Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers


Directed by Jon Watts


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. July 8, 2017 5:45 PM


With the announcement that Spider-Man would finally be joining the cinematic Marvel Universe, the question that immediately came to my mind was do we really need another re-boot of "Spider-Man"? In the last fifteen years, there have been five features made with two actors (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) in the role and combined have grossed almost four billion dollars globally. So I guess we know the answer to that question.

The latest revival has surprisingly been given to Jon Watts, a relative newcomer to film whose previous credit is the well-reviewed yet little-seen 2015 road-thriller, "Cop Car". But Watts had a clear plan and with "Spider-Man: Homecoming", he brings a refreshing and thrilling spark to the series. He returns to the basics of the history of this character with a high school kid trying to figure out and come to terms to what the phrase "with great power comes great responsibility" really means.

As the third guy in the spider suit, Tom Holland, the twenty-one year old British actor who made an impressive film debut in the 2012 feature, "The Impossible" and also appears in this year's "The Lost City of Z", delivers a fresh take on Peter Parker, making him filled with all the anxieties, insecurities and raging hormones of a true teenager right down to a voice going through pubescent change (in a flawless American accent).

Thankfully we have been spared another origin story with this film beginning shortly after Spider-Man's brief cameo in last year's "Captain America: Civil War" which caused a lot of destruction in New York. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his crew had been assigned to clean-up the city but Anne Marie Hoag (Tyne Daly), head of the U.S. Department of Damage Control, informs him that Tony Stark's company will be taking over the removal of the debris. Enraged by losing much needed income to a very wealthy man, Toomes decides to keep some of the alien technology left behind he had collected.

A few years later, Peter anxiously wants to become one of the Avengers but Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) doesn't feel he's ready to take that on full-time yet. He suggests he stay in school and "Happy" Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark's driver and bodyguard, will contact him when needed. But the impatient Peter decides to put on the Stark-designed suit and go through the city fighting crime on his own.

One night on a practice run, Spider-Man witnesses a robbery of a bank's ATMs in progress and decides to intercept. However, these men are not only armed with standard guns and fire back on him with advanced weapons that can take down a building. After escaping, they return to their leader, Adrian Toomes who has created these powerful weapons to use in their crimes, sell to other criminals and even crafted an elaborately armed, flying costume for himself which he uses as "The Vulture".

I was concerned when I saw six names involved on the screenplay (including director, Watts) yet I was pleasantly surprised to find a cohesive script that tells a clever and witty story which is sharply focused on the awkward teenager struggling to become the crime-fighting hero he dreams of being while fighting against a disgruntled average guy who turns to criminal misconduct mainly to support his family.

There is stronger emphasis on Peter's life outside of the suit and we meet his best buddy and fellow nerd, Ned (Jacob Batalon) who discovers his secret identity. Ned wants to tell everyone at school so they would be cool but Peter is wise enough to know that would not be a good idea. If he was going to be tempted to reveal himself, it would be to take on Eugene "Flash" Thompson (Tony Revolori), a rich, school bully but also attract the attention of Liz (Laura Harrier) a pretty senior that Peter has a crush on. And we have Oscar-winner, Marisa Tomei playing a younger and hipper Aunt May who is quite concerned about the odd bruises and increasingly strange behavior of her nephew.

With Ned's help, Peter is able to study one of the weapons left behind to understand it's advanced power source and locate Toomes, with a tracking device he placed on one of his henchmen, to be able to get one step ahead of him. After discovering that his Spider-suit is set on training wheels, he also has Ned help override it's settings to release it to full capacity. Not a great plan since he doesn't completely understand all it can do but fortunately, much like Stark's Iron suit, there is a calm, disembodied voice (played by another Oscar-winner, Jennifer Connelly) to take commands and give advice on how best to solve any impending situation.

Now it wouldn't a super-hero movie without the requisite action sequences and "Spider-Man: Homecoming" has several big numbers, including the final battle between Spidey and The Vulture, that are all visually impressive yet ultimately generic. But what makes this film really noteworthy is how it makes this long revered character fun and thrilling again by simply bringing him back down-to-Earth, filling him with youth, inexperience and uncertainty.

By the end of "Homecoming", we have a transformed Peter Parker and even Spider-Man, for that matter. He has matured somewhat, learning how best to use his extraordinary power to not only help mankind but also himself. No offense to any of the previous films but this is one thoroughly enjoyable Spider-Man adventure that will be remembered and long praised.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WINNERS FROM THE 2017 OUTFEST FILM FESTIVAL

Grand Jury Awards

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: "Signature Move"

U.S. Narrative (Special Mention): "195 Lewis"



U.S. Narrative Jury Prize Best Actor: Luka Kain, "Saturday Church"

U.S. Narrative Jury Prize Best Actress: Ever Mainard, "The Feels"

Best Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature: Eliza Hittman, "Beach Rats"

International Grand Jury Prize: "The Wound"



International (Special Mention): "Body Electric"

Documentary Grand Jury Prize: "Chavela"



Documentary (Special Mention): "Girl Unbound: The War to Be Her"

Best Narrative Short: "Goddess (Devi)"

Best Documentary Short (tie): "Bayard & Me" and "Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism"



Audience Awards

Best Narrative Audience Award: "The Chances"

Audience Award for Best First U.S. Narrative Feature: "A Million Happy Nows"



Best Narrative Short Audience Award: "The Real Thing"

Best Experimental Short Audience Award: "Pussy"

Best Documentary Feature Audience Award: "Chavela"

Best Documentary Short Audience Award: "Little Potato"

Now, here's a few brief reviews of films I caught at the fest. Touko Laaksonen, or as he is better known as "Tom of Finland", is now a national hero in his native country and even received first-class stamps issued in 2014 that feature his hyper-masculine, homoerotic images. That was not always the case for Laaksonen as we learn in the bio-pic from Finnish filmmaker, Dome Karukoski. Pekka Strang stars as Laaksonen who we first see as a solider in WWII. This traumatic event not only haunts him throughout his life but also shapes his sexuality and art. With homosexuality a crime in Finland, he would secretly draw illustrations of physically-enhanced construction workers, lumberjacks and bikers geared towards gay men and sell them underground under the pseudonym, "Tom". His work eventually found it's way around the globe and brought him a certain amount of fame and fortune. Laaksonen efforts to bring a sense of normalcy to his sexuality, at a time when the world told him it was wrong, was challenging and brave yet he wasn't trying to be a heroic. He simply wanted to creatively express himself through eroticism.



"The Pass" stars Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene as two rising star UK footballers who share an intimate encounter in hotel room before an important match that could make-or-break their careers. While Mr. Tovey delivers an impressive performance, this overly talkative drama, based on a play from John Donnelly, never shakes it's theatrical origin. Director Ben A. Williams, adding no cinematic flourishes, seems to have simply just filmed the play, even breaking the movie up literally in three acts.



