In addition to a prolific animator/director, the Virginia Film Festival also afforded me the opportunity to chat with Rick Alverson, writer/director of festival selection, ENTERTAINMENT. Making its premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, the film follows a broken, aging comedian as he tours the California desert in a vain attempt to reach his estranged daughter. By day slogging through the barren landscape, while at night seeking solace in the animation of his onstage persona, he trudges through a series of increasingly surreal and volatile encounters. In our interview together, Mr. Alverson opened up a bit about how he developed the story as well as how he amassed the talent featured in his film. Check out the interview below… (more…)
Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) has had it rough, seemingly since birth. We’re introduced to Johnson in a Los Angeles Juvenile Detention Center, moments before he pummels a bully into submission. Apparently the bully made the grave mistake of disparaging Johnson’s deceased mother. Orphaned, Johnson has bounced between foster homes, never finding a permanent family; that is until he’s paid a visit by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad). The widow Creed fills Johnson in on his paternal lineage and takes him in. Being the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed has its perks, but an adult Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) feels unfulfilled by his current job in a downtown office. Making the weekly drive to Tijuana, Mexico to box amateurs is fine, but knows he can do better. An arrogant Adonis (aka Donnie) can’t find a trainer at his father’s old gym in Los Angeles, so he heads east to Philadelphia, with hopes of being trained by family friend and former rival Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). (more…)
As stated not too long ago, this year’s Virginia Film Festival had much to offer film lovers-from films and special guests to parties. With that said, I caught up with writer/director/animator, Bill Plympton, at chat about his film, CHEATIN’. Featured as a 2015 festival selection, the film follows star-crossed lovers, exploring the dual nature of how two people immensely attracted to each other can also want to kill each other at the same time. (more…)
Former FBI Investigator Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) spends many sleepless nights searching among the thousands of faces for one man. Wherever he is, Ray is determined to bring the suspect to justice. The crime: rape and murder. The Victim: Carolyn Cobb (Zoe Graham) high school senior, months away from college and daughter of Ray’s former partner, Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts). 13 years ago while working in a counterterrorism unit in the Los Angeles division of the FBI, with the images of the attacks on 9/11 seared in the consciousness of America; Ray and Jess along with Bumpy (Dean Norris) and the unlikable Siefert (Michael Kelly) get a report of a homicide. The crime scene is in close proximity to a mosque that has possible links to a terrorist sleeper cell waiting to strike Los Angeles. When Carolyn is discovered as the victim, everything changes. The team is understandably morose, but aren’t allowed to investigate Carolyn’s death due to their current assignment being of a top national security priority. That doesn’t stop Ray as he privately investigates the case, developing a person of interest and a name. Frustrated by the Bureau’s inability to pursue justice for Jess, Ray leaves Los Angeles and finds work in New York, still haunted by this mystery. (more…)
After the sudden death of his parents, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was destined to spend the Christmas holiday alone. Luckily for him, his best friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) were there for him. Isaac is Jewish and Chris avoids his overbearing mother on most holidays, so starting a new Christmas tradition of debauchery and merriment sounds like a good idea. That was 15 years ago. Now, Chris is a rising football star and Isaac is a married doctor who’s expecting his first child. The last 15 years haven’t been as kind to Ethan, still recovering from the breakup of longtime girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan), Ethan has come to terms with the fact life is passing him by and his annual yuletide romp with his friends will come to an end. The one things the trio never got to do was attend the mysteriously awesome Nutcracker’s Ball. The clandestine bash, known only to a chosen few is purportedly legendary. If the guys are going to spend their last celebratory Christmas together before fully transitioning into adulthood, then they’re going out with a bang. However, life happens and people change, along with their priorities; but most importantly, the invitation to the party doesn’t have an address. A night on the town was already in the works, hopefully to culminate at the party of the year.
