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About Me

I love entertainment...

Sex: Female
Language: English
Relationship Status: In a Relationship
Interested In: Men and Women

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Location: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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  • 5/5 (2 votes)
  • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
    5/5 (2 votes)
    Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

    Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

  • 5/5 (1 votes)
  • Interstellar
    5/5 (1 votes)

    Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
    replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
    loud. It uses booming music to jack...

  • San Andreas
    5/5 (1 votes)
    San Andreas

    In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
    earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
    Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
    credited), who are you going to bet...

    • Entertainer

      Thumb little women first look 3200x1800 1024x576

      Two inspiring women caused a stir at the recent two-day PBS Press Tour in Pasadena, CA. The diversity-rich PBS winter-spring schedule promises "Little Women," great men and women, nostalgic remembrances and people who reached for impossible dreams.

      To see those two women, Dolores Huerta and Angela Lansbury, you'll have to wait until spring. The New Mexico-born Huerta remains an activist even at 87. She commemorated Martin Luther King Day by marching. Last year's documentary on her, "Dolores," was featured in a nine-day (Jan. 13-21) activist festival in downtown Los Angeles and will come to PBS on March 27.

      Series executive producer, Lois Vossen said it's time for a "new generation to know who Dolores is." After all, the FBI knew how dangerous she was and she originated the phrase, "sí se puede." Vossen noted, "We're knee deep in sexism when it comes to why people don't know her.

      Huerta admitted that growing up in the fifties and sixties, "people just assumed that men had to take the leading role," so when César Chávez (1927-1993), co-founder with Huerta of the National Farm Workers Association, asked to become the spokesman, "I said, 'Well, of course.'"

      Huerta commented that "People are afraid their voices don't count, that they can't make a difference" and she remains active to help empower people. "Everyone has personal problems. Once one gets engaged in helping other people, your personal problems are diminished."

      Producer, writer and director Peter Bratt noted that PBS is the perfect venue because Huerta always fought for equal access and, as his brother, consulting producer Benjamin Bratt noted, "to get eyes on the screen is the number one objective."

      Growing up, Benjamin, his brother Peter and mother were well aware of Huerta because they too were activists and had participated in the 1969 Native American Occupation of Alcatraz, something Huerta supported.

      Lansbury, 92, was part of the second panel on Masterpiece's "Little Women." The first panel featured the executive producers Colin Callender and Rebecca Eaton and screenwriter/executive producer Heidi Thomas ("Call the Midwife") while the second panel brought in the actors who played three of the four March sisters--Annes Elwy (Beth), Willa Fitzgerald (Meg), Maya Hawke (Jo), Emily Watson (Marmee), Jonah Hauer-King (Theodore "Laurie" Laurence) and Lansbury (Aunt March). You probably haven't heard of most of the actors, but that's intentional. Callender explained that in creating a convincing March family they purposely looked for "actors starting out in their careers" so that the audience would be "seeing them as the characters rather than some young starlet."

      This two-part adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, "Little Women," is supposed to take place in Massachusetts but was filmed in the late summer and early autumn in Ireland.

      Because Lansbury was raised in England, she hadn't read the book, and admitted that initially she found Aunt March "very one-sided, but I discovered over the course of the scenes that she has a heart that was beating." She added, "I found it a very fascinating role to play and was glad that I had the opportunity at my age." While Lansbury said the biggest life lesson from the series was the importance of family. On advice to young actors, Lansbury commented, "Learn everything you possibly can about your character...really know who you are playing and don't just go out there and spout words. It's a heck of a difference."

      "Little Women" premieres May 13.

      You don't have to wait until spring to be inspired by other PBS programs. In the 1930s, a black family having a home in the Washington Park seemed like an impossible dream and it took a 1940 Supreme Court decision and years of harassment for Hansberry's family to claim their home in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Lorraine Hansberry was the youngest of four children in that family, and those experiences became the basis for her 1959 "A Raisin in the Sun," the first play by an African American woman on Broadway.  Her writing and her activism didn't stop there. She was mentioned in last year's lyrical James Baldwin documentary, "I Am Not Your Negro," but on Friday, Jan. 19, American Masters presents a 2-hour documentary: "Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart."

      The title comes from a quote: "One cannot live with sighted eyes and feeling heart and not know or react to the miseries that afflict this world." The documentary features Tony Award-winning Anika Noni Rose as the voice of Lorraine Hansberry and interviews with Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte and Louis Gossett, Jr. "Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart" is part of American Masters' year-long Inspiring Women campaign.


      Hedy Lamarr was the inspiration behind Snow White and Catwoman, but her real claim to fame should be her technological legacy. Director Alexandra Dean noted, "Hedy never made a 'Casablanca.' She never made a film that was iconic in its own right." 

      While there have been some detractors there, UCLA associated professor of electrical engineering Danijela Cabric believes that Lamarr was the first person who suggested frequency hopping. Cabrick also noted that its only recently with the widespread usage of  wifi and Bluetooth, that your average person could understand its importance although "federal agencies are still investing in frequency hopping technologies."

      "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story" already had a brief theatrical release and premieres on American Masters on May 18.

      Stereotype breaking has a long history. As part of Black History Month, Independent Lens presents the second of Stanley Nelson's America Revisited trilogy on February 19: "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities." Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) began before the American Civil War with Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1837) and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania (1854) but most were established in the South after that war ended. Notable alumni include Martin Luther King Jr., NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, novelist Toni Morrison, director Spike Lee and Oprah Winfrey and about 100 continue to exist.

      Director Nelson said this is "largely a historical film," the documentary also is about "how black colleges and black college students changed America" via social movements. Michael Lomax, president of The United Negro College Fund noted, "the roots of the Civil Rights Movement is in these institutes" and this year four new black mayors were graduates of HBCUs.

      Nelson's first installment was the 2016 "Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" and the trilogy will end with "The Slave Trade: Creating a New World."

