(Photo by New Line, 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

All 21 David Cronenberg Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

Over the course of six decades, David Cronenberg has built a bloody, slimed-over, and warped throne of flesh and bone to sit upon as the king of body horror. His first two films, Stereo and Crimes of the Future, are little-seen, ready for Cronenberg fans to re-discover and find that his obsession with pushing the boundaries of science, sexual perversity, and our oh-so-tenuous grasp on our physical self was present from the beginning.

Rabid and The Brood made more of a squeamish splash with general audiences. And in the ’80s, Cronenberg came into his own: Scanners was all over horror magazines for its legendary exploding head sequence. The Dead Zone contributed to a hot streak of Stephen King adaptations happening across the industry, following Carrie and The Shining. The Fly was the rare excellent remake and had the good sense to parade Jeff Goldblum around in his underwear (and vomit). And Videodrome seemed to best express Cronenberg’s vision of how the self can be utterly compromised by sinister forces.

The ’90s saw Cronenberg experimenting with an expanded dramatic palette (M. Butterfly, Naked Lunch) with varied results, which would pay dividends in the following decade. That’s when he released A History of Violence, which would become his highest-grossing movie, be nominated for two Oscars, and mark the start of a fruitful collaboration with Viggo Mortensen. The actor was nominated for the Oscar in their follow-up Eastern Promises, which boasts a bath house fight that’ll please those who think the tighty-whities Goldblum wore in The Fly were too much clothing. The third Viggo movie was A Dangerous Method, a kinky yet classy flick of psychology that brought in Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender.

And you know how Robert Pattinson is your new favorite actor, especially after you had written him off for those Twilight movies? You can thank Cronenberg for giving Pattinson the opportunity to do weird roles to shake up his image, in movies like Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars. Cronenberg has appeared to have retired in recent years with the shifting movie and media landscape. If that’s the case, then it’s been an impressive, influential, and gross – really, really gross – career, which we’re celebrating now with all 21 David Cronenberg movies ranked by Tomatometer!

#21

M. Butterfly (1993)
43%

#21
Adjusted Score: 43035%
Critics Consensus: David Cronenberg reins in his provocative sensibility and handles delicate material with restraint, yielding a disappointing adaptation that flattens M. Butterfly into a tedious soap opera.
Synopsis: René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons) is a diplomat from France who has been sent to Beijing. While acclimating to life in... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#20

Crash (1996)
63%

#20
Adjusted Score: 66294%
Critics Consensus: Despite the surprisingly distant, clinical direction, Crash's explicit premise and sex is classic Cronenberg territory.
Synopsis: "Crash" is about the strange lure of the auto collision, provoking as it does the human fascination with death and... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#19

Stereo (1969)
60%

#19
Adjusted Score: 43534%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scientists perform surgery which allows humans to communicate through telepathy.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 36166%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A man (Ronald Mlodzik) takes a bizarre journey while searching for a kidnapped 5-year-old girl.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 67126%
Critics Consensus: Narratively unwieldy and tonally jumbled, Maps to the Stars still has enough bite to satisfy David Cronenberg fans in need of a coolly acidic fix.
Synopsis: Driven by an intense need for fame and validation, members of a dysfunctional Hollywood dynasty have lives as dramatic as... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#16

Cosmopolis (2012)
66%

#16
Adjusted Score: 72800%
Critics Consensus: Though some may find it cold and didactic, Cosmopolis benefits from David Cronenberg's precise direction, resulting in a psychologically complex adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel.
Synopsis: A 28-year-old billionaire (Robert Pattinson) senses his empire collapsing around him as he takes a limo ride across Manhattan to... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#15

Naked Lunch (1991)
69%

#15
Adjusted Score: 70134%
Critics Consensus: Strange, maddening, and at times incomprehensible, Naked Lunch is nonetheless an engrossing experience.
Synopsis: Blank-faced bug killer Bill Lee (Peter Weller) and his dead-eyed wife, Joan (Judy Davis), like to get high on Bill's... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#14

Rabid (1977)
76%

#14
Adjusted Score: 77784%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Surgery leaves a Montreal motorcyclist (Marilyn Chambers) with a bloodsucking appendage in her armpit.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#13

eXistenZ (1999)
74%

#13
Adjusted Score: 76805%
Critics Consensus: Gooey, slimy, grotesque fun.
Synopsis: Video game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has created a virtual reality game called eXistenZ. After a crazed fan... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#12

Scanners (1981)
70%

#12
Adjusted Score: 72538%
Critics Consensus: Scanners is a dark sci-fi story with special effects that'll make your head explode.
Synopsis: Scanners are men and women born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers. There are many who exercise the benefits of... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 85262%
Critics Consensus: A provocative historical fiction about the early days of psychoanalysis, A Dangerous Method is buoyed by terrific performances by Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen.
Synopsis: In 1904 a Russian woman named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) arrives at Carl Jung's (Michael Fassbender) clinic, seeking treatment for... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#10

Videodrome (1983)
78%

#10
Adjusted Score: 82399%
Critics Consensus: Visually audacious, disorienting, and just plain weird, Videodrome's musings on technology, entertainment, and politics still feel fresh today.
Synopsis: As the president of a trashy TV channel, Max Renn (James Woods) is desperate for new programming to attract viewers.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#9

The Brood (1979)
84%

#9
Adjusted Score: 85545%
Critics Consensus: The Brood is a grotesque, squirming, hilariously shrill exploration of the bizarre and deadly side of motherhood.
Synopsis: A mad doctor (Oliver Reed) tries psychoplasmic therapy on a raging woman (Samantha Eggar) soon to be a mother.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#8

Dead Ringers (1988)
83%

#8
Adjusted Score: 85759%
Critics Consensus: Dead Ringers serves up a double dose of Jeremy Irons in service of a devilishly unsettling concept and commandingly creepy work from director David Cronenberg.
Synopsis: Elliot (Jeremy Irons), a successful gynecologist, works at the same practice as his identical twin, Beverly (also Irons). Elliot is... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#7

Spider (2002)
85%

#7
Adjusted Score: 88340%
Critics Consensus: Ralph Fiennes is brilliant in this accomplished and haunting David Cronenberg film.
Synopsis: Released after decades in a sanitarium, schizophrenic Dennis "Spider" Cleg (Ralph Fiennes) moves into Mrs. Wilkinson's (Lynn Redgrave) halfway house... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 95698%
Critics Consensus: A History of Violence raises compelling and thoughtful questions about the nature of violence, while representing a return to form for director David Cronenberg in one of his more uncharacteristic pieces.
Synopsis: When a pair of petty criminals attempt to rob his small-town diner, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) quickly and easily kills... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#5

Shivers (1975)
85%

#5
Adjusted Score: 85816%
Critics Consensus: Shivers uses elementally effective basic ingredients to brilliant effect - and lays the profoundly unsettling foundation for director David Cronenberg's career to follow.
Synopsis: After a scientist living in a posh apartment complex slaughters a teen girl and kills himself, investigators discover that the... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#4

Fast Company (1979)
88%

#4
Adjusted Score: 28773%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After his sponsor replaces him with his archrival, a race-car driver decides to steal the car and race it himself.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#3

Eastern Promises (2007)
89%

#3
Adjusted Score: 97623%
Critics Consensus: David Cronenberg triumphs again, showcasing the Viggo Mortensen's onscreen prowess in a daring performance. Bearing the trademarks of psychological drama and gritty violence, Eastern Promises is a very compelling crime story.
Synopsis: Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), who is both ruthless and mysterious, has ties to one of the most dangerous crime families in... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#2

The Dead Zone (1983)
90%

#2
Adjusted Score: 93083%
Critics Consensus: The Dead Zone combines taut direction from David Cronenberg and and a rich performance from Christopher Walken to create one of the strongest Stephen King adaptations.
Synopsis: When Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma caused by a car accident, he finds that years have passed,... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#1

The Fly (1986)
93%

#1
Adjusted Score: 98490%
Critics Consensus: David Cronenberg combines his trademark affinity for gore and horror with strongly developed characters, making The Fly a surprisingly affecting tragedy.
Synopsis: When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

Naomi Watts‘ appearance in this weekend’s Demolition expands an eclectic filmography that’s seen her going from indie dramas to big-budget blockbusters and back again. In honor of this latest venture to the big screen, we decided to take a look back at some of her best-reviewed films and gather up a list of definitive Naomi Watts performances. It’s time for Total Recall!


Mother and Child (2009) 78%

Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia Barcha followed his Sixth Sense-ish thriller Passengers with this quiet character study, which traces the impact of adoption through the stories of three women (played by Watts, Annette Bening, and Kerry Washington) and their families. Add in an ensemble supporting cast that included Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman, and Samuel L. Jackson and you’ve got a tremendously talented group of stars whose subtle work helped critics look past Mother and Child’s occasionally bumpy script. “The film reminds us that character, not plot, is what binds us to a story,” observed Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Cutting between scenes of each in her unique environment, the movie tantalizes us.”

