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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Does Race Matter In Nonfiction Films With Universal Themes?

Maria (Naomi Watts) in The Impossible
Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) in Argo

We asked this question on today's "Cinema in Noir." With the success of the drama, The Impossible starring Naomi Watts, we wondered what the story would have looked like if a Spanish actress played the role instead. The film is inspired by the true story of Spanish physician María Belón, whose family were victims of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

While the film is moving and extremely well acted, the fact that the characters weren't portrayed by Spanish actors (in a film written and directed by Spanish filmmakers--director Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sánchez) is deceiving. But Belón herself has reportedly stated that her race was not an important aspect in the portrayal, so she did not see a problem with the fact that it was switched in the movie. "We were the same," she said. "We had no race, no language, no nationality, no social standard. We were just the same.”

We talk about stereotypical portrayals on the show often, so to finally have a role that doesn't offer a generalization of the Latino character be essentially whitewashed on the big screen is very unfortunate, even if it was done for U.S. marketing reasons. But if the real-life character is okay with it, should we be as well?

The same goes for Tony Mendez, whose story inspired Argo. While he doesn't identify himself as a Latino (despite having Mexican roots), Ben Affleck, who played him in the movie, certainly isn't Latino. But, again, does it matter what the actor's race is in a film where it is of no consequence to the story or quality? Share your thoughts below. 

On the show we also discussed the latest in casting news, including Dwight Henry's (Beasts of the Southern Wild) new role in the Marvin Gaye biopic, Sexual Healing. Jonathan Hailey of the Urban Daily also joined the show to give his thoughts on the topic of the day and a fairly scathing review of director Michael Bay's newest film, Pain & Gain, starring Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie (the #1 movie in America). 

Catch the full episode of today's "Cinema in Noir" below:

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FIRST LOOK: Thor's New Battle, Loki's Angry Hair, And Jane's Return In THOR: THE DARK WORLD

THOR geeks, gird your loins! The hammered hero, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his pissed off brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), are back for more underworld action, but this time they've got even more to contend with than each other.

The first trailer for THOR: THE DARK WORLD, the second installment of the Marvel comic book franchise, reportedly picks up right where last year's The Avengers ended, which, you may remember, left things pretty wide open for Loki's return. But in this latest adventure, Thor's got a new problem--the ancient Dark Elves race that will stop at nothing to send the universe back into darkness. Needless to say, it is up to Thor to take on this daunting battle. More on the film after the jump (from Screerant):

Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano and Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, “Thor: The Dark World” is directed by Alan Taylor, produced by Kevin Feige, from a story by Don Payne (credit not final) and screenplay by Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (credit not final) and is based on Marvel’s classic Super Hero Thor, who first appeared in the comic book “Journey into Mystery” #83 in August, 1962.

“Thor: The Dark World” is presented by Marvel Studios. The executive producers are Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Craig Kyle and Nigel Gostelow. The film releases November 8, 2013, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

This Malekith fella is played by Christopher Eccleston, who I vaguely remember from The Others and 28 Days Later...(it's clear he's got a penchant for the darker fare). It seems that all the actors from the previous movie have reprised their roles in the new film. Even Natalie Portman, who I wasn't much a fan of in the first movie, but that was also on account of the fact that her character as a whole was a bit silly to me (and needlessly meddling).

Speaking of the Oscar winner, in the trailer it looks like the villains are using her character, Jane (Thor's abandoned love interest from the first film), as bait for Thor. Which means he's gonna be that much more salty about the whole Dark Elves situation. With that in mind, we may see a softer side of Thor that we didn't see as much in the first film.

The clip shows the impending battle (which is gloriously shot, by the way), and also spotlights the ongoing rift between Thor and Loki (who's sporting extra angry hair these days). We also catch a glimpse of a few new characters in the franchise.

While I was looking forward to seeing what director Patty Jenkins (Monster) would do with the movie (she was previously signed on to helm the project), judging by the trailer it looks like Alan Taylor (who's had a pretty impressive TV career) really did his thing. Screenwriters Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, none of whom are unfamiliar to the world of animation and comics, penned the script.

Watch the trailer:

I know we should be rooting for Thor, but Loki is just so thrilling to watch.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD heads to theaters November 8th.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Many Women Of Don Draper

DON DRAPER (JON HAMM), the leading man on TV’s “Mad Men,” may not be a role-model husband, or even an amicable business partner. But there is no denying his ability to attract any woman within a thirty mile radius.

Throughout the show’s six seasons, we’ve dissected, admired and even hated on Don’s swag. But we all know that behind every Don Draper, there are several (if not more) remarkable women with their own stories. Click through and find out how they drove this Madison Avenue Man…mad.

Poor misunderstood, perpetually hormonal, bitter ex-wife, Betty. She is by far Don’s most complex love interest to date. Polarizing by nature, but compelling with each growing peculiarity, Betty would be damned before she submits to the level of side piece. After spending years together with Don, raising their three kids and sharing in his ups and downs, Betty knows a part of Don that he allows few to see. But while Don juggles two identities, Betty struggles to develop one outside of his.

