Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Top Ten Unique Wedding Movies

Summer brings warm weather, barbeques, and weddings.  For the most part wedding movies are romantic, funny, and often clich├ęd, yet there are many that are classics and a few that are truly unique. Here are a few not-so-obvious wedding films worth looking into:

10. Corpse Bride- A stop-motion movie that is colorful and dark. While practicing his vows, a Victorian era man accidentally becomes betrothed to a Corpse Bride voiced by Helena Bonham Carter. The movie is colorful and the characters are very unique. There are interesting thematic elements like love loss and murder which are fairly dark and make for a very adult friendly movie.

9. Coming to America- An Eddie Murphy comedy where he plays a young prince who is promised to marry a woman he is not interested in. He decides to move to America and live poorly in Queens, New York in an attempt to find a bride who will love him for himself. Not only is this an incredibly heartwarming movie it is also very funny. Eddie Murphy does a wonderful job in his performance. The supporting cast is also a lot of fun to watch, making this comedy a classic.

8. So I Married an Axe Murderer- Mike Myers plays a man who marries a woman whom he is afraid may be an axe murder. This often forgotten comedy gem is fairly quotable and has enjoyable characters. Considering the dark subject matter the humor is still fairly light.  The casting is really well done and the soundtrack is even pretty catchy.  It showcases Mike Myer’s talent pre-Austin Powers fame when he was still pretty humble.

7. The Wedding Singer- If you enjoy 80s nostalgia, this movie is the one for you. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore find love while working at various weddings and planning hers. It is a fun movie that has a very sincere feeling to it.  While the movie has some cheesy elements, the tongue-in-cheek aspects only add to the enjoyment.  They have a chemistry that works well that it is seldom seen in many other romantic comedies.

6. Meet the Parents- Anyone who has entered a serious relationship has been able to identify with this movie on some level. The relate-ability aspect is a big part of the charm of this movie. Ben Stiller plays a man who goes with his girlfriend to her sister’s wedding.  He intends to propose but first he has to deal with a very intimidating father, played by Robert DeNiro.  The movie does a great job portraying the awkwardness of trying to get a loved one’s family to like you. The situations are extreme but they play it off seriously which adds to the humor.

5. Very Bad Things- Imagine the movie “the Hangover” with murder. That is not the most accurate description but would just about encompass the spirit of this film. A group of friends who are at a bachelor party accidentally kill a hooker. This event sets off a chain of events that ends with many deaths and lives ruined. It still keeps its sense of humor with its very dark subject matter.  It is the sort of movie that will leave you feeling a lot of things, mostly uncomfortable.

4. I Love You Man- Some men don’t have a lot of male friends. What do they do when it’s time to choose a best man? Answer- they go search for someone they can hang out with. Luckily for Paul Rudd he finds Jason Segal.  The friendship they develop seems very genuine and the movie is extremely humorous. The movie is clever and really does a good job connecting to the thought processes that an adult male would go through in a similar situation.

3. The Five-Year Engagement- Another Jason Segal movie. Where “I Love You Man,” can be considered a feel-good comedy, “The Five-Year Engagement” gives the audience a wider variety of emotional content. Jason Segal and Emily Blunt play a couple that experience a series of events that make them postpone their wedding, leading to constant relationship problems. It is a sweet movie that reminds us that love is worth fighting for.

2. [REC]3: Genesis- What would this genre be without a good horror film? Leticia Dolera and Diego Martin play newlyweds. Their wedding is going well until suddenly guests start turning into the possessed demonic/zombies of the other [REC] films.   The acting is good and the movie is full of gore and energy. If you are into fun foreign movies or might be interested in something completely different, this movie will likely entertain you.

1. Muriel’s Wedding- An Australian movie staring Toni Collette, this movie will have you laughing despite some of the drama it brings. Muriel is a daydreamer who has a verbally abusive, politician father who constantly brings her down. She goes on a vacation and meets a friend who teaches her to cut loose. Doing so allows her find a husband of her own. It is a sweet movie that is delightful and humorous.

Not all of us are in the mood for wedding season. If that is the case for you, then you might find these wedding movies to be a nice break from the norm and wildly entertaining. They run the gamut of genres so you have many options. Take a break this summer and try out a unique wedding movie.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Top Ten Movies to Watch With Your Father This Father’s Day.

