When I think about how much 18 year old filmmaker Emily Hagins has already accomplished in her short life, I reflect back to my sucky teen years and how I didn’t really achieve anything until adulthood. Hagins has made three feature films already and the third, MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE, will be making its world premiere at the prestigious Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, March 15th at 9:30PM during the SXSW Film Festival.

To tame that bloodthirsty appetite to finally see MSTR, we’ve been supplied with an exclusive clip from the film. In this clip, one of our main characters, Paul (Patrick Delgado), gets held up at gunpoint when a vampire (Devin Bonnée) who looks eerily like Robert Pattinson is hungry for money. Hit the break to see the clip and official synopsis!

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2011 Review: WIN WIN

Editor’s note: This review was originally written on February 3rd, 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival

Rating: 4.5/5

Writers: Thomas McCarthy (screenplay and story), Joe Tiboni (story)
Director: Thomas McCarthy
CastPaul GiamattiAmy RyanJeffrey TamborAmy RyanMelanie LynskeyBobby Cannavale

Tom McCarthy can do no wrong. He first captured our hearts with his writing/directing debut, THE STATION AGENT. Then he showed the world Richard Jenkins has the full potential to be a leading man in THE VISITOR (for which Jenkins garnered a well-deserved Oscar nod). And now, in 2011, McCarthy is back with his third feature, a high school wrestling movie with a lot of heart, WIN WIN.

WIN WIN is a story of unlikely people entering each other’s lives. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a lawyer by day, high school wresting coach by night. His practice isn’t very successful (he can’t even afford to fix the plumbing), and he’s not at all in shape (being outran in the opening scene gives us this heads up). He decides to take one of his clients into his care after discovering he can get paid weekly for it, and meets his runaway grandson, child wrestling prodigy Kyle Timmons (newcomer Alex Shaffer). Kyle soon starts wrestling on Flaherty’s team and everything around him begins to look promising again, from the wrestling team to family life. Little known fact: WIN WIN was spawned off McCarthy’s real life friendship with a former high school wrestling teammate.

Tom McCarthy knows the dynamics of friendship and family. WIN WIN is a charming story about making the right choices. As Flaherty is teaching Kyle to do the right thing, we learn he’s wrestling troubles of his own. McCarthy gives balances to real life problems with real life solutions. Sometimes good people make bad decisions and almost always they learn and grow from it.

It’s no shock that Giamatti turns out another fine performance in WIN WIN. Again and again, he puts his all in to everything he does, showing the world how powerful one can be with a set of lines. This man can silence a room with his signature droopy facial expressions. He’s an actor’s actor. The Babe Ruth of thespians.

WIN WIN’s character interactions are what, excuse me, win us over. As Jackie Flaherty (the forever wonderful Amy Ryan) is talking to Kyle about new starts in life, she references her Jon Bon Jovi initialed ankle tattoo - a.k.a. a physical reminder of her rebellious stage. This is one of many small, dynamite interactions in WIN WIN that speak so loudly about how effective real communication can be.  When you’re young and feel like the world is against you, it’s nice to know a peer once sat in your spot in life.

Giamatti is aided by Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale. These two very funny actors play Flaherty’s assistant coaches and come so close to completely pulling the mat from under Giamatti’s feet. This is the best (and one of the most unexpected) comedic duos I’ve seen on screen in a very long time. It’s almost as if McCarthy let these two run amok, only telling them to read their lines and spin it how ever the hell they want. If that’s the case, it worked.

WIN WIN makes Tom McCarthy three-for-three. Grabbing the affection from the audience is what he wants, and my dear reader, he can’t lose.

From the GATW Archives: SXSW 2011 Review: FUBAR: BALLS TO THE WALL

Rating: 4/5

DirectorMichael Dowse
WritersDavid LawrencePaul SpenceMichael Dowse
CastDavid LawrencePaul SpenceRose Martin

Dean (“Deaner”) and Terry don’t ask for a lot in life. All they want is a trunk load of beer, heavy metal music, and an occasional acid trip vacation. They live day to day doing the most idiotic things an 18 year old headbanger from the 1980s without any direction in life would do (see above photo). There are no rules in Dean and Terry’s world, and anarchy to them means slumming it without all of the violence. As a viewer, it’s attractive watching these two comedically destroy their lives all the while trying to better themselves.

FUBAR: BALLS TO THE WALL picks up eight years after the original film left off. Dean (Paul Spence) is free of testicular cancer so his mom and best friend, Terry (David Lawrence) decide to throw him a party. These three don’t party like my mother and I would (chips, cheese dip, and Diet Dr. Pepper), these three set fire to the home they currently live in, cut through walls with a chainsaw, and walk away like it’s all normal. Shortly after they travel away from their home to try and get jobs with a friend, country-listening, rap-singing Tron (Andrew Sparacino), at a construction plant. Two metal heads working with heavy machinery while under the influence of something, anything, cannot and will not go well.

BALLS TO THE WALL sets up as a faux documentary, like a successful feature-length episode of NBC’s The Office. The film was written by Lawrence, Spencer, and Michael Dowse, and the film was directed by Dowse. These three worked together on the first, and like the first, they’re behind-the-lens chemistry is flawless. I’ve seen many flicks where teens and young adults live life without a job, money, or care for what’s going to happen tomorrow, but FUBAR 1 & 2 marks the first time I’ve seen full blown adults (with a teenage mentality) attempt that idea. I believe the FUBAR films are an experiment - can two knuckheads really get by doing nothing but partying and drinking beer? Is it believable? Absolutely. Dowse puts Dean and Terry in places and situations that probably wouldn’t work for most adults, but here, it makes sense when they do work. They happen to stumble on the right things at the right time and do the most idiotic things to get by.

As strangely as this sounds, Dean and Terry are very charming fellows with a lot of heart. The best examples of this involves a scene where D&T go hunting for hockey pads for Dean’s daughter on Christmas Eve. The stepfather of his child has already purchased some and is willing to give them to Dean for her, but that’s just not how a father should give his daughter a gift. So, these two destroy a sports store and Terry’s newly purchased vehicle just so Dean’s precious daughter can open a gift from him. This is, folks, is a strangely adorable example of the do-good blood these two fuck-ups have in their hearts.

This review may be slightly confusing, as I’m recommending a movie about two substance abuse metal heads with a lot of heart, but I promise you, dear reader,  BALLS TO THE WALL does not fall short of excellent comedic cinema.

