Tag Archives: Michael Fassbender

Assassin’s Creed

assassins-creed-movie-FassbenderThis is probably the most super serious movie that a video game franchise has ever birthed. We are quickly briefed on the thousand-year old struggle between Templars and Assassins, with the two sides warring for control over a magic apple, the Apple of Eden that contains the seeds of mankind’s deceit, yadda yadda, genetic code, yadda yadda, free will, yadda yadda, fate of the world at stake. So Michael Fassbender has to travel back in time, sort of, and find out where that apple is hiding.

Except those stakes are then lowered for no apparent reason because right from the outset Fassbender and the audience are told that nothing can be changed in the past – he’s just observing what’s already happened to one of his ancestors. Which is a bizarre choice for a movie based on a video game that put the player in control of an assassin’s kung fu fighting ancestor, as it leaves the movie’s audience passively watching Fassbender experience a “memory” from the distant past and kind of act it out with the help of a big mechanical harness.

Or, when Fassbender’s recovering from doing his mechanical harness work, we get to watch him fight ghosts (not real, we are assured, just glitches in the Matrix) and also guards (real but gentle because they need Fassbender alive since he’s the last ancestor of some guy, yadda yadda, never mind that this group also is holding Fassbender’s father at the same location [Edit: I just remembered that the ancestry was on his mom’s side but that opens up a whole other set of criticisms]). Admittedly, there are hints of danger, like Fassbender suffering a seizure caused by the harness and then being confined to a wheelchair, but 30 seconds later he is practicing karate moves again so it seems like it’s no worse than a little VR motion sickness.

There is some kind of 1%/mind control through consumerism/uprising by noble freemen underlying all this but don’t even try to find a worthwhile message because the premise of the film’s logic is that violence and free will are tied together, so only murderers and assassins can stand between the 1% and total domination.

That should have been the most insulting part of Assassin’s Creed, but it’s not. The most insulting part is that a decent cast (including Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling) is totally wasted in a blockbuster that lacks any semblance of blockbusting.  My ancestors would be ashamed I ever watched this trash, and I’m right there with them.

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Alien: Covenant

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You always know better than the idiots in horror movies. Don’t go to an uncharted planet streaming John Denver songs to the universe. Hell, don’t go into space period! When you get to the planet, don’t trust its lone inhabitant who lives in a graveyard and conducts science experiments in a drippy cave. Especially when the results of those science experiments look suspiciously like the creepy little things that just blew up your only ride off the planet. But if not for those dumb decisions, there wouldn’t be much of a movie here, and certainly not one about Aliens with a capital A.

As the SXSW Sneak Peek hinted, the idiots in Alien: Covenant are more tolerable than most, because every bad decision leads us to a place we want to go. Ridley Scott’s playful approach here elevates Alien: Covenant above every entry in this franchise since Aliens. The bad decisions aren’t infuriating, they’re chess moves, most of which lead to another piece getting ripped apart into gooey chunks by space monsters.

Everything in this movie services the Aliens, including the speedy pace at which they burst out of people (taking only as long as needed to cause maximum carnage). Alien: Covenant felt like a Star Wars prequel in that respect, as the technology (in this case, the creatures produced by those previously mentioned science experiments) behind the Aliens seems better in the “past” than in the “future”. I suppose that’s inevitable when prequels are made 30 years later, and I was a lot more forgiving of it here that I was with Star Wars. I think that’s because in Alien: Covenant, the changes from the original rules make the movie more entertaining, while the changes in Star Wars made the movies into a CGI tutorial mixed with a boring political drama.

Above all else, Alien: Covenant is fun, and that’s because Ridley Scott and his cast (led by stellar performances by Michael Fassbender (x2) and Katherine Waterston channeling Ripley and kicking Alien ass just like Sigourney Weaver did) deliver everything this franchise’s fans could possibly have asked for. No unnecessary exposition, no extraneous plot points, just Aliens mowing down idiot after idiot.

For that, Alien: Covenant gets a score of eight chest-bursting xenomorphs out of ten.

Song To Song

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually seen this movie. It was the opening night gala film at SXSW and despite a near 2-hour wait in line, the theatre reached capacity only half a dozen people too early for me to get in. However, I did spend the rest of the festival hearing about the movie from people who were there – 100% of whom regretted it.

songtosong2To be fair, Terrence Malick is practically a hometown boy, and a huge local crowd turned out to see his latest film, which happens to be set in that very same town – Austin, Texas. The film is set against a backdrop of Austin’s vibrant music scene and SXSW is at the forefront of that music scene. Those factors attracted many people who’d never otherwise flock to a Malick film. Sean and I don’t consistently like them either (who does?) but at least we had a better idea of what we were getting into (we saw a Terrence Malick documentary narrated by Brad Pitt at TIFF this year).

