Scarily relatable, surprisingly humorous, undeniably intriguing, Eric Ford Holevinski’s indie film “The Restaurant” has it all—from moments every food industry worker will understand to startling, jump-out-of-your-seat scares. As his first endeavor in filmmaking, Ford seems to have found subject material that draws from personal and universal experiences, while maintaining both humorous and horrifying themes. “The Restaurant,” a comedy-horror centered around a fast-paced New York City Italian restaurant, leads viewers into a spiral of scares and laughs as the busboy discovers a dark secret the manager is keeping. The secret? A customer-hungry entity in the basement that must be fed for the rave reviews to keep flooding in. Being his first foray into the indie film industry, Ford explained the motivations, developments and experiences of his career in the film industry in a Q&A.
I don’t know about you, but I have been anxiously awaiting a “Wonder Woman” feature film since rumors circulated in the late ’90s of one starring Sandra Bullock. For me, the films near twenty-years in pre-production hell was well worth the wait.
For starters, “Wonder Woman” is the film that we needed to finally prove the Exec’s wrong. The belief that female superhero films cannot be successful is farce! You may remember leaked emails from 2015 revealing their suspicions that female characters were not a draw in the box-office. The failure of female comic book movies – or any comic book movies for that matter – has nothing to do with the sex, gender, or ability of the character. No instead, as fans have always maintained, the failure of comic book films is the result of shoddy film making at the hands of filmmakers who do not understand the properties they are working with. “Wonder Woman” is a film seeming created by those who seem to understand, and love, the character. And what a difference it makes.
Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager are teaming up to make a new documentary about the “safe space” phenomenon that is plaguing college campuses across America. The pair has been filming for the past few months, but now they’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign for $500,000 to help them continue production on “No Safe Spaces.”
I like to laugh. I like action. I like smart-ass characters and clever dialogue. Needless to say, I loved the “Guardians of the Galaxy 1” Like so many others, I waited with joyful anticipation for “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”
I’ve read other reviews that weren’t very positive and all I have to say is, It’s based on a comic-book and it’s only a 2-hour 18-minute movie. It’s longer than the average movie but there is only so much character development you are going to be able to cram into 138 minutes, but for what it is, the writers did a hell of a job. The story reveals more well-rounded characters and yes, I felt the attraction between Quill and Gamora even though it was just one of many character relationships forming. As far as pacing, there is a lot of story going on in this movie. The writers are trying to tell an important back-story about Quill and his origin, bring us to the major conflict in this film and set up for the next movie all the while giving us more character development than you would expect in a movie based on a comic-book starring a variety of alien creatures.
You may have missed this Studio Ghibli film since it is approaching its twenty second anniversary in July, but you still have time to seek it out, and it is well worth the search.
The first film produced by Ghibli that was not directed by either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, it is much quieter than some of the studio’s better known films. The story focuses on fourteen year old Shizuku dealing with two big coming-of-age moments: realizing her passion/dream to write, and navigating her first love.
Jason David Frank – or maybe you better remember him as Tommy Oliver – has to be credited as one of the driving forces behind the new Power Rangers movie. After the internet hyped some really great Power Ranger shorts, JDF approached series creator Haim Saban about the possibility of a mature Power Ranger movie following the Green Ranger (which would have been awesome to watch). Instead of limiting the film to just the Green Ranger, we get a full cinematic reboot of the series in the new film Power Rangers (2017).
These Rangers are very different from the ones we remember. While in the series Zordon instructs Alpha to recruit “teenagers with attitude,” the original Power Rangers severely lack the attitude. They are essentially “squeaky-clean” kids with martial arts skills. These new Power Rangers – screw ups, trouble makers, and even bullies – are edgier, bringing a certain amount of depth and realism to the characters. While the purists might see this as tainting the beloved heroes, to true intention is to sever the “campiness” which defined the series in favor of something more “realistic”.
