Q&A with Foxcatcher’s director Bennett Miller

With the award season upon us, one of the names that’s been showing up in film sites/blogs list of Oscar frontrunners is the psychological drama Foxcatcher. The film has been screened in various film festivals in the US and internationally, and finally it’s opening this week in the Twin Cities. Earlier this month, I had the chance to sit down with director Bennett Miller when he’s in town as part of a press tour around the country promoting the film.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Photo courtesy of Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Foxcatcher marks Miller’s third film following the critically-acclaimed Capote and Moneyball, and this one is also based on a true story of pro-wrestler brothers Mark & Dave Shultz and their sponsor, millionaire John du Pont. The film stars Channing Tatum as Mark, Mark Ruffalo as Dave and Steve Carell as Du Pont. During our interview, Miller gave us insights into his atypical casting choices, working with producer Megan Ellison (founder of Annapurna Pictures who happens to be the daughter of Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle), the origin of the film + the years it took to get it made, and how Tatum was his only choice for Mark Schultz.

The roundtable interview took place at The Grand Hotel Minneapolis, so this excerpt includes questions from two other interviewers, Eric Henderson (EH) from CBS Radio and Paul McGuire Grimes (PMG) from Twin Cities Live & Paul’s Trip to the Movies Blog. My questions are marked with my initials, RM.

[There are major plot points being discussed,
so consider this a spoiler warning if you have not seen the film
]

PMG: So I just have to have to say that I really enjoyed the movie. It’s think it’s very chilling and suspenseful, and I love the character buildup in it. I’ve noticed that all four of your movies are all based on true stories. Is that something that you look for? Are you more inspired by real life events that you like to dig into and research or is it just mere coincidence?

Miller: I honestly don’t know. I mean I don’t look for it. I don’t tell people “Oh I’m looking for a real life story.” It just happens that way. I like real life stories. Real life stories, at least for me, they all have to have an allegorical quality. They add up to something more than just the story. I try to do these stories because you can see more into them. You can treat the real life story and examine the real story with cinema in a way you cannot examine it with any other medium. So, compared to news coverage or another form of journalism, a film can actually do something in the exploration of the truth of events that “non-fiction” formats can’t. Cinema can capture and shine a light in areas where nothing else can.

PMG: How did you first hear about this story? Did you read Mark’s book or was it a script you came upon?

Miller: A total stranger approached me at an event and handed me an envelope that I would learn contained newspaper clippings about the story.

PMG: That seems a little creepy, but…

Miller: A little creepy, but that’s how it happened. I then set about exploring it and researching it, getting drafts done, and the screenplays.

RM: How long ago was that?

Miller: That was eight years ago. 2006.

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Photo courtesy of Zimbio

RM: I just have a quick question about casting. How did Steve Carell come into being cast as John du Pont. And also related to that, Vanessa Redgrave?

Miller: Well. Steve Carell’s agent threw his name into the mix, and I can’t take credit for having been the first to think of it, but it did make a certain kind of sense, in part, because nobody expected John du Pont to murder Dave Schultz. You don’t want an actor in that role who you would expect to murder somebody, and it’s exciting when an actor breaks out of what’s expected of them. I just had a lot of confidence that he had it in him. I thought it was just a question of him getting the right opportunity to do something like this.

PMG: I think you have a real good knack for doing that. I mean, Jonah Hill and Chris Pratt in Moneyball gave performances I don’t think anyone expected them to give and now he’s [Hill] doing The Wolf of Wall Street. I think you definitely have something do with that. And now with Steve Carell, you have him to do this side that we have never see him do before and it’s fascinating and it’s brilliant to watch him do this.

Miller: Yeah or there is a tendency to restrict people to opportunities that only allow them to do things similar to what they have done before. So, I think it’s probably true that most people are capable of far more than they get the opportunity to prove, but as it happens in this industry, there is a strong tendency towards derivation.

PMG: Do you ever get resistance from the studio or anyone saying “I don’t know if you want to cast Carell in this” or do they just kind of give you the free reign to do it?

Miller: Well, it was [producer] Megan Ellison, so no. She’s just very supportive and pretty certain. Had it been another studio, perhaps, it would be very possible.

EH: What is the working relationship with her? I mean she’s really a superstar right now in the field.

Miller: It’s ideal because ultimately her interest is the same as the filmmakers. And filmmaking is a tricky industry because it requires partnerships with financiers whose interests necessarily are not identical to the creative interests.

EH: Which is sort of mirrored in the film itself, kind of, the financial aspect of it.

Miller: Which is, I think, one thing that was interesting to her, you know, but those interests rarely are 100% harmonious and compatible. In the case of Megan, I think ultimately what she wants more than anything else, the biggest consideration and the governing principles that the movie is everything that it can and should be. She cares more about that than anything. It’s not that she doesn’t care about the financial side or it’s not that she’s reckless about or ignorant of that, it’s just that she cares about the creative aspect more. It makes for a very ideal partnership with filmmakers I think.

