Since Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios has become one of the biggest moneymaking studios in the world of film. Marvel looked to continue that success with Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians isn’t as well known of a comic book series as say the aforementioned Iron Man and the Hulk but the trailers really brought home that exact feeling that many people were having; Who are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Did a brilliant marketing campaign result in a brilliant film. The short answer: Hell Yeah!
Chris Pratt is Peter Quill or Starlord and at the beginning of the film we see him as a young boy in the hospital near his dying mother. After she dies, he runs away in grief and sadness and is then subsequently abducted by the Ravagers under the leadership of Yondu. 26 years later he is on an alien planet searching for an orb. He later runs into Gamora who was sent by the evil Ronan to retrieve the orb. He also gets into s skirmish with the wise cracking genetically altered bounty hunter Rocket the Raccoon and his friend Groot, the walking tree who only says “I am Groot” with humorous results. They all get arrested and meet up with Drax the Destroyer, no additional information needed and they form the Guardians to beat a common enemy.
What makes this such an enjoyable film is the nonstop bickering between the lead characters. They don’t like each other but they do learn to respect each other to defeat their enemies. Dave Bautista almost steals the show as Drax because of his characters’ hilarious explanation that he doesn’t understand metaphors. Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot form a dynamic duo and are probably the two best characters onscreen. Zoe Saldana kicks ass as Gamora and Chris Pratt shines as Peter Quill. Under the playful direction of James Gunn, the film makes you forget about The Avengers. Captain America who? Thor what? The film does have a sitcom feel but it’s the perfect style that compliments the performances.
The dialogue is ultra hilarious, the action sequences are eye popping and the music/soundtrack is extraordinarily fun and fits perfectly. It’s a film that screams summer blockbuster and with the film having the highest August opening weekend ever so far, is a film people are flocking to and with good reason. The jokes are everywhere and hit on all cylinders. The slow dramatic parts are very well done. Just go see this film in theaters because Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel Studios film to date.
When a filmmaker like Randy Moore has the guts, balls, courage or any other similar word you can think of to go under the microscope of the usual Hollywood politics and pull off something deemed impossible and literally think outside the box; well that’s just endearing filmmaking my friends. Randy Moore writes and directs Escape From Tomorrow; a film that was done entirely in Disneyland and Disney World WITHOUT the permission of said theme parks and it’s associates/affiliates to create one of the most mind numbing and exhilarating movie experiences in history. Okay, I might be jumping the gun here but it’s a film that when you have that thought of “They did this WITHOUT their permission” in the back of your mind while you watch it, you begin to watch the film in a sense of naughty awe like “I’m not supposed to be doing this but damn does it feel good.” This is the future of filmmaking.
Escape From Tomorrow stars Roy Abramsohn as a father who takes his wife and children to Disney and to just get away from real life for awhile. While the family is there enjoying themselves, he begins to experience a weird sensibility that nothing around him is what it seems and that his mind is playing tricks on him. He sees a duo of teenage girls and is fascinated (or just has the hots for them, whichever you prefer) by them like he’s just seen a ghost and subsequently follows them for most of the movie. He also meets a mysterious woman who may or may not be a psychopath and he goes on a trip like nothing he’s ever been on before.
The film has a lot of scary images and the editing by Soojin Chung is done in such a way that it tries to convince you that everything you are witnessing onscreen is real. It’s great work by Chung and is a master of the craft. The film is surreal and while it may not be some film of epic proportions it pushes the boundary of what is okay and what is not in how we can make a movie. The guerrilla, outside the box, camera style is ideal and if it were done any other way, may have detracted from the overall scope. Nevertheless the last 20 minutes or so feels too Hollywood for a film that’s certainly NOT but it doesn’t defer much from what director Randy Moore is trying to do. The performances by the leads are outstanding and the use of black and white as the color scheme really helps with the viewing pleasure. It’s the definition of eccentric but undermines it by feeling normal in an eerie, uncanny way. Do yourself a favor and seek out Escape From Tomorrow. You may not look at Disney the same way again.
