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Posts Tagged ‘Steve McQueen’
In my review for the recent remake of Oldboy I wrote, “There is no more manly-man actor in the mold of Lee Marvin or Lee Van Cleef working today.”
I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise given that he was named after the rough-and-tumble character Josh Randall played by Steve McQueen in TV’s Wanted: Dead or Alive.
In Oldboy he’s so tough he’s a practically indestructible force of nature; able to withstand physical punishment that would make Grigori Rasputin look like a wimp.
The tough guy angle is one Brolin plays in a number of films, including his latest Labor Day. He plays an escaped convict who hides out in the home of a depressed, widowed agoraphobic, played by Kate Winslet. Over the course of one long holiday weekend she learns of his dangerous past and before you can say the words Stockholm Syndrome has fallen for the ruggedly handsome stranger.
It’s the kind of role that Brolin has mastered; the multi-layered tough guy but according to him, he doesn’t seek out those roles.
He says he wracks his “brain like crazy trying to figure out which films I wanted to be in.”
Some of those films include No Country for Old Men and Jonah Hex.
In the Oscar nominated No Country he plays down-on-his-luck Llewelyn Moss, who stumbles across the site of a drug deal gone wrong. Bullet-ridden dead men litter the landscape along with several kilos of heroin and a suitcase stuffed with two million dollars in cash. When he makes off with the money his life and the lives of those around him are changed forever.
Jonah Hex didn’t earn any Oscar nods, but did get some Razzie attention in the form of nominations for Worst Screen Couple for Brolin and co-star Megan Fox. The story of a supernatural bounty hunter set on revenge against the man who killed his family is as disfigured as its main character’s face but Brolin brings his real-life swagger to the role and has fun with some of the tongue-in-what’s-left-of-his-cheek lines.
One tough guy role got away from him however. On-line speculation had it that he would be cast as the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman. Although he would have been perfect for the part he lost out to Ben Affleck. Contrary to his bruiser persona he was gracious in defeat. “I’m happy for Ben,” he said.
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1. 12 Years a Slave. There’s a key line near the beginning of “12 Years a Slave, “ the new drama from “Shame” director Steve McQueen. Shortly after being shanghaied from his comfortable life as a freeman into a life of slavery Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) declares, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” Based on Northup’s 1853 memoir the movie is an uncompromising story about will, suffering and injustice.
2. American Hustle. “American Hustle” is one of the year’s best. It’s an entertainingly audacious movie that will doubtless be compared to “The Wolf of Wall Street” because of the similarity in tone and themes, but this time around David O. Russell has almost out-Scorsese’d Scorsese.
3. Before Midnight. “Before Midnight” is beautifully real stuff that fully explores the doubts and regrets that characterize Jesse and Celine’s (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) love affair. Done with humor, heart and pathos, often in the same scene, it is a poignant farewell to two characters who grew up in front of us.
4. Blue Jasmine. Darker than most of Woody Allen’s recent output, “Blue Jasmine” doesn’t go for laughs—very often anyway—but is an astutely crafted psychological character study. Jasmine is a modern day Blanche Du Bois, a faded bright light now forced to depend on the kindness of strangers. Getting in her way are delusions of grandeur and a continued sense of denial—likely the same sense that kept her guilt free during the years the illegal cash was flowing—that eventually conspire to fracture her psyche. “There’s only so many traumas one can take,” she says, “ before you end up in the street, screaming.”
5. Captain Phillips. I don’t think it’s fair to charge audiences full price for screenings of “Captain Phillips.” While watching this exciting new Tom Hanks thriller I was reminded of the old Monster Trucks ads that bellowed, “You Pay for the Whole Seat but You’ll Only Need the Edge!”It a film about piracy and I don’t mean the sleazy guys who bootleg movies but the real pirates who were responsible for the first hijacking of an American cargo ship in two hundred years.
6. Dallas Buyer’s Club. In “Dallas Buyer’s Club” Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has made an emotional drama that never stoops to melodrama. Instead it’s an inspirational film about standing up for what you believe in.
