“GET OUT” chosen the Best Film of 2017 by Media Mikes readers.

After tabulating the votes from more than 3,000 entries, “Get Out,” writer/director Jordan Peele’s debut feature, was chosen the Best Film of 2017 by the readers and staff of Media Mikes.   The film also nabbed Peele the award for Best Original Screenplay.

 

Director Guillermo del Toro was chosen the year’s Best Director for his film “The Shape of Water.”       

 

In the acting categories, James Franco was selected as Best Actor for his role in “The Disaster Artist” while Frances McDormand was chosen Best Actress for her performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the supporting categories, Sam Rockwell was named Best Supporting Actor for “Three Billboards” while Allison Janney was named Best Supporting Actress for “I, Tonya.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Coco” was chosen the year’s Best Animated Feature.

 

“Call Me By Your Name” was recognized for it’s Best Adapted  Screenplay.  Benjamin Wallfisch was named Composer of the Year for his work on “IT” and “Bladerunner 2049.”

B. Harrison Smith talks about working with horror legends in his new film “Death House”

Photo by KGE

Harrison Smith is the writer and director of the new horror film “Death House”, which is being called the Expendables of the horror genre! This film is jam packed with dozens of icons including Kane Hodder, Dee Wallace, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley and many more! B. Harrison took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and what we can expect for the future!

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you first got involved with “Death House”?
B. Harrison Smith: All of that can be found here. It’s my personal blog called Cynema. It has four articles called “The Road To Death House” series which answers everything you need to know.

MG: How much did Gunner Hansen complete before his passing?
BHS: Gunnar did the original script. That’s covered in the “Road to Death House” series on my blog. The script that’s shot is 90% mine. I kept his concept of the Five Evils and the issue of good and evil’s dependency on each other. However Gunnar’s original script was about a team of filmmakers going into an abandoned asylum where they were killed off. So it’s pretty different. He gave the script his blessing before he died. He was happy with what I did. He was such a good person.

MG: What was it like to work with so many horror legends?
BHS: Educational. They know so much. They’ve seen so much and how the industry has evolved and changed for the better and worse. I loved the fact that I grew up watching them in theaters and late night cable and video and now I work with them. That’s the best thing.

MG: Were there any talent that you reach out to that turned you down or that you weren’t able to get for this film?
BHS: Sure and it was due to scheduling. When the money finally moved it didn’t jive with everyone’s schedule. Robert Englund was in the middle of three projects and flying to Scotland. Bruce Campbell was smack dab in the middle of the Evil Dead tv show but they were really nice about it and supportive. What can you do? The project had been on and off again for years. They had to work. Hopefully the next one we will get them!

MG: What was one of the coolest moments you had on set during production?
BHS: There were a few but one that comes to mind was watching the interaction between Kane, Bill, Michael. They’ve known each other so long. They’re icons and they fuck with each other like high school kids. They did this three stooges “hello, hello, hello” bit and it was classic.

I also got to eat lunch with Sid Haig who just told me so much about the industry over the last 50 years. He’s a wealth of information and stories and I was so privileged to have him share them with me.

MG: On the flip side, what was the hardest part of the production?
BHS: Having a low budget and 24 day shoot schedule. I think most indie filmmakers will cite money and time as the biggest issues. There were no divas. No “creative differences.” The people part and crew part was easy. Time and money…they’re the hurdles.

MG: According to IMDB I see there is a prequel in the cards, “Dawn of 5 Evils”, is this next for you? Give us a tease on what we can expect?
BHS: Producer Rick Finkelstein wants it and I’ll oblige. It’s a prequel and that title will change. That’s just a working title for now but It will examine the backgrounds of the Five Evils and their origins.

MG: What is your wishlist cast for the next film in the franchise?
BHS: Ah hell, if I do that and leave anyone off then I piss off potential cast. I hope everyone for the sequel returns and I look forward to new faces as well.

MG: Fun question, if you could remake/reboot one horror film, what would it be?
BHS: I’m not against remakes when they’re warranted. There have been some great ones: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” ‘78, “The Blob”, “Night of the Living Dead”. So if I had my choice, I’d love to get a crack at remaking “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death.” I love the original but I think there were things limited by budget and time. The original sits on my DVD shelf and it scared me since a kid.

