Richard will host two events at the Victoria Film Festival, February 6 and 7.
IN CONVERSATION WITH… LARRY WEINSTEIN
February 7 / 11 AM / The Vic Theatre
Welcome to the wonderfully inventive world of Larry Weinstein, a unique documentary filmmaker whose 25 films captured the lives of great composers, the former Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor, and the mystery of Hana’s Suitcase.
Weinstein will look at the anatomy of a documentary from inception to completion while expanding on his thoughts by screening raw and completed footage of his recently completed project Devil’s Horn.
February 6 / 11 AM / The Vic Theatre
Semi Chellas discusses writing for film and television – and what credentials she has for that! Chellas was Co-Executive Producer and writer for Mad Men, running the room for the final two seasons.
Garnering six Emmy nominations she has shared the WGA award with Matthew Weiner for co-writing the episode The Other Woman. Chellas has written for indie features, kids movies, television movies and directed several award-winning short films. Chellas is currently working as an Executive Producer of Steve McQueen’s HBO miniseries Codes of Conduct.
Linda Cardellini’s new show is filmed far from Hollywood. The former Mad Men co-star plays Meg Rayburn, wayward daughter of a large, secretive family in the Netflix series Bloodline. She co-stars with Kyle Chandler, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek but says the Florida Keys location is as much a part of the show as the cast.
“It is otherworldly. It is different from anything I have known,” she says. “It is a place that has a duality to it. On one hand it is extraordinarily beautiful and on the other there is this oppressive heat and slight danger that follows you around everywhere. When you’re in the elements there are a lot of things around you that are sometimes friendly to human beings and sometimes not so much. It’s perfect for the show because it really shows this paradise and on the other side here are these really dangerous things.”
When she was first approached to do the Bloodline there wasn’t even a script for her to read.
“There was a pitch,” she says, “and I had a meeting with [producer] Glen Kessler and he spoke so beautifully with so much rich detail about who this person is, what she means to the family, what the story means. To me that was very exciting; how much he had to say and how much he knew. It showed to me that the creators of the show were very interested in each and every one of the characters. To have the family dynamic be appealing you have to understand every facet of the family.”
The pitch won her over, in part because she had just binge watched the legal drama Damages, the last show from the same producers.
“When I watched Damages I loved how they wrote for women,” she says. “I thought what could have been viewed as a stereotype was introduced and explored in such a fashion that broke all those stereotypes and broke all those glass ceilings about what a female character could or couldn’t be. To me that was very exciting.”
She now hopes people will binge view all thirteen episodes of Bloodline which went up on Netflix last week.
“I love it,” she says of binging in front of the TV. “It has invented a new way for people to get entertainment. I think it’s great because you don’t have to make an appointment with the television. You don’t have to rely on it coming on every week and waiting.”
It seems archeologists will never learn. At least movie archeologists. In every decade since the 1920s a cinematic excavators has unleashed all kinds of trouble in the present because they messed with the past. Sir Joseph Whemple gave us the Mummy’s Curse, Indiana Jones uncovered flaming Nazis and Lara Croft left us with two so-so movies.
In the new thriller “As Above/So Below” a group of young “urban” archeologists led by Krav Maga black belt Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) explore miles of unmapped catacombs under the streets of Paris, searching for the Philosopher’s Stone, a fabled artifact with the power to grant eternal life. A similar search for the relic drove Scarlett’s archeologist father barmy—“His quest was a quest to madness!” says a friend.”— but she is convinced that she, her ex-boyfriend George (“Mad Men” co-star Ben Feldman), a cameraman named Benji (“The Purge’s” Edwin Hodge) and a group of apparently expendable spelunking explorers (Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar) can play DaVinci Code and follow ancient symbols and clues deep underground and succeed where dear dad failed. Instead of eternal life, however, they discover quite the opposite. They end up having a helluva time—literally.
The idea of being in a location where your deepest fears and terrible memories manifest themselves is a good “Twilight Zone-ish” premise, but the found footage style is so wild it seems as though they strapped a camera on the back of an angry dog and let it run wild in the catacombs. My kingdom for a tripod!
As for scares, there are a couple of good “jump“ moments and claustrophobics may want to stay home but the creepy stuff—like the weird wall-eyed lady who wanders in and out of the action like some specter from a better movie—is not so much terrifying as it is jarring. Although on the plus side the jumps are a good break from the tedium of watching this bunch say, “We have to find a way out,” over and over.
The characters in “As Above/So Below” are forced to relive their own ideas of hell. Mine would be having to watch this movie again.
A new thriller, As Above/So Below, follows in a long tradition of Hollywood movies. Mad Men co-star Ben Feldman and Edwin Hodge play archaeologists who explore miles of unmapped catacombs under the streets of Paris and uncover a dark secret beneath the City of Lights.
According to Romancing the Stones: Archaeology in Popular Culture by Mark A. Hall, every decade since the 1920s has produced at least one film dealing with the eerie aspects of archaeology. “In the 1932 film The Mummy,” writes Hall, “the archaeologist Sir Joseph Whemple states: ‘much more is learned from studying bits of broken pottery than from all the sensational finds. Our job is to increase the sum of human knowledge of the past,’ but it is often as a foil for the supernatural elements to come.”
