Blu-Ray Review: James Cromwell, Genévieve Bujold Shine In “Still Mine”

The tag line for Still Mine (111 minutes, PG-13) is that “love is the ultimate triumph,” and it’s a phrase that is shouldered with a ton of perseverance from longtime couple Craig and Irene Morrison (Craig Morrison, Genevieve Bujold).

Now out on Blu-ray and DVD, Still Mine mines similar territories as Away From Her and Amour, as each film gives us an even eyed look at growing old. Craig is a hard as nails retiree who continues to fight even with his wife’s early signs of dementia, and since their home may be too much for them to handle, he attempts to build a smaller residence on their bountiful land (the story is set in St. Martins village in New Brunswick, Canada).

Complications ensue when a government inspector (Jonathan Potts) claims Craig’s plans are violating building codes, and Campbell Scott co-stars as the lawyer who tries to help the Morrisons achieve Craig’s seemingly elusive dream.

Still Mine – James Cromwell, Genévieve Bujold (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Before they’re ready to turn off the light and end another day, Irene makes romantic overtures to her longtime lover and says “I want to look at you, old man.” Filmmaker and writer Michael McGowan gives us a subtle, and ultimately unflinching portrait of a loving couple who’ve been married for 61 years. Everything comes to an end, but Craig is too stubborn and prideful to give in to the inevitable. Whether it’s continuing his battles with a building inspector (Jonathan Potts) or shutting his children out from his own decision making process, Craig is determined to do things his way.

Both Bujold and Cromwell have crafted distinguished acting careers, and Still Mine features some of their best work. McGowan could have turned the story into an overwrought drama that lazily tugs on our innate sentimentality, but instead he honors their story in a truthful, and ultimately heartrending light. The story of two old people waiting for that final sunset may come off as boring cinema, but Still Mine proves that even the simplest stories, if their aim is true, rarely miss the mark.

Unfortunately, there are no Blu-ray special features, as an audio commentary from McGowan and the two leads would have been more than welcome.

 

James McAvoy Talks “X-Men: Days of Future Past” & Tragedy

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past, which features the return of original filmmaker Bryan Singer, opens up a new chapter in the X-Men universe even as it link mutants all along the time continuum. With the addition of The Sentinels, humanity’s very existence is threatened, and it’s up to the mutants to save the day once again.

A hero’s journey is usually never a bed of roses, and some of our favorite X-Men characters may perish in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Tragedy is a part of our lives, and the Marvel Universe has never shied away from such truths.

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Twentieth Century Fox, CR: Alan Markfield)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Twentieth Century Fox, CR: Alan Markfield)

“You’re seven movies in or something, so you’ve got to stretch not just the audience, you’ve got to stretch the characters in order to give the audience something new,” said McAvoy, who returns as the physically and emotionally Charles Xavier in the narrative . “The point of going back is to show how different people are so the audience can be there for the key turning points in their lives when somebody goes through the crucible and somebody is galvanized. Somebody is formed. Somebody becomes who they will be. You’ve got to hang around for the worst moments because if they don’t kill you – they make you stronger.”

The actor continues with his insightful analysis of X-Men’s themes but actually ends on a humorous note. “What’s interesting about this movie is that lots of people do get killed, they don’t get made stronger,” said McAvoy. “But (it’s) in aid of saving the future and somehow altering the past and all that kind of stuff. And that’s kind of dark and amazing, but ultimately…I don’t know what I’m saying.”

Click on the media bar to hear McAvoy talk about the tragic and hopeful journey that resonates within X-Men: Days of Future Past. Screenwriter/producer Simon Kinberg also chimes in during interview to talk about Professor X’s importance in the storyline.

X-Men: Days of Future Past opens May 23.

Blu-Ray Today: “That Awkward Moment” Propelled By Likable Leads

That Awkward Moment (94 minutes, R) comes out today on Blu-ray and DVD, and this romantic comedy takes a slight twist on the genre, as the relationships are mainly seen through the eyes of three testosterone driven buddies (Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller).

Jason (Efron) is the charming alpha male of the bunch, preferring one night stands (which includes Californication’s Addison Timlin) over real relationships. Daniel (Teller) uses self deprecating humor and his platonic friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) to score at his local hangout, and Mikey (Jordan) is the most sensitive of the bunch. Distraught over his wife’s (Jessica Lucas) infidelity, Mikey turns to his friends for a bit of comfort, and the pair do their best to get their pal back on the dating track.