What were some of the issues with the movie?

  1. Although Song To Song is a love letter to Austin, it’s mostly a love letter to Austin’s 1%. The McMansions that feature strongly in the film are not exactly the norm for the city. The whole thing has a much more slick and jet-set feel than laid-back Austin does in reality.
  2. SXSW in particular and Austin in general has an impressive music scene and is a real champion of indie acts. Abounding with local talent and featuring really cool guests from all over, Malick instead went with much more main-stream acts, including Patti Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Iggy Pop, and while no one has qualms with these guys, they don’t exactly scream Austin.
  3. Females as objects: that’s kind of a biggie. Natalie Portman and Rooney Mara co-star in this flick about not one but two love triangles, but basically the women exist only to serve the men in the film, one way or another.
  4. It’s insanely white. I didn’t really think of Texas as particularly diverse, but having visited Austin, it is. It’s young and it’s alive but Terrence Malick’s Austin is very monochromatic.

 

SXSW: Alien & Alien: Covenant Sneak Peek

alien-F71972Anytime you get a chance to watch Alien with Sir Ridley Scott, you take it. How great is it that we got that chance?  Even better, Scott was not alone. He brought Alien: Covenant footage with him, as well as Covenant stars Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, and Michael Fassbender. An entertaining Q&A took place after the bulk of the new footage. We didn’t learn any big secrets but it’s obvious that all three actors were thrilled to have had the chance to work with Scott, particularly McBride who joked that his parents were thrilled he was finally making a real movie.

ridley-scott-F71972The new footage proves that Scott is not afraid to rip himself off, and that’s great news as far as I’m concerned. You would expect Alien: Covenant to bear at least a passing resemblance to Alien (as the former’s purpose, aside from making tons of money, is to bridge the gap between Prometheus and the original quadrilogy. But the similarities are greater than that, they’re intentional callbacks to the original.  That made the footage from Covenant FEEL like Alien, as it took us to the same places that Alien did, only now we know what’s going to happen (and what has to happen). Scott delivers on his setups with glee, letting us know he’s right there with us. A facehugger scene featuring Billy Crudup was especially awesome. It’s a good bet there will be more moments like that in the footage still to come.

If the rest of the movie measures up to the three full scenes we were treated to then Alien: Covenant is going to be a must-see for anyone who is a fan of the original. And I’m guessing you’re a fan if you are reading this. This one could be great. I’m now super excited to see it when it opens May 19th. And if Scott is available for another screening then, all the better. Fingers crossed!

There’s much more to come from SXSW. Check out @assholemovies for more movies and photos as things happen!

South By SouthWest

The SXSW Conference and Festivals is celebrating its 31st year – 24th year of film, which is our specialty of course – but South By Southwest also has really great music, comedy acts, art exhibits, speakers, and a whole lot more: it’s just a bunch of people who love the arts and want to celebrate them. For ten days (2017 dates: March 10-19), SXSW loads Austin, Texas with the coolest shit imaginable, and you can bend your brain out of shae trying to jam-pack the most into your schedule because YOU’LL WANT TO SEE EVERYTHING.

Check out their schedule for all the details, but here’s just a taste:

