Tag Archives: Benicio Del Toro

The Usual Suspects: Catching Up with Keyser


After seeing the drama Public Access at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, Kevin Spacey went to the party after the screening, walked up to the young men who had written and directed it and told them that he wanted a role in their next movie. At the time, Spacey was a well-respected stage actor who had won a Tony and was occasionally seen on TV in small parts; he had also landed a role in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) opposite Alec Baldwin and Jack Lemmon.

I’m sure that director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie were happy to meet Spacey, but none of them had any idea just what kind of huge breakthrough their next project would be to all of them.

After a bloody showdown on a ship in the Port of Los Angeles, the police are left with only two survivors – a Hungarian gangster with severe burns and Roger ”Verbal” Kint (Spacey), who has a bad limp due to cerebral palsy. The only thing the cops can get out of the Hungarian is the name ”Keyser Söze”, which gets their attention. This is a shadowy figure, a mobster whose whereabouts are virtually unknown, but he does command tremendous respect and fear among criminals. At the police station, Customs agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) starts questioning ”Verbal” who has quite a story to tell. He goes back six weeks in time, when he and a group of other criminals with various talents were arrested on trumped-up charges.

The group, which included a former policeman, Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), decided to get back at the cops by robbing corrupt policemen who were running a scheme helping smugglers. One thing led to another, and soon the gang found themselves in California meeting a lawyer, Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite), who represented Keyser Söze…

Written for Spacey
Spacey reportedly wanted to play Keaton or Kujan, but McQuarrie wrote the part of ”Verbal” specifically for Spacey, and his convincing performance won him an Oscar. The Usual Suspects will always be remembered for its marvelous twist in the final scenes; it is frequently listed as one of the best. Some critics loved this movie upon its premiere, others found the twist too convoluted. It is a complicated story that asks the audience to buy into certain things that may seem unbelievable, but watching the movie again after many years doesn’t diminish the pleasure of it. Sure, there’s no shock near the end this time, but still a lot of fun to see how well Singer stages the revelation and allows it time to play out. One thing I was afraid of was that I’d think the twist is all there is to this movie, but I’m happy to report that I was wrong.

Spacey is wonderful as the con artist who may seem weak because of his condition, but always survives. The whole cast is terrific. Following the colorful gang of criminals who randomly meet at the police station at the beginning of the story is a lot of fun, and apart from Spacey we’re treated to rich performances from Palminteri as the agent who becomes increasingly agitated over ”Verbal’s” story, and Postlethwaite as the mysterious lawyer who keeps his cool even when a gun is pointed to his head. John Ottman is another major asset here, creating tension both in the editing room and as composer of the film’s music score; this was also his breakthrough in the latter field. Visually and narratively speaking, Singer makes his mark here, crafting a good-looking thriller void of lulls and where the central villain is expertly built into a presence that seems larger than life. How unusual to make the reveal of his identity anything but a letdown.

In a way, the final scenes is a setup for a sequel. Considering how many X-Men movies Singer has made, we should be thankful that he never felt the need to bring back Keyser Söze. 

The Usual Suspects 1995-U.S. 105 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Michael McDonnell, Bryan Singer. Directed by Bryan Singer. Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie. Music, Editing: John Ottman. Cast: Stephen Baldwin (Michael McManus), Gabriel Byrne (Dean Keaton), Chazz Palminteri (Dave Kujan), Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey… Benicio Del Toro, Giancarlo Esposito, Dan Hedaya.

Quote: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.” (Spacey)

Oscars: Best Supporting Actor (Spacey), Original Screenplay. BAFTA: Best Original Screenplay, Editing.

Last word: “I sent the script to over 50 studios and potential funders, all of whom rejected it. We had some financing, but that fell through, too. I remember we’d all got together to do some early preparations in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s building in LA, the one that housed his restaurant Schatzi – and they just shut the power off. The thing that saved us was Chazz Palminteri. He agreed to play the cop, but he had a very tiny window in his schedule, just two weeks. So the studios knew they had to move fast if they wanted the chance to fund a film with such a bankable star.” (Singer, The Guardian)



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A Perfect Day

aperfectdayAs some of the Yugoslav Wars are coming to a close in 1995, a group of aid workers try to get rid of a body that’s been thrown down a well to poison it. An unusual look at the practical problems, tragedies and dangers facing a disparate group of aid workers in a war zone. Done with a sense of humor, the comedy is uneven but there’s a charm to it that makes us grow to care about these people. The characters’ personal issues are often clichéd, and when all is said and done you may wonder what exactly did we learn from this… but it’s a terrific cast and the contrived ending is irresistibly bittersweet.

