Southside With You

Unknown Can you imagine being a young, female African-American partner at a law firm whose associate just can't take no for an answer?  Can you imagine that associate turning out to be the leader of the free world?  I'm sure Michelle Robinson didn't either.  Luckily for America, she said yes and we have been fortunate enough to have a front row seat at one of the most romantic love stories in American history between two beautiful, intelligent and culturally stimulated individuals - who just happen to be the President and First Lady.

"Southside With You" chronicles the first date between President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.  It’s the answer to the age-old question couples often get asked when out in public for the first few dates - How did you meet? What was your first date like?  Who doesn’t relate to love and all the juicy details that go along with it?  I know I do and was totally sucked in by the first moment.

Tika Sumpter in the title role of Michelle Obama is direct, stunning and totally smitten by a young Barack Obama portrayed spot on by Parker Sawyers.  Sawyers effectively captures the sincerity that Americans fell in love with, therefore, electing Barack Obama as the first African-American man to serve as President of the United States.


How did these two virtually unknowns land these roles?  First of all, Tika Sumpter is barely "unknown".  I met her when she was Series Regular on the now defunct ABC-TV Soap "One Life to Live"  in Florida at a "SuperSoap" convention.  Currently, she's wreaking havoc on Tyler Perry's hit nighttime drama "The Have and Have Nots" on OWN.  Tia is one of the film's producers, along with Grammy winner/Producer John Legend.



When the 32-year-old Sawyers, who was born and raised in Indianapolis and now resides in London, sent in his first audition tape, he was doing a pitch-perfect impersonation of the President at 54, rather than at 28.  Luckily for him and for us, casting director, Twinkie Byrd convinced the film’s director, Richard Tanne to watch Sawyers tape again, but turn down the volume and just watch his performance.  Needless to say, the rest is history.

Sundance Q&A with cast & Director Richard Tanne

During a Q&A after the screening, when asked if the Obamas had seen the film, Tanne said "the president and first lady are aware of the film...and a little baffled by its existence.”  Well, I'm not and neither were the hundreds of people in the audience who along with me, gave a hearty round of applause and standing ovation. Two of my favorite moments were Michelle and Barack walking through a museum featuring the artwork of Ernie Barnes.  Barnes' art was featured prominently on the CBS hit sitcom "Good Times".

The soundtrack featuring a mix of hits from 1989 ranging from rap to Stevie Wonder kept my toes tapping while being enthralled by the performances of every actor onscreen and not just the leads.

It came to my attention that the film received mixed reviews during Sundance, which is not a surprise.  The Obamas have received mixed reviews since they crossed the threshold of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  However, what I know for sure is that those who DO see it will love it and walk away with a smile and glow at how beautiful love can be when it happens with "the right one".  It really is a marvelous emotion to experience and my wish is that everyone can find that everlasting type of mutual, love, admiration and respect in a relationship that spans a lifetime.

Thanks Tika for following your gut and your passion in getting this story told....

Southside With You opens in theaters TODAY, August 26th and trust me it is well worth the price of admission.


Summer of Sequels

by Carla Renata for and This summer's box office seems to be relying heavily on a "Summer of Sequels" ranging from Finding Dory to Conjuring 2.  Do some of these films require a second look or are studios just cashing in on the success of days gone by?

I don't know about you, but I could care less what the reason is.  I just want to grab my popcorn and snacks and get my movie groove  Take a look at the sequels taking over the screens for the summer of 2016.


This flick about the "little fish that could" is shattering box office records, kicking tail and taking names (did you like that  Finding Dory has already grossed 400 million dollars making it the fastest and highest grossing animated feature of all time!  Thanks Ellen!


I loved the original Independence Day!  It made a bonafide box office summer star out of Will Smith and was just an overall great film.  This sequel does not have Will Smith and word on the street is that it's just ok.  I guess in some cases, some things are better left alone.  Hope they can at least make their money back and break even.  Don't hate on a sister'...I'm just the messenger...


So, I am all about my action adventure flicks, but what is the need to kill off superheroes this year?  First Superman meets an untimely demise in Batman vs Superman, now this!  Having said that, I heard this one is actually pretty good, but is already on it's way to a Blu-Ray DVD release in September.


