Watch This: Westerns with Women – Trailers for Jane Got a Gun and The Keeping Room

When I was a kid I went to the movies every week. So many of those movies were Westerns. That was in the days of John Wayne and Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Men on horses with six shooters.

As soon as I discovered there were options that went beyond the Western, I was happy to move on.

Now and then since those ancient decades, there have been Westerns starring women. The latest are Jane Got a Gun with Natalie Portman and The Keeping Room with Brit Marling.

Jane Got a Gun

Natalie Portman

Jane Got a Gun is more the traditional Western with a twist. In this story a woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him. The film has male writers, a male director (Gavin O’Connor), and a majority male cast.

Starring with Portman are Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro, Joel Edgerton, and Noah Emmerich. The film went through all kinds problems before and after shooting – cast changes and problems with distribution. But it’s finally ready to go.

The film is releasing in France before the US (US release date is February 2016). The only trailer at this point has French subtitles. Have a look.

The Keeping Room

Hailee Steinfeld

With Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, and Sam Worthington in the lead, The Keeping Room is a more female point-of-view tale. The film was written by Julia Hart and directed by Daniel Barber. It released to theaters back in September 2015. You might have to wait for the streaming services to carry it before you can watch it, or catch it in a second run venue.

The plot synopsis is “Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women – two sisters and one African-American slave – must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.”

Here’s the trailer.

If you caught The Keeping Room when it was first released, please share what you thought of it.

Dark New Trailer for Jessica Jones

The new trailer for Marvel’s Jessica Jones is dark enough to give me goosebumps. Less than a month until it begins on Netflix. I will be watching. Will you?

Dark, twisted, haunted, troubled, as well as super strong are a few adjectives that come to mind in that preview. I think Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) may be the most interesting comic book spin off that has come out of the Marvel universe.

The preview introduces us to the villain Kilgrave (David Tennant), although we don’t see much but the back of his head and a demonstration of his ability to make people do whatever he wants.

If the music in the preview is an indication of the type of soundtrack that will accompany the series, I’m looking forward to that as well.

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Vulture ran a spoiler-filled article about episode one called Jessica Jones Has Hot Sex and Nuanced Sexuality (Especially for a Marvel Show) that may be of interest to you. It talks about Jessica and her relationship with Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor).

Images via Netflix

Watch This: Trailer for Joy

Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence, with Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Elisabeth Röhm and Dascha Polanco. We’ve seen the names Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro together in films before and it has meant Oscar nominations for Jennifer Lawrence when we do. This film is her 3rd with director David O. Russell.

I’m not sure we need to know much beside the pedigree listed in the first paragraph, but here’s the synopsis for the film:

Joy is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.

Joy tries to teach her children humility. “Don’t ever thing the world owes you anything because it doesn’t,” she says. “The world doesn’t owe you a thing.”

We need more of this attitude in the world today. There doesn’t seem to be a shred of humility anywhere in the United States. In the film Joy overcomes insurmountable obstacles to become the founder of a family empire.

The film is loosely based on the real-life Joy Mangano, who  appears regularly on the Home Shopping Network selling items as like the “JOY FleXassage™ Body Massager Pillow with Neck Massager” and her Huggable Hangers, which are HSN’s all-time most popular product.

The story was written by Annie Mumolo and David O. Russell.

Look for it in theaters on Christmas day.

Review: Dear White People

Dear White People is a film about 4 black students at a mythical Ivy League university that takes aim directly at white people with all their ignorance, bias, privilege and insensitivity. The film uses smart dialog, hilarious one-liners, and real people with real issues to deliver its message.

Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Review: Dear White People”

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.

Review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is absolutely inspiring and features outstanding performances from Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.

The film is based on Nelson Mandela’s own autobiography. It was directed by Justin Chadwick from a script written by William Nicholson.

Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

Watch This: Trailer for Trumbo

Trumbo is a slice of American history written through the lens of pop culture and Hollywood. The film details the life of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted as a Hollywood writer in the 1940s for being a Communist. It’s based on the biography Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook.

