Blu-ray Review “The Neon Demon”

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Broadgreen
DVD Release Date: September 27, 2016
Run Time: 117 minutes

Film: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Nicolas Winding Refn is a director that is not for everyone but for those that love him really love him. I was a huge fan of “Drive” and his style just speaks to me personally. So when “The Neon Demon” came around I went in completely blind and was absolutely blown away with this film. Elle Fanning is absolutely breathtaking as a person as with her performance. I hardly blinked when she was on screen. Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee are defiantly evil and even Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves pop in throughout. Reeves in particularly is one hell of a creep and nails it perfectly. Cliff Martinez delivered what is easily my favorite score of the year, which made this film work just so well! I found myself holding my breath and unable to look away at this marvel! If you enjoy something that isn’t a sequel or remake/reboot, this is a must see!

Official Premise: The Neon Demon is a sumptuous horror-thriller, set in the highly competitive and often vicious world of fashion modeling, where the term “eat their own” takes on a decidedly new meaning. When aspiring model Jesse (Fanning) moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means necessary to get what she has.

“The Neon Demon” is literally one of the most beautiful films I have seen. The 1080p transfer is fantastic! I would have loved to see this film get a 4K release! The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround works absolutely perfectly with my electronic soundtrack by Cliff Martinez (which is also my favorite score of the year). Martinez has scored Refn’s previous films “Drive” and “Only God Forgives”. Unfortunately, the special features are rather light. The audio commentary with Refn and Fanning is a must listen if you like the film but it is only followed by two short featurettes: “Behind the Soundtrack of The Neon Demon (05:08)” and “About The Neon Demon (01:12), way too short to fully get the behind-the-scenes feature.

 

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Film Review “That Demon Within”

Starring: Daniel Wu and Nick Cheung
Directed by: Dante Lam
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 52 mins
China Lion Films

In Cantonese with English subtitles

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

During a daring daytime robbery, the police and bad guys are shooting it out in the middle of a busy street packed with bystanders. When one of the bags of money falls open into the street, one of the robbers notices a black velvet bag spilled into the street. Looking down incredulously he asks, “are those diamonds?” Thus begins one of the best action films (and psychological thrillers) I’ve watched in a very long time.

Dave Wong (Wu) is a dutiful cop. As we learn more about him we find that he became a cop in order to give his life an almost calm normalcy. While in the emergency room of a local hospital Dave learns that a badly injured man needs blood. Feeling it is part of his job to protect the people he gladly donates. It is only later, when he finds that the man he helped was the mastermind of the robbery, that things begin to spiral downward, especially after he is chastised for his good deed by his superiors. Dave begins to recede into his old self, often hallucinating that he and the crime boss are the same person. He is self absorbed in his own world, where fiery images dominate his thoughts. As his guilt progresses Dave slides deeper and deeper into an abyss he may not be able to escape.

I am a huge fan of director Dante Lam, especially his 2012 film “The Viral Factor.” He brings to the screen an amazing combination of John Woo’s visual flair and Martin Scorsese’s story detail. This film is no exception. As the film moves along…as we move along in Dave Wong’s world, we begin to put ourselves in his shoes. These moments blend in perfectly with some of the most amazing action sequences I’ve seen on screen in years. While watching this film I kept thinking this would be a great story for Scorsese to tackle, as he did in 2006 when he turned “Infernal Affairs” into the Oscar-winning “The Departed.”

The film is also helped by a strong script and an even stronger cast. As Officer Wong, Wu is mesmerizing. Deep down he’s a good man who wants to do good things. However, the demons that haunt him, from his past and from the present, conspire to knock him down. The film rests solely on his shoulders and he carries the load with seeming ease. If you’re looking for a wild ride during this calm holiday weekend, you can’t do any better than “That Demon Within.”

“That Demon Within” opens today in select North American cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Washington D.C.