Omahdon AKA Edwyn Tiong does quite a bit of voice acting out there! You may have heard him in DUST: AN ELYSIAN TAIL, HEROES OF NEWERTH, DUNGEONLAND, TOME, WONDERS OF THE UNIVERSE, YOUSEI, ETERNALLY US, SMASHTASM, XIN, TRAPPED and more! It’s not often we get the pleasure of having a voice actor in the Creative Spotlight so we took advantage and asked him a variety of questions. Read below for the full Q&A…
How did you get started in acting?
Completely by accident, really! I guess you could say it all started with video games – specifically the graphic adventure games by LucasArts. Back in those days, games didn’t have full speech for every piece of dialogue yet, and even when they did I didn’t have the computer hardware to play them properly (386DX40 with 4MB RAM and no optical drive. I’m sure those specs would cause a small shiver of nostalgic pain to those of the tech savvy persuasion)! Graphic adventure games tended to be on the text heavy side, so I just grew into the habit of reading a lot of the dialogue out loud – I even replayed the bits that were especially funny just so I could attempt reading them in another way once I got the joke! Objectively, I’m sure I was pretty terrible at it but it livened playing experience to no end – especially when I had friends over and we would take turns at doing all the voices of different characters. This habit of reading text aloud died around the same time I got a new computer – allowing me to finally play graphic adventure games with their full voice acting glory. Also about this time, I discovered the magic that was the Final Fantasy games and really got into them – though without my usual mouth-talking habit coming into play. I enjoyed them enough to sign up to a Final Fantasy-related forum and found myself participating in probably all the same shenanigans that all fans of anything get up to on the internet. Which is to say: filth, fanfics and flamewars over what is or isn’t canon. And that’s where my voice acting career would have ended – had not someone from outside our closed-knit community come on the forums one day and asked if anyone was interested in participating in dubbing over scenes from Final Fantasy VIII. Just for a lark, I said yes, auditioned for a couple of parts, and got the role of Seifer Almasy – my first ever role in anything, basically! From there, I was introduced to the online amateur voice acting community and my life was never the same again! That was about 15 years ago now, geez.
What’s the greatest difficulty doing voice work?
Like anything to do with the entertainment business: dealing with rejection. Basically, you can try your hardest and do your best at something, but sometimes (ofttimes) that’s not quite what the producer/director/casting is looking for. Maybe they’re looking for someone who sounds a little older or a little younger. More foreign or less foreign. More of a duplicitous sneak or less of a naive, gullible mark. Or sometimes they don’t even KNOW what they’re looking for and are hoping that you can solve the problem for them. Those are some vague, hard-to-see hoops to jump through and it can get extremely discouraging if you have a lot of these in a row.
What’s your strategy on choosing voiceover roles?
Well, like we discussed in the previous question, it’s often not really MY choice per se – I just audition for something and if I’m lucky enough, I’m selected by the producers to solve their problem of “so who do we get to voice this character?”. Sometimes if I’m really lucky, I get scouted to voice a role that has been specifically written with me in mind. And sometimes if I’m really, REALLY lucky, I don’t fit any of the roles I auditioned for, but the producers like my performance enough that they put me on another role. Or even create an entirely new character just for me! And that’s all kinds of magic. However, if we’re talking about the strategy on choosing what to AUDITION for – then I usually try out for roles that fit these certain keywords: smug, vain, intelligent, cool, confident, crotchety, creepy, duplicitous, hypnotically alluring, idiotic, hysterical, Russian, robot, fox, ninja, mage, butler. That’s not an exhaustive list, but some of my strongest and most well-received roles have involved some combination of those keywords. I try out for other things as well for the fun of it, but more often than not I’ll be cast as the smug, idiotic, duplicitous mage or something. One day I’ll be cast as a robotic fox ninja butler and get to tick off that item from my bucket list.
Video game systems are quickly becoming “all-in-one” entertainment pieces. Do you miss the days of videogame systems being just that, video game systems?
