Friday, March 25, 2011

"Jane Eyre"

First off, I will be judging this "Jane Eyre" movie adaptation solely on the movie itself; not compared to the novel, which I haven't read (but now want to), or any other movie or TV adaptations of it, of which there have been plenty. I knew the basics of the plot before seeing the film, but not the entire story, and between the cinematography, acting, and story, I ended up enjoying "Jane Eyre" very much

The movie begins with what we later find out is almost the end; Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska, "The Kids Are All Right") running through the rain, becoming soaked in her frock and hooded cloak. She finds refuge in a nearby house, where St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell, "The Eagle") and his sisters take her in and nurse her back to health. The film then returns to the beginning of Jane's life, where she is an orphan living with her aunt, who does not want her and sends Jane off to a cruel boarding school. When she is older, Jane becomes a governess for a little girl, who is the ward of Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender, "Jonah Hex"), who flat-out tells her that he does not enjoy the company of children or old women (referring to the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, played by Judi Dench), but that he may possibly enjoy Jane's company. Jane finds herself attracted to him, and Mr. Rochester her, but he has a big secret that she doesn't yet know, which will impact any chance of a future she has with him.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clooney's "Ides of March" films in Bloomfield Hills: Day in the life of an extra

Extras holding ... not for VIPs ;-)
I was accepted to be an extra for George Clooney's new film "The Ides of March" last Tuesday, but it was for a day-long shoot in Ann Arbor and was unpaid. I applied again for this week's shoot in Bloomfield Hills and found out over the weekend I was accepted, as was my dad, and so we decided to go (it helped that today's positions were paid).

Here is a day in the life of an extra on a major motion picture:


  • 5:30am: I wake up ... a lot earlier than I usually would.
  • 7:05am: I'm sitting in the lobby of the Radisson Kingsley hotel in Bloomfield Hills, in Extras Holding. They have free breakfast for us, including bacon, bagels, muffins, and potatoes ... yum.
  • 9am: We board the shuttle bus that will take us to Christ Church, Cranbrook, where today's scenes are being filmed.
  • 9:25am: We walk into the church and one of the first things I see is George Clooney, behind the camera! He is the director of "Ides of March," and he is starring in it as well.
  • 10:30am: Gregory Itzin arrives. He is playing the father of the girl whose funeral we are attending at the church.
  • 11:30am: They set up for another scene - this one with flowers. We wonder if any other stars are going to appear in the church scene. (*cough RYAN GOSLING cough*)
  • 12:30pm: Ryan Gosling and Phillip Seymour Hoffman appear; they need to get shots of them sitting in the church.
  • 1:15pm: They say we are returning to the hotel for lunch. I wonder if we will have to return to the church or not afterwards.
  • 1:45pm: Yup - back to the church, to shoot us entering and exiting. The first two busses leave and we are going to be on the third, but they send us back to Extras Holding to wait for a while.
  • 2:30pm: I'm sitting in the back of a pew, but some of the other extras are waiting to exit the church so they can be filmed.
  • 3:00pm: A scene is being shot between Ryan Gosling and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and they want the extras to be walking towards the parking lot during it, like they are exiting the funeral.
  • 4:20pm: We are WRAPPED for the day!
  • 4:40pm: On the shuttle bus back to the hotel. We've worked from about 7am-5pm, but most of that time was us sitting around and waiting for shooting to start.
  • 5:10pm: We turn in our payment vouchers to the extras staff and finally get to leave for the day.

I don't think I would want to be an extra again, but it was definitely fun to see all the Hollywood stars and be a part of the film, which IMDB says will be in theaters on October 7, 2011. I guess I will have to wait until then to see if I made it into the movie!
Christ Church Cranbrook, where we filmed
Front view of Christ Church, in Bloomfield Hills

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Limitless"

"Limitless" is one of those rare movies where, before viewing the film, you expect it to be good, but then it ends up wildly surpassing your expectations. With a cast including Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, I expected this to be a great movie, but the film ended up being absolutely terrific, and one of a handful of movies I have seen so far in 2011 that, in my opinion, is almost perfect.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper, "The A-Team") is a struggling writer who has a book contract but hasn't written a word yet. One day on the street, he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth, TV's "CSI: Miami"), who gives him a sample of an "FDA-approved" designer drug that normally costs $800 a pill, called NZT. Suddenly, Eddie has tons of energy, and is able to use more of his brain than ever before; he even writes the majority of his book in a day. After the effects of the pill wear off, he knows he needs more of it, so he goes to see Vernon at his apartment and, after some unfortunate events, is able to obtain a large bag of NZT pills. When Eddie is on NZT, he is smarter, more charismatic, and able to do more with is his life than ever before, and he quickly makes a name for himself as a savvy investor, as well as reuniting with his ex-girlfriend Lindy (Abby Cornish, "Bright Star"). Problems arise, however, when some bad people want the NZT from him, and his own supply is quickly dwindling as it is.