Having been a publicist in a past life, I have a theory.  Whenever you see a major publicity blitz on a film pre-opening and then the film opens and it's crickets...chances are the film doesn't stand up to tall the hype.  Sad to say that was the case with the X-Men franchise this year.  No Halle, No Wolverine leaves you with things that make you go hmmm...


The prequel to this did extraordinarily well at the box office.  Although word on the street is that the sequel isn't really that bad, Johnny Depp's personal life eclipsed the film and it's potential at the box office.



According to Variety, “Now You See Me 2 is the kind of sequel that has all but gone out of fashion: a follow-up to a blockbuster so flaky and off-center that even those who made the original probably never expected it to spawn a second chapter."  Boom...enough said


I'm sure you are starting to see a pattern by now, so I won't bother highlighting the other sequels that include Conjuring @, The Purge 3, Neighbors 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  Out of the Shadows.  At the end of the day, if you are a fan of the franchise, it won't matter what the word on the street is.  Which is exactly why I am all over the new Star Trek and Star Wars films due to hit theaters this year.  Having the force be with a trekkie is a beautiful thing.



Review for and CarlaRenatasCorner

Yes, America we are in the middle of electing a brand new President and with every election there is always some type of drama. Either with the candidates themselves or someone relative to their world.  America, thanks to reality television has become addicted to controversy, ie Donald Trump.

But in 2013, our focus and fascination was with former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Weiner was fearless and his passion as a politician were unmatched.   However, it was that same passion mixed with arrogance that would ultimately become his Achilles heel during his quest for Mayor of NYC that would unravel his political career, personal life and reputation.  His quest for Mayor began as a potential slam dunk, until his appetite for chasing women outside his marriage surfaced - AGAIN!


Let's go back to the beginning just a tad.   Weiner was considered to be one of the most outspoken Congressmen on Capitol Hill.  He would call out anybody...anytime on ANY issue he felt passionate about.  Although his peers loathed his technique, they almost unequivocably respected his passion for the people who elected him.  He was liberal, savvy, quick and married to a beautiful, smart high-profile aide to now Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton - Hume Abedin.


All of this would turn upside down when Weiner took some now infamous selfies of his...well.."weiner" in some boxer shorts.  Just like that his political career on Capitol Hill came crashing to a halt.

Fast forward to 2013, one of Weiner's former aides,  Josh Kriegman , along with Elyse Sternberg decided to follow Weiner's return to politics in a documentary.  What none of them could know is that history would repeat itself and make everyone feel as though it were the "Groundhog Day" of political races.  Several young woman came forward claiming to have been intimate with the candidate, but it was only Sydney Leathers who went on a full fledge media tour to announce her involvement.  Leathers single-handedly murdered any chances of Weiner continuing in politics.


This doc opened to massive enthusiasm and curiosity at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and most recently a limited release in the United States.

Don't be fooled.  This doc is not your usual fare of watching a politician go down in flames and the audience left feeling sorry for him like in the Netflix doc "Mitt".  There are more humorous moments simply due to the fact that Anthony Weiner is a very colorful character who has landed on his feet in spite of himself and his choices.  You wind up respecting him and his devoted Hume Abedin, who  stood by her man with dignity and respect during times when it was nearly impossible to maintain both.

You also witness how some folks (Sydney Leathers) will do just about anything for the "15 minutes" of fame at any cost.  The chase through McDonald's is is their nickname for Leathers "pineapple".

I'm sure now you are mega curious. If so, take a trip to the nearest theatre and check it out.  You will be educated, entertained and most of enlightened on the persona and life of Anthony Weiner.





Review by Carla Renata for and Ok...I have to admit , when I heard there was a massive scene involving a bear and my beloved Leo, my interest in this film waned.  Not to mention the fact that word of mouth on it was that it was really bloody and violent...two things that never sit well with me and two reasons why I NEVER watch horror films.

However, after being in the press room at the Oscars and seeing Leo finally take home the gold I though to myself...Gurl!  check out your boy and see what is really up with this bear action.

Needless to say, I finally watched it and it was everything everyone said it was.  It was violent, bloody and there was massive action concerning a bear brawl.  But, Leonardo DiCaprio did his thing and I'm pretty sure the fact that he was giving us the movie star Grizzly Adams look while speaking a Native Indian dialect didn't hurt his chances this time around.


