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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

Who Is KK Downey? - DVD Review

kk-downey-3d-largeThere is such a need to become famous nowadays.

When you break it down, fame isn’t really a commodity that can be stored away, saved for later, or preserved. It’s fleeting when and if it happens and it is gone just as quickly. What makes this movie such a delight is its meditation on the nature of fame but it does so with the kind of obnoxiousness that requires a humorist’s touch.

Made by the folks of Kidnapper Films, the movie takes a look at the lives of Terrance Permenstein, and, yes, that’s his real name, Theo Huxtable as they toil in their lives of obscurity until writer Terrance writes a piece of fiction so far afield of reality that he assumes the character he creates as a real individual and uses this ruse in order to get his fame. Fame, you see, in order to try and woo a lady Terrance used to be with and things from here just spiral out of control. From bizarre set-ups to comedy that is well above the kind that we’re getting out of our usual comedy cohorts the movie takes you on a journey of deception and hilarity. Sure, not everything works but what’s exciting about this film is that there are more hits than misses. For a young upstart crew like this to be giving more laughs per 90 minutes than your average Saturday Night Live show it speaks highly of these performers’ ability to bring the funny in a way that just feels fresh, new.

More than just your usual movie about a couple of bums who are looking to grab the brass ring in order to gain some notoriety, the movie showcases the talent of this trio and they demonstrate why you ought to keep an eye on these three.

A description of the movie:

In the tradition of SCTV and Kids In The Hall comes WHO IS KK DOWNEY ?, the feature-length debut from Canada ’s latest comedy geniuses at Kidnapper Films. An Official Selection at the Philadelphia Film Festival, Winner of the Best Feature award at the Boston Underground Film Festival and the New Vision Award at Cinequest, WHO IS KK DOWNEY? opened with the highest per screen average in Canada . And now, IndiePix® Films delivers this hilarious examination of media hype and hipster ideology inspired by recent, real-life literary hoaxes to U.S. audiences on DVD. Available on November 3, this soon-to-be cult-classic comes to stores in an extras-laden edition, featuring deleted scenes, outtakes, audio commentary and more!

Over the last ten years, Kidnapper Films — troupe members Darren Curtis, Matt Silver and Pat Kiely – have diligently and creatively worked out of their hometown of Montreal , producing a series of short, comedic films. “We decided enough with the short films. Let’s step up to the table and produce a feature,” says Kiely. “After James Frey, and J.T. LeRoy, and all those others hoaxes, we thought ‘why not make a really dumb, fun comedy about literary hoaxes.’ So that’s what we did.”

WHO IS KK DOWNEY ? follows the story of two wannabes who decided they were sick and tired of trying to make a name for themselves the old-fashioned way. Terrance is trying to make it as a rock star, while Theo dreams of getting his first book published: ‘Truck Stop Hustler,’ a racy look at life on the streets as a junkie prostitute. After a string of humiliations by both publishers and music critics, the two hatch a plan to turn Theo’s fictional book into an autobiography by having Terrance dress up as the story’s protagonist, KK Downey, and claim all the events as having happened to him. All of a sudden the book nobody wanted becomes an overnight literary sensation, and the duo has realized their dreams of fame and fortune. But at what price?

Moonshot - Blu-ray Review

moonI love this kind of thing.

You can take your Apollo 13 and your Space Cowboys, your Armageddon, I have always been more of a realistic kind of guy. From learning about how things began with just an idea to actually shoving many human bodies beyond any point they’ve ever physically gone presentation is everything. You can’t just slap something together in an EPK and expect that people will appreciate the scope of the information they’re given.

Thankfully, you’ve not only got one of the most definitive documentaries about how we went from thought to the eagle landing but it’s done in a way that is entertaining and exciting to watch. To say nothing of the historical value of having footage in Blu-ray smacking you in the face, the story is delicately told through a series of reflections and footage of this time. Engineers were the ones who ultimately did it but it’s the filmmakers here who distilled the real story and put this together which really brings everything together. Yes, the final product dramatizes the events leading up to the eventual moon landing but in between this you have a fascinating look into the space race that hurtled events into motion at such a rapid speed you wonder if anything else that will come after this will ever spur our country to do something so quickly.

