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Joel

7 TikTok Influencers You Have to Follow

7 TikTok Influencers You Have to Follow

7 TikTok Influencers You Have to Follow 1000 667 Joel

TikTok has taken the world by storm in the last few years. Since the end of Vine, the internet was missing a platform for short and entertaining videos. Many platforms tried to make up for the gap created by Vine, but they could never quite do it. When TikTok came along, it was a complete game-changer and it filled the Vine-shaped hole on the internet.

If you are not sure what TikTok is, it is a platform dedicated to posting short videos. TikTok is a combination of both Vine and Musically and it has all of the amazing of both apps. TikTok became popular almost overnight and it is yet to lose the success that it has been able to maintain for all of this time. Though everyone seems to know what TikTok is, not everybody has it downloaded yet. The main reason that so many people are yet to download the app is because they are not sure who they would follow once they do download it. If you can relate to this and you are unfamiliar when it comes to TikTok content creators, we have your back. Here are 7 TikTok influencers you have to follow right now.

Voice Over History

If you are someone that is looking for comedy content on the app, then we recommend that you follow Voice Over History. This particular content creator takes video clips from historical events and dubs over them. He adds a voice to the videos and completely reinvents the situations that are occurring in the videos. His most popular video was a dub of a collection of the Queen’s social events, which is absolutely hilarious. He releases a new video every week and each one is hilarious.

Cole LaBrant

You may recognise Cole LaBrant from the hilarious videos he makes with his daughter. Cole shares all the trials and tribulations of having a child at a young age and shows all of the discoveries he has made while trying to raise a young woman. This TikTok is perfect for those of you that love wholesome content and character development, as with every new Tiktok, you see Cole become slightly more confident when it comes to parental matters. This channel also has a lot of cameos from his girlfriend, who reacts hilariously when Cole tries to complete basic tasks like styling his daughter’s hair.

Sarati

Sarati is a TikTok account that is owned by an American model and TV personality. Sarati is different from a lot of TikTokers and she led a campaign to try and normalise TikTok content creators purchasing followers for their pages. She wants to promote the importance of supporting TikTok creators while they try to grow their channel. She also hands out handy tips for people that are considering buying TikTok followers as it is possible to be scammed while doing so. She recommends that you buy tiktok followers PayPal style, as this will ensure that your money can be returned to you if you don’t get what you paid for.

EstherDesigns

This TikTok channel has gained a lot of popularity in the last year or so due to the inventive creations she has continued to make on her channel. Esther takes requests from her many followers on what she should make next on her page. She is known for using crazy materials as a part of her creations, which transforms any simple dress that she may make into something amazing. Recently she has branched out into making furniture covers to completely transform her home.

BambiFairy

Bambi is a popular trans TikToker that makes informative videos about what it is like to transition from male to female. Bambi is also in a heterosexual relationship and on her TikTok, she shares the adjustments she and her partner have had to make as a part of her transition and they have a good laugh at any hate that they may get. Bambi doesn’t just create trans content, she also covered subjects like fashion and makeup. Bambi is also a big music fan and she expresses her love for music by dancing to some of her favorite hits.

DogsSupreme

If you are someone that loves dog content, then you have to check out DogsSupreme. This Tiktok compiles several examples of the most popular dog content on the internet right now. Sometimes we all need to take ten minutes to enjoy some cute dog content and DogsSupreme does all of the searching, so all that you need to do is do the watching. DogsSupreme also try to raise money for popular dog charities and so if you are enjoying one of their dog compilations, then why not try donating a couple of dollars to one of their charity links.

Bella Poarch

Bella Poarch is one of the most popular content creators to come out of TikTok. She became extremely popular due to her videos where she lip sings to some of the most popular songs out there right now. She also has a big following by makeup lovers and she creates inventive new makeup looks for all of her videos. There is also no questioning that she is extremely beautiful and she turns to Tiktok to share some of her best beauty hacks with all of her followers. If you like beauty and popular songs, then she is definitely someone worth checking out.

