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› Shadow Director Zhang Yimou
› Darya Zhuk on Making Films
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"You have to admire its simplicity. It's one billionth our size and it's beating us." Grab this latest podcast episode for a live discussion about the 1995 virus outbreak action thriller Outbreak, directed by Wolfgang Petersen. With the coronavirus pandemic on everyone's minds, we revisited one of our favorite virus movies - Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman & Rene Russo. Both of us grew up watching this movie, so we decided to have a chat about why it's so good. In addition to commenting on the state of cinema at the moment and our hope that we'll be able to get this virus under control and open the theaters again soon. Friends Alex Billington (@firstshowing) and Mike Eisenberg (@Eisentower30) team up to bring you a podcast with in-depth discussion, analysis, and interviews about the latest movies, and some old ones too. Tune in below.
"My department was tasked with coaxing them into conversation with humankind. Our primary method is: torture." If plants are alive, can we communicate with them? That's the question at the core of this funky, funny short film. The official title of the short is Assholes, which might be a good title, but it's not an easy one to mention without someone raising an eye-brow at it. From up-and-coming filmmaker Jonny Look, the mockumentary short stars Linas Phillips as Dr. Albert, a scientist who is testing out various methods of torture in hopes of getting houseplants to respond and communicate with humans. The small cast also includes Kyle Mizuno, Will Hines, Ashleigh Hairston, and Sam Buchanan. As totally wacky as this entire short is, it's a hilariously well-made film that explores some household humor that hasn't been fully mined yet. Plants do have consciousness, of course! Perhaps we can try to treat them better after all of this?
"Bring the chaos, bro!" Netflix has unveiled the official trailer for a film titled The Main Event, the latest film from director Jay Karas (Break Point). This family comedy is about an 11-year-old aspiring wrestler kid named Leo who one day discovers a magical wrestling mask. He decides to enter a competition to become the next WWE superstar. Will his dreams come true? Seth Carr stars as Leo, with a cast including Tichina Arnold, Adam Pally, Ken Marino, and also featuring WWE Superstars Kofi Kingston, The Miz, and Sheamus. Heck yes, Kid Chaos, this actually looks damn good! Seems to be an amusing throwback to the wacky 90s movies where a kid would mixed up in some adult business after acquiring some magical object. Looks like a good time! All the wrestling ring moves shown in this trailer are hilarious. Check it out below.
"See the world through their eyes." Dogwoof has debuted a short teaser trailer for yet another new doggie documentary, this one titled simply Stray. The film looks a bit like a spiritual sequel or double feature with Kedi, this time about stray dogs on the streets of Istanbul (while Kedi is about the iconic cats of Istanbul). In Stray, a trio of canine outcasts roam the streets of Istanbul. Through their eyes and ears, we are shown an intimate portrait of the life of a city and its people. This was set to premiere at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. A "memorable journey that won't be easy to shake, the film allows its soulful canine protagonist to command the screen, and, in the process, become visible in a region where so many [other] individuals are forced to remain unseen." I love every and any dog doc and this one, of course, looks absolutely wonderful.
"Two powerful stories that show just how far family can take you." Disneynature has debuted one trailer for two of their upcoming nature documentaries: Elephant and Dolphin Reef. With the current situation, Disney has decided to release both directly to Disney+ for streaming next week. Usually they release a new Disneynature movie in theaters (and IMAX) once a year in April, but now they're releasing two right away. By now, everyone knows what to expect with these nature docs. Elephant, narrated by Meghan Markle, follows an African elephant named Shani and her son Joao as their heard make an epic journey across the Kalashnikov Desert. Dolphin Reef, narrated by Natalie Portman, follows Echo, a bottlenose dolphin who can't quite decide if it's time to grow up and take on new responsibilities – or give in to his silly side and just have fun. Dolphin society is tricky, and the coral reef that Echo and his family call home depends on all of its inhabitants to keep it healthy. (Including humans, right?) Both will be available to view on Disney+ soon.
"If we get this thing on tape, this could make us famous!" High Octane Pictures has unveiled an official trailer for a low budget horror thriller film titled Rootwood, one of the latest offerings from German indie horror filmmaker Marcel Walz (of Tortura, #funnyFACE, Blood Feast). This premiered last year at a small genre festival, and will be available on VOD in April coming up. Two students who host "The Spooky Hour" podcast together are hired by a Hollywood film producer to shoot a horror documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil. Soon they will discover it might not just be an "urban legend" after all. The horror film co-stars scream queens Elissa Dowling and Felissa Rose, along with Tyler Gallant, Sarah French, Tiffani Fest, and Brandon Rhea. Big time reveal shot at the end of this trailer, but I guess that's the only way they can sell it and convince people to watch this. Maybe. Dare enter the forests of Rootwood this April.
