FILM: There Are No Goodbyes, produced in Erie, now available everywhere

There Are No Goodbyes posterLyons Den Productions is proud to announce the worldwide release of their new feature film “There Are No Goodbyes” through ThereAreNoGoodbyes.com. A story about choices and finding purpose in one’s life; the film is available for online rental, digital download, and on DVD. Writer/director John C. Lyons said of the film’s release “We’ve spent the last four years independently producing this film and we wanted to give people control of how and where to watch it. The film’s themes are global and being able to view it anywhere, anytime is exciting.” Through the Distrify service, Lyons Den Productions is now offering several choices to viewers:

Streaming HD Rental ($3.99 USD) 94 minutes
HD Digital Download ($9.99 USD) 94 minutes, DRM-free
HD Digital Download Deluxe Package ($12.99 USD) includes the film, 20 minutes of Deleted/Extended Scenes with Director’s Commentary, 7 minutes of Outtakes, and an Exclusive 14 minute Interview with actors Matthew King (Oliver) and Frederick Williams (Fenris) with never-before-seen footage. DRM-free.
Extended Cut DVD/CD Set ($21.99 USD) includes the 108 minute Extended Cut of the film, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Outtakes, and Limited Edition CD Soundtrack. Autographed. Only 1,000 units of the DVD/CD Set were produced.

“There Are No Goodbyes” is the second feature length film from the award-winning team at Lyons Den Productions who celebrated its World Premiere in April at the 40th annual Athens International Film + Video Festival. In addition to Erie and Pittsburgh PA, scenes were shot overseas in Poland, Czech Republic, and Ireland. The production was made possible in part by a Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit award and a successful online crowd-funding campaign.

For more information go to ThereAreNoGoodbyes.com.

For interviews and review screeners please contact Lyons Den Productions at info@LyonsDenProductions.net.

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FILM COMMENT: Trying to break the comic book mold

A feeling has been growing inside me for the past couple of years. Call it my movie-going Spidey-sense. I am becoming less and less interested in comic book and graphic novel adaptations. A genre staple at the multiplexes for some years now. This year alone I’ve passed on Iron Man 3, Bullet to the Head, R.I.P.D., and Red 2 (still haven’t seen Red either). Actually, let me rephrase that: I am not losing interest in the genre, I am losing faith in the Hollywood machine to do something fresh and creative with it. Two comic book films this summer have attempted to break the mold. To distance themselves from the formula of what we have all been trained a comic book movie needs to look like: Man of Steel and The Wolverine. The ambition, on paper, of these movies is admirable, but ultimately, in both of their final acts, they fall back into familiar, and therefor uneven, territory.

Man-Of-Steel-Henry-Cavill

As I’ve commented briefly before the production team behind Man of Steel was a perfect marriage of talent. Zack Snyder is a highly stylized, visual director who was made for comic adaptations (300, Watchmen). Christopher Nolan, who single-handedly brought new hope to the comic book genre with his Batman trilogy, was a no-brainer to oversee the production. David S. Goyer, who has written Nolan’s Batman trilogy as well as another favorite of mine: Dark City.  Throw the massive music of Hans Zimmer into the mix and you’ve got a godsend of talent. Man of Steel is a who’s who of everyone you would hope to be involved behind the scenes to carefully not screw up Superman.

On the other hand you have a different approach with Marvel’s The Wolverine. Hugh Jackman has now appeared six times as the character. Amazing. And a couple of those times have been in really terrible movies (The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine which everyone wants to forget ever happened). Something needed shaken up to reward Jackman and the fans with an effort worthy of the character. Enter James Mangold. The odd choice for director. His credits include 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, Girl Interrupted, and CopLand. Great films that have nothing to do with the genre. One of the two credited writers, Scott Frank, is also an interesting choice. He handled the screenplays for Minority Report, Marley & Me, and Out of Sight. It’s promising to see a studio hire diverse talent like this on such a big franchise.

