The Hero – Everybody’s Hero

I love Sam Elliot. Everyone loves Sam Elliott. And yet, when it came time for Q&A with cast and crew after the film The Hero was over, nobody asked Sam a question until we burned halfway through our question period!! Does noone want to hear Sam’s voice? Is this not America? Oh, excuse me. I was having a For the Love of the Game moment.

But I get ahead of myself. For those of you unlucky enough to not get into a screening of The Hero, I feel bad. Really, I do. This was a @SundanceFest gem. Sure, everyone was fighting to get the tickets for the sold out shows, but it was most likely for the pure pleasure of seeing, and hearing, Mr. Elliott. What they didn’t know, was what a good film they were going to be treated to.

The tagline “An ailing movie star must come to terms with his past and mortality.” is quite succinct. That is exactly what the film is about.

The Hero, Sam Elliot, Catharine Ross, Nick Offerman, Laura Prepon, Brett Haley

The Hero’s director and cast assemble onstage post-premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

After Nick Offerman came running onstage in circles with coffee in hand, arms extended out like an airplane, and making fluttering noises, the comedic character who plays Elliott’s neighbor and drug dealer was outstanding in his dramatic turn in the film. For those who are used to seeing him in Parks and Recreation on @NBC, he does a fine job in this film. I rather enjoyed seeing him in a serious, and humorously lighthearted, supporting role.

As for Laura Prepon’s role, playing love interest (and person interest) to Sam Elliott, I have to say that I was so pleased with how their relationship was treated. Very non-Hollywood. I felt Laura’s character was handled with such unusual grace, that had it been played the stereotypical way, this film could have been disappointing. Her role was quite pivotal. Without giving anything away (because I don’t do spoilers), this film introduces you to the idea that bitterness and joy can be found in the most unexpected places, even when you think doomsday is on the horizon.

The Hero, Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross, Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Brett Haley

The Hero ensemble shares a laugh.

I loved the message of this film. It dealt with difficult subject matter, but in such a humanized way. The characters, their feelings, their philosophies, are all relatable.

The intercuts of images throughout leave you wondering what they represent. Are they flashbacks, flash-forwards, or simply representative of the wanderings of our hero’s mind.

The writers had Sam Elliott in mind when they wrote the script but were careful to say that not everything in the film is biographical.

The film’s U.S. rights were picked up by The Orchard for approximately $3M.

Director Brett Haley obviously had this in mind. Sometimes, journeys are not meant to be taken alone. See this film.

#experiencesundance @sundancefest #thehero #lauraprepon #samelliott #nickofferman @sundanceorg @sundancefestnow @firstlooktvfilm @filmindependent @scriptmag @variety

To The Bone – Heavy, but in a Good Way

When I went in to see To The Bone, I was thrilled we were able to score tickets, but was not sure what to expect from a film about a 20 year old anorexic girl who tries to get help from a doctor who runs a group home that is difficult to be accepted into.

Director/Writer Marti Noxon pulls it off in a surprisingly dramatic way with comedic tones throughout – and it works. Treating a serious matter with humor throughout gives the film a very real, no bullshit, realistic touch.

To The Bone, Keanu Reeves, Lily Collins, Marty Noxon, Sundance Film Festival

Ellen (Lily Collins) consults with Dr. William Beckham (Keanu Reeves) in To The Bone

Lily Collins plays the 20 year old anorexic patient in search of her purpose, her future, and essentially herself and Keanu Reeves plays the doctor who runs the group home and meets daily with his patients trying to help them save themselves.

Other members of the cast in key roles included Alex Sharp (the optimist and love interest), Lily Taylor (Ellen’s mother), and Carrie Preston (Ellen’s annoying step-mother).

Sundance Film Festival, To The Bone, Keanu Reeves, Marti Noxon, Lily Collins,

To The Bone cast goofs around (left to right Lily Collins, Carrie Preston, Director/Writer Marti Noxon, and Keanu Reeves)

One of the most surprising things about To The Bone is that Keanu Reeves turns out one of his best roles showing a wide range of emotion. Sure, I loved John Wick just like anyone else because of the straight and ruthless way in which Keanu plays him, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from him all these years. This is a new Keanu. And I like him. His no-nonsense doctor has a somewhat sick sense of humor and he laughs at himself, perhaps to let his patients know he cares, but must keep that safe distance.

