LITTLE MEN

  Review by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and CarlaRenatasCorner.com

Death is always uncomfortable.  Those left are always second guessing what their loved one would've thought or how they would want their wishes to be carried out.  Often times, when there is a child who has been coddled and protected by the deceased parent,  it forces them to grow up rapidly in ways they don't necessarily want or expect.

Direct from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Ira Sachs examines the friendship of two teenaged boys and how the social/economic gaps between their families threatens to overwhelm  and undermine that relationship.

In the wake of Jake's Grandfather passing, he and his family move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Sensitive and shy Jake (Thos Taplitz) quickly becomes besties with Tony (Michael Barbieri), who is a little more gregarious by nature and is fiercely protective of his new best friend.

While the boys are bonding, the adults are fighting! over real estate.  Apparently, Jake's grandfather didn't handle all of his business, leaving the lease for a dress shop he owned up for grabs.  When Leonor (Paulina Garcia) decides that it is her right to stay at the shop without raising the rent, an immature, unflattering behavior casts a cloud over both the tragic and comedic contrasts to the world that Tony and Jake share.

Michael Barbieri (Tony) and Theo Taplitz (Jake) carry this film, much in the way Tatum O'Neal carried Paper Moon and Abigail Breslin carried Little Miss Sunshine.  Their scenes together are entertaining to say the least, but it's moment they are alone with other actors where they really have an opportunity to shine.

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The highlight of the whole scene is where Tony is in a Meisner  acting class doing a repetition exercise with his instructor that literally garnered applause from the audience at the screening I attended.

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Paulina Garcia as Leonor is deliciously despicable.  Your heart breaks for her.  You realize not only did she lose someone she loved, but now is losing the security of a home, job and business due to no fault of her own.  As a Chilean mother, she is struggling to give her son the best life possible and feels like she is failing.

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Greg Kinnear as Brian is subtle, yet extremely effective as the small time actor juggling the pressure of marriage and kids in the midst of coping with family loss.

Having been a military brat, I am all too familiar with making great friends, moving away and losing touch as the years go by.  You try desperately to hold on to the good times, but life goes on. The only solace you have is that somehow those friends changed the kaleidoscope of you childhood and made you a little richer for having met them.

Ironically, Ira Sachs shared at a recent Q&A that Little Men picks up where Love So Strange leaves off.  Love So Strange ends with a kid on a skateboard and Little Men begins with a kid on a skateboard.  Sachs thought it would be interesting to see what happens to that kid.  Guess What Ira?  Not only was it interesting, but I loved it!!!

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Happy 100th Birthday Olivia de Havilland

by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and CarlaRenatasCorner Gone With The Wind is one of my Mommy's favorite movies and has become a classic one of mine as well.  For the woman who played the role of faithful wife to Ashley Wilkes - Olivia De Havilland is the film's only surviving actor.  Today she turned 100 years young!

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Born in Tokyo on July 1, 1916, to British parents, de Havilland and her younger sister Joan Fontaine grew up in California and both became Academy Award-winning lead actresses (the only pair of siblings to do so). Reportedly, Fontaine had originally been approached for the role of Melanie in "GWTW," but wanted to play Scarlett O'Hara.  She suggested her sister for the part instead.

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De Havilland, who appeared in "GWTW" when she was in her early 20s, ultimately went on to star in dozens of movies and TV shows, winning two Oscars (for 1947's "To Each His Own" and 1950's "The Heiress") before stepping away from the spotlight in 1988.

One of my all time favorite films starring de Havilland was a Hitchcock thriller called Suspicion.  If you haven't seen her body of work, take a break from the barbecue and fireworks to check her out.  Like the iconic films in which she starred...Olivia de Havilland is a class act.

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MAYA ANGELOU DOC RISES TO THE TOP AT 2016 AFI FIM DOC FESTIVAL

  Report by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and CarlaRenatasCorner.com

The American Film Institute announced today the AFI DOCS 2016 Audience Award winners, concluding the five-day festival in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD.  This year's Audience Award for Best Feature went to MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules (U.S.).  This year's Audience Award for Best Short went to SNAILS, directed by Grzegorz Szczepaniak (Poland).  With 93 films from 30 countries, the festival brought together filmmakers, industry, national policy and opinion leaders.

