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    • A Quiet Place Producers Discuss How They Made The Movie So Scary And What Part The Ninja Turtles Played In It!

      3 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      Hey, guys. While on the ground at SXSW I did a few print interviews with some filmmakers. I ran a story last Friday about the behind the scenes goings-on with the Friday the 13th films. If you didn't see it, don't worry! All the interesting quotes I ran from Platinum Dunes producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form are below


      Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay's company, produced A Quiet Place, which was the opening night film of SXSW and also happens to be a kickass, intense, scary as shit emotional rollercoaster directed by John Krasinski and starring Emily Blunt.


      The film focuses on a small family who have adapted to live as quietly as possible after the world is overrun by deadly creatures that are blind, but hear so well that any loud sound means certain death.


      I took the opportunity to grill the producers about how they brought the impressive cast together, how they executed such a menacing creature, why that creature owes a huge debt to the Ninja Turtles and, yes, all the info they could give me about the State of the Friday the 13th Union.


      Enjoy the read!



      quiet%20place-13.jpg



      Eric Vespe: Can you guys help me understand why we're not three movies deep in the new run of Friday the 13th movies? Your reboot was good and it made a ton of money. Can you explain what's going on with the franchise?


      Andrew Form: It's so sad. I'm sure the world knows, but we were four weeks from filming in Atlanta with Breck Eisner. We were there and the movie got shut down.


      Brad Fuller: We never got a clear answer from Paramount as to why that movie got shut down. I think at the end of the day that administration, which is no longer there, didn't see horror as a viable part of what they were doing. Also they were coming off of Rings and that didn't help.


      For studio heads who are not fans of horror there's not a tremendous amount of glory in it other than the financial. A lot of these studios want to make big movies with big movie stars and that administration could never get excited about it.


      I think the rights now have reverted back to New Line.


      Andrew Form: Or Victor Miller.


      Brad Fuller: There's a Victor Miller element, too. There's a lawsuit with Victor Miller. I don't know anything about that, but I'll say to you, I'll say to anyone we would love nothing more than to make another Friday the 13th movie.


      Andrew Form: We were right there. We had Crystal Lake. We had the camp. The location was amazing.


      Brad Fuller: It was such a bummer.


      Eric Vespe: Were you bringing Derek Mears back as Jason?

      Andrew Form: No, because we were going way back. We were going to the '70s.


      Brad Fuller: We would have put Derek in the movie (somewhere) anyway because we love him so much.


      Eric Vespe: He's one of the nicest dudes I've ever met.


      Andrew Form: Aaron Guzikowski wrote such a great script. It was what we thought the community would really want. It was such a bummer when that one didn't go.


      Eric Vespe: It seems to me like it's a no-brainer. There's a reason why they pumped one out every year in the '80s. They were printing money.


      Andrew Form: And now you see the hype coming out with the new Halloween movie. I think everybody's now going “Oh, my God. Why didn't we make that new Friday the 13th movie?” The Stephen King movies are getting hot, the IP is still strong, R-rated horror is what's happening. I mean, look at IT being over $700 million worldwide. Right now it's not happening, but we just hope one day that we can get the call that says the rights are figured out, let's go make Friday.



      Jason-Voorhees-2009.jpg



      Eric Vespe: So it really is just a question of rights at this point?


      Brad Fuller: That's all it is.


      Andrew Form: I believe if the rights were clear we'd be shooting the movie.


      Brad Fuller: We would have shot the movie!


      Eric Vespe: Not to make this all about Friday the 13th, but...


      Andrew Form: No, listen, we'll talk about Friday the 13th all day!


      Eric Vespe: (laughs) The beauty of the Friday the 13th series is that all the audience wants from it is fun. That allows for so much freedom in being able to make something without it being crazy expensive.


      Brad Fuller: And we're just the guys to do that!


      Andrew Form: We had so much fun making the last one!


      Brad Fuller: We're not keeping anything from you. This is the first conversation we've had about Friday the 13th in months and when we do talk about it we get sad and we start to cry.


      Andrew Form: But you know, as more and more horror movies work, and Paramount's loving A Quiet Place right now, we're going to keep pushing to get Friday the 13th back. We have to. For us going to Crystal Lake would be so much fun.


      Brad Fuller: We just don't know who's going to make the movie.


      Andrew Form: Is it Warner Bros? Is it Paramount?


      Brad Fuller: It's a complicated jumble, but I have looked into it. I think it's New Line. The rights have expired, or they expire next month, and they revert back to New Line, I think.


      Andrew Form: But there's still an issue with the Victor Miller lawsuit.


      Brad Fuller: Right, and I don't think anyone will touch it until that gets figured out.


      Andrew Form: Yeah, that has to get figured out. It's just too hard with that litigation out there.

      Brad Fuller: Looming litigation does not help movies get made. (laughs)


      Andrew Form: No, it sure doesn't. Not big, high profile IP.


