January 21, 2017

Tag Archives: kevin spacey

‘Elvis & Nixon’ speculates on a very odd moment in history

I’ll mention this tidbit again before the week is out, but a lot of things debuting currently at the Tribeca Film Festival are also just hitting theaters this weekend as well. One such movie is Elvis & Nixon, which I’ve seen and enjoyed for the most part. I don’t especially think it’s an awards player, but as speculative entertainment and a festival entry, it certainly does the trick, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Mostly, it’s an effectively comedic star vehicle for Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey, as well as a mild satire. It won’t blow you away, but it likely will make you giggle a fair amount.
The film is a look at what led up to the most requested photograph in the National Archives, which is an image of President Richard Nixon (Spacey) shaking hands with Elvis Presley (Shannon) in the Oval Office. Blending fact and fiction, we follow along as Elvis decides he needs an audience with Nixon in order to become deputized as a federal agent. He heads from Nashville, first to Los Angeles to recruit friend/associate/pseudo manager Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer), and then to Washington DC to attempt to crash the White House. Initially, Nixon refuses, but staff members Egil Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) eventually talk him into it. The rest, essentially, is history. Liza Johnson directs a screenplay from Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal, and Cary Elwes (yes, the actor). Supporting players here include Johnny Knoxville, Sky Ferreira, Tracy Letts, Tate Donovan, and Ashley Benson, among others.
What makes Elvis & Nixon work is how light yet enjoyable a tone it takes with a concept that should probably come off as too ridiculous to work, even if it’s true. Shannon and Spacey are clearly having fun, and it rubs off on the audience. When not focused on either one of them, the film lags, but when they’re on the screen, and especially in their climatic meeting, sparks do tend to fly. The movie is far from perfect, but it’s so odd that it just plain winds up working. It’s a lighthearted satire that leaves you with a smile on your face, and that’s something.
It was interesting for me to compare Spacey’s real life interpretation of a President here to his fictional one on Netflix’s House of Cards. Whereas in the latter project he’s almost Shakespearian in his darkness, here he basically puts forward […]

“House of Cards” is back with a real bang for Netflix

At the tail end of last week, Netflix gave audiences another reason to binge with the release of the fourth season of their hit series House of Cards. As the show (or at least one of the shows) that put the streaming service on the map as a place for original programming, this has always been a flagship property, with anticipation for new seasons always at a fever pitch and a pedigree including David Fincher and Beau Willimon. Suffice to say, House of Cards is special. This year is no exception for the show, as season three ended on a real cliffhanger and plenty of us were dying to see what happens next. I’ll steer clear of new spoilers, of course, but just so you know, everything previously involving Kevin Spacey’s now President Frank Underwood and Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood is fair game. Let’s dive in!
For those who don’t remember, the show started by introducing us to Congressman Frank Underwood (Spacey), who is passed over for a cabinet position by the incoming President. That begins Underwood on a path for revenge, encouraged by his just as ambitious wife Claire (Wright) and aided by chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly). By the end of the first season, among other things, he’d found a way to make himself the Vice President, utilizing a reporter named Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). Season two opened with him murdering Zoe when she became a liability, something that he’s kept a secret. The season ended with him succeeding in his ultimate plan…becoming Commander in Chief. Last season saw him as President and eventually having to go out and campaign for the nomination. Then, we saw the season end with Claire stating that she was leaving Frank…
This season, we see the battle of wills between Claire and Frank, all the while having Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) campaign against them. I don’t want to say too much about what happens, but we’re introduced to a few new characters, including campaign strategist LeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell) as well as Claire’s mother Elizabeth Hale (Ellen Burstyn). All of the operatic machinations behind the scenes are still there, with some legitimate shockers thrown in. Old characters re-appear, some leave for good, and there’s an early to mid season twist that is sure to be of note to just about everyone. One thing you can say for sure is that they’re not […]

“House of Cards”: The Best Show on Netflix?

