Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' headed to Netflix in groundbreaking deal

I feel like I'm saying this more and more these days, but Netflix is truly changing the game in Hollywood. First, the streaming giant destroyed the traditional method of home video consumption, eliminating stores like Blockbuster and effectively creating a hostile takeover of the industry. Now, the company is setting its sights on the modern theatrical distribution window, which has been slowing dying for the past several years. Starting with House of Cards, Netflix jumped into the original content game, and they're really beginning to cause a stir. While they haven't been as successful as Amazon (who set the bar with their handling of Manchester by the Sea), Netflix has created prime content for television and film, with hit shows like Stranger Things and critically acclaimed movies like Beasts of No Nation. In 2017 alone, Netflix will release I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, as well as Duncan Jones' Mute, Bong Joon-Ho's Okja, Adam Wingard's Death Note, and David Michod's War Machine. These aren't second-tier films- these are cinematic events from major filmmakers. But yesterday, Netflix made a truly groundbreaking deal, one that permanently alters the importance of the theatrical window.

On Tuesday, Indiewire exclusively reported that Martin Scorsese's The Irishman will be headed to Netflix. Yes, the new film from one of the most acclaimed directors of all time is going to be debuting on an online platform. The Irishman, which reunites Scorsese with Robert De Niro, was originally set to be distributed by Paramount in North America, a deal that made sense with the studio's current relationship with the filmmaker. However, many are guessing that the poor box office for Scorsese's Silence may have scared off the studio, especially with The Irishman's $100 million budget. Netflix is mainly attempting to improve its reputation at this point in time, so acquiring the rights to one of Scorsese's most anticipated movies in several years should do the trick. Netflix now has all worldwide rights for the film, which means that upstart distributor STX Entertainment is likely also eliminated from international distribution.

I can't really stress how big this is. Look, if Netflix is going to distribute films from young directors like Jones and Macon Blair, that's a solid fit. But when they acquire the rights to a new project from one of the greatest directors in film history, that's a huge deal. This truly has the potential to open the floodgates for acclaimed filmmakers to have total creative freedom, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more directors like Scorsese move to Netflix. We'll see where this goes from here, but this is a massive, industry-changing development.

The Irishman is rumored to star Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and Bobby Cannavale, and will likely debut on Netflix in 2019.

Image Credits: IMDB

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 WGA Awards: 'Moonlight' and 'Arrival' win as questions linger for Oscar night

Final Oscar ballots are in, and we've finally reached the home stretch of the lengthy awards season. Jimmy Kimmel will take the stage to host the Academy Awards in just over 4 days, and there's still a good degree of unpredictability. La La Land feels like a fairly safe bet to win Best Picture and Damien Chazelle is in good shape for Best Director, but from there, things get tricky. Will it be Casey Affleck or Denzel Washington for Best Actor? Can Isabelle Huppert pull off an upset over Emma Stone in the Best Actress category? Will Best Supporting Actor front-runner Mahershala Ali hold off Dev Patel? In addition to the complex nature of the technical categories, there's a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this year's affair. While Moonlight feels like a pretty safe bet for Adapted Screenplay (depending on who you ask, this may or may not be category fraud), things are much more complex in Original Screenplay. Damien Chazelle and Kenneth Lonergan are fighting to the bitter end, and many hoped that Sunday's WGA Awards would clear things up a bit. Instead, the waters only got muddier.

In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, Eric Heisserer's complex, brilliant screenplay for Arrival took home the Writers Guild Award. But remember- this was without facing competition from Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney's script for Moonlight. That film was listed in the Best Original Screenplay category at the WGA, and it took home a surprising victory over both La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. With Jenkins and McCraney certain to win the Oscar on Sunday, Heisserer's WGA trophy serves as a nice consolation prize. However, it only makes the Original category more of a toss-up. Will the Academy find a place to recognize Kenneth Lonergan's quiet, understated work on Manchester? Or will the La La Land steamroll continue? To be quite honest with you, I'm not sure where I'm putting my money at this point. I'll have some final Oscar predictions later in the week, but for now, I'm going to remain quiet on the topic. It really could go either way.

