Sunday, October 31, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

Happy Halloween! I hope you go out there today and scare the crap out of people safely. I also hope you've Halloween'd it up all weekend really because this is the last time you will ever get the chance to. With the final chapter of the SAW series bowing in theatres this weekend, this must also be the last Halloween. It just won't be Halloween next year without SAW, after all.

At least SAW 3D gets to end the series on a reasonably successful note. Last year, SAW's consistently successful streak came to an end when PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, whose second installment suffered a much more regular second week horror decline this year, obliterated it on Halloween weekend. At $24 million, it has nearly matched the entire domestic run of the last film, which finished its pathetic showing with $27 million. The opening itself is about $10 million more as well but the majority of SAW 3D's screens are 3D screens and we all know how much more expensive those can be. SAW II remains the most successful of the franchise with a total domestic gross of $87 million. And SAW III holds the bragging rights to the biggest SAW opening weekend with $33.6 million. Still, SAW 3D boasts the third lowest opening weekend after SAW VI and the first SAW, obviously an untested product at the time. So, SAW 3D saves a little face but not too much. Considering the amount of faces that are mutilated in the film, that's fairly fitting. (For reviews of the latest SAW, click anywhere you see the title.)

Another franchise that continues to underwhelm is the Steig Larsson "girl" series, if you will. Final chapter, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST, opened to $915K, the highest debut for the series in North America but it did so with the lowest per screen average amongst the three (approximately $6K compared to over $8.3K for THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and nearly $10K for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO). People apparently care to read books but not movies. I'm glad to see we have segmented our activities so strictly. (For reviews of all three films, click the film appropriate title.)

There isn't much other Top 10 news this weekend. Hilary Swank drama, CONVICTION whimpered its way in with a lackluster wide showing. And JACKASS 3D kicked it past the $100 million mark. I'm very proud.

NEXT WEEK: Things get a little busier again. The horror flicks will suffer huge declines to make way for DUE DATE, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and directed by Todd Phillips, the dude who did THE HANGOVER, on 3200 screens. Even bigger still is the Will Ferrell/Brad Pitt-voiced animated film, MEGAMIND, on 3500 screens. Tyler Perry's first R-rated venture, FOR COLORED GIRLS, opens modestly on 2000 screens. And there are a couple of high profile platform releases as well. The Sean Penn/Naomi Watts thriller, FAIR GAME, debuts on 35 screens. While Danny Boyle's follow-up to the Oscar winning, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 127 HOURS, starring Oscar-buzzed James Franco, opens on 4 screens.

Reviews are available for 127 HOURS, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and THE HANGOVER by clicking the titles. Reviews for DUE DATE and FOR COLORED GIRLS are coming to Black Sheep next weekend.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton
Directed by Kevin Greutert
Starring Sean Patrick Flannery, Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell and Cary Elwes

Gibson: How many bodies?
Rogers: I got enough pieces for four.

SAW 3D gets the saws themselves out first thing. Right in the middle of Toronto’s entertainment district, one of the now infamous Jigsaw’s puzzling traps is set. Encased in a glass cube, two hunky gentlemen awake to find themselves bound to an electric saw table, each with a saw pointing directly at their chests. That creepy clown doll rolls out on a tricycle and informs the boys that the girl who lies above them with her own saw pointed directly at her stomach has been playing them both for suckers. The young men must make a choice – continue to be fooled by love and save the girl by pulling her saw towards them, ultimately killing themselves or stick love with a blade right through its guts. And so returns the psychotic killer who is really just championing for good, moral responsibility and appreciation of life.

In all honesty, the only real reason SAW is back at all is because it is in 3D. The consistent success of the series came to a pretty screeching halt last year but 3D being all the rage these days, especially in the torture porn genre, Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) replacement killer, Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) couldn’t resist cashing in on those 3D dollars. In what is supposed to be the final chapter, Hoffman is playing with everybody and anybody. His primary trap is set to snare an author (Sean Patrick Flannery) who has written a successful tome about his time in Jigsaw’s trap, who isn’t everything he appears. If he were sincere, of course, Jigsaw wouldn’t have any need for him. This is the finale though so Hoffman is thinking much bigger than that and bringing back the characters you’ve come to know over the years. (I use the words, “characters” and “know” loosely there.) The question becomes whether anyone is able to think even bigger than he is and bring an end to his horrifying games.

