Film Review: “Relic”

Starring: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote
Directed by: Natalie Erika James
Rated: R
Running Time: 89 minutes
IFC Midnight

Every once and awhile, I still encounter someone who tells me that the horror genre is trash; that it’s nothing but blood, guts and boobs. It doesn’t take me long to rattle off a list of contemporary horrors that don’t fit that mold, and generally scare, thrill and linger in the psyche of viewers. “Get Out” is always an easy one to point to, as well as “It Follows,” “The Mist,” and others. In the current age of quarantine, I can now point to a streaming option that’ll push any viewer to the edge of their seat and leave them petrified through the end credits.

“Relic” opens on Kay (Mortimer) and Sam (Heathcote), the daughter and granddaughter of Edna (Nevin), visiting Edna’s house which sits by itself in dense, foreboding woods. The reason for their trip is that they’ve been told Edna has gone missing. The only thing that greets the mother/daughter duo upon their arrival is strange creaks and groans made by the house, as well as several mysterious notes that range from innocuous (“turn the light off”) to insidious (“DON’T FOLLOW IT”). Just as the authorities are called and a search for Edna begins, she reappears unannounced in the house one morning, making tea, acting as if nothing happened, despite the soles of her feet being covered in dark grime.

“Relic” relies on shadows, haunting imagery, and our general fear of the dark and unknown to keep us off kilter from the get-go. But it’s as the movie progresses, that “Relic” finds other scare tactics within the realm of mental health. The dive into realistic fears is combined with other tricks and treats from the horror genre grab bag. It’s a film that manages to earn some of its cheaper jump scares as opposed to throwing them in randomly mad libs-style like most mainstream horror films or any subpar Blumhouse production.

“Relic” takes it’s time, moving at a creepy pace, slowly sinking its claws in your mind. The directorial debut for Natlie Erika James is nothing short of impressive. The film moves with such confidence, that you suspect a veteran filmmaker is behind the lens. Having only written and directed a handful of shorts in the past, James also reveals the kind of equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking craftsmanship that Stephen King and Rod Sterling spent decades perfecting. James joins others, like Jennifer Kent (“The Babadook”) and Emma Tammi (“The Wind”), when finding the unsettling middle ground between cerebral horror and spook house tropes.

The film’s atmosphere grips you immediately, letting you know upfront that not everything is as it seems and that something is horribly wrong with Edna. Nearly every viewer will recognize that Edna is suffering from a mental illness at her ripe age, most likely dementia.  But just like “Hereditary” a few years ago, the supernatural and family history can collide in frightening ways. The movie effortlessly keeps us on pins and needles, even when we think we’ve figured it all out. There’s this nauseating foreshadowing that we can’t shake as “Relic” reaches its climax. Even when the true horror reveals itself, we’re left with a pit in our stomach because we know what will happen next, even as the film ends.

Could Michael Keaton Really Return As Batman?

There’s been an unlikely-sounding rumor circulating around Hollywood in recent weeks, and if you hadn’t heard it before, you’ve just heard it in the title of this article Allegedly, Michael Keaton is in talks to return to the role of ‘Batman.’ Keaton is 68 years old. He hasn’t played Batman since “Batman Returns” in 1992. More importantly, someone else has the official job of being the DC Universe’s version of “Batman.” Could there be something behind this unexpected story, or is it nonsense? Let’s see if we can separate the fact from the fiction.

First of all, we know that Robert Pattinson is Batman. The former “Twilight” star won the role last year after Ben Affleck’s short and uninspiring time in the Bat-suit, and he doesn’t make his debut as the character until his movie “The Batman” comes out next year. It’s public knowledge that he’s contracted to more than one appearance as the character, and fans are already openly speculating about whether the timeline of the on-screen universe could be twisted enough to allow Pattinson’s Batman to come up against Joaquin Phoenix’s gritty and compelling version of the Joker in a film for the mid-2020s. Pattinson is a young, strong man, and won’t be giving the role of a lifetime up any time soon unless his debut in the famous costume is a box office bomb. That seems unlikely.

This Michael Keaton film, if rumors are to be believed, won’t have anything to do with the Pattinson films and won’t pollute the existing DC Comics timeline. In fact, it won’t even be a standalone movie in its own right. Instead, Keaton’s big comeback would be for a cameo role in the upcoming film “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller as title character Barry Allen. Those of you who hoped that the trend for superhero movies might have come to an end after the last “Avengers” film hit the big screen are in for a disappointment. There are plenty more to come, and “The Flash” is just one of them. According to insiders who claim to have seen the script and are familiar with the project, it calls for an appearance by a senior Batman, accompanied by Michelle Pfieffer, who will apparently reprise her role as Catwoman from “Batman Returns” alongside the star.

