Black Sea

January 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”)
Written by: Dennis Kelly (debut)

Director Kevin Macdonald is nothing if not versatile. As an Oscar winner for his 1999 documentary “One Day in September,” Macdonald has been alternating documentary and narrative films since 2003, releasing five of each, which also makes him prolific. For his latest narrative, Macdonald packs Jude Law and some character actors into a submarine in the treasure hunt film “Black Sea.”

After being let go from his job as a submarine captain, Capt. Robinson (Law) hears from a co-worker about a German World War II-era submarine sitting at the bottom of the ocean holding millions of dollars in gold. In an effort to get to the gold before anyone else can, Law meets with a mysterious funder and puts together a team of people (some with questionable backgrounds) to go on the dangerous mission of claiming the buried treasure.

As the crew plans to head to the depths of the ocean, Law’s character provides incentive to the crew members by telling them that all of the money will be shared equally. When one of the men on board (Scoot McNairy) tells Capt. Robinson that crew members killing other crew members could provide a larger cut to those who survive, the rest of the movie is foretold and disappointingly follows a series of tropes while, interestingly enough, becoming too twisty for its own good.

A lot of the fault for the failures of “Black Sea” can be put on the shoulders of character design. A diver played by the always-solid Ben Mendelsohn, for example, is introduced as a loose cannon that very early on makes a scene out of submarine food which is not only a cliché but has no real reason for it in the context of the movie. It becomes pretty obvious where his arc and where the story will take him. Law, who is good in the film, is not given very much to work with either. One of the biggest failures of the film is a subplot featuring Law acting as a paternal figure to a young member of the crew. It never feels earned or resonates, especially in an emotional payoff that feels entirely empty.

“Black Sea” is certainly not without its moments. There are some very tense ones when the hunt for the treasure becomes increasingly perilous and Macdonald is really able to create a claustrophobic atmosphere within the confines of the submarine. Beyond that, however, lies characters, a story and a screenplay that are deeply unsatisfying.

The Rover

June 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Directed by: David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”)
Written by: David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”)

It’s been four years since writer/director David Michod materialized out of thin air to deliver his ambitious and expertly paced crime thriller “Animal Kingdom,” which follows a dysfunctional Melbourne family and their internal fight with loyalty when one of their own is murdered. Michod turns up the heat a few degrees, but still keeps it to a slow burn with his newest film “The Rover,” an aggressive post-apocalyptic drama set in the grimy Australian Outback that plays like a tale of revenge although our antihero’s motives are not defined until the very end.

In “The Rover,” actor Guy Pearce (“Memento”) stars as Eric, a thick-skinned loner traveling through an Australian wasteland. When his car, the only possession he seems to have besides the sweaty shirt on his back, is stolen by a trio of thieves, Eric makes it his mission to track them down and retrieve what is his. At the start of his pursuit, he meets Rey (Robert Pattinson, in what is easily the best performance of his career thus far), the simpleminded brother of one of the car thieves, who forms an unusual bond with Eric and decides he will help him find his vehicle.

Stylistically, Michod does some impressive work with the look and feel of a dried-up Australian Outback devoid of any reason for its inhabitants to live. We’re not talking about the same kind of misery in something like director John Hillcoat’s “The Road,” but Michod’s trek through the dusty countryside would probably still make any man go mad. We see that here with Eric, a hardened soul willing to do anything he can to get back what is rightfully his. Pearce’s anger is palpable, which balances effectively with Pattinson’s weak-minded nature and an almost strange need to feel accepted by Eric. In a way, it feels like the relationship between George and Lenny in author John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men” from a character perspective. Both need each other in their lives for completely different reasons.

“The Rover,” however, is much more callous and bleak in its delivery. The sense of hopelessness throughout the film is suffocating and Pearce’s performance doesn’t let up for a second. As the more subdued Rey, Pattinson sheds the outer sparkle tweens flocked to in the “Twilight” series and proves he can do some fine work when a role is as rich as this. The ending might not hit as hard as Michod would like, but “The Rover” has an unapologetic mean streak that can’t be ignored.

Scoot McNairy – Non-Stop (DVD)

June 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the high-intensity action-thriller “Non-Stop” starring Liam Neeson, actor Scoot McNairy stars as Tom Bowen, a passenger on a non-stop flight from New York to London, who is caught up in what may be a hijacking situation when a U.S Federal Marshal (Neeson) begins to receive text messages threatening the lives of everyone on the airplane.