From the GATW Archives: SXSW 2011 Review: A BAG OF HAMMERS

Rating: 4/5

DirectorBrian Crano
WritersBrian CranoJake Sandvig
Cast:  Jason RitterJake SandvigChandler CanterburRebecca HallCarrie PrestonCarrie PrestonAmanda Seyfried

Alan and Ben are a pair of slackers who pay rent by working valet at funerals. No, wait, wait that’s very incorrect. Alan and Ben are a pair of slackers who pay rent by boosting cars while posing as valet employees at funerals. Sounds morbid and cruel, but A BAG OF HAMMERS is actually a bag of charm.

In any case, Alan (Jake Sandvig) and Ben (Jason Ritter) are too lazy to work normal jobs, so they steal cars and sell them to a local car shop for scrap. They live in a little duplex and rent one out to a struggling mother and child, Kelsey (wonderfully played by Chandler Canterbury). When that mother winds up abandoning the child, Alan and Ben take him in to build a family of their own. Think Two and a Half Men, but without the tiger blood.

A BAG OF HAMMERS is co-writer/director Brian Crano’s first feature film, and I’m crossing my fingers (and torso) that it’s not his last. Crano manages to give an unhealthy story about two misfit adults who commit grand theft auto a lot of heart. Crano understands how to mix clever adult humor with serious life themes. A BAG OF HAMMERS does take an unexpected turn, but Crano does not drop the ball, not once; as the title suggests, sometimes life throws us a bag of hammers and we just have to deal with it.

Full disclosure: I’ve never really paid much attention to Jason Ritter’s career and now I’m thinking this was a bit foolish of me; Crano’s feature-length directorial debut is a hammering heads up that it’s now time for everyone to be more aware of this man. Ritter channels his brilliant father’s comedy and gives us a hilarious performance as Ben, that slacker you just hate to love. He’s charming, funny, and means well - even if he doesn’t know he’s meaning well. I must also note that Ritter bounces wonderfully off fellow actors Sanvig, Canterbury, and Rebecca Hall.

A BAG OF HAMMERS is a heavy reminder that you don’t need to be fast and furious to tell a smart and entertaining story about stealing cars.

From the GATW Archives: SXSW 2011 Video Interview: THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM writer/director Todd Rohal and actor Robert Longstreet

THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM is one fucked up movie, but if you’re reading this because you want to watch this video, you’re probably already in the know. When I talk about amongst people who have no idea what THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM (CAT CAT for short) is, I simply tell them, “it’s not a movie - it’s an experience.” That’s probably the smartest way to describe what you’re about to walk into. Any fan of Jody Hill and/or David Gordon Green’s previous work will eat this movie up.

After the break is my video interview with CAT CAT writer/director Todd Rohal and actor Robert Longstreet, who has been deemed the king of Sundance and SXSW because he’s been in so many films which played at both festivals. Please excuse the error in my first question, I had not seen THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE (Rohal’s first film), and was under the impression it was a short. But, my other questions are more accurate and a lot more fun, so enjoy!

From the GATW Archives: SXSW 2011 Interview: A BAG OF HAMMERS co-writer/director Brian Crano

Brian Crano’s first feature A BAG OF HAMMERS premiered just a few weeks ago in Austin at the SXSW Film Festival, where I saw it and instantly fell in love (with the film, not Crano - sorry, dude, that just might be too creepy). A BAG OF HAMMERS follows two misfit best friends, Ben and Allan (played by Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig, respectively), who get by doing no good. They’re thrown a bag of hammers when they take a mother and fatherless boy under their wings.

I unsuccessfully tried to interview Crano in person at the festival, but my schedule kept train-wrecking so he was nice enough to pass along his email for us to conduct an interview that way. After the break is our conversation about the film, which I believe you will find very fascinating, especially if you’re a young filmmaker hungry for originality and exposure. Enjoy!

A BAG OF HAMMERS is your first feature. The film deals with serious tones but in a lighthearted and comical way. Where did the idea of this film first come from?

In the most simplistic terms from a desire to make a buddy comedy. At the time we wrote the script, pre- Apatow rightly turning into the Sun, pre- Wedding Crashers, there was a kind of buddy comedy drought. I wanted to use the central relationship in the film — two best friends — as a metaphor for alternative families and the tropes of a buddy comedy seemed like the perfect fit. The idea was to start the film true to that style, broad comedy - light on consequence and kind of lure the audience into a false sense of security about what they are watching. Then when the plot turns and the rug is pulled out from the two lead characters to do the same thing to the viewer, so the tone and seriousness of the film is suddenly asking a lot more of them emotionally than what they might have bargained for. This was very deliberate, as I really believe that form and content should marry, so I want the audience to be on the same ride as the characters. It’s fun for me to have seen this play out for the first time with an audience at SXSW. It was a big experiment that seemed to work really well, there were a lot of laughs and a lot of sniffles in all the right places. I never want watching the film or anything I do to be a passive experience. I want the audience to have no sense of where the story is leading them and really fight to preserve some sense of genuine surprise, which is such a rare, rare thing to feel when you go to a film, the economics of which dictate that they must branded and advertised within an inch of its life just to get you to the theatre.

You’ve worked with Rebecca Hall three times now [first two have been Crano’s shorts, RUBBERHEART and OFFICIAL SELECTION, respectively]. What is it about her that makes you want to keep casting her in your films?

I met Rebecca in the early 2000s when I cast her in a workshop of a play that I wrote, 12th PREMISE. And it turns out, without knowing it at the time, I had cast my favorite actress and one of my best friends. We approach work in the same way, I think. Rebecca wants to be challenged. She works hard, is rigorous in her approach but has a really good time on set. She’s always treading new ground. And she’s never a pain in the ass. When you work with Rebecca, it’s like one less thing you have to worry about because she will reliably do something brilliant, much better than whatever you had in mind. I will keep offering her work forever and hope very much she keeps saying yes.

I have not seen your shorts, but I have seen A BAG OF HAMMERS and it’s obvious you have an eye for finding actors who mesh well together on screen. What’s your casting process like and how do you know when you’ve found the right people?

Casting is really a fun process. So I like to take my time withit. With BAG we knew that the chemistry between the two leads was critical to the film’s success. I wanted to meet a lot of people, to just talk withthem first, get a sense of who they were, how they like to work and what they thought about the film. Then if they seemed like they would fit in, we would have them come back in and read. This took a few months but was worth it because you end up discovering people like Jason Ritter, who I hadn’t thought of for the role and ended up being perfect; or Carrie Preston whose audition was so strong it changed my perception of the character. I come out of theatre background where the idea of repertory company is really prevalent and it appeals to me greatly. There are about ten or twelve actors that no matter what I’m doing, I’m always looking for a way to cast with them.

