Now out on DVD, One More Time centers on Paul Lombard (Christopher Walken), a Frank Sinatra/Tony Bennett-esque crooner whose charisma and seemingly easygoing nature masks a self-absorption that has done subtle damage to his family. Amber Heard, as Paul’s talented and self-sabotaging musician-daughter Jude, is excellent in the feature, which was penned and directed by Robert Edwards. Supporting players Ann Magnuson (Paul’s latest spouse), Kelli Garner (Jude’s more responsible sister Corinne), and Hamish Linklater (Corinne’s husband) also get their chance to shine in this layered and engaging drama.
During my interview with Edwards, he delved into his collaboration with Heard and explained the challenges of having two protagonists (Paul and Jude) that aren’t exactly likable (the movie’s unsentimental yet realistic take on family relationships, along with the movie’s use of music, are two reasons I enjoyed the film). Check out our interview with Edwards below:
It’s great that One More Time doesn’t explain all the intricate dynamics among the family members and lets the audience fill in the gaps. Was that your original intention in crafting the story?
Definitely. I wanted the characters and the movie to feel as much of real life as cinema can manage. That means being messy and having loose ends that are not tied up. Back stories between the characters, inside jokes and incidents in their past that we don’t have time to go into and you couldn’t get into even if you were writing a thousand page novel. But just to allude to them and create that feeling of reality and to do just what you said - to let the audience fill in the blanks and infer what happened in the past. When I see a movie do that, I get very excited and inspired.
We dialed it back in the edit. There were things that were a little more explicit and when we cut it together, we realized (we didn’t need it). That was too much, we were holding the audience’s hand. We removed (scenes) to make it more oblique and leave more to the audience’s imagination. It made the film much better that way.
Though a great deal of your film is shot in Paul’s home, there is also a sense of breadth to your storyline. Can you discuss your visual design for the movie?
We spent a lot of time looking for that house. We knew that house was going to be very important because so much of the story takes place there. (The house) fit my vision of this architecturally interesting exterior but a little bit dated and a little bit ’80s (with the interiors). To be able to do that on a budget - our location and art department really did a great job. They never said to me ‘no we can’t do that or we can’t afford that.’ They always found a way to do it. I was also very excited to shoot in the Hamptons in the winter - off-season when it’s cold, wintry, and there aren’t many people there. It fits the mood and (Paul’s persona) a lot.
I also owe a lot to Anne Etheridge the DP who’s a good friend of mine. We’ve worked together a lott, and she’s just an amazing collaborator. When we sat down to start shot listing and talk about the framing and the compositions, the first thing she wanted to do was spend three days just talking about the story, going through it scene by scene. A lot of cinematographers would not bother (with it). Everything she does is in service of the story. It’s never for its own sake or to show off her own skill. She made me do that! I would have gone right to shot listing (laughs)! It made the movie better and it made me understand my own story better.
Then we got to the point of collaborating and talking about how is this scene going to be shot and how is it going to look like? All the nuts and bolts stuff that you do. But she had already invested so much creativity in it. That flowed naturally out of her understanding of the story. I was very lucky to have her.
Amber Heard was great in One More Time. Did you immediately know that she could pull off the role?
She was terrific but we didn’t know. I wasn’t even that familiar with her work, and she was suggested for the part. I met with her and immediately I knew she understood the role and the script really, really well. She also was super invested in it and dedicated (to the project). She knows she’s in danger of being pigeonholed as a bombshell or a femme fatale, and Hollywood is only going to put her in certain kind of parts - as the girlfriend or the hot chick. And she’s much smarter than that and she wanted to do something different. This was a chance for her to do it and she convinced me right away that she was going to dedicate herself (to One More Time). And she also told me, honestly, that she had never even sung in the shower! She had no musical training whatsoever and she learned some guitar, bass, and piano. She took singing lessons and worked really hard - and it shows. She gives a performance that few people imagined was in her because she’s been pigeonholed. More power to her for taking on a part like this and devoting herself to it and delivering. I was lucky to have an actress like that.
The film closes with Nina Simone’s stunning version of ‘22nd Century.’ Can you talk about using that track in your film?
I love that song. Nina Simone scholars and aficionados know it but I think the general public doesn’t really know it. I heard it a few years ago, I think Justin Vivian Bond did it at Joe’s Pub and it was amazing! I couldn’t believe this song - it was incredible. And I looked it up. I couldn’t find it anywhere but long story short, I eventually found Nina Simone’s version of it. I can’t put my finger on that song. It’s just a powerhouse as soon as I heard it, I thought that song should be at the end of the movie (laughs)! I’m glad I got the chance to do that.
Is there a soundtrack to the movie? The music, including Paul Lombardo’s comeback song, is great.
