DOCTOR SLEEP, director Mike Flanagan, on-set, 2019

(Photo by Jessica Miglio / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)

Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game) was looking at a banner year, with the pending release of The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second installment to his hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, and the start of production for his next project with the streamer, Midnight Mass. Then the entertainment industry shut down, with TV and film productions suspended as precautionary measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Midnight Mass was two days away from principal photography when we shut down,” Flanagan told Rotten Tomatoes when we checked in with him recently. “I flew my family out of Vancouver just before they closed the border, and I could actually see some of the exterior sets we built from the airplane. A few days before the shutdown, we had a table read of all seven episodes with the full ensemble, and it was amazing. This show is so special to me. It was surreal to just put everything down and walk away from it.”

The series, according to Deadline, follows “an isolated island community that experiences miraculous events — and frightening omens — after the arrival of a charismatic, mysterious young priest.” The series creator has been building up to this show for years now, with it beginning as an Easter egg in movies Hush and Gerald’s Game.

Flanagan may not know when things will pick back up, but he’s confident they will: “Netflix has gone above and beyond when it comes to taking care of the cast and crew on its suspended shows. They’ve been adamant that as soon as it is safe, whenever that is, we will pick up right where we left off and get Midnight Mass back into production right away.”

Bly Manor is a different story altogether.

“We’re in post-production now and on schedule, and have been able to keep post moving by setting up remote editing systems in people’s houses,” Flanagan revealed. “I just can’t say what that schedule represents as far as release before Netflix makes their official announcement, but I can say that there isn’t any talk of changing the plan, at least as of yet.”


Now with some epic downtime on his hands, Flanagan said his viewing habits have been “all over the map.”

“Last night we watched Once,” he said, “and we’ve been bingeing Patriot on Amazon. I’m almost finished with season 1, and the ‘rock, paper, scissors’ scene is absolutely stunning. I’m halfway through War of the Worlds on Epix, and last week I had a positively weird triple-feature of Apocalypse Now, [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and A River Runs Through It.”

While each of those titles — all Fresh or Certified Fresh at 80% and higher on the Tomatometer — is definitely worth a watch, the filmmaker has a few other recommendations for viewers at home. Many may know the man from his horror work in television, but Flanagan’s career began in the indie film world, and that’s where his heart still lies.

“I figured I’d take this opportunity to amplify some independent horror films,” Flanagan said. “My debut feature Absentia was championed by a number of people in the horror community and spread entirely by word of mouth, and it’s entirely because of that support that I have this career.”

While some of these indie horror movies can be found on the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, Flanagan suggests if you can afford to go the extra step and make a purchase, that type of support speaks volumes.

“These are the kind of movies where such purchases make a difference,” he says. “That kind of demonstrable audience helps more films like this get made, and helps these filmmakers have more ammunition to keep making the kinds of films they make. I can speak from personal experience that each and every rental or purchase makes a real and tangible difference.”

Read on for Flanagan’s list of favorite indie horror films, “Each of which,” he adds, “would be well worth your time as we all do our part to mitigate the spread of this real-world horror.”


Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) 97%

Issa Lopez’s urban fairy tale is smart, scary, and so beautifully crafted. Part exploration of childhood trauma, part crime-fantasy, and all rendered with skill, heart, and talent that cements Lopez as an auteur to watch. There is a palpable magic to this movie, and the classic feeling of seeing children lost in the woods … in this case, the dark forest is an urban jungle, and the monsters that call it home are decidedly human.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) 96%

Ana Lily Amirpour is a badass. This vampire tale is impossible to categorize and utterly unique. This is a genre-bending tour-de-force, a hypnotic journey through the desolate streets of a dreamscape. Even accurately describing the film as a “black and white, Persian vampire-Western” doesn’t do it justice. If you haven’t seen it, I’m jealous … you’re in for an unforgettable treat.


Harpoon (2019) 97%

This wickedly funny thriller by Rob Grant puts three characters onto a boat, sets them adrift in the middle of nowhere and then lets their individual natures do the rest. Dark, unpredictable, and downright mischievous in its humor, this punches well above its weight. Come for the excellent performances, stay for the twisty, turning plotting. A real delight across the board.


Lake Mungo (2008) 96%

I have been recommending Joel Anderson’s unforgettable film to people for years and used to actually stockpile copies of it to give away. This wonderful ghost story presents itself as a documentary of a family’s haunting, complete with talking-head interviews, but reveals itself to be something else entirely. There is a tragic secret at the heart of Lake Mungo, and for all the chills (and believe me, there are many), I wasn’t ready for just how impactful the tragedy would be. I’ve been waiting since 2008 for the next Joel Anderson film.


Cargo (2017) 88%

Man does this movie hit me in the heart. Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling have crafted a zombie movie unlike any other I’ve ever seen, with a dynamite hook and an emotional through-line that affected me way more than I was expecting. As a parent, this movie seized me by the heart. The final moments are as beautiful and poignant as I’ve seen, in and out of the genre. I was so impressed, in fact, that I had to get these filmmakers involved with The Haunting of Bly Manor (they direct two episodes).


A Dark Song (2016) 90%

Liam Gavin’s horrific descent through one woman’s hell, toward the possibility of forgiveness, is in a class all its own. What starts as a supernatural revenge fantasy quickly becomes something else entirely: an exploration of the horrors of grief and rage, anchored by Catherine Walker’s devastating performance. Like Cargo, I had barely finished wiping my tears as I tried to track down Liam to offer him some episodes of Bly Manor (he directed two).


The Endless (2017) 92%

I had a hard time choosing which film by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson to include on this list — every film they’ve ever made belongs here. Resolution and Spring are both miracles of low-budget filmmaking. I went with The Endless because of the additional joy I get watching Aaron and Justin act in the film. This time-bending, mind-bending classic is the tale of two brothers who stumble into strangeness when revisiting the UFO death cult they’d escaped as children. I love this movie and all of their work.


They Look Like People (2015) 92%

Perhaps one of the greatest miracles of DIY filmmaking I’ve ever seen, Perry Blackshear’s debut feature was made with virtually nothing (no crew, no cash, no crafty), just some friends who poured their hearts, souls, blood, and tears into telling a great story. Blackshear doesn’t just do a lot with a little here — he conjures things out of thin f–king air. This creepy, subtle, tragic, and ultimately uplifting tale of insanity and friendship is one of my all-time favorites and an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a movie. You can if you have the heart! This film proves that’s all you really need.


