Gerard Butler is a Machine Gun Preacher

News and notes: Madonna made waves at the Venice press conference for her critically-panned W.E. last week when she accepted a bouquet of hydrangeas from a fan and was then caught on microphone telling the person next to her she hates hydrangeas. For some reason this became a big buzzy meme for a couple of days as the YouTube video went viral. Last night or this morning, Madonna rather awesomely responded with a video of her own. All the people who made a big issue of it in the first place now hopefully realize they’re idiots and will take a moment to reflect on the sad state of their lives.

During the Q&A after a screening for Killer Joe at Toronto, William Friedkin punctured the carefully orchestrated festival classism when he noticed that several primo seats up front were unfilled. Ignoring the fact this is the roped off section for VIPs, Friedkin exhorted the riffraff in the back to move up and fill in, much to the horror of the volunteers who seem to take a certain pleasure in keeping the festival wheat separated from the chaff.

Despite early predictions to the contrary, festival wheeling and dealing has gotten off to a slow start and hand-wringing has commenced.

The big stuff:

Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler tells the true story of a former drug-dealing biker who finds God then heads to war-torn Sudan to rescue the children who have been forced into the military. Michelle Monaghan co-stars. Preacher’s already got a major distributor, marketing campaign, cheesy tagline (“Hope is the greatest weapon of all.”) and a September 23 release date so I’m just going to link to a few different reviews and then get on to some of the films you might not already be aware of.

Justin Chang, Variety. Kirk Honeycutt, THR. Catherine Shoard, Guardian. Drew McWeeny, HitFix. Nicole Sperling, LA Times (not a review per se, but an account of the screening). Gabe Toro, Playlist, Lynn Fenske, Toronto Examiner. Robert Bell, Exclaim.ca.

And the rest:

The Deep Blue Sea. d:Terence Davies. s:Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston

Venerated UK director Terence Davies brings us this adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play. It stars Rachel Weisz as a woman who has an affair with RAF pilot Tom Hiddleston (Thor, Midnight in Paris). No US release date yet but UK fans will be able to check it out as the closing film of the BFI London Film Festival on October 27.

Todd McCarthy, THR:

“So entirely immersive is Terence Davies’ desire to recreate and analyze the ethos of post-World War II Britain that not only has he fulfilled his ambition to refashion Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, but he has created a theoretical sequel to Noel Coward and David Lean’s Brief Encounter in the bargain. As intensely personal and deeply felt as it is, however, Davies’ attempt to breathe new life into Rattigan’s 1952 play is a rather bloodless, suffocating thing, lent tragic passion more by its use of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto than by anything achieved by his star Rachel Weisz and her leading man.”

Catherine Shoard, Guardian:

“The good news is that Terence Davies’s adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play…is nothing if not faithful. It’s a veritable Greyfriars Bobby: patiently wagging its tail, even if its master is not looking too hot around the chops. Those who can’t bear the idea of a staple of the English stage sexed-up for the flicks can sleep easy. That’s the bad news, too, of course. Whatever measures Davies takes to make cinematic waves – lavish soft focus, energetic orchestration, a devil-may-care approach to cigarette smoke – The Deep Blue Sea remains flat as a duck pond, the prisoner of a story whose relevance, even in metaphor, has lost much of its sting, and whose dialogue has more than a whiff of a French and Saunders sketch: ‘I knew in that tiny moment that I had no power to resist him. No power at all.’ “

Mark Adams, Screen Daily:

“Terence Davies deftly adapts Terence Rattigan’s acclaimed play The Deep Blue Sea to craft an elegantly staged, sublimely moody, tale of painful love all set against the backdrop of post-War London as people struggle to rebuild their lives. The setting will be a familiar one to admirers of Davies’ work, while a moving lead performance by Rachel Weisz should guarantee appreciative attention.”

Leslie Felperin, Variety (firewall):

“Davies is in fine form here, with luminous perfs, especially from Rachel Weisz, rounding out a classy package whose only major problem is it may be a bit too true to its period sensibility and legit origins — despite its opened-up structure… Craft contributions throughout are period-perfect, from the patterns on the women’s costumes to the look of the set used to re-create bombed-out London after the war. David Charap’s editing results in a slightly monotonous tempo, but this again fits Davies’ modus operandi.”

360. d:Fernando Meirelles. s:Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins

With a screenplay by Peter Morgan based on Arthur Schnitzler’s Der Reigen (notably filmed in 1950 by Max Ophuls as La Ronde), Fernando Meirelles brings together a fine cast for a multi-threaded love story with characters linked from all over the world. No US release date, but it will open the BFI London Film Festival. BFI’s got Rachel Weisz shaped bookends!

Kirk Honeycutt, THR:

“You watch the film rather than get absorbed by it. It’s art house with Hollywood credentials, somewhat like Meirelles’ last film Blindness (2008)… However, you get a better picture of Morgan and Meirelles’ approach if you think of Babel crossed with Sliding Doors… Like Blindness, 360 is a beautifully mounted production with pristine art direction and cinematography in several countries. Every major actor gets at least one chewy scene.”

Mark Adams, Screen Daily:

“Fernando Meirelles swirling and globetrotting film is a masterpiece of structure and is punctuated by a series of impressive performances as it sweeps through Vienna, Paris, London, Bratislava, Rio de Janeiro and Phoenix as it charts a course through a series of troubled relationships. The film is inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s classic La Ronde, but is elegantly updated by screenwriter Peter Morgan and director Fernando Meirelles for a modern-day medley of stories that take in love, passion, chance, temptation and friendship all set against a stunning backdrop of vivid locations.”