Blu-ray Review "Woochi: The Demon Slayer"

Actors: Dong-won Kang, Yun-seok Kim
Directors: Dong-Hoon Choi
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Run Time: 135 minutes

Film: 2 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Right from the minute when “Woochi” starts it really grabs you in with amazing visual effects and CG work.  Right after that it really starts to unravel…and unravel.  The film was made back in 2009 and this was the first time it is being released on Blu-ray. The film is also 2 hours of 15 minutes, which is way too long, though it is labeled as being only an hour and 55 minutes. So I assume that Shout! Factory missed that for the packaging. I found myself looking to fast forward numerous times throughout this film. The action scenes are decent when they actually occur but not frequently enough. I would put a giant pass on this film for sure or just watch the trailer and all the good stuff is right in there.

Official Premise: This fantasy-action blockbuster based on a Korean folktale broke all box-office records in Korea in 2009. Jeon Woo-chi, an undisciplined, womanizing wizard unjustly accused of the death of his master, is trapped inside an ancient scroll until he is set free in 2009 by the wizards that imprisoned him to help fight against evil goblins that have taken over present-day Korea. The only problem is that Woo-chi is more interested in his new modern home – and the women of Korea – than becoming a hero. Will he be the savior of mankind?

The Blu-ray presentation is well delivered by Shout! Factory. The 1080p transfer looks clear with the CGI work, even though that effects themselves looked decent at best. There are multiple audio tracks including a Korean and English DTS Master Audio 5.1 tracks, as well as Korean and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks. The only way to watch this film is in Korean, since the English track is completely unbearable. The special features included are impressive, even though the film isn’t. First off is a Making-of Featurette, which runs about an hour. If that isn’t enough there are four Production Featurettes focusing on “The Magic of Computer Graphics”. There are also some deleted scenes and trailers included.

DVD Review "Curandero: Dawn Of The Demon"

Actors: Sergio Acosta, Gizeht Galatea, Carlos Gallardo
Directors: Eduardo Rodriguez
Rated: R (Restricted
Studio: Lionsgate
DVD Release Date: March 12, 2013
Run Time: 92 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

A curandero is “a traditional Native American healer or shaman in Latin America, who is dedicated to curing physical or spiritual illnesses” (thanks Wikipedia).

“Curandero: Dawn Of The Demon” was made back in 2005 and I have no idea why it sat unreleased almost for almost 10 years. This supernatural horror pic is a quite impressive with no shortage of gore and some decent action as well. Be sure not to blink though as some of the “grisly images” are gone in a flash but they will stick around as nightmares. “Curandero” also comes presented by Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”, “Machete”, “Planet Terror”), who wrote and co-produced this film. This is must watch for horror fans and fans of Robert Rodriquez.

Official Premise: “Curandero: Dawn of the Demon” is an action-packed horror flick that takes a couple on a horrifying journey through the deepest bowels of the Mexican underworld. When beautiful federal agent Magdalena calls upon the local curandero (Gallardo) for his services to purify a police station, the two of suddenly find themselves immersed in a satanic cult’s blood-thirsty battleground.

Fans of Robert Rodriquez’s “El Mariachi” will be glad to see Carlos Gallardo in the title role. He is a long time collaborator with Rodriguez also on “Desperado” and “Planet Terror”. I am proud to say that I picked him out right away. Eduardo Rodriguez, no relation to Robert, did a very nice job directing. He is also the director behind last years “Stash House” and this year’s upcoming “Fright Night 2”. So this guy knows his horror and is becoming a force to reckon with quickly.

Lionsgate is releasing this film only on DVD. There is an option of either English or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. I prefered the Spanish since the English dub is extremely laughable. This release also comes with an Ultraviolet Digital Copy and only comes with the Spanish version, which is good. But I was unable to redeem at time of review since the webpage stated on the coupon is not accessible. The only special feature here is a audio commentary track with director Eduardo Rodriquez and director of photography Jaime Reynoso. Decent and worth checking out but I would have loved to seen more including some featurettes or cast interviews.

Interview with Genevieve Farrell

Genevieve Farrell started acting at the age of 7. She has appeared in such shows as the Emmy Award winning “Zoboomafoo” as well as “American Girl on the Home Front”. Genevieve left acting in her teens and recently graduated from USC film school. Genevieve took time out her busy schedule recently to speak with Movie Mikes about her previous work and some of her upcoming projects.