Honestly, while I’ve played and/or borrowed a variety of game consoles from my friends or relatives, I’ve always considered myself to be more of a PC gamer type person. And even that’s not really an accurate description: I have a PC that does a lot of things AS WELL AS play games. My experience with personally owned consoles pretty much starts with a NES, went to a Gamecube and then plopped into a PS3, by which point the intermingling of games console with “other electronic experiences” had begun. So for me, I’ve always had a “videogame system” that’s been an “all-in-one” platform: listening to music, watching movies/TV, browsing the internet, doing word processing, mixing audio and video and so forth. As technology grows and becomes easier to use, I think we’re going to see a greater convergence of what were once considered separated techs/interests into the one device. On the other hand, I do think there’s a lot of (justifiable) outrage right now at how the next-gen consoles seem to be more interested in drawing in the TV sports watching crowd than the hardcore gamer – Xbone’s disastrous initial marketing campaign being a prime example. But once these teething troubles subside however, I can see a future where someone uses their PS4 to cut their album together or their XBone to create a powerpoint presentation. I mean hey, you can do all that on your smartphone these days – why not your game console?
Can you tell us about an experience you had doing a role where it was a lot more difficult than you had anticipated?
There was a game where I had to play a character that did several military-style mission briefings and debriefings as well as several barks and in-mission lines once the character was in the field. The barks were fine, and actually kind of fun (if just to see how many variations of “I’M HIT!” or “I got a badguy on my tail!” I could do) but the mission briefings were an absolute PAIN. I’m pretty terrible at doing narration in general and mission briefings were basically all that and a couple more bundles of concentrated pain. To put it simply, there’s quite a bit that goes into recording mission briefings/debriefings for games, even if they’re probably the most skipped over piece of voicework in the history of video games. Apart from the technical terms and names, there’s a certain kind of “military patter” you have to fall into (or so I think) so that you present the greatest amount of information in the shortest amount and most efficient use of time possible. And I just could NOT get into it. I felt like I was a slurring, slurping, mealy-mouthed mess by the end of each mission briefing and there were just so MANY of them to record. Thank god for modern technology that allows us to cut together different takes to make one seamless, perfected whole; otherwise, I don’t think I could have survived recording all that. As it was, I was PROFOUNDLY happy when my character was killed mid-mission, which meant no more mission briefings AND I didn’t have to record the debrief on that particular mission. Because I was dead. Sweet!
What is your opinion of the political landscape of video games and the opinions of people saying that video games are bad for people?
Maybe I haven’t been paying attention to the “right” news networks, but I’m a little hard-pressed to think of the last time some terrible event has been blamed entirely on video games – I think most people these days would just brush it off as old, recycled scaremongering. The 90s and early 2000s were probably the worst periods for that sort of scaremongering tactics and they all seem rather trite and silly now. I remember the outrage parents and the press had over those IRRESPONSIBLY VIOLENT and SATANIC games like Doom, Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil. Now we can get commercials for their even more gory (but perhaps slightly less Satanic) sequels on TV or at the movies and nobody bats an eye. I’d like to think that this lull in putting the blame on video games FOR EVERYTHING is because there has been research that has since disproven a direct link between video games and violence in society; and that there is a greater social awareness and acceptance of games in general since the rise of mobile gaming on smartphones. But it’s more likely that news networks are owned by giant entertainment conglomerates; and that those same conglomerates also have their fingers in several video game publishing pies. Bad mouthing the very products that you’re trying to sell doesn’t make a whole lot of business sense so…If anything, I think we should be more worried about the manner in which the video games industry and community perceives and then presents itself in popular culture; I’m talking specifically about the college-aged “dudebro” mentality. I’m all for the growing greater cultural acceptance of video games as more than a children’s pastime; but that the cultural norm for what are considered “typical gamers” seem to be fast food munching, soda guzzling, alpha-male-posing misanthropes… Well, it’s moderately depressing. And worse yet is the idea that this is as close to legitimacy as video games are going to get, “so we might as well embrace it”. Let’s take as an example Spike TV’s VG Awards (now called VGX for reasons that don’t make ANY sense), one of the biggest events in the gaming