Can a one-liner become an entire movie? The short answer is, no. The audience only laughs once. That’s the biggest flaw in Zack Birnbaum’s directorial debut, “And Now A Word From Our Sponsor,” which was screened for only the second time before a live audience yesterday at the Newport Beach film festival.
The film has dramatic, heartfelt moments which are salvaged mainly by good acting on the park of Parker Posey who plays Karen Hillridge, a hospital charity administrator whose relationship with her daughter Megan (Allie MacDonald) is strained by the loss of the family’s patriarch two years prior.
The story opens with heavy weight advertising icon Adan Kundle collapsing in front of a bank of televisions in an electronics store. He awakens in a hospital, alert and functional, but he speaks only in advertising slogans. When Adan opens the tray covering his hospital breakfast and sees a dry piece of toast and a single, hard boiled egg he remarks, “How do you handle a hungry man?”
When Vivian Brechner (Toni Alexander), a female version of Donald Bren, decides to develop a Casino in the tiny town of Fountain Springs, she must bulldoze their bowling alley which is the, "Only thing we’ve got" scream the fifty-two residents of this California desert backwater.
Brechner's dispatches her son, Alexander, (Tyler Strateman) to do her dirty work, and the town’s mayor, Dawson Dinwitty (Gary Austin) springs into action with the city council, which consists of one man, also the town’s bowling instructor, George Pandick, (Andrew Dickler).
Both men must vote in favor of the new Casino, so Brechner tries to buy Dinwitty’s vote by wining, dining, and cajoling him from her office in Fashion Island and the Big Canyon golf course.
Meanwhile, Alexander gets drunk with the “twin” sons of Fountain Bowl’s owner, Herman Pritzoff (Eric Halsz) and agrees to a bowling contest with a prize of $250,000, enough money for the Pritzoff’s to buy the land and save their bowling alley.
This plot engine runs out of gas quickly because the second act has no real narrative. Instead random characters and events are mixed and matched in a way that makes we wonder if a real movie might have been left on the cutting room floor (or if nothing at all was left on that floor.)
The result is a film filled with a lot of “shtick” that is sometimes funny, but more often tired and jaded. You end up feeling like you watched a very long, Saturday Night Live skit, and that’s probably because writer, producer, director Cherie Kerr is founder of the Orange County Crazies comedy-improvisation troupe.
Blood. In amazing amounts and frequency.
That's one of the lasting impressions of this movie penned by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, produced by Joel Silver, and the Wachowskis, and directed by James McTeigue.
Starring Korean pop star Rain, this story of a ninja turned against his adopted martial family (Ozunu clan) and actively working to stop his fellow ninjas from committing assassination for 100 pounds of gold (a holdover from ancient times) this movie starts in massive amounts of blood, decapitation and amputation, and ends in rivers of blood, decapitation and amputation with a lot of the same in-between.
Video game. That's your second thought and impression. With all the good and bad that engenders.
Ultra-violent and dark. In all ways including a lot of barely-seen fights that are too dark to appreciate properly, and hand-held cameras that jerk the action from one black shadow to another.
And then finally, well-executed and impressive in spots with fight scenes every bit as good as anything ever filmed.
Rain, the lead actor, would remind you of an Asian version Justin Bieber. A huge pop star in Korea, like Bieber he seems too slight and ethereal to play an assassin. But even as preternaturally beautiful as he is for a man, underneath that slight-looking frame he is buffed and cut to within a microslice of human body perfection. This and his real martial arts training allows him to be totally believable as Raizo, who as a young boy is kidnapped and brutally trained to be the best of the best in ninja assassination.
No one would confuse "The Octagon" with say, "The Godfather." It is what it is. A "B-movie" from the 80's starring a martial-artist turned actor. It features decent action, some decent themes and a horrible voice over that supposedly conveys the main character's internal thoughts.
It's too easy to dismiss these films as being just expired, stinky cheese - relics of a film milieu that we have hopefully left behind us as we move into the brave new worlds of Uncanny Valley CGI and 3D over-the-top actioneers that look like giant, gorgeously executed video games.
Of course, there are those die-hard fans who see no disconnect in these films and rabidly declare them as revolutionary - which to some extent they were. At the time, there wasn't anything like "The Octagon" gracing American movie screens and big action was nascent at best in any form let alone martial arts.
