Monthly Archives: January, 2015

An interview with the talent from 'A Walk in the Woods' by Pamela Powell

January 30th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “An interview with the talent from 'A Walk in the Woods' by Pamela Powell”




Robert Redford discusses his role of Bill Bryson in A WALK IN THE WOODS

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Pam Powell with Bill Bryson, author of ‘A Walk in the Woods’


Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Nick Offerman

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors and A Walk in the Woods still sits on my bookshelf as well as stowed away in digital form on my Kindle.  Having readit when it was first published in the mid ’90’s, I never dreamed I would one day meet the author, let alone see this book become a movie.  That day has come.  The 2015 Sundance Film Festival is drawing to a close, but one of the highlights was to not only view the film version of “A Walk in the Woods,” but to also sit down with Bill Bryson and the talented cast and director of the film to chat about the process.

Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Bill Bryson, and director Ken Kwapis were

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Pamela Powell with Robert Redford

available to discuss their perspectives on the adaptation of the brilliantly written book A Walk in the Woods.  Here’s a clip from the interview: Robert Redford talks AT and Independent Film Making

The entire interview is now available!  Click  here  to listen!




Nick Offerman


Director Ken Kwapis with author Bill Bryson


'WARREN' Brings It Home by Pamela Powell

January 29th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'WARREN' Brings It Home by Pamela Powell”

WARREN Reviewed by Pamela Powell

Starring:  Alex Beh, John Heard, Jean Smart and Sarah Habel
Written and Directed by:  Alex Beh

“Warren” is a film we can all relate to whether we are a parent or a twenty-something trying to figure out where life will take us, there is something for everyone to enjoy in “Warren.”  Written and directed by, as well as starring Alex Beh, this film captures the turning point in one young man’s life and how it affects those near and dear to him.  As quoted from the film, “There’s what you’re supposed to do and what you have to do.”  The choice is Warren’s.

Warren, the main character, has given up on his dream of being a comedian and now works as a barista at a coffee shop in Chicago.  Frustrated by his spinning wheels and lack of forward progression, he bumps into his lost love.  Old feelings come rushing back, but this woman is now engaged to be married.  Warren must now decide where his life will take him. Will he “follow the fear or forever be stuck in neutral?

“Warren” has such a talented cast and is set in the perfect city—Chicago.  Yes, I’m biased, but that’s ok.  Watch the film and I am sure you will understand my prejudice.  “Warren” captures Chicago’s lake, its neighborhoods, and its vibrancy.   Along with Alex Beh, John Heard, Jean Smart, and Sarah Habel star in this “slice of life” film.  The first scene sets the tone of the entire film.  Jack (Heard) is talking to his son, Warren (Beh), 10 feet away…using a megaphone. This is exactly the embarrassingly funny stunt many fathers would do if they had a megaphone in hand.  As the neighbor looks casually over to see today’s antics, Warren sits dreamily in the old Porsche stored in the garage, key in the ignition, ignoring his father for just a few more moments.  Immediately, you see that dreams have been either lost or put on the back burner.  In the film, we discover that the father-son connection is very close and that trying not to have the apple fall far from the tree is a conscious choice.

Warren is like many other twenty-somethings trying to fulfill dreams and seize the moment when they can. Regrets at an early age are a hard topic to deal with and when Emma (Habel), Warren’s former love, bumps into Warren working at the coffee shop, the disappointment and embarrassment is palpable.  Warren’s support system as he works out his thoughts and feelings about Emma are comical, yet real.  With stand-up comics for friends, there is no lack of humor in dealing with this situation.  This well-rounded film also incorporates Jack and Warren’s relationship, both past and present.  Jack has never given up on loving his soon-to-be ex wife, Claire.  Jack and she have been working on getting those final divorce papers signed for 5 years.  Unfortunately, Warren gets caught up in the havoc that occurs when you still live near your parents and don’t pursue your own dreams.

This strong cast brought life, love, and family to the screen.  John Heard and Jean Smart are the perfect North Shore separated parents who still share two children together; one adult and one in high school with some rebellion issues.  The film has two focal points:  Warren and Emma, and Warren and his father.  While Warren’s feelings of love and loss with Emma are evident, an equally heart-felt part of this movie is his relationship with his father.  The connection between these two men is not only seen, but felt by the viewer.  Watching Heard’s character sitting and eating pizza with his boys is so natural and realistic that you truly feel like this is a family.

Heard transforms himself into Warren’s father, Jack.  But his character is much more complex than just being Warren’s dad.  Jack has his own struggles, professionally and personally, that are so subtly revealed that you can empathize with his every emotion.  But at the end of the day, you realize that this father wants exactly what every parent wants for his child—to be happy.

While the entire cast is compelling, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other standout in this wonderful cast:  Marc Grapey.  A Chicago area native (Kankakee), Marc’s character of the obnoxious cell phone user/customer at the coffee shop becomes increasingly funnier with each scene.  I know we have all encountered such a person and he completely embodies that character.  Well-done!

It’s so refreshing to see a young writer and director take on a film and successfully tell an entertaining and emotional story.  The keen direction and intelligent writing pulls you immediately into this story, reeling you along and allowing you to laugh at irony and look at your own life by comparison.  There are even a few words of wisdom you might want to take to heart.   Beh brings this tale home, deftly tying up all loose ends that you are supposed to know.  He leaves a few things to your imagination which makes you think and come up with your own back story about things like why the house is slated for demolition.  “Warren” is a slice of life full of emotion and reality.  Again, well-done!

Watch for the interview with Alex Beh or catch it soon on WKCC’s The Reel Focus!

Slamdance's 'Female Pervert' Turns the Tables by Pamela Powell

January 29th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Slamdance's 'Female Pervert' Turns the Tables by Pamela Powell”



“Female Pervert’ is a bit of a role reversal film.  As Phoebe (Jennifer Kim) attempts to survive in the dating world, she, being true to herself, drives men away.  Why? Well, she’s a bit “perverted.”  Social skills according to Emily Post have not been mastered.  I’m guessing she probably doesn’t even know who Emily Post is.  Phoebe finds the raunchy bits of life entertaining and her obsession with hair, in all places, being removed seems to be the icing on the cake in her relationship attempts.  Hair can make or break her attraction to a man.

The beginning is hysterical, showcasing her unique view on life without an edit mode.  Throw in some interesting characters in her book club and you get a full picture of the real Phoebe and what makes her tick.  The question is, “Would her behavior seem out of the ordinary if it was a male character?

We see woman in one light and when she behaves more like a male, we find it shocking.  Phoebe’s obsession with body parts and hair coverage seems a bit over the top.  She’s not shy in what she does in front of a male and to say she is awkward is an understatement.  For example, as she clips her toenails on a date, the guy mentions that he didn’t think they were at the “toenail clipping stage of the relationship yet.”  Typical male raunchy antics are funny to her, but because she’s female, it seems wrong.  This laugh out loud role reversal film makes you think about double standards.

Jennifer Kim seems to embrace her character of Phoebe.  The supporting cast and the writing of this film is quite unique.  The book club discussion scenes scattered throughout the film are always extremely entertaining.  The members of the group are quite varied and bring significant humor to the film as it bounces back and forth between funny and awkward.

