INTERVIEW with Ed Burns

film review: HEREAFTER

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy & Robert Lorenz
Written by Peter Morgan
Released by Warner Brothers. USA. 129 min. Rated PG-13
With Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind, Bryce Dallas Howard, Marthe Keller, Thierry Neuvic, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren & Derek Jacobi

[Article originally appeared: http://www.film-forward.com/hereafter.html]

Among American directors, Clint Eastwood now stands perhaps only with Woody Allen in terms of his prolific output and his refusal to slow down. His 31st directorial effort, Hereafter begins with a huge splash and ends on a much drier note. And while the octogenarian director denies that the film’s subject—death and what comes after—is his way of coming to terms with his mortality, it’s a reasonable enough question to ask.

Eastwood has barely ever touched upon the subject of the paranormal before Hereafter, the exception being an episode he directed for Stephen Spielberg’s 1980s anthology television series Amazing Stories. “Vanessa in the Garden” dealt with an artist who, after losing his wife in an accident, becomes so bereft he attempts to bring her back to life through his paintings. Twenty-five years later, the director returns to the subject of those grief-stricken left behind by the dead. And once again, Eastwood is working for Stephen Spielberg, one of Hereafter’s executive producers. (Spielberg turned down the opportunity to direct the picture himself.) There’s no use denying that the film feels more like a Spielberg film than one by Eastwood, from the CGI opening sequence—one of the most impressive in memory—to its Close Encounters like converging of multiple story lines.

George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a somewhat serious fellow, has walked away from a lucrative career as a celebrity psychic (a la John Edward) and has taken a job driving a forklift in a warehouse in San Francisco. George prefers a quiet existence, where he can go to work, come home for dinner alone, and go to bed listening to his beloved Charles Dickens audio books (which leads to a comic moment much later in the film). About midway through the story, George is downsized, and his ethically dubious brother, Billy (Jay Mohr), who misses the glory days of managing George’s career, is once again ready to hang a shingle. George is reluctant, reminding Billy how his psychic abilities are a curse, not a gift. Touching someone and seeing their entire past, both good and bad, was too stressful and made personal relationships all but impossible. We see an example of this early on with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) a beautiful young woman he meets in a cooking class. The two become smitten at first site, and their budding relationship is one of the film’s weaker parts. Howard’s wide-eyed performance feels overly eager; their scenes together contrived. If George was so damaged by his psychic abilities as well as his exploiting them, it makes no sense that he would so quickly give in and conduct a reading with Melanie. A reading involves his merely touching the hands of his client, making what he refers to as a connection. Instantly, he sees both into one’s past as well acts as a conduit to those dead with whom there are unresolved matters. The dissolution of that romance propels George forward to the next chapter in his life, one that takes him far from home. Read more

INTERVIEW with Matt Dentler

On Demand Weekly: How did you get started in film?Matt Dentler: I went to film school in Austin, Texas at UT. I took every possible film job you could imagine; from working on sets to volunteering at festivals and film organizations, to working at a video store. Some time after that, an internship during my freshman year at SXSW blossomed into a full-time job and then eventually into my role as the producer of that festival. I started film school thinking I would become a professional filmmaker but I soon realized that my true passion was on the business side.

ODW: What persuaded you to leave a prominent film festival like SXSW to join FilmBuff?

MD: When I started at SXSW in 2000 it was a different kind of film festival. By 2008 I felt at a place where I could feel proud of what I accomplished as the guy running the day-to-day operations. I was looking down the barrel of my 30s and felt like it was time for a change. Luckily, I got the call from [John] Sloss around the same time and it was a very natural fit. I’m really proud of all I did while I was at SXSW and I knew that it needed to mature under a different set of eyes because I would have become really lazy after a few more years.

ODW: There’s a trend of films premiering simultaneously at film festivals [SXSW, Sundance, Tribeca, etc.] and on VOD. Any proof that it has helped the views on VOD for films fans who can’t attend the festivals?