Catherine Shoard, Guardian:

“Peter Morgan likes making daisy-chains. His script for Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, which premiered at Toronto last year, was also a roundelay in which fate engineers three ghost-fixated folk to bump into each other at a Derek Jacobi book signing in Ally Pally. It wasn’t good. But compared with 360 it was a work of genius…The pitfall of ensemble drama is that any strands that do engage are over too soon and, if mishandled, the condensed nature of each story takes its toll on potential subtlety. Characters become cogs; plots creak with pre-determination.”

Update:

Peter DeBruge, Variety:

“What goes La Ronde comes around in Fernando Meirelles’ 360, a circular study of modern couplings that expands the inquiry of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 play to a global scale without finding much new to say about love. With a multilingual cast of mostly unfamiliar faces, plus a few stars,  360 feels too abstract, orchestrating break-ups and hook-ups in a passionless vacuum. For screenwriter Peter Morgan, it’s the same problem that plagued Hereafter spread across an even more unwieldy ensemble.”

 

Friends with Kids. d:Jennifer Westfeldt. s:Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns

A bunch of thirty-something friends trying to raise kids in New York. As a single misanthrope and borderline hermit, that sounds borderline appalling to me. With apologies to all my friends who have spawned, the comic ups and downs of urban breeders are eye-gougingly boring. Having said that, the cast is pretty great so maybe it’s worth a look. No distributor as of this writing, but this is one of the titles people seem confident will get picked up.

David Rooney, THR:

“Graduating from co-screenwriter on the indie hit i, Westfeldt handles solo writer-director reins with confidence. Her film covers ground that’s often familiar, but it has enough fresh insights, sweet idiosyncrasies and agreeably rough edges to make it work. What’s most impressive is Westfeldt’s fluid calibration of tone through light humor, seriocomedy, romance, drama and combinations thereof. In addition to cast members, the film also borrows from the Bridesmaids playbook with its mild smattering of raunch.”

Alissa Simon, Variety:

“Although the comic riffs about parenting and alternative families easily rep the pic’s sharpest dialogue and strike a chord with more mature audiences, they co-exist uneasily with Westfeldt’s inclusion of a more crude brand of humor. It’s as if someone reminded her that parents with kids don’t go out to the movies, so she had better throw in something to titillate the teen boy demographic… For her tyro outing as helmer, Westfeldt opts for a sitcom-safe visual style and sense of timing. Craft package is serviceable if unremarkable.”

Allan Hunter, Screen Daily:

“A gentler relative of the Judd Apatow school of modern comedy, Friends With Kids eschews scatalogical humour and bad taste excess in favour of a more mellow, reflective tone. The assured directorial debut of star Jennifer Westfeldt is reminiscent of the wry ensemble pieces that Alan Alda created in the 1980s as it explores the competing demands of friends, lovers and families.  Moments of insight are balanced with the glib humour and predictability of a television sitcom…Predictable but generally very likable.”

Gregory Ellwood, HitFix:

“You can see where the storyline is going a mile away…Thankfully, Westfeldt’s incredibly witty and astute script as well as some great performances make the ride incredibly entertaining. The big revelation in the film is [Adam] Scott.  The 38-year-old actor has shown his comedic chops with supporting roles in films such as Step Brothers, Knocked Up and on the small screen in Parks and Recreation and Party Down, but this is absolutely his cinematic coming out party.  He steals scenes from Hamm, Wiig and Rudolph (no easy task) and brings a sincere dramatic spin to the film’s climatic scenes (although the latter is not so surprising if you know some of his television work).”

Peter Sciretta, /Film:

“While it starts off very by the numbers, the film transitions into something much more clever and serious. Unlike a lot of romantic comedies, this film has something interesting to say about a time in each and every one of our lives. It doesn’t settle on the generic archetypes that we’re use to, and feels more real than most of these type of movies. The dialogue and discussion is smart, and the story packs some nice slice-of-life moments of living in New York City.”

Matt Goldberg, Collider:

“The writing, the plotting, and the pacing grow more tired as the film wears on.  There’s only so many vulgar jokes and well-timed quips you can use before the potential is all dried up.  Friends with Kids starts out energetic and promising, sinks into a comfortable, enjoyable, and inoffensive second act, and then overloads on big declarations of love before giving up completely…”

Update:

Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline:

“Jennifer Westfeldt’s sort-of romantic comedy Friends with Kids is on to something, even if in the end it suffers from a failure of nerve…polished to the point of shallow glossiness — it could benefit from being a little rougher, a little messier. But the picture at least attempts to wrestle with the notion that there’s no single right way to raise a family or navigate a partnership. And it acknowledges, if only fleetingly, the way very well-meaning people who are parents can often be incredibly smug toward those who aren’t, insinuating that their own lives are somehow more meaningful because they have kids who run them ragged”

3 Responses to “Festival Falderal Round 10: Machine Gun Preacher, Double shot of Weisz from Davies & Meirelles”

  1. As I mentioned on a previous thread, I am definitely hot-to-trot for the Davies, and am impressed by the extent of the exceedingly positive notices. The Meirelles-Morgan collaboration looks promising as well.

  2. I don’t know Sam, the reviews on both looked decidedly mixed to me. That’s actually good because the best movies are often the ones that divide audiences. I’m skeptical of things that arrive with unanimous praise.

  3. Absolutely. We’ve been burned on both ends of unanimous praise and condemnation.

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