Only God Forgives (Red Band)
Looking to follow up on the critical success of “Drive,” Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn have teamed up for another spin on the saturated ultra-violence merry-go-round. Certainly “Only God Forgives” looks as gorgeous as any Refn offering; and it sure looks like he’s shooting for some scenes to reach the queasy iconography of the elevator-stomping scene in “Drive.” The Bangkok setting is a unique touch, but I’m most excited for the addition of Kristin Scott Thomas to the mix; wonderful that a talented actress like her can still find a flashy role like this.
After this first look, I’m not entirely sold on Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore effort. The astounding success of his first film, “District 9,” was built on the clever ways Blomkamp skirted around his low budget: the special effects were organic, as good as necessary to tell the story, no more, no less. And really, more than the floating spaceships and exploding exoskeletons, what made “District 9” an engaging, above-average sci-fi flick was the relationship between Sharlto Copley’s protagonist and the alien Christopher; strong character work gave the fairly generic action more meaning.
Now, this could very well just be how the studio is choosing to sell “Elysium,” but we spend a lot more time in this first trailer marveling at Blomkamp’s vastly-expanded VFX budget than actually getting to know any of the characters. I hope at some point we get a second look that tells us a little more about Matt Damon’s lead and why we should care that he’s shooting robots and trying to get to a big “2001” rip-off ship in the sky.
The Way, Way Back
The directing debut of Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon (Ben of “Ben and Kate”) and Jim Rash (the Dean of “Community”) looks like an indie adolescent mash-up of “Adventureland,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” And I loved all those movies, so I’m completely OK with that. And I mean really, that cast? C’mon. You could have just Sam Rockwell and Toni Collette and I would be sold, without throwing in Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph and Faxon and Rash themselves.
OK, I honestly never thought that Ellen Page could be that terrifying. “The East” is the latest collaboration between indie darling Brit Marling (“Another Earth”) and Zal Batmanglij, with Marling starring as a private intelligence operative charged with infiltrating the eco-terrorism group introduced so vividly here. “The East” got good reviews at Sundance, and at the least looks like a tense, disconcerting thriller.