Film Review: “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi”

THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI
Starring: Devika Bhise, Rupert Everett
Directed by: Swati Bhise
Rated: Rated R
Running Time: 1hr 42 mins
Roadside Attractions 

Held in as high regard in India as Joan of Arc in France, Rani Lakshmibai (1828-58) became a heroic martyr during the 1857 Indian Rebellion against the despotic British East India Company. While the British were successful in putting the revolt down, it placed India on a 90-year path to independence and Rani’s actions served as an inspiration then and now to generations of Indians. “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” is based upon Rani’s story of rising from being a commoner to leading an army against the world’s lone superpower of the day. Sadly, this heavy-handed historical drama is not a fitting tribute to Rani’s legend as it fails to generate any sense of suspense; its acting and direction is stilted; its dialogue is often cliché; and it plays loose and fast with the facts. 

Our heroine of the story narrates some historical background at the beginning by telling how she was born on the banks of the Ganges River. Rani (Devika Bhise, “Mosaic”) then vaguely describes how the British East India Company gradually seized more and more power in India over the decades. The story then flashes through her early years like a streak of lightning complete with nauseatingly stiff dialogue. If you don’t blink, you learn that as a teenager, Rani married the ruler of the state of Jhansi. After a son dies in infancy, the couple adopts a nephew as their own to become the male heir. 

In the meantime, Indian soldiers forced to serve the British East India Company revolt in vengeful fashion after their rifle Enfield cartridges are coated in pig fat, an insult to both Muslims and Hindus. Back in England, Queen Victoria (Jodhi May, “Defiance”), with her Indian Muslim advisor by her side, the story of which was detailed in 2017’s “Victoria & Abdul,” wants cooler heads to prevail while her British advisor (Derek Jacobi) is consumed with hubris and is quick to crush the revolt with brutal force. This is a problem because the British army in Jhansi, commanded by experienced officer Sir Hugh Rose (Rupert Everett) but ordered around by East India Company representative Sir Robert Hamilton (Nathaniel Parker, “The Perfect Host”), has become bogged down by cholera. 

Now a widow, Rani trains her people how to use swords, bows, running obstacle courses, and fighting from horseback. Since any real backstory is nonexistent and there is a lack of character development, it is incomprehensible, without any explanation, that Rani is suddenly an expert military trainer and commander. There are a couple of vague references to her combat experience later, but that is perfunctory at best. Moreover, the discombobulated story continually skips across time while Rani’s adopted son seems to never age. It all comes across as ridiculous and unbelievable without any emotional impact on the viewer besides confusion and boredom. 

Eventually, Rose’s force attacks Rani’s well-fortified palace in Jhansi and the ensuing action resembles the often silly, overly exaggerated fight sequences from the brilliant comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” It goes without saying that there is no real suspense to the final battle scene, which is poorly choreographed and not representative of historical events. It doesn’t help that in the buildup there are sappy lines like, “She’s an idea. And ideas cannot be captured or owned. She belongs to her people, and not the East India Company.”

 Rani of Jhansi was a hero for the ages, but this film about her life should be shot off into space and lost to the ages.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019: “The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series”

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series on Limited Edition Blu-ray™

Featuring All 12 Seasons along with Exclusive Bonus Content   

If you are looking for the perfect holiday gift this season, look no further than the The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series Limited Edition Blu-ray, which features highly collectible packaging, a digital copy of every episode and all-new, never-before-seen special features. I am a huge fan of this show for over a decade and it is sad to see it end but at least we have this beautiful limited edition Blu-ray set to enjoy over and over again. This is a show that has amazing replay value and I expect to be cracking open this box set often. I can imagine that this will be a popular gift this holiday season and it deserves to be since it is a fine release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series, including all 279 original episodes from 12 seasons of the top-rated sitcom, will also be available for fans to own on DVD ($179.99) and a premium Limited Edition Blu-ray ($249.99 SRP). The complete set will feature nearly 12 hours of extras along with an additional disc including three exclusive and never-before-seen featurettes! The special Limited Edition Blu-ray Boxset comes in a beautiful lay-flat book with a fun pop-up and includes a digital copy.

For years, fans have been delighted watching their favorite physicists Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) navigate the universe and everyday life along with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and fellow scientists Howard (Simon Helberg), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), as well as other beloved characters. Now that Sheldon has married neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, he’ll have to make some serious adjustments to their “Relationship Agreement” in Season 12. Will their equation for marital bliss alter the chemistry between these two beautiful minds? Perhaps Leonard and Penny will provide the data as they experiment with variable in their own marriage.  Meanwhile, Howard and Bernadette explore the principles of parenthood, and Raj considers a traditional arranged marriage. Quantum comedy converges in the twelfth dimension for the final season!

With Blu-Ray’s unsurpassed picture and sound, The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series,  Blu-Ray releases will include 1080p Full HD Video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1. These Blu-Rays also come with a digital copy of all the episodes.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series

Includes nearly 12 hours of previously released bonus content from Seasons 1 through 12, plus the following exclusive special features:

  • The Big Bang Theory: A Retrospective
  • BBT’s Greatest Hits: 12 Years of Comedy in 24 Minutes
  • All The Stars in the BBT Universe

Holiday Gift Guide 2019: “Batman Beyond: The Complete Series”

BATMAN BEYOND: THE COMPLETE SERIES LIMITED EDITION

SERIES’ FIRST-EVER BLU-RAY PRESENTATION COMING OCTOBER 15, 2019 TO DIGITAL; AND BLU-RAY™ BOX SET OCTOBER 29, 2019

This holiday season Warner Bros. Home Entertainment delivers the most perfect holiday gift for any fan of Batman. For the first time ever “Batman Beyond” is home on Blu-ray in a beautiful limited edition set. Collectibles within the stunning packaging include an exclusive chrome Batman Beyond Funko POP, and four beautifully-designed lenticular art cards produced especially for Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition. This ultimate collectors Blu-ray box set will be individually numbered for a Limited Edition release of 50,000. So if you are lucky enough to snag one of these, it will surely make for a most terrific holiday gift.