This disc will be perfect for dad, for grandpa, for anyone with a passing interest in the program that people nowadays wonder if it is doing any sort of real good. There was a time when people were transfixed to the events that put men on the moon and Moonshot will absolutely deliver on the promise of taking this time in our history and making it relevant again.

A little product description:

Relive the breathtaking story of Apollo 11 and the first manned landing on the Moon as HISTORY takes viewers aboard the rocket and on its eight-day round trip to outer space for a close-up look at one of the most stunning and courageous personal and technological achievements of man. Interlaced with original NASA footage transferred to high definition, Moonshot covers the crew s earliest days at NASA to the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step on the Moon. From home life and families, to the argument over who would be the first to walk on the lunar surface, this is the remarkable story of one of the most chronicled events in history. Using a script based on transcripts from the mission, contemporary documents, books and interviews, Moonshot incorporates news footage from around the world, including that of the iconic CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. Together, the drama and original material present a vivid yet intimate glimpse at one of the defining moments of modern history.

Doomsday 2012: The End of Days - Review

doomI’m not a huge fan of Ronald Emmerich.

From his obnoxious filmmaking that tries to use global disasters and mass destruction as his palate upon which to throw his dystopic vision to his horrible stretching of any valid truth I just don’t get it. What I do appreciate, however, is this special about 2012.

For those who don’t know or have any inclination this program helps you understand why 2012 is such a trigger with more than a few civilizations. The Mayans believed the world will be torn asunder when winter hits in ought 12,  and the added documentary Mayan Doomsday Prophecy is like a delicious footnote that gives this group a little extra screen time, there are many computers scouring the Internet to compile mounds of data which point to this year being one filled with destruction, and the oracle of the Chinese, the I Ching, all peg this year being catastrophic for the earth.

I loved all the crazies they wheel out to talk about prophecy, of predictions for things that are pointing to the fact this may all be a warning, and I certainly had to smile when we were treated with a matching up of the factual events in the history and the many divinations of oracles from history past. Yes, this could all be chalked up to convenient interpretation but this is a program that is at, the very least, a welcome diversion. To hear those who want to debunk the convenient predictions just aren’t as fun as thinking there is something here to what’s being talked about. Could the earth end in 2012? While I don’t think any of this is believable this is nonetheless worth the effort to watch and be amazed by what could be one of the biggest predictions no one hopes comes true. It certainly deserves your money more than Ronald Emmerich does and I think I was more entertained in the process.

BEFORE THE COMING END OF DAYS, JOIN HISTORY™ FOR THE TRUTH BEHIND THE UPCOMING BLOCKBUSTER 2012

It is a doomsday that is foretold in the Mayan calendar, the Chinese oracle of the I Ching…even in an Internet-based prophetic software program: December 21st, 2012. Is there any truth to the prophecy that the world will end on that specific date? And why do so many oracles throughout history seem to point to that same dreaded doomsday? Prior to the premiere of Roland Emmerich’s upcoming mega budget, mega-disaster movie 2012 (bowing on 11/13), join HISTORY™ for this fascinating special which cuts through the myths and offers a fact-based examination of the Doomsday prophecy.

Also included is a bonus documentary: MAYAN DOOMSDAY PROPHECY which delves even deeper into meaning behind the Mayans and their apocalyptic calendar.

Peter Rodger - Interview

Dare I say that, looking at all we’ve been given by him in the last 12 months, this is the most honest performance from Hugh Jackman? It is.

