Looks like someone decided to take the Wolverine spin-off series seriously. The second installment in the Wolverine franchise - so eloquently called The Wolverine - is a huge improvement from its predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And when I say huge improvement, I mean that it’s watchable and doesn’t suck.
In this installment, Wolvy™ flies to Japan to say sayōnara to a friend he saved long ago (at the bombing of Nagasaki, to be exact), but finds trouble with ninjas who do hands-free cartwheels (awesome) and a giant steel samurai robot (double awesome). Sounds corny as I read that last sentence, but I promise 1) it’s not, and 2) I really just wanted to find a place to add hands-free cartwheeling ninjas and this is where it fit best - deal with it.
Humbly honored to be picked by Film Independent as one of the top indie film insiders to follower on Twitter, especially with these people: Patton Oswalt, Lena Dunham, Errol Morris, Mark Duplass, David Wain, Rian Johnson (writer/director of LOOPER), and Miranda July.
Movie Review: ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, or A "HORROR" FILM SET IN DISNEY WORLD I WISH I COULD UNSEE
Aside from the eye-catching innovative poster you see above, the much talked about ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW has nothing else to offer.
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival to much acclaim. Why? It was entirely shot guerilla style at Disney World and Disneyland without consent from the Big Mouse and his friends or legal team. Does this make it a good movie? Not one bit.
The film opens with our protagonist, Jim (played by Roy Abramsohn) talking on the phone with his now future ex-boss. He’s at Disney World with his family and has just been fired from his job. Hiding it from his constantly frustrated wife Emily (Elena Schuber), Jim takes off with Emily and his two kids for a fun day of park rides, arguing, losing his kids, and ultimately, losing his fucking mind.
Director: Zack Snyder Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay), David S. Goyer (story) Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne
I want to preface by saying that Christopher Reeves’ Superman was my hero growing up. But I didn’t realize it until much later that it was actually Reeves who was my hero. He made me believe a man could fly. Growing up with not many friends, the SUPERMAN franchise were my escape from every day life. I could related to Reeves’ Clark Kent, who was a complete goon and had a tough time being understood. And of course what kid doesn’t love watching their favorite person fly and save the world? I could really write an essay on how much the these films saved my childhood, but I don’t want you to get bored and fly away.
Writer/Director: David Fenster Producer: Phil Lord Cast: Paul Fenster, Dietmar Franusch, Christi Idavoy Synopsis: A story centered on a young guy who ineptly runs the family construction business by day and begrudgingly acts as caretaker for his father by night.
A movie doesn’t need flashy effects, big stars, and morals to make it good. Yes, we go to the cinema to escape from our everyday slump, but it’s nice to watch a film crafted on a raw level, using wit instead of talking robots and explosions, someone going through real pain versus an actor pretending, and skipping the feel good ending where the protagonist goes through some life-changing experience blah, blah, blah. There are movies that are filled with sorrow yet leave us with a feeling of hope. This is what you will take away from PINCUS, a heartfelt story of selfishness stomped by the power of love. [Cue Huey Lewis and the News.]
Capsule Review: ONLY GOD FORGIVES, But Not For This Movie
Writer/Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm Official Synopsis: Julian (Ryan Gosling), a respected figure in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, runs a Thai boxing club and smuggling ring with his brother Billy. Billy is suddenly murdered and their crime lord matriarch, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from London to bring back the body. When Jenna forces Julian to settle the score with his brother’s killers, Julian finds himself in the ultimate showdown.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES: The most fartistic movie of the year.
The only thing going for it is potty mouthed Kristin Scott Thomas, who obliterates her innocence we’ve all grown to know. (Good for her.)
There’s a great scene, which you can see in the trailer, where Gosling’s Julian calmly asks his foe, “Wanna fight?” This is probably one of the coolest and most talked about lines before the film even released. But, the fight scene following is hollow, pointless, and not as exciting as writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn could have and should have made it.
But let’s get one thing clear, Refn is the master at stylized violence and colorful photography - it’s what makes his avant-garde style so great and unmatched. But ONLY GOD FORGIVES was too over the top - a love letter by Refn, for Refn.
Hi. How are you? Here are 92 Classics, French New Wave, Arthouse, Cult Hits, and Studio Blockbusters I've Never Seen
Hi. How are you?
A few years ago, I tweeted about a film that I hadn’t seen at the time—a film that virtually everyone has seen. That film was THE GODFATHER. Shortly after, a large handful of Internet trolls launched an arsenal of attacks with their mighty keyboards. Most of them used this: “How can you call yourself a film critic when you haven’t seen one of the greatest films of all time?”
Pacific Rim Set Visit: Guillermo del Toro Talks Creating an Epic Monster Battle!
We visit the set of Pacific Rim, where Guillermo del Toro takes us deep inside this battle against monsters and robotos, in theaters this July
In April 2013, I flew to Canada to spend the day at the very busy Pinewood Studios touring sets and interviewing cast and crew members for a kind-of-a-big-deal movie. There, the great Guillermo del Toro was in mid-production shooting his love letter to Kaiju monsters, Pacific Rim(101 sets in 103 days). Stop me if you’ve heard this before (actually, let me finish because this is probably going to sound familiar), but talking to Guillermo del Toro about movies is unreal. This man is a fanboy first, filmmaker second. He can (and will) talk for hours about monsters, movies, and all things imagination. Watching him direct is some next world kind of shit.