You wear many hats in all your films (writer, director, producer) - do you want to keep this trend going or would you like to eventually just write or direct?

I think that I’ll keep it up. I really enjoy the various stages of the process, and they all interrelate, so why not? I’ll keep directing what I write, but I’d like to produce for others as well. Rebecca has a movie that she’s working on that I would like to work on as a producer. And I am attached to direct a film that I didn’t write, at the moment, which is really exciting. It’s a very different process being not emotionally attached to any particular part about the script, having no baggage or whatever. It’s been really cool starting this process. But ultimately, it’s so appealing to have an idea and see it through from the writing process through completion I think I’ll keep doing it all.

A BAG OF HAMMERS deals with young adults who unconsciously refuse to grow up. Being 28, I relate to it because there are times when it hits me that I’m almost 30 and still don’t have it all together, so I often call my sweet mother to see if she’s proud of what I’ve down with my life so far. With that awkward introduction to my personal life, does any of this story come from your personal experiences?

I think the part of the story that relates to my personal experience the most is about the desire to have a family and the knowledge that that family isn’t going to be made up of a husband, a wife, 2.3 kids and a dog. In another way, the film is about people who have had bad things happen to them and still have to move forward. That is close to my experience, my mother was very sick for a while and the weight of that stays with you and changes you, whatever you are doing. But I’m a total momma’s boy and definitely seek approval constantly, so you are not alone.

What’s it like having your feature premiere at a very prestigious and popular film festival like SXSW?

It was really very special. It took six years to make this film and throughout that process you are really formulating the A side of a conversation. South By gave us a huge platform to hear the B side of that conversation and let us engage with a big broad audience. It was honestly the festival where we wanted to launch the film because, having been there in the past, the energy and spirit of the festival was right for this kind of movie. And the whole SXSW team was so great to us and the response to the movie down there was so strong — it was a dream.

A BAG OF HAMMERS is on both Facebook and Twitter. How do you think this has helped market the film?

Well it certainly makes us more accessible. People have written us little questions or notes, and we’ve been invited to screen at other festivals via these mediums so that is helpful. It’s also a useful way for us to feedback, watching Twitter after screenings was kind of a group pastime. And the obvious things like sharing reviews and press stuff with people who are keeping an eye on @abagofhammers or (shameless plug).

What’s next for A BAG OF HAMMERS?

We’re screening at Nashville Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Festival and we’ve been asked to screen at a few others. And we’re in the process of selling the film, which is a nice thing.

From the GATW Archives: Guns! Special effects! Slaps! Here’s the first trailer for the Will Ferrell Spanish comedy, CASA DE MI PADRE

Posted on April 14, 2011 on GATW.

This is a rare find. I was looking at GATW’s past interviews on YouTube and stumbled on the trailer for the now-titled Will Ferrell Spanish comedy, CASA DE MI PADRE (HOUSE OF MY FATHER). It appears very official and not bootlegged from a theater, but I’m not sure how it found its way online without any other outlet posting.

Nothing else is known about this film, but according to IMDb, “Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) has lived and worked on his father’s ranch in Mexico his entire life. As the ranch encounters financial difficulties, Armando’s younger brother Raul (Diego Luna), shows up with his new fiancé, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). It seems that Raul’s success as an international businessman means the ranch’s troubles are over as he pledges to settle all debts his father has incurred. But when Armando falls for Sonia, and Raul’s business dealings turn out to be less than legit, all hell breaks loose as they find themselves in a war with Mexico’s most feared drug lord, the mighty Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).”

This trailer promises guns! Special Effects! Slaps! And Will Ferrell speaking only Spanish. Check it out after the break. CASA DE MI PADRE also stars Spanish favorites Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, and there’s no release date at this time.

From the GATW Archives: A Whale of a Writer: Film Editor Drew McWeeny

Posted on March 24, 2011 on GATW.

"Whale of a Writer" is a new feature at Gordon and the Whale in which our very own Editor-in-Chief, Chase Whale, picks the minds, souls, and keyboard-clenched fingers of other writers in the movie blogging industry. Each new WoaW interview will be uniquely tailored for its subject, with fresh questions each time around, questions that aim their harpoon right for the heart of what makes each subject special and what makes each of their contributions unique, interesting, and informative.

Two years ago when I first attended Sundance, I had the idea of interviewing fellow bloggers, writers, and journalists who I looked up to; it really intrigues me how a person got into this business and managed to make a living out of it. At the time, not many people knew who I was, and therefore my soul wasn’t courageous enough to ask anyone if I could pick their brain. After some exposure and gaining trust and friendships, I decided it was time to execute this column and I’m very proud to announce my first subject: Mr. Drew McWeeny, Film Editor for

McWeeny has been around the blogging world for a very long time and has put a lot into the success of Harry Knowles' Ain't It Cool News and his new home, HitFix. In this 48 minute audio interview, McWeeny talks about some of his favorite film festivals, the movies that first opened debate with him, how he got started in writing, some of the frustrations (as well as rewards) of being a blogger, and a few other topics that are hopefully as interesting to you as they are me.

This is my first of hopefully many “Whale of a Writer” entries, and I must tip my hat to McWeeny for allowing himself to be my guinea pig in this hopefully successful project. Check out the full interview after the break.

For awesome updates about Drew’s journalistic life, follow him on the Twitter!


From the GATW Archives: SXSW 2011 Video Review: DUNSTON CHECKS IN (reviewed by @nickrob)

Yesterday, Nick Robinson (@NickRob) and I were having a few beers at the IFC Crossroads House when I noticed he had a DUNSTON CHECKS IN button on his messenger bag. With that being beyond amusing and ridiculous to me, I pointed it out and could not stop laughing. So, Robinson proceeded to tell me the really hilarious-yet-brilliant reasons why DUNSTON CHECKS IN was falsely advertised. I thought it would be an absolute shame if I did not film this and share it with you, my wonderful readers. Enjoy!

From the GATW Archives: Interview: CEREMONY actor Jake Johnson

Posted on April 8, 2011 on GATW.

ake Johnson should be in every movie. In the only two I’ve seen him in (PAPER HEART and CEREMONY, respectively), he’s stolen the show. His comedy and comedic timing is top notch. I met Johnson almost two years ago when he was touring with Charlyne Yi for PAPER HEART; to show you just how much fun these two are, check out our video interview with the duo.

I saw CEREMONY at TIFF and have since wanted to speak to the crew about the film (interviews with writer/director Max Winkler and actor Michael Angarano coming soon). This was made possible when I met Winkler and Angarano at SXSW. Max connected Johnson via email, where the below interview was conducted. Read on as we discuss CEREMONY and taking chances with first time directors. Also, stay tuned for Alanna’s interviews with Winkler and Angarano.

