Monthly Archives: September, 2016

Life After "Beast" An interview with Robby Benson by Pamela Powell

September 30th, 2016 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on “Life After "Beast" An interview with Robby Benson by Pamela Powell”

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Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall, and Robby Benson, the voice behind the Beast, was in Chicago to help celebrate this mile marker for the beloved children’s classic.

 

Throughout his remarkably varied career, Benson found notoriety not only in acting in films, but directing hit television shows such as “Friends” and writing two best-selling novels.

 

What has this actor and once teen heartthrob been doing since his iconic roles in films like “One On One,” “Ice Castles” and the beloved role as the Beast?

 

 As I listened to that signature Benson voice, soft-spoken yet rich and melodic, he told me his career centers around his love of his family — a truly refreshing perspective from a successful Hollywood star.

READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE

Hollywood Strikes Oil with "Deepwater Horizon" by Pamela Powell

September 26th, 2016 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “Hollywood Strikes Oil with "Deepwater Horizon" by Pamela Powell”

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“Deepwater Horizon” recreates the devastating environmental oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so expertly that you can almost feel the heat from the flames burning on the water.  This intense action film based on true events, starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, and Dylan O’Brian brings you behind the scenes leading up to this monumental disaster.  Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, and directed by Peter Berg, you will not only learn the inside story of what happened that day, but perhaps you’ll take a closer look at our environmental policies and fuel consumption.  But if that’s not your thing, you’ll love the high action and suspense this film brings.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

The story is true.  On April 20, 2010, British Petroleum’s oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, drilled 3.5 miles down into the ocean’s floor.  Due to human error, greed, and negligence, the rig blew, killing 11 crew members and creating negative environmental consequences that still effect us today.  The film doesn’t preach this aspect of the story.  In fact, at the surface (pun intended), this is just a suspenseful, high action, sometimes gory movie with lots of explosions and daring attempts to rescue and/or escape from the situation.  We are also briefly privy to the meaningful family relationships of Mike Williams (Wahlberg) and Felicia (deepwaterheaderHudson), allowing us to more readily identify with the characters who are in peril.  It’s truly a dual level story that is mesmerizing, and if you allow it to be (and necessarily so), it’s also angering.

Wahlberg plays the everyday man: hard working, loyal, dedicated husband and father.  His integrity and honesty with an ability to be liked by everyone, shines in the face of disaster.  Wahlberg seems a natural fit for this role, carving out this ordinary, yet extraordinary man who could be your neighbor.  Russell portrays the real life Jimmy Harrell, the operations manager of the rig.  He has that experienced and rugged look that makes you immediately trust what he says.  Knowing that these actors are portraying real men, brings their performances to an even higher level.  John Malkovich shines as the BP head honcho whose inexperience in the field ultimately jeopardizes lives.  He is the consummate wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Using expressions and a manner of speaking only Malkovich could utter, he creates a very unlikeable bad guy.  His “Malcovich-Louisiana-speak” is the icing on the cake to make him a condescending, pompous blockhead.

“Deepwater Horizon” lays the foundation for what’s to come in obvious yet creative ways.  The impending doom is visual and visceral as wdhkurte see everyone filling their cars with gas, the deafening, muffled banging of the drill into the ocean, and the push and pull between the characters and their knowledge.  Although we all know the end result of this “accident,” we don’t know the details and that’s what makes you catch your breath and hope for the best for each of the characters in the film.  Harnessing the fear and the courage of each of them is what “Deepwater Horizon” does best.  With amazing stunt work, realistic explosions, and a script that is captivating, this film has it all.

“Deepwater Horizon” is a film that is a must-see.  Yes, there is a message here, and a strong one, if you want to hear it.  Bringing this message to the masses in the form of a blockbuster Hollywood movie is a genius move for those who love intense action films and for those who want to know about just one monumental environmental disaster.  Stay for the credits as we get to meet the real heroes, some who lost their lives, and others who lived to tell the story.

4 STARS because we need to care about our Earth!

"Real Boy" Insight into becoming transgender by Pamela Powell

September 25th, 2016 Posted by Film Festivals, Review 0 thoughts on “"Real Boy" Insight into becoming transgender by Pamela Powell”

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REELING: THE CHICAGO LGBTQ+ INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is currently underway through September 29th, offering award-winning films including full-length features, documentaries, and shorts.  Shaleece Haas (“Old People Driving”) documentarian headlines the festival with her film “Real Boy.”  The filmmaker follows Ben over the course of 4 years as he transitions from being “Rachael,” to “Ben.”  It’s a sublime look into the emotional toll this process takes on not just Ben, but his family and his relationships.  The raw honesty of this film enables you to better understand the personal struggle a transgender individual faces.

“Real Boy” not only harnesses important moments such as a surgical procedure, but through the use of interviews, we hear from Ben, his mom, and his best friend.  Ben’s quest to become the person he has always felt he should be, connects you with him.  The film reminds us that we all have the same wants and needs in life:  to be loved and accepted.

As a part of Ben’s transition, Joe Stevens, a member of the band Coyote Grace, mentors this young man as he too went through the same process.  Depicting these two parallel lives along with some amazing music from both Joe and Ben, and you have a film that will enlighten you during a time when the LGBQT community needs all of us to understand and accept everyone.