Another Father’s Day is upon us. If you are anything like me you celebrate every holiday with a movie.  If you have a chance to watch one of the following gems with your own father, instead of a traditional gift like a tie or cologne, then go for it.

These movies feature many different characters that run the gamut of cinematic spectrums. Here are the movies I think are the best to watch with your father on Father’s Day.

10. Road to Perdition- Tom Hanks plays an enforcer in the Irish Mob. After his son witnesses him murder a group of people, his boss kills his family and then goes after both Hanks and his son.  Tom Hanks goes on the run while the mob hunts them. Tom Hanks must now protect his son from the man who raised him as a surrogate son. The colors are muted which really enhances the Depression era look of the film. It is dark, moody, and shows the skill of the cast which ha really gone out of the their comfort zone.

9. Mr. Mom- Michael Keaton plays a father of three in Detroit who loses his job at an auto plant. His wife gets a job before him and he becomes a househusband. Hilarity ensues as he befriends other housewives. He learns how to cook, clean, and do other various things while his wife experiences the corporate world.  Being written by John Hughes in the eighties, it has the perfect mix of humor and cheese. It is fairly dated but the charm of the actors makes it a fun movie to watch.

8. National Lampoon’s Vacation- Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo play Clark and Ellen Griswold. Clark wants to load up his family in their crappy station wagon and drive across the country to go to the theme park, Wally World.  On the way they deal with car troubles, getting lost, meeting horrible family members, and staying in shady hotels. We watch a man who just wants to spend time with his family get pushed to the brink of insanity with hilarious results. 

7. Raising Arizona- Nicolas Cage plays H.I., an ex-con who marries a woman who cannot have kids.  The news tells them about a rich family that recently had quintuplets. So they come up with a plan to kidnap one of the babies for themselves. The rest of the movie is a comedy or errors that only the Cohen brothers could create. The script is witty and the characters are incredibly likeable for the poor white trash that they are.  It is a slice of life that is humorous and smart.

6. Kick Ass- You might be asking, how this is a Father’s Day movie? Nicolas Cage plays the father of a little girl he is training to be a costumed vigilante.  Kick Ass is about a teenage kid that puts on a costume and tries to make a difference by becoming a hero. He finds allies in a man and his little girl who call themselves Big Daddy, played by Nicholas Cage, and Hit Girl.  The relationship between Big Daddy and Hit Girl is really amusing to watch. At first it comes off as completely normal but soon reveals a bizarre and a violent upbringing.  The movie is really amusing and says a lot about what it takes to be a hero.  Nicolas Cage steals the show with his performance. 

5. It’s A Wonderful Life- When it comes to good fathers and good men, George Bailey give of himself until it hurts.  In fact he has given so much that he has driven himself nearly suicidal. George Bailey is like the Giving Tree of characters. He gives so much of himself that he gives up on his own dreams in order to make those around him happy. It always seems more tragic the more I watch it. He is a better man than he takes credit for and he deserves a lot more than he gets from life. Still, it is a lovely movie with a great message. He tries so hard for his family and in the end it takes an angel warping time and space to convince him to not kill himself after Old Man Potter rips him off.

4. Finding Nemo- Marlon is a clownfish that losses his entire family save his son Nemo. When a diver takes Nemo to an aquarium in a dentist office, Marlon goes on a long trek in search of his son. On his long journey he comes to face fears like sharks and schools of jellyfish, and he makes new friends like Dory and several sea turtles.  Pixar makes the sea look bright and colorful. Each fish had a very unique personality and it works very well with the narrative. When each element comes together it is a sweet and sentimental story.

3. Life is Beautiful- Roberto Benigni plays Guido, an Italian Jew that uses humor to find the love of his life and to keep his son safe in a Nazi concentration camp. When the Nazis take him and his son to a concentration camp, he does everything he can to use his humor to shield his son from the horrors they will face. It is an incredible performance from everyone involved. It is incredibly believable that a father would want to protect his son from the horrors Guido experiences.  It is almost impossible to make it through this movie without the accompaniment of tissues. It is a charming and lovely film that showcases the selflessness of a devoted father.

2. The Descendants- George Clooney plays Matt King, whose wife is seriously injured in a boating accident. As his wife is being kept alive by machinery, he must take care of his two young daughters. He soon discovers that his wife was having an affair. He and his family must come to terms with both the loss of his wife and the infidelity as well. It is a very genuine and heartfelt movie. George Clooney takes a character that is going through a lot of pain and gives him a sense of humanity, which is a nice change of pace from his typical charmer persona roles.

