Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Elle’ Gets a New Trailer and an ‘Empty Stare’ Clip

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Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven has given us unforgettable movies like “Robocop,” “Total Recall” and “Basic Instinct,” and he had gleeful fun satirizing the war propaganda machine with “Starship Troopers.” Now he returns with his first movie in ten years, his last being the excellent “Black Book,” the psychological thriller “Elle” which stars the brilliant (and not to mention brave) French actress Isabelle Huppert. From watching the trailer, it looks like Verhoeven is up to his usual button-pushing tricks, but the viewer should not go into this expecting “Basic Instinct” redux.

Based on the novel “Oh…” by Philippe Djian, Huppert plays Michèle Leblanc, the head of a leading video game company, and the plot synopsis describes her as seemingly “indestructible” as she “brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business.” As the movie’s trailer begins, Michèle is at a dinner party where she tells a group of friends she was sexually assaulted, and she presents this confession in a calm and collected manner. Whereas you might expect a scene where a rape victim has a nervous breakdown as she accepts the reality of what she’s been through, Michèle doesn’t even blink an eye. Her friends, however, are shocked at this news to where they encourage the waiter, who has just brought a lovely bottle of wine, to come back in a few minutes.

Throughout the trailer, we see Michèle go about her work and life as if nothing has changed, but it becomes clear the attack has forever left a huge psychological scar on her which cannot be wiped away. Her need for revenge is understandable, and Verhoeven’s movies are well known for their characters getting vicious revenge on their attackers, and the trailer shows her as a ticking bomb waiting to go off. In the end, one can remain cool for only so long.

“Elle” is being released by Sony Pictures Classics, and they recently unveiled a clip from the movie titled “Empty Stare.” Watching this clip, there’s no doubt Verhoeven picked the right actress to star here. Huppert has taken on challenging roles in Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher,” Christophe Honoré’s “Ma Mère” and Claude Chabrol’s “La Cérémonie,” and she looks to have risen to the challenges Verhoeven has put in front of her here. As Michèle tells an unsettling story about her father to a male friend, Huppert makes you wonder if she is telling the truth or simply playing around with someone who doesn’t know her very well. The beauty of watching Huppert is how she creates such vivid and frightening imagery with just words. Other directors would add flashbacks to give this scene more emotional power, but Verhoeven doesn’t need to do this when he has Huppert to work with.

“Elle” was shown at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it received critical acclaim and a seven-minute standing ovation. Guy Lodge of Variety proclaimed on Twitter that “Isabelle Huppert might be our best living actor, and ‘Elle’ might be Paul Verhoeven’s best film.” Verhoeven has said the movie is not to be mistaken for an “erotic thriller” in the vein of “Basic Instinct,” and that anyone who goes into it thinking it is will be “disillusioned.”

Adventurous moviegoers look to be in for a dark treat when “Elle” opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 11. Please be sure to check out the movie’s trailer and the “Empty Stare” clip below.

Universal Pictures Unveils First Trailer for ‘Fifty Shades Darker’

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movie theater on Valentine’s Day, another E.L. James novel is about to make its way to the silver screen. The cinematic adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey” was not well-received critically and was a big winner at the 36th Golden Raspberry Awards, but it still made over $500 million dollars worldwide, so a sequel was destined. Now Universal Pictures has unveiled the first trailer for “Fifty Shades Darker,” and it promises to be more of a thriller as well as something sexier and more obsessive than its predecessor.

Despite Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) leaving Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) at the end of the first movie, this trailer shows neither have yet to call it quits on their relationship. Anastasia, a picture of youthful innocence previously, looks much more mature this time around while Christian, as usual, remains engulfed by demons. We see them go to a masquerade party which makes one wonder if the filmmakers are looking to outdo a similar sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” as that movie almost earned an NC-17 rating.

The passion between Anastasia and Christian appears a little healthier this time around as she makes clear there are to be no more rules or secrets between them. As the trailer reaches its midpoint, they certainly look to be having more fun than ever before. But soon Anastasia starts seeing other women looking back at her menacingly even while she sleeps in bed, and it becomes clear there are still many things Christian has to talk to her about.

The “Fifty Shades Darker” trailer is dominated by Miguel’s version of the song “Crazy in Love,” but while Beyoncé sang it to where her uncontainable joy was more than infectious, Miguel makes his interpretation of the song dark and very obsessive as if this love affair is heading to a very dangerous place. Indeed, Miguel’s song may be the most memorable thing about this trailer as he succeeds in making this song his own, and the result is haunting. As we watch Anastasia and Christian come together and fall apart in rapid succession, the song illustrates just how crazy their love affair is and how much crazier it is going to get.

Stepping into the director’s chair for this “Grey” movie is James Foley, the same man who directed one of greatest acting ensembles ever in the cinematic adaptation of David Mamet’s play “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Writing the screenplay is Niall Leonard, husband of E.L. James. Is Leonard a better writer than his wife? Well, here’s hoping. Among Johnson’s and Dornan’s co-stars here is Kim Basinger who plays Elena Lincoln, Grey’s business partner and former lover, and while we don’t see much of Basinger in the trailer, she has its last line which hangs over everything we have seen like the ominous of shadows. Keep in mind, Basinger’s character is also referred to as Mrs. Robinson (hint, hint).

Well, for better or for worse, “Fifty Shades Darker” will be arriving in theaters on February 14, 2017. Check out the trailer above.

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Daniel Radcliffe goes undercover in ‘Imperium’ trailer

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Lionsgate Premiere has released the first trailer for their upcoming thriller “Imperium.” It tells the tale of an idealistic FBI agent (is there any other kind?) assigned to go undercover and infiltrate a radical right-wing terrorist group that is in the process of creating a dirty bomb to set off in a public place. The trailer makes the movie look like something along the lines of “The Departed” or perhaps even “Reservoir Dogs” as those two featured characters who went deep undercover into the criminal lairs of others and almost lose themselves in the process. It is said to have been “inspired by real events,” and it’s a relief to see that phrase instead of “based on a true story.”

But even though “Imperium” looks like an average thriller on the basis of what we see in the trailer, it does have one major selling point: Daniel Radcliffe. While we will always recognize him as Harry Potter, Radcliffe has long since proven there is so much more to him than J.K. Rowling’s infinitely popular character. Ever since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” he has portrayed a variety of characters that include Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings,” Ig Perrish in “Horns,” a conniving individual in “Now You See Me 2,” and a corpse in “Swiss Army Man.” His role as FBI agent Nate Foster in “Imperium” is the kind we have not seen him play before, and that makes what we see in this trailer especially interesting. While the story is a familiar one, it will be fascinating to see what he does here. And perhaps this movie will shed more light on the fact that right wing and Neo-Nazi terrorists represent a bigger threat to the United States than foreign terrorists do.

Also starring in “Imperium” is Toni Collette who plays Angela Zampino, Nate’s superior officer who will help him with his infiltration into this terrorist group. Nate complains throughout the trailer of how he is in over his head, but Radcliffe shows him to be a dedicated agent who will see the job through even if he comes out of it a completely different person. But it also shows how others will be infinitely suspicious of his intentions from one moment to the next.

”Imperium” marks the feature film directorial debut of Daniel Ragussis, and it is set to open in theaters and On Demand August 19, 2016. By the way, imperium is a Latin word which translates roughly as power to command. Check out the trailer below!

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016.