I try not to go to either end of the spectrum. I do laugh inadvertently at the bad dialog, plot devices or action but I also realize that it was 30+ years ago and these movies are going to look creaky no matter what, even as they were also creating legends like Chuck Norris. I mean, put any 1980 Buick on the screen and you're suddenly wondering how anything that big ever functioned (the term 'bulgemobile' comes to mind.) Nevermind that the fashion, haircuts, and insanely tight pants they all wore including our hero, Mr. Chuck Norris, looks like something from a bad porn film. As expressed, it is what it is.
Norris' movie career took off with his villainous appearance in Bruce Lee's "Way Of The Dragon." Lee liked to pit two different styles against each other and in Way it's basically Korean/American-style karate vs Chinese Kung Fu. The opponents couldn't have looked any different with the slight (but ripped) Lee rocking his black Chinese button-up outfit and the burly, red-haired (and hairy!) Norris in a traditional white gi. After the epic nine minute battle, Norris is defeated and Lee heads away, dusting his black jacket off as if it was another day at the office and not this incredible fight to the death. The scene furthered Lee's legend and created a new one in Norris.
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down -- which might not be such a bad thing.
Let me start by admitting that I'm a Wes Anderson fan. I'll stop short of saying that he can do no wrong, but he hasn't done wrong yet.
Moonrise Kingdom comes close.
Wes Anderson, Roman Copolla
I'm here today to do a "quasi" review/observation. The movie in question is the newly minted second movie, of Harry Potter actor "Daniel Radcliff" (where he does not play a wizard) The Woman in Black, now available at your friendly RedBox after a short theatrical run.
This movie enters the much traditional Horror/Thiller genre, that in these lean days of Hollywood, have been the quick bet for all studios heads and producers looking to keep their leased luxury rides.
For those of you who do not know who Roger Corman is and are vivid fans of monster movies, action sci-fi and all around pop-corn entertainment, I have three words: Shame on you! He has been the producer that has launched a million careers and continues to do so at the ripe age of 86!
This documentary is way more interesting that I thought it would be and although it barely reached the theaters (like many of Corman’s productions these days) I got it through my Netflix cue. This movie also hits home for me right now because I’m involved in my first production as a writer/producer and the story still rings true today on all the crazy things you have to do to get a movie done.
Any kind of movie.
Roger Corman like many producers started out as an actor and of course wasn’t that good but somehow he was fun, charming and a great talker and he managed to get people to do crazy stuff, so he got some money together got a movie crew and did his first monster movie. He sold it to a small outfit that rented movies to drive-in chains and the rest is history. Being crafty and not spending anything extra was one of Corman’s chief assets.
Robert Rollins (IMDB listing) is a unique filmmaker in many ways. He is making films that are rich and precise in their storytelling. The films he makes are unique not only because of the subject matter but because they're fully realized productions. They simply don't feel like they're being made by other than a true movie studio. I defy anyone to see "The Magic Hourglass" and not think that it came from a studio in Burbank or Vancouver.
Rollin's films are fun, and fundamentally, filmatically sound...he translates his love of all things fantastical into his own little gems of cinema.
Written by Rollins and Edward Fik ("Knightfall") "The Magic Hourglass" follows two modern-day friends as they take a "Bill and Ted" adventure back to the land of Robin Hood and his not-so-merry men. They're not merry yet because Arn (Alex Weber) and Ed (Benjamin Faigus) haven't taught them the ways of Sherwood Forest yet.
Being a guy in my late thirties puts me in the prime demo (but almost about to fall off it) of what studios are after these days, when it comes to ticket buyers.
But being an American history buff, bumps me in the 50 - 60 year old range (according to the studios demo for historical dramas). And the funny thing is, they're right. I was probably the only guy in the theater with all my hair, able to do 20 push ups without getting dizzy.
Sad, but again, most "yuths" these days are too busy with other stuff than to be in a movie theater on a Sunday night and particularly watching a movie about the founder of the F.B.I.
Either I need a girlfriend, or divorce myself from the love of history.