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Miller directing Vanessa Redgrave – photo courtesy of Zimbio

RM: It’s kind of fascinating to me that the two female characters, the mother and also the wife of Dave Schultz, are both played by British actresses and they are also not who I would expect to play those roles which enhance the roles themselves.

Miller: It’s a coincidence that they are British. Although Sienna [Miller] is half American, her father is American. Why wouldn’t you expect those actors? Which actor would you expect? Which actor is cast in a role that makes common sense?

RM: Well, I don’t know now that I’ve seen it. I mean, now I can’t imagine anyone else playing them. On the top of my head, I kept thinking maybe somebody like Amy Ryan maybe, for the role of Dave Schultz’s wife. But I thought Sienna did a great job. And Vanessa Redgrave can pretty much do anything.

Miller: She [Redgrave] is so good. I think of everybody she seems to make the most natural sense, and she’s probably playing closest to her strengths compared to the other actors.

EH: One actor we haven’t really mentioned yet is Channing Tatum. I think right now we haven’t come up with a word like “McConaissance” yet. Clearly, he’s on the verge of that or is even in the mid of it. Was he an actor you wanted specifically for this role from the get go?

Miller: Yeah, totally. I offered the part to him eight years ago.

EH: So based off of Step Up?

Miller: No before that. It was based off of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006). I saw that film, never having heard of him before, and I offered him the role before there was even a script. I got a meeting with him and said I was intending on making this film, and walked him through it, and he hopped on eight years ago. Things took a while, and things sort of unraveled. I couldn’t get the movie made, so I moved on to Moneyball and then came back to it. I bumped into him and said I was still planning on making this film if he was interested.

EH: And of course by that time his Sabermetrics score, or whatever, had gone up considerably.

Miller: It had. If you would have based that projection on just Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, you probably would not have imagined the turn that his career did, the kinds of movies that he did. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, they’re just so different. But it was Guide to Recognizing Your Saints that gave me the confidence that he was right for this, to the point where I didn’t even have a second choice.

PMG: I like that his character, unlike Carell’s, you know a lot about his character, he’s vulnerable and he brings those aspects apart. We don’t see that a lot from him. There’s a very different side, and it’s a wonderful performance from him. Hopefully, people see that and trust him more than the other roles he typically gets.

Miller: I hope so. I think they will. Again, he’s another one because of his qualities he tends to get used for particular things and he becomes known for that. I don’t see him to be any better suited to do rom-coms than he is to do something like this. In some ways, I think this is much more closer to what his natural vernacular would be as an actor.

PMG: Can you talk a little bit more about the filming style? There are a lot of wide shots where you let the camera sit and watch all of the images come across, very dialogue free, you just watch the characters. There’s a lot of improv on the set, correct? Can you talk a little bit more about that and the idea behind that?

Miller: The improv or the wide?

PMG: Both. Did they both play into each other?

Miller: The wideness, the steadiness, deliberateness of the style, the austerity of it, I would say is meant to concentrate you and sensitize you to the subtleties of what’s happening.

PMG: And it works.

Miller: The “dialogue-less-ness” of the film similarly, I think, draws you in and sensitizes you to pay attention to what’s not being spoken in the times when there are words so the style hopefully helps you process a film that’s communicating on different frequencies. There’s lots going on…

PMG: That‘s not said.

Miller: Exactly. As far as the improvisation goes, it’s actually linked to that as well and as much as we’re looking for ways to express things in the way that people express things inadvertently, so you can have the same words and one reading will reveal one thing and another will reveal something else and to really make that work, sometimes, or often times, it proves most effective to really just experiment and see what happens. There’s a scene when the two brothers are warming up at the beginning of the movie where they wrestle and it gets out of control.

It was scripted, more or less, but I decided to shoot it like a documentary and ask them [Ruffalo and Tatum] to start the scene much earlier than the scene had been conceived to start. When I watched the footage and assembled the first cut of that, it became clear that we learn about these two guys, who they were, and who they were to each other and the rivalry, and the reverence, the competitiveness, and the love, it’s all in there. I was able to cut something like twenty minutes of scenes.

Foxcatcher_Carrell_TatumEH: Speaking of things left open to interpretation, I’ve read some online debate now about this too, there seems to be a thread of sublimated homosexuality going on in the character of John du Pont. Is that one of those things you had in the back of your mind or was it inadvertent?

Miller: Sublimated, I would say … I don’t think that anything ever became explicit.

EH: The only shot where I questioned was the midnight training bout between Carrell and Tatum.

Miller: That kind of stuff really happened, though, so I think that’s how it expresses itself. But it’s never quite admitted that that’s what happening there.

EH: It would be a politically tricky parallel to draw, I imagine, to insinuate a connection between du Pont’s sexuality and his violent act.

Miller: I would have no problem if I thought that’s what happened. I think what happened is what we show what happened. The bigger issue is that thematically you’ve got a character who is fundamentally incapable of admitting and accepting who he is and he, himself, living in the shadow of his ancestors.

EH: Exceptionalism.

