Sunday, May 29, 2016


For fans of independent cinema living in Los Angeles, the LA Film Fest is right around the corner.  This event will begin June 1st running through June 9th with most screenings and events held at the Arclight Cinemas in Culver City. The festival will showcase compelling, new independent films, documentaries, shorts, television programing and web series.

The Opening Night feature will be "Lowriders". This film by Ricardo de Montreuil tells the story, set in the low rider car scene in Los Angeles, about a teenager (Gabriel Chavarria) torn between his traditional father (Demian Bichir) and estranged criminal brother (Theo Rossi). Melissa Benoist, Tony Revolori and Eva Longoria also star.

The Closing Night film is "Deierto", directed by Jonás Cuarón, the son of Academy Award-winner Alfonso Cuarón ("Gravity"), who also produced this film. Gael García Bernal stars in this timely tale as one of several migrant workers looking for work and a better life across the U.S. border. However, their lives are in danger when a merciless gun-toting vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) chases them through the desert to keep them out of the country.

For tickets, passes and additional information, please click below:

2016 LA Film Fest

Here are a few trailers for some interesting films that will be screened at the fest:

Sunday, May 22, 2016


The Cannes Film Festival has come to a close and the George Miller led 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


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


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".