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Beauty and the Best

"The Gift" is One Of The Best of 2015

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The Gift is one of the best, if not the best, movies I’ve seen in 2015. But it’s for adults. Those seeking car chases and gratuitous violence need not apply. What writer/director Joel Edgerton has really done is take what could have been a ho-hum Lifetime melodrama and turned it into a thoughtful and unexpected tale of sins from the past coming back to haunt someone. Everyone in the theater has been, will be, or currently is either a Simon or a Gordo, and that’s what really hits home midway through the movie.

The film centers on Justin Bateman’s character Simon and his wife, Robyn, played quite well by Rebecca Hall. They’ve recently relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles for Simon’s big job at a security firm. They’ve made attempts at starting a family, but it hasn’t been successful and that’s taken a toll on their relationship. It’s also revealed that Robyn might have been abusing prescription drugs to dull the pain of infertility and a dubious career. Simon, on the other hand, is an ambitious winner and he’s so good at it, he makes it look effortless.

Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, the couple “run into” Gordo at some Pottery Barn type store. Something seems slightly off about Gordo from the beginning – a stare that’s a little too intense, awkward pauses when he speaks, the gait/posture a broken person. As the trailers reveal, Gordo insinuates himself back into Simon’s life (they went
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to high school together). Gordo and Robyn form a bond of sorts, perhaps due to the fact that they both understand trying to live down big mistakes in life. But Simon is immediately uneasy with Gordo’s reappearance, for reasons later explained. A few uncomfortable dinners ensue but things unravel fast. Apparently, Gordo’s life hasn’t turned out nearly as well as Simon’s, for reasons that may or may not have to do with Simon.

And that’s the beauty of The Gift. You really don’t know until about two thirds of the way into the film who’s the villain or the good guy in this movie. Lifetime would’ve made sure those lines were clearly drawn early on, and that’s why it would’ve been fun, but ultimately dreck. Edgerton is more concerned with nuance, and he picked just the cast to convey that, starting with himself as the awkward and spooky Gordo. No one is overplaying anything here. Even Bateman has toned down his typical snarky-yet-likable persona into something more mature and measured. Rebecca Hall is great as the vulnerable wife who followed her evolutionary instincts to marry a winner, but might have deliberately ignored some of Simon’s less pleasant qualities. Gordo’s entry into their life assures she will no longer be able to look away.

There are only a few real scares in The Gift, and even they are kind of fake outs, but they’re also extremely effective. The writing is top notch (watch out for Bateman’s speech about the winners and losers in life) as is the directing. I give this one my highest recommendation.


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Tabria Majors - Adore Me Haul Try On


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Interview with Artist Rion Vernon

blogEntryTopperRecently, AllGoodThingsTV had the pleasure of catching up with Rion Vernon, an incredible character artist who has worked for some of the top Hollywood studios including Stan Winston, DreamWorks Animation, electronic arts and Sony. For AGT, he drew a custom art piece of AGT host, Olivia Jensen, based on her viral video. (You can get a custom t-shirt of this image here) Hailing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Rion talks about his start in the industry and what inspires him as an artist.

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1) How did you get your start working as a professional character designer/illustrator?
Out of high school I was lucky enough to meet Stan Winston of Jurassic Park fame. With portfolio in hand and enough persistence I ended up being hired to produce the artwork for that year's Christmas card. I then stayed on as a character designer after that.


2) Who have been some of your biggest influences?
Classic Disney animation had quite the impact on me growing up. When I was getting interested in pinup art, I discovered Gil Elvgren and George Petty who really inspired me. In a way, my pinup work is really a fusion of George Petty's girls, Jessica Rabbit and Tank Girl.


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3) Can you describe the thought process involved when you begin a new piece?
Something I learned when I was working at DreamWorks animation was the importance of silhouette value. Basically, "silhouette value" refers to the image's graphic shape. It should be quickly identifiable, even at a small scale. So dynamic poses are really important especially when it comes to pinup work.

