‘Annihilation’ Review: Sci-Fi Story Gets Lost In The Shimmer

Venturing into the great unknown can be fear inducing and seductive, and with Annihilation we are given an entirely new universe called the Shimmer. With Natalie Portman at the ready and Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland commandeering, what could possibly go wrong? While possessing a few quality moments, Annihilation isn’t as fantastic as it makes itself out to be, and many cinephiles will leave with the theaters with the bitter taste of disappointment.

Continue reading “‘Annihilation’ Review: Sci-Fi Story Gets Lost In The Shimmer”

Exclusive: Catalina Sandino Moreno Headlines Visionary Tale “Medeas”

Director Andrea Pallaoro has assembled a first rate cast in Medeas, the story of the gradual disintegration of a poverty stricken family (Catalina Sandino Moreno and Brian F. O’Byrne) who reside in the middle of nowhere (the film was mainly shot in a remote stretch of land in Santa Clarita, California). Kevin Alejandro (Arrow, True Blood) co-stars as the gas station attendant who’s romantically linked to Christina (Moreno).

Moreno, whose diverse body of work includes Maria Full of Grace, Che, and the critically acclaimed A Most Violent Year, delivers a sublime and heartbreaking performance as the mute matriarch who is emotionally suffocated by her beautiful (yet desolate) environment.

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Medeas"
Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Medeas” – (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)

Though Pallaoro fills his sparse narrative with visually arresting compositions that evokes the early work of Terrence Malick (“Days of Heaven”) and David Gordon Green (“George Washington”), Medeas is a singular work from a talented filmmaker. One of the director’s bold creative strokes was to shoot his project sans any music score, as he aimed for a more naturalistic and less manipulative approach to storytelling.

During our phone interview, Moreno was effusive in her praise for Medeas (she was immediately drawn to the project after checking out Pallaoro’s book of images which inspired the storyline). Our chat with the Oscar nominated actress, who is also featured in the upcoming season of Falling Skies, is below:

Medeas locations served as another character in the story. Can you talk about shooting amidst this environment?

It was so dry – we shot it near L.A. But it was so far from everything. We were by ourselves. It was just our little location. It’s so much better to shoot on location than on a set. It makes it easier to get into character and feel isolated from everything.

The drive from L.A. (to the location) was 45 minutes. And it’s so different. Thirty minutes in, you get into a desert like feel – it was magical. It was a great location and it helped all the actors get into these characters that are very secluded and alone. They are different people living in a big house and the interactions between them are so strange but so realistic too – because you have so much freedom.

It’s so vast – they can do whatever they want. They play outside – it’s a normal childhood and it’s not like they’re living in a building with 50 apartments where they play downstairs with a couple of kids. They just have to play by themselves and their imagination is always there. That location was perfect for what Andrea wanted to do.

Medeas – (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)
Was it wonderful to work with a director with such a distinct point of view?

Yes, well of course. Every time you hear Andrea talk about movies and what this movie means for him – it’s so inspiring. And I’ve (rarely) felt this with a lot of people.

He wanted everything to be organic, real, and delicate but at the same time very raw. He knows what he wants. The camera is suddenly at a weird angle and we’re like ‘What?’ And he says (to us) ‘Just trust me, do what you want to do, this is your space, feel free to do whatever you want and then the camera will find you.’

He doesn’t do movies by the book, and he had the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do. It helped everyone see his kind of vision.

I feel so proud of this movie. You do this movie in 30 days and you never know how it’s going to come out. And it’s just fantastic – it’s great.

Maxim Knight in "Medeas"
Maxim Knight in “Medeas” – (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)
Your scene with Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year is terrific. How did you get involved in the project?

I was very fortunate to know Oscar Isaac from another project (“For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada”) we worked on a couple of years ago. I’ve known him for a while and he told me about this project with Jessica Chastain and J.C. Chandor.

His character was Colombian and he had to speak a little Spanish. I (said) ‘Oh my God, of course I’m going to help you with the Spanish part. I would love to help you.’

I never thought I was going to be doing that part but then my agent told me, ‘There’s a part here where she speaks Spanish – do you want to do it?’ So it was a no-brainer. I’m a big fan of J.C. Chandor’s work. As an actor, you want to keep learning from actors that you admire and be surrounded with people you want to work with. It was great.

I met with Oscar two days before we shot the film in New York and we went through our dialogue and changed a couple of words that I thought was more Colombian than the ones that were written. He’s such a great actor and when you’re doing a scene, he’s so giving. It’s amazing. And I’m so happy that this movie is doing so well.

Do you see your acting in the same way as you did when you started?

I’ve changed my point of view on films actually. Before “Maria Full of Grace” I thought films were very entertaining and I really enjoyed watching these movies with explosions and people jumping from one building to another.

But after I went to festivals and traveled around the world, I realized how important film is. I saw people reacting to “Maria Full of Grace” in such unexpected ways. That changed something inside of my head and I’ve been trying to make movies that matter.