Written by a woman, Jiyoung Lee is a bold new filmmaker who dares to renounce gender stereotypes.  I’d like to personally thank the writer for giving me a way to get rid of those pesky phone solicitors!  Bravo, Miss Lee, bravo!

Ilan Eshkeri Talks Music for 'Don Verdean' and 'Shaun the Sheep' by Pamela Powell

January 29th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Ilan Eshkeri Talks Music for 'Don Verdean' and 'Shaun the Sheep' by Pamela Powell”



Ilan Eshkeri walks the red carpet for the comedy DON VERDEAN

Ilan Eshkeri is a renowned BAFTA-nominated composer who has collaborated with Annie Lennox and many other musical greats.  Ilan talks with Pamela Powell of Reel Honest Reviews’ The Reel Focus, about his new films premiering at Sundance this year, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ and ‘Don Verdean.’  In addition, Ilan talks about why he was so passionate about being a part of ‘Still Alice’ and what fills his soul when he’s not working.


Audio interview with Ilan Eshkeri






Photo Fun From Sundance and Slamdance by Pamela Powell

January 28th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Photo Fun From Sundance and Slamdance by Pamela Powell”


For me, the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals are complete as I am now back in the Chicago area.  With a pile of reviews to happily write and interviews to edit and post, the fun continues on as I reminisce.  The 2015 Park City adventure couldn’t have been any more spectacular.  The films were absolutely outstanding, the interviews were a chance of a lifetime, and the events were completely entertaining.  The only thing that seemed to be missing was sleep.

Before I attempt to catch up on everything, I thought it would be enjoyable to check out a sampling of the photos I took during both of these extraordinary film festivals.  I’ll have a complete wrap up by tomorrow!  Enjoy the photos!


Robert Redford answers reporters questions during the Opening Press Conference


The cast and writer/director from SEOUL SEARCHING


Sandra and Sophie of “The Amina Profile”


Margot Robbie during the Q&A for “Z FOR ZACHARIAH”


Chiwetel Ejiofor during the audience Q&A for his new film “Z FOR ZACHARIAH”


Chris Pine after the premiere of his new film “Z FOR ZACHARIAH”


Dana Nachman and her publicist Margot Hardy after an interview about BATKID!


Amazing new boots from Australia, Blundstone


Dana Nachman, filmmaker for BATKID!


Nick Nolte during the roundtable interview for A WALK IN THE WOODS


Robert Redford discusses the making of A WALK IN THE WOODS


The talented cast and filmmakers from the Slamdance thriller BODY!

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Pam Powell gets a chance to meet her favorite author, Bill Bryson!

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Pam Powell interviews Robert Redford for A WALK IN THE WOODS

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Ed Asner, aka Lou Grant, enjoys having fans nearby as he chats about THE GAMES MAKER

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Gary Cole chats with Pam Powell about Illinois, Chicago, and ISU…we forgot to chat about his film THE BRONZE!


The gorgeous Sarah Silverman strikes a pose for the red carpet for the premiere of her film I SMILE BACK

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A virtual hike through the Dolomites courtesy of Merrell hiking boots

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Pam Powell’s actual injury during a virtual hike…only I could do that!

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Chicagoans connect!

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'Bob and the Trees' A Bitter Slice of Life by Pamela Powell

January 28th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Bob and the Trees' A Bitter Slice of Life by Pamela Powell”

First time director Diego Ongaro’s film ‘Bob and the Trees’ premiered at the Sundance Film Festival yesterday.  Starring Bob Tarasuk, the film takes a harsh and bitter look at the life of a logger in rural Massachusetts.  Taking an already difficult job and making it even worse, Bob makes one poor business decision after another.  Working with his son in this small business, the two are at oddsBob tres with one another regarding how to run it.  Bob makes a monetary executive decision unbeknownst to his son which may be the ultimate death of this long-running family business.

‘Bob and the Trees’ is an unusual film in that it captures the true feeling of a place and dire situation.  It’s bitterly cold in Massachusetts.  You can hear the cold.  You can almost feel the cold with the sound of the dry crunch of snow and the constant wind droning softly in the background.  As Bob tends to his farm animals in a loving way, it feels so remote and lonely, yet Bob loves what he does.  Unfortunately, Bob has to compete in the logging business with big companies.  As any mom-and-pop business owner understands, sometimes it’s almost impossible to do so.  Bob invests almost his last cent into a project, but it’s a huge gamble.  The price he pays may be more than monetary.

This unique film portrays a desperate man who resorts to desperate measures to try to just stay afloat.  The complications he experiences involve his relationship with his son and his honesty with his wife.  Life seem bitterly unfair for Bob, but he must figure out how to set things right or at least deal with the fall out.  ‘Bob and the Trees’ is a study in the levels of society as well as the psychology behind a typical hardworking man.  What Bob has experienced is what many blue collar workers truly experience in the United States.

‘Bob and the Trees’ is a thought-provoking and insightful film typifying a working man who has hit some bad luck.  But is it luck or is it bad decision making?  Or perhaps it’s a bit of both.  In either case, these issues affect Bob and his son as well as both of their futures.  ‘Bob and the Trees’ is a beautifully filmed movie bringing each and every scene to life.  Itis a film that you experience on every level; visually, auditorily, emotionally, and almost tactily, as the film makes you feel the bitter cold.  This film stimulations conversation about where we are in society and how the bigger businesses are making it nearly impossible for “the little guy” to have success.  It’s truly a bitter, but enlightening slice of the American pie.


'Body' Gripping and Intense Thriller by Pamela Powell

January 26th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Body' Gripping and Intense Thriller by Pamela Powell”



“Body” premiered last night at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival.  Written, produced and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, this ever-increasingly intense psychological thriller will make you question your own morals and values.  Starring Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen, and Lauren Molina these three older college aged kids are home on vacation.  Finding themselves a bit bored and feeling “pathetic” for not having anything to do on the weekend, they go out to have a bit of fun.  The fun, seemingly innocuous, turns horribly wrong and with every wrong turn, there’s another one just ahead of them.  How will they right these wrong turns?

BODY Trailer

Cali (Turshen) appears to be the fun-loving ring leader in this pack of girls.  Convincing the others that her extremely wealthy uncle and his family are away on vacation, they borrow the use of his house for a little R & R.  Drinking, talking, using the owner’s toys, and hanging out seems quite innocent.  But then a bit of truth is uncovered.  This isn’t the house Cali said it was.  Suddenly, there’s a man in the house.  The girls hide, but it’s no use.  Upon confrontation, the man has an accident and the girls, as a group, must decide how to handle the situation.  Each of them has a different perspective and as each decision is made, the waters become muddier and muddier until those waters are completely black.


“Body” is such an intense film, that admittedly, I had to turn it off and walk away for a few moments to regroup.  The situation at hand becomes realistically horrific and the true personalities of each of the girls becomes more apparent.  It’s truly a gripping and disturbing psychological analysis of what happens to people in a dire situation.


You’ll be on the edge of your seat and talking to the screen (even if you aren’t a “screen talker”) trying to convince someone to make a different decision.  “Body” will impact you long after you see it.  You’ll be asking yourself what you would do or perhaps what would your own daughter do in a situation like this.