I always begin by doing a drawing in pencil. Traditional drawing is still in my blood even if I'm a huge Photoshop junkie. After I complete a pencil drawing I'm happy with, I scan it into Photoshop and add color.


4) You've worked on a wide variety of projects over the years. What are some of your favorites and why?
My tastes change over time, so for me it's important that I do work on a variety of projects. It was an absolute blast working for Stan Winston Studio and DreamWorks, creating an entire universe of alien worlds. But then it was nice to move on and focus on my pinup work. To have a constant flux of creative outlets is my goal. I like to learn new techniques and be open to new possibilities.


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5) What advice would you give to artists who are inspired by your work and aspired to become character or conceptual artists either working for themselves or large companies?
It's all about practice, practice, practice. A portfolio is absolutely crucial. Focus solely on the genre you're interested in, because potential employers need to clearly see what your forte is. It's easy to get pigeon holed as an artist...so, pigeon hole yourself into a genre you're passionate about.


6) What's next for you as an artist?
It may sound a bit strange in context, but I'm actually really interested in learning carpentry. There's much I want to build.


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"It Follows" - A Unique But Not Especially Frightening Horror Movie

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Just what the world needs: another review of “It Follows.” But I’m writing this review because, with the deluge of praise heaped on this film, I think we could use a little clear headedness.

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is a unique “horror” film. The cinematography is excellent, the direction thoughtful and the acting solid. This is what I’d call an art house horror movie. I saw it at the Arclight Cinemas and there was a Q&A with director David Robert Mitchell moderated by Edgar Wright after the screening. Mitchell is a soft-spoken, articulate, sensitive person and that comes through in his filmmaking.

Having said all this, how do we reconcile fulsome praise such as Follows being called “
the best horror film in a decade” with the fact that it’s not actually that scary. Suspenseful in parts, yes; slightly unnerving in parts, yes. Actually scary -- like make you want to keep the lights on at night -- no. To be fair, I am a grizzled old horror veteran. I fall asleep to horror movies like bedtime stories and wake up with the DVD splash screen and scary theme music playing with nary a problem.

So what do I consider scary? Not much anymore. Over time, certain movies have stuck with me – the original Japanese “Ringu,” “The Exorcist,” the first “Alien,” “Audition” was troubling, “A Tale of Two Sisters,” “Halloween” (original). Of recent times “The Conjuring” impressed me. Then there are movies that just had scary scenes, like when the old witch’s shadow appears outside the tent of heroine in “
Suspiria” or when the little girl in “Don’t Look Now” turns out to be a knife wielding midget.

These are movies that made me think about them later, and especially at night. But I walked out of “It Follows” feeling the buzz of having partaken in something cool, but not something scary. I said the same about the “Evil Dead” remake on this blog. I’m interested to hear others thoughts. What do you consider scary?



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"Seconds" by Bryan Lee O'Malley

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From the author that brought us Scott Pilgrim, Seconds is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s reset story, in the vain of Groundhog Day and Live Die Repeat. In a reset story there is typically a deus ex machine device that allows the protagonist to reset the day and relive the experience, always with the goal of perfecting it. The problems usually arise when the time space continuum is befouled by such shenanigans, and that’s no different here.

Seconds tells the story of Katie, the executive chef at the restaurant of the same name, and her group of friends. Despite her outward success, at 29 Katie has no ownership in Seconds so she is trying to start a new restaurant that she owns (Lucknow). She’s also trying to get over a relationship and deal with some supernatural going-ons at her residence (which happens to be the upstairs of Seconds).
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While things are hectic, they don’t really go bad until an accident occurs one day at Seconds that burns one of the waitresses, the lovely Hazel. Katie is so remorseful about this situation – she partially caused it by fooling around with Andrew, her protégée – that she makes a deal with the devil of sorts. That night when she goes to sleep, she has a strange dream where she finds a red mushroom, a pad and a pen. There’re some instructions which tell Katie to write out her wrong, eat the mushroom, and go to sleep. She does this and the next day when she awakens she is able to play out the same scenario, but without causing the accident.