Adam Lawton: What made you decide to get into acting at such a young age?
Genevieve Farrell: I was really shy when I was younger so I started to take acting and dance classes in an effort to meet people and get over some of my shyness. I really excelled at them and from there I got myself an agent and then went on my first audition which was for a McDonald’s commercial. I acted quite a bit before deciding to take a break to attend high school.

AL: How did you become involved with “Zoboomafoo”?
GF: That show was filmed in Montreal as well as New York. The casting director for the show had cast me in a few other previous projects and brought me in for an audition. I remember going in for one of the auditions and I had to talk about a plant. This was very different from many of the other auditions I had gone to. I had always been interested in animals and things that were talked about on the show so I think that really helped.

AL: You were also in “An American Girl on the Home Front” which was produced by Julia Roberts. What was it like working on that film?
GF: That was an amazing experience! I was just so excited to be apart a film that was targeted for young girls and also to be a part of something that has such a huge following. I also really enjoyed the fact that the film is based on the book and that they encourage reading. It’s great that you can watch the American Girl movies and learn about different things as the movie progresses.

AL: Besides acting you also produce films and model. Do you prefer one more than the other?
GF: I really enjoy making films. I graduated from USC film school last year and during the four years that I was at school I got to write, direct and produce projects which was really great. Getting to have my hands in all the different areas of the film making process made me understand the importance of each aspect. I really am most excited about making films and being able to contribute in any way I can. I do love writing and acting as well but it’s really great getting to bring your own projects to life as a producer.

AL: Can you tell us about your project “The Perfect Gentleman”?
GF: “The Perfect Gentleman” is a short film I did set in the 1950’s. It kind of deals with issues of the period and is based around my characters engagement party. It was a very interesting role for me to play. The film was shot on 35mm which gives the film a real vintage look.

AL: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
GF: I am currently in pre-production on a short titled “Angela’s Light” which is about a high school student who makes a rash decision to cheat on a math test. The film is really about when you are in high school and you’re very sheltered. At that age everything is a big deal. If you don’t do well on a test its going to ruin your life and you won’t get into a good college and such. So the film points out the pressures during these times. We look to start shooting in mid May. I play Angela in the film and it is being directed by Mu Sun who is an up and coming director that I went to film school with.

AL: Are you producing the film as well?
GF: Yes besides acting in the film I also am producing. I felt since it is my project and I am very passionate about it that it would have been a shame not to produce the film. I have a ton of excitement for the project and I really want to inspire people to work on the film.

Interview with Ed Asner

Ed Asner is a legend in Hollywood.  Whether it is TV or film, Ed has done it all and is still doing it all.  He is known best for his role in “Mary Tyler Moore” and its spin-off “Lou Grant”.  Ed also worked the character of Carl in Disney/Pixar’s “Up” and played Santa Clause in 2003’s “Elf”.  Ed recently just completed working on CMT’s TV series “Working Class” as well an HBO film “Too Big to Fail”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Ed about his career and working on some of his well known projects.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about working on the film “Too Big to Fail” as Warren Buffett and working with such a great cast?
Ed Asner: Well it was a great cast but unfortunately every goddamn thing I did was on the phone [laughs].  All I heard was disembodied voices…probably our assistant director.  It was an honor to play Buffet, I have admired him and he didn’t screw up in this film either.

MG: Tell us about working on the TV series “Working Class”, was that a fun project?
EA: It was a very fun project.  It was big work load and I will give you an example why.  We did one episode of “Mary Tyler Moore” in five days and it was a relaxed country club.   We had to do TWO shows on “Working Class” in five days, so the work schedule was tough. But everybody involved was a gem of a person, producers, writers, and fellow actors.  I was surprise we were as good as we were.

MG: Can we expect more Hank Greziak in season two of “Working Class”??
EA: No, we won’t. CMT has given us the hook.  There has been some attempt to interest other networks but that rarely works. It is a loss to me that I will not be able to do more work with Patrick Fabian, Melissa Peterman and Steve Kazee.  They were wonderful to work with.