In the movie “The Lives of Others,” the STASI and oppression of the East German regime are revealed to the viewer through authoritarian techniques of surveillance and control prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany and the collapse of communism in the region. Throughout this film, characters and scenes depict, in vivid detail, the attempts of the authoritarian East German government to instill unquestioning obedience and devotion to the state to ensure complete control. At face value, the baseline of the story seems heavy handed, but what the film truly draws is a tense thriller entwined with a morality play.
One especially powerful and telling scene is the planting of bugs at Dreyman’s house. After orders come from Minister Hempf to have continuous surveillance of Dreyman, Weisler and a team of STASI agents break into his house, plant equipment, and set up shop just upstairs in the loft of the building in order to watch, monitor, and record his every action.
By Stevie Wang
In “They Live!,” a drifter stumbles upon a conspiracy about aliens who secretly rule over the human race. By wearing a pair of sunglasses, the drifter is able to see that aliens are disguising themselves in positions of great power such as company owners, police officers, and politicians and are essentially governing the human race and working for their own interests. Humans are completely oblivious to their rulers and are kept from seeking the truth due to consumer goods and materialism.
*SPOILER WARNING* This essay heavily uses textual evidence from throughout the film.
The name “Zootopia” (a portmanteau of “zoo” and “utopia”) works ambivalently as the declaration of what this animal society wants to be and as an ironic joke about its failure to meet those aspirations. The joke is on us though since it’s one large Aesop’s fable about prejudice in the real world. The city motto is “anyone can be anything [and not be limited by what they are],” an ideal that protagonist Judy Hopps takes as her own personal motivation to become the world’s first bunny police officer. However the anthropomorphic pretense of the film forces characters to test their devotion to the ideals of this claimed post-racial utopia. Judy believes that foxes can be trusted, despite personal experience and warnings from well-meaning though racist parents, but is she willing to bet her life on it? This is the “Chekov’s gun” of the film, represented by something that literally goes where Judy’s police issued side-arm would be if this weren’t a cartoon. Judy reaches for the “gun” when fear overwhelms logic for the film’s argument about how we don’t live in a society rid bigotry, but only a society that wants to be rid of it.
It’s a very daring choice to make a world full of prejudice and have this spread over into other marginalized characters as well as the main characters. It’s writing 101 to throw the worst and most unfavorable traits at your villains, not the heroes. Supporting lead Nick Wilde (a fox) carelessly calls Judy “carrots” and “cute,” which the rules of the film sates are racist slurs for rabbits. Judy accidentally performs a micro-aggression on Nick, praising him as a “real articulate fella.”. (more…)
There is something about the pending arrival of The Force Awakens that I find to be deeply unsettling. As December 18th approaches, that feeling in my gut grows and those nagging voices in my head hound me as I fall asleep. Now, I converted to Star Wars when I was six years old, and have been a devout follower since. I’ve attended Celebrations and multiple Fridays at Comic-Con, yet something haunts me about this latest installment of the franchise.
At first I thought it was Lucas’s lack of creative involvement. But let’s face it, while George Lucas is a masterful storyteller; some of his greatest decisions as a filmmaker where to employ talented individuals to help him bring his vision to life. When we look at one of the greatest films ever made – The Empire Strike Back – Lucas brought on Irving Kershner to direct, and Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan to convert his story to screenplay. Lucas is still involved in this project as a creative consultant, and maybe this film will not fall victim to the same snags that prequel trilogy did with an oversaturation of Lucas’s involvement.
Then I considered that maybe my fear was that the new Star Wars film, wouldn’t feel like a Star Wars film. Any true Star Wars aficionado experienced culture shock when watching the prequel trilogy, resulting from an over-exposure to CGI. JJ Abrams has maintained that he will remain true to the practical effects used in the original films. Based on Abrams earlier films, we know that he is no stranger to preserving the integral magic of cinema with astonishing, practical effects.
Maybe my disappointment rested with the issue of “cannon”. Surely, this new film could not exist within the realm of the expanded Universe which has grown exponentially in the past three decades? However, the Expanded Star Wars Universe is in fact, expansive; and there are many contradictory story lines already within. One of the best examples of this was when the origins of Boba Fett were “rewritten”, after the revelation in Episode II that he was in fact, merely an imperfect clone. I made peace with that blasphemous information (though I still maintain that Fett’s original origin story is the better of the two) and I imagine that I will learn to make peace with future revelations, no matter how harmful.
