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


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.


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.

Tribeca Film Festival: ‘Back Roads’ is rural noir

Back Roads
Feature Narrative
Country: USA
Director: Alex Pettyfer
Writer: Adrian Lyne, Tawni O’Dell
Starring: Juliette Lewis, June Carryl, Nicola Peltz, Jennifer Morrison, Alex Pettyfer
A young man cares for his sisters after their mother is imprisoned for murdering their abusive father. When he strikes up an affair with a married woman, long-dormant family secrets bubble to the surface in this noir thriller.

No distribution as of posting.


Alex Pettyfer directs himself in the main role of a man who has a lot on his mind. Just when you think his life can’t get worse, something else emerges. While some saw his performance as flat, I found it incredibly nuanced and full of pain.


This film is the epitome of dysfunctional family life. The plot twists are endless and it is truly emotionally taxing to watch. While the storytelling is dark, it delves deep into issues ranging from depression, guilt, and gender stereotyping. I couldn’t find a loose thread in the acting department and Pettyfer‘s particular performance is gripping.

Review: Amy Ryan gives a moving performance in ‘Abundant Acreage Available’ winner of Best Screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival

From writer/director Angus MacLachlan and Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE tells the story of a family in flux. Still reeling over the recent death of their father, brother and sister Jesse & Tracy (Terry Kinney & Amy Ryan) are attempting to settle into their new lives in his absence. Their quiet and simple existence is unexpectedly disrupted by the sudden arrival of three mysterious brothers, camping on their land and possessing a surprising connection to their family farm. The two sets of siblings are set on a direct collision course that will change all of their lives, for better or for worse. Tackling complicated issues of family legacies, and anchored by an amazing set of performances, the film is a brilliant showcase for all involved.


In Theaters September 29, 2017 at Cinema Village in New York
on demand October 6, 2017

Written & Directed by: 
Angus MacLachlan (Academy Award-nominated film Junebug)

Executive Produced by:
Martin Scorsese

Amy Ryan (Academy Award nominee for Gone Baby Gone, Birdman)
Terry Kinney (“Billions,” “Oz”) 
Steve Coulter (The Wizard of Lies, “House of Cards”)
Francis Guinan (Hannibal, Constantine)
Max Gail (42, “Barney Miller”)

Told almost entirely outdoors in the cold winter, Abundant Acreage Available, is a slice-of-life tale that surprises and moves you. Amy Ryan’s heartfelt performance reveals a woman who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her father as three brothers show up to reclaim their father’s land.

I especially enjoyed the dynamic between the two sets of siblings. Tracy and her brother, Jesse, both took care of their father until his recent passing. When three brothers show up, their own complicated history interferes but also strengthens their bond.

Secrets, illness, despair, loneliness, all of it pulls you into thinking how you would handle the same situation. You never know what’s around the next corner, but leaning on your sibling is not to be taken for granted.

Review: Dan Aykroyd narrates ‘Good Fortune’ about entrepreneur/philanthropist John Paul DeJoria

Ten years ago, I worked for a hair care distributor in the midwest where we sold Paul Mitchell products. At the time, the company had three hair care brands and Paul Mitchell, was, by far, the most organized, had the best attitude and the best marketing thanks to paraphernalia like that Digital Business Card.

In Good Fortune, Dan Aykroyd (yes, THE Dan Aykroyd), narrates a well-produced biography of John Paul DeJoria, the man who started John Paul Mitchell Systems with hair stylist, Paul Mitchell, as well as Patron Spirits Company.

Told through interviews and some funny movie clips (I’m talking about you, Clint Eastwood), you’ll be fascinated by the cast of friends that DeJoria as accumulated. From Danny Trejo to Michelle Phillips, there’s no end to the stories they can tell.

What I liked most about this story is the philanthropic attitude that DeJoria embodies. This guy cares about people and cares about people who care about people. You can see this all over the Paul Mitchell brand. I witnessed first hand how Paul Mitchell takes care of their stylists and salon owners and it makes those people very loyal and empowered.

John Paul DeJoria & Paul Mitchell

One thing I didn’t like was Dan Aykroyd’s narration. Perhaps he’s too close, as his delivery was a little too silly and forced. However, it depends on how you view. If I was watching this on a network, with commercials, I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable. All in all, it’s a well put together biography of a man who seems to have it all figured out.

