Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fall

The Fall 2
Originally uploaded by BlackHawkTraffic
Alexandria broke her arm and is stuck in a Catholic Loas Angeles hospital until it heals properly; the little girl is well known and loved by all for her spirit and curiosity, the same curiosity that one day carrys her into Roy’s room. Roy is a Hollywood stunt man who has had a serious fall, and along with that a serious heart break. His troubles have left him suicidal and when Alexandria wanders into his room he decides to use her to amuse himself and see what she can sneak out of the dispensary for him; he begins telling her an elaborate tale of 5 bandits who are on an epic quest in India and Alexandria begins to visit him every day so that she can get another piece of the story. However, while the story is helping Alexandria forget her troubles, Roy is still fixating on his own and incorporating them into the adventure tale.

The Fall is the first film I’ve seen by Tarsem (who also did The Cell) and I can already tell you I am a fan. Tarsem has a visual style that is lush, striking, bold & epic all at once; the closest thing I can compare him to is Julie Taymor, another director that has a visual style unlike anything that is usually done in the movies nowadays. Tarsem made The Fall so visually stunning I would have liked it based on the decadent visuals, even if I hadn’t liked the story.

What struck me as I watched the film is that there are a lot of similarities between The Fall & The Princess Bride; both are about an adult that tells a sick child a story and the only real difference is how dramatic The Fall is. Through the course of the film Roy and Alexandria bond in a way he doesn’t expect and this makes it more difficult for him when he realizes that the quests he’s been sending Alexandria on are dangerous for her, and wrack him with guilt when one she decides to do something for him to surprise him and hurts herself badly.

I feel completely in love with the character of Alexandria just like the characters in the hospital do. Her character is pure innocence and Tarsem manages to get young Catinca Untaru to give a very emotional and genuine performance that most children her age are not capable of giving. Lee Pace was also an excellent choice a Roy; he shares almost all of his scenes with Untaru and the two manage to have an excellent chemistry together.

When The Fall was in the theatres I wanted to see it but never found the time. I can guarantee when Tarsem’s next film comes to a theatre near me I will make the time to see it. The Fall was excellent on DVD but I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been to see on a giant screen in a darkened theatre.

Director: Tarsem
Writers: Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, Tarsem & Valeri Petrov
Alexandria: Catinca Untaru
Roy/Blue Bandit: Lee Pace
Nurse Evelyn: Justine Waddell
Bandit: Emil Hostina
Luigi: Robin Smith
Indian: Jeetu Verma
Darwin: Leo Bill
Otta Benga: Marcus Wesley
Mystic: Julian Bleach
Sinclair/Governor Osious: Daniel Caltagirone

Alexandria: You always stop at the same part, when it's very beautiful. Interesting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Jon Favreau
Originally uploaded by dreadfuldan
I loved Swingers the first time I saw it and I have to say that the more I see it the more it grows on me, and I know part of that is because right now I am deep in the envy that Favreau & Limon had on that film.

Swingers swept the festival circuit, gained wide recognition and launched the careers of all the people involved with it. If I could be lucky enough to do that with END (my first feature) I would be estatic. I know that’s a very long shot as my film was made even further fromt eh studio system than Swingers but I gotta hope it can be done.

Until then, I get to enjoy Swingers and think about the wild ride their little film took them on.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Iron Man

Originally uploaded by Alessandra Ogeda
Making a great film is like capturing lightning in a bottle, and I truly think Favreau & co. captured something with Iron Man. As great as many other comic book films are Favreau and his team managed to do what so few comic book films have – he captured the essence and story of the characters without being so literal that the non-geeks were bored.

While I am a geek, I am a prime example of the demographics they managed to snag – not only am I a female, but I am a DC girl not a Marvel one. I knew nothing about the Marvel-verse until Iron Man, since then I’ve become so interested in the characters that I’ve been learning about them and at Con I bought the Civil War trade paperback as I have an inclining that this might be where the Marvel movie franchise is going, plus the idea of the Super-hero registration act is pretty dang compelling.

I still hold that getting Iron Man 4-5 films into his career is a great thing for Jon favreau, and I would love to be in his position one day – just in the DC universe…

Agent Coulson: I'm Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Pepper: That's quite a mouthful.
Agent Coulson: I know. We're working on it.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is unlike any Sherlock Holmes story I’ve ever seen, but I should expect nothing less from Billy Wilder. This incarnation of Holmes is about the Holmes we do not see, the Holmes Waston and the people he works the cases of see; this is Holmes complete with bumps, bruises, faux pas, brilliant moments and confounding mysteries.

This time Sherlock takes a case that appears to be rather mundane, an amnesiac woman washes onto his doorstep and once she regains her memory it appears that she is looking for her missing husband. Watson & Sherlock take the case and track it all the way to Scotland and the Loch Ness monster only to find out that the case is nothing that it seems.

