NYFF57 review: ’45 Seconds of Laughter’ Tim Robbins’ doc brings levity to the lives of those who need it most.

45 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER

  • Tim Robbins
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 95 minutes

North American Premiere

In his contemplative, pared-down, and wildly engaging documentary, Tim Robbins captures a series of extraordinary sessions in which a group of inmates at the Calipatria State maximum-security facility take part in acting exercises that enhance bonding and emotional connection.

Zip. Zap. Zop. This is one of the most familiar improv games for theater nerds all over the country. In the first 20 minutes of Tim Robbins‘ new doc we watch a group of maximum security prisoners experience their very first acting class with The Actor’s Gang Prison Project. Ordinarily divided by race and gang affliction out in the yard, these men from all different backgrounds allow themselves to be free. They allow happiness, vulnerability, doubt, fear, and reflection into their normally regimented day and existence. The human connections and breakthroughs made in an acting class can change the very way you think and process information. It is an outlet that is unique and to see the effect it has on this particular group of people is profound. As the classes progress, they are challenged to emote, not just feign happy or sad, but truly feel anguish, rage, glee. To see men who are oftentimes not allowed to express themselves because of toxic masculinity and their specific surrounding, finally, feel safe enough to do so is truly breathtaking. Robbins and his teaching team, which includes an ex-prisoner, give us a masterclass in this documentary. 45 Seconds of Laughter (which is also how they end each class) is more than a film, it is a brilliant human experience. You will see transformations right in front of your eyes. Destroying boundaries through art, building friendships through mask play, and repairing relationships with loved ones by taking a chance on something completely outside of their comfort zone is nothing short of extraordinary. 45 Seconds of Laughter is a joyous film. Bravo to all.

 

‘Long Gone By’ premiering at HBO’s New York Latino Film Festival

LONG GONE BY tells the tale of Ana Alvarez, a single mother from Nicaragua living in Warsaw, Indiana with her teenage daughter, Izzy. When a routine check in leads to a deportation order, life as Ana knows it ends. The timing could not be worse as Izzy has just been accepted to Indiana University, a dream that becomes a nightmare when she discovers that because of her immigration status she will not qualify for the needed scholarships or federal aid. Faced with an impossible reality of a lifetime away from her daughter, Ana decides to risk everything in a last chance effort to leave Izzy’s tuition paid before her time runs out. An intimately unnerving portrait of a woman willing to sacrifice everything to give her daughter the chance at a life she never had.

Said director, Andrew Morgan, “There is nothing in my life that comes close to relating to what we witness Ana and Izzy go through in this film. The prospect of facing a lifetime away from my children is a nightmare I have never had to imagine. For me that reality, as I listened to the stories of families being torn apart gave me the motivation to do something in my own way to shine a light on these issues and ideas.” Said lead Erica Muñoz, “I’ve seen people forced into impossible situations. Parents having to make unthinkable decisions in order to try to give their children a better life. Since we shot the film, the horrors are only amplified.” These issues are what drove the cast and crew to create LONG GONE BY, and the effect of the film is palpable.
The film was set and shot on location in Warsaw, Indiana. Morgan wanted to portray the classic small town America through the eyes of an outsider. He said “I absolutely loved working there, the entire community was so helpful and it gave the film a look and feel that I really love.”
“Andrew is focused, driven, kind, incredibly patient, and ridiculously talented.  Working with him was, without question, the most rewarding professional experience of my life,” said lead and Associate Producer, Erica Muñoz. “The rest of the team – in particular, Emily Morgan, his wife and producing partner, created an environment where everyone felt so supported in every conceivable way.”
The filmmakers responsible for LONG GONE BY are very excited to be premiering at the 16th year of HBO’s New York Latino Film Festival. Muñoz has been following the festival since its inception. She says “the spotlight on Latinx creatives has created opportunities for so many filmmakers like myself. It’s by passing the gate keepers and opening the door for unknown talent to be seen.”
LONG GONE BY premieres at HBO’s New York Latino Film Festival August 17, 2019 at 2pm at AMC Times SquareTickets can be purchased here.

8 movies from 2018 Tribeca Film Festival Available on Netflix, hulu, HBO or Showtime

Just 1 year later, there are so many movies that are now available to stream from last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. There’s something for everyone in here whether it be the young women who dreamed up Frankenstein or a desperate man stopping at nothing to save his child.

All About Nina (2018)
Nina Geld’s passion and talent have made her a rising star in the comedy scene, but she’s an emotional mess offstage. When a new professional opportunity coincides with a romantic one, she is forced to reckon with the intersection of her life and her art
[Streaming: Netflix] [Rent or Buy]


Cargo (2018)
In the aftermath of a global pandemic, Andy (Martin Freeman) is focused on keeping his wife and their infant daughter alive as they travel across the Australian Outback. A terrible accident, however, forces him to set off on foot: A zombie bite has given Andy a mere 48 hours before he, too, is undead. Andy struggles to both find a refuge for his child and stave off the disease as the clock runs out on his humanity. On his journey, Andy crosses paths with an indigenous youngster, Thoomi (Simone Landers), who brings him into her Aboriginal community and offers a much-needed bit of hope: Her people may have a cure for the sickness.

Filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke defy genre fans’ zombie-based expectations with their co-directing debut. Cargo pulls no punches in its intensity, yet the duo’s thoughtful film offers a deep, emotional meditation on intimate issues, like a parent’s love, as well as larger themes, like environmental protection and cultural strife. Injecting fresh life into zombie cinema’s often cold bloodstream, Cargo is tailor-made for sophisticated horror fans.–Matt Barone

[Streaming: Netflix]
Review by: Melissa Hanson


Duck Butter (2018)
When Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergio (Laia Costa) meet at a club, they hit it off instantly, connecting over their disdain for the dishonesty they have experienced in their respective romantic relationships. High on their fast chemistry, the two women concoct a romantic experiment: They plan to spend the next 24 hours together, having sex on the hour. Above all, they commit to perfect honesty with each other, a theoretical remedy to the deceit they believe to be an element of modern relationships. But their relationship in a vacuum doesn’t go as planned, and soon the weight of their commitment begins to close in, threatening the ideals of the daylong experiment and their chances for a romantic future tomorrow.

The latest film from Miguel Arteta, the director behind Beatriz at Dinner and The Good Girl, Duck Butter is a blistering look at intimacy in a pressure cooker. Co-written by Shawkat and executive produced by the Duplass Brothers, the film offers a searing interrogation of modern romance, with all its dizzying highs and heartbreaking betrayals, all packed into an intense 24 hours.—Cara Cusumano

[Streaming: Netflix] [Rent or Buy]
TFF Award: Best Actress, Alia Shawkat


In a Relationship (2018)
Long-term couple Owen and Hallie are breaking up—or maybe not?—and just as their relationship reaches a turning point, Matt and Willa embark on a romance of their own. A funny and deeply felt chronicle of one summer in the lives of two couples in Los Angeles.
[Streaming: hulu, hoopla] [Rent or Buy]


Mapplethorpe (2018)
In the late 1960s, art-school dropout Robert Mapplethorpe moves into the Chelsea Hotel with dreams of stardom. He quickly becomes the enfant terrible of the photography world as the downtown counterculture of 1970s New York reaches its zenith.
[Streaming: HBO, kanopy] [Rent or Buy]
TFF Award: Narrative Second Place


Mary Shelley (2018)
Raised by her kindly bookseller father and tormented by a villainous stepmother, young Mary Wollstonecraft (Elle Fanning) longs for a life bigger than her sheltered upbringing. As she embarks on a whirlwind romance with the charismatic but mercurial poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth), Mary’s dreams of a sophisticated life among the intellectual elite seem to be within her grasp at last—but this fantasy quickly dissipates when she realizes the harsh reality of her new husband’s moody and dissolute ways. That is, until one stormy night, when a friendly challenge among a rained-in cadre of Romantic writers leads her to invent one of the most iconic horror stories of all time, before she’s even 20 years old.

Saudi female filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour (Wadjda) returns to Tribeca with this lush portrait of the author of one of Gothic literature’s most influential stories. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s enduring work, has remained a seminal story of creation and destruction, but al-Mansour’s film goes deeper, to depict the fraught tale of a teenage girl’s shattered romantic dreams that brought a monster to life. —Liza Domnitz

[Streaming: Showtime] [Rent or Buy]


O.G. (2018)
An inmate entering the final weeks of a twenty-plus-year sentence must navigate between old loyalties and a new protégé, while he also grapples with the looming uncertainty of his return to life outside bars.
[Streaming: HBO]
TFF Award: Best Actor, Jeffrey Wright


The Party’s Just Beginning (2018)
Lucy is a sharp-witted, foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking twenty-something who is still reeling from a recent loss. This surreal coming-of-age tale is a love letter to Gillan’s hometown in the Scottish Highlands.

It’s dark, it’s tragic. It’s fantastic.
[Streaming: hulu] [Rent or Buy]


12 Tribeca Film Festival movies already picked up

HBO has already snagged two documentaries: The Apollo (Opening Night), about the legendary Harlem theater, and At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, which is pretty much self-explanatory. Introducing younger audiences to the delightful Dr. Ruth Westheimer will be Ask Dr. Ruth acquired by hulu. At 90 years old, she’s still leaving her mark on the world. IFC Films will release Charlie Says from director, Mary Harron. I’m just glad they waited to make a movie until after his death. Same goes for the Ted Bundy story starring Zac Efron, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which Netflix picked up at Sundance.

After premiering at the Berlin Film Festival, Goldie looks to be a promising tale of the pursuit of happiness. The latest Halston documentary seems to be less talking heads than Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston, which played at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. Dan Krauss won best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013 for The Kill Team and has now made a narrative of the same with Nat Wolff and Alexander Skarsgård from A24.

