New Trailer: Will Daniel Day-Lewis Go Out on a High Note with ‘Phantom Thread’?

Phantom Thread marks Paul Thomas Anderson’s return with what looks like a conventional period piece with unconventional characters, and a story that could take unexpected turns.

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Phantom Thread marks Paul Thomas Anderson’s return with what looks like a conventional period piece with unconventional characters, and a story that could take unexpected turns.

After months of speculation, impatience and even the lack of a title, Focus Features finally released the trailer for Phantom Thread, the new film from writer-director auteur, Paul Thomas Anderson, and it came to mixed reactions. Some circles of the internet reacted with excitement over another collaboration between Anderson and three-time Academy Award winner, Daniel Day-Lewis, who worked together previously on There Will Be Blood. However, others remained skeptical after viewing the trailer, and for good reason: not only did Anderson’s previous film, Inherent Vice, receive divisive reactions from both critics and audiences during awards season in 2014, but the trailer for Phantom Thread leaves a lot to be desired. . .but from a certain aspect, that could lead to a beneficial payoff once the film hits theaters.

When Phantom Thread was first announced in the middle of 2015, all we knew about it was that it starred Daniel Day-Lewis and took place in the world of fashion in the 1950s. But the trailer gives us a bigger glimpse into the film’s story: it begins with his character, Reynolds Woodcock, narrating about how he always sews a personal secret into every coat, dress, and garment he makes over a montage of him carrying out his daily routine as a high-fashion designer in the United Kingdom as elegant yet provocative music plays. The intrigue only grows as a waitress named Alma (played by Vicky Krieps) catches his eye at a restaurant he visits; so much so, that he asks her to have dinner with him, which she agrees to after some hesitation. From there, the trailer shows Alma becoming a muse for Reynolds’ work as well as his mistress, and implies a turn for the dramatic through images of Reynolds looking voyeuristically through the peephole of a door, a car speeding down a long road, and arguments Alma and Reynolds have as their relationship erodes, to name a few. All of this happens while the strings of Jonny Greenwood’s score grow more and more unsettling with every pluck.

On the surface of its trailer, Phantom Thread does look like another typical period drama. The costume and set design are lavish and on another level of authenticity, the story centers around a romance, and its main selling point is a performance from arguably the greatest living actor of our time, and is in this case, apparently his last (although it is worth mentioning he said that after the release of Gangs of New York in 2002, but that’s another topic for another day). It also implies all the conventions of any film from Paul Thomas Anderson: a story with emotional stakes driven by complex but flawed characters, immaculate attention to detail of the film’s time period, and a camera that never stops moving unless on a close-up. It’s worth noting that Anderson himself is his own director of photography this time around; such a task is daunting on paper, but it’s exciting to see a director perform dual roles on his own film set, because it’s evidence of his passion for the material.

But the primary reason why I have more optimism about Phantom Thread as a movie is because Anderson has been known to take his films on surprising turns that throw the expectations of audiences onto their head; the ending of Boogie Nights changed the way people listen to Rick Springfield, the climax of Magnolia was something nobody saw coming, and I still remember how I reacted to the revelation toward the end of There Will Be Blood. Meanwhile, so much of The Master was from the perspective of its PTSD-stricken lead character, it can be argued that at certain points it became hard to tell what scenes were real and what weren’t. Plus, the trailer for Phantom Thread sells a lot of mystery about Day-Lewis’s character: why isn’t he married, why does he feel cursed, and what is it that drives him into almost-paranoid obsession? There’s a plethora of directions that this story could take, and even after the good but underwhelming Inherent Vice, I have faith that Paul Thomas Anderson will come back with something that’ll leave everyone speechless.

All this being said, after pretty much ten months of not even a production still, the possibility still remains that Phantom Thread could end up getting rushed into its release on Christmas Day this year just so Focus Features has a perennial contender for this year’s awards season, and that is my biggest worry. It’s not uncommon, either: Paramount put Martin Scorsese’s passion project Silence through this exact scenario last year with little to no marketing or advertising, and it resulted in great reviews, but poor box office and only one Oscar nomination. I would hope that Focus Features wouldn’t do that to one of the most established auteurs in filmmaking right now as an independent film distributor, but all I can suggest to how they handle Phantom Thread is Alma’s final quote from the trailer: “Whatever you do, do it carefully.”

