As Above, So Below (Review)

 

As Above, So Below immediately recalls memories of other films, such as the underwater, cave-dwelling Sanctum, and the far-superior Descent, which focused on conversations between characters while they were trapped in equally-nonlinear caves.”

 
by Steve Pulaski

Whatever miniscule shred of curiosity I had to explore lost cities of the underworld through narrow passageways below the surface of the Earth has eroded after seeing As Above, So Below. The film involves two ambitious college students (Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman), who romanticize the idea of what could be located in the catacombs beneath Paris, and decide to locate a few guys in a Parisian nightclub to take them spelunking underneath the city. It isn’t until they travel so deep into the catacombs, wedging themselves through tight spaces and nonlinear passageways, that they discover visions of their past that begin to haunt them and toy with them in every way possible. All they wanted to do was find reportedly lost treasure; what they got was an experience worth yet another found-footage film.

As Above, So Below immediately recalls memories of other films, such as the underwater, cave-dwelling Sanctum, and the far-superior Descent, which focused on conversations between characters while they were trapped in equally-nonlinear caves. I used to believe the beauty in these kinds of one-setting, claustrophobic horror films was that, because they are limited geographically, they have to loan themselves to developing the next potential thing, which is character relations and dialog, two things that are often forgotten in horror films. However, with the cheapening of the horror genre by countless found footage films that take the opportunity to obscure and muddle all the events rather than taking that next step I mentioned, that kind of optimism is crushed on arrival when one witnesses how many found footage horror films choose to present themselves in their first few minutes.

As Above, So Below
Directed by
John Erick Dowdle
Cast
Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge
Release Date
29 August 2014
Steve’s Grade: D

As Above, So Below is more interested in showing its interesting and potential-ridden setting through a lens of obscurity, often lacking in proper lighting and camera stability in order to give the depiction of the catacombs of France the level of visual clarity they deserve. It’s automatically understood that underlit places like the catacombs are difficult to film accordingly, given the tight conditions and the low amount of natural lighting. However, when the camera is consistently shaking, warding off all hope and idea of time and placement, that’s when a film descends into mediocrity. One of the most important aspects of a film is being able to see what’s going on, and As Above, So Below fails to cater to that necessity quite frequently.


Yet, when we can see what is occurring in the film, we realize we’ve been granted with a psychotic acid trip of a subterranean horror movie. This is the Insidious: Chapter 2 of found-footage horror films, being narratively wacky and sometimes frustratingly chaotic in an attempt to be frightening or scary. Even in a sea of indifference, two particular scenes stuck out to me as fantastic in the film. One involves a character being stuck between dozens of human bones and a wall, with the character being stuck on his stomach and only able to move his head and lightly kick his legs. The scene is terrifying because director John Erick Dowdle chooses to keep us, the audience, stuck with this character, and the entire scene takes on a new life after that. Another great scene comes when the characters enter a chamber and are deafened by an ear-piercing sound coming from who knows where? The commonality between these two scenes is that we are positioned in the center of what’s occurring and can clearly see what is happening. Most of the time, we are as lost in the characters, and not in the good way.

There’s little to say about As Above, So Below because there’s very little to invest in: the characters feel one-dimensional and simple, their goals are difficult to describe and articulate, the visuals are all a muddle, so even the cinematography cannot be credited as a buoy to the film’s quality, and the environments of the film are far too underlit to appreciate. This is the last thing I’d expect from director Dowdle, who impressed me ten-fold with his film The Poughkeepsie Tapes, a film that was advertised quite ubiquitously in 2008 before mysteriously being pulled from theaters, never to be released theatrically or commercially on DVD. I found a copy years later on the internet and just had to dive into a four-year-long curiosity. If you ask me, the film that should’ve had the aforementioned faith is the one in theaters now.

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 10 – Finale (Recap)

Thank You (Spoiler Warning)

I wouldn’t say this is the series finale I was looking for exactly–I envisioned a bit more bloodshed and sex–but it did at least leave me feeling mostly satisfied with the outcome. There were certainly some disappointments, and that wedding felt like a whole lot of filler to me, rather than an important part of the story that just had to be told in detail. Bill Compton is practically dying on his feet but they went through with saying a load of vows instead of a quick “I do!” to seal the deal between Hoyt and Jess!