Image Credits: A24, IMDB/Paramount

'John Wick: Chapter Two' review

In today's modern cinematic landscape, hype and anticipation are everything. People wait for months, for the biggest blockbusters of the year, increasing excitement with every new plot detail, trailer, or image. This leaves very little room for genuine surprises, which makes something like John Wick much more special. Back in 2014, nobody really thought much about the latest Keanu Reeves action vehicle. It seemed like a generic hitman flick, a stylish movie that would basically work as a direct-to-VOD hit. But after the film premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, word began to spread that Wick was truly spectacular. With two experienced stunt directors (Chad Stahelski and David Leitch) at the helm, the brutally gorgeous action film served as a return to form for Reeves, and the birth of a brand new action icon. Box office was solid ($43 million in the US), but this was something that really took off after its theatrical release, gaining cult status with plenty of new fans. With the immersive assassin world that Stahelski and Leitch established, a sequel was simply inevitable.

Just over two years later, John Wick is back and he's bigger and better than ever. Thanks to an inflated budget, Stahelski's John Wick: Chapter Two is a true action spectacle, a badass string of setpieces housed in a fully realized world of assassins, hitmen, and femme fatales. The emotional hook might not be quite as strong this time ("Keanu Reeves horrifically murders the gangsters who killed his dog"), but the scope of the adventure is on an entirely different scale, making for a more thrilling, epic journey. Wick's operatic style of hard-boiled violence never fails to dazzle, and there are some sequences that are simply invigorating. Clever, sharp, and mesmerizing at every turn, Chapter Two is one of the more purely entertaining action films in recent memory, a classic blast of spectacular cinematic combat.

Just when John Wick (Reeves) thought that he had escaped the nasty, oddly refined world of gangster and assassins, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) arrives to pull him back in once more. Wick completed his revenge mission against the Tarasov family at the end of the original film, but it turns out that when he originally left the game, he signed a blood debt with Santino. Now, the Italian crime lord is back to fulfill the mark. Wick initially turns him down, but after Santino blows up his house with a few rocket launchers, the Boogeyman of the criminal underworld realizes that he doesn't have a choice- he has to complete his mark for Santino. His mission- kill Gianna D'Antonio (Claudia Gerini), Santino's sister and the representative for the D'Antonio family at the High Table. If Wick kills Gianna (a former friend of his), he'll be out forever. If not, he'll die in the process. That's the deal.

Wick travels to Rome, hoping to outwit Gianna's team of security and her gang of assassins, led by the steely, loyal Cassian (Common). Meanwhile, Wick also has to watch out for Ares (Ruby Rose), the mute henchwoman of Santino who tails him at every turn. In the immediate aftermath of his mission (I'll leave the final result ambiguous, even though it happens early in the film), Wick soon learns that Santino is out to kill him as well. The crime lord puts out a contract of $7 million, and within minutes, it seems like the whole world is out to take the famed hitman out. With the entire criminal universe out for blood, Wick goes rogue, breaking the rules and sending plenty of rivals to the grave along the way.

The original John Wick was a success for three primary reasons- Keanu Reeves, insane action choreography, and inventive world building. It was still a scrappy flick made on a shoestring budget, but Stahelski and his co-director showed plenty of chops. Chapter Two is what happens when people with great ideas are given free reign to do as they please, and this sequel takes everything awesome about the first film and dials it up to 11. Very few sequels manage to top their predecessors in any meaningful way, but it always seemed like the continued adventures of the Wick universe would allow Stahelski and Reeves to up their game. Chapter Two is a delightful explosion of violence, and it's such a pleasure to watch such an intricate, innovative universe unfold on the big screen. John Wick may dabble in familiar action territory, but this vicious world of organized crime feels like a breath of fresh air in the grand scheme of Hollywood.

The world building is the main concept that distinguishes this franchise from the rest of the Tinseltown schlock, and the way that Chapter Two expands what the original film established is nothing short of perfect. In the 2014 film, we learned that there was a whole shadow society of assassins, with their own hotels, money, and code of rules. The world of John Wick envisions violent criminals as ancient knights, civilized and meticulous in their devotion to principle. In Chapter Two, Stahelski unleashes the bold universe he created, taking things global and injecting the Assassin-verse with more excellent ideas. In all of its bizarre beauty, Chapter Two introduces us to a call center of women who process contracts, as well as a classy dealer of weapons, an obscure group of violently talented vagrants, and a crazy hierarchy of criminal power. Oh, and it seems like half of New York belongs to this society, as they all start coming after Wick during one of the film's most beautiful sequences. As we've watched several studios struggle to put together a shared universe of characters in recent years, it's amazing to watch Stahelski create such a careful, brilliant world without even breaking a sweat.

