Sharni Vinson Talks YOU’RE NEXT, Playing the Survivalist Girl, Embracing the Film’s Stunts, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 276 days ago


Back in 2011, I caught You’re Next at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I really dug the film, and I’m glad that it will finally hit theaters later this year.  The plot centers on a family reunion that turns deadly when the family becomes targeted by masked murderers.  Their only hope is Erin (Sharni Vinson), a girlfriend of one of the family members.  The film also stars AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney, Rob Moran, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, and Ti West.

The movie recently played to an enthusiastic crowd at SXSW 2013, and I got the chance to sit down with Vinson and talk about the flick.  We discussed how festival audiences have responded to the film, turning the “survival girl” into “survivalist girl”, her eagerness to do her own stunts, and more.  Hit the jump to check out the interview.  You’re Next opens August 23rd.

Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett Talk YOU’RE NEXT, Writing a Strong Female Character, Designing the Iconic Masks, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 277 days ago


Back in 2011, I caught You’re Next at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I really dug the film, and I’m glad that it will finally hit theaters later this year.  The plot centers on a family reunion that turns deadly when the family becomes targeted by masked murderers.  Their only hope is Erin (Sharni Vinson), a girlfriend of one of the family members.  The film also stars AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney, Rob Moran, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, and Ti West.

The film recently played to an enthusiastic crowd at SXSW 2013, and I got the chance to sit down and discuss the movie with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett.  We talked about writing a strong female character from the inside-out, designing the creepy and iconic masks worn by the killers, shooting carefully inside of a historic mansion, and more.  Hit the jump to check out the interview.  You’re Next opens August 23rd.

TOP 5: VERONICA MARS Gets Kickstarted, G.I. JOE: RETALIATION Set Visit, KICK-ASS 2 Trailer, JURASSIC PARK 4 Names Director, SXSW 2013 Coverage

by     Posted 1 year, 281 days ago


I’ve patiently waited for the opportunity to include Veronica Mars in the Top 5. As one of my favorite pop culture artifacts, I’m thrilled that this past week has finally afforded me the chance. That said, I’ll reserve any and all debate regarding the impact and merit of its now famed Kickstarter campaign for after the jump. For now, I’ll just say that, as much as I loved the show, I didn’t feel shortchanged by its somewhat abrupt finale. Moreover, I never felt like I needed a movie to bring some sort of closure to that world and its characters. Don’t get me wrong, by series end I wanted more VM in my life. But maybe that’s a good thing. Looking back I’d much prefer a series leave me wanting more than continually ask me back every week when it can barely muster even a shadow of its former self (cough…The Office…cough).

In addition to more Mars talk, this week’s collection also includes our G.I. Joe: Retaliation set visit, the first red-band trailer for Kick-Ass 2, Jurassic Park 4 naming its director, and all of our SXSW 2013 coverage to date. Keep reading for a brief recap and link to each.


by     Posted 1 year, 282 days ago


History is written by the winners, and in Indonesia in 1965, the winners were killers.  In Joshua Oppenheimer‘s shocking and thought-provoking documentary The Act of Killing, we bear witness to a nation transformed by its past into a sick, twisted culture that seems like an alternate reality created by a science-fiction writer.  It’s a horrifying “What if?” where killers are revered as celebrities, smile about their mass executions, and barely wrestle with any question of remorse.  The Act of Killing brilliantly uses the power of media to ask if a monster was created by violent entertainment, can then he be aware of his monstrosities through the same medium?  Smashing together perception and reflection, Oppenheimer has created a mind-bending picture that’s deeply disturbing, darkly comic, and endlessly fascinating.

SXSW 2013: SHORT TERM 12 Review

by     Posted 1 year, 283 days ago


Earlier this week, I wrote in my review of Kelly + Victor about how love couldn’t always overcome past abuse.  The film makes a fine presentation of its theme, but it left me feeling empty all the same.  I want love to triumph, and I want characters to cope with emotional trauma.  Most importantly, I want that that sentiment to be earned.  Anything less is a corny and condescending.  A film has to go to the dangerous places in order to earn the emotionally powerful crescendo it hopes to achieve.  Destin Daniel Cretton‘s Short Term 12 goes to those dangerous places, and delivers that emotional powerhouse through the confidence of its direction, the thoughtful and surprisingly funny script, and the tremendous performances from its cast led by a breakthrough turn from star Brie Larson.


by     Posted 1 year, 283 days ago


It’s almost certain that the dude-bros of the 80’s would be profoundly alarmed by the powerful position “nerds” have risen to over the past decade or so.  “Nerds” and “nerd culture” are everywhere we look, so much so that recent debates have centered around the idea that some of the “nerds” out there (especially “nerd girls”) might be—gasp!—faking their nerdiness, just to fit in with the cool kids.  Think about that.  This is some serious Through The Looking Glass shit, my friends.

The wailing and teeth-gnashing online over the issue of “faux-nerdiness” has led to some genuinely interesting discussions, to be sure, but it’s hard not to find the whole thing kinda funny.  It’s also no surprise to see that we now have a movie dramatizing this unusual turn of events…but it is a little surprising that the first film to take on this topic would end up being as well-informed, genuinely hilarious, and painfully relatable as Andrew Matthews and Katie Graham’s Zero Charisma is. My review (from the film’s universally-praised SXSW 2013 premiere) awaits you after the jump.

SXSW 2013: REWIND THIS! Review

by     Posted 1 year, 283 days ago


Nostalgia and entertainment technology go hand-in-hand.  We spend so much time with a physical device that we develop a personal bond with the joy it brings us (talk to any fan of the Sega Dreamcast, and they’ll talk about it like it was a dead child; “Gone before its time!” they’ll cry).  VHS holds not only a special place in the hearts of movie fans, but it was a game-changer in the production, distribution, and viewing of entertainment.  In his documentary Rewind This!, director Josh Johnson takes a fun, insightful, and exhaustive look at the history of VHS and the sub-culture that remains devoted to the format.  However, even at 90 minutes, the documentary feels like it’s searching for more material, and it grasps at finding a conclusion to its thoughtful examination of VHS’ lasting impact.