The day I was on set, I watched him direct a tattooed, punk rock-looking Charlie Dayrunning through the aftermath of a destroyed Hong Kong as a Kaiju monster is chasing after him, flipping cars and crushing every person and object in its path. I didn’t get to see the actual monster (they’re all CGI), but watching Guillermo del Toro direct a scene on a set that left me slack-jawed was good enough for me. The best part of this visit was watching him call “ACTION!” for each take. It was like watching a cinematic opera: Very loud, very long, and very, very profoundly awesome.
The only bummer about being on the set this day was that they were shooting a very important scene in the film. And as much as everyone tried to hide certain details that were being shot,Charlie Day accidentally slipped a major spoiler (which I’ve omitted, so you can breathe easy). Champagne problem for us because I watched part of the ending of the movie play out while on set. But lucky for you, you’re in for a monstrous treat when you finally see the finished product in a theater later this July.
Charlie Hunnam stars as Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket in Pacific Rim
While touring the different sets (including one inside one of the Jaeger robots), I watched a sizzle reel pre-trailer release, where Guillermo del Toro proudly claimed…
"It’s going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before."
While on set, I was treated to an interview with director Guillermo del Toro, as well as costume designer Kate Hawley, visual effects supervisorJohn Knoll and production designer Andrew Neskoromny.
What makes the Kaiju different from the other monsters you’ve worked with over the years?
Guillermo del Toro: Are you talking about actors? [Laughs] The quicker answer is scale. We have to think about the Kaijus like the largest monster ever. Elemental on Hellboy II: The Golden Army, that’s the biggest one. It was like five, six stories high. The Kaiju’s are 25 stories high. So they’re huge. Another big, big difference is that I have used monsters in identifiable, sort of sympathetic ways and the Kaiju are like an earthquake or a tornado or a hurricane; they’re a force of nature. They are essentially blind to any moral or ethical circumstances. They’re fast. If there’s a city or a predator or a highway they just move. So that is a big, big difference.
What has it been like working on such a monumental scale compared to some of your smaller pieces?
Guillermo del Toro: The funny thing is that a lot of the smaller movies have been pretty big. Not so much in terms of budget but in terms of technical complexity. Hellboy II: The Golden Army had sequences that are as complicated as this. We didn’t have the budget to do it every x number of times. With Hellboy I had to always choose just one big sequence, two or three set pieces that were smaller, and this movie, part of the statement as a concept, and just an intrinsic part of the narrative is scale. Humans against the things that are gigantic, the human melodrama and the human spirit against the background of huge, immense odds.
What’s the most important part of someone else’s script that makes you want to take it on as your own?
A team of Jaeger triplets gear up for battle in Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi thriller
Guillermo del Toro: With Travis Beacham, I had worked with him before so I knew him. We started form a pitch so I developed the script. I’ve done quite a bit of passes myself so there’s a moment in which regardless of what’s going on I have to take over the screenplay and make it my own. I need to understand every line, every character, what is going on. So the first thing is I approach Travis with respect and friendship because we know each other from way before and admiration. We start shaping it from the get go. From the pitch I started giving him my own ides. I was attached as producer for many, many months before I was the director. So I was developing At the Mountains of Madness. So far I have never read a screenplay that I completely go for, and the only one that was written outside was David S. Goyer, and even then Blade 2 was one thing when I came on board and another one by the time we shot. So it hasn’t happened. I read a lot of screenplays and I haven’t yet found one that I can just jump into.
In the sizzle reel we saw, you said that you were trying to resurrect a spirit that doesn’t exist these days in film anymore. What’s that spirit?
Guillermo del Toro: Just adventure. Instead of having the idea of just bad guys and good guys, to have the idea that you can dream about. When I was a kid and you saw a space movie or a cowboy movie you dreamt, “I want to be a cowboy” or “I want to be a spaceman”. And I wanted very much to create a movie that hopefully young viewers can go “I want to be a Jaeger pilot.” The spirit of adventure where you’re not cynical, you’re not jaded. You’re going into it in earnest. I’ve never ever made a movie that has full, modern irony. Ever. The Hellboy movies are completely earnest. Whether they work or not for someone that’s a different matter. I just approach them with no tongue in cheek about the material. I have a blue guy, I have a red guy, and a guy made of gas, and I direct them without any hierarchy. And I think the spirit in adventure movies is an earnest, very beautiful sort of human spirit.
Which is funny because I get a lot of Starship Troopers from this, which as a book is not earnest. It’s very tongue in cheek.