How did you get your start into acting?

I did a two man show in NYC called The Midwesterners with one of my oldest friends Oliver Ralli. We were directed by another friend of ours, Bill Bungeroth (now the director of Chicago’s Second City Main Stage). We performed throughout NYC and toured the country performing in any festival that would take us. After years of performing on stages, I moved out to Hollywood and started grinding my way up through commercials, one line parts, etc.

You’ve worked with Max Winkler before on Clark and Michael - is this how you got involved with CEREMONY?

Yes, after working on “Clark and Michael” Max and I started working on multiple ideas together. When CEREMONY came together, he told me from the beginning he wanted me in his movie (he just didn’t know for which part). He was forced to put me through the ringer, though. I auditioned at least five times for it. But Max was always in my corner. Max is truly a good person to have fight for you. He’s loyal, talented and fierce.

From the beginning of pre-production, were you always supposed to play Teddy?

No. Teddy was originally written as British. As soon as Zoe became Uma Thurman, Max started considering me as Teddy. We had to rethink and refind the character, but Max and I like a lot of the same stuff. The note Max would give me throughout production was, “Weirder, Jake. Go for it.” It’s probably the best direction I’ve ever gotten.

Your character is constantly drunk and pretty much does whatever he wants - what was it like during shooting?

Like that…I’m kidding. It was a really fun shoot. Max let me have a lot of freedom and he really respects his actors, so we were able to try things and feel ownership. I couldn’t imagine a better working experience.

You play Uma Thurman’s brother in the film, how intimidating was it playing along side such a brilliant actor?

She’s a great actor and made it very comfortable to act with.

You’ve been in a lot of large studio films in a co-starring role. Do you think it’s easier and less pressure to have a lasting career in film by doing that vs. taking the leads and having to keep up the box-office numbers?

I do. I’m also at a stage of my career where I feel I have a ton to learn and so not being the lead takes some pressure off. Acting in movies/TV is so different than acting on stage, so it’s a process. I am not in a huge rush to be the main guy. I am also not in a huge rush to be a big movie star guy, either. I’d be very happy being a working character actor, as long as I’m working a lot.

Your comedic timing is flawless - do you have any aspirations for plans to direct a feature?

Thanks, Chase. Yes, I would love to direct. I am using the time of being on sets now to absorb as much as I can in terms of lenses, set-ups, etc. Hopefully one day, I have the opportunity to direct, but, like being the lead in a project, I am in no rush.

What can you tell us about two of your upcoming films, JUNK and SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED?

I’m not allowed to say much about SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED besides that I am really excited to be working with such talented people and with a great script (I don’t know much of anything about JUNK, I worked for a day on it because Jasenovic asked me to. They all seem like nice people, though, but I’m in the dark on it.)

Some of your work has been with first time directors. How do you go about deciding to take a chance with that person?

As an actor I like being given some freedom, but I also like the director to have a vision. In terms of first time directors, I like to meet with them, get a drink, and see if we see the script in the same way. If we do, and we see the process of actually making a film the same way, then I like to roll the dice and see what we can make. At the end of the day, you gotta gamble a little in this business.

From the GATW Archives: Giveaway: Win CEREMONY swag, custom signed by writer/director Max Winkler (bonus: contest video by Winkler)

One of the best films to come out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year was Max Winkler’s feature debut, CEREMONY. You should be familiar with Winkler’s work if you’ve ever seen any episode of Clark and Michael with Clark Duke and Michael Cera.

I finally met Max a month or so ago at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and we bounced around ideas for doing something fun for the celebration of CEREMONY’s theatrical release this Friday. I had the idea for Max to record a video for you (our wonderful readers) talking about a CEREMONY contest and what you could win - a few emails later, the below video showed up in my inbox from Max. So, without further ado, watch the video and follow the instructions! Good luck, movie lovers!

CEREMONY hits theaters this Friday! Also, if CEREMONY is not playing in your area, you can watch via VOD or rent on iTunes. Let’s show the world we have great taste - support indie filmaking!

From the GATW Archives: Theatrical Review: SCREAM 4 (SCRE4M)

Rating: 2.5/5

WriterKevin Williamson
DirectorWes Craven
CastNeve CampbellCourteney CoxDavid ArquetteAnna PaquinKristen BellAlison BrieHayden PanettiereEmma RobertsRory Culkin, Anthony AndersonAdam Brody
Studio: Dimension Films

Like most people in their late twenties reading this review, the SCREAM franchise was a staple of my teen angst years. The first film was filled with terrifying goodness, which opened the floodgates of copycat scripts and features (most notably URBAN LEGEND and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER) for years to come. What was so enthralling about the SCREAM films was watching director Wes Craven try new things, poke fun at his past mistakes, and create admirable cinematic horror.

Eleven years later, we’re given a much anticipated follow-up, SCREAM 4 (known mostly as SCRE4M) which, I’m very sad to report, is lazy, hollow, and a disappointing attempt at rebooting the popular franchise.

The SCREAM series is entirely built on trying to kill Sidney Prescott; within it, a desire to end Sidney Prescott’s life is normal, but now it’s been eleven years since that last happened. Sid (Neve Campbell) has come out of hiding and is on a book tour, signing autographs and reading snippets from her self-help book. She returns to her hometown of Woodsboro, where the chaos and murders first took place on said tour, and it just so happens that she has returned on the 15th anniversary of when the murders first took place.

Almost everyone makes it clear they do not want to be around Sid, because, well, it’s like “being on Top Chef with Jeffrey Dahmer.” So many surrounding her who she loved and trusted have fallen victim to Ghostface’s love of both horror trivia and the knife. Unfortunately for Sid, who has seemingly lived without fear for eleven years, her return has resurrected Ghostface, who once again will try his (or her) hand at putting her six feet under. There’s a lot more things I could and want to discuss with the synopsis, but being a huge SCREAM fan, I will stop there, as surprises and cameos are only fun when you’re not expecting them.

Screenwriter and creator Kevin Williamson (who wrote the first two SCREAMs) has returned (with unspecified touchups by SCREAM 3 writer, Ehren Kruger), director Wes Craven has returned, and the survivors from the original three (Sid, Dewey Riley, and Gale Weathers) have all returned - so where does this film go wrong? The first thing SCRE4M gives us is violence. SCRE4M is extremely violent. Some of the kills are great and will be remembered quite clearly within this franchise. The problem here is that so many victims get knifed so fast, and the thing that made the previous SCREAMs so much fun - the “whodunit” - is quickly, pardon me, killed off.

