Going Clear, an extension of a book by Lawrence Wright and directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, breaks down the origins of Scientology beginning with its founder L. Ron Hubbard right through the present day leader David Miscavige. Journey after journey is revisited by eight members of the church from the time they joined to the moment they knew in their heart to move on with another chapter in life.Read More
Hollywood is full of wannabe's, blockbuster movie stars and actors who were once the toast of the town - are now considered washed up because the Hollywood that made them a star has evolved into a social media/reality show/celebrity gossip driven world. Incest, fires, murder,sex and acceptance are all subjects tackled in the David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars.Read More
The Sundance Film Festival deals keep on coming! A24 is finalizing a U.S. rights deal for Mississippi Grind worth just over $2 million...allegedly. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard and Robin Weigart.
Mississippi Grind is a drama is about a gambler who sets off on a road trip through the Southern U.S. with a young gambling addict in an attempt to change his luck. The film launched Saturday in the Premieres Section of the festival at the Eccles Theatre, with strong performances by Reynolds and Mendelsohn.
This film sort of felt like The Sting, but instead of centering on grifters we are engrossed in the world of two different types of gamblers. One gambles out of addiction and the other gambles literally for the high of it all and to make a little cash for his loved ones. Mississippi Grind took me on a roller coaster of emotions and often times I held my breath out of anticipation of what was to come next. It was intense in the way a good thriller keeps you on your toes with you thinking you have figured out the ending...only to be completely surprised in the end. Alfre Woodard, Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are all equally compelling as a bookie and female escorts (respectively)
As I have said here many, many times, a good portion of the films that come out of Sundance end up being in future awards season conversation in the upcoming year...
I promise you...Australian Ben Mendelssohn and Ryan Reynolds will be on the lips of everyone when this film is released later in 2015. Here is an excerpt of an interview done with Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers with the two stars...
From all over the country they came to march for change. Black and white, old and young, every creed and occupation, they came as one. Watch and listen as Oprah shares a poetic narration of the history of the civil rights marches from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery.
Please share her special "Selma 50" series located on YouTube at OWN TV AND go check out the Ava DuVernay masterpiece feature film SELMA in all theatres NOW!!!
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What makes 2014 the most exciting year for movies in a while is the fact that this may very well be another history making year. In 2012, Selma helmer Ava DuVernay made history becoming the first African-American woman to win for Best Dramatic Directing at Sundance. This year, she has already made history being the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe and I am confident that Oscar is next! In addition, Angelina Jolie makes her directorial debut with Unbroken making this years Oscar race for directing being the first time two women could be within the list of five nominees. Very exciting stuff!!!
No surprise with Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix's roles in Nightcrawler and Inherent Vice. Both disturbingly interesting and complex...kind of like a car crash so horrible you just can't stop craning your neck to watch.
Meryl Streep did it again. Once again proving that her acting talent has NO boundaries in Into The Woods. Reese Witherspoon had a very controversial year onscreen and off, but it seems that Wild is creating Oscar buzz for the star after tackling the true life story of Cheryl Strayed.
Michael Keaton, David Oyelowo and Benedict Cumberbatch are making the Best Actor race very interesting and varied. Keaton, an acting veteran, is compelling in Birdman. Oyelowo, who shoots no less than three films a year, is finally stomping with the big dogs with his portrayal of MLK, Jr. in Selma and Cumberbatch seems to be the latest Brit to take over Hollywood on the big and small screen.
So having said that here are my predictions of some performances and films I feel should be recognized.
Best Actor: David Oyelowo (Selma), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Robert Duvall (The Judge), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imagination Game), Jack O'Connor (Unbroken), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Best Actress: Carmen Ejogo (Selma), Felecity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Naomi Watts (Birdman), Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep (Into The Woods), Naomi Watts (St. Vincent), Kiera Knightly (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman)
Click on the films below to see my reviews on each one...
I have yet to see Boyhood, which I hear is a major contender or The Most Violent Year. I will keep you posted here are the nominations.
In the meantime...
