Paul Laverty & “The Angels’ Share”

File:The-Angels-Share-poster.pngI recently interviewed Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty about his latest film, The Angels’ Share, a story about a group of petty criminals who decide to steal a cask of valuable whisky. I met Laverty at the Liberty Hotel, a former jail that is now a lavish hotel. Now, the multiple levels of prisoner cells circling the outside of the round lobby have been transformed into areas for guests to relax, have a drink, and observe the main floor. The hotel owners wanted to embrace their historic building’s past, as is evident by the vestiges of jail cells in their upscale restaurant and the massive black tiered chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

I interviewed Laverty on the second floor “catwalk”, where he was trying to quickly eat lunch. He was incredibly charming and kind, apologizing and offering me the second half of his sandwich and some sweet potato fries. Laverty’s friendly demeanor made it apparent that I was interviewing the right man, because it reminded me of the light-hearted, sweet tone of his film.

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Mud poster.jpgIf you read my previous article released this week, you know I am a huge fan of up and coming director Jeff Nichols. He got my attention with his directorial debut Shotgun Stories and then absolutely blew me away with his follow up Take Shelter. His films are much like onions; he layers and layers his them, giving audiences the ability to peel each one back and discover what lies in store. His stories are just as emotionally heartfelt and complex as they are thrilling, and his characters are so well crafted that every single line spoken or action taken happens for a reason and gives the character more depth and connection to the viewer. When it was announced that Nichols’ new film Mud was finally getting a theatrical release almost a year after its premiere at Cannes, I was genuinely ecstatic to see if Nichols could continue his success. Simply put, Mud is easily one of the most emotionally gripping films of the year and one you should definitely not miss.

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“Pain & Gain”

Pain & Gain film poster.jpgThe American Dream is far from a new concept. The notion that perseverance, hard work, and determination can lead to success has been a mainstay in American culture for almost a century now. It’s an idea that remains ingrained in our brains and continues to be an ideal for people to strive for in our ever-changing world. However, while the American Dream is meant to inspire and encourage, that doesn’t stop misguided people from skewing and misunderstanding its intentions, from using the American Dream as justification for horrendous actions. Such people are the focus of Michael Bay’s new film, Pain & Gain, the true story of three bodybuilders who resort to kidnapping and extortion in order to make it big in the good ole’ U.S.of.A. While the story at the core of the film is quite fascinating, it unfortunately falls into the hands of Michael Bay, famous for his explosion-filled, intellect-free Transformers franchise (don’t get me wrong I enjoy the Transformer films, well the first one anyway, but they aren’t exactly highbrow stuff). Rather than give the story the weight and seriousness it deserves, Bay instead is content to make a cartoony film that suffers from his typical excessive direction, an uneven tone, and a bloated running time.

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“At Any Price”

At Any Price poster.jpgIn a little under a decade, director Ramin Bahrani has become one of America’s brightest and most emotional independent filmmakers. By focusing on the lives of everyday commoners – be it a Manhattan food cart owner in Man Push Cart (2005) or a 12 year old street orphan working with automobiles in Chop Shop (2007) – Bahrani’s films tap into a raw human nerve by detailing the highs and lows that go with striving for, achieving, and/or failing to attain the “American Dream”. His latest effort, At Any Price, starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, follows a similar path; though the story of a contract farmer and his racecar driving son could’ve been bogged down by all the local jargon, Bahrani elevates the material and the stakes by delivering a movie about fathers and sons and the dreams that bring them together and tear them apart. Following in the footsteps of the similarly themed The Place Beyond The Pines, Bahrani’s At Any Price is yet another 2013 independent winner.

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In Defense Of Michael Bay

Michael Bay is an anomaly.

The guy is consistently knocked as an amateur. Critics use every new movie of his to bash him to smithereens; they warn audiences against going to see his cruddy, brainless films. Film enthusiasts scratch their heads at why studios back such senseless garbage, and audiences roll their eyes just as much at a “from director Michael Bay” trailer stamp as they do when they see the phrase, “directed by M. Night Shyamalan.” The guy has become a punchline (see Entourage Season 3), the hack of all hacks, and the soup de jour of bombastic, music video-inspired cinema stylists. The guy might as well get “style over substance” tattooed on his chest. And yet, he keeps getting attached to projects, keeps making movies, and, most importantly, keeps MAKING MONEY. Why? Because YOU keep going to the movies and dropping $12 on his next big blockbuster. That’s the mother fucking truth, Ruth.

And it is here that I must come clean with you readers.

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Jeff Nichols: The Next Great Director

It’s rare for Hollywood directors to spend their entire careers without making a subpar film. While some directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and, more-recently, Ben Affleck have managed to keep their directorial careers relatively free of blemishes, these talents are few and far between. Even the most well-known and accomplished directors, such as Spielberg and Scorsese, are responsible for some pretty underwhelming cinematic experiences (War Horse, anyone?). Though he only has 3 features under his belt, the relatively unknown Jeff Nichols has stayed clear of any critical misfires thus far, and this weekend’s Mud is yet another masterpiece from a director who has exploded onto the Hollywood scene in the past couple of years. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in December of 1978, Nichols studied filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. With a filmography already filled with masterpieces and no signs of stopping anytime soon, many beg the question: Is this guy the next great director? We’re putting all our cards on the table and answering, “YES”!

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Trailer Reaction: “Thor: The Dark World”

Thor - The Dark World poster.jpgMarvel pretty much shocked the entire world when The Avengers shattered the opening weekend record with an out-of-this-world $207 million and went on to gross $623 million domestically and over $1 billion internationally. Clearly, Marvel’s plan to create a superhero universe across five different films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America) paid off in spades, but can the studio do it again with Phase 2? While many are looking closely at May 3rd’s Iron Man 3 to see if the studio can defy the one-hit-wonder train, we’re looking more closely at November 8th when Marvel drops Thor: The Dark World, a trailer for which was just released yesterday. Since Iron Man is an established blockbuster franchise, boffo success should be coming quick and easy to the threequel this May; Thor: The Dark World however, is a much different story. In Summer 2011, Thor found $181 million at the box office, hardly a loss for Marvel but a gross that pales in comparison to the $300 million made by the Iron Man movies; even this year’s Oz: The Great and Powerful has found more money! The point here is that Thor is not a blockbuster brand individually, and the success of Marvel’s Avengers universe will be riding on whether or not Thor: The Dark World can boost its gross and popularity from the last film now that The Avengers has dominated the world. So can Thor: The Dark World pull through this November? Take a look at the trailer below and judge for yourself:

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