What I love about Billy Wilder is that his films are vastly unique from anything else you’ll ever watch. I was hooked on this one from the opening titles; Wilder enjoys building subtext and meaning into everything that he does and this starts right in the titles. For the titles Watson’s bag is opened presumably after his death, and he has left a letter explaining a case that he never wrote about; as the letter is read the items in Watson’s case are examined and the wonderful thing that is done is that every object has a dual purpose, it appears to be one thing but is actually something else – until a syringe is pulled out. The double meaning of this item is actually what the rest of the film is about.

Wilder paints Holmes as a complex, tortured and brilliant man. A man who would rather shun society than deign to appear in the trivial goings on of day to day life. Honestly, he’s a bit of a prick, but somehow this makes him human.

I loved this version of Sherlock Holmes, but it only excites me for what’s coming this Christmas – the return of Holmes to the big screen in with Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie.

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder & IAL Diamond
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Stephens
Dr. Watson: Colin Blakely
Gabrielle: Genevieve Page
Mycroft Holmes: Christopher Lee

Holmes: Some of us are cursed with memories like flypaper. Stuck there is a staggering amount of miscellaneous data, most of it useless.


Cinderella is one of the stories I have a weakness for. I love it. Always have and always will. This is why I had to check out the version on DVD with Julie Andrews. It was the first version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella done for television.

This version is not perfect in regards to its transfer to DVD; as most TV programs weren’t recorded and kept in the 1950’s this was definitely recorded off a playback, but it still holds all of its charm. Julie Andrews is a perfect Cinderella and watching her reminded me of how much I miss her musicals. I think I may be watching a few more of her films soon.

Cinderella: Julie Andrews
Fairy Godmother: Edie Adams

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Princess Bride

Prince Humperdink plots secretly to start a war against the neighboring kingdom of Gilda by having his fiancée Buttercup kidnapped and killed; however, the Dread Pirate Roberts ends up rescuing his fiancée and turn out to be her long lost love Westley. Buttercup & Westley flee from Humperdink until finally cornered; Wesley is taken prisoner & Buttercup is taken back to the castle to continue with her wedding. Meanwhile, Fezzik & Inigo plot Westley’s escape and Humperdink develops a new plot for Buttercups murder and the framing of Gilda.

The Princess Bride is one of the single most unique films I’ve ever seen, and definitely one of my favorites. This movie sustained me in my childhood. Next to the Star Wars trilogy I think I’ve seen this film more than any other movie. I can quote most of it line for line.

What is perhaps most memorable of The Princess Bride is perhaps part of what makes it so unique – the grandfather reading the story to his grandson. I think that perhaps this storytelling device is one of the most unique devices in history and Fred Savage & Peter Falk’s banter are the perfect amount of levity to add to a very over-the-top story that help put some reality in the craziness. William Goldman’s decision to use the grandfather and grandson to move the story forward is brilliant.

I know that everyone is in love with Inigo Montoya but I think that perhaps my favorite character in the film is Miracle Max. Amongst a cast of extraordinary characters Billy Crystal managed to create a character and performance that stands out from the pack as the bitter magician who wants to crush Humperdink for firing him. Miracle Max is a character to be remembered.

I genuinely think that anyone that has never seen The Princess Bride needs to give it a chance. I really think you’ll like it.

Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: William Goldman
Westley: Cary Elwes
Inigo Montoya: Mandy Patinkin
Prince Humperdink: Chris Sarandon
Count Tyrone: Christopher Guest
Vizzini: Wallace Shawn
Fezzik: Andre the Giant
The Grandson: Fred Savage
Buttercup: Robin Wright Penn
The Grandfather: Peter Falk
Miracle Max: Billy Crystal

Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?
Buttercup: Well... you were dead.
Westley: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

The Hurt Locker

William James is called in to be the head of an elite bomb squad in Iraq that only has about 30 days left in their rotation; Eldridge and Sandborn, the other two officers in his unit just want to play it safe and go home but James has other plans. He is an adrenaline junkie who loves the challenge bombs present him and doesn’t believe in “safe”. James is more at home in war than civilian life and this creates a huge conflict amongst he and the other men as he abruptly forces them into his version of the Iraq war.

In my opinion female directors have taken a huge blow lately as two films that were potentially great for us in 2008 both blew - Twilight & Punisher War Zone. Both were franchise films with cult followings and if executed well could have brought female directors to a very prominent light; instead the films were lackluster representations of the great female talent that is out there. That is why I thank God for Kathryn Bigelow & The Hurt Locker.

The Hurt Locker is one of the best and most psychologically intense war films I’ve ever seen. Bigelow infuses each bomb sequence with a tension befitting of the activity at hand; the bomb becomes almost a character in the scene infused with an evil all its own and James’ own personal puzzle. She also manages to make each of the men their own distinct and fully developed character, complete with a motivation all their own – this is something not normally seen in action films, but including this makes the film something different entirely.