The latest entry in Don’s wife-of-the-month club, Megan is fluent in French seduction. But she first swept Don off his feet with her natural maternal instincts, after his split with Betty left a vacancy in the role of part-time mother to his children. Charmingly ditzy, but alert when you least expect it, Megan embodies that perfect balance of style and substance. Need convincing? Just watch this sexy clip from season five’s opener:

RACHEL MENKEN (MAGGIE SIFF):Don’s former fling, the elegant Rachel, was one of the only women in his little black book who was a proud independent businesswoman. She counted on no man for money, shelter or social status, and she let that be known to Don (who, if you haven’t already noticed, is a bit intimated by strong women). Though their friendship with benefits didn't last very long, Rachel’s departure undoubtedly left a lasting effect on Don’s ego.

Don’s newest jumpoff became one of the “Did you see that?” moments on the sixth season premiere. Hardcore apologists for Don were thrilled that he had seemingly turned over a new leaf, revealing himself as the one-woman man to Megan that they’d always hoped he could be. That is, until they saw him steaming up the sheets with this buxom brunette at the end of the episode. You hear that? That’s the sound of dreams collapsing.

A woman who might have had Don’s heart, Suzanne was a sweet, caring schoolteacher who was at first hesitant about engaging in an affair with Don (who was married to Betty at the time). But once the two spent more time together, Don felt a connection unlike any other we’ve seen. More than simply lovers, Don and Suzanne were genuine friends that were there for each other in their time of need. Don even tried to help her shady brother out of sticky situation, showing her that he wasn’t just some sleazy guy trying to get in her pants. And when he ended things between them, despite her heartbreak she wished him well. If only every break-up was this touching.

Every dude needs that PYT to flash in front of his ex once they break up. For Don, it was Bethany, who was basically a younger, wide-eyed version of Betty. She may not have had the scruples to carry on a provocative conversation with Don, but who needs brains when you’ve got a checkmate?

Before the TV show “Girls” came around, wannabe artist/liberal/junkie Midge Daniels first put hot mess hipsters on the map. A complete opposite from her A-lined female counterparts on the show, Midge may not have ever been able to sell one of her bootleg paintings, but she always had a full drug stash. Unlike anyone else we’ve ever seen Don date, Midge epitomized the anti-establishment. She was also the only woman who left Don tongue-tied and unnerved.

Anna, Don’s first bride from his previous life, remains the only character—male or female—who knows the real Don Draper, perhaps even better that he knows himself. Despite the fact that he stole her husband’s identity, Don has somewhat amended this façade by forming a healthy friendship with her that often borders on that between a mother and son. While it wasn’t a romantic relationship, it was surely the best one we’ve seen Don have. No matter who Don’s with, Anna will always be his life partner in spirit.

This post was originally published by The Urban Daily.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Cinema in Noir" Question of the Day: Who are the Best Single Female Characters on TV and Film?

Lana Kane on TV's "Archer"
That's what we pondered on tonight's episode of "Cinema in Noir." From Kenya in Something New and Miranda on "Sex and the City," to Lana Kane on "Archer and Eva Mendes in Girl in Progress, there have certainly been a variety of depictions of the single woman. But what we learned on the show is that we are most compelled to watch the stories of a single woman who is not just the perfect archetype, but a more interesting and flawed character to which we may be able to relate.

We also interviewed Ashley Blaine, star of the online dating web series, "Hello, Cupid," and got to talking about our perceptions of one another in the dating game, colorism in the single community, and the unique challenges we experience as single women of color.

Lastly, we discussed the latest casting headlines, including all three projects Will Smith has lined up and what's next for Wesley Snipes.

Catch a recap of tonight's episode here:

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

(Review) OBLIVION Looks Absolutely Stunning but Struggles with a Shaky Plot

Let it be known, there are moments of greatness in the new sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise, OBLIVION. But you've got to weed through some of the less impressive moments in the film to get to them.

The premise is there: Cruise plays Jack, one half of a futuristic clean-up crew in charge of protecting the drones from the aliens that wiped out human civilization 60 years ago (the film is set in the year 2077). Jack's right hand woman, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), is also his sort of girlfriend (or coworker with benefits?). She coordinates Jack's missions from the safety of their uber cool space loft using an even niftier computer that could have easily been borrowed from Minority Report (an earlier, better Cruise film).

The beginning of the film pretty much shows off its sleek silvery glaze and special effects, and establishes the ambiguous relationship between Victoria and Jack, leading up to the first (of many) scenes where Jack's curiosity gets the best of him and almost costs him his life.

Here's the thing: The more Jack wanders outside the domain of the mission, the more he begins to remember things about his distant past (before the apparent war that vanquished the planet). You notice right away that Victoria is deeply unsettled by his findings (however minimal and virtually unsupported, at first), which triggers an effective amount of tension in the movie. Jack's suspicions put him directly in the path of danger, and his first encounter with Julia (Olga Kurylenko), a survivor he recovers from a wreckage.