MG: If you had to pick a favorite between your award winning TV shows: “Mary Tyler Moore” or “Lou Grant” which would it be and why?
EA: You can’t do that to me.  Bigger people than you have asked me that and I have refused them [laughing].  “Mary Tyler Moore” was nothing but sheer delight. Getting the laughs and getting the points across was nothing but great pleasure. With “Lou Grant”, we knew we were the first show to ever show a newspapers as it approached being a newspaper.  We presented situations and problems that no one else in America was presenting.  We were presenting both sides of it and never the bad side winning of course. It is apples and oranges, you just can’t compare them. It was a lot more fun doing “Mary Tyler Moore”. “Lou Grant” was a grind but all hour shows are a grind. I was saved in many respects that I was chained because that goddamn desk.  Billie and Rossi had to go around covering stories.  When it had to do with stories in the newsroom that is where I came to shine.  It was more fun to do “Mary” but the honor was great if not greater to do “Lou”.

MG: You have won 7 Emmys, more than any other male performer and also only person to ever win Emmys for same character on two different shows, how does it feel to hold these records?
EA: It is insane.  I do not think you will find anyone capturing it again, in terms of winning it both ways.  The conversion of Lou from half hour to hour was a nightmare.  It was horrible.  Nobody did it before and no one has done it since.  It is two different worlds.  It is the dark and the light side of the moon for God’s sakes. You are doing a half an hour with three cameras and an audience that laughs every time you burp.  Then you switch over to an hour where you can’t hear any laughter and it breaks the wall of reality.  It is single camera.  For instance I was in therapy at the time and my shrink asked me, “Why do you grimace so much?” and I said “Oh”.  I realized we were a dramedy, but I felt that in places where I thought people should laugh, I would do the goddamn grimace to service a key to let go at home.  It was stupid and unnecessary.  If they are going to laugh they will laugh and they don’t need any cues from me.  But I was so nervous that I would do that.  When we were brought back for the second year, you may call it psychological but I was shaving with a two edge razor blade at the time.  I left it out to dry out and I was racing to go to work for the first day.  I raced into bathroom, late as usual, picked up the razor, brought it to my side burn and pulled down and sliced open my cheek.  I ran to St. Joseph’s Hospital and luckily for a plastic surgeon, he put in 20 smaller stitches and I worked that afternoon.  I figured I must have been doing that trying to avoid the frustration of the hour show.

MG: You have been known to do a lot of voice work on over 20 projects, do you enjoy voice work?
EA: Oh I love it.  I get carried away like doing any other job.  My God, what “Up” did for my career…I just love it.

MG: Looking back on playing your character Carl from Disney/Pixar’s “Up”, did you enjoy that experience?
EA: It was lovely.  [laughing] I actually had an accident working on that film too though.  I believe it was the sixth session, there was a rise level by the sound room and I was marching back to the mic room.  Well, I tripped on it and went crashing into a shield covered corner of the wall.  I opened behind my ear as my head hit the wall.  It took six staples to close it.  Well, I still went on to work and did the days work anyway [laughs]. Nothing stops me.

MG: You have been successful in both TV & movies; do you prefer one over the other?
EA: I think TV is a medium that is just as great if not greater than film, expect you have to do it faster and you don’t get the spoiled treatment.  I have done a slew of low budget films where conditions are certainly no better than TV.  TV you are on an express train and there can be no feet dragging.  For anybody to put movie actors over TV actors…are full of crap.

MG: You have played Santa Claus more than a few times most recently in 2003’s “Elf”, did you enjoy playing St. Nick”?
EA: I think that Jon Favreau created the definitive Santa Clause in “Elf”.  I love playing him in that film and I would love to do it again.

MG: What else do you have planned for the future? Any upcoming projects you want to talk about?
EA: I have been working on a film about the Spanish Civil War.  We almost had it financed but it just ran into issues, so we will see about that one.  It is a great film and Ed Harris is going to be in it.  I am suppose to do a film in Alaska, which I have high hopes for and we will be shooting that in October.  There is another film that I am waiting to hear back on which I will be playing a chairman of the commission that re-hears the 9-11 tragedy. So let’s hope.