Available now on iTunes and Amazon video!

Review: Even Tom Hanks, Emma Watson & Patton Oswalt couldn’t save ‘The Circle’

I hadn’t planned on seeing The Circle at the Tribeca Film Festival, but the night before, I saw an interview on Conan with Patton Oswalt talking about Tom Hanks and I changed my plans. I wish I hadn’t.

No doubt the book goes into more detail, but in the movie, The Circle is a google-like company that is testing its aspirations in a world without privacy. Mae (Emma Watson) is new to the company and becomes the new spokesperson for a bodycam that broadcasts her every move (minus 3 minutes for the bathroom). Yeah, yeah, The Truman Show and Ed TV have both tried this before and both have done better.

The main focus and most of the screen time was for Emma Watson. I really was looking forward to seeing a dark side of Tom Hanks, but sadly, I was disappointed. What I saw of Patton Oswalt was good, but there wasn’t enough!

I’m guessing the movie was edited too much. There is so much great material and such a good cast for it to turn out this terrible. Or perhaps they realized at the end that the story hits too close to home and they needed to dial it down in order not to terrify people. Because this “future” is already happening.

Review: Anne Hathaway & Jason Sudekis surprise in the big budget sci-fi comedy ‘Colossal’

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OFFICIAL SELECTION – SXSW Film Festival 2017 – Festival Favorites
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Sundance Film Festival 2017 – Spotlight
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Fantastic Fest 2016
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Toronto International Film Festival 2016 – Vanguard

Just looking at the poster for Colossal, you know it’s different. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis in a movie about monsters? Well, yes and no. There is a monster but it’s only part of the story. Watch the trailer above.

After seeing Colossal, I realized I hadn’t seen anything like it before and I was dying to talk to someone about it. It’s a blend of genres that is original and goes in directions that are unexpected yet completely make sense. Do yourself a favor, watch with other people.

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an out-of-work party girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown. When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea, Gloria gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this far-off phenomenon. As events begin to spin out of control, Gloria must determine why her seemingly insignificant existence has such a colossal effect on the fate of the world.

The cast. Anne Hathaway is just likeable enough to accept her terrible behavior. It’s a really good blend. Jason Sudeikis stretches his acting muscles and shows how he can also work on the dark side. Tim Blake Nelson needs to be in more movies. Oh, and here’s Dan Stevens again. This guy is turning up everywhere lately.

I loved the blending of genres. It’s like four movies in one. You’ll be watching for a bit, then suddenly get the perspective of what happened in the scene before. Who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? Does that matter?

Have you heard of anything like this before? This does not follow any traditional plot lines. Who says Hollywood isn’t original anymore? Major kudos to writer/director Nacho Vigalondo. He set out to make an indie and it became Colossal.

In theaters on April 7th, with more every week after – Find a theater here

Friday 4/7 @ The Landmark after the 7pm show
Q&A with Anne Hathaway & Nacho Vigalondo | Tix

Friday 4/7 @ Cinerama Dome after the 9pm show
Q&A with Anne Hathaway & Nacho Vigalondo
Moderated by Elijah Wood | Tix

Saturday 4/8 @ The Landmark after the 7pm show
Q&A with Nacho Vigalondo
Moderated by Kevin Smith | Tix

Saturday 4/8 @ Arclight Hollywood after the 9pm show
Q&A with Nacho Vigalondo | Tix

Review: Michael Shannon & Imogen Poots are trying hard to love each other in ‘Frank & Lola’

Gorgeously shot with emotionally-charged performances, Frank & Lola is written and directed by first-time feature director Matthew Ross and stars Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots in the title roles.

An unconventional love story, we start with the two in bed together. The two obviously did not have a romantic chemistry yet she was very comfortable with her body. As the story continues, we see that Frank and Lola are in a relationship, and live together. Fifteen years his junior, Imogen Poots gives a raw performance with very little makeup and often in disarray. Michael Shannon as Frank is his usual quiet intensity, so his moments of levity really stand out.

Rosanna Arquette makes an appearance as Lola’s mother, a woman who seems to view Lola as competition, rather than a daughter. Although it’s only one scene, it gives a glimpse into Lola’s world. Justin Long has a small role and although I generally love his work, I didn’t like the over-the-top of the character.