“Body” is a gem of a find if you enjoy intense psychological thrillers!  With superb acting, clear writing and directing, this film is a success in its genre!

Check out the interview with these talented filmmakers and actresses!  Interview


'THE AMINA PROFILE' Documents On-line Hoax by Pamela Powell

January 25th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'THE AMINA PROFILE' Documents On-line Hoax by Pamela Powell”

imageThe gay community has been duped via an internet hoax.  “The Amina Profile” premiered Saturday, January 24th, exposing how anyone can become anything on the internet, but the cost of this particular lie has international effects.

‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ began as a blog that swept across the world.  The political uncertainty and pervasive violence in Syria is well0known, but to speak out and declare one’s sexual orientation being anything other than a heterosexual has severe ramifications.

Amina Arraf began an on-line love affair with a woman from Toronto, Sandra Bagaria.  during their 6 month relationship, the two shared intimate details about their lives, opening up to each other an any couple would do.  When Amina began her blog, ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus,’ speaking out against the political regime  was so daring that she became quite the internet sensation.  ‘The Guardian’ picked up her blog which catapulted her popularity.  Other news groups as well as individuals all over the world followed her daily posts, but then she went missing.  The world showed its caring side and tried everything to find this young woman.  Government organizations and news and media groups connected and utilized their skills and searching for Amina.  What they found turned out to be devastating to everyone involved.  It breached the trust and good will of many.  Amina was just a fictitious character developed by an everyday Joe in the United States.

“The Amina Profile” is a documentary expose which carefully unravels the detailed story of Amina from the beginning to the confrontational ending.  Utilizing interviews with those directly connected with Amina, the film follows the trail of breadcrumbs to uncover the truth.  The film gives a well-rounded and in-depth report allowing the viewer to discover the truth right along with the filmmaker.

The interesting style of interviewing all of those involved in sequential order, splicing all of it together for a cohesive and enlightening film.  “The Amina Profile” shows us how easy it is to be fooled given the technology of today.  Thousands of people were affected negatively by this hoax; some more severely than others.  How can we as a society trust what we read?  Will this affect the outpouring of help when it is truly needed.  Check out the film and see what answers you find.


'The Resurrection of Jake the Snake" A Story for Everyone by Pamela Powell

January 25th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'The Resurrection of Jake the Snake" A Story for Everyone by Pamela Powell”


imageThe Resurrection of Jake the Snake Trailer

For all you wrestling fans out there, the name Jake the Snake Roberts needs no explanation.  But for those of you who have never followed the sport, like me, let me give you a little background information.  Pro wrestling back in the 80’s had quite the unconventional characters performing in an arena with thousands of spectators.  These performers were also athletes and with the right marketing and use of  gimmicks,  they may rise to stardom.  Snakes tossed upon the defeated man most definitely was an attention getter!  This combined with Jake’s ability to woo the crowed, enabled Jake the Snake to rise to the top.  But Jake fell to the bottom and almost into  oblivion.


What happened to this man?  Now 30 years later, he has alienated his family, uses major drugs, drinks, and is a complete mess.  Years ago, Jake had taken under his wing a young wrestler who no one else believed in.  Jake helped this man who later became a successful wrestler in his own right—“Diamond” Dallas Page.  Page came to Jake’s rescue as he had hit bottom.  With Page’s help and knowledge, he gave back to Jake exactly what Dallas had been given so many years ago.


“The Resurrection of Jake the Snake” documents the path upon which Jake travels to battle his inner demons and attempt to become the person he truly has the potential to be.  The struggle is difficult and raw, shown over the course of many months.  His progress is a bit of a roller coaster ride which mirrors this man’s personality.  The loyalty and commitment that Dallas and his friends show to Jake is truly inspiring.  We see the heartache and inner struggle of everyone as they strive for the same goal:  recreating Jake the Snake.

“The Resurrection of Jake the Snake” is not a story about wrestling, although the footage used from years gone by is quite extraordinary.  This is a story about a wrestler.  It’s a story about a man who has lost his way and with the help of long-lost friends, he picks himself back up.  This is a human story with heart and soul.  It’s everyone’s story,

'RATTER' Intense Psychological Tech Thriller by Pamela Powell

January 25th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'RATTER' Intense Psychological Tech Thriller by Pamela Powell”

Imagine sending your daughter off to NYC from a thousand miles away to grad school.  Imagine getting occasional updates about her day.  Now imagine that there is someone who has hacked into every techie gadget she has and that “someone” has eyes on her at all times.  Little by little, the personal invasion increases and that “someone” can completely interfere with every aspect of your daughter’s life.

That’s what RATTER proposes in their film.  Using genuinely unique filming techniques and a story line that sets up an increasingly intense thriller, RATTER will bring you to your knees as you watch the story unfold.

Written and directed by Branden Kramer, this intense film expresses what today’s technology and those with ill will could possibly be capable of doing.  How safe is our iPhone or our tablet and laptop?  Today’s generation is in constant contact with these technological devices, but what if someone could stalk you using them?  RATTER is just such the film to pose these questions and bring the answers to full living color before your eyes.  It is a mesmerizing film that brings you into the world where you have no control and your fate is determined by someone else.

RATTER is simply superb in its execution of the story along with a talented actress, Ashley Benson, to carry the film.  Although there are other actors, this film rests solely on the talents and abilities of  Ms. Benson to portray the ever increasing paranoia and fear.

RATTER harnesses fear in today’s technology, portraying a believable story-line with a young grad student, Emma.  The overall feeling of impending doom with the hope of justification, is the extreme emotional tug of war that occurs throughout the entire film.  RATTER is truly a unique film, utilizing creative filming techniques, solid writing, and precision acting.  It’s one of the best psychological (and realistic) thrillers I have seen in a long time.

Check it out at Slamdance right now!


'I AM MICHAEL' Powerful Performance and Story by Pamela Powell

January 24th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'I AM MICHAEL' Powerful Performance and Story by Pamela Powell”

“I Am Michael” tells the true  story of Michael Glatze, the ex-gay activist who found God and renounced homosexuality.  Starring James Franco, written by Benoit Denizet Lewis, Justin Kelly, and Stacey Miller, and directed by Justin Kelly, this film boldly tells the 15 year history of this once outspoken gay leader.

Michael Glatze appeared to be a happy, loving, and contented individual who was in a stable relationship with Bennett.  The two had a strong bond, living together and supporting each other in their individual endeavors…as any couple would.  Michael, back in the late ’90’s wanted to help other young gay men accept who they were and allow others to do the same.  Starting the XY magazine, Michael helped influence thousands of young gay men with his creative writing and strong convictions.  But all of this changed when Michael and Bennett moved from San Fransisco to Halifax, Canada.  Michael became more than preoccupied with death which resulted in panic attacks and fear of his own death.  This obsession lead to praying…praying to a God he had severed ties with long ago. 

The story depicts his struggle with who he is and how religion plays into being gay.  The religious theory of “turn or burn” hit Michael as he attempted to stay away from “temptation”—being gay.  It’s a powerful film that lays out the ridiculousness of religious interpretation and its negative affects on others. 