Jeffrey Schwarz, the director who previously brought us documentaries on important figures in gay history, has delivered his latest with "The Fabulous Allan Carr", which examines the flamboyant producer/agent whose garish tastes brought him fame and infamy in all areas of show business. As an overweight kid growing up in Chicago who loved musicals, Alan Solomon had dreams of somehow making it big in Hollywood. He soon transformed himself in to "Allan Carr" (rhymes with "star") and got his first break as a talent coordinator for Hugh Hefner's local television show, "Playboy's Penthouse". After landing in Los Angeles, Carr began an extreme roller-coaster of a career. He first began a talent agency which he represented a diverse list of stars like Marlo Thomas, Dyan Cannon, composer, Marvin Hamlisch, "Mama" Cass Elliot and Ann-Margaret who was his first big client. This lead to a chance to produce and one of his biggest successes was a film version of the musical, "Grease". Carr's follow-up films, The Village People musical, "Can't Stop The Music" and a sequel to "Grease" had the opposite effect with them being labeled the worst movies of all time. He make a dramatic comeback on the New York stage producing an American musical remake of the French gay farce, "La Cage aux Folles" which won six Tony Awards in 1983 including Best Musical before falling from grace once more producing the infamous 1989 Academy Awards. This is a fascinating profile on a one-of-a-kind showman that doesn't really exist anymore.



Another compelling documentary, "Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty & The Beast in Me" features another person I had almost forgotten about. The late Aucoin, adapted as a baby to a loving family from Louisiana, found great fame as a celebrity make-up artist in the '80's and '90's . Director Lori Kaye, a friend of Aucoin, was able to get her hands on hours of video footage that he shot of behind-the scenes during photo-shoots with the models (Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Andie MacDowell, Paulina Porizkova) and performers (Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liza Minnelli) that he transformed and brought out their natural beauty with his skilled hands. But despite all of his success, he was still haunted by memories of being tormented for being gay by his school peers and the desperate search to find his birth mother.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

THE HERO (2017)

Written by Marc Basch & Brett Haley


Directed by Brett Haley


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  June 12, 2017


Sam Elliott has always been one of those underrated actors that have effortlessly uplifted many films with his reliably solid supporting performances. Following a string of television bit parts and dead-on-arrival shows at the start of his career, the actor got his first break as a lead in the 1976 sleeper hit feature, "The Lifeguard", a perfect fit for the West Coast-born actor. With his rich baritone voice, thick bushy mustache and handsome yet weather-worn mug, Elliott has played more than his fair share of cowboys, ranchers, bikers and detectives throughout his time in front of the camera.

The now seventy-one year old Elliott made a dazzling impression a couple of years ago with appearances in two notable films; one was the Paul Weitz comedy-drama, "Grandma" which also put a welcome spotlight back on star Lily Tomlin. The other was "I'll See You In My Dreams" from writer and director, Brett Haley. This hit baby boomer, romantic-drama not only reminded audiences that Blythe Danner is more than just Gwyneth Paltrow's mother, it gave Elliott a chance to play something rather unexpected; a romantic leading man.

This success inspired Haley to write something specifically for Elliott and the result is "The Hero", a Hollywood-set drama about a down-on-his-luck, aging actor seeking one more shot at glory. Haley doesn't let him down with an engaging yet simplistic script that gives him the rare opportunity to carry a film. And Elliott rises to the occasion with an impressive performance that has him displaying a wide range of emotions he doesn't get to do to often.

Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a faded movie star cowboy whose career has become as obsolete as the westerns that used to be a popular Hollywood staple. The only jobs he can now find are lucrative yet creatively unfulfilling voice-over work for commercials. Lee spends much of his downtime drunk, high or both with his drug dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman) who was once his co-star in a failed television series, as they eat pizza and reminisce about the past.

After receiving some distressing news from his doctor that he has cancer, Lee's initial response is to tell his family which includes an ex-wife (played by the actor's wife, Katharine Ross who some old enough may remember from "The Graduate" and "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid") and estranged daughter (Krysten Ritter) yet decides against it, preferring to repair his relationships without the distraction of sympathy.

Lee meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), an aspiring stand-up comedian, when she drops by Jeremy's to pick-up some product. Sparks fly between them during a bit of flirting but after later running in to each other again (in very L.A. fashion) at a taco stand, the two begin to make a serious connection. That Charlotte is around the age of his daughter is a concern for Lee but she tells him to simply enjoy their time together.

The wide generational gap between Lee and Charlotte never comes across as creepy with the couple having an easy rapport and authentic intimacy. A Hollywood western appreciation organization wants to honor Lee with a lifetime achievement award and asks Charlotte to attend the event with him. She gives a nervous Lee something to help him relax before the ceremony and, in his very relaxed state of mind, delivers a highly irreverent speech that causes him to become a sensation on social media.

Mr. Haley is a modern filmmaker with a nostalgic spirit, making modest dramas with a great appreciation for admired talent that is no longer shiny and new. His approach, however, may be a little too low-key, offering no real weight to the story and fairly predictable plot developments. But despite this shortcoming, Haley certainly knows how to craft an expressive script and able to draw out some fine work from his actors. While his co-stars have brief opportunities to shine, this is clearly Mr. Elliot's show. Soft-spoken and understated, his character may not have much to say yet all of the hurt, frustrations and disappointments in his life are clearly expressed on his weary face.

On the surface, "The Hero" appears to be simply another take of a fallen star seeking attention and redemption before the final curtain closes. But at the heart is a fine, intimate, character-driven story filled with warmth and humor and a masterful turn from Sam Elliott who helps make this more than memorable.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

THE 10 ESSENTIAL ROLES OF MICHELLE PFEIFFER


After frustratingly sporadic appearances over the last few years, Michelle Pfeiffer seems poised for a major comeback to her acting career. This incredibly talented and beautiful actress was just recently seen as Ruth Madoff in HBO's version of the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi Scheme, "The Wizard of Lies" and will also be seen in two feature films later this year in a remake of "Murder on The Orient Express" and "Mother!", the latest from director, Darren Aronofsky.

Her first big break in the movies nearly detailed her rising career. The then twenty-three year old Pfeiffer was cast in a starring role in an ill-advised 1982 sequel to the musical, "Grease". This critical and box-office disaster made her appear less of a prized talent in the business with nobody wanting to hire Pfeiffer but fortunately one person recognized her potential. Producer Martin Bergman was preparing to make a remake of "Scarface" with Al Pacino and wanted her to try-out for a role although the director Brian DePalma was far from interested in the young actress. After a lengthy audition process, Pfeiffer won the role of Tony Montana's drug-addled wife, Elvira and the rest is history. She would go on to make memorable appearances in such films as "The Witches of Eastwick", "Dangerous Liaisons", "The Fabulous Baker Boys", "The Age of Innocence", "Dangerous Minds and "Batman Returns" to name just a few.

Now seems like a perfect time to look back on her illustrious career with Vulture selecting ten of Ms Pfeiffer's best film roles. I agree enthusiastically with this list as it even features her accomplished work in some films I had forgotten about.

Click below to read:

The 10 Essential Roles of Michelle Pfeiffer

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

2017 OUTFEST FILM FESTIVAL


The 2017 Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival is set to begin it's thirty-fifth year of showcasing cinema highlighting stories involving the LGBTQ communities. The eleven day event is set to begin on July 6th with screenings to be held at the Theatre at The Ace Hotel, Orpheum Theatre, Harmony Gold, Redcat and the Directors Guild of America.

The Opening Night Gala will be "God's Own Country", the first feature from filmmaker, Francis Lee. This highly-praised drama was proclaimed to be a British "Brokeback Mountain" when it premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Fest (and won the World Cinema Directing prize).  A stressed out farm worker (Josh O'Connor) feels his life is passing him by. Spending his off-duty hours drunk and engaged in unfulfilling hook-ups, his life changes when a Romanian migrant (Alec Secareanu) arrives to help on the farm.



