Review: ‘The Leisure Seeker’ is ultimately relationship goals.

In Select Theaters March 9th

THE LEISURE SEEKER stars Academy Award-winner® Helen Mirren and two-time Golden Globe-winner® Donald Sutherland as a runaway couple on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call the Leisure Seeker. The couple travels from Boston to The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, recapturing their passion for life and their love for each other on a road trip that provides revelation and surprise right up to the very end.

While there are admittedly a few bumps in the road during The Leisure Seeker, as a whole the film is a beautiful journey through one couple’s history. Slight pacing issues and superfluous scenes aside, the heart of this film is the love between two people who adore one another to the core. As a granddaughter that has been witness to dementia, the disease can be an exhausting trip minute to minute. Donald Sutherland undoubtedly gives an award-winning performance, navigating memory loss through ever-changing beats. I counted no less than four distinctive version of the same man portrayed on screen by Sutherland. For Helen Mirren, this role feels like a bit of a departure. It is one that requires both a facade and unadulterated softness. The chemistry between these our stars is movie magic. If you have ever experienced two people who are so lovingly interdependent, then this film will resonate with you in between the dialogue. The care with which Mirren’s character takes in protecting her husband countered by the real moment to moment human frustration of this burden are palpable. The film may not be everyone’s cup of teas, as you will certainly be more affected if you have lived through these circumstances. The Leisure Seeker is not a glamorous film. It is raw and poignant in its quiet.

 

Review & Interview: ‘APPLESAUCE’ writer/director talks total weirdness and hilarity.

Applesauce Poster

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Just one seemingly innocent question is the spark that ignites the entire rest of one quirky and fantastic film. Onur Tukel’s APPLESAUCE will get under your skin and inside your psyche. applesauce Dylan Baker

Synopsis:

 Every Tuesday night, radio talk show host Stevie Bricks invites his listeners to call in and share “the worst thing they’ve ever done.” Tonight, Ron Welz (writer/director Onur Tukel) is ready to share his story.  But soon after he confesses on the air, someone starts sending him severed body parts. Ron becomes paranoid, terrified. His life begins to unravel. His marriage begins to fall apart. He has no idea who’s tormenting him. Is it his insolent high school student? Is it his best friend? His own wife? In a city like New York, there are eight million suspects and each one could have a bone to pick with someone like Ron.

Applesauce still, Onur, copsOnur takes upon the role of Ron with hilarious gusto. After he answers “the question”, someone begins to torment him by sending him “gifts” that remind him of what he did. The question not only effects him but his wife and their best couple friends, when they answer the question, as well. Everyone is angry but each is guilty of being haunted by their own past. The fallout spreads like a virus, spoiling the sanity of these four individuals. The circumstances get weirder and weirder, but you’re already along for the ride. This cast clicks and whirs like a well oiled machine. Tukel’s script is filled with pop culture digs and the realities of intimate relationships. It’s a crazy give and take between bizarro land and total nonchalance. I was all in from the beginning. APPLESAUCE_web_1


I had the pleasure of interviewing this multifaceted artist about this truly unique indie. Enjoy.


Liz: Firstly, this is some wacky and wonderful stuff. I’m gonna need more asap. Just throwing that out there. What in the world was the inspiration for this unique story?

Onur: The inspiration was a true story that happened to a friend of mine in college.  We were at a party together and he accidentally cut a stranger’s finger off.  He was haunted by this event for years.  We’ve visited this story dozens of times – over dinners, at parties, at various social gatherings – and it always captivates whoever’s listening.  We always wondered whatever happened to the injured person, how it changed his life. My friend and I also agreed that having a character tell the story over dinner would make a terrific starting point for a film. This was, indeed, the lynch-pin. I started with that and the script wrote itself.

Liz: You wear a ton of hats in making your films. Do you find that’s been a necessity or for the love of the project?

