The stars came out for a very special screening of Restoring Tomorrow last week at the Laemmle Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. The screening of the never-before-seen, expanded film was in conjunction with the annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival.
Among those in attendance were actor Joseph Culp, recording artist and composer Craig Taubman, mogul Michael Jay Solomon and Stranger Things star Matthew Modine. Rabbi Steve Leder also attended joining Wolf for a Q&A following the film, as well as honoring famed LA architect Brenda Levin for her work on renovating and reconstructing the Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of the cinematic universe. Creating a universe goes a step further than the standard sequel. In a cinematic universe multiple films can exist. These films relate to each other beyond story continuity. They share the rules, characteristics, and history of the universe, but tell unique stories.
The most notable cinematic universe at the moment is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Since its inception in 2008 with the first Iron Man film, there have been several installments. Each adds layers of depth to this universe where superheroes and villains are very much a part of reality.
A more recent universe, known as the MonsterVerse, createsd a world in which Godzilla and King Kong, amongst other giant monsters, can coexist. In addition, Universal Monsters is kicking off this summer with the release of The Mummy and over time aims to bring all the classic movie monsters into the modern age in one shared cinematic universe. With our upcoming film Tar, we at Howling Wolf love the idea of the cinematic universes moving away from the superhero trend and into the world of monsters.
There are many reasons to enjoy these expansive big screen fictional universes. A universe allows for storytelling on a massive scale. In the MCU there are multiple storylines taking place concurrently. The Iron Man and Captain America trilogies may seem very different than the Guardian of the Galaxy films, but in reality they are all just pieces of a much bigger whole. Telling a story of this magnitude is something that audiences have never experienced before.
This cinematic universe format lends itself to a world of monsters in the same way it does a world of heroes. A universe establishes a tone and sets rules and expectations that connect each movie. The MonsterVerse establishes that monsters are real. With this known there is no telling what horrific creatures inhabit that world. If a massive reptile can crawl out of the water and run riot in San Francisco, who’s to say a giant gorilla can’t live on a remote island in the middle of the ocean. Why would only one monster exist? Once we know our conception of the world is false and beings that defy all logic exist, the door is opened for any number of strange and nightmare inducing creatures to exist, a creature of the Tar for example.
Placing these monsters in a universe ultimately gives greater freedom to the developers. Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island are able to tell two separate and unique stories, despite their underlying connection. These connections are demonstrated through subtle references such as shared terminology. Both Godzilla and Kong use “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms.” Connections like this are a fun way to get viewers more invested.
The upcoming Universal Monsters films will have the freedom to tell each monster’s story , giving them the time and attention they deserve, and still connect to one another. Knowing that these monsters occupy the same world and have the potential to interact with one another makes it almost weird to imagine a world where they couldn’t. Each new installment in a cinematic universe adds to the richness of the universe’s history, enabling a greater fan community to form.
An added bonus is that this format of storytelling allows audiences to see more of their favorite stars in these franchises. By putting the monsters in the spotlight, the MonsterVerse allows the leads to easily cycle around with each new installment. Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island both featured unique, star studded casts, and it looks as if future installments plan to continue this. The Mummy will be starring Tom Cruise, so it is entirely possible that this universe will follow in the MonsterVerse’s footsteps. It’s nice to finally see the focus being on the monsters that reek havoc on our world.
Based on these trends it seems like the cinematic universe is here to stay. New universes will be developed as old ones come to a conclusion. Creating these universes might be the key to giving these films the depth they’ve been lacking. Maybe the cinematic universe is a trend that will continue transcend to through other genres of film. With Tar on the way, there’s no telling the different ways in which we could expand our own universe, giving it greater depth and a richer history. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
The Wolf Pack has partnered with Truli, an online, video subscription network focused on faith-based content, to produce an exclusive show based around Restoring Tomorrow. Aaron Wolf's experiences will be documented as he travels to communities across the nation and around the world sharing the film’s message on hope, faith and history.
Truli offers family entertainment to millions of subscribers and we are thrilled to offer them exclusive content. Keep an eye out for more announcements on this exciting development!
