Category: Psychological Thrillers
Taglines: Being a teenager can be murder.
A pair of abused and neglected teenage girls almost get away with murder: Sisters Sandra and Beth learned early in life that they had no one to depend on but each other. But when their addict mother Linda makes plans to move the girls in with her abusive lover, the girls’ situation becomes unbearable. Seeing no other way out, Sandra and Beth recruit their classmates to help them plan their mother’s murder.
When the girls’ guilt spins out of control and they compulsively confess their involvement to friends, rumors that they are cold-blooded killers reach the ears of the authorities. The film is a harrowing and heartbreaking look at the teen subculture that nurtured the girls’ murderous fantasies and covered up for them after they committed an unthinkable crime in an effort to create a normal life for themselves.
Perfect Sisters is a 2014 Canadian crime drama film directed by Stanley M. Brooks. The film stars Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley. The film was released on April 11, 2014. The film was based on the novel The Class Project: How to Kill a Mother, which itself was based on the real-life murder of Linda Andersen.
Film Review: Perfect Sisters
Ineffectual and cartoonish, “Perfect Sisters” dramatizes a case that shocked Canada a decade ago, when two teenage girls killed their alcoholic mother in order to be free of the chaos wrought by her perpetual irresponsibility — a well-planned crime that several of their classmates knew about before it happened.
TV producer Stan Brooks’ first directorial feature provides scant psychological depth, drawing its characters and staging their incidents in crude fashion, despite superficial production gloss. A limited U.S. theatrical launch April 11 is unlikely to significantly heighten visibility for a pic already available on demand and destined primarily for smallscreen sales.
Based on Toronto Star reporter Bob Mitchell’s true-crime tome (which is purportedly far less sympathetic toward the protags), Fabrizio Filippo and Adam Till’s script introduces us to high schoolers Sandra (Abigail Breslin) and Beth (Georgie Henley of “The Chronicles of Narnia” films) as they, along with a little brother, suffer yet another move to new digs.
The cause is, once again, their divorced mom Linda (Mira Sorvino) and her penchant for the bottle, which inevitably causes her to lose jobs and get them evicted. When she acquires a new boyfriend (James Russo) to pay the bills, his abuse and general creepiness hardly improve the family’s lot beyond the realm of rent.
Figuring they might actually be better off without Mom — but with an insurance settlement — the sisters hash out potential matricidal scenarios with best friends Justin (Jeffrey Ballard) and Ashley (Zoe Belkin), though whispers quickly spread beyond that close circle. Nonetheless, the real-life figures (whose names aren’t used here, since they were still minors when convicted) managed to pass the deed off as an accidental death for a time. They remain controversial figures in Canada, since they were incarcerated for only a few years each and subsequently attended universities on scholarship.
The unimaginative telepic tenor is varied — but not improved — by broad bits in which Sorvino plays various caricatured “ideal” mother figures. Mixing the heroines’ puerile fantasies with their much-less-than-ideal reality is a potentially interesting idea, but “Perfect Sisters” is no “Heavenly Creatures,” to say the least. Nor does the cliched dialogue or just-OK cast (in which Henley comes closest to creating a rounded character) help ground disturbing events in a credible everyday milieu a la “Razor’s Edge” and other fact-inspired tales of teen homicide. Still, the pic somewhat improves in its last third, when the deed is done and the girls prove very poorly equipped to keep their secret.
Shot in Winnipeg (the actual events took place in Mississauga, Ontario), the pic is competent but rather flavorless in all tech/design departments.
Directed by: Stanley M. Brooks
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Georgie Henley, Mira Sorvino, James Russo, Rusty Schwimmer, Zoë Belkin, Jeffrey Ballard, Sarah Constible
Screenplay by: Fab Filippo
Production Design by: Gordon Wilding
Cinematography by: Stéphanie Anne, Weber Biron
Film Editing by: Robin Katz
Costume Design by: Noreen Landry
Art Direction by: Scott Rossell
Music by: Carmen Rizzo
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Release Date: April 11, 2014
F-list actress Gina Carano stars as Ava, a trained fighter with a dark past in the movie In The Blood.
When her new husband (fellow F-lister Cam Gigandet) vanishes during their Caribbean honeymoon, Ava uncovers a violent underworld of conspiracy in the middle of an island paradise. Armed with a deadly set of skills, Ava sets out to discover the truth – and to take down the men she thinks are responsible for his abduction, one by one.
The movie In The Blood gets a very limited theatrical release (second and third run cinemas) the same day that it debuts on Video On Demand.
Film Review: In the Blood
I’ll be honest about this film, I am NOT a big action film fan nor do I like ultra-violent films. In the Blood is clearly BOTH of these— especially the latter. The amazing thing is that although the violence made me cringe, it was also a movie that kept me glued to the screen…and my adrenalin pumping!
The film stars Gina Carano and if you’ve never heard of Miss Carano, I wouldn’t be surprised. She’s only done a few films, though she is famous…as an MMA and Muay Thai fighter!! And, as you’d expect from a woman with such training, her skills are INSANELY good. Heck, she seems tougher and more capable than all the male action stars of the genre—and she makes it all look so real! By comparison, films by Van Damme and Steven Seagal look like kids’ films!!! I also love Carano because although she is pretty, she’s NOT the Hollywood type. She has real curves and looks like she’s NOT the product of plastic surgery and bulimia!!
