Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 OUTFEST FILM FESTIVAL


The schedule for the 2013 Outfest Film Festival has been announced and it will once again deliver a diverse collection of films from across the globe that focuses on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

"C.O.G.", a film by writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, will kick off the festival this year on Thursday, July 11th. This eccentric film, based on a short story by David Sedaris from his book, "Naked", stars Jonathan Groff as a recent college graduate who travels cross-country by bus to Oregon where he discovers a world that he is completely unfamiliar with.

The selection for the U.S. Dramatic Centerpiece is "Pit Stop". Creating a sensation at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this film by Yen Tan focuses on the relationship between a straight contractor (Bill Heck) and a gay man (Marcus DeAnda) in a small Texan town:

The Documentary Centerpiece is "God Loves Uganda", the latest from Oscar-winning filmmaker, Roger Ross Williams. This film follows anti-gay evangelicals as they spread their disturbing message to the African nation of Uganda and in turn, help create a dangerous and deadly environment for the LGBT community there. However, an Ugandan clergy bravely fight back against this wave of hate and intolerance:



Another documentary of note is "Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth" that takes a look at the inspirational life of the acclaimed, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of "The Color Purple":


Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth - Trailer from Kali Films on Vimeo.

Last year's hit musical-comedy, "Pitch Perfect" starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson will be this year's sing-along Under The Stars event on July 17th at the Ford Theatre:



The festival concludes on July 21st with "G.B.F." (which stands for "gay best friend"), a delightfully wacky comedy directed by Darren Stein ("Jawbreaker") and written by Outfest Screenwriting Lab participant, George Northy:



For additional information and the complete listing of films, please go to:
OUTFEST 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MAN OF STEEL (2013)

Written by David S. Goyer


Directed by Zack Snyder


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA  June 18, 2013 5:00PM


Superman, the patriotic comic-book hero who has been soaring the skies combating evil, fighting crime and protecting good American values for the last seventy-five years, has been resurrected once again for the big screen in "Man Of Steel". Last seen in the underwhelming 2006 film, "Superman Returns", writer David S. Goyer ("Blade", "Batman Begins") and director Zack Snyder ("300", "Watchmen") have taken a page from Christopher Nolan (who executive produced this film)as he achieved great success with his very dark revision of Batman. They decided a fresh spin was required and did this by giving the invincible super-hero a little edge, a few flaws and some anxiety. This veteran do-gooder seems to have been brought down to Earth as a way to make him appear more hip and appealing to modern audiences. While the idea has some merit but this 21st century version of Superman is burdened with a dark heaviness that never really feels like a good fit. All these changes hasn't made this Superman more intriging, it's actually made him blend in even more within the very crowded cinematic super-hero universe.

Since this reboot is starting from the beginning, it might seem necessary to retell the overly familiar story of how the baby, Kal-El ended up on Earth from his doomed planet, Krypton. However, this time we get a more detailed look in to the dire situations that lead up to this event. His father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), a top scientist predicts his planet will soon come to an end due to the extensive overuse of Krypton's natural resources. The military leader, General Zod (Michael Shannon) violently rises up against the ruling party and wants Jor-El to join him but refuses. The men rage a deadly battle with Jor-El losing his life but not before sending his new-born infant off to Earth with the genetic code of the Kryptonian race with him. Zod and his fellow rebels are captured and banished to the Phantom Zone as punishment

From here, the film wisely veers from narrative tradition and we next see the adult Kal-El, now called Clark Kent, and played by the chiseled and almost unbearably handsome, Henry Cavill. Clark has been drifting, traveling across the country and picking up a variety of odd jobs along the way. It appears he's hoping to find meaning to his life and place on this planet. We learn more about Clark's past through a series of flashbacks; he was brought up in Kansas by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who found his spacecraft and raised him as their own. The Earth's gravity has given Clark the power of x-ray and heat-omitting vision, allows him to fly and has made his body structure so strong that he's now virtually indestructible. After discovering his amazing abilities and fearful of what could happen if others found out, his parents strongly advise their young son to never use his special powers publicly which leaves him confused and frustrated.

Clark lands a job as part of a scientific crew who find an alien spaceship buried in the Antarctic. Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is sent by her paper, The Daily Planet to cover the story. While sneaking out to get a closer look at the object, Lois discovers Clark, who is also investigating the vesicle. Originating from Krypton, the craft connects Clark to his history and past. Lois manages to become seriously injured while on board which forces Clark to reveal his secret to save her life.

When she returns to work, Lois has written a article about this "super-human" mystery man but her editor, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) refuses to run this seemingly crazy story. Meanwhile, the activated spacecraft has inadvertently lead General Zod and his crew to Earth. They had been set free from their prison after their planet's destruction and been searching for Kal-El ever since. He hold the key to Zod's plan of creating a new Krypton by altering the atmosphere on Earth but it would also mean the end of all human life. Clark, now outfitted in a Kryptonian warrior uniform, has finally been given a very good reason to display his super-powers to the world as he has to try and save his adopted home.

