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The Edward Snowden Documentary Citizenfour Puts You Right in the Room As History Is Made

If you didn’t know better, you’d think that Laura Poitras’s "Meet Edward Snowden" documentary Citizenfour was an avant-garde paranoid conspiracy thriller. Hold on, it is an avant-garde paranoid conspiracy thriller. It opens with a blurry tunnel; winking monitors scrolling metadata plucked from Americans’ emails; images of huge, futuristic, otherworldy government surveillance centers; encrypted communications — flurries of characters — that resolve into edgy cyberdialogues between the National Security Agency whistleblower and the filmmaker; and, finally, exacting exchanges between Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald high up in a blankly modern Hong Kong hotel, which might or might not be bugged. The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is like malignantly buzzing wires that eat into your cerebral cortex.

The narrative is relatively straightforward. »

John Hawkes Is Quietly Marvelous in Low Down

A.J. (Amy-Jo) Albany’s memoir Low Down: Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales From Childhood is a tender, spiky, beautifully evocative series of linked vignettes about her cruelly impoverished childhood as the daughter of a brilliant jazz pianist and junkie, Joe Albany, and a mean, self-centered mother (once the lover of Allen Ginsberg before he turned conclusively gay) who left them early and slid into terminal alcoholism. Amy and Topper Lilien have turned the book into a movie directed by Jeff Preiss, best known as the cinematographer of Bruce Weber’s extraordinary documentaries Broken Noses and Let’s Get Lost. Preiss brings a moody, lingering, be-bop touch to material that would be better in places with more zip, but if the film’s not as entertaining as the book, it’s pretty damn good, anyway. It has an immersive mood — a dim, junk-infused gloom from which there’s almost no escape. But then comes the music — underscored by Amy-Jo’s fierce love for her father and grandmother — and suddenly, that dimness is pierced by rays of hope.

Elle Fanning is Amy-Jo from 13 to somewhere around 16, rendered onscreen as a modest, self-effacing girl whose faith in her dad (John Hawkes) often wavers but somehow comes back even stronger. »

World Clown Association President Speaks Out Against Scary Clowns

The clown community has a bit of a PR problem right now. First there was a freaky-deaky clown harassing people in a small California town. Then American Horror Story: Freak Show returned and brought with it a nightmarish clown. Halloween season is always a metaphorical tiny car surprisingly full of literal scary clowns, and there’s the ongoing problem of the Insane Clown Posse. 


The Swedish Drama Force Majeure Is a Quiet Avalanche

Note: In order to discuss the Alps-set Swedish drama Force Majeure in any depth, it is necessary to reveal a very early event on which the entire narrative hinges. If you believe — wrongly, I think, but it’s your call — that this constitutes a “spoiler” and are merely looking for a thumb up or down, then here is the pertinent judgment: Thumb up, three stars, B+, 89 ... Actually, 93 until the climax, which is somewhat opaque. The setting is breathtaking, the cast excellent — and attractive! Back to Rotten Tomatoes, then.

The chic but potent psychodrama Force Majeure centers on a split-second decision. »

White Bird in a Blizzard, Starring Shailene Woodley, Is an Evocative, Occasionally Maddening Film

“I was 17 when my mother disappeared,” Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) tells us in the opening narration of White Bird in a Blizzard. “Just as I was becoming nothing but my body — flesh and blood and raging hormones — she stepped out of hers and left it behind.” It’s a poetic yet somewhat simplistic comparison, and it captures the conflicting impulses in Gregg Araki’s evocative, gorgeous, occasionally maddening film.


A Horrorphobe Is Forced to Watch His First Scary Movie: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

This essay originally ran October 30, 2013. We are republishing it as part of Vulture's Horror Week.

I am 28 years and 5 months old, and I went exactly that long without ever seeing an entire horror movie. On Monday, my streak ended, after my editor forced me to watch the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at home, at night, with the sound up and the lights out. This was a terrible idea. 

