Review: ‘Run This Town’ is a successful look at who does the dirty work in truth telling and true suppressing.

A young journalist and a young political aide become entangled in a larger-than-life political scandal as they struggle to navigate adult life. Like all their friends, Bram and Kamal are struggling to climb the ladders at their respective workplaces: Bram at a newspaper, Kamal at City Hall. When Bram learns of a scandal involving Kamal’s larger-than-life boss, he seizes the moment to advance his career. Meanwhile, Kamal grapples with containing the story while maintaining his integrity.

Ben Platt is swiftly becoming a household name for anyone outside of the Broadway, music industry, and Netflix world. Frankly, shame on you if you haven’t heard of him at this point. In Run This Town, Platt plays a budding journalist, Bram, who has Toronto’s biggest political scandal fall into his lap.

This entire cast has fresh and energetic chemistry. They ooze the ambition that each of these characters needs. Platt, Speedman, Dobrev, Ehle, and Massoud make things more than interesting. If I had to nitpick, the makeup on Damian Lewis as Ford is a bit over the top. It feels a bit cartoonish and is slightly distracting. That being said, the performance is so good I actually didn’t know it was Lewis under the makeup. The scene where Ford goes on a drunken rant with his employees is so cringey and intense, it will make your skin crawl. Replace Ford with any current slime ball “politician”, it’s an easy swap. Lewis’ performance is unhinged in the best way possible. Ben Platt is solid as ever. The specificity that he brings to Bram both physically and emotionally is top-notch.  His casting was a perfect choice. Massoud and Dobrev are equally vulnerable. Their performances are nothing short of captivating.

The editing in this film alone is so sharp that it forces you to sit up and pay attention. You have to keep up with the dialogue and quick cuts from the get-go. This script is timely as hell. It may revolve around Toronto’s Rob Ford but the rest of the world has its own garbage politician. This film is about the down and dirty and real work journalists have to do to battle to bullshit. But it’s also about the political spin; the young and hungry aides that twist the truth to put a party base at ease.

The score, along with the title and credit sequences are simply brilliant. Sort of a visual metaphor for finding the truth. The script takes a look at where On the whole, Run This Town is a super intriguing look at scandal, those who try to expose it, and those who suppress it. It highlights the work you don’t see and who is really responsible for moving the needle behind the scenes. It’s a great commentary on power, greed, ambition, xenophobia, and #MeToo. Run This Town is a fantastic feature debut for writer/director Ricky Tollman. The dialogue, in pacing and quippiness, is very reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin, particularly in the opening scene. That is precisely how you get an audience’s attention. Well done.

 

RUN THIS TOWN will be in U.S. theaters through Oscilloscope and On Demand and Digital through Quiver Distribution on March 6th, 2020.

Review: ‘The Wolf Hour’ will close in on your comfort level.

SYNOPSIS: It’s July 1977, and New York City is awash with escalating violence. A citywide blackout is triggering fires, looting, and countless arrests, and the Son of Sam murders are riddling the city with panic. June, once a celebrated counterculture figure, attempts to retreat from the chaos by shutting herself inside the yellowed walls of her grandmother’s South Bronx apartment. But her doorbell is ringing incessantly, the heat is unbearable, and creeping paranoia and fear are taking hold. Visitors, some invited, some unsolicited, arrive one by one, and June must determine whom she can trust and whether she can find a path back to her former self.

Naomi Watts gives a powerful performance that is so raw, it will get under your skin for long after the credits have rolled. This stylistic film hits a nerve for the viewer instantly. Its claustrophobia consumes you as much as Watts’ character June. Clearly suffering PTSD exacerbated by the current overwhelming outside forces that play out keep June locked in her house 24hrs day for God knows how many years at the point we meet her. Her desperation is palpable. The colors and sound editing combined with brilliant slow-burn pacing make The Wolf Hour hypnotizing. It feels post-apocalyptic. It feels far too relevant. Watts is like a ticking timebomb. Her performance is one of the year’s best. This could have been a stage play based upon its singular location but I’m not sure you could have captured the heaviness of the air and environment in the same way. In film form, The Wolf Hour digs its nails into you in the fiercest way.