Julia enters the film (roughly about a half hour in) is right around the time when it switches gears and moves from a standard fighting-off-killer-drones sci-fi film, to something that tries to be much deeper. All of a sudden, Jack's mission is questioned, along with his identity and the circumstances which brought him here.

Then comes the long, choppy explanations of what could be happening and what could explain what Jack is really doing here. But, between his general hypothesizing and director Joseph Kosinski's ping pong with the plot (moving from Jack's vision of his reality and the actual reality of what is happening), it's difficult to grasp. It begins in a thrilling, plot-twisty kind of way, but evolves into a messy, you-lost-control-of-the-story kind of way. It's just not seamless.

While the film fights desperately to tug at our heartstrings (and, to its credit, it succeeds at times), we're still unsure whether what we're watching is real.

Things are made clearer when Beech (Morgan Freeman, in an off-kilter yet refreshing role for him) comes into the picture. Without giving too much away, he's the guy who puts all the pieces together in Jack's puzzle. Similar to the Morpheus character from The Matrix, Beech is the leader of a rebel crew Jack comes upon during one of his misguided adventures.

Just when you think you have it all figured out (and are somewhat satisfied by it), Kosinski adds another piece to the puzzle. In an attempt to tie a bow on the film by employing a philosophical tone to the movie (only once suggested at its start), references to a book (the Bible?), God, and how a man can die better take center stage. This is completely unnecessary, and only muddies an already shaky yet adequate execution.

In fact, the film, which runs a bit over two hours, should probably end about 20 minutes before it does. Instead, we get a bunch of rambled explanations in droll sequences we could have done without.

The performances range from effective to serviceable, with Kurylenko rounding out the latter end, sadly. While Julia's identity isn't revealed until near the end of the movie, Kurylenko does very little to add depth to the role. She should be the heart of the movie, but instead comes off surprisingly stale (especially coming off her far more absorbing portrayal in To the Wonder). Melissa Leo plays Sally, who literally lives inside of a computer the whole time, controlling the goings on of the Jack and Victoria partnership. Leo dons an inexplicable southern drawl and is completely underused in the role.

Obviously, OBLIVION is not without its flaws. But its impeccable action scenes and stunning cinematography are where it thrives. Kosinski, who penned the screenplay (based on his own comic book) with Karl Gajdusek (Trespass) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), struggles with the story, but does manage to create a glossy world where nothing is as it seems. It's a shame that its poor editing inhibits what could have been a memorable movie.

Rating: C+ (**1/2 out of *****)

OBLIVION is in theaters Friday.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The First Trailer for R.I.P.D. Makes it Look like MEN IN BLACK with Dead People

Well, I don't...quite know what to make of this. On the one hand, this trailer for the action comedy R.I.P.D. looks like Men in Black if agents J and K were both dead. On the other? It's Ryan Reynolds, who, if I may say, should be trying to attach himself to projects similar to his underrated performance in the 2010 drama, Buried, and not...this kind of thing.

And, let's not forget, Oscar winner Jeff Bridges is playing the J to his K. It seems he hasn't been living up to his full potential lately either. Robert Schwentke (Red) directed the film, and screenwriter Phil Hay (Clash of the Titans) adapted the film from Peter M. Lenkov's graphic novel.

So, needless to say, while the effects and chemistry between the two stars look all fine and dandy, the rest just seems a bit bland for my tastes. Here's a little about the movie (from Collider):

Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds headline the 3D supernatural action-adventure R.I.P.D. as two cops dispatched by the otherworldly Rest In Peace Department to protect and serve the living from an increasingly destructive array of souls who refuse to move peacefully to the other side.

Veteran sheriff Roy Pulsifer (Bridges) has spent his career with the legendary police force known as R.I.P.D. tracking monstrous spirits who are cleverly disguised as ordinary people. His mission? To arrest and bring to justice a special brand of criminals trying to escape final judgment by hiding among the unsuspecting on Earth.

Once the wise-cracking Roy is assigned former rising-star detective Nick Walker (Reynolds) as his junior officer, the new partners have to turn grudging respect into top-notch teamwork. When they uncover a plot that could end life as we know it, two of R.I.P.D.’s finest must miraculously restore the cosmic balance…or watch the tunnel to the afterlife begin sending angry souls the very wrong way.

Oh, it looks like it has funny moments too. So there's that. R.I.P.D. releases in theaters July 19th.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Katniss and Peeta Learn That the Odds are Never in Their Favor in the New Trailer for THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Am I the only one who geeks out over cool motion posters?

You may remember that after watching the first Hunger Games movie last year, I had a few questions about characters and how the city of Panem became what it was (I also wondered why Katniss was so perplexed about which guy she'd choose, when Gale is clearly the hotter one, but that question was less important...I suppose).