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Fair Game (2010) 79%

Frequent co-stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn reunited for their third production with 2010’s Fair Game, a dramatization of the so-called “Plamegate” affair — a 2003 incident that saw CIA agent Valerie Plame resigning from the agency after her identity was outed by a journalist writing for the Washington Post. Feeling Plame’s exposure was politically motivated retribution for comments made by her husband Joseph C. Wilson, an ambassador who’d been openly critical of the current administration, the two cooperated with a special investigator’s grand jury investigation — and then pursued civil action against those they held responsible. A tough story to tell without seeming like you have an axe to grind, but according to most critics, director Doug Liman and his stars did a bang-up job. “The blind-siding of Valerie Plame wasn’t fair and wasn’t a game,” wrote Joe Williams for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but this cinematic outcome is a touchdown for true patriots.”

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21 Grams (2003) 80%

One of several collaborations between Watts and Alejandro González Iñárritu, 21 Grams certainly isn’t the happiest film on this list, but it wrings some outstanding performances (not to mention plenty of tears) out of an outstanding cast. Using a handful of seemingly disparate plot threads, Iñárritu plunged viewers into the darkness pooling out of a tragedy unintentionally wrought by an ex-con (Benicio del Toro) whose irrevocable mistake has a profound impact on a dying math professor (Sean Penn) and a woman with a complicated past (Naomi Watts) — all of which are drawn irrevocably together by the final act. Watts and del Toro both earned Oscar nominations for their work, and neither could be accused of holding anything back; as Moira MacDonald wrote for the Seattle Times, “Watching it is a wrenching experience; the usual layers of distance between actors and audience are stripped away, and we not only watch their anguish, but become part of it.”

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The Impossible (2012) 81%

Set out to make a movie about one of the more horrific tragedies in recent memory, and you’ve got your work cut out for you — like any good dramatist, you have to make real-life events cinema-worthy without dishonoring the people who actually experienced them, but with the added pressure of large-scale death and destruction hanging over your film. By most accounts, Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible did a noble enough job of representing the Indian Ocean tsunami that wreaked havoc on Boxing Day of 2004, and while some critics resented the way it focused on one white family of tourists (led by Watts and Ewan McGregor) at the expense of the people who actually lived in the region, and others dismissed the whole thing as manipulative Oscar bait, most writers found it (ahem) impossible not to be moved. Calling it “An intense and compelling family melodrama,” Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir argued that it “sets a new standard for disaster cinema.”

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Mulholland Dr. (2001) 84%

It resists synopsis and analysis in characteristically Lynchian fashion, but whatever it may or may not actually be about, Mulholland Drive opens a dark window into the twilight fringes of Hollywood inhabited by an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) who arrives in Los Angeles and discovers an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) living in her aunt’s apartment. As for the film itself, well, critics have been puzzling over its surreal imagery, nonlinear plot, and jumbled narrative since Mulholland arrived in theaters — but whether or not you can figure out what it all means, argued the New York Observer’s Andrew Sarris, it’s “One of the very few movies in which the pieces not only add up to much more than the whole, but also supersede it with a series of (for the most part) fascinating fragments.”

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King Kong (2005) 84%

It takes a lot of guts to step into a role that’s already been made famous by another actor, so even if her work in Peter Jackson’s King Kong had been downright awful, Watts would have deserved major points simply for agreeing to try and assume the part of the simian-bewitching Ann Darrow from the legendary Fay Wray. Happily for all concerned, the 21st century Kong — while perhaps unnecessary — managed to graft modern effects onto a timeless tale without putting too big of a dent in the iconic original’s charm. “Monstrous. Monumental. Magnificent,” wrote Tom Long for the Detroit News. “Use any term you want, there’s no denying the power, genius and spectacle of King Kong, which is certainly the biggest movie of the year and possibly the biggest movie ever made.”

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While We're Young (2014) 84%

It would be hard to argue that there’s a shortage of indie dramedies about ennui-riddled upper middle-class New York Caucasians, but that doesn’t mean their stories can’t be effectively told by the right director with the right script. Case in point: While We’re Young, in which Watts and Ben Stiller co-star as spouses whose repressed misgivings about their lives are stirred up when they make the acquaintance of a younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) who seem to have the spark they fear they’ve lost along the way. “If you’ve been wishing you could see a good Woody Allen comedy again, you should check out Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young,” wrote the Globe and Mail’s Liam Lacey, saying it “sees the 45-year-old director moving in on Allen’s territory — the Manhattan comedy of manners.”

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Eastern Promises (2007) 89%

Two years after mixing equal parts “bloody” and “thought-provoking” to create A History of Violence, David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen reunited for Eastern Promises, an equally hard-hitting drama about a driver for the Russian mafia. Promises‘ plot is set in motion after a midwife (Watts) delivers a baby whose teenage mother dies in childbirth; after a clue in the girl’s belongings leads to a Russian mob boss, things quickly start to get pretty gnarly for all concerned, including an infamous fight scene taking place in a steam room. “If you don’t mind bloodshed and are drawn to taut thrillers with fascinating characters portrayed skillfully,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today, “Eastern Promises is just the ticket.”

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) 91%

Michael Keaton received most of the attention for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman, and deservedly so — aside from the impressive level of visual craft that went into preserving the illusion that the movie took place in a single shot, its primary asset is its star, particularly for viewers who missed Keaton during his long absence from leading roles. That said, Iñárritu assembled a stellar cast all the way around for the project, including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, and Naomi Watts. Whether you’re a Birdman fan or you agree with the backlash, this look at the emotional travails of a washed-up actor trying to prove his dramatic mettle with a stage play is eminently well acted by a top-to-bottom talented ensemble. “Birdman, more than most, seems a film that deserves a second viewing,” wrote Jocelyn Novecek for the Associated Press. “Not only to admire the work of Keaton and his co-stars, but to delve into its many layers.”

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Flirting (1990) 96%

Writer-director John Duigan may have felt like he landed a casting coup when he signed Nicole Kidman for Flirting, but the rising Australian star — then enjoying a growing international profile thanks to her work in Dead Calm and Days of Thunder — was only part of a stellar ensemble cast packed with future household names, including Watts and Thandie Newton. Although its storyline follows the same rough contours as many other coming-of-age dramas, those performances — and the skill with which Duigan told his characters’ stories — left many critics reeling. “Flirting is one of those rare movies with characters I cared about intensely,” enthused Roger Ebert. “I didn’t simply observe them on the screen, I got involved in their decisions and hoped they made the right ones.”

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Right smack in the middle of this week was April Fool’s Day, so some stories this week had to be always be viewed with a grain of salt, but there was indeed real movie news. And as usual, being true didn’t stop some stories from still seeming ridiculous and incredible. In that spirit, starting this week, the Weekly Ketchup will be ending with the Rotten Story of the Week, the story that’s just so weird that it would have to be an April Fool’s Day joke (but isn’t).

#1 MEN IN BLACK III: THEY’LL MAKE THIS LOOK GOOD… AGAIN

In the seven years since Men in Black II there have been occasional stories from Sony about plans to return to the comedic stories of the agents who protect Earth from our alien visitors. Most of these rumors circulated several years ago, and since then the concept of a Men in Black III has mostly receded from fan prominence. So it was a bit of a surprise this week at ShoWest when Sony announced (along with Ghostbusters III, which has had more press coverage lately) their plans to develop Men in Black III in time for a big summer, 2011 release. The details, however, basically stop there: no writer, no director and no indication from Sony as to who exactly might star in this theoretical Men in Black III. Obviously, the big draw would be Will Smith, but is he necessarily required for the franchise to continue? Although Smith was surely part of the appeal of the first two movies, the FX-heavy combination of live-action and CGI aliens seems like one that would be friendly to any new agent that might be recruited to protect us from aliens this time around.

#2 STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF… NO, PROBABLY NOT

Although the relaunch of Star Trek is still over a month away, Paramount is hot enough on the new franchise to hire that movie’s writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (also the writing team behind Transformers and The Legend of Zorro), along with Lost producer and frequent writer Damon Lindelof, to start working on a Star Trek sequel. J.J. Abrams is also on board to produce with his Bad Robot Productions, but it is not yet known if he will also return as director. No details of the premise have been revealed, as Variety reports that the writers are waiting to see what aspects of Star Trek the fans respond to most. Paramount expects to have a script by Christmas of 2009, with a summer, 2011 release date being targeted. Although it may seem a bit presumptous to start working on a sequel before a movie is even released, Star Trek is undoubtedly a franchise that Paramount has a long history with, and wants a long future with as well, so the movie would have to be a complete bomb for them not to proceed with a Star Trek II.

#3 BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY REMAKE: LESS THAN ZERO CAN’T BE FAR OFF

MGM, which has been heavily focusing its development efforts on 1980s remakes (Robocop, Fame, Red Dawn, etc), has hired TV show runner Josh Schwartz (Chuck, Gossip Girl) to write and make his feature directorial debut with a remake of 1988’s Bright Lights, Big City, which starred Michael J. Fox. Like that movie, the new project will be an adaptation of the 1984 novel of the same title by Jay McInerney, about a magazine writer in a failed marriage who numbs his worries through drugs, alcohol and sexual misadventures. It’s as yet unknown whether Schwartz will be keeping the novel’s 1980s setting, or contemporizing it for the 21st century. Josh Schwartz will start work on the adaptation after finishing his draft of X-Men: First Class, and a Gossip Girl spin off series called Lilly.