  • Joe Biden’s in the house! On Sunday March 12, he’ll be at the Austin Convention Center to talk about the Biden Cancer Initiative. SXSW’s social conscience is taking on cancer in a bid to make it history; they’re amassing entrepreneurs, innovators, industry executives, venture capitalists, celebrities, philanthropists and us regular folk to get together and make sense of this thing. If you can’t make it to the VP’s talk, SXSW will be generously posting it to their website at a later date.
  • Speaking of Veeps, the cast of Veep will be on hand. If you prefer your Vice Presidents to be fictional and funny as fuck, Selina Meyer has a thing or two to say about what happens when the real president out-buffoons the people meant to be satirizing him. The panel will look towards their 6th season, and feature writer/executive producer David Mandel, executive producer/star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and cast members Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Reid Scott, Matt Walsh, Gary Cole, Tim Simons and Sam Richardson. Catch them on March 13.
  • Ramblin’ Freak, a documentary by an Austin film maker, will make its SXSW debut and challenge your notions of grieving, film making, and navel-gazing. A man sets out cross country to meet “the man whose arms exploded” and ends up making a completely different movie altogether. It’s raw and authentic. Its world premiere is March 13th at the Alamo Ritz with additional screenings March 16 & 18 at the Alamo Lamar.
  • Comedian Wyatt Cenac is hosting Night Train at Esther’s Follies on March 11, and will be joined by stand-up comedy greats like Tim Dillon, John Hodgman, Dulce Sloan, Joel Kim Booster, and Janeane Garofalo.
  • Austin-born Terrence Malick is opening the festival with his new film Song to Song on March 10.  The film is inspired by Austin’s awesome music scene and stars Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, and Michael Fassbender. Malick is pretty press-shy but we know Fassbender will be in town; he’s also promoting Alien: Covenant with a screening of Alien (1979) later that night, with Ridley Scott and Danny McBride.
  • Cindy Wilson (formerly of the B52s) is performing her new (and very different!) material at The Sidewinder March 13.
  • SXSW has a ‘Virtual Cinema’ with an impressive lineup of innovative, virtual-reality movies that run throughout the festival.
  • Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, is giving a talk and will likely cover topics ranging from #OscarsSoWhite to this year’s #EnvelopeGate.
  • Buzz Aldrin, NASA’s first astronaut with a doctorate, and constant advocate for human space exploration, will be in conversation with Time Magazine’s Jeff Kluger at the Austin Convention Center on March 14.
  • A visually stunning documentary called Through The Repellent Fence: A Land Art Film mixes politics and art by following Native American artists as they put up an art installation along Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between USA & Mexico that instead seeks to unite the two countries and cultures. It screens at the Rollins Theatre March 11, and then again on March 13 & 17 at Alamo Lamar.
  • Oscar winner Justin Hurwitz is discussing the music of La La Land at a cocktail reception at Cedar St Courtyard on March 12.

Sean and I spent literally hours combing through the bountiful schedule and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. SXSW includes networking meetings, mentoring programs, and 263 films from new and emerging talent, including lots of female directors. We’re particularly excited to check out Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde, Free Fire, and so many indie movies our hearts will explode (if the delicious BBQ doesn’t get us first).

Texas here we come!

Trespass Against Us

Colby Cutler (Brendan Gleeson) is the king of the travelers – he reigns over a small trailer enclave and the thieves who live there. They’re constantly suspected by the local police, who are usually right to suspect them. That doesn’t stop them from pulling stupid shit – they are bold and brave and not too smart. And they mostly get away with what they do, except that Colby’s got one son in prison and he seems ready to lose another to the system as well.

trespassagainstus2Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) is not as pleased with his father’s way of life. He sends his kids to school, a luxury he was never afforded. But as long as he’s living among his father’s little gang (and his father’s enormous shadow), he’s stuck. Saving his own son from a similar fate would mean trespassing against his father and the clan, and they’re not about to let him go easily.

Michael Fassbender is excellent. We see him pulled in so many directions – husband, father, son – all seemingly opposing. And as an uneducated man, he is in fact most skilled at being a thief. What kind of life lies for him beyond that? Brendan Gleeson, on the other hand, manages to straddle the paternal with the more menacing. He’s also got a religious streak that seems to elevate him within the clan to Father status with a big F. It’s an awful lot of fun to see these two share screen time together, even if I could have used some subtitles to make sense of their strong accents and impermeable slang.

In his directorial debut, Adam Smith doesn’t rely much on plot. The tensions between father and son escalate but don’t necessarily drive the film forward, because the feeling of Chad’s being paralyzed for lack of options is pervasive. His father’s expectations feel heavy. The movie comes up a little light in terms of this drama, but the action is loaded with fun at full-tilt.

 

TIFF 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Pratt is swarmed by fans and autograph seekers as he arrives in Toronto

The Toronto International Film Festival kicked of last night, September 8, with the premiere of Magnificent 7. The party started the minute Chris Pratt stepped off the plane and strutted through Pearson airport. He manages to look pretty happy about being swarmed though, doesn’t he?

Actually, technically the party started the night before, at the traditional benefit gala. This year Michael Fassbender was the guest of honour, where he confessed that his super power was his ability to nap anywhere, anytime, and that his biggest challenge was learning lines (a real obstacle to taking on the Steve Jobs role, a wordy Aaron Sorkin script). Fassbender has a somewhat limp movie in theatres right now, The Light Between Oceans, but he’s also got one screening at TIFF: Trespass Against Us, where he plays Brendan Gleeson’s son who is trying to escape his crime family’s fate. Fassbender’s no stranger to TIFF, having been

2016 Toronto International Film Festival - TIFF Soiree With Special Guest Michael Fassbender

part of the 2013 People’s Choice winner, 12 Years a Slave. In fact, he mentioned that when he and director Steve McQueen first met, McQueen hated him, and called him arrogant. Was it nerves? Fassbender’s not sure, but the two went on to collaborate very successfully three times.

