Thursday, January 31, 2013


Soldate Jeannette (Soldier Jane)

The first 3 minutes of Soldier Jane completely shocked me!  As an avid shopper who dreams of having her own personal shopper at a high end couture store with bare shelves and stark furnishings, I watched as Fanni bought beautiful crocodile heels and an expensive dress, exited the store then directly tossed them into a donation bin which elicited audible shrieks from me!  That was just one of the many seemingly inexplicable instances in which I questioned Fanni’s sanity.  Fanni, apparently from wealth, consciously decided to make decisions which pushed her further and further away from her accustomed lifestyle.  However, Fanni’s decisions didn’t just affect her.

This visual film with little dialogue captivated me.  Not just with the beauty of the countryside, but with the camera angles and long shots of the reactions of those affected by Fanni’s decisions.  This punctuated the loneliness and the peculiarity of each situation.  One might initially say that Fanni was eccentric, but as the story unfolded, it goes way beyond eccentricity.  Each and every person she met seemed to be floored or awed by her audacity, but it was in a non-threatening and confident way.  Fanni’s priorities in life were in such opposition to what I considered rational, that I couldn’t relate to her, but I did want to find out more about her.  We had glimpses into her daily life and just quick peeks into her past to help justify her behavior.  But again, it wasn’t enough to explain everything simply.  I really had no idea where the story could possibly be taking me and still, at the end of the film, I’m not sure how I got there.  There were many unanswered questions as the credits rolled, but I still left the film feeling satisfied.  

As this is a very visual and somewhat slow-moving film, it may not capture everyone’s attention.  However, if you can be patient, your resolve will pay off.  I wanted to learn more about Fanni and her future adventures.  As the insane asylum appeared to be averted, the authorities couldn’t be too far behind, could they?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


"Stand Up Guys" premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival this past October and starred Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin and is now to be released this Friday.  The movie was about Val, a mobster (Pacino), who kept quiet and took the fall for his "gang" in the shooting death of the Boss's only son.   Val was sent to prison for 28 years.  Now released, Val and his only friend and fellow-gangster, Doc meet up again.  But in the land of gangsters, having done time does not mean your debts are paid. Doc was instructed by The Boss to kill Val.  What a conundrum for Doc.

We've had a lot of movies recently about aging such as "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Trouble With the Curve," and "The Last Rites of Joe May," to name a few.  "Stand Up Guys" continued the aging theme.  Given the incredible reputation of the cast, I had high hopes.  Unfortunately, those hopes fell flat.  Christopher Walken played Doc in his usual Christopher Walken style.  Pacino's performance was stilted and flat which broke up any conversational pace in the movie.  It was as if I was watching an initial run-through of a play, script still in hand.  Luckily, Alan Arkin was also a part of this gangster group.  His comedic timing and acting brought relief to the movie.  Unfortunately, Arkin's screen time was very short.  There were some humorous scenes which focused on the various aspects of aging including the men's perception of that process and the finality of life.  There were also some violent scenes, a little sex, and a car chase, as you would expect, but nothing outrageous.  In addition, there were a couple of side stories which concentrated on the normalcy of any man's life; his children.  Yes, even gangsters can be dads and grandpas.  This predictable story followed a expected pathway with a nice ending.   No real surprises and nothing to keep you glued to the screen.

I would recommend this movie as a DVD to see with your aging father.  A pretty safe movie with only one scene of possible discomfort.


Monday, January 28, 2013


Jill Soloway, Writer and Director
Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn
AFTERNOON DELIGHT was another one of those "hot tickets" in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival.  A 9:45 pm show and my hopes were that it was going to be worth staying up late.  With all this buzz about it, it was a sure thing, right?  Well, a sure thing never is just that as I would soon find out.  "Afternoon Delight" had quite the cast and quite the promise.  It's premise was shaky, but still, when you're talking about relationships, the well of ideas is limitless.  The theme of the movie was this:  A sexually frustrated married couple with a kid decided to go to a strip club to spice up their relationship with another couple.  The husbands buy a lap dance for the wives (huh?) and the main character gets "attached" to that lap dancing stripper.  The wife then attempted to "save" the stripper by letting her move in and care for their child.  All sorts of strange situations then occur pushing this wife to her limits.  Like I said, a strange premise.  Maybe I'm just a little removed from what's cool and what's hip, but doing a couples date night at a strip club and having my husband pay for a woman to give me a lap dance, just never entered my mind.  (My birthday is coming up, so please, please know that if you were looking for ideas to buy me something, this would NOT be it!)
Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn

"Afternoon Delight" had quite the impressive cast with Juno Temple ("Killer Joe"), Josh Radnor ("Liberal Arts"), Jane Lynch ("Best In Show") and Kathryn Hahn, a fellow Northwestern grad.  Writer and Director, Jill Soloway has an impressive resume as well with having written for 'United States of Tara,' and 'Six Feet Under' and has produced many familiar hit shows.  Again, it seemed that all the ducks were in a row for a hit movie.  As we were introduced to Rachel (Hahn) and her husband Jeff (Radnor), we knew immediately that there were issues regarding their
intimacy; not just physically, but emotionally as well.  We got very small glimpses of Rachel's regrets of giving up a career to stay at home with her adorable little boy.  We also peeked into her life and saw that she struggled with the ability to keep up with the facade of moms that surround her at her son's school.   "Afternoon Delight" had potential, but the crass and rude humor that I would expect to occur in a teen flick just didn't cut it with this movie.  I really don't want to see people sitting on the toilet and peeing.  I also don't think making jokes about what you would have named your aborted baby is funny.  Assuming that absolutely everyone has had an abortion as if it is an everyday occurrence was offensive.  I also thought that the sexual portions of this movie were over the top and in your face.  If there was a lull in the action, then they threw in a sex scene and attempted to show as much as possible without getting an X rating.  It was tasteless.  Hahn's character could have been a wife and mother that so many could have related to, but we never really got a chance to get to know her.  Without any depth to her character we couldn't have empathy.  We never really got to know her husband and why he reacted the way that he did toward Rachel.  Again, no depth of character equals no emotion or caring.  You have to care about the characters and be invested in the film.  I wasn't.
Jane Lynch

Overall, I wish I hadn't been able to get this "hot ticket."  I am sure I would have filled my time with something much more meaningful like having dinner.  I had expected so much more given the cast.  I am unsure as to what drew them to these roles. "Afternoon Delight" was truly a disappointment.

Friday, January 25, 2013



I ventured out of my comfort zone and tried a couple of intriguing Slamdance films.  Slamdance is separate from Sundance, but takes place during the same time and in the same place.  This year, ViPAKA with Forest Whitaker, was on my list.  With the exception of his most recent "The Dark Truth," I usually love his films. Even when I don't, I still love his ability to act and take on believable characters.  

The writer and director of ViPAKA also wrote "Boxing Helena," a dark, psychological thriller that was quite gruesome.  ViPAKA turned out to have similar features.  Anthony Mackie played a therapist/life coach named Tommy, who had written a best-seller self-help book.  Angel (Whitaker) had repeatedly read Tommy's book until the pages were tattered and the margins were full of notes.  We saw this as Angel presented Tommy with the book to sign at an author's event.  Angel appeared desperate and asked Tommy to help him.  Help and motivations were not always as pure as initially indicated.

This was a film about an apparent psychological disorder, buried secrets, and family relationships.  Surprising events and unexpected twists and turns added to the psychological intrigue.  The gruesome and gory torture that occurred frequently throughout the movie was over the top.  The special effects were skillful as it was a bit too real for me.  Whitaker and Mackie were nothing less than expected; skilled and believable.

Sundance is a huge event and Slamdance is quite the opposite which made the Q&A with the writer and Forest Whitaker even more special and intimate.  The most precious moment was when Mr. Whitaker went up into the audience to scoop up the sweet little girl, Ariana Neal, that played his daughter in the movie.  Adorable and precocious were two words that accurately described her.  But even more precious was the look of pride on Mr. Whitaker's face as Ariana answered questions with her angelic voice.

