Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Fresh from the Tribeca Film Festival comes "Fresh Meat."  In seeing films at any film festival, I try to hit one film from all the different categories.  This feature narrative was considered a crime, comedy, and horror flick.  Yes, that is quite accurate!  Although, I think I might reorganize the categories and name "horror" first as I have never  needed an air sickness bag in a movie until I saw "Fresh Meat!"

A group of misfit criminals botch a rescue attempt to free the fourth member of their gang from the police transport.  In trying to escape, the inept clan invaded the wrong house.  What they found inside made jail-time look like a cake walk.

 As the leader of "the gang" was being transported in a police truck with two other criminals, the other three less than capable gang members followed closely behind.  While stopping at a convenient store for snacks, the explosions and shoot-out began.  The disgustingly realistic special effects have been cued and continued from this point forward.  A successful rescue of their leader, Paulie Tan, had occurred, but the police were now hot on their trail.  An open garage door in a nice suburban development was just the opportunity they were in need of.  Parking the car, shutting the door, and taking all members of the house hostage was now on their plan of escape.  What wasn't on their plan was how to deal with the type of people they were holding hostage.

The family appeared to be a typical middle-class family comprised of a mom, dad, and two teenage children.  Hemi, the father, was always in the shadow of his wife; a successful cooking show maven.  The daughter was home on break from boarding school, struggling with her sexual identity and the son outwardly appeared to be a normal boy.  As the gang of misfits attempted to overwhelm this seemingly normal family, what they got in return was much more overwhelming!  You see, this family had adopted a cannibalistic lifestyle.

"Fresh Meat" capitalized on all aspects of this genre of film:  sex, humor, and disgustingly well-done special effects.  The entire movie was truly over-the-top, but it did make me laugh as well as have a gag reaction.  Thankfully, these two did not occur simultaneously.  The characters in the film were definitely unique and exaggerated, but paired with some of the situations and dialogue, this was where the humor occurred.  Temuera Morrison played Hemi Crane with the utmost passion.  Kate Elliott played Gigi, the true leader of the gang.  She was drop-dead gorgeous and depicted the cartoon-like character perfectly.  The remainder of the cast rounded out this exaggerated film.

"Fresh Meat" was the perfect movie to cover the horror category.  I did appreciate the humor and the style in which the film was made.  The cartoon feel to the characters and the colors made the gruesome aspect more manageable for me.  If you love movies with disgustingly real special effects, you will love this one.


Monday, April 29, 2013


Would you like a night of scrumptious gourmet food followed by a side-splitting comedy review show?  Then 'Mock Your World' at The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club is your perfect combination.  Rarely, actually never, have I gone to a comedy club and had food that was edible let alone good.  The Stand was the exception to the rule and served freshly made courses with unique subtleties of flavors. You won't believe the gourmet appetizers and entrees available here.  They even had a vegan choice!  Other choices ranged from typical sounding pub food which I am sure is so much more than that, to Tarragon Marinated Chicken Paillard.  Don't worry, you can still get fish & chips as well as burgers and fries.  Although I'd recommend the sweet potato tater tots.  Trust me, they were nothing like your high school cafeteria served!  I would be remiss if I left off one of the accompaniments to dinner and a show: the beverages.  With a decent wine and beer list, The Stand also dabbled in unique and tasty signature cocktails.  I'd recommend The Dice made with local botanical Brooklyn Gin.  On to the show...

As I was seated at my table, I looked down at the "decorations."  I gazed at the little foil packages in front of me.  No, that couldn't be what I think it is, could it?  Yep.  Condoms. That was clue #1 that I was in for a bit of a raunchy night.  As the emcee took the stage, he warned that all prudes needed to leave.  That was clue #2 that it was going to be a rather raunchy night!  After the opening comedy act, Stanley Bahorek, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, David Perlman and Lisa Rothauser, our four singers/actors/comedians, took the stage in this intimate theater.  Short musical skits which captured life in NYC in the most improper way possible unfolded lyrically on the stage.  