Onur: When you make a really low-budget film, yeah, you have to wear a lot of hats.  I was the costumer, the production designer, co-editor, writer, co-actor, and co-producer.  The DP was also the operator, best boy, gaffer, and grip.  The producers are handling props and also working on production design and script supervising. The PA is doing the work of six people. Everyone’s wearing a lot of hats. You have no choice! Of course, love factors into the whole process. But when people get over-extended, it becomes stressful, and that sucks. Still, when that camera rolls and you get a take that really pops, it’s all worth it. Then, in the editing room, when you start piecing it together like a puzzle and it starts to come to life, it’s magic. On the next one, I hope to have a bigger budget and crew so I can focus exclusively on the writing, directing and editing. This will give the other crew members a chance to focus on fewer things, as well.

Liz: For Applesauce, specifically, what was the length of time from page to production? Shooting to wrap?

Onur: I finished the first draft of the script in August of 2014 and rewrote it over several months. We went into production in November and wrapped on December 31, 2014.   Just four months later, it premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in April.  The schedule was nuts: fast-paced, chaotic, exhilarating and at times, infuriating.   I made a vampire movie when I was 26 in Wilmington, NC and we were rushed into production, much like we did on Applesauce.  The entire crew of six decided to abandon the movie because they thought we weren’t ready.  I recruited the camera operator Bryan Kupko and asked him if he wanted to make the movie with just a two-person crew.  He shrugged and said, “Sure.”  And that was all I needed to hear.  I just wanted a camera rolling; wanted to hear that purr of the film threading throughout the CP-16 as it burned itself up at 24 frames per second.  The crew eventually came back on board and we dug in and got the movie made, but I was ready to go with one person.  I feel alive on a film set.  A group of creative people working together to make a movie is a beautiful battlefield.  Even when it seems like films may be losing their cultural significance, it’s an honor to be called a director.

Liz: The dialogue is delicious. Super natural, which leads me to think there was a lot of improv involved?

Onur: Delicious. Super natural. You’re delicious and super natural, Liz. Hope that doesn’t sound creepy. Yes, there’s always improvisation in my movies, but it’s always very scripted at the beginning.  We will improv a scene if the words don’t sound real or the dialogue feels flat.  I always want the scene to have life and that usually means severing a sentence or two, rearranging some lines, or tossing the dialogue out all together. Sometimes we’ll use 100% of the dialogue. Sometimes 70%. Sometimes none. Plus, I’m rewriting the script during production, so it’s always changing.  I just want it to feel real, whatever it takes.  If what I’ve written works, great.  If it doesn’t, the hell with it!

Liz: Loved the structural choice to use Stevie Bricks as a transitional catalyst. It made for some quick relief from the adult realness (even as those scenes funny as hell) You totally could have gotten away with just having him as the opener. Talk about utilizing that character throughout, if you would.

Onur: The brilliant Dylan Baker gives such a great performance. I used him like a one-night stand. Literally. We had him for eight hours. I squeezed as much as I could out of him during that time, knowing we would edit him into the movie as much as possible.  He was very busy working on another project and I gave him maybe 10 pages of dialogue the night before his shoot.  He came in and nailed it.  I just sat back and watched.  I threw in a couple suggestions here and there to feel like I was a big shot and so I could tell people, “I directed Dylan Baker,” but I didn’t do a thing.  I didn’t really direct anyone in the movie.  That’s why it’s pretty good!

Liz: How does casting generally work for you? Do you have people in mind while writing or do you use a more traditional route with casting directors?

Onur: I wrote the role of Kate for Jennifer Prediger.  She’s a dear friend, but I was a fan or her work before I met her.  It’s easy to write for her because we kind of speak the same language.  We’re self-effacing, jokey, over-histrionic at times, charming when we need to be, yet self-aware when we’re both being sniveling little assholes. I was also friends with Trieste Kelly Dunn long before I cast her.  We both have connections to North Carolina, which might be one of the reasons we find the same things funny. North Carolinians can bullshit about anything.  I could probably talk to Trieste about a blade of grass for two hours.  I always have a blast in her company. The great Max Casella and wonderful Dylan Baker were brought on through a casting director named Stephanie Holbrook. The thought of making a movie now without her is terrifying. I won’t do it. She’s absolutely indispensable. She also happens to be a sweetheart. Lots of lovely people on Applesauce.