There were several other items that made this episode feel rushed; things I’d never noticed before in any other episode. The writing for the last few episodes involving the yakuza really did feel like an afterthought that everyone just lost interest, particularly towards the end. Eric and Pam are free to simply walk around after their apparent betrayal of Mr. Gus?! And because of this they managed to pull off their little stunt with Sarah Newlin. Then, of course, Gus lasted only a few more seconds, meaning his unmemorable time in the show was finally over. I expected some action when the yakuza arrived at Sookie’s, however, Eric performed his vampire Clark Kent act and made short work of the killers, putting an end to all claims the yakuza had on their partnership and Sarah Newlin.

True Blood
Created by
Alan Ball
Cast
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Chris Bauer, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Nelsan Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston
Episode Release Date
24 August 2014
Ed’s Grade: B

Bill gets his chance to explain to Sookie why he’s allowing himself to die the true death, which she more or less seems to accept, but when Bill asks Sookie to kill him and in the process, give up being a fairy, that’s something she’s not prepared to listen to, so she kicks Bill out.

Back at Bill’s, Jess and Hoyt turn up and Bill begins to get all fatherly over Jess. He outright puts Hoyt on the spot by asking if he plans on proposing to Jess. Bill always wished he was able to give his own daughter away all those years ago, and thanks to him already having been turned by then, he never could. Jess and Hoyt call Jason and Sookie for help to arrange the wedding ceremony so it can take place that very day, and that’s exactly what they do.

At the wedding, Andy uses his power as sheriff to perform the ceremony, although, it’s still not legal, but he goes through the motions anyway, while the bride sheds red tears. It’s during the exchange of vows Sookie can hear Bill’s thoughts for the very first time, and what he’s saying helps Sookie make her mind up about helping Bill die.


As I mentioned at the start of the article, the show felt rushed and the writing wasn’t all that sharp. I’m also pretty sure they reused shots from old episodes, and the continuity with Hoyt’s shirt and tie when he and Jason were preparing for the wedding, was pretty annoying. Jason made up for it a little by giving a dumb speech where he tells Hoyt to “keep everything in prescription” instead of “perspective,” even though it did feel a bit contrived rather than well written.

Sookie has agreed to kill Bill (no pun intended) and the pair meet at Bill’s old, but freshly dug grave to carry out his dying wish. Bill lays in his old coffin while Sookie calls up her ball of fairy-light, however, Sookie tells Bill she can’t give up who she is. This means Sookie has to kill Bill the old-fashioned way, using a pointed stick. Bill bursts like a blood-filled balloon, leaving Sookie upset and drenched in Bill’s blood.

The end of the show is spread over several years and taken up with Eric and Pam’s new business venture, then finishes on all the Bon Temps survivors, along with their new kin. Eric and Pam are shooting a TV commercial for their new product “New Blood.” Jump three years and we’re shown how Pam and Eric have became huge success in the stockmarket, as their stocks start making mega-bucks. Suddenly we’re at Fangtasia, where Eric is once again sitting on his throne. In the basement a vampire is drinking blood from a chained-up Sarah Newlin, for the sum of $100 thousand for one minute.

During the making of the “New Blood” commercial, they gave a story about how Sarah escaped but cut herself in the process, and after thankfully finding a few drops of Sarah’s precious blood, their scientists were able to synthesize it. They have one of the most hunted for and valuable humans in the world, in the Fangtasia basement, where they’re selling her blood for a lot of money. But they already have a huge fortune, making more every day. It just seems a bit odd to have all that wealth and still run a small club, and odder still to have Sarah Newlin–whose face is gracing every can of New Blood–in their basement, on tap. Is Eric keeping close for Sookie’s sake? Who can say.

A heavily pregnant Sookie has a whole lot of guests sitting round a large table in her garden. Sam and his family are there; Jason and Bridget Stackhouse with their three kids, too. Basically, everyone who mattered in the show that are still alive, have turned up for Thanksgiving, but we never get to see the face of Sookie’s man. Everyone finally gets to be happy in the show… except Sarah Newlin. She’s chained by the wrists to the basement roof, going slowly insane, with a talkative Steve Newlin to keep he company.

