Film Review: “Green Book”

GREEN BOOK
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
Directed by: Peter Farrelly
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
Universal

 Nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in five categories at the upcoming 2019 Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, “Green Book” is one of the most acclaimed films of 2018 with 49 nominations from various cinema-related organizations. Inspired by a true story, this period drama is a surprisingly complex, emotional work considering its director, Peter Farrelly, is best known for comedic fare like “Shallow Hal” and “Dumb & Dumber.” With “Green Book,” Farrelly captures the stark racial divide of 1962 America with an exploration of the relationship between Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as they travel across the Midwest and Deep South. 

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Tony Lip is a man you don’t want to mess with as he is the kind of tough guy who will hit you when you get out of line and will hit you harder if you strike back. Tony is thus the right fit as a bouncer at a New York City nightclub that’s frequented by wise guys from the Italian mob. However, despite their efforts to lure him to their line of business, Tony stays on the straight and narrow, sort of, as he is more than happy with being a devoted family man. Now while that’s all well and good, Tony has a set of racist attitudes towards people of color, exemplified when he tosses two water glasses into the trash after two black handymen drink from them in his house. When the nightclub he works at is shut down for remodeling, Tony Lip resorts to all sorts of ways to earn money for his family, including his participation in an impromptu eating contest that gets him fifty dollars. Thanks to his reputation as a man who can get things done, Tony Lip is called in to interview for a job as a driver for famed classical pianist Don Shirley.

It doesn’t go well at first because while Tony Lip is about as uneducated and uncultured as they come, Don holds multiple degrees and can speak several languages. Ultimately, Don hires Tony Lip because he needs someone who can protect him during a two-month concert tour that will take them through the heart of the segregated Deep South. As the two men learn more about each other, the more their divides begin to melt away to be replaced with curiosity and even friendship. This is helped by the conditions they witness as Don experiences for the first time the true pain of segregation and Tony Lip has his eyes opened to the injustice of it all.

Farrelly’s creation, with its terrific music selection, costumes and lingo, puts us in a time machine that takes us back to an America that had yet to lose its so-called innocence to assassinations and the Vietnam War. “Green Book” reminds us that that innocence was tainted with bigotry and hatred. It also reminds us how ignorance can be overcome with unity. In addition to its smartly written script and solid direction, “Green Book” contains a pair of dare I say Oscar nomination worthy performances. Mortensen dazzles with his knack to bring to life every subtle nuance of the characters he plays. This role is no exception as he helps make Tony Lip someone we can truly care about even though in the beginning it’s a little tough to do. Ali, a 2017 Oscar winner for “Moonlight,” gives Don a vulnerable sophistication while also breathing out a certain degree of naivete without seeming to break a sweat. It all adds up to “Green Book” being the type of rare movie where everyone can feel a little bit happier about the world when the lights go back on.

Win Passes to Kansas City Screening of “The Favourite”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Fox Searchlight to give (5) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see one of the most anticipated films of the year, “The Favourite,” starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

The film will be shown on Wednesday, December 12 at the AMC Town Center Theatre in Leawood, Kansas and will start at 7:00 p.m.

All you need to do is let us know below what movie due this Holiday season you’re most looking forward to seeing. (5) random entries will be chosen and will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. The contest ends on Monday, December 10 at 8:00 p.m. CST. Winners will be notified by email. Good luck!

Film Review: “Mary Queen of Scots”

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Joe Allwyn, Jack Lowden
Directed by: Josie Rourke
Rated: R
Running Time: 124 minutes
Focus Features

By many accounts Mary Queen of Scots had a tragic life. The monarch was widowed at eighteen and eventually beheaded decades later only after nineteen years in captivity in England. She can easily be seen as a victim of the machinations of the men who surrounded her. The film version of her life however, from lauded stage director Josie Rourke and scripted by “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon, would not have you simplify it as such. Instead, the film Mary Queen of Scots, presents an intimate portrayal of a passionate young woman navigating the troubled political waters of both Scotland and England. Although at times it can be hard to keep track of everyone in play, Rourke delivers a strong, richly designed film lead by a confident Saoirse Ronan.