In the documentary, Leftover Women, the story surrounds the effects of the gender imbalance of the “one child” policy in China. A24’s second release is the summertime drama, Low Tide. The documentary acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, Maiden, tells of an all-female crew in 1989 who competed in a prestigious yacht race. And last but not least, is The Quiet One from Sundance Selects, telling the story of Bill Wyman a founding member of The Rolling Stones that walked away from it all to be his own legend.

  1. The Apollo (HBO)
  2. Ask Dr Ruth (hulu)
  3. At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (HBO)
  4. Charlie Says (IFC Films)
  5. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (Netflix)
  6. Goldie (Vice Media, Fox)
  7. Halston (The Orchard, CNN Films)
  8. The Kill Team (A24)
  9. Leftover Women (MetFilm Sales)
  10. Low Tide (A24)
  11. Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics)
  12. The Quiet One (Sundance Selects)

‘Miss Sherlock’ from HBO ASIA® streams for US subscribers today

MISS SHERLOCK pays homage to the classic by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, with bold interpretations of the iconic characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. MISS SHERLOCK is set in modern day Tokyo and both lead characters are Japanese women – Dr. Wato Tachibana, a surgeon recently returned from a volunteer doctors’ mission in Syria and Sara Shelly Futaba, an investigation consultant to the police department who solves bizarre and difficult cases. Throughout the series, the pair solves mystery after mystery with Miss Sherlock’s extraordinary observation and reasoning skills.

The HBO Asia series MISS SHERLOCK will be available to HBO’s U.S. subscribers across all of the channel’s platforms, including HBO GO®, HBO NOW®, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming portals, starting SATURDAY, SEPT. 1. MISS SHERLOCK is the latest programming from HBO’s international partners to be made available to U.S. subscribers, joining critical hits such as HBO Europe’s “Wasteland” and “Aranyélet”; HBO Asia’s “Halfworlds” and “The Teenage Psychic”; and more.

ICYMI – New HBO drama series directed by Adam McKay, Tilda Swinton’s next movie & new Whitney doc

Really looking forward to the new HBO drama series, Succession, releasing 10 episodes June 3rd at 10 p.m. It’s directed by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell is among the numerous executive producers. PLUS check out this cast! Starring: Brian Cox (very anti-super trooper), Jeremy Strong (oh, that guy), Hiam Abbass (averages over 5 movies per year, she’s a pro), Sarah Snook (she is absolutely amazing in everything), Kieran Culkin (all of the Culkins are great, and Kieran has a smirk that works), Alan Ruck, Nicholas Braun, Matthew Macfadyen, Natalie Gold, Peter Friedman and Rob Yang star.

The Roy family — Logan Roy and his four children — controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. SUCCESSION tracks their lives as they contemplate what the future will hold for them once their aging father begins to step back from the company.

Succession was created by Jesse Armstrong, with the pilot written by Armstrong and directed by Adam McKay. Jesse Armstrong, Adam McKay, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick, Will Ferrell, Jane Tranter and Mark Mylod executive produce; Armstrong serves as showrunner.


Favorite movie website of the week is for SUSPIRIA.Not only is it an intriguing website, the URL utilizes the new .movie as seen here: suspiria.movie

Ok, so intriguing website, but here’s where it turns up a notch. Starring Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and Jessica Harper. Directed By Luca Guadagnino

A young American ballerina comes to train at a prestigious German dance academy and uncovers the school’s dark and menacing secrets.


Another Whitney documentary is premiering at Cannes only 8 months after one at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Whitney. “can i be me” is now streaming on Showtime. I wonder which is better.

Westworld Season 2 Official Super Bowl Ad Debuts

                                                    A new chapter begins.

The Emmy®-winning drama series WESTWORLD returns for its ten-episode second season SUNDAY, APRIL 22 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

Youcan now see the WESTWORLD spot that premiered during Super Bowl LII, marking HBO’s first Super Bowl ad in 20 years. The WESTWORLD Season 2 Official Super Bowl ad was directed by series co-creator Jonathan Nolan.

All ten episodes of the critically acclaimed first season of WESTWORLD are available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming platforms. The pilot episode is also available for nonsubscribers to watch for free on ‪HBO.com. In addition, fans and first-time viewers can catch up on  hbo.com/Westworld with episode guides, character profiles, exclusive behind-the-scenes videos and more.

Debuting on HBO in 2016 to become HBO’s most-watched freshman series ever, WESTWORLD is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin. The season one cast included Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Tessa Thompson, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Jimmi Simpson, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Ben Barnes, Simon Quarterman, Angela Sarafyan, Luke Hemsworth, Clifton Collins, Jr., Talulah Riley and Louis Herthum. Joining the season two cast are series regulars Katja Herbers, Gustaf Skarsgård and Fares Fares.

Season two credits: Created for television by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, who are executive producers with J.J. Abrams, Athena Wickham, Roberto Patino, Richard Lewis and Ben Stephenson. Production companies, Kilter Films and Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television; based on the film written by Michael Crichton.

