Kevin Smith, Red State & THIS Indie Filmmaker

August 23, 2011 at 9:24 am

Kevin Smith, Red State & THIS Indie Filmmaker Toronto Underground Cinemas


An evening with Kevin Smith in Toronto complete with a screening of his new film Red State couldn’t have come at a better time.  I had just decided to put my blog on hold for a month in order to concentrate fully on writing my new screenplay and editing my new short film.  What better way to kick start the next few weeks then an evening with Kevin Smith at The Underground Cinema in Toronto.


I had a blast with Red State.  The experience was made even better by the enthusiastic audience I was a part of.  Indeed, something truly incredible happens when you match a movie with the perfect audience.  Red State moves a mile a minute and never lets up.

The film begins with a simple setup, a group of kids are looking for sex but their search unfortunately lands them in the middle of a fundamentalist church full of people with bad intentions.  It really doesn’t take long before those bad intentions come to fruition in a truly horrific way.  That’s when the film really surprised me.  Red State immediately makes a quick but smooth transition into an all out war between government agents and this machine gun loving family.    What followed was one hell of an entertaining shoot out where absolutely no one is safe.  I’m going to leave it at that because part of the fun of Red State is reacting to the twists and turns that basically smack you in the face every 5 or six minutes.  I was smiling the entire time and so was everyone else.

John Goodman dominates Red State.  The second he appeared on screen the crowed went nuts and he didn’t disappoint.  He is absolutely fantastic in the movie and he’s backed up by an equally fantastic supporting cast that includes a very creepy Melissa Leo.

People who have followed Kevin Smith’s career know that he’s never considered himself a visual director but he has definitely elevated his game with Red State.  The film’s visual style is every bit as gritty and interesting as it’s chilling premise.  While I still think Chasing Amy is Smith’s best work, Red State is definitely a strong contender.  It was fun to be able to see the film in that environment and the experience was made even better when he took the stage afterwards to answer questions about the film.

Kevin Smith, Red State & THIS Indie Filmmaker | Red State Review | Toronto Underground Cinema


As a die hard fan of the ‘Evening With’ DVDs, I couldn’t wait to hear him speak especially following a screening of his brand new film.  The story that fascinated me the most was his explanation of the film’s connection to the Phelps family and the Westboro Baptist Church.  They are a group based in Kansas led by Fred Phelps who inspired the villain in the film played by Michael Parks. To see a movie and then hear the filmmaker discuss the inspiration behind was amazing.  Kevin spoke with such passion about what he wanted the film to be and the emotions he wanted the audience to feel.  Even his decision not to include a score came with a detailed explanation that made me think about my own filmmaking choices in new ways.  That doesn’t mean my next movie won’t have a score but hearing someone talk about ‘why’ in such detail was inspiring.

At one point, he fully admitted to breaking the rules of traditional filmmaking in order to achieve the style he wanted.

“I’m 41, I’m Kevin Smith, I’ll do whatever the F#%@ I want.”

Some people may disagree with his editorial choices but that’s the point.  He encouraged the filmmakers in the audience to take risks and make the films they wanted to see.  That’s the very essence of creativity after all isn’t it?  It was a point that hit home especially with my new screenplay underway.  It’s strange how the event in Toronto came along right when I needed a boost going into the next few months of my creative life.  I have a lot of work to do and it can be daunting at times but hearing someone as passionate as Kevin Smith simply reaffirmed that dedicating yourself to projects you care about will always lead to satisfying results.  If anything it’s that wonderful sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a project that fuels my imagination moving forward.  My evening with Kevin Smith served as a reminder of that.  I’m ready to get to work.

In the end, he spoke for about 2 hours or so highlighted by countless hilarious tales about his filmmaking adventures and how he envisions the future of independent film.  I sincerely hope the Red State DVD features a ton of this material or better still, a separate release that includes the entire Red State Tour Q&As.

Until that day, I’ve got a lot to do and it’s time to get started.

XTRA | Kevin Smith & Independent Film

I Fell For Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

August 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

I Fell For Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes | Movie Review 2011


Long title aside, I think a lot of moviegoers out there pegged this Planet of the Apes reboot as a passable August dump.  Then we started getting more and more information and clips from the film and people started paying attention.  I’ll be the first to admit that I had classified Apes as a ‘wait for video’ movie.  But the more I saw, the more my mind swayed.  Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance is packed with subtleties and emotion that really sold me on the film.  In particular, it was this clip that put me over the top and made Rise of the Planet of the Apes one of my must see summer movies:

It’s almost as if the filmmakers said:

“I know the last reboot sucked but trust us.  This movie will fascinate you.”