If the thought of bringing back Keaton for a throwaway performance upsets you, don’t lose hope just yet. Look away now if you don’t want to see a potential spoiler, but apparently, this new “Flash” film will create an alternative reality within the DC Comics universe, allowing Keaton’s Batman to exist independently of Pattinson’s. Keaton would then appear as Batman in a number of other DC Comics projects, and may eventually get a new film as the fabled Caped Crusader in his own right. At this point, all of this is little more than speculation, but the news has been reported in so many different publications that it would be rational to assume that there’s at least some fire to go with all the smoke. One publication that’s gone a step further than all the others is the Hollywood Reporter, which claims that Keaton’s Batman will be a mentor figure to other superheroes right across the DC Universe, not dissimilar to the role Nick Fury plays in Marvel films.

The idea of an older Bruce Wayne or Batman is a fascinating one, and one that we’ve never seen explored on the big screen before. Presumably, he’d be disinclined to put the Bat-suit on unless the situation becomes excessively grim, but the concept of a Batman who has spent an entire lifetime fighting crime and is now headed for retirement is an interesting one. We’re even more interested in the idea of him having some kind of late-life domestic bliss with Selina Kyle, who will presumably also have said goodbye to her days of wearing a latex catsuit. The idea opens up a series of possibilities that couldn’t be explored within an ordinary “Batman” movie, and it’s original. Originality doesn’t come along often in superhero films, and so when it does, it ought to be applauded.

The fact that there’s been so much buzz among fans about the possibility of seeing Keaton as Batman again should be enough to confirm to DC that the idea is worth pursuing. Part of the appeal will be down to nostalgia. With few exceptions, the older “Batman” films are more widely appreciated by the public than the newer “Dawn of Justice” era films. While we won’t pretend that online slots websites are a perfect measure for this, if you checked one, you’d see what we mean. You’re highly likely to find Crime online slots based on “Batman Begins,” and the old Adam West “Batman” series. You’re far less likely to see anything featuring Ben Affleck’s face. The companies who make those online slots know which incarnations of Batman are likely to tempt people into spending their money, and if they know it, movie producers know it as well.

Keaton’s relationship with Batman over the years has been complicated. It’s been said of the character that it either makes your career or destroys it. Christian Bale’s acting career reached the apex of Hollywood after his “Batman” appearances. Val Kilmer’s was utterly destroyed. George Clooney got away with it because he demonstrated that he had a sense of humor about the dire “Batman” film he made, and Keaton seemed to disappear for a while after 1992. For the rest of the 1990s, he complained that the movies had painted him into a corner and made him typecast. Within the past decade, though, he’s had a late-career resurgence and even felt comfortable performing a pastiche of both himself and the character in 2014’s Oscar-winning film “Birdman.” If he’s entered into talks about becoming Batman again, it’s a sign that he’s finally at peace with the role and his own past.

DC probably wanted to keep this information under wraps, and they’ll be annoyed that it’s leaked, so don’t expect confirmation about Keaton’s involvement from them any time soon. Until we get solid news, excited fans will be projecting the Bat sign into the sky and hoping Keaton answers it.

Interview with Oscar/BAFTA nominated filmmaker Agnieszka Holland

I first met Oscar and BAFTA nominated filmmaker Agnieszka Holland several years ago when I had the honor of introducing her amazing 1990 film “Europa, Europa.”  In my introduction I noted that, when I first saw it I was a theatre manager and watched it at 430 in the morning.  I then commented that I loved the film so much that I threaded up the projector and watched it again.  She told me later in the evening that I had given her one of the best compliments she had ever received. She also very graciously signed my “Europa, Europa” DVD.  Her latest film, “Mr. Jones,” tells the story of a Welsh journalist who broke the news in the western media of the famine in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s and is currently available via Video-on Demand.  “Europa, Europa” recently received a beautiful CRITERION Blu-ray/DVD release.  While awaiting start on her next project, Ms. Holland took the time to speak with me about “Mr. Jones.”

 Mike Smith:  What drew you to direct “Mr. Jones?”

