Friday, August 11, 2017

Clarity (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director/Writer: Peyv Raz
Cast: Dina Meyer, Nadine Velazquez, Tony Denison, Maurice Compte, Dana Melanie, Lourdes Narro, Geovanni Gopradi

Clarity will be available on DVD and VOD on August 22 2017. 

Peyv Raz's Clarity is an extremely impressive feature film directorial debut which is intense, thought provoking, meaningful and incredibly important in so many ways with a truly explosive finale. 

With it's tale of two world's colliding to save one girl's life, Clarity deals with many issues and themes on social, political and emotional levels. What begins as a film that looks like it could be light and fluffy with a feel good ending, deceives everyone with it's dramatic tension and ability to make you question the things you believed you always had an answer for.

Clarity is extremely well crafted from the very beginning with it's visual comparisons of a privileged life in Las Vegas as opposed to the simple, but harsh and hazardous conditions of rural Mexico. This comparison is one that is vitally important to the story, as the film is undeniably a tug-of-war of love and power between 20 year old Maggie's (as portrayed by Dana Melanie) adoptive American mother, Sharon (Dina Meyer) and her Mexican birth mother whom she was stolen away from, Carmen (Nadine Velazquez). In other words, it is the age old battle of higher and lower socio-economic classes taking place, but in the name of love for a girl both women love and care for with all their hearts. The terrifying social issue of human trafficking is here seen in the most personal of ways and shows the awful effect it has on the parents left behind.

This struggle is one that is evidently one-sided at the beginning of the film, as Sharon holds the upper hand by tracking down Maggie's birth mother and reuniting the two. It almost seems deceitful, as we know her intentions are not quite as simple as they seem, but makes you question what you would do in her place. It is a mother's love that makes her behave the way she does, and the intensity of a mothers love can often neglect rhyme and reason.

This power tends to shift throughout the film, and this is when Clarity takes an intriguing turn. The second half of the film is superior to the first half thanks to it's unexpected twist, unpredictability and outstanding performance by Nadine Velazquez. Velazquez commands every scene she is in and her strength of character is magnificent, especially in the way she changes so greatly in a way that still remains believable and truthful.

However, it is the finale of Clarity that lingers long in your mind. It is completely surprising, but also shrouded in the most gratifying sense of mystery that brings out the cleverness of Raz's screenplay.

Clarity has the ability to make you challenge your beliefs and see a horrendous, layered situation from two equally important sides. A film which is as important as it is captivating and entertaining.


Clarity - Trailer from Peyv Raz on Vimeo.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Trip to Spain (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 115 minutes
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio

The Trip to Spain will be released in Australia on August 3 (Madman Films) and the United States on August 11. 

As the third film in Michael Winterbottom's television-turned-film series, The Trip to Spain delivers exactly what it promises- more glorious food, stunning locations and hilarious celebrity impersonations.

The great thing about walking into The Trip to Spain is that you know exactly what you are expecting, as long as you have seen 2010's The Trip and 2014's The Trip to Italy. Britain's favourite comedy duo, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon once again set off on another culinary tour, which this time takes them to Spain. Their latest venture is an absolute delight in the same nature as it's predecessors, with the exception of it's extremely odd and disappointing finale.

The Coogan and Brydon films are all edited from their original form of a six episode series made for British television. The films have never really been about the plot and while this may be a monstrosity in most feature films, it is an accepted and celebrated part of Winterbottom's films. There are themes and sub-plots moulded into the film which are welcomed and push the film along, but they are not the focal point of the film.

That being said, it does not excuse the extremely bizarre ending to this film. The unexplained last scene is so left-field and far removed from the tone of the rest of the film that it gives a sour last impression. This is such a shame as for the other 110 minutes, The Trip to Spain is as much fun as Coogan and Brydon have over their enviable lunches.

The partnership of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is, once again, comedic brilliance. The chemistry between the two is so natural and their conversational humour (which is largely improvised) is witty, smart, hilarious and completely unforced. As both The Trip and The Trip to Italy became infamous for the celebrity impressions Coogan and Brydon so frequently and accurately do, The Trip to Spain is stacked with these impressions. While many celebrities make appearances in the men's conversations that have previously been there (including Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Roger Moore), there are some new additions that are just as funny such as  Mick Jagger and Ian McKellen among others.