Last weekend, I returned to yet another film festival that I love, and that is the Virginia Film Festival. Created in 1990, the festival has become a staple of Virginia, regularly holding its event on UVA’s campus in Charlottesville. Never a stranger to landmark films and terrific guests, the festival has featured films such as NEBRASKA, BLACK SWAN, and THE DESCENDANTS to name a few. Additionally, the festival has had the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Hopkins, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Gena Rowlands, Sigourney Weaver, William Styron, Tippi Hedren, Ross McElwee, Matthew Broderick, Will Forte, Mia Wasikowska, Barry Levinson, David Dastmalchian, Ashley Judd, Jenna Elfman, and Patrick Wilson all come as special guests through the years. (more…)
One of the biggest humanitarian efforts of this decade was in the remote expanse of the Atacama Desert near Copiapo, Chile. There lies the 126 year old San José Mine and its bounty of gold and copper. Mine owners, the San Esteban Mining Company has a reputation for taking shortcuts on safety measures; which is evident by the number of workplace injuries since 2000. Regardless of the mine’s safety record, 33 miners went to work on the morning of August 5th, 2010, a day no better or worse than any other. After a 3 mile drive through winding helix-like tunnels, 2,300 feet below the surface; the miners reach an area near a safety bunker named The refuge. After a rumble, reminiscent of the devastating 8.8 earthquake 6 months prior, a massive stone collapses, trapping 33 men working in the deepest parts of the tunnel. After barely surviving the cave-in, the guys regroup and hope help comes soon. (more…)
As Halloween officially finds itself in our rearview mirror, I figured I’d revisit one of my favorite festivals to attend each year, which is the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival. Celebrating its ten year, the horror festival has become a staple event (especially for me, see Tweet) at AFI Silver-in recent years-during the month of October. (more…)
The 24th installment in the James Bond movie franchise, is far from finished. Probably. Daniel Craig is back as Bond and director Sam Mendes is also back in the director’s chair, after the highly successful Skyfall. As Skyfall took a more personal, reflective look at Bond; Spectre continues this tone with Bond traipsing through Mexico City. Armed with a name, Marco Sciarra and a few choice weapons, Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the hunt for a terrorist who may be apart of a bigger criminal organization.
Meanwhile, MI6 is under fire and still reeling from the events of Skyfall. The new M (Ralph Finnes), is in the midst of a power struggle with C (Andrew Scott), the current head of the Joint Intelligence Service who wants to shut down the “00” program and transition from agents in the field to a multi-national surveillance network known as ‘Nine Eyes’. Nine of the world’s most influential countries would have to agree to use the system and C is lobbying for the United Kingdom’s participation. Bond, who was officially suspended is on the hunt for the answers surrounding a peculiar ring with an engraving of an octopus. (more…)
A fictionalized remake of the 2005 documentary, this version of Our Brand is Crisis stars Sandra Bullock as the infamous political strategist ‘Calamity’ Jane Bodine. Retired and living deep in the Colorado woods, Jane seems content with her Native American inspired pottery and woodwork; until she’s convinced to help a struggling presidential candidate in Bolivia. With only a few months left before election day and sitting comfortably in a distant 3rd; former Bolivian president Pedro Gallo now viewed as arrogant and out of touch with the people sits 28 points behind in the polls with mere weeks remaining in the race. Though originally against the position, Bodine is eager to beat her former rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) who is backing the frontrunner. (more…)
I love a good zombie movie. Whether it’s a comedy, horror or drama; zombies add a special dynamic to any story in any genre. However, the recent supersaturation of zombies, especially in movies have turned a once promising genre, into a soulless cash grab. And then there’s Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. Marketed as zombie comedy influenced by Superbad, Scout’s Guide is familiarly low-brow and surprisingly uninspired. Following the zombie movie formula perfectly, the film expectantly follows our likable trio of best friends, Straight laced Ben (Tye Sheridan), tolerably nerdy Augie (Joey Morgan) and exaggerated pubescent Carter (Logan Miller). The trio met in scouts, back in elementary school and have been friends ever since. Augie is on the verge of getting his Condor Badge, the highest honour for a scout, while Ben and Carter are planning to leave scouts behind. (cue dramatic music) On the night of the boys overnight camping trip with their hapless Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner) ; the same night as the biggest senior party ever, Carter and Ben plan to ditch Augie for a few hours and attend the party. Earlier, something goes awry at a secret research facility on the outskirts of town, a zombie escapes, blah, blah, blah. (more…)
Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) was on top of the music world. Representing the biggest and best, Lanz has single-handedly sculpted popular music in America, over his multi decade career. That was in the 70’s; 40 years later, Lanz operates his talent agency out of a seedy Van Nuys, California motel. With one actual client, Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), Richie gets an idea to join a USO tour. The USO is an organization that provides services and live entertainment for troops overseas and Ronnie is scheduled to perform in sunny Afghanistan. Less than thrilled at the prospect of travelling halfway around the world to the physical manifestation of hell, Ronnie befriends a mercenary named Bombay Brian (Bruce Willis); who assists in her escape from Kabul. Without any money, or a talent to represent, Ritchie is stranded in Afghanistan. (more…)
1957. On the streets of New York, everything is business as usual, the Braves (of Milwaukee) won a nail-biter of a World Series in 7 games versus the Yankees. For mild-mannered insurance attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks), all was well until he’s called into the boss’ office. The US Government wants Donovan to take a case pro bono. The defendant, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) was charged with three counts of espionage. Rudolf Abel is a Russian spy transferring coded messages in what is known as the Hollow Nickel Case. During the height of the Cold War, being associated with communists was as bad as actually being a Russian spy. Threatened with nuclear annihilation, on a seemingly daily basis; the American public is less than sympathetic to Public Enemy #1. Concerned for the safety of his family, Donovan grudgingly accepts the case. Largely because of his duty to uphold the Constitution and provide due process for the most hated man in the country. While Donovan tries to provide a honest defence, in the face of the Kangaroo Court, Abel is convicted and sentenced. Donovan’s defence now turns to keeping his client out of the gas chamber.
In the century long retelling and revisioning of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of the boy who could fly, Joe Wright’s version may be the most depressing. Early on we’re told (or warned) that this isn’t the story we’ve been told before. That could be problematic, but hopefully Pan captures the essence of the character, despite the subtle changes to the story. Well, no. Though it’s never really been discussed, how Peter got to Neverland; this origin story doesn’t really mesh with the story we do know. It starts off with young Peter (Levi Miller) surviving the London Blitz in an orphanage that’s barely hospitable for barn animals. But, the curious (or defiant) Peter with his friend Nibs (Lewis MacDougall) have reason to believe, that the bullish Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke) is hoarding the goods while the kids eat a rationing of gruel. In the night, some of the kids go missing. Presumed to be adopted, Peter and Nibs continue on the hunt for treasure, but are startled when they discover the true cause of the missing kids.
All is well on the mission of the Ares 3. The manned mission to Mars, is on time and on schedule; nearing the end of their trip to the red planet. After a disastrous windstorm threatens the safety of the crew, the order is given to abort mission and return to the Hermes spacecraft, then Earth. During the evacuation Botanist and mechanical engineer Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by flying debris and separated from the crew. During the height of the storm, Captain Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) presumes that Watney perished in the storm and evacuated the planet safely. (more…)
When single father Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) gets evicted from his lifelong Orlando home; he, his mother and preteen son must vacate the premises is an emotionally gut wrenching scene. The unemployed, now homeless construction worker must find a way to provide for his family, without a job and dwindling funds. Now residing in a cramped motel near downtown that’s filled with other evictees, Dennis weighs his options: Tough it out in Orlando and pray for steady work or, swallow his pride and move to Tampa where he has an uncle. Choosing the former, Dennis decides to hit the search for work in an impossibly tough job market. Also, his tools were stolen. Presuming the tools were lifted during the eviction by the movers, Dennis confronts the movers at the doorstep of Rick Carver Realty. Carver (Michael Shannon) breaks up the rawkus but has a last minute cancellation for a job. Offering the open position to Dennis, but can Dennis work for the man who tossed him from his childhood home?