For those who were left wanting after seeing Bill Maher’s Religulous there weren’t too many options, as viewer, to examine the intricacies of God. Be it religion or the belief in a higher power there are multitudes of people who think they have it right while everyone else is wrong. The curious extension of this idea is that maybe someone does have it right, one of the hundreds of organized belief systems out there, but what does it say about everyone else who is on the wrong side of the faith war?

You can see where all the strife and battling of wills between those who believe one thing against those who believe something else is going but the one point here is that how many documentaries have dealt with the idea of faith, of belief, in a way that’s meaningful? The answer is no one, as Maher was too busy being snarky and arrogant and making his subjects look bad that it missed an opportunity to examine what it means to believe in God, or not to believe in God. Documentary filmmaker Peter Rodger stepped in to fill that void and has crafted a movie that you never knew could be so genuine and devoid of an invisible hand guiding the narrative. You have a spectrum of faces you know, Hugh Jackman, Bob Geldof, David Copperfield, Ringo Starr, Seal, and a fistfuls of those you haven’t. What’s remarkable about the latter is Rodger captures wide vistas from 23 countries and he simply has people talk about their feelings, their ideas, of God itself.

As a practicing agnostic I found myself moved by what Rodger has put on the screen. Instead of stuffy rooms where the interviews have no context, the film captures the sense of place in a world where we all tend to think locally not globally and the result is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year. A life affirming story that is moving and has one constant but dozens of beliefs.

Oh My God is opening this weekend in NY and LA. For theaters where it’s appearing near you visit his website and pull up showtimes.

oh_my_godCHRISTOPHER STIPP:  Peter, nice to talk to you.

PETER RODGER: Chris, how are you doing?

CS:  I’m doing fine.  I got to watch you movie last night and I am just amazed by it.

RODGER: Thank you!

CS:  It was nothing that I was expecting and that’s in a very good way.  In researching what I was going to talk to you about, I saw in a lot of interviews, this really was sort of born out of the fruit the idea of the school yard mentality of kid thing.  Essentially that my God is better than your God.

RODGER: Not of kids, but a childish mentality.

CS:  Exactly.  Adults who want to be childish about it and it kind of amplifies itself in the amount of wars that have been taken out in God’s name.  What really made you think that you had to do a feature length movie about this idea?

RODGER: The whole point is this – it is ridiculous in this age of communication of internet, the world is a very small place.  Human beings are on a big rock and it’s a little bit distressful that those in one club are better than those in another club.  It becomes even more distressful when they use God’s name to validate their club against somebody elses and I find that a very childish mentality.  I think that now we are in a very good position because of the smallness of the world and the ability to get on the phone or the internet or talk or whatever to really understand that we are more united that we are divided and this is really the motivating factor for me to go around the world and ask people what does the name of God mean to them and perhaps we can learn something, learn other cultures and realize that we are a little more united than divided.  And stop this particularly distasteful bigotry that seems to manifest itself and was under the microscope of 9/11.  That’s what started this polarity going on and I think it’s just a futile concept that now we have to push people away when we should be getting together.

CS:  You visited so many countries and I have to give compliments and kudos to the camera work.  I think one of the things I was struck with was the way you captured the idea of place, of time.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  Obviously you weren’t satisfied to just visit the U.S., Jerusalem, the Middle East – you visited, what, more than 20 countries?

RODGER:
Yes.  Actually we shot in 23 countries.  I think there are 20 in the film.  Some countries I had to take out because it was getting a little bit too long and it was repetitive.  The point is that it is such a worldly universal question – as Hugh Jackman says in the film, it’s a question that probably can’t be answered.  And the point is, you don’t have to answer but by asking it, you open yourself up to other people’s ideas and those other ideas can create discussions and those discussions can lead to learning and that learning can lead to tolerance.  I really wanted to go around as much of the world as I possibly could in a 90 minute movie and you can’t make a movie about what you think God is without going as you said, the Holy Land and places like that.  But also you need to get into indigenous cultures and into people who have been practicing their belief systems for thousands of years, like the Aborigines and the Native American Indians.  And then you can’t make a film about what people think God is without embracing religions, Hinduism, philosophies like Buddhism, etc.  So that dictated that I had to go to those countries to be able to put across those ideas into the film to make it as grounded as possible and also to allow the film to be as objective as possible.