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For more information about this festival and all of the films, go to www.reelingfilmfestival.org  or follow @reelingfilmfest on Twitter for updated info and ticket promotions.  The films are being shown at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark St., Chicago.

 

 

 

CIFF (Chicago International Film Festival) is just around the corner by Pamela Powell

September 23rd, 2016 Posted by Film Festivals 0 thoughts on “CIFF (Chicago International Film Festival) is just around the corner by Pamela Powell”

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You’re in luck! See the stars, be the first to see not-yet-released films and even ask questions of the writers and directors following. Everyone who loves movies can attend the upcoming 52nd Chicago International Film Festival, or CIFF, from Oct. 13-27.

Read the article in its entirety here as it was published in the Friday, August 23rd edition of The Daily Journal.

"The Dressmaker" Is Stylized Hilarity by Pamela Powell

September 23rd, 2016 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “"The Dressmaker" Is Stylized Hilarity by Pamela Powell”

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Have you ever left a theater thinking, “I am so glad I spent my time and money to go see that film?”  If you haven’t, then this is the one that will make you utter those glorious words.  Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, and Liam Hemsworth star in this Australian tragedy/comedy stylized revenge film written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and based on the novel by Rosalie Ham.  It’s an over-the-top humorous look at Tilly (Winslet), her quest for knowledge and revenge while she attempts to reconnect with her reclusive and very feisty mother, “Mad Molly” (dressmakerredDavis).

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Set in 1951 in the outback of Australia, Tilly returns to this one-horse town comprised of just a few wooden structures.   It’s reminiscent of the “Little House on the Prairie” or the Wild West.  Tilly is a sharp contrast to her surroundings as she is gorgeously outfitted in her own designer clothing, armed only with a suitcase and a sewing machine to combat the town’s curmudgeons and busybodies.   And armed she must be as she is there to gain information about her repressed and apparent ghastly past.  As she marches up the steps to her mother’s rat-infested, dilapidated house on the hill, Tilly and Molly have a less than favorable mother-daughter reunion.  Soon the entire gossipy, caddy little town knows that “the murderess” is back, but Tilly fights back by transforming the local women into exquisite creations using haute couture.  It’s a wild ride filled with humor, love, compassion, and deep, dark secrets.  In other words, it’s a perfect combination!

This Aussie production reminds me of the recently released “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” as it creates a preposterously wonderful situation and runs with it.  Tilly is a classic beauty with intelligence and heart, but she needs to find the truth behind a tragic incident that occurred when she was a child.  As she begins to interact with the townspeople, all in need of a little Dior-esque magic, the town transforms.  With exaggerated roles, the story is rich and stunning, emotionally as well as visually.

“The Dressmaker” has the classic elements of an epic tale:  The mysterious woman, the evil doers, some slap-stick physical humor,  a few plot twists, and the deception, all in almost cartoon-like structure.  Oh!  And there’s a love story, full of dreamy romance that wdressmakerliamill make you feel like you’re being swept off your feet too!  It’s such a rich and stunning story, both emotionally and visually.

The cast is brilliant.  Who better to portray the designer wanna-be  Sergeant Farrat than Hugo Weaving? He’s an odd duck who just doesn’t fit in…he’s perfect.  Then we have Alison Whyte creating the timidly nervous Marigold Pettyman  who succumbs to the elixir her husband pours her each night.   She brings heart and compassion to the story in sublime balance.  And let us not forget the strikingly gorgeous Teddy McSwiney (Hemsworth) who Tilly yearns for, is a sheer pleasure to see on the screen.

Winslet was born to play this role with her classic beauty and innate sense of confidence.  Her character, hard-nosed with a protective armor, softens beautifully and we truly grow to love this woman.  At the heart of the story is her reldressmakergertrudeationship with her mother played by Davis who is simply spectacular.  Initially thought to be senile, she conveys a wisdom with a playful sense of humor perfectly.  Davis is a master at delivering comedic lines as well as making us laugh with her physical comedy.  With both women, make up or a lack thereof (and a blacked out tooth) allows them to portray their characters with deft skill.   Hemsworth’s character would make any woman swoon as the film captures his exquisite physidressmakerliam2cal beauty, but he also conveys a deeply thoughtful and understanding man.  He’s quite the dream.   Every character, no matter the role, is wonderfully over-the-top fun, allowing us to love, hate, or pity them.

The writing, acting, and directing all fit together with absolute precision.  It’s a film that you can escape into, laugh aloud, shed a few tears, and cheer for the heroine.  But at the heart of “The Dressmaker” is the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter.   When you combine love, truth, and revenge, you get a remarkably entertaining film.  It’ll make you feel like a kid again as you truly experience the film.  Who would have thought that haute couture could be so powerful?

4 Stars/10 Reels

"After the Storm" An Interview with Hirokazu Kore-eda

September 21st, 2016 Posted by Film Festivals, Interviews 0 thoughts on “"After the Storm" An Interview with Hirokazu Kore-eda”

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“After the Storm” is written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, known for recent releases such as “Like Father, Like Son” and “Our Little Sister.”  Kore-eda’s ability to tell a story that crosses all cultural boundaries is a gift that continues to be a part of his most recent film “After the Storm.”  As an impending typhoon threatens,  Ryota deals with the aftermath of his father’s death, his ex-wife and young son, his feisty and wise old mother and a gambling addiction that is affecting every aspect of his life. This sometimes funny, yet poignantly relevant film is truly as refreshing as a summer storm.

