Interview with CRISIS film’s writer/director Nicholas Jarecki

Hello all! Welcome to another interview edition featuring the award-winning writer/director of the critically acclaimed Arbitrage Nicholas Jarecki. His sophomore film CRISIS has just been released in select theaters and VOD. Check out my review of the film if you haven’t already. It stars Gary Oldman, Greg Kinnear, Evangeline Lilly, Armie Hammer, Luke Evans and Michelle Rodriguez.

Crisis_poster

Synopsis: A drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation. An architect recovering from an oxycodone addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s disappearance. A university professor battles unexpected revelations about his employer, a pharmaceutical company bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.

Set against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic, their stories collide in this dramatic thriller from writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.

In his acclaimed feature debut, Arbitrage (starring Richard Gere, which I gave a high rating in my review), the NYU graduate Jarecki set a suspense-thriller about love and loyalty against a backdrop of fraud and murder in the world of high finance. With Crisis, the writer-director now turns his attention to the opioid epidemic.

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I had the pleasure of chatting with Nicholas (Nick) Jarecki over Zoom to talk about his film, from the process of making CRISIS, casting, acting in his own film, and the personal crisis of Armie Hammer and how it affected his film’s release. Read on:

Q: Why did it take you so long from making Arbitrage (released in 2012) to this one? It’s almost a decade long.

A: Yeah, it was two years ago now. Because of the pandemic. We had to wait to bring it out. Yeah. I suppose, you know, making these films, these kinds of serious drama type films that ask questions, provocative questions, there isn’t as much support for that as you might expect.

But you know, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. So you’ve got to get it done. But it just requires a lot of tenacity.

Q: I learned that you had lost some people who are important to you, to this epidemic, to this opioid crisis. So is that the driving factor for you to make this, or was there any other inspiration for you to make this film?

A: Well, you know, I mean, look, you always want to make a good film that’s entertaining. First and foremost, it’s my job to entertain you. Write me your seven dollars and you want to have a good time to see something interesting, most dramatically interesting. But you know, what I would say is with this film, I had lost a friend many years ago to opioid abuse, gotten into pain pills and then went to heroin.

And we didn’t understand anything because he was such a nice, bright young man. Good family and all that. So I filed it away in the back of my mind. And then about five years ago, I think there were some reporters from the Los Angeles Times I teamed up with. And and they started to look into the role of opioid manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies in this issue.

What did they know or what didn’t they know? You know, was the product perhaps more dangerous? People had been led to believe, because now you see we’ve had this terrible epidemic in the country. You have these regular, normal people who are getting addicted in record numbers, hundreds of thousands dead. You know, they took a pain pill that was prescribed to them. But the way their body reacted, the way they developed independence, those are things I thought that was worth exploring.

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Q: The way these big pharmaceutical companies were being portrayed in the film, it’s as if there’s so much at stake in terms of profit that they even didn’t care when they’re told their product were not ready to hit market. All they cared about was the bottom line. Is that based on your research?

A: I mean, I think we wanted to look at that. You know, this film is very based on real events, real and very heavily-researched. So that is how drugs are developed and tested on mice. And, you know, it’s a fascinating world. And obviously, you know, I don’t think anyone set out to make a harmful product. So that’s not the issue here. The issue is, you know, were these pills overprescribed? Were they over-marketed? Were questions about their safety ignored? And so I wanted to put that into a thriller context, really see what Gary Oldman’s [character] eventually did, Armie Hammer’s and the rest of the great supporting cast… Michelle Rodriguez, you know, all these people. How do these drugs interact with our society? And, you know, looking at it from these different perspectives of the user, the criminal criminal smuggler, and the manufacturer inside.

Q: So it was originally called Dreamland, is that correct? And then it was re titled to to Crisis. What was the significance of that first title?

A: It was a working title. There was another film called Dreamland, so we couldn’t use that one. But, you know, we don’t want it to be confusing. But I might I just kind of like the idea that, you know, we were all sort of living in a fantasy. I think that’s a very American thing. I actually like that title, but I do love CRISIS. I think it’s very strong. And I like these one word titles like. I believe there hasn’t been a film with that same title since Cary Grant’s crime thriller in 1950.

Q: Now, in terms of timeline… how long did it take from, when you were writing the script, like, how long did it take you to work on this film, as there was a lot of research that you had to do. So how long is that process?