Franco is simply spectacular.  He transforms himself before your eyes into numerous people with complex feelings and emotions.  Even his eyes went from full of life to dark and lifeless.  Zachary Quinto’s performance finds depth with charm, supportiveness, understanding, and intelligence. 

“I Am Michael” tackles two very controversial subjects with deft skill and fluidity in story-telling.  Michael Glatze proclaimed that he is a heterosexual with a homosexual problem, but he will go to heaven to be with God one day.  The religion versus homosexuality could not have been better portrayed with this story.

A full review of this film will follow after the festival.


End of Day #1 at Sundance by Pamela Powell

January 23rd, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “End of Day #1 at Sundance by Pamela Powell”

RHR is batting a zero today.  “Summer of Sangaile” and “Bronze” were both unimpressive.  The most impressive part of the evening was my petite filet and veggie skewer from Prime Steakhouse.  Now, THAT was absolutely spectacular!

Here’s the lowdown on the films:

SUMMER OF SANGAILE:  The film was simply beautiful.  But that is just on the superficial level.  Aesthetically pleasing to the eye, the film was heavy on the artistic form and much too light on the story aspect.  It was a story of a young woman, questioning many aspects of who she was including her sexuality.  Meeting a much stronger, but similarly aged young woman, she found the strength to be who she was comfortable being.  Unfortunately, the story took so long to get from point A to point B, I lost interest and began just noticing the filming techniques.  Truly artistic, but that’s it.image

THE BRONZE:   When an injured Olympic athlete competed in 2004 and still managed to win the bronze medal, she returned home to forever live in that moment.    Hope Greggory was a snotty, disrespectful, overindulged adult acting like a child (with a VERY strong midwestern dialect).   It started out snarky and strong, but became sappy and repetitive.  There were some very funny parts which made me laugh out loud, but for the most part, it was mediocre at best.  Truly not even deserving of a bronze medal let alone an opening night movie at Sundance.


And there you have it.  Of the 4 movies and 1 short collection of films, I chose 2 that weren’t up to snuff.  Tomorrow, Friday holds “99 Homes,” “A Walk in the Woods,” “Umrika,” and “Ten Thousand Saints.”  My batting average HAS to go up!  And with no dinner reservation, I don’t even have a fall back on food!

Sundance '15 A Forefront of Change and Diversity by Pamela Powell

January 22nd, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Sundance '15 A Forefront of Change and Diversity by Pamela Powell”

image“Change” and “diversity” were the key elements to the opening press conference which took place today at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah.  This conference marks the official beginning of the festival with the opening films showing this evening at 5:30 pm.

Mr. John Cooper, Mr. Robert Redford, and Ms. Putnam were the panelists lead by a film critic from Salt Lake City.  While all three presented a united front regarding the beginnings and evolution of the Sundance Film Festival, each of them emphasized in their own way how important it is to strive to maintain independence, diversity, and freedom in filmmaking.  Mr. Redford feels that this (Sundance) and the setting in nature provide a safe place for filmmakers.  Referencing the horrific event in Paris, Redford said that it “…was a wake up event…freedom of expression is fundamental.”

Documentaries continue to be a focal point and passion of the Sundance Film Festival.  Redford had hoped, early on in the festival’s history, that documentaries would one day be …”on equal footing with features.”  Referring to “Hoop Dreams,” Redford felt this film helped to create a passion in viewers that continues to grow.  Comparing documentaries to “long-form journalism,” they are a way to “really dig into a topic and see how you feel about it.”  The feeling of truly being “in the moment” enables documentaries to tell such vivid and clear stories.

Mr. Redford concluded that his beloved documentaries as well as other films shown here emphasize the heading of diversity.  “Our country was established to be independent…” And independence is being kept alive at Sundance.

Sundance 2015 promises to be a “wild ride” and this festival is meant to be festive; an experience.  With the New Frontier, Visual Reality, and performances continuing in a non-stop schedule, it’s bound to entertain and engage movie lovers who attend.  One film which Mr. Redford said he had no involvement in choosing is “A Walk in the Woods,” starring Redford.  Mr. Cooper takes full credit for choosing this promising film.

“Change is inevitable” and this festival will take it to use to its advantage because with change comes diversity.  And diversity pushes things forward for  a positive change.  With the attention to intensity and growth in  all the programs, Sundance is embracing changes and creating a safe place to challenge filmmakers to grow in diversity.

BOB AND THE TREES—an interview with Diego Ongaro

January 20th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “BOB AND THE TREES—an interview with Diego Ongaro”




Reel Honest Reviews had the pleasure of talking with Diego Ongaro, the writer and director of BOB AND THE TREES.  Diego’s film will be premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on Monday, January 26th at 2:30 pm at the Prospector Square Theatre in Park City, Utah.  Listen to the interview here Interview with Diego Ongaro

For more information about tickets, check out  Sundance Tickets at

Check back after the premiere for a full review of this film!

'King of Herrings' Has It All by Pamela Powell

January 19th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'King of Herrings' Has It All by Pamela Powell”


“King of Herrings” was one of the many outstanding films showcased at the 2014 Waterfront Film Festival.  Written by Sean Richardson and Eddie Jemison, this unusual film captures five unique personalities of men, their situations, and how they all overlap in some way.   It’s a fast-paced, quick-witted, smart and sublime film capturing men in their relationships and what motivates them.


“King of Herrings” ikohalls a simple concept portraying the complexities of 5 men and their personalities.  Living in a what looks to be a depressed city back in the 50’s, these men discuss their woes, regrets, and what-ifs in life and then begin to act upon those needs and wants.



These characters are all very different, balancing the film with finesse.  Ditch is the leader of the pack who  is intolerant of others, judgmental, and condescending and for some reason, his buddies put up with him.  Augie, a friend who now speaks with an artificial device, seems to be the only one who understands other’s emotions.    The Professor embodies the guy that no one really likes, but they’re not sure why.  And then we have Mary who elicits such sadness at a visceral level and we want her to be happy.  When Ditch is provoked by “The Professor,” suddenly  the men become boys, finding ways to undo one another.  “King of Herrings” tackles marriage, fidelity, and living life to its fullest, even on the day to day level.


KOHevieUsing black and white to film a movie is taking a huge chance.  It can come off as being contrived or trying too hard.  “King of Herrings” is a natural fit and masters the unusual lighting and shading to accentuate certain situations.  It brings you back in time to where men wore the pants and women stayed at home— cleaning, cooking, sewing.  But more than a feeling of an era, this adept use of black and white and all the shades of grey allow you to feel the emotions and power of each scene.  From ominously dark situations to light and hopeful scenes, the film takes full advantage of the use of natural and artificial light.  In addition, the unique camera angles make the entire film a work true of art.



The eloquent yet harsh conversational style elicits thought-provoking truths in one moment, then absurd rather comedic observations in the next.  You truly feel as if you are eavesdropping on private conversations. The film also finds a way to accurately portray the differences in communication between the sexes.  The women are caring and thoughtful, and the men are always on the defensive and competitive side. And when the two opposing sides meet, there is anxiety and stress.  The similarities, however, are that both sexes find themselves wandering down a path that becomes a very slippery slope.


