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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

Check out my new column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

AWAY WE GO - GIVEAWAY

away-we-go_bdI appreciate this film as a quiet examination into the lives of two people who are surrounded by chaos.

What’s most fascinating about AWAY WE GO is that Sam Mendes went from Revolutionary Road to this. From a depressing portrait on suburban life to a picture that dabbles in a little drama and a little comedy the movie works because of co-writers Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the upcoming film Where The Wild Things Are) and his wife Vendela Vida. The movie actually has moments of both sadness and delight. To vacillate between the two takes some talent and the two of them pull it off. Between John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph the duo are able to find the happiness in the sadness and the strength to keep going on when it seems that the whole world is going mad.

The movie is simply one that’s a delight to watch at least once and I have 2 copies of it on Blu-ray that I am giving away to anyone who is able to e-mail me at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and tell me your favorite Eggers book.

Product description:

When slacker thirtysomething couple Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) discover that his parents are moving overseas, the duo — who expect their first child in a few months — set off on a cross-country tour to figure out where they should lay down some roots in Sam Mendes’ poignant comedy Away We Go. They visit a number of different cities, and meet with a different friend or family member’s family at each stop. Their hosts include a set of emotionally detached parents (Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan), a pair of overprotective new-age parents (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton), and old college pals (Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey), who have adopted a number of kids. Novelist Dave Eggers wrote the script with Vendela Vida. Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

THE NOSTRADAMUS FILES - REVIEW

nostradamusI have to implore you, for those who haven’t seen it, to check out the Orson Welles’ narrated The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. Released in 1981, I remember seeing this as a young lad and being mystified at this purported sage of the future. Of course I believed everything I saw and I ate this whole thing up. I was amazed and intrigued by the premise of who this guy was and I will never forget the ending of this movie: Nostradamus predicts the rise of a man who is armed with nuculear weapons and living in the middle east. I don’t know about you but in 1981 the only threat to us was the USSR and even then, with movies like The Day After in 1983 scaring the ever loving hell out of people, the middle east never occurred to a lot of people as being capable of much.

Fast forward almost 30 years and see where we are. Yes, it’s a little hocus-pocus and it’s a lot of loose interpretation but, to me, Nostradamus is still a side show I am willing to pay to watch. The guy was a little kooky and you absolutely could find people today to say how wrong he was but the History channel’s documentary of the guy ranks right up with entertainment worthy of your collection.

For those of us who are endlessly fascinated by the man this is a delightful companion piece. With

Product description:

Examine the eerie predictions of history’s greatest prophet in this doomsday-themed collection from HISTORY™. Nostradamus’ apocalyptic visions and other ancient prophecies that promise a major – and perhaps catastrophic – change to life as we know it are explored in two exciting and insightful documentaries. Many people have believed that we are approaching a year of unprecedented, and even deadly, upheaval. Are there real, verifiable connections between the prophecies of the past and what is happening in the world today? Are the signs of the apocalypse happening before our eyes? More importantly, could the ancient prophecies of a coming apocalypse be realized today? THE NOSTRADAMUS FILES COLLECTION includes: The Lost Book of Nostradamus; and Nostradamus 2012.

BONUS FEATURES: Feature length documentary: Nostradamus: 500 Years Later, Additional Footage: The Sun, The Egyptians, End of Time, The Hopi, and The Masons

DISC 1: The Lost Book of Nostradamus / Bonus Nostradamus: 500 Years Later

DISC 2: Nostradamus 2012 / Bonus additional footage

LIFE AFTER PEOPLE: SEASON ONE - REVIEW

lifeI don’t want to creep a whole lot of you out but I do think about decomposition every now and then.

The idea of wondering what happens as, specifically, the human body succumbs to the earth fascinates my mind. How does a corpse go from formaldahyde display object to liquidy goo? What organisms are responsible for the speed of this process? Part of my interest in the History channel series of Life After People: The Series is wondering what indeed would be civilization’s own path if we were to just leave our current landscape to its own devices? The end result would be a little different than that of Will Smith’s apocolypse in I Am Legend but it gives you a good idea of where this series will take you.