The film is set on some fictional Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation or, perhaps, they intend it to be the Dominican Republic (there are three Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean—and it’s not Cuba and they said it wasn’t Puerto Rico in the movie*)—they never say. Regardless, the place is corrupt…very, very, very corrupt.
It’s so corrupt that when an American tourist is kidnapped (or possibly killed), those responsible for it pay EVERYONE to pretend it never happened—even the cops! So, this leaves Ana (Carano) all alone in a hostile country where practically no one seems able or willing to help. The neat thing about the film is that it is wonderful at misdirection. It’s a very smart film as again and again I was surprised by who was behind all this and why. And, how it all ends is simply impossible to anticipate**.
Overall, this is a super-high action film with an amazing heroine—one that doesn’t stand around waiting to be saved by a man—and I love that. Carano plays the real thing—and action hero in every sense of the word— and a darn scary one!!
So do I recommend the film? Well, I don’t know. Its violence level is off the charts and it’s certainly NOT a film for the kids, your mother or Father Flannigan! Plus, even if you THINK you like action films, you might just find this one too intense, bloody and violent. Often, Ana kills—much like Sonny Chiba did in his Street Fighter films. But aside from the violence, it’s an exceptional film all around. Heck, even NOW after the movie’s been over for some time, my heart is STILL pounding… it’s that intense and that well made.
*They said the film is NOT set in Puerto Rico and talked about how they can escape to the nearby island of Puerto Rico. But, in reality, the film was actually made in Puerto Rico. I don’t know what this will do for tourism!
**If you SERIOUSLY anticipated all the twists, turns and surprises in this film, drop me a line. You are DEFINITELY psychic and I want to talk to you about the Florida Lottery.
In the Blood
Directed by: John Stockwell
Starring: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzmán, Stephen Lang, Eloise Mumford, Yvette Yates, Hannah Cowley
Screenplay by: James Robert Johnston, Bennett Yellin
Production Design by: Monica Monserrate
Cinematography by: Pedro Juan López
Film Editing by: Lucas Eskin, Doug Walker
Costume Design by: Milagros Núñez
Set Decoration by: Carmen Marie Colon Mejia
Music by: Paul Haslinger
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language.
Studio: Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: April 4, 2014
Taglines: Unlock the secret. Win the war.
Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.
The film portrays the race against time by Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. The motley group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers had a powerful ally in Prime Minister Winston Churchill who authorized the provision of any resource they required.
The film spans the key periods of Turing’s life: his unhappy teenage years at boarding school; the triumph of his secret wartime work on the revolutionary electro-mechanical bombe that was capable of breaking 3,000 Enigma-generated naval codes a day; and the tragedy of his post-war decline following his conviction for gross indecency, a now-outdated criminal offence stemming from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship.
The Imitation Game is a British-American historical thriller film about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code that helped the Allies win World War II, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and is directed by Morten Tyldum with a screenplay by Graham Moore, based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.
The film’s screenplay topped the annual Black List for best unproduced Hollywood scripts in 2011. After a bidding process against five other studios, The Weinstein Company acquired the film for $7 million in February 2014, the highest ever amount paid for US distribution rights at the European Film Market.
The film had its world premiere at the 41st Telluride Film Festival in August, it also featured at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival in September where it won “People’s Choice Award for Best Film,” the highest award of the festival. It had its European premiere as the opening film of the 58th BFI London Film Festival on October 2014. The Imitation Game will have a general release in the United Kingdom on 14 November 2014, and will be released theatrically in the United States on 28 November 2014.
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Tuppence Middleton, Hayley Joanne Bacon, Hannah Flynn, Grace Calder
Screenplay by: Graham Moore
Production Design by: Maria Djurkovic
Cinematography by: Oscar Faura
Film Editing by: William Goldenberg
Costume Design by: Sammy Sheldon
Art Direction by: Nick Dent, Rebecca Milton, Marco Anton Restivo
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: November 28, 2014
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Taglines: She doesn’t well with others.
In Miss Meadows, Katie Holmes plays a sweet and proper elementary school teacher whose perfect manners and pretty floral dresses hide a dark secret: when she’s not teaching at the local elementary school or tending to her garden, she’s moonlighting as a gun-toting vigilante.
Miss Meadows is an American drama film written and directed by Karen Leigh Hopkins. The film stars Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey and Stephen Bishop. The film is scheduled to be released theatrically in the United States on November 14, 2014, by Entertainment One Films.
Prim schoolteacher Miss Meadows (Katie Holmes) is not entirely what she appears. Well-mannered, sweet, and caring, yes, but underneath the candy-sweet exterior hides the soul of a vigilante, taking it upon herself to right the wrongs in this cruel world by whatever means necessary. Things get complicated, however, when Miss Meadows gets romantically entangled with the town sheriff (James Badge Dale) and her steadfast moral compass is thrown off, begging the question: “Who is the real Miss Meadows and what is she hiding?”
Miss Meadows is anAmerican drama film written and directed by Karen Leigh Hopkins. The film stars Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey and Stephen Bishop. The film was released theatrically in the United States on November 14, 2014, by Entertainment One Films.
