Unlike past years, the animated shorts category this year is filled with its fair share of hits and misses. While all exhibit a uniqueness and none are alike in style or story, there are two that rise to become the cream of the crop. If you have a hard time choosing on your Oscar ballots come Academy Awards night, we here at VeryAware can lend a helping hand. Continue ReadingRead More »
Directed by: Erik Van Looy
Written by: Bart De Pauw, Wesley Strick(screenplay)
Starring: James Marsden, Eric Stonestreet, Wentworth Miller, Rhona Mitra, Matthias Schoenaerts
Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the fine art of suspense. It’s no wonder that a multitude of directors have tried to mimic his style and panache. The latest to pay homage to the auteur’s legacy is director Erik Van Looy’s THE LOFT, an adult thriller that runs high on atmosphere and low on smarts. Though this story has been filmed twice before, the filmmakers still haven’t gotten things right as the audience is bored to tears before the absolutely ridiculous twists and turns appear. Continue ReadingRead More »
Helming Hollywood blockbusters isn’t exactly Erik Van Looy’s day job – yet, anyways. He’s an incredibly popular Belgian game show host who decided to take the courageous leap and direct the remake of his 2008 film, THE LOFT. In the thrilling update, five married men (played by James Marsden, Eric Stonestreet, Wentworth Miller, Karl Urban and Matthias Schoenaerts) invest in a dream penthouse loft together to make their fantasies of cheating on their wives with a bevy of beauties a reality. However, that dream turns into a nightmare when a girl is found dead in their modern, minimalist loft. Paranoia sets in as they determine who the real lady killer is.
I spoke with the candid director about everything from his day job as a game show host in Belgium, to who was supposed to play the 5th man, to possibly directing a 3rd remake.
VeryAware: I guess we should start at the very beginning. What was it about the original LOFT back in 2008 script that made you want to direct it?
When I first read the script, it was a page-turner. You never know what’s gonna happen next. You see a lot of mainstream movies where in 15 minutes you can almost expect what’s gonna happen at the 30th minute – and on the 30th minute, you know what’s gonna happen on the 80th minute. With this script, you never know where it’s going. You read it and keep being surprised and suspenseful. It’s actually about something – people cheating on their partner and getting punished for it. I think it’s a real glossy, roller coaster, popcorn movie that’s about a subject that comes into your life sooner or later. Adultery enters your life in one way or another – either you do it or scared your partner is doing it or your friends separate because their doing it. That’s what gives this movie an interesting layer.
VeryAware: I’m always curious speaking with directors who’ve remade their films, what was the impetus to want to remake this?
Basically I liked these scripts so much – written by a Belgian guy, Bart De Pauw – this would be like a bigger audience than we got in Belgium and in Belgium, this movie was a natural cultural phenomenon. Beat every record on the book – even AVATAR and LORD OF THE RINGS. Almost everybody went to see the movie. That was good, but I thought this deserves a worldwide audience and to get that audience, you don’t make a Belgian movie, you make a Hollywood movie. Also, for a moment there, I thought, ‘Should I be remaking my own movie?’ For me, it makes more sense to direct a really good movie twice than a mediocre movie once. There’s good company too – Cecil B. DeMille directed THE TEN COMMANDMENTS twice, Alfred Hitchcock directed THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH twice, Michael Haneke directed FUNNY GAMES twice. Of course, I’m not saying this to be arrogant.
VeryAware: No, no. I totally get it.
I feel like if people like they can do it, why shouldn’t me? It’s good because you revisit your stuff and if you look at the two movies, this one is much better. It’s shorter. It has more production value. It’s a better movie. You get a chance to go back and improve on your own work. That’s kind of nice. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it a third time, but it’s something everyone in the world recognizes. They already made a version in Holland and I believe they wanna do a Bollywood version and a version in Spain and Italy. I’m not gonna do it a third time, although maybe I should think about it. Right now I’m in good company, but I guess if you make a movie three times, you become like a world record holder making your own movie. I don’t know of anybody who made the same movie three times. Maybe I should think about it…no, no. I’m not gonna do it. Not gonna do it.
VeryAware: That would be great! You should definitely consider it.
