INTERVIEW: Micah Van Hove

INTERVIEWED BY JESSICA PEÑA

 

Micah Van Hove is a director, producer, and cinematographer with a very keen drive to make his mark in the industry. Even from his first feature film Menthol (with the producer of Boyz N The Hood), he’s carved out his own exploration into how films can be told. Micah’s latest directorial effort Shadow of a Gun refuses to shy away from any hard truths, bending interactions into cold, contemplative looks at ourselves, the way we react, and the ways we’re conditioned. His work is bold and forward-looking. Even in the film’s most despairing moments, there’s a meditation on empathy. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience and creative vision.


Could you tell us a little bit about your background in film, your ventures into new ideas and opportunities, and really where this passion began for you?

I started making movies out of a desire to escape the 9-5 lifestyle that I fell into after high school. I got an opportunity to act in a short film by ex-Hollywood veteran producer Steve Nicolaides who was producing a short in my hometown of Ojai, California. Being a part of that team made me fall in love with the process, but I knew I wanted to be behind the camera. Steve gave me my first camera, a DVX100, and I just started shooting.

I quit my job and made my first short film that was based on a dream I had. I didn’t realize I could make movies until my friend Nate Kamiya blew my mind with a simple concept: setting a shoot date. Projecting my first finished short film on an abandoned train car surrounded by friends, I really fell in love with filmmaking that night in 2010.

I’ve always seen filmmaking as an opportunity to learn about life and push the boundaries of what people are comfortable with in the hope of triggering growth and empowering the human spirit. I didn’t go to film school (and even have been a long time writer for the site NoFilmSchool.com) but instead just started making my first feature length movie, Menthol, which premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2014. That project was my film school.

 

In your film Shadow of a Gun, Jacob King’s character, Jason, has such a swift admiration for firearms, but not exactly in the same way as Tom. We see a friendship form and unravel. We see a toxic playing field for malicious intent and yet, in the same foreground we have the counterpart of responsible attitude. It’s surely a divisive topic, but one that’s truly relevant and poignant for the now. Did you feel an urgency to tell this story given the climate of events?

The only urgency I felt to tell this story was the fact that guns had entered my life in an elemental way. Suddenly I was surrounded by them. Suddenly I started to realize that even in Southern California, they were everywhere. I couldn’t avoid learning about them anymore.

 

What’s an aspect of your process, whether pre-production, writing, or filming, do you find to be the perfect challenge?

The perfect challenge for me is maintaining a balance between realism and expression. In my approach to movies, there’s a delicate balance between structural coherence, raw performance and the lyricism of images, and I’m always striving to connect these elements so the sum is greater than its parts.

 

Something that’s wildly intriguing about your film is its use of reality and the contrast that makes some more alarming. How did you come to cast Dominic Pino as one of the leads, and was there a specific version of his life you were pulling from?

Dominic Pino has been a best friend of mine since we were kids, but it was only once we started living together that I realized he was a gun owner. I walked into the garage one day and saw him cleaning his AR-15. I decided to sit with him and observe his process and I started to understand him in a new way. This character was born out of his very real and very coherent love for firearms.

 

Do you feel there’s a creative liberty unearthed in lived-in performances?

Yes, and that’s a great way to put it. The actors and I worked on the characters for around a year before we started shooting and so much came from where we were all at in our lives at the time. I go so far as to use the term non-actors because I feel most free working with non-trained professionals but simply with people who are willing to trust and open their lives to a camera.

 

Was there a philosophy of human nature at play when you were writing the script with your team? How did you find that comfortable medium of gun hobbyism and dire, overt obsession?

The dichotomy that the film explores was very close to the surface within myself and seemed to find an outlet through these two actors. I’ve never been interested in guns, but as I began to see them through Dominic’s eyes I started to ask myself some big questions — none with easy answers. The relationship that humans have to guns is complex, and especially the American relationship. I found it easy to empathize with both sides of that complexity: those who see them as a beautiful tool — even a creative outlet — and those who are attracted to the power they can give to the otherwise powerless.

 

The film’s polarizing subject is one that begs discussion, recognizing the different reactions people may have about firearms. How important was it for you to tell this story set in a friendship?

Shadow of a Gun for me was always about friendship more than gun ownership, it just happens that gun ownership is the catalyst that accelerates and intensifies their trajectory. I was especially interested in young men with problems of identity, not fully understanding where they fit in the world, and using external stimuli (guns, the internet, violent media) to help learn about themselves.

 

What kind of audiences are you engaging with? What kind of stories do you want to tell? Do you make it a point to create contemplation through art and how our realities can collide?

I’ve always seen cinema as a reflective medium and at its best, it can cause meaningful contemplation and growth. I want to tell stories that challenge our ideas of behavioral or moral norms and allow us to push past the near-useless dichotomy of right and wrong and embrace the ambiguity that life is made of.

 

You were one of ten fellows who attended Jim Cummings’ inaugural Short to Feature Lab. How was the whole experience for you? How has the support and that mentorship guided your process moving forward?

Jim Cummings’ Short to Feature lab was a beautiful week spent with other passionate and creative individuals from a very diverse set of backgrounds and tastes who all wanted to share and help each other. The value of being surrounded by good creative energy cannot be understated. Jim’s big heart and big energy paved the way for creative and pragmatic learning for everyone involved. Jim blew all of our minds with what he did with Thunder Road and he showed us everything he did to make it happen. It was demystifying, it was simply inspiring.

 

Your profession is your canvas. What’s been the most gratifying part about what you create and put out to the world? What keeps you going?

Cinema is more than just entertainment. Film is still a young medium, yet it’s becoming more and more ubiquitous, and I feel it is part of my mission in life to find new cinematic language.

 

From your experience, do you have any advice for other emerging filmmakers?

Do not ask permission from anybody to make your films, we don’t have to anymore. Do not get caught in the idea that your film will be perfect. Keep finding ways to continue to create and learn what you have to offer.

 

Let us know how we can keep up with you! What projects are you working on?

I am developing a feature film based in the cities and jungles of Peru, loosely based on a short film I made during a workshop with Werner Herzog in May.


Be sure to keep up with Micah Van Hove on Twitter and Instagram. Catch up with his portfolio and recent work with his production company Spirit Ape Films at www.umuima.com

You can watch the trailer for Shadow of a Gun below!

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Watch This Space #5

Another weekend arrives and you’re looking for a new pick to stream at home. We’ve got you covered. The JUMPCUT team have selected a new batch of recommendations for you. Below you’ll find some classic films you never knew were hiding just under your streaming radars, some hit comedy finds, and more!

