Sunday, May 22, 2016

WINNERS FROM THE 2016 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

The Cannes Film Festival has come to a close and the George Miller lead jury has selected Ken Loach's "I, Daniel Blake" for the top prize of the Palme d'Or.  This is the second time the seventy-nine year old British writer/director has taken this prize, previously winning in 2006 for "The Wind That Shakes The Barley". He had announced that this film, about an ill carpenter’s struggle with the British healthcare system, would be his last. We'll see if Mr Loach keeps his word but he did become the ninth film maker to take that prize twice.


Another favorite of the fest is Xavier Dolan who took the Grand Prize for his latest, "Juste la fin du monde (It's Only the End of the World )". The twenty-seven year old French-Canadian received this runner-up award two years ago for "Mommy". Based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, the film tells the story of a writer returning home after a long absence to announce that he is dying and features some of the top names in French cinema including Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard.



The Best Director Prize was shared by Olivier Assayas for his psychological thriller, "Personal Shopper" which stars Kristen Stewart (who was in his last feature, "Clouds of  Sils Maria") and Cristian Mungiu, the Romanian film maker who won a well-deserved Palme d'Or in 2007 for his excellent "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", for "Graduation", a drama involving a small-town Romanian doctor. "The Salesman", the latest from Asghar Farhadi ("A Separation", "The Past"), took the Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards. And English director, Andrea Arnold won the Jury Prize for the third time with "American Honey", a road movie that features an acclaimed performance by newcomer, Sasha Lane.



Here are the winners from the 2016 Cannes Film Festival:

Palme d’Or: "I, Daniel Blake"
Grand Prix: "It’s Only The End Of The World"
Prix du Jury: "American Honey"
Best Director (Tie): Cristian Mungiu, "Graduation" and Olivier Assayas, "Personal Shopper"
Best Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, "The Salesman"
Best Actress: Jaclyn Jose, "Ma’Rosa"



Best Actor: Shahab Hosseini, "The Salesman"



Un Certain Regard Prix: "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki"



Caméra d’Or: "Divines"



Short Film Palme d’Or: "Timecode"
Palme d’Honneur: Jean-Pierre Léaud
Special Mention: "The Girl Who Danced With The Devil"

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR (2016)

Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  April 24, 2016


"The Huntsman: Winter's War", the prequel and sequel to 2012's "Snow White and The Huntsman", is one scary fairy tale. But that's not a good thing. What makes this film so terribly frightening is the complete lack of artistic or dramatic competence and the shocking waste of the talent of some interesting actors. Cinematographer Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (who filmed the first go-round) makes his debut as a director and displays his strengths and weaknesses as a film maker. The images are not surprisingly striking and vivid (thanks to the work of Phedon Papamichael) while the story-telling is choppy and predictable with the unimaginative script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin doing him no favors.

With Kristen Stewart's Snow White out of the picture (largely due to the scandal that erupted over her behind-the-scenes relationship with director Rupert Sanders), that means the focus of this story is on Chris Hemsworth's dull Huntsman and the exceptionally vain and malevolent Queen Ravenna played by Charlize Theron.

We are taken back to the time when a young Ravenna was living with her younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). As the queen is just beginning to embrace dark magic, encouraging her sister to explore it's power, Freya is more interested in love. She has fallen for a handsome duke (Colin Morgan) but after discovering she's with child, her lover cannot marry her as he's been promised to another. Tragedy strikes as the baby is fatally harmed by the Duke and Freya is so overcome with grief and heartbreak that it unleashes her formidable power to control ice.

The bitter Freya takes over a land in the far north of the realm, stripping the area of it's lush, green forest and covering it with layers of icy snow. She begins wiping out villages, taking the children to build an army of ruthless and cold-blooded soldiers. One of the children is Eric, an exceptionally skilled warrior, that will grow-up to become Mr. Hemsworth. Another child who is equally gifted as a conqueror is Sara, played by Jessica Chastain as an adult. Eric and Sara try to resist but they break Freya's strict rule of never falling in love. They decide to leave the kingdom together but the Snow Queen has other plans. Separating them by a clear sheet of solid ice, Eric watches helplessly as Sara is murdered by their fellow soldiers before he's cast away.

Years later after Ravenna has been vanquished by Snow White, the Magic Mirror is being transported to a more secure location when it's stolen. The Huntsman is summoned by King William (Sam Claflin) to track down the mirror. With the unwelcome help of one of Snow White's dwarfs, Nion (Nick Frost) and his brother Gryff (Rob Brydon), they set off to retrieve the powerful looking glass but the frigid Queen Freya is determined to capture it first. This begins an uninspired venture where the Huntsman must do battle with a variety of nasty goblins and Freya's well-trained unit of deadly huntsmen warriors.

