Posts in Weekly DVD

INGRID GOES WEST—Spicer pushes the envelope too far

November 3rd, 2017 Posted by Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “INGRID GOES WEST—Spicer pushes the envelope too far”

 

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ingrid2“Ingrid Goes West” takes psychological disorders and social media and puts them into a pressure cooker to give us a cringe-worthy and disturbing look at today’s world through the eyes of a misguided and floundering young woman, Ingrid played by Aubrey Plaza.  Written by Matt Spicer and also starring Elizabeth Olsen, the film creates a controversial message regarding mental illness and society’s unintentional reinforcement of unwanted behavior.  While it’s a dark comedy, the darkness may be too much for many.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Ingrid explodes like a volcano at her friend’s wedding, embarrassing herself and ruining much of the reception.  This outburst lands her in a psychiatric ward, giving her the tools necessary to return to “normal” life.  Upon her release, she is thrust back into the everyday occurrences complete with stares, jeers, and comments from her judgmental acquaintances.  Fleeing to L.A. to literally follow Taylor Sloane (Olsen) who is an Instagram sensation, Ingrid’s obsessive behaviors get the better of her and the following becomes more stalking until she is invited into Taylor’s inner circle.  The means to the end find her spiraling out of control as one lie after another creates a more tangled web of deceit.

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Spicer has an undeniable skill in developing intensely awkward situations making you want to look away, but you can’t.  You have to see what happens next.  While his characters certainly represent specific groups or types of people, they certainly are not one dimensional.  Plaza continues her rather bizarre persona as Ingrid, perfectly suited to her acting style.  However, there is a subtlety to her portrayal that makes us have sympathy for her situation.  The sadness and inability to change is evident behind her eyes, but on the surface, we feel and would react exactly like those she encounters.

 

Ingrid encounters and takes advantage of anyone around her to attain her ultimate goal:  to be a part of the popular group.  O’Shea Jackson, Jr. plays Dan Pinto, Ingrid’s landlord and naive drug dealing friend.  Their relationship is awkward yet sweet, but as the viewer, you always have an insider’s perspective of what will come…and it does.  Olsen is simply remarkable in her performance.  She iingridss captivating as she confidently portrays the adorable (and lucky) Taylor Sloane who is successful thanks to social media posts.  Sound familiar?  Olsen and Plaza balance each other like yin-yang, but it is Olsen’s evident innocence that endears us to her character.  This female camaraderie with the dark cloud of social pressures and mental illness give this film an entirely unexpected and oftentimes uncomfortable look into young adulthood.

 

The main character in this film isn’t Ingrid—it’s social media and the pressure it places on young people today.  The bullying that occurs as well as the superficiality of it brews a poisonous drink in which so many overindulge.  Keeping up with the Joneses has always been difficult, but when it hits you through every social media outlet, it’s impossible to stay true to yourself.  ***Here’s a spoiler so stop reading if you want!***  The acknowledgment of depression, obsessive behavior, and mental instability is wonderfully incorporated into this story, but it is the glamorizing of attempted suicide that  gives this film a huge red flag.  Suicide is not glamorous.  It should not be reinforced.  And in no way should social media be the outlet for it.

 

“Ingrid Goes West” is a unique dark comedy that delves into relationships, women, and the pressures of social media.  Olsen is a standout with Plaza honing her skills as a “different” and troubled woman.  While there is humor in this film, there is also heartbreak with a final message that cannot be condoned.  Spicer pushed the envelope on this one and perhaps he pushed it just a bit too far.

TO READ THE REVIEW AS IT APPEARED IN THE AUGUST 25th EDITION OF THE DAILY JOURNAL, GO HERE

2 Stars

"Swing Away" Open in theaters and on VOD October 13…it's so much more than the game of golf!

October 8th, 2017 Posted by Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “"Swing Away" Open in theaters and on VOD October 13…it's so much more than the game of golf!”

