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Friday, July 31, 2015

Netlix is Aiming for World Domination

Raise your hand if you too can boast 34 Primetime Emmy Award nominations in one season, plus having filmmaker Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Sin Nombre) and Idris Elba headline your first original film. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Netflix, the streaming service of life, is--as the kids say--killing the game. And now they've brought together one of the hottest directors and the unofficial James Bond himself for a project that will likely catapult them into the stratosphere. Or so that's the goal anyway. BEASTS OF NO NATION, which will world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and screen at Toronto Film Festival, is the upcoming drama starring Elba that is based on the the acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala. More:

BEASTS OF NO NATION is brings to life the gripping tale of Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. Newcomer Abraham Attah gives a stunning portrayal of Agu, while Elba dominates the screen in the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.

Check out the trailer:

Thoughts? BEASTS OF NO NATION will open in 19 landmark markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego on October 16 and worldwide on Netflix on the same day.

Did You Know That 21 Million People Watched the First Season of the 'SCREAM' TV Series?

Honestly, I'm shocked. I watched the entire debut episode of Scream on MTV a few weeks back and I wanted to rip my eyes out. It just goes to show how bored millenial viewers are during this rather thin summer programming season that they will watch a series that tried its hardest to exploit destroy the legacy of the original 1996 film in just 60 minutes (with commercials).

At first I was stumped as to how this got renewed for a second season (according to a press release I received this week), given that everyone I had talked to agreed with my bleak assessment of the pilot episode. But alas, I have learned that more than 21 million viewers tuned in to the debut season of on-air, and the series has generated another 7.9 million streams across platforms. 

I'm not going to even bring up some of the amazingly awful lines (and their delivery) from the show, but let's just say they were mind-numbing. The original film is strikingly clever; the TV series is annoyingly unclever. But, you know, that's just me. Clearly, I am outnumbered by 21 million others.

Did you watch the first season of Scream? If so, what did you think? Does it get better by the end?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

SPOTLIGHT Trailer: Is Rachel McAdams The Only Woman With a Speaking Role?

Listen, I like Rachel McAdams. I really do, despite the fact that I simply haven't cared about any of her roles over the past, oh, 8 years or so (I haven't watched the current season of True Detective yet). I still want the best for her; I want her to win. But when I saw her in the trailer for SPOTLIGHT, the upcoming journalistic thriller directed by Tom McCarthy (Win Win), I couldn't help but wonder why she was the only woman with a speaking role. Like, seriously? Please tell me there are other women here, and journalists, who have some kind of prominence in this film.

I wouldn't normally bring this up, but a) I am tired of seeing the lone female journalist working in a newsroom full of men and b) I am tired of seeing newsrooms--especially newsrooms in Boston--with not a single diverse face in the office (or anywhere else in the movie). Attribute this hyper awareness to the fact that I am actually from Boston, and have worked as a full-time journalist, but I am just over this whole massively perpetuated Hollywood trope. It's not accurate and it's offensive in this day and age. I just hope McAdams's character doesn't use her sex appeal to outwit her male counterparts, because that will just put me completely over the age.

Anyway, getting back to the presentation of the trailer, I have to admit the cast (barring the severe lack of estrogen) is pretty amazing: Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schrieber, Michael Keaton, and Stanley Tucci. And Goodness knows we need a better newsroom thriller than both Kill the Messenger and True Story (because those two were godawful). Hopefully this will redeem the genre. Here's more:

Starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Brian D’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci, SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delve into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Thomas McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest crime stories in modern times.

Watch the trailer:

What do you think? SPOTLIGHT opens in theaters November 6. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trailer Watch: Elisabeth Moss Looks a Bit Disturbed in QUEEN OF EARTH

Honestly, I don't even know what to think of this trailer. On the one hand, I want to support QUEEN OF EARTH because it looks deeply compelling and, I mean, it's Elisabeth Moss. But I just really can't pretend to care about director Alex Ross Perry's films after watching Listen Up, Phillip. They just...bore me, truly. I do like the retro, disturbing look of this new film (and who can pass up a good psychological breakdown in film?), so I may just get suckered into watching it.