The film’s moniker relates to that moment when someone attempts to take a purely sexual relationship to a more sublime and committed relationship. Although the buddies come off as womanizers, each of them have their hearts and minds focused on a different girl. Imogen Poots co-stars as Jason’s new girlfriend, who seems way too good to be true (at least in Daniel’s eyes).

That Awkward Moment’s narrative is essentially broken down into three separate storylines, as each guy tries to work through their various love problems. Teller and Davis have a natural ease and chemistry with one another, and their back and forth banter are the film’s highlight. There’s also a great Morris Chestnut (the actor from The Call and Boyz n the Hood) joke early in the film that’s pretty hilarious.

Tom Gormican, producer of the 2013 feature Movie 43, makes his directing debut, and Efron also executive produced the project. The film, budgeted at $8 million, made a respectable, and one would assume profitable, $40 million worldwide.

Blu-ray exclusive material includes a gag reel as well as the featurette Moment of Truth: Behind the Scenes, which takes a closer look at Tom Gormican’s personal connection to the storyline (he also penned That Awkward Moment). Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, and producer Kevin Turen are interviewed in the featurette.

DVD and Blu-ray owners will also be treated to the segment Threesome: More Awkward Moments, as Efron, Teller, and Jordan sit down and have an impromptu conversation about relationships and the making of the movie. A short feature, which spotlights the the main characters of the film, is also featured on the disc.

John Francis Daley’s Sweets Finds New “Bones” Love Interest

Tonight’s episode of Bones, titled “The Drama in the Queen,” has Sweets (John Francis Daley) garnering hard earned respect of Brennan (Emily Deschanel) as well as finding entering a new romance with intern Jessica Warren (Laura Spencer). In a recent interview, Daley explains why Brennan starts to appreciate Sweets’ handling of a recent case.

“She likes that I’m playing by the book a little more when I’m less focused on the psychological aspects of solving the murders and more from the strictly FBI agent perspective,” said Daley who, along with writing partner Jonathan M. Goldstein, penned  Horrible Bosses, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. “It was a lot of fun to be able to take the lead and order people around. Of course they all mock me but that is to be expected with Sweets and the Jeffersonian staff. But I definitely earned Brennan’s respect and then butt heads with their new intern, Jessica Warren, who doesn’t like to play by the rules so obviously Brennan has an issue with that, as does Sweets, who only wants to make sure that he doesn’t do anything wrong, and you know, be as diligent as possible.”

BONES – guest star Jessica Weaver (as Jeffersonian intern Jessica Warren) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel)

John Francis Daley also expects a bit of criticism over Sweets’ involvement with Jessica Warren, especially from diehard Bones fans who want a Sweets and Daisy (Carla Gallo) redux. “Oh, absolutely,” said Daley. “So there will be Jessica Warren haters the second Jessica Warren is introduced. It’s sort of part of the show. I mean, I remember how many Sweets haters there were after my first episode. I feel like it’s kind of a rite of passage that we all go through.”

Click on the media bar below to hear John Francis Daley discuss the popularity and creative integrity of Bones:

Bones airs tonight on FOX (8 pm et/pt)

 

Jason Isaacs On “Rosemary’s Baby” And Its Seductive Power

 

Jason Isaacs, who starred in the excellent but short-lived NBC series Awake, returns to the network with the two part miniseries Rosemary’s Baby. Zoe Saldana plays Rosemary, the pregnant mother of a somewhat devilish child, and Suits actor Patrick J. Adams stars as Rosemary’s hubby Guy.

A huge part of Rosemary’s Baby deals with the young’s couple’s seduction into the world of Roman Castevet (Isaacs) and Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouqet), and during our brief interview Isaacs explained what specifically seduced him in taking this plum role.

The first part of the miniseries airs on NBC tonight (9 pm et/pt), with the concluding installment airing on May 15 (9 pm et/pt). Below is our interview with Isaacs, a forthright who talked about why it’s actually a great time to be working on (and watching) television:

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Whether it’s the Harry Potter films or even your work on the series Brotherhood, you bring a level of believability to each of your roles. Is there a certain approach you take to your craft?

I try not to suck, that’s the main thing. I look at the script and often there are jobs I’d like to take because they’re well written or it pays well. Or maybe it’s (located) somewhere interesting or it fits into my life plan.

Or I’ll look at the thing and say “I’m going to suck if I do this.” It’s either bad casting, it’s badly written, or I just don’t understand the character. If I don’t believe I’m the person walking in those shoes then the audience is never going to believe me. So maybe it’s just that I choose wisely.

For Rosemary’s Baby, was the Ira Levin novel important as a source? Did you take a look at Roman Polanski’s film version?

I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the film multiple times and the script was so different from that. It’s set in a different place and my character is so vastly different from the character in the Polanski film and the book that the source material was only useful in that I remembered how creepy it is and how brilliant the original premise is.

It was a combination of the script and (working with) Agnieszka Holland who I’m a huge fan of. She’s a brilliant filmmaker and a fantastic TV director. I knew she wouldn’t put up with any bulls**t. She doesn’t like sentimentality.

I liked the idea of the characters – Roman and Margaux Castevet are the ultimate in chic high society. They’re wealthy and glamorous and sexy and as someone who spends a lot of time around Hollywood I know how seductive and how tempting it is. How easy it is to dream of walking in other people’s shoes. So that always made sense to me, that Rosemary and her husband Guy would be seduced by all that.

What are the advantages of working within the mini-series format?

I think it’s a golden time for audiences, really. The old certainties have gone out the window and with such original and great material appearing both online and on pay cable, the networks are also swinging for the trees and becoming much more creative and are prepared to entertain things that they wouldn’t five years ago.

When you think of Bob Greenblatt and Jen Salke who run NBC – they’re right in the forefront of that with commissioning The Sound of Music and this two part miniseries. They’re taking big risks with the kind of TV shows that they make.

So it’s a great time to be a TV fan and it’s a great time to be a TV writer and actor. For so many years, what could happen in TV (is that) people would go “Here’s the new idea, here’s the pilot episode, now go off for 7 years and we’ll see how it goes.” You literally had no idea at all how long you’d be doing something or how good it would be.

With a miniseries, it’s written. I got to read this and go “this is a story with a beginning, middle and end.” I can enjoy the telling of it without wondering what the writers are going to come up with next week.

“Awake” lasted just one season but to me it was a creative success thanks to its ambitious scope and execution. How did you feel about the series as a whole?

That was another example of people who were running NBC being prepared to take a big time risk. With the new generation of people who are running broadcast networks now, they see the benefit in that and Bob Greenblatt running Showtime before brought that sensibility to that. I thought Awake was an insanely brilliant, reckless thing to make and all the more power to them for making it. The writing was so unusual and it engaged audiences on a level that most shows just don’t even begin to dream of. The fact that they played out the whole season was because they recognized it too. It’s maybe not the most common denominator television that gets gigantic ratings, but I loved every frame of it.

What is the key to successful collaboration?

You never know. Some people are incredibly collaborative some people are utterly dictatorial. Some people like nothing more than organically evolving a story and some people like actors to shut up and turn up. Obviously I’m not huge fan of those because I like getting involved. There is no way to predict how well the work will turn out.

There’s some weird showbiz axioms like if you’re really having a good time on set, it’ll turn out terrible. That’s such nonsense because the Harry Potter sets were the happiest places I’ve ever worked. Similarly, I’ve been in atmospheres where it feels awful, people are rude to each other, and there’s a nasty egomania on the set. But the work turns out brilliant too.

I haven’t learned anything. I’ve learned to get there. Maybe I’ve learned to hold back what I want to say for five seconds longer, but probably not.

Can you tell us about the six episode series “Dig,” which is set to shoot in Jerusalem?

It’s exciting because it’s written by Gideon Raff, the co-creator of Homeland and Tim Kring, who created Heroes. They’re two very different storytellers. (My character is) an FBI guy in Jerusalem who is trying to uncover this conspiracy to end the world. I thought it was all fantasy and then I talked to them and learned, in slow dawning horror, that most of what they are documenting is real. It makes me sleep less soundly in my bed. It’s like being a politician who’s being briefed on the real level of a terrorist threat.

Hopefully we’ll produce something worth watching and starting a conversation about. If the show what the script did to me, which is send people off to the internet to see which way the water is flowing, it’ll be great. The ideal project for me is one that is incredibly enjoyable to watch but starts conversations that last a lot longer than the credits.

Sarah Drew Talks Motherhood With Moms’ Night Out Discussion

Mom's Night Out (Sony Affirm, Provident Films)

Whenever a family guy has a hard day at work, he’ll probably go to his local bar, plop down on his favorite stool, and grab a beer. It’s an age old storyline that we’re all used to, but with Mother’s Day upon us, one has to wonder how (or if) moms ever get any kind of extended time to just relax.

