Watch This: Trailer for Decoding Annie Parker

Decoding Annie Parker stars an Oscar nominee and an Oscar winner right off the top: Samantha Morton and Helen Hunt. They are patient and doctor. It’s sensible to expect fabulous performances from these two.

Samantha Morton and Aaron Paul in Decoding Annie Parker
Samantha Morton and Aaron Paul in Decoding Annie Parker

The story is based in fact and tells about the pioneering doctor who first helped science understand the genetic link to breast cancer and the patient who was part of her testing.

Helen Hunt in Decoding Annie Parker
Helen Hunt in Decoding Annie Parker

Decoding Annie Parker is due out May 2. Also in the cast are Aaron Paul, Alice Eve, Bradley Whitford, Chris Mulkey, Corey Stoll, Maggie Grace, Marley Shelton, Rashida Jones and Richard Schiff. I’m looking forward to discovering what Maggie Grace does in this film, since I just discovered who she is recently and think she’s a terrific actor.

Here is the trailer. If you go to the film, please let us know what your opinion of it is.

Steven Bernstein, who has more credits as a cinematographer than as a director, is the writer and director of the film.

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Black Inequality in Film (Infographic)

This infographic is from The New York Film Academy, who also produced the Gender Inequality in Film infographic I ran a while back.

It’s very detailed, therefore the text is small, but if you use your browser’s View menu or the Cmd/Ctr + keys on your keyboard to Zoom the page, the infographic will enlarge to a readable size.

New York Film Academy takes a look at black inequality in film

Watch This: Trailer for Belle

Belle will be in theaters May 2. It looks good to me and has a terrific cast. The film stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw from Touch, Undercovers, and Larry Crowne. The film is based on a true story about an illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle.

Also featured in the cast are Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Sarah Gadon, James Norton, Tom Felton and several more well-known actors.

Themes around race, class, and the status of women promise to make this film meaningful. The mindset of the British in the 18th Century is under the microscope here, but the same issues are still with us today.

I hope it isn’t one of those films where the good white folks save the poor helpless mulatto girl – the preview doesn’t sound like it will be.

The cast talks about the film in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The director Amma Asante also appears in this interview.

Reelz Channel Announces Dates for Bomb Girls Movie

Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy will premier in the U.S. on the Reelz Channel on Memorial Day, May 26. The Canadian drama about women working in a munitions factory during World War II began as a TV series. The two hour movie Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy is the completion of the tale.

Ali Liebert as Betty and Jodi Balfour as Gladys in Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy
Ali Liebert as Betty and Jodi Balfour as Gladys in Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy

The film is set in 1943 as the Battle for the Atlantic rages and the demand for bombs from the women working at Victory Munitions is at its highest. The press release from Reelz Channel explains:

Under constant pressure to turn out more bombs, as well as work on a new secret sonar line, the women of Victory Munitions band together in a tight bond of support and friendship. But when a disturbing menace appears in the form of a saboteur among the factory workers, Gladys Witham (Jodi Balfour), a fiery young woman from privilege, is covertly recruited by Allied Intelligence to find the traitor, forcing her to spy on her best friends, co-workers and fellow agents and call into question everyone and everything she trusts. Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy also stars Oscar(R)-nominee and Golden Globe(R)-winner Meg Tilly as Lorna Corbett, Charlotte Hegele as Kate Andrews, Ali Liebert as Betty McRae, Anastasia Phillips as Vera Burr, Antonio Cupo as Marco Moretti, Peter Outerbridge as Bob Corbett, Michael Seater as Ivan Buchinsky, Jamie Elman as Jakob Berman, and Catherine Berube as Helen Buchinsky.

The press release didn’t mention Tahmoh Penikett, but I’m sure he’s going to be in the cast of the movie since he’s the fellow from Allied Intelligence who recruits Gladys.