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The 2016 festival provided unique opportunities for audiences, filmmakers and policymakers to meet in our nation's capital as news unfolded.  U.S. Representatives Jim Himes and Nita Lowey addressed the NEWTOWN Spotlight Screening audience at the Newseum just hours after Democrats concluded their sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives.  AFI DOCS filmmakers convened with policymakers at the White House, while AFI DOCS Impact Lab-participating filmmakers met with U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu, Jim McGovern and David Price.

 

As part of AFI DOCS 2016, the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and the U.S. State Department conducted a gathering and roundtable of international filmmakers from Pakistan.  The meeting focused on how international filmmakers can make the leap into the established western film community, along with private conversations on how to handle issues such as funding, distribution and censorship.  This is the third year AFI DOCS and the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands have partnered to organize programs to advance the art and impact of documentary film.

 

This year's AFI DOCS attendees included renowned filmmakers Judd Apatow, Ramin Bahrani, Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Rachel Grady, Werner Herzog (this year's AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree) and Barbara Kopple, along with acclaimed singer Sharon Jones and television icon Norman Lear.  Global, national and local leaders in attendance included U.S. Representatives Jim Himes and Nita Lowey and German Ambassador Peter Wittig.

 

Joining the opinion leaders were distinguished journalists:  PBS NewsHour's Chief Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown and Political Director Lisa Desjardins; The Undefeated's Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida and Culture Writer Soraya Nadia McDonald; and The Washington Post's Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday, Editor Josh Freedom du Lac and Opinion Writer Alyssa Rosenberg.

 

MORE ABOUT THE WINNING FILMS:

 

MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE

Co-directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack present a lovingly crafted and comprehensive portrait of the esteemed Dr. Maya Angelou.  The story is told by Angelou herself, along with a cast of contemporaries from her careers as actress, writer, poet and activist.  In chronicling Angelou's life from her youth in the Depression-era South through her rise to international prominence, the film is a vital document about the importance of grace, dignity and the quest for peace.

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SNAILS

Best friends with a shared goal of becoming millionaires believe they've found the answer to their dreams in an unlikely profession: snail farming.

Three of my favorite docs from Sundance and Tribeca were featured at AFI Docs as well...take a look at what I had to say about Life Animated, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, Abortion:  Stories Women Tell and look their trailer...

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THE REVENANT

Review by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and CarlaRenatasCorner.com. 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.

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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.

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

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Review by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and CarlaRenatasCorner.com  

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!!!

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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.

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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.

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  ****SPOILER ALERT****

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.

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JOY

  JOY Review by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's Corner

QVC and HSN make milllions of dollars and often times have major repeat business. Most of that success is due to Joy Mangano and her "miracle mop" invention, which took QVC by storm in 1990.

The Miracle Mop, a plastic mop with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user's hands wet. After selling the mop at trade shows and in local stores on Long Island, but once QVC allowed Mangano to go on-air, she sold 18,000 mops in less than a half hour.  Ten years later, her company was selling $10 million worth of Miracle Mops per year.

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I remember this invention well.  Never used it or bought it, but I remember vividly those infomercials about it and seeing Joy on QVC.  Now over at their competitor HSN and has sold over 150 million a year and Mangano holds more than 100 patents for her inventions. "I think my products have been successful because they have mass appeal," she has said. "I'm just like everybody else out there. I'm a mom, I work, I have a house to clean, things to organize. We all have certain similar needs, and I address them."

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Well, so does Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro in the Christmas release based on Joy Mangano's rise to QVC fame!

What is it with Cooper and Lawrence?  This is like their fourth film together with David O. Russell and each time they all seem to strike lightening in a bottle.  I guess the old adage "If it ain't broke...don't fix it" works really well for them and the audiences that come out in droves to enjoy their work.

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Lawrence is once again playing a role of a woman well beyond her years, but man if anybody could pull it off...it's her.  She attacks every role without fear and a realism that the everyday man/woman can relate to, which makes her the perfect choice to play Joy Mangano.  Mangano never comprised and neither does Lawrence with her performance.