Agnieszka Holland:  The script was sent to me by a first-time screenwriter and when I read the script what struck me first was how personal it sounded as well as how relevant it was.  A story about the manipulation of the media – the propaganda – fake news and the consequences of it and how they are relevant to our time.  I realized at the time that the work of Stalin was virtually unknown to the masses and that what he allowed was unjust and wrong. And I knew the story had to be told.  At the beginning, Mr. Jones is curious and bright and a businessman. He wants to discover some new things but what he finds are things that other people don’t see; this incredible tragedy happening to the entire population.  He becomes the messenger that speaks for them.

MS:  Were you familiar with Gareth Jones’s story before you were sent the script?

AH:  Not really. It was only after I agreed to make the film and met with members of his family that I found out they were hearing the story for the first time. It was one of his grand-nephews that discovered the documents that center around the story. After his death his actions had been forgotten. He is best known in Ukraine where he is considered a national hero. Once I read the script I knew this young man’s work had to be brought to the light again

MS:  “Europa, Europa” turns 30 this year. Do people still approach you and tell you the impact the film had on them?

AH:  Yes, the film doesn’t seem to age. They’ve either seen it on television or they have purchased the new CRITERION Blu-ray/DVD.  I hadn’t seen the film myself in quite a while and I recently introduced it at a film festival and I was surprised at how well it stood the test of time

MS:  You work a lot in both film and television.  As a director do you have a favorite medium?

AH:  Television is easier because as a director you don’t have to be totally involved.   You are just helping to tell the story. On a film the director is responsible for everything. On television you have several layers of responsibility from the show runner on down, and rarely does a director do the entire series. I will share my vision but it’s not entirely my own work so things go a lot smoother and entirely faster.

MS:  What is your next project?

AH:  I just finished a film called “Charlatan,”  a Czech film that recently premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. It was supposed to open in European theaters in March but because of the Covid lockdown it will probably be released in the fall. It was well received in Berlin so I hope the people like it. I’m now preparing to shoot a television series for Apple TV which will be filmed in Paris but we are waiting to see when we can begin filming, again due to the current situation. Right now it would be impossible but we are continue to prepare it so will be ready when we are allowed to start.

Stacey Nelkin talks about Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Blade Runner and Yellowbeard

Stacey Nelkin is known best for her role of Ellie Grimbridge in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”. She was also cast in “Blade Runner” as the the infamous “Sixth Replicant” but ended up being cut.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Stacey about Halloween III as well as her work with the Monty Python gang in “Yellowbeard” and working with Tony Danza and Danny DeVito and the orangutans in “Going Ape”.

Ralph Bakshi talks about his sketchbook, Lord of the Rings & working with Brad Pitt on Cool World

Ralph Bakshi is the man responsible for films like Fritz the Cat, Coonskin, American Pop, Heavy Traffic, The Lord of the Rings (’78), Wizards, and Cool World.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat about drawing with Ralph as well as how he got the rights to make the animated Lord of the Rings movie in 1978 to working with a young Brad Pitt on Cool World.

Film Review: Babyteeth”

  • BABYTEETH
  • Starring: Eliza Scanlen, Ben Mendelsohn
  • Directed by: Shannon Murphy
  • Rated: Rated MA-17
  • Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins
  • IFC Films 

The tragic teen love story about a girl or boy who is terminally ill yet finds true love with minutes left on the clock is the poster child for cliched storylines. At first glance, “Babyteeth” appears to be nothing more than just that. However, with a quartet of interesting, complex characters trying to find their way in the shadow of a young girl’s terminal cancer, “Babyteeth” becomes something quite unexpected – pure cinematic art. The kind of art that provokes a deep, emotional reaction which will stay with you long after the final credits had disappeared off the screen. 

Based upon the stage play by Rita Kalnejais, who also wrote the screenplay for the film version, and directed by Shannon Murphy (“On the Ropes,” “Rake”), “Babyteeth” starts us at a train station where Milla (Eliza Scanlen, “Little Women,” “Sharp Objects”), bedecked in her high school uniform, stands gazing at the tracks in a way that suggests she is pondering death. This is when Moses (Toby Wallace, “Boys in the Trees”), a rat-tailed young man a few years her senior, bumps into her. When her nose starts to bleed, Moses, who may be high on something and possibly homeless, bends over backwards to help her, and from that point on Milla is smitten with him.