The Wolverine

Both films start out ambitiously by establishing moods and bringing an emotional weight you rarely see in comic adaptations (outside of Nolan’s Batman trilogy). They also take their time to develop their characters and settings. Sure, there’s action, but when there is it actually means something. In Man of Steel you have Clark’s inner struggle to hide his true self while also wanting to protect the human race who has raised him. In The Wolverine, Logan’s dark past and guilt of having killed his true love have sent him into seclusion but unfortunately without being able to age (or die) he has no sense of purpose in his life. These setups are intimate, personal dilemmas, something the audience can focus on and breathes life into the characters. Something much more interesting than battling 1,000 faceless clones.

Man of Steel sets up our caring alien and the warm people in his life, it dazzles us with beautiful cinematography and a pounding score. It delivers some truly amazing action sequences in the town where Clark was raised (and where everyone knows everyone) and there’s a real threat there for the character and the safety of those around him. And then halfway through the film everything that’s been built up is thrown out the window for a bland, typical ending where Clark goes into a downtown section of a massive population and assists Zod in bringing every building down (seemingly killing thousands) around him while they have a pissing contest. We’ve seen this scene in nearly every superhero movie and in 45 minutes it nearly ruins everything in the film that has come before it.

Man-of-Steel-Trailer-Images-Henry-Cavill-as-Clark-Kent

Following a near-perfect opening scene in Nagasaki during the bomb drop, The Wolverine has an even quieter setup then Man of Steel. A real gutsy move but a welcome one. Logan is at his lowest point. Out in the woods, passing the time. When he comes out of hiding he struggles with involving himself in any kind of destructive situations. But a man from his past presents him with an interesting opportunity to become “normal” and mortal again. Of course this friend’s family is in danger and Logan finds himself caught in the middle. Along the way he meets a woman and starts to fall in love. The film builds a pretty solid emotional core by the time it reaches it’s mid-section and the love story doesn’t feel nearly as forced as it did in Man of Steel. Being a fan of the comics it was nice to see the meat of the film take place in Japan as well. A nice added dimension was threatening Logan with mortality and the potential for death. Unfortunately it didn’t play out as strongly as I would have hoped. The supporting cast of baddies (like in Man of Steel) are weak and underdeveloped too: the Poison Ivy-like “Viper” and the annoyingly flip-flopping “Harada”. On a much smaller scale The Wolverine eventually falls into the same cliche traps as Man of Steel in its finale. The lead-up is cast aside for empty spectacle and the ending literally goes nowhere.

TheWolverine2

I clearly don’t hate these films. I just feel genuinely let-down by the system that created them and I’ve started to give up on the entries in the genre that just aren’t bringing anything new to the table. Take the first half of Man of Steel and the first 2/3’s of The Wolverine and you have some really interesting themes and strong characters. Stand-outs in their genre. I know that not every superhero movie can, or should, be Batman, but I feel like it is still the only property that has been able to keep that balance of character, story, and spectacle. I hope that people tire of seeing the same ending tacked onto these big budget movies. I hope that sooner, rather than later, the mold is completely broken and a creative team is able to deliver an adaptation that sees it’s vision through until the end. No more half-assed, formulaic endings. Let’s get some emotion pay-offs worthy of some of these characters and their A-list stars. If you’re going to hire talent to make these films, let them think outside the box. Leave the hacks to the bland, dumb blow-em-ups. There are plenty of them.

So what do you think, dear reader? Hollywood has obviously found a formula that works. Are you satisfied with their superhero output recently? Am I right in craving more from these big budget adaptations or have I grown far too picky?

My Ratings for 2013:

The Wolverine – 7.5/10

Man of Steel – 7.5/10

Dredd – 7/10 *

The Amazing Spider-Man – 7/10 *

Oblivion – 6/10

* Released in 2012

I saw these films at Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17 Theatres on Peach Street in Erie, PA. Click for showtimes.

FILM: Summer 2013 Wrap-up Part One

pacific_rim_ver12_xlgPACIFIC RIM

8/10

Guillermo del Toro proves it is possible to make a giant, loud, fun robot movie. Time and time again other lesser filmmakers kept dropping the ball. The major difference is that Pacific Rim cares about story arcs and it’s characters. The attention to detail is there and it gets everything right. The monsters and robots on display feel appropriately huge and the effects are a major success in that every movement and battle feels massive and hefty. This isn’t groundbreaking cinema, but it’s not meant to be. This is big, dumb, fun and it absolutely is a success in an increasingly vast ocean of empty, stupid summer films. Where something like the Transformers franchise is more concerned with exploiting the next pretty female and force-feeding poorly written comedy bits, Pacific Rim knows its audience, knows what they want, and delivers. A fun time at the movies.