The Revenant, set somewhere in the 1820's, revolves around Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) after the loss of their wife/mother set out on an expedition with fellow fur trappers, when Hugh is injured.  Left for dead, Hugh fights for his life and for revenge of a loved one against a friend turned enemy.

In a year that has incited so much discussion about diversity, it was refreshing to see a film that utilized so many Native Americans in the cast and the crew.  Native American are an ethnic group that is very under utilized on-screen, so I was elated to see them throughout the film and not in a stereotypical way.  Yeah!!!!

Tom Hardy had a stellar year (LEGEND, MAD MAX:  FURY ROAD, THE REVENANT) landing in two Oscar nominated films.  As John Fitzgerald, I wanted to slap the taste out of mouth, which makes his unbelievable in The Revenant.  All that means, is that hardy did an exemplary job and this film is worth seeing on his performance alone.

Other notable performances are from Forrest Goodluck as Hawk and Will Poulter as Bridger.

And now for praises to my secret crush...which now is NO longer is secret for Alejandro G. Inarritu.   This man gives genius a whole new face and energy.   As writer, director and producer, he and Leo took home the Oscar and deservedly so.  Inarritu and his cinematic collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki make any location  look breathtakingly  stunning and creates a completely independent character with the lens.


If you haven't seen The Revenant, you can now catch it on DVD and live streaming online via  iTunes, VUDU, Amazon and more.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Review by Carla Renata for and  

One day while living in New York City, I ran into Frank Gorshin.  Many of you reading this will not know him, but will recognize his character "The Joker" from the old Batman television series.  I kinda lost my mind a little.  I mean, it felt like "the joker" had jumped out of my television set and onto a street in Manhattan just to meet me!!!


Needless to say, when I heard that there would be a movie where Batman was going up against Superman...I had to check it out!!!

Let's start with the good news.  The technical aspects and photography of this film are absolutely stunning.  Loved the fact that director Zack Snyder kept true to both franchises reminding us of both superhero origins, as well as, bringing back Clarke Kent's film parents Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) and Diane Lane (Martha Kent).  The franchise has become somewhat diverse with the additions of Laurence Fishburne  (Perry White) as the Daily Planet Chief and Harry Lennix (Swanwick) as the Chief of Police and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) stays true to being the strong-willed heroine with a heart.


I'm all down for a good superhero fight, but felt like the fight scenes in this film were all about 20 minutes too long.  It felt like they would never end and you could really feel the fact that they were choreographed.

Ben Affleck is my dude!!!  I am one of the few people who saw "Hollywoodland" where he portrayed real George Reeves (Superman from the television series)!!!  So, of course, I was curious to see how he would handle Batman.  Well, I kinda wasn't feeling it!  Love Ben, but his best  moments as Batman I feel got left on the cutting room floor.  on the same note Henry Cavill as Superman was just OK.  I felt like his strength mentally as a superhero was washed over a little in the installment.  Love both Ben and Henry, but again felt like this film didn't do either one of them justice.



Even though director Zack Snyder is a master of the DC comic franchise having also directed Justice League, Aquaman and two untitled DC comic films slated to be released in 2018 and 2019,  I was mortified at the revelation of killing off Superman?  I wasn't having it!!!  How can you kill my boy??!!

My faith in the film was only redeemed in the characterization of Lex Luther portrayed with  much venom by the brilliant Jesse Eisenberg.  It was  a little reminiscent of Gene Hackman's Lex Luther from the old Superman flicks in the way that the humor was very understated yet effective for the character.

So, would I recommended this one?  At the end of the day it doesn't matter what I think.  Batman v Superman:  Dawn of Justice has grossed nearly $300 million dollars thus far and will continue to touch a nerve with all fans of both franchises.



the-big-short-teaser-poster.jpg THE BIG SHORT review by Carla Renata via and Carla Renata's Corner


in 2015, we have already seen another film about the housing crisis here in America - 99 Homes - told completely from the point of view of the homeowners.  "The Big Short" tells that exact same story from the point of view of the finance/bankers whose greed and selfishness placed millions of Americans in unaffordable sub-prime loans.


With this famous quote posted at the start of the know you are about to go on a wild ride where seat belts are definitely in order.