A: I wrote this pretty quickly. I wrote it over the course of about six months in 2017. So about a little over three and a half years ago. And then, you know, I had met Gary Oldman and I took him the script and and he liked it right away. He said, OK, let me let me come on as a producer and help you put the film together.

And then the film came together pretty quickly and took, you know, maybe six months to to get the other actors together, and then we started shooting in 2019.

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Q: And then so that was kind of that’s a good segue to talk about casting. Since you met Gary Oldman when you already finished with the script, are you one of those writers who have somebody in mind when you were writing the script? Because I feel like he’s so perfect in the role of Tyrone. So did you have someone in mind when you were writing this?

A: So I met Gary and then I was writing the script at the same time. This is kind of how this happened with Arbitrage. And so the character started to take shape a little bit in my mind. When I’m writing, it’s sort of like you only just see shapes, black, black box, you know, kind of shadow figures because you need the actors to bring it to life. So it’s kind of you know, it’s a strange process.

It’s a bit of an alchemical process, I would say. And but then, you know, once I have finished the draft and I gave it to him, then I really could see only him. And we worked together on this quite a bit, to tailor it. And I like to do that with all the actors. I like to rehearse for a few weeks, really get their perspectives on the character, get kind of deep into the research with them, go to labs, you know, with Veronica Ferres playing the [Pharma company] CEO, Armie and I also went with the undercover cop to go look at these pill mills, etc.

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Q: OK, so how did the Evangeline Lily came about? Did you you know her before making this film?

A: No, I didn’t know her. I sent her the script. I had been a fan of hers since I had watched all of Lost. I was obsessed, just like everyone else, with that show. And what I saw in her was she was an actress with a great range. She had really showed so many different sides of the persona, and I think she gives a tremendous performance in this film though she hadn’t really done dramatic work in a while.

You know, she had done she had a little part in The Hurt Locker, but she then kind of got into this Marvel world. Yeah. And I think she said that she really wanted to stretch her dramatic muscles again. She really came came hard on the film, and she went very deep into the characters, kind of method and, you know, she had to go to some very dark places to give you that performance.

Q: I didn’t even know that was you who played Stanley the DEA agent (Armie Hammer’s partner) until I looked up my IMDb. So what makes you want to be involved in front of the camera? Because I’m not sure that’s hard to be directing and acting at the same time.

A: Well, you know, it’s all you have to blame. Lenny Kravitz, the musician. Four years ago, he was making a music video in California and he wanted to cast a director, a real life director, to play a director directing him and going crazy. Yeah. So he cast me and and then we did it. And I had such a great time. People were saying to me, like, hey, you were really good.

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Jarecki as a DEA agent with Director of Photography Nicolas Bolduc

And and I thought, oh, my God, it’s like maybe that could be something fun to do. So we’re doing this film and I didn’t have anyone for that part. It’s kind of a comic relief type part. And so then somebody said like, well, how are we doing with that casting? And I said, you know what? And I thought, here’s my big moment. And, you know, I said, well, maybe I would do it. Well, there’s one less person to cast anyway, so you save some money. And then they were like, okay, great.

Q: I have to kind of bring up this elephant in the room. Surely you know about the personal crisis in regards to Armie Hammer. Did his involvement affect the reception of your film? How do you feel about the whole issue?

A: The thing is, you know, in terms of the audience, I think the film has been extremely well received. We’ve been number one rented movie in America when it was iTunes for two weeks. We opened up in 216 theaters. We were the number one independent film, the country, the number two per screen, second to Tom and Jerry. The number one film in limited release on less than a thousand screens. So audiences really sought out the film and continue to seek out the film that were opening around the world. We were doing, I think 900 theaters in the Middle East, we do a couple hundred in Australia this week, Canada. So, and audiences have rated the film very highly, we’ve had some very nice reviews, but we did take some heat from a lot of critics.

And it was, it was frustrating because I think you can look at something through lenses and you can say, okay, well, I appreciate where this is coming from. And you know, no film is perfect, it’s got its issues, whatever, but you can also really rip into something. And I think, unfortunately the timing of Armie’s personal problems, which I really know nothing about, I mean, he’s not my brother, he’s an actor that I hired to do a role and he did a great job. But you know, I think that [his involvement] may be colored some of the media. It’s frustrating, but I think, you know, all things have their moment. But I think people are starting to discover the film audiences are discovering the film and film writers are discovering the film and have been reacting more positively to the film.

