Monthly Archives: February 2014

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS IN “MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN” (3D) -OPENS MARCH 6 NATIONWIDE

penny Ariel Winter

Ariel Winter, one of Hollywood’s most promising young talents with notable roles both television and film who currently stars on ABC’s critically acclaimed and Emmy winning hit series, “Modern Family” stars in DreamWorks’ wild-action-family-adventure “Mr. Peabody & Sherman (3D).”

Mr. Peabody, the world’s most accomplished dog is parent to Sherman who uses his most ingenious invention, the WABAC machine, to hurtle back in time to experience world-changing events first-hand. But when Sherman breaks the rules of time travel along with his friend Penny (Ariel Winter), our two heroes find themselves in a race to repair history – and save the future.

penny Ariel Winter

From the animation dream team of DreamWorks and the director of blockbusters “The Lion King” and “Stuart Little,” director Rob Minkoff puts together a talented voice cast in “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” including Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbet, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton and Allison Janney.   The movie’s time travel is a compelling notion that lends an intriguing dimension to an exciting, adventure-filled story.  The film’s contemporary characters interact with equally entertaining famous figures from history – a dynamic that provides surprising fish out of water moments and myriad culture clashes.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s entrée to the infinite folds of history is a wondrous contraption called the WABAC, which is the singular creation of the world’s greatest inventor, Mr. Peabody.  The perspicacious pooch built the device so Sherman could experience history up close and personal.   Soon thereafter, Peabody, Sherman and Penny pay a visit to Peabody’s old friend and the original Renaissance Man, Leonard Da Vinci, portrayed, hilariously, by Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci. Our trio finds the famed artist/scientist/engineer/inventor/scholar

Next to Mr. Peabody, the person who becomes closest to Sherman is his classmate Penny Peterson.  Penny is a double threat – cute and smart. Penny rules her elementary school until she encounters Sherman, who is even more of a “brain” than Penny is.  But her natural charisma and daring nature, as well as her caring and loyalty, draw her into a friendship with Sherman that truly stands the test of time.

“Initially, Penny is at odds with Sherman,” producer Schwartz explains.  “But we soon realize there’s a lot more to her, and as soon as she’s able to put aside her initial jealousy of Sherman, she begins to see that he’s a pretty interesting kid.  The great thing about Penny is that we really see her grow over the course of the movie.”

The character’s dynamism, smarts and fearlessness made it a tough part to cast – until Ariel Winter, who plays the teenage daughter of Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy in “Modern Family,” auditioned.  Minkoff, who was initially unaware of Winter’s connection to Burrell, says it was “a great coincidence that they came to work together on MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN.  Ariel brings tremendous energy to Penny.  She is a witty and wry teenager, and though Penny is younger [than the actress], Ariel brings some natural sparks and understanding of the character.”

But even with that o f any period’s danger, action, adventure and a dash through the Paris sewer system, the duo’s (and Penny’s) biggest time traveling adventures lie ahead.  A Sherman-Penny time traveling joyride takes them to Ancient Egypt, where Penny finds herself betrothed to a nine-year-old King Tut.

Travel through time in a wild ride with the trio when “Mr. Peabody & Sherman (3D)” opens March 6 nationwide, a DreamWorks Animation presentation from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros. (in Phils. Cinemas).

MONSTER COMEDY “A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE” IN CINEMAS THIS FEBRUARY 26

a liitle bit of zombie

From a seemingly harmless mosquito bite, a groom-to-be fights his fate turning into a zombie in the outrageous comedy “A Little Bit Zombie” starring Kristopher Turner as Steve, Crystal Lowe, Shawn Roberts, Kristen Hager and multi-talented actor Stephen McHattie.