"Frank – you have nothing to worry about." "Frank's gonna fix this." HBO has just revealed the full-length official trailer for Cory Finley's film Bad Education, which was one of the big breakout features from the Toronto Film Festival last fall. The film is a fictionalized version of the true story of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in history - about schools on Long Island. You can read more about it in this NY Mag article that this film is based on. Hugh Jackman stars as Frank Tassone, the superintendent caught up in an embezzling scheme involving him and a few of his employees. The cast includes Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathrine Narducci, and Alex Wolff. Looks wicked good, demented but still good. Based on this footage it should live up to festival hype. A must watch trailer.
"Listen to mommy!" IFC Midnight has debuted an official trailer for a frightening indie horror thriller titled The Wretched, which is arriving on VOD at the start of May in just a few more weeks. This premiered at Fantasia and FrightFest last year, and played at a bunch of other fests including Monsterfest Melbourne and Toronto After Dark. Chilling and suspenseful, The Wretched offers a "modern update to the retro young hero’s mission like that of The Goonies," and promises to make all viewers wary of every dark corner they encounter after witnessing its terrifying tale. A defiant teenage boy, struggling with his parent's imminent divorce, faces off with a thousand year-old witch, who is living beneath the skin of and posing as the woman next door. Starring John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley, and Blane Crockarell. Uhhh this looks seriously scary as hell! This witch ain't messing around. Watch out.
"I've heard you're interested in going to America. Is that true?" Netflix has unveiled an official trailer for a film called Tigertail, an impressive passion project marking the feature directorial debut of Taiwanese-American writer / producer / filmmaker Alan Yang. The multi-generational drama is about a Taiwanese factory worker who leaves behind his homeland to seek opportunity in America, where he struggles to find connection while balancing family and newfound responsibilities. "Spanning continents and decades, from 1950s Taiwan to present-day New York City," Tigertail is written and directed by Emmy winner Alan Yang (for comedy writing on Aziz Ansari's "Master of None"). The film stars Hong-Chi Lee, Tzi Ma, Christine Ko, Hayden Szeto, Yo-Hsing Fang, Kunjue Li, Fiona Fu, James Saito, along with Joan Chen. No surprise, this looks absolutely incredible - in every possible way. This is awards-worthy quality filmmaking.
"It's time for rock 'n roll made by men!" "Middle-aged men…" Gravitas Ventures has debuted a trailer for an indie rock 'n roll comedy called The Incoherents, marking the feature directorial debut of illustrator / filmmaker Jared Barel. The film stars & is written by Jeff Auer, who plays a bored, 40-something paralegal who hasn’t let go of his dream of rock stardom. It dawns on him that reunions of The Pixies, Soundgarden and other indie rock bands from the 90's could inspire his former group, The Coherents, to come together again. It also stars Walter Hoffman, Casey Clark, Amy Carlson, Annette O'Toole, Kate Arrington, Robert McKay, and Christine Chang. Alex Emanuel, who stars in the role of Jimmy, served as music supervisor, and along with Jeff Auer, wrote the original songs the band performed in the film. Also featuring music by Stew, Jimmy Gnecco, Fiona Silver, and 60/40. Looks like a mid-life-crisis-meets-rocking-out film.
"There's a monster in my room." Uncork'd Ent. has unveiled an official trailer for an indie horror anthology feature titled Evil Little Things, the latest from indie horror filmmaker Matt Green (Digging Up Graves, A Zombie Invasion, No Sin Unpunished). Described as a "deliciously wicked new horror anthology in the tradition of Creepshow", about freaky little toys and/or dolls that come to life and torment people. There is a leprechaun seeking revenge, a doll who goes after her owner, and a clown named Giggles. Evil Little Things stars Hannah Fireman, Courtney Lakin, Jonathan Horne, Piper Collins, L.A. Winters, and Zach Galligan (who played the boy in the Gremlins movies). Available to watch May on VOD for those interested in a slice of creepy horror in their home. Looks like an even crazier Child's Play about killer dolls.
"There's two kinds of lakes in the South: them that's got Giant Salvinia and them that's about to have Giant Salvinia." What lurks in the inland waters of Texas? An annoying invasive floating fern called Giant Salvinia that is covering the lake. There's Something in the Water is an animated short documentary, only 8 minutes long to watch, examining what's going on with Caddo Lake, the only natural lake in Texas. The short is built around interviews with people who live and work on the lake discussing Giant Salvinia. With the voices of Rick Michaels, Laura-Ashley Overdyke, Tim Bister, Billy Carter, Laura Speight, Howard Leftwich, Henry "Peanut" Lewis, Kizzie M. Hicks, and Jay Webb. Not only is this a fascinating doc about a crazy environmental debacle, but this short has some really funky, fun animation. I also quite like the mix of real footage with animated elements. It's uplifting to hear so much passion for a lake and its natural beauty.