Sunday, June 30, 2013

Top 10 Unconventional Trilogies

With the wham bang boom of summer blockbusters currently pounding away, studios are praying you’ll fork out $12+ to see whatever remake, sequel, trilogy, reimagining nonsense hits screens on any given Friday. But with this list, I’m attempting to offer something different. There are no Part 2’s or Part 3’s listed below. No prequels or reinterpretations. Instead, these trilogies are connected only by theme, filmmaker and occasionally character. I hope you like my picks, and I know how many more unconventional trilogies there are out there, so please be sure to tell me your favorites.

Friday, June 28, 2013

the Directors: Sofia Coppola

There’s a word I keep coming back to regarding the work of Sofia Coppola: confident. You can see it in the perfectly ‘70s appropriate production design of The Virgin Suicides, or in the overall pulp fiction retelling of Marie Antoinette, or in the painstaking patience of Somewhere. No matter what the material dictates – time, place, mood, tone – there’s an overall confidence to everything Coppola does.

Those who collaborate with Coppola are often quick to point out how specific she is with her vision. She has an idea of how something is going to be, and she sticks to it, no matter what. It’s that sense of artistic dedication that shines through every one of her films. And it’s probably also why everytime I watch a Sofia Coppola film, I’m convinced that it is the best film she’s made. With every subsequent viewing, I somehow grow more fond of her work. I suppose her confidence is to thank for that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Character: Maria Bello

Fearless. That’s Maria Bello. In the majority of her finest performances, Bello naturally commands her characters with fearless vigor. There’s no material too shocking, no character too repulsive – Bello is an actress undaunted by the dark sides of human nature. Not only does she embrace the dread, she utterly thrives on it. Which is precisely why she’s one of my favorite actresses working today.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top 10 Atypical Performances From Frat Pack Members

Generally speaking, the comedic styles of the members of the Frat Pack simply do not work for me. More often than not, I find that the actors of this self appointed group act more or less the same in every movie. But occasionally (i.e. usually before their comedy careers took off), they deliver against type performances that leave me wholly impressed. To help define which actors belong to the Frat Pack, feel free to use this link as a resource.

Head to Movie Mezzanine for the full list

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bling Ring

The story itself is the stuff that dreams are made of. A handful of seemingly over privileged, over drugged, curious teens break into celebrities’ Hollywood homes, stealing cash, guns, designer clothes – taking whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it.

During their lengthy crime spree, the press cutely labeled the group the Bling Ring, and after their capture, Nancy Jo Sales wrote a controversial and searing exposé on the bunch for Vanity Fair, which serves as the basis for the film.

Interview: Musician/Playwright Matt Sax

Matt Sax is in artist whose talents are impossible to define. He’s a playwright who’s able to cohesively let Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin, 9/11, and rap music influence his work. He’s a musician who can’t read music, a one-man show who performs all over – he’s an artistic renaissance man who creates his own work and, as a result, lives his own dream.

Matt’s latest play, Venice, is described as an Othello-based play set in the future, scored to thunderous hip/hop music. When Venice played in Kansas City a few years ago, Time Magazine called it “the year’s best musical.” I spoke with Sax the night before Venice premiered at New York’s Public Theater. Here’s what he had to say about his unique body of work, his process, and the importance of finding inspiration from tragedy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mixtape Movies Blogathon: Bergman Not By Bergman

The concept of Fandango Groovers Movie Blog’s new ingenious blogathon is a simple one: assembled a collection of films with no direct connection (star, director, source material) that manage to compliment each other. Choose five films (and one wild card) for the post and explain why they make a fitting movie mixtape.

I saw this bitchin’ concept as a refreshing way to talk about my favorite filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman. My mixtape is essentially a list of movies that I feel are directly influenced by Bergman’s work. For any number of reasons, they are movies that Bergman could’ve made. So, without further ado, here’s my Bergman Not By Bergman mixtape.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In Character: James Gandolfini

Yesterday, while in Rome with his family, James Gandolfini passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. News of Gandolfini’s death was crushing enough, but the fact that he was only 51 years old adds to the loss. Fifty-one is young. My parents are older than 51. My aunts are older than 51. And I’d like to think they all have a lot more life to live.