Read up on it:

Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) has entered a particularly dark period in her life: her father, a famous artist whose affairs she managed, has recently died, and on the heels of his death she's dumped by her boyfriend James (Kentucker Audley). Looking to recuperate, Catherine heads out to her best friend Virginia's (Katherine Waterston) lake house for some much needed relaxation. However, once Catherine arrives relaxation proves impossible to find, as she is overcome with memories of time spent at the same house with James the year before. As Catherine reaches out to Virginia with attempts at connection, Virginia begins spending increasing amounts of time with a local love interest, Rich (Patrick Fugit), and fissures in the relationship between the two women begin to appear, sending Catherine into a downward spiral of delusion and madness. A bracing, eerie look at the deep bonds of friendship and the horrific effects of such bonds being frayed, Queen of Earth is a thrilling examination of a deeply complex relationship between two miserable women.

QUEEN OF EARTH will hit theaters on August 26 in New York City, with a national rollout to follow. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

VEEP Season 4 Review: Amy's Meltdown Was Even Better Than I Hoped It Would Be

You know, I think it's interesting/ironic that just when Hilary Clinton announces she is going to run for U.S. president--the first female front runner for president we've had in a looooong while--VEEP centers its entire fourth season around a woman who has proven herself to be one of the worst presidents of all time.

Or so her campaign manager Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) proclaims. And honestly, if you've watched the previous three seasons, you could kinda see this coming.

In case you haven't been watching, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), clueless Vice President-turned-even more clueless President, has convinced herself she's at the top of her game in her new role despite not having even been able to master her position when she was #2. With the same cabinet of bozos (albeit hilarious bozos) in her cabinet, it's like she's broken the glass ceiling but doesn't quite know how to wiggle her way through it. Thus marks the premise of the last season, nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards this year including Outstanding Comedy Series.

I recently got the chance to catch up with the season (now available on Digital HD) and, while I always get a kick out of watching the hysterical shenanigans that run rampant in this fictionalized portrayal of the Oval Office, I thought it was especially fascinating watching that be compounded by the collision of egos just when everything--for all intents and purposes--was finally coming together.

Now I know what everyone was spoiling tweeting when folks on Twitter made reference to the fact that Amy finally lost it. Well, having now watched it, that's a bit of an overstatement. She hasn't lost it as much as she has completely stopped holding it all together for the sake of what has turned out to be utter nonsense. And, really, that's commendable. But I'm sure feminists lost their s**t when Amy said this now immortalized line:

“The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents because we tried one and she f–king sucked.”
Imagine, like, a trillion exclamation points after that sentence because it is a pretty heated moment that began much earlier than that. It even left Selina speechless. But with this Amy wrote her own pink slip and was emancipated from the foolery. So, good on her. And also: Chlumsky deserves to win all the prizes, posters and stickers for an amazing season. Her typical ticking bound abruptness wrapped in genuine brilliance went toe to toe with Dreyfuss's polished incompetence. I absolutely loved it. It's just more proof that strong and complex characters are 1) mostly found on the small screen and 2) are neither defined by their physical strength nor their resilience.

We all dream of telling off our cartoonish superiors in real life, but Amy (who's never been the one to hold her tongue, no matter how far up the chain of command you are) actually does it. Now I anxiously await her next move. 

Season 4 of VEEP is now available on Digital HD. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Let's All Hope the New Steve Jobs Movie Will Wipe Away the Memory of the Old One, Forever

Listen, I'd be the last one running to see yet another Steve Jobs after the horrific one I sat through back in 2013 (which still seems like just yesterday). But I recognize that a documentary, rather than a narrative feature, could be a better way to represent a personality that was apparently as complex as he was polarizing.

Directed by Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind 2007's Taxi to the Dark Side, the trailer STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE presents itself as the definitive story of the personal computer genius. Check out the synopsis:

In his signature black turtleneck and blue jeans, shrouded in shadows below a milky apple, Steve Jobs’ image was ubiquitous. But who was the man on the stage? What accounted for the grief of so many across the world when he died? From Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, 'Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine' is a critical examination of Jobs who was at once revered as an iconoclastic genius and a barbed-tongued tyrant. A candid look at Jobs' legacy featuring interviews with a handful of those close to him at different stages in his life, the film is evocative and nuanced in capturing the essence of the Apple legend and his values which shape the culture of Silicon Valley to this day.

Watch the trailer:

Thoughts? STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE is in theaters and on demand September 4.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Unpopular Opinion: The Trailer for FREEHELD Is A Little Underwhelming

Don't throw rocks at me; hear me out. I really had high hopes for this trailer for FREEHELD, which stars Julianne Moore and Ellen as real-life domestic partners Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree, respectively, embroiled in a groundbreaking case triggered by Hester's deathbed appeal for the extension of pension benefits to her domestic partner. I'm sure both actresses are impressive in the film, but the trailer just looks too... Lifetime-y to me, unmemorable and mawkish, especially for such an important story from which I was expecting a lot more. Hopefully the next clips released will present it better.

