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.

What do you Think of the Summer Pilots?

The other day I mentioned a couple of pilots on TNT that I’m super excited about that star Jennifer Beals and Julia Stiles. The big networks – NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, and FOX – all have a full slate of summer shows lined up. You can see the full list by following the links.

I want to mention the ones that look good to me, the ones that have a female in the leading role, and the ones I think might be worth watching. I’d love to hear what you think about the summer lineup, so speak up in the comments.

There are lots of comic book spinoffs, zombies, and aliens in the schedules. Lots of comedies and a few dramas.

On NBC

A variation on the zombie craze, Babylon Fields will star Virginia Madsen, Meagan Good, Skeet Ulrich, Ritchie Coster, Yul Vazquez and Kyle Schmid.

Debra Messing will lead the cast in a police procedural called Mysteries of Laura. It’s based on a Spanish series. Messing and her husband solve crimes while dealing with their twin sons.

Odyssey has a female soldier at the helm, played by Anna Friel. The plot centers around an international mystery.

Katherine Heigl will join the CIA in State of Affairs. She’s counselor to the President. Maybe she’ll run into Olivia Pope in D.C.

NBC has a ton of new comedies. The most interesting one stars Natasha Lyonne and is called Old Soul. I’ve mentioned this one before.

Another comedy that looks promising is produced by Ellen DeGeneres. One Big Happy is about a gay woman (Elisha Cuthbert) and her straight best friend (Nick Zano), who decide to have a baby together.

On CBS

Tea Leoni will be the Secretary of State in Madam Secretary. Morgan Freeman is producing this one. Tim Daly, Geoffrey Arend, Patina Miller, Erich Bergen and Katherine Herzer will also star.

Patricia Arquette will star in an as-yet-unnamed CSI spinoff. It sounds very high tech in concept, rather like the current show Intelligence because it involves a lot of cyber security. But I don’t think any of the FBI agents in this show have chips in their brains.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a hospital administrator whose four children – quadruplets – all work at the hospital. Oh, and the children grew up on a reality show. This show doesn’t have a name yet either.

On ABC

Danish series have been adapted for American TV with great success. Jennifer Carpenter will be in Sea of Fire, another Danish adaptation. This one is an FBI story.

Warriors will be a medical drama. The cast includes Morena Baccarin, Don Hany, Courtney B. Vance, Justina Machado, Greg Grunberg, Steve Kazee, Hampton Fluker, Abbie Cobb and Eloise Mumford.

On FOX

Cabot College is a comedy produced by Tina Fey. A show can’t get much more promising than that.  Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Bonnie Dennison, Ely Henry, Asif Ali, Jack Cutmore-Scott and Brandon Jones will star.

On the CW

I don’t see anything that tempts me on this network.

Again, you can see the full lineup of summer shows here: NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, and FOX. I’d love to hear what you think about the ones I consider hopeful, or if you see something else that didn’t catch my eye that looks really good to you.

Review: The Hot Flashes

The Hot Flashes was directed by Susan Seidelman and stars a slew of women, chief among them Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen, Camryn Manheim and Wanda Sykes. That attracted me before I even had a clue what the film was about.

part of the hot flashes poster
Part of The Hot Flashes poster

It turns out The Hot Flashes is about the efforts of a group of Texas women who were once state high school champions in basketball to raise money to save a traveling mammogram truck. This was before Texas decided to close nearly all the clinics in the state where a woman could get a mammogram because they also offer birth control services. The mobile mammogram service was desperately needed even then.

The former champs are now a varied assortment of housewives, car salesmen, aspiring mayors, drug mavens, and oft married grocery store clerks. They’re old, out of shape, and have resentments remaining from years ago when they played together in high school.

Somehow Beth, the Brooke Shields character, manages to wrangle them into playing 3 games against the current high school women’s basketball team – which includes her daughter (played by Charlotte Graham) in an effort to raise $25,000 to save the traveling truck.

Mark Povinelli, a little person, is convinced to become the coach. The woman who works in the mammogram truck becomes the team manager. Eric Roberts is Brooke Shields husband – who is not a bit supportive of what she’s trying to do, by the way.

I’d give the film 3 out of 5 stars, meaning I liked it even if it isn’t Oscar material for best picture. It was fun to watch. It was inspiring. For a tale about overcoming all odds, it’s original and worthy of your time.

