Interview: ‘The Dinner’ Director Oren Moverman

The Dinner is a intriguing mystery drama recently released. It’s about two couples getting together over dinner for a heated discussion about the impending decisions they have to make in regards to the future of their children, who committed a crime. Writer and director Oren Moverman does a great job of translating this story from book to movie. I spoke to Oren about this process and taking on this movie. Listen to the audio of the interview below:

MY TAKE:

One thing I noticed is that there is a bit of a difference when I interview foreign directors as opposed to American ones. It has nothing to do with the language barrier, as the foreign directors I’ve interviewed have been very well spoken and clear. The difference I’m noticing is that they seem to be a bit more serious sounding and matter-of-fact. Now this isn’t a bad thing at all, just a different way about them as individuals.

I wasn’t aware that Cate Blanchette was set to direct this film and Oren was supposed to help her write it. I do like how the film turned out at the end so, this was probably a good thing in the end, even though it would be interesting to see how much different it would be with her at the helm. Oren seemed to put a focus on balancing the book with the version he wrote for the movie, which is cool to see a director try to be faithful to the novel even though he had creative freedom to do otherwise.

I’m glad I had a chance to speak to him, as I’ve been a fan of his work on titles such as Rampart and Love & Mercy. This is another well written and crafted movie from him that you should check out, with very good performances.

The Dinner is out now in select theaters 

Interview: ‘Evanescence’ Amy Lee

Amy Lee had quite the impact on my teenage years. I grew up on her music and band Evanescence. Not to mention having a big crush on her! Imagine how giddy I was when I got a chance to interview her for Voice From The Stone. Amy is lending her incredible voice to the official song of the movie “Speak To Me”. I spoke to Amy about her connection with the movie, about being a new mother and definitely Evanescence. Check out the entire audio of the interview below:

MY TAKE:

It was such a personal joy for me to speak to Amy Lee. As I mentioned I’m a longtime fan of her work. One of the more underrated musical talents of the last two decades. This was one of the more interesting and insightful interviews I’ve done. She was so cool and personable. Very down to earth. I had a lot I wanted to ask her and luckily I got in most of my questions.

I really felt she was ideal for the soundtrack to Voice From The Stone. Of course it came out great. She really seemed passionate about the film and doing the song for it. It just felt this would be a movie that really meshed her brand, she agreed. She seems to be at a really good point of her life now with the birth of her son. It was interesting to hear her talk about how motherhood has changed her.

So I was quite surprised she isn’t the biggest fan of “My Immortal”. It just goes to show that even though someone is associated to a certain song or it has wide mainstream appeal, it doesn’t mean the artist feels the same connection to it personally. I also was a bit surprised when she said that her recent music is some of her favorite. She did a great job correcting me on the discussion of the early 2000’s being one of the hottest alternative rock eras. I agree, nothing beats the 90’s, but during the peak of Evanescence you had a ton of great bands such as Seether, POD, Drowning Pool, Limp Bizkit, etc. I loved that time.

I really appreciate how genuinely gracious and appreciative she was of me being a fan of her music. It’s one of these interviews that makes you mark out, so the fanboy in me showed up. It was also my second interview with a musician, first was Hailee Steinfeld. Just a very enjoyable interview that I was really pumped about that I feel turned out great. Also, check out Voice From The Stone, it’s really a solid and intriguing suspenseful gothic thriller.

Voice From The Stone is out now on VOD and Digital HD and releases on Blu-ray & DVD on June 6

“Speak To Me” is available now for download on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon and you can stream it on Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify and Apple Music. 

Interview: Actress Betty Buckley Discusses ‘Split’

Split is the best psychological thriller of the year, with James McAvoy’s most memorable performance(s).You can buy the movie now on Blu-ray and DVD. I spoke to one of the stars of the film Betty Buckley who plays psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher. Betty discussed working with M. Night Shyamalan and McAvoy, preparing for her role and spoke about her music career. Below you can listen to the entire audio interview.

MY TAKE:

Prior to my interview with Betty, I had no idea about her distinguished music career. She has as long of a music career as she does her acting one. A true dual threat. Betty was interesting to talk to. I started out by asking her about her music career and her recently released new album. I wasn’t familiar with her music, but I did get to listen to a sample from a couple of her songs from the new ”Story Songs” album. It was pretty good. She did talk a little more about her music than I expected her to, but fortunately I did get just enough time to talk about Split. 