Vera and Lorna working together
Anastasia Phillips as Vera and Meg Tilly as Lorna in Bomb Girls

Sundays are for watching Bomb Girls on Reelz

Set your DVRs, people. Reelz will run the original TV series in full as well. Announced times for that are:

  • Sunday, April 13: Season 1- episodes 1-3 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, April 20: Season 1- episodes 4-6 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, April 27: Season 2- episodes 1-3 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 4: Season 2- episodes 4-6 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 11: Season 2- episodes 7-9 starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 18: Season 2- episodes 10-12 starting at 11am ET
  • Saturday, May 24: Season 1- all six episodes air back to back starting at 11am ET
  • Sunday, May 25: Season 2- episodes 1-6 air back to back starting at 11am ET
  • Monday, May 26: Season 2- episodes 7-12 air back to back starting at 3pm ET

Review: Unhook the Stars

Unhook the Stars is from 1996, and it’s a gem. I completely recommend it to you.

Unhook the Stars poster
Unhook the Stars poster

The film features Gena Rowlands as Mildred, the widowed mother of two adult children and the neighbor of Monica (Marisa Tomei) and her son J.J. (Jake Lloyd). When the film begins, Mildred is a buttoned down suburban housewife with a well-ordered life in spite of her two imperfect offspring.

Monica is a mess. Her life is a mess, her marriage is a mess, and she’s a mess of a mother. Mildred ends up babysitting for young J.J. and comes to regard him as her best friend.

Jake Lloyd and Gena Rowlands in Unhook the Stars
Jake Lloyd and Gena Rowlands in Unhook the Stars

Mildred’s daughter Annie (Moira Kelly) is an angsty mess herself, caught in the midst of a rebellion to separate herself from her mother. Mildred’s son Ethan (David Sherrill) is Mr. Success and mom’s clear favorite child.

Monica and J.J. have an effect on Mildred’s life in her empty nest of a suburban home. One effect Monica has on her it to take her out drinking where Mildred meets a truck driver named Tommy, played by Gérard Depardieu.

Unhook the Stars is a character study – a portrait of Mildred. Mildred is beautifully written and played to perfection by Gena Rowlands. Mildred is so clearly drawn and her evolution through her relationship with her children, her neighbors, and her potential suitor in the form of Tommy is masterfully done. I loved the story about how a woman comes into her own, finally, after what she thought for years was her real life as a wife and mother ends. It’s a tale of reinvention.

To a lesser degree, the film is also a portrait of Monica. Marisa Tomei just kicks ass in this part as a disorganized, inept, boozy mom and wife.

The film is a bit of a family affair. Rowlands’ son Nick Cassavetes co-wrote and directed the indie production.

I’m old enough to have reinvented myself a couple of times, and it is pure joy to watch Gena Rowlands go through a similar process in this film.

Image Credits: Unhook the Stars ©1996 Miramax Films.

Watch This Film: They Wore Pink

Here’s a Friday treat to start your weekend off right. Watch an entire short film.

The short film They Wore Pink is from Canadian writer and director Terry Miles. He’s the writer/director responsible for A Night for Dying Tigers and Cinemanovels.

The two stars of this short film were also in Miles’ other films: Lauren Lee Smith and Tygh Runyan.

I love the slow way Terry Miles tells a story. Even in a nine minute movie, he manages to hold on to things and unpeel them in unique ways.

If you want to see how masterful Miles is at writing, directing and even editing be sure to watch A Night for Dying Tigers. It’s beautifully told – complicated, intricate, and detailed – and the editing choices in it are something I’ve never seen anywhere else.

This short film is a microcosm of his talents.

Here is the complete film.

On Twitter, Terry Miles is @tkmiles, Lauren Lee Smith is @L_L_S and Tygh Runyan is @RunyanTygh.