The year was 2006 and I purchased a condo.  I should've known something was up when my own real-estate agent didn't make herself available to be in the room with me and the notary to sign the loan papers.  Nor should I have been surprised when I was told that there were two loans on the same day instead of one making my grand monthly total somewhere in the area of $4000 a month.  Could I afford this - HELL NO!

Like so many Americans, I got suckered into the American dream of owning my own home.  By 2008, the market crashed and I was stuck in sub-prime loan with an adjustable rate.  What does that mean?  It means that if the housing market rates are bad, my mortgage payment stays low.  However, if the rates escalate...then so does my mortgage payment.

Needless to say, I scurried to get a modification only to be denied for nearly three years until Obama took office and incorporated HARP and HAMP.  Why is ANY of this relevant to this review?  It is relevant because my story isn't unique.  There were millions of homeowners with this identical lament.  Millions of homeowners lost their homes, lived in hotels or on the street.  I was one of the lucky ones.

"The Big Short" focuses on four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s and decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.

Aside from watching this whole mess unfold, we learn a plethora of terms like:

CDO - A Collateralized Debt Obligation is a type of structured asset-backed security. Originally developed for the corporate debt markets, over time CDOs evolved to encompass the mortgage and mortgage-backed security markets.

Tranche -  A piece, portion or slice of a deal or structured financing. This portion is one of several related securities that are offered at the same time but have different risks, rewards and/or maturities.

Synthetic CDO -A Synthetic CDO (collateralized debt obligation) is a variation of a CDO that generally uses credit default swaps and other derivatives to obtain its investment goals.


Christian Bale (Michael Burry) is a madman, but it works brilliantly for this character.  It just proves the old adage that most highly intelligent individuals sometimes don't possess common sense.  Michael Burry is a doctor and a genius.  A genius that saw the crash coming before it hit and figured out how to cash in on it.

Steve Carell (Mark Baum) plays eccentric to the hilt with massive success. Baum is all about that dollar, but money can't fill the emptiness in his seemingly very busy life.  Carell (in my opinion) was robbed last year for "Foxcatcher".  Maybe he will finally get some acknowledgement for the carefully crafted character work in this flick.

Can I just say that Brad Pitt is a beast!!!  Not only did he produce this bad boy, but it's evident that his acting chops are very well in tact.  It's always a pleasure to see him do his thing.

Ryan Gosling (Jarred Vennett) is the shark in the water looking for blood by any means necessary.  This role is a bit of departure for Gosling.  We are usually rooting for him to win...not in this film.  He is so despicable and unlikeable that the last thing you want him to do is get away with it.

Gosling does most of the to-camera sequences, but he gets a little help from some celebrity cameos. Yes, Margot Robbie sips champagne in a bubble bath while explaining to the viewer how credit default swaps work. It's a brilliant and biting observation on what it takes to get through to people in an era where attention spans are very short

Ultimately, this is Director Adam McKay's show and his contempt for how the whole mess got so out of control informs every facet of this self-aware and often hilarious flick.

The Big Short is in theaters NOW and if you want to check out my review on 99 Homes - CLICK HERE FOR 99 HOMES REVIEW


THE DANISH GIRL review via Carla Renata's Corner and With Glamour magazines latest announcement of  Caitlyn Jenner being named Woman of the Year,  it suffices to pose the question about how Lili Elbe would have survived in a world that on a daily basis is becoming more and more accepting of the transgender community.

Director Tom Hooper and Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne have teamed up and the results are electric!  Based on David Ebershoff novel of the same name and screenplay by Lucinda Coxon, The Danish Girl is showing a softer, more vulnerable characterization of Eddie Redmayne as the real-life transgender pioneer Lile Elbe, all while revealing the love story with Lili"s (Einar) wife Gerda (lovingly played by Alicia Vikander.


In 1926, Lili Elbe, a very successful painter living in Copenhagen, underwent one of the first known reconstructive procedures to surgically remove her penis, replace it with a vagina and begin the journey to complete her transformation as a woman.  We watch as Lili (formerly Einar) becomes ridiculed, beaten and gets used to dressing in women's clothes, makeup and how Gerda (as helpful and supportive as she is) has a hard time letting go of Einar and embracing Lili.


It's safe to say that Redmayne has secured a spot as a Best Actor nominee with this performance.  Just as with his award-winning performance in The Theory of Everything, Redmayne has studied all the nuances of being a female to make his portrayal totally believable from the very first moment he slides those thigh-highs on to pose for a painting to his very last breath as Lilli.