I don’t know if Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker will be remembered come Academy Award time, but she should be. I hope that the momentum The Hurt Locker has been creating will carry forward for Bigelow and the rest of us female directors out there.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Staff Sgt. James: Jeremy Renner
Sgt. Sanborn: Anthony Mackie
Spec. Eldridge: Brian Geraghty
Contractor Leader: Ralph Fiennes
Col. Reed: David Morse
Connie James: Evangeline Lilly
Sgt. Thompson: Guy Pearce

Staff Sergeant James: There's enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I'm gonna die, I want to die comfortable.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry is content at home knowing that the wizarding world is in search of Voldemort, but Dumbledore has other plans. He begins Harry’s 6th year at Hogwarts by having him accompany him on his way to sway former Professor Slughorn to come back to Hogwarts and begins to bode to Harry that there are bigger things than classes that Harry will need to concentrate on this year, and one of the most important is befriending Slughorn. Thus begins Harry’s apprenticeship to Dumbledore as they begin the secret work of collecting memories, people’s memories of Tom Riddle before he became known as Lord Voldemort. Meanwhile, Ron discovers the bliss of the opposite sex and Harry and Hermione reel over what it feels like when the person they each like pursues someone else as Ron goes after Lavender Brown and Ginny dates another boy. Life and love continue at Hogwarts while Harry suspects Draco Malfoy of becoming a Death Eater and thanks to the mysterious Half-Blood Prince becomes a master at potion making.

While Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is not a happy tale, it is probably the single best Potter film to date. David Yates has completely captured the spirit of the book series in a way that no film has yet; while a few events may have changed the look and tone of the film is masterful and pitch-perfect, not only the best Potter film to date but one of the best films of the year. The special effects, acting, directing style and every element of the film tells of a director who took the time to craft an excellent, character driven piece and to fold the world around them, not fold the characters into the world. Yates manages to weave past and present together in an interesting way so that the flashbacks (memories) never seem stale, and he somehow manages to use these flashbacks to develop Voldemort into an even darker villain than he was before.

What makes The Half-Blood Prince the most engaging film so far is that it spends the most time developing our lead three into full fledged beings with feelings, crushes, desires, ambitions and pain. When Hermione realizes Ron is denying feelings for her the audience feels it to, when Harry & Hermione call each other their best friends we realize there is nothing sexualized in this, just a pure familial love for one another, and when Ron gains victory on the Quidditch field you cheer with him. Luna and Ginny are even developed further though both have only small roles in the film.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson & Rupert Grint have truly grown into fine actors and were able to sell a script like this. This Harry Potter was far more character than action and the leads were captivating enough that no one I know has even realized this.

For those that want no spoilers you might want to skip this paragraph because I have to talk about this plot point. What makes The Half-Blood Prince so sad is the ending – the death of Dumbledore. It is heroic and tragic in the book and the film, even if the film omits his funeral, the single saddest scene in the series. What made this so tragic for me in the film is that this is the film that finally got Dumbledore right. Dumbledore is the hardest character to capture; he is whimsy, brilliance and sternness wrapped into one incredibly powerful man and while Richard Harris & Michael Gambon have both been excellent Dumbledore’s the character has never been that perfect melding on screen until this film, which is what made it so sad for me that I knew he had to die. About half way through the film the realization that Dumbledore was the Dumbledore from my imagination hit me, and as they walked through Voldemort’s youth together I realized that Dumbledore’s life was about to come to his inevitable conclusion and I was not going to see this Dumbledore in the next film.

Though the film’s ending strays from the book I have to say that it ends in the perfect place. Ending at the funeral with the new Minister of Magic approaching Harry while perfect in the book would have seemed artificial and tacked on in film; the characters would have seemed forced into making decisions that were far beyond them. Instead, The Half-Blood Prince ends almost like The Empire Strikes Back, it sets the characters on the precipice of what comes next as Harry, Ron & Hermione realize they need to find the horcruxes and finish what Dumbledore started.

Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Professor Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Professor Slughorn: Jim Broadbent
Draco Malfoy: Tom Felton
Professor Snape: Alan Rickman
Ginny Weasley: Bonnie Wright
Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Professor McGonagall: Maggie Smith

Harry Potter: Did you know, sir? Then?
Albus Dumbledore: Did I know that I just met the most dangerous dark wizard of all time? No.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Order of the Phoenix is by and far a dark chapter in Harry Potter’s life in and out of Hogwarts. While Harry has been forced into spending summer at home in the muggle world the atmosphere around him has changed and not just because Harry knows Voldemort is back, the literal climate hot, stormy and depressed. One afternoon Harry and Dudley race home to avoid a sudden storm and are attacked by dementors forcing Harry to use magic to keep them both alive, an activity forebidden to underage wizards outside of school. Harry is expelled from Hogwarts and only allowed back in after a full trial in which Dumbledore manages to throw in Harry’s favor. Once Harry gets back to school he finds a distant Dumbledore, a Professor who is attempting to take over Hogwarts for the Ministry and he faces the fact that he and Dumbledore are being berated in the media as the Ministry begins a full fledged propaganda campaign because they refuse to believe Voldemort is alive. This means that Voldemort and his Death Eaters are running rampant and the world’s only defense is a small crew of wizards lead by Dumbledore including Sirius Black and the Weasley’s who refuse to let Harry, Hermione and Ron help and Harry learns there is a connection between he and Voldemort that goes deeper than a scar.