The 2017 Outfest Achievement Award goes to visionary television creator, Bryan Fuller. He is the innovative talent behind bringing offbeat programming to the small screen like "Hannibal", "Pushing Daisies", "Dead Like Me" and the recent, "American Gods" with a determination to make sure that they feature fascinating LGBTQ characters. Mr. Fuller will be presented the award before the Opening Night Gala screening at the Orpheum Theatre on July 6th.

Some of the Special Centerpiece screenings include the documentary, "Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty & The Beast In Me" about the life and career of the late celebrity make-up artist. Another doc, "Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall" which focuses on Hall, a singer, dancer and YouTube sensation and a look at the creation of his latest project, a "Wizard of Oz" inspired musical based on his life. The U.S. Centerpiece is "Strangers", a digital comedy series from Mia Lidofsky and Celia Rowlson-Hall. Zoe Chao stars as a newly single woman who decides to rent out her spare room in order not to lose her home. Each episode deals with a revolving door of colorful renters and how they offer her a new way to view the world.



The Closing Night Gala will be activist, producer and long-time partner of musician, Sting, Trudie Styler's directorial feature debut, "Freak Show".  Based on a novel by James St. James, Billy (Alex Lawther) is encouraged to be free-spirited and fabulous by his open-minded mother (Bette Midler). But after he's sent to live with his father in a conservative neighborhood, the teenager struggles to be himself. Billy bands together with a group of misfits at his new school to take on the bullies. Abigail Breslin, AnnaSophia Robb and Laverne Cox also star.

There will also be several short film programs, a panel with the female directors involved in the television series, "Queen Sugar", a sneak-peek of the fourth season of "Transparent", a live reading of the Screenwriting Lab entries which celebrates it's 20th anniversary, a panel on virtual reality storytelling, a comedy special from the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8, Bob the Drag Queen and screenings of the Outfest UCLA Legacy restoration projects, "Beautiful Thing" (1996) and "Chasing Amy" (1997).





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

Outfest Los Angeles 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

PRIDE ON SCREEN


In honor of pride this month, Out magazine has complied a list of twenty-five of the most important, groundbreaking and influential films featuring stories about the LGBTQ communities. Some of the films selected range from "Un chant d'amour", a 1950 silent short from French novelist, Jean Genet; "Querelle", based on a story by Genet and the last feature from German bad boy, Rainer Werner Fassbinder; Marlon Riggs' meditative 1989 semi-documentary on black gay identity, "Tongues Untied"; "The Birdcage", the delightful American version of "La Cage aux Folles"; and the obvious selections of "Brokeback Mountain", "Paris is Burning", "Carol" and the 2016 Best Picture Oscar winner, "Moonlight". These are all amazing films and you should make it your mission to see each one.

Click below to read:

Pride on Screen: 25 Essential Queer Films

Friday, June 16, 2017

THE 25 BEST FILMS OF THE 21ST CENTURY


It's only been seventeen years in to the 21st century, so it seems like a perfect time to evaluate the best films so far. Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, chief film critics of the New York Times, have taken a look back and selected their picks for the best films so far this century. Their list is certainly interesting with an eclectic selection of cinema with films ranging from Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 drama, "There Will Be Blood" which sits at the top of the list to "Boyhood", "Inside Out", "The 40 Year Old Virgin", and Best Picture Oscar winners, "Million Dollar Baby", "The Hurt Locker" and last year's "Moonlight". I've seen seventeen of the films chosen and while I agree with a large number, I 'm less enamored about a few of the others like "Mad Max: Fury Road" and the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis".

Click below to read:

The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century

The Times also enlisted six prominent filmmakers; Antoine Fuqua ("The Magnificent Seven"), Sofia Coppola ("The Beguiled"), Paul Feig ("Ghostbusters"), Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival"), Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") and Alex Gibney ("Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief") to add their picks of their favorite films from this century.

Six Directors Pick Their Favorite Films of the 21st Century

And finally, I decided I might as well add my two cents. So here is my selection of the twenty-five best films from this century (and they are in alphabetical order since it would be much too difficult to rank them in order of preference):

"20 Feet From Stardom" (2013)
"The Artist" (2011)
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" (2012)
"Boyhood" (2014)
"Bridesmaids" (2011)
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000)
"Drive"(2011)
"Elephant" (2003)
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
"Ex Machina" (2015)
"I Am Not Your Negro" (2017)
"The Incredibles" (2004)
"Mulholland Dr" (2001)
"Once" (2007)
"Pan’s Labyrinth" (2006)
"The Pianist" (2002)
"Requiem For a Dream" (2000)
"Shame" (2011)
"A Single Man" (2009)
"Talk to Her" (2002)
"Tangerine" (2015)
"There Will Be Blood" (2007)
"United 93" (2006)
"The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013)
"Y Tu Mamá También" (2002)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A CLOSER LOOK AT DIANE KEATON


Diane Keaton became the 45th recipient of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award on June 8th. This is a well-deserved and long-overdue honor for this delightfully eccentric, seventy-one year old actress. While she was first noticed for her dramatic work in "The Godfather", it was her distinctive gift for comedy that made Keaton a star. Woody Allen recognized her talent instantly and took full advantage by casting her in his early films as a director. Their successful collaboration eventually cumulated with her winning an Oscar for her exceptional comedic performance in his 1977 Best Picture winner, "Annie Hall".

The Hollywood Reporter has gone back to examine her work in cinema over the last five decades and have selected what they consider are the five best performances by Diane Keaton.

Click below to read:

A Closer Look at Diane Keaton's Career

The AFI Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Diane Keaton will be broadcast on June 15th on TNT and an encore presentation will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on July 31st with a night of programming dedicated to her work.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 LA FILM FESTIVAL


The LA Film Festival, which brings intriguing new independent cinema from across the globe to the city, is set to begin on June 14th through 22nd. The Arclight Cinemas Culver City is the official host venue of the fest with select screenings also to be held at Bing Theater at LACMA, Kirk Douglas Theatre, The Theatre at Ace Hotel and Arclight Cinemas Hollywood and Santa Monica.

"The Book of Henry", the latest from director Colin Trevorrow who returns to his indie-roots after making the Hollywood blockbusters, "Jurassic World" and "Star Wars: Episode IX", has been selected as the Opening Night film. Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), a mature 11-year-old living with single mother, Susan (Naomi Watts) and younger brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay from "Room"), who develops a crush on his new neighbor (Maddie Zeigler, best known as the young dancer in the Sia music videos). He realizes something is wrong in her home life and devises a plan to rescue her.



Closing the fest will be "Ingrid Goes West", a social satire from co-writer and director, Matt Spicer. Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid, a mentally unbalanced young woman who is obsessed with an online beauty and lifestyle star (Elizabeth Olsen) and does everything she can to become part of her inner circle.



In between, there will be 37 world-premiere titles, two international premieres, nine North American premieres, 51 short films, 15 Future Filmmaker High School shorts and nine web series episodes that will be shown. Special screenings include a Sofia Coppola double feature with her latest, "The Beguiled" and her 2003 breakout film, "Lost in Translation" with the director on hand for a Q & A. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, stars of the hit series, "Portlandia", will discuss their favorite moments from the show and spill a little about the upcoming final season. And director Ava DuVernay will be part of a panel that will present a sneak peek of the second season of her drama series, "Queen Sugar" and discuss the program.





