Interview with CRISIS film’s writer/director Nicholas Jarecki

Hello all! Welcome to another interview edition featuring the award-winning writer/director of the critically acclaimed Arbitrage Nicholas Jarecki. His sophomore film CRISIS has just been released in select theaters and VOD. Check out my review of the film if you haven’t already. It stars Gary Oldman, Greg Kinnear, Evangeline Lilly, Armie Hammer, Luke Evans and Michelle Rodriguez.

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Synopsis: A drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation. An architect recovering from an oxycodone addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s disappearance. A university professor battles unexpected revelations about his employer, a pharmaceutical company bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.

Set against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic, their stories collide in this dramatic thriller from writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.

In his acclaimed feature debut, Arbitrage (starring Richard Gere, which I gave a high rating in my review), the NYU graduate Jarecki set a suspense-thriller about love and loyalty against a backdrop of fraud and murder in the world of high finance. With Crisis, the writer-director now turns his attention to the opioid epidemic.

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I had the pleasure of chatting with Nicholas (Nick) Jarecki over Zoom to talk about his film, from the process of making CRISIS, casting, acting in his own film, and the personal crisis of Armie Hammer and how it affected his film’s release. Read on:

Q: Why did it take you so long from making Arbitrage (released in 2012) to this one? It’s almost a decade long.

A: Yeah, it was two years ago now. Because of the pandemic. We had to wait to bring it out. Yeah. I suppose, you know, making these films, these kinds of serious drama type films that ask questions, provocative questions, there isn’t as much support for that as you might expect.

But you know, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. So you’ve got to get it done. But it just requires a lot of tenacity.

Q: I learned that you had lost some people who are important to you, to this epidemic, to this opioid crisis. So is that the driving factor for you to make this, or was there any other inspiration for you to make this film?

A: Well, you know, I mean, look, you always want to make a good film that’s entertaining. First and foremost, it’s my job to entertain you. Write me your seven dollars and you want to have a good time to see something interesting, most dramatically interesting. But you know, what I would say is with this film, I had lost a friend many years ago to opioid abuse, gotten into pain pills and then went to heroin.

And we didn’t understand anything because he was such a nice, bright young man. Good family and all that. So I filed it away in the back of my mind. And then about five years ago, I think there were some reporters from the Los Angeles Times I teamed up with. And and they started to look into the role of opioid manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies in this issue.

What did they know or what didn’t they know? You know, was the product perhaps more dangerous? People had been led to believe, because now you see we’ve had this terrible epidemic in the country. You have these regular, normal people who are getting addicted in record numbers, hundreds of thousands dead. You know, they took a pain pill that was prescribed to them. But the way their body reacted, the way they developed independence, those are things I thought that was worth exploring.

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Q: The way these big pharmaceutical companies were being portrayed in the film, it’s as if there’s so much at stake in terms of profit that they even didn’t care when they’re told their product were not ready to hit market. All they cared about was the bottom line. Is that based on your research?

A: I mean, I think we wanted to look at that. You know, this film is very based on real events, real and very heavily-researched. So that is how drugs are developed and tested on mice. And, you know, it’s a fascinating world. And obviously, you know, I don’t think anyone set out to make a harmful product. So that’s not the issue here. The issue is, you know, were these pills overprescribed? Were they over-marketed? Were questions about their safety ignored? And so I wanted to put that into a thriller context, really see what Gary Oldman’s [character] eventually did, Armie Hammer’s and the rest of the great supporting cast… Michelle Rodriguez, you know, all these people. How do these drugs interact with our society? And, you know, looking at it from these different perspectives of the user, the criminal criminal smuggler, and the manufacturer inside.

Q: So it was originally called Dreamland, is that correct? And then it was re titled to to Crisis. What was the significance of that first title?

A: It was a working title. There was another film called Dreamland, so we couldn’t use that one. But, you know, we don’t want it to be confusing. But I might I just kind of like the idea that, you know, we were all sort of living in a fantasy. I think that’s a very American thing. I actually like that title, but I do love CRISIS. I think it’s very strong. And I like these one word titles like. I believe there hasn’t been a film with that same title since Cary Grant’s crime thriller in 1950.