#4 EASTERN PROMISES TO GET AN UNEXPECTED SEQUEL

First off, if you have not yet seen Eastern Promises, I should note that the source of this story at MTV spoils the ending in the first sentence, but I won’t do that to you. Anyway, the story here is that director David Cronenberg revealed to them that he is working on his first sequel (The Fly got a sequel, but Cronenberg didn’t direct it), because while researching that thriller/drama about Russians living in London, Cronenberg found that he had more material than he could fit into the original film. Cronenberg is working with the first movie’s screenwriter, Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), and is looking forward to working with star Viggo Mortensen again, which will mark their third movie together (their first being A History of Violence). Cronenberg doesn’t give any details about the story this time around (the first movie revolved around the baby of a dead Russian teenager), or whether Naomi Watts or Vincent Cassel might return.

#5 DAZED AND CONFUSED GETTING A NON-SEQUEL SEQUEL

After revisiting his little romantic drama Before Sunrise with a reunion movie called Before Sunset, director Richard Linklater is now working on a movie that will not be a direct sequel to his 1970s stoner comedy Dazed and Confused, but will at least be what he calls a “spiritual sequel.” The project will not feature any of the characters from Dazed and Confused, but by being set during the first week of the new college school year in 1980, it is expected to still have the feel of following similar characters as they progress from high school to college. Another difference is that while Dazed and Confused featured football players, this new movie will instead focus on baseball. Linklater hopes to film this as-yet-untitled comedy in and around his hometown of Austin, Texas this summer and is currently hard at work trying to find financing so that can happen. Richard Linklater’s most recently filmed movie, Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron, is expected to be released sometime later this year.

#6 20TH CENTURY FOX IMAGINES THE WORLD WITHOUT US

Earlier this decade, 20th Century Fox took the non-fiction book The Coming Global Superstorm and turned it into the summer blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow. This week, Fox made a similar deal for the 2007 non-fiction book, The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, with the I Am Legend writer/director team of Mark Protosevich (The Cell) and Francis Lawrence (Constantine) on board to make this big budget “tentpole” movie a priority. The concept of The World Without Us is a series of predictions of what how Earth, and life on Earth, will progress in a possible future in which human life is no more (for any of the many different reasons that could happen). Curiously, this scenario has also been a subject of a few recent TV documentaries: The Future is Wild in 2003, and both Aftermath: Population Zero and Life After People in 2008. The big question I would have for this movie is whether it will actually have a human cast, or just be a two hour movie showing animals roaming around our ruins. If so, will they be talking animals? Hopefully not. Protosevich is also working on the Oldboy remake for Steven Spielberg to direct and Will Smith to star, but THR reports that he will work on this project first. With this movie being eyed for a possible 2011 release that means another tentpole script by Protosevich might be released around the same time: Thor.

#7 WE CAN ONLY HOPE THIS TITLE DOESN’T CHANGE

While director Paul Weitz (In Good Company, American Dreamz) prepares to work with Robert DeNiro on Little Fockers, the duo have another project in the works which Weitz expects will be his next movie after Little Fockers. That movie is called Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and is based upon a memoir by American poet Nick Flynn, about his troubled relationship with his father (DeNiro), a con man and bank robber, with Casey Affleck cast to star as Flynn. Weitz also wrote the screenplay and Focus Features will be distributing the project, which may start filming in 2010 after Weitz wraps up Little Fockers. Paul Weitz’s most recent wrapped movie is Universal’s Cirque du Freak, a bizarre story that combines vampires and freak show stars, and is now scheduled for an early 2010 release.

#8 TOBEY MAGUIRE TO GO FOR A DIFFERENT TYPE OF SPIN IN THE LIMIT

Tobey Maguire is producing and will star in the Columbia Pictures project The Limit, which is based upon an upcoming novel about the true story of the 1961 Grand Prix (Formula One) racing championship. The Limit will tell the story of friends Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill (Maguire), who were also rivals on the raceway. Although there aren’t a lot of professional racing movies, there have been even fewer set in the world of Formula One racing, with the last studio movie (that I know of) being 1966’s Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer. Sylvester Stallone’s Driven was originally envisioned as a Grand Prix movie, but Stallone was unable to work out rights, and so it was based upon the similar CART format instead. Tony Peckham (cowriter of Sherlock Holmes, Don’t Say a Word) is adapting the script from the upcoming novel by Michael Cannell. There is no director yet, so there is a good chance that The Limit might be a project for Tobey Maguire after he wraps filming of Spider-Man 4 and Spider-Man 5 (also for Columbia), which are expected to film back-to-back.

#9 NICOLE KIDMAN AND AARON ECKHART GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Aaron Eckhart is in talks to join Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, an adaptation of a Broadway play by David Lindsay-Abaire (Inkheart; cowriter of Robots), who is also currently working with Sam Raimi on Spider-Man 4. Kidman is producing Rabbit Hole, which is about a happily married couple whose lives are interrupted when their young son dies in a car accident, and who struggle to return their lives to normalcy. In the original Broadway run, the couple was played by Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) and John Slattery (Mad Men, Desperate Housewives), and Lindsay-Abaire won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Rabbit Hole will be directed by John Cameron Mitchell, best known for directing and starring in both the stage and film versions of the awesome cabaret/rock musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Filming is expected to start in May, 2009.

#10 PAUL BETTANY: FROM ANGELS TO VAMPIRES IN PRIEST

British actor Paul Bettany’s eclectic filmography has included such roles as Russell Crowe’s doctor friend in Master and Commander, the scary monk in The Da Vinci Code and the voice of Jarvis in Iron Man. Now in the pipeline for Bettany are the lead roles in the first two movies by a new director, Scott Charles Stewart, both of which are “genre movies.” Already wrapped is Screen Gems’ Legion, scheduled for January, 2010, in which Bettany plays the Archangel Michael, in a story about a waitress who discovers her unborn child is the coming Messiah. Screen Gems was apparently impressed with Bettany and Stewart’s collaboration, because they are reuniting for Priest, an adaptation of a popular Korean Manwha comic book series. In Priest, which is set in a world that has been ravaged by hundreds of years of war between humans and vampires, Paul Bettany will play a “warrior priest” tracking down a band of vampires who have kidnapped his niece. It’s also perhaps interesting to note that both Legion and Priest are set in the American Southwest, and that Priest’s writer Cory Goodman is also working on the movie version of Kung Fu, another story set in the west.

“ROTTEN” IDEA OF THE WEEK

Inspired by April Fool’s Day this week, the Weekly Ketchup is adding a new closer feature, focusing on the newly announced movie each week which has the distinction of being the most ridiculous or least advised concept that Hollywood has come up with each week. The movie that starts this new feature off is Easy A, a Screen Gems teen comedy directed by Will Gluck (Fired Up) that is inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. Emma Stone (Superbad) is in talks to star as a girl who pretends to be the school slut in hopes that it will make her more popular, but then realizes that there are actually negative consequences of that sort of reputation, as her life begins to resemble that of Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Filming is expected to start later this month in Ojai, California. Easy A isn’t the first movie to take a classic story and set it in high school; 10 Things I Hate About You was based upon Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Clueless loosely borrowed its premise from Jane Austen’s Emma. However, this movie sounds like it twists The Scarlet Letter around in a rather strange way, and a teenage girl thinking that being perceived as the school slut is a good thing seems like such a stereotypical 21st century, post-Paris Hilton/Britney Spears concept.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message. Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.

Michelle Lehman (NSW) was awarded first prize at Sony Tropfest 2008 this evening by a panel of celebrity judges for Marry Me.

Audiences of over 150,000 enjoyed wine and picnics across Australia as the 16 finalist films were beamed live via satellite to venues in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide and Brisbane, plus 8 regional locations. The heart of the evening was a touching tribute to Heath Ledger.

The panel of six celebrity judges included Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Gillian Armstrong, Ray Lawrence, Claudia Karvan and last year’s winner Steve Baker as well as Australian identities Bryan Brown, Joel Edgerton and Noah Taylor.

