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Friday, March 30, 2012

Is Snow White the Fairest Feminist of Them All in "Mirror, Mirror?"

I predict in a not so distant future, kids today will grow up with far less fairy dust in their eyes than much of their older generation did. Thanks, in part, to darker, less shielded contributions to so-called family cinema like Hunger Games, they might actually end up craving edgier films that that avoid romanticizing life stories and just give them the hard cold truth.

Well, it's not the worse thing that could ever happen to them.

That said, there is something about director Tarsem Singh's Snow White-inspired Mirror, Mirror that offers the nostalgia of romance past blended with a cunning embrace of the new age that is so often missing in classic children's tales. Let's call it the reinvention of the family film.

Gone are the days when Snow White slips into a narcoleptic state after sweetly devouring a near rotten apple given to her by an evil queen, later only to be conveniently rescued by a beautiful prince. In Mirror, Mirror Lily Collins plays Snow White, who is wide awake and restless, eager to escape from the clutches of her wicked stepmother. She really learns the value of her own independence when she finds she must fight to defend herself when her wicked stepmother (Julia Roberts, in a pitch-perfect performance) orders her imminent death in the woods at the hands of her servant, Brighton (Nathan Lane). True to the original tale, Brighton finds himself enamored with Snow White's compassion and sets her free instead. After feeling momentarily abandoned by her new-found freedom, Snow White later seeks shelter at the hut of seven devious little bandits (not to be confused with dwarfs).

But unlike the classic story on which it's based, Mirror, Mirror's most accomplished twist comes not merely with the more feisty nature of Snow White's character, but the movie's feminist turn by which Snow White later ends up having to save her Prince Charming(Armie Hammer) from the despicable queen, not the other way around. Aside from the spot-on performances, this Snow White twist makes the movie far more than what it could have been.

Collins, who I once doubted could carry a movie, really swept me off my feet. She is elegant yet badass all at once, without losing her femininity. Playing a soft-spoken princess with a sharp edge is not an an easy task, but she pulls it off. But it is Roberts as the deliciously vile queen with a serious inferiority complex who really steals the show here. She is adequately irredeemable and, as one underling says in the movie, "radiates crazy." You can tell she was having a blast in the role, even when she is duped by her own reflection in a mirror. And Hammer is perfectly cast as the pretentious yet dopey prince. Hammer, who himself often comes off with a slight air of arrogance mixed with boyish charm, nailed the performance. So does Lane, whose bumbling diplomacy appropriately added a sense of fear and tension to Roberts' dastard queen.

In true Singh form, the audience is treated to a glorious spectacle from beginning to end. Vibrant imagery coupled with gorgeous costume designs capture the mood of the film, even when it goes down its darkest paths. Mirror, Mirror won't change your life, but it's a fun homage to a timeless classic that lets you escape into a fairy tale world, that actually doesn't seem to far away from here.

Rating: B

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jennifer Lawrence Is Terrified by Her Neighbor in the Trailer for "House at the End of the Street"

Last House on the Right... Silent House... Dream House...

Let's face it: Hollywood has a sick fascination with horror houses, now more than ever. And it's only a matter of time when a budding young starlet (i.e. Elizabeth Olsen) must reach the rite of passage to inevitably have to scream on camera, usually in the rain wearing a white t-shirt. This time it's ubiquitous spokeswoman of young actresses everywhere, Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence stars as Elissa, who moves into a new town with her mom (Elisabeth Shue) and next door to house in which a young girl once killed her parents. When Elissa befriends Ryan (Max Thieriot), the girl's brother, she discovers more about this terrifying story that is only just beginning.

Sounds familiar? Because it is. But if you're looking for a thrill this fall, this may be the one to quench your thirst for B-movie horror. It opens September 21. Check out the trailer below.

Samuel L. Jackson Struggles to Stay On the Right Side of the Law in the Crime Drama, "The Samaritan"

Prolific actor Samuel L. Jackson is one of those actors Hollywood would probably rather put in one box, but, when you think about it, the veteran actor--who scored his first and only Oscar nomination for the 1995 indie classic Pulp Fiction--is far more talented than he's given credit for. Just take a look at his resume, which includes the underrated maternal drama Mother and Child, Kasi Lemmons' pristine family drama Eve's Bayou and A Time to Kill. The man can act; it's just a shame he feels the need to take every offer that slides across his desk.

This year Jackson will star as Foley, a ex-con fresh out of jail and trying to turn over a new life. That is, until he meets Ethan (Luke Kirby) who lures him back into his old habits. All of a sudden, his promising new life with a new love (Ruth Negga) is circumvented by a dangerous plan that may have him in over his head (or, so it seems from the trailer provided by Yahoo! Movies).

This isn't exactly something we haven't seen from Jackson before, but you gotta hand it to him for still being able to take on these roles with the same cool approach of someone half his age.

But why does this trailer look like it's giving away the whole movie, including possible plot twists? What else is left? Guess we'll have to wait until May 4th to catch the full thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dracula, Frankenstein, Quasimodo and Others Check Into the Adam Sandler Headliner, "Hotel Transylvania"

Do people really care about the big names who voice the characters of animated movies?

That will surely be put to the test when the ghoulish 3D flick, Hotel Transylvania hits theaters this fall. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Selena Gomez make up just a few of the names from the "all-star" cast of this fun-filled family film, which unites some of our favorite monsters in cinema history. Sandler lends his voice to Dracula, the headmaster of the charmingly sadistic Hotel Transylvania, getaway of such frightful antiheroes such as Frankenstein and the Mummy (who will be voiced by James and....Cee-Lo (?), respectively).