Q: Now, in terms of timeline… how long did it take from, when you were writing the script, like, how long did it take you to work on this film, as there was a lot of research that you had to do. So how long is that process?

A: I wrote this pretty quickly. I wrote it over the course of about six months in 2017. So about a little over three and a half years ago. And then, you know, I had met Gary Oldman and I took him the script and and he liked it right away. He said, OK, let me let me come on as a producer and help you put the film together.

And then the film came together pretty quickly and took, you know, maybe six months to to get the other actors together, and then we started shooting in 2019.

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Q: And then so that was kind of that’s a good segue to talk about casting. Since you met Gary Oldman when you already finished with the script, are you one of those writers who have somebody in mind when you were writing the script? Because I feel like he’s so perfect in the role of Tyrone. So did you have someone in mind when you were writing this?

A: So I met Gary and then I was writing the script at the same time. This is kind of how this happened with Arbitrage. And so the character started to take shape a little bit in my mind. When I’m writing, it’s sort of like you only just see shapes, black, black box, you know, kind of shadow figures because you need the actors to bring it to life. So it’s kind of you know, it’s a strange process.

It’s a bit of an alchemical process, I would say. And but then, you know, once I have finished the draft and I gave it to him, then I really could see only him. And we worked together on this quite a bit, to tailor it. And I like to do that with all the actors. I like to rehearse for a few weeks, really get their perspectives on the character, get kind of deep into the research with them, go to labs, you know, with Veronica Ferres playing the [Pharma company] CEO, Armie and I also went with the undercover cop to go look at these pill mills, etc.

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Q: OK, so how did the Evangeline Lily came about? Did you you know her before making this film?

A: No, I didn’t know her. I sent her the script. I had been a fan of hers since I had watched all of Lost. I was obsessed, just like everyone else, with that show. And what I saw in her was she was an actress with a great range. She had really showed so many different sides of the persona, and I think she gives a tremendous performance in this film though she hadn’t really done dramatic work in a while.

You know, she had done she had a little part in The Hurt Locker, but she then kind of got into this Marvel world. Yeah. And I think she said that she really wanted to stretch her dramatic muscles again. She really came came hard on the film, and she went very deep into the characters, kind of method and, you know, she had to go to some very dark places to give you that performance.

Q: I didn’t even know that was you who played Stanley the DEA agent (Armie Hammer’s partner) until I looked up my IMDb. So what makes you want to be involved in front of the camera? Because I’m not sure that’s hard to be directing and acting at the same time.

A: Well, you know, it’s all you have to blame. Lenny Kravitz, the musician. Four years ago, he was making a music video in California and he wanted to cast a director, a real life director, to play a director directing him and going crazy. Yeah. So he cast me and and then we did it. And I had such a great time. People were saying to me, like, hey, you were really good.

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Jarecki as a DEA agent with Director of Photography Nicolas Bolduc

And and I thought, oh, my God, it’s like maybe that could be something fun to do. So we’re doing this film and I didn’t have anyone for that part. It’s kind of a comic relief type part. And so then somebody said like, well, how are we doing with that casting? And I said, you know what? And I thought, here’s my big moment. And, you know, I said, well, maybe I would do it. Well, there’s one less person to cast anyway, so you save some money. And then they were like, okay, great.

Q: I have to kind of bring up this elephant in the room. Surely you know about the personal crisis in regards to Armie Hammer. Did his involvement affect the reception of your film? How do you feel about the whole issue?

A: The thing is, you know, in terms of the audience, I think the film has been extremely well received. We’ve been number one rented movie in America when it was iTunes for two weeks. We opened up in 216 theaters. We were the number one independent film, the country, the number two per screen, second to Tom and Jerry. The number one film in limited release on less than a thousand screens. So audiences really sought out the film and continue to seek out the film that were opening around the world. We were doing, I think 900 theaters in the Middle East, we do a couple hundred in Australia this week, Canada. So, and audiences have rated the film very highly, we’ve had some very nice reviews, but we did take some heat from a lot of critics.

