Tag Archives: drama

Vic’s Review – Step 9 (2012)

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Vic’s Note: I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching a screening of “Step 9” here in Rochester, New York.  I was graciously invited by local D.J. and Film-maker Scott W. Fitzgerald of http://fairportpictures.com , to attend the showing at the beautiful Memorial Art Gallery here in the Arts district. I would like to personally thank Scott, his lovely wife Kelly, Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media for the invitation. It was a wonderful and revelatory evening. Thanks, guys!

A former drug addict attempts to make amends with his ex-wife by telling her a secret he’s been keeping to himself for years.

“Step 9”

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”

Directed by Scott W. Fitzgerald

8 out of 10

“Step 9” is a powerful and somber short film which is an amazing character study efficiently told with sobering detail and an almost funereal reverence. Co-writer and director Scott W. Fitzgerald, of Fairport Pictures, handles the material with respect and a like-able craftsmanship that leaves the viewer completely immersed. Then eventually exhausted by the deep testimonial that is the result of a 20 minute journey into a man’s attempt to put his life back in order at any cost. Fitzgerald’s story, which he co-wrote with “Step 9” actress Kelly Austin, is an acute observation that tempers the soul of those who particularly understand the tribulations of the lead character, Ray, played brilliantly by Danny Hoskins. (Better Than Wine) Ray is a recovering drug addict who wants to clear the air about his troubles with substance abuse to his estranged wife, Addison (Kelly Austin of the upcoming “Bury My Heart with Tonawanda”).

Fitzgerald’s film begins bleakly with Addison (Austin) getting into her vehicle in order to follow her husband, Ray. DP Derrick Petrush, from http://dtrainmedia.com/ ( Mason Darby, He’s Our Man!keeps his camera tight on all the prologue proceedings.  When Addison gets in her car and we see close ups of her starting the ignition and clicking in her seat belt. Fitzgerald automatically gives the short a claustrophobic feel as Addison drives, the shot lingering of her eyes in the rear view mirror, after Ray one snowy and rainy day. She eventually catches up with Ray at what appears to be warehouse/ storage facility. Addison pulls her car into frame and she watches as Ray and another man, a stranger, are in the middle of what looks to be a transaction of sorts.

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Addison jumps out after moving closer and confronts Ray as the other man turns and runs. Ray tries to calm Addison down as she yells and attacks him. She turns to get back into her car as Ray attempts to explain what is transpiring. But it is too late. Addison gets into the car and Fitzgerald quietly reveals the film’s title as we continue to hear Addison’s crying. The film flashes slowly white then we come to Ray contemplating better and jovial days with his beloved wife as he sits eating a meal. Confined to a compact dwelling, Ray sits somberly and eventually Addison arrives to speak with Ray. Things are frosty and as Addison tries to be immediate and hurried, Ray comes off as a bit standoffish as he makes a biting comment about Addison’s prosperity. It doesn’t sit well with her and almost leaves Ray alone to wallow. Ray tells Addison about some bad news and he realizes that he is not getting any support or sympathy from her. In the course of the conversation she asks Ray about his prior drug use already making a judgement. Fitzgerald and Austin make their characters hot headed and prone to arguing. They continue this discourse for a while as the movie slowly boils in the incommodious environment.

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Ray begs to have the “old Addy back” as he tries desperately to get her to understand that this disclosure is not easy for him. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald adds the occasional flashback in black and white of Ray being sneaky and devious all the while with a devilish grin on his face. Ray tries to take a trip down memory lane but Addison decides otherwise. Ray, then, proceeds to tell her what he was going through and how he felt during his use as the steely Addison rubs her hands with antibacterial lotion in a very symbolic gesture. Fitzgerald’s characters are people under a microscope in “Step 9.” They are being slowly picked apart by their movements, dialog and emotions. The short incorporates layers of dynamic drama and it is fueled by slow and deliberate conversation. The  film peels back layers upon layers exposing issues, trauma and deep rooted despondency. Self image, addiction and insecurities come to surface. Especially when Ray finds out something salient about Addison’s past. All of this is on display and it works because of Austin and Hoskins. They play the conflict and then resolution well off of each other.

