Category Archives: Movies

Gen Art Film Festival Winners!

The 15TH Anniversary of the Gen Art Film Festival presented by Acura wrapped an exciting week that kicked off with the New York premiere of Sundance Audience Award winner “happythankyoumoreplease” and concluded last night with a ceremony announcing the winners of the Acura Grand Jury Awards, Wonderwall.com’s Stargazer Award and the Festival’s Audience Awards.

Following the closing night premiere of “Mercy,” the award winners were announced at BLVD. Gen Art Senior Vice President of Film Jeffrey Abramson, Gen Art Associate Director Aaron Levine and Jurors Shea Whigham and Eugene Hernandez announced the Festival winners.

The Acura Grand Jury Award for Best Feature went to Tatiana Von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini’s “Tanner Hall” with both directors on hand to receive their award last night, and the Acura Grand Jury Award for Best Short went to Vance Malone’s “The Poodle Trainer.” Prizes of $10,000 and $5,000 were presented by Acura to the Feature and Short winners respectively. Josh Radnor’s “happythankyoumoreplease” and Jeff Sousa’s “The Hirosaki Players” took home the Festival’s coveted Audience Awards.

Additionally, Wonderwall.com’s “Stargazer Award” recognized Rooney Mara (“Tanner Hall”) as the most talented emerging actor with “starstuff” from this year’s festival, selected by an esteemed group of festival alumni actors: Paul Schneider, Shea Whigham and Billy Burke. She will be featured in a special gallery on Wonderwall.com this week. The role was Rooney Mara’s first lead role, but she has since gone on to appear in indie films including “Youth in Revolt” and “Dare” both which opened theatrically early this year and late last year respectively, and she will be seen as a lead in the upcoming remake of the classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which opens nationally on April 30th. Rooney was on hand to accept the award last night.

During the past week, the Gen Art Film Festival presented by Acura showcased the New York premieres of seven features and seven shorts from emerging filmmakers, each followed by seven parties at New York City’s hottest venues, including SL, Juliet Supper Club, and Avenue. The cutting-edge festival allowed film buffs to experience a premiere like a true insider with interactive elements allowing filmmakers, media and the audience to share in the excitement.

“Happythankyoumoreplease” written and directed by Josh Radnor and featuring Radnor, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber, Tony Hale and Richard Jenkins opened the festival on April 7th at the historic Ziegfeld Theatre. The remaining films included “Mercy,” “Tanner Hall,” “Waiting for Forever,” “The Wild Hunt,” “Teenage Paparazzo,” and “Elektra Luxx” which all premiered to capacity crowds at the completely redesigned, state-of-the-art Visual Arts Theater in Chelsea.

Celebrities in attendance throughout the week included Adrian Grenier, Josh Radnor, Rachel Bilson, Malin Akerman, Alexis Bledel, Blythe Danner, Diane Von Furstenberg, Carla Gugino, Tom Everett Scott, Kate Mara, Tom Sturridge, Anthony Mackie, Rooney Mara, Zoe Kazan among many others.

“To celebrate our 15th year we sought to program films that would really excite our audience and by all measures we succeeded in doing such” said Jeffrey Abramson. “Our audience award reactions were exceptionally high and enthusiastic and the # of passholders and repeat attendees significantly increased”

“To kick off Spring 2010 with a sold-out 15 Anniversary Film Festival that brought together the highest profile and critically acclaimed set of independent films that we have showcased in our history, that also had such filmmaker and talent support at the festival, was truly inspiring” said Gen Art CEO and co-Founder Ian Gerard. “And to have our festival partner Acura there with us for an eighth year – was the icing on the cake.”

Once the run of the festival was determined, the films were submitted to the official festival jury, comprised of the following:

Feature Jury: Ben Barenholz (Producer), Charles Thorp (NY Entertainment Journalist), Eugene Hernandez (indieWIRE), Kacey Hagler (Fox Searchlight), Meira Bluastein (Woodstock Film Festival)

Short Jury: David Fear (Time Out NY), David Miller (Director, My Suicide), Marc Webb (Alumnus Director, 500 Days of Summer), Robin Bronk (The Creative Coalition), Tom Everett Scott (Actor/ Alumnus Director, “Glock”)

Stargazer Jury (all alumni Gen Art actors): Billy Burke, Paul Schnieder, Shea Whigham

Filmmaker DavidJR created videos encapsulating each night’s premiere and they can be viewed at http://www.genart.org/filmfestival/video.

