January 20, 2017

Tag Archives: John Woo

Spotlight on the Stars: Tom Cruise

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at a real A-lister, and that happens to be Tom Cruise. For some, he’s become just an aging action hero, while others long for the days when he still did drama. Personally, I’m still enamored with the star power of Cruise in anything he does. He also happens to be an underrated actor, which you wouldn’t have believed just a decade ago when he seemed poised to finally win an Oscar. Yes, he does seem mostly geared towards action these days, but Cruise built his career working with A-list filmmakers. He got to the top by acting in the movies of the best in the business.
Cruise has worked with a lot of top notch directors over his career. Names like J.J. Abrams, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brad Bird, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann, Robert Redford, Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, John Woo, and Edward Zwick litter his resume, and they’re not the only ones. This weekend’s Edge of Tomorrow adds Doug Liman to that list as well. If you look at his best performances, they often come from real auteurs like Anderson, Crowe, Kubrick, and Spielberg. I’d argue that the man has never given a bad performance, but those top tier ones have come from the biggest names in Hollywood.
If you look at his work, he’s shown an ability to do just about everything. He’s obviously become a tremendous movie star, and it was partially because he wasn’t pigeonholed. He was an action star in films like the Mission: Impossible franchise and something like Top Gun, a romantic lead in comedy/dramedy work like Jerry Maguire and Risky Business, a dramatic lead in awards bait like Born on the Fourth of July and Rain Man, and even could completely disappear into a supporting role in films like Magnolia and Tropic Thunder (where he demonstrated real comedy chops too). I’d argue there’s nothing that the man can’t do. He just needs to mix it up more. I’m fully confident that if he committed himself to doing a drama or an indie film every other year or so, he’d have another Oscar nomination before long and he’d probably be on pace to eventually win himself an Academy Award.
Overall, Cruise is an incredibly talented actor who still has a ton of miles still to […]

Venice Film Festival award season chatter

HollywoodNews.com: Here’s a rundown of what’s clicking at the Venice Film Festival as potential award season contenders.
The Black Swan directed by Darren Aronofsky
Most critics and bloggers are intrigued by this film. Variety’s Justin Chang pointedly exclaims on Twitter: “In the battle of opening-night films: Venice 1, Cannes 0.”
Guy Lodge who is covering the festival for In Contention gives his guess for “Swan’s” odds:
Anne Thompson and I agreed at lunch today that the film has its work cut out for it in the top races — wild psychodrama not being the Academy’s strong point, particularly if critical opinion turns out to be split — and the extent to which voters (and audiences) warm to her vehicle will be a determining factor for Portman, given how deep the Best Actress field already looks.

Meek’s Cutoff directed by Kelly Reichardt
Guy Lodge is very excited about this film giving it four stars. The 19th century Western follows three families and two bookend characters on the Oregon Trail, “miles from a home that doesn’t exist.” Lodge is wowed by Michelle Williams. Williams matches the director’s “contained integrity” and opens out to a broader audience. It’s a film that Terrence Malick and John Steinbeck would savor. “Adventurous, ambiguous and truthful, ‘Meek’s Cutoff’ may be a marvel in itself, but it only sets up greater expectations for the future.”
Reign of Assassins directed by Su Chao-Pin and John Woo
In Contention gives this chopsocky film three stars, however, the film from their review doesn’t sound like an awards-worthy title.
“It does boast a goofy sense of humor, as well as a certain elasticity of genre as endearing as it is initially bewildering: this is the rare fighting film that takes sideways strolls into supernatural video-game territory and meet-cute rom-com,” says Lodge.
“Assassins” follows Michelle Yeoh as a killer who falls for an average laborer. Turns out the guy is more connected to her than she imagined. Along the way, she fends off others who have their sights on the mystical remains of a Buddhist monk.
Silent Souls by Aleksei Fedorchenko.
Hollywood Reporter is calling the film a ringer for the Golden Lion, the festival’s top prize. Drama is about a factory worker’s poetic and folkloric farewell to his dead wife.
The magazine further reports:
It was “Ovsyanki” (“Silent Souls”) that created the most buzz Saturday, immediately sparking speculation that it could be an early favorite for […]

Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba zest ‘Machete’ action politics