      Eric Vespe: So, on to a happier subject... A Quiet Place! What's so impressive to me about the movie is it has an indie sensibility... it's not afraid to be silent or express dialogue through sign language for three quarters of the film, if not more, but it delivers in a very commercial way. Some of these kinds of genre movies will stay small and have the emotion, but not the payoff, but you were able to have the best of both worlds with this one. I would assume some of your job as producers here was to preserve that balance.


      Brad Fuller: I don't think you can delineate in this movie what the specific roles were. Like, what Platinum Dunes did and what John Krasinski did... at least not in that particular way. John was always up for making a scary movie. He always wanted to make something that had people on the edge of their seat. He is such a dynamic force that we felt it was our job to simply block for him, just let him do what he did and if he needed us... and Drew was on set every day of that shoot, so I say “us” but it was really Drew. If John needed Drew, Drew was there for him. They had a brother-like relationship throughout the movie. To this minute they rely on each other and it's this wonderful collaboration between the two of them.


      Andrew Form: It really was. If he had any genre questions I was an open book for him because he knows I've been on so many of these movies. I could tell him about the mistakes we've made, what we've learned, so if he had any questions about genre I was there. Otherwise I just watched him work with these actors and act himself.


      I've never worked with an actor/director before, so it was interesting because he'd go out there and I'm alone by the monitor! I remember on day one I was like “Do you yell cut? Who yells cut?” I'd never seen that before. But, like Brad said, it was an unbelievable collaboration. It was amazing for us on this one.


      Eric Vespe: The movie's very cinematic. It doesn't feel small, but it is very intimate, which is tricky. This could be a really tricky concept to pull off. Just by the very nature of the concept of the movie there's a ton of jump scares because any sound here is a jump scare! Audiences can turn against a movie with too many jump scares because they're viewed as a cheap way to get a reaction.


      aquietplaceheader.jpg



      Andrew Form: And, by the way, we did everything we could to avoid that. We've been in this game for a long time. We know what it's like to have someone jump out and say “Boo!” It's a fake scare and we know how people feel about that, so we did everything we could to avoid that.


      Brad Fuller: I do feel that the jump scares that are created by a sting in this movie are a little different from all our other movies because in this movie it serves to release the pressure. It allows the audience to laugh a little bit because they're so tense and then this thing happens. You don't know if it's going to work when you're in the edit room or on the mixing stage. It was so rewarding last night to see the audience laughing, to see the pressure getting relieved in those situations.


      I want to go back to something that you said. One place that I feel that we were very helpful to John... and I can't take the credit for it... It's really thanks to Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. Because we made those (Ninja Turtles) movies with ILM we have a great relationship with them. As great as this movie looks, the creature they made heightened it. They gave us great work and that's because of Michael (Bay)'s Transformers and our Turtles. We've done a tremendous amount of work there and we were able to come up with something and put something in the movie that I think is budgetarily almost impossible to do, if it wasn't for the Turtles and Optimus and Bumblebee.


      Andrew Form: 100%. Not on this movie. Scott Farrar was the VFX Supervisor on this movie. He did every Transformers, been nominated for many Academy Awards and he was on set working with John, figuring everything out, shooting the plates... He was an amazing collaborator with us.


      Brad Fuller: And that's what working with Bay gets us.


      Eric Vespe: I'm a big practical effects guy, but I love CG when it's done right. That creature is an example of it done right.


      Brad Fuller: The problem is the aliens we got to shoot just didn't listen, so we had to go the CG route. (laughs)


      Andrew Form: I brought my four year old to set and said “When can I meet the alien?” I said, “He's not here today.”


      Eric Vespe: I assume with a movie like this you still need a couple names to be involved to get the greenlight. I'm not sure the exact progeny of you guys casting this movie...


      Andrew Form: We can give it to you.


      Brad Fuller: It's super boring.


      Eric Vespe: Well, then maybe the quick version, then.


      Brad Fuller: It's boring because there were four names on the list and one of them was John.

      Andrew Form: John had just done 13 Hours with Michael, so he was in our family. We were prepping Jack Ryan. We bought the script and sold it to Paramount. We called John and said, “Would you do a genre film?” He said, “Yeah, of course.” We sent him the script to play the role of the dad, Lee. He called us back and said “I'll play Lee, but I want to rewrite and direct this.” An hour later, after hearing everything he wanted to do with the movie, we were like “Let's go! That's exactly the movie we wanted to make.”


      So, he signed up and started working on the script. He was our director. He flew in from New York to have a meeting at Paramount with us, to talk about the script and stuff, and while on the lot he said to us “Emily wants to be in the movie. She wants to play the wife.”


      Eric Vespe: When you hear that Emily Blunt wants to be the co-lead of your movie do you go “Okay, cool. This movie's actually going to happen now.”


      Brad Fuller: Yes. Some version of that.