Since then I've devoured all three books in author Suzanne Collins' series, which may have a YA slant but I found myself captivated by each tale's political themes and pop culture commentary. So, as you can imagine, I waited with baited breath for the first look at the film adaptation of the second series, CATCHING FIRE. With director Francis Lawrence taking the reigns from Gary Ross (who directed the first film), I didn't know what to expect (I find it hard to trust a guy who directed the pitiful I am Legend). Simon Beaufoy (Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Oscar winner for Little Miss Sunshine) penned the script, which should make this that much more interesting.

But, you know what? The trailer looks a-mazing. The sheer tension, dilapidated landscape and flamboyant costumes add to the heavy tone of the book. The gravity of Katniss (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta's (Josh Hutcherson) fateful situation becomes even more dire (as wonderfully depicted in the clip below), and we get to see shady characters Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, perfectly cast) and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) hard at work. Along with newcomer to the project, Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone and Sam Claflin join the cast as young assassins Johanna and Finnick with Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, a contestant from another district. Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and Woody Harrelson also reprise their roles as stylist Cinna, District 12 (Panem) coordinator Effie, game host Caesar and the sullen yet useful Haymitch (respectively). 

Judging by the trailer, it looks like they remain very true to the book as well, even capturing the small but poignant scene with Gale (Liam Hemsworth) getting whipped in the central. The only thing I question is the military scenes present in the clip. From what I recall (and please correct me if I'm wrong; it's been a few months since I've read the book), the military aspect was introduced in the third book, Mockingjay, not the second book. So maybe the scenes shown here are just a a prelude? I'm not sure.

Anyway, in case you're unfamiliar with CATCHING FIRE, here's an official synopsis:

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” begins as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.

Anyone else excited? CATCHING FIRE hits theaters November 22nd.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Black Film Kickstarter Campaigns and Hollywood's Depiction of Racism on Today's "Cinema in Noir"

Would you donate money toward a Kickstarter campaign for a black film? That's what we asked on today's "Cinema in Noir.With the success of the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter campaign, we examine the impact that Kickstarter has and what it could do for black film adaptions that are long overdue ("The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" anyone?).

We also discuss the level of responsibility a Hollywood film has in its depiction of racism. It seems the new Jackie Robinson movie, 42 (the #1 movie in theaters now), has gotten folks saying that it glazed over certain racial aspects of the athlete's story. Coming off the heels of the much talked about Django Unchained last year, which some say was too overt in its portrayal of racism, it seems like there's always going to be some talk about how to do it, how often to do it and which directors get a pass? That said, we talk about the pressure of making a black film that deals with racism and how we can  approach it moving forward.

Lastly, we talk about the latest film headlines: David Alan Grier and Anika Noni Rose cast in the Hallmark movie adaption of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham and news of an updated film version of the recent Tony Award-winning musical, Porgy and Bess (directed by Spike Lee?).

Missed the show? Catch it here:

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

(Review) TO THE WONDER: A Well-Acted But Disjointed Pseudo Silent Film

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in To the Wonder

As you probably have gathered from my tepid review of director Terrence Malick's last film, The Tree of Life, I'm not exactly the president of his fan club. While I am in awe of the gorgeous cinematography in his films and his unmatched ability to capture the beauty in simplicity, I remain wholly unaffected by his storytelling.

But TO THE WONDER, while it still has a few of his trademarks, has a different effect than its predecessor. With themes involving deteriorated relationships, false assimilation and the absolution of emotions, the film aims to resonate on a deeper level. The characters are people you would know, going through situations you might have experienced.

However, the characters never actually speak to one another, you know, out loud. Much of the film is in voice-over narration, in three different languages (Spanish, French and English) with subtitles, and there are three somewhat intertwining stories that often vacillate in time. They often react operatically, silently moving toward or drifting from the action around them with giant gestures or lingering gazes. This forces them to mime their emotions as we hear their internal struggle and interpretation of the events and feelings around them. In some scenes this is effective, in others it isn't. And, like many Malick films, it is so arresting to look at you almost forget to listen to the dialogue (or, in this case, you may forget to stare at the dialogue).

But it takes more than beautiful Kodak moments and lingering themes to sell a movie. The performances must be there. Which brings us to Ben Affleck who plays Neil, the main character around whom each story revolves. This is a complete departure from Affleck's typical brooding and above-it-all type, and he appears visibly uncomfortable in Neil's skin. Neil is a somewhat sullen blue-collar worker, who revels in complacency. He is married to Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a French woman who comes to the U.S. on a VISA marriage proposal. It's hard to say that she falls in love with Neil, but she respectfully  feels very deeply for him. And she tries her hardest to love him enough for the both of them.


That quickly proves futile when she realizes that Neil is completely detached from emotion; she is in the relationship by herself. As her frustration builds, exquisitely portrayed by Kurylenko, Neil becomes farther distant. But, rather than humanizing Neil, Affleck comes across blank and at times not present in the scene. It's especially difficult to watch in scenes he shares with Kurylenko, who can literally be shot strictly from the neck up and compel you more than Affleck's entire 6-foot-something frame. Her face is so expressive it's hard not to fall for Marina, even when she falters. Meanwhile, Affleck remains exceedingly vacant the whole movie.