I must agree with Betty that James McAvoy’s performance in the film is amazing and one of the all-time best. She had very high praise for him, rightfully so. It was interesting to hear her talk about her preparation for the role and attributing older films she mentioned growing up on and books as preparation for the role. I wasn’t aware that Sterling K. Brown had a scene with her in the movie that ended up getting cut out, but it will be available on the Blu-ray bonus features. Overall, Betty seemed nice and it was a pleasure to talk to her, as I definitely enjoyed her performance in the movie. 

Check out Betty Buckley’s two-disc live album “Story Songs” out now at www.BettyBuckley.com

‘Split’ is out now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand

Interview: Jack Lowden & Ophelia Lovibond Discuss ‘Tommy’s Honour’

I had the awesome opportunity recently to speak to actors Jack Lowden and Ophelia Lovibond, the stars of Tommy’s Honour (out now in theaters). The movie about the life of golf’s first superstar and pioneer Tommy Morris. Jack and Ophelia stopped by in Chicago on their promotional tour. Hear the entire audio of my interview with them in the section below.

MY TAKE:

My sit down with Jack Lowden and Ophelia Lovibond was an absolute blast. Those two individuals were so personable and fun. Jack is a very charismatic individual, very excited and talks with passion in his voice. Ophelia was softer spoken and sounded very intelligent. I really go the sense that both actors really understood their roles. Jack was definitive in addressing the fact that this movie is not about golf and that golf was not what attracted him to this role. He definitely shares my sentiment on that. 

I enjoyed listening to Jack talk about the film. He just seemed like a real dude. Ophelia is stunning in person and lights up the room with her smile and presence. My favorite part of the interview was towards the end when I told them about how skeptical I was about the film. Their reaction to it was laughing out loud, in a fun kinda way. They enjoyed that the movie changed my perception. Being with them in the room really gave me an understanding as to how they were able to portray their characters so naturally. They have this very friendly chemistry with each other that is fun to watch. As you can hear, I had a lot of fun meeting them and talking to them. Due to studio and contractual stipulations I wasn’t able to ask Jack about the big upcoming summer movie he’s in that’s directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk. I was so engaged about this film that it ultimately didn’t even matter. My personal highlight was that I had to stones to give Ophelia a hug at the end of the interview. She was so gracious about it. Winning! 

Check out Tommy’s Honour out now in theaters 

Interview: Director John Hamburg Discusses “Why Him?”

Why Him? Was one of the best comedies in the last year, it recently was released on Blu-ray & DVD. I had a chance to speak to the director of the film John Hamburg. John was the man behind successful comedies such as Meet the Parents, ZoolanderLittle Fockers and I Love You, Man. John discusses the making of the film. He talks about working with James Franco and Bryan Cranston, how the idea for the movie originated and a lot more. Check out the audio of the interview below:

MY TAKE:

John was really cool to talk to. There were some things I learned that surprised me. I thought it was awesome that he was James Franco’s college professor. What are the odds of that happening? Though, how many classes did Franco attend while he was filming 127 Hours? Of course the movie spawned from a story Jonah Hill had told. I can only imagine Johan going to meet the girlfriends parents. 

John is a really engaging individual with a lot of charisma. It was interesting to hear that he doesn’t want to go the route of sequels and seems like from what he said that he wouldn’t come back or entertain a Why Him? sequel. I’m not crazy about sequels myself, but I’d love to see these characters come back. There is no denying that Hamburg is a tremendous writer, his comedies are some classics. No doubt his directing is just as good. This movie couldn’t possibly be easy to direct with all the chaos that ensues. It was a pleasure to talk to John and hear his thoughts on the movie. 

I highly recommend Why Him? It really is a hilarious film. I saw it three times and it’s one of those films that never gets boring. The performances are really good and the casting itself was ideal. Check it out! 