Watch the trailer here

I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with this renowned filmmaker during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to talk about “After the Storm.”  This demur and humble man, with the help of a translator, shared with me insights into what might be his most personal film to date.  After discussing the merits of my new Zoom H2N recorder and some great new transportable technologies, we talked about some of the wonderfully rich and complex characters within the film.  How can a man of middle age write from a perspective of a troubled man, a wise older woman, and a little boy?  He looked intently as he said, “You create the character…and then you take that character and say what environment am I going to put them in.  Once I get to that point, …I just let them talk and the voices just sort of come to me.  It’s like they start talking on their own.”  He began to smirk as he said, “That’s when everything goes smoothly…”

 

The film has autobiographical elements to it as he admitted that not only did his mother actually throw out every item his father owned after he died, there are many scenes which are based on Kore-eda’s own life.  For example, the little boy is certainly his voice when he was younger. He also sees himself in parts of Ryota Abe, but he also sees his own father in Abe as well.  He continued, “So it’s sort of a bit of both of us together that create the character.”  Parental relationships are a large part of this film and with life, as the wise mother in the film states, we all have regrets.  Kore-eda recalled that he too has regrets in life, especially concerning his relationship with both his father and his mother.  With both now having passed away, he felt that “…through film, you’re trying to sort of reconcile it.  I don’t know if you can get back what you haven’t done, but in a sense, maybe you can look at it from a different perspective.  Through working on the film, I, myself can rewrite what happened a little bit.”

This therapeutic relationship with film actually goes much deeper than what meets the eye.  Kore-eda fondly recalls the feeling and the scene following a typhoon he experienced as a child.  “After the typhoon, I came outside in the morning.  I had my schoolbag on my back and the grass was so green and sparkling…it felt as if something had been purified, that something had been released in that moment.  That’s kind of the feeling in the film as well.  You have his [Ryota’s] life and it keeps going, but in that last moment….something has shifted, something has been cleaned out.  It’s refreshing and it looks different” without resolving everything.

Women in the film, no matter their role, are all very strong, wise, and independent.  Kore-eda confirmed that this is intentional and actually replicates his environment.  He also confided that a lot of men are quite helpless, much like the men in the film.  One of my favorite lines in the film made Kore-eda laugh aloud, confirming that this is typical of his male characters in “After the Storm:”  “Men can’t love the present.  They’re always chasing what they’ve lost or dreaming of what they can’t have.”

Laughter is actually one of his goals in this very poignant and touching film.  He loved hearing audiences at TIFF really laughing and responding to his humor.  He humbly said, “Certainly I don’t have some profound lesson about life.  I remember there was a group of women around the same age as Kiki [watching the film].  They laughed and cried.  You watch the film and you see a piece of yourself.  It’s very close to you and close to your life.  Seeing people responding in that way…that’s enough for me.”

“After the Storm” will touch your life and open your eyes to see things in a new and perhaps a fresh way.  The film will be a part of the upcoming Chicago International Film Festival, playing October 19 and 20.  For more information about getting tickets, go to www.chicagofilmfestival.com

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Fete Lifestyle Magazine covers TIFF 2016 by Pamela Powell

September 20th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Fete Lifestyle Magazine covers TIFF 2016 by Pamela Powell”

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“The  41st Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was a dazzling star-studded event with famous actors and an endless number of films, presentations, and parties. This charming city bursts at the seams with action, glamour, live music performances, outdoor dining, and more than 500 films and events to attend.  Unlike other industry insider festivals, here all are welcome to dine, listen to jazz, and see a few films.  TIFF is the place to see and be seen without all the pretension of Hollywood.  But in true Hollywood style, the red carpet action sizzles as onlookers get to see some of their favorite stars looking their absolute best.

To read the article in its entirety, go to FETE LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

To listen to the interview with Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, go here

 

"Where We're Meant To Be" A True Example of an Indie Film by Pamela Powell

September 20th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Where We're Meant To Be" A True Example of an Indie Film by Pamela Powell”

 

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When you think independent film, you envision a creative filmmaker scraping together funding, asking friends to borrow homes or other settings for a day of filming, and even enlisting talented friends who might know sound engineering or those that can act.  I think this wonderfully written and well-executed production just might fit this rather romanticized version of an indie film.  Shot in North Carolina over a 23 day period for a mere $25,000, Michael Howard brought his words from the page to full living color with the help of talented individuals who believed in his project.  With the cooperation of the town to use churches, warehouses, and even the police department to shut down streets and use squad cars, Howard shows us that you don’t need a multimillion dollar budget to have a quality production.

“Where We’re Meant To Be” is a series of several vignettes which all overlap in seemingly random ways.  It is this coordinated “randomness” that brings to the forefront of our thoughts how meaningful those smallest of moments in life just might be.  As we find ourselves watching Charlie (Blayne Weaver) and Anna (Tate Hanyok) interact on a blind date, their journey sets the ball in motion, if you will.  Their actions reverberate like ripples in the ocean, setting the scene for the next story.   The domino effect of actions continues to stitch together several more stories revolving around death, God, happiness, murder, and even a first sexual experience.  All of these lives are intertwined, sometimes marginally, but always beautifully and powerfully to send home the message that our actions have a lasting impact.