      Andrew Form: He kinda snuck it up on us, too. We were just kinda walking and he was like “Oh, by the way, guys...” We were like “What?!?” And Noah Jupe was in Suburbicon and John had a relationship with George Clooney, so we looked over at him and (Millicent Simmonds) was in Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck and that was it. There was no one else we went to. It was just those four people. There were no auditions. That was it.


      Eric Vespe: Well, thanks for talking with me. Good luck with the movie!


      WireAP_98de196929f74bc4bf51bf8e55a592db_



      A Quiet Place opens April 6th! Everybody go watch it unless you don't like good things, then you can skip it. Bring a change of pants, though. You'll need it. 

    • This is why we haven't gotten a Friday the 13th film in almost 10 years...

      4 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      It has been almost 10 years since we've gotten a Friday the 13th movie. That famous horror franchise was last seen onscreen during the reboot craze of the late aughts when Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes rebooted it in 2009. Fans dug the movie. Its modest sub-$20 million budget was nearly quintupled at the box office. You'd think that by now we'd be three or four Jason movies deep in this new iteration of the popular franchise.


      So, what gives?


      I was able to sit down with Platinum Dunes producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller when they came through town showing A Quiet Place, which was the opening night movie of SXSW and, being an '80s kid that grew up with Jason Voorhees, I couldn't help but ask them to wade through the complicated legal tangle that is the rights situation surrounding this particular series.


      I'm going to reprint that section of the interview here and then I'll be back to talk through a few things. Let's see what Fuller and Form have to say:



      Premiere+Warner+Bros+Friday+13th+Arrival




      Eric Vespe: Can you guys help me understand why we're not three movies deep in the new run of Friday the 13th movies? Your reboot was good and it made a ton of money. Can you explain what's going on with the franchise?


      Andrew Form: It's so sad. I'm sure the world knows, but we were four weeks from filming in Atlanta with Breck Eisner (The Crazies). We were there and the movie got shut down.


      Brad Fuller: We never got a clear answer from Paramount as to why that movie got shut down. I think at the end of the day that administration, which is no longer there, didn't see horror as a viable part of what they were doing. Also they were coming off of Rings and that didn't help.


      For studio heads who are not fans of horror there's not a tremendous amount of glory in it other than the financial. A lot of these studios want to make big movies with big movie stars and that administration could never get excited about it. I think the rights now have reverted back to New Line.


      Andrew Form: Or Victor Miller.


      Brad Fuller: There's a Victor Miller element, too. There's a lawsuit with Victor Miller. I don't know anything about that, but I'll say to you, I'll say to anyone we would love nothing more than to make another Friday the 13th movie.


      Andrew Form: We were right there. We had Crystal Lake. We had the camp. The location was amazing.


      Brad Fuller: It was such a bummer.


      Eric Vespe: Were you bringing Derek Mears back as Jason?


      Andrew Form: No, because we were going way back. We were going to the '70s.


      Brad Fuller: We would have put Derek in the movie (somewhere) anyway because we love him so much.


      Eric Vespe: He's one of the nicest dudes I've ever met.


      Andrew Form: Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) wrote such a great script. It was what we thought the community would really want. It was such a bummer when that one didn't go.


      Eric Vespe: It seems to me like it's a no-brainer. There's a reason why they pumped one out every year in the '80s. They were printing money.


      Andrew Form: And now you see the hype coming out with the new Halloween movie. I think everybody's now going “Oh, my God. Why didn't we make that new Friday the 13th movie?” The Stephen King movies are getting hot, the IP is still strong, R-rated horror is what's happening. I mean, look at IT being over $700 million worldwide. Right now it's not happening, but we just hope one day that we can get the call that says the rights are figured out, let's go make Friday.


      Eric Vespe: So it really is just a question of rights at this point?


      Brad Fuller: That's all it is.


      Andrew Form: I believe if the rights were clear we'd be shooting the movie.


      Brad Fuller: We would have shot the movie!


      Eric Vespe: Not to make this all about Friday the 13th, but...


      Andrew Form: No, listen, we'll talk about Friday the 13th all day!


      Eric Vespe: (laughs) The beauty of the Friday the 13th series is that all the audience wants from it is fun. That allows for so much freedom in being able to make something without it being crazy expensive.


      Brad Fuller: And we're just the guys to do that!


      Andrew Form: We had so much fun making the last one!


      Brad Fuller: We're not keeping anything from you. This is the first conversation we've had about Friday the 13th in months and when we do talk about it we get sad and we start to cry.


      Andrew Form: But you know, as more and more horror movies work, and Paramount's loving A Quiet Place right now, we're going to keep pushing to get Friday the 13th back. We have to. For us going to Crystal Lake would be so much fun.


      Brad Fuller: We just don't know who's going to make the movie.


      Andrew Form: Is it Warner Bros? Is it Paramount?