In SCRE4M, seven STAB features have been made, horror reboots are the butt of almost all the jokes, and everything is still meta. Since time has passed, Ghostface is now using new social technology and networking, such as iPhone apps and Facebook, to confuse and get his victims. We’re told via the poster “New Decade. New Rules.” Our new killer appears much angrier, and as the president and vice-president of Woodsboro High’s Cinema Club go over the new rules, the first and most applied is this: the kills are way more extreme. Some could argue the violence distracts from everything else in the film, but in order to follow this rule, the violence is a necessity.

Everybody is still a suspect and everybody is still a victim, but narrowing down our Ghostface has become easier than ever. Maybe it was me going crazy over trying to guess who the killer (or killers) was this time around, but I didn’t have much problem once the more questionable victims were taking out of the equation early in the film. One last nitpick to add about original players returning - SCREAM 1, 2, and 3 composer Marco Beltrami is back. Now, I’m no Allison Loring, but I can tell when captivating music that once literally put me on the edge of my seat has been gutted. SCRE4M’s music is just…bad and goofy.

Like the previous SCREAMS, all of our victims are put through the wringer. Everyone knows the original rules to succesfully surviving a horror film, but nobody pays any mind to them when in suspicious situations. This, I like - it separates reality from fiction and asks the question, “what would you really do when put in said situation?

The SCREAM series is notorious for being silly, all while still being scary - Craven and his team of writers knew how to mesh and separate the scares with the silly. SCRE4M just slices the scares in half, dumping out comedy as its guts. Maybe this is the intention from Craven and Williamson, I’m not to say, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. SCREAM 1, 2, and 3 were a fun journey - SCRE4M has lost that edge.

From the GATW Archives: Cannes 2011 Review: MELANCHOLIA

Rating: 5/5

Writer/Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Kirsten DunstCharlotte GainsbourgKiefer SutherlandJohn HurtAlexander SkarsgårdStellan SkarsgårdBrady Corbet
Studio: Magnolia Pictures

[mel-uhn-koh-lee-uh, -kohl-yuh] – noun
1. a mental condition characterized by great depression of spirits and gloomy forebodings.
2. (often initial capital letter) the planet hiding behind the sun, having an equatorial diameter of 79260 miles (10x the size of Earth) and heading towards Earth, threatening the end of mankind.

This morning at the 64th Festival de Cannes, Lars von Triers’ MELANCHOLIA screened for press. Having seen his previous work (ANTICHRIST, BREAKING THE WAVES, and DANCER IN THE DARK are the films most memorable to me), I walked in prepared to be fucked with. Amongst a few things, von Trier is known for shock cinema and striking visuals. The most shocking thing about MELANCHOLIA is that he doesn’t tease the audience, but instead he guides them into the world of emptiness that weighs down on someone when their emotionally confused state has lead to them coming to a complete halt.

Ironically, I walked out of MELANCHOLIA with a feeling of hope and understanding. MELANCHOLIA is a powerful piece of beautiful and haunting cinema.

MELANCHOLIA takes place in a mansion (with its own golf course) the size of a castle owned by millionaire scientist John (Kiefer Sutherland) and his wife, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The couple is throwing a wedding reception for Claire’s sister Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) in their home. When we meet the newlyweds, they are late to their own party and everyone has been anxiously awaiting their arrival.

As the night progresses, we learn that something is very, very wrong with Justine - she’s not happy and it seems that there is nothing that can fill her emptiness. The night ends, everyone leaves (including Michael), and Justine, Claire, John, and their son Leo spend the next five days together in the mansion, wondering where Justine went wrong. An even bigger possible tragedy is on the horizon, however, as we learn that there is a planet ten times the size of Earth that’s been hiding behind the sun, called “Melancholia,” and it’s headed straight towards us, threatening the end of the world. As this newly discovered planet travels ever closer, Justine’s sadness changes, for better or for worse.

MELANCHOLIA is not about the end of the world, but the end of a feeling: happiness. Everyone around Justine just wants her to be happy, but she can only feel everything but that. To understand sadness, you must feel it sometime in your life; von Triers’ heart is filled with sadness and we see it in his films. Unlike his previous works, in which he aimed for us to feel the pain, in MELANCHOLIA, he wants us to understand it. I would go as far as to say that this feels like his most personal film to date.

Von Trier is known to create works that feels misogynist, but in MELANCHOLIA, things have taken a dramatic turn and it’s the women who are strong. Dunst’s Justine appears to be weak and helpless, but she is at war with her sadness - there’s a lot of fight in her. Dunst dresses herself in Justine’s melancholy and gives one hell of a performance. This is Dunst at her best - she’s brilliant and darling and the camera loves her. Charlotte Gainsbourg is now a von Trier alum, and it’s very apparent why: she can bring her desperation and depression down to a painful viewing experience, which is exactly what von Trier wants.

MELANCHOLIA also has a fairly large ensemble cast at von Trier’s disposal, but the most notable performances here are John Hurt as the sisters’ free-living father, Udo Kier as the embarrassed wedding planner, and Kiefer Sutherland as the reasonably irritated brother-in-law who’s too proud.

MELANCHOLIA is oftentimes very hard to swallow, and we know from the first frame that our characters’ story will not continue past the last frame. There are movies that are so good, but so painful that it’s a breath of fresh air when the end credits begin. This is not one of those films. Only von Trier can create a terrific story about sadness that we want to see carry on past that last frame.

From the GATW Archives: Cannes 2011 Video Interview: BEAR co-writer/director Nash Edgerton

BEAR carries the same hilariously shocking tradition as SPIDER; Jack (played by co-writer/director Nash Edgerton) has good intentions with his pranks on his girlfriend Emelie (Teresa Palmer) but doesn’t have a filter with them and he winds up facing unplanned painful consequences. Edgerton started his career out as a stuntman, and these two films have a heavy influence on that trade. As I’ve said before, I love everything that Edgerton and his crew Blue-Tongue Films have made so interviewing him about BEAR just made sense. We caught up a few days before the festival ended at Screen Australia to talk about BEAR, the possibility of a SPIDER feature, and what he’s working on next. Check out the interview after the break.

Big thank you to Raffi Asdourian from The Film Stage for shooting this interview for me.