The stories are all very poignant, but the two that stand out, because of the incredible acting, are the blind date and the kidnapping.  Weaver (“Favor”) and Hanyok (“Shameless”) portray that natural chemistry and awkwardness of a blind date that’s going quite well.  Their cowwmtb-film-shot6mmunication, both verbally and non-verbally, brings you to the table to experience their thoughts and feelings, always with a smile on your face.  It would be easy to listen to the two talk for hours as we learn about their lives and their older and wiser take on what the future holds.  The film then takes a darker turn as we witness a kidnapping and crime with an undercover cop.  It’s a brutal and harsh scene that will quite literally take your breath away.  Howard takes on the role of John, revealing that this talented filmmaker is comfortable both behind and in front of the camera.

While there are some pacing issues, particularly as the sister deals with the guilt and aftermath of her brother awwmtb-film-shot3nd nephew dying,  the heftiness of the topic may deserve the time allotted.  The musical score in this film augments the stories perfectly, creating hopefulness as well as emphasizing some of the more dire situations.  Overall, this film allows you to not only see the value in your actions and your words, but in the serendipitous nature of all the positive things in our world.

“Where We’re Meant To Be” is a thoughtful, beautiful film full of love and emotion.  Creating such a philosophical and entertaining film on this budget should be lauded as a true accomplishment.  Be sure to catch this film…it might just change how you see the world.

 

 

 

 

"Katie Says Goodbye" An Interview by Pamela Powell

September 16th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Katie Says Goodbye" An Interview by Pamela Powell”

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I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with the energetic and truly lovely cast and writer/director of the film “Katie Says Goodbye” at the Toronto International Film Festival recently.  Olivia Cooke, Mireille Enos, Chris Lowell, and Wayne Roberts openly and eagerly talked about the intensity of the story, its origins, and how they brought this film to life.

“Katie Says Goodbye” was the brainchild of Roberts who conceived of this character during his college days, over a glass or two of “…cheap wine in a cafe in some little dive that no longer exists, listening to music and I just had this image of Katie.  [She] touched me in some way and selected me to tell her story.”  The story is a harsh, yet beautiful and inspiring one, as Katie waits tables at a truck stop and prostitutes herself to raise money to support her mother and to ultimately escape this life.  Her coping skill is her positivity, but as she falls in love with a newcomer, her reputation catches up to her, challenging her seemingly eternal resilience.

As we sat around the banquet conversing about how each exceptionally rich character came to life, the cast resoundingly credited Roberts.  Everyone appeared excited to tell me how Roberts, in his atypical style of directing, helped them perform to their potential.  Enos, in her sweet, soft voice with a huge smile on her face, said, “The script spoke for itself, but then this man has such clarity of vision…everything he said was so compelling and it was so clear.”  Lowell  chimed in to explain that Roberts gave each of the cast members “…a list of extremely specific details about moments in our life that helped shape the people that we became.”  For example, Enos said, “I once hitch hiked with Katie when she was a baby.”  And Lowell, playing the evil character of Dirk said that his list included, “Dirk has more than once taken advantage of a woman who has had too much to drink.  He’s crossed the line in certain ways…never to the extent that we see in the film.  It’s like a monster is lurking.”  He and Roberts talk over one another as they recall that Dirk is his mother’s favorite and that she still does his laundry.  It was this attention to detail, the cast agrees, that allowed the creation of, as Lowell explained, such “multifacted and three dimensional” characters.

It was obvious that the cast was more than comfortable with Roberts “at the helm,” as Enos described.  He exhibited the ability to find the right dialogue, no matter the character.  Roberts admitted that he is an intense observationalist, truly listening to everyone around him and their style of conversation.  He thoughtfully shared, “I try to connect with every single character that I do write…and if I’m lucky, then the character will speak to me and I simply tell their story and don’t interfere.”  Having seen the film, I wholeheartedly agree that these characters spoke through Roberts.

This interview felt more like friends or family, sitting down to chat about their shared experiences.  Even given the dark nature of this drama, they all had fun.  Lowell said, “The subject matter was so intense that you were spent at the end of every day.  You had to shake it off…we laughed a lot.  We joked a lot.” However, Roberts broke in, “The day of the assault was different.”  Cooke then reminded everyone that they all went out for dinner that night and had a wonderful evening.  Like her character of “Katie,” Cooke is the one to find the positive in that day.

It was quite obvious to me that this family of actors were not only proud of the film they have completed, but they were better for it.  Before I left, I wanted to know how they each have grown from this experience.  Cooke felt that Roberts allowed a part of herself to shine through “Katie” and Enos, although her character is never going to receive the Mother of the Year Award, expresses deep appreciation to the lessons her own mother taught her and that she hopes to teach her children.  Lowell felt empowered to know that he could play such a dark role and because of Roberts’ nurturing leadership, he is now able to trust his instincts more.  “It was all the things that you hope a project is going to do for you…this project did.”

Roberts response?  “Very damn sweet…I gotta keep it together,”  he chuckled, but beneath the laugh, you could hear that he was truly touched by what they all had to say.

 

"Katie Says Goodbye" Heart-wrenching and Inspirational by Pamela Powell

September 15th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Katie Says Goodbye" Heart-wrenching and Inspirational by Pamela Powell”

 

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First-time feature filmmaker Wayne Roberts executes an extraordinary story about a young woman’s quest to have a better life while dealing with the continual harsh realities of her circumstances.  With an all-star cast including Olivia Cooke, Jim Belushi, Mary Steenburgen, Chris Abbott, Chris Lowell, and Mireille Enos, the story comes to full life, delving deeply into the human psyche, relationships, and hope.