"The Lincoln Lawyer"

"The Lincoln Lawyer" didn't really live up to my expectations, but it is still a good legal drama. From the trailer, it looked like Matthew McConaughey would be playing a lawyer who works out of the back of his car, but instead, he spends most of his time in the courtroom and visiting his clients in jail. To be fair, I was a little tired on the day of the screening, but I found myself almost falling asleep during the middle third of the film, as it slows down quite a bit; however, McConaughey's charm and rapport with his co-actors were enough to still make the film worth watching.

Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey, "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past") is a lawyer who mostly operates out of the back seat of his Lincoln. When a lucrative assault case falls into his lap, involving Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe, "MacGruber"), the son of a rich businesswoman (Frances Fisher, "The Roommate"), he takes it, but he quickly begins to suspect that his client is indeed guilty. His hired investigator, Frank (William H. Macy, TV's "Shameless"), helps him dig deeper into Roulet's past, and they soon begin to make connections to a prior murder that Roulet may have committed.

"Kill the Irishman"

The Michigan premiere of "Kill the Irishman" was on March 11th at the Uptown Palladium in Birmingham, as part of the opening night festivities of the Uptown Film Festival. The festival showcases movies made in Michigan, and "Irishman" was shot entirely in Detroit, operating as Cleveland of the 1960s and '70s. The film itself is an interesting one, as it tells the tale of Danny Greene, who worked for the mob during that time period, and it's based on a true story; actual news clips were interspersed with the movie, which helped authenticate it, and I love seeing movies that are not only based on true stories, but that use old clips and videos from the actual time period to help tell the story.

Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson, "The Other Guys") is a laborer who often works in 110 degree temperatures on ships at the docks. He and his buddies decide that the union isn't doing much for them, so Danny becomes the new union president. From there, his "career" only skyrockets: he makes friends with mobster John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio, TV's "Law and Order: Criminal Intent") and gets himself in with some tough guys. He's sent to a jail a few times, but this only proves to be a minor setback. When he ends up crossing Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken, "Balls of Fury") by refusing to pay back a loan from one of the prominent New York crime families, his days end up being numbered, as Birns puts a hit on him and offers $25,000 to whomever "kills the Irishman."

"Paul"

I didn't know much about "Paul" going in to the screening but was prepared for it to be either stupidly dumb or hilarious. What it ended up being was a mix of the two, making for a decidedly average movie, but one that still provided enough laughs to be funny.

Graeme (Simon Pegg, "Star Trek") and Clive (Nick Frost, "Pirate Radio") are two British men who have come to the States for Comic-Con, and then plan to take a road trip to various U.S. sites where aliens have allegedly been spotted in the past, like Area 51. What they don't count on is running into Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen, "The Green Hornet"), an alien who is on the run from some people that want to dissect him. Graeme and Clive are a little scared of "Paul" at first, which is to be expected, but they soon find out they have a lot in common: Paul drinks coffee, his favorite candy is Reeses Pieces, and he even wears pants. Paul asks them to help him get to the place where he is supposed to meet his alien contacts - so they can "give him a ride home," so to speak - and so Graeme and Clive alter their road trip itinerary to try and get Paul to safety.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Ides of March" filming at University of Michigan Campus

Thanks to Winnie Jeng and Jason Siegfried for these pictures of and near the Michigan League, where George Clooney + co. are filming "The Ides of March" today. They have been filming at U of M all week, and I believe either today or tomorrow is their last day there.

For a complete list of the set locations, see the list from Onlocationvacations.com, although it may not have been recently updated - I know the Bloomfield Hills scene will be on Monday and not Tuesday of next week.

Check out those lights!
Tents near the Michigan League
More tents
Crane in front of the Michigan League

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Demoted," "Things Fall Apart" cap off Uptown Film Festival

Michael Vartan, David Cross, and Sean Astin in "Demoted"

Article by Liz Parker
Pictures by Erin Gong

Saturday, March 12 was the second and final day of the Uptown Film Festival in Birmingham, and two major feature films, "Demoted" and "Things Fall Apart," made their Michigan debuts. Movies were shown all day at the Birmingham 8 theater, and panels were held at the Palladium in the morning. "Demoted" was held at 5 P.M. and "Things Fall Apart" at 7:30pm, followed by a VIP "afterglow" party at the Palladium.

Warren Zide, producer of "Demoted"
Warren Zide, one of the producers of "Demoted," was on site for a Q&A after the film. Zide has produced the movies in the "American Pie" franchise and is a Southfield native. "Demoted" was filmed in the metro Detroit area (Novi, Plymouth, and other cities) in 2008, and includes stars Sean Astin and Michael Vartan, among others.

