Very disturbing and frightening at times, the film Split puts director M. Night Shyamalan back in movie theaters. Coming off the sinister shocker The Visit, which earned over $98 million in 2015, he’s chosen a good weekend for his new horror thriller with its only competition xXx sequel and The Founder. The trailer should drive all the thrill seekers and especially mature pre-teens to 20’s horror fans into seats this weekend, making it the top box-office winner. But except for a few of Shyamalan’s movies, it has his signature weak “how did that just happen” finale. Read more
An edge of your seat thriller, the true story Patriot’s Day left me breathless. The movie takes you through the steps following the heinous and senseless bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Filmed with of tight hand, director Peter Berg grabs you by the collar and glues you to the screen for two plus hours of the incredible action packed reenactment. The planned cowardice act is a wake-up call for all adults and students that need to be alert that America is vulnerable to terrorism. Read more
The movie Silence gets its story from Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo who wrote the book. His novel has a connection with real life Catholic Father Cristóvão Ferreira who was sent to Japan as a missionary to convert the Japanese people to Christianity. Director/Filmmaker Martin Scorsese has spent many years developing the film from the novel and it’s terrific. If you like historical films that are poignant and powerful with excellent production value, then do not miss Silence now in theaters. Read more
The drama A Monster Calls has a story that becomes magical as it works on your heartstrings. Entering the mind of a young boy we explore his feelings, fears and desperate attempt to save his mom. Excellent acting, solid direction and a story that will be remembered well after you leave the movie theater. It’s a heartfelt experience for you and your mature children. Read more
There’s a creed that protects the world from evil. This creed is defended by assassins who will stop at nothing to guard us from things we do not understand. Throughout the generations theses assassins roam this earth in search of their identities so that one day they’ll find their self-worth. They are the Assassin’s Creed. Read more
A heartfelt account through the eyes of Jackie Kennedy following the assassination of her husband John Fitzgerald Kennedy, this mini biography Jackie opens this weekend. The film includes her televised White House tour and her interview with American political journalist and historian Theodore Harold White. The film documents the emotional struggles she endured and how she was able to withstand the smothering sympathy. Read more
Most foreign films are sidestepped in the United States for various reasons especially due to having to read subtitles. Because of this some excellent films are avoided by many and they lose the experience of outstanding stories. I am hoping that this will not be the case for the movie Lion that will be in theaters around America starting on December 21.
The film outshines many of the movies made here in USA and the heartfelt true story of Lion delivers amazing acting, direction and cinematography. It’s not about the jungle animal, but refers to the strength of a young boy who tries to survive alone in a threatening world. Read more
Probably the most silly of animated films this year, and that’s good thing for Sing. Enjoyable, very funny, touching and oh incredibly wacky the family film targets children, but the adults will enjoy it a lot more than the average toon. I’m surprised the filmmakers waited so long to put the film in theaters, but with no children’s anime to stop it from becoming a blockbuster, it’s a very possible chance it will. Read more
Filling in with a prequel to Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, the first in a series by Lucas Films that started the Star Wars franchise, comes Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The set-up starts a new series for Star Wars that brings new adventures in between continuing episodes that follow Star Wars the Force Awakens. It’s quite a challenge for the team at Disney/Lucas and I’m very glad they came up with the idea. Read more
Jessica Chastain gives brilliantly “wicked” performance in the film Miss Sloane as a lobbyist caught in the middle of a Senate Bill debate. She’s so good at projecting the persona of a strong woman that the ladies may even have cop an attitude following the show. Just kidding guys. Or maybe not. Right now she’s in my top picks for an Oscar. Read more
Dealing with a loss during a period of grief, the film Manchester by the Sea delivers pathos and recovery. Finding ones way in a sea of anguish, the actor’s work on problems of reconciliation, understanding and compromise in this drama that drives two lives caught up in hard decisions. Nicely directed and written it could be in contention for an Oscar. Read more
Known for ZK: Elephant’s Graveyard, Speak No Evil and Cut!, Gabrielle Stone is an accomplished actress with an impressive resume of work. In Stray, Stone is Jennifer, a troubled young woman with a disturbing past and a penchant for killing. Penned and helmed by award-winning writer-director Nena Eskridge, Stray follows Jennifer as she struggles to break free from a cycle of violence and seek love and redemption in a small town. In this one-on-one interview, Stone reveals the challenges she faced in bringing a flawed and exceedingly complex character to life.