Over the weekend, Netflix dropped season three of their hit show House of Cards, allowing viewers (including yours truly) to binge watch another 13 episodes of the political drama. Since its debut, the show, which came from the mind of scribe Beau Willimon and stars the duo of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, has been a huge hit, basically creating the term “binge watching” and capturing more than its fair share of attention. House of Cards is responsible for really launching Netflix in the realm of original scripted programming. For my money, it’s also their best show, bar none. Even in general, there’s very little else like it on the small screen right now.
For those of you unaware what the show is about, House of Cards follows democratic congressman Frank Underwood (Spacey) as he exacts revenge, along with the help of his equally strong willed wife Claire (Wright) on those who have wronged him. In the first season, we met Frank as he was seething about being passed over for Secretary of State after helping get the new President elected. Thus began a plan that resulted in him becoming the new Vice President at the end of Season One. During the course of Season Two, his plan continued unabated, leading to him becoming the Commander in Chief during the finale. Now in Season Three, we have President and First Lady Underwood fighting to hold on to the power that they’ve amassed. At the top of the mountain, they refuse to go down in any way, shape, or form. Is it overtly Shakespearean? Of course, but that’s part of its devious charm as well. David Fincher directed the pilot and one other episode, establishing a strong aesthetic, while the talented ensemble cast also has included the likes of Corey Stoll, Kate Mara, Michael Kelly, and many more.
The main pleasure is watching Spacey play this character. Not only is Francis J. Underwood a devious antihero (or just a straight up villain at times), Spacey addresses the audience at numerous points, making it even more like a play. You can just imagine his dialogue being written by the Bard himself. You get so caught up in Spacey’s amazing performance that you find yourself rooting for Underwood, something that’s pretty unconscionable at times. When you pair Spacey with Wright’s equally powerful performance, it’s an absolutely riveting one-two punch, and that’s putting it fairly mildly.
So […]

Tom Hanks: The Top 25 (Best Actor)

Yes, this time around I’ll be tackling one of the biggest of the big eight categories in an effort not to save them all for very last, much like with last week. This one is arguably the second biggest of them all…the Best Actor field. This is as prestigious a category as there is ladies and gentlemen. I could go on and on in preparation right now, but at this point I know how the game works here. You all mostly just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center…
This time around, I’m once again going with the ever popular overview route for the discussion as you might have guessed. Also, it really just comes down to taste again here (surprise surprise), with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re particularly partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us all, which is commonplace at this point and even more so with acting. I know a couple of of my selections are going to seem a bit on the odder side of the equation, especially again when you see how high I ranked certain gentlemen, but that’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone with this sort of a thing, so I won’t lie to myself in order to try.
I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Tom Hanks and his stunning performance in Philadelphia. Frankly, I wish I could basically have a tie throughout my entire top five, which also includes Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront (as opposed to his more widely praised turn in The Godfather) Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas (easily the most underrated winner in history to me), Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (controversially ahead of There Will Be Blood), and Robert De Niro for Raging Bull (to some the best ever). They’re almost all tied, they’re so phenomenal. I give the slight edge to Hanks though, just because of how long that turn has stayed with me. Rounding out the top ten we have the other beloved performances of Day-Lewis […]

Why some comic adaptations failed: Iron Man 2, Punisher: War Zone, Superman Returns, Hulk

HollywoodNews.com: Actor Tom Hiddleston wrote an eloquent essay yesterday for The Guardian basically praising and defending the sub-genre known as the superhero picture. Plenty of disdain for the genre comes from the very notion that it’s big-budget entertainment based on literature that was technically intended for children that gobbles up production dollars and screen space that otherwise might be allotted for more explicitly grown-up fare. But at least some of the alleged weariness of this specific type of film (the superhero comic book adaptation) comes from a feeling that all-too many of them are basically telling the same story. You’ve generally got the standard origin story which (let’s be honest) basically takes Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie and pours it into a different color bottle (I say that as a big fan of Spider-Man and Captain America). Then you have the sequels, which are quite often merely a case of escalation and/or the hero dealing with self-doubt often while in combat with a ‘bigger/badder’ version of himself (again, thank you Superman II). But over the last twenty years or so, there have been a handful of high-profile comic book films that have attempted to play around with the formula but have artistically failed anyway. As a rebuttal to the idea that ‘all superhero movies are the same’ as well as a reaffirmation of the idea that ‘it’s not what it’s about, but how it’s about it’, let’s take a look at five comic book adaptations that didn’t play it safe, but didn’t come out on top either.
Batman & Robin (1997)
I would argue that it’s a sign of maturity among film pundits and critics when they are finally adult enough to realize that Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is not the worst film ever made. Peel away all the attempted camp, the self-depreciating homoerotic jokes, the terrible lead performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger and you’re left with simply a good story told very poorly. As the fourth film in a franchise, Schumacher and company had a bit more leeway in terms of where they wanted to take their film this time around. And as such, they told a rather thoughtful tale of an adult and sane Bruce Wayne trying to figure out how to be an appropriate head to his surrogate family. No longer wracked with guilt over his parents’ deaths, Wayne […]