      For those who need some comfort in these tumultuous times, PBS celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of the PBS children's series "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (February 19, 1968) with the documentary "Mister Rogers: It's You I Like." Narrated by a former member of Rogers' crew, Michael Keaton, this documentary is a fond look at Rogers through the eyes of those who knew him best like his widow, Joanne Rogers, the people who worked with him (David Newell as Mr. McFeely, the Speedy Delivery Man) and celebrities who, according to producer JoAnn Young, "let it be known that Mr. Rogers has influenced their work" and that includes Sarah Silverman.

      Newell noted, "He would show children places and topics and let them catch it" because attitudes are caught and not taught." Fred Rogers (1928-2003) also believed in the "importance of play in children's lives" and the "most important thing was to listen."

      One of the kids who appeared on the show, Nicholas Ma, appeared at six and sixteen with his famous father, Yo-Yo Ma. Nicholas Ma remembered how special it was to be there with two of his heroes and said that the important thing Rogers taught him was "kindness and courage are linked." Rogers saw "vulnerability as a source of strength."

      "Mister Rogers: It's You I Like" premieres March 6.


      Looking back and then looking forward, PBS updates its 1969 "Civilization" with a nine-episode special that broadens the concept of renaissance and human achievement and cross-cultural communication with its "Civilizations."

      The original series was written and presented by Kenneth Clark, an art historian. The series was a survey of Western art, architecture and philosophy, focusing on Europe and the achievements of white men.  "Civilizations" is, according to founder and CEO of television production company Nutopia Jane Root, "an enormous broadening of the canvas." But instead of being critical of the Clark original series, this is a "rethinking, reinterpreting in a joyful way."

      British-Nigerian historian and writer David Olusoga noted that the renaissance is seen as "a Mediterranean phenomena." The series looks at how the ideas and art of the Ottoman empire moved into Italy. It is "seeing the world more interconnectively."

      The nine episodes are: "The Second Moment of Creation" (April 17), "How Do We Look?" (April 24), "God and Art" (May 1), "Encounters" (May 8), and "Renaissances" (May 15).

      "Civilizations" premieres April 17.

      Last year, NOVA covered "Eclipse Over America" and this year, NOVA again looks to the sun for scientific surprises in its two-hour special: "The Impossible Flight." In 2015, the Solar Impulse II, set out from Abu Dhabi on a grand adventure: the first solar-powered flight around the world. Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg wanted to send a message to the world: Renewable energy has potential yet to be realized.

      "The Impossible Flight" shines a bright light on the possibilities of solar energy and premieres January 31.

      NOVA also shows us that there are great finds still yet to be discovered. One teenage girl's bad luck thousands of years later became a team of divers' good luck. Alberto Nava was diving in the waters of a Hoyo Negro cave and swam into a forest of prehistoric bones. Among the saber-toothed cats, the giant sloth and gomphothere bones, was the nearly complete skeleton of a girl. Estimated to be between 15-16, Naia, named for the ancient Greek water nymphs, fell into the 100-foot pit in Mexico's Yucutan and died 13,000 years ago. Her bones are some of the earliest known human remains in the Americas, and she is the "First Face of America."

      "First Face of America" premieres February 7.

      American Experience looks at another first. As part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a documentary looks at the first time the United States federal legislation singled out a race and nationality for exclusion from the American dream in the two-hour "The Chinese Exclusion Act." The act was signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882. It took six decades and a world war to repeal.

      The makers feel this is not just an immigration story, but the immigration story because the act was important in the formation of American policy and American identity and was the first of a series of laws limiting immigrations from areas that threatened a white European based society.

      While co-director Li-Shin Yu said, "I think in the Chinese American community it is known, but not to the extent it should," co-director Ric Burns noted that what is "most chilling" is that "it had to be deliberated and signed every decade."

      "The Chinese Exclusion Act," a special presentation,  premieres May 29.

      Animal lovers and camera aficionados collide again with the Nature miniseries: "Animals with Cameras." In this three-part series, cameras are attached to the animals studied for surprising and intimate insight into their lives. The first (January 31) episode focuses on orphaned chimpanzees in Cameroon, Kalahari meercats and Magellanic penguins. The second (February 7) has cheetahs in Namibia, fur seals off Australia and chacma baboons in South Africa. The last (February 14) looks at brown bears in Turkey, Chilean devil rays and guardian sheepdogs in Southern France. While the cameras are less spectacular than the animatronics used by "Spy in the Wild" series, the insights are just as amazing, including some that surprised the scientists that wildlife photographer Gordon Buchanan teamed with.

      According to BBC producer Dan Rees, with the guidance of scientists, the team was trying to answer some basic questions. They did encounter problems with lost cameras and camera-jealousy. If you give a large group of chimps six cameras, Buchanan explained, "then they all want cameras. We had to give all of the rest dummy cameras."

      Science geeks, old and young, might also want to watch POV: "Bill Nye: Science Guy." Nye isn't a scientist, he's a science educator. First he focused on children with his "Bill Nye: The Science Guy" and he currently has a Netflix series "Bill Nye Saves the World," a science-focused talk show for adults. The movie premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival last year and airs on PBS April 18.

      For those who feared that the end of the "Downton Abbey" era would destroy the good fortunes of the PBS-BBC collaboration, don't despair. The series that took the "Downton Abbey" time spot, "Victoria" (Sunday9 p.m.) is doing well by the numbers and the popular Benedict Cumberbatch is back. The second season of "Victoria" had already opened on PBS before the winter showcase and the numbers were solid.

      Cumberbatch is not, however, returning to PBS with a new modern day Sherlock Holmes story. Instead, the first full-length film by his SunnyMarch production company (with Pinewood Television), "The Child in Time," will premiere on Masterpiece April 1. Based on a 1987 Ian McEwan novel of the same name, the movie is about a father Stephen (Cumberbatch) who two years earlier had taken his three-year-old daughter Kate to the supermarket and then she disappeared. Kelly Macdonald plays his estranged wife, Julie.