Falling Down (Joel Schumacher, 1993)

Amazon Prime

Before Joel Schumacher lost his way and camped up the Batman franchise to high heavens, his portfolio forms a fanfare collection of big hits; one in particular, 80s supermovie The Lost Boys.

Two years before his caped crusader debut, he made Falling Down, a scorchingly violent satire with a wit intelligently woven with chaos. The film follows Michael Douglas’ everyman who, on a tiringly hot day, lashes out against those in society who he believes to be America’s downfall. Commercially, the movie succeeds as a no-holds-barred revenge actioner, but the observations on the world’s relentlessly capitalist nature bury the events deeper than superficial enjoyment.

Schumacher enjoys both broad strokes in attacking consumerism, such as a famed scene in a fast food joint, but also takes sly digs through glances at posters and billboards – in a landscape so focused on money it may as well be covered in green, Douglas spills his red justice onto the grass. His character is portrayed as both a hero and villain, which although leaves a sour taste as we’re expected to root for him through his warped journey, adds to the twisted plight of the tale.

Cameron Frew

 

Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)

Netflix

If you’re still reeling back from Annihilation earlier this year, maybe you’d like to sink your eyes into more cerebral ideas of human nature. Garland’s 2005 thriller/drama Ex Machina stars Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, a programmer who wins a week-long trip at his CEO’s (Oscar Isaac) estate to interact with Nathan’s new, peculiar AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Ava is a magnificent achievement of tech that Caleb can’t help but be overwhelmed by. He wants to study her but soon realizes that maybe Nathan is using both of them for unethical, greedy schemes. The futuristic setting of the film tames the claustrophobic themes of human examination, existentialism, and razor-sharp disillusionment. Vikander and Gleeson are phenomenal, as always, and pull you into Caleb and Ava’s wonderful, interesting, but strange relationship under the scope. Garland’s directorial debut (if we are ignoring his pointed direction in Dredd) is patient and eerie as we await its next move, and it’s a constant, clever spectacle.

Jessica Peña

Loving Vincent (Hugh Welchman, Dorota Kobiela, 2017)

Netflix

After a criminally limited release last year, Loving Vincent is available on Netflix and I can’t recommend it enough. Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully painted feature film and is comprised of over 65,000 frames on over 1,000 canvases and was a labour of love for over 100 painters for four years – and my god was their hard work and determination worth it. The film is one of the most beautiful films I’ve had the pleasure of watching, and the accompanying score is just as delightful. Do yourself a favour and put some time aside this weekend to watch it! You can also read my full review from last year right here.

Tom Sheffield

 

In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)

Netflix

Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy follows hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) as they lay low in Bruges, Belgium after a botched job has their boss (Ralph Fiennes) keeping close tabs on them. Ray is quite reluctant to engage in sightseeing and tourist-y ventures Ken wishes to schedule during their mini career hiatus, Bruges being the last place on Earth he can even stomach to reside in. It’s a hasty film that wastes no moment to downplay its class in exchange for remote absurdities and crude unravelments. It’s Farrell at his most ridiculous, and Gleeson as the perfect sweetener to balance it. It’s weeping thriller bits mixed with sharp, cunning dialogue. The architectural landscape bodes well to the film’s nuanced, but sinfully quick narrative. A much better McDonagh film than Three Billboards. I said what I said.

Jessica Peña

Watch this Space #4

We’re coming in hot this weekend with some new staff picks to make your streaming time interesting! This week’s selections come from all points of the spectrum as we recommend stories of thrill, ones with heartfelt gut-punches, and one’s that delightfully pass the time. Let us know what you’re eyeing on this list or if you’ve had the pleasure of seeing one or two of these spectacular finds!

Paddington (Paul King, 2014)

Amazon Prime UK, Netflix US/ UK

Paddington. Oh, what a lovely film indeed. For someone who, to the best of his knowledge, wasn’t all that big on the duffle coat wearing bear as a youngster, the cute little bugger won me over in the first 10 minutes of his live action outing.

There’s an insatiable British charm that runs through the entirety of Paddington, injected into the witticisms of the heartwarming bear and his surrounding ensemble. This includes, but isn’t limited to, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi. But the success of the film lies most of all within Ben Whishaw’s sublime vocals as the titular hero. Polite, self-assured and hilariously innocent, he brings the bear to life in a way I didn’t think possible.

It bears much similarity plot wise to underrated dog-flick, Beethoven, but there’s a level of admirable ambition in elevating this to a larger than life, sweeter than marmalade adventure that will have adults and kids wiping away tears of laughter in equal measure. And don’t get me started on Paddington 2, that’s an even bigger treat.

— Cameron Frew

 

Thunder Road (short) (Jim Cummings, 2016)

Vimeo

My recommendation this week will only take 12 minutes of your time, but I genuinely can’t recommend it enough. Thunder Road is written and directed by Jim Cummings, a chap we were lucky enough to interview recently following the premiere of the feature-film adaptation of this short at BFI’s London Film Festival. The short focuses on Officer Jim Arnaud, who is about to make a speech at his mother’s funeral. Cummings’ depiction of his character’s grief is truly heartbreaking to watch, and yet, he manages to add some heartwarming comedy into his performance that almost made me feel bad for smiling at. I don’t really want to say any more about the short as it’s best to watch it all first hand and witness the grief-stricken officer deliver his eulogy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the feature-film adaptation secures some form of UK distribution because my jealousy for those who’ve watched it at this year’s LFF is reaching dangerous levels!

Tom Sheffield

 

Apostle (Gareth Evans, 2018)

Netflix UK/ US

If you’re thinking of assessing your squeamish meter this Halloween, then Gareth Evans’ Apostle might just be the challenge to put your stomach to the test, or bestow a psychological break on whichever poor soul you convince to watch it with you. Determined and never without his furrowed brow, Dan Stevens must save his sister from captivity on an isolated island inhabited by a religious cult lead by Michael Sheen’s prophet.

Brutal and dripping with grunge, Apostle contests with the big torture porn players but is laced with myth and fantasy that distances itself from the likes of Hostel while displaying stellar performances from Stevens and Sheen. Evans’ slow burning tension around a contest of beliefs is reminiscent with The Wicker Man and The Witch with one eye-widening finale that takes an early twentieth century folktale through the meat grinder.

Jo Craig

 

Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

Netflix UK/ US

This superbly sharp dramedy is guaranteed to tickle your funny bone with its wholesome humour and endearing awkwardness. But beware, there are plenty of gut-punching moments waiting to hit you, whether you like it or not – which I guess you could say is testament to the way the film portrays the authenticities of adult life. Both Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn give career-best performances, and clearly thrive in this more grounded, raw setting. Alongside them, breakout star Kayli Carter shines, offering up much of the great comedic moments in this little indie treat.

