Get Out

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Directed by: Jordan Peele (debut)
Written by: Jordan Peele (“Keanu”)

Dark comedy, sharp social satire and mainstream horror elements merge into the strange and, at times, smartly-written film “Get Out,” the first feature directed by Jordan Peele of the sketch comedy TV series “Key and Peele.” Tonally satisfying and provocative, the hybrid genre movie might overstay its welcome and miss out on driving its critique on cultural appropriate all the way home, but Peele has taken the somewhat unique idea (“Being John Malkovich” did it better) and modified it into his own clever, anti-racism statement.

Things get a little uncomfortable for Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a young, African American college student, when his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), brings him home to meet her family. While Rose believes race isn’t going to be an issue for her progressive parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford), the atmosphere surrounding the visit doesn’t sit well with Chris as soon as he gets there—from the unintentionally ignorant albeit inappropriate comments and questions that come his way to the bizarre interactions he has with the family’s black employees. Chris doesn’t know what’s up, but something is definitely not right. When Rose’s psychiatrist mother, Missy (Keener), decides to hypnotize Chris without his permission, supposedly to break him of his smoking habit, is when Chris’s short weekend trip with his girlfriend turns into a disturbing nightmare that he cannot awake from.

Borrowing themes from past films like the aforementioned “Malkovich,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “The Stepford Wives” (and possibly even director Johnathan Glazer’s trippy 2013 metaphysical drama “Under the Skin”), Peele’s exploration of current race relations in America and how casual racism has somehow become the norm, even among seemingly intelligent individuals, is the strongest reason make your way to the theater for his promising directorial debut.

“Get Out” works much better as social commentary than it does when it regresses into mainstream horror in the third act, but by then Peele has audiences already hooked. If he had fleshed out some of the more complex ideas instead of actually cutting flesh, “Get Out” could’ve been something truly special.

Catalina Aguilar Mastretta – Everybody Loves Somebody

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the bilingual romantic comedy “Everybody Love Somebody,” director and screenwriter Catalina Aguilar Mastretta (“The Hours With You”) tells the story of Clara (Karla Souza), a successful Mexican-American doctor who find herself at a relationship impasse when she takes a date to her parents’ wedding in Mexico only to discover her ex-boyfriend has also been invited to the ceremony.

During an interview last week, Mastretta talked about the complexities of relationships, why romantic comedies have always been a genre she’s enjoyed, and what audiences can do to help get more Latina filmmakers like her behind the camera making more movies.

What inspired you to write a film like “Everybody Loves Somebody?”

I’ve always loved romantic comedies in general. They’re what I grew up watching. I wanted to write something that felt like a traditional romantic comedy, but I wanted to write something with characters and answer questions that I had about relationships. How do they happen? How do you meet a stranger and they become your family, and then you meet another stranger and they don’t? I think that is an interesting mystery.

Does the film parallel your own life in any way?

The only part that is kind of like my life is that my parents were together for almost 40 years before they got married. They only got married five years ago. I always thought that was funny. They didn’t have a huge, white wedding like we see in the film.

There’s a line in the film that the father says about how marriage is going to ruin their perfect relationship. I’m guessing your parents didn’t run into that problem.

(Laughs) No, they didn’t, but it was always a running gag in my family that they didn’t get married when I was younger because they didn’t want to ruin their love.

So, what are some of the romantic comedies you grew up watching?

My favorite has always been “When Harry Met Sally…” I think it was the first one I actually saw. Of course, I go back to old [films by] Woody Allen like “Annie Hall.” I think an exploration of relationships through a very specific point of view is always, to me, the most exciting. That’s what I was trying to make [with “Everybody Loves Somebody”].

What about more recent American romantic comedies? I could argue that a lot of them are pretty terrible.

(Laughs) I think there are a lot of reasons a lot of them don’t work. I think most of it is that the marketing departments have a hard time selling them. I can understand that. What you’re selling is complex relationships and emotions and complex things that are difficult to put on a [movie] poster. [The films] develop into these “hook” ideas—like, “Oh, they’re from the opposite sides of the aisle and they fall in love.” Everything is so very contrived. I think because we all experience love in our everyday lives, it’s very easy for everyone in the audience to see it and call bullshit.

What is your relationship status?

(Laughs) I’ve been married for three years, but I’ve been with my husband for almost seven.

Are you a hopeless romantic and did that affect the film in any way?

I always have been, maybe because I grew up watching a very, very solid and complex relationship with my parents that I always knew it was possible. Now that I’m married, I think that I have that. Mostly, I think [the film] is about larger feelings than that. I think it explores different definitions of what love is. The title, “Everybody Love Somebody,” comes from the idea that it’s not just about romantic relationships, it’s about relationships between a mother and a daughter and two sisters. It’s about how we relate to people. [The film] became more personal to me when we made it a bicultural and bilingual story. I think the barriers on who we fall in love with and why become more complex. Love is more complex and more difficult and more grey than [Clara] thought it was.

Earlier, you talked about how two strangers could meet and end up falling in love, while two other can meet and nothing happens. Having a soulmate is a romantic idea. Is it something you believe in?

I believe in soulmates, but I don’t believe we have just one. I think finding someone in the world that sees you and recognizes something in you is always a magical experience. It’s hard to communicate with people and show your true self to them. If you find someone in the world that shows you something about yourself that you never knew, then that is magical. It’s about a spiritual, human connection.

How do we get more Latina filmmakers like you behind the camera? It’s a complex subject I’m sure we don’t have time to get into too deep, but I always think of a Latina filmmaker like Patricia Cardoso (“Real Women Have Curves”) and wonder why a studio didn’t just hand over to her $1 million to make something else right after “Real Women Have Curves” in 2002.

I love that movie.

Right! And she hasn’t made a feature film since. We see this all the time. How do we remedy it?

I think it’s a complex problem, but I think the main thing you can do is watch those movies and demand those stories. I think the only way you’re going to get diversity in story if we get diversity behind the camera. In terms of women in film, I think there’s been a lot of controversy and talk about how—like you said—a newcomer who has a very good first film may never be able to get funding for a second one, while a male [filmmaker] who has very similar reviews [on his first film] can end up direct huge movies. Opportunities for women—and especially women of color—are harder to come by and I think we need to fight for them. At the same time, I don’t want to make movies that only Latinas see. I have seen movies that have been made by all kinds of people my entire life. I mean, “When Harry Met Sally…” was made by a Jewish man. That’s important. But it needs to work both ways. That’s the only way we’re going to get rid of this idea of “the other.” We have to have people telling all kinds of stories for all kinds of people. It starts with supporting stories that teach us about empathy, whatever those stories might be.

