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In her onscreen appearances this year, Elizabeth Olsen is sleeping with all the wrong people. Look no further than Oldboy for concrete proof, but if you want more, there’s the period drama In Secret, based on Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin.

Olsen plays Thérèse, trapped in an arranged marriage to her dunderheaded and frail cousin (Tom Felton), and who finds herself burning a candle — maybe a bonfire, really — for the dashing and worldy artist friend (Oscar Isaac) who enters her family orbit. The appeal here is, in part, based on the cast; Olsen is reliably great in most roles (she’s even good in Oldboy, though he work is not rewarded), and Oscar Isaac seems perfectly cast in the role of the potential paramour.

And there’s the tone, commanded by director Charlie Stratton (episodes of Everwood and Revenge), which builds mysteries and plot twists on a foundation of Victorian repression, with Olsen’s luminous face guiding us through the shadows. Check out a trailer below.

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Lake Bell In A World

From the instant In A World… premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, I remember thinking, “I can’t wait to see the trailer for that.” That day is here. Written, directed by and starring Lake Bell, In A World… is the story of young woman trying to make a living in the male-dominated field of voice over work, specifically that of movie trailers. When marketers for a new movie decide to reinstate the classic phrase “In a world” for the film’s trailer, a competition breaks out that pits the young woman against her father (Fred Melamed) and an up and comer (Ken Marino).

Featuring supporting performances by Dimitri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman and Geena Davis, the film won the Best Screenwriting award at Sundance. It opens on August 9. Check out meta-trailer below. Read More »

(This review originally ran during SXSW, in March. As Much Ado About Nothing hits theaters today, we present it once more.)

In the world of drama, nothing is quite as distinct or lovely as the prose of William Shakespeare. His vocabulary, his rhythm, rhymes and descriptions, all established a standard against which others are still measured. Modern day dramatist Joss Whedon also has a distinct style, characterized by wit, humor, and cultural authority. Surely it’s not in the same league as the Bard’s. But with the writer/director’s modern adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon has found an enjoyable and surprising balance between the two.

The film will be released June 7, but had its U.S. Premiere this week at South by Southwest. Read more below. Read More »

Sarah Polley Stories We Tell

When I first saw Stories We Tell I was stunned. When I saw it again, I knew that reaction was warranted. And when I talked to the film’s director, everything was further illuminated. That director is Sarah Polley, who is probably best known for roles in films like Go and Dawn of the Dead. Polley is undeniably great in those movies, but after seeing her third feature film Stories We Tell, there’s no doubt she’s an even better director.

Polley approaches Stories We Tell with brilliantly layered execution. On the surface, it’s a personal documentary about her family history, featuring accounts from her brothers, sisters, parents, and friends. The basic story follows how her mother and father met, and started a family. From there, Polley questions the construction of story and truth. She breaks down the structure, turning the camera on herself. Finally, Polley uses this pleasant, thought-provoking documentary to pose surprising questions regarding the essence of cinema. Stories We Tell is now playing in select cities nationwide, so you can finally see what I mean for yourself.

Which brings us to a warm May morning poolside at a Beverly Hills hotel. I was lucky enough to sit down with Polley to discuss her wonderful film and ask all the burning questions I had after seeing it. You can read the conversation below. Read More »

Joss Whedon‘s last directorial effort, The Avengers, was a massive affair all around. The culmination of Marvel Studios’ ambitious years-long Cinematic Universe effort, the summer blockbuster boasted an all-star cast, a $220 million, and, eventually, a $1.5 billion box office take. So as a palate cleanser, he went super-duper-small for his next film.

Shot over just twelve days at Whedon’s own home during a break in The Avenger‘s post-production period, Much Ado About Nothing reimagines William Shakespeare‘s classic play as “noir comedy” set in present-day Santa Monica. Whedon alums Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Sean Maher, and Fran Kranz all star. Watch the first trailer and check out a poster after the jump.

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The calendar might only say “March,” but I doubt I’ll see many movies this year better than Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell. Since I saw it at Sundance (read my review here) I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, or accurately convey to people – without spoilers – just why it’s so great. What I’ve been saying is Polley’s documentary is, on one level, a exploration of her family history. At the same time, it’s a commentary on how she’s telling that story as she cuts between traditional documentary scenes and footage of her shooting them. But even that’s not everything.

Thankfully, Roadside Attractions has finally released a trailer that’ll do a much better job of selling the movie than I could. Stories We Tell opens in New York on May 10 and then starts rolling out on May 17. Check out the trailer below.
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Sundance 2013 ended almost a month ago, but some of its films are still riding the wave of popularity that rose during the fest. The latest is In A World, the directorial debut of Lake Bell, which tells the hilarious story of a young woman breaking into the competitive world of movie trailer voice-overs. Roadside Attractions will distribute the film in the US and Sony will handle international markets. Read our review here.

Bell not only directed but wrote and stars in the film, along with Demetri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Nick Offerman and Tig Notaro. It won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the festival.  Read More »

Sarah Polley‘s documentary Stories We Tell is absolutely brilliant. I don’t use that word lightly, but I’ll say it again: brilliant. The actress-turned-director trains the camera on herself in a movie exploring not only her own family, but how people tell stories. She focuses on the truths embedded in them and different points of view. To help bolster that approach, Polley films not only her family, but herself filming the documentary, and cuts between the two seemlessly.

So while we’re hear Polley’s family history — how her mother and father met, got married, had kids, went through terrible trials, tribulations — we see the family, we see archival footage, we hear different points of view from all parties involved, and we see Polley behind the camera doing this, manipulating and prodding her subjects. And from there things get even more amazing.

After premiering at Berlin and playing Toronto and Telluride, Stories We Tell hit the slopes of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and just might be the best film at the festival. Read More »

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