Minutes after news broke of Gandolfini’s death, social media came alive with talk of favorite Gandolfini performances. And as I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I noticed a very pleasing trend. After about 10 minutes, nearly every single Gandolfini performance had been listed as a favorite by at least one of my followers. That says it all, really. It’s so hard to pick just six performances to highlight this tremendous actor. It didn’t matter what he was in, he instinctually made every film better. And then some.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Top 10 Movies with a Main Character Title

I’ve always thought naming movie with a character’s name was a huge risk. If you think about it, a name reveals nothing. Nothing about the plot or story of the movie. So, while the 10 films below may not be equipped with the most revealing titles, they are all excellent films in their own right.

View the full list at Movie Mezzanine

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This Is the End

The most telling thing that happens in the new, sort of brilliant, totally meta take on celebrity culture, This Is the End, takes place in the film’s first scene. As Seth Rogen is leaving LAX airport, a TMZ-like paparazzo swings in to snap Rogen’s picture. As he’s getting the shot, he says something rude to Rogen, to the effect to: “Hey Seth Rogen, why do you act the same in all your movies?”


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Top 10 Scenes of People Getting Fired

There’s a certain, immediate sympathy a character gets from the audience after being fired. Whether they deserve it or not, we feel for them, if ever so briefly. Some of the entries below are funny, others are rather disturbing, but either way, these are the best examples of people being shit canned on film that I’ve seen.

Interview: Actress/Producer Angeline-Rose Troy

Angeline-Rose Troy got into the film business to work. Subscribing to the philosophy that if you can’t find work, you have to make your own, Troy has appeared in a number of film and television shows, perhaps most notably for various Lifetime television productions. When she isn’t performing on stage or screen, she’s developing new film projects through her production company, Cassiopeia Productions.

I was fortunate enough to speak with Troy last week, in which we spoke about breaking into the film business, having the fortitude to stick with it, the harsh realities of 9/11, and the power of making people laugh.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel

Man of Steel is Warner Bros.’ $225 million dark and morose take on Superman. This follows the same studio’s flashy and upbeat reimagining of Superman just seven years ago. Bryan Singer’s film, Superman Returns, nearly doubled its profit in worldwide earnings, but Warner Bros. is having another go at it. The result? A brooding reinterpretation of one of the most cinematically lucrative superheroes in history. Arguing if Man of Steel is good is one thing (I believe it is), arguing if it’s necessary is another.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In Character: Tom Wilkinson

The funny thing about Tom Wilkinson is that he’s been around a lot longer than I always remember. Although he became widely known in the early 2000s, I often forget that his career started much earlier. He popped up occasionally as crooked lawyers, thieving businessmen, noble royalty, bloodthirsty generals, and so on. But then he got that one role. That one role that put him over the edge, and made him a household name. Now he’s a go-to… for anything. Any character, any accent, any motivation – Tom Wilkinson is a go-to actor to make any character shine. That brilliant, haunting, perfect role that launched his career is listed below, along with five others that prove his continual worth.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top 10 Courtroom Films

When I was a newspaper beat reporter, one of my first big assignments was covering a murder trial. The case: A mother and her daughter had killed their mother/grandmother while she slept. Stabbed her 57 times. Planned it for two months. Sounds compelling, right? While the crime was sensational, the five days in court were not. This murder trial was tedious, dull, and not at all like the movies.

The funny thing is, I have yet to see a film that accurately portrays what it’s like inside a real courtroom. Yet we let these movies get away with it. Why? Because when done right, few things are more compelling than a solidly written courtroom drama.

View the full list at Movie Mezzanine

Monday, June 10, 2013

Frances Ha

At first glance, Frances Ha is a carbon copy of Girls, HBO’s divisive show that is currently changing the television medium. And, seeing as I’m a huge fan of Lena Dunham’s show, my initial instinct upon watching Frances Ha was to be bored. I’ve seen hip little indie retellings of a young woman lost in a big city. The kind of girl who doesn’t have a shred of accountability for anything, can’t save a penny to save her life, can’t maintain relationships, can’t find a permanent place to live, and on and on.