That’s really the goal with this film. We just, we wanted to make an entertaining movie, uh, thrilling movie that you feel and captivate to with some great performances. And I think we did that, but then secondly, we really wanted to get this issue out to the public and get people talking about what are the responsibilities of these pharmaceutical manufacturers? How should law enforcement be done? How do we treat addicts? Do we treat addicts as the enemy, or do we treat them as our brother and sister our, you know, and understand that this is crossing all walks of life. It’s like a category five hurricane. And what we really need to do is to have some understanding, put some money towards treatment and to de-stigmatize and take away the, ‘oh, they’re bad people’ mindset.

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Q: Now, in regards to the multiple narratives. I feel like all these different three different distinct story, but yet related could be its own film. What was the biggest challenge for you to try to tell their stories in just two hours and make sure the story is coherent?

A: And it was, uh, it was a very interesting question that, I mean, I asked myself all these questions, you know, two of the stories, me, one story doesn’t mean, but in a way it does, because you understand that Gary’s up here, you know, it’s like almost like he’s fighting with the gods on Mount Olympus and whatever decisions are made in that room, in that board room or in the lab, then they come down and they touch these other lives. So for me, you know, it was, it was valid to have a metaphorical connection or an allegorical connection as opposed to ‘Oh, they’re students in his class or whatever, something that would have felt totally unrealistic.’

I liked the idea, you know, that the characters are struggling and then they can all help each other in some way. Gary helped them by the fight that he gets into, they help each other. So, certainly editorially putting all that together, a lot of time and effort went into that because you need to see, well, how do these stories inform each other, how do they touch each other? You know, how do we make a connection? That’s both for image based, story-based, you know, we move scenes around and, you know, take the script and I take some scenes and montage them and use these kinds of pre-lab dialogue. Like Robert Altman used to do or later Steven Soderbergh, they’re kind of the masters. So, some of it is trial and error, some of it is your instinct… it’s a kind of dance. And then also what is the footage and what are the actors, what are they giving you? Sometimes they can do things you don’t expect that are very beautiful.

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Gary Oldman, Luke Evans on set with Nicholas Jarecki

Q: My last question relates to the theme in your films. It seems your previous film deals with the wealthy, powerful people, and that’s also the case here both in the Pharma company and also the privileged school trying to maintain their place in society. I notice that power is kind of a running theme in your stories, so is that something that you like to explore more in your films? I was wondering maybe there is a third film that you’re doing, that its almost like a trilogy with these kind of similar theme going on.

A: Well, I think you pick up on that very well. Um, I mean, I think I’m interested in looking at, you know, there’s, there’s certain moral questions in here, right? And then there’s also like a balance of hearts. So Greg Kinnear, who’s been a friend of mine for many years, I asked him to play this role and he plays the dean of the university. And he’s obviously in conflict with Gary Oldman’s character, because he has discovered what he thinks is damaging information about this product and he wants to go public with it. But then he’s agreed not to do that. And this could really hurt the university because the pharmaceutical company provides the university endowment. So you can really see his point of view… and I said, we got to have Kinnear because he’s such a sympathetic person.

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So to see the dean in this conflicted situation, you know, I like those moral gray areas. It’s a balance of and saying, okay, are you sure you’re right about this thing? You know, maybe it’s science who knows, maybe you’re not right. Uh, you know, maybe it’s that experiment translates here on the, on the animals, but it doesn’t work for the humans. I mean, these are all complicated questions, but what you are going to do is you’re going to endanger the university and the university is serving its community of students. And it’s got tens of thousands of students that I’m looking out for. And I have responsibility to those people. So in the balance of harms, this may not be the one to do. And by the way, I don’t think you can win. And then, you know, whether or not (Gary’s character) Tyrone does win or not in the end, we have to leave for, for your viewers.

I like exploring the corrupting role that capitalism plays in the American society because it has, it’s so great and it encourages innovation and all that, but you know, when we go too far away, when we get to free market and we do whatever you want, well sometimes that encourages bad behavior, you know, safeguards. It’s like, you know, you have a runaway train, right? You’re supposed to have some circuit breakers, make sure the train doesn’t go off the tracks. And I think that’s the role of us, the public. So that’s part of why we make the film is to say, Hey, take a look at what’s going on. You know, maybe you don’t want to do anything about it, but at least you should be aware of it.


Check out the trailer:


CRISIS is now available on Video On Demand.
It’ll be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the USA on Tuesday April 20th


Thanks Nicholas Jarecki for chatting with me!