2015-Spain. 106 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa. Novel: Paula Farias (“Dejarse llover”). Cast: Benicio Del Toro (Mambrú), Tim Robbins (B), Olga Kurylenko (Katya), Mélanie Thierry, Fedja Stukan, Eldar Residovic.

Trivia: Spanish title: Un día perfecto.

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Sicario: Beyond the Border


sicarioCanadian director Denis Villeneuve’s first American film, Prisoners (2013), wowed some critics who labeled it a masterpiece. I thought its running time and some convoluted aspects of the script prevented it from brilliance, but was still impressed. Villeneuve’s second American film (after a Canadian-Spanish detour called Enemy, also released in 2013) is more of a knock-out though. Are we witnessing the rise of Hollywood’s next great director of thrillers?

When the FBI hit a seemingly quiet suburban house in Arizona near the border they’re in for a grisly surprise – the walls are stacked with dozens of rotting corpses. Another incident at the house leaves two cops dead. Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is hired as part of an operation involving several agencies; although realizing that she’s partly kept in the dark, Macer agrees when the agent in charge, Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), tells her that this is a chance to really accomplish something, to go after the cartel figures who are responsible for the violence at the border. When Macer flies out to a military base together with Graver, she’s also introduced to a man called Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who reveals very little about himself. Soon, they and a military team are headed across the border to Ciudad Juárez to collect a captured, well-connected cartel member…

Bold, conspiratorial idea
The word “sicario” means “hitman” in Mexico and is a clue to Del Toro’s character, a shady figure whose purpose and motivations become clear in the film’s second half. We’ve previously seen Taylor Sheridan as an actor on various TV shows, especially Sons of Anarchy, but this is his first produced screenplay and it’s quite impressive, offering intricate plotting that doesn’t get too complicated, as well as a bold, conspiratorial idea behind Matt Graver and Alejandro’s mission that is fanciful but still cynically plausible, at least in this context. It’s a very dark, intense look at the problems on the border between the United States and Mexico, one that won’t make you feel like taking a holiday trip south of the border. The drug issue was successfully depicted by Steven Soderbergh in Traffic (2000), which also starred Del Toro, and there have been comparisons between these films. But Sicario is a more straight-forward thriller that doesn’t have room to portray American families who are affected by the drugs; it does however offer a glimpse of what the conflict does to regular Mexican families in Juárez. Villeneuve and Sheridan’s approach is brutal and Blunt, in an excellent turn, becomes our witness to an absurd and very frightening situation. There are times when the tension is almost unbearable, especially in the opening sequence and the first visit to Juárez. Brolin and del Toro offer great support as the oddly charismatic but frustratingly mysterious people Blunt has to rely on. As in Prisoners, Villeneuve also gets first-rate help from cinematographer Roger Deakins who takes advantage of the border’s vast desert landscapes. The director also creates a perfectly timed rhythm for the tension; just when we think the movie is about to hit a lull, it’s merely a segue to another intriguing sequence.

Incendies (2010) and Sicario have a lot going on beneath the surface, especially the first one. But they also have in common its director’s amazing skill at how to propel a movie forward. Villeneuve has been mentioned as a candidate for a sequel to Blade Runner (1982). Not a huge fan of the first movie, I’d still say that he has what it takes. After all, the one thing the first movie lacked was tension.

Sicario 2015-U.S. 121 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Basil Iwanyk, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward McDonnell, Molly Smith. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan. Cinamatography: Roger Deakins. Music: Jóhann Jóhannsson. Cast: Emily Blunt (Kate Macer), Benicio Del Toro (Alejandro), Josh Brolin (Matt Graver), Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal, Victor Garber.

Last word: “The movie is about America … how America fantasises that it can solve problems beyond its borders, and about the collateral damage that results … and the legality and moral issues around that … It’s a movie that deals with idealism and realism and the tension between both … It takes place on the Mexican border, but it could have just as easily have been set in Afghanistan or the Middle East or various countries in Africa. In North America, we allow ourselves to do things that other countries can’t afford to.” (Villeneuve, The Guardian)

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Inherent Vice

inherentviceIn 1970, hippie private eye “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) looks into several events that are connected to the disappearance of a wealthy real estate developer in California… The first screen adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel is true to its labyrinthine, energetic style. A special kind of audience will love its freewheeling attitude, the visual solutions and the eclectic soundtrack, but most will find the complicated (read pointless) plot too much of a snooze. A saving grace is the cast, especially Phoenix who’s very funny as the hippie detective, and Josh Brolin as a crew-cut cop.