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

2017 LA Film Fest

Thursday, June 8, 2017

BAYWATCH (2017)

Written by Damian Shannon & Mark Swift


Directed by Seth Gordon


Where & When: Springdale Cinema De Lux 18, Cincinnati, OH, May 30, 2017 4:15 PM



"Baywatch" is the latest in a long (mostly tragic) line of bringing popular television programs of yore to the big screen. I must admit I've never watched a complete episode but I was aware of this campy show that focused on the relationships between sexy, LA lifeguards who patrol the beaches saving lives from the many dangers that lurk there; sharks, murderers, surfer gangs and occasionally preventing someone from drowning. With very little attention paid to thoughtful development and execution, this banal spoof makes the TV show seem sharp and tasteful.

Dwayne Johnson has taken over in a variation of the role that David Hasselhoff played on the series as Lt. Mitch Buchannon, a beloved lifeguard who has saved hundreds of lives on the beaches of Florida. With his second-in-command, Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and veteran crew-member, C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach) by his side, they work together to keep people safe from harm.

In search of new lifeguards, tryouts are held and Ronnie (Jon Bass), a sweet, doughy nerd, dreams of being a hero of the beach like Mitch and getting to work closely with the beautiful C.J. who leaves him completely tongue-tied. All recruits must pass a rigorous physical test to be selected but Matt Brody (Zac Efron) rides in on his motorcycle informing Mitch that his boss, Captain Thorpe (Rob Huebel) said he already has a position on the team. This won't fly with Mitch and doesn't care that the cocky but dim, Brody is a former Olympic swimmer. But Brody went from hero to zero after a race he swam hungover, earning him the nickname, "the Vomit Comet"

It's not much of a surprise that there is tension and rivalry between Mitch and Brody with the veteran lifeguard proving that the two-time, gold-metal winning Olympian is not the natural, all-around athlete as he claims. But Mitch decides to give him a chance along with Ronnie and Summer (Alexandra Daddario), a pretty surfer that has caught Brody's eye, in the training program.

Drugs wash up on shore and businesswoman Victoria Leeds (played by Priyanka Chopra with expert cartoon villainy) is running them out of her chic country club. So it's up to Mitch and his team to stop her and save the community.

What is most surprising about "Baywatch" is that the story and script had six people involved in it's creation yet the outcome remains shockingly messy and tedious. The lame jokes sink and the CGI-heavy action sequences are waterlogged. After previously helming the middling films, "Four Christmases", "Identity Thief" and "Horrible Bosses", the direction here by Seth Gordon continues his trend of lazy, scattershot work.

Let's keep it real; nobody really watched this show to see David Hasselhoff running around the beach to save the day. It was all about the shapely Pamela Anderson in her skimpy red swimsuit delivering a wooden performance as C.J. that had viewers tuning in to "Baywatch". Another surprise with this film is that the female lifeguards, while quite lovely , are bland and unmemorable. So in a turn for equal sexism, this version of "Baywatch" is all about ogling the buff bodies of our male leads. With an immense charm that's just as powerful as his bulging biceps, Mr. Johnson brings his reliably easy-going vibe that's much needed yet it's not enough to keep this afloat. Beyond flaunting his admittedly impressive abs, Mr Efron's main purpose here is to be the butt of numerous jokes and gags. Some of the indignities he suffers through involves him touching a corpse's penis, having the rotting bodily fluids of another dead body drip in to his mouth and sadly parading around in unconvincing drag.

"Baywatch" tries to impress like a suntanned, muscular body ripped on steroids but all it will leave you feeling is like somebody just kicked sand in your face.

Monday, May 29, 2017

WINNERS FROM THE 2017 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL


The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival has come to the close and "The Square", a surreal social commentary on the wealthy, took the top prize of the Palme d'Or. This was the follow-up from Ruben Ostlund, who brought us the 2014 Swedish hit, "Force Majeure", and co-stars Elizabeth Moss and Dominic West. "120 Beats Per Minute", Robin Campillo's drama on the rise of AIDS activists in 1990's France, received the Gran Prix or the runner-up award.

Sofia Coppola has become only the second female to win the Best Director prize for her upcoming remake of the Civil War drama, "The Beguiled" following Yuliya Solntseva who won for her 1961 drama about Russian resistance to Nazi occupation, "Chronicle of Flaming Years". Not to take anything away from the talented Ms Coppola nor have I actually seen the movie yet but I suspect the motivation behind giving her the award was more about making a political statement than of the actual merit of "The Beguiled". This is due to all the chatter about the lack of female directing winners in the seventy years of the fest and the very mixed critical reaction to the film.

Joaquin Phoenix was named Best Actor for "You Were Never Really Here" while the Best Actress award went to Diane Kruger for "In the Fade". I was surprised to learn that this was the first film, Fatih Akin's drama about the widow of a German-Turk battling against neo-Nazis, that the German-born actress has actually spoken her native language.

The Pedro Almodovar-led jury had a tie for the Best Screenplay award, giving writer and director, Lynne Ramsay the prize for "You Were Really Here" and Greek director, Yorgos Lanthimos and co-writer, Efthymis Filippou for "The Killing of a Sacred Deer".

Finally, to mark the 70th anniversary of the fest, a special award was given to Nicole Kidman who appeared in four projects at Cannes; award winners, "The Beguiled' and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" as well as John Cameron Mitchell's "How To Talk To Girls at Parties" and Jane Campion's television program, "Top of the Lake". Why her? Well, why not.

Here is a partial list of winners from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival:

Palme d'Or: "The Square"



Grand Prize: "120 Beats Per Minute"



Jury Prize: "Loveless"



Best Director: Sofia Coppola, "The Beguiled"
Best Actress: Diane Kruger, "Aus dem Nichts (In the Fade)"



Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, "You Were Never Really Here"
Best Screenplay: (Tie) Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" and Lynne Ramsey, "You Were Never Really Here"
Camera d'Or (Best First Feature): "Jeune Femme" ("Montparnasse-Bienvenue")
Best Short Film: "A Gentle Night"
Special 70th Anniversary Prize: Nicole Kidman
Un Certain Regard Prize: "Lerd (A Man of Integrity)"
Un Certain Regard Jury Prize: "Las Hijas de Abril" (April's Daughter)
Un Certain Regard Prize for Best Direction: Taylor Sheridan, "Wind River"



Un Certain Regard Prize for Best Actress: Jasmine Trinca, "Fortunata"
Un Certain Regard Prize for the Best Poetic Narrative: Mathieu Amalric, "Barbara"

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

PARIS CAN WAIT (2017)

Written & Directed by Eleanor Coppola


Where & When; Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. May 12. 2017 7:30 PM



The last time I saw Diane Lane on the big screen, she was being tortured (her character and her career) as Clark Kent's mother, Martha in the bombastic "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice". I was saddened thinking how this incredibly vibrant and sensual actress was being utterly wasted in this insignificant role that was way, way beneath her. Hollywood has never known what to do with Ms Lane as she has matured and while she had one great moment as a wife who has an adulterous affair with a younger stranger in "Unfaithful" which earned her a well-deserved 2002 Oscar nomination, most of her film appearances have been minor supporting parts.