In comes Johnathan (Andy Samberg) who stumbles upon and steals the heart of Mavis, Dracula's teenage daughter, much to her father's chagrin. This unacceptable love interest sends Dracula into a tailspin, which serves as the basis of the plot of the movie.

The trailer seems good enough, despite the underwhelming cast. After Sandler's humiliating turn in last year's Jack and Jill, followed by the announcement that he'll be headlining the unwanted big screen version of the board game Candyland, he desperately needs a hit. Is this it? The film is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who may be best known for his cartoon work as the helmer for shows like Dexter's Laboratory and Star Wars: Clone Wars.

Hollywood seems to be choosing a lot of gothic projects for younger audiences lately. Hopefully they all prove wise decisions.

David Space, Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon offer their voices to Hotel Transylvania, which invades theaters September 21st. Will you be watching?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Five Forgotten Characters That Braved the Post-Apocalyptic Era on the Big Screen

As The Hunger Games devours the competition at the box office, let's look back at five forgotten characters that battled the post-apocalyptic era on the big screen.

Selena from 28 Days Later (Naomie Harris): Harris may be gearing up for her upcoming role as a Bond girl in next year’s Skyfall, but I’ll always know Harris from her breakout role as one of the lone survivors in this rabid outbreak movie. Who can hate on a woman who knows how to protect herself, and stop the breath of any attacker—man, woman, or other—in less than a heartbeat? I’d want her in our survival crew.

Eli from The Book of Eli (Denzel Washington): Although the movie itself is divisive among fans, there’s no denying that Washington’s Eli is someone you’d like to have on your side in case the world comes to an end. Fully equipped to take on a group of bad guys in the middle of nowhere, Eli was slick, resourceful, and rarely broke a sweat. And he was blind.

Morpheus from The Matrix (Laurence Fishburne): Easily one of the coolest dudes to grace the big screen, Morpheus, captain of the Nebuchadnezzar, captured audiences as the man who first rescued introduced Neo (Keanu Reeves) to the Matrix. Decked out in a shiny long black trench coat, the flyest sunglasses ever, slinging a samurai sword, Morpheus is not only one of the smartest and most memorable characters in the film, but he’s also one of the most fashionable characters of all time. Who didn’t want to steal his style?

Rue from The Hunger Games (Amandla Stenberg): Don’t be fooled by her innocent face and small stature. This cute twelve-year-old has the smarts to keep her blood thirsty attackers at bay even as the youngest character to contend in the deadly Hunger Games. Don’t let her release a nest of lethal wasps on you; they’ll stop you right in your tracks and you’ll be exactly where she wants you—dead.

Luke from Children of Men (Chiwetel Ejiofor): Who knew that one little—unborn—baby would incite a man to wreak so much havoc in one place? Although Ejiofor’s Luke wasn’t the good guy in the movie, that didn’t make him any less interesting to watch as he shot down anyone he had to—including cops—in order to keep the last known baby on Earth in his possession. It was not a game.

(This post was originally written for The Urban Daily)

Women's History Month Vintage Review: Angela Bassett in "What's Love Got to Do With It?"

Angela Bassett is one of those actresses who could breathe life into any role, no matter how flimsy—from her role as the matriarch of the Jackson family in The Jacksons: An American Dream to playing the wife of a slain political leader in Malcolm X. One could attribute that talent to the power in her delivery, the depth she gives to every line, and the gut-wrenching emotion she brings to every character.

But it is her star-making turn as rock and roll superstar Tina Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got To Do With It? that catapulted her to the A-list. Complete with the rock star wigs, superhero body and slightly timid but ever so deliberate snarl in her speech, Bassett embodied the icon during her slow and steady rise to fame, and her tumultuous marriage to late musician Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne).

It was her piercing portrayal of Tina that also contributed to the evolution of women roles in cinema, and one which still arrests audiences almost twenty years later. Bassett turned what could have been a whimpering, damsel in distress character in the hands of a lesser actress into a strong, unflinching woman worthy of admiration and one so memorable that it became a model for nuanced female characters for years to come.

Because of Bassett’s performance, a new crop of fans could appreciate how a woman could be seen as more than merely a survivor, but a hero to her generation. And we’re not only talking about the female generation, or the African-American generation. We’re talking about a star whose undeniable talent and wicked charisma helped shaped the face of rock and roll, regardless of age, color, creed and gender. It wasn’t an easy feat to step into Tina’s studded stilettos, but Bassett was able to humanize the icon. She showed the world some of the lowest points in Tina’s life, and turned them into a promise, a promise to her fans that she was going to overcome all of it to remind us all of how great she is. It was an exceptional cinematic tribute to a woman who touched the lives of many, and showed that even though she might have been victimized by her abusive husband, Tina was never a victim. It’s a fine line to walk, but Bassett’s diligent performance effortlessly revealed a multidimensional woman who was still a role model for many. It was respectful, rather than downtrodden (and it really could have gone either way).

That’s not to say Tina didn’t become a punching bag for Ike in the movie. The fast-talking, egotistical producer and bandleader often battled with drugs, money woes and a failed solo career, so whenever he got really burned up about things, he’d take them out on Tina every chance he had. Struggling with his own demons and crushed dreams, he decided to take out his aggression on his wife, and attempt to dash her ambitions. But regardless of what Ike tried to do to Tina, we never saw her broken afterwards. She got right back into that recording studio and belted out some of the classic tunes we still listen to today. She got back up and perfected that firm “I’m okay” smile for her friends and family, and remained a rock for her children. Because, as Lena Horne once said, “it’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” She never let Ike or anyone else see her down; she got right back up.