      Cumberbatch explained, "I read the book a long time before I was a father and the script, after I was a father." The story has taken out much of the political rhetoric and focuses on "what it is to lose a child" and "how to care in a partnership." The movie "played to the poetic nature of the relationship" and shows how it is "moved and shaped by this tragedy and how it is maintained by love."

      Check local listings for air dates. The programs should also be available to stream online after they air. 

      By: Jana Monji
      Posted: January 20, 2018, 10:36 pm

      • Entertainer
        Entertainer published a blog post Sundance 2018: "Mandy"

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        Just being the second movie from Panos Cosmatos, the director of cult favorite “Beyond the Black Rainbow" would make "Mandy" a noteworthy Sundance film by its very selection alone. And Nicolas Cage adds to the buzz factor instantly. The two have combined their powers, and it’s like watching two very extreme filmmaking forces find each other and create something beautiful (and uber gory and wild as hell, of course). For all of the endless feral performances that Cage has given, in movies good, bad and forgettable, Cosmatos’ style-driven, ‘80s-tastic passion for weird worlds and characters takes full advantage of Cage’s greatness, and then some. 

        The story is simple enough. Cage plays a man in 1983 who, to put it lightly, seeks vengeance. There’s a lot of weird, then quiet, then loud stuff that happens before this quest for vengeance, and it's all expressed by Cosmatos with his heavy color filters and a new appreciation for extra wordy dialogue, all in service of an atmosphere that’s potent with the likes of Jodorowsky and Lynch. For better or worse, Cosmatos is the dominating force for "Mandy"'s avant-garde horror first half, relishing demonic synth music cues (from Johann Johannsson) and establishing many characters as mysterious, rambling beings of an insidious universe. 

        His script, co-written with Aaron Stewart-Ahn, starts with a peaceful existence that Cage’s Red has in the woods with his titular wife (Andrea Riseborough). Eventually, this is all destroyed by Jesus freaks, led by a man named Jeremiah (Linus Roache). The two are captured and brutally tortured by cartoonish cult members and spiky demonic beings who ride in on ATVs, accompanied by more ethereal, gibberish conversations. It's those latter moments in which the film started to lose me, where even Cosmatos’ extensive bits of dialogue felt like his definitive interest in style over substance, complemented by his various post-production masturbatory visuals. And even though Andrea Riseborough is quite good as Mandy, presenting an innocence that is all the more tragic, this movie is all atmosphere. But this reveals itself to be an expressive, very worthwhile slow burn. 

        By its second half, “Mandy” offers supreme genre excitement as Cage takes center stage; Cosmatos' accomplished, stylized action makes for a roller coaster ride into hell with the specific type of ridiculousness that will more than exhilarate members of his own cult. There are many gems within his performance: First, it’s Cage’s fluctuation between full-out screaming and traumatized crying, running up and down the emotions like a music scale; later it’s the crazed faces he makes, covered in blood, when fighting demon men with massive chainsaws or a super axe that he makes himself. Cage reminds us, if we had even forgotten, of his serious action abilities, but also of his dramatic potential. He creates a full journey for a nightmarish character who may not have worked being played by a less iconic genre fixture. 

        As if its sole goal was to take the heavyweight title of Nicolas Cage’s Craziest Movie Ever, “Mandy” exhibits what Shakespeare called “vaulting ambition” in producing the nuttiest ways for Cage to get into one phantasmagorical showdown after the next. Cosmatos’ full-out stylization complements it all, the director's interest in scope and detailed production design leading to costumes, weapons and locations that elicit their own sense of wonder. “Mandy” shows an actor in his element and a director growing into his own, and we merely bask in this union in all of its cuckoo crazy glory. 

        By: Nick Allen
        Posted: January 20, 2018, 10:40 pm

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        Two phenomenal actresses drive the narratives of a pair of films that screened today in the U.S. Dramatic Competition program at Sundance 2018, and their work will be on lists of the best of the year, even if both films struggle at times to match the fearlessness of their lead performances. Both films are designed in a way to challenge viewers and make them uncomfortable at what’s unfolding in front of them. They’re the kind of movies we so often want from independent filmmaking in that they take actual risks with their storytelling and their form, challenging preconceptions and confronting viewers. And one of them couldn’t possibly be timelier.

        “I am not the victim of this story, I am the hero.” This line could be the motto of the #TimesUp movement, and the real-world relevance of the film in which it's spoken, Jennifer Fox’s “The Tale,” reverberates through every frame of this emotionally raw look at abuse, trauma, and the power of memory. Fox’s decades of experience as a documentary filmmaker greatly influence the way she approaches this story of buried tragedy in a way that feels refreshing and new. Her film pulls absolutely no punches, presenting a story of child abuse in a way that had some viewers heading for the door. This is certainly not a film that everyone will be able to take, but it’s rare to see a film that’s this fearlessly confrontational and emotionally complex when it comes to the issues at play within it.

        Laura Dern plays Jennifer, a famous journalist and professor who lives with her boyfriend (Common) in New York City and seems to have a happy, stable life. That stability is shattered when her mother (Ellen Burstyn) finds a story that Jennifer wrote for a class project when she was only 13. The story is about two coaches that worked with Jennifer at that age (played by Elizabeth Debicki and Jason Ritter in extensive flashbacks) and it details a physical love. Jennifer remembers having something special with these adults, but she’s convinced herself over the years that it was no big deal. Her first time was with an older man. That’s true of many girls. But she begins to look deeper into the truth about what happened back then, as well as how it’s shaped who she is today, and she realizes she has some questions that need answering.

        In Fox’s most daring narrative move, Jennifer asks some of those questions directly to the past versions of her abusers, almost as if they’re interview subjects in a documentary. The fourth wall is constantly being broken, and current Jennifer converses regularly with the teen version of herself, played delicately by Isabelle Nélisse. Jennifer turned the narrative of her abuse into an empowering one—she was taking control of her life and being seen by someone for the first time instead of just a part of a family that too often ignored her. However, the adult Jennifer is only now realizing the damage that was done at the same time. And she’s trying to reclaim the truth.