Check out the synopsis:

Based on the Oscar®-winning short documentary and adapted by the writer of Philadelphia, Freeheld is the true love story of Laurel Hester [Julianne Moore] and Stacie Andree [Ellen Page] and their fight for justice. A decorated New Jersey police detective, Laurel is diagnosed with cancer and wants to leave her hard earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie. However the county officials, Freeholders, conspire to prevent Laurel from doing this. Hard-nosed detective Dane Wells [Michael Shannon], and activist Steven Goldstein [Steve Carell], unite in Laurel and Stacie’s defense, rallying police officers and ordinary citizens to support their struggle for equality.

Has anyone here seen the short film?

Here's the trailer:

FREEHELD will be in select theaters on October 2 and wide October 16.

I AM CHRIS FARLEY Doesn't Give You a Better Sense of the Man Behind His Comedy

As I mentioned before, I wasn't a big fan of comedian Chris Farley though I appreciate that he has a huge following and was hoping to get a deeper understanding of his story and short-lived life in the new documentary, I AM CHRIS FARLEY. But instead, I ended up getting more of a fan made film that gushes over how beloved the comedian was among his Hollywood peers. Brent Hodge and Derik Murray's new film will likely captivate the comedian's legions of fans, though it may alienate the rest of us. And that's not the only problem with the film; it fails to humanize a man who, as many of us probably already know, was dealing with far more than whether or not he landed his comedic cues. 

In fact, it was what wasn't talked about that most struck me about the film--Farley's crippling insecurity and his drug and alcohol abuse (which ultimately led to his death at age 33). Sure, these things are acknowledged in the film, most notably from fellow comedian  Mike Myers, who couldn't help but recall a brief moment when he had to pull Farley aside and express his concern. But for a man who succumbed to these vices, was admitted to rehab 17 times, whose career was said to be fueled by his habits off-screen extremes, why avoid exploring these aspects of his humanity? Honestly, it's like the big pink elephant in the room. Though fellow superstars like Adam Sandler, Dan Akroyd, Molly Shannon, Tim Meadows and David Spade (many of whom got their start with Farley at Chicago's Second City and followed him to Saturday Night Live) color the film with anecdotes and stories about the Chris Farley they knew, the Chris Farley they admired and emulated, we don't get a well-rounded sense of what really plagued Farley. Disappointingly, the affirming sentiment of the film's title doesn't actually answer the question of who Chris Farley was. Was he a successful comedian? Yes. Was he a good friend, boyfriend, brother and son? All signs point to yes in the film. But who was Farley beyond his celebrity?

I AM CHRIS FARLEY doesn't do much to answer this lingering question, instead focusing on what made him so beloved in the comedy world. While it didn't have to be a downer or dwell on his inner demons, the decision to not capture this part of his humanity seems misguided, particularly for his fans. It just doesn't seem like a whole picture.

I AM CHRIS FARLEY opens in theaters on July 31st and comes to VOD August 11th.

Rating: C- (** out of *****)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Don Cheadle's Miles Davis Film is About to Get a Major Red Carpet Debut

Just when I was starting to lose hope on Don Cheadle's Miles Davis film (in case you didn't know, Cheadle first successfully crowdfunded this film last summer, then we never really heard a word about it after that), it gets revived in a major way. I mean, it doesn't get much better than a red carpet premiere at the New York Film Festival. MILES AHEAD, directed co-produced, co-written by and starring Cheadle, has been selected to close out the event and I couldn't be more thrilled with the news.

Since he started tweeting about it a few years ago, Cheadle has been passionate about the project, keeping his followers abreast of its progress and enticing us with small but appetizing tidbits from its production. I have to admit, I was shocked at how much difficulty he was having getting it made since it seemed like the perfect project for him, and he's always been a great, reliable actor.

