Bridge of Spies

bos-posterTouchstone (2015) 142 min. PG-13

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenplay: Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen

Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski; Editing: Michael Kahn; Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo & Bernhard Henrich; Costumes: Kasia Walicka-Maimone; Score: Thomas Newman

Stars: Tom Hanks (James B. Donovan), Mark Rylance (Rudolf Abel), Amy Ryan (Mary Donovan), Sebastian Koch (Wolfgang Vogel), Alan Alda (Thomas Watters), Austin Stowell (Francis Gary Powers), Scott Shepherd (Hoffman), Dakin Matthews (Judge Byers), Billy Magnussen (Doug Forrester), Will Rogers (Frederic Pryor), Mikhail Gorevoy (Ivan Schischkin), Jesse Plemons (Joe Murphy)

At the height of the Cold War, insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is assigned the case of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet spy apprehended in the act of espionage. Though he’s pressured not to put together much of a defense, Donovan believes not to do so would be unethical. Arguing for imprisonment rather than execution, he convinces the feds Abel could be used as a bargaining chip with the USSR at some point in the future. Not long after, U-2 spy Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down and another American, college student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) apprehended on the East German side of the Berlin Wall. Asked by his country to intercede on America’s behalf, Donovan attempts to negotiate an exchange of prisoners.

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Gone Girl

GG poster20th Century-Fox (2014) 149 min. R

Director: David Fincher Screenplay: Gillian Flynn; based on the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth; Editing: Kirk Baxter

Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Douglas A. Mowat; Costumes: Trish Summerville; Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Stars: Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Rosamund Pike (Amy Elliott-Dunne), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi Collings), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), Carrie Coon (Margo), Kim Dickens (Det. Rhonda Boney), Emily Ratajkowski (Andie), Missi Pyle (Ellen Abbott), Patrick Fugit (Officer James Gilpin), Sela Ward (Sharon Schieber), Lola Kirke (Greta), Casey Wilson (Noelle Hawthorne), Leonard Kelly-Young (Bill Dunne)

While it’s a welcome relief to see a book adapted into a movie that isn’t grounded in another teen fiction franchise, the Book-of-the-Month club mentality Gone Girl grew out of gives me pause. Big screen bestsellers come with a built-in audience, a guarantee that makes them a relatively safe investment for producers, but the sort of bookworms they attract to cinemas and who regard them as great films in the same way they classify great literature, aren’t the type who generally go to movies so can’t be the most discerning judges. Continue reading

Prisoners

Prisoners posterWarner Bros. (2013) 153 min. R

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

Cinematography: Roger A. Deakins; Editing: Joel Cox & Gary D. Roach

Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Frank Galline

Costumes: Renée April

Score: Jóhann Jóhannsson

Stars: Hugh Jackman (Keller Dover), Jake Gyllenhaal (Detective Loki), Terrence Howard (Franklin Birch), Paul Dano (Alex Jones), Viola Davis (Nancy Birch), Maria Bello (Grace Dover), Melissa Leo (Holly Jones), Dylan Minnette (Ralph Dover), David Dastmalchian (Bob Taylor)

Prisoners has the slow, steady seep of other depressing, missing children milk carton movies such as Adam and ChangelingThe Atlanta Child Murders and Gone Baby Gone. There’s no moment as gut wrenching as when the realization first dawns that these kids have been taken. It’s every parents worst nightmare. Following the disappearance of two little girls on Thanksgiving, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) must release his prime suspect (Paul Dano) from custody when no evidence surfaces to hold him. Feeling the system has failed, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), father of one of the missing girls, takes the law into his own hands, Continue reading

Side Effects

Side Effects posterEndgame Ent./Open Road (2013) 106 min. R

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns

Cinematography: Peter Andrews

Editing: Mary Ann Bernard

Production Design: Howard Cummings; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Costumes: Susan Lyall

Score: Thomas Newman

Stars: Jude Law (Dr. Jonathan Banks), Rooney Mara (Emily Taylor), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Dr. Victoria Siebert), Channing Tatum (Martin Taylor), Vinessa Shaw (Dierdre Banks), Ann Dowd (Martin’s Mother) 

The buzz around Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s latest, centered on its being announced as his last movie before leaving the industry to answer the call of the higher arts. It was an ingenious marketing gimmick. Advertising Side Effects as his endgame raised its appraisal value exponentially. Viewers were made to feel as though this were their final chance to seek out a Soderbergh film on the big screen, at least until his earlier work is re-released in 3D. The canny director is already exercising the most salient aspect of selling art, by exploiting the fact that a master’s work always increases in value after he passes. Soderbergh is no fool; like his onscreen characters he knows how to manipulate the market. Continue reading

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

dragon_tattoo_posterColumbia/MGM (2011) 158 min. R

Director: David Fincher

Screenplay: Steven Zaillian; based on the novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth; Editing: Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall

Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: K.C. Fox

Costumes: Trish Summerville; Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Stars:  Daniel Craig (Mikael Blomkvist), Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander), Christopher Plummer (Henrik Vanger), Stellan Skarsgård (Martin Vanger), Steven Berkoff (Dirch Frode), Robin Wright (Erika Berger), Yorick van Wageningen (Nils Bjurman), Joely Richardson (Anita Vanger), Julian Sands (Young Henrik)

Sometimes I feel as though the only American horror stories that still seem worth telling anymore are remakes of Asian films such as The Ring, The Grudge, One Missed Call, The Eye, Shutter, and Insidious, an American original which qualifies by default (it was directed by the Malaysian Chinese-born James Wan, who grew up in Australia). Upon seeing David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2011, I’m willing to make the same assertion for American remakes of unsettling Scandinavian psychological thrillers. The movie was based on the same source as the 2009 Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev and starring Noomi Rapace. Continue reading