I watch a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Film -- Force Majeure. Click on this link for that review.
I have a friend who meticulously plans vacations for her family every summer and holiday season. Her family looks forward to the time together and from the pictures and cards sent they look like they always have just a great time!
In Force Majeure, Ebba and Tomas plan a vacation in the French Alps for a week. Two days in, the family finds themselves staring down an avalanche while at lunch in a cafe. Surviving this tragedy, the aftermath is wrought with emotional repercussions for the young couple and their children.
Ebba and their children begin to question the loyalty of Tomas after watching him run to save himself during the avalanche. Tomas questions what kind of man he must be to not instinctually want to save his family first.
After Tomas continually denies that he didn't run away, it all comes to a head while dining with friends. Emma makes Tomas watch the footage on his cell phone of the incident making him come to terms with his actions. Ironically enough, the couple would experience yet another challenge while skiing with the kids in less than stellar visibility that has surprisingly positive results.
Lisa Loven Kongsli as Ebba is magnificent as is her co star Johannes Kuhnke (Tomas). You need question for a moment their love for each other and how torturous this whole ordeal is to the stability of their relationship. On the flip side, providing much needed humor is Kristofer Hivju (Mats) and Fanni Metelius (Fanni) as the unmarried couple who have befriended Ebba and Tomas.
Force Majeure was very intense and had me holding my breath from one moment to the next. It was an thrilling ride from beginning to end and I am hoping it fairs well this awards season having already been nominated for a Golden Globe.
Take a peak at Force Majeure...
Ever wonder while watching your local newscast to what lengths the paparazzi would go through to get the perfect picture or footage for the right price?
Nightcrawler throws back the curtain on such a seedy existence focusing on street thief Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his insatiable desire to live a better life at any cost...even lives. His desires go from innocently obtaining footage to maliciously masterminding opportunities to obtain footage and sell it by any means necessary.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a mastermind at portraying roles in which the characters seem odd, complex and a little mentally challenged. Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom feels a bit on the higher end of autism, as he is able to retain massive facts and dates with an ease that most people would find fairly difficult.
He was difficult to watch...not because he sucked, but because his performance kept you on pins and needles. You never knew what Bloom would do next or what he would get away with...which was brilliant acting with writing and directing by the stellar Dan Gilroy. It comes as no surprise that Gyllenhaal is a Golden Globe nominee and will surely be giving Michael Keaton a run for his money with an Oscar Best Actor nomination.
Rene Russo as News Director Nina Romina displays a tough exterior that is a cover for job insecurity and poor ratings. She is gorgeous, yet a savvy negotiator, which makes her equally ambitious and disturbingly maniacal as Lou Bloom.
My favorite performances in this film come from Riz Ahmed as Bloom's loyal assistant Rick, Bill Paxton as nightcrawler competitor Joe Lodor and Michael Hyatt as Detective Fronteiri.
I love thrillers and this one kept me on my toes from beginning to end. I could never figure out what was about to go down next (which is very unusual for me considering the amount of film I watch).
I promise you...you will leave the theatre exhilarated and breathless!
I have to say, I didn't quite know what to expect with this one. I will say...I was pleasantly entertained and surprised.
Having traveled extensively throughout my lifetime, I have resided in many hotels around the world and often wondered what happens in the lives of employees that brought them to that particular hotel. Why they continue to work there? Does it bring them joy or do they not have a choice?
In 1968, The Grand Budapest Hotel was on the down slope of its once beautiful glory, when a Young Writer (Jude Law) has a chance meeting with Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes the hotel's original concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) most trusted friend.
Over dinner, Zero recounts the adventures of Gustave H between the first and second World Wars, while he was in employ at The Grand Budapest Hotel. Boasting an all-star cast including F. Murray Abraham, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adrain Brody, Jeff Goldblum and Jude Law, this Wes Anderson written, produced and directed fantasy ride is based on the writings of Stefan Zweig.