Miller: Yeah and trying to live up to some inherited role or a concept of an inherited role or something like that but the truth of his inadequacy, the truth perhaps of his sexuality, the truth of his leadership abilities, or lack thereof…

EH: Or that his mom’s children as horses essentially.

Miller: Right.

Miller_FoxcatcherCastRM: So I think that’s why he identifies with Mark maybe because you know he felt like Mark was always under Dave’s shadow too.

Miller: Mark was susceptible to that and he understood that I think. I also think each saw the other, Mark and du Pont, as an answer to …

PMG: The void that they had?

Miller: Yeah. Somehow the other one was the answer you know, to validate each other.

RM: They thought they could complete each other or something?

Miller: Or together that this guy, who he is, and that he would ally himself with me, is the form of validation that I want. Meaning, both of those characters I think thought that.

RM: There are so many favorite scenes, but the one that stood out to me was the one in the chopper where Mark and John were trying to say “Ornithologist. Philatelist. Philanthropist.” and Mark just couldn’t get it, and they just keep repeating those three words. I thought there was something eerie and that they were snorting heroin…

Miller: Cocaine

(Everyone chuckles)

Miller: They would never do heroin.

RM: Right. I am just wondering, what is the most challenging scene? Are there any for you that were just tough to get down?

Miller: That scene turned out to be pretty easy just because Steve Carell somehow conjured up what happened and he improvised that. That just came out of him. Often it was the simple scenes that you trip up on. The big dramatic intense scenes like when Channing beats himself up and wrecks the room and gorges. Big scene in the script. Big scene in one take. Only one take. Some of the other quieter scenes end up being the most difficult. The simpler they are, the more unforgiving they are.

PMG: Can you talk a little bit more about the research process? Did you get a lot of support from the Schultz family or even the du Ponts about what happened?

Miller: The Schultzes very much so. Mark Schultz, Nancy Schultz, Nancy’s kids. Dave Schultz was somebody who had a thousand best friends, and I feel like most of them came out of the woodwork to support us and put their trust in us. I spoke to law enforcement officials, people who participated in the siege, cops who lived on the estate. I spoke to a few du Ponts who gave us a little bit of insight, but they weren’t around too much. And, of course, wrestlers, the wrestling community.

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Miller and his Foxcatcher cast at Cannes

EH: So, how mind-blowing to win at Cannes? [Long pause] I mean, you beat Godard!

Miller: Oh ok I might’ve… that’s so American of you.

EH: And I’m sure Godard would say the same.

Miller: Right. It’s very nice to be regarded by your peers. [Another long pause.] I mean, that’s really what it amounts to. I wouldn’t call it “mind-blowing.” It was more humbling.

EH: You strike me as someone who might be more humbled.

Miller: It’s humbling and the overwhelming feeling is gratitude and even some kind of debt. You want to live up to people’s hopes for this medium. It’s a very difficult thing to work. It’s a complex thing. Anyway, it felt nice.

RM: Congratulations!

Miller: Thank you.

PMG: It’s a wonderful movie. I’m excited to see what other people have to say once it opens, and the praise Steve gets, and Channing, and Mark, who we didn’t talk about, but is always fantastic.

RM: He is indeed fantastic here.

Miller: Oh I thought we did talk about him. Yeah, he is the heart of the film.


Foxcatcher opens in limited release today in the Twin Cities.
Check out the trailer below:


Hope you enjoyed the interview. Have you seen Foxcatcher? If so, what did you think?

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Trailer Spotlight: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s been a while since I featured a trailer spotlight on my blog, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby has a pretty unusual concept that I just had to share.

EleanorRigbyPoster

Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

I first heard about this project last year when I heard about James McAvoy casting. At the time I thought that it was more of a mystery thriller or something. Then I saw some photos of McAvoy and Jessica Chastain all over Twitter when it premiered at Cannes. Well apparently there are there versions of this film, told from two different perspectives and also a combined version. Say what?

Well, the concept is quite unusual in that first-time director Ned Benson told the story of a young NYC couple from each character’s point of view. Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) each get a 95-minute movie told from his/her perspective. Naturally it’s tricky to market two films that’s essentially the same story (especially when the Weinsteins are involved), so Benson’s created a third version (Them) which features footage from both His/Her versions and has a conventional running time of 2 hours. So this new trailer is the unified version of Benson’s ambitious directorial debut, check it out:


I LOVE romantic dramas, not the typical rom-coms but something that isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the nitty gritty of a relationship and the ‘warts and all’ approach to a love story. Seems that they have cast two excellent actors in the lead, I believe both McAvoy and Chastain have the chops to pull off the complexity and depth their roles require. I haven’t seen Chastain in anything this year though I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of her work in the past two years. McAvoy is definitely one of the brightest actors of his generation. He’s also one of my favorite Scots, I kind of think of him as the more talented & versatile version of Gerry Butler who looks like his older brother. If only Butler would pick the kind of roles McAvoy’s signed up for.

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The supporting cast is not too shabby at all: William HurtIsabelle HuppertViola Davis, and Bill Hader. So would we be able to see all three versions in the theater? Well, according to Deadline, “Benson said the plan will be to release the new two-hour cut around September 26. A month or six weeks later, the first two films, Him and Her, will play in limited release in art house theaters.”

