Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Top 10 Movies that Make L.A. Look Like Heaven

Yesterday, I provided a handful of films that made L.A. look like hell. The thing about those movies is that they depict Hell on Earth for the bulk of their running time, so in that regard, a brief warning for today’s list. Believe me, I know some of the 10 movies below contain scenes of emotional turmoil and extreme violence, which are far from anyone’s definition of Heaven. But at least part of the movies below are dedicated to making L.A. earn its title as the City of Angels. Enjoy!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Top 10 Movies that Make L.A. Look Like Hell

Over the years, countless films have been set in the big, star making streets of Los Angeles. So as I make my way across the country, with that city as my final destination, I thought I’d have a little fun with a particular group of films set in L.A.. Below are the 10 flicks that make L.A. resemble Hell. Tomorrow, I’ll bring Heaven to Earth, but today, it’s Hell in the City of Angels.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

EARRINGS: One Year Later

One year ago today (or tomorrow, technically) I released my short film, Earrings on this site, and wow, what a year it has been.

I spent one year of my life making Earrings. From development to distribution – one year. I put myself through tremendous physical exhaustion (relating mostly to sleep deprivation), absorbed a chunk of my savings, and on and on. But I had you. My faithful readers who stuck with me throughout. My dear digital family who cared, watched, and lent a kind word. You helped me make it through, and for that, I will be forever grateful. Whether you left a blog comment, sent a tweet, liked a Facebook status, sent me a kind email, or simply clicked ‘Play’ on the movie: thank you. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Top 10 Female Performances in Woody Allen Movies

Yesterday, I listed my favorite male performances from Woody Allen’s films, and today I have the much harder task of ranking the superb female roles from Allen’s films. Will Cate Blanchett’s recent work make the cut here once I’ve seen Blue Jasmine? I certainly hope so. But for now, here are the finest female offerings from the world of Woody Allen.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Top 10 Male Performances in Woody Allen Movies

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine hits U.S. theaters tomorrow, and early reviews appear to be unanimous on two points: it is a good Woody Allen movie, and it contains a perfect Cate Blanchett performance. This is great news because, although Blanchett is always perfect, she is not always in films that do her talent justice. So, basically, I’m excited for Blue Jasmine and thrilled to see Blanchett do what she does best.

In honor of Allen’s new film, I thought it’d be fun to list my favorite performances from his movies. The fellas are up first, with the ladies dropping tomorrow. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Conjuring

We all have our ghost stories. Tales of encounters with the other side. Moving drapes in our bedroom, light bulbs that mysteriously flicker on, picture frames that are somehow moved. If we don’t have stories of our own, then we know someone who knows someone who has a great one. I have one myself; an irrefutable event that I (an admitted skeptic to all things paranormal) have never been able to find a logical explanation for. But I’m not going to share it here because, quite frankly, it’s too personal.

The point is, everyone has a ghost story to tell, including the Perron family, who claimed that their Harrisville, Rhode Island farmhouse was haunted by ghosts of century’s past. One of the Perron daughters, Andrea, wrote three novels that documented her family’s horrific experience. In Perron’s text, she mentions how supernatural investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, helped rid her house of paranormal activity. And it is the accounts of both of these families that act as the basis for James Wan’s The Conjuring.

Interview: Actress/Model Ginny Gardner

It’s rare when you can actually pinpoint the exact moment you know an actress has got it. When you know that the person you’re watching was born to perform, born to entertain, born to be a star. I knew Ginny Gardner had it when she was first introduced in the fourth season of Glee. As Blake Jenner looks up to an open doorway, in walks Ginny Gardner – slow motion, hair blowing in the wind, pop music blaring over the soundtrack. It’s a scene we’ve all seen before, and for an actress to pull it off convincingly is certainly no easy feat. But from that moment, Ginny Gardner had me sold.

I was fortunate enough to speak with the young actress/model a few days ago, and here’s what she had to tell me about modeling as an education, the dynamics of the Glee set, and what it feels like to be the POV of a found footage film.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Character: Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina was a guy we all knew. With his consistent tan, permanent mustache, trademark Chicagoan voice, and perfect comedic timing, I’d be hard pressed to find a single fan of contemporary cinema that didn’t recognize his talents.