7 Fantastic Animes You Need to be Watching Right Now!

7 Fantastic Animes You Need to be Watching Right Now!

7 Fantastic Animes You Need to be Watching Right Now! 1000 667 Joel

Something that you have probably noticed is that the world has become completely obsessed with anime. In the past, anime was just something enjoyed by ‘nerdy’ people, but we have all quickly discovered that a lot of anime is actually very good. Though anime can be fantastic, it can feel almost impossible to find a good one to watch, as there are some pretty awful ones out there. Here are 7 fantastic animes you need to be watching right now.

NUMBER 1: One Punch Man

If you are looking for an upbeat anime to watch in your spare time, I recommend that you look into One Punch man. One Punch man follows a superhuman man that has the goal of becoming the most powerful superhero in the world. He exceeds his goal and becomes practically unbeatable and capable of killing a man with a single punch. His power leaves him feeling pretty bored and so the anime follows him trying to entertain himself in any way that he can.

NUMBER 2: Haikyuu

If you are someone that love animes about sports, then you need to check out Haikyuu. Haikyuu follows the story of a student called Shoyo Hinata, who becomes obsessed with the sport after watching a team play at their high school. What makes this anime stand out is the quirky and likeable characters and if you are a fan of the anime and want to test your knowledge or find out which character you relate to most, you should try this haikyuu quiz and even get your friends to try it so you can compare notes.

NUMBER  3: I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

This is not an anime that is for the faint of heart and if you like something with a darker story, then I want to eat your pancrease may be the anime for you. This story follows the blossoming relationship between two school friends, but one has a secret, she is dying of pancreatic cancer. This is an emotional one so be sure to grab the tissues when you settle in to watch.

NUMBER 4: Jujutsu Kaisen

This is an anime with a great mystical theme. Itadori Yuji makes the grave mistake of consuming the finger of Sukuna, which he did not know was an extremely powerful curse that takes over the consumer’s body. Anyone that has this curse is usually sentenced to death, but Itadori is allowed to live, but at what cost?

NUMBER 5: Tokyo Revengers

There is nothing better with an anime that features that topic of time travel. Tokyo Revengers follows the protagonist Takomichi on a desperate journey to save the life of his girlfriend. To do this, he must travel back in time and change events that broke up his gang, the only people that can help him save his girlfriend.

NUMBER 6: My Hero Academia

This is an anime that you have probably heard of and it is extremely popular among anime fans right now. This Anime follows Izuki, who lives in a society where 80% of people are born with superpowers. He is unfortunately among the few that have been born without powerless, that is until he stumbles across the Symbol of Peace, which he believes will give him the powers he desires.

NUMBER 7: Demon Slayer


Demon Slayer follows a man whose family was unfortunately murdered by demons, except his sister. He must protect his sister who became a demon as a part of the tragic events. Luckily his sister keeps some of her humanity and so they work together to fight other demons who continue to terrorise humans.

SDCC TRAILER: Timberlake and Seyfried on the run in IN TIME

SDCC TRAILER: Timberlake and Seyfried on the run in IN TIME 437 628 Joel

Andrew Niccol is that rare Writer/Director that earns the the distinction, “visionary”, hell even his failures are interesting and thought provoking like GATTACA and S1M0NE. Still those failures have been numerous and Hollywood isn’t about being interesting and thought provoking, not entirely at least; no Niccol needs to find some sort of box office vibrancy if he wants to keep making his sort of films and with IN TIME he may have cracked the code.

Filled with essentially anyone who has been on a magazine cover in the last 5 years, IN TIME merges Niccol’s sensibilities with something that feels like it was pulled out of a Phillip K. Dick novel, a new wave LOGANS RUN with a sprinkle of BLADE RUNNER. The film is written and directed by Niccol and it stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Galecki, Matt Bomer, Cillian Murphy, and Vincent Kartheiser. You see now what I was referring to about the magazine covers, I suppose Niccol is trying to say that the future is pretty, but also ugly, and sad, and dangerous, apparently. IN TIME premiers October 28th.

Above us is the official poster, beneath us the official synopsis courtesy of JoBlo, and below that the first official trailer thanks to IGN, it does look intriguing.

Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there’s a catch: you’re genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich “earn” decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo’s love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system.