What attracted you to this film and the character of Jennifer?
Gabrielle Stone: I read the script and the role was an actor’s dream. There are so many layers to her. She’s so broken but so strong. She really spoke to me, and it was something I wanted to do. The script was written so well that it was really a no-brainer.
Did you audition for the role? If so, what was that like?
Stone: No. Someone had recommended me to Nena. She reviewed my demo reel, we had a phone conversation and she hired me for the role. A pretty easy process on my end.
What did you draw from to develop Jennifer as a troubled, complex character?
Stone: I think, in any character, the challenge is find the parts of you that are in that character. And even in a dark character, there are ways to do that. I really enjoyed being able to pull bad experiences from my past—heartbreak and deaths—that I had to deal with. So I used those in ways that made Jennifer always be in that fight or flight mode. And I hope that’s what translated on the screen.
How collaborative was it working with Nena Eskridge as writer/director? Were there elements of Jennifer you added beyond the script?
Stone: Because Nena is an actor’s director, she was always open and wanting to hear my opinions and ideas. So we would kind of morph everything together when we were on set. She really had a delicate process in putting the film together. She flew me out a few days early and we walked around the town together. She showed me all the different places, letting me into much of the backstory and personal elements she had put into the script. So I really felt I had acquired a deep knowledge of Jennifer before we even started shooting. As far as adding my own elements, I think that happens naturally in any character, but Jennifer definitely had some aspects of myself. Nena was always open and wanted that.
What did you find most challenging about your role in the film?
Stone: I think to not overdo things. When you’re doing a drama, there’s always the tendency to go all the way all the time. But you really can’t in something like this, where there’s so much going on. You have to pick and choose when she’s going to let everything out and let all that stuff come to the surface, and when to keep it internalized and not go so big with it. So that was the challenge of finding the really important moments in a slew of so many important moments.
I sensed that. There were a couple of scenes where you really could have gone over the top and turned Stray into a slasher flick, but you held back and kept her humanity.
Stone: You have to do that, especially when you want people to connect with the character. It’s hard when you have a main character that’s so up and down. You have to give her qualities that people can connect with, so the audience isn’t just hating her the whole time.
What was it like balancing a character who is at once dangerously psychotic and yet in some ways surprisingly sympathetic?
Stone: It’s really about looking at Jennifer as a whole and finding places in all the heightened things she was doing and going through, then finding what I connected to and related to. When I was on camera, I wanted to make sure that the things I connected to where things that I pulled back on. So the audience could see the humanity in her and the realness of identifying with how they might have felt that way at one time in their lives. While the circumstances are outrageous at times, there are parts of Jennifer that everyone has experienced or at least seen someone they know go through. So I wanted to make sure that when we got to those moments, they were very real.
As a dancer, do you ever have the urge to do a dance film?
Stone: I did a film coming out next year called Dance Night Obsession with Harvey Lowry as director and featuring Antonio Sabato Jr. I only have one dance scene in it, and it’s not even my style of dance. But it was a blast.
What’s next for you?
Stone: I just shot a horror film in L.A. called Rock, Paper, Dead, directed by Tom Holland. I also wrapped a full-on comedy called The Competition directed by Harvey Lowry.
Those going to concerts, speaking events, nightclubs, arena events and other high profile happenings have no clue in what goes on behind the scenes. The documentary Bodyguards: Secret Lives from the Watchtower tells it all with film, video, photos and firsthand accounts of one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Read more
A skilled filmmaker who focuses on character and emotionally driven stories, Jai Jamison has directed, written and edited a number of captivating films. These include Speak Now, Wheeler, Anthony Samuels and most recently, Tri, which Jamison directed and co-wrote. Named the Best Narrative Feature Film at the Chesapeake Film Festival, Tri stars Jensen Jacobs and Chris Dyer garnering them Best Actress and Actor, respectively.
TRI follows Natalie (Jacobs), an ultrasound tech who is inspired by a cancer patient to sign up for a triathlon. With the support of her friends, coaches and teammates, Natalie digs deep to discover just how far she can push her mind and body. In this one-on-one interview, Jai Jamison reveals what drew him to this project and the many choices he made in making Tri such an emotionally moving film. (warning: contains a few spoilers)
Tri is so powerful on many levels. What inspired you to make this film?
