As we roll into Autumn, we get some of the weightier subjects and programming arriving. Here’s our thought on some recent releases worth your attention.
THIS IS PARIS (YOUTUBE)
This one was a pleasant surprise! Free to view for all right now on YouTube is this compelling look at Paris Hilton, known best as “the original influencer” and tabloid staple in the early 2000s, occupying much of our attentions whether we wanted it or not. Director Alexandra Dean really gets intimate with Hilton as for the first time ever, the Socialite discussed some past emotional trauma she had in solitary confinement as a rebellious teenager. Above this, she discusses her public persona and the character she has crafted. We’ve always known there’s a deeper layer to Hilton and this proves it. She is incredibly hard-working, tired, raw and vulnerable here and one cannot help but feel for her. A fascinating and eye-opening watch that digs deeper in a way that no others have before with our subject.
Director/Writer Antonio Campos gave us something truly riveting in 2016’s CHRISTINE. He’s back with Jake Gyllenhaal-produced THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, which he co-wrote with brother Paulo, adapting the Novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock. The Film with a copious amount of blood and violence, explores religion and corruption in a small rural American town. The First Act gives us back story behind the Film’s central character Arvin (played both by Tom Holland and Michael Banks Repeta), setting-up a backdrop to a world where violence is a form of justice, co-existing in a world of prayer and repent. Arvin loses his parents at a young age and the Second Act sees an intersection of story lines as we meet Sandy (Riley Keough) and Carl (Jason Clarke) who are in pursuit of male victims to photograph, luring them in with a promise of sex before murdering them. We also meet a crooked Sherriff named Lee (Sebastian Stan) who is in pursuit of Arvin, not knowing the twisted things his brother-in-law and sister are up to. Some fantastic performances including that by Holland and interesting character studies here, even though the Film suffers from some issues with pacing, too many characters and hence, story lines and ultimately saying what it needs to say. That doesn’t mean that the 138 minutes aren’t without some rewarding moments, including Robert Pattinson as a flawed Reverend and Bill Skarsgård as Arvin‘s dad, Willard.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE (Netflix’s YouTube Channel)
This was incredibly-sweet. The Cast of FATHER OF THE BRIDE reunite in 2020 as does Director/Writer Nancy Meyer who helms this Short Film reuniting your favourites once again. Four new Cast additions arrive, played by Florence Pugh, Ben Platt, Alexandra Shipp and Robert De Niro. The video conference-set story takes place current day as the family under caring patriarch George (Steve Martin) and Nina (Diane Keaton) are navigating the Pandemic away from one another. Despite the Short Film taking place over split-screen, Meyers still manages to make this experience feel intimate, as if they family are all in a room together as Matty (Kieran Culkin) has an important announcement to make! Martin particularly is wonderful and you really feel everything he is going through as he goes through a spectrum of emotions. A heartwarming watch which many of us didn’t realize existed before now. There also is a call to donate to WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN, details here. And note, right now you can only see this on Netflix‘s YouTube channel.
ENOLA HOLMES (Netflix)
Based on Nancy Springer‘s popular Young Adult novel series, ENOLA HOLMES is a delightful coming of age Mystery-Thriller which likely will be the first in a Series of Films for Netflix. Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown stars in the titular role as a young woman whom on her 16th birthday finds her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) has disappeared. She is the younger sister of world-renowned Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin), the latter who insists she be sent-off to school against her wishes, to become a lady after Enola had spent her childhood being schooled by her mother. Along the way, she meets Tewkesbery (Louis Partridge), a young man on-the-run while he and Enola learn that his uncle wants him dead. Enola must find her mother, while escaping to clutch of her brother Mycroft and protecting her new friend. Brown is fantastic in the Film’s Lead Role, capturing her character’s essence of youth, rebellion and also possessing that special strength which makes her more than just an average teenage girl. While an at-times whimsical adventure, Director Harry Bradbeer tightens the reins at the right moment, creating suspense and tension which make this a fun watch.
