“It’s not 1985 anymore; it’s 1986,” explains one of the many characters voiced by British writer/director Michael (Mike) Mort in his first feature-length stop-motion animation work Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, the follow-up of sorts to his 2013 Chuck Steel short, Raging Balls of Steel Justice. Like the short, this film is a send-up of 1980s American action movies like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. But with Trampires, Mort adds a bevy of tributes to horror films of the decade as well, including very funny and graphic shouts out to the Evil Dead trilogy and John Carpenter’s The Thing, among others.
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There are few actors whose voice and mustache are revered more than those possessed by Sam Elliott. From Road House and We Were Soldiers to The Big Lebowski and last year’s heartfelt The Hero, Elliott is often cast as the voice of authority and righteousness in role after role, including the current Netflix series The Ranch and the upcoming Bradley Cooper-starring/directed A Star Is Born (in this latest adaptation, Elliott plays Cooper’s manager/brother).
And while the 74-year-old performer is often cast as a hero, it’s difficult to remember a time when he’s played a character who has killed both Hitler and Bigfoot in the same movie. Then again, there’s never been a film quite like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, from writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski, making his feature debut.
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Michael Ironside has been a great friend to genre works over his acting career, which spans more than 40 years and includes undeniably memorable performances in such film and television works as the original V series, Scanners, Top Gun, Extreme Prejudice,Total Recall, The Perfect Storm, and Starship Troopers. In 2015, he starred in two terrific science-fiction films, Turbo Kid and Synchronicity, both of which played at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal.
A proud Toronto native himself, the 68-year-old Ironside is always happy to help out Canadian filmmakers, like those who made Turbo Kid and his latest film, Knuckleball, which received its Canadian debut at Fantasia.
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What is about the image kids on bicycles, having an adventure, that just screams “This is a story set in the 1980s”? The trio of Montreal-based filmmaking team, known collectively as RKSS (and individually as François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell), decided to find out when they got their hands on the Summer of ’84 script from first-time screenwriters Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith. This is a story that taps into some of the same nostalgic vibes that made last year’s version of Stephen King’s It and Netflix’s Stranger Things series so popular, while grounding its story more squarely in reality rather than diving into the supernatural or other worldly.
Set in the deepest, darkest suburbs of Oregon, the film follows 15-year-old Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere), who is bored and not interested in hanging around the house while the tension between his parents is close to boiling over. He sets himself the mission of discovering the fates of a handful of missing and dead area teens — a search that gets kicked into overdrive when a few pieces of circumstantial evidence points Davey and his three closest pals to suspecting that local police officer Mackey (Rich Sommer) of being the so-called Cape May Slayer. It just so happens the cop also happens to be Davey’s next-door neighbor, which makes for some very awkward and tense moments around the old cul-de-sac.
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For most of the 2000s, Marc Turtletaub has been one of the leading producers of mid-size indie works (many of them quite successful), so it should come as no surprise that he would take an interest in directing one of his own. After making his directorial debut with 2013’s Gods Behaving Badly, he’s helmed Puzzle, which received a great deal of attention at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and is scheduled to open in theaters today.
/Film spoke about Puzzle with Turtletaub in Chicago back in May when he was a guest at the Chicago Critics Film Festival. He spoke of taking a deep dive into the world of puzzling, the personal connection he had to the material, the subtle ways in which he depicted loneliness, and yes, a bit about Mr. Rogers.
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In the wake of digital animation, the art of stop-motion (or stop-frame) animation has been relegated to the furthest reaches of the animation spectrum, despite the fact that its handmade quality gives the entire production a warmth and tangible quality that is nearly impossible to capture in a computer-born creation. And while animation houses like Aardman and Laika Entertainment are still kicking and putting out a feature every few years (in addition to commercial work and the occasional short films), but even they use digital assistance to smooth out action and erase lines where they aren’t meant to be.