I will admit that as a book and a film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix grew on me; it is one of the darkest chapters in the Potter series and it takes me awhile to respond to that. This is the film where Harry begins to believe he is alone in the world, literally gets tortured by a teacher and is forced to grow up faster than ever before. However, The Order of the Phoenix is the film that David Yates took ahold of and proved that he is the visionary match for Rowling’s writing; all of the elements of fantasy, reality, light and dark were perfectly blended and all of the ups, downs, joys and pains that were going on in the film were as real as they were to the characters.

In this film Dumbledore and Voldemort come face to face for the one and only time in the present, and an incredible action scene ensues. However, what I love about this scene is that it is used as so much more than an action scene, it actually developes the characters. It paints the triangle between Harry, Voldemort & Dumbledore and the fact that it is Harry’s choice to be good or evil, he has just as much choice as did Tom Riddle or Albus Dumbledore did. The scene also climaxes with the vindication of Harry and Dumbledore in the eyes of the Ministry and the public.

This film is also a turning point for harry and his group of friends. For the first time they make the choice to fight because no one else will, they make the choice to go the difficult thing even though they know it may mean death for them. This is the first film where the students make fully adult decisions and face evil knowingly, not because they are roped into it, or stumble upon it – they make the choice and face the darkness head on.

I do think that each time I watch The Order of the Phoenix it will grow on me. As compared to the other Potter films this is only about the third time I’ve watched this film and I was surprised at how much it entertained me because I mostly remember an impression of sadness the last time I watched it. I genuinely think that this film is part of why I was able to love The Half-Blood Prince as much as I did, but that is a blog for another time.

Director: David Yates
Writer: Michael Goldenberg
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Sirius Black: Gary Oldman
Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Delores Umbridge: Imelda Staunton
Snape: Alan Rickman
Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Bellatrix Lestrange: Helena Bonham Carter
Voldemort: Ralph Finnes

Harry Potter: This connection between me and Voldemort... what if the reason for it is that I am becoming more like him? I just feel so angry, all the time. What if after everything that I've been through, something's gone wrong inside me? What if I'm becoming bad?
Sirius Black: I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You're not a bad person. You're a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It’s Harry, Ron & Hermione’s 4th year at Hogwarts and they start the year to a flurry of excitement when magical schools Drumstrag & Beaubatons send students to stay at Hogwarts and participate in the Tri-Wizard Tournament; one champion will be chosen from each school and put through a series of challenges until one is declared victor. As these challenges are extraordinarily dangerous no one under 17 can submit their name for consideration, which is why it’s remarkable when not only do 4 names come out as Tri-Wizard champions, but Harry is the 4th candidate, well under the 17 year old age limit. While this is going on Harry gets close to the new defense against the dark arts teacher, a former auror Mad Eye Moody who has been responsible for tracking down and putting away a large number of Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Harry also becomes more of a public figure as Rita Skeeter, a reporter for the Daily Prophet focuses her stories about the Tri-Wizard Tournament center on Harry. The Tri-Wizard Tournament takes Harry and his relationships to a breaking point until ultimately, Harry must face his darkest fear and the wizarding world will never be the same.

Until The Half-Blood Prince Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my favorite Harry Potter film, and I think it is still tied for number one; I actually have the teaser poster for the film hanging on my bedroom wall because I think it captures Rowling’s world best. In my opinion Mike Newell was the first director that really understood J.K. Rowling’s world and that need for a balance between fantasy, darkness and reality. Chris Columbus understood the fantasy, Alfonso Cuaron understood the darkness, and Mike Newell began to intergect the much needed dose of reality into the series. Along with making a brilliant film, he put the series in the perfect place for David Yates to make the series into the perfection it is now.

My favorite character in Goblet of Fire has got to be Rita Skeeter. This is one of the most eccentric characters in the series and she tries to royally interfere with everything that goes on between Harry and his friends. I really hope they bring Miranda Richardson back into the series. Me, myself & I want her back.

However, this was the first film where the Fred & George Weasley I know and love from the books came to the big screen. While they’d always been the funny, irksome older brothers to Ron they finally became the comedic, brilliant, troublemaking wizards they were in the book. They are beyond fantastic.

There is one scene in the book that makes me emotional just thinking about it, and as a fair warning this is a spoiler. This scene is when Dumbledore has assembled all the students in the great hall after Cedric Diggory has been murdered and Voldemort has risen, Dumbldore delivers a speech about how everything has changed and warns that they must all remember what Voldemort has done, the truth of the situation as the Ministry of Magic will cover it up for their “protection”; he repeats a phrase several times – “Remember Cedric Diggory”. I cried when reading it in the book. Newell doesn’t get quite that emotional response out of me in his version of that scene but he does evoke a pretty powerful emotional response from me; the scene sets up a dynamic that will come to play largely in Order of the Phoenix and the rest of the wizard world.