Why Him? is out now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand

Review: “Me Before You” Is The New Romantic Movie Standard

Genre: Romance | Drama Directed by: Thea Sharrock Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Vanessa Kirby Written by: Jojo Moyes (screenplay & novel)

Genre: Romance | Drama
Directed by: Thea Sharrock
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Vanessa Kirby
Written by: Jojo Moyes (screenplay & novel)

Synopsis: A young woman forms a bond with a paralyzed man that she takes care of. 

Me Before You is the best romantic movie I’ve ever seen. I can’t think of more impactful and powerful romantic drama than this. It’s simply all you could want, not just in a romantic movie, but any movie in general. I’m IN LOVE with this film. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

Based on the Jojo Moyes novel of the same name, the film depicts a unique relationship between a caregiver and her paralyzed patient. Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones plays Louisa Clark (funny), a bubbly out-of-work girl who comes across a job to take care of paralyzed patient confined to a wheelchair. What she doesn’t realize is that the patient she will be taking care of is a handsome and wildly successful young man. What starts out as a rocky relationships blossoms into something special.

THE GOOD:

Yeah, I get it. Such a cliche plot, a girl meets a guy, they bicker at first and then they fall in love, right? Not really. The film actually goes against most romantic stereotypes and doesn’t fall into the obvious realms of meet, overcoming obstacles, and get a happy ending. Of course there will be elements that follow a romantic formula, it’s how these films are made. This isn’t as somber of a movie that it might seem to be, it’s actually quite funny and very charming.

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The polar opposite personalities between Clark and Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is what draws you in at first. She’s such a happy-go-lucky girl that you can’t help but root for her. She’s a girl with a positive and upbeat persona, that seems to have an angelic-like heart. Additionally, she has some snark and sarcasm in her that meshes well with her determined stubborn side. She looks like the pretty girl next door, but when she wears that red dress she turns into a complete knockout. Her bright and happy smile lights up the scenes she’s in. Clarke does great work with the character. She nails the essence of who Lou is. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part of Louisa. A woman any man would love to have in their life.

Claflin is equally impressive as Traynor. At first he projects this aura of arrogance and smug wit. He’s fairly unlikeable, especially when you see all that Lou has to go through to be acknowledged by him. In a way it’s understandable, he’s in a wheelchair, can’t imagine what life is like, especially for someone that young. The thing about Will is that you see layers of his personality be peeled away as the movie progresses. There is a man that’s shielding away all the hurt and regret that he’s been living with since the accident, but this woman is showing him a side of her that gives him hope.

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On a small scale that concept can be applied to dating. It’s difficult to date, even harder to find the right person. Lou is dating a guy named Patrick (Matthew Lewis) who is sort of a egocentric self-absorbed douche that constantly takes her for granted. The more time she spends with Will, the more she sees how her boyfriend is neglecting her. I can relate to Claflin’s character in the sense of our desires of finding and hoping to find someone that will unlock your heart and make you forget about all the previous disappointments. That special person that’s worth it all, that will be by your side no matter what, and cheer up when you’re down. That’s what we all hope to find at some point in our lives with a significant other. The story between these characters projects that exact feeling and message.

The on-screen chemistry between Claflin and Clarke is uncanny. The subtle glances, the smiles, the overall feeling they project when paired together is mesmerizing. It’s not because of the sexual chemistry between them, it’s more about the human bond they share. Treynor refers to Lou as “Clark” and while it may sound dismissive, but it turns into something really sweet and endearing. That’s exactly what makes this movie so spectacular.

In most romantic movies when the characters start falling for each other there is this insatiable physical passion consisting of a lot of kissing and eventually sex. What separates this film from all the others is that it doesn’t use physical intimacy as a crutch. They have two kissing scenes and don’t have sex, at least it’s not shown. Not that he can’t because he’s disabled. She actually stays faithful to her douchy boyfriend Patrick. Instead of going the easy physical and sexual route, the film focuses on the personal and emotional connection between Lou and Will. I appreciated that, it’s rare you see that in films these days. That tend to need to cram as much sex to a movie as possible.