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Bradley Cooper is always charming and easy not he eyes.  He also attacks every role with gusto and enthusiasm, which makes him a great match for Lawrence every time.  He is a master at wrapping very difficult dialogue with rapid fire speed which makes you forget that one is watching an actor.

Which brings me to the show stealers:  Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rosellini.  These veteran actors take command of the screen each and every time they appear.  Each one of them makes you want to slap the taste out of their mouths, because their characters are just despicable.  Let's hope Joy's real-life Step-Monster, Dad and Mom weren't as troublesome.

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Although, I enjoyed this flick immensely, it is not getting the love I feel it deserves.  Oh well...just my humble opinion.

Joy opens nationwide on Christmas Day.

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STAR WARS

   

STAR WARS Review by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's Corner

 

OK...I will just start out saying that Star Wars:  The Force Awakens is THE best Star Wars since the original.  Kudos to J.J. Abrams for keeping the integrity and energy of the the franchise in tact with the same respect he did with the Star Trek franchise.

OMG!!!  There is so much to say and I will do my best without spoiling it for you.

First off, we see the some of our favorite original characters, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia, who is now General Leia (Carrie Fisher), our favorite droids C-3P0 and R2 D2 and maybe a few more original surprises.

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The new droid BB-8 gives R2 D2 a run for his money with the cute factor and he kind of reminds me of space weeble...

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So, in this installment, three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and with the help of the Resistance an unlikely trip aids in thwarting that takeover.

Daisy Ridley (Rey) is kicking butt in her first feature film and I kinda love that fact that she intimidates the boys just a tad.  She is one step ahead of them every time.  Of course, this comes a son surprise, since Ridley is the real life daughter of Carrie Fisher, who made for a very feisty Princess Leia.  Nepotism may have played a role in her having the door opened, but homegirl is truly holding her own and making it look really effortless.

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Her better half, John Boyega (Finn) has that comic relief that made the first Star Wars so incredibly enjoyable.  He is charismatic, rugged and takes on the task of being a Storm Trooper crossing over the light with flying colors.

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However, it is Adam Driver who walks away with this film.  His turn as the villain Kylo Ren and a HUGE departure from the last role I witnessed him in back in Noah Baumbach's 2014 comedy "While We're Young".  The dude has a talent range of which we don't see that often these days.  He is letting us have it and I can't wait to see him do it again!

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Last year, Oscar Isaac was a con man in "Two Faces of January" and gave a stellar performance in "A Most Violent Year".  2015 and 2016 are shaping up quite nicely for this brilliant actor as well.   I've said before that his presence reminds me very much of a young Al Pacino.  He has that quiet intensity that makes one wonder what he's thinking and what he's up to...I love it!!!3504.jpg

All the fight scenes are fantastic and Lupita  N'yongo has immortalized her voice in the character form of Maz Kanata.

I'll stop now before I give up anymore, but before I do let me just say that it warmed my heart as a HUGE Star Wars fan to watch Princess Leia and Han Solo embrace once more...

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Star Wars can be found in a theater near you....NOW

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CONCUSSION

CONCUSSION Review by Carla Renata for UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's CornerDon't watch football...Don't like football and don't even have it on my radar until Super Bowl. So, why would I go to see a movie about football? Well, first off because WILL SMITH is starring in it! Secondly, the title alone caught my attention - CONCUSSION.

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Then, like a flash my memory began to place the pieces of the puzzle together. On May 2, 2012, like so many days on the news in Los Angeles, there was a "breaking news" item. Apparently, Ex-San Diego Charger linebacker Junior Seau was found dead at his home in Oceanside, California from a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. That's when all the bells and whistles went off for me.

Seau's death was very similar to the way I read that former Chicago Bears great Dave Duerson ended his life. Duerson shot himself in the chest on February 17, 2011. Turns out both these men had symptoms of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a trauma-induced disease common to NFL players and others who have received repeated blows to the head.

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These are just the two I recalled. As I would learn from watching "Concussion", CTE was like an epidemic sweeping former NFL players. So why didn't the NFL do something about it?

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Well, Dr. Bennet Omalu wasn't about to that that go down! While working as a pathologist in Pittsburgh, Omalu uncovered the truth, gave it a name and almost witnessed his medical career ruined while taking on one of the most powerful organizations in America - the National Football League (NFL).