Rourke’s take on Mary benefits heavily by opening up its scope to include the simultaneously eventful reign of Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). From the opening of the film, we know both that Mary’s very existence threatened Elizabeth’s claim to her throne and that Mary would be condemned to die by that same cousin. Yet, with this is mind, the film never quite pits them against each other. Instead Rourke is able to take a more modern look at how each of them faced no-win choices when being challenged by contemporaries frowning upon female rulers. Elizabeth for her part is always wary of taking a husband or providing the heir that her privy council demands while Mary is viewed as a harlot for doing exactly that—but the wrong husband. This dichotomy of the spinster and the slut stereotypes is keenly observed by Rourke and never too on the nose.

Among the menfolk in this story is where I found some difficulty keeping up. It’s a little difficult at first to grasp onto which lord or musician giving Meaningful Looks from the shadows will evolve into an actual relationship for these women. They can be a bit of a blur of beards. Often times when they were talked about while off screen, I regretted not doing a quick wikipedia read of Mary to get a handle on which of them really warranted attention. Still, David Tennant as a vicious Scot priest set firmly against Mary is a snarly delight in this crowd. Buoying every performance, it cannot be understated, is some truly beautiful costume design by Alexandra Byrne .

Finally of course though, the film rests heavy upon its titular monarch and even though she shares much of the marketing with Robbie, this is Ronan’s film. She is by turns steely and vulnerable, whether on the battlefield or in the private company of her lifelong handmaidens. Rourke’s film shines when it spends more intimate time with Mary than many period films usually do with their subjects. Meanwhile, Ronan seizes her titular responsibility with relish and infuses Mary with such conviction that I was rooting for her even as I knew she was doomed. 

“Back to the Future” heading to Omaha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long time readers know that our friend, film historian Bruce Crawford, loves to bring classic movies back to the big screen.  Since I’ve known him, Bruce has presented such films as “Jaws,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Great Escape” and “American Graffiti,” among others, to packed theatres in Omaha.    On Friday, November 9, 2018, he’s doing it again.

“Back to the Future,” one of the most beloved films of all time, will be shown that evening at the Joslyn Art Museum, located at 2200 Dodge Street, in Omaha.  Of course, like all of Bruce’s presentations, you get much more than a movie.  Bob Gale, the co-creator (with Robert Zemeckis) of the BTTF Trilogy, will be on hand to participate in a Q&A before the screening and a meet-and-greet autograph session with fans after the show.  Joining Mr. Gale is actor Harry Walters, Jr., who played musician Marvin Berry (Chuck’s cousin) in the film.

 

Tickets to the event are now on sale for $24 each and can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.

For more information, you can call (402) 830-2121 or (308) 830-2121.  You can also click HERE.

 

To read my 30th Anniversary Interview with Bob Gale, click HERE.

The Dude Is Back in the Cult Classic “The Big Lebowski” 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Available on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack on October 16, 2018 From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal City, California, October 2, 2018 – Get ready for a laugh in the cult-classic comedy that has captured everyone’s hearts when The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Limited Edition debuts for the first time ever on 4K Ultra Combo Pack that also includes Blu-ray and Digital via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on October 16, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Fans can relive the hilariously freewheeling plot of one of the most beloved films of all-time with the twisted crime-comedy starring Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, True Grit), John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Argo), Julianne Moore (The Hours, Still Alice), Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Ghost World), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Capote) and John Turturro (Barton Fink, Fading Gigolo). The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Limited Edition is the perfect gift for any fan and the exclusive set includes a collectible bag, bowling ball pencil holder, polishing cloth and sweater packaging offering an experience like no other to look back on the cultural phenomenon of The Dude in the “#1 cult film of all time” (The Boston Globe).

With unforgettable scenes and outrageous humor, The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Edition showcases hours of bonus features including retrospective documentaries, an interactive map, an in-depth look at the phenomenon known as the Lebowski Fest taking audiences deeper than ever before into the upside down world of “The Dude.”

From the Academy Award®-winning Coen brothers, The Big Lebowski is a hilariously quirky comedy about bowling, a severed toe, White Russians and a guy named…The Dude. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski doesn’t want any drama in his life…heck, he can’t even be bothered with a job. But, he must embark on a quest with his bowling buddies after his rug is destroyed in a twisted case of mistaken identity.