In fact, the one time Affleck really comes alive in the movie is during a scene which calls for anger over Marina's betrayal. You can almost see him channel The Town then. But then he quickly recoils back to being stoic. Though, in his defense, Neil isn't really written with a whole lot of depth. For a character who really circumvents the movie, Malick didn't offer much of an anchor or a reason to focus your attention on him.

I'm not sure whether that was intentional, or whether it mattered more how other characters fed off his energy, how they reacted to him and what they became as a result of it. In the end, he comes off as merely a centerpiece in the middle of a much more interesting puzzle.

Affleck and Rachel McAdams

Take, for instance, Neil's brief encounter with Jane (Rachel McAdams), a woman with whom he finds a flicker of a connection once Marina is out of the picture. She inexplicably falls for him, in a way which is not reciprocated on any profound level, which of course disappoints her. While McAdams is serviceable in the role,  Jane comes across as a distraction to both Neil and the movie. She doesn't elevate the film, and fails to even stir Neil's flaws.

Javier Bardem

Another character who doesn't exactly connect with the rest of the film is Father Quitana (portrayed as well as one could by Javier Bardem). He is another one in the movie whose story is theoretically bare, but Bardem makes him the most interesting to watch. He embodies the sullenness of Neil, the overwhelming frustration of Marina and the emptiness of Jane into one character, a priest, who's consumed so much of everyone else's sins and confessions that he lost sense of himself. He wears their every emotion on his face, without saying one word. Quitana's internal struggle becomes immediately clear in Bardem's performance. Even with the persistent voice-over narration, Quitana becomes a fully realized character.

It's a shame the rest of the movie isn't as effective. The intention is there, and the performances (sans Affleck) are at the very least committed. But the film could have benefited from tighter editing and spoken dialogue (there is one scene of spoken dialogue between Marina and a fellow import that is so evocative but sadly too brief), which also could have made certain scenes more trenchant. Though Malick has a knack for enhancing the mood of each scene with stunning visual effects, it's not enough to boost the film. Ultimately, TO THE WONDER warily becomes a very pretty mash-up of emotion that never fully connects with the audience.

Rating: C+

New Images from the Sci-Fi Film, OBLIVION (Starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman)

You guys already know how much I love my little pint-size action figurine, Tom Cruise, so you won't be surprised to learn that I am counting down the days until I see OBLIVION (his newest sci-fi film written and directed by Joseph Kosinski that I first previewed here).

Universal Pictures just unleashed a heap of new images from the movie you can gawk at below:

Tom Cruise (l) and Morgan Freeman (r)


Olga Kurylenko (l) and Cruise (r)

Andrea Riseborough

Nikolaj Koster-Waldau (l) and Cruise (r)




Is Morgan Freeman channeling Morpheus from The Matrix? Whatever, who wants to see OBLIVION with me when it opens in theaters April 19th?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DISTRICT 9 Director Neill Blomkamp Releases First Trailer for His Upcoming Sci-Fi Film, ELYSIUM, Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster

Someone mentioned on twitter a few days ago that there's been a real meh reaction to many trailers released earlier this year, and I definitely agree. As I've stated before, I've been quite numb watching a few of these trailers, many that seem to pop right out of a generic trailer dispenser by the dozen.

But, I've got to tell you, there's something very intriguing about this new trailer for the upcoming sci-fi film starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, ELYSIUM. Though the background score sounds like it was borrowed from Prometheus, the intensity of the clip truly grabs me. However, the movie is written and directed by Oscar nominated filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, who helmed 2009's District 9 (which I did not love). I do appreciate, though, that he seems to not attach himself to the generic, which works in his favor. A little more about the movie below (from Collider):

In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster), a hard line government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max (Matt Damon) is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.

I'm always down for an exploration of political strife in a futuristic film. And it looks like ELYSIUM may do a good job tackling that, especially with its two A-list stars. Also, when was the last great Jodie Foster film? She's a tremendous actress and deserves roles that show off her range. Damon, however, seems to have a steady stream of decent to amazing films under his belt, and he surely has revived the thinking man action star. In any case, check out the trailer below:

What do you think? Will you watch ELYSIUM when it releases in theaters August 9th?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Actress Erika Alexander Explains Why She Wrote a "Mad Men" Episode With Black Characters

Teyonah Parris (l) and Elisabeth Moss (r) in "Mad Men"
This is a subject we've talked about a few times on Cinema in Noir, and I hear it's been on many others' minds. It's about adding characters of color to films and on various TV shows. In an often colorless movie or TV series, there's always a question of how the characters of color fit into the equation, and where's their side of the story?