The winners were:

FIRST PRIZE
Film: Marry Me
Director: Michelle Lehman
State: NSW
Presented by: Geoffrey Rush

SECOND PRIZE – RUNNER UP
Film: Uncle Jonny
Director: Mark Constable
State: VIC
Presented by: Gillian Armstrong

THIRD PRIZE
Film: Great White Hunters
Director: Gary Doust
State: NSW
Presented by: Ray Lawrence

BALANCE WATER WOMEN IN FILM AWARD
Film: Glass
Director: Jayne Montague
State: NSW
Presented by: Naomi Watts

SONY FOUNDATION YOUNG TALENT AWARD
Film: The Code
Director: Murray Fahey
Actor: Shardyn Fahey-Leigh
State: NSW
Presented by: Jacob Bicknell

BEST MALE ACTOR
Film: Smitten
Director: Grey Rogers
Actor: Andrew Gilmore
State: QLD
Presented by: Bryan Brown

BEST FEMALE ACTOR

Film: Marry Me
Director: Michelle Lehman
Actress: Jahla Bryant
State: NSW
Presented by: Claudia Karvan

BEST COMEDY

Film: Great White Hunters
Director: Gary Doust
State: NSW
Presented by: Jamie Row

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Film: Glass
Cinematographer: Carl Robertson
Director: Jayne Montague
State: NSW

BEST SCREENPLAY

Film: Looped
Director: Sarah Crowest
State: SA
Presented by: Jeremy Podeswa

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Film: White Lines
Director: Craig MacLean
Winner: Craig MacLean
State: VIC
Presented by: Joel Edgerton

BEST EDITING

Film: Scab
Director: Koichi Iguchi
Winners: Junya Otsuka / Takauki Mori
Country: Japan

BEST ANIMATION AWARD

Film: Fault
Director: Daniel Miller
State: ACT

THE TROPICANA AWARD

Film: Scab
Director: Koichi Iguchi
Country: Japan

Presented by: Noah Taylor

THE BRIGHT SPARK AWARDS
Film: My Brother, My Sanctuary
Director: Johnny Tran
Film: Loveless
Director: Karl Madderoom
Film: Spider
Director: Steven Woodburn

The free official Sony Tropfest 2008 DVD featuring all 16 finalist films will be available in the Saturday 23 February edition of The Sydney Morning Herald.

On Thursday 22nd March 2008 the Nine Network will air The Best of Sony Tropfest 2008 which will showcase finalist films, filmmaker interviews and festival highlights.

There’s action and drama to be found this week, and not just with your family at Christmas dinner. And if you couldn’t make it out of town for the holidays, you’re in luck; this week’s DVDs take you to Paris (Rush Hour 3), Saudi Arabia (The Kingdom) and London (Eastern Promises).


Rush Hour 3

Tomatometer: 20%

It had been six years since we’d last seen Chris Tucker cracking jokes and Jackie Chan cracking heads on the same screen. This past summer director Brett Ratner brought them back together for the third installment of the Rush Hour franchise. Although critical reception for the series has been lukewarm at best (Rush Hour scored 57% and Rush Hour 2 scored 50% on the Tomatometer), the critics were really unhappy with this one, even in spite of appearances by the legendary Max Von Sydow and Roman Polanski.
 



The Kingdom

Tomatometer: 52%

Director Peter Berg assembled an extremely talented cast (Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, and Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman) for his film’s blend of action and Middle Eastern political drama. Many critics lauded the performances and the action scenses, but most agreed that the film falters under the weight of formulaic plot and muddled politics.

 


Eastern Promises

Tomatometer: 88%

After a very successful collaboration in 2005 on A History of Violence, David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen teamed up again for the highly acclaimed Eastern Promises. This harrowing tale of muder, deceit, and retribution among Eastern European mobsters living in London also stars Naomi Watts, and critics agreed that the film is a tightly-plotted, efficient, and compelling thriller. It was also nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Mortensen).

 


The Brothers Solomon


Tomatometer: 16%

Casting Arrested Development’s Will Arnett and SNL’s Will Forte in the same film should have worked out better than this. But most critics thought the film stretched the idea of the man-child (two of them) way too far.

The parade of critics’ year-end best-of lists continued yesterday, with panels in Toronto, San Diego, and Austin weighing in on their favorite films of 2007.

In Toronto, the clear winner was No Country for Old Men, which nabbed four prizes, including best film. A complete list of winners follows, with Tomatometers in parentheses:

Best Film:
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)

Best Director:
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Best Screenplay:
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Best Actor:
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises (88 percent)

Best Actress:
Julie Christie, Away From Her (95 percent) / Ellen Page, Juno (94 percent) (tie)

Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (80 percent)

Best Animated Feature:
Ratatouille (97 percent)

Best Foreign-Language Film:
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (96 percent)

Best Documentary:
No End in Sight (95 percent)

Not to be outdone, the San Diego Film Critics Society heaped its own stack o’ praise on No Country, but saved plenty of love for other films along the way:

Best Film:
No Country for Old Men

Best Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (96 percent)

Best Actor:
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best Actress:
Julie Christie, Away From Her

Best Supporting Actor:
Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (93 percent)

Best Original Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, Juno

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Best Foreign Language Film:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)

Best Documentary:
(tie) No End in Sight and Deep Water (96 percent)

Best Animated Feature:
Ratatouille

Best Cinematography:
Roger Deakins, No Country for Old Men

Best Production Design:
Dante Ferretti, Sweeney Todd (86 percent)

Best Editor:
Paul Tothill, Atonement (84 percent)

Best Score:
Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood

Best Ensemble Performance:
No Country for Old Men

And finally, last but not least, the Austin Film Critics Association gave big ups to There Will Be Blood, bestowing Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor honors upon the P.T. Anderson drama. Read on:

Best Film:
There Will Be Blood

Best Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Best Actor:
Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best Actress:
Ellen Page, Juno

Best Supporting Actor:

Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:
Allison Janney, Juno

Best Foreign Film:
Black Book (76 percent)

Best Documentary:

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (96 percent)

Best Animated Film:
Ratatouille

Best First Film:
Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone

Best Original Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, Juno

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Ethan & Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men

Best Cinematography:
Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood

Best Original Score:
Jonny Greenwood, There Will Be Blood

Breakthrough Artist:

Michael Cera, Superbad (87 percent), Juno

Source: Variety (Toronto)
Source: Variety (San Diego)
Source: Variety (Austin)

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

The nominations for the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced this morning. Did your favorite films, stars, and songs make the cut?

The nominees were read at the Beverly Hilton by a surreal panel consisting of Dane Cook, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Reynolds, and Quentin Tarantino. The film nominations follow below, with Tomatometers in parentheses:

Picture, Drama:

American Gangster (79 percent)
Atonement (85 percent)
Eastern Promises (88 percent)
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton (90 percent)
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
There Will Be Blood (100 percent)

Actress, Drama:
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (34 percent)
Julie Christie, Away From Her (95 percent)
Jodie Foster, The Brave One (45 percent)
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart (77 percent)
Keira Knightley, Atonement

Actor, Drama:
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy, Atonement
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington, American Gangster

Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Across the Universe (52 percent)
Charlie Wilson’s War (92 percent)
Hairspray (92 percent)
Juno (92 percent)
Sweeney Todd (92 percent)

Actress, Musical or Comedy:

Amy Adams, Enchanted (94 percent)
Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose (74 percent)
Ellen Page, Juno

Actor, Musical or Comedy:

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl (78 percent)
Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages (89 percent)
John C. Reilly, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (80 percent)
Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson’s War
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (93 percent)
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (75 percent)
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
John Travolta, Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Director:
Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
Ridley Scott, American Gangster
Joe Wright, Atonement

Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, Juno
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War

Foreign Language:
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Romania (96 percent)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, France and U.S.
The Kite Runner, U.S. (65 percent)
Lust, Caution, Taiwan (64 percent)
Persepolis, France (100 percent)

Animated Film:
Bee Movie (52 percent)
Ratatouille (97 percent)
The Simpsons Movie (88 percent)

Original Score:
Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder, Into the Wild (82 percent)
Clint Eastwood, Grace Is Gone (70 percent)
Alberto Iglesias, The Kite Runner
Dario Marianelli, Atonement
Howard Shore, Eastern Promises

Original Song: Despedida from Love in the Time of Cholera (28 percent)
Grace Is Gone from Grace Is Gone
Guaranteed from Into the Wild
That’s How You Know from Enchanted

Walk Hard from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Source: Associated Press
Source: Golden Globes

Just when we thought we’d seen all the year-end kudos we can handle, along come the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards — and the Critics Choice Awards nominations — to prove us wrong.

Nominees for the Critics Choice Awards were announced Tuesday morning, with Into the Wild leading the pack at seven nominations, including picture, director, writer, actor, supporting actor, supporting actress, and best song. Close behind, with six nominations, is Juno; Atonement, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd, and Hairspray each earned five. A partial list of nominations appears below:

PICTURE
American Gangster
Atonement
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
Juno
The Kite Runner
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood

ACTOR
George ClooneyMichael Clayton
Daniel Day-LewisThere Will Be Blood
Johnny DeppSweeney Todd
Ryan GoslingLars and the Real Girl

Emile HirschInto the Wild
Viggo MortensenEastern Promises

ACTRESS
Amy AdamsEnchanted
Cate BlanchettElizabeth: The Golden Age

Julie ChristieAway From Her
Marion CotillardLa Vie en Rose
Angelina JolieA Mighty Heart
Ellen PageJuno

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Casey AffleckThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Javier BardemNo Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour HoffmanCharlie Wilson’s War

Hal HolbrookInto the Wild
Tom WilkinsonMichael Clayton

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett — I’m Not There

Catherine KeenerInto the Wild
Vanessa RedgraveAtonement
Amy RyanGone Baby Gone
Tilda SwintonMichael Clayton

ACTING ENSEMBLE
Hairspray
Juno
No Country for Old Men
Sweeney Todd
Gone Baby Gone
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

DIRECTOR
Tim BurtonSweeney Todd

Joel Coen and Ethan CoenNo Country for Old Men
Sidney LumetBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Sean PennInto the Wild
Julian SchnabelThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joe WrightAtonement

WRITER
Diablo CodyJuno
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen — No Country for Old Men
Tony GilroyMichael Clayton
Nancy OliverLars and the Real Girl

Sean Penn — Into the Wild
Aaron SorkinCharlie Wilson’s War

ANIMATED FEATURE
Bee Movie
Beowulf
Persepolis
Ratatouille
The Simpsons Movie

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle has announced its 2007 favorites. Check ’em out:

Best Picture
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Director
Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men

Best Original Screenplay
The Savages

Best Adapted Screenplay

Away from Her

Best Actor
George Clooney for Michael Clayton

Best Actress
Julie Christie for Away from Her

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone

Best Foreign Language Film
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Documentary
No End in Sight

Source: Variety (Critics Choice Nominees)
Source: San Francisco Film Critics Circle

David Cronenberg - Jeff Vespa/WireImage.comCanadian-born David Cronenberg made his name with a series of brilliant ‘body horror’ movies including Rabid, Shivers and The Fly. His last film was the violently brilliant A History of Violence for which he, and his star Viggo Mortensen, received rave reviews. The pair re-teams this week for Eastern Promises, an equally violent but no less brilliant tale of Russian mobsters in contemporary London.

How did you end up making a film about Russian gangsters in London?

David Cronenberg: Well it all has to do with the script. Wonderful characters, wonderful dialogue, an intriguing narrative, so that’s what really was what brought me to into it. I mean I never wanted to do a movie about the Russian mob in London but once I read his script then I did want to. It’s obvious.

So where did you go from there? Did you work on the script?

DC: Oh yes. It was a first draft and it had kind of languished at BBC Films for some time. I think [Stephen Knight] actually wrote it before Dirty Pretty Things that he did for Stephen Frears, but that got made first. And as it is with a first draft, it can often go off in five different directions, but I think he was really eager to get back to it and have a chance to have a go at it again with someone who had an objective opinion. We made quite a few changes.

Was it easy to research the material or is that world kind of a closed shop?

DC: No not at all, I mean, people are eager to talk about their lives, you know? In this case it didn’t seem to be enclosed at all. Not just in terms of the books that we read and the documentaries we looked at and so on, but we also had a crew of one hundred and fifty people who were all doing research on their own levels. The costume designer will be trying to find out what kind of shoes these people would wear and whoever is designing the restaurant will want to know what’s on the walls and what coffee tables cost so there’s a lot of details and for that they would go into the Russian community here and would go to the Russian churches, go to the community centres, wherever they could find people to talk to about those things. There was no resistance to it, I think people were pretty fascinated that we were doing a movie about Russians in London and were pretty eager to see that we got it right, in fact.

Eastern Promises

It was kind of nice to see different London locations onscreen. Was that simply because the script demanded it or did you want to shoot in those areas?

DC: Yeah I think it was because of Steve Knight’s own sensibility and it came naturally with the script. If he had been a more conventional writer and the script had taken place in more conventional places then it might not have been as interesting a script for me but it all sort of went together. But he was interested in delving into these relatively unknown aspects of London.

I’d like ask you a little bit about the cast as well. Were you initially hesitant about casting Viggo Mortensen having just made a film with him as it would make comparisons between A History of Violence and Eastern Promises inevitable?

DC: No, I completely forget about that. I mean, I just don’t worry about that at all. In many ways you can paralyse yourself as a filmmaker worrying about what people’s expectations are and what they expect from you. I loved working with Viggo so I was very eager to work with him again, that was a positive. And the fact that it was another mobster movie was totally by circumstance. There were quite a few other possible film projects that kept floating by and I might well have done one of them if they had come together for various reasons and then we would be talking about that instead. So I wasn’t really worried about A History of Violence.

If I felt that I was doing the same thing over again then yes that would be boring but creatively this was so different when you think of it. History is all about America, all the characters are American, its small town and rural America. A lot of it takes place in the sunshine. This is a big city; it’s all Eastern Europeans, no Americans in the whole movie, more like a film noir because it’s night in the city, so creatively completely different. And for Viggo too, I mean imagine the character, it’s completely different.

So do you think it’s just because it’s you directing and him starring that people are talking about them as companion pieces?

DC: I can see analytically that there are comparisons to be made and quite nice ones. They would probably make a really interesting double bill. But creatively thinking about History of Violence wouldn’t have helped, it’s just so different visually and in every other way – even the soundtrack and the accents are completely different. It’s quite legitimate to compare them but not part of the creative process for us when making the movie.

Another way that the films seem similar is in terms of the reality of the fight scenes.

DC: Well that’s interesting. I was going to ask you a question about that but I won’t.

You can if you want!

DC: Well no I was just thinking, because if it’s something like the Bourne movies, they take a different approach to violence. It’s far more impressionistic, the cutting is very quick, you don’t really see what’s going on and the body count is much higher in those movies but the emotional impact is much less because you don’t have any investment in those characters usually. So it’s not really a question.

David Cronenberg

That’s fine! So what are you up to next?

DC: I’m doing an opera of the Fly.

Where is that going to be?

DC: It’s going to premiere in Paris in July ’08 and then it will go to LA for the LA Company as it’s a co-production.

And how is that going?

DC: It’s going well, I mean I spent five days in Paris just a couple of weeks ago, for the first time directing singers and that was very interesting – asking them sort of naive questions like can you sing while you are hanging upside down? Because I don’t know! But it’s been interesting.

And film-wise, do you think you’ll ever return to the horror genre?

DC: It’s quite possible I’ve never ruled that out. ExistenZ was only three movies ago. It’s just a question of something that is really striking and unique and challenging. I wouldn’t rule it out at all.

The Times bfi 51st London Film Festival - RT Highlights
LondonWelcome to the Times bfi 51st London Film Festival, the capital’s annual event celebrating the best in cinema from around the globe. Running this year from 17th October to the 1st November, the festival will play host to many local, national and international films, premieres, actors and directors.

Unlike the hyper-competative and sales-led environments of Cannes and Sundance, the London Film Festival is an altogether simpler affair, inviting members of the public to sample the films on offer. And the festival’s timing puts it in the perfect position to pick early Oscar hopefuls; many of the films in the programme are already generating early buzz and for most in the UK it’ll be the first and only chance to see them before the end of the year.

So it’s with that in mind that RT-UK editor Joe Utichi and film critic Paul Anderson have been hitting the festival to cherry pick the twenty films from the festival you’re likely to be hearing a lot about in the coming months.

Click on the films below to find out more, or click here to browse through the feature from the beginning.The Assassination of Jesse James, The Darjeeling Limited, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eastern Promises
Enchanted, Funny Games, Grace is Gone, I'm Not There
In the Shadow of the Moon, Into the Wild, Juno, Lions for Lambs
Lust, Caution, Planet Terror, The Savages, Sicko
Son of Rambow, Surprise Movie, Talk to Me, Things we Lost in the Fire

The Times bfi 51st London Film Festival - RT Highlights
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

It’s a long title, long film, long coats and a long time getting to the screen. There’s a lot of long going on here. It took two years to score a release once it was done, so what’s wrong with it? Well, er, nothing.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Brad Pitt‘s labour of love, is slow; very slow. Slow and long. But good westerns should be. The best western is as much about the pace and the look as it is about anything, and this looks amazing. There are sumptuous shots of prairies and sepia tinted men in hats and (long) coats saying a lot without speaking much. The film feels poetic and meditative, like you could be doing yoga while it’s on.

Yes it is Pitt’s movie but the star is Casey Affleck as the titular coward. Robert Ford always wanted to be in the James Gang, he idolised Jesse, wanted to be him, dag nabit he probably fancied him. The poster boy of the 1880’s, so myth would tell us, was a Robin Hood figure and American icon, but Jesse James was a vicious killer and this film doesn’t shy away from that, the source being a fictional version of the story by Ron Hansen.

There aren’t many gunfights as such and those that do happen flash up are brutal and over with quickly, as one suspects they probably were at the time. The parallel with Pitt’s own celebrity is interesting, this is a film as much about fame and idolisation and in the end Robert Ford thought he was doing society a favour by shooting James in the back.

Andrew Dominik is the Australian director of Chopper and in what is only his second film, rivals John Hillcoat’s The Proposition in handling the Wild West with great skill, giving the story time to breathe. Pitt stalks around brooding dark violence and menace while Affleck’s Ford is baby faced, naïve and eager to please. It is evident on this example at least that Affleck is destined to outshine brother Ben in front of the camera.

Take a cushion, you’re in for a fair stretch, but it is worth every ass-numbing minute. Gorgeous to witness, with some modern day resonance, an interesting story and subtle yet lightening performances. Paul Anderson

The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson makes a welcome return to intimately quirkily comedy after the outrageously quirky comedy The Life Aquatic. Or, Wes Anderson makes another one of those quirky comedy things. It largely depends on your point of view.

The Darjeeling Limited tells the tale of three brothers and their pilgrimage across India in search of their mother who abandoned them years prior. Former Anderson collaborators Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson join Adrien Brody as the three brothers exploring India aboard the titular train, along the way learning more about each other than they’d ever learnt before.

Like many of Anderson’s characters, not one of the brothers has much in the way of redeeming qualities, and like many of Anderson’s locations, India is presented as a country of bright colours and strange inhabitants. Indeed, it’s safe to say that if you’re a Wes Anderson fan you can’t go wrong with this film; it’s pretty-much more of the same. For anyone not so enamoured of Anderson, that’ll be a big problem as this certainly won’t be the film to change that.

In the mid to late nineties, Anderson championed the quirky American indie, but as box-office receipts and film-school grads have multiplied, so the quirky American indie is fast enveloping the entire American indie landscape, and whether Anderson’s particular brand of quirk has any originality left at this point is a big topic for debate.

Schwartzman, Wilson and Brody do fine jobs in their roles, and the film’s opener – a fifteen minute segment entitled Hotel Chevalier and co-starring Natalie Portman – makes the project worth checking out on its own. For cineastes, it’s a well-realised portrait of love and lust while Portman fans can admire the lack of clothing on display.

But Hotel Chevalier is available for free on iTunes in the US, and at this point it’s worth wondering if more of the same from Anderson in the film proper really justifies the cost of admission. Joe Utichi

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Julian Schnabel is an artist in the truest sense; he makes art. He attracts like-minded individuals; Johnny Depp is not so much an admirer more a kindred spirit. Transforming a heart-breaking story into an entertaining film needed an artist’s hand and eye and luckily this film got it.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly takes its name from the deeply moving book from Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle magazine in France, who, at the age of 43, suffered a huge stroke that should have killed him but instead left him paralysed save for the ability to blink one eye. His brain was fine, he could understand, but he couldn’t speak. His condition was diagnosed as ‘locked in syndrome’.

The film begins as Bauby’s eyes open after a two-week coma, and for the opening segment the camera becomes his only working eye. Eventually we get to see the twisted, dribbling mouth of the wheelchair bound victim and Schnabel cleverly takes us on a comparison journey, in home movie style, with the ruggedly good looking Parisian Bauby living and loving life.

Beautiful women surround him; Celine, the mother of his three children, (Emmanuelle Seigner), to whom he is still cruel, is a saint. His speech therapist Henriette (Marie-Josee Croze) and the woman charged with dictating the book, Claude (Anne Consigny), are now beyond his once effortless seductive powers.

The narrative unfolds as an internal monologue from Matthew Amalric‘s Bauby, complete with snide remarks at the surgeon and a preoccupation with his nurse’s cleavage. His only releases are his flights of fancy; his imagination is not locked in and consequently he dines where he likes, seduces women, and travels wherever he wants, all the time cursing for being too selfish and unkind to his children.

Henriette and Claude could lend Job some patience, as the alphabet communication system is spelt out over and over until the correct letter, then word is reached. The most moving scenes are with Bauby’s father Papinou (Max Von Sydow) shown both in flashback and in an agonising post-stroke phone call, where a housebound elderly father likens his son’s situation to his own.

The book is a deeply moving, affecting and very funny masterpiece and Schnabel has replicated Bauby’s imagined world superbly to visually stunning effect. Flawless performances deserve a wide audience and make The Diving Bell and the Butterfly one of the Festival highlights. PA

Eastern Promises

A companion-piece to the excellent A History of Violence, David Cronenberg has enlisted the help of Viggo Mortensen again and directed a script from Steve Knight who brought us the story of the London people you see but ignore, Dirty Pretty Things. And he nearly gets away with it.

Mortensen is a Russian driver for an Eastern European gangland family and is tattooed to the max. A teenage girl dies while giving birth and Naomi Watts, a midwife, is so shaken by this she decides to find out more about her. This leads to a discovery of a diary, which in turn leads her to Mortensen. And do you know what? She really shouldn’t go there.

Vincent Cassel plays Mortensen’s tighter-than-tight buddy and in usual Cassel style can make you feel the need to change your underwear with just one look. This is an extremely violent film and although not a horror picture in Cronenberg’s usual sense, some scenes are certainly horrific.

Mortensen is brilliant (Aragorn… who knew?), and Watts her usual high standard, while Cassel is just nuts.

Unlike Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises doesn’t capture the underbelly of the unseen so well. The homoeroticism is overplayed (why does Mortensen need to be naked to get a tattoo on the shoulder?) and there is no tangible sense of being an outsider looking into a closed world through the crack in the door, which would have made a half-decent thriller into a tense and buttock-clenching one.

Is this the end of horror for Cronenberg? Unlikely, but Eastern Promises is a disappointing follow-up to A History of Violence. Come on Dave, bring on the gore. PA

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Enchanted

Disney’s first attempt at hand-drawn animation in years, Enchanted, is perhaps one of this year’s family film highlights.

The tale of a tried and true Disney Princess, Gisele (Amy Adams), who finds her Prince Charming (James Marsden) before being sent to a faraway land by an evil stepmother (Susan Sarandon), is primarily live-action, book-ended by 20 minutes of hand-drawn Disney.

The faraway land in question is New York City, and so we open with an animated Gisele singing, dancing, and generally sickeningly happy as she engages a gaggle of woodland animals in some spring-cleaning. When she’s later sent down a well and into New York City we see her struggling with her surroundings and generally having trouble living a Disney life in a cold, harsh real world.

Fortunately, the film’s ultimate message, that real life isn’t a Disney cartoon, is unlikely to play to its young target audience, but it’s the biggest gag for parents and allows the whole family to enjoy the comedy and adventure without resorting to cheap and cheerful Dreamworks-esque innuendo.

Marsden is every inch the Prince Charming and Adams, while clearly not as beautiful as most outrageously sexy Disney princesses, moves with so many obvious Disney flairs that it’s a wonder they didn’t animate the whole thing and have her mime the animations.

The joke wears thin towards the end, and the film threatens to undermine years of classic animation from Disney of old, but when it works it really works, and it’s a joy to behold. It’s also worth a trip just for some hand-drawn animation, though on that score a CGI squirrel during the New York sequences rather ironically ends up stealing the show. JU

Funny Games

Funny Games is Michael Haneke‘s shot-for-shot remake of his German version for an American audience. It was just as nasty with subtitles.

A wealthy couple take peachy son and cuddly dog to summer home for a well-earned break. While dad and son sort out the sailing boat, that nice polite boy staying with friends’ next door pops round for some eggs. D’oh, he smashes them, asks for more and smashes those too. Hang on why is he wearing gloves?

So begins a descent into torture, bondage, humiliation, violence, blood and audience culpability. Yes, as an audience member one feels complicit and voyeuristic, as the so-called games are unveiled. Haneke wants to evoke this feeling; he wants the troubled youth and aggressive society in which they inhabit to be all your fault.

Funny Games is a deeply unlikeable film, but there is no criticism implicit in that, it is meant to be unlikeable. No one cries better on screen than Naomi Watts and as ever she is willing to visit the land of raw for her art and as usual does it brilliantly. Tim Roth as the husband is a bit-part once he gets clobbered with a golf club and it is Michael Pitt who steals the show as the creepily polite psychopath accomplice to Brady Corbet‘s egg-smasher. It was ever thus with cinema psychos that the more ‘normal’ they seem the more sinister they really are.

The nods and winks to the camera are a touch irritating as is the rewind bit in the middle but if you’ve seen the original you’ll be expecting all that. Funny Games is an uncomfortable, disturbing film perfect for festivals. PA

Grace is Gone

Lonesome Jim writer James C. Strouse marks his directorial debut with Grace is Gone, a moving portrait of a man struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife in Iraq and his role as a single parent to two young girls.

What’s most remarkable about the film is that it doesn’t attempt to politicise its story at all. As John Cusack‘s Stanley Philipps opens the film, leading his team at an out-of-town shopping complex in a chant about how the customer is always right, we instantly connect with him, and as he learns of his wife’s fate a couple of scenes later we’re already invested in his life. So when his brother, unaware of Grace’s passing, later attempts to chastise Stanley for his position on the war he’s quickly silenced. It’s a film about family conflict, not political conflict, and it’s all the stronger for it.

The film takes a journey with Stanley as he abandons his commitments, pulls his kids out of school and takes them on a road trip with the sole purpose of keeping the news of their mother’s death from them. It becomes an albatross that hangs over Stanley, but it’s just as much an enabler, for on the journey he gets to grips with his role as a parent and his relationship with his kids.

Cusack has never been better, his nack for engaging an audience more essential here than ever due to some of the more dubious decisions Stanley makes along the way, and Strouse directs with much-needed reserve, never allowing the film to get in the way of Stanley’s story. JU

I'm Not There

Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes‘ film about a seventies glam rock idol, split filmgoers down the middle. You either get it and it’s a masterpiece or you think there was nothing glamorous about the seventies and all bands look like bricklayers in make up. This time round Haynes is lucky, Bob Dylan already polarises people.

Haynes has taken six moments in Dylan’s life in I’m Not There, married them to what he believes is the musician’s personality at the time, and cast six different actors to play him, including a woman and a black kid.

Littered throughout the piece are references to characters in Dylan songs and well-documented events throughout his life. None of the characters is called Bob Dylan however. Ben Whishaw is Arthur Rimbaud, reflecting the singer’s love for the poet, Heath Ledger plays him as an actor troubled by his success and disappearing from view; Richard Gere, whose sequence is the weakest in the film, is Billy The Kid, a nod to Dylan’s appearance in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, and Marcus Carl Franklin is supposedly a black 12 year-old Woody Guthrie, a youth out of time. The stand-out performance and the one that takes up most screen time is Cate Blanchett‘s as Jude, a singer at the height of fame struggling with the constant barrage of questions about the meaning of the songs and the singer’s authenticity. To her credit, five minutes in you forget she’s a woman.

Ambitious and inspired, it’s a little long and full of too many Dylan in-jokes and references. It won’t change your mind either way about Dylan but it might encourage other filmmakers to try future biopics in this way. PA

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In the Shadow of the Moon

Theory: There’s nothing more exciting than listening to the former astronauts for the Apollo missions tell their tales of visiting the lunar surface. Except perhaps being one of them. Yes, David Sington‘s In the Shadow of the Moon is a little heavy on the America-the-Great, but it’s also one of the best documentaries of the year; a fascinating portrait of men so brave that most regular Joes couldn’t possible comprehend their journey.

And, to its credit, it allows them to get on with it – there’s no narrator – we’re just shown fascinating footage from the moon’s surface, from the launch pad, from the shuttle, and in between these men tell us their story.

For the real space-junkies, there’s doubtless little in here to learn, but for the rest of us the film is full of fascinating factoids and, like the best movies set in space – fictional or not – it’ll leave you feeling smaller than the smallest needle in the biggest haystack. JU
Into the Wild

While most outside America will be unfamiliar with the name Christopher McCandless, the story of his abandonment of civilisation in favour of hiking across America on his way to Alaska is one we can probably all relate to. Who hasn’t thought about throwing off the shackles and experiencing nature in all its glory?

Of course most of us are either too scared or too sensible ever to attempt to do that and that’s perhaps why McCandless’ tale is so intoxicating; his journey is one we all wish we had the courage to take.

Sean Penn directs Emile Hirsch in this adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild, about McCandless, and while it runs a little long, at 140 minutes, in takes in some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable and keeps us gripped throughout as we join our young lead on his journey into either enlightenment or insanity.

Penn deifies McCandless a little too readily, encouraging us to make an idol out of him, and while most will happily do just that, it also makes it hard for us to engage with the film. Penn’s embrace of no-frills solitariness is flawed by the trailers, catering and crew we know to be behind single shot.

No, real credit must go to Hirsch, who goes out of his way to inhabit McCandless regardless of the creature comforts available to him off-screen, for it’s with him and him alone we must ultimately spend two hours of our time with. JU

Juno

Jason Reitman‘s debut feature, Thank You For Smoking, coming, as it did, in the same year as his father Ivan’s My Super Ex Girlfriend, was a brilliantly biting satire about the tobacco industry and suggested that perhaps dad’s talent had been well and truly passed on.

His second, Juno, continues his trend for witty comedy, casting Ellen Page as a high-school girl whose desire to lose her virginity leads to an unfortunate bout of pregnancy. She meets Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner through an ad in the Penny Saver and agrees to adopt the infant their way. But nine months is a long time, and pregnancy seems sure to bring with it a whole heap of inconvenience.

Page is brilliant as Juno, and a cast of recognisable supporting players back her up with aplomb. It’s definitely full of quirk – it’s an American indie after all – but, like Thank You For Smoking, there’s something real at the film’s heart and we’re encouraged to believe the quirk rather than let it wash over us. JU

Lions for Lambs

The most high profile of the recent glut of war themed releases – due mainly to its stellar cast – Lions For Lambs gets its title from an alleged quote from a World War One German General who said of the British troops, “never before have I seen such lions led by such lambs”. Apocryphal or not the debate over right against might is real enough.

There are three layers to the film. The first is a moral, ethical, hypothetical discourse with Robert Redford as a scarily convincing looking college Professor and Andrew Garfield as the owner of a fine mind behind a surfer exterior; the second is a political and strategic debate with media and PR consequences featuring an electrifying face off between Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. Thirdly is the actuality of the troops in a war zone.

The performances are flawless with Cruise on his best smarmy bastard form as the ambitious senator and cheerleader for the masters of war trading blows with Streep’s journalist, over a new plan for the war in Afghanistan. Streep pleads mea culpa over the media’s acquiescence during the first Iraq/Afghan surge, but is less compliant this time even in the face of an exclusive story. Redford and Garfield debate whether seriously smart people should ‘do something’ with specific reference to two soldiers, Redford’s ex pupils, from neighbourhoods ignored by Uncle Sam who worked hard for their college grades then enlisted to make a real change.

And yes it is those same soldiers we see in the war zone, injured and low on ammo. Lions for Lambs is a one eyed view on the futility of the war on terror. Redford’s politics are all over it despite his best efforts at balance with Cruise’s hawk view. Nothing happens in the film in terms of action bar a few exchanges from the pinned down troops; it’s all about the dialogue and its evident that this is what Redford wants to achieve. When you leave the cinema and go to the pub he wants you to engage and discuss the politics of a war that few in the US want anymore.

There are many Vietnam references and lots of questions needing answers and decisions to be made as a consequence. What do you want to do? Do you want to end the war on terror? Do you think you should act/protest/enlist/run for the Senate? America’s liberal, artsy intelligentsia is pricking consciences but does anyone or should anyone outside the US care? PA

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Lust, Caution

Ang Lee‘s startling ability to jump between projects as diverse as Hulk, Crouching Tiger and Brokeback Mountain is almost as exciting to behold as every new film from the director is.

Lust, Caution is no exception; it’s a thrilling, breathtaking, dramatic, devastating and enrapturing film about a young girl who goes undercover in World War II-era Shanghai in an attempt to woo and then assassinate a key political figure.

Based on an Eileen Chang story, Tony Leung is Mr. Yee, a seemingly untouchable man whose heart is won by Tang Wei‘s Wang Jiazhi. And while Leung is outstanding, it’s Tang Wei, in her first role, who really steals the show, delivering a nuanced and emotional performance as a girl torn apart by politics and her heart, two elements that rarely see eye-to-eye.

Key sexual moments between Yee and Wang are shot explicitly, though never exploitatively, and it’s interesting to note that the film will be released as an NC-17 in the US. The rating is commercial suicide, but the film simply wouldn’t have the power it has without the sex scenes so it helps that it’s penned by the exec in charge of the studio, long time Lee collaborator James Schamus.

Breaking box-office records in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Lust, Caution deserves to have the same cross-over effect as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and here’s hoping this is the NC-17 film that breaks down the confines of the curious American ratings system. JU

Planet Terror

Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first; Machete is the only fake trailer attached to the theatrical standalone print of Planet Terror. It makes sense that it’s Robert Rodriguez‘ trailer that made the cut, but for those of us outside the United States for whom the idea of pirating the camcorder jobs done on Grindhouse doesn’t sit right, it’s a crying shame. We’re missing out on Edgar Wright’s brilliant Don’t, Eli Roth’s inspired Thanksgiving, and Rob Zombie’s brilliantly-titled Werewolf Women of the S.S. You can sit all the way through the credits; you’ll be wasting your time.

Honestly, the idea of experiencing the whole, balls-to-the-wall grindhouse experience was the biggest disappointment facing fans outside North America, but the Weinsteins’ needs must, and their decision to split the flicks could have been forgiven had the full experience, at the very least, survived two ticket prices. We got some extra time with Death Proof, but the Planet Terror that’s hitting cinemas is the same cut premièred as part of Grindhouse, providing ample opportunity to queue up all the fake trailers within it. As it is most theatregoers outside of the US will, in fact, be missing that full experience at the very least until the DVD arrival of Planet Terror. So why bother?

Well, for starters, perspective is important. As much as the brothers Weinstein plan to reap the rewards that come from double-dipping the Grindhouse experience internationally, we are still getting two films from a pair of the most creative film-makers on the planet. Death Proof is unadulterated Tarantino, and Planet Terror is the funniest zombie movie since Shaun and the goriest since 28 Days.

The films exist in something of a shared universe. For those who’ve seen Death Proof first, nods to Jungle Julia’s fate and an expansion of that somewhat cryptic Dr. Block/Earl McGraw scene will bond the two films even if they’re covered by separate admissions, and the fake film grime and dodgy projection effects cross both features.

Multi-hyphenate Rodriguez creates a stunning world in which he unleashes his zombie plague, draws delicious characters straight out of seventies B-movies, and lets his actors run wild with them. Freddy Rodriguez Rose McGowan shine, but with the remaining cast performing so brilliantly around them it’s the ensemble that sells it. JU

The Savages

It’s a tricky thing, the what-to-do-with-the-old-folks-when-they-start-to-lose-it movie. Filmmakers are always battling with the question of balance between dark humour and pathos, not forgetting to allow just enough dignity to prick everybody’s conscience about dealing with the elderly. One of the better more recent attempts was Away From Her based on the short story by Alice Munro with Julie Christie as an Alzheimer’s victim. The Savages nails the balance beautifully.