I have to come clean, if only to avoid waking up and finding myself dangling from a ceiling by hooks dug deep into my pectoral muscles. I have not seen a SAW movie since the first installment. I did find the film to be inventive, twisted and down right impressive considering its modest means. I figured that every other SAW that followed though would just get busy outdoing the traps of the SAW that came before. Having now seen SAW 3D, I can confirm my suspicions but, under the guidance of director, Kevin Greutert, a man who has been with the franchise since the beginning (he edited the first five and directed the last two), the series ender has got plenty of vomit inducing brutality to satisfy anyone looking for that (and the blood and guts fly right at your face in 3D!!). It doesn’t have anything else but that’s not why you go to see SAW.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Written by Jonas Frykberg
Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist

If there is one girl out there who just keeps getting herself into more and more trouble, it is Lisbeth Salander. First she goes and gets a great big dragon tattoo on her back and then, despite many lessons to the contrary, she goes and plays with some fire. Now, I know Lisbeth didn’t have the best of upbringings – her father did try to bury her alive in the last installment after all – but she’s really gone and done it this time around. In the final chapter of the Swedish film interpretations of Steig Larsson’s international publishing phenomenon, this time Lisbeth is THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST.

While dragon tattoos and playing with fire are certainly intriguing notions, kicking a hornet’s nest is really just asking for it. That said, considering the severity of what the title implies, the close to this trilogy is certainly the tamest of the three films. The series started out as a theatrical release but transitioned to television with the second film and has been getting less biting as it has progressed, if you can consider people being lit on fire less biting, that is. The premise of the conclusion finds Lisbeth (played one last time by the fantastic Noomi Rapace) in a hospital to start, a jail to follow and a courtroom after that. Meanwhile, her guardian angel, Mikael Blomkvyst (Michael Nyqvist), is doing his darndest to prove Lisbeth’s innocence but, like the second film, their storylines rarely overlap. With Lisbeth subdued and Blomkvyst elsewhere, the action is left in the hands of a bunch of retired spies and politicians. It would appear as though Lisbeth picked a geriatric hornet’s nest to kick.

The conspiracy that Lisbeth threatens to undo is reasonably convoluted and as it was only introduced in the second film, there is a lot of ground to make up for here. Some of the build required to piece everything together often feels forced, awkward and at times, even unbelievable. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST plays out like it’s rushing through everything to get to the end. As a result, a series that started out with an intense ferocity exits in a fairly conventional fashion. The trouble is the focus on the hornet’s nest when the only thing we ever really cared about was the girl herself.



Written by Jonas Frykberg
Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvyst

The second installment in the adaptations of Steig Larsson’s now internationally popular literary series, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, features sex trafficking, violent murder and people being buried alive but yet somehow it is a great deal less horrifying than the first film, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A new writer and director came on for the second and third films and, while this caper is certainly more accessible, it is no less engaging and arguably a lot easier to enjoy and appreciate. I guess I would take dark family secrets over brutal rapes any day.

I do think THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO will remain the most memorable of the series (I’ve not seen the third film but so far, this is what I would expect) but as the novels are being read by more and more people, the release of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE could not be better timed and it’s “lighter” tone will ensure less squeamish fans of the books will catch it too. It picks up a year or two after the first closed. The girl herself, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) looks softer somehow. The tattoo still covers her back as she gets out of bed but the dark makeup is toned down and the studded collar has been traded in for some silk sheets and a stunning Caribbean view. Lisbeth has definitely earned this break. Before long though, she must face the life she has been running from since she was 12.