“King of Herrings” is a rich and intense film, fluent in both its writing and acting, which produces a complex and enjoyable film about life and relationships.    It’s rare that you find a film that has all the technical elements along with a great story and well-rounded characters.  “King of Herrings” has it all.


“King of Herrings” is being released on January 20th on VOD (Video on Demand).   For more information go to

Listen to the interview with Eddie Jemison, the writer, director, and star of the film, “King of Herrings” right here!  INTERVIEW WITH EDDIE JEMISON and LAURA LAMSON



January 17th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “SLAMDANCE 2015 PROSPECTIVE FILMS by Pamela Powell”



In less than a week, the SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL will be adding to the excitement taking place in the picturesque town of Park City, Utah.  With 2 film festivals going on (Sundance and Slamdance), skiers and snowboarders can find empty slopes!  But if you’re a cinephile, you’ll find there isn’t enough time to see all the fantastic films let alone take advantage of the empty slopes and no lift lines.

For those of you new to the film festival circuit, you may not know about the Slamdance Film Festival.  Of course, you no doubt have heard of Sundance.  Slamdance takes place at the same time and in the same town as its more famous cousin.  Slamdance, “a vital alternative,” according to its website, is different from Sundance in that it limits its “competition films to those which have not yet gotten a deal.”  Initially, the Slamdance Film Festival “…began when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.  Unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer, they instead started their own event…”  The founding fathers stand by their motto of the festival, “By Filmmakers For Filmmakers.”

franco clinger

Like Sundance, Slamdance has several competitive categories, an opening and closing night party, and monetary awards for the winners.  Unlike Sundance, it’s quite laid back in getting tickets to the screenings and the venue is quite intimate allowing you to truly chat with writers, directors, and talent.


troubleNow that you know a little bit more about Slamdance, you can appreciate the quality of films they screen to the public each year.  Now in my 3rd year covering this festival (I stumbled, quite literally, upon it 4 years ago…you have to remember, altitude does funny things to your equilibrium), I am finding wonderfully original and creative films.  For example, “I Put A Hit On You” and “Copenhagen” are two films that have won awards across the country and started right here at Slamdance last year.  This year looks to be quite promising as well!  Here are Reel Honest Reviews’ prospective highlights for the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival:


Feature Films:

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BATKID BEGINS: A WISH HEAR AROUND THE WORLD, RATTER, BODY, ACROSS THE SEA, CLINGER, THE TROUBLE WITH DOT & HARRY, BIRDS OF NEPTUNE, TIRED MOONLIGHT, THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE, ALPHA, and James Franco’s YOSEMITE.  (Franco has 2 films in Sundance and will be hosting a coffee talk along with the screening of his film YOSEMITE at Slamdance.)batkid_9




Short Films:




Anarchy Shorts:  (It’s the “anti-genre” of films or as the festival likes to say, its an ode to “Fuck the system.”)


If you’re in or near Park City, Utah from January 23-29, be sure to check out the Slamdance Film Festival.  Go to for more information or to purchase tickets.  And be sure to check back with Reel Honest Reviews for up to date capsule reviews of all of these films!  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it (please insert a huge sigh with the back of my hand to my forehead here)!



'Blackhat' Offers Cure for Insomnia by Pamela Powell

January 16th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Blackhat' Offers Cure for Insomnia by Pamela Powell”



Imagine, if you will, sitting in a room watching a couple of people write computer code on their laptops.  Exciting, eh?  Well, that’s about what “Blackhat” felt like by the end of the film.  Even the simply gorgeous and talented Chris Hemsworthblackhat2 in the lead role of Nick Hathaway couldn’t electrify this film.  A pair of paddles and 1500 Volts couldn’t have done it either.  

Blackhat Movie Trailer

Nick is a tough convict who is released under strict terms thanks to the help of his Chinese Ivy League  former college roommate, now a government official, to help find the culprit responsible for a nuclear power plant meltdown.  Nick and Chen, after college, went their separate ways: one on the legal side, the other choosing the darker side.  But now, together, the two find a way to locate the “rat” behind the RAT (Remote Access Tool).


This is a classic cat (or should I say “rat”) and mouse, shoot ’em up, blood spurting film.  Initially, with Hemsworth’s charm (even with a NY accent), the quick and snarky banter is engaging and entertaining.  Unfortunately, this pace quickly plummets leaving a gaping hole in the Interest and Entertainment Categories.


The story meandered more than the Mississippi River, attempting to flood the viewer with extraneous and unnecessary information.  We see the US government officials working harmoniously with the Chinese, showing how both governments get wrapped up in bureaucracy. It becomes evident that to solve the problem and find the mastermind rat, Nick, Chen Dawai, and Chen Dawai’s sister, Chen Lien would have to do it themselves, subverting officials and doing things in a less than legal way.  Yes, there are a few love scenes here showing Mr. Hemsworth’s spectacular physique (I woke up at that point), so the writers could check off Show Hemsworth’s Abs Category.



I was hoping for a smart thriller, but what I got was a dull, repetitive, and ridiculous film.  This is a type of film that begs you to point out its flaws and inconsistencies, so let me plunge right in.  Let’s talk about their wardrobe.  I saw that the main actors only had either a purse or a little gym bag with them as they got on the plan.  They had very little with them as this wasn’t a well-planned travel abroad trip.  Now, granted, I am the Queen of Overpacking (you can see my crown if you visit my home), but these actors had more wardrobe changes that Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist.”  Not only did they have a new outfit on, it was freshly pressed and starched.  Yes, I know, Hemsworth looks great in a pair of jeans and an untucked linen shirt, but really!  Then there is the classic gun fight:  Pistol vs. Machine Gun.  Hmmm.  Which do you think will win?  Yep, that’s right.  The pistol.  Apparently, the machine gun with its rapid fire bullets couldn’t hit the side of a barn from 20’ out.  And why, oh why, did the “good guys” remember to wear their bullet proof vests in one scene and then not the other?  Duh!



You might think Viola Davis adds credibility to this film and ordinarily she would, but not in this case.  Her role as a department head in the FBI just makes her looks silly in her Red Cherry false eyelashes.  Wei Tang plays Chen Lien, Nick’s love interest and counterintelligence counterpart.  I (as a former speech-language pathologist with an emphasis on foreign accent reduction) understand that she is Chinese with an accent, however there were many phrases and even entire sentences that the accent completely interfered with comprehension.  After a while, I realized that it didn’t matter.  Her role was to be Nick’s love sidekick, the woman to use her wily ways to get what she wants, and the damsel needing protecting.  Hemsworth played the part he was given to the best of his ability.  It’s too bad the dialogue, directing and writing wasn’t up to his standards (think “Rush” here).


“Blackhat” is truly perfect if you’re suffering from insomnia.  Unless you enjoy watching someone hit the keyboard on their laptop as the stare at the screen, you might want to skip this one.  I guess that’s how my dogs feel during the day when I’m writing reviews!  Now I feel guilty so I’m off to walk the dogs.  photo 1photo 8

'Still Alice' A True and Emotional Film about Alzheimer's by Pamela Powell

January 16th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Still Alice' A True and Emotional Film about Alzheimer's by Pamela Powell”




“Still Alice” is based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Genova.  Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland have turned this book into a screenplay without losing any of the potency—no small feat considering the debacle of “Wild” and “Unbroken” from a couple of months ago.

still alicebook


Still Alice Movie Trailer

Julianne Moore has the lead role as 50 year old Dr. Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at a prestigious university.  As she begins to notice some word finding problems and confusion, she seeks the advice of a medical doctor.  With a diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Alice braces herself for the changes ahead that will not only affect her, but her husband and children as well.


