Weekend Roundup: Chris Evans’ directorial debut ‘Before We Go’ review

Happy Tuesday, folks. Well, I’m kinda bummed that I couldn’t complete my March blindspot on time. Last night I was planning to watch A Streetcar Named Desire after work but the internet connection just wasn’t working properly that iTunes simply couldn’t load the movie. It stared for like 2 minutes then stalled and stalled that I finally gave up 😦 In fact, I’d have to ask iTunes for a refund as it’s a 24-hour rental and I don’t think I have enough time to see it before it expires. Ah well, at this rate I’m not even sure I could complete even the 10 Blindspot films I’ve committed to watch, we shall see.

As far as weekend viewing, well I saw Batman V Superman on Friday night (my second viewing) and some of you might’ve read my review. So on Saturday we’re looking for something that’s totally different from a superhero movie. I got a screener link for the Chet Baker biopic Born To Be Blue starring Ethan Hawke, but the thing w/ screener links are that it has an unsightly huge watermark right smack dab in the middle of the screen, so my hubby didn’t want to watch it.

Ironically, we ended up settling on something directed by a Marvel superhero 😉 So here’s my review of Chris Evans‘ directorial debut… Before We Go.

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I mentioned about this movie three years ago in this Five for the Fifth post, which sounds kind of like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy (heh it even has the word ‘before’ in the title!). It also sounds utterly cheesy so when it hits Netflix earlier this month, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see it. But you know what, sometimes our prejudices got the best of us because I ended up liking it.

We first met Chris Evans’ character Nick, playing trumpet at Grand Central Station. It’s past midnight and the station is closing soon. Minutes later he comes across a pretty girl who ends up missing her 1:30 train from New York to Boston. She happens to break her phone as she was running in front of Nick and that’s how their encounter began. Not exactly a ‘meet cute’ and there isn’t an immediate spark between Evans and Alice Eve who plays Brooke. It took me a while to warm up to the movie and a few times I even thought about turning it off and watch something else, but y’know what, I’m glad I stuck it out.

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One thing that initially frustrates me was the fact that there’s such mystery surrounding the reason why Brooke is adamant on rushing to return home to New Haven that very night. But once it’s finally revealed towards the end, I actually appreciate how the story unfolded and that there’s more to the story than meets the eye. The pairing of Evans and Eve was rather unexpected, apparently Evans wanted to hire her because she was British (per IMDb) but she ended up playing Brooke as an American. I like both of their performances as they’re more natural and understated, even when at times the dialog was clunky and the script did resort to schmaltziness.

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Overall I’m quite impressed with Evans’ direction. He’s wise to pick a script that deals with a small number of characters to be more focused, and takes place over the course of a single night. The fact that he’s a first timer means we can’t expect a perfect movie. There are some continuity problems (like a jacket button is closed one second and open the next) and the pacing could’ve been much improved, but in the end it’s a rather sweet and moving little film. It also managed to take me by surprise on a few occasions, and something unexpected is always a good thing in a genre that tends to be predictable.

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Before We Go is an intriguing look at love lost and second chances, told from two very different point of view and circumstances. Nick and Brooke end up learning from each other over the course of the night, and the tentative romance between them feels earnest. The gorgeous Manhattan backdrop certainly adds to charm. This turns out to be the perfect antidote to this weekend’s gigantic blockbuster, as well as an interesting juxtaposition to Evans’ own superhero movie Captain America: Civil War that’ll be out in a month. Well, there’s definitely more to him than just a Marvel superhero, and I hope he continues to explore the indie side of his career.

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So what did you see this weekend? Anything good?

Spotlight on indie dramedy Night Owls’ and interview with writer/director Charles Hood

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Night Owls is one of the wonderful indie films screened at Twin Cities Film Fest back in October. Though I didn’t get a chance to see it then, I did meet its writer/director Charles Hood at one of the After Party Mixers. Well, we reconnected via email recently to chat about his film.

I really enjoyed this one, it’s a witty indie comedy/drama that takes place over a single night. The dialog is sometimes raunchy, but there’s a genuine chemistry between the two leads and the script is refreshingly honest and has a natural flow to it. Rosa Salazar won TCFF’s 2015 Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance Award and I think it’s well-deserved.

Now, before I get to the interview, I want to mention that TCFF is showing this at its December Encore Screening at Showplace ICON Theatre today (Wednesday), so if you’re in the area, be sure to grab your tickets! Who says date movies have to be on a Friday night, right?

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You worked on your first feature in 2007 and then you did two short films. Do you prefer making shorts or features?

Charles: I prefer making features. I think it’s more difficult to make a good short. It’s harder to show a character grow or change in that short period of time. I like being able to spend some time with the characters and get to know them.

How did you get into the film industry?

Charles: My aunt and uncle work in the film business and they made a home movie with me and my cousins when I was ten years old. It was a pirate movie we made at my grandparents’ little cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. From that point I was totally hooked. I hijacked my parents’ video camera when I got home and started making movies with my friends. I’ve been working at it non-stop ever since then. I went to film school at USC in Los Angeles and met a lot of my collaborators there, in addition to my friends with whom I grew up.