SWING AWAY
Director: Michael Achilles Nickles
Cast: Shannon Elizabeth, John O’Hurley, Manos Gavras, Renos Haralambidis, Karl Theobald,
Alexandros Mylonas, Olga Damani, Christos Sourgaris introducing Viktoria Miller
Screenplay by: Paul Robert Lingas, Julia Wall
Story by: George Elias Stephanopoulos, Paul Robert Lingas
Producers: George Stephanopoulos, Stamatios Tom Hiotis, Costas Lambropoulos, George Kiriakos
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media

“Swing Away” takes a swing at American investors, men vs. women, and family heritage and hits a hole in one!  Zoe Papadopoulos (Shannon Elizabeth) has a major meltdown on the golf circuit, finding herself suspended.  Attempting to regain her game and composure, she goes back home to Greece, melting in the comfort of grandparents, great food, and familiar surroundings.  What she doesn’t come prepared for is the fight of her life to help a little girl and the entire town protect itself from big business.  Her game of golf just might help them all…and her!  Check out the trailer below and watch for the full review soon!

Theatrical Release

Coming to Theaters and Video On Demand on Friday, October 13th!

 In Major Cinemas for a Limited Time

Check Box Office for Showtimes

New York, NY – Kew Gardens Cinemas 6
Philadelphia, PA – AMC Cherry Hill 24
San Francisco/San Jose, CA – AMC Mercado 20
Washington DC – AMC Hoffman Center 22
Los Angeles, CA – AMC Burbank Town Center 8
Providence, RI – CW Theater
Chicago, IL – AMC South Barrington 30
                    Pickwick Theater
Salt Lake City, UT – Megaplex Jordan Commons
                              Megaplex Thanksgiving Point
                              Megaplex The District
Detroit, MI – Emagine 18
Vero Beach, FL – The Majestic 11
Denver, CO – Harkins Northfield 18
Tampa/St. Petersburg – Centro Ybor 10

Exclusive Screenings

Boston, MA – Regent Theatre-October 14th, 2pm, 7:30pm    
Toronto, ON – Innis Town Hall-October 15th, 4:30pm
Columbia, SC – AMC Dutch Square 14-October 15th, 3pm
New Haven, CT – Bow Tie Cinemas-October 19th, 7pm
Dallas, TX – Studio Movie Grill-October 19th, 7pm

Video On Demand

Swing Away  will be available on all cable and satellite platforms as well as:
Amazon Instant Video  – FandangoNow – Google Play – iTunes – Vudu – YouTube Movies – Xbox

 

 

MAUDIE : artistic love story for the ages

June 23rd, 2017 Posted by Film Festivals, Review, Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “MAUDIE : artistic love story for the ages”

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Maudie

Written by:  Sherry White

Directed by:  Aisling Walsh

Starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke

Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis may not be a name you immediately recognize, but it soon will be.  Born in the early 1900’s with rheumatoid arthritis, a severe degenerative condition, this rather sickly and awkward looking woman struggled in every aspect of her life.  But her struggle became a story that inspired the new film “Maudie,” written by Sherry White and directed by Aisling Walsh.  The film is cinematic splendor as Sally Hawkins recreates Maud and  co-star Ethan Hawke portrays Everett in one of his strongest performances yet.  This unusual love story tells an equally unique life story filled with courage, strength, inspiration and beauty.

Maud’s physical differences have always brought judgement upon her, not only from outsiders, but sadly, from her own family as well.  She is dismissed, feeling worthless, but this bright and witty woman strikes out on her own, yearning to prove them all wrong.  There is a sense that there is another deeper, more sensitive story bubbling just below the surface, but that has yet to be revealed.  Answering an “ad” posted at the local store for a housecleaner, Maud meets Everett (Hawke), the local fishmonger.  He reluctantly hires her and the man of few words attempts to keep her at a distance.  Over the course of time, Maud is allowed to blossom which in turn creates a connection and courtship between the two.  To say it is an unusual situation and “dating” process, is to put it mildly, creating wonderful humorous moments.   The pair is odd, but the beauty from within easily becomes the only thing visible.  Their relationship, however, has some very rocky parts, as all relationships do.  As we witness this journey seen primarily through Maud’s eyes, we feel her pain and her anger, but also laugh and cry with her as well.