"Snow White and The Huntsman" turned the classic Brothers Grimm character in to a contemporary-styled, bad-ass combatant. While it was a box-office success, the film was a woefully convoluted and underwhelming adventure that certainly didn't require a follow-up. Yet here it is and "Winter's War" manages to be even less compelling. The idea to make the Huntsman (a minor player in the original tale) the lead character wasn't necessarily a bad one but Mr. Hemsworth's hero has not been fully expanded, remaining bland and generic. The addition of Ms Chastain as the Huntsman's tough and feisty love interest isn't enough to make him more interesting with this thankless part clearly a waste of time for this fine actress.

The villain tends to be the highlight in many films and that holds true with Ms Theron's Queen Ravenna with her mad desire to be the most beautiful in all the land leads to attempted murder. The Oscar-winner still brings an over-the-top but deliciously evil delight to the role yet her appearance is far too brief here. It's left to the low-key Ms Blunt to fill-in as our wicked queen however she's more hurt and disillusioned than pure evil, making us feel less scared and more sympathetic to her plight.

"The Huntsman: Winter's War" takes us to a regal looking fantasy world that never properly captures the magical wonder and thrilling adventure of a well-crafted fable. And a bit of advice for Mr. Hemsworth. After a string of very disappointing films, I suggest you put that Thor suit back on pronto before the good-will towards you fades.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

2016 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL


It's once again time for that celebration of world cinema in the South of France. The 69th Cannes Film Festival begins today and runs through May 22nd. This year's poster was created using a breath-taking image from Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film "Contempt".

The latest film from Woody Allen, "Café Society", has been selected to kick-off the fest. This is the third time the director has opened the event out of competition following "Hollywood Ending" in 2002 and "Midnight in Paris" in 2011. Allen has teamed up with Amazon Studios to distribute his forty-seventh feature which stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young man who ventures to California in the 1930's to try his luck in Hollywood. He manages to find love, thrills and danger in this strange town. Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Jeannie Berlin and Steve Carell also star. This year, there will be no Closing Night film. Rather, the winner of the Palme d’Or will be screened.



Fresh off the acclaim for his comeback world-wide smash, "Mad Max: Fury Road" (which had a very successful out of competition screening at last year's fest), Aussie director George Miller will head the jury to select the feature films that will earn prizes. Also serving on the International jury will be French film maker, Arnaud Desplechin, American actors, Kirsten Dunst and Donald Sutherland, Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen, Hungarian director, László Nemes (who won the Grand Prix last year for "Son of Saul"), Iranian film producer, Katayoon Shahabi, Italian actress/director, Valeria Golino and French performer, Vanessa Paradis.

The movies competing for awards is largely new work from popular film makers who have appeared at previous Cannes festivals like Pedro Almodóvar ("Julieta"), Jim Jarmusch ("Paterson"), Olivier Assayas ("Personal Shopper"), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne ("The Unknown Girl"), Andrea Arnold ("American Honey"), Nicolas Winding Refn ("The Neon Demon"), Sean Penn ("The Last Face"), Paul Verhoeven ("Elle"), Jeff Nichols ("Loving") and Xavier Dolan ("It’s Only The End Of The World").







William Friedkin, the director of such classics as "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection", will deliver the cinema masterclass this year and a tribute to the late musician and filmmaker, Prince will also be presented. There will be additional high-profile Hollywood films screened out of competition including Jodie Foster's "Money Monster", Steven Spielberg's "The BFG" and Shane Black's "The Nice Guys".



Friday, April 29, 2016

2016 SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW

Summer is almost here once again and with that comes an onslaught of movies released to entertain us throughout the warm weather season. After wading through the countless titles coming to theaters soon, I am presenting the ten films that have seriously caught my attention and can't wait to see.

All dates are subject to change:

"A BIGGER SPLASH"

Release date; May 4, 2016

Tilda Swinton teams up again with director Luca Guadagnino ("I Am Love") for "A Bigger Splash". This dazzlingly enigmatic actress stars as a famous pop star who needs to go on vocal rest and heads off to a Mediterranean island with her sexy lover (Matthias Schoenaerts). Ralph Fiennes plays her former manager (and lover) who arrives unexpectedly with his nubile daughter (Dakota Johnson) in tow. Emotional and sexual tension builds as these four engage in a game that could lead to explosive drama. The phenomenal cast could make this one of the more interesting indie films of the season.



"MONEY MONSTER"

Release date; May 13, 2016

For Jodie Foster's fourth feature as a director, "Money Monster", she has two major movie stars on board; George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Clooney plays a television stock market pundit who is held hostage live on air by a disgruntled viewer (Jack O'Connell) who lost his entire life savings to a bad investment while the show's producer (Roberts) tries to keep this bad situation from getting worse.