BONUS FEATURES:

  • The Dude’s Life: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and John Turturro take a look back at their performances and how their delivery of the Coen brothers’ dialog became classic movie lines.
  • The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later: A conversation with the cast about the film’s decade-long reign as a cult classic.
  • Making of The Big Lebowski
  • The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story: An in-depth look at the annual Lebowski Fest, a celebration of The Dude and his world, attended by thousands each year.
  • Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude: A look at some of the Dude’s trippiest fantasies so fans can learn for the first time how these innovative scenes were created.
  • Interactive Map: Take a tour of the locations of The Big Lebowski, then and now.
  • Jeff Bridges Photo Book: For more than 30 years, Jeff Bridges has been snapping pictures on movie sets. The accomplished photographer presents a portfolio of shots taken on the set of The Big Lebowski.
  • Photo Gallery
  • And Much More!

The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Edition will be available on 4K Ultra HD combo pack which includes Blu-rayTM and Digital, and Movies Anywhere.

  • 4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
  • Blu-rayTM unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
  • Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
  • Movies Anywhere is the digital app that simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere. MOVIES ANYWHERE is only available in the United States. For more information, visit https://moviesanywhere.com.

Film Review: The Sisters Brothers

THE SISTERS BROTHERS
Starring: John C Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Runtime: 121mins
Rated R
Annapurna Pictures

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers opens up with its  many company credits appearing from the bottom of the screen and appearing upwards. It’s an off-kilter way to read them but absolutely fitting when what follows is a distinctly off-kilter western. Set in 1851 during the US gold rush, Audiard’s film has all the pieces of a traditional western–the horses, the saloons, the canned beans– but through its four strong leads is able to explore so much more.

Ostensibly The Sisters Brothers is about Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) Sisters, a pair of assassins in the old west who are on a hit job on behalf of their wealthy client, the Commodore (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Rutger Hauer). The Commodore is after a gold seeker, Hermann Warm (Ahmed), whose chemical formula reveals gold just by pouring it into the water. A game changer for treasure hunters. Jake Gyllenhaal’s John Morris has been tailing Warm as he makes his way to San Francisco and leaving breadcrumbs for the Sisters to follow. Trouble is Hermann and Morris turn out to be oddly kindred spirits and Morris’s designs on Warm’s death start to wane. While Morris wrestles with his duties to the Sisters and Warm’s idealism, the Sisters cope with their own infighting. Eli is grasping at a world where they are free of needing to take on this dirty work to survive while Charlie can see no other purpose for himself than drinking and killing. The setup is relatively simple but in campfire chats and detours, mines a deep well of complex themes at play in this unforgiving environment. There’s an air of tragedy around all the leads that undercuts the masculine bravado that so often drives gunslingers in westerns.

If there are John C Reilly-philes out there–and really, why wouldn’t there be?–these next couple months will be providing them with a wealth of his screen time. Obviously there’s the big Disney sequel with Ralph Breaks the Internet, the more familiar comedy pairing with Will Ferrell in Holmes and Watson and soon after that the UK will see him in the biopic Stan & Ollie. But I will go out on a limb and say that his work here for Jacques Audiard’s contains his most interesting performance of the bunch.  As the older brother Eli, he is the more physically imposing presence of the two but continually reveals more and more layers of sensitivity as the film goes on. He has a token of a past romance in the form of a shawl he treats with reverence, he’s open to trying these newfangled tooth brushes that are going around. Most of all he carries the weight of having to take care of his damaged younger brother who would likely drink himself into oblivion without Eli nearby—not least of all because of their shared troubled childhood. It’s by far the quietest performance of the quartet but it’s extremely touching. The long and winding road that this small family unit takes is at every point unpredictable and where Audiard ultimately goes was unexpectedly affecting. A beautiful and unique entry into the genre.

