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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Watch Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent's Superb Tribeca Film For Free

A few months ago I had the pleasure of watching THE PHONE CALL, an intriguing short film starring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent, at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was one of those by chance viewings that I went to without any knowledge other than the two awesome actors involved, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. So much so that I immediately took to social media to rave about it and plead to the gods for a full-length feature film, especially since the short film provided such a strong foundation for an engrossing story.

Well, there doesn't seem to be much luck for a full-length film (right now anyway), but I've just received word that you can watch the short film for free online and vote for it in The Wrap's Short List Festival here. You will only be able to access it for one week only, so definitely jump on it. Here's the synopsis:

When a shy lady (Sally Hawkins) who works in a helpline call center takes a phone call from a distraught man (Jim Broadbent), she has no idea that the encounter will change her life forever.

Watch it here:

Don't forget to vote for it! Happy viewing!
When a shy lady (Sally Hawkins) who works in a helpline call center takes a phone call from a distraught man (Jim Broadbent), she has no idea that the encounter will change her life forever. - See more at:
When a shy lady (Sally Hawkins) who works in a helpline call center takes a phone call from a distraught man (Jim Broadbent), she has no idea that the encounter will change her life forever. - See more at:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Teaser Trailer for Jason Reitman's New Film about Digital Dependence is Aptly Sans Dialogue

Lately Hollywood has really been fascinated with our continually evolving--and increasingly aloof--communications style in the digital age. Sometimes it pays off, like with the wonderfully bleak Her, while other times it ends up lost in translation, as is the case with Emoticon ;). Director Jason Reitman aims to tackle the subject next with his new project MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN. The film, which stars Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort, and Judy Greer among others, looks to approach our digital dependence and its influences on social issues--for better or worse. More:

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose - some tragic, some hopeful - as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.

The first teaser trailer is appropriately without dialogue, featuring a just over two-minute montage of scenes from the film that capture its themes using text messages, chat room screens and online escort services. I definitely want to check it out as a fan of Reitman's work (minus last year's Labor Day), but I am mostly hyped to see him reunite with Garner, who I still claim delivered her best big screen performance to dated in Juno. And I just really need her to remind me why I still root for her. Also, when's the last good movie Sandler has been in? Anyone? *Crickets*

At any rate, check out the trailer and let me know your thoughts.

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN will make its world premiere during next month's Toronto International Film Festival.

WE tv's THE DIVIDE is One of the Most Daring TV Shows Right Now about the Legal System

You know how I'm always talking about how TV is boldly going where current film has been too afraid to go? Well, you can add WE tv's new show The Divide on that super long list of shows you need to watch if you know what's good for you. You're probably thinking, wait WE tv has scripted television? Yes, the network has finally made the leap to scripted television and they are coming out swinging with a show that is more daring and more right now than many other shows on TV. So much so that the ladies of Cinema in Noir and I included it in our discussion about TV shows and film with social/political justice themes on Sunday's episode.

So, what's it about? Well, the show is at its core a legal drama that spends very little time in the courtroom and all its time exploring the personal morality of the victims, lawyers, prosecutors and everyone in between--for better or for worse. But it doesn't sugarcoat the legal process or the complexities between good and evil, innocent or guilty. The story kicks off with the case of Jared (True Blood's Chris Bauer), a man convicted and sentenced to death for breaking and entering into a home, and killing a African-American married couple and their young daughter, leaving only a grieving second daughter (Britne Oldford) as an unexpected witness. While the prosecuting lawyer, Adam Page (Damon Gupton), thinks the case is in the bag, a renegade team led by Clark Rylance (Pail Schneider) and his super ambitious law school intern Christine Rosa (Marin Ireland) feverishly work to clear Jared's name. Just as the Innocence Initiative compiled enough evidence to exonerate Jared, he is executed.

And that's just the first episode.

Of course, as the story this hitches a conversation about the legal system--how it can be skewed racially, politically and economically at the benefit or downfall of both the victims or the perpetrators. But the show, co-created by Scandal's Tony Goldwyn, doesn't present its characters as martyrs or villains. Rather, it establishes them as humans--stacked with layers and capable of just as much wrong as right that they sometimes begin to even question themselves. In fact, since we're dealing with such intelligent characters, they have the ability to scrutinize into the nuances of law and society, and present it in a way that not only provokes thought but also provides insight on their own ethics. These characters are wonderfully flawed, adamant in their views whether you agree with them or not, and represent the natural duality of human nature.

It's not a show about black or white, right or wrong. Rather, it's the in-between that is The Divide's sweet spot, what it chooses to evoke as it aims to teach the law without succumbing to its ethics. The dialogue is filled with moments in which the characters speak out against injustice while it also shows the intricacies of own actions. With just two more episodes left of the first season, The Divide needs to be on your must-watch list.