Her family past catches up with her and before long, she is the main suspect in a triple homicide. Her loyal cohort, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvyst) knows her to be innocent and he makes it his personal mission to clear her name. Last time out, the two paired up to solve a decades old disappearance. They worked together on someone else’s case and grew to care for each other in a way neither one expected. This time, they are barely on screen together and they work alone yet in tandem on a case that involves them personally. Some have criticized this move, claiming that it comes off as more of a convenient excuse to continue on with these characters but I find making it about them makes sense. Lisbeth is a complicated character and it stands to reason that she would have a complicated and even more damaging past.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE does lack the emotional resonance of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO but the shock factor couldn’t just go on forever. We know who Lisbeth Salander is on the outside; our prejudices were challenged by her character already. Now it is time to peel away the layers that have made her who she is. So far, the reveals have been intriguing and compelling. Now I definitely want to know what happens when the girl is going to go and kick the hornet’s nest.



Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace

Mikael Blomkvist: As we’ve been sharing files recently, I assume you’re up to date.

Expectations are tricky to avoid when you watch a movie from the last year that has already generated enough international buzz to warrant a fast tracked American remake before it even hits American screens. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, from Swedish director, Niels Arden Oplev, is that movie and fortunately, it is worth all the hype that is surrounding it. From the moment it begins with the reception of an odd gift to an old man who weeps when he sees it, its focus is clear and deliberate – this will be a journey shrouded in mystery and deciphering that mystery for ourselves will require visiting some very dark places. Consider yourselves warned.

Two stories unfold to begin with. The first follows reputed, middle-aged journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). He has just been found guilty of fabricating evidence to for a story that dragged a prominent businessman through some very dirty mud. He claims that he was set up but he still loses his job and his character. Unbeknownst to Mikael, he is also being investigated by a third party for entirely different reasons. A computer hacker hired out as a security company is following his movement closely. Her name is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She is a young adult with a troubled past that she wears on her face in the form of piercings, studs and jet-black hair. Because of her gothic look, she is talked to, looked at and treated las though she is nothing. When Mikael starts investigating a 40-year-old murder, Lisbeth starts following his new case too. The real story starts when the two start working together instead of side by side in secret.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is on some levels, a straightforward whodunit. A powerful family with obvious secrets makes up the list of suspects in the investigation and evidence points in different directions, moving names up and down that list accordingly. Only each discovery uncovers a fresh and unexpected level of evil behind this deep-rooted murderous conspiracy and each of these levels reveals poignant connections between religion and misogyny. Like the intricate tattoo in the title, this one will leave you scarred for life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Couch Time with Sheldon

Welcome to COUCH TIME WITH SHELDON, a brand new feature on Black Sheep Reviews. Well, it's mostly brand new. Essentially, this feature will replace BLU-TUESDAY. Rather than simply focus on the releases of the day, Black Sheep will take a look at a handful of titles each week, ranging from brand new releases to catalog titles, based on what Sheldon has actually watched recently. In case you don't know it, Sheldon is that little sheep you see everywhere on the site. He would also be my alter-ego I guess but that's not something I'm ready to deal with just yet.

We will continue to highlight what has come out on DVD and Blu-ray each week, as well as continue to look at what has been announced but the focus will be more on what Sheldon has seen rather than what he intends to.

Speaking of announcements, check these out ... Warner Bros. brings out two 1970's classics, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and NETWORK on February 15, 2011. Alliance will release the George Clooney film, THE AMERICAN, on December 28th of this year. 20th Century Fox has THE A-TEAM cashing in on the holidays on December 14th and the indie comedy, CYRUS (click for review) hits the week before. And here's the exciting news ... Disney will be releasing their superhero hit, THE INCREDIBLES, in the spring of 2011.

And now, I invite you to spend a little couch time with Sheldon ... Here's what everybody's favorite sheep saw in the last little bit.

I love indie films like this one, that get picked up (in this case by Anchor Bay Films) and manage to find an audience they would never have found, and actually deserve it. Horror director, Adam Green, has created a truly horrifying experience with FROZEN. Three college-aged skiers decide that they need to get one last run in before the end of their day. There is a lesson to be learned about being greedy though because the chair lift stops on their way up and before it gets going again, all the lights go out and everyone else goes home. There are no scary monsters or psycho killers with hooks for hands here. No, the only enemy here is nature itself and that level of reality is what had me freaking out for about a good hour straight. If you're looking for something offbeat to both scare and impress your Halloween guests, check out FROZEN. Be warned though, you might not go skiing for a little while afterward.