Roberto Sneider – You’re Killing Me Susana

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Mexican filmmaker Roberto Sneider (“Tear This Heart Out”) always wondered why he connected so strongly to renowned writer José Agustín’s 1982 novel Ciudades Desiertas as a young man. One day, it hit him: The story, which revolves around what Sneider describes as a “pretty mature relationship,” depicts—through truth and humor—a foreigner’s experience of coming to the U.S. for the first time.

Thirty-five years later, it’s one of the main reasons Sneider has adapted Agustín’s work into the third feature film of his career, “You’re Killing Me Susana” (“Me estás matando Susana”). In “Susana,” Sneider and co-writer Luis Cámara adapt Agustín’s story, which follows Eligio (Gael García Bernal), a cocky Mexican actor who wakes up one morning to find that his beautiful wife Susana (Verónica Echegui) has left him without a trace. Heartbroken, abandoned and embarrassed, Eligio ventures out to find his wife, who he learns has journeyed to the U.S. to attend a writing workshop, and bring her back home.

During an interview with Sneider, we talked about the timeliness of “You’re Killing Me Susana,” casting Gael García Bernal in the lead role, and what it means to exude machismo in this progressive day and age.

How do you think “You’re Killing Me Susana” parallels with the issues on race and culture we’re facing today?

When we were making the movie, I thought [issues on race and culture] had changed. I thought things had become much more modern. Then, after the [2016 U.S. Presidential] election I thought, “Wow! Things haven’t really changed much—at least not for the better!” I think in cities where there’s not so much diversity, there is still a lot of fear. There is also this [idea] that American culture has all the answers and that it’s the best way to live life. I don’t think there’s a lot of openness [in the U.S.] to discover what other cultures can bring.

Did you always have Gael García Bernal in mind for the lead role? How did you ultimately decide on him?

When I first decided I wanted to make this movie and I started thinking about who could play the role, I auditioned several people. Initially, I wanted someone who had dark skin and more Mexican features, but I felt his attitude was more important. Then I thought, “I need somebody like Gael!” Then I thought, “It should be Gael!” But back then, he was too young for the character. I didn’t think it would really be believable to have someone so young involved in such a complex relationship. Fortunately or unfortunately, it took years to put this film together. So, we had a few years for Gael to grow up. I did contact him back then and sent him the novel. I asked him how he felt about playing the character. His response was the same. He said, “I am too young but I love this character!” So, by the time we were able to put it together, it was perfect. He was exactly the right age. I think something that was crucial and that inevitably changed the character was casting Gael. I think he has the spirit of the character. Eligio has this incredible sense of humor. I felt that Gael could capture his vulnerability and his great zest for life.

What do you think Eligio’s overall idea of American culture is? Does he understand it?

It’s interesting because he is not interested in fitting in. He very much identifies with his Mexican culture. He has a defensive attitude towards Americans. He tries to share his view of the world and he’s not adapting well to the expectations of what the country is. I think that’s fun and refreshing.

Why do you think humor work so well with films that revolve around someone getting his or her heart broken?

I think humor adds a perspective to life that is essential. If you don’t have humor, then life is really pretty absurd—especially when talking about human contradictions. [“You’re Killing Me Susana”] is about a guy who is deeply insecure in relating to this very smart, independent, beautiful, sexy woman. He feels insecure as a man and, therefore, reacts with this macho attitude. It’s funny how rude we act as people when we’re trying to cover up our insecurities. I think humor is very natural. Sometimes people equate humor with not being able to speak about things truthfully or deeply or trying to avoiding things that are painful. I personally enjoy stories that have a lot of humor and talk about real things and are not afraid to go to emotional places or places where you can question certain things.

Are you trying to say anything about the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico in this film? What would you like audiences to see?

It’s funny because we are humans and in that sense [Mexicans and Americans] connect naturally. But different cultures put us out of our element. Therefore, they are threatening from both sides. I think sometimes we react to that in different ways—sometimes by trying to please and sometimes by having this attitude of rejection. We can laugh at Eligio’s silly nationalism because he does bring that with him, but we also see the ridiculous attitude of some Americans who are very close-minded.

Have you ever heard of the word “ghosting?”

Actually, I’ve never heard [the term] before.

It’s what Susanna does to Eligio in this film. She leaves him without a trace. What do you think about the idea of someone “ghosting” someone else?

But I thought really hard about it. I think there are two things playing out with Susana. On one side, Eligio is not really a nice guy. He’s so charming and really attractive and she is very much in love with him, but he’s hurting her. I think she knows that whenever she confronts him, he ends up convincing her and she ends up staying. I think it’s an act of fear when she decides to just go. I also think there is the idea that she doesn’t want to finish things. If you truly want to finish things, you stay and say, “It’s over. Goodbye.” She’s not ready for that. By not confronting or closing anything, she’s also provoking him. She wants him to wake up. It’s very hurtful, but he hasn’t been so nice himself.

Is there a message about machismo that you hope plays into the film? How has the idea of machismo changed over the years?

[Eligio and Susana] were a very progressive couple back in the day when this was written. That’s how José Agustín wrote it. They were forward thinkers. Eligio wouldn’t say he was “macho.” He would ideologically be against that concept. But society was much more accepting of those macho attitudes back then. How much has that changed? Deep down I think a lot of us now think machismo is a really bad thing and we’re not like that anymore. Yet, there is a cultural thing still going on. That macho comes out in you because, socially, it’s very prevalent. I think that’s what José Agustín was exploring. At the same time, I think at the end-all Eligio wants is for Susana to tell him and demonstrate that she loves him. That’s kind of anti-macho in a way. But I don’t think she wants him to lose his manliness. So, it’s an exploration of that. How can you remain manly without being macho? How can you overcome those insecurities created by these macho expectations when you’re with a woman who is beautiful and smart and independent?

What’s the most macho thing about yourself?

