Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘The Art Of Self-Defense’

Jesse Eisenberg has mastered playing the quirky, whipsmart, douchebag. In The Art of Self-Defense, he plays genuinely sweet, pushover Casey looking to stand up for himself after a brutal attack. He gets a lot more than he bargains for when he signs up for karate lessons. The film is an unapologetic look at toxic masculinity.  It’s over the top dark comedy is a political blowtorch. If you can’t laugh at this film you need the stick removed from your ass. The snark factor is so high that even Casey’s answering machine is kind of a dick. Imogen Poots is equally impactful with both her physical and emotional performance. The humor lies in the absolute seriousness in which the cast says their lines. The film appears to take place sometime in the ’80s by the look of technology and funny enough, the misogynistic dialogue is most likely insanely accurate. Eisenberg is undeniably incredible. He is vulnerable and fearless and funny as hell. The Art of Self-Defense absolutely belongs at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019. The timing of the film is sheer perfection and this fest has the right audience.


Review: Michael Shannon & Imogen Poots are trying hard to love each other in ‘Frank & Lola’

Gorgeously shot with emotionally-charged performances, Frank & Lola is written and directed by first-time feature director Matthew Ross and stars Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in the title roles.

An unconventional love story, we start with the two in bed together. The two obviously did not have a romantic chemistry yet she was very comfortable with her body. As the story continues, we see that Frank and Lola are in a relationship, and live together. Fifteen years his junior, Imogen Poots gives a raw performance with very little makeup and often in disarray. Michael Shannon as Frank is his usual quiet intensity, so his moments of levity really stand out.

Rosanna Arquette makes an appearance as Lola’s mother, a woman who seems to view Lola as competition, rather than a daughter. Although it’s only one scene, it gives a glimpse into Lola’s world. Justin Long has a small role and although I generally love his work, I didn’t like the over-the-top of the character.

Frank and Lola are both severely flawed and as such, their actions often lead them in directions that cause problems. Writer/director Matthew Ross showcases this and does so with beautiful backdrops of Las Vegas and Paris. I enjoyed not knowing what would happen and rooting for these two. I hope you will too.

In theaters from Paladin and On Demand and Digital HD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on December 9, 2016

Interview: Anna Axster Director/Writer of ‘A Country Called Home’


Writer/Director of A Country Called Home – Anna Axster

How did the idea for the film originate?

The idea for A Country Called Home was inspired by extensive travel throughout the US while on tour with my husband and seeing so many different cultural landscapes all in this one country.  Additionally it was inspired by the loss of a parent and how that speeds up the growing-up process.

A-Country-Called-Home-2DWhat was the writing process like? Did you have an outline from the start?

I felt this story brewing but didn’t find the time to really focus and write it down and so I went to a cabin in Lake Tahoe and locked myself in for a few days without phone or internet and wrote the synopsis.  Then I collaborated on the script with Jim Beggarly, a great writer from New York and he really fleshed out a lot of the scenes and dialogue and we kept sending ideas back and forth.  It was a great experience working with him. When we had a first draft I went to New York and we sat down together for three days and went through the script with a fine comb and after that I gave it to some people to read for the first time.

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Ryan Bingham as Jack in the drama “A COUNTRY CALLED HOME” an ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment.

Did you always know you wanted to direct what you’d written?

I always knew that I wanted to direct this story.  I consider myself a director first and a writer second I guess and while I am writing a new story at the moment I am also interested in the possibility of directing someone else’s material at some point.

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Mackenzie Davis as Reno in the drama “A COUNTRY CALLED HOME” an ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment.

Who are your biggest influences as a director?

There are so many different storytellers and directors that I admire for different reasons and the list is too long to cover here.  I recently saw Lisa Cholodenko’s “Olive Kittridge” and loved it and thought it was an incredibly inspiring piece of filmmaking.

How did the production blog influence your process?

The blog didn’t really influence my process too much.  It was just fun to know there’s some people out there who want to know what we’re up to.

How did social media/Kickstarter updates impact the production?

Kickstarter obviously impacted the production by allowing us to raise more money through crowdsourcing and therefore allowing us to really make this movie happen.  The updates were honest updates about what we were doing and so I don’t know that they really impacted the production in any way.  We just let the generous backers know what we were doing.

The cast is filled with strong females. Is that something you set out to do?

It’s not something I consciously set out to do, it’s just the story that came out and that I felt compelled to tell.  I do however believe that it’s very important for more real female stories to be told and I feel lucky to have worked with such strong and powerful female actors.

Did you shoot with film or digital? Do you have preference for either?

We shot digital on the Arri Alexa.  I used to shoot on film a lot and while I love film it was not really a sensible choice for our budget and I really liked working with the Alexa and I like the visual look that we were able to achieve.

How were you influenced by the fact that many independent films are now being viewed at home rather than in theaters?

I obviously knew throughout the whole process that most people would see this film on a TV screen and so it probably influenced me in some way but our cinematographer, Charlie Wuppermann, and I worked on the style and feel we wanted to achieve for a long time and we were not strongly influenced by fitting it into any certain size or format but rather by serving the story the best we could.

ACCH-0094-2How was the editing process? Were there any scenes you had to cut?

I love the editing process as there are so many things you can questions or rethink.  Shooting the film is like trying to get the best ingredients possible and editing is putting them together to make the best out of what you have.  We did cut a couple of scenes, simply because it became clear that the story worked without them.  Luckily I am not that attached to my own writing or the stuff we filmed so it was not too hard to make the choices of cutting some things out.  But overall we didn’t leave to much on the editing floor and the story stayed pretty true to the script.

Do you any other scripts in the works? What’s up next for you?

I am currently working on a new story that I’ve started writing and I am looking forward to developing it into a screenplay.  And I am open and looking forward to anything else that might come my way.

XLrator Media Launches Unique Marketing Campaign to Celebrate the Release of ‘Jimi: All Is By My Side’


LOS ANGELES (September 26, 2014) – XLrator Media announced the launch of a unique multi-layered content marketing initiative and ranking factors to reach “core-music fans” who will make up a large percentage of its opening weekend audience and box office take for JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE, opening in theaters September 26, 2014. Read More →

Melissa’s Bluray Review: James McAvoy Is Outrageously Intense In ‘Filth’

The Filth

Look out, Filth is worth every bit of that R rating, in sight as well as sound. If you’re still up for it, what follows is a heartbreaking, devastatingly intimate and intense performance by James McAvoy.

Released last fall in Scotland, Ireland and England, Filth was dropped on American audiences only a few short months ago. Liz and I actually attended a special screening in May, where James McAvoy and Imogen Poots introduced the film. It was a star-studded event with Patrick Stewart and David Bowie amongst the crowd. Vanessa Redgrave inadvertently held the door for me. It was quite the moment. Oh, who’s that? Why it’s Parker Posey. Yeah, it was a good time.

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