To say that this film is an emotionally powerful film doesn’t do it justice.  This is a very real disease that affects approximately 250,000 people under the age of 65.  “Still Alice” tackles the disease and its implications on the family with skill and finesse.  Alice, a very educated and bright woman, utilizes every compensatory technique possible in order to stave off the devastation of the disease for as long as possible.  Her relationship with her husband (Alec Baldwin) changes as it does with her children as well.  The film lays out before you the naked truth of the disease and not everyone has the ability to deal well with it.  But alas, we are not given a choice in this matter.  We see this with Alice and her husband who is angry and runs from the problem.  We see her daughter who has been struggling with fertility issues, reassess her choices.  And we see the ethical implications of current medical technology, with the ability to find out if you carry the gene for this disease.  The issues this film brings to the forefront are truly outstanding.  It’s a heartwrenching film reminiscent of the documentary “The Genius of Marian.”  ‘The Genius Of Marian’

still alicejulianne

Julianne Moore’s performance is outstanding.  She truly understands the progression of the disease and her ability to portray the complex emotional issues comes through with flying colors.  Her portrayal of Alice will help bring more attention and understanding to this devastating type of dementia.  Baldwin’s performance is that of a caring, but not totally understanding husband.  He’s able to show us his character’s confusion and feelings of being torn with mature skill.  Equalling Moore’s performance is Kristen Stewart’s role of the rebellious twenty-something daughter, Lydia, who lacstillalicekirstenks direction.  All of the cast expertly bring so many levels of emotion to the screen, giving reality to a sad situation.  


“Still Alice” finds a way to tell an important and relevant story in a uniquely accurate and entertaining way.  The characters and believable and true, enabling you to care and understand each of their very different reactions and situations.  The importance of films like this cannot be overstated.  Early Onset Alzheimer’s is a very real disease and “Still Alice” gives it a powerful voice.  The film truly tells a great story that will require tissues.  It will also raise questions in your own mind as to what you would do in this situation and how would your family react?


“Still Alice” is on my top ten films of the year.  With the adaptation from book to screen, the directing, and the acting, it is without doubt not only just a good story, it is an important and socially relevant film.  Dementia is a disease that touches almost everyone in some way.  Alzheimer’s affects over 5 million people and that number is increasing exponentially with us baby boomer’s aging and living longer than our parents. (Check out SILVER TSUNAMI)  Silver Tsunami Information

“Still Alice” is a film that can educate, enlighten, and entertain.  Now that’s what filmmaking should be.



'American Sniper' finds pride in service, but with a price by Pamela Powell

January 16th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'American Sniper' finds pride in service, but with a price by Pamela Powell”


“American Sniper” brings images of death, shooting, and war.  Those would be accurate images for this film, but it is so much more than that.  It is a story of one man who loves his country in a way that most would perceive as inconceivable.  It is also a story of how war changes one man and how he must overcome the trauma of war.  Bradley Cooper stars in this unusually insightful film about pride, love, trauma, and family.

American Sniper Movie Trailer

Chris Kyle is a Navy SEAL sniper who is deployed to help protect the lives oAmerican Sniper Movief the soldiers with whom he serves.  As a child hunting with his father, Chris has a skill unmatched by those around him—he has pinpoint accuracy from significant distances.  He joins the armed forces and the Navy utilizes his skills to save lives by taking lives.  This lifestyle isn’t exactly a perfect match for matrimony, but Chris meets and falls in love with Taya (Sienna Miller) and their life takes on a new dimension.  Tour after tour leaves Chris wrestling with the images around him and what he is doing and the decisions he is making each and every moment on the battlefield.  Chris is torn between his family and his country, both needing him and his skills.


“American Sniper” finds a way to tell the horrors of war and bring humanity and emotion into the story as well.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something we are all very aware of, but “American Sniper” shows us a first hand account of it through the eyes of Chris Kyle.  Although there has been some discrepancies regarding telling every aspect of Kyle, it does give us what we need to know in the making of a U.S. war hero.  Was he perfect?  Probably not. This film is not a documentary, much in the way FOXCATCHER is not totally accurate, but the basis of the film does stand on its own.  “American Sniper” shows us what it would be like to be in the midst of these dangerous situations and making life or death decisions.  It’s a beautifully told story with the impact of an emotional grenade.


Bradley Cooper never ceases to amaze me in his more recent roles.  From “Silver Linings Playbook” to “American Sniper,” Cooper shakes off the charming and suave persona of the “Hangover” series to give us a much deeper and more meaningful character.  He’s bulked up for his role of Chris Kyle, changing his jaw setting in an attempt to look more like the real Chris Kyle.  Still using those gorgeous blue eyes, Cooper conveys such emotional turmoil that the viewer can truly feel everything that is going through his mind.  Cooper continues to prove to audiences that he is capable of being so much more than just a pretty face.  He is a talented and keen actor with the skills to portray a myriad number of personalitiesamericansniperclint


The book American Sniper written by Chris Kyle as well as two others, is condensed into the film version by Jason Hall.  With Clint Eastwood at the helm to direct, all of the characters find a way to bring life and truth to their roles.  There is balance to the film with bits of humor, comaradarie among men, and love in relationships and having a family.  Tamersniperrealhe violence is a very big part of this film, as the title suggests, but the story is more about an exceptional man and his role in this era of history.  


“American Sniper” is a bullseye in filmmaking.  With excellent writing, acting, and superb directing, this film passionately tells on man’s story during a time of war.  American pride goes a long way and this film demonstrates how the pride and love of a country is still very important and tangible.


'A Most Violent Year' A Powerful Representation of NYC 1981 by Pamela Powell

January 16th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'A Most Violent Year' A Powerful Representation of NYC 1981 by Pamela Powell”

amvyposter“A Most Violent Year” was just snubbed by the Academy, but don’t let that mislead you so that you miss this incredibly intense and dramatic film.  The film skillfully captures a time period and political situation  of an era not too long ago.  J.C. Chandor writes and directs the story of NYC, 1981, when gas and heating was a deadly business and outsiders were not welcome.

A Most Violent Year Movie Trailer

Only 34 years ago, NYC was an intimidatingly dirty and dangerous on the surface.  Delve more deeply into the inner workings of the city, specifically the production of heating gas and oil, and the companies competed in the dirtiest of ways.  As Abel Morales, an immigrant honing his skills and building his own oil company, attempts to “play with the big boys,” he gets more than he bargained for.  Witamvy1h hijackings of his trucks, shootings, and threats against his family, Abel tries to take the high road and not stoop to the lowly strategies of his competitors.  His wife, however, has her own thoughts, connections and strategies which sometimes don’t mesh with Abel.  “A Most Violent Year” tackles big oil, NYC politics, and an era of crime like no other.  