It also helped that she had an edge on Ike that he wasn’t willing to admit, one that made them look more like world class fighters in a ring, rather than one champion and one lightweight. In many films, we often see the female as the victim, the weakling, the one who can’t defend herself, has no mind of her own and is led to believe she is nothing without her abuser. In other words, the abuser is always seen as the dominant figure in the relationship. But in What’s Love Got to Do With It?, we’re watching two very fierce characters, Tina and her husband Ike, fight a very similar fight against each other. Where Ike uses physical force and brutality to control Tina, Tina uses her unyielding emotional strength and supersized talent to ultimately eclipse Ike.

Bassett’s was not only one of the defining performances for women in cinema; it was also one that became a benchmark for actresses of color. Her riveting portrayal role was further punctuated by the remarkable writing. Many lead roles for women of color since then are often subordinate characters. And in many other instances, they’re the tough, ever wise figures, which don’t often allow them inhabit any other emotion. Even in the heavily lauded yet divisive drama, The Help, we saw the stories of two African-American characters glossed over and unrealized, lacking the measure of which they were worthy. Overall, too many roles written for African-American actresses have them simply orbiting around the larger story of the movie without actually being a part of it and making any real impact.

Nearly two decades later, Bassett’s performance still stands as one that turn all of that on its ear by actualizing all the those things a woman (of any color) can be—timid yet fierce, bold yet shy, loud yet subdued, happy yet sad—all at once. It’s a feast of emotions, and one which as a female viewer you crave to watch. We yearn to see it unfold and go through those same emotions along with Bassett in the movie, and she delivers. She takes a celebrated icon and gently peels away her tough outer layer to reveal a vulnerable inner core that so desperately screamed to be unchained. It is heartbreaking story, but one in which few tears are shed, but ultimately turns into a victory dance. You can’t help but to want to dance with her.

(This post was originally written for Bitch Flicks)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cinema in Noir: The Evolution of the Asian Actress and a Look at Actresses Who've Gone MIA

Nearly twenty years after the big screen debut of the exquisite drama The Joy Luck Club, in which we saw a plethora of fine acting from a cast of talented women, we are still hard pressed to find quality representation for Asian female characters in cinema. As we conclude our coverage of Women's History Month on today's Cinema in Noir, we take a look at the evolution of the Asian actress as she continues to fight stereotypes and obscurity on the big screen.

Another topic we tackle on the show is actresses who don't get enough screen time. From Theresa Randle to Lisa Nicole Carson, we put an APB out on all the actresses who we're dying to see make a comeback.

Missed the show? Catch up on the latest news, reviews and today's hot topics here:

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"The Hunger Games" Leaves You With a Gloriously Bitter Aftertaste

"I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don't own me. If I'm gonna die, I wanna still be me."
Just as we thought we were almost rid of the Twilight phenomenon, in comes The Hunger Games, a raging, fiery teen juggernaut ready to annihilate all competition.

And, you know what, I'm rooting for it.

Dirty, metaphoric, and bravely smart (especially for its genre), The Hunger Games isn't merely a floppy teen sensation; it beckons for a turning point in the genre. It takes a very debased yet comforting sense of reality (i.e. our dependency on reality shows) and blends it with our fascination with violence to present a dark yet striking post-apocalyptic look at our future. And, more profoundly, it follows that from a teen's point of view.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as sixteen-year-old hunter Katniss Everdeen, who lives with her mother and younger sister Primrose in a poor region called District 12. The movie takes place in the not-so-distant future and the districts face the yearly Hunger Games, a ritual headed by the far more lucrative region called the Capitol that calls for one boy and one girl from every region to fight to the death. Twenty-four compete; only one survives. So when Primrose is chosen to fight in the games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place to protect her sister. She, along with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the same district reluctantly take the stage to accept their fate.

It's a mighty bloodthirsty event, complete with fire balls and genetically-altered animals, that's become the norm in the country and has risen to Olympic proportions. It's even televised on the big screen for all to see, and hosted by the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). All the while, those in the ivory tower use the kids as pegs on a board game to manipulate the challenges and increase the entertainment value for their captive audience. As you watch the body count increase during the games, you might actually hear Russell Crowe from Gladiator shouting "Are you not entertained?" Or, maybe that was just me.

Even though the movie generally centers on the two main characters of Katniss and Peeta as they fight to stay alive (and develop the inevitable romance), the rest of the colorful cast are equally as interesting to watch. You feel like each of them means something, and has a very distinct purpose which makes them more alluring to watch. It helps that the entire cast brings their A-Game to the movie. Everyone from Caesar to Haymitch Abernathy (the pitch-perfect Woody Harrelson as Katniss and Peeta's sponsor) to the corset-wearing Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks in, finally, an interesting role) and the quiet yet thoughtful Cinna (Lenny Kravitz, who's similar to a style director for the event) and the cherubic-faced Rue (another district contender played by Amandla Stenberg) is purposeful and well-developed. The film takes a very Dystopian view and brings it down to our level so we won't feel so far removed from it, which makes it that more frightening.

But those who haven't read the popular novels by Suzanne Collins, on which the movie is based, may scratch their heads watching certain scenes. Much of Katniss' backstory is told in flashbacks, and often repeated throughout the movie, but you never quite get the impression you fully comprehend what they're telling us in the flashback. In other words, you feel there's more to the story than what they're giving you in this first movie. More than likely more will be explained in the subsequent sequels, but since the movie ran well over two hours, it would have been wise to spend a little more time capturing that very important backstory (even if it were only for a few minutes). But, the way it's done makes you yearn for sequels, while also sparking an interest in reading the books. Aside from Katniss' story, we're also left wondering why Cinna dresses so normally while the rest of the folks at the Capitol are decked out in their Ringling Brothers' best. Also, the relationship between Katniss and her mother is quite jarring. They're clearly very distant and cold toward one another, with no explanation as to why that is in the movie.

