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John Hyams’ serial killer thriller lean, mean

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Illustration for article titled iAlone /iis a lean, mean thrill machine from the director ofi Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning /i

Photo: Magnet Releasing

Note: The writer of this review watched Alone from home on a digital screener. Before making the decision to see it—or any other film—in a movie theater, please consider the health risks involved. Here’s an interview on the matter with scientific experts.


That John Hyams’ lean thriller Alone is largely destined for home viewing is unfortunate. Though he has spent most the last few years working in TV, the director of the awesomely psychotronic Universal Soldier sequels Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning has a gift for widescreen composition and sound design that begs for the theatrical experience, offering a healthy antidote to the sort of Hollywood megaspectacle that until recently was a guaranteed way to put butts into multiplex seats. If Regeneration and Day Of Reckoning were improbable mutant artworks of cult-movie iconography and bone-crunching combat, his new film is an exercise of unpretentious formal chops, with a first act that presents a catalog of minimalist atmospherics and bad omens: creepy engine noises, eerie Pacific Northwest roads, and a Jeep Grand Cherokee that follows its protagonist, Jessica (Jules Willcox), in the manner of the demonic tanker truck from Duel.

Jessica is introduced to us as she is about to leave Portland in the aftermath of a vague tragic backstory, with a U-Haul trailer hitched to her old Volvo station wagon. For most of the running time, she and the Cherokee’s nameless driver (Marc Menchaca) are the only two characters. His motives are as plain as the vintage-serial-killer glasses and mustache on his face. Even the sling around his arm comes straight from the Ted Bundy playbook. It’s pure cliché, but the sparseness of the storytelling helps elevate the film above its über-generic logline and bland title. (According to IMDB, it’s one of at least four Alones completed in 2020; three are backwoods thrillers, and at least one shares the premise of traumatized heroine, a kidnapping, and an escape from a cabin with this movie.)

Hyams has previously displayed a fondness for mysterious characters and unfamiliar, deserted backdrops, and he understands that sometimes the most effective way to use the frame is to fill as little of it as possible and let the resultant negative space work its magic. The man in the Grand Cherokee keeps popping up in all the wrong places, radiating big doses of stranger danger. Following the inevitable abduction, he locks Jessica into the cellar of an isolated cabin. The subject matter is exploitation-grade, but the possibility that Alone might sink into sadistic, tooth-gnashing torture porn is quickly dispelled. Jessica escapes barefoot into the woods, and the movie morphs into a survival thriller, complete with a gnarly injury and a muddy mano a mano showdown that befits Hyams’ action background.

Compared to the Universal Soldier films, which cast assorted direct-to-video action stars into horror-influenced, art-film-quoting meditations on memory and identity, Alone is anything but thematically ambitious. It follows the trends of contemporary thrillers and horror movies, which have largely replaced the queasy, unplaceable psychic dimensions of their forebears with therapy narratives that suggest that those who can no longer afford a few hours a week on a couch should consider being kidnapped, haunted, or menaced by a shark. But given that most genre movies are copycats, style can be an effective substitute for substance. The unease created here is disquietingly efficient in its best moments, getting plenty of mileage out of classically suspenseful backdrops: boxy cars driving along winding roads, a creaky cabin, and a woman fleeing a killer in the woods.

The necessity of shooting handheld in a rugged forest (at least on a low-budget project like this) occasionally hampers the climactic stretch of Alone; simply put, it can’t match the controlled compositions of the movie’s terrifically executed first half-hour. Nonetheless, there’s something deeply appealing about an already stripped-down cat-and-mouse scenario that becomes dirtier and more elemental as it goes along, tracing a devolutionary arc from the rules of the road to primeval combat. As in so many thrillers, there’s an implication of primitive threats lurking under the mundane, most memorably exemplified by a tense sequence in which Jessica’s abductor carefully slices a piece of cheese with a hunting knife—an image that could just as well be a metaphor for the skillful direction of this back-to-basics project.

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Kit Harington Says His Parents Gave Him A ‘Gender Fluid’ Upbringing!

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Years before he swung swords and rode dragons, Kit Harington was apparently playing with Polly Pockets!

In a new interview with The Telegraph, the Game of Thrones star explained that he’s looking to explore different ideas of masculine characters to portray in future projects instead of the strong-and-silent Jon Snow types — a desire he attributed to his “gender fluid” childhood.

During the chat, the Emmy nominee explained that his mother, former playwright Deborah Jane Catesby, introduced him and his brother to gender politics when they were young, sharing:

“I asked for a Mighty Max and she bought me a Polly Pocket. I asked for an Action Man and I got a doll — it was very gender fluid from the word go. And I went with it.”

And look at how great he turned out!

Related: Game Of Thrones Star Diana Rigg Dead At 82

Rose Leslie‘s husband went on to confess that he’s done playing “silent” and “heroic” characters like his Westeros alter-ego because such characters help perpetuate elements of toxic masculinity: specifically, that men are weak when they open up about their feelings.

