Review: Trumbo

Trumbo is a fact-based story about Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who was blacklisted during the Communist scare of the 1940s and 50s. Bryan Cranston is brilliant as the chain-smoking, hard-drinking writer who lead other Hollywood writers in a quiet but effective revolt against blacklisting.

Trumbo served time in prison for his liberal beliefs, as did many others during the hysterical fear-based Communist scourge of the 1950s. The 1st Amendment was under attack by many who sought to control the remarks and opinions of others – and throw them in prison if they disagreed. Continue reading “Review: Trumbo”

Watch This: Trailer for Trumbo

Trumbo is a slice of American history written through the lens of pop culture and Hollywood. The film details the life of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted as a Hollywood writer in the 1940s for being a Communist. It’s based on the biography Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook.

Bryan Cranston and Diane Lane in Trumbo

The film stars Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo. Louis C.K., John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alan Tudyk and Helen Mirren are also in the film. Trumbo’s wife is played by Diane Lane with Elle Fanning as his daughter.

When Trumbo and many other Hollywood writers were called before House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D.C. and then blacklisted for their political beliefs, Trumbo orchestrated a fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom. The blacklisting scandal eventually entangled everyone in Hollywood from Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne (David James Elliott) to Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel).

Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo

Trumbo was one of several hundred writers, directors, producers, and actors who were denied the opportunity to work in the motion picture industry from 1947 to 1960 because of blacklisting over the Communist scare. Trumbo managed to win two Oscars for films written under other names during this time: Roman Holiday and The Brave One. His struggle ended when he finally saw his name on the screen again for the film Exodus.

Trumbo was directed by Jay Roach and written by John McNamara. It is set for a November release. Early reviews from film festival viewers have been mixed. I think the topic is interesting enough, and relevant to still occurring witch hunts in American life today, to merit giving it a chance and making up my own mind about it.

Review: Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me stars Kristen Wiig as a mentally ill woman who wins $86M in the lottery and puts herself on a TV show that is all about her. Kristen Wiig is fantastic in this part and proves her talent as a dramatic actress with her portrayal of Alice Klieg.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Welcome to Me”

Firefly Fans, Open Your Wallets for Con Man

Firefly stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion launched an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign. They are raising money for a new web series, Con Man.

They are already over their goal. (Firefly fans are nothing if not enthusiastic!) Give them some money anyway. More money equals more episodes.

Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk want to get the Firefly alums together for a web series
Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk want to get some Firefly alums together for a web series

Con Man will be about sci fi conventions and the characters in that world. Tudyk is writing and directing. He will also star as an actor playing the pilot of a spaceship. Fillion will star as a ruggedly handsome actor playing a spaceship captain. Also promised are Sean Maher, Gina Torres, James Gunn, Seth Green, Felicia Day, and Amy Acker.

Fillion and Tudyk do this because Firefly was cancelled too soon, too soon. The love lingers on and expresses itself in the con – events so amazing and beautiful they are worthy of a web series.

Go watch their video asking for money and support these crazy guys. Did I mention Gina Torres, Felicia Day and Amy Acker? And for all the tweets Alyson Hannigan gave those two blockheads, I think she deserves a part, too.

Watch This: Trailer for Welcome to Me

I think winning $86 million in the lottery would make everyone go a little crazy, but in Welcome to Me, the main character is already crazy. Welcome to Me stars Kristen Wiig as a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder. She spends her winnings on buying herself a TV show which is about her and stars her. Oh, yeah, and she goes off her meds.

The cast in this indie production is simply outstanding: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bently, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Thomas Mann, Loretta Divine and more.

There is also a long list of producers, among them is Will Ferrell. The film boasts a female director:  Shira Piven.

When you think about it, what Wiig’s character does in this show is a little like starting a blog where all you want to do is share your opinions on things. Like, say, this blog. (Except I don’t have any money, and Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bently, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Thomas Mann, and Loretta Divine don’t want to come and play with me.)

The film will get a wide release on May 8, 2015, with limited openings on May 1. It looks good and you don’t have to win the lottery to afford it. Go see it.

Image Credit: Kristen Wiig TIFF 2014” by GabboTWelcome to Me 46. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Dollhouse: Reality Catches Up with Fiction

I’m a Dollhouse fan, so this tweet from @HostilePoet_17 caught my eye.

The tweet lead me to this story in TIME Magazine : Memories Can Now Be Created — And Erased — in a Lab.  In TIME, the writer talked about the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I’m with Dara, the story makes me think about the series Dollhouse.

Created by Joss Whedon, Dollhouse was on the air for 2 seasons from 2009-2010. The premise was that the residents of the dollhouse, who were captives, could be remade over and over into new people with new skills as needed for new jobs. Their memories were constantly being erased and rebuilt, depending on what the puppet masters needed them to do. Sit them in a special chair, zap their brains, and suddenly they were skilled surgeons or soldiers or equestrians.

Like Orphan Black allows for virtuoso performances from Tatiana Maslany, Dollhouse allowed the lead characters, particularly Eliza Dushku who played Echo, to be a completely different personality every week. All the actors who played “dolls” had the dream job of demonstrating their chops by inhabiting an ever changing array of personalities and characters.

Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse
Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse

If you are a Whedon fan, you know that Eliza Dushku also worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Other Whedon regulars who appeared in Dollhouse include Fran Kranz as Topher, the mad scientist who rewired everyone’s brain with aplomb, Amy Acker as (mostly) a doctor who helped take care of the dolls, Alexis Denisof as a Senator, Summer Glau as one of the dolls, and Alan Tudyk as a scary character named Alpha.

Harry Lennix, Tahmoh Penikett, and Olivia Williams were in the cast as characters who ran The House and the dolls. Most of the time these characters would be considered “the bad guys” but that was a bit fuzzy on this show. In addition to Echo, other dolls included Enver Gjokaj as Victor and Dichen Lachman as Sierra.

The conflict and struggle in Dollhouse partly came from the fact that the memory wiping and imprinting process was never quite perfect. For example, Echo always had vague ideas about who she really was and struggled to hold on to that. Victor and Sierra were in love. No matter what personality they had to take on, that basic emotion always seemed to creep back in. The struggle to recall who they really were led the dolls to attempt subterfuge and misdirection in an attempt to save their own memories and to escape from the dollhouse.

Mixed in with that overall story arc of the dolls attempting to get back to who they really were, there were the weekly stories centering around whatever action or job needed to be done by the dolls that week.

You could wipe my brain and make me forget that I’d ever heard of Joss Whedon, but I’d only have to watch one episode of Buffy kicking vampire butt or Echo fighting to retain her true self or or Gina Torres decked out in leather and guns aboard The Serenity to fall in love with his fictional females all over again.

If you missed Dollhouse the first time around, I suggest you watch it now. And if you’ve already seen it, binge watching a second time is a perfect way to spend a weekend.

You can watch both seasons of Dollhouse on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.

Like many Whedon creations, Dollhouse inspired an obsessive fandom to create a Wiki for the show. If you feel like getting into the details, the Wiki is your happy place.

Images ©20th Century Fox Television