REVIEW – CINDERELLA

REVIEW – CINDERELLA 785 510 Joel

CINDERELLA
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Chris Weitz
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter

Rising above one’s station and breaking away from unjust oppression is the prototypical fairy tale made famous by Charles Perrault’s CINDERELLA. In the years since the Disney animated classic arrived, many have put their own spin on it. EVER AFTER, ELLA ENCHANTED, A CINDERELLA STORY and even other rags-to-riches stories like PRETTY WOMAN and KINGSMAN have put forth the notion that everyone is capable of greatness. Now, in the post-modern feminist era where a man rescuing a woman is seen as a cinematic taboo, we’re given director Kenneth Branagh’s very traditional take, CINDERELLA. While screenwriter Chris Weitz has some fun showing that our heroine is no pushover, and the film fleshes out some things a little better than the animated iteration, this adaptation isn’t as unconventional and unique as those glass slippers on Cinderella’s feet.

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful, happy family in a palatial countryside estate filled with sunshine, a menagerie of animals and lots of laughter. Until one day, Mom dies, leaving wide-eyed optimist Ella (played in later years by Lily James) and her merchant father (Ben Chaplin) on their own, surviving on the mantra “Have courage and be kind.” Many years down the line, their little kingdom grows when Dad marries widow Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), and she and her obnoxious daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera) move in. Things begin okay, but quickly turn once Ella’s father dies, leaving the wicked stepmonster in charge. Forced into servitude, the newly nicknamed “Cinderella” is reaching her breaking point. But fate has something far greater in store for her. Whilst out on a protest horse ride in the forest (as one does), she meets Kit, a.k.a. Prince Charming (Richard Madden). Since she didn’t give him any information, the Prince convinces his dying father the King (Derek Jacobi) to throw a royal ball for all to attend, hoping Cinderella will come. However, Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters set out to sabotage the reunion. Never fear, as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) creates a show stopping, swoon-worthy ensemble to help our heroine find true love – so long as she gets home before the clock strikes 12.

There are things that work in this live-action version and things that really don’t. Let’s begin with the latter. Narration is incessant; it’s wall to wall throughout the first act, then relents for a while only to maddeningly return later and continue off and on through act three. Meant to be like a storybook coming to life, all it does is infuriate with its “movies for the blind” quality. We can see Ella writing in her diary about her magical night; why does the narration have to tell us that’s what she’s doing? Though the race to beat the clock sequence is thrilling, Fairy Godmother’s magical transformation of the pumpkin and animals felt like obligatory CG mayhem. Bonham Carter (who famously said in FIGHT CLUB that “the condom is the glass slipper of our generation”) looks fantastic, but goes a little too broad with the material, which up to that point is pretty straight-forward. Also disheartening is that James singing “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and Bonham Carter’s “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” are relegated to the end credits. For a film that could have used a few transportive musical numbers to break up the flat narrative, this feels like a wasted opportunity. Though the filmmakers create a magical place that’s easy to get lost in, their additions feel a little unnecessary. Do we need a third act scheme between The Captain (Stellan Skarsgård) and Lady Tremaine? Not really, but at least it’s something different.

Branagh restrains himself, eschewing his usual shenanigans of over-the-top Shakespearean dramatics and canted angles (of which there’s blessedly only one). In their place is a light-hearted, entertaining, beguiling atmosphere where actors with pathos can shine. The royal ball sequence is absolutely mesmerizing, lovely and wonderful. They say “God is in the details,” and no one seems to understand that better than CINDERELLA’s power combo of Dante Ferretti’s production design and Sandy Powell’s costume design. Locations and wardrobe come alive with their ornate details. The chinoisere that adorns the walls of Lady Tremaine’s manse oozes glamour, as does Blanchett’s wardrobe, looking like it’s borrowed from Rita Hayworth’s estate. Ella’s household feels as repressive as those corsets under those costumes. Even the way Ella’s iconic baby blue ball gown skirt twists and twirls is simply enchanting, sparkling and superb – as is James’ performance.

While I feel like the filmmakers missed a chance to put a modern twist on the old-fashioned, super girlie tale, what’s there serves as a good reminder to be nice to everyone – including your tormenters. So in that regard, this film’s blights are all forgiven.

3.5 out of 5

CINDERELLA opens on March 13.