And it was, it was frustrating because I think you can look at something through lenses and you can say, okay, well, I appreciate where this is coming from. And you know, no film is perfect, it’s got its issues, whatever, but you can also really rip into something. And I think, unfortunately the timing of Armie’s personal problems, which I really know nothing about, I mean, he’s not my brother, he’s an actor that I hired to do a role and he did a great job. But you know, I think that [his involvement] may be colored some of the media. It’s frustrating, but I think, you know, all things have their moment. But I think people are starting to discover the film audiences are discovering the film and film writers are discovering the film and have been reacting more positively to the film.

That’s really the goal with this film. We just, we wanted to make an entertaining movie, uh, thrilling movie that you feel and captivate to with some great performances. And I think we did that, but then secondly, we really wanted to get this issue out to the public and get people talking about what are the responsibilities of these pharmaceutical manufacturers? How should law enforcement be done? How do we treat addicts? Do we treat addicts as the enemy, or do we treat them as our brother and sister our, you know, and understand that this is crossing all walks of life. It’s like a category five hurricane. And what we really need to do is to have some understanding, put some money towards treatment and to de-stigmatize and take away the, ‘oh, they’re bad people’ mindset.

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Q: Now, in regards to the multiple narratives. I feel like all these different three different distinct story, but yet related could be its own film. What was the biggest challenge for you to try to tell their stories in just two hours and make sure the story is coherent?

A: And it was, uh, it was a very interesting question that, I mean, I asked myself all these questions, you know, two of the stories, me, one story doesn’t mean, but in a way it does, because you understand that Gary’s up here, you know, it’s like almost like he’s fighting with the gods on Mount Olympus and whatever decisions are made in that room, in that board room or in the lab, then they come down and they touch these other lives. So for me, you know, it was, it was valid to have a metaphorical connection or an allegorical connection as opposed to ‘Oh, they’re students in his class or whatever, something that would have felt totally unrealistic.’

I liked the idea, you know, that the characters are struggling and then they can all help each other in some way. Gary helped them by the fight that he gets into, they help each other. So, certainly editorially putting all that together, a lot of time and effort went into that because you need to see, well, how do these stories inform each other, how do they touch each other? You know, how do we make a connection? That’s both for image based, story-based, you know, we move scenes around and, you know, take the script and I take some scenes and montage them and use these kinds of pre-lab dialogue. Like Robert Altman used to do or later Steven Soderbergh, they’re kind of the masters. So, some of it is trial and error, some of it is your instinct… it’s a kind of dance. And then also what is the footage and what are the actors, what are they giving you? Sometimes they can do things you don’t expect that are very beautiful.

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Gary Oldman, Luke Evans on set with Nicholas Jarecki

Q: My last question relates to the theme in your films. It seems your previous film deals with the wealthy, powerful people, and that’s also the case here both in the Pharma company and also the privileged school trying to maintain their place in society. I notice that power is kind of a running theme in your stories, so is that something that you like to explore more in your films? I was wondering maybe there is a third film that you’re doing, that its almost like a trilogy with these kind of similar theme going on.

A: Well, I think you pick up on that very well. Um, I mean, I think I’m interested in looking at, you know, there’s, there’s certain moral questions in here, right? And then there’s also like a balance of hearts. So Greg Kinnear, who’s been a friend of mine for many years, I asked him to play this role and he plays the dean of the university. And he’s obviously in conflict with Gary Oldman’s character, because he has discovered what he thinks is damaging information about this product and he wants to go public with it. But then he’s agreed not to do that. And this could really hurt the university because the pharmaceutical company provides the university endowment. So you can really see his point of view… and I said, we got to have Kinnear because he’s such a sympathetic person.