 Scanlen draws us in with a profound sense of innocence, despair and longing all rolled into one. There is an air of tragedy about her so thick that it is hard to breathe. Still, a visible spark is ignited within her and Scanlen plays it masterfully as Milla’s passion to live life is reawakened by what will become her first and only love. Wallace, the recipient of the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress at the 76th Venice International Film Festival for this very role, is damaged goods himself. He longs to have a relationship with his estranged mother, but Moses would rather play the tough, street thug card. On the surface, his character seems stereotypical, yet Wallace manages to subtly infuse several degrees of complexity into his role that is both surprising and rewarding. 

Rounding off the quartet is Milla’s psychiatrist father, Henry (Ben Mendelsohn, “Ready Player One,” “Rogue One”) and her pill-popping, former classical pianist mother, Anna (Essie Davis, “True History of the Kelly Gang,” “Assassin’s Creed”). With his daughter’s terminal diagnosis looming over him, the pressure on Henry to get through each day keeps growing. It eventually pushes him to make a pass at his pregnant, much younger next-door neighbor, who symbolizes a way out to a more normal or at least alternative existence for him. All the while, Anna takes a wide array of pills as her way to escape from a reality that she knows deep down will not include her daughter for much longer. 

Mendelsohn and Davis share a great onscreen chemistry with one another as they face any parents’ worst nightmare. There are times when, especially towards the end of Milla’s life, they press on with a sense of grace that tightens their bond. They are even able to laugh at the craziness of letting Anna date a small time drug dealer in Moses who even breaks into their house at one point to steal Anna’s pills. However, how can they deny her the experience of a first love? Especially one which serves as a means for Moses to transform himself. 

We know how “Babyteeth” is going to end. It is clear as day. The brilliance of Murphy’s direction is that when we do reach the end, we are still emotionally moved to the point of tears.

Titus Paar talks creating an animatronic bear in “Fear of the Woods”

Titus Paar is the director of the new upcoming survival horror film “Fear of the Woods”s starring Vernon Wells (“Commando”, “The Road Warrior”). The film just released it’s trailer to the world and has been taking over the internet since doing so.

Here is the official synopsis for the film is “Alaska 1993, A snowstorm has trapped the small mountain town. Now it’s up to a group of rebellious teenagers to save their town that don’t believe in monsters.’

The film boasts a fully animatronic bear with no CGI and looks absolutely killer (see the trailer below). Media Mikes had a chance to ask Titus a few questions about the film and also his work with Steven Seagal.

What made you want to make a killer bear movie with “Fear of the Woods”?

When I was around 6 years old I saw the anime Silver Fang for the first time, it blew me away and that bear was the coolest monster I had ever seen (And still is)As I started making movies around 15 the dream began of one day making a live action movie called Fear of the Woods and capture the essence of the Bear in Silver Fang but with a new story.And now here we are, 30 years older making that kids dream come true.  

Tell us about the decision to use an animatronic bear and no CGI for the film?

My style of directing is to mix something old and familiar with something new that I made up. I just make movie I want to see but doesn’t exist, from a fan of film standpoint.This is a retro creature movie and I wanted to pay tribute to the guys that did it all in camera.And once I found out that we had an amazing creature work shop in Sweden called fixas.se it was nothing to think twice about.With movies like Jaws, you see its fake but you don´t care because it was there for real, that shark existed and moved like that and ate the actors. Same with our movie, we had that animatronic bear in arctic temperatures, with the maker of the creature, inside the bear operating him from inside so he could walk and run, while another guy controlled the head, mouth, eyes, smoke machine. So much fun and man but so much hard work.

I have a feeling this was a difficult shoot; Can you tell us a little about the production? 

This film truly was a struggle to make in every way. The sun went up at 9 and pitch-black at 3 so we didn’t have lunch breaks or any break really. There was two meter snow so you couldn’t walk without falling and sinking down to you belly and you know I got 74 year old Hollywood star Vernon Wells coming in. And he is supposed to be running in this with a 20 kilo coat on him, being chased by an animatronic bear in tracking shots and VFX setups… So yeah everything was hard. It´s just hard being outside in that kind of cold and we where shooting up on a mountain.But the team is used to work in these conditions and my DP Marcus Möller is one of the beat nature DPs there is so he was a big life savior. Big Camera rig, running with snow shoes all days because the director wanted to have long sweeping takes 🙂 But hey it was worth it, it looks amazing.

