Monday, February 25, 2013
"Argo" took home Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. "Life of Pi" was on top with 4 Oscars in the categories: Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects. "Lincoln" took home 3 little gold bald guys in the categories: Best Actor and Best Production Design. And finally, "Django Unchained" brought home Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Best Actress went to Jennifer Lawrence, Best Foreign Film to "Amour" and Best Documentary to "Searching For Sugar Man."
While I love movies and the Academy Awards, the drawn out production lends me to look at other aspects of stars that, to be honest (this is Reel HONEST Reviews), I'm not proud of. For example, I was critiquing the men with their really long, stringy, old-thyme rock band hair styles. Then there's Quentin Taratino that couldn't be bothered to tie his tie properly? Really? Maybe Sally Field should have helped him out as she did with the ever-young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And I am always so captivated by the uber-botox of the stars. Nicole Kidman is gorgeous, but there is something creepy about her face not really moving. I like my smile lines and my ability to raise my eye brows. I like the fact that my kids know how I am feeling based on my expressions. But again, I am doing what millions of others did last night...looking at the aspects that have nothing to do with the entertainment industry's shining night of awards. I'm not proud of it, but maybe shorten it a bit and people wouldn't be looking at that.
I'm glad it's over. Maybe some decent movies can be released on the upcoming Fridays to entertain us all. Life can get back to normal which brings a big smile to my face (and you can see the crow's feet around my eyes when I do it)!
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Reviewing a TV show isn't usually my thing. I review movies. I really don't have time to watch TV and what is available is just really such a waste of time. HOWEVER, while running on the treadmill, not finding a movie I hadn't seen, I came across 'Enlightened,' a new (to me) HBO Series. Laura Dern's face caught my eye. I loved her in so many movies like "Wild At Heart" and "Novocaine" to name a couple of films. Laura Dern and Mike White, among many other talented writers and producers, have joined forces to come up with a unique and creative show full of awkward adventures, relationship issues, and life questions. While on this entertaining journey of Amy's life, the story is sprinkled with humor and laughter which hooked me from the first episode. It continued to get better and better as I got to know each of the characters. My cardio also improved as I ended up running for an hour instead of 30 minutes just to catch the next installment! Had I have known the show could be cancelled, I would have savored each 30 minute episode and not blown them all in a couple week's worth of runs!
The cast of 'Enlightened' is remarkable! Dern is a 40-something recently divorced woman, who lost her position in her company, and now lives at home with her mother, Helen, played by Diane Ladd. Their relationship issues are so typical of the generations they are depicting that any daughter could relate to them. Amy's ex-husband is Levi played by Luke Wilson. Amy needs to be needed (Don't we all?) and wants to "save" Levi from himself. Work, friend, and love relationships are still things Amy is working out. Although Amy is our main character, the style of the show allows for each character to be the focal point. This enables the viewer to really get to know the character. Mike White plays Amy's co-worker in IT, Tyler. What a talented actor. You truly feel absolutely everything he is feeling. Your heart breaks when you hear him describe his insignificance in this world. That's what sets this TV series apart from anything else I have ever seen...you feel what each character is feeling. You can relate to each character whether they are male or female or young or old; there is a part of each of us in each of those characters. With the great writing that takes on a multitude of perspectives with believable characters and acting, you can't ask for more than this in any show.
Take the time to see this show which is still available on demand on HBO. You can also access it on your computer through their website, hbo.com/enlightened. If you enjoy it and want to see more (and you will!), LET HBO KNOW! Twitter @HBO or @EnlightenedUp or hbo.com or find HBO or Enlightened on Facebook. For direct links, you can find them on my facebook page as well...www.facebook.com/reelhonestreviews.
