July 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra (“House of Wax”)
Written by: David Leslie Johnson (debut)
Make some room Damien. There’s a new evil kid on the block and she doesn’t care that you’re the spawn of Satan. In fact, Esther, the demented adopted daughter in the thriller “Orphan,” doesn’t care for much else other than bludgeoning people to death and looking oh so sweet doing it.

Call it my one guilty pleasure of the year. It’s really surprising how entertaining “Orphan” is in all its preposterousness.

Directed by Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra, who’s first film was an inadequate remake of 1953’s “House of Wax” with Paris Hilton, “Orphan” follows the Coleman family (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga play the parents, John and Kate) as they come to terms with the death their a child and eventually open their home to a young girl they adopt from an orphanage.

Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) impresses John and Kate from the start with her sparkling personality, winning smile, mature nature, and artistic talent. She almost seems too good to be true, so the Colemans sign the paperwork and take Esther home to live with them and their two children Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Aryana Engineer, one of the cutest little girls you’re bound to see in any movie this year).

It takes a good hour for Collet-Serra to set up the tension before unleashing Esther, which is bold of him to do since most thrillers usually jump right into the action. The waiting, however, pays off as we get a sense of who the Colemans are as a family. As they begin to suffer later, you can actually feel for them as real human characters instead of as victims of Esther’s lunacy.

In other similarly themed movies, shocking scenes are usually censored especially when the wrongdoing is at the hands of a child. In “Orphan,” however, there is nothing Collet-Serra decides to pull away from. There are extremely upsetting scenes in the film that are excessively violent. With Fuhrman behind it all, it’s more disturbing and effective.

“Orphan” is not just a kiddie slasher film. There are some genuine scares despite Collet-Serra overusing some substandard camera tricks and baiting the audience like children in a funhouse. Sure, it may slink back into clichés at times, but you could do a lot worse in the genre.

Jaume Collet-Serra – Orphan

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Growing up in Barcelona, filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra always found himself watching the American movies that played at the local theater.

“I grew up learning a lot about American culture from the movies I watched,” Collet-Serra told me during a phone interview. “That’s why now I can make American movies for American audiences.”

His love for movies led him to attend film school at Columbia College in Los Angeles in the early 90s. Soon after graduating, Collet-Serra began his career as an editor before moving on to direct music videos and television commercials for companies such as PlayStation, Budweiser, and Verizon.

In 2005, Collet-Serra was given an opportunity to direct his first feature film by producer Joel Silver (“The Matrix”). The movie, “House of Wax,” was a remake of the 1953 original of the same name. Two years later, Collet-Serra directed the sequel, “Goal II: Living the Dream” starring Kuno Becker.

Now, he reunites with producer Silver for the third film of his career, “Orphan,” which opens in theaters this week. The thriller stars Vera Farmiga (“The Departed”) and Peter Sarsgaard (“Kinsey”) as Kate and John Coleman, a couple who adopts a 9-year-old girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) and soon discovers she is not as sweet and innocent as she led them to believe.

Was there a particular movie you saw when you were a young boy going into the theater in Barcelona that made you realize you wanted to become a filmmaker?

I don’t know if it was one movie or one filmmaker that inspired me. For me, I was fascinated with the worlds in movies I saw as a kid. I wanted to be a part of it. When I found out I could do it as a job, there was nothing else in the world I wanted to do. After I knew I wanted to be involved in moviemaking, it was all a matter of finding out how to accomplish that goal.

Who inspires you as a filmmaker?

I’m a big fan of Roman Polanski, [Alfred] Hitchcock, and Spanish director Luis Buñuel. I like directors that are very psychological. Buñuel is very surreal. They all have great imagery. Their movies entertain, but at the same time they like to explore the human condition.

I read that the trailer for “Orphan” had to be changed because viewers complained about one of the lines. (According to reports, Warner Bros. removed the line “It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own” after receiving complaints from adoptive parents and foster care organizations). Do you think that was a reasonable request?

Our goal is to entertain and make movies. Our goal is not to offend anybody. If someone was offended, I think it is reasonable to ask to change one line in the trailer. If it’s in the movie, I’m not going to change something because someone is offended. A trailer is more understandable.

I read that you spent a lot of your childhood in a boarding school, so can you empathize with the character Esther in that you didn’t grow up in a normal home situation?

Definitely. It was something I would have loved to explore more, but unfortunately in this movie the scenes where we see Esther in the orphanage are very short. If we had more time at the beginning, I would have enjoyed exploring aspects from my own personal life. As a child, when you are separated from a normal family environment, it makes you stronger as a person.

What kind of actress were you looking for to play Esther and what did you see in a newcomer like Isabelle Fuhrman to cast her in the role?

We were looking for somebody who was really smart and talented obviously and someone who was believable in the role. That’s what we got with Isabelle. When she read for us, she had strong convictions behind every word she said. That’s very difficult to find in a child. The script asked for a blonde girl. When Isabelle came in she was very different than what we were looking for physically. But we immediately liked her and created the character to fit her. She has great eyes and the way that she looks at you is very interesting and creepy.

Was it difficult to explain the tension you wanted to portray in this film to someone like Isabelle, who can’t even see her own performance at the theater without her parents since it’s rated R?

It isn’t difficult when you break it down in pieces. You still get all the tension, but it’s just make-believe. There are moments in the movie that are scary, but we were just careful and we were in constant communication with her parents and made sure she understood the scenes.

Congrats to all ‘Orphan’ ticket winners

July 20, 2009 by  
Filed under CineBlog

Congratulations to all the winners (listed below) of the “Orphan” ticket contest!

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Children of the Corn
  2. The Omen
  3. The Good Son
  4. The Bad Seed
  5. Village of the Damned
  6. Firestarter

Since there were so many entries, I had to be kind of nitpicky with everyone’s answers. For example, if you gave the answer “Fire Starter” instead of “Firestarter,” I had to mark the answer incorrect. I know, I’m a big jerk!

Also, the answer to No. 5 was “Village of the Damned” not “Children of the Damned.” Although both are real movies (adapted from John Wyndham’s book), “Children of the Damned” came out four years after the original “Village of the Damned” of 1960 and did not feature kids with blonde hair.

Other interesting albeit incorrect answers I received were “The Midnight Hour” for No. 3 and “The Twilight Zone” for No. 4. Also, again, with the numerous entries I received, I had to mark typos incorrect. So, answers like “The Godson,” “Village of the Dome,” and “Village of the Dame” were unfortunately off by a keystroke or two.

Your winners are:

  • Janet Espinoza
  • Caitlin Gallardo
  • Lucie Gallardo
  • Robert Gallardo
  • Erica Gallego
  • Andres Juarez
  • Julie Leathers
  • Michael Matthey
  • Olen Rangel
  • Herb Shadrock

Be sure to check back for new contests and giveaways!