BURBANK, CA (July 18, 2019) – Batman Beyond, the landmark animated television series that illuminated the imagination of a new generation of Batman fans with its creation of an altogether new hero, is celebrating its 20th anniversary – and you get the gift! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has remastered the heralded series for its first-ever presentation on Blu-ray™ in the all-encompassing Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition, arriving on Digital ($49.99 SRP USA, $59.99 SRP Canada) starting October 15, 2019 and in a stunning box set ($99.99 SRP USA, $119.99 SRP Canada) on October 29, 2019. Distribution in Canada will be day-and-date with the USA, Pre-orders are now available.

The extraordinary Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Editionpackage features approximately 1,500 minutes of entertainment spread over four Blu-ray™ discs, plus the two bonus discs of enhanced content. In addition to a newly-remastered Blu-ray presentation of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, there are 15 featurettes on the bonus discs, highlighted by two new inside looks at the beloved television series, led by Nostalgic Tomorrow, a gathering of Batman Beyond production talent and cast led by executive producer Bruce Timm and actors Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle, the voices of Batman and Terry McGinnis, respectively. The bonus discs also spotlight four episodes with audio commentary from Timm and select members of the production team.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Batman Beyond premiered on January 10, 1999 to instant ratings and critical success. The series would run for three seasons, covering 52 total episodes and a full-length animated film, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker. Nominated for nine Emmy Awards, Batman Beyond would ultimately take home two Emmys – including Outstanding Special Class Animated Program in 2001 – as well as three Annie Awards.

Of the 52 original Batman Beyond episodes, 41 have been fully-remastered from either their original 35mm film source or the uncommon format “OCND,” the original camera negative digital (a digital scan of original negative). Lines and resolution have been enhanced, and dust and dirt have been removed – however, cell dirt remains to not disturb the original picture. Included in the remastering was the removal of grain, resulting in enhanced colors. The remastering process does cause a slight aspect ratio change (approximately 3% loss of screen image).

Due to time-worn irreparable damage, the remaining 11 episodes were “Smart Rezzed” from standard definition Digibeta video. The process provides for significant enhanced resolution and improvement of the original source material in converting from standard to high definition, though it does sacrifice horizontal lines for clearer image and color representation. While still a marked improvement over the original video, viewers will notice a slight difference between the Remastered and the Up-Rezzed final footage. The 11 affected episodes are: “Eyewitness,” “Final Cut,” “The Last Resort,” “Armory,” “Sneak Peek,” “The Eggbaby,” “Zeta,” “Plague,” “April Moon,” “Sentries of the Lost Cosmos” and “Speak No Evil.”

Film Review: “Midway”

Starring: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson and Luke Evans
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 138 minutes
Lionsgate

I haven’t seen the 1976 war epic, “Midway,” but unfortunately I’ve seen the 2019 “Midway.” Even though I haven’t seen the 70’s dramatization, I’m sure it’s still better than Roland Emmerich’s bombastic vision. Whereas the Jack Smight film had star power like Charleton Heston and Henry Fonda, Emmerich decided to see which one of the Jonas Brothers was available, what unheard of actor Ed Skrein was up to, and if Woody Harrelson could do some work for pennies on the dollar.

“Midway” is about one of the most pivotal battles in the Pacific Theater during WWII. This update begins with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, before it slowly transitions to the formulation of the Battle of Midway. The nitty gritty of this film, the abundance of characters, is at the core. Going over all the characters in this movie would be pointless, since the majority, while being real-life heroes, are forgettable. That’s because their heroics are delivered by wooden actors or are shifted into place in front of the camera so they can deliver some cliché dialogue and unnecessary exposition. This is the kind of movie that’ll make you appreciate “Dunkirk” if you weren’t a fan of that movie.

The big question though, for people interested in watching this film, is whether or not it pays tribute to the brave men and women who fought in the Second World War. Kind of, minus the brave women part. The only time we see women, they’re bothering their brave significant others or saying “I’ll go powder my nose,” as a euphemism for crying over the potential loss of their husband. “Midway” is the kind of movie you could compare to Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” because of the way they both handled their subject material. It reaches a few gimmicky crescendos, plucking at the American heart strings, but not enough to be sappy, but slightly enough to honor the real heroes during this battle, especially towards the end. Throughout we’re introduced to characters that don’t matter or whose deaths should mean something, but it’s handled so haphazardly that you’re more likely to question who died, rather than mourn their loss.

I think my biggest complaint with this movie is how pandering it is to Chinese audiences. There’s been a lot of talk in the mainstream lately about China’s influence in sports and pop culture. The biggest finger pointing has been towards the NBA and Disney, who can’t be blamed for obeying the almighty dollar, who has commanded them to submit to Xi Jinping. “Midway,” Emmerich, and Lionsgate seemed to have committed the ultimate sin in this regard. Their intent ultimately feels disingenuous because they’ve decided to tell a tale about American perseverance, while bending the knee to their Chinese financiers. I think theatergoers expecting nothing, or unaware of China’s influence on Hollywood, will be pleasantly surprised by “Midway,” and may even have a positive reaction. I feel like most people will have the same problems I had with it. “Midway” has so many ethical and moral problems, that ultimately, any good intentions are torpedoed.

Film Review: “Motherless Brooklyn”

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
Starring: Edward Norton, Alec Baldwin
Directed by: Edward NortonRated: Rated R
Running Time: 2 hrs 24 mins
Warner Bros. 

While “Joker” has strokes of genius, namely Joaquin Phoenix, the new crime drama “Motherless Brooklyn” is a triumph of cinematic art and deserves to be an Oscar contender in multiple categories. Adapted from the 1999, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel of the same name by American novelist Jonathan Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn,” written and directed by Edward Norton, is a brilliant, throwback detective story with an all-star cast that delivers the goods. It mirrors early 1950s Brooklyn in such a palpable way that it makes you feel like you are there. Despite its arguably long, two-hour plus running time, the puzzle-like central story is so engrossing with its twists and turns that you can end up losing yourself in it. 

“Motherless Brooklyn” revolves around Lionel Essrog (Norton), a gumshoe with Tourette’s syndrome, which is a neurological disorder consisting of involuntary tics, utterances and sometimes profane outbursts. One of a few misfits under the employ of WWII vet and longtime private detective Frank Minna (Bruce Willis), it is Lionel’s photographic memory which proves useful in his line of work. On the day we meet him, Frank needs Lionel and another detective to provide backup during a secret meeting in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately for Frank, this is exactly what happens and despite Lionel’s best efforts, he is unable to save his boss who leaves him a solitary word as a clue as to who is responsible. 