“A Most Violent Year” unfolds intensely and intentionally as you try toamvy figure out the true motivation and morals behind the Morales family.  As the threats against the safety of his family increase exponentially, Abel promises to “take care of it.”  Anna (Chastain), his wife, is no stranger to NYC goons, guns, and corruption as she was raised in the midst of it.  She’s tough and no one will threaten or harm her or her children.  Corruption and control are at the heart of this film finding a way to justify actions and questioning levels of corruption.  “A Most Violent Year” portrays violence in the obvious ways, but also in a more subtle and subversive ways. 


And with corruption comes the legal system.  At this level of corruption, politicians, district attorneys and the police force are involved at every level possible.  The grime of the city smears across everyone’s hands and attempting to see things as black and white can only be dizzying—there is only a myriad number of shades of gray.


Oscar Isaac takes on this lead role as Abel Morales with strength, determination, and pride.  He’s powerful in every way, emitting integrity throughout the film.  The obvious mismatching with Chastain is like mixing oil and water, but shaken vigorously enough the combination will produce a wonderful result.  It’s Chastain’s ability to bring the grittiness of NYC and her background to the role that intensifies the story.  She’s a protective mother, but her weakness is trying to keep up with the Jones’ and her upbringing.  Her familial background will always keep her at least at arm’s distance away.  This is by far, Isaac’s best role and even though Chastain has had plenty of wonderful roles, she truly shines in this as Anna Morales.


Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo, and Alessandro Nivola round out this outstanding cast of characters.  The writing is superb, keeping the viewer on the edge of his/her seat.  The cinamatography and location truly transport you back to NYC, 1981.  Trust me, this is not  NYC as it is now.


“A Most Violent Year” is an intense dramatic thriller that will captivate you as you struggle to breathe.  Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain find perfection in these roles to tell you of an era full of corruption, deceit, and utter disdain for human life.  Has this era passed?  See the film and then you tell me.




"The Imitation Game" Truly Genius by Pamela Powell

January 13th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"The Imitation Game" Truly Genius by Pamela Powell”
“The Imitation Game” is truly one of the best (if not THE best) films of 2014.  Benedict Cumberbatch portrays mathematician Alan Turing during WWII.  This brilliant man changed the course of the war, saving millions of lives, by using his knowledge to create a machine to crack the Enigma Code.  This sounds like your basic 8th grade history class and in many ways it is.  It tells the story of a man who broke a German Code to help stop WWII.  But unlike your 8th grade history class (or at least mine), it tells of a man who dared to be different and changed the world as we know it. The film is full of passionate detail enlightening your mind and your spirit to truly understand the situation at hand and the man at the helm.
Alan Turing with his acerbic personality applies for a “top secret” job in the government during the height of WWII.  As a professor at King’s College at Cambridge, this “odd duck” used his genius to wile his way in to the team attempting to crack the impossible Enigma Code the Germans were using.  Showing that intellect iimatationsn’t always accompanied by social skills, Turing alienated his team knowing that he could solve the problem at hand.  Why couldn’t he?  He was very good at crossword puzzles and how different could it possibly be?
The film tackles Turing’s life in the most interesting way possible.  We see Turing in the present day and learn of his trials and tribulations throughout his life in boarding school.   The film gives us a complete picture of Turing by using this non-linear story-telling technique.  We truly get to know this man and see how he processes the information around him.  This prodigy sees things in black and white and has absolutely no social skills whatsoever.  This “irascible genius routine” nearly gets him booted out of the progrimiatainam until he realizes that every superior has another superior.  Finding no bars that are too high, he reaches out to Winston Churchill and finds the support he needs to plod forward with the development of his code cracking machine.
“The Imitation Game” is history told with accuracy and entertainment.  There is humor and heart in this film that give depth to the story and each of the characters.  The writing is smart, clever, and deftly delivered from each cast member.   As Turing and his best friend from boarding school discuss what codes and ciphers are, Turing equates this to normal talking. After all, people say one thing and mean something altogether different.  Isn’t that a “cipher?” Turing, even with his oddities, really understands the bottom line quite well.  And as Ms. Clark (Kiera Knightley) is questioned by those around her regarding her intelligence and using her feminine ways, she responds, “I’m a woman in a man’s job and I do not have the luxury of being an ass.”  She’s smart and savvy which inevitably enables Turing to complete his mission.
The story is fluid and captivating, unfolding before you as you anticipate what will happen next.  Even though you know how the story ends, you find yourself questioning whether or not this “machine” will crack the code.  You are on the edge of your seat for the entire film.  What makes this more than just a historical reinactment is the social implications of who Alan Turing was—he was a homosexual and in that time period, that was illegal.  Tens of thousand of homosexuals were arrested, prosecuted, and punished for their “indecent behavior.”  Turing’s secret lifestyle was eventually discovered and the consequences detrimental not only to Turing, but to the world of science and technology.


Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is nothing short of truly brilliant.  He embodies the “odd duck” with superior intellect  as if he has truly become this war hero.  His body language, eye contact, affect overall, all paints a clear picture of who this man is.  Cumberbatch should win a
n Oscar for this performance as he is simply perfect.  Kiera Knightley reaches out of her scope and finds success in this role as Ms
. Clark.  She’s smart and witty and understands how to be the counterpart that precisely balances Cumberbatch.  Knightley is perceptive and knowledgable in this role as she understands how women were viewed during that era.  The entire cast seems to have found the roles for which they were best suited.  Together they give a passionate, energetic, and emotional performance worthy of an Oscar win on every level.
“The Imitation Game” is a top film of 2014.  The historical relevance alone is a film worth seeing, but coupling the social implications of being gay during that time period and how judgemental it was makes it even more topically relevant.  Alan Turing was judged his entire life.  From being that “odd duck” as his mother told him, to being a gay man in an intolerant world, Turing fought a losing battle throughout his life.  This movie will make you think and feel for those who you might view as being different.  This man quite possibly changed the outcome of WWII.  This man changed the world as we now know it.  As you sit at your computer, as I am doing now, you can thank Alan Turing for creating it.  Where would we be without this rather odd duck?  After all, “when you need brilliance, who wants normal?”


RHR's Top Films of 2014 by Pamela Powell

January 11th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “RHR's Top Films of 2014 by Pamela Powell”

Each year film critics and reviewers compile their list of top films and I have done the same thing.  However, my top list includes not just the obvious choices, but the smaller films that screened at the myriad number of film festivals across the country.  RHR prides itself on finding these smaller, but no less brilliant films and brings them to your attention.  From the Sundance Film Festival to the Waterfront Film Festival and many others comes a shining list of entertaining and meaningful films.  So, without further adieu, here is Reel Honest Reviews’ list!
































































































January 10th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2015 PROSPECTS by Pamela Powell”


PC Fall 09-2

It’s Sundance time!  Another year of the festival circuit is about to begin and first off the starting block is the well-known Sundance Film Festival.  You might be thinking, “Why should I care about what films this reviewer is seeing?”  Here’s the skinny on that:

1.  You’ll be first to know what films are headed down the pike that are worth seeing

2.  I go out of my  way to find films that aren’t just big name/big star films.  I find indie film gems that may be overlooked because they don’t have big names and big budgets to support them.

