HBO Renews Westworld, Divorce and Insecure

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HBO has renewed WESTWORLD, DIVORCE and INSECURE for second seasons, it was announced today by Casey Bloys, president, HBO Programming.

            “I am thrilled to announce the pickup of our three fall series, all of which have distinctive, original voices,” said Bloys. “Critics and viewers alike have welcomed WESTWORLD and INSECURE, as well as the return of Sarah Jessica Parker to the network after 12 years with DIVORCE.”

Season-to-date, WESTWORLD is averaging a gross audience of 11.7 million viewers, outperforming “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective” during similar times in their first seasons. DIVORCE and INSECURE are averaging 4.4 million and 3.2 million viewers, respectively, on par with other HBO half-hours like “VEEP” and “Girls.”

Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, the drama series WESTWORLD is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin, exploring a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged.

WESTWORLD kicked off its ten-episode first season Oct. 2 on HBO, debuting hour-long episodes Sundays at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT). Created for television by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy, both of whom executive produce and write, with Nolan directing, the series is based on the 1973 film “Westworld,” written by Michael Crichton.

The cast for the first season of WESTWORLD includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Jimmi Simpson, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Ben Barnes, Simon Quarterman, Angela Sarafyan, Luke Hemsworth and Clifton Collins, Jr.

Vanity Fair called the show “a rare kind of truly transporting television,” while People hailed it as “ingenious.” TIME said WESTWORLD is “Fall’s most promising drama,” and USA Today praised the “compelling stellar performances.”

Season one credits: WESTWORLD was created for television by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy, based on the film written by Michael Crichton. Production companies, Kilter Films, Bad Robot Productions and Jerry Weintraub Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, J.J. Abrams, Jerry Weintraub, Bryan Burk.

The comedy series DIVORCE follows Frances, who has suddenly begun to reassess her life and her strained relationship with her husband after more than a decade of marriage and two children. But she soon discovers that making a clean break and a fresh start is harder than she thought. Serving as an executive producer, Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Frances in the series, which is created by Sharon Horgan. Thomas Haden Church stars as Frances’ husband, who is struggling to cope with their marriage falling apart.

DIVORCE kicked off its ten-episode first season Oct. 9 on HBO, debuting half-hour episodes Sundays at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

Newsweek said the show is “funny, heartening and chockful of strong performances,” while the Washington Post noted, “Sarah Jessica Parker is terrifically on point.”

Season one credits: DIVORCE was created by Sharon Horgan, with Paul Simms serving as a showrunner; executive produced by Paul Simms, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sharon Horgan, Alison Benson and Aaron Kaplan.

Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, the comedy series INSECURE explores the contemporary black female experience in an unclichéd and authentic way. Rae and Yvonne Orji stars as best friends who must deal with their own real-life flaws as they attempt to navigate different worlds and cope with an endless series of uncomfortable everyday experiences.

INSECURE launched its eight-episode first season Oct. 9 on HBO, debuting half-hour episodes Sundays at 10:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

USA Today praised the show as “bright, cutting, funny,” and Entertainment Weekly called it “smart, funny and unfailingly real.”

Season one credits: INSECURE was created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore; executive produced by Issa Rae, Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Becky and Jonathan Berry. Larry Wilmore serves as a consultant.

 

Review: ‘LEARNING TO DRIVE’ rides right into your heart.

Learning to Drive-poster2Two very different people cross paths in a cab, changing both their lives forever. This is the basic outline for the charming new film LEARNING TO DRIVE. But, this movie is so much more than basic. Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson come together to explore love and life as they enter new stages and become each other’s teacher.

LTD_09-07-13_139_R_CROP Patricia Clarkson stars as Wendy in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, LEARNING TO DRIVE. Credit: Linda Kallerus/Broad Green Pictures

Patricia Clarkson stars as Wendy in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, LEARNING TO DRIVE.
Credit: Linda Kallerus/Broad Green Pictures

Clarkson plays successful writer, Wendy, whose marriage suddenly falls apart. In order to take control of her new found single life, she navigates selling her home, dating, and relinquishing her comfort behind the wheel. Kingsley becomes Wendy’s instructor after witnessing the intimate crumbling of her marriage in the back of his cab. As he returns some forgotten property to her home, the two become pupil and instructor during the day and dear friends as the film progresses. Kingsley’s Darwan battles some personal struggles of his own as a long time single man finally accepting an arranged marriage. He must learn to communicate with his new bride while letting go of control himself.