This year’s Oscar-Nominated movies on HBO

Get Out

A black photographer’s weekend meeting his white girlfriend’s parents takes a terrifying turn in this horror hit from Jordan Peele.

  1. Performance by an actor in a leading role: Daniel Kaluuyain
  2. Achievement in directing: Jordan Peele
  3. Best motion picture of the year: Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers
  4. Original screenplay: Written by Jordan Peele

Kong: Skull Island

An expedition to a mythical island finds the place crawling with prehistoric dangers, led by the giant ape himself, King Kong.

  • Achievement in visual effects: Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus

Logan

A broken-down Logan (Hugh Jackman) comes to the aid of a young mutant girl who is just like him in this 3rd ‘Wolverine’ film.

  • Adapted screenplay: Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold

HBO announced a bunch of stuff – Find out when ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ finally returns

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm – New Season October 1st
  • Jon Stewart to headline 2 comedy specials
  • Drama series The Deuce, starring James Franco (x 2) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, debuts Sept. 10
  • Documentary lineup for second half of 2017

 


Curb Your Enthusiasm – New Season October 1st

The Emmy®– and Golden Globe-winning comedy series CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, starring Larry David, returns for its ten-episode ninth season SUNDAY, OCT. 1 (10:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), on HBO. The show stars “Seinfeld” co-creator David as an over-the-top version of himself in an unsparing but tongue-in-cheek depiction of his life.

The new season brings back cast favorites Cheryl Hines as Cheryl, Jeff Garlin as Jeff, Susie Essman as Susie and J.B. Smoove as Leon, as well as series veterans Richard Lewis, Bob Einstein, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.

Also appearing on CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM this season are Elizabeth Banks, Ed Begley, Jr., Carrie Brownstein, Bryan Cranston, Lauren Graham, Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Offerman, Nasim Pedrad and Elizabeth Perkins.

Season nine directors include Jeff Schaffer, Larry Charles, Robert B. Weide, Jessie Nelson and Bryan Gordon.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM was created by Larry David; executive produced by Larry David, Jeff Garlin and Jeff Schaffer.


Jon Stewart to headline 2 comedy specials

Jon Stewart is set to headline two HBO comedy specials, it was announced today by Casey Bloys, president, HBO Programming. He will return to HBO for his first stand-up special since the 1996 HBO presentation “Jon Stewart: Unleavened,” with the date and location to be announced as they are confirmed.

Additionally, this fall Stewart will host the latest “Night of Too Many Stars” all-star benefit for NEXT For AUTISM, to be presented live from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday, Nov. 18. The special will feature stand-up performances, sketches and short films. The comedy event was created by comedy writer and performer Robert Smigel to support autism schools, programs and services. NEXT for AUTISM (formerly New York Collaborates for Autism) is a non-profit organization that strategically designs, launches and supports innovative programs to improve the lives of people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“We’re excited to bring Jon to the network with this pair of specials,” said Bloys. “We’ve all missed his uniquely thoughtful brand of humor.”

“I’m really thrilled to be able to return to stand-up on HBO,” adds Stewart. ”They’ve always set the standard for great stand-up specials. Plus, I can finally use up the last of the Saddam Hussein jokes left over from my first special.”

Jon Stewart became the host of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in 1999, stepping down from the show in 2015. The series received 23 Primetime Emmys® and two Peabody Awards. Stewart hosted the Academy Awards® twice, in 2006 and 2008, and wrote the New York Times bestselling books “Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race” and “America (The Book): A Guide to Democracy Inaction,” which was on the New York Times bestseller list for 18 consecutive weeks. He also wrote and directed the 2014 feature film “Rosewater.”

In addition to “Jon Stewart: Unleavened,” his first HBO stand-up special, his previous HBO credits include hosting the special “George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy,” “Mr. Show with Bob and David” and a recurring role on “The Larry Sanders Show.”


Drama series The Deuce, starring James Franco (x 2) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, debuts Sept. 10

THE DEUCE chronicles that moment in time when sex went from being a back-alley, brown-paper-bag commodity to a billion-dollar universal in American life, a moment when ground zero for the earliest pioneers in the flesh trade was the midtown heart of the nation’s largest city, New York’s Times Square.

Titled after the local slang for New York’s fabled 42nd Street and starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, THE DEUCE begins its eight-episode season SUNDAY, SEPT. 10 (9:00-10:20 p.m. ET/PT), followed by other episodes subsequent Sundays at the same time. The show was created by George Pelecanos and David Simon; George Pelecanos, David Simon, Nina K. Noble and James Franco executive produce.

THE DEUCE follows the rise of the porn culture in New York from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, exploring the rough-and-tumble world of the sex trade from the moment when both a liberalizing cultural revolution in American sexuality and new legal definitions of obscenity created a billion-dollar industry that is now an elemental component of the American cultural landscape, with sites where you can see naked girls online all the time. Beginning in 1971, the show follows a cast of barkeeps, prostitutes, pimps, police and nightlife denizens as they swirl through a world of sex, crime, high times and violence and the porn business begins its climb from Mafia-backed massage parlors and film labs to legitimacy and cultural permanence.