MG: Favorite childhood horror film that inspired you to your current role today and why?
BHS: I always say the original “Jaws” is the movie that made me want to make movies. But I’m not sure I classify Jaws as a horror film. But that’s the one. I was 8 when I saw it in 1975 in theaters and I told my mom afterward that I want to make movies when I grew up. I wish she’d lived to see that happen.

Film Review “Death House”

Directed by: B. Harrison Smith
Starring: Cody Longo, Cortney Palm, Dee Wallace, Kane Hodder
Production company: Entertainment Factory
Distributed by: Hannover House
Running time: 95 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Before we start, a quick question: are you a horror fan? If so, let me just drop a few names here for you to look over: Kane Hodder, Barbara Crampton, Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace, Camille Keaton, Michael Berryman, Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Adrienne Barbeau, Felissa Rose, Cortney Palm, Sean Whalen, Vernon Wells, Lloyd Kaufman, R. A. Mihailoff, Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Tony Moran and Gunnar Hansen.

Now if you are a true horror fan you should be losing my mind now! Am I right?These are absolutely legends in the business…and they ALL appear in the film “Death House” from writer/director, H. Harrison Smith. I have been following this film for years now as it was being called The Expendables of Horror! Well after finally getting a chance to see this film, I am happy to say that this film does not disappoint. “Death House” IS the Expendables of Horror! 90 minutes of non-stop genre fun! I found myself glued to ever scene!

Here is the official premise: “During an exclusive tour, a power breakdown inside a secret prison known as the Death House sends two agents fighting through a labyrinth of horrors while being pursued by a ruthless army of roaming inmates. As they fight to escape, the agents push toward the lowest depths of the facility where they learn a supernatural group of evil beings are their only chance for survival”.

“Death House” is based on an original idea from Gunner Hansen (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Being a hardcore horror fan, this film is a blast. Every scene you will see a new friendly face. The only thing holding this film back is lack of funds, otherwise this is sure to be instead cult classic. “Death House” doesn’t disappoint on the gore and packs some impressive practical effects. It also has humor matched with some solid suspense and a great score. You can tell that writer/director B. Harrison Smith is a horror fan just like us! He injects a fresh new life into the horror genre, while setting up a new franchise in the process. Prequel is in the works already! Read our interview here with writer/director B. Harrison Smith here!

Even though this film is filled with horror icons, the film is led by great new talent like Cody Longo and Cortney Palm, read our interview with her here. Cortney is a great actress and she deserves much more attention in Hollywood. We also had a chance to interview horror icon, Dee Wallace, and you can read it here. She is great in the film as  Dr. Eileen Fletcher.  Kane Hodder also kick some major ass as Sieg.. Hodder also has the new film, Victory Crowley, (aka “Hatchet 4”) this month! He is on fire in 2018!!

If you want to prove your role as a horror fan, you need to support this film and spread the word! “Death House” is breaking the odd and getting a limited theatrical release starting February 23rd in Regal Cinemas and Cinemark theaters across the country. Check their Facebook page to see if it is playing in a theatre by you…and if it is go see it!! You got to give it to the production company behind, “Death House”, Entertainment Factory for being behind this film. You can tell that this is a real labor of love, a lot of hard work went into this film and it deserves recognition. Films like this do not get theatrical release and yet they deserves it.  It’s not perfect but it is fun and made by a horror fan FOR horror fans!

Horror legend Dee Wallace talks about the new film “Death House”

Photo by Joe Bryant

Dee Wallace is a name that needs little introduction. She is a legend in the business and is known best for her roles on films like “The Hills Have Eyes”, “The Howling”, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo”. This year Dee is co-starring in the new film, “Death House” among over a dozen of other horror icons. She took out some time to chat with Media Mikes (again) to discuss the film and her role!

Mike Gencarelli: This project was born from the late Gunnar Hansen. How did you get involved and did you have any involvement with him before he passed?
Dee Wallace: I knew Gunnar. He was with my agent and also we saw each other on the circuit. I got involved because he and my agent developed the original concept together. Gunnar was a dear, sweet,  kind, talented man. He is missed.

MG: As a scream queen yourself, this film is jam packed with horror legends, but you have alot of screen time with Cortney Palm, who I feel is really breaking out in the business, tell us about working with her?
DW: I loved working with Cortney. She is very professional. I love her intensity.