ViPAKA isn't for everyone.  It's a gruesome psychological horror thriller. I loved the unpredictability of the script! 


Ben York Jones

Dustin O'Halloran
BREATHE IN took my breath away!  This film was an emotionally loaded, well-acted, deftly directly movie with a musical score that left me breathless!  I had the pleasure (and luck) to see this during its opening at the  Sundance Film Festival.  BREATHE IN starred Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis and  Kyle MacLachlan along with many other talented actors.  However, there was another standout that didn't appear directly on the screen.  This was Dustin O'Halloran, the extraordinary musical composer.  The film in and of itself was wonderful, but the music added another level of emotion that  truly did leave me breathless.  

Guy Pearce
Felicity Jones
BREATHE IN was about a foreign exchange student who spends a semester with a family in upstate NY (my home territory).  The apparently happy nuclear family of three, one being a daughter, Lauren, who is a senior in high school (another way I can relate), welcomed this newcomer into their family.  However,  Lauren (Davis) and her father, Keith (Pearce) have some reservations for their own reasons.  Sophie, the exchange student from England (Jones),  seemed unwittingly to create a wave of destruction with every step that she took.  In the short time she was there, Sophie managed to alienate Lauren and start an affair with Keith, the father.  We watched as emotions and lives changed.  
Drake Doremus

Again, this was a captivating and emotional film.  The writing was superb and the direction, cast, and skills of all those involved couldn't have been any better.  As all these aspects of the movie effortlessly combined, it enabled the viewer to have empathy for each of the characters. How often does this happen?  This is a must see movie when it is picked up and distributed.  


FINALLY!  A film that depicts Disney World the way that I see it!  "Escape from Tomorrow" was an eerie and disturbing film about a family's last day of vacation.  Unfortunately, the father (Jim, played by Roy Abramsohn) learned that he would not have a job to come home to after Disney.  He wanted nothing more than to make the last day at Disney the best day ever.  That wasn't going to be the case.

Writer and Director, Randy Moore
As Mom (Emily, played by Elena Schuber) and Dad took each child to their respective favorite rides, Dad seemed distracted.  You would think he would have been distracted by the fact that he no longer had a job, but he was actually distracted by two cute, young teenagers roaming the park.  As his curiosity with the teens peaked, he began to accidentally happen upon the same rides!  Parenting frustration along with marital frustration exemplified the typical, but not admitted to, experience at Disney.  As was stated in the movie, "You can't be happy all the time," definitely played out in "Escape from Tomorrow."  In fact, while in the park, we had glimpses of something evil lurking or having happened in the past.  These glimpses became more frequent, but still didn't give the viewer enough information to figure anything out.  
Roy Abramsohn

One of my favorite scenes in this film was how Dad toured Disney's Epcot.  He drank his way around the world!  CHEERS!  That's exactly how I dealt with it! This black and white film gave a creepy 1950's feel to it.  You knew at the beginning that this was going to be Disney Gone Bad.  Overall, I would categorize this film as a horror flick...A DISNEY HORROR FLICK!  How many Disney Horror Flicks are out there!  Here's the kicker.  Disney had no idea that this film was taking place on its grounds!  Oh, dear!  Oh, me oh my!  I bet there might be some frowns that can't be turned upside down on the grounds of Disney this week!

Elena Schuber
This was a film that kept me guessing.  The kids in the film were adorable, however I don't think they pulled off being bratty.  My guess is, that these kids are pretty sweet kids.  "Escape From Tomorrow"  was a unique film not only because of the black and white aspect, but because of the setting.  The story-line was at times a bit too quirky and far-fetched, but not enough to make me not want to see what happened at the end.   

Kudos to Randy Moore, Director Extraordinaire, for pulling of a feat only I could have dreamed of!  Or maybe I have!  Yes, I did go to Disney and it really was a nightmare!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Attachment Disorder.  I bet you've never heard of it.  Not many have, but for those who have children with Attachment Disorder, they realize what a devastating effect it can have not only on the immediate family but possibly dire consequences to those around them.  Typically, these children have been adopted into wonderfully loving homes as was the case with Faith. Sometimes, however, love just isn't enough.