“Maudie” explores this creative woman’s trials and tribulations to become one of the most recognizable folk artists in the area, but it also presents what it must feel like to be judged by an outwardly different appearance.  Maud is exceptionally bright, organized, and has a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor that those around her find the verbal sword to be quite sharp.  We truly get to know who this woman is and what she has endured, particularly within her family.  While there is heartbreak, there is also laughter.  It’s an extraordinary slice of life that reaches your very soul, allowing you to experience everything that Maud feels and does.  Rarely do you find such a compelling story with well-rounded characters that you immediately understand and connect.  In fact, you are lost in their world, forgetting that you are watching a movie.

It is under the direction of Walsh that Hawke and Hawkins create such captivating characters.  Both actors seem to connect whole-heartedly with their rather unorthodox roles as they beautifully reveal their personalities.  Hawkins embodies the character of Maud, exhibiting with finesse a body riddled with arthritis.  Her ability to convey the myriad number of emotions and wounds not yet healed from past tragedies is simply exceptional.  Her delivery of parenthetical quips and demonstrating that she doesn’t buy into gender inequality as she goes against the grain of the locals just endears us to her even more.  Casting Hawke opposite Hawkins is a choice that pays off as he becomes this tight-lipped, uneducated and unsocialized loner.   Hawke exudes power not seen before in other films as he becomes this sometimes unlikeable and other times lovable very real person.  Together, Hawke and Hawkins play to one another’s strengths and catapult this story to the highest level.

The film is also cinematically stunning, bringing you through the rolling, desolate country roads near the sea.  We are transported to a bygone era that is dusty and primitive, influencing and inspiring the very art that Maud will forever be known for.  “Maudie” orchestrates every element in filmmaking to create not just an entertaining film, but also a meaningful and  magical one.

Experience the magic of “Maudie” and travel the trails of Maud Lewis’ past, riding an emotional roller coaster ride filled with unusual and richly layered characters.  “Maudie” is a timeless love story that will leave you breathless, speechless, and inspired.  You can’t ask for more than that in a film.

*Bring tissues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Maudie" a timeless love story

June 16th, 2017 Posted by Review, Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “"Maudie" a timeless love story”

 

 

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(From the June 16, 2017 edition of Fete Lifestyle Magazine)

Obviously, every film has a location, but some films not only explore a story, they also take you on a scenic adventure into the land or setting.  “Maudie” is one of those films that creates a meaningful story based on the folk artist Maud Lewis while tempting you to visit the coastal fishing town of Nova Scotia, Canada.

 

Nova Scotia is located in the Canadian Maritimes, the French calling it Acadia, was first settled by the Paleo Indians more than 11,000 years ago.  The Brits called it New Scotland with the Scotts immigrating there in 1745.  Rum-runners, rogues, and rebels reportedly called it home, but then in the 1900’s, it became more of a fishing and maritime community.  In fact, the area recognized Bessie Hall as the most notable female mariner of the century.  The area appeared to be ahead of its time as it lead the way for  equality in race and gender—from 1894-1918, the Local Council of Women of Halifax worked to gain the right to vote;  and in 1945, Minister William Pearly Oliver founded the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

 

The art world was also well-represented as it is home to Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis.  She was no ordinary artist.  Born in the early 1900’s with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis, Maud spent much of her life being overlooked due to her outward differences.  “Maudie” written by Sherry White and directed by Aisling Walsh, stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, tells Maud’s incredible lifetime story of pain, alienation, but most importantly love.  “Maudie” is in one of the most vivid and beautiful love stories of all time.