Frank and Lola are both severely flawed and as such, their actions often lead them in directions that cause problems. Writer/director Matthew Ross showcases this and does so with beautiful backdrops of Las Vegas and Paris. I enjoyed not knowing what would happen and rooting for these two. I hope you will too.

In theaters from Paladin and On Demand and Digital HD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on December 9, 2016

Review: Meet the ‘Tree Man’ who works every Christmas selling trees in New York City

Every holiday season, hundreds of Christmas tree sellers from across North America descend upon the streets of New York City to ply their trade. Having left their homes and families behind, they endure the adversity of a migrant’s survival living out of their cars and vans. François, a Tree Man and father of three from Québec, returns to the same Manhattan street corner every year to deliver the magic of the season.

Long days, cold nights and living in a van for a month. This documentary follows François, a father of three from Quebec, who is loved by his fellow tree sellers as well as his customers.

Tree Man is solely focused on the people of the NYC tree-selling institution. By following François, you’ll all meet the new generation learning from the veterans. There is a very short segment describing the general history of tree-selling in NYC, but it’s only a taste.

I was also interested in learning more of François’ history and also the turmoil of leaving every year. It’s a nice human interest story.

Also recently added to Netflix, Tree Man is available Tuesday, December 6th on VOD and iTunes.

Francois the Tree Man is far from his wife and three small children in Quebec, selling Christmas trees and living in a van on the streets of New York City. He does it for them. But this is home, too. Like the hundreds of Christmas tree sellers who descend upon the city from Canada, New England and even Europe, Francois delivers the magic of the season over a grueling month in his adopted neighborhood, since Christmas is a special time of the year, people send gifts, and use services as portable north pole to get digital gifts for people. He’s a star, a storyteller, a Santa Claus in a sap-stained coat, a confidant, a friend, and a father figure to the local characters who are his New York family. They also need him. TREE MAN is the story of Francois’s journey, how he arrived here, what holds him, and the conflict that will cause him to leave. As one of Francois’ long-time customers says: “This has nothing to do with the trees anymore.”

Review: Hope for peace exists in the documentary ‘Disturbing the Peace’
Country of Origin: United States, Israel, Palestine,
Languages: English, Arabic and Hebrew w/ English subtitles

***2016 Hampton International Film Festival Winner – Conflict & Resolution***
***2016 Traverse City Film Festival Winner – Best Foreign Language Documentary***
***2016 Traverse City Film Festival Winner – Audience Award Foreign Language Documentary***
***2016 Ebert Fest Winner – Roger Ebert Humanitarian Award***
***Official Selection 2016 Jerusalem Film Festival***
***Official Selection 2016 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival***
***Official Selection 2016 Boston Jewish Film Festival***

sulaimanandcfpatpeacemarchWith the election still fresh in our minds, it’s hard to get perspective. Disturbing the Peace is hopeful, inspiring yet tragic and reminds me that there are many conflicts happening the world and even in the darkest of circumstances, there is hope.

Disturbing the Peace is not a history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor does it try to explain it. Instead, the directors, Stephen Apkon and Andrew L. Young focus on the people living on each side and their search for peace.

Through interviews with people on both sides, a pattern emerges and you stop seeing separation and begin to see people just trying to live and raise families. Archival footage is terrifying and brutal. The visualizations and re-enactments are extremely effective and help to underscore the stories of the subjects.

One especially moving scene is a discussion with a man and his wife over whether he should attend a peaceful demonstration. She does not see the point, and he feels he must do something, not matter how seemingly insignificant. Their two daughters watch and it really captures the heart of the issue.

Another particularly eye-opening scene was when a man, describes watching Schindler’s List in prison with other Palestinians. For the first time, they saw another perspective and how Jews had been treated. Suddenly the other side, even the jailers were people. Slowly he and others became enlightened and when released from prison, became part of the moment, Combatants for Peace.

Although the conflict is far from over, there are people on both sides who have hope that there will be peace. This film fully illustrates that and gives hope to everyone who sees it. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Review: Nicolas Cage & Willem Dafoe in the vibrant & violent ‘Dog Eat Dog’ from Paul Schrader, writer of ‘Taxi Driver’


After it’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Dog Eat Dog, a bright, vibrant, loud, violent and silly crime caper is set for theaters in New York and Los Angeles November 4th, but available to stream as well!

