Thursday, June 15, 2017

Over 24 Million Eyeballs!



ESCAPE THE NIGHT - teaser

Yes...they're really doing it again.  While there are lots of shows made for online platforms, nowadays, YouTube Red found a hit with ESCAPE THE NIGHT--the mad whodunnit game show/soap opera mash-up from the mind of Joey Graceffa and produced by Brian Graden Media...and they're doing it again for a second season that will blow the first one out of the proverbial water.

For those who don't know, Season One had Graceffa as host to a 1920’ s era-inspired murder-mystery dinner in a Gothic mansion. The guests had to solve puzzles…or die! The cast--including a bevy of fabulous YouTube stars--won a Streamy Award for Best Ensemble and the first episode has racked up over 12 million views as of this writing. That’s a lot of eyeballs! So I was thrilled to be cast in Season Two.

This new season, the action takes place in the Victorian-era, and—Graceffa aside
features new famous faces, including Tyler Oakley, Liza Koshy, Jesse Wellens and more. This time, Graceffapossessed by an evil sorceresssummons his friends to the mansion where they must solve innumerable mysteries and face some freaky villains, monsters and more if they want to survive. Because someone dies every episode. Sometimes several people die. And it can get quite bloody. 

The show is full of surprises and, because it’s only partially scripted, the stars are often as surprised as the viewers. In my episode, for example, there are several wicked practical effects that shocked the hell out of everyone! Needless to say, it takes a keen focus and a delicate balance of improv and scripted lines to keep the story on track…and it’s not an easy task. But with masterful writer/director Adam Lawson at the helm, things generally go smoothly. Or as smoothly as they can when people are fighting for their lives or running, screaming in fear! 

Above is the teaser and below is the first official trailer for the new series. You can actually see me VERY briefly in the trailer, but I’m prominently featured in episode 5. 

 ESCAPE THE NIGHT - trailer

The series premieres June 22 on YouTube Red. Get the popcorn ready, because you don’t want to miss this show!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Just for Laughs


Diversity is the spice of life.  And I do like to spice things up!


My film DEADLY REVISIONS is a moody, brooding, slow-burn psychological thriller full of dark shadows and creepy night terrors.  For my next film, I wanted to make the polar opposite: something kinetic, wild and crazy.  Thus, I came up with a fast-paced, wacky romp involving a friendly backyard gathering that goes hilariously awry when an unexpected guest arrives.  With a pickaxe.  And an attitude.
 
Welcome to
GARDEN PARTY MASSSACRE--a comedic brew of murder, mirth and mayhem where some people are the death of the party! 


You learn a lot on each film.  DEADLY REVISIONS taught me many lessons, which helped make GARDEN PARTY MASSACRE an easier, more efficient shoot.  Even so, obstacles popped up to hamper or stall the proceedings.  But creativity, perseverance and a good sense of humor won the day and the film finally got completed.  I may be grayer and balder, but the film has enough color and life to speak for me.

Thus, we begin the next phase:  entering film festivals, ramping up marketing efforts, fielding distribution offers, procuring reviews, etc.   We’ve already received our first review: a bona fide rave from Michael Haberfelner (Search My Trash Filmsite) who declared the film “hilarious!” And the buzz is building nicely.  But that aforementioned sense of humor proves as useful as ever in today’s world of internet trolls, movie pirates and other assorted monsters of humanity.   Useful...and appropriate, since this film is all about making people laugh and feel good.  I think we need that, now more than ever.


So, if having a few laughs sounds good to you, you can help get the film shown at a film festival near you.  Just go to the film’s website at http://www.GardenPartyMassacreFilm.com and make a donation in a film festival's name.  The funds earmarked for a festival will go directly to the festival's entrance and related fees.  I can't guarantee we'll get accepted to every festival, but we'll do our best!

If you’ve missed our fun trailer, you can watch it here:

Other places to keep up with screenings and more about my films are below.  And, as any indie filmmaker will tell you, sharing is a gift that costs nothing, but means the world, so please share these links everywhere.  Because, chances are, there are a lot of people out there who could use a good laugh.

The official GARDEN PARTY MASSACRE film page:
http://www.GardenPartyMassacreFilm.com 

The GARDEN PARTY MASSACRE Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/GardenPartyMassacre


The GARDEN PARTY MASSACRE Twitter:
https://twitter.com/GardnPrtyMasacr


For more information on DEADLY REVISIONS:  http://www.DeadlyrevisionsMovie.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Juggle Werewolves, Sci-Fi Heroes and Killer Children




          Juggling is pandemic in the film word: whether it’s survival jobs and auditions, casting and crewing up or scheduling shoots and appearances--there are always numerous balls in the air that need attention at any one time.  Since the objects in the air are always changing, the more experienced and practiced you are, the better you’ll fare unscathed and without dropping a ball.  Or a bowling pin.  Or a flaming chainsaw.