So back to the movie. The only thing I knew about John Edgar Hoover was that he was the crossdressing founder of the the F.B.I. and a big pain in the ass to most of Washington D.C., or like Nixon said in the movie: "that little, C*#@s%^$#! "
Summer in the city. Being on vacation in the nation's capital is a nice change from the Orange County scene. Of course the small streets and bad parking of D.C. reminds me of Venice or Santa Monica by the beach, but with a more Euro flair. Focusing on summer movies there are not that many I wanted to see this summer and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was not exactly on that list. Like most movie buffs I'm partial to pre- 1980's Woody Allen but the heat and free time got the best of me so I took the plunge.
So what has Luke Perry of "Beverly Hills 90210" fame been doing lately? Apparently running around an island off the coast of Sweden with some occasionally naked men and women who have gathered to help one of their long-time friends propose to his much younger girlfriend during the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The soltice is also when the Swedes apparently used to and still celebrate a right of fertility so that particular time makes a nearly perfect premise for sexual hijinks.
ASMSC is currently making the rounds at film festivals all over the U.S. And although I can't say I loved the film, I did like a lot of the parts of it -especially the naughty ones.
It's been a good run kid... Famous words, if ever spoken, have never been so true to describe the latest venture of Jack Sparrow (sorry, Captain) and his merry crew of cut throats a thieves.
Summer equals heat (although less and less these days), fun lazy weekend afternoons and movies... Yes folks, summer movies. This is the time us writers see the plethora of super - mega - spectacular movies Hollywood throws at us to sustain their bloated budgets for the year. And every year we earnestly wait to see what our, sometimes envied and more successful brothers of the trade, have typed in their Macs for us to see, enjoy, pick apart or just gasp at the gall they have.
Studios, ever hungrier to get more and more cash from the dwindling movie audience, are pushing summer blockbusters earlier and earlier. "Thor" was the first salvo and the memorial weekend is the initiating battle.
Our subject for today is the well-used trend of the "reboot". For those a bit new to the term it means they're re-starting a series or franchise with a frensh new story. Why? Because Hollywood being a bit of a scary-Mary, when it comes to losing money, has been for the last year on a "sure bet" auto pilot when it comes to productions. Also not helping the matter is that the 78% of the movie going public are teens and young adults therefore comic book stories and action movies with loud colors, lots of action and few words are what these young beings digest the most. But anything that has shown previous success will get it's fair shot. But when the public says enought of ROCKY 16, PIRATES 13, FAST and FURIOUS 9 and many others what is a lowly studio exec to do? The answer : " Lets feed them the same story but with a new spoon! " "Brilliant, J.D.!" (mutters the side kick accountant.)
I would say my usual line about guaranteeing no spoilers, but seriously, I can’t in all honesty recommend this film anyway, so I am going to toss in a couple.
You've been warned.
Normally when an independent film is in limited release, I can either drive up to Los Angeles to see it or hope it’s somehow found its way on the only two screens in all of Orange County that plays “art” films. The trouble is, there are more art films than screens in OC and that means quite a few great independents get squeezed out and I have to make the drive into LA.
In college I was taught that satire isn’t necessarily funny - that it really got its humor, if any, by illuminating a larger social message and from the exaggeration of the social context of which it was parodying. A famous example of this is “Gulliver’s Travels” which was written really as a political and sociological treatise (before Jack Black got a hold of it.)
“Atlas Shrugged” was written as satire - but it doesn’t really anymore exaggerate a larger social context because in its prescience it is our social context - and that may be laughable but it’s really not so funny anymore which is why this film could not have been released at a better time.
The movie is true to the book - at least the first part of it. This is only part one of a projected three. Part I covers about a third of the book. Producer John Agiaoro figured if the market wanted Part II it would tell him - how Randian is that? Let the market decide. Free enterprise at its best.
Chameleons are pretty much the "geek" choice in pets. No offense to geeks (being a honorary member mysef.) But when people ask you : Does your pet bring you your slippers? you say no. Does it play around with yarn and entertains you with it's purring? you say no. But when you proudly respond: my pet has 160 types of subspecies and changes colors... can yours do that? the conversation usually ends with people walking away or if you're in 5th grade a punch to the nose... so it figures that Gore Verbinski (director of Pirates of the Carribean) choose this noble type of lizard for a hero in this movie.
