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Without a doubt, Foxcatcher is one of the must-see movies of 2014. After being pushed back from November 2013, Bennet Miller’s startling true life tale of John Du Pont and the shocking murder of former Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in 1996, premiered in Cannes earlier this year to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Now, IMDB have just posted another short teaser trailer for the film, this one focusing on the remarkable serious turn from Steve Carell as John Du Pont.

Foxcatcher looks set to be a serious awards contender this season, with Carell and Channing Tatum leading the charge in the acting categories. Hopefully, audiences and critics will be able to look past Carell’s fake nose and focus on the chilling performance that he’s giving in the film. Director Bennett Miller looks set to make it three for three after the superb double bill of Capote and Moneyball. 

The film is released on November 14th with a UK release date on January 9th. Expect to see a lot of this movie in the next few months.

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Remember last summer when Jon Stewart took a sojourn from The Daily Show to make a movie? Now see the result, as Rosewater written and directed by Stewart, has debuted its first trailer online.

Rosewater tells the story of Iranian-born Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was arrested and imprisoned for 118 days while covering the Iranian elections in 2009. During his imprisonment, Bahari was subjected to interrogation and torture by a man simply known as “Rosewater”, who had “proof” of Bahari’s evil intentions by using his Facebook page and an appearance on Stewart’s own Daily Show as evidence.

As you can tell from the tone of the trailer, this is something one might not expect from usually satirically minded and politically scathing Stewart. Instead, it seems that he has crafted a rather more contemplative drama about one man’s torturous ordeal and the perseverance of hope in an ever increasing and frighteningly desperate situation.

The first reviews out of Venice and Telluride, from which the film just had its premiere, seem to suggest that the film is more of a human story rather than a political one, most commenting that while the film is commendable, the film lacks in certain areas, namely in its script. THR reports that the film is “emotionally accessible but modest” but “lacks urgency” and expands to say “the way the story unfolds, there really isn’t s message per se other than a general one about not giving up hope; the political and personal lessons here  don’t seem particularly profound or instructive.” Variety went on to say that Bahari’s story is “brought to the screen with impressive tact and intelligence by writer-director Jon Stewart.”

With Gael Garcia Bernal who looks set to deliver another fine performance as Bahari, I will most definitely be buying tickets on opening when the film opens on November 7th.

Check out the trailer below or over at Apple.

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When Sin City opened in 2005, it was a wake up call for comic book movies. Robert Rodriguez brought Miller’s searingly visceral, incessantly violent, extreme noir tales featuring dubiously amoral characters to dizzying life in a visually stunning adaptation that transcended the term “comic-book movie.” It was a comic book movie that audiences had never seen before. A gutsy, violent comic book movie for adults, with sex, booze, OTT violence and bucket loads of severed limbs and blood splattering the screen, with not a single spandex clad superhero in sight. Featuring a glittering all star cast, the film was a commercial and critical success, grossing over $150 million dollars worldwide.

Now, nine years later, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For finally opened in theatres this past weekend. Unlike its predecessor however, the film has bombed big time, opening in eighth place and grossing less than $10 million, putting it on course to be one of the biggest flops of the 2014 summer season. 

There could be many reasons for this. The nine year wait, the fact that the first Sin City movie didn’t really warrant a sequel, Marvel’s dominance of the comic book movie scene in those proceeding nine years, poor marketing,  poor reviews (the film’s scored less than fifty percent on Rotten Tomatoes) or maybe the fact that just nobody really cares anymore about this world filled with OTT pulpy dialogue, amoral characters and schlock fantastical violence.

But, in my opinion, there is a far greater problem that hangs not so delicately over the head of A Dame To Kill For. And that is of course, the problem of MISOGYNY.

Misogyny of course, is nothing new to the Sin City Universe. Many of the first film’s detractors highlighted the film’s blatant misogyny and use of violence, particularly of that inflicted upon women. It didn’t help that all female characters were nothing but whores and strippers and devious manipulators, subjected to grotesque bouts of violence, whilst packing big guns, and wearing the most improbable and impractical outfits this side of an S and M convention. But this was Sin City. Nobody was innocent. It was a bleak world where men and women alike were morally corrupt figures living in hyper real noir world. They were Chandler-esque archetypes taken to the very extreme of the spectrum and then some. It was comic book noir. It was fantasy. And to be fair, grotesque violence was adequately dispatched upon the more psychotic male characters of the world as well as the female.