Part science, part theory the series offered me the opportunity to see how objects, animals and, really, the earth would go on spinning without the meddling of homo sapiens. The CGI enhancements to the episodes, while a little clunky at times, add another cinematic level to what is ostensibly a great “What if?” premise of the series on the whole.  The series is an engaging look at the science behind material decomposition and the possibilities that lay behind the theory of what would happen if people did suddenly vanish and I could not have been more entertained going through this season’s discs.

Product Description:

What would happen if every human being on Earth disappeared? This isn t the story of how we might vanish it is the story of what happens to the world we leave behind. Building off the success of the HISTORY two-hour special Life After People, this series continues the exploration of a world wiped clean of humanity, in even more vivid detail.

Each episode is a stunningly graphic examination of how the very landscape of planet Earth would change in our absence, using cinematic CGI to reveal in scientific detail the fate of every aspect of the man-made world. What happens to the millions of animals that supply our food? The chemicals stored in industrial complexes? Which animals take over subways? Do satellites fall to Earth? When does Mt. Rushmore wither away? Every episode will unfold in the hours, days, months and years after people disappear and will combine three to four different kinds of stories, from animal outbreaks to structural collapses, building to a unique visual finale. Welcome to Earth, population zero.

DRAG ME TO HELL - Giveaway

dragI loved this film.

I know there are those who want to come off as tough, macho or jaded by simple scares but this movie delivered on the promise of being a light and airy horror film that walked the line of being solidly thrilling and unabashedly funny at times. For those who did see Sam Raimi’s return to horror and appreciated the work that went into it this was a breath of fresh crypt air coming off of a not so memorable motion picture experience that was Spider-Man 3.

If you enjoyed the experience of the film and would like to add it to your collection please shoot me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and let me know your favorite Sam Raimi film. That’s it and you’re entered.

A description:

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is on her way to having it all: a devoted boyfriend (Justin Long), a hard-earned job promotion, and a bright future. But when she’s forced to make a tough decision that evicts an elderly woman from her house, Christine becomes the victim of an evil curse. Now she has only three days to dissuade a dark spirit from stealing her soul before she is dragged to hell for an eternity of unthinkable torment. Director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man and The Evil Dead Trilogy) returns to the horror genre with a vengeance in the film that critics rave is “the most crazy, fun and terrifying horror movie in years!” (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly)

Ari Gold - Interview

You can’t help but ask the question.

You try and avoid it as you half expect a Bill O’Reilly meltdown should you ask it but I couldn’t resist by the end of the interview with Ari Gold to ask him about…Ari Gold. The director/writer who has created a really special independent film called Adventures of Power was making the film festival rounds earlier this year and that now is playing in select theaters around the country. The movie deals with the very fundamental idea of being your own person and ignoring the pressures of others to capitulate and conform but what makes this movie so remarkable is its wondrous soundtrack, creative cinematography, solid acting and performances from the likes of Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, Adrian Grenier and the very alluring Shoshannah Stern.

I had a chance to talk with Ari months ago as it was preparing to make its theatrical bow and did ask the question about whether having his name as of late in this pop culture we live in has made it difficult to get dinner reservations.

aop2CHRISTOPHER STIPP:  I’ve seen a couple of the shorts that you did and this obviously represents something of a larger scale for you. How was it making the transition from short form to long form? What did you find when the rubber hit the road?

ARI GOLD: It was unbelievably difficult to shoot because I set myself up for a lot of challenges by shooting all over the country and starting to shoot before we finished  raising the money. Having a huge cast and dance sequences and everything that you could possible do to make a shoot difficult, I did.

(Laughs)

So, I feel like I can survive anything now.  Looking back on Helicopter, for example, that was something that when I wrote that…“OK, animated helicopter crash and toy cars going through a toy San Francisco” all the stuff I did with that in a very different way. And the same thing with this script, I was asked, “How are you going to shoot in a factory?  How are you going to shoot dance sequences?  How are you going to pull off all this stuff for low budget?”  And, usually, the answer to all that is incredible hard work to try and get something for nothing and trying to get people on board who are really into working in less than Hollywood conditions.

