Review: ‘Leaving Neverland’ exposes the man in the mirror. The two part doc airs this Sunday and Monday.

PRESENTS

LEAVING NEVERLAND

Debuts on HBO March 3rd and 4th

This two-part documentary explores the separate but parallel experiences of two young boys, James Safechuck, at age ten, and Wade Robson, at age seven, both of whom were befriended by Michael Jackson. Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck, now 37, and Robson, now 41, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, the film crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, exploring the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after both had a young son of their own.

I’ve started this review many times in the past seven days. It’s been difficult to put into words how Leaving Neverland has made me feel. For my sixth birthday, I can only recall receiving one particular gift. It was Micheal Jackson’s Thriller on cassette. This was my very first album that was all mine, outside of Sesame Street or Disney songs. I had already been dancing for three years and MJ would influence my musical and performance taste going forward. In 2009, my husband and I were in the car and the radio came on with the breaking news on Michael’s death. We were stunned, devastated, conflicted. We’d lived through the accusations at the same time his accusers and fellow defenders had. Macaulay Culkin was my childhood crush and one of Jackson’s close friends. Culkin has categorically denied anything inappropriate ever happened. He and Wade Robson‘s testimony had a huge effect when Jackson went to trial. I was relieved when Michael was acquitted of all charges in the early 2000s. I wanted to believe that his hands were clean. Now, I think my idolization of this once in a lifetime artist is destroyed.

The personal risks for Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck coming forward now are immense. Hardcore fans are up in arms. Threatening to protest in droves at the film’s premiere at Sundance. But in the doc, we see and hear more evidence than ever before. Family photos, home video, faxes, and to top it off, voicemails, all from Michael. There is new video from inside Neverland. The sheer number of bedrooms hidden onsight should have been alarm enough. The pattern is laid out for us to see. The grooming is there. The gifts, the promises, and all the personal attention. But obviously most upsetting is the sexual abuse itself. Each act described in illicit detail. I want so badly for these stories to be lies. I do not think they are. In a time when victims’ voices are more important than ever, we have to respect Robson and Safechuck for finally feeling healthy enough, physically and emotionally, to share their stories. They are not being paid for the film. They have confronted the abuse that they were groomed to believe was love. Now, as father’s of little boys themselves, they have to come to terms with not only their hurt but the onus of their mothers who failed to protect them. There are no winners here. No amount of money can bring back the childhoods that were stolen. What emotion comes after denial? I think it’s anger. Now, after Leaving Neverland, I’m just really angry.

RT: Part 1: approx. 2 hours
Part 2 approx. 2 hours

Directed and Produced by Dan Reed
Edited by Jules Cornell
Featuring Wade Robson and James Safechuck

Netflix News: Sundance selection ‘Abstract: The Art of Design’ Original Series debuting February 10th

Abstract: The Art of Design, a Netflix original docu-series, takes you beyond blueprints and computers into the art and science of design, showcasing great designers from every discipline whose work shapes our world. Go inside the minds of the world’s greatest designers.

Episodes focus on a diverse slate of designers including Bjarke Ingels (Architect), Christoph Niemann (Illustrator), Es Devlin (Stage Designer), Ilse Crawford (Interior Designer), Paula Scher (Graphic Designer), Platon (Photographer), Ralph Gilles (Automobile Designer) and Tinker Hatfield (Nike Shoe Designer).

Executive produced by Morgan Neville, Scott Dadich (Editor in Chief of WIRED), and for RadicalMedia Dave O’Connor, Jon Kamen, and Justin Wilkes.

Abstract: The Art of Design premieres globally on Netflix on February 10 and will make its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 21.

Review: Nat Turner ignites a revolution in ‘The Birth of a Nation’

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Revolutions don’t happen overnight. There are many stories about the Civil War, but The Birth of a Nation tells of Nat Turner, a slave who rose up against oppression years before the fighting began.