So why now, do I have such an issue with Sin City: A Dame To Kill For? Is it because the film isn’t as good as its predecessor? Is it because I’ve grown up in those nine years since the first movie? All I know is that, I believe the film’s misogyny and treatment of women is hugely problematic.

Like the first movie, the female characters depicted in the movie are all either whores or strippers or manipulative sexual deviants who manipulate and corrupt the man’s will to their own ends. However in the first movie, the female characters had agency. Rosario Dawson’s head prostitute Gail, was a sort of mother figure, protecting her girls from psychotic gangsters, with Clive Owen’s Dwight McCarthy being swept along within their story. They didn’t corrupt men with their overt sexuality, acting as sirens, luring men into their bosom to slaughter and destroy. The men were already morally corrupted psychotic fiends and deviants as exemplified by Nick Stahl’s Yellow Bastard. Women, like men within the world of Sin City, were products of their environment. A corrupt city with even more corrupted values.

Women in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For are the devil in disguise, devils that need to be controlled and maintained. Manipulators who use their bodies to manipulate men to exact their bidding and attain the glory and riches they crave. The most problematic of course is Eva Green’s Ava Lord, the titular Dame To Kill For. A femme fatale from the classic old school noir of the forties. She is Barbara Stanwyck from Double Indemnity taken to grotesque extremes. Like Stanwyck’s character, Ava Lord uses her body and sexuality to manipulate every male character she comes into contact with. She is not human, but a demon. “A Goddess who makes slaves of me.” A femme fatale taken to such grotesque extremes, she is not human. At one point, her character even emerges naked from a fountain in an almost supernatural way. A siren or Greek legend, emitting her song of sexuality, luring any poor hapless soul. Granted, we are visiting a truly fantastical world where the dialogue is as hard boiled as the eggs, so of course Miller and Rodriguez may be making a comment on these female archetypes but I doubt it. Now, in the first film, women did not corrupt men. Men were already corrupted. Here, good men are corrupted by Ava, driven mad by her body and siren like superhuman abilities. Ava is a devil in disguise, a succubus, using men to attain nothing more but wealth and riches. She is a woman in control of men and this cannot be condoned. Like all good film noirs of the forties, she must be punished for her transgressions.

Brolin’s character (taking over from Clive Owen) describes Ava as having a hold over him, corrupting him completely. She is a woman whose sole crime in the movie is her manipulation of men. Like the classic femme fatale, her goal is financial gain, and her tools are her sexuality and men. Ava, a woman, is in control of the male and in Miller’s world, that poses a problem. The status quo must therefore be righted. Thus, Dwight recruits Rosario Dawson’s prostitute Gail to assist him in righting the wrong. Unlike the first film, in which Dwight was helping Gail protect her girls from psychotic gangsters, here Gail is nothing more than a servant, an assistant in aiding Dwight in exacting vengeance on the woman that wronged him. She may not be having sex with Dwight, but Gail is providing a service all her own, with no agency for herself other than to service the male in her life.  By the story’s end, Dwight has righted the wronged and in the final shot of the storyline, Dwight is framed between Gail and Jamie Chung’s Miho, a shot that highlights Dwight’s return to power over the female figure.

The problem here is simple… Ava Lord is an outdated archetype. As discussed last week, we live in a world where the heroes of the big screen are people like Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and Black Widow. I’m not against having a female villain, in fact I think we need more of them, but I think as an audience, we are beyond a female villain who wants nothing more than riches and gold and has all the complexity of a dollar note.

Watching this storyline play out of course, I found myself amazed and strangely bored by this age old archetype playing out on screen before me in 2014. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read the source material on which this is based. It’s a fascinating read, and works beautifully in comic book form… but in film form… Not so much. I just couldn’t believe how outdated an archetype such as that of Ava Lord, was playing out before me.

