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.

Watch This: Trailer for Meadowland

Meadowland starts next weekend in theaters. It will be available on Video on Demand the following week. It stars Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson as parents whose child is abducted. Here’s the synopsis.

In the hazy aftermath of an unimaginable loss, married couple Sarah (Olivia Wilde) and Phil (Luke Wilson) come unhinged – recklessly ignoring the repercussions. Phil, a New York City cop, starts to lose sight of his morals as Sarah puts herself in increasingly dangerous situations, falling deeper into her own fever dream. The directorial debut of cinematographer Reed Morano, Meadowland is a visceral exploration of grief and hope. Featuring Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, Ty Simpkins, John Leguizamo, Kevin Corrigan and Merritt Weaver.

Meadowland Poster

From the preview, it looks like Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson get called upon to do more in their parts than we have seen them do before. According to reviewers who saw the film at festivals, both give outstanding, deep performances.

Director Reed Morano is pulling double-duty as cinematographer in this one. Check the image in the poster and up at the top. Olivia Wilde is looking out of the frame, lost somewhere. I expect Morano’s bringing her cinematographer ‘s eye to her directing process.

If you see the film, please share your impressions in the comments. I’d especially like to know if any trigger warnings for parents who have lost a child should be included in conversation about the film.

Into the Forest with Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood

Starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood and written and directed by Patricia Rozema, Into the Forest is the rare disaster movie told from a woman’s point of view.

The film is based on a novel by Jean Hegland. Also featured are Max Minghella, Callum Keith Rennie, and Michael Eklund.

Here’s a bit of the synopsis, which sounds tense and scary:

“In the not too distant future, two ambitious young women, Nell and Eva, live with their father in a lovely but run down home up in the mountains somewhere on the West Coast. Suddenly the power goes out. Over the following days, the radio reports a thousand theories: technical breakdowns, terrorism, disease and uncontrolled violence across the continent.

Then, one day, the radio stops broadcasting. To battle starvation, invasion and despair, Nell and Eva fall deeper into a primitive life that tests their endurance and bond.”

There is video of the two main characters and the director in a interview at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The director Patricia Rozema told Indiewire in response to a question about people changing in films, “In some movies, this is one, where the world around them changes a lot and that brings out something in them. I love that when Evan’s character says, “let’s use the gas,” you think she’s nuts. Everyone’s on Ellen’s side, but by the time they use the gas to watch the home movie and watch dance, we’re entirely convinced, or at least I am, that that’s the right thing to do. We need the nourishment of art.”

That part of the film reminds me of a story one of my uncles used to tell about riding the rails during the depression. He and his brother, another uncle, arrived in a town with 10 cents between them. One brother wanted to use it to buy food. The other wanted to go to a movie with it. Decades later, when I heard the story, there was still that conflict between them – one wanting the practical, one wanting to find some respite in art.

I’ve actually made a decision to do films with female leads now for the rest of my life.Another comment that Patricia Rozema made during her interview with Indiewire really struck a chord with me. She said, “I’ve actually made a decision to do films with female leads now for the rest of my life. The history of cinema is so horrifically unbalanced, that the little that I can do to rebalance it – I love seeing women be interested and complicated and strong. If the men are doing male characters and I am doing male characters, then who is going to do the female characters?”

Watch the Trailer for Into the Forest

Review: Mississippi Damned

Mississippi Damned is an examination of what keeps people trapped in a cycle of poverty and abuse, and how some of them manage to escape.

If you watched the excellent documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? you know that Nina Simone wanted to be a concert pianist. And you probably already knew that Nina Simone wrote the song “Mississippi Goddam” which inspired the title of this movie. The most accessible character in the film, the one we root for the most, is young Kari Peterson. She’s played as a young adult by Tessa Thompson and as a child by Kylee Russell. Like Nina Simone, Kari wants to go to college to develop her talent as a pianist and composer.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Mississippi Damned”

Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

If I had seen Seeking a Friend for the End of the World before I heard Bo and Lauren talk about being so happy to be together for the end of the world, I would have made a comment about this film in that Lost Girl post. I don’t think it’s really the end of the world on Lost Girl, but in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a 70-mile in diameter asteroid is hurtling toward earth, and it really is the end of the world.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

Review: Ride

Ride was written and directed by Helen Hunt. In Ride, Helen Hunt plays the worst helicopter mom of all time to her college-age son Angelo (Brenton Thwaites). When he goes to California to spend the summer with his dad, she secretly follows him and watches his every move.

Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Review: Ride”

Watch This: Trailer for Breathe

Breathe is a film from actress-turned-director Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds, Beginnings). It’s in French with English subtitles and will be released in the US in late September.

