After “Clearpix” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to see. Nothing was really grabbing me. While I was standing outside deciding, an old friend Cath Brandom (who I hadn't seen since last year's film fest) and her son Dusty approached. They were heading to “Jesse’s Story,” a film about talented surfer Jesse Billauer who broke his spine surfing on the eve of turning pro at the age of sixteen.
I'd had my fill of surf movies and didn't think I wanted another one but Cath and her son coming up like that changed my mind. You see Dusty is in a wheelchair. I had to see the film and get his reaction if he’d let me. A Q&A with Dusty follows this review.
This is part one of three of the last day of the Newport Beach Film Festival so let’s get right to it.
“CleanFlix” is the story about the attempt by some in Utah’s Mormon community to “sanitize” Hollywood films which turned litigious and really ugly. This narrative has more twists and turns than a road to Bear Bear and more dirt than a convention of failed preachers.
It’s too complicated to go into all the permutations but here are the high points:
Maybe I’m just tired and grumpy after long days of festival but today just wasn’t a peak day at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
I didn’t go at all yesterday because of professional obligations so I was looking forward to today.
The first film I saw started the day right although they held the press out until the very last because the showing was sold out. “Accidental Icon: The Real Gidget Story” is a short (60 minutes) documentary based on a book written by novelist Fredrick Kohner who was the father of the real girl called Gidget by the boy surfers in the late-50's. Gidget (Girl mIDGET) was/is Kathy Kohner (Zuckerman) who at about the time of her fourteenth birthday wanted to surf and hang out with the boys at Malibu.
Okay, so student films aren't brilliant, ultra-clean, well-acted productions like professional films. That's a given. On budgets less than dinner for four, the productions often suffer from no production money, too little time, too little experience and perhaps a bit too much youthful hubris.
But the energy...oh, my - what a treat to watch the young filmmakers fairly vibrating with enthusiasm and adrenalin (but trying to look chill) as they participated in the after-screening Q&A.
World premiers - now just how many of those do we get to go to? Tonight, the Regency South Coast Village Theater was host to the Newport Beach Film Festival showing of surf documentary "The Westsiders" which was premiering for the first time anywhere.
I'm an Ohio native - basically landlocked except for Lake Erie. I played in plenty of lakes when I was a kid but surfing? Nada. Zero. No interest. I am a huge fan of biolgraphical documentaries however and this film does not disappoint.
I wasn't able to go last night to the opening gala so this was my first night at the fest. To see some quick video hits from the opening go here.
In a word the festival is - fabulous.
Kick-Ass may not be your archetypical blockbuster superhero movie, but don’t think that director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) is simply doing a goof on the genre--because he’s not fooling around. Kick-Ass is a gleeful deconstruction and reinvention of everything that has gone down before it. All the audacious violence interspersed with coming-of-age protagonists backed by a killer comedic script guarantees that Kick-Ass will be a classic cult hit for the fan boys and girls even if it doesn’t clean up at the box office.
Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman based on the graphic by Mark Miller and John Romita Jr.
Since there is already an excellent review of the film and the brothers Edgerton on this site this review will be brief and not talk much about what's already been covered.
On Saturday night at the Regency Theater, I got the distinct pleasure of meeting Nash Edgerton, director and producer of "The Square" and short film, "Spider." Nash was personable and accessible. He is totally without pretense. What you see is what you get and that's already pretty special since his body of work shows a filmmaker who is in touch with exactly what he wants.
Poolside with Deb
Deborah True Neal
Although it may seem like they just landed in L.A. with their indie film noir feature The Square, Aussie brothers Nash and Joel Edgerton are no strangers to major Hollywood productions. I had an opportunity to take part of a roundtable interview with the guys; ironically they were seated before a panoramic view of the city, ripe for conquest!
They don’t make ‘em like they used to, especially when it comes to stylish, edgy film noir flicks that defined the Forties and have inspired more misses than hits as time slinks on. Perhaps the powers that be don’t trust the intelligence of today’s filmgoing audience and have to slap on the inevitable happy ending. Or perhaps it’s getting trickier to keep an audience on their toes. The fact that it’s been a long time since contemporary genre classics such as Chinatown, Body Heat and Blood Simple is not due to a lack of trying.