But anyway, enough about that because now it's happening and everything is AWESOME. I cannot wait to see it. In a press release issued on Wednesday, New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones confirmed the praise that I expect to hear from more throughout the festival: “I admire Don’s film because of all the intelligent decisions he’s made about how to deal with Miles, but I was moved—deeply moved—by Miles Ahead for other reasons. Don knows, as an actor, a writer, a director, and a lover of Miles’ music, that intelligent decisions and well-planned strategies only get you so far, that finally it’s your own commitment and attention to every moment and every detail that brings a movie to life. ‘There is no longer much else but ourselves, in the place given us,’ wrote the poet Robert Creeley. ‘To make that present, and actual … is not an embarrassment, but love.’ That’s the core of art. Miles Davis knew it, and Don Cheadle knows it.”


And if you needed more convincing: Emayatzy Corinealdi (who you may remember from Middle of Nowhere) also stars as Davis's great love Frances Taylor while Ewan McGregor plays Dave Brill, the “reporter” who cons his way into Miles’ apartment.

The 53rd New York Film Festival kicks off September 25 and will run through October 11.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I'm going to post my full review of this Stanley Nelson documentary next month (in time for its September 2nd release), but you should definitely take a look at the official trailer for THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION.

Nelson, a prolific documentarian lauded last month at AFI Docs' Guggenheim Symposium for his works examining the African-American experience, has approached another political subject that is equal parts controversial as it is fascinating: The Black Panthers Party. Read more in the synopsis:

The rise and fall of the Black Panther Party during the 1960s and beyond is a uniquely American story of a growing pride in black culture, and militant demands for justice and racial equality. The film’s cast of larger-than-life personalities includes: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver, and Fred Hampton. Director Stanley Nelson masterfully assembles rare archival footage that contextualizes the history of the Panthers – begun in response to racism and police brutality in Oakland, California. Surviving members of the organization are interviewed alongside retired police officers, FBI informants, journalists, and others – all of whom reflect back in detail on the events that defined the Panthers’ turbulent late ‘60s era.

THE BLACK PANTHERS does not hesitate to critique its subject, nor does it shy away from judging the corrupt activities of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI or the countless shoot-outs, raids and arrests that were the response of local police. It is a vibrant chronicle of a pivotal movement and a history that needs to be told to understand today’s still incendiary racial landscape.

Watch the trailer:

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Emmy Nominations and What We Mean When We Talk About Diversity

I hate to be a downer, but I know folks are psyched to see so much great black talent, like Taraji P. Henson, Reg E. Cathey and Anthony Anderson, recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in last week's Emmy Award nominations as we all should be, really. And I am too, I really am. I salute my fellow bloggers for praising the Academy for acknowledging diversity, but is this really diversity? I mean, there are almost strictly black or white talent being honored on this list. Where are the awesome Latino actors like Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin (who delivers a great performance on a decent show) or Asian American and Indian American onscreen talent like the hilarious Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat and the amazing Nimrat Kaur from Homeland? American Crime's Richard Cabral is pretty much representing the entire Latino quota. Go ahead and look for yourself...I'll wait.

Granted, we have Michael Goi, who's nominated in the outstanding cinematography category for his direction of an American Horror Story: Freak Show episode and Luyen Vu, whose editing of an American Crime episode earned him a nomination. But, just as the Oscars marginalize genre films by confining them in the technical categories, the Television Academy does the same with talent of color. Is that the diversity we're talking about, the kind of diversity that isn't intersectional? The kind that excludes certain ethnic groups? Not only is that problematic, but it shows how far we haven't actually come in taking strides toward acceptance in entertainment and beyond. This is unacceptable, and that needs to be acknowledged.

And how is it that Niecy Nash is the only woman of color nominated for acting in a comedy series? HOW? The academy seems to have remembered Anthony Anderson from Black-ish, but somehow forgot about, like, the entire rest of the cast of that show (because, seriously, they're all great). Not even Tracee Ellis Ross, who's been killing the game for years on TV? *insert a million side eyes here*

Also, and I'm sure awards geeks will be quick to remind me that the Wachowskis' Sense8 series didn't make the awards deadline, but I just hope that folks don't forget how great transgender actress Jamie Clayton was throughout the season. While the show was...a bit all over the place, her performance really stuck with me.

Listen, I'm not trying to preach hyper political correctness here, but if we're going to talk about diversity, then we need to really talk about diversity as an inclusion discussion. Why hasn't this already been happening?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

It Looks Like Leonardo DiCaprio is in Real Trouble in the Teaser Trailer for THE REVENANT

You just really never know what you're going to get from director Alejandro González Iñárritu, which is a blessing and a curse to me because I always like to think of filmmakers as artists who are scratching away at a single theme that is nagging them somehow. For instance, Christopher Nolan and Richard Linklater often play with time and longing. But I just haven't figured out Iñárritu yet, but I suppose I can say that he is fascinated by the human spirit.