2014-U.S. 148 min. Color. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Novel: Thomas Pynchon. Cinematography: Robert Elswit. Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Larry “Doc” Sportello), Josh Brolin (Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen), Owen Wilson (Coy Harlingen), Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro… Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Eric Roberts.

Trivia: Robert Downey, Jr. and Charlize Theron were allegedly considered for lead roles.

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The Greatest Hits of 2015

It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2015 for ya.


* Blackhat – Michael Mann’s first directorial outing since Public Enemies (2009) is a cyber thriller starring Chris Hemsworth. Its January release makes it hard to really get excited about it. 

* Escobar: Paradise Lost – Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar reaches the big screen in the shape of Benicio Del Toro. Josh Hutcherson plays the innocent young man who becomes a witness to Escobar’s life of crime. 

* Still Alice – There have been several Alzheimer dramas before (most notably Away From Her (2007)), but this one boasts an already heavily lauded performance by Julianne Moore.

* Mortdecai – David Koepp is an unreliable director, but this art-heist comedy might be worth a look. A true star vehicle for Johnny Depp, who needs a hit.


* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski siblings deliver another sci-fi movie, this time starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The stars will help, but it’s doubtful that audiences will be much attracted to the film.

* Kingsman: The Secret Service – An action thriller from Matthew Vaughn that follows a veteran secret agent taking on a protégé. Starring Colin Firth and Michael Caine. 

* Fifty Shades of Grey – No one expects this adaptation of the hugely successful novel to be any good; the only question is how naughty will it be? And will audiences line up to find out? Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are in the leads.


* Cinderella – Kenneth Branagh directs this movie that seems to follow in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent. Lily James plays Cinderella in the live-action version. 

* Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent (2014). It’s hard to separate this series from the Hunger Games movies and all the other dystopian youth thrillers. But the first film was a huge hit. 

* Serena – Susanne Bier’s first American film since Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) is a Depression-era drama about a love affair between a girl and a millionaire. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are likely to bring star power.


* Furious 7 – There’s an anxiety to make this movie worth the effort, considering it’s Paul Walker’s last. It will no doubt be interesting to see how well the filmmakers have worked around his absence. It certainly looks wild.

* Child 44 – Daniel Espinosa directs this adaptation of an excellent hard-boiled bestseller, a serial-killer thriller set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman are headlining.


* Avengers: Age of Ultron – Summer puts in a higher gear with this sequel that reunites some of our favorite superheroes.  I hope Joss Whedon lives up to the original, and I look forward to watching James Spader as the villain.

* Mad Max: Fury Road – Perhaps few expected George Miller’s belated sequel to the 1980s franchise to be noteworthy, but the trailers that have been released so far indicate a furious thrill ride. Tom Hardy is in the lead. 

* Tomorrowland – A new Brad Bird movie is always worth a look. This sci-fi adventure, that was co-authored by Damon Lindelof and stars George Clooney, looks very intriguing.


* Jurassic World – It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie and that time difference is illustrated in the story of this sequel. Now it’s a fully operational theme park, and very busy. I’m sure everything will go wrong. 

* Inside Out – The new Pixar movie is a weird concept. We follow the emotions inside a little girl, all represented by quirky characters. Co-directed by Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter.

* Ricki and the Flash – Meryl Streep plays an aging rock star who’s trying to reconnect with her kids. May sound unremarkable, but Jonathan Demme is directing and Streep is probably a hoot to watch. And there’s Kevin Kline.


* Terminator Genisys – Terminator Salvation (2007) failed to jump-start this franchise, but here comes a movie that seems to be everything – a sequel, a remake and a prequel all at once. And Arnold Schwarzenegger returns. Has to be seen. 

* Ant-Man – Can’t say I’m excited about this latest superhero project, but perhaps a sense of humor will boost it, as in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy. The cast has Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.


* The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie directs this adaptation of the 1960s spy series. I guess Warner is hoping for their own Mission: Impossible franchise. Stars Henry Cavill and Hugh Grant.

* Straight Outta Compton – The story of the legendary hiphop group N.W.A. reaches the big screen. Director F. Gary Gray’s first film in six years. Paul Giamatti is in the cast.


* Everest – A star-studded thriller about a Mount Everest expedition that is hit by a snowstorm. Starring Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright and Josh Brolin.