John Wick gave us clear, spectacular scenes of cinematic bloodshed, but thanks to the inflated budget, Chapter Two delivers the kind of visionary setpieces that fit the character perfectly. The opening scene is perhaps one of the best character introductions in an action film in recent years, as Wick tactically murders a crew of bad guys in the hopes of getting his car back, all while Peter Stormare's Russian mobster speaks fearfully about the legend of John Wick. It takes a little while for Stahelski to set the plot up from there, but as soon as Wick suits up for round two, it's practically a non-stop assault of bullets and bodies. The choreography on these fight scenes is never anything but astounding, and there are some moments of pure cinematic bliss in this movie that I wish I could revisit again and again. The first setpiece in Rome is dazzling and thrilling, but just wait, it's only the teaser for what's to come.

These action scenes really open things up in a fresh new way, which is what I love about the setpieces in Chapter Two. In the original, the general idea was to have Wick quickly dispatch a bunch of bad guys in a confined space. Chapter Two does some of the same, and don't get me wrong, they're incredible sequences. But when this movie puts Wick into the real world, facing down an army of unknown assailants that could be lurking around every corner, things really take off. Something happens about halfway through, and Wick is faced with an array of regular people who suddenly turn into assassins, ready to collect the bounty on his head. It culminates with a showdown between Wick and Common's Cassian, as the two trained killers fight their way through a New York subway. This stuff may sound conventional on paper, but in execution, Stahelski delivers something that is truly exhilarating.

Reeves is once again the perfect choice for this character, and he's supported by actors who know what kind of movie they're in. The Wick universe is fully developed and cohesive without ever being self-serious, and it's that sense of ludicrous fun that keeps it going. Is this technically a great movie? Probably not. Is it a good time? Hell yes. John Wick: Chapter Two is about as much fun as you can have at the theater right now, an inventive, wickedly good bit of classic action cinema. The Wick franchise manages to combine the world-building of today's cinematic universe landscape with the brutality of 80s shoot-em-up flicks, and the results are simply jaw-dropping. Chapter Two is superior to the original in just about every way, hard proof that sometimes sequels can be bigger and better. With almost $100 million in worldwide box office off a relatively small budget, we're undoubtedly going to be seeing John Wick: Chapter Three in the near future. And if it's even half as good as this absurd blast of gleefully violent fun, I'll be grinning from ear to ear.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                             (8.6/10)

Images courtesy of Lionsgate

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rumor: Ben Affleck no longer wants to star in 'The Batman'

It's really getting painful to watch the DC Cinematic Universe completely unravel. Fans of these films seem to think that everybody gets a sick sense of satisfaction in watching these films fail, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. I devoured DC Comics as a kid, and Batman has always been my favorite superhero. Christopher Nolan's Batman films are so important to me, and I would love to see a successful, entertaining Justice League film on the big screen. And to be honest with you, for all of its flaws, I actually quite enjoyed Batman v Superman. However, in the months since the critical drubbing that Dawn of Justice took, Warner Bros. has been on a path of self-destruction that seems irreversible at this point. Suicide Squad was a fiasco of epic proportions, and the studio took all of the wrong lessons from the response to Batman v Superman. Rumors began to swirl around issues with Wonder Woman, while the first Justice League trailer showed a distinctly Marvel-esque superhero film. On top of all of that, multiple directors departed pre-production on The Flash, while Ben Affleck recently bailed on his directorial duties on The Batman. Matt Reeves was initially in talks to replace him, but as we all learned yesterday, it looks like that won't be happening. So basically, things aren't looking good for this cinematic universe.

And then comes the big rumor. Last week, John Campea of Collider Movie Talk told his audience a big rumor that many of us suspected already. While Campea said that this news should be taken with a massive grain of salt, considering his poor record on scoops, he noted that he talked with three separate sources who all said that Ben Affleck no longer has the desire to star as Batman. He is currently in negotiations with Warner Bros. to remove himself from the role, and if the two sides cannot come to an agreement, The Batman will be the last time that he'll suit up as the character.

This isn't really surprising in any way, and if you're a fan of Affleck like me, this is great news. Look, he's good as the character. He really is. With the right script and the right director, he would be an excellent Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne. But he's stuck in a mismanaged mess of a cinematic universe, and he's an immensely talented actor and filmmaker. I would much rather see Affleck do stuff like Argo and Gone Girl, the kind of films that brought him critical acclaim and awards attention. As a fan of Affleck and a fan of Batman, I want to see this partnership end. However, worst of all, I think this speaks volumes about the status of Justice League. Affleck was burned by Batman v Superman- reports said that after telling everyone how great it was, he was bitterly disappointed by the vicious reviews. But if he was really confident in the direction taken in Justice League, I have a feeling he'd be out there doing all he could to sell this new vision.