Possum (2018) 90%

Matthew Holness’ viciously bleak tone poem is one of the most unsettling horror films I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere of dread he creates is so thick it actually seeps into you as you view it, and you feel … well, you feel stained by the time you reach its conclusion. Featuring a tour-de-force performance by Sean Harris and some of the most nightmare-inducing imagery I’ve ever seen in an indie horror film — Holness is a force to be reckoned with.


Creep (2014) 90%

Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass are magicians to me. In addition to sharing writing duties, Brice directs, and both give amazing performances in one of the most wicked, fun, unsettling found-footage films I’ve ever seen. Watching this movie is like feeling a beartrap slowly close around your neck, and being unable — or unwilling — to free yourself before the final blow. And if you think the name “Peachfuzz” isn’t necessarily terrifying, well … think again. Followed by a sequel that is — no lie — just as good.


The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) 91%

Adam Robitel’s found-footage shocker functions just as well as an exploration of dementia and its effects on a family as it does a terrifying story of possession. Performances are stellar across the board, but it is the fearless turn by Jill Larson as the titular victim of demonic activity that lingers with you after the credits have rolled … well, that and the shot. If you’ve seen it, you know the one.


The Invitation (2015) 89%

Karyn Kusama’s quiet, deeply unsettling urban nightmare tells the story of a simple dinner party that begins to feel — wrong. To what extent it is wrong, how deep that abyss opens, is one of the most stunning and impactful elements of this terrific movie. The last harrowing moments are something to behold, but it’s the final moment of the film — as quiet and simple as any I’ve seen — that carries with it an implication of true horror. The shot itself is innocuous; it’s what it means that will haunt you.


Freaks (2018) 88%

This movie came completely out of nowhere for me and knocked me down. Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein have crafted a dark sci-fi film that gives Marvel a run for its money. I mean that literally; this film probably had less in its entire budget than a typical Marvel movie spends on snacks. This is a thrilling, dark, scary, and entirely human twist on — well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself. This is a gem, and you won’t be sorry you gave it your time.


The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015) 74%

Oz Perkins’ chilling and meditative puzzler is one of my favorites. Great performances across the board, what appears at first to be a story about girls encountering a supernatural force when left behind at their boarding school is revealed to be something even deeper by the end. I love this movie for a lot of reasons, but particularly because of how it touches on an unexplored facet of possession stories.


(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, co-writers of Deadpool and Zombieland, seem to be inseparable, having met in high school in Paradise Valley, AZ and reconnected in Los Angeles. But after writing a film that brought in $783,112,979 worldwide and became the top R-rated release of all time, who can blame them? Heck, we couldn’t even separate them to ask them about their Five Favorite Films ahead of the release of their latest joint effort, Life. With that in mind, we have a two-for-one today, starting with Reese’s list and followed by Wernick’s. Would it surprise you to find not one superhero flick? See the full lists below:


Rhett Reese’s Five Favorite Films


Vertigo (1958) 94%

Number five, Vertigo. I had to go with one old movie. It’s a movie about obsession. I think it probably captures obsession better than any other movie before or since that I’ve seen. It’s got incredible rewatchability. I think — of all the movie’s I’ve ever watched — it’s the movie that gives me goosebumps most frequently from start to finish. If you could describe a movie as being funny or scary, funny is supposed to provoke laughter and scary is supposed to provoke your heart to race. That movie is just the right amount of goosebumps. It is the movie that produces goosebumps and that’s the reason I love it and I’ve watched it many, many times. It’s gorgeous, too — in San Francisco — and there are other reasons, but it’s just so wonderfully creepy and cool.

The score of Vertigo, too, is so phenomenal — Bernard Herrman. It’s very, very memorable, and it gets to the point where, even after I’ve seen the movie, I’m humming the score. Anyway, that’s my number five.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) 92%

Shakespeare in Love is my next one. It holds up so great. I’ve seen it about 15 times. All these movies are movies that I watch a bunch, and that’s my ultimate test is can I watch them over and over. Shakespeare in Love totally holds up. It is a phenomenal metaphor for Hollywood. That’s what I love about it. It’s probably the best movie about Hollywood ever made, even though it’s not about Hollywood because it’s about writing and financiers and actors, and it just rings so true. And it’s also a movie that I don’t think… I can’t speak for you [to Wernick], but I could never have written it because it very much feels of its time, and I think that’s a particular voice. Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard did it, and it’s just a particular voice that would be incredibly hard to ape, I think.

It has probably my favorite shot of all time about love, where it’s just a push in on Joseph Fiennes as he’s looking at Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a push in on both of them, and just the look on his face and her as the object of his love; it gets me every time.

Then, of course, it’s got all that Shakespeare weaved in — Romeo and Juliet, actual lines from the play. There’s a segment right in the middle of the movie where they just do Romeo and Juliet for a montage for about five minutes straight, and it’s showing all these different things, but the words are all Shakespeare, and I love it. I just love it.

Once (2006) 97%

Okay. I’m going to Once, which is a little Irish musical made by John Carney. It’s got the best music ever. So many movies look at extraordinary circumstances and it just looks at the most ordinary circumstances. There are no bad guys. There are no dramatic turns. There are no big twists. Nobody dies. Nobody gets sick. It’s just simple. It’s about two people who meet and really start to fall for each other, but it can’t work at that moment, and they pass like ships in the night. It makes me cry.

20 minutes in, it makes you cry.

The father, who you would think would be wagging his finger at his son, saying, “Don’t do this creative pursuit,” is instead really supportive. Everyone is good in it, and it’s so heartwarming, and then the final shot. The music, it is the best. “Falling Slowly” is my favorite song, essentially. [Wernick points out it was played at Reese’s wedding.]

Yeah, and then the final shot, to me, I think it’s maybe my favorite final shot in cinema, with maybe one exception which we’re going to get to in a movie or two, but in any case, the final shot is so wonderfully heartbreaking. It will stand the test of time. It is a great movie.

Yeah, it really is. I remember my friend told me, “Come see this with me. I’m not telling you what it is.”