Guillermo del Toro: Yeah, and the movie is very dark and ironic. Pacific Rim is not ironic.Starship Troopers goes from the point of view of the winners, therefore they take their cues from a very oppressive militarized society that essentially creates soldiers. Their approach is to satirize fascism. And we come from the point of view that we are vanquished. We are the resistance. We are coming at the moment when you must keep calm and carry on. You know, rationing. People are hungry, people are working for food. Humanity is not triumphant. We are trying to build a wall that is 300 miles around the coastline, it’s an uninhabited force all across the pacific. Food is the coin of the realm. We are at the lowest and at the lowest we take the approach that we are not going with white teeth, blonde hair, super Aryan heroes coming to save humanity. We’re going with a Japanese girl, an Australian team, Charlie Day, Idris Elba, we have a Peruvian-Chinese that is played by Clifton Collins Jr.. So we are saying there’s not a race that’s going to save the planet, there’s not a country that’s going to save the planet. We’re sort of anti-jingoistic and I made it a point that when the movie starts there’s still a military structure, but by minute 20 these guys are absolutely the resistance. The machines are being repaired vicariously; they are being serviced by people that just are doing it out of passion, out of faith. There is no military uniforms, no salutes, no military structure for the rest of the film. One of the things I did very deliberately in order to evoke adventure was to strip, after the first 50 minutes, the characters of all their terms. We call them “ranger” and “marshall” and we call the Jaeger “riding” a Jaeger. I wanted sort of a Western film. Marshalls and Rangers manning a station. I know it sounds ironic coming from a Mexican. But the Alamo [laughs]. But the idea was to evoke a frontier pulse that is the last standing post on Earth. All the other Jaeger posts are closed. So completely opposite [from Starship Troopers].
It seems like Newt and Hannibal have a great dynamic together. How did you balance humor with the earnestness of the film?
Clifton Collins Jr. is Tendo Choi, a resistance fighter who goes face to face with the Kaiju
Guillermo del Toro: I really go by gut. The largest organ I have is my gut. It’s been carefully groomed, and I got to go by instinct. You know, films are not an infallible formula. You can make the same movie somebody tells you is their favorite, it is the same movie that somebody’s going to say, “I hate that fucking movie.” One of the exercises I do when I have free time is you go to IMDb and you type Citizen Kaneand you organize the reviews by “Hated It” you read 20 guys going “What’s the big deal?! I don’t understand it!” And it’s liberating not to think in those terms because you just think, look, I’m going to make a movie that I love and has different colors. You know true red, true blue, true green, and you make them into a painting. When Charlie Day and I talk, I always talk to him from character. I don’t tell him, “I want you to be funny here!” We always talk about how the fear of the character has to be real, the irony or the sassiness needs to come from the character. And with Ron Perlman, I just know Ron is big so I can go big with him. But Ron Perlman can sell his big. Ron Perlman is not a demure, quiet little wallflower. He’s a big specimen.
How did these giant monsters get on Earth?
Guillermo del Toro: Through a portal. The whole backstory centers on a mysterious portal that opens up in the Pacific Ocean in the year 2013. Pacific Rim is set 12 years in the future, after most of humanity has banded together to try and figure out a way to fight the swarms of monsters that are popping out of this portal. Thus creating the 250-foot to 280-foot-tall Jaegar robots.
What was the inspiration starting the story 12 years into it as opposed to doing an origin story?
Guillermo del Toro: Because the part that I was interested in was the part where things are hard. I cannot tell you how much I didn’t want to make a war movie. I didn’t want to make it a war movie, I wanted to make it an adventure movie. I wanted very much to contrast the moment where it was going well but you were deep into it. Because if you start with the origin then you have to go with investigative characters which are very hard for me to relate to. You know like a reporter or military forensics. For me it has to be a character that has something against him or her from the get go. Like a character that starts already oppressed or down on his or luck for me to be interested.
You mentioned in the sizzle reel that this world is bigger than anything you can imagine. What were some of the challenges of making a world that’s bigger than anything you can imagine?
Gypsy Danger engages in battle with the dreaded Knifehead
Guillermo del Toro: First of all, you want to do variety and you want to do stuff that you haven’t seen yet on film. To give you an example, we were occupying every stage in Toronto essentially at one point and we were occupying every stage in Pinewood, we were in the largest stage in North America and we were able to only shoot the heel of a Jaeger and the workstation. So I wanted to have the heel of a Jaeger real size, and the heel of Jaeger real size is the size of a small house. So creating things like that that are real, physically, that you have that real on set to shoot around but then treat it in an off-handed manner is great. I think that a movie is made of gestures where you pretend with pride and then throw away. And they have to be equally big gestures. Because then if you are always making the music swell and have the “big” set, which you do, and then later you’re in a huge set and you shoot it unassumingly, the audience will take it in and they will react to the big scale. So you keep the vibe you’re going to Hong Kong and Sydney. Making, for example, between a Jaeger and a Kaiju different. Because if you make every battle happen from the same point of view and the same environment, you’ll go “Oh they’re going to again destroy the thing? I saw that. I know it.” So every battle has, hopefully, a little bit of that scope. And then to contrast it with things that are very small, like small little melodrama problems between characters.
It’s really interesting that you brought on a lead actor who’s never done studio action films before, he’s done mostly comedy. What was it about Charlie Day that made you take that leap of faith?