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Wayne Roberts, Olivia Cooke, Mireille Enos, and Chris Lowell

Katie (Cooke) is a waitress and part-time prostitute in a desolate desert town, but she has dreams of one day escaping this life she leads.  Her circumstances, to most, would seem overwhelming, as her boss (Steenburgen) verbalizes in a motherly and protective way, but Katie never loses her positive spirit and goal of leaving…until she meets and falls in love with Bruno (Abbott), a newcomer to town.  Establishing a relationship in a small community filled with gossip and cruelty, is more difficult than she could have imagined.  The consequences and challenges she must face and endure begin to smother her, and Katie’s emotional survival is at stake.

“People need to appreciate things more…life is so amazing,” says Katie even as we see her worthless mother take complete advantage of her and men doing the same.  Your heart breaks as you see this young woman not only survive, but attempt to break free of the chains that hold her here.  The spark of positivity is always shining…her goal of leaving always the focal point.

Relationships are complex and the story brings us deep within all that Katie experiences.   She supports her mother who is more than physically capable of doing so.  We see the disappointment in her face as she puts on the facade that everything is ok.  Maybelle (Steenburgen) is wise, acting more like a mother than Katie will ever have, but again, Katie protects others from experiencing her atrocities.  Surprisingly, although Katie’s father is missing in action, she prays each night to him, wanting him to be proud.  The most unlikely man in her life, Bear (Belushi) is a “regular,” but is also a sweet father-figure to her, giving her guidance in life.  This character opposition is unusual, but in its own way, very loving.  The relationships that are most disturbing are with other males in town, from the teacher who “visits” to the young men who are brutal and harsh beyond words.  There are scenes that will leave you speechless and take your breath away while tears stream down your face.

The ensemble cast expertly creates deep and realistic characters, some of whom you truly despise.  Cooke’s performance is simply sensational.  She develops a complex character  so well that we feel as if we know her.  We understand her reactions, her disappointments, and her actions.  Even though we don’t approve of her choices, we are endeared to her personality and positive energy.  Cooke creates a character we truly care about.  She is one of the most promising young actors to hit Hollywood.

Belushi is one of the few actors that could portray “Bear.”  He creates the kindness in a male character that the story needs for balance.  The goodness he exudes, even though he is using Katie for sex, melts your heart.  Enos portrays  the epitome of a bad mom, but she too has depth and reasons for her situation.  Enos conveys this expertly, allowing us to dislike her, yet understand her at the same time.

Lowell shines just as brightly as someone we immediately hate.  We get a sense from him that he’s bad to the bone.  His look, his body language, and his tone all create a truly despicable character as “Dirk.”  Together, the entire cast tells this beautifully  intimate story of life and desperation, but most importantly hope.

To know that this is Roberts first attempt at screenwriting and directing is truly shocking.  The expert skill he exhibits in creating this heart-wrenching story that will strike a chord deep within you is simply astounding.  The characters he creates are extraordinarily real and not only compliment the story, but complete it.  Bringing the words that are written on the page to life, casting just the right actors, and then extracting the perfect performance from them is an arduous task, but Roberts confidently does so.  His style of directing and communication, according to the cast during an interview, is unusual and allows the actors to give their best performances.  (Check back to read and listen to the entire interview.)

“Katie Says Goodbye” takes us on a remarkable emotional journey of life, filled with hope and countered by reality.  It’s a powerfully evocative story with outstanding performances, beautiful dialogue, and most importantly, a lasting effect of optimism.

 

 

"Katie Says Goodbye" Top Drama of TIFF by Pamela Powell

September 12th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Katie Says Goodbye" Top Drama of TIFF by Pamela Powell”

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Finding an indie gem is like discovering gold, except you really want to tell everyone about it.  “Katie Says Goodbye” is truly one of those golden film festival gems.  First time writer and director Wayne Roberts enters the festival arena with this polished story, eloquent and heartbreaking, yet still inspiring, starring Olivia Cooke, Jim Belushi, Chris Abbott, Chris Lowell, and Mirielle Enos.  This is the culmination of talent and dedication this film requires to give it the life it deserves.

Katie (Cooke) is living in a trailer park wasteland with her rather worthless mother (Enos).  Katie, the epitome of positivity, waits tables in a diner and for a little extra cash in order to escape this town, she sells herself to the local men.    But when she meets and falls in love with a newcomer, Bruce (Abbott), her reputation in town catches up with her, challenging that youthful resilience and positive outlook.

“Katie Says Goodbye” is one of the most evocative and heartwrenching dramas of the Toronto International  Film Festival.  Cooke displays the acting skills of someone more than double her age, giving a grippingly complex and layered performance.  We are taken along Katie’s journey, watching her mistakes, and wondering just how much more this young girl can take before she breaks.  The supporting cast is stellar, working in perfect harmony to bring this spellbinding story to the appropriate end.

If you see one dramatic film here at TIFF, see “Katie Says Goodbye.”  It’s powerful, inspiring, and will leave you with a sense of appreciation because “life is so amazing.”

For more information, go to www.tiff.net

Be sure to check back right here for a full review of this stellar standout as well as an audio interview with the cast.