Don't let this atrocious cover art fool you. PLEASE GIVE is an excellent indie comedy that Sony Pictures is now just trying to push to as wide an audience as possible by capitalizing on the film's stars. This Nicole Holofcener film features Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt as a married New York City couple who run a trendy Soho furniture store. Keener's character has some issues with how they run their show though, as the majority of their pieces come from the misfortune of others. They buy pieces from people who have recently passed away and then resell them for exorbitant prices. They are also waiting for the elderly lady next door to pass away so they can take over her place and expand on their own. This fascinating exploration of white upper-class guilt is refreshingly honest and surprisingly funny. With the cast rounded out by Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall, you can't go wrong.

There has been a lot of talk recently on Black Sheep for Xavier Dolan's second feature, LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES. After having the chance to interview him at TIFF (click here for interview), I feel like I have an all new approach to his work. Just from sitting across from him for 20 minutes, you can tell that Dolan is an insightful person who feels a great deal. Those personality traits are abundant in LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES, now available to rent or own on DVD only from Alliance Films (with English subtitles). Fans of the French new wave and Wong Kar-Wai will love Dolan's latest work. Two great friends, Marie and Francis (Monia Chokri and Dolan) both fall for the same guy (Niels Schneider) and Dolan the director explores the highs and lows of falling in love, or more specifically, of falling in love with the idea of being in love. The results are honest, enlightening and will be understood by anyone who has ever chased after someone without really knowing why. (Click title in body for original review.)

Thank you for checking out the first COUCH TIME WITH SHELDON feature. The feature will run regularly on Tuesday's from here on in. In the meantime, here is a list of other titles available this week to rent or own ...



(click title for review)

(click title for review)

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

The mad party continues this weekend at Paramount Studios. Not only have they replaced themselves at the top of the Box Office but they now lay claim to both the best and fifth best October openings of all time. Now, I was under the impression that audiences would have found a sequel to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to be a little too much but audiences have once again proven that I don't know them at all. Instead, the film opened to $41.5 million and an impressive per screen average of more than $12K. JACKASS 3D follows in second with a strong second week take of $21.5 million for an $87 million haul. It has already outgrossed both of the previous JACKASS films.

I saw the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I admired what they were able to accomplish on such a small budget but truly felt the gimmick was pretty thin. Whatever they did to beef up the scares in the sequel must have worked because the $41.5 million take is almost double what the first film did on its biggest weekend. So now that the film has proven its franchise possibilities, the only question remains whether it will repeat its other greatest feat from last year - stealing all the Halloween gore freaks away from SAW, which bows in its supposedly final installment next weekend. Question: If it isn't Halloween if it isn't SAW, and SAW is gone after this year, does that mean this Halloween will be our last?

There is very little activity, paranormal or otherwise, below the Top 10 this weekend but Clint Eastwood's HEREAFTER makes its inevitable leap from 24th place on just 6 screens last week to a modest fourth place finish. Mixed reviews seem to have left audiences almost as cold as the film itself. Still, at $12 million, HEREAFTER is $4 million ahead of what Eastwood's last directorial effort, INVICTUS, did on its opening weekend on a similar amount of screens. (Click the film title for the Black Sheep review.)

NEXT WEEK: Even though the SAW franchise crashed and burned last year, the last installment, SAW 3D, opens unopposed next weekend on 2700+ screens. I'm betting the 3D element and the closing of the series will give the franchise the edge it needs to beat PARANORMAL ACTIVITY this year. And sneaking onto 130 screens is that pesky girl again. You know the one I'm talking about. This time, she's THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Bryce Dallas Howard and George McLaren

Billy: A life that is all about death is no life at all.

It’s no secret that Clint Eastwood is getting up there in years. He has been churning out films on an almost yearly basis in the last decade as if he is trying to cram as much work as possible into his legacy before he can no longer do so. It seems then a natural choice for Eastwood to take on the afterlife in his adaptation of Peter Morgan’s screenplay, HEREAFTER. In many ways, it is one of his most organic works but aside from acknowledging that an afterlife exists, Eastwood is nowhere closer to any insight on the subject.

