Beyond the Reach (Jean-Baptiste Léonetti, 2014)

Adapted from Robb White’s novel, Deathwatch, Beyond the Reach sees a revival of that now classic conceit of The Most Dangerous Game: man hunting man…

Full review for VODzilla.co

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Rogue Sequel: In Defence of John Woo’s ‘Mission: Impossible II’

In the largely homogeneous world of blockbuster franchise filmmaking (hi, Marvel Studios), the nearly 20-years old Mission: Impossible series is perhaps the only still ongoing one that can, without a doubt, be described as director-driven. Brian De Palma’s first film in the series was loosely based on the popular television series of the same name, but it saw fit to treat fan service as red herrings: all IMF squad bar members except Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt are slaughtered within the first act, while series protagonist Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) is revealed to be a traitor. Of the utmost concern to De Palma are his trademark motifs regarding voyeurism, and his spy film fits better in the company of his films like Blow Out than something like the prior year’s Bond entry, GoldenEye. He takes the basic concept of Mission: Impossible and reboots it to suit his own whims.

And so, it is that a similar approach has been carried over to each installment, where every sequel is like its own reboot in a way. There’s continuity and commonality here and there (hi, Ving Rhames), and more so of that in the most recent three films (hi, Bad Robot Productions), but the big connective tissue is always that of using Cruise as a tool, placing him in oft-incredible, elaborate cinematic spectacles — Ethan Hunt is a device, not a character. Yet, the installment that arguably made the best use of Cruise as an instrument of violence is considered the black sheep of the series. Not to say that John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II is the best of the franchise, but there’s much to appreciate here and its rhythms have only become more interesting with age…

Full feature for Vague Visages

Alexander Skarsgård: “Even in a sex scene, you can’t show a butt or a nipple”

Breaking through into public consciousness with the one-two HBO series punch of Generation Kill and True Blood, Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård’s star has been on the rise ever since. Alternating between independent fare (The East), wannabe blockbusters (Battleship), arthouse darling projects (Lars von Trier’s Melancholia), and, of course, Lady Gaga music videos, the 38-year-old is now very much a cinematic force to be reckoned with, far removed from the shadow of his father, beloved character actor Stellan Skarsgård, or the days of his first English-language role in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander (he played one of male model Derek Zoolander’s idiot friends who dies in “a freak gasoline fight accident”). Next year sees him lead a summer tentpole release with a new live-action Tarzan from director David Yates (director of the last four Harry Potter films), but his most interesting film role to date arrives this year on a much smaller scale…

Full interview for The Skinny

The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders/Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, 2014)

With The Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders has helmed yet another strong documentary about a fellow artist (see Pina), though this time he’s on co-directing duties with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the son of his documentary’s subject. The film profiles Sebastião Salgado, an acclaimed Brazilian photojournalist whose life has mostly been spent chronicling the misfortunes of victims of man’s cruelty and selfishness; massacred Tutsi in Rwanda and famine victims in the Sahel region of central Africa are just two of the striking subjects of his camera’s lens…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Pet Sights and Sounds: Brian Wilson biopic ‘Love & Mercy’

“I honestly grew up more as a Beatles guy than a Beach Boys guy, but I’ve admitted that to Brian, so he’s aware,” says Bill Pohlad with a little smile.

We’re speaking to Pohlad ahead of the UK premiere of his gorgeous and tragic Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he begins by explaining how his musical alliances started to change. “As I got older, I think I started to appreciate The Beach Boys much more, and then, just spontaneously, about ten years ago, I got into Pet Sounds in a much deeper way. I mean, it’s something I always appreciated, but I didn’t really plumb the depths of it until more recently. And so when this project came along, I was kind of perfectly keyed up for it, I think…

Full interview for The Skinny