Man-of-Steel-Comic-ConMAN OF STEEL

7.5/10

I had immensely high hopes for Man of Steel. Going into the summer this was in my top three most anticipated of the season. The perfect marriage of talent to reboot such an iconic character. The casting was solid too. All the right pieces came together and the results were… a little disappointing. The first half is everything I had hoped for. Clark is given a warmth and emotional edge that is often lacking in comic adaptations. And the gravity of his situation and the threat to humanity is set up perfectly. It all builds to an amazing fight scene in a small town at the halfway point (one of the best action scenes I have seen in some time) but then the filmmakers sadly go into autopilot and the movie devolves into every other comic book adaptation: destroy a NYC clone where no care is given to the massive bystander body counts. Which completely contradicts every choice Clark has made up to that point in the story. By the time Superman and Zod start slamming one another into building after building I was completely checked out. These two characters can’t hurt one another, let alone damage their wardrobe, so what is the point of a 45 minute fight scene? Good overall, but a disappointing third act.

Mud-Final-PosterMUD

8.5/10

The triumphant return of Matthew McConaughey continues. It’s nice to have him back in films that aren’t part of the romantic comedy genre. And Reese Witherspoon too for that matter. Mud is one of those counter-programming summer movies that are a real treat and a nice breather amidst all the noise of the summer movie season. A slow burn dripping in Southern backwoods scenery. You can feel the sweat onscreen. Two boys find a man living in a boat up in a tree and you just know the guy has a past and it’s dirty. As the story unfolds you really start to feel for this character. Solid stuff all around. Well acted, well written. Definitely worth a rental when the time comes.

I saw these films at Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17 Theatres on Peach Street in Erie, PA. Click for showtimes.

FILM: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

The reboot of the classic series continues to improve and thoroughly entertains.

star_trek_into_darkness_poster_enterpriseOur Rating: 8.5/10

By: John C. Lyons

When the “Star Trek” franchise was rebooted yet again in 2009 I thought the end result showed a lot of promise. J.J. Abrams and his team brought in a fresh, young cast and beefed up the action in a beautifully shot package, but the film’s villain was weak. Thankfully, with the second entry, “Star Trek Into Darkness” those involved have really stepped things up another notch and managed to deliver not just an enjoyable summer flick but one that follows the Trek tradition of mirroring the issues of modern day society. After the events of the first film, and new terror threats from within, Starfleet Command struggles with transitioning into more of a militarized organization. I am becoming a big fan of actor, Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock” TV series), and he is a welcome addition here as the villain. He plays well off of Kirk (Chris Pine). The stakes are higher, the storyline darker, and yet somehow the writers were able to inject plenty of humor into the script as well. Ultimately the film is a great balance of drama, intense action, and humor, but it wasn’t without fault.

Besides an embarrassingly childish underwear shot of actress Alice Eve, there are a couple gripes I have that kept this film from being a popcorn classic. There are plenty of references to the original series to keep the diehards happy, and these little nods are cute, but they need to stop. I like the fact that writers have a level of respect for the original shows and films, but I feel at this point they have done two films that parallel those previous stories and now (if a third movie is made) they need to branch out on some original adventures. Their cast deserves it, and they have proven themselves worthy of removing the Trekkie shackles. Minor complaints and I am hopeful the series will continue strong even without J.J. at the helm. As it stands “Star Trek Into Darkness” is a great time at the theater and I highly recommend seeing it on a big screen.

I saw this film at Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17 Theatres on Peach Street in Erie, PA. Click for showtimes.

FILM: OBLIVION

OBLIVION (2013)

The follow-up to “Tron: Legacy” is similarly well-presented and under-written.