Like a string he cannot stop pulling on, Lionel obsessively follows in Frank’s footsteps to find out not only who killed him but why. The trail leads him down a path that puts him in physical jeopardy on multiple occasions as well as a woman named Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Belle”), whom Frank had discovered was the key to unlocking a dark secret that certain powerful people want to keep buried. Eventually, Lionel must find all the puzzle pieces and put them together before a looming deadline arrives. 

“Motherless Brooklyn” may well be Norton’s greatest accomplishment of his career as he succeeds pulling off the rare feat of wearing all three hats (writer/director/lead actor). His adaptation, which has been 20 years in the making from the time he first read the novel, brilliantly captures the essence of Lethem’s work while his direction is even-handed throughout the film. The latter is reflected in its tension-filled pacing, camera work, and his cast’s general success with disappearing into their roles. This includes Alec Baldwin as a power-hungry politician, Willem Dafoe as an eccentric genius, and Rose who is more than just a damsel in distress.

 The icing on the cake for Norton’s detailed film is its terrific costume designs, vintage cars, music, and overall early 1950s vibe he creates. It all adds up to a work that gives you a lot to chew on and to pay attention to. Overall, “Motherless Brooklyn” is simply one of 2019’s best films thus far.

Film Review: “The Current War” – Director’s Cut

THE CURRENT WAR – Director’s Cut
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins
101 Studios 

Electricity. We take it for granted much like air and water. It is almost hard to imagine how human civilization ever functioned, much less survived without it. In the totality of human history, it was just a blink of an eye ago, circa the beginning of the 1880s, when electricity was delivered unto the masses by two extraordinary men – Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. The struggle between these two icons of invention over AC and DC current is dramatized in “The Current War,” a film that made its debut two years ago at the Toronto International Film Festival and languished in limbo until now. With engaging performances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, and an interesting script, “The Current War” is a quick-paced historical work that is indubitably watchable. 

It all begins in 1882 when Edison (Cumberbatch) demonstrates the power of DC current by lighting up a small section of Manhattan, New York. After being snubbed by Edison, rich financier and inventor Westinghouse (Shannon) pursues the possibilities of AC current with equal passion. A war between the two gradually heats up with casualties along the way. 

Edison’s sometimes blind, cutthroat ambition, causes him to often make empty promises to his young children and losing out on time with his wife who dies tragically. He refuses to see any possibilities beyond DC current, which takes more power stations and heavier wire. Even a young and eccentric Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult, “Dark Phoenix”) cannot convince him otherwise. 

Westinghouse tries to stick to his moral principles by avoiding the use of dirty propaganda that Edison often employs. However, he lets a little envy creep in over Edison’s abundant fame and so he pushes harder to win with the more dangerous AC current, which can run longer distances via thinner wire. A close associate pays a high price for it and Westinghouse, who is dubiously portrayed as being haunted by a harrowing Civil War experience, resorts to similar tactics as those of Edison while forming a partnership with the scorned Tesla, who’s relegated to more of a sideshow within the story. 

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) “The Current War” was originally under the Weinstein Company’s umbrella, but it’s release was sidetracked after Harvey Weinstein’s fall from power. Thankfully, Gomez-Rejon, with the help of executive producer Martin Scorsese, was able to get the film back and did some reshoots. His final product is a rapid-paced, enjoyable work with good cinematography and solid costume designs.

 “The Current War” provides a keen look into this likely forgotten period of American history that changed the world forever. Cumberbatch and Shannon dominate the screen with as-expected impressive performances the bring to life these two titans of electrical ingenuity.

Film Review: “The Lighthouse”

Starring: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson
Directed by: Robert Eggers
Rated: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
A24

When “The Lighthouse” opens, we watch as two lighthouse keepers sourly look towards a tiny island dotting the vast ocean ahead. Towering above the horizon is the lighthouse that they’ll be in charge of for the next four weeks. We won’t learn who these lighthouse keepers are, much less their names, until much later in the movie. That’s because both don’t know each other or seem concerned about exchanging pleasantries. The younger lighthouse keepers, Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson), is given the more strenuous duties on the miniature island, while the older lighthouse keepers, Thomas Wake (Dafoe), mysteriously secludes himself in the lighthouse.

Taking place in the late 19th century, Wake, a curmudgeonly veteran of the lighthouse trade, holds on to several superstitions, which he rambles on about like its Sunday gospel. He warns his counterpart about bothering or harming the seagulls that permeate the island because the pesky seabirds house the souls of dead sailors. We also hear from him that the previous lighthouse keeper went mad, claiming to have been beckoned by the call of nearby sirens. Winslow, who’s initially suspicious of his superior and the tales he tells, finds a mermaid token stuffed into his mattress as he settles in. That seems to trigger an avalanche of bizarre happenings and sights on the miniscule space of land.

“The Lighthouse” finds a multitude of reasons for these lighthouse keepers to go inevitably go mad. Everything from cabin fever and mistrust, to the mass consumption of alcohol and the reality that their four weeks may become longer as a storm approaches. As the film progresses, it’s difficult to tell which lighthouse keeper is telling the truth, which one is hallucinating, and what exactly is happening, if anything, on the island. Dread drips throughout this film, thanks to a bombastic soundtrack and the movie being filmed in black and white. The terrors of the night and day are enhanced by the monochromatic landscape and sets.

On a technical level, this film is hauntingly gorgeous. When we see the lighthouse at night, we expect a monster to be perched on top, but instead it’s Wake, who appears to be bewitched by the light he claims to protect. When Winslow moves about the island with his work duties, whether it’s during blustery rain storms or in the dead of night, it feels lonely and isolated because all he has are his thoughts and visions. Neither have anything to attach themselves to, other than their work, especially since neither appears to have a busy work hobby, much less a book. Yet if something is on the island with them, we know that Winslow and Wake have no way to escape.