TEHRAN (APPLE TV+)
This was a pleasant surprise! TEHRAN is an Espionage-Thriller Series which centers on Niv Sultan as our protagonist Tamar Rabinyan, a Secret Agent and Computer Hacker who was born in Iran, but raised in Israel. She is on a mission to disable an Iranian nuclear reactor, swapping identities with a worker at the company named Zhilla. Just as she’s about to succeed in her mission, in an act of self defense, Tamar winds up killing Zhilla‘s predatory boss. Things begin to spiral horribly out of control and Tamar finds herself hiding from the Head of Armed Forces in Iran, Faraz Kamali (Shaun Toub) who is determined to find her. As the story unfolds, we see Tamar begin to connect with her lost past. The intense eight-episode Series manages to capture well also the tensions between Israel and Iran through its characters including its central character, giving us deep insight into what it means to be caught between the crossfires.
THE CHEF SHOW – SEASON 2 (NETFLIX)
We honestly adore this Series with Chef Roy Choi and Jon Favreau. Our mouth waters at everything they make and finally we get to see how some of the famous treats at MILK BAR are made with Christina Tosi including their famous Cornflake Cookies, Grasshopper Pie and Chocolate Birthday Truffles! We also learn how elevated twists are made to Italian Wedding Soup, Meatball Lasagne and Spaghetti & Meatballs and more! We enjoy the friendly banter which never feels pretentious and some times we learn a thing or two about the history of dishes. Some of the most educational bits of the Show are where things go wrong and Choi shows us how to overcome.
EMILY IN PARIS (NETFLIX)
Darren Star (Sex and the City) returns with his latest brainchild, EMILY IN PARIS which stars Lily Collins. While travelling to Paris right now might not be an option for many amidst the pandemic, the ten-episode Series sweeps us away in the most timely manner. Emily (Collins) works for an American marketing company which acquires a French marketing firm, and is hired with being the American voice for their Social Media platforms. The stylized Series is gorgeous and borrows elements of Sex and the City including its take on romance and searching for love and of course the fantastic fashion, but also it possesses of that fish-out-of-water perspective on life that helps draw us into Emily‘s new world, clumsily learning the language an in turn, so do we. Emily‘s character navigates some acceptance issues from her colleagues, being “The American” in the office and this propels much of the journey as Emily struggles to find her place amidst all this. Collins is cast perfectly. We foresee more seasons to come!
This Diana Paragas written and directed Musical Drama did the Festival rounds and is set for a limited theatrical release. The Film centers on an undocumented Filipina teen named Rose (Eva Noblezada) from a small town in Texas, who dreams of becoming a Country Music singer. She also must decide between staying with her family or leaving the only home she has ever known. At the center of the YELLOW ROSE is a story about the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter that is truly affecting, while also dealing with a frightening reality for many in America today. Front and center is the talented Noblezada who carries the entire Film on her own navigating Rose‘s youth, but also displaying a wisdom beyond her character’s young age. She excels both in the Film’s Drama and Comedy, and more so the musicality required of her role. Liam Booth as Rose‘s love interest Elliot possesses an organic awkwardness which pairs well with her and the Film’s biggest surprise is Broadway legend Lea Salonga as Rose‘s unlikable aunt, Gail. The timely Film opens our eyes to a reality many are facing today in America and succeeds largely in making a statement, while exploring the world from the view of an outsider hoping so much to find her place in the world. YELLOW ROSE is in select theatres Friday, October 9, 2020.
THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION (Netflix)
Starring, directed and written by Radha Blank, this Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award winning Comedy makes its way to Netflix for us to enjoy. The Film centers around Radha (Blank) who once showed great potential as a Playwright but finds herself struggling and teaching a community class, to a group of snappy young adults. She re-invents herself as a Rapper, RadhaMUSPrime, and with the help of her friend Archie (Peter Kim), sees a play of hers brought to life as a stage production. The Film grapples with what it means to Radha to put out something authentic as a Black Artist, versus something that is expected of her. Along the way, she meets Producer D (first-time Actor Oswin Benjamin) and a romance looms between him and Radha which helps set her on the path to finding herself in her craft. The Comedy is searing and the insults burn, but THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION leaves a mark and we look forward to more from the fresh voice that is Radha Blank.
