Friday, September 21, 2007

Eastern Promises (and other new movies)

One of the most satisfying things in all of filmdom is watching a great director find a signature muse. These matches made in celluloid heaven yield such riches. Von Sternberg discovered and claimed Marlene Dietrich. Johns Ford and Wayne made many movies together. Scorsese had DeNiro (and now he’s trying to recapture that with DiCaprio, bless him). For a brief and glorious time greedy Julianne Moore had both PT Anderson and Todd Haynes to sing her praises. Woody Allen had Louise and then Diane and then Mia and Dianne on the side and now, possibly Scarlett Johansson. Uma Thurman, rather famously, has Quentin Tarantino wrapped around her little finger big toe (If QT would stop dilly dallying between projects there’d probably be more filmic evidence).

I could go on but I should get to the point. After only two films together, David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson are making a strong bid for that director/muse pantheon...

[continue on to the Eastern Promises Review]
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Cronenberg + Viggo obsessed though I currently be, there are other movies opening today. Chief among them is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford the long awaited western starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the title characters (and in that order). Pitt won the prize for best actor in Venice. Can he convert that into an Oscar run for Best Actor?

You can also catch Into the Wild, Sean Penn's Oscarable (?) adaptation of the nonfiction bestseller. Or, if early Oscar bids aren't your cuppa --and if they aren't did you take a wrong turn getting here or something ;) --there's always Good Luck Chuck, The Jane Austen Book Club, or Milla Jovovich's Paycheck ... whichever gets you in that moviegoing mood.
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19 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

Have you seen Dirty Pretty Things, which had the same writer (Stephen Knight). I obviously haven't seen Eastern Promises, but I would beg to query whether Knight's involvement had something significent to do with the quality and not just Cronenberg and Mortensen. Dirty was also set in the international subcultures of London and such.

Neel Mehta said...

Good review. I saw Eastern Promises last night and haven't quite figured out what to say about it yet.

KC: Curiously, Knight has been left out of the buzz, hasn't he? Despite the obvious (and justified) comparison to A History of Violence, this is also a fair companion piece to Dirty Pretty Things. Naomi Watts' character, for example, might have easily shifted from one movie to the other.

Anonymous said...

What did you think of the other performances in this movie? I'm seeing it on Sunday and I can't wait!

Josh

Ray said...

Eastern Promises looks brutal and honest. Can't wait!

I'm also really looking forward to "Into the Wild" because the subject matter just seems so inspiring.

www.therecshow.com

Anonymous said...

Jesse James has a 71% on RT. I thought people were calling this a masterpiece?

Neel Mehta said...

Finally wrote my review here.

I'm sure Nat will have his own take on the performances, but I thought it was a pretty strong ensemble. I didn't think anyone was miscast or left a sour note, though my viewing companion thought someone else should have played the Naomi Watts role.

It's not as if many of the characters have multiple layers -- you pretty much make up your mind about them in their first scenes, and nothing happens later that will change your mind. Nothing wrong with that in a 100-minute movie that's more concerned with story and atmosphere.

C. Jerry Kutner said...

Speaking of candidates for the director/muse pantheon, don't forget Roger Corman/Vincent Price.

NATHANIEL R said...

i have not seen dirty pretty things but in all honesty I thought the script and direction were a smidgeon less tight than they shoulda been --it's one of those rare movies where I actually felt it could have been longer and a bit more fleshed out or shorter with some characters cut... but these are minor quibbles

the centerpiece 10-15 minutes is just A range stuff and Viggo is freaking great.

I was neither here nor there on most of the other performances... they all served the movie well but I'm not sure I would call anyone outside of Viggo particularly great .

Cassel has moments for sure but his accent wasn't as convincing.

I shan't speak about Naomi Watts because that always gets me into trouble ;) no, she was fine. Her best work since Mulholland Dr is still The Painted Veil --too bad they screwed up that release.

Anonymous said...

I love Naomi and I realize she's not the center of the movie at all, but I'm glad you had no qualms with her. At least, I think that's what I'm seeing...

Carl said...

What? You don't think "The Jane Austen Book Club" has Oscar writ large on every celluloid frame?

Really, though, I liked the trailer and expect it to be on my 'guilty pleasures' list this year. After all, movies are allowed to just be fun on occasion, right?

RBurton said...

Don't read this if you didn't see the movie and plan to.

I like Eastern Promises a lot, but it definitely breaks a cardinal rule by withholding information a character knows just to create false suspense. Nikolai's secret isn't so much a twist as it is a "what the fuck?" moment.

adam k. said...

Dirty Pretty Things was very good, Nat, largely because of the screenplay. I highly recommend you check it out.

Beau said...

Just got out of the film about half an hour ago, 'Promises' that is. Good film, *** stars in all. I took issue with how the piece ended (far too abruptly, in my humble opinion) and the twist was a little too... convenient. I don't know, I'm not Cronenberg, but it rang false for me. Such is life.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Agreed with Adam about Dirty Pretty Things. At first I was a bit blase about it but since then it has really firmed in my find. The screenplay, Jordan's direction, the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou and Sophie Okenedo are all fantastic. In looking back Stephen Knight's nomination was so deserved. It's a thriller masked as a drama masked as an issue film masked as a thriller. If that makes sense. I need to watch it again.

Boyd said...

The screenplay, Jordan's direction...

Oops! Surely you mean Frears's direction??

daveylow said...

I agree with Nathaniel that the last fifteen minutes or so of Eastern Promises leaves you wanting a bit more. Shouldn't there have been a scene with the father? And more Viggo would have welcome.

I thought the cast was fine though I wasn't entirely sure about the casting of Vincent Cassel. But then I think the problem with his role might have been some of the writing, not the acting.

I do agree that Knight's contribution to the film has been overlooked. Some of the weirdness of the film and interesting ethnic twists definitely come from Knight's imagination, if you've seen Dirty Pretty Things.

Naomi Watts continues to have an impressive career. I may have to watch The Ring because I like her so much.

rural juror said...

"Jesse James has a 71% on RT. I thought people were calling this a masterpiece?"

Yeah...that's been perplexing me too. I think it looks like it could be but...these reviews are so out of synch with even the buzz from the festivals.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Boyd, I did. I always confuse Neil Jordan and Stephen Frears.

A 71% score on RT mearly means that 29% don't think it's much cop and considering the film in question was destined to be a love/hate sort of film a score of 71 is pretty darn good.

Anonymous said...

Steven Knight's screenplay is the weakest part of the film. With a stronger screenplay and a better ending, this film could have been a great one. As it stands, it's a good enough film elevated by an outstanding lead and great direction.