Monthly Archives: September 2010

Review: Let Me In

It’s one thing to remake a film years after its release, but writer-director Matt Reeves faced one heck of a challenge making an American version of the fantastic Swedish film, Let the Right One In. Not only is Let the Right One In one of the greatest vampire movies ever made, but it only came out two years ago. Reeves’ version, Let Me In, may not quite validate giving this story another go-around so soon, but that’s not to say it isn’t a wildly enjoyable and astoundingly well-done film.

Kodi Smit-McPhee is Owen, a 12-year-old boy living with his mother in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s 1983 and Owen’s only salvation from his parents’ divorce and the bullies at school is the time he gets to spend alone at night in the courtyard of his apartment complex. One evening, his privacy is invaded by another 12-year-old (more or less), Abby (Chloe Moretz). Abby just moved into the apartment next door, but informs Owen right from the start that the two cannot be friends.

Regardless, Abby and Owen continue to meet in the courtyard and slowly begin to build a relationship. Owen introduces Abby to the Rubik’s Cube, candy and Morse Code, but she offers little in return for she’s hiding a secret. She can’t stomach the candy, is immune to the cold and must be formally invited inside before entering Owen’s home. To top it all off, Abby needs blood to live; she’s a vampire.

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Is ‘The Hunger Games’ Just a Rip Off of ‘Battle Royale’?

With ‘The Hunger Games’ becoming a hot topic not only in the world of literature, but film as well, all sorts of articles are popping up on sites everywhere. There are ones reporting that Gary Ross is in talks for the directing gig, ones speculating on who might nab the lead role of Katniss Everdeen and more. Regardless of the topic, there’s one thing that’s exactly the same with just about every one of these write-ups: the comments. No, not the ones in which fans praise series author Suzanne Collins for her work or the ones that berate authors for miscasting Gale and Peeta, but the ones that compare ‘The Hunger Games’ to the 2000 Japanese movie ‘Battle Royale,’claiming ‘The Hunger Games’ is just a rip off. Maybe the two pieces share the same general concept – teens being trapped in an arena and forced to fight until just one is left alive – but the similarities stop there.

In ‘Battle Royale’ a class full of students believe they’re going on a field trip, but instead, their bus is gassed, they’re fitted with collars and taken to a remote island. That’s where they find their former teacher, Kitano, and he reveals that under the order of the Battle Royale Act, their class has been selected to play a game in which they must kill each other off until just one remains. One by one the students are given survival packs and sent out into the forest and that’s where the majority of the film takes place. Just a small portion of ‘Battle Royale’ is dedicated to providing background information. We get just enough to understand the main characters’ positions among their peers, but otherwise, most information comes through battle.

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Interview: Howl Writer-Directors Rob Epstein And Jeffrey Friedman

Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is no easy subject to take on, especially when it comes to adapting the poem to film. Complicating matters further, writer-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman envisioned something far beyond a standard narrative retelling; they wanted a piece with a number of different layers.

James Franco portrays Ginsberg in three elements of the film – during the first public reading of “Howl,” during an interview, and while recreating moments in Ginsberg’s life. Then there’s the animation of the poem itself as well as a star-studded depiction of the 1957 obscenity trial.

Clearly this isn’t just a film about a poem- it’s about the poem, it is the poem and it’s a biopic. Fitting all that into one 90-minute film was likely no easy task, but Epstein and Friedman certainly had a plan of action in mind when tackling the challenge. See what the duo had to say about every step of the process, from bringing the poem to life through animation to finding their Ginsberg and their courtroom players.

Epstein and Friedman also took the time to touch on their upcoming film, Lovelace. No, not the already infamous Lindsay Lohan film – a mistake I made myself – but their own production about the porn superstar turned anti-pornography activist. Check it all out in the video interview below.

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Interview: You’ve Got Hate Mail’s Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore

Have you ever clicked ‘reply all’ instead of ‘reply?’ Maybe, maybe not, but I’d like to bet most of you have sent an e-mail and regretted clicking ’send’ so abruptly. Perhaps you caught a spelling error in the subject just after you committed or maybe the regret came a few minutes later, after you’ve had enough time to consider and question your choice of words. While most of us opt to keep the resulting embarrassment or lament behind the computer screen, Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore are going a different route; they’re using these e-mails to tell a story on the stage.