Hmmm, I doubt my city would get all three versions, we’d be lucky if we even get this unified version. But hopefully all three would be released on iTunes or DVD/Bluray at some point.


What do you think of this film and/or unusual concept?

[Full] Trailer Spotlight – X-Men: Days of Future Past

WHOAH!! I haven’t posted a trailer spotlight in ages but I just HAD to post this one today folks, this is one of my most anticipated movies of the year and despite this awful poster, the trailer definitely gets me super excited!

Patrick Stewart’s voice over alone gets me all hypnotized… this is the kind of trailer where the narration works so well in setting the tone for the film.

Professor X: “You need to go into the past … “
Magneto: “… to end this war before it ever begins”

This film is supposed to act as a sequel to both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s X-Men: First Class, as well as a follow-up to 2013’s The Wolverine (per Wiki) I think this time travel premise is the first of its kind in ANY franchise (as far I can remember anyway), as the characters from the original movie join forces with their younger selves from First Class to change the past and save their future. Seems like a hugely ambitious project in which I’m glad Bryan Singer is back at the helm. He’s the one filmmaker that gave us the first X-Men film in 2000 that pretty much launched the superhero franchise. Before Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy even entered the picture, X-Men was the first comic-book-based film that is more than just a standard action-adventure, as it metaphorically deals with deeper issues of racism, anti-semitism and outcasts of society. This one is poised to be a mindf*ck that promises to discombobulate as well as enthrall us at the same time.

Morphing Xaviers (McAvoy & Stewart)

Morphing Xaviers (McAvoy & Stewart)

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Morphing Magneto (McKellen & Fassbender)

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Thanks Yahoo UK for the GIFs!

Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart from the first X-Men movie are back, joining First Class cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. Peter Dinklage is one of the new cast member here as Bolivar Trask, a military scientist and the head of Trask Industries who created a range of robots called Sentinels whose purpose is to hunt and destroy mutants. The Intouchables’ Omar Sy also played one of the mutants from the future with the ability to absorb energy to redirect it in kinetic blasts  Seriously, this is the kind of movie to watch even just for the cast!!

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I have to admit I get chills and a bit teary eyed watching this. I LOVE Henry Jackman’s music in the first film, and I was bummed that he’s not back to score this… but now I’m loving John Ottman’s ominous yet thrilling music he’s doing here. It hits the emotional high notes of this epic mutant saga and battle against extinction. That last scene of the two Xaviers facing off each other, oh man, that moment of the younger Xavier shedding a tear always gets me. I’ve been sold on this movie from day one, now I’m officially in agony waiting for this film to open in the US on May 23!


Are you as excited for this one as I am, folks?

Advanced Screening Passes to DIVERGENT in Minneapolis, MN + Red Carpet Screening with Veronica Roth

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Hello fellow Twin City cinephiles! Local moviegoers and DIVERGENT fans are invited to check out the red carpet event happening before the DIVERGENT advanced screening this Wednesday (3/5) at the Theatres at Mall of America. Passes are required to see the film, but not to be at the red carpet, which opens at 6:00pm. Veronica Roth (author) and Ansel Elgort (cast member – Caleb Prior) will be walking the red carpet to speak with press and sign autographs.

FCInterviewBannerCheck out my interview with Veronica and Ansel

Author Veronica Roth & Ansel Elgort w/ Shailene Woodley in a still from DIVERGENT

Author Veronica Roth & Ansel Elgort w/ Shailene Woodley in a still from DIVERGENT

Check out the trailer of the film:


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Free Advanced Screening Passes

Enter to win passes to attend an advanced screening of the highly anticipated DIVERGENT on Tuesday, March 18 at the ShowPlace ICON theater at 7:00pm. To enter go to https://www.gofobo.com/rsvp and enter the code FC2YTG; winners will be notified Saturday, March 15. Please be advised that seating will be first come, first served so it is recommended to arrive early.

DIVERGENT Screening
ShowPlace ICON
March 18 at 7:00pm

Divergent is an sci-fi action adventure set in futuristic dystopia where society is divided by five factions based on virtues. The story’s protagonist Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy the Divergent kind, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes them dangerous before it’s too late.

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn

Check out the featurette below on Factions:

U.S. release via SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT on March 21, 2014.


Stay tuned for my interview with Veronica Roth and Ansel Elgort!


Are you excited for Divergent?

