A group of estranged college friends reunite just as a mysterious cyber-attack changes the world as we know it
There’s been no shortage of post-apocalyptic movies at the multiplex in recent months. We’ve seen the earth destroyed by zombies, nuclear war, earthquakes, and the End of Days. Denis Henry Hennelly’s new film, “Goodbye World,” one of the best films at the this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, explores a more thoughtful scenario—what people do when a major breakdown in technology causes massive societal changes and the end of civilization as we know it.
While reuniting at an off-the-grid cabin in Northern California, seven estranged college friends try to figure out how to cope after an apocalyptic cyber-attack (possibly involving people in the group) destroys the power grid. In the quiet moments between the cataclysmic events and the trials of survival to come, these friends have to discover if they can live together and form a new community before interior fissures and exterior threats tear them apart. With an original screenplay by Hennelly and Sarah Adina Smith, “Goodbye World” features a stellar cast including Adrian Grenier (“Entourage”), Kerry Bishé (“Argo”), Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi (“How to Make It in America”), Ben McKenzie (“The O.C.,” “Junebug”), Mark Webber (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), and former child star Gaby Hoffmann who also stars in another one of this year’s LAFF favorites, Sebastián Silva’s “Crystal Fairy.” I sat down with Denis Henry Hennelly and Gaby Hoffmann just before the film’s world premiere at the festival in downtown Los Angeles.
MSN Movies: I love the idea of looking at this breakdown of society by focusing on a very small group of people who are isolated from the chaos that’s happening in the big population centers.
Denis Henry Hennelly: I think the seed of the film came to me when I was watching the first season of “The Walking Dead.” There’s a character who is acting really badly and it soon becomes clear that he needs to go. I started thinking about what happens in small communities when there’s a destructive element. What do you do? My co-writer, Sarah, and I tried to explore this idea with the added pressure that the world outside is coming to an end as we know it. Which doesn’t mean an actual end—just a kind of transition.
So interesting to explore the end of the world not as a threat to our planet but just to our dependencies and our way of life.
Don’t we all have these mini-apocalypses all the time where what we consider to be our normal world gets shattered by an event of some kind? That’s what we tried to focus on when we were writing the script.
I know in my own life if the power goes out for half an hour, I tend to freak out like it’s the end of the world!
We’ve become really dependent on all of our gadgets—they bring us closer together in some ways but also push us apart. In this film we’re looking at a group of people who were once very close—they were a family, a community. But we’ve all had these communities that we leave behind. We may have some proxy version of them now through technology but if that goes, can we really still get along together? That was an interesting question for us to tackle as storytellers.
And how these huge changes going on in the world affect that ability to get along?
Like Gaby’s character says in the movie, it’s all about our social contracts. Every moment is an agreement. We may pretend that there is some sort of overarching power structure, whether it’s our government or some corporations that we think somehow make us behave, but at the end of the day we all decide how to behave with each other on a moment-by-moment basis.
Gaby, I thought your character, Laura, was so interesting. We see that she’s a powerful person working in politics but that some kind of huge scandal involving an affair she was having with a married senator has caused her downfall. Denis, did you consider including more in the film about that scandal that’s mostly just alluded to?
Yes, there was a point in the script where we saw the infamous video that everyone’s talking about. There was this whole back story about a rival PAC that was trying to take down the senator so they installed a video camera in his office. Then this video of him and Gaby went viral on YouTube! In an earlier version of the script we saw the video.
Did you actually get to shoot it?
Gaby Hoffmann: No, but I wish we had, that would have been fun!
In the film we see the characters gathering at the remote home of Adrian Grenier and Kerry Bishé’s characters who are living somewhat off the grid. Then, of course, the entire grid collapses and there’s total chaos in places where people are completely dependent on it. Have you guys ever fantasized about living off the grid?
I've sort of done it, during the summers anyway, for the past six years. I live up on a mountain top in the Catskills in an old 1940s trailer with no plumbing or hot water, and cell phones don’t work.
Denis: These days we have the technology with solar power and alternative energy to live a more autonomous existence. Which goes to the whole question of do we lean on government to tell us how to behave, do we lean on corporations to provide our technology, or do we provide what we can for ourselves and look to our neighbors and our community which is where I think the film ends up.
I was so intrigued (and horrified) by the character who claims he’s part of the National Guard and starts making all kinds of demands.
We see people taking advantage of situations like that all the time. It can happen for good or for bad. There was this quote that someone in the Obama administration said. Something like never let a good disaster go to waste because it can create great societal change. When people have their foundations shaken up from what they’re used to, they sometimes are able to open their minds to other ways of living. But at the same time that can be exploited. That’s how the fascist movement took advantage of people’s deprivation in Europe. That’s what this guy represents in the movie—coming in and saying to people you don’t have anything, these people have something—we need to take it!
Gaby, I’m struck by how different your roles are in this film and “Crystal Fairy.” Are there parts of you in both of these characters?
Whedon’s version of Shakespeare’s comedic play is set in modern-day Los Angeles and stars actors from his TV and movie projects
If you had 12 days off from your responsibilities writing and directing a mega-blockbuster film that would go on to gross $1.5 billion, what would you do to relax? I know—why not have a bunch of friends come over to your house and make another movie in that short period of time? Piece of cake, right? And instead of a story about superheroes, why not use the original text of one of the greatest plays ever written—one that was first performed in 1598!