Why he has never watched one and what it was like when he did. »

  • Posted 10/24/14 at 1:45 PM
  • Video

Watch Shailene Woodley Seduce a Much Older Man

In Gregg Araki’s new film White Bird in a Blizzard, Shailene Woodley plays Kat, a suburban 17-year-old who’s adrift after her mom (a tightly wound Eva Green) goes missing. Kat’s dad (Christopher Meloni) shuts down emotionally, Kat’s boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez) grows physically distant, Kat’s friends (Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato) are already looking ahead to college, and as for Kat herself … well, now that she’s on her own with no parental oversight, she’s testing her own boundaries. That mission of self-discovery includes some sexual exploration that may shock audiences who only know Woodley from the PG-13 The Fault in Our Stars, as Kat sets her sights on the much older detective (Thomas Jane) investigating her mother’s case, then heads to his apartment to tentatively seduce him. You can see how that goes in this exclusive clip from the movie, out in theaters today.

Ouija Is Confident, Meat-and-Potatoes Horror

There’s an old story about screenwriter Charles MacArthur asking Charlie Chaplin how he’d show a woman slipping on a banana peel. Chaplin said he’d show her stepping over the banana peel, then disappearing into the manhole on the other side. That story flashed through my mind a couple of times during Ouija, which at times enacts the horror-movie equivalent of Chaplin’s comedy gag. It builds to a jump scare and distracts us with what we think was the big, sudden jump reveal — and then it pounces. When it works, it’s a wonderful, elemental thing. I’m not going to lie: I actually cackled with terror and delight at a couple of moments.

The story is absurdly simple. »

  • Posted 10/24/14 at 10:15 AM
  • Movies

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on 1,000 Times Good Night and the Intensity of Spanish Game of Thrones Fans

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau may not play the father of the year on Game of Thrones — he can't even publicly acknowledge his children. (The whole twincest thing, you know.) But in 1,000 Times Good Night, his character Marcus is the primary parent struggling to keep his family intact — not an easy job when his war-photographer wife Rebecca (played by Juliette Binoche) keeps putting her life at risk. Coster-Waldau called Vulture from the Thrones set in Spain to chat about what makes a good parent, dispel a little rumor, and tease Jaime Lannister picks up in season five.

"The Lannisters, that's a whole different dynamic." »

John Wick Is a Violent, Violent, Violent Film, But Oh-So Beautiful

With any other actor in the role, the relentless revenge flick John Wick could have been just another variation on the Neesonian man-with-special-set-of-skills-kills-everybody genre. But with an actor as ethereal and ageless as Keanu Reeves in the lead, it becomes something else — more abstract and mythic.

At this point, Reeves can do stoic and haunted in his sleep. »

  • Posted 10/23/14 at 6:00 PM
  • Movies

Celebrities Can’t Stop Bragging About Seeing Interstellar

The veil of secrecy over Interstellar is slowly being lifted, with private screenings taking place all over Hollywood. Were you invited? No. You know who was? A collection of random celebrities, and they can't stop tweeting about it. Even the guy from Ugly Betty was there!


Keira Knightley on Laggies, Imitation Game, and Hating High School

Keira Knightley can’t help it, really, but she doesn’t quite come across like “one of us.” Which is why it’s such a treat to see her in Laggies, Lynn Shelton’s latest comedy about adults failing miserably at adulthood. Brandishing a decent American accent, the willowy Brit plays a woman adrift in her late 20s who takes a weeklong break from her life to live with a high-school girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) she met while buying her alcohol and her divorcée lawyer dad (Sam Rockwell at his funny, sexy best). It may well be Knightley’s most relatable performance since Bend It Like Beckham. Vulture caught up with her at the Toronto Film Festival, where she was also promoting her role as pioneering WWI math genius and WWII code-breaker Joan Clarke, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing, in the historical thriller The Imitation Game, which has her on Vulture Kyle’s picks for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Below, Knightley talks about hating high school, Sam Rockwell’s dance moves, and, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch’s yumminess.


See the First Trailer for Insidious: Chapter 3

The third Insidious movie is ostensibly a prequel, which means Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are gone. In their place are Dermot Mulroney and Disney starlet Stefanie Scott, as well as a creepy cover of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." Yes, that phrase might be redundant.