This weekend marks the biggest highlight in film all year: the Academy Awards. We’re rolling out the red carpet and sharing our chosen winners for Sunday, so check them out below and let us know what you think!
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
This film’s non-linear story line engages audiences and gives them the responsibility to piece together this timeline. The non-linear format is executed flawlessly and creates a powerful contrast in emotions between stages of the film. The story is simple and undoubtedly a sad one, but it certainly feels like one worth telling. In addition, character dynamics are strong and natural.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures manages to make a film about math consistently entertaining. There are hardly any lulls in action and the three leads are likeable in their own distinct personality. Hidden Figures shares an otherwise unknown piece of history in an exciting way and has the ability to appeal to a wide range of moviegoers.
Best Production Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Our pick for production design goes to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for its vibrant and beautifully crafted sets. The film displays an older New York City, very different from any previous depictions. It’s a fun and exciting world for the film’s fantastical events to occur.
Best Original Score: La La Land
La La Land’s beautiful score is both catchy and moving. It perfectly compliments the emotion of each scene, whether fun and uplifting or somber and melancholy. It also does an effective job of conveying the dreamlike theme felt throughout the film.
Best Director: Moonlight
The masterful directing behind Moonlight lends to moving performances and impactful imagery throughout the film. Barry Jenkins deserves the award this year for best director for being able to take audiences through this protagonist’s struggle, broken up into three distinct stages of his life, so seamlessly. He combines unconventional and traditional techniques of narrative storytelling to yield strong emotional reactions from audiences. Cutting away from the narrative to see key characters in an abstract format gives viewers a greater understanding of the psychology of the film.
Best Cinematography: Arrival
Arrival and its anxiety-inducing imagery of landscapes with alien spaceships hovering in the distance is why it earned our pick for best cinematography. Watching Amy Adams ride in a jeep through a grassy field to a strange vessel perched on the horizon is an unforgettable shot that sums up the film’s ominous but oddly beautiful vibe. This is a moving and consequential science fiction story unlike any other that has come before it, and its visually stunning and awe-inspiring camera work secures that.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
Viola Davis is an easy choice despite the strong performances across the board. Fences is an intimate story that relies heavily on the performances of its actors to carry it. Davis demonstrates an astounding level of range on the emotional spectrum.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali gives an incredible and memorable performance despite only being present for the first third of the film. The fact that he was able to accomplish so much in so little time is reason enough for him take home the Oscar this Sunday. His portrayal of a drug dealer living in 1970s Miami was full of depth and stuck with the audience long after the film’s credits.
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Emma Stone earns our pick for Best Actress this year with a passionate and authentic performance that ultimately depicts the quintessential Hollywood dreamer. Her performance shows how emotionally taxing it can be to pursue your dreams while simultaneously reminding people why it is they get up every day and go after it. It was not that long ago that Stone herself was in the same position that the struggling actress she plays was in. It is clear that she was able to harness this part of her life to deliver an unforgettable and extremely enjoyable performance.
Best Actor: Casey Affleck
For this personal, a-day-in-the-life story to land, Manchester by the Sea needed an actor who could internalize this character’s struggles and convey those complex emotions. This is exactly what Casey Affleck was able to accomplish. The performance soared with all the subtleties in facial expressions, mannerisms, and tones letting you know the inner pain this character was struggling with.
Best Picture: La La Land
The best picture award more often than not tends to be the most controversial. With so many excellent films released each year, selecting one as the definitive best seems impossible. This year is especially difficult but the Wolf Pack selects La La Land for flawlessly bringing together all the components of filmmaking. The story is simple, but elegant; the acting and directing is solid across the board, suggesting undeniable chemistry not only between cast members, but also crew. But La La Land’s real achievement is in its innovation. It redefines the musical genre. Damien Chazelle and his crew are craft a modern day musical that can be enjoyed by a wide audience, regardless of whether or not one has enjoyed musicals in the past. This unparalleled combination of high quality and mass appeal is why La La Land deserves to take home top honors of the night.
So grab the popcorn, a seat in front of the television and tune in this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT for a thrilling night in cinema! Who do you think will win?