Yeah, it’s a little bit of a heartbreaker. We, for legal reasons, were not able to put a soundtrack out. We really wanted to. It’s a musical story and it cries out for a soundtrack. I’m very proud of the music that’s in it - the original and the source stuff. Legally, we had some roadblocks that prevented us - so sadly, it’s not available.
What are some of your cinematic influences as far as movies go?
Wow, there’s so many. It’s so hard to narrow it down. There are so many movies that are inspiring that I do go back to and think about in different ways all the time. There’s some that are just personal favorites that infuse everything that I do like Repo Man for example which is not a movie you wouldn’t necessarily associate with this movie - it’s totally different but I must have watched that movie a thousand times.
For (One More Time), we talked about Greenberg, the Noah Baumbach movie which I really love and (that movie) is polarizing. A lot of people hate it. (That film) was important to us because that’s a movie that has a difficult protagonist and this one does too. Paul and Jude are not easily latched on to, super affectionate characters. Some people do like them and identify with them, but they’re prickly and they’re troublesome. So we looked at Greenberg a lot with how to think about, not how to win the audience over, but have the audience connect with the main characters even when they’re doing difficult or nasty things.
To sort of veer of your question a bit, we knew we had to have an actor who would bring charm and charisma to the role, because otherwise (having) the wrong actor in that part - people would just tune out. Christopher brought so much charisma and charm that almost everything we had Paul Lombard do, the audience forgave him. The movie was out of balance so we made a bunch of adjustments.
Those two movies come to mind immediately. I’m a huge Robert Altman fan. My wife and I have always aspired to that kind of verisimilitude, particularly in sound. The overlapping dialogue, the Altman trademark, is something that we love because it’s something that feels real and it feels like how people really talk. So we worked really hard to have that kind of feel, especially with the table conversations (with Paul’s family).
Thank you Robert for your time!
Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
One More Time is now out on DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Ellen DeGeneres is one of Hollywood’s most beloved celebrities, and her likability factor partly stems for her innate gratitude of her success. DeGeneres has been entertaining audiences for over three decades with a self-deprecating, wry humor that infuses her work stand-up comedy, television shows (including her daily talk show), and in cinema. Throughout her career, she has worked hard and is very thankful to her fans and for those who gave her a start. One of those people was The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. On the night of November 28, 1986 made an appearance on The Tonight Show which changed her life and career forever. We spoke to DeGeneres, who recalled that special evening. It’s a great emotional story. (Click on the media bar below to hear Ellen DeGeneres)
Ellen reprises the voice of Dory in Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo which opens this Friday.
Posted by: AC
The NBC summer show Aquarius promises more shocks and surprises this season in its second season. David Duchovny, returns as tougher than nails LAPD detective Sam Hodiak, admits it was a bit “creaky” and challenging for him to find a groove during the show’s freshman season. But with more episodes in the can comes experience and a deeper knowledge of the character, and now the world of Aquarius is second nature to Duchovny and the talented ensemble. Aquarius returns tonight night with a two-hour season premiere (NBC, 9/8c).
Posted by: AC
Seoul Searching is an unabashedly spirited homage to the John Hughes teenage comedies from the 1980s (most notably The Breakfast Club), and though the movie traverses widely tread terrain, writer-director Benson Lee and an engaging ensemble are up for the challenge.
It’s 1986, and a lively group of Korean teenagers from all over the world (including the U.S., Mexico, and Germany) attend a summer camp in Seoul to learn a bit more about their heritage. During a flashy entrance at Gimpo Airport, we are introduced to the youths, which include rebellious punk rock loving Sid (Justin Chon), a Madonna inspired Grace (Jessika Van sporting a Desperately Seeking Susan style get-up!), and the charming, girl crazy Sergio (scene stealer Esteban Ahn).
Sid, Sergio, and the Hamburg hailing Klaus (Teo Yoo) immediately bond as roommates, and during their first night at the dorms, they visit the the ladies (armed, if I recall, with a bottle of whiskey) for a spontaneous party. Though proverbial flirtations and battle of the sexes (including a drinking competition between Sid and Grace) ensue, the sheer likability and innate energy of the cast gives the film’s humor an extra level of depth.
The narrative also has its share of dramatic subplots, as Sid and Grace must battle with their respective demons, and Klaus helps his new friend Kris (Rosalina Leigh) search for her biological mother (Klaus speaks Korean and Kris was adopted by white parents). An always game cast (which also includes memorable work from In-Pyo Cha and Byul Kang) also balances the movie’s lighter and heavier moments with aplomb.