Goblet of Fire had a lot of differences between the finished product and the book, but like so many of the changes that the series has embraced I have to say that I don’t mind them. While I still wish the racial war from the books was being played up a lot more, the only genuine things I miss thus far have to do with things missing in the first two films. I don’t mind that Nevel not Dobby helps Harry breathe under water, or that it’s a Death Eater not a house elf that gets caught making the dark mark at the Quiddich World Cup, or the dozens of other differences in the series. As long as the series hits the important points, and completes the fantastic character arch’s that Rowling wrote into the series I will be a happy viewer.

Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Steve Kloves
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Fred Weasley: James Phelps
George Weasley: Oliver Phelps
Ginny Weasley: Bonnie Wright
Cedric Diggory: Robert Pattinson
Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Professor Snape: Alan Rickman
Mad Eye Moody: Brendan Gleeson
Professor McGonagall: Maggie Smith
Fleur Delacour: Clemence Posey
Viktor Krum: Stanislav Lanevski

Dumbledore: No spell can reawaken the dead, Harry. I trust you know that. Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby has a need, a need for speed. Since his father told him that anything other than first place is last place Ricky has strove to be the number one Nascar driver and he has succeeded. Until the fateful day that he pushes his sponsor too far and French driver Jean Girard is brought in as his rival. Ricky Bobby pushes himself too far and ends up in a traumatic accident, losing his wife to his partner, and being forced to move back in with his mother while he tries to regain his mojo an be able to drive again.

Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a pretty damn funny film. I kind of regret that I didn’t get to see it with a theatrical audience because I am sure that the jokes were even better with that current of excitement that runs through movie audiences; however, even on my little 13” TV screen, alone in my room, the jokes were still funny.

I have to say that I am a fan of Will Ferrell. I loved the man since he was Alec Trebec and James Lipton on SNL and I am very pleased that his career has continued since he left the show. The best thing about Will Ferrell is that he commits to the absurdity of his character or story situation 100%, no matter what he plays, who he is on screen with he finds the joy, humor and personality in the moment and brings it to life. This makes the jokes play better than they would with another actor in the role because Ferrell is one of the great comedians – a comedian who can make any joke funny, even if it’s inherently unfunny.

Comedy is subjective, and I expect that Ricky Bobby probably has had quite a few people that have watched it not like it, but I thought it was pretty dang funny.

Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
Ricky Bobby: Will Ferrell
Lucius: Michael Clarke Duncan
Cal Naughton Jr.: John C. Reiley
Carley Bobby: Leslie Bibb
Susan: Amy Adams
Jean Girard: Sacha Baron Cohen

Cal Naughton, Jr.: Shake and bake!
Ricky Bobby: What does that do? Does that blow your mind? That just happened!
Jean Girard: Is that a catchphrase or epilepsy?


I wasn’t going to write about this but I decided I need to. A little over a week ago we screened my feature directorial debut END for the cast and crew.

END is the tale of Molly & Matt, a father and teenage daughter who are trying to survive a pandemic of the walking dead. Matt has decided the best course of action as society crumbles around them and civilization flees is to fortify his house, keep he and Molly separated from the outside and proceed with life as close to normal as he can. All of this is thrown out the window when several months into their isolation a band of survivors stumbles onto Matt & Molly’s house and seeks shelter. Together the group of survivors has to deal with the current state of their lives, and the tragedies they have all faced in getting to where they are now. Everyone must face the fact that the world has changed and they can do nothing to stop it.

I did not make a traditional zombie movie. My film is going to get billed as a horror film or zombie movie and it really is not. There are no zombies in my film. Instead, I set out to make a film about the people that were pushed to the very edge of despair and how they deal with finding a way to move forward every day. END is by far a drama more than anything else and I love that it plays that way.

I cannot talk about the flaws in END, while I am sure there are many because any film shot in eight days and completed on a budget as miniscule as mine always has some intrinsic flaws, but as I have lived with this film for well over a year now I am sure that I see more flaws than actually exist in the finished product. Things that bother me I am sure bother no one else except maybe my editor, and things that I know are issues because of how we had to shoot or fix larger issues will obviously be noticed by critics much more harsh than myself. If my film manages to get sold or seen on a larger scale I am sure critics will find many fun ways to create puns from the name of my film.

But at the end of the day the majority of people at the screening loved END and won’t stop talking about it. The critical artist in myself would love to immediately squash this all down and say that these people praised the film because they know someone involved in it, but the fact that everyone is saying very specific things about the film and everyone is saying something radically different stood out to them and this makes me think that not all of it can be made up. It makes me think that perhaps I accomplished my goal. Perhaps, a cross section of the audience saw past the “walkers” and horror trappings and realized that my film is actually about what it means to be human, and the persistence to survive.

I hope some day many more viewers will get to watch not just END but an entire catalog of movies with my name attached to the directing credit, but for now all I can hope is that perhaps the right people will see or want to see END, and just maybe I can finally call my self a full time director.