Tiffany and Jay adopted Faith and her little brother, Jonah.  Both children had been neglected and living in a crystal methamphetamine lab.  The children were basically left to raise themselves.   Jay and Tiffany had no idea what lay ahead after adopting these children.  Every adoptive parent wants to save a child and give them everything.  But as the movie shows in a beautifully flowing narrative, that was not an easy task.   What happens when that child can't accept what the parent has and wants to give, but most definitely cannot give it back.  That's an attachment disorder.  Faith could be the poster child for Attachement Disorder.

The story centered on Faith who by appearances looked  like a typical elementary school kid.  But she wasn't.  Faith terrorized her parents with actions such as lightly dragging a knife along her mother's body while she slept.  Faith's outburst were extremely violent and aggressive toward others.  When asked about her feelings when she did violent things, her replies were void of feeling or any emotion at all.   Faith's answers  were  flat toned stating  "I want to scare her," and descriptions of killing animals were absolutely chilling.  Faith's story isn't unique.  The documentary punctuated the reality of Faith's story as well as interviews from other children and their parents.  

We watched as both Tiffany and Jay struggled on a daily basis with Faith's actions. Faith's parents were candid about their feeling of frustration and at times,  their hopelessness.  Faith was continually interviewed by way of a conversation throughout the film.  She communicated her thoughts and feelings in a much more mature way than you would expect a 7 or 8 year old to do.  She was obviously very bright, but being bright and void of feeling resulted in a very scary situation.  Regular therapy wasn't enough.  You could see and sense the fear in both parents' faces as they wanted nothing more than to give and receive love from this child.  They needed more help.

Help came in the form of a camp.  This was not a typical camp.  It was a week long, intensive therapy camp inclusive of the parents.  Faith and her family were not alone.  There were many other children who have been adopted or bounced from foster home to foster home that were experiencing the same disorder of attachment.  In fact, 10 million children are orphaned or abandoned.  These children, according to Nancy Thomas who ran the camp, were the children who had the potential to become a child who killed for fun.  Frequently, these children readily shared stories of doing just that with animals or wanting to do harm to others.  These kids were broken, but broken doesn't mean not repairable.  The camp, in just one week, began the healing process necessary to have a normal life for Faith and her parents.  Every parent and each child had a story to tell.  The parents' stories were heart breaking and the children's stories were disturbing.
MY NAME IS FAITH was an emotional roller coaster ride as we learned more heart-wrenching information about Faith and her background.  We also saw how not only Faith's parents struggled but also so many other children's parents.  The entire family is affected by Attachment Disorder.  We watched as the parents learned ways to help their children heal.  Broken does not mean the child cannot be repaired.

I don't want to give away the entire movie, but I want to you know that MY NAME IS FAITH is a story of hope.  Not just hope for one little girl, but for so many children who may not have been identified with this disorder.  The story was told in a way of not only educating its viewers, but enabling us to have sympathy and understanding of Faith and her parents.  Every child deserves to have a future.  Every child deserves to grow up feeling loved and needed.  Those with Attachment Disorder, unless helped, will never have that.  Those basic needs can possibly lead to detrimental consequences.  Hurting others and lashing out is one possible consequence.  This is not a unique issue.  This possibly affects hundreds of thousands of children across the nation.  MY NAME IS FAITH gives awareness and hope to families which in turn may make not just life for their immediate family better, but maybe safer for everyone.


One of my favorite categories of films is the "Shorts" category.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It's my attentional difficulties.  Anyway, it's amazing to me what can be conveyed in just 15 minutes.  Perhaps that's one of the MANY reasons I don't watch tv.  It just doesn't give me enough in the specified time period.  This was not the case with "Josephine and the Roach."  This 15 minute short was visually enticing and beautiful.  The story, which is extremely unique, captured my heart.