Preview: Half of a Yellow Sun

One of the greatest living writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, as well as Purple Hibiscus, and most recently, Americanah. If you have not read her books, I urge you to give them a reading.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose in Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun has been adapted into a movie. It’s a story set in Nigeria and stars Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anika Noni Rose, Joseph Mawle, and John Boyega.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chiwetel Ejiofor in Half of a Yellow Sun

The story involves personal relationships and intersection of the personal and the political. The political story deals with the Nigerian civil war that created the Republic of Biafra between 1967 and 1970.

Here is a preview:

The film has not been released on DVD yet and isn’t available on any streaming services at this time. That gives you plenty of time to check out the books by Adichie in preparation for watching the film when it is released for home markets. The film released in the UK, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates in October 2013. The American release is set for July 2014. The film may be called Half a Yellow Sun in some areas.

In an interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from AriseEntertainment, the author talks about the film Half of a Yellow Sun and the outstanding cast.

The author drops hints that Lipita Nyong’o might be connected to a future adaptation of Americanah.

As an aside, Adichie just won the US National Critics Book Prize for Americanah.

Images of Half of a Yellow Sun ©Slate films.

Two Stories About Love: Is Dorfman the Warmest Color?

This weekend I watched two movies about love. Both dealt with young women in search of themselves, young women in search of love, young women who had to struggle with loss and with being misunderstood.

One of the films got great reviews and won prestigious awards. One of the films was a bit of a flop.

Now, I know I’m not a film critic, or a critic of any kind. I’m just a person who has been watching movies and TV for a lot of decades. Even though one of the letters on my Myers-Briggs is a J for judging, I am not a judgmental, critical minded person. I’m easy to please where entertainment is concerned.

So when I see two films that are very alike in theme and subject matter, it makes me wonder what sets them apart. Is the quality of the acting? The skill of the director? The originality of the script? I want to come back to this, but first let me explain the two stories I’m talking about.

The two films are Blue is the Warmest Color and Dorfman in Love. If you pay attention to film news, you know that Blue is the Warmest Color is the one that got the great reviews and won awards.

Blue is the Warmest Color

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color is a French film about a young woman, Adèle, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos. It’s three hours long and covers years of Adèle’s life. She falls in love with Emma, played by Léa Seydoux. Emma is older, artistic, and out. When they meet Adèle is still in high school and not clear about her own sexuality. As the years pass, the two women live together for a while but it isn’t a successful long-term arrangement. For years after they part Adèle continues to long for Emma until she finally comes to terms with their parting and walks away from her past. There are long scenes of explicit sex.

Dorfman in Love

Sarah Rue in Dorfman in Love
Sarah Rue in Dorfman in Love

Dorfman in Love stars Sarah Rue as Deb Dorfman. She is a grown woman who lives with her dad (Elliot Gould) and works in her brother’s (Jonathan Chase) accounting firm. She has a fantasy love attachment to a friend of her brother’s played by Johann Urb. Deb takes care of everyone in her life, especially the three aforementioned men, who do not appreciate anything she does. Then she meets Cookie, played by Haaz Sleiman. With Cookie’s help, she begins to understand who she is and what her true worth is. She is able to leave her past behind. There is no sex in the film but there are a couple of straight kisses.

Who and How Do We Decide on Great?

In terms of acting, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux both do a fantastic job. Especially Adèle Exarchopoulos, who has to age from a naive teen to a responsible adult before our eyes. But the acting in Dorfman in Love was perfectly adequate. The actors weren’t called on to do anything especially intense the way the actors in Blue is the Warmest Color were, but does that mean they didn’t act as well as the two French women in the parts they were given?

The approach of the directors in these two films was very different. Blue is the Warmest Color was full of close-ups, often focused on the two women in minute detail. Dorfman in Love took a much more expansive approach. I found the directing styles suited to the material – they certainly wouldn’t have worked in reverse – but they were perfect for the stories they were telling. One film was a serious examination of a young woman’s maturation and growth, while the other was firmly in the romantic comedy camp of maturation and growth. Is one genre more worthy of success than the other?

Does the intensity of the subject matter, the intensity of the emotion portrayed make one film better than another? Is it the seriousness of the approach vs. the comedic approach? Is it the closed-in focus of one film that makes it better than the more open look of the other – is that somehow more artistic? Does all the daring sex in one make it more weighty?

What I’m getting at here is that secret something that makes one film an international hit and topic of conversation around the globe while the other feels passed over. Somewhere there is a magical line between good and really, really good that these two films exemplify perfectly. But who decides where that magic line is? Critics? Ticket buyers? Award givers? The folks on the living room couch?

And what does that mean to someone who might love Dorfman in Love but finds Blue is the Warmest Color long and tedious? Is that person wrong or someone whose tastes don’t count?

I can’t tell you how many people have told me I should watch Breaking Bad because it’s really, really good. But I cannot bring myself to watch a story about a teacher who sells meth. And I’ve told others they should watch Friday Night Lights because it’s really, really good only to realize they won’t watch a series about football. Is there a right and wrong in this?

I’d really like to know the answers to these questions. I really would.

Watch This: Preview for Bomb Girls Facing the Enemy

The preview for the upcoming Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy that will appear on Canadian Global TV is available now.

I loved the series about women working in a Canadian munitions factory during World War II and am happy about the movie. Not sure when Americans will be able to see it, but I can’t wait.

I reviewed the Bomb Girls story in more depth in this post. It describes the characters and more about the story.

Review: Adore

The poster for the movie Adore
The poster for the movie Adore

Let me explain what you’re looking at in the poster for Adore. If it makes you cringe, the you don’t need to bother to read the rest of this review.

From the left you see Lil (Naomi Watts), a 40 something mom. She’s holding hands and making googly eyes at Tom, (James Frecheville) the 20 something son of her best friend Roz. Next you see Roz, (Robin Wright) a 40 something mom who is snuggling with Ian, (Xavier Samuel) who is the 20 something son of her best friend Lil.

Still with me?

Okay, I’ll back up a bit. Lil and Roz grew up together on the sun-drenched coast of New South Wales in Australia. They lived near each other, they swam together and worked together and stayed friends. As married women, they raised their sons side by side and the sons were BFFs just like their moms.

As the moms hit their 40s several things happened at once. Lil’s husband died. Roz’s husband moved to Sydney for a job and they divorced because Roz wouldn’t leave her idyllic home by the sea. The two boys turned into young men who were almost godlike in their beauty.

And then there was sex. Did the sons seduce their best friend’s mom, or was it the other way around? Either way they all consented.

It sounds incestuous and vaguely distasteful, but it didn’t feel that way to me as an observer of the film, or to the people involved in these delicate arrangements of love and passion. The characters had depth and nuance and subtlety as they explored the relationships between the four principal characters.

I don’t want to give you too many spoilers, but I will say that the two women came to the conclusion that the arrangement had to stop. The young men both married women their own age and both had daughters, who learned to swim in the beautiful sandy bay where their grandmothers adored and worshiped them. But that isn’t the end of the story. I won’t give you the end.

The film was directed by Anne Fontaine, a French director. This is the first film she’s directed in English. The film had a non-judgmental Frenchness to it where love and sex are concerned, and this allowed the actors to give a lot of meaning to their relationships. Odd as it may seem to say, this was not a purient movie. It was an intricate exploration of friendship, parenting, love, loneliness, and desire.

On of the most telling lines in the film came in a scene between Lil and Roz as they talked in a crisis moment toward the end of the film. Roz thinks it’s all her fault. Lil says, “it couldn’t be your fault, because you’re the only one who isn’t behaving badly.” Roz answers, “Then it really is my fault.”

The look of the film, with scenes of sun-dappled ocean, sand, gorgeous vistas, beautiful homes and beautiful people was breathtaking.

Have a look at the trailer.

If you’ve seen this film, I’d love to hear what your reaction to it was.