Though some of the references will escape you if aren't familiar with the books, The Hunger Games is an provocative story that intensifies by the minute and whets your appetite for more. It does its job by making you want to pick up every book and read it twice, as you bite your nails waiting for the next movie. A definite must-see. You'll be on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Rating: B+

Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 Childhood Games We Don’t Want To See As Movies

As Hollywood continues its assault on our childhood by persecuting cherished kids games with big screen adaptations like Candyland, Monopoly and the Rihanna-starring action film Battleship, we’ve thought of five other sacred board games we’d hate to see on the big screen, and their worst synopses.

Operation: A whole room of wannabe doctors trying unsuccessfully to conduct an operation with the added tension of a buzzer that rings every time they hit the wrong organ? This has a Will Ferrell overgrown male comedy, Adam Sandler (of course, after he’s done with Candyland) or Jonah Hill getting gastric bypass in Liluput written all over it.

Chutes and Ladders: More than likely, Hollywood would try to make this board game adaptation appeal to both a kid and adult audience. So be prepared for some Jumanji-like action scenes with a young girl and boy scurrying up ladders in a nail-biting race against death. Meanwhile, the audience weeps.

(I Got The) Connect Four: You’d think there would be no way Hollywood could dramatize a simple game of stacking chips on top of one another that was so much fun playing as a child. But, with the appropriate helmers, say, the Hughes brothers, and an opportunistic rapper trying to break into Hollywood (*cough* Rick Ross), we could have ourselves a massive drug lord sci-fi blockbuster on our hands.

Hungry, Hungry Hippos: If the powers that be had any say about it, this safe children’s game could turn violent in a flash and make it to the big screen if the crew from Jackass is behind it, because Goodness knows they like nonsense and violence, preferably together. Or, they could go another route and turn it into some kind of Jurassic Park-like adventure story. Don’t act like it can’t happen (and probably will).

Twister: In this demented horror version of the classic board game of balance and mayhem, unwitting tourists are forced to literally hold on for their lives. Brought to you by Human Centipede director Tom Six, right hand red takes on a new meaning that is simply…twisted.

Even Adult Swim knows they’re going too far…

(This story was originally written for The Urban Daily).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More Dark and Brooding Images from "The Raven," Starring John Cusack

In just over a month, we'll finally be able to see John Cusack tackle one of the most elusive writers in history with his dark turn as poet Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven.

As mentioned previously on the site, The Raven follows Poe as he--along with young detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans)--track down a killer whose latest murdering spree is inspired by Poe's famous fables. Alice Eve, who seems to be the hot ticket in Hollywood these days, also stars in the film.

Check out some of the newest images from the movie below. The Raven opens in theaters on April 27. Will you be watching?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Look at the Tribeca Film "Detachment," Starring Adrien Brody

There is a scene in director Tony Kaye's new drama, Detachment, that beautifully sums up the entire mood of the film. It's Parent's Night at a high school and nary a parent in sight, the teachers (bogged down by their own exhaustive trials to educate reluctant students) appear so distant from one another even though some are within arm's reach of each other, and all we see are the school's dark, hollow halls.

Sure, it's bleak. And it's not what you would call an upper. But Detachment is one of the most realistic dramas we've seen that surrounds a classroom. We've watched Michelle Pfeiffer try to calm an unruly group of students in Dangerous Minds, and even Jon Lovitz attempted to blend in with the largely minority crowd of disorderly scholars in High School High. It usually seemed more about controlling students, rather than listening to their stories, and really plugging in to the real problem at hand.

In Detachment, Adrien Brody stars as Henry, a rather solemn substitute teacher with a one month assignment to teach at a new high school. As soon as he steps foot in the classroom, he's instantly met with snickers and eye rolls from the thoroughly jaded students who easily dismiss him. But Henry, seemingly unaffected, continues with his rather engaging lecture. That is, until one of the students steps up to him and threatens him if he doesn't give him a pencil and paper to participate in said lecture. It's Brody's next move that captures the essence of Henry: he simply hands him a piece of paper and something to write with, then continues with his lecture. He's quiet about it, which discourages the impetuous student from further approach, and the student returns to his desk.

The film is often told in snap vignettes during which a scene is interrupted by a plaguing flashback that shows the reality of what the person is being affected by. For Henry, it's a childhood tragedy he keeps reliving in his present life. For Principal Carol Dearden (Marcia Gay Harden), it's reaching the end of a tumultuous career. For Dr. Doris Parker (Lucy Liu), a guidance counselor, it's having to reason with headstrong students who couldn't care less about her reasoning, while secretly wanting to knock them upside the head with a math book.

Naturally, these troubles weigh heavily on the characters. And it doesn't just end in the classroom. The characters take this with them outside of school and, in doing so, wallow in their own inability to connect with others, after trying--in vain--to do so for far too long.

While Charles Seaboldt (James Caan) relies on pills to disassociate himself from the nightmare of selfless teaching, Henry's rather unorthodox teaching style subdues his students and draws them closer to him. This includes one particular student, Meredith (Betty Kaye, Tony's daughter), a tortured artist, and even young Erica (Sami Gayle), a seemingly hopeless street walker. Ironically, it is the unaffected that attracts and gets through to the disaffected.

A gripping drama, Detachment offers a gut-wrenching look at the school system, as told by the unsung heroes--the teachers. Although it will gut you in certain scenes, it will also wake you up--if you're not already--to the reality of the classroom. A dynamite cast, which includes Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Blythe Danner and Tim Blake Nelson, yields startlingly good performances and star-making turns from Kaye and Gayle. Tony Kaye, the man behind the critically acclaimed American History X, delivers another fearless film that never stutters in its attempt towards greatness.

Detachment is playing in select theaters in New York City, and is available on VOD.