….

Netflix FIRST LOOK: The Devil All the Time + Rebecca – coming this Fall

Well, it seems streaming content is in our future for a long, long time. If this THR article is to go by, this pandemic isn’t slowing the streaming giant at all. In fact, Netflix continues to spend a gazillion dollars for original films/shows. Well I ain’t complaining!! I’m grateful that my home cinema setup makes it enjoyable for me to watch movies at home.

Here are two I just read about in the past couple of days, both happens to be gothic thrillers, got me super excited! So fall movie seasons isn’t going to be too bleak after all.

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME

Adapted from the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, the screenplay of this Southern gothic thriller is written by director Antonio Campos (Christine) and his brother Paulo Campos.

In Knockemstiff, Ohio and its neighboring backwoods, sinister characters—an unholy preacher (Robert Pattinson), twisted couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), and crooked sheriff (Sebastian Stan)—converge around young Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) as he fights the evil forces that threaten him and his family. Spanning the time between World War II and the Vietnam war, director Antonio Campos’ ‘The Devil All the Time’ renders a seductive and horrific landscape that pits the just against the corrupted.

Now, I’m not typically into horror movies, but man, check out THIS cast!

  • Robert Pattinson
  • Tom Holland
  • Sebastian Stan
  • Bill Skarsgard
  • Riley Keough
  • Jason Clarke
  • Haley Bennett
  • Mia Wasikowska

Now check out the trailer!

Interesting to point out that even though the story is set in Knockemstiff, Ohio, most of the cast are not from the States. Riley Keough is the only American actor here, the rest are English, Australian, Swedish and Romanian descent. Fun seeing Batman-to-be Pattinson as a crooked Southern preacher, ahah, and hey, Spidey is pointing a gun at him 😀

This trailer promises something truly disturbing. I’m not a horror fan but I’m curious to check this one out. Fortunately it’s on Netflix so I can just turn it off it it gets to be way too scary for me, without worrying about making my money worth for the rental fee!

While the movie is set in Ohio and West Virginia, it was actually shot in Alabama. Per EW, Campos said “It was a challenging shoot just because there were so many locations and we were really spread out over a large portion of northern Alabama… The nice thing is Alabama hasn’t been filmed in very often, so it’s not as recognizable as some other places that have been filmed in and photographed thoroughly by various films and TV shows.”

Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson have previously worked together on The Lost City of Z, in supporting roles. It’ll be nice to see them team up again, and now Holland is a legitimate movie star since playing Spider-man. Oh, and speaking of Marvel superhero, initially Chris Evans was to portray Sheriff Lee Bodecker, but was replaced by his bff Bucky, er Sebastian Stan in the role.

The movie is scheduled to hit Netflix on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020.


REBECCA

Now this one is something many people should be familiar with, especially if they’re into Hitchcock classics. The most famous adaptation of the 1938 Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in 1940.

After a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), a newly married young woman (Lily James) arrives at Manderley, her new husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast. Naive and inexperienced, she begins to settle into the trappings of her new life, but finds herself battling the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, the elegant and urbane Rebecca, whose haunting legacy is kept alive by Manderley’s sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).

I also LOVE the cast on this one…

  • Lily James
  • Armie Hammer
  • Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Keeley Hawes
  • Sam Riley

Armie and Lily are such an intriguing pairing and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers is just brilliant! Based on this Daily Mirror article, Kristin’s so believable in the role that she terrified her co-star. I’m a huge fan of Sam Riley too, always glad to see him in any role!

The article also mentions how the Manderley house is a character in itself, as it should be! It’s got Oscar-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood who did Atonement which also has a memorable English estate in it. I’m curious to see Ben Wheatley in this, as he’s someone mostly known for his shoot-em-up action flicks like Kill List and Free Fire.

We now have a trailer!

Reportedly REBECCA will premiere on October 21 on Netflix.


Can’t wait for these two! What about you?

FlixChatter Review: HOTEL MUMBAI (2019)

When I first saw the trailer for HOTEL MUMBAI, I was definitely intrigued despite not remembering much of the actual events that happened in 2008. I don’t usually go for dramatizations of true events, especially when it comes to disaster/calamity. Yet there’s something about this one that appealed to me.

