Ep. 134 – Hustlers, Freaks, a MondoCon recap and a Fantastic Fest preview

September 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

Fresh off a weekend at MondoCon, Cody and Jerrod are back with new prints and reviews of “Hustlers” and “Freaks.”

Also, Cody tells us what to expect from Fantastic Fest 2019.

Click here to download the episode!

Lone Survivor

January 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch
Directed by: Peter Berg (“Battleship”)
Written by: Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”)

Overblown action sequences and ridiculous stunts spell disaster for “Lone Survivor,” a true-life war film that turns what should be a serious narrative about military brotherhood into a farfetched, trigger-happy experience where courageous American soldiers are somehow transformed into camouflaged superheroes. The only thing director/writer Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) could’ve done to make these men on the frontlines more absurd is allow them to regenerate body parts.

In “Lone Survivor,” four members of the Navy SEALs are sent out to capture a Taliban leader in the mountains of Afghanistan. When the covert mission does not go as planned, soldiers Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster), find themselves stuck in the rocky terrain with very few options. When they run into a family of goat herders and decide to release them, the SEALs are forced to abort the mission and get back to safety before the Afghans blow their cover.

As bullets begin to blaze once the enemies lock each other in their crosshairs, “Lone Survivor” refuses to let up even when the action gets downright unbelievable. Sure, Navy SEALs are some of the toughest military personnel the U.S. has (we saw some great cinematic examples of this in “Captain Phillips” earlier last year and in 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty), but Berg crosses the line when he basically gives these men the resiliency of a cartoon coyote.

While Berg does present a heartfelt story about the camaraderie shared between men in the military, the action is dumbed down enough to take audiences out of that more interesting storyline. Berg may try to humanize these men, but he does them a disservice when he gives them inhuman abilities. By doing so, Berg has, unfortunately (and probably unintentionally), sensationalized a tragedy instead of honoring the bravery of these heroes. Berg’s heart might’ve been in the right place, but translating that into an emotionally-telling war movie could’ve been done with a lot more sensitivity and realism.

David Gordon Green, Paul Rudd & Emile Hirsch – Prince Avalanche

August 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

In director David Gordon Green’s character-driven dramedy “Prince Avalanche,” actors Paul Rudd and Emilie Hirsch play Alvin and Lance, two road workers whose job it is to paint the yellow lines running down the centers of highways. The narrative, which is loosely adapted from the Icelandic film “Either Way,” is set in 1988, but parallels the aftermath of the Bastrop County fires that occurred in late 2011. In the film, Alvin and Lance are assigned to repaint the traffic lines on an isolated country highway that was destroyed by the wildfire. During their summer working together, the men create an unlikely friendship despite their contrasting personalities and work ethic.

During an interview this past March at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Green, Rudd and Emile sat down to share some of their experiences during the making of what Green calls a “hip-pocket project.” All three walked into the interview room talking to each other about the time change (it was March 10, Daylight Saving Time).

“Prince Avalanche” is currently available on iTunes and Video On-Demand.

David Gordon Green: Why is there even a Daylight Savings? Let’s just stop it.

Paul Rudd: There are petitions to get rid of it.

DGG: It must be a corporate reason that they don’t.

Emile Hirsch: Someone’s gotta pay for that extra hour.

PR: I thought [Daylight Savings] was good for the economy – like it goes up a few percentage points. They did away with it for a while, but then it came back.

EH: Arizona doesn’t have [Daylight Savings].

PR: Arizona doesn’t have it? That’s SO Arizona!

EH: That’s so weird that someone says, “We’re changing the time.” The time shouldn’t be able to be changed.

DGG: Do you guys know about the history of weekends – like when weekends were created? It divided the country between the people who believed in weekends and the people who didn’t. There was this aggressive campaign about how everyone shouldn’t work seven days a week. But that’s something we just take for granted now – weekends.

EH: The idea that we’re changing the time, that’s insane. “It’s not 3 p.m., it’s 4 p.m.” Like what the fuck?!

PR: “Don’t worry. We’ll changed it back later on in the year.”

(Everyone laughs)

David, this is definitely your most intimate film since “Snow Angels” six years ago. Was this type of storytelling something you wanted to get back to after making three studio films (“The Sitter,” “Your Highness” and “Pineapple Express”)?

You know, through that period of time I always had a “hip-pocket project” – something that I knew I could do down and dirty and quickly in case the pieces on a big-budget studio movie didn’t come together. I was really frustrated with this one particular movie I had been trying to get made for five years. It kept falling through. I thought this was the perfect time to pull out a hip-pocket movie. I went through the ones I had kind of been developing over the years, but a lot of these projects are about timing. I can’t claim [“Prince Avalanche”] was a lifelong passion project. It was a whim that turned into a very signature piece of commitment and collaboration and trust with a group of artists. This was not something that has lived with me for years and years. It was very strange, but it was a beautiful antithesis to the traditional development process.

EH: I’m going to want that $10 bucks back.

DGG: (Laughs) Yeah, [Emile] paid me $10 bucks.

Paul, you’ve always been great at witty improv. Was it more of a challenge to let those quiet moments happen in this film?

PR: You know, there is a way these characters speak that is a little strange to me. It sounded to me, at times, like an American version of an Icelandic movie, really. The dialogue had these weird turns of phrases and that kind of thing. So, if we were having some sort of improvisation, the challenge was to adhere to those rules and rhythms and not veer away from that. There really wasn’t a lot of improvisation, was there?

DGG: Not in terms of big, broad strokes, but there was a lot of interpretation.

PR: Yeah, and I liked all the nuance and minor-key approach to all of it. I liked working that way. I wanted it to be contained. I wanted it to be dramatic. I wanted the humor to be character driven and not jokey. It didn’t seem any more challenging than anything else. That being said, it’s always kind of challenging. You don’t want [the film] to be bad.