As his better half Gerda, Alicia Vikander is a having a great year in film, having starred in both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and  Ex Machina.  She better get that red carpet dress ready because she is going to be a very busy girl this awards season.  Her choice of not making Gerda bitter is brilliant and  makes the film and her character so much richer and interesting to watch.

Danishgirl_gerda Danishgirl_painting

Opening in theaters around Thanksgiving, The Danish Girl is fascinating, entertaining and heartbreaking -- you'll love it!



Review by Carla Renata for Carla Renata's Corner and When a South African photographer sets out to capture images of his people as a means to dispel stereotypes...he runs into Ayanda,  a young South African woman who has lost her life's anchor and mentor through the most tragic circumstances imaginable.  As a result, her family and their lives have been in a holding pattern.

Set in the vibrant community of Yeoville, where African migrants come from across the continent live and fuelled by the electric energy and ethnic diversity of 21st century Johannesburg, AYANDA tells the story of a young woman whose dreams of running a retro car restoration business are threatened by dark family secrets, the complications of love and the challenges of day-to-day life.

Since the death of Ayanda’s father – in his beloved garage – Ayanda’s mother Dorothy has resisted having anything to do with the business, harbouring guilt over her husband’s death. When Ayanda’s ‘Uncle’ Zama, who part-owns the garage, announces at the business is in severe debt and it’s time to sell, Dorothy, quietly relieved, agrees.


For me, AYANDA and The Mechanic is a film about Life - Legacy - Love...posing the question of "When do you stop dreaming"?

Life - Eight years after her Dad's death, everyone in the family attempts to move on. Her Mom (Nthati Moshesh) runs a local laundromat, her brother has become an alcoholic, her Dad's business partner Zama (Kenneth Nkosi) has stepped in becoming a pseudo father/head-of-household and Ayanda (Fulu Moguvhani )naturally has followed in her her father's footsteps of becoming an amazing mechanic.

Legacy - Faced with having to sell the garage due to the immense debt that incurred after his death, Ayanda hatches a plan to re-model cars to come up with the $30,000 in order to save the property. When she auctions off the cars and makes $45,000, all the masks fall off and secrets are revealed that no one wants to acknowledge.

Love - In order to find love for herself, Ayanda abandons the love she has for her man - David, (O.C. Ukeje), her family and the garage to find much needed love for herself. Like the nickname her Dad gave her "Butterfly" - Ayanda will now decides to explore the opportunity to spread her wings and fly onto her next adventure guilt free.

In this instance, the word "mechanic" takes on a whole new meaning.  For Ayanda, the mechanics of manuvering the ghost of her Dad, her feelings for David and adjusting to feelings of self-discovery as a young woman struggling to come into her own identity all seem to weave themselves into a very complicated web.

So, in a quest to find portraits of his country reflecting a more positive image, the photographer stumbles onto so much more and I, for one am elated that he did!

The performances of all of these actors are extraordinary, but the emotional palette displayed by Fulu Moguvhani is a marvel to experience.

Ayanda and The Mechanic had it's World Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival earlier this year.


Trumbo_Poster Review by Carla Renata for Carla Renata's Corner and On Air With Tony Sweet/

With opinions ranting left and right on social media like a fresh-cut that barely has time to scab, there was a time in American history where expressing your opinion had consequences and repercussions.  One could even say that nowadays there is a "societal blacklist" that occurs  in social media.  Just ask Bill Cosby, any Kardashian or the hundreds of cops being called out for their reprehensible behavior.

The HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee)  accused many of engaging in Communistic/Un-American activities in the Hollywood community.  Ten screenwriters refused to answer questions regarding their possible communist affiliations, and, after spending time in prison for contempt of Congress, were mostly blacklisted by the Hollywood studios.

The group originally included the German writer Bertolt Brecht, but Brecht fled the country on the day following his inquest, and the remaining 10 were voted in contempt of Congress on Nov. 24, 1947.  The 10 were Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott and Dalton Trumbo.

Even Arthur Laurents (The Way We Were, West Side Story, Gypsy, The Turning Point) was called in to account for his political views. He explained himself to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and his appearance seemed to have no obvious impact on his career, which at the time was primarily in the theater. 