MG: There has to be fun behind-the-scenes stories from working with this cast? Anything come to mind quick from the production?
DW: We alternated between freezing and feeling sorry for those who were more naked than we were!

MG: Tell us what drew you in about your character, Dr. Eileen Fletcher, and did you give her any cool unmentioned backstory to get into character?
DW: I loved her because I don’t get to play many characters like her…hard and unfeeling. Interestingly, that was a real challenge for me. I am used to playing with a full heart. I don’t know if you picked it up, but Barbara and I had a whole lesbian vibe going on.

MG: I like the idea that “Death House” is like “The Expendables” of the horror genre! Do you think that this will be expanded into more films?
Well, since I died, it’s doubtful I will return! But my daughter, Gabrielle Stone, is slated for the next one so yes!, I definitely want there to be more!

MG: From working in the genre over the years with “E.T.”, “The Howling” and “Cujo”,
how do you feel the genre has changed over the years?
DW: I think people get confused between horror and slasher. A good horror film develops characters, takes time to build, and usually has some kind of message about the human situation.

MG: Tell us what you are currently working on now and what’s upcoming?
DW: I have a great Christmas horror film on Netflix called “Red Christmas”, my series, “Just Add Magic”, is showing on Amazon Prime, and I am currently shooting a wonderful film called “Every Other Holiday”. I also am slated to film in March but cannot disclose any info yet!

Film Review – “Black Panther”

BLACK PANTHER
Starring:  Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o
Directed by:  Ryan Coogler
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 14 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

 

 

Holy Crap!!

I continue to be amazed at how the films in the Marvel Universe seem to keep getting better and better.  And it’s not just my opinion.  In checking back though our pages, I found that NONE of the main film reviewers on this site (myself, Mike Gencarelli, Jeremy Werner and Lauren Damon) have given a Marvel film less than four stars out of a possible five.  And “Black Panther” is no exception.

We first met our hero briefly in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.  Our story here takes us to Oakland in the early 1990s.  While young boys shoot hoop in the courtyard of the projects they call home, high above them they see a flash of light among a dark cloudy sky, briefly forgetting their problems.  But those problems will not go away, no matter who you are.

A story of diversity, family and compassion, Black Panther roars onto the screen at a million miles an hour.  Having lost his father, the former king of the African country of Wakanda, in a terrorist attack, Prince T’Challa (Boseman) returns home to find that he has much to learn.  The only place on the planet where one can find Vibranium, the world’s hardest metal, the country hides its vast wealth and technological advantages behind the guise of a small, third-world country.  Before he can rightly take the throne, T’Challa must accept and defeat all who would challenge him.  He does this with the help of his head of security, Okoye (Danal Gurira), brilliant sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), loving mother (Angela Bassett) and former partner in crime and matters of the heart Nakia (Nyong’o).  As the work to keep their country safe, they must take on the challenge of a long-lost relative, Erik Killmonger (Jordan), who is defiant of the fact that Wakanda is a wealthy country with seemingly endless resources.  He wants to share the wealth and make it possible for everyone to reap its benefits.  Of course, this brings a great hub-bub up to King T’Challa.  “If we take in people and their problems they wil soon become our problems as well.”  Sounds familiar.

Director Coogler, who directed Fruitvale Station and Creed, has once again filled his cast with an amazing set of actors.  Besides Boseman, who has played everyone from James Brown to Jackie Robinson to Thurgood Marshall on film recently, the cast contains recent Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Nyong’o, as well as Academy Award nominee Bassett.  These films are meant to be taken serious and the cast more than delivers on that promise.  But these films are also meant to be fun, and with great visuals and a brilliant musical score, Black Panther more than fills the bill.

Film Review “Early Man”

Directed by: Nick Park
Starring: Eddie Redmayne. Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall
Distributed by: StudioCanal
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 89 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Aardman Animations is probably best known for their characters Wallace and Gromit. This company has been around for nearly 50 years mastering the art of stop-motion clay animation. I absolutely love that format and this company has brought out some great content over the years including “Chicken Run” and “Shaun the Sheep”, unfortunately “Early Man” is not one of their better films. I hate it when I see a trailer for a movie and shriek and say “Oh boy, that’s gonna suck”. In this case, the trailer is 100% right.