MD: My opinion of this strategy is that very few consumers are watching these films solely because they’re playing in festivals. However, this strategy allows for a great degree of promotion, publicity and merchandising which in turn creates more awareness for the films. You should be very selective in picking the right film and the right festival, but when it makes sense, it’s a great model. Read more

film review: CARLOS

Directed by Olivier Assayas
Produced by Daniel Leconte
Written by Assayas & Dan Franck, based on an idea by Leconte
Released by IFC Films
France/Germany. 330 min. Not Rated
With Édgar Ramírez, Juana Acosta, Alexander Scheer, Nora von Waldstätten, Ahmad Kaabour, Christoph Bach, Alejandro Arroyo, Talal El-Jordi, Rodney el-Haddad, Julia Hummer, Rami Farah & Zeid Hamdan

As compelling and often engrossing as Olivier Assayas’ new epic film about the terrorist Carlos the Jackal may be, there’s no reason to sit through the half-day version I saw. Originally intended as a three-part French TV series, and now hitting most American screens in a pared down two-and-a-half-hour edition, there’s simply no benefit to the five-and-a-half-hour Carlos. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with a really long movie, except when it could have worked as a much shorter film. It might, in fact, have more dramatic heft in its shorter incarnation. The longer version only emphasizes that there’s no dramatic arc, no real character growth, and no big climax.

As played by Édgar Ramírez (The Bourne Ultimatum, Che), Carlos is a narcissist convinced of his genius and readiness for martyrdom, when, in fact, he’s just a savvy survivor, ready to sell out when need be, and a skillful self-promoter. Born Ilich Ramírez Sánchez in Venezuela, and later educated in the Soviet Union, Sánchez speaks many languages and beds many women. The actor, Ramírez, also a native of Venezuela, embodies Carlos in a very believable and subtle performance, commanding the screen without resorting to pyrotechnics. And because the story starts in the ’70s and proceeds with the next 20 years of Carlos’s life, we witness the various permeations of his sideburns and waistlines. Read more

film reiew: THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Directed by David Fincher
Produced by Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca & Cean Chaffin
Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Released by Columbia Pictures
USA. 120 min. Rated PG-13
With Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Josh Pence, Rooney Mara, Brenda Strong & Rashida Jones

[Article originally appeared:  http://www.film-forward.com/socialnetwork.html]

What is there left to say about “The Social Network”, David Fincher’s Rashomon tale about the birth of the most popular website and social media tool ever created? The film has been dissected by every blogger and film critic in existence. There’s been more forensics on this movie than on any season of CSI.

From Aaron Sorkin’s script (outstanding) to Jesse Eisenberg’s deadpan performance (under appreciated), the film has been picked apart more than any other movie in recent memory. As the New York Times’ A.O. Scott pointed out, “The Social Network” has undergone all this scrutiny exactly like that other much-hyped film which came out earlier this summer, Inception. Both films were the subject of endless articles and blog entrees, much of it days and weeks before the movie even came out. As of now, a small number of people have seen the film, including the crowd who recently attended the opening night of the New York Film Festival. The word on the street is that it’s… surprise! a good movie. Yep, and that’s just what it is. Okay, but is there more to it? That’s harder to say. It’s not quite the life-altering classic that it’s purported to be. It’s just a really taut, smartly written suspense film that will appeal to a great cross-section of our country. Sort of like the population that uses Facebook.

The story of “The Social Network”, for the two or three people that still aren’t aware, is about Mark Zuckerberg, the 19-year-old Harvard student who invented Facebook—or The Facebook as it was originally called—in a late night tear after being romantically rejected by Erica (Rooney Mara), a lovely Boston University girl with infinitely more social graces. Sullen Mark returns to his dorm room, cracks into a six-pack, and goes on to write a code for an interactive chick scoring system, a website that will ultimately become the titular social network. Read more