TCFF Day 5 and 6 Highlights: MN Shorts, Ghost Light, The Armstrong Lie documentary, They Will Outlive Us All

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Here are what’s in store for Day 5 and Day 6 at TCFF. As you can see, there’s something cool to look forward to every single day, and there’s always something for everyone! I’m a bit sidelined by a cold today so I had to skip one of the films I had gotten a ticket for. But hey, there are still a bunch of films in store for this week so I’m taking LOTS of vitamins so I can be on the up and up again covering for TCFF :D

DAY 5 Highlights – Oct 21

MN Shorts Part 1

Showing: Monday, October 21st at 6:15 pm

A collection of best shorts from the state of MN

  • The Tale of Cuthbert – 5 minutes
    Cuthbert is a zombie who just doesn’t fit in with the other zombies. His brother is the leader and tries to teach Cuthbert the techniques to being a better zombie. But can Cuthbert change who he is? Or will he be banished?
  • DeadOfWinter_ShortDead of Winter – 8 minutes
    Running low on supplies needed for her survival, Bethany Stevens (Lisie Krohnfeldt) is forced to venture out into an inhospitable world full of frozen zombies, bitter cold and loneliness.
  • The Gold Sparrow – 13 minutes
    Set in a crumbling black-and-white futuristic metropolis, void of creativity and color, the city is traversed by The Gold Sparrow and her nefarious side kick, The Ring Leader.
  • The First Date – 36 minutes
    How far will fate go? Jack and Rachel are about to find out. Destined to be soul mates, these two are embarking on a lifelong love. There’s only one problem – they have to get past their first date. 
  • A Letter Home – 4 minutes
    An isolated man maintains hope in a hopeless situation. A LETTER HOME is Karl Warnke’s directorial debut.
  • Clutch – 4 minutes
    Tommy has been made an offer he literally cannot refuse. “One ball, one strike and I’ll let you live”.
  • Duluth is Horrible– 17 minutes
    A series of vignettes chronicling a few lonely people in Duluth, MN searching for a connection in a bleak winter. 

Ghost Light

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Showing: Monday, October 21st at 8:45 pm

Special Guests: John Gaspard (Director) & Cast and Crew

When a key prop goes missing during an amateur theater company performance, the actors suspect the theater ghosts are acting up. The group decides to spend the night in the eccentric old building, watching for paranormal activity.

This feature was filmed at Theatre in the Round here in Minneapolis. Here’s the 30-second preview:


Joe from the MN Movie Man Blog calls it ‘…an enjoyably well-put together film… Though its pretense may suggest a spooky ghost tale, this is a delicate, well-observed drama that has its heart, mind, and earthly spirit in the right place.’  Read the full review »


DAY 6 Highlights – Oct 22

The Armstrong Lie

TheArmstrongLie

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:30pm

Directed by Alex Gibney

Four years ago, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks) was commissioned to film Lance Armstrong’s second comeback, for the 2009 Tour de France. Years later, following Armstrong’s cheating confessions, Gibney returned to his original source material, discovering in the process an electrifying, red-handed portrait of a liar in action.

This is one of the documentary I was looking forward to the most and certainly is the most high profile playing at TCFF. Gibney is an Oscar winner and is no stranger to tackling a hot-button topic (ENRON, Wikileaks) and has won an Oscar for Taxi to The Dark Side, an exposé on the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba. I find the shift in focus of this documentary from a comeback story to one of the biggest scandal in the world of sport is particularly intriguing. It’s interesting that the producers of the film were initially big fans of Armstrong.

They Will Outlive Us All

TheyWillOutliveUsAll

Showing: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 9:30pm

Directed by Patrick Shearer

In the years since Hurricane Sandy, New York has been brought to its knees by a series of “Frankenstorms”.  Roommates Margot and Daniel attempt to survive this “new” New York by avoiding it at all costs. But with the advent of three strange deaths in their Brooklyn building, the world they’ve been hiding from is knocking hard on the back door. It’s time for our heroes to kill their TV, lay off the booze, and put out the roach… Or all of NYC could fall into the clutches of something that can’t even clutch.


TCFFTickets

Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Any one of these films caught your eye, folks?

TCFF Day 3: Women in Film panel & film highlights: Forev, Winter in the Blood, Truth or Dare & More!

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It’s another gorgeous Fall Day in the Twin Cities… and with TCFF underway, all is well in the [cinematic] world :D

Here are some of the film highlights of Day 3 from our hosts Doug Sidney and Ingrid Moss:

My day starts with the Women in Film Education Panel, featuring three filmmakers/talents whose films are premiering at TCFF:

WomenInFilmPanelist

Jessica Cameron, writer, director, producer, actor, “Truth or Dare”
Hannah Campbell, co-producer, actor, “Screwed”
Molly Green, writer, director, “Forev”
Meighan McGuire – moderator

Check out their bio at TCFF site. I’m so glad every event now takes place on the Festival Lounge right at the Showplace ICON Theatre venue. It’s so convenient for everyone involved.

Here are the films my blogger staff and I are going to catch tonight:

FOREV

Forev_Still
October 19th at 4pm
Special Guest: Molly Green – Director
Sophie and Pete are kind of friends, but mostly they’re just neighbors. On their way to pick up Pete’s sister Jess from her sorority house, a joke about getting married escalates and their car stalls out. Forev is a romantic comedy about how far you can go without saying what you mean.

Hot and Bothered
(short film, screening before Forev & Screwed)

Special Guest: Jake Green
Desperate Singles get all tangled up when a compulsive internet dater loses track of her accounts.