(Laughs) I do think that every now and then I have this sense of entitlement of certain things in a relationship from my culture. I’m not going to say more than that. (Laughs) I try to keep it under control. You grow up with a certain culture, and it’s sometimes hard to get rid of it. To be honest, it’s sometimes in the way I see women. When I was a kid, I think we tended to see women objectified. As a kid, that was the culture in school. I think every now and then, I catch myself doing that more than it’s healthy. I think that’s one aspect of it.

Linda Cardellini – The Founder

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the biographical drama “The Founder” directed by John Lee Hancock (“Saving Mr. Banks”), actress Linda Cardellini (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”) stars as Joan Smith, the wife of a McDonald’s franchisee, who would later go on to marry McDonald’s Corp. founder Ray Kroc (played in the film by Michael Keaton).

During an interview with me last week, Cardellini, 41, who has starred in a number of films over her 20-year career including “Scooby-Doo,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Daddy’s Home,” talked about Joan’s philanthropic achievements, how she is still obsessed with learning more about the Krocs and what it was like working with Keaton.

I’m sure you know the saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Was that the case with Ray and Joan Kroc?

I think so! I think we can credit her a lot for helping him achieve what he achieved. You only see a glimpse of it in the film, but they had a love story all the way until his death. When he died, he left her his fortune and she went on to take that [money] do a lot of things [for charities] that I don’t think were necessarily Ray’s championed charities. She went on to give a lot of money to them.

Yeah, she went on to do some wonderful work as a philanthropist. Of that work, what stands out to you as the most impactful?

The interesting thing about her is that she did a lot of it under anonymity. I mean, there were certain giant, landmark donations that she gave like the Salvation Army. She created the Institute for Peace [and Justice]. She also gave a lot [of money] to National Public Radio. I like to listen to National Public Radio a lot. (Laughs) She did a lot of wonderful things and would help people whenever she could. She didn’t want the credit for it, which I think is funny because Ray, on the other hand, in the movie, would take credit for ideas and things that weren’t his.

Do you think Joan and Ray would be happy with yours and Michael’s portrayal of them in the film? I mean, your character is one thing, but Michael’s Ray is not very likeable in some instances.

Right. I don’t know. I think that’s always a tricky thing about doing true stories. You can never please everybody. But I do think it is a fascinating look at something you truly don’t know the story about. When I watch [“The Founder”], I feel more for the McDonald’s brothers than I do for Ray, of course. I think that’s sort of the wonderful thing about the story—you get to learn about people whose innovation and ideas led to what we all know today.

What kind of research did you do for this role and was there anything specific you were surprised to learn about Joan or her relationship with Ray?

You know, I did as much research as I could find. I’m still a bit obsessed with it. There’s a new book that came out that I’ve been reading that is about the two of them (Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away). It’s all surprising. [Their story] plays out like this very glamorous relationship. They compared it to [the relationship between] Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They had a very tumultuous but very loving relationship, which I didn’t totally realize. We didn’t get into that [in “The Founder”]. That came in the latter part [of their relationship]. The thing that is most revealing to me is her charity and her sense of generosity and what she decided to do with her fortune. It was really impressive.

Joan, of course, passed away about 14 years ago. If you had the opportunity to ask her a question, what would you have wanted to know?

I would’ve loved to know what it was that drove the two of them together and made their relationship last. I think everybody is sort of looking for that thing that keeps people together. I think it’s really interesting to understand how people keep it together.

What was your experience like working opposite Michael Keaton during a time many people consider a comeback for him after his Oscar-nominated role in “Birdman” two years ago?

I never worked with him before, but I always wanted to. For me it was a great joy. I love to watch him. He’s one of those actors who is entirely unpredictable. You sit on the edge of your seat wondering how his character is will react to things. I think that is a very fun quality that not a lot of people have. People can be predictable. He manages not to be. He’s fantastic to work with. He’s a nice, funny, smart and kind person.

Be honest. When was the last time you went through a McDonald’s drive-thru and what did you order?

(Laughs) It wasn’t that long ago. I know I shouldn’t. But I always get a plain cheeseburger. So, it’s not that bad. (Laughs) Well, it’s not that good either. It’s OK every once in a while.

Asa Butterfield – The Space Between Us

February 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the sci-fi, young-adult romance “The Space Between Us,” actor Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) stars as Gardner Elliot, a teenager living on Mars who travels to Earth to find his biological father with the help of his online friend Tulsa (Britt Robertson), who has no idea he is from another planet.

During an interview with me last week, Butterfield, 19, talked about staring in another sci-fi/fantasy film, why space interests him, and what he plans on doing when NASA astronauts finally land on Mars in the future.

You have starred in sci-fi and fantasy films before like “Ender’s Game” and “Hugo.” What is it specifically about these genres that attracts you to them or is it just a coincidence you’ve been in handful of them in your career?

I think it is just a coincidence more than anything. I read the script [for “The Space Between Us”] in the same week I read the script for “Ender’s Game” about six years ago. It’s kind of grown up as I have. It has changed and matured. I do love science fiction. I’ve always read science fiction books and loved the genre, but I don’t say to my agents, “Get me a science fiction job!” That’s not the case at all. I’d love to do something different from sci-fi because people tend to think I’m a science fiction actor and that’s the last thing I want.

What kind of conversations did you have with your director Peter Chelsom about the kind of movie he wanted to make? Did he mention other sci-fi films like “E.T.” he wanted to pay homage to or were you all starting on a clean slate?

“E.T.” was one of the film that did come up, but I wouldn’t even call this film science fiction, to be honest. I think more than anything, it’s a road trip, coming-of-age film with a backdrop in the future and with this romance entwined in it. More than anything, it’s about this boy learning to be a human being and trying to figure out where he belongs and what he needs to do to find somewhere to belong and find out about his past.

I know you shot this film a few years ago. As an actor, how do you feel when something takes a little bit longer to be released? Is it frustrating or do you just trust in the process?

I mean, you have to trust they’re doing it right. You can’t rush this kind of thing. It can be frustrating, but ultimately you’ve done your job and now it’s out of your hands.

So, did you ever wake up in the morning and think, “Where is that Mars movie I made three years ago?”

Sometimes. Yeah, sometimes.

As a child, or maybe even now, did space and the idea of galaxies unknown interest you? Was that a subject you enjoyed?