Director: Megan Welch
Writer: Christopher Welch
Matt: David Scott
Molly: Lauren Dunacheck
David: Brian Renner
Angela: Marissa Merrill
William: David Sharp
Jacob: Ashton Reese Trujillo
Alan: Pearce Akpata
Phil: Weston Cody
Jodie: Samantha Kern
Doc: Brian Harvey
James: Lorn Connor

Thursday, July 16, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

I watched He’s Just Not That Into You with a friend who hadn’t seen it before. What I do love about this movie is that every girl that I know that has seen it has found a character or situation in the film that identifies with it. Right now as I am a single girl in search of a little romance myself I identify with Gigi, but I know girls who have been in almost every one of the situations in the film. I’ve seen the film a few times now and I still get embarrassed for Gigi, but I love her.

Gigi: Maybe his grandma died or maybe he lost my number or is out of town or got hit by a cab...
Alex: Or maybe he is not interested in seeing you again.

Bottle Shock

My brother watched Bottle Shock after much prodding from me and loved it so much that he couldn’t stop talking about it. As such it made me itch to watch it again, but I know I’ve watched it too much lately. So I compromised – I watched it with commentary.

First of all, the commentary on Bottle Shock is amazing because it has the director and writers on it, Chris Pine, Bill Pullman and Eliza Dushku – the most important people to the film are all on there in one commentary track. That proves a lot, it proves they all liked the film enough to want to continue sharing it, and that they group got along well enough that they enjoyed their creative partnership.

What was fascinating about the commentary was learning how they had to grind down and make the decisions to get the movie made and how they had to deal with the living people this story is based on. What was most important to the filmmakers seems to be not just the Paris tasting itself, but getting the personalities and relationships of these characters captured accurately on screen. They may have changed situations and minor events for the purposes of making the story translate well to film, but they wanted to preserve the essence of the people just like someone adapting a book or play to film.

Bottle Shock fascinates me on every level. I hope that someday I can have just as great a reception to one of my films as Randall Miller and co. had to Bottle Shock. This film premiered to a standing ovation.

Jim: A comfortable grape, a well watered, well fertilized grape grows into an easy ingredient of a lousy wine.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blind Dating

Danny was born blind, something that’s never slowed him down – he doesn’t even use his cane. But like any blind person Danny has had to deal with the pity and annoying prejudices of strangers and his loved ones. Upon entering law school the fact that he has never been in a relationship finally wears on Danny and he decides he’s like to be like everyone else at least in that way and lets his brother set him up on a series of blind dates. However, while this is going on Danny also agrees to take part in a surgical procedure that may restore his sight; at the office of the doctor he meets Leeza, a young Indian woman and the two develop a relationship without Danny knowing that Leeza is currently trapped in the process of an arranged marriage.

While kind of cute in concept, Blind Dating is the classic case of a film that tries to do too much and therefore fails at everything. Parts of this film were down right laughable and the mood changes and plot points were heavy handed, and amateurish. The single most laughable section of the film was Danny’s surgery and aftermath. Honestly, the film would have worked better as a straight romance and Leeza and Danny could have met at a doctor’s office without the necessity of the sight restoring surgery.

One of the directorial problems with Blind Dating was that it looked and felt like a Hallmark or made for TV movie. The pacing was too slow, the tone was just too bright at times and the visuals lacked character. Low and behold I later discovered that director James Keach is a television director that got his start in TV movies.

Call me biased but the one great thing about Blind Dating was Chris Pine. This guy has got some genuine talent to him, and the best, most entertaining parts of Blind Dating are when he is focused on the most. He manages to breathe some life into this otherwise lifeless character and make him not just an attractive guy but a genuinely likable character that has some emotional depth to him if not actual depth in the character.

This is definitely a film for those that want to see Chris Pine be charming for two hours, but really not worth much else.

Director: James Keach
Writer: Christopher Theo
Danny: Chris Pine
Dr, Evans: Jane Seymour
Larry: Eddie Kaye Thomas
Leeza: Anjali Jay
Dr. Perkins: Stephen Tobolowsky

Iron Man

Iron Man
Originally uploaded by carlosjtj
You have no idea how badly I have wanted to be on the set of Iron Man 2 and the fact that I have been able to keep tabs on the production through Jon Favreau’s Twitter hasn’t helped. I love Iron Man and watching it a few dozen times has not diminished the fact that I think it is one of the best films of 2008 and one of the best comic book movies to date.

I don’t think I have paid enough credit to Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. Pepper is a fantastic modern girl Friday. When I was in high school Paltrow was what every popular girl tried to model herself as – feminine, trendy, chique, and classy. She was the ideal. I never really understood the appeal of Paltrow even though I respected her talent, but in Iron Man I finally saw something in her that I look for in all the female actors I admire – strength. Pepper is a character that is going to do what is right no matter what and be fiercely loyal to anyone that she cares about, and she gets the best one liners.

Iron Man 2 wraps on Friday and I am far too envious for my own good. I can’t wait to see what Favreau pulled together for us all come May 2010.

Tony: Where'd you get that dress?
Pepper: It was a birthday present... from you, actually.
Tony: I got great taste, don't I?