Friday, February 15, 2013
I want to apologize to all males out there. You must really hate Nicholas Sparks. As we "girls"have read his books and watched his movies, we long for that perfect guy. You know the one. The one that you can never be, but we want you to be that one so badly. The one that is handsome and rugged, yet still so in touch with his feelings. The one that can talk, make eye-contact, predict our moods and our needs. That spontaneous one that can sweep us off our feet and kiss us passionately, losing ourselves in your touch, and dancing in the rain. (And in the rain, we still have good hair and our make up is perfectly intact.) The one that fills our every need even when we don't even know what our needs are. That one. We know you don't exist, but for some reason we compare each and every male to That One. The Nicholas Sparks male. So again, I apologize to all males. We know you can't be That One, but we repeatedly go to these movies or read these books and create this ideal male...That One. You'll know when we have finished one of his movies or books without even asking because you will see these typical behaviors from us: You ask us how our day was when you have been home all day and there are dirty dishes in the sink to welcome us home. We generally respond with something like, "What do you care?" or "Looks like I have to do EVERYTHING!" or "You just don't get it." Maybe you asked us how the movie was (not knowing the title before-hand because you didn't really care...you were thrilled to stay home and watch the game, all comfy in your Lazy Boy recliner) and we just respond by looking pathetically at you, sighing, and going straight to bed...alone. Again, I am sorry.
That being said, the movie was a typical Nicholas Sparks book turned into a movie. That One was played by the gorgeous brunette, Josh Duhamel. He nailed the part perfectly. He was sensitive, resilient, a caring father, strong, but needy. Oh, the couple of love scenes blew my socks off sitting in the theater and this was a pretty PG movie! Duhamel played Alex, recently widowed with 2 young children living in a small seaside town in the South. Julianne Hough ("Rock of Ages," "Burlesque") played Katie who was on the run from the law for unknown reasons, settled down in this sleepy little town, and resisted getting to know anyone. Love, however, cannot be controlled and we saw the two main characters become involved. The brutality of the situation that Katie left behind was slowly revealed and may eventually catch up with her. The rest of the story, albeit predictable, left me looking like a love-struck sap with a few tears welling up. Damn! I hate it when I get sucked into the concept of That One! Although most of the film was predictable, it did have a surprise which I thoroughly enjoyed and didn't see coming.
As with The Notebook, I think I would have enjoyed reading Safe Haven more than the movie, but hey, Josh Duhamel is pleasant to look at and reading the book would take a couple of days. That's a couple of days that my husband would have to listen to strange and slightly bitchy responses to benign questions as opposed to a quick movie and only one or two strange (and slightly bitchy) responses. The movie is not a must-see, but if you like sappy love stories about That One, go see it or save a few bucks and wait for the DVD.
6 REELS (because I'm a romantic at heart!)
If you're looking for the next "Harry Potter" series of movies in "Beautiful Creatures," keep looking. I gave this one a shot because of Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, and Jeremy Irons. Shame on all three of you for duping me into thinking this movie had potential. You are all officially off my Christmas Wine Giving List!
"Beautiful Creatures" takes place in a small, backward South Carolina town. Young Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) wants nothing more than to escape, go off to college, and stay as far away from Gatlin as he can. That is until he is bewitched by a newcomer to his high school, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Lena has some family secrets that could have quite a high price to pay when she turns 16 in just a few months. Lena and Ethan learn secrets and solve puzzles together as their love grows. However, true love can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse in "Beautiful Creatures." The story intertwines in predictable ways, spoon-feeding us each and every aspect of the film. Viola Davis plays the role of "fill-in" mom to Ethan as his mother was killed in a car accident. I loved Ms. Davis in "The Help" and "Doubt." What a sincere actress, but even she couldn't give this film the jolt of lightning that it needed to keep it alive. Emma Thompson had a double role; one of true good and one of true evil. While she probably had fun with this role (Who doesn't like playing out of character?), I couldn't help but feel slightly embarrassed for her. The same was true of Jeremy Irons who played the well-educated, elegantly attired uncle of Lena's. (He generally does look quite dapper!) Oh, and he was a Caster (aka Witch/Warlock). Dear, dear, dear. What have these actors done? While both Ehrenreich and Englert were fine in their roles, they truly made the geeky, awkward years of high school look even more ridiculous. I should know. I have a 17 year old daughter. My expertise is now authenticated.
The film continued on until I thought it must truly be close to dinner-time. (I saw the 10:30 am matinee.) The film needed to end. When I wish that everyone would just die or the Earth would just explode, I really can't recommend seeing the film. 124 minutes plus the requisite 15 minutes of previews was too much time to be spoon-fed. When I'm in the nursing home, then you can spoon feed me, but until then, please provide smarter movies! If you're 15-18 and female, you might like the love story aspect of it, but really, just go see "Warm Bodies" instead.