With Eleanor Coppola, making her feature film directing debut at the age of eighty-one, she has offered Diane Lane  a-long-time-in-coming substantial role in her romantic-drama, "Paris Can Wait" where she is properly front and center. While this lightweight film is hardly perfect. it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Ms Lane plays Anne, the wife of Michael (Alec Baldwin), a successful Hollywood producer. She had tagged along with her husband on a business trip to the Cannes Film Festival before heading to Paris for a romantic getaway. Michael has to make an unplanned flight to Budapest before they head to the city of lights but Anne, who is suffering from a severe earache, decides to go straight to Paris by train. However, Jacques (Arnaud Viard), Michael's friend and French business partner, offers to drive his wife to Paris. Anne reluctantly agrees to go on the eight-hour road trip with this virtual stranger.

Despite his bad driving and her protests to just get to Paris, Anne can't help getting swept up in his joie de vivre, escorting her to wonderful scenic views along the countryside and making stops for leisurely fine dining and conversation. Even when Jacques makes arrangements to stay at a hotel due to the late hour, Anne's concern quickly evaporates as he remains a gentleman by getting them separate rooms.

First seen as a sweet, talkative guy, Jacques eventually reveals himself to be more of a typical French lothario who has more on his mind besides simply providing taxi service to this lovely married woman. It doesn't take long for Anne to catch on herself yet doesn't mind the amorous attention, realizing it's been quite awhile since her husband has paid her this much romantic exuberance.

Mrs. Coppola has spent most of her career creating non-narrative films, mostly behind-the-scenes features of her husband's films with the most notable being "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse", which examined the turmoil during the making of "Apocalypse Now". While not much of a great surprise, this Coppola shares more of a film making style with her daughter, Sofia than her husband, Francis Ford. With "Paris Can Wait", she has created a breezy, intimate adult drama that American cinema no longer embraces but is still quite popular in Europe. Between the gorgeous scenery and the delicious looking food, this story focuses on two isolated souls trying to keep a brave front before allowing their guard to come down enough to make an emotional connection, confessing to each other their secret pain and loss. But the director's script drags down the film with uninspired dialogue and repetitive moments.

Thankfully, Ms Lane uplifts the movie with a warm and effective performance. Mrs. Coppola was quite familiar with her gifts as she has watched the actress grow-up from her early screen appearances as a young woman in her husband's films, "The Outsiders", "Rumble Fish" and "The Cotton Club" that helped launch Ms Lane's career. It's fascinating to watch her Anne, who may not necessarily want to end her marriage, blossom from a frustrated wife to a sensual woman having her eyes opened to other possibilities in her life.

It's hard not to see a few parallels between these characters and Mrs Coppola's own glamorous, movie business filled life but her motivation is definitely much smaller in scale and scope. The charming yet inessential "Paris Can Wait" is about slowing down, appreciating those precious moments with loved ones and enjoying the simple pleasures in life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

THE TEN BEST GOLDIE HAWN FILM ROLES


With the release of the comedy, "Snatched" this past weekend, Goldie Hawn has made a very welcome return to film after a fifteen year hiatus. The seventy-one year old actress first became noticed in the late '60's on the sketch-comedy show, "Laugh-In" before branching out to the movies and earning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress with her first major film, 1969's "Cactus Flower" and later appearing in such films as "Shampoo", "Overboard", "Death Becomes Her", "First Wives Club" and one of her biggest hits and career-defining character, "Private Benjamin". Hawn began her path as a performer with a giggly, dumb blonde persona before shedding that to take on roles that were far more complex and tenacious.

While it is wonderful that Goldie Hawn has come back to acting, "Snatched" is hardly the best vehicle to showcase her gifts. So Vulture has made a rundown of the twenty-eight feature films the actress has made to date and selected her ten best screen roles.

Click below to read the article:

10 Best Goldie Hawn Movie Roles

Friday, May 12, 2017

2017 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL


This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival and even before a single film has been screened, the fest has already seen a little controversy. The first had to due with the poster for the event which features actress Claudia Cardinale and the outrage that erupted over minor air-brushing of her body parts. The other is slightly more of concern with the selection of two films in the competition category ("Okja" by Bong Joon-ho and "The Meyerowitz Stories" by Noah Baumbach) that are being distributed by the streaming company, Netflix and how neither film will actually be shown in French theaters after the festival. This is a complicated issue for on one hand, I appreciate Netflix picking up films that may have had difficulty finding a place in this current marketplace. But on the other, I also see a problem with them wanting to be involved with film festivals and award consideration but never planning to have their films see the inside of a movie theater.

Beginning on May 17th, the Opening Night film will be "Ismael’s Ghosts (Les Fantômes d'Ismaël)", the latest from French director, Arnaud Desplechin, a drama starring some big-names in French cinema; Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrell and Mathieu Amalric. Mr. Amalric also has his recent film as a director, "Barbara" that has been selected to open the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, which places a spotlight on original and different cinematic works.

Nineteen films have been selected for competition to win prizes and they include the work of previous contenders like Sofia Coppola ("The Beguiled"), Yorgos Lanthimos ("The Killing Of A Sacred Deer"), Michel Hazanavicius ("Redoubtable"), Todd Haynes ("Wonderstruck"), Michael Haneke ("Happy End"), François Ozon ("L’Amant Double") and Lynne Ramsay ("You Were Never Really Here").





Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish director, will serve as president of the international jury that will select the prizes. Other jurors include, American actors, Will Smith and Jessica Chastain, Chinese actress, Fan Bingbing, French composer Gabriel Yared and directors, Agnès Jaoui (France), Park Chan-wook (Korea), Paolo Sorrentino (Italy) and Maren Ade, the German filmmaker who made a splash here last year with "Toni Erdmann".

Special 70th anniversary screenings will include episodes of two television series by acclaimed filmmakers; the second season of "Top of The Lake" by Jane Campion and the return of David Lynch's iconic series, "Twin Peaks". The final film by the late Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami, "24 Frames" and the directorial debut by actress Kristen Stewart with her short film, "Come Swim" will also be shown. Virtual reality film will make it way in to the fest with Oscar-winning director, Alejandro Inarritu's, "Carne Y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible) and it explores the troubling condition of immigrants and refugees. Special Screenings will include documentaries by actress Vanessa Redgrave, who directs her first, "Sea Sorrow" which shows the desperate reality of the migration crisis in Europe and Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power", a follow-up to "An Inconvenient Truth", which looks at Al Gore's continuing mission to battle climate change.





Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW

The summer movie season is almost upon us and while there will be plenty of the usual expensive sequels, remakes and comic-book thrillers to drive audiences in to theaters, there's clearly a change in the air. Not only will there be plenty to see for adults during this season but I've noticed a very large number of female-driven films of all genres on the slate to be released. This is certainly a welcome development that is a long time in coming. Kids, teenage boys and nerds are not the only people that might want to see a movie this summer. There are a great number of interesting releases due over the next four months I want to see but here are ten movies I particularly want to put a spotlight on:

All release dates are subject to change:

"SNATCHED"

Release date: May 12, 2017

Goldie Hawn returns to the big screen after a way too long of an absence in the action-comedy, "Snatched". She plays an unadventurous mother who is convinced to go on a trip to South America to help cheer up her recently dumped daughter when they are kidnapped and must escape through the jungle. Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack also star. Oh. And Amy Schumer is in this too.



"WONDER WOMAN"

Release date: June 2, 2017

After getting an exciting tease of the character in the otherwise underwhelming, "Batman vs. Superman", the first big screen treatment of "Wonder Woman" is finally here. This is an origin story set in the early 20th Century when Diana (Gal Gadot), an Amazon goddess living on the all-female island of Themyscira, meets a downed World War I pilot (Chris Pine) who has washed up on shore. Falling for the handsome man and fascinated by his stories, Diana decides to go off with him to discover his world and help fight in this war. Patty Jenkins (best known for directing "Monster", the film that won Charlize Theron an Oscar) directs.