“Early Man” takes place in the Stone Age when prehistoric creatures and cavemen roamed the Earth. There is a small tribe of caveman led by Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) and they live in a valley where they hunt rabbits. A young caveman, Dug (Eddie Redmayne), has dreams to do more. Their world is turned upside down when a Bronze Age army led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) take over their land and force them out into the badlands. Dug seeks out a way to get back his home and challenges the Bronze army to a game of soccer finding out that his ancestors discovered the game before his time…and that about sums of the movie, not much else happens here.

Sitting in the theater, I looked over at my wife and she was yawning. I was dozing off myself as this film was barely able to keep our attention…even our 5 year old seemed bored as well. If you have seen the trailer, then you have seen the whole movie. Tom Hiddleston, known best for his work in the Marvel Universe playing Loki, literally was the best part of the whole film as Lord Nooth. He was funny for sure but can’t save the film by himself.

One comment my wife pointed out, which I happened to notice as well, is that the film is very drab and there was really only one color pallet the whole film. In other stop motion films like “Coraline” color is such an important part of the film. I have to give credit to the animators because I love the craft of stop motion animation and you can tell that a lot of work went into this movie. I just wish I could say that I enjoyed it more but it was simply boring (and only at 89 minutes) and lacking any depth whatsoever. Yawn!

Film Review – “Hostiles”

 

HOSTILES
Starring:  Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi
Directed by:  Scott Cooper
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 14 mins
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

 

What would you do if you’d spent your entire adult life hating someone only to find that they are now your roommate? I’ll wait while you think up an answer.

A young husband (Scott Sheppard) is alerted by his wife (Pike) that there is a band of Native Americans approaching their homestead. The husband orders her and their young daughters to flee while he takes up his rifle. Sadly, he is no match for the marauding group, nor are his children. Terrified, the woman seeks refuge in the neighboring woods.

As things in Washington D.C. get progressive, Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) looks forward to retiring soon. He has spent the majority of his military career hunting down (and killing) the Native Americans the government has deemed dangerous. Among them, was Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi), a Cheyenne who, along with his family, was captured by Blocker. Blocker is surprised to find out that the plight of the Native Americans has reached the cosmopolitan east coast of the country and that his last assignment will be to escort the Chief and his family safely to Montana, where he can live out his days as a free man. Blocker refuses, only relenting when he learns that to disobey will cost him his pension. To say he’s not happy is an understatement.

Scott Cooper has always been an entertaining filmmaker. Whether it’s the day to day life of singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart” or the bond of the Baze brothers in “Out of the Furnace,” he has a unique way of telling a story that makes the viewer feel they are part of the story. And he also knows how to get great performances out of his actors. Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for “Crazy Heart” and both Bale and Casey Affleck did some of their best work in “Furnace,” which is saying a lot since they both also have Oscars. Bale shines again here, as does the group of soldiers he takes with him on the mission, including Jesse Plemons, Jonathan Majors and newly Academy Award nominated Timothee Chalamet. Add to this group long time performers like Ben Foster and Scott Wilson, as well as the quiet, dignified Studi, and you have a cast that is more than up to the task. This also goes for Ms. Pike, who is found by Blocker’s party and taken into the group, with Blocker going out of his way to ensure her safety. Not for any ulterior motive but out of a sense of chivalry and decency.

Visually the film is beautifully shot, with director Cooper and DP Masanobu Takayanagi (“The Grey,” “Silver Linings Playbook”), along with composer Max Richter (television’s “Black Mirror”) painting portraits of the long ago countryside.

Film Review – “Call Me by Your Name”

 

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME\
Starring:  Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet
Directed by:  Luca Guadagnino
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 12 mins
Sony Pictures Classic

 


What is it about Italy that makes people fall in love?  Is it the weather?  The countryside?  The language?  I really don’t know.  I was only in Italy for a weekend and all I did was play softball.  But it was a beautiful country!

Elio (Chalamet) is a 17 year old musical wiz.  He lives with his parents in a small Italian town where the only signs of life are usually in the local tavern.  As summer begins, a car brings the tall, handsome Oliver (Hammer) to the house, where he will serve as Elio’s father’s research assistant.  Of course this means Elio having to move out of his room to another, which he eventually shrugs off.  Like Oliver, Elio and his family are Jewish, though they don’t go out of their way to announce it (according to Elio, his mother likes to say that they are “discretely” Jewish).  As the summer, and their friendship, progresses, they will discover they have much more in common.

