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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Movie Report #783, August 29, 2014

The Movie Report

#783, August 29, 2014


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Idris Elba & Taraji P. Henson at Vibe's No Good Deed screening

Film Flam Flummox

Vibe's advance screening for Screen Gems' upcoming thriller No Good Deed, directed by Sam Miller and produced by Will Packer, at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14 on Tuesday, August 26 was made all the more special when the film's stars and executive producers, Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, made an unannounced appearance to introduce the film. Below is video of their introduction and conversation with the event's host, Vibe's Milan Carter, where the pair displayed not only their graciousness with the fans but also their playful and unforced rapport with each other--which, in the film, is quite the opposite of playful.

No Good Deed opens in cinemas nationwide on Friday, September 12, from Screen Gems.

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(Special thanks to Milan Carter, Oronde Garrett, Richard Blackman, and Screen Gems)

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

HollyShorts 2014 Highlights

The Movie Report

There's both a certain beauty and burden of attending a short film festival, especially one as large and lengthy as HollyShorts, which just marked its tenth year from August 14-23 at the TCL Chinese 6 in Hollywood. No matter how few of the programming blocks one attends, there will always be plenty of titles to talk about--or, in the case of people such as myself, write about. But given that any block in the festival can feature around no less than, and possibly more than, ten titles, it can be a daunting task to write about everything one sees, especially given the often hit and miss nature of the short film format. So, instead of squeezing out, and in some cases forcing out, a few lines on all that I was able to see at the fest, I will accentuate the positive, as it were, and put a spotlight a few films that I saw that stood out in the best way, listed here in alphabetical order.

Asleep & Awake
Many filmmakers use a short film as a calling card more for their technical skills and less for their storytelling prowess, but when such an exercise is as riveting as Joshua Giuliano's thrilling work, such a complaint is beside the point. As the title suggests, this is a bit of a dual film, focusing on a young girl as she is asleep and awake. For the former, Giuliano shows great skill as a traditional horror filmmaker, building the requisite suspense in a classic scenario of a mysterious presence in a house, which he plays out in long, elegant, creepy shots. As effective as that section of the film is, it's the back half of the film where he fully shows his mastery of mood, creating almost unbearably unsettling dread and tension out of the most deceptively unadorned and seemingly mundane motions of the girl, now awake from her nightmare. Neither half of the film sounds like much, but in Giuliano's incredibly capable hands, it makes for a memorably menacing, masterful watch.

Breuder (Brothers)
Daniel Rübesam's German language drama is everything a short film should be: telling a fully thought-out story and involving, completely fleshed-out character arcs in a smoothly assembled, affectingly performed little package. The brothers of the title, Tom (Aleksandar Tesla) and Mikey (Oliver Zgorelec), both share a criminal past in addition to blood, but when the latter is in a bind and turns to the former for help, it may mean deviating from the peacefully reformed straight-and-narrow path. It's not the most original of premises, but Rübesam brings together all the elements with such craft and care that its suspense and, above all else, emotional impact is genuine.

In the action shorts block in which it was featured, actor Denzel Whitaker's writing (with Barnaby Barilla)/directing debut was far and away the most Hollywood slick--which is not the backhanded compliment it may sound like. While clocking in at an economical 25 minutes, the action sequences and overall visual flair in this tale of a cop (Kevin Phillips) whose personal loss drives him to pursue a path of vigilante justice measures up to the standard of a full feature, if not exceed that of many. The nuts and bolts of the plot may not be original--for, indeed, my brief description is as deep as it gets--but when it comes to genre, style is what generally matters most, and the level of polish Whitaker is able to achieve with limited means, in terms of not only the impressive and assured technical aspects but the solid performances, indicate great promise for his future filmmaking endeavors.

Get Some
If there are two genres in critical danger of exhausted overexposure--that is, if they haven't reached that saturation point already--it's zombie apocalypse horror and reality television, but directors Adam and Joe Horton and writing collaborator Simon Uttley give tired tropes an irreverently invigorated spin in this cheeky satire. Key to the film's success is a memorable lead character in the aptly named Hunter Smith (Warren Brown), larger-than-life host of the titular TV show, a series documenting his gung-ho exploits seeking out and killing those infected with a virus that turns humans into flesh-eating monsters; literally along for the ride is a doctor (John Hannah) who maintains there is still some vestige of humanity buried within the afflicted. As exuberantly executed here by the Hortons, the conceit is ripe for further expansion, whether at full feature or ongoing series length, and that's not just due to the commercial hook and name value of the top-billed stars. While their recognition factor do lend some standout selling point cachet amid a vast sea of shorts, the top-billed pair certainly deliver performances that are worth even more, especially Brown. Best known as DS Justin Ripley in all three series of Luther--but whom I personally most esteem for his terrific lead work in his underseen BBC starring vehicle Good Cop--Brown shows a fearless comic flair and timing heretofore rarely seen, and the fifteen or so minutes of this film whet the appetite for an even greater taste of all the hilariously demented directions he and the Hortons can take Hunter in an expanded context. But as is in its current incarnation, Get Some stands on its own as a smart, self-contained blast of breezy, bloody fun.