“A Little Bit Zombie” had recently been awarded as Best Feature Film in several film festivals in the U.S., Brazil and Canada.  The movie’s misadventures start when Steve (Turner), a mild mannered HR manager becomes infected with a zombie virus at his bachelor party.   Unknown to Steve, his infection came from the farther part of the secluded forest where he’s celebrating and where undead exterminator “Shotgun” Max (McHattie) and his bookish assistant, Penelope, are snuffing out a zombie outbreak at the same time. Max relishes killing zombies, as Penelope squeamishly uses the ancient Orb of Conthulezbarr, a crystal sphere filled with blue energy, to locate the undead. During the battle, a mosquito bites one of the zombies and becomes infected. It escapes the bloodbath and flies out onto the open road where … splat … it is crushed on Steve’s car windshield.

a liitle bit of zombie

Steve is engaged to Tina (Lowe), the girl of his dreams. Tina has been talking about her wedding day since she was 10 years old and there is determined her special day will be perfect. They have invited Steve’s sister, Sarah, and her husband, Craig, up to a cottage for a weekend of wedding preparations and fun, in that order.     Once the foursome arrives at the cottage, the undead mosquito comes back to life and bites Steve. After a ridiculous amount of effort, Steve kills the mosquito with his shoe, creating a bloody mess. That night, Steve has a “brainy” nightmare, where he ends up sucking his sister’s brains out of her head with a straw.

a liitle bit of zombie

The next morning, Steve begins to experience the symptoms of being semi-undead. He goes for a run, but can’t find his pulse. His senses are heightened. He can’t stomach normal food. He wants brains. Steve tries to keep this from Tina, Craig and Sarah, as he scurries about chasing woodland creatures for their brains.  But when pressed to tell the truth, Tina doesn’t believe Steve’s claim that he has become partially undead, and is not going to let him ruin the day she has been waiting for her entire life, because of “cold feet”. Tina, being the bridezilla that she is, will do anything to make sure the wedding takes place, even when her husband-to-be is a little bit zombie, even if it means going to the butcher shop to get and feed Steve some brains.

“A Little Bit Zombie” opens February 26 in cinemas from CrystalSky Multimedia.

YOUTUBE GROUP PHENOMENON RADIO SILENCE REELS IT REAL-TIME IN “DEVIL’S DUE”

allison Miller Devils Due

There’s the traditional route to a directorial debut; camcorder obsession, film school, an internship, personal assistant, directorial assistant, the keys to the store. And then there’s Radio Silence, a collective of four talented filmmakers who used YouTube to learn their craft, post their clips and advertise their wares with so much professional aplomb that Fox made all their dreams come true.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella grew from the ashes of the former group known as Chad, Matt & Rob, three friends who had an idea, a camera, some technical expertise – much of it gleaned from YouTube tutorials –and got to work. Their breakout was Alien Roommate Prank Goes Bad, a found-footage style short they posted in February 2008; as of today, it’s been viewed more than 32 million times.

allison Miller Devils Due

When Rob Polonsky left the group, they were joined by Justin and Tyler, reformed as Radio Silence and continued their YouTube domination, moving into a series of ‘interactive adventures’, narrative shorts in which the viewer guided the plot. Ultimately, however, they had ambitions beyond on-line media.

“TV and film were always the end game for us,” says Chad. “When we were in the digital space we were always working with concepts that felt bigger than even we maybe knew how to wrangle at the time. We were always wanting to make cool, big, cinematic things.”

Thankfully, writer Brad Miska was putting together a movie of found footage-style segments, and asked the soon-to-be-famous four to contribute. They were given a 17-minute slot, a $10,000 budget, and got to work: the movie, called part of a series called V/H/S, was a Sundance hit, and executives at Fox took notice.

allison Miller zach glifford Devils Due

“Lindsay Devlin had written a script and we got a phone call from John Davies at Fox when he was on vacation,” remembers Tyler. “We were standing in the parking lot of Poquito Mas on Sunset, literally spending our last dollars on lunch. He called, said he loved it on V/H/S, how he was really excited about it, and said ‘I think we should make this movie’. Literally the next day we were working on it.”

The resulting collaboration is Devil’s Due, starring TV’s “Friday Night Lights” Zach Gifford and Allison Miller, best known for her work on NBC series Kings and Go On, and the Spielberg-produced Terra Nova for Fox. The movie is a fresh, contemporary take on the Rosemary’s Baby-style horror story: as newlyweds, their lives are turned upside down when an unexpected pregnancy may be the devil’s work, with each twist and turn captured on ‘home’ video.