Jakob Lewis Barnes

 

Minding the Gap (Bing Liu, 2018)

Hulu

In a year of stellar documentary viewings to pick from, Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap uncovers some of the hardest truths in domestic violence and young teen culture. With a caring eye and ear to listen, Liu chronicles 12 years in the lives of his and two friends’ upbringing in turmultous homes. From the emotional scars of trauma to the side effects of growing out of it, the documentary digs deep and looks for answers.

One obvious haven for these young men is how the escapism of skateboarding all these years has helped them retain a foundation of trust, fun, and safety from the bad. It’s one thing to leave home for the day and forget about the worries, it’s another thing to grow up and examine the person you’re becoming in part due to your childhood. Minding the Gap just picked up a Gotham Awards nom for documentary and it surely deserves it. Go find it!

Jessica Peña


Be sure to give us a shout over on Twitter if we’ve twisted your arm into watching any of the above this weekend. Feel free to share your streaming recommendations with us too!

INTERVIEW: Jim Cummings Talks Indie Filmmaking, Thunder Road, And The Value Of Creative Ownership

INTERVIEWED BY JESSICA PEÑA

Remember this name: Jim Cummings.

He’s been on the road (Thunder Road, if you will) promoting the release of his feature length film, which took home the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year. A total knockout of a film, it blends together comedic ingenuity with grounded tragedy, which results in a film you won’t stop thinking about for some time.

We were fortunate enough to chat with Jim and pick his brain a little about the state of the film industry, his creative process going from short to feature film and the way he used his time to create a haven of creativity and support for ten independent filmmakers.


So, you seem to be having quite the week with Thunder Road, premiering here in the US. So I wanted to ask, How have you been? Are you exhausted at all? Do you need some coffee?!

That’s very kind of you. I’m drinking coffee right now so I’m okay. I’m better now. It’s been- It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been pretty well. I flew from LA to Milan Film Festival, then to Montreal, then to Raleigh. And then over the last couple of days have been charging it up to the coast to different Alamo Drafthouse screenings and waving and saying hi to everybody. And that’s really cool. No, I’m not tired. I’m thrilled. It’s cool. I feel like it’s been so long since everybody’s been able to see it. And we’re finally getting to put it out there. So yeah, I’m happy as can be.

Yeah, I’ll bet you’re very grateful but tired. But it seems like you’re chasing this high and you’re just going along with it. So that’s great. And you’ve been on fire lately traveling around for press for your film right now. And I’m so thankful to squeeze in a chat with you. I wanted to start off a little light- what was the last movie you saw that wasn’t your own?

Whooo, that’s a great question.

How do you have the time?!

Yeah, I don’t know. I think that the last movie that I remember seeing at the cinema, that wasn’t mine… I see a bunch of movies at film festivals. So I saw this film, STYX, that was really good. That was at the Odesa Film Festival. It’s a German film. But the last movie that I paid for that I went to the cinema for was First Reformed. That was really good.

Oh, wow. Very dark.

It’s great. It was great. I loved it. Yeah, it was great.

You know, it sort of reminds me of your film right now, actually.

Little bit. Yeah. It has a harsh ending.

I watched Thunder Road actually back in May at the Nashville Film Festival. And I’m not kidding when I say that, the more I thought about it since then, the more I love it! You really made something so unique with this film.

You won a string of awards, both at the calibre of Sundance with the short and at SXSW earlier this year for your feature. And it begs a realization that filmmakers should be seizing their voice and their passion and make it into a film at any given day, really. I’m just so grateful to be talking to you today, because I love your ‘give no fucks’ attitude, ‘do it yourself,’ approach to filmmaking.

Through this whole ride with the feature, have you learned anything new about yourself or the way you work on ideas?

Yeah, sure. And and I hate to say it- like, when I say that stuff of you know, don’t wait to make movies with your friends, and turn yourself into a movie studio. It’s a nice sentiment but I still have to wake up and tell myself that everyday. There are very distracting encouragements from people who are telling us that they’ll give us money to make stuff and you know, more than nine times out of ten, it’s false. It just won’t happen or it falls through or something happens.

It’s very important to remember that at every level and just because we’ve had some moderate success over the last few years, it doesn’t mean that I’m in any better position than anybody else to continue to make stuff and make more movies. So, yeah, I think it’s crucial for everybody to continue to make stuff. But I think the thing that I’ve learned the most is that it’s possible and that if you do do this enterprise, if you do seize the means of production and just go and make things, you’ll be rewarded for it.

Like people, if you can make something that’s different and you can do it on a small budget with your friends from a Kickstarter campaign, and it’s any good at all, people will be happy that it’s not a superhero movie and support it.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

And with the Kickstarter campaign for the feature film, I think you were asking like $10,000. What was your reaction when you saw just how much that amount grew to be?

Yeah, shock really. Okay, so we knew that we would probably be able to raise more than 10,000. We were thinking it’d probably be like 15 or 16 or 17 and we asked for 10 because Kickstarter has a policy where if you don’t raise the full amount, you get none of it. And so we asked a little low, but we didn’t dream that we would get, you know, 38 or 36,000, or that we would be able to raise the 10 in the first like, seven hours, which is crazy. Um, and then also the other shocking thing that when we were asking for help and making the film, we met a lot of associate producers who came on board who were strangers to us or were, you know, Twitter followers of ours until they joined the production and now they are good friends and they came and helped out, and it was just a really wonderful experience of tapping the community, and they learned a lot. We learned a lot. Yeah, it was a really great kind of collaborative experience through a crowdfunding campaign. We’re very lucky.

That’s really great. Yeah, I’ll bet the perseverance really paid off there. And just the song itself, “Thunder Road” is just so riveting and how he’s telling us to just pack our shit, forget about the troubles, and just hit the gas, you know? Would you say you’re tied to your work in very personal ways? Because Thunder Road is in itself a very intimate character study.

Yeah. I sympathize with that call to arms of leaving your life if you’re unhappy or if you’re on the verge, just hop in the car and pack things up. I think that is a really beautifully American anthem. But no, I don’t have a whole lot to do with the guy, I think. I am a divorcé, but I don’t have children of my own. Both of my parents are still alive, luckily. And yeah, I have very loving sisters. Yeah, there’s not a whole lot– I mean, I do feel that pathetic sometimes and I’ll put my foot in my mouth often, so I think everybody has that. So yeah, he’s just a product of me trying to make people laugh and trying to make people cry.

Yeah, and you did it very excellently, by the way.

Thank you.

You’re welcome! And his relationship with his mother just seems so far gone from the things he needs to deal with on a daily basis, like being a good father upholding his job, and it just continues to destroy his psyche and he becomes irrational because of it, although he means well. So how did you build up his traits and who this character would become in the film?

