Chronicling nearly a decade's worth of investigations and an endless amount of headaches on the part of CIA operatives Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty burns slowly through America's turbulent search for Osama bin Laden. Where Hurt Locker brewed tension from red-or-blue-wire bomb scenarios and military action the Oscar winner's follow-up finds it in a maelstrom of intel the temperamental conditions of the Middle East and the bureaucracy of back home.
Jessica Chastain's Maya goes from bright newcomer to the obsessed soldier of justice giving Javert a run for his money in pursuit of a criminal in one's crosshairs. When Seal Team Six finally receives their infamous assignment Bigelow and writer Mark Boal continue to ask questions — imperative in a film that speaks to one of U.S.'s murkiest zeitgeists.
Maya is first introduced dressed up in a clean well-fitting suit preparing to witness her very first interrogation. The scene escalates quickly with her coworker Dan (Jason Clarke) employing the waterboarding technique against the close-lipped detainee Ammar (Reda Kateb A Prophet).
Zero Dark Thirty has come under fire for its portrayal of torture but nothing in Bigelow's film comes close to condoning the process. Instead the film focuses in on the ramifications. Months of pressure eventually breaks Ammar — and his interrogator. A distraught Dan heads back to Washington leaving Maya even more committed to chasing leads and finding bin Laden on her own.
The careful orchestration of details — names locations dates and any other shred of evidence that could lead Maya and her team to bin Laden — turns Zero Dark Thirty into a thriller by way of a New Yorker essay. Boal finds emotion in cut and dry information; Chastain's determination ferocity and at times exhaustion speak volumes — even when the dialogue is laying down facts.
Bigelow surrounds her with an inspired cast: Kyle Chandler as the dapper politico chief Jennifer Ehle as a intelligence officer who draws out Maya's last few drops of friendship and Mark Strong as a ball-buster who loses his stance above the team as Maya pours herself entirely into the operation and asserts dominance.
Bigelow has an eye for action and the Seal Team Six infiltration that caps the film is expertly crafted thanks to tactical movements lit dimly and paced with Alexandre Desplat's rumbling score. But Bigelow also respects the personalities of soldiers.
They speak like people act like people and in moments of bloodshed (decisions made in morally grey zones) they respond and react like people.
Zero Dark Thirty is awe-inspiring for its ability to chronicle a long-gestating investigation but it's one of 2012's best because it digs deeper and examines both sides of the coin. No decision is made without consequences even the ones that feel so right in the moment.
The death of Osama bin Laden was a momentous occasion in the United States. As Chastain reveals with unflinching elegance pulling it off cost more than anyone could ever know.
Pictured: Jessica Chastain in Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty'
The nominations are out! The Golden Globes race is on and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their picks for the best movies, actors, and directors of the year Thursday morning. Naturally, many of the nominees can't keep their gratitude and joy to themselves.
Jessica Chastain, star of Zero Dark Thirty:
"Zero Dark Thirty is a film that I am extremely proud of and it's a tremendous honor to be recognized by the HFPA. I am so thankful for this nomination. I am elated to see our fearless producer Megan Ellison, our brilliant director Kathryn Bigelow, our wonderful screenwriter Mark Boal and this extraordinary film being honored today. I'm so proud and honored to play this exceptional woman."
Anne Hathaway, star of Les Miserables:
"What a great way to wake up! I couldn't be happier or more grateful for this news. Congratulations to Hugh and everyone who worked on Les Miz for their contribution to the best picture nomination!!!"
Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty:
"It’s an honor, sincerely, and very humbling to be singled out this way by the HFPA. We’re grateful, and encouraged by their support, especially since our film has such a diverse, international cast, and as the HFPA represent so many countries across the globe. And a big congratulations to the amazing Jessica Chastain and my producing partner and screenwriter Mark Boal."
Mark Andrews, writer/director Brave:
"The adventure of 'Brave' began in Scotland, where the mystery and majesty of the land fueled our imaginations. From haggis to highland games, creating this film truly changed our fate. On behalf of everyone at Pixar, we would like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for the incredible honor of this nomination."
Tim Burton, director of Frankenweenie:
"I'm thrilled to be recognized by the HFPA. Frankenweenie is a very personal project for me and the nomination goes as much to the animators who labored frame by frame to bring this film to life"
Mark Boal, writer/producer of Zero Dark Thirty:
"We’re very grateful to the HFPA. It means so much to us that press representatives from around the world have reacted with such praise. It’s especially flattering as we’ve seen the film from the beginning as a global story, one that involved and impacted much of the world. Congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow and Jessica Chastain on nominations much deserved.”
