Review: Unexpected

I just caught Unexpected on Netflix. This film is about a teacher obsessed with her work who can’t deal with the fact that she is pregnant.

Spoilers ahead.

The film stars Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, and Gail Bean. Smulders is Samantha (Sam) Abbott, a white woman teaching science in a majority black high school. She’s a great success at her work. The students like her, the faculty like her, she’s earned great recommendations. Continue reading “Review: Unexpected”

Watch This: Trailer for Our Brand is Crisis

You’ve probably seen the trailer for Our Brand is Crisis 15 times on your TV already, because it’s heavily promoted there. I wanted to mention it and include the trailer here because it looks interesting.

It’s interesting because it stars Sandra Bullock in a role written for a man. A great move by the film’s producers and and an example that others should follow more often.

Sandra Bullock and Zoe Kazan in a scene from "Our Brand is Crisis"
Sandra Bullock and Zoe Kazan in a scene from “Our Brand is Crisis”

It’s interesting because it’s loosely based on a real election in Bolivia, suggested by the 2005 documentary by Rachel Boynton about campaign master James Carville’s manipulations in that election.

It’s interesting because we are in the middle of an election cycle with all its spin and manipulation and over-abundant candidates.

It’s interesting because it looks like a powerhouse performance from Sandra Bullock.

Early reviews of the film mention that it’s hilarious. Here’s the description of the film:

A Bolivian presidential candidate failing badly in the polls enlists the firepower of an elite American management team, led by the deeply damaged but still brilliant strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock). In self-imposed retirement following a scandal that earned her nickname and rocked her to her core, Jane is coaxed back into the game for the chance to beat her professional nemesis, the loathsome Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), now coaching the opposition.

But as Candy zeroes in on every vulnerability – both on and off the campaign trail – Jane is plunged into a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits nationally to boost their numbers. Dramatic, rapid-fire and laced with satire, “Our Brand is Crisis” reveals the cynical machinations and private battles of world-class political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters.

The drama also stars Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, and Zoe Kazan. David Gordon Green is the director.

The film will be in theaters everywhere on October 30, 2015.

Watch This: Westerns with Women – Trailers for Jane Got a Gun and The Keeping Room

When I was a kid I went to the movies every week. So many of those movies were Westerns. That was in the days of John Wayne and Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Men on horses with six shooters.

As soon as I discovered there were options that went beyond the Western, I was happy to move on.

Now and then since those ancient decades, there have been Westerns starring women. The latest are Jane Got a Gun with Natalie Portman and The Keeping Room with Brit Marling.

Jane Got a Gun

Natalie Portman

Jane Got a Gun is more the traditional Western with a twist. In this story a woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him. The film has male writers, a male director (Gavin O’Connor), and a majority male cast.

Starring with Portman are Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro, Joel Edgerton, and Noah Emmerich. The film went through all kinds problems before and after shooting – cast changes and problems with distribution. But it’s finally ready to go.

The film is releasing in France before the US (US release date is February 2016). The only trailer at this point has French subtitles. Have a look.

The Keeping Room

Hailee Steinfeld

With Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, and Sam Worthington in the lead, The Keeping Room is a more female point-of-view tale. The film was written by Julia Hart and directed by Daniel Barber. It released to theaters back in September 2015. You might have to wait for the streaming services to carry it before you can watch it, or catch it in a second run venue.

The plot synopsis is “Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women – two sisters and one African-American slave – must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.”

Here’s the trailer.

If you caught The Keeping Room when it was first released, please share what you thought of it.

Dark New Trailer for Jessica Jones

The new trailer for Marvel’s Jessica Jones is dark enough to give me goosebumps. Less than a month until it begins on Netflix. I will be watching. Will you?

Dark, twisted, haunted, troubled, as well as super strong are a few adjectives that come to mind in that preview. I think Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) may be the most interesting comic book spin off that has come out of the Marvel universe.

The preview introduces us to the villain Kilgrave (David Tennant), although we don’t see much but the back of his head and a demonstration of his ability to make people do whatever he wants.

If the music in the preview is an indication of the type of soundtrack that will accompany the series, I’m looking forward to that as well.

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Vulture ran a spoiler-filled article about episode one called Jessica Jones Has Hot Sex and Nuanced Sexuality (Especially for a Marvel Show) that may be of interest to you. It talks about Jessica and her relationship with Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor).

Images via Netflix

Watch This: Trailer for Joy

Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence, with Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Elisabeth Röhm and Dascha Polanco. We’ve seen the names Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro together in films before and it has meant Oscar nominations for Jennifer Lawrence when we do. This film is her 3rd with director David O. Russell.

I’m not sure we need to know much beside the pedigree listed in the first paragraph, but here’s the synopsis for the film:

Joy is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.