community calendar. Often, it’s hosted by a well-meaning but ultimately confused “cool” celebrity; who has to stand in front of a crowd of hooting hollerers and make “jokes” about how Mario must ingest mushrooms to get high and other “edgy” video games “humour”. Geoff Keighley is a legitimate video games journalist who has interviewed many of the industry greats as well as written articles such as the “Final Hours of…” series which gives a great look into behind the scenes and the stress of video games development – but you wouldn’t know it from the popular internet meme of him promoting Halo 4 while staring dead-eyed into a camera, surrounded by packages of Doritos and bottles of Mountain Dew. It’s just a real shame that THIS is considered legitimacy for the video games industry. Which is why stories like the one about Game_Jam collapsing for all the right reasons gives me a modicum of hope. I’ll link the full story from Eurogamer below, but to sum up quickly: there was meant to be some kind of collaborative game development jam with some of the darlings of the indie game development scene. Executives and their handlers tried to turn the whole thing into some kind of reality show debacle with product placements everywhere and $400k worth of sponsorship on the line. With tensions running high, it was the comment by the presenter about how one team would be disadvantaged due to having female members that finally got all the indie developers to stand as one and walk off the set. It was a very expensive failure, and that show of support amongst the developers AND the video game community at large once the story emerged is one of the more positive stories I’ve heard this year. We don’t have to mindlessly pander to the dudebro mentality and the marketing juggernaut behind that. There are also other sociopolitical stuff about the world of video games I could throw my opinions around on, including the inherently sexist, racist, homophobic and just plain toxic nature of some games and gamers; and their acceptance at such behaviour as being a “natural” part of gaming… But that’s an article for another time and you probably don’t want to be flooded by responses about where a woman’s natural place is and how I’m a mewling quim who should return to my country of origin and eat some curry. So I shall abstain.
What kinds of setbacks have you conquered to get to where you are now?
Honestly, I haven’t encountered anything that I would consciously consider a “setback”, major or otherwise – mainly because I got into this whole voice acting thing with absolutely no expectations whatsoever. It was never about money nor fame, for me. For me, it was always about having fun and having a bit of a lark with friends; and I took whatever else that came on top of that as a pleasant bonus. I just kept auditioning, kept working, kept meeting new people (I hesitate to use the term “networking” because that sounds so cold and trite – I made FRIENDS) and in so doing I got to do a whole lot of stuff I never thought I’d ever do! Off the top of my head: I got to work with creators and artists I greatly admired including Adam Vian, Tom Vian, Matt Gardner, Peter Gresser, Joseph Blanchette, Christopher Niosi, Scott Ramsoomair, Dean Dodrill amongst many others. I never set out to be one of the most recognized voices in flash animations/games on Newgrounds, nor intended to voice some of the most memorable (and meme-worthy) characters on the Internet – but those things happened as well. And I never thought I’d be voicing the main character for a graphic adventure-styled game a la LucasArts but I’ve had the opportunity to do that multiple times; and even more than that for adventure games that don’t fit that particular mould! I’ve been very fortunate to get to this point in my life, honestly. If anything, I think my biggest setbacks are in front of me: more and more of my friends have either left the voice acting world entirely, or are actively pursuing a voice acting career of a more professional nature. I’m at the point where I really need to make a choice about where I want to go with this and if I’m ready to commit to the dream proper. The dream is just so big and I’m honestly a little terrified at the prospect of trying to make it come true. Some hard decisions in my future, I think!
What are some of your favorite Asian films and anime?
Off the top of my head, I consider some of my favorite HK films to be: The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, Once Upon a Time in China, Mr Vampire, A Man Called Hero, A Chinese Ghost Story, God of Cookery and Shaolin Soccer. I recently saw The Raid 2: Berandal, which has some of the sickest, most amazingly choreographed fight scenes ever put on film. I was also subjected to Ring and Ring 2, by truly terrible and mean friends who wanted to make sure I didn’t slept soundly for a week AT LEAST. As for anime, like any kid from the 80s/90s I grew up with stuff like Robotech, Samurai Pizza Cats, Sailor Moon and Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. But in terms of a “favorite anime”, my absolute favorite has to be Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still – specifically the version with the first English dub produced for it featuring Steve Blum as Genya, which I contend is some of his finest performance in voice acting ever.
