Saturday, May 31, 2014


The Grand Seduction
September 8, 2013 (Toronto International Film Festival)
May 30, 2014 (United States)
113 min
United States (English)

Directed by Don McKellar
Written by Michael Dowse, Ken Scott

The Grand Seduction affords us new territory for Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch and is absolutely worth your amusement.

The Grand Seduction is a remake of the 2003 French-Canadian film, Seducing Doctor Lewis, which won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance back in 2003. There have been talks about an English language remake for a decade now and I'm confident in declaring that it was worth the wait. Brendan Gleeson, in one of his more likable and relatable roles, plays Murray French. He's but one of a hundred souls proud to call the Newfoundland harbor town of Tickle Head their home.

The film's prologue is a classically draped remembering of his life as a child: their fathers would go out each night carrying lanterns to their fishing boats in order to earn a living and then come back home to the warmth of their wives. The Tickle Head of today is shed of that romantic and nostalgic lens and is in serious financial trouble. Murray's wife wants a better life, and for that she looks to the city. All the more reason for Murray to rally the harbor-folk together to for a factory to be built in their midst. "What's does the factory make?" an unconvinced denizen asks Murray. "They make jobs." The only catch is that in order to make the cut, Tickle Head needs a doctor. They lure in Dr. Paul Lewis, a recent med school grad who is played by Taylor Kitsch, and so the seducing begins.

It's a fun premise that takes a while to set up, but once the goals are clear and the players are on the field its a blast to watch. They know very little about Dr. Lewis outside of his interest in cricket, which the whole harbor struggles to learn and love before his arrival. They tap his phone to learn more, including his rocky relationship with his girlfriend back home. There's plenty of tricks that Murray and company have up their sleeve. The chaotic planning, risky execution and consequent reaction by Dr. Lewis make for a hilarious formula that delivers throughout.

You couldn't ask for better performances out of the townsfolk. Not only do they look and feel the part, they keep their observations deadpan and their delivery well-timed. Gleeson is perfect as a patriarchal and earnest influencer for both the people of Tickle Head and on Dr. Lewis himself. Kitsch adds another notch to his acting belt with this performance. It's a small-budget dramedy and he plays the part of the flashy new fish in the faded old pond.

What's most telling about the success of The Grand Seduction is that by the end of the movie you'll have been convinced to live in Tickle Head yourself. It may not be possible to return to the golden days of yesteryear, but there is happiness to be found in the humble everyday lives of the working class.

Curator's Note: The Grand Seduction is currently playing in select cities. Video Review


CONTENT: some crude humor, language and sexual references

Friday, May 30, 2014


In honor of A Million Ways to Die in the West hitting theaters this weekend MOVIECLIPS decided to celebrate all the diverse ways in which characters meet their untimely ends in the movies. I helped curate this gruesome and ridiculous list. Please enjoy, though it’s not recommended for the squeamish.

Now that you’ve just literally seen a hundred ways to die you know how much carnage that is. Now imagine 10,000 X that. That would truly be “a million ways to die.” How many onscreen deaths do you think we’ll actually see in A Million Ways to Die in the West? I’m going to attempt to count the deaths in Seth MacFarlane’s new Western comedy and send the results to, a nice resource for finding out just how many people bit the dust in your favorite movies. The only problem is they don’t seem to update it very often or have that reputable of a database to begin with.

1 down. 999,999 to go.

Feel free to guesstimate in the comments below or share any of your favorite movie deaths (video links are preferred).

"A million ways to die in the West isn't cool, you know what's cool? A billion ways to die in the West."


Wednesday, May 28, 2014




James Gray delivers his grandest film to date in the form of this softly-lit and glossily-glazed immigrant story circa 1920s New York. Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix (the latter a Gray regular) turn in incredible lead performances that keep them amidst the best of their respective generations. When all is said and done, The Immigrant feels like a natural title to list in the same sentence as The Godfather: Part II and Once Upon a Time in America. This is the latest American classic.


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When a filmmaker makes a finished project each year it's inevitable that some will get lost in the shuffle. That's especially the case with Woody Allen's 21st Century portfolio, and Melinda and Melinda is such a film (I'd heard nothing about this one prior to stumbling upon it on Netflix). Four friends are out to dinner discussing two great genres: comedy and tragedy. Which is more effective, more life-like and more appealing to an audience? It's a film (two films actually) within a film and does a good job of showing the merits of each. The weightier tragedy ultimately garners more screen time, but it becomes clear that either can venture into the territory of the other. Melinda and Melinda is bloated and self-adoring. Watching Will Ferrell play a part Allen would have played himself some years earlier is more distracting than it is funny. The project is still worth any Allenite's time for a diverse ensemble and a paralleling of the two perspectives of storytelling that this writer/director has been juggling for decades.


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The year of the doppleganger (see also Muppets Most Wanted and Enemy) marches forward with The Double. This time it's Jesse Eisenberg who is pulling double-duty. Mia Wasikowska, in one of her finest turns yet, plays the romantic interest that both Simon James and James Simon warring over. It's a hilarious and surreal experience, as much like Terry Gilliam as writer/director Richard Ayoade's Submarine was Wes Anderson-esque. To think of both only speaks to how competent the filmmaking is. There's some serious themes beneath the thick layer of style here.