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In the words of Dr. Omalu himself, "We’ve known since 1964 that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health. We’ve known for more than 40 years that alcohol damages the developing brain of a child. We’ve known since the mid-1970s that asbestos causes cancer and other serious diseases. Knowing what we know now, we do not smoke in enclosed public spaces like airplanes, we have passed laws to keep children from smoking or drinking alcohol, and we do not use asbestos as an industrial product..."

Dr. Omalu continues..."Over the past two decades it has become clear that repetitive blows to the head in high-impact contact sports like football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts and boxing place athletes at risk of permanent brain damage...Why, then, do we continue to intentionally expose our children to this risk?" Well, Dr. Omalu...It's like they say in the film, the NFL literally OWNS one day of the week on network television. Do you know how many billions of dollars could potentially be lost if the NFL acknowledged they knew about CTE and did NOTHING?

According to PBS’s Frontline, an ongoing joint study by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University has found CTE in 87 of 91 examined brains of former NFL players, bringing the Boston lab’s total to 131 of 165 of former football players at all levels. Well, with "Concussion" opening on Christmas Day the pressure is on the NFL like never before. Will they cave in? Only time will tell and time is what many of these players are not in abundance of.

Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu is giving the best performance of his career. His conviction to every molecule of this character is the stuff Oscar winning performances are made of. Smith has already garnered a Golden Globe nod for his work. Let's hope that the Academy Awards knocks next.

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a chameleon. This doll seamlessly melts into whatever character's skin she slips under. As a love interest for Smith, she it the perfect choice. Right before our eyes, we witness Prema going from a sweet, African girl to a woman with boundless amounts of strength and conviction even her husband when wants to give up.

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Alec Baldwin is always good for a laugh, but his role as Dr. Julian Bailes is anything but comical. Dr. Bailes turns out to be the one ally Omalu has in this whole sordid mess. Baldwin realistically conveys the emotional and moral turmoil Bailes faces when going up against his own community.

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The actor who surprised me the most was Hill Harper. As NFL lawyer, Christopher Jones, he is downright despicable...I loved it!!

With a film this heavy, you gotta have a comic relief somewhere and it was right on time with Albert Brooks (Dr. Cyril Wecht).

It will be interesting after this release to see just how much of an impact "Concussion" makes on the acknowledgment of CTE by the NFL or if how it changes the way football players approach the game from this point on!

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CAROL

CAROL review by Carla Renata via UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's Corner Remember the first time you fell in love? I mean REAL LOVE and not just a crush or something you knew would fade in time?  I remember mine well.  The man I fell in love seemed perfect.  He had a sense of humor, he was handsome and took care of me.  I mean REALLY took care of me.  He drew bubble baths for me, took me out dining to really cool restaurants and massages were plentiful...as was his undying attention to my every need.

So, you're wondering what happened? Is he still in my life?  Did I marry him?  Did we marry and divorce?  Well, one never knows...do one?  What I will tell  you is THAT relationship changed my life.  It changed how and why I love and taught me to live life to the fullest every second of the day!!

Directed by Todd Haynes, "Carol" centers around a young department store employee who falls madly in love with an older, married woman in the 1950's.

I've been a Todd Haynes fan all the way back to "Far From Heaven" starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore.  When Moore and Haynes teamed up again she took home the golden statue after numerous  past nominations.  Maybe teaming up twice will be a good luck omen for Cate Blanchett (who worked with Haynes in "The Talented Mr. Ripley").

Blanchett, who in my opinion, embodies with every fiber of her being what it means to be a "movie star", glows onscreen and takes command even when she is not uttering one single word.  The devilish complexity she layers Carol with makes you empathize with her for not being able to love who she chooses and how she chooses.

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Rooney Mara makes Therese transform from a child to a woman right before our eyes.  The impish childishness that she inhabits Therese with is absolutely endearing.  However, when her heart is broken you watch her growing up out of necessity and not choice.  It's absolutely phenomenal to watch.

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Mostly having seen Kyle Chandler on television the last few years have been very kind to hi with "Friday Night Lights" and "The Wolf of Wall Street".  As Carol's husband, Harge,  Chandler is  a bully with a heart of gold.  He can't stand the thought of his wife being with someone else, but he can't seem to let her go knowing it's what's best for everyone involved.