CS:  Did you find yourself changed by the end of this process?  Did you discover something within yourself that you weren’t expecting to come out?

RODGER: Yes, I rather enjoyed the immense sense of humanity I found from people on a base level that there is a wonderful spark of deliciousness about human beings and that was very reassuring in a world where our information is garnered from news which is filtered and edited, which is quite different from the real world out there.  And so that made me have a lot more faith in humanity than I did previously.

CS:   I think one of the more interesting things was Ringo Starr – and it was John Lennon that said any “ism”, in his opinion, isn’t good.  Do you have a better perspective of the “isms” of the world and what they mean to people and whether or not there is a chance for people to co-exist under one?

peterRODGER: I think the only way that we are going to co-exist under one is if we have a common enemy.  That common enemy could be aliens invading the planet (laugh) or it could be global warming.  It is about time that we human beings learned how to unite.  We are not a barbaric society anymore.  We’ve got education to dispel those differences.  We’ve had amazing advancements in technology in the last 100 years.  It’s growing at an exponential rate.  We really need to get over our little club bigotry ideologies.  We’ve got to learn to be extremely generous to other human beings and learn to live together.  I think the economic crisis in the last year, 18 months, has made people rethink that themselves and not take life for granted.  That we do have responsibilities on every single level and that mom and dad losing their IRA’s and ponzi schemes and people being worried about their jobs, desperate to hold on to something, means we’ve got to work at this together instead of saying that my club is better than yours and if you don’t believe in what I believe in you are not worthy, goodbye.  In fact, I’m going to punch you in the nose.  I think it’s just terrible.  To unite, we need to discuss.  We need to sit around the table and graciously talk about what we feel and I think out of that argument, out of that discussion, one, if they are open to it, can realize that we are all the same.

CS:  Do you have hope that that can happen after visiting all these countries or do you see that the conflicts that we have in the Middle East, the conflicts we have here in America, in your opinion, do you think that’s ever possible or do you think we are on this path for many more hundreds of years before any change will happen?

RODGER: You can’t change the human way of thinking – the human condition.  These conflicts have been going on ever since human beings walked the planet.  But I do believe that we are evolving and I think that’s what our mission is in life.  That if each of us did one good act to somebody each day, the world would be a better place and I think it starts at home.  It’s a little bit like changing your light bulb, it’s very warming.  And if all of us start shifting and thinking not because of our fears and insecurities that we’re going to insult that person or tread over him or steal his money or say that he has to be condemned because he doesn’t believe what I believe – if we can shift that collectively then there is a chance and there is hope.

I have had the most wonderful ability to go around the world and make a film that I hope a lot of people are going to see.  And if lots of people go and see the film it’s only preaching (but not preaching at all) – instilling an idea that if we talk to each other instead of fighting with each other and do something in our own way each day individually is baby steps.  There is a hope and you can relate that to the philosophies of Obama if you like – using diplomacy in wonderful ways and will hopefully save lots of lives one day.  So, I think that we as individuals have responsibilities that were dictated by the prophets from early religions but they need to be put into practice now.

CS:  That’s the rub.  I think preparing for the interview and oddly enough this week was an election week across our country here – one of the things that struck me was the gay marriage debate and how that got voted down in Maine and it’s frustrating on my part in that I don’t live in Maine – don’t live anywhere near Maine but I feel isolated in that a majority of people think that because their bible tells them that gay marriage is an abomination people shouldn’t be able to marry and I feel like sometimes I feel marginalized because I don’t know what I can do to help overcome that.  And it’s frustrating because people do take the name of their religion as a compass for the morality of all.  I’m interested in getting your opinion about whether you talked to people around the world who feel marginalized themselves and that they are trying to do good but there is an overriding religious decree that they feel they can’t overcome their own space because religion has taken such a strong foothold?

