Ep. 129 – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Farewell

July 29, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

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The CineSnob Podcast returns with reviews of the latest Quentin Tarantino movie “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and “The Farewell.”

Cody and Jerrod also discuss dynamic ticket pricing and Marvel’s Phase 4.

Click here to download the episode!

The Runaways

April 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Floria Sigismondi (debut)
Written by: Floria Sigismondi (debut)

There’s more to a music biopic than just the music. While music video director Floria Sigismondi captures the look and sound of the 1970s, the story of the all-girl punk band portrayed in “The Runaways” never stands out as more than an average narrative about a musical group’s rise to fame and fall from grace.

Despite its script’s flaws, actresses Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are well cast as bandmates Cheri Currie and Joan Jett. The story follows the band’s formation at the hands of devious manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who realizes he’s sitting on a gold mine when he brings a group of misfit girls together to create something no one else had ever successfully done before. He does it mostly by exploiting them as sex kittens.

“This isn’t about women’s lib, it’s about women’s libidos,” he says as the group practices in an abandoned trailer in the middle of nowhere.

Based on Currie’s book “Neon Angel: Memoir of a Runaway,” most of the story is hers mostly because she was the one that ended her time with the band only two years after it formed in 1975. We watch Currie’s troubles at home with an alcoholic father, but where the film needed to focus more of the drama on was the band and how it fit into the era and broke ground for other female musicians that came after.

While most music biopics have jealousy and drugs at the center of a band’s demise, that doesn’t necessarily make up this specific group’s real downfall depending on who you ask. No matter what the real reason the Runaways lasted only four years, Sigismondi plays the story safe. It almost feels like director Mary Harron’s “The Notorious Bettie Page” about the 1950s pin-up girl. When it’s pussyfooting along, it’s not very affecting. When it attempts to break into darker territory it feels like it’s posing instead of letting the story come naturally.

It’s one thing to watch Fanning taking drugs, it’s something else when she smashes a pill with the heel of her boot and subsequently kneels to the ground to snort the residue off the ground. All we can say to that is, “How very punk.”

Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart – The Runaways

April 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the music biopic “The Runaways,” actresses Dakota Fanning (“War of the Worlds”) and Kristen Stewart (“New Moon”) portray Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, the two lead band members of the 1970s all-girl punk rock band the film is named after.

The Runways were best known for their songs “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise.” The film, which was directed by Floria Sigismondi and adapted from Currie’s book “Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story,” follows the Runaways from their formation in 1975 to 1977 when Currie abruptly quit the band. The group officially broke up two years later.

During press interviews at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas last month, I sat down with Fanning and Stewart to talk about the film.

Dakota, all the characters in this film are going through a sort of rebellious phase. You’re 16 years old. Did you go through that or did you sort of skip over it?

Dakota Fanning: I don’t think I’ve every really had anything to rebel against. My parents aren’t really crazy strict parents. They’re really good parents. I wouldn’t ever want to rebel against them. I guess I just do that in films. I guess I skipped over that, whatever that really means. I think we all rebel against something at some point but I didn’t have a stage that I went through where I was a bad kid.

There is a fine line separating an actor actually portraying a real-life person or simply doing an impersonation. How did you keep from crossing that line?

DF: For me Cheri is really different from how she was so it was kind of impossible to do an impersonation of her. I watched a lot of videos because I thought the performances were the most important. That could almost be an impersonation. Like with the “Cherry Bomb” dance, she did the same thing every time she performed.

Kristen Stewart: It would be an impersonation if you were thinking about nothing when you were doing it.

DF: Right, I wanted [the dance] to be so engrained in my body that I didn’t even have to think about it because that’s how it became for her. I did get to that point where I started and finished and didn’t remember how I got there, which was actually pretty exciting.

What kind of advice did Cherie or Joan give you on the set?

DF: Cheri and I talked a lot about why it ended for her and why she decided to leave [the Runaways]. That’s pretty important for my character. I don’t know if she really gave me any specific advice.

KS: Yeah, there are a million things that come out that they tell you – deep emotional things. Joan is comfortable with who she is even though she’s shy. She’s not always what she might seem, which is really badass.

Tell me about the first time you read the script and felt like it was something you had to be a part of.

DF: I read the script and I didn’t know a lot about the Runaways so I looked up their Live in Japan videos. “Cherry Bomb” is the first one I saw. That’s when I realized I wanted to play her. I wanted to do that. They weren’t sure if I was old enough or if I was right.

KS: Which was ridiculous, actually.

DF: I was lucky they believed I could do it.

KS: I got really freaked out because you realize all the stuff that goes along with playing Joan Jett.

What is the difference between playing a real person and playing someone on paper that you can make your own?