Monday, February 11, 2013
GAME OF CHANGE, the documentary addressing the championship game between Loyola and Mississippi State's 1963 teams, will screen at the Kankakee Public Library on Wednesday, February 13 at 6pm. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this controversial game. The film will also travel and screen in Chicago on Friday at Loyola.
Jerald Harkness created this film to tell the story of his father, Jerry Harkness who was the captain and All-American player of the Loyola basketball team. GAME OF CHANGE delves deeper into this history changing sporting event between Mississippi State and Chicago's Loyola teams in 1963. Not only was there racial tension, but the entire country was watching and judging what was happening. The fall-out could have been astronomical. Players, coaches, and schools took risks that changed college ball as well as our forward progression against discrimination.
Don't miss this opportunity to watch history, basketball, and character react together in this though-provoking and enlightening film.
Check out the trailer below
Saturday, February 9, 2013
"Side Effects" has been hyped for quite some time which, in some cases, can be a red flag. Luckily, this was not the case with this film. Touted as a Psychological Thriller, it delivered. As a very topical theme, "Side Effects" put several questions out there for the viewer. For example, "How powerful are pharmaceutical companies?" Or "When do the side effects of a medication negatively outweigh the benefits?" Or how about, "To what degree is a doctor responsible for their patient's reactions?" These, and many other questions are brought to mind while watching this well-written and deftly directed movie.
Law and Mara were wonderfully cast in their parts. Catherine Zeta-Jones' character appeared to be a role like she had never played before. I'll leave it at that. You'll have to see it to understand. Although I'm not a huge fan of Channing Tatum, he was fine in his role and really not on the screen too terribly much. The direction, writing, and timing of this film kept me guessing and glued to the screen. The end was unexpected and perfect. Frequently, the ending ruins the movie, but in "Side Effects" it was the perfectly planned powerful punch.
This is a movie that I would recommend paying your hard-earned money to see in the theatre. We don't often get a smart, creative, and topical film that can capture your undivided attention.
I didn't have my hopes up about "Identity Theft." I was afraid, as with so many similar comedies, that they gave all of the funny parts away in the trailers. While that wouldn't be completely fair to say, it comes close. Jason Bateman has been a favorite actor of mine for years. (I will also publicly admit that I had, ok have, a huge crush on him from the time he was in 80's tv shows to "Dodgeball," "Extract" and even "Horrible Bosses." Then we have our own Illinois actress Melissa McCarthy who made me laugh until I cried in "Bridesmaids." I knew it was asking too much to like this movie.
The concept of identity theft was a relevant one to our current times. The beginning of the movie hit home with how trusting we all are with people. That truly does make us targets in identity theft. And how simple it appears to be done as with the case of Jason Bateman's character Sandy Bigelow Patterson. Sweet, naive, trusting, follow-the-rules Patterson is easily duped by the conniving and deceitful Diana played by McCarthy. We watched uncomfortably as his world unraveled from the effects of Diana's thievery. Frustrated with the inability for law enforcement officials to put this matter to rest, Sandy took matters into his own hands. From this point, the movie lost me. It was one ridiculous event after another, introducing additional characters to fill in time and try to make some plot come together. Eventually, the humor was completely gone and the sappy plot line took over. As I rolled my eyes and finally watched them tie up all the loose ends, all I could think of is, "Sh**! I was just conned out of $5.50 and 112 minutes of my time that I'll never get back!"
"Identity Thief" had some humorous parts, but not enough to make it worth while seeing in the theater. If you must see it, I would wait for the DVD or for it to come out on Netflix.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
The documentary “My Name Is Faith” premiered at the 2013 Slamdance Film Festival. This film has already won the Audience Choice Award and I am sure it will continue to win many more awards. I had the honor and privilege to sit down with the filmmakers and Tiffany Sudela-Junker, the mother who initiated the making of this documentary, and discuss the entire process.