      Brad Fuller: It's a complicated jumble, but I have looked into it. I think it's New Line. The rights have expired, or they expire next month, and they revert back to New Line, I think.


      Andrew Form: But there's still an issue with the Victor Miller lawsuit.


      Brad Fuller: Right, and I don't think anyone will touch it until that gets figured out.


      Andrew Form: Yeah, that has to get figured out. It's just too hard with that litigation out there.


      Brad Fuller: Looming litigation does not help movies get made. (laughs)


      Andrew Form: No, it sure doesn't. Not big, high profile IP.



      Friday-the-13th.jpg




      Let's examine what they said. The short answer is there's a rights confusion compounded with a looming lawsuit by Victor Miller, who wrote the very first Friday the 13th and has a story by credit alongside Sean S. Cunningham.


      The rights issue is understandable. Friday the 13th started at Paramount, but then New Line bought the rights when interest in Jason Voorhees was waning. They took over the franchise with Jason Goes To Hell, tried the parody route with Jason X (aka Jason in Space) and then nothing until Freddy Vs. Jason finally made it to screen.


      Paramount got involved again with the 2009 remake, sharing a presenting credit with New Line, and, as the producers say above, it looks like New Line is about to get full rights back, most likely because Paramount hasn't done anything with the franchise.


      That leaves the Victor Miller lawsuit. Miller is suing for the ability to terminate and grant rights to further movies using a provision of the copyright law that allows original authors such power over their stories and characters. The only problem with that is the current rights holders say Miller was “work for hire” which means that provision does not apply to him.


      No studio, even with a clear chain of title, will move forward with a new Friday the 13th movie if it's possible this lawsuit could mean the resulting film doesn't see release. Why take the risk and pay for a movie only to have it sit on a shelf should Miller win his lawsuit?


      I've also been hearing that so many of the still valid deals involving any future Friday movies have tons of strings attached, that people like Sean Cunningham and Michael Bay get a significant cut of all profits whether they are directly involved or not, which is another deterrent for studios to invest money into something knowing they have to hit an even bigger benchmark to break even.


      At the end of the day, if it becomes clear who is legally in control of this property it'll all come down to math. These movies are cheap to make and are wildly popular. If the studios can make money on them they will, but hopefully this gives you an idea of why these films aren't happening.



      jason1.jpg



      Keep an eye out early next week for my full interview with Form and Fuller which also covers how they helped John Krasinski bring the legitimately scary and awesome A Quiet Place to the big screen!

    • Chris Evans confirms he's hanging up Cap's shield after Avengers 4

      4 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      It's a sad day for fans of the MCU. We all knew that Chris Evans' multi-picture contract was up after these next two Avengers movies, but there was hope that Disney would back up the money truck to his front door and he'd renegotiate for another deal.


      Sadly it seems like Evans is ready to walk away for real. In a profile in The New York Times Evans confirms Avengers 4 will be his last outing as Captain America and the upcoming reshoots for it will be his last time strapping on the red, white and blue suit. Specifically he said it was better to "get off the train before they push you off." 



      chris-evans-captain-america.png



      It is possible this is partly about negotiating his new contract in the press and we'll get a surprise announcement later on down the line, but it feels like he's serious to me. 


      He's been experimenting with different things lately, from directing to appearing on Broadway, so it's never really felt like being an Avenger was all Evans had. At this point I'm sure he's rich enough to ignore the money truck as well.


      No, it feels like he's ready to go and Marvel will miss him, but I'm sure they won't miss the millions per picture they'd have to pay to keep him around. 


      Plus, this is a comic book series after all. Even if they kill him off in the fight against Thanos we can always see him popping up in 5 years as a surprise return. Steve Rogers Returns! would be a pretty epic MCU gotcha moment.


      I guess we'll see how all this plays out in the two-parter Avengers flicks. It's a safe bet either Bucky or Falcon will take up the shield no matter how Cap decides to bow out. It won't be the same, but I'd rather see Evans walk away on his own terms than start phoning it in, miserable that he's still tied to a character he doesn't want to play anymore. Cap's greatest strength is his big ol' heart, after all. Without that he's just a dope in a patriotic suit.

    • The newest Deadpool 2 trailer is filled with vulgarity, decapitations and our first real look at X-Force!

      4 weeks ago

      ericvespe

      The Deadpool 2 marketing has been killing it and this latest trailer is no exception. There are so many great things to spot, the fourth wall is broken multiple times and we get a surprising amount of footage and info about the forming of X-Force.


      I had no idea Bill "Pennywise" Skarsgard was in the group before now, but the fact that Terry Crews is in this universe makes me smile so, so, so much. I can't wait to see him interact with Ryan Reynolds. 


      Anyway, kids put on your earmuffs... the rest of you enjoy this gleefully R-rated Deadpool 2 trailer! 