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According to one-half of Carol's writing team, Patricia Highsmith's novel (The Price of Salt) was inspired by a chance encounter she had with a blond woman in a fur coat that she saw shopping inside a department store in New York City, while she was working as a temporary sales clerk selling dolls, shortly before Christmas 1948.    She recalled completing the outline in two hours that night, likely under the influence of chicken pox which she discovered she had the next day, saying "fever is stimulating the imagination". She completed the novel by 1951.

The plot for "Carol" is loosely based on the romance between Patricia Highsmith and Virginia Kent Catherwood (1915-1966), an older woman and Philadelphia socialite who had lost custody of her child in divorce proceedings involving taped hotel room conversations and lesbianism.

"Carol" received a standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival international press screening/premiere and with 5 nominations, it is the most nominated film for the Golden Globes in 2015.

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TRAINWRECK

TRAINWRECK review by Carla Renata via UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's Corner  

We have this type of girlfriend.  You know the one who parties hard all the time, has commitment issues and is uber competitive?  Yup, we all know one and apparently so does Amy Schumer.

As writer and star of "Trainwreck", Schumer puts a familiar, yet comical twist on "those types of chicks".

The laughs are plentiful and come from several unlikely sources, however, the most pleasant surprise was Lebron James.  Yeah, THAT Lebron James!  You know the one who left Cleveland and came back to play ball?  When I tell you his character had me howling...I am not exaggerating!  Laugh out loud funny stuff.  His scene with Bill Hader is one of the best in the film.16990280-mmmain.jpg

Speaking of which, Bill Hader is so sweet and lovable... Hell, I would go out on a date with him and that is saying ALOT...lol.  It's surely a departure from his usual post SNL type dudes and a very welcomed one to say the least.  The chemistry with he and Schumer is off the charts.

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The scenes at the magazine with the staff, include Schumer, but a ridiculously comical Randall Park, Vanessa Bayer and freaking Tilda Swinton.  Let's talk about that fact that I didn't even know Swinton was in the film until the credits rolled.  Now that's what you call a character chameleon!  She's is so comical, but real to the point where she sort of reminded me of some people I know...ouch!

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I would venture to say two of my favorite scenes involve Swinton and Schumer, a little surprise number toward the end of the flick that is magnificently hilarious and a doctor office scene that made me holler!!!

Trainwreck is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital HD and VOD.

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THE CONTENDERS: CREED vs SOUTHPAW

The Contenders:  CREED vs SOUTHPAW by Carla Renata via UBNRadio.com and Carla Renata's Corner  

Rocky is one of my all-time favorite film franchises right up there with the Godfather Trilogy, The Color Purple, Martin Scorsese films and ANY Jane Austin flick.  I was always impressed with the fact that Stallone refused to cave in and let the studios buys the rights to his script without him as the star.  Seriously, could you even imagine "Rocky" WITHOUT Sylvester Stallone?

"Creed" is the latest in the "Rocky" film franchise and is the first script NOT written by Stallone. "Fruitvale Station" director cuts his teeth on his first major studio film Directing and Writing "Creed" just as Stallone did 20 years ago and does so magnificently.

Coogler honors the franchise with some formulas from "Rocky" former versions like that infamous statue, which no longer sits atop those stairs, running through the streets of Philly, training at Mick's gym, the meticulously shot and choreographed boxing rounds, the turtles purchased from Adrian in the pet shop, the love interest with a disability, the shorts and a match against a famous foreign boxer.  Needless to say, only a real "Rocky" fan would notice all those intricate details...which I am proud to say I am.

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"Creed" introduces us to the illegitimate son of the legendary Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born.  Unable to shake his unspoken legacy, Adonis makes a decision to become a professional boxer who only wants to be trained by "Rocky".  One of the most important lines spoken is during the match when "Rocky" ask Adonis what he i trying to prove and he replies, " I need to prove I wasn't a mistake"  That one line says it all.

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Something so powerful, yet so simple drives one to make decisions that may not make sense to anyone else but them.