It is also no secret that I am not a big fan of Eastwood’s work as a director. I find he often oversimplifies the problem and renders complicated scenarios into clichéd lessons about what it means to him to be a good human being. The idea of him tackling something as complicated as the passage between life and death was frightening at first, even if the writing was in Morgan's hands, THE QUEEN and FROST/NIXON scribe (click the titles for full reviews). In HEREAFTER, Morgan tells three separate stories about three different people around the world who are dealing with death in different ways. A French reporter (Cecile de France) is recovering from her brush with death; a young twin boy in England (George McLaren) has just lost his brother; and Matt Damon plays a genuine psychic in San Francisco who has retired in hopes of finding a normal life. While all reasonably compelling separately, their plights never come together, which leaves the film feeling cold and detached.

There are moments in HEREAFTER that are genuinely engrossing and memorable, including an opening so intense, I felt I might soon know my own afterlife. Eastwood lets go of his ordinarily tight grasp on the picture to allow its characters to speak for themselves and its often-haunting imagery to be just that. At first, I was pleasantly surprised but then I realized that without Eastwood playing God that there was really no direction in HEREAFTER at all. Subsequently, I wasn’t able to connect with a film about an experience that connects us all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Written and Directed by Michael McGowan
Starring Noah Reid, Allie McDoanald and Olivia Newton-John

Canada is a different country after this year’s Olympic games in Vancouver. Its sense of pride was rediscovered through a collective rallying behind its many talented athletes. And one sport brought the country together like no other – hockey. In 2008, director Michael McGowan did something similar to enhance Canadian pride, albeit on a much smaller level, when he released his last film, ONE WEEK, a cross country road trip that showed how majestic Canada’s countryside truly is. And so it would stand to reason that combining McGowan’s filmmaking efforts with hockey itself should amount to a film that would resonate in the hearts of Canadians. Instead, SCORE: A HOCKEY MUSICAL reminds everyone why Canada isn’t famous for its movies.

Noah Reid, a homegrown Canadian from Toronto, where the film takes place, plays Farley Gordon, a 17-year-old with enormous hockey potential that has yet to be tapped. Personally, I never saw any of this supposed prowess on screen but his buddies sure think he’s got the goods. He is such an amazing force on the ice that he inspires his teammates to burst into song in celebration. You might think that hockey and musicals don’t really go together but after seeing SCORE, you will actually know for a fact that they don’t. That isn’t fair though. Perhaps if McGowan had bothered really pushing the skills on either the musical or the hockey front, it would have worked. Instead though, he treats us to some barely passable hockey playing, some fairly grating singing and some just plain pathetic attempts at dancing. If a director isn’t going to bother pushing anyone to excel, why should anyone bother showing up for his amateur effort?

Being home-schooled by pacifists (Olivia Newton-John and Marc Jordan, looking more annoyed to be there than I was), Farley has limited experience with team sports and somehow managed to miss that fighting is almost an integral part of playing hockey with a team. Farley must figure out who he is in a world that is pulling him in so many indiscernible directions at once. Unfortunately for him, he has to warble his way through some pretty nauseating lyricism to get there. Fortunately for us, it only takes him ninety minutes to get there. Damn overtime.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

Really? A $50 million opening weekend for a third JACKASS installment. I will admit to watching and laughing whole heartedly at the first JACKASS but that was after a drink or five and I was in the privacy of my own living room. It was also eight years ago. How are we not over this by now? Not only are we not over this but $50 million is more than double what the first installment pulled in on opening weekend and $20 million more than JACKASS: NUMBER TWO pulled in its opening weekend in 2006. Thank God for 3D, right? This revolution in cinema has allowed for great film franchises like JACKASS to flourish! Is this what you had in mind, Mr. Cameron?