    • SXSW Review: Bad News Bears-ish Drama ALL SQUARE Is One of the Festival's Biggest Pleasant Surprises

      1 month ago

      ericvespe

      Hey, everybody. I have a few more SXSW reviews I wanted to get out there before all the details fade from memory (I am very old). One of the more pleasant surprises of the fest was a little indie called All Square.



      maxresdefault.jpg



      I swear to God I couldn't remember that title for the life of me. People would ask me what I was looking forward to and I'd be like “All... In? All That? Fuck, what's that Michael Kelly movie called?” All Square might not be the most memorable title, but it's apt for a movie about a small town bookie who bonds with a little leaguer and then figures out he can make a fortune taking bets on his games.


      What's great about this set up, beyond the obvious Bad News Bears comparisons, is that it gives a fantastic character actor the chance to lead a picture. This was a lot more common in the artistic studio system of the 1970s, but very rarely happens these days. For instance, how many movies does Steve Buscemi get to star in?


      The great character actor here is a dude named Michael Kelly. You probably know him best as Kevin Spacey's righthand man, Doug Stamper, in House of Cards. His character here is a nice guy bookie in a tiny town who's barely able to scrape by, mostly because he refuses to strong arm the people who owe him money. He takes his sports betting seriously, but he's stuck. This isn't his passion, it's something he inherited from his cantankerous father (Harris Yulin, another great character actor who you might remember as the Judge in Ghostbusters II) and suddenly he turns around and he's deep in middle age.


      After hooking up with an old high school girlfriend he finds himself in the company of her young son, Brian, played by Jesse Ray Sheps and is just as shocked as we are that he actually bonds with this kid. He's still a gruff asshole who is in no way a great role model, but there's a connection there.


      Some of it has to do with his personal history with baseball. Before Kelly became a bookie his passion was baseball. He had a hell of an arm and now he sees this kid struggling in the local little league and can't help but want to give the kid a few pointers.


      While doing this positive thing he notices that there's an untapped betting market at these little league games and figures, correctly, that parents will bet with their hearts, not their heads, laying money on their kids no matter how shitty they are at the game.


      The movie works because of the relationship between Kelly and Sheps. I wish there was a little more of them together (it takes a little while to get them together), but that's a small complaint for a movie as charming and well-made as this one.


      All Square is the kind of movie I go to film festivals to find. I doubt this one would have appeared on my radar if I wasn't combing through the festival schedule and bingo, it turns out to be right up my alley.


      Interesting sidenote: This is produced by Lisa Simpson herself, Ms. Yeardley Smith, who also pops up in a cameo part. It's always a pleasure to see her face in a movie, but that could be my irrational love of Stephen King's bizarre '80s trash gem Maximum Overdrive showing.


      I'm not sure if All Square has distribution yet, but I hope it finds a good home soon. It's a damn good movie.

    • SXSW Review: Blockers - A Surprisingly Progressive Teen Sex Comedy

      1 month ago

      ericvespe

      Crazy Universal comedies have become a cornerstone of SXSW. They've premiered a ton of Apatow stuff, sometimes in rough cut form, like Neighbors and Trainwreck and non-Apatow goodness like MacGruber, which is still one of my personal all-time favorites. It's expected now and this year was no different.


      The palette cleansing big studio broad comedy on offer this year was Blockers, an atypical take on the “losing our virginity pact” type teen sex romp that focuses on the parents of the kids doing everything in their power to keep their daughters from giving it up on prom night.



      Blockers-movie-poster.jpg



      If that sounds like it could be awfully misogynistic... well, you're not wrong. On paper that could be the most unwoke premise ever, but this film does something very interesting: it's told from a female point of view. Both the parent and teenager plotlines are female-centric. Leslie Mann leads the parents and all the teenagers are young women in full control of their first sexual experiences. It helps that the director is Kay Cannon so you don't get a dude in there fetishizing the young women or making their partners gross. Every sexual encounter in the movie is actually incredibly respectful, which is something I didn't expect. The boyfriends aren't creepy horndog bros, but actual partners. Yes, they're excited to have sex, but they're never pushy or manipulative.


      Once the parents catch wind of their daughters' plan they do everything they can to stop them. Smartly the writers give each parent a different reason beyond “I gotta protect my little girl's innocence!” For Leslie Mann this represents a final move into adulthood that takes her little girl away from her forever. For John Cena there's a mixture of seeing this as a reckless decision that could impact his daughter's training and the fact that he just straight up hates her stoner boyfriend. For Ike Barinholtz he's trying to stop his (obviously) closeted gay daughter from bowing to peer pressure and having her first sexual encounter be with a boy she's not attracted to.


      It's a very progressive movie... in which John Cena chugs a beer with his asshole. 



      blockers.jpg


      I have to admire that mixture of wokeness and absurdity even if the movie itself is pretty uneven. All the characters are enjoyable and I dig the set up, so I'd definitely recommend catching this at a matinee or, at the very least, when it hits streaming services, but it's not one you have to rush out and see.