“The Lighthouse” manages to feel claustrophobic despite all the space given to these actors to play in. Despite their tiny lodging, they appear to have all the room in the world when they need to yell at or lung at one another. Dafoe, a natural in acting, seems to go through the motions at the beginning, as if he’s stretching the sea legs of his conniving character. He shines as bright as a lighthouse in the final act though, specifically in one scene I won’t reveal and another where his character delivers a chilling soliloquy. Equally impressive is Pattinson, who has the heaviest lifting throughout as his character descends into madness. The nightmarish visions and back-breaking work eventually tears down Winslow’s tough guy persona at the beginning. Pattinson channels fear and paranoia through his piercing eyes.

As evidenced by some of the more horrific or horror-centric films of 2019, “Midsommar” and “Climax” come to mind, “The Lighthouse” is a movie that you let digest. Having a gut reaction afterwards would do a disservice to the craft presented on-screen. As a reviewer, I’m in a pinch because a second viewing would solidify my overall attitude towards this film, but I do know that my initial experience was positive. Even though we’re trapped with these characters for nearly two hours, the film never feels long because it’s unnerving. Director Robert Eggers finds the right moments to be overtly creepy, violent and sexual, just like he did in his previous film, “The Witch.” There are also numerous light moments of humor that help undercut a lot of the palpable tension. “The Lighthouse” won’t make you jump or have you turning on a night light when you get home, but it may haunt your dreams like any good campfire tale of terror.

Film Review: “Lucy in the Sky”

LUCY IN THE SKY
Starring: Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm
Directed by: Noah HawleyRated:
Rated R
Running Time: 2 hrs 4 mins
Fox Searchlight

Like most North Korean missile tests, the disastrous melodrama “Lucy in the Sky” fails to achieve full lift-off and explodes into a million fiery pieces. Although we are told the story is inspired by real-life events, in truth it bears little resemblance to the bizarre 2007 actions of disgraced NASA astronaut Lisa Novak. Natalie Portman tackles her lead role with sheer abandon, but this turns into heavy-handed acting, resulting in an inability to take her seriously. First-time feature film director and co-writer Noah Hawley, whose previous directorial efforts have been limited to TV episodes of “Fargo” and “Legion,” has no sense of pacing as it veers aimlessly while making us feel like we just spent 40 days in the wilderness when it is over, which is the best part of the film. 

Pushed by an alcoholic mother (Ellen Burstyn) to be better than everyone else, astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman) achieves a career pinnacle by spending two weeks on the International Space Station. Like a wide-eyed Major Tom, Lucy loses herself as she gazes at Earth during a spacewalk outside the station’s confines. (Lucy should go blind during this opening sequence because she stares at the sun without having her gold, protective lens down, but who cares about science?)

 Upon her return to Earth, the childless Lucy immediately begins having problems readjusting to life with gravity. This includes her ever-increasing, distant relationship with her doting, religious husband, Drew Cola (Dan Stevens, TV series “Legion”), who seems to have been based upon Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons.” To her credit, Lucy does try to be a mentor to her teenage niece, Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson, TV series “Legion”), who looks up to her aunt as an inspiration. 

Routine family life doesn’t cut it for Lucy as she becomes determined to go back into space, and along the way she starts an affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Hamm). She views him as one of only a select few who understands her, but Mark is a playboy. So, when Lucy runs off the rails, he steps away from her and turns his attention to up-and-coming astronaut Erin Eccles (Zazie Beetz, “Deadpool 2,” “Joker”). The idea of losing Mark to another woman, who is also her competition for a seat on the next mission, pushes Lucy over the edge. Naturally, she hatches a plot to do a dirty deed dirt cheap while enlisting her impressionable niece as her help.

 We are supposed to feel sympathy for Lucy as she struggles with her sanity, even after the story’s bizarre climax. However, this is a far-fetched idea by Hawley considering that if her plan succeeded someone would have probably died a violent death. As for the real facts, without spoiling too much and keeping it to a nutshell, Novak was married with three children during her approximately two-year affair with astronaut William Oefelein.

She was arrested in 2007 in Orlando for attempting to kidnap a U.S. Air Force Captain who had become romantically involved with Oefelien. Lastly, Hawley’s fumbling attempts at exploring existentialism throughout “Lucy in the Sky” are too muted to accrue any depth. He also under-utilizes Eccles and simply lets the film drag on far too long. 

Film Review: Jojo Rabbit

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Rated: PG 13 
Running Time: 108 minutes
Fox Searchlight Pictures

I don’t know how a movie featuring an imaginary Adolf Hitler managed to be one of the most heartwarming films of the year…but it’s 2019 and every day actual reality gets more ludicrous, so that sounds about right. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is a masterful satire that nails its tone with a kind of supernatural precision that most filmmakers can only dream of and a story still more wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a small boy who lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) in a village in WWII Germany. His only ambition is to fight for Hitler just like his absent father. Lacking any real warfront nearby and too young to be conscripted, Jojo instead joins up with the local division of the Hitler Youth headed by the one-eyed Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). It’s a lot like boy scouts if all the participants were extremely racist and whose bonfires consisted of banned books. Jojo plays tough but gains his titular nickname when the older scouts test how murderous Jojo actually is and the kid fails to kill a bunny in front of the everyone.

Jojo is not only disappointed with himself but he’s royally failing Hitler! Specifically the imaginary Fuhrer, played by Waititi himself, who follows Jojo around and goads on Jojo’s tough guy persona. To be clear, Waititi isn’t actually playing Hitler (in fact when asked about ‘researching’ his portrayal, the director says he didn’t because that guy was “a fucking cunt.” Yep.) Instead, he is playing an icon to a child, which is an entirely different prospect. In Taika’s take just about the scariest thing about him is the unnatural blue contacts. He’s a playground bully who spouts back all the vile lies about Jewish people the boy’s troop leaders are trying to drill into him. Jojo’s whole bubble is popped when he finds an actual living Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in his mother’s attic.

With McKenzie’s arrival, the film begins to become something much more than the riotous comedy that Waititi achieves in laying out Jojo’s life in the scouts. (Although if this film had only given me a burnt out Sam Rockwell demonstrating deadly weapons to a group of small children, I would have still considered it a cinematic gift, but I digress.) No, rather than being fearful, Elsa leans hard into the gross mythos the Nazis are spreading about her people in order to intimidate the young Jojo. It’s one thing to tell a ten year old that Elsa is a demon, entirely another to ask him not to then be terrified when faced with her one on one. Their bond is the heart of the film and McKenzie wields what small power she has over Jojo with ferocity while Jojo steadily moves from fear into fascination and maybe even friendship. Mckenzie’s is a stunning performance that has me more excited to see her in Edgar Wright’s next feature. As for Davis, putting the weight of this movie on the ten year old is thematically fitting but a huge risk. However just like Hunt for The Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison, Waititi’s casting of Davis proves to be spot on. 