Which brings me to THE REVENANT, whose teaser trailer recently landed. It's a pretty lengthy clip, coming in at just over two minutes, but it just shows enough to build an intensity for the film. This time Leonardo DiCaprio is Iñárritu's muse, grappling with the will to survive in this epic drama. More in the synopsis below:

Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. THE REVENANT is directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker, Academy Award® winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel).

Have any of you read Michael Punke's novel upon which this film is based? Check out the trailer:

THE REVENANT comes to theaters limited release December 25 and wide in January 2016!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I'll Pretty Much Watch Anything With Jake Gyllenhaal At This Point

Case and point: the description of Jake Gyllenhaal's new film, DEMOLITION. It's not that it sounds bad; it's just that it doesn't sound great. But I know by now, after watching Nightcrawler, Enemy and Prisoners, that Gyllenhaal just makes every film so much better. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and say he Gyllenhaals it. Is that a verb yet? It should be.

Anyway, DEMOLITION is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who did the fantastic Dallas Buyers Club and the underwhelming Wild. Here's more about it:

Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. Despite pressure from his father in law Phil (Chris Cooper) to pull it together, Davis continues to unravel. What starts as a complaint letter to a vending machine company turns into a series of letters revealing startling personal admissions. Davis’ letters catch the attention of customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts) and, amidst emotional and financial burdens of her own, the two form an unlikely connection. With the help of Karen and her son Chris (Judah Lewis), Davis starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.
DEMOLITION opens in select theater on April 8th, 2016.

Hollywood Is Still Trying to Pitch Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Is anyone still impressed by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in a movie together? Actually, I think the better questions is: Was anyone ever impressed by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper sharing screen time? You'd think as many times they've been paired up in a movie that Hollywood received an anonymous tip that audiences just love these two together, always. Wrong. Get an imagination, Hollywood.

Of course I'm talking about the new trailer for JOY, which stars both Lawrence and Cooper (as well as Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, and Isabella Rossellini) and is directed by none other than David O. Russell (American Hustle, The Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter). Lawrence looks like she's once again playing a character who is likely older than her, and not very convincingly. More on the film below:

JOY is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces. Like David O. Russell’s previous films, Joy defies genre to tell a story of family, loyalty, and love.

Already I am concerned about the "emotional" and "human comedy" part, simply because the awkwardness of American Hustle is still fresh in my mind. At any rate, check out the trailer:

JOY is in theaters December 25. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Watch Lebron James Flex His Comedic Skills in a New TRAINWRECK Featurette

Just yesterday one of my Twitter besties said that literally anyone could be an actor these days. It doesn't matter how many drama and theater degrees you have, how many underrated independent films you've shined in; all that really matters these days is how popular you are--in any industry.

Which brings me to Lebron James, known to most of us as a mere basketball legend, who is now exchanging jokes onscreen with comedienne Amy Schumer in her new film, TRAINWRECK. I don't know how funny he is, but audiences will find out on Friday when it comes to theaters.

James talks about getting into the role in a new featurette from the comedy:

What Happened With Sembene and Angelique On Penny Dreadful?

I am so glad I'm not the only person who thought Angelique's (Jonny Beauchamp) conclusion on this season of Penny Dreadful was, um, abrupt. As it turns out, my fellow Cinema in Noir co-host, Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, and author Daniel José Older also thought it came out of nowhere and that she deserved much, much better. In fact, both Angelique, a fascinating transgender character on the show, and Semebene (Danny Sapani), the lone black character on the show, got a raw deal this season. Both characters' storylines, as skimpy as they were (especially Sembene), spiraled downward quickly and unexpectedly, leaving many other viewers scratching their heads to say the least.

Especially given that the otherwise engrossing drama had constructed so many complex and surprisingly progressive storylines and characters (particularly this season), you'd never think that the writers would have dismissed these pivotal characters, the only LGBT and POC characters on the show, so halfheartedly. Clearly, I am avoiding spoiling this season finale for those of you who haven't seen it yet, but for those of you who have I invite you to listen to Sunday's Cinema in Noir podcast to see what we had to say about this (starts at the 45-minute mark).