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So to see the dean in this conflicted situation, you know, I like those moral gray areas. It’s a balance of and saying, okay, are you sure you’re right about this thing? You know, maybe it’s science who knows, maybe you’re not right. Uh, you know, maybe it’s that experiment translates here on the, on the animals, but it doesn’t work for the humans. I mean, these are all complicated questions, but what you are going to do is you’re going to endanger the university and the university is serving its community of students. And it’s got tens of thousands of students that I’m looking out for. And I have responsibility to those people. So in the balance of harms, this may not be the one to do. And by the way, I don’t think you can win. And then, you know, whether or not (Gary’s character) Tyrone does win or not in the end, we have to leave for, for your viewers.

I like exploring the corrupting role that capitalism plays in the American society because it has, it’s so great and it encourages innovation and all that, but you know, when we go too far away, when we get to free market and we do whatever you want, well sometimes that encourages bad behavior, you know, safeguards. It’s like, you know, you have a runaway train, right? You’re supposed to have some circuit breakers, make sure the train doesn’t go off the tracks. And I think that’s the role of us, the public. So that’s part of why we make the film is to say, Hey, take a look at what’s going on. You know, maybe you don’t want to do anything about it, but at least you should be aware of it.


Check out the trailer:


CRISIS is now available on Video On Demand.
It’ll be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the USA on Tuesday April 20th


Thanks Nicholas Jarecki for chatting with me!

….

FlixChatter Review: CRISIS (2021)

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I have to admit that though I’ve heard news about the opioid crisis, I’m not really that familiar with the subject. In fact, prior to watching this film I didn’t even know what Fentanyl was, which is apparently a powerful synthetic pain killers that’s similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It’s certainly an important subject matter, and even a timely one had our attention been completely absorbed by the Covid pandemic as this epidemic also kills people at an alarming rate.

The film features three main storylines that’s seemingly random at first, but you know they’d converge in the end. There’s Jake (Armie Hammer), an undercover DEA officer working to broker deal involving the lucrative Fentanyl between a Canadian supplier (code-named Mother) and some Armenian drug lords. This operation is a personal one for Jake as his own sister (Lily Rose-Depp) is addicted to OxyContin. Claire, an architect (Evangeline Lily) who’s a former addict tries to figure out the truth about what happened to her lost teenage son. Lastly, there’s Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) in a David vs Goliath story battling a pharmaceutical giant Northlight when his research of their new “non-addictive” painkiller finds that the drug is even more dangerous than its predecessor.

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The multiple narratives naturally reminds you of Steven Soderbergh’s highly-acclaimed war-on-drugs drama Traffic, but I don’t think it’s fair to immediately brush this one off as this one is a pretty solid film in its own right. The opening chase sequence of a boy with a backpack full of pills in a wintry Canadian landscape is a good way to propels the story. It immediately intrigues me to find out what’s at stake for the characters we’re about to meet. Jake, Claire and Tyrone may be fighting against different types of people, but essentially they’re in the same battle, that is the war on opioids. The script is written by Nicholas Jarecki whose 2012 debut feature Arbitrage is an excellent film that also deals with power and corruption. Jarecki ups the ante here by not only adding multiple-layers to the story, but also by acting in it as Jake’s partner at the DEA.

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Out of the three narratives, I find Oldman’s scenario between the professor + big Pharma (with Luke Evans & Veronica Ferres as the faces representing the corporate giant) to be the most intriguing. Obviously the stake is high for each character, but Tyrone is fighting the big guns who puts this dangerous drugs on the market in the first place at the risk of not only his job but his reputation. Of course the university dean (Greg Kinnear) wants Tyrone to just look the other way as big Pharma is the school’s big donor. There’s a tense exchange between the two actors where Oldman yells that this is the worst medical crisis since tobacco. Some of the dialog like this one might be too on the nose, even clichéd, but the actors’ committed performances still able to make them work. I also appreciate that Jarecki don’t paint the protagonists as saints… they’re all flawed people who have made errors in the past but want to do the right thing and find the truth.

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Performance-wise, Oldman is excellent in a layered performance that allows him to be both intense and vulnerable. While he’s a well-respected professor, he’s also a husband and would-be father who fears he won’t be able to provide for his wife (Indira Varma) and family if his reputation is tarnished. His inner struggle feels believable and real and his charismatic screen presence always elevates any film. It’s interesting to see his character against drug addiction here, given the first role I remember him play is a pill-popping detective in Léon: The Professional.

I think Evangeline Lily is quite strong here despite some of the overly-melodramatic moments. I think I’d be fine with the extended scenes of her mourning her son, but it provides such a stark contrast when she suddenly becomes a vigilante. Her storyline stretches incredulity in parts, especially as she crosses paths with Jake as they suddenly have a common enemy. At the same time, the short interactions between them help ground her character.

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As for Armie Hammer, who at the time of this film’s release was undergoing a personal crisis on his own, plays a pretty run-of-the-mill cop here. Whether or not his involvement in this film impacts its reception is debatable, but it certainly seem to have taken over the discussion. Most of the commentaries on social media about this movie usually centered on his fall from grace. I think Hammer is generally a decent but not overly charismatic actor. Despite his good looks, somehow he never really lights up the screen, and that’s the case here. He’s either morose or angry for the entire film, where more capable actors could’ve added more nuance to this integral role. There are so many familiar faces in this film, Michelle Rodriguez and Kid Cudi also made a brief, but memorable appearance.

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Overall CRISIS is an engaging thriller that’s pretty easy to follow. The script might seem overstuffed with strings being pulled in several directions, but it didn’t become a tangled mess when they all converge. There are parts that are predictable that I saw a mile away, but there are still moments that surprise me as well. This one isn’t as stellar as Arbitrage but still a worthy sophomore effort from the talented writer/director. I’d be interested to see what else Jarecki will tackle next, hopefully it wouldn’t take him nearly a decade to come up with his next project.


Have you seen CRISIS? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – MIDWAY (2019)

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Wes Tooke

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 has inspired many films over the years, most of which center around fictional characters and cheesy love stories. The 1976 Midway is no exception so it was with guarded anticipation I awaited the release of Roland Emmerich’s Midway. I was concerned it would get caught up trying to emulate other popular war films like Pearl Harbor or Dunkirk. However, I think having a German director and Chinese production team offered an interesting perspective.

The film gives a relatively straightforward account of the key naval battles. Beginning with Pearl Harbor and ending with the battle of Midway, it also recounts Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo (April 1942) and the Battle of Coral Sea (May 1942) which to my recollection were not well (if at all) examined in the 1976 version of Midway.

Although the film relies on a famous cast to get people in the theater, it does a much better job than its predecessor at accurately the battles, ships and planes used. The actors (Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, among others) played their roles with respect toward the heroic figures they were portraying. Focusing in on people of lesser rank allowed for deeper interpersonal development, although I didn’t think the film delved into relationships as deeply as it could have.

Many Hollywood based war films have a way of making the US service people look like helpless victims. This film makes sure to express the strength and capability of our country’s military personnel. Although it makes clear we were attacked and left at a great disadvantage it showcases the dedication and skill set of each service member while also expressing Japanese naval superiority.

The production value of the battle scenes are impressive. The bomber scenes concerning Dick Best are no exception. Well placed shots help to create the scale of an expansive world which draws the viewer further into highly realistic battle scenes. Unfortunately, the dialogue was uneven and the weak bits really drew me out of the film.

I felt this film gave equal respect to both US and Japanese service personnel, something that is not very common in war films. The screening I went to was mostly booked for a movie watching organization for veterans, one of whom served in the pacific during this time. It was a very unique and powerful experience watching this film alongside a person who experienced military action during the period portrayed in the film as well as other people currently serving in our armed forces. A timely film to watch, not just during Veteran’s Day. I already greatly respect and appreciate the sacrifices of people in uniform. I know that as a citizen of the US, I greatly benefit, even in ways I am not aware of. I really appreciated this film because it helped me refocus my gratitude.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen MIDWAY? Well, what did you think? 

JUNE Viewing Recap: INDIAN SUMMERS, Netflix’s Murder Mystery, Unlocked, etc.

I can’t believe it’s July already… I feel like once July 4th is behind us, we’re already more than halfway done with Summer 😦 Well, I actually didn’t really do much movie/tv watching around the Fourth weekend as I prefer to make the most of Minnesota Summer outside.

I did watch quite a few things in June, some of which I haven’t reviewed nor even mentioned on the blog. But for those looking for new releases reviews, here’s a handy list:

Aladdin | Godzilla: King of Monsters | Rocketman | Dark Phoenix | Always Be My Maybe | Late Night | Dead Don’t Die | Toy Story 4 | Spiderman: Far From Home | Midsommar | Yesterday

Oh I also saw MIB: International which I can’t say was a good movie (read: it was awful!). Review coming sometime next week.


Let me start with the show I’ve been bingeing. Thanks to my friend Vony B who has a similar taste as mine in regards to British shows [and hunks 😉 ], she recommended me INDIAN SUMMERS on Amazon Prime.

Period drama set in 1932 during the final years of British colonial rule in India.

I finished Season 1 in about a week, but took my time with the 2nd season as I kind of don’t want this series to end (there are only 2 seasons). I LOVE it, it’s kind of like Downton Abbey but with even more intrigue and higher stakes, and also feature a diverse cast. The show centers in Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, during the Summer, hence the name. The British colonialism story has been told before but what I love about this one is how the story is told by both sides, the British and the Indians. The characters from each group are both multi-dimensional… not every British are evil and all Indians are good or vice versa, lots of gray areas that make the show so compelling and intriguing. Kudos to show creator Paul Rutman for making such an addictive show and each episode always ends with a breathtaking cliffhanger!

Nikesh Patel & Jemima West

My initial draw to the show is Julie Walters who plays against type as the ruthless and conniving Simla club owner. But soon I was rooting for Nikesh Patel’s Aafrin, the Indian man in a British suit who’s rising through the ranks in the Indian Civil Service. What period drama without romance? The secret ‘forbidden’ romance between Aafrin and Alice (Jemima West) is downright juicy! I’m only about 3 episodes in on season 2 but I’m savoring every moment. Even though I’m not done with the entire series yet, based on what I’ve seen so far I’m giving it a high rating.


New to VOD

Isn’t It Romantic

So my friend Holly has reviewed the movie here, and I agree with her that it’s a lot of fun! I’m not the biggest fan of rom-coms (unless it’s written by Nora Ephron or Richard Curtis) and I love that this movie pokes fun at the genre while paying homage to it at the same time. “I had you at hello-copter” had me in stitches! I adore Rebel Wilson and she’s definitely the reason to see this.


Netflix Shows:

Murder Mystery

Ok so when Netflix bragged that over 30million people saw this movie in its opening weekend, I was curious what the fuss is about. Well Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are made for each other in this lush but vapid vacation comedy that’s practically devoid of suspense. Ok I gotta to admit the gorgeous locations are pure escapism, heck I’d love to be invited aboard a yacht by a perfectly-tanned tycoon who looked like Luke Evans. I told my hubby that if that’d ever happen to us, I’m definitely saying yes, ha! Of course I’d be hit by lightning long before that’d ever occur in my lifetime. It’s entertaining in parts, but I likened it to eating McDonalds… yes you enjoyed it but once you finished eating, you wished you’d eaten something far more nutritious.

Unlocked

I had never even heard about this movie before I saw its image suddenly flashed on Netflix. This is the fourth action movie of Noomi Rapace on Netflix I saw in the past couple of years, the previous three were What Happened To Monday, Bright and Close. Boy, the petite Swedish actress is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Here she plays a CIA interrogator who’s lured into a ruse that puts London at risk of a biological attack. It started out really intriguing but as soon as Orlando Bloom showed up, it became an old school spy flick where nothing is what it seems. It’s not as smart as you think however, which is disappointing given its gripping first act. The cast is filled with talented actors, Michael Douglas, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, but most of them are pretty wasted in bit parts. Rapace’s is interesting to watch however despite her stoic expression and no-nonsense demeanor. I’d say it’s still worth a look if you’re a fan of spy thrillers, and at 1hr 38 minutes, it’s pretty darn efficient.