Sundance Film Festival, To The Bone, Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves – To The Bone

The emotional intensity is there throughout the entire movie and not once did I find myself leaving the film to analyze or question whether or not a moment was real or whether the limits had been pushed too far or not.

Director Marti Noxon was forthcoming in telling the audience after the film that the movie was somewhat auto-biographical and that writing about her experiences and then turning them into a film with others who had similar eating disorders was therapeutic. They were very careful during filming to not put those actors at risk by having them relive their experiences or fall into old patterns.

This film is definitely worth the watch. It’s a unique story told by those who have lived through it, but not without cost. It’s an imaginative and truthful, original story told in a way I have not seen before.

The film was picked up by Netflix for about $8M. One third of the films at the Sundance Film Festival this year were directed by women. This may not reflect what is happening in the rest of the filmmaking world yet, if Marti Noxon’s work is an indication of the kind of storytelling we can expect in the future, it will soon be the norm.

#experiencesundance @sundancefest #tothebone #keanureeves @sundanceorg @sundancefestnow @firstlooktvfilm @filmindependent @scriptmag @variety

 

Calm Before the Storm @SundanceFest

So this is what Park City looks like right now. It’s been snowing and windy, but today it looks peaceful. Sidewalks cleared of snow. Volunteers roaming the streets preparing for the real storm ahead. It’s called the Sundance Film Festival.

In one more day, this:

Sundance Film Festival, Snow, Robert Redford, ExperienceSundance

Main Street, Park City, UT

Will become this:

Sundance Film Festival, Snow, Robert Redford, ExperienceSundance

An evening at the Sundance Film Festival in Full Swing

Run almost entirely by hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, the festival has been growing the last 4 years. The mood has shifted each one of those years for various reasons. But, it’s still an incredibly fun and well done festival that I can’t help but go.

The Sundance Film Festival has the unusually good fortune of providing the festival-goer with a personal experience; allowing you to get close and connect to film crew, directors, actors. You’ll be exposed to new technologies and art forms you’ve never seen before – and in some cases you may never see again. Not because they suck, but because they are unique, one-of-a-kind experiences the artists chose to share at Sundance.

With any good storm, you’ve got your forecasters and your weather guides to help you navigate the turbulent events. In the case of the festival, your guides are your volunteers and they will all be wearing the same gear. The color of their gear and their uniform jackets change from year to year, but they’re not hard to spot and THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. If you need help of ANY kind, walk up to one of them and ask. They’re trained, knowledgeable, and I’ve never run into one in a bad mood.

Sundance Film Festival is funny, fries your brain, challenges what you think you know or believe, and is never short on bold style, crazy fashion choices, and colorful people!

Robert Redford’s commitment to staying the course and providing a venue where a unique voice can jump off of the page and onto the screen is endless. He’s witty, thoughtful, and smart. And for filmmakers and festival-goers alike, he’s considered an open-thinker, adventurer, and ground-breaker when it comes to promoting arts and artists alike with his ongoing @SundanceOrg workshops. The opportunities are endless.

Sundance Institute Workshops

Come to Sundance. Kick it with us. There’s so much to do you’ll forget about sleeping. And you’ll feel great doing it!

#experiencesundance #onlyatsundance @sundancefest @sundancefestuk @sundanceorg @sundancetv @sundancelive @sundancefestnow @firstlooktvfilm @filmindependent @scriptmag @cooperdance @variety @pamelaettlin @thr

What I Learned From The Magnificent Seven

One of the first things I learned from seeing Director Antoine Fuqua’s modern take of The Magnificent Seven is that the audience I saw it with drew quite the crowd. An older crowd, obviously coming out to see how it would compare to the 1960 classic, which itself was a remake of an adaptation of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

Another thing I learned is that some things never change. Even though the various characters in the film for employing the seven, the reason the crowd liked best was revenge. No matter how old you are, it’s always good to see a bad guy get his due.

denzel-pratt

Denzel and Pratt Kickin’ It

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you’ve got two of the hottest actors in Hollywood leading the fight. The cast is definitely loaded. Films with this many stars typically are overcast with too may egos fighting for attention, but Fuqua knows his stuff. Antoine, responsible for bringing you films like Shooter and Training Day gets the most out of his actors.

I had a flashback to Denzel’s award winning scene from Training Day when he elevates his voice and makes his demands known. The spark is there. Chris Pratt shines in this film. It’s clear you’re not going to typecast him in any one particular kind of role. The trademark wit and sarcasm sneaks through here and there, but he proves he’s not to be taken lightly.

There were some surprises as well. Remember Haley Bennett who played Cora Corman in Music and Lyrics with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant back in 2007? Yes, that was 9 years ago! She puts in a strong performance as the only person in town with the ‘balls’ to do something about it. Yeah, that’s her. This is her second film with Denzel and Director Antoine Fuqua. The previous one being The Equalizer. Yeah, that was her too.

Ethan Hawke puts in a fairly subdued performance, but it serves his character well. Vincent D’Onofrio fans won’t be disappointed. This guy can morph into so many different characters with so many different faces, it’s crazy. As the seven are coming together, he definitely steals the show for a bit. Peter Sarsgaard surprised me a bit. I wasn’t so sure I could actually hate him, even after the first act was complete, but he puts in a solid performance as a first class asshole.

The score is solid, but not memorable, like the spaghetti westerns of old. However there is an interesting story here. It was crafted by James Horner, who died in 2015. He worked on Southpay with Antoine Fuqua, becoming fast friends with him. Horner’s team visited Fuqua on the film’s set in Baton Rouge, one month after Horner’s accidental death, to deliver the completed score. Horner had been so inspired after reading the script that he composed the entire score during pre-production. It was to be James Horner’s final composition. Pretty amazing.

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington stars in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

Is there anything new you can say after seeing Denzel do his thing in so many films? I have some personal favorites, as I’m sure you do. Training Day and Deja Vu come to mind. But yeah, I’ve got something new to say. He pulls off some fancy horse riding and some great gun work as well. Everything about the 61 year old in this film is authentic. Denzel grew a moustache and sideburns, took horseriding lessons, and practice his gunwork endlessly. Everything you see him do with that nickel-plated Colt .45 and on that horse is all Denzel. And you thought you couldn’t love him anymore…

I can’t say this version was better than the earlier versions, but I can say that this one holds your attention and does have a large, cinematic, western look and feel to it. The characters are each driven by different reasons.

Denzel’s Sam Chisholm asks “So you seek revenge?”

Bennett’s Emma responds “I seek righteousness. But I’ll take revenge.”

The audience actually cheered briefly. With dialogue like that, it’s difficult to go wrong. Enjoy riding with the seven.

@Sundance_2016 @prattprattpratt @BlogWriter365 @SundanceFestUK @FirstLookTVFilm @SundanceFest @Variety @Slamdance @SundanceFestNow @IndieWire

The Shallows Blake Lively Oscar Jaenada Paradise

The Shallows – Scares Up Good Summer Fun

There’s no doubt from the trailers that Columbia Pictures is trying to draw comparisons to Universal Pictures’ classic shark thriller Jaws. My advice – don’t go in comparing the two and you won’t be disappointed.

The film doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Expect some good summer fun and you won’t leave feeling disappointed. It’s clear that Blake liked the script for the opportunity to show off her acting chops. She gets a chance to run the gamut of emotions in this film and handles it well.

It’s no secret the camera loves Blake’s post-baby body in this film and the director’s not shy with the number of angles from which he cares to show her to us.

1271033 - THE WALK

Blake waxes Lively in The Shallows

Director Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop, Unknown, Orphan) does employ the eyes of Cinematographer Flavio Martinez-Labiano with whom he has worked before (Non-Stop, Unknown) and you’re in good hands because of it.

This film has some of the best underwater photography I’ve seen. Not only is it purposeful and effective, but it’s clear and beautiful. When you film at a secret beach referred to as Paradise, even gruesome can be eye candy as both director and cinematographer work together to prove.

Shark in Wave

The film has some predictable moments, but the soundtrack is ‘patient’ and builds the tension. There is a clear use of silence and sound here that will both provide periodic relief and give you some ‘oh shit!’ moments.

Blake Crying

There were a couple of moments in the film where I noticed some homage being paid to other film classics, but without sacrificing it’s own identity.

I’ve been a fan of shark movies, but I’ve been disappointed for decades. The Shallows trailer drew me to it – to give it a shot – the bright colors, Blake’s willingness to leave the safety zone with the film choice, go with no makeup, and play the vulnerable heroine.

Blake Lively The Shallows Strong Heroine

Blake Lively afloat with rage in The Shallows

The rest of the cast  are very likable. You may remember Óscar Jaenada from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Here, he brings real warmth and char to his character. The dialogue is real, the humor honest, and I never felt like I was being condescended to.

The Shallows is timely, just in time for summer – sun, surf, skin,scares, and some stomach turning scenes. Try not to look away. It will make it difficult for some to return to the water.

@shallowsmovie @blakelively @vancityreynolds #theshallows #theshallowsmovie

 

Captain Fantastic was Fantastic

Had a great lunch at Cafe Terigo today! I thought I started the meal out right with a hot buttered rum toddy followed by an amazing cheese-less 1/2 pound burger with fries. But no, that wasn’t good enough. I had to eat it at the table next to Viggo Mortensen with cast and crew members from the film Captain Fantastic here at the Sundance Film Festival! Since it’s really not cool to stick a camera in somebody’s face while they’re eating lunch, I settled for a picture of him standing outside taking a ‘break’ in the snow.

Apparently, we weren’t done with Viggo. We were supposed to get in to see Sting, however, we got left standing in the snow and we didn’t make the cut. So, we waitlisted Captain Fantastic and, as fate would have it, we got #2 and #3!

The film was introduced by Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper who introduced the Director/Writer Matt Ross, a very humble and gracious man. This was Matt Ross’ 3rd film at Sundance.

Viggo plays a father devoted to raising his six kids in the forests of the Pacific Northwest with a rigorous physical and intellectual education. When he’s forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, it challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent.

This film was so well cast, the film moves along with clever transitions from one scene to the next, keeping the story moving along. Viggo displays such a vast range of emotions in this film, sometimes relaying those emotions with only displays of facial transgressions and responses. The rest of the cast was completely believable in every way – no overacting which is usually the signature of most child actors not ready for showtime.

CaptainFantasticCast

(L to R) Viggo Mortensen, Steve Zahn, Kathryn Hahn, Missi Pyle, Frank Langella

CaptainFantasticCast2

The story was original and cinematography sometimes breathtaking. I felt I had not seen this story told before – challenging what we deem as ‘normal’ with raising children and what we deem is ‘safe’ for them. It raises questions as to whether technology is really improving our lives our ‘dumbing’ us down.

The film may end up being a favorite this year at the festival if the 1600 people giving it a standing ovation is a good indicator. Perhaps Director Matt Ross said it best when he took the stage to intro his film tonight. With all of the corporate machines driving what gets made in film today, Sundance is fairy dust. A must see!

#SundanceFest #SundanceFestNow #Sundance2016 @IFC @ETNOW @IFCFilms @sundancefestuk @filmindependent @variety @cooperdance

 

Down for the Count, Up for the Dance

Well, here it is 1:20am and I’m ready to crash. Hard. To the airport at 6:30am and then it’s off to Park City for a week of visual and audible stimulation. For those of you wondering why, it’s many things.

The #Sundance Film Festival is many things. The setting is a beautiful, peaceful setting in an old town surrounded by soft pillowy mountains covered in snow. The visual and audible stimulation is escape.

With activity buzzing around you on the streets, it’s hard to think of anything else than what is in front of you. And from the inside, you’ll see films from all over the world which provide us with a different perspective than what we are typically exposed to when watching the Regal and Century Cinema film varieties.

@SundanceFest is great food and drinks and the community you share it with. Grabbing Chipotle chicken tacos at the little local taqueria can result in a sit down with an entire cast and crew members of a film from Nigeria, where a young man left his job as a fisherman for a while to become a gun toting star on a 50 foot screen; a hero among his people at home. The food isn’t bad either!

People wear the craziest things and say the craziest shit. Standing in line with other film watchers is a hoot. Everyone’s a critic. And that’s not a bad thing. That, is the conversation starter! We’re all there for the same thing. To watch films, discuss them, learn about them, be introduced to the filmmakers and discover why they told the story they told. It’s a really good time!

Up in a few hours. See you tomorrow Bobby!

#experiencesundance