'Mock Your World' started with the topic of how one sweats on the subway.  This in turn created new terms such as "swoobs" and "swalls"  which were belted out with their melodic voices.  (Come on.  Admit it.  We've all experienced swoobs or swalls, but we just don't TALK about it!)  As quickly as the subway derailed you, you were then thrown into "Brokeback Mountain: The Musical." A wide variety of taboo topics were brought to the forefront in song.  Travel onward to 'CHICAGO,' the musical.  New and revised lyrics to a familiar tune now addressed shaving certain body parts.  I may never be able to see 'CHICAGO' again in the same light!  The crisp, clear, and harmonious voices made soiling your pants sound beautiful.  Now that's talent!  I found myself laughing until tears streamed down my face!  The time flew by as the actors seamlessly segued from one topic to another, not missing a beat, and completely entertaining the audience.  This comedy review show covered issues from being a mom to hookups, straight or gay, to bodily functions...many topics that each of us could relate to, but we would never have the audacity to actually talk about them!  However, 'Mock Your World' put those topics right out there for everyone to see and hear with no embarrassment and no remorse.
'Mock Your World' was a jaw-dropping, hilariously inappropriate comedy review show with talent I would expect in major theatrical productions on Broadway.  The catchy and cleverly written music and lyrics by Andrew Byrne crushed politically correct statements and "proper" behavior.  However, I must say that this was all done in the most amusing and riotous way! As this venue was cozy, there wasn't a bad seat in the house.  This zany, topical musical comedy review show is one for all to enjoy...that is unless you are a prude!  Seriously, you have to be open-minded to some pretty raunchy topics.  This show rocked my world!   If you love to laugh, you are going to love 'Mock Your World!'  

'Mock Your World' is playing every Thursday evening now through June 6 at The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club, 239 3rd Ave., NYC.  Make reservations for dinner before the show.  http://www.thestandnyc.com/cocktails/

Monday, April 22, 2013


It was Tribeca Film Festival time for the last 12 days!  New York City!
NYC was one of the most intimidating cities on my list.  I have traveled all over the country alone; Boston, Philly, Atlanta, and many more, but no city intimidated me more than NYC.  I was outside my box, but there were a few things that remain true to my personality and that was the way I traveled to NYC.   Most people would take a flight from O'Hare or Midway into JFK, grab a cab, and stay at a nearby local hotel in the trendy area of Tribeca for this film festival.  I'm not "most people."  I have always liked doing things a little out of order or in a different way and this film festival appeared to have been my norm of doing things.  First of all, I drove...from Chicago.  Why would I do that?  It's about 1000 miles! You see,  my mother turned 90 this weekend in my beautiful hometown of Mayville, NY.  How could I miss that momentus occasion.  Then fly on to NYC from Buffalo, right?  Nope.  No can do.  The flights go from Buffalo, back to Chicago for the most NONdirect route to NYC.  So I drove...to Poughkeepsie.  Yet another gorgeous place  I have lived and created cherished memories.  Put this on your list of summertime activities to do...walk across the Hudson River then have lunch or dinner at CRAVE.  Then it was on to the train (with a huge suitcase, or should I say suitcases as I am the queen of overpacking) to arrive in the Grand Central Station area and stay in my wonderful friends' parent's condo overlooking the East River and the United Nations!  Spectacular!

I have to say that NYC is an unbelievably friendly city; from the kind young man helping me put my BAS (Big Ass Suitcase) up on the rack to the kind gentlemen offering me directions and tips on "doing Tribeca." I was not overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city, but by the kindness of it.  I felt not just safe, but welcomed here.  Men were chivalrous, women were friendly and helpful, and above all, everyone was polite.  Moms of NYC dwellers rest assured that you raised your kids right.  They remembered their manners even when they have flown the coop.

Now looking back on my too short of a trip of 5 days and my too-many-to-

count movies, beside needing a nap, I am thankful I "tackled" NYC.  This Tribeca Film Festival was so much more than a film festival.  Hindsight regarding anything is 20/20 and with other film festivals, I was so focused on cramming in so many movies that I had forgotten to stop and smell the roses.  I did smell the roses (and the Gerber Daisies and the tulips, etc)  in NYC and am so pleased that I had actually learned from my previous mistakes to do more than view films.  I have also realized that even having taken advantage of events outside of the film festival that fell into my lap, I must return to NYC to see all the things that I missed.

Films that I felt were worth seeing will be featured here in my full reviews, but to give you highlights of things to look forward to, I'll list them here along with some descriptions to entice you.

