INTERVIEW: Debra Granik, director of Stray Dog

If you don’t think someone fresh off an Oscar nomination would spend five years to follow her critically acclaimed fictional narrative with the first feature-length documentary of her career, you don’t know Debra Granik. When I interviewed her back in 2010 in support of Winter’s Bone, she was already talking about documentary observation as being key to her work. After all, that movie and her debut Down to the Bone both utilized real people from the towns in which she filmed for visual and contextual authenticity. One of those locals—Ronnie…

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REVIEW: Terminator Genisys [2015]

“If there was another way I would have taken it” Much of the success attributed to “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” stems from it using its time travel-centric mythology to erase the franchise’s failures—mainly Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. You’d think Terminator Salvation would have followed suit, but for whatever reason it held onto that sub-par entry if only through the character of Kate Brewster, otherwise known as Mr. Savior of Humanity John Connor’s wife. The real issue, however, was that it also retained a desire for big theatrics…

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REVIEW: Eden [2014]

“Save France with Coke” The rock and roll life has always been filled with temptation no matter what decade. So electronica, house, and garage music’s heyday (has it ended?) of the 90s proves no exception. With its world of DJs and samplers standing at turntables while their audience danced and raved below, however, learning a little bit of the behind the scenes drama couldn’t hurt from building upon its mystique. Unsurprisingly its luminaries possessed the usual copious amount of drugs, sex, and money woes like in every other genre. What…

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REVIEW: Stray Dog [2015]

“It’s veterans helping veterans. Who else do we got?” Five years after writer/director Debra Granik‘s sophomore effort Winter’s Bone earned four Oscars nominations including Best Picture, she returns to the big screen with a documentary spawned from her experience filming in Missouri. Far from a novice to the genre-she lensed a documentary called Thunder in Guyana before making her feature length debut Down to the Bone-it may still seem strange she’d follow an acclaimed work of fiction with an uncensored look at an old Vietnam War vet. But as she’d…

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INTERVIEW: Jalmari Helander, writer/director of Big Game

After finding success from his debut feature Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale—an expansion of a world he created through two previous shorts all released together by Oscilloscope—Finnish writer/director Jalmari Helander did what many European filmmakers do and went English-language for his sophomore effort. But he did so on his terms by once again writing his own script and recruiting familiar faces to act against the newly accessible stable of international stars provided to him. The result is action romp Big Game and it has the potential of turning even more…

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REVIEW: Трудно быть богом [Hard to Be a God] [2014]

“Don’t drink. I only sniff now.” There’s a plot inside Aleksey German‘s final film Трудно быть богом [Hard to Be a God]—an audacious sci-fi epic slinging mud and feces in our faces while everyone onscreen sniffs them like drugs until we’re involuntarily following suit. No really, there is. Well, maybe a lingering vestige of what Arkadiy and Boris Strugatskiy‘s original novel contained that the 74-year old auteur (who’d wanted to adapt it since the 60s before finally completing it after a decade-long production process ultimately ending in his death from…

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REVIEW: Ted 2 [2015]

“Fresh cakes” Something Steve Harvey said on a recent episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” really struck me: “Tragedy strikes. I got news for you—we have the jokes that night. We know that we can’t bring this to the public yet cause we’ll get hammered. But in a room alone, when it’s just us, we have the jokes already ready.” He’s right. If the joke is funny—no matter what the circumstance is—it’s funny. Your finding it offense or “too-soon” isn’t a comment on the joke itself, but on your…

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INTERVIEW: Kris Swanberg, director/cowriter of Unexpected

A hit at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival now getting a limited release from The Film Arcade, Unexpected proves a welcome breath of fresh air for stories dealing with pregnancy against the usual romantic comedy fare usurping the plot point for cheap laughs. Director/cowriter Kris Swanberg utilized her own experiences as a mom and from teaching within the Chicago Public School system as a basis for her look at a teacher and student bonding over their shared nine-month journeys to motherhood. Steeped in reality and performed with authenticity by a…

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REVIEW: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [2003]

“Anger is more useful than despair” There’s one great moment in Jonathan Mostow‘s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: its end. I’m not being snarky in some jokey “because it was finally over” kind of way either. It is legitimately good. Half twist, half bittersweet salvation in the face of apocalyptic nightmare where a hero is finally born. The series has been working towards this revelation for two decades by this point; reaching the moment when the future we’ve seen of a world covered in skulls and metal is about…

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REVIEW: Unexpected [2015]

“I don’t know what’s going on with the bananas at Trader Joe’s right now” Yes Kris Swanberg‘s Unexpected revolves around two surprise pregnancies and the mothers-to-be reacting to brand new futures set before them. However, it doesn’t use that premise to build a tower of clichés for us to watch topple to the ground in tragedy or remain erect via zany shenanigans like so many other films utilizing pregnancy as a plot device before it. Instead Swanberg and cowriter Megan Mercier take pains to deliver this unpredictable, anxious, and highly…

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INTERVIEW: David Gordon Green, director of Manglehorn

In the six years between Snow Angels and Prince Avalanche, writer/director David Gordon Green became a collaborator on a string of comedies of which he was not credited as a writer. In the two years since he’s utilized that process with drama Joe and now Manglehorn. He’s said in other interviews that it’s a way for him to have multiple projects going at once, passing ideas onto others to see what develops into something he wishes to pursue and what doesn’t. And as he tells us below, it also allows…

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