Liz: What advice can you give writers/artists in a world saturated with naysayers and Youtube clips/fleeting attention spans?

Onur: Read as many books as you can. The act of reading is creative. Whatever damage technology is doing to our attention spans can all be reversed with reading. Of course, this is easier said than done. Reading is a luxury for those with time. Outside of that, you better use your free time doing your art, whether it’s writing, drawing, recording music, playing music, making movies, etc. After all, if you ain’t doing that, you ain’t an artist.  If you are creating art, don’t be self-important. You’re not special and you’re probably not that good.  I have to tell myself this all the time. Every now and then, someone flatters me with praise. It’s nice to hear, but the day you start believing that stuff, you’re done. Before you know it, you’re lecturing people on how to make art like I’m doing now. I’m so ashamed.  I’m the last person who should be giving advice.  You should see my apartment. It’s like Hooverville for roaches in here.

Liz: I want to say THANK YOU for taking the time to chat with me. I cannot wait to see what’s next!

Onur: Thank you, Liz.  It’s an honor answering your great questions!

 
Starring Max Casella, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Jennifer Prediger, Onur Tukel, and Dylan Baker
The Disturbingly Riotous Tale of Secrets, Lies and Severed Body Parts Comes to VOD and EST Digital on November 24, 2015

‘CAROL’ comes to life on the silver screen today. Here are a few reasons why we think it shouldn’t be missed.

Carol poster

As one of the most anticipated films of this year’s New York Film Festival, CAROL most certainly blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. Here are just a few reasons why we adore this elegant film…Carol still Cate and RooneyThe Plot:

 In an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt, CAROL follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. As an immediate connection sparks between them, the innocence of their first encounter dims and their connection deepens. While Carol breaks free from the confines of marriage, her husband (Kyle Chandler) begins to question her competence as a mother as her involvement with Therese and close relationship with her best friend Abby (Sarah Paulson) come to light.

ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

The Cinematography:

Edward Lachman is a genius behind the camera. Having worked hand in hand with Director Todd Haynes on Far From Heaven in 2002, his visual landscape for Carol is unmatched. Shot in 16mm, perfectly framed, with delicate but specific shots through windows and the focus on the color of crimson and corals, make this a true feast for the eyes.

You can watch Ed discuss his experience in an interview from NYFF53 here.Carol still Kyle Chandler

The Performances:

We’re not shy about our love for Cate Blanchett, nor is The Academy. In truth, there is not a single loose thread in the casting of this film. In the film’s press conference this week, you could see and hear the passion the entire cast held for the project and the respect they had for Phyllis Nagy‘s immaculate adaptation. This is not a story about a lesbian couple, this is a story of two people falling in love. The effortless nature of Blanchett, Mara, Chandler, Paulson, and Lacy as an ensemble evokes the kind of emotion so rarely experienced in the cinema these days. Both Cate and Rooney landed on my Top Female Performances of NYFF53 list. Lacy’s boyish charm and naivete bound off the screen. Chandler’s masculinity and energy are a powerful match for both the period and Blanchett. And as for Sarah Paulson (my favorite player in American Horror Story, every season), well, I wanted to put her in my pocket and place her in every film from here on out. It’s the kind of presence that should not be overlooked, ever. These actors are extraordinarily great at their jobs. There is no doubt about it, CAROL is a timeless film.

(L-R) KYLE CHANDLER and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

(L-R) KYLE CHANDLER and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

For a mere taste of what you’re in for, here is the trailer:

CAROL– Opening In Limited Theaters November 20, 2015

Rated R | Runtime 118 minutes

Carol still Sarah PaulsonCarol still Rooney

Carol still Todd Haynes and Cate Blachett

 

Review: ‘I SMILE BACK’ is Sarah Silverman’s game changer.