Oblivion-Movie-Poster-Tom-CruiseOur Rating: 6/10

By: John C. Lyons

I wish someone would hand director Joseph Kosinski a script of quality content to match his obvious visual design talents. In “Oblivion”, which is just over two hours long but feels like three, Tom Cruise (as Jack) essentially plays a live-action version of “WALL-E” where he flies around an uninhabited planet doing menial tasks and counting the days until he can meet the rest of humanity…somewhere. You see, after another species attacked Earth the planet was ruined and abandoned. Only Jack and his partner (in all things) Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) remain. Their mission: although the planet is dead Jack and Victoria monitor the extraction of its resources to use…somewhere. They can’t remember anything either because their memories were wiped (?!) but they soon find out not all is as it seems on Earth. To be honest I slowly lost interest in the story as it carried on. Sure there are twists. Some obvious. Some contradictory. Eventually more humans like Morgan Freeman (as Morpheus) and Olga Kurylenko (as the other love interest) show up, but they aren’t give much material to work with here. Kurylenko in particular just looks lost. You also get the classic action movie star ego moment where said star battles themselves on screen. “Oblivion” is great to look at, but it’s mash-up of sci-fi ideas stolen from much better movies and it just doesn’t work. With the cast they landed I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately it mostly disappoints. Worth a rent for sci-fi junkies.

I saw this film at Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17 Theatres on Peach Street in Erie, PA. Click for showtimes.

FILM: TRANCE

TRANCE (2013)

Director Danny Boyle takes a break from Oscar-bait and cuts loose a little in this above average thriller.

trance_ver5_xlgOur Rating: 7/10

By: John C. Lyons

“Trance” starts the viewer right off in high gear. We are dropped into an art auction that quickly takes a turn when the event is sabotaged and a painting is stolen. An auctioneer (James McAvoy) and a a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) get caught up in the middle and the film goes into a lot of unexpected and twisted places. Although not perfect, “Trance” is fun anomaly at the cinema. And it is a welcome entry in a genre we don’t see often anymore here in the states: the erotic thriller. The film is packed with style, twists, beautiful cinematography, punchy music, and rarely slows down to take a breath. If you have issues with some of the high concept aspects of the setup you may check out early, but for those looking for something fun, pretty, and a little different “Trance” is recommended.

I saw this film at Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17 Theatres on Peach Street in Erie, PA. Click for showtimes.

FILM 2012: THE BEST

This year’s list is larger than normal as I felt 2012 was such a grand year for film. So I’ve put together not only a Top 12 but included some other titles of note as well.  While I saw most of the top contenders this year, I did miss The Master, Les Miserables, CosmopolisRust and Bone, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the time of this post.

By: John C. Lyons

Top 12 Narrative Features 2012:

CloudAtlas1. CLOUD ATLAS (10) Completely snubbed by the Academy Awards, Cloud Atlas sits atop my list for 2012. A masterful achievement of editing and storytelling and an epic film that will continue to grow in support as the years go on. Sadly Warner Bros. pushed the DVD/BD release back to the summer. Hopefully it is to produce a great collection of special features. Read more here.

Amour2. AMOUR (9.5) I’ve found with director Michael Haneke’s films one viewing is enough as they are brutally powerful, emotionally draining, and usually scar me. These are all compliments, mind you. The perfectly slow-paced, heart-breaking “Amour” is no different. Deliberately paced and the subject of aging and death is a tough sell (believe me, I know) but for those who have the patience and strength to endure such material, the awards are massive. Read more here.

zero-dark-thirty3. ZERO DARK THIRTY (9.5) Director Kathyrn Bigelow is the big Oscar snub everyone will remember from this year. The Hurt Locker, my favorite film from 2009, was an intense, gripping thriller. Zero Dark Thirty follows the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden without pulling any punches… and the spin machine has somehow managed to dimish it because of this brutal honesty. Jessica Chastain is amazing…again.

TheImpossible4. THE IMPOSSIBLE (9) The 10-15 minute initial tsunami hit is the most realistic, brutal, scary sequence of a natural disaster ever created for the cinema. It’s raw, intense, overwhelming and an amazing feat of filmmaking. Naomi Watts earned her Oscar nod here. This one should have been recognized for achievements in sound and visual effects as well. Read more here.

beasts-of-the-southern-wild-movie-poster5. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (9) The story of a little girl named Hushpuppy, her daddy, and life in the “Bathtub”. Gritty, raw, real, and emotional. A great look at the human spirit and life in New Orleans in the face of disaster. The Best Independent of the year. I was actually surprised with how much love the Academy showed this film, but it’s a great step for independent film. Read more here.