Years earlier, Laurents and Jerome Robbins had developed Look Ma, I'm Dancin'! (1948), a Broadway musical about the world of ballet that ran for 188 performances.  Robbins approached Paramount Pictures about directing a screen version, and the studio agreed as long as Laurents was not part of the package.  It was then that Laurents learned he officially had been blacklisted, primarily because a review of Home of the Brave that had been published in the Daily Worker. Laurents spent three months trying to clear his name.  Just think, if Laurents name had not been cleared, American theater would not have some its iconic classics we still enjoy today.

The Brave One, Roman Holiday and Spartucus are all films written by the brilliantly talented screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo and according to events  in the feature film of the same name, "Trumbo" was very passionate about his writing and his politics.

Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo gives a tour de force performance only to be rivaled by his spectacular Emmy/Golden Globe winning performance on "Breaking Bad" His gruff, eccentric and often times comedic portrayal could be seen as a master class in character work onscreen.


Michael Stuhlbarg is having an amazing cinematic year.  In addition to Trumbo, he has Miles Ahead (The Miles Davis Story), Pawn Sacrifice, Steve Jobs either already in theaters or slated to open in 2016, which is literally around the corner.

As Edward G. Robinson, Stuhlbarg's portrayal reminds you how difficult it must be to choose between your beliefs and your career.  Especially if those choices may end the career and comfort that you have come to know and rely upon.  It's a safe bet that both he and Cranston will be walking a lot of red carpets this year.

Joining them on the carpet will most certainly be Dame Helen Mirren for her "balls to the wall" performance of the legendary gossip monger/former actress - Hedda Hopper.  Nowadays, social media makes stars, but in Hollywood's heyday, women like Hopper, Louella Parsons and Sheila Graham Westbrook could make or break a Hollywood career.  Mirren recreates that essence with such bravado and commitment that one could only wonder just how treacherous the real Hedda Hopper truly was.


Luckily for us, Louie C.K. as Arlen Herd has finally been given a character that has arc to it and not just a small cameo for storytelling purposes.  I adore him!

Kudos to Director Jay Roach and Trumbo's daughters Nikola and Mitzi for having the patience and tenacity for seven years to ring this story to the forefront.  The timing couldn't be better.  An extra special thanks to Kirk Douglas, without whose courage and support of Dalton Trumbo assisted giving us some of the greatest cinematic story ever told onscreen.

"Trumbo" is in limited release beginning November 6th and for those writers out there, you definitely want to add this screening on your "to do" list.

Here's an excerpt from Cleo Trumbo's acceptance speech for Dalton in 1992 at the WGA.



BrooklynPoster Review by Carla Renata for and On Air With Tony Sweet for

Have you ever been homesick?  It's a horrible feeling and one that I only experienced once in my lifetime.  While entertaining our troops on a mountaintop in Turkey, one of my songs in a USO tour show was part of a medley including  "Celebrate Me Home" by Kenny Loggins and "Home" from "The Wiz".  It was Thanksgiving Day and I a began t o sing the words "When I think of home I think of place...", I realized for the first time in my life I wasn't home.

I wouldn't be running all over St. Louis to visit with relatives, play games, go to the movies, be entertained by those relatives who are not intentionally comedic, but most importantly it would be the first time away from my Mom and brother.  NO sweet potato pie...NO greens...NO cranberry relish...NO Macy's parade.  I bravely chose to be related to hundreds of soldiers who were not able to be with their families.

It was an experience I shall not soon forget and get choked up now even as I share the experience with you.

Based on the novel by Nick Hornsby, "Brooklyn" is a coming of age story about a young Irish girl leaving home for the first time to travel to America, where she discovers many firsts...falling in love with her new country, herself and the love of her life.

Being homesick for Eilis (Saoirse Ronan  is  like not feeling at home in your native country or one that you have chosen to live or visit.  It's sort of like being in exile.  Until she has a chance meeting with a charming Italian by the name of  Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a dance.  That dance and meeting changes everything.  Due to unforseen circumstances, Eilis finds herself back in Ireland with the dilemma of choosing to stay or return to her life and love in Brooklyn.

Saoirse Ronan is extraordinary as Eilis.  Through her ability to be completely open and vulnerable.  We have the pleasure of watching this strong-willed young woman, grow and mature right before our eyes.  At a recent Q & A, Roman expressed how proud she was to represent her country onscreen and the pressure that comes along with wanting to get everything just right.


