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Back in Bob Dole’s pre-Viagra days, when he was trying to prop up a fading Presidential campaign by bashing Hollywood, he once railed against the film industry's "nightmares of depravity." He must have cringed at the depravity that consumed movieland last week. The latest Resident Evil nightmare, Extinction, topped the box office for the franchise’s biggest opening yet, showing that Americans still have a ravenous appetite for the undead (and, as you'll see in the movie, the feeling's mutual). And there was plenty more madness and mayhem at the local multiplex, whether it was the vigilante justice of Jodie Foster's The Brave One or the Western nihilism of Russell Crowe's 3:10 to Yuma, Clive Owen's nightmare-of-depravity parody Shoot 'Em Up or Rob Zombie's schlocky remake of Halloween. Shock auteur David Cronenberg got into the act too, as Eastern Promises, his Russian mafia movie which was the darling of the Toronto Film Festival and just kicked off Spain's San Sebastian Film Festival, opened well in US theaters. No word on how many paying customers were women who just wanted to see Viggo Mortensen, naked and covered with prison tattoos, in his already-legendary steambath scene.
In other news of uncompromising filmmakers with dark visions, Austrian director Michael Haneke told the New York Times Magazine that he tries to "rape the viewer into independence" with his moviemaking techniques. Funny Games, Haneke's English-language remake of his own signature work of psychological sadism starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt, gets a wide release next February (check out the trailer here); Haneke will also enjoy a career retrospective at New York's MoMA early next month.
And for more hunky actors with tattoos (though these are actually real), take a look at The Rock in the trailer for Richard Kelly’s apocalyptic sci-fi musical Southland Tales—the director’s loooooong-awaited follow-up to Donnie Darko—which finally hit the Internet a year and a half after the film was roundly panned at the Cannes Film Festival. The film—which also stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kevin Smith, Seann William Scott (as twin brothers!), Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shawn, Jon Lovitz, Amy Poehler, and quite a few others—comes out November 9th and promises to be the biggest and most polarizing cinematic headtrip since The Fountain.
For those doing the fall film festival circuit, this year’s much-anticipated New York Film Festival, beginning this weekend, promised still more depravity, in the form of the Coen Brothers’ Cormac McCarthy adaptation No Country for Old Men (check out the exclusive red-band trailer on the film's site, or the less-gory version here) and Brian De Palma’s ripped-from-the-headlines Iraq story, Redacted (TFF 2003 winner Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi's second film, Actresses, is also part of this year's program). Meanwhile, real-life nightmares got in the way of one fall fest: organizers announced that they were cancellingcanceling the eighth annual Beirut Film Festival, which had been scheduled for early October, due to the threat of escalating political violence.