With Oscar season here to highlight this year’s achievements in filmmaking, one group of critics makes sure to recognize this year’s disasters. The Golden Raspberry Awards, or Razzies for short, honor the best of the worst performances and pictures, announcing its winners just a day before the Academy Awards. Some films wear a Razzie nomination like a badge of honor, but for others, a Razzie nomination can be the ultimate mark of failure, a final kick in the gut.
This year, three Worst Picture nominees stood out to the Wolf Pack: Gods of Egypt, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Batman v Superman. Though these films may never have been Oscar contenders, they definitely didn’t intend to be among the worst films of the year, by Razzie standards. So, where did they go wrong?
Batman V Superman
When it was announced that the two most popular superheroes ever created would be joining each other on the big screen in a live action film for the first time, people were pumped. Fans followed the movie for months, tracking its development, casting decisions, and story details, and rejoiced after the release of its first thrilling trailer. Fans thought for sure this would be the superhero film that they had all been waiting for.
What Went Wrong:
Superhero fans and moviegoers alike went to go see BvS and were crushed. The film they got was an overly long, convoluted blockbuster with a disjointed narrative and an unsatisfying villain. Cutting the film down to 2.5 hours from the 4-hour director’s cut resulted in a narrative that was hard to follow and hard to find. Fans didn’t like Doomsday and wanted more out of Lex Luthor. Wonder Woman’s cameo oversaturated the film, with her only there to promote the character for her upcoming solo film. Ultimately BvS set out to do too much.
Independence Day: Resurgence
The first Independence Day film was an instant hit when it was released back in 1996. Redefining the disaster genre, it became as iconic as it was exciting. The Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum duo proved to be a winning combination. Fans hoped the sequel would recapture the magic in its own original way.
What Went Wrong:
As feared, Resurgence didn’t bring anything new to the table. Seeing landmarks get obliterated doesn’t have the same impact when countless disaster films have done just that since 1996. But what ultimately doomed Resurgence was the absence of Will Smith. Smith and the badass charm he brought to the original were nowhere to be seen in this sequel and the film suffered because of it. The death of Smith’s character was revealed in an online campaign that chronicled all the major events that occurred between the two films. An unfortunate plane crash claimed the life of the beloved hero, simultaneously crushing any chances for a quality sequel.
Gods of Egypt
Never expected to be a miraculous achievement in filmmaking, Gods of Egypt could have been a fun and exciting ride with an A-list cast and cool visuals. 300 set a high bar for epic fantasy films during its triumphant box office run but no similar themed film has successfully met that standard since (i.e. Clash of the Titans and Immortals). Nevertheless, with Gods of Egypt toting Gerard Butler once again in the mythological action role, moviegoers held onto hope.
What Went Wrong:
Gerard Butler and all his might could not save this disaster of a film. Though the box office yield was solid, moviegoers were met with a bizarre and formulaic action flick. The film was predictable and over utilized clichés of the genre. The film’s greatest downfall was its subpar CGI and its lack of physical sets. And with bad acting to top it off, this film never actually stood a chance of being good.
I like to believe that these filmmakers set out to make good movies but the results make this difficult to see. One thing that is for sure is that these three films drew an audience, with each raking in millions of dollars at the box office. So from a financial standpoint, they’re all winners (I guess). Good luck at the Razzies!
This coming week, HWP takes Restoring Tomorrow to the Miami Jewish Film Festival and then to the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The documentary features Wolf on a journey of rediscovery and tells the remarkable story of Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard Temple near demise, saved by a Jewish community’s determination to achieve the impossible.
Restoring Tomorrow first screens in Miami on Monday, January 23rd and then Tuesday, January 24th. The film will then feature at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on Friday January 27th. Aaron Wolf is scheduled to appear at all screenings.
For ticket and theater information, call MJFF at 1-888-585-3456 and visit AJFF here.
Last week, Aaron Wolf hopped over to the East coast to join the Miami Jewish Film Festival (MJFF) for their 20th annual Stars Party. It was a celebratory evening of fun, film and friends at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. As the special guest of honor, Wolf presented an exclusive preview of Restoring Tomorrow and spoke after the screening.
Wolf will return to Miami in January when the film screens at MJFF, one of the largest Jewish film festivals in the country.