"We shot the whole thing in Michigan and when we brought people from L.A. to Michigan - because at the time it was at the beginning of the incentive program and there weren't that many crews out there - everyone hemmed and hawed, but by the time they left, everyone wanted to come back," he said.

In the film, Vartan and Astin play tire salesman who constantly make fun of one of their coworkers, played by David Cross. When their boss dies and Cross's character is promoted, he demotes Vartan and Astin's characters to secretaries, and they must learn to now get along with women whom they previously looked down upon.

More than a third of the movie was improv, and David Cross helped to push actors Vartan and Astin so that they would get the best possible take.

"David Cross is so amazing," Zide said. "He would purposely set the actors up, and force them to improvise. So they're saying the lines in the script, and he would take them in a completely different direction."

Zide remarked that even if the film incentives are reduced, as they seem to be headed towards, he would still shoot films in Michigan. He said that after experiencing Michigan firsthand, the cast and crew of "Demoted" were in agreement that "this place is not what they show you on TV. This is actually a great place."

One of the producers of "Things Fall Apart," Randall Emmett, was also at the Palladium for his movie premiere. "Things Fall Apart" follows a promising young college athlete, played by 50 Cent, who will soon enter the NFL draft; instead, however, he finds out he has cancer, and is unable to finish the season. 50 Cent lost about fifty-one pounds for the role.

I talk with Randall Emmett, producer
of "Things Fall Apart"
"He really muscled up for the football stuff [about the first half of the movie], and then we took about a 5 1/2 week break from filming. He went to liquids only, no food, and at his last weigh-in he was down fifty-one pounds," said Emmett.

The movie was filmed in Grand Rapids, and Emmett talked a bit about the choice to film there rather than Detroit or the suburbs.

"It's very easy to move around in Grand Rapids. In Detroit, you're competing with maybe fifteen other movies, and you're also competing with traffic ... Grand Rapids allowed us to go from one side of the city to the other in about four minutes."

50 Cent financed the film himself, and in playing the lead role he "took on a movie that no one in Hollywood would usually give him - usually he gets guns, and action, and blowing things up, and that's what he's used to doing. He turned to me and said 'I want to make a movie in which people might see me in a different light,'" said Emmett.

The film premiered at Sundance this year and was picked up internationally. The U.S. deal is "currently in negotiation," and will probably be announced by mid-April. Emmett hopes that the film will be released in a limited theatrical capacity sometime in the fall.

This was the inaugural year for the Uptown Film Festival, but it will return next year with three days of films instead of two, including more feature-length films.

For more information about the festival, visit its website at www.uptownfilmfestival.com.

Jeff Spilman and Randall Emmett introducing "Things Fall Apart"
Randall Emmett, producer of "Things Fall Apart"
Producer of the Year award for Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson,
for "Things Fall Apart"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Kill the Irishman" debuts at Uptown Film Festival

The Michigan-made film "Kill the Irishman" debuted at the Birmingham Palladium theater last night, as part of the opening night for the Uptown Film Festival. Moviegoers were treated to a VIP reception beforehand, which was to benefit various charities and organizations, such as Gleaners, and the movie premiere was at 9 P.M.

What the night was really all about, however, was "celebrating the folks in Michigan who work on film and Michigan filmmakers," said Jeff Spilman, the co-executive director of the festival. "It's a wonderful time and a wonderful event because it puts a face on the film industry, and on the incentive ... [these are] great movies, and a great night out for great causes."

Spilman co-produced "Kill the Irishman," so when it came time to choose movies for the film festival, he knew he wanted "Irishman" to be one of them. He also said he is good friends with people who worked on "Things Fall Apart," and various other 50 Cent movies, which is how that came to be in the festival as well.

Laura Bayoff-Elkins, from Uptown Entertainment, said that film entries were submitted, and then there was a team that selected them. Entries had to be filmed in Michigan, either in part or in whole. "We wanted to promote the Michigan film industry and the talents we had here," she said, which is how the festival got started.

Various actors from "Kill the Irishman" attended the Michigan premiere, including Greg Trzaskoma from Warren, who plays a bartender in the film. He's also had roles in "Gran Torino" and "Demoted," with Sean Astin and Michael Vartan, which will be premiering at the festival at 5 P.M. today at the Palladium.

Greg Trzaskoma
Trzaskoma got to shoot with Ray Stevenson and Val Kilmer, and the bartender he plays in the movie works at the Theatrical Grille, which "was a real place. Apparently it burned to the ground, but it was a real place," he said. "It was kind of neutral ground - the cops hung out there, the mobsters hung out there, and nobody beat anyone up or narced on anybody."

Another actor at the premiere, Richard Jewell, played chief FBI agent Mike Malloy in the film, who ends up "flipping" Danny Greene to be an FBI informant. He said that the movie was filmed entirely in Detroit, at places like Eastern Market, the waterfront, and the Detroit Police Department. Jewell got to work with Ray Stevenson, and he also met Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken, who were all "absolutely incredible."

