Say what you will about the work of visionary writer/director Baz Luhrmann – and many have throughout the course of his 20+ years as a filmmaker – but one thing is certain: the guy believes in the all-conquering power of love. So much so, in fact, that all of his films - from 1992’s deliciously zany Strictly Ballroom to last year’s lush and underrated The Great Gatsby - exist solely to extoll this greatest of virtues. Well, that, and to inject a little razzle dazzle into our often humdrum existence.
Thus it’s no surprise that the For The Record troupe – whose carnival burlesque celebrations inspired by the catalogues of modern-era auteurs like Luhrmann, Tarantino, and PT Anderson have been lighting up West Hollywood all year – chose to tackle the Aussie's breathtaking oeuvre...or that the show is a fizzy, frothy burst of true cinematic romance.
And talk about powerhouse performances. Though Rumor Willis is easily the cast’s most well-known star, each actor - Demi’s and Bruce’s daughter included - shines individually and collectively as they cover the broad plot strokes and unforgettable pop songs, including hits off of the soundtracks from all of Luhrmann’s films: Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and The Great Gatsby. 2008’s Australia isn’t represented but still has a cocktail at the bar named after it.
Taking over West Hollywood’s DBA (7969 Santa Monica Blvd), cast members fly through the audience, jumping on tables, dancing on the large bar, and basically using every part of their theater-in-the-round to create a party that Mr. Luhrmann would no doubt approve of. Highlights include a jazzy rendition of The Cardigan’s "Lovefool" sung by cast member Lindsey Gort, a powerhouse redo of Lana Del Rey’s swooning "Young and Beautiful" courtesy of Ruby Lewis, and pretty much everything involving Strictly Ballroom, Lurhmann’s hands-down funniest, most innocently DIY effort.
Buzzed on artisan cocktails with names like “Talk Show Host” and “Buchanan’s Old Fashioned”, and dining on gourmet pizzas from Churchill executive chef Michael Bryant (get there early if you’re hungry, because these go fast), you’ll find yourself lost amidst the unfettered imagination of Baz Luhrmann.
As well as stoned on magic, seduced by love, and above all else, wanting to run home and watch Moulin Rouge! for the millionth time.
Dan Stevens, the once round-faced British object of affection for many Downton Abbey viewers, wants to let us Americans know that he has hammered the final nail in the coffin of Matthew Crawley, his sensitive, soft-spoken alter ego from the PBS period drama.
In The Guest (opening September 17), Stevens is a chiseled badass with several secrets up his sleeve. His baby blues have now taken on an icy quality that'll have you questioning his motives once he locks his gaze on you (and he does plenty of it).
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, who gave us the slasher sleeper You're Next three summers ago, have turned the British thesp into a seemingly down-home American man of mystery named David, a war vet who shows up on the doorstep of a family that has lost their own son in battle.
When David's unorthodox problem-solving methods set off a chain of violent events in their small town, it's up to oldest daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, cut from the same cloth as Kat Dennings) to figure out what's up. Is David really who he says he is?
Wingard and Barrett impressively set the film's dread-filled tone right away (Stephen Moore's ominous and synthy score also helps), and it becomes apparent that the director and writer are nostalgic for old-school thrillers like The Terminator and Halloween (lo and behold, the film is set in late October).
There's something off about David, and the story keeps us guessing until the gruesome and nightmarish third act during which we're treated to a cat-and-mouse game literally set in a hall of smoke and mirrors.
The Guest ultimately comes off as a sick and twisted mashup of two genres that slightly resembles the gloriously lunk-headed action thrillers one would expect to come across on late-night cable. And it knows that. That's what makes it so watchable; in other words, it's a cult classic in the making.
There are movie theaters...and then there are Cinepolis theaters.
The luxury, Califonia-based theater chain is raising the bar when it comes to premium moviegoing experiences, and since HIH is no stranger to a good time at the movies - we watched 82 films on the big screen last year - it was about time we checked out this place and got in on some of its amenities.
The at-your-seat waiter service is just as indulgent as it sounds. Having ordered some seasoned edamame, truffle fries and portobello sliders for lunch in the lobby, we were able to have our leftovers brought directly to our theater seats. Still eyeing something from the menu? Don't worry, you'll have time to order more (read further).
If you're feeling a little adventurous with your popcorn options, move past the usual butter and try their caramel flavor...or spicy chili, imported from Mexico, where Cinépolis is headquartered. Additionally, they offer black and white chocolate-covered gourmet popcorn and a full coffee bar where guests can order anything from cappuccinos to affogatos (take that, Starbucks).
And as summer draws to a close, we wanted to make sure to sample the theater's signature seasonal cocktails before the fall menu kicked in. Our pick: The "Evolution" (pictured above, middle), "inspired by" July's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Mixing Chambord vodka, creme de banana, Zico coconut water, and pineapple juice, this concoction is as light and refreshing as any drink found at a tropical resort (The strawberry basil mix in "The Transformer" is just as irresistible).
But if you're of a traditionalist, feel free to take advantage of the theater's full-service bar.