In theaters December 6

Written & Directed by: Alistair Banks Griffin
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jennifer Ehle, Emory Cohen, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Tribeca Film Festival: ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is still happening

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Feature Narrative
Country: USA
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Writer: Cecilia Frugiuele, Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr., Forrest Goodluck, Sasha lane, Chloë Grace Moretz
After Cameron is caught making out with another girl on prom night, her conservative guardians send her to gay conversion therapy. There, she forges an unlikely community with her fellow teens in this Sundance-winning coming of age story.
Official Selection of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Releasing August 10, 2018 from FilmRise

Melissa:

You might expect a combustible teenage tale of rebelling against a terrible situation, but instead, the story is nuanced and quietly chilling. Set not so long ago, the most disturbing thing is that it could be set today. This is not a bubbly teenage coming-of-age story.

Liz:

Melissa is right, the scenarios depicted in this film are absolutely still occurring in 2018. Being touted as  “gender confusion” in the film, I have no doubt this is damaging stuff to young people. It’s an important narrative to study in an everchanging inclusive environment. Chloë Grace Moretz as Cameron gives the audience a brave and honest performance. The writing and directing are fantastic. The film will both comfort and disturb audiences and the best ways possible. Through Cameron’s Miseducation, the world will learn.

Review: ‘WETLANDS’ blows by with little gusto.

Synopsis: Babel “Babs” Johnson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is a police detective who finds himself assigned to a precinct in the Wetlands, the no-man’s land surrounding Atlantic City, within eyeshot of the once fancy and now dilapidated hotels and boardwalk, but a world away.  A year ago, he was a top cop in Philadelphia, but mysterious circumstances intervened and now he finds himself back home and back in the lives of his estranged daughter, Amy (Celeste O’Connor), and still-bitter ex-wife, Savannah (Heather Graham)

 

Surrounded by locals, Surfer Girl (Reyna de Courcy), a surfboard builder who has dreams of moving to Hawaii to ply her trade; and Kate (Jennifer Ehle), a local news anchor; and local thugs Jimmy (Louis Mustillo) his boss, Lollipop (Barry Markowitz); and with a new partner, a fun-loving gambling addict named Paddy Sheehan (Christopher McDonald), Babs slowly adjusts to life back on the beat.

 

Meanwhile, as the region prepares for a massive, late-season hurricane, the storm threatens to destroy the Wetlands… and the lives of some of its inhabitants.

Wetlands tries really hard to be a noir that never really pans out. It’s painfully slow and rather cliche in its character development. With such a heavy-hitting cast, it is difficult to walk them try so hard at something that doesn’t give them, or the audience, enough to care about. What information we do have about Babs, comes in what feels like misplaced and piecemeal black & white flashbacks. The nonchalance of the shadiness that’s occurring in this town makes it all the more underwhelming. 

While beautifully shot, with sweeping shots of the rundown boardwalk, that’s just about the only pretty thing about Wetlands. I was left with an overall feeling of, “Meh.” This cast deserved a whole hell of a lot more by way of character development. There is never any feeling of genuine urgency, and with one of the major plot points being an impending hurricane, it certainly seems like that should have been quite the priority.

WETLANDS – starring Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad, ABC’s “Ten Days in the Valley,” TV’s “Oz,” “Lost”),Heather Graham (The Hangover, TV’s “Californication”), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty, Fifty Shades of Grey, TV’s “A Gifted Man”) and Christopher McDonald(Requiem for a Dream, TV’s “The Good Wife,” “Boardwalk Empire”).

The film is written and directed by first-time filmmaker Emanuele Della Valle and will be released in theaters on September 15th.

 

 

NYFF54 Reviews: ‘NERUDA’ & ‘A QUIET PASSION’- two different films about two unforgettable poets.

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NERUDA

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  • Pablo Larraín
  • 2016
  • Chile/Argentina/France/Spain
  • 107 minutes
  • Opens December 16, 2016

Pablo Larraín’s exciting, surprising, and colorful new film is a “Nerudean” portrait of the great Chilean poet’s years of flight and exile, featuring Luis Gnecco, Gael García Bernal as a fictional detective, and a terrific cast.