"BEATRIZ AT DINNER"

Release date: June 9, 2017

The film making team of director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White, who brought us the indie classics, "Chuck & Buck" and "The Good Girl", have reunited once again for "Beatriz at Dinner", a timely dark comedy that examines the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots along with causal racism and xenophobia that has become far more prevalent in this country. Salma Hayek plays Beatriz, a holistic medicine practitioner who ends up at a party of one of her wealthy clients and gets in to a politically charged run-in with a successful businessman (John Lithgow).



"MY COUSIN RACHEL"

Release date: June 9, 2017

Daphne du Maurier, the British novelist, has had many of her books and short stories turned in to films, the most notable being Hitchcock's versions of "Jamaica Inn", "The Birds" and "Rebecca". "My Cousin Rachel" has been made before in 1951 (which starred Richard Burton and Olivia de Haviland) and this latest features Rachel Weisz and Sam Ciaflin.  It's about a young man (Ciaflin) whose wealthy cousin dies, leaving his vast fortune to him. But he's convinced that his new wife, Rachel (Weisz) was behind his death to get her hands on his money. However, after meeting this enchanting woman, he falls in love. Could his suspicion about her be misguided? Or maybe not?



"THE BEGUILED"

Release date : June 23, 2017

Director Sofia Coppola returns with her version of "The Beguiled", a Civil War set drama based on the novel by Thomas P. Cullinan that was first made in to a film in 1971 and starred Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. Colin Farrell now plays the injured Union solider rescued by a student at an all-girls boarding school. Nicole Kidman is the headmistress who reluctantly allows him to stay until he regains his strength. Trouble brews with this handsome lone man surrounded by this group of lonely young women. Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning (who both previously worked with the director) also appear in this film which will make it's world premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival in May.



"OKJA"

Release date: June 28, 2017

"Ojka" is another English-language feature from Korean filmmaker, Boon Joon-ho following his well-received first, "Snowpiercer" from 2013. A young girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) fights bravely against a powerful, international organization to protect her best friend, who happens to be a giant, animal-like creature named Ojka. An impressive cast includes Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Lily Collins and Giancarlo Esposito but the problem is that Netflix has picked-up the film, so I fear this will barely get a theatrical release. I hope I'm wrong and they will begin to follow what Amazon has successfully done with the films they acquire.



"A GHOST STORY"

Release date: July 7, 2017

The last time filmmaker David Lowery and actors, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara came together, it was with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints", an acclaimed romantic-crime drama in 2013. They have come back together for "A Ghost Story" which has already been met with rapturous praise at this year's Sundance Film Festival. It tells the surreal story of a recently departed man (who looks like a Halloween costume version of a ghost) attempting to reconnect with his distraught widow.



"GIRLS TRIP"

Release date : July 21, 2017

"Girls Trip" is a raunchy rom-com involving four childhood friends (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and comedian, Tiffany Haddish) who decide to reunite in New Orleans during the Essence Music Fest. It's safe to say that wild adventures and sex-filled escapades will certainly be found in this road-trip comedy.



"ATOMIC BLONDE"

Release date: July 28, 2017

Charlize Theron is back in fine ass-kicking mode in the action-thriller, "Atomic Blonde". Based on the graphic novel, "The Coldest Day", the Oscar-winner plays Lorraine Broughton, a top British spy sent to Berlin shortly before the wall is set to come down to investigate a mysterious murder of an undercover agent by other spies. James McAvoy co-stars as a Berlin station chief assigned to help Broughton maneuver through the city. Stunt coordinator turned filmmaker, David Leitch ("John Wick") directs.



"DETROIT"

Release date: August 4, 2017

Loosely based on the 1967 Algiers motel incident, "Detroit" examines how a police raid at the motel during a racially charged riot sets off a violent and deadly rampage throughout the Motor City. The Oscar-winning team of director, Kathryn Bigelow and writer, Mark Boal (who brought us "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty") are behind this intense period drama.

Friday, May 5, 2017

UNFORGETTABLE (2017)

Written by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson


Directed by Denise Di Novi


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. April 24, 2017 5:25 PM


"Fatal Attraction" was a psychological thriller from 1987 that surprised everyone by becoming not only a major worldwide box-office hit but a cultural phenomenon. Michael Douglas and Glenn Close starred in this story of a happily married man having a brief intimate encounter with a book editor. After he tries to end the relationship, she doesn't take it well, leading to relentless harassment and a boiled rabbit. After the intense drama received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, there would follow many variations of this story involving challenges to a marriage made over the years with none ever coming close to matching the style or success of this film.

The latest is "Unforgettable", the directorial debut of veteran producer Denise Di Novi, that has a separated couple trying to maintain civility due to the shared custody of their only child. But when he begins a new relationship, this sends his jealous ex-partner off the deep end. Instead of lively and inventive examination in to shattered relationships and broken hearts that can lead to dangerous conduct, we have another tedious and predictable rundown of obsessive behavior and overblown lunacy.

Julia (Rosario Dawson) has left behind her life and career in San Francisco to move to Southern California to be with David (Geoff Stults), her handsome fiance. David is divorced and trying to co-parent his young daughter, Lily (Isabella Rice) with Tessa (Katherine Heigl), his rigid, ice-blonde former wife. He hasn't told them yet of his plans to marry as he wants them to get to know Julia first.

It doesn't take long for Tessa to find out on her own and she's not at all pleased. Feeling like Julia is trying to steal "her family", she begins a methodically nutty plot to destroy her apparent rival. After discovering that Julia has her own secret of once being a victim of domestic abuse and with her attacker out on parole, Tessa uses technology to communicate with him by pretending to be Julia, trying to lure this violent abuser to her doorstep.

Ms Di Novi has been behind some of the biggest critical and box-office hits like "Heathers", "Crazy, Stupid, Love", "The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants" and the '90's version of "Little Women" while working closely with many solid directors, particularly Tim Burton, who she produced four of his features including "Edward Scissorhands" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Yet it doesn't appear like she took a single note during her time with any of these filmmakers. As a director, Ms Di Novi displays a generic cinematic style despite getting one of the top cinematographers, five-time Oscar nominee, Caleb Deschanel to film her project. And you have to wonder what made her decide that the incredibly inept script from Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson would be the one to direct as her first film.

While there are plenty of women in front of and behind the camera, unfortunately, "Unforgettable" feels like it could easily have been made by a man. There is a slight misogynistic energy floating throughout with women pitted against each other as sport, willing to fight each other to the death over a man leaves a disturbing feeling. But at it's core, the film seems to challenge the concept that modern women can have it all, implying that career sacrifices must be made in order to secure a happy home and marriage. Otherwise, you could end up bitter, lonely and crazy.

With logic, reason and suspense in short supply, it make it very challenging for our actors to sell this overheated drama yet they still manage to make a valiant effort. Ms Dawson is a much stronger actress than she's probably given credit for but that may be due to her selection of film roles (current film especially included). As for Ms Heigl, let's just say she does unhinged, bat-shit crazy women particularly well.