7. Frances Ha. The seventh film from “Greenberg” director Noah Baumbach isn’t so much a traditional narrative as it is a character study of Frances (Greta Gerwig), an underemployed dancer struggling to find herself in New York City. It plays like a cleaned up black-and-white version of “Girls”; an emotionally rich and funny portrait of twenty-something ennui. “Frances Ha” is a collection of details. There is an engaging story, but it’s not exactly laid out in three acts. It feels more intimate and raw than the usual twenty-ish crisis flick and with each detail we get another piece of the puzzle that makes up Frances’ life.
8. Fruitvale Station. It’s important to remember that “Fruitvale Station” isn’t a documentary. Director Ryan Coogler has shaped the movie for maximum heartrending effect, and by the time the devastating last half hour plays out it’s hard to imagine any other movie this year packing such a emotional wallop.
9. Gravity. “Gravity” isn’t an epic like “2001: A Space Odyssey” or an outright horror film like “Alien.” There are no monsters or face hugging ETs. It’s not even a movie about life or death. Instead it is a life-affirming movie about the will to survive.
10. Her. “Her” is an oddball story, but it’s not an oddball film. It is ripe with real human emotion and commentary on a generation’s reliance on technology at the cost of social interaction.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a fictional look at the vibrant Greenwich Village folk scene. Imagine the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” come to life. Sharp-eyed folkies will note not-so-coincidental similarities between the people Llewyn meets and real-life types like Tom Paxton, Alert Grossman and Mary Travers, but this isn’t a history, it’s a feel. It gives us an under-the-covers look at struggles and naked ambition it takes to get noticed.
12. Nebraska. The humour doesn’t come in the set-up-punch-line format but arises out of the situations. A scene of Woody’s gathered family—his elderly brothers and grown sons—watching a football game redefines the word taciturn but the subject of the sparse conversation, a 1974 Buick, is bang on, hilarious and will likely sound familiar to anyone with a large family.
13. Wolf of Wall Street. “Wolf of Wall Street” makes for entertaining viewing, mostly because DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are able to ride the line between the outrageous comedy on display and the human drama that takes over the movie’s final minutes. Both are terrific, buoyed by the throbbing pulse of Scorsese’s camera. With its fourth wall breaking narration, scandalous set pieces and absurd antics “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an experience. At three hours it’s almost as excessive as Balfort’s $26,000 dinners. It feels a bit long, but like the spoiled brats it portrays, it will not, and cannot, be ignored.
TOP FIVE MISSES
TREND: Big stars don’t guarantee box office!
1. The Fifth Estate – Budget: $28 million, Global box office: $6 million, Return: 21% Late into “The Fifth Estate” Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies (David Thewlis) says, “most good stories start at the beginning.” I argue that he’s right– about 99% of the time. Unfortunately this look at WikiLeaks and hacker-turned-whistleblower Julian Assange falls into the 1%.
2. Bullet to the Head – Budget: $25 million, Global box office: $9 million, Return: 36% With a name like Bullet to the Head you know the new Sylvester Stallone movie isn’t a romantic comedy. Although he paraphrases the most famous rom com line of all time, “You had be at BLEEP BLEEP!” the movie is nothing but an ode to testosterone.
3. Getaway – Budget: R180-million, Global box office: R105-million, Return: 58 percent. On a scale of zero to stupid, ”Getaway” ranks an eleven. It is what we call in the film criticism business a S.D.M. (Silly Damn Movie). OK, I made that last part up, but I couldn’t really think of any other category to place this movie under. Maybe E.S.D.M. (Extremely Silly Damn Movie).
Paranoia – Budget: $35 million, Global box office: $13.5 million, Return: 39%.
R.I.P.D. – Budget: $130 million, Global box office: $78 million
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There’s a key line near the beginning of “12 Years a Slave, “ the new drama from “Shame” director Steve McQueen. Shortly after being shanghaied from his comfortable life as a freeman into a life of slavery Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) declares, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
Based on Northup’s 1853 memoir the movie is an uncompromising story about will, suffering and injustice.