        “The Tale” is one of the most graphic films you’ll ever see regarding child abuse—and Ritter deserves a great deal of credit for taking a role so loathsome given how much the film could have gone wrong—but it’s a strength of the movie in that Fox doesn’t sugarcoat anything. At one point, Jennifer confronts one of her students about when she lost her virginity and snaps at her when she hesitates, telling her that she has to be able to reveal herself if she’s going to ask the same of others. “The Tale” is similarly vulnerable and harrowing in the details it reveals.

        There are times when it feels like Fox’s film is violating the “show don’t tell” rule in that it externalizes a great deal of emotional tumult through dialogue, sometimes in ways that don’t sound completely realistic. There are scenes of Jennifer talking to herself, working through her feelings, in a way that feels overly scripted, as do a few moments with her boyfriend and mother. And Dern can do so much with a look or just the way she uses her body language to convey emotion. I found her performance more resonant when Dern was allowed to let the storm rage within instead of venting it out. However, the exaggerated dialogue fits the conceit of the film in that it’s a heightened, emotional, personal descent into trauma. It’s about how memory deceives us and how we allow that deception to shape our lives in ways we don’t fully recognize. Through movements like #TimesUp, we are now casting light into the pitch-black recesses of several industries, and “The Tale” is a film that artistically amplifies that wattage.


        If Dern’s performance is in the running for the best of Sundance 2018, it already has a strong challenger from Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Kindergarten Teacher,” director Sara Colangelo’s remake of the acclaimed Israeli film of the same name. Gyllenhaal gives her best film performance in years as Lisa Spinelli, a 40-year-old Staten Island teacher who is somewhat adrift in life. Her teenage kids are more invested in Instagram than family dinners and she’s not doing as well as she’d like in her poetry class (taught by Gael Garcia Bernal). One day after school, she hears one of her 5-year-old students, a sweet boy named Jimmy Roy, recite a poem. It’s a beauty. She becomes fascinated by this child who seems to enter a trance and produce gorgeous, pure art. Could he be the new Mozart?

        Would we know if a new Mozart existed? We don’t really live in a world anymore that supports that kind of nurturing of a prodigy. Wouldn’t he just get sanded down by common core and social media? Lisa becomes convinced that Jimmy is a once-in-a-generation talent, and she’s going to do whatever it takes to help that flower grow. And she’ll push back against everyone who stands in her way, even if it destroys her life.

        Gyllenhaal, appearing in every single scene of the film, gives a completely committed, three-dimensional performance. It’s a very tough part to play—we have to believe that Lisa would risk everything for a poetic kindergartener—but Gyllenhaal makes every beat of it work. It’s a performance always on the edge of danger as we worry with increasing alarm that Lisa is going to do something very, very wrong. It’s a thriller almost, but it’s suspense that's borne out of human need for something real in a world that feels increasingly fake. There’s nothing fake about what Gyllenhaal does in this film. It reminds us how great she can be with the right material, and how grateful we should be that filmmakers are willing to give actors like her and Dern parts this unforgettable.


        By: Brian Tallerico
        Posted: January 20, 2018, 11:26 pm

        • Entertainer

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          Robert Greene’s beautiful and haunting new film tells a story that isn’t often taught in history classes, not even in the city in which it took place, but it couldn’t be more resonant an entire century later. There are a great number of films this year that were clearly chosen because of how they comment on the incredibly complex current cultural moment (“The Tale,” “Blindspotting,” “Sorry to Bother You,” more), but there’s something about “Bisbee '17” that feels especially resonant given the way it addresses facing our dark pasts to achieve a more empathetic present. As he did in “Actress” and “Kate Plays Christine,” Greene plays with the form of non-fiction filmmaking, weaving interviews with recreations being staged by the people of the town of Bisbee, Arizona. The result is a lyrical, powerful piece of work that will certainly stand among the best documentaries you’ll see this year.

          In 1917, Bisbee, Arizona did something absolutely horrific: 1,200 striking miners were rounded up from their homes at gunpoint, put on cattle cars, and taken out to the middle of the desert, where they were left to die. The workers had been threatening one of the most vibrant mining towns in the country, and the company wasn’t going to let them disrupt the system. So, they essentially murdered them. And, of course, many of these men were migrant workers from across the close-border with Mexico or other regions.

          In 2017, Bisbee, Arizona hasn’t really addressed this pitch-black chapter in their history. The people who remained in Bisbee were allowed to craft the narrative and they either buried it completely or rewrote it as a necessary sin. It’s fascinating to hear a person who describes himself as a “company man” continue to defend the deportation because of the stories his grandfather told him. The men were told to go back to work, and they didn’t. They lost the right to be in Bisbee. There are others who have tried to keep the story alive, so people can learn from it, but it’s the arrival of the anniversary and Greene’s film that really stirs up the ghosts in Bisbee. He interviews a few local experts, but his masterstroke is the way in which he stages recreations of what happened in 1917 using the townspeople of 2017, letting their personal stories and impressions of the deportation influence the recreations.

          One in particular, a young man named Fernando Serrano, is simply unforgettable. He didn’t know about the deportation, and he ends up playing a major role in the recreation. You can see him go from a relatively average young adult to someone bearing witness to history and realizing its relevance to present day. His eyes are unforgettable; it's impossible to miss what looks like sadness creep into them—especially when he’s relaying the parallel to the fact that his mother was deported when he was young, missing most of his childhood—and then they turn to something akin to righteous anger. In a way that it feels like only Greene could pull off, “Bisbee '17” kind of becomes an essay on education—and there are a lot of us who could use some of that.

          And, of course, that anger, while never being explicitly stated, is a commentary on our current situation, not only for worker's rights and the danger of protest, but Trump's war on immigration and the daily stories about ICE literally rounding up people who have been here for decades. And Greene uses his form-breaking approach to amplify the relevancy without ever saying the name of our 45th President. For example, he’ll include footage of a woman listening to interviews she did about the Bisbee Deportation in various locations around town. It is process (the interview) placed within explicit process (kids nearby ask if they’ll be in the film). Life is still going on. The past is layered on the present.