There was hope of course in the form of Jessica Alba’s Nancy Callahan. Following on from the first film, Nancy is now a drunk, still stripping, but haunted by the visage of Bruce Willis’ John Hartigan, her one and only true love. She is out for vengeance. Her story isn’t actually too bad, but like Ava, she manipulates her body to corrupt the last smitten of moral goodness that hulking brute Marv has left inside of him. She is still defined by her sexuality. She manipulates her face, damages her own body, in order to exact vengeance. It’s almost as like the filmmakers are saying that Nancy cannot exact vengeance before dismantling the body and sexual creature of which she is.  Instead of exacting revenge, she spends much of her story simply stripping and dancing erotically for the pleasure of sum bag losers that populate her place of work.

Other female characters, such as that of Maisie in Joseph Gordon Levitt’s storyline, merely exist so that sadistic violence may be exacted upon them. Perhaps only Miho is the only one left unscathed by the misogyny of Frank Miller’s world.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the movie. Granted, the male characters don’t exactly come across as examples of pure innocence and purity, but my word they certainly do fare better than the female characters of this world. Perhaps that why audiences just didn’t turn out for Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Maybe because we’ve moved on from this age old outdated archetypes of yore. No matter what you read, audiences are smart. Perhaps its time that we put characters like Ava Lord to rest for good.

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The Expendables 3, the latest in Sylvester Stallone’s and Avi Lerner’s star studded 80s inspired mercenary action franchise opened in theatres this weekend, recording a franchise worst of a measly $15.9 million. The film also failed to do decent business overseas, where the franchise has generally fared better, grossing a mere $15 million after opening in 22 markets. Naturally of course, commentators and bloggers alike have already chimed in on whether or not piracy is to blame for the film’s lacklustre box office earnings. It all started when a DVD worthy copy of the film leaked online, weeks before the film’s general release. According to THR, the film is estimated to have been downloaded a whopping five million times from various torrent and illegal file sharing sites. Of course, various blogs and sites are citing piracy as one of the key reasons why the film may have stumbled, citing that younger filmgoers, of whom the film’s PG-13 rating was meant to entice, were the ones who were more likely to stay at home and download the movie for free. I mean, come on, why pay for a mediocre action movie when you can download it for free?  Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that maybe these young filmgoers don’t care much about 80s action stars long out of their prime, or a film whose previous two entries prided themselves on over the top hard R rated violence, now neutered down to a lame ass and relatively bloodless PG-13 rating. To completely blame the  film’s poor box office reception on piracy would do a disservice to the mediocrity and dullness of the latest instalment in this cartoonish franchise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing that piracy is exempt from blame. Far from it. I’m just saying that it’s not the only reason. Let’s look at the piracy angle. According to NYT, the film is estimated to have lost around $4 million only within the US. Adding that figure to the film’s weekend total, that still puts the film around $8 million behind the second entry in the franchise which opened to $28.6 million back in 2012. Not to mention, that number still puts it behind the weekend totals of Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So even if you take piracy out of the equation, we’d still be talking about The Expendables 3 being a major disappointment at the box office. Granted, the film may have performed better overseas, but who knows. Maybe that’s where the real damage lies, but I don’t think so. I think there’s more. Obviously I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

There’s a whole bucketload of reasons why the movie failed. Piracy is not chief among them. The film suffered from a variety of things; a law of diminishing returns, the reduction in quality, not to mention the PG-13 rating which alienated the franchise’s clearly older skewing audience. Yes, the clear pandering to younger audiences did not help the film’s box office potential as the filmmakers had hoped.

It’s unfortunate to say, but times have changed in the world of action movie, and unfortunately the stars of this ailing franchise have failed to change with it. The first Expendables movie was a silly, fun nostalgic trip down memory lane. A glorious throwback to those cheesy action movies of the 80s and early 90s, that myself, film buffs and dads remember watching. It was a fun, if rather silly, time. But that’s all it was. That’s all it should’ve been. A throwback. A one time thing. The second one was an example of more equals even more stupidity, with an entry that sat on the line between cheesy 80s throwback and Looney Tunes cartoon. It felt that the franchise had already gone too far. It felt outdated. Irrelevant. In a world where the action stars of today are superheroes in Iron suits and super soldiers and teenage girls with exemplary archery skills, it seemed that at this point in time, Stallone and his motley  style of macho man, all guns blazing action kind of action hero, is no longer relevant. The Expendables are finite, already complete super beings who hold big guns and go in guns blazing. They live in a world where men are men and machismo is rife. Unfortunately for this new generation of cinema goer, The Expendables way of doing business is a thing of the past.

Younger audiences just don’t share the same familiarity with these stars as the previous generation. Besides the obvious familiar franchise stalwarts such as the Rambos, Rockys and Terminators, the non franchise movies of stars such as Stallone and Schwarzenegger have struggled to find a foothold within the box office. Schwarzenegger’s comeback movie, The Last Stand and this year’s Sabotage failed to set the box office alight. The Stallone vehicle Bullet to the Head, and the Stallone/Schwarzenegger team up, Escape Plan, also failed to make an impact at the box office. Not even the younger Expendable recruits, who were purely cast to pander to the younger audience, don’t have the same star draw that someone such say a… Jennifer Lawrence or a Scarlett Johansson does. Kellan Lutz, who was clearly the main focus of the younger expendables, being the only character to have some sort of arc in the movie, isn’t exactly a draw for the younger masses. Plus, despite putting on a decent showing, people still have reservations regarding the presence of Mel Gibson. Having been out of the game for so long, it’s a wonder that any younger audience member would know who he was outside his tabloid exploits.Not even the inclusion of a new female Expendable in Ronda Rousy could lure the audience in.

It doesn’t help that for hale the movie, the older expendables were sidelined in favor of  a new crop of healthy young whippersnapper expendables. The core audience according to THR for Expendables 3 skewed to 25 and over. These guys didn’t come to Expendables 3 to see a bunch of kids hog the limelight, even if one of them is in that shitty vampire franchise that they were forced to watch by their wives/girlfriends/teenage daughters. They came to see the old guard do their thing, with the added bonus of Wesley Snipes and Harrison Ford. Not Kellan Lutz and Glen Powell.

No longer are these guys these what younger audiences view as the action heroes of today. They are not flawed superheroes, nor are they flawed creations in recent YA adaptations. They are muscular supermen without the powers or the flaws. They make decisions, go in guns blazing, blow shit up, then sit back and do shots or hard liquor after a hard days’ killing generic henchmen and blowing shit up. These guys got no time to brood like a bunch of whiny little brats. But alas, this type of action hero is done. A thing of the past.

The action heroes of today are superheroes with powers.  They are a girl whose archery skills are second to none. They are a man in an iron suit, a man with hammer with an unpronounceable name. They are man out of his time, a super soldier with a shield. They are divergent. They are Tris, Katniss Everdeen, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Star-Lord, Gamora, a gun toting raccoon and a talking tree with a vocabulary of only three words. They are not the muscle bound, gun toting, no nonsense heroes of the 8os. They are Scarlett Johannson in Lucy. 

It’s no coincidence that I mentioned either Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson as bigger draws a the box office. The recent success of films such as Lucy and The Hunger Games and Marvel’s output prove that the action genre is changing. And yes, I do include The Hunger Games in the action/adventure genre as it is.

Perhaps if The Expendables 3 featured the likes of Scarlett Johansson in a starring role, the movie may have made a bigger impact than it did. Thanks to her role as Black Widow in Marvel’s ever expanding universe, Johansson helped Luc Besson’s semi-action movie, Lucy become a box office hit, grossing $44 million in its opening weekend, beating the likes of the more muscle bound and more classical male centric action hero, Dwayne Johnson in Hercules. With talk over the blogosphere pretty much begging Marvel to make solo Black Widow movie or any female superhero movie for that matter, it’s a clear indication that times are changing in the action genre. No longer is the action movie the male dominated playground where only the big boys are allowed to play. Women now get to play in the sandbox. Audiences want to see female action heroes. Especially female audiences. According to Box Office Mojo, a whopping fifty percent of cinemagoers for Lucy were female. A whopping forty four percent of Guardians of the Galaxy’s audience were female. Once again, I don’t think the lack of star female power in the Expendables lineup is the sole problem, but with the franchise totally aiming for a hardcore male fan base, the film has alienated a demographic that is becoming ever more hungry to be represented in the action genre. Including a single, solitary female UFC fighter whose star power is yet to be proven, giving her three lines, essentially making her the token female of the group, is not the kind of thing that audiences are yearning for these days.

Audiences it seems are itching for something different in this genre. They don’t want throwbacks. They want a talking raccoon and a tree. They want a female superhero. They want a Tris Prior and Katniss Everdeen. Unfortunately, they don’t want the old school or the old school’s version of the new school.

It’s a sign of a changing world. No longer are these types of male dominated hung-ho testosterone fuelled action movies relevant in today’s market place. Perhaps they might never be relevant again. The point is, much like its stars, this style of action movie is getting creaky in the legs, about ready to call it a day. Perhaps it’s time for the Expendables to hang up their guns and call it a day.

Action movies are not what they used to be, and may never be again.

 

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As June comes to a close and we reach the halfway point of 2014 (yes, I know, it’s gone bloody fast) it’s time to jump on the film blogosphere bandwagon and look back over these past six months and see what cinematic treats have delighted us thus far. Well, delighted me actually, but they may have delighted you.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen everything that’s been on offer this year (Jodorowsky’s Dune), but from what I have seen, I have been mightily impressed. Yes, there have been a few stinkers (I, Frankenstein and Labor Day) but thankfully, those have swiftly been confined to the depths of obscurity as the year has progressed, but on the whole, it’s been a pretty decent first six months. So much so that I had a difficult time whittling this list down to five movies. But enough of the blah blah from me, onto to my TOP FIVE MOVIES OF 2014 THUS FAR…

5. Locke

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Consisting of scenes entirely of a single character in his car, Steven Knight’s film is something that one would not automatically think of as being something worthy of big screen treatment. The result, as it turns out, is what has to be one of the most purely cinematic movies of the year. Tom Hardy delivers what has to be one of the finest performances of his career, as the man whose entire life unravels on a single two hour car journey. Knight’s powerful script and wonderfully inventive direction keeps things fresh, while Hardy holds your attention, never letting up for one moment.

4. The Lego Movie

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Movies based on popular toys haven’t really had a decent run in terms of quality over the last few years (Transformers, Battleship), so naturally when a movie based on the insanely popular colourful brick pieces was announced, many people were skeptical, myself included. Thankfully though, The Lego Movie was being delivered by none other than Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directing duo between both Jump Street movies and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The end result is one of the best animated movies of the last decade. Wonderfully inventive, incredibly funny, featuring a blisteringly good voice cast and possibly one of the catchiest songs of the year, you’ll soon be proclaiming that everything about The Lego Movie is indeed AWESOME!

3. Obvious Child

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Jenny Sate graduates from bit part supporting player to full on leading lady in one of the most surprising romantic comedies about abortion you’ll see this year. Gillian Robespierre’s film handles it’s subject matter with a humour and honest maturity that felt fresh and original, compared to most mainstream films of the last few years. A funny, heartwarming work that hopefully signals the beginning of an illustrious career for all involved.

2. We Are The Best!

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Three outcast schoolgirls start their own punk band in 1980s Stockholm, and the result is one of the best coming-of-age dramas of the year thus far, most likely the whole year. Seriously, I honestly don’t think I’ll see a better coming-of-age film this year. I really don’t. Featuring great performances from its three young leads, Lukas Moodysson’s film is a wonderfully bittersweet nostalgic look at adolescence and staying true to oneself.

1. Snowpiercer

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Korean director Boon Jong Ho’s latest effort hasn’t had the easiest of journey’s to our screens, but my word was it worth the wait. For a long time, it seemed that most of us would be unable to see the full uncut version of this magnificent science fiction tale of survivors of a apocalyptic ice age surviving on a train, but low and behold we did and all the better for it. For this is one of the standout movies of the year thus far, and will no doubt be in my and, hopefully many others, “Best Of 2014″ lists at the end of the year. Chris Evans gives a career best performance in a film brimming with talent and not just in front of the camera. Beautifully designed and brought to life, Snowpiercer is an absolute must see.