      Although I will say that John Cena continues to prove that he's got a knack for comedy. He's such a big, goofy lughead in this movie and he plays that for all its worth. Barinholtz is also very strong, playing his crass dummy persona with a surprising amount of heart. Mann is always great to watch onscreen and she's on point here. Also watch out for a funny, if all too brief, turn from Hannibal Buress.


      Outside of the refreshingly progressive foundation it's a pretty by the numbers R-rated comedy. Blockers is never boring, thanks mostly to the earnestness of all the actors involved, but you've seen this movie before and it hits all the notes you expect. Although unlike most R-rated comedies you don't get gratuitous Gary Cole schlong, so there is that.


      So, yeah. This one should surprise you, even if it doesn't blow your hair back. The plot is well worn, but the point of view is fresh. I'd love to see this level of thought and inclusiveness become the norm in all of cinema, even the dick and fart joke comedies. Especially in the dick and fart joke comedies.  

    • SXSW Review: Sparse Sci-Fi Flick PROSPECT Delivers Tension And Great Performances

      1 month ago

      ericvespe

      One of the more pleasant surprises of this SXSW was a little intimate grounded sci-fi film called PROSPECT. It's a simple story told exceptionally well. We follow a teenage girl and her father trying to strike it rich prospecting for gems on an alien planet before their ship home leaves them stranded.



      prospect_poster_web.jpg



      Everything that can go wrong goes wrong (of course), from faulty equipment to run-ins with murderous plunderers, all while the window for getting off the planet shrinks.


      Prospect is one of those smaller movies with a big scale that really lets you soak up the production design and cinematography in lieu of big action sequences or constant VFX landscape shots. The movie I kept hearing it compared to around the fest was Moon. It's a radically different kind of movie, but in terms of tone that's not too far off.


      Writer/Directors Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl put the plot focus squarely on character as they slowly dial up the tension on our heroine, who is portrayed as smart and good-hearted, but not perfect. Not every plan of hers works out, she's not immune to the pressures and the seeming hopelessness of her situation.


      Sophie Thatcher plays Cee and acts her ass off, through a domed space helmet for, like, 90% of her screen time. She's put in a rather interesting situation that pairs her with someone she's not a fan of, to put it bluntly, and has to depend on a devious, murderous rogue named Ezra, played by Game of Thrones and Kingsman 2's Pedro Pascal.



      Prospect-Main.jpg


      Ezra's the kind of dude that would sell his mother if it got him the edge in a tough situation. He's not to be trusted and Cee knows this, but doesn't have much of a choice. On a planet where the environment is deadly and desperate mercs comb the alien landscape sometimes strange bedfellows have to be made and you can't get much stranger than these two.


      That's where the real kernel of greatness is in this movie. Pairing two people who don't trust each other together in a hostile environment and forcing them to depend on each other to survive is a great dynamic and both actors knock it out of the park.


      The pacing is a little... deliberate and I'm sure the more OCD among us will have a little trouble hanging with the movie, but I was riveted the whole way through because there was always something to hold my attention, whether it was marveling at the costumes and production design or being sucked into the character dynamics unfolding as the clock ticked down.


      Caldwell and Earl show a talent for worldbuilding here. They don't dump a ton of exposition on you, instead letting the characters' actions tell you everything you need to know about the reality of this sci-fi future. They sprinkle just enough otherworldly weirdness into the visuals that it doesn't look like they just slapped a yellow filter on the camera and went into the woods to shoot, somehow striking that balance of recognizable and absolutely alien that gives us a grounded reality that doesn't look like some Sy-Fy Channel reject.


      I very much dug this one. Not sure when everybody will have a chance to see it, but it's too good to fall through the cracks. When it comes time make sure to check it out.

    • Ready Player One Is A Damn Blast!

      1 month ago

      ericvespe

      Forgive me if this review feels a bit jumbled and ramble-y, but it's 3:30am as I sit down to write it. I have a screening I have to leave for in about 5 hours, but I'm honestly still amped up after having seen Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One.



      ready-player-one-poster_large.jpg




      Right up front, this was the very first public screening of the movie, which was held during SXSW at the Paramount, a giant movie palace (balcony, paintings on the ceiling and everything) with the majority of the cast and Steven Spielberg himself present. The audience was electric, super into it buzzing even before the film started. There is no way this film has a better audience experience. There was cheering after the action scenes, roaring laughter at some of the jokes, pointing fingers constantly entering your periphery as different people noticed different iconic vehicles/characters/designs.


      All that stuff is infectious, so it has to be said that it could influence an opinion. Now you know the setting.


      My quick history with Ready Player One: I read the book once, right before it was published. I knew Ernie Cline a bit. He was in my extended circle. We all camped out for Episode 1 together. I sat down to read the book thinking I'd give it a chapter or two and pat him on the back, tell him I'd started it and good job or whatever. I was on an international flight when I started reading and when I looked up the flight was almost over and I had finished the book. It's a very fast read and compels you to keep going. It was a pulpy adventure success and I was happy for Ernie, but I honestly didn't think much more of it. Until Steven Spielberg got involved.