Insane shoot for sure. Think we all lost a bit of weight falling around in that snow, digging out the snowmobile while battling the clock. I hate filming in studios, this was a true adventure and it shows in the film. Below is the location and the film is by Marcis Möller:

Tell us about the tagline “Jaws meets Strangers Things and Silver Fang”? 

Its not the tagline but I want my influences to show. This is a combination of these things mashed together in my imagination where I just take stuff that makes my blood pump and the only read thread is me liking it really. Jaws, Jurassic park and yeah the way Spielberg makes creature movies, where the film around the creature is so interesting that the film works even if you take out the creature. Stranger Things for the homage to a time period, we are in the 90s in my movie. But it’s our version of the 90s like Stranger Things is using the 80s but making it their own universe. Silver fang is the horror in snow and the idea to bring Akakabouto to life.

How did you get “Mad Max 2″/”Commando” star Vernon Wells to appear in the film? 

Vernon and I have been friends for like 10 years. Tried to make a few movies before but movies fall apart all the time, it’s a miracle when they get made.Managed to make one together before, he has a fun part in my crazy Seagal movie Perfect Weapon. Love the guy. Grew up watching him in Mad Max and wanted to look like him (I still sport the Wez mohawke) He is a great actor and I mean he is movie history, I hope he gets to make bigger films again after this, he’ll win some awards for this role, some of his best work ever. 

I read he also did all of his own stunts at the age of 74? 

Yeah that man doesn’t complain. I asked him if I was going to bring in a stunt double and MZ stunts was ready to bring in a guy (I mean I did a Seagal film and Seagal has a stunt double for walking and he is 12 years younger than Vernon) He just looked at me and said. I’ll be alright as long as I can use my wheelchair… What do you think? I´m a fucking 80s action star I do all my own stunts. Well what can I say, he did almost kill Arnold (Schwarzenegger) and Mel (Gibson)…

Now that the trailer has been tearing up the internet; when can horror fans expect the release of this film? 

We are still in post on the film but we will do some festivals first. Want to win some awards for this and we will. So when the world opens up there are a lot of horror festivals around Halloween that will showcase it. But we also want to compete in mainstream festivals with this one, it has something fresh and people really dig it. Makes me so happy. You never know when you make these little more out-there movies if anyone else but you will like them.So it makes you very happy when they do. I have seen both sides, I won so many awards and gotten 5 star reviews many times but also been bashed like hell online and in reviews. So it’s nice to be praised for sure.

Your previous film “The Perfect Weapon”, starring Steven Seagal, was recently #1 on Netflix; what was it like working with Seagal? 

Seagal is a hard man to work with. But I knew that walking in to make that movie so I was prepared for it.It was fun doing a 80-90s B-action tribute with him, Vernon Wells and Richard Tyson from Kindergarten Cop. It was never clear in the marketing like I wanted that the movie is an ironic tribute to the B-action genre, so it was bashed for being too B. But that was the point to make the ultimate B movie. It did very well financially, was released worldwide by SONY even went theatrical in Japan and Dubai.The film brought me to Hollywood so I´m grateful to Seagal for taking a chance on me, but I would not do another Seagal movie. Working with much better and bigger talent now on my upcoming movies, you´ll see soon.I´ll say this doe, I like that Seagal is just like you expect him to be, he is larger than life, it’s not an act he puts on, I get bored easily but I was never bored hanging around with Seagal. I got so many good Seagal stories but I only tell them to people that buy me a drink.

Hey thank you Media Mikes for caring about my little crazy movie, means the world to me and the team that made it.Hope you get to see it in a festival or a platform later this year. Looking forward to hear your thoughts.

Billy Bryan talks about playing Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters, Dune and Army of Darkness

Billy Bryan is the man who created the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man suit for Ghostbusters as well as the man inside. He is also one of the puppeteers for Chucky in Child’s Play and also played the Pit Bitch in Army of Darkness.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Billy about his role in Ghostbusters as well as Dune, Child’s Play, Army of Darkness, Men in Black and meeting Dave Grohl for his work on Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny.

Robert Wuhl talks about Tim Burton’s Batman and the legacy of HBO’s Arli$$

Robert Wuhl is best known as the creator and star of the television comedy series Arli$$ (1996–2002) and for his portrayal of newspaper reporter Alexander Knox in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Robert about working with Tim Burton on Batman, his appearance in Supergirl and the legacy of Arli$$.