It is beautifully shot with very creative uses of linear images and the humor is dry yet hysterically funny. My favorite quote is when Gustave H describes how his last time of seeing Madame D...saying she was "shaking a like a shitting dog".
The Grand Budapest Hotel is in theatres now.
On the anniversary of one the most prolific activist of our time...Nelson Mandela, I sit watching Unbroken. As I view this masterpiece, I am reminded of a news broadcast in which Louis Zamperini was named Grand Marshall for the 2015 Rose Bowl. Shortly thereafter, he passed away at the ripe old age of 97. I had no idea who he was or what type of life he had led.
Having said that, Angelina Jolie has inspired and excelled in many areas within the entertainment industry and through her activism around the world for communities that are suffering or treated inhumanely.
However, it is her foray into directing UNBROKEN that is her most impressive move yet. Based on true events, Unbroken documents the true life story of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini, who joined the armed forces during the second world war and was taken prisoner by the Japanese navy after a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean.
Jack O'Connor is astonishingly mesmerizing as Louis Zameperini. He captures the torment, anguish and "unbroken" spirit for which our Olympians have been known and admired for decades of American history. One scene in particular, where he is tortured and repeatedly/reluctantly punched in the face by his fellow Americansis simultaneously disturbing, yet heartbreaking.
Another standout is Takamasa Ishihara in his first major American feature film. He is particularly despicable as the Japanese prison camp Sgt. Mutshushiro Watanabe, who gets much enjoyment and satisfaction by mentally and physically torturing Zamperini. He should be a shoe in for a Best Supporting nod for sure, because I seriously wanted to slap the hell out himself for being such a ridiculously cruel bully.
Unbroken takes you a a roller coaster or emotions from beginning to end. One scene, after the plane crashes is beautifully shot as Zamperini fights his way out of wreckage and swims to the surface to search for fellow survivors.
The Coen Brother screenplay adapted from the book by Laura Hillenbrand is flawless and is complimented by the Coldplay original song Miracles.
While I was in New York performing Avenue Q on Broadway, I had an audition for a revival of another Sondheim musical "Putting it Together" and had the opportunity to sing for the man himself...Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. It was an experience I shall not soon forget.
ALONE can mean solitude. ALONE can mean being alone even in a crowded room. ALONE can also mean being in an involuntary state of existence. ALONE is a theme and through line often used in classic Sondheim pieces.
Into the Woods is THE classic Sondheim musical and has been on Broadway twice where the "Witch" has been portrayed by such heavyweights as Bernadette Peters, Cleo Laine, Phylicia Rashad, Betsy Joslyn, Nancy Dussault, Ellen Foley and Vanessa Williams in the 2002 revival.
Having never seen the original or revival, I was eager with anticipation. Mostly because for the screen version...yes ladies and gentleman it is Meryl Streep as the "Witch" and she has freaking done it again!!!! Is there anything this woman is NOT capable of??!! Singing Sondheim is no easy task, yet Streep does so with the greatest of ease and is compelling to watch. As much as I love Meryl though, I would've loved to have seen Vanessa or Phylicia have a go at it.
Having said that, most of the time when Hollywood adapts these musicals, there is always a weak link in the cast. The onscreen cast of Into The Woods is strong as steel from the youngest cast member, Lilla Crawford, to the fantabulous Meryl Streep. Their singing and acting are superb and they never skip a beat.
Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood), Chris Pine (Prince Charming), Emily Blunt (The Baker's Wife), Christine Baranski (Stepmother) were my favs and had a variety of scene stealing moments.
I was not ALONE when I burst into applause and laughter doing this film, nor will I be ALONE in the multitude of opinions that will come in the midst of INTO THE WOODS' nationwide release on Christmas Day.
Watch it, take the kids, relive those classics tales once more through a different a pair of eyes and imagine what would happen if their outcome was somehow tweaked. You'll be happy you did.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of Moses' courage to take on the might of an empire. Using state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion, Ridley Scott brings us the story of Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses. Consequently, setting 600,000 slaves on a journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
Exodus feels like an attempt to retool the classic Ten Commandments, which has now become a holiday classic and Charlton Heston he worked it out when he parts that red sea. At the time, it was considered one of the most astonishing special effects of its time.