HUBIE HALLOWEEN (Netflix)
Happy Madison Productions are back and they delivery some goofy, spooky antics in time for Halloween. Make no mistake, HUBIE HALLOWEEN won’t be up for any Awards, but if you’re a fan of Adam Sandler and his zany brand of humour, this might be a worthwhile way to be entertained. Sandler plays Salem’s resident “Halloween Helper” Hubie Dubois (Sandler) often the butt of others’ jokes. After a disappearance takes place, coincidentally of one of Hubie‘s bullies, Hubie finds himself both suspected and in the thick of investigating what happened. Sometimes the answers are closer than you think. The star-studded HUBIE HALLOWEEN is what it is and it means well as Sandler has a knack for tackling these underdog roles and delivering some laugh-out-loud moments along the way.
AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR (Netflix)
Jenny Popplewell directs this concise and riveting Documentary which centers around the murder investigation of Shanann Cathryn Watts and her daughters Bella and Celeste. What makes Popplewell’s storytelling so compelling is the access she had to footage as Watts had been very active on Social Media and she was very candid with her friends in sharing details of her marriage. Through this she is able to paint a vivid picture of the events leading-up to this great tragedy. Her husband Christopher finds himself at the center of the investigation as a suspect and as the story progresses, we get a clearer picture of the shocking motives behind this heinous act. Definitely an intriguing watch.
We also have reviews for new releases THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, ON THE ROCKS, POSSESSOR (UNCUT) and SPONTANEOUS right here.
Mickey and Jules(Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe) are young lovers and criminals on the run. When they break into a secluded home in the woods they meet a sweet-as-pie couple who have a dark secret they don’t want to get out.
Villains is your typical Bonnie and Clyde feeling Film but with a hilarious twist. Co-Directors and Writers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen comedically play with the concept of what if the people who are committing the crime become the victims. It offers all around great performances from a knockout cast consisting of Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffery Donovan, Monroe and Skarsgård, who gets to show off his comedic talents.
Villains screens at SXSW on March 9 at 3 PM at ZACH Theatre, March 12 at 10:45 AM at Alamo Lamar D, March 13 at 5:45 PM at Atom Theatre, and March 15 at 2:15 PM at AlamoRitz 1.
It’s day four of the Sundance Film Festival and we are in full flight!
There were many Premieres once again tonight in Park City. I Think We’re Alone Now takes place during an apocalypse where a recluse feels the threat of companionship when finding out there is a second survivor. It stars PeterDinklage and Elle Fanning. BLAZE is the reimagining of the life of Blaze Foley who was the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music Movement. It is written and directed by Ethan Hawke and stars recent Golden Globe winner SamRockwell, Edgar Arreola and Alia Shawkat. Come Sunday follows pastor Carlton Pearson during a crisis in faith where he risks everything when he questions the Church Doctrine, it is based on true events. It stars Chiwetel Ejifor, Jason Segel and Danny Glover. The Happy Prince is set during Oscar Wilde’s final days. It is starring, written and directed by a long-absent Rupert Everett and stars Colin Firth and Emily Watson. The Miseducation of Cameron Post takes place in 1993 and follows a girl who is sent to a Conversion Therapy Centre when she is caught kissing another girl. It stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane. And Piercing which is a twisted love story about a married man who goes away on a business trip with the intent of murdering a prostitute, who also has plans of her own. It stars ChristopherAbbot and Mia Wasikowska.
Down on Main Street in Park City, there were tons of stars out getting lunch, attending parties and press stops. Some of the stars spotted out on the street were Joan Jett, Idris Elba, Debra Messing, John Cho, Joel McHale, Chloë Grace Mortez and more. It was also a special day for Bill Skarsgård (It), who is at the Festival with Assassination Nation, he received the IMDb StarMeter Award.