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NERUDA is a beautifully detailed period drama about the legendary Communist party leader and Chilean poet Pablo Nedruda. It’s essentially a game of cat and mouse between Neruda’s refusal to turn himself into the government and the cop sent to hunt him down. Always one step ahead of the  game, the film utilizes literary tropes to reel the viewer in. Neruda’s own poem are weaved into the narrative giving it a romantic quality. The dialogue is witty and the delivery from each cast member is delightful. With its noir soundtrack and engaging jump cuts in the dialogue heavy scenes, your eyes and ears are nothing but  entertained throughout. Luis Gnecco portrays Neruda as the beloved, restless spirit he was. He is spectacular. Gael García Bernal, as Inspector Oscar Peluchonneau, is nothing short of hypnotic. He wrestles with falling into the shadow of his fathers greatness and letting out the poet inside himself. Neruda is a gorgeous portrait of man and the effect of his creations on the world.


A QUIET PASSION

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  • Terence Davies
  • 2016
  • U.K./Belgium
  • 125 minutes

The great British director Terence Davies turns his attention to 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson for this formally audacious triumph starring a revelatory Cynthia Nixon.

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Cynthia Nixon brings the reclusive American poet to  life in A QUIET PASSION. While the title, I believe, eludes to more than just her work, Terence Davies sheds light on the mystery that was one of the greatest poets we may ever know. As a fan of Dickinson myself, I was delighted to hear Cynthia voice her work  in chronological order. We first meet Emily as a young woman in a school she does not fit into. Adverse to the staunch religious societal norms, Emily makes her own path, even at the hands of her own happiness. Through her death, she battles a wanting for love and yet pushes away any acceptable suitors out of spite and stubbornness. The film tackles the inherent sexism of the times where duty and tradition trumped defiance such as Emily’s. She has very Lizzie Bennett quality about her. With stunning visual transitions and Wildean wit, A QUIET PASSION is mostly perfect. The one thing that may be difficult to overcome is the theatrical tone in dialogue delivery. It was no doubt  specific choice by Davies, one that might just be the film’s undoing in the long run.

Netflix News: Paul Rudd & Craig Roberts in new clip for ‘Fundamentals of Caring’ – June 24th

Yes, I’m a fan of Paul Rudd, but I’m also a fan of Craig Roberts. If you haven’t seen Submarine, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s a fresh spin on a the tired coming-of-age story. It also happens to be on Netflix right now.


Based on the novel by Jonathan Evison and written, directed and produced by Rob Burnett,The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson and Frederick Weller.

The film follows the story of Ben, a retired writer who becomes a caregiver after suffering a personal tragedy. After 6 weeks of training, Ben meets his first client, Trevor, a foul-mouthed 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. One paralyzed emotionally, one paralyzed physically, Ben and Trevor take an impromptu road trip to all the places Trevor has become obsessed with while watching the local news, including their holy grail: the World’s Deepest Pit. Along the way, they pick up a smart-mouthed runaway and a mother-to-be who help test the pair’s survival skills outside of their calculated existence as they come to understand the importance of hope and true friendship.

NEW TRAILER: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Has “B Movie” Written All Over It And Maybe That’s OK

Fifth Shades of Grey poster

I only have a basic familiarity Fifty Shades of Grey from all the hype after the book release, but I was curious to see what all the fuss is about so I decided to check out the trailer that debuted this morning. 

It’s not nearly as cheesy as I had expected, but I’m not going to seek it out.

Will people go to the theaters to see this? Hmm… I’m going to guess that this will do much better on demand, but that remains to be seen.

Written by a woman, directed by a woman and screenplay by a woman. That’s what I’m excited about.

Fifth Shades of Grey is the hotly anticipated film adaptation of the bestselling book that has become a global phenomenon. Since its release, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy has been translated in 52 languages worldwide and sold more than 90 million copies in e-book and print—making it one of the biggest and fastest-selling book series ever. Read More →