1. The Godfather- The Godfather is all about family. The Godfather, Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, takes care of not only his entire family but also much of his Sicilian community; usually expecting payments for his favors with favors. He expects his sons to be strong men. While the sons have a lot of flaws, they all look up to their father and know that he has their best interest at heart. He even tries very hard to steer his youngest son Michael away from the criminal life. Vito Corleone is a loving man who is dangerous when crossed.

Whether you watch this in the spirit of the holiday or you watch this with your father, you will likely find these movies enjoyable. Some of the films might even help your dad get in touch with a sensitive side you never knew he had. In either case they are great movies that will be fun to watch.  So enjoy the films and have a safe and happy Father’s Day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Katie Parker: A Star On The Rise.

For the past couple years Katie Parker has become a rising star. In 2011 she starred in the hit movie ABSENTIA as Callie, the main character who is battling with addiction in a Lovecraftian story.  Katie played a very challenging role and impressed a great many people, both audience and critic alike. Katie has also appeared in the films THE FAMILY, OCULUS, and ALLEYCAT. She has shown to be a very talented and capable actress. I had the opportunity to correspond with Katie and talk to her about her life and career.

You received a B.A. in Theater from Christopher Newport University. What was one of your favorite plays you were involved with?
When I was a sophomore in college I was cast as Claire in David Auburn’s PROOF. It was a big deal for me because the 3 other actors were seniors. I was so intimidated by the rest of the cast as well as our director who was the head of the theatre department. The rehearsal process and performances were pivotal to my development as an actor. I fell on my face quite a bit but also had a few breakthroughs. Having a breakthrough as an artist feels like winning an award of recognition. You feel yourself growing, thinking beyond yourself and making bold choices. I think every young actor ends up working on PROOF at some point in their career. It’s a great story with lots of dramatic action and interesting characters. PROOF was a very intimate and special experience for me.

What made you decide to go into film acting?
There was no decision, I just went where the work was for me. I had an opportunity to be on The Young and the Restless and the casting director at the time suggested I pursue a career in film. This was 2008. I wanted to move to Chicago or New York City and pursue theatre but once I had the connection in LA I thought, “Well, I should go there!”

What was it like to work with an actress that was pregnant at the time of filming?
Courtney Bell WAS SUCH A TROOPER! I mean, we dragged that woman on the floor! She was just amazing. Courtney’s a phenomenal actress, pregnant or not, but her emotional capacity was extraordinary while she was pregnant. Everything was right on service. She could deliver in every take.

In Absentia you played a character struggling with addiction. What did you do to prepare for the role?
There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare. I have some family members who struggle with addiction so I’m familiar with their journey towards recovery. That helped. I also thought a lot about what she would wear. Baggy clothes. Courtney and I also talked a lot about the back story of Callie and Trisha and their relationship.

What are some of your favorite movies?
This is always so hard to answer but right now:
Old Boy
Singing in the Rain
Tree of Life
When Harry Met Sally
A Muppets Christmas Carol

What are your future show business goals? Would you ever want to write or direct?
I want to work with exceptionally talented people- actors, directors, writers, cinematographers. I want to work with the best people possible. It’s such a lucky thing to be able to work with professionals, masters of their craft. I will only get better if I’m working with people who will push me.

I’ve been working on a script. Not quite sure where it’s going but I’d love to direct it. I directed in college and learned a lot about actors and how important a specific vision is.

Do you have any good stories from the set?
Our DP Rustin picked up a virus from his son who was a toddler at the time. We were shooting on a sound stage in Laguna Beach CA and all of a sudden Rustin became violently ill and vomited everywhere! Naturally, he had to go home and Mike Flanagan took over. Thing was, he didn’t know how to operate the camera! Everyone was a bit freaked out but Mike really took control and figured it out. He had to! The interrogation scenes in Absentia were shot by Mike. I think he did a really nice job!

What was it like to meet Doug Jones?
Doug is like sunshine. He is so charismatic and kind. He’s a true talent and professional. He really took me under his wing while we were filming and gave me some acting for the camera pointers. Absentia was my first film so I really appreciated and needed the advice! He was nurturing to the whole cast and crew.

