Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL


One of the most prestigious of all the film fests on the horizon is certainly in the Big Apple. The 2016 New York Film Festival will launch on September 30th and wrap-up on October 16th. Filmmaker and artist, Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives", "Cemetery of Splendor") was given the honor of designing the poster for the 54th edition of the fest, as seen above.

For the very first time, a documentary will open the festival. "13th", which examines the high rate of people being sent to prison in the United States with an alarming number being African-Americans, is the latest from director Ava DuVernay ("Selma"). The title refers to the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery as well as involuntary servitude "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."



The centerpiece selection is "20th Century Women" the new comedy-drama directed by Mike Mills ("Beginners"). Annette Bening heads a cast that includes Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, and Billy Crudup in this '70's set story of a single mother who tries to teach her teenage son about love and freedom with the help of two other women.



And "The Lost City of Z" will be the closing-night film from James Gray ("The Immigrant"). Based on the book by David Grann, the film traces the real life events of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) who made several attempts to find an ancient lost city in the Amazon before mysteriously disappearing in 1925. Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller also star.

While these three films are world premieres, the main slate is made up largely of features previously screened earlier at one of the many other film festivals throughout this year. The selections are quite impressive with some of the high profile and acclaimed titles include "Elle", "Certain Women", "Manchester By The Sea", "Julieta", "Personal Shopper", "Patterson" and "Toni Erdmann".



There will be a diverse selection of shorts programs, documentaries, talks, experimental narratives, film revivals and retrospectives. Other highlights from this fest will feature special film events like the world premiere presentation in RealD 3D of Ang Lee's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" and the recent addition of Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s first English-language feature, "Jackie" starring Natalie Portman. There will also be special evenings honoring two young actors, Adam Driver ("Patterson") and Kristen Stewart ("Certain Women", "Personal Shopper" and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk") that will include an intimate dinner and conversation with them.



For the complete list of films, tickets and additional information, please click below:

2016 New York Film Festival

Thursday, September 22, 2016

ART HOUSE THEATER DAY


Saturday, September 24th is Art House Theater Day! It's a day to recognize the contributions of film and filmmakers, staff and projectionists, and fellow brick and mortar theaters dedicated to providing access to the best in independent cinema.

Every theater is unique and the Art House Theater Day celebrations will reflect that. Several film distributors are offering exclusive programs that you will only be able to see on Art House Theater Day at these theaters.

To locate theaters across the country participating in the event and a list of films been screened, please click below:

2016 Art House Theater Day

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 DTLA FILM FESTIVAL


One of the newest film festivals, the DTLA Film Fest begins it's eighth event on September 21st through September 28th. The focus here is on bringing the best in independent cinema from across the globe to Downtown Los Angeles. The Regal Cinemas L.A. Live will be hosting the screenings and events.

The Opening Night film will be "Swing State", written and directed by Johnathan Sheldon. This political comedy is about a DJ who creates this outrageous conservative radio host character that becomes a media sensation, Shane Black, Taryn Manning, Sean Astin and Billy Zane star.



The Centerpiece selection is "The Loner", a modern film noir that takes place in Los Angeles. Set in the dark underworld of Russian and Persian mobs, an Iranian gangster is falsely accused of stealing drugs from his boss and must track down the person that actually did. Daniel Grove directs and co-wrote the script with Reza Sixo Safai who stars.

The Closing Night film honors the late David Bowie with a screening of Nicholas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell To Earth" which celebrates it's 40th anniversary. The film has been restored using a 4K scan and co-star Candy Clark will make an appearance as she receives the festival's Film Pioneer Award.

There will be several curated series which merges film and conversation. Some in the series include Art+Architecture+Design, Income Inequality in America, Webisodes and spotlights on Cuban, Spanish and Moroccan cinema.

Music documentaries will be on hand which will feature "Bjork: The Creative Universe of a Music Missionary" and "Hard Lovin' Woman" which takes a look at actress, Juliette Lewis and her second career as a rock performer. There will also be Los Angeles premieres of two documentaries on the Blues, ""How Berlin Got The Blues" and "Two Trains Runnin'".



For a complete listing of films, tickets and additional information, please click below:

2016 DTLA Film Festival

Monday, September 19, 2016

SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (2016)

Written & Directed by Richard Tanne


When & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. August 30, 2016  5:05 PM


 "Southside With You", the impressive first feature from writer/director Richard Tanne, turns the real-life first encounter of the future forty-fourth President of The United States and his First Lady in to a lovely and captivating drama. A kind of "When Barack Met Michelle". But this is not a light and breezy date movie. The film features a warm, urban romance, set during a hot summer in the South side of Chicago, that is urbane and astute, as we watch these two alluring young people spend a day trying to maneuver around career ambitions, civic duty, political bureaucracy and physical attraction.