Documentary lineup for second half of 2017

Upcoming HBO documentaries include (in chronological order):

BRILLO BOX  (3¢ OFF) (Aug. 7) blends a humorous family narrative with Pop Art history, following an iconic Andy Warhol work as it makes its way from a New York family’s living room to the contemporary global art market. Exploring the ephemeral nature of art and value and the decisions that shape a family’s history, the film debuts the week of Warhol’s 89th birthday. An official selection of the 54th New York Film Festival.  Directed by Lisanne Skyler.

CLINICA DE MIGRANTES (Sept. 25) is an affecting portrait of a volunteer-run health clinic that treats uninsured, undocumented immigrants, many of whom have left their families behind to come to America and perform physically exhausting labor for meager wages. With extraordinary access and moving vérité footage, it highlights these admirable doctors and the patients who have nowhere else to turn for health care. Directed by Max Pozdorovkin (HBO’s “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer”).

SPIELBERG (Oct. 7) pulls back the curtain on the remarkable career of Steven Spielberg, one of the most famous filmmakers in the world.  Producer-director Susan Lacy conducted nearly 30 hours of interviews with the director for the documentary, as well as interviewing members of Spielberg’s family, close friends and A-list colleagues. The result is a remarkably intimate portrait, combining personal narrative with an in-depth exploration of Spielberg’s creative process and craftsmanship. Directed by Susan Lacy.

ROLLING STONE DOCUMENTARY (untitled) (Nov.) chronicles the last 50 years of American music, politics and popular culture through the story of the magazine that understood rock‘n’roll was more than music – it was a cultural force that re-shaped America. Drawing on previously unheard recordings provided by some of Rolling Stone’s greatest writers, as well as original interviews, rare photos and footage, this two-part special is an inside look at how the magazine helped define the zeitgeist and has endured for a half-century. Directed by Alex Gibney and Blair Foster.

BALTIMORE RISING (Nov.) goes deep behind the scenes of a city on edge in the wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, which sparked protests and destructive riots. Director Sonja Sohn, one of the stars of the HBO series “The Wire,” follows local activists, police officers, community leaders and gang affiliates, many of whom had previously only seen each other as adversaries, as they fight for change and struggle to hold Baltimore together. Directed by Sonja Sohn.

HAPPENING: A CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION (Dec.) follows filmmaker Jamie Redford on a colorful journey to discover the leading edge of clean energy across the U.S. Unlikely entrepreneurs in communities from Georgetown, Tex. to Buffalo, NY reveal pioneering clean energy solutions that are creating jobs, turning profits and making communities stronger and healthier. Reaching beyond a story of technology and innovation, his discoveries underscore issues of human resilience, social justice, embracing the future and finding hope for humanity’s survival. Directed by Jamie Redford.

HBO News: New drama series ‘Confederate’ from creators/showrunners of ‘Game of Thrones’ announced

Series Will Be Executive Produced And Written By David Benioff And D.B. Weiss; Nichelle Tramble Spellman, Malcolm Spellman, Carolyn Strauss And Bernadette Caulfield Will Also Executive Produce

“Game of Thrones” creators/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will return to HBO with their new original series CONFEDERATE, it was announced today by Casey Bloys, president, HBO Programming.

CONFEDERATE chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.

“As the brilliant ‘Game of Thrones’ winds down to its final season, we are thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with Dan and David, knowing that any subject they take on will result in a unique and ambitious series,” said Bloys. “Their intelligent, wry and visually stunning approach to storytelling has a way of engaging an audience and taking them on an unforgettable journey. CONFEDERATE promises to be no exception, and we are honored to be adding the talented team of Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman to the mix.”

“We have discussed CONFEDERATE for years, originally as a concept for a feature film,” add Benioff and Weiss. “But our experience on ‘Thrones’ has convinced us that no one provides a bigger, better storytelling canvas than HBO. There won’t be dragons or White Walkers in this series, but we are creating a world, and we couldn’t imagine better partners in world-building than Nichelle and Malcolm, who have impressed us for a long time with their wit, their imagination and their Scrabble-playing skills.”

CONFEDERATE will be written and created by Benioff and Weiss, who will also serve as showrunners on the series. Partnering with them as executive producers and writers on the series will be Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“Justified,” “The Good Wife”) and Malcolm Spellman (“Empire,” the forthcoming “Foxy Brown). Carolyn Strauss (“Game of Thrones”) and Bernadette Caulfield (“Game of Thrones,” “Big Love”) will also join as executive producers.

Production will begin following the final season of “Game of Thrones.”