I wasn't able to catch RED this weekend but I hear great things and $22 million is a strong second place showing for this adult action-comedy. Together, RED and JACKASS 3D took THE SOCIAL NETWORK down to the third spot. Still, with less than a 30% drop for the second week in a row, this David Fincher film is clearly striking a chord that will help its chances come awards season. I mean, it isn't JACKASS 3D big but we can't expect intelligent film to do the same kind of business as films where people tie remote control helicopters to the ends of their penises with strings, now can we?

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is apparently not so funny to anyone else either. The Zach Galifianakis dramedy has stalled in 12th place in its second week with a 37% drop. Documentary, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN and Edward Norton/Robert Deniro thriller, STONE, continue to expand strongly. Hilary Swank vehicle, CONVICTION, opens to a less than convincing $10K per screen average on 11 screens. Meanwhile, John Lennon film, NOWHERE BOY, sees its grosses blow up by 570% after adding 200+ screens. Still, the biggest art house success of the week is not surprisingly, Clint Eastwood's latest, HEREAFTER. The Black Sheep review will be coming next week but this weekend, on just 6 screens, the Matt Damon led film pulled in over $230K for an average of $38,500 per screen. Word is still out on the film's afterlife.

NEXT WEEK: HEREAFTER goes ultra wide on 2200 screens and takes on another spookfest, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 opening on 2900 screens. Two films dealing with what happens to us after we're dead, two very different films I'm sure. Who knows though? Eastwood could easily be the ghost in PA2 for all we know.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Black Sheep interviews Ryan Reynolds

Good and Buried
An interview with Ryan Reynolds
(with Rodrigo Cortes)

If you want to get to know who Ryan Reynolds is as an actor, you will have to dig a little deeper past his title role in VAN WILDER, even though it made him an underground goofball god. And you will have to go deeper still past his turn opposite Sandra Bullock in THE PROPOSAL, a role that catapulted him to international stardom and the top of every housewife’s “Celebrities they can cheat with” list. You have to dig deep but you needn’t look any further because Reynolds career-changing performance in Rodrigo Cortes’s BURIED, will show everyone what was behind that killer guy-next-door smile the entire time.

In BURIED, Reynolds plays Paul Conroy. The only thing we know about Paul when we meet him is that he is trapped in a wooden box, buried alive somewhere in Iraq. For the next ninety-five minutes or so, we learn that he is an American contractor working in Iraq, that he loves his wife deeply and that it is just as infuriating to navigate through automated voice systems when you’re buried alive as when you’re standing in your kitchen. And while that might be a slight exaggeration, Paul’s situation is not. He is being held hostage by a terrorist group looking for money that Paul just doesn’t have. He is running out of air and the only tools he has at his disposal are a cell phone and a Zippo lighter. If it sounds terrifying, it’s because it is.

“This is one of those movies where that’s a good thing,” Reynolds quips about BURIED’s distinct resemblance to a horrible nightmare, when we meet at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. BURIED director, Cortes joins him for the interview and joins in with, “There was no room in there for Sandra Bullock.” Without missing a beat, Reynolds adds, “Yeah, I was trying to make room.”

If you want to get to know Reynolds as a person though, you don’t actually have to dig very deep at all. He is about as genuine as they come, or at least that’s how he came off to me. When he entered the hotel room where our roundtable interview was to be held, he was introduced, one by one, to the handful of other journalists. I stood and admired his unassuming stance, his dressed down look and what seemed like actual interest in meeting the people he was shaking hands with. When he was introduced to me last, he took my hand, shook it firmly and said, “Hi Joseph. I’m Ryan,” while looking me directly in the eye, as if I wouldn’t know the name of the man who adorns the majority of the magazines on my coffee table. Fortunately, I did not swoon and pass out on the spot.

BURIED marks a drastic departure for Reynolds. Not only is it a far cry from his more accessible fare, but he also has to carry the entire project on his own shoulders as the camera never leaves him. Reynolds has headlined before but never to this extent, so how did he know he could do it? A vote of confidence from the man behind the lens certainly helped.

“Who else could I think of?” Cortes says of his star. “He never acts; he always sees. And when you’re doing a movie that has just three elements, you have to be very aware of pace, of rhythm and of music.”