Yeah, so I guess it started out with story where I was like writing different ideas for scenes and trying to build out the plot of what the story would be and having it be structured for maximum audience engagement and fulfillment. And so I wrote down, you know, like 50 or 60 scenes and then narrowed it down to, 30 or 35. And some of them were crappy, some of them were fun. But then yeah, it was just that. It was throwing this person into interesting experiences and creating a scene where we were able to see a different side to this guy or an interesting side of this person from the Thunder Road short film.

Often when I was writing the feature, I’d be thinking a lot about the short film, what made that valuable, what audiences took from that. It was just like, you’re watching this person having a public meltdown, which is very interesting. That’s like number one, and then it’s also this love story for the mom and then this scary depiction of a possible future with his daughter. And it’s all contained in this performance piece and sometimes it doesn’t use a whole lot of dialogue, or it’s all monologue. And so I was like, kind of using that as the visual language of the movie. And that was part of the construction of the screenplay as well.

Yeah, it’s really magnificent how it all plays out on screen. You can see he’s put on such an act to the world trying to create this tough layer. And I thought it was so interesting how he’s a cop and yet the world just continues to disarm him. And it was so sad to see, but also somewhat cathartic to his character. Even his phrase, “See me wrestling an alligator, help the alligator,” as a viewer, you see just how defeated he is the next time he says that. It just goes hand in hand with how this guy continues to feel emasculated, humiliated, and yet this is actually just his way of grieving his mother. And I wanted to ask how did you come to the structure of the feature when the short film has become the opening scene here?

Yeah, so for a long time I thought that should be the climax because that’s a really big scene in this guy’s life and then I didn’t really like the idea. I couldn’t really find a way to make that work. I didn’t know what his real life relationship would be with his mom, but I’m a huge fan of short stories. When we’re writing a short story, they always say, “show up late and leave early.” So, you jump in the middle of a conversation and it kind of forces the audience to find out what’s happening, and it’s kinda like a riddle that you have to parce out and try to understand what’s happening, and I find that to be a really interesting and fulfilling experience. I don’t know, it’s like a game you’re playing with the with the filmmaker.

And so yea, I thought that eventually would be a good idea, to just start the film with that instead of have it be the crescendo in the movie. And then I, you know, started writing scenes with it in the beginning of the movie and then introducing the character this way and then having to have his daughter like him again, and the struggle of that, and then it just came like that. The goal was to never back down and to continue to build up the tension and the aggression, and the interesting dilemma that this guy is in all the time. So although it is a challenge to do that, having seen the short film, we just had the world crumble around him. He gets fired, he loses custody. I realized that it was going to be far more interesting to watch this guy take all of his clothes off in a parking lot and get fired than at the funeral, possibly.

Yeah, I love the part in the opening scene where they’re trying to get that Hello Kitty boombox to work and he’s like, “Should we just call the manufacturer?”

Yeah. Yeah, that was one of my favorites, too.

Do you have a favorite scene in the film?

Yeah, I really like the scene of me getting fired. I think that’s like, just a really awesome moment. And we get to see different sides of this dude. But it was also very similar to the short film. And I like that. I like the fact that there are a lot of similarities in the cinematography, the pacing, and the comedy and drama of that. And I think it stays true to the short film while also being something new and different and big. So I’m proud of that. It’s kind of like the sequel of the short film and I’m happy with that.

I think my favorite scene in the movie is at the ballet at the end. That’s probably what I’m most proud of because it’s so big and small at the same time. It’s like using the story that we’ve built up for the last 85 minutes or 87 minutes and then in these last few moments, you get catharsis. You get to watch this guy have a very important moment in his life in private in a ballet, and he’s crying and he has nobody to talk to about it. But it’s a lovely little moment. That’s probably my favorite moment of the movie.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Yeah. And how was it directing yourself with all the emotion you had to bring to the table? And was there ever a point in production where you thought you’d give up or did you just keep yourself steady on that high you’re chasing?

Oh, no. All the time. Yeah, I was always nervous that it wasn’t going to work. But we rehearsed it 1000 times. Like, at every moment of the day that I wasn’t doing something, I would go off at a Starbucks here, you know, into a parking lot and just act out some of the scenes and talk to myself and try and make it as good as possible. Um, but yeah, we shot it in 14 days in Austin. It was a very small budget. We were always nervous that something was going to go awry, and that’s the nature of independent filmmaking in America. So no, I was always nervous. And I’m not an actor. I’m not a trained actor at all. And so it kind of required me to rehearse a great deal. And in order to make sure that it was any good at all.

And at what point did you realize that you’re just gonna have to do this on your own as far as coming up with a budget with your team and the self distribution part of it?

Basically, whenever anybody who was supposed to be in charge of us or in charge of helping us out failed to do so. So like, you know, the production companies that had turned other very famous successful movies from short films into features were telling us no. So I was like, all right, well, there’s kind of nobody else to go to. Why don’t we just fucking– I guess we have to do it ourselves. And it was kind of better that way. We’d already done 10 short films independently and well, you know, this is gonna be nothing new. It’s just gonna be a longer duration.

How was the mindset changing from looking for the help that you thought you were gonna get to helping yourself and taking that ownership?

Yeah, ownership is something we talk about a lot. It’s not in the metaphorical sense, but in a literal sense of it. If you’re able to do it yourself, you own the thing. And really, the idea of getting greenlit in Hollywood is that they give you a little bit of money, and then they own the thing forever, and you don’t make anything off of it. And so although that sounds like the word “greenlight” is a really cool thing and success, it’s actually less successful since, you know, filmmaking has become more democratized. And so although our movie’s very small, we’re not spending a whole lot of money on marketing. We own the thing. And it’s our first movie. And it’s the first of many, and so I’m glad that we took charge. And we weren’t, you know, spectators of our futures.

We were able to say, okay, no we’ll put in a little bit more work, and maybe not even. The distribution of course is a lot more work. But you know we’ve had films, when I was a producer, we had films distributed and there’s still a lot of work, we still do a bunch of spreadsheets and do all these deliverables and pay a lot of money to get the DCP’s made and all that stuff. It’s no different from what we’re doing now. We just have to spend a couple more months doing other things too.

You mentioned before, I think, how you like to stand as you write and perform the script as you come up with it. So in your writing process, do you prefer to work in solitude? Or do you like to have those people around you to bounce ideas off of?