The Divide airs Wednesdays at 9pm on WE tv.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Romantic Drama LOVE IS STRANGE is a Lovely But Baffling Rough Draft Film

One of the worst kinds of films to watch are the ones that have all the potential, and fail to pursue it. This is what the main problem is in writer/director Ira Sachs' new romantic drama, LOVE IS STRANGE. A stellar cast? Yep. A vast setting? Yep, New York City. A good story? I do believe one is in there somewhere...

The thing is, there are several angles Sachs could have explored in the film. But he doesn't. As a result, the story is unfocused and severely lacks a point. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, two fine actors, star as a newly married couple, who are forced to vacate their posh New York City apartment of more than 20 years after George (Molina) is unexpectedly fired from his job as Catholic school music teacher once the priest in charge got wind of his nuptials. Ben (Lithgow) is a 70-something year old man, a senior citizen by law, we're only left to presume that George is significantly younger than him by the way they both carry themselves (Ben has a fairly slow walk, compared to George's sprightly step). But the film doesn't do a very good job at making that point otherwise, unless you count the scene in a real estate office when an agent mentions that Ben is eligible for a senior living discount. A relevant passage in the film that is sorely left dangling.

The premise is vast but merely swirls around topics peripherally. Certainly there would have been something worth exploring if we were given a little more information on the history of Ben and George--how they met, how they've evolved since then, etc. Aside from a short but lovely scene between them at a bar, when Ben casually mentions his past transgressions, we don't have much to go on. And, ironically, that was during the last few minutes of the movie. It's as if we were just starting to get to know them when they credits began to roll.

This couple is one of the many victims of New York City's skyrocketing rent prices, after George was unceremoniously terminated from his job ultimately due to prejudice. That's a story within itself--how does that firing affect him emotionally? How does it affect his relationship? While Sachs seems to be trying to tell that story, however pervasively, it's not very coherent. We see George giving private music lessons to a few students for extra money, and admittedly coming off a bit frustrated doing so sometimes. There is also a narration by Ben alluding to the fact that he reached out to students and families he was closed to in his position as a means to gain their support, but nothing ultimately comes from this. In fact, it seems more as a Dear Diary letter to himself than to any person or people in particular. It's just sloppily done, and doesn't serve the characters at all.

Beyond the couple's financial and habitual shake-up, there is a lurking story that clearly Sachs wanted to do more with but doesn't quite invest in it. Ben and George decide to live apart while they restore their monetary situation due to 1) the teeny apartments in New York make it hard to accommodate more than one guest at a time and 2) they don't want to venture outside the city to stay with a relative in the suburbs who has enough space to bunk both of them. This second note seems particularly tedious since it's clear that Ben and George don't want to live apart but refuse to move "an hour and a half" outside the city to lessen the strain on their relationship. Well, that and the fact that neither George nor Ben can drive, and George wants to at least maintain his private lessons in the city while he continues to look for a new job (Ben's job as a painter makes location less of a factor for him). But still, it seems like one obstacle that could have been avoided.

This struggle for new living quarters comes off as far more of a hassle story-wise than anything else. George moves downstairs in his neighbors' small apartment, while Ben opts to stay with his nephew Elliot and his wife Kate (Darren E. Burrows and Marisa Tomei) and their son Joey (Charlie Tahan). The latter which sparks turmoil when Ben's ubiquitous presence disturbs Kate's work-from-home zen, and also annoys Joey, who's forced to share his bunk bed with his great uncle. No, it's not ideal. But Sachs seems to be driving at a point here with this subplot, but never quite gets there. Joey at first seems like an awkward young boy struggling with the concept of sexuality--his and Ben's. But later we learn that he's really just an awkward boy with uncontrollably pretentious behavior, while his mother just sits idly by and accepts it. This generational disconnect between Ben and Joey touches on Joey's rather misguided perspective on homosexuality, which of course rubs Ben the wrong way. But what could have yield for an interesting dialogue was dropped and re-routed completely, without really being addressed. We can only chalk it up to a poorly executed coming-of-age storyline that could have been so much more.

And on the other hand, George is stuck in a perpetual party zone with his former neighbors and current roommates, reduced to sleeping on the couch and subjected to loud music and far too many other random guests sipping drinks, dancing and playing cards. The greatest scene in the film is when George picks up and leaves the apartment in the pouring rain to ask Ben if he could spend the night with him this one time. Their embrace is sweet, pitiful, but hugely effective. It gets us back to the strength of the film--the forced estrangement of Ben and George. These moments (including the one when they're in the bar at the end), while few and far between, are genuinely tender scenes--even if they don't last long and don't at all make up for the rest of the film.