Film Review: “Lizzie”

Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Denis O’Hare
Directed By: Craig William Macneill
Rated: R
Running Time: 1hr. 45mins.
Roadside Attractions

In many ways, this is the perfect time of year to release Lizzie. As we enter the fall, the movie theaters turn to smaller dramas while basic cable crams its schedules with true crime and hauntings in the run up to Halloween. The axe murders of Abby and Andrew Borden have always figured heavily into the latter. So much so, it occurred to me while watching Craig William Macneill’s carefully crafted depiction of Lizzie Borden that I had never seen a version of this story that wasn’t hyper campy. A quick search on Youtube turns up ample “dramatic re-enactments” and even a Dance Moms routine. Perhaps anticipating that audience, director Macneill serves up Abby’s body mere moments into his film before rewinding back at the investigator’s prompt to Lizzie, “Did your father have any enemies?” Did he ever. What follows is a drama that simmers with tension between its small cast led commandingly by Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart.

In 1892, Lizzie shares a modest Massachusetts house with her father Andrew (Jamey Sheridan), stepmother Abby (Fiona Shaw) and sister Emma (Kim Dickens). Lizzie is old for being unmarried and her community—but her father most of all—isn’t shy about treating her as a pariah. Lizzie having a seizure (or “spell” if you’re old timey) in public only adds fuel to the case for sheltering her. Into their home comes an Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan (Stewart), who Lizzie forms a connection with. Before you can say steamy pizza rolls, they are passing notes and rendezvousing in the family shed.

As far as I can tell, the theory for Lizzie’s sexuality being a part of this case, aside from her never marrying, comes from a later in life “crush” on an actress of the time. Whether or not you buy into this particular take really isn’t the concern of this film which draws strength from the bond between Sevigny and Stewart. When Andrew turns predatory towards Bridget, Lizzie’s anger towards him is stoked as is her motivation to sabotage his affairs. Affairs which include compromising Lizzie’s inheritance. Likewise when Lizzie’s uncle (a snarling Denis O’hare, always a welcome addition) tries to intimidate her, Bridget makes her presence known and he sees himself out. Though their society is rigidly patriarchal, under this roof the men are outnumbered and Macneill makes great use of the confined space to reinforce that. The soundtrack remains sparse, giving dominance instead to the ambient sounds of the household. The creaking wood of the stairs and bedrooms might as well be a character unto itself, and gives the whole piece an extra level of claustrophobia. It works really well for this story which is essentially a slowly escalating war between father and daughter.

As we march on through the final acts, the story does slow down with some time jumps between the murders and the aftermath. It’s as though to let us see how an obviously guilty (in this telling of it anyway) Lizzie might sell her innocence to investigators when really that could have wrapped up more strongly with their credible—if still sensational— take on this infamous case.

Watch the Superhero Movie to End All Superhero Movies…(Hopefully) When “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” arrives onto Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD and Digital From Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Own it Early on Digital October 9 / Blu-ray and DVD debut October 30

Burbank, CA, September 11 – When the Teen Titans go to the big screen, they go big! “Teen Titans GO! to the Movies” finds our egocentric, wildly satirical superheroes in their first feature film extravaganza—a fresh, gleefully clever, kid-appropriately crass and tongue-in-cheek play on the superhero genre, complete with musical numbers. Get ready to LOL when “Teen Titans GO! to the Movies” arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital.

The first-ever big-screen version of DC Entertainment and Cartoon Network’s animated TV show stars Greg Cipes (TV’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) as Beast Boy, Scott Menville (TV’s “Spider-Man”) as Robin, Khary Payton (TV’s “The Walking Dead”) as Cyborg, Tara Strong (the “My Little Pony” franchise) as Raven, and Hynden Walch (TV’s “Adventure Time with Finn & Jake”) as Starfire, reprising their roles from the series. Will Arnett (“The LEGO® Batman Movie”) and Kristen Bell (“Frozen”) also lend their voices as the evil Slade and Hollywood director Jade Wilson.

Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath directed the film from a screenplay by Michael Jelenic and Horvath, which is based on characters from DC. Horvath, Jelenic, Peggy Regan, Michail and Arnett produced the film with Sam Register serving as executive producer. The music is by Jared Faber. Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies” will be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99 and DVD for $28.98. The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a Blu-ray disc with the film and special features in high definition, a DVD with the film in standard definition and a Digital version of the movie. Blu-ray special features are filled with music and fun, including the “DC Super Hero Girls: The Late Batsby” mini-movie, sing-a-longs, a hilarious look at the Teen Titans characters dubbing their favorite lines in other languages in “Teen Titans GO!: Translated” plus much more!