You have appeared in a number of horror films. What frightens you?
It frightens me that some people don’t believe in Global Warming. This Earth is all we have and we are destroying it everyday. I think a lot of people think they are invincible. Truth is, mother nature is going to kick our ass one day and it’s probably going to be our fault. It frightens me that some people don’t seem to care.

What do you enjoy doing when not working?
Hiking, reading, yoga, wine, theatre, museums, painting/drawing, dinner with friends!

Show business is incredibly hard to get involved with. Do you have any advice for people attempting to get into the industry?
Make sure you really want it. No, really. You have to want it more than you want anything else in your life. Truly. There is so much personal sacrifice that goes along with this job. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. You miss stuff. Weddings, funerals, births, relationships, family trips. Especially while you are building your career. I’m sure it gets a bit easier when you have more control. Also, finances are a hit or miss. One year you have no trouble paying your bills, the next.... This industry is all about perseverance. Keep working on your craft, take care of mind and body and just stay in the game.

If you could be involved in any movie throughout the history of film what would it be and why?
This is such a hard question, Ryan! There are too many brilliant films that I would have given my limbs to be a part of! I’ll just say that I think director Steve McQueen is a genius. He understands the human condition, the good, bad, and the ugly. His films are gorgeous and brutally truthful. I want to be a part of work like that. It would be an honor to work with him and act in one of his films.

What are some of your future projects?
I recently wrapped, ALLEYCAT, MOVE ME and had a brief cameo in a short film called TRIBUTE. Projects coming up are, CLOUDLAND, DAISY DELIVERED, SLEEPWALK, SCARE DARES and WHISPERS FROM THE SHADOWS! Lots to look forward to :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Aaron Mento: What an iPad2 can do.

Many in Hollywood seem afraid to try new things. Thankfully there are people who take the leap where others dare to tread like writer, director, producer, and cinematographer Aaron Mento. Aaron wears many hats in his productions and has produced several short films. His first full-length film STANDARDS OF LIVING was filmed entirely on an iPad2. It is a fun and inventive thriller with themes of humor and dread. It is available to view for free online here: I had the opportunity to correspond with Aaron regarding his work.

You have mentioned in other interviews that you are a Twilight Zone fan. Do you have a favorite episode?
So many of these are great, but maybe “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” I love the whodunit aspect of the episode and it’s also really funny. The episode happens mostly inside the diner, and that kind of limited location writing has always inspired me.

What were the biggest challenges in directing Standards of Living?
I shot the movie myself, and had almost no crew, so stamina and endurance were definitely a challenge. Some takes would last over twenty minutes without a break, so trying to compose a steady shot with the iPad for that amount of time was difficult. We only had the location for two weeks, and everybody had jobs to go to in the morning, so we could only shoot for 6 hours a night. It was a really tight schedule.

What influenced the decision to film Standards of Living using only an iPad?
One day, after writing on my computer for a few hours, my left eye went partially blind for fifteen minutes. I thought I had a brain tumor, but the doctors said it was actually an ocular migraine, which is like having a headache inside of your eyeball. After this health scare, I realized that life was really fragile and it was high time to achieve my biggest goal: I was going to make my first feature film, and I wasn’t going to let any excuses stop me. I decided to use an iPad 2 because it was the only camera that I had, and because I loved the challenge of shooting a feature-length film on something so non-traditional.

What movies influence you most as a director?
I watched PHANTASM a lot before shooting STANDARDS OF LIVING, because it’s so “homemade” and ambitious. I’m also a big John Carpenter fan, and am always re-watching THE THING, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and HALLOWEEN. Low-budget movies with attitude and balls are definitely my biggest influence.

Standards of Living had a very small budget. What were some of the challenges of such a small budget?
I didn’t have multiple versions of the actors’ costumes, so we had to try and get the blood FX to work right on the first take. There wasn’t anybody else responsible for dressing the set, so I had to do all that myself. I also painted all of the artwork in Mariella’s room. Without a big budget, you have to wear a lot of hats, but that also allows your fingerprints to be seen in all levels of the production (for better or worse).

If you could be involved in any movie throughout the history of film what would it be and why?
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is probably my favorite movie of all time, so to be on that shoot would be a dream come true. I wish I could have seen that rotating room screw up and accidentally dump blood all over everything.

What lead to the naming of your production company?
Ocular Migraine Productions was named after my health scare, which prompted me to make STANDARDS OF LIVING in the first place. It also serves as a reminder to myself to keep moving forward, to keep climbing that mountain, because it could all end at any second.