4 STARS

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TIFF Must-See Short Film, "Half A Man" showing tonight by Pamela Powell

September 10th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “TIFF Must-See Short Film, "Half A Man" showing tonight by Pamela Powell”

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Be sure to see the emotionally profound short film “Half A Man” tonight at TIFF.  The writer and director will be on hand to answer questions about the making of this film.  If you can’t make it, check back soon for a complete interview with these talented filmmakers!

“Half A Man,” part of the Toronto International Film Festival ‘Short Cuts’ program, packs in full-length emotion in under 20 minutes.  In this beautifully shot film directed by Kritina Kumric and written by Maja Hrgovic depicting her personal story about the effects of war in a very different way.  It’s the impact upon the family seen from a child’s perspective which is not typically acknowledged let alone portrayed in film.  We see how war changes everyone in a family,  how you look at life and how you live it.  ”The short film is the winning project of the competition ‘One picture from the Homeland War,’” a part of the Croatian Adiovisual Centre and the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs.  It is also a part of the book ‘Zivjet cemo bolje’ (‘We Live Better’) authored by Hrgovic as well.  ”The film is a result of a nationwide competition seeking to address the traumas sustained by war veterans and their loved ones.”

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Read the full review at www.reelhonestreviews.com

For tickets to see the film, go to www.tiff.net

TIFF Report: Day 1 and Day 2 by Pamela Powell

September 10th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “TIFF Report: Day 1 and Day 2 by Pamela Powell”

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The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is well under way and  Reel Honest Reviews has the scoop on what to see (and what to avoid).  With all the hoopla, it’s tough to figure out what is worth seeing, but RHR can give you a little guidance!

SEE THIS:

COLOSSAL is one of those films that could easily fly under the radar, even with the blinding star power of Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudiekis.  The bizarre blending of genres, drama, science fiction, comedy, and horror, meld perfectly together to give us a surprisingly unique and genuinely entertaining film!  Hathaway plays the young Gloria, who parties way too hard and finds herself living back home, facing her past with a little help from a childhood friend, Oscar (Sudiekis).  When a monster attacks Korea, (yes, you read that right), Gloria finds that her own footsteps and suppressed past may be connected to these horrific attacks.  This is truly one of the strangest story-lines of recent past that allows total escapism as we see Hathaway as a heroine and Sudiekis going to a sinister dark side.

 

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A DISAPPOINTMENT:

FREE FIRE has amazing star power, backed by the creative genius of Ben Wheatley (“The Sightseers”), but unless you enjoy constant shooting, dizzying camera work confusing who’s who, and ridiculously juvenile sarcastic remarks, I’d recommended skipping this one.

AMERICAN PASTORAL is Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, but unfortunately the talented actor struggles with pacing and creating an overall story with characters we care about.  It’s stiff and contrived as it tries to create a sense of love and connection between a father and daughter.  Based on the book by Philip Roth, McGregor just doesn’t deliver.

A MONSTER CALLS attempts to give life lessons as we witness a little boy struggling with the impending death of his cancer stricken mother.  With the aid of an imaginary nightmare/friend, young Connor finds his way.  What promised to be extraordinary actual led turned out to be rather ordinary.  The imagery and stop motion watercolor animation, however, found a way to elevate this drawn out and predictable story with flat, superficial acting.

As embargoes are released, more reviews will be posted.  Check back later today for my interview with Hathaway and Sudiekis!

TIFF 2016 Anticipated Highlights by Pamela Powell

September 7th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “TIFF 2016 Anticipated Highlights by Pamela Powell”

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The 2016 Toronto international film Festival (TIFF) is about to get underway tomorrow, Thursday, September 8th.  Stars are being spotted, streets are being closed, stages are being set up in the middle of streets, and sidewalk cafes are being created.   The energy in the air is palpable and invigorating which allows everyone to forget how hot and humid it is here!

There are so many films to see and too little time, but here are the films to look forward to hearing more about and to see in the coming months at your local theater that are on RHR’s list:

LOVING, COLOSSAL, WAKEFIELD, FREE FIRE, A MONSTER CALLS, AMERICAN PASTORAL, ARQ, MASCOTS, TRESPASS AGAINST US, JULIETA, CAT FIGHT, LION, TRAMPS, KATIE SAYS GOODBYE, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT, LA LA LAND, UNLESS, MAUDIE, PREVENGE, AMERICAN HONEY, NERUDA, AFTER THE STORM, I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE, THE UNKNOWN GIRL, UNA, SNOWDEN, NORMAN, QUEEN OF KATWE, IN THE RADIANT CITY, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, THE HEADHUNTER’S CALLING, GOLDSTONE, STRANGE WEATHER, CHRISTINE, THE SECRET SCRIPTURE, BLUE JAY, KING OF THE DANCEHALL, UNA, THE PROMISE, and BEFORE THE FLOOD.

And this doesn’t even include the short films that are always a standout here in Toronto!  From under the radar indie gems to fabulous foreign films, the mainstream blockbusters covet most of the attention at this festival.  Bryan Cranston, Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel, Jason Sudiekis, Mike Birbiglia, and Leonardo DiCarpio are all high profile and recognizable faces that will shine on the streets of this little city.  RHR is here to give you a taste of those hidden indie gems as well as the mainstream predicted blockbusters.