Harrison Ford played the screen’s most famous archaeologist, Indiana Jones. He is, as Major Eaton (William Hootkins) describes him, “a professor of archeology, expert on the occult, and how does one say it? Obtainer of rare antiquities.”
In each of the four movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, the Last Crusade and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a fabled object has great supernatural power. Whether it is the Ark of the Covenant, the Shiva Stones, the Holy Grail or an extraterrestrial crystal skull, Indy unleashes all kinds of trouble in the present because he messes with the past.
Angelina Jolie became a superstar playing Lara Croft, the athletic, aristocratic archaeologist and star of two movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Cradle of Life.
The character originated in a wildly popular video game series that saw her track down meteorite fragments that endowed humans with supernatural powers and magical stones. On film Jolie’s Croft said, “Everything lost is meant to be found,” as she stirred up trouble by uncovering ancient talismans and rescuing Pandora’s Box from an evil scientist.
The movie that established the link between archaeology and the paranormal was 1932s The Mummy. Inspired by the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the controversy over his “curse” in 1922—rumours of a jinx began after Lord Carnarvon, the man who sponsored the dig of King Tut’s Tomb, died six weeks after the discovery—the film uses a Mummy’s spell as the catalyst for the action.
In the spooky movie Sir Joseph Whemple (David Manners) translates the hieroglyphics: “’Death… eternal punishment… for… anyone… who… opens… this… casket. In the name… of Amon-Ra… the king of the gods.’ Good heavens, what a terrible curse!”
The second feature from “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner is an odd duck. A comedy about substance abuse and bi polar behavior, it’s not as funny as a movie starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis should be nor is it as insightful as Weiner likely intended.
Wilson is Steve Dallas, an Annapolis, Maryland weatherman who lives off a diet of marijuana, scotch and anonymous sex. “I eat life out of the big box,” he says, unconvincingly. His best friend is Ben Baker (Galifianakis), a childhood pal “who wasn’t that screwed together to begin with.” He’s bi polar, drug addicted and the heir of a large chunk of money and land from his late father. His plan to create a utopian society on his dad’s old farm doesn’t sit well with his controlling sister Terri (Amy Poehler) who tries to have him declared incompetent. Steve is in the middle of the action, coming between Ben and his sibling while trying to woo Ben’s twenty-five year old free spirited stepmother Angela (Laura Ramsey). Between the strife and family politics the characters look for the answer to one of life’s great questions: Is this it?
Audiences may find themselves asking the same thing, but for very different reasons. For all the movie’s commentary on the vagaries of life, like friendship—“It’s a lot rarer than love,” Says Steve, “because there’s nothing in it for anybody.”—mental illness and the freedom to be who we are, the story doesn’t add much to the conversation on any of those topics. Add to that some annoying characters and a disrespectful attitude toward the film’s women—they are either harridans or contradictory in their behavior—and you’re left with the feeling that if Weiner had turned this into a television series and given the characters time to live and breath he might have been able to develop this into something more interesting.
J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds inspiration in the strangest places. The movie “Million Dollar Arm” would have us believe the down-on-his-luck sports agent channel surfed his way into an idea that would change his life and the lives of two Indian athletes.
Flipping between Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent and a cricket match on ESPN, he is struck by the idea to scout Indian cricket players who could be converted into big league baseball pitchers.
Luckily he didn’t come across “Mad Men,” or “Million Dollar Arm” might have ended up being called “Don Draper goes Bollywood.”
Based on a true story, Hamm plays Bernstein, the founder of 7 Figures Management, a small sports management agency whose clients are being stolen by a firm with deeper pockets.
As his business situation worsens he hits on the idea of recruiting Indian crickets players by way of a contest called the Million Dollar Arm. First and second place winners will receive cash and a chance for a tryout for a US team.
After spending three months in India he finds two promising players, Rinku (Suraj “Life of Pi” Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur “Slumdog Millionaire” Mittal), but back in the states Bernstein is told it’s not impossible that his new finds will become professional baseballers, “just highly improbable.”
“Million Dollar Arm” lays on the sentiment like a thick layer of lanoline on a new Rawlings Baseball Glove. It’s about underdogs and second chances, about finding the love of the game (and maybe some less metaphysical comforts as well). It’s about finding a balance between the business of the game versus the fun that should be inherent in the playing.
It is conventional in its approach, but hits a home run with the cast. Hamm’s gruff Don Draper-esque exterior will be familiar to “Mad Men” fans, but he has great chemistry with Lake Bell, who plays his tenant, spiritual guide and love interest.
Also appearing are Alan Arkin, who revisits his old coot routine to play baseball scout Ray Poievint, and Bill Paxton whoi is suitable stern as pitching coach Tom House.
Sharma and Mittal, who don’t speak any English until near the end of the film, wide-eyedly portray the inevitable culture clash of two young men leaving home for the first time.
Clichés aside, there is something appealingly old fashioned about how “Million Dollar Arm” wears its heart-on-its-sleeve.