Joy tries to teach her children humility. “Don’t ever thing the world owes you anything because it doesn’t,” she says. “The world doesn’t owe you a thing.”

We need more of this attitude in the world today. There doesn’t seem to be a shred of humility anywhere in the United States. In the film Joy overcomes insurmountable obstacles to become the founder of a family empire.

The film is loosely based on the real-life Joy Mangano, who  appears regularly on the Home Shopping Network selling items as like the “JOY FleXassage™ Body Massager Pillow with Neck Massager” and her Huggable Hangers, which are HSN’s all-time most popular product.

The story was written by Annie Mumolo and David O. Russell.

Look for it in theaters on Christmas day.

Is the Badass Female Only the Female with a Gun?

I love the badass characters. I enjoy the badass female leads in Quantico and Blindspot, to name a couple of examples from this fall’s TV season.

But I wish the badass qualities I love didn’t have to involve guns and violence. Is the standard audition practice these days to ask a woman to draw a weapon from a holster on her belt as quickly as she can?

I know we live in a violent world. I know we need FBI agents and other sentinels like them to protect us all.

But is gun-wielding female the only badass female character?

I want someone to write more badass characters like Erin Brockovich or Texas Senator Wendy Davis. (Oh, hey, someone is doing that! Yes!) I want more lifesavers like Dr. Leanne Rorish on Code Black or adventurers like Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or tractor-driving farmers like Gillian from Last Tango in Halifax or system-fighting women like Laurel Hester from Freeheld.

We define badass as something like Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road when we should be thinking that badass is Lily Tomlin in Grandma. I think we glorify the violent. We create drama around guns, killing, revenge, retribution. Then we uplift those characters to represent the best in the culture.

In reality, violence is the worst part of our culture. There is plenty of drama to be had in ordinary existence. Just living provides ample struggle. We can redefine badass to be something that represents the good in us, can we not? We are using pop culture to redefine the attitude toward LGBT individuals, toward all kinds of inclusion. Why not redefine the attitude toward badass?

I plan to start mentioning it on social media and here on the blog when I find a character that I can define as badass who is also uplifting and nonviolent in her greatness.

I hope you’ll join me in mentioning such characters when you find examples.

Feminist Frequency: The Straw Feminist

This is an old video from Feminist Frequency, but I just discovered it. It talks about ‘the straw feminist,’ a character in media that is actually meant to demonize and confuse real feminism. It’s about 10 minutes long and worth the time.

Here’s the description of the video:

The Straw Feminist trope is a deliberately created, exaggerated caricature of a feminist that is used to undermine and ridicule feminist movements. . . . The Straw Feminist trope has many more facets and MANY more examples but I hope I was able to provide a general overview.

Lately I’ve been reading the book Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, which is why I found this video so compelling at this particular time. After reading this book, I could name dozens of examples of straw feminists meant to undermine women coming out of reality shows. Anita Sarkeesian didn’t get to reality TV in this video, but the book makes it clear that reality TV is one of the most effective backlash tools against women in the culture now.

Review: Dear White People

Dear White People is a film about 4 black students at a mythical Ivy League university that takes aim directly at white people with all their ignorance, bias, privilege and insensitivity. The film uses smart dialog, hilarious one-liners, and real people with real issues to deliver its message.

Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Review: Dear White People”

Review: Hit & Miss

I confess when I first heard about Hit & Miss, a British series about a transgender woman who works as a contract killer starring Chloë Sevigny, I thought it sounded awful. Really, every horrible idea you can imagine. A cis female playing transgender – and she’s a killer. And that title: too cutesy. But a Twitterverse conversation with @Tristen1960 and @Doccubus_Nat about the series convinced me to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Review: Hit & Miss”

Watch This: Trailer for Janis: Little Girl Blue

Janis: Little Girl Blue is Janis Joplin’s story. The documentary, written and directed by Amy Berg, looks at the years of Joplin’s life when she took the world by storm as a rock and roll singer.

Janis Joplin

The film includes archival footage of Joplin singing and laughing and talking. There are interviews with her friends and family. Joplin tells the story in her own words, as well, through a series of letters she wrote to her parents. Many of the letters were made public for the first time in this documentary.

The film is narrated by Cat Power.

Joplin discovered she could sing at age 17. She had a beautiful singing voice, unlike the emotional growl she used to become famous. In 1971, at age 27, she was dead. In those 10 years she had a lasting impact on the world of music. She is quoted in the preview saying, “As it gets closer and more probable, being a star is really losing its meaning, but whatever it means – I’m ready.”

You might enjoy reading this review by The Hollywood Review, written after the film appeared at the Venice Film Festival.

November 27, 2015 is the initial release date in the US.