* Black Mass – Infamous Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger is the subject of this film that focuses on his rise. Johnny Depp plays Bulger and the cast also has Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Joel Edgerton.


* The Walk – Did you see the documentary Man on Wire (2008)? Well, here comes Robert Zemeckis’s fictionalized version, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The teaser is eye-popping, and I believe this is an occasion where the 3D will truly serve a purpose.

* The Jungle Book – Hard to tell what Jon Favreau might make of this adaptation, but it seems inspired by the Disney version as much as Rudyard Kipling. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken will provide the voices of Baloo and King Louie.

* Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro directs this ghost movie starring Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain. Early footage was a hit at Comic-Con last summer.


* Spectre – The 24th James Bond movie promises to reintroduce both SPECTRE and Blofeld. Daniel Craig returns and Christoph Waltz plays the villain. Sam Mendes is back in the directing chair after the success of Skyfall (2012). 

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The book certainly did not need to be divided into two separate movies, but here’s the final film in this franchise.

* Midnight Special – Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols returns with a film about a man who goes on the lam with his son after discovering that the boy has special powers. Stars Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon.


* Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The most heavily anticipated movie of the year. The teaser trailer got everybody curious and J.J. Abrams’s take on this franchise certainly looks exciting. Now we’re waiting for a first look of the old stars…

* Mission: Impossible 5 – Both the plot and, likely, the title are unknown at this time. But Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and the other familiar faces from this franchise are returning. Christopher McQuarrie, who made Jack Reacher, is helming.

* Joy – David O. Russell is back with another vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a Long Island single mom who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are also in the cast.

* The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu directs this drama about a frontiersman who sets out for revenge in the 1820s. Stars Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Guardians of the Galaxy


guardiansofthegalaxySomewhere in outer space, a human pilot (Chris Pratt) lays his hands on an orb that contains powerful forces and is immediately hunted; along the way, he befriends a motley gang of warriors and adventurers. Another mighty Marvel adventure in 3D, but this time with heavy emphasis on comedy. That is its salvation, as the film gets a big boost from its laidback style, golden oldies soundtrack and charming performances from the actors who play the ragtag bunch (and in two cases provide voices to irresistible CGI creatures). The action and the villains are strictly Marvel-formulaic, but it’s still fun.

2014-U.S. 121 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by James Gunn. Comic Book: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning. Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoë Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan… Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro. Voices of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel. Cameos: Josh Brolin, Stan Lee. 

Trivia: Followed by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).

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Traffic: The Never-Ending Story


trafficAfter watching Traffik, a 1990 British miniseries portraying the illegal drugs trade from the Pakistani opium poppy grower to the British user, Steven Soderbergh knew that the story would work just as well transferred to an American and Mexican setting. He also knew that he wanted a reportage feel, which is why he studied classics like The Battle of Algiers (1965) and Z (1969). While he doesn’t quite capture the feeling of watching a documentary as well as those films, Soderbergh’s greatest feat is an irresistibly gripping epic.

We are introduced to several characters and at least three storylines that we follow simultaneously. There’s Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), a Mexican cop who’s hired by a general who wants him to capture a hit man for the Tijuana Cartel. On the other side of the border, there’s two DEA agents (Don Cheadle, Luis Guzmán) working in San Diego who are trying to get closer to a drug lord, Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer), who has ties to the Tijuana Cartel. When Ayala is arrested, his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is suddenly made aware of how her posh life is financed.

And then there’s Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), a conservative judge about to be appointed the White House’s new drug czar even though he has no idea that his daughter (Erika Christensen) likes to freebase at parties…

Sense of urgency and reality
There’s a scene where Wakefield is mingling with the Washington power elite. Several of those who appear are real-life senators, such as Orrin Hatch, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid and Charles Grassley. It’s obvious that Soderbergh wanted a sense of urgency and reality to permeate the film; this is a story about the war on drugs, begun under President Richard Nixon, and its consequences. Over the decades, the realization that the term “war on drugs” is too general and even counter-productive has seeped into the public conscience and even influenced the Obama Administration’s attitude. But at the time of this film’s release, the term was still very much alive and Stephen Gaghan clearly shows how close drugs are to our families. Wakefield’s speech near the end may seem redundant but nevertheless eloquent and completely nails why the term is wrong-headed.

The Wakefield story is personal, but Javier’s experiences are about life and death, poverty and prosperity, to an even greater degree. It is easy for Javier to do what’s wrong and benefit from it, hard to keep his hands clean. The Ayala/DEA story offers less depth and more thrills… but at the same time, it’s obvious that the fight will just go on. This part in particular makes it clear that we’re merely dropping by, witnessing a process, a dance around each other, that has no end in sight. Soderbergh balances these depressing insights with a lot of tension and a stellar, star-studded cast where Del Toro stands out as the sullen Mexican cop.

As usual, the director has also photographed the film, employing distinctly different looks for each storyline. Wakefield’s world is blue to the point where it’s starting to look like an old color-tinted silent film; Javier’s is yellow, filtered and over-exposed. It’s borderline too much, but it does help us understand how vastly different these worlds are.

The movie was an interesting entry in the debate over America’s drug policies, but looking back over the 21st century’s first decade it’s also worth noting that the style of Traffic influenced other films. Sure, there had been many similar tapestries earlier, interweaving several stories with a shared theme, but this was on an even broader canvas, especially geographically. I wonder if Alejandro González Iñárritu perhaps found it inspiring?

Traffic 2000-U.S. 147 min. Color. Produced by Laura Bickford, Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick. Directed and photographed by Steven Soderbergh. Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan. Editing: Stephen Mirrione. Cast: Michael Douglas (Robert Wakefield), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Helena Ayala), Benicio Del Toro (Javier Rodriguez), Don Cheadle, Luis Guzmán, Dennis Quaid… Miguel Ferrer, Albert Finney, Topher Grace, Benjamin Bratt, James Brolin, Peter Riegert, Viola Davis, John Slattery.

Trivia: Harrison Ford was first considered for the part of Wakefield. The British miniseries was also remade as an American miniseries, Traffic (2004).

Oscars: Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Del Toro), Film Editing. Golden Globes: Best Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Del Toro). BAFTA: Best Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Del Toro). Berlin: Best Actor (Del Toro).

Quote: “If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don’t know how you wage war on your own family.” (Douglas)

Last word: “My production sound-mixer who I’ve known since I was 13 and was one of the college students that I was hanging out with and making films with when I was growing up, sent me an e-mail when it was all done, saying, ‘This was the closest to what I imagined it could be like when we were making our own films and imagined making bigger films.’ This one, I felt like we finally captured . . . we transplanted that sense of work and play that we had in Baton Rouge 20 years ago on to this large-scale production. That was a nice note to get, because I had felt it too, because I think it translates. I know the actors like it.” (Soderbergh, Indiewire)

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Thor: The Dark World

thor2After the events of The Avengers (2012), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is brought back to Asgard in chains, but Thor (Chris Hemsworth) soon faces another formidable enemy – a dark elf looking for revenge. Helmed by a new director, this sequel to Thor (2011) nevertheless maintains the same tone, successfully blending comedy and action in imaginative, colorful 3D landscapes. The story has Loki manipulating our minds, while also throwing us from one realm to the next (including Earth, sorry, Midgard), sometimes even in the middle of a battle. Very familiar, but deftly handled.

2013-U.S. 111 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Alan Taylor. Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston… Ray Stevenson, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins. Cameos: Benicio Del Toro, Stan Lee, Chris Evans.

Trivia: Followed by Thor: Ragnarok (2017).

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When a Mexican drug cartel kidnaps the girlfriend (Blake Lively) of two successful California marijuana growers (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as part of business negotiations, they decide to hit back hard. Oliver Stone returns to Scarface territory with this violent but also surprisingly sexy and entertaining saga about wheeling and dealing between major and minor players in the drug trade. The three leads are very attractive and easy to root for; Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta are a lot of fun (and their characters more complex). Goes on a little too long, though, and ends with an unnecessary twist.

2012-U.S. 131 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Oliver Stone. Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Don Winslow, Shane Salerno. Novel: Don Winslow. Cast: Taylor Kitsch (Chon), Blake Lively (Ophelia “O” Sage), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ben), John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek… Emile Hirsch.

Trivia: Jennifer Lawrence was first cast as O. Alternative version runs 142 min.


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somewhereWhen his ex-wife goes away for a while, Hollywood star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is saddled with his young daughter (Elle Fanning) who joins him on a publicity tour for a new movie. Director Sofia Coppola drew from her experiences as a kid when she went with her famous father all over the world. The result is a film that captures this weird universe populated by stars and sycophants in a knowing way. Fascinating at times, but very predictable for anyone familiar with Coppola’s themes. Fanning is good; Dorff plays a star of Vincent Chase’s caliber.

2010-U.S.-Italy-France-Japan. 97 min. Color. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Cast: Stephen Dorff (Johnny Marco), Elle Fanning (Cleo), Chris Pontius (Sammy), Ellie Kemper… Alden Ehrenreich. Cameo: Benicio Del Toro.

Venice: Golden Lion.

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The Wolfman


In 1891, actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) leaves London for his childhood home to find out who killed his brother in the most beastly way possible. This remake of the 1941 classic was panned by many critics, but deserve an audience. The normally family-friendly Joe Johnston crafted a bloody tale that relies on the strength of Danny Elfman’s score, Rick Baker’s excellent makeup effects, Rick Heinrich’s overwhelming, dark production design, as well as many details that reveal the filmmakers’ fondness of the old predecessors. Plenty of scares, good CGI and even a sense of playfulness  – and how can you resist a movie that adds to the cast the man who hunted Jack the Ripper?

2010-U.S. 102 min. Color. Produced by Sean Daniel, Benicio Del Toro, Scott Stuber, Rick Yorn. Directed by Joe Johnston. Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self. Music: Danny Elfman. Production Design: Rick Heinrichs. Makeup: Rick Baker, and others. Cast: Benicio Del Toro (Lawrence Talbot), Anthony Hopkins (John Talbot), Emily Blunt (Gwen Conliffe), Hugo Weaving, Art Malik, Geraldine Chaplin. Cameo: Max von Sydow.

Oscar: Best Makeup.

Last word: “I had three weeks of prep on ‘Wolfman’, a ridiculously inadequate amount of time to try to bring together the fractured and scattered pieces of the production. I had taken the job mostly because I had a cash flow problem, the only time in my career I’ve ever let finances enter into the decision process […] Money is always the wrong reason for doing something that requires passionate devotion. The production was a leaky, rudderless ship in a perfect storm suffering from bad decisions, infighting, reluctance of the powers-that-be to take responsibility, and too many under-qualified cooks in the kitchen.” (Johnston, Den of Geeks)



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Things We Lost in the Fire



thingswelostinfireWhen Audrey’s (Halle Berry) husband Brian (David Duchovny) is murdered, she becomes closer to his best friend (Benicio Del Toro), a screwed-up drug addict. Director Susanne Bier’s first American film is another display of her knack for emotional dramas where people’s lives fall apart; the script shows similarities between the hardships of drug addiction and grief and how two people understand each other better because of that. Bier also expertly builds our sympathy for the family in the early flashbacks… and when they end give us a chance to join in mourning. Del Toro is obviously perfect for his part, but Berry does a good job as well.

2007-U.S. 119 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Sam Mendes, Sam Mercer. Directed by Susanne Bier. Screenplay: Allan Loeb. Cast: Halle Berry (Audrey Burke), Benicio Del Toro (Jerry Sunborne), David Duchovny (Brian Burke), Alison Lohman, John Carroll Lynch, Paula Newsome.

Last word: “At the point where I received this script, I’d probably read about 200 scripts and most scripts were pretty boring. This was not. This was gripping, touching and I was very moved by it. But I was also laughing a lot while reading it. I found that very compelling. I’ve wanted to make a movie in English for some time – not to earn money or something but because I happen to believe that I’ve got some stories to tell and something I want to convey to the world. To do that in Danish you’re bound to have an art-house audience if it’s not in the English language. I thought it would be really challenging and stimulating to try and see whether I could target a bigger audience and do it in English.” (Bier, indieLondon)

4 kopia



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Sin City



This adaptation of a graphic novel is a first in the way that the creator actively worked with the director on the visual style of the film. There are four stories, all set in the rainy, dark and unforgiving place called Basin City. Everything is so grim-looking, so noir, that it’s borderline comical. The violence is incredibly brutal, but the impact is muted because of the artificial depiction of it. The animation looks amazing… but what we have in the end is endless variations on torture, maiming and car chases, and the film’s visual style and clever touches can’t quite make up for that. Mickey Rourke stands out in the cast as a tough guy.

2005-U.S. 124 min. B-W/Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez. Graphic Novels: Frank Miller. Cast: Bruce Willis (John Hartigan), Clive Owen (Dwight McCarthy), Jessica Alba (Nancy Callahan), Benicio Del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King… Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Michael Clarke Duncan, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Michael Madsen.

Trivia: Rodriguez quit the DGA when they wouldn’t agree to a co-director credit for Miller who hasn’t directed anything per se, but, according to Rodriguez, been a key partner. Quentin Tarantino also directed a scene. Adrien Brody and Johnny Depp were allegedly considered for parts in the film. Followed by Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014).

5 kopia



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