Review: Based on the children’s novel, ‘Waiting For Anya’ comes to theaters tomorrow.

Adapted from the novel by the author of War Horse, Waiting for Anya follows Jo Lalande (Noah Schnapp), a thirteen-year-old shepherd boy, and reclusive widow Horcada (Anjelica Huston), who come together with their village to help smuggle Jewish children into Spain during the harrows of WWII.

This powerhouse cast gives earnest performances. That being said, some things are amiss with Waiting For Anya. Something about the cinematography combined with this particular score gives the film a made for TV feel about it. It’s all in the details. The costumes, while beautiful, are a bit too clean for the time period and terrain.

The plot does delve into the nuances of humanity. I mean it is about Nazis after all. Noah Schnapp, whose breakout performance in Stranger Things is nothing less than award-worthy, feels off here. Knowing what he is capable of, I have to think this has something to do with direction choices. Same with the iconic Anjelica Huston. It’s as if I were watching a film on UP, where the actors are being told to mug for the camera intentionally. Waiting For Anya‘s running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes also does not help. Understanding that this film is based on a children’s novel of the same name (by Michael Morpurgo) does make the choices feel more appropriate. Although the tragic but completely telegraphed (and seemingly plucked right out of M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Village) death of an ancillary character near the end was incredibly difficult.  In truth, it is straight from the book itself. As a special needs mom, it hit a little too close to home, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.

The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous but the quality in the actual feature is inconsistent. Wide sweeping shots that are simply gorgeous are the undercut with a few poorly placed greenscreen shots. It has all the makings of a sweeping historical drama but lands in a holocaust family drama, if that’s even a thing. After all that nitpicking, I would still recommend this film as a mother. Certainly as a history lesson for my children when they reach middle school age. Until then, I believe I’ll start with the novel.

Vertical Entertainment will release WAITING FOR ANYA in theaters, on demand and digital February 7, 2020.

WAITING FOR ANYA stars Noah Schnapp (“Stranger Things”, The Peanuts Movie), Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston (The Witches, The Addams Family), Jean Reno (Leon: The Professional, The Big Blue). The film was written and directed by Ben Cookson (Almost Married).

Review: ‘Three Christs’ brings heavenly performances.

In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding. As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men—Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins), and Clyde (Bradley Whitford)—each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ. Hoping that by getting them together in the same room to confront their delusions he can break through to them, Dr. Stone begins a risky, unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved—including Dr. Stone himself—profoundly changed. Based on a remarkable true story, Three Christs is a fascinating and moving look at one man’s journey into the deepest mysteries of the human mind.

This impeccable cast leaves their hearts on the screen. Gere, Dinklage, Goggins, Whitford, and Pollak are at their best. Based on true events in the 1950’s, when shock therapy was the most common treatment for a schizophrenic outburst, Dr. Stone introduces psychotherapy as a means of potentially curing this diagnosis.

Gere as Dr. Stone is as reliable as ever. It’s a solid and compassionate performance. Peter Dinklage as Joseph (or Jesus #1) has all the elegance of an eccentric European professor. An opera aria and letter writing are his means of self-expression. Dinklage is nothing short of riveting. Bradley Whitford plays Clyde (#2). Carrying a tattered cardboard box and responding in oxymoronic rhetoric, he is charming and genuine.

Walton Goggins is Leon (JC #3). Intuitive and emotionally stunning, his performance is truly award-worthy. Charlotte Hope as Dr. Stone’s research assistant gives an innocent and inquisitive tone to her character Becky. Kevin Pollak is Dr. Orbus. He is a power-wielding man whose true nature is slow to emerge. Unscrupulous in his selfishness, Pollak plays him in such a way that while you loathe him, he is essential as a foil for Gere. I would be remiss if I did not mention James Monroe Iglehart as Benny, the group’s orderly. He is the perfect balance between professional and personal. He could be the very representation of the film’s viewer.

The film has highs and lows in pacing. It’s simple but precisely shot. Ultimately, this film shines in its high caliber performances. Three Christs is an important story in the larger scheme of discussing mental illness across the spectrum. Not labeling individuals but treating them with compassion. It tackles healing through human connection and not the for-profit approach to medicine.

IFC Films will release THREE CHRISTS in theaters, On Digital and On Demand on Friday, January 10, 2020.

THREE CHRISTS is directed by award-winning filmmaker Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) from a script co-written by Avnet and Eric Nazarian.  The film is based on Milton Rokeach’s groundbreaking and controversial experiment chronicled in his book The Three Christs Of YpsilantiTHREE CHRISTS features an all-star cast including Richard Gere (Chicago, Pretty Woman), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones” Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Walton Goggins (“Justified,” Them That Follow), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” Get Out), Charlotte Hope(Allied, Les Miserables), and Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” “ER”).

