by Gabriel Valdez
Some of you know this blog treats Kristen Stewart as something of a champion. You can read why here, but the brief reason is that she’s been effectively blackballed from studio filmmaking for having an affair, while the man she slept with, Rupert Sanders – her director, twice her age, with a wife and children – never received similar treatment from the industry and has been offered his choice of big-budget studio projects.
Another director, Frank Darabont, won the directing job for Snow White and the Huntsman 2 by pitching the plot that most effectively cut Stewart out of the franchise she launched. So we champion Kristen Stewart here (or at least Vanessa and I do; we’re not a hivemind) because an attitude that holds young women accountable for affairs yet rewards old men with families for them deserves every ounce of vitriol we can muster.
All of that is immaterial when it comes to Camp X-Ray. This just looks like a good film. Stewart gets a bad rap as an actress for her part in a Twilight franchise in which everybody – even Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning – indisputably sucked. People neglect her roles in The Messengers, Into the Wild, Welcome to the Rileys, and The Runaways. That’s certainly a better resume than most of the actors involved in Twilight boasted.
Kristen Stewart with a chip on her shoulder and something to prove, in a film with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove? That’s something I want to see.
Camp X-Ray. It’s about the soldiers assigned to a particular section of Guantanamo Bay, a military prison that holds its prisoners free of international law, trial, and in violation of the Geneva Convention. (Barack Obama campaigned on closing it in 2008. It is still open today.)
The film follows a friendship that develops between Stewart’s Private Amy Cole and a prisoner named Ali Amir. As a guard, her job is not to keep him imprisoned; it’s to keep him from killing himself.
A sports movie for people who hate sports movies? What if I like sports movies? The closest I’ve ever gotten to understanding the sports camps of Soviet Russia is catching the rerun of Rocky IV on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You see, the key to boxing is glistening as hard as you can.
Children would dream of growing up to play hockey or wrestle for the USSR in the Olympics, and when they achieved that, they would dream of escaping the nearly year-round sports camps (read: prisons) that were dedicated to perfecting athletes whether they liked it or not.
An investigation of Soviet Russian policies and their mutual obsession with the United States through the lens of sports? That’s what documentary is made for.
Never count Clint Eastwood out. Regardless of conversations with empty chairs, the man is still a consummate director obsessed with plumbing the depths of the American experience. His politics rarely make it into his films, at least not in the way you’d expect.
American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, looks powerful. Its trailer comes across not like a tease but as a statement in and of itself. It’s the kind of film – centered around a lone figure, juxtaposing family life against dangerous work, tension inherent to the job – that plays to all of Eastwood’s strengths as a director. Cooper himself is a burgeoning talent, only now getting the recognition and roles he deserves after films like Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.
THE WATER DIVINER
No date set
As I pointed out in last week’s special feature, it’s looking like a banner year for Australian film. Add Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, the tale of a father who travels to post-World War I Turkey in order to find his three dead sons.
You can see the edges of the movie’s budget in the trailer, but there are a number of factors recommending this film anyway. The most obvious is wondering what Crowe can bring as a director. Some of the visuals here look compelling. I already know what he can bring as an actor. That’s another reason.
Then there’s the story dealing with the aftermath of the Gallipoli campaign. Gallipoli is a bitter moment in Australian history – young Australian soldiers fighting halfway around the world for the British Empire were slaughtered. Gallipoli, a 1981 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson, remains one of the more salient – and often overlooked – war movies ever made.
Finally, there’s Olga Kurylenko. Once dismissed as a model who only appeared in B-films as eye candy, she’s built a career of very solid performances in films including Quantum of Solace, To the Wonder, and Oblivion. She hints of an actor about to break out.
Jude Law gets laid off and decides to take his skills – salvaging underwater wrecks – on one last freelance job. He assembles a rag-tag crew to exhume a Nazi U-boat full of gold from the bottom of the – you guessed it – Black Sea.
I’m honestly more interested in the trailer when it’s about conflicting personalities taking on an improbable job (and Jude Law’s crack at brogue). If it were all underwater rigging this and running out of air that, I’d be happy. To make it an everyone-turns-on-the-next man thriller is predictable. I’m not saying it can’t be done well – the trailer’s solid enough – but I’m more interested in Jude Law as a man against nature than I am in his pointing guns at people. Still, the talent involved and premise are enough to get me interested.
Trailer #3 is better than this place on the list, but we’ve had quite a few Interstellar trailers (it’s more like #5 now), and this is the only one so far not to put a lump in my throat. It looks phenomenal, but it’s looked more phenomenal in other trailers. This could be the only major film left this year with a real chance to unseat the ridiculous twosome of Under the Skin and Gone Girl.
Worst Trailer of the Week
I don’t want to put this one here, I really don’t. I’ve always liked Katie Holmes – she seems like a nice human being I want to see do well. As a prim schoolteacher by day, vigilante killer by night, she looks like she’s having a lot of fun in this.
Unfortunately, everything not having to do with Katie Holmes here seems off. Deeply off. Miss Meadows has been in a holding pattern for a while now, and I can see why.
I really expected to be putting Taken 3 here, but you know what? That looks like all the dumb car crashes and needless explosions I’ve ever wanted to see Liam Neeson create. Next time, give Katie Holmes an assault rifle, a Mustang, and some C4. Then we’ll talk.
All release dates given are U.S.