Joséphine Japy and Lou de Laâge in Breathe

Joséphine Japy and Lou De Laâge as two young girls whose all-consuming friendship takes a dark turn.  Here’s the film synopsis:

A taut, nuanced story about the depths of female friendships and the dark side of teenage infatuations, Breathe, the sophomore directorial effort from Mélanie Laurent, is an assured adaptation of the sensational French young adult novel of the same name. Charlie (Joséphine Japy) is seventeen and bored. Her estranged parents are too caught up in their own drama to pay her much attention. School holds no surprises either, and Charlie grows tired of her staid friends. Enter Sarah (Lou de Laâge), a confident and charismatic new transfer student who brings with her an alluring air of boldness and danger. The two form an instant connection, and through shared secrets, love interests and holiday getaways their relationship deepens to levels of unspoken intimacy. But with this intimacy comes jealousy and unrealistic expectations, and soon the teens find themselves on a dangerous trajectory toward an inevitable and unforeseen collapse.

Isabelle Carré plays Charlie’s mother in Breathe.

For readers, a movie tie-in edition of the novel the film is based on will be published by St Martin’s Griffin in September. It is a translation of Anne-Sophie Brasme’s novel written when the author was just seventeen years old. It spent several months as a bestseller in France after its publication in 2001.

Watch This: Trailer for Miss You Already

Miss You Already stars power pair Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore in a drama about best friends. Dominic Cooper and Paddy Considine play the men in the lives of these two friends. 

The synopsis reads, “Miss You Already is an honest and powerful story following two best friends, Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore), as they navigate life’s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can’t remember a time they didn’t share everything –secrets, clothes, even boyfriends — but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news. A story for every modern woman, Miss You Already celebrates the bond of true friendship that ultimately can never be broken, even in life’s toughest moments.”

Based on the two main characters and the relationship they show in the previews, I would watch this movie no matter what. You want a movie about women’s lives? This is one. I support that 100%.

The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke with a screenplay by Morwenna Banks.

Miss You Already will be released on November 6.

The New Season on Independent Lens

It made the news when Lois Vossen was promoted to executive producer of the PBS documentary series Independent Lens. That makes Vossen one of the top ranking people at PBS. The series she’ll head caught my attention when I saw the articles about her promotion. The commitment to independent film she talks about is wonderful and important.

Independent Lens begins its 14th season on November 9. Take a look at some of the films and any female film makers to be in the new season.

Stray Dog

The season opens with Stray Dog, which is billed as a “stereotype-shattering portrait” of Vietnam veteran Ron Hall directed by Debra Granik. Granik directed the Jennifer Lawrence star-making film Winter’s Bone.

East of Salinas

East of Salinas scene

Laura Pacheco is the producer and director of East of Salinas. The director of photography is also a woman: Jackie Mow.

The film description: “East of Salinas is a story about immigration, childhood, and circumstance. With little support at home, Salinas, California third grader José Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, once a migrant farm kid himself. Oscar helps José imagine a future beyond the lettuce fields where his parents work. But José was born in Mexico — and he’s on the cusp of understanding the implications of that. As we watch this play out, we begin to understand the cruelty of circumstance — for José and many millions of migrant kids like him. East of Salinas asks: What is lost when kids like José are denied opportunities?”

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels is directed by Ravi Patel and Geeta Patel. Geeta Patel is the cinamatographer and a producer. Geeta Patel is also one of the writers, along with Ravi Patel and others.

Meet the Patels is described thus: “. . . a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle with the woman of his dreams… and his parents. This hilarious heartwarming film reveals how love is a family affair.”

In Football We Trust

In Football we Trust is directed by first time feature film makers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn. The film synopsis is “In Football we Trust intimately portrays four young Polynesian football players struggling to overcome gang violence, family pressures and near poverty as they enter the high stakes world of college recruiting and the promise of professional sports.” There’s quite a pipeline of Pacific Islanders coming to the U.S. to play football.

Autism in Love

Autism in Love “follows four adults with an autism spectrum disorder as they pursue and navigate through romantic relationships.” Matt Fuller is the director.

When the new season of Independent Lens begins in November, it will be on Monday nights on PBS.

Happy Valley S 2 Now Filming: New Series Cast Revealed

With this short note, Twitter carried the announcement of the beginning of filming for season 2 of the BBC drama Happy Valley. The 6 episode season again stars Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood. Returning are James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce and Charlie Murphy as Ann Gallagher. George Costigan is back as Nevison Gallagher with Karl Davies returning as Catherine’s son Daniel. Siobhan Finneran returns as Catherine’s sister Clare.

Even though the murderer, rapist and kidnapper Tommy Lee Royce is in prison in season 2, he remains part of the story. The police in The Calder Valley in West Yorkshire have other problems as well. The plot description for season 2 is, “Catherine suspects there may be another serial killer on the loose and makes a gruesome discovery that will have shocking repercussions for her and her family.”

Katherine Kelly, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Amelia Bullmore, Kevin Doyle

Joining the cast are Kevin Doyle, Katherine Kelly, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Shirley Henderson, Amelia Bullmore, Matthew Lewis, Con O’Neill, and Vincent Franklin.

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood

Happy Valley has been nominated for or won over 30 awards, including Best Drama Series award at the 2015 BAFTAs with writer Sally Wainwright named Best Writer at the 2015 BAFTA Craft Awards. Plus it earns my personal award for being freakin’ fantastic.

I wrote recaps of season 1 of Happy Valley and it can be streamed on Netflix.

Happy Valley Images © 2014 – Red Production Company Limited