Guillermo del Toro: You know, I’m a huge fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I’m a huge fan without thinking of Charlie for anything, I was just a huge fan and we had Newt as a character. One day in one of the episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia he has a monologue about rats. He comes out with a stick and he has a monologue about what it is to hang the rats in the basement, and he was very funny but he was coming from character. He was not doing big stuff, he was really mourning and lamenting his job, how inhuman it is. And I thought this guy is really good at shading and is great at comedy. There are moments in the movie where he delivers them both and I’m extremely happy about that. I think at that point I didn’t know any movies he had done in comedy, I only saw It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphiafrom the beginning until now. I watch as much TV as I humanly can. Right now I’m stuck on the third season of Justified and I’m going to watch episode 13 tonight [Laughs]. If it doesn’t hook me I don’t watch it, but I watch every pilot I can.
What does having two Jaeger pilots set up for your characters? What sort of problems arise?
Guillermo del Toro: The first idea that I wanted to have is that the neural surge is so big that you need somebody to link the right hemisphere and someone to link the left hemisphere. And I wanted to explore how some of the characters would not get along in real life, actually hate each other, but they’re good at something. You know like, I was never a great dancer obviously, but as a kid ,as you saw couples that fought all the time, but they danced beautifully together and I thought this would be great to have two characters that hated each other, but when the time comes they can pilot, they’re good at that. They can black out all the differences and come together. The movie is not an individual thing, coming together is what saves us. The Kaijus are completely individualistic, sheer force, and the pilots need to join together. Most of the characters in the movie don’t get together and then they come together and it works. Which I think is what it means to be human. It’s been in Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Devil’s Backbone, those are essentially the ideas. So I guess I was preempted by that. One of the things I love most about the bomber movies is the communication between the cockpit and the crew; I love that dynamic and I wanted to give the film the dynamic of being really there and there’s always so much more when you have somebody looking at someone and sharing an experience but being alone. I thought it would be more interesting. If you have a girl and she sits next you and you have to share everything you are in a single fashion, like best worst memories, she knows what music you like, she knows your picture all in one instance, and then they can fall in love, I thought that was very nice. I thought that was really quite beautiful.
How heavy on the references to other monster movies will Pacific Rim be? Are we going to see a “man in a suit” kind of monster?
Each Jaeger must be dropped into battle before facing a deadly Kaiju monster
Guillermo del Toro: Negative. There was talk of using motion capture, but it was dismissed due to the scale. The robots are huge and so are the Kaiju, so the monster makers wanted to stay true to the laws of physics. So the monsters would need to be balanced, move a certain way, have a certain type of physicality that would make their presence believable. So a man in a suit type fighting wasn’t going to cut it. But there will be classic Kaiju movie shout outs.
Ron mentioned that you purposefully wanted to leave his character’s back story a little vague. Let the audience fill in the blanks. Why did you think that would work with Hannibal?
Guillermo del Toro: Because I think that the moment you have a guy named Hannibal Chau and Ron Perlman shows up, and he’s from Brooklyn and he’s selling black market organs. You know the whole story. I took my name from my favorite historical character and the next one from my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn. Why do you need a backstory from that? [Laughs]
Costume designer Kate Hawley, visual effects supervisor John Knoll and production designerAndrew Neskoromny were also on hand to discuss some of the various aspects of the production.
Why are all the Jaegars different from each other?
Stacker Pentecost rallies the troops in Pacific Rim
John Knoll: Because diversity! Guillermo del Torowanted each robot to be cool in its own way, plus it would be boring to have a collection of similar robots. There’s the Chinese Jaeger (Crimson Typhoon), the Australian Jaeger (Striker Eureka), the Russian Jaeger (Cherno Alpha) the American Jaeger (Gipsy Danger), and a ton more. Gipsy Danger is the robot that the audience will spend the most time with, and is the giant Jaegar piloted by the two main characters, Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori. Gipsy has a sword.
How many Kaijus are we going to see stomping around our cities?
Andrew Neskoromny: The audience will witness about eight to 10 monsters in battle. But they will also see Kaiju carcasses, and a closer look at Kaiju brains and intestines and skulls. There are A LOT of monsters, and when the Jaegers win, the body of the Kaiju falls where it died. Leaving a giant rotting carcass. The future humans have found away to make these dead things work. We even saw a bit of concept art where the skeletal remains of a Kaiju had been turned into a church, worshiping the monsters. No clue if that art made it into the movie, but it stuck with us.
There’s lots of aesthetics, especially in the sets, that make you feel like a monster is ready to come out. Is there any particular film that you pulled your set or production design inspiration from?
Andrew Neskoromny: In terms of Hong Kong, we did use a little bit of reference but we amped it up a little bit. It was more based on actual research. Going to Hong Kong, photographing what you like, getting great reference, and then just tweaking it into our own world and degrading it. Because we are trying to say that this is the end of the world. When one of our characters, Newt, makes his journey into Hong Kong he’s trying to find the sort of key that will end this war and save the world. So by the time they get into Belcher street and all that it’s very decayed. Things are stained blue, like literally the bile from the creatures is infecting the entire area. On Belcher Street there is a very large Kaiju carcass that’s in one direction of the shot that will be added in by a visual effect. But the whole idea is that that skeletal remain is infecting the entire area.
Why is everything blue?
Kate Hawley: That’s Kaiju blood. Giant monsters have a crap load of giant blu blood in them. And it gets everywhere. The entire world is starting to turn blue. One particular scene set on Belcher street in Hong Kong is basically swimming in Indigo dye because of the seepage of monster blood.