Go to Fete Lifestyle Magazine to read the article in its entirety

"Beatriz At Dinner" A moralistic battleground

June 16th, 2017 Posted by Review, Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “"Beatriz At Dinner" A moralistic battleground”

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BEATRIZ AT DINNER

Written by Mike White

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Starring Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, and Connie Britton

Mike White’s (“Enlightened”) eloquence and intelligence shines like a beacon in his newest film “Beatriz At Dinner” starring Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, and Connie Britton.  It’s a complicated feature delving

beatriz-at-dinnerinto class distinction, “the 1%,” and the environment.  Beatriz (Hayek) is a holistic massage therapist, helping cancer victims with alternative treatments.  Her sense and intuition create powerful insight with everyone she meets.  After her car breaks down, she is stranded at a wealthy client’s home and she is reluctantly invited to stay for a high-powered and intimate dinner party.  The disparity between she and this group keeps you on edge as the evening devolves into a moralistic and ethical battleground.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Beatriz is more than compassionate and kind, she understands the very nature of the balance of our world.  She is connected to the soul of the Earth, animals, and people, but when she encounters Doug Strutt (Lithgow), it takes everything in her to not speak her mind.  A few glasses of wine, however, releases the edit mode button and she begins to cross the border of being a gracious guest and attempting to enlighten one of the most disgustingly self-centered, greedy, and judgmental corporate leaders.

 

conniebThe film creates such stress and tension as we watch the story unfold.  Her relationship with Cathy (Connie Britton) is  a delicate balancing act as there is a feeling of gratitude and indebtedness from Cathy.  It boils down to employee, employer versus friendship—these are the lines that are balancing like spinning plates.  With the unknown variables of people’s responses, especially after drinking, the plates inevitable tumble.  The mess that is left is quite unexpected.

 

The characters in this film are wonderfully complex and layered.  The emotional performances tease out the subtle as well as the blatant differences among the guests with absolute precision.  Britton’s portrayal of Cathy as the conflicted yet  gracious hostess who has a  moral obligation to Beatriz, is exceptional.  She is pulled in two different directions—she is the middle ground upon which the remaining characters find their sides.  The gluttonous characterizations of those that have so much is beautifully and realistically rendered in “Beatriz At Dinner.”  The marginalization of our world and the effects of mankind upon it from this group’s perspective is at once revolting and enlightening.  But it is the complexity of the situation that drives this film forward.  Beatriz isa guest in someone else’s home, but she cannot allow Strutt to get away with such narrow-mindedness and selfishness.  It’s an intrinsically high-paced dinner with high stakes.

 

Lithgow has a perbeatrizlithgowformance to remember as Strutt.  He is the epitome of an egomaniacal power-monger.  He elicits a burning resentment and anger as he utters his self-aggrandizing viewpoints.  While Lithgow could have easily taken this role to the extreme, it is his skillful performance that gives Strutt a realistic persona.  We know this individual exists and his pride in killing big game is reminiscent of a dentist not too long ago.  His condescension paired with the remaining guests feelings of entitlement and total disregard for humanity is deplorable…but real.

 

Interspersed within the dialogue that is succinct and revealing is Beatriz’ spiritual connection as we are privy to her mindful images.  The symbolism portrayed is poetic as we see the world, her past, and her future through her eyes.  Hayek’s performance is magnificent.  Her gentle nature comes through to her character as she carries a very heavy burden.  The weight of the world rests on her shoulders and we feel her struggle to forge ahead, making this world a better place.

 

“Beatriz At Dinner” is one of the most eloquent and articulate films depicting our social issues and the consequences of greed.  The internal and external turmoil represented reflects our current political and environmental standing, poured out for all to see.  We get a real glimpse into the mindset of power, money, and the delineation of class.  It’s a tension-filled, gripping and magnificent story with exceptional performances that will impact you long after the credits roll.  Watch this and your next holiday family dinner will seem like a piece of cake.