      You never count out Steven Spielberg. The man is a master filmmaker and even when he strikes out he at least swings big. By just about any measure I'm an easy mark here. He's my favorite filmmaker taking a stab at one of the geekiest things ever written.


      The thing is, Spielberg's a bigger geek than you are. No shit. He was a gamer before there was a word for it. At a core level he understands the appeal of the Oasis, the central online gaming reality the story revolves around, and he just happens to also be one of our most visually inventive filmmakers to boot.


      Some of the early marketing was off-putting to me. It felt like CG spectacle and I didn't get any sense of the characters, but I kept telling people openly mocking it that you discount Spielberg at your peril. And it turned out I was right.


      For those who don't know the world, Ready Player One is about a poor kid who lives in a future world that's not quite apocalyptic, but super shitty and drab. The one escape isn't movies or TV or reading... it's gaming, thanks to a system called OASIS, which is essentially the internet, but a video game. Everything you could possibly imagine is there. You can create any identity you want, play any kind of game you want, go anywhere you want. It's not quite real, but it's not too far off, either.



      ready-player-one.jpg?



      Because it's a world of unlimited possibilities just about every pop culture character can be found in there. You like Overwatch or Halo or Nightmare on Elm Street or Iron Giant or Batman or Back to the Future or He-Man or Gremlins or a million other things? You can choose that as your avatar. Or you can be something wholly original. The one thing nobody is is themselves.


      Our hero, Wade Watts, is fascinated by the man who created it all, the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of the Oasis, a socially awkward (and sadly deceased) genius named James Halliday who, in true Willy Wonka fashion, left a series of challenges within his huge gamescape that, if solved correctly, will lead to a hidden easter egg, which grants the winner complete ownership of OASIS. This isn't like someone getting to own a big game franchise. It's not even like someone getting to own Sony or Microsoft. Everybody is plugged in. This place has its own currency. This is like someone getting to own the internet itself.


      Naturally there are powerful corporate interests that want to own this for themselves and they want to pump it full of ads and pay to play features... they essentially want to revoke net neutrality and take humanity one step closer to a dystopian, corporate controlled reality.


      The key to solving these puzzles is to understand the creator and what he was obsessed with. Halliday was a child of the '80s, so his nerdy obsessions are rife with pop culture references and hints, but underneath it all there's a story of a sad, lonely man. Yes, there's a trillion things to dig in a nostalgic way, but what Spielberg does so well is build the world and the characters within it that you're invested in them.


      Much of the book is changed in this adaptation, but the breakneck pacing, sense of high adventure and huge beating heart are still there. Spielberg's sense of geography and ability to construct pulse-pounding action scenes is still as sharp as ever.


      There will be some that will write this off as a nostalgia trip and conveniently overlook how ingrained in the actual plot and character all the references are. This isn't a movie where you need to know everything on screen. I didn't know everything I saw, and I'm pretty fuckin' nerdy! All you have to be is invested in the characters and be willing to go for a ride. If you can then you're going to find yourself having a ton of fun.


      In Ready Player One Spielberg gave us one of the geekiest films ever made. It's certainly the geekiest film he's ever made, and that's saying something.


      I wish I could be a little more critical of it. There were a few moments that don't work and some over-explaining that happens in a few scenes, but I had the goofiest grin on my face the entire runtime of this movie and I'm still smiling. I'm sitting here, dog-tired with a big day of interviews and movie-watching coming up and I'm still smiling like a frickin' doofus over this movie.


      It's just flat out fun. This will be a litmus test movie. We might be able to get along if you don't like this movie, but we're never going to be good friends. If you can't enjoy something that wants to make you happy so earnestly then I don't know if it's going to work out between us. Sorry, bud.


      Again, consider that I saw this in possibly the best setting ever and I'm just about exactly the target audience for this movie, but goddamn did it make me happy.  


      I might come back with a few more coherent (and not sleep-deprived) thoughts later, but this is where I'm at hours after the experience. 

    • SXSW Review: John Krasinski's Very Scary 'A Quiet Place'!

      1 month ago

      ericvespe

      A Quiet Place does something pretty incredible. It takes what could be an arty, lofty uber-indie premise and somehow retains the freshness of those kinds of movies but does it in a wholly commercial way.


      I've seen dozens of these kinds of movies at film festivals. It Comes At Night jumps to mind. They're usually focused on a dysfunctional family isolated in the country after a plague/invasion/zombie apocalypse/whatever. It's a typical indie premise because it's cheap. You just need a handful of actors, go rent out a farm somewhere for a couple weeks and then depend on atmosphere and mystery instead of showing the very expensive threat. These movies usually bring the mood, but not the payoff. A Quiet Place brings both.