In 1981, my middle sister fell in love with a stop motion adventure film called "Clash of the Titans." Two full months ago she called to tell me that she wanted to go and to be first in line for the remake. The Lido Theater in Newport Beach (3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach, CA 92663 949.673.8350) had two showings on April 1st at 8:00pm and 10:30pm ahead of the announced April 2nd opening.
We were first in line for the first showing.
My sister was thrilled. And actually, so was I - well maybe thrilled is a bit strong.
Despite having my doubts about the remake(remembering the original cheesy 1981 version) I was won over by the no-nonsense acting, the fun and spectacular special effects, and the realization that all I really had to do was sit back and enjoy this well-constructed popcorn movie.
After 50 Years, It's Still a Classic.
Some movies live inside us long after we see them. That’s why we check the safety lock on hotel doors before we take a shower. And why the name Norman Bates makes us smile and shiver at the same time. And why so many people assume that Anthony Perkins must have been creepy in real life because “nobody’s that good an actor!” But he was. And it helped make “Psycho” the classic it is.
If you want proof of Hitchcock’s genius on this 50th anniversary of his 1960 masterpiece, check out the 1998 word-for-word remake with Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche. The difference intimidates would-be filmmakers, who ask themselves how the exact same script can be made into such a dismal failure or become nothing less than the template for all horror films that followed.
Imagine a person who travels so much and is so emotionally unavailable that he prefers the artificial environments of airports to home. In fact, in "Up In The Air" one of the first things we find out about Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is that all the things that might irritate us about airports - the bad food, the security measures, etc, feel like "home" to him.
Interesting character with lots of potential.
The story is adapted from a novel by Walter Kirn. Bingham, the main character, is a professional corporate downsizer (job terminator.) Even more to the point, he works for a company that is hired by other companies to do their dirty work. They come in when companies need to dump a work force and handle it for them. Bingham has a specific and time-tested way to do this.
What an odd little film this is. Based on a memoir from British journalist Lynn Barber about her affair with a con artist when she was in school, the original essay was published in the literary magazine "Granta" and wasn't transformed into in a book until the film was well into production. Begin the oddness.
Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay, is a well-known British novelist (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and who has had several of his books and essays turned into films but hasn't done much in the way of screenwriting. Another oddness.
The story is straightforward. A young girl (16) is transfixed by the attentions of an older man who sees her walking home in the rain one day. Unknown to her initially, he is a con man who makes a living stealing art and also moving black families into housing units so when the old women who live there become afraid and want to move out, he can buy the units cheap.
Spoiler alert: Most of this review is actually a rant about Quentin Tarantino.
Tell me honestly: how in the world does a film like this make the best of anything list, let alone the Oscars? Was it really such a good idea to let crap like this into consideration with the expansion from five to ten nominees? This film and "District 9" (my review) were my two least favorite films of the group and I have no idea why they're in the list. The only reason I watched this film was because I committed to review all the Best Picture nominees. Next time, I'll just pass.
I'm well aware that some people have an appreciation for Mr. Tarantino's works. I am not one of them. I've tried. Not hard but I have tried.
I was predisposed to like "The Blindside." I like football and football movies; I like inspirational stories (most times) and I've always liked Sandra Bullock. All good and as expected.
Yeah, it's over the top on sweetness at times; yeah, Bullock has her moments of scene chewing; yeah, it's "movie" football with all the bad that endgenders. Even so this was a good, solid film about a remarkable story of how life can take us to unexpected places.
The story follows Michael Oher a supremely talented football player (he allowed no sacks in 2009) who is currently a starting offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and how he came to that career through the strangest set of circumstances you can imagine.
"Precious" is a hard film to watch. The amount of misery and unrelenting pain that this film presents is almost beyond comprehension. Poverty, illiteracy, rape, incest, HIV, physical and verbal and emotional abuse...how could anyone cope with all that? How does the human spirit survive after being battered by all that? It's hard to fathom.
Like of lot of stories of this type before it, "Precious" explores familiar ground and expected consequences. What differentiates this one is the expert handling of the characters and plot narrative - it never becomes burdensome or overbearing.