Any words of encouragement for our readers and fans?
The entirety of “The Paradoxical Commandments” by Dr. Kent M. Keith are words everyone should live by, but I’ll just quote the last stanza here: Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
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A Birder’s Guide To Everything is a fun entertaining film starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as David Portnoy; a kid still grieving over the loss of his mother who happens to be an unsung hero in the bird-watching community. David has liked birds all his life and continues to follow in her footsteps of birdwatching. He has a rocky relationship with his dad (James LeGros) ever since then who is grieving in his own way by marrying the nurse who took care of his wife during her final moments. One day David believed to have seen a previously thought extinct bird and recruits his fellow bird lover friends Peter (Michael Chen) and Timmy (Alex Wolff) to show the picture he took to local birdwatching celebrity Lawrence played by Oscar Winner Ben Kingsley. The three friends, joined then by Ellen played by Katie Chang because she has a better camera than the what guys currently own and the adventure begins.
The film is a complete triumph in every shape and form. The characters are fun to watch, the actors do a great job in their respective rok especially and the film itself looks fantastic thanks to the extravagant work of Tom Richmond and the direction of Rob Meyer. It’s has some smart comedic moments thanks to Alex Wolff’s performance as Timmy who acts like he’s the coolest kid in town but in reality is just a poser but doesn’t want to admit it. Michael Chen also does great work as the well reserved Peter who is the leader of their Birding club and conducts a meeting like you’re watching Congress at work when they are actually doing something. Katie Chang lights up the screen as Ellen who may be the most mature of the whole group. She’s the only girl amongst them which gives the boys an awkward vibe at the beginning. But it’s Kingsley and Smit-McPhee who truly get to showcase their talent and they both do some magnificent work here especially Kingsley who continues to show why he’s one of the great actors of our time.
The script is well written and doesn’t stumble at all even during the slow moments and at a short 86 minute running time doesn’t feel strained or uneasy. There are some pretty funny moments such as when the friends steal Timmy’s car and when they all confess around a campfire to each other about their lack of a sex life especially Peter which Timmy then proceeds to give off a sarcastic answer. While there may be a couple of cliched moments in this film, A Birder’s Guide To Everything is a joyous ride that may make you interested in birding. For a moment or two.
Best Friends Forever stars Brea Grant as comic book artist Harriet who goes on a road trip from Los Angeles to Austin Texas to start a new life with her crazy party animal best friend Reba played beautifully by Vera Miao. Miao and Grant co-wrote the script together with Grant directing the feature and Miao relegated to producer duties. The film is notable for having a successful campaign on Kickstarter and being filmed completely on super 16mm film giving the picture a grainy and punkish look. Along the road trip the two girls meet a group of guys who subsequently steal their car and also meet a deranged trucker before finally getting their car back.
The chemistry between Miao and Grant is relevant to the story and for the most part you can tell they are best friends although sometimes they feel more like acquaintances than friends but they play well off of each other in the film’s lighter moments such as when they discover the guys who stole their car and they find themselves literally in the middle of the road. Early on in the film as their car is driving to the end of frame, a mushroom cloud is seen behind them signaling their LA home has been destroyed but neither of them know until Harriet sees on a TV screen that LA has been destroyed. It’s a secret she holds onto because she doesn’t want Reba to panic. It feels genuine because you begin to think about what you would do in that situation. Would you tell your best friend a horrible secret like that or would you keep it to yourself? It’s something that Grant’s Harriet thinks about and Grant does a good job of showing the subtle struggle she has with such a decision. One of the other aspects of Best Friends Forever is when the text “Hours Until Disaster” show up on a black screen with a number underneath. While you see an explosion early on, the film tells you that the “disaster” will be something different. When the “disaster” finally happens, you may feel either satisfied or very disappointed in it’s anticlimactic nature but it really depends on what you are expecting.
It’s cool to see a disaster film in the eyes of women and it works for the most part. There are a couple of technical issues such as the film looking too dark in a couple scenes and the action scenes looking a bit clunky but overall it’s an adequate film that shows a different and welcoming side to the average apocalypse disaster film. Like the girls see on a sticky note throughout the film, “You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” The film is exactly what it’s supposed to be.
