‘Obvious Child’ Review: Raunch meets romance in this progressive abortion comedy

Rating: R

Length: 84 minutes

Director: Gillian Robespierre

Stars:

Donna – Jenny Slate

Jake Lacy – Max

Gabby Hoffman – Nellie

For a movie that is so clearly progressive in its premise, “Obvious Child” is also earnestly nostalgic for the good old days when love at first sight was something to be cherished and believed in. “Obvious Child” is a film that adeptly maneuvers itself through the controversial issue of abortion. It does so while existing within the stifling confines of a tired genre that is rife with cliches – the dreaded Rom-Com.

Undoubtedly, many Americans may find the premise to “Obvious Child” audacious and hard to swallow, as it is a comedy centered around a twenty-something female standup comic named Donna Stern (former Saturday Night Live member Jenny Slate) who discovers she is pregnant after a drunken, one night only sexual tryst with a young man named Max (Jack Lacy). Upon discovering her pregnancy, Donna, without any reservations, plans to terminate her pregnancy with an abortion.

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Takashi Miike + Tom Hardy = ‘The Outsider’

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Oh wow…

Oh wow, indeed.

The magnificent English actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Bronson, Inception, The Warrior and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike (the director of such great Japanese films such as : Audition, The Bird People of China, Ichi the Killer, The Great Yokai War and 13 Assassins) are rumored to be teaming up for the film The Outsider. 

Taking place in the aftermath of WWII, The Outsider tells the story of an American G.I. who, after becoming an American prisoner of war, later works his way up into the ranks of the Yakuza (the Japanese version of organized crime).

How can the prospect of such a film not send shivers up the spines of film enthusiasts?

Hardy, when need be, can easily play the role of a lovable and menacing brute, (Bane from The Dark Knight Rises) is in talks to be directed by one of the best cinematic agitators of all time, Takashi Miike.

Based on an original story idea by John Linson (Executive Producer of Sons of Anarchy), The Outsider was scripted by Andrew Baldwin.

Please leave your comments below as I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this film!

News: The Independent Film Festival Boston winners have been announced

Photo courtesy of iffboston.com

Photo courtesy of iffboston.com

 

 

 

 

 

The winners of the 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston have been announced in an official press release given by the festival:

The 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston) came to a close on Tuesday night, April 30th, with a screening of the film IN A WORLD…with writer/director/star Lake Bell in attendance. Roughly 100 guest filmmakers, celebrities, and special guests were in attendance at the festival including new festival Creative Advisor Casey Affleck, actor Fran Kranz, director Bobcat Goldthwait, director James Ponsoldt, Writer/Actor/Director Lake Bell, Governor Deval Patrick, First Lady Diane Patrick and numerous others. Films were shown in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville over a total of 9 screens. This was the festival’s 11th year.

The jury and audience award prizes have been announced and are as follows:

Narrative Feature:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: THIS IS MARTIN BONNER directed by Chad Hartigan
Special Jury Prize Winner: HOUSTON directed by Bastian Gunther
Audience Award Winner: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Joss Whedon

Documentary Feature:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: DIRTY WARS directed by Richard Rowley
Special Jury Prize Winner: REMOTE AREA MEDICAL directed by Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman
Audience Award Winner: BEST KEPT SECRET directed by Samantha Buck
Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing: Francisco Bello for OUR NIXON

Short Film:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: THE LAST ICE MERCHANT directed by Sandy Patch
Special Jury Prize Winner: SLOMO directed by Joshua Izenberg
Audience Award Winner: WORLD FAIR directed by Amanda Murray

The Narrative Feature Jury was comprised of. Writer/director/actor Jonathan Lisecki, actress Kate Lynn Sheil, and propmaster David Gulick. The Documentary Feature Jury was comprised of Ben Fowlie (Camden International Film Festival/ The DocYard), Rebecca Richman Cohen (War Don Don, Code of the West), and Tim Cawley (From Nothing, Something). The Short Film Jury was comprised of filmmaker Kris Avedisian (Donald Cried), professor Zak Lee (Fitchburg State University), and writer/director Jody Lambert (Of All The Things, People Like Us).