Review: Go head over heels for ‘Ode to Joy.’

Martin Freeman sports an American accent in this film based on a story from This American Life. Charlie has a rare disorder that causes him to pass out when he experiences strong emotions but especially joy. This makes life and dating especially difficult. With odd coping mechanisms that keep him in a constant state of depression and boredom, he meets Francesca, a woman that challenges his sense of dull stability. When their first date goes awry, Charlie insists on setting her up with his very different younger brother, Cooper. Francesca must overcome her own fears while Charlie comes to grips with his disorder and stop making excuses. How does he really want to live his life?
The entire cast is a delight. Jake Lacy as Cooper is an amazing foil for Freeman. Young and hungry for more than a good time, he’s funny and a very relatable character, for better or for worse. Jane Curtin as Francesca’s ailing Aunt Sylvia is as lovable and sarcastic as Jane Curtin always is. Melissa Rauch as Charlie’s interim love interest is hilarious in her serious love of anything and everything tedious. Morena Baccarin is honest and grounded with an exuberant spirit. My girl-crush since her Firefly days, she’s also clearly a secret Timelord, but let’s not confuse fandoms. Martin Freeman is ridiculously charming. I cannot help but get wrapped up in each role he plays. He’s simply wonderful.
The rom-com is alive and well, people. Ode to Joy is a unique indie that’s sure to be a knockout this summer. It opens in theaters, on digital and On Demand this Friday. Check out the trailer below!

TITLE: ODE TO JOY

IN THEATERS: August 9, 2019

ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND: August 9, 2019

DIRECTOR: Jason Winer

WRITER: Max Werner

CAST: Martin Freeman, Morena Baccarin, Melissa Rauch, Jake Lacy, Jane Curtin, Shannon Woodward, Adam Shapiro

SYNOPSIS:  Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) has fallen in love and can’t get up. A man’s fervent attempts at subverting happiness once it begins to cause him bouts of narcolepsy are put to the ultimate test when he falls in love.

GENRE: Comedy

RUN TIME:  97 Mins

RATING: R

DISTRIBUTOR: IFC Films

Review: Based on a true story ‘Skin’ inks morality questions into our brains.

Synopsis:        After a difficult childhood drives him into the grasps of a white supremacist gang, Bryon (Jamie Bell, delivering a visceral, explosive performance) tries to escape to a new life, all the while questioning whether he’s capable of undoing— and repenting for — the evil he’s done.

Academy Award- winner Guy Nattiv makes his English-language feature debut with this galvanizing story of transformation, inspired by actual events.

Indoctrinated as a child into a white supremacist enclave, Byron finally realized the fallout of his beliefs. He is ready to start a new, tattoos and all. But past violence and pride attach themselves to his present and his attempt to escape.

Jamie Bell is ever the chameleon. His physical transformation via racist tattoos that engulf his face and upper body is pretty jarring if you know Bell’s previous work. The pain his character endures is written on his face and in his nuanced performance. Danielle MacDonald shines in yet another role. Her sharp wit and vulnerability is spot on. Vera Farmiga plays Viking club mother figure Ma. Your skin crawls as she nurtures lost youth into the lifestyle. She is truly scary.

The dialogue is unapologetically offensive. The interspersed tattoo removal sessions are some of the most effective scenes in the film with their elegant score and heightened audio. Although the film already feels long one hour in (basically halfway) the story is timely and the performances redemptive and engrossing. SKIN goes behind the scenes of a culture so vile it cannot be tolerated. The fear from the screen is visceral and incredibly effective.

Release Date:  Exclusively on DIRECTV June 27, In Theaters July 26

Running Time: 119 minutes

Rating: R

Review: ‘The Catcher Was A Spy’ is crackerjack film.

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4c67cfe4821e202e2c118979b/images/ac0f2924-cbd6-47f6-a3eb-a5f768479998.png
Presents
THE CATCHER WAS A SPY
*Official Selection of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival*

In Theaters and On Demand June 22, 2018

The Catcher Was a Spy tells the true story of Morris “Moe” Berg (Paul Rudd), the Major League Baseball player, Ivy League graduate, attorney and top-secret spy who helped the U.S. defeat Nazi Germany in the race to build the atomic bomb.