The finale could have been a lot worse, although, it could have been a lot better. It felt rushed in a way it’s never felt before, like they couldn’t wait for it to be finally over, and that’s the memory I’ll have left of a show that started out brilliantly, but couldn’t last the pace. This last season has been entertaining, and even showed hints of what made it great to begin with. It’s probably for the best that it’s over with, and the fact they didn’t blow the finale is a huge bonus. But it was a close call. The Eric and Pam arc is ripe for its own show, yet, I rather doubt it would ever happen. Oh, well.

by Ed Blackadder

An Interview with Actress Kristina Anapau

Theatrically trained at London’s Royal Academy, no less, model turned actress/writer Kristina Anapau, graciously spoke to Influx Magazine about her latest movie Altergeist.

Written and directed by Tedi Sarafian (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), the stunning Kristina Anapau has the starring role in this new sci-fi/horror, where she plays Theresa, one of six ghost-hunters investigating a local winery. You can visit the Altergeist website here: www.altergeistmovie.com.

Kristina is as comfortable on the large screen–Black Swan, 5 Souls–as well as the small–House M.D., Monk, but most will remember her memorable turn on True Blood, when the actress gave that fantastic performance as Maurella.

by Nav Qateel

Nav Qateel: What attracted you when you read the script for Altergeist?

Kristina Anapau: I was really drawn to the character of Theresa—her strength and intuition. It’s not always easy to find well-developed female characters who are empowered without being a b**** and still vulnerable without being a victim. Tedi Sarafian (Terminator 3, Tank Girl) writes really beautifully developed characters.

NQ: Can you tell us a bit about your character Theresa, and how she compares to other characters you’ve played in the past?

KA: Well, she is pregnant in the film! That seems to be a theme for me [Anapau’s character, Maurella, on HBO’s True Blood was pregnant in season 5]. I do feel like so many projects are written with the majority of the female roles tied intrinsically to a male in the film somehow—the girlfriend of, or the so and so of. Theresa exists independently of the existence of any particular male character, and that made her even more expansive and fun to delve into.

NQ: Was playing Theresa as physical as it appeared in the trailer?

KA: It was a very physical shoot, yes. I did a lot of running, take after take—I think I lost about 10 pounds by the end of the shoot! In addition, being scared and/or crying while you run is additionally taxing! I always felt really great at the end of the more physical shoot days though—being so physically and emotionally expressed can really induce a feeling of euphoria!

NQ: How long was the shoot and what sort of schedule did you guys have; were you kept busy?

KA: The shoot was about a month up in Sonoma and we shot mostly nights, which I loved. I was kept very busy, but enjoyed every minute of it.


NQ: Writer-director Tedi Sarafian is well-known for writing some great characters. How closely did you and he work on your own character, and were you encouraged to improvise?

KA: Tedi and I worked a lot on Theresa both before and during the shoot, and yes, the actors were allowed to improvise if appropriate within the scene. There were a few scenes in the film that were strictly improvised and one of my favourite moments of Theresa’s is in one of them. It takes place during the scene in the movie theatre with Dax.

NQ: Did you shoot in an authentic winery?

KA: Yes, we shot on location at Korbel Winery. It was absolutely beautiful—there were a lot of times where I got out of my car after arriving to set around magic hour, looked out over the vineyards, and thought, “THIS is where I work?” The grounds at Korbel are really spectacular.

NQ: Your next film is also horror, titled Two Faced, and is due for release early next year. Is horror a genre you enjoy working in and do you have a preference?

KA: I wouldn’t say I seek the genre out—I look more for great characters and if they happen to exist in a horror film, I don’t mind. From an acting point of view, I do like the heightened emotion of the genre.

NQ: True Blood has just aired its final episode. What was it like to be part of such a popular TV show?

KA: It was a dream come true. Alan Ball is a genius and working on such an iconic show with him was an amazing experience. The cast and crew were all so incredibly talented and wonderful to work with. Definitely one of my favourite experiences of my career.

NQ: Would you enjoy the steady work a long-running TV series can offer?

KA: Absolutely. One of the nicest things about being on a series is that it usually really feels like a family. I think because I was an only child and missed out on the dynamic of a big family, I really thrive in that environment.

NQ: So far in your career, which character has been the most interesting to play?

KA: I’ll have to go with Maurella on True Blood. How could I not with that birth scene at the end of season 5!

NQ: In the criminally underappreciated 5 Souls you play Jessica, a blind patient who has these little talks with Noah (played by Ian Bohen). I thought you performed that small part wonderfully. How did you prepare to play a sightless woman?