          My latest juggling act was the best kind you could want:  I had several films that wanted me to shoot in the same month.  But, since two of the roles were exceptionally meaty, so I would need to be on set for a good amount of time in both cases.  Hence, it took a lot of communication to keep all parties aware of available shoot dates as they emerged.  It was stressful, partly just because of the situation, but also because I wanted to take on the stress and keep it off the production folks.  But it was also welcome stress, because the end goal—if achieved, meant I could play all three roles and make all three directors happy.

          The first role was the easiest to work out, as it was the smallest.   My scenes could all be shot in a single day.  The film, on the other hand, is massive:  writer/director BlakeFitzpatrick’s ABADDON is an epic sci-fi/action yarn about a bounty hunter and her convict lover freeing a society from the reign of a repressive theocratic police state.   And it’s a nice cameo: the ubiquitous Charles Chudabala and I play prisoners who are saved by the heroes and then return the favor by aiding them in the revolution.

          The next role in the mix is as the harried husband of Felissa Rose (of Sleepaway Camp) in Michael S. Rodriguez’ new horror flick THE DEADLY KIND.  It’s a crazy twist on the cabin-in-the-woods genre: instead of teenagers, the leads are all adult…instead of cookie-cutter characters, the people are all multi-layered individuals…and instead of a single killer, there’s a slew of psychotic children.   I play Marty—a whiny, but sympathetic man whose bristly relationship with his harpy wife becomes the least of his worries.  And he adds a touch of comic relief to the proceedings as well.  

          Lastly, I’ll be playing a suspiciously odd caretaker named Harold in Adam Steigert’s new monster movie FANG.  The film follows two punks who, after a robbery turned murder, hide in a distant relative's house only to find more horror, carnage…and ferociously inhuman creatures.  The fun thing about Harold is you never know what he’s about.  He’s creepy one minute, then conciliatory and solicitous the next.  You never know what side he’s on, so you can never be sure about him.  And considering the horrors that emerge all around, that unknown element only adds to the tension.  The film also stars sexy scream queen Melantha Blackthorne, which makes the project even more exciting.

          All of these films wanted me to shoot in June, so juggling began.  Though it was a bit of a nail-biter in the beginning, things worked out when one shoot moved to July, solving everything.  So I’m happy to report I’ll be shooting all three films—and survived the proverbial circus act without a single chainsaw scratch!  

          Barnum would be proud!


For more on ABADDON, click here.

For more on FANG, click here.

For more on THE DEADLY KIND, follow me here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When Oscar makes History

 
        
          This year’s Academy Awards was one for the books, but for a more important reason than I think most people realize.

           Some things were “business as usual”: the nominees were all arguably worthy, there was a front-runner with the most nominations, and there were women in horrible, over-priced gowns.  Though everyone had their favorites, I felt no matter who took the statue home, most of us would agree that merit had something to do with it.  All my favorites didn’t win, but some did.  Typical for a night at the Oscars.

          But then the “Best Picture” snafu.  Never before and, I’ll wager, never again.  There have been explanations for how the wrong card got in their hands, but these don’t change the events that transpired, which will certainly go down in history.  Warren Beatty knew something was wrong with the envelope in his hand; something was off.  But his partner Fay Dunaway paid no attention to anything but the film title written and announced “La La Land”.  So the “La La Land” crew came up and began to give acceptance speeches.

          But things just kept getting odder.  Behind the speakers, strange chatter began.  Finally, “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz became clear about what had happened and—with unfathomable calm and conviction—announced an error had happened and that “Moonlight” was the Best Picture winner.   The crowd was stunned.  But Horowitz claimed it wasn't a joke and showed the correct envelope insert.  Then the crowd jumped to its feet and the stunned “Moonlight” crew came on stage as the “La La Land” folks graciously, respectfully stepped down.  And just when things couldn’t possibly get more interesting, we were blessed with what happened next.

          “Moonlight” co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney and director Barry Jenkins were understandably in a daze, but managed to concisely and eloquently say why the film and its recognition are so important right now; its tale of a gay, black protagonist proves an example (and, I'd argue, call) for representation, inclusion and fellowship of all people.   McCraney said; “…this goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves, we are trying to show you…” and Jenkins went further to clarify the timeliness in light of the current administration in Washington: “…for all you people out there who feel there is no mirror for you, that you feel your life is not reflected, the Academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, we have your back, and for the next four years we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you.”

          So while the envelope snafu will be what the common throng will talk about and remember, the more worthy thing to take away from the evening is that courageous art which aims to represent, express, unite and/or move people is a vital and powerful force in broadening our understanding, our compassion and our humanity.  This is what great movies can be about.  This is the legacy of “Moonlight”.  This is the greatest laurel of all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Movies of 2016

2016 is gone, but many of the films are still out or ready to be enjoyed on demand. Here are my thoughts on some of the bigger, commercial ones.

Note: as of this writing I have yet to see "Fences" or "Lion", both of which are supposed to be wonderful.
 

Arrival - 5 stars
Nutshell: A thinking man’s sci-fi film of alien communication leading to manifold perspective changes.  
 