RODGER: Yes, we have a long way to go.  First of all, let’s take it bit by bit.  The United States of America is an amazing country because we have the right of free speech.  I thought the question under the Bush administration, homeland security and all that, you’re not patriotic.  That was a bit of a problem.  Now let’s talk about the gay marriage thing - because it was written in the bible?  Well, who wrote the bible?

CS:  Man.

RODGER: Yeah.  When did they write the bible?

CS:  Two thousand years ago.

RODGER: Actually it was less than that – probably 400 years after Jesus Christ was crucified.  The bible as we know it now.  I don’t know what the exact figure is.  You are talking about man who took the words of a very enlightened human being, Jesus Christ, who some pertain to be the Son of God.  Now that’s a different subject, but these people at that particular point in time and that particular point in history were making a political, basically a political book using the prophet, which was probably doing, some would argue bad at the time but most would argue it was good because it gave a way of life to a lot of people and in that was a great fear of homosexuality.  Homosexuality was absolutely accepted earlier – Greek, Roman times, etc. etc.

I think that it’s all a distortion with what’s man has done with it.  The whole point is to discuss it and the thing is that Christians, who are saying this, and the point is that Jesus Christ said you should never look down on anybody and embrace everybody like your brother and treat your neighbors like yourself.  So, I think that’s a distortion between what the prophet was saying and how it was politicized and written down on paper by man.  That’s the problem – that people relate to that as the gospel truth and they can’t be swayed.  But then it’s not right for those who feel that way and want to share their world and have the same kind of economic benefits that married people have.  So, round and round and round it goes.  But I don’t know what the answer to this question is but I mean, let’s just look at it from another point of view in history.  It wasn’t that long ago that a black man in the southern states had to sit in a different part of a theatre than a white man.  Now they can sit all together so there is progress.  Your other question of hope – yes.  We have a lot of hope.  Hope and discussion.  Talk about it.  All people will come out of the woodwork to talk about these people that voted it down.  The next time around it might get voted through.  It’s a very human thing.  It’s about human rights and segregation.  Let’s look at the positive things that came out in the last couple of weeks.  The hate bill was signed my Obama in the Rose Garden.  Fantastic.  There is hope.

329319-o-my-god-webCS:  There is and your movie gives that hope.  I think it was everything I was hoping Religulous was going to be a couple of years ago and failed to live up to that idea.  I think you do what a documentary should do and that’s to be as objective as possible and let the subjects be the focus of the piece and I think you do that effortlessly.

RODGER: Thank you.

CS:  How did you get the celebrities that show up?  Hugh Jackman.  I looked at your resume and apart from the movie you are working on now, there really isn’t anything there besides this film.  How did you convince them to go on camera and talk about God?

RODGER: I went away for three months and self financed and shot for 73 days and came back and cut a full minute trailer of what I had asking all the questions that looked a million dollars and I put that on my website and sent it around to all my friends and said I need celebrities, anybody who knew a celebrity please come back to me.  And some of them did and that’s how I got them.

The trailer showed what I was doing and then they kindly agreed and some came to me.  David Copperfield came to me for example.  I was driving in Idaho and my phone rang and it was David Copperfield and he said, listen, someone told me you were doing this movie about what people think God is and it’s a very interesting subject to me.  I am an illusionist and the first religious leaders were illusionists because, in parenthesis, they could prove the existence of God.  And I am a believer and I am an illusionist and I would love to talk about this on camera.  And he does and it’s a great segment.

CS:  It is.   As he is telling the story in the beginning you don’t know quite where he is going with it but then it all pulls together fascinatingly.  One of the other things I found amusing or at least interesting, is that the movie that you shot you brought all your footage back and started editing and you said you found the movie’s structure in the editing room.  Can you talk about what happened when you got to the editing room?  What did you find when you got there?