Check back for capsule reviews of many of these films, photos of the stars on the red carpet and interviews with directors and stars of several of these films!  For more information about films at TIFF, go to www.tiff.net

"Complete Unknown" Seeks psychological meaning in life ~ Pamela Powell

September 6th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"Complete Unknown" Seeks psychological meaning in life ~ Pamela Powell”

 

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Do you ever wish you could just start over?  I mean, completely?  You know, just sweep your past life under the rug and move on to life #2.  And then when Life #2 begins to become routine, just move on  to Life #3.  It seems totally preposterous and in today’s technology of tracking, scanning, and all things tech, it is preposterous.  However, “Complete Unknown” glides over this detail to give us a glimpse into what one young woman, Alice (Rachel Weisz) experiences as she lives out our fantasy of starting over with a blank slate, not just once, but several times.  But as Alice reaches out to reconnect with a long-lost love, her lies catch up with her.  The psychological complexities that slowly bubble to the surface within her are more than intriguing, they are intellectually and emotionally captivating.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERECOMPLETE UNKNOWN

Tom (Michael Shannon) and Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) are professionals who are contemplating moving across the country for her new job.  There are obvious tensions between the two, seen at a birthday celebration for Tom, indicating that there is more at stake than just a job.  Clyde (Michael Chernus) meets and brings Alice, a mysterious new work colleague to the party,  but she is no stranger to Tom.  Having left him 15 years ago, never to be seen or heard from again, the tensions run even higher and the game of lies begins to skyrocket, touching each member at the party.

complete-unknown-sundance-2016The complexity of this film is mind-boggling.  Lies are just one aspect of this film, but to lie to conceal and create a new identity is yet another.  Alice has re-created herself numerous times with each life becoming a resume for her next one.  There is a certain detachment in someone who can successfully pull this off and Weisz masterfully does so.  Her confidence exudes as she relays her past experiences, never letting on to anyone as to who she really is.  There are perfectly timed minute hesitations that she exhibits, flustering her confidence ever so slightly.  She’s brilliant, having accomplished several professions in a short period of time.  Or at least that’s what she says.  But with those lies comes a price of total detachment from everyone in her the past.  That longing for connectedness, ever so small, can be detected, as she reaches out to Tom.  That need, that human need, to be known, to be loved, and to be recognized is within all of us.  Shutting down that need, allows Alice to live the lives she chooses, but it’s at a cost.  Tom has never lost that connection to Alice and we see his acceptance of her wax and wane with total anger and distaste.  The sheer novelty of reinventing yourself is contagious, but just a little taste of it effects Tom in a way he never predicted.CUMS

Weisz and Shannon shine in their roles.  Shannon has forever been able to delve into a character’s personality, background, and motivation to become that complete person.  He then ably conveys these characteristics and thoughts with a simple twitch of an eye or a subtle glance away.  His portrayal of Tom creates a multilayered man who appears to be bogged down in the everyday motions until he sees Alice.  He peels back another layer of his personality that even he seems to be surprised to discover…someone who wants more, more vitality, more stimulation.  He’s torn between his obligations and his need to continue to grow and change.  Shannon beautifully expresses how the expectations from those around him weigh heavily upon him, steering him in different directions.

Weisz is rarely given a role with this much depth, but she gracefully rises to the challenge.  As “Alice,”  she astutely portrays the internal struggles and challenges of someone who is never satisfied, always looking for more.  Weisz’ acting skills are finely tuned, allowing her to give an understated performance that will stay with you long after the final credits roll.  Her delicate delivery of her lines touch our inner spirit as we feel her need to love.  However,  her need to run or fear of attachment overrides this.  We can almost read her mind as she weighs out her options, always in control of both her emotions and actions.  She is the perfect mirror for Shannon and together they are magnetic.

Danny Glover and Kathy Bates have a small but integral part in this film.  The two of them are simply charming and sweet, a match made in heaven.  The cast may not be the high profile stars of Hollywood, but they are certainly one of the best ensemble casts to bring this story to life.  Each actor is simply stunning in his or her role and that doesn’t happen very often.  It’s a testament not only to the actors, but to the director as well.

“Complete Unknown” is a slow burning psychological thriller that questions what’s at the very core of each and every human.  To thoroughly enjoy the story, performances and depth of this film, you’ll need to let go of the one flaw:  technology of today would make it impossible to do so.  (If you can do this for Jason Bourne, you can do it for “Complete Unknown.”)   Would you completely start over with a blank slate?  I’m sure you’ve thought about it before…who would you become and where would you go?

3 1/2 Stars

"The Profit" Should Guide Our Future Pro Athletes by Pamela Powell

September 4th, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"The Profit" Should Guide Our Future Pro Athletes by Pamela Powell”

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“The Profit,” written by Kevin Willmott and Scott Richardson, brings to light a specific yet representative story about the professional basketball industry.  The famed All Star pro player Scot Pollard portrays Joseph ‘The Profit’ Smith who, during his amazing basketball career, burned through $70M in 9 years, leaving him broke.  We see the world through his eyes, his regrets, and his 20-20 hindsight in an effort to help another young athlete about to embark upon a dizzying world of professional sports and the responsibilities that go along with it.