Watch Meryl Streep Sing in Into the Woods

Come for the beanstalk, stay for Meryl Streep singing. Finally! What we've all been waiting for: a bit of Meryl singing "Stay With Me," the emotional mother-daugther ballad from Into the Woods. If you're a fan of Mamma Mia! (the movie), it's a wonderful return to form. The singing starts at 2:30.

The 6 Ugliest Paintings of Liam Neeson

In real life and in photographs, Liam Neeson is a very handsome man. And yet, for some reason, when it comes time for Neeson's films to place his comely mug on their posters, they never choose a simple photo. Instead, they almost always go with a bizarre Photoshop painting of Neeson's face that makes him look like a cross between Frankenstein's monster and a potato. Check out some of the worst offenders below. (Some of these are international posters.)


Why David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive Is a Great Horror Film

Last year, when David Edelstein and I put together our list of the 25 Greatest Horror Films Since The Shining, we sparked some debate among readers as to whether our choice for No. 1, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, was even a horror film. Some readers thought it absolutely belonged; others appreciated that we’d come up with an unorthodox choice; and many others thought that it in no way deserved to be on there. While there was never any real doubt in our own minds, the question itself is worth exploring because it gets to the heart of what we now consider “horror.”

True, Mulholland Drive doesn't fit into any of today’s typical horror subgenres. »

The 25 Best Horror Movies Since The Shining

This list initially ran on October 29, 2013. We are republishing it as part of Vulture's Horror Week. Read Bilge Ebiri's new essay on why Mulholland Drive is a great horror film.

One third of a century ago, Stanley Kubrick released The Shining and changed the face of modern horror. Except that he didn’t, at least not initially. The Shining was a critical dud and, at first, a financial disappointment. (Kubrick even got nominated for a Razzie for Worst Director.) But over the years, the movie has, to understate mightily, gained in stature. And its release seemed to us like a good cutoff point for our journey through the ensuing 33 years of horror cinema. After all, 1980 is an important turning point in the genre: The wild wild west of exploitation cinema (which gave us such titles as I Spit on Your Grave) had been largely tamed, the colorfully gruesome artistry of giallo (Suspiria, Deep Red) was on the wane, and Hammer Studios (home of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) had pretty much become extinct. Meanwhile, slasher movies were becoming slasher franchises, and the Age of Spielberg and the Age of Video were upon us.

Oh, the horror(s)! »

  • Posted 10/23/14 at 11:50 AM
  • Movies

Christian Bale Will Play Steve Jobs, Will Allegedly ‘Crush It’

Aaron Sorkin's long-gestating Steve Jobs biopic has finally found its lead in Christian Bale. Sorkin seems pleased as punch, telling Bloomberg, "We needed the best actor on the board in a certain age range and that’s Chris Bale." (Would we call him Chris?) Never one to undersell a project, Sorkin continued with the praise: "It’s an extremely difficult part and he’s gonna crush it." Based on Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography of Jobs, the film will only be three scenes long, each taking place backstage before a different Apple product launch. There will be speeches. Oh, yes, there will be speeches.

  • Posted 10/23/14 at 10:05 AM
  • Candy

Key and Peele Exorcist-ized Make-A-Wish to Horrifying Results

As we saw with their instant-classic Family Matters sketch, Key and Peele can turn anyone into a frightening horror villain. In their upcoming Halloween episode, which will air next Thursday, K&P might've found their most unexpected monster yet: a Make-A-Wish kid. Jordan Peele plays a dying boy who wants to use his wish to do some sick ssshhhhh, and Keegan-Michael Key plays the doctor who is like, "Wait, what?" The moral is clear: Dying children are hilarious!

Watch Brad Pitt and Louis C.K. on ‘Between Two Ferns’

"Is it hard to maintain a suntan? Because you live in your wife's shadow?" Just one of the things Zach Galifianakis asks Brad Pitt on "Between Two Ferns," the only talk show that really "goes there" (with advance knowledge and permission from its guests, naturally). Featuring Louis C.K., with a bit on rats and Ebola. Topical!