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies” will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.

Fans can also own “Teen Titans GO! to the Movies via purchase from digital retailers beginning October 9.

SYNOPSIS

It seems like all the superheroes are getting their own movies – everyone but the Teen Titans, that is! Determined to be a star, Robin vows to change this. If only they could get Hollywood director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to notice them! With a few madcap ideas and musical numbers (of course), the Teen Titans head to Tinsel Town. But when Supervillain Slade (Will Arnett) messes with their plans, the Teen Titans will have to become true superheroes to save the world!

BLU-RAY AND DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:

  • Lil Yachty Music Video: “Teen Titans GO! Rap”
  • Sing-a-long with Silkie “DC Super Hero Girls: The Late Batsby” Mini-Movie
  • Red Carpet Mayhem
  • Teen Titans GO! To the Movies: WB Lot Shenanigans
  • “Everything is Fake”: Exclusive song not in the movie
  • “Teen Titans GO!: Translated”
  • Storyboard Animatics:

o   Storyboard Animatics: Time Cycles

o   The Final Battle

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:

  • Storyboard Animatics: Time Cycles
  • The Final Battle

Behind the Screen: Remembering Burt Reynolds

 

I’m a little late to the party, I know, but I really needed a day to gather my thoughts before I wrote my tribute to Mr. Burton Leon Reynolds, Jr., who passed away yesterday at the age of 82.  Cause of death was listed as a heart attack.

I grew up in Tampa, and if there’s one thing that Floridians were always proud of it was that Burt Reynolds was one of us!  Yes, he was born in Michigan but at age 10 he and his family made their way to the Sunshine State, so he’s one of ours!

Burt became an actor by accident.  He attended Florida State University on a Football Scholarship (in high school he had been named both ALL STATE and ALL SOUTHERN as a fullback).  In his sophomore year, he injured his knee.  He later injured the other knee, and ruptured his spleen, in an automobile accident.  These injuries hampered his ability and, seeing his dreams of playing professional football dashed, he decided to look for a career.   After hearing him read Shakespeare in English class, his professor convinced Reynolds to try out for a play he was producing, called Outward Bound.  Reynolds won the lead role and, for his performance, was given the Florida State Drama Award.

With the award came a summer at the Hyde Park Playhouse in New York.  There Burton met actress Joanne Woodward, who introduced him to agents in the area.  This lead to his first appearance on Broadway, in the play Look We’ve Come Through, earning good reviews.  He went on the road with the show but soon found himself out of work.  However, he soon found himself in the company of Mister Roberts, with Charlton Heston in the lead role.  The play’s director got Reynolds an audition for the film Sayonara, but that film’s director, Joshua Logan, informed Reynolds he couldn’t use him as he looked too much like the film’s star, Marlon Brando.  Logan did encourage Reynolds to go to Hollywood, where he soon found himself in small roles on television.

His big break came when he starred on the television show Riverboat.  He gained more fame when he joined the cast of Gunsmoke as Quint Asper, a “half-breed” blacksmith.   As his success in television grew, he began doing films, including Angel Baby and Navajo Joe.  Reportedly producer Albert Broccoli asked Reynolds to be George Lazenby’s replacement as James Bond, but Reynolds turned him down, being unable to imagine an American playing the British secret agent.

“Deliverance” made Reynolds a star

Reynolds ascended to star status with his role in the film Deliverance.   The film, coupled with Reynolds appearing as the centerfold of “Playgirl” magazine began a run of success that would, by the end of the decades, see him named as the most popular actor in Hollywood.

“COSMO” made him a legend!

His meteoric box office run included such films as The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, White Lightning, Gator, The Longest Yard, Lucky Lady and the second most popular film of 1977:  Smokey and the Bandit (damn you, Star Wars!)  1978 gave us all a double shot of classic Reynolds, as both Hooper and The End are released.

As the 1980s rolled in, he continued his streak with roles in Smokey and the Bandit 2, Cannonball Run, Best Friends and Paternity.   He also took more interest behind the camera, directing several of his films, including Sharky’s Machine, which was both a box office and critical success.  Having released an album in the early 70s, Reynolds was a natural to star opposite Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  He later went on to star on the long running television series Evening Shade, earning an Emmy as Best Actor in a comedy.