This wraps-up the first weekend of the Festival. But there is still an entire week ahead with more stars coming into Park City and plenty more Films to be screened.
See some stars out and about today! Hover cursor left and right to navigate slideshow:
If you’re like me and are still traumatized from 1990’s TV Horror Mini-Series IT, based on the Stephen King Novel, you’ll be excited to know a new Trailer for the upcoming 2017 Toronto-made reboot has been unleashed and it’s freakin’ scary!
When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.
“IT” stars Bill Skarsgård (“Allegiant,” TV’s “Hemlock Grove”) as the story’s central villain, Pennywise. An ensemble of young actors also star in the film, including Jaeden Lieberher (“Midnight Special”), Jeremy Ray Taylor (“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”), Sophia Lillis (“37”), Finn Wolfhard (TV’s “Stranger Things”), Wyatt Oleff (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Chosen Jacobs (upcoming “Cops and Robbers”), Jack Dylan Grazer (“Tales of Halloween”) and Nicholas Hamilton (“Captain Fantastic”).
See the Trailer:
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release ITFriday, September 8, 2017.
We had the pleasure of meeting the talented star Jaeden Lieberher last summer in Toronto:
A few things you need to know about brand new Netflix Original Series Hemlock Grove: 1) It’s perhaps more a 13-hour Movie than it is say, a Mini-Series 2) It’s neither exclusively a Horror about Werewolves nor Vampires 3) It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Upon hearing news of Eli Roth being attached to the Toronto-based Production last Summer, I rummaged the Internet for details and learned vaguely about the Novel which it is based on. After Binge-Watching (a mini-Binge if you will) Hemlock Grove‘s first three episodes this past weekend, I learned that it actually is nothing like what I was expecting. Its tone is unique in that yes, obviously it is a Horror due to its graphic, gory nature, but it actually reads more like a Drama which focuses on the odd, intense relationships between the Residents of Hemlock Grove, changed forever after a brutal killing of a Girl is discovered. At the center of it all are two young Men from opposite sides of the tracks, privileged Heir Roman Godfrey and Werewolf/Gypsy Peter Rumancek, brought together to solve the mystery behind the Murder.
The Team and Cast behind Hemlock Grove reunited this week in the City where it all began, Production having taken place here between last June and December. I had the opportunity of sitting down with its Writers Brian McGreevy (Author of Novel) & Lee Shipman, Director/Producer Deran Sarafian &Mark Verheiden and of course, its Stars: Kandyse McClure, Joel de la Fuente, Aaron Douglas, Lili Taylor, Freya Tingley, Landon Liboiron, Bill Skarsgard, Penelope Mitchell, Dougray Scott and Famke Janssen.
With a vast amount of Mythology behind the Series, one might wonder just how much research went into preparing for these roles. Kandyse McClure who stars as Dr. Clementine Chasseur, an Animal Expert who is called upon to assist in solving the Murder(s), admits “It took three hours for Brian to get-out all his ideas about Chasseur‘s world. There was a lot of random, odd research, but not about Werewolves or Vampires.”. Aaron Douglas, who worked with McClure previously on Battlestar Galactica in Vancouver says, “It’s more for me about the dramatic Human Interaction, how people are to each other and here they do some horribly awful things to one another.”. He stars as the pensive Sherriff Tom Sworn, teaming together with Dr. Chasseur.
Joel de la Fuente stars as the feared Dr. Johann Pryce, who might hold the key to the answer haunting everyone in Hemlock Grove stating “We actually were given scripts as we went”, hinting at the perpetual element of surprise as none too much was given away by Series Writers at any point. Even to this day, de la Fuente reveals that he is the only member of the Cast to have seen the Series’ final episode and that only happened out of necessity, completing some ADR (Dubbing) work recently.
With Internet-based Television being such a new thing with few Benchmarks established, I had asked Writers Brian McGreevy & Lee Shipman what they would consider a success for Hemlock Grove. McGreevy already is happy with the recognition this 13-hour Movie/Series has received telling me “I was invited to speak at Howl Con, so as far as I’m concerned it’s already a success! I think when you’re doing something creative, the only Benchmark is whether the Show resonates with your Audience”. He adds, ” How Netflix plans to quantify that, that’s a mystery to us.”.
