Friday, April 25, 2008

Transsiberian and Sir Ben Kingsley in Somerville

Transsiberian opened the IFFBoston this year.

Director Brad Anderson and co-writer Will Conroy serve up a tension filled train trip through Siberia, with more than a little Hitchcock along for the ride, rubbing up against the post-Soviet Russian underbelly.

Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer play husband and wife, taking a once-in-a-lifetime side-trip through Russia after a short-term missions trip to China with their church.

Fine performances throughout, especially Moritmer as Jessie, the not-quite redeemed missionary wife struggling to move beyond her past. And Eduardo Noriega as their magnetic and dangerous fellow traveler.

And of course, the aforementioned Sir Ben playing Grinko, the Russian narcotics inspector--and as one would expect, much more Sexy Beast than Gandhi in this one. And effective he is, wearing his sable hat, slovic accent and attitude of resigned post-Soviet opportunism as if he was born to them.

If there's a weak link at all it's Harrelson as Roy, the naive optimist. I just didn't buy the vodka-swilling evangelical bit. The way he plays him, Roy is maybe one-part missionary, two-parts frat boy and three-parts corn-fed Midwestern rube. But it's not entirely the actor's fault. As scripted, he's about as credible as a Nancy Pelosi Bible verse.

The cinematography is solid, contrasting the vast desaturated snowy wastes outside the train, with the threadbare hothouse of the lounge car and sleeper cabins inside, featuring stopped up toilets and menacingly indifferent customer service where eventually it seems the only true freedom left is the freedom to smoke pretty much anywhere.

Despite one sickeningly graphic interrogation scene where I feared we were heading into Eli Roth territory, director Anderson pulls back quickly, before the mood veers irredeemably into torture porn, getting back on the rails again to deliver a satisfying final twist or two.


An audience Q&A followed the screening.

Director Brad Anderson

Sir Ben Kingsley and scriptwriter Will Conroy


Our friends at our local film collaborative New Film Nation (formerly Beanywood) have posted an interview with director Brad Anderson, filmed on a balmy Somerville sidewalk outside Orleans restaurant right after the premier:

(photos and text ©2008 Brad Kelly)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

IFFB 2008 Kicks Off Tonight in Someville

80 degrees and sunny! Spring has definitely sprung in Boston and that means....

The 2008 Independent Film Festival Boston officially launches tonight with a screening of director Brad Anderson's new Hitchcock-ian thriller Transsiberian. Anderson and Oscar-winning star Sir Ben Kingsley are going to be in attendance for a Q&A after tonight's screening.

My first on-set experience for a "real" movie shoot was when I was a PA (production assistant) for another Brad Anderson film, Session 9, when it filmed in the Boston area at the long abandoned Danvers State Lunatic Asylum (made up of very, very creepy, crumbling Victorian gothic is currently mostly demolished and being redeveloped into apartments and condos).

The Festival closes next Tuesday with great German provocateur Werner Herzog's new film, Encounters at the End of the World.

Herzog is back in documentary mode after his last Hollywood action film, Rescue Dawn (itself, actually a dramatic take on his inspiring 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly).

Far from the steaming jungle (or "june-glee" as Herzog has it in his German accented narrations) of Laos, the director finds himself closer to Grizzly Man territory in climate, if not location, visiting with the oddball collection of characters who make their home at the very bottom of the world, Anartica's McMurdo research station.

Between tonight and next Tuesday the IFFB will showcase a lucky 96 hand-picked films (of 2000 submissions screened and considered!) as well as a host of industry panels, parties and special musical guests (check out local media sensations, Harry and the Potters on Saturday, playing after a screening of We Are Wizards, a fan-umentary exploring various aspects of Pottermania).

On a side note, the jester hatted folks in the photo parading in front of the theater were chanting, "L. Ron Hubbard died to save your soul! L. Ron Hubbard died to save your soul!"

I'm not sure what that was all about but it was probably a Scientology protest or local college students with a little too much time on their hands.

It's sort of like that around here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"Death Holds A Hoagie" 48 Hour Film Project


For the fifth year in a row team Playomatic has made a film for the 48Hour Film Project. This year we drew Detective/Cop as our genre. The resulting film (completed in 48 hours and, uh, 18 minutes) is a little film noir farce we've titled "Death Holds A Hoagie."

It is screening Thursday night at the Kendall Theater in Cambridge. Tickets are available online.

A Hoagie Rogues Gallery