One of the first early interviews we had with Ian he said that Guillermo was very insistent on robots not moving like people, he wanted them to move like robots. Which is interesting because almost all Kaiju films are people in suits, and I was wondering if there’s anything he left up to you guys that had touches of all the old Kaiju films.
People watch in horror as a Kaiju destroys this Australian landmark
John Knoll: We talked a lot about the development about these characters. About how the Jaegers would move, how the Kaiju would move, and one of the things that we talked about at the beginning was possibly using motion capture to drive some of the forms of the creatures. But we decided against that for a couple reasons. One thing that we’re dealing with a lot is scale. Our creatures are very big. Our robots, or Kaiju, are 260 feet high, and so there are certain laws of physics that they need to obey to feel like they’re that big. They have to move at a certain speed. And we knew that we would have to balance that with wanting the shots to look dramatic and be interesting and exciting. So we knew we’d be toeing a line between reality and what physics would dictate and then what the story and the action of the movie would dictate, so we’ve experimenting with that kind of work. We knew that it really wasn’t going to be informed particular by motion capture because the speed and motion of a human didn’t translate necessarily to the scale that we wanted. So in a sense, the motion is a bit of a departure from a classic Kaiju movie which was a guy in a suit. But having said that,Guillermo del Toro has said that he specifically does want to pay some homage to those movies and do certain moves that will be reminiscent of that genre, but do it in a realistic and fresh way that’s appropriate for the look and the realism of our movie.
We’ve been seeing a lot of really beautiful and big monster movies and robot movies for many years now, going back to Jurassic Park and then Cloverfield. Are there any things that you see, as someone who works in this industry, in monster movies that are challenges or frustrating that you would like to change in this film?
Andrew Neskoromny: That’s an interesting question. I wouldn’t say that the things that are problematic are things that we’re going to change. But I will say that one of the things that I like about the movie is that, and this is not so much in terms of reference you spoke about, but I think that when people think about monster movies they don’t think of them necessarily as sophisticated as they actually are. If you’ve ever seen the original Japanese Godzilla it’s a very dark and sophisticated movie; and that’s what I think Guillermo del Toro, with his aesthetic and his character design, and his storytelling is bringing to this. It’s a very serious and kind of heavy overtone to the world when we’re under attack. Which is not to say the movie is always dark, there’s a kind of weighty feel to this battle between humans and the Kaiju. So to me, it sort of goes back to what I think the roots of the Kaijus are and the effects of the original Godzilla. That’s one of the things I like about the story.
That'll Do, Whale: Saying Goodbye to Film Criticism
My first film festival badge as press.
This is my last post as a film critic.
Seems like only yesterday two guys had a dream to make a fun movie website to belt out their affinity for all things cinema. Gordon and the Whale was born, and Rusty Gordon and I turned our passion into something great. We built a solid team and people started listened to our wit, charm, professionalism, and all around silliness. It was a wild ride of awesome.
Four and a half years later, I shut down GordonandtheWhale.com (read about it here). It was a the hardest decision I ever had to make, and months after, I questioned if it was the right decision. It was weird seeing my writers, who became family, disband and fade away in my life. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned that people come and go in our lives. Change is hard, but each and every person I’ve come across on this now six-year journey has influenced me in one way or another.
As soon as GATW shut down, the founder and editor of this very site, Todd Brown, asked me to write for Twitch. Being a fan of the site since I can remember, this was intimidating and terrifying and wonderful all at the same time, but everyone welcomed me with open arms. Twitch is a family that has each other’s backs when things get hairy (unpleasant pun for you). I learned a lot about my writing through Twitch and the site really molded the film critic I’ve become today. Gordon and the Whale gave me a voice, but it was Twitch that shaped how I wanted to be heard.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER Teaser (With A Pull-Quote From My Sundance Review)
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (formerly TOY’S HOUSE) just released a teaser, and you must watch it. It’s one of the best (and funniest) films to come out of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Also, that top quote is mine - if you squint really hard, you can see my name and TwitchFilm.com. #Neat
Bikinis. Boobs. Bongs. Booze. Blasphemy. Bullets. Bloodshed. Bad bitches.
Welcome to Harmony Korine’s vision of that great week of brainless college self-indulgence, Spring Breakers. By now, you’ve seen some kind of viral marketing – Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Selena Gomez with Rachel Korine (Harmony’s wife) in neon-colored bikinis, holding guns or wearing pink masks with the great tagline, “A coming-of-rage story.” Disney girls gone wild and batshit crazy, with a little help from mysterious James Franco and weirdo auteur filmmaker Korine. This group’s camaraderie is intoxicating.
Sundance 2013 Review: David Gordon Green's PRINCE AVALANCHE
Breathe easy everyone, King David Gordon Green has returned to making good movies again. It’s been four films since the former indie auteur has made a solid one, and three of those were not under studio restraints. After The Sitter shit on everything Green worked so hard for, I worried we’d never get back the man so many of us movie geeks once adored for his Sundance hits All the Real Girls and Snow Angels, and the dystopian future we read about in the Bible was on its way.
