The Rise of Skywalker Visual Effects Supervisor Interview

There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.

Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.

Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker (he was even second unit director on the former), as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.

We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.

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the hunt review

The road to bringing The Hunt to big screens has been a bumpy one. Scheduled to be released in September 2019, the film was delayed after a series of high-profile gun violence incidents, exacerbated by President Trump tweeting in late Summer that the horror film that involves the murder of right-wing internet trolls was “made in order to inflame and cause chaos”. 

Shifted to an early March release and marketed overtly using the controversy as a selling feature, the film received lukewarm reviews from many, while this writer enjoyed it as a throwback, schlocky bit of exploitation fun that takes the travails of internet discourse to its most appalling limit.

As Covid-19 shifted all of our lives this spring, the film was soon pulled from theatres for the second time. Universal has arranged for the film to stream on VOD, essentially abandoning the theatrical run in favor of allowing audiences to engage from the comfort of their homes during the cloistering due to the pandemic. Strange days, indeed.

Director Craig Zobel is no stranger to controversy – his 2012 film Compliance generated plenty of discussion – yet he’s spent the last decade doing some remarkable work on both big screen (the fantastic, much-overlooked Z for Zachariah) and small (The Leftovers, American Gods, Westworld, One Dollar).  In this exclusive interview, /Film spoke to director Craig Zobel about this journey, including how the film was made, how he personally reacted to the changing fortunes of the project, and how he has witness the narrative surrounding the film echo many of the themes his film reflects. 

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possessor review

After an eight-year period of development, director Brandon Cronenberg returns with his sophomore feature Possessor, a seductive and macabre crime thriller that mixes body horror, near-future nihilism and noir elements to deliver a funky, freaky brew. In his Sundance review /Film’s Chris Evangelista called it “unrelentingly aggressive”, finding the film “special and exciting.” With an ensemble led by Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christopher Abbot, the film feels assured and audacious, settling in on a mood that’s both macabre and intoxicating. 

Chris described Possessor as “unlike anything you’ve ever seen before”, but there are still echoes of what the David Cronenberg, Brandon’s father, has brought to the screen. I find that an entirely positive thing. In the best of ways, this feels like Brandon and his collaborators are making this space his own while being unafraid to echo the work of his father and others masters of the genre and generate direct comparison without ever feeling redundant, referential or reverential. Frankly, in many ways Possessor comes out ahead of some of the most celebrated of his father’s works, and that’s a remarkable thing indeed.

/Film spoke to Brandon following the film’s debut in Park City. We spoke about his process, the long gestation for this project, and what else this remarkable filmmaker has coming up for fans of his work.

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Boys State Review

One attends a festival in hopes of finding a film that leaves you giddy with how good it is, seeking always for that thrill gained from a sense of discovery, uncovering that gem before it gets to be seen by a larger group of people. It’s almost like a drug, where you take hit after hit of cinema just waiting for one to fully give you that rush. 

This is one of those movies you spend days and days just hoping to uncover.

Boys State follows a bunch of high-strung Texan teens as they head to the Capitol in Austin to engage in political machinations. For decades the American Legion has sponsored “Boys State” events ostensibly in order to improve education in civics. A kind of summer camp for political junkies, this week-long event begins with the 1200 or so kids divvied up into separate parties – the Nationalists and the Federalists – and then tasked with picking party leadership, defining a platform, passing bills and, above all, electing a governor that represents the entire group.

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Joe Pantoliano Interview

Joe Pantoliano, affectionately known as “Joey Pants” to many, wears his roles like few others from his generation. His breakout role was in 1983’s Risky Business, with the indelible role of “Guido the Pimp”, and from there he consistently made films and shows better with his very appearance. He often plays wise-cracking, quick-to anger characters bemused by the idiocy around him, and it’s this acerbic yet intelligent takes that leap off the screen. Midnight Run saw him spend much of the movie on the phone, while Bound and The Matrix solidified his working reputation with the Wachowskis. His take in Bad Boys continues into 2020, while his portrayal of Ralph Cifaretto in The Sopranos provided him with a truly iconic, immortal role that it’s near impossible to see any other actor portray.

His latest film, From the Vine, is the story about a man who leaves his career and his family to head to Italy and find himself, screened at the Whistler International Film Festival. It was there we got a chance to speak with the legendary actor. When he walked into the room he decided I looked somewhat like his therapist, so he lay on the couch, I pulled up a chair, and we began a conversation that felt more like a therapy session than a regular chat about a given project. It’s clear that he’s an actor that deeply thinks about the larger issues of his craft and career, yet he very much comes across as a survivor, one that has run the gauntlet of fame, addiction and the other trappings of this life and can reflect with a degree of wisdom that’s both earned and impossible to fake. 