So imagine the sheer delight at seeing a film like Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires (courtesy of the newly created British house Animortal Studio) on the big screen using old-school stop-motion techniques that combine the feel of the artist’s fingerprints on the creation with high production value that you’d expect to get from much more established studios. Read More »
Even if the feature film debut from writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski was the single worst film of the year, it would still win the award for the greatest and most honest title of any movie ever: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot. While this may seem like the title of a winking, silly send up of adventure movies, it is in fact a quite ambitious and straight-ahead action work that also finds ways to weave in more contemplative ideas on aging, missed opportunities, and painfully broken dreams. Read More »
If you’re familiar with the stand-up comedy of Bo Burnham, you might not peg him to be the first candidate to write an emotion-driven comedy about a socially awkward eighth-grade girl who is trying to find her place in a world that she feels has no interest in getting to know her. But ever since its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Burnham’s Eighth Grade has been one of the most eagerly anticipated and critically acclaimed independent movies of the year, making its way through the festival circuit and now finally opening to wider audience beginning this weekend (the film is currently in very limited release in New York and Los Angeles).
Eighth Grade doesn’t adhere to a conventional, plot-driven structure, instead allowing Burnham and acting newcomer Elsie Fisher to piece together a compelling and inspirational character study of young Kayla, who lives with her well-meaning, single father (Josh Hamilton) and makes what she probably believes are inspirational YouTube videos about being yourself and having confidence—neither of which Kayla feels comfortable doing. But it becomes clear that these videos are more about boosting her own sense of worth in the world. Burnham places Kayla in a series of scarily authentic and believable situations, some of which make her wildly uncomfortable, while others give her (and the audience) hope that she’s on the verge of breaking out of her shell and becoming the young woman she imagines she is once she hits high school. It’s a film that walks the line between tragedy and comedy with such grace that you might think a more seasoned filmmaker had pulled it off.
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Utah native and rising young actor Millicent Simmonds first garnered a tremendous amount of attention last year, starring as the young deaf girl Rose in Todd Haynes’ delicate and melancholy Wonderstruck. The film was a big-screen debut for Simmonds, who is deaf in real life and had been acting on stage for many years prior in Utah.
But it’s her follow-up role as Regan Abbott in director/co-writer/star John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place earlier this year that got her noticed and praised by the world at large for her portrayal of a character who blames her own affliction for the death of a family member in a world where sound-triggered alien monsters attack with lightning speed. The film is especially interesting because the rest of Regan’s family — played by Krasinski, Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe — must adapt in many way to the world of a deaf person in order to be quiet. American Sign Language is the preferred method of communication and colored warning lights are used to warn other family members of impending danger back at the homestead.
The relationship between Krasinski’s father character, Lee, and Regan is strained, and the anxiety, guilt, and shame is expertly expressed by Simmonds, herself a dedicated advocate and activist for the deaf community, especially in the arts. /Film sat down with the 15-year-old actress in Chicago last week to discuss (through a Sign Language interpreter) the nuances of the role of Regan and her hopes for the types of roles she’s offered moving forward in her career. A Quiet Place will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and on various streaming services on Tuesday, July 10.
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Comedian/actor Lil Rel Howery is two things to the core: a Chicagoan and a basketball fan. So when he was asked if he wanted to star in a feature film adaptation of the popular Uncle Drew commercial shorts (all made by Pepsi), with NBA legend Kyrie Irving returning as the titular character, he was quick to say yes without even looking at a script. The film also stars such basketball luminaries as Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, and the WNBA’s Lisa Leslie, all playing elderly former players, recruited by Howery’s Dax to play in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem against much younger players. Uncle Drew also stars Tiffany Haddish as Dax’s ex-girlfriend, who breaks things off with him and immediately begins dating his lifelong arch nemesis on the court, Mookie (Nick Kroll).
Already a prominent comedian throughout Chicago and a rising star nationally since the beginning of the 2000s, Howery beginning getting smaller film roles and starring roles on such series as “The Carmichael Show” and “Insecure.” But it was his role as life-saving TSA agent/best friend Rod Williams in writer/director Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) that served as his calling card performance to the world. In addition to Uncle Drew, Howery has a very funny cameo in the current release Tag, and audiences will see him at the end of the year in director Susanne Bier’s ensemble sci-fi thriller Bird Box, co-starring Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Jacki Weaver, Trevante Rhodes, David Dastmalchian, and fellow Chicagoan John Malkovich.
/Film spoke with the 38-year-old Howery in Chicago recently about his love and connection to the game of basketball (including the film Space Jam, starring his all-time hero, Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan); how his long-time friendship with Kroll translated into playing bitter enemies in Uncle Drew; and his experience on the Bird Box set. Read More »