This brings me to the popular TV drama, "Mad Men." If you're a fan like me, you were glued to the tube on Sunday for its sixth season premiere on AMC. In case you're not familiar, the show follows an ad agency in 1960s New York City, and the trials and the complex personal lives of those who work there. The series has been pretty good about detailing the overall gender politics both in the office and at home, but--even though the show is set during this particularly turbulent decade, politically--it has yet to explore more deeply the racial politics outside of the views of the somewhat disconnected main characters on the show. Just imagine how much the show would benefit from the perspective of a character of color.

Actress Erika Alexander

That's where Erika Alexander's interesting new blog entry comes in. A friend sent me a post written by the actress, best known for her TV roles on "Living Single" and "The Cosby Show." In addition to her varied TV work, including upcoming projects through 2014, she has apparently been writing and pitching TV shows left and right in Hollywood for years. And as a self-proclaimed fan of "Mad Men," she recently penned a re-imagined arc for the show, with the addition of principle African-American characters and plotlines.

So I thought this would be something cool to share with you, as an example of how to eliminate  tokenism and provide a universally themed arc that utilizes the actors to their full potential and fleshes out their characters' development. It can be done, and done well.

You can find Alexander's full blog post here. And here's her spec titled, "Mad Men Uptown Saturday Night."  It's actually pretty good. I'd watch it.

Read it yourself and share your thoughts below.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tyler Perry's Rape Effect and the Late Roger Ebert's Impact on Films on Today's "Cinema in Noir"

You've probably heard a little about this on the web last week--headlines that read something like, "Tyler Perry Isn’t Just an Artless Hack, He’s a Scary Ideologue" from or "Tyler Perry's Temptation Rape Problem" from And, you've probably guessed it, the notorious filmmaker  has a new movie out and folks are NOT loving it.

Not only are they not praising it like they've done so many of his other films, but they are calling him out about his female ideals and his influence in today's much talked about rape culture. Supposedly his latest, Tyler Perry's Temptation, goes full throttle conservative and reportedly condemns both female sexuality and forward thinking on any level (I haven't seen the movie myself, and have no plans to). So, naturally, we at Cinema in Noir were all over that today.

On today's episode we also discussed the late Roger Ebert's influence on not only black films but films in general--how he made film criticism accessible and held others in his field accountable for biases held against certain films.

Lastly, Tim Gordon from "Keeping It Reel" calls in to talk about the new documentary on freedom fighter Angela Davis, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (in theaters now) and our co-host Rebecca raves about the upcoming Jackie Robinson film, 42 (in theaters this Friday). Catch a recap below:

Listen to internet radio with KimberlyRenee on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chime In: What Makes Prequels So Appealing?

Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in Man of Steel

I was asking myself this recently. With the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, and the revivals of other superhero stories like Captain America and the upcoming Man of Steel, there is certainly an interest and even a demand to revisit the primal stories of these famed characters.

But why is that? What makes this story tactic so effective, so enthralling to watch (at least, when it's done right)? What makes you as the audience eager to see these characters and stories reborn? What makes a prequel, in some cases, better than a sequel?

Rather than delving into the discussion on my own, this time I've decided to pose the question to you, the reader. Please share your thoughts below in the comments section on what you love (or hate) about the movie prequel domination.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chaz Ebert Issues a Statement on the Death of Her "Beloved Husband," Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz

On this very sad day in film history, we remember the influence, candor and passion of the late great film critic Roger Ebert, who passed away today at the age of 70. His wife, Chaz, issues a touching statement on his death in the following press release:

Chaz Ebert issues statement on the death of her ‘beloved husband,’ Roger Ebert

CHICAGO, April 4, 2013 -- Chaz Ebert issued the following statement Thursday about the passing of her husband, Roger Ebert, a day after he celebrated 46 years as a film critic:

“I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger -- my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.

“Roger was a beloved husband, stepfather to Sonia and Jay, and grandfather to Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph. Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were “the best things in my life.” He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life.

“We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.

“We are touched by all the kindness and the outpouring of love we’ve received. And I want to echo what Roger said in his last blog, thank you for going on this journey with us.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert. You will be sorely missed. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

MOVIE BREAK: Why I Won't Be Watching "The Mindy Project" Anymore

Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina in "The Mindy Project"

When I first heard that Mindy Kaling was branching out from her supporting stint on "The Office" to do her own show, I thought two things: 1) Great! Now I can stop pretending to watch "The Office" (I tried to get into it, but couldn't) and 2) It's gonna be so awesome to see an Indian-American woman (who is actually quite hilarious, at least on twitter) create, write and star in her own comedy series on a major network ("The Mindy Project" on FOX).

After watching a few episodes, I quickly fell in love with Kaling's brand of self-deprecating humor and Tina Fey-esque cheesy bliss. She doesn't take herself too seriously on the show (her character Mindy Lahiri, an accomplished Ob/Gyn, is known to get herself into the most ridiculous situations--like, wrestling with a wild shower head and getting into trouble with a high school principle for handing out condoms to students). 

