Wednesday Round-Up: TIFF talk heats up with only 8 days to go

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With the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival just eight days away, you can expect TIFF talk here and elsewhere to go into overdrive. Maximum overdrive, even. Almost every day from now until the end of the festival, I’ll be posting something TIFF-related — although not tomorrow; note I said ALMOST.

The majority of my coverage will be for Indiewire’s The Playlist, for The Film Stage, and for the November issue of Buffalo Spree, but I will certainly post here, and I will also be posting lots on FilmSwoon’s Twitter and Facebook pages, so please hit those up while I’m at the festival (September 6-9).

One TIFF entry I am hoping to see — honestly, it’s all up in the air at this point — is “Dallas Buyers Club,” a.k.a., The Film That Matthew McConaughey Lost All That Weight For. It is a fantastic concept for a movie, and represents another unique choice for its star. The Playlist posted some new pictures for the film — its release date was just moved up to early November, a very confident move — and an official synopsis:

“In 1986, the AIDS crisis was still a misunderstood horror, withering then taking its victims, alarming the public and confounding the doctors who sought a cure. In Texas, Ron Woodruff stood beyond the fear of AIDS. He was clueless. So when this boozing, foul-mouthed, womanizing heterosexual contracted HIV, his response was instinctive: Bullshit.

“‘Dallas Buyers Club’ draws on his true story. When Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) is told that he has only thirty days to live, he pleads with a doctor (Jennifer Garner) for what was then an experimental drug, AZT. But he refuses to submit to a clinical trial, so he steals the drug — taking his first dose with a beer chaser and a snort of cocaine. When the AZT dosage makes him sick, he seeks out alternative medicine. Never one to heed rules, Woodruff smuggles unapproved treatments over the border from Mexico. Along the way, he strikes up an unlikely alliance with Rayon, a sleek but troubled drag queen, played with stunning conviction by Jared Leto. The pair teams up to sell treatments to the growing numbers of HIV and AIDS patients unwilling to wait for the medical establishment to save them. It’s a classic story of American enterprise.”

The Playlist and The Film Stage are two of my favorite sources for news and info as TIFF draws closer, and I don’t just say that because I’m a contributor for both.

The rest of this week’s round-up:

Photo: “Dallas Buyers Club”

Coming Attraction: Aaa-hooooo! Werewolves of Wall Street, Scorsese-Style

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Seemingly during the middle of last night, the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” dropped, and it’s a good one.

This re-teaming of the filmmaker and his late-period De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, is the story of the rise and fall of a brash Wall Street stockbroker during the 1990s. Some thoughts on the “Wolf” trailer, which might features more cutting than any other released this year:

  • This thing MOVES, and feels a bit like the coke-fever segment of “Goodfellas” stretched to feature length. I’ve enjoyed every Scorsese movie post-“Goodfellas” to some degree, but “Wolf” feels more adrenalized than anything he’s done in ages.
  • It seems to revisit the dark comic tone of Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” and “After Hours.” As Jeffrey Wells puts it, “The cutting on this ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ trailer is brilliant. Accurately or otherwise, it persuades you that this … apparently is not a dramatic scolding exercise as much as a kind of dark existential comedy about living the life of madness when you can…go for it now, take the bust later.”
  • I attempted to read Jordan Belfort’s book, but found did not find it particularly gripping; I gave up, but vowed to try again before the movie is released. It seems to me that the film captures the book’s tone well, but also softens the snide a bit via the casting of the perennially likable DiCaprio. (It would not work with, say, Jeremy Piven in the lead. He can be a jerk, but he has to be a jerk with a dash of caddish likability.)
  • This looks like a return to “light Leo,” and not a moment too soon. (Yes, you could argue that “Django” featured an occasionally comic Leo, but it was comic Leo playing a slave owner …) Consider the films DiCaprio has starred in since his last real comedic role, in 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can”: “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” “Blood Diamond,” “Body of Lies,” “Revolutionary Road,” Shutter Island,” “Inception,” “J. Edgar,” “Django Unchained,” and “The Great Gatsby.” Pretty grim lot. (It is hard not to first think of Jay Gatsby when watching the trailer race along; Badass Digest Tweeted “How Gatsby got his dough.”)
  • Some interesting physical notes here: This is a slightly heavier Jonah Hill than we saw I “21 Jump Street,” and Matthew McConaughey appears to have begun his dramatic weight loss for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” (According to the web, the sprawling cast includes Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti, Rob Reiner, and, of course, Joanna Lumley and Spike Jonze.)
  • The soundtrack, Kanye Wests’s new song “Black Skinhead,” could NOT be more perfect.
  • Finally, I know Scorsese used Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” to memorable effect in “The Color of Money,” but I’m pulling for its usage here. Lyrically (“I’d like to meet his tailor,” “His hair was perfect”), the song is just right. I’m sure Zevon would approve.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” draws blood on November 15.

 

Photo from New York Daily News/Paramount Pictures

Jeff Nichols’ “Mud”: One of 2013’s Finest Films

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A very quick Sunday update, as the film world awaits the announcement of this year’s Cannes awards …

I finally saw Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” last night, and was riveted. It is the finest work yet from the director of the great “Shotgun Stories” and “Take Shelter,” a superior achievement that will surely rank among the year’s best.

It’s a dense story with a novel-like feel — virtually every character could warrant his or her own lengthy subplot, especially Joe Don Baker’s craggy King — but what Nichols does most effectively is give his actors time to truly build each scene into a slow-burning marvel. It’s a long movie, over two hours, but I can’t think of a wasted scene.

I could see Matthew McConaughey enter Oscar talk, although it is more likely to occur with “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Either way, he deserves praise. What an amazing stretch of films for him. Just as strong is young Tye Sheridan, the sweet, not-as-tough-as-he-thinks-he-is Ellis. This kid is a star in the making, anchoring every scene in which he appears.

What a wonderful film “Mud” is — one to be savored. Expect to hear much more on this from me. For those in Buffalo, hurry up, and see it while it’s still playing at the Eastern Hills Mall.

Have a lovely Sunday — enjoy “Arrested Development”! Her?

 

Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Weekend Preview: “Star Trek” Sold Out? Dive Into “Mud” With McConaugheyyyyyyy

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The big new release of the week is obviously “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” but one other major story, I think, is the continued success of a movie that has been showing in Buffalo now for several weeks, and has become something of an indie hit: “Mud.”

In fact, “Mud” — which I have not had a chance to see yet — is now showing at the Dipson Amherst and the Regal Quaker Crossing (it opened there last week) after an initial run at the Dipson Eastern Hills (where it is still showing). Directed by Jeff Nichols, who blew me away at TIFF 2011 with “Take Shelter,” “Mud” has drawn raves ever since showing at Cannes last year. I was surprised the fugitive drama did not make its way to TIFF 2012, and wondered if perhaps its exclusion would lead to poor buzz. Happily, that was not the case.

The film, which stars the on-fire Matthew McConaughey (I call him McConaugheyyyyyy), and co-stars the suddenly fiery Reese Witherspoon, has made almost $10 million, and for a small release, that’s a jackpot. It demonstrates once again that there can be room for smaller films to squeak into the top 10, even during the blockbuster-crazed early summer.

Congrats to Jeff Nichols, who just sold a script to Warner Bros. Oh, my friend Michael Shannon (Zod!) is in “Mud,” and will be in the next Nichols project.

A quick box office preview: “Star Trek” will be huge, of course; if it does not hit $100 million for the weekend, it should be close. It will be interesting to see how “Gatsby” fares. I think it will hold up strong as a nice bit of counter-programming.

Poster courtesy of Roadside Attractions