Monthly Archives: March, 2015

'A Woman Like Me' Interview with Elizabeth Giamatti

March 31st, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'A Woman Like Me' Interview with Elizabeth Giamatti”

 

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Pamela Powell talks with Elizabeth Giamatti about her new film “A Woman Like Me” which is traveling the film festival circuit.  This emotional film is a new type of “hybrid” documentary that utilizes fictional characters mirroring the real life situation of Alex Sichel who has been diagnosed with terminal metastatic breast cancer.  Listen to Elizabeth talk about the making of this film with her friend of 30 years, Alex Sichel.

Interview with Elizabeth Giamatti

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'SPOILERS' Reminiscent Yet Current Teen Film by Pamela Powell

March 24th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'SPOILERS' Reminiscent Yet Current Teen Film by Pamela Powell”

Envision what a 2015 version of “The Breakfast Club” might be and you have “Spoilers.”  The promising young writer and director Connor Williams creates a drama embodying the high school kids of today.  From the troubled ‘skin head’ to the culturally diverse and struggling Muslim girl, kids and their experiences are slowly revealed to allow the viewer to not only understand the decisions these kids have made, but to also see the common thread among all teens.  And although technology and hair and clothing styles have changed (thankfully!), the feelings and emotions of teens have not.

A unique and creative introduction takes place as we see just a glimpse of each main character struggling with his or her parent(s).  Communication and understanding are the core struggles with each of them.  These kids  are all in work detention as mandated by the police department. It is obvious that each of them has made a poor decision and now they must pay the consequences.

With unique personalities and sets of circumstances, they are all rather tight-lipped; unwilling to share with each other.  However,  we see a need to bond, even among this rather motley crew, and human contact and understanding is necessary no matter what your age or what you’ve done.  An understanding of this very concept from this young writer hammers home the fact that Connor Williams has a bright future in front of him.  The ability to create realistic dialogue, while guiding the actors to convey these complex yet relatable emotions, takes a natural gift. Where this film exceeds, is in its ability to let the viewer inside the mind of each teen through expressions and visual imagery.

“Spoilers” is an outstanding first feature from Connor Williams.  His concise and creative dialogue writing is a skill that one would expect from someone much more seasoned.  Resurrecting “The Breakfast Club” concept in today’s world shows the need for a continuation to target the older teen audience and the difficulties they encounter.  “Spoilers” has its finger on the pulse of today’s young adults.

'Cinderella' Comes to Life by Pamela Powell

March 13th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Cinderella' Comes to Life by Pamela Powell”

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Disney has a captive audience and what better time to preview its upcoming attractions and entertain with a 10 minute short film with the animated stars of “Frozen.”  The classic story that you credit to Walt Disney actually has its origins in France.  Back in 1690, Charles Perrault told his version of Cinderella as Cendrillon.  Since that time, the tale has been told around the world, in various versions, but keeping the evil step-mother, a ball, and a lost item.  And of course, the happy ending.

Written by Chris Weitz and directed by one of my favorite directors, Kenneth Branagh, the film had hopes from the beginning.  This 2015 version is rich in back story, filling in all the blanks that, as a child, didn’t seem necessary, but now make the story come to life.   Ella, as her loving parents had named her, has an idyllic childhood full of love, laughter, and a uniquely positive outlook on life.  But all that happiness comes to an end when Ella’s mother takes ill and dies.  Ella grows into a beautiful young woman under the guidance of her father.  As her father takes on a new wife, Ella’s life changes, but she has made a promise to her mother to always be kind and have courage.  We now have the theme of the movie.  Courage and kindness.  These words are challenged with the demise of her lcinderella-2015oving father and the ever-increasing cruelty of her step-mother and insipid step-sisters.  Well, you know how the story goes from here.

“Cinderella” is a vividly brilliant visual spectacle ; exactly what is expected from a Disney production.  From the costumes to the backgrounds, every detail is painstakingly perfect.  The roses are every shade of the rainbow.  The horses are majestically handsome.  Even the attic in which Cinderella is relegated to live is wonderfully dusty in all the right ways.  This is a cinematic coup as children of all ages will be captivated by the sheer vibrancy before their eyes.