Directing her own script, Tamara Jenkins has landed two of cinema’s best in the lead roles. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are John and Wendy Savage, siblings suddenly thrown together after years of non-communication, to take care of their father who is rapidly descending into dementia. John is writing a book on Brecht, he is also about to end a long-term relationship and Wendy is a penniless playwright in an unfulfilling relationship with a married man.

So they’re pretty uptight people, right? What plays out is a beautifully told story of responsibility, guilt, communication and selfishness with a heavy dose of realism. Philip Bosco is dad Lenny, a heady mix of deaf, cantankerous and incontinent, who beat his kids when mum left and wasn’t as bothered about caring for them as they are about him now.

Hoffman plays the pragmatist, managing the situation with the adroitness of a nursing home administrator. Linney’s Wendy is more emotional and tries to get dad into a beautifully landscaped home but sadly dad fails the test, so she buys a lava lamp for his room. What is prevalent throughout is the brilliant comedic touch in Jenkins’s script, which allows some hilarious bickering between Hoffman and Linney, especially when he puts his neck out playing tennis.

To its credit The Savages doesn’t bash you over the head with its message about being good to the old folks. Some people get ill and old, Lenny cuts a pathetic and pitiful character, but we all die and luckily the script is funny and nuanced enough, while being executed brilliantly by the leads, not to make it maudlin. PA

Sicko

Michael Moore is back with a new documentary about the healthcare system in America and its ill-treatment of patients who are paying through the nose for medical cover.

Sicko presents a compelling case against HMOs, but as with most of Moore’s work it is more than obvious that while the facts are indisputable there are plenty more he’s chosen to ignore. For this British critic, his portrayal of the socialised system of our NHS made that abundantly clear. Yes, as Moore shows us, we don’t pay for our hospital visits, and the cashier in hospitals gives us money for transport home after an operation, and our doctors are, indeed, incentivised to offer the best care to their patients.

But Moore neglects to ask how long we need to wait for a hospital bed in many cases. Or if people ever get sick because the hospitals they’re staying in aren’t clean enough. This is where our NHS fails, but because it doesn’t support Moore’s case it’s simply not mentioned.

That the treatment of patients in America is shockingly inhuman in many cases is obvious, and Moore uncovers a huge number and variety of horror stories about it. Like much of his work, though, while the film will inspire plenty of discussion through its accessibility, the discussion about Moore himself will outweigh that of the subject he examines. JU

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Son of Rambow

You can tell that Son of Rambow came from a pair of creative types. There’s something about the notion of a couple of friends getting together after school with a video camera and a vague memory of cool things they’d seen in movies and putting together their own tribute that just screams creativity and one wonders how much of the film came from Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings‘ own experiences as kids.

When his parents strict religious beliefs force him out of a Geography lesson and into the hallway, Will meets troublemaker Carter and strikes up an unlikely friendship. Carter teaches Will a little of his streetwise attitude and, when he’s shown First Blood, Will convinces himself he’s Rambo’s son and shows Carter a sketchbook full of colourful illustrations which tell a slightly odd but rather wonderful story.

The pair set out to make a sequel in which Will, as the Son of Rambow, attempts to rescue his dad and save the world. Along the way they pick up some collaborators, but when tensions fray on set their friendship, Carter’s relationship with his brother, and Will’s relationship with the church are all called into question.

Best known for producing and directing Hitchhiker’s Guide as well as any number of the nineties greatest music videos as Hammer and Tongs, Goldsmith and Jennings bring their creative flair to an independent level with this heart-warming coming-of-age story that’s been gathering momentum since its debut at this year’s Sundance.

But what’s most important is that Son of Rambow is so much more than its basic premise. Those of us who grew up with grand designs to make the next Indiana Jones will identify with Will and Carter, but all can identify with the film’s grander themes. Lead brilliantly by its two confident young leads, Son of Rambow may well be the best British movie of the year. JU

Surprise Movie: No Country for Old Men

The last few years haven’t been kind to the Brothers Coen. Indeed, you have to go back to 2001 – past The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty – to get back onto comfortable ground when it comes to their work, and considering these are the guys who brought the world Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski, that’s a crying shame. Fortunately with this year’s offering, which played as the surprise movie at the LFF, the Coens have gone back to those roots and have delivered a film worthy of the standards they’ve previously set. No Country for Old Men is classic Coen, both sumptuously involving and wickedly funny.

Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy, the Coens have brought their unique sensibilities to bear on a tale of a drug deal gone wrong and the $2 million in cash found at the scene by a hunter living a modest life in Texas. His name is Llewellyn Moss and he’s smart enough to know that someone will be coming for the loot. But it soon becomes obvious you can’t prepare for Chigurh, an assassin with a flair for creative execution and an enthusiasm for high body counts.

On the trail, too, is an aging Sheriff called Bell who’s convinced the world has changed on him a little too much as he jumps from crime scene to crime scene hoping to track Moss down before Chigurh has a chance.

Full of just the right mix of drama, action and comedy, this is the sort of movie that’ll have you engrossed until its final moments. And if it does get a little bogged down in Texan philosophizing in those final moments, they do nothing to touch what’s come before. JU

Talk to Me

It’s easy to forget in this multimedia, mass media, and global communications world just how important radio used to be at times of major unrest or trauma. The 1960s was a turbulent decade of change and 1968 in particular was the most incredible year. Martin Luther King was assassinated, so too Bobby Kennedy and, in Washington DC at least, there was a man who gave hope to those with a sense of hopelessness following those two tragedies. Talk to Me is his story.

Ralph ‘Petey’ Green was an ex con, raised by his maternal Grandmother, who learned to DJ in jail playing records his Grandma sent him. Between songs he would speak the felon’s point of view. A recovering junkie and alcoholic he spoke the same language and had been to the same places. Released early thanks to a deal he cut with the warden, he bullied his way into a job at Washington radio station WOL, whose head of programming, Dewey Hughes, was the brother of a fellow inmate. Don Cheadle plays Green and Chiwetel Ejiofor is Hughes.

The film plays out as a ‘what Petey did next’ to a glorious soundtrack of soul and funk music over two decades. Cheadle plays Petey with such exuberance, even when showing his many flaws, that all thoughts of ‘that accent’ in Ocean’s are banished forever. This guy was bling way before bling existed. Green set up volunteer programmes all over the city and encouraged poor kids from the projects to get educated and avoid the path leading to incarceration. Can you imagine Wogan having the same effect? TV snapped him up and he became a big star and eventually quit drinking.

he performances of the two leads are what save the film from becoming a plodding catalogue of Petey adventures. Ejiofor plays the black man working in the white man’s world brilliantly; the initial exchanges between him and Cheadle when Petey derides him by calling him Mr Tibbs are lightning. Hughes went out on a limb for Green and the two became firm and lifelong friends.

The studio boss is Martin Sheen; comically corporate and at first exasperated by Hughes’s decision to employ Green. But it soon becomes apparent to everyone that Green has a connection to the street and the listeners the station wants to reach, through his own experiences and his articulation of the civil rights issues and the plight of the Afro-American; evidenced by his heartfelt announcement of the shooting of Dr King, equal parts sad and angry. Suddenly the voice of the street was being heard by ‘The Man’.

Green had bucket loads of self-belief which the film overall lacks. Take the lead performances away and Talk to Me doesn’t go anywhere, which is a shame because the story deserves better. PA

Things we Lost in the Fire

Are there any better ‘lived in’ faces than Benicio Del Toro‘s? If he saw you at the bus stop and introduced himself as a recovering heroin addict you’d believe him right? Conversely Halle Berry is too beautiful, that smile, those cheekbones, that skin! Luckily they got cast in the right roles, then.

Berry and David Duchovny are prosperous and sexy and utterly devoted to each other and their two kids. Then he gets shot and killed trying to help a woman being attacked and suddenly lives are shattered and the people involved are ill equipped to pick up the pieces. Del Toro plays Jerry, he and Duchovny’s Brian have been best friends forever. He’s a failed lawyer and junkie going to his addict meetings and working as a janitor. Berry turns to him after the shooting to help her get her life back on track. She asks him to come live in the garage, converted after the fire of the title, so they can lean on each other and patch up their lives. This works up to a point but their relationship is strained as Del Toro gets on with the kids really well, knows some of their secrets (because their dad told him), and fulfils some of the role that Duchovny hadn’t a chance to. Berry’s character Audrey is in denial and not coping with her loss.

It is a gently humorous film with a brilliantly convincing performance from Del Toro, especially during cold turkey after a relapse into the old ways. Berry is tearful and luminous but it seems as if it’s nothing more than just a job, emotionally there is no depth. Yes there is a lot of sad, and a drizzle of schmaltz and a surprising amount of emotional intimacy; Bier handles the pace, relationships and chemistry with the actors with expert ease. The kids are really cute too.

Overall it’s unclear what Things We Lost in the Fire is trying to say. Life goes on? We all suffer loss and face traumatic events and sharing is good? Whatever the message, it would be ignored without Del Toro’s mighty performance. PA

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