That’s awesome, not knowing anything. That was basically me, too. I saw these great reviews. I went in the middle of the day. I came out to the parking garage and I was crying in the parking garage after having seen it. I remember calling my parents. I said, “I don’t care what you do. In the next day or so, get to see it.”

Manhattan (1979) 94%

Number two for me is Manhattan, Woody Allen. It’s so real-life. Again, not about any extraordinary things. It’s really true to life and true to psychology. It’s funny. It takes me to Manhattan, which I love New York City. Woody had to be on the list and, for me, he comes in at number two. Also one of the great endings in history. The score, George Gershwin … It’s amazing.

Field of Dreams (1989) 87%

Okay, we’ve gotten to number one for me. I know you’re not going in order. Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner — my favorite movie. I’ve watched it, again, about 15 or 20 times. The final shot, also perfect, maybe even better than Once. The helicopter up in the sky with them throwing the baseball. To me, it’s perfect. It is a perfect movie, and it also contains the single best moment of love on screen of all time — I’m getting emotional talking about it — which is when he says, “Am I crazy to build a baseball field in the backyard? Do you think I’m crazy?” And his wife says, “Yeah, but I also think that if you really, really think that you should do it, then you should do it.” It’s like if you really, really want to do it, you should do it. But then ultimately, the end is the best father-son — “Dad, do you want to have a catch?” I hardly can talk about it. Kind of the reason I became a screenwriter. I love it that much.

 


Paul Wernick’s Five Favorite Films


Blazing Saddles (1974) 88%

I’m in no particular order, but I will go Blazing Saddles, which was the first R-Rated movie that I ever saw. We had it on VHS. It was our first VHS new. Me and my brothers — my two brothers — we watched it probably a hundred times and loved it. Mel Brooks is a hero of ours, and Rhett actually ran into him at the grocery store. Like, went up to him.

He was buying his own groceries?

Yeah. Just recently, too.

Again, we could recite and did recite every line of that movie from start to finish. If you got me and my brothers in this room right now, we could probably act out the whole movie. Poorly we would act it out, but we’d know every line.

That’s a movie that — guaranteed — never gets made today. Never in a million years does someone green light that movie.

Jerry Maguire (1996) 84%

Jerry Maguire is number two for me. Again, not in any particular order. I just recently showed it to my two kids, and it was such a treat to experience it through them for the first time. I love Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is my all time favorite actor. We’re desperate to work with him. Cuba is so good, and it’s so emotional. I found myself crying in front of my children while we watched the movie again. It’s such an emotional love story. It’s a love story between Tom and Cuba, and obviously between Renee and Tom. Arizona Cardinals are our home, so again, great, great movie. It feels real. It feels like it’s a snapshot into their lives. Again, that’s why I’m so emotional watching it. Oh, I love it so much.

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992) 92%

Okay. Reservoir Dogs. Just straight structure alone is brilliant. Just so good, and violent, and character, and loved it.

About a Boy (2002) 93%

About a Boy. It’s so good and so touching and, again, heartbreaking and relatable, and awesome.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 91%

I would say Shawshank, of course. Again, a classic. The best.

It’s so perfect. It’s like, come on guys. How does this even happen? Great source material, but the movie —

Oh, it’s so good.

It rarely works that well.


Life opens on Friday, Mar. 24, 2017 in wide release.

Why did they make God’s Not Dead 2? The divine hand of the free market christened the original God’s Not Dead with a $60 million box office tally, and against its $2 million budget, that makes it one of the most profitable movies ever in these United States. So, sweet Jesus, of course they would make a sequel! And that inspires this week’s gallery: the 24 most profitable low-budget (under $5 million) movies ever (in America)!

Each year on St. Patrick’s Day as folks down pints of green beer, we’re often
in too festive a mood to remember that Irish culture is much more than
intoxication and law enforcement, Riverdance and leprechauns. Today,
Rotten Tomatoes digs deep and celebrates everyone’s favorite snake-banishing,
fifth-century missionary with a list of some of Irish cinema’s finest — movies
that capture the distinctive rhythms, as well as the struggles, of life in the
country. Check out this list — it’ll make you want to go to the movies. Or as
the Irish might say: “Dul chuig na pictiúir.”

My Left Foot
(1989, 100 percent)
John Belushi‘s SNL
routine about how the luck of the Irish is a dirty
lie may not have been inspired by the tale of Christy Brown, the cerebral palsy
victim whose autobiography formed the basis for My Left Foot, but it’s an
apt setup for a movie about a man who got through life with nothing more
than a limitless supply of gumption and the use of — you guessed it — his left
foot. Nominated for five Academy Awards (and winning two), Foot was the
earliest high-profile display of
Daniel Day-Lewis‘ Method madness; the actor
famously had to be wheeled around the set for the duration of the shoot, and
broke two ribs due to his hunched-over posture while in character. Critics such
as the New York Times‘ Vincent Canby — who called the movie
“intelligent” and “beautifully acted” — appreciated the extra effort.


Odd Man Out

(1947, 100 percent)
Technically, Odd Man Out director
Carol Reed is from England, but if
you look at the body of his work, he’s got a lot going on about nationalism.
(Two years after Odd Man, he’d make a little film called
The Third
Man
about three countries contained in the boundaries of Vienna.) So Reed’s
a logical choice to lend images to Odd Man Out — the story of an
underground nationalist who has to escape the police after he fails a robbery
intended to refill the organization’s treasury. Boasting an early performance by the
velvety James Mason, Odd Man Out has a sexy way of making the back alleys
of Belfast look like a wintry haven of dregs on the make and angry young men.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called this vision of Belfast in noir “a picture
to see, to absorb in the darkness of the theatre and then go home and talk
about.”


Darby O’Gill
and the Little People
(1959, 100 percent)
Need a sweetly pictorial view of the Emerald Isle? Look no
further than Darby O’Gill and the Little People: it’s got the lush countryside and
guys in hats drinking pints, along with banshees and tricksy leprechauns guarding pots
of gold and teasing out riddles.
Albert Sharpe stars as Darby, a village fool
who tangles with King Brian, ruler of the leprechauns, through a series of comic misadventures. Though initially a box office disappointment (which especially
rankled Walt Disney, since he spent nearly 10 years developing
and producing the project), the movie holds its own against the era’s other live-action Disney movies. It’s “[an] overpoweringly charming concoction of standard
Gaelic tall stories, fantasy and romance,” wrote New York Times‘ A.H. Weiler, and we agree: The Little People are perfect for family viewing on Sunday evenings.