“Cinderella” leaves no stone unturned to make sure that every aspect of the story is told.  The narration fillsCinderella-2015-Lady-Tremaine in where the dialogue and settings leave off.  And leave it to Disney animators to bring such reality  to the critters that Cinderella loves.  The mice are particularly sweet which is difficult for me to say, but that is an entirely different story for another time.   The mice, salamanders, and pumpkin all go through the enchanting metamorphosis thanks to the whimsical spells her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)FairyGodmother-Helena-Bonham-Carter-cinderella-2015-38050928-634-390 casts.  These skillful and seamlessly magical transformations are simply bewitching.

Yes, Cinderella is beautiful and rather buxom (I don’t recall that from the original Disney film).  She’s blonde and sweet and always positive.  Lily James captures her character on every level.  Richard Madden is charming as the prince and the two step-sisters appear to have a fun time playing the ridiculously over-the-top evil girls.  Cate Blanchett is one of the few women who could have pulled off such elegance andcinderhorse sophistication to her 

cinderella movie prince charmingcharacter as evil step-mother.  She is absolutely beautifully wicked.   Stellan Skarsgard and Nonso Anozie as the Prince’s royal staff complete the robust and royal court.

The tale of Cinderella lives on with this new live action version.  It’s where being “fashionably late” pays off and how we females begin at a very young age of dreaming of Prince Charming and living “happily ever after.”  And to think that I used to blame Nicholas Sparks for that one.  Sorry, Nick.  The story remains the same at the very heart of it, but it is much more full and robust with detail.  Sprinkled with humor and a little fairy dust, the film will entertain children who have always loved this story—and a few moms out there too.  My only issue with the film is the unattainable tiny wasp waist and the majorly endowed women with distracting cleavage.  It wasn’t an animated film—let’s not try to make the real people into an animation!  Don’t get me started on the royal men’s clothing.

7 1/2 REELS

'Walter' Finds Humor and Healing in Death by Pamela Powell

March 12th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Walter' Finds Humor and Healing in Death by Pamela Powell”

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Are you going to heaven or hell?  Walter will let you know as he believes he is the son of God and this is his duty in life:  determine if you are going north or south.  Working as a movie ticket taker, Walter, still living at home with his mother, grasps the opportunity to announce judgement on movie goers as he mutters, “Heaven. Hell. Heaven. Heaven. Hell. Hell.”  Does this seem a bit odd to you?  Hopefully, you answered yes to that question.  And Walter himself is even a bit more odd.  His life is very orderly to the point of obsessive.  His mother literally feeds into his strangeness with massive meals of scrambled eggs.  And Walter  just doesn’t seem to relate too well with others.  Throw in a mixed up ghost who asks Walter to judge him so he knows where to go and we have a dark, yet light comedy mixed with a bit of drama for a very entertaining film!

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We learn early in the film that Walter  had a very traumatic experience happen to him as a young boy.  His father died.  Never having completely come to grip with this tragedy, Walter seems to deal with life in a unique way.  As he goes through his day to day life as a professional movie ticket taker with obsessive compulsive tendencies, he longs for the beautiful Popcorn Girl.  Unfortunately, like many “different” people in this world, there’s also a bully who reminds Walter of just how unique he is.  When Walter is “haunted” by Greg, the real fun begins.

WalterPray“Walter” is an extraordinarily unique film that finds humor and healing as our main character copes with his father’s death.  Rarely do you find a perfect balance, but “Walter” does.  His relationship with his mother skews to an extreme level which explains some of his behaviors, but it’s humorous and insightful conversations with the less-than-typical psychologist Dr. Corman (William H. Macy).  Perhaps if more therapists were like him, success rates would be even higher!  Within this light-hearted yet insightful film is young love as well.  It’s sweet and touching as young love should be.  Amidst laughing out loud and seeing Walter struggle in so many aspects of his life, we see a metamorphosis occur.  But it’s not until near the end that you actually see it coming.