Michael Fassbender wasn’t the only star on hand Wednesday night: Canadian stars Pamela Anderson and Martin Short were part of the pre-show at the AMBI gala. Short was dressed in his Jiminy Glick and interviewed the Baywatch babe (who was actually looking pretty good in a stunning gown) and elicited her

2016 Toronto International Film Festival - AMBI Gala

top-secret beauty regime – “donuts and sex.” Honourary co-chair James Franco and his creepy little mustache were in the audience, and weirder still, so were Mike Tyson and Billy Baldwin, among others. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Earth, Wind & Fire performed.

Thursday night was all about Magnificent 7. It’s a remake of the 1960 classic with an obvious twist: Antoine Fuqua deliberately chose a diverse cast, and then just as deliberately chose not to have race mentioned much in the movie. He cast friend and frequent collaborator Denzel Washington in the lead role; Denzel, having earned an Oscar under Fuqua’s direction in Training Day, jumped at the chance to work with him again. Fuqua, meanwhile, maintains “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse!” Don’t we all.

Magnificent Seven is meaner and edgier than its predecessors, and funnier too. Chris Pratt, as you can imagine, has a lot to do with that. He even had reporters in stitches in the press conference, declaring that the whole ‘remake’ question was moot: “Eventually you just run out of namesmagnificent-sevenjpg-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724. If I have a son named Chad, is he a remake of somebody else named Chad? No! And I’m not going to give him another name like Schnarkle. This [The Magnificent Seven] has reach. It gets people engaged. But it’s probably a lot more The Wild Bunch than it is The Magnificent Seven. We used the title. We used the story. There are seven guys and we’re all fucking magnificent. But let that movie [the 1960 version] be that movie. This is a different movie.” For now we have to take his word for it, but Magnificent 7 will be out in theatres September 23rd, and you can judge for yourself. Last night, significantly more than just the 7 magnificent bastards walked the red carpet, including Peter Sarsgaard, who was easily mistaken for a homeless person. Both Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke struck a lot of goofy poses as they were quickly ushered along the press line (they were running 30 minutes late!) but it was Denzel Washington who created the biggest crush, and he still had a smile for everyone.

Late, late on Thursday night, there was another premiere at the kickoff of TIFF’s Midnight Madness programming. The midnight movies are not always horror, but they’re scary or violent or grotesque. Last year Matt saw Hardcore Henry at Midnight Madness; this year he’ll be taking in Headshot. Some of the Midnight screenings are surprisingly commercial, with the new Blair Witch set to make its debut, and Emile Hirsch bringing his new film, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and last night’s screening bringing out some big stars indeed: Brie Larson and Armie Hammer for the new Ben Wheatley movie, Free Fire, a genre homage to vintage action movies.

Check out the comments section for more photos, and be sure to be following along on Twitter where we’ll be posting all the action, as it happens: @AssholeMovies

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans is a film for the literary sort. It’s poetically paced, languid in its development. It’s about a man (Michael Fassbender) who, having survived the war, is keen on some isolation and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a lonely island. He doesn’t count on falling in love, and is delighted to double the population of his rock when he takes a wife (Alicia Vikander). Now all they need is a baby and they’ll have a real population boom on their hands.

the-light-between-oceans-heroine-alicia-vikander-picturesBut wait. The babies aren’t coming so easily for this young couple. In fact, the only baby that comes is one that washes ashore, screaming in her dead father’s arms. It’s the lighthouse keeper’s duty to report orphaned baby to the mainland, no matter how much his distraught, infertile, grieving wife may want to keep her. Right?

The Light Between Oceans is beautifully shot by dp Adam Arkapaw; you’ll be sick of the postcard-perfect scenery by the end of the movie. We get it, it’s gorgeous. Fassbender and Vikander fit right in (once she shaves off his mustache anyway), pantomiming love so well they actually fell in love themselves, and are a couple to this day. They’re committed in their roles and aren’t to be blamed when this film ultimately falters.

What makes it stumble?  The pace may be a deterrent. While I was okay with the unhurried the-light-between-oceanspace, I worried that Sean was bored. Or asleep. He assured me he was neither, and I nearly believe him. Second, and hugely, is the contrived plot which forces the characters to behave rather stupidly. As much as you want to like them, and have liked them, you will grow frustrated. And emotional: director Derek Cianfrance is adamant that you cry. He will not be satisfied, or leave well enough alone, until you do.