While I love bringing attention to excellent character actors in this column, I hate when such sad circumstances are the motivating factor for me writing about a particular actor. Yesterday morning, Dennis Farina died after suffering a blood clot in his lung. He was 69 years old, but his impact will certainly last longer.

Top 10 Scenes of Edward Norton Battling the Legal System

Edward Norton spends a lot of time in jail. Or at least his film characters do. And if they’re not in jail, then they’re thinking about jail. Or they’re sitting in courtrooms, or fighting cops, or any number of legal things. So, for a little fun, here are my 10 favorite instances of Edward Norton’s characters battling the legal system.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Only God Forgives

Nicolas Winding Refn likes painting portraits of hell. You could argue that his films are variations of hell on Earth. The barren, violent wasteland of Valhalla Rising, the internal collapse of Fear X, the unrelenting streets in the Pusher series, the seediness of L.A. in Drive. Hell. Through the use of bold, colorful cinematography, sparse dialogue, pulsating original score and lone, vengeful (anti)heroes, Refn creates worlds in which violence is life and revenge is certain.

In that regard, not only does Refn’s latest, Only God Forgives, fit snuggly into his familiar vision, but it is perhaps the most daring portrait of hell the director has ever put on screen. Relentless in its pace, tone and aggressive material, Only God Forgives is an aesthetically gorgeous look of inferno amidst fury.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Top 10 First R-Rated Performances by Child Actors

When it was announced that Emma Watson was going to star in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, the blogosphere was alive with anticipation. Hermione was going to smoke! Snort! Drink! Curse! When the fervor died down and the film was actually released, we were privy to a nuanced performance of lost youth. Watson’s role as Nicki delivered far beyond my expectations, and it also got me thinking.

Below are 10 great performances from well-known child stars. The catch: all of these roles were the first time the already-famous actors appeared in an R-rated film. If an R-rated movie was a child actor’s first role (think Natalie Portman, The Professional or Johnny Depp, A Nightmare on Elm Street) then they weren’t considered. This list is about youthful stars who branched out superbly into more risqué material.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

In Character: Barry Pepper

Tormented. Conflicted. Those are my words for Barry Pepper. When I look at the best of his work, I see men who are tormented by their circumstances, conflicted by the actions around them. Conflicted by war, by fame, by justice, and jealousy. Conflicted about themselves, about why they’ve done what they’ve done, and how they can atone. Barry Pepper hit strong in the late ‘90s-early 2000s, but, sadly, has taken a step back as of late. I frankly don’t feel he’s given enough roles that fully encapsulate his skill, but the six performances below are perfect exceptions. Some tormented men are to follow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Favorite Scene: 25th Hour

Spike Lee’s 25th Hour is a perfect film made by a passionate genius. It’s a movie I come back to often – for inspiration, entertainment, cinematic replenishment – you name it. I love everything about it, and picking a single favorite scene is no easy feat.

The film is inarguably notorious for two sequences: Edward Norton’s extended, lacerating, appropriate “Fuck You” monologue to himself, and the brutal “I need you to make me ugly” testament of friendship. Those scenes are locked; forever imprinted as classic moments of contemporary cinema. As is, in my opinion, Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman verbally dismantling their friend and each other for four unbroken minutes as a gutted Ground Zero rests below them.

Unforgettable moments of an unforgettable film. But they’re far from my favorite.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim

I feel like I’ve seen Pacific Rim before. When I was a kid, I adored a TV show called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. During the climax of many of that show’s episodes, a group of teenagers would morph together, collectively forming a giant robot (or… Zord), and fight a giant, alien beast in the middle of a city. This is, more or less, in Pacific Rim. I used to watch a giant lizard beast named Godzilla rip apart mostly Asian cities for no reason. This is, more or less, in Pacific Rim as well. In Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters, there’s a subplot involving Rick Moranis’ character, in which a beast from another planet stalks him in hopes of making him “The Keymaster.” More or less, in Pacific Rim. And in Independence Day, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum conclude their cinematic duties in a way that felt very similar (i.e., identical) to the characters in Pacific Rim.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In Character: J.K. Simmons

