Talkin’ with Richard Stanley (Filmmaker)

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Film director Richard Stanley might be best known for the science fiction classic “Hardware”, and supernatural horror flick “Dust Devil”, but he’s also a well versed documentarian.

In this hour long podcast, Dirk van Sloten interviews Stanley about his documentaries “The Secret Glory”, “Voice of the Moon”, and “The White Darkness”, as well as his most recent documentary “The Otherworld”.

They also discuss whatever happened to Richard Stanley’s rendition of “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, the Hardware sequel “Ground Zero”, and more…

 

Talkin’ With Catherine E. Coulson (Thespian / Filmmaker)

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In this episode, Catherine E. Coulson and I discuss her stage career, “Eraserhead”, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, “Twin Peaks” and more…

 

Talkin’ with Piper Laurie (Thespian)

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3 Academy Award Nominations (including 1961′s “The Hustler”, 1976′s “Carrie” and 1986′s “Children of a Lesser God”)…

9 Emmy Award Nominations (including 1 win for 1986′s “Promise”)…

4 Golden Globe Nominations (including 1 win for 1990′s “Twin Peaks”)…

And now, it is my great privilege to play for you the conversation I had with Piper Laurie yesterday about her life and career…

Enjoy!

 

“The Vampire Diaries” (Seasons 1 – 5) Discussion

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The Vampire Diaries

In this episode, Mirela Pilipo (TV.com) and I discuss the first five seasons of “The Vampire Diaries”…

Saving “The Vampire Diaries” (Article): http://www.tv.com/shows/the-vampire-diaries/community/post/saving-the-vampire-diaries-1411435116/

“The Vampire Diaries” Season 1 Poster: http://homecinema.thedigitalfix.co.uk/protectedimage.php?image=CoverArt/vampdiaries1dvd.jpg_04062010

“As Above, So Below” (Film Review)

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By Shane M. Dallmann

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There’s this to be said at the very beginning: the trailers for AS ABOVE, SO BELOW managed to give us the gist of the movie without revealing any of the actual backstory… all I knew going in was “Paris catacombs, entrance to Hell.” So I was rather pleasantly surprised at the beginning when the latest from John Erick Dowdle (QUARANTINE, DEVIL) placed us back in Harry Potter territory with the legend of Nicholas Flamel and the study of alchemy… a family pursuit of a gifted young professor by the name of Scarlett (Perdita Weeks). After risking life and limb uncovering a soon-to-be-demolished secret in the Middle East, she finds herself on the trail of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone; and with the help of a reluctant assistant, some young local “tour guides” and (sigh) her ever-present documentarian…

Okay. The film begins interestingly enough, and I’ll also say (without spoilers) that the ultimate resolution of the film is well-handled and original for this type of thriller. Unfortunately, “this type of thriller” is simply yet another “found footage” expedition in which the footage couldn’t actually have been “found.” Multiple characters have “pen cameras” in their lighted headbands, so we can switch perspective whenever we like; and if you’re prone to vertigo and nausea (luckily, I’m not) with hand/head-held “shaky-cam” footage, you’re going to particularly hate this one.

My problem with AS ABOVE, SO BELOW is that despite the earnest research and thought that went into creating the situation in the first place (which at the very least gives us some NATIONAL TREASURE-type puzzle solving sequences which hold reasonable interest), once you get into the catacombs, it’s the same old weary thing yet again. Some potentially intriguing preliminary material (focus on a strange young lady on the outside who turns up leading a weird chanting cult in the passages) is completely forgotten, and all we have left is a series of incidents in which the crew is knocked off one by one while being haunted by visions of their deepest fears and guilt… never mind THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT–I liked this one “hell” of a lot better when it was called EVENT HORIZON.

You might find it strange to see me complaining about overly familiar material when I just praised THE NOVEMBER MAN for being formula that worked, but as far as I’m concerned, the majority of this movie simply DOESN’T work because I couldn’t have cared less what happened to anybody in it and because the f.f. technique comes with its own pre-set limits (essentially, you can get away with one or two “boo” scares and that’s pretty much it these days). Had the Brothers Dowdle (Drew contributed to the screenplay) fashioned this as a straight-up narrative film and NOT as a mock-doc, this could have worked and worked very well. As it turned out, I spent the majority of the running time bored out of my skull.