ReasonTV’s Nick Gillespie sat down with writer/director Courtney Moorehead Balaker to discuss the adaptation of Jeff Benedict’s book Little Pink House into a major motion picture scheduled to begin filming this fall. It’s been 10 years since the SCOTUS decision decided in favor of the city of New London over homeowner Susette Kelo in an eminent domain abuse case that sent shockwaves throughout the country.
See the interview below and read more here.
Don’t click away just yet…this isn’t that aimless, laughless comedy about Google that you’ve probably never seen…or at the very least never remembered. No, this is something different entirely. Trust me, that’s a good thing! “The Intern” brings together a very unlikely duo in Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, which is only the beginning of the genius behind this comical concept!
The first shot sets this “buddy dramedy” up perfectly. A young, successful interviewer asks the dreaded and most contrived interview question of all time, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Sitting opposite him is not another young and hungry interviewee hoping to land a big first job. No, it’s 70-year-old Ben (DeNiro), whom retorts with the best answer…”When I’m 80?” Hilarious.
Cut to Ben entering his new internship working for Jules Ostin (Hathaway), whose chemistry here is immediately undeniable. As the two begin working together, we see Ben completely immersed in a world he doesn’t understand with new age millenials running the show. Jules is the CEO of an online fashion site and although she’s seemingly Ben’s successful superior, her dramatic arc seems to center on the fact that she might not be as experienced and cut-out for the job as she thought. You’re sure to laugh and cry and be horribly offended at the cross-generational jokes that are understood by some, and over the heads of others.
I may have used my “Trailer of Year” card a wee bit early this year on Mad Max Fury Road back in January as I gushed over the pure enjoyment it brought me, because the latest trailer to drop on the scene is for the true crime film Black Mass starring Johnny Depp as notorious Boston mafia hitman Whitey Bulger. This one sent chills down the spine, courtesy of the great chameleon that is Johnny Depp. So I’m going to keep track of the trailers that stand out for me this year and declare a “Trailer of the Year” award at 2015’s end. Consider Mad Max Fury Road as entry number one and Black Mass as entry number two.
Two observations: 1) It’s clear to me that Leonardo DiCaprio has been attempting to emulate Johnny Depp for the past 20 years. 2) The scene anchoring the trailer is a direct homage to the most famous scene in modern mafia film history – Joe Peschi and Ray Liotta’s “whatta mean I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas. The difference in scene depicted here is, the stakes are higher because it’s not personal, it’s about business and survival. This is not a rip-off, this is a great example of being influenced by the greats and improving on it. We’ll see how it plays out in the feature.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Scorcese’s New York mafia masterpiece Goodfellas. Film critic Sonny Bunch over at the Free Beacon writes about the iconic film and points out, rightly so, the obsession with the shot.
The tracking shots have been discussed to death—I defy you to find a listicle celebrating the “long shot” that doesn’t include Goodfellas’ Copacabana entrance, along with Touch of Evil’s first crane shot and Altman’s work on The Player—but Scorsese isn’t just showing off. These shots serve a purpose. My favorite is early on, when we track through a restaurant and are introduced to the guys in the crew, Jimmy Two Times and the rest. These new characters, several of whom we never see again, make eye contact with the camera (that is, the viewer), welcoming you into their world, insinuating you into their scams.
Cut Bank is an original story made up of equal parts Fargo, A Simple Plan and Psycho. Long time television director Matt Shakman (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) takes his first jab at feature film directing with a small-town murder mystery titled Cut Bank, set in the poetically named real-life town of Cut Bank, Montana. The town boasts a large display at it’s border declaring it as the coldest place in the lower 48, however the film takes place during a not-unusual summer heat wave. That my friends, is real honest to goodness nature-made climate change. I imagine one of the reasons why the filmmakers chose to film in the summer is to remain as far removed from the look and feel of the classic Cohen Brothers’ film Fargo, which this almost certainly is inspired by.