Yeah, I am massively interested in space and the cosmos. I love looking up at the stars at night, especially on a clear night. That’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s mind-blowing. I am very in touch with the natural world.

If you could get the answer to any question you had about space or nature, what would your question be?

There’s this star that is relatively close to [Earth]. It’s called Betelgeuse. It’s due any minute to explode into a supernova, which apparently is going to light up the sky for a few days. It’ll be like we have two suns. It’ll be amazing. So, I’d love to know when that is going to happen. But we won’t know because it might’ve already happened and we won’t know for however many light years.

If given the chance to travel to a place like Mars—say Elon Musk called you and said to get your bags packed today—would you take the trip?

No, actually. I’d love to go to space, but Mars is just a bit too far away.

So, where instead?

Maybe to ISS (International Space Station). That’s the logical place to go.

I’m sure you know, but movies set on Mars haven’t had a great track record over the years. Do you think it’s difficult for filmmakers to make a place like Mars cinematic and how do you think Peter did that here during the Mars scenes?

We filmed those scene in Albuquerque, which is a bit like Mars. (Laughs) I think we did a great job capturing the landscape.

You’ve worked with Academy Award-winning and nominated actors like Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ethan Hawke, and now Gary Oldman. At 19 years old, does it still feel surreal to be working with actors of this magnitude or do you view it differently?

I don’t really feel that kind of pressure. I still occasionally get star struck, but I tend to stay pretty cool. I kind of have to because you can’t afford to look stressed or nervous on camera. Everyone else will see that.

Do you think someone landing on Mars will happen in your lifetime?

Yeah, I think it will.

Will it be as big of an event as landing on the moon was in 1969 or has the world changed too much for anyone to care?

I think it’ll be a big deal. I’ll be amazed. I’ll be watching it while everyone else will be too busy looking at their phones.

I’m sure there will be an app you can download by then to watch it.

Probably. Watch it live on your phone!

I’m sure you’ve gotten this question all week, but what is your favorite thing about Earth? (A question his character asks everyone he meets).

Which answer do you want? (Laughs) Just kidding. This time I’m going to say music. I love music, playing and listening to it.

I know you’re playing a musician in your next film (“The House of Tomorrow”). What was that experience like—to combine another of your passions into a role?

I filmed that last year. I always wanted to play bass guitar. I love the instrument. It was great to channel my inner punk.

This is your 10th feature film in 10 years. What do you ultimately want out of this career? Do you have a goal set? Do you just want to make good movies? Tell good stories?

I think it’s telling good stories more than anything and entertaining people and making them think. I think that’s what I enjoy doing. Making people rethink things or change their view on certain things. I think that’s really exciting.

The Space Between Us

February 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Peter Chelsom (“Hector and the Search for Happiness”)
Written by: Allen Loeb (“Collateral Beauty”)

In space, no one can hear you scream—or let out a monstrous yawn. Such is the case in “The Space Between Us,” a tepid young-adult sci-fi romance that will likely cater to the same tween crowd who eat up tear-jerkers adapted from Nicholas Spark novels and think the dude they go to their homecoming dance with sophomore year will no doubt be the future father of their children.

That might be enough to placate some less discerning audiences, but “Space” contains so many eye rolling-worthy moments, even those starry-eyed high school girls might find it hard to contain their frustration over just how inauthentic the narrative is.

Asa Butterfield (“Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”) stars as Gardner Elliott, an intelligent young man whose astronaut mother died giving birth to him on Mars. As the youngest inhabitant (and only teenager) on the Red Planet, Gardner’s only real connection to people his age are the daily video chats he has with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an Earth girl who doesn’t know she’s communicating with a Martian and, like Gardner, is alone in her respected world.

Although it is impossible for scientists (Gary Oldman hamming it up; Carla Gugino phoning it in) to allow Gardner to travel to Earth and experience life because of his weak bone density (huh?), screenwriter Allen Loeb (“Collateral Beauty”) seems to exclaim, “extraterrestrial health concerns be damned!” and figures out a way to drop an absurd plot point to get him there to meet Tulsa and go on a wild goose chase in search of Gardner’s estranged father (because without said absurd plot point, there wouldn’t be a movie, of course).

From there, it’s off to the races as scientists do everything they can to bring Gardner home before the Earth’s atmosphere destroys him and before he can find the truth about his past. Awkwardly directed by Peter Chelsom (“Hector and the Search for Happiness”), “Space” never finds its voice or decides what kind of movie it was to be. It is obvious Chelsom and Loeb have grand aspirations (the “E.T.” allusions are laughable), but if tapping into some kind of Steven Spielberg magic was their ultimate end game, they missed it by a few million light years.

Anya Taylor-Joy – Split

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Coming off her breakout role in last year’s most critically-acclaimed horror film “The Witch,” actress Anya Taylor-Joy says she continues to be “creatively fulfilled” as her young career moves into its next phase. In her new thriller “Split,” directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”), Taylor-Joy plays Casey Cooke, one of three girls who is kidnapped and held captive by a disturbed man (James McAvoy) suffering from multiple personality disorder.

During our interview, Taylor-Joy, 20, who lived the first six years of her life in Argentina (her mother is half Argentine and her father is half Spanish), talked about her Latina heritage, working with Shyamalan and McAvoy and explained what kind of bad guys she’s most attracted to.

What do you remember about living in Argentina?

Warmth. I mean that from the people to the country itself. The sky is so big over there. That’s the first thing I think when I go there. It’s nature and warmth and animals. I had a really blessed childhood. When I moved to London, I definitely noticed how much I missed Argentina.

What do you think makes Latino culture different than other cultures in the world?

Again, I think it’s the warmth. I’ve always been a hugger. I’ve only realized by spending so much time in America that people don’t really hug when the meet each other here. In Argentina, it’s so normal. You meet a complete stranger and you hug them and you give them a kiss on the cheek. That’s the most normal thing in the world. I did it to an American and they kind of just stiffened up and I was like, “Aww.” I was probably too close for comfort. But I haven’t given it up. I hug every single person on set every morning, throughout the day and every night, too.

How familiar were you with M. Night Shyamalan’s body of work? You were only three when “The Sixth Sense” hit theaters.