“The November Man” (Film Review)

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By Shane M. Dallmann

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In 1999, CIA agent/trainer Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) resigns his position and drops his trainee Mason (Luke Bracey) after a protection assignment goes disastrously wrong. Fourteen years later, Devereaux is pressed back into action as the only man who can possibly extract a valuable source of information from hostile territory. This leads to another encounter involving multiple fatalities, leaving one survivor on each side. Guess who. Owing to the initial shock of recognition, each one lets the other walk away… this time. Stage set.

I could go on to provide far too many details regarding the social worker (Olga Kurylenko) who holds a vital key to the situation; the implications of a long-ago Chechen hostility; the relentless, athletic female Russian assassin on everybody’s trail, etc. etc., but why should I prevent anyone from merely letting the series of plots, counterplots, crosses and double-crosses play out?

The cast is excellent throughout; and Brosnan scores in particular by NOT lazily reprising his Bond mannerisms even when he’s called upon to say and do certain similar things–Brosnan sets the tone of THE NOVEMBER MAN at an early stage when confronted with photographs of the dead bodies of several of his former colleagues–you see the very real grief cross his face even as he mouths the familiar refrain “They knew the risks.”

When the cat-and-mouse games begin in earnest, a nice touch is provided when Devereaux discovers that Mason never even bothered to change his cell phone number: the teacher and pupil engage in relaxed, real-time conversation and barbs even as they attempt to outwit and destroy each other. And when the action happens, it’s brutal and to the point. Director Roger Donaldson (THE BANK JOB) handles the violence and dry humor equally well and never allows the pace to slacken.

There will be no complaints regarding “formula” from me, and I shamelessly confess that I knew from the moment I saw the first trailer for THE NOVEMBER MAN that it was one I definitely wanted to see. Sure, I was ahead of certain aspects of the game–but I was never completely sure how it would turn out until it actually did so. The promise of a good old-fashioned spy thriller (even if this one WAS based on a book named THERE ARE NO SPIES) still holds plenty of allure; and THE NOVEMBER MAN gave me everything I had hoped for.

“Calvary” (Film Review)

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By Shane M. Dallmann

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CALVARY begins with one of the most unforgettable opening lines in recent memory (unrepeatable on this blog) and and takes it forward from there. We’re in contemporary Ireland, and Father James (Brendan Gleeson) receives a startling “confession” from one of his flock: said parishioner was sexually abused by a priest as a child, and even though the miscreant is long dead and Father James is “innocent,” the victim is going to make an example of the good priest by killing him in one week.

The metaphor couldn’t be more apparent (and check the title of the film if you think otherwise), but CALVARY isn’t nearly that simple-minded. Nor can it be taken as a straight-up suspense thriller or “whodunit”–Father James knows exactly who threatened him but chooses not to tell the viewer (or anyone else). Instead, he’s resolved to spend what may be his last week on earth ministering to his flock–as well as his grown daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) who’s recovering from a suicide attempt (James joined the priesthood well after the birth of his daughter and the subsequent death of his wife).

But as the days wear on, James is forced to consider what his role (as a priest and as a human being) actually means to anybody. Numerous residents of his coastal village line up dutifully as he dispenses the Sacrament, but not a one seems to have any use for him or his teachings–whether or not they feel like opening up to James, they make it clear that they’re going to proceed exactly as always with their adultery, domestic violence, drug abuse, compensation for sexual frustration, etc. And while some do offer James a modicum of sympathy and a kind word, those NOT in his flock (from the atheistic doctor to the Buddhist pubkeeper) treat him with unbridled contempt. His only real friends include a young boy first seen at work on a prophetic seascape… and M. Emmet Walsh. God bless M. Emmet Walsh just for BEING there and offering some relief from the intensity of this story–the effects of which will inevitably bring out the devil in Father James. Has he helped anybody at all?

If approached as a cut-and-dried story, CALVARY plays fair–in other words, you’ll find out who “did” it without any ambiguity or cheating (although one unpunished atrocity could have been committed by almost anybody in the movie). Nevertheless, it’s quite apparent that CALVARY isn’t here to provide answers so much as to ask questions. The themes run deep and dark, and when you’re dealing with a perfectly-chosen cast such as this and the powerful writing and direction of John Michael McDonagh (I must “confess” that I haven’t seen any of his previous work), then you’re dealing with one of the most provocative and challenging films you’re likely to see this year.

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