Review: Redwood Highway

Redwood Highway is an indie film starring Shirley Knight as an intrepid grandmother who walks 60+ miles along the Redwood Highway to get from her retirement home to her granddaughter’s wedding on the Oregon coast.

Mild spoilers ahead.

I suppose I didn’t really need to point out that this 2014 film was an indie production. Can you imagine that a Hollywood production would star Shirley Knight in a leading role (despite the fact that she absolutely kills in this part)?

The film was written, directed and edited by Gary Lundgren.

Marie Vaughn (Shirley Knight) hates living in her retirement home. She fights with her son Michael (James Le Gros) about it constantly. When her granddaughter Naomi (Zena Grey) uninvites her to her wedding because she’s such a negative old biddy, Marie decides to go to the wedding to spite everyone. And she’s going to get there on her own two legs.

Marie is my kind of woman. Fit, bold, and not in need of anybody’s permission. Marie may a bit too mad at the world as the film begins, but she isn’t too rigid to change.

She starts trekking across Oregon’s beautiful countryside and along the way meets people who treat her like an old friend such as Pete (Tom Skerritt) and Stacia (Michelle Lombardo). They help her with first aid, places to sleep and offers of rides. She refuses the rides.

Tom Skerritt is a favorite of mine. I’ve loved him since way back in the days of Picket Fences, an unforgettable show with an unforgettable cast. He has a small part in this film, but it’s nice to see him.

Stacia gets her drunk and gives her a bed in which to sleep it off
Stacia gets her drunk and gives her a bed in which to sleep it off

Marie spends several nights camping in the woods, one night sleeping in a treehouse Pete built, and one night sleeping in Stacia’s house after beating everyone at pool in Stacia’s bar.

Her son has every cop in Oregon out scouring the country looking for her. She eludes them all without even trying.

In addition to the friendly folks who encourage her along the way, she also runs afoul of a couple of meth heads who want to steal all her money. That scene was the only scary moment in the trek to the coast.

Through it all she’s dealing with memories of a lost love from long ago, a sailor named Tommy. There are parallels between her relationship with Tommy and her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding on the beach. Marie thinks she sees her Tommy several times and even has imaginary conversations with him.

She makes it, of course, that’s completely predictable, but she does it with panache, and comes out at the end a wiser woman.

Redwood Highway is a delightful and inspiring film. I completely recommend it. It’s available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Take a look at the trailer.

Images © Redwood Highway

Review: Thanks for Sharing

Thanks for Sharing boasts a great cast in a fair story about people in a 12-step group for sex addiction. The film gives superficial treatment to 4 sex addicts’ story lines. Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad and Alecia Moore (Pink) are the sex addicts; all are in the same support group.

Thanks for Sharing poster

Tim Robbins and Mark Ruffalo have been in the group and “sober” for a while. Newcomers Josh Gad and Pink join the group as the film starts.

Tim Robbins is in a stable relationship with a very underused Joely Richardson. He is estranged from his son, played by Patrick Fugit. A good part of his recovery efforts in the film deal with healing his relationship with his son.

Mark Ruffalo meets Gweneth Paltrow’s character as the film starts and wants to have a normal relationship with her after going for 5 years without being with anyone. She’s not without her own hangups, but his hangups definitely trump hers. He’s terrible at having a normal relationship.

Josh Gad probably has never had real sex in his life and has a creepy mother wonderfully played by Carol Kane. Inexplicably, he and Pink become good buddies and help each other with their recovery.

Finally there is Pink, whose problems are given the most cursory treatment. <sarcasm> Obviously, the men’s stories are more important than a woman’s. </sarcasm>

Here’s the trailer for this 2013 film.

Thanks for Sharing is worth watching, even though it isn’t the best film you’ve ever seen. If I were giving stars, I’d give it 3 out of 5.

Review: Girl Most Likely

Do you know how long it takes while thumbing through lists of available movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime to find one with a woman in the lead role? Almost forever! After feeling that a movie poster with a woman on the front would never appear in the list, I found Girl Most Likely. I have never been so happy to see the words Kristen Wiig in my life!

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Girl Most Likely”

7 Upcoming Films with Female Protagonists

Over the next few months there will be several films with women leading the cast coming to your theater. I celebrate every one! Here are a few – I probably missed some. Let me know in the comments if there’s something I missed that shouldn’t be missed.

Laggies

Keira Knightley and Chloë Grace Moretz head up the cast of Laggies.

You’re Not You

You’re Not You features Emmy Rossum and Hilary Swank with Josh Duhamel providing the male lead.

The Good Lie

The Good Lie belongs 100% to Reese Witherspoon.

Gone Girl

In Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike is the gone girl. We also get lots of Ben Affleck. Did you read this book? It must have been hard to adapt as a movie because of the unreliable narrator issue. Be interesting to see if they can make it work.

The Skeleton Twins

The twins in The Skeleton Twins are played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. Luke Wilson is also in this one.