LA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW – ECHO PARK (2014)

LA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW – ECHO PARK (2014) 615 346 Joel

ECHO PARK (2014)
Directed by: Amanda Marsalis
Written by: Catalina Aguilar Mastretta
Starring: Mamie Gummer, Anthony Okungbowa, Maurice Compte, Ricky Rico, Helen Slater, Gale Harold

We’ve all thought of moments left unlived. You know, where we drift off and imagine living elsewhere – like in a dream-like bubble where happiness is valued above all, where “follow your bliss” is gospel and escapism is key. But not many of you actually take the plunge and live out your dreams in real life. That’s where director Amanda Marsalis’ ECHO PARK begins.

Sophie (Mamie Gummer) is a rich, WASPy twenty-something who’s feeling bored with her life – what with the endless uptight cocktail parties and the insufferable personalities who populate them. Rather abruptly (somewhere during the opening credits, I suppose), she uproots her life and moves all the way across town to Los Angeles’ hipster enclave, Echo Park. Her life magically changes upon answering an ad to buy a couch when she meets Alex (Anthony Okungbowa, who’s best known for being ELLEN’s DJ Tony), a jingle writer who’s moving to London in two weeks. Theirs is a sweet, pure relationship that blossoms quickly. But all isn’t bliss as Sophie’s past – in the form of her harried mom (Helen Slater, doing her best Sally Field impression) and her smug, narcissist ex Simon (Gale Harold) – returns to haunt her.

Much like the neighborhood it stands to immortalize, ECHO PARK has a sweet sincerity with a relaxed, embraceable vibe. Marsalis’ beautiful lens, working in tandem with Jason McCormick’s ethereal cinematography, captures the area elegantly. Marsalis’ style is akin to Sofia Coppola’s SOMEWHERE and LOST IN TRANSLATION, but without any pretentious meandering. She’s got a refreshing vision and voice that I’d like to see more of in the future. Music, culled by music supervisor Simone Rubi, is integral to this film as well; it helps get a flavor of the city and also acts as a siren call for Alex and his best friend Mateo (Maurice Compte). Christopher H. Knight’s smoothed out electro-pop score – similar to that of an upscale Pan-Asian bistro during happy hour – complements and augments the narrative. Around act two, it actually surpasses the rudimentary plotline. Traditionally-speaking, audiences aren’t really even supposed to notice the score, but the fact we do here shouldn’t be considered a weakness.

Gummer (daughter of Meryl Streep) is incandescent – think an approachable version of Gwyneth Paltrow. Though her performance is enchantment incarnate, her character wasn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. Besides oscillating between two male goalposts, what’s her motor? What’s her agency? She’s got a job as a hipster handbag designer (which I presume is both vegan leather – a.k.a. plastic – and sold at a huge mark-up), but she seems to spend a majority of her time fretting about men, and not her own personal journey towards happiness. Romdramy predictabilities set in with Catalina Aguilar Mastretta’s script, where the main dramatic conflict is whether or not Alex will stay in LA or leave for London. Their “excuse” to not be together is a little flimsy, even by romdramcom standards – LIKE CRAZY and THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT are prime examples of this maddening contrivance. If they want to be together, be together! Another unfortunate strike against it is that despite being written by and directed by females, this film doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. Sophie almost exclusively discusses men with her overbearing, off-color mother and the new next-door neighbor.

While some elements seem very film school-y, there are also a few unexpected surprises in this film. Though I don’t think it  will take the world by storm, I do think the director and her resplendent star should work together again on something more cohesive.

 3 out of 5

ECHO PARK played LA Film Fest on June 14 and 17.

SCREAMFEST REVIEW – THE HUNTED (2013)

SCREAMFEST REVIEW – THE HUNTED (2013) 615 346 Joel

THE HUNTED
Written and Directed by: Josh Stewart
Starring: Josh Stewart, Nikki Deloach, Skipp Suddath, Ronnie Gene Blevins

By now, we’ve seen tons of found footage horror films flood our cinematic landscape. From 1999’s THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to the latest PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, there’s no place the cinematic subgenre hasn’t gone. Triple threat Josh Stewart writes, directs, and stars in THE HUNTED, a chilling found footage thriller set in the West Virginian woods. Though it doesn’t exactly blaze new territory within the genre (and comparisons to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT will be inevitable), it is 88 minutes of unrelenting terror – and the third act will have you holding your breath and hiding behind the person next to you.