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Andrew J. West is simply splendid in his role of Walter.  His physical comedy is subtle, yet adds such depth to who Walter truly is.  His voice, mannerisms, even the way he runs, typifies this uptight, insecure, and confused young man.  Virginia Madsen plays his mother to a “t.”  She’s just as crushed and confused, but is there for Walter—to his detriment at times, but that’s what we moms do.  And whenever you add William H. Macy to a film, you are guaranteed that you are in for a spectacular performance.  He is the master of nuances in facial expressions, pauses in his speech at just the right time, and his vocal tone elicits exactly the emotion you need.  And his is absolutely hilarious!  Justin Kirk who you might recognize from the TV series ‘Weeds,’ embodies a snarky attitude accompanied by a quick witted delivery which makes for such an entertaining 94 minutes.  He’s drop-dead perfect as the ghost who just needs to get on with the next part of his adventure.

“Walter” is a film you don’t want to miss.  With smart, succinct, and truly funny writing, the acting supports what the writer and director must have envisioned.  This comedy about death is actually a very tender and sentimental film about a boy who needs to heal.  The stellar cast and talented crew make this film come to life.  Never has a film about death been so lively!

Reel Honest Reviews had the pleasure to interview the star of this film on The Reel Focus.  Listen to the interview with Andrew J. West.  You can also catch this interview on WKCC, 91.1 FM or on-line!

Interview with Andrew J. West

 

 

'Merchants of Doubt' Interview with filmmaker Robert Kenner

March 12th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Merchants of Doubt' Interview with filmmaker Robert Kenner”

 

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Reel Honest Reviews had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Robert Kenner, writer and director of the new documentary “Merchants of Doubt.”  Check out the interview from the radio production at WKCC or click on the extended version to hear all that Mr. Kenner has to say about the impact that PR and marketing companies have on not only how we live, but how climate change is affected.

8 Minute WKCC Interview with Robert Kenner

Merchants of Doubt Interview with Robert Kenner, filmmaker extended interview

The Daily Journal Friday, March 13th edition for the full article and review!

'Unfinished Business' Should Have Stayed That Way by Pamela Powell

March 7th, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'Unfinished Business' Should Have Stayed That Way by Pamela Powell”

Vince Vaughn attempts to recapture his comedic energy and ability to entertain audiences, but completely fails in this new film “Unfinished Business.”  Co-stars Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco do nothing to help Vaughn in this newly failed endeavor.  Written by Steve Conrad who was responsible for the highly acclaimed “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” it is surprising and quite disappointing that the calibre of this new film isn’t worth the paper upon which it was printed.  Let’s hope they all used iPads to save a tree for this one.

Vaughn is  frustrated salesman, Dan Trunkman,who paints himself into a corner with his boss, quits his job, and begins a start up company which will now compete with this larger, more successful and former employer.  Taking along two others from the company, Trunkman and his company of three have everything riding on one deal.  Do I really need to even tell you any more?  I’m sure you can tell me the rest of the movie without going to see it which is exactly what I am recommending you do: don’t go see it.

In addition to this rather chaotic and disorganized story  are at least 5 other sub-stories that attempt to add substance and/or humor to the film, but do nothing but accentuate how terribly written it is.  We have the bullied son, the attention deprived daughter and wife, the older man who shares inappropriate sexual information, and the young man who actually has developmental difficulties.  Finding humor with most of these topics could have been entertaining, although I question the humor with regard to the adult with developmental difficulties.  The result is that the viewer is left just shaking his/her head.

Vaughn lacks energy in this film.  His usual frenetic verbal enthusiasm is muted to a colorless and bland monotony of uninteresting dialogue.  And his attempt to make face-time fathering acceptable and endearing falls completely flat.    There are no sweet and heartwarming situations between the father and kids to make you care.  That brings us to the insipid situations in which the three salesmen find themselves  that make you groan.  Throwing in gorgeous naked women, sex and drug scenes, along with men’s genitals in glory holes is an obvious attempt from the filmmakers to try anything to appeal to anyone who might see this film.  Tom Wilkinson’s character of Tim is out of character for him. In fact, he looks uncomfortable with his role throughout the film.  With offensive and distasteful language it is a complete embarrassment for him.