"The Hero" Creates real and dramatic power with Elliott leading the way

June 16th, 2017 Posted by Film Festivals, Interviews, Review, Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “"The Hero" Creates real and dramatic power with Elliott leading the way”

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THE HERO

Written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch

Directed By Brett Haley

Starring:  Sam Elliott, Nick Offerman, and Laura Prepon

Brett Haley, the daring and brilliant man behind the curtain of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is back in action with “The Hero,” starriSamElliottHerong the renowned actor Sam Elliott.  The film is a character study of Lee Hayden (Elliott), a man waning in his career as he ages and is diagnosed with cancer.  Lee  wrestles with the legacy he will leave behind and attempts to reconcile broken relationships.  It’s a self-reflective, heartfelt, and often-times humorous film showing us how we are connected as we witness Lee looking out over the horizon of life.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Haley and Offerman spoke with me at the SXSW Film Festival a few months ago.  The inspiration for the  film is all Sam Elliott, Haley gushed.   After working with him  in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” he said, “I’m inspired by him not only as an actor, but as a human being.  He deserved his own movie where he was in every scene and it was about him and he got to show off what an amazing actor he really is.”  He and co-writer Marc Basch came up with Elliott’s character as something “…he could sink his teeth into…and a non-Western where he’s not on a horse.”

Elliott’s character of Lee is incredibly real with the most raw and believable emotions that are true to life.  “The Hero” reminds us that time zips past us as we have neglected aspects of life that are most dear.   Haley identified with “Lee” even though he admits he’s still quite young.  “We are always looking back on our lives and what it means to make a mark.  He ends up really thinking about his personal reheroemotoinlationships which, at the end of the day, are what really matters.”

“The Hero” allows us to see the world from Lee’s perspective—his hopes, his dreams and his failures—but most importantly it takes us inside his heart.  We feel the regret and the pain it has caused, but we also see the glimmer of love and life, never wanting to be extinguished, no matter how old the candles on the cake say we are.

Meeting and falling in love with a much younger woman, Charlotte (Laura Prepon), takes Lee on a fast-paced ride that he wasn’t quite prepared for.  Their relationship is simply beautiful as they both allow each other to see things differently.  Relationships are at the heart of this film and none is more painful than that of Lee and his adult daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter).  As they bare their souls, the open wounds have obviously not healed, the resentment and remorse heartbreakingly shine theropreponhrough.  However, as in life, there is also humor in “The Hero.”  It’s more situational humor thanks to social media and Offerman’s character.  Haley added,  “He’s way more than Ron Swanson.  I wanted to give him something that he could do that was way outside of that box.  I didn’t have him do any woodworking or steak eating.  He plays a pot dealer and a very unique one!” Offerman and Elliott, on screen, are as comfortable with one another as two brothers as they live, reminisce, and support one another.

Elliott is simply extraordinary.  His small, yet vital roles in “Grandma,” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams” tipped us off as to this man’s true skills, but never have I seen such a passionate and powerful performance—certainly Oscar-worthy.  Offerman confided, “The ‘business’ would say to you, ‘Why don’t you have some younger, better looking people?’  And I would say to them, ‘There’s no one better looking than Sam Elliott.  People over 45 also have lives that we are interested in.”   Haley’s instinct to cast him as the lead truly allows this remarkable actor to show his depth of skill.  Elliott brings you directly to him, looking you in the eye, making you a part of the scene.  His emotions are palpable as you are connected with him and his situation.  We all have regrets in life, crossroads where we perhaps took a left turn instead of the right one and Elliott conveys this understanding with expert skill.

IMG_1346Offerman creates a  “unique” character with skill and charm.  There is no doubt that his character and Lee are long-time friends.  While he adds the comedic lift to the film, Offerman shows us he has the depth and understanding to give us this meaningful performance.  Prepon’s portrayal of “Charlotte” is equally as layered and complex, one that you don’t typically see for women her age.  Yes, she’s beautiful, but her character is also smart, well-read, creative, and wise beyond her years.  Seeing Katharine Ross, Elliott’s real-life wife, in this film as well as Ritter with her small but sublime performance as a dejected and hardened daughter gives “The Hero” the golden touch.