Rating: A

Friday, March 16, 2012

Head Down Memory Lane with Photos from "American Reunion"

In just three short weeks, the gang from American Pie, who we first met almost thirteen years ago, will get back together for a a trip down memory lane with American Reunion.

As Universal Pictures describes it, "In one long-overdue weekend, they will discover what has changed, who hasn't and that time and distance can't break the bonds of friendship. In the years that have passed, Jim and Michelle (Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) married while Kevin and Vicky (Thomas Ian Nicholas and Tara Reid) said goodbye. Oz and Heather (Chris Klein and Mena Suvari) grew apart, but Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) still longs for Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge). Now these lifelong friends have come home as adults to reminisce about—and get inspired by—the hormonal teens who launched a comedy legend."

Entourage's Dania Ramirez will also join this fourth installment of the franchise as Fincher's girlfriend, Selena.

As mentioned previously on the site, it looks like the original cast (with the exception of Hannigan) seriously needed this exposure, so it's a good thing they are taking this nostalgic trip. In any case, check out new photos just released from the movie, which hits theaters April 6th.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tim Burton Brings a New Meaning to Family Dysfunction with the "Dark Shadows" Trailer

Tim Burton is on a role lately....and God bless him for it.

After recently debuting the trailer for his gothic kids flick Frankenweenie, his royal darkness unleashes the deliciously dark trailer for his upcoming horror tale Dark Shadows.

Based on the 1966–1971 soap opera, the film, which reunites Burton's usual suspects Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, chronicles the quirky lives and stories of the wicked Collins family. Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, who's turned into a vampire and laid to rest before his time by the woman he jilted, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Freed from the coffin he's buried in over a century later, he tries to return to the old Collins manor only to find it's now in ruins and his descendants have wreaked havoc to it over the years.

Judging by the trailer alone, this looks right up Depp and Burton's alley with an obscene amount a quirkiness and goth mixed with comedy and intrigue. Michelle Pfeiffer returns to the big screen (after her role in the disastrous New Years Eve last year), with what looks like a character she can really sink her teeth into (pun intended) as Barnabas' cousin, Elizabeth. I've been waiting for Pfieffer to get back to playing juicy parts like her roles in Batman and What Lies Beneath, so I'm especially excited to see her in this.

Jackie Earle Early and Carter round out the cast as the Collins manor caretaker Willie and Elizabeth's shrink Dr. Hoffman, respectively, and Chloë Moretz stars as Elizabeth's spitfire daughter, Carolyn.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh at this trailer. I can't wait for it. May 11th can't come fast enough.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Celebration of Friendships in Film and the Latest Movie Reviews on "Cinema in Noir"

As we continue to celebrate Women's History Month, the ladies of Cinema in Noir count down our favorite "girlfriend" movies, those films that illuminated the power of female relationships. From Waiting to Exhale to The Color Purple, black film has really shown how powerful friendships can be.

Joining the show today is Omar Moore of Popcorn Reel, who shared his thoughts on 21 Jump Street and the sci-fi release, John Carter. We also reviewed the Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words, and director Pedro Almodóvar's latest film The Skin I Live In (starring Antonio Banderas), which is now out on DVD.

We also go over the latest film news, including what big name star may be joining director Lee Daniels' upcoming drama, The Butler. Check out a recap of today's show here:

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Friday, March 9, 2012

REVIEW: "A Thousand Words" And None That Are Memorable

It seems as if Eddie Murphy is running out of steam. It's undeniable that the comic-turned-movie star can have an audience in stitches given the right material, but his latest Hollywood projects just won't let him be great.

His latest endeavor, A Thousand Words, is no exception.

Reportedly shelved for four years, the film progresses as if it's still the 1990s, even borrowing its share of stale jokes and lame premise from its not-so-distant cousin, the 1997 Jim Carrey comedy Liar, Liar. Murphy plays Jack McCall, a book agent and family man who's never short of words, which he uses to snake his way through every situation. But he gets himself in a pickle when he makes an deal with spiritual guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), who's written a book on new age healing. Soon after to his surprise, Jack finds a Bodhi in his backyard, and learns that every words he speaks a leaf falls off the tree. And, worse, every leaf that falls brings him one step closer to death. Or, something.

So in the beginning of the movie the audience chuckles watching Murphy rely on his keen physical comedy genius to outrageously mime entire dialogue, supported by his trusty sidekick Clarke Duke (who plays Jack's accidentally hilarious loyal assistant, Aaron).

Then the movie transforms into an entirely different film. Jack is forced to have an attack of conscious when he realizes his already flailing marriage is on the skids, his job is in jeopardy because he's quite literally phoning it in at the office, and he's all of a sudden plagued by the absence of his father, which turns the whole second half of the film into a grim melodrama. All the while, the Bodhi is shedding left and right.

But let's try to forget about the fact that this movie is propelled by leaves falling off a tree. Why turn what could have been a 90-minute slapstick into something with a tacked on, contrived message? Once again, that's just not the Murphy we know and love.

Neither is Kerry Washington. It's no question that her career is on fire at the moment, but we're sadly left disappointed by the fact that she got wrapped up in a movie like this (same goes for Curtis, who can't seem to find his footing in Hollywood). Playing Jack's desperate wife Caroline seems fun enough for Washington, but far beneath her at this point. But Ruby Dee, who plays Jack's mom Annie, makes the most of a weak script by delivering a vulnerable and memorable performance of a woman slowly losing her grip on reality. Her scenes almost made you forget you were watching a bad movie. Almost.

A disastrous comedy at times, with a few unexpected touching moments sprinkled throughout, A Thousand Words fails to come together like it should, and becomes a forgettable mess.