A Gareth Evans-Directed ‘Deathstroke’ Film Sounds too Good to be True

Time will tell, but this sounds like a match made in heaven.

Time will tell, but this sounds like a match made in heaven.

Yesterday afternoon, The Wrap exclusively reported that director Gareth Evans is in early discussions to write and direct a DC Comics spin-off based on the Batman villain Deathstroke.

As mentioned in the title of this article, this news sounds too good to be true.

Aside from next month’s Justice League, the recently announced Wonder Woman 2 being fast-tracked, next year’s Aquaman, and Shazam! going into production soon, we still have no idea what Warner Brothers’ plans are for the rest of their DC Comics properties. Sure, a number of things have been reported about filmmakers being in discussions to make comic book movies based on other DC Comics characters, (like Joss Whedon making Batgirl, Chris McKay making Nightwing or Gavin O’Connor making Suicide Squad 2), but nothing definitive has been announced by the studio itself; it certainly feels like there’s too many moving pieces without a clear, definitive path.

But if this does turn out to be true (and it certainly feels that way after Gareth Evans’ Deathstroke tease on his Instagram account four days ago), then Deathstroke easily would be the most promising DC Comics film to come out any time soon. Evans, who directed two of the best action movies to come out over the past decade (The Raid and The Raid 2), making a comic book villain film about an assassin like Deathstroke sounds like the perfect pairing.

Thanks to the popular CW television show Arrow and the Batman Arkham video games, the popularity of the character of Deathstroke has skyrocketed in recent years; some now argue that he’s one of the best Batman villains of all time (though that’s debatable).

While no release date or announcement is expected anytime soon, Joe Manganiello, who was named last year to portray Deathstroke in the Ben Affleck’s Batman film (which was scrapped after Affleck stepped down as both writer and director of the Batman solo film), is still expected to portray the sword-wielding character.

Streaming Gems: ‘The Lost City of Z’ (Amazon Prime)

Streaming Gems is an ongoing feature where we discuss movies recently released on streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) that are worth your time.

Streaming Gems is an ongoing feature where we discuss movies recently released on streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) that are worth your time.

RATING: ★★★★ (out of four stars)

There’s no clear frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar with awards season on the horizon, but there’s a plethora of contenders for the prestigious award for the moment: Darkest Hour is a period biopic that chronicles Winston Churchill’s time as the prime minister of Great Britain during World War II, A24’s The Florida Project follows the lives of children who live and play in an extended-stay hotel in the slums of Florida while their parents struggle to pay rent for the week, and Fox Searchlight is offering up another science fiction fairy tale from Guillermo Del Toro with The Shape of Water. . .and that’s before mentioning the upcoming Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

However, one film that should be a contender, but came out too early in the year for awards consideration is The Lost City of Z, Amazon Studios’ period epic based on real-life events and the book of the same name by David Grann. Hailed by critics but overlooked by audiences, The Lost City of Z had a 30 million dollar budget but only grossed a combined 17 million dollars domestically and worldwide at the box office after its release in April this year. It’s unfortunate because the film harkens back to a time where classical Hollywood epics reigned supreme, makes itself unique amongst them through its tone and naturalism, and is yet another gem from the often-overlooked auteur, James Gray.

After gaining the necessary connections to the film industry while attending the University of Southern California, James Gray wrote and directed his first two feature films, Little Odessa and The Yards, which came out in 1994 and 2000 to critical success with attractive casts, only to be overshadowed in the box office by the breakout hits of the independent film scene in their respective years. After finally gaining box office success with We Own The Night in 2007, James Gray developed his directing style as a storyteller in 2008 with the contemporary romance, Two Lovers, before branching out into epics in 2013 with The Immigrant, a period drama starring Marion Cotillard as a female immigrant from Poland who gets deceived into a life of sleazy vaudeville by a magician played by Joaquin Phoenix. Few audiences were able to see The Immigrant due to a very limited release, but it proved itself as one of the most overlooked films of the decade so far thanks to the authenticity of its time period and strong performances from its ensemble.

