Sunday, October 28, 2012

“Killer Joe” – William Friedkin (2012)


It is my sad duty to inform you that "Killer Joe" does not mark filmmaker William Friedkin's return to his former glory.


2006's underrated "Bug" notwithstanding, Friedkin hasn't done much worth our attention since "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist."

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The director has floundered in mediocrity since the '70s, even making some flat-out bad films like "Jade" and "Rules of Engagement."

"Killer Joe" focuses on the Smith family.  When Chris gets himself in trouble with more debt than he can handle, the Smiths decide to hire a hit man to kill his mother so they can split her insurance money.

Enter the title character, a menacing cop who kills people on the side.

The problem is the Smiths can't pay Joe up front, so they work out a deal.  Joe gets full use of Dottie, the baby of the family, as a kind of retainer.

Inevitably, things go terribly wrong, but we don't really seem to care about the troubles heaped onto the Smiths.  Each of them is so detestable they frankly deserve to have Joe in their lives.   

The family's misfortunes are more than warranted.

I’m by no means someone who needs likable characters to enjoy a film, but try as it might, “Killer Joe” is no “Blue Velvet.”

There is one scene involving a piece of chicken and a battered Gina Gershon that brings to mind Dennis Hopper’s “MOMMY!” scene in “Blue Velvet.”  But Joe is no Frank Booth.

Frank was nightmarish and creepy, where Joe is unsettling at best.

Actually, the film's most menacing moments don't feature Joe at all, but Chris's debtor, Digger, played by character actor Marc Macaulay.  He only has one scene, but Macaulay delivers the film's best performance.  Frankly, I wanted to see more of Digger.

There are some melodramatic moments in the film, but not enough to sustain the thriller throughout.

The bottom line is, while "Killer Joe" is bold and at times tense, but it just isn't very good.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Chicken With Plums" - Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (2012)


"Chicken With Plums" is Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's follow-up to their 2007 animated masterpiece, "Persepolis."

The film tells the story of Nasser-Ali, a man whose violin breaks.  He can't find a suitable replacement, so he decides it's time to die.


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This may not sound like the premise for a magical film full of wonder, but it is.

Toward the beginning of the film, we're treated to a montage of Nasser-Ali fantasizing about all the possible ways he could kill himself.


Each method is distasteful, so he crawls into bed to wait for death.

And that's where the adventure begins.
 
As Nasser-Ali lies in bed, willing himself to die, he reflects on his life.  The film is primarily a series of flashbacks showing how he came to this sorry state.

We see how he became a gifted musician and why he married a woman he never loved.

More importantly, we see the true reason for his death wish.

Too many art films focus on gorgeous visuals at the expense of its theme and characters.

"Chicken With Plums" is not one of them.  There is plenty beneath the surface.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Featurette about "Cloud Atlas"

"Cloud Atlas" is an upcoming film by directors Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.

It's a sci-fi drama that deals with how one's actions in a past life can impact future incarnations.

Here's a featurette about the making of the film.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Essay by Independent Filmmaker Jason Stogsdill about "The Everyday Adventures of Lane & Russell"


Jason Stogsdill is an independent filmmaker working on a comedy called "The Everyday Adventures of Lane & Russell."

The film is expected to be released by the end of 2013.

I've watched the trailer and it actually looks quite funny.


The following is an essay by the filmmaker.


It was really fun how we came up with the characters Lane and Russell.  It was way back in 2000 when one night, my friend and co-creator, Chris Stephens thought of doing an improv.  So, we had another friend grab a camera and shoot us.  After doing a little skit, we checked out what we came up with and we were stunned.  It was hilarious!

Later on, we decided to participate in the University’s film festival.  We weren’t really sure how the short film would come out. We were amateurs and it was our first time to do something like that.  The film was rough and we weren’t sure people would like it, but to our amazement, they did!  We even won the Best Narrative and people gave us a standing ovation.  Ever since then, we dreamt of producing a theatrical quality short film about Lane and Russell.

It was only in 2008 that we finally got down to business, pulled up our sleeves and started writing a script for the film.  We began to call up people, gathering a group of amazing artists, actors and technicians.  We started working with various talented artists on concept art, costume design and concept photography.  We also spent a lot of time looking for the perfect filming locations.  At the end of 2010, we were able to finish about 30 percent of the film.  We had a long way to go to finish the film, but we didn’t have enough budget.  Unfortunately, budget has always been the problem for us indie filmmakers.  This is probably something that other indie filmmakers can relate to.

Recently, we began thinking of various ways to raise the money for the film, so we decided to start a Kickstarter campaign, hoping that if it is successful, we’d be able to raise enough money to finally finish our short film, The Everyday Adventures of Lane and Russell.  We are hoping that with the support of friends, relatives and people who believe in what we do, we will be able to finish the short film.

I have to admit that I am a little biased about these characters but I think people will love them.  Well, people will probably hate Lane.  He’s an egotistical borderline sociopath who constantly abuses Russell, but I think people will love Russell.  Curiously enough, despite Russell’s lack of social skills, he seems to get along well with everyone.  It’s his heart – he has a huge kind heart.  I believe in this film.  I believe in friendship, loyalty and humor, lots of it, and this is what the film is all about. 

To see more about "The Everyday Adventures of Lane & Russell," check out laneandrussell.com

Sunday, October 7, 2012

News from the Associated Press on David Fincher's series "House of Cards"

NEW YORK (AP) -- Netflix's highly anticipated original series "House of Cards" will premiere Feb. 1.

The subscription video company announced the debut date Thursday. The series is the most ambitious effort yet by Netflix to supply its 27 million streaming users with original programming.
 
The remake of the classic British miniseries stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. It's produced by David Fincher, who directed the first two episodes. Spacey plays a ruthless, strategizing House majority whip.
 
All 13 episodes will be immediately available to Netflix members in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Latin America and Scandinavia.
 
The show's second season will begin production next year.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chobsky (2012)



There's never been a shortage of coming of age films.  It's a genre all to itself.

But "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" sets itself apart, not just because it's one of the best ever made, but because of its sincerity.

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Charlie is a freshman in high school who doesn't have a friend to his name until he meets Patrick and Sam, a pair of outsider seniors.

Charlie inevitably develops feelings for Sam, but it's more than a high school crush.  Their relationship develops slowly and it's treated delicately, with the respect it deserves.  The two of them open up to each other over the course of the film with trust and in good faith.

Charlie, Patrick and Sam are all damaged goods, and that's why they fit together so well.  Traditionally, in films like this, the focus is on how much kids like this need to be accepted.  What makes "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" so special is these characters aren't just ready to receive love, they're capable of giving it as well.

 
The film works so well because while it focuses on teen angst, it demonstrates, without any cynicism, how it's not just a source of pain, but a force that drives these kids.

Mostly, it shows how the people who love you can make you brave.  Admittedly, that sounds cheesy as hell, but when you're watching this film, it feels like a lovely sentiment.

But I think what I love most about "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is the way it truly understands broken people.  If someone is sad, they genuinely don't have the capacity to feel better.  And "Perks" accepts people like that on their face without trying to change them.