Unfortunately, I'm taking this as a sign that he's lost confidence in the whole damn thing, and the loss of Matt Reeves possibly indicates that things aren't going to get better soon. If I'm DC, I'm starting over with The Batman. Get Snyder, Affleck, and Cavill out. Hell, get the whole Justice League out. Start completely fresh. Give Geoff Johns the reigns from a comic book perspective, but find someone who actually knows what they're doing from a business perspective- they need a Kevin Feige. Get a visionary, bold director to direct The Batman. Focus on solo projects for Superman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman. Work on the tone. Keep the studio interference at a minimum. And from there, take another stab at it. But with all of the behind-the-scenes turmoil, we're looking a potentially catastrophic year. Here's hoping for the best.

Source: Collider Movie Talk

Saturday, February 18, 2017

'The LEGO Batman Movie' review

The LEGO Movie is one of the greatest animated films ever made, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. With Phil Lord and Chris Miller at the helm, we honestly should have expected more from the 2014 film. And yet, most people viewed it as a shallow cash grab, a quick excuse for Warner Bros. to capitalize on a recognizable IP. Nobody knew that the film would turn into a mini cultural phenomenon, a breakout smash that combined clever filmmaking with great characters and resonant themes for an incredibly appealing package. Who knew that a kids movie about LEGOs could evolve into a brilliant love letter to creativity and individuality and a total rejection of mass consumer culture? The reviews were initially great, but I was still taken totally by surprise when I saw it, and I absolutely fell in love with the humor, visual energy, and originality of the story. Lord and Miller have always managed to surpass expectations at every turn, and in the process, they created a classic.

With $469.1 million in worldwide box office receipts, it also became abundantly clear that Warner Bros. had a new franchise on their hands. They immediately slated The LEGO Movie 2 for a release date (unfortunately, it was recently pushed back to February 2019), and they also began preparations for a Ninjago spin-off and a LEGO Batman film. Three years after the release of Lord and Miller's breakout hit, the latter is arriving into theaters, and it's pretty much everything you could want from the most openly comedic Batman flick in years. After years of the grimdark style of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, Chris McKay has flipped things around, creating a witty, frenetic rendition of the Caped Crusader with The LEGO Batman Movie. While McKay's spin-off doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor, there's still plenty of fun to be had with this wacky adventure. It's sharp, insane, and moves at a mile a minute, creating a movie that appeals to both kids and adults. The LEGO universe showed huge potential in 2014, but with this standalone feature, Warner Bros. and the creative team behind these films prove that the franchise is here to stay.

In a bubbly LEGO rendition of Gotham, no hero is more beloved than Batman (Will Arnett). The Dark Knight is an arrogant vigilante who firmly believes in his own brilliance, and while he's a popular celebrity, he lives a lonely life of solitude at Wayne Manor. He eats lobster, watches Jerry Maguire, and still essentially acts like a billionaire child. With Jim Gordon's retirement on the horizon, his daughter, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), is preparing to take over the police force. She unveils a new vision of the Gotham Police Department, one where the force works together with the Caped Crusader, instead of simply flashing the Batsignal in the sky. Batman works alone, and Bruce is aghast at the idea of having to work with Barbara and the rest of the GPD. But even with Batman's resistance, it's clear that times are changing in Gotham.

At the same time, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) pushes Bruce to face his greatest fear- being part of a family again. He adopts an orphan named Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), and while the young Robin is clearly excited to be living at the Manor, Batman sees him merely as an opportunity. Superman (Channing Tatum) starts stealing some of his glory by putting Zod in the Phantom Zone, and Batman wants to respond by putting the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) in there as well. He employs Robin to steal the Projector from Superman's Fortress of Solitude. But thanks to his "brilliant" idea, things start to go terribly wrong. The Joker crafts a plan of his own, and finds a way to unleash every major villain known to mankind on the unwitting citizens of Gotham City. As chaos reigns in his hometown, Batman will have to team up with Robin, Barbara (Batgirl!), and Alfred to save the city and solve the unresolved issues of his past.