It opens with the attackers coming into Mumbai on boats. It isn’t spelled out who they are but it’s pretty clear they intend to cause harm on the city. We see their somber demeanor as they descend into the city, listening to a voice over from an Islamic militant group saying ‘God is Great,’ The scene is contrasted with a hotel staff, Arjun (Dev Patel), getting ready for work in the morning. The luxurious, five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is run with a nearly militaristic precision. Each department head from the lobby to the kitchen grill their staff and tell them to practice ‘customers are gods’ mantra. Everything happened like any ordinary day, only later it turns out to be anything but.

I saw this at an early screening, definitely too early for something THIS intense. My coffee barely had any effect but I didn’t really need it once the action started. The attackers began the mayhem in a train station, a cafe, then the Taj Hotel, with two of the perpetrators walking in pretending to be one of the masses looking for cover. One thing that took me by surprise was that they’re just a bunch of boys, some are probably in their late teens. They get direct orders from Brother Bull who constantly feed instructions on their earpiece. Promising them money to their families and afterlife in paradise, they instill hatred of the upper class ‘infidels.’

This is Aussie director Anthony Maras‘ feature film debut and I think he’s adept enough in creating a genuine sense of suspense and dread. Films like this tend to be rather exploitative but this one looks well-crafted and well-acted all around. A production financed mostly by South Australian Film Corporation and filmed in Adelaide Film studios for the hotel interior, the production design also looked really believable. Despite the intense graphic violence of the gunmen shooting anything that moves, the movie never descends into a manic Die Hard or Expendables type of shoot-em-up thriller. I remember thinking on one intense scene where a couple of cops are trying to shoot a group of gunmen, James Bond would’ve killed them w/ a single bullet each. But it’s NOT that kind of action fantasy, so real people did get hurt and innocent people lose loved ones in the most brutal way.

There’s not a weak performance amongst the talented cast. I have grown to respect Dev Patel and his character Arjun is immediately sympathetic. There are scenes with relatable humanistic touches, such as when Arjun lost his shoe and had to jam his foot into his boss’ shoes that are way too small for him. I’ve been a big fan of Indian actor Anupam Kher who portrays Chef Oberoi and once again he’s terrific here, who along with Arjun are the unsung heroes of the hotel attack. Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi played husband and wife who travel with a nanny and their baby, which made up some of the film’s most suspenseful scenes. Jason Isaac is also quite memorable as a high-ranking Russian mystery guy, one of the guests trapped in the hotel. The film did a good job making me care about the characters, instead of just showing a play-by-play of a horrifying event. Even the bad guys get to be more than stock characters, and they get to show their human side without glorifying their evil acts.

Apparently the filmmakers got access to original transcripts of intercepted cell (mobile) calls between the ten terrorists and their handlers, which adds the authenticity of the scenes. Watching this I was quite infuriated and frustrated by how ridiculously slow the hotel (and perhaps other places) get support from the Indian government. The hotel staff kept having to reassure the guests that help was coming, but they were trapped in some kind of ‘safe house’ area of the hotel for hours before the special ops finally arrived from New Delhi (800 miles away from Mumbai).

The text at the end summed up the damage of the tragedy, with 164 people killed and over 300 people wounded. The film premiere last year was planned to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attack. The hotel only took 21 months to be restored to its original glory, and many of the survivors attended the grand re-opening.

I remember feeling a bit lightheaded and weak in the knees after watching this, given the vivid depiction that made me feel as if I were right there amidst the chaos. Indeed a grim and unflinchingly-tense film that shows the triumph of human spirits and acts of heroism by regular people.


Have you seen HOTEL MUMBAI? Let me know what you think!

Trailers Spotlight: Dumbo | Hotel Mumbai | Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Hi everyone! Happy First Day of Spring! Stay tuned for our reviews of Jordan Peele’s Us movie and Shazam! coming later this week.

For now, I thought I’d post some trailers for a couple of upcoming movies (I’m seeing the press screenings next week) … and one that just dropped today!

DUMBO

I actually don’t remember much about the Disney cartoon version of Dumbo, I was more affected by Bambi as a kid. But when the first trailer dropped last year I was so moved by it that I teared up! In fact, I couldn’t stop my tears from falling every time I heard the ‘Baby Mine’ rendition by Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes.

I don’t usually get super excited over Tim Burton movies, but this one looks really good! It’ll certainly be a darker take than the animated version, which is usually the case with the live-action remake. I do love the cast, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, Danny Devito and Eva Green who’s perfect as a circus aerialist. The young actress Nico Parker looks so much like Zoe Saldana I thought she’s the one playing her younger version in Avengers: Infinity War.