Joseph ‘The Profit’ Smith (Pollard) is described in not so flattering terms by all the characters in the film via interview style.  We get the sense that he is a womanizer, immature, and selfish.  The negative list goes on and on.  However, now in his 9th year which in and of itself is a feat for a pro player, he finds himself not only broke, but diagnosed with a bad knee and a heart condition that could potentially kill him.   He’s  looking to “broker” a deal with his agent that can satisfy his debts and gain his pension if he can last just one more year in the pros.  He agrees for a price of $200k to talk with a cocky, self-absorbed young player going pro, (much like himself at that age) to knock some sense into him so that he makes it in the cut-throat and frequently devastating world.  Joseph finds himself confronting ghosts from his past while attempting to secure his future.   As truths are uncovered, how far is Joseph willing to go for his comfy ticket to retirement?

“The Profit” is an unexpectedly thprofitrilling and at times humorous story as we learn about Joseph, his situation, and how the truth is uncovered.  The style of filmmaking is rather unusual as it blends together a narrative and documentary style using interviews with the characters who are also allowed to “break the 4th wall” in the middle of a scene.  This amalgam of story-telling techniques brings the film to life.  We get that inside glimpse into each of the characters and their motivations, while not always agreeing with them, we can at least understand them.  Beautifully compounding this unusual style, we see relevant intermittent quotes from famous athletes and hear amazing music supporting the overall feel.

Casting is crucial to convey the right message and Pollard is exceptional in front of the camera.   He easily  elicits empathy from the viewer as we witness his frustrations, his regrets, and his need to make a difference and change.  Michelle Davidson portrays “Joseph’s” long-lost love, bringing yet another  level of natural sincerity to the film.  And  finding Joseph Anderson to confijamaldently play the role of “Jamal,” the rising basketball star, is the key to giving us a not only an entertaining story, but a credible one as well.

Every year, particularly during March Madness, you hear the commentators discussing the “one and done” schools and where these kids  (and they are kids) will be playing in the coming year.  What they don’t discuss is the pressures and responsibilities of their new career and whether or not they are emotionally or cognitively ready.  “The Profit” hones in on this concept with beautiful precision.  It reveals the truth and realities which in turn  provide knowledge… and with knowledge comes power.

“The Profit” is an unusually enlightening story that make us privy to the underlying truths of professional sports.   Seeing the corruption behind the scenes, the blind eyes that are turned, and the exchange of money with no regard to the human consequences is heart-wrenching.  It’s a film every young athlete considering the professional route should see.  Fame and money do come with a price.

Check out The Profit on Facebook

"The 9th Life of Louis Drax" Inventive and Magical by Pamela Powell

September 3rd, 2016 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “"The 9th Life of Louis Drax" Inventive and Magical by Pamela Powell”

 

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Liz Jensen’s novel, ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ is given its second life as a movie thanks to Max Minghella who wrote the screenplay and Alexandre Aja, the director.  With vivid imagery, a complexly intriguing story, and talented acting, this film truly comes to life as we see little Louis decide upon whether or not to continue living.louiscoma

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Louis (Aiden Longworth) narrates the story, initially,  to give us a little history lesson on his propensity for accidents.  He half-jokingly calls himself “The Amazing Accident Prone Boy,” recognizing that he is lucky to still be alive.  From birth, Louis seemed to draw accidents to him as a chandelier falls on him while sleeping in a crib.  Or as a toddler he puts a fork into an electrical outlet.  His mother lovingly calls him her angel.  But now, Louis is turning 9 years old, and on this day, he suffers an accident, placing him in a deep coma.  His doctor, Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan) is a medical prodigy who is their only hope to bring him back to the living world.

This fantastical and magical story pulls us into Louis’ world and we see what he sees.  We hear what he thinks.  And we feel what he feels.  From monsters guiding his decisions in the coma to the connection and anger to the outside world, Louis gives us his perspective on the realities unfolding.  Hidden truths surface while a mystery of what actually happened to Louis and finding his missing father, create a captivating element of intrigue.  Natalie (Sarah Gadon), is a throwback to the 50’s with her style of dress and demur behavior, as our heart breaks for her situation.  She has raised a “troubled boy” who, she had hoped with therapy, could allow him to function with others.  Now, she puts her faith in medical technology and Dr. Pascal to save her little boy.

 

louis2The story is emotionally and psychologically complex and although it stars a young boy, it is not intended for children.  Louis is a bright child who exhibits rather strange and detached behaviors.  His parents’ marital issue come to a head and as Louis flashes back upon the story of his life, a connection is formed between several of the characters to create an element of magic and at times, horror.

 

This particular cast finds a way to elouisstablish an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue as they allow us to see, little by little, who they truly are.  Gadon has an etherial aura allowing her to portray Natalie in an understatedly elegant way.  Her depth of emotion is at times bewitching, much like her performance in “Indignation.”  Aaron Paul shows us that his range of character portrayal is limitless.  As the loving father with a temper, we are unsure of who he is…until the very end.  Dornan is suitably cast as he typifies the doctor with a heart.   And casting Oliver Platt as the therapist is brilliant as you feel a true connection between him and the character of Louis.  And Longworth is powerfully stellar as “Louis.”  Finding a child who has this range of emotions and understands the complexity of this character is one chance in a million.  He has a bright future ahead of him.

P1070551.RW2“The 9th Life of Louis Drax” is a visceral experience full of imagination and intense imagery.  Blending together a story based upon psychological phenomenon and fanciful imagination, gives us an irresistibly beautiful story.  While it is not intended for children, the film allows us adults to let go and recapture a bit of youthful inventiveness while escaping into Louis’ world.

 

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