1.  "Hide Your Smiling Faces" was reminiscent of "Stand By Me" of years gone by.  Not exactly a "coming of age" movie for boys, but definitely a growing up movie about boys.  The theme consistently revolved around death and dying.  As two brothers and their intertwining friends coped with wills beyond their control, they explored not only the beautiful countryside, but their souls as well.  A beautifully depicted film, both cinematically and emotionally, "Hide Your Smiling Faces" will bring you back to your youth as it did mine in Upstate NY.  The end left me unfulfilled, but I'm venturing a guess (after speaking with males that saw this film), that men will relate more readily to it.

2.  "The Project" was not on my list, but fell into my schedule perfectly and I am so very glad that it did.  This documentary about the Somalian Pirates and the difficulties the US faced in trying to help the government of Somalian establish a credible and effective police force to combat the pirates was incredibly engaging.  From insider leaks, mutinies, and murder, the audience had first-hand experience into a life-style that most of us thought only happened in fictional movies starring Johnny Depp.

3.  "Mistaken For Strangers" was nothing like I had anticipated.  I had expected a typical documentary about an indie rock band called The National. (I'm not hip.  I'm not cool. I hadn't heard of them.  But I guarantee you I have them in my iTunes library now!)  This was anything but a band documentary.  This was a doc about two brothers who fill the yin-yang circle completely.  Tom and Matt Berninger were brothers.  One, Matt, the cool, hip indie rockster and the other, well, as another critic and I discussed, he reminded me of Jack Black in a not-very-cool way.  This was a movie about sibling relationships, reality, and loyalty as well as growing up...even at the age of 30 or 40 something.  It took so much courage for Tom to show the world his true self and how he could turn that into a learning experience and better himself.  Really, how many of us could truly look at ourselves for who we are.  I'm guessing that most of us would rather not.

4.  "Wadjda" focused upon a girl who dared to challenge the norms as a young student growing up in Ridayh, Saudi Arabia with her single mother.  Wadjda was constantly in trouble for acting like what we Americans would call a typical 10 year old.  But in this patriarchal society of Saudi Arabia, a girl wanting to ride a bike or not cover her face were grounds for punishment.  Wadjda and her mother both learn more about themselves and how to be happy.  This is a wonderful film that anyone from any culture can enjoy.

5.  "The English Teacher" starred Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane.  When an "indie film" utilizes known actors, it makes it less than "indie." "The English Teacher" was a completely predictable movie that was more fluff than substance.  I am sure, however, that this film will hit the theaters due to the mere fact that it has these three names in it.   It was cute.  I chuckled.  It was definitely a "chick flick."  I can see myself waiting for the DVD and having my friends over for wine and cheese and crackers (NYS XX Sharp Cheese, of course!)  and we would enjoy it.

6.  "A Single Shot" starred Sam Rockwell and William H. Macy.  I love these actors and even after hearing mediocre reviews about the film, I still wanted to see it for myself.  The reviews were correct.  Rockwell played a man down on his luck who ended up poaching out of season animals for food.  His deer hunting skills, also mediocre, landed him in a case of murder of a young woman.  The subsequent events spiraled ever so quickly into an abyss that you thought it was impossible to get out.  A great premise, but it focused too much on the violence and horror aspect that it lost me.  William H. Macy had too small of a role and this role was too cartoonish to be believable.

7.  "Bluebird" was on my list as I think Chicago claims Amy Morton as their own.  However, during the Q & A, the writer claimed her as NY's!  How dare he!  "Bluebird" was about a bus driver played by Morton, who was negligent in spotting a student left on her bus overnight in this cold New England town.  The subsequent events that occured  significantly affected all of their lives,  not only hers , but her husband and their teenage daughter's as well.  "Bluebird was a touching story, but not cohesive enough to make an impact at the box office.  Morton, of course, was outstanding.  I would expect nothing less.

8.  "Fresh Meat" was a horror fan's dream...or should I say nightmare?  Bumbling criminals break out one of their partners from an police transport.  In their efforts to escape the law, they happen upon an open garage in which to find refuge.  The foursome find their gruesome match in that house they have invaded.  "Fresh Meat" is equal parts disgusting bloody special effects and typical horror sequences which kept me on the edge of my seat.  It was really rather funny in parts as well.  The "gross-out" factor was too much for me.  I really needed an air sickness bag positioned in the seat pocket in front of me.