About the Story
Miss Mary Meadows is a young woman who works as a substitute first-grade elementary school teacher and enjoys taking long walks in her suburban neighborhood and wearing traditional clothing and tap-dancing shoes. Unknown to everyone, she is a secret vigilante who murders local thugs who accost her or when she witnesses them committing crimes. She always carries a small semi-automatic pistol in her purse and speaks in a child-like innocent manner. She lives by herself in a small house and talks occasionally with her mother over the telephone about what she did during the day.
Investigating the vigilante killings is a local sheriff. He soon meets and develops an attraction to Miss Meadows due to her old-fashion clothing and style of speech. When he begins to suspect that the calmly woman he finds himself drawn to may be the suspect he is looking for, the sheriff is torn over whether to arrest her or protect her.
When Miss Meadows meets an ex-convict named Skylar, whom she learns served time for molesting young children, she begins to fear for her young students safety. When Miss Meadows approaches and threatens to kill Skylar if he continues hanging around the school or around her kids, he begins stalking her.
It is eventually revealed that all of the telephone conversations that Miss Meadows has been having with her mother over the course of the film are imaginary. As a young girl, Mary Meadows witnessed her mother’s murder in a drive-by shooting outside a local church after attending the wedding of a family friend. This traumatic incident left Miss Meadows so emotionally scarred that she withdrew into a fantasy world which she imagined that her mother is still alive and caused her to go after and kill criminals who she sees as a threat to society.
When Miss Meadows learns that she is pregnant after a one-time sexual encounter with the sheriff, she decides to accept his proposal to get married. On the day of the wedding, Skylar kidnaps Heather, one of Miss Meadows students, from her house, forcing Miss Meadows to go to Skylar’s house (wearing her wedding dress) to try to stop him, only to end up a captive herself. When she manages to free Heather and struggle with Skylar over her gun, the sheriff, passing by after leaving the church, sees Heather running away from Skylar’s house. Meanwhile, Skyler gets Miss Meadows’s gun and asks her, “Do you really think you can save the world? Well, try saving your self!” Just after saying that, the sheriff arrives and shoots Skylar to death before he can kill Miss Meadows. The sheriff offers to protect Miss Meadows by reporting that Skylar was the vigilante.
Directed by: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Starring: Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey, Stephen Bishop, Ava Kolker, Charlotte Labadie, Elle Labadie, Kate Linder
Screenplay by: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Production Design by: Jennifer Klide
Cinematography by: Barry Markowitz
Film Editing by: Joan Sobel
Costume Design by: Brenda Abbandandolo
Set Decoration by: Carmen Navis
Music by: Jeff Cardoni
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Entertainment One
Release Date: November 14, 2014
Taglines: You only enter once.
The ancient wonders of the world have long cursed explorers who’ve dared to uncover their secrets. But a team of U.S. archaeologists gets more than they bargained for when they discover a lost pyramid unlike any other in the Egyptian desert. As they unlock the horrific secrets buried within, they realize they aren’t just trapped, they are being hunted.
The Pyramid is an American found footage supernatural horror film directed by Grégory Levasseur, produced by Alexandre Aja, and written by Daniel Meersand and Nick Simon. The film stars Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley and Daniel Amerman. The film was released on December 5, 2014, by 20th Century Fox.
About the Story
The film takes place during the Egyptian protests in 2013. An archaeological team discover a vast pyramid buried under the Egyptian desert; a pyramid that has three sides and not four like the pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Using satellite technology they determine the pyramid to be 600 feet deep. A tunnel that leads into the apex of the pyramid is discovered and upon opening, releases toxic air which poisons a worker. Shortly afterwards the team is ordered to leave the site because of the uprising in Giza.
The team, composed of father and daughter Miles and Nora Holden, argue over leaving the dig site because they are uncertain of when they can return. Eventually they agree on sending in a remote controlled robot to survey the first few rooms and document the pyramid. Shorty, the robot, enters the pyramid and after examining a small portion of the structure is attacked by an unknown creature and goes offline. After Shorty’s destruction by unknown means, they make their way inside to recover it.
They rapidly become lost, and a section of floor collapses beneath them, wounding and trapping Zahir (Amir K) pinning his leg to the ground by fallen debris. While attempting to climb back up, Sunni (Nicola) is scratched across the face by an unseen creature and falls. Leaving Zahir behind to find another way out, they hear him scream, and return to find only a bloody trail leading up the wall.
Directed by: Grégory Levasseur
Starring: Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Daniel Amerman, Christa Nicola, Joseph Beddelem
Screnplay by: Daniel Meersand, Nick Simon
Production Design by: Marco Trentini
Film Editing by: Scott C. Silver
Costume Design by: Essouci Zakia
Set Decoration by: Alessandra Querzola
Art Direction by: Alessandro Santucci
Music by: Nima Fakhrara
MPAA Rating: R for some horror violence and bloody images.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 5, 2014
Taglines: Fire burns brighter in the darkness.
Katniss Everdeen finds herself in District 13 after she literally shatters the Games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about movies of the year.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is an American science fiction adventure film directed by Francis Lawrence with a screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong. It is the first of two cinematic parts based on the novel Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, and the third installment in The Hunger Games film series, produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik and distributed by Lionsgate Films.
Our Leader The Mockingjay
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the highly-anticipated third installment of the blockbuster phenomenon that blazed across movie screens around the globe. The story now accelerates to new, exhilarating levels as the futuristic chronicle of Katniss Everdeen enters into a new realm. The Games may have been obliterated for good, but the fight to survive is about to intensify. Faced with the most daunting odds – and watched by the eyes of a hopeful nation – Katniss must put into motion courage, strength and empowerment against the all-powerful Capitol. This is the moment when she realizes she has no choice but to open her wings and fully embody the Mockingjay symbol. If only to save Peeta, she must become a leader.