It depends on the script. So for the short films, for something like Parent Teacher or The Robbery, both of those were written and co written by my friend Dustin Hahn. And he is so much fun to work with because you just get to bullshit all the time and, like, come up with funny things to make each other laugh. And then that becomes the script. But then with this one, I wrote it for the first, few months, maybe the first month, kind of in private. And it was a very sad endeavor and I kind of wanted to do it that way. And I felt like I had to. I was crying a lot while writing and it was kind of a much more personal and private kind of experience in writing than many other things. But then I opened it up as soon as I had a first draft. I sent it to everybody and got good notes, and then it changed. We always say we’re building the plane while we’re flying it. So there were times where like, we’re actually on set and Dustin has a funny idea for a line, and we ended up using that instead of what was written on the page.

Are you like a meticulous planner or do you just prefer to go with the flow and let everything fall into place?

No, no, no. It’s gotta be planned out with long takes, specifically. It has to be like, everything has to be planned out because everything has to be in focus and if there’s anything that’s different or a stand out from the other takes, it’s not going to be in focus or it’s not going to work and everything has to be planned.

Yeah, and I actually just watched The Robbery the other night. I was like, how did I not go find this in his pile before?! It’s interesting. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Thank you. Yeah, so that poor girl, yeah. That’s funny.

She just wanted to save her pet.

Yeah, exactly.

So, juggling your personal life with work and passion, I can’t imagine it’s all that easy. How do you strike the right balance to ensure you’re keeping all the plates spinning?

Yeah, I might not be the best person to ask about that work/life balance. I’m not too good at it. And really, we have eight or nine projects going on all the time. So yeah, I struggle with it a lot, to be honest with you. I think really, work/life, I see them as both the same. I’m a filmmaker and I’m kind of the same person, you know, in the writing process as I am in the filming process. I’m just always trying to make something and get something going. So yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how I do it. I think it’s just project management. I have five producers who are really wonderful and keep us all on task and you know, keep me calm. It’s nice.

Well, that’s really good. And something I can’t shake since seeing Thunder Road and the press you’ve done for it is the need for more unique voices as your own and we here at JUMPCUT ONLINE, we’re super grateful for the opportunity to talk to you right now, because honestly, you’ve become a necessary voice in film today and your message and the things you champion just go on to validate every single filmmaker out there who just wants to turn their passion into a living and just ignore the industry standards. So I was kind of hoping you can expand on that.

Yeah, so I didn’t have anybody to do that, really. I heard Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass saying the kind of stuff like, ‘the cavalry isn’t coming,’ and, ‘you have to do it yourself.’ And I just saw that as this big endeavor. I didn’t know how to do anything. And so it scared me a great deal. And then I met a filmmaker named Trey Shults and he made a film called Krisha which is one of my favorites, and to see him making movies in his backyard with his family, you know, I’m sure John Cassavetes is doing the same thing, but it was so much more relatable to see him do it.

But he doesn’t have a Twitter account, really. And you know, he’s a very quiet person. He’s not a big braggart like I am. And so I feel like I was the only person who was really inspired by him and his story and his family, directly. And so, that’s what got me off the couch to make the Thunder Road short film, for sure. I was like, well shit, I get to be that now. And, you know, I get to pretend to be him and try to help people who were going through hell like we were, for years and years, trying to make projects, you know.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Yeah, and it seems like making a movie these days, really, when you think about it, it’s just as easy as grabbing your iPhone and just shooting the thing because Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh have clearly proved its capabilities, as of late. So going into what you’ve been working on lately, with the Short to Feature Lab, I was wondering if you can talk about its conception, how it all went down and if you’ve built some strong relationships with all 10 of your fellows as you guided them.

So yeah, the Short to Feature Lab was an invention of Benjamin Wiessner and mine’s. We  were talking about the toolbox that we have now of turning shorts into features. Our buddy, Danny Madden, turned his short Krista, which won SXSW, two awards at SXSW this year, into a feature a few months ago that Ben was the producer on and I’ve helped out on. Jocelyn DeBoer and Don Levy both shot the feature of Greener Grass, which was a short film at our production company as well, with the help of our producer Natalie Metzger for the Thunder Road feature. And, I don’t know. We just had the experience of doing that path of short-to-feature that we were like, well, why don’t we just start something to help people. We were so incensed that nobody would help us to turn our short film into a feature, despite the fact that we were good candidates for it.

Like, we know our short film is very, luckily, incredibly successful, and still, the channels of Hollywood were not there to help us out or catch us when we were falling. So it really just became this instrument of philanthropy for us of wanting to help people and we did it. We ran a Kickstarter campaign. We were able to raise almost $9,000 in total from donors and submissions, and we brought out these 10 filmmakers who have really cool short films.

Yeah, so we were able to meet these 10 filmmakers and bring them out to my parents’ house in Malibu and spend five days with them workshopping their features and just, like, giving them all of the tools that we learned how to do for free. We helped them with their Kickstarter campaigns or you know, just taught. There’s a lot of bullshit in the film industry and there’s a lot of strange old wives tales that get passed around. Like, one of our filmmakers said, “well, I need a million dollars to make my movie.” like that’s how much it’s gonna cost. Like, “everybody who I’ve spoken to said this is at least a million dollar movie.” But one of the arguments that the filmmaker made was, well this stuff happens. Movies get made. Like, people spend a million dollars on a movie, that happens, but it’s just, I’ve never seen it before.

And like, we’re doing fine. We’re making movies in the film industry. But there’s just these rumors that gets spread around that are very dangerous and can often make filmmakers spend years and years, and years not making movies, because they’re waiting for somebody to give them permission to or give them money to.

And it’s just a daydream that’s like, you know, verging on gambling addiction of wasting all this time and spending your whole life daydreaming that someone’s going to help you out and waiting for your boat to come in. And it’s just, it’s imaginary. And so really, reprogramming that kind of film school thinking was the first step and then walking them through Facebook ads, building your own audience, and all that stuff. It’s empowering the next generation of international filmmaking and I’m stoked about it.

Yeah, like going off what you said are the next generation of filmmakers, it sort of seems like the industry a lot of times is rigged against their best interest. So, it’s so refreshing to see how the Short to Feature Lab has been working, and you said it was five days that you took?

Yeah.

Were you able to fit in all the information and everything you wanted to teach them within that time frame?

Yeah, so the first evening were, you know, we were hoping to just have a meet and greet and then have the majority of the lectures and stuff the next day. But it very quickly turned into like, hey, you know, everybody had questions and so we were able to hang out by the fire that night, talk through stuff, and then have our full workshops the next day and then throughout the week. So the first three days of the five were mentorships and workshops where we had incredible filmmakers join up, like Derek Cianfrance, Rick Alverson and Sean Baker was actually really close to doing it, but couldn’t because he’s shooting a movie right now.