Then, I began to notice a few things. First of all, the writing depends heavily on romantic comedy
clichés (exactly how many times does Mindy have to refer to a romantic comedy and recite lines from Sleepless in Seattle ad nauseum?). After the first time or two, it was funny. After the hundredth time, it became grating and unnecessary. And the way she began to apply various "lessons" from these movies to her own life seemed not only forced but a bit immature. Granted,  it works for her socially stunted character, but still seems awkward.

But I still continued to watch the show, because Kaling is really selling this character; she's committed to reviving physical comedy in the way that the late John Ritter once did on Three's Company. Her awkwardness coupled with genuine intelligence makes Lahiri endearing.

There has been another pesky thing about the show that has been bothering me for quite some time. And it reached a fever pitch in last night's episode titled "My Cool Christian Boyfriend." While Kaling's fictional character does a fairly good job being relatable on some level, she spends just as much effort separating herself from any cultural identity. But it's one thing to write a colorless character; it's a whole other thing to carve one specifically representing a race or culture outside what is true.

And that's exactly what is happening on "The Mindy Project." Not only is Lahiri the only character of color on the show (unless her brother, played by the hysterical Utkarsh Ambudkar, makes a two-minute appearance. ALL of Lahiri's friends, love interests and business associates are Caucasian), but she has assumed the identity of someone who is not actually a minority at all. Case in point, in last night's episode Lahiri is riding the train with a Caucasian male, misses her stop and is instantly terrified that she will end up in Brooklyn, home of "colorful" characters. Hold on, Lahiri, you do know you are of color, right? Awkward....

Anyway, I tried to let that thoughtless comment roll off my back, until another one came right behind it (concerning Brooklyn, again). Then the episode cultivated with Lahiri telling her do-gooder love interest (Anders Holm) that Haiti is a "terrible country" after he mentioned he was donating supplies to children there. Again, it's another brass and completely unnecessary comment that seemed cruel and out of place coming from Kaling. Lahiri quickly tries to soften the blow by following it with saying that she is clearly not a racist.

Note: if you have to tell someone you're not racist, it kind of defeats your point.

It's really not important whether your friends look like you, or if you have a forehead tattoo declaring your cultural identity, but it seems mighty weird that Kaling would take this rare opportunity to develop her own show that detaches her from her own community playing a character that looks down at those of other races.

Folks who I've talked to about these issues suggest that perhaps it's not Kaling but the network that may be influencing her casting choices and angles. I'm not denying that this is an impossibility (after all, it is FOX), but this dedicated viewer has flown the coop. Call me when "The Mindy Project" gets back on track and Kaling is free to flex her comedic talent minus the cheap shots.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tribeca Film Festival to Stream Select Films Online and on Video-On-Demand

Julianne Moore and Michael Angarano in The English Teacher

Well, this is pretty cool. The lovely folks from the Tribeca Film Festival announced earlier today that they will will begin to stream a few of this year's film online and offer others on Video-On-Demand, which is great news for those (like myself) who aren't attending the event this year.

“We are always looking for ways to expand our community and engage new audiences,” said Chief Creative Office of Tribeca Enterprises Geoff Gilmore in a press release. “For the past three years, viewers nationwide have been able to take in a selection of Festival films and activities, even if they aren't able to make it to Tribeca. This year we have expanded the opportunity for the public to participate in the Festival not just as observers, but also as creators through our first ever Vine competition, which is open to anyone with an imagination and a Vine app.”

More from the press release:

As in years past, the Tribeca Online Festival (TOF) will provide free streaming of Festival films. Seven titles including features Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution, Lil Bub & Friendz, and Farah Goes Bang (which will be streamed just after their Festival theatrical premieres), and short films RPG OKC, Delicacy, The Exit Room, and A Short Film About Guns will be accessible on Via audiences can vote on the best online feature and short, with the winners receiving a total of $16,000 in prize money.

The Tribeca Online Festival will stream a number of highly anticipated conversations during the Festival as well as the 2013 TFF awards show on Thursday April 25, 2013.

Tribeca Film will also release 2013 TFF selections What Richard Did, Greetings from Tim Buckley, Fresh Meat and The English Teacher nationwide via on demand during the Festival window. The titles will be available in more than 50 million homes in the U.S. and Canada through all major cable video-on-demand providers, as well as iTunes, Amazon Watch Instantly, VUDU, Xbox, Google Play and YouTube.

Details on the VOD and Tribeca Online Festival offerings follow:


Three feature titles and four short films from the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival will be available on TOF. Each film will have limited screening windows and capacity. Online viewers will be able to vote for the Best Tribeca Online Feature Film, a prize of $10,000, and the Best Tribeca Online Short Film, a prize of $5,000. Winners will be announced at the Tribeca Film Festival Awards on April 25.

The full list of feature films streamed on the Tribeca Online Festival is as follows:

  • Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution, directed by Alex Meillier, written by Tanya Ager Meillier and Meillier. (USA) – North American Premiere. Kirsty Sword Gusmão went to Timor-Leste to document injustice in an area closed to Western journalists. Over the next decade, she became the lynchpin that sustained the nation’s harrowing struggle for independence and met the man who would redefine the cause for which she was fighting. Using astonishing footage of the years-long resistance, director Alex Meillier presents a highly personal account of the courage needed to create a new democracy in modern times.