Once
(2007, 97
percent)
Here’s 2007’s other movie that could. Shot on a budget of $150,000 across
17 days, Once sings the simple but never slight tale of a Dublin busker (Glen
Hansard
) and a Czech flower girl (Marketa
Irglova
). During a week’s course, the two form a relationship based on their
mutual love for music and deep-seated desire for human connection. Critics,
audiences, and even the Academy responded to Once‘s heart-on-its-sleeve
authenticity; it was shot discreetly on Ireland’s streets, shops, and backroads,
and each of its songs are seamlessly integrated into the story. Once
“[elegantly captures] the alchemy of songwriting,” writes Lisa Rose of the
Newark Star-Ledger, “Not to mention the alchemy of fleeting romance.”

The Snapper
(1993, 97 percent)
Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown” trilogy of novels had already inspired The
Commitments
, which necessitated a change in last names for the family at the
center of this story — 20th Century Fox, you see, owns the film
rights to Doyle’s Rabbitte family — but the wit and blue-collar charm at the
heart of Doyle’s books is still here in spades. It’s a familiar story
(small-town girl gets pregnant, family rallies around her, laughs and tears
ensue in equal measure), but thanks to Doyle’s screenplay,
Stephen Frears
sure-handed direction, and a terrific cast that includes the always-reliable
Colm Meaney, critics fell in love with The Snapper almost unanimously.
Among the crowd were writers such as Empire‘s Kim Newman, who lauded the
film as “a rare attempt to make drama of ordinary people doing the right thing.”



In the Name of the Father

(1993, 95 percent)
Based on a true story, Father stars
Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon,
a petty crook and freewheeler who’s implicated, along with several friends, in
an IRA bombing plot in Belfast. Conlon confesses under duress, and is jailed
with his father, who’s also been falsely accused. As a spirited defense attorney
(Emma Thompson) works to free Conlon, he becomes closer to his father than ever
before — and matures in the process.
Jim Sheridan‘s fine film doesn’t just
feature an embarrassment of great acting; it’s also a powerful tale of the
Troubles, the search for justice, and the bonds of family. “It is an injection
into a society at war, Northern Ireland and England in the Seventies and a
compelling account of a son and father making their peace,” wrote Robert Faires
of the Austin Chronicle.

Bloody Sunday
(2002, 92 percent)
Before Paul Greengrass was rendering the
United 93
martyrs into points
of inspiration, or playing Jason Bourne for a high speed victim of identity
theft, he was getting recognized stateside for shaking a camera at
The Troubles circa 1972. Greengrass wrote and directed Bloody Sunday, and
though it’s one of a handful of films about the now legendary protest that ended
with the deaths of 13 national activists by British Troops, it’s a stridently
different look at the conflict. Aiming for a documentary aesthetic, Greengrass
pits the locals’ fierce nationalism against their survival instincts in a
decades old conflict that’s fractured the UK and is far from a binary argument.
Austin Chronicle’s Kimberly Jones calls Bloody Sunday “a triumph in
anguish.” We call it a good one to pair with Guinness, tissue, and the
occasional venture into mourning song.



The Quiet Man
(1952, 91 percent)
Director John Ford struggled for years to find a studio home for his
adaptation of the Maurice Walsh short story. After over a decade, he was only
able to convince Republic Pictures to finance the production if he and stars
John Wayne and
Maureen O’Hara agreed to film a Western for the company (Rio
Grande
, the third installment of Ford’s “cavalry trilogy”). For Wayne, the
story of an Irish-American whose journey to reclaim his family’s homestead —
only to be predictably waylaid by a tempestuous fiancée and (occasionally
unintentionally hilarious) third-act fisticuffs — was an important one; he
described The Quiet Man as his favorite film. Audiences agreed, making it
a hit at the box office, and it went on to rack up an impressive seven Academy
Award nominations (winning for Best Director and Best Cinematography).




The
Commitments
(1991, 91 percent)
In the early 1990s, right when Corporate Rock v. Indie Rock was turning the
“average” listener into a niche group and Sundance was making its name with the
help of Todd Haynes and
Steven Soderbergh, The Commitments came barreling
past the Channel, making regional art look sincere, sweet, and terribly hip.
The story of out of work Dubliners who form a soul band was based on a novel by
Roddy Doyle, and played the role of music in Irish culture in a way that’s as
funky-awkward as every soul-stirring experience should be. Variety called The Commitments “fresh, well-executed and original,” and it started the
international crossover appeal of now-greats like Colm Meany and
Maria Doyle
Kennedy
. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll get nauseous when the backup singer’s
baby gets snotty.




The Magdalene
Sisters
(2003, 90 percent)
The Magdalene Sisters dramatizes a particularly dark chapter in Irish
social history. The film follows four women (including the mischievous
Bernadette, sharply played by
Nora-Jane Noone) who have been committed by their
families to the Magdalene Asylum for (sometimes trumped-up) “impurity” — aka
sexual deviance. Under the auspices of cleansing the girls, the nuns at the
asylum put them through a series of sadistic, humiliating punishments; some of
the young women crack under the strain, while others find ways of subverting the
situation. Dark, vivid, and often horrific, The Magdalene Sisters is by
no means a barrel of laughs, but it’s emotionally absorbing, potently
atmospheric, sometimes bleakly comic, and fueled by committed, relentlessly
authentic performances. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post called it “a
stirring, emotionally galvanizing film, not only due to its shattering subject
matter but thanks to [director
Peter] Mullan‘s spot-on eye for casting and
fluid, uncoercive style.”

— Written by Jeff Giles, Tim Ryan, Sara Schieron, and Alex Vo

We’ve selected some of our favorite moments from Hollywood’s biggest night! Browse our gallery of gowns on the red carpet, winners onstage, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the 80th Annual Academy Awards.

An all-European foursome takes home acting honors at Sunday’s Oscars — France’s Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), England’s Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), England’s Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), and Spain’s Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men). Backstage, they pose for a collective moment of celebration.