After two successful performances at The Triad in New York City, Van Zandt and Milmore’s You’ve Got Hate Mail is back and set for a much longer run. It stars Van Zandt and Milmore as a husband and wife struggling through a rough spot in their marriage, a struggle that takes place almost entirely through e-mail.

Having never reported on theater, I was certainly hesitant to accept an interview with Van Zandt and Milmore, however, it looks like my effort to expand my horizons paid off big time because not only is the subject matter and format of the show modern and innovative, but the chat was a blast. They discussed You’ve Got Hate Mail’s true source material, the show’s Blackberry chase scene, working with director Gary Shaffer and so much more. Check out the interview in the video below and head over to the show’s website, YouveGotHateMail.com, to get tickets.

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Review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Zack Snyder is clearly a master of visuals, but look at 300 and Watchmen. The minimal plot of 300 was completely overshadowed by the masterful imagery and while those unfamiliar with the source material couldn’t quite understand Watchmen, there was no denying that the film was downright mesmerizing. Sadly, it looks as though Snyder has fallen into a similar trap with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. The film looks gorgeous, but unfortunately it’s also quite evident that he attempted to cram three books into just one film. The story itself is sloppy.

Based on the first three books of Kathryn Lasky’s series, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole follows the adventures of a young owl named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess). All his life he’s enjoyed hearing his father’s (Hugo Weaving) stories about the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a group of owls dedicated to keeping peace throughout the owl kingdom. However, his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) views his father’s stories as just that, tall tales. One day, while practicing a pre-flying technique called branching, both Soren and Kludd fall to the ground, a nightmare of a place for owlets. But before the creatures down below can get a hold of them, something else does, something far worse, the Pure Ones.

The Pure Ones take the brothers back to their lair where they enslave young owls, forcing some to work and others to train to become warriors. Kludd is instantly seen as a potential fighter, but when Soren attempts to defend a tiny elf owl, Gylfie (Emily Barclay), Soren is punished and assigned to be a picker, a worker that must pick through pellets to find special “flecks.” Eventually Gylfie and Soren see an opportunity to escape and take it and that’s when the real adventure begins. Their only hope of freeing the other owlets and stopping whatever scheme the Pure Ones have in the works is to find the Guardians of Ga’Hoole.

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Interview: Buried Director Rodrigo Cortes

Rodrigo Cortes knew exactly what he was getting into when he agreed to direct Chris Sparling’s screenplay, Buried–an impossible challenge. Well, I should say a nearlyimpossible challenge because not only did Cortes manage to turn Sparling’s one-location story into a fantastic film, but a downright compelling one at that.

Buried stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, a truck driver hired to deliver supplies to people in need in Iraq. When his convoy is ambushed Paul is knocked unconscious, and when he comes to he finds himself buried underground in a coffin with just a cell phone and a lighter. Paul must break through the frustration and horror of his situation in order to use the few resources he has to give himself even the slightest chance of survival.

94 minutes in a box? Yes, it’s true. Buried has no flashbacks, no dream sequences and never cuts to any above ground locations; we can see what Paul Conroy can see and nothing more and that’s exactly how Cortes wanted it. So how did he pull it off? Hear all the details from Cortes himself in the video interview below.

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Interview: Buried Writer Chris Sparling

Even though Buried managed to make it to theaters, it’s still hard to believe anyone would consider making a feature film that takes place entirely in an underground coffin possible. However, not only was writer Chris Sparling up for the challenge, but he was so successful in his effort that he attracted the attention of director Rodrigo Cortes as well Ryan Reynolds.

Buried is Reynolds’ one-man show. He stars as Paul Conroy, a truck driver working in Iraq. He’s responsible for delivering supplies to helpless citizens, but his convoy is still subject to attack and sure enough they’re ambushed and during the firefight, Paul is knocked unconscious. When he finally wakes up, he’s in an even worse situation than he was before; Paul is buried in a coffin with just a Zippo lighter and a cell phone. Rightfully distraught, Paul’s only choice is to pull himself together and put his resources to use or to submit to his condition and remain in this underground nightmare.

I was fortunate enough to have some time to talk with Sparling, during which he told me all about the development of the idea, how he went about making the concept feel real and then handing his work over to Cortes and Reynolds. As an added bonus, Sparling threw in some information on his next feature film, another trapped story called ATM. Check it all out in the two videos below and be sure to catch Buried when it hits theaters locally on the 24th and then expands on October 8th.

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