In this retelling of Nat Turner’s life, Nate Parker delivers a performance that’s full of heart. From moments of joy to tears of heartache, we see every range of emotion that grabs hold of you and keeps you close. The rest of the cast is equally excellent, particularly Armie Hammer as Nat’s owner, Samuel Turner. He balances humanity and evil, sometimes in the same scene, and it’s truly chilling.

The rest of the cast are all people you have seen in many other roles. They each commit and bring a level of heart that’s unmatched. There are also several scenes that are so graphic, I almost looked away and it must have been very difficult for everyone involved.

[SPOILER] My biggest issue with the film was Nat’s sudden discovery of the teachings of the bible and their hypocrisy. This is a man who has studied the bible for years and years, and all of a sudden he realizes this? And why doesn’t it cause him to revolt against it?  [END SPOILER]

I remember learning about The Birth of a Nation (1919) in a college film class. There’s no denying that it broke new ground, but the subject matter and story were undeniably racist and bigoted. Make sure you watch 13th, on Netflix now, as it gives some insight.

The controversy surrounding Nate Parker, the director, co-writer, producer, and star, has been overshadowing his film, but years in the future, it’s the film itself that will stand. Although it’s disjointed, the core story is very important and one that deserves to be told.

New Trailer for ‘Tickled’ – about competitive endurance tickling – looks surprisingly dark & mysterious

TICKLED

One of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, TICKLED begins with reporter David Farrier stumbling upon a bizarre “competitive endurance tickling” video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, and reaching out to request a story from the company. But the reply he receives is shocking—the sender mocks Farrier’s sexual orientation and threatens extreme legal action should he dig any deeper. So, like any good journalist confronted by a bully, he does just the opposite: he travels to the hidden tickling facilities in Los Angeles and uncovers a vast empire, known for harassing and harming the lives of those who protest their involvement in these films. The more he investigates, the stranger it gets, discovering secret identities and criminal activity.

Discovering the truth becomes Farrier’s obsession, despite increasingly sinister threats and warnings. With humor and determination, Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve summon up every resource available to get to the bottom of this tickling wormhole.

Rated R

“You’re going to love it. What begins as a profile of a quirky subculture becomes an online mystery-horror thriller, in which the bogeyman is everywhere.”

– Logan Hill, Esquire

“CAPTIVATING AND JAW-DROPPING. A fascinating, stranger-than-fiction exposé.”

– Sheri Linden. The Hollywood Reporter

“A surprisingly tense and increasingly weird detective story. Compelling, alternately painful and funny and deeply sad.”

– Lee Marshall, Screen Daily

“A must-see documentary. Tickled is not at all what it seems. A secret world full of villains and victims, power and deceit, and shocks and surprises—you just can’t make this stuff up.”

– Kevin Polowy, Yahoo Movies

 

For more info:

Official Site | Facebook

Review: ‘JAMES WHITE’ makes escaping reality impossible.

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Josh Mond’s

JAMES WHITE

Starring Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, and Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi

James White poster

If you’ve ever watched someone die from cancer… if you’ve ever seen the downward spiral of a loved one… if you’ve ever been lost in a haze a grief and confusion, JAMES WHITE will speak to you. What does a young man, flailing in his own existence, do to cope with the idea that one of these days, his mother will not get better? Is escapism the answer? Josh Mond‘s directorial debut lets us into the skin and brain of one man’s story.

JAMES WHITE

JAMES WHITE- Christopher Abbot & Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi

As James’ mother’s health deteriorates, his ne’er do well lifestyle is forced to come to an end, but not before attempting to escape reality after the death of his estranged father. Triggering a getaway trip to Mexico with friends to avoid dealing with life, this drug, alcohol, and sex addled stay comes to an abrupt end when a call from Gail forces him to return to the couch of his childhood NYC home and take care of Mom 24 hrs a day. Struggling to put his bad boy behavior on the back burner, James walks the line between telling the world to fuck off and dropping his very existence to protect the woman he loves most in the world. As the plot progresses, we learn the this is not his first go round with mom’s illness. Do we forgive his behavior because of this? That’s for the individual to decide.