Animation has always been created for adults to entertain children (while secretly hoping it would entertain some adults too). For years since Walt Disney lifted his gifted pencil animation has been the realm of the 10 and under crowd. But grown ups have always been behind the scenes with its shenanigans making animation with tongue in cheek jokes while never really stepping into adulthood story themes.
My good friend and mentor Raymond Obstfeld is one of those slashes - you know: screenwriter/producer/etc. But Raymond's slashes go even further to NY Times best-selling author / long-time teacher / prolific fiction and non-fiction novelist / co-founder of this org and, certainly not least, husband and father.
"I've come to hire you, Marshall Cogburn, because people say you have true grit" - Mattie Ross.
Very few lines in a movie contains so much of what we movie goers come to expect when seeing a movie and in TRUE GRIT the expectations are well met.
Westerns are the fading genre, hopeful stories of redemption and good vs. evil that capture in essence what is the real America (or United States for the rest of the world). Forget the economy, Obama and tea parties. These people are what started and made America great. Those rugged pioneers that traversed the wilds of indian infested frontiers in tarp covered wagons without Thera-flu to combat those hard winters or a Starbucks close by to contemplate on their existence. People forged by rough working conditions, hard liquor and guns. Yes, guns. Because without the firearms the west wouldn't have been "wild" at all.
I hereby promise no spoilers follow.
To me the one thing a protagonist needs to be is somebody the audience can identify with. The audience absolutely has to be able to put themselves into the shoes of the protagonist and walk around in his dream world for a couple of hours.
I hate stupid protagonists.
I can forgive a lot of character flaws. The arrogance of Tony Stark in “Iron Man” I think is a good example. Frequently those flaws add depth to the character, however, as Ron White says, “you can’t fix stupid.”
The theatre was packed, as Doremus, who was brought up in Newport Beach and Santa Ana, is well-known and liked by locals, including many students from the high school he teaches at in Santa Ana, Orange County High School of the Arts.
He is a young director, and has had his first two films, "Spooner", and "Douchebag," play the Newport Beach Film Festival, and "Douchebag" was accepted and played at Sundance, where it got great audience and critical reaction.
I hereby guarantee, no spoilers follow.
In “I Am Love” (Io Sono L’amore), Tilda Swinton plays Emma, the matriarch of a rich bourgeois Italian family. Wooed from her native Russia by Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), the heir of a Milanese textile fortune, she becomes his perfect wife and ideal mother to their children. She’s trim, stylish, controlled, yet warm; she keeps everyone around her on their mark, she plans family gatherings with precision, she councils wisely. Still, despite outward appearances there’s something unsettled in her.
Although she fully embraces the Italian culture (she speaks the language impeccably, she knows her place in male/female protocol), she remains an outsider and seems unfulfilled. This yearning enables her to understand and accept her daughter, Betta’s (Alba Rohrwacher) newly discovered gay sexuality. It also allows for her own lusty awakening as she falls for her son, Eduaordo’s (Flavio Parenti) best friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini).
Last night at the Regency South Coast Village Theater the Polish Film Fesitval played two stunning films, neither of which is easy to categorize. Sometimes that can be bad but in the case of "My Flesh, My Blood" and "Zero" that is most definitely good.
Imagine the anguish and pathos of "The Wrestler" and the dangerous, raw anger of "Raging Bull" but dialed up and amped times ten.
The Polish Film Festival - every time I mention it people chuckle. I'll admit, it does sound a little like a punch line to a bad joke.
But make no mistake - this is serious, professional, wonderfully conceived and executed filmmaking on a par with anything that Hollywood has ever churned out.
Take "Trick" the film I saw this afternoon at the Regency South Coast Village Theater. Simply excellent. Directed by Jan Hryniak from a screenplay by Michal J. Zablocki, nothing in the film ever made me think it wasn't produced at the highest levels of filmdom. Trust me on this - had this film been in English and you didn't know it was a Polish film you'd think it came out of the best film minds available from Hollywood.
So, after "Jesse's Story" I'm talking with director Marc Jacobs and getting ready to leave and my niece. Kayleigh, and her friend, Monika, come into the Island Theater. They are going to see "Ondine," an Irish film starring Colin Farrell. Now the reason I mention this is because nowhere on the movie schedule does it show the screening. And since I'm on the press email list and also signed up for the NBFF Facebook page I would have expected something to come my way regarding this film.