The Congress

Oh dear, some really serious stuff is going on with Robin Wright who is playing Robin Wright in The Congress. Is it too soon to start drawing interconnections with every woman on the planet?

The Last of Robin Hood

I hesitated to include The Last of Robin Hood because it’s really about Errol Flynn (played by Kevin Kline). And it’s about an old Errol Flynn taking a young woman as a lover. All kinds of YUK. But there seems to be enough of Dakota Fanning and Susan Sarandon justify it.

A Few More Films Mentioned Recently

Several more upcoming films featuring women in the leading roles have been mentioned here lately. Just as a reminder, they are:

Watch This: Trailer for God Help the Girl

God Help the Girl is in theaters this week. It has music! It should make you happy! The film stars Emily Browning and Olly Alexander. The British musical drama was written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of the band Belle and Sebastian.

The film got mixed reviews after Sundance, but if you love anything with music guaranteed to make you tap your toes in the theater, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Image © 2014 – Amplify Releasing

Watch This: Trailer for Transparent

Amazon released a trailer for the Amazon-only Transparent, which will begin on September 26. Right now you can see the 1st episode free, even if you don’t have Prime.

This very complicated tale stars Jeffrey Tambor as a man making a gender transition late in life. There’s a huge and wonderful cast supporting Tambor with plenty of complexity to make up a family of interesting characters.

I don’t know how old Tambor’s character is supposed to be in this show, but in real life he is 70. That puts him in a generation when the opportunity – even the idea – that one could change genders was somewhere in the realm of impossible. Young people today who feel compelled to transition manage to accomplish it at a much earlier age. I think the series title, Transparent, is a clue that the reactions of his grown children to the transition will be important.

poster for Transparent

The series was created by Jill Soloway, who has worked on such great shows as Six Feet Under, Afternoon Delight and United States of Tara.

All 10 episodes of Transparent will be available on Amazon Prime on September 26.

Watch This: Trailer for The Calling

In The Calling Detective Inspector Hazel Miscallef (Susan Sarandon) realizes there’s a serial killer loose in her area of Ontario, Canada. Generally all I need to know about a film is that Susan Sarandon is in it to be interested.

Susan Sarandon in The Calling
Susan Sarandon in The Calling

From the trailer the film looks grim and a bit gruesome.

However, the thriller does have a great cast. In addition to Sarandon, there’s also Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, and Donald Sutherland.

Here’s the plot description:

Detective Hazel Micallef hasn’t had much to worry about in the sleepy town of Fort Dundas until a string of gruesome murders in the surrounding countryside brings her face to face with a serial killer driven by a higher calling.

The film opens August 29 but it’s a limited release, so you may have to watch for it to make it to most locations.

Watch This: A Thousand Times Good Night

A Thousand Times Good Night will be released in the US on October 24. It looks to be a marvelous film. Continue reading “Watch This: A Thousand Times Good Night”

Season 2 of The Fall with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan

The BBC released a season 2 preview for The Fall without mentioning the date when it will be shown. They merely say “coming soon.”

It’s been about a year since my enthusiastic review of season 1 in “The Fall: Mystery Great from the BBC.” Both Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan will be back for the new 6 episode run.

Jamie Dornan is the serial killer Paul Spector. He’s pursued by the Dublin Police Service and Stella Gibson, a Detective Superintendent played by a spectacular Gillian Anderson. At the end of series 1, Stella Gibson had figured out who the killer was, but she hadn’t captured him.

As you can see in the preview, Paul Spector is spying on his pursuer and keeping ahead of her every move. The MO of this particular serial killer is that he studies his subjects carefully while planning a kill. Is that what he’s planning for the detective? She is hardly a gullible and weak damsel who will be easy to kill.

A face in the cast that American audiences will recognize is the motorcycle riding pathologist, played by Archie Panjabi.

As I mentioned in my review of season 1, this brilliant series is slow-paced and intellectual. The audience has known from the start who the killer was, seeing into his life, work, marriage, family and killer’s mentality. At the same time, the audience has been inside the workings of the police and the analytical mind of Stella Gibson. Gibson is as complex as the man she’s hunting. The two are both angel and devil, each in their own way.

Season 1 is available in the U.S. on Netflix. If you missed this excellent mystery I urge you to catch up on season 1 and be on the lookout for season 2. It will be on BBC Two in the U.K.

Watch This: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I absolutely cannot wait to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The first one was arguably the best movie on planet Earth, and in 2015 we’ll have yet another best movie on planet Earth. Such riches.

Among the riches: the best cast on planet earth, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Penelope Wilton and Dev Patel.

John Madden is directing, with the screenplay written by Ol Parker.

I love these people! Wait, am I gushing too much? I’ll restrain myself and simply say it looks good.

Not to take away from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, because I know it will be good, but I have a question. Why are women in shows about older people always chasing after men? Why isn’t it the other way around? Why aren’t the men chasing after the women? So Richard Gere is handsome and attractive – so what! Aren’t the women gorgeous and attractive, too? What’s up with this trope about women needing to be sexually predatory in their old age if they want to be with someone?