From the GATW Archives: Cannes 2011 Review: DRIVE

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Hossein Amini (screenplay), James Sallis (book)
Cast: Ryan GoslingCarey MulliganBryan CranstonChristina HendricksAlbert BrooksRon Perlman
Studio: Film District

Since walking out of the Grand Lumière from seeing DRIVE, my mind has been racing. I’ve never watched a film and felt so conflicted on how I viewed it. I was battling myself, wanting to like this film but had some major issues with it. Did I love DRIVE? Did I hate it? Days after that theater exit, I could not get DRIVE out of my mind. DRIVE was driving me crazy. (Sorry - I’ll try to hit the brakes on the puns.)

As Pauline Kael discussed in her essay “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” all it takes is the smallest thing in a film for it to completely capture your heart. Something under the hood of DRIVE captured my heart; director Nicolas Winding Refn has admirably crafted a fine piece of retro-noir cinema.

Ryan Gosling is Driver, stuntman driver by day, getaway driver by night. Wherever his life ends up, driving must be in it. You will not catch him without his silver jacket with a large scorpion embroidered on the back - it’s his security blanket. He keeps to himself, having his employer Shannon (Bryan Cranston) handle all of his business deals. Driver’s life faces a head on collision when he falls for next door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband just got out of jail on good behavior. Driver is a rarity when it comes to being a gentleman, wanting to help a woman and her family to safety - including the jealous husband - rather than tangle himself in a love triangle.

Shannon sees a lot of potential and money in Driver and convinces local mob boss Bernie Rose (a brilliant and vicious Albert Brooks) to loan him money to build the perfect stock car. Bernie’s ethnically-confused associate Nino (Ron Perlman) doesn’t want anything to do with this - he hates Shannon.

Driver is a lonely cowboy - a silent warrior. He doesn’t have to say a word and you know exactly what he’s thinking. In order to make this movie work, you need an actor who can speak in high volume without saying anything. Gosling has really turned almost every performance he’s done in the last five years into award nominated roles. There’s a reason for this: Gosling is marvelous to watch on screen. He’s charming, tough, and smart.

In BRONSON, Refn created poetic violence. With rich colors and a riveting theatre-like appearance, our scene of violence becomes beautiful. He brings that same vision to DRIVE in one very memorable scene which I do not want to spoil but do want to address - this scene alone is the reason why we go to see movies.

Along with the scenes that will stick with me each time I talk about this film, Refn’s choice of music will always repeat in my head when I think of DRIVE. Using an ’80s keyboard pop influenced score by Cliff Martinez and electronic music by various artists, the music sets the tone and feeling for every scene its used in. When the beats calmly bump in the opening scene of the movie, don’t be surprised if you notice your feet quietly tapping along with them.

What’s upsetting about DRIVE is the flimsy character development for a few of our key roles. Driver’s love interest, Irene (Carey Mulligan), can be missed with a blink of an eye. Mulligan has proved at her young age she can lead a film to Oscar nominations, so being a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her secondary character is a bit disappointing; I would have liked to see more of Irene. Perlman’s Nino doesn’t know if he wants to be taken serious or as a joke; as big and bad as we have seen Perlman in films like HELLBOY, ALIEN: RESURRECTION, and BLADE 2, seeing him overplay the stereotypical idiot gangster is slightly off-putting.

What we know about Brooks’s Bernie is that he is a cruel man and will sacrifice anything and anyone threatening his name and empire. His scenes as this ruthless gangster are so terrifying and impressive that his screen time is satisfying enough. Brooks is mostly known as a comedian - a funny man whose characters always wind up in funny situations. Here he steps away from that typical character and mops the floor with most mob bosses we’ve seen on screen.

I must address that I have not read the book (of the same name) this film was adapted from, so my nitpicks could possibly be dismissed if Refn built our characters based on how the book reads them. As you read this review, you see the reasons why I want to keep revisiting this film and the racetrack I call “excellent filmmaking” it keeps driving on.

Grade: A+

From the GATW Archives: Cannes 2011 Review: SNOWTOWN

Rating: 4/5

Director: Justin Kurzel
Writers: Justin Kurzel (story), Shaun Grant (story and screenplay)
Cast: Daniel HenshallLucas PittawayCraig Coyne

Australian films have a large spot in my heart. This came about last year when I fell in love with THE LOVED ONES, RED HILL, HESHER, ANIMAL KINGDOM, and THE SQUARE - all Ozzie cinema. There’s just something about filthy revenge stories that captures my full attention. Just a few days ago I saw a new Outback Film, Justin Kurzel’s SNOWTOWN, which carries the recently popular Ozzie trend - revenge. SNOWTOWN is a disturbing and at times very hard to watch, but it’s fueled with rich acting and excellent storytelling.

SNOWTOWN takes place in Snowtown, South Australia and is based on the true story of Australia’s most notorious killer to date, John Bunting. Our central character is Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway), one of three brothers who is sexually molested by his trusting neighbor. They live in an area of Australia where you can get out on bail the same day for being a pedophile, but good luck finding a job if you’re caught stealing. When their mother finds out, she calls in Bunting (Daniel Henshall in a marvelous performance) to help her rid the neighbor from the neighborhood. What she didn’t know is Bunting didn’t have heckling revenge on his mind - he, along with Jamie, would go on a Pedophile vigilante killing spree, which becomes and unsettling chain reaction of violence.

SNOWTOWN was co-written and directed by Justin Kurzell, which marks his first feature. This is a film that needs a director who understands the story of the Snowtown murders and why they happened – nobody wants a pedophile to get off (no pun intended) a free man. Kurzell understands the difficult subject matter, and tells the story in a brave and daring manner. It’s not an easy one to make; what started as a story of justice ended up being a story of self-righteousness, killing people he chose, who were gay and obese - anyone he just did not like. Henshall’s take on Bunting is nothing short of creepy brilliance. He takes Jamie under his wing - like a father Jamie never had - manipulating and confusing Jamie. Jamie’s not sure to love him or stay far, far away from him.

SNOWTOWN marks Pittaway’s first credited acting performance and I do not think it will be his last. Channeling ANIMAL KINGDOM’s Joshua “J” Cody (James Frecheville), Pittaway’s Jamie is quiet, reserved, and often unable to control his path in life. Unlike J, things do not get better for Jamie; in fact, they get far, far worse. Jamie is a character that needs an actor who can look emotionally unstable throughout the majority of the film and Pittaway nails it. We often want to someone, anyone, to get this young man out of the life he’s be born into, but seeing how helpless he is himself, the sympathy fades as the movie carries on.

I did not know this film was based on a true story until the closing credits, which makes this story so much more terrifying. Kurzel crafted a raw feel to that story; and as brutal as the film is, I will be visiting SNOWTOWN again.