The story begins again as Katniss has just been rescued from the destruction of the Quarter Quell. She awakens in a shocking world she didn’t even know existed: the deep, dark underground of supposedly annihilated District 13. She quickly learns of the devastating reality she must face: District 12 has been turned to rubble; and Peeta is being held, manipulated and brainwashed by President Snow in The Capitol. At the same time, Katniss’s eyes are opened to a secret rebellion rapidly spreading from District 13 throughout all of Panem – a rebellion that will place her at the center of a daring plot to hack into The Capitol and turn the tables on President Snow.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 dives further into the fabric of Panem and into the story’s most powerful emotions as Katniss and the nation enter a harrowing but transformative time. Explains returning director Francis Lawrence: “Emotionally, Katniss is like a foreigner in a strange land as this story begins. This is the time when she realizes she can’t stand by and do nothing. There has been too much deception and the people Katniss loves are in danger. She will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.”
The director continues: “The stakes have always been high in The Hunger Games but now the entire world opens up. The Games themselves are gone, but threat of oppression now permeates all of Panem. This chapter gave us a chance to reveal entirely new locations with amazing action sequences. It’s a gigantic movie.”
In her third and most poignant turn as Katniss, Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence relished the chance to portray the character at this heightened juncture as she emerges from distress to take her first steps into leadership. “I was excited for Katniss to come into her own as a leader, but she’s still a very reluctant hero,” Lawrence observes. “In the first movie she wanted to save her family. In the second, she tried to save her friends and herself. Now, she starts to realize the impact she has on the wider world and that she has a choice to lead this battle for what is right.”
That choice does not come easily for Katniss, who recoils at nearly every element of her new life: the militaristic order of District 13, the pressure to perform on cue, and the heart-wrenching reality of war. Katniss remains hopeful that becoming the Mockingjay might truly change things. “As an actor, the challenge was having Katniss wake up in a brand new environment, where she has to rebuild herself from nothing. Katniss has not only left behind her old life as a District 12 victor, she has entered a world unlike any other. Says Lawrence: “She has to get used to a new way of life in District 13. Everything is deeply unfamiliar and it’s all underground, so she can’t even go outside or hunt.”
Lawrence continues about approaching Katniss: “She felt almost like an entirely different character because she is so stripped down and feeling so empty. It’s something that truly does happen to people after traumatic events like she’s been through. Katniss still has the same core, but she’s in a completely different place inside and out.”
As Katniss takes on the public role of the Mockingjay, she is asked by President Coin [Julianne Moore] to appear in a series of “propos” – viral propaganda videos that District 13 uses to communicate with and inspire rebels across Panem.
“She goes into the propos feeling like a pawn, like the Mockingjay is just a symbol she’s not connected to or passionate about,” Lawrence says. “The whole idea of the propos is to get people fired up, to band together – so Katniss faking at being something that she’s not doesn’t work. It’s only when she sees the human cost in District 8 that a true spark is ignited. The more she sees, the more it becomes a personal fight for her.”
Lawrence was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Julianne Moore in the role of President Coin. “When I heard she was going to play Coin, it was the most exciting, unbelievable news in the world. I think Julianne is one of the greatest actresses of all time, just absolutely phenomenal. She was even more impressive in person. She is such a sweet family woman and also hilarious. Working with her was a dream come true.”
While Lawrence and Moore got along, their characters have a cool tension between them. “Their relationship is complicated. They share similar ideals, but with all she’s been through, Katniss feels she cannot fully trust her,” Lawrence comments. “President Coin can see how important Katniss is to leading this rebellion, but she also doesn’t believe Katniss can actually do it. She’s still suffering from post-traumatic stress and President Coin is skeptical that using Katniss is something that she can actually control.”
Also rewarding to Lawrence was the chance for deeper interaction with Liam Hemsworth as Gale, who remains Katniss’s devoted friend and strongest link to her past. “Katniss and Gale have such a rich history,” she acknowledges. “There are so many complexities to it because before Katniss went into the Games, Gale was the only person who really understood her. Following the games, she and Peeta had this experience together that no one else, including Gale, could ever understand. She and Gale are in a very interesting place and it was nice to explore more of that.”
For Francis, one of the highlights of the entire Hunger Games series has been watching Jennifer take Katniss through a vast range of experiences, each one internalized into a character who is now thick with many layers. “It’s incredibly complex to track somebody who is going through so much emotionally,” he says. “Katniss has incurred a lot of damage, and now here she is trying to figure out where she stands in the world, whether or not she trusts the people in District 13, and whether she wants the responsibility of becoming a part of the rebellion. Jen has done the most amazing job with every nuance.”
In thinking about Katniss and reflecting on one of her favorite scenes, producer Nina Jacobson notes: “When Katniss goes to District 8 and says, ‘If we burn, you burn with us,’ for the first time she sees the impact that she has on people. Those moments – where Katniss owns what and who she is – really give me the chills.”