Burt sings! One of the prizes on my record shelf!

Though he has played many an iconic character, Reynolds also turned down many roles that made other actors stars.  Besides James Bond, he turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars, Michael in The Godfather and John McClain in Die Hard.  The one role he regrets turning down was one written especially for him, that of former astronaut Garret Breedlove in Terms of Endearment.  Citing a promise to his friend Hal Needham to do the film Stroker Ace, Reynolds turned the role down.  The part was given to Jack Nicholson, who would go on to win the Academy Award as Best Supporting /Actor for his work.  The one role he’s glad he turned down?  Edward, the lonely businessman played by Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.  Reynolds actually repeatedly turned down the role that would bring him his only Oscar nomination, that of Jack Horner, the adult film director in Boogie Nights.

We at Media Mikes have many fond memories of Burt Reynolds.  Both Mikes (and our wives) met up in New Jersey, where Reynolds was scheduled to be a guest at the Chiller Theater convention.  Due to scheduling reasons, Reynolds could not attend, but we spent the weekend making each other laugh as we all tried to impersonate Reynolds classic, high pitched “Ha-ha!” laugh.  In 2011, Mike G. got the envious job of getting to interview Reynolds for the site.  You can read that interview HERE

And if you want to hear that classic laugh, click HERE.

Breaker, breaker to the Bandit. Keep those wheels spinning and the beavers grinning. R,I.P. sir.

Film Review: “The Little Stranger”

THE LITTLE STRANGER
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling and Will Poulter
Directed By Lenny Abrahamson
Rated R
Runtime: 1hr. 51mins.
Focus Features
The pitfall of turning a gothic tale into a feature film seems to be Hollywood’s tendency to sell it as a horror film. As most trailers do, they cram the most exciting visuals or scares into two minute bites hoping to draw that genre’s audience while never considering the ill will they’re potentially engendering with such a mischaracterization. It fascinates me as far as choices go in this age of Cinescore post-screening chatter although I can’t begrudge the trailer makers for their need to get butts in seats. I say this all up front because that is the case with Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger, an adaptation of the 2009 novel by Sarah Waters. What they really have is a carefully crafted and, critically, a glacially slow paced period drama where the “big” bloody moments are few and far between. To be clear, I actually am more of an ideal audience member for English period drama than horror but even my limits were tested. The talented cast languishes in beautiful atmosphere and effective sound design that amounts to a pile of supernatural McGuffins.
The year is 1949 and Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is summoned to Hundreds Hall to check in on the Ayres family’s young maid, Betty (Liv Hill). Betty isn’t sick so much as she’d like a doctor’s excuse to send her back home. The drafty house’s halls don’t sit well with Betty. This uneasiness is chalked up to youth and inexperience but as the doctor learns, her line of thinking isn’t isolated among the inhabitants. Roderick (Will Poulter), the man of the house and brutally scarred up WW2 vet, also swears by a malevolent presence that’s out for his family. Again, dismissed by the rational doctor as well as Roderick’s caretaker sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson). To complicate things, Faraday has a kind of reverence for the place having been enchanted by being brought there as a child in 1919 with his mother, then a member of the house’s full staff. Over all of this lies the spectre of Caroline and Roderick’s dead sister whom the young Faraday had a brief encounter with during that long ago visit. Faraday’s love for the estate drives him to grow closer to the Ayreses, Caroline in particular.

I was excited to check out The Little Stranger, being a fan of Abrahamson’s previous three films (all also adaptations) as well as Domhnall Gleeson who is consistently reliable. The trouble is The Little Stranger can’t quite decide what it wants to be. The awkward romance between Faraday and Caroline occupies far too much screentime for where it ultimately goes while the horror and supernatural aspects of the story pretty much plateau rather than ramping up to a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t tell if said conclusion was actually meant to be a twist or not because I had connected the dots so so long before the story wended its way to meeting me there and when it arrived, did not add anything exciting. I suspect Waters’s novel made much of the turmoil the Ayres family finds themselves in in Hundreds Hall but the film leans too heavily on its production design to fill in the gaps of its stilted characters.