From the GATW Archives: Cannes 2011 Interview: SNOWTOWN co-writer/director Justin Kurzel

There’s a reason why IFC Midnight (SUPER, STAKE LAND) picked up Justin Kurzel’s SNOWTOWN - it’s an impressive piece of haunting cinema. Disturbing and hard to swallow, Kurzel’s feature directorial debut seals the deal that his man will continue to have a career making movies.

I tried to do a video interview with Kurzel at Cannes, but was off trying to get a sassy French woman to wine and dine me* while he was busy showing his film to distribution companies, so we settled for an email pass-off. Not sure if you’re aware of what SNOWTOWN is about, so read my review and then came back to this page to read the interview.

In this interview, we discuss finding the right Jon Bunting, why Kurzel chose the tragic story of Snowtown, Australia, and how he broke the ice during some really difficult and awkward scenes. Enjoy!

GATW: SNOWTOWN is based on a true (and really fucked up) story. How difficult was it to stay true to the facts while creating your own spin to it?

JK: The screenplay was based on two books and also court transcripts. Shaun and I did our own research as well which filled in some more intimate aspects of the case.

The events scripted are pretty close to the real events however you know with all films based on truth they are interpretations and the people in the film are always characterisations. Its important that you stay as close as possible to what happen but also be aware you are telling a particular story and the events and characters must fit the themes and ideas you are interested in.

GATW: Some of the brutal murders from Bunting didn’t make it into the film. What was the process of deciding which would make the cut and which wouldn’t?

JK: Yeah, there were 11 murders that they were convicted for and some of the details presented in court about those murders were truly horrific. We made a decision at the beginning to not make the violence the leading character of the film like most Horror/Slasher films do. We wanted make sure whatever murder we expressed on screen was directly related to Jamies major turning point and intitiation. The murder of his brother to us was integral to Jamie’s psychological journey and for you to understand the hold which John had on him. Most of the other murders are suggested through tape recordings which we felt for powerful devices to communicate to the audience who was missing or had been murdered.

GATW: John Bunting is one of Australia’s most notorious killers. What was the process like finding the right person to accurately portray him?

JK: We knew from the beginning we didnt want to portray him in a one dimensional way, you know here comes the serial killer and you can pick him a mile off. What we found interesting was that John was a pretty normal bloke in the community, he was very sociable and he was able to win the trust of the community and the family very easily. So we wanted him to be charismatic, approachable, someone who was a good listener and wanted to be around people.

Dan came in for an audition and had so many likable qualities. People really gravitate to Dan and he loves people. He makes you feel at ease and it was this quality especially at the beginning of the film which I felt was essential in understanding why the community looked for answers in John.

GATW: This appears to be Lucas Pittaway’s (Jamie) very first film. Some of his scenes are pretty uncomfortable and painful to watch. How did you break the awkwardness on set?

JK: We made sure in rehearse we all got to know each other extremely well and made a pact that we trusted each other and for this time while filming we were prepared to be brave and go to places that were very confronting and dark. We also knew that when the scene finished we could hug, hold each other and be able to turn the tap off and come out of those scenes. Lucas was incredibly brave, in fact all the cast were and I am indebted to their boldness and dedication to finding a truth in their performances.

GATW: Like the brilliant ear-cutting scene in RESERVOIR DOGS, a lot of the violence happens off-screen, leaving it to the viewer’s imagination. What made you want to use that method vs. more visuals?

JK: It was our biggest debate at the beginning while writing as to what violence do you show and what do you suggest and it is a very subjective and difficult decision. How do you get people close to this kind of Brutality without losing them. To us we didnt want to sanitize the violence but we also needed it to be always connected to Jamies journey and point of view. The scene with the brother was always the most important in the film. It made an audience get a glimpse of a brutality rarely scene while also understanding why Jamie participated in his brothers murder and why John found power and satisfaction in taking someone’s life.

My intention was for the audience to be taken to the edge of the cliff and to look into the abyss and hopefully feel as though they were still being held and not allowed to fall. But this is very subjective and violence on film is a visceral thing and everyone responds to it in different ways.

GATW: What made you decide to make SNOWTOWN as your first feature?

JK: I came from the 10 minutes away from where the events occured. I was extremely curious as to why something like this happened in a place i grew up in, where i spent my childhood. I think the script found a way of understanding how the community was implicated and affected which I had not known about before.
The subject matter was just so compelling, I couldnt stop thinking about it or putting down the books, I just knew it was the film i needed to make.

GATW: The score is so fitting and perfect for the film. Can you discuss the process working with your brother for the music?

JK: Right from the beginning Jed and I knew the music had to inform the cut of the film and provide the very intimate perspective of the lead character Jamie Vlassakis. We didin’t want the music to be leading you through the film emotionally, it couldn’t be there to manipulate what to feel. It had to be much more impressionistic and provide the very tense and claustrophobic pulse of Jamie’s descent towards hell. Jed came up with the main Snowtown Pulse and it became so influential that it gave us a new beginning and end of the film. I think it is an astonishingly sophisticated score, which not only affects you intellectually but most importantly emotionally. Its a muscular, visceral score and integral to the psychological journey in the film

GATW: What’s next for Kurzel?

JK: I am developing a black comedy with my brother Jed who did the music for Snowtown which Warp Films are producing, hopefully we can make it next year.


From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Review: Richard Ayoade’s SUBMARINE

Editor’s note: This review was originally published on September 18, 2010 as a Toronto International Film Festival review.

Rating: 5/5

WritersRichard Ayoade (screenplay), Joe Dunthorne (novel)
DirectorRichard Ayoade
Cast: Craig RobertsYasmin PaigeNoah TaylorSally HawkinsPaddy Considine

Here we go folks, my favorite film of the festival - SUBMARINE.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) wants the simple things in life: love, his parents to be happy together, light arson, and the world to express their sorrow when he dies. Oh, and he’s only 15. His love interest is Jordana (Yasmin Paige), whom Oliver notices has eczema from staring at her so much, and his parents are Lloyd (Noah Taylor) and (Sally Hawkins), whose love begins to burn out when an old, mulleted flame comes back around. These are the most important people in Oliver’s life for the duration of SUBMARINE. Well, and the girl who falls into the pond, she’s pretty important, too.

Our love story is set in motion when Oliver, Jordan, and a small group of people chase around a girl in the woods. While tossing her bag around to one another close to a pond, Oliver accidentally knocks the bullied girl towards the pond, sending her well on her way into the water and him to regret. He types her an apology letter and gives it to her only friend, the lunch lady, but it never gets to the girl  - Jordana gets ahold of it and swears to show the school if he doesn’t do a few things for her. In high school, a bad reputation is just as bad as death. Soon after, Oliver and Jordana are going steady, and they embark on a journey throughout the film doing things that people who are too cool for the world do. They sit and stare at each other in an isolated bathtub on the beach. They set fires in trashcans and watch the flames. It’s beautiful.