“The point of view element is obviously it’s a much-used technique nowadays and  Blair Witch Project was the first movie where the whole conceit of it was that it was real. It was really the first of its kind and felt so incredibly authentic,” says Tyler.

allison Miller zach glifford Devils Due

For “Devil’s Due,” tons of scenes and dialogue are improv’d according to the group.  “All of the scenes and how they were serving the larger story were pretty specifically dialed in, but how we approached them, how the camera existed in the scene… there were many scenes where Zach was shooting with Allison and we were just there to make sure everything was framed right. It was an incredibly grass roots approach to each scene, and the improv was a part of that.  Thankfully, Zach had been around cameras enough and is a photographer himself. I talked him through the camera for 15 minutes and there was a learning curve, and by the time we had shot a day and a half we knew exactly what we were doing, separating the scenes he was actually shooting from the ones we were shooting as him. It was a fun way to get him involved,” Matt shares.

Tyler concludes, “On YouTube the credit doesn’t matter – they’ll watch your stuff or not. That’s just how it works. It was never about credit-hogging, it was always about making cool shit.  For the most part everyone’s been incredibly open to the idea of this group of four guys who want to make cool shit.”

“Devil’s Due” will be out in cinemas on March 19 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

AWARD-WINNING ACTORS GEOFFREY RUSH AND EMILY WATSON IN “THE BOOK THIEF”

The Book Thief

At the heart of Markus Zusak’s uplifting novel “The Book Thief” is a curious little girl. Liesel Meminger’s “crime” (referenced as a “thief” in the title) – a fascination with books and a desire to amass a collection of her own – pales in comparison to those being committed in the world in which she lives. She can’t possibly understand the tumultuous events happening around her, as war breaks out and she learns that a man named Hitler is responsible for tearing her family apart.

But as her foster father, Hans Hubermann, helps her read the pages of the books she’s so keen to take, and when she finds a friend in the Hubermann’s new basement-dwelling houseguest, Max, life begins to change for Liesel. Even in the darkest of times, the Book Thief learns the power of words, and how they can change the world.

Author Markus Zusak says he was inspired to write the book by stories told to him by his parents when he was a young boy in Australia.  “It was like a piece of Europe came into our kitchen when my mom and dad told tales about growing up in Germany and Austria, the bombings of Munich, and about the prisoners the Nazis marched through the streets,” says the author.  “I didn’t realize it at the time but those stories led me to want to become a writer.

The Book Thief

With Sophie Nélisse set to portray Liesel, the filmmakers moved quickly to lock in their long-discussed choices, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, to portray Liesel’s new parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Director Percival notes that from the start, the consummate actors were in sync with his vision for the film.  “I wanted to play everything very naturally, and that’s a style with which Geoffrey and Emily are very comfortable.  Their work really transcends acting.  They own the characters, they are the characters, and they all fit together beautifully.  In working with Geoffrey and Emily, Sophie has probably had the best master class in the world because she absorbed the way they approach scenes and think about their roles, and you could see that rubbing off on her.”

From The King’s Speech to the Pirates of the Caribbean films, the Oscar®-winning Rush has delivered a series of towering performances.  With THE BOOK THIEF, he became Hans Hubermann.  Rush credits the book and script with providing the initial critical path to Hans.  “I think the book is one of the great classics of contemporary literature, and though I knew I wanted to play Hans after reading the script, the novel inevitably became a bible because it offers so much internal observation of the character, and his rhythm, pace and inspiration.”   A house painter by trade, Hans’ constant companion is an old accordion that emits warm, wheezy chords of music. He appears to be an uncomplicated man, but is as complex as any Rush has essayed.  “I think Hans’ greatest gift is that he has a very acute emotional intelligence,” which leads to an almost immediate and emotional rapport with Liesel, he explains.  “Hans can read in Liesel that she’s been through very difficult times and he tries to find ways to draw her out.”