It is quite apparent that “Unfinished Business” couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a drama, a comedy, or just capitalize on crude and sophomoric humor.  Trying to be all three made this film a bomb.  With uninteresting characters, poor writing, lack of energy, and grasping at any straw to try to entice audiences, this is a film to completely cross off your list.  Don’t wait for the DVD and please don’t waste your money in the theater.  Spend it on something much more meaningful, entertaining,  and less superficial like taking your kids through the car wash.  Much more entertaining for everyone.

1/2 Reel  (I’m giving CHAPPIE 0 reels and I hated it more than “Unfinished Business which is why this film gets 1/2)

'The Mind of Mark DeFriest' Sheds Light on Mentally Ill in Prison by Pamela Powell

March 3rd, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “'The Mind of Mark DeFriest' Sheds Light on Mentally Ill in Prison by Pamela Powell”

 

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Imagine being in jail for 34  years.  Imagine that 27 of those 34 years are spent in solitary confinement.  Imagine someone with a mental impairment before going into the prison trying to survive the outcome.  How could this happen?  Unfortunately, you don’t have to use your imagination because it’s a reality and  happens more often than we want to acknowledge.  Filmmaker Gabriel London has spent the last 13 years attempting to piece together the story of Mark DeFriest with a mind-boggling and surprising conclusion.

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At the age of 19, Mark DeFriest, a mechanically gifted, but socially inept individual lost his father.  Having worked side by side with his father, he willed his tools to Mark.  Mark took them.  Unfortunately, he took them before the will was read.  As his step-mother called the police, Mark was convicted and sent to jailmark19 for 4 years for this “theft.”  As Gabriel stated, “This was the beginning” of Mark’s 34 year ordeal.

Interview with filmmaker Gabriel London

The film depicts the history of Mark’s incarceration and his mental instability.  Initially,  4 of 5 psychiatrists rendered Mark to be mentally incompetent, but the fifth doctor stated that Mark was faking it.  This diagnosis ending up being the one that landed Mark behind bars.  Mark’s social strategies in life were poor to begin with and adding a mental disability to his already complicated background, just made life in prison more than he could bear.  But it also frustrated jail keepers, wardens, and parole boards alike.  markart

Through the unique and skillful art of filmmaking, Gabriel London shows us how Mark DeFriest became the Houdini behind bars with his superior mechanical intellect.  Interviewing Mark’s wife and ex-wife shed light upon this complicated story.  And creating a history using graphic novel art allows us to envision what Mark experienced during his jail time and his repeatedly successful attempts to break out of jail.  Never losing sight of Mark’s mental deficits, Gabriel contacts the psychiatrist who was responsible for placing Mark into this criminal justice system.  The response and cooperation to help Mark is astounding.

Interview with Gabriel London

This informative documentary brings to light the many flaws in our criminal justice system.  The brutality and deplorable circumstances under which one particular penal facility operates is outrageous.  Going to prison is your punishment.  Continually being punished using tactics considered to be less than human is not acceptable.  “The Mind of Mark DeFriest” raises more questions than it can possibly answer.  However, knowledge is power and this film gives us the beginning of what is needed to make positive changes in our system.

“The Mind of Mark DeFriest” documentary enabled Mark to have a reduced prison sentence as a non-violent offender.  But the story isn’t over.  Mark’s parole isn’t as clear-cut and simple as one would like to see.  The parole board has taken the step toward righting a wrong, defriestnowbut the legal system isn’t always black and white.  Mark will continue to address his disciplinary violations while in prison which may add more time to his sentence.  

This film just scratches the surface of the many who are incarcerated that perhaps need different intervention.  How we are currently dealing with inmates like Mark isn’t working.  “The Mind of Mark DeFriest” raises so many questions that we as a society must look at and find better solutions.  This film enables us to be informed and perhaps have some control in making a difference.

“The Mind of Mark DeFriest” is opening on March 6 in select cities.  Luckily, SHOWTIME is also screening this film for subscribers beginning March 19.  For more information, go to defriest.com

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