A beautifully told story about discovering love, “Call Me by Your Name” is buoyed by the performance of its two lead actors.  Hammer, who you may remember as BOTH of the Winklevoss twins from “The Social Network,” shows a side I’ve never seen.  He makes Oliver both confident and unsure, worried that what is growing between he and Elio may harm the young man.  As Elio, Chalamet gives a true star-making performance, a boy, not yet a man, learning to deal with feelings he doesn’t understand.

The script, adapted from the Andre’ Acimen novel, is written by three-time Academy Award nominated director James Ivory, who was so instrumental in the success of films like “The Remains of the Day” and “Howards End.”  “Call Me by Your Name” actually plays like a Merchant/Ivory film – brilliantly performed and produced.  This is a story of love, though even those involved are unsure of its consequences.  As a character says in the film, “cinema is a mirror of reality and it is a filter.”  Just like life.

Film Review – “The Post”

 

 

 

THE POST
Starring:  Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Bob Odenkirk
Directed by:  Steven Spielberg
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 56 mins
20th Century Fox

 

They were called The Pentagon Papers, an analysis of the almost 30-year history of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam which did not paint a rosy picture for a war that would eventually take the lives of nearly 60,000 Americans.  Their impact, not only on how the war was perceived but in how the press was regarded, is the story of Steven Spielberg’s latest film, “The Post.”

Passengers on a government jet observe a young man chatting with current Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood). “Who’s that,” someone asks, unaware that the subject of his question will one day set in motion a series of events that, in today’s cycle of “fake news,” will open eyes to the power of the press.  The young man in question is Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys).  Unhappy with what he has observed and been told, the military analyst leaks a series of reports commissioned by the Rand Corporation to the New York Times, which in 1971 begins to publish excerpts.  Outraged by this, President Nixon orders government attorneys to file a suit forcing the paper to stop publishing the papers in the interest of national security.

In Washington D.C., Ben Bradlee (Hanks), editor of The Washington Post, is upset.  Once again, the Times has scooped him.  This is such a common occurrence that Bradlee brandishes a copy of the Times and asks his reporters “anyone else tired of reading the news?”  The Post is owned by Katherine Graham (Streep), a D.C. socialite whose grandfather had owned the Post and who inherited the publisher’s mantle when her husband, Phillip, committed suicide.  She is wary of Bradlee’s plans.  Not only is there a chance that publishing the information will put her in jail – “Wouldn’t you go to prison to stop this war,” Bradlee asks – but she also risks alienating some of her closest friends, including Bob McNamara.  Decisions, decisions.

A film that packs a powerful punch, “The Post” joins “All the President’s Men” and “Spotlight” as films that show the true power of the press in the face of adversity.  Hanks has fun as the tough but compassionate Bradlee and Streep adds another outstanding performance to her already amazing resume’.  The supporting cast is just as strong, with fine turns by Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons and Tracy Letts.  Even Richard Milhouse Nixon gets raves as the evil Wizard who thinks he can rule the Emerald City, and this country, anyway he deems fit.  Rather than employ an actor to portray our 37th President, Spielberg uses Nixon’s actual words and voice, through taped telephone conversations, to show what a devious and paranoid man the President was.

Spielberg keeps the story moving and, as with all of his films, the technical aspects are first rate.  And add another magnificent John Williams score to perfectly accompany the story.

Film Review – “Molly’s Game”

 

 

MOLLY’S GAME

Starring:  Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner

Directed by:  Aaron Sorkin

Rated:  R

Running time:  2 hrs 20 mins

STX Entertainment

 

 

Did you ever have friends over to your house for a night of poker?  This was a regular thing in my life from the mid-1980s through 1995.  Those of us who worked until midnight would get together after work a spend hours eating pizza, drinking Coke out of the little bottles (none of that NEW Coke for us) and playing games like Follow the Queen or Sh*t or Get Off the Pot.  Our highest bet allowed was $5.00.  I mention this only because Molly Bloom did the same thing we did, only her stakes were much higher.