Growing up, I was very close to my youngest brother, who is technically 10 years older than me. He showed me “The Sixth Sense” way too soon. I think he got really excited and thought, “Let’s watch it together!” forgetting that I was seven years old. I didn’t speak for a couple of days after I saw that movie. I loved “Unbreakable,” but I have to say that I didn’t go into [“Split”] with any expectations working with Night. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, I’m going to work with M. Night Shyamalan!” No, I’m doing a script that I’m really passionate about and a character that I really love and I’m excited to meet this man because I think he’s brilliant. That’s all I was really thinking about.

What was it about your character in “Split” that led you to the role?

I loved her, but that’s something I share with all of my characters. If I read a character and hear her voice in my head and feel instant love for her, I know [the role] is for me. [Casey] and I are very different people, but at the core I think we’re very similar. She’s a lot quieter than I am. I talk a lot—like a lot, a lot. She’s quiet and observant and has an intense and deep internal world. She’s aware of everything, but she internalizes it. She doesn’t speak about it. I think that’s something that really saves her in this film because she’s able to collect information and then put it into use at the exact correct moment.

What kind of conversations did you have with M. Night about what kind of movie he wanted this to be?

When a script is very well written, it just makes your job really easy because you feel like with every word you read, you’re reading a biography on your character. Night wrote an excellent script. We definitely had a lot of conversations. He intimidated me a little at the beginning because he was like, “And by the way, this is my favorite character that I’ve ever written.” No pressure. I was like, “Oh, shit. OK, I better do a good job.” I think we both had intense love for [Casey] and it was very important for us to get her right. I think as an actor, if you can tap into the mindset of your director and understand their vision and what they want, it just makes your life easier. We were lucky enough to have a week of rehearsals, which was very important. By the end of it, I could do a take and if it wasn’t exactly right, Night wouldn’t even have to say anything. I would just hold up a finger and ask, “One more?” and we would just go. He kind of just told me telepathically and I knew what his vision for Casey was and we lined it up together.

What was the experience like watching James McAvoy play all these different characters in the film? Do you have a favorite?

I think he’s a genius. That’s not a word I use very lightly. I’ve been very lucky to work with a whole bunch of geniuses. I don’t think any actor could have done the work he does in this film. I was so close to his face all the time. When the camera is on his face, I’m right behind the camera. I’m literally inches away from him. I could tell which character I was talking to just by the way he flickered an eyebrow, by the way he held his mouth, by the way his eyes shifted, his posture. It was a really terrific, physical feat that he did. My favorite character is Hedwig, absolutely. Isn’t he the cutest? I know that’s a really weird thing to say because he’s living in the body of the man that kidnapped me, but he’s so cute! I love him!

What is more frightening to you–a real-world antagonist like the one in Split or a supernatural one like in “The Witch?”

I’m kind of attracted to the supernatural—probably more than Thomasin (her character in “The Witch”). If I encountered a bad guy that had supernatural powers, I’d be like, “Oh my God, teach me!” I think I’d rather meet someone with supernatural powers just to be like, “Hell, yes! Magic exists! Winning!”

What do you think about the controversy Split has garnered because of what some people are calling negative stereotypes of people with mental illness?

The thing about the way we utilized DIDs (Dissociative Identity Disorder) in this film is that it’s definitely a jumping off point. Anyone that sees the movie knows that we’re not trying to make a comment on people with DIDs in the real world. We take it in a fantastical direction. We’re not saying, “People with DIDs are bad guys.” We use our movie logic. I think if you see this film and you’re insulted, I’m terribly sorry because that was never the intention. [McAvoy’s character] climbs walls and bends bars. If you can show me a person with a mental disorder that can do that, then, yes, you can be offended.

You were one of the last actresses to work with actor Anton Yelchin before he passed away last year. Can you share something about him you remember fondly?

With all due respect, it’s still tender. He was very well loved. He’s terribly missed. He was a wonderful person.

So, ultimately, what are you looking for out of this career as actress? Do you have something specific in mind in terms of where you want your career to go?

I think I’ve been so lucky because every single one of my movies, I’ve loved to death. I’ve really killed myself working these last two years, willingly. I’m making movies that I’m so passionate about. I’m so passionate about the people I’m working with. I’m learning all the time. If I can just continue to do work that I love as much as I love the films I’ve already made, I’ll be the happiest girl in the world. There’s not a concrete goal. I just want to be creatively fulfilled at all times. Right now, I am.

Jane Levy – Monster Trucks

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

After scaring audiences half to death in her horror/thrillers “Evil Dead” and “Don’t Breathe,” actress Jane Levy changes gears to star in the family-friendly adventure film “Monster Trucks.” In the movie, Tripp (Lucas Till), a mechanically-savvy high school senior, is stunned to learn that a monster truck he has built from scratch has become inhabited by a subterranean creature that is able to run the vehicle without a motor.

Levy, 27, plays Meredith, Tripp’s friend, tutor and love interest, who helps Tripp escape the dastardly plans of a local oil and gas company called Terravex.

During my interview with Levy, we talked about moving from horror to family fare, original movie ideas and how she feels when one of her movie—like “Monster Trucks”—takes a bit longer for studios to release.

The two films you’re mostly known for in your young career are “Don’t Breathe” and the remake of “Evil Dead.” What has the experience been like switching gears to a family film like this?

Every project is different. I have made two horror movies, but I have also made a bunch of other movies. I don’t mean that…It kind of sounded like I was angry at your question, but I’m not at all. Every movie is different and every genre is different. To me, it’s just the job—playing characters and existing in different worlds.

You have, of course, been in other film besides the two horror movies—mostly independent films. Is there one you can point to that you’re especially proud of that maybe some of your fans missed?

There is a movie on Netflix—I think it’s still on Netflix—called “Frank and Cindy” that I had a lot of fun making. It was a charming and weird movie that I like. Not many people have seen it.

In the age we live right now where audiences are getting countless remakes and reboots and sequels, do you think it’s important that an original idea like “Monster Trucks” get a chance to build something from scratch?

Yeah, sure. I think you’re right.

I mean, are you a fan of original ideas? A couple of years ago, there was a really great Tom Cruise movie that came out called “Edge of Tomorrow” that nobody saw because nobody recognized what it was.

The box office numbers—I don’t really think about that so much. I saw “Edge of Tomorrow.” I really liked it. I didn’t know nobody saw it. I definitely support original ideas and would champion for that. I also do enjoy some of the remakes that are being made.