For those of you who are unfamiliar “My Name Is Faith,” it’s about a little girl. She’s not an ordinary little girl, though. She, along with many other children in our country and world, suffers from Attachment Disorder. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Great. Another label to put on kids with problems.” However, this disorder may actually help us understand some of the inexplicable violence in our world today. You see, children who have an attachment disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder are typically neglected, abused or orphaned, according to the Mayo Clinic Staff. This, in turn, may affect the ability to establish future bonds and relationships. “That break in the attachment affects their conscious development and they are different...They have to be parented differently or they are dangerous!” stated Nancy Thomas, Therapeutic Parenting Specialist. Still doesn’t sound like a big deal? Imagine your child attempting to kill a family member because he/she just doesn’t care and hasn’t had a connection or bond with anyone. Now it sounds like a big deal, doesn’t it? The film addresses many families with children who have been adopted and suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder. It doesn’t affect just the child: it affects the family and sometimes even the community in which that family lives.
(Movie Trailer: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9vnf55ai0of1wqg/42Hq9tvv_m
|Tiffany with Faith|
I met with Tiffany Sudela-Junker, Faith’s mom, the two filmmakers Jason Banker and Jorge Torres-Torres with Undercurrent Films, and another integral member of the team Shannon Fletcher, LPC. Shannon was a camp volunteer on the intervention team and is one of the few professionals that understands and appreciates the daily impact this disorder has on the family. It was apparent from the beginning that this team was more like a family. Although they hadn’t known each other long, they had experienced life changing events and grown together through Faith. After so many stressful experiences, they all knew this story needed to be told. Through trust in one another, it would be.
How does a mom get into being a filmmaker? Tiffany was introduced to Jason and Jorge through a mutual friend. It was evident from the moment I started talking with “the team” that Jorge and Jason poured their hearts and souls into this experiential documentary. Although there were important pieces of factual information, Jason and Jorge approached this documentary in a very different and creative way. They wanted their audience to completely understand what the parents in their film were experiencing. The only way to do that was to film it from the perspective of experience and from the point of view of Faith’s mother, Tiffany. The filmmakers took direction and perspective from Tiffany who had experienced all of this first-hand. This collaboration seldom, if ever, happens between filmmakers and one of the focal points of the film. Again, trust in each other and the need to tell the story from the right perspective lead this film forward. If you’re familiar with the film, you know that the filmmakers interviewed the children, parents, caregivers, and counselors. Each and every one of the people in this film had to trust these filmmakers and Tiffany to paint an accurate picture. With this trust, relationships developed which enabled the filmmakers to delve even deeper into this overwhelming and intimidating experience.
Camp Connect was the beginning of Faith’s healing process through intensive intervention. Initially, this film was to be about the camp and to let other families know that this type of intervention was available for severe forms of attachment disorders. With that in mind, the filmmakers went in, met the parents and children at the camp and earned their trust to make this film. It wasn’t until Jason and Faith had a chance to talk one-to-one that Jason, Jorge, and Tiffany realized the true story was about Faith and her journey. With hundreds of hours of filming, there needed to be hundreds of hours of editing. With a clear path ahead of them, they could tell a story, educate others, and still touch on many other aspects of life such as marriage and the stresses this places on a relationship.
What do Tiffany and the filmmakers hope to accomplish with the completion of this film? Interestingly, after the film was completed, Dr. Ken Huey of CALO* (Change Academy, Lake of the Ozarks) saw this film and helped ensure that it made its way along the film festival circuit. Distribution of this film will enable this story to be told and potentially help many children and families. Another goal of Tiffany’s is to educate parents of adopted children. She explained that had she have known what was to be expected, she and her husband J would have been better prepared. She felt like she had spent, and therefore lost, time reinventing the wheel. Any parent who adopts a child or takes a foster child in, runs the risk of having a child with an attachment disorder. However, she emphasized that just because a child is broken, does not mean that they cannot heal utilizing support systems and therapy. Tiffany hopes for many other goals to be accomplished with this film as well. Working with the school system and educating professionals about the possible difficulties encountered could perhaps prevent violent and irreparable incidents from occurring. Every child deserves a chance and every child deserves to be loved and to give love in return.