There’s nothing better than a promise kept.


Andy Serkis put it perfectly in the clip.  This is the first movie that truly relies on the performance of a CG creation.  Making a movie about Apes taking over the planet has been done.  But making a movie about ONE Ape’s emotional journey has not.  Ceasar’s story is as fascinating as it gets.  I have to commend the screenwriter and director for building in so many quiet moments where Ceasar’s behavior alone is enough to keep us interested.  There are tons of sequences in the film with no dialogue at all and yet you know exactly what Ceasar and his primate friends are thinking.

Of course none of these scripted moments would be effective without the absolutely incredible performance of Andy Serkis I’m completely on board with the inevitable Oscar push for a best actor nomination.  Forget all about the performance capture technology for a moment.  You can see it in his eyes.  It’s a remarkable achievement across the board.  I’m not going to say that it’s a slam dunk victory with plenty more yet to come this year but a best actor nomination in addition to visual effects should be guaranteed.

It’s that good.

I Fell For Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes | Movie Review 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is all about character.  Ceasar’s evolution is handled with care and the filmmakers took their time with his story.  I truly wasn’t expecting such a deconstruction of Ceasar’s mind as he comes to terms with his place in a human world and subsequent rise against it.  It’s not spoon fed to audiences, it’s clear by the look on his face when he looks at a leash.

This movie is easily the surprise of the summer.  I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Except the title.  The simpler Rise of the Apes was better.  I’m sure marketing wanted a connection to the original franchise but it worked for The Dark Knight didn’t it?

Click here for more REVIEWS.

Movies That Scarred Me For Life: My Life

August 5, 2011 at 8:06 am

Movies That Scarred Me For Life: My Life | Movie Blog

Movies that scarred me for life is all about the movies that keep you up at night. The horrors you just can’t seem to get out of your head. But beyond the monsters, ghosts, slashers and aliens, there are also the cringe worthy films you wish you never saw. Movies that made you wish you had the lost two hours of your life back. There are tons of ways a movie can scar you for life. This series will look at 12 of my personal favorites.

My Life

movies that scarred me for life: My Life

I once wrote about My Life as part of my Rainy Sundays series.  It really is a great movie to enjoy on a lazy day.  However, from the moment I decide to watch this film, I get anxious.  I’m nervous because I know once the movie is over, I’ll get caught examining my own life and what’s important to me.

After certain viewings, especially when I’m already sad, it can be pretty tough to imagine going through cancer.  Michael Keaton’s ‘Bob Jones’ embarks on a very real journey and it affects me every single time I see it.  It’s strange but the feeling I get when I watch My Life is an overwhelming sense of haste.  I feel like I have to rush out and do everything I can.  In a certain sense, this is actually encouraging because the movie serves as a reminder to cherish everything you love.

The down side is when I start thinking about the people I’ve lost and those I’m afraid to lose.  This is a very real thought process that EVERYONE has and most are afraid to face.  Having a movie ignite those thoughts is usually a ticket to the bottom shelf but I try to watch it at least once every few years.  Dealing with loss isn’t easy and nobody wants to address the topic voluntarily.

For the readers who haven’t seen the film yet My Life is about a man who is diagnosed with cancer and may not live to see the birth of his child.  The film is not only about dealing with cancer but also closure, family and love.

My Life makes me sad for all the wrong reasons but in exactly the right way.  I’m no different than anyone.  I’m afraid to talk about loss and it’s even worse when I watch the movie by myself.  The rest of my day is usually a write off because I get caught in that lethargic trance that I’d normally do anything to avoid.

Watching a movie that makes you sad on purpose can be a great way to bring out the issues you’re afraid to deal with.  My Life is one of the best but I hate feeling sad.  Watching it becomes a tug of war between an entertaining and thought provoking movie and an examination of how I live my own life.

Click here to catch up on previous Movies That Scarred Me For Life.

XTRA | The Beauty of Lazy Day Movies. (The Complete Rainy Sunday Series)