Can’t wait for the screening next Tuesday, I’ll be sure to pack tissues!


HOTEL MUMBAI

Dev Patel is on a roll. He’s got two films I’m looking forward to, this one and Wedding Guest. I can’t recall much about the events in 2008 this film is based on, where the famed Taj Hotel was under siege by terrorists in Mumbai. This film is a dramatization of the real life events, which is also the subject of the 2009 Emmy-nominated documentary feature Surviving Mumbai (now renamed Mumbai Massacre).

The trailer looks quite gripping and it’s got a pretty good score so far on Rotten Tomatoes. Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs and one of my fave Indian character actors Anupam Kher. Per IMDb, a significant amount of actual dialogue in the film was repeated verbatim being taken from original transcripts of actual intercepted mobile phone calls during the 2008 siege.


ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Well, well, well,  the Summer of ’69 just dropped on the first day of Spring! [somehow now I’ve got that Bryan Adams song stuck in my head!]

Surely you’ve seen the rather ho-hum official poster that dropped a couple of days ago. Well the memes have been hilarious, but as a huge fan of Eileen Steinbach’s amazing poster designs, I thought I’d include her version instead…

In any case, two of Hollywood’s biggest stars Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio collide in Tarantino’s ninth feature film, which QT himself has dubbed “the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman.”

Well I dunno about you but the one thing that had me do a double take in the teaser is the Bruce Lee scene! Wow, I thought they did some serious special effects to get the real martial arts legend to fight Brad Pitt here…

I had to check out WHO that actor is who played Bruce Lee, he’s uncanny! Well, his name is Mike Moh and guess what, he grew up in St Paul Minnesota and according to IMDb he now runs a martial arts school in Madison, Wisconsin?? 🤯

In any case, well the teaser looked intriguing. I love historical fiction, especially involving the movie industry. It reminds me a bit of the Coens’ Hail, Caesar! though given the Charles Manson connection, it’ll certainly have some dark stuff despite the lighthearted tone of the trailer. It is a Tarantino movie after all. Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate is spot-on casting right there. Oh and apparently Tom Cruise was supposed to play the Brad Pitt’s role of stuntman Cliff Booth but had scheduling conflict filming Top Gun: Maverick. Hmmm, that would’ve been interesting to see Cruise playing Leo’s stuntman!


What do you think of these trailers? Which ones are you most looking forward to?

FlixChatter Review: On The Basis Of Sex (2018)

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“You couldn’t have existed until now.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s teenage daughter has just told off a cat calling construction crew. RBG stares at her daughter, who is striding into the street to call a cab. Oblivious to the rain and to the cab which her daughter is now impatiently waiting by, RBG sees her daughter with new eyes. Jane Ginsburg is an entirely new kind of woman: a woman that RBG could never have conceptualized, much less become, in her teenage years.

This is one of two running themes of On the Basis of Sex. The movie never strays from its biographical storyline, but the movie is also clearly built to remind its audience that everyone is a product of their time. Bader Ginsburg was one of the first women to ever attend Harvard and yet she found herself shocked by her own daughter’s ability to stand up to a perhaps less institutionalized part of the patriarchy. The groundwork laid by our predecessors allows us to become something that they could never have dreamed and sometimes that shocks our predecessors.

The second theme regards the importance of family and a strong partnership. Martin Ginsburg prepares meals, comforts his children, and encourages his wife to pursue her ambitious dreams. RBG also puts in her fair share of work around the house, is willing to sacrifice a degree to support her husband, and puts in twice as much work as any other Harvard students when her husband gets sick. Most notably, the give and take of the Ginsburg’s relationship is not something that the movie asks its audience to be impressed by.

Aside from Armie Hammer’s unfortunately benign interpretation of Martin Ginsburg, the cast of On the Basis of Sex is spot on. Felicity Jones’ performance (as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is strong-willed, reserved, and funny. Her performance, which is great all around, was downright heart stopping when she curled up in a hospital bed with her husband: the love, sadness, and hope exuded in that moment has lingered in the back of my mind in the week since I saw the movie.

Jones with Cailee Spaeny and Kathy Bates

Justin Theroux excelled as an almost likable, smarmy Mel Wulf. Cailee Spaeny (as Jane Ginsburg) was a perfect teenager: self-righteous, emotional, and ultimately full of love for her family. Sam Waterston was…Sam Waterston. He was a believable Dean of Harvard, but I doubt that Waterston captured Erwin Griswold’s essence in any meaningful way.