While the film starts off as a murder mystery of whodunnits, after about 15 min, we quickly know who did done it, and more importantly why. The why in this case is about what it usually always is, money. And the who seems to be more about, who isn’t involved. So then why even bother watching? Well, this is one of those rare stories in film nowadays, where the audience is allowed to know everything and is left to simply watch and relish as these characters play catch-up. (Gone Girl was another recent example of this, although for me, the ending ruined the entire experience.) With a terrific veteran cast, as an audience member, all I want to do is watch these actors do their thing.
Last Monday, I sat on the hardwood floor of my apartment, leering at the white cardboard box in front of me. The box, which contained a disassembled nightstand from IKEA, had been sitting under my bed for weeks. And one night after getting home from work abnormally early (before 8 p.m.), I did the adult thing – I put a load of laundry in the wash, ordered a pizza from Dominos, dragged the box out from under my bed, and put on “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”
“Kiki’s Delivery Service,” or Majo no Takkyūbin, was a 1989 release from Studio Ghibli about a young witch, Kiki, who leaves home with her talking cat companion Jiji on her 13th birthday, part of a custom where a young witch must be apart from her family for a year and find another town to live and use her special ability in. Kiki’s ability of flight seems like an ordinary witch power, but she finds that in her new seaside town she is able to use it as a delivery girl for a bakery. But her journey to using her talent doesn’t come without obstacles. After one delivery goes sour, she seems to lose her powers. She can no longer fly or understand Jiji and becomes deeply depressed before finally regaining her confidence in herself and her abilities.
On the latest reel of The Rear View podcast, I sit down with director Matthew Szewczyk to discuss one of his favorite films as a filmmaker, writer/director Tony Gilroy’s 2007 film, Michael Clayton. Starring George Clooney, the film was billed as a corporate scandal story of the institution versus the individual, however the central theme of the film is about a person trying to figure out their own identity. George Clooney delivers a very nuanced performance among some other fine powerhouse performances from Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson. Matthew Szewczyk is also an alumus of the Taliesin Nexus Filmmaker Workshop.
So. It’s been awhile.
Yes, I realize this is an understatement.
But when it comes to wondering why it looked like I’d fallen off the face of the planet, you can either place the blame on my graduate thesis and full-time job — or the fact that the next movie in this countdown left me a crumpled heap of sadness, a blob of inactivity lurching its way through the holiday season and fighting the urge to live in a glass case of emotion. I hope you choose the latter.
Of course, I’m talking about the 1988 film “Grave of the Fireflies” or “Hotaru no haka.” This has everything you need for a good night in of just you, a box of tissues, and a tub of whatever ice cream you prefer, which you will immediately regret consuming throughout the course of this film.
This Isao Takahata tragedy opens in September of 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, and a crippled Japan is trying its hardest to survive. The film opens at the ending, so be prepared for a giant sorrow punch to the gut. We meet the deliverer or said punch, 14-year-old Seita who is dying of starvation at Sannomiya Station, main railway terminal for Kobe. When Seita succumbs and dies, a janitor removes his body and finds a candy tin, which the janitor throws away into a nearby field. From the tin springs the spirit of Seita’s younger sister, Setsuko. And boom, you feel another immediate gut punch as the two spirits reunite and Seita beings to narrate their backstory, beginning with the firebombing of the city of Kobe in March of 1945, where they lose their mother.
Seriously — minutes in and you already feel a little bit of your soul being consumed by the sheer amount of sad.
But oh wait, on the horizon there’s an entire mountain of sad for you get over. Because though the two siblings manage go to live with their Aunt, she becomes increasingly bitter due to the hardships brought on by the war and the quickly thinning food rations. She becomes so bitter towards the two that Seita decides to leave with Setsuko and care for her on his own. They find refuge inside an abandoned bomb shelter and release fireflies within for light.
And I’m going to leave it off here. Any more spoilers at this point would either cause you to feel so depressed about pushing this animation through your eyeholes that you’d rather not press play in the first place.
And I sincerely hope you don’t feel that way.
Because yes, Grave of the Fireflies is sad — it’s supposed to be sad, and the animators at Studio Ghibli knew what they were out to convey with this film. They do a stellar job of making you care about these two kids, which makes their hardships all the more hard to watch. Every scene is there for a reason, every decision the characters make is a real one that they turn to for extremely believable reasons, and the ending will make this film one you cannot forget — for both exciting and horrifying reasons. The animation is gorgeous, but depicts two very brutal, heartbreaking lives; the medium isn’t “real,” but brings out emotions and problems that are so real.
War is a real thing, starvation is a real thing, things experienced by children and adults today all over the globe — and this film will make you think about those things. So, go watch it, and think about some uncomfortable things for awhile. And though I know the holiday season is over, maybe think about bringing about some change when it comes to ending world hunger too. If you like, take a look at two sites that I’d really recommend: Bread for the World , a religious organization that focuses on feeding the hungry through legislation and boots-on-the-ground type work. Or, if you’d prefer an organization without any affiliation, check out The Hunger Project — both sites let you donate any amount you feel comfortable with, or maybe just read up on what world hunger looks like and educate yourself.
Or hey, maybe watch “Grave of the Fireflies” first and join me in my cave of sadness — there’s plenty of room.
When I was a child I would often drive my mother crazy by re-watching a certain 1979 Edward Herman movie over and over again. It was a film that the NY Times neglected to mention in last week’s obituary of the veteran actor who died of brain cancer at the age of 71. However, that childhood favorite isn’t the only one the NY Times failed to mention.
In 1981, Herrmann also starred as Harry Johnson (ahem) in the madcap comedy Harry’s War. A B-movie about an average tax-paying American who is bequeathed control of his deceased aunt’s (played by Geraldine Page) property and must summarily defend it from being confiscated by the United States Internal Revenue Service over a technicality. Harry faces pushback from government administrators, news media, lawyers & judges, and of course, IRS agents. It all culminates in a full on military style assault on his aunt’s home in which Harry and his family defend to the bitter end.
I first discovered and watched this film about the same time the IRS scandal hit the news back in 2013. In that context, I completely ate up this movie. Sadly, this movie still works so well today and I’m afraid the plot may be tame by today’s standards. You can watch it for free on Amazon Prime if you have a membership, otherwise it is still absolutely worth the $2.99 and 100 minutes to see Edward Herrmann, in a world without Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, steal a tank and bust through the walls of a news station so he can get on the air and declare war on the IRS with the same fervor as your average passionate blogger.
Edward Herrmann also left behind a vast body of work that included roles in The Paper Chase, Reds, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Nixon, Aviator, and my personal childhood favorite, The North Avenue Irregulars and it’s demolition derby finale.
This week on The Rear View podcast I had the pleasure of sitting down with film composer Ryan Rapsys to talk about one of his favorite movie scores – John Williams’ The Empire Strikes Back. It was this score that Williams first introduced the “Imperial March” to his canon of iconic and unmistakable film themes. The film itself is often held up as the superior of all the Star Wars film, and it can be argued that film score may be what helped elevate its standing.
Ryan and I discuss the importance of collaboration with the director early in the filmmaking process and why a strong melody is vital in tapping into the emotions of an audience. The power of sense memory is unmatched when it comes to music and film. Filmmakers wishing to make an impact on the culture should always be looking to connect with their audiences and a simple and memorable melody can by just the ticket. You can also checkout Ryan Rapsys’ work on Soundcloud.
now finally seen The Lego Movie, I can confirm that it is crazy-delightful, especially for those of us who grew up at-play in the halcyon days of the early to mid 90s.
As a general rule, I am skeptical of films built around inanimate objects (that Tamagotchi trilogy is coming…just you wait), but the creative team behind Lego clearly knew how to craft a narrative capable of tapping into the basic reason kids and adults love these Danish interlocking blocks: they rely entirely on our imagination. And they’re fun. So is this movie. Go see it.