KA: Thank you so much. It was a wonderful film to be a part of. I studied at the LA Braille Institute for a few weeks prior to filming with the same woman who trained Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman. I have always felt like getting to do the research in preparing for a role was the payment for doing it, and that was definitely the case with 5 Souls.

NQ: Do you have anything else in the works you can share with our readers?

KA: I’m launching a company this Fall called Color It New! It’s an incredible fashion product that has been a few years in the making and is going to change people’s closets forever! I can’t wait to share it with the world in a few weeks. Readers can go to www.coloritnew.com, Facebook and Twitter to learn more!

Thank you, Kristina Anapau.


Into The Woods (Theatre)

RAVISHINGLY IMAGINATIVE PRODUCTION OF SONDHEIM’S INTO THE WOODS BEWITCHES AT SAN DIEGO’S OLD GLOBE

Storytelling is the heart of theater.  In their warmly-received yet mix-reviewed work from 1987, Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book) tackled storytelling at its classical core.  Their Into The Woods presented fairy tales from the Grimm Brothers accented with perspectives from Sigmund Freud and Bruno Bettelheim.  The work was complex — and combined with the original Broadway production’s overblown whimsy and post-modern preciousness – the result was a mixed bag of excess and confusion.  It seemed ironic to me that for a work whose featured anthem song was titled “Children Will Listen,” the overworked production made it hard to listen to the play’s message without feeling exhausted and preached to.  But that was then.

Almost thirty years later and back at San Diego’s The Old Globe, where the work originated prior to its initial Broadway run in 1986, Into the Woods has been reworked in a spare and inventive revival by the innovative talents of Fiasco Theater, an ensemble theatre company created by graduates of the Brown University M.F.A. Acting Program.

Fiasco Theater specializes in undressing icons in theatre’s revered canon, and their past presentations of reworked classics have garnered glowing reviews.  [Cymbeline, Measure For Measure, and Twelfth Night.]  Into The Woods is their first endeavor in tacking a modern classic.  From the perspective of this reviewer, it is a masterwork.   [At the outset, let me tackle the issue of the company’s odd name.  It seems that the term originated as a description of commedia dell’arte performances that went horribly and hilariously wrong.  In picking the name for their company, Fiasco Theater believes that “only when artists are brave enough to risk a fiasco do they allow the possibility of creating something special,” and the name serves as a daily reminder to brave the huge risks inherent in discovering huge rewards.]

In their press materials, Fiasco Theater states “Sometimes you can’t perceive the true beauty of something until you’ve seen it naked.”  For Into The Woods, Fiasco deconstructs the work, digging deep into the material and rediscovering its emotional center.  The new production at The Old Globe feels fresh, exciting and different.  By keeping it simple, the complexity of the work is revealed.  Like a brilliant diamond under the hands of a skilled cutter, Fiasco brings out Sondheim’s clearest cut, color and clarity of lyrical wordplay.  And at the heart of the production stands the necessity to tell a story.  The necessity for storytelling as a means to understand, to create, to learn, and to pass on.

Most of the characters of our “once upon a time” are here.  Rapunzel is here, as is Jack and his beanstalk.  Cinderella and her stepsisters, along with Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, are here too.   There’s even the obligatory wicked witch.  But now they are treated as contemporary types — Jungian archetypes if you will — working their way from an embryonic enchanted forest to a state of matured disenchantment.   So, as these classic childhood icons ricochet through the woods in pursuit of their own needs and wants, their deepest yearnings are revealed.  And the depths they will take to reach these wants are questioned, tested, and explored.

In the end, Into The Woods has always been about how the lessons of the childhood fairy tales we all heard as children reverberate within us in our adult lives.   Under the lens of Sondheim and Lapine, these cautionary tales become a sort of roadmap of what lies ahead, and of the choices we make in our adulthood.  Some good, some not so good.  Lessons learned and not learned.  Life is both ordinary and astonishing; both flawed and perfect.  Life is messy.  Mistakes abound.  And as Mr. Sondheim reminds us, we must honor our mistakes.  For people who look and listen —  as Mr. Sondheim so affectingly compels us to do – the world is beautiful indeed when we honor these mistakes.


Unquestioningly, the underlying material is a masterwork.  Complex.  Provocative.  Timeless.  Under the hands of Fiasco Theater, Into The Woods transforms into the masterpiece that it is.  I loved the complexity of the scaled-down presentation, where full orchestra, standard casting, and even the hyper-skilled singing voices of traditional musical theater are thrown out the window.

