Watch This: Trailer for The Seagull

What draws my interest in The Seagull is not that it’s period drama based on the play by Anton Chekhov. I admit, Anton Chekhov somehow manages to stay relevant, even though The Seagull was written in 1895. No, the thing that interests me is the cast. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for The Seagull”

Review: Dark Places

Dark Places is a haunting tale about recovering from childhood trauma and the lingering seduction of evil. I give it high marks. The acting was brilliant from all the cast, particularly Charlize Theron and Christina Hendricks. The plotting and story details were original and fascinating.

Spoilers ahead.

The film was based on a book by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the novel Gone Girl, which was equally original in plotting. Gilles Paquet-Brenner wrote the screenplay and directed Dark Places. Continue reading “Review: Dark Places”

Watch This: Trailer for Dark Places

Dark Places looks intense and good. Based on a book by Gillian Flynn, the film stars Charlize Theron as Libby, the little sister of Ben, a prisoner played by Corey Stoll. Libby’s family was murdered when she was a child. Ben was convicted of the crime.

A group of ex-cops called The Kill Club are intent on reviving the crime and solving it, because they believe Ben is innocent.

Chloe Grace Moretz and Christina Hendricks co-star in the film, which was produced by Theron. It opens on August 7, and is already available from some on demand sources.

Review: This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You is so rich and messy and complicated, I won’t even try to give you the details of the story. You get the basic story watching the trailer, which is that a family comes together to sit shiva for 7 days because of the death of the father.

Jason Bateman
Jason Bateman

In many ways, this is Jason Bateman’s film. As Judd Altman, the eldest brother, he carries us into and out of the story. His particular character gets more development than anyone else’s.

Writer Jonathan Tropper is an absolute genius at creating real feeling characters with just a few brush strokes.

Old man furry slippers do mean something.
Old man furry slippers do mean something.

Tina Fey as Wendy Altman is the big sister. She has two young children of her own. She’s the only sibling with kids – so far. Her son, played by Cade Lappin, regularly steals scenes with his potty chair and his attitude. She knows her brothers better than she knows herself, although she does make an effort to uncover some of her baggage while sitting on the roof with Judd.

Tina Fey and Jane Fonda
Tina Fey and Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is the mother. She’s famous for writing a book about the foibles and intimate details of her 4 children. She overshares everything but the most important facts. She brings her children home and enforces her demand that they stay there for 7 days to sit shiva knowing how explosive and inappropriate it will get, but knowing it needs to happen.

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll
Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll

There’s the responsible middle child played by Corey Stoll and the irresponsible baby brother, played by Adam Driver. They bring home with them assorted spouses, girlfriends, children, impending children, and discarded spouses. Once they are home they have to deal with old girlfriends, old boyfriends, surprising new girlfriends and many degrees of overshared sex.

Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton
Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton

As I mentioned, every character feels real. They may not have many moments of screen time, but every one of these actors knows how to make something big out of small moments. Especially the smaller parts, played by Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer and Dax Shepard. Even as minor characters, they were nuanced people. I want Connie Britton’s character to have a whole movie of her own.

The only character that felt off was the Rabbi, played for comic relief by Ben Schwartz. The fact that everyone in the family insisted on calling him by his childhood nickname, Boner, even in Temple, tells you how that went. There was plenty going on that was truly laugh-out-loud funny without making the Rabbi into a joke.

With so many characters, each with their individual stories, the interactions were complicated. Each of the siblings had personal issues and responses to the loss of their father. The plot had lots of twists and turns and some elegant surprises. The film had humor, emotion, and touching moments of love and connection.

The beautiful thing about family dramas is there are no gun battles, no explosions, and no car chases. Instead, there are meaningful talks on the roof, ineffectual fisticuffs on the front lawn, and shared moments of revelation. This film has heart. It’s as good as any family drama you will ever see, probably better.

All images © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Watch This: Trailer for This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You boasts an incredible cast. It looks hilarious. It’s based on a novel by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It’s scheduled for a September release.

Look at this cast: Rose Byrne, Abigail Spencer, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Dax Shepard, Corey Stoll, Ben Schwartz, Aaron Lazar, and Debra Monk.

Really, Tina Fey alone would have been enough for me, but all those fabulous actors – oh, my, yes.

This is Where I Leave You
This is Where I Leave You

Here’s how Warner Bros. describes the film.

When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide-driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.

Take a look.

It sure looks good to me. What do you think?

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.