          Finally, “Bisbee '17” is Greene’s most gorgeously shot and edited film to date, striving for and achieving a lyrical blend of memory and reality. There are several compositions, particularly a song Fernando sings straight to camera, that are simply breathtaking. I found myself deeply and emotionally engaged in how this small town is reconciling their past in order to achieve a greater future, and hopeful that the rest of us can do the same. It’s a very rare documentary that can be both formally daring and so emotionally powerful as “Bisbee '17.” The former often leads to a disconnect with the latter—style over substance that disengages the viewer from the emotion of the subject—but Robert Greene achieves something special with “Bisbee '17,” a movie that feels instantly essential. 

          By: Brian Tallerico
          Posted: January 21, 2018, 4:06 pm

          • Entertainer

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            There’s been an energy that’s been somewhat lacking at Sundance 2018 so far. The buzz among critics is that there’s no “The Big Sick” or "A Ghost Story" or “Call Me By Your Name” this year, and people feel like they’re anxiously waiting for that film to explode into the public consciousness like great ones have from this platform in the past. You could literally sense that anticipation in the room before Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” premiered on Saturday night. People were laughing and chatting and buzzing. The promise of something unexpectedly groundbreaking, starring two of the best young performers alive, hummed in the air. And then the film unfolded...and it's not exactly like anything that anyone there had ever seen before. It is a hilarious, moving, crazy, ambitious piece of satire, a film that’s inspired by visual artists like Michel Gondry and the visual language of music videos with a mind-blowingly daring sense of satire that recalls the extreme nature of someone like Jonathan Swift. It’s definitely a cultural commentary on the working class, especially the minorities within it, but it’s also about a dozen or so other things at the same time. It is a loud, passionate pronouncement of a major talent in writer/director Boots Riley (from the great The Coup), and it’s something you need to see to believe exists.

            The increasingly phenomenal Lakeith Stanfield gives his best performance to date as Cassius Green, a 30-something Oakland resident who lives in his uncle’s (Terry Crews) garage. Cassius is like so many men in this world, just trying to make ends meet and getting tired of that numbing pursuit defining his life. He openly wonders to his artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) if any of it really matters. Who will remember him when he's gone? What impact could he make? And it certainly doesn’t seem like his societal relevance will be on the upswing when he gets a horrendous telemarketer job at a company called RegalView. But things change for Cassius when he learns how to master the use of his “white voice” when making calls, allowing him to move up the ranks in his company to the “power callers” who work upstairs, selling, well, things people really shouldn’t be selling.

            The story of a young man who sells his soul for financial stability would be enough to propel most movies but it’s literally just the skeleton here on which Riley hangs so much other cultural commentary that it’s nearly blinding. Detroit is a part of a Banksy-esque collective called Left Eye, a group that is vandalizing corporate billboards every night, and her increasing rebellion offers a counterpart to Cassius’ deconstruction of who he really is. It’s almost as if as he tamps down more of his personality, she feels an obligation to express more of hers. At the same time, there’s a union movement underway at RegalView (led by Steven Yeun, finding a different, more adult register than he has before, and including the always-welcome Danny Glover), and Cassius catches the eye of the coke-snorting, gun-waving, sarong-wearing, maniacal Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), the CEO of a company called WorryFree. What do they do? They encourage you to give up on things like worrying about rent or car payments, and just live where you work in bunks where you get what looks like prison food. In other words, they advertise and sell to corporations slave labor.


            “Sorry to Bother You” is a visual feast as Riley balances the relatable human story at the center with unforgettable, daring imagery. It could be something as simple as the way he portrays Cassius and Detroit’s financial rise (their garage room literally deconstructs and reforming into a fancier one) or the almost Terry Gilliam-esque approach to a world not exactly ours but not far off that defines the entire film. Like Gilliam or Gondry, Riley is constantly drawing attention to his choices through their extremity. For example, rather than have Stanfield attempt the job-changing “white voice,” he literally dubs him, and others, with pretty famous actors that most people will recognize instantly, amplifying the disconnect and ridiculousness of it all. Like a lot of great satire, Riley turns most of his choices up to 11. You go all in, or you don’t go at all. And it’s that riskiness that feels so refreshing and ambitious.

            But a movie doesn’t work, even a satire, if we don’t have anything human to hold onto, and so Riley’s smartest decision was to use the blinding likability of Stanfield and Thompson to ground the film’s more out-there elements. Stanfield always feels like he’s playing the truth of the moment, even when it’s broad satire, and Thompson is as likable as she’s ever been. The film also deserves notable praise for its tech elements, including a soundtrack by Riley and the Tune-Yards, vibrant production design, and some of the best costumes I’ve seen at Sundance—Detroit’s artistic sensibilities inform her fashion, especially her unforgettable homemade earrings in such a memorable way that they could actually spark a line of film-related products.

            Like any film this ambitious, there are undeniably a few jokes and scenes that just don’t quite work, but I praised the other Oakland social commentary at Sundance this year, “Blindspotting,” for being ambitious in a world of lazy indie filmmaking, and that’s even more true here. I’d rather see something that swings for the fences like “Sorry to Bother You” than something that plays it safe. There’s nothing safe about Boots Riley’s film—nothing predictable, nothing derivative or generic, nothing routine. It is what we want from Sundance in that it’s a confrontational, unforgettable announcement of a new talent. The buzz is back.

            By: Brian Tallerico
            Posted: January 21, 2018, 4:53 pm

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            The U.S. Documentary Competition category is always a strong one at Sundance, launching non-fiction films that people talk about all year long. Recent winners from this select group include “Weiner,” “The Wolfpack,” “The House I Live In,” and “Restrepo,” and dozens of other notable films have premiered in this elite program. The U.S. Doc Competition films often seem frontloaded to the opening days of the festival, and three have premiered already, a trio that illustrates the range of programming within this section. All three could safely be called “interesting,” but one of them stands out as an event movie that people will buzz about long after Sundance is over.