In addition to Acura, the festival was made possible through the sponsor support of Amazon, Andaz Hotels, Cannon, Chase, Crunch, Don Julio Tequila, General Snus, Honest Tea, Kodak, New York Magazine, Ovation TV, and Stella Artois.

For more information, upcoming events and pictures and video please visit Gen Art’s website at www.genart.org.

What Makes an Oscar Worthy Movie? Find Out with TCM!

If you haven’t been catching the amazing marathon over at TCM, you’re missing out. To celebrate the 2010 Oscars they’ve been playing 360 different Oscar-winning movies! The festival of movies started on Feb 1st Kevin Bacon and James Coco in Only When I Laugh (1981). The final movie in the festival, Diner (1982), starring Bacon, will bring the entire month full circle. Apparently TCM can play 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon too!

I’m looking forward to rewatching The Bells are Ringing with Dean Martin. And maybe discovering some new favorite films!

Click here to visit the official site and see the schedule.

The Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented live on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

I wrote this article after receiving a press release from YouCast Corporation. I received a TCM Oscar Party pack including popcorn, coasters and other party items as a thank you.

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

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When I was nine my father handed me a book that would alter my future forever. This book? A hard-cover, red, un-assuming volume of Sherlock Holmes stories. I was hooked and became a devotee of the third order — a true “Sherlockian” (someone from America who is a fan and scholar of Sherlock Holmes). Holmes was my obession for years – I collected more copies of the stories, I read thick analytical books, I learned what a gas-lamp was and spelled color with a “u” because that’s how they did in the Holmes stories.

So when the first news of Robert Downey Jr. taking up Holmes’ role I was excited. There’d be a couple attempts at re-starting the Holmes legacy after the death of Jeremy Brett – but none got too far. Then I saw the first pictures and was confused. I was afraid that my beloved hero had been reduced to a comic book characture. I entered the film on Christmas day equal parts excited and afraid.

I was not disappointed. The Holmes that blazed across the screen was powerful, human, funny and true to form. Many have commented about Holmes’ physicality, but Holmes was always an impressive fighter. In the first novel “A Study in Scarlet” Watson lays out everything he knows about Holmes in an attempt to understand what Holmes might do for a living. The list included: “is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.” Watson himself is no old, tottering man. He had just returned from war when he meets Holmes. The two were in their prime.

Doyle often left the actual fighting to an off-chance remark from Holmes. Such is the case in The Final Problem where Holmes appears at Dr. Watson’s home with bleeding knuckles.

“I took a cab after that and reached my brother’s rooms in Pall Mall, where I spent the day. Now I have come round to you, and on my way I was attacked by a rough with a bludgeon. I knocked him down, and the police have him in custody..”

That said, the film is also highly enjoyable for non-Holmes fans. The plot is tightly wound (even if the crimes themselves seem haphazard). Even small things (like Holmes & Watson’s dog) are carried through the entire adventure. There’s enough action balanced with humanity to keep the film interesting for all involved. The friendship between Holmes and Watson is a palpable platonic bond that defies logic (must like the stories).

I also loved the set designs. They had the beautiful grungy look that made them realistically Victorian without losing the artistic edge. The action sequences were intense without being vomit-inducing (as many modern films have become). I also loved the editing and shot selection (even the playful shot that starts with a “this side up” box and then moves to realize the box is, in fact, upside down).

Robert Downey Jr. was phenomenal as Holmes. He had enough of the cold, calculating persona trimmed with the anti-social without being unlovable. We can see that Holmes does have feelings, but that he doesn’t allow those to get in the way of his actions. Science/Reason is his main love (though Irene comes a close second).

Another delightful twist on the story is Mary. She is, in fact, in the stories (The Sign of Four), but as a client first. Her performance in the hospital hallway was chillingly awesome and added a strong emotional point without being over the top.

My heart also thrilled with the open story line for the next film — I’m ready Mr. Richie.

(Photo: Lin Pictures/Warner Brothers)

DVD Review: The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni: The Greastest Treasure

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Buy The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni: The Greastest Treasure on Amazon.com.

When I first received a screener copy of The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni I was extremely excited. I grew up on a variety of great Christian kids programs (like The Greatest Adventure Stories From The Bible, The Flying House and Superbook). I was delighted to get the same enjoyable, funny and memorable experience with The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni that I did with my childhood videos.