By Anthony D’Alessandro
HollywoodNews.com: FILM REVIEW — If there was a classroom full of action directors, such as Michael Bay, Gore Verbinski and McG, Robert Rodriguez would be that rascal who would take them hostage, rap their knuckles with a ruler and stick their noses in a corner.
What would Rodriguez inculcate? How to make an efficient, hyper-kinetic edited, voluptuous action film, employing the most zealous dramatic ensemble.
To fault Rodriguez for his campy, snuff-inspired shoot-em ups would be like shortchanging John Woo’s talents for executing chopsocky ballet or Martin Scorsese’s overindulgence in Italian-Catholic symbolism.
Much like those guys whose cinema is beholden to their heritage, Rodriguez’s actioners, like a rich Sopaipilla drowned in honey, are drenched in sexy melodrama, exploitative action and South of the Border mythos.
So comes his Mexican Rambo film “Machete,” which he co-directed with his rhythmic editor Ethan Maniquis from “Grindhouse.” And while “Machete” is arguably the best action film of the summer, sniping “Salt” in its twists and kicking Adam McKay’s “The Other Guys” in the cajones with its comedy, the film wears its pro-Mexican Immigration message heavily on its sleeve — a bold agenda that is apt to divide action aficionados at the box office: Red state testosterones are apt to walk out while blue state arthouse crowds will savor the ride.
While the knife-wielding ex-Mexican Federale “Machete” is more or less a cinematic cousin to Rodriguez’s “Mariachi” and “Desperado” protag assassins (in fact Rodriguez originally conceived the character during the shoot of the latter film, not the “Grindhouse” faux trailer), it’s the film’s overt political soap box which makes “Machete” a more intelligible ride than its steel barrel predecessors. Sylvester Stallone’s pro-America speech at the end of “Rambo” seems mousy next to the social message which Rodriguez and Maniquis drum about U.S.-Mexico border corruption. The duo play out the drama effectively down to the final moment when Machete (the fierce, somber Danny Trejo) is pulled over by Jessica Alba’s ICE agent Sartana: Instead of handing her his papers, Sartana gives Machete a set of his own.
After watching his wife get beheaded by the drug lord Torrez (a hammy Steven Seagal) in an ambush sting, master of knives Machete retreats to Austin, Texas where he gets by as a day laborer. He is befriended […]

‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ Review: Everyman wins hearts, laughs

By Anthony D’Alessandro
HollywoodNews.com: Quite quickly over the last seven years, Michael Cera has become the iconic millennial’s straight man, and to his strength, is continually surrounded by acerbic, off-kilter fools onscreen. With an angelic face, Cera’s hysterical alter egos puff their lines with circumspect and struggle to keep up with life’s crazy tide. Often times, Cera archetypes must go out of their way to get the girl of their dreams, i.e. enduring work at a beachside frozen banana stand (Fox’s blessed sitcom series “Arrested Development), hoarding beer into the wrong party (“Superbad”) and transforming into an evil, hip French personality (This year’s underrated “Youth in Revolt”).
In director Edgar Wright’s charming feature adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” Cera, as the ad spots exclaim, must defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl whose hand he so desires.
Like Charles Grodin, Bill Murray, Fred Willard and Ray Romano, Cera can satirically knock at the everyman without knocking him completely down. Cera’s performances are infectious and well beyond his twentysomething years in timing and nuance. Many burgeoning actors at his age continue to search for their sense of character, or vie to exhibit multiple emotional levels; but Cera is completely in tune to his undertone strengths and he is the grease which spins the comedic wheels in “Scott Pilgrim.”
In the Cera canon, Scott is an evolution from the high school squares the actor has portrayed. Pilgrim, a slacker and bass guitarist for the wannabe Toronto apartment grunge band Sex-Bob-Omb, doesn’t have to worry about getting girls; he’s broken plenty of hearts which is a decent score considering Envy Adams (Brie Larson), his ex-girlfriend and established glam rocker, “kicked his heart in the ass.” As one character calls Scott, he’s “a total lady killer and wannabe jerky jerk.”
Scott takes gleeful solace in Knives Chau (vivacious newcomer Ellen Wong), a Catholic high schooler much younger than him. The two are like peas in a pod, playing ninja videogames in perfect choreographed unison. Scott is an impressionable force on Knives, and in return she becomes the band’s number one groupie. But Knives, given her innocence, is an easy fetch for Scott.
Scott lives his wrinkled life with his gay, suave roommate Wallace Wells (a wonderfully blunt Kieran Culkin), a dude […]