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”

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.

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”