Batman was obviously one of the standout characters of The LEGO Movie, and giving him a standalone movie was a no-brainer. The LEGO Batman Movie provides an opportunity to both expand the LEGO universe and de-construct one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, parodying the Caped Crusader in his various forms. Director Chris McKay and the massive team of screenwriters (seriously, it took five people to write this thing) fully embrace both of these ideas, giving us more entertaining characters while also taking several jabs at the history of DC Comics' most brooding, moody hero. Nobody in the history of the Batman universe is spared in this one- McKay takes shots at Christopher Nolan, Adam West, Zack Snyder, and even more as they go through the entire lifespan of the Dark Knight. They even manage to get a Suicide Squad joke in there ("Assembling a team of bad guys to fight the bad guys? How stupid is that!").

And yet, what's most surprising is how The LEGO Batman Movie mocks the character without ever veering into parody, maintaining a sense of reverence and a surprising amount of insight. This film goes into some truly emotional territory, and that caught me off-guard. It never clicks long enough to leave a lasting, resonant message, but there was a scene that nearly brought a tear to my eye. The LEGO Batman Movie understands the character of Bruce Wayne on a fundamental level, and after the over-the-top rendition of the icon in the original LEGO Movie, it was nice to see the filmmakers recognize the nuance and humanity of the hero. The great thing about this film is that kids will absolutely adore the breakneck pacing and humor, while adults and Bat-fans alike will get a kick out of this unique portrayal of the character.

But make no mistake- adults and fanboys will have a blast with this film's near-constant stream of jokes as well. The LEGO Batman Movie moves at a faster pace than any movie I've seen in a long time, and that sense of breakneck energy is both its greatest asset and biggest flaw. From the negative point of view, it moves so quickly that it's hard to catch everything, allowing the story and strong emotional angles to be drowned out by the non-stop visual dazzle. It's almost overwhelming at times, working as a crazy kind of sensory overload. But at the same time, The LEGO Batman Movie gives you everything you could possibly want from this kind of film. The pacing allows for a plethora of clever references and jokes, accompanied by some gorgeously kooky animation and visual effects. It's simultaneously sly and whip-smart, quietly clever and outrageously funny. McKay and the actors clearly love to poke fun at the intensity of Hollywood blockbusters, and there were some moments that made me howl with a kind of nerdy glee.

Just like its predecessor, The LEGO Batman Movie embraces a spirit of irreverence and unpredictability, enhancing the comic impact while also making the whole film that much more thrilling. I was a tad disappointed that they didn't utilize the meta connections between LEGOs and the real world like Lord and Miller did, but there's enough fun to be had that I was willing to overlook that shortfall. They bring in a bunch of characters that you would never expect to show up in a LEGO Batman film, and the steady stream of pop culture in-jokes makes for a certain kind of nerdy nirvana. Everybody in the cast is game as well, and they all deliver superb vocal performances. Will Arnett might just be the best version of Batman we have right now, and he gets to expand on the character he created in an exceptional way. Michael Cera and Ralph Fiennes are great additions to the LEGO universe as well, and I found much to enjoy in Zach Galifianakis' goofy portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.

No, The LEGO Batman Movie never reaches the heights of The LEGO Movie. If that's the bar you've set for these films, they'll never match up. Lord and Miller work on another level, and even a massive team of writers can't match their unique sense of brilliance (remember, these are the guys that turned two movies based on an 80s TV show into some of the best comedies of the decade). That being said, The LEGO Batman Movie is absolute blast from start to finish, a fun continuation of this potential cinematic universe and a stellar examination of the character of Batman himself. Chris McKay packs so much into such a short amount of time, creating a flashy, visually sensational comedic feast. It's funny, it's endlessly witty, and it has plenty of heart. To put it simply, it has everything you could possibly need.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                               (8/10)

Image Credits: IMDB

UPDATE: 'The Batman' talks between Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. break down

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reported yesterday that negotiations between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. for the upcoming solo Batman film have broken down. Talks could resume at any time, but for now, this means that Reeves will not be at the helm for the film. Warner Bros. is still committed to the film, and could possibly turn to Don't Breathe director Fede Alvarez or Ridley Scott, two filmmakers that were in contention prior to the involvement of Reeves. More to come on the DCCU....

Here is the original article from February 11:

How much longer are we going to have to pretend that the DC Cinematic Universe is still a thing?