Oliver’s parents growing-stale-fast marriage frames up the second part of SUBMARINE. As Oliver finds love, the Tates are losing it. Papa Tate doesn’t talk much and drinks water from the same unwashed glass every day, and Mama Tate starts acting weird when her former flame Graham (Paddy Considine) moves in next door. Graham is a motivational speaker of sorts, and has a gnarly mullet and dresses like a ninja.

SUBMARINE was written and directed by Richard Ayoade, who’s best known as Moss onThe It Crowd. Ayoade knows how to use sarcastic, awkward, and twisted comedy, and he spreads them out  perfectly throughout the film. At the beginning, Oliver ponders how people would react to his death. Cut to fake news specials, candlelight vigils, and interviews with fellow schoolmates talking about how cool he was. At another point in the film, Oliver  discusses with the audience that his parents haven’t had sex in over eight months, and he knows this because he’s been keeping tabs on the way they dim the lights in their bedroom. Dark comedy like this is relatable, at least to me, and makes the movie much more personal. Ayoade takes us into the mind of Oliver, and shows us the truths and consequences of being a rebellious teenager.

Everyone in this film plays their characters well, but it’s Craig Roberts who brings out the awesome in our Oliver. Oliver is the guy you wish you would have known in high school, but were too proud to speak to at the time. He’s young and wants to live forever. He’s the misfit that shows us how to understand those who are different.

SUBMARINE is a story about growing up all while not wanting to get older. It’s what HAROLD & MAUDE would have been if they had met in high school.

From the GATW Archives: Theatrical Review: SUPER 8

Rating: SUPER 8/10

Writer/Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Joel CourtneyElle FanningAmanda MichalkaRyan LeeKyle Chandler
Studio: Paramount

J.J. Abrams has a lot on his mind. Starting out his career as an actor in REGARDING HENRY (which he also happened to write as only his second feature), Abrams then broke into producing and has turned everything he’s backed into gold, starting with television series like AliasLost, and Fringe. But it wasn’t until MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III that he started directing features and showed the world that the third film in a series can be its best, and that Tom Cruise can run really, really fast. Then Abrams went on to prove that you don’t have to be a Trekkie to appreciate Star Trek with his super-successful STAR TREK feature reboot. This leads us to now, and to his superb love letter to the late ’70s/’80s-era films of Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment - SUPER 8.

Set in the summer of 1979 in small town Ohio, our story begins with a tragedy. Joe Lamb’s (Joel Courtney) mother has been killed in a work-related accident at the local steel factory, Lillian Steel. We’re not made aware of what exactly has happened, but Joe’s father and the town’s deputy (Kyle Chandler), knows Lillian employee and town drunk Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard) had something to do with it. To keep his mind busy, Joe is helping a group of friends make a zombie film (shot on Super 8 of course) for a local film festival. One night while shooting at a train station, the kids witness a horrific and mysterious train crash and days later, something from the wrecked cargo starts to go bump in the night.

What I like about Abrams is that he can take a cast of almost unknowns and still create some of the best marketing buzz around. This worked for CLOVERFIELD (he produced), and it works for SUPER 8. In order for SUPER 8 to be a success upon its release, its audience has to believe in the friendships within the central group of kids - it needs to feel natural. This is what makes SUPER 8 so rewarding - the chemistry between the pack of kids (I like to refer to them as the Super Squad) is unflinchingly honest when it comes to portraying the friendships you may have had when you were young and the world was full of things that didn’t make sense - earthly or otherwise.

The real charm of SUPER 8 is in watching the kids make their zombie movie - the film within the film if you will. “Director” Charles (Riley Griffiths) takes charge, while Cary (the hilarious Ryan Lee) goofs around like any kid should, while Joe is busy putting makeup on the girl of his dreams, Alice Dainard (the always-wonderful Elle Fanning).

Even though SUPER 8 is an an Amblin film production, it’s still an ode to the company and the feelings its films possess. SUPER 8 is packed with movie geek nostalgia at its best. Abrams pays homage to those films of yesterday with the Spielberg-influenced set design to Michael Giacchino’s very John Williams-esque score, all while putting his own stamp on it with lens flares and a monster.

SUPER 8 is an unconventional monster movie that could still walk on its feet without any paranormal activity involved. What’s special about Amblin sci-fi films is that their focus is geared toward story, rather than violence, gore, and cheap jump scares. There are scares, but our attention remains with the kids and their adventure - think THE GOONIES meets THE MONSTER SQUAD, mixed with the feelings films like E.T. and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS gave you as a kid.

With most summer popcorn flicks you can just shut off your brain and enjoy. Not with an Abrams’ flick - there’s so much going on intellectually that you can’t help but keep those electrons racing while still enjoying what you’re currently seeing. J.J. Abrams proves, once again, that his filmmaking talents are far superior than most of his generation.

From the GATW Archives: Kevin Smith supports GATW... sort of

We don’t often features items like this on GATW, but since you’re all precious readers, I thought it would be pretty cool to share. During a recent episode of his podcast, Smodcast, Kevin Smith was dicussing another podcast, The Golden Briefcase over at First Showing, and he mentioned a few of their past guests, including writers and editors from Film School Rejects, Ain’t It Cool News, and us, Gordon and the Whale.

When mentioning GATW, Smith got in touch with his adorable side and called us a “cute-sounding site,” then proceeded with this awesome quote:

“Let’s say Gordon and the Whale writes ‘fuck Smith and everything he’s done - fuck him and everyone that looks like him.’ You can tell me that if your site’s called Gordon and the Whale.”

Smith suffered from what can arguably be called a major case of foot-in-mouth after saying less than nice things about film critics during the financially unsuccessful release of COP OUT, so it’s really nice to see that he’s keeping somewhat good spirits about the online community of movie writers.

When I was tweeted this from The Golden Briefcase's co-host Jeremy Kirk, I spent a day or so debating whether or not this would be newsworthy. On one hand, this might be considered gloating/showing off/whatever, but on the other, it made me really goddamn happy that a director said something nice about our website. Either way you want to view it, I think it's pretty neat and I'm glad I could share.

You can check out the quote at the 18:00 minute mark, and also be sure to listen to the minutes that lead up to it, when Smith says some really nice things about The Golden Briefcase.