The Hunger Games: The hunt for a new director is on

HollywoodNews.com: The Playlist doesn’t break news all that often, merely seeing fit to be a one-stop shop for the movie news that everyone else breaks during the day (I don’t mean that as an insult, The Playlist is the site I go to if I only have time to surf one movie news site in a given day), So it’s somewhat of a big deal that The Playlist has broken a pretty major story, confirming that director Gary Ross will not be back to helm the second and/or third films in the Hunger Games franchise. There have been rumblings all week about contract negotiations, and Ross has now politely passed. The site chalks it up to both Ross’s lack of desire to stay in the same universe for the next several years combined with a somewhat low-ball offer from Lionsgate. Whatever the case, Ross is gone and the hunt for a new director is now on. While editing my John Carter obituary a few weeks ago, I removed a large paragraph dealing with the trend of giving young white-male filmmakers with barely a feature credit to their name the keys to $100-300 million franchise films while seasoned pros and/or minorities remain noticeably absent from the ‘wish-list’ (yes, I was glad to see F. Gary Gray on the Marvel wish-list for Captain America 2). And while I wouldn’t consider The Hunger Games a ‘female film’, it would be a great opportunity to make a point that female directors can indeed handle the kind of big-scale filmmaking that studios are all-too willing to offer to mostly untested male directors as a matter of course. So, perhaps arbitrarily, perhaps to prove a point about how inaccessible the ‘wish list’ is for female directors, here are nine directors who happen to be women who also belong on ‘the wish-list’ as Lionsgate hunts for a second director. These are in alphabetical order, with the exception of the final entry, who would be my ‘top choice’.
Kathryn Bigelow
Duh. In fact, she’ll probably make the wish-list as a token nod to gender-diversity, and all she had to do was become the first female in history to win a Best Director Oscar. I don’t really have to explain this pick. She’s been directing hard action pictures for thirty years. She’s helmed the likes of Near Dark (a […]