Craving some red velvet cake in the middle of Guardians of the Galaxy? Just press the button next to your reclining leather seat, and your server will bring it to you along with some silverware. They're extra discreet and will make sure not to bother anyone during your movie.
One would expect a theater like this to be located right in the heart of Hollywood, but Angelenos will have to take a 40-minute drive to Westlake Village in order to get their fill of these luxurious amenities (the next-to-nearest location is roughly 60 miles south in Rancho Santa Margarita).
Naturally, there are plans to expand later this winter (Florida, keep an eye out for a Cinepolis in your southern and central regions).
Visit cinepolisusa.com to learn more, find your nearest location, and get some tickets.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt enjoyed an unexpected reunion on the set of this month's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
During one bone-crackling moment in the film that will surely get fanboys (and hardcore Disney fans) super psyched, Gordon-Levitt's character, Johnny, gets some nasty wounds tended to by a junkie doctor played by...Christopher Lloyd, his costar from 1994's Angels in the Outfield.
"I love getting to see Christopher Lloyd do something dark," Gordon-Levitt says during the film's press conference in Beverly Hills. "And you couldn't really ask for a movie that was more diametrically opposed than Angels in the Outfield." The 20-year reunion was, as he puts it, "perfect." And he savored every moment with the actor. "It's like, 'Wow, this is Doc Brown,'" he says, referring to Lloyd's indelible role in the Back to the Future trilogy. "We should be talking about 1.2 gigawatts, but it's really cool because he's actually a really strong actor. He can do a lot of different things. Applying that energy he brings to a character...and putting it in this really dark flavor of a Frank Miller world is really entertaining."
Nine years after making a bloody splash on the big screen, Frank Miller and co-director Robert Rodiguez are inviting audiences to return to the crime-ridden streets of the titular metropolis for more tales of betrayal, bloodshed, and good old-fashioned revenge. With a cast that includes Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba (a returning alum), Josh Brolin, Ava Green (in one hell of a role), Powers Booth, and Rosario Dawson, the sequel to the graphic novel adaptation is packing a bigger wallop this time around. Four distinct "chapters" explore the dark paths on which Sin City's iconic denizens travel.
Gordon-Levitt's chapter, entitled "A Long, Bad Night," centers on Johnny, a new Sin City character Miller wrote specifically for the film. "The character of Johnny was written in the script but there weren't any drawings," says Gordon-Levitt, "so it didn't have as much specificity. It's an actor's dream to be working with filmmakers who are so collaborative, so open an eager to incorporate my creative contributions into the movie."
Arriving in a vintage Corvette and dressed to the nines, Johnny, a fearless gambler, enters a dangerous world when he hits the jackpot and maneuvers his way into a deadly poker game opposite a corrupt senator (played by Booth). Gordon-Levitt couldn't have been happier to be a part of the stylish adaptation.
"I love that it embraces the fact that this is not reality," he says. "This is a heightened and stylized comic, almost a portrayal of a world that came out of the mind of Frank Miller. As an actor, that really frees you up because you are not just tethered to Would this happen in reality?"
What drew him to the script? Simple: "The thing that I liked most on the page about my character was on the very cover of the script where it said Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. I remember when the first one came out, going to the movie theater, and saying to myself, I've never seen anything like this. It's somewhere between a cartoon and a live-action movie."
"Joseph, like the best actors, teaches the director and writer a lot with the performance and interpretation they they give events," Miller says of the actor. "Because of what he brought, I was able to write dialogue I thought was much more focused, stronger and more emotional."
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is now playing in theaters.
Actress-writer Tara Karsian is jokingly attempting to get a reaction out of her costar (and real-life BFF) Andrea Grano as she pulls up a chair to join our conversation on a Monday night in the middle of the lobby of the Directors Guild of America on Sunset Boulevard. It's one of many instances in which the two actresses display their charismatic banter and knack for playfully prodding each other.
Outfest, LA's long-running LBGT film festival, has just begun, yet the stars/writers of BFFs are already experiencing film festival fatigue. Having finished a whirlwind press tour with the film, the women are doing their best to find some peace and quiet amidst the chaos. "We're so tired" seems to be a common phrase they've been uttering to themselves all week.
BFFs takes a hilarious and heartwarming snaphot of what happens when two straight best friends, the just-broken-up Kat (Karsian) and serial dater Samantha (Grano), pretend to be lesbians in order to take advantage of a free couples weekend workshop. If it sounds a tad similar to a certain MTV hit series (Faking It), think again. Instead of focusing on the fickle (and fluid) preferences of youth, BFFs carefully blurs the lines of friendship and addresses the basic, human desires between women of a certain age.
“We talked a lot about this," Karsian recalls, "that if this were made with two 25-year-olds, with the exact same script, it’d be a totally different film…But I do think when women our age – if there was a questioning – probably the most likely character to question would be your best friend. Someone you’re, for lack of a better term, intimate with – because friendships are intimate. Sometimes you’re more intimate with your friends than you are with the person you’re with because you talk about things like that, and you don’t have to walk on eggshells.”
Just like any independent production, it was a long and arduous uphill climb to get the film made. "We had a lot of line producers say, 'Don't even bother,'" remembers Grano, referring to the budgets they had to formulate to fit the story. There were also the requisite setbacks...like that time they lost their Malibu location for a day due to a mix-up with the vacation rental office they used to find their dream house for the couples workshop sessions. "Andrea had a total 12-year old meltdown," Karsian recalls.
The supporting cast of 'BFFs'
Another setback: uncooperative eyelashes.
Karsian recalls the very first scene on the very first day of shooting: “There was so much glue on my false eyelashes, that literally it [blinking] was like slo-mo,” Tara says. “I had drag queen lashes on.”
“We pissed ourselves laughing,” Grano chuckles.
“It was horrible…these motherfuckers were so long, and they put so much glue…”
“But the one that kept sticking…"
“The costume assistant didn’t know that she needed to cut the drag queen lashes, so this mother, which weighed five pounds – when I would blink, her hair would blow. That’s how big they were.”
“It’s true,” Andrea says, stifling another laugh.
With over two decades of film and TV experience between them, Grano and Karsian, as producers, prided themselves on making sure things ran smoothly for their cast and crew. "We never went over 12 hours. We really wanted our crew to be treated well," Grano says.
And when things wouldn't go according to plan, the women avoided playing the roles of Good Producer/Bad Producer by creating "Alice," an imaginary, tough-as-nails co-producer who could take all the flack. Got a problem with craft services? Take it up with Alice. Don't like the shooting schedule? Complain to Alice. I soon volunteer to help on their next project and pose as Alice's assistant, and we immediately come up with a grand scheme.
Karsian looks at Grano and says, “We’d have to give him a really fabulous name though.”
“He already has one.”
The conversation continues to go off on tangents like this, and since there are no publicists hovering over us with time limits -- rarely the case during interviews -- the three of us go with the proverbial flow, shifting the talk to Gone Girl (my paperback peeks out of my bag, and I urge them to read it before the movie comes out) and their experience with raising funds on Indiegogo. "It was horrible," Grano says, "but at the end of the day, we raised exactly that number and did it for exactly that number. It was voodoo witch stuff…Maybe I’m a powerful witch woman too-"
“You’re not,” Karsian cuts in.
When Andrea Met Tara: The two actresses crossed paths when Tara needed an actor for a play she was directing. A mutual friend recommended Andrea. Cut to: 11 years later, and they’re filmmaking partners and actual BFFs.
Soon director Andrew Putschoegl drops by, and the conversation switches back to movies, particularly of the horror genre. Grano, a fan, admits to never seeing Sleepaway Camp, and I avoid spoiling the surprise ending for her.
But back to the film...Would BFFs work with two straight guys? Or would it be something completely different?
Grano: “I have a lot of straight friends from a small town who believe that if you kissed a guy, you’re gay. Whereas a woman can kiss a woman, and it can be experimental, it can be questioning. I think there’s a mentality in society that…I think you can be bisexual if you’re a man, and people accept that, but secretly, a lot of guys who don’t know a lot of gay or bisexual people believe you’re really not bisexual. So it’d be harder to believe that a man, especially one who’s not 18 and in college, could be questioning like that. I think that’s societal.”
Karsian: “Men’s friendships are different. I’m not saying they’re any less important, but I do think it’s a very different thing. I think women’s friendships, especially when you get older, leans away from superficiality. You cut out the bullshit."
Putschoegl remembers a conversation he had with a well-known film distributor: “The guy who took a look at the trailer watched the movie and said, ‘Oh, it’s a great concept. But there are no big stars. We can’t sell it…but, if you recast it with men and cast it up – like, get a Hugh Jackman in there or someone – try that, do a sequel.”
“It’s a totally different movie with men," Grano reacts. "And you know what he’s saying basically -- and this is another problem with our industry -- that men are more bankable. Because why didn’t he say ‘Do it with Sandra Bullock and Drew Barrymore?’ Then I can say, ‘Okay, I get it. They’re an easier sell than us.’”
But if the basic concept were to remain intact with two female household names, I ask, would the movie be altered for a more general audience?
“They would try to do another I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," assumes Putschoegl, referring to the Adam Sandler-Kevin James comedy from 2007. "And that’s not what this movie and this story could ever be.”
“It would have to be like they were bamboozled into thinking they had an attraction," Grano chimes in.
When the two women initially showed their script around, they were told to sell it. But they were wary of placing the material in the hands of those who could compromise the film's inherent message, its essence. Hence why they took on the enormous responsiblity of bringing it to life themselves.
“The friendship Andrea and I have, I think two actresses could definitely act in these roles," Karsian muses, "but they’re not going to have the built-in history…I mean, I just watched a film about two best friends, and it was very obvious to me that they were two actresses.”
“No matter how good the acting was, you could just tell," Grano adds.
“I don’t know if you noticed this, but we bicker a lot. We banter."
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