Diane Franklin talks about Better Off Dead, Terrorvision and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Diane Franklin is an icon from the 80’s having starred in “The Last American Virgin”, “Amityville II: The Possession”, “Better Off Dead”, “Terrorvision” and “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”.

She is also an author with her latest book titled “Diane Franklin: The Excellent Curls of the Last American, French-Exchange Babe of the 80s”.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Diane to discuss her rise to fame and also her current work in “The Amityville Murders”.

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30 – “Long Gone Summer’

On September 8, 1998 my son Phillip, his friend Bobby and I drove from Kansas City to St. Louis to take in that evening’s Cardinals/Cubs match-up. We witnessed baseball history when J.D. Drew hit his first career home run. I’ve told this story for over two decades.

Most people know Todd MacFarlane as the creator of the popular SPAWN comics and his amazing toys. He is also a huge baseball fan. We learn that as the film begins with McFarlane bidding almost $3 million to purchase a baseball. But not any baseball. This is the ball hit by Mark McGwire for his 70th home run, at the time a new record. The summer of 1998 was a big one for baseball. After the players strike in 1994 caused the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in history, the game began to draw fans back in 1995 when Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr. played in his 2131st consecutive game. But the summer of 1998 is the one that drew fans, old and new, to the game. It was the summer McGwire and Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa swung their way into the history books.

“Long Gone Summer” not only chronicles both players assault on Roger Maris’ then-record of 61 home runs in a season, but the effect the challenge had on America. People that had sworn off baseball after the strike left a bitter taste in their mouth began to pay attention to the game again, while people who had never shown interest began to watch. Having been in Camden Yards when Ripken set his milestone I was already a fan so I followed the exploits of McGwire and Sosa daily, ensuring that ESPN’s SPORTCENTER was a must-see every night.

As the film follows McGwire, Sosa and, for a time, Ken Griffey, Jr, it also talks with some baseball fans who are household names, among them Bob Costas and George Will. Also interviewed are Roger Maris’ sons, as well as Cardinal’s broadcasters Jack Buck (though archival footage) and Mike Shannon. The race had a personal feel to Shannon, who had been a Cardinal teammate of Roger Maris in the mid 1960s.

But the big voices here belong to the two players themselves. McGwire explains his lifelong desire to hit the ball far while Sosa talks about the fun he had. What they don’t talk about are the accusations that both were using performance enhancing drugs. In fact, in a show that runs almost 1 3/4 hours, PED’s are not mentioned until the 45 minute mark, when a container of Androstenedione is spotted in McGwire’s locker. He brushes the questions off, noting that Andro is available over the counter. It’s almost another 45 minutes before the subject comes up again.

Of the two players, McGwire comes off the best. He is insightful in looking back at what he describes as both the best, and worst, time of his life. Sosa, speaking perfect English – when he testified before Congress he had to have his attorney read his statement, as he felt his English wasn’t strong -is more concerned with relaying the fun times he had that summer. Archival interviews with both – again with Sosa speaking English like a native – gives a look into the love and respect Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy had for each other. As the season ends, McGwire finishes with 70 home runs, Sosa with 66. Sosa would hit 63 the next year and Baroid Bonds would hit 73 in 2001. By then, the PED cat was out of the bag and, in the almost 20 years since Bonds, no one has hit 60 home runs in a season.

Given an opportunity to confirm whether or not he juiced, Sosa will only say that “Everybody was doing them.” After years of denial, in 2010 McGwire admitted to using PED’s. His admission and apology seemed sincere to me. So much so that I can tell you that, on September 8, 1998, my son Phillip, his friend Bobby and I drove from Kansas City to St. Louis to take in that evening’s Cardinals/Cubs match-up. We witnessed baseball history when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season over the left field fence, directly below where we were sitting. No disrespect to J.D. Drew, but this story is more exciting.

“Long Gone Summer” airs this Sunday night at 8:00 pm EST on ESPN and will stream directly afterwards on ESPN+.

Film Review: “The King of Staten Island”

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND
Starring:  Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei and Steve Buscemi
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 16 mins
Universal

Scott Carlin (Davidson) sits on the couch with some friends, enjoying their company.  One of them notices a tattoo on Scott’s arm and asks him the significance.  His attitude seems to change as he informs the questioner that the ink commemorates the day his father died.  Upset that she made have upset Scott, she begins to apologize, to which Scott and the others burst into laughter as if it’s no big deal.  “Knock, knock,” one of them says.  “Who’s there,” Scott queries.  “Not your dad!”