In lieu of the traditional orchestral accompaniment, this production presents an old-fashioned upright piano played onstage by Matt Castle, who also served as the production’s musical director and drafted the pared down orchestrations.  As a touch of whimsy, cast members enhance the work musically by picking up scattered musical instruments like French horn, guitar, cello and other woodwinds on lyrical cues.

Instead of the usual cast of 18 players, Fiasco presents actors in multiple roles, with a number of deliciously wild doubling.  And the cow, Milky White, is now anthropomorphized and effectively played by Andy Grotelueschen.   Genius.

When pages of stray sheet music turn into magical birds, you know you are witnessing the true essence of magic theater.  Hats off to co-directors  Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, who are also co-founders of Fiasco Theater.  As The Old Globe’s artistic director Barry Edelstein states, this production “is proof not only of the enduring strength of this musical, but also of the power of simple theatrical storytelling to work wonders.”

Fiasco Theater Company masters the skill of storytelling.  What a brilliant choice to rework Sondheim’s much-maligned classic.  After it leaves The Old Globe, Into The Woods is scheduled to run in New York at the Roundabout Theatre.  Catch it at either venue!

Into The Woods plays at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage of The Old Globe Theatre from July 12  to August  17, 2014.   Contact:  (619) 23-GLOBE (234-5623); or see http://www.oldglobe.org/

Armin’s Grade:  A+

by Armin Callo, Theatre & Arts Critic

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Love Is to Die (Spoiler Warning) This has been the best episode I've seen in quite some time Read More→

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Psympatico (2014)
Psympatico (Review)

  "Do yourself a favor and rent You’re Next for a fresh take on the tired genre and let this cabin remain Continue→

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Interviews with Mike Kravinsky and Blair Bowers I recently spoke to writer/director Mike Kravinsky and actress Blair Continue→

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Geographically Desirable (Review)

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Martin’s 100 Most Overrated Films, Part 1
Martin’s 100 Most Overrated Films, Part 1

Great reviews, interviews, articles and more!

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In the Spotlight:
An Interview with Yvonne Strahovski
An Interview with Yvonne Strahovski

Great interviews.

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Great reviews.

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Brian's Brain: Stark v. Kennedy

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Hot on Influx Magazine:
An Interview with Actor William Sadler
An Interview with Actor William Sadler

From established A-listers to up-and-comers, from the names you know, to the names you will know, read INFLUX the latest Influx Interviews.

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Influx Magazine Presents:
King Lear (Theatre)
King Lear (Theatre)

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Influx Exclusive Interview:

Influx Exclusive Interview:
An Interview with Actor Crispin Glover
An Interview with Actor Crispin Glover

INFLUX Interviews offer unique insight into the world of actors, directors, producers, musicians and many others in the various worlds of entertainment.

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INFLUX Interviews

Kristina Anapau
An Interview with Actress Kristina Anapau

Theatrically trained at London's Royal Academy, no less, model turned actress/writer Kristina Anapau, graciously spoke to More→

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Actress and writer Mary Elizabeth Boylan has been building up a steady and enviable list of film credits since 2008, when More→

GeoCast
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Interviews with Mike Kravinsky and Blair Bowers I recently spoke to writer/director Mike Kravinsky and actress Blair More→

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  Actor Eric Goins plays Larry in the new popular drama Halt and Catch Fire from AMC. The show features the talents More→

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An Interview with Uwe Boll (II)

  "I think most filmmakers are like actors - basically whores who sit there and wait till they can get paid to just More→

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An Interview with Aaron Eckhart

He was the antagonist to Batman in The Dark Knight! He's portrayed the President of the United States in Olympus has Fallen! More→

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Into the Woods
Into The Woods (Theatre)

RAVISHINGLY IMAGINATIVE PRODUCTION OF SONDHEIM’S INTO THE WOODS BEWITCHES AT SAN DIEGO’S OLD GLOBE Storytelling is the heart of theater.  In Continue→

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We are accustomed to seeing a movie because a star, director or we have to see latest sequel, prequel or remake or of a sequel to a prequel. It seems Continue→

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Top 10 Best Films For Cinematography (List)

We are accustomed to seeing a movie because a star, director or we have to see latest sequel, prequel or remake or of a More→

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