Meanwhile these kids are surrounded by the grown actors putting in some truly beautiful work. Sam Rockwell’s one eyed captain is physically out of commission but maybe that’s not the only reason he’s not on the field. Considering there’s nothing remotely straight about him and second-in-command Finkel (Alfie Allen). Scarlett Johansson is fearless as Rosie who lovingly calls Jojo “Shitler” and whose drinking, smiling facade belies her own defiance. After all, her sheltering Elsa is a huge breech of the law. Still Rosie dances, she bike rides and she declares her dinner table neutral Switzerland. Johansson brings genuine depth and warmth to Rosie in both her bonds with Jojo and Elsa.

Jojo meeting Elsa and beginning to encounter the larger world is where Waititi really hits home. Rosie allows Jojo into the Hitler Youth only insofar as she is a single mother and there’s really no alternative daycare. But when face to face with his supposed enemy, Jojo’s whole worldview is challenged.  Hate cannot flourish without ignorance and it’s the ordinary people in this film whose small acts make the larger world better for all. Taika’s crafted a film that’s not only timely but manages to earn tears both from laughter and sadness.

Interview with Actor Michael Pare’

I first saw Michael Pare’ when he appeared on television’s “The Greatest American Hero,” but it was his performance as Eddie Wilson in the film “Eddie and the Cruisers” that cemented him in my mind as an actor to watch.  While on his way to Nevada to shoot his latest project Mr. Pare’ took time out to talk to me about his latest film – “Once Upon a Time in Deadwood” – his aspirations to be a chef and how Rick Springfield almost ended up playing Eddie Wilson.  (I should also note that this interview is posting on his birthday so, from all of us at Media Mikes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL!”

 

MIKE SMITH:  You studied to be a chef.  Was that your original career goal?

 

MICHAEL PARE’:  Yes.  When I was in high school, my first job where I had to pay taxes, social security and everything was in a fast food restaurant.  Then I got on at a regular restaurant that served steaks and everything else.  I was pretty good at it and I liked the life.  So in my junior year I heard from a co-worker about the Culinary Institute of America.  I got a recommendation from my boss and I applied and got in.  At the time it was known as the best cooking school in the United States.  I attended for a year and was given an internship at Tavern on the Green in New York.  They eventually offered me a full-time, six days a week job.  So I moved to Manhattan, which is where I was discovered.

 

MS:  Do you ever give the Craft Services people on set any pointers?

 

MP:  (laughs) No, but there are a few directors I’ve cooked with.  Uwe Boll and I used to have a sauerbraten contest every time we worked.  Cooking is something that a lot of people share.  In all of the arts food becomes an important part of your life.

 

MS:  How did you get into acting?  What took you from the kitchen to the soundstage?

 

MP:  I got discovered by an agent.  There was a bar where my girlfriend waitressed at that was kind of a show business bar.  It was right across from where they broadcast the news for ABC. A lot of people in the business hung out there.  The agent noticed me and asked me if I was an actor or a dancer.  I told her I was in the restaurant business.  She kind of pursued it and talked me into taking a few classes.  I did and I liked it a lot.  My first classes were at Carnegie Hall.  I’d go to class during the day and work the night shift at the restaurant.  I studied for two years and then auditioned for ABC’s talent development program and I got it.  They brought me out to Hollywood and put me on “The Greatest American Hero.”

 

MS:  You made your feature film debut as Eddie Wilson in “Eddie and the Cruisers.”  How did you get the role?

MP:  Marty Davidson, the director, called my agent and asked me to come in and meet him.  That was it.  I met with him about four or five times.  Marty was a very artistic guy.  He put the cast together and we had two weeks of improve and then we shot it.  I did it on hiatus from “The Greatest American Hero.”

 

MS:  Is it true that Martin Davidson would threaten to replace you with Rick Springfield?

 

MP:  (laughs)  Yes, but he only had to do it once!

 

MS:  I like Rick Springfield (Ok, I’ve seen him in concert a dozen times so I REALLY like Rick Springfield) but I don’t think he would have been a good Eddie.

 

MP:  It would have been a different movie.

 

MS:  Exactly.  Did you know while you were making the film that it was going to be regarded the way it is now?

 

MP:  No.  At that time I was still a young actor and didn’t know the potential of things.  I had only done two seasons of “The Greatest American Hero” and a movie of the week, so it was all like a dreamland.  I didn’t even think about marketing.  When I was back on “The Greatest American Hero” I was telling another actor about the film and he told me “you don’t have nothing without distribution.”  I had no idea what that meant.  I told him, “well, I shot it and they’re happy…that’s all I can say.”

 

MS:  Anyone ever ask you to sing “On the Dark Side” at karaoke?

 

MP:  (laughs)  If I do karaoke it’s Johnny Cash.

 

MS:  What drew you to your latest role in “Once Upon a Time in Deadwood?”

 

MP:  I’ve done a few westerns so when Jeff Miller (the film’s co-producer/co-writer) called me up and said he had an interesting project with this guy named Robert Bronzi I called up Danny Baldwin.  I knew he had worked with Robert and I asked him what he was like.  He said that Jeff and his team were very creative… very open minded.  So I said “ok.”  And then when I met Rene’ (director Rene’ Perez) he was surprised as he expected to meet someone who was a little more “beat up.”  I’m a pretty healthy guy.  That was it.  We shot in a little western town in central California up near the Sequoias.  We used blanks and squibs as opposed to all of the CGI stuff that is so popular now on low budget movies.  It was a great experience.  Nice cast.  Rene’ is very creative.  He’s the DP and the director.

 

MS:  Do you enjoy the genre’?  Do you have a favorite role-type?

 

MP:  I like all of them.  If you do it so long you play everything.  And you hope one of the roles will be successful, you know?

 

MS:  What are you working on now?

 

MP:  It’s called “Bridge of Doom” We’re shooting in Caliente’, Nevada.  It’s the military reaction to the Zombie Apocalypse.  When I heard that I was like, “great…we never hear about that part.  It’s always about the civilians out in the middle of nowhere.