Frankie Shaw, Jocelyn DeBoer, Danny Madden. We have all these awesome filmmakers who took time out of their day to workshop these movies for these filmmakers that we paired them with, and it’s great. They are now on their way to making their movies. So that was the first three days. It was like, heavy workshops and hangout sessions. And then that afforded us two full days to just allow them to start working on whatever part of the project they’re on. So like some of them were writing scripts. Vishnu, who’s one of our fellows, spent the first like, day and a half workshopping, and then he spent the next three days writing the entire first act of his movie, which is really cool.

Same thing with Joey Izzo, he was workshopping his movie and writing out scenes and dialogue. It was a very, very cool collaborative process that we’re thrilled to do again and expand. We want to expand to other labs and do specific ones for sci-fi, or female stories, or LGBT stories, and basically anybody who needs help making their feature out of a short, we’re going to try and expand to.

Yeah, that’d be awesome if you guys expanded on that. And throughout the whole thing, the whole process of it, did you see a part of yourself in these filmmakers?

Yeah, sure. So like, I mean, they submit to me and I watch all of the films. So of course the movies are playing to my sensibilities, but they’re all original. Like, a lot of them are not the happy, sad kind of movies that I make. They just have really great craftsmanship. And that’s what I feel like most audiences respond to, is craftsmanship. So we picked movies that had a really great sensibility of cinematic storytelling. Um, but yeah, I was nervous showing up you know. It was Ben and me, and we’re like prepping and building the tents in the backyard and, you know, getting all the craft services and stuff. And we’re nervous that the filmmakers might not get along. But we picked the movies and all the movies were great. And so of course, they got along. They’re all now very good friends of ours, because they’re so cool, because their movies are cool.

That’s awesome!

Yeah, we’re lucky.

So what can we expect next from you and your team? How much can you tell us about your next project? I hear you’re working on a werewolf movie?

Yeah, I’m doing a werewolf movie right now with a major studio and then I am in development with a streaming platform to do a show about astronauts, which I’m really excited about.

That’s really cool stuff! I do want to stress how thankful we are for you as an emerging creative in general. Because seeing your strong success so far can actually go on to validate someone else out there who’s trying to lift their project off the ground, and as you say, anyone can do it, right?

So yeah, anybody can do it. Exactly right. Always keep that in mind.

Thanks so much for your time, Jim! Last question before I leave you, does pineapple belong on pizza?!

Absolutely not.


We really hope you enjoyed this interview with Jim Cummings! I encourage you to seek out his work and continue to support and talk about unique perspectives and what it really means to be fulfilled with your filmmaking and carving your own methods for success.

You can totally go ahead and pre-order Thunder Road on iTunes right now!

You can follow Jim on Twitter: @jimmycthatsme

You can check out all the amazing fellows and mentors Jim talked about on the Short to Feature Lab and be sure to check out Jim’s Vimeo page! There, you’ll find a couple of the shorts mentioned in the interview, as well as the glorious Thunder Road short, which inspired his feature length film.

Watch This Space #3

Another weekend arrives and you’re looking for a new pick to stream at home. We’ve got you covered. The JUMPCUT team have selected a new batch of recommendations for you. Below you’ll find some classic films you never knew were hiding just under your streaming radars, some hit comedy finds, and more!

Select Classic Cinema on Streaming

Amazon Prime, Netflix US/UK

Classic film fans often bemoan the lack of older films on the most popular streaming sites, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. To a large extent, this is true – there certainly isn’t as wide a selection as there should be. Classic Hollywood fans usually turn to TCM, Mubi and Filmstruck to get their fix. Kanopy is another source for those with a US library card. However, for a small rental fee ($2 or $3), there is much to be found on Amazon. In the last week, I have watched Sabotage (Hitchcock, 1936), Jamaica Inn (Hitchcock, 1939), Gaslight (Dickinson, 1940), Suspicion (Hitchcock, 1941), Gaslight (Cukor, 1944), The Lady From Shanghai (Welles, 1947) and The Wrong Man (Hitchcock, 1956)

I have watched these seven films for about $20, which isn’t far off the price of one cinema ticket in LA. Filmstruck isn’t compatible with my laptop, which is why I have to turn to Amazon for my fix. These films contain performances by Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Rita Hayworth and Henry Fonda. It is certainly something to have these stunningly beautiful faces beamed into your bedroom or living room. My favourites of the films I watched in the last week were Sabotage, which contains many classic Hitch hallmarks, even in the mid-1930s and Suspicion, which went in an unexpected direction. Of the two incarnations of Gaslight, I think I preferred the perhaps lesser-known 1940 version. I also watched a 2014 version of Jamaica Inn, starring Jessica Brown-Findlay, which is very different to the 1939 version, showing you how variable adaptations of novels can be.

Anyway, if you have an interest in older films and want to fill in some gaps in your classic cinema knowledge, doing some searching on Amazon could yield more results than you might expect. It is certainly worth seeking out films you may have heard of but never got around to. I’ve now taken the number of Hitchcock films I’ve seen up to 20 and the completist in me appreciates this! If you end up watching one black and white film (if you don’t normally) as the result of this, it will have been worth it. Get in touch with us at JUMPCUT if you do!

— Fiona Underhill

 

Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011)

Amazon Prime UK

Before John Boyega made it the big time in a galaxy far, far away, he was just a kid from the south end of London fighting aliens. Written and directed by Joe Cornish (the guy who originally wrote Ant-Man with Edgar Wright before that all went wrong), Attack the Block is an absolute gem of British sci-fi. Take an alien invasion, put it on a council estate, and mix in a teenage gang stuck with fighting them, you have a damn great time.

Attack the Block has the role that catapulted Boyega to stardom, classic British humour, great performances from the likes of Nick Frost and the 13th Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker, and beautiful creature design. It’s the kind of film that really should’ve also put Joe Cornish on the map as the next superstar British director because it’s such a creative, funny, thrilling ride. In a phrase, Attack the Block is an irreverent, British version of The Raid, but with aliens. Go watch it now, bruv. Believe it.

–Rhys Bowen Jones

Crazy, Stupid, Love (Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, 2011)

Netflix UK/ Amazon Prime US

As the October bells ring across the world, so begins the tradition that dictates the month is solely dedicated to horror movies. Although, when you think about it, that can be a lot of harrowingly dark, grim filmmaking to watch over the course of 31 days, so I think it’s wise to, mayhaps, break up the watching schedule with some light-hearted viewings – I opted, in this regard, for Crazy Stupid Love.

