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 that 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.