Her leading man Emory Cohen as Tony has a very commanding presence and one that is reminiscent of a young Marlon Brando.  At just 25 years old, I assure you this dude is going to turn Hollywood upside down.  His talent and acting chops are un-paralleled in my opinion.


But Baby, Miss Julie Waters as Mrs. Kehoe is hilarious!!!  Everyone knows of or has had a landlady like her...judgemental and outspoken with a heart of gold.

John Crowley's direction  is best described by himself as "...capturing twenty seconds of this illusion thing called truth".  Coming from a theater background, he wholeheartedly believes in the rehearsal process.  As daunting as it is to recreate the same performance 8 times a week onstage, it's even more complex to catch lightning in a bottle for the screen.  The difference is that you can shoot and shoot until you get it just right.

"Brooklyn" is a heartwarming, emotionally entertaining roller coaster look at 1950's Brooklyn and Ireland through the eyes of  one young woman and her family.  It's a journey you definitely want to book a ticket to. "Brooklyn" opens in selected theaters on November 4th.


Ismile_poster I SMILE BACK via and

Depression is a very complex emotion.  Nowadays, there are so many types with names and medications attached them that it's hard to keep up.  It's even more difficult to keep up with someone you love who suffers from depression, as it is often times impossible to keep them from spiraling out of control and taking everyone else down with them.

Laney Brooks is a wife and mother whose depression causes her to act out.  She does drugs, disappears and returns home with little to no notice.  She has sex with whoever, whenever and wherever the spirit moves her.  If all that weren't enough, she drinks  on the down low and appears to also have some sort of eating disorder.  Whew...I'm exhausted already talking about Miss Laney!  The one thing Laney has going for her is the love of her devoted husband Bruce (Josh Charles) and son Eli (Skylar Gaertner).


From the first frame, Sarah Silverman sucks you in and convinced that she and Laney Brooks are indeed one in the same.  She is a force to be reckoned with this performance and I have a feeling that doing stand-up in a room of 30 people will be a thing of the past for this brilliant comic. Silverman's acting is transformative, exciting and compelling to behold.  Can you tell I liked her just a

Three moments that stand out for me is the opening of the film where Laney is in the bathroom secretly beginning her day the way she does on so many occasions - doing something bad. The very last scene where her husband realizes all the love in the world isn't going to save his wife, his kid or his marriage. Last, but certainly not least is a scene in her child's bedroom with a stuffed animal, which is very disturbing to say the least.


Josh Charles should win film husband of the year for this one.  His patience with Laney as Bruce makes you think of the song lyrics to "When A Man Loves A Woman".  Your heart breaks watching this train wreck because all the love in the world can't put "humpty-dumpty back together again".


"I Smile Back" makes one wonder the origins of addictive, reckless behavior begins in an individual.  More importantly, how long does it take to fester and percolate before destroying a life completely and everyone in their path.

"I Smile Back" opens on October 23rd and trust me when I tell you that you need to make sure you are really good spirits before taking on this film.  It will leave you breathless...literally.

Steve Jobs

"Think Different" - Steve Jobs

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2005 file photo, Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs holds up an iPod during an event in San Jose, Calif. Jurors in a class-action lawsuit against Apple Inc. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 saw emails from the late CEO and his top lieutenants that show Jobs was determined to keep Apple's popular iPod music players free from songs that were sold by competing online stores. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

- Steve Jobs Commencement Speech at Stanford University in 2005


Steve Jobs Review for and by Carla Renata


Steve Jobs and I had a lot in common. We both love and obsessed over Apple. We both practice Buddhism - Jobs practiced Zen and I practice Nichiren Buddhism.  We both believe in living in the here and  now. We both believe in doing what you loved and to never settle for less than.

My obsession with Apple began with the iPod.  While on tour, I traveled with a cassette player and case that housed all my gear.  It was bulky, heavy and took up ALOT of room in my luggage. Small enough to fit into my purse or carry-on bag, an iPod could fit into my purse.  I could listen to music for hours AND an iPod it held up to 1000 songs. coincidentally, this is the very reason Jobs created an iPod.

After his death from Pancreatic Cancer in 2010, Steve Jobs became a mythical, technological wizard around the world with his buddy Steve Wozniak.  Woz  and Jobs revolutionized the way millions connect around the world.