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      The movie takes place in the near future (I believe it's 2020) and we begin with a family very quietly looking for medicine for their sick son in an abandoned drug store. They sign to each other, tiptoe around in bare feet and act like anything that could possibly make a sound is a live bomb.


      We come to discover that there are deadly creatures that are fast, heavily armored, blind and very, very hungry. Within a matter of months these creatures have reduced humanity's population to almost nothing. Although it's not explicitly stated I assume the family at the center of this story survived the initial onslaught because they've all learned sign language to communicate with their deaf daughter and just happened to be quieter at the right moment.


      Also left mysterious is where these things came from. Are they aliens? Mutations? Science experiments gone wrong? It doesn't matter. They just are. The fact that the movie doesn't try to over-explain the threat is one of the reasons it works so well.


      In fact the only time the film falters at all is when it yells to the cheap seats really early on by throwing a ton of exposition on a white board surrounded by dozens of newspaper headlines with headlines like “IT'S SOUND!!!” It's the only time I was taken out of the movie, where I felt the filmmakers telling me something instead of showing it to me.


      But for the most part the movie establishes its rules through action and doesn't break them. I'd wager a good 80% or more of the movie is without dialogue, characters either communicating with looks or subtitled sign language. That's the little bit of the indie spirit I mentioned. How many wide-release studio movies do you know that have so little characters speaking? The story is practically designed to show and not tell.


      It being a thriller also means they can weaponize their sound. Yes, there's tons of jump scares, but they don't feel cheap. In a film where any sound could mean death any sudden sound is going to be a stinger by sheer fact that the movie hangs on the premise that everybody has to be as quiet as possible.



      hero_A-Quiet-Place-2018.jpg



      In fact I found while watching it that I was clocking my own noises. I was conscious of any noise I was making... from a sniffle to a laugh to small throat clearing. I was so into the story that I was worried I myself was going to make a noise loud enough to bring hell down on this family, who I genuinely cared about.


      That's the film's other great strength: you do care about these people and the fact that they're all so clearly established without multiple conversation scenes is a testament to how disciplined the writing and directing is. The characters make intelligent decisions, but are still human, fearful, in pain, emotional. Cinematically the film is a knockout, with gorgeous photography, great production design (minus that exposition white board I hate so much, of course), and incredible effects from ILM. Emotionally the actors all sell their characters so you actually care when they're in danger.


      Perhaps the very real love and history of caring for each other helps us buy John Krasinski and Emily Blunt's relationship. That wouldn't surprise me, but I wouldn't take away from what they pull off here by attributing it solely to a comfortability between the two. The kids, Millicent Simmonds (from Wonderstruck) and Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) are equally fantastic. Simmonds wrestles with anger and a guilt while Jupe is trying to keep his terror under control. She's the stronger one, but he's the one that can see their troubled family for what it is. Maybe that's why he's so scared because he knows the love that is there and he doesn't want to lose it.


      In short, the movie is smart without being up its own ass, scary without betraying its emotional core, and it pulls you into the world, which is kind of why movies exist in the first place. Fresh, fun, scary. This is a big, big recommend for me. Thankfully you don't have to wait to long to see it since it hits theaters April 6th.



      Emily-Blunt-in-A-Quiet-Place-2018.jpg

    • The New Terminator Film Ignores Everything That Happened After Terminator 2, Adds Mackenzie Davis to Cast

      1 month ago

      ericvespe

      terminator2-schwarzenegger-redeye-damage



      They're going to keep taking a stab at Terminator into they finally make another good one. As cynical as I want to be about yet another Terminator movie there's something interesting about this one. 


      For one, James Cameron is back in a creative capacity. He helped break the script and will be godfathering this project along for director Tim Miller (who last directed the first Deadpool). That's good news. 


      Schwarzenegger will be returning and so will Linda Hamilton, who is coming back as Sarah Connor and the story will ignore all Terminator movies past T2. (Sorry Edward Furlong, seems like you're shit outta luck).


      This is a tact becoming more and more popular with these large, often convoluted giant franchises. Halloween is doing that and for a hot minute the Alien franchise was going to do the same thing with Neill Blomkamp at the helm before that got scrapped for Ridley Scott to keep making his weird prequels.


      Variety just reported that Mackenzie Davis has been cast as the first new face for this attempt at rebooting the Terminator franchise, potentially as the new threat. Apparently the producers are still on the hunt for the film's new protagonist that will likely take the torch from Hamilton.


      Davis is awesome. She was the co-lead of Black Mirror's best episode (San Junipero, of course) and turns in an energetic performance in Jason Reitman's upcoming Tully. I don't know if I quite buy her as a threat, but we'll see how this new movie uses her.


      The new Terminator has a release date of July 26th, 2019 and according to Schwarzenegger starts shooting very soon. 


      Count me as cautious, but optimistic on this one.

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