Since science or logic will never be able to comprehend or understand what was going through Green’s mind when he made Your Highness and The Sitter, and he’ll probably never explain or defend these films, we’re going to pretend they never, ever happened. Pineapple Express was a wacky and humorous attempt at mixing comedians with hard violence and drugs, and though sub-par, it was at least enjoyable.
Sundance 2013 Review: THE RAMBLER Wanders Into Disorientation And Madness
If David Lynch and David Cronenberg teamed up with Werner Herzog early in their careers and made a movie together, it would have been Calvin Reeder’s The Rambler. Wherever you stand with these three auteurs, that’s either a big, big compliment, or it’s quite the opposite. I proudly stand on the former side of the fence, so this review is going to say some flattering things about The Rambler, a mixture of unhinged brilliance, idiocy, unsettling confusion, and a whole lot of chaos.
Sundance 2013 Review: AFTERNOON DELIGHT Captures the Challenges of Seeking Love, Happiness, and Peace
Poor Rachel (Kathryn Hahn). Although she’s married to the man of her dreams, Jeff (Josh Radnor), leads a really nice lifestyle, and has a healthy son, she’s bored as hell as a stay-at-home housewife. Her friends are starting to suck, because they all have day jobs and/or do normal mom things. And Jeff never wants to have sex. They high five in passing more often than they copulate, and Jeff even has an unspoken “no sex tonight” safe phrase when they’re going to bed.
In an attempt to spice up their sex life, she, along with Jeff and some of their friends, go to a strip club. Here’s where it gets, well, a bit odd. After getting a lap dance from a young stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple), Rachel’s curiosity and boredom get the best of her, and she takes it upon herself to help McKenna out of her current unhealthy lifestyle. Things will go one of two ways: 1) Genius. 2) Stupidly bad.
Film Independent Spirit Awards Voting Started. Here are My Picks
Once again, the Spirit Awards has some powerful contenders this year - the mightiest being the Female Lead category and the most difficult to choose. Everything else was a pretty clear choice.
And as usual, because nitpicking comes with award nominees, there were a few snubs. But the only thing I can’t wrap my head around is how Stephen Chbosky’s THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER got nominated for Best First Feature when he made a film called THE FOUR CORNERS OF NOWHERE, which played at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995. According to Film Independent’s guidelines, the film submitted must be at least 70 minutes long. Both THE FOUR CORNERS and PERKS are 110 minutes. I may have missed something else in my research, but this just seems odd.
If you read this blog regularly or following me on Twitter or Facebook, then you know there’s one film I’ve been very loud about: HOLY MOTORS. This is unmistakably the best International Film of the year, and Its lead, Denis Lavant, gave the best performance of the year. The film didn’t make the guidelines required for eligibility, so I’ll just complain here while I can and IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO. C’est la vie.
Despite those nags, I do adore some of the films nominated––SMASHED, AMOUR, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK being a handful of them. I’m a member of the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and voting started on the 25th––my picks are below in bold. Cross your fingers, eyes, toes, and torso that a few or all of them win.
The winners will be announced on Saturday, February 23rd at 10pm ET/PT.
It’s been nine years since elusive filmmaker Shane Carruth blew everyone’s minds with his super-low budget time travel movie, Primer. He took home some awards at Sundance in 2004 and had Hollywood swinging from his nut sack on gold threads. But, Carruth somewhat vanished from the film scene and didn’t make another movie until now.
His sophomore feature is Upstream Color. I would tell you what it’s about, but your guess is as good as mine and I’ve seen it. What I can tell you is that it’s definitely a movie, actors are in it, and there’s a plot — I’m just not too sure what it is.
Sundance 2013 Review: THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN is the Unnecessary Death of a Potentially Good Movie
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is perhaps the worst film I’ve seen in a very, very long time. It stars Shia LaBeouf as the possibly-doomed titular role. Charlie just watched his mother (Melissa George, in the most tragically underused role possible) die at the hospital. After taking some painkillers to deal with his anxiety of what he just witnessed, he has an imaginary conversation with her, and she tells him to go on a trip to really start living life. It’s supposed to be a coming-of-age love story, but it winds up being more of a coming-of-enrage story for us, the audience.
Sundance 2013 Review: C.O.G. Paints a Riveting Portrait of Self-Discovery
Have you ever wanted to unplug from the world? I mean, really, really unplug. Not for a day, or a week, but for as long as you can possibly can. Or even better, what about giving life a change and doing something completely out of your comfort zone? I have this fantasy that one day I’ll disappear from the online world and years later you’ll find me working on a boat, gutting fish in a long beard and looking tough. But let’s be honest, that’ll never happen. I’m not brave enough to step outside of what I know best. But you know who was? David Sedaris.
Sundance 2013 Review: THE WAY, WAY BACK Wants You to Laugh as Hard as You Can. And You Will.
Being the awkward kid is the worst. Making friends is hard; everyone thinks you’re one with the freaks, and contact with the opposite sex is pretty much non-existent. Since lack of confidence is always going to be an uphill battle and the Pretenders will not always be around to “…Stand By You,” something needs to happen to balance out the suck — a strange and wonderful friendship, perhaps?
If you agree, keep reading, because this is the story of The Way, Way Back: a way charming, way honest, and way, way funny movie about an unlikely friendship.