Presents
i smile back posterSarah Silverman has been making us laugh for ages now. Her raunchy comedy style is beyond funny. Though, we’ve never seen her in a role like the one she plays in I SMILE BACK. As a mother of two children, insurance salesman husband, massive house in the burbs, Silverman plays a woman on the edge of a cliff. This film is not funny. Sarah Silverman I Smile Back still So many mothers try their damnedest to attain a facade of perfection. Doing it all, every day, can take its toll. Even more so  if underlying issues bubble to the surface and collide head on with mental illness and addiction. Silverman‘s character, Laney, has a routine. Hubby wakes her up as he is heading out the door. She rises, makes her kids their personalized lunches, breakfast, gets them to school… then all hell breaks loose in her world. Faking it through the moments has become the bane of her existence so pills, alcohol and sex become her destructive outlet. When the cracks begin to show and the fun wears off, Laney’s sporadic outbursts among the masses, and worse, the ones she knows intimately are simply the beginning of all the walls imploding around her. The film tackles so many touchy subjects unapologetically. Based on Amy Koppleman‘s novel (which she adapted for the screen along with Paige Dylan) I SMILE BACK pulls no punches in parading Laney’s self destructive behavior for the audience to cringe along with. Whether or not we’ve experienced addiction first hand, we all know someone who has. Depression doesn’t have a magical cure. Bruce, Janey, son, Josh Charles, I smile Back stillSarah Silverman should, hands down, get an award for this performance. Do not for one minute think that was an easy performance to pull off. It is raw, dirty, unglamorous, and very real. If this doesn’t open up an entire new avenue for her career, then shame on Hollywood. Sharp tongued and effortlessly pointed, Silverman owns this film from minute one. Josh Charles as supportive husband Bruce is no throw away character. Endlessly in love with his wife, knowing full well what she is capable, there are moments real truth is revealed. Through brief remarks, side glances,even if he tolerates her behavior, he does not condone it. His portrayal is incredibly realistic in each moment. He never asks too much of her but strives for her happiness even if it means making unpleasant family decisions. It is an unafraid performance. Laney and dad Sarah Silverman still from I smile Back
I Smile Back not only tackles addiction, depression,  mental illness, but breaking the patterns that have been, and are being, passed down generation to generation. The film is brave. The script is bold. It will leave you with a sense of reality some may not be ready to accept. Audiences will be lucky to dive into this film head first. We’re very proud to recommend I SMILE BACK.

I SMILE BACK open tomorrow, October 23rd in NY at the Angelika! Available On Demand November 6th.
Laney is an attractive, intelligent suburban wife and devoted mother of two adorable children. She has the perfect husband who plays basketball with the kids in the driveway, a pristine house, and a shiny SUV for carting the children to their next activity. However, just beneath the façade lie depression and disillusionment that send her careening into a secret world of reckless compulsion. Only very real danger will force her to face the painful root of her destructiveness and its crumbling effect on those she loves.
Starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Tom Sadoski and Mia Barron
Directed by: Adam Salky
Written by: Amy Koppelman (based on her novel) and Paige Dylan
Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating: R
#ISmileBack

Review: ‘MEADOWLAND’ drives Olivia Wilde to the brink.

Meadowland poster

How does one cope after the loss of a child? Do marriages survive? Can we be saved? These are all questions in an intense script lead by a masterful performance from Olivia Wilde. Sarah and Phil’s son goes missing, shattering their life together and forcing each to find their own way to cope. Cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano presents a masterfully crafted contemplation on a relationship strained to the breaking point. Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson capture the unraveling emotions with remarkable power, alongside Kevin Corrigan, John Leguizamo, Elisabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, and Merritt Wever. Read More →

Tribeca Film Festival review: ‘Autism in Love’ puts faces to preconceived notions.

Autism In Love

Lindsey and Dave

Love is something we cannot explain. It is like magic. Isn’t is difficult enough to find love for two average people? What if you were not considered to be average? It can be torturous to express how we feel. What if you add autism into the mix? Autism is on a wide spectrum. Autistic adulthood is not a common topic of conversation. Director Matt Fuller brings us into the world of 4 extraordinary people; Lenny, Stephen, Lindsey and Dave in the new documentary Autism in Love. 

