebender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmanye in The Danish Girl

Jason Segel in The End of the Tour

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Marion Cotillard in MacBeth

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks in Concussion

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Joel Edgerton in Black Mass

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Meryl Streep in Suffragette

Julie Walters in Brooklyn

Best Director

John Crowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

Ron Howard for In The Heart of the Sea

Denis Villeneuve for Sicario

Robert Zemeckis for The Walk

MacBeth Trailer Is Dark And Full Of Terrors


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Every year there’s always going to be that one filmmaker who takes on the challenge of putting their personal take on one of William Shakespeare’s classic dramas. It’s been going on since the advent of motion pictures and I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

This year it looks like we may have a winner with the latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. The film stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Lord and Lady MacBeth with Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel in the director’s chair.

MacBeth has been getting such advance rave reviews due to it’s screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it entered for competition for the Palme d’Or. The film itself just judging from the trailer below looks like a visual feast that one’s up the dark, gritty aesthetic of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

There’s still no announced release date for MacBeth for the North American market but with the critical buzz surrounding the film after Cannes it won’t be too long til it get one.

The Winners At Cannes And What It Means For This Year’s Oscar Race


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Well, that shows you how much I know.

The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival came to a close earlier today.  If you’ve been following news from the festival over the past two weeks then you’ve heard that Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees is no longer considered to be an Oscar contender.  (That’s putting it gently.)  You’ve heard a lot of acclaim given to Todd Haynes’s Carol.  You have also seen Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario and the Hungarian film Son of Saul emerge as a potential Oscar contenders.  Michael Caine’s performance in Youth was acclaimed, as was the work of Tim Roth in Chronic and Marion Cotillard in MacBeth.

One film that you probably did not hear about was Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan.  As far as coverage of Cannes over here in the states is concerned, Dheepan was ignored.  And yet — once again proving that nobody can predict Cannes — Dheepan is the film that ended up winning the Palme d’Or.  The acting prizes also went to actors who have been under the radar, with the possible exception of Rooney Mara.

(Some day, I will be able to forgive Rooney Mara for playing Lisbeth Salander is David Fincher’s insulting interpretation of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  But not today…)

As far as what the past two weeks have meant for the upcoming Oscar race: Well, I think it’s safe to say that we can forget about Sea of Trees.  As for my insistence that Sea of Trees would be nominated … well, we’ll all have a good laugh about it someday.  Carol appears to have emerged as an early front-runner and I think that Sicario could come on strong as well, especially if one of the nominal front runners — like Bridge of Spies, for instance — doesn’t live up to expectations.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see Caine and Cotillard nominated as well.  Everyone loves Michael Caine and, as he gets older, we are more and more aware that a day is going to come that he won’t be around to appear in any more movies.  As for Cotillard, she is everything that Meryl Streep is supposed to be and more.

Anyway, here are the winners!

68th Cannes Film Festival top awards:

Palme D’Or: Dheepan

Grand Prix: Son of Saul

Jury Prize: The Lobster

Best Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien for The Assassin

Best Actor: Vincent Lindon for The Measure of a Man

Best Actress: Rooney Mara for Carol and Emmanuelle Bercot for My King

Best Screenplay: Michel Franco (Chronic)

Camera d’Or (Best first feature): La Tierra Y la Sombra

Emily Blunt in Sicario

Emily Blunt in Sicario (No, actually, that is Emily Blunt in Looper.  My mistake…)