Needless to say, special effects in films have come a long way and they are used in abundance throughout Exodus...Gods and Kings. This film was beautiful to watch, but I have issues with any film taking place in Biblical Egypt where none of the lead characters are of color, except miscellaneous extras.
Remember Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and rumblings of a re-make with Angelina Jolie? In Exodus, Tuya is Sigourney Weaver...see what I'm saying?
The biggest issue I have with this film is that there seem to be many inconsistencies on the biblical story of Moses, God and the drafting of the Ten Commandments. Moses is seen chiseling the commandments into a stone tablet overseen by God (seen as a bossy little boy) and a lot of the characters like Joshua don't seem to not be well developed. Joshua kind looks like a homeless dude that randomly follows Moses and you're not really sure why.
My biggest issue is that Moses is portrayed as an individual that insights violence. Maybe it's me, but I'm assuming these inconsistencies exist due to the various Old and New Testaments that exists and are now left to interpretation...by anyone.
At any rate the parting of the sea scene does not disappoint, nor do any of the fight scenes or special effects.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is in theatres now and opened on December 12th.
For those of you that know me, you know how much I love my mother. She is my buddy, my confidant, my rock and most of all My Mommy. As the years progress and we both become older in this world, I know the day will come when one of us will be without the other. It is unspeakable and unthinkable until one day it is just a reality. A reality that neither of us wants, needs or will accept with ease.
Riddled with guilt after the death of her Mom (beautifully and lovingly played by Laura Dern), a drug induced/sexually promiscuous Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) embarks on a 1000 mile hiking journey through the Pacific Crest Trail back to the person her Mom believed she could be.
Mostly told through flashbacks, one knows at the beginning of Wild when Cheryl lets out a primal scream from losing her shoes and a toenail that we are about to go on an intense emotional roller coaster...and what a ride it becomes.
Based on the best-selling memoir "Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed we are privy to a life that becomes transformed through solitude in the the wild. Being someone, who would NEVER be caught dead camping, one of my favorite scenes was watching Cheryl pack her backpack for the impending journey. I won't ruin it for you, but is is pure comedy!
It's a sure bet that Dern and Witherspoon will join the ladies for Oscar nods in the Best Actress and Supporting categories. I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Cinematographer Yves Bélanger, for capturing the stunning beauty of the Mohave Desert and the Pacific Crest Trail (he is also responsible for last season's big hit Dallas Buyers Club). Fox Searchlight opened this film in limited release as of December 5th.
Have you ever had a next door neighbor that you detest only to discover that you have to depend on them because you have no one else to help out.
Vin (Bill Murray) is having a bad life. His wife has dementia, His gambling debts are piling up. Everyone that knows him hates him. He's grumpy, smokes too much, drinks, curses and fights.
What we learn about Vin is that he is a Vietnam vet who loves and cares deeply, but has a hard time letting his feelings bubble to the surface...unless it's for his wife Sandy.
When it becomes increasingly difficult for him to keep up with the payments for Sandy in the facility she has been placed in, Vin reluctantly agrees to babysit for his neighbor and strikes up an unlikely friendship with the boy(Jaeden Lieberher) and his Mom (Melissa McCarthy). Vincent even manages to keep a pregnant girlfriend (Naomi Watts) and dodge his loan shark (Terrence Howard) until an unlikely turn of events comes into play.
This film was perfectly cast and Bill Murray turns in a performance(his best since Lost In Translation) that doesn't seem too unlike his real persona, but different enough to make you wonder. Most of the characters seem a little underdeveloped with the exception being a few heart-tugging scenes with McCarthy.
St. Vincent is a good film, but left me a little confused. Was it a comedy, a drama or a dreamed. Playing in theaters across the country now...you decide.