"DE PALMA"

Release date: June 10, 2016

"De Palma", the documentary directed by fellow feature film makers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow,  examines one of the more fascinating directors that came out of the New Hollywood era in the 1970's, Brian De Palma. While the director is responsible for such classic films like "Carrie", "Dressed To Kill", "The Untouchables" and "Scarface", he also brought us such stinkers as "The Bonfire of the Vanities", "Mission To Mars" and "The Black Dahlia". Mr. De Palma discusses the ups and downs of his career and the creation of many of his movies.



"THE LEGEND OF TARZAN"

Release date: July 1, 2016

A movie with Alexander Skarsgård scantily clad? You don't have to ask me twice. He stars in the latest film revival of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic ape-man in "The Legend of Tarzan". This story takes place years after leaving the jungle behind and living a civilized life in London as Lord Greystoke with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie). He's lured back to Africa by a shady Belgian businessman (Christoph Waltz) who is not who he appears to be.



"GHOSTBUSTERS"

Release date: July 15, 2016

"Ghostbusters", the 1984 supernatural hit comedy, has been remade and gender-flipped. Director Paul Feig and comedy star Melissa McCarthy have joined forces again to bring this hilarious story of paranormal investigators to a modern audience. Joining McCarthy on the hunt for evil ghosts are SNL vets, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones along with Chris Hemsworth as the team's lovely receptionist.



"EQUALS"

Release date: July 15, 2016

"Equals" is a sci-fi drama by director Drake Doremus set in a future society where expressing emotions is considered a crime. Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart play two young people who try to resist yet begin to experience the feelings of love and romance, knowing the price they will pay if they are caught. Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver also star.



"ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE"

Release date: July 22, 2016

If you were a fan of the cheeky British sitcom, "Absolutely Fabulous" (like I am) then you will be absolutely thrilled to learn that it's coming back as a feature film. Those wacky fashionistas, Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are still up to their wild and drunken ways but now their antics have gotten them in to some serious trouble with the law. They go off to hide out and decide the best place to do that is, of course, the French Riviera. Edina's daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha), mother (June Whitfield) and daffy assistant, Bubble (Jane Horrocks) are also back on board. Mandie Fletcher directs from a script by Ms Saunders.



"SAUSAGE PARTY"

Release date: August 12, 2016

Seth Rogan came up with the idea for "Sausage Party", a sick and raunchy animated film that is definitely not for kids. This comedy tells the story of supermarket meats, buns and other products who are excited to be purchased until they discover the real purpose of their existence. The film features the voices of Rogan, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Edward Norton and James Franco.



"FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS"

Release date: August 12, 2016

This summer's Meryl Streep movie is "Florence Foster Jenkins". Based on the true story of a New York socialite who envisions herself as a great singer with a glorious voice. However, the reality is she can't carry a tune but nobody wants to break the news to her. Particularly her husband (played by Hugh Grant) who encourages her to perform. Stephen Frears directs.



"SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU"

Release date: August 19, 2016

Many years before he would become President of The United States, Barack Obama worked as an associate at a law firm in Chicago. He invites Michelle Robinson, an adviser at the firm, to attend a work-related event with him. "Southside With You" takes us on that day in the summer of 1989 as the two get to know each other better. Parker Sawyers plays Barack and Tika Sumpter plays Michelle in this love story written and directed by Richard Tanne.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

MILES AHEAD (2016)

Written by Steven J. Baigelman & Don Cheadle


Directed by Don Cheadle


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. April 4, 2016 5:50PM


Miles Davis, considered one of the most influential and innovative jazz musicians, is finally getting a cinematic treatment of his life and times. Don Cheadle is making his directorial debut with "Miles Ahead" in which he also co-wrote, produced and stars as the iconic performer. As an actor, Cheadle perfectly embodies the prickly, damaged and unpredictable soul of this genius musician. And as a director, he's an adventurous and stylish film maker yet "Miles Ahead" still fails to build enough momentum to soar the heights he was aiming to reach.

Mr. Cheadle has wisely avoided trying to cover the entire life of Mr. Davis and has focused on a specific period in the late '70's where he had essentially withdrawn from public life for a number of years. Holed-up in his Manhattan home surrounded by mess and clutter while at a creative standstill, at least partially due to his substance abuse, Davis is in need of some cash. He calls his record label to send him a check but they want new music from their artist first.

Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), a reporter for Rolling Stone, arrives at his door unannounced to do a story and receives a sucker punch by the ornery Davis for his trouble. After this rocky start, the two men, though still quite wary of each other, come together to work out a solution. Taking the opportunity to hopefully get an exclusive, Braden chauffeurs Davis to Columbia Records where he demands a check. After he fires off his gun, Davis is able to shake down an executive for a little money.