He mused:

“I feel that emotionally men have a problem, a blockage, and that blockage has come from the Second World War, passed down from grandfather to father to son. We do not speak about how we feel because it shows weakness, because it is not masculine. Having portrayed a man who was silent, who was heroic, I feel going forward that is a role I don’t want to play any more… It is not a masculine role that the world needs to see much more of.”

Progressive!

Of course, playing the traditional brooding hero for a decade also took a toll on the 33-year-old personally.

In 2019, the actor admitted that he grew “f**king sick” of the HBO fantasy series by the final season because filming was so intense. He told GQ Australia:

“The last season of Thrones, seemed to be designed to break us. Everyone was broken at the end. I don’t know if we were crying because we were sad it was ending or if we were crying because it was so f**king tiring… We were sleep deprived. It was like it was designed to make you think, ‘Right, I’m f**king sick of this.’ I remember everyone walking around towards the end going, ‘I’ve had enough now. I love this, it’s been the best thing in my life, I’ll miss it one day — but I’m done.’”

Fans can see the actor next in the second season of the Netflix drama Criminal, in which he plays an estate agent who is accused of rape by a junior member of his team. Talk about a complete 180 from Jon Snow!

And next year he’s set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in The Eternals, playing… a hero who swings a legendary sword. Hey, maybe he’ll also be really emotionally available??

What do U think of Kit’s comments?

[Image via Avalon/WENN/Polly Pocket/YouTube]

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Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas-Led ‘Official Competition’ Restarts Filming in Spain

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Headlined by Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, The Mediapro Studio’s “Official Competition,” one of the year’s highest-profile international Spanish productions lensing in Spain, has resumed shooting.

Compounding the difficulty of going into production for a second time, the film features an international cast including Argentine heavyweight Oscar Martínez, a former San Sebastian, Venice and Argentine Academy best actor award-winner, plus two Argentina-based directors, Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat.

They will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself this time around. Eight days after production started in March of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down filming when it became unsafe to continue. Ominously, as shooting resumes this week, parts of Spain, led by Madrid, are reintroducing stricter lockdown conditions once again, as the daily number of new cases is rising.

“Official Competition” features Banderas and Martínez as renowned actors of large talent but even bigger egos, set on a collision course on the set of film directed by a celebrated auteur cineaste, played by Cruz.

Banderas, Martinez ‘Official Competition’
Manolo Pavon

In the months since shooting was suspended, the filmmakers continued working as best they could, tweaking the script based on what had already been filmed.

“Within all the negatives of interrupting a shoot, there was something positive: We had an unusually large amount of time to study the already-shot material, and to put under a microscope the screenplay for what is left to film,” Duprat said in a press release.

“The material we already have is wonderful: Penélope, Antonio and Oscar are extraordinary. The scenes have what we wanted, an uncomfortable mix of tension and sarcasm in an aesthetic framework of great conceptual strength. We restarted filming with the certainty that we have something really powerful on our hands,” he added.

Cohn went on, “In this film are the experiences and knowledge gained after so many years of shooting. The film has our DNA as directors, but also that of Penélope, Antonio and Oscar, as they generously contributed their own experiences. In this film, you will see an intense distillation of the universe that we know best: that of directors and actors trying to do one of the most unnatural and complex things, for me, in the world: Shooting a film.”

Sold by Protagonist Pictures, “Official Competition” is a pillar of The Mediapro Studio’s push into movie production. Regular collaborator Andrés Duprat co-wrote the screenplay. Josep Amorós, a production manager on TMS’ drama series “Side Games,” as head of production. Arnau Valls (“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”) serves as DP, Alain Bainée (“Mindscape”) heads up production design, and Alberto del Campo (“The Realm”) oversees editing.

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Cruz, Banderas, Martinez ‘Official Competition’
Credit: The Mediapro Studio

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See Jennifer Aniston and More Stars Celebrate the Emmys in Pajamas

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Dressed to impress…and then go to sleep.

It’s not every year that celebrities get to celebrate one of the biggest nights in their career while sitting on the couch. While some big stars decided to still rock the chic clothing and beautiful gowns, some opted for a comfier look.

Celebrities had a lot of fun while wearing their PJs and being super comfy casual. We’re not mad at it. Earlier this month, fashion designer Christian Siriano shared with E! his Emmy’s predictions and why pajamas were all the rage for Hollywood’s biggest stars.

“I think it’s a mix of classy, fabulous pajamas, or elevated suits that are comfortable. Maybe a few slippers,” he explained of how the stars would turn out for the virtual award show. “I think actors and actresses right now, they want to be themselves, and a little more who they are. I think that’s really nice to see.”

He was right! The stars didn’t shy away from choosing comfort over luxury.

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