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The film looks so simple, yet spectacular. The scenic shots of the Pembroke Castle, and the picturesque Wales countryside makes it an immediate bucket list destination upon seeing the film. The dialogue is so well-written, probably due to the fact that Moyes not only wrote the novel, but the screenplay for the film also. Movies get a bad rep for not being honest to the book versions they are inspired by, but to have the actual writer of the novel write the screenplay was a fantastic choice. The collaboration with first time director Thea Sharrock lends the film a female perspective that’s both engaging and personal. The dialogue is clever and smart. The lines seem authentic and fitting to what the characters would say. The humor is one of the underrated parts of the film that might get overlooked in all the heavy emotional context. It’s as uplifting and hopeful of a movie as it is sad.

The soundtrack for the movie blends in with the storyline as well as a soundtrack could. X Ambassadors “Unsteady” is the theme song for the film. They couldn’t have picked a better choice for a song.

Other songs that appear in the film include: Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”, Imagine Dragons “Not Today” and Jesse Ware’s “Till the End”. All fantastic musical choices to represent the film. I will in love with the soundtrack as well as the movie.

THE BAD:

Honestly, nothing. I can’t find anything negative about this film to write about. It’s as close to perfect of a film as you get.

OVERALL:

This is a guaranteed tearjerker, and in the best way possible. The story is so powerful, honest and emotional that makes it impossible not to cry, unless you aren’t human. It’s a beautiful film. Creating real tears and feelings is all you can ask and hope a movie can make you feel. Falling in love with the characters and immersing myself to the story wasn’t hard. I was draining tears for two hours and I loved every minute of the emotions this film made me feel. Not having read the book, I was fairly surprised with the non-cliche ending. I was taken back by it, but pleased with the honest nature of the film staying true to itself.

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Undoubtedly this is my favorite film of the year and the best romantic film I’ve ever seen. The Notebook seems to be the romantic movie standard to many people, but this is just a much better and authentic story. Love has no boundaries or restrictions. The central message of the movie hits home. It’s about appreciating moments in life, big or small. Living your life to the fullest. The acts of kindness and selflessness are breathtaking. Me Before You is the most impactful and emotionally stimulating movie in years, also the best one in years. I’ll most definitely be seeing it again, but don’t have me to be the one, before you.

REEL RATING: 100%

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hr 50 min

 

THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE MOVIE BLOG 

Trailer: What We Just Learned About ‘Justice League’

There it was, the first major Justice League trailer dropped over the weekend. I actually was at the Chicago “Walker Stalker/Heroes and Villains” comic con when it happened and watched it with David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne from GOTHAM). I asked him if he’s seen it, he said he didn’t know it released, so I pulled out my phone and we watched it together. More on that with my upcoming coverage of the comic con. So, what did we learn from this trailer? Check it out below and hear my thoughts:

RECAP:

Looks like Bruce Wayne is doing a lot of the legwork here, looking for “the others” all over the globe, including areas that appear to lack any sort of civilization. What the hell is Wonder Woman doing in the meantime? Is she hanging out at home watching Netflix? Get your fine booty off the couch and help the man out, Diana. Geez.

Next up, we see Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash in quick intros. I like Barry Allen questioning Bruce Wayne if he’s Batman. Kind of a fan moment there for another superhero that clearly looks up to Batman. Then it starts getting fun. We see all of them in action. The background is similar to the final battle in BvS, with the fire and smoke and the comic bookish look of destruction taking place in the background. Aquaman is throwing down that spear, but one thing to note is it appears Cyborg is shooting at The Flash? Does that mean they are feuding initially?

In the remainder we get a quick glimpse of Lois Lane, so that’s important she’s making an appearance. Batman does battle in his Batmobile. It ends with Commissioner Jim Gordon stating that it’s good to see Batman playing with others while Aquaman approaches them. The trailer ends with Aquaman hanging out on the top of the Batmobile.

WHAT IT MEANS:

It’s a fun trailer, but it doesn’t tells us much. Only clues we get is that some of these superheroes are fighting against each other, for example Cyborg and Flash are. Bruce Wayne is the one doing the recruiting, while Diana is doing whatever else. The sighting of Lois Lane may be a clue to Superman. This trailer is more guarded than most girls are on online dating, now that’s saying something. We got nothing on the villains, nothing on Superman, but instead they showed us the new characters skills and some humorous interaction between them. It’s basically a two and a half minute teaser. I think they learned their lesson after giving it all away in BvS. Less is more and leads to more anticipation.