Gray’s craft as a storyteller carries over to his newest film, The Lost City of Z. Staying in the period piece genre at a time where they are seldom made, Z begins in Ireland circa 1905, where Percy Fawcett (played by Charlie Hunnam, in a career-best performance), a young British officer and explorer, is assigned by the Royal Geographical Society to travel to Amazonia to settle a dispute between the then-primitive nations of Bolivia and Brazil. For his two-year mission, Fawcett is joined by a small crew, which includes Corporal Henry Costin (a nearly unrecognizable Robert Pattinson), and an Amazonian guide who talks obsessively about a golden city in the jungle. It isn’t until Fawcett comes across pottery on the ground and tribal engravings in the stones and trees that he starts to believe in the lost city himself, and makes it his life’s goal to destroy the narrow-minded beliefs of his peers while bringing glory to his family name and reputation by discovering the city, which he calls Z (to be read as Zed, the British spoken form of the letter Z).

The Lost City of Z may be two and a half hours long, but it earns its run time as it spans twenty years of Fawcett’s life, chronicling his multiple treks through Amazonia, the toll his obsession with finding the city takes on himself and his relationship with his son Jack (played by Tom Holland), and even his time in the trenches of World War I. What makes it such a marvel to watch from beginning to end is the direction from James Gray, who relies primarily on visuals to tell the story of Fawcett’s journey, from old-school filmmaking techniques such as slow cross dissolves and foreshadowing to effective match cuts; one cut from a beer trail to a train barreling down a railroad track only emphasizes the scale of the assignment. Gray also commits his film to naturalism through the tremendous performances from his ensemble; especially Hunnam, whose emotional range is on full display while appearing so genuine that nothing feels melodramatic or over-the-top. This extends to the film’s dramatic beats, such as when Percy’s wife, Nina (Sienna Miller, also at her career-best here) wishes to accompany her husband on his second expedition to Amazonia because she believes she is able-bodied and capable of handling the rigors of the voyage. The resulting debate between the couple is so realistic with its drama that it stays gripping and powerful while addressing the social issues of today without feeling preachy.

What makes The Lost City of Z stand on its own as an epic, however, is its ethereal tone. Gray shot Z on 35mm film, which creates a look reminiscent of epics from the past as dynamic shadows evoke the same dread Fawcett and his team face while in the jungle, while accenuating the golden skies and green grass of England’s landscapes while he’s home. This also extends to the immaculate sound design: insects, birds and reptiles dominate the rivers and jungles of Amazonia while the majestic score from Christopher Spelman emphasizes the wonder and spectacle of the wilderness, creating an immersive atmosphere the further the party travels through it. The film even goes inside Fawcett’s mind in an early scene where his party is ambushed by a tribe of natives while traveling down a river. In true old Hollywood fashion, he pictures surreal images of his home, church and the baptism of his son to keep his fear of death at bay.

When I first saw The Lost City of Z for the first time during its theatrical run, I went into it expecting a psychological thriller with its lead character going mad with obsession, if only because I didn’t watch any trailers. However, I left hypnotized by the incredible cinematography and sound design, blown away by the strong performances, and so awestruck by the ending that I wanted to see it again the second it was over. It wasn’t until it came to streaming that I finally could, and from that viewing, I came away loving it even more. The Lost City of Z is a long film but worth planning your day around if you have Amazon Prime, where it’s currently streaming. It’s the kind of epic movie that doesn’t get made anymore, and one of the best films of the year.

Review: Profoundly Beautiful ‘Florida Project’ is One of the Year’s Best Films

Utterly heartbreaking and gracefully raw, A24’s latest gem is not to be missed.

Utterly heartbreaking and gracefully raw, A24’s latest gem is not to be missed.

RATING: ★★★★ (out of four stars)

At one point during The Florida Project, the lead character Moonee (a six-year-old girl played by Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) and her new friend look outward at a rainbow that arches over the extended-stay motel where they live. This scene where Moonee and her friend look at one of nature’s most beautiful sights is the perfect metaphor for Sean Baker’s latest film. Moonee and her friends muster up illusions of happiness and joy as they break through the light in such colorful ways to overcome the reality of a welfare-dense area within walking distance of Disney World, which has been called the happiest place on earth.