With such a unique Story Line, curiosity lingers about McGreevy‘s creative inspirations. He says, “I grew-up in an economically-depressed community, but a very Liberal household. The Town of Hemlock Grove is a re-fractured version of what I grew-up with.”. In fact while filming in Hamilton, Ontario, he could not help but feel an odd sense of familiarity with its Geography – as if he knew his way around. “I took Monsters, Werewolves and Dracula and put them in High School as if to resolve feelings about my own adolescence.”.
Lili Taylor certifiably is a Cinematic Veteran (who could forget her in Mystic Pizza?) and Executive Producer Roth has not been shy about his admiration of her Work. On getting involved with the Project she recalls, “I was really interested in what Netflix was doing. It reminded me of the ’70s and Robert Evans (Chinatown, The Godfather) – the freedom Writers and Directors were having.”. “This almost felt like an Independent Film… like Mom and Dad weren’t around, but in a positive way – not in a way we get messed-up. Netflix got out of our way and let us do our thing and that was liberating.”. Taylor plays the Lynda, the Mother of LandonLiboiron‘s Peter, a deeply loving and maternal Woman living the Gypsy lifestyle with her Son.
Degrassi Fans fondly will recall Liboiron, but may be in for a surprise as he takes his share of risks in Hemlock Grove. His Defining Moment, which will have Horror and Sci-Fi Fans alike in awe comes late in Episode Two, where we see his mesmerizing Transformation as a Werewolf. He reveals, “They tried to make it as organic as possible. I don’t think the CGI was used as a crutch. They actually used raw pig flesh, skin and prosthetics. They completed it over series of months, doing inserts as they needed. They definitely took their time with it.”.
Much of the Series centers on Peter‘s unlikely Alliance with wealthy Roman and in making that fraternal bond believable he says, “We rehearsed a bunch of times, got it down and just started talking about love, relationships and some really personal shit. There was no barrier. Creatively, we saw eye to eye and I think it showed in the Screen Test. Bill is an incredible Co-Star.”.
Bill Skarsgård is a Descendant in a Line of Swedish Acting Royalty which boasts Father Stellan and Brother Alexander and hegets a proper North American introduction in Hemlock Grove. And a daring one I might add. He does admit having filmed scenes with Nudity prior and actually filmed his first Sex Scene at the age of 16. I questioned why it is his Roman is so drawn to Liboiron‘s Character Peter, seemingly being such polar opposites. “It’s kind of an unspoken connection and understanding. It’s almost like falling in love with someone, but it’s Supernatural, which is funny but I can relate to that.”, he tells me.
Porcelain-skinned Australian Actress Freya Tingley plays young Novelist Christina Wendall, and like Roman is drawn to Peter. “She’s intrigued by him. He has something in himself that she aspires to have in herself also. He’s this free Character who’s comfortable with who he is”, she believes. We learned also that in mastering her perfect American accent, she would speak it non-stop and apparently even dreamed in it according to others.
One interesting dynamic about the Series is the element of underlying Sexual Ambiguity. At times the Characters are involved so intensely with their Family members that there might even be a feeling of incestuousness. A bookish (she majored in Literature) and well-spoken Penelope Mitchell, who like Tingley is an Australian Export to Los Angeles, plays the role of Letha, Roman‘s Cousin. She becomes an Obsession of sorts to him. On their relationship, she sums it up, “It’s one of those relationships that you don’t want to discuss too much because it kills the magic. There’s so much ambiguity and tension about a Teenager. Those boundaries are so blurred here and that’s what makes this Show so fascinating.”.