Right. I mean, you were in a solid one yourself with “Evil Dead.”

Yeah, [Fede Alvarez] was a great director. [Remakes] are hit or miss, some of them.

You actually shot “Monster Trucks” a couple of years ago. As an actress, do you keep tabs on what is happening with a movie’s release or do you forget about it and sort of trust in the process?

Every movie is different. Some movies you make and they come out really quickly. Some take longer. It’s a funny experience because when you’re making it, you’re so involved and it’s like the center of your world. It’s your main focus for weeks, sometimes months. And then you don’t see it or hear anything about it sometimes for a couple of years. I don’t even really know how to describe it, but [acting] is a very funny job in that way.

What would you do in real life if you actually owned one of those monster trucks?

(Laughs) What would I do in real life? I don’t know. I guess I would just try to get somewhere really, really fast.

What do you drive now?

I actually have an Audi e-tron—half electric.

Too small for a monster to fit under the hood, I’m assuming?

Yeah, I don’t think so.

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Patriots Day

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

Nearly five years have passed since Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and NIN producer and programmer Atticus Ross were each presented with an Academy Award for composing the captivating score for director David Fincher’s tech drama “The Social Network.” Until then, most critical acclaim for a film’s score went to musicians who benefited from a background in conducting and orchestral composition—John Williams, Alexandre Desplat and Howard Shore, to name a few.

There were other rockers-turned-composers, of course, who paved the way, like Frank Zappa, Danny Elfman, Mark Mothersbaugh and Cliff Martinez. But the addition of Reznor and Ross into a somewhat traditional industry transformed the playing field. Still, Reznor and Ross are humble when they talk about the work they did on “The Social Network”—work that has propelled them into the upper echelons of their film composing profession.

“We just tried to instinctually serve the picture the best way we could and not come in thinking about how others would do it,” Reznor, 51, told me during a phone interview last month. “I think the concept of what is appropriate for real film music has expanded to incorporate things that aren’t just an orchestra. It never entered our minds the concept of being rewarded or recognized for it.”

Since “The Social Network,” Reznor and Ross continued to work exclusively with Fincher on his next two projects, the American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Gone Girl,” the latter of which garnered them another Oscar nomination for Best Score in 2014. In their latest collaboration on a feature narrative, the duo switched gears and decided to try their hand with a new filmmaker, Peter Berg (“Deepwater Horizon”). In “Patriots Day,” Berg tells the story of the Boston Marathon bombing that took place on April 15, 2013 and the four-day manhunt that followed.

After “doing separate things for the last couple of years,” as Reznor explained, he and Ross made a commitment to take on a variety of projects together over the next few years that would feel distinctly different and challenge them as musicians. It started with Patriots Day and a meeting with Berg to discuss the one concern they had in working on a film about a real-life event.

“We wanted to make sure it was going to be respectful and wasn’t a pro-American, kill-em’-all, Donald Trump [type of movie],” Reznor said. “Being familiar with [Peter’s] other work, I knew he would be capable of this style of experiential filmmaking, which was different for us. He gave us a blank canvas to do whatever we wanted and we were off to the races.”

Reznor described the early stages of writing the score as “a lot of beard scratching and sitting around thinking about the nature of the film.” Ross explained that although they weren’t quite sure what kind of score they wanted to write, they agreed on what they didn’t want it to become.

“All we knew was that we didn’t want a generic action [score] one might associate with this kind of film,” Ross, 48, said. “Often when we’re working in broad strokes, the early experimentation might include a set of instruments or a set of processes that may inform the sound. Sometimes we hit a bullseye on a target and sometimes we find something by chance.”

In the case of “Patriots Day,” Reznor and Ross admit they sort of stumbled into the recording technique they ultimately used for the film’s score. To create it, they built a machine in their studio that recorded on a series of looping cassette tapes. As different instruments and sounds were added into the mix, the tapes would start to distort and degrade in unusual ways. From the layers of sounds, complex pieces would form and Reznor and Ross would then extract portions and record over them.

“It started to take on the traits of all the various components that we had recorded on piano and strings and glued everything together, which would’ve been very hard to do through traditional methods or modern studio techniques,” Reznor said. “We created some really long, meditative pieces and started to arrange the score around that.”

For Reznor and Ross, the final score strengthens the overarching themes that come with a film like “Patriots Day.” Not only did they want to convey redemption and a sense of community in a city like Boston through their score, they wanted to express the idea of a fond memory being shattered by a tragic event, but without a sense of discomfort.

“We wanted a sound of melancholy, nostalgia and longing, but with a sweetness involved in it,” Reznor said. “I think we developed that in a way that feels tasteful and interesting, but also experimental and adventurous.”

Top 10 Films of 2016

December 31, 2016 by  
Filed under CineBlog

JERROD KINGERY’S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016

10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
As the first “stand alone” Star Wars film, “Rogue One” overcame heavy reshoots and the series’ terrible track record with prequels to turn a better film than the warm, fuzzy nostalgia hug/retread “The Force Awakens” turned out to be. It’s far from perfect, and Disney’s stewardship of the franchise is still under construction, but the future (past? It is a long time ago…) looks bright.

9. Captain America: Civil War
Everything that a near-decade of world-building superhero movies should be, weirdly placed in a Captain America movie as opposed to the would-be team up cornerstone Avengers movies. Every interaction feels earned, it introduces an instantly-compelling character in Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther without having to labor through an origin story, and features hands-down the best superhero brawl ever committed to film (or digital, I guess). Only a slight pulling of punches at the end disappoints, but the rest is gold.

8. Deadpool
Clearly a passion project for star Ryan Reynolds, and a fresh take on the ubiquitous superhero genre—in this case, an outrageously profane one—that rightly masturbated its way to huge box office success. The only bad thing about “Deadpool” is worrying about how Fox will probably fuck up the sure-thing sequel.

7. Christine
Somewhat slight, but quietly shocking, “Christine” finds local news (disclaimer: my actual career) and a tragically damaged reporter (Rebecca Hall) on the precipice of falling dangerously, forever and ever, down the “if it bleeds, it leads” rabbit hole that still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of viewers to this day.