The best part of the DVD was the characters. Captain Macaroni is a lovable, enjoyable super hero who is a bit silly but also wise. His sidekick, a cream-pie throwing rooster named Cheese, brings in the comedic value and offers a good foil for Captain Macaroni. I was especially impressed with the inclusion of a Hispanic character, Eddie and an African-American character, Mikey. Eddie is a genius and gets to throw in a tiny bit of Spanish when talking with Captain Macaroni.

Another great part of the DVD was the humor. It was, as the name suggests, kind of cheesy, but fun. With jokes that kids and adults can enjoy, while still being clean and wholesome. I was very glad to see there was little in the way of teasing or poking fun at other characters (an extremely easy to pick up trait that kids shouldn’t get help with).

The animation is done by the Animation Collective, who also work on cartoons for Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. I really liked the hybrid of Anime and traditional animation styles, which make the cartoon seem modern and enjoyable. Produced in conjunction with Daystar the plot is focused on good values, but told in a way that makes it fun (not preachy).

If you’re looking for a great, wholesome DVD for kids 4-9, I’d say give Captain Mac.A.Roni a try!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni: The Greatest Treasure of All” for review, but the review is entirely my own personal opinion and I was not compensated for this post.

Movie Review: Fame – I Wanna Live Forever!

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Buy Fame (2009) or Pre-Order Fame (1980) [Blu-ray]

Nearly thirty years ago the world watched as seven students were admitted to the New York High School of Performing Arts, and began to fight for their dreams. The MGM academy award winning film Fame was born, addressing surprisingly controversial issues for 1980. From homosexuality to teen pregnancy, abortion to drug use, illiteracy to interracial relationships, Fame took its audience through all four years of high school for this small group of students.

In 2009, United Artists brought back the writer of the first film, Christopher Gore, and attempted to recreate a classic. Characters were shuffled around, genders changed, and this time, we watched as ten students this time were admitted to the same high school, and the timeline remained similar to the original, following the characters through to graduation.

In viewing both films, it’s clear that the original was far edgier than the remake. With its heavy themes and unique take on teenagers in the eighties, the movie had more of an impact than its twenty first century counterpart. The remake focuses more on familial relationships, and is clearly more uplifting, with a very brief touch on teenage suicide. The theme of the first was survival; the second, dreams.


The Main Characters (includes spoilers):

1980

Doris Finsecker (Maureen Teefy) – A shy girl who’s mother wants her to get in more than she does in the beginning, forcing her to sing for an audition for the drama department. She wants Doris to go because she doesn’t trust public schools, and they can’t afford private. Eventually she finds a boyfriend in Ralph Garcie (who in pure teen movie fashion, annoyed her earlier in the film).

Coco Hernandez (Irene Cara) – The ‘token Hispanic’ present in so many movies of the time period, Coco is portrayed by the singer Irene Cara. Coco is in school hoping to use it to jumpstart her career. Her philosophy is to keep looking for the next best thing. As she tells another student, she believes she’s “doing [her] last dance on this dark little planet”. She’s determined that it be amazing.

Ralph Garci/Raul Garcia (Barry Miller) – Another Hispanic who doesn’t really want to be, Ralph makes it into the school based primarily on his comic routines. Essentially, he’s a jerk, though we discover that the reason he acts this way is only to protect himself from being hurt. Deep down, he’s loyal to his family, wanting to be a comedian in order to make enough money to take care of his sisters.

Montgomery McNeil (Paul McCrane) – The only homosexual student (that we know of) , Montgomery is the somewhat of an outcast who doesn’t care. It’s through him that we watch Doris’ and Ralph’s relationship develop.

Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray) – An illiterate but talented dancer, Leroy spends most of the film clashing with his English teacher, but in Sophomore year, he is seduced by a transfer student, Hilary, and impregnates her.

Hilary van Doren (Antonia Franceschi) – Transferring in at the beginning of Sophomore Year, Hilary is an upper class ballet dancer. By senior year, she ends up pregnant, but has received an offer to join a dance company. She goes to a clinic for an abortion.

2009

Jenny Garrison (Kay Panabaker) – Again, a shy girl who wants to be an actress. During the course of the film, she enters into a relationship with Marco Ramone, and begins to grow more comfortable with herself.

Denise Dupree (Naturi Naughton) – Her parents enrolled her in the school so that she could enhance her skills as a classical pianist, but while in school, Denise discovers that she is a talented singer. Under the influence of two other students, she records a song, is offered a record contract, and realizes her dream of becoming a singer, following in the footsteps of Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey.