Lasse Helstrom, director of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen:
"I am happy as a clam! Many thanks to the HFPA for recognizing our film with these nominations. I loved making this movie, and I am so happy for Ewan and Emily, and on top of being outstanding actors, they are two of the funniest and nicest people in the business, in my mind!"
Alain Boublil, Lyricist from Les Miserables:
"I feel like a painter who has added a touch of red in the corner of a painting that had been created 30 years ago. Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer and I were able to add something to our work that we thought was finished. I would like to thank Tom Hooper, who suggested this new scene that allowed us to create this song and blend it into the colors of the Les Misérables score. I also would like to thank Hugh Jackman who was a blessing to write this song for. Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press!"
[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]
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Sometimes a director has a favorite actor that they jibe with whom they cast in a whole whack of movies in a row. Think Scorsese and DiCaprio Wes Anderson and Bill Murray or Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst. It's a sort of professional infatuation that can serve a project well but it can also lull them into self-indulgence. Although this is only the second time that Killing Them Softly's writer/director Andrew Dominik has worked with Brad Pitt it feels like they have a certain camaraderie. The symbiosis previously worked in their favor in 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This time around they never quite find the same rhythm.
Of course Killing Them Softly has an entirely difference cadence than that golden-hued meditative Western; it's stylishly violent and blackly hilarious. After all the catalyst for this whole affair is a half-cocked scheme cooked up by a wanna-be gangster nicknamed Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) and carried out by a desperate ex-con (Scoot McNairy) and a scummy Australian junkie (Ben Mendelsohn) who steals and sells purebred dogs for cash. Their plan to knock over a mobbed-up card game is air tight (or so it seems): the game runner Markie (Ray Liotta) has confessed to setting up a heist of his own game in the past. The knuckleheads think the card-players will blame him again.
Unfortunately for them Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is called in to investigate the matter. His record is impeccable his glasses mirror-slick and his hands steady. His technique is of course to kill his victims "softly " from a distance. "It's so embarrassing " he comments to a middleman played by Richard Jenkins to watch his targets plead and cry and lose control of their bodily functions. It's just as embarrassing to see his colleagues lose their mettle like Mickey (James Gandolfini) a gangster he called in to help out. Mickey is a dogged drunk and a womanizer who's given to rapturous platitudes about a prostitute he knew in Florida. "There's no ass in the whole world like a young Jewish girl who's hooking " he tells an increasingly frustrated Jackie. Grossly funny scenes like this the scatological problems one encounters while driving dog-napped pups across country and an explosion gone awry are outweighed by a weirdly bloated narrative that makes pits stops so characters can loll in junkie nods to the tunes of the Velvet Underground.
The changing political climate of the era is used as a clumsy foil for this underground economy. At first it's interesting and makes you feel a bit clever to notice the TV in the background playing an old clip of George W. Bush droning on about the economy or a huge political ad on a billboard looming over a desolate area. As time goes on Bush is replaced by Obama (first as senator later as president) on TV but nothing really changes for these people or their situations. Midway through it's obvious and by the end overbearing especially as Jackie lectures Jenkins's lawyer (and us) about why the system is as screwed as the characters. "America's not a country it's a business. Now f**king pay me " he tells Jenkins's Driver in an echo of the classic Goodfellas line uttered by Liotta.
Dominik has only made three films but he's a formidable writer and director with a keen eye for assembling ensemble casts. It's possible that time and multiple viewings will treat Killing Them Softly as well as it has The Assassination of Jesse James or Chopper but for now it works better as a character study or perhaps a showpiece for its talented performers than an overall experience.
Bradley Cooper is set to reunite with his Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell for an upcoming film called American Bulls--t.
Bulls--t is based on a red-hot script from The International writer Eric Warren Singer, and tells the true story of Abscam, the FBI's 1970s and '80s sting operation that led to the conviction of 11 Congressional officials on corruption charges.
Cooper — whose collaboration with Russell can be seen when Playbook hits theaters Nov. 21 — isn't the only big-name actor re-teaming with the controversial director: Christian Bale, whom Russell directed to Oscar gold in 2010's The Fighter, is already signed up for Bulls--t.