The year is 1989 and Janet Jackson's "Miss You Much", which is the hot new song of the moment, we hear blasting through the car radio of Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) during the opening credits. He's on his way to pick up Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), a rising corporate lawyer at a firm where he is a new intern. Barack has managed to convince her to attend a community meeting with him but as his supervisor, Michelle was reluctant to go out with the attractive young man in any capacity. Since being the rare female African-American in a law firm run by mostly white males, she is very concerned about how it would appear if they found out.

However, the meeting won't begin for hours so Barack wants to take Michelle out, spending some time to get to know her better. While this was exactly what she was trying to avoid yet agrees as long as he's aware this will not be a date.

Their first stop is to the Art Institute of Chicago where they check out an exhibit of Afrocentric art. Barack introduces Michelle to the work of Ernie Barnes (that was used on the sitcom "Good Times" as the paintings of Jimmie Walker's character, J.J. which she never watched) and it's vivid depictions of African-American life. The couple spend a great deal of time trading stories about their lives, experiences and aspirations as they make the trek through the city towards their destination.

The focus of this meeting is on the building of a much needed community center with the people of this largely African-American neighborhood expressing their anger and frustration with the city's refusal to fund the project. Encouraged to offer some words of inspiration, Barack addresses the crowd, eloquently persuading them to consider finding alternative means to finance the center. After hearing him speak, Michelle finds herself entranced, just like the rest of the room, witnessing for the first time the moving and powerful effect he has on people.

While we know "Southside With You" is clearly a work of fiction based on true-life events, Mr Tanne, who spent much of his early career as an actor,  has managed to capture a believable essence of their story and of their lives. Taking a cue from Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's "Before Sunrise" film series, we spend a large part of this film just watching Barack and Michelle walk, talk and eventually fall in love. Since we know the outcome, there is no real suspense or tension to be found in the narrative. But what we do have is sparkling and lively conversation between two thoughtful and good-hearted people.

It would seem very difficult to convincingly bring to life two high-profile people still constantly in the public eye but our actors handle the challenge with poise and flair. With his first major film role, Mr. Sawyer may not share much of a physical similarity to our Commander-In-Chief but he delivers his confident swagger and makes him in youth far less guarded then he would ultimately need to become. Ms Sumpter (who also serves as one of the film's producers) is equally effective, displaying the steely resolve of the future Mrs. Obama that we're familiar with but also her softer side, particularly when Barack is able to soothe her at her most anxious.

After spending the afternoon together, Barack finally convinces Michelle to engage in a date-like activity. They go see Spike Lee's incendiary film, "Do The Right Thing". There is another flareup after the movie due to the unexpected appearance of one of her bosses but Barack and Michelle do eventually share their first kiss over ice cream.

Despite the inevitable predictability of the story, "Southside With You" offers something refreshing and rarely seen in American cinema. An intimate love story between two African-Americans that doesn't involve struggling in poverty, domestic violence, gang-shootings or raunchy humor.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

OLIVER STONE IN HIS OWN BLUNT WORDS


Oliver Stone, still considered one of Hollywood's leading provocateurs, has made his career tackling troubling and controversial subject matter (which many filmmakers would never be brave enough to go near) while attempting to offer analytical insight and an alternative perspective with his work. However, some regard his films as heavily biased, contentious and distorting the truth.

With his just released "Snowden", about the NSA contractor who leaked information on the U.S. government's surveillance program and now on the run, Stone has once again taken on a divisive real-life story and has made it very clear whose side he is on. The two-time Oscar winner recently spoke with the Los Angeles Times to reflect on this film and some of his previous work. This includes his first time in the director's chair with "The Hand", a critically-panned horror flick that starred Michael Caine to his greed-is-good drama, "Wall Street" to the questionable look at the Kennedy assassination in "JFK" and one of his most personal, the Vietnam set Best Picture winner, "Platoon".

Click here to read:

Aging Provocateur: Oliver Stone

Monday, September 12, 2016

WINNERS FROM THE 2016 VENICE FILM FESTIVAL


"The Woman Who Left (Ang Babaeng Humayo)", a black & white filmed drama from Lav Diaz of the Philippines, took the top prize of the Golden Lion at the close of the 2016 Venice Film Festival.  The film, which clocks in at a butt-numbing 226 minutes and inspired by the short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" by Leo Tolstoy, tells the story of a woman who was falsely convicted of a crime and has spent thirty years of her life in prison. Now free after a friend admits to framing her, she fights against seeking revenge and finding forgiveness.



Fashion designer turned film maker, Tom Ford won the Grand Jury Prize or the runner-up award for his highly anticipated follow-up feature, "Nocturnal Animals". The Silver Lion for direction was a tie with Amat Escalante from Mexico for his film, "La Region Salvaje (The Untamed)" and Andrei Konchalovsky for the Russian film, "Paradise" sharing the prize.



The Volpi Cup Best Actress prize went to Emma Stone for her dazzling turn in the romantic musical, "La La Land" while the Volpi Cup Best Actor was given to Oscar Martinez for his performance in the Argentine film, "El Ciudadano Ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen)".

Noah Oppenheim won the Best Screenplay Prize for his work in "Jackie", the Pablo Larrain directed feature about First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's life immediately following the assassination of the President with Natalie Portman in the lead role. Ana Lily Amirpour ("A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night") took a Special Jury Prize for her latest film, "The Bad Batch", a romantic horror-thriller starring Suki Waterhouse, Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves. And the Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress went to Paula Beer for her work in François Ozon’s "Frantz".

Friday, September 9, 2016

25 OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS AT THE 2016 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL


If it's September, then there must be a film festival. The latest is the 41st Annual Toronto Film Festival which began on September 8th and runs through September 18th. This Canadian fest is best known for it's mix of Hollywood fare, indies and World cinema. There will be an incredible 296 features and documentaries that will be shown throughout the event with almost half of the films being world premieres. Some of these have already made their debuts at Venice or Telluride, like "La La Land", "Nocturnal Animals", "Moonlight" and "The Magnificent Seven" and have received plenty of praise but will now get an opportunity to be seen by an even larger audience. Some of the premieres include Oliver Stone's bio-pic "Snowden" and "LBJ", Rob Reiner's look at our 36th President with Woody Harrelson as Lyndon B. Johnson and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird.

Even if you're not able to make the trip to Toronto, you may want to take a look at this list for some films that you might want to check out later this season.

Click below to Read:

25 of The Most Anticipated Films at 2016 Toronto Film Fest

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2016 FALL MOVIE PREVIEW

The summer of 2016 may best be remembered for a glut of uninspired and unnecessary sequels, remakes and high-concept films that nobody wanted to see. The studios continue to shovel endless mediocrity in to theaters then seem shocked when audiences don't bite. While a few made some money,  the vast majority of them received critical and box-office failure. With that now behind us,  it's time to move on to the season of fall, where we will be offered fare that is much more creatively inspired and thoughtfully challenging. There are quite a few coming soon that look quite promising but I have narrowed down to the films that have particularly piqued my interest.

All release dates are subject to change:

"AMERICAN HONEY"

Release date: September 30, 2016

British writer/director, Andrea Arnold won the Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival for the third time with her latest drama, "American Honey". With an explosive performance by newcomer, Sasha Lane, the actress stars as a teenage girl who gets swept up with a group of young misfits traveling across the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions to make quick cash. This also gets her involved with some heavy drug use, tender romance and violent crime. Riley Keough, Shia LaBeouf and several real-life street kids co-star.



"MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN"

Release date: September 30, 2016

The title "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" pretty much says it all. The film is based on the best-selling YA book about an orphaned teenage boy (Asa Butterfield) who ends up going to live at a home made up of strange children with some peculiar talents, run by a caring headmistress, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). But there is a band of evil creatures called the "Wights" that are seeking out these children to destroy them, lead by the treacherous Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).  And who better to bring this dark fantasy to life than Tim Burton, the man who has enchanted and unsettled audiences for years with his own peculiar brand of gloomy film making.



"THE BIRTH OF A NATION"

Release date: October 7, 2016

Actor Nate Parker and his debut project as a writer and director "The Birth of a Nation" has been all over the news of late but it's not been directly about the movie. Despite all of the unsettling circumstances surrounding Parker, I plan to see his film for two reasons; I have no problem separating the art from the artist and I don't believe in continuing to condemn someone who has been acquitted of a crime. As for the film, Parker also stars as Nat Turner, a slave who was taught to read so he could preach from the Bible to his fellow slaves to keep them obedient. However, Turner soon becomes aware of what he's doing and begins to encourage his people to violently rise up against their oppressors.



"MOONLIGHT"

Release date: October 21, 2016

Inspired by the play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" by Tarell McCraney, "Moonlight" follows Chiron, an African-American man through three key stages of his life; childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Beginning with life on the tough streets of Miami with his crack-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) as a nine year old to struggling to suppress his true sexual desires as a teenager to trying to find acceptance for who he is as a young man. Three different actors play Chiron at each period with Trevante Rhodes, a former Track and Field athlete turned actor, playing him as an adult. This is the long-awaited second film from writer/director Barry Jenkins who made one of my favorite films in 2009, "Medicine For Melancholy".



"AMERICAN PASTORAL"

Release date: October 21, 2016

Another actor making his directorial feature debut is Ewan McGregor and he's tackling the work of a major American novelist. "American Pastoral" is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Philip Roth and features one of his best known characters. Seymour "Swede" Levov (McGregor) is a very successful businessman with a former beauty queen wife (Jennifer Connelly) and lovely teenage daughter (Dakota Fanning). His seemingly perfect life begins to unravel when his daughter becomes involved in an act of political terrorism. Following the sublime "Indignation" from James Schamus, this will be the second film of Roth's distinctive work this year.



"DOCTOR STRANGE"

Release date : November 4, 2016

One of my favorite Marvel comic books as a kid was "Doctor Strange" so I'm quite thrilled that a movie about him has finally been made. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as Stephen Strange, a top neurosurgeon whose career comes to an end due to a tragic accident. In search of healing and enlightenment, Strange travels to Asia where he encounters the Ancient One (the one and only, Tilda Swinton) who guides him on a course of the mystic arts. With Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benjamin Bratt and Chiwetel Ejiofor.



"LOVING"

Release date: November 4, 2016

Following the amazing sci-fi, supernatural thriller, "Midnight Special" released earlier this year, writer and director, Jeff Nichols is back with a completely different type of film, "Loving" tells the true story of Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a white man and his wife, Ruth (Ruth Negga), an African-American woman who dared to marry while living in the deeply segregated South. They were arrested and sent to prison in Virginia in 1958 for violating the state's anti-miscegenation laws. The Lovings fought the charges and took their case all the way to the Supreme Court.



"ELLE"

Release date: November 16, 2016

I don't know how well "Elle", the latest film from the controversial director of "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls", Paul Verhoeven, will be received here in Puritanical America but I, for one, can't wait to see this. One reason is for the appearance of Isabelle Huppert, one of cinema's greatest actors. The other is how Verhoeven, known for his fascination with sex and violence, will handle this disturbing story of a business executive (Huppert) who is attacked and sexually violated. She manages to track down the perpetrator of the horrific crime with a plan to enact revenge. Or does she have something else in mind?

"NOCTURNAL ANIMALS"

Release date: November 18, 2016

Fashion designer, Tom Ford surprised everyone with his assured debut as a film director with his 2009 feature, "A Single Man". He finally has found some time away from his busy day job to make a follow-up film. Based on the novel, "Tony and Susan", "Nocturnal Animals" is about Susan (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner, who is given a manuscript from her ex-husband (Armie Hammer), asking for her opinion. The book tells the violent story of a family vacation that turns deadly (which is visualized in the film) and triggers in Susan memories of some dark events that occurred during their marriage. An impressive cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher and Laura Linney.

"ALLIED"

Release date : November 23, 2016

"Allied", the new film from Oscar-winning director, Robert Zemeckis, is in the spirit of those World War II romantic thrillers from the '40's. Two of Hollywood's current glamourous movie stars, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play an assassin and French spy who fall in love during an assignment to kill a German official in Casablanca. Yes, the film is a little too obvious but it still looks great.



"FENCES"

Release date: December 16, 2016

For his third film as a director, Denzel Washington brings to the big screen "Fences", the first feature of the work by the acclaimed playwright, the late August Wilson. Washington and his co-star, Viola Davis recreate the roles they each won a Tony for during the 2010 Broadway revival of this Pulitzer Prize winning drama. Based on the screenplay draft by Wilson (with a light polish by fellow playwright, Tony Kushner), it tells the story of a former Negro league baseball player, who now works as a trash collector, as he struggles to provide for his family while trying to accept what has become of his life.



"JULIETA"

Release date: December 21, 2016

I remember clearly the first film I ever saw by Pedro Almodóvar. It was "Law of Desire" way back in 1987 during a trip to Toronto. I was a young man from the Midwest, completely shocked and mesmerized by the high drama, droll humor and uninhibited sexuality featured on the screen. And I became a hardcore fan ever since. That was actually the Spanish director's fifth feature at the time and with, "Julieta", this will be his twentieth production. This new melodrama, which uses several short stories by Alice Munro, is about a middle-aged Julieta (Emma Suarez) who desperately wants to make contact with her long-estranged daughter that she hasn't seen or heard from in over ten years. So the mother decides to write a letter to her child, revealing all the painful, dark secrets that she has kept hidden from her.