Based on Stewart’s own personal harrowing adventure, the film follows hunting enthusiasts Jake (Stewart) and Stevie (Ronnie Gene Blevins) as they head deep into the West Virginia woods to shoot a pilot for the Outdoor Channel. Outfitted with a bow, a knife, and multiple cameras placed throughout the wilderness, the two have given themselves three days to capture and kill “Movie Star,” a monster buck that’s been haunting the area. But guess what?! Something else has been haunting those woods too. Before they can even catch sight of their prey, a much more malevolent force crashes their party – and it seeks revenge.

If you’ve never had the urge to go hunting, you definitely never will after seeing this film. It’s sadistically fun to see how the duo initially looks at the woods as a place of creative freedom, but once their creation sours, it morphs into a place of imprisonment where trees appear to be prison cages. Tension, tone and atmosphere build at a brisk pace and then explode into fireworks during the final act. While you (and possibly PETA) may worry at the outset for the buck’s safety, never fear, as there are only a few moments where that type of anxiety comes into play. There’s also an adequate (and very necessary) amount of tension release humor peppered throughout. Blevins and Stewart do a terrific job acting as both hunters and the hunted. Both characters represent the two opposing types of people in their audience – those, like Stevie, who’s can’t handle the scares and those, like Jake, who are much braver souls.

Walter Werzowa (who also composed the music) and John Luker’s stellar sound design comes to the forefront of this terrifying campfire tale. Snapping branches and footsteps on crackling leaves have never been more ominous and foreboding. Screams seem to travel through and, at times, surround the audience, making the forest feel inescapable. It will have you sinking deep into your seat, praying for the relief of daytime to come quickly. William Yeh’s crisp cuts also help sustain the picture’s fluidity and energy.

For a self-confessed wuss like me, THE HUNTED grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Even avid horror enthusiasts are bound to find favor with this. A pickup for distribution by Blumhouse will hopefully be a no-brainer as this is tailor-made for that company’s oeuvre and audience.

4.5 out of 5

THE HUNTED played Screamfest on October 10. For more information on Screamfest, go here.

The CARRIE Remake Currently Has Five Possible Endings

The CARRIE Remake Currently Has Five Possible Endings 1124 660 Joel

Studios have long used general audiences to test screen films prior to their release.  Achieving the right tone and pace is certainly important for all films, but they are absolutely integral to a horror film.

It kind of goes without saying that most remakes seem to be maligned by film fans.  But because the horror genre seems to be home to the majority of these remakes – few of which outdo their predecessor – the fans of the genre are often the loudest of the cynics.  The upcoming CARRIE film is an interesting project.  Yes, it can be seen as a remake, but the studio has been adamant that it’s a more accurate adaptation of the book than simply remaking Brian De Palma’s 1976 film.  Nevertheless, it still has sparked a variety of opinions since the project was first announced.  Initially many were happy with the talent behind the camera as well as the prospect of Chloe Grace Moretz playing the title character.  However, the buzz died down when the film was pushed back to October from its original summer release date and it has continued on that path as the film inches closer to its release.  Now we are just a few weeks from CARRIE’s big unveiling and many are curious if they need to ready a bucket of blood to dump on the film.

What I find most shocking though is that the film isn’t exactly ready.  I spoke to someone that went to a test screening of CARRIE a few days ago.  My curiosity got the better of me as much of our conversation was centered on the ending . . . or should I say ENDINGS.  Not one, but four different endings were shown to the audience with a fifth one mentioned in addition by the studio reps. Below, I have direct quotes from my source and detailed descriptions of each of the endings screened.  THIS IS ABSOLUTELY SPOILER TERRITORY FROM HERE ON OUT.  SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE ORIGINAL FILM AND REMAKE FOLLOW.

CONSIDER THIS YOUR FINAL WARNING  –  SPOILERS BELOW 

It should be noted that the guy that went to the screening is a big horror fan who has read the book and seen Brian De Palma’s original film.  When I started our conversation by asking if he liked the movie he had this to say:

“I go to almost every midnight screening of a horror movie, and I will definitely be there on opening night to see it again.”

He went on to praise Julianne Moore for quite awhile:

“Julianne Moore gives an award worthy performance.  I really think she deserves to be nominated.”

