Movie Review: Writer, producer and co-director Christopher Folino ignites sweet success through new film “Sparks,” also lighting fires of a lost passion that had been missing from the filmmaking industry for decades. Nothing can change overnight, but this just may be the beginning of something more deserving than recognition; with an all-star cast and an amazing crew, this rare gem not only sparks intellect and ingenuity but also showcases unbelievable talents in aspects never thought possible – bringing to life a newfound hope where something had been amiss for years.
“Sparks” has become my new 2013 favorite. Folino and the others did an outstanding job with this super hero thriller that I believe to be filmmaking’s rare gem – their 14-month project shot in 12 "dual" days with an all-star cast (whom I believe all pack a superb bio), this film is what filmmaking was meant to be about. Clearly evident on and off screen in every aspect – with what I believe holds a “build it and it will come” theory (that will sink in eventually); after all, greatness doesn't set well in a world where true ingenuity has been amiss for several decades. For that alone the first five “gold” stars were awarded – and quite honestly, I’d set them on the Hollywood Walk of Fame if I could.
This movie was set perfect in the 1940s clinching its on-the-edge-of-your-seat storyline from beginning to end – unlike films today. In a superhero’s world with a rare suspense that is not only a thriller-chiller mystery (a bit like a Hitchcock-Spielberg mix but with a definite "Folino touch"), this indeed is a movie with oomph. Not like anything I've seen in many a year; and we know they just don’t make them like this anymore, folks. For that and the cast alone, it's a must-see.
Lead Chase Williamson (playing Ian Sparks) plays one of the top superhero leads; although he didn't plan on going from college grad to theater to stage this quickly. His first debut as Dave in an out-of-body “soy sauce” experience in the movie, “John Dies at the End” – he not only costarred with “Sparks” actor Clancy Brown (who plays an excellent Dr. Albert Marconi), Williamson took that college boy charm and showcased enough talented to convince fans he’s going places; he’s already hanging with some of the "best of the best" actors, so being reminiscent of a Toby Maguire with equal or surpassing talent, he’ll go far.
Williamson’s beautiful co-star Ashley Bell is just lovely with talents beyond words; she plays Lady Heavenly, (Sparks’ costar in crime and co-part at heart); Bell not only does her own stunts (yes, really), she trained in Muay Thai, a form of martial arts that took her six weeks to learn prior to shooting. Bell’s role compliments Williamson’s well; with her moves that impressed both fans and costars who were equally impressed with her moves. Bell is indeed an inspiration and hero to women everywhere, on and off screen.
Bell’s credits are equally impressive with her acting and voiceover artistry with lead roles such as Sony PlayStation’s “Sorcery” and the White Queen in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” to many other credits that included television with “CSI” and “Grow.” Bell certainly appears to have her parents' incredible talent and obvious support; her father, Michael Bell, a prominent actor not only on and off-camera but more as a voiceover legend is as talented as her mother, Victoria Carroll, a prominent actress on and off screen. In fact, according to “Sparks” film costume designer Manual Silva, he worked very closely with Carroll on Bell’s costume – making it work with style and flexibility – conquering both very well.
I was amazed at much more than the originality of the storyline, talents, cast and crew, every aspect and every detail covered from behind the scenes to direction; in fact, Co-director Todd Burrows is not only handsome but a sweetheart by nature with an endless smile who said he at first thought Folino to be crazy but said the excitement of it soon became infectious and, well, the rest is history (and an obvious success).
Many actors "prepare" in some way for their role, dieting for a romance or some sort of a close scene such as Jake Busey and Clancy Brown who laughed about the tight-fitting helmets or costumes they might have felt “dipped in” to a time or two (not that fans would mind one bit.) Some had to lose a few pounds before shooting, such as Williamson who shed 30 pounds by taking up boxing six weeks before the shoot. (No worries, he's gained 10 of that back already.)
From Bill (William Katt) who plays Matanza, "the bad guy" in the film “Sparks” – and all I can say is although I didn't get much of a chance to talk with Bill, with his following, he is no less incredible and no less handsome – adding to Katt’s repertoire is over 40 years of stage presence, working with Pulitzer Prize-winning Marsha Norman and Tony Award-winning Director Jack Hopsis, Diane Weist, James Cromwell – to name a few; and from his earlier movie days of “Carrie” or “The Greatest American Hero,” he was absolutely perfect for his role in this film and indeed he is a rare one, this one.
And with every rare gem comes a gem of a composer – in this case that gem being Jacob Shea, who not only has an impressive portfolio but whose creativity extends far beyond the core of his extreme talents and kind heart. Shea began working world-renowned Hans Zimmer in 2007 with so much to his credit that it would take awhile to name; from his music assistance on “Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End” (2007) to his work as Sequencer Programmer for “Dark Knight” (2008) and “Inception” (2010). Shea has done so much and Folino couldn't have been more proud to have Shea on board; Shea said he was thrilled to work with "Sparks.” (Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Shea in the coming weeks.)