All this leads to an ending that is equally preposterous and inevitable, making "Unforgettable", without a doubt, completely forgettable. However, if you are a big fan of this type of melodramatic thriller, you might find just enough in this film to keep you entertained.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

WINNERS FROM THE 2017 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL


While the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival still has a day to go before calling it a wrap, all the films competing for prizes have been shown and winners have now been selected. "Keep The Change", director Rachel Israel’s feature about two autistic people who face challenges after falling in love, was chosen as Best Narrative Feature while "Bobbi Jene", a doc which follows American dancer, Bobbi Jene Smith returning home after performing with the famous Israeli dance company, Batsheva, took Best Documentary Feature as well as prizes for it's editing and cinematography. "Son of Sofia (O Gios tis Sofias)", Elina Psikou's story of an eleven year old boy returning to Greece to be with his mother and discovering he now has a new father, was picked as Best International Narrative. There was even a prize given for Best Snapchat Short and that went to Annie Hubbard for "Magic Show".

Here is a partial list of the winners from the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival:

U.S. NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION WINNERS

Best Narrative Feature: "Keep the Change"
Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Alessandro Nivola, "One Percent More Humid"
Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Nadia Alexander, "Blame"
Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Chris Teague, "Love After Love"



Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Angus MacLachlan, "Abundant Acreage Available"

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION WINNERS

Best International Narrative Feature: "Son of Sofia (O Gios tis Sofias)" (Greece, Bulgaria, France)
Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film: Guillermo Pfening, "Nobody’s Watching (Nadie Nos Mira)" (Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, U.S., Spain)



Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film: Marie Leuenberger, "The Divine Order (Die göttliche Ordnung)" (Switzerland)
Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature Film: Mart Taniel, "November" (Estonia, Netherlands, Poland)
Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film: Bohdan Sláma, "Ice Mother (Bába z ledu)" (Slovakia, France)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION WINNERS:

Best Documentary Feature: "Bobbi Jene" (U.S., Denmark, Israel)
Best Documentary Cinematography: Elvira Lind, "Bobbi Jene"
Best Documentary Editing: Adam Nielson, "Bobbi Jene"
Special Jury Mention: "True Conviction"
Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award: Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra, "A Suitable Girl" (U.S., India)
Special Jury Mention New Documentary: "Hondros"

THE NORA EPHRON PRIZE:

The Nora Ephron Prize: Petra Volpe, writer and director of "The Divine Order" (Switzerland).
Special Jury Mention: "Keep the Change"

Friday, April 28, 2017

JONATHAN DEMME (1944 - 2017)


I have been looking back on the life and film career of Jonathan Demme, who passed away on April 26th at the age of seventy-three after a lengthy battle with cancer, and I am truly stunned by how many amazing eclectic works of cinema this exceptional filmmaker has left behind. I had always admired the director considerably and became a life-long fan ever since I saw my first film from him, "Something Wild", the 1986 road-trip comedy that helped make names out of little-known actors at the time, Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta. I later caught up with the films he made before this and certainly saw almost everything he made afterwards.

He began his film career working for low-budget indie producer, Roger Corman and worked his way up to directing such titles as "Crazy Mama", "Caged Heat" and "Fighting Mad". He eventually went Hollywood with "Melvin and Howard" (which won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Mary Steenburgen) and "Swing Shift" but he had such a difficult time on the film with star and producer, Goldie Hawn due to creative differences that Demme soon retreated back to independent films.

He made two charming comedies, "Something Wild" and "Married To The Mob" before moving on to make two dramas that would make him an important name in cinema; "Philadelphia" which starred Tom Hanks (who won his first Oscar for his role) and Denzel Washington in one of the first Hollywood films to address the AIDS crisis. And "Silence of The Lambs", a traditional yet highly well-made horror-thriller that improbably won an impressive five Academy Awards with Anthony Hopkins for Best Actor, Jodie Foster for Best Actress,  Best Adapted ScreenplayBest Director and Best Picture.

Demme was a big music fan and made some outstanding concert films and documentaries involving musicians such as the Talking Heads concert film, "Stop Making Sense", "Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids" and three concert documentaries with Neil Young.

I'm sad to say they don't make filmmakers like Jonathan Demme anymore. He worked confidently in all genres of cinema and did them all well with style, passion and introspection. He was interested in simply telling good stories and far less concerned about catering his films for commercial appeal or box-office glory. Jonathan Demme was an artist in the truest sense of the word and will be greatly missed.

If you have not seen many (or any!?) of Mr. Demme's films, do yourself a huge favor and binge as much as you can of his incredible work. I have posted the trailers of some of my personal favorites:







Sunday, April 23, 2017

COLOSSAL (2017)

Written & Directed by Nacho Vigalondo


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. April 9, 2017 11:15 AM



Romantic comedies have regularly followed a basic guideline; boy meets girl (insert cute way of meeting). Boy and girl fall in love. Boy (or occasionally girl to add a little variety) is not ready for the relationship or some other complication which drives the couple apart. The complicated situation is resolved and the couple reunite to live happily ever after. The end.

With "Colossal", filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, for the most part, has successfully upended our rom-com expectations by unexpectedly incorporating sci-fi conventions and pitch-black comedy. He also has Anne Hathaway, who has a long history as the romantic interest in many comedies, as the unusual focus of our story, playing a messy and drunken young woman who would not be any one's vision of a perfect partner. The movie has much more on it's mind than your average feel-good comedy, offering moments that are edgy, fanciful and a little bit disturbing.

Gloria (Hathaway) is a New York City chick with some problems. While unemployed for months, she hasn't made much effort in finding a new job. Gloria spends most of her free time staying out all night partying hard with her friends. Sick of her neglect and reckless behavior, Gloria's fed-up British boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens) packs her bags and kicks her out of his apartment.

With few options and no where else to go, Gloria heads upstate back to her old family home to crash until she comes up with a plan. She runs into Oscar (Jason Sudekis), an old school friend and they reconnect. He now runs his late father's bar and hangs out after hours drinking with his buddies, Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell) all night. This is clearly Gloria's perfect idea of how to spend an evening.

As we learn more about Gloria and Oscar, our impression of them begins to shift. Finally realizing her blackout drunk behavior and bad choices are interfering with her life, a good-spirited, better-functioning Gloria emerges as she attempts to clean-up her act while Oscar, a sweet, nice guy who gives her a job at his bar and furniture for her empty house, begins to display a darker, malicious edge once Gloria doesn't properly reciprocate his feelings for her.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world in Seoul, Korea, a gigantic monster suddenly appears terrorizing and causing destructive havoc in the city. How this seemingly unrelated incident is connected to Gloria is what makes the film hilariously subversive and wonderfully ingenious.

After discovering her part (although, to be fair, accidental) in the death and destruction in Seoul through this monster, Gloria is understandably upset. But the arrival of a giant Transformer-type robot there further complicates the situation when the identity behind it is someone that she knows and is about to make her life even more miserable.

The early film work of the Spanish director involved low-budget horror and science-fiction with "Colossal" being his first major-scale, English-language feature. Mr. Vigalondo certainly has experience appealing to fan boys but has challenged himself by adding a little heart, emotion and even a feminist angle to this surreal, sci-fi adventure.

While the mixing of genres and tones may confuse some, the wild and daring performance of Ms Hathaway will set them straight. Despite the distraction of her ill-advised 2011 Oscar hosting gig, her underwhelming acceptance speech for her Best Supporting Actress win for "Les Misérables" and the subsequent troll group, "the Hathahaters" that sprang from all that, the actress reminds us here of her great talent, managing to make her character funny and appealing in spite of some of her less appealing traits. Mr. Sudekis also surprises, as he's usually seen on screen as a buddy or the perfect catch, by slowly revealing that the seemingly considerate Oscar is not at all what he appears to be.