  • Lil Bub & Friendz, directed by Andy Capper and Juliette Eisner. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Called “the most famous cat on the Internet,” the wide-eyed perma-kitten Lil Bub is the adorable embodiment of the Web’s fascination with all things cats. Join Lil Bub and her owner on a wild cross-country romp as they meet the Internet’s most famous cat-lebrities. Chock full of adorable kitties, hilarious videos and the dedicated cat enthusiasts who love them, Lil Bub & Friendz is a fun and hip peek behind the memes we know and love. Includes Mike "The Dude" Bridavsky, Ben Lashes, Grumpy Cat, Nyan Cat, Keyboard Cat.

  • Farah Goes Bang, directed by Meera Menon, written by Laura Goode and Menon. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Farah hits the road with her buddies to stump for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, hoping the trip will be her opportunity to finally shed her unwanted virginity. She soon finds her efforts on both political and sexual fronts continuously thwarted. Comically balancing that moment’s climate of intolerance with a universal coming-of-age tale, Farah Goes Bang paints a comic portrait of the overdue growing pains of a group of girlfriends and the country itself.

The full list of short films streamed on the Tribeca Online Festival is as follows:

  • RPG OKC, Directed and written by Emily Carmichael, (USA), World Premiere. Two video game characters forge an unlikely romance.

  • Delicacy, Directed by Jason Mann, written by Frieda Luk and Jason Mann, (USA), New York Premiere. A culinary connoisseur and a chef go on a hunt for a rare animal.

  • The Exit Room, Directed and written by Todd Wiseman Jr, (USA), World Premiere. It is 2021, and imprisoned journalist Joseph Michaels faces government execution and contemplates a desperate escape attempt in order to return to his young family.

  • A Short Film About Guns, Directed by Minos Papas, (Cyprus), (U.K.), (USA), World Premiere. Four experts on arms trafficking recount first-hand experiences with the black market and how the illegal flow of weapons facilitates loss of life and devastation.


  • What Richard Did, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, written by Malcolm Campbell. (Ireland) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Charismatic Richard leads a group of devoted friends through the rituals of their final summer break together: partying on the beach, hazing younger students, hooking up. But the good times will not last forever. When jealousy leads to a senseless act, Richard’s perfect life unravels amid self-doubt, shame, grief and guilt. What Richard Did is a gripping dissection of an action and its consequences, featuring a stellar lead performance by Jack Reynor. A Tribeca Film release.

  • Greetings from Tim Buckley, directed by Daniel Algrant, written by David Brendel, Emma Sheanshang and Algrant. (USA) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative. “Like father, like son” is a demanding expression for someone who never knew his dad. When young Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley) is asked to participate in a tribute concert for his late musician father Tim, music opens his eyes to the artistic legacy that he is destined to follow. Imogen Poots co-stars in this quiet and powerful tribute to those legends sustained by admiration, love and, in this case, beautiful music. A Focus World and Tribeca Film release.

  • Fresh Meat, directed by Danny Mulheron, written by Briar Grace-Smith. (New Zealand) – New York Premiere, Narrative. After a poorly executed escape from the police, a gang of dysfunctional criminals flees to the suburbs and gets more than it bargained for when it crash lands in the garage of an upper-class Maori family whose refined palates have developed a taste for human flesh. This action-packed horror comedy tells a blood-spattered tale of basement butchery and shifting allegiances as these unlikely adversaries enter a deadly showdown. A Tribeca Film release.

  • The English Teacher, directed by Craig Zisk, written by Dan Chariton and Stacy Chariton. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Teacher Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) balances her staid home life with an incredible passion for her subject, but her routine is forever altered when a former star pupil and his unsupportive father reenter her life. Go-to television director Craig Zisk, whose credits include Scrubs, Weeds and United States of Tara, takes a turn on the big screen with this insightful comedy about self-discovery co-starring Greg Kinnear, Nathan Lane, Michael Angarano and Lily Collins. A Cinedigm and Tribeca Film release.
The Tribeca Film Festival will take place in New York City April 17-28. For more information, click here

Seth Rogen and James Franco are Two Fools on the Loose in the New Trailer for PINEAPPLE EXPRESS 2

It was only a matter of time before someone, somewhere got punked by the Internet today in honor of April Fools Day.

Seth Rogen and his comedy clique--James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride--got together for a joke on cyberspace today, leading us to believe that they've got a sequel to the 2008 weed flick Pineapple Express coming out.

But, really, it's just this:

Which, if you've seen and loved the first movie (I haven't seen it), you probably found this hilarious.

Note: That teaser at the end of the clip for the movie This Is The End is actually a real thing. This Is the End is an ensemble comedy (with some of this same actors from this clip) coming out in theaters June 14th. Watch the trailer here (it's legit).

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