Prizes included a a $500 cash prize from the Karen Schmeer Editing Fellowship (goes to Francisco Bello, OUR NIXON) and a choice of two of the following: HDCam, Blu-Ray for Projection, or DCP from Modulus Studios (goes to Sandy Patch, THE LAST ICE MERCHANT).

More information on the festival will be available shortly on the festival website at http://www.iffboston.org.

New ‘Only God Forgives’ trailer

A new trailer to the greatly anticipated film Only God Forgives has surfaced.

The film reunites actor Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn (who worked together previously on the film Drive) and will be premiering at Cannes.

Kristin Scott Thomas also stars and her performance, judging by the trailer, will be menacing and electric.

Refn and Gosling look to have created a film that will be as divisive with audiences as Drive was.

This is the movie I’m most looking forward to this summer.

According to IMDB, the synopsis to Only God Forgives is as follows:

Bangkok. Ten years ago Julian killed a cop and went on the run. Now he manages a Thai boxing club as a front for a drugs operation. Respected in the criminal underworld, deep inside, he feels empty. When Julian’s brother murders a prostitute, the police call on retired cop Chang – the Angel of Vengeance. Chang allows the father to kill his daughter’s murderer, then ‘restores order’ by chopping off the man’s right hand. Julian’s mother Jenna – the head of a powerful criminal organization – arrives in Bangkok to collect her son’s body. She dispatches Julian to find his killers and ‘raise hell’.

Only God Forgives opens in the US on July 19, 2013.

A quick chat with ‘Are We Not Cats’ director Xander Robi’

Photo Courtesy of Xander Robin

Photo Courtesy of Xander Robin

As the lights dimmed inside the Brattle Theater, filmmaker Xander Robin had a huge smile plastered across his young face, as he was about to share his latest short film Are We Not Cats with an audience of strangers for the first time.

I caught up with Xander, who came to the Boston Underground Film Festival with Are We Not Cats actress Kelsea Dakota, a few days after the screening to get his thoughts on premiering a movie in front of a crowd, technical difficulties, his plans on making a feature length film, just how important the last few seconds of Are We Not Cats are, and of course, how he felt winning the Director’s Choice Award of Best Short Film at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

LostintheMiso: So how does it feel to know that your peers chose your film for Best Short?

Xander Robin: I am ecstatic especially because I love all of the other films that were chosen for awards.

LostintheMiso: How did you go about being chosen by BUFF this year? This was Are We Not Cats‘ world premiere, yes? Describe your feelings as the film began to screen.

Xander Robin: I submitted a work in progress. Before BUFF, the largest amount of people that had seen it at once was five dudes in a room. Before and during the screening there was an inevitable anxiety.

LostintheMiso: There was an awkward moment when the film stopped due to a technical issue, that must have been heart-stopping. What was going through your head?

Xander Robin: I’ve seen many technical problems at various festivals so it’s never a jaw dropping surprise. I also had a couple drinks before the screening to calm my nerves, which my heart was thankful for in that moment. I’m glad that they rewound [the film] to a logical point and let the film build again. Hopefully everyone gave it the benefit of the doubt.

LostintheMiso: How did Are We Not Cats‘ story come about? The hair eating is obviously an unsettling component to the young couple’s relationship and yet theres a tenderness to their love. Where did the inspiration for the hair eating come from?

Xander Robin: The hair pulling/hair eating relationship is something I had been developing into a feature, drawn from both personal experiences and observations. Myself and my director of photography/co-producer Matt Clegg didn’t want to rush into production on a feature after we had moved to NYC [Editor’s Note: Xander graduated from Florida State University College of Motion Picture Art with a BFA and now lives in Brooklyn, NY] so I used an alternate situation and scouted some locations and we produced the short based on a treatment.

LostintheMiso: In many ways Are We Not Cats hinges upon the last eight seconds of the film. It could have turned out cheesy but was very well done. How long did that scene take to film?

Xander Robin: The very end took no more than two hours to prepare and shoot on location. The prop(s) took about a week to make. The take used was the first take; her [Actress Kelsea Dakota] expressions of going through that motion could not be replicated after it had been experienced for the first time. It is true, the entire film was made for the last 8 seconds.

LostintheMiso: Where can people see Are We Not Cats and your previous work The Virgin Herod and Kodachrome 2012?