Jacobson says the films biggest astonishment may be how emotionally resonant it is – not just because the story is entering a time of war, with all its accompanying sorrow for the lost and hopes for the future, but because it is also a time when Katniss must change faster than ever. “It’s a very tense and powerful story and the emotions on screen are surprisingly deep,” concludes the producer. “It takes you to places you will not expect to be taken. It’s provocative, thoughtful and up to the last minutes of the film, the way it unfolds is shocking.”
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is such a fantastic epic,” she summarizes. “This part of the story is important to tell — about how powerful a person’s voice can be. It is always easier to follow the person in front of you, but I think we all have a Mockingjay in us. We all have the ability to make a stand and do the right thing.”
District 13 vs. The Capitol
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 reveals for the first time the most covert place in all of Panem: secretive District 13, where Panem’s rebels have carved out their own rigidly ordered society miles underground.
District 13 and The Capitol are mirror opposites in every way. The Capitol is sensationalist spectacles, over-the-top garish hues and gleaming lights. District 13 is steeped in shades of gray, claustrophobia, conformity and the stark reality of what’s happening in the Districts. While The Capitol has been living high on the hog off the people, District 13 has been biding its time, preparing for the day when they would finally take a stand.
Up until now, only The Capitol knew about District 13, having carved out a non-aggression treaty that allowed it to exist so long as it stayed underground. As rumblings of war begin in earnest, District 13 and The Capitol are pitted against each other in a battle of images designed to win support – and key to it all is the ultimate District 13 symbol and foe of The Capitol: the Mockingjay.
Francis notes that the history of District 13 makes it unique even in dystopian Panem. “What we discover is that 13 was bombed in the Dark Days 75 years earlier. It was a graphite mine with old nuclear facilities. There were survivors, and instead of giving up, they moved underground and created an alternative civilization outside The Capitol, hidden from view. They’ve created a very ordered, militarized civilization, where people are trained as soldiers from a very early age. All this time, they’ve been waiting for a rebellion to start so they could take back The Capitol.”
Creating this clash of two cultures – and dueling visions for the future of Panem – was one of the biggest and most exhilarating tasks of the film. “There’s really nothing in this movie that you’ve seen before of Panem,” notes producer Jon Kilik. “You’re immersed into District 13 – the one place no one outside has seen, the place no one except The Capitol even knew still existed. It’s a whole new journey for the audience. We’ve been through jungles and plagues in the Games but now to be living miles underground, things are even more intense and it puts an even greater pressure on the characters. It was also an incredible design challenge, and the result is a tribute to the skills of Francis Lawrence and our production designer Phil Messina.”
Katniss might not much like District 13, but she is their long-awaited ideal of a people’s hero, someone who isn’t in it for glory but is motivated by her own pure sense of right and wrong. “She is a simple girl from the lowest of the Districts, so the message of District 13 is that if she can stand up to The Capitol, anybody can do it,” Francis explains. “That’s why they want to use her in the propos. The hope is that if she stirs enough people up and all the Districts begin to unify; they could actually defeat The Capitol.
The Unseen Panem: Design
Bringing District 13 to life – and giving audiences glimpses into the turmoil catching like fire across Panem was one of the most intriguing tasks faced by Francis and his design team, headed by production designer Phil Messina, who also designed The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. The two envisioned taking the scale of the third film beyond anything they had done while relying largely on real locations rather than digital ones. In addition to shooting on soundstages in Atlanta the production went further afield to luxury chateaus and apartment complexes in Paris.
Messina began by turning Suzanne Collins’ flights of imagination into a detailed vision of District 13. He illustrated a series of shadowy, claustrophobic, bunker-style sets for this brave new world amid the rubble. A combination of factory locations and intricate soundstage sets produced the final results. “Our inspiration for the design came from 1960s and 1970s nuclear facilities,” he explains. “The idea is that District 13 has developed as a kind of closed-loop society. They have been completely cut off from The Capitol, so they’ve been adding on new technology on top of old technology. You will see analog push buttons next to high tech – and that mix was very intentional on our part.”
The set designs for District 13 were as desolate as the designs for The Capitol were lavish, transporting the actors into this very raw, austere reality. Says Julianne Moore: “It was rendered so incredibly beautifully. It made me think of what you imagine East Germany was like before the wall came down – very militaristic, really grey with people waiting for the moment of change.”
The underground city is laid out as a kind of multi-level maze that culminates in President Coin’s Command Center. “The Command Center is the brains of the entire operation where all the systems like water, oxygen and power are controlled. We organized it like a military hierarchy where above it all, Coin is at her post kind of overlooking everything,” Messina explains.
Another highlight of District 13’s design is purloined hovercrafts. “We liked the idea that the rebel hovercrafts would be an older generation of The Capitol hovercrafts, maybe something they had stolen previously. We had already seen a Capitol hovercraft previously so it was fun to generate something that was its antecedent and has a lot more texture,” says Messina. “The aesthetic was taken from WWII Russian planes, as well as some submarines and helicopters for cockpit configurations.”
The hovercrafts were hung off of huge cranes to simulate flight. “When we first started designing pieces of the hovercraft, we thought how much fun it would be to fly. It took a lot of calculations to make sure the crane would be safe. The Atlanta special effects department built a steel structure that they were confident about. It had to be rehung at different places and it was a huge pain,” laughs Messina, “but it really paid off with some fantastic footage that looks like a real craft landing from the inside.”