So, the line “you got a little caulk on you” wasn’t supposed to be jokey?

EH: When [Paul] was saying that to me in the scene, I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t know what caulk was. I had never seen caulk before.

(Everyone laughs)

PR: That’s not what I heard, Emile.

EH: No, but he kept saying that to me in the scene. He was like, “You got a little caulk on you. You got a little caulk on you.” And I was like, “What the fuck is he talking about?”

PR: In the film, you can tell he is making me laugh really hard. That’s why in that scene I turn around and I start laughing. You can hear me laughing.

DGG: We kept that scene in.

PR: Yeah, we kept it in because it made me laugh. Afterward I was like, “Man, I probably shouldn’t have turned away too much.” Now, that was one of those challenges you were talking about. I think if I was doing one of those lines like, “You’ve got a little caulk on you” and started laughing and it was in another movie, I probably would’ve made it a bigger jokey thing. But in this, I wanted it to not be a joke. But that’s still what happened.

EH: I didn’t know what caulk was.

PR: Now you’re familiar with it.

Killer Joe

August 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple
Directed by: William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”)
Written by: Tracy Letts (“Bug”)

If a film like 2011’s sexually explicit British drama “Shame” taught us anything, it’s that being slapped with a dreaded NC-17 rating these days doesn’t always ensure a death sentence. Sure, its box-office numbers will be affected by those close-minded theater chains refusing to screen movies considered too provocative because of the MPAA label, but as the critically-acclaimed “Shame” proved, sometimes the content of a film is so essential to the story, it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it might be for some viewers. “I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter,” Fox Searchlight Pictures’ President Steve Gilula said last year about the film. “We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner.”

The same can be said for the dark comedy thriller “Killer Joe,” but with a more tongue-in-cheek approach. Supporting the “artistic integrity” of Oscar-winning filmmaker William Friedkin (“The French Connection,” “The Exorcist”) and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy Letts, the studio decided to keep the film intact and not edit it down to a more desired R rating. It was the right choice, especially since its badge of honor was earned for one specific incident in the third act of the film featuring a fried chicken drumstick. Touch that scene in any way and “Killer Joe” is a different movie.

Never mind the full frontal nudity, language, or hardcore violence. Besides the KFC scene, there’s nothing that hasn’t been seen or heard before in other NC-17 or hard R-rated movies with one other exception. As the title character, a contract killer in Texas hired to murder a mother so her twisted family can collect on the insurance policy, Matthew McConaughey is dangerously good. As the head of this diamondback-rattlesnake-of-a-film, he strikes within a sadistic realm very few actors would dare to tread. The venom behind “Killer Joe” is extremely palpable, which makes it all the more disturbing to watch.

Taking Woodstock

September 9, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Demitri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Emile Hirsch
Directed by: Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”)
Written by: James Schamus (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”)

How director Ang Lee was able to turn the planning of such a momumental event in the history of music like Woodstock into something as exciting as the planning of a bar mitzvah is beyond comprehensible. Well, it actually starts with James Schamus’s detached screenplay and ends with actor Demitri Martin’s dull leading role as a small town Jewish guy who wants more out of life than working in the family business. Getting to see Lee’s version of an acid trip, however, is fairly interesting.

Speed Racer

May 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman
Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”)
Written by: Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”)

Apparently, Japanese influence in Hollywood doesn’t always have to come from remakes of the country’s eerie horror films like “Ju-On” or “Ringu.” Now, Japanese anime is the next genre to be translated into American-made films. We get our first mainstream taste of it with “Speed Racer,” based on the Japanese cartoon of the 1960’s.

Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski of “The Matrix” trilogy fame, “Speed Racer” is a psychedelic romp for little boys under 10 and off-road racers who are counting down the days when the Baja 1000 includes vehicles equipped with tire shredders for those drivers who get a bit to close. Sure, it’s much more fun than watching caution laps in NASCAR , but then what isn’t?

In “Speed Racer,” which is actually the name of our protagonist, Emile Hirsch (who was fantastic in last year’s “Into the Wild”) stars as the titular racecar-driving character. As the next big star on the track, everyone wants a piece of Speed, especially the corporations who want him to drop his family-run racing team (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his loving parents; Christina Ricci plays Trixie, Speed’s girlfriend) and sign up with them. The shadiest of the bunch is led by a scheming billionaire named Royalton (Roger Allam), who promises Speed the world if he signs on the dotted line.

When Speed refuses, however, Royalton makes it his personal mission to do anything in his power to keep him from ever crossing the finish line anywhere he decides to race. In steps a mysterious, masked racer known as Racer X (Matthew Fox, who doesn’t even seem to want to be part of the production in certain scenes) ready to team up with Speed and expose Royalton for the professional snake he really is.

Inundated with special effects (except for the humans and a chimpanzee named Chim Chim, everything is), the Wachowski brothers slam on the gas for “Speed Racer” and never let up. It might be a good thing for those of you who walk around with an IV pumping caffeine in your bloodstream 24-7, but for the rest of us the Tokyo drifting on a futuristic racetrack becomes overdone after a while.

Although the family dynamic keep the fluorescent film grounded at times, the script isn’t nearly as sensible as it needs to be to recommend to anyone outside its demographic. Of course, that’s not necessarily what the Wachowski brothers were going for. Its seems they wanted the silliness of the “Pows” and “Whams” of the old-school “Batman” TV series mixed with their own stylistic vision and a video-game feel (Mario Kart is the most obvious). At the end, it’s all one big bowl of colorful, soggy Trix. And who are Trix for boys and girls?