I’m a film director but I have another job; I’m also a game show host in Belgium on TV, everyday for three months a year. That’s basically my day job which allows me to be very choosey on my film projects. It’s my first Hollywood movie and you know that when you come to Hollywood, you want to be there but you also know it’s hard to retain the creative power. With this movie, I was very confident – there was a lot of confidence from all sides. I hear a lot of stories where the director is not always the boss on the set. Sometimes, that may be good but not always. I knew what worked and what didn’t work and had all the answers in the right places. Maybe, you get the feeling I was doing stuff I’d done before, but it never felt that way. You have a head start – but it’s a different world with different jokes.
VeryAware: You mentioned the original was ten minutes shorter. Did huge scenes get cut or are we missing out on little things here and there?
They were really just little things here and there. When you keep working on a movie, you always make the movie too long. Sometimes directors revisit their movies and make them longer – APOCALYPSE NOW, for instance, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. My director’s cut will always be shorter than the other cut. You tell a story and you notice that you don’t need certain elements to tell that story. Maybe on some occasions it’s different, but on this movie I felt like, ‘Okay. This is clear.’
VeryAware: What were some of THE LOFT’s cinematic inspirations?
I like thrillers. Some of my favorite movies are the ones Adrian Lyne made, like FATAL ATTRACTION or INDECENT PROPOSAL, and some of the movies Brian De Palma makes, like DRESSED TO KILL and BLOW OUT. That’s the kind of movies I like; sexy thrillers that are surprising and actually tell you something about life.
VeryAware: Let’s talk about the production design and how it reflects on the characters. There are a lot of edges and vertical lines in THE LOFT. Was this something you discussed with you production designer on?
Maia Javan did a beautiful job, but in the original, we felt we needed 5 rich guys or people like architects. A. because you want to make an elegant, sexy thriller and don’t want just actors that are attractive, but you want locations to be attractive too. I guess I owe to Adrian Lyne in that sense. The other thing is the more things they have, the more they stand to lose. I’m not saying that the richer you are, the more you cheat on your partner, but maybe I am saying that? I don’t think so. It sounded to me like this would be the right environment to tell the story.
VeryAware: Let’s also talk about the credit sequence at the beginning…
I’m a big fan of Saul Bass. I don’t know if you remember him.
VeryAware: Yes! I love all his work.
When I was younger, I worked for television. I shot a documentary on him. I interviewed him one time. I think you kind of notice that – with every good thriller, the shadow of Alfred Hitchcock looming over you. The poster reminds you a little of VERTIGO and credit sequence is certainly…maybe not comfortable enough to show it to Saul Bass because he was the absolute master. I’m not saying it’s an homage but I grew up watching his things and loving him and credit sequences at the beginning of the movie. You almost never see that anymore. I’m sort of like a film trivia kind of man – I tend to read the credit sequences with a lot of attention. It’s the cinema experience.
VeryAware: There’s an art to creating them and it can be a lost art. Changing course a tad, Matthias Schoenaerts reprises his role. Was that fortuitous he’s now become a such a bankable name?
The strange thing is his Hollywood career hadn’t really begun. When you make a movie with four actors who are pretty well known in the States. The 5th actor, we had Joel Kinnaman to play that character. He had another offer and he couldn’t do this movie. He [Schoenaerts] was there and available – it’s something few actors have ever done. He came on and he’s becoming bigger and bigger. We knew the 5th actor didn’t have to be an American celebrity because we already had 4 stars. He was going fast because he didn’t have those questions that you would always have as an actor. He knew how his character would work and the nuances to play that character immediately.
THE LOFT opens in theaters on January 30.Read More »
Directed by: Dean Israelite
Written by: Jason Harry Pagan & Andrew Deutschman
Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner
Teens and young adults are a savvy bunch who’ve grown up with fantastic time travel movies: TIMECOP, LOOPER, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, and the BACK TO THE FUTURE series. “The kids” know all the rules and respect those rules when dissecting a film, as do the adults who adore these sci-fi-tinged wish fulfillment fantasies. However, we’ve not seen this concept set within the overly tired found footage subgenre – until now with PROJECT ALMANAC, a cacophony of crap that’s so incredibly dumb, disorienting and poorly shot, it’s almost exclusively for teens who don’t know any better. While it wants so hard to be CHRONICLE, director Dean Israelite’s film is like a post-modern THE MANHATTAN PROJECT by way of PROJECT X. Continue ReadingRead More »
If you could go back in time to do something, what would it be? Would it be defeating a nemesis? Winning the lotto? Or would it be attending a historical event – like an epic concert? For the kids featured in the new found-footage/ time travel film PROJECT ALMANAC, spending the day at the Lollapalooza music festival was their destination of choice.