Marco Ramone (Asher Book) – Jenny’s boyfriend, Marco is an extremely talented singer who, in Jenny’s words, things just come easy to.

Malik Washburn (Collins Pennie) – Malik is a rapper who has seen some pretty horrible things in his life, as we learn through the film. Not long before it took place, he saw his sister get shot by crossfire during a gang war. He spends the film sneaking off to school behind his mother’s back, who feels that drama and singing are useless for life.

Kevin Barrett (Paul McGill) – Kevin is a dancer who, according to his teacher, just is not good enough. The only reason he is there is that he loves to dance, and doesn’t want to just be a teacher. In the end, he’s told by his teacher that he should really give it up. Instead of graduating, he returns home to teach dance.

Alice Ellerton (Kherington Payne) – Taking on Hilary’s role of the upper class dancer, Alice falls for the unlikely Victor Taveras, but in the end leaves him – and school – before graduation to join a dance company. She, unlike Hilary, does not end up pregnant.


The Music:

The music of the original Fame is part of what propelled Irene Cara into the limelight. She sang three songs, “Hot Lunch” (originally slated to be the movie’s title, but changed when the producer noticed a pornographic film playing on 42nd street with the same name), “Out Here on My Own”, and “Fame”. All the songs written for the film were designed to tie into its themes, including hope, survival, and the desire to be great and remembered. The final song during the graduation/Senior Showcase is “I Sing the Body Electric”, which is about being comfortable with who you are and at the same time not giving up, and believing that you will go onto greatness.

The remake’s music contains a lot more hip hop and rap, mixed with a few love ballads, sung by Asher Book. Two songs from the original are included, “Out Here on my Own” and “Fame” – though the latter is updated for the year. Both songs are sung by Naturi Naughton. The songs for the new movie are somewhat sexier than the original, and the final graduation song tells you to hold onto your dreams.

Clips from both films:



Favorite Lines:

Original:
“I mean, if I don’t have a personality of my own, so what? I’m an actress! I can put on as many personalities as I want!” – Doris
“To schizophrenia!” – Montgomery

Remake:
“I have talent.” – Malik
“And who on Earth told you that?” – Malik’s Mom
“You did.” – Malik

DVD Review: Superman/Batman Public Enemies

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Buy Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (Two-Disc Special Edition)
or Superman/Batman: Public Enemies [Blu-ray] on Amazon.com

*contains very light spoilers*

200px-SupbatpubI start this review by saying I have not read the comics this movie is based on. I have heard from other, however, that it’s done very well in relation to the story in the comics. This review will be based on my opinions coming solely from viewing the DVD. There will be light spoilers, but I won’t reveal large plot points.

To begin, Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States. President Luthor wants all superheroes in service of the government. Those who don’t agree to work for him will find out they are not above the law. Superman, of course, refuses to work for Luthor. He knows he’s up to something.

There is a massive meteor made of Kryptonite heading towards earth. Luthor wants to be the one to destroy it, so he can get the credit. That is behind closed doors though. He publicly announced that he wants to work with Superman to destroy the meteor.

Superman meets with Luthor, but Luthor brought Metallo with him. This weakens Superman and he pushes Luthor down. Luthor flees, while Superman is left to have an all out brawl with Metallo. This fight is awesome! Batman steps in, but he and Superman are no match for the machine that just keeps coming. They escape to Batman’s cave.

They find out, however, that Metallo is dead. Luthor is saying that Superman killed the innocent John Corbin and must be stopped. He has a video of Superman pushing him down and part of the fight with Metallo. Luthor claims the Kryptonite in the meteor is affecting Superman’s mind and offers a 1 billion dollar reward for his defeat.

This causes Superman and Batman to be confronted by a hoard of super villains, plus the super heroes working for Luthor. There are some great fights here as well. They must try to convince the other super heroes that they are on the wrong side. That’s all I’ll say about the plot, except four words: Lex Luthor Kryptonite Suit.

The story is really entertaining, with plenty of twists to keep your attention. There are loads of names you’ll recognize if you’re a DC comics fan. I didn’t know all of them, but that gives me the excuse to pull out my DC Encyclopedia. Powergirl, Hawkman, and Toy Man are just a few of the names of appear. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Superman and Batman. They had a lot of great jokes between the two. I’d highly recommend this movie. It’s one of my favorites among the DC animated features.

(Photo: Warner Home Video)