The costume and set design were gorgeous. From the very beginning of the movie when Bader Ginsburg is highlighted as a bright blue spot in a sea of black suits, the movie is visually stunning. The clothing, furniture, and city scape of the 50s and 60s are lovingly and colorfully recreated, making the movie an absolute treat to watch.

Ultimately a feel-good movie by director Mimi Leder, On the Basis of Sex is well worth seeing. Much of Bader Ginsburg’s life and work go unaddressed, which, considering the scope of her life’s work, is to be expected, but the film paints a beautiful portrait of Bader Ginsburg and her family.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times. You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘On The Basis Of Sex’? Well, what did you think? 

A trio of brand new trailers: FREE FIRE, LIVE BY NIGHT and THE PROMISE

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Yaaaaaaaaaaaaassss!!!

Sorry ehm, now that I got my giddy enthusiasm out of the way… [well just enough so I can actually do a post, ahah]

Well if you’ve visited my blog long enough you’ll know how much I’ve been crushing madly on Sam Riley… and he deserves every bit of my love… and then some. Anyway, today we’ve got three trailers, two of which has two Batmans AND a Scarecrow too 😀

FREE FIRE

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.

I’ve been waiting for this trailer since the day I heard Sam was cast in it… so that was about a year ago! I mentioned it here, can’t believe it’s been four months since we got its first official photo!

Well, today we didn’t just get ONE but TWO Free Fire trailers… the top one is the official UK trailer and below is the RED BAND trailer… more blood

Some lucky folks got to see this at TIFF Midnight Madness last night w/ the cast and crew… yes including my Sam!!


Well, early reviews have been mostly positive!

The main reason I’ve super excited for FREE FIRE is because Sam Riley‘s in it… but of course the cast is amazing! Besides Sam we’ve got Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor, and Noah Taylor.


I know Sam isn’t in the movie much, heck he’s not even mentioned in the trailer (what a travesty), but he’s been mentioned quite a bit in the early reactions of the movie on Twitter!! I have a feeling he isn’t gonna survive in this movie, and neither is many of the cast, but from the reviews sounds like director Ben Wheatley isn’t killing people off so soon. It’s a game of survival so I guess it wouldn’t be fun if everyone dies in the first act, ahah.

People are saying it’s as violent as the promos made it out to be, but also a lot of fun. Nothing like a good sense of humor to break all the tension of a group of trigger-happy gangsters stuck in a warehouse full of guns! There’ll be gunfire alright!


I’ve actually met Jack Reynor once… now if only I could meet Sam one day!!! [I believe I will!] 😉


I hope we get this one on the big screen, no US release date yet but the lucky UK folks will get this in March 2017.


Live By Night

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A story set in the Prohibition Era and centered around a group of individuals and their dealings in the world of organized crime.

Now this one I’m actually surprised to see a trailer so soon! But hey, I love pretty much everything Ben Affleck‘s directed, especially Gone Baby Gone, so I’m excited on that front. Now that he’s Batfleck, I do keep thinking that his gangster character Joe Coughlin looks as if Bruce Wayne’s dark past prior to him finding a conscience and becoming Batman to save his city from gangsters, ahah. It looks intriguing, though I’m not crazy about Scott Eastwood’s casting. I mean everyone else is great… Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, etc. I only wish his screen time is small [I didn’t see him in the trailer but that could be my selective perception, ahah]


The Promise

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Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.

Seriously there’s barely ANY buzz on this movie! Aside from that super boring generic title, it’s got Christian Bale AND Oscar Isaac?? Bale is sporting a similar beard as in The Dark Knight Rises for some reason, and Isaac is doing a Turkish accent? Y’know what, I don’t know what to make of this trailer… it’s a love triangle set in the Ottoman Empire… sounds really juicy but somehow the trailer is just… okay. What was the promise in the title? I must’ve missed it in the trailer. Y’know generally I’m always wary of love triangles, it’s prone to clichès and schmaltziness, which is what I detect here too despite those two great actors. Montréal-based actress Charlotte Le Bon plays the woman in the center of the triangle, I’ve just seen her in Anthropoid. I’m not as impressed w/ her there as I was in The Hundred-Foot Journey. Well, I might go to the press screening if there’s one, otherwise more like a rental.