Michael B. Jordan (Creed) is giving the performance of a lifetime and does so with every fiber of his being.  It's magnificently electric and exciting to watch!  Even more exciting is watching the chemistry unfold between Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Bianca).  It's absolutely smoldering in the same fashion it was between Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone.  Thompson is a mysteriously beautiful enigma who becomes the "beauty" to the "beast" so to speak.

 

Phylicia Rashad is such a spectacular actress that she makes any role she embodies look like a walk in the park which is a testament to her brilliance.  I only wish she had been on the screen a little longer.

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If you are a fan of the "Rocky" franchise, Coogler,  Jordan, Thompson or Stallone, you will definitely not be disappointed in "Creed".  "Creed" is in theaters now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ9OhBYjTds

 

 

 

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On the flip side, we have "Southpaw" starring  Jake Gylenhall.  Gylenhall (Billy Hope) is the heavyweight champion of the world and loses his childhood sweetheart and wife in a tragic set of circumstances.  This sets off a chain of events that result in other major loses for Hope including his daughter to child protection services.  In an effort to get his life and career back on track, Hope enlists the assistance of Tick Willis (Forest Whittaker).

It goes without saying that since it s a boxing flick, one is bound to make similarities to "Rocky", but "Southpaw" stands on its own merit mostly due to the amazing performance of Gyllenhaal. This actor has the uncanny ability to disappear into any role he inhabits with gusto.  From "Brokeback Mountain" to "Nightcrawler" to "Southpaw" unarguably proves that.

Rachel McAdams (Maureen Hope) is having a stellar year in film with this performance and in "Spotlight".  As Maureen, she is the perfect counterpart to Gyllenhall and her death scene heartbreaking.

However, it is young Oona Laurence (Laila Hope) who steals the show.  Her emotional range is well beyond her years and she is enchanting to watch.

Southpaw was released in July 2015.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11tsR0kI1ZQ

 

THE BIG SHORT

the-big-short-teaser-poster.jpg THE BIG SHORT review by Carla Renata via UBNRadio.com 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.

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With this famous quote posted at the start of the film...you 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.

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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

https://youtu.be/vgqG3ITMv1Q

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

   

ME, EARL and the DYING GIRL review by Carla Renata via UBNRadio.com and CarlaRenatasCorner.com

Everybody who has a Mom has been nagged by her about many things.  Those things can range from taking out the trash or changing your outfit right as your hand in on the doorknob to leave or taking your little brother to the mall with you.

For Greg, who spends most of his spare time making parodies of classic films with his "co-worker" Earl, his nagging came in the form of spending time with a girl in the neighborhood who had been diagnosed with cancer.

The unlikely pairing would prove to be life changing for all parties involved.  Greg learns how to be a real, trusted friend, Earl realizes that he is taken for granted by his "best-friend" and "co-worker" and Rachel finds the bravery to die with dignity and on her own terms.

One wouldn't expect tons of laughter, but laughing is exactly what I did thanks to the comic genius of Molly Shannon (Denise), Nick Offerman (Greg's Dad),  RJ Cyler (Earl) and Thomas Mann (Greg).  Mann shows just how awkward and challenging it can be for teens these days to make friends, let alone keep them.  His knack for effectively swirling comedy with drama is the main ingredient that makes this film work on every level.

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Olivia Cooke as Rachel gives you a full-on look into the psyche of a young woman who will never go to prom, college, get married or any of the other things one looks forward to when growing up and out of your parents home.  She's simply brilliant and coupled with Mann and Cyler they bring a lot of humanity to all three of their characters that is heartwarming and heart wrenching all at once.

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Connie Britton took time off from her hit show "Nashville", hung up her high heels and makeup to give Greg's Mom the earthy, empathetic look and feel needed for this fantabulous flick.  Me, Earl and the Dying Girl won the Grand Jury and Audience Award (Dramatic) at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival...deservedly so.

Directed to perfection by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and brilliantly adapted by novelist Jesse Andrews, "Me, Earl and the Dying Girl "will leave you hopeful that not every teenager lives on the internet and their cell phones.  They may not play outside anymore or hang out at the mall, but true friendships are still being formed, nurtured and creating lasting memories for a lifetime to come.  "Me, Earl and Dying Girl" can be found streaming live on Direct TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qfmAllbYC8