Friday, April 28, 2017

Remembering My Mom And Movies

On what would have been her 81st birthday I would like to spend some time talking about--My Mom--and the films she loved..

From a very early age, I remember spending many Saturday afternoons with mom, watching a show called Creature Double Feature, where a local host would introduce classic horror films like Frankenstein, Dracula, (both from 1931), House of Wax (1953) The Blob, (1958) I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)-just to name a few.

Mom's favorite film star was James Cagney. Sitting down with her to watch White Heat was a both a treat and chore, because I really didn't understand the beauty of the black and white film yet. Into my adulthood I came to appreciate it for the masterpiece that it is. When the 4th of July rolled around, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) became a family tradition. When Cagney died on March 30th 1986, I vividly recall her shedding a few tears upon hearing the sad news.

Mom liked films about the underdog overcoming adversity. The film saga of Rocky Balboa was her favorite of the genre.

Watching Ryan Coogler's excellent continuation Creed in the theater for Christmas of 2015--was very bittersweet. I thought about the time I saw the original film with my parents on the big screen. Memories flooded back. I think she would have loved it... and Sylvester Stallone were great together. They both deserved more attention from the Academy....Mom would have most likely agreed with me on that. If you have not seen it yet...It's a MUST WATCH...

Speaking of sagas...even though the first two Godfather films were not meant for kids my age, the first time they hit broadcast TV in the mid 70's, I was allowed to watch them. Of course I'm so glad my parents made the exception.

As mother and son we shared many other favorite films over the years. Comedies like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and High Anxiety, all from the mind of a master named Mel Brooks. We also got a kick out of Peter Sellers as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the original Pink Panther movies, as well as Sellers' turn in the underrated Murder by Death (1976).

She warned me not to watch John Carpenter’s Halloween the first time it hit broadcast TV--It's not like the Creature Features she said... Sorry Mom--So glad I disobeyed you. Regular readers of the blog already know how special Carpenter's 1978 original is to me....And the Horror genre as a whole...the funny thing here is that The Godfather on network TV is waaaaay more violent and disturbing than Michael Myers.

When the news of Shirley Temple-Black's passing broke in February of 2014 ..I thought about my Mom...Oh how she loved watching Temple's films. At a young age I remember that she had them on nearly every Saturday when the local UHF station would run two of them back to back...At the time I did not appreciate them. As an  adult--It's easy to see that Temple had a special kind of magic...that has never been duplicated. What I would not give for one more chance to sit with Mom to watch a Temple film.

Mom would also indulge me by sitting through multiple viewings of Superman and various "Star Trek" flicks...especially Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, without much of a fuss. Any Star Wars movie, on the other hand, was a tougher sell...

When my sister Karen suggested that I study film making in college--while I was still in High School--Mom tried to steer me into a more "stable profession" She would say "you should be a college professor--you could teach the kids of the future so much..." I did think about the teaching idea for a bit--but the pull of cinema was too strong...Here I sit...There is a bit of Irony considering the path that I find myself on now though...

The last film that Mom saw in the theater was the live action/CG hybrid based the classic 1960's cartoon "The Flintstones" in 1994. Created by Hanna-Barbera the show premiered in 1960 and ran for six seasons before going into syndication for decades. As a youngster Mom latched me onto the reruns....While she enjoyed herself watching the film...I think she still preferred the series over the adaptation. Her biggest joy was seeing screen legend Elizabeth Taylor in a fun cameo....The live action film did a good job at capturing the spirit of the TV series. It made her smile. And that's all that matters....soon after she got very ill and our family would never be the same...

Sadly, cancer took Mom from our family nearly 22 years ago...And now that Dad is also gone--It's been an even tougher slog.

Thanks Mom for all of your love, support, and kindness for all of those years. I miss you every day. But I'm grateful that we shared lots of love, laughter, and of course many movie memories. 💓💓

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!'

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dylan O'Brien Gets Tough In "American Assassin" Peek

The first trailer for the film adaptation of "American Assassin" has dropped online ahead of its theatrical bow on September 15th 2017.

Based on author Vince Flynn's eleventh Mitch Rapp novel that charts a Cold War veteran (Michael Keaton), who would be the most feared training officer in the CIA if more than a handful of people at the agency actually knew of his existence. CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) tasks him with training a black ops recruit (NJ native "The Maze Runner," and "Teen Wolf" star Dylan O'Brien) devastated by the loss of his fiancee to a terrorist attack. The pair is eventually dispatched to go on a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (former Friday Night Lights TV fave Taylor Kitsch) from kicking off a global war.

 Should the film spawn a few sequels Lathan's Kennedy could return. Scott Adkins and the great David Suchet co-star.

"Kill the Messenger" director Michael Cuesta called action from an adapted screenplay written by Stephen Schiff.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler are producing the film.

This looks like it could be really good....Nice to see that O'Brien's back at it in a big way following his injury last year and the end of Teen Wolf--which happens this Summer.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Review: Chris Esper's "The Deja Vuers"

Filmmaker Chris Esper's certainly been quite busy since I first met him in 2013--having produced the 13 episode series In the Bedroom, launching the media production platform and directing a handful of shorts--among those The Deja Vuers.

The 8 minute fantasy comedy follows Chuck () who experiences deja vu when he spots Morgan () sitting on a park bench - a woman that he remembers from a dream but has never really met. When their paths intersect, a portal opens which takes each of their lives into unexpected directions.

Esper and writer have concocted a whimsical little movie that examines how we relate to our past, while living in the present, hoping for a better future. The chemistry between Salvi and Devine is quite good--leading to some very humorous back and forth. Morgan clearly wants nothing to do with Chuck--while he hopes to score a date (at least).

The fantasy element of the piece is elevated--thanks to the gorgeous cinematography by 
Evan Schneider. It has a dream like quality to it with its soft lighting and use of saturated coloring. It reminds me of the way that the legendary Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey) used to photograph films. Esper's light touch certainly knows how to draw the viewer in--using a very simple filming approach and getting the most from what he has. Less is more if you will. It works beautifully here.

The Deja Vuers has received some well deserved attention on the festival circuit--and shows no signs of stopping.

, and also star in the film.

Be sure to read my review of Esper's short film Still Life and the interview I conducted with him shortly thereafter. Also check out my review of "Always a Reason" and  "Steak Knives"--from his filmography. You can follow Esper on Twitter by clicking here. Get news about Stories in Motion on Facebook