Says Rush:  “Hans responds to the glimmer of energy Liesel has buried inside her and helps bring it to the surface. She starts to love language and words for the hidden powers they have, instead of the poisonous oratory and rhetoric surrounding them.  Liesel finds an escape – a spiritual retreat in the magic of language. Once you understand the potential of language you can understand the potential of ideas outside of your own experience. I hope THE BOOK THIEF will have a similar effect on an audience.  To me, it’s about discovering the value of empathy.”

The Book Thief

Rush and Sophie developed an instant rapport that, says Rush, fed into the dynamic between their on-screen characters. “The great pleasure of doing this has been working with Sophie, who’s such a playful actress,” he says.  “She’s extraordinary to be around, and I loved that in between takes of very dramatic scenes she would be playful.  But when it came to playing the emotional scenes, I was flabbergasted by how focused and how emotionally true she was.”

Hans’ wife, Rosa, is an equally rich, surprising and complex character that combines a harsh exterior with well-hidden inner warmth. Rosa regularly calls her husband, “saukerl!” – German for filthy pig.   “In some ways, Rosa is caustic and seemingly unforgiving,” says Watson.  “She’s harsh with Hans and Liesel, not the sort of person you’d expect to become a foster parent.”

Over time and with her growing love for Liesel, Rosa is revealed to be a caring mother to her and a loving, if impatient wife to Hans.  Says Watson: “Rosa has an inner goodness that almost always has her doing the right thing.”  Watson gave considerable thought to Rosa’s backstory, particularly her marriage.  “I think Rosa was young and beautiful once, and probably more soft-spoken, but the times have changed her.  She seems like she’s angry and disappointed about pretty much everything in her life including her husband, with whom she’s at best dismissive, at times.  But their love for each other is still evident.”

For Percival, working with Watson seemed destined to happen, because her film debut in the acclaimed Breaking the Waves was so moving and powerful that it led him to realize he wanted to direct films. Watson was busy at home with her children when she received the script for THE BOOK THIEF. “I sat down to read it that night, and I wept through it,” she remembers. “It was the best script I’ve read in years.” She was at once drawn to the idea that reading opens up a world of instant riches: “It’s a love letter to the power of story and the transcendence of story and storytelling and how it saves lives.  That’s an amazing thing.”

“It was a time of extreme danger and evil and I was inspired by the acts of kindness during these very dark times,” Zusak continues. “That’s what THE BOOK THIEF is about: finding beauty in even the ugliest of circumstances.  One of the central themes of the story is that Hitler is destroying people with his words, and Liesel is stealing back the words, and she’s writing her own story with them.”

“The Book Thief” opens February 19 in theaters nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

 

UNFRIEND: HIGHLIGHTS SAME SEX LOVE AND THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

unfriend

Not so long ago, a 13-year old boy killed his boyfriend then killed himself inside a mall. The video was uploaded on popular social media and became viral. This became a sort of crusade for indie film director Joselito Altarejos who promised himself he would do something about it to show people how this new technology has so affected our lives, both in a negative and a positive way.

Now, Director Altarejos film Unfriend, which took the Berlin film festival by storm, takes viewers on a nightmarish journey with the film’s principal character David, jilted by his lover just before Christmas, to turn to the screens of his mobile phone, iPad and computer in a desperate attempt to extend his affair with his 17-year old love, Jonathan. Altarejos masterfully relates a gay teenager’s heartbreak and obsession with the social media and makes for a grappling tale of how the Internet can drive fragile minds into a dangerous world. As David’s phone calls, text messages and Skype calls go unanswered, he becomes more and more detached from reality and wanders through the crowds and chaos of Manila with a fatal plan forming in his head.

The film Unfriend vividly portrays life in the Philippines, where poverty forces millions to work abroad, and cheap phones and free WiFi make social media all-pervasive. It has a universal message in showing the perils that the ready availability of unfiltered information online can hold for young people-putting them in touch with shady characters and online materials instructing them how to commit suicide, assemble bombs or commit crimes, and an infinite variety of self-destructive topics.

Unfriend boasts of a mixture of veteran and upcoming actors in the persons of Ms. Boots Anson Roa, Sandino Martin and Angelo Ilagan. It is distributed by Solar Entertainment Corporation. Showing on February 26, 2014 at your favorite theaters.