Mr Synder began his career making commercials, so he knows how to tell a complete story with visual impact in less than sixty seconds. But "Man of Steel" is over two hours long and while the film impresses with some brilliantly, dazzling images, it's far less successful at keeping the story and pacing up to the same level. This has been a common problem I've had with most of the director's films as they tend to be highly stylised but emotionally artificial. The advancement of special effects has indeed made this film look incredibly realistic but as the numerous battles for dominance between the man of steel and General Zod mount and the city of Metropolis crumbles in the process, these scenes soon grow tiresome and more uneventful as they plod on. "Man of Steel" seems determined to put some distance from the Superman we've grown accustomed with, to the extent that the "S" word is never even uttered throughout. Lois Lane nearly gives the hero his name after questioning the large letter on his massive chest (which is cleverly not what you think it is) but this film is still unable to erase the memory of the charming 1978 film that featured Christopher Reeve in the red and blue costume that first made us believe a man could truly fly. While that "Superman" featured visuals that might be considered primitive by today's standards but it also had a sense of fun that is completely lacking in "Man of Steel" and desperately needed.

While the British Mr. Cavill (who nearly won the role in the 2006 film) certainly fills out the spandex quite nicely but his take on this all-American bred hero is pretty much a zero as far as making a persuasive impression or igniting any sparks between himself and his future long-term love interest. It's not entirely the actor's fault as the screenplay gives him no real distinctive personality or that Lois Lane displays more of a steely exterior than our Kryptonian. Ms. Adams plays an up-to-date version of the intrepid reporter who is tough, fearless and serious-minded but never comes across convincingly as a person that would ever allow somebody to sweep her off her feet. Mr Shannon is reliably good as the pathologically driven Zod and Mr. Crowe is fine in what should have been a glorified cameo but he pops up later in the film to meet his son and give him a history lesson in the form of an overly interactive hologram..

As far as these flicks go, "Man Of Steel" falls somewhere down the middle as it certainly delivers all the thrills and excitement you would expect but doesn't offer much that makes you feel like you haven't seen it many times before.. By the conclusion of "Man of Steel", Clark Kent has put on his glasses and begins his new job at The Daily Planet but now what? The whole world is well aware of his true identity including Lois Lane so there doesn't appear to be any logical reason for him to even go through these motions. A follow-up looks like a high probability but if "Man of Steel" is any indication of what to expect in the future, there might be a string of uninspired, disappointing sequels on the horizon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

FRANCES HA (2013)

Written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach


Directed By Noah Baumbach


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. June 1, 2013 10:50PM



In "Frances Ha", the latest droll comedy from Noah Baumbach, twenty-seven year old Frances, with her life as a college student now in the past, is expected to begin living as an adult but this is far from an easy transition for her. She dreams of being a modern dancer but is fueled more by ambition than talent. Despite this obstacle, Frances has managed to become a member of a New York dance company but only as an understudy. As with most people, money is a constant issue but she manages to barely squeak by though odd jobs and teaching ballet to young girls at her dance studio. Displaying her Californian roots, Frances has a care-free, sunny optimism that makes her stand-out among the more sullen and jaded attitudes of her over-privileged peers. This young lady is brought to life by Greta Gerwig not only through her fine performance but also as a co-writer of the screenplay with Mr. Baumbach.

Frances is quite content with her current situation due to the fact that she's struggling along with her best friend since college, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). The two have a tight bond, sharing a living space and inside jokes, as they make the perfect couple, minus the sex. Frances admires Sophie mainly because she just gets her, much more than any man, and actually uses her dear friend as an excuse to exit her listless relationship after he asks Frances to move in.

A problem arises when Sophie gives notice that she's moving to a loft in Tribeca, her dream location in the city, without her. The news leaves Frances reeling but she attempts to carry a brave front. She ends up sleeping on a few couches, first with roommates, Miles (Adam Driver of HBO's "Girls") and Benji (Michael Zegan, who was just cast in the next season of "Girls"), a couple of good-natured slackers who treat Frances like one of the guys and later with Rachel (Grace Gummer), a fellow dancer who seems to have regretted the decision as soon as she made it. Frances drifts through each day, lost and unfocused but after Sophie announces that she's engaged to her boyfriend, Patch (Patrick Heusinger), this sends Frances over the edge, causing her to act irrationally, like taking an expensive, two-day trip to Paris.

If any of this brings to mind the cinematic romanticism of Woody Allen, it's no accident. Mr. Baumbach freely admits that with "Frances Ha", he's tipping his hat to the director, specifically his "Manhattan" era work and while this modern view of New York is slightly more grounded and gritty, it's still a fantasy version of the city that manages not to have a single person of color in sight. Shot in beautiful black & white by Sam Levy, this film has a wafer-thin plot, doesn't offer much as far as big laughs or memorable lines but "Frances" gets by with plenty of quirky charm and spiky sweetness.

The director and Ms Gerwig first worked together on the underrated Ben Stiller comedy, "Greenberg" with the actress making a minor splash in her supporting role. They decided to join forces once again to create something new with this partnership even leading them to become a couple off screen as well. Ms Gerwig has managed to make the peculiarities and neediness of Frances both exasperating and pleasantly irresistible while delivering some genuine moments that shows the complicated, messy and awkward sides of youth and self-discovery. Ms Sumner, the daughter of musician, Sting and producer, Trudie Styler, is a mesmerizing presence and to be honest, I think would have been just as impressive in the title role. She is one to keep an eye on.

At first glance, "Frances Ha" appears to be just another comedy about a single female searching for love and a sense of purpose in the chaotic big city. But by the time we reach the conclusion, we see that this film plays with that subject and our expectations on the ideas regarding romance, friendship and what makes a successful relationship.
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Monday, June 3, 2013

STORIES WE TELL (2013)

Directed by Sarah Polley


When & Where:  Sundance Sunset Theater, West Hollywood, CA.  May 17, 2013  10:00PM



Following in the footsteps of her thespian parents, Sarah Polley first appeared in a Disney holiday film at the age of four. Michael and Diane Polley's little girl would go on to accomplish far more and achieve greater commercial success than either one of them could have imagined although she certainly didn't take an easy route. Ms Polley first become a beloved television personality in her native Canada at the age of eleven on the program, "Road To Avonlea" but which came to an abrupt end due to her subtle protest of the Gulf War at an award ceremony against Disney's wishes. She would go on to great acclaim as a young adult with her performances in such films as "Go"and "The Sweet Hereafter" but famously declined a big Hollywood role she had won in "Almost Famous" so she could do a low-budget Canadian project. While this hit made a name for her replacement, Kate Hudson but it also helped Polley completely avoid the romantic-comedy trap that Ms Hudson is still struggling to dig herself out of. After directing a couple of short films, Ms Polley would impress with her feature-length debut, "Away From Her" that earned her and star, Julie Christie Academy-Award nominations.

In "Stories We Tell", Ms Polley's first documentary, she turns the camera on herself or more specifically her mother which ultimately leads back to the director. What began as a family joke regarding Sarah's real paternity evolves in to an in-depth and fascinating investigation in to the possibility that this could be much more than just an arbitrary remark. The film creatively combines actual home movies along with recreating moments with actors to look like old super 8 film while Polley interviews family and friends to recall what they knew or didn't know about any deep, dark secrets that Diane Polley might be keeping hid.

A bubbly, wild spirit who loved to gab, trill and kick up her heels, Diane MacMillan was considered the life of any party. So many were quite surprised when she fell in love and married Michael Polley, a British actor who settled in Toronto. Michael was the complete opposite of his vivacious wife as he was more of a reserved homebody who didn't have much interest in surrounding himself with loud people at some social gathering. They have children and live a quiet, comfortable life but Michael has a desire to put acting on the back-burner. He decides to concentrate on his writing but not much materializes. Frustrated by her husband's lack of motivation in work and their marriage as well as her own stalled acting career, Diane goes off to Montreal to do a play for a few months. With her family left far behind in Toronto, Diane becomes revitalized as she is able to express herself on stage while spending the rest of the evening hanging out and drinking heartily with friends after the performance.

It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder and after Michael pays a visit to his wife in the city, the couple rekindles their relationship. Shortly after her return home, Mrs. Polley soon discovers that she is pregnant. However, instead of feeling thrilled and overjoyed, Diane is despondent with serious thoughts of having an abortion. Her reaction to this news indicates the first sign of something amiss but a last minute decision is made and our director was born in 1979. Some time later, Diane is stricken with cancer but after a valiant battle, she passes away by the time Sarah is eleven years old.

The question of her paternity was never a serious issue until Sarah became an adult. After years of feeling some uncertainty, she decides to begin the process in discovering the possible truth with all of the potential players questioned. Michael Polley reveals that he understands why his wife could have had an affair but doesn't doubt for a moment that he is Sarah's real father. This journey even inspired him to return to expressing himself on paper as we watch Sarah direct her father as he records his written perspective of their family history. Sarah's five siblings share their reasons for believing that their sister might have a different biological parent including a telling phone conversation one brother recalls overhearing their mother having with a mysterious individual. Sarah interviews some of Diane's close friends and even tracks down some members of the theatrical team on that production in Montreal with special interest paid to the men who might have developed an extra special relationship to her mother. What is most unexpected through many of these interviews is how everyone seems to handle the revelations as quite matter-of-fact and very civilly. Since it took several years to put this film together, perhaps it gave the participants time to process what was revealed yet I'm still surprised that no one displays even the slightest bit of resentment or anger.

Ms Polley has made it clear that she wasn't at all comfortable revealing her family secrets but also realized that being a public figure, her story would not remain quiet for long. Reporters had also become aware of the details yet somehow managed to get them to delay broadcasting the news until first she figured out how she wanted to share this information. In this age of over-sharing and hyper-narcissism, it would be easy to simply dismiss "Stories We Tell" as just a grandiose exercise in self-absorption. I almost made that mistake before seeing the film. What Ms Polley has effectively done is found a way to artfully tell her story that is brilliantly well-thought, richly textured and beautifully rendered that reaches far beyond standard documentaries. It is truly an unforgettable experience.