I admit that I was a little skeptical going in to see Joss Whedon’s film version of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Placing the Bard’s words in a modern-day setting can be tricky indeed, but by the end of this enjoyable film, I thought it was one of the most fun, accessible, and exhilarating versions of Shakespeare ever put on celluloid. The story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof) offers a dark, sexy, and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love that somehow seems as fitting today as it was over 500 years ago. The writer/director clearly had a ball directing the talented cast of actors from his stock company of players and the results should please Whedon fanatics and Shakespeare purists alike. In addition to the entrancing Acker and Denisof, the cast features Whedon alumni including Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, and Sean Maher, as well as a few new faces such as Jillian Morgese as Beatrice’s young cousin, Hero. I talked to the talented Amy Acker in Los Angeles.
MSN Movies: I can’t even imagine how you all managed to pull this off in just 12 days! Were you a little terrified going in?
Amy Acker: You know, I don’t think anyone expected at first that this was going to be what it became. We had been doing these Shakespeare readings over at Joss’s house for years. You’d go over in your flip-flops and jeans and tank top and have a glass of wine or a beer and read Shakespeare. It was all so fun and casual. So when he said he wanted to make a movie of these readings, that he’d love to share them with people, I didn’t really have it in my head that it was going to be this big film!
You thought it was just something he was going to make for his friends?
Yeah! I thought Joss was just going to whip out his iPhone. “Okay, everybody—action!” But then he told us that everyone needed to be ready to go with the whole play. So we just had three weeks to learn all of our lines and figure out what we were saying! At least we had the benefit of the set already being built since it was filmed at Joss’s house!
I know you and Alexis had some experience with Shakespeare but I imagine plenty of people in the cast did not. Was that a huge challenge?
You know, there were a lot of people who were terrified. I know Nathan was trying to get out of it!
It’s one thing to do a reading with friends with no one watching—
Exactly. But when the time came I felt like everyone knew what they were saying. Despite any fears we had, Joss made everyone feel comfortable and made it all work.
I would imagine that one of the challenges was that, unlike many other acting gigs you all may have had, you really couldn’t fudge the words here at all.
No, but it’s the same thing when you’re doing one of Joss’s scripts! He’s such a great writer so you don’t want to say something other than what he’s written! And that’s certainly how it feels with Shakespeare. You want to say it exactly the way it’s written because it’s so beautiful and it brings you to the emotional place you need to get to by having these great words to chew on and give to other actors.
It’s cool to think how this film is really going to bring Shakespeare to some brand new audiences.
I know! At every screening we’ve been to so far, at least one person has stood up and said that they’re a teacher and they can’t wait to show it in class to their students. That’s very exciting.
When you’re stepping into an amazing part like this, are you thinking of the list of some of the greatest actresses in the history of the theater who have played Beatrice before you?
Oh God, I’m glad I didn’t talk to you before we did the film! (Laughs.) I’m a huge fan of this play and I hope to see it a million more times and to see other people’s interpretations, but I think we had a specific story that we wanted to tell and luckily, having this bond with Joss and Alexis was already great starting place.
Had you played Beatrice before?
And, yes, it will probably be in 3D
But she will appear in the third film
Here's to you, Leonardo DiCaprio
Joe Dante's werewolf movie gets the special edition treatment
The same year that "An American Werewolf in London" opened up the possibilities of the werewolf horror with a mix of black comedy and horrific transformations, Joe Dante went a different direction with "The Howling" (Shout Factory). Working on lower budget, Dante discarded the usual lone wolf route to frame the drama in terms of the wolf pack. His wolves weren't mad dogs on the rampage, but a primal force balancing survival with primal urges.
Dee Wallace, just a year before making "E.T.," stars as an investigative TV reporter recovering from a brush with a serial killer in a retreat called "The Colony," a mix of new age commune, primal therapy, and red meat culture. It also happens to be the hub of a werewolf pack that quickly adds her husband (Christopher Stone) to their ranks, transforming the easy-going vegetarian into an aggressive, meat-eating hunter in the process.
It's more clever than compelling, to be fair, an interesting take with inventive effects (thanks to Rob Bottin), impressive moments of horror, an undercurrent of dark humor, and an earthy, feral sensibility. John Sayles (who previously wrote "Piranha" for Dante) came with Dante from the Corman movie factory and contributes a clever script (adapted from a novel by Gary Brandner) with some character nice touches in the supporting roles (many of them played by his B-movie heroes and genre character actors, from Kevin McCarthy and John Carradine to Roger Corman and Forrest J. Ackerman) and a modicum of wit in the dialogue.
It's a real film buff feast but Dante also uses the opportunity to stretch himself.
Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton star in this thrilling story of survival
Years ago, winter came and never went away. Beneath the surface of an ice-covered world, survivors in Colony Seven struggle to keep their fragile society from collapsing as food dwindles and temperatures drop. Already plagued by illness and internal conflict, the colonists suspect the worst when they lose contact with the only other known settlement. A small group decide to go on a dangerous expedition to discover what happened and what they find is worse than they could have ever imagined. Now the fight for survival really begins.
See more exclusive photos from "The Colony" opening in theaters August 23 after the break.