Moonrise-Kingdom-poster6. MOONRISE KINGDOM (9) I am all over the map with Wes Anderson’s filmography, but Moonrise Kingdom is his best film yet. All the cutesy characters are still here, but in this story they are actually doing something interesting and going somewhere. Anderson is backed with an always solid cast (Willis, Norton, Murray, Swinton, McDormand) but it’s the young actors who really make this effort stand out.  Read more here.

argo-poster7. ARGO (9) A shockingly bizarre true story brought to the screen to near-perfection by director Ben Affleck.  This film is so well executed and polished you feel like you are right in there when it all goes down. As we get closer to Hollywood’s big awards night this one seems to be gaining momentum, and rightfully so. It’s entertaining, thrilling, and a nice slice of American history. Read more here.

killing-them-softly-poster8. KILLING THEM SOFTLY (9) Kudos to writer/director Andrew Dominik for having the balls to make a film like Killing Them Softly: a scathing cautionary tale on capitalism that features one of the best opening scenes and the best closing line of the year. I originally gave this one an 8 1/2 rating but it has grown on me over the months. I can’t wait to revisit it.  Read more here.

KillList_poster9. KILL LIST (9) This year one of my big personal discoveries was English filmmaker, Ben Wheatley. I rented his first film Down Terrence and was intrigued by the way he handled dark humor and violence. Then I watched his second film Kill List and I was completely stunned into silence as it started going into some really dark, strange, and  suffocatingly-twisted places. This film is a must-see for fans of films like “Old boy” and “Wicker Man”.

The-Raid-Redemption-poster10. THE RAID: REDEMPTION (9) The best, bad-ass action movie in years. Featuring great, natural choreography, amazing camera work, and a  solid complimentary score. If you loved Dredd, you owe it to yourself to see the superior version of the police trapped in a building of bad-guys concept. It’s great to see someone make a solid action movie again. It’s been a long time. Rent this movie immediately. Read more Here.

poster11. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (8.5) I was a fan of director David O. Russell earlier in his career and though I enjoyed The Fighter, I felt it was a watered-down version of the filmmaker. Silver Linings Playbook continues his transition into the mainstream (hey, everyone’s got to pay the bills) but has a bit more edge to it’s dialogue and is genuinely touching and sweet. A positive and often comedic look at mental illness. I am still not sure how I feel about a barely old enough to drink Jennifer Lawrence opposite  with forty year-olds, but she and Bradley Cooper play well with one another.

laurence_anyways_ver2_xlg12. LAURENCE ANYWAYS (8.5) My second filmmaker discovery of 2012: Canada’s Xavier Dolan. At just 23 years of age Dolan has already made 3 feature films that have played the world’s top festivals. Laurence Anyways presents a major step for the filmmaker. A melding of his style and serious substance. A fittingly-unique completion to his impossible love story trilogy, an epic stuffed with beautiful cinematography and powerful performances. We just showed this at FILM at the Erie Art Museum. If you missed it, you have a long wait ahead of you.

Best Blockbusters of 2012:

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (9)

PROMETHEUS (8.5)

Best Documentaries of 2012:

SIDE BY SIDE (9)

THE IMPOSTER (9)

Best Future Films (Coming in 2013): 

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (9)

THE DEFLOWERING OF EVA VAN END (9)

TO THE WONDER (9)

Pleasant Surprises and Runner Ups (in Alphabetical):

5 BROKEN CAMERAS, AI WEI WEI: NEVER SORRY, THE AVENGERS, THE BOURNE LEGACY, CABIN IN THE WOODS, CHASING ICE, ELENA, THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD, GINGER & ROSA.

HAYWIRE, INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE, THE INTOUCHABLES, THE INVISIBLE WAR, IT’S A DISASTER, KLOWN, LIFE OF PI, LOOPER,  OSLO AUGUST 31ST, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES.

A ROYAL AFFAIR, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, SOUND OF MY VOICE, THIS IS 40, and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.

Thank you for reading!