An evocative scene wherein a student calls his father to express his love and gratitude exemplifies Lee’s subtle approach to storytelling. Lee shoots the scene with the actor’s back turned to the camera, and slowly pulls in as the pay phone conversation ensues. The sequence’s power, along with the slow and steady framing of the shot (and the actor’s wonderful performance), also lies in not overstaying its welcome. Lee keeps the moment absolutely real, and it’s just one of several dramatic moments which brings an added touch of gravitas to the proceedings. Since the story is inspired by the director’s own experiences at a Seoul summer camp, the movie’s more predictable moments actually feel organic (artifice and intimacy, at least for this film, are wonderful bedfellows).
The horrific under representation of Asians in cinema is something that won’t change for the better overnight, and it’s great to know that Seoul Searching is a step in the right direction (full disclosure: I’m part Thai and Filipino). But movie fans don’t pay their hard earned money simply for good intentions, and it’s also wonderful that the film scores as a first rate and ultimately heartwarming teen comedy. Opening Friday in New York and the following week in Los Angeles, Seoul Searching a grade-A flick that’s blessed with laughter, heart, and (pun intended) a ton of soul.
We also briefly talk about Seoul Searching on this week’s episode of CinemAddicts (at the 24:46 mark of our media bar), and check out the trailer below!!
On this week’s episode of CinemAddicts, we review Tickled, a first rate, twist-filled, and heartbreaking documentary that’s one of this year’s best films. The project centers on New Zealand reporter David Farrier’s investigation into “Competitive Endurance Tickling.” What starts off as a seemingly innocuous feature piece turns into an entirely different beast, as Farrier’s request for interviews is flatly denied via a series of detestable messages.
Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve into the tickling fetish world is filled with surprises and the threat of lawsuits, and although their journey is well documented in the media, Tickled is best viewed with as little knowledge as possible (if you don’t mind spoilers, check out this recent update on Farrier and the doc),
Also covered on this week’s CinemAddicts is my review of the entertaining animated adventure Finding Dory, and Anderson Cowan reviews the Henry Rollins action-crime flick The Last Heist. My DVD pick of the week is the Twentieth Century Fox masterpiece People Will Talk, starring Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain, and Anderson praises the indie thriller They Look Like People.
Check out this week’s episode and video teaser for CinemAddicts below:
Elle Fanning delivers a standout and emotionally naked performance in The Neon Demon, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylized and uncompromising look at the price and vagaries of beauty.
Jesse (Fanning) is a 16-year-old with modeling ambitions and her arrival to Los Angeles leads to an extended stay at a rundown Pasadena motel (Keanu Reeves is the site’s creepy and abrasive manager) and a possible romance with aspiring photographer (Karl Glusman).
Seemingly wide-eyed and clueless, Jesse’s rise in the fashion world is meteoric, as she catches the eye of an acclaimed designer (Alessandro Nivola) and photographer (Desmond Harrington). Unfortunately, the intentions of her make-up artist friend Ruby (Jena Malone) and two overly competitive models (Bella Heathcoate and Abbey Lee are both terrific) leads Jesse down a darker path, leading to horrific consequences.
If you’ve seen his previous work (including Drive and Only God Forgives), you know Refn’s baroque and visually seductive approach to storytelling is an acquired taste, and he doesn’t let up on the gas pedal with The Neon Demon. Whether it’s offering metaphoric takes on the ravages of youth or crafting viscerally charged sequences, Refn’s creative dexterity is in full display.
There are several scenes from The Neon Demon that have courted controversy, and these moments will surely lead some viewers to completely check out of the film. Refn’s deliberately slow and steady pacing does get wearying, and viewers looking for fast paced, quick cutting style entertainment should look elsewhere.
With his story of a girl gradually coming of age in the City of Angels, Refn could have shaped his story in a much more appealing, feel good fashion. Infused with black comedy, horror, and ultimately thriller elements, the film would have yielded a much bigger audience if the heroine’s journey ended in a more palatable, feel good fashion. Instead, he sticks to his guns, and one can never fault Refn for his unabashed passion for cinema.
Of course, others may view The Neon Demon as a self-induldgent mess that goes for shock value over substance, and there are moments when my own opinions about the film followed this train of thought. Still, various images and sequences from The Neon Demon continue to swim in my head, and its mesmeric effect is simply hard to shake.
The story’s attack on society’s tragic and cannibalistic fixation on youth and physical allure also gives the film an extra level of narrative breadth, and credit goes to Refn and co-writers Mary Laws and Polly Stenham for creating a female centric tale that isn’t filtered through the male gaze. Fanning, who’s convincing as a seemingly helpless ingenue turned subtle manipulator, has never been better.