With an opening that rivals “Up” in its unexpected, concise, and utterly heart-grabbing setup, scribe Eric Heisserer’s “The Arrival” proves that original, adroit storytelling is king.  What follows is a woman’s discovery of aliens, communication, and a new way of seeing the world.  Amy Adams is breathtaking as the woman whose world is turned inside out and it is through Heisserer’s words and director Denis Villeneuve’s visuals that our world—and that of the film itself—is turned inside out as the pain, beauty and mystery of life become clear in the film’s final reel…as utterly unexpected as the opening. 

 

Jackie - 4 stars
Nutshell:  Bold performances and direction make a painful tale soar.  


The days surrounding Jackie Kennedy having her husband’s head blown apart in her lap are made immediate and harrowing by Pablo Larraín’s masterful direction and Natalie Portman’s ambitious portrayal. Claustrophobic camerawork—normally abhorrent—is not only appropriate, it’s uncomfortably effective, making us see things as Jackie does:  from a state of shock, nightmarish, everyone in our faces.   The white house tour and interview framing devices are utterly unnecessary but the latter provides a nice Billy Crudup performance. The film is not for everyone: many will be put off by the artistic choices made, but I salute them.  Sometimes film needs to be uncomfortable: we should never be comfortable with murder, with loved ones ripped from us, with lives torn asunder.  If nothing else, “Jackie” reminds us of that.
 


Other People - 5 stars
Nutshell:  Funny and moving tale of a writer’s return home to help his ailing mother.


Rarely is a movie about a death so funny.  But it’s honest, wonderfully offbeat humor, provided by writer/director Chris Kelly and given sincere life by a top-notch cast, headed by a feisty Molly Shannon and a sweet Jesse Plemons.  Plemons’ character has lost his latest career chance, his relationship with his lover and now must deal with losing his mother.  It’s enough to make anyone wonder about life; Kelly and Plemons let us share all the emotions and questions without obvious, manipulative tearjerker devices.   You’ll still likely tear up, but you’ll laugh far more.  One could hope for nothing more from life…or a movie.
 


Rogue One - 3 stars
Nutshell:  Stealing plans of the Death Star takes too long, but provides fun along the way.


A highly uneven film experience from the start, which eschews (and seems to snub) the traditional scrolling prologue; no matter the reason, it disappoints right at the top.  The lead characters are rather one note, one flaw yawns, but some of the supporting characters shine bright—especially K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) and Chirrut Îmwe played by Donnie Yen, whose overdue appearance finally brings some life into the film.  (Though we could have been spared the awful, creepy CGI Peter Cushing.  Just yuck.) The last reel provides a spectacular and exciting (if overlong) battle and so everyone leaves generally satisfied.   Better than Episode One, nowhere near Episode Four.
 


Hidden Figures - 5 stars
Nutshell:  Thoroughly winning tale of three history-making black NASA women.  


Fascinating and frothy tale of three African American women in NASA who each provided skills to help launch the first successful space missions.   The visual details are spot on and the acting is delicious perfection across the board, but the real treat is writer /director Theodore Melfi’s hand who, with co-writer Allison Schroeder has fashioned a film that tells all three women’s stories in a totally engaging way, offering a sincere reminder of the ugliness (and absurdity) of segregation and the importance of math and science--all with hefty doses of humor and heart.  It’s what great movies were meant to be.
 


LALALand - 3 stars
Nutshell: A musical of eye-popping panache trapped in a tepid tale.  

There’s no denying the movie magic that writer/director Damien Chazelle’s LALALand embraces and offers up in abundance.  But it’s all flash with little substance: bold and visually stunning cinematic elements consistently dazzle the eye but only sporadically capture the heart.  The cinematography, art direction and lighting all create endless delights, but the score is mostly forgettable and the story is stale.  Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling shine bright, though--the most when the camera is doing the least…and when allowed to do more than the breathy whisper-singing that proves tiresomely tame juxtaposed to the loud visuals.   That tameness makes the film not unlike an L.A. summer day: bright, glorious sunshine--but often with a dull layer of haze.
 


Moonlight - 5 stars
Nutshell:  Utterly original trilogy of one man at three stages of his troubled life.  

Writer/Director Barry Jenkins scores a win with this beautifully acted tale of a boy becoming a man amidst less than perfect circumstances.   Ironies abound:  a drug dealing stranger provides a better sense of home than the boy’s birth mother; a first love becomes a forced bully; the biggest, muscle-bound man has a tiny broken child inside.  The damage of drugs echoes the damage of homophobia; the desire for a safe harbor becoming the thing we all have in common.  Nothing is preachy, nothing is prettied-up, nothing is pretentious: it’s just an unapologetic, open window into one man’s journey.
 

Mini-reviews:

Deadpool  5 stars
An anti-superhero is born and turns to the snark side; stylish, funny shit ensues.  Ryan Reynolds is gold.  So is the writing and directing.  A giant middle finger to all those tiresome superhero movies.

Manchester By The Sea  - 2.5 stars
Superlative acting can’t save this torpid tale of man who's dead inside having to deal with his brother’s literal death and the care of his now fatherless teenage nephew. 

Kubo and the Two Strings - 5 stars
The best, most original animated film of the year.  Blows away all the cutesy, derivative stuff.