Oscar winner Kevin Costner stars as CIA agent Ethan Renner who is tasked with capturing “The Albino”, a man who aids in arms trafficking with “The Wolf”. At the beginning of the film, the bad guys gain the upper hand and escape but Ethan is able to shoot Albino in the leg. Ethan though has a secret: he’s dying of brain cancer that has spread to his lungs and is told by a doctor he only has a few months to live. He then meets Vivi who has been tasked to kill Wolf as well who orders Ethan to kill Wolf in exchange for a drug that can extend his life. His wife and daughter Zoey live in Paris and wants to use the remaining time he has, in case this drug doesn’t work, with his family.
Costner is a bit underwhelming in the lead role but he’s a solid presence in this film. Under the direction of three letter man McG, he is quite subdued and calm even in the more intense moments. Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld delivers the typical “You don’t understand me“, daughter character but she does a good job at playing it even though there are times where she gets mad at Ethan (she doesn’t call him Dad because he’s never been around) for seemingly no reason like when he doesn’t get mad at her for punching a student. He applauds her for standing up to her friend but she wants him to be mad. It’s an awkward situation to say the least.
Of course the real meat and bones of this film is the action and Hollywood films tend to stick to quick cuts and shaky cam nowadays and that’s no different here although in a lighter dosage. Kevin Costner does do some of the action quite well and his partner in crime Amber Heard who plays the sexy Vivi does a good job at playing femme fatale. Her character as a whole is pretty forgettable and adds nothing to the overall plot.
The script is nothing spectacular or even remotely astonishing but it goes through the usual motions and at a near 2 hour running time feels a tad long. The film is more interesting when Ethan’s trying to win his daughter back than when he’s trying to kill the bad guys and that’s in Costner’s strength at pure dramatic acting. He’s not quite as menacing in the action as fellow actor Liam Neeson in the similar Taken but Costner tries really hard to play and have fun with all the mayhem. This isn’t a movie that will be remembered years from now but for a weekend with nothing to do, 3 Days To Kill is a sufficient way to kill time.
Tze Chun directs this independent film starring Alice Eve as Chloe, a motel owner who also operates it and lives in the motel with her daughter Sophia. She is out of her luck because a social worker threatens to take Sophia away due to the living conditions of the motel. Then we meet Polish gangster Topo played by Bryan Cranston who takes Chloe and Sophia hostage and uses Chloe as his eyes as he is nearly blind. He is looking for a package that he must retrieve from a crooked cop named Billy played by Logan Marshall-Green.
Eve does a splendid job portraying Chloe and is a pretty relatable character to follow Bryan Cranston is superb as usual as Topo and while the accent he vocalizes is a bit off putting and even a bit comical at first, he plays the character with extreme ease and intensity that you almost forget he is even using an accent. It’s an unembellished role for Cranston but he makes the most out of it. With the two leads doing solid work it’s Marshall-Green’s supporting performance that is hard to get behind as he goes into way-over-the-top territory in almost every scene he’s in. Even during the film’s more severe moments he comes across as being too vehement. He’s on such a short fuse that a pen drop could make him go on a massive tirade because it was too loud for his precious ears. He is however the contrast to Eve’s much more quiet Chloe and when they have scenes together they do form a workable relationship.
Chun directs the film with the usual independent look and feel and he utilizes the screen to great lengths. He does a good job of pushing the boundaries of typical crime drama. The film is satisfactory in most regards and is quite enjoyable to watch even with Marshall-Green’s wild performance. Eve gets her shining moments as she carries the film with her grace and she is by far the strongest element that this film has going for it. Her chemistry with Cranston is unsettling and overwrought. It’s the driving force of the film and they do well off each other.
Cold Comes The Night fits the bill of the appropriate crime thriller. It’s not a fantastic picture but it’s sufficient entertainment that shouldn’t wear you down. It won’t surprise you in any way but you should be well enough to enjoy the actors doing what they do for a living.