HBO has acquired U.S. TV rights to the feature documentary ‘MAY IT LAST: A PORTRAIT OF THE AVETT BROTHERS’

HBO has acquired U.S. TV rights to the feature documentary MAY IT LAST: A PORTRAIT OF THE AVETT BROTHERS, co-directed and produced by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio, ahead of its March 15 world premiere in the 24 Beats Per Second section of the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival. MAY IT LAST is an Apatow Production (HBO’s “Crashing” and “Girls”) in association with RadicalMedia (“Hamilton’s America,” “What Happened, Miss Simone?”) and marks Apatow and Bonfiglio’s second collaboration, following last year’s acclaimed “Doc & Darryl.”

Filmed with extraordinary access over the course of more than two years, the film chronicles the band, fronted by brothers Scott and Seth Avett, on the long journey from their rural North Carolina childhoods to topping the charts and selling out arenas, experiencing heartbreak, tragedy and joy along the way. The film also provides an inside look at their collaboration with legendary producer Rick Rubin while recording the 2017 Grammy-nominated album “True Sadness,” which was released on American Recordings/Republic Records.

With the recording process as the backdrop, MAY IT LAST intimately depicts the deeply personal, lifelong bond between brothers, and shows how that dynamic helps shape their creative process as musicians and songwriters.

“This film has been a true labor of love for us for more than three years now, and we could not be happier that HBO – with their incredible lineage of documentary programming – believes in it as much as we do,” say Apatow and Bonfiglio.

“The accuracy with which Apatow and Bonfiglio present this moment in our lives and process is stunning,” says Seth Avett. “From the vantage point of my brother and I, the film is almost surreal in its level of personal truth-telling.”

Featuring a wealth of exclusive footage of the Avetts in the studio and at home, never-before-seen family photographs, concert footage and revealing interviews with band members Scott (banjo, lead vocals) and Seth (guitar, lead vocals) Avett, Bob Crawford (bass), Joe Kwon (cello), Tania Elizabeth (fiddle), Paul DeFiglia (keyboards) and Mike Marsh (drums), as well as producer Rick Rubin and intimate family and friends, the film takes an in-depth look at the personal and creative relationship between the brothers that helps define America’s biggest roots band.

Apatow and Bonfiglio previously co-directed the ESPN documentary “Doc & Darryl” as part of the network’s “30 for 30” series, which was Apatow’s first foray into the documentary world.

MAY IT LAST: A PORTRAIT OF THE AVETT BROTHERS is an Apatow Production in association with RadicalMedia; directed and produced by Judd Apatow, Michael Bonfiglio; executive producers, Jon Kamen, Dave O’Connor, Justin Wilkes; cinematographer, Jonathan Furmanski; editor, Paul Little.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Premiere Date Announced

HBO has confirmed that GAME OF THRONES will return for its seven-episode seventh season SUNDAY, JULY 16 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT).

Based on the popular book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin, this hit Emmy®-winning fantasy series chronicles an epic struggle for power in a vast and violent kingdom. Members of the ensemble cast for the sixth season included Emmy® and Golden Globe winner Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Aidan Gillen, Kit Harington, Diana Rigg, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Jonathan Pryce. Season six credits: executive producers, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield; co-executive producers, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis, George R.R. Martin.

HBO Renews Westworld, Divorce and Insecure

westworld

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: Unveiling an international empire in the astounding documentary “Tickled”

TICKLED

Catfish meets Compliance in David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s jaw-dropping documentary Tickled. David Farrier is a New Zealand journalist who stumbled upon what seemed like just an unusual sport of men’s competitive tickling but instead triggered an incredibly, threatening backlash as he decided to dig deeper for more information on this funny entertainment piece.

After Farrier discovered the world of men’s competitive endurance tickling he felt compelled to interview Jane O’Brien Media who hosted the tickling videos. After reaching out, Farrier and Reeve started receiving defensive responses from the company stating that the videos are of an “exclusively heterosexual athletic endurance activity”. Amazed by some of the responses Farrier felt even more compelled to dig deeper into his research. After the two journalists began receiving legal threats, they knew there was so much more to this story; together they unveiled an empire.

I highly recommend this documentary. Not only is this an oddly enticing film, but on top of it all, it has amazing cinematography. It is just incredible how far these two journalists went to understand the world of Jane O’Brian’s competitive tickling only to discover so much more. It is one of the best films that I have seen all year, and for those of you who get reeled in by the trailer, I am certain that you will enjoy it as well. Check out Tickled on VOD, iTunes and Amazon Video on November 1st, 2016. 

4.5 / 5 Stars 

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episodes 9 & Season Finale Titles Have Been Released!

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HBO has released the titles for the ninth and tenth episodes of Game of Thrones Season 6 and we have it for you!

Episode 9 is entitled “Battle of the Bastards” and it debuts on Sunday June 19th (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT). The episode is written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.

Episode 10, the season finale, is entitled “The Winds of Winter” and it debuts on Sunday June 26th (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT). The episode is written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.

 

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episodes 6 & 7 Titles and Synopses Released!

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HBO has released the titles and synopses for the sixth and seventh episodes of Game of Thrones Season 6 and we have it for you!