Winter in the Blood

WinterInTheBlood_still

October 19th at 6:30pm and 11pm (additional screening due to popular demand)
Special Guest: Chaske Spencer, Actor (Twilight) and Alex Smith, director

Virgil First Raise (Chaske Spencer) wakes in a ditch on the hardscrabble plains of Montana, hungover and badly beaten. He returns home to his ranch on the reservation, only to find that his wife, Agnes, (Julia Jones) has left him. Worse, she’s taken his beloved rifle.


Bahamian Son

BahamianSon

October 19th at 6:45pm
Special Guests: Andrew Melby – Director, Reggie Henderson-Writer and StarToki Wright-Actor
An independent feature film, based on true events from the life of the writer Reggie Henderson. The story follows Kevin as he sets out to find his father, whom he hasn’t seen in more than thirty years.

Stay tuned for my interview with Andrew Melby which will be posted together with the review!

Truth or Dare

TruthOrDareBnr

Saturday October 19th at 9:15pm
Special Guests- Jessica Cameron-Director, Ryan Kiser-Actor, Brandon VanVliet – Actor

Six friends find internet stardom after making truth or dare videos that go viral. They go by the names, “The Truth or Daredevils” and are surrounded by a huge media storm from their latest video. Everything is fun and games until their number 1 fan decides he wants to play…


TCFFTickets

Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


So there you have it folks! Which of these films capture your attention?

Musings on Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer & How I hope we get to see the director’s cut for US release

I saw the beautiful International poster of Snowpiercer today, a film I’ve been looking forward to for some time. The film’s been breaking all kinds of box records in Asia, especially in South Korea, Bong Joon-ho‘s native country. Unfortunately for most of us in the West, we probably won’t get to see it until next year… and which version of that film we’d end up seeing is still unknown.

Anyway, before I get to that, here’s the poster and latest International trailer:

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In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.

I’m so stoked for this film as I’m intrigued by the premise and early look of the film. Plus, just look at the cast: Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Chris Evans, Alison Pill, as well as some Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung. Chan-wook Park, who directed Stoker, is one of the eight producers in the film. The story is actually based on a French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.

Per THR, Snowpiercer was sold to 167 countries, the most territories a Korean title was sold to prior to its release. The Weinstein Co. (TWC) had acquired the US rights of the film. Now, those who keep up with film news probably have read news about über mogul Harvey Weinstein‘s desire to cut 20 minutes of the film to make it more ‘marketable’ for English speaking territories. This is what Twitch.com reported about a month ago on the matter on the reason for the cuts:

According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns “TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.'”

Oh, and voice overs will reportedly be added to the opening and closing of the film for the US version too [face palm]. Of course, cutting International films for Western release is nothing new, we’ve seen Asian films like John Woo’s Red Cliff and recently, Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (check out Steven’s review of both cuts) being edited down for US release. I get it that with Red Cliff, the original film is about four hours long, so the cuts might have been warranted, but in regards to Snowpiercer, cutting 20 minutes from a 126-min film AND adding VO is so unnecessary. If the reason is to make it ‘less dark’ and turning it into a mainstream apocalyptic action movie, that’s just disheartening and insulting!

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Recent Updates from director Bong Joon-ho

JoonhoBongWell, as of late August, the director himself said the cuts would be minor. He’s been promoting the film all over the world and this is what he said during one of the press conference (per Bleeding Cool):

I came here after editing for the American version. I’ve never produced a new version for overseas premieres, and this is the first time I’m making a new version. Weinstein is actually being pretty soft toward editing, probably because it’s noticed how critics have praised the film and know how angry movie fans get over new edits. They even asked me which parts I want to include in the film.

Heh, of course I’d rather the studio would just leave it alone and let the audience see the director’s cut as it’s intended. I really don’t get the notion of tailoring a film for certain audience. I mean, I’m from Indonesia who watch 99% Western movies. I don’t expect ANY film to be tailored to my cultural background, that is just absurd. Besides, it’s not like the premise is really THAT difficult to understand, if anything doomsday is a universal theme, as is class system and the struggle for survival.

Tilda Swinton, an actress whose work I respect, makes her views known about this editing hoopla at the Deauville American Film Festival in France (per The Playlist): “There’s no question that all English speaking audiences deserve to see director Bong’s cut, and we hope very much that we will all see it,”

Asked about the film’s effect, she replied, “Maybe an effect of the film, it just occurred to me, is that when one has spent two hours in the claustrophobia of this train we can leave the cinema and feel the relief that we can make life wider, so maybe it’s a sort of aversion therapy to sit in the train for two hours. … That’s two hours, not one hour and forty minutes.” Nice! Thanks you miss Swinton! She’s almost unrecognizable in the trailer, which further proves what a versatile actress she is.

I REALLY hope we’ll get to see the original director’s cut of this. I’d LOVE to see it this year too. So Harvey, would you just release it this Winter, pretty please?


Anyway, what are your thoughts about this film and the whole editing scenario?

Birthday Tribute: Top 5 Favorite Keanu Reeves’ Roles & Trailer Spotlight: 47 Ronin

Today is Keanu Reeves’ Birthday and I almost missed it! Can you believe it he’s 49 years old?? He’s nearing 50 but he doesn’t look a day over 35!

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Keanu in Point Break (1991) and this year at Cannes

Keanu Charles Reeves was born in Beirut on September 2, 1864 in Beirut, Lebanon. His father is Hawaiian Chinese and his mother English, his first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian. My pal and fellow Keanu fan Mark and I sometimes call him Chuck :) Keanu strikes me as the type of actors who aren’t in it for the fame or money. He seems like a nice guy in real life too. Perhaps you’ve seen this video of him giving his seat to a woman on the subway that went viral. Dan at Top 10 Films recently posted Top 10 Random Acts Of Kindness From Actors and Keanu came in at number 1 as he donated his lucrative back-end deal for The Matrix franchise to the crew of the films, saying they were the unsung heroes, the ones who made the films so good. He has been quoted as saying, “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live for a few hundred centuries with what I have made already.” WHOA! Now, THAT’s real charity folks, nice to see celebs who actually walk the talk and that is a rarity in ANY industry.

I’ve been a fan of his ever since I saw him in Speed, and though he’s not the most expressive actors out there, he more than makes up for it in screen presence and that inherent movie star quality that an actor can’t really train for. There’s also a certain earnest demeanor about him that makes me root for him instantly, and he’s got that cool factor without appearing smug. Plus, Keanu not only looks good but sounds good as well with his deep, manly voice.

Keanu’s quite a prolific actor, with 70 films/TV projects under his belt since his start in the early 80s. His big break came with Point Break in 1991, but Speed and of course The Matrix made him a household name. I’ve seen just a little over a dozen of his films, both small and big-budgeted films, and though he certainly isn’t going to nab any acting awards, I’ve always enjoyed watching him. I actually own some of his films that I don’t mind seeing over and over again. If I were to rate my top 5 favorite roles, it’d look like this:

KeanuTop5Roles

5. Kevin Lomax – The Devil’s Advocate

4. Johnny Utah – Point Break

3. Paul Sutton – A Walk in the Clouds

2. Jack Traven – Speed

1. Neo – The Matrix

Honorable Mentions: John Constantine in Constantine + Shane Falco in The Replacements

I think he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. He’s obviously great as an action hero, but he’s got the sensitivity and vulnerability to play a romantic lead or a down-on-his-luck kind of guy like he did in Henry’s Crime. I haven’t seen the comedy Something’s Gotta Give and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee where he had supporting roles, but it proves that he does seek out a variety of roles in his career. He’s also ventured into directing, in the fascinating documentary Side By Side.

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Now, the one film I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is 47 Ronin. I actually mentioned this back in 2010 when I featured its director Carl Rinsch‘s short sci-fi film The Gift which was at one point optioned to be made into a feature film. Besides Keanu, who looks like he’s in his element, I quite like the Japanese cast: Hiroyuki Sanada (who was sadly wasted in The Wolverine) and Pacific Rim‘s Rinko Kikuchi. Check out the trailer:

Here’s the synopsis per EMPIRE:

After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, the leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves), a half-breed they once rejected, as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witches and wondrous terrors.

Ok, despite the rather blah trailer, I’m still intrigued by this. Visually, it looks pretty cool but let’s hope this won’t be another case of style over substance as we could use a truly epic Samurai movie. Per IMDb, this is the seventh cinematic adaptation of the Japanese folktale of the 47 Ronin, after The 47 Ronin, Chûshingura, Chushingura, The Fall of Ako Castle, 47 Ronin (Japanese film) and The Last Chushingura. But this is the first out of Hollywood. Even though Keanu is a Western actor, his Asian heritage makes him look like he belongs in this film. I haven’t been following it closely but it seems that it’s been in development hell for years with budget and creative differences issues. There were even rumors last year that Universal fired Rinsch as the budget ballooned to $225 mil (from the already massive $175 mil). That’s just ludicrous even for a 3D film, and such a huge risk for the studios to give it to a first-time director!

But hey, you never know, it may still make money. I mean, look at World War Z. We’ll see if this turns out to be a good one. The film comes out on Christmas day, 2013.


So, what’s your favorite Keanu role and what do you think of 47 Ronin?

TV Miniseries Spotlight: The Hollow Crown

I’ve heard of it but somehow it fell off my radar. Not sure how as I’m a sucker for this kind of stories… AND Tom Hiddleston! Well, thanks to my good pal Terrence for sending me the trailer link via Twitter. What a pal he is… oh btw, don’t forget to vote on his weekly Time to Vote Tuesday. Great topic today, as always!

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The Hollow Crown is a new adaptations of Shakespeare’s tetralogy of history plays comprising the ‘Henriad’ for the BBC’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad: King Richard II; King Henry IV, Part 1; King Henry IV, Part 2; King Henry V. The plays chronicle a continuous period in British history from the end of the 14th century to the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Together, the plays comprise a story with recurring themes of power struggles, redemption, family conflict and betrayal. (per IMDb)

I can’t friggin’ wait to see this! It’s no surprise that I LOVE all things British, including films about British monarchy, and man, I definitely would watch this for the cast!!

Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V
Jeremy Irons as Henry IV
Ben Whishaw as Richard II
Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt

There are also notable British actors in the supporting roles: David Morrissey, John Hurt, Julie Walters, oh and James Purefoy as Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk.

Here’s the trailer:

Now, for my UK friends, this is probably old news and perhaps you’ve even seen this on BBC Two. But it’s finally making its way to our shores. It will air on PBS’ Great Performances on Friday, September 20. But if you can’t wait THAT long, it will be released on iTunes, VOD, and DVD on August 27th.

Click on each image to see a larger version

Telegraph UK has some very nice things so say in its 4.5 stars review. I particularly like what it says about Hiddleston:

Hiddleston’s performance was a clever one. He is a cerebral actor and for that reason failed to convince in his early scenes (in Henry IV Part One) as a roister-doister. It was only when his heart was heavy, meditating on his destiny in a corpse-strewn foreign field, that you realised his quiet power.

The Guardian also says that “…The Hollow Crown feels as good as TV Shakespeare is going to get.”

So yeah, I’m so game for this!! I think I can handle 500 minutes of Shakespeare with THIS cast. I hope there’s a bunch of special features in this as well. I wouldn’t mind a whole video journal just on James Purefoy getting into costume and make up ;)

JamesPurefoyHollowCrown

Well, I’m already sold on this one before I read that director Sam Mendes is one of the executive producer! Even from the trailer, this looks like an epic with lavish locations and astute details on the set pieces and costumes. This miniseries has won several awards, including BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Ben Whishaw) and Supporting Actor (Simon Russell Beale). It was also nominated in the music and costume design category.

The Shakespearean English might be a bit hard to follow for someone like me but I’m willing to give it a shot, especially with Hiddleston’s gorgeous voice reciting them, he’s an actor who’s born to play this type of roles! Plus, with the right technique, even this old language could have a contemporary feel.


So what do you think folks, are you up for this? For those who’ve seen this, please let me know what you think!

Trailer Spotlight: Man of Steel – the S stands for smashing – now the countdown begins!

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I knew I would be inside of a movie theater watching Disconnect when this trailer hits … so I was super excited when I got home to see it on my big screen TV! Well, all that waiting is not for naught. I have a bunch of superlatives I could use for this trailer… but I’m going to restrain myself. As you could surmise from the title, it’s absolutely smashing!!

Hope is the key word in this latest Superman adaptation … that “S” on Superman’s chest doesn’t stand for “Superman” or “Smallville”… Apparently it’s not even an “S.”

“In my world it means hope.”

That’s what Kal-El told Lois in the interrogation room. Superman has always been portrayed as the beacon of hope for humanity as he identifies and cares more with his adopted universe than his own. And in practical term, this is the movie that Warner Bros and DC is most hopeful about, as it holds the key to the future of the DC comic franchise in its cinematic universe. Looks like Zack Snyder, in collaboration with Christopher Nolan as producer & David Goyer penning the script, just might deliver the biggest movie event of the year!

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Now, as a big fan of this DC hero, I’m super hopeful that this would live up to my expectations and the signs are pointing in the right direction. I love that there are going to be more Krypton scenes with Russell Crowe channeling Marlon Brando as Jor-El, as well as stirring moments of our Kryptonian protagonist with earthly parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Of course mostly I’m looking forward to Henry Cavill rockin’ this role, Michael Shannon as a menacing Zod and the flirtatious banter between Supes and Lois [lucky Amy Adams!!] ;) To me, this trailer promises us that high-octane action and emotional pay off are not mutually-exclusive.

The only gripe I have is the lack of a truly mighty score that’ll go with our mighty hero… I mean Hans Zimmer himself has talked about being intimidated by the task of following John Williams footsteps [per Collider], though I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’d create something great. But after hearing his score here, I’m afraid it only makes me miss Williams’ iconic creation, THAT’s still the score that immediately evoke the image of Superman for me.

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It’s no secret that this is THE one movie I’m looking forward to ALL year. Yes it’s a superhero movie and I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes. I mean, to some it’s just another one in a string of comic book movies that Hollywood’s been churning out the past few years. But no, when it comes to Superman, I’m not jaded, yet, not sure I ever will. I’ve loved that character since I was three years old, with Superman the Movie being my first memorable movie-going experience and Christopher Reeve as my first official crush. So yeah, even though there have been some disappointing films along the way, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a Superman fan.

Now the countdown to Man of Steel officially begins here at FlixChatter!

I’ll have Superman-related posts a few times a month all the way to its US release date on June 14! Thanks to Bubbawheat from Flights Tights and Movie Nights and Michael from It Rains… You Get Wet and Terrence from The Focused Filmographer for agreeing to participate in this mini blogathon of sort. So stay tuned for some super posts!! :D


Well, what say you? Thoughts on the trailer and/or Superman in general?