Xander Robin: Are We Not Cats can be viewed online but it is password protected for now. I would like for it to screen a few more times before making it publicly viewable later this year. If anyone would like to see it, send me an email at info@xanderrobin.com. My other films can be seen on that website or on vimeo.com/xanderrobin.

LostintheMiso: Finally, do you have any interest in doing a full-length film?

Xander Robin: This short has helped me figure a few things out regarding this concept and have since rewritten my feature. I’m working on making that happen early next year.

I’d like to thank Xander Robin for taking the time to answer a few questions and whenever his feature film debuts, I’ll be one of the first in line.

BUFF15 Coverage: ‘Are We Not Cats’ Review

Photo Courtesy of www.xanderrobin.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.xanderrobin.com

One of the highlights of the 15th annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF15) this year was the short film Are We Not Cats.

Written, produced, directed and edited by Xander Robin, an up-and-comer from Brooklyn, New York, who graduated from Florida State University with a BFA in Motion Picture Arts, Are We Not Cats delighted the Brattle Theater audience it was screened before.

Xander makes great use of his 12 minute runtime and quickly sets up the films simple premise – a young couple are on a road trip when the young man (played by Michael Patrick) discovers his girlfriend (the beautiful Kelsea Dakota) has been compulsively eating his hair while he sleeps.

Patrick and Dakota work well together and the latter gives a daring performance that should be commended.

With such a short runtime, it’d be impossible to discuss what occurs within the film without spoiling the ending (and boy what an ending it is).

The final eight seconds of the film make the movie, a fact which Xander admits to in his interview with me (to be posted later). To give away this brilliantly quirky film’s ending would be a disservice to Xander and those who have yet to see it.

I wasn’t the only one who really dug this movie as it won “Director’s Choice Award for Short Film.”

This is a little movie with a big heart and it definitely stood out at this year’s festival.

The 2013 Korean Cinematic Invasion

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As much as I love Japanese films, (I did dedicate an entire blog to it, you know?), one cannot deny the groundbreaking cinema that has been churned out of South Korea for over ten years now. Films such as Oldboy, The Host, and A Tale of Two Sisters have amassed dedicated cult followings worldwide.

So it was only a matter of time before some of the biggest directors in South Korea’s New Wave of Cinema, chief among them being Kim Jee-woon, Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, would wash up on US shores – Hollywood beckoning them to showcase their skills on the largest stage in the world.

Years from now, there is a chance 2013 could be looked back upon as the year of the Korean cinematic invasion of the United States, with not one, not two, but three English language directorial debuts by Korean filmmakers.

However, this movement has gotten off to a rocky start.


Kim Jee-woon’s ‘The Last Stand’

The Last Stand - Photo Courtesy of www.thelaststandfilm.com

The Last Stand – Photo Courtesy of http://www.thelaststandfilm.com

This January, director Kim Jee-woon released the rated R action movie, The Last Stand, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (who hadn’t starred in a leading role for almost a decade). The critical response to the film was mixed (it currently sits at a “rotten” rating of 59%, just one percentage point from being considered “fresh,” on film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes) and it was a flat-out bomb commercially. According to the website Boxofficemojo, The Last Stand yielded a disappointing $12 million in the United States, and with a production budget of around $45 million it was considered a colossal failure considering this film was expected to usher in a new era of Schwarzenegger films.

The American response to Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand is undoubtedly disheartening for fans of the director’s work which runs the gamut of genres – the 2003 horror film A Tale of Two Sisters, 2005’s gangster picture A Bittersweet Life, the 2008 ode to spaghetti-western The Good, The Bad, The Weird and 2010’s cat and mouse serial killer revenge thriller I Saw the Devil.

Jee-woon is known for his artfully constructed over-the-top actions scenes and yet still imbuing his films with solid characterizations and heart. The fact that Lionsgate Film gave him the keys to a $45 million R-rated movie – Liam Neeson was initially going to star – speaks volumes to his talents as a filmmaker and, hopefully, Hollywood doesn’t blame the lack of success the movie garnered on the Korean director.