Episode 6 is entitled “Blood of My Blood” and it debuts on Sunday May 29th (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)

An old foe comes back into the picture. Gilly (Hannah Murray) meets Sam’s (John Bradley) family. Arya (Maisie Williams) faces a difficult choice. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) faces off against the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce).

The episode is written by Bryan Cogman; directed by Jack Bender.

Episode 7 is entitled “The Broken Man” and it debuts on Sunday June 5th (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)

The High Sparrow eyes another target. Jaime confronts a hero. Arya makes a plan. The North is reminded.

The episode is written by Bryan Cogman; directed by Mark Mylod.

The executive producers of Game of Thrones are David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger and Bernadette Caulfield; co-executive producers, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis and George R.R. Martin; supervising producer, Bryan Cogman; producers, Chris Newman, Greg Spence and Lisa McAtackney.

Review: Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

oscar shorts 2016Here I am back it after a brief hiatus and I’m happy that this year I am fortunate enough to bring you coverage of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films. Over the next few days, I will roll out reviews in each of the categories – documentary, animation and live action. Since I’m the resident documentary cat around here at Reel News Daily, I thought I would start off in that category. These films cover a variety of important and emotional topics from honor killings in Pakistan to the affects of Agent Orange on the youth of Vietnam to the fallout of capital punishment on the family of the accused. These five films hit every emotional string that you can imagine and leave an impression long after the viewing has ended.

Body Team 12

oscar shorts 16 - body team 12Body Team 12, directed by David Darg (as well as produced by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame as well as actress Olivia Wilde), follows one of the teams charged with removing the bodies of the those who died during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia this past year. It is shown through the perspective of the only female member. Body Team 12 is a moving portrait of community members doing an incredibly difficult and dangerous job to do their part to help curb the epidemic. That said, there are some incredibly difficult parts in watching family members of the deceased deal with the loss of their loved ones. The shortest film in the bunch at just over 13 minutes, Body Team 12 is able to pack a narrative wallop that hits you right in the gut, which makes it no wonder that it was nominated for an Oscar in this category. This film will debut on HBO in March.

 

Chau, beyond the lines

oscar shorts 16 chauChau, beyond the lines is a moving film about Chau, a young man whose body is deformed from his parents having been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Because of the degree of care he needed, Chau was sent to a peace camp (an orphanage of sorts) where other children – some more, others less – affected by Agent Orange live and are taken care of by a group of state-funded nurses. Chau is an artist at heart and spends his time dedicating himself to honing his craft, which isn’t easy because of the deformities that have affected his hands and arms. Every year, Chau submits a piece to a national contest for young artists across the country, each believing and hoping that he can win and garner some attention on the merits of his art, not his disabilities. Make no bones about it, this one is a difficult watch, but well worth it. This is a story that shows that nearly 45 years after the end of the war in Vietnam, the price is still paid for the hostilities. Chau has an unbelievably positive outlook on life and begs us to all ask the question, “why can’t we do the same?” Written and directed by Courtney Marsh.

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

oscar shorts 16 - lanzmann posterAdam Benzine‘s short treatise on director Claude Lanzmann and the making of his seminal documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah. The director queries Lanzmann and others (including fellow documentarian Marcel Ophüls who calls Lanzmann a megalomaniac) about the struggles of making of the film as well as its impact. What can be sure is that Shoah is indeed a masterpiece and widely considered one of the best documentaries ever made. The 12 years that went into filming and editing this film took a toll on Lanzmann who was never the same after making it. From having to surreptitiously record conversations with former Nazis to getting beaten by some who found out his game to having to listen to the stories of those who survived concentration camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz, it’s no wonder. An incredilby affecting piece, Lanzmann is a person worthy of documenting, which makes sense since his life was devoted to the same thing. This film debuts on HBO in May.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

oscar shorts 16 - girl in the riverDirected by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is by far the film that I found had to most effect on me in this category. After a few contextual shots of the city of Gujranwala, Pakistan (population 5 million), the film opens with Saba Qaiser in the emergency room of the hospital, getting her face stitched up from a gunshot wound. Saba had been attacked by her father and uncle in an effort to kill her for dishonoring their family by marrying someone of a social class they didn’t believe high enough and disobeying her father’s orders. The film opens with a statistic that nearly every year, 1,000 of the so-called honor killings take place in Pakistan despite being illegal. Saba was fortunate in some ways to survive this attack. Fortunate in that she lived, but unfortunate that she must now face the pressing question of whether she should forgive her father and uncle and let them free from jail where they can essentially attack her again if they please. She is adamant against forgiving them and even goes so far as to say they should be killed in a public market as an example to any others considering doing this. However, the reality is her mother and sisters face a lifetime of shame because of her deeds and with her father the sole breadwinner in the house, they would likely not be able to support themselves. A decision that is heavier than anything I can imagine. That Obaid-Chinoy was able to access Saba throughout the entire ordeal makes this film really quite stunning and heartbreaking all the same. If I had a vote for the Oscar, this one gets mine. This film will also debut on HBO in March.