J.K. Simmons, the authority figure. J.K. Simmons, the understanding father. The wiseass government agent. The sadistic prick. Because of J.K. Simmons’ trademark look (slim build, angular face, white, bald), his identifiable voice (low, gravely), and the age in which he “made it” (42, give or take) it would be easy for him to be typecast. And, in a way, he is. In fact, I’d stretch as much as to say that J.K. Simmons is one of the best typecast actors working today. He plays familiar characters, but he always makes them his own. And when he plays unfamiliar characters, well then watch out. Storm’s a comin’.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Spring Breakers: Blu-Ray Review

Special features are a lost commodity. Unless I fork out $40+ for a Criterion DVD (or half that, in the current Barnes and Noble sale), I’m not getting much more out of a DVD than the movie itself. Yet special features are an added bonus and as a young filmmaker, something I always watch closely. Problem is, with studios chiefly concerned about how quickly they can release a film on DVD, it seems as though little attention is given toward special features.

So, when I picked up the Spring Breakers Blu-Ray on Tuesday, I was elated to find that it was packed with extras. Instead of reviewing Harmony Korine’s masterful film again (you can read my initial review here), this post is dedicated to the special features on the DVD/Blu-Ray. (Note: the special features on the DVD and Blu-Ray versions of Spring Breakers are identical.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top 15 Movies with the Same Title

A little background on the current shitstorm Harvey Weinstein has found himself in. Weinstein’s new film, The Butler, will be released August 16, but Warner Bros. is claiming that Weinstein can’t use that title, because it is the same title from a silent short film made in 1916 that they own the rights to. Nonsense, right? But evidently, Warner Bros. has a case, as Weinstein recently lost his MPAA hearing, which definitively gives the title rights to Warner Bros.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cinematic Corner – Visual Parallels: Somewhere + Earrings

Cinematic Corner is one of my favorite blogs, run by one of my favorite bloggers, Lady Sati. I love everything about Sati’s blog, particularly her ingenious, detailed, tediously captured Visual Parallels feature.

For Visual Parallels, Sati chooses two movies (or occasionally, a TV show) and compares them with a series of still shots from each. Previous Visual Parallels include the similarly themed Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion, or films as varied as Mulholland Dr. and Young Adult. Know what they all have in common? They are universally remarkable. (Look at all of them here.)

Today’s Visual Parallels is especially rewarding, as Sati has compared Sofia Coppola’s masterful film, Somewhere, with my own short film, Earrings. The result left me speechless.

Top 10 HBO Films

“It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”

That was HBO’s slogan for nearly 15 in the late ‘90s/early 2000s (they’ve since opted for the bolder, “It’s HBO.”). And, to a degree, it’s a cutesy, but mostly accurate statement. HBO’s television programing has been consistently remarkable for decades, and, occasionally, their made-for-HBO movies highly impress as well. Below are my 10 favorite films made exclusively for HBO – no miniseries, no theatrical releases, straight films. HBO films, that is.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Top 10 “American” Movies

On this day of American independence, I thought it’d be fun to list my 10 favorite American films of all time. Not films made in America, and hell, not even films necessarily about America, but rather, my top 10 films that simply have a variation of the word “America” in their title. Simple, right? Enjoy, and happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In Character: Gabriel Byrne

If you watch Gabriel Byrne’s work closely, there is almost always a moment when his characters doubt themselves. Through his strong, Irish accent, Byrne will often deliver a loud, imposing monologue in which he cements his point. And then he’ll look away. For a half a second, his eyes dart to the side. He’s wondering if he’s actually right, or trying to convince himself that he’s right. It’s a little moment, the slightest of gestures, but it’s almost always there.

In those brief moments of panic, I want nothing more than to follow whatever Byrne character I’m watching. I want that man to expose his insecurities and make me believe what he believes. Which, more often than not, Byrne does quite easily.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Best of 2013 (so far)

July 1 marks the halfway point of 2013, and because this year has already been so cinematically pleasing, I thought I’d list what I’ve loved most. I mean, seriously, new visitors of this blog might think I’m some sort of film softie – handing out A’s and B’s like they were nothing. But the fact is, I’ve loved a lot of what 2013 has offered, and I’m very optimistic about this fall. Below is my Top 10 of the year so far (titles link to my initial reviews), along with a few traditional and untraditional Best Of categories. Enjoy!