So why did the film flop so badly? One must wonder how the movie would have fared had Liam Neeson stayed on the project. Unlike Schwarzenegger (who has been out of acting for nearly tens years and it’s not like the last several films he starred in before become a California governor were raking in the cash), Neeson has been able to put butts in theater seats on his name alone – The Grey, Taken, and Unknown are just a few examples – and hasn’t tarnished his reputation like Arnie (remember the whole extra-marital affair he had with his housekeeper? The one which ended with him having to publicly admit to having a child out of wedlock?).

The advertisement campaign for The Last Stand also didn’t help matters. The trailers made it appear that the obnoxious character played by Johnny Knoxville would be a major player throughout the film. There is something very wrong with playing up the appearance of a former Jackass member while downplaying the presence of Forest Whitaker, an Academy Award Best Actor winner. The fact that Lionsgate Film dumped the movie in the cinematic wasteland known as the month of January – a place where all films go to die – was another indicator this film wasn’t going to be successful.

Park Chan-wook’s ‘Stoker’

Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

I honestly doubt Park Chan-wook, perhaps the most famous of the three Korean directors releasing English-language films this year, is fretting over the poor performance of his fellow countryman’s The Last Stand.

This March saw the limited release of his film Stoker, a small-budgeted Fox Searchlight picture (it’s estimated to have cost around $12 million, according to Boxofficemojo.com) that stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode.

The film stays true to the artistic vision Chan-wook has employed over the course of his career in South Korea and, thematically, adds to his former body of work. The themes of inherent evil and revenge are present in Stoker as they are in his much lauded Vengeance Trilogy – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance.

With such a small budget, Stoker doesn’t have as much to prove as The Last Stand did. In fact, the one thing Chan-wook had to prove was that he hadn’t lost his edge in making an American film. One just has to look at the film’s subject matter – a uncle/serial killer comes to seduce the wife and daughter of his dead brother – and any fears Chan-wook has sold-out will immediately vanish. Stoker currently has a Rottentomatoes.com rating of 68%, which is quite high considering it’s taboo subject matter and visceral violence. My review of Stoker can be found here.

Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Snowpiercer’

Photo Courtesy of Blastr.com

Photo Courtesy of Blastr.com

Snowpiercer, directed by Bon Joon-ho (The Host and Mother), stands the best chance of being a blockbuster hit. The film, based off of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where Earth has been ravaged by global warming which triggered a new Ice Age. The only remaining members of the human race are stuck on board a train called The Snow Piercer. Very quickly a class system begins to develop on the train which sparks a rebellion.

The film stars Chris Evans (Captain America: First Avenger), Ed Harris, John Hurt, South Korean actor Song Kang-ho (who has starred in films by all three Korean directors discussed in this blog entry), Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer.

So far not much is known about Snowpiercer besides that it will be released sometime in 2013 and that it filming for it wrapped back in July, 2012. Supposedly, Joon-ho read the graphic novel while filming his fantastic film The Host and shared it with Park Chan-wook who loved it as well. Chan-wook would eventually secure the film adaptation rights of Le Transperceneige for Joon-ho.

Joon-ho has very wisely made an English-language debut film that will no doubt be alluring to an international audience. With the film being based on a French comic, its cast made-up of American, British and South Korean actors, Snowpiercer stands a great chance of being the most successful of the 2013 Korean Invasion films.

Final Thoughts:

Whether Kim Jee-woon, Park Chan-wook or Bong Joon-ho ever get another shot at filming more English-language films – or perhaps they won’t want to – it’s nice to see them leave their comfort zones and expose a different audience to their exceptional filmmaking skills.

If all three returned to South Korea to make their future films, more power to them, but here’s hoping the Korean Cinematic Invasion of 2013 leads to a more culturally diverse Hollywood – a Hollywood that treats Asian filmmakers and artists with the respect that they deserve.