CS:  And certainly, Michael McKean and Jane Lynch spring to mind that it’s amazing that you got them in the role for someone like yourself who – I don’t know how much juice or how much pull you have was it difficult for you to get those guys?

GOLD: I have no pull at all.

(Laughs)

No manager, just a script and a casting director.  Mainly I think it was the script that made Jane get on board and she really liked it and believed it and liked what I was doing.  I think it helped Michael McKean to read it because Jane was already on board and they knew each other.  The movie gave him a chance to do something that he doesn’t often have the chance to do.  Just to play a serious, dramatic role which is ironic given that it’s an air-drumming movie, but the role is really dramatic and at the heart of the movie and people see him as an improvisational comedy actor and here is something that was scripted and he’s playing a small time union organizer and it’s an interesting thing for him and I think he was glad to have that opportunity.

We had an answer from him quickly and that was great!

CS:  And you bring that up too that it was a juxtaposition of a very sort of farcical comedy with a very dramatic edge embedded in it.  When you made it, was it your intention to have these two things living simultaneously in the same film?

GOLD: Yes, absolutely.  There was no way I could have spent three years of my life making a movie that was just based on some little thing that I thought looked funny.  Air drumming was always for me a metaphor for powerless people trying to find power in themselves.  It’s funny because these characters are trying to drum but they don’t have any drums but actually on a different level it’s a story of working people trying to survive in America and on a spiritual level it’s about people who feel deficient because he doesn’t have drums and he always wants them and then over the course of the movie he discovers drums are within him and that part of the story is what kept me going and kept me motivated.

aop1Something I grapple with in my own life is finding the strength within myself – finding the drums within my self – and not sure what it’s about.  So, yea, that was always on my mind and everyday working with the actors, I treated it, I don’t want to say I treated it as a drama, but I wanted everyone to take the story seriously and let the absurdity of what’s actually happening be funny and yet the emotions that are driving everyone real.

CS:  And the music is definitely important.  To that end, you must have gotten a lot of clearances…as soon as the movie was done I immediately raced to iTunes …you selected some great selection of drum themed songs, Kyrie starts it off for example. Was that a new process for you of obtaining clearances and all that for the music you wanted to use?

GOLD: That was a big part of the process.  It was just one more of the things – that’s one thing you should not do is put famous songs into a movie because you can’t afford them and I had a combination of a great music supervisor, Robin Kaye, was willing to pull out her Rolodex and make calls and pitch the movie to artists and managers and such and I had a lot of time on my hands to listen to thousands of songs from 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, trying to pick stuff and working with my brother Ethan who is a brilliant musician and not only composed 25 songs of different genres in the movie but when we wanted to use a licensed song we’d have five suggestions for every one I had in my head.  It was a big process.

There were a lot of songs that were in the original script that didn’t end up in the movie because we couldn’t clear them before the shoot.  But that’s also where my brother came in because when there was a certain song that I wanted but didn’t get he would compose something that was not only the type of song I wanted but also very funny and he would take it to a different level and my brother’s songs I think fit easily with the big theme songs in the movie.  They all feel like they are part of the right period.  I saw it as a musical.  A level of drama or melodrama that is like a musical and instead of singing… air drums.

CS:  Shooting in the Southwest.  Did that present its own challenges as you decided to shoot in this tiny, tiny town.  How did you find these places?

GOLD: I lived in New Mexico for a while. My aunt lived there and I lived in her basement, much as Power does.  So I got to know particularly the southwestern portion of New Mexico which is not a very touristy area.  Not so beautiful, lots of copper mines.  When I was researching some of the label stuff and started to work on the script I went back and spent a couple weeks traveling around, mostly New Mexico and Arizona but a little bit in Nevada, Colorado and Utah.  And one or two days in the El Paso side of Texas.  I spent a huge amount of time seeing all these places and taking in the feeling of them and talking to people who were on strike by sheer chance when I was there in trying to get a sense of what life was like in these towns.