He spoke very little about the film’s star:

“(Chloe Grace Moretz) isn’t bad but they really gathered a realistic group of high school kids that she’s surrounded by.”

DVD Review – WILFRED: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES

DVD Review – WILFRED: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES 662 935 Joel

WILFRED: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES
Rating: The US version usually rates TV-MA and the original is no different.
Studio: Shout Factory
MSRP: $29.93 but Amazon has it for $22.83.
Running Time: 400 mins

What’s Going On?

Adam is invited home by Sarah after a concert. When he meets her dog, Wilfred, he can’t believe what he sees: a man in a dog suit. Wilfred is determined to undermine and sabotage his relationship with Sarah, leaving Adam questioning his sanity.

Who’s In It:

Jason Gann and Adam Zwar, who created the show, also star along with Cindy Waddingham.

If You Like…:

The American remake of the series, in which Gann also stars, then you’ll definitely enjoy comparing it to the original.

Special Features:

Each of the season has its own chunk of special features. The first has a behind the scenes featurette, a trailer and a crew montage and the second has a making-of featurette, outtakes and bloopers.

The Technical Gist

Solid.

The Verdict

The biggest difference between the original version and the American is that this one isn’t quite as dark as I would have expected. While Elijah Wood’s character Ryan in the American version is suffering from depression and it’s arguable that Ryan sees Wilfred because he’s died or because he overdosed on drugs, Adam is brought into Sarah’s home and there’s no particular event that would lead to him seeing Wilfred. For me, that made things a bit less credible.

However, Gann is still great and the show is still utterly charming and quite funny. Fans of the series should definitely QUEUE IT and the uninitiated can watch the first season of the American version on Netflix Watch Instantly.

INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE

INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE 600 399 Joel

Most of us remember 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami from the round-the-clock news coverage, bolstered by home video footage shot by eye witnesses. The survivors’ harrowing accounts and pictures of the destruction evoked waves of overwhelming feelings.  Now it’s Hollywood’s turn. Writer Sergio G. Sánchez and Director J.A. Bayona’s THE IMPOSSIBLE is a heartfelt, gut-wrenching testament to survival that tells the true story of the Belon family’s painful ordeal to re-connect after a natural disaster. It’s through the microcosm of this family that we see the world of pain and loss.

The film begins as an idyllic vacation for Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), and their three young sons Lucas, Simon and Thomas. But their holiday turns into a hellish nightmare when a wall of water wipes out the resort and separates the family. When all is said and done, the tsunami has killed over 200,000 people and left millions homeless. Maria Belon, who was actively involved in the making THE IMPOSSIBLE, is beside herself when she thinks about how fortunate her family was.

“There is no explanation. There’s no reason why we survived and other moms and dads and kids didn’t. We just ask, ‘what for?’ not ‘why?’ If you ask why, you can go dark. We would like to go up.”

Writing commenced on the third anniversary of the tsunami. Sánchez says, 

“[Producer] Belén [Atienza] heard Maria’s story on the radio and it moved her to tears. We met Maria in Barcelona and heard an extended version of her story. We sat at a table and the coffee went cold. None of us had planned to do a movie about a tsunami. I think in a way the film is not about the tsunami – it’s a story of a loss of innocence. There was something very universal about it.”

Bayona was able to assemble a cast of incredible actors to help tell this extraordinary story.

“Naomi is really good at getting into the dark places and getting close to the tragedy. And also she’s a very everyday woman. Same with Ewan. He has also has this normalcy no matter the character he’s playing, he’s able to keep humanity. He’s really easy to have a sense of empathy from the beginning.”

The film’s message hit home with McGregor and pushed him to explore new territory.

“This film was an extraordinary opportunity to explore being a dad for the first time. I’ve been a father for sixteen years. This was an opportunity to look at the unique love that you have for your children is a love that you don’t experience with any other human beings in the world.”

Watts responded to the script’s emotional resonance.

“The minute I read the script it just felt rooted in truth and it just felt necessary in a way because it was an intimate piece of storytelling about this family as well as addressing this tsunami.”