Oscar Winning Film Editor Paul Hirsch Talks About His Career and His New Book

Oscar winning film editor Paul Hirsch has been fortunate in that he has worked numerous times with two of Hollywood’s best known filmmakers, Brian DePalma and John Hughes.  He also won an Academy Award for his work (along with Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew) on one of the most popular films of all time, “Star Wars.”  With a book highlighting his career about to be released, Mr. Hirsch took the time to answer some questions about his lengthy career.

 

MIKE SMITH:  What drew you to become a film editor?

 

PAUL HIRSCH:  A number of things.  I was fascinated when I first saw a Moviola.  I was blown away by a festival of Orson Welles films.  I liked working with my hands, and was drawn to the tools.  I loved movies.

 

MS:  Other film editors I’ve interviewed had mentors they admired.  I recently spoke with Arthur Schmidt and he told me that he learned under Dede Allen and Neil Travis.  Did you have someone whose work you admired and/or who took you under their wing?

 

PH:  Brian DePalma was my mentor.  He encouraged me, empowered me, validated my work and deeply influenced me.  I was cutting his films from the age of 23, and so never worked under a professional feature film editor.  I learned by doing and studying how films I admired were cut.  I was sort of like the art students you see in museums, copying the masters.

 

MS:   How did you come to edit “Hi Mom” for Brian DePalma?

 

I had cut the trailer for “Greetings,” thanks to my brother.  When they got the money to do a sequel, titled “Son of Greetings,” Brian hired me to cut it.

 

MS:   Five or your first six films were with DePalma.  He is well known – and often criticized – for his use of split-screen (the prom from “Carrie” being a great example).  Was that something you discussed in the editing room or was that his original vision?

An example of the split screen process used in “Carrie”

PH:  Split screen is Brian’s thing.  I can’t take credit for it, but I do love and appreciate the tension that can result from juxtaposing images on the screen, even if, or rather, especially if, the screen isn’t actually split.  I’m referring to deep focus shots, which have become a lost art, where you have a near object on one side, and a distant one on the other.  Brian did that a lot, using split diopters, with tremendous success.

 

MS:   A lot of the young filmmakers in the 70s (DePalma, Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas) were very close with each other.  Is that how you were hired for “Star Wars?”

 

PH:  Yes.  Brian screened the final cut of “Carrie” for George and Marcia Lucas on their return from principal photography on”Star Wars” in England.  They needed help, and turned to me.

 

MS:  How difficult was it editing a film where you sometimes had to wait months for a finished special effects shot?

 

PH:  We had ways around that.  We would cut in place-holders or a piece of leader that we estimated was the right length.

 

MS:  You, along with Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew, received the Academy Award for your work on “Star Wars.”  Where do you keep your Oscar?

Richard Chew, Marcia Lucas and Paul Hirsch hoist their Oscars with presenter Farrah Fawcett

PH:  It’s on a bookshelf in my office.

 

MS:  You’ve done eleven films with DePalma but, surprisingly, not ‘The Untouchables.”  Was there a reason you didn’t cut that picture?

 

PH: I moved to the West Coast after “Blow Out.”  I didn’t cut a picture for Brian in the ensuing ten years.  We next worked together on “Raising Cain,” when he was living in California.

 

MS:  You also worked a lot with John Hughes.  How was he to work with and were there any major differences in the way he and DePalma approached a film?

 

PH:  John was a lot of fun to work with until he wasn’t.  He was a brilliant artist, but had mercurial moods.  But I had a great time working with him.  John was a writer, primarily, and his medium was words, by and large. Brian is a great visualist.  His ideas are primarily graphic, both in terms of camera movement, which no one does better, and in terms of visual story-telling, that is to say, how scenes can be constructed in the editing room.

 

MS:   Hal Ashby was a great film editor who went on to become a fine director.  Have you ever wanted to direct?

 

PH:  I did want to for a while, and then the fever broke.  I like working all the time, and editing afforded me that.  To me, directing was like perpetually running for office.  I’m more of an introvert, and editing suits me just fine.

 

MS:   Your most recent film was the Tom Cruise version of “The Mummy.”  What is the biggest difference between cutting a film now and forty-plus years ago?

 

PH:  There’s a lot more reliance on vfx now, which consumes a lot of time and energy.  And when I started out, directors were given much more discretion.  The director was the key creative figure in the package, often with final cut.  That happens less these days.  If a director had a hit back then, the studio would ask, “What do you want to do next?”  Today, the projects are developed by the studio, and the director is “cast” the same way you would choose an actor for a role.  Producers and studio executives are much more involved in the editing process these days.

 

MS:  What can you tell us about your new book?

Mr. Hirsch’s book will be released on November 1st and is currently available to order now on Amazon.com and other sites.

PH:  It’s an account of my adventures in Movie-land, my experiences of the last fifty years and what I learned during that time.  I write about the various projects I worked on, and the fascinating people I encountered.  I share some of the insights I picked up along the way as I made my way into the industry.  It’s not a how-to book, which I consider boring.  And it’s not a gossipy tell-all where I get revenge on the jerks I met along the way, which really weren’t that many when I think about it.  The people I got along with are much more interesting.  I meant it to be entertaining above all.  I hope people will read it for pleasure. I’ve had a number of friends read it.  Editors in particular seem to like it, but I think anyone who is curious about what goes on behind the scenes in our business will find it fun to read.

 

MS:  Are you working on anything new?

 

PH:  I’ve been working on the book for many years, first writing it, and then editing it.  I only just recently finished going over the page proofs.  I’m going to take my time now, reading scripts, and will see if anything pings my interest.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Film Review: “Joker”

Joker

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro and Zazie Beetz
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Rated: R
Running Time: 122 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Much like the Joker’s origin in “The Killing Joke,” Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) is an aspiring stand-up comedian. Before he can reach that pie in the sky dream, he makes ends meet as a clown-for-hire, takes care of his ailing mother in a rat-infested apartment, and attempts to deal with several mental illnesses. There’s actually nothing particularly extraordinary about Arthur, and that seems to be casually ingrained into him by his co-workers, passersby on the street and even his own mother. But if the title of the film wasn’t a big enough clue, there’s a lot in life that’s in store for Arthur.