3.  All festivals have a myriad number of entertaining and informative films that get overlooked by big publications like Entertainment Weekly.  Reel Honest Reviews looks first and foremost for quality, not at who’s hot and who’s not.  (OK, I’ll admit that it’s still fun to see the “hot” stars sitting next to you at a restaurant!)

4.  You’ll have an opportunity to ask a question during one of my interviews!

With that information under your belt, here are the films RHR intends to see and then give you the “reel” scoop.  And I’ll even share a few photos of food, parties, music, cool new products, as well as the ski slopes.

With most festivals, this is a competitive one.  All films are grouped into respective categories in which to compete.  With 9 categories, here are my standouts—and I do tend to pick them each year!

Sundance Film Festival Guide










































Sundance always offers up new technology in the film industry as well as great music at the ASCAP Music Cafe.

There just isn’t enough time in the day to cover everything, but if I give up sleep and food, I should cover quite a bit!

Check back for capsule reviews, photos, and interviews of all things Sundance.  With Redford’s “A Walk in the Woods” and a special virtual experience using “Wild,” Merrell boots will be a highlighted cool product this year.  I’ll also be posting my interview schedule so please let me know if you have a particular question YOU would like to have asked!

Cheers! (I may not sleep or eat, but I will have a glass of wine…or two!)







January 9th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'LEVIATHAN' A SLOW DISSECTION OF THE HUMAN PSYCHE by Pamela Powell”

Please note that Reel Honest Reviews’ review of this film is also printed, with more description of the film  Cinematrek’s site.

Cinematrek Website Review


“Leviathan” is a complex and sordid tale of political greed, individual rights, morality, and religious corruption slowly played out in excruciating detail.  Although the story is thought-provoking, the pace of the film just doesn’t keep the interest level high enough to engage the viewer until well into the first hour.


Leviathan, for all you linguists out there, is from the Old Testament meaning “sea monster” or “whale.”  This term is gently woven into the multiple themes in the 2015 film “Leviathan” starring Aleksey Serebryakov, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, and Elena Lyadova.  This Russian version, written and directed by the reclusive genius Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a haunting look at corruption at every level of life.


Koyla lives in a small Russian coastal town in a home overlooking the sea with no indoor plumbing.  He is fighting the corrupt mayor and government to keep his home, but Koyla’s appeals through the Russian legal system (a bit of an oxymoron) fall on deaf ears.  In a final attempt, Koyla recruits a long time friend and high-powered lawyer from Moscow, Dmitriy, to help him win this fight.  Fighting corruption with corruption seems to be the answer, and Dmitriy seems to have found the “ace in the hole” as he has uncovered unsavory information about the mayor.


Koyla looks for help from his friends and his church, but this just leads to more questions and distress.  Koyla’s life is falling apart as his wife and son have even greater issues to confront, all due to Koyla’s temper and choices. Each and every scene is always complete with many, many bottles of vodka being consumed like water.  Mix in guns for sport, infidelity, and stress with several gallons of alcohol and you have a bomb just waiting to detonate.


The pace of the film picks up after the first hour as the issues become more intertwined and the characters become more fleshed out.  The richness of the characters and what motivates each of them is quite poignant making it worth the wait.  Lilya is a step mom which in itself brings issues to a family with a teenage son.  We see Lilya struggle with her job, her relationship with her son, and her obvious dissatisfaction in life.  The bond that Dmitriy and Koyla have seems stronger than steel, but there is a point at which it can be broken.  The Russian Orthodox Church and its leaders find rather unorthodox ways of interpreting the Bible.  Corruption looks for a way to rationalize itself and there are no limits.


To have such elaborate characters, you must also have brilliant actors and “Leviathan” does just that.  These people and their situations feel painfully real.  Their interactions and chemistry inclusive of anger, relief, and fear are truly palpable.  Roman Madyanov’s performance as the mayor who will stop at nothing to obtain his coveted land overlooking the sea is truly stellar.


The flaw in the film comes from the editing.  An overall feeling of desperation and despair definitely is the underlying tone accomplished through the use of setting, music, and camera angles.  Unfortunately, it was overused and slowed the pace of the film significantly.  The droning of the reading at warp speed of the appeal in the courthouse was like fingernails down a chalkboard after the first minute.    Thankfully, the story, although it could have been significantly edited, takes some very unexpected twists and turns.



“Leviathan” is an intriguing and complex film portraying a man struggling for his basic individual rights in Russia.  This is a dark, dreary, depressing, and dismal film, but at the core it is a very intriguing and powerful story that will make you question every level of life.  However, the slow pace makes the film struggle in its appeal.  This is one foreign film that I look forward to an American remake…and I never have said that!


"Almost There" Is Here by Pamela Powell

January 5th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Almost There" Is Here by Pamela Powell”


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The Gene Siskel Film Center will be hosting the Chicago premiere of the documentary “Almost There” by local co-directors Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden.  Peter Anton, the film’s focus, will join Dan and Aaron at the screening on January 10th at 7:45 pm and Sunday, January 11 at 3 pm.  Tickets can be found at    Gene Siskel Film Center Tickets for ALMOST THERE

almost6“Almost There” poignantly tells a tale of community, responsibility, aging, and art.  As Peter Anton is “discovered” at a local Indiana Pierogifest by Chicago filmmakers, Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden.  The filmmakers see something in this aging Almostfellow that intrigue them to delve further into his life only to see many more layers that aren’t quite as brilliantly colorful as the paints he uses to see the world and express his visions.


Peter Anton is much like many older Americans attempting to care for themselves with no help from family.  But Peter has a want to tell his story, his love of art and creating a lasting way to be rememberalmost7ed.  Dan and Aaron go to Peter’s home to discover conditions not fit for human habitation.  Mold, broken pipes, no heat, dirt, clutter, and filth surround Peter and his “art studio.”  The good heart of these two men couldn’t leave Peter without trying to better his living conditions.  The film turns into less of a documentary about a lost artist and more into the deplorable living conditinos of this man and how society can help him, but then comes full circle back to the artist at hand.

The filmmakers begin to know Peter better as they discover more of his work and get to know him as a person.  Interviewing neighbors and others that knew him decades ago reveals interesting if not angering information.  This man is so much more than just an old man who loves art.  He has a colorful and sordid background which is addressed with deft skill and emotion from all involved in this film.
“Almost There” paints a vividly clear picture of the human desire to live on long after we are gone, but more importantly, it is a snap shot of our almost5basic instinct to help each other—with limitations.  The film takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride from sadness to disgust, from empathy to outrage and everything in between.  The unique perspective this film uses allows you to see this man’s life and all involved from every angle.   

Peter Anton’s story is an unusual story in that he is an artist looking for a way to live on and to live now with himself and forgive himself.  Unfortunately, in many ways, Peters story is not unusual in that we have a problem in our society with being able to care for our elders in a way that is humane and dignified as well as affordable.  There are many people out there that do not have the advocates such as Dan and Aaron to help sort out bills, payments, and accomplishing basic daily living activities.
“Almost There” is an emotional story about a colorful artist, finding his way in life and redemption.  It’s not only Peter Anton’s story, it’s a story of community and a sense of responsibility. It’s a story of hope and life itself.  “Almost There” will remind us all that we are all “almost there.”



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