Sundance Interview: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore & Tony Danza Talk Porn & The Sexy 'Don Jon's Addiction'
Porn. Masturbation. Scarlett Johansson acting sexier than ever. A pot-smoking Julianne Moore. Tony Fucking Danza. Sex. Sex. Sex. Everything you’ve always wanted in the directorial debut of Boy Wonder Joseph Gordon-Levitt is here, and it’s called “Don Jon’s Addiction.”
The film tells the story of himbo Don Jon (Gordon-Levitt in the titular role), who only cares about a small number of things in his life: his body, his pad, his ride (classic SS Camaro), his bros, going to church (seriously), fucking as many women as he can, and most importantly, masturbating to porn roughly 15-20 times a week. Yeah, it gets weird. But it’s also sexy, hilarious, and awesome. Read our review of the movie here.
The film premiered for the world just a few days ago at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, was quickly picked up by Relativity Media for a summer release and shortly after, we sat down with Gordon-Levitt, Moore, and Danza to talk about the film. And porn. We definitely talked about porn.
Sundance 2013 Review: THE SPECTACULAR NOW is an Important Coming-of-Age Movie About Teens for Adults
The late John Hughes was the man in Hollywood who understood teenagers and teen angst better than anyone else in the industry. He knew how to tell beautiful stories about how sometimes being young can be weird and confusing, and brought this to life on film flawlessly. The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles are timeless classics, not only because they’re good storytelling and star Molly Ringwald, but because their depiction of high school life is still accurate to this very day. The older the audience is, the more the films become relatable. This brings me to James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, which is perhaps the most important adult-oriented film about the victories and woes of high school life in the last decade.
Sundance 2013 Review: DON JON'S ADDICTION Bulks Up the Body and Career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Warning: the words “cock,” “cum,” and “masturbation” are used in this review. With that out of the way, let’s get filthy.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is constantly on the move, making new projects with his online art collaboration company, HitRECord.org, and working as an A-list actor with some of Hollywood’s most prolific directors. The Boy Wonder has now taken his career in a gutsy new direction: writing, directing, and starring in a movie called Don Jon’s Addiction, about a rico suave obsessed with porn.
And not just your Average Joe (hehe) who likes porn - this guy lusts for porn and watches it while in class, driving, and after having sex with a woman you and I would never ever get a second glance from. He’s so unsatisfied with the sex he’s having with these unreachable-to-the-average-guy women that he sneaks into his living room when they’re asleep and pounds one out to some X-rated goodness before slipping back into bed with them. To him, perfect sex is what a the porn classics show: throat-fucking, ass-spanking, spitting, anal-licking - the whole nine yards. Yeah, it gets weird, but Don Jon’s Addiction is slick, sexy, and hilarious.
Five Films the Universe Will Not Stop Me From Seeing at Sundance Should I Not Die Prior to the Festival
The most rewarding part of a film festival is going into movie completely blind and walking out slack-jawed. This happened to me last year at Sundance with two films: Beasts of the Southern Wild and Smashed. If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know how loud I’ve been about both films. These two floored me and I’ve championed them since first rushing out of the theater to tweet my first reactions.
I’m hoping a heavy number of films will give me that same exhilarating feeling this year, but there are some I’m already eagerly anticipating. Here’s five.
New Year's Resolution, Reality Bites, and Guns N' Roses
What a wonderful, horrible ride the last two years have been. On New Year’s 2011 and 2012, I promised myself to breathe and not worry so much. Let’s go back 730 days ago — I had what my family doctor called “a serious mental breakdown.” My girlfriend at the time dumped me (and for good reasons, too) and it crushed my soul and world. Instead of immediately seeing a therapist and getting on proper medications to calm my nerves like my friends begged me to do (I hid the pain from my family in fear of worrying them), I packed my bags and moved to Austin, Texas, thinking my depression would go away in a brand new environment full of brand new people.
But despite having a great, supportive roommate (Neil Miller of Film School Rejects fame) and meeting some of the best people on this planet, moving there was a huge misstep in my life. Only living there a year and a half, I spent most of it drinking until I blacked out, lying to my doctor so I could get happy pills to temporarily cure the emotional pain I was feeling, arguing and fighting with everyone around me, and sleeping my free time away.
It’s strange because neither my mother or father had a history with alcoholism when I was growing up and I was taught to be well-mannered; my parents raised me to have a bleeding-heart towards people and to work hard. But, life throws a curveball here and there, and people need some form of temporary escape when it starts to suck the proverbial donkey dick. Some people go running, some listen to Death Cab for Cutie, but at this time in my life, dear reader, booze and lots of prescribed medications were what helped me escape. My love for watching movies and writing about them soon started to fade. And even though I was surrounded by some of the aforementioned wonderful people, I never felt so alone in the world.
I really didn’t know how to handle it, so I just raged with whiskey and the dangerously high dosage of pills my doctor gave me, and my body wasted away. I went from 189 pounds to 148. I had a death wish and didn’t know it. I tried to hide it as much as I could, but with being an online journalist and very active on Twitter and Facebook, a lot of people saw right through me. Some took advantage of my hypersensitivity and really took a go at breaking me, and some came to my aid to help me get the proper help that I needed, despite being unpleasant to them because I wasn’t in the right state of mind. (God bless the ones who were there for me because I know it wasn’t easy. I should have been more tactful about the way I handled the love you were giving me, but I was damaged and forgot how to be a friend.)