9.  "Some Velvet Morning" was recommended to me by another film critic.  I will be forever thankful for his guidance.  Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve starred in this film.  That's all who are on the screen.  This was a provocative film about a prostitute and her client whom she hasn't seen in many years.  Their relationship is more than client/provider and that is evident from the beginning.  It is also evident that their past relationship is less than a healthy one.  This was one of the biggest emotional roller coaster rides I have ever experienced in a film.  And then the train hit me head on.  I can't tell  you more than that.  See this one.

10 "Northwest" was a gritty, grimy look at the underworld of Copenhagen.  Two brothers were dragged further and further into crime until this life was more than they can handle.  This was an intense film depicting brutal mistakes that forever affected their lives.

In addition to these feature films, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to see short films and documentaries prior to the festival.  "The Genius of Marian" and "The Rider and the Storm" were two enlightening short docs that everyone should take the time to see.  I had the opportunity to interview both of these filmmakers and will post these interviews in the coming weeks.  Other fun shorts that I viewed included "The River," "The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars" (I apologize to the actor that I almost dropped my 50# backpack on as I was seated for "The English Teacher!  Glad you laughed with me!), "Lapse: Confessions of a Slot Machine Junkie,""Fool's Day," "Epilogue," "Zzzzz," and "Fortune House."

I started this blog by stating that the Tribeca Film Festival was much more than films; it was the experience in and around it.  I had the pleasure and opportunity to take part in the WIMMI (Women In Media Mentoring Initiative) program and attending a new comedy club and production called 'Mock My World' at The Stand Comedy Club and Restaurant.  I'm also a very food focused person and dining in NYC knocks the socks off any other city I've visited as every meal I had was not just good, but spectacular!  I was treated like royalty, not because I was with the press, but because I put it out there that I wasn't from NYC.  So my treatment went from fantastic to phenomenal as NY'ers seem to want out-of-towners to love NYC as much as they do.  Mission accomplished NY!  I LOVE NY!

Check back for detailed reviews of ALL the movies and events that I attended. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Tom Cruise seems to have the Midas Touch.  Although ROCK OF AGES was a bust in 2012, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL (2011) and JACK REACHER (2012) definitely helped him pay the bills.  OBLIVION, although not a great film as far as I'm concerned, will most definitely help that bank account build.  OBLIVION had quite a bit of hype in movie trailers, magazine articles, and I'm assuming television as well (I don't watch tv much so I'm reaching on that one.)  If you've seen the trailers and this was impossible not to do if you have gone to see any movie in the last six months, you know the premise of the movie.  Jack Harper lives in a post-apocolyptic world where he is responsible for repairing "drones."  His beautiful partner Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, has his back at all times.  Jack's memories and dreams, however, haunt him.  A beautiful woman is with him in his dreams and flashbacks and appear to be from a different time; a happy time before "the war."  As the question of reality is slowly answered, Jack finds himself in a position that jeopardizes his current status and role in life.

  As I said, you have probably seen the trailers which really means that you could show up 1 hour into the movie and not be lost.  The only piece of information you should probably know is that Jack and Victoria had their memories wiped clean 5 years ago.  No memory means no chance of sharing
information with the enemy.  But as we watch Jack's memories get jogged, we see that memories are what makes us who we are.

Jack Harper and Victoria were "a very effective team" repairing the protective drones.  Without the drones, human life on Titan (a moon of Venus) could not be possible.  Huge hydro-vacuums continually take water to supply life on Titan.  It was Victoria and Jack's dream to finish their tour of duty and go to Titan.  However, with Jack's flashbacks and exploration of Earth, Jack found refuge in a tranquil part of Earth with pristine lakes, rivers, trees, and some semblance of life as it used to be.

OBLIVION was an action-packed, intense movie from the first 5 minutes on.  You knew something was going to go wrong, you just didn't know when.  And then "it" happened, but only after lots of special effects, space chases galore, and a few scenes to see Cruise's still chiseled body at the age of 50.  Harper met Beech (Morgan Freeman) and life as Harper knew it was in dire question.