What lead to the concept of the “talking peanut” act for the comedian character in Standards of Living?
You’re the only person who ever asked about this, it’s a really good question. I wanted the comedian to be truly awful, and for his “soothsayer” shtick to be awkward and pathetic. Him interacting with a circus peanut seemed like the bottom of the barrel of stand-up comedy. I wanted to drop the audience right into this terrible act at the beginning, and have them think “Oh shit, is this what the whole movie is going to be like?!” Plus, I love the fact that the comedian is supposed to see the future, but he has to look at note-cards to remember his jokes.

How did you find such an interesting cast for Standards of Living?
I’ve worked with Derek Houck (who plays Stu) on other projects, and he was in my thesis film when I was at Loyola Marymount University. Through Derek and other friends, I was able to gather an incredible cast who were game for anything. Everybody trusted that I could make a good movie on an iPad, and I’m eternally grateful that they went along for the ride.

What made you decide to allow your film to be seen for free?
STANDARDS OF LIVING is the first feature film in the world shot entirely on an iPad, but nobody would know that if I didn’t release it right away. If I waited for traditional distribution, or did the festival circuit, somebody else could hear about my movie, make another movie on an iPad, and then release it online first. I’m working on securing distribution down the line, but for right now, I’m glad that people can check out STANDARDS OF LIVING online for free.

Show business is incredibly hard to get involved with. Do you have any advice for people attempting to get into the industry?For filmmakers, don’t ever let “no” stop you from making a movie. There are a lot of people who want to see you fail, so never ever give them the satisfaction. If you don’t have any money, then the only thing that can make you stand out is your own unique voice. STANDARDS OF LIVING takes place entirely in a handful of rooms, and while this was difficult, I also didn’t have anybody telling me what I could and could not do with my movie. Stay true to yourself and make a movie that you would want to buy and re-watch, again and again.

You seem to be a fan of the horror genre. What scares you?
In the EXORCIST, when Father Merrin warns, “The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us.” That scares the shit out of me.

What are some of your future projects?
I recently finished writing an 80’s action comedy with my buddy Louis Sweeney, who also went to Loyola Marymount University. We’re in talks to attach some actors who we are huge fans of, so that’s been a lot of fun. I’m also writing a slasher movie with a unique hook that I can’t wait for people to see. I’ve also been writing some articles over at RUTHLESS REVIEWS, so be sure to check those out.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Maleficent- review

Much like The True Story of The Three Little Pigs, Maleficent tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the villain.  The acting in Maleficent is genuine but there are a lot of aspects to this film that make this a fairly unlikable movie. The effects are decent but the story is mediocre. Maleficent banks a lot on Angelina Jolie’s talent though it is debatable if that is enough to carry the weight of the movie.

Maleficent begins with a young fairy with the unfortunate name of Maleficent. As she grows into a young women she falls in love with a young man named Stefan. After learning that the king will succeed his crown to the person responsible for defeating Maleficent, Stefan cuts off her wings. This creates a longstanding hatred of Stefan, which eventually leads to the events of Sleeping Beauty, with some major changes.

One big question that I had from the beginning of this story: Who was the jerk that named the good fairy Maleficent? It means harmful or evil in intent or effect. That is like naming your newborn baby Evil Satan Von Hitlerton. I don’t usually have problems with stories like these altering things to make things different and original. The problem in this case is that the creators made odd choices. For example, the three fairies that raise Aurora are painfully stupid. So much so that they nearly kill Aurora a couple of times until the villain, Maleficent, saves her.

Angelina Jolie does a great job. She just can’t be expected to carry the whole film alone. I found myself not caring; not even about Sharlto Copley or Elle Fanning who were at least trying. I think the big reason that I found myself not caring is that the protagonist is almost invincible. Even without her wings she has a wealth of magic at her disposal; she is strong; she heals rapidly and even can change her raven friend into any conceivable creature. The CGI is well developed for the most part except for when it came to the three fairies, which looked crude and cartoonish. 

I can’t say I enjoyed this movie. Still, it is not badly made.  They even seem to use a similar idea as the ending from Frozen. There are interesting scenes that people will enjoy. If you are a big fantasy fan or you have little kids you might enjoy it. Personally though, it was not to my taste and I can’t recommend it to folks beyond seeing it at a matinee if you a curious. It just did not seem like a movie that seemed worth waking up for.