At the time, it became clear my then-paralyzed life was incapable of getting better. I was a broken record. As a result, a lot of my good friends gave up on me and moved on — they did all they could do to help me and there was nothing left for them but to pity me, and who wants to do that? So like any level-headed person would, they moved on.
That was it. I had hit rock bottom. I was on a road to nowhere. I stopped caring about everyone, including myself. Because of this unbearable depression, I lost a lot of great friends along this awful journey. Life 180’d and people who used to respect me now despised my existence. Reality bit me and I realized I was losing everything I worked so hard for.
To try and breathe again, I did what I knew best: I ran from my problems. I moved to L.A. in hopes for new beginnings (again). The transition was a motherfucker because, even though L.A. is a small place to get around (compared to Dallas and Austin), the people I knew out here were busy with work and life and I didn’t know how to make new friends (at the time I was working from home). So I spent half of my first year here alone, sitting on my couch, watching movies and drinking bottles of whiskey until 6am. I didn’t want to leave my apartment, just watch movies and drink until I passed out. Then a new door opened up — I got an incredible job offer and took it. It was then that I decided to put down the bottle until I could handle drinking like an adult and fix what I could from my past, and get the proper help that I so desperately needed. Things slowly started improving. With some minor upsets (life is funny sometimes), I slowly started getting back to be the nice man I used to be long ago. If I said I was all better and everything was all good right now, I’d be lying. I still have a bit of a journey ahead of me, but I’ve come a long, long way from where I was two years ago.
I’ve re-learned how to love and appreciate the value of friendship, and those are two feelings I never want to lose sight of again. I’m not proud that I did, but I’m human and eventually wised up and stopped fermenting the lemons life gave me to get drunk and push people away.
All that said, this article isn’t meant for pity or as a cry for help. This is me letting the ones I hurt know that I have finally found peace. This is my coming-of-age story (for someone too old to be coming-of-age) and it’s comforting to say, without a doubt, that I’m finally feeling what I’ve ached for, for over two years now: happiness.
As of January 1, 2013, I’m working hard at my job (that I adore) and am more focused on my writing than I have ever been. I hope to be as kind as possible to people I cross paths with, even to the ones who know how to trigger my roller coaster of emotions with an arsenal of piercing insults. And I want to give comfort to my friends when they’re hurting. Life is too short and I don’t want to die hating people who I’ve hurt or have hurt me. I know uphill battles lie ahead of me and depression will linger if and when it wants, but I can now handle it.
So I take to the Paul McCartney-written song famously covered by Guns N’ Roses for my New Year’s resolution: Live and Let Die.
Happy New Year to everyone. Yes, even you. And you. And you.
Circling back: on December 13th, I posted a LOOPER giveaway, giving readers a chance at winning a Blu-ray copy of the film and a slick pocket watch that Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears in it. To mirror the JGL/Bruce Willis relationship in LOOPER, contestants had to find a young photo of themselves and take a new one, echoing that old photo as much as they could. There were a lot of solid ones, but I had to narrow ‘em down to my six favorites. LOOPER’s writer and director Rian Johnson chimed in and was kind enough to help me hammer out the order of the winners.
After chatting back and forth, Rian and I decided the final six contestants should all win something. So we’re giving first and second place a Blu-ray and pocket watch, and the four runners-up get a pocket watch. But here’s where it gets way cool for you winners: Rian has written a personal note to you under your photo. (Nice fella, huh?)
I’ve also added the stories behind some of the photos that contestants sent in with their entries. While all of them are crafty, one of them is poignant and will make your heart melt.
Thanks to everyone who entered –– it’s amazing to know there are so many creative folks out there who love to enter giveaways likes this. And a very special thanks to Rian for being King Awesome and wanting to participate with the judging –– you can’t see me as you read this, but I’m giving you a big virtual hug. (It’s not creepy.)
VIDEO: LOOPER Interactive Live Chat with Writer/Director Rian Johnson
Here’s the video of the LOOPER interactive live chat with writer/director Rian Johnson that I moderated last night at the Sony lot. This method was very new for me since it was all online and I’m used to doing this in front of a live audience. I’m quite neurotic and kept thinking I would crash and burn with so many of his fans in the chatroom at the same time, ready to fire their questions away, or technology would work against me in some way and there would be an undesirable amount of awkward moments. But, the great people at Spreecast sat close and guided me through their platform. Despite a few brief periods of dropped audio, it worked out nicely.
I had a blast moderating, asking questions and watching the fans eyes light up as they asked their favorite director their questions. When Rian went into great detail for every question asked, I could tell he was having a time as well. He truly adores his fans and you can see that in his enthusiastic answers to their questions, regardless if he’s answered them over and over before. And It’s easy to say he appreciates his fans because it was his birthday and he wanted to keep the live chat going after we were at it for a good hour and twenty minutes––he spent his a good amount of leisure time (on his birthday) chatting with his fans. That’s one classy filmmaker.