Josephine was a woman in a very stifling marriage living in an antiquated 1960's feeling grungy apartment in NYC.  For those of you who have lived in cities, you know that roaches are an eminent co-inhabitant.  In Josephine's apartment lived a very special roach.  A roach that loved music and could play the violin.  Josephine's only love and happiness came from playing the accordion.  It was through their love of music that enabled another type of love to blossom.  But how could a roach and a human possibly work?  The roach devised a plan.  
This brilliantly colorful and visually captivating film told a love story with not a word spoken.  I actually had to watch the film twice to make sure that that was accurate.  In my mind, I heard dialogue, but there was none.  The power of music paired with gorgeous cinematography that felt at times like a cartoon, empowered the viewer to not need words.  The only words that were spoken were from an old-time tv commercial.  This technique worked.  

My heart ached for Josephine's isolation and abuse from her lazy, beer-drinking slug of a husband.  The computer graphics of the roach made me root for the roach!  The music enveloped me to help me feel all the emotions that each of the characters felt.  How could I possibly be pulled in to a film about a roach and a lonely woman falling in love?  It was easy!


Robert Redford
Although the 2013 Sundance Film Festival still has 5 days to go, yesterday was my final day in Park City.  I've got about 13 movie reviews to write along with some pretty amazing interviews to share.  Until those are finished,  I thought I would give you my highlights of the festival so far.

Gael Garcia Bernal

NO starring Gael Garcia Bernal was a standout at this festival.  Replicating a documentary, this film told the story of the vote to oust Pinochet in 1980's Chile "election."  An ad executive risked life and family to help others feel comfortable to vote "no."

Ben Wheatley,
Director of "Sightseers"
SIGHTSEERS was a dark and twisted, unbelievably funny movie about a young couple who tour the English countryside to see the famed Ribblehead Viaduct and the Pencil Museum.  As things go awry, we see the couple show their true personalities...not always a good thing!  This rather shockingly gory film was punctuated with extreme humor!

Cast and director of "Escape From Tomorrow"
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW was my kind of Disney World...a horror flick!  Filmed in black and white, a family of 4 discover that Disney isn't all happiness and smiles!

JOSEPHINE AND THE COCKROACH was a short, beautiful and touching love story melding human characters with CGI perfectly.  This film, devoid of dialogue, spoke volumes with expressions and beautiful music.

Cast and musical composer from "Breathe In"
BREATHE IN took my breath away.  This deftly directed film with a clear and creative script resulted in a beautiful story.  The musical component took this wonderful movie to an even higher level.

Forest Whitaker
VIPAKA, a psychological thriller, could also be thrown into the horror flick genre.  Although a bit gruesome, Forest Whitaker was an absolute joy to watch in his perfectly portrayed performance of a man struggling with a psychological disorder.

"My Name is Faith"
MY NAME IS FAITH should be viewed by anyone in the school system and by anyone who has adopted or knows of a child adopted into a family.  Addressing Attachment Disorder utilizing the story of a struggling child named Faith and her loving parents gave a new perspective on the violence we have in society today.

Cast from "A Teacher"
A TEACHER's story line has been told before, but not in this way.  We watch through the eyes of a young English teacher, the psychological battle she fights.  Quite provocative in nature, naturally, but enlightening from this perspective.
Director Richard Linklater

BEFORE MIDNIGHT is the third in a trilogy of movies thus far.  After "Before Sunrise," and "Before Sunset" we meet up with Jesse and Celine who are now in their 40's having been together for many years.  This true-to-life conversational film was hysterical in parts and completely relatable in every aspect.

MUSCLE SHOALS promises to be a wonderful documentary about music legends such as Etta James,
Director Greg Camalier, Producer Stephen Badger
"Muscle Shoals"
Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and many, many more.  How did this white man, Rick Hall, who came from complete poverty start a recording studio in the midst of the peak of racial tension and produce such legends?

There are a few films I'd skip such as AFTERNOON DELIGHT, CRYSTAL FAIRY and IL FUTURO.  Although I enjoyed C.O.G., it felt more like a "made for tv movie" than one for the big screen.

Keep checking back for more updates!