The culinary delights and stunning Spanish landscapes are also highlights of the film. The six restaurants the two men visit all have incredible cuisine which photograph so well that they easily induce hunger in the viewer. The beautiful urban and rural Spanish towns which they visit are also shot beautifully and capture the charm and intrigue of the country.

The Trip to Spain is incredible fun and a delight to the senses. The hilarious conversations are memorable and do not lose their amusement long after the film has been seen, but in the same way the confusion and distaste for the finale also lingers.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

EXCLUSIVE interview with "Maid To Order's" Katie Carpenter!

Ahead of the second season premiere on July 27, we speak to the star of quirky new web series "Maid to Order". The series, which is based on actress Katie Carpenter’s life as a burgeoning actress, tells of two clueless roommates that start a fantasy maids service, battling urban Atlanta and their own denial of reality. Carpenter and Kendra Carelli star.

Season Two continues the story of two clueless roommates who start a fantasy maid service only to discover fantasy is just as hard to manage as reality. This time around, Margot (Carpenter) must maneuver urban Atlanta on her own as June (Carelli) faces her own obstacles in Los Angeles.

The creative team includes Kevin Welch (director, EP), Katie Carpenter (writer), Karen Felix (writer), and Eryk Pruitt (writer). For more,

We sat down to chat to creator and star, Katie Carpenter!

How long of a journey has this been for you? The idea started with you, I believe?
The idea started about two years ago. I just moved from North Carolina to Atlanta. I was a small town girl in a big city… with access to the Internet. I cruised for gigs on Craigslist and met some strangers. I saw ads for Fantasy Maids, and the pay seemed awesome- but I couldn’t do it. The idea for a character who was so desperate to succeed came to the surface, and the name of “Maid to Order” came not long after. I had no idea it was an 80’s movie until we’d already decided on it!

It’s all based on true experiences?
I would say it’s a fantastic experience inspired by truth. You know, like a Fargo-esque version of life in Atlanta when you’re trying to make it. 

Were you the outsider that came to Hollywood chasing stardom?
I’d actually never been to LA until this year (at least as an adult). Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I was very intimidated by LA and I never thought it would be possible for me to live there. Then when the film tax incentives got cut in NC, I had a choice. I decided to make the leap to a smaller and closer pond- but I had no idea how much Atlanta was going to grow when I decided to make it my home. We were the number one place in the WORLD to make movies in last year! 
But definitely- still chasing those dreams. The industry is changing though and the Southeast is creating a name for itself as a place with plenty of resources. If the opportunity arose to work on a show in LA, I would be grateful for it but I hope to continue to work and thrive in Atlanta.

Where did you shoot?
The first season was shot in Atlanta, the second season was shot in Atlanta as well as Los Angeles. Part of the reason for the split shooting is that our other lead actress , Kendra Carelli, now lives in LA. So we made the decision in the story to actually have her character live out there while Margot stays in Atlanta. 

How has the reaction been to the first season?
People have been very supportive. I’ve had strangers come up to me in Atlanta and tell me they’ve watched the show, which is pretty incredible. We’re not super well-known outside of Atlanta (and a little bit in LA), but it is refreshing to hear that we have viewers of all ages. 
A lot of people of mentioned particularly how much they love the characters, and the world we put together. I think people respond to the show because they recognize very human qualities, wants, and needs but in larger-than-life, outrageous situations. 

Has it opened doors for you?
Yeah! One of my favourite stories to tell is that two casting assistants watched our series and loved it, so they showed it to a casting director. She watched it- then brought me in for an audition. This was the first time I was asked to audition for her. It was for a very fun and quirky character, and I ended up booking the role. I’m not sure that would have happened if I wasn’t on their minds. I encourage other actors- make your own work! Not only could it lead to potential work but it also makes you so much stronger as a performer and gives you an understanding of all the other elements that make a project great; the casting process, camera, lighting, wardrobe, etc. 

Can you tell us what we can expect in season two?
Margot and June are living different lives across the country from each other but somehow they still manage to get into trouble. Margot joins a regimented cleaning service but it’s clear she’s not a fan of being bossed around. Two audience favorites reappear from last season and Margot ends up in the middle of a turf war; does she choose to stay in Atlanta and fight or flee to June in LA?!