Saturday, April 29, 2017


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:


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"


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)


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: 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


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


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


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


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


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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

LIFE (2017)

Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. March 28, 2017 4:45PM

A space crew goes out in search of life on a seemingly lifeless planet. They retrieve samples and during an experiment with the organism something goes terribly wrong, with it becoming a powerful, deadly force that threatens the entire crew. If this plot sounds somewhat familiar, it should. It is a slight variation of "Alien", Ridley Scott's groundbreaking 1979 sci-fi horror film that brought respectability and big box-office to the genre.

With "Life", director Daniel Espinosa delivers a solid, effective thriller and takes full advantage of the incredible advances in visual effects. The only obstacle is that this filmmaker is not entirely successful in putting enough distance between his contemporary space drama and Ridley Scott's masterpiece.

The six-man crew on an international space station includes Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), the Russian commander, Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an American medic, Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), a British quarantine officer and Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada), the systems engineer from Japan. And no crew is complete without a smart-ass jokester with Ryan Reynolds filling that role as Roy, the pilot of the station.

The biologist on the team, Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) has success in reviving a dormant organism from Mars by adjusting atmospheric conditions in a lab. Given the name "Calvin" by school children back on Earth, it is a complex multi-celled life-form that responds to stimuli and needs a certain amount of oxygen to thrive. An accident in the lab which shifted the atmosphere causes Calvin to return to being non-responsive. Desperate to revive it, Derry attempts a mild electric shock to re-stimulate the organism.

This proves to be effective yet Calvin becomes aggressive, wrapping itself around Derry's hand and squeezing tightly with no immediate plan of letting go. Eventually releasing the mangled hand, Calvin manages to escape it's secure enclosure, making the crew realize they are dealing with an intuitive and resourceful being. After devouring a lab rat, Calvin rapidly increases in size, further complicating this situation.

If you are at all familiar with this genre, then you know that once this highly evolved alien begins raging against the crew in a desperate fight for survival, it will become stronger, smarter and more lethal, setting the stage for an uneven fight between man against creature.

Mr. Espinosa first came to Hollywood's attention with his Swedish action-thriller hit, "Easy Money" (which has spawned two sequels and is being primed for an American remake) and made his first U.S. based feature, "Safe House" with Mr. Reynolds and Denzel Washington in 2012. There is an European sensibility to the pacing and performances but with a serviceable script by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, the team that brought us the wickedly profane and brutally violent super-hero flick, "Deadpool", the terrifying action and gore has been ramped-up American-style and emphasized for maximum effect. "Life" looks sensational with impressive camera-work from Seamus McGarvey and a top-notch special effects team together deliver some amazing, believable visuals.

With all this lavish attention paid to the technical side of the film, character development becomes more of an afterthought. These strong, appealing actors do the best the can with very little but ultimately most of them end up being developed just enough before simply falling in to the standard horror-movie victim pile.

Though the film features some intriguing science, astonishing realistic imagery, intense scary thrills and a clever ending, "Life" just can't shake the feeling of familiarity and predictability. That's not necessarily a bad thing yet it also doesn't offer much incentive to encourage someone to see the film either.