DF: It was totally different. As much as Joan wanted to give me freedom and have me be natural I couldn’t improvise stuff as easily as I could in other movies. I didn’t like to fill in the blanks. I didn’t like to answer questions. I was always asking them. But you should always feel like your character is real. You should always feel like there is a whole person to do justice. But it is totally different when they are there and you’re friends with them.

How was it being able to play characters who explored some darker more destructive territory?

KS: In [interviews] I’m the one who is asked why I play a disaffected teen all the time. I’m a teenage and I like roles that are thought out and not one-dimensional and framed. You might as well take the character name off [in those instances] and write “girl” or “cute girl,” “ugly girl,” “hot girl.” I like stuff that gets you thinking.

DF: I’ve always been drawn to intense and emotional storylines and characters that are actually going through something that could help someone else. I feel like all the characters you play there’s someone like that out there. I just like give that person a voice.

Do you feel like this movie made you grow up?

DF: I definitely relate a lot of the experiences that I have now to Joan and Cherie and to the movie. I feel like me, Kristen, Joan and Cherie share something that is really unique. I think that has changed me – these relationships and the experience. I wont be the same after knowing these people and portraying their story.

KS: I feel like every experience in a movie changes you a little bit. This one is really hard to describe. I don’t know how to be specific about it, but it definitely has. It definitely made me more confident.

Push

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Chris Evans, Camilla Belle
Directed by: Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin”)
Written by: David Bourla (“Larceny”)

No matter what time of the year, there always seems to be room for movies about individuals with superhuman abilities. Last year’s early entry into the genre was “Jumper,” a film about teleportation. This year, it’s “Push,” which centers on young Americans who possess telekinetic and clairvoyant abilities.

While “Push” might be enticing for regular fans of TV’s “Heroes,” the sci-fi thriller, directed by Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin”), is listless at best. The small handful of action sequences might wake you from dozing off because of the needlessly complicated script, but there not much to hold your attention that you haven’t seen before.

In “Push,” Dakota Fanning – all grown up now and starring her first real big-girl movie (she has a drunk scene!) – plays Cassie Holmes, a pre-teen with psychic powers, who teams up with Nick Gant (Chris Evans), a young man with a novice ability to move things with his mind. Both are being hunted by a group known as the Division led by the film’s antagonist Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), who basically wants to turn them into WMDs. Cassie and Nick don’t have much time to worry about who is after them. They’re mission is to find Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), a lost girl with supernatural powers, who knows the whereabouts of a briefcase that contains a serum that can turn people with paranormal powers into weaponry.

Despite some slight mainstream appeal (mostly from its slick, “Matrix”-like look), the film turns into a sci-fi vocabulary test where if you don’t know the difference (or don’t really care) between a “pusher” and a “sniffer” and a “seer” and a “watcher” and a “bleeder” and a “reader,” you might want to bail out early before things become more intricate than your average game of paper, rock, scissors.

Unlike most films of this type, “Pusher” isn’t a comic-book adaptation. Screenwriter David Bourla (“Larceny”) starts from scratch and builds the film’s mythology one character at a time. That seems to be the problem, however. Very little of the storyline feel authentic and logical, even from a science fiction standpoint, and all of the characters are about as interesting as the minors mutants running around in the background of movies like “X-Men” where Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm dominate the screen. It might be a new universe, but after one quick tour there’s really no reason to revisit.

The Secret Life of Bees

October 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”)
Written by: Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”)

Dakota Fanning’s no longer the cutie-patootie we all remember from movies like “I Am Sam” and “Uptown Girls.” She’s all grown up with a bright future still ahead of her. Luckily, it seems the beginning of her journey through adolescence will not follow the same path as Haley Joel Osment in “Secondhand Lions.” After “The Secret Life of Bees” Fanning is sure to find more acting work.

In “Bees,” Fanning plays Lily Owens, a young girl living in South Carolina in 1964 who runs away from home to find the truth about her deceased mother. Traveling with her nanny Rosaleen (Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson), who she helps escape from police after they arrest her for a run-in with some short-tempered racists, Lily is determined to know more about her mother’s life before Lily, at the age of four, accidentally shoots and kills her.

It’s a heavy burden to live with knowing you are responsible for your own mother’s death, but deep down Lily believes there is more to the story. It’s a story, unfortunately, her emotionally abusive and neglectful father (Paul Bettany) refuses to tell her. Without any real memories of her mother, all Lily has left is a pair of her white gloves and a photo with the word “Tiburon” printed on the back. Tiburon turns out to be a small town in South Carolina, so, on a whim, Lily and Rosaleen hitch a ride to see what a change in locale has in store for them.

In Tiburon, they find the home of the Boatwright sisters: June (Alicia Keys), May (Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo), and August (Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah), who are well known in the South for the amazing honey they produce as beekeepers. Here, Lily and Rosaleen make a temporary home by telling little white lies so the Boatwrights will allow them to stay in their guest house.

Once safe inside their new home (or metaphorical beehive) director/screenwriter Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”) is able to effectively capture the emotional struggles the women are experiencing in their personal lives and during an era where hatred is consistent. We especially see that in Okonedo’s May, whose hypersensitivity always gets the best of her. This character reminded me a lot of Wes Bentley’s persona in “American Beauty” because of how they both wear their hearts on their sleeves. While Bentley’s Ricky Fitts becomes choked up with all the beauty there is in the world, May reacts the same way to all of life’s drawbacks.

Yes, the film does pull at the heartstrings, but not in a contriving or melodramatic way. Instead, the ensemble cast of “Bees” depicts some powerful characteristics and does so without overstating their motives. It’s a breath of fresh air when we see real African American characters that mean something more than the cliché, thoughtless material Tyler Perry usually flings at us twice a year.

Dakota Fanning – Charlotte’s Web

June 8, 2006 by  
Filed under Interviews

Although it might be an unwritten rule in some Hollywood circles that working with either children or animals on a movie set is more trouble than, say, working with a hungover Lindsay Lohan, there also seems to be an amendment to that rule that starts off something like, “Unless his/her name is Dakota Fanning.”

Arguably the most talented child actor to come out of Tinseltown since Shirley Temple, Fanning, 12, has shared screen time with a number of A-listers, including Sean Penn, Denzel Washington, Glenn Close, Robert DeNiro, and Tom Cruise, in her six-year career.

In her new film, Charlotte’s Web, adapted from E.B. White’s 1952 classic tale, Fanning plays Fern, a young farmgirl who saves a runt piglet she later names Wilbur from an early barnyard exit.

During an interview with me phone, Fanning talks about working with animals on the set in Australia, being referred to as a child star, and making a small change in her diet to eliminate the possibility of consuming one of her co-stars.

When was the first time you read E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web?

I have always loved this book for so long, ever since I was very young. I’ve read it many, many times. Getting to play such a character that everyone knows and loves in a book that everyone knows and loves is so special and an unbelievable opportunity for me.

What do you think it is about the book that has made it such a classic story for so many generations?

There are so many things that people can learn from the book, adults and children. Getting those messages across in a fun way is very important and really neat. It’s almost like you are educating someone, in a cool way.

What kinds of life lessons do you want other kids to get out of Charlotte’s Web?

There are so many: Live your life to the fullest every day; be a loyal friend; keep your promises to people. The film teaches us that everyone can change. Even Templeton the Rat, who isn’t the greatest, he helps out and changes, in a way, through Charlotte.

So, I’m sure you were able to see the 1973 animated film before going into this project. What did you think about that version?

Yeah, I have. [The 2006 version] is different from that one just because I think that one was a little different than the book was. This one is more true to the book. But I am a big fan of the animated one as well.

Now, I know you were able to work with horses in Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story last year, but here we have a whole bunch of different farm animals. What was the experience like around all these types of animals, especially on a movie set?

I really enjoyed working with all the animals. We had about 70 pigs that played Wilbur. We had cows and horses and geese and sheep. There were just so many animals! It was very exciting to get to work with them and learn about them and see them every day.

Did you get attached to any of the little pigs?

Well, there were so many of them. I worked with all of them at some point. It was sad when it was over, but we gave them all good homes in Australia, where we filmed this movie. The families that took them in promised that they would stay alive and would never eat them.

This film must’ve discouraged you from ever eating bacon again.

Yeah, it’s sad. I worked with [the pigs] for so long, they became like friends. So, I don’t think I can [eat bacon] for a long time.

Do you have any pets at home?

I do. I have a Palomino Quarter Horse named Goldie [a gift from actor Kurt Russell] and I have a Schnoodle [a cross between a Schnauzer and a Poodle] named Llewellyn.

Talk to me about working on a film in a country like Australia.

Australia is interesting because it’s different from America, but very similar. It was exciting to get to go and see kangaroos and koalas. I enjoyed filming the movie there because there were a lot of green, rolling hills. We had all the seasons, so it was nice.

You’re 12 years old now and have done a lot of work in this industry. Are you comfortable when people refer to you as a child star or are you ready to get rid of that label?

I don’t really mind what anybody calls me. I am just happy doing what I love to do. I do think that anybody can be an actress, no matter your age.

Do you think you’re missing out on anything as a kid because of the career path you’ve chosen?

No, not at all. I can’t imagine my life without me being able to be an actress. If I had the choice of not to be an actress, I would never choose that. I don’t think [my life] would be as fulfilling as it is right now, and I wouldn’t wish it any other way.