            That film is Tim Wardle’s fascinating “Three Identical Strangers,” which first feels like it might just be about an amazing, quirky story of sudden celebrity but becomes something much stranger and even essential in the neverending debate over nature vs. nurture. “Three Identical Strangers” may be non-fiction but it’s structured and composed like the best short story you’ve never heard. And it’s one that definitely proves the dictum that life is stranger than fiction.

            Bobby Shafran’s first day of college changed his life forever. While wandering the campus, he noticed that everyone was being strangely friendly to him. And they were saying things like “welcome back,” as if they knew him. A girl even came up and kissed him. The oddity of the morning was amplified when someone came in and realized the truth—while everyone else thought this was Eddy Galland, it wasn’t. It was his identical twin. The two had been separated at birth and given to different parents, reunited by strange circumstance. The story was so surprising that it made several newspapers, one of which was read by the family of David Kellman, also born on the same day in 1961 and also adopted from the same NYC agency. You can tell what happened next by looking at the picture above.

            Bobby, Eddy, and David actually became quasi-celebrities. They were the version of viral for the early ‘80s. They went on shows like “Donahue” and became famous in the Big Apple, hitting clubs like Studio 54, and even moving into their own bachelor pad together. It wasn’t long before they turned their fame into a business, a restaurant called Triplets. The quick ascendancy to fame would be interesting enough for a documentary, but here’s about where “Three Identical Strangers” turns. Why didn’t the parents know their adopted children had identical brothers? And what was their mother’s story? “Three Identical Strangers” has a story you wouldn’t believe if it was in a fictional film, a series of jaw-dropping revelations that raise ethical questions that people have been discussing for years.

            Of course, the foundation of “Three Identical Strangers” rests on a timeless question—nature vs. nurture. When the boys are reunited, they notice several fascinating similarities—they smoke the same brand, have the same speaking patterns, note their similar taste in women. How much of who we are is embedded in our DNA? And how much isn’t? This is a fantastic conversation-starter, a film that perfectly balances the deeper questions inherent in its true story with a character study of some fascinating guys. It's enjoyable, funny, sweet, smart, and heartbreaking. When you get a chance, don’t miss it.


            Documentaries about the increasingly tense relationship between police officers and the communities in which they work are a Sundance mainstay. You can count on one or two every year, and 2018’s entry is David Maing’s frustrating “Crime + Punishment,” the detailed story of the NYPD12. The modern era of the NYPD, one in which mayors and other officials have repeatedly bragged about the reduced crime rate in the Big Apple, has not been without its share of scandal, and Maing was given access to one of the biggest of the last decade, the accusation of a group of a dozen minority officers that not only is the reportedly-outlawed quota system still in place but that officers who don’t enforce it are punished for their disobedience.

            For years, it was an open secret that New York police officers had arrest quotas that had to be met every month, leading to questionable arrests. While the NYPD has claimed that this system is no longer in place, “Crime + Punishment,” using secret audio recordings and private documents, reveals how much it is, and the damage that it does. Quota systems force cops to essentially just round up people on the street to get a “collar.” Of course, the case gets dismissed when it gets into the justice system, but, by that time, the person arrested has already been stigmatized, or worse if they’re stuck at a place like Rikers Island. We meet one man with 7 dismissals. Think not only of the massive waste of time this entails but the rift between officers and the community it creates. And then consider that Eric Garner was likely a victim of a quota needing to be met.

            Maing was allowed a remarkable degree of access to the brave people blowing the whistle on this system, but he could have pared his film down a bit more. Around the hour mark, we run into some notable pacing problems—there are just a few too many extravagant shots of the city and meetings that run on too long. The subject matter is important, and the direction is confident, but the same effect could have been produced with 15-20 minutes of tightening throughout the film. Having said that, “Crime + Punishment” is still worth a look, and worth considering the next time you hear the spin as to how much New York has solved its crime problems.


            A similar length problem plagues Nathaniel Kahn’s “The Price of Everything,” which also premiered this morning in the U.S. Documentary Competition program. Kahn’s film brings us into the high-priced art market, asking interesting questions about the purpose of art and the motivation to collect it, but it could have done what it does in the space of a “Frontline” special or even a really strong “60 Minutes” segment. It feels like it’s too often spinning its wheels, making the same points over and over again.

            That point that Kahn makes is basically that art and commerce are strange bedfellows. He spent a lot of time with collectors (including an unforgettable one in Chicago who has turned high-priced art collecting into his life’s passion) and artists, often capturing how different they are purely through conversation. We meet Jeff Koons, the current king of the high-priced art world, and a man who is not-so-casually portrayed as something of a hustler (former colleagues compare him to Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”). Koons has a factory producing art for him, claiming that it’s all his designs and under his direction, but raising the question of if an artist can take credit for a painting he never actually touches. We also meet artists who seem to look at the auction houses and art fairs at which collectors mark up their works from afar, rarely seeing any of the profit being made by the wealthy class that treats their art like product.

            The key line in Kahn’s film is the one that gives it its title: “There are a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” And yet Kahn is careful not to portray the collectors he profiles as cartoonish villains. I wish he spent more time with curators and even casual art fans to fill out what feels like an overly thin film. Yes, artists and the people collect their art often seem to have a strangely disconnected view of the actual product. But “The Price of Everything” doesn’t quite apply that fact to a greater context of a world that seems increasingly materialistic. 

            By: Brian Tallerico
            Posted: January 20, 2018, 3:13 am

          • Thumb loveling

            The World Cinema Competition line up can easily get neglected in Sundance amid the buzz around US Competition films and high-profile premieres. But it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on this wide-ranging crop to discover surprising gems along the way. Three films that screened during the first two days of the festival—“Loveling” (Gustavo Pizzi), “Pity” (Babis Makridis) and especially “The Guilty” (Gustav Möller)—already set the bar high in that regard. While different in temperament, place of origin and aesthetics, all three films find their main subjects at life-defining crossroads and are products of singular visions behind the camera and on the page. They feature complex character studies, grounded in a well-realized sense of place and time.

