Quick Takes: Maps to the Stars, Consumed

Maps_to_the_StarsMaps to the Stars (2014)
twohalfstar

Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Evan Bird, Olivia Williams, Robert Pattinson, Kiara Glasco, Sarah Gadon
Directed by David Cronenberg

Maps to the Stars is definitely a better film than the disastrously bleak and boring Cosmopolis, but it’s still nowhere near as great or intriguing as most of Cronenberg’s other works. I must admit to generally disliking most films about Hollywood, though, so this one had more working against it than the average film, Cronenberg or otherwise. Mia Wasikowska delivers a great, subtle performance as our odd and mysterious lead, but in terms of story the “big reveal” and the conclusion aren’t as engaging as the character deserves. Julianne Moore stands out as well, but by this point in her career, that’s to be expected. Originally the film was to star Viggo Mortensen (in the John Cusack role) and Rachel Weisz in Moore’s place; with this knowledge, I would’ve instead loved to see Viggo and Julianne together, as I’m not much of a Cusack fan and I don’t see Weisz as being especially suited to this role. In any case, Maps to the Stars is a weird, disappointing movie, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. A few weeks ago, I read about Cronenberg having challenges funding his films these days, and honestly after the one-two punch of Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, I can kind of understand why the money men are hesitant. But whatever, he’s David Cronenberg! He should be allowed to make whatever he wants, y’know?

consumedConsumed (2014)
by David Cronenberg

fourstar

After recently going through all his films, I had to read Cronenberg’s debut novel. It’s a brilliant piece of work, as good as his best films, without question. A welcome return to body horror that consistently made me uncomfortable (in a good way) and had me squirming and wincing in empathetic pain. To achieve that with a film is impressive, but to do so without a single image is something else entirely! Consumed is a testament to the power of Cronenberg’s craft as a writer and a storyteller, and it in no way feels like a debut novel. It’s the work of a seasoned, visionary artist, and anyone who loves his films should check it out. Consumed is easily my favorite Cronenberg project since eXistenZ. His last couple of films weren’t great, but make no mistake: Cronenberg has definitely still got it! If you’re intrigued by a book that brings together body horror, journalism, 3D printing and cannibalism, then Consumed is for you!

The Postman (1997)

1997-the-postman-poster1Starring Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow, Giovanni Ribisi, Roberta Maxwell, Joe Santos, Ron McLarty, Peggy Lipton

Directed by Kevin Costner

Expectations: Low, but as a fan of Dances with Wolves I’m hopeful.

twohalfstar


2013
The Great Salt Flats of Utah

The last of the great cities died when my father was a child, victims of yet another war. He told of the plagues that followed and how the living hid themselves, scattered in tiny hamlets in hopes of surviving whatever new madness conspired to rob them of the little that remained. In those days, he walked alone, a solitary witness to the chaos that reigned. The earth itself had fallen victim to the insanity. He told stories of the three-year winter and how the dirty snow never stopped falling. He saw the ocean, barren, poisoned, near death. And how they watched the sky for 16 long years, praying for the great lungs to start working again. He said it was as if the ocean had breathed a great sigh of relief.

The Postman tells the story of a lone drifter, walking through the desert with only a few supplies and a burro to keep him company. He dreams of watching Monday Night Football and admires the sunset from the roof of an old Unocal 76 station. The post-apocalyptic setting is complete, but unfortunately star/director Kevin Costner decides to leave all of this iconic imagery quickly behind as he tells us a tale of a western, Civil War-inspired version of the future. I don’t imagine that if the world ended I’d move into the nearest ghost town, but that seems to be exactly what the survivors of the plagues and the wars did in their world.

Continue reading The Postman (1997) →

Hanna (2011)

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jessica Barden, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Michelle Dockery, Vicky Krieps, Martin Wuttke

Directed by Joe Wright

Expectations: The lowest of the low.


I never had any interest in watching Hanna. I saw the trailer a few times in the theater and thought it looked dumb. One of my co-workers wore me down and talked me into watching it, promising nothing more than a fun film. Note to self: trust your instincts. Hanna was pretty much awful right from the beginning, an absolute mess of inconsequential drama and ridiculous, unbelievable, poorly shot action. I thought director Joe Wright’s Atonement was a poor, overly praised film, but Hanna makes Atonement look like a genuine masterpiece.

Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna, a girl living with her father (Eric Bana) in a snowy forest. Bana teaches her survival tactics and reads her entries from an encyclopedia to beef up her intellect. She desires something more than the cabin in the woods can provide though (More INPUT!), so Bana makes that option available to her by digging up a beacon buried deep in the snow and giving Hanna the option to flip it on whenever she feels ready. He warns her though that as soon as she does, the evil Cate Blanchett will be after her! Oh nos!

While this isn’t a bad setup for a thrilling chase film, the film’s trailer covered every plot point I mentioned above, in addition to the following fifteen minutes as well. So the first half hour just rehashed everything I already knew about the movie from watching the trailer which I thought looked dumb. Great. After we move out of trailer country, the film picks up right? Right?

Continue reading Hanna (2011) →

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer (2010)

Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, James Belushi, Eli Wallach

Directed by Roman Polanski

Expectations: Low. As much as Polanski is a great, this looks like it will be so-so.


 

The Ghost Writer, the new film from Roman Polanski, is a thinly veiled tale about Tony Blair Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a British ex-Prime Minister who is being accused of war crimes, specifically of turning terrorists over to the CIA so that they could be tortured. One of the terrorists died and now while the shit hits the fan, ghost writer Ewan McGregor must come in and help Lang finish his memoir. Lang’s previous ghost writer was found washed up on the beach, a belly full of booze and the cause of death questionable. McGregor gets down to business and over the course of the film uncovers some information his unfortunate predecessor was investigating when he died.

Continue reading The Ghost Writer (2010) →

Mini-Review: An Education (2009)

Starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Cara Seymour, Sally Hawkins, Matthew Beard, Ellie Kendrick, Beth Rowley

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Expectations: Super low, but Nick Hornby wrote the script so I do expect it will be well written.


There’s nothing wrong with this movie, but there isn’t really anything special about it either. Sure, Carey Mulligan is a great new talent and really shows off her ability in her role, but there’s not much else to get excited about here. What’s the point of it all?

The film is competently made and the dialogue is well written. The acting is very good all around. I’m a big Alfred Molina fan and I wasn’t aware that he was in this, so that was a welcome surprise. Despite the fact that they got these key things right, they forgot to have an interesting story. The whole thing for me just exudes this air of being wonderfully okay.

Continue reading Mini-Review: An Education (2009) →

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