A frustrating thing was falling in love with the look and the people at certain times and getting shut out by the local factories that knew that – the court would clear stuff in advance and we’d have to tell them where we’d be shooting that there’s this and there’s this and also there’s a strike and a labor battle and one of the big corporations that owns a couple different companies in the region found out about some of the political stuff or whatever you want to call it in the movie and shut us out and even though the local plant managers and the local people and the bar owners were thrilled to have us there it was like racquetball.  We would get approval from 99% of what we needed in the town and then get whacked by the corporate office and then the police and then we’d have to tell the people we’re not coming to your town to shoot.  So that was a frustrating thing but we ended up having a small miracle in Utah where this huge and beautiful power plant let us in and let us shoot everything we wanted and the local film board was really supportive so it ended up working out.  All the scouting that I did, including the pictures that I sent you, it really helped in terms of research in showing stuff to the production designer and trying to capture the feelings of all these towns I’d seen in the one town we did end up shooting in.

aopCS:  I have to commend Lisa Wiegand’s cinematography.  It’s just gorgeous to look at and it’s such an un-comedy because of the technical elements that just aren’t there in “comedy” nowadays.

GOLD: One of my favorite comedies, and I’m not sure you could really call it a comedy, is Repo Man.  My film doesn’t have the same kind of look that Repo Man has but in the way that film captures place and captures a real sense of environment, I wanted to go for that.  It was over the top in its color but also sense of realness – the heart-ness of these people’s lives.

CS:  And it does.  It takes a very serious turn with riot police when they enter the stage.  You are having a good time with Power but then these other sub plots brings you to a different place.  When you try and take in the narrative, like I said, it’s not normally the route you would go for such an over the top idea of an air drummer.

GOLD: And for most of the audiences that watch the movie, they are able to go with that run.  We played it for a union gathering in Sacramento, California and people were cheering up on their feet saying it was the best movie they had seen in years and they get that.  And then there are some audiences that want it to be a cynical comedy that makes the protagonist and everyone in it look like an ass.  And this movie doesn’t do that.  It asks you to take the character seriously at the same time that you’re laughing at the situation.  I’m really happy with the tip-toe that the tone takes.  It works for most people – at least the people I wanted to reach but there are people who don’t get it but that’s the risk you take.

CS:  Right.  Exactly.  And according to some of the reviews, those that get it, get it.  But those that want to dismiss it as Napoleon Dynamite 3 years too late I think miss the point completely.  In fact, the movie almost takes an over the top idea of these movies where a guy goes and trains, like the movies I remember as a kid of a guy training really hard only to win in the end and it sends those ideas up by the end.

GOLD: Yes.  Funny thing is I got that flack from some people who saw it as a Napoleon Dynamite influence and it was sort of disappointing because I had been playing this character before Napoleon Dynamite existed.  I actually liked Napoleon Dynamite and actually showed it to my cast up in Utah and they were wild about the movie.  They didn’t feel that it was a rip off thing but this is someone who gets small town life again.  Because people who live in small towns get that.  It’s not that Napoleon Dynamite invented the weirdness of small towns.

CS:  I’m really curious to know about the dance sequence you brought up.  I’m a big fan of it. Did you always have something like that in mind in the movie, in the script, saying a dance sequence?

GOLD: Are you talking about the one in the ghetto?

CS:  Yes.

adventures of power 081009GOLD: That one was – most of the dance sequences were written in – that was one I wrote in and kept in every other draft it was in and out and in and out and I couldn’t decide.  I wondered if I could get that absurd in that section of the movie and then I decided that I had to go that absurd right there.  And I’m very happy with the way it turned out.  It’s a strange thing because it was such a long period of time and shot it in sections, almost like five short films.  I was constantly trying to make sure that the new sections that I shot would fit in tonally with the sections I shot 6, 7, 8, or 9 months before.  And that was one of the last things I shot but that’s exactly what I wanted.  That musical comedy thing to happen.