Moms’ Night Out features Grey’s Anatomy actress Sarah Drew as Allyson, a loving mother who yearns for dinner with her friends. It’s just for several hours, and her husband (Sean Astin) should do a serviceable enough job looking over the kids, right?

The comedy, which co-stars Patricia Heaton and Trace Adkins, arises from all the crazy events that transpire before Allyson’s eyes. Though laughter will hopefully ensue from such hijinks, part of Allyson’s journey contains a dramatic (and universal) undertone.

L-R: Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, Sammi Hanratty. Mom's Night Out (Sony Affirm & Provident Films CR: Saeed Adyani)
L-R: Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, Sammi Hanratty. Mom’s Night Out (Sony Affirm & Provident Films CR: Saeed Adyani)

“It’s so intense, it’s so completely consuming,” said Drew, who’s also a mom. “In terms of emotionally, physically, spiritually. It takes every ounce of you at all times and there are no breaks.”

Mothers are unfairly expected to multi-task and handle their business with pinpoint precision, and in the following audio clip Drew explains why it’s important for moms to take a much needed time out from their all consuming lives.

Moms’ Night Out is now playing in select theaters.

“Chef” Director Jon Favreau Gets Bitten With Culinary Bug

Iron Man filmmaker Jon Favreau writes, directs, produces and stars in the comedy Chef, a feature which also stars Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlett Johansson. The storyline centers on Carl Casper (Favreau), a chef who quits his job at a respected Los Angeles restaurant after having disagreements with the owner (Dustin Hoffman) over his menu.

Casper’s rash decision is a definite gamble, as he heads to Miami to launch a food truck with the assistance and emotional support of his buddy (Leguizamo), ex-wife (Vergara) and his son (Emjay Anthony). The food truck specializes in pressed Cuban pork sandwiches which, though seemingly simple, can only achieve excellence with a certain level of nuance.

Chef – John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau (Open Road Films)

Although cooking is a passion for Favreau, he needed experts in the field to give his comedy a realistic feel. Enter Roy Choi, the creator of the famed Kogi BBQ Taco Truck as well as the man behind the praised establishments Chego and A-Frame. “To really represent a chef on the movie screen, you’ve got to what it feels like to be a cook,” said Choi, as quoted in the film’s production notes. “You’ve got to know how it feels to stand on your feet and work and sit down on a milk rate and drink out of a deli cup.”

Click on the media bar and listen to Jon Favreau talk about how Roy Choi, who’s also a producer on Chef and also launched the new Koreatown restaurant Pot (located at The Line Hotel) helped sharpen the filmmaker’s culinary skills.

Chef, which opens in select theaters in May 9, is just part of Favreau’s culinary journey. “The bug bit me and I’m still doing it,” said Favreau, who shot Chef in just a month. “It’s my hobby. I’m ripping apart my kitchen at home and putting commercial equipment and the family loves doing it with me. It’s a nice thing – it’s a hobby that ages gracefully.”

Review: “Neighbors” Packs Comedic Wallop But Misses Knockout Punch

 

Neighbors starts off with a bang, literally, as young parents Mac and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen) are having sex at their newly purchased home. Although they’re a responsible couple who dote on their baby daughter, both of them are having huge problems with their adulthood. Mac still smokes joints during his work break and Kelly is a bit bored with her stay at home mom duties.

So when fraternity Delta Psi Beta, led by hunky, alpha male Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) move in next door, the fireworks are set off from the get go. The trailers suggest that it’s a raunchy comedy pitting suburbanites against a group of nubile youngsters, but considering it’s directed by Nicholas Stoller, the narrative evolves from its seemingly simple construct. Stoller, a writer-director who doesn’t mind throwing a bit of hard earned sentiment into his work (most notably in Get Him to the Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall), actually screws with our expectations and actually makes Teddy the film’s most sympathetic figure.

Neighbors – Universal

There’s actually a couple of surprises with the movie. Teddy may be the leader of the pack and be blessed with abs that never quit, but his imagination and foresight doesn’t extend beyond his fraternity. Upon meeting Mac and Kelly, Teddy actually welcomes them to his frat house and parties with the pair. After they break his trust, he makes their life into a living hell. Most of the comedy originates from these pranks, as Efron and company (which includes Dave Franco and Kick Ass 2‘s Christopher Mintz-Plasse) make for a more than believable group of hedonists.

Stoller didn’t pen Neighbors (Brendan O’Brien and Andrew J. Cohen are the credited scribes), and I wish his deft writing skills had a bigger role in the proceedings. The uneasy friendship between Teddy and his best buddy Pete (Franco) is developed but is never effectively realized in the narrative, and even Teddy’s own insecurities and fears are given short shrift during the movie’s final moments. Efron, so good last year as an amoral farmer’s son in At Any Price, still does solid work with Neighbors even if the final payoff for Teddy, just doesn’t, for lack of a better word, pay off.

To hear Zac Efron talk about how he related to Teddy’s brotherly love for his fellow frat brothers, click on the media bar below:

If you’re a Seth Rogen fan, you won’t be disappointed with Neighbors, as there’s enough weed and sex jokes to keep you satisfied. The real surprise is Rose Byrne, who actually is the film’s main scene stealer. Most comedies position the female lead as a nagging harridan who simply spoils the fun or, by the film’s end, begrudgingly accepts the male’s frailties. Kelly is actually the most mischievous of the bunch, as evidenced during her seduction sequence of Franco’s character. 

On a pure comedic level, Neighbors delivers the jokes. Homemade dildos, sexually suggestive hedges, and hilarious cameos (Lisa Kudrow plays a headline obsessed dean) are just a few of the joys you’ll experience with the movie. It’s definitely a fun ride, but if Stoller and and his writing crew paid a bit more attention to Teddy’s development as well as addressed some of the movie’s darker elements, Neighbors could have added a bit more bite amidst all that laughter.

“Belle” Star Gugu Mbatha-Raw Talks “Jupiter Ascending” Role

British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw is receiving excellent notices for her work as the titular character in Fox Searchlight’s just released period drama Belle. Mbatha-Raw will also be featured later this summer in Jupiter Ascending, a science fiction adventure tale from Lana and Andy Wachowski.

 

During the Belle interviews, the actress talked about her role in Jupiter Ascending, in which she plays a hybrid between a human and a deer! The part required the actress to wear a headpiece and prosthetics to achieve her character’s look. It’s all part of the Wachowskis’ grand design, and with such features as Cloud Atlas and the Matrix films under their belt, it’s safe to assume Jupiter Ascending will contain its share of eye-popping visuals.

 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle (Fox Searchlight)

“I have to impress upon you that my role in Jupiter Ascending is very much a supporting role,” said Mbatha-Raw, who plays a character named Famulus in the epic. “It’s a very different scale to Belle and in fact it was fascinating for me to go from a large cog in a small wheel like Belle in an independent film to go directly and do a massive studio film but be a relatively small piece of the puzzle. It made me appreciate our intimate journey of Belle because the scale of (Jupiter Ascending).”

To hear Mbatha-Raw elaborate on playing Famulus in Jupiter Ascending, click on the media bar below (Belle co-star Sam Reid can be heard in the clip).

Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, opens July 18.  Belle, co-starring Emily Watson and Matthew Goode, is now playing in select theaters.

 

Elizabeth Olsen On Scarlet Witch Prep & Godzilla Collaboration

Elizabeth Olsen, “Godzilla” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Elizabeth Olsen’s independent film work includes 2011’s acclaimed Martha Marcy May Marlene and last year’s Kill Your Darlings. Her segue into studio filmmaking should also be a creatively satisfying experience, as she collaborated with filmmaker Gareth Edwards (Monsters) in the upcoming Godzilla and Joss Whedon in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Ford Brody”) and Elizabeth Olsen (“Elle Brody”) in “Godzilla.” (Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

In Godzilla, Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play husband and wife and they are featured as siblings (she’s Scarlet Witch, he’s Quicksilver) in Avengers: Age of Ultron. For Olsen, working with Taylor-Johnson on both films was an “awesome” experience.

“We only did a few scenes together (for Godzilla),” said Olsen who appeared with Taylor-Johnson in the end credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. “But we spent time together in Vancouver and I got to know his family…and to play really tight brother and sister (dynamic) it’s really lucky that it’s not with just some guy I’ve just met. I think we both like the fact that we have this other film in our repertoire.”

Click on the media bar on how she prepared for her roles in Godzilla and Avengers: Age of Ultron:

 Godzilla, co-starring Ken Watanabe and Juliette Binoche, opens May 16.