While the film shows events almost exactly how they happened, it did go through one major alteration. Filmmakers decided to change the original Spanish family to an English one. Says Sánchez,

“We didn’t know if we were going to get the financing to make this film. That first draft was in Spanish. Even in that first draft, 80% of the dialogue was in English because after the wave comes, that’s the language everyone would use to communicate. So then with the characters, you never know where they are from. We let everyone keep their accents. Instead of working against that, we thought it was an interesting concept to have this family have no home. It’s not clear what’s the home they want to go back to. At the end, they realize home is where they are together. We were trying to make it universal – to try to create a place where nationality didn’t matter.”

Bayona reiterates,

“It felt quite natural to get an English speaking cast. It was a film about people – about a Western family going to Thailand and how it’s an experience that transforms them. It’s the end of these people’s innocence. There’s a lot of suffering in survival – it’s not a victory. I thought that was very interesting.”

Watts felt it was necessary to spend time with the real life heroine.

“I didn’t have to worry about the walk and talk and the look of Maria because nobody knows her. I got to invent that part. The power of what she went through was so big. We spoke a lot. There was such a willingness on her part. Although she had reservations about being a part of telling her story for a movie, she also felt it was right that it wasn’t just her story. It was the story of so many. There’s no question that woman has left a massive profound impact on my life. She’s full of courage and so centered and connected. She’s inspired me.”

McGregor felt he had the freedom to create a character from Henry’s experience. He says,

“I’m playing him and I wanted to capture him but we were making them British not Spanish so already I felt I’ll play this guy on the page. I knew that the director knew him and the writer had spent a lot of time with him so I trusted that they steered me in the right direction. When I knew he was coming out to Thailand after a month of our shooting, suddenly I thought, ‘Oh, fuck. What if he doesn’t think I did him at all? What if he doesn’t like it?’ I was nervous that they were coming. It’s a funny idea that you’re playing somebody and it’s an easier idea if they’re not there in a way.”

To help ground the film in authenticity, THE IMPOSSIBLE shot at the same hotel where the Belon’s had vacationed.  Sánchez says,

“People kept coming to us asking, ‘do you know this story?’ There’s this palm tree in front of the hotel that’s covered with pictures and teddy bears. There’s many open wounds and a need to tell this story. It’s like sending a message in a bottle to many different people.”

Great care and respect is given to the film’s script in crafting a fitting tribute to survivors of this horrific event. Says Atienza,

“We were cautious because we were invading some place that is painful that went through all that. We soon found out they want to talk about it. They need people to know. When you are watching the news,you don’t feel what these people went through. That is why we were so obsessed with not only telling the story, but the feeling. Everyone there had a story. We had a lot of extras that were at the tsunami. For example the scene with Ewan in the bus station, the people surrounding him are real survivors. Before he shot his scenes, the other people told their stories. It was very emotional and helpful for Ewan to be transported to what that moment was like. They were very generous and brave to openly share with us to help the story feel true.”

Bayona says,

“…that created a special atmosphere on the set. I felt not like a filmmaker but a messenger getting all these stories and putting them together on screen.”

To capture the horror of the event, Bayona didn’t rely solely on computerized effects. Instead, they built a massive tank with rushing water and debris. Atienza made sure all of the pieces of the puzzle would be there in order to do justice to this incredible story.

“The only way to do it is step by step. One of the key things was to have the money in order to really tell this story right. Not so much the adventure but how it felt. The realism was key to the story. We started from scratch. We worked for six months on an animatic that had all the shots we needed. There’s very little digital. We shot there with the actors in the water. The rest is a composition in the shot with plates of real water at scale. It’s very precise and fun to do because it’s an old school way of doing things. The problem with digital water was it still had this feel of fantasy. In this film, anything that could bring you out of the story would harm the story. Same with the sets – they were huge. Only the background is composition.”

Astute audiences will note that sound design is key during the initial wave sequence. Atienza states,

“We wanted it to sound like a monster. Suddenly this wave becomes like a monster for this family. It’s non-stop. Maria said she could feel the evil in the wave. It wouldn’t listen to you even though you beg it to stop.”

Bayona expands,

“Everything had to be very sensorial. Much more emotional than intellectual.”