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Last Day of Freedom

oscar shorts 16 - last day of freedomThe final nominee is Last Day of Freedom directed by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, is one of the more innovative films nominated in this category I’ve seen to date. It is animated, a kind of mixture of recreations a la Errol Morris with a something that resembles the style of Richard Linklater‘s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The film allows Bill Babbitt to tell the story of his brother, Manny, a Vietnam vet who was arrested for murder and sentenced to death. The circumstances surrounding Manny‘s actions were colored by his PTSD and schizophrenia diagnosis, but somehow he still found himself on death row. Bill‘s account gives such a stark and emotional rendering of what it is like to live in the shadow of a loved one’s violent actions, that it wasn’t just the victim and their family who have suffered, but also the loved one’s of the perpetrator. Not only that, this films serves as a stark reminder, one that we seem to see all too many times these days, that justice is not always served.

 

By no means are these films uplifting as they all expose a piece of misery of that sticks with their subjects every single day. What they do do, as I think only documentaries can do, is shed light on subject matter that isn’t easy to face or confront and allow it to be seen in a way that is neither heavy-handed nor flippant. These films help us remind us that even at times when things are the shittiest, that humanity can still succeed. While I don’t have access to the many films that were submitted for this award, I can say that these films represent the documentary spirit well.

 

Shocking Tribeca doc ‘DREAM/KILLER’ finally gets released in theaters!

dream killer posterOne of the most acclaimed docs from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, dream/killer,  is being released in NY today and in LA next Friday, Dec 11th. Fans of the podcast Serial and HBO’s The Jinx, this film is right up your alley, I highly recommend  you seek it out!Ryan Ferguson dream killer

In the fall of 2005, 19-year-old Ryan Ferguson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40-years in prison based on someone else’s dream.  Over the next ten years while Ryan languished in prison, his father Bill engaged in a tireless crusade to find justice.  dream/killer tells the story of this extraordinary father’s journey to free his son.Courtroom still dream killer

When Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt was brutally murdered in the newspaper’s parking lot, the crime went unsolved for two years, leaving the affluent college town desperate to bring home justice. At the time, it was the only unsolved murder in the city. A break in the case lead police to Chuck Erickson, who confessed to the crime, implicated Ferguson as an accomplice and left America with one of the country’s most outrageous miscarriages of justice.The Ferguson family dream killer

The documentary uses archival footage from when Ryan was first arrested, interviews with him in prison, and court hearings that reveal the strengths and the flaws of the American judicial system. The arguments of the ruthless prosecutor and Ryan’s brilliant defense attorney are also depicted to show how easily the system is influenced.  Interspersed with footage from the Ferguson family archive, dream/killer looks at the personal consequences of a wrongful conviction.

dream/killer – OFFICIAL TRAILER (2015) from Bloom Project on Vimeo.

You can check out my original review and listen to my exclusive interview with Ryan and Bill in the link below. This is one extraordinary story and family.

Review/Interview with ‘Dream/Killer’ subject Ryan and Bill Ferguson

U2 and HBO Announce Rescheduled Date for Live in Paris Show

U2U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE LIVE IN PARIS, the first HBO concert special by the 22-time Grammy-winning band, has been rescheduled for MONDAY DEC. 7 (9:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT). Originally slated to be seen Nov. 14, the exclusive presentation will be available on HBO GO and HBO NOW simultaneously with its world premiere on HBO.

As previously announced, U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE LIVE IN PARIS will be shot live at the Accorhotels Arena in Bercy and air exclusively on HBO that same day.

The new debut date of the exclusive presentation “Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists,” which was originally scheduled to debut Monday, Dec. 7 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT), will be announced when it is confirmed.

Bono commented, “So much that was taken from Paris on the tragic night of November 13th is irreplaceable. For one night, the killers took lives, took music, took peace of mind – but they couldn’t steal the spirit of that city. It’s a spirit our band knows well and will try to serve when we return for the postponed shows on December 6th and 7th. We’re going to put on our best for Paris.”

iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE LIVE IN PARIS is produced by Done And Dusted with executive producers Hamish Hamilton, Simon Pizey, Davis Guggenheim and Guy Oseary; directed by Hamish Hamilton.

U2 and HBO Postpone Live Paris Show

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In regards to the U2 concert scheduled to air on HBO Saturday night, the following has been posted on the band’s website:

As a result of the ongoing state of emergency across France, the U2 Paris concert scheduled for 14th November will not be going ahead as planned. U2 and Live Nation, along with HBO who were due to live broadcast the Saturday concert, are fully resolved to go ahead with this show at an appropriate time.

Speaking from Paris the band said:

“We watched in disbelief and shock at the unfolding events in Paris and our hearts go out to all the victims and their families across the city tonight.

We are devastated at the loss of life at the Eagles of Death Metal concert and our thoughts and prayers are with the band and their fans. 

And we hope and pray that all of our fans in Paris are safe”.

http://www.u2.com/index/home

 

Editor’s Note: The feature film Jersey Boys has replaced the concert on the HBO schedule