The Chef Show

I think this show’s got more unwanted PR from Gwyneth Paltrow when she apparently didn’t remember she was in the first Spider-Man movie that Jon Favreau had to remind her. It’s too bad as it’s a really good show… just make sure you don’t watch it hungry.

Favreau was chef Roy Choi’s apprentice when he did the indie movie Chef (which I highly recommend). In the first two episodes, they made even the simplest food like grilled cheese so mouth watering. I don’t even like grilled cheese that much and I was salivating! Nice that Favreu has plenty of cool friends to stop by his show. In an Atlanta restaurant, a few Avengers (and its honcho), Robert Downey Jr.Tom Holland and Kevin Feige joined them for lunch.

I love the casual vibe of the show and the camaraderie of the chefs. Favreau and Choi seemed to genuinely each other’s company, and obviously enjoy what they’re doing that their joy is infectious. Can’t wait to watch the rest of the season!


My fave JUNE movie has got to be Always Be My Maybe

…with Spider-Man: Far From Home closely behind.


So what’s the highlight of your JUNE viewing?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + ‘Professor Mars & The Wonder Women’ Teaser Trailer

Hello folks! What’s happening in your world? As you can imagine my life is still pretty much consumed by my short film… and will be so for at least the next year.

Hearts Want is currently on post production now, specifically in editing… where most of the magic of filmmaking happens. In the meantime, I’ve been busy working on getting the page up on IMDb, as well as planning our Kickstarter campaign that would hopefully launch sometime in mid June.

We need to get the word out about our film, and I do believe social media is a big part of that. So would you be so kind as to LIKE our FB page…

… and follow us on Instagram, too! 

Well, suffice to say I haven’t got much time for anything else. So pardon my lack of visit and comments to your blogs folks. But I do miss doing the community blogging thing on here, so I think this is as good a time as any.

So let’s get to those fine links now shall we?

I’m so thrilled that Wonder Woman is resonating in a big way w/ both critics and audiences alike. Over $100mil box office take, people, woot woot!!

Well, I’ve reviewed it earlier this week. Read on what Margaret, Chris, Brittani and Steven say about it.

Mark wrote about 12 Angry Men (1957) for the Decades Blogathon

Cindy‘s posted some gorgeous pics of cacti blooming in her hometown of Arizona

In honor of Roger Moore’s passing, Alex posted anecdotes from the late 007 actor

Nostra reviewed one of my fave films from last year, Hidden Figures

Last but not least…

Michael has a new entry of his ‘Same Song Different Movie’ series featuring Sinnerman by Nina Simone

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women Teaser

Well, talk about perfect timing. A few days after Wonder Woman opened with a box office smash, Annapurna Pictures, which unsurprisingly is founded by a woman (Megan Ellison) released this teaser…

Per SlashFilm, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biopic about the three people responsible for creating DC’s most famous female hero.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is the story behind the creator of Wonder Woman and his unusual relationships that inspired the iconic super heroine. In a superhero origin tale unlike any other, this is the true story of 1940s Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), the inventor of the lie detector and creator of the iconic Wonder Woman, who defends his feminist superhero against charges of ‘sexual perversity’ while at the same time maintaining a secret that could have destroyed him. Unknown to others, Marston’s inspiration for Wonder Woman was his wife Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) and their lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), two empowered women in the field of psychology who defied convention, building a secret life together with Marston that rivaled the greatest of superhero disguises.

I’m really curious about this one, and I quite like the cast too. Check out the awesome teaser poster!

 


What do you think of this teaser trailer?

Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

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Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

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Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Girl on the Train (2016)

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When this project was first announced, I was hoping I’d finish the book by the time the film comes out. Well I didn’t get to the book, but I was still anticipating this one, largely for the female-driven story.