It isn’t all done with an easy flow though. Hoskins’ somewhat maniacal outbursts towards Austin seems a bit forced and heavy handed but it is fleeting. The script, too, clunks around a bit in the beginning but it finds it’s footing and never trips again. By the end of the short after all things are said and done between Ray and Addison, things are very different and the climax is both appropriate, crushing and eye opening. “Step 9” is about forgiveness, despair, re-creation and sometimes futility. There is hope in this short though. In spades.  My hat’s off to Fitzgerald, Austin, Hoskins and Fair Port Pictures for putting together a beautifully shot and wonderful short that is well acted, relevant and engaging. “Step 9” is indeed about what the 9th step is all about. Making amends. That in itself is a conviction that Fitzgerald and company express brilliantly in this short. Highly recommend.

“This is not right, Ray. You are a good man. You SAVED us.” – Addison

“The slate is clean.” – Ray

“Step 9” was shot and filmed in Rochester, New York

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You can watch the Festival Cut of “Step 9” from Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media here:

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Looper

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce WillisIn the year 2042, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, a hired assassin for the mob who kills people sent from the future. But what will he do when the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination?

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

I expected more from this movie. The concept rocked.

Bad people from the future send people back in the past they need killed through a time machine There is a person waiting for them, called a looper, who shoots them and collects some gold strapped to them. OK, I’m game.

But what happens during this film is a lot of nothing. It’s boring, with unneeded characters who flush out what should have been a short, more action oriented movie. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but yes, it’s true. Looper drags. I expected more from this film, because it got rave reviews. I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis a lot. And while they both are good in the film, it suffers from a slow-movie script and a director that was over thinking it a bit. It’s also way darker than I anticipated — maybe I shouldn’t have, based on the premise — but it was.

Not a terrible film, but it drags at parts and left me wanting something different.

The Life of Pi

life of pi

Based on Yann Martel’s best-selling novel, this coming-of-age tale recounts the adventures of Pi, an Indian boy who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with only some zoo animals for company.

Matt
Rating: 9 out of 10

This is the kind of movie you watch for the first time and say: I really need to watch that again

And I can’t wait to see it again. I was lucky enough to see this in the theater in 3D, which I generally can’t stand, but this is by far the best use of the technology ever in any film. Ang Lee deserved the Oscar he recieved for best director. I knew it wouldn’t win best picture — it’s not that kind of movie that typically does — but it is still wonderful. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you questioning, wondering and thinking about a couple days after you see it.

In it’s simplest form, it is a coming-of-age story about a boy who loses his family, but it takes so many beautiful and challenges twists with gorgeous cinemetography and visuals. It is a love story, a story about faith, family, ideals and challengs.

And I never mentioned that 90 percent of it takes places on a tiny boat at sea with a boy and a tiger. If you can make that an incredible film, well, you have some serious directing chops.

The Snapper

Stephen Frears directs this dramedy about a working-class Dublin family that’s thrown into chaos when they learn that daughter Sharon (Tina Kellegher) is pregnant. But by choosing not to reveal the identity of the father, Sharon becomes the target of rampant gossip. Colm Meaney co-stars in this adaptation of the book from Irish author Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy, which also includes The Commitments and The Van.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

I randomly caught this one on Showtime, and I’m glad I did. It’s a charming film, loaded with Irish wit, humor and sentimentality.

The story is about a young girl who is pregnant out of wedlock in a small, working-class Irish town. Time hasn’t been too kind to this film, though. Young, pregnant girls aren’t exactly the most controversial topic nowadays — sadly. Sharon, the girl at the center of the story, is 20. So it’s not even like she’s that young.

But what does work is the genuine chemistry of the family. They live in a tiny little house, with a whole bunch of kids packed in like sardines. They have an authentic feel about them, the way they talk to each other, the way they play. It’s never corny. And the heart of the family is the father, played with great likability by Colm Meaney. The father and daughter move the picture well, even if the topic of the film doesn’t have a lot of impact.

Our Oscar Season Preview

The leaves are changing a golden hue, little trick-or-treaters will soon be ringing our bells, and the quality of films suddenly takes a huge leap after the September lull that always follows a summer of blockbusters. Yes, Oscar season is here, and we can’t wait to see some of the enticing films coming to theaters very soon or are already here. We each picked three we can’t wait to see.