Winners Announced for 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards

HollywoodNews.com: Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, handed out top honors to The Artist, The Descendants and Margin Call at this afternoon’s 27th Film Independent Spirit Awards. My Week With Marilyn, Beginners, 50/50, A Separation and The Interrupters also received awards at the ceremony, held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica.
Tune in to IFC tonight at 10:00 pm ET/PT to catch all the action at the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards, with actor, writer and producer Seth Rogen hosting. Highlights include: John Waters as the Voice of God, musical performances by My Morning Jacket and K’Naan.
The Spirit Awards was the first event to exclusively honor independent film, and over the past 27 years, has become the premier awards show for the independent film community, celebrating films made by filmmakers who embody independence and originality. Artists receiving industry recognition first at the Spirit Awards include Joel & Ethan Coen, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Ashley Judd, Robert Rodriguez, David O. Russell, Edward Burns, Aaron Eckhart, Neil LaBute, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Hilary Swank, Marc Forster, Todd Field, Christopher Nolan, Zach Braff, Amy Adams and many more.
This year’s major category winners were The Weinstein Company’s The Artist, which won Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead and Best Cinematography and My Week With Marilyn, which won Best Female Lead; Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants, which won Best Supporting Female and Best Screenplay; Focus Features’ Beginners, which won Best Supporting Male and Pariah, which won the John Cassavetes Award; Summit Entertainment’s 50/50, which won Best First Screenplay; Roadside Attractions’ Margin Call, which won Best First Feature; Sony Pictures Classics’ A Separation, which won Best International Film; and The Cinema Guild’s The Interrupters, which won Best Documentary.
The 5th annual Robert Altman Award was given to one film’s director, casting director, and ensemble cast. J. C. Chandor’s Margin Call received this award, along with casting directors Tiffany Little Canfield and Bernard Telsey and ensemble cast members Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci.
Film Independent, in partnership with NowLive and Yahoo!, streamed a Live Arrivals Show exclusively on Yahoo! Movies (http://movies.yahoo.com) to its audience of more than 26 million US users, across the web, mobile and iOs devices.
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Tilda Swinton talks “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” parenting and not killing the audience – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Playing a bad parent’s one way for an actor to attract the Academy’s attention. Kevin Spacey’s lustful, wandering Lester Burnham in “American Beauty,” James Coburn’s cruel “Affliction” character, and Jacki Weaver’s manipulative crime boss in “Animal Kingdom” are a few recent examples of killer parents who found themselves in the spotlight on Oscar night.
Tilda Swinton could be next. As Eva, the shellshocked mother of a school shooter, Swinton takes audiences on a blistering trip through the conscience of a parent left questioning every decision made leading up to the tragic event. Director Lynne Ramsay (“Morvern Caller”) asks difficult questions about unconditional love, then let’s us come up with the answers.
At the Toronto International Film Festival, a delightful Swinton gave us plenty of answers during an exclusive one-on-one, where we discussed the communicative nature of film festivals, the reactions parents are having to “Kevin,” an the importance of not killing your audience.
HollywoodNews.com: How was your recent Telluride visit?
Short, but excellent. I’d never been there before, You must go! For me, it is interesting because I run these little film festivals in Scotland sometimes that are so tiny, they make Telluride look organized. So people walk around Telluride going, “Isn’t this quaint?” And I think, “Why? No! This is super brushed up.” But I was actually just talking to a friend about the importance of an exchange in film festivals. Something happens at a film festival. People either have to travel to get there or, as in Toronto, pay good money to go to the cinema. And that just makes something great happen. There’s something about other film festivals, when everyone just sort of gets a badge and rolls into the cinema and doesn’t necessarily choose to go that can be quite deadening, I think. The bad thing about being in Toronto this year is that I’m not getting to see films while I’m up here, and I don’t like that. I like being able to go to a film festival and see films.
HollywoodNews.com: “Kevin” wasn’t what I was expecting. I think I braced for the worst, as a parent of two.
How old are they?
HollywoodNews.com: Seven and three. Are you hearing a lot of parenting stories as a result?
Oh yes, tons. How do you feel? How are you? Speak to me. I’m a doctor.
HollywoodNews.com: I thought that the film would terrify me more, […]

“Margin Call” gets a sleek, star-studded trailer

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: “Margin Call,” a new thriller from director J.C. Chandor, has traces of John Grisham’s DNA yet benefits from a ripped-from-the-headlines narrative that trades in recession talk, debt ceilings, credit scandals and more.
The film earned solid reviews at Sundance earlier this year, with kudos being dished out to cast members Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto (in the Charlie Sheen of “Wall Street” role), Jeremy Irons and Stanley Tucci. As the film gears up for an Oct. 21 release date, we have our first official look at a sleek new trailer. It’s posted below:

The use of the digital clock to heighten tension is borrowed directly from “24,” and the urgent dialogue (which Spacey nails, as usual) is a relative of an Aaron Sorkin script. I’m anxious to see if Chandor and his cast can sustain that level of suspense.
The film opens on Oct. 21, an this trailer does an excellent job at establishing “Margin Call” as a can’t miss based solely on the throwback tone to paranoid thrillers of the 1970s, and that cast. Looking forward to it.
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“Horrible Bosses” box numbers trigger sequel talk

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Audiences turned out this weekend to support the star-studded comedic ensemble “Horrible Bosses,” which finds Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day plotting to kill Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell. The comedy nabbed an estimated $28 million in its opening weekend, giving it the No. 2 slot in the box office Top 10.
But would more people have turned out if the comedy starred Ashton Kutcher, Ryan Reynolds, Philip Seymour Hoffman or Johnny Knoxville, as originally planned?
In an interview with “Bosses” producer Brett Ratner, he revealed that the above actors all, at some point, were attached to the comedic premise. Casting options come and go in Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that these names were floated (and eventually flopped).
But in the piece (which you can read HERE), Ratner also admits that sequel talk has begun, and the franchise could go in wildly different directions. Ratner, perhaps jokingly, said that while no plans for a follow up are in development at this time, titles like “Horrible Wives” and “Horrible Children” appeal to him.
What do you think? Is this a concept you want to see expanded? Or was “Bosses” a one-and-done hit? Let us know.
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