I woke up at 2:30 this morning, unable to shake The American Side, a first rate neo-noir that isn’t afraid to wear its homage driven heart on its sleeve. Director/writer Jenna Ricker takes those hardboiled film noirs of the 1940s-50s and the conspiracy filled thrillers of the 1970s (The Parallax View, Winter Kills) and gives us a cinematic dish that’s worth the calories. Cinephiles will gorge on the various easter eggs and references in the film, and actually the less said about this film, at least story wise, the better. Below are five reasons to love The American Side.
Now out on VOD & playing in select theaters, Cavemen centers on a struggling Los Angeles writer named Dean (Skylar Astin) who, even though he’s still quite the bachelor, wants to find his true love. Dean’s best buddy is Tess, an understanding and loyal confidante who is played by Camilla Belle. Since Astin and Belle have a natural chemistry, one pretty much assumes Dean will get the proverbial happy, Hollywood ending.
The movie, shot in Downtown Los Angeles, is a low budget affair but thankfully director Herschel Faber finds a solid visual tone for the picture. Shooting Angelenos cavorting and socializing at night is a tricky thing, and even though technology has profoundly improved since the Swingers day, shooting in near dark is still a challenge.
During the Cavemen interviews, Skylar Astin, who is best known for his roles in Pitch Perfect and 21 & Over, talked about his career goals as an actor. In a celebrity driven age, coupled with the overwhelming deluge known as social media, simply just doing the work really won’t cut it. It’s a Faustian bargain Astin understands, as he alludes to in the following quote:
“I want to work, I don’t want to be famous,” said the actor, who’s also the lead in the TV series Ground Floor. “It’s cool if that comes along with it. If people know who I am for my work, then hopefully I’ll be able to continue to work.”We live in real celebrity and status obsessed culture, and Twitter and Instagram haven’t helped that. I have accounts. I’m not saying I’m perfect. I feed into it only slightly. I don’t take anything too seriously.”
Acting is Astin’s main focus and priority. “I want to do this until I’m old,” he added. “I don’t want to be a flash in the pan and I don’t want to be the most famous person in the planet, because I don’t want people to get sick of me. I really want longevity, and I really want to do a multitude of different characters throughout my career.”
To hear Mr. Astin talk about the difference between social interaction in New York and Los Angeles, especially when it comes to finding a prospective date, listen to the clip below:
Opening Friday in select theaters and on VOD, Cavemen centers on several young men who live and love the night away in Los Angeles. Chad Michael Murray stars as one of the perpetually on the make bachelors.
While his friends Dean (Skylar Astin) and Tess (Camilla Belle) are the kind of buddies who are destined to be with each other, Jay (Murray) throws a monkey wrench into the equation after showing his affections for Tess. Along with Cavemen, Murray’s role on Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas, Fruitvale Station (in a pivotal cameo), and the Crackle original series Chosen is proof that he’s making a concerted effort to diversify his body of work.
During the Cavemen interviews, Murray talked about going into a “dark place” while playing a homeless man in the indie feature Other People’s Children. He lost twenty five pounds for that role, and that upcoming project, along with much of his recent work, signals a possible subtle yet significant shift in his career.
I asked him about the creating gratification of doing such a challenging role as Other People’s Children. “You know, I didn’t understand it up until this last year,” said Murray. “Now that I’m starting to see the fruits of the labor on film, it’s really validating, because you know you gave it your all and you know that you really committed.”
To hear Murray talk about why he loves a “blue collar” approach to acting and filmmaking, click on the media bar below:
I haven’t checked out Chosen, after hearing Murray’s absolutely praise the project (he said it looks like a “60 million dollar movie”), I’ll definitely give it a shot. Click on the audio to hear him talk about the series, as well as his work on Other People’s Children and Cavemen:
Cavemen doesn’t place us back in prehistoric times, but the primal nature of humanity still exists, especially if you’re trying to find love in the City of Angels. Skylar Astin, who’s gained his share of momentum thanks to 21 & Over and the series Ground Floor, is Dean, a womanizer whose best friend Tess (Camilla Belle) is his sounding board on relationships. Tired of one night stands and looking for a bit of meaning, he probably doesn’t see the opportunity that’s right before his eyes, and when his good buddy Jay (Chad Michael Murray) complicates matters, Dean must reconcile his friendships while finding a love of his own.
We’ve seen this story a million times, but the trailer suggests that Astin and Belle have a tangible chemistry, and Murray’s portrayal of a likable d-bag doesn’t come off as forced. I also love Cavemen’s poster tag line of “Downtown LA Is Their Playground.” Having lived in the vicinity for almost a decade, I’ve seen just a handful of films that have made use of its locale (Collateral and 500 Days of Summer are examples). Hopefully director Herschel Faber had a reasonable budget and ingenuity to make use of my beloved city, which is #5 on the 52 Places to Go (according to The New York Times ).
I’m pulling for this film, and hopefully if I get a shot at interviewing the good folks from Cavemen, I’ll be posting interviews down the road. Check out the trailer below, comment if you want, and make sure Downtown Los Angeles isn’t too far from your rear view.