The 2011 release has become a much-loved, regular watch for many filmgoers, casual and serious, around the globe. Directed by Glen Ficarra and John Requa, the film revolves around Cal (Steve Carrell) and the aftermath of his wife (Julianne Moore) requesting a divorce. In the midst of this downward spiral of drunken nights, he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who takes him under his wing as some sort of twisted protege, and teaches him how to become a ladies man.

The script is delightfully lively and thrives off the natural strength of Carrell as a subtle but very effective performer, but most of all, Gosling in a hilariously deadpan role which shot him into comedic stardom. The pair’s clashing personalities are rife with chuckle-worthy moments, but at the film’s core, the message is wholesome – never give up on love, no matter what. Okay, back to demons, slashers and what not.

— Cameron Frew

 

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)

Amazon Prime UK

As the only available film of Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ on Amazon Prime UK, and the fact Halloween is just around the corner, now is the perfect time to revisit the horror-comedy cult classic. Featuring a host of British talent, including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, and Kate Ashfield to name just some, this comedy not only offers up laughs, but also throws in some emotional gut-punches that still hurt no matter how many times you’ve seen the film. Filled with lots of little horror references for fans of the genre, this zom-rom-com has something for everyone and, most important of all, features the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’s signature fence jumping scene – something that never fails to get a laugh from me.

Head to the sofa, have a cup of tea, put your feet up, and watch Wright and co. do what they do best.

— Tom Sheffield

 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Peter Sollett, 2008)

Netflix US/ Amazon Prime US/ iTunes US

When Norah (Kat Dennings) asks Nick (Michael Cera) to be her boyfriend for five minutes to mislead Trish (Alexis Dziena), she doesn’t realize this is the guy who’s been sending Trish post-breakup mixtapes. What ensues is a night of scavenger hunts, drunk friends, turkey sandwiches, and fluffy, young indie romance. Teenage me is swooning right now. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist found me just as I was discovering my real musical tastes. This film, completely harmless and carefree, carries one of the most infectious indie pop/rock soundtracks. Vampire Weekend, Bishop Allen, and Band of Horses follow you through the midnight hours as the group rush to find drunk friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) and make it to the secret rock band show on this New York night where the titular characters eventually fall in love.

Cera is fresh off the knockout success of Superbad and although you could argue he plays the same person in most roles, his Nick is the kind of emotional clutz that doesn’t seem overbearingly obnoxious and instead, makes a sweet pair with Dennings’ Norah. Before she became one half of the sitcom 2 Broke Girls, Dennings is the wallflower realist as Norah, who will gloriously throat punch someone if provoked. Flawed, sure. Need a charming indie rom com that isn’t 500 Days of Summer, then put this on.

— Jessica Peña


We hope you find what suits you this week. Don’t forget to let us know what you watch and tweet at us! Happy streaming!

Watch This Space #2

Another Friday, another weekend ahead to fill with films! Over the past couple weeks the team have been watching a whole range of different films on various streaming platforms so they can recommend you some hidden gems, as well as films that totally deserve another watch.


Chronic (Michel Franco, 2015)

Netflix US

If you are in for a depressing watch, Chronic will be for you. Directed by Mexican director, Michel Franco, Chronic tells the story of David (Tim Roth) who is a top tier home care nurse for terminally ill patients. He develops close relationships with his patients, which on some occasions is a good thing, and on some not so much. Not to mention outside of his work, he deals with separate familial issues and personal ones, just as we all do. It premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and Franco ended up winning best screenplay for it at the festival as well. A truly heartbreaking and real view into the life of a man working with people at the end of their own.

Fernando Andrade

 

Crooked House (Gilles Paquet-Brenner, 2017)

Amazon Prime US

Featuring an all-star cast, this Agatha Christie adaptation is worth your time if you’re into beautiful houses and beautiful costumes. It stars Max Irons (Riot Club) as a private detective who is employed by an ex-girlfriend to investigate her wealthy grandfather’s death in the late 1940s English countryside. The cast includes Terence Stamp, Glenn Close, Christina Hendricks, Amanda Abbington and Gillian Anderson in a fabulous black bobbed wig and glamorous outfits. The plot gets increasingly ridiculous as it goes on and of course, everyone’s a suspect, but the titular Crooked House is a stunning turreted affair and the whole thing is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Everyone involved is hamming it up to the nines, but it’s still more enjoyable than that horrendous Murder on the Orient Express film that we got last year. I would cheerfully be murdered by Hendricks or Anderson, especially in period costume, so allow them to seduce you too and check out this gorgeous film.

Fiona Underhill

 

Miss Sloane (John Madden, 2016)

Amazon Prime UK/ US

Have you accepted your lord and saviour Elizabeth Sloane? If you haven’t, that probably means you haven’t seen Miss Sloane yet. Jessica Chastain is Elizabeth Sloane, the most sought-after and formidable lobbyist in DC. When she decides to work for a group that are lobbying for stricter gun laws, the opposition will use any means to bring her down. Miss Sloane is stylish, tense and exciting. It’s got all the best bits of a political thriller and Jessica Chastain’s wardrobe is amazing. Elizabeth Sloane is that wonderful kind of character that is pretty unlikable due to the fact she uses people, but she’s also incredibly compelling due to being so smart; it’s like if lobbying was a chess game, she can see all the pieces and possible move and countermoves before her opponent makes them. I love the character, Jessica Chastain and the whole film, and can’t recommend Miss Sloane enough.

Elena Morgan

 

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014)

Netflix UK/ US

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers yet another superb performance in Dan Gilroy’s dark crime thriller, Nightcrawler. Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a freelance journalist struggling to sell his photos to a major news channel. In order to beat the competition, Louis begins crossing moral borders to snap the best pictures, including tampering with crime scenes and sabotaging his competitors. Nightcrawler also stars Rene Russon, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton and if you haven’t watched it yet, I really can’t recommend it enough.

Tom Sheffield

 

Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)

Netflix US/ Amazon Prime US

Take the best notes of sharp horror, thrillers and curious storytelling and you’ll land on something peculiar. Such is the feel in Matt Reeves’ Let Me In, a remake of the Swedish Let The Right One In, where a bullied young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) finds a friend and ally in a mysterious young girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who lives in his building. Set in very dreary, cold, and ominous tones, the film gives us somewhat of a glee: the precious friendship that forms between the two main characters, set along the growing suspense of her vampiric identity. Moretz has a unique, devilishly pure presence and the film, although a bit slow-burn, is a fascinating flick for your thriller/vampire needs.

Jessica Peña

 

Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)

Amazon Prime UK/ US

Today’s idea of a blossoming love affair is so boring. Not that the relationships aren’t fulfilling, or that the couple’s don’t utterly adore each other, but there’s not much of a story in, say, the swift right flick of your thumb, as is the case for some. Linklater’s first film in the widely (and rightly) acclaimed Before series is a wistful, heartfelt letter to the kind of fantastical brief encounter that not only you’d probably only dream of, but has also been lost in the revolution of technology and communication.