Catch a recap of the entire episode here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Behind the Scenes of SOUTHPAW: Jake Gyllenhaal On How He Got Into the Mindset of a Boxer

Mark my words: Jake Gyllenhaal will get his second Oscar nomination for SOUTHPAW. I hate myself for even saying this because I hate predicting awards, but this particular project looks like it has everything the Academy adores: an actor transformation, underdog tale and drama. The only thing that may prevent the nomination is amnesia; you know how the Oscars love to forget any film that released in theaters prior to November. And SOUTHPAW hits theaters July 24. Oops...

Speaking of transformations, check out this new behind-the-scenes featurette detailing Gyllenhaal's intense workout regime to immerse himself in the role of a middleweight boxing champion, with director Antoine Fuqua getting in the zone right next to him in the ring:

David Oyelowo and Kate Mara Discuss the "Coming to Jesus" Moment in Their New Film, CAPTIVE

Yeah..I'm still having trouble with this one. Apparently an accused murderer (David Oyelowo) takes a young meth-addicted mother (Kate Mara) hostage in her own home, but they both end up okay because they found God in the process. I just...really?

But there is something intriguing about its commentary in the new featurette (below), which includes the real-life mother, Ashley Smith, and the actors who bring to life her story in CAPTIVE. Check it out:

CAPTIVE is in theaters September 18.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pioneering Black Cinema from the 1980s: HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE and SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT

So you know how I'm always saying that older films that featured actors of color explored perspectives we just don't enough of today? Hollywood Shuffle (1987) and She's Gotta Have It (1986) are two great examples that prove that theory. While neither is without its flaws, they both challenge the trope of studio films featuring minorities today that too often stifle their voices.

Prompted by the fact that they are featured in New York City's BAMcinématek's Indie 80s, a new film series that runs from July 17-August 27 and highlights more than 60 films by indie pioneers, I finally sat down to watch these two films and was affirmed by their commentary and approach to socio-political issues. It's funny how something that should be expected of all films is now something that I feel the need to acknowledge because it's a dying breed. Robert Townsend, who helmed Shuffle, had never before directed a film yet had had enough of his own experiences in Hollywood to present a story that pointed out many black stereotypes that still persist today. Whether it's "how to act black" for white Hollywood (strutting, saying "jive turkey" every two minutes, etc), there was and still is a notion that black outside the confines of a trope is inaccessible. Albeit a satire, Shuffle, like its modern descendant Dear White People, doesn't refrain from explicating some of the issues we have unwillingly learned to accept as the norm.

The same can be said for She's Gotta Have It, Spike Lee's drama that examines gender roles in a relationship--a woman's right to sleep with whomever she wants, whenever she wants; her right to have a point of view in a relationship, and even her right to not always have all the answers. It's that authoritative voice that is too often missing particularly in modern romcoms in which the woman is trapped in a fairy tale of her own making, looking for a prince. (It is worth noting that the small screen has given birth to such defiant gems as Jane the Virgin and Being Mary Jane, but the big screen still struggles to catch up). In She's Gotta Have It, the woman is simply a young metropolitan single looking for Mr. Right Now...on the way to maybe, possibly, coming across Mr. Soul Mate. This radical approach to romance is met with disdain from her male counterparts who accuse of being a "freak," someone  who has "daddy issues." In other words, her sexuality has to be studied, diagnosed, and ultimately cured.

There is something refreshing about two "dated" films with which modern, more politically conscious audiences can in some cases connect on a higher level than many films today. It's that's personal connection that differentiates a good film from a great film, one about humanity versus one that is simply a product. Obviously there are some great modern big screen films that defy this sentiment, but they are more the exception and not the rule. That's a problem.

Hollywood Shuffle opens BAMcinématek's Indie 80s on July 17, and She's Gotta Have It will be shown on August 23.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

COMIC-CON NEWS: Quentin Tarantino Unveils the Teaser Poster for THE HATEFUL 8

Count this as reason #1,000,000 why I wish I was at Comic Con in San Diego right now. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino waited until he was at one of the most notable festivals in the world to debut the teaser poster for his eagerly anticipated new film, THE HATEFUL 8. Probably so the entire audience can geek out appropriately. Well, allow me to geek out right now too, because I am uber psyched to see this film, and catch at least a slither of a trailer, stat. 

True to form, Tarantino's latest boasts badass characters played by some repeat Tarantino favorites, including Walton Goggins and Samuel L. Jackson, along with Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Demian Bechir. Learn more about it in the synopsis:

In THE HATEFUL EIGHT, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie's Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…

My body is ready...