            Gustavo Pizzi’s “Loveling” (from Brazil/Uruguay) follows Irene (Karine Telles), a married mother of four living in an unkempt, decaying house outside of Rio de Janeiro. By all measures, she leads a joyous, happy life surrounded by the spraying taps and crumbling walls of her hectic, colorful house that seems to be bursting at its seams. Despite the chaotic mess around her however, the details of her life warmly add up to a close-knit and amorous co-existence with her beloved family. But when Irene’s oldest son Fernando, a gifted local handball player, gets recruited by a professional team in Germany, her life turns upside down as she prepares for Fernando’s fast-approaching departure in three weeks time. Fretful and vulnerable during this time crunch, Irene worries about her son’s future and her own aimless prospects after her son’s impending journey.

            Also a co-writer of the film alongside Pizzi, Telles brings the sweet-natured Irene to life with an organic sense of realism and charts her journey of mid-life reinvention—as she earns her high-school diploma, reevaluates her family’s living arrangements and protects her sister from an abusive husband along the way—with superior attention. Elevated by rich, Pedro Almodovar-esque colors and an elaborately-conceived set design, Pizzi’s film loosely brings to mind “My Happy Family” (Nana & Simon) from last year’s Sundance in its study of an unconventional, frenzied family life against the backdrop of a culture, and a defiant female navigating various dynamics while seeking her own voice. The comparatively naturalistic “Loveling” doesn’t quite grab the viewer as intimately and in much detail as “My Happy Family”—its free-flowing rhythm renders a more intricate exploration of Irene, and her newfound appetite for a different kind of existence, unviable. Yet, the bigger picture still manages to paint an unruly, idiosyncratic collective with tender devotion.


            The maximalist images and environs of “Loveling” stand in direct contrast to the minimalist, sterile design of Babis Makridis’ “Pity,” a disturbing and oftentimes very funny satire-drama from Greece/Poland. The second co-writing collaboration of Makridis and Efthimis Filippou (the scribe also wrote Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster”), “Pity” is about that complex, primal human craving called empathy and the distance we’re willing to go to summon it from fellow humans. One increasingly desperate man in deep need of explicit compassion is an unnamed hero-turned-villain, sternly played by Greek comedian Yannis Drakopoulos. He lives in a coastal, picturesque city in Greece, in a symmetrical, high-end apartment with his young son and loyal dog. Sullen and motorized, he works at a corporate office, routinely tends to his son’s needs, occasionally goes to the beach and, well, visits his comatose wife, a victim of a recent freak accident, at the hospital. His wife’s ongoing tragedy neatly caters to his needs: addicted to sympathy, he egotistically milks favors from others, including a co-worker eager to give him a hug or a concerned neighbor who willingly bakes him an orange cake every morning. But once his wife awakens in due course and goodwill of strangers dies down, he finds he has to manufacture situations to stretch out the pity party.

            “Pity” boasts a quiet color palette that blends in with its sparse compositions. Makridis’ use of negative space in every frame purposely alarms and isolates the viewer. Hovering between laugh-out-loud hilarious and borderline cringe-worthy moments, the gradually darkening “Pity” inevitably recalls the robotic rhythms and uncomfortable humor of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films through Filippou’s unmistakable stamp as a screenwriter. In the end, the film feels closer to a successful experiment than a fully flushed out narrative with a weighty point. Yet still, beneath its impeccable façade, lurks an almost accidental subtext worth considering: are we all addicted to constant drama and consequent affirmation in our daily lives? It’s a valid question.


            I saved the best for last. The stunning Danish thriller “The Guilty” from debuting director Gustav Möller not only takes the minimalism of space to an extreme—the entire film takes place in a single location—but also impressively shrinks its story’s time span down to bare essentials. The tense, continually surprising story of Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren, tremendous), a recently demoted emergency responder who visibly detests his desk job, starts and unfolds in real-time, when he answers a disconcerting call from a woman (Iben, in an astounding voice performance by Jessica Dinnage) who cryptically claims she is being kidnapped. With his life and entire career at stake in a mysterious hearing he’s prepping for the next day (the details of which we only gradually find out), Asger puts his investigative skills and well-intentioned (yet clearly unsound) instincts to work in order to save Iben’s life. Through a series of phone calls, poorly judged decisions and incessant quick thinking, he finds himself facing a dead-end he has to backpedal from.

            Very much like Steven Knight’s tightly woven drama “Locke,” “The Guilty” splendidly makes its single location and real-time construct its biggest assets, while utilizing every possible tool and avenue with precision. Throughout the film, co-writers Möller and Emil Nygaard Albertsen inquisitively explore Asger’s headspace, illuminating the dark corners of his mind in steady drops of reveals and (without getting into spoiler territory) prove they have something to say about our unchallenged perception of gender norms. This polished, well-calibrated thriller—that could’ve also made a splash as a Midnight film at the festival—is a best-in-class showcase of the possibilities of cinema even with the most limited of resources. It’s also a star-making vehicle for the acclaimed actor Jakob Cedergren, whose pitch-perfect portrayal of a man under pressure leaves a mark through the film’s demanding long-takes.

            By: Tomris Laffly
            Posted: January 20, 2018, 6:18 am

          • Thumb white rabbit sdance 2017

            Daryl Wein's "Lola Versus" had the clear objective of propelling the career of a budding actress named Greta Gerwig further into the film world. At this year's Sundance, Wein attempts the same with Korean-American artist Vivian Bang. Wein and Bang have co-written a story that essentially introduces her to the world, to the tune of her own fanfare but welcoming us to join. “White Rabbit,” which premiered today as part of the forward-thinking NEXT competition, has the kind of career-making performance that gets you to know a fresh performer so well, but it also leaves a great impression of fer potential. And if Bang is allowed to build on this showcase in future projects, the film scene will be better and all the more original for it. 