‘ASTRO’ wins 2 Awards at the 14th Annual Action on Film International Film Festival

“Astro,” the latest film from filmmaker Asif Akbar, took home two awards  at the 14th Annual Action on Film International Film Festival which was held this past weekend in Las Vegas.

Actor Gary Daniels was named the Best Male Action Performer of the Year while the film’s costume design was given the Best Costume award.  “Astro” had received a total of (5) nominations, including Best Action Sequence, Best Fight Choreography and Best Sci-Fi Feature Film.

“The competition at this year’s festival was tremendous and we are proud and excited of our five nominations and two awards,” said Akbar, the film’s director and co-writer.

For a look at an exclusive clip, click HERE

 

 

 

“Maximum Impact” wins big at the Action on Film 2018 MEGAFest

 Russian Film Star and Action Legend Alexander Nevsky won big at the Action on Film 2018 MEGAFest over the weekend.  MAXIMUM IMPACT which Nevsky produced and stars in won “Best Action Film of the Year” along with wins for “Best Action Sequence” and “Best Special Effects.” 
 
In addition, Nevsky received the festival’s “Breakout Action Star of the Year” Award and co-star Matthias Hues received the festival’s Icon Award.

“MAXIMUM IMPACT is the biggest film in my career and I’m so glad it was recognized in such a great way! I’m also happy to receive the “Breakout Action Star Award” and would like to thank “Action on Film International Film Festival” and Mr. Del Weston for this honor. But I couldn’t be here without my idols Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ralf Moeller and Matthias Hues so I would like to thank them too for all the inspiration and support over the years!” said Nevsky.

 
Nevsky received his Awards from Dr. Robert Goldman and Michael DePasquale Jr at the star studded MEGAFest Award Shows which were held at the RIO Hotel Las Vegas and other area venues.

 
MAXIMUM IMPACT will be released in theaters September 28, 2018, and On Demand and Digital Video on October 2, 2018

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection First Time Ever on Blu-ray!

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, A LANDMARK COLLECTION SHOWCASING THE LEGENDARY MONSTERS IN MOTION PICTURE HISTORY

UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS: COMPLETE 30-FILM COLLECTION AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY ON AUGUST 28, 2018 FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Universal City, California, August 22, 2018 – Thirty of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces starring the most famous monsters of horror movie history come together on Blu-ray™ for the first time ever in the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection on August 28, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Featuring unforgettable make-up, ground-breaking special effects and outstanding performances, the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes all Universal Pictures’ legendary monsters from the studio that pioneered the horror genre with imaginative and technically groundbreaking tales of terror in unforgettable films from the 1930s to late-1950s.

From the era of silent movies through present day, Universal Pictures has been regarded as the home of the monsters. The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection showcases all the original films featuring the most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Starring some of the most legendary actors including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester in the roles that they made famous, these films set the standard for a new horror genre and showcase why these landmark movies that defined the horror genre are regarded as some of the most unforgettable ever to be filmed.

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes a 48-page collectible book filled with behind-the-scenes stories and rare production photographs and is accompanied by an array of bonus features including behind-the-scenes documentaries, the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula, Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce, 13 expert feature commentaries, archival footage, production photographs, theatrical trailers and more. The perfect gift for any scary movie fan, the collection offers an opportunity to experience some of the most memorable horror films of our time.

The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes Dracula(1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942),Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, and includes a 3D version), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955 and includes a 3D version) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

 

BONUS FEATURES:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries
  • 3D Versions of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature
  • 1931 Spanish Version of Dracula
  • Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce
  • 13 Expert Feature Commentaries
  • Archival Footage
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailers

 

Attention Florida Friends: Joel D. Wynkoop needs your vote!!

Over the years, Media Mikes has mentioned Joel D. Wynkoop.  A long time Tampa friend of mine, Joel is known for his locally produced horror films and is quite the cult hero in (and beyond) the Sunshine State.  He also has his own magazine that not only promotes his work, but the work of other aspiring actors in Florida.

The on-line site Creative Loafing Tampa Bay is compiling votes for its 2018 BEST OF THE BAY contest and Joel has been nominated in the category of Best Actor.  I’m hoping you readers will click HERE and, in the category of Best Actor, cast a vote for Joel.  For some reason, nominees are listed alphabetically by FIRST name, so look for Joel under the “J’s.”

