Tag Archives: Denis Villeneuve

MOST ANTICIPATED FOR 2017

2 Jan

So he were are. 2016 is history and as we look back on the best films of the year, we can also look towards the future and what’s coming down the cinematic pipeline. Here are my top ten most anticipated films -(provided we make it far enough in the age of Trump to actually watch them).   You can check out last year’s most anticipated here.

 

10 – Molly’s Game 

What’s it about? A young skier who get’s her own FBI investigation after creating an international poker series.

Why is it on the list? Aaron Sorkin is stepping into the director’s seat here, adapting a memoir by Molly Bloom. One of the finest screenwriters of our time, I’m curious to how Sorkin does behind the camera. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba costar.

Release date – Unknown 

 

 

 

9 – Annihilation  

What’s it about?  All we know at this stage is that the plot has something to do with a team of scientists heading into the jungle for a secretive experiment of some kind.

Why is it on the list? Because Ex Machina was one of the most wholly original and singular sci-fi films in recent memory and Alex Garland has teamed up again with Oscar Issac. Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Natalie Portman round out a dream team of actors.

Release date – Unknown

 

8 – Wind River 

What’s it about? A Native American reservation becomes a murder scene which prompts an FBI investigation led by a veteran tracker.

Why is it on the list? Another accomplished screenwriter making a directorial debut. Taylor Sheridan‘s scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water were both brilliant and I’m curios to see the acting duo of Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in a non-superhero context.

Release date – Unknown for now, but I’m hoping to catch this at Sundance.

7 – The Bad Batch 

What’s it about? A blood soaked love story of sorts set in Texas. Also, cannibals.

Why is it on the list? I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian-western-vampire coming of age story A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, but I was intrigued enough to see she had major directing potential. This new effort seems to have a Tarantino-influenced vibe and features a slew of great character actors including Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Giovani Ribisi, and Diego Luna.

Release date: Though it’s played a few festivals, a widespread release date is unknown.  

6 – I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore 

What’s it about? A revenge thriller about a women tracking down the thieves who burglarized her house.

Why is it on the list? Fresh from his role in Jeremy Saulnier’s excellent, white-knuckler Green Room, actor Macon Blair takes a shot at directing his own original script. The premise sounds gleefully Coen-esc.

Release date: February 24 

5 – Mother  

What’s it about? “…a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home…” – IMDB

Why is it on the list? Because it’s Darren Aronofsky’s first film since the interesting-but-ultimately sub-par Noah.  Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Domhnall Gleeson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris star.

Release date: Unknown 

4 – Dunkirk 

What’s it about?  “Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II” – IMDB

Why is it on the list? Christopher Nolan is one of the rare few directors who can effectively blend pedestrian blockbuster fare with an inspired artistic vision.  This has potential to be one of 2017’s biggest critical and commercial hits.

Release: July 21 

3 – Lemon  

What’s it about? A boy gets dumped by his blind girlfriend.

Why is it on the list? Though Lemon is her first feature, Janicza Bravo has one of the boldest directorial voices in indie film today mixing awkward sensibilities reminiscent of films like Napoleon Dynamite and the works of Todd Solondz and Wes Anderson. Check out her short Gregory Goes Boom!  (NSFW) which also stars Michael Cera and Brett Gelman to get a taste of what we might expect from Lemon.

Release date: Unknown 

2-  Blade Runner 2049 

What’s it about? A sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. 

Why is it on this list? Though most modern sequels/reboots don’t hold a candle to their origins, the fact that this is being helmed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival) and shot by cinematographer legend Roger Deakins (1984, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall, and so, soooo many more) might be reason enough to make an exception. The icing on the cake is a top-notch cast consisting of Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robyn Wright, Mckenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto and Barkhad Abdi.

Release date: Oct 6

1 – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

 

What’s it about? “A teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family takes an unexpected turn.” – IMDB

Why is it on the list? The Lobster was unexpectedly my favorite film of 2016 and, I’m itching to see what Yorgos Lanthimos is cooking up.

Release date – Unknown 

 

 

Arrival (2016)

16 Nov

Arrivalthe latest from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Enemy), adds to a recent tradition of what has been termed “the science-conscious sci-fi film.” Following in the steps of films like Interstellar and The Martian , Arrival presents us with a problem that lands squarely on the shoulders of scientists for figuring out.

Here, we have Louise (Amy Adams) a linguists university professor who has been called in by a secret military faction led by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), because of her optimal translation skills and her previous clearance with handling government-classified areas. The reason is simple: mysterious extraterrestrial ships have been found across the globe and the US government is desperate to make some sort of contact with whoever is inside these ships in an effort to get answers before public panic sets in. Of course, communication with alien beings proves to be easier said than done, and increasing tensions between world governments escalate while the probability of finding a peaceful Q&A session fades to violence.

Villeneuve is no doubt one of the most talented directors working today and he brings a singular film adapted from a short story written by Ted Chiang. As a director who prefers subtlety over boldness, Villeneuve’s take on the alien invasion drama draws tension from the moments that aren’t shown on screen rather than those that are given to us. Most of the events are presented in minimalistic fashion (a stylistic choice that hasn’t been seen in the genre since maybe Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin?) with an emphasis on the physiological versus physical conflict within the characters. A chopped-up narrative featuring flashbacks and flashforwards adds confusion early in the film but makes its place known in the narrative later on.

Supporting Amy Adams is Jeremy Renner playing Ian, a theoretical physicist who teams with Louise in an effort to reach understanding of the extra-planetary visitors. Though both are fine actors, and give much to the film individually, the pseudo love-interest stuff between the couple feels fake and forced. Standard, sure-fire dialogue is everywhere in Arrival, where many characters’ lines feel like either direct exposition or a statement of the blatantly obvious settings. But like most Villeneuve’s work, it’s the sentiments in between the lines that becomes the most compelling. Here, we have vast thematic inklings of philosophy, language, and the nature of violence sprinkled around the obvious “don’t shoot, they are peaceful” lines that place Arrival neatly into blockbuster territory. The result is a typical story wrapped in an artful, minimized, and ideologically-heavy package.

Bottom Line: Denis Villeneuve’s latest focuses more on big ideas than it does big explosions, which might be a bit trying for viewers expecting the traditional alien invasion. Though it dives into melodrama territory a bit too often, Arrival is a well-directed piece of sci-fi that feels paradoxically both intimate and ambitious. 

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipie: Interstellar (2014) + Solaris (2002)

Sicario (2015)

2 Oct

Mexican cartels are ruthless. Most of the American public seems aware of the horrifying lengths cartel members will go to in order to secure their trade route for shipment of illicit drugs, but what happens when cartel operations start occurring deep within U.S. territory? Sicario opens with this situation, as FBI agent Kate (Emily Blunt) leads a raid into a suburban Phoenix home.

We learn the house is actually controlled by a notorious cartel leader named Manuel (Bernardo P. Saracino), which prompts Kate to “volunteer” joining a combined special task force led by a mysterious Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) set on taking out Manuel and other cartel leaders. Hired on as a special cartel consultant is Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), another mysterious man who Kate grows increasingly skeptical of.

It becomes clear that Kate has gotten in way over her head, as her goodwill nature conflicts strongly with these rugged government types who don’t exactly play things “by the books”. But these things must be pushed aside if Kate wants any chance of survival past the border.

As the only major speaking female in the entire film, Emily Blunt has a demanding presence on screen, and her performance expertly captures a personality desperate for control in a new world fuelled by chaos. Though she has ventured into action fare before (Looper, Edge of Tomorrow) never before have we seen Blunt fierce and powerful –  even in a foreign land she clearly has no inner knowledge of.

The minor setback of Sicario lies at it’s pure narrative level. Written by Taylor Sheridan, the film never fully hashes out what it wants to say about its characters, and the plot is mostly revealed to us scene by scene via expository dialogue (think of the typical military leader standing before a projector saying “Alright guys, listen up: here is your mission….”). Still, it works, thanks to some brilliant directorial execution by Denis Villeneuve.

Like in his previous film Prisoners, the most powerful moments of Sicario hit the audience quietly as we reflect on what’s going on in between the moments of action we see. Through carefully selected collections of seemingly insignificant objects like the Mexican desert, a drainpipe, or a soccer ball, individual shots gain tremendous collective power and Villeneuve uses enough restraint to let his audience read between the lines. Shot by the great veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall, No Country For Old MenSicario looks absolutely breathtaking in every shot; dimly lit silhouettes of an American military team look terribly ominous against a softly fading Mexican sunset. The score by Oscar-winning Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson is worth mentioning as it brilliantly adds to the textual anxiety of the film.

Incredibly suspenseful, the nail-biting tension of Sicario goes on overdrive during the film’s last half; I don’t think I have sweated more in a theatre all year. Building on the unpredictability of violence and international conflict, Villeneuve is clearly a master auteur at work, and we can tell he is in complete control of every frame.

Bottom Line: Unbearingly suspenseful, Sicario is a complex and rewarding film, made possible by Villeneuve’s masterful directorial execution and a standout performance by Emily Blunt. 

You never mess with Emily Blunt when she has a gun in her hands.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: The best episode of Breaking Bad + Zero Dark Thirty + moral ambiguity 

Enemy (2014)

5 Jun

Filmed before but released after 2013’s breakout thriller Prisoners and also starring Jake Gyllenhaal, director Denis Villeneuve takes the road of the arthouse in his new film EnemyBased on a similar premise to this year’s fantastic comedy The Double, Enemy focuses on one man who comes across what appears to be his exact copy.  Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a university professor who spends his days teaching history and his nights with his lover Mary (Melanie Laurent).  His life is one of repetition; a cycle of rhythms  consisting of school, food and sex. His cyclical and comfortable lifestyle is interrupted when a coworker recommends a film that has an exact lookalike as Adam in the background. We soon find out this actor is named Anthony (who is also played by Gyllenhaal), and he curiously doesn’t live too far from where Adam works. The rest of the film becomes a hazy mess of events that spiral out through the interactions between Anthony the actor and Adam the spectator, and eventually concludes with a complex examination of the duality inherent in everyone.

Enemy is a dark, cryptic, and brooding film that relies heavily on atmosphere and tone. Lying somewhere in between the styles of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg, Villeneuve makes incredible use of lighting, music, and color to give us a mysterious and puzzling look into the lives of these duplicate characters.  The film becomes a sort of Freudian gaze into the subconscious when Gyllenhaal’s two characters each try to manipulate each other and each other’s woman. Wrought symbolism, tension, and the ongoing threat of violence, Enemy is not your everyday film, and many people will be frustrated by the film’s lack of focus on plot and character. I think the film has more to say that it initially lets on however, and multiple viewings and discussions will prove to be useful.  Enemy is an artful delight filled with various puzzles and meanings, and while it might prove to be too complex for some, it’s still provocatively thoughtful in its execution.

Rating 9/10 

Similar to: Mulholland Drive, Cosmopolis, Under The Skin

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