Autism in Love- Lenny

Lenny

Lenny is an unemployed young man, living with his immensely supportive mother. He has a fondness for video games and longing for a girlfriend. He is extremely aware of his autism and believes that it impedes him from finding love. Highly emotional, Lenny’s struggles have a visceral affect on even Fuller. In a moment of breaking the wall, even with the director out of sight, Lenny is visibly upset and tells Fuller not to cry. He says, “I would rather be a normal man than an autistic person with a million dollars.”

Geeta and Stephen

Geeta and Stephen

Stephen is a middle aged savant who knows every answer on Jeopardy before we’ve even finished reading the clue, makes hot dogs for his parents every Sunday, and has a distinct cadence reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Married to a lovely woman named Geeta, he has a routine that he lives by that has only recently been disrupted by the fact that after 17 years with Geeta, she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While Stephen’s autism is much more obvious, you can see the adoration in his eyes even if he is unable to express it verbally.

Dave and Lindsey

Dave and Lindsey

Lindsey and Dave have been dating for years. Labeled “High-functioning”, the two are an endearing match. Both are ready to take the next step, with Lindsey being the more verbal on the subject and Dave taking a seemingly more intellectual route. You instantly fall in love with this couple and cheer them on from the get go. The juxtaposition of these four individuals is a beautifully crafted story. The added struggle of being on the spectrum is something not many of us consider when searching for a mate. I think that Autism in Love is an important doc that let’s us gaze into a world often fraught with misconception, without gawking.

 

Here is a clip from Autism in Love

‘EFFIE GRAY’ is a true story of a Victorian feminist.

Effie_NDovePoster

Courting is essentially a thing of the past in today’s society. In the Victorian age, it was the norm. Women joined the family of their husband and were better seen and not heard. Effie Gray was a real life young women wed to infamous art critic, John Ruskin. With dreams of entering a love filled marriage, Effie was thrown into high society under an overbearing mother-in-law and a frigid husband. Parties and showing social grace in a world where she was an object for show became increasingly more smothering and confusing. Ruskin was a progressive and outspoken art critic, which is what attracted Effie as a child. Although once married, she was discouraged from speaking her views, sexually rejected, and labeled a harlot by the one person she sought affection from. This virgin bride suffered years of emotional abuse until encountering a helpful soul and patron of the arts, Lady Eastlake. Effie_NDove_1183Without giving too much away, this film actually becomes a wonderful example of the power of a determined woman. In an age where divorce was simply not an option, Effie Gray finds a loophole allowing her move forward with someone who loves her deeply. The film is artistically crafted by Emma Thompson with careful detail of Victorian society alongside the world of art. One of the loveliest aspects of the film, visually, is the juxtaposition of paintings that reflect where Effie is on her emotional journey through time. Effie_NDove_1659Dakota Fanning is elegant and vulnerable as Effie. She has just enough tenacity to pull off a role with an arc such as this. Greg Wise is a stifled tyrant as John Ruskin. His temperament grows increasingly more horrid and he is borderline frightening at moments. Julie Walters, as Mrs. Ruskin, is just about as serpentine as one comes. A far cry from her famed roles as Mrs. Weasley in the beloved Harry Potter films, Walters is a crazed woman who needs to “cut the cord” already. The handsome Tom Sturridge plays Pre-Raphaelite Painter, John Everett Millais and the eventual object of Miss Gray’s affection. Emma Thompson portrays Lady Eastlake with an ease known to few actresses of our time. I could think of no other woman to play this part. Her watchful eye and skilled hand play such a massive part in this historical drama.Effie_NDove_1892Shot on location in Scotland, London, and Venice, EFFIE GRAY is a beautiful portrait of a young woman’s inner strength and the world she so desperately tried to escape. With a haunting score and outstanding performances by a true ensemble cast, EFFIE GRAY will inspire those with passion for art and life.