For a look at some of Joel’s work, click HERE

Thanks!

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post Red Carpet Interviews

Desiree Ahkavan’s new film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post hits theaters this week after both winning the Grand Jury prize for drama at Sundance Film Fest and screening at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The film, an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s 2012 novel, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, a high school girl who is caught making out with another girl on prom night. Cameron is subsequently sent to a religious gay “conversion therapy” camp called God’s Promise by her conservative American family. From there, Ahkavan’s touching and honest film follows Cameron as she encounters her fellow campers coping with their sexualities and the camp counselors (Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr.) who may have their own inner reservations about the work that they do. It is a challenging film for its young stars that’s deftly led by Moretz with support from Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck.
I got to speak with some of this talented cast at their Tribeca red carpet premiere about how they came to be in the film and the message believers in these controversial camps could take away from Cameron’s story.

Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. plays Reverend Rick, himself a former camper turned youth counselor who outwardly is a God’s Promise “success” story but clearly deals with suppressing his true emotions.

Lauren Damon: Your character has so much going on under the surface, how did you work on playing him?

John Gallagher Jr: Yeah! A lot of it was just trusting the script and trusting Desiree. You know it was a very complicated role who’s living right on the edge of something. And I just really looked to [Desiree] to kind of be the leader and to be my guide throughout all of it. And to just try and kind of tell the truth as we had deemed it fit for the film.

LD: What was the most difficult part of working on this?

JGJ: I think, you know living on that edge…of like really preaching something that, I think you start seeing throughout the film, that the character may or may not actually even believe. And that kind of crisis of faith, and that doubt and that second guessing. And really like the guilt that comes with that…I think he’s a guy that really is struggling to do what he believes is the right thing. And I think that his awakening in the film is that he doesn’t know what the right thing is.

LD: I watched this in an admittedly liberal NYC screening room and I think the reactions to a lot of what happens in the camp was that it was ridiculous, but both in the film, and in these real places, it’s really not…

JGJ: It’s not. There is no spin on it, that is their earnest belief. And as I can’t even fathom having that kind of opinion on matters of sexuality, that’s a very real thing. And people do have those exact kind of beliefs.

LD: What would you tell someone with these kinds of beliefs if you could speak to them?

JGJ: Gosh. I would tell them to watch this film and think it over a second time, you know?

Quinn Shephard plays the small but crucial role of Coley Taylor, the girlfriend who Moretz’s Cameron is caught with before she is sent for conversion.

LD: Your role isn’t big in terms of screentime, but it’s so pivotal to the film, how was it to know that going in?

Quinn Shephard: It was great! I was very happy to be a part of the film in any way possible. I keep saying, I just wanted to be a part of the movie because I really believed in it. I think it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read and I wanted to be in it. And I’m excited that I got to play this role.

LD: As in actress in this film, if you could get a message to people who believe these camps are effective, what would it be?

QS: Oh man. I think it’s like…I mean, look–Some people I think have a lot of fears and they justify things like conversion camps out of fears. But I think that if you come at something from a place of love, it’s impossible to justify. I think if you’re really someone who feels love in your heart and you challenge yourself to love someone who’s gay and imagine…putting that person through that and telling them that they’re not okay, I think it’s impossible to justify. I think people get caught up in their rhetoric and they get up in religious justification. But when it’s human and it’s in front of you, it’s very hard to agree with, you know? And I think that if somebody sits through this movie who believes in it, they’ll change their mind.

LD: How did you go about preparing for the intimate scenes between Coley and Cameron?

QS: I read the book, I read about my character…I’m somebody who’s very comfortable with who I am and it was just about creating a place in myself where I was very happy for what was happening, but at the same time very ashamed of it. I think that’s who [COLEY] is, she’s that duality and that was a difficult place for me to go. It was a very sad place. But it was something that was very important to her. There was a fragility to the relationship because she is not okay with it yet. And then I think as far as the actual intimacy of the scene, we just went into it was a sense of humor. And Desiree was very accommodating and she made us very comfortable and we had fun.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post opens in New York on August 3rd and expands to LA and other cities on August 10th.

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