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Showing posts from March, 2018

Watch: "All That Jedi" injects "Star Wars" with some Bob Fosse dazzle

Luke Skywalker needs his alien milk just like Joe Gideon needs his Dexedrine. At least that's how I like to imagine things in the movie universe playing out in my head. It's no secret that I thought Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi had a lot of problems, and in the months since first watching it my disappointment in writer/director Rian Johnson's film has only grown. As a result, I began creating a mashup in my head, inspired by some of the ludicrous imagery in The Last Jedi (e.g. Rey snapping her fingers to some interpretative dance choreography in front of a a cave) to think of how this latest installment would play out in the late Bob Fosse's universe of divine decadence.

Fosse, the celebrated theatre director and Oscar-winning filmmaker, was a consummate creator, always searching for the internal intersection of passion and pain. The (anti)hero of his best film All That Jazz is Joe Gideon, the drug-addled, sleepless and charismatic director/chor…

Watch: Errol Morris' 1991 Documentary on Stephen Hawking, "A Brief History of Time"

Yesterday we learned that the brilliant and world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. In the early 1960s,  Hawking developed an early form of motor neurone disease, debilitating and paralyzing him throughout the decades. However, he did not let such a devastating physical disability stop him from becoming a truly iconic figure, thinker and leader in the sciences, and in specific, cosmology.

Hawking's built a legacy of scientific works, breakthroughs and publications throughout his academic career but it was his best selling book "A Brief History of Time" that caught the eye of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (Oscar winner for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara). Morris' doc A Brief History of Time looks at the impressive life and work of Hawking, told in the signature way that only Morris can, all scored to a soundtrack composed by Philip Glass. While the film is available on Blu-r…

Review: "The Strangers: Prey At Night"

It's kind of hard to believe that The Strangers came out almost ten years ago. I wasn't too thrilled about the film back then and it's slipped from my memory since. Still, it's hard to understand why it took so long for a sequel to get churned out, considering the first film was a surprise hit for a seemingly elementary premise: A couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) is terrorized inside their vacation home by three masked murderers. The money shot in The Strangers, as many moviegoers already know, is of Tyler's character standing next to her kitchen, completely unaware of the murderous intruder slowly appearing the dark background. The shot is unnerving for two reasons: 1.) The evil figure dons a homemade Halloween mask made out of a burlap sack and 2.) The scene takes its time to linger, allowing our eyes to make the horrifying discovery for ourselves. Too bad the rest of The Strangers isn't as clever. It devolves into a "shock horror" gimmick, co…

Review: "A Wrinkle in Time"

Every decade or so a movie like A Wrinkle in Time comes along, and I don't mean that in a good way. Based on the Newbery Medal-winning science fantasy novel by the late Madeleine L'Engle, this film adaptation from Disney and director Ava DuVernay seems to have arrived from some other dimension of cinema, existing between god-awful and well-intentioned. I wasn't exaggerating with the "decade" comment either. The 1980s had Mac and Me, the 1990s had North and the 2000s had Battlefield Earth. In fact, in a lot of ways, A Wrinkle in Time feels like the children's version of Battlefield Earth. You look at the screen, part perplexed and part assaulted by what you're seeing. You see movie stars. You see the money Disney spent on the visual effects and production design. But then you feel like you're not watching what you were sold on. It's like going to see an act on stage -- but after you've bought your cocktail and taken your seat, the master of ce…

Winnie the Pooh Mashup Trailer: "Christopher Robin & Ted"

"Sooner or later, your past catches up to you." That's the tagline Disney is going with for their live-action Winnie the Pooh movie Christopher Robin, starring Ewan McGregor. While watching the teaser trailer (which debuted today) and getting my first look at a real life Winnie the Pooh talking bear, I couldn't help but be reminded of Seth MacFarlane's Ted, the R-rated comedy which featured a protagonist who's a foul-mouthed talking teddy bear. Ironically enough, MacFarlane's talking bear Ted has a much more cuddly and lovable look to him. Disney decided to give Winnie the Pooh a crude and homely-looking appearance -- not exactly what you'd expect for their intended child audience. So I decided to create this mashup trailer, which rewrites Christopher Robin's (McGregor) backstory to suggest that Ted was his original bear and he just sewed up the teddy bear's parts to look like Winnie the Pooh.

Talk about your past catching up to you! Watch my…

Watch: Catherine Grant's Video Remix "Centenary Dream 1918-2018"

In this clever video remix, Catherine Grant takes audio from the season 2 trailer of HBO's Westworld and couples it with tinted footage from the 2015 historical drama Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan. The result is a charming and clever video short that plays like a silent film from the late 1920s; the movement seems to slightly pause every few frames, giving everything an archival footage feel, like we're looking at something dug up from the past. It's a neat moving image experiment.

Watch Grant's video remix Centenary Dream 1918-2018 below.

Interview with "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail" Director Steve James

When documentary filmmaker Steve James hits the red carpet at tomorrow night's 90th Academy Awards, it will, in my eyes at least, have been a long overdue moment. James was previously nominated for Best Editing for his 1994 masterpiece Hoop Dreams but that great documentary was inexplicably not nominated for Best Documentary Feature. Now James returns to the Oscar race with the Kartemquin Films production Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, a dark horse contender in the doc feature category. Abacus tells the story of the Sung family, owners of the Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York, who were wrongfully accused of mortgage fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney, as part of the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.

James sat down with Free Cinema Now to talk about his new film and being recognized by the Academy.

Free Cinema Now: How did this project come to you?

Steve James: It came to my attention through Mark Mitten, one of the producers, who has known the family for over…

Review: "Loveless"

Some people should never get married. Likewise, some people should never become parents. Crudely enough, the protagonists of Andrey Zvyagintsev's new film Loveless fit both of those descriptions. The Leviathan helmer returns with another bleak and unflinchingly honest portrayal of family dysfunction and social politics. Loveless is also a commentary on modern Moscow. Zvyagintsev uses the car radio as the film's cultural master of ceremonies, informing the audience of the state of Russia, the political climate and expected societal norms. In fact, the only other time the car radio isn't used for exposition, is when a character turns it into an aural weapon to antagonize another character, by blaring loud metal rock during an inappropriate time. The coal-hearted characters in Loveless listen to the radio, but hardly to each other.

Early in the film we learn that Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are in the final steps of finalizing their divorce. While Zheny…

Interview with "Edith+Eddie" Director Laura Checkoway

Documentary filmmaker and writer Laura Checkoway's already exciting life is about to get a whole lot more crazy, in a good way. After her documentary short Edith+Eddie premiered at last year's True/False Film Fest, it went on to a year of positive reception and exhibition that culminated with an Academy Award nomination in January 2018 for Best Documentary (Short Subject). The documentary short, a Kartemquin Films production that's executive produced by Cher (yes, THAT Cher), follows the country's oldest interracial newlywed couple (Edith and Eddie) as they are faced with a family dilemma that'll forever change their lives.

Checkoway caught up with Free Cinema Now while she was in Chicago, not too long after the Oscar nominations were announced.

Free Cinema Now: How did the project of Edith+Eddie come together?

Laura Checkoway: A friend texted me a photo of the couple [Edith and Eddie] that was circulating online when they got married at age 95 and 96. They were bei…