In EFFIE GRAY, Emma Thompson peers boldly inside the forbidden realms of Victorian society through the true story of the marriage of Effie Gray and renowned art critic John Ruskin, courageously exposing a secret world of unrequited passion hidden behind the veil of an opulent public life. Set in an era when neither divorce, nor gay marriage were an option, EFFIE GRAY is the story of a beautiful young woman coming of age, and finding her own voice in a world where women were expected to be seen but not heard. Within the lush environs of a world brimming with art, painting and high society and feverishly bucolic scenes of the Scottish countryside, EFFIE GRAY explores the intricate relationship between sexual intolerance, repression and desire which continue to permeate society today. In this impeccably crafted period drama, Thompson delicately and incisively probes the marital politics of the Victorian Era, and beyond.

Cast: Emma Thompson, Dakota Fanning, Tom Sturridge, David Suchet, Sir Derek Jakobi, Julie Walters, Riccardo Scamarcio and the legendary Claudia Cardinale.

The film opens nationwide on April 3.

Liz’s Review: ‘THE LAST FIVE YEARS’ hits every note.

TheLastFiveYearsPoster

When I graduated college in 2002, everyone was buzzing about a new musical by one of my favorite lyricists/composers Jason Robert Brown. Not a single person I spoke to about The Last Five Years walked away without some sense of wonder. God only knows how I missed the run, perhaps graduation and surrounding shenanigans got in my way. Needless to say, when I heard that the show was making the jump to the big screen, I leapt at the chance to finally get in on the magic.

TheLastFiveYearsJeremyJordanStill

In this adaptation of the hit musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy (Anna Kendrick), a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through song.  All of Cathy’s songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time to the beginning of their love affair, while Jamie’s songs start at the beginning of their affair and move forward to the end of their marriage. They meet in the center when Jamie proposes.

TheLastFiveYearsAnnaKendrickStill

The camera work in this film is stunning; voyeuristic without being intrusive. The opening shot is very much an homage to Hitchcock‘s bird’s eye opening shot in Psycho (no story line similarities, I assure you.) The tinted lenses used to represent the good and bad in the relationship are thoughtful and extraordinarily effective for each emotional shift. There is something truly special about this film. It appears absolutely seamless as it bounces from timeline to timeline. Jason Robert Brown‘s lyrics are some of the most accessible in the industry. Think thought provoking, stream of consciousness, meets clever and catchy musical theater for the any audience. Anna Kendrick does some of her strongest work to date as Cathy. The opening ballad, “Still Hurting’ is a killer punch in the gut. This is tough stuff and she nails it. I was thoroughly impressed. The stickler in me wishes her presence had been a tad bit stronger when it came to sharing the screen with Jordan as he sings. There seems to be a slight disconnect when he takes center stage. But, I will say her acting chops on the heavier songs are quite lovely. Jeremy Jordan as Jamie is a stunner. From the moment he appears on screen, from the first note, he owns this character. I could not have asked for more from his performance. He lights up the screen, his voice is delicious, and he is an unapologetic scene-stealer and I am so fine with that. In no way is he obnoxious, or over-the-top. In my pretty harsh musical theater book, he gets an A+. Jeremy Jordan is a star. Standing ovation to director Richard LaGravenese. Successfully adapting a musical is a huge task. This film is so down-to-earth. You do not have to be a musical theater fan to enjoy this movie. That alone, makes it a hit. I highly recommend The Last Five Years and I guarantee you will walk away humming some, if not all, of these gorgeous songs.

The Last Five Years opens today!

 

Liz’s Review: ‘RED KNOT’- Do you know where your marriage is?

REDKNOTposter

Marriage is difficult. I got married 5 days before my husband started business school at Yale. He was on the Investment Banking track. What that meant in my world was that I wouldn’t see my husband for the next 4 months as he prepared for innumerable interviews, events, and attended the accelerated course load that comes with an ivy league school. Even after 6 years together, I had to become a whole new woman. In the new film RED KNOT, a young, newly married couple take this idea to the extreme as they honeymoon on a research vessel near Antarctica.

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