Belon was at first reluctant to tell her story on the big screen but ultimately changed her mind. And thank God she did. Says Sánchez,

“That was one of Maria’s questions, ‘Why our story? Nothing happened to us.’ So for us we struggled to find within that story a moment of empathy. The whole story is geared to that last scene on the plane – a sort of bookend with the beginning. It’s not a happy ending – Maria is thinking of the woman on her arm, Lucas takes off that tag, Henry opens up that note with the names on the list. Again, it’s all about the people who remain there.”

Belon states,

“I personally feel I came away from the wave with so much presence. It was selfish of me to keep it for me. People have told me they’ve come home from the movie and hugged their children. There’s nothing else to say. Nothing else to say.”

THE IMPOSSIBLE opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 21.

AFI FEST REVIEW – THE IMPOSSIBLE

AFI FEST REVIEW – THE IMPOSSIBLE 600 421 Joel

THE IMPOSSIBLE
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Written by: Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Johan Sundberg, and Geraldine Chaplin

Both Hollywood and audiences love a good, real-life tear-jerker. After all, it allows us to work out our pent-up emotions whilst plunking down our hard earned cash to see these intensely felt stories play out on the silver screen. This is the sentiment behind director J.A. Bayona’s tsunami of emotions, THE IMPOSSIBLE. While it does a fantastic job portraying the emotional and physical devastation from 2004’s tsunami in South East Asia, it also suffers from a few cuts and bruises due to the film’s trite, lazy, and maddening third act. When all is said and done, this film is visceral, thrilling, and heartbreaking – although not entirely for the right reasons.

We first meet British married couple Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their young children Lucas (Tom Holland), Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), and Thomas (Samuel Joslin) en route to their Christmas getaway on one of Thailand’s luxurious beach resorts. Setting up each of their personalities (and the traits they’ll have to overcome in order to survive later), this is a well executed precursor to the harrowing horrors that await. Things are going perfectly at the Orchid resort until the day after Christmas, when a pressing (and frightening) powerful wave floods the shores – not just once but twice! Unrelenting terror kicks in when our hero family becomes separated. Lucas and a badly hurt Maria band together to seek help after being swept away by the current, and Henry and the young boys hang at the hotel until he decides to go look for Maria and Lucas.

THE IMPOSSIBLE’s script by Sergio G. Sánchez makes it impossible not to cry – or at the very least tear up – during the breathtaking and immersive second act. It puts viewers right in the epicenter of the tsunami. How do you go about finding your loved ones in a disaster? Would you take the same measures? Where does strength come from? Through the mouth of Geraldine Chaplin, death is explained in an elegant, non-condescending fashion. Brilliantly executed, Bayona and Sánchez find many moments of staggering beauty throughout much of the devastation. Whether it be toddler Daniel (Johan Sundberg), who represents the hope that can spring after complete ruin or a stranger’s kind act of handing over a cell phone to call home, it’s these tiny genuine moments that visually speak volumes – much more than any dialogue could ever do.

The film brims with standout performances from the entire cast – not just from leads Watts and McGregor. While they add the gravitas a piece like this needs, Holland is tasked with one of the most difficult jobs here. He equals his more seasoned co-stars’ determination and ferocity without ever being precocious or losing one beat with the audience. Sound design by Oriol Tarragó and his crew also plays a large part, as it’s the sound of the massive wave that makes us feel it to our core (and what notably starts us on our harrowing journey). Plus the visual and special effects departments earn a hat tip for adding the correlating visuals. Cinematography by Óscar Faura gives the film a polished, slick sheen that both complements and contrasts the narrative.

That’s why it’s so utterly disappointing that the third act stands in such jarring juxtaposition to what we’ve seen prior. Relying on a cheap flashback device manipulates viewers and insults their intelligence. We’ve already seen the nightmare of what happened to Maria, and we understand this will haunt her for the rest of her life; why must we experience it again?! Plus the film ends on a maddening note, as this rich, insured, white family leaves safely on a private jumbo jet, casually comptemplating the real losses of other less fortunate people. It seems very insincere. There’s also no post-script about how the real life family this film is based on is doing today, which also leaves viewers hanging.

THE IMPOSSIBLE is a testament to the human will, a force that can get us through even the most dire of circumstances. Unfortunately, it can’t overcome all insurmountable obstacles, such as third act contrivance.

THE IMPOSSIBLE played at AFI Fest on November 4 and 8 and opens on Christmas Day.