Interview with Michael Gladis

Michael Gladis is known for his role as the Chief on Adult Swim’s “Eagleheart”.  The show was a hit in season one and already got renewed for a second season.  Movie mikes had a chance to chat with Michael about his role and his upcoming projects.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got involved with “Eagleheart”?
Michael Gladis: I was given the appointment for the audition and turned it down at first because the character description was for an “Orson Welles type in his late 50′-60’s”. Now, I’m an Orson Welles type, but definitely can’t play that old. My agent told me that the producers were really excited about talking to me about it, and urged me to meet with them, so I did- very last minute. The “meeting” turned into a sort of impromptu test- with the room filling up with not only the writers and directors but also other brass from the production company/producer types, etc. So I read the scenes, totally cold, and they laughed, which was nice- but we only talked a little bit about how this dude was supposed to be older, and in a position of authority, and how I was a baby-faced early 30’s actor. So, a couple days later I get the offer for the role- which was awesome, but I still didn’t buy me as Chief- I still felt like I was WAY too young for the role. So I asked for another meeting with the writers/producers, and this time we really got to talk. They’re all great guys- really down to earth and friendly and funny- and that’s where I pitched the idea of the prosthetics and fat suit- I figured, if we were going to send up Welles, let’s really do what he would have done- age me like he aged himself in Citizen Kane- which thankfully they were happy to indulge. So I took the role.

MG: How did you come up with your character of the Chief? Did you base him off anyone?
MG: Well, obviously a lot of the foundation for Chief is Orson Welles. Both in writing and appearance. Visually we were going after a “Touch of Evil” Welles, and I think we did a great job. In terms of performance, though, Chief kind of took on a life/character of his own, and deviated from an Orson Welles impression to become something else entirely- he’s a character I really, really enjoyed playing.

MG: Tell us about the makeup process for the character?
MG: 2 1/2 to 3 hours sitting in a chair watching a make-up artist reproduce a sculpture on your face with prosthetics glue, 17 different colors of paint applied with brushes, sponges, and an airbrush gun- just so we can tear it all off and throw it out at the end of the day. I have a very simple mind, so I’m always fascinated by the process, and I have such a respect for the make-up artists that do the work. It’s also turned into a way to get into character. I sit down as Michael, and get out of the chair as Chief.

MG: Are you shocked that “Eagleheart” is already greenlit for a second season?
MG: “Shocked” isn’t the word I’d use. “Elated” is a good word for it. I’ve only received really positive feedback so far- even my parents and their friends think it’s funny- which is a far cry from our intended demographic of college students ripping bong hits every time a gun is fired on-screen (if that’s not a game that’s played to our show in every university across this great land, it should be)- and I don’t think my parents or their friends are ripping any bong hits, so if they think it’s funny, the show should definitely be renewed.

MG: Do you think we will be seeing more of the Chief?
MG: I truly hope so.

MG: Do you have preference working in comedy or drama TV series?
MG: I love working in both- as long as they’re good. I was totally sold on doing Eagleheart when I heard that Chris Eliot was on board. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid, and working with him is so much fun. He’s amazing, as are Brett Gelman and Maria Thayer- they’re all so funny and such wonderful people, going work is really a joy- we laugh a lot.

MG: Tell us about working with Clint Eastwood on “J. Edgar”?
MG: Well, my role is a very small one- blink and you’ll miss it- but I’d be an extra in a Clint Eastwood movie. He’s really one of my Hollywood heroes. So I jumped at the chance to do it. I was warned that Clint moves very, very fast, and that I’d only get one or two takes- and that I’d probably only be on set for 45 minutes if I only had one line. I did, indeed, only get a couple takes, which was fine, but because I was playing the owner of the club where the day’s scenes took place, I actually had to hang out for about 9 hours to be in the background (see? be careful what you wish for)- but that turned out to be great, because I got to watch Clint work all day.

MG: Tell us about working with Joe Lynch on his new film, “Knights of Badassdom”?
MG: Joe’s awesome. Such a nice guy. Very positive- very supportive- and I think “Knights of Badassdom” is gonna be a kick-ass film. I can’t wait to see it.