It may sound poetic but Reynolds was not convinced at first. “I did say no at first but only because it was impossible.” He says this as if he has forgotten that he and Cortes found a way to make the impossible very possible. “The movie had an incredible narrative challenge with the one actor and then an incredible technical challenge.” Cortes had some tricks up his sleeve though and after forty minutes of chatting up his inventive shooting plans for the film, Reynolds was in.

Before long Reynolds was in Barcelona for a 17-day shoot that would prove to be much more difficult than he ever expected. “I lost a lot of weight,” Reynolds jokes. “It’s a great diet, coffins.” He had trouble sleeping; he had trouble eating. He even developed a bit of a bald spot on the back his head by the time it was all done. “Wood and sand are tremendous exfoliants.” Fortunately, the box didn’t kill his sense of humour.

Reynolds insisted on not having any rehearsal time before the shoot. “I wanted to have all those moments that you see on film be firsts – the first moments he wakes up in there, the first sounds that come out of him.” The approach paid off. The first moments of BURIED are extremely jarring, not only because they are horrifying but because we are not used to seeing such a likable face in such a dire and confined situation. The tight framing and Reynolds’s very real reactions make you feel like you’re right there, trapped in the box with him. That said, I can think of worse people to be buried alive with.

Still, there is a big difference between preparing yourself mentally to get into that box and actually getting in the damn box. “I’m not a huge fan of actors overly romanticizing their process. It is usually self-aggrandizement masquerading as story telling,” Reynolds says, as if excusing himself for answering the question asked. “But I had a tough time on this movie. I will definitely say that.” Tough is perhaps too easy a word to describe a set where paramedics were present for the last days of shooting. They didn’t have to do anything but the fact that they were there nonetheless says plenty about what was at risk. “I was a little out of control when I was in there and it was nice to be done.”

Reynolds swears he will never complain about his job again after BURIED. And while it may have been rough, he could not be happier with the way it turned out.

“I love that the beginning of this film is in total darkness, that we don’t know who this person is but, by the end of the movie, there is a whole universe in that coffin. That is what Rodrigo saw from the very beginning and that is what I fell in love with.” His pride in both the director and the picture is clear. “Rodrigo made it a big movie not in spite of its limitations but because of them.”

One other thing is clear too. When Reynolds emerges from BURIED’s coffin, he too will be bigger because of it.

For the BURIED Black Sheep review, click the title of the film anywhere in this interview. BURIED is playing nationwide right now.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Written by Matt Greenhalg
Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood
Starring Aaron Johnson, Kristen Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff

John: Why couldn't God make me Elvis?
Julia: Because God was saving you for John Lennon.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of Sam Taylor-Wood’s art firsthand in exhibition. It was stark, cold but yet still emotional and affecting. It was both sad and sexual, making for a challenging experience, to say the least. Still, it was an experience I’m glad I had and one that I am also glad to say, has effectively translated to film in Taylor-Wood’s first feature, NOWHERE BOY. The images here may be moving in comparison but are just as rich with depth and pain.

This is a story of a young boy in Liverpool, whom you might know as John Lennon. Unless you know Lennon’s history well though, you will not know this story. The film opens with a dream and that classically unmistakable opening chord from The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” rings in the image. That is the last you will hear of anything The Beatles ever sang or recorded for the rest of the film though. This is not that story, not exactly. This story is about a boy, played with surprising charm and strength by relative unknown, Aaron Johnson (KICK-ASS). This boy wants to put a band together but it proves to be tricky when he is caught between the affections of the aunt who raised him his whole life (Kristen Scott Thomas) and his unstable mother (Anne-Marie Duff) with whom he has just reunited. His name just happens to be Lennon and the band he throws together in a bathroom just happens to be one of the most influential of all time.

We all come from somewhere and if we happen to have been blessed with a little talent or a little genius, then the odds are that the somewhere we came from may not have been so simple a place. Taylor-Wood shows us Lennon’s somewhere and allows us to draw our own conclusions about what made the man that would become a legend rather than do all the drawing for us. There was nothing simple about Lennon’s upbringing. He was kept in the dark until he was an adult and by then, the damage had been done. Fortunately for him and for his fans the world over, that damage became great music.