Charlie Bartlett

Originally uploaded by Alessandra Ogeda
Charlie Bartlett is a rich teen whose eccentricities have been nurtured by his mother and caused him to be expelled from every private school with a stamp until he is forced into public school. Charlie ends up at the public high school of Principal Gardner and though Charlie suffers his lumps and bruises at first he finally finds his place among the student population as amateur shrink, and all-around problem solver who deals behavioral meds on the side and helps the students through the issues they can’t take to their parents. Charlie’s popularity weighs on Principal Gardner because the superintendent beings to blame the student bodies behavior on Gardner being unable to control Charlie, and because Charlie is dating his daughter. In the end, Charlie and Gardner both have to figure out what they want and how they got to this point in their lives in order to truly accept who they are.

When the trailers first came out for Charlie Bartlett I really wanted to see it, but it was in limited release and it slipped past me. I was reminded of the film when I saw Star Trek and the phenomenal Anton Yelchin who just happens to be the lead character in Charlie Bartlett.

After seeing Yelchin in Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation I knew he had talent, but Charlie Bartlett sealed the deal. This kid is going to be huge and he is one of the most talented young actors I have seen in years. Yelchin has the ability to literally put on a character’s skin, get inside their emotional life and become another person; while every actor can do this on some level there is no denying that just like any talent some actors are much more capable than others – Yelchin may be young but he transforms on screen. It’s transfixing to watch and the presence of Robert Downey Jr. in this film made me feel like Downey was stamping his seal of approval on Yelchin, and though the film was decidedly more light-hearted I felt that the level of performance in this film was akin to Downey in Less Than Zero.

Charlie Bartlett is also a wonderfully rounded film. The film goes from comedy to drama with the ease that only great films can, one that seems natural and intrinsic to the film; a shift that makes sense for the characters, the story and the message of the film. Gardner and Charlie are very similar characters at very opposing points in their lives and when the characters finally bond at the end of the film each causes the other to wake up to the things they’d been ignoring about themselves and this is done without being trite, heavy-handed or blasé.

I cannot recommend Charlie Bartlett enough. This is an incredible movie with an incredible cast and if I had the money it would already be a part of my collection instead of just another notch off my Netflix queue.

Director: Jon Poll
Wrriter: Gustin Nash
Charlie Bartlett: Anton Yelchin
Principal Gardner: Robert Downey Jr.
Marilyn Bartlett: Hope Davis
Susan Gardner: Kat Dennings
Murphey: Tyler Hilton

Charlie Bartlett: Well duh dude, this place sucks. But I just worry that one day we're gonna look back at high school and wish we'd done something different.

Monday, July 13, 2009


In my mind there is not a movie more appropriate for the 4th of July than Jaws. As such I made sure to watch it over the Independence Day weekend.

The thing about Jaws is that I used to be downright terrified of this movie and refused to watch it for years after I first saw it. At one point in college I remember my brothers forcing me to watch it (each wedging me into my seat by cramming in next to me) and I don’t remember if I like it. Jaws preys on my irrational fear of bodies of water, and teeth/sharks – I know this movie should drive me insane with fear because that’s what it used to do. I really can’t remember when exactly I began to like this movie, much less when it became one of the movies I idolize.

Jaws is pretty much a perfect movie. It is not only engaging and fun but it is a text book example that if you have an involving plot, engaging, developed characters and make a conscious effort to put a good film together greatness can happen.

This movie was an inspiration to me while I made my own feature directorial debut. I have a quote by Ebert on my desk wall about Jaws where he raves that it is “a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it’s populated with characters that have been developed into human beings.” This quote is amazingly true.

Above and beyond all of the thrills, jokes, scares and beauty inherent in Spielberg’s first feature the scene that captivates me and haunts me every time I watch the film is when Quint tells Brody and Hooper about being on the USS Indianapolis when it was sunk in WWII. No matter how many times I see that movie the scene captures my attention.

Jaws is one of the MANY reasons I am a diehard Spielberg junkie.

Hooper: I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch.

Public Enemies

like the movies.
Originally uploaded by Ryanwiz
John Dillinger was good at what he did – robbing banks – and he had fun doing it. Unfortunately for him the still new FBI was hot on his tail, as was the crime syndicates who were upset as his exploits were pushing through laws that made their illicit activities even more illegal than they already were. Still, Dillinger did what he loved to do, live fast, play hard and spoil the girl of his dreams.

Michael Mann is a great director. However, Public Enemies is more proof that he needs to give up his love of digital cinema and get back to film. This movie looked bad. You could see the video in almost every shot; it was flat, dull, and every time the camera moved too quickly you could see very flaw in the frame. It seriously looked like it was shot on a much less expensive budget, with a consumer camera. It drove me nuts.

I also have to say that while I love Michael Mann, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp and everyone involved with this film I am really not a big fan of it. Public Enemies is entertaining but not a movie you need to see twice. It almost feels as though the film had too broad a focus and therefore did not actually delve into the characters or issues the way it appeared they tried to delve into those issues. No character was fully developed and nothing was fully explained – that’s kind of an issue when you are dealing with a historical even most of the audience didn’t live through. Dillinger’s history and motivations never became clear to me, and I was confused about his life; the last time I had this unexplained feeling in a movie was watching Man On The Moon.