As the film opens and moves down an everyday train carriage, gently honing in on Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), there’s already a keen intrigue in the air. But from Jesse’s first act of courage, actually speaking to her, you know a fuse has been lit. It’s only as the pair begin unravelling each other’s personalities, talking about nothing and everything as they freely wander the gorgeous streets of Vienna, the sparks grow bigger and brighter. This is a story of true, pure love, and as they fall deeper, so will you.

Cameron Frew


 

We hope you enjoyed our first bunch of recommendations! If you do watch anything we’ve recommended this week, be sure to let us know on Twitter – @JUMPCUT_ONLINE

Watch This Space #1

Welcome, one and all, to the only reboot that matters this year! We’re excited to be bringing back Watch This Space – with some big changes! WTS was a weekly feature in which the team would scour UK TV guides and recommend films airing the following week. We figured we should catch up with the times and now our team will be recommending their favourite films and hidden gems on various different streaming platforms every other Friday so we can help you pick some films for your weekend!



Role Models (David Wein, 2008)

Amazon Prime UK

Tucked away in Amazon Prime’s catalogue is the 2008 comedy gem that is Role Models. The film stars the never-ageing Paul Rudd (Wheeler) and Sean William Scott (Danny) who, after Wheeler’s day continues to go from bad to worse after his girlfriend leaves him because he always focuses on the negatives in life, are both given 150 hours community service with a mentorship programme in which they both become ‘Big Brothers’ to two kids who struggle to make friends.

Role Models is still hilarious 10 years later and it’s the perfect Friday night comedy to end the week on. Bobb’e J. Thompson steals every scene he’s in as Ronnie and delivers some of the films most memorable lines, my favourite being his Ben Affleck insult to Wheeler – “Suck it, Reindeer Games”.  If you don’t have Prime UK I would still wholeheartedly recommend seeking this film out in your DVD/Blu-ray pile or other streaming sites if you haven’t seen it in a while -trust me, you won’t regret it!

Tom Sheffield

 

Cellular (David R. Ellis, 2004)

Amazon Prime UK

A new addition to Amazon Prime, Cellular is one of my favourite films. It has everything you could want; a young Chris Evans pre-superhero roles, Jason Statham as a proper baddie, and William H. Macy in a facemask. Cellular is about a high school science teacher (Kim Basinger) who is kidnapped, and after using a broken phone to call for help, she manages to connect to the mobile phone of Ryan (Evans). He’s her only hope of rescue and stopping the kidnappers going after her husband and son, and as Ryan gets into increasingly dangerous situations, Sergeant Mooney (Macy) gets involved. Admittedly the humour is very early-2000s (though “It’s a day spa you f*ck” is a fantastic line) but Cellular is still a fast-paced, action-packed film and it’s such a fun time.

Elena Morgan

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Akiva Shaffer/ Jorma Taccone, 2016)

Netflix UK

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping charts the rise, fall, and rise again of Andy Samberg’s superstar rap/pop royalty, Connor4real – real name Connor Friel. Connor’s musical career begins as a member of The Style Boyz, with childhood friends Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer), whose hit single, “Donkey Roll,” kicks off a global dance phenomenon. Their success is short-lived, as Connor’s immense ego – don’t let his song “I’m So Humble” fool you – causes rifts in the band. The hilarious mockumentary begins as Connor’s second solo album is due for release, following an unprecedentedly successful debut solo album. What follows is 86 minutes of absurdity, stellar cameos, and banging tracks – the climactic “Incredible Thoughts” being a real stand-out song. The Lonely Island (Samberg, Taccone & Schaffer’s real-life musical comedy troupe) at their riotous best.

Sasha Hornby

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

Netflix UK/ Amazon Prime UK

Quentin Tarantino is a notorious filmmaker. His movies feature an often polarizing level of violence, racist language and profanity. They’re often crafted within a stylistic inch of their life and regularly push terrible people as their main protagonists (Reservoir Dogs, for example). That’s what certifies Inglourious Basterds as his magnum opus – he focuses on the incredible story of Nazi-hunting covert soldiers deep behind enemy forces, rather than indulging in too many Tarantino-isms.

That being said, the dialogue comes thick and fast, as typically expected from one of his scripts, but it’s so densely packed with historically witty observations mixed with such naturalistic dialogue that the long running time flies by. The ‘Bear Jew’ is one of the most ruthlessly cool characters put to screen, and the opening sequence is the very definition of perfection. The way Christoph Waltz establishes an uneasy friendliness and instantly switches to a chillingly frightening stare is Oscar-worthy – funnily enough, he was awarded justly for his legendary performance. An unequivocal masterpiece.

Cameron Frew

 

The Mummy Trilogy (Steven Sommers, 1999, 2001. Rob Cohen, 2008)

Netflix UK

Brendan Fraser was king of the late-90s/early-00s, with his particular brand of dashing charm best epitomised in The Mummy Trilogy. Tales of mummified beings coming back to life have been told many a time, but few on as grand a scale, or with such a sense of adventure as The Mummy (1999). The charismatic cast of Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Oded Fehr and Arnold Vosloo, as antagonist Imhotep, reprise their roles for another rambunctious race-against-time in The Mummy Returns (2001). Sure, the third and final instalment, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) leaves a lot to be desired, but its valiant attempt at a different take on ‘ancient-all-round-bad-guy-comes-back-to-end-the-world’ has to be admired. Perfect for Sunday afternoon streaming.

Sasha Hornby

 

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2016)

Netflix US

As we await the release of her latest drama Destroyer this fall, it only makes sense that we go back and revisit Karyn Kusama’s 2016 gripping thriller, The Invitation. The film unveils a quietly reserved, but explosive performance from Logan Marshall Green as Will, visiting the home he once knew to attend a personal gathering invited by his ex-wife Eden and her mysterious new husband. As invitees, Will and his girlfriend begin to mingle over drinks, talk to other guests, but it’s when Eden and her husband show them a devastating piece of footage when Will’s lurking suspicions start to ring true.

A definite nail biting flick, The Invitation relies on the enclosing dread of not exactly knowing the people around you as well as you thought you did. Imagine this looming fear amplified by the uncertainty if you’ll even get out alive. With stellar performances all over from talents like Tammy Blanchard and John Carroll Lynch, this film is a pick worth your time.

Jessica Peña


We hope you enjoyed our first bunch of recommendations! If you do watch anything we’ve recommended this week, be sure to let us know on Twitter – @JUMPCUT_ONLINE