The idea was to use as many practical locations as possible. “Our practical locations give the movie a sense of scope and at the same time a groundedness so that it feels like it readily could be our future,” says Nina Jacobson. “If you tried to do that purely through digital magic you couldn’t get that sense of authenticity we wanted, where you see a real hovercraft land and your characters get out of it and interact with a real environment.” The actors also loved the sense of immersion. “Using locations that were so grounded in a sense of reality only made things that much more truthful,” says Ali.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 also hones in on the other Districts as unrest grows. “We wanted to show the consequences of Katniss joining the rebellion and how the propos start to inspire people in different Districts. So you see the lumber District start to rebel by propelling up trees and then you see the hydroelectric dam getting blown up in an extraordinary sequence. I think like you’re really able to see things in the Districts we haven’t seen before but in a way that is always connected to Katniss,” Jacobson comments.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Robert Knepper
Screenplay by: Danny Strong, Peter Craig
Production Design by: Philip Messina
Cinematography by: Jo Willems
Film Editing by: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa
Costume Design by: Kurt and Bart
Set Decoration by: Emmanuel Delis, Mark Rosinski
Music by: James Newton Howard
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Release Date: November 21, 2014
From breakthrough director Jennifer Kent comes the creepy psychological horror movie The Babadook that has received an explosion of acclaim following its world premiere at Sundance 2014. The film tells of a single mother, plagued by the death of her husband, who battles with her son’s night time fear of a shadowy monster. But soon, she discovers a sinister presence is lurking in the house.
With echoes of past and contemporary classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, The Exorcist, The Omen and Let the Right One In, the film is an immaculately crafted tale starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. The supporting cast includes Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is at a loss. She struggles to discipline her ‘out of control’ 6 year-old, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a son she finds impossible to love.
The Babadook is an Australian-Canadian psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer Kent at her directorial debut, in which a woman and her son are tormented by an evil entity. The film stars Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, while Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear appear in supporting roles.
About the Story
Amelia, a troubled widow, has raised her six-year-old son Samuel alone, after her husband Oskar died in an accident driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth. Sam begins displaying erratic behavior: he rarely sleeps through the night and is preoccupied with an imaginary monster, which he has built weapons to fight. Amelia is forced to take her son out of school due to his behavioral problems.
One night, Sam asks his mother to read from a mysterious pop-up storybook he finds on his shelf. The story, Mister Babadook, is about a supernatural entity: once someone is made aware of its existence, the monster torments that person. Amelia is disturbed by the book’s contents, while Sam becomes convinced that the Babadook is stalking them. Strange events begin occurring throughout the house: doors open and close on their own, Amelia finds glass in her food, and strange sounds are heard with no apparent source. Amelia attributes the events to Sam’s behavior, but he insists that the Babadook is responsible. Amelia rips up the Mister Babadook book and disposes of it.
At his cousin Ruby’s birthday party, Ruby bullies Sam for not having a father; as a result, Sam pushes her out of her tree house and breaks her nose. Amelia’s sister, Claire, admits she cannot bear to be around Sam, and suspects that Amelia feels the same way. On the drive home, Sam has another vision of the Babadook and suffers a febrile seizure. Amelia convinces a doctor to prescribe sedatives for Sam to help him sleep, hoping that she will also be able to get some sleep as well.
The following morning, Amelia finds the Mister Babadook storybook, reassembled, on the front step. New words inside the book taunt her, claiming that the more she denies the Babadook’s existence, the stronger the monster will get, growing inside her. It contains new pop-ups of Amelia killing her dog, Samuel, and herself. Terrified, Amelia tries to convince the police that she is being harassed by a stalker, but when they ask for the storybook as evidence, she admits that she burnt it. She realizes they can see chalk on her hands, implying she may have put the book back together herself. The Babadook then reveals itself to Amelia before possessing her.
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Cathy Adamek
Screenplay by: Jennifer Kent
Production Design by: Alex Holmes
Cinematography by: Radek Ladczuk
Film Editing by: Simon Njoo
Costume Design by: Heather Wallace
Set Decoration by: Jennifer Drake
Music by: Jed Kurzel
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: IFC Films
Release Date: November 28, 2014
Pioneer is set in the early 80’s, at the beginning of the Norwegian Oil Boom. Enormous oil and gas deposits are discovered in the North Sea, authorities aim to bring the oil ashore through a pipeline 500 meters deep. Petter, a professional diver, is obsessed with reaching the bottom of the Norwegian Sea.
Along with his brother Knut, he has the discipline, strength and courage to take on the world’s most dangerous mission. But a sudden, tragic accident changes everything. Petter is sent on a perilous journey where he loses sight of who is pulling the strings. Gradually, he realizes that he is in way over his head and that his life is at stake.
Pioneer is a portrait of a Norwegian deep-sea diver in the early 1980’s, set within the thriller genre. I’m drawn to stories told through the protagonist’s point of view. In “Pioneer” I looked to create a character that is searching for a truth, which threatens his ability to comprehend reality. Thus the distinction between paranoia and conspiracy is at times blurred. True to the genre, the film has a protagonist and a number of potential antagonists.
In terms of genre, we aimed to reinterpret the American 70’s thriller. Growing up in the 70’s, I was heavily influenced by films such as “The Conversation”, “Chinatown” and “All The President’s Men.” These films inspired not only my aesthetic approach to filmmaking, but also my interest in genre films. I believe genre films can be used successfully to explore character dilemmas for a wider audience. I wanted to reinvigorate the approach I used in my first film INSOMNIA, by directing a character driven thriller.