Comparison to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (which I reviewed almost exactly two years ago) is inevitable, given that both involve a missing person and is told from a female perspective with some mental, emotional turmoil. Reading the character descriptions in the novel, where the protagonist Rachel Watson is described as ‘not beautiful and can’t have kids,’ it seems that the stunning Emily Blunt, who’s actually pregnant with her second child during filming, doesn’t seem to fit the role. That said, I think Blunt did a terrific job in making Rachel a believable train wreck (pardon the pun). She rides the train every day and passes by the same neighborhood, a leafy, posh Hudson River Valley where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux).

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Rachel still can’t reconcile with her past and she drinks away the blues, filling up her plastic water bottle with booze whilst she voyeuristically watches Megan Hipwell from the train. In Rachel’s eyes, Megan lives the life she’s always dreamed of. A beautiful woman married to a handsome, rich guy who seems to love her, as they’re shown being constantly lovey–dovey. But one day, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man and she goes berserk. It’s as if something snaps in her and she somehow felt *betrayed* that Megan would stray.

Watching this film makes me want to pick up Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-selling novel, as surely there are tons of story/character nuances that are simply lost in a feature film. Certain internal things, such as the moment Rachel got upset by Megan’s infidelity, is conveyed visually by her lashing out in the bathroom of Grand Central Station. While her chronic drinking problem might’ve made her prone to destructive behavior, this scene made her seem like a deranged, violent person.

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Though the film did manage to keep me engrossed throughout, thanks largely to Blunt’s performance, the narrative feels disjointed. I don’t know if it’s meant to make the audience empathize with how the protagonist is feeling but it can be quite frustrating. Director Tate Taylor (who directed The Help with a multi-narrative plot) adapts the film from Erin Cressida Wilson‘s screenplay. Her last script was Men, Women & Children, which I wasn’t at all entertained by, though this one is far more watchable by comparison. I was rather skeptical when Taylor signed to do the film, as I was expecting someone more like David Fincher who made Gone Girl such a gripping and visceral film that’s also wildly entertaining. The Girl On The Train is a dark and somber tale, but the film itself could’ve been less drab.

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Performance-wise, I find it odd that we’ve got a British actress playing the protagonist when the filmmakers moved the story from London in the novel to NYC. She keeps her British accent throughout though it’s never clear where she’s actually from. In any case, Blunt approaches the role with razor sharp precision, not just by looking unglamorous but she also embodied Rachel’s tormented peace of mind. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Megan has the most screen time out of the supporting cast. I think she has some screen presence, but at times I find her scenes too melodramatic. Later we find out her life isn’t so dreamy after all, and she too has a dark past that haunts her, but yet I can’t find myself to sympathize with her. To be fair, none of the privileged people who love to indulge in their own misery is easy to root for.

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The rest of the characters are pretty much one dimensional. Rebecca Ferguson‘s good as Tom’s second wife Anna, but her acting skills seems underused here. Luke Evans is all rugged perfection as Megan’s husband Scott but he seems to be more eye-candy than anything. Another handsome actor, Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez, seems oddly cast here as Kamal Abdic, who’s from Serbia or Bosnia in the book, but he’s speaking Spanish in the film. Ramírez seems charismatic enough but his character is so boring it barely made any impact. I also have to mention Lisa Kudrow as Tom’s ex boss Amanda whose role is basically a cameo, but an important one.

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Lastly, there’s Tom the antagonist, who actually seems untrustworthy from the start. Initially, the only image of Rachel comes from his point of view and she’s portrayed as a truly unhinged woman with drunken, violent outbursts. I think Theroux a skilled actor but there’s not much to work with when he’s given a paper-thin character who’s more of a caricature douchebag than a menacing sociopath. I’d think in the novel there’s more to his character than presented here?

The reviews haven’t been kind for this, sounds like another case where the book is much more superior than its cinematic adaptation. The novel might be a ‘thriller that shocked the world,’ but I don’t think the film lives up to that. I do think it’s still worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Blunt who proves herself once again that she’s a versatile and skilled actress. The movie itself isn’t quite as thrilling as it could’ve been, though I wasn’t exactly bored by it. It works more as a psychological drama than a taut whodunit murder mystery.

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Have you seen ‘The Girl On The Train’? Well, what did YOU think?