6. O.J.: Made in America
Lots of people will rightly hate 2016 for a lot of very valid reasons, but for some reason it also became the year of fantastic O.J. Simpson-centric entertainment. First there was the brilliant FX drama “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson” followed by Ezra Edelman’s equally-brilliant “O.J.: Made in America” 5-part documentary. Covering everything from race to fame to domestic violence to dirtbag hangers-on and how they all intersect, it’s a riveting experience, even if you lived through the whole circus.

5. Arrival
Despite a climax that delivers a groaning plot point in the middle of a genuinely awesome temporal mind fuck, “Arrival” still delivers a quiet and profound adult take on brainy sci-fi that only descends from the depths of space once a decade or so.

4. Jackie
Natalie Portman practically has her name engraved on her second Oscar playing history’s most famous and elegant First Lady in the confusing, hellish moments after the assassination of JFK and during a standoffish, legacy-protecting interview with a journalist in the weeks afterward.

3. Moonlight
Best described as a series of vignettes strung together as a film featuring 3 actors portraying the same character—a closeted gay black man growing up in the bad part of Miami—that’s equally uplifting and heartbreaking. Mahershala Ali is outstanding as the kind, quiet mentor to the boy in the first third, such a strong performance that the rest of the film never quite measures up to, but the end result remains a powerful piece of work.

2. La La Land
Few films are as immediately effortless and effervescent as “La La Land” is right out of the gate. As a follow up to “Whiplash,” writer-director Damien Chazelle has crafted a love letter to Hollywood—both the musicals of old and the dream of “making it big” that still permeates the souls of everyone with an inkling of creative spirit. If you’ve ever wanted to create anything, “La La Land” will make you want to get off your ass and get to work.

1. Manchester by the Sea
Somehow both devastatingly sad and quietly uplifting, “Manchester by the Sea” features a career-best performance from Casey Affleck as a broken man uninterested in putting his life back together after an unspeakable tragedy—even after the death of his older brother delivers responsibility straight into his hands. Buoyed by fantastic performances by Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges, Affleck and writer-director Kenneth Lonergan paint a portrait of a good man trying and failing to deal with unimaginable grief and slowly moving on with life—albeit at a glacial pace befitting a harsh New England winter that leaves the ground so frozen, you can’t even bury a body.

Worst 5:
1. Yoga Hosers
2. Independence Day: Resurgence
3. Warcraft
4. The Huntsman: Winter’s War
5. Masterminds

CODY VILLAFANA’S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016

Every year I have a routine: cram as many films I missed over the previous months into the last couple weeks of the year and then re-watch my entire top 10 to get the order just right. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I didn’t have a chance to do that. This top 10 is EXTREMELY “in the moment” and is likely to change over the course of the next few weeks (especially as we have not yet seen films like Martin Scorsese’s “Silence”) But hey, deadlines are deadlines so here we go!

10. Finding Dory
Hear me out. In the past several years, Pixar has been putting out films that were either high concept and challenging or dead on arrival. There is something to be said for a straight forward, feel-good, and hilarious animated film. “Finding Dory” was Pixar’s best film since “Toy Story 3” and perhaps its, flat out, funniest film ever. The voice cast additions were fantastic and while it may not be the most exciting pick, I saw “Finding Dory” more than any other film this year.

9. The Nice Guys
Even though this is lower than another of his films this year, “The Nice Guys” is true peak-Gosling. He steals the show, showing both dramatic, but more importantly, some really great black comedy chops. Shane Black’s script is fast, smart and incredibly biting and the film event benefits from a great kid performance. A super fun film that probably wouldn’t make my list on any other year, but alas, 2016 has been the pits.

8. Tower
Perhaps one of the more creative films of the year, “Tower” is a documentary about the sniper in the tower of the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s. Told through animation, Tower uses voiceovers from actual survivors, an incredibly visceral sound design, and a few surprises to become one of the more affecting films of 2016.

7. La La Land
Let me get this out of the way: La La Land is overrated. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t super charming and very good. It’s at it’s best when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are building up their relationship and falling in love, but it manages to maintain its realism as they go through their tougher times. It isn’t a straight musical like it appears to be, but the songs are solid, and Gosling’s piano playing stands out as true signs of the love letter to a bygone era.

6. Christine
By far the darkest film on this list, “Christine” tells the story of reporter Christine Chubbuck, who..let’s say made her mark in television history back in the 1970s. First and foremost, “Christine” features a stunning performance from an unhinged Rebecca Hall, who gives by far the best female acting performance of the year. Look out for Tracy Letts, however, as a scene stealer who is being grossly underrated in Oscar talks. “Christine” is unflinching in its portrayal of Chubbuck as a pathetic person, which is gutsy considering this is based on a real living person. It’s dark, moody, stirring and very, very good.

5. The Founder
As a rags to riches tale of the rise of one of the biggest global food corporations in the world, it’s easy to see how “The Founder” could be construed as uninteresting. Mix in a totally game Michael Keaton, a strong script and some not-so-well known drama and you have the recipe for a pretty damn good movie. It moves briskly and Keaton’s character goes through a very greedy transition that is fun to watch unfold. More Michael Keaton please.

4. Gleason
Warning: This movie. Will. Destroy you. This documentary chronicles former NFL player Steve Gleason as he is diagnosed with ALS while his wife is pregnant with their first child. Unsure of when he will lose the ability to communicate (and trying to treat the disease itself), Gleason sets out to make videos for his son to teach him everything he can before he loses the ability to speak. “Gleason” is the most human film of the year, and unbelievably touching, sad, and yet uplifting. Some scenes are very hard to watch, while Gleason’s amazing sense of humor in his worst moments make the heaviness easier to digest. This is an absolute must watch.

3. Moonlight
I was unexpected for how affecting and great “Moonlight” would be. We’ve been seeing a lot of coming of age tales, and even ones that chronicle a single character over a long period of time lately, but never one quite like “Moonlight.” It explores sexuality, familial relationships, and personality evolution in a smart, exciting way. Mahershala Ali is phenomenal and should be a shoo in for the Oscar.

2. Manchester by the Sea
A film long in the making, Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” is a rich exploration of grief, resilience, and evolving family dynamics. It’s a pretty understated movie that keeps things pretty low key until revealing one of the most gut wrenching sequences of any movie this year. Casey Affleck is really great, using stares into the distance to express pain and Lucas Hedges channels a young Matt Damon to stand toe to toe. Supported by a great script, “Manchester by the Sea” is worth the journey.

1. Hell or High Water
On the surface, the plot of “Hell or High Water” is extremely basic. A pair of brothers, one more crazy than the other, begin to rob banks and are hunted by a pair of old dusty cops. But “Hell or High Water” just goes to show how much a fantastic script and perfect execution can go in filmmaking. It features perhaps the best acting ensemble of the year, with Jeff Bridges standing out, chewing scenery in the way only he can. It’s part buddy cop movie, part bank robbery, and part family struggle. It’s taut, but has room to breathe. It’s dramatic, yet funny. And it’s the all around strongest film of 2016.

KIKO MARTINEZ’S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016

After watching 227 films this year, here is my list of the best that cinema had to offer:

10. Kubo and the Two Strings
It was a solid year for animated films, from Disney gems Moana and Zootopia to the Japanese fantasy The Red Turtle. Stop-motion animation studio Laika, however, delivered the most unique storytelling and beautifully rendered images. Featuring a young Japanese boy facing his family’s dark past, Laika’s strikingly imaginative fourth project has undoubtedly produced another major player in the increasingly competitive animation industry.

9. Christine
Anchored by the best female performance of the year, the true-life story on the troubled life and shocking death of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) is an unflinching character study that explores one woman’s gradual mental breakdown, which leads to her committing suicide during a live news broadcast. Uncomfortably bleak, director Campos scrapes away at the agonizing details of Chubbuck anguish stemming from her stunted personal and professional life to reveal a tortured soul.

8. The Witch
Although mainstream horror movie fans might not warm to its methodical pacing, the unnerving atmosphere director/writer Eggers creates can be compared to genre classics like Rosemary’s Baby. Set in New England during the 1630s, a banished colonial family is consumed by evil forces inhabiting the woods around them. It might sound like a supernatural narrative told before, but Eggers injects provocative religious themes many believers will find offensive and disturbing.

7. The Lobster
Strange and absurd in all the best ways, Colin Farrell stars in this delightfully unconventional dark comedy where single people are forced to stay at a hotel and given 45 days to find a partner or face some peculiar consequences. Greek director/co-writer Lanthimos designs a distinctive dystopian world and questions the idea of typical relationships and how couples connect at a surface level. The screenplay is wickedly funny, tragic and endearing.

6. Moonlight
Based on the unproduced play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the absorbing drama by director/writer Jenkins examines—in three separate chapters—the life of a gay African American character as a child, teenager, and adult and reveals a different type of coming-of-age story that takes a compelling approach to cultural and sexual identity. Jenkins emphasizes its sincerity and avoids the stereotypical traps a narrative about a family broken by addiction usually falls into.

5. La La Land
Taking his love for jazz music, director/writer Chazelle breathes new life into the old Hollywood musical genre much like 2011’s The Artist did for silent cinema. At the center of this charmer are an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a frustrated jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling), both of whom would like to find more success in their respective creative fields. Driven by an exhilarating score and a handful of magical moments, La La Land is an adorable, choreographed-to-a-fault work of art.

4. Hell or High Water
On paper, director Mackenzie’s West Texas heist thriller about a pair brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) robbing banks to save their family home with an almost-retired Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) nipping at their boot heels feels like a tired template. But with a smart and refined script by Taylor Sheridan that is both tense and sarcastic, and a cast of fully fleshed out characters that demand investment, the contemporary Western is an exceedingly enjoyable surprise.

3. Gleason
There is no need to know anything about NFL football to appreciate the inspirational life of former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason. Directed by Tweel, the documentary follows Steve, after being diagnosed with ALS, a debilitating neurological disorder, recording a video journal for his unborn son. Along with a heartbreaking look at an elite and beloved athlete weakening before his family’s eyes, Gleason also offers a profound examination on faith, forgiveness, marriage, and parenthood.

2. Lion
The incredibly moving drama tells the story of Saroo, a five-year old Indian boy who is separated from his family and—20 years later—uses Google Earth to find his way back home. Director Davis taps into a Saroo’s childhood memories to create a delicate link to his new life and give him reason to hope. Far from melodramatic, Lion is the kind of film that will break you emotionally if you’ve ever lost a parent or a child.

1. Manchester By the Sea
Director/writer Lonergan’s expressive and impactful drama, which stars Oscar nominee Casey Affleck as a man who is named the legal guardian of his teenage nephew when the boy’s father dies, is a complex and thoughtful depiction of the grieving process. The range of emotion Affleck is able to convey in such a nuanced way is unbelievable. You can’t get much more human than Lonergan’s script, which brims with sorrow, humor and heart.

Honorable Mentions: 20th Century Women; American Honey; Captain Fantastic; I, Daniel Blake; Indignation; Jackie; Moana; The Red Turtle; Sing Street; Zootopia

CINESNOB.NET’S CONSENSUS TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. Moonlight
  3. La La Land
  4. Hell or High Water
  5. Gleason
  6. Christine
  7. Lion
  8. Jackie
  9. Arrival
  10. The Founder

La La Land

December 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie Dewitt
Directed by: Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”)
Written by: Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”)

Taking his love for jazz music, director/writer Chazelle breathes new life into the old Hollywood musical genre much like 2011’s The Artist did for silent cinema. At the center of this charmer are an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a frustrated jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling), both of whom would like to find more success in their respected creative fields. Together, Stone and Gosling light up every scene they share and director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Damien Chazelle give the duo such a vibrant atmosphere to play on. We’re not talking Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers-level dance sequences, but the overall appeal is delightful. Driven by an exhilarating score and a handful of magical moments, “La La Land” is an adorable, choreographed-to-a-fault work of art.

Lion

December 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Sunny Pawar
Directed by: Garth Davis (debut)
Written by: Luke Davies (“Candy”)

The most emotionally-satisfying film this year comes in the way of the true story of Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a five-year-old boy from a remote village in India who becomes lost after he boards a train that takes him across the country for two days. Adopted and now an adult living Australia, Saroo (Dev Patel) makes it his mission to find his biological family 20 years later. Far from manipulative or melodramatic as some cynics may say, the heart-wrenching film is tender, sincere and will definitely be a hard watch for anyone who has ever lost a child or parent. Don’t let the likely tears keep you away though. Everyone needs a good cry every once in a while.

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