We began our conversation for /Film, of course, with talk of food.

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Chelsea Peretti Interview

One doesn’t so much speak to Chelsea Peretti during an interview, rather you just kind of hold on and hope you can keep up. It’s clear the writer/stand-up/actor doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and from the moment we began speaking it felt like a test. We were in Whistler, British Columbia for the Word Premiere of Andrea Dorfman’s film Spinster, which follows Gaby, a woman who is coming to terms with finding happiness outside of having a relationship, and leaning into the notion of not needing to follow the social pressures of both companionship and child bearing. It’s a bittersweet film, and Peretti’s unique comic tone provides the film it’s balance that leans towards understanding and empathy without it ever feeling cloying or forced.

Peretti’s career spans work as a writer for shows like Parks and Recreation, long term collaborations with schoolmate Andy Samberg on Brookyn Nine-Nine playing fan favourite Gina Linetti and a brief cameo in the exceptional Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, to years as a stand-up comic and contributor to major publications. The polymath continues to stretch, and like her partner Jordan Peele, she continues to stretch her talents in ways that go well beyond the world of comedy television.

/Film spoke to Peretti and her latest role, about working with Dorfman and her crew in Eastern Canada, and what book this half-Italian, half-Jewish scribe sarcastically wishes she had written.

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Simon Pegg Interview

For more than two decades, Simon Pegg has firmly established himself as a performer of extraordinary range. Though known by many for his roles in blockbusters like Mission Impossible and Star Trek, as well as his beloved collaborations with Edgar Wright, he’s appeared in a wide range of projects, from early roles in Band of Brothers, voice work on Ice Age: Collision Course and Boxtrolls, to indie films like Run Fatboy Run or Hector and the Search for Happiness.

His latest film, Lost Transmissions, premiered at Tribeca and received its Canadian debut at the Whistler International Film Festival. Written and directed by Katherine O’Brien, it’s the story of Theo Ross (Pegg), a record producer who befriends Hannah (Juno Temple). Theo suffers from schizophrenia, and when he refuses to take his medication at the same time that Hannah removes herself from her own anti-depressant regimen things go majorly awry. The role requires a great deal of commitment from Pegg, riding the edge of a person out of control but still engendering sympathy. It’s a fine, nuanced take, one that may well surprise and impress fans who know him more from his broader takes in the bigger hits. 

/Film spoke with Pegg at length about him choosing such a role, and it’s clear he feels a strong affinity for the project. We also spoke about the fan community that he’s both a part of and serving them content, and of course delved into the controversy surrounding the divide between art, commerce, cinema and “theme park rides”.

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A Dispatch from Canada’s Whistler Film Festival

Whistler Film Festival

For nineteen years, the Whistler Film Festival has been a mountainside home for some of the best award-winning and independent cinema in the world. What started off as a small gathering has evolved in size, shifting from a place where the massive Vancouver film community would annually attend splashy parties and revel in sponsored swag rooms and habitually take over some of the village’s fanciest restaurants to something smaller in scale. With shifting economic realities and a shifting community, the current iteration is far more intimate, with a strong contingent of exceptional filmmakers refocusing the festival on the films themselves. Read More »

Force Healing

Major spoilers for The Mandalorian and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below.

While watching Episode 7 of The Mandalorian, my partner turned to me midway through and asked, “have we seen that before?” The moment in question was when the child (aka “Baby Yoda”) reached out to “Force heal” another character. I had, in fact, seen it before – during a press screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker just one day earlier. And the two properties’ differing approaches to Force healing exemplify two diverging paths for Lucasfilm’s future. Read More »

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The Best Movie Music of the Decade

Best Movie Music of the Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

Film may have started as a visual medium, but from its earliest days music has been used as a fundamental aspect of its presentation. From tack piano and organs to sweeping orchestral suites, through to modern electronic soundscapes and hipster-approved needle-drops, the soundtracks to our favourite films play an indelible role in our appreciation of these remarkable movies. Some use music as a fundamental narrative point, while others dust it along with the other aspects of filmmaking to sway emotions and draw audiences along with the story. 

The only thing more futile than trying to make a consensus list of the best films of the decade is to make a definitive list of the best soundtrack elements, given that taste in music is even more personal and specific than the mass entertainment of movies, yet ‘tis the season for such futile attempts! Instead, think of this as a celebration of ten years of where the music is either brilliantly integral to the pleasures of the film, or where the exploration of musical ideas is key to the topic being covered, or finally where the entire narrative is structured around the performances of recorded songs.

Here’s is /Film’s list of best musical movie moments for the 2010s.

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