Bringing much Star Power to Hemlock Grove are major Stars Famke Janssen (for once and for all, it’s pronounced “Fem-ka Yen-sen“) and Dougray Scott (pronounced “Doo-gray“) who play Sister and Brother-in-Law Olivia and Norman Godfrey, whom for several years have engaged in a passionate Affair. The devastatingly-commanding Janssen jokes, they are the “Sexual Anchors” of the Story. I ask her whether or not she feels her manipulative Olivia is in fact a Monster. She replies, “Who isn’t a Monster, really? I mean well, other than Mother Theresa.”. She adds, “Norman at first glance would seem like a good Person, but is a conflicted Person who does things that are seen as bad also, which is interesting to me when I look back at others I’ve become Friends with over time. Some people you judge at first glance and can be spot-on, but sometimes you can be totally wrong. Most of the time you have to give people a chance.”.
I asked Scott also what he feels would be deemed a success for the Series and he says, “That is a great question. What do you regard as being a ‘Success’ because they don’t have the history of Networks? We are very unique if you think about it. I mean you have House of Cards which is based on a British TV Series, so you’re gonna get some people who watch that Series and also Arrested Development, picked-up from another Network. This is the first truly original Series Netflix has done in this Format. The first ever in the World!”.
One of the Series’ six Directors Deran Sarafian consistently is credited by the Cast as having been their “Rock” throughout the entire duration of Production and he talks to the challenge of making an Internet-based Television Series. “You can set things up and not pay them off for a while. It’s not like Network Television where you have a Killer and have to explain who he is at the end of the episode”, he reveals. “If you’re Binge-Watching, you would remember that happened just four hours ago. We didn’t have to play to those expectations in making the Show, to simplify it so that you could remember what the hell is going on.”.
It was learned that Sarafian prior had worked closely with acclaimed Filmmaker Roman Polanski and still calls him on occasion for advice. To bond with his Cast, he would throw parties at his Home, playing Films of Polanski‘s such as Rosemary’s Baby. He recalls one unforgettable piece of advice Polanski gave him as Director, “If you’re gonna do something scary, make sure you can laugh at it. That was his thing and maybe the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”.
Listen to excerpts from my Chat below (contains Explicit Language):
Netflix releases all 13 episodes of ground-breaking Series Hemlock GroveFriday, April 19, 2013.
Kicking-off the launch of upcoming Netflix Original Series Hemlock Grove, the Ensemble Cast came out to where it all began today here in Toronto to brace us for the 13-episode release of the Series. Having filmed in the City last Summer, wrapping shortly before Christmas, the Series from Executive Producer Eli Roth, sees the release of its entirety this Friday via Netflix. Be ready to binge!
I had the pleasure of chatting with the Team and Principal Actors behind the Series at length including Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron, Freya Tingley, Penelope Mitchell, Lili Taylor, Dougray Scott and Famke Janssen. The Interview will be posted later this week, but below is a Teaser – so incredibly honoured to get to interview such amazing talent! Stay tuned.
See our Snap below:
The Hemlock Grove Team will be here tomorrow in the City also, walking the Red Carpet for the Series Premiere tomorrow night.
Some new Artwork and a Trailer has surfaced for Toronto-filmed Netflix Original Series, Hemlock Grove and it just looks all sorts of twisted! Following the success of popular Horror Series American Horror Story, Director/Producer Eli Roth brings the screams to your Living Room through your streaming device with the Series, which is comprised of 13 episodes. If House of Cards is any indication of the caliber of Programming we can expect from Netflix, expect this to be superb.
Hemlock Grove centers around a young Girl who is found killed near the Godfrey Steel Mill. Two Prime Suspects, the poor Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) and the wealthy Roman (Bill Skarsgård, yes Brother of Alexander and Son of Stellan) decide to take matters into their own hands and find the Killer themselves. Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, Penelope Mitchell and Lili Taylor also star.
Watch the Trailer below:
Check-out this brand new Poster for the Series:
All episodes of Hemlock Grove will be available via Netflix on Friday, April 19, 2013.
Of course, I had the opportunity of meeting most of the Cast including: Landon Liboiron, Penelope Miller, Eli Roth, Famke Janssen, Bill Bill Skarsgård and Lili Taylor, while they were in the City last Summer.