Directed by Lee Daniels and written for the screen by Geoffrey Fletcher "Precious" is based on first-time novelist Sapphire's book "Push." Sapphire, according to background material, was a literacy teacher in Harlem and the Bronx for seven years. The character of Precious is a composite based on the women that Sapphire worked with for those years.
I was lucky enough to get a screener and was able to watch them all.
The verdict: Worth every quick minute of time.
The live action set ranges from a horrifying look at post-Chernobyl consequences to a goofy and lovable wannbe magician.
At the opening of Held, we find a man held prisoner in a small room. He wakes up from being knocked out and discovers several sharp nails protruding through the wall. Each day, A cloaked captor slips photographs under the door showing a mysterious woman. This was a great film. It got me watching until the end and gripping the chair arms. A bit fearing at times but I kept seeking the end. All in all bravo editing,filming and Believable acting. ***** five stars! Bravo! Wanting to see more of the actor's work!
I was certainly predisposed to want to like "Human Target," Fox's latest brain-candy entry. I have been a fan of the lead actor, Mark Valley, since he headed up the superb and under-appreciated, quickly canceled "Keen Eddie" which also stared a funny and terminally-cute Sienna Miller.
Valley has massive comedic chops (and a marvelous deadpan delivery) and was and is physically able to deliver on any action moment the "Keen Eddie" producers threw at him. These talents are in ample display in "Human Target" the adventures of a private bodyguard who appears to be just that much better than everyone else in the business. We know this because his first client won't take "no" for an
Spoiler alert: I don't do spoiler alerts.
Yes, it's a somewhat tired story and yes, it's puerile in spots, and yes, it's also an amazing, astoundingly gorgeous film with so much visual detail that it made me tired just watching it. Wow and yawn. How does one filmmaker make me do both on such a regular basis?
The 3D? Meh - I can't do 3D properly because of a childhood cataract and lens removal when I was in my 20's - but even so, there were indeed a few floating objects and once I ducked because a flying ember came at me. I can only imagine what it must be like to the "normal-eyed" person.
The aliens were serviceable enough both culturally and story-wise - the female "lead" was terrific and believable - the rest less so. Lots of "types" in this film, character-wise. Stereotypes, unfortunately, not archetypes. The corrupt company man, the corrupt ex-Marine colonel, the hard-bitten scientist with the soft marshmallow interior...just one right after the other peeled off a stack of film types. But perhaps the worst of the lot was the male lead.
Spoiler Alert, I'll probably spoil something about this movie for you only if you're the type of person who goes to a romantic comedy wondering if the main characters will get their happy ending together.
As jaded as a woman today can sometimes be scoffing at romantic comedies and condemning them for putting unrealistic ideas into girls' heads, I did enjoy Leap Year. How could I not with such charmers as Amy Adams and Matthew Goode playing the title characters? Despite the fact that this textbook romantic comedy never had me wondering what would happen next, I was able to relax in the capable hands of the actors, writers and director. The story is not that much different than any other romantic comedy out there, but still enjoyable.
I'm not a huge sitcom guy so it came as quite a surprise when I watched and enjoyed "The Middle" with Patricia Heaton ("Everyone Love Raymond" - or is it Everybody - whatever) and Neil Flynn, the janitor guy from "Scrubs." They play middle-class parents sorta-kinda living in the middle of the country. One of their children is the kid from "Frozen River" - a really talented actor named Charlie McDermott - in fact, they're all very good actors including the seemingly requisite "geeky kid."
It's perhaps not as comedically challenging or creative as "Modern Family" (another fav of mine) but it is off-beat and wacky at times and has solid, PG-13 comedy moments that can delight. I actually believe this family can exist - they seem real and their issues are as mundane as needing a new dryer or finding a job in today's horrible economy - but getting that dryer is a fun and enjoyable trip. Heaton's character is sunny and funny and bounces in and out of scenes like she's a comedy pixie sprinkling laughing dust on everything. She also narrates the eps. The father, played by Neil Flynn, is droll and sarcastic, a perfect foil for Heaton's unflagging optimism.