Jai Jamison: I was hired by Ted Adams, the producer, to do this film. He’s a two-time Iron Man athlete and a certified triathlete coach. He used input from people he trained along with some personal stories from those he knew to do a story about triathletes. What drew me to the film was the inspiration: In triathlons, the community is so important in terms of pushing each other to do their best. It’s less a competition against each other and more about competing against yourself. It’s about the people supporting you—the volunteers, the other racers, the family and friends around you. I saw a lot of parallels between the Tri community and the people that surround cancer patients and their support groups. So I wanted to tell a positive story about inspiration.
The film accurately walks us through the steps and hurtles of a triathlon. Had you ever run the triathlon yourself?
Jamison: I had never done a triathlon and had never even been to one. So as soon as I was hired to direct the film, I attended a triathlon. I was struck by the community and such a positive vibe, the support, the volunteers, the racers, the family and friends—they were all there to push and help each other out. I left with a big grin and said to myself: this is what I want the movie to feel like. That was the broad, macro-vision of the film. In terms of depth, Ted was the hands-on consultant for how the steps played out. He was there to make sure we had the steps, and that those steps corresponded well with the narrative of the story.
You include not one but several people struggling with cancer. Why did you include so many in your film?
Jamison: When they came up with the story, they definitely wanted a parallel between those two struggles. Many people who do triathlons run in someone’s honor or they are cancer survivors who use the race to push themselves and reclaim their fitness and physicality. When Ted did the Nation’s Triathlon a few years ago, he remembered seeing a woman wearing a shirt that said, if you think this is hard, try chemotherapy. And that really left a mark on him. We thought that weaving together those two journeys—cancer and Tri—was a way to have each journey become a metaphor for the other. We felt that including more than one cancer patient would allow a broader swath of people to relate to what these characters were going through.
Why did you choose the Zeus character (Kenneth Simmons), a retired wrestler, to help Natalie overcome her self doubts?
Jamison: When doing the rewrite, we wanted to showcase the broad spectrum of people who compete in the triathlon. So we included an athlete from another discipline. The idea of including a big, hulking professional wrestler who is almost Zen-like with his views on the world and an ability to see things and motivate people in an unexpected way, that was something that really appealed to me. In essence, he became the conscience for the group.
I found the Mission Moments both inspirational and emotionally powerful—is that something often done in triathlon training?
Jamison: The Mission Moments came from seeing the team in training. It’s a way for team members to share what inspired them to compete before they go out and train. The Moments really stuck out as a true narrative device to get into the backstory of these characters.
It seemed that Natalie had enough to overcome, why did you have her crash and sustain an almost debilitating injury on her collarbone?
Jamison: That was based on many of the real struggles triathletes had to face. Ted was running a Tri race in Hawaii called the Lava Run. He passed a woman who was running, limping and crying. After finishing the race, she later learned that she had broken her hip. She was in remission from cancer and the chemotherapy had weakened her bones enough to break her hip. So I wanted to throw one last obstacle in Natalie’s path. The bike accident happened to Ted during training. He hit a tree, was dazed, but was saved by his helmet.
The Max character (Chris Williams) initially refusing to award a metal for just competing in the triathlon seemed to come from a political position that espoused winning not just competing as the ultimate goal.
Jamison: The idea behind Max’s character was a hotshot outsider who really didn’t understand what the Tri community was all about. It takes Candice (Shawn Pelofsky) walking him through the concept of getting a medal just for finishing the event. He represents the idea that symbolic measures can help you accomplish your goals. In the opening scene, one character says about Winston Churchill, he spent a lot of time being profound; it’s amazing he had time to fight the war. And the reply was, well maybe that’s how he won the war—being profound. Max’s character kind of represents the antithesis or foil to that thesis. Eventually, Candice brings him around and completes his arc. The metals aren’t participation trophies. I believe that finishing a triathlon is an accomplishment.
Turning an ordinary story of romance into an unusual film, writer and director Tom Ford delivers Nocturnal Animals to the screen. Interestingly written, the movie twists and turns as it visualizes a book through the mind of the reader. It’s a different kind of film, one that needs a firm understanding of what it’s all about as it progresses. Is it a love story or one of revenge? Some may not get it at first, but that’s ok, because the thriller that she’s reading is a movie in itself. Read more