RODGER: It was tough because we had a lot of footage.  John Hoyt, my editor, started while I was on the road.  I would send him footage back.  He was viewing all the footage and pasteurizing it and then he came from New York to LA and we cut there after I basically finished filming.  We had all these ideas about structure.  At first we made it like a little bit of a travel log because there were different countries and then I drew a graph which was based upon all the books you could ever read and I also write movie scripts so I know that structure is everything.  So I drew a graph which had a first act, a second act, and a third act.  A question.  A confrontation.  A semi-kind of resolution where the resolution in this film is actually up to the audience rather than me giving the divine answer.  And I drew another structure that was like a two act structure – like a pyramid, which goes up right to the middle of the film, it changes course.

So I laid that structure over the other structure and then I wrote down the minutes of instruction, the question, next act, need to try here, need to resolve it here, and I said that is our blueprint.  We have to engage this as our bible.  So then it was a matter of filling in the pieces bit by bit.  John was fantastic.  Really really good.  He’s objective, very smart, intelligent editor.  And so we laid it out roughly and that was a matter of taking the transcripts and working out – there is a thread – it’s very subtle through it all but wanted to build up to what we called the tennis match which is sort of the confrontation that polarizes the world between Christianity and Islam and also the Islamists being hijacked by a group of loud mouthed fundamentalists.

And then where do we put the Holy Land?

oh1The Israelis and the Palestinians conflict into this because we have to.  And then it sort of gelled from there.  And then it didn’t work and changed it a bit and stuff stayed the same and then once we had that structure down we started cutting.  Finding images that told the story underneath what the people were saying so that you’re not looking at faces all the time.  There was something going on visually that supported.  When you look at the film again, no body has the time to look at it in slow motion or whatever, or just look at it again, every time somebody is talking about something there is subliminal presentation about what they are saying in the shots.  And that is something that is not meant to be conscious in the first viewing but it just creeps up throughout the movie.  And that’s how we did it.

CS:   Really? As an independent feature – were you doing this by yourself?  Were you living on credit cards?

(Laughs)

RODGER: I’m still living on credit cards.  Thank God for American Express.

After being quite successful in the advertising world, it was quite a shock.  What happened was I paid for the first bit and sort of mortgaged the house actually.  Then got the trailer and used that first trailer that I explained before to get financier help and I teamed up with Horacio Altamirano who is a South American producer who loved the concept, loved the idea, and knew he could recruit in South America.  You need to go to the end users, the guys who know how to get there and invest.  He became my partner and paid for the first production and put up the P&A for the release of the movie and I am deeply grateful to him and also gave me the artistic license to make my film.

CS:  That’s amazing.  And I know I have only about two minutes left so my last question would be were there any surprises in this whole process of anything you discovered about either yourself or the way you think about this subject or did you go along for the ride and put a camera there and let the people do the talking?

RODGER: I went around with a camera and let people do the talking but I was surprised and could sum up the surprise at the cancer hospital at the end of the movie which was the most moving part for me.  I live in Los Angeles and having been across 23 countries I was with – I think if you want to find God then look into a child’s eye – mainly because they aren’t tainted when they are born and as toddlers they don’t differentiate between someone who is disabled, male or female, black or white, yellow or green or whatever.  They just accept life for what it is and unfortunately they grow up to be adults that get tainted by mommy and daddy’s point of view and perhaps other people at school and other things come into play.  And also, some DNA kicks in.  The point is, if you really want to see some unbelievable purity, do look into a child’s eye.  I would like to take that a step further and look into a child’s eye that is facing death.

And so I went to the cancer hospital and there was one little boy there who I am very happy to say survived a bone marrow transplant and is still with us but at the time I found him it was very edgy if it was going to happen.  His name is Christian Fernandas and I asked Christian a question in the film and his answer blew me away but you have to go see the film.

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