The next stop is to a college dorm where Braden takes Davis to meet a rich, drug-dealing student. While the kid is a fan of the musician, they don't have enough cash to score. But he's willing to settle for a few signatures on some albums to make up the difference. One cover features Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi), Davis' former wife. That lovely image (along with some coke) triggers memories of their better days as a couple. Though flashbacks, we see the beginning of their love affair after Davis first spotted this model/dancer entering a nightclub until the relationship dissolves in to bitter jealousy and violent outbursts.

Mr. Cheadle sharply shifts between Davis' past and present, displaying his paranoid rages, sex and drug fueled binges and the painful resentment of being a famous and respected musician yet still dismissed in society, particularly by law enforcement, as just another black man in America. This is made even more effective by his lived-in performance, capturing the musician's effortless cool and his, at times, frightening behavior.

The standard filmed biography usually follows a pattern of detailing many of the highlights and low points of the celebrated subject's life.There are certainly always creative alterations made to their stories, with time restraints the obvious factor however "Miles Ahead" is complete bullshit. There was never a reporter hounding Davis for a story before quickly gaining the confidence of the suspicious musician. In fact this character was created mainly for the purpose of securing financing by having a major white star in the film.

Considering the unfortunate current movie-making climate, it's somewhat understandable to make such a major compromise. Yet the film can never overcome feeling like a fictionalized story that happens to involve a non-fictional Miles Davis. A subplot involving a seedy music producer (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his protegee (Keith Stanfield), a talented young trumpeter that he wants the legendary trumpeter to endorse, stealing Davis' demo tapes that leads to a wild car chase and more gun-fire only adds to the unbelievable nature of the film.

"Miles Ahead" is consistently watchable, features some fine supporting performances (particularly by Ms Corinealdi) and the sublime music of Miles Davis but this film leaves us wanting to see a more honest account of the complicated musician. Instead, we have something more like a rambling story Davis might have told when he was stoned.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 COLCOA FILM FESTIVAL


For lovers of French cinema in Los Angeles, they have had the annual COLCOA French Film Festival to see the latest movies from France. This marks the twentieth year of the event and once again there will be nine days of seventy feature films, shorts, television series and movies being screened, many making their North American premieres. The fest will be held from April 18th to 26th at the Directors Guild Theater Complex.

The opening night gala will be "Monsieur Chocolat" which stars Omar Sy in this bio-pic on Raphael Padilla or "Chocolat", the first black star of the stage during the Belle Époque era. Born a slave in Cuba, Padilla arrives in Europe as part of a circus. After meeting businessman George Footit (James Thiérrée, the grandson of Charlie Chaplin), they create an act and "Chocolat" becomes a sensation in France but Padilla faced ridicule and prejudice throughout his fame.



The closing night film will be "Un homme à la hauteur (Up For Love)" and is actually premiering in the U.S. before it's released in France. Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin stars in this romantic-comedy about a stranger who finds the cell phone of a woman (Virginie Efira) and calls her to make arrangements to return it. After having a great conversation, they decide to meet for a date but she has some trouble with his physical attributes.



For the complete list of films, purchase tickets and additional information, please click: 2016 COLCOA Film Festival

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL


The 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival  presented by AT&T begins on April 13th and runs through April 24th.  The fest, which was founded by Robert DeNiro and his production partner, Jane Rosenthal, has expanded beyond the Manhattan neighborhood with screenings throughout the city from Battery Park, Chelsea and Long Island City.

There will be over a hundred features and documentaries presented as well as seventy-two short films, forty panel talks and over twenty virtual reality and interactive installations. One highlight will be a 40th anniversary film screening and cast reunion of "Taxi Driver" on April 21st that will feature a discussion with Mr. DeNiro, Jodie Foster and Cybill Shepherd, along with writer Paul Schrader and director Martin Scorsese.



Some world premieres include Tom Twyker’s "A Hologram For The King" with Tom Hanks in an adaptation of the Dave Eggers' novel, "First Monday in May", a documentary about the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition about Chinese-inspired Western fashions, "Reset" focuses on choreographer Benjamin Millepied and his work with the Paris Opera Ballet, "The Last Laugh" is a doc that explores comedians attempting to find humor on the subject of the Holocaust and "Pelé: Birth of a Legend", a feature film on the life of one of the world's greatest soccer players.







There will also be a collection of films directed by actors including Katie Holmes ("All We Had"), Danny DeVito ("Curmudgeons"), Demetri Martin ("Dean"), Mike Birbiglia ("Don't Think Twice"), Jason Bateman ("The Family Fang") and Ricky Gervais ("Special Correspondents").





For the complete list of films and events, please click:  2016 Tribeca Film Festival