Jake Busey (who plays Sledge) is another handsome, incredible actor; Busey is the son of photographer Lynn Helkenberg and actor Gary Busey (easy to spot that gene pool) with music in his veins as well (drummer of a garage/indie band, Sons of the Lawless). Busey's acting indeed remains a top talent (I say that only until I review his music) with his career in film going back to films with his father and Dustin Hoffman in “Straight Time” (1978) and “Contact,” with many other roles. Busey did a wonderful job in "Sparks," his personality shining through as always.
And then there’s the handsome Clancy Brown (who plays Archer); not just a legendary actor but a legend in his own time. Brown has so much to his credit it would be impossible to list every impressive contribution but some remember “Superman” (1996) or “Carnivale” to thrillers such as “Pathfinder” or even “Spongebob Squarepants” (amazingly also doing voiceovers). And, like every good actor comes a talented second half to enhance – his beautiful wife Jeanne Johnson, a producer of television news. Brown has astounded, thrilled, chilled and enlightened fans for years – with a repeat in “Sparks” – same as he did with seven-time Oscar nominated Shawshank Redemption (an excellent film). He outdoes himself again in “Sparks” – cool as ever because to him it’s all just second nature.
And let's not forget about the beautiful costarring actress Marina Squerciati (who plays Dawn), and who also plays Sparks’ other “interim love interest” for a time. Squerciati’s credits are equally impressive with “Gossip Girl” (as Alessandra Steele) to “The Good Wife,” and “Blue Bloods,” with various awards to her credit in theater. Her role is outstanding; her acting abilities flawless. Clearly this one knows she's going places.
As the nearing of the cast comes to a rounding, there's the handsome Clint Howard (playing Gordon Eldridge) is not only a fan favorite with another list of credits to his name (including an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award) dating back to the famous “Star Trek” and “Gentle Ben," but also with contemporary roles such as “Apollo 13.” He is simply stupendous in "Sparks."
Nice looking Larry Cedar (playing Mr. Prather) is an actor and voiceover artist and again, a wonderful job in the movie. Some think not every role deserving but in "Sparks" every role matters. (You'll seriously just have to see it.) Meeting the younger crew, Austin Michael Coleman (teenage Sparks, adorable) and Jeremy Rowley (Orson, very cute) was a blast from the past. Naturally they are going places. The handsome Scott Rinker (as Mr. Docherty), also wonderful; And, good looking David Sobolov (who plays Jason Driver) is an actor and voiceover artist but let me just say this – his role and costume, simply outstanding; kudos. Another looker Dave Hanson (Blasini) also an actor and writer – what can I say? Exceptional. Ah yes, and the other looker, Esteban Cueto (playing Cain), a stuntman by nature (are the photos that obvious?). All absolutely prove to be outstanding talents in this noir of a film of superhero talents of then, but more so to blow minds of today.
This film, folks, holds one of the best kept secrets – that “back to the basics” way of filmmaking; something the industry seems to have forgotten: That blood and sweat on and off screen, that phenomenal talent in cast and crew (including behind the scenes), that way of producing and directing, that fresh on-screen “realness” that doesn't exist behind all the editing clouded by conglomerate bling that might sell below heart. Whatever it is we see on screen today lacks quite a few things – and this film, "Sparks," has everything filming has been missing, and then some. So do me a favor and spark your psyche; see how it’s done in the real world.
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Cinequest Film Festival San Jose March 10 – stay tuned for more details, with complete interviews with actors, crew and others including music composer, Jacob Shea.
Christopher Folino’s “Sparks” is a noir superhero thriller with a dark side filled with love, defeat, betrayal, evil, torment, self-doubt, heroism, charm, loyalty, and all that goes in a great action filled with spectacular twists. Don’t miss this opportunity to see something you’ve never seen before – back in time but in today with what’s been missing in the film industry for decades.
Co-director Todd Burrows; (Executive Producer Angelina Folino, Rose Folino and William Katt); Produced by Christopher Folino, Tyler Endicott, James Sutton, Michael A. Smith, Max Carlson and Eric D. Wilkinson. music by Jacob Shea; with cinematography by Jackson Myers and Josh Fritts.
Catch the next glimpse of the film, “Sparks” during the Cinequest Film Festival in downtown San Jose and is a must-see; if you missed the California Theatre showing (March 1 & 2); the next showing will be at the San Jose Repertory Theatre on March 5 at 4:45 p.m.; tickets range between $7 and $10.
Additional information on actors and 2013 releases:
More on Ashley Bell: Knowing fans will want to know, Bell’s “Last Exorcism” debut landed her the Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and MTV Movie Award nomination, Bell’s Exorcism sequel, “The Last Exorcism Part II” just released March 1 and promises more of the same.
More on Bill (William) Katt: Bill’s recent 2013 releases: “The Poltergeist Movie” and “Carmilla.”
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