Even the title, LOVE IS STRANGE, doesn't refer to any of the themes represented in the film. Love is gorgeous, like the postcard-setting of the film. Love is amorous, like that between Ben and George. Love is hard to understand, like in the case of Joey. And yes, love can be strange sometimes. But LOVE IS STRANGE never quite helps us come to this conclusion. It just bounces around its concepts without actually arriving at a point. Which makes it more of a brainstorm of nice ideas than a fleshed out film. A real shame.

Rating: D+ (** out of *****)

LOVE IS STRANGE is in theaters August 22nd.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Who Should Play Misty Copeland on the Big Screen?

There's a reason why I have a healthy obsession with Misty Copeland. The 31-year-old ballerina overcame insurmountable odds to become the third African-American soloist ever for the prestigious American Ballet Theater in its 77 year history (and the only African-American in the entire company right now) has a body that is nothing short of a work of art, and recently starred in this kickass commercial for Under Armour that went viral:

How can you not bow down? So you can just imagine my excitement when it was announced this week that New Line Cinema will release a big screen movie based on Copeland's own memoir entitled Life in Motion. I. AM. ELATED. But, then I learned that Adam Shankman (who most recently directed the guiltiest pleasure of them all, Rock of Ages) is co-producing the film, and...I get a little less excited. I'm mostly concerned that the film is going to turn into a sloppy, high school musical theater mess and not the super amazing film it can be, one that centers on a black female role model--a virtual anomaly on the big screen these days. *Heavy Sigh*

But, I'm trying to keep hope alive for the project. Which got me thinking: who should play Misty Copeland on the big screen? The first actress who comes to mind is Tessa Thompson, who's quickly climbing the Hollywood ladder these days with projects like Dear White People and the upcoming civil rights film Selma. But I want to open up the casting call to you and ask your thoughts on who should play the dancer in the film. Cast your vote below in the comments box. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blake Lively Has Apparently Found the Secret to Eternal Youth in an Upcoming Romantic Film

But get this: it's apparently a bad thing. While most Hollywood starlets are desperately trying to hold on to their youth by any means possible, it appears that Blake Lively is plagued by a condition that halts her age in a new movie titled THE AGE OF ADALINE. Set in the 20th century, the movie also stars Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker and Ellen Burstyn. Here's a little more about it:

Adaline (Blake Lively) ceases to age following an accident one icy night, but keeps her condition a closely-guarded secret while embarking on a number of incredible adventures throughout the 20th Century.

After years of a solitary life, she finds the love and courage that enable her to fully begin living.

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Lively (mostly because of her awesome red carpet style). But I don't know about this film, and her playing this part. The character seems better fit for a more experienced actress, someone who may be able to portray the nuances, and the premise--especially that overly neat last sentence in the synopsis--seems super generic. But I'm sure there will be someone who will try to compare this to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but I'm not sure if this story is as rich.  

Lee Toland Krieger, who did the awesome Celeste & Jesse Forever, directed  THE AGE OF ADALINE that is currently in post-production. Which certainly piques my interest, so I'll have to keep this on my radar when it hits theaters January 23rd. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Director of INFERNAL AFFAIRS Returns with an Asian-American Gangster Film Set in '80s and '90s New York City

Why am I just hearing about this movie? It looks like Martin Scorsese is finally paying back the good folks whose movie he remade with The Departed by executive producing an explosive new film that chronicles the real-life story of the the Green Dragons, a Chinese-American gang in '80s and '90s New York City.  And it looks amazing.

Those of you who have seen Infernal Affairs (it is still waiting for me in my Netflix queue) are already familiar with director Wai-keung Lau's slick style. Meanwhile, the rest of us are getting a great introduction here in the first trailer for REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS, which is co-directed and co-written by Andrew Lau and based on a 1992 New Yorker article by Frederick Dannen. The young and largely unfamiliar cast (to me anyway) offer a balance of authenticity and energy needed for a story like this which can really catapult their careers. Oh, Ray Liotta is also in the movie because what's a gangster movie without Ray Liotta, am I right? Learn more about it below:

In the vein of crime classics like MEAN STREETS and INFERNAL AFFAIRS, REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS follows two immigrant brothers Sonny (Justin Chon) and Steven (Kevin Wu) who survive the impoverished despair of New York in the 1980s by joining Chinatown gang "The Green Dragons". The brothers quickly rise up the ranks, drawing the unwanted attention of hard-boiled city cops. After an ill- fated love affair pits Sonny against his own brother, he sets out for revenge on the very gang who made him who he is. From acclaimed Director Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo, and legendary Executive Producer Martin Scorsese comes a brilliant mix between a Hong Kong action film and a New York City crime thriller, portraying the never-before-told true story of "The Green Dragons". body is ready for this movie. Watch the clip:

REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, followed by a theatrical release in October. 

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