Tag Archives: David Cronenberg

Maps to the Stars

mapstothestarsA deeply cynical, satirical look at Hollywood as we follow a fortysomething movie star (Julianne Moore) who’s desperate for a comeback; a bratty teen star (Evan Bird); and a peculiar young woman (Mia Wasikowska) with burnt arms who may or may not be looking for revenge. The cast is the whole show here, with Moore in a standout, no-holds-barred performance. The story aims for the jugular and its provocations entertain at times… but this is ultimately painfully pointless.

2014-Canada-U.S. 111 min. Color. Directed by David Cronenberg. Screenplay: Bruce Wagner. Cast: Julianne Moore (Havana Segrand), Mia Wasikowska (Agatha Weiss), John Cusack (Stafford Weiss), Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon… Carrie Fisher.

Trivia: Fisher plays herself. Viggo Mortensen and Rachel Weisz were allegedly considered for roles.

Cannes: Best Actress (Moore).

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Mia Wasikowska at 25

Congratulations to Mia Wasikowska who turns 25 years old tomorrow. She’s still at that stage where we as an audience are following her journey to stardom. Wasikowska broke through four years ago in Alice in Wonderland, the Tim Burton hit, where she played the titular character. She also had a role in The Kids Are All Right (2010), but to me (and many others) her first great achievement was in Jane Eyre (2011), a romantic and gripping adaptation. These films (along with a few others) secured Wasikowska’s standing as a very promising and versatile leading lady.

In the clips above, brilliant film journalist Anne Thompson interviews the actress in 2011 about her quick rise to stardom. Wasikowska talks about how her accent (she’s Australian) is a jumbled mix of everything now, what her path might have been right after her work as a teen on In Treatment, and what it was like to work on Jane Eyre

Versatility continues to be a thing for Wasikowska. After appearing in the very quirky The Double (2014), she’s done David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars (which has people talking about an Oscar for Julianne Moore) and Madame Bovary. Coming up after that is Guillermo del Toro’s heavily anticipated horror flick Crimson Peak, and right now she’s filming Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, a sequel I hope improves on the original.

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A Dangerous Method

BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF JUNG, FREUD AND THE PATIENT WHO CAME BETWEEN THEM. 

dangerousmethodIn the early 1900s, doctor Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a hysterical patient (Keira Knightley) and seeks advice from the influential Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Christopher Hampton, the man who gave us “Dangerous Liaisons”, dives back into the darker aspects of sexuality as he recounts the story of how a young woman was influenced by two giants of psychiatry, and how the men came to end their friendship in spite of mutual admiration. Interesting, albeit a tad remote, and David Cronenberg gives ample room for Knightley and Fassbender to dominate the film as patient and doctor who embark on a rough sexual affair.

2011-Canada-Germany-Britain. 99 min. Color. Directed by David Cronenberg. Screenplay, Play: Christopher Hampton (“The Talking Cure”). Book: John Kerr. Cast: Keira Knightley (Sabina Spielrein), Viggo Mortensen (Sigmund Freud), Michael Fassbender (Carl Jung), Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon. 

Trivia: Christoph Waltz and Christian Bale were considered as Freud and Jung.

5 kopia

 

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Cosmopolis

cosmopolisDirector David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed Don DeLillo novel invites us on an icy, claustrophobic journey together with a young billionaire (Robert Pattinson) who’s about to lose everything as riots shake Manhattan. Largely set inside his luxurious stretch limo, it’s a very talky, incongruous experience that takes on increasingly absurd overtones. Worth a look because of Pattinson’s best performance to date, but as a comment on the Great Recession the film is little more than a curiosity.

2012-Canada-France. 109 min. Color. Written and directed by David Cronenberg. Novel: Don DeLillo. Cast: Robert Pattinson (Eric Packer), Juliette Binoche (Didi Fancher), Sarah Gadon (Elise Shifrin), Mathieu Amalric, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand… Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti.

Trivia: Colin Farrell was first cast in the lead role; Marion Cotillard was allegedly considered for a part.

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Jason X

EVIL GETS AN UPGRADE.

jasonxJason Vorhees (Kane Hodder) has been captured and is accidentally cryogenically frozen along with a scientist (Lexa Doig); 400 years later they’re awakened and Jason wreaks havoc aboard a spacecraft. The tenth Friday the 13th flick brings Jason into outer space and even gives him a major upgrade near the end. People die the way they usually do in these movies, but there are a few cool references to what fans know makes Jason tick and it’s hard to resist some of the outlandish silliness.

2002-U.S. 93 min. Color. Directed by Jim Isaac. Cast: Kane Hodder (Jason Vorhees), Lexa Doig (Rowan), Lisa Ryder (Kay-Em 14), Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts, Peter Mensah. Cameo: David Cronenberg.

Trivia: Jason next appeared in Freddy Vs. Jason (2003).

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History of Violence: Shadows of the Past

EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING TO HIDE.

 

historyofviolenceDavid Cronenberg has declared himself a “complete Darwinian”, a believer in the survival of the fittest. That is obvious in this film that became a critical acknowledgment (there were even Oscar nominations) for a director who has enjoyed a long career of bloody, absurd movies appreciated by connoisseurs and a large crowd of young males. A History of Violence is more conventional, but still recognizable to Cronenberg aficionados. 

The film was based on a graphic novel, but many details have been changed. It introduces a lead character, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), who’s living a quiet life in a small Indiana town. He owns a diner and has a wife, Edie (Maria Bello), and two kids. He’s well liked and wouldn’t hurt a fly. That perception of him changes the day when two criminals walk into his diner and threaten to kill Tom and his staff. He attacks one of the thugs with a pot of coffee, gets hold of one of their guns and quickly executes the men. Tom is hailed as a hero by the people in the town and lands in the news spotlight. Shortly afterwards, an intimidating, disfigured man (Ed Harris) dressed in black comes to the diner and calls Tom Joey. He claims to know him, but Tom tells him that he’s made a mistake. The local sheriff finds out who the man is; he turns out to be Carl Fogarty, a dangerous enforcer who works for a Philadelphia mob boss called Richie Cusack (William Hurt). Tom tells the sheriff that he still doesn’t understand why Fogarty thinks he is this “Joey”… but the cat is already out of the bag. 

Good story, with or without the blood
Cronenberg is very interested in the way the lead character can walk in and out of his two identities; how they are not really compatible, but still exist in one body. Tom can use lethal force when he has no other choice, but his ability to kill a man with cruelty doesn’t change him as a loving father and husband. Or does it? As far as the violence goes, there are plenty of nauseating sequences; Cronenberg has often expressed surprise at the notion that he makes excessively violent films, but that’s dishonest of him. He has the ability to create revolting violence and he seems to get a kick out of it; why deny it? It’s a good story with or without the blood-spurting, surprisingly adult and intelligent, that also asks the question of when and where violence is the right solution to problems. Mortensen is excellent in a low-key performance, utterly believable both as a family man and as a killer. Other performances complement his nicely; Bello as the wife, Harris as the scarred gangster who won’t take no for an answer, and Hurt, who’s very amusing as the psychopathic mob boss. 

One could argue that when all is said and done there isn’t much in this film that is very unique. The final showdown is rather clichéd, but the film ends with a silent sequence where Tom returns to his family. No words are spoken, but what happens there and the looks that are exchanged say a lot about what this family has gone through and will go through. Without that scene, and a couple of others, there would be little depth in the portrayal of Tom Stall and his situation.

A History of Violence 2005-U.S.-Canada. 95 min. Color. Produced by Chris Bender, J.C. Spink. Directed by David Cronenberg. Screenplay: Josh Olson. Graphic Novel: John Wagner, Vince Locke. Cast: Viggo Mortensen (Tom Stall), Maria Bello (Edie Stall), William Hurt (Richie Cusack), Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes, Stephen McHattie.

Trivia: Harrison Ford was allegedly considered for the part of Tom.

Last word: “My investment was in Josh’’s script. We had developed it to a certain point that it was going in a very interesting direction and we were both very comfortable with it, and that’’s when I heard that there was a graphic novel. And I said, ‘Well, what graphic novel? And they said, ‘Oh you didn’’t know?’ So then I looked at it and I saw that although the basic premise was obviously the same, it then took some turns and went in a very different direction from what we were doing. And with Josh, I guess it was conscience to go in a different direction. But for me it wasn’’t. I was just following him and then developing it with him. So it had no effect on me, reading it.” (Cronenberg, About.com)

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Spider

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN LOSING YOUR MIND… IS FINDING IT AGAIN.

spiderWhen a mentally disturbed man (Ralph Fiennes) arrives at a London halfway house, he starts remembering what happened to his parents when he was a kid. An unpleasant film from director David Cronenberg, a psychological thriller but not a gory horror movie. We follow the tragic protagonist as he goes through his memories of the mother he loved, the father he came to see as an evil man and the dirty affair he had with a barfly. Miranda Richardson shows her skill in two very different roles, and Fiennes is outstanding as the man with a mind as twisted as a spider web.

2002-Canada-Britain. 90 min. Color. Directed by David Cronenberg. Screenplay, Novel: Patrick McGrath. Cast: Ralph Fiennes (Dennis “Spider” Cleg), Miranda Richardson (Yvonne/Mrs. Cleg), Gabriel Byrne (Bill Cleg), Bradley Hall, Lynn Redgrave, John Neville.

Trivia: Co-produced by Cronenberg.

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Extreme Measures

NOT ALL SURGERY IS INTENDED TO CURE. DON’T MOVE A MUSCLE.

extrememeasuresCan you afford to have moral standards in the fight against cancer? This thriller shares similarities with Coma (1978) in the way it deals with questions regarding medical ethics. Some critics didn’t think Hugh Grant was right for the part of the curious doctor who discovers that dead patients disappear from his ER, but he’s actually quite engaging. Gene Hackman really is the one going through the motions as another boring villain. There are exciting sequences, but it all becomes too illogical and predictable.

1996-U.S. 118 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Elizabeth Hurley. Directed by Michael Apted. Cast: Hugh Grant (Guy Luthan), Gene Hackman (Lawrence Myrick), Sarah Jessica Parker (Jodie Trammel), David Morse, Bill Nunn, John Toles-Bey… J.K. Simmons. Cameo: David Cronenberg.

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Trial by Jury

FOR ONE JUROR, THE QUESTION OF GUILT OR INNOCENCE IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH… HER OWN.

trialbyjuryWhen mob boss Rusty Pirone (Armand Assante) is brought to trial, his hit man (William Hurt) approaches one of the jurors (Joanne Whalley), threatening to kill her son if she doesn’t talk the jury into acquitting Pirone. A sleazy thriller with absolutely risible dialogue. The reason why the script and the direction is so over-the-top is likely just to conceal the fact that we’ve seen it all before. Whalley’s unsatisfactory performance doesn’t make it any easier to care for her juror in jeopardy. Some novelty is provided by Hurt as the likable killer.

1994-U.S. 107 min. Color. Directed by Heywood Gould. Cast: Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Valerie Alston), Armand Assante (Rusty Pirone), Gabriel Byrne (Daniel Graham), William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan, Margaret Whitton. Cameo: David Cronenberg.

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