THE HATEFUL 8 opens in limited release on December 25th, and nationwide on January 8th. I'll keeo you updated as I learn more.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Despite Its Flaws, LILA & EVE is a Refreshingly Feminist Take On an Old Trope

In case you didn't already know, Viola Davis is kinda amazing. While many love her in her more high-profile roles in movies like The Help and How to Get Away with Murder, I have always preferred her work in the more seldom talked about movies like Doubt and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, which give her a chance to play flawed, complex characters that are not always likable. And that's just what I liked about her new film, LILA & EVE.

While it could have easily been a pretty great Lifetime movie of the week, what LILA & EVE has going for it is that it's not what you expect. It has a clever twist and offers subtle commentary that allows it to be more than just a maternal revenge flick. Davis plays Lila, a  mother mourning the loss of her murdered son, while Jennifer Lopez is Eve, a woman dealing with the loss of her young daughter. The two meet at a grief support group and Lila instantly bonds with the somewhat rebellious Eve, who refuses to play victim and shed a single tear. Instead, she dons a tough demeanor and fierce attitude, becoming her own hero in the process. In other words, she's everything Lila isn't.

Their vulnerable emotions get the best of them one night when they encounter one of the perpetrators behind Lila's son's murder and impulsively kill him. Thus sets off the plot that only spirals for the two main characters from there. What's most interesting about it, as I alluded to above, is that it goes beyond the trope to yield a story that is surprisingly feminist. The fact that these two women take justice into their own hands shows a female agency (particularly one featuring two women of color) too rarely seen in studio films these days (ironically, this was more often seen in films from past decades). Usually it's the male character (like Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence, for instance) who exhibits this kind of malignant authority. And LILA & EVE is very aware of that. In fact, there's a scene that hints at the fact that women killers are seen as less plausible than their counterparts.

But despite its aforementioned commentary and Davis's rich lead performance that aggravates the three stages of grief theory (actually even Lopez holds her own here, and I usually never understand her appeal), the film falters a bit towards the end. The extraordinary circumstances further spiral beyond belief, resulting in a conclusion that leaves much to be desired. Which is a shame because the twist pulls you in, but director Charles Stone III (and screenwriter Pat Gilfillan) aren't able to sustain it by the final scene.

LILA & EVE is available on VOD and opens in theaters in New York City, Los Angeles and other top markets on July 17.

Rating: B- (*** out of *****)

Watch the trailer:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: STRANGERLAND Has Not Restored My Faith in Nicole Kidman Movies

Serious question: Is Nicole Kidman the most wildly inconsistent actresses of this generation? If not in at the top, she certainly has to be in the top five actresses that fall into that category. I can ask this because there are movies she's been in that have been genuinely impressive (The Hours, The Others), but then there are a slew of preposterous films like The Paperboy, Stoker and Trespass. And hell, let's also add Rabbit Hole and Nine on that list because they never get the "awful film" stamp they deserve. Now we can throw in STRANGERLAND with that bunch. Because, my, it was a headscratcher in the worst way possible.

STRANGERLAND is one of the worst kind of bad films, in that it presents itself to be such a great film--takes itself way too seriously--all the while being an incomprehensible mess. Let me set this up for you: Kidman plays Catherine, a distressed mother (in the beginning we don't really know why she's appears so frazzled all the time, but an incident actually happens later that validates her perpetual state). All of a sudden her son and daughter vanish, leaving she and her husband Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) distraught, searching high and low on their desert terrain. Meanwhile, Catherine is in such agony that she...throws herself at every man who crosses her path. And Matthew takes out his anger on nearly the entire town, beating up one man in the process.

That's pretty much the gist of the film, which meanders for nearly two hours without getting to an actual point. I guess you would call this a "meditation on grief," here meaning a really boring film that's muddled by its own pretentiousness and lame attempt to become a smart mystery with its eerie score and strange editing. When Catherine attempts to seduce these men, it's seen as an act of desperation. But what makes it more perplexing is that it's never explained. These scenes happen, then the film just shifts back to the central plot of the missing children. Both main characters are woefully underdeveloped, an issue that is further complicated by the dangling subplots featuring other characters whose stories as weak.

So why is it called STRANGERLAND? We never really find out, especially since everyone seem to know each other in the small town. Or maybe they tell us at a point after which I had already given up on the film (I'd say about half way through it). Who knows. While I always commend a woman director (in this case Kim Farrant) for stepping outside the confines of a "chick flick," I just can't with this film.