Click for more images!

Long-suffering Oscar bridesmaid and 2007 Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese presents the Best Director prize to Ethan and Joel Coen for their multiple Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men.





Best Actress Marion Cotillard, whose role as Edith Piaf transformed her into a dowdy street hustler to beloved songbird to frail invalid, delivers one of the night’s most genuine speeches.





Marion Cotillard accepts her Oscar…





…and gets a hug in the wings from presenter Forest Whitaker.

Kristin Chenoweth displays her Broadway lungs performing Best Song nominee “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted.





Tilda Swinton rises in surprise when she’s named Best Supporting Actress for her role in Michael Clayton, arguably the night’s biggest upset. Swinton beat out favorites Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) to take home her first Oscar.





Daniel Day-Lewis kneels to The Queen (Helen Mirren) to accept the Oscar for Best Actor.





Musicians Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard sing their song, “Falling Slowly,” from the micro-budgeted musical Once.





Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard win the Oscar for Best Song, but Irglova’s speech is cut off. Host Jon Stewart breaks precedence by bringing Irglova back onstage, where she delivers another of the night’s more plaintive, heartfelt thank yous.





Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones embrace; and Javier Bardem raises a fist in triumph when their film, No Country For Old Men, wins the night’s most coveted prize: the Oscar for Best Picture.





Of course, there was more glitz and glamour on the red carpet…click images below for stars like Cate Blanchett, Renee Zellweger, Jennifer Garner, and more!








Check out our full Oscar gallery here.

In what seems destined to go down as one of the season’s few strike-free awards shows, the Critics’ Choice Awards were held on Monday.

No Country for Old Men was the evening’s big prizewinner at three awards, followed closely behind by Juno and There Will Be Blood at two apiece. Photographers were the biggest beneficiaries of the night, however; the lack of picket lines meant that the Santa Monica Civic Center was appropriately stuffed with celebrities. The strike wasn’t far from the attendees’ thoughts, however, and the mood of the evening was perhaps summed up best by George Clooney, who remarked:

“This is a one-industry town. And when a strike happens, it’s not just writers or actors, it’s restaurants and hotels and agencies. And our hope is that all of the players involved will lock themselves in a room and not come out until they finish. We want this to be done. That’s the most important thing. It matters to all of us.”

A list of winners follows below, with Tomatometers in parentheses:

Best picture: No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (89 percent)
Actress: Julie Christie, Away From Her (95 percent)
Supporting actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Supporting actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (93 percent)
Ensemble: Hairspray (92 percent)
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Writer: Diablo Cody, Juno (93 percent)
Animated feature: Ratatouille (96 percent)
Young actor: Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, The Kite Runner (65 percent)
Young actress: Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray
Comedy movie: Juno
Family film (live action): Enchanted (93 percent)
Made-for-TV movie: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Foreign language: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (93 percent)
Song: Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, from Once (98 percent)
Composer: Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood
Documentary: Sicko (93 percent)

Source: USA Today

This week the shelves are packed, and just in time for the holidays! Check out the long-awaited big-screen debut of Springfield’s finest (The Simpsons Movie), Matthew Vaughn‘s fantastic tale of witches, romance, and flying pirates (Stardust), or, as we strongly advise, take a chance on one of the year’s best cinematic gems (Once).


The Simpsons Movie

Tomatometer: 88%

It took eleven Simpsons scribes to bring the yellowest family in America to the big screen — and a marketing campaign turning 7-Eleven stores into Kwik-E-Marts that can only be described as “inspired” — but the payoff was huge. After 19 more-or-less stellar seasons (ok, quite a few were less but it got better, didn’t it?) Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie made a fashionably late entrance into the movies, to the tune of over half a billion dollars and counting, with a feature-length adventure involving the destruction of Springfield, a pet pig, environmentalism, Albert Brooks, and Green Day.

 



Stardust

Tomatometer: 75%

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ illustrated fairy tale captivated readers upon publication in 1997; a decade later, Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn enlisted the likes of Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Charlie Cox) in an English town called Wall bordered by a secret realm of magic, pirates and witches, the Certified Fresh Stardust dazzled critics with its heartfelt, if sprawling, tale of romance and adventure. Check out the DVD for behind-the-scenes commentary, deleted scenes, and a blooper reel.

Once

Tomatometer: 98%

John Carney‘s Irish Once is, quite simply, one of the best films of 2007. The micro-budgeted musical — shot for an astounding $160,000 guerilla-style, on the streets of Dublin — stars real-life artistic partners Glen Hansard (of The Frames) and Marketa Irglova, as a busker and an immigrant who meet and form an immediate musical bond. The Grammy-nominated soundtrack bears 13 hauntingly beautiful original songs, which alone are worth the price of admission. If you missed it in theaters — and a lot of you did — pick it up now on DVD.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut


Tomatometer: 96%

In 1982, Ridley Scott unleashed his stylishly noir sci-fi tale of replicants and blade runners onto the world, and geeks the world over were never the same. But whose vision did they see? After a 1992 Director’s Cut that was ironically not Scott-approved, we now have Blade Runner: The Final Cut. At 93 percent, the original version already had overwhelming critical praise; at 96 percent, Scott’s “final” vision, available this week, may be even closer to perfection.

Bring It On: In It To Win It

Tomatometer: N/A

The original Bring it On (2000) was a gem of a teen comedy about a privileged high school cheer captain (Kirsten Dunst) trawling the cutthroat waters of competitive cheerleading; the uninspired sequel, set on a college campus, provoked one to lament “it’s already been broughten.” Thankfully, a third installment (Bring it On: All or Nothing, starring Hayden Panetierre) revived the flagging franchise, leading us to hope, spirit fingers waving, that the feat could be repeated…in a third sequel! Bring it On: In It To Win It is that new hope — a cheertastic take on Romeo and Juliet. Sigh.

Balls of Fury

Tomatometer: 25%

If you’re like me, you love Comedy Central’s Reno 911; maybe, then, you won’t mind the underrated Balls of Fury, an Enter The Dragon-style spoof about the illicit ping-pong circuit starring Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q and James (Lo Pan!) Hong. Lo Pan!