To me, much of filmmaking is about giving an audience the physical experience of going somewhere different. In “Pioneer” we wanted to convey the physical and emotional impression of what it’s like to work at the bottom of The North Sea. Inspired by research, we aimed to contrast the claustrophobia of the diving bell and helmet diving with the enormity of the clear, dark sea. I took great inspiration from the way sci-fi movies deal with infinity and scale. We also aimed to make the sea blacker than the traditional notion of blue sea.
As PIONEER is inspired by real events, the film also has an historic aspect. I grew up in a country that had discovered enormous oil and gas resources that we didn’t know how to utilize. Experiencing the change in our national mentality through the period of blooming wealth served above all else as my inspiration to direct PIONEER. To me, it’s ultimately a story about the ways sudden wealth changes you.
Q & A WITH Director Erik Skjoldbjærg
How did the project land on your desk?
Erik Skjolbjærg: The producer, Christian Fredrik Martin, came to me several years ago. He had heard of the idea of North Sea divers from two Norwegian film graduates, Kathrine Valen and Cathinka Nicolaysen. The angle that appealed the most to me was to depict the pivotal moment in our history when we had discovered oil but didn’t know if we could secure the resources. I grew up in the seventies and I remember that those were totally different times. I was interested in showing how we managed to secure those resources to become a rich nation. Another key element is that my first film, “Insomnia,” was a thriller told from the main character’s point of view and I wanted to explore this type of thriller again.
You share the writing credits with no less than four people, including the Swede Hans Gunnarsson (Arn) and Norwegian Nikolaj Frobenius (co-writer of Insomnia). What were the major challenges in the writing process?
ES: I started working with Kathrine and Cathinka. We did a lot of research. It was like a filtering process. We soon decided we would take all researched material and mold it into a thriller. The challenge was huge. After working on a few drafts we turned to Hans Gunnarsson who has lots of experience working on different genres. He helped develop the lead character of Petter (played by Aksel Hennie.)
Then I collaborated with Nikolaj Frobenius who helped build the plot into the thriller genre. The research was complex because the pioneering oil period is something that not everyone wants to be associated with. There is an ongoing conflict between some of the divers and the government, who are supposedly responsible for some sort of neurological traumas that the divers suffered after the experiments. So the subject is still controversial in Norway. The case is currently under review at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
We spoke with the divers and researched various events and accidents that took place. We used all of this as a template for our film and condensed it into a simple story for the audience to follow. But a lot of elements are based on reality.
There are two aspects to the story: a heroic aspect with divers wanting to push their limits, and a darker side of human exploitation and sacrifice linked to the financial ambitions at stake…
ES: Yes we decided to show today’s audience what it must have felt at the time. The divers then had a mentality similar to people doing extreme sports today. They were adrenaline junkies who wanted to push their limits. At the same time, we tell the story from the point of view of a diver who discovers the power struggle between the Norwegian government and the international oil community about who is to control the oil.
In terms of casting, was Aksel Hennie in your mind when you wrote the script ?
ES: Yes he was. Aksel was very involved from the very start. Besides the fact that he is a very emotional actor, he has a screen presence and understands the process of filmmaking. He was a fantastic collaborator throughout the film.
Was it difficult to nail down the three US actors?
ES: It’s hard for Scandinavian films to attract US actors in supporting roles. The only way to do it is if you wait until just before the shoot. Wes Bentley came in four weeks before shooting, Stephen Lang two weeks before and Jonathan LaPaglia one week before. It was truly nerve wrecking.
Claustrophobia and paranoia are portrayed in most of your works and in this film again. How did you work with your production designer and cinematographer to create those feelings?
ES: Basically the film shows that in the seventies, there was a lack of concern for security, unlike nowadays. All technical equipment of the time is no longer in use. We had difficulty finding sets such as gas chambers and diving ships, so we ended up building it all. Our gifted production designer Karl Júlíusson has done major sets for Kathryn Bigelow so he had the experience and the authority to deal with this challenge on a Scandinavian budget. Similarly the costume designer Anne Pedersen did a great job.
Then, as the film is a co-production, I was working with an international crew and ended up taking on Swedish cinematographer Jallo Faber. It was one of the best creative choices I ever made because I really think that our idea to recapture the seventies feel in Scandinavia was the right one. We also did research on industrial diving. We decided to create claustrophobic spaces and infinite spaces because that’s the reality for North Sea divers. We looked at top shots and angles from above because the film is about people at the bottom of the sea and at the bottom of the hierarchy. We were also inspired by sci-fi movies that deal with infinity and scale in an interesting way.
In terms of location shoots, I think you went to Iceland to shoot some underwater scenes?
ES: We had the Finnish underwater team from Matila Röhr MRP Productions. They said the clearest water you can get with sand at the bottom is in a lake in Iceland where you have water from a glacier being filtered by lava sand that comes into this underwater trench. It’s incredibly clear and perfect for underwater filming. We shot other underwater scenes in Germany.
The film opens in Norway and has been selected for Toronto. Are you anxious to see how the international audience will react to this Norwegian tale of underwater heroes and conspiracy thriller?
ES: Above all, the film takes people where they have never been before, on an epic adventure. We’ll see how people will react in Toronto, but signs are that there is an audience as the film has been pre-sold to several territories including the US and Japan.