(L-R) CHRISTOPHER ABBOTT and CYNTHIA NIXON star in JAMES WHITE

(L-R) CHRISTOPHER ABBOTT and CYNTHIA NIXON star in JAMES WHITE

Mond’s script is partially based on his own experiences with his own mother. It is unapologetic and raw. You cannot take that away from Mond. No arguing that the film is ever dull or full of shit. It goes there fast and hard. Using cinematographer Mátyás Erdély was a genius move. Having recently seen Son of Saul at this year’s NYFF, his literal in your face, ultra close-up style of shooting, gives James White the immersive feeling the script calls for. I cannot imagine the film being in any other style. From the opening sequence, scored to perfection by co-star Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, with it’s organic feel and LOUD introduction, we immediately enter the world of a man who is grasping at straws to figure out who he is and what kind of person he wants/needs to be.

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Christopher Abbott gives an purely award-winning performance. His truth is on his sleeve 1000%. Somehow, through all the distasteful behavior he exhibits, you love him. Scott Mescudi is outstanding. As James’ best friend and long time player inside the family, his genuine interactions with Christopher and Cynthia feel so authentic, it’s almost hard to believe that this film isn’t a documentary at moments. Cynthia Nixon‘s portrayal of Gail is epic. With the film’s structure presented from month to month like chapters in a book, we are privy to the physical and mental changes her character endures. No matter the form of media, Nixon creates her own presence and we are lucky enough to witness it. The entire cast deserves all the accolades in the world, as does Mond for delivering a bold story.

JAMES WHITE will capture part of your soul. It allows you to let go and perhaps forgive yourself for past transgressions. Do yourself a favor and see this film.


 

Nominated for Three IFP Gotham Awards:

Christopher Abbott (Best Actor)

Josh Mond (Bingham Ray Breakthrough Actor Award) 

Audience Award

About JAMES WHITE

James White (Christopher Abbott) is a troubled twenty-something trying to stay afloat in a frenzied New York City. He retreats further into a self-destructive, hedonistic lifestyle, but as his mother (Cynthia Nixon) battles a serious illness James is forced to take control of his life. As the pressure on him mounts, James must find new reserves of strength or risk imploding completely.  The directorial debut of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE producer Josh Mond,  JAMES WHITE, which had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2014 where it was the winner of the “Best of Next” Audience Award, is a confident and closely observed debut that explores loss and the deep relationship between a mother and son.  Abbott’s strong central performance is aided by a stellar supporting cast featuring Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”), Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi (“Comedy Bang! Bang!”), and Ron Livingston (DRINKING BUDDIES). Shot on location in New York City with an intimate visual style, JAMES WHITE follows its lead into deep, affecting places while still maintaining its fragile humanity. 

The Film Arcade will release JAMES WHITE on November 13th 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Trailer: ‘THE WITCH’ looks insanely frightening.

 
Presents
 
THE WITCH
A film by Robert Eggers
 
***Winner – Directing Award, Dramatic – 2015 Sundance Film Festival***
 
THE WITCH will have its International Premiere at the
2015 Toronto International Film Festival as a Special

The witch teaser poster In this exquisitely-made and terrifying new horror film, the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling.

 Set in New England circa 1630, The Witch follows a farmer who get cast out of his colonial plantation and is forced to move his family to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest rumored to be controlled by witches. Almost immediately, strange and unsettling things begin to happen-the animals turn violent, the crops fail, and one of the children disappears, only to return seemingly possessed by an evil spirit.  As suspicion and paranoia mount, everyone begins to point the finger at teenage daughter Thomasin. They accuse her of witchcraft, which she adamantly denies…but as circumstances become more and more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty, and love will be tested in shocking and unforgettable ways.
Writer/director Robert Eggers‘ debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival (and won the Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition), painstakingly recreates a God-fearing New England decades before the 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions and pagan folklore famously clashed. Told through the eyes of the adolescent Thomasin – in a star-making turn by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy – and supported by mesmerizing camera work and a powerful musical score, THE WITCH is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre.
In Theaters 2016
 
Directed and Written by Robert Eggers
Starring Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie,
Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Rating: R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity
 

Review: “PEOPLE PLACES THINGS” will charm the pants off you.