With the “found footage” genre becoming more and more popular these days, another film adds to the ever growing library of said genre. First time director Jason R. Miller, who served as Second Unit Director for films like Frozen and Hatchet 2, finally gets his shot at directing and even writes the script as well. He recruits actors he’s worked with before in Parry Shen and Colton Dunn and brings along Eddie Mui and Eric Artell to round out the main cast.
Unidentified has Eric Artell as a YouTube blogger who goes on a road trip with his three friends to Las Vegas and get caught up with a loan shark whom they owe money to. After several hijinks of them playing in casinos and trying to win money, they find themselves in deep trouble with the loan shark and must high tail it out of town. The real trouble then rears its head as secrets are revealed (aren’t they always?) and discover that something out of this world may be stalking them.
The real problem with this film is that for the first 50 minutes of this film, not much of anything interesting happens. There’s nothing wrong with slow build up. In fact most horror films use that to amp the audience up. But when the slow build up leads to something completely different, it detracts from appreciating the film. They have conversations and get annoyed by Jodie’s continuous recording of his camera even to the point of making his friends turn around so he can capture the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign for his channel. There are some funny moments thanks to Colton Dunn’s silly dialogue and the delivery of his lines. After the 50 minutes are up and the real juice of the film comes about, the whole film changes like a revolving door. Artell’s Jodie becomes the damsel and Eddie Mui and Parry Shen become the main focus when before it was Artell getting much of the focus. While the alien plot line is interesting enough, it would’ve been more fun if that plot point came in sooner.
While the film is obviously low budget and you have to give them props for utilizing the most of what they had, the first 50 minutes is actually pretty boring and annoying. If you can get past that and reach the last 40 minutes of the film then congratulations. There are a couple of good scares in this but nothing that will make you reach for your favorite blanket to cover yourself with. The real reason to see this film is the acting. Everyone involved pours their heart out and Eric Artell’s Jodie annoys the crap out of you even though that’s precisely the point of his character. While the acting is good and Colton Dunn’s character is pretty funny, the film itself doesn’t really know what it wants to be. A decent first outing by Miller but nothing that will satisfy fans of the genre.
Christine Yoo is a Korean-American writer, director, producer and filmmaker. Yoo has also served as a writer on the animated series Afro Samurai, scripting at least five episodes of the show. Her latest project has her writing and directing a romantic-comedy feature film entitled “Wedding Palace“. For the film, she also received a Best Director award at the Atlanta Korean Film Festival. Although it is a film about Korean culture and traditions of parents whose son is a Korean-American raised in a very different world than his immigrant parents, the comedy is ultimately about generational differences among family members, something everyone can understand. We talk about her creative process making the film. Read below for the full Q&A…
When was the first time you realized you wanted to become a filmmaker?
When I realized I was too paranoid by nature to be a spy. I had studied Russian language originally in college.
Tell us about your inspiration for Wedding Palace. How much of it is based on your own family?
The idea of a close knit family all up in your business was inspired by my family. The characters portrayed on screen – I had the fortune of working with an amazing cast, each bringing their own unique sense of comedy to their roles. I recall Charles Kim and Nancy J. Lee saying they were channeling their own relatives.
A lot of people have compared this film to, as you may have expected, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Do you believe this is a fair comparison or has it been nonchalantly given?
Wedding Palace shares history with that film. The script to the film was written a long time ago and at one time it was submitted to a finance company that had called the producer I was working with at the time saying they were deciding between Wedding Palace and another wedding film, similar to ours, but “Greek.” It turned out to be “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Both films center around comedic episodes involving a large extended multi-generational ethnic families, but of course the films are unique to ech other.
What is it about the Korean family dynamic that makes them so unique and special?
I think each family has its own unique special characteristics and dynamics. Mine just happens to be Korean, and thus expressed. Perhaps it is novel to people because we don’t see this type of family portrayed in Western culture regularly.
How was the casting process for Wedding Palace? What were you looking for specifically?
I love casting and casting this film was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the process. First off there is so much Asian American talent out there that never gets to express their full range, so that in and of itself was exciting. Specifically I was looking for fine acting and could also communicate comedy and emotion. You can learn more about the casting process here: Many ask me why I didn’t cast “real” Korean actors for “Jason’s” (Brian Tee’s) family. Finding 1st comedy turned out to be tough order to fill, so in the end, I decided to go with the actors that understood the comedy and would not be afraid to ‘go there.’ In Korea, I had an opportunity to work with very experienced film and TV actors, Ki Ju Bong and Hong Yeojin as Kang Hye-jung’s parents and found Song Yosep (Taxi Driver) in an audition. He had one of the best performances in the film.
What are some of your favorite Asian films and anime?
The films of Wong Kar-Wai, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Akira Kurosawa, Infernal Affairs trilogy, Comrades: Almost a Love Story, Taekukgi: the Brotherhood of War, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Peppermint Candy, Oasis, Lone Wolf & Cub… and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it was a privilege to be a writer on Afro Samurai.
What visual style did you want to incorporate into your film that would compliment your story?
Wedding Palace is a bit of an over the top type of story, fun, but also emotional and so I wanted to express these feelings with bold colors and expressionistic lighting and camera as much as possible. Over the years I’ve taken a lot of notes from all the movies I love and so when I got to make Wedding Palace, I figured I had better try as many of these things I had been dying to try out because I may not ever get another chance! The production and wardrobe design you find in the films of Pedro Almodovar and Baz Lurhman, the quality of light and filtration in Wong Kar-wai and films shot by Bob Richardson, ASC, and all these master “one-er” shots you find in Woody Allen films. I was lucky to work with Director of Photography, ASC, Ernest Holzman in the US. We had a lot of fun developing the look of the film, using a lot of homemade filters and lights. In the US, I also got to shoot on 35mm. Looking back, Wedding Palace may be one of the last true indies that got to shoot film. In Korea we went digital due to budgetary contraints. Also I worked with a lab in Korea, Star East Digital where we did all the final colorization and our approach always was to color the film like it was a commercial.
The situation in Korea, as we know is still at war, is a very intense and touchy subject. Families are separated with some in the North and others in the South. Being Korean yourself, how does that situation affect you personally?
Having Korean heritage and also having studied aspects of Soviet history and communism in college, I am fascinated by N. Korea. But, I can’t say the situation there ‘personally’ affects me, like it affected my father, who grew up in Korea during the Korean War. My father used to tell me stories and my favorite one involved him being captured by N. Koreans on the way to deliver a message to his father at the hospital from his mother. He was taken as a boy with other young boys his age and held in a building and they were told that they would join the N. Korean soldiers the next morning. That night when everyone asleep, my generation Korean-speaking actors who understood the father looked out the window and saw a big tree with a branch that extended over the fence that surrounded the building. He said in that moment his life flashed before his eyes, like a slow-motion movie, and realized if he didn’t escape his life would be over. So he got up and snuck outside, climbed up the tree and jumped the fence. He than ran between into a small space between two buildings and stayed there all night until sun rise and then ran home.
What were some of the ways you dealt with the challenges growing up as a Korean or as an Asian in general?
I identified with the struggle of Black Americans my whole life and read a lot of literature by African-American authors: Native Son, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Invisible Man, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, the poetry of Langston Hughes all helped me to develop a language and perspective to deal with racial injustice in America.
Also my family in Hawaii and being able to visit Hawaii often as a child, where Asians are the majority also added another perspective. Another turning point was the summer between 8th and 9th grade I was sent to Korea for the summer and it revolutionized the way I felt about myself – born again Korean!
Can you give us some advice for all those who are struggling with self confidence and reaching their dreams?
Don’t listen to the noise, enjoy the process, and take the risk.
To learn more about the film visit the official website below and also information regarding the films availability is provided:
N. America on demand via all cable providers, online and DVD.
Australia, UK and Ireland, and Caribbean online (itunes, etc)
New Zealand & S. Africa on XBox
Spanish as Boda En Apuros
Throughout Central & S. America online
German as Koreanische Brautschau
German, Switzerland online
French as L’Amour Tout Court
France, Belgium, Luxembourg online
Italian as Il Palazzo Nuziale