CS:  It is and it fit.  Like I said it sent up that idea of the musical interlude which is so prevalent in a lot of movies of this kind and fits in obviously perfectly.  Getting  Shoshannah and Adrian and even Neil Peart, who I always thought, or I always read that he is like a reclusive guy who doesn’t like to be out there that much, was it difficult getting Neil in the movie?

GOLD: The initial call was made by Robin Kaye, our music supervisor, but I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the way it appeared but the whole Rush organization – everyone who works with that band has just been so generous and welcoming and really went above and beyond.  Not that they even had a call to duty – they had no obligation – they just let us use their song which was so generous but also their time and energy and I don’t know quite how that happened….

(Laughs)

But, they must have liked the project and thought it was the right spirit.  They started from nothing too and I think they recognize that as a filmmaker I’m scratching two pennies together to try and make gold and they did the same thing and I think they respected that and it was just a real pleasure.  They have been very helpful in getting the word out about the movie.  They are great!  Adrian plays in a band with me so it wasn’t so hard to reach him.  I just have to look behind me and see his face.  And I know it was a great chance for him to stretch his wings out because he doesn’t normally get offered these kinds of comedy roles and I think he’s fantastic in the movie – just hilarious.  And people really respond well when they see him.  He’s almost unrecognizable because people are used to seeing him as straight arrow and he plays this wild country character.  And Shoshannah was also a struck of luck because I wrote a character that was deaf and yet completely ridiculous, self effacing and I knew I had to find someone who had the right sense of humor and not being deaf and not being from that community I didn’t know what would be offensive, what would be right, what would be wrong.  I had some deaf bloggers I was writing back and forth and wanted to make sure I got the story right and didn’t cross any lines.

But I knew I had to find someone who was actually hard of hearing playing the part because I didn’t want to have a potentially a black face thing with that part.  Oh cast the starlet and the starlet might have been the right one for that role but I just couldn’t do that.  So finding someone who is as charming and funny and a great actress and great spirit as Shoshannah was just incredible luck.  I didn’t even know she existed as an actress until someone told me about this girl on Weeds to go check her out.  And that was just lucky.

CS:  You mentioned things being a stroke of luck when these things fell into place, are you used to that as a filmmaker or are you more used to being set up for failure in terms of not getting what you want?

GOLD: Interesting question.  There aren’t that many movies that shoot for 13 months.  Certainly not that many independent comedies have the lead actor break their arm on set, getting shut out of 13 locations because of political problems…

(Laughs)

I guess you could call that bad luck.  We had some huge challenges getting the movie finished but all movies have huge challenges getting finished, particularly when you are small budget and if you have a lot of ambition you are asking for trouble and we got a lot of trouble but we also had great things happen too.

You can see from that everything from the casting to the shooting what it was like thunderstorms during our desert shoots or having certain actors back out because of cult advice…

(Laughs)

It just happens and if you are open to it and just go with the flow like Power has to do, if something horrendously ridiculous has happened and you are prepared and loose and the wind blows hard, you bend but you don’t break.  We had a lot of hurricanes to deal with.  Good lessons.  One day when I had probably 6 different religions of people on set praying for the rain to stop, not sure who had the direct line to the weather but….yeah.

CS:  So how has the experience been going around to festivals and around the globe showing the movie?  What has it taught you about the hustler side of getting a film made?  You have your artistic thing made and now it’s down to business and get this thing out there so people will see it.

GOLD: I’ve had to learn again Power’s lesson of making something of nothing.  I think it’s a fantasy that a lot of filmmakers and all artist’s, dance, painters, everyone who does something like this, kind of secretly hoping that the clouds are going to open and a giant hand will come down and lift you up to heaven – up to creative and financial heaven.  And that rarely happens.  And has not happened here, yet.  At the same time what I am getting is getting emails from all over the world saying, yea, I’d like to help out.  I saw the film, I told my friends, what can I do?  I’d like to be a part of it.  And so that spirit is exciting.  So some days I’m tired of doing the business side and other times it’s the way it should be.  It’s inspiring in a way.

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