A dark comedy featuring an unexpectedly powerful performance from Pete Davidson, “The King of Staten Island” takes a look at a young man who is still struggling to understand the eternal question, “why?”  Based in part on Davidson’s own family experience – his father bravely died while attempting to rescue people inside the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel on September 11, 2001 – the film, which Davidson also co-wrote with director Apatow and Dave Sirus, is an often funny, sometimes tragic look at a life forever changed in a single tragic moment.

Scott, age 24, still lives at home with his mother, Margie (an excellent Tomei) and pretty much spends his days hanging out with his friends, smoking weed and trying to get a job as a tattoo artist.  Scott’s own body is covered in tats, some professional and others not-so professional.  Things change when, while partying with his friends in the woods a young boy wanders by.  He’s encouraged to join the group and even agrees for Scott to give him a tattoo.  Of course, as soon as the needle touches his skin he jumps up and runs away.  Soon the young man and his father are on Scott’s doorstep.  Dad is not angry.  Marcie tries to intervene but the man continues yelling.  When he asks to speak to Scott’s father he is informed that he is dead and this softens the man a bit.  When he returns later to apologize he asks Marcie out.  After 17 years Marcie has begun to live for herself again.  Scott is unhappy with the situation and even more so when he learns that Marcie’s new friend is a fireman.

As I noted earlier, “The King of Staten Island” rests squarely on the narrow shoulders of Pete Davidson.  I’ve found him funny on “Saturday Night Live” – though I can’t help but cringe when he tells 9/11 jokes – and expected him to be funny here.  But it’s the emotional journey Davidson takes that impresses.  Scott has a lot of pent up feelings – as I’m sure Davidson does – and when they are released the feeling is both terrifying and a relief.  Tomei, who appears to be aging in reverse like Benjamin Button, is also well cast here.  And I want to mention a great supporting turn by Steve Buscemi who plays a wizened fireman.  Buscemi was a New York City fireman before becoming an actor and, after 9/11, returned to his old firehouse to assist in searching the rubble at Ground Zero.

It’s mid-June and, even though Hollywood has slowed down a bit in light of the current world situation, there are still films that need to be seen.  “The King of Staten Island” is one of them!  “The King of Staten Island” is now available through Video on Demand.  

Dan Shor talks about TRON, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Star Trek

Dan Shor is know best for playing the supporting character Ram, in the movie, TRON. He also played the character Roy Kleinberg in the TRON: The Next Day epilogue to TRON: Legacy, a role that was reprised from TRON in which the character was listed as “Popcorn Co-Worker”. Besides being a veteran actor, he is also a director, writer and teacher with a career spanning 28 years.

Dan is also known for playing Billy the Kid in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. He also appeared “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek Voyager” playing Dr. Arridor.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Dan about these roles and reflect on the legacy of TRON.

Streaming Review: “You Don’t Nomi”

YOU DON’T NOMI
Directed By: Jeffrey McHale
Starring: Elizabeth Berkley, Paul Verhoeven, Adam Nayman, April Kidwell
Runtime: 92 mins.
RLJE Films

My introduction to Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls was definitely by accident on some random childhood afternoon on a local network because my memories are of a hazy mishmash of ‘why does Jesse-from-Saved by the Bell looked Like That?’ and laughing at the crude 90s tech that they used to ‘paint’ dodgy cgi bras over very naked chests. So in tackling McHale’s documentary You Don’t Nomi, I knew I’d have to take another look. I don’t regret it as such but I was not converted into the cult that this doc’s trailer alluded to. That doesn’t mean You Don’t Nomi isn’t worth a look for the uninitiated. On its surface, You Don’t Nomi may appear a puff piece on something so-bad-it’s-good but it puts in a surprising amount of work to show not only Showgirls’s second life as a camp crowdpleaser but also how a critically reviled film evolves over time–even in the eyes of its filmmakers.

There is no better way to describe the 1995 critical reception to Showgirls than dog pile. It was brutal in that way that it becomes a sport unto itself to find the snarkiest pull quotes. It tanked Elizabeth Berkley’s transition from sitcom actress to the big screen and took the sexual thriller momentum that Verhoeven had in the US off of 1992’s Basic Instinct and sent him back to the more marketable sci-fi with Starship Troopers (Instinct was preceded by Total Recall and Robocop). The doc delves deep into Verhoeven’s career and finds parallels and themes that connect Showgirls back into his work in Europe before he escaped to Hollywood. Unfortunately the documentary did not manage to include modern interviews with any of the creative forces on the film but again, in diving into archived footage, the documentary exposes how Verhoeven and Berkeley in particular have decided over time to try and sell that they knew all along that their film was camp. As one of the speakers in the doc says, camp is “failed seriousness,” so I don’t really buy their attempt to control that narrative but as a storyline in the documentary, it’s very amusing.