But then I got to thinking: Frances Ha isn’t fashionably recycling Girls (or anything else, for that matter) – it’s simply complimenting it. Dunham has cited Baumbach as a major influence over her style, and Frances Ha is clear evidence as to why. Baumbach isn’t a recycler, he’s a pioneer.

The Purge

America, 2022. Unemployment is at an all time low, crime rates are even lower. Why? Because as part of America’s restructuring, for 12 hours once a year, all crime is legal. Rape, maim, murder, steal – anything is fair game. The theory is that, if everyone is allowed to “purge” for 12 hours, they will get it out of the system and be squeaky clean for the rest of the year. And it’s working.  For the other 8,753 hours of the year, people behave. The Purge works, and those who don’t take part in it better damn well support it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Top 10 Home Invasion Movies

The only films that truly scare me are ones that could really happen. There’s something so unsettling about how easy it would be for someone to come into your house and terrify the hell out of you. If done effectively, that fear can be the basis of a damn freaky film. In the wake of the home invasion thriller The Purge, here are 10 other worthy flicks in which unwelcome guests arrive and refuse to leave.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Everything about last year’s V/H/S felt pre-designed to turn me away. Contemporary horror is not my genre of choice, and adding the often-wasted found footage narrative to the mix tends to make things worse. But, for whatever reason, last October I was motivated to sit down and watch the film, much to my stunned joy. Later, I had a blast reading the insanely polarizing takes on the film. Some people loved it, some people hated it, and I dug the entertainingly divisive perspectives.

Now, just nine months after the release of the first film, the producers have issued a follow up, V/H/S/2. (Actually, V/H/S/2 premiered at Sundance in January, which is just three months after mainstream audiences got to see the first flick). I was impressed with the ingenuity in getting the sequel made, hoping it would live up to the original.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In Character: Noah Emmerich

Noah Emmerich is the perfect everyman. His career is full of characters that you know and grew up with: the loyal friend, the drinking buddy, the dedicated family man, the all around good guy. And while Emmerich has made a name for himself playing such men, he’s proved that he’s capable of far more. Humility, rage, deceit, all aspects of Emmerich’s craft that he can play effectively.

A few years ago, I was genuinely apathetic about the impending release of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. Then I watched the trailer, and there he was, Noah Emmerich as a military Colonel. I figured his role would be small, but it didn’t matter, I was sold. I’m always sold when he’s on screen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top 10 Oscar Winners Whose Careers Faltered Post-Win

Most all of the actors on this list continued to work after winning Oscars, but none of them have delivered a performance that is on par with the one that merited them an Academy Award.

Note of distinction: Because the Oscars are for film, I’m concerned only with the movie careers of these actors. Whether they went on to find success as musicians or painters or reality TV stars is not of issue.

Read the full post at Movie Mezzanine

Monday, June 3, 2013

the Directors: Richard Linklater

There are a few signature names thrown around when describing the emergence of American independent film. Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith – all responsible for iconic films that forever redefined not only what movies can be about, but how they can be made. Pertaining to this movement, Richard Linklater deserves recognition as much as anyone. The man is responsible for more bold, daring experiments that most directors could ever hope to create.

The best Linklater films are documents of a time. Whether now or then, these movies represent a career fitting for a time capsule. Often equipped with similar characters discussing similar themes of identity, existentialism, philosophy, and corporate injustice, Linklater’s films are remarkable testaments that continue to impress. He’s one of my favorite American filmmakers, one that will always, thankfully, challenge me.

Before Midnight

A few months ago, upon learning that Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy had trekked off to Greece to shoot Before Midnight in relative secret, my first thought was “Why?” Why do this? Why risk tarnishing something so pure? And then I realized that was my exact thought upon hearing of Linklater’s Before Sunset nine years ago. Before Sunrise, the first film in this unlikely franchise, released in 1995, is as heartwarming a film of love as I’ve ever seen. Nine years later, Linklater and his stars made Before Sunset, and why? “Why take the risk of ruining it,” I thought then.

Needless to say, I was not let down by Before Sunset. It improved upon an already perfect cinematic love, and it did it with one 80 minute long conversation. Fade to black. Bliss.