The film begins in 1841 in Saratoga, New York. Northup is a respected member of the community, an educated family man and talented musician. His journey into hell begins when he accepts a gig to provide music for a traveling magic show. While on the road he is sold into slavery by two unscrupulous men and shipped from the safety of the northern states into the south’s servitude.
Torn from his wife (Ashley Dyke) and two kids (Quvenzhané Wallis and Cameron Zeigler) he is sold from plantation to plantation, all the while hiding his education and literacy in an effort to deflect the attentions of his overseers and owners.
No matter how bad his situation, and it is dire, he never gives up his will to live and his dream of making his way back to the north and his family.
Unflinching in its portrayal of brutality, “12 Years a Slave,” is a grim document of man’s inhumanity and twisted justification—“A man can do whatever he wants with his property,” spits Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender)—that serves as a primer of pain and cruelty suffered by those pressed into slavery.
Powerful situations and performances abound.
An excruciating lynching scene is all the more powerful because of McQueen’s quiet, unblinking camera. As Northup struggles with a rope around his neck McQueen pulls back, showing the complete diorama, with people going about their day, children playing and white owners gazing passively at the man as he fights for breath. It’s an unforgettable sequence that hammers home the horror of how commonplace this unspeakable behavior was.
The movie is ripe with such scenes that bring the true terror and pain felt by Northup. Its not easy viewing but it is effective, brought alive by interesting work from Paul Giamatti as a slave trader who says his sentiment for those he buys and sells, “extends the length of a coin,” Benedict Cumberbatch, Northup’s first and kindest master and Fassbender, the personification of cruel and unusual.
Paul Dano, Brad Pitt and Lupita Nyong’o also add much, but the core of the movie is Ejiofor’s passionate work as a man forced into unimaginable circumstances. Simultaneously vulnerable and defiant he delivers a deeply layered performance that is sure to earn him the notice he has deserved for years given his work in movies like “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Children of Men.”
“12 Years a Slave” is a harrowing, stark movie that is equal parts educational and devastating.
That quartet of words conjures up images of burning rubber, revving engines and lightening fast pit stops.
This weekend the new Ron Howard movie Rush tries to capture the excitement of Formula 1 racing. Daniel Brühl stars as Niki Lauda, the real life Austrian driver and three-time F1 World Champion who faced off against British legend James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) at the 1976 Formula 1 World Championship at Fuji in Japan.
The story of their rivalry promises not only a great sport story, but also pedal to the metal action and fiery crashes. Like racing kingpin Dale Ernhardt Sr. once said, “You win some, you lose some, you wreck some.”
Just ask the producers of Days of Thunder, who destroyed 35 cars during the shooting of the Tom Cruise racing flick.
Loosely based on the relationship between crew chief Harry Hyde and driver Tim Richmond—played by Robert Duvall and real life racing enthusiast Cruise—and set in the world of Nascar, Days of Thunder is essentially Top Gun on four wheels, but it does feature some thrilling scenes and deafening engine noise.
As for the autos, most were Chevrolets fitted with fake stock cars fiberglass bodies. Not exactly built for the kind of speed required for the film, they regularly broke down and at one point half the fleet was in the shop.
Whatever James Garner’s Grand Prix lacks in story—there basically isn’t one—it makes up for with exhilarating racing footage. To fulfill director John Frankenheimer’s wish for realistic race scenes the cars actually raced at speeds of up to 130 miles per hour. In the past racing sequences had been shot at slower speeds and then sped up in post-production, but Frankenheimer felt that technique would look fake to an audience who was now used to watching racing on television.
Equally exciting for race fans is Le Mans. The advertising tagline for this 1971 film raves, “Steve McQueen takes you for a drive in the country. The country is France. The drive is at 200 MPH!”
“When you’re racing, it… it’s life,” says Michael Delaney (McQueen). “Anything that happens before or after… is just waiting.”