People Places Things poster1PEOPLE PLACES THINGS tells the story of Will Henry (Jemaine Clement), a newly single graphic novelist father balancing single-parenting his young twin daughters, writers block, a classroom full students, all the while exploring and navigating the rich complexities of new love and letting go of the woman who left him.People Places Things 1

Clement‘s asurbic brand of wit and delivery is the driving force behind the entire film… a million thanks, of course, to writer/director Jim C. Strouse for the script and casting Jemaine. Genius move for this piece of writing. Clement has you laughing out loud from the very first scene. Charming and genuine, the character of Will struggles to balance fatherhood, personal romantic, and career satisfaction. His affection for two of our wee leading ladies, Aundrea and Gia Gadsby, radiates off the screen. These kids are real naturals and their chemistry with Clement is a pure delight. Stephanie Allynne as Charlie (Will’s ex) does a fantastic job as one giant, narcissistic mess of a woman. She makes this character easy to loathe. Regina Hall is Diane. A strong, intelligent mother whose walls are understandably pretty high up. Clement and Hall make a lovely comic pair. Their witty, rapid fire back and forth is super relatable. Jessica Williams, who I am most familiar from her hilarious corespondent spot on The Daily show, plays Kat (One of Will’s students and Diane’s daughter). Her performance is down to earth and refreshing. I look forward to seeing more of her on the big screen. People Places Things 2During the scenes where Will teaches his class, there is a wonderfully cathartic flow, not only through the use of dialogue but Will’s graphic novel panels. The visuals speak volumes where words become useless. The music is a fun addition and lends to the perfect pace. Jim C Strouse has given us one hell of a gem. People Places Things is a pure joy from start to finish. With a superb cast and a clearly skilled writing and directing style, I strongly recommend you seek out this film.

PEOPLE PLACES THINGS opens in theaters Friday, August 14th

*Watch here for FREE* Rose McGowan’s short film ‘Dawn’ – Liz’s Review

From the opening shot of Dawn, you know something is not quite right. In an eerie flash-forward, the scene is set for the directorial debut of Rose McGowan (Jawbreakers, Planet Terror, Charmed). The story focuses on Tara Barr (God Bless America) who plays the title character. She is a shy and quiet teenager in mid last century America, donning saddle shoes and all. Clearly sheltered by strict parents, she is a rule following good girl. One smile to the local boy who works at the fill up station and she is smitten. Her innocence isn’t long lived when she invites the boy and his two friends over to listen to records while mom and dad are out of town. All she wants is some attention but, as everyone knows, peer pressure can be the end of who you truly are.

Watch below!!

This 17 minute short is so incredibly lush in it’s color pallet and the soundtrack truly captures the era. Tara is lovely on screen. Regardless of the year, this character is someone we either knew or were at some point in our adolescence. You see every honest beat in Barr’s eyes. You want everything to turn out alright for her in the end. The film left me literally breathless, heart racing and disturbed. I am so impressed with McGowan’s dark choices. The woman clearly has a strong point of view and I cannot wait to see what’s next.

Directed by: Rose McGowan
Written by: M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Cast: Tara Barr, Reiley McClendon, Hannah Marks, Michael Moskewicz, Julia Sanford, John Grady
TRT: 17 minutes
Country: USA
Langauge: English
Genre: Thriller

h/t Cinemit 

Sundance Hit ‘The Hunting Ground’ Release Date Moved Up

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Although I thought The Invisible War was a worthy story to tell, I felt that documentary had too much emotion in it’s presentation. I look forward to seeing The Hunting Ground to see how they deal with a topic that hits closer to home. Read More →