SXSW 2013: MILIUS Review

by     Posted 1 year, 284 days ago


Writer-director John Milius is too colorful of a filmmaker not to have his own documentary.  Ironically, the man who wrote Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry as well as writing and directing Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn has now faded into semi-obscurity behind contemporaries and colleagues such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.  While Spielberg and Lucas rode to fame on cutting-edge special effects paired with an appreciation of the sci-fi and adventure genres, Milius came from a completely different place that earned him the admiration of his peers, but also turned him into an outsider and eventually a pariah in Hollywood.  In Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson‘s documentary Milius, his friends and family come to speak about the greatness about the controversial filmmaker, and how his personality brought him to success, but also may have been part of his professional downfall.

SXSW 2013: I GIVE IT A YEAR Review

by     Posted 1 year, 284 days ago


Dan Mazer‘s I Give It a Year is the rom-com in reverse and two rom-coms in one.  Mazer takes the difficult task of showing a marriage fall apart, and turns it into a surprisingly funny and witty comedy that never feels cynical.  And it’s absolutely easy to be cynical when it comes to marriage because of the 50% divorce rate.  But like any good comic writer, Mazer finds the humor in an unlikely topic, and succeeds with sharp dialogue, talented actors, and wisely keeping the tone of the film the same as an average romantic comedy.

SXSW 2013: KELLY + VICTOR Review

by     Posted 1 year, 285 days ago


Love cannot conquer all.  I would like to believe it could.  I like movies where love can overcome misunderstandings, doubt, and various illnesses.  Kieran EvansKelly + Victor is an anti-love story.  It doesn’t argue that love is false or it can’t exist.  But it presents love as something that’s powerless to penetrate the damage done by physical and emotional abuse.  Love becomes not an affliction or a panacea, but perhaps something far worse: an illusion. However, as the film slowly pushes us to its painful and powerful conclusion, we’re left with a sentiment that’s not only bitter but hollow as well.


by     Posted 1 year, 285 days ago


There are two ways to go about creating a movie that’s so-bad-it’s-good (or “good-bad” as I’ll refer to them from here on).  In its pure form, a filmmaker lacks the competence, awareness, and funds to create a good movie.  A good-bad movie can also be created if the filmmaker knowingly sets out to create schlock but has the talent and ambition to surprise the audience with the outlandishness of the premise despite the limited resources.  Big Ass Spider! attempts to be the latter, but director Mike Mendez lacks the requisite ability and drive to push his movie past the promise of its B-movie title.  The result is the worst kind of good-bad movie where the filmmaker cynically creates a proposition where he thinks he can’t lose.

SXSW 2013: HAWKING Review

by     Posted 1 year, 285 days ago


When I see a documentary about a famous figure, I expect to learn something new.  I’ll leave it to the biopics to play up familiar aspects, dramatize particular moments, and bend the truth.  When it comes to the documentary and the subject is an active participant in the filmmaking, then we should be able to go deeper.  Sadly, Hawking rarely lets us get a fresh look at one of history’s greatest minds.  Walking into the film, we know the surface of Stephen Hawking: he’s a genius, he’s disabled, and he’s famous.  Other than some cursory moments about Hawking’s marriage and the professor’s sense of humor, Hawking is a disappointingly shallow exploration about the man who discovered the depth of the cosmos.


by     Posted 1 year, 286 days ago


One of the great joys of the documentary form is the unpredictability of the narrative.  Fictional narratives can indulge us, but a documentary must be rooted in some perception of a hard fact.  It’s up to the documentary filmmaker to craft that perception, and more importantly, adjust his or her perception when the facts no longer fit pre-conceived notions.  Director Timothy Wheeler sets out to create an inspirational tale of success with his film The Other Shore, but reality didn’t go the way he or his subject, marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, expected.  Rather than find a new theme for his movie, Wheeler remains committed to an approach that no longer works and the result is a vapid, unfulfilling ending to his picture.  [Warning: Spoilers follow after the jump.]

SXSW 2013: AWFUL NICE Review

by     Posted 1 year, 286 days ago


When I was a kid, I stuck a plunger on my brother’s face.  Another time, he hit me in the back of the head with a hockey stick.  Brothers fight, and some of the time they grow out of it.  Todd Sklar‘s Awful Nice focuses on Jim (James Pumphrey) and Dave (Alex Rennie), brothers who have kept their sibling rivalry alive and immature as possible.  The movie begins by exaggerating the conflict while still making it relatable, but eventually, Awful Nice doesn’t know how to progress beyond the brothers beating each other up and Dave being disgusting and idiotic.  The film has some wonderful moments of strange comedy, and Sklar and co-writer Rennie clearly have some talent, but Awful Nice has trouble moving past its solid premise.

SXSW 2013: MILO Review

by     Posted 1 year, 287 days ago


Jacob Vaughan‘s Milo is revelatory in multiple ways.  It’s a sly comment on our culture’s obsession with stress and how to relieve it.  It’s an intimate family drama about a man afraid of becoming a father when he was abandoned by his own.  Most of all, Milo proves you can get a surprising amount of comic mileage from an anal demon.  Vaughan’s comedy is one of the most juvenile films I’ve ever seen, but works because of its completely sincerity rather than celebrating its own sense of humor.  As silly as Milo gets, Vaughan and his actors play the proceedings completely straight-faced, and let the comedy shine through where the sun don’t shine.

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