Despite the box office flopping, Showgirls found a second life in midnight screenings, drag shows and an off-broadway musical. For me, Nomi hits its stride by zeroing in on the experience that the actress who played Nomi in the musical parody had and the difference it made in her life. Watching her account, as well as those of the drag hosts of sold out midnight showings I kept thinking about that speech from Pixar’s Ratatouille where critic Anton Ego says “the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” -Hey if McHale can take a campy stripper movie seriously, I can defer to the wisdom of the cartoon rat movie. Even though I couldn’t relate to their obsession, I can certainly pinpoint pop culture hills I will die on and on that level I enjoyed hearing from such a well researched niche.

You Don’t Nomi is now streaming On Demand and digital, an additional review by Mike Gencarelli was posted earlier here

TFF 2020 Shorts: Animated

Note: Though the 2020 Festival was officially postponed due to ongoing pandemic precautions, online screeners and the fest’s press library meant we could still offer coverage of this year’s selections. Tribeca is also participating in the We Are One global film festival, whose streams are being uploaded through June 7th.

Every year the Tribeca Film Festival showcases a wealth of short films from across the globe in all different mediums. Where animation is concerned, the fest turns to acting legend Whoopi Goldberg to curate their lineup. Due to the unprecedented postponement of the festival in New York, I screened this collection from the comfort of my home and would like to highlight my favorites of Goldberg’s picks.

Personal Favorite: Beyond Noh

Beyond Noh

Patrick Smith’s 4 minute foray into every mask you could think of is mesmerizing. The setup is a simple black space with masks from every culture and time around the world rapid-fire shuffling through to a rhythmic drum beat. It’s so simple but so deftly made. This short doesn’t stick to just the fine arts either with detours through American Halloween masks, and the quite topical medical field to boot, it covers all the faces–err, bases.

Award Winner: Friends

Friends

Florian Grolig’s deceptively simple Friends took home the prize for Best Animated Short from the Tribeca Film Festival’s jury and it was well-deserved. It’s just two characters–one very small and one so large we only see its massive hand or foot for most of the runtime– interacting despite the challenges of their massive gap in size. For me, it’s the one that most celebrates the medium of animation. With its simplistic line work morphing through a blank white void accompanied by perfectly pitched breathing from its giant, the scope is clearly conveyed.

Most Star-Studded: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Clocking in at 24 mins, Robin Shaw’s adaptation of Judith Kerr’s story is the longest of the program and starts very slow before evolving into something much more fanciful. We watch the cute morning routine of a British family ending with sending the father (Benedict Cumberbatch) off to work for the day while mother (Tamsin Grieg) and daughter (Clara Ross) are home to receive an unusual visitor. The titular tiger voiced by David Oyelowo politely invites himself to their afternoon tea and proceeds to scarf down the whole pantry. The animation on the tiger is utterly charming.

Historic and Beautiful: Kapaemahu

Directors Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hame and Joe Wilson delve deep into Hawaiian history to tell the tale of transgender healing spirits that are behind a landmark often passed by in Waikiki Beach. The use of native voices and music bolsters some gorgeous and warm animation as the tale transcends across time.

Kapaemahu

Additional program titles included “Umbrella” and “Grandad was a Romantic”, which both mine true stories for some lovely animation, and “Bathwell in Clerkentime” which is third in a series whose bouncy black and white animation couples with a soundtrack that may drive you as cuckoo as the birds it follows. (Note: “To Gerard” from Dreamworks artist Taylor Meacham was also selected however was not available to me in the press library at the time of the festival)

Copyright: MediaMikes.com © 2020 · Powered by: nGeneYes, Inc. · Login

All logos and images used on this website are registered trademarks of their respective companies. All Rights Reserved. Some of the content presented on our sites has been provided by contributors, other unofficial websites or online news sources, and is the sole responsibility of the source from which it was obtained. MediaMikes.com is not liable for inaccuracies, errors, or omissions found herein. For removal of copyrighted images, trademarks, or other issues, Contact Us.