 

Molly (Chastain) was a one time Olympic hopeful whose injuries took her from the ski slopes to a would-be journey to law school.  However, before she can crack the books she takes a job with real estate agent Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a bossy type who runs her ragged as his assistant.  One day she is given the phone numbers of (9) people and told to invite them to a high stakes poker game he is hosting.  Molly is put in charge of the buy in money and at the end of the night ends up with $3,000 in tips.  A fast learner, she soon begins to run her own game, rubbing shoulders with some of the most renowned actors, athletes and politicians in California.  When she moves to New York she again hosts games.  Things go well until she is arrested by the FBI for her actions.  What are the odds Molly beats the rap?

 

The first film to be directed by Academy Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (he also adapted the script from the real Molly Bloom’s book), “Molly’s Game” is a smart tale about how even the slightest mistake can come back to haunt you.  The cast is first-rate, with both Chastain and Elba, who plays Bloom’s attorney, Charles Jaffe, giving award-worthy performances.  The supporting cast is equally strong, including Michael Cera, identified simply as Player X, and Costner, who plays Molly’s hard-pushing father.  The film even serves as a “Dances With Wolves” reunion, with Graham Greene playing the judge who hears Molly’s case.

 

The script is pure Sorkin, which is always a good thing.  His work behind the camera is equally well done.  All in all, “Molly’s Game” is a fine inaugural effort from a budding new filmmaker.

Film Review: “All the Money in the World”

 

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

Starring:  Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg and Christopher Plummer

Directed by:  Ridley Scott

Rated:  PG 13

Running time:  2 hrs 12 mins

Sony Pictures

 

 

J. Paul Getty was a son of a bitch.

 

The first person in the WORLD to accumulate a fortune worth one BILLION dollars, he was a hard-driven man who had no time for family.  So when his assistant announces that the police are on the phone because his grandson has been kidnapped, it’s no surprise when he instructs her to tell them that he is “not available.”  Thanks grandpa!

 

Based on a true story (one I clearly remember from my youth), “All the Money in the World” is a tale that lives up to the old saying that “money can’t buy everything.”  We meet 16 year-old Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer, no relationship to Christopher) as he prowls around the red light area of Rome.  Clearly under-age he is scolded by the women he approaches and walks along the road.  Suddenly a van pulls up and Paul is swept inside and quickly blindfolded.  He is secluded out in the country and his mother Gail (an always great Michelle Williams) is contacted.  The kidnappers want $17 million for Paul’s return.  They are unaware that, like the majority of the Getty heirs, she has no money.  She turns to the boy’s grandfather (Christopher Plummer) for help.  He gives her his answer when he is asked by a reporter how much he would pay to rescue his grandson – “Nothing.”

 

This film has gained some extra notoriety due to the fact that Kevin Spacey had originally been hired to play J. Paul Getty and that, in fact, the film was finished when news of Spacey’s alleged misdeeds was made public.  In an unprecedented move, director Ridley Scott chose to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer and reshoot every scene that had once featured Spacey.  In six weeks’ time he managed to gather the entire cast and crew and pulled off a cinematic miracle by meeting the film’s original release date.  And what an amazing cast.

 

Williams, who was heartbreaking in last year’s “Manchester by the Sea,” is the tough, no nonsense mother who puts her son first in every decision.  She is cool and collected even when we, the audience, would be inconsolable.  Wahlberg is a former CIA operative who now runs Getty’s personal security.  He does his best, at Getty’s request, to negotiate with the kidnappers but finds little luck.  But the film rightly belongs to Christopher Plummer.  You can still watch the original trailer for “All the Money in the World” on YouTube, and you’ll come away with the feeling that Spacey would have given a strong performance.  But here Plummer is more than strong.  He’s brilliant.  He’s taken a character that the audience should hate and somehow makes his actions seem sensible, no matter how little.  Also, J. Paul Getty was 80 years old when Paul was kidnapped.  Spacey is 58 and required a lot of make-up.  Christopher Plummer is 88 and every year is ingrained on his still handsome face.  He recently received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance here and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is soon followed by his third Academy Award nod (he won an Oscar in 2012).

 

Director Scott keeps the story moving and the technical aspects, from art direction to photography, are well deserving of praise.  This is an amazing piece of filmmaking, made more so by the quirky back story, and is easily one of the best films of the year!

GET OUT and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Dominate the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

 

GET OUT, writer/director Jordan Peele’s darkly funny horror film and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, the story of a young boy who meets a visiting American while on vacation with his family, took home the lion’s share of prizes as the Kansas City Film Critics Circle handed out their 52nd Annual James Loutzenhizer Awards for the best in film for 2017.  Media Mikes writers Mike Smith and Jeremy Werner are members of the group.
GET OUT took home the prize as the Best Film of 2017.  In addition, Jordan Peele won for his Original Screenplay and the film was also named the winner of the Vince Koehler Award as the year’s best Science Fiction/Horror/Fantasy film.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME earned recognition for Timothée Chalamet, who was named Best Actor as well as for it’s Adapted Screenplay, written by James Ivory (based on the novel by Andre Aciman).  The film also received the groups Dr. Tom Poe Award as the year’s best LBGT film.  The film shared the Adapted Screenplay award with LOGAN, written by Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold, based on the popular Marvel Comics character.
Guillermo del Toro was named winner of the Robert Altman Award as the year’s Best Director for THE SHAPE OF WATER,  which also won the Best Actress award for Sally Hawkins.
The Kansas City Film Critics Circle is the second oldest film critics group in the country, founded in 1967 by Dr. James Loutzenhizer.  The group’s annual awards were named for Dr. Loutzenhizer after his passing in November 2001.
Here is a complete list of winners:
BEST FILM –  GET OUT
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo det Toro, THE SHAPE OF WATER
BEST ACTOR –    Timothée Chalamet – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR –  Willem Dafoe – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
BEST ACTRESS –  Sally Hawkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Laurie Metcalf – LADY BIRD
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY –  Jordan Peele – GET OUT
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY –  James Ivory – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME/Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold – LOGAN
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE –  COCO
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM –  IN THE FADE (Germany)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE –  JANE
VINCE KOEHLER AWARD –  GET OUT
DR. TOM POE AWARD –  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Film Review – “Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”

 

STAR WARS – EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI

Starring:  Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and Carrie Fisher

Directed by:  Rian Johnson

Rated:  PG 13

Running time:  2 hrs  32 mins

Walt Disney Pictures

Has it really been 40 years since the world was first introduced to the young dreamer Luke Skywalker?  It has.  Heck, if you don’t count the brief appearances in Episodes III (as a newborn baby) and VII (the last moment of the film), it’s been 34 years since Luke has been on the big screen.  But those numbers are in the past as the Jedi master finally returns in the eighth chapter of the original saga, “The Last Jedi.”

The film begins where “The Force Awakens” left off.  We are there as the galaxy’s newest hero, Rey (Ridley) finally tracks down Skywalker (Hamill) and hands him his old lightsaber.  His reaction is not what she expects.  Meanwhile, the first order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), both of who are under the power of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) have closed in on the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Fisher, in her final screen role).  As things begin to go from bad to worse, Leia reluctantly begins to trust in the leadership and ideals of ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who in turn butts heads with Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).  Can everyone agree on the right path to take or will evil finally win?

With a script by director Johnson, “The Last Jedi” is a mash-up of many different stories, but all with the same main plot line; good versus evil.  As Rey tries her best to convince Luke to return with her to help the Resistance, he gives her many reasons why he should not.  Among them is the guilt he feels over how his one time student, Ben Solo – his nephew – has transformed himself into the evil Kylo Ren.  In another part of the galaxy, we discover Finn (John Boyega) on an adventure of his own, one in which he meets the funny and resourceful Rose (a much welcome Kelly Marie Tran).  Rose is one of the many new faces that dot the screen, along with Dern and a wiley Benicio Del Toro.  But don’t despair, there are a few old faces that pop us as well.

The cast here is strong, with Hamill’s performance quite powerful.  He’s lived with this character for four decades and it’s obvious he’s invested heavily into it emotionally.  Driver, who came off as a little whiny in “The Force Awakens,” is much stronger here, a sign he has gotten comfortable with the character and its place in the story.  Sadly, this is Carrie Fisher’s last performance as Leia Organa, and the film is dedicated to her.  It’s apparent to me that Princess Leia would have been an integral part of Episode IX and I’m curious as to how they will handle her absence.  And if you’re looking for “cute,” not only is fan favorite droid BB-8 back but we also meet a creature known as a Porg, a puffin-like creature that makes the Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi” look like slugs!