X-Men: Apocalypse

When I first saw X-Men: First Class in the theater, I was frustrated by Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine. “That’s so stupid,” I told my friends. “How can he show up in the 60s and look the same  as he does in the present?”.

Okay, so clearly I don’t know much about the X-Men universe. But I have since seen all the movies and tend to enjoy them. After Days of Future Past, which I thought was the strongest entry in the series by far, I had pretty high hopes for Apocalypse.

Nine films in a series can start to blend into one so I can’t always remember what happened in which but I am pretty sure that Apocalypse is my submission for the worst- certainly most boring- X-Men movie so far. What could have gone wrong since Bryan Singer’s triumphant return to the franchise two summers ago?

I can’t help feeling that Wolverine is the most important element of Future Past that is missing from Apocalypse. Sure, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is one of the best performances that I can think of in any comic book character ever but that’s not even what I’m missing. Future Past was told mostly from the perspective of Wolverine so we were introduced (or, in many cases, reintroduced) to most characters as they became relevant to Wolverine’s mission.

Like Days of Future Past, Apocalypse has A LOT of characters. Even by superhero movie standards. But without picking a single character’s perspective to focus on, it jumps around a lot. In fact, it probably spends a good half hour on each character’s separate introduction. Like Batman v. Superman, Apocalypse has a habit of cutting away to an unrelated scene just when it’s feeling like it’s starting to get good.

X-Men: Apocalypse is disappointing but does manage to benefit from both the past and future films in the series. Professor X and Magneto, both in their respective story arcs and in their relationship with each other, coast on their strong starts in their last two films and continue to captivate thanks to strong performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Everyone else is fine- even good- but these two are clear standouts in a crowded cast where you need to be great to even be noticed.

Having so many new characters necessitate a lot of scenes that feel more like obligatory preamble than part of the story. But just as the returning characters benefit from the smart choices made in previous installments, the new characters (Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Jean Gray) benefit from the promise of better movies in the future. They’re well-cast and likeable, giving hope that they’ll be better utilized next time.

Macbeth

 

Presumably we all know the plot of Shakespeare’s Scottish play: Macbeth is an inspiring leader until his own greed and ambition (and – let’s face it – his macbeth1-2015wife’s) bring him low, low, low, low.

Justin Kurzel’s interpretation is full of striking imagery, some of it colder than I would have thought, some of it feeling a little empty. But we all know we’re really here for the two powerhouse (king-making?) performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Fassbender was the first on board; Kurzel was selected to complement his style, and both wanted Cotillard for Lady M. Cotillard, you may have noticed, or gleaned from her name, is a French actress, and a rather good one. Language is no barrier to her here; the Shakespeare rolls off her tongue. But they have nonetheless kept her French accent, a rare choice. Shakespeare never specified Lady Macbeth’s provenance, though it’s usually presumed she’s macbeth06Scottish liked bloody everyone else. But in this adaptation, she’s got this slight sense of foreignness and we begin to think what it might be like if she was just a little outside the community to begin with. Where exactly does her allegiance lie?

Fassbender makes Macbeth look easy, and it’s nothing of the sort. He communicates tonnes even with long stretches of silence between lines. The eerie, synthetic music is not always welcome, but you do sometimes get the sense that maybe style is valued slightly over substance. And the movie certainly begs the question: is it okay to re-write Shakespeare? Because images3XFZL3VNwhile I’d say Kurzel stays 90-95% faithful to the source, 5% is still cheating, isn’t it? The world hardly needed yet another Macbeth adaptation, so if you’re going to the trouble, you’d better have something new to say. But who is brave enough to believe they can best the bard? Justin Kurzel, evidently, a young director of just one prior movie,  which I’d never heard of before. And there are three writer’s names in the credits, 3 brazen takers of liberty. Are they right? Can you take liberties with Shakespeare? Will the audience accept it? Forgive it?

Fassbender and Cotillard’s take on the first couple of power and greed (this was before Kim and Kanye) is pretty exceptional. She comes off as having a Macbeth-2015-movie-poster-1thing for bad boys, and he’s trying very hard to live up to her fetish. But it’s clear he isn’t as strong as she is. She is the driving force. Lady Macbeth has always been the one to watch, and Cotillard has always been eminently watchable. But then, having relished playing Dr. Frankenstein, she suddenly feels guilty for having created the monster. They’re a couple of complex characters, perhaps the best ever written, and if there are indeed actors worthy of them, these two come close.