LTD_09-05-13_793_R_CROP (l to r) Sarita Choudhury stars as Jasleen and Ben Kingsley as Darwan in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, LEARNING TO DRIVE. Credit: Linda Kallerus/Broad Green Pictures

(l to r) Sarita Choudhury stars as Jasleen and Ben Kingsley as Darwan in Broad Green Pictures upcoming release, LEARNING TO DRIVE.
Credit: Linda Kallerus/Broad Green Pictures

Ben Kingsley is brilliant as ever. Never missing a beat in a character that is so beautifully genuine. He is a treasure to watch. Patricia Clarkson is engrossing as always.Lovely and vulnerable, her journey through the film is relatable on all levels. Her accessibility as an actress is palpable. With solid performances from Jake Webber as Wendy’s ex and Grace Gummer as their daughter, this changing family dynamic is one we’ve all come across. Much applause to Sarita Choudhury as Darwan’s new wife Jasleen. This reminds me of how I felt when I moved to India in 2008. A little lost, confused, relying heavily on television to entertain me, and afraid to venture too far outside at first. She is a gem n everything she appears in. LEARNING TO DRIVE will certainly have an audience in the over 30 category. Director Isabel Coixet and screenwriter Sarah Kernochan make a truly cohesive team. I hope we see more from them as a pair in the future.

LEARNING TO DRIVE comes to theaters today

http://learningtodrivemovie.com

Running Time: 90 minutes      Rating: R

Liz’s Review: ‘THE LAST FIVE YEARS’ hits every note.

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When I graduated college in 2002, everyone was buzzing about a new musical by one of my favorite lyricists/composers Jason Robert Brown. Not a single person I spoke to about The Last Five Years walked away without some sense of wonder. God only knows how I missed the run, perhaps graduation and surrounding shenanigans got in my way. Needless to say, when I heard that the show was making the jump to the big screen, I leapt at the chance to finally get in on the magic.

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In this adaptation of the hit musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy (Anna Kendrick), a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. Their story is told almost entirely through song.  All of Cathy’s songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time to the beginning of their love affair, while Jamie’s songs start at the beginning of their affair and move forward to the end of their marriage. They meet in the center when Jamie proposes.

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The camera work in this film is stunning; voyeuristic without being intrusive. The opening shot is very much an homage to Hitchcock‘s bird’s eye opening shot in Psycho (no story line similarities, I assure you.) The tinted lenses used to represent the good and bad in the relationship are thoughtful and extraordinarily effective for each emotional shift. There is something truly special about this film. It appears absolutely seamless as it bounces from timeline to timeline. Jason Robert Brown‘s lyrics are some of the most accessible in the industry. Think thought provoking, stream of consciousness, meets clever and catchy musical theater for the any audience. Anna Kendrick does some of her strongest work to date as Cathy. The opening ballad, “Still Hurting’ is a killer punch in the gut. This is tough stuff and she nails it. I was thoroughly impressed. The stickler in me wishes her presence had been a tad bit stronger when it came to sharing the screen with Jordan as he sings. There seems to be a slight disconnect when he takes center stage. But, I will say her acting chops on the heavier songs are quite lovely. Jeremy Jordan as Jamie is a stunner. From the moment he appears on screen, from the first note, he owns this character. I could not have asked for more from his performance. He lights up the screen, his voice is delicious, and he is an unapologetic scene-stealer and I am so fine with that. In no way is he obnoxious, or over-the-top. In my pretty harsh musical theater book, he gets an A+. Jeremy Jordan is a star. Standing ovation to director Richard LaGravenese. Successfully adapting a musical is a huge task. This film is so down-to-earth. You do not have to be a musical theater fan to enjoy this movie. That alone, makes it a hit. I highly recommend The Last Five Years and I guarantee you will walk away humming some, if not all, of these gorgeous songs.

The Last Five Years opens today!

 

Liz’s Review: ‘Wetlands’… Gross and Glorious!

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I knew going into this film that the trailer alone was NSFW. I was in for a complete surprise when Wetlands as a whole blew the trailer way out of the water. Never have I ever experienced a movie so utterly disgusting and amazing at all once. Read More →