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Director Justin Lin is on the verge of bailing on his second film project in as many months. Mere weeks after exiting Summit's Highlander remake, the Fast Five director is pulling out of a planned fifth installment of the Terminator franchise, Deadline reports. Producer Megan Ellison and star Arnold Schwarzenegger intend to start shooting on the first of two Terminator films in the fourth quarter of 2012, a date that conflicts with Lin's schedule for Fast & Furious 6. Lin offered a caveat, however, indicating that he'd gladly return if Ellison and Schwarzenegger are willing to hold off until he's fulfilled his F&F commitments.
A 4Q 2012 start date sounds perhaps a bit unrealistic for Terminator 5, as Deadline reports that "hasn’t got a script and I don’t think she’s even hired a screenwriter yet. She also hasn’t set a studio partner, even though several are interested."
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I will remember Friday, May 13th 2011 for the rest of my life as the day that a rich girl stole the rights to one of Hollywood's most prized franchises from a major motion picture studio. Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison and brother of David Ellison (who shares her interest in showbiz and collaborated with her on True Grit), has emerged victorious in the battle for the film rights to The Terminator franchise, reports Deadline.
The news is a fourth-quarter shocker, as Lionsgate nearly sealed the deal before an eleventh-hour bid from Ellison became an offer that hedge-fund Pacificor (the company that took the rights to the series from Halcyon in 2010 after the less-than-stellar returns on 2009's Terminator Salvation) couldn't refuse. Details are still coming in, but the source claims that the final sale price could've hit $20 million, which is a bit less than the $29.5 million that Pacificor paid.
Business aside, this is a major victory for fans of the franchise. Though her pockets run DEEP, Ellison has invested mainly in prestige pictures that never guarantee a payback in the long run, including the Megan Fox-starrer Passion Play which went straight to DVD. The one exception thus far is Grit, which pulled in massive box office on a $38 million budget. Her upcoming slate represents the high standard of quality she demands of projects with her name attached, including John Hillcoat's The Wettest County in the World, Andrew Dominik's Cogan's Trade and Paul Thomas Anderson's untitled religious drama. So the fact that she's just invested in The Terminator means that the the series could finally return to the level of intellect and general awesomeness that the original film and its first sequel boasted.
The rights package was purchased with Justin Lin (Fast Five) and Arnold Schwarzenegger attached, and Ellison could very likely follow the rumored plan to finally bring the franchise to an agreeable close with two back-to-back films that would lead to a natural conclusion to the story of man vs. machine. No writer has been hired yet, and that upcoming decision will probably be a major factor in determining what we can expect from The Terminator in the coming years.
Remember when There Will Be Blood made a decent amount of money and scored a bunch of Oscar nominations, making you think that you wouldn't have to wait another five years for the next Paul Thomas Anderson movie? Well, Universal Pictures shot that plan to hell when it passed on the filmmaker's next effort, but persistence is key and the auteur decided The Master was going to get made one way or another. Now, he's finally got a deal to make the $35 million religious drama (which is now untitled) happen and his cast is already coming together.
Deadline reports that Harvey Weinstein purchased global rights to distribute the film, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix set to star. The story follows a man who returns home after witnessing the horrors of WWII and tries to rediscover who he is in post-war America. He creates a belief system which catches on with other lost souls, one of them being Phoenix's character. Early reports pegged the picture as a pseudo-exploration of the origins of a Scientology-like religious movement, a fact that gave Universal the jitters. The Weinstein's, however, have never shied away from controversy and decided to step in. The production is now eying a June start for a late 2012 release.
Aside from the fore mentioned male stars, Anderson is said to be looking at actresses including Madisen Beaty, Amy Adams, Laura Dern and Lena Endre for roles - any one of them would increase the prestige of the project tenfold, but my guess is that the young Beaty would play an earlier version of Adams' proposed character (though with Superman gearing up for its June shoot, I'm doubtful the Oscar-nominee would be able to commit to the picture). Megan Ellison, through her Annapurna Pictures company, is fully financing the risky indie, a job she's becoming more and more recognized for (she has saved a handful of independent features that couldn't find funds anywhere else, including John Hillcoat's The Wettest County In The World and Andrew Dominik's Cogan's Trade). Commercially, this film will either be a modest hit, like the majority of Anderson's films, or a massive failure. But one thing is certain: cinephiles have something excitingly shocking to look forward to next year. There's a reason it takes PTA as much as five years to make his movies; they are thoroughly thought-out and painstakingly executed. Every shot will be poetic and every line of dialogue will be a masterpiece. Hello, 2013 Oscars...