There are some viewers who won’t embrace The Neon Demon’s oftentimes stomach churning content or deliberately slow pacing, but others, especially ones familiar with Refn’s cinematic ouerve, may come back for seconds.
The Neon Demon, which also stars Christina Hendricks as the brutally candid head of a modeling agency, opens June 24th.
Central Intelligence pairs Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in a buddy comedy about former high school classmates who embark on a thrilling yet very dangerous adventure. Bob (Johnson) was an overweight geek during his teenage years while Calvin (Hart) was with the popular crowd, but now Bob is a CIA agent and Calvin, now an accountant, yearns for his glory days.
During the Central Intelligence press conference, Hart said that, thanks to his sense of humor, he got along with pretty much everyone in high school. Johnson admitted that his school years had its share of difficulties.
“My freshman and sophomore year in high school, I spent a lot of time trying to get back on the right track,” said Johnson. “I was arrested multiple times by the the time I was 16. I had a little harder time trying to adjust.”
Early struggles would, through hard work and dedication, lead Johnson down a much more successful road. Click on the media bar to hear the actor talk about his days in high school and eventually overcoming his obstacles (Hart is also be heard in the clip).
Central Intelligence opens nationwide Friday.
In a year that has yielded poorly performing sequels, The Conjuring 2 bucked the trend with a strong $40.35 million showing. That film took first place, and although fellow newcomer Warcraft was #2 at the box office, its $24.35 million take in the U.S. was disappointing. Warcraft, however, is doing brisk business overseas with a foreign total of over $261 million.
In just its second week of release, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping slid to #13, making just $1.7 million.
Here’s this weekend’s top 10:
1. The Conjuring 2 - $40.35 million
2. Warcraft - $24.35 million
3. Now You See Me 2 = $23 million is not bad for an opening, considering the original opened to $29.3 million in 2013.
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $14.8 million
5. X-Men Apocalypse - $10 million
6. Me Before You - $9.2 million
7. The Angry Birds Movie - $6.7 million this weekend and a worldwide gross of $312 million.
8. Alice Through The Looking Glass - $5.5 million and one of this year’s biggest box office disappointments.
9. Captain America: Civil War - $4.3 million
10. The Jungle Book - $2.72 million
Stanley Cup winner, NHL star, and bestselling author Theo Fleury is open to new challenges, and the documentary Victor Walk chronicles his 10-day journey from Toronto to Ottawa. Directed by Michael David Lynch, the picture spotlights the stories of survivors of child sex abuse, and their tales of tragedy and ultimate survival serve as the documentary’s heart and soul.
“What I realized was my story wasn’t that my story wasn’t so unique,” said Fleury. “I shared a lot of the same things as a lot of people in the world. It’s been seven years since I did that and I could tell you that my life has profoundly changed since I told my own story.”
During our interview, Fleury talked about his collaboration with Lynch, what Victor Walk means to him and why, most importantly why he sees himself as a “victor.” Click on the media bar below to hear the discussion:
Victor Walk played earlier in the week at the Dances With Films Festival in Hollywood. Michael David Lynch’s romantic comedy Dependent’s Day screens this Sunday at the fest, and for more information and to listen to our interview with the director, please go to our Deepest Dream post.
Released this week on DVD, The Spoils Before Dying is a six-episode miniseries which is a follow-up to Eric Jonrosh’s (Will Ferrell) bestselling novel The Spoils of Babylon. Of course, Jonrosh is a complete concoction and Ferrell infuses the pretentious and hedonistic scribe with Orson Welles-ish flourishes.
Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) is principled jazz musician Rock Banyon (he refuses to cut an album with strings!) whose part-time lover Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph) is murdered. Fearful that he’ll be framed for the killing, Rock escapes to Mexico and reunites with singer Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig), a woman who still holds a torch for our resident protagonist.
With just 72 hours to clear his name, Rock must find the true killer before he’s sent to the electric chair. Unfortunately, his life is in constant danger thanks to a mysterious man (a hilarious and deadpan Chin Han, who sports a different accent each time he enters a scene) with seemingly bad intentions. Making matters worse is Rock’s manager Alistair (Haley Joel Osment, knowingly sporting a horrifically bad British accent) who continues to press him to make a commercially viable album.
Ferrell’s amusing riff on Welles tips the hand that The Spoils Before Dying is a humor laden ultimately loving homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age of filmmaking. With its jazz infused tones and Welles references, the miniseries conjures up memories of such classics as Touch of Evil and the underrated, Mexico set adventure The Big Steal.
Along with the project’s numerous cameos (including Jimmy Fallon, Emily Ratajkowski, and Berenice Marlohe), The Spoils Before Dying also proves that Kristen Wiig can carry a tune as witnessed by her performance of the aptly titled tune “Booze & Pills.”