As captivatingly radiant as it is saddening, The Florida Project follows Moonee and her friends during the summer days in and around The Magic Castle Motel, which managed by Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe). Sure, the story in Florida Project isn’t groundbreaking, but that’s not what makes it so wondrous and harrowing. Watching kids make the best of a down-on-their-luck scenario they can’t fully comprehend, all while their parents struggle to provide for them feels so relatable – especially when you think about all the other areas in the country where poverty is high. As someone who has a special place in their heart for children who live in such unfortunate situations, one scene near the end of the film, had me tearing up. At times, The Florida Project is not an easy watch, where you might find your heart sinking to the floor as you wish you could help the characters with the struggles they go through. But at the same time, it’s as authentic as any movie you’ll see this year, with the scenarios presented are either delightful or heart-rending.

Authenticity in The Florida Project comes largely from the movie’s memorable characters that result in heartfelt performances that are sure to garner plenty of awards talk throughout the fall. Front and center for most of The Florida Project is Brooklyn Kimberly Prince as Moonee, who is hard not to fall in love with as soon as we see her on the screen for the first time. Full of sass, energy, and wit, Prince arguably gives the best performance as a child actor in a movie since Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. Parenting (when she’s there) Moonee is her mother Halley, played by Bria Vinaite. You might wind up hating Halley, but you ultimately understand that she is only trying to do what’s best in order for her and her daughter to survive week after week. And finally, veteran (and beloved) actor Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the motel where Moonee and Halley stay. Acting like an angel in the shadows or a surrogate father of sorts, Dafoe’s sensitive, yet graceful performance is one of the best of his career; and right now, I’d say he’s a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor at next year’s Oscars.

The Florida Project feels like this year’s Moonlight (which also happens to be an A24 release); it’s a bittersweet story that’s not often told on film, but it’s certainly an important one that’s worth your time. Baker, who made the 2015 stylistic Tangerine, gives us a clear reminder of the vivid society we live in now with The Florida Project. Sure, we might live within walking distance of what we deem as “happiness,” but we also live in a world where there’s enough adventure to let our imagination run wild, and where in the end, any bleak situation can be outshined by the warmth and radiance we give off, just like Florida Project’s flawed, yet empathetic characters do in the film’s sunshine state setting.

The Florida Project is now playing at The Belcourt Theatre here in Nashville. You can purchase your tickets here.

Why Can’t Hollywood Consistently Make Good Adaptations?

Seriously, what’s the deal? 

Seriously, what’s the deal? 

The Snowman is hitting theaters this Friday and is already being panned badly by critics.  With a pretty awful Rotten Tomatoes score of 23% as of this morning, we can expect the film to not do so hot opening weekend.  I believe there is a reason why this movie is being perceived so poorly.

Hollywood is a business.  Movies are their product and they have to make movies to make money.  I get that.  However, the problem lies with production companies buying the rights to these best selling books and rushing through production of the film to try to hit theaters before the book has even been out for a year.

We saw this with last years The Girl On The Train.  That was a hit book that was put on best seller list pretty much a week after it’s release.  I couldn’t put the book down because of how outright suspenseful it was. So when I finally saw the movie, I felt wronged because some of my favorite moments from the book didn’t make it to the film. These were scenes that made for a complete story and shouldn’t have been left out. It was apparent to me that the film was rushed through production so that the movie could hit the big screen while the book was still relevant.

There has to be a similar issue with The Snowman.  Tomas Alfredson, the director, even said they didn’t shoot the whole script.  With the project being in production hell for four years, when they finally got a director on board they rushed through production to get the film out.  The film is based on a series of crime novels, so it’s clear to me they were hoping to start a film franchise.  If The Snowman is indeed as bad as they say, that franchise will be dead on arrival.

There are absolutely incredible film adaptations of books out there.  There are some that are able to bring to life the images and feelings the written word provokes better than thought possible.  The king of the adaptation, David Fincher, has directed three awesome films that make you forget the book even exists.  Maybe Hollywood should just let him direct all crime novel adaptations from here on out.