For more information on HollyShorts, visit the official site.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Movie Report #782, August 22, 2014

The Movie Report

#782, August 22, 2014

  • Are You Here * 1/2
  • CityLights ***
  • Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For *** cast & directors interview video
  • If I Stay **
  • Love Is Strange ***
  • Metro Manila ****
  • The One I Love ** 1/2
  • When the Game Stands Tall ** Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis & Thomas Carter interview

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Press Junket Potluck: Robert Rodriguez & cast revisit Frank Miller's Sin City with A Dame to Kill For

Film Flam Flummox

It may have been a long near-decade since the spring 2005 release of director Robert Rodriguez's revolutionary screen adaptation (or, more accurately, translation) of three storylines of Frank Miller's landmark neo-noir comic series Sin City, but seeing Rodriguez, Miller, and returning star Jessica Alba reunite for the press junket for the long-awaited follow-up, A Dame to Kill For, it's clear their familial camaraderie and creative rapport has only strengthened during the protracted layover. That palpable all-around chemistry also extended to cast newcomers Josh Brolin, Eva Green, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as can be seen as the six took part in a spirited panel press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on Saturday, August 2 (not August 3, as indicated in the video below).

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For opens in cinemas nationwide today, August 22, 2014, from Dimension Films.

Buy the Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For movie poster here.
Buy the Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For DVD here.
Buy the Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Blu-ray here.
Buy the Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For soundtrack here.
Buy Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For graphic novel here.
Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions here.

(Special thanks to The Weinstein Company)

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Press Junket Potluck: Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis & Thomas Carter on how When the Game Stands Tall stands tall

Film Flam Flummox

The game in question in When the Game Stands Tall is football, and more specifically the formidable one of the team of De La Salle High School in Concord, California, which under head coach Bob Ladouceur set a national record 151-game winning streak.  But the team, the coach, and the film inspired by their real life story is not merely about winning but something deeper, one of the main issues of discussion when director Thomas Carter and stars Jim Caviezel (who plays Ladouceur) and Michael Chiklis (who plays assistant coach Terry Eidson) sat down for roundtables at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on Saturday, August 9.

The appeal of--and above--sports

"I'm really drawn to story, and I have no particular inclination to make sports movies. I've happened to make two of them [this and 2005's Coach Carter], and I've enjoyed making both of them about two sports that I really like. But I also like dance, and I like to be doing that--and I've done two dance movies [1993's Swing Kids and 2001's Save the Last Dance], so I've kind of been lucky. I will say what's exciting about sport first is the obvious thing: the notion of competition. There's physical competition first of all. It's exciting to shoot. It's exciting to watch. You have the audience there on the first level wondering who's going to win and how's it going to happen or how it's not going to happen. You have this sort of built-in drama when you have that competition, so that's an asset to a filmmaker. But it's not enough for a filmmaker like me to just have that. What interests me most about this particular sports movie very specifically is that Bob Ladouceur is himself interested in something far beyond winning. It's funny because he wins so much. Vince Lombardi said, 'Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.' Ladouceur almost has the opposite credo. So while he enjoys winning and he wants to win and is competitive, he's much more interested in who are these young men when they come out of the program: what have they learned, how have they grown, do they have a sense of personal accountability, are they ready to go and be responsible young adults? For me, talking about that in a film was interesting."
--Thomas Carter

Finding the reel story from the real story

"You have to figure out what story do I tell to put that message across, how interesting can I make it. We happened to have chosen a year in their history where they suffered a number of setbacks, and they had to really climb out of a bit of a hole because they had lost a piece of that legacy and maybe a little bit of that mythology for a moment. So that was the proving ground, and then you can make a movie and tell a story because people are fighting adversity, they are trying to meet a challenge that's not just the obvious challenge of if you're going to win a game or not. And I think what you see in the film is the challenge is not are we going to win, but who are we going to be while we're playing the game? Who are we going to be to each other? How are we going to grow? How mature can we be? What's our level of commitment? That's really all the coach asks. Bob will tell you winning is a result of what they do. It's nice to win, but winning is simply a result of how they train these kids. So that was an exciting story for me to use sports to tell."
--Thomas Carter