While filming this movie, Tiffany’s first hand experiences enabled Jorge and Jason to know when to continue with filming and when it was time to just put the camera down. That was a tough line to draw as Jorge relayed a story of having to put his camera literally on the ground and run to help a child. As Jorge, Jason and Shannon were all trained as volunteers prior to filming at Camp Connect, they had the knowledge base necessary to be a part of the solution. This was definitely an experiential documentary from their perspective as well.
Sometimes the lines of filmmaker and confidant are blurred as with the case of Jason. He and Faith seemed to bond together in a “spiritual way” which enabled Faith to share more with him than any other adult. With this open communication and trust, Faith’s healing process was boosted. Confronting Faith’s biological mother was yet another aspect of this healing process to be completed. With Tiffany’s encouragement and guidance, Faith approached Andrea, her biological mother. It was wonderful to have Jason behind the camera, to give Faith another feeling of safety in this rather intimidating situation. However, as a parent myself, I had to ask Tiffany how she felt the day that Faith went to confront Andrea. Tiffany’s words still choke me up. She was “excited for Faith to confront her (biological) mom, but afraid due to the emotion.” Tiffany has no anger toward Andrea. In fact, it is Tiffany’s hope that one day Andrea can be stable enough to have a healthy relationship not only with Faith but with Tiffany and her husband. As Tiffany reiterated, but you can definitely see in the film, Faith is an exceptionally bright child. This, given the right direction from her family, will only make things better for Faith. Parenting, as we discussed, is a difficult road for any family. When you throw any type of a disorder into the equation, it can be a disaster. Patience, love, understanding, and the ability to look outside yourself helps to avert disaster. Tiffany’s knowledge and love aided her to be the epitome of what a mother should or could be. While all of us at the table agreed whole heartedly, Tiffany was quick to say that she and her husband still “do make mistakes parenting.” Every child is different and every child needs a different style of parenting. No one is perfect and we all have good and bad days.
|Jorge, Tiffany, and Jason|
As we wrapped up the interview, the filmmakers had a question for me. The tables were turned. They asked me what topics they might have missed covering in this film. My answer? They didn’t miss a thing. Interviewing Jason, Jorge, Tiffany and Shannon was one of the most emotional interviews I have ever had. They all were completely open with me and wore their hearts on the sleeves. You could see how attached they were to each other as well as the families they filmed. They truly care about these children and families. They want to make a difference and through this creative experiential documentary they will. Through Faith, they will make a difference.
Faith wrote this letter so that you might better understand her and what she wants to accomplish with this film:
Letter from Faith Dear World,
This film may be a little bit daunting, I hope you receive it with the message that was intended. Kids and families like ours need help and need to not have to survive on their own. Every hurt kid needs a safety team, a friend, a family they know they can fall back on. Hurt kids are not going to be hurt kids forever, they will either be hurt kids that healed or hurt kids who hurt people. Kids who are hurt have to learn how to trust and how to be vulnerable, I'm still working on it and its hard but its achievable, if I can do it, you can too.
Faith Junker April 16, 2012In addition,
*CALO (Change Academy, Lake of the Ozarks): CALO is a residential treatment facility and school for teens struggling with Attachment and Trauma based challenges.
GE Focus Forward presented the ultimate challenge to filmmakers this past year: Create a 3-minute documentary about innovative people attempting to make this world a better place. The winner would receive $100,000 and a chance to showcase their film at the preeminent film festival, Sundance. With more than 600 films being submitted, the list was quickly shortened to the top 20 finalists. After viewing all the finalists myself, I knew “The Artificial Leaf” had a very good chance of winning.
|Jared P. Scott and Kelly Nyks|
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Jared P. Scott and Kelly Nyks, filmmakers of “The Artificial Leaf,” just a few hours before they would hear the announcement of the winners of this competition. Currently, the two young filmmakers are partners in PF PICTURES, “a boutique independent film studio.” This company “is committed to unique stories by idiosyncratic storytellers that inspire those who view them to think differently about the world we share.” Both filmmakers have written, directed and produced several feature documentaries as well as films including “Split: A Divided America,” and “Split: A Deeper Divide” which both focused on the United States’ political bifurcation. But their zeal didn’t stop with politics. It continued on to the environment. In fact, during our interview they frequently stated that the crisis we are in is not an environmental crisis, but more of a civilization crisis. Ecology, economics, and politics all overlap as everything is interconnected.