BRIAN
The Master
Currently in limited release but I have not seen it yet. Director Paul Thomas Anderson is currently, in my opinion, the finest American director working today. This has a chance at a second, wider release, like last year’s best picture winner “The Artist.”

Skyfall
Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty) steps in to direct the new James Bond film. How could you not get excited?

Argo
Ben Affleck directs another thriller, and if his last two films are any  indication, this will be fantastic.

MATT
Wreck It Ralph

It’s not too hard to predict that a Pixar film will be nominated for an Oscar, but this is the first one in a while I’ve been pumped for. It looks stocked full of video game nostalgia wrapped in a nice story.

Lincoln
Steven Spielberg has whiffed on a lot of movies over the last decade, but this ambitious period piece could just put him back on the map. Academy Award-winners Daniel Day Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field round out an excellent cast.

Django Unchained
Any time Quentin Terrantino makes a movie, the world sits up and pays attention. He has yet to win best film or director, but perhaps this is the one to do it. Academy Award-winners Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz star in Terrantino’s first western — a genre that feel made for him.

The Hunger Games

In a dystopian future ruled by a totalitarian regime, resourceful Katniss and her partner, Peeta, represent their district in the lethal Hunger Games — a televised survival competition in which teenage contestants fight each other to the death.

Brian
Rating: 3 out of 10

Have you ever sat and thought about what you thought the future might be like? Will we be driving flying cars? What kinds of video technologies and modern conveniences will change our daily routines? Will we travel to distant planets?

I’m pretty sure your idea of the distant future wasn’t a split society where one half was the “Grapes of Wrath” where poor people hunt their dinner with bow and arrows and the other half was a technologically advanced group of drag queens that all wear makeup and can’t wait to watch young people kill each other in a boring game of “Lord of the Flies.”

The ideas in this film are so derivative of other, more original films and books that executed their material better. It takes the games of survival from “Battle Royale,” the split societies from “1984,” and the TV audience from “The Running Man.” It’s all wrapped up in a package that is completely devoid of any suspense, interesting characters, or drama. I was also shocked at just how bloodless it is. Here we have a gladiator game of survival put together as some form of half-ass peace treaty between two societies that had a war. The idea is to put different members from tribes into a survival game in a world that looks like the dome from “The Truman Show” — another film that Hunger Games rips off. The Truman dome in this film is populated with explosives, bows and arrows, knives, and spears. But somehow, we almost never see any blood. This film is so cowardly and money driven that it sanitizes the material to earn a PG-13. Instead of having a dramatic game of “survival at all costs” we end up with a stupid love story without chemistry. Why?!?! Did the writers not realize that every man for themselves was interesting on its own? Did they also not realize that a sense of danger could have been created by upping the violence? I’m not saying gratuitous violence, but make me feel the hopelessness and despair that this situation would cause. It also doesn’t even get to the games for almost an hour and a half!!! We spend time watching the characters walk around their poor town, talk, get recruited for the games, talk some more, hear about their mission in the games, talk, and talk and talk…….ABOUT NOTHING! There is not ONE piece of memorable dialogue in this crap fest.

I would rate it even lower but the director does execute what’s on the written page well. Also, Jennifer Lawrence is a very capable actress and has a wonderful screen presence. It’s a shame that they weren’t given better material to work with.

Casa de mi Padre


Will Ferrell stars as a Spanish-speaking cowboy in this comedy about a Mexican clan trying to rescue their ranch from greedy creditors. When his brother can’t save the day, the simple but noble ranch hand takes on a powerful drug lord.

Matt
Rating: 5 out of 10

In theory, I should love this film: Will Farrell stars in a Spanish-language film that lampoons old Mexican movies in a campy romp. In reality, it just kind of fell flat for me.

There were a couple really funny moments where I laughed hard. There’s a very amusing love scene with some uncomfortable close-ups of Farrell’s posterior. It had me cracking up. But a lot of this movie just didn’t go anywhere, or meandered. There weren’t enough jokes.

This movie does succeed in where Farrell is great as a comedic actor, and that’s character development. In Anchor Man, his character Ron Burgundy has layers of character, and the title roles in this film are given that same treatment. But in the end, the execution fell far short of the premise.