            With Wein confirming during the World Premiere introduction that the movie is inspired by her work in real life, the movie starts with Bang making her original art: standing in the middle of a corporate grocery store in a blonde wig and white jumpsuit, talking into a microphone and portable speaker using an exaggerated accent. She is creating art that is very much her, and while she does not interact with people in this place or during other occasions, Bang is heard as she successfully occupies the space. It makes for a striking visual, similar to when she presses her face into piles of food in front of her iPhone camera, to later be uploaded to YouTube. But as she later tells her mother, who thinks that she’s a sculptor, “It’s not art that people can buy.” 

            Unabashed creative expression is just one compelling facet of Bang, who creates a full character throughout “White Rabbit”’s 71-minute running time, which consists mostly of Wein’s albeit standard cinematic vision filming her character, Sophia, conversing with other women of color but being 100% herself. She meets Victoria Ghana (Nana Ghana), who turns out to be a photographer with similar perspectives on being a “hyphen American,” but they also take genuine interest in each other. Ghana too makes a strong impression in a role that becomes more complicated as Sophia has feelings but Victoria may not, portraying someone who is less lonely than Sophia. 

            But the movie is certainly Bang’s moment to shine, taking on moments that are curious (smashing her face into a pile of Cheetos, and then studying herself in the phone) and comedic (an angry conversation, with microphone in hand) with zeal. The script that Wein and Bang have written doesn’t always seem to take advantage of her abilities (and there’s an emotional conversation with an ex-girlfriend that feels forced) but that does leave the viewer wanting more. 

            Within the triumphant progressiveness of “White Rabbit” there is also a degree of preachiness that might divide viewers. But even in the way that Sophia speaks into a microphone with a mini-speaker, “White Rabbit” owns this attitude, and creates an immediacy to it. This is the rare movie that feels like it comes from 2018, where people are talking daily about racial tension and various facets of identity. With credit to the script, the movie is funny about this in some cases too, like when the white Wein takes a shot at his own storytelling process by having Sophia interact with a director who wants to cast her for just a few lines, and with the accent. A walking embodiment of white guilt, the director fetishizes her “struggle” as a Korean-American, and shows a counterproductive brand of woke-ness. But even when touching about these ideas, the movie is more than its lead’s race, talking about these things initially so that other ideas can be brought to the forefront, such as Vivian’s artistry, or her difficulty with women. 

            In a way that in part makes me like Sundance just a little bit more, there are huge landmarks that happen in this movie. Women of color speak extensively about much more than their gender or their race, and are given space to become complicated, funny, to be creative and to be weird. A lot of what happens in “White Rabbit” should not have to be considered a headline, but with filmmaking’s clear deficit of perspectives, it is. But here’s a much more joyous headline: Vivian Bang is a Star.


            I was not aware there were so many artistic Elliotts until I went to Sundance. Meaning, the family of comedian Chris Elliott, from the likes of “Kingpin,” is much more than his familiar face now: it’s burgeoning writer/director Bridey Elliott, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Abby Elliott, and mother of the house, Paula Niedert Elliott, previously with no acting credit. For her directorial debut, Bridey Elliott writes about what she knows: that she has a funny, raucous family, and that her mother has been relatively out of the spotlight, until now. 

            Like a family-cast mumblecore movie with tinges of horror, “Clara’s Ghost” focuses on the Elliotts, starting with her parents. In this case, they are known as the Reynolds, but Chris Elliott’s character is now named Ted, and is alluded to have some type of noteworthy acting career at some point. Clara (played by Paula Niedert Elliott), has taken a more domestic role in the house, always cleaning after. At the beginning of the movie, she’s already a shade of Gena Rowlands in “A Woman Under the Influence,” pleading to cops to help her find a lost shoe. But in a more direct way, something is off with Clara, as she sees visions of a woman who lived in their old Connecticut house years ago. Sometimes the score clues us into an emerging creepiness, and that often involves the mystery woman getting closer and closer each time Clara sees her. 

            Writer/director Bridey and sister Abby show up soon enough as two sisters, this time with a juvenile show in their past (an interesting fictional addition to a story that likes to dabble in reality). They’re both actors in different places in their careers, facing the jealousy from their father who just got kicked off a production (for being an asshole, nonetheless). This leads to a type of tension that plays throughout the night as the family drinks a lot, while minimizing the presence of a wacked-out Clara. In this instance, whether the script is trying to be funny or taking a slow-burn psychological route, the movie operates with the flat idea of an outcast family member, and doesn’t build upon it so much as tease it. Sometimes it seems like something wild is about to happen, and in other instances its the ho-hum of a random flower pot almost falling on someone’s head. 

            “Clara’s Ghost” has the unique appeal of being an all-out family affair, and we get to see the Elliotts do it all, often to the detriment of a 90-minute running time. They laugh, they sing, they dance, they make pussy jokes and drink a lot. Elliott creates a free flowing atmosphere but having a likable cast only fills the space so much; instead of picking up speed, “Clara’s Ghost” more often feels directionless and tedious. Even the various moments that are given to Paula Neidert Elliott to perform are amusing more than captivating, and overstay their welcome. And as the story makes her at first frightened and then strange, the script dissolves into weak bits of shock laughter.  

            Just as the movie is fueled by its personal nature, so does it seem to strictly come from Elliott’s taste and interests, of which your alignment may vary. It greatly depends on how much you enjoy spending time with her family, if you find their off-hand banter funny and their meta references to being Elliotts interesting. It also depends on what you want out of movies that have some inkling of horror. With either of these genre elements, to her credit, she plays by her own rules. But I found neither the family comedy or the ghostly ingredients to be particularly potent, and whenever they did get blended it didn’t make for a strong mix.

            By: Nick Allen
            Posted: January 20, 2018, 6:33 am


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