Bryan Cranston and Diane Lane in Trumbo

The film stars Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo. Louis C.K., John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alan Tudyk and Helen Mirren are also in the film. Trumbo’s wife is played by Diane Lane with Elle Fanning as his daughter.

When Trumbo and many other Hollywood writers were called before House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D.C. and then blacklisted for their political beliefs, Trumbo orchestrated a fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom. The blacklisting scandal eventually entangled everyone in Hollywood from Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) and John Wayne (David James Elliott) to Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel).

Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo

Trumbo was one of several hundred writers, directors, producers, and actors who were denied the opportunity to work in the motion picture industry from 1947 to 1960 because of blacklisting over the Communist scare. Trumbo managed to win two Oscars for films written under other names during this time: Roman Holiday and The Brave One. His struggle ended when he finally saw his name on the screen again for the film Exodus.

Trumbo was directed by Jay Roach and written by John McNamara. It is set for a November release. Early reviews from film festival viewers have been mixed. I think the topic is interesting enough, and relevant to still occurring witch hunts in American life today, to merit giving it a chance and making up my own mind about it.

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.

Witnesses: A French Mystery Series

Witnesses, or Les Témoins in the original French, is a dark and moody police procedural from France. It’s streaming now with subtitles on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. Season 1 has 6 episodes.

Marie Dompnier in Witnesses

Marie Dompnier stars as Sandra Winckler, the police officer assigned to a macabre case. Her partner is Justin (Jan Hammenecker). Recently buried bodies are removed from their graves and placed in show homes.

Sandra is a brilliant detective – smart and intuitive. She has a daughter and a boyfriend. The relationship with the boyfriend is strained by several factors. She is determined as a cop and complex as a woman.

Early in the investigation of the unearthed bodies, it becomes clear that they are connected to former police chief Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte).

Paul, Sandra and Justin
Paul, Sandra and Justin

Sandra has an unpleasant history with Paul from her time in the police academy. He returns from retirement to help with this case.

At first Paul pretends not to remember Sandra. He finally admits he does. He also realizes as they work the case that she is a far better cop than he ever was. He even tells her that.

The case grows and expands and secrets are revealed and more and more murdered corpses are dug up and displayed in show homes. Each crime scene has a clue connecting it to Paul. As the episodes roll by, it becomes clear that there may be more than one crime and more than one criminal operating at the same time. Yet all are bent on revenge against Paul. His secrets and past are slowly unveiled as the investigation moves closer to a conclusion. The mystery grows more and more complex with each new episode until it leads to an exciting and dangerous climax.

The series is set in the small coastal town of Le Tréport in northern France. It’s winter, it’s cold, the colors are muted blues and greys, it rains frequently and clouds hang low. Much of it takes place at night. If that isn’t dark and creepy enough for you, there is also a mysterious wolf that witnesses report seeing around the crime scenes. Witnesses has been compared with other noir series such as The Wire, The Bridge, Broadchurch and The Killing.

The series is quiet and methodical with moments of terror and excitement sprinkled throughout. I don’t think it’s a series everyone will love, but I enjoyed it and happily watched all six episodes. I took French in college, and enjoyed seeing how much of the dialog I understood. I think I caught about 18.7% of what was said. Thank goodness for subtitles. Check out the first episode and see if you get caught up in the drama.

The Trailer

This is the trailer used in the UK.

And another trailer for Britain.

Watch This: Trailer for The X-Files

With a mere six-episode story to tell, The X-Files comes to Fox, debuting with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. It’s been 13 years since David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson told the far-out stories of Mulder and Scully. Their personalities remain unchanged.

Not only are some of the original actors returning, some of the original writers and directors are back. If you loved The X-Files before, you’re probably going to love it again. It looks like it will be true to the original in every way.

Some of the guest stars for the series are Joel McHale, Robbie Amell, Lauren Ambrose, Annabeth Gish, Annet Mahendru, Rhys Darby, Kumail Nanjiani, and William B. Davis.

In the opening episode, Mulder and Scully take on a case of a possible alien abductee.

Were you a faithful fan of the original series? Will you be watching this small gift from The X-Files?

Images © 2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.