The Han Solo Star Wars Spin-Off Finally has a Title

Simple, but significant (like our site).

Simple, but significant (like our site).

The title for the upcoming Hans Solo Star Wars spin-off film has finally been revealed.

Director Ron Howard revealed the title of the film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, via his Twitter account this morning, which is simple and right to the point. I’m glad they didn’t try anything too over the top.

Howard took over directing this past summer after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were let go because of “creative differences.” Ron Howard is a veteran filmmaker with some great movies under his belt such as Rush, Cinderella Man, and A Beautiful Mind. Directing a Star Wars movie is slightly out of his genre, but I believe the Force is strong with him.

Howard has been doing a good job teasing fans on Twitter over the months, giving fans behind the scenes looks every so often to wet the appetite of Star Wars fans across the galaxy. I think Solo: A Star Wars Story is a big test for LucasFilms and Disney, mainly because it will prove whether or not these spin-off movies will be a huge success. Last year’s Rogue One did well at the box office, but it wasn’t loved by fans and critics like The Force Awakens. Solo: A Star Wars Story is set to hit theaters May 25th, 2018. What do you think of the title?

New Trailer: ‘New Mutants’ Looks Like Another Breath of Fresh Air for the Superhero Genre

Fox continues to blend genres with their next entry in their cinematic universe of superheroes.

Fox continues to blend genres with their next entry in their cinematic universe of superheroes. 

Despite X-Men: Apocalypse being one bump in the road, Twentieth Century Fox has come a long way with their Marvel properties since the disastrous Fantastic Four reboot of 2015. Deadpool was a success with both critics and audiences, and Logan remains one of the best movies of 2017 so far through its use of tropes from the western genre. Last week, they released the trailer for their first tentpole release of next year, The New Mutants, and the Internet was abuzz with surprise and excitement over what the newest spinoff in the X-Men franchise has to offer in terms of not only characters, but also aesthetics. Because what better way to elevate a mostly-unknown property to new heights by putting them into a horror film?

The horror movie set pieces are what stand out the most in the first trailer. From the start, the camera slowly pans down a dark, empty hallway before dissolving to a shot of headstones in a cemetery, then revealing a cast member hooked up to a lie detector test while a doctor asks her a series of questions. From there, the trailer shows the titular group of teenagers exploring a seemingly haunted hospital all while the imagery grows more and more terrifying, complete with a character unconscious as it rains ash, nightmarish experiments, unknown beings reaching for them within the walls, and flames exploding from a washing machine as a silhouetted hand presses on the glass from the inside.

What’s also notable is that the trailer prominently features a cast that’s rounded out with actors familiar to both the horror and fantasy genres. Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Illyana Rasputin aka Magik here, has become one of the best scream queens of today thanks to her work in The Witch and Split, and Charlie Heaton got his big break in the sci-fi/horror Netflix hit Stranger Things, and here, takes a turn as Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball. Meanwhile, Maisie Williams finally joins her Game of Thrones co-star, Sophie Turner, in Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe with her role in this as the shape shifter, Wolfsbane.

Another reason to be excited for The New Mutants is the presence of a fan of the source material at the directing helm in Josh Boone, who caught the attention of Fox with his debut feature, the romantic comedy Stuck In Love, then the major studio signed him on to direct the adaptation of the young adult novel, The Fault In Our Stars, which was a box office and critical success. From his filmography, Boone is a filmmaker that knows how to tell a great coming-of-age story centered around young adults, and while this will be his first entry in the horror and superhero genre, the seeds are there in The New Mutants for a story that’s really about coping with life as an outcast, or the anxiety of growing into the person one’s meant to be.

The New Mutants made their Marvel Comics debut in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 in 1982, and had three series of comic books that would launch in 1983, 2003 and 2009, and they continue to live in comic book obscurity as a lesser-known group of heroes in the X-Men universe today. But come April 13 next year, if the movie delivers on the horror film with superheroes that the trailer promises, Fox could do to The New Mutants what Marvel did to Guardians of the Galaxy with their big-screen debut, and that possibility in particular has me excited for the film, and for everyone involved.