“The Hero” is a beautiful and sincere look at life, regrets, and the spark that flickers from within, wanting to continue to shine.  Haley has done it again.  He has created a film with heart about a character that is real and, get ready for this, is over 40.  In fact, he’s over 70.  My sincere gratitude goes to daring filmmakers like Haley who write films for older actors and then remind us of what’s truly important in life—our relationships.

To watch the interview at SXSW with Offerman and Haley check out YOUTUBE INTERVIEW

 

4/4 Stars

 

 

"I, Daniel Blake" Finds humanity and humor in our bureaucratic world

June 8th, 2017 Posted by Review, Weekly DVD 0 thoughts on “"I, Daniel Blake" Finds humanity and humor in our bureaucratic world”

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Ken Loach directs the off-kilter comedian Dave Johns in “I, Daniel Blake,”  a beautiful depiction of healthcare and bureaucracy in England.  Daniel (Johns) suffers a heart attack and wants nothi_daniel_blake2_h_2016ing more than to go back to work, but due to the State’s red tape and edicts regarding fitness to return, he winds up fighting the system in order to receive his deserved Employment and Support Allowance.  It’s a familiar exercise in frustration not limited to healthcare abroad, but the story delves more deeply into humanity as Daniel befriends a young, single mother trying to make ends meet…by any means possible.  The two work through their situations with the support from one another—a father-daughter type of relationship—reminding us all about the importance of connections and love.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Daniel, a 59 year-old carpenter, suffered a heart attack.  Not yet cleared to go back to this type of work, he must find alternative work and times have changed.  Disability compensation is due to Daniel from the State, but the hoops he must jump through are counter-productive and make absolutely no logical sense.  As his frustration understandably builds, as does ours from watching, Daniel sees yet another injustice occurring.  Unlike State workers, he readily sees that no common sense whatsoever is being used.  He winds up in even more trouble as he seeks a little misdemeanor revenge.  This incident bonds Katie (Hayley Squires) who seems to be running I-Daniel-Blake-Full-Widthaway from life and starting anew with her adorable daughter Daisy (Briana Shann) and son (Dylan McKiernan) who has some issues.  Daniel becomes an integral part of their lives, but as in everyone’s life, there are a few bumpy sections along the way.  The story is simply sublime, taking us on a journey through the eyes of another yet allowing us to intimately relate to each of the characters.

Johns’ portrayal of Daniel is extraordinary.  He easily represents a man who has worked hard all his life, but in the end, the lack of what he has to show in tangible form is disheartening.  Johns creates a character who is complexly beautiful on the inside.  His performance in frustration and acting out appears to be one that he identifies with readily, allowing viewers to immediately connect with him.   While the dialogue is frequently light, what is said visually is loud and clear.  He also creates a fatherly connection with Squires who demonstrates what many single mothers must experience.  Together, they are an absolute delight as we invest our energy in needing to know how things end.  Shann is exceptional as Daisy.  Finding child actors who understand the situation that they are in and who they must portray is exceedingly difficult, but Shann is a natural.

The talent of screenwriter Paul Laverty to tell such a seemingly simple story with touches of humor and irony, bringing out the subtle but poignantly significant aspects of life to the forefront is genius.  With Loach directing the talented actors, it’s no wonder there is an immediate attachment to each of the characters.  “I, Daniel Blake” is a film that tells a familiar and meaningful story, reminding us of how important we can be in one another’s lives if we take the time to look.  Films like this resonate personally with us and stay with us long after the final credits roll.

“I, Daniel Blake” opens on June 9, 2017 at the Musicbox Theatre in Chicago.  For more information, go to www.musicboxtheatre.com or Facebook www.facebook.com/IDanielBlakeUS/

 

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