Primarily patterned after the Walter Isaacson book "Steve Jobs", this biopic is smart, savvy and leaves you salivating for more at the final frame.  With a crafty Aaron Sorkin screenplay and brilliant direction by Danny Boyle, "Steve Jobs" proves to be a different type of biopic filmed in three important stages of Jobs' life and career. Every scene plays like an elaborate dance of characters and rapid-fire dialogue.

I have to give it up to Francine Maisler for casting a cast to be rivaled.  Kate Winslet is a joy to behold as Jobs' most trusted confidant, Joanna Hoffman.  This chick masters an Armenian accent while navigating speedy dialogue all while running up and down corridors.  Winslet slays every ounce of this role with an ease that is admirable and exciting to witness.


Jeff Daniels, who at this point is a pro at rattling off Aaron Sorkin dialogue after spending several seasons on Sorkin's critically acclaimed drama "The Newsroom".  Daniels portrays John Scully with quiet bravado laced with dignity and pride.  When he and Jobs are at odds in some very difficult scenes, Daniels very easily could've played the victim, but makes a choice to play Scully as a strong, independent man who breaks away from the mechanical puppet master - Steve Jobs.


Those scenes with Daniels and Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) are the most fascinating portions of this film and I predict will earn them both a lot of praise and attention this awards season along their co-stars Kate Winslet and Seth Rogan.

Rogan, gives you just the right amount of humor and sensitivity to convince you that he is indeed Steve Wozniak.  A very prolific scene between Jobs and Woz in the orchestra pit of the San Francisco is one of many highlights in which Jobs confesses to Woz, "You are a very talented musician, but I play the orchestra".


Last, but certainly not least is Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs.  Admittedly, Fassbender was the last person that I would've thought of to play Jobs.  I gotta tell ya...I was a million percent wrong.  Fassbender morphs into the Steve Jobs we have all seen in the product launches and interviews and along with his crazy command of the massive amounts of dialogue he spouts out it is my bet that he will be the frontrunner for Best Actor this season.


Fassbender portrays Jobs as a kinder, gentler man in regards to his relationships with his daughter Lisa and trusted advisor Joanna Hoffman.

Steve Jobs launched into selected theaters this past weekend and opens nationwide on October 23rd.

The Martian

TheMartian THE MARTIAN Review by Carla Renata for

This past week, NASA discovered that there is water on Mars.  Is it drinkable?  Does this mean there is life on the planet?  How much is the government really sharing with the world?

It seems the release of the Matt Damon, Ridley Scott directed Sci-Fi hit "The Martian" opened right on time.  NASA space crew ARES III is on Mars when an unexpected sand storm hits.  As the crew attempts to back on board the ship, a satellite dish hits astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon).  Believing their crew member has perished in the storm the Ares III blast off without him.  When he finally resurfaces it is in the red dirt on the surface of Mars.

Realizing he is alone, Watney has to decide whether or not to give up and die or devise a plan for survival.  Adapated from the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, the audience is taking on a wild ride and crash course of Mars survival through the eyes of one man.

In the beginning, feeling like "Castaway" on Mars, this film quickly shifts into an educational, intense-action-packed story with many twists and turns keeping the audience totally engaged until the very last frame.

Matt Damon as Mark Watney carries this film with an ease and charisma that just might land him an Oscar nomination (his first for Lead Actor since "Good Will Hunting in 1997).  Looks like all that training he has received as Jason Bourne served Damon extremely well in this flick.



Kristen Wiig is just ridiculously funny...even in a Sci-Fi/Adventure flick as the lead PR rep for NASA.  Chiwetel Ejiofor once again saying more when silent than with his given dialogue is spot on as NASA Scientist Vincent Kapoor.  Jeff Daniels is very effective as the hard-as-nails with a heart NASA head honcho - Teddy Sanders.   Other than Damon,  Jessica Chastain is once again shedding another layer of her chameleon skin as Ares III Commander Melissa Lewis proving she is always a force to be reckoned with on the silver screen.


Topping the weekend B.O with a domestic gross of 55 million, it is safe to say that The Martian's blast off was a huge success.

Watch the trailer below and check out why.  In the meantime, you might want to stock up on your potato supply.  You'll get the reference after watching the film.