Paul Rudd gives a stunning performance as the real-life and incredibly enigmatic “Moe” Berg. A former catcher for The Boston Red Sox, a Princeton grad, and all-around genius of a man, Berg speaks 7 languages and has the guts to take on a mission to save the world. Rudd, someone who has a natural talent for improvisation and making us laugh until we pee ourselves, carries this dramatic film like a true movie star. While his Ant-Man training certainly came in handy for this particular role, playing Berg is further proof that Rudd is underutilized outside his typical comedic fare. More dramatic roles could boost him into award season regular status. The complexities of this man are not lost in the complicated narrative of history. Three cheers to the writers on that front. The superb editing heightens the action and intrigue that leaves the viewer fully engrossed. The film easily captures what might seem like a crazy premise, use a former baseball player as a spy, until you are let into the eccentric and bold mind of Moe Berg. With striking sets and costumes and alongside a massively hard-hitting cast (the likes of Jeff Daniels, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti, Hiroyuki Sanada)The Catcher Was A Spy is an exciting historical period drama that delves into one of the most unique stories of the WWII era.

Starring
Paul Rudd, Jeff Daniels, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, 
Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti, Hiroyuki Sanada

Directed by Ben Lewin (The Sessions)
Written by Robert Rodat (Academy Award Nominee, Saving Private Ryan)
Score by Howard Shore (Academy Award Winner, Lord of the Ring series, Hugo)

Review: Can Daniel Radcliffe survive the ‘JUNGLE’?

 

Based on the international best-selling memoir by Yossi Ghinsberg

An enthusiastic young adventurer follows his dreams into the Amazon jungle with two friends and a guide with a mysterious past. Their journey quickly turns into a terrifying ordeal as the darkest elements of human nature and the deadliest threats of the wilderness lead to an all-out fight for survival.

Daniel Radcliffe is almost unrecognizable as real-life adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg. Greg McLean‘s film, based on Ghinsberg’s harrowing journey (and autobiography) in the Bolivian jungle in 1981 is filled with some of the most gag-inducing moments in a non-horror film we’ve seen since 127hrs. Radcliffe, sporting a heavy accent, transforms onscreen from a fit hiker to gaunt survivor. His emotional and physical rollercoaster ride is quite the experience for the audience, proving once again that Radcliffe’s talent is far beyond his Harry Potter years.
The film is essentially broken into 2 equal parts equally. The first hour is how Yossi and company come to be in the jungle, to begin with. Relationships are challenged, tempers flare, bodies are wearing down. Suddenly, and by a devastating accident, Yossi falls into the raging river, stranding him alone. This second hour has Radcliffe in almost every shot. Blended with colorful flashbacks, seriously intense stunts, and beautiful insight, JUNGLE thrills. The story is beyond incredible, lending you to wonder how and if you could survive. Check out the trailer below!

Momentum Pictures will release the thriller JUNGLE in select theaters and On Demand/Digital HD on October 20th.

A true story of survival against all odds, JUNGLE is based on the international best-selling memoir by Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg and is directed by Greg McLean (The Belko Experiment, Wolf Creek).  The film adaptation stars Daniel Radcliffe (Swiss Army Man, Horns, Harry Potter franchise) as Yossi, Thomas Kretschmann(Wanted, King Kong, Resident Evil: Apocalypse), Alex Russell (Carrie, Unbroken), and Joel Jackson (“Safe Harbour”).

Review: ‘Maudie’ brings Sally Hawkins into the Oscar race.

Based on a true story, MAUDIE charts the unlikely romance between Maud Lewis, a folk artist who blossoms in later life, and the curmudgeonly recluse, Everett.

Maud, bright-eyed but hunched with crippled hands, yearns to be independent, to live away from her protective family and she also yearns, passionately, to create art. When she answers an ad for a housekeeper for the reclusive Everett, a local fish peddler, the two strike up an unlikely romance. Maud’s determination for her art, along with her partnership with Everett, blossoms into a career as a famous folk artist, bringing them closer together in ways they never imagined.

Maudie is the story of two misunderstood people who yearn for physical and emotional connection. Finding one another at their loneliest, Maud and Everett form a seemingly unlikely bond navigating their way from work relationship to honest intimacy. The script has a quiet beauty, with cinematography that is as vibrant as Maud’s unique artwork. Sally Hawkins‘ performance in the titular role is nothing short of award-worthy. While portraying real life folk artist stricken with severe arthritis, each movement seems both physically pained and balletic all at once. Ethan Hawke steps outside his usual cool guy fare to portray a rather rough around the edges fishermonger. Their chemistry on screen is an absolute joy to watch. Maudie is an unusual love story that will capture your heart and touch your soul.

Original Art from Maud Lewis

** Official Selection of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival **

In Theaters June 16, 2017

Starring:
Sally Hawkins (HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, BLUE JASMINE)
Ethan Hawke (BOYHOOD, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN)
Kari Matchett (“Covert Affairs”, “24”)
Gabrielle Rose (THE SWEET HEREAFTER, IF I STAY)
Zachary Bennett (“Orphan Black”)

Directed by: Aisling Walsh
Written by: Sherry White

Review: ‘Johnny Frank Garret’s Last Word’ is anything but quiet.

JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD

Based on a true story,  a nun was murdered in her convent bedroom in Amarillo, Texas on Halloween 1981. The police arrested a young man, Johnny Frank Garrett, who always maintained his innocence but he was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the night of his execution, he wrote a curse letter condemning the people and their families who helped send him to his demise. Shortly after Garrett’s death, members of the community start mysteriously dying. One of the jurors takes it upon himself to break the curse when his son is suddenly struck with a life-threatening illness.

Director Simon Rumley brings us the eerie and unsettling story of a man’s whose spirit is haunting and destroying the lives of those directly responsible for his potentially wrongful conviction and eventual execution. With quick cuts and a brilliant use of sound dynamics, Rumley has managed to create an incredibly effective scary movie. With cringeworthy moments and no essentially zero jump scares, Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word will make you uncomfortable from start to finish. The casting is wonderful, with Mike Doyle as the juror with a conscience, attempting to break the curse Garrett has set upon the truly guilty. Sean Patrick Flanery‘s portrayal of corrupt DA is both enraging and engaging. Devin Bonnée‘s performance as Garrett is frightening and powerful. There are moments where the film feels more like a Nine Inch Nails music video than a film, but that’s not a knock. Its stylistic choices are what make it most intriguing. Check out the trailer below.

The film comes to VOD 3/14 from Momentum Pictures.
Directed by: Simon Rumley (The ABCs of Death, Red White & Blue 
Written by: Tony Giglio (Chaos), Ben Ketai (The Forest), and
Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings 
                       Cast: Mike Doyle (The Invitation, Jersey Boys)Sean Patrick Flanery (Powder, The Boondock Saints), Erin Cummings  (Late Phases, Bitch Slap),
and Devin Bonnée (Fashionista).

Review: ‘DIFRET’ will change your view of the world.

Angelina Jolie Pitt Presents
DIFRET
Based on a True Story

Difret posterIn a world where most of us get to pick their spouse, arranged marriage can seem like a foreign concept. Taking it one step further than that, seems unimaginable. In DIFRET, a young lawyer travels to an Ethiopian village to represent Hirut, a 14-year-old girl who shot her would-be husband as he and others were practicing one of the nation’s oldest traditions: abduction into marriage.

Difret Hirut still

Tizita Hagere (foreground) as “Hirut Assefa”. Photo Courtesy of Truth Aid Media

1996, Ethiopia, caught in a culture where women are considered second class citizens, where abuse is swept under the rug, Hirut is kidnapped on her way home from school, raped and told she will be come her capture’s wife. After a swift and brave escape, she shoots her would-be husband and is quickly taken in by police. Hearing of her plight, young activist lawyer, Meaza Ashenafi , takes it upon herself to defend this truly innocent girl. Sexism is rampant in the surrounding villages, ruled by elders and unbalanced justice notions. Even in the city, where Hirut is being held, the male police, lawyers, and Minister of Justice all pose road blocks to a young girl’s rights.

Difret lawyer still

Meron Getnet as “Meaza Ashenafi” in DIFRET. Photo Courtesy of Truth Aid Media.

The film is beautifully juxtaposed with scenes from village justice Vs the actual legal proceedings. Breaking down of 3rd world injustice is the ultimate victory. Teaching Hirut that she does not have to follow those forced into traditional kidnapped marriage, like so many before her. Mob mentality among the men reigns supreme. Infuriating to endure as Western audience members may not begin to fathom that such a heinous custom could be socially acceptable. This film, based on a true story, is about changing the culture. It’s about self esteem. It’s about standing up for what we know is right.

Difret still

Tizita Hagere as “Hirut Assefa” and Meron Getnet as “Meaza Ashenafi” in DIFRET. Photo Courtesy of Truth Aid Media

Meron Getnet as Meaza is natural and reassuring. Her tenacity jumps off the screen and you route for her to save everyone. Tizita Hagere as Hirut is overwhelmingly stunning. For such a young actress, to be able to carry half of the film is quite the accomplishment. The honesty in her silence, speaks volumes. Both of these women paint a picture of hardship and triumph. This film incredibly important as young women around the world strive for equality and a sense of self. It brings light to the atrocities still happening. Just this past June, in 2015, genital mutilation was finally banned in Nigeria. 2015. Think about that for just a minute. Difret has the potential to be a saving grace.

The film won audience awards at Sundance, Berlin, and Amsterdam Film Fest among others, and was Ethiopia’s official submission for the Academy Awards; it will open in theaters starting October 23rd in New York at the Lincoln Plaza.

Social Media:
Twitter: @difretfilm
Instagram: @difretfilm