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DVD Review: HOURS

Paul Walker Hours

“Hours” is a film that has an offbeat dynamic and unusual level of suspense that brings to mind something like Steven Spielberg’s “Duel.” There are elements of horror to this and, much like “Duel,” this is a story about a man, out of his element, forced to keep his wits and survive. One added wrinkle: our hero, Nolan (played by Paul Walker), has just lost his wife, Abigail (played by Genesis Rodriguez) while she was giving birth during Hurricane Katrina. More to the wrinkle: Nolan ends up being left behind while everyone at the hospital evacuates. He must remain with his premature baby who will need a ventilator for the next 48 hours, thus the title, “Hours.” And we’re just getting started.

It was Richard Matheson who perfected a thinking man’s horror with such work as “I Am Legend” and “The Shrinking Man.” These stories pivot upon a lone man in a life or death situation, at war with his environment–whether it’s vampires or giant spiders. The situation begins dire and gets more and more complicated. Does the character even have a decent chance of survival? No, so his life keeps flashing before him, and his senses sharpen, as he contends with one gut-wrenching challenge after another. That’s exactly what is happening in “Hours.” This 2013 film is the directorial debut for Eric Heisserer who is a writer on the rise in Hollywood. This film is his first opportunity to direct one of his scripts and you sense that attention to detail, to composition, and consistency. Nolan is totally trapped in the fight of his life–and his newborn daughter.

There is an undeniable added layer of significance with the acting talents of Paul Walker who sadly passed away in 2013. At the heart of this film is a story about how to respond to a disaster. Paul Walker was part of a relief team responding to the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010. That led him to found Reach Out WorldWide (ROWW), an organization of skilled volunteers responding to post-disaster situations. That energy and commitment is indelibly marked on every frame of this engaging film.

You’ll be seeing a lot more of Eric Heisserer’s work in the coming months. One fine example is “Lights Out,” screenplay by Heisserer, out in theaters 22 July 2016 (USA). And, you better believe it, this looks like a really scary horror movie. Currently, Denis Villeneuve is directing Heisserer’s Black List script “Story of Your Life” for Paramount Pictures, starring Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. “Story of Your Life,” is a sci-fi thriller based on the short story by acclaimed author Ted Chiang.

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Filed under Disaster, Disaster Movies, Eric Heisserer, Horror, Horror Movies, Movie Reviews, movies, New Orleans, Paul Walker, Richard Matheson, Steven Spielberg

Super Bowl 2013: The Art of Frenchy

2013 0131 SuperbowlTrophy_48x60

Frenchy is an artist who does a lot of his work out and about, like at major sporting events. He was featured on the CBS pre-game coverage for Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens vs. 49ers.

New Orleans Saints Frenchy art

Frenchy sports painting live

Frenchy was documented as he worked on numerous canvases: laying out his compositions, blocking in color, all the way to the last splatters of paint.

Frenchy Poboy Festival

He’s a vigorous artist with a bright personality. It’s great to see him in action. What’s even better, is to see the variety of work he does. His paintings are compelling, drawing you into their energy and humanity.

Frenchy Radio City Music Hall

And here are some more Frenchy paintings from Super Bowl 2013.

Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers

Visit Frenchy and view his work here.

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An African American Child Will Lead the Way: Reviews for “Butter” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Beast of the Southern Wild 2012.jpg

There are two movies, just released for home viewing, that deal with the sticky subject of, what some call, “The Magical Negro,” which is something that is discussed in the social sciences and certainly has its place. One movie seems to just roll with it and the other emphasizes that point with a decidedly heavy hand. The one that rolls is “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a movie that feels like a cross between “Where the Wild Things Are” and a dystopia set in New Orleans. The heavy handed one is “Butter” which goes to great lengths to be social satire.

“Beast of the Southern Wild” is the sort of seemingly hot mess that would attract the likes of Werner Herzog or Terry Gilliam. You have all these things going on at once in a vague, presumbably post-Apocalypse, something like New Orleans, post-Katrina, but worse, or perhaps just about the same. The main characters are a five-year-old girl nicknamed, Hushpuppy, played by Quvenzhané Wallis, and her father, Wink, played by Dwight Henry, who, at turns, displays flashes of anger which are due to frustration with the knowledge that he’s dying.

Butter Jennifer Garner 2012.jpg

“Butter” is a very different sort of hot mess that might attract the likes of Ben Stiller or Christopher Guest. It is about a power couple (Laura, played by Jennifer Garner; and Bob, played by Ty Burrell) who have dominated a rather strange niche, competitive butter sculpture! Laura has gotten herself so worked up about their notoriety that she envisions them parlaying their status into politics, maybe all the way to the White House. Garner does a wonderful job of channeling Michelle Bauchman but her go for broke performance is still missing that something special that Parker Posey brings to the table. It’s still a good performance but it’s that sort of misfire that works its way throughout the movie. In this one, the magical little girl is named, Destiny (how could the writer’s resist?), played by Yara Shahidi. The twist is that the little girl is on it, she knows about playing the race card and she’s not there to be anyone’s noble savage.

It’s “Beasts” that pits Hushpuppy against the odds which, at first, may resemble the “magical negro” in American cinema where you have the downtrodden black character with mystical powers minus any real humanity. But Hushpuppy isn’t there to help white people anymore than Destiny is. Hushpuppy, half the age of Destiny, has pure innocence working in her favor. She is also a very symbolic character in a movie full of dystopian symbolism. The poor and forgotten people thought they had gotten a handle on their fate, foraging for food and living out of rusty old discards. And then the waters began to rise some more and flushed them all out. They are all carted away by the powers that be and placed in some quasi-hospital which leaves them all ill at ease. It leaves Hushpuppy in the lurch as she prepares for life as an orphan.

In “Butter,” Destiny is also an innocent bystander, a foster care child who doesn’t think she’s good at anything until she happens upon the Iowa state butter competition that Bob and Laura have dominated for so many years. Destiny discovers that she’s a natural at sculpting butter. She makes only one specific request of her new foster parents, who she deems as “too white.” She asks them for 200 pounds of butter. In no time, Destiny is well on her way to butter sculpting stardom. Destiny will show up all the white people by mastering the relatively simple butter sculpting techniques and using it to create sentimental work tugging at their guilt: a tribute to Harriet Tubman and, later on, a homage to an African American mother and child that even moves Destiny. When the pressure becomes too much, Laura pleads with Destiny that butter sculpting is all she has and, to that, Destiny tells her to think again. The point is well taken but comes across as belabored. It’s fun to note, that in comparison, Olivia Wilde’s performance as a whacked-out prostitute, with no agenda but her own survival, provides the most laughs.

“Beast of the Southern Wild” is such a wild and wooly affair that it manges to avoid being pinned down too easily. It is playing its own race card but more deftly. It also has a genuiely magical feel to it having nothing to do with race. Keeping to its dystopian theme, it is just as concerned about global warming and the like as it is with any white man’s guilt. It packs a unique mix of unexpected imagery and situations and never feels forced. The direction by Benh Zeitlin (from a screenplay by Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar) is so spot on that you assume that the main actors are professionals. At age five, it’s understandable not to be surprised that this is Quvenzhané Wallis’s first film. But Dwight Henry could be easily assumed to be a seasoned actor and yet this is his first role ever. Like the rest of the cast, Zeitlin and his team had set out to create something very organic, tilling the movie’s cast from the soil of its location off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. It is a delicate process to get right but this movie manages to do it and provide us with an authentic work.

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