It’d be disingenuous to try and rank all those who’ve portrayed the Joker (minus Jared Leto) because of the drastically different material they were given. However, “Joker” stands tall in its own category because it’s surrounded by subpar films. Villain origin stories aren’t great fodder, just look at “Venom” and “Hannibal.” But “Joker” isn’t just an origin story for the clown prince of crime, it’s a character study, something that’s never been done before on screen. Breaking down the Joker is a tricky task and there’s really no right way to do it, but there’s definitely a wrong way to do it. While Phoenix does it magically nuanced way, director/writer Todd Phillips handles it in ham-fisted fashion.

Phillips is more well-known for his “Hangover” trilogy or juvenile 2000 film, “Road Trip.” Behind the camera, Phillips is more than capable of telling a gritty crime story, drawing from what I can only assume is movies he grew up on and influenced him to become a filmmaker in the first place, “Taxi Driver,” “Kings of Comedy” and “Network.” He encapsulates that late 70s/early 80s glow well, emulating its style, color palette and nihilism. Where he falls remarkably short is writing a script that’s on par with those classics. Phillips makes a lot of leaps in logic, despite grounding the main character in a very realistic Gotham.

There’s nothing supernatural or superhuman about Fleck’s life. There’s no vat of chemicals to fall in or scars that he’s telling conflicting stories about. Everything that makes Fleck the hero and villain of his own story, is inside. So what makes a lot of the “Joker” work is the acting and not Phillips. That’s because the director gives away several mid, and late, storytelling reveals by relying on clichés early on. Anyone familiar with the Batman lore or movies involving psychosis will be able to spot plot twists and turns involving characters or the plot. Phillips’ maturity with his hands behind the camera unfortunately doesn’t translate when the pen meets the paper.

I’ll give credit to Phillips for one aspect, and that’s at least using one of the film’s tropes to set-up discussion about the ending of the film. Since Phillips has noted this is a stand-alone film (meaning it doesn’t fit into the DC Cinematic Universe and won’t have a sequel), there’s a lot to take away from the final 15 minutes. That’s where I assume a lot of the pre-release controversy stems from. Several people have weighed in on what they believe Phillips is intending to say, but I’m in the minority because I’m not sure Phillips is actually trying to say anything in particular. I believe he structured it in such a neutral fashion, that the discussion will simply be guided by the ideology of the viewer.

But for all the hype, controversy, praise, condemnation and mystery, the only thing worthy of discussion for years to come is the performance by Phoenix; everything else feels like contemporary background noise. Phoenix, as he’s done in nearly every role he’s been given, is absolutely magnetic. Despite the derivative nature of the script, Phoenix keeps his character wildly unpredictable while combining antihero elements and sociopathic tendencies. We’re not just witnessing the birth of a supervillain, we’re watching a true descent into madness.

“Caddyshack” Hits the Links in Omaha

The SHACK is back!

On Friday, November 8th, film historian Bruce Crawford will be presenting the 1980 comedy classic “Caddyshack,” starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Cindy Morgan.

The event will be held at the Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska.

In attendance at the screening will be actress Cindy Morgan, who played the beautiful and much sought after Lacey Underalls in the film.  Miss Morgan will speak before the screening and reminisce about the making of the film.  Fans can stay after the event for a meet and greet with Miss Morgan and autograph session.

2019 marks the 27th year of Crawford hosting an evening of classic film, along with members of the casts and crews who created them.

This event marks 27 years since Crawford started hosting film legends and the classic films on which they worked. He typically presents two movies each year, spring and autumn.

Tickets for the event (screening and meet and greet) are $24.00 and go on sale Thursday, October 3rd.  They can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores.   Proceeds will benefit HELP Adult Services. All tickets are a non-refundable donation.   Fans interested in just attending the screening may be able to obtrain complimentary tickets by calling 402 393 4884

For more information or to obtain tickets over the phone you can call (402) 341-6559  or click HERE.

 

 

Horror Icon, Lin Shaye talks about her new film “Gothic Harvest”

Lin Shaye might be known best for her role of Elise Rainier in the “Insidious” franchise. Lin got started in horror back with “A Nightmare on Elm Street” through the recent “Ouija”, and its prequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil”. Shaye is also known for her comedic roles with the Farrelly brothers, including Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Lin about her new film “Gothic Harvest”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you got involved with “Gothic Harvest”?
Lin Shaye: I got involved with the film because of Chris Kobin, who is the writer and one of the producers. I have worked with Chris before, we did the “2001 Maniacs” movies together. Bill Moseley, my co-star for this film also starred in “2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams” taking over the lead from Robert Englund, so we have worked together before also. It was an interesting story for me. I have high regard for Chris. He is a smart guy and a very loyal person. He approached me and asked if I wanted to be apart of it, so that’s how I got involved.

MG: Speaking of being trapped, what was it like being restricted to a wheelchair in the movie?
LS: It actually helps with the character in many regards. Being stuck anywhere, especially mobility, it takes a lot of muscle power to move you around. It takes a lot of real muscle to move. We had a really old wheelchair. Nowadays, wheelchairs are made with ball bearings and they spin and do wheelies and they maneuver amazingly. Not back then, you really needed to push to get them through doorways. You have to use your whole body to move them forward, not just your arms. It was a little bit jaunting and gave me totally new respect for disabled people that need to negotiate that in order to get anywhere. It was very difficult. To try and get somewhere it created emotionally a sense of frustration, which was perfect for the character.

MG: You’ve been in horror films from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” all the way through to the “Insidious” franchise; did you ever think you would have become such a horror icon?
LS: NEVER [laughs]. I am just grateful that I am getting to continue to work on such exciting projects. All of the things I have done leading up to this, I don’t really think in terms of genre. I think in terms of storytelling and character. Those are the determining factors for me in order to do a film. I love comedy also. I don’t gravitate to one genre over another. With acting, you making a real impact on people and I feel a real responsibility to looking for material that is about something important. Not education, per se, but reminding people of what is important in life. I just feel very privileged. Especially Elise in “Insidious”, people have asked me why I think she is popular and that is because she is a giver not a taker. I honestly believe people feel safe with her and that is part of her popularity.