Bob Ladouceur, a true character of true character

"I was at his 399th victory, and I got to film him during the game and got to see how he really works. He's just quite extraordinary when he'd coach, very selfless and really isn't about him. Sometimes I would notice that coaches would say, 'It's not about me,' and then it's about... them. [laughs] He's not there to discuss himself. This guy could've coached anywhere; as a coach he could be making high seven-figures. He couldn't give a crap about any of that stuff; he's not impressed with any of this. We've met briefly after [the film] was all assembled, and he said, 'I got to tell you, doing this media stuff, Jim--I hate it. I never wanted any of this.'  And he really didn't."
--Jim Caviezel

"He's definitely not a spotlight guy. Definitely humble, but to him that's extraneous, superfluous. That's not part of his core value system or he really wants to impart as a teacher. He's a teacher; coach equals teacher, mentor. So when you listen to the speeches, when you watch the DVD's, when you see the way he handles the guys and his demeanor, there's nothing false about it. It's just crystal; it just rings true. There's no doubt in my mind that they were the most incredibly successful team in the history of American sport because of philosophy, which I find fascinating."
--Michael Chiklis

Making the filmmaking game stand tall

"I saw myself not as Coach Lad but as those boys--that was the journey on how to play this guy. Right from the get-go I was transfixed on how those boys were looking at him. I know the story because I was a player and how I wanted to be treated as a young man and what was expected of me. My dad played for [basketball coach John] Wooden in UCLA. I knew Coach Wooden until he died, and Coach Wooden would come over, and he was like my grandfather. I was a [basketball] camper as a little boy and watched him and was connected to him through my entire life and his philosophy was a lot like Coach Lad's, and Coach Lad's is a lot like his. And what I always wonder is why a lot of coaches don't have that philosophy, and I think it comes down to the fact that there are guys that want to be out there and score 40 points and rather lose. The attention is on them rather than scoring two points and winning the game. That ego is a killer. It's not about personal growth or anything. They can talk all they want, but they don't live it. [Ladouceur] lives it. He's authentic."
--Jim Caviezel

"I love visual filmmaking, so the idea of bringing something new to what I had experienced in football on screen was a big challenge to me. I looked at that Long Beach Poly game, that historic game, and I thought, 'Man, I want to make the best football sequence that anyone's ever done.' I want to direct at that level where people are looking at it and going, 'Wow, I've never had quite this experience watching football on film before.' Whether or not I've achieved that I have to leave to others to decide, but that was the challenge I set for myself, and that's what I was after. I was trying to find how can I shoot it, and how can I tell the story not just with the shots but the texture of the game and the way we build the story within the game because it's a mini-movie within itself. That was exciting to me."
--Thomas Carter

Football as film, film as football

"I can tell you in my career the projects that were familial and team oriented were by far the most satisfying and most successful things I ever did. The one that immediately comes to mind is The Shield. That was as powerfully familial and collaborative an experience I've ever gone through.  Films like this film, when you got a cast and a crew that are moving in the same direction shoulder to shoulder, there's this feeling that occurs on set when you're like, 'This is special. This is a great story,' and everybody sort of gets it.  It's not really spoken; it's not like anybody really talks about it--it's more of a feeling, sort of an all hands on deck kind of feeling. Everybody starts to row in time. It really is that whole thing about the individual versus the team. There's nothing wrong with excelling as an individual. [Ladouceur] wanted the kids to set personal goals for themselves, but he also expected them to rely upon each other to meet those goals."
--Michael Chiklis

The Final Word

"What did you think you were going to see when you saw the movie? Five seconds left, he hits the last shot--champion. When I heard the script was coming, I thought, 'Oh, OK; lot of wins, win streak.' And then that was dealt with first thing in the movie, so where is this movie going to go? I get a phone call from one of my best friends, and he said, 'Gee, I guess I don't need to see your movie. I just saw the trailer; I think they gave away too much.' And I said, 'Yeah, I think you really need to see the movie.' Then he saw the movie, and he said, 'Oh wow, now I get it, why they gave all that away.'"
--Jim Caviezel

When the Game Stands Tall opens in cinemas nationwide today, Friday, August 22, from TriStar Pictures.

Buy the When the Game Stands Tall movie poster here.
Buy the When the Game Stands Tall soundtrack here.
Buy Neil Hayes's When the Game Stands Tall book here.
Buy Neil Hayes's When the Game Stands Tall audiobook here.
Buy the When the Game Stands Tall: 52 Devotions for the Heart of a Champion book here.
Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions here.

(Special thanks to TriStar Pictures)

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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Movie Report #781, August 15, 2014

The Movie Report

#781, August 15, 2014

  • The Expendables 3 ** 1/2
  • Finding Fela ***
  • The Giver ** 1/2
  • Let's Be Cops ***
  • Life After Beth ***
  • The Trip to Italy ***

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