Underdog

Tomatometer: 15%

Oh Jason Lee, what hath you wrought? You haven’t had this bad a critical ravaging since Stealing Harvard!

The London Critics Circle has announced the nominees for its year-end awards, with Anton Corbijn‘s Control and Joe Wright‘s Atonement leading the pack at eight nominations apiece.

A full list of the nominees follows below, with Tomatometers in parentheses. Let the nitpicking begin!

FILM OF THE YEAR
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (75 percent)
There Will Be Blood (94 percent)
Zodiac (89 percent)
The Bourne Ultimatum (93 percent)

ATTENBOROUGH AWARD FOR BRITISH FILM OF THE YEAR
Once (98 percent)
Control (89 percent)
Atonement (85 percent)
Eastern Promises (88 percent)
This Is England (93 percent)

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

Florian Henckel von DonnersmarckThe Lives of Others (93 percent)
Paul Thomas AndersonThere Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan CoenNo Country for Old Men
David FincherZodiac
Cristian Mungui4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (96 percent)

BRITISH DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Anton Corbijn — Control
Paul GreengrassThe Bourne Ultimatum
Shane MeadowsThis Is England
Joe Wright — Atonement
Danny BoyleSunshine (75 percent)

ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Ulrich MuheThe Lives of Others
Casey AffleckThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
George ClooneyMichael Clayton (90 percent)
Tommy Lee JonesIn the Valley of Elah (69 percent)
Daniel Day-LewisThere Will Be Blood

ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Laura LinneyThe Savages (89 percent)
Marion CotillardLa Vie en rose (74 percent)
Maggie GyllenhaalSherrybaby (72 percent)
Angelina JolieA Mighty Heart (77 percent)
Anamaria Marinca4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

BRITISH ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Sam RileyControl
James McAvoyAtonement
Christian Bale3:10 to Yuma (87 percent)
Jim BroadbentAnd When Did You Last See Your Father (81 percent)
Jonny Lee MillerThe Flying Scotsman (51 percent)

BRITISH ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Samantha MortonControl
Julie ChristieAway From Her (95 percent)
Keira KnightleyAtonement
Helena Bonham CarterSweeney Todd (92 percent)
Sienna MillerInterview (57 percent)

BRITISH ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Tom WilkinsonMichael Clayton
Toby JonesThe Painted Veil (75 percent)
Alfred MolinaThe Hoax (86 percent)
Tobey Kebell — Control
Albert FinneyBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead (87 percent)

BRITISH ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Saoirse RonanAtonement
Imelda StauntonHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (77 percent)
Tilda SwintonMichael Clayton
Kelly MacdonaldNo Country for Old Men
Vanessa RedgraveAtonement

SCREENWRITER OF THE YEAR
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — The Lives of Others
Joel and Ethan Coen — No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson — There Will Be Blood
Ronald HarwoodThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
Christopher HamptonAtonement

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH — ACTING
Saoirse Ronan — Atonement
Sam Riley — Control
Thomas TurgooseThis Is England
Benedict CumberbatchAmazing Grace (71 percent)
Dakota Blue RichardsThe Golden Compass

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH — FILMMAKING
John Carney, writer and director — Once
Sarah Gavron, director — Brick Lane (68 percent)
Anton Corbijn, director — Control
Matt Greenhalgh, writer — Control
Stevan Riley, writer, director, producer — Blue Blood

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
The Lives of Others
Letters From Iwo Jima (91 percent)
Tell No One (93 percent)

Source: Variety

Looking for lists of critics’ favorite films from 2007? Today is your lucky day!

Not to be outdone by last week’s unveiling of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures awards, a number of critics’ associations have announced their honors, including the New York Film Critics Online, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics, and the Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Let’s take a look, shall we? The awards follow, with Tomatometer ratings following film titles in parentheses:

New York Film Critics Online:
PictureThere Will Be Blood (100 percent) / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
ActorDaniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
ActressJulie Christie (Away From Her, 95 percent)
DirectorPT Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
Supporting ActorJavier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) (95 percent)
Supporting ActressCate Blanchett (I’m Not There, 79 percent)
Breakthrough PerformerEllen Page (Juno, 92 percent)
Debut DirectorSarah Polley (Away From Her)
Ensemble CastBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead (88 percent)
ScreenplayThe Darjeeling Limited, 66 percent (Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola)
DocumentarySicko (93 percent)
Foreign LanguageThe Lives of Others (93 percent) / Persepolis (100 percent)
AnimatedPersepolis
CinematographyThere Will Be Blood (Robert Elswit)
Film MusicThere Will Be Blood (Jonny Greenwood)

Los Angeles Film Critics Association:
PictureThere Will Be Blood
Director — Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Actor — Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
ActressMarion Cotillard, La Vie en rose (74 percent)
Supporting ActorVlad Ivanov, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (96 percent)
Supporting ActressAmy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone, (93 percent) and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
ScreenplayTamara Jenkins, The Savages (90 percent)
Foreign Languange Film4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
DocumentaryNo End in Sight (95 percent)
AnimationRatatouille (97 percent) and Persepolis (tie)
MusicGlen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Once (98 percent)
CinematographyJanusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Boston Society of Film Critics:
PictureNo Country for Old Men
ActorFrank Langella (Starting Out in the Evening, 80 percent)
Actress — Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose)
Director — Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
Supporting Actor — Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Supporting Actress — Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Ensemble CastBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead
ScreenplayBrad Bird (Ratatouille)
DocumentaryCrazy Love (78 percent)
Foreign LanguageThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Cinematography — Janusz Kaminski (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association:
PictureNo Country for Old Men
DirectorJoel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
ActorGeorge Clooney (Michael Clayton, 90 percent)
Actress — Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Supporting Actor — Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Supporting Actress — Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
ScreenplayAaron Sorkin (Charlie Wilson’s War, adaptation, 88 percent); Diablo Cody (Juno, original)
DocumentarySicko
Foreign FilmThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly
AnimatedRatatouille

Source: ComingSoon (New York)
Source: Variety (Los Angeles)
Source: Variety (Boston)
Source: Variety (Washington, D.C.)


15th Raindance Film Festival
Introducing Raindance Film Festival
Welcome to Raindance, the UK’s most exciting celebration of independent film, currently playing at The Rex Cinema and the Cineworld Trocadero in London.

Now celebrating its fifteenth year, the Raindance Film Festival perfectly embodies the capital’s independent spirit and love of film and music to deliver a stunning catalogue of films from all over the world.

But most refreshingly, it’s a catalogue that suits both the casual moviegoer and the hardcore film fan in equal measure. Not, as other festivals do, by programming both sorts of film, but rather by finding those breakout hits that’ll work for both audiences. In past years Pulp Fiction, The Blair Witch Project and Memento have all screened at the festival, and this year seems certain to continue the trend with new films from Lars von Trier and Gus van Sant mixing with films from first time filmmakers like Alex Holdridge, whose film In Search of a Midnight Kiss is probably the best American Indie in years, and Charles Henri Belleville, whose film The Inheritance proves that guerilla filmmaking needn’t be unpenetrable and abstract.

And for the first time we’re proud to be in on the action, supporting the festival as a media partner and serving on the festival’s jury, which this year includes Mick Jones of The Clash, Iggy Pop, directors Andrea Arnold and Penny Woolcock and critic Anthony Quinn.

The festival runs until next Sunday, 7th October, and so there’s plenty of time yet to get in on the action. Continue onto the next page to get stuck in to our recommendations from the festival; films we’ve seen, films we want to see and films we want to see again. You’ll find a full screening schedule and booking information on the Raindance website.

15th Raindance Film Festival
Films We've Seen

Between our jury duties, our time elsewhere at Raindance and our general festival going, these are the film’s we’ve seen that we’ve loved so far.

Weirdsville

Weirdsville

Allan Moyle’s Weirdsville imagines a scenario that defines the term, “bad day.” When Royce and Dexter find the latter’s dead girlfriend following an overdose, it’s a simple trip to a seedy basement to bury the evidence. Only a group of satan-worshipping ne’er-do-wells happen to be doing their own ill deeds at the same time. And when the girlfriend can’t stay dead it seems like nothing is going to go their way.

What follows is nothing short of riotous as the pair of hapless losers beg, steal and borrow their way to morning. Moyle, whose last big hit was 1995’s Empire Records serves up a devilishly intriguing black comedy that keeps you on tenterhooks ’til the end. Weirdsville may well be another cult classic in the making.

Wes Bentley and Scott Speedman are brilliant as Royce and Dexter, while support from some cultists, a dead girlfriend, a bunch of drug dealers and a midget security guard keep them on their toes throughout.

Day Watch

Day Watch

Timur Bekmambetov’s follow-up to his masterful Night Watch – a film which came out of left field from Russia and gave Hollywood a run for its money – is possibly even less accessible than its predecessor. Day Watch cuts straight into the universe, grabbing its audience by the lapels and forcing us to remind ourselves of the story so far.

It’s also decidedly more heartfelt than Night Watch; Khabensky’s Anton wrestling with a son who’s deserted him for the Day Watch and his responsibilities to his unit. The line Anton walks is blurrier than anything to come out of the big American studios, and it’s refreshing to see a little ambiguity.

Jeannette Catsoulis says it best in the New York Times. Day Watch “dazzles and confuses with equal determination.”

The Inheritance

The Inheritance

Director Charles Henri Belleville’s previous credits, which curiously include duties as the making-of documentarian on the set of WAZ, which is another Raindance film, give him away as a newcomer to the world of film, but if The Inheritance is anything to go by, we can fully expect a long and interesting career from him. Written in two months and shot over 11 days on a budget of just £5000, The Inheritance has clearly succeeded through the passion and persistence of its cast, writer and director.

The story of a pair of brothers and their quest to find their inheritance after the death of their father, it’s guerilla filmmaking at its most exciting, shot in glorious HD against some of the most beautiful scenery Scotland has to offer. And it’s as beautiful to journey with as it is to look at, its leads finding real emotion while dealing with real familial troubles we can all relate to. Indeed, it’s a wonder the brothers in the film aren’t related in real life.

This is independent filmmaking at its most exciting. A project that exemplifies what can be accomplished if wannabe filmmakers just take the plunge and go for it.

The Killing of John Lennon

The Killing of John Lennon

A film about Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s assassin, is bound to provoke controversy. So perhaps it’s just as well Lindsay Lohan and Jared Leto’s big-budget version of this tale is soaking all that up, because The Killing of John Lennon, the indie version, is a fine film despite its subject matter.

We follow Chapman as his mind begins to convince him that killing Lennon is the way to go and then all the way through to the act itself and his arrest and trial. At times the film becomes a little too abstract, and the story could do with losing a few minutes from the end, but this isn’t an exploitative shock-film. Rather it’s a meditation on what it takes to do something as heinous as this and an attempt to understand, without necessarily empathising with, Chapman.

15th Raindance Film Festival
Films We Want To See

As with all film festivals, it’s impossible to see everything. These are the films from the Raindance programme we’ve had our eyes on but haven’t been able to catch yet.

The Devil Dared Me To

The Devil Dared Me To

What it is about growing up in New Zealand that inspires this sort of off-the-wall gross-out comedy it’s hard to say, but it’s the genre that gave Peter Jackson his start and sails again this year with Black Sheep. In Hollywood the phrase gross-out comedy is almost certain to ensure the film you’re about to see will be ninety minutes of your life you’ll never get back, but the Kiwis seem to know how to do it properly.

Hence our excitement for this stuntman comedy, which, from its trailer, looks as outrageous as anything that’s hailed from not-Australia. About one young man’s quest to become the world’s greatest stuntman, in spite of his inability to do stunts that don’t end in limb loss, The Devil Dared Me To is pitched, rather brilliantly, as the nearly semi-true story of New Zealand’s most dangerous stuntman.

The buzz surrounding this one is strong to boot; could this be the sports-related comedy Taladega Nights so craved to be?

Being Michael Madsen

Being Michael Madsen

Whether or not Michael Madsen is tabloid-level important, this would-be documentary posits a scenario in which the prolific B-movie star gets his own back on gossip rags that are hounding him by sending a trio of filmmakers out to document the life of one of the paparazzi chasing him.

Its title may imply hints of John Malkovich, but this seems more in league with Spinal Tap than Spike Jonze, and that Madsen can play with him image like this – and invite along sister Virginia and actors Daryl Hannah, David Carradine and Harry Dean Stanton – makes us instantly attracted to it.

This Filthy World

This Filthy World

“I was the only kid in the audience who didn’t understand why Dorothy would ever want to go home to that awful black and white farm, when she could live with winged monkeys and magic shoes and gay lions…”

Welcome to the world of cult filmmaker John Waters. This Filthy World spends 90 minutes in his company, as he monologues on stage in New York City, and we’re fairly certain to expect to be entertained and offended in equal measure.

15th Raindance Film Festival
Films We Want To See Again

Every film festival throws up some films that demand to be watched again and again, and this year’s Raindance Film Festival has delivered more than most. These are very special treats and if you only see four films at this year’s festival, see these. If you can’t make it to London, find an opportunity to see them anyway.

Once

Once

In describing Once as the Irish busker musical, we’ve met looks of derision that, frankly could be collected together into a book all about looks of derision. One’d hope it’s not the Irish part that irks people. Still, we’ve instead taking to describing it thus: It’s the Irish busker musical that Stephen Spielberg said gave him enough inspiration to last the year.

High praise indeed, and we’re sure the film’s marketing department is wringing its hands with glee. But importantly, he’s on the money; this is not just an Irish busker musical but one of the most uplifting and invigorating films of the year. It’s not a musical in the sense that Dreamgirls is a musical. It’s not full of show-stopping tunes and crashing big-band numbers. Instead it’s a beautiful story which is furthered through exceptional Irish folk music from its leads Glen Hansard, of The Frames, and Markéta Irglová. The songs will stay with you, and if you only buy one soundtrack this year it’ll be this one.

It’s almost a shame it’s already been released in the US. Don’t get us wrong, we’re thrilled with the high-nineties Tomatometer, but we’d have loved to have been the first to say that Once is a film you’ll almost certainly want to see more times than its title suggests.

Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park

Gus van Sant is fascinated with adolescence, and his fascination has thrown out some deeply meditative films in the last few years. From his Cannes triumph Elephant, through Last Days and now Paranoid Park, van Sant’s stoic trilogy is a labour of love that seems to shun convention at every turn.

While Last Days, ostensibly a biopic of the final hours of Kurt Cobain, and Elephant, about high-school serial killers, have courted controversy, Paranoid Park plays things decidedly safer, adapting Blake Nelson’s novel about a skater boy who accidentally kills a security guard while venturing out-of-bounds on Portland’s rail network.

And because it’s safer it’s also probably his most accessible of the three – Elephant and Last Days did little until their powerful endings while Paranoid Park first introduces us to Alex (played by newcomer Gave Nevins) before exploring how the accident affects his life.

The film looks beautiful and is rather unconventionally shot in the square 4:3 aspect ratio, while 8mm cutaways punctuate the film gracefully. It’s a testament to van Sant’s ability that he can say so much by doing so little; you could collect the film’s dialogue on a postage stamp.

Waz

Waz

On paper WAZ (the A is actually a Delta symbol so it’s pronounced Was or W-Delta-Z depending on the mood you’re in) looks like every other torture porn movie cluttering cinemas at the moment. But to lump it in with Saw and Hostel would be to do it a disservice, because this debut feature from director Tom Shankland is much more inventive.

Detective Eddie Argo and his new partner, Helen Westcott, begin investigating a series of grisly murders with one thing in common; a mathematical equation has been carved into each of the victims. When they learn that the equation – the WAZ of the title is a part of it – is designed to test altruism, and that the victims are being offed in pairs, forced to kill each other to “save” themselves, the case turns even nastier, and as Westcott gets to know her new precinct she’s seeing things that don’t add up in the police department’s handling of previous cases.

Set in New York but filmed, predominantly, in Belfast, with a cast that includes a Swede, an Australian and a Brit, the accents are a touch on the unpredictable side, but stirring performances from Stellan Skarsgard, Melissa George, Ashley Walters and Selma Blair make you forget those troubles, and the film creates a visually arresting universe and ramping tension that keep you glued to the screen.

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Out of every film festival there comes at least one movie any festival-goer is kicking themselves for missing. For us, in Edinburgh, it was In Search of a Midnight Kiss. When the reaction from critics is as positive as was the reaction for this rom-com set on the eve of the New Year, the feeling that you’re missing out on something special is intense.

Thank the Lord for Raindance, and another opportunity to catch what is probably the best American indie in years. The tale of a couple who meet a few hours before midnight after a hookup on Craigslist, In Search of a Midnight Kiss follows them almost in realtime as they get to know one another and discover things they like and things that they don’t. Photoshopped porn and a mad dash to save possessions when the ex threatens to break out the gasoline keep things light, but the comedy serves the drama rather than diminishing it, making this the perfect date movie; it’s funny and heartwarming.

Shot in black and white, the heart and humour are already drawing comparisons to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, and not unfairly so. But to sum it up like that, positively or not, would be to do its originality a disservice.

Every once in a while, there’s a little indie film that breaks out of the art houses to do big business in the mainstream. Fox Searchlight is betting that this year’s contender is Once, a quirky, melancholy Irish musical that the studio is hoping will do big business and, possibly, garner some nods come Oscar season.

Stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are hitting the road on a seven-city mini-tour to promote the film; they also played The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and NPR. In addition, it’s been announced the pair will be covering “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” the Basement Tapes-era Bob Dylan classic, for I’m Not There, Todd Haynes‘ unconventional Dylan biopic starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Heath Ledger. Dylan apparently dug Once enough to invite Hansard and his band, the Frames, to open for him on his forthcoming Australian tour.

Since winning the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance, Once has been showered with enthusiastic reviews (at 97 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and we here at Rotten Tomatoes thought it was pretty cool as well.) It’s also done decent box office — it’s currently playing in 140 theaters and has made $6.5 million, easily turning a profit on its $150,000 budget.


Glen Hansard, John Carney and Marketa Irglova in Once


Once tells the tale of a Dublin street musician (Hansard) who meets a young Czech pianist (Irglova); together, they share an easy musical chemistry and an uncertain personal relationship. Hansard and Irglova have performed together for years, and director John Carney said he felt their musical chemistry would translate better onscreen than hiring actors to play musicians.

Check out our interview with Once director Carney here.

Source: USA Today

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