“They say, that a singer only retires when there’s no more music left in them; and I think I’ve got a song or two left in me.” So says Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a retired, widowed 70-year-old in his video cover letter. The position: senior intern (for seniors). About The Fit is an online business that strives to provide quality clothes that are tailored to an individual’s needs. Similar to a personal tailor, just online, About The Fit is a blossoming startup that is in the unenviable position of possibly growing too fast, too soon. For founder and CEO Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway), running About The Fit has been an exhausting experience. Long hours and a packed schedule keeps Jules and her overburdened assistant Becky (Christina Scherer) moving at a frenetic pace. When Ben is assigned to Jules as her intern, both realize fairly quickly that have a lot to learn from each other.
Tense. In a word, the description of the situation on the border between Mexico and the United States. Thousands of people a year travel hundreds of miles through the arid Mexican wilderness, to reach the land of opportunity. Also smuggled illegally through the border are drugs, guns and gang related violent crime and most of the activity is run by the Mexican Cartels. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) a FBI agent, apart of an anti-kidnapping division in Phoenix, Arizona; knows too well, the progress of Cartel activity in the US. It is her team that make a grisly discovery at a Cartel outpost in rural Arizona. Scores of suffocated bodies, victims of Cartel violence. Her resolve through this ordeal makes her superiors take notice. They recommend her in assistance of a mission from the Defense Department. Matt (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) plan on rattling a few cages of the Mexican Cartel. (more…)
Picking up immediately after the events of The Maze Runner; The Scorch Trials continues the story of the Gladers, who were rescued by an unknown paramilitary group who fights against the government organization, World Catastrophe Killzone Department (WCKD pronounced Wicked). Taken to a safe haven where Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Min-ho (Ki Hong Lee) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) are able to grab some warm clothes and a bite to eat in relative comfort. With WCKD on the hunt and the arid desert landscape full of ‘Cranks’, a zombie-like humanoid that is infected with advanced stages of ‘The Flare’, a viral plague that led to the fall of humanity.
All isn’t what it seems when Thomas gets more agitated at not being able to see Teresa, also he notices that groups of kids are selected for a ‘promotion’ by Janssen (Aidan Gillen) only to never be seen again. Something’s up, but if the long told stories are true, a group of resistance fighters known as the Right Hand lies somewhere beyond the Scorch in the mountains. Obviously, escaping the compound and traversing the Scorch is tough enough. Doing that with an army of WCKD soldiers and a desert full of Cranks makes the journey impossible. Complicating matters is the uncertainty of the Right Hand. It would be soul crushing to find out that the Right Hand is a hoax. (more…)
The world’s most dangerous über driver deserves a vacation. Frank Martin Jr. (Ed Skrein) is ”The Transporter”, personal courier to the highest bidder. He will deliver whatever to whomever, on time, as promised. His father Frank Sr. is in town for a vacation, starting his retirement from a lengthy career in “sales”. The world’s worst kept secret is that Frank Sr. is a retired spy. When Junior takes a job to take a woman and her two packages to a location, named later. The ‘packages’ are two more women, so Frank cancels the deal. Apparently planning for this action , it’s revealed that Frank’s father has been kidnapped and tortured, but he’s still alive at the moment. Stuck between a Glock and a hard place (ha!), Frank begrudgingly helps the trio of bandits, with the hope of freeing his father.
In the twilight of his life Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is at another crossroads in life. His grandkids are of age and a friend passed away but, Bryson feels like there’s room for one last adventure. After discovering a path leading to the Appalachian Trail (AT), near his New Hampshire home, Bill decides to hike the trail from beginning to end. Hiking the near 2,200 miles of trail from Northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine is a serious undertaking for the most experienced hikers. For a 70-year-old, with little knowledge of hiking or camping; thru hiking the AT may be a death sentence. Bryson’s wife Cathy (Emma Thompson) steps in with a mandate: Hike with a partner or don’t go at all. After rummaging through the rolodex and not finding willing participants, nearly gives up on the expedition; until he receives a surprise phone call from Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), an estranged friend. Katz is a mess of a man. An overweight, bumbling, recovering alcoholic, which is dubious as whiskey is found in Katz’s backpack; Katz makes Bryson look like an Olympian. Unphased by the odds against them, Katz and Bryson head to Northern Georgia via Atlanta in the Spring, hoping to complete the 15 state, 2,185 mile journey before winter. What could possibly go wrong?