Rating: C-

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Salma Hayek, Michelle Williams, Chris Rock Among Others Whose Films Will Be Presented at Tribeca Film Festival

As promised, the Tribeca Film Festival announced today its feature film selections in the Spotlight and Cinemania sections, as well as Special Screenings and the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival lineup. With films featuring a hodgepodge of films featuring big name stars (like Michelle Williams and Chris Rock) and lesser-known names like Hamish Linklater and Rosemarie DeWitt, these newest releases may present an impressive merge of talent.

Check out the list below:


2 Days in New York, directed and written by Julie Delpy. (France) – New York Premiere, Narrative. This deliriously witty follow-up to 2 Days in Paris finds Marion (writer/director Julie Delpy) living a comfortable life in New York with her latest hipster boyfriend, Mingus (Chris Rock, brilliantly playing it straight), and their two young kids from prior relationships. A riotous comedy of cultural errors ensues when Marion’s totally unhinged, gleefully unfiltered family arrives from Paris to meet Mingus for the first time. In English, French with subtitles. A Magnolia Pictures release.

· Any Day Now, directed by Travis Fine, written by Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In the late 1970s, when a mentally handicapped teenager is abandoned, a gay couple takes him in and becomes the family he’s never had. But once the unconventional living arrangement is discovered by authorities, the men must fight a biased legal system to adopt the child they have come to love as their own. Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt star in TFF alum Travis Fine’s (The Space Between) touching and occasionally incendiary drama.

· As Luck Would Have It (La Chispa de la Vida), directed by Alex de la Iglesia, written by Randy Feldman. (Spain) – North American Premiere, Narrative. The economy has kept Roberto (José Mota) out of work for a long time. When a freak accident puts him at the center of a media frenzy, the enterprising ad exec hires a snaky agent to help him cash in on his life-or-death situation. It’s up to Roberto’s adoring wife (the vivacious Salma Hayek) to convince him he’s worth more alive than dead. Cult director Alex de la Iglesia takes a fresh new step, combining a darkly comic satire with an emotional drama of a family’s love. In Spanish with subtitles.

· BAM150, directed by Michael Sládek (USA) - World Premiere, Documentary. Go behind the scenes like never before at BAM, the nation's oldest performing arts center. Featuring footage of recent BAM performances, interviews with groundbreaking artists like Laurie Anderson and Robert Wilson, and the fascinating history of the creative home to such greats as Pina Bausch, Peter Brook, and Merce Cunningham, TFF alum Michael Sládek's (Con Artist) doc shows that BAM's 150 years were not always easy, but are a testament to the power and stamina of the institution that launched Brooklyn as a cultural mecca.

· A Better Life (Une Vie Meilleure), directed by Cédric Kahn, written by Cédric Kahn and Catherine Paillé. (France, Canada) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Passionately in love from the moment they meet, idealistic chef Yann and single mother Nadia share big dreams for their future. Life gets complicated when they impulsively buy a secluded restaurant in the woods and take on risky loans, testing the strength of their relationship. Fiercely gritty in its romanticism, this is a story of the lengths one will go for the chance at a better life. In French, English with subtitles.

· Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story, directed by Raymond De Felitta. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. While filming a documentary on racism in Mississippi in 1965, Frank De Felitta forever changed the life of an African-American waiter and his family. More than 40 years later, Frank’s son Raymond (director of City Island) returns to the site of his father’s film to examine the repercussions of their fateful encounter. This intensely personal film about the struggle to understand one’s parents is also a heartbreaking portrait of the legacy of intolerance.

· Broke, directed by Billy Corben. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. More money, more problems. Sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical issues, and naturally prone to showing off, most pro athletes end up broke within a few years of retirement. Drawing surprisingly vulnerable confessions from retired stars like Marvin Miller, Jamal Mashburn, Bernie Kosar, and Andre Rison, this fascinating documentary digs into the psychology of men whose competitive nature carries them to victory on the field and ruin off it.

· Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, directed by Donald Rice, written by Donald Rice and Mary Henely Magill. (UK) – World Premiere, Narrative. On the morning of her wedding, Dolly (Felicity Jones) is hiding out and dreaming of the idyllic summer before, helped along by a jug of rum. Her scatterbrained mother (Elizabeth McGovern) has perfected all the arrangements, but even she can’t prepare everyone for the arrival of Dolly’s unpredictable best friend, Joseph (Luke Treadaway). Lighthearted humor and a steamy romance add the perfect touch to a dysfunctional wedding whose key players seem anything but cheerful.

· Chicken With Plums (Poulet Aux Prunes), directed and written by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. (France, Germany, Belgium) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric) is the most celebrated violin player in 1950s Tehran, but his heart is broken. His true love is long lost, his marriage is passionless, and now his most precious instrument has met its demise. Convinced life without music is intolerable, he resigns to bed and loses himself in reveries from his youth. The Oscar®-nominated directors of Persepolis make magic again with a stylish fairy tale full of humor, whimsy, and melancholy. In French with subtitles. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

· Deadfall, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, written by Zach Dean. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In the wintry countryside near Canada, a smooth-talking heist man and his femme fatale sister are on the run with a bag full of cash. With a deadly blizzard swirling around them, they split up to make a desperate dash for the border, but a twist of fate puts them on a collision course with a troubled ex-con and his family. Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Sissy Spacek, and Kris Kristofferson highlight the ace cast in this icy thriller. A Magnolia Pictures release.

· Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, directed by Ramona Diaz. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. It sounds like a dream: A charismatic Filipino singer from the slums of Manila posts videos of his cover band to YouTube, and soon he’s fronting an iconic rock band. Sounds crazy, but it’s the real-life rock-and-roll fairy tale that Arnel Pineda is living as the new lead singer of Journey. The pressure’s on Pineda as this rockin’ doc follows Journey’s dizzying world tour—can a man who has already overcome so many obstacles deal with the demands of his newfound fame? In English, Tagalog with subtitles.