As you can guess by the title of my review, OBLIVION is a mix of at least 3 different sci-fi movies.  I'm sure you sci-fi fans out there could add a few more to my list.  I actually found myself rolling my eyes at one point as I was transported back in time to my childhood, watching the 'Twilight Zone.'  Don't get me wrong!  I LOVED 'Twilight Zone!'  It was just that I wanted an original concept in this movie.  I had already compared the space chase seens to "Star Wars" and another few aspects (I don't want to spoil anything here) to "The Matrix."  Then WHAM!  'Twilight Zone' hits me.  There were also many holes in the storyline.  Maybe there were answers to them, but it wasn't explained or even hinted at these answers such as how memories can be transferred from one person to another.  (Again, if I say more, you'll have a major spoiler.)  Then there was a question of safety.  Nuclear war had occurred, yet the mighty Jack Harper dared to do his work without a helmet and drink water from a stream.  That's not even safe to do now!

OBLIVION will be a huge success just because of the names involved with the film.  Cruise and Freeman will do the trick every time.  If you're going because you love Morgan (I do!), then you'll be disappointed.  He's not on the screen very much.  Cruise is Cruise.  There were tons of chase seens, cool stunts, and lots of action.  To me, this was a "Guy's Movie" although the underlying premise of the movie was all based on the love of a woman.  

If you're a STAR WARS fan, you will probably like it.  I was a bit bored in the middle, but did enjoy the end even though it left me with a few questions.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013


"Trance" is a psychological thriller starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson, directed by Danny Boyle.  For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Boyle, he is responsible for several amazing films such as "Slumdog Millionaire," "Trainspotting," and "127 Hours."  "Trance" was immediately reminiscent of the movie "Memento" (another favorite of mine) starring Guy Pearce who questions what's real and what's not.  "Trance" has similar nuances as the question of memory is also in play.  McAvoy played Simon, a criminal who utilized his connections with an art auction to double cross a crime boss and steal a valuable painting.  Things go awry and Simon ends up with a head injury which blocks his memory of the location of the stolen painting.  Needless to say, the crime boss, Franck (Cassel) is none too happy and we watch the complicated story unfold from this point.  A hypnotherapist is hired to figure out where Simon has hidden the painting as the torture technique didn't work.  He truly can't recall where it is.

"Trance" was mind-blowing.  I was mesmerized from the moment I saw the opening scene.  This fast paced yet deliberate movie gave me only the necessary information to process what the director and writer wanted me to...no more and no less.  It was like fitting pieces of a puzzle together, bit by bit, finding a piece on the floor that you knew was missing, then squeezing it in where it belonged only to find another piece still in the box.  It truly wasn't until each and every piece of the jigsaw puzzle was in place, and you stood back, did you really know what happened in the end.  Wow!  This intense movie was captivating stylistically, cinematically,  as well as psychologically.  The characters were developed to the extent that you needed them to be only when the writer wanted you to know them.  The timeline was somewhat fractured, but not to a point of confusion.  This timeline overlap made it clearer and more interesting.  You did have to pay attention, though.  You did NOT have time to get up and go to the bathroom like the homeless woman who sat in front of me did on numerous occasions.  I felt sorry for her...not because she was homeless, but because she missed the entire gist of the movie!  Hopefully, she was movie hopping and could catch those pieces at a later showing.  (Please note here that I do NOT condone movie hopping!)

So the plot and story were spectacular and unexpected, but I bet you are wondering about the acting.  It equals every other aspect of this movie.  Rosario Dawson, Elizabeth, chosen for many reasons that will be clear at the end of the movie, was amazingly convincing as the hypnotherapist hired to help Simon recall where he might have placed the $25.7M (pounds) painting.  Simon (McAvoy) was the boy next door that had a problem making good decisions and just fell deeper and deeper into a hole that became a suffocating abyss.  Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his crew could have been a mob in an country, wreaking havoc on disappointing slackers.

"Trance" was a violent movie, but not over the top.  There were scenes that made me cringe, but this was all to add to the credibility of the movie.  I was glued to the screen.  I didn't want to miss a thing for fear of not being able to figure out what the puzzle would look like at the end.  This movie played with memories; the real and the imagined.  It played with how the brain worked.  It made you think.  "Trance" was a mind-boggling psychological thriller with drama, love, sex, and violence.  It was also smart.  What more can you ask for in a movie?