Wonderfully absurd and unexpectedly moving, "Colossal" never goes anywhere near where you think it will go and that's what makes it one of the most striking and original films of the year.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 COLCOA FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL


Considered now to be one of the biggest festivals in the world dedicated to French cinema, the 2017 COLCOA Fest will be coming to Los Angeles for a week of new French films, documentaries, shorts, web series and television programming from April 24 - May 2. This will be the twenty-first year of the fest and will feature an exclusive program with 75 films with many North American and world premieres with all films being screened at the Directors Guild Theater.

Th opening film will be "Chacun sa vie (Everyone's Life)", the latest from legendary filmmaker, Claude Lelouch. He has assembled some big names in French cinema (Johnny Hallyday, Béatrice Dalle, Christopher Lambert and Oscar-winner,Jean Dujardin) and created a multi-storyline romantic-dramedy about several people attending a jazz festival for a variety of different reasons beyond hearing music.

The closing night film selected is "L’Embarras du choix (You Choose!)". Alexandra Lamy stars in this romantic-comedy about a forty year old woman still dependent on her father and friends to take care of everything and make all decisions in her life. After being dumped by her fiancé, her friends set her up with Étienne (Arnaud Ducret), a handsome chef. Then she meets a wealthy Scotsman (Jamie Bamber) and likes them equally but is unable to decide when both men propose to her.



Recent Oscar-winner for his musical, "La La Land", Damien Chazelle was asked to select a French film that inspired him and one was Léos Carax's 1991 surreal drama, "Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (The Lovers on The Bridge)". Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant star as two homeless people who find love and tragedy on the tough streets of Paris.



In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Jean-Pierre Melville, a filmmaker who transformed the crime thriller into high art, one of his most acclaimed films, "Le Cercle Rouge" will be screened. This classic film noir stars Alain Delon and Yves Montand in the story of a cat-loving detective (Bourvil) attempting to foil a plot to rob a jewelry store by an ex-con, a former cop and a criminal mastermind.



And to celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Playtime", Jacques Tati’s most inventive and ambitious film, a newly restored version will be presented.



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

2017 COLCOA French Film Festival

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

23 MUST-SEE MOVIES AT THE 2017 TRIBECA FILM FEST


The 2017 TriBeCa Film Festival begins today and if you plan on attending (or simply just curious, like myself), with so many films, documentaries, short films and television programming, it would be difficult to decide what to actually see.  The Hollywood Reporter has offered to lend a hand by listing twenty-three intriguing films, with some making their world premieres, that you might want to check out.

Click below to read:

23 Must See Movies at 2017 TriBeCa Film Festivals

Friday, April 14, 2017

THE TEN MOST UNDERRATED NICOLE KIDMAN ROLES


After seeing her latest mesmerizing turn as an abused wife in the HBO limited series, "Little Big Lies", people once again seem to be appreciating the intensely fierce and impressively brave work of Nicole Kidman. It's not like the Oscar-winning actress has ever went away. It is just the fact that not too many have actually seen any of her recent films. Some of these movies (like "Grace of Monaco", "The Family Fang" and "Queen of The Desert", to name a few), I must say, are not really worth checking out but what they all do offer are compelling and authoritative performances by the dazzling Ms Kidman to help elevate them ever so slightly.

I have to admit, I was not particularly enchanted by the Aussie actress when she first appeared on the scene. But let's be real; her early Hollywood film roles in "Days of Thunder", "Billy Bathgate" and "Batman Forever" hardly displayed any discernible screen presence and she only seemed to be getting work because she was the recent Mrs. Tom Cruise.

However, it was her appearance in Gus Van Sant's 1995 black comedy, "To Die For" that made me finally take the actress seriously. Loosely based on a true-life incident, Kidman plays Suzanne Stone, a small-town woman driven to becoming a famous news reporter but her husband (Matt Damon) is interfering by wanting her to start a family. She plots to kill him with the help of a high school student (Joaquin Phoenix) she has seduced. This role finally gave the actress the proper opportunity to display her dramatic range and comedic chops all within the same film. I fell in love with Nicole Kidman here and I have anxiously awaited to see what she would do next ever since.

For the most part throughout her career, Ms Kidman has actively pursued challenging roles in unconventional films. That also means that the audience for this work is definitely limited. Vulture has decided to look back and rank her best performances in little-seen and underrated films.

Click below to read:

The 10 Most Underrated Nicole Kidman Roles

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

2017 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL


New York has many film festivals throughout the year and one of the first major events will be the 2017 Tribeca Fest. On April 19th, the sixteenth annual festival will open with the world premiere of the documentary, "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives". Based on his 2013 autobiography, the film examines the life of the long time music executive who launched and nurtured some of the biggest musical acts in history. Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Aerosmith, Earth Wind & Fire, Alicia Keys, Simon & Garfunkel and Whitney Houston are just a small number of the artists that he discovered and helped guide to success. The screening will take place at Radio City Music Hall and a concert will follow with performances by many of the musicians that he first put a spotlight on.

There are ten feature films, international narratives and world documentaries selected to compete for the Founders Awards and will be screened over the twelve day festival.  The Spotlight Narrative section will focus on some of 2017's exciting new independent features. Some of these include Michael Winterbottom's latest Steve Coogan - Rob Brydon road trip series, "The Trip To Spain", "Rock 'n Roll", a comedy written and directed by Guillaume Canet and stars him along with his Oscar-winning wife, Marion Cotillard and "Manifesto", a film by artist Julian Rosefeldt and features only Cate Blanchett playing multiple characters.





Two gala screenings will be held with the world premieres of "The Circle", a timely drama starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson about a powerful tech and social media company that engages in an experiment that dangerously pushes the boundaries on our privacy and "Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story" a documentary that looks behind the making of Sean "Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records and his recent attempt to reunite many of the artists from the label for a concert in Brooklyn.



There will be several Special Screenings which will include "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story", a doc on the Hollywood beauty who also happened to be a genius, "House of Z", a documentary on fashion designer, Zac Posen, "Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait", which examines the artist at work and play and "Paris Can Wait", the first feature written and directed by Eleanor Coppola (yes, wife of that Coppola) and stars Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin.



Other highlights include several anniversary celebrations. "Reservoir Dogs", Quentin Tarantino's cult, brutal crime thriller, celebrates it's 25th anniversary and the writer/director and some of the cast will participate in a discussion after the screening. Michael Moore will be on hand for the 15th anniversary screening of his Oscar-winning documentary, "Bowling For Columbine". And the closing night will feature back-to-back screenings of the 45th anniversary of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" which will be shown at Radio City Music Hall on April 29th. The director, Francis Ford Coppola and much of the cast which includes Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall and Talia Shire will make appearances for a sure to be lively discussion of these classic films.







In addition, there will be a New Online Work section, Tribeca TV which will premiere fifteen television programs including a sneak peek at Ken Burns' upcoming docu-series, "The Vietnam War" and Tribeca Talks that will look in to the creative process through conversations with important figures in the arts and will feature a diverse group such as Scarlett Johansson, director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Dustin Hoffman, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, Lena Dunham, Bruce Springsteen (talking with Tom Hanks) and Barbra Streisand in discussion with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.

If you are a film lover, this is one massive festival you do not want to miss. For the complete list of films, events and additional information, please click below:

The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival