film review: DANIEL & ANA

Written & Directed by Michel Franco
Produced by Daniel Birman Ripstein
Released by Strand Releasing
Spanish with English subtitles. Mexico. 90 min. Not Rated
With Darío Yazbek Bernal, Marimar Vega, José María Torre, Luis Miguel Lombana & Montserrat Ontiveros

[Article originally appeared:]

After seeing “Daniel & Ana”, a first feature by Mexican director Michel Franco, one ponders why he made the film in the first place. As explained in the opening disclaimer, it’s based on true events—no facts have been changed except the names of the victims—of the kidnapping of a brother and sister and the appalling act that took place during their ordeal and its aftermath. The abduction, in broad daylight on the streets of Mexico City, is anything but startling. The action is swift, and the two siblings—Ana (Marimar Vega), who’s somewhat older then Daniel (Darío Yazbek Bernal), a high school senior—barely seem to register the danger they are in. Blindfolded and taken to a nearly-vacant house, their kidnappers do not brutalize them. In fact, other than some strong threatening language, they barely interact directly with their victims. Within hours the two are liberated, but the damage has been done.

This is not a ransom story. In fact, the siblings never utter a word to their parents. Nor does Ana mention the kidnapping to her fiancé, Rafa (José María Torre), a sensitive young man who is only too willing to refuse a promotion that would take him to Spain and her away from her family. His devotion to Ana is obvious. For great patches of this otherwise economical film, the brother and sister lay in their beds, depressed, and withdrawn. Their parents, a wealthy couple who think nothing of buying a sports car for their graduating son, clearly choose not to see that something profound has happened to both of their offspring. Even when Ana calls off her wedding, they treat the situation as though she has cold feet. As for Daniel, he starts skipping classes, prompting them to threaten to take his car privileges away. Read more

INTERIEW with Robert Bella & William H. Macy

Article orginally appeared:

On Demand Weekly’s VOD Spotlight highlights stories in the On Demand industry.  Adam Schartoff interviews director Robert Bella and actor William H. Macy about the odyssey their film “Colin Fitz Lives!” went on following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997 to being revived by Sundance Selects On Demand, thirteen years later.

ODW: There’s been a lot of buzz about the movie “Colin Fitz Lives”. Like the dead rock star in the title, there’s been much mythologizing about this movie in the past 13 or so years. Now it’s finally been resurrected and is currently playing on VOD. Can you give us some of the story background?

Robert Bella: I had never made a feature film before but I just decided to go for it. And then to have people like Bill Macy, Matt McGrath, Andy Fowle, Martha Plimpton and John McGinley agree to participate was incredibly flattering, terrifying and just this amazingly fun roller-coaster ride. Just making the film was a fantasy come true but then when we got into Sundance and it just went to this whole other level.

DIrector Robert Bella

I was in our office with a few other people from the crew and we were literally packing, taping up boxes, closing things down, thinking, ok we’ll get back together in a few months after I get some money to finish the film. The phone rings and it’s Geoffrey Gilmore (then Festival Director of Sundance) and he says, “Congratulations, your film is going to Sundance!” After we talk a while, I hang up and say to everyone, “well, it’s time to unpack the boxes!”

ODW: And, Bill, how did you come to the project?

William H. Macy: Robert and I both belong to the Atlanta Theater Company. We are both founding members along with Felicity Huffman and Matt McGrath, one of the stars of Colin Fitz Lives. Being in a theater company is like being in a large extended family. When a member comes to you with a favor you can only say yes. It’s just the way it is. So, we’ve acted together and I’ve directed him.

So I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to see him direct. A good script, a great cast; it was a no-brainer. Aside form that, I love independent films and Colin Fitz Lives is a lovely script. I’m so glad people are going to get to see it. Read more

film review: TWELVE

Directed by Joel Schumacher
Produced by Jordan Melamed, Charles Corwin, Robert Salerno & Ted Field
Written by Melamed, based on the novel by Nick McDonell
Released by Hannover House
USA/France. 95 min. Rated R
Cast: Chace Crawford, Rory Culkin, Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, Emily Meade, Keifer Sutherland, Esti Ginzburg, Billy Magnussen & Emma Roberts

[Article originally appeared:]

Adapted from a slim 2002 novel written by then-17-year-old Nick McDonnell, “Twelve” follows a group of privileged Upper East Side prep school kids on summer break. With their parents are off on various European vacations, the teenagers have little else to do other than partying, and these kids know how to party hard. Their go-to guy for recreational substances is former classmate White Mike (Chace Crawford), who dropped out a year earlier after his mother died of cancer. The casting of Crawford, an earnest enough cross-eyed young actor who sports a windswept quaff with the perfect amount of facial stubble, is a serious misstep. His scenes with his drug supplier, Lionel (Curtis Jackson, aka rapper 50 Cent), are simply not convincing. Crawford has absolutely nothing of the hustler in his demeanor.

Though Lionel tries to convince White Mike to sell twelve, a blend of cocaine and Ecstasy, White Mike draws the line in the sand at this especially addictive new drug. White Mike, it appears, has a conscious. He also chooses to abstain from all mood-altering substances. As explained by a friend, it’s his way to yield some power over his clientele. White Mike is very hard to understand as a result of these conflicting traits. We’re supposed to sympathize with him because he lost his mom (she appears in gauzy over-exposed flashbacks), plus the fact that his father lost his restaurant business and now waits table. But how are we to like him when he is contributing to the drug habits of everyone he knows? His only real emotional connection is with a childhood friend, Molly (Emma Roberts), whom he keeps in the dark about his occupation. He spends most of the movie on his cell phone talking with Molly or trying to find the whereabouts of a troubled cousin who disappears early in the story. Read more