STRANGERLAND opens in theaters and on demand on Friday, July 10.

Rating: F (no stars)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Trailer Watch: NO ESCAPE Starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan

You know, after Midnight in Paris I developed a newfound respect for Owen Wilson as an actor and have been anticipating how the role would redirect his career. Long story short: it doesn't appear to have had any effect at all (see the horrid triple header: The Internship, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Inherent Vice). But his new film, an actioner co-starring Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan, might get me to pay attention to him again as he returns to another more mature role.

NO ESCAPE, directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, As Above, So Below), is set in Asia and follows an unsuspecting family of four as scramble for safety after they find themselves smack dab in the center of a violent political uprising.

The poster is horrendous, but the trailer looks pretty decent, if still very derivative (how many times have we seen this premise?). Check it out:

NO ESCAPE hits theaters August 26. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

If You're a Fan of the 70s Horror Film, THE WICKER MAN, You'll Want to Check This Out

Remember The 1973 horror film, The Wicker Man? I've seen this pop up on many lists of the top ten horror films ever, and I am somewhat ashamed to say I have yet to get around to watching it (but don't worry, it's in my Netflix queue--along with, oh, 200 other films). But now director Robin Hardy has given me more incentive to watch it as he has just announced a new crow-funding campaign for a third film in the series, titled THE WRATH OF THE GODS.

If you're like me, you're probably wondering why this guy needs help getting a film made. Well, I still don't know the answer to that question (and whether or not it's considered bad form to even ask that anymore these days in which high-profile filmmakers--from Spike Lee to Zach Braff--can feel comfortable encouraging us to submit spare change in order to get their movies made). Hardy did take the time to write a charming message to fans and other interested parties. Check it out:

To those who enjoyed the original, The Wicker Man film (made in 1973) I hope that the news of a third film in the same genre will be very welcome. Over the years I have attended many hundreds of screenings of the film where the audience and I have tried to dissect why we think the mixture of ironic humour, gentle sex, mystery and plot driving songs, leading to a tumult of horror - works.

In The Wrath of the Gods all these elements are present but there will be two additional features: Firstly, the locations we have chosen will help us show off the awesome power of the Gods to express anger through great thunder and lightning storms, vast tree-cracking winds, volcanoes and tsunamis of steaming waves. Then there will be an abundance of Steam Punk, the shared hobby of our two stars, everything from Steam Punk motorbikes and organs to a steam-powered helicopter.

Apart from the two Star roles, the film is already substantially cast, its locations in such far flung places as Burbank, California, Shetland, Scotland and the highlands of Iceland. It awaits only the amazing objects and artifacts that your contributions will help us create this summer. By the end of the summer we plan to start pre-production on what will be a Winter Film.

We hope that the wide variety of gifts we have planned for our supporters will make following our team an exciting exercise. The weekly reports we will send to our contributors on every aspect of the production will be just part of what is on offer: Books, T - Shirts, Posters you would expect and the DVDs and Blu-Rays of the first two films in the trilogy are part of the total, The Wicker Man World we invite you to enter with us as we make The Wrath of the Gods - and on that journey there are many more interesting items on offer.

I'll admit, this is a pretty enticing invite (especially with the free swag), and I haven't even seen the original film yet. Interested in donating? Click here

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Add This to Your 2015 Documentary Watch List: I AM CHRIS FARLEY

Has someone already called 2015 the year of the documentary yet? If not, I'm just going to go ahead and claim it. With Amy, What Happened With Miss Simone?, and He Named Me Malala alone this year, documentaries may finally be going mainstream. Next up? I AM CHRIS FARLEY, a documentary on--you guessed it--the late comedian Chris Farley. While I can't say I was the biggest Farley fanatic, mainly because I just didn't enjoy his brand of humor, I know a lot of revered comedians today still look up to him and reference him in interviews. In fact, a few of them are featured in this documentary, such as Adam Sandler, Christina Applegate, and Dan Akroyd.

The documentary is described as the "definitive biographical film" about the star, and also includes interviews with Mike Myers, Molly Shannon, David Spade, and many others.

Watch the trailer:

I AM CHRIS FARLEY will open theatrically New York and Los Angeles on July 31st, 2015. The film will be available nationwide on VOD and across all digital platforms on August 11th.

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