How did two young documentary filmmakers find a scientist to be the inspiration for their 3-minute documentary to better our world? While attending THE ARPA-e conference in Washington, DC, Scott learned about Dan Nocera, a researcher at Harvard who was working on a project called The Artificial Leaf. “Dan Nocera has a simple formula to save the planet: sun + water = energy for the world.” Taking the information learned from nature, Nocera “has developed an artificial leaf with a self-healing catalyst that can power the Earth inexpensively by using sunlight to split water and store energy in the rearranged bonds of hydrogen and oxygen.” That’s all Scott needed to hear as he immediately began working on PF Pictures’ next documentary, “The Artificial Leaf.”
Scott and Nyks spent many hours with Nocera, including time in his lab, to learn about his work and theories. The filmmaker’s job then became how to write a clear script and put it all into visual form while making it educational, relevant, accurate and entertaining...in only 3 minutes. This could be a daunting challenge, but the team executed this perfectly. Although they expressed that it was a bit difficult to continually edit the film, they were adept at cutting the extraneous information. Yet in the end, they left you wanting to gain more knowledge about this possible clean energy source. Spurring on more conversation about a problem was one of their goals: goal accomplished.
Scott and Nyks, although different with their individual passions, have a common thread that will continue to produce quality, informative and beautiful documentaries. They want their films to be a “catalyst for discussion.” “The Artificial Leaf” does just that. Their knowledge base of the environment, economics, and politics and how they all relate not just in the United States, but in the world was more than impressive. For me, itwas mind-boggling and a bit intimidating, yet exciting to hear all that could be a possibility for our future. As Nyks stated, human innovation seems to only happen when our “backs are up against the wall.” Their concern, as with many other environmentalists, is that our “business as usual is going to kill us.” Education and human innovation is the key to survival. Realizing what the true cost of our current system actually is, should be the catalyst for change. Other possibilities for energy are not only needed, but are crucial to our continued existence.
Our interview about “The Artificial Leaf” drifted into a conversation about numerous aspects of filmmaking and the world’s many interconnected pieces. Their excitement to communicate their knowledge and truly make this world a better place was infectious. As a person who is somewhat educated about the environment, I felt that I could do even more than I had been. As Nyks pointed out to me, we, as consumers, really can do so much more. How aware are we when we purchase products from various companies? It’s awareness that makes a difference in the decisions that we make. Politics are affected by the consumers who buy certain products. 70% of consumers can help make decisions on what big companies do. For example, if a company produces a “green” product, you can choose to buy that one. If more consumers are aware of what companies are doing, we can support those that have similar views. That, in turn, influences economics, politics, the environment, and quite possibly our future.
Time flew by too quickly as there was still so much more to discuss, but before we parted, I wished them luck, knowing they would be in the top portion of the winner’s circle. Not surprisingly, filmmakers Jared P. Scott and Kelly Nyks’ creative and cohesive communication about Dan Nocera’s innovative environmental technology earned them an impressive second place. Scott and Nyks shared their reactions to their win a couple days later. Scott stated, “Being in the company of some of the greatest documentary filmmakers out there - Alex Gibney, Morgan Sprulock, Albert Maysles, Lucy Walker, Ross Kauffman, Steve James- it was simply an honor to screen alongside their films in the Focus Forward series on world-changing innovation.” Nyks continued on by stating, “To see the film win, premiere at Sundance and continue on playing festivals worldwide is a tremendous privilege. It is our sincere hope that by having others see these films about world-changing innovations they might be inspired in turn so we might be able to work together to make a better place for us all.” To me, this is filmmaking at its best.
What’s next for “The Artificial Leaf?” Tribeca Film Festival, of course, among many others including the International Documentary Festival of Amersterdam (IDFA). More information about PF Pictures can be found at pfpictures.com. “The Artificial Leaf” along with other finalists and winners of the GE Focus Forward Filmmakers Competition can be found at focusforwardfilms.com
To see “The Artificial Leaf” directly, click on the link: