Watch This: New Trailer for Annie

Annie in her latest incarnation stars Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx. Miss Hannigan is played by Cameron Diaz. The final trailer for the film shows off the relationship between the characters while some of the famous music plays almost as background.

This musical should brighten up your holidays. It will release on December 19, 2014.

Annie has everything to make you smile. Cute kid, great songs, happy ending. I hope it turns out to be as good as it looks.

Also, check out this earlier trailer for Annie.

Quvenzhané Wallis photo by Barry Wetcher – © 2014 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.

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Watch This: Trailer for Into the Woods

Into the Woods opens on Christmas Day. The prospect of seeing another musical directed by Rob Marshall, who directed Chicago, makes me quite excited. And this one has music by Stephen Sondheim!

Into the Woods is based on a Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. It stars Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine. The story is a mash up the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. These classics are wrapped with an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish for a family and their interaction with a witch who put a curse on them.

I caught a glimpse of Christine Baranski in the previews. Her vocal talents landed her parts in Mamma Mia (with Meryl Streep) and Chicago. This time she’s playing Cinderella’s stepmother.

And, my, doesn’t Johnny Depp look fabulous as The Big Bad Wolf?

I grew up in the heyday of musicals with stars like Gene Kelly, Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, and Shirley Jones. Musicals make me happy! Let’s all sing and dance, shall we?

Images © 2013 – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Review: Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts is a charming indie written and directed by Josh Radnor. It looks like a straightforward love story in the trailer below, but it’s not exactly that. It’s a love story, but there’s no sex, hardly any kissing, and lots of moral choice involved in deciding who to love. Liberal Arts is also a story about where we belong in life, what we are meant to do, how to find happiness, and – most importantly – which books are best to read in every situation.

Josh Radner plays Jesse Fisher, an admissions officer in a college, but not the college in the story. Also in the film are Elizabeth Olsen as Zibby, the young coed you see charming Jesse in the preview. Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney are professors at the college in the tale. The parts Jenkins and Janney have are small but nuanced and add sub themes to the story about life and its meaning. Elizabeth Reaser as Ana isn’t shown in the preview, but you know from the first moment you see her in her bookstore that she’ll be an important part of the story, and indeed, she is.

I want to call out Zac Efron for his loopy portrayal of Nat – another small part that brings richness to Jesse’s quest to find purpose and love. Efron really shines as Nat, a character so unusual that Jesse asks him at one point, “Are you real?”

This film is full of seemingly small parts that add up to an elegant total. It’s one of the most fascinating features of the film: interesting actors in small parts that ultimately have an impact on how Jesse’s journey concludes.

The film was released in 2012. It’s currently available on Netflix. I absolutely recommend it.

Watch This: Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Pt. 1 Final Trailer

It’s November! That means The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 will be in theaters soon. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is going to draw a line in the scorched sand and take on President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and all the evil.

This scene from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 looks like an Italian masterpiece from the Renaissance.
This scene from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 looks like an Italian masterpiece from the Renaissance. Is it CGI?

It’s worth a trip to IMDB to scroll through the photos for the film because there are stills of all the main characters.

There will be high demand for seats on the first few days, but tickets can be pre-ordered. Advanced ticket sales are already setting records, so – hurry. It opens on November 20, the weekend before Thanksgiving. If you can go that first weekend it will help push this female-led blockbuster into the box-office record breaking category. Every time a female led show does well at the box-office, it enables more female led movies to follow.

We are dealing in real life with a broken government, corruption the highest levels, a planet in peril, and capitalism run amok. Let’s go join Katniss and enjoy the fantasy rush of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. Maybe it will inspire some good ideas for how to fix the real world.

Watch This: Trailer for Helicopter Mom

Helicopter Mom looks hilarious. The film stars Nia Vardalos, Jason Dolley, Mark Boone Junior and Skyler Samuels. It was written by Duke Tran and directed by Salome Breziner.

Here’s the description of Helicopter Mom.

Oh, how far we’ve come from the dark days of rampant homophobia. But teenager Lloyd Cooper (Jason Dolley) may think society—or at least his mother—has progressed a bit too far on this topic. Lloyd’s mom Maggie (a hilarious Nia Vardalos) says she would not only accept a gay son, she actively encourages it, as it would be “really cool” to have one. In fact, Maggie becomes so convinced that Lloyd himself is gay that she “outs” him to his entire high school. Like any good “helicopter mom,” who hovers over every aspect of her children’s lives, Maggie takes control of Lloyd’s social life, setting Lloyd up on dates with boys whom she has approved and filing for a gay student college scholarship. There’s just one wrench in her grand plans: Lloyd doesn’t even know whether he’s gay or not. But the mother is willing to accept her son for who he is—or at least who she thinks he is.

It looks like Helicopter Mom is hitting all the festivals right now. I’ll let you know if I see any news about where it might be seen or streamed later. The web site looks fairly up to date and has a funny behind the scenes video. It mentions where the film is currently to be seen as well.

Watch This: White Bird in a Blizzard Previews and Interviews

White Bird in a Blizzard is now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play and in theaters. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Christopher Meloni, Eva Green, Gabourey Sidibe, and many others.

Here’s the official description of the film.

Kat Connors is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve, a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman, disappears – just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother’s absence and certainly doesn’t blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. In fact, it’s almost a relief. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve’s disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother’s departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it.

The official trailer:

The star, Shailene Woodley, and the director, Gregg Araki, recently talked on AOL about how the film is sex positive and the sexual scenes are written from a woman’s perspective. According to Araki, it’s one of the first films to bring this perspective to a young woman’s coming of age tale. You can see that interview on HuffPost Video.

If the sex scenes are truly filmed from the female perspective and not for the infamous male gaze, that’s a very good thing. We need a lot more movies with this approach.

I have not watched the film and reviews are all midrange in ratings. Not too bad, but not too good either. I often really like the films the reviewers don’t like. Make up your own mind. I think big fans of Shailene Woodley will want to watch it no matter what the reviewers have to say. If you see it, please share your reactions below.

Watch This: Unbroken Trailer

Unbroken is not the type of story I normally talk about here. My mission is to promote female driven entertainment. However, I have three most excellent reasons for being eager to see Unbroken.

The film stars Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson and Garrett Hedlund in the story of Louis Zamperini. Louis Zamperini was an Olympic runner who served in the Air Force in World War II. He ended up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. His endurance under horrifying conditions, and his ultimate survival are both testaments to the human spirit.

This is a new trailer for Unbroken.

There is another trailer for the film, which was released during the Olympics. Louis Zamperini himself can be seen in that trailer. He died in July of 2014 at the age of 97 and never got to see the film.

Unbroken is scheduled to release on Christmas day. If you like to get out to a movie on Christmas Day, there are many tempting choices. (Two I’ve already mentioned are Big Eyes and Annie.) Unbroken will make you believe in the power of never giving up.

Angelina Jolie photo by Vince Valitutti – © 2013 – Universal Pictures

Watch This: 3 Upcoming Films Starring Women

Because I took a week off, I got a bit behind mentioning upcoming films that feature women in the leading role. To compensate, I combined them into this post featuring trailers for She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Miss Meadows, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a provocative look at the birth of the women’s liberation movement between 1966-1971. It reintroduces the wide-reaching movement with poetry readings, women’s rock bands, and zaps (impromptu protest actions). The film links the previous era to today’s war on women. It makes an impassioned case for reviving feminism as a mass movement.

Miss Meadows is a school teacher with impeccable manners and grace. However, underneath the sweet exterior hides a gun-toting vigilante who takes it upon herself to right the wrongs in the world by whatever means necessary.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 finds Katniss Everdeen in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

Review: Big Driver

From a story by Stephen King, Big Driver is the story of a novelist bent on revenge after falling victim to a brutal crime. It is a made for Lifetime TV film. It stars Maria Bello, Olympia Dukakis, Joan Jett, Ann Dowd and Will Harris.

There are spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Big Driver”

Wisdom Sharing: A Week with the Goddess Spirit

I spent last week at a conference in Ghost Ranch, NM. The conference, called Wisdom Sharing, featured Alice Walker, Gloria Steinem and Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung. The marvelous moderator, shown on the left above, was Dr. Melanie Harris.

The location is stunning in its beauty and spirit. The women who were the star attractions were brilliant – powerful speakers, activists for women’s rights, funny, and centered in a forceful but calm wisdom. It was one of the best weeks of my life. My photos are on Flickr.

The speakers were so inspiring and wise and brilliant

In addition to the many talks, wisdom circles, and other activities, we watched 3 documentary films. (Trailers for the 3 films are below.)

The first evening was the film Jesus and Buddha which features Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung who is a lay theologian of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, and is also an Associate Professor of Ecumenical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the U.S. Plus, she’s a Buddhist. Or as she put it, it was both predestination and karma that brought her to Ghost Ranch and her friendship with the other extraordinary speakers.

The film for the next evening was Beauty in Truth, a documentary about the life of Alice Walker. The film was written and directed by Pratibha Parmar, who was also present at the conference. That’s her below, listening to one of the speakers. (I reviewed Beauty in Truth earlier this year.) Parmar worked with Alice Walker on the book Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women and the ensuing 1993 film Warrior Marks.

Pratibha Parmar

The last film we watched was Miss Representation. This film was partly supported by The Women’s Media Center and featured Gloria Steinem. It is about how women and girls are portrayed in the media. The Miss Representation website has many resources and ideas if you are interested in learning more or taking action.

Beauty in Truth and Miss Representation are both available from various streaming sources and are available for screenings in schools or gatherings. PBS broadcast Beauty in Truth and keeps it available. You can get DVD’s of Jesus and Buddha from Old Dog Documentaries.

Jesus and Buddha

Beauty in Truth

Miss Representation