During his 13-year career, McNairy, 36, has starred in such films as “Monsters,” “Killing Them Softly” and “Promised Land.” He also had roles in the last two Best Picture Oscar winners, “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave.”

In the last 86 years of the Academy Awards, only two actors (Wallis Clark and Harry Davenport) have starred in three consecutive films that went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s quite possible McNairy’s name could be added to that short list next year if his film “Gone Girl,” directed by David Fincher (“The Social Network”), is nominated, which is definitely a possibility according to most Oscar pundits.

During an interview with me for the DVD/Blu-ray release of “Non-Stop,” McNairy talked about the badassedness of actor Liam Neeson, his fear of airplanes and working with two-time Oscar nominated director Fincher on “Gone Girl,” which hits theaters this fall.

Since you spent some time with Liam Neeson on the set of “Non-Stop,” from your estimation, what it is about him that has made him become such a badass on the big screen since around 2008?

Because he’s such a badass in person! All you have to do is put a camera on the guy. He’s so fascinating to watch. But he is one of the nicest most down-to-earth guys I’ve met. You just want to be around him.

This is one of those films where you really don’t know who the bad guy is until the very end. Is it frustrating for you as an actor when reviews or websites spoil the ending in some way?

Not necessarily. I don’t really read reviews. I like to go to the movies and form my own opinion. People shouldn’t go on websites if they don’t want to know the ending of a movie. In this movie, even if you know the ending, it’s still incredible to watch how everything unfolds. It has a good vibe and is still worth the watch.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra does a good job setting up tense scenes. I though he did that with his 2009 film “Orphan” and again here with “Non-Stop.” What kind of director is he on the set and how is he able to create this suspenseful tone?

He is very, very specific and detailed. He knows exactly what he wants. I agree with you. He has a talent in building suspense. He’s incredible at making thrillers. He’s really great with his actors. He’s really focused.

Speaking of directors, you’ve worked with some great ones over the last few years like Terry Zwigoff, Gus Van Sant and Ben Affleck. Is that something you look at when you’re choosing a project?

Sometimes. It’s always great to work with a director you admire and respect. But sometimes it’s the script you identify with. I would say it’s probably 50/50.

Since this film has a lot to do with airport security, or lack thereof, is that something you worry about as a passenger? Last week, the airport in Detroit went on lockdown because a man forced his way through the security checkpoint. Then just this week a man drove his truck through a security gate in Wichita, Kansas. Do you think about those things or have we gotten to the point where we feel we’re pretty safe these days on an airplane?

You’re asking the wrong guy. I’m terrified of flying. Never mind bombs or things like that. I’m just scared to take off and land in a plane. Reading the script [for “Non-Stop”], I really identified with the fear of not having control of your life.

As an actor who I’m assuming spends a lot of time on airplanes, how do you handle that?

Very, very carefully. I’m very delicate with myself before boarding a plane. There’s a lot of prep time involve. Even then, I still panic on takeoff. I may grab the person’s arm next to me. Once we’re up in the air though, I calm down.

You’ve starred in the last two Best Picture Oscar winners, “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave.” Should I go put my money down on “Gone Girl” for this year?

You know, maybe. [Director David] Fincher makes incredible movies, so there’s no doubt in my mind this movie will be a good one. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed even just to work with all the people I’ve worked with on those projects.

I’m assuming working with Fincher was an incredible experience.

Absolutely. Even before I wanted to be an actor I wanted to work with that guy. To work with him was really fun and exciting and something I can check off my Bucket List. I’m hoping I can come back and work with him again.

Someone you’ve worked with and seen grow this year is director Gareth Edwards who put you in his 2010 film “Monsters.” What did you think about what he was able to do with the reboot of “Godzilla?”

Gareth is one of those people that will deliver an amazing story, whether you give him $100 grand or $100 million. He’s an incredible talent. We haven’t even gotten to the surface of what he can actually do. He’s a lovely, really funny guy. He’s great to hang out with.

You’ve been in this industry for about 13 years now. What have you learned about yourself as an actor over that time?

The more preparation I do, the more comfortable I feel. All and all, I’d say I just try to keep up with it. The work days are long, but you really have to love what you’re doing, and I do. It’s very rewarding. I’ve worked really hard and am very satisfied to be where I’m at.