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My second viewing of Thomas Vinterberg's frustrating story became an observation of Mads Mikkelsen's Cannes-winning performance. He reacts to damning accusations in a determined yet soft manner. It's a character study during the worst months of one man's life and resonates strongly for it. Thomas Bo Larsen gives a mesmerizing performance of his own. The Hunt is about manhood, both the reaching and maintaining of that rite, in addition to providing a solemn portrait of the sleepy Denmark town that cultivates them.


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A second viewing of Jack Reacher further cemented its status amongst modern American action films, though it's unfit to belong to just that genre. It's a crime film, detective story and a thriller, of course. Cruise is still the best leading man we have for this fare and the trope-snapping script Christopher McQuarrie has adapted is immensely satisfying. Two stretches of dialogue-free action are phenomenal sequences all on their own: that horrific opening and what is now one of my favorite car chases post-Drive.


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It's always a bad sign when the story within a story is more appealing than the film itself, which is how I felt in relation to the Western that opens this adventure rom-com. Alas, it's only the novella that Joan Wilder (Katherine Turner) is writing before she ends up in Columbia to save her sister's life. Expected more from an early Zemeckis film, but Romancing the Stone is still better than it sounds on paper.


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A form and mood swing away from last year's The Silence, with which it shares subject matter. This dark comedy glistens like blood through its first half before becoming hindered by unlikely interactions and undressed questions. Big Bad Wolves feels like a vital piece of contemporary Israeli cinema.


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Seen any of these films? What did you see last week? Please feel free to share your thoughts or your own recently beheld in the comments below!

Also, see what else I've seen this year in my Letterboxd diary.

Monday, May 12, 2014


Voiceover Script:

Written and Directed by Naomie Kawase

Set on a Japanese island during a full-moon summer night, Still the Water is about a 14-year-old boy and his girlfriend who find a dead body floating in the sea and the impact it has on their lives. Kawase previously directed Suzaku and The Mourning Forest, we’re itching to see her style and skillset brought to another cultural tale.

Written and Directed by David Michôd

Michôd's feature-length debut, Animal Kingdom, is about as strong as they come. That Australian crime family drama was a breath of fresh air and The Rover looks to keeps things that way. In this Western set in a future Down Under "a loner tracks the gang who stole his car from a desolate town in the Australian outback." Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce and Scoot McNairy are all great faces to fit the desolate backdrop.

Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

Hazanavicius won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for 2011’s The Artist, which itself was a Cannes darling, but there’s very little that film’s sensibilities has in common with The Search. The wickedly talented Bérénice Bejo plays an NGO employee who forms a special relationship with a young boy in war-torn Chechnya. Annette Bening co-stars in this modern retelling of the 1948 Fred Zinnemann film of the same name.

Written and Directed by Kristian Levring

“In 1870s America, a peaceful American settler kills his family's murderer which unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader.” Mads Mikkelsen (who won Best Actor at Cannes two years ago for The Hunt), Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Jonathan Pryce star in Danish filmmaker Kristian Levering’s stab at an American Western. It’s always fascinating to see how foreign directors tackle the genre and The Salvation looks downright violent and beautiful in all the right ways.

Written and Directed by Ryan Gosling

After two artistic yet depraved projects with Nicolas Winding Refn we're pumped to see what Ryan Gosling will be bringing into his own directorial debut, Lost River (formerly titled How to Catch a Monster). Christina Hendricks plays a single mother whose son discovers an underwater utopia. Eva Mendes and Saoirse Ronan co-star. Considering Gosling's maturation as a filmmaker and citing master David Lynch as a direct influence, we're ready to float down Lost River.

Written and Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (Zvee-ya-gin-stev)
“A present day social drama spanning multiple characters about the human insecurity in a new country which gradually unwinds to a mythological scale concerning the human condition on earth entirely.” Zvyagintsev has been on our radar since his masterful debut, The Return, back in 2003. This is his third time at Cannes since and the ambitious if not ambiguous nature of that plot synopsis has us holding our breath for assured greatness.

Directed by Zhang Yimou

Renowned for his unparalleled vision, Zhang is following-up The Flowers of War with the story of “a Chinese man who is is forced into marriage and flees to America, but when he returns home, is sent to a labor camp.” Li Gong and Chen Daoming star in this heavy period piece. Coming Home will be premiering at Cannes but Out of Competition.

Written and Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Noori Bill-guh Jay-lawn)

Ceylan’s previous film, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011. It was nothing short of a masterpiece. Plot details for Winter Sleep are a tad scarce but it circulates around an actor turned hotel owner who leaves home as winter sets in. We’re trusting Ceylan and his past collaborators on this one, which happens to be the longest film in competition this year at three hours and sixteen minutes.

Directed by Bennett Miller

Miller (of Capote and Moneyball fame) has a recognized gift for bringing true stories of misunderstood men to the big screen. Next in line is paranoid schizophrenic John duPont whose life collided with the Olympic Wrestling duo, the Shultz Brothers. It's Steve Carell in the role of duPont that has piqued my interest since the film was first revealed. It's a dramatic departure from his usual schtick and I look forward to him acting opposite Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Written and Directed by Tommy Lee Jones

Last time Tommy Lee Jones brought his own film to Cannes, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, he went home with the awards for Best Actor and Best Screenplay. With The Homesman, he plays a claim jumper opposite a pioneer woman played by Hilary Swank who team up to escort three mentally insane women from Nebraska to Iowa. We’ve never seen a “road trip movie” like this before. After seeing the trailer for The Homesman I found myself wishing Tommy Lee Jones would just make Westerns for the rest of his career.

Curator's Note: Synopses taken from IMDb and/or The Film Stage.