· Elles, directed by Malgoska Szumowska, written by Tine Byrckel and Malgoska Szumowska. (France, Poland, Germany) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Juliette Binoche, exquisite and involved as always, stars in this sophisticated, sexually charged drama as Anne, a journalist getting in too deep with the research for her article on college students working as prostitutes. As the surprising stories of her two candid subjects stir up Anne’s image of femininity, she wonders if life with her workaholic husband and two spacey sons is all that different from her subjects’ lives. A Kino Lorber release.

· Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie, directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger, written by Daniel A. Miller. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Long before the days of Jersey Shore or Glenn Beck, there was one man who gleefully gave those on the fringes of the society a national mouthpiece. Witness Morton Downey Jr.’s meteoric rise and fall as the original shock television emcee, and check your sense of decorum at the door. Here we learn about the man behind the mouth, and how the pursuit of fame and fortune over the airwaves can ultimately destroy your soul.

· Free Samples, directed by Jay Gammill, written by Jim Beggarly. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Jillian is having a bad day. She’s got a raging hangover, she’s starting to think dropping out of Stanford Law to become an artist wasn’t the best career move, and things are weird with her faraway fiancé. Can spending the day parked in an ice cream truck doling out samples—and a good dose of sass—to oddball Angelenos shake her out of her quarter-life crisis? Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jason Ritter star in this quirky comedy.

· The Giant Mechanical Man, directed and written by Lee Kirk. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Thirtysomethings Janice (Jenna Fischer) and Tim (Chris Messina) haven’t quite learned how to navigate adulthood. Tim is a street performer whose unique talents as a “living statue” don’t exactly pay the bills. Janice is out of work and under pressure by her sister (Malin Akerman) to date an egotistical self-help guru (Topher Grace). In this charming comedic romance, these two strangers help each other to realize that it only takes one person to make you feel important. A Tribeca Film release.

· Headshot (Fon Tok Kuen Fah), directed and written by Pen-ek Ratanaruang. (Thailand, France) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. A return to the crime genre for celebrated Thai auteur Pen-ek Ratanaruang (6ixtynin9, Last Life in the Universe), Headshot is a noir-laced thriller centered on Tul, a hit man who is shot in the head and wakes up to find that he sees everything upside down. Working backwards (and often upside down) to tell a brooding and convoluted tale of underworld double dealings, this is an unexpected and artful take on the action thriller from a genre master. In Thai with subtitles. A Kino Lorber release.

· Hysteria, directed by Tanya Wexler, written by Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer. (USA, UK, Luxembourg, France) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Set in 19th-century London at the peak of Victorian prudishness, this racy romantic comedy tells the surprising story of the birth of the electro-mechanical vibrator. A progressive young doctor (Hugh Dancy, Adam) has his hands full relieving the city’s affluent society women of their melancholy, until an accidental discovery electrifies their lives forever—and sends sparks flying between him and a feminist rabble-rouser (Maggie Gyllenhaal). A Sony Pictures Classics release.

· Keep the Lights On, directed by Ira Sachs, written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias. (USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. For Erik and Paul, what begins as a meaningless late-night hookup evolves into a serious, committed relationship. Acclaimed director Ira Sachs offers an honest, unflinching portrait of a relationship that is by equal measure loving and destructive. Uncompromising in its depiction of drug addiction and the sacrifices we make for the ones we love, Sachs’ film is a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful look at the way love changes over time.

· Knuckleball!, directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, written by Christine Schomer, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. This classic sports story recounts the trials and triumphs of two of the best known knuckleball pitchers currently playing in the MLB: Tim Wakefield, a Red Sox veteran struggling to clinch his 200th career win, and R.A. Dickey, an up-and-comer with the Mets looking to make a name for himself. This energetic documentary from the directors of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work deconstructs the controversial and erratic knuckleball style.

· Let Fury Have the Hour, directed and written by Antonino D’Ambrosio. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. A generation of artists used their creativity as a response to the reactionary politics that came to define our culture in the 1980s. This dynamic and exhilarating documentary brings together more than 50 big-name musicians, writers, artists, and thinkers to trace a momentous social history from the cynical heyday of Reagan and Thatcher to today—and impart a message of hope. Featuring Chuck D, John Sayles, Eve Ensler, Tom Morello, Lewis Black, and many others.

· Lola Versus, directed by Daryl Wein, written by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Greta Gerwig stars as Lola, a New Yorker who gets dumped by her fiancé mere weeks before their wedding. With the help of her close friends Henry (Hamish Linklater) and Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones), Lola embarks on a series of unexpected encounters in an attempt to find her place in the world as a single woman approaching 30. Daryl Wein (Breaking Upwards) infuses this story of the post-breakup spiral with humor and authenticity. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release.

· Mansome, directed by Morgan Spurlock, written by Jeremy Chilnick and Morgan Spurlock. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the age of manscaping, metrosexuals, and grooming products galore—what does it mean to be a man? Oscar® nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and executive producers Ben Silverman, Will Arnett, and Jason Bateman present a delightfully entertaining doc featuring candid interviews from Arnett, Bateman, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, and everyday people weighing in on everything from the obsession with facial hair to body dysmorphic disorder.

· One Nation Under Dog, directed by Jenny Carchman, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Amanda Micheli. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. This heartfelt documentary explores people’s conflicted relationships with dogs and inspires us to rethink how we treat them. From a man who spends a fortune to defend his dogs in court, to a woman who can’t turn away a stray, to pet loss support groups to rescuers who take on difficult-to-place dogs and save them from death row, this is a film about love, loss, betrayal, and hope.