The Hot Flashes is available on DVD and from Netflix and Amazon. It was released in 2013.

WIGS: Web Series Extraordinaire

Triian Bellasario
Troian Bellasario in Lauren. Image via Frikarte

Some of the best stories you’ll find anywhere are now playing on your computer on a YouTube channel called WIGS. WIGS offers original series, short films, and documentaries, all starring female leads.

There are numerous offerings on WIGS. Some films are one episode, some 3, some 12, some with more than one season. All feature well-known female leads such as America Ferrera, Virginia Madsen, Maura Tierney, Julia Stiles, Jennifer Beals, Troian Bellasario, Anna Paquin, and more. The many male actors who populate these tales are well-known, too, but the purpose of the films is to feature the women. The documentaries feature women.

I’ll mention my favorite series. I hope you’ll explore them all, because they are all good.

Lauren

Lauren is a drama about rape in the military. It stars Troian Bellasario as Lauren, the soldier who is raped. Jennifer Beals is Major Stone, the officer to whom Lauren turns for justice.

If you’ve paid attention to the headlines recently, you know justice for crimes of sexual assault does not automatically happen in military culture. Lauren is not an easy series. It’s tense and full of unfairness that makes you want to scream.

Here is episode one.

There were 3 original episodes in Lauren. It was so well-received and so important a topic that 12 more episodes were shot as a second season. The story doesn’t end at the end of season 2. I’m hoping there will be a season 3 to bring closure to the story.

Jennifer Beals and Troian Bellasario are fabulous together in Lauren. There’s great chemistry and tension between the two, as you can see in the first episode.

Blue

Blue features Julia Stiles as a single mom who supplements her income as a call girl. There were 12 episodes in season 1. Season 2 had 26 episodes. There is room for a season 3 in the story, which was unresolved at the end of season 2. Blue may end up being a full blown movie. Here is the first episode.

Julia Stiles is remarkable in this role. Blue is so complex and has so much to hide (and so much to lose) that it’s fascinating to watch her life open up a little more to the viewer in each episode.

Julia Stiles wrote and directed a series of her own on WIGS, called Paloma, which features Grace Gummer. Yeah, it’s that kind of woman-power.

Ruth and Erica

Ruth and Erica features Maura Tierney and Lois Smith. Tierney is trying to get her parents out of the family home and into a facility where they can care for her father (Phillip Baker Hall) who has Alzheimer’s disease.

There are 13 episodes. Here is the first.

Ruth and Erica is told and acted and shot with great tenderness and love. The scenes between Lois Smith and Phillip Baker Hall as the loving old couple dealing with Alzheimer’s are beautiful and tender and heartbreaking. The two of them are exquisite together. I’d love Ruth and Erica for this couple alone, but Maura Tierney has her own storyline independent of her parents’ drama that is intriguing as well.

This series was resolved at the end of 13 episodes, so I don’t think another season is in the works for it. It would be wonderful if someone would write another series for Lois Smith and Phillip Baker Hall with a story to tell that was about elders living life fully.

Susanna

Susanna features Maggie Grace and Anna Paquin. The two play sisters. Anna Paquin is a new mother with postpartum depression. She is scary-wonderful in this role. She had me holding my breath during most of her early scenes. Maggie Grace is the sister who gets called in to help when things get impossible.

Here’s episode 1 of 12.

I’ve been watching Anna Paquin perform marvels on a screen ever since The Piano so I wasn’t that surprised by her wonderful performance. However, I’d never heard of Maggie Grace (I’ve never watched Lost or Californication or Taken – unbelievable, right?). Seeing Maggie Grace was an education. She’s really gifted and does some revelatory things with her part as Susanna.

A second season for this story is a must have. I don’t think one has been announced yet, however. Come on, WIGS, bring it.

Why WIGS is among my favorites

It’s all about the women. The women are the center and the source of all the interestingness.

WIGS has men, too. Unlike shows that are all about the men, where the women are just cardboard cutouts by the man’s side, the men in WIGS are developed characters. This kind of equality makes for a better set of stories. We need millions more stories like these just to catch up with all the stories about complex, real men.

It’s about life. Real life. It isn’t about explosions or saving the world by killing great swaths of people without ever thinking about the consequences. It’s about the way real people live.

Have you watched any of the WIGS web series? What were your favorites?

Get over to YouTube or Watchwigs.com and check out these great stories.