I’m always intrigued by movies that take place over a single day. How did you and your co-writer Seth Goldsmith come up with this story? Was there something that inspired either of you to write this?

Charles: I LOVE movies that take place over a single day. Die Hard, The Ref, The Breakfast Club, the Before Sunrise trilogy, Clue, Rope, The Poseidon Adventure, and the list goes on and on. Those are some of my favorite movies. Seth and I were trying to come up with something that could be done in a single location. We were just trying to be practical for what we knew would be a small budget. We wanted a story that could be done in a contained way like this.

The idea of a character overdosing on sleeping pills and the other character keeping him or her awake all night came up. Then we recalled that scene in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment where Jack Lemmon has to keep Shirley MacLaine awake all night. We figured why can’t that be an entire movie? And from there we had to figure out the reasons why he couldn’t take her to a hospital and that’s where the other side of the story came about. I always like to keep that a surprise for viewers because we did our best to let the mystery unravel as people watch it.

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This is the kind of movie that rest on the chemistry of the two actors. Could you share a bit about the casting process for both Adam Pally & Rosa Salazar, and also Peter Krause?

Charles: When we finished the script, our agent asked us to make a list of ten actors we’d want for this. My co-writer Seth had the idea to put Adam Pally on the list. Adam read it and liked it so I met with him and we were on our way. Once Adam got on board, it felt like we had a movie. In addition to being hilarious, he’s a really dedicated actor and just an overall great guy. It was such a pleasure to work with him.

As for Rosa Salazar, Adam was the one who recommended her. They had done a couple of scenes together in another movie and he thought she was fantastic. I was not familiar with her work, but I met with her and immediately was struck by how amazing she is. She’s going to be a star very, very soon. The two of them together have such great chemistry. We were so fortunate to have these two in our movie. They’re just perfect.

Peter Krause is amazing! Seth and I wanted him very badly for the role. We wrote him a letter and sent him the script. It helped that Rosa had a recurring role on his show Parenthood. He is a big fan of Rosa’s so he was excited for her. Plus he liked the script enough that he came on board.

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What’s been some of the biggest challenges in making this movie? Please share one of the most memorable moments on the set.

Charles: I think the biggest challenge was finding a way to keep the audience entertained in a movie where it’s mostly just two people in a house talking. On the script level, my co-writer and I made sure to move the plot along and keep revealing new things about the characters throughout the film. We also did our best to explore every inch of the house from scene to scene. When it came time to shoot the movie, my cinematographer Adrian Correia and I worked really hard to move the camera as much as possible. We wanted a more elegant look than handheld so we pushed ourselves to do a lot of dolly moves and I think it really paid off. We also tried to do a bunch of interesting long takes, which I think is fun for the actors and it’s a great way to showcase their chemistry. We have one shot in the middle of the movie that’s over 3 minutes long. The camera slowly pushes in on the two of them and it’s really just their performances holding your attention.

The whole movie basically takes place in this one house and we actually found the place on Air BnB. It was in Topanga Canyon, which is just outside of LA. Most of the crew would commute to set but there were seven of us that actually lived in the house throughout production. It was me, Adam, Rosa, and few of our department heads. It was kind of insane. Our production designer Ayse called it Real World Topanga. It was kind of a logistical nightmare with us living on our set, but it was so much fun. We were shooting mostly nights so at dawn we’d all drink a glass of whiskey, talk about the next day’s shoot, and then go to bed. Those are some very memorable moments for me.

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Adam and Rosa on the set of Night Owls

What’s next for you? You’ve done mostly comedies, is there another genre you’re interested in doing?

Charles: I think I’ll mostly stick in the comedy realm. It’s usually somewhere in the comedy-drama spectrum for me. That being said, Seth and I just finished writing a comedy-drama that leans pretty hard on a science fiction premise so that’s pretty fun. But I’d also like to try other genres. At some point it’d be fun to do an action movie or a kung fu movie or a horror movie. It’s just about finding the right story and characters.

 


Check out the trailer:

Here’s a list of theaters Night Owls is playing at…

  • NYC — Cinema Village
  • Los Angeles — Los Feliz 3
  • Chicago — Facets Cinematheque
  • Detroit — Cinema Detroit
  • Atlanta — Plaza Theatre
  • Denver — Kress Cinema
  • Cleveland — Tower City Cinemas
  • Dallas — Texas Theatre
  • Tampa — The Cinema 6
  • Seattle — Far Away Entertainment

…and VOD outlets:

  • iTunes
  • Amazon Instant Video
  • Google Play
  • Xbox
  • PlayStation
  • Vudu
  • DIRECTV
  • Time Warner Cable Movies on Demand
  • Comcast Xfinity Movies on Demand
  • Shaw (CA)
  • Rogers (CA)
  • Bell (CA)
  • …and many other MVPDs

THANKS for taking the time to chat, Charles!

Hanging out w/ filmmaker Charles Hood who made "Night Owl' and my pal Kirsten Gregerson
Me and my pal Kirsten Gregerson hanging out w/ Charles at TCFF After Party