But other problems crop up. There is a house spirit at Seconds that is rather covetous of the red mushrooms and does not want Katie eating anymore (and for good reason). Also, with each iteration the world becomes more bizarre and uncontrollable for Katie.

The artwork in Seconds is far better than Scott Pilgrim. Katie’s cantankerous personality is humorously conveyed through O’Malley’s drawings, reminiscent of Charles Shultz at times. The colors jump off the page. It is truly a visual delight.

The story itself is likable enough. I get the feeling the movie Coraline had some impact on O’Malley, as you can feel the influence of that movie on this story. But Seconds stands on its own and it’s a real page-turner once it gets going. It also has some nice touches of reality, which are usually missing from O’Malley’s work. For instance, Katie drools when she sleeps. There’s also a great sequence where she meets her ex and gets a case of the runs due to eating a bad hamburger.

I’d give Seconds a strong recommend. It’s an enjoyable story with improved artwork over Scott Pilgrim.

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"Selma" Review

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Ava Duvernay's Selma is one of the best bio pictures produced in a while.  For most people, it's difficult to watch a film of this kind. We know the outcome for its subject and we know what type of things to expect in a film like this - lofty speeches, brutal beatings and a good dose of historic footage. Instead of retreading old ground seen every February on the History Channel, the director chose a different route.  This film focuses on events leading up to the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama (about a 54-mile trip) which eventually led to the Voting Rights Act.  What I really enjoyed about this film was that we saw MLK as a normal human being. We saw his fear and his passion co-existing side-by-side. And more importantly, we finally had a chance to get to know Coretta, which gives a better understanding of how MLK was able to achieve what he did in such a short amount of time.  Behind every strong man, as they saying goes.  Coretta was holding it down at home and supported him through thick and thin despite his less popular indiscretions. 

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While there has been some criticism of the portrayal of Lyndon Johnson, I felt it was accurate given the time.  As president, Johnson seemed intent on supporting MLK but would not press forward without massive public opinion supporting him.  The shooting death of Jimmy Jackson (who was African American) by Alabama State Trooper, James Fowler, was not enough to motivate Johnson to act. (Interestingly, Jackson’s death echoes police sentiment toward African-American males still prevalent today, half a century later). Meanwhile, the stark contrast of the public outcry that followed the death of James Reeb, a white minister from Boston who’d also come to support MLK during the March, revealed the nation’s covert racism. Reeb’s family received a phone call from the president but there was no such call for Jackson’s family. 

I also think it was important to have a relatively unknown female director handle the subject matter.  Duvernay avoided being heavy-handed with the violence and offered a well thought out balance between the female and male characters. Even Oprah Winfrey managed to just come across as an activist fighting for a cause instead of pulling us out of the story. The film made me proud of where we've come but also reminded me that we have a long way to go. Choices like not calling the film “MLK” and highlighting the contributions of so many others to this movement make it clear that this isn’t just a black issue - it ’s a human rights issue. If you haven’t seen Selma make it a point to do so immediately.  It’s an important film that demonstrates the power of free speech and the courage of those who believe wholeheartedly in a cause.

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Jenn Faustino/Lauren Wood Tutorial





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New AGT Host - Jennifer Faustino


Every now and again AGT gets lucky and finds a new host with all the ideal qualities - cute, curvy, wholesome and fun. In this case we got lucky because we were already working with her! Jennifer Faustino is the official make-up artist for AGT and she’s made other hosts look great, but in fact she could’ve been doing this herself. One of Jenn’s cooler qualities is that she’s very comfortable with being curvy on camera. Refreshing! Check her out on Instagram here.

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Olivia Jensen and Gracie Burwell - "Iris" - AGT's Halloween Special

This is our entry in Legendary Picture’s and YouTube Space LA’s horror competition. I wish I could say this was easy, but as low key as it may seem, even with sets provided, this took a lot of work. So help us win this competition so we can do more exclusives like this with Olivia and Gracie. Tell your friends to re-watch it.




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