The Los Angeles Film Critics announced their winners over the weekend. Below is the complete list of winners and runner-ups
BEST PICTURE BOYHOOD RUNNER-UP: "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL"
BEST DIRECTOR RICHARD LINKLATER "BOYHOOD" RUNNER-UP: WES ANDERSON ("THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
BEST ACTOR TOM HARDY "LOCKE" RUNNER-UP: MICHAEL KEATON ("BIRDMAN")
BEST ACTRESS PATRICIA ARQUETTE "BOYHOOD" RUNNER-UP: JULIANNE MOORE ("STILL ALICE")
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR J.K. SIMMONS WHIPLASH RUNNER UP: EDWARD NORTON ("BIRDMAN")
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS AGATA KULESZA "IDA" RUNNER-UP: RENE RUSSO ("NIGHTCRAWLER")
BEST SCREENPLAY WES ANDERSON “THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL" RUNNER-UP: ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU, NICOLÁS GIACOBONE, ALEXANDER DINELARIS, JR. AND ARMANDO BO ("BIRDMAN")
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY EMMANUEL LUBEZKI "BIRDMAN" RUNNER-UP: DICK POPE ("MR TURNER")
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN ADAM STOCKHAUSEN "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL" RUNNER-UP: ONDREJ NEKVASIL ("SNOWPIERCER")
BEST EDITING SANDRA ADAIR "BOYHOOD" RUNNER-UP: BARNEY PILLING ("THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
BEST MUSIC SCORE JONNY GREENWOOD, "INHERENT VICE" AND MICA LEVI, "UNDER THE SKIN" (TIE)
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM "IDA" DIRECTED BY PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI RUNNER-UP: "WINTER SLEEP" DIRECTED BY NURI BILGE CEYLAN
BEST DOCUMENTARY/NON-FICTION FILM " CITIZENFOUR" DIRECTED BY LAURA POITRAS RUNNER-UP: "LIFE ITSELF" DIRECTED BY STEVE JAMES
BEST ANIMATION "THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA" DIRECTED BY ISAO TAKAHATA
RUNNER-UP: "THE LEGO MOVIE" DIRECTED BY PHIL LORD, CHRISTOPHER MILLER
NEW GENERATION AVA DUVERNAY "SELMA"
THE DOUGLAS EDWARDS EXPERIMENTAL/ INDEPENDENT FILM/VIDEO AWARD WALTER REUBEN "THE DAVID WHITING STORY"
CAREER ACHIEVEMENT GENA ROWLANDS
It is unimaginable for me to wake up in a world where my Mommy didn't know me. She is my buddy, my friend and the woman who gave me life. Being confronted with such a reality would surely be a daunting and complex issue for me to deal with, as it would be for any child that is close to a parent.
In Archaeology of a Woman, fiercely independent retired newspaper columnist Margaret (Sally Kirkland) fights to protect her freedom in light of the spiraling dementia she cannot control or avoid. Her daughter, Kate (Victoria Clark), an aspiring New York City Chef, is called upstate to help, but the cards are stacked against them. As Margaret's mind fades, a chilling and dark event from 30 years ago begins to unravel an uncertain conclusion.
Written, directed and co-produced by Sharon Greytak, dementia is once again in the spotlight onscreen for 2014 (Alzheimer's is an issue dealt with in the documentary, Glen Campbell's I'll Be Me and Still Alice with Julianne Moore). Greytak tackles this subject from the child and parent point of view. It is sublimely illustrated how a parent will go to any lengths necessary to avoid being "found out", as well as how desperate and frustrating it can become for the child to just get answers.
Sally Kirkland's body of work stretches decades and we are use to seeing her onscreen as a sexy and alluring leading lady. Kirkland strips all the way down in order to inhabit the reality of Margaret's world and executes it with a brave, grounded, unforgettable performance that most actors dream of sinking their teeth into.
Victoria Clark is playing against type of her typical character roles and tackling Kate with grit and gut-wrenching realness.
You don't want to miss the performances of the two stellar and mesmerizing actresses, so LA peeps Archaeology of a Woman opens on December 5th at Laemmle Music Hall Cinema.