What are your thoughts on any one of these new trailers?

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Everybody’s Chattin’ + First Look of ‘Queen of Katwe’ + ‘Free Fire’

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Happy Wednesday everybody! I’m still high from seeing the first look of my dahling Sam Riley in Ben Wheatley’s new movie (more of that below). It’s been ages since I see anything new with him on social media… ah the peril of loving an underrated actor. But y’know what they say, you can’t choose who you love.

So about those links…

Jordan reviewed a terrific film Mia Madre, that’s perfect for Mother’s Day [or any day]

Everyone’s fave series Game of Thrones is back, and so is Margaret‘s awesome episodic reviews!

Steven lamented on Brian de Palma’s Bonfire of the Vanities

Speaking of lamenting, Mariah posted her thoughts on the whitewashing in Hollywood, most recently the casting of Ghost in the Shell

Thursday Movie Picks are still going & going… Dell just posted on his three fave droids/cyborgs

Eddie‘s entry to the Rob’s Genre Grandeur series talks about how Fast Five holds up 5 years later

Now here’s a real head scratcher, Paul asks which body of work you prefer Michelle Pfeiffer vs Meg Ryan

Mickey reviewed one of my fave films out TCFF last year – Room

Last but not least, don’t forget to stop by Mark’s blog on Monday for his Decades Blogathon!


Time for a couple of First Looks…

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Ok so I’m a sucker for inspirational true stories. This one is based on a book of the same name by Tim Crothers. Though there have been films made about chess champions before, I actually haven’t seen any of them. The fact that this one tells a non-American story makes me more interested in it. The film, shot in Uganda and South Africa is directed by Mira Nair (a female director is always a plus in my book!) I had only seen Vanity Fair and The Reluctant Fundamentalist from Nair, but most people are probably more familiar with her famous film Monsoon Wedding.

Here’s the synopsis per Screenrant:

The film tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a chess prodigy from Uganda who earned Woman Candidate Master status in 2012, following the deaths of her father and brother.

I love both David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, so that’s another big plus. It’s one of those stories you likely can predict how it’ll turn out, but still intriguing nonetheless. I’m already tearing up watching the trailer so I’ve got to bring tissues when I do watch the movie.


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I’m still so very giddy just from seeing the first photo of this gangster flick, I don’t know what I’ll be when the trailer comes out!

I had already heard of this when Sam mentioned it in a couple of Pride + Prejudice + Zombies interviews. He called it a 1.5 hour gang shootout, which sounds epic cool! The filmmaker du jour Ben Wheatley, fresh from all the buzz of High Rise is directing this, AND it’s executive produced by Martin Scorsese!

The synopsis per EMPIRE:

Free Fire is set in Boston in 1978. The story, which Wheatley is pitching as a muscular crime flick in the spirit of Melville, Hawks, Scorsese himself and Walter Hill, charts the fallout from a gun-running hook-up orchestrated by Larson in a deserted warehouse. At its centre are two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley), on a connect with a pair of arms traffickers, Ord (Armie Hammer) and Vernon (Sharlto Copley), but soon wishing they’d given the whole enterprise a wide berth when the bullets start flying.

The film also stars new Oscar winner Brie Larson, Noah Taylor and of course, my darling Sam Riley!

FreeFire_firstlook
Look at the mustaches + 70s outfits on these guys!

Per EMPIRE article: “The idea for Free Fire came from my love of hard-boiled crime movies,” Wheatley tells Variety. “The Asphalt Jungle, The Big Sleep,The Killing and The Big Combo through The Driver, Le Samourai andThe French Connection, to the modern cycle of GoodFellas, Casino,Hard Boiled and Reservoir Dogs.”

“It will take you and stick you in the middle of the action,” he elaborates. “I want the film to have the stylish, no-nonsense feel that you get in [Sam] Peckinpah’s The Getaway. It’s a modern ‘70s movie. Muscular, tough and spare.”

Hmmm, I actually didn’t care for The Getaway, but maybe because I didn’t really like Steve McQueen who’s just so damn smug, but I do like the cast here and it looks more of an ensemble piece than just centered on a single hero. And of course seeing Sam Riley (with 70s ‘tache AND glasses? Oh my!) on the big screen again is a major plus! A24 has acquired the US rights, so I can’t wait to see a trailer soon.

Both of these films are scheduled to be released later in the Fall.


So what do you think of either one of these new films?