Richard Jewell and wife
"The best story, though, is that my daughter, who is in fashion design, became an intern for the costumer - for wardrobe - and she ended up being my set costumer ... so I got to see her on set watching her work her craft," he said.

And perhaps one of the youngest actors in the film, 10-year-old Trevor Callaghan of Bloomfield Hills, was also in attendance. Callaghan has been in other Detroit-filmed movies and commercials, and he landed the part in "Irishman," in which he has a scene with Ray Stevenson, because his brother had been in Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino."

"My brother Devin went to be in the Clint Eastwood movie, and he was an extra but Clint Eastwood liked him. So they added another scene and they asked him to stay on set, and then asked him back for their next movie," he said. "And my mom said that she had a 7-year-old [Trevor] and they asked me to be in it too."

"Kill the Irishman" was shot entirely in Detroit, in the summer of 2009, and provided many opportunities for local actors such as Trzaskoma, Jewell, and Callaghan to get involved in the film industry, where otherwise they may have had to go to Los Angeles or New York.

The Uptown Film Festival continues today, with the major premieres of "Demoted" and "Things Fall Apart," at 7:30 P.M. Films will be shown all day at both the Palladium and the Birmingham 8.

Chef works on preparing "chowder shooters"
Various drinks were served
Poster detailing the 3 main movie premieres
VIP charity event before the film premiere
Veggies, crackers, and cheeses were served

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Red Riding Hood"

I should know by now never to trust a trailer for a movie, yet time and time again I let myself get sucked in. I first saw the teaser trailer for "Red Riding Hood" last November, and the song near the end of the trailer convinced me this would be a thrilling movie. When the second, longer trailer came out a few months later, it made the movie look a bit scarier - it definitely focused more on the werewolf aspect than the romance(s) going on - but still worth seeing. After seeing the train wreck that is this movie, I can say this: kudos to whomever made the trailers for this movie, as you were able to make a disjointed film seem like it was going to be awesome.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried, "Letters to Juliet") lives in a village with her mother (Virginia Madsen, TV's "Scoundrels"), father (Billy Burke, "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"), sister, and grandmother (Julie Christie, "New York, I Love You"). Under each full moon, the village sacrifices their best meat so that the nearby werewolf will not bring harm upon them, but now the werewolf has killed Valerie's sister. The villagers decide to find, hunt, and kill the wolf, and they are successful; however, when Father Solomon (Gary Oldman, "The Book of Eli") comes to town, they realize they have killed the wrong wolf. Meanwhile, Valerie's fate has just been decided - she is to be engaged to Henry (Max Irons, "Dorian Gray"), whose family has money - but all her life she's been in love with her friend Peter (Shiloh Fernandez, "Happiness Runs"), and she refuses to give that up for Henry. When the wolf comes to town and wants Valerie to follow it, however, her fate may just change.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This week and the next on Yes/No Films

Coming tomorrow and this weekend:
  • Look for my "Red Riding Hood" review.
  • I'll be attending the Uptown Film Festival in Birmingham this weekend (Friday-Saturday), and will be seeing such films as "Kill the Irishman," "Things Fall Apart," "Demoted," and others. 
Next Friday:
  • Reviews for "Paul," "Limitless," "The Lincoln Lawyer," and "Kill the Irishman"
Coming to Detroit theaters this weekend:

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Win Win"


I was fortunate enough to see this film back on January 26, at the Sundance USA premiere at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. I had been told that Paul Giamatti and Tom McCarthy, the director, would be at the screening, but unfortunately neither of them could make it. Instead, however, we were treated to a Q&A with the producer of the film, Mary Jane Skalski, who is a University of Michigan alum (an English major, actually) and who lives in Michigan and will be shooting an upcoming project here as well.

"Win Win" tells the story of Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti, "Barney's Version"), a lawyer who has two kids with wife Jackie (Amy Ryan, TV's "The Office"). Money is tight, and so when Mike gets the opportunity to become a "guardian" to one of his clients who is in the early stages of dementia, which involves a stipend of $1,500 a month, he jumps at the opportunity, and instead sticks the guy, Leo (Burt Young, "New York, I Love You"), in an assisted living home and pockets the money. The problems start when Leo's grandson, Kyle (newcomer Alex Shaffer), arrives on Leo's doorstep, wanting to stay with him since he and his drug-addicted mom (Melanie Lynskey, TV's "Two and a Half Men") had a falling out. Mike and his wife agree to let Kyle stay with them, at least until they can get in touch with his mom, and Mike soon discovers an added bonus: Kyle can wrestle. In fact, Kyle is a GREAT wrestler, which is good for Mike, because he is the coach of the rather pathetic high school wrestling team.