In the film, genius teen inventor David (Jonny Weston), his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), loudmouth Quinn (Sam Lerner), whiz-kid Adam (Allen Evangelista) and David’s crush Jesse (Sofia Black-D’Elia) build and test a machine that will transport themselves back in time. However, things get out of control when the space-time continuum is irreparably broken. The ginormous concert plays a major part for many of the ensuing events that take place in the second half of the film.
Director Dean Israelite took a handheld, immediate approach to filming this sequence during the 2013 show in Chicago and the guerilla-style filmmaking had it’s positives and negatives – mainly from some people in the crowd who might have been a tad too aggressive trying to nab their fifteen minutes of fame.
Towards the beginning we’re trying to shoot the big entrance scene. When we’re walking in, some guy wacked out of his mind jumps in front of the camera – not even in a cool way, like ‘I wanna be in your movie’ – and I pulled full security. I grabbed him by his shirt and yanked him. Dean was like, ‘Don’t do that.’ A lot of people were really cool and wanted to get involved and were being respectful.
Evangelista chimes in,
We got to jump around stages and people were like, ‘Who are these guys?! How come they get to keep getting up in front of everybody?’
The funniest were the people who thought that it was a reality show. There were some who were yelling ‘Yeah! Lollapalooza 2013!!!’ The dudes would be hilarious and we would just be like ‘Yeah. Cool. For sure.’ I ran into someone I knew and he was like, ‘Sam!’ I was like, ‘No! I’m playing a character!’ So that was kind of weird.
Israelite valued shooting small scale.
You couldn’t do it on a bigger movie because of the footprint that you’re going to take into that place. Also, we didn’t realize it at the time, but the found footage allows you to go into a place where nobody knows us or what we were shooting – again, they thought we were shooting a reality show or something silly. So you can get away with all of these guys yelling into the camera or looking into the camera and it doesn’t hurt any of the takes. We were just running around for two days like mad people.
Black-D’Elia quickly adds,
We also weren’t the coolest thing that was happening at Lollapalooza. You see a camera and a group of kids and you’re like, ‘Okay. Mumford & Son’s is over there. So… see ya!’ You know?! We weren’t the main attraction.
The production did an amazing job because I remember at the end of the first day we were just running around and were told that four PA’s weren’t gonna come the next day because they were so exhausted. We would shoot something and I would yell to these guys, ‘Go over there and shoot this scene.’ Or ‘do it again. Change this,’ and we would move on, but everyone who was in frame, there was an army of PA’s behind us that had to go and get the releases from all of these people.
PROJECT ALMANAC opens on January 30.Read More »
Powerhouse Pharell Williams celebrated his 41st birthday in grand style last year – with Spongebob Squarepants and his best friend Patrick! So it comes as no surprise that he was tapped to do the theme song to the highly anticipated sequel THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER. But is the song as “sponge worthy” as the film? Take a look. Continue ReadingRead More »
Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman are known for their character acting work. So it’s only natural a casting director would eventually put them together in one film and make them do thick Russian accents. Ladies and gents, here is CHILD 44, an intense thriller about murdered children. Continue ReadingRead More »
Directed by: Abderrahmane Sissako
Written by: Abderrahmane Sissako and Kessen Tall (screenplay)
Starring: Ibrahim Ahmed aka Pino, Toulou Kiki, Layla Walet Mohamed, Mehdi Ag Mohamed, Kettly Noël
Before I begin: I know what you’re thinking about TIMBUKTU. No, this is not a Behind The Music-esque prequel biopic on the 80’s one-hit wonders, Timbuk 3. Nor will you have to worry about needing to see TIMBUK 1 to follow along – it stands completely on its own! All joking aside (which is clearly my way of adding levity to a very emotionally trying movie), director Abderrahmane Sissako’s drama is a beautifully lensed picture that has an intense immediacy and political relevance, but also plays on far too familiar themes. It’s extraordinary qualities are slightly marred. Continue ReadingRead More »