As mentioned before, in the world of Spartacus- a place full of intrigue, deception, and violence- the women are far from just being eye candy; in fact, they’re just as strong and vicious as their male counterparts. One prime example of such a character can be found in the warrior known as Saxa. At this year’s first SpartaCon, I was fortunate enough to speak with Ellen Hollman, the actress behind the ferocious character, to share how she brought the necessary physicality needed for the role. Check out the interview below… (more…)
Throughout the series of STARZ’ Spartacus, there were quite a few antagonists that our titular character encountered in his fight for freedom. However, few were as memorable as the alluring character known only as Ilithyia. Brought to life by actress Viva Bianca, the character’s machinations gave Spartacus a run for his money for two seasons of the series’ run. (more…)
Historically, female characters are oftentimes portrayed as the romantic interest or “damsel in distress;” however, this trend has recently started to change, thanks to shows such as Starz’ Spartacus that have played with this stereotype. One such example would be the character of Laeta-who featured prominently in the last season of the series. Upon first introduction, the character seemed to been be a run-of-the-mill damsel; however, upon further inspection, the character was far from a weakling. (more…)
It must be said that with some supporting characters, actors/actresses can bring such a personality and presence to them that often they’re kept around a lot longer than was perhaps initially planned. One well-known example of this can be found with Agent Coulson, whose popularity among fans saw his role expanded within in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which of course eventually evolved into a starring role in the Agents of SHIELD TV series). Similarly, the same occurred with actor Barry Duffield in the Starz’ series, Spartacus. (more…)
Among the many adversaries that Spartacus had to contend with during the series run, perhaps one of the most dangerous was undoubtedly actor Todd Lasance’s Caesar. Unlike the antagonists of previous seasons, Lasance’s portrayal of Caesar offered a character who was not only a mental match for Spartacus and his rebels, but a physical match as well. With that said, seeing that so many stars were on hand at this year’s SpartaCon, I took the opportunity to pick Lasance’s brain about how he brought the real-life historical figure to life. However, as what normally happens in such interviews, Lasance also discussed some of his future projects as well. Check out the interview below… (more…)
As mentioned before, SpartaCon had a great many selection of special guests from Starz’ Spartacus series. Among the first I had an opportunity to speak with was Dan Feuerriegel, who portrayed Agron-one of Spartacus generals-on the series. In the interview, Dan opens up about being cast the character, his amazement with the fandom surrounding his character, as well as his future projects. Check the interview below… (more…)
“A footnote”, that’s how Ellie Reid (Lily Tomlin) describes her four-month long relationship with Olivia (Judy Greer). The harsh but accurate statement is a perfect snapshot of Ellie. Stern but loving, Ellie commands Olivia to leave the house keys on table then storms off; only to cry silently in the shower moments later. Still grieving from the death of her life partner, Violet; the semi-retired poet and occasional writer, Ellie is both broke and lonely. Adding to Ellie’s troubles is startling news from Sage (Julia Garner). (more…)
Fathom Events, a consortium of AMC, Regal and Cinemark theaters is bringing The Hobbit back to the big screen with the extended editions of the trilogy. Each film will show at 730 pm (Local time) in 500 theaters around the country. The dates and running times are as follows:
- An Unexpected Journey – October 5 (182 mins)
- The Desolation of Smaug – October 7 (186 mins)
- Battle of the Five Armies – October 13 (163 mins)
Click on each title for a link to the Fathom Events site, where there’s a list of participating theaters and ticket sales. Each film is preceded by a brief message by director Peter Jackson. Sadly, there isn’t any word of a 10 hour-long Hobbit single movie marathon.