‘Stoker’ Review: A near evil masterpiece

Rating: R
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Park Chan-wook
Screenplay: Wentworth Miller

Stars:
India Stoker: Mia Wasikowska
Charlie Stoker – Matthew Goode
Evelyn Stoker – Nicole Kidman
Richard Stoker – Dermot Mulroney

Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut Stoker is somewhat of an odd duck. As a meditation on the inherent evil that resides in all of us – how this seed of evil can be nurtured and encouraged by another – Stoker is a beautifully macabre experience, filled with rich imagery and symbolism that, no doubt, make it a worthy addition to the pantheon of Chan-wook’s films (e.g. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK). Unfortunately, Stoker’s script (written by former Prison Break star Wentworth Miller) often works against the films powerful visual storytelling, undermining it with several predictable revelations and some odd characterizations that will compromise the suspension of disbelief of many of its audience.

Evil is a common theme found throughout Chan-wook’s filmography and no where is it more prevalent than in Stoker. There are multiple murders committed throughout the film and they are often ghastly. With one exception, none of the killings are done in self-defense – they are lustful executions. One female character masturbates in a shower, reliving the image of a young man’s neck being snapped with a belt. Many viewers of the film will find this too appalling and off-putting to be able to see the larger message that Chan-wook is attempting to convey about the seeds of evil that can blossom in all of us.

The story focuses on Mia Wasikowska’s character, 18-year old India Stoker, a meek and sheltered young woman with porcelain skin, who is grieving the loss of her father, Richard (played in flashbacks by Dermot Mulroney), who was just killed in a mysterious automobile accident. Richard’s death prompts a visit from his brother Charlie, an uncle India never knew existed. Very quickly the family’s world is turned upside down as Charlie moves in and begins seducing both India and her emotionally unbalanced mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman who gives an great, icy performance).

As we get to know more about Charlie – he has just returned from a lengthy European business trip, he informs the family – we can immediately sense something is not quite right about him. Early on in the film, the loyal housemaid, Mrs. McGarrick, is seen shouting at Charlie, clearly not happy to see him return and inect himself into the Stoker family dynamics. Later, Charlie’s Aunt Gina visits and attempts to warn the mother and daughter about their new housemate.

It becomes quite evident early on it’s India who Charlie is ultimately trying to seduce. He sees an evilness inside of her that resembles his own and uses his good looks and charm to bring about a sexual and murderous awakening in his niece. Charlie begins to ensnare India in his violent web, making her complicit in his murderous actions and, you know what? India seems to love every minute of it.

As mentioned earlier, the main problem with Stoker is its script. Chan-wook does a wonderful job ratcheting up the suspense at all the right moments, masterfully juggling several taut and suspenseful intercutting scenes that all build into a crazed, blood-soaked crescendo. However, the big reveals are never that shocking, most are predictable, and no matter how damn good Chan-wook is at building up to the film’s payoff scenes (and he is that damn good), they are, in effect, flaccid and lacking the punch needed in a psychological thriller like this because the script shows most of its cards to soon.

It’s because of this that Stoker works best as a symbolic visual representation of how evil is attracted to evil – how the evil in all of us can be brought to the surface by the most unlikeliest of sources. Unfortunately, because of its script, Stoker never quite reaches the heights that it should, given its exceptionally talented cast and director, but despite all this, one cannot walk away from this film and not have a visceral reaction – which is something all quality art should evoke.

Sion Sono’s ‘Guilty of Romance’ is coming to the Boston Underground Film Festival!

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Photo Courtesy of www.fareastfilms.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.fareastfilms.com

It’s March everyone, and that means the BUFF (Boston Underground Film Festival) is gearing up to showcase another stellar collection of bizarre, wacky and visceral films from around the world!

The big news for us who are obsessed with Japanese cinema? Well, Japanese auteur Sion Sono will have his 2011 film Guilty of Romance screened at this year’s BUFF event.

The festivals website, http://www.bostonunderground.org, describes Guilty of Romance as, “an eerie, boundary-pushing thriller from one of Japan’s masters of suspense. Always unorthodox, this acclaimed international gem starts off with a bang, as a dead body leads investigators to a demure housewife, leading a secret life as a nude model.”

Photo Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment

Photo Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment

Sono’s been on a bit of a roll as of late. His 2008 film Love Exposure drew rave reviews from around the world and made it on many best of the year lists. The four-hour film is one of my personal favorites.

Sono then released the macabre, somewhat-based-on-true-life events film Cold Fish, which continued to raise the director’s international profile.

 

For more information about BUFF, go check out their website: http://bostonunderground.org/ and make sure to support them.