To share anymore would necessitate the use of the words SPOILER ALERT and I would rather share less than more.  And with a 2 ½ hour run time, there is plenty I could spill.  But I would rather be dropped into a Sarlac pit then ruin your journey back to the galaxy far, far away.  May the Force be with you!

How Bad the Weinstein Scandal Is for the Film Industry

This year’s most resounding scandal was surely the one involving movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and his misconduct and inappropriate behavior (and we’ve been mild) that went on for years after years. Since the Weinstein scandal first broke out, numerous other filmmakers, actors, directors, and producers were accused of similar behavior. It is laudable for the victims of all this abuse to finally find the courage and strength to speak up and unveil the practices that have been going on for far too long in the film industry. Unfortunately, though, films – and viewers – are also hurt by the fallout of these scandals. The effects are already felt – fans have bashed Warner Bros. for not reshooting Johnny Depp’s scenes in “Fantastic Beasts 2”, for example. And it will likely also hurt some of the 10 movies to look out for in 2018.

One of the movies that have already felt the effects of the Weinstein scandal is “The Current War”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, this Weinstein Company production has been delayed – it was originally set to be released this November but thanks to the scandal, its worldwide release date was postponed for an unspecified date in 2018. “Hotel Mumbai”, starring Dev Patel and Armie Hammer, has been presented this year to the audiences at the Berlinale and was also set to be released this year. Now it is also delayed until next year – the date has not been revealed just yet. Other Weinstein productions, like “The Man With the Iron Heart”, “Mary Magdalene”, “The Upside”, and “Paddington 2” might also feel the effects of the scandal.

Actors – and, indirectly, the movies they play in – are also affected by the Weinstein ripple effect. Among them, we find stars like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the above-mentioned Johnny Depp, comedian Louis C.K, whose movie “I Love You Daddy” was canceled, and the list will likely grow further as time passes. At the same time, disturbing news about many more celebrities have seen the light of day. Pixar head John Lasseter has taken a leave of absence as a result of his past “missteps” and “painful” conversations. TV host Ryan Seacrest has been accused of misconduct. Actor/director Sylvester Stallone, One Tree Hill creator and showrunner Mark Schwahn, actors Tom Sizemore and Richard Dreyfuss, actor George Takei, producer Andrew Kreisberg, producer Gary Goddard, actors Steven Seagal, Jeffrey Tambor, Dustin Hoffman, producer and director Brett Ratner, and a whole list of other personalities from film, TV, radio, politics, and business have been accused of behaving in an inappropriate way at various times. And how all these will affect the film industry – and the others – is yet to be seen.

Film Review “Happy Death Day”

Directed by: Christopher B. Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I was simply sold on “Happy Death Day” from the moment I heard it pitched as “Groundhog Dog” but horror film. Sign me up! So instead of meeting ole Punxsutawney Phil and seeing if he sees his shadow every day. Our heroine, Tree (Jessica Rothe), as she wakes up to birthday only to gets killed and wakes up and repeats the same day over and over.

While she is trying to find out who the killer is the film looses so steam as the false alarms because a little predictable but overall. It was still fun to see how each day would be different. Even though not horror, this reminded me of the action-comedy “Edge of Tomorrow”, which also had that “Groundhog Day” feel. “Happy Death Day” even though rated PG-13 packs pretty creative kills during each repeated day.

2017 has been the year of Woman power with breakout films like, “Wonder Woman” and this film fit the mold nicely, it features a strong lead female character that can kick some serious ass. This film is a fun blend of horror with some great comedic moments mixed in. Definitely a lot of fun and got some great laughs in the audience, so it was definitely pleasing everyone.

If you are not familiar with the lead actress, Jessica Rothe, it is not surprising because she is only just getting started after a very small role in last year’s “La La Land”. What interesting is that out of all the anxilary extra characters in that film she honestly stood out to me, so I am excited that hopefully this film will be her big break.

Based on the audience reaction in the theater, I have a feeling that this film will end up connecting with an audience. If so, I can see this being a new franchise of sorts, definitely a lot of fun options. So those looking for some mindless fun and not excited for yet another “Saw” entry, I would definitely give “Happy Death Day” a shot!