Director: Michael Mann
Writers: Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann & Ann Biderman
Pete: David Wenham
John Dillinger: Johnny Depp
Homer: Stephen Dorf
Melvin Purvis: Christian Bale
J Edgar Hoover: Billy Crudup
Billie: Marion Cotillard

Melvin Purvis: What keeps you up nights, Mr. Dillinger?
John Dillinger: Coffee.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coming Soon

I fell behind again. I will catch up. Here's what reviews you can look for soon.

Harry Potter and the Prisioner of Azkaban

In Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts life does not get easier. In fact he finds out that mass murderer Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban prison and is dead set on finding him. As the year marches on Hermione seems to be everywhere at once, the Divinity professor drives Harry & Ron crazy with forebodings of doom, and the three friends discover that perhaps there is a mysterious secret the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is hiding. Much to Dumbledore’s chagrin, the Ministry of Magic begins to interfere with Hogwarts by sending Azkaban’s Dementors to protect the school from Sirius Black.

Part of what I love about each installment of the Harry Potter series is the new cast that gets added to each film. In The Prisoner of Azkaban we get Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney. They are great characters and fabulous actors that become enjoyable parts of the rest of the series. Also, Azkaban is the first film with Michael Gambon as Dulbledore; Richard Harris died between films two and three and Gambon masterfully fills his shoes and still makes the role his own.

The Prisoner of Azkaban is also the first in the series to be directed by someone other than Chris Columbus, and let me say I shouted “halleluiah” when I found out he was not going to do all of the films. For this film the masterful Alfonso Cuaron took the reins and for the first time the Harry Potter series had something is never had in the earlier films – atmosphere. Suddenly, Harry was the dark, tousled boy he always was in the books, and the world was not as shiny and friendly as Chris Columbus portrayed it in the first two films. This film was a directorial turning point in the series, and while Azkaban is one of the weakest in terms of what it does to the franchise in continuity, it gave the series the starts of the tone that needed to be set.

While I do think that the front end of the Harry Potter films were weaker than the later films there is no bad film in the Harry Potter franchise. I am excited to see how the films finish out.

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: Steve Kloves
Harry: Daniel Radcliffe
Sirius Black: Gary Oldman
Ron: Rupert Grint
Hermione: Emma Watson
Professor Lupin: David Thewlis
Dumbldore: Michael Gambon
Professor Snape: Alan Rickman
Professor McGonogall: Maggie Smith
Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Professor Trelawney: Emma Thompson

Harry: He was their friend, and he betrayed them. He was their *friend*! I hope he finds me! Cause when he does, I'm gonna be ready. When he does, I'm gonna kill him!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grace is Gone

Originally uploaded by Alessandra Ogeda
Grace Phillips is a dedicated Army serviceman currently away in Iraq, back at home her husband and retired Army-man himself, Stanley works and takes care of their two daughters Heidi & Dawn. Unsure how to interact with the two girls all three are in a holding pattern waiting for Grace to come home again and restore their family unit. However, one morning before work Stanley is visited by the TAPS officers and told that Grace has been killed in action. Unable to voice this to his daughters Stanley instead takes Heidi on an unexpected trip to an amusement park in Florida while he tries to figure out how to tell the girls that Grace is gone.

I don’t cry at movies, but when if finally came time for Stanley to tell the girls Grace was dead I cried. Grace is Gone is a very moving film and I am honestly surprised that it is James C. Strouse’s directorial debut. This film is a hard sell, and an emotional watch and Strouse handles it with deft hands.

I was greatly impressed by the talents of Shelan O’Keefe as Heidi Phillips. As the older daughter, Heidi has taken on an adult role worrying about her mother, taking care of her sister and doubting her father; despite Stanley’s best efforts he cannot seem to keep her from growing up too fast. However, when Stanley takes the girls on his road trip Heidi slowly begins to realize something is wrong, but her childhood naivety comes into play and she never locks onto the truth that her mother is dead until Stanley finally tells them. Despite her age O’Keefe plays Heidi with a subtlety that very few child actors have, and I’d like to see her in more as I would compare her to Anna Paquin in The Piano.

John Cusack also gave an incredible performance in Grace is Gone. The pain, joy, pride, shock and agony that Stanley goes through during his journey is brilliant to watch and I would have nominated Cusack for the performance. His performance reads like a performance of love and not a performance for recognition.

Director & Writer: James C. Strouse
Stanley Phillips: John Cusack
Heidi Phillips: Shelan O’Keefe
Dawn Phillips: Gracie Bednarczyk

Stanley Phillips: It's important that people have their own views based on an understanding of facts. But, it's also important not to trust the facts, because most of them are lies.
Heidi Phillips: I don't get it.
Stanley Phillips: It basically comes down to a gut thing. You just have to be open to allowing for a truth which differs from your own opinions. Or else you'll never actually see the truth at all.