What’s next for you? Any interest to go back to Hollywood where you have a name as the creator of Insomnia that was eventually remade by Christopher Nolan?
ES: I have several projects. Among those is a script that I’m developing with Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, who wrote Everything Will Be Fine for Wim Wenders. Our project is based on Gaute Heivoll’s novel ‘Before I Burn’, itself inspired by the true story of a pyromaniac who started dozens of fires in Southern Norway in the summer of 1978.
As for Hollywood, I’ve been there. If the proper project comes along and I can work freely on it, then I will consider it. I’m always open to explore new things. We’ll see in Toronto!
Written by Annika Pham
Directed by: Erik Skjoldbjærg
Starring: Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang, Aksel Hennie, Stephanie Sigman, Jonathan LaPaglia, Ane Dahl Torp
Screenplay by: Nikolaj Frobenius, Hans Gunnarsson
Production Design by: Karl Júlíusson
Cinematography by: Jallo Faber
Film Editing by: Jonas Aarø, Frida Eggum Michaelsen
Costume Design by: Anne Pedersen
Set Decoration by: Louise Drake
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: December 5, 2014
Taglines: The dead are back for life.
From the mastermind producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious comes the ghostly tale of Jessabelle. Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accident, Jessabelle (Sarah Snook of Sleeping Beauty) comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return — and has no intention of letting her escape.
Jessabelle is an American supernatural horror film directed by Kevin Greutert and written by Ben Garant. The film stars Sarah Snook, Mark Webber, Joelle Carter, David Andrews, Amber Stevens and Ana de la Reguera. The film was released on November 7, 2014.
Greutert was approached to direct Jessabelle a year after the release of Saw 3D and after reading through the script, Greutert agreed to direct. Filming was initially meant to take place in Louisiana, where the film is set, but was forced to move to Wilmington, North Carolina after no appropriate filming location could be located. Greutert edited the film on his own and initially the film was slated to release on January 10, 2014, The film was later pushed back to an August 29 release date before it was given a limited theatrical and video-on-demand release on November 7.
About the Story
Jessie Laurent, short for Jessabelle, is moving into her fiancé’s house. They have a car accident, killing the fiancé, causing Jessie to have a miscarriage and leaving her unable to walk. The hospital arranges for Jesse’s Dad, whom she hasn’t seen for years, to pick her up. Back at her Dad’s house in St. Francis, Louisiana, Jessie is given her mother’s room on the main floor, allowing her to move around in her wheelchair. Jessie’s mother died when she was a baby. That night she briefly sees a ghost woman in her bedroom.
Exploring the house, Jessie finds some video tapes in a box. She plays one marked “For Jessabelle Happy birthday I Love You”, and is happily surprised to see her mother, seven months pregnant in March 1988, has recorded a message to her to be seen on her 18th birthday (now 6 years past). On the video, her mother gives her a reading using tarot cards. The reading says that Jessie has never left St. Francis and that she has a close connection to water, causing Jessie to laugh that her mother is terrible at tarot readings. Her mother reads that Jessie is not alone, that there is a presence in the house with her, a female who wants her out of the house. Jessie’s dad shows up and destroys the tape and tells her to stop snooping around the house. Jessie does not tell him about the other two tapes.
That night Jessie has a dream that her mother kisses her then sends her on a journey through the house, where she sees men performing voodoo on her, then sees a badly burnt black man making voodoo symbols on the floor. Jessie awakens in a panic to see the ghost woman, around her age, rolling towards her in a wheelchair. The ghost woman reaches out to Jessie, who screams as the figure disappears.
When her Dad goes out, Jessie watches the next tape, from April 1988. On it her mother says she spoke to her friend Moses, from a church that her Dad disapproves of, about the reading. Her mother tells Jessie that Moses believes the presence in the house is her inner demon. Her mother then gives her another reading, revealing a very horrible death.
When Jessie she falls asleep in a bath, the bath turns to blood. The ghost woman, now clearly visible with slightly dark skin, is sitting in the bath with her, reaching for the bracelet (originally her mother’s) on Jessie’s wrist. The ghost attacks her and her Dad bursts in, hearing Jessie’s screams – everything is normal, it appears to have been a hallucination. Her Dad finds the two tapes and tries to burn them, but gets locked in his shed and is burned to death.
At his funeral, Jessie meets her old friend Preston (Marc Webber). She then sees a hallucination of the burnt black man from her nightmare and she faints. She comes to at home, where Preston has brought her. She shows him the tapes and tells him about her nightmares. After he leaves, she watches a happy tape that her loving parents filmed months prior to the pregancy with Jessie. Jessie then watches the third tape that her Mom recorded to her, and is stunned when her mother’s tarot reading says that Jessabelle is already dead. The ghost woman then begins attacking Jessie, leading to her discovery of a fourth tape, which she does not watch.
Directed By: Kevin Greutert
Starring: Sarah Snook, Mark Webber, David Andrews, Joelle Carter, Ana de la Reguera, Larisa Oleynik, Chris Ellis, Fran Bennett, Amber Stevens
Screenplay by: Robert Ben Garant
Production Design by: Jade Healy
Cinematography by: Michael Fimognari
Film Editing by: Kevin Greutert
Costume Design by: Carol Cutshall
Music by: Anton Sanko
MPAA Rating:: PG-13 for sequences of horror violence and terror.
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Release Date: November 7, 2014