MG: Do you have a personal favorite horror film?
LS: I thought “Hush” was great, out of the new horror films. I thought that was a really scary film with such a simple premise…but my favorite horror film is “The Shining”. I don’t think anyone has made a film that is quite as terrifying as that was and that still holds up today.

MG: Any more plans for the “Insidious” franchise?
LS: There is a rumor but I haven’t seen anything specific. I kind of know what they are thinking and I know the line that they are looking into but I don’t know when it would be because Blumhouse has so much going on right now. The “Insidious” franchise really exploded for them as a company as well as the “Purge” films. I don’t know anything definite but there is a rumor that there will be more.

MG: You’ve also done comedy like “Dumb and Dumber”, “Kingpin”, and “There’s Something About Mary”; how’s it like switching between genres?
LS: The lines all blur in terms of genre. It is really about what is the core of the character. What’s fun for me and even when I was a little kid, I remember loving the idea of being able to step into someone else’s life and disappearing. As an actor you have the luxury of being your buried feelings up in the forefront. It is a very exciting experience. I just feel lucky fortunate of not drawing lines in terms of genre but just finding the truth of the person I am playing.

MG: What do you have upcoming next?
LS: There was a little film I did called “Room for Rent” that is one Amazon Prime. I want everyone to see it. It is some of the best work that I have ever done. It is not a horror film but more of a psychology thriller about a woman’s decline into insanity really. I am very proud of it. Also I am doing the new “Penny Dreadful” series called “City of Angels” for Showtime. I have never done a TV series and it is big machinery. It has a fantastic cast and fantastic scripts. There are ten episodes and I will be in six of them. I play a fabulous character. Nathan Lane and I sort of play sidekicks. John Logan is the creator and he is exceptional. I am very excited for this project and I just hope I do a good job at the end of the day.

Actor/Comedian Jason Stuart Talks About His New Book and Latest Projects

With almost 150 film and television credits to his name, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen Jason Stuart on screen.  From small screen appearances on shows like “The Drew Carey Show,” “My Wife and Kids” and “Will & Grace” to his acclaimed performance in – in this writer’s humble opinion – the Best Film of 2016, “The Birth of a Nation,” he continues to add to his ever growing resume’.   He recently added a new chapter to his career story – author – with the release of his book “Shut Up, I’m Talking!”  The book details his career as well as the challenges he faced

I recently spoke with Jason about his new book and about how coming out in 1993 effected both his life and his career.

Photo Credit: Kimo Lauder

MIKE SMITH:  What prompted you to write the book?

 

JASON STUART:  I had a very good friend who worked with me on a comedy radio show I did in the Midwest.    His name was Dan Duffy and he had written a book called “The Half Book,”  He called me and told me I needed to read his book.  I bought the book and read it.  It was about him getting cancer and how he recovered, how he survived with the love of his family.  It was funny and it was touching and I was so moved by it that I told him “I need someone like you to help me write my book.”  And he said he’d love to do it.  So that was it.  I always think when something is put in front of you it’s meant to be.

 

MS:  Any reactions from your friends who may not have known you story?

 

JS:  That’s a great question.  Tons of people.  When I decided to write it I thought about it as a way to get my story out, to let people see me in a different way…to help my career and to possibly get some publicity.  Maybe I’ll make a little money.  But then I realized, “OH!  People are also going to be reading this book.  They’re going to hear all of these things I said about my personal life.  And they’re going to have opinions about it.”  I totally forget about that part.  People have been really candid.  People have stopped me on the street or called me…it’s been a lot of really positive energy.  Much more than I ever thought.

Photo credit: Sean Black

 

MS:  Do you think there is still a stigma in Hollywood that prevents gay actors from getting certain roles?

 

JS:  It’s certainly not what it was 26 years ago, but I still think that when somebody sees you a certain way it’s very hard for them to see that you would be right for certain roles.  Hollywood doesn’t seem to want actors, they seem to want “be-ers.”  My favorite actor growing up was Dustin Hoffman.  He still is.  He played Lenny Bruce.  He played Benjamin in “The Graduate.”  He played the father in “Kramer vs Kramer,” he was Captain Hook.  He was Willy Loman.  He did all sorts of roles.  You don’t really get to do that as much, but I’ve been able to make a career out of doing that.  When something comes along and they tell me I’m perfect for it, it’s not always clear to me.  We don’t always see ourselves as others see us.  Being a gay man over 50 – there are very few “gay men” parts over 50.  They don’t write them.  That role doesn’t exist very much.  So I wind up playing villains…managers…all these kind of characters.  What I want to do is play dads…because everybody has a dad.

MS:  If I can ask my question more directly, do you ever think because they know that you’re gay that you’re easily dismissed for certain roles?

 

JS:  I think so.  People are like that somewhat.  I’d have to say it’s natural.  People have to “see it.”  See you do the work.  Which is why I’ve created several demo reels.  They have to see that you can do it.  You have to be able to prove it to them.  You have to be able to get someone to represent you that is open enough to do that for you.

 

MS; You’ve done both television and film.  Do you have a preference?

 

JS:  Not any more.  Today there is no difference.  It’s about the quality of work.  I ask you a question back:  what is a television show and what is a film?

 

MS:  I think, to me, the difference is that in television, or on stage in a successful show, you have the opportunity to keep developing the character as the series or show progresses.  With a film, you’re only dealing with the role for a few months.  Does that make sense?

 

JS; Yes it does.

 

MS:  What are you working on now?

 

JS:  I have a new film called “Hank” which is now out all over the country.  It’s a short film about a guy in a relationship whose partner decides he wants an open relationship and I don’t.  It’s gotten some of the best reviews I’ve received since “The Birth of a Nation.”  And then I’m in a film called “Immortal” which is opening at the Scream Film Festival.  It’s a thriller and it’s opening on the 16th of October.  I’m also doing stand-up at the Icehouse Comedy Club in Pasadena.  I also just completed a web-series I wrote, produced and appeared in called “Smothered” with Mitch Hara.  I’m also being considered for a recurring role in a big series – I can’t say which one – as well as a national commercial.

MS:  It’s good to be busy.

 

JS:  It is.  I feel very blessed.

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN ORDERING MR. STUART’S BOOK, YOU CAN FIND IT ON AMAZON.COM, BARNESandNOBLE.COM OR YOU CAN ORDER IT FROM THE PUBLISHER HERE.

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