· The Playroom, directed by Julia Dyer, written by Gretchen Dyer. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In 1970s suburbia, Maggie and her younger siblings spend the night telling each other stories in the attic. Downstairs, as their parents entertain guests over the course of a gin-soaked evening, truths are unearthed and betrayals come to light. With standout performances from John Hawkes, Molly Parker, and a cast of talented young actors, Julia Dyer’s second feature is an honest and challenging look at the reality behind the façade of a seemingly perfect American family.

· Polisse, directed by Maïwenn, written by Maïwenn and Emmanuelle Bercot. (France) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Confronting abusive parents, child molesters, traumatized kids, and oversexed teens is all part of the daily grind for the motley band of cops in the Juvenile Protection Unit, but so is chatting about their relationships at lunch and laughing uncontrollably. Grounded in documentary research and naturalistic performances, this unforgettable film from TFF alum Maïwenn (All About Actresses) explores the solidarity that helps hardened vice cops face the worst of society every day. In French, Italian, Romanian, Arabic with subtitles. An IFC Films release.

· The Russian Winter, directed by Petter Ringbom. (Russia) – World Premiere, Documentary. Brooklyn-born John Forté was a Grammy-nominated musician in The Fugees at 21 and a federal prison inmate at 26. When his prison sentence was remarkably commuted in 2008, Forté was given a second chance to share his talents with the world. Chronicling his concert tour across Russia, this inspirational documentary takes us on Forté’s personal journey—one that’s as much about having his voice heard as having his music heard. In English, Russian with subtitles.

· Searching for Sugar Man, directed and written by Malik Bendjelloul. (Sweden, UK) – New York Premiere, Documentary. Rodriguez was the greatest ’70s rock icon who never was. Despite critical praise, his albums bombed in the U.S., and he faded into obscurity among rumors of a gruesome death. But when a bootleg copy of his antiestablishment rock made its way to apartheid South Africa, he was an instant hit. Years later, two intrepid fans investigate whatever happened to the mysterious rocker, setting off a wild chain of events that has to be seen to be believed. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

· Side by Side, directed and written by Chris Kenneally. (USA) – North American Premiere, Documentary. Over the past two decades, digital technology has created a groundbreaking evolution in cinema, challenging film as the standard format for motion pictures. Through interviews with masters like Danny Boyle, James Cameron, David Fincher, George Lucas, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Lars Von Trier, and many more, producer Keanu Reeves takes us on a tour of the past and future of the moviemaking process in this in-depth documentary. A Tribeca Film release.

· Struck By Lightning, directed by Brian Dannelly, written by Chris Colfer. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Even being killed by a bolt of lightning won’t keep Carson Phillips quiet. A hyper-ambitious and outspoken high school senior in a small-minded town, Carson (Glee’s Chris Colfer) narrates his own funeral and the last few weeks of his life through a series of sarcastic flashbacks in this upbeat and energetic comedy from Saved! director Brian Dannelly. With Allison Janney, Dermot Mulroney, and Drive’s Christina Hendricks.

· Take This Waltz, directed and written by Sarah Polley. (Canada) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) are happily married. Their life is thrown out of order when Margot falls for another man and is forced to choose between the comfort of the familiar and the excitement of the unknown. Writer-director Sarah Polley’s follow-up to her acclaimed film Away From Here is a quirky, uncommonly heartfelt look at the evolving nature of love and the difficulty of sustaining a relationship over time. A Magnolia Pictures release.

· Trishna, directed and written by Michael Winterbottom. (UK) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Again proving his endless versatility in his fifth film at Tribeca, prolific director Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo, last year’s The Trip) adapts Thomas Hardy’s classic Victorian melodrama Tess of the d’Urbervilles to all the beauty and blight of contemporary India, where the budding love between a peasant woman and the son of a wealthy Englishman is strained by old prejudices and class divides. The radiant Freida Pinto stars. In English, Hindi with subtitles. An IFC Films release.

· Whole Lotta Sole, directed by Terry George, written by Terry George and Thomas Gallagher. (UK) – World Premiere, Narrative. In a rowdy little corner of Belfast, hapless young father Jimbo tries to protect his family from the gangster he’s in debt to by robbing the local fish market… which turns out to be a front for the same gangster! On the run, Jimbo holes up in a local antique shop run by a long-lost man from his past. A colorful cast of character actors and a strong turn from Brendan Fraser light up this madcap Irish crime comedy from Terry George (Hotel Rwanda).

· Xingu, directed by Cao Hamburger, written by Helena Soarez, Cao Hamburger, and Anna Muylaert. (Brazil) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Brazil, 1943. Three brothers on an expedition into the feral center of the country encounter a village of Xingu Indians. Allured by the rich indigenous culture, the brothers take a bold stand against corrupt national forces and make protecting the Xingu their lives’ work. With wild, breathtaking visuals and atmospheric music, TFF alum Cao Hamburger conveys a distinct vision of Brazil while finding a universally resonant message in his protagonists’ revolutionary vision. In Portuguese with subtitles.

· Your Sister’s Sister, directed and written by Lynn Shelton. (USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Jack (Mark Duplass) hasn’t recovered from his brother’s death. His best friend—and late brother’s ex—Iris (Emily Blunt) sends him to her family’s isolated cabin for some quiet reflection, but complications, rivalries, and surprising revelations arise when both Iris and her heartbroken sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) end up at the cabin as well. Lynn Shelton’s long-awaited follow-up to Humpday heralds a graceful maturation of the reliably against-the-grain filmmaker. An IFC Films release.


Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal: (synopsis from IMDB) A once-famous painter rediscovers inspiration when he befriends a sleepwalking cannibal.

The 11th edition of the Festival will take place from April 18 to April 29 in New York City.

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