Okay, okay, I should probably stop pissing off the DC fans. When it was widely reported a few weeks back that Ben Affleck had dropped his directorial duties on The Batman, many, including myself, thought that it was the end of the DC Cinematic Universe as we knew it. Throughout all of the misfires, disappointments, and behind-the-scenes drama, Affleck's film stood as the light at the end of the tunnel. And in the blink of an eye, that light was gone. Suddenly, The Batman was in limbo just like every other DC film, and as rumors of script concerns persisted, it seemed like the end was nigh for the budding cinematic universe. To be quite honest, nobody really knows what will happen with The Batman. Depending on the reaction to Wonder Woman and Justice League, there's a chance that it never gets made. But regardless of the universe as a whole, it looks like Warner Bros. will be pushing forward with this highly anticipated stand-alone outing for the Caped Crusader.

Immediately after Affleck dropped out, the name at the top of the list for a replacement was Matt Reeves. And yesterday, those rumors came to fruition as many outlets reported that Reeves is in early talks for a deal to direct The Batman. Reeves broke out with 2008's Cloverfield, later directing the 2010 remake Let Me In and the highly acclaimed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Reeves is also at the helm for this year's War for the Planet of the Apes (set for release on July 14), and when post-production and promotion wraps up for that film, I have to imagine that he'll jump right into Batman. Reeves has been praised by many, but if I'm being quite honest, I can't say I'm much of a fan. I didn't particularly like Cloverfield, and I wasn't as enamored with Dawn as much as everyone else was. That being said, I'm slightly disappointed for him. Sure, he's getting a chance to direct a Batman movie, which is an incredible opportunity. But he's walking into a burning building, and he's tasked with not only putting out the fire, but rebuilding the structure entirely. Because let's be honest- Zack Snyder isn't going to give us anything new in November.

This is not a good scenario for Reeves to be in, and I can't imagine anything good coming from it. I can't imagine he'll want to partner with Affleck on the direction, and if the reaction to Justice League is poor, I don't know if Affleck will want to be involved at all, even as the star. And to be quite honest, that might be the best-case scenario. Cast a different actor as Batman, use this film as the starting point for a DCCU reboot, let Reeves do his thing, and get the hell out of the way. Who knows what will happen, but for the sake of these characters that I know and love, I'm hoping for the best.

At this point, The Batman will likely debut in 2019.

Source: Variety 
Image Credit: IMDB

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgard, and Riley Keough join the cast of Jeremy Saulnier's 'Hold the Dark'

Jeremy Saulnier burst onto the scene with 2013's Blue Ruin, a grisly revenge thriller that announced him as a director with a whole lot of potential. Two years later, Saulnier delivered on the promise of his breakout feature with Green Room, which premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival before opening nationwide in April 2016. One of the most spectacular horror/thrillers in recent memory, Saulnier's blisteringly intense showdown between a group of punk rockers and an evil crew of Neo-Nazis firmly established him as one of the most talented filmmakers working today. For a while, there hadn't been much word on how Saulnier would follow up such a masterful film, but the stars are finally starting to align for his fourth feature. Like many of the great directors of his generation, Saulnier will now be heading to Netflix, as he's set to direct Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's novel. The story is set in Alaska, where wolves have killed children, prompting an expert to be called in for an investigation. But as the story grows darker, the bodies pile up and things go in even more unexpected directions.

This sounds like a story that will be right up Saulnier's alley, featuring all of the trademarks of his previous films- blood and gore, brutal violence, a simple setting, and unbearable tension. And in addition to that, he has assembled one hell of a cast for this film. Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgard, James Badge Dale, James Bloor, and Riley Keough are all set to star in Hold the Dark. Wright will be playing the lead, the wolf biologist called in for the investigation, while Skarsgard will play a husband who goes on a maniacal killing spree. Badge Dale plays a detective investigating Skarsgard's character, Bloor is a drifter, and Keough is the disappearing mother. If I'm being honest, it didn't really matter to me who Saulnier cast in this film. Green Room was my #7 movie of 2016, and oddly enough, it's one that I've revisited over and over again. I'm calling it now- in a few years, that film is going to be regarded as a masterpiece and a classic of the horror genre. Saulnier is on a different level, and I can't wait to see what he does with another great cast and terrifying concept. Wright is usually pitch-perfect, Skarsgard fits that part very well, Badge Dale is always excellent, and Keough is a true rising star. It's safe to say that Hold the Dark is one of my most anticipated films of the next few years, and I can't wait to see more.

There is no firm release date yet, but Hold the Dark is expected to hit theaters in 2018. A Cannes debut is likely in the cards.

Images courtesy of A24