The film that I work with Oscar it was about the revolution in Mexico. I didn’t know anything about their revolution and as an actor, you have to prepare for that. It’s a way to keep learning.

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Medeas"
Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Medeas” – (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)


Right now I’m doing “Falling Skies” which is great because I’ve never touched the sci-fi part of anything. So going into that (role) I’ve learned different things. Right now I’m being more open to everything.

If you asked me that question eight years I would say, ‘No, I’m not interested in anything else. I just want to do movies that matter to people.’

You have to combine those two. I think you have to have a balance or else you get tired. I did “Maria Full of Grace” and then “Fast Food Nation” and then I did something else. And I was playing the same kind of – not the same kind of character – but it was very . . .

Going through the same kind of themes or rhythms?

Yes it was very political or very social. As an actor you just want to challenge yourself. One of my challenges was to be in “Medeas” and make people believe that I was a mute person. Those are the kind of the challenges I want to take on.

Good luck with Medeas and Falling Skies. I really loved the film.

Thank you. I’m so happy you liked the film. Thank you so much.

Medeas is playing at the Village East Cinema in New York. For Details, please go to www.medeasthefilm.com.

Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Medeas" - (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)
Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Medeas” – (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)
Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Medeas" - (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Compnay)
Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Medeas” – (Chayse Irvin, The Vladar Company)

Oscar Watch: “A Most Violent Year” Fights Through 1980s New York


Big news today regarding this year’s Oscar watch, as A24 has announced that its highly anticipated flick A Most Violent Year is set for a December 31 release in New York and Los Angeles. The movie goes wide in January 2015, and A24’s decision signals that the Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac feature may be an awards race player.

Clocking in at 110 minutes, A Most Violent Year centers on an immigrant (Isaac) who is doing whatever it takes to keep his family safe, sound, and prosperous in 1981 New York City. The teaser trailer, which has just been released, Isaac resembling a young Al Pacino in a narrative that could have been directed by late filmmaker Sidney Lumet – the craftsman behind such Big Apple crime dramas as Serpico and Prince of the City. The man behind the camera is J.C. Chandor, who previously directed the first rate flicks All Is Lost and Margin Call.

A Most Violent Year Poster - A24
A Most Violent Year Poster – A24

Will A Most Violent Year rack up its share of Oscar nods, or will it get lost in the shuffle? Tell us what you think below!

Blu-ray Blast: Inside Llewyn Davis Readies For A March Release

Inside Llewyn Davis (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)It’s still hard to stomach that Oscar Isaac’s compelling, and ultimately heartbreaking portrayal of a stubborn folk singer was snubbed by the Academy. But Oscar voters aren’t exactly on my mind these days, especially since Inside Llewyn Davis is now being released March 11 on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The narrative centers on the titular character (Isaac), a folk singer whose life and talent was inspired by Dave Van Ronk (his track ‘Green, Green Rocky Road’ is featured on ILD’s stellar soundtrack). Penned and helmed by Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis contains the darkly humorous pessimism featured in their most resonant work (No Country for Old Men, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, and A Serious Men travel similar thematic ground), as Llewyn Davis just can’t seem to catch a break. Like much of the Coens’ stories, Davis’ failure isn’t simply due to his human frailties, but sometimes life is really about timing and, as the closing moments of this story suggests, sometimes lightning doesn’t strike twice.

The Blu-ray & DVD special features are unfortunately threadbare, as the only offering is the featurette “Inside Inside Llewyn Davis.” The making of documentary features the Coens, Elijah Wald, Stark Sands, T-Bone Burnett, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Chris Thile, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham, production designer Jess Gonchor, art director Mary Zophres, and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel.

To hear Oscar Isaac talk about why his collaboration with the Coen Bros. worked so well in Inside Llewyn Davis, click on the media bar below:

Oscar Isaac Channels Charles Bukowski Poem For ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

Oscar Isaac gives one of this year’s most celebrated performances as the titular character in Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed by The Coen brothers, the drama is a celebration of folk music in the early 1960s, as the filmmakers paint a vivid portrait of Mr. Davis, a struggling musician who’s attempting to stay true to his craft.

Issac, who received a Golden Globe nod for his role, cited the work of silent film star Buster Keaton as a reference point for Llewyn Davis. “I thought about the comedy of resilience a lot,” said the actor, whose previous credits include 10 Years and Drive. “And that led me to Buster Keaton in particular and I thought of him just as an inspiration of (like) that’s somebody that all sorts of horrible s**t happens to him and yet we root for him still. He has this melancholic impasse and clearly he has this rich, emotional life.”

Another inspiration for Isaac is the Charles Bukowski piece Bluebird, which is featured in the writer’s collection “The Last Night of the Earth Poems.”

To hear Oscar Isaac talk about Buster Keaton, Charles Bukowski, and Bluebird, please listen below:

Inside Llewyn Davis also stars Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, and Justin Timberlake.