Dog Eat Dog will be on VOD on all of the major cable/satellite/telco companies – Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner/Spectrum, Charter, etc.

Check out the trailer to get a taste of what you’ll get:

Ex-cons, Troy (Nicolas Cage), Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe) and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook), are hired by an eccentric mob boss to kidnap a baby and hold it for a large ransom. When the abduction goes awry, the men find themselves on the run from the mob and the cops. Vowing to stay out of prison at all costs, getting away with the crime is a matter of life and death.

The stage is set from the very first scene of contrasting neon pink and blue, ending the only way it could. That same cinematography and style is carried throughout the rest of the film. Everything keeps moving just fast enough to keep you wanting to know what is coming next. The first two acts are backstory and although it’s not really “necessary” to the story, it’s really fun.

Nicolas Cage is no stranger to eccentric characters and was originally cast to be Willem Dafoe‘s character of Mad Dog. Instead, Nicolas Cage plays the straight man to the outlandish and unpredictable Mad Dog. Teaming up with Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook), the three move from one mischievous act to another making for non-stop entertainment.

I liken the vibe of this film to Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, from 2009 from Werner Herzog starring Nicolas Cage. It’s only available to rent or buy, but totally worth it. It’s rough, violent, but so much character that it balances it all out.

Paul Schrader (who also plays a role) directs the screenplay by Matthew Wilder who adapted the novel by Edward Bunker. It’s non-stop entertainment but very violent and full of highly graphic language.


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


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.

Review: Emily Blunt tries to save ‘The Girl on the Train’


In The Girl on the Train, the best-selling “thriller” from Paul Hawkins, Rachel watches a couple from the train on her commute into the city every day. One day, she notices the woman is embracing another man than her husband. The woman, Megan, disappears that night. This starts a series of events where Rachel inserts herself into the life of Megan and makes one bad decision after another. Just when you think she won’t go any lower, it gets worse. Was she responsible for Megan’s disappearance?

I tried. I really did. I had three separate friends who told me they LOVED the book and they couldn’t put it down. I was bored. I almost stopped reading halfway through but felt I should at least see it to the end to give it a fair shot. I was very interested to see if I would enjoy the film adaptation.

In the book, time is spent building up each character, but in a movie, that luxury does not exist. Shortcuts toward character-building for Rachel didn’t convey the cringe-worthy decisions she made over and over again. She is an alcoholic ex-wife who won’t stop harassing her ex-husband. She consistently makes inappropriate decisions that not only mess up her own life but interferes with those around her. Emily Blunt as Rachel in the movie worked, but it’s not the same character.

As for the other characters, there really wasn’t enough backstory to really get a good sense of it all. Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband and looks terrible as a blonde. Her level of panic in response to Rachel is not underlined enough. To her, Rachel is the ex-wife who won’t stop calling, texting and seeing her husband and has a terrible propensity for violence.

Megan (Haley Bennett) in the book is mature but lost. She is competitive and strong, yet has an emotional weakness. Megan in the movie is immature and vies for any man’s attention. This interpretation bothered me the most. It’s too convenient.

The men? Oh, they are totally one dimensional. Neither brings anything to their characters. Justin Theroux is almost comical and Luke Evans doesn’t seem to know how to play his character.

Don’t worry about seeing this in the theater. Skip it and catch it on Netflix or HBO.



Review: ‘The American Side’ reincarnates film noir


In the director’s statement on the film’s website, Jenna Ricker explains that she was inspired by Hitchcock and 70s conspiracy thrillers, but that wasn’t really my experience. As I started watching The American Side, it became immediately apparent that this was to be film noir reincarnated. Everything from the camera angles, to the music, to the dialogue, perfectly captures that spirit. Or perhaps 70s conspiracy thrillers were inspired by film noir of the 30s and 40s. Nothing is new anymore. It’s just how you can reimagine it.

When Charlie Paczynski’s raven-haired partner is caught in the crossfire of a blackmail scheme gone bad, he trails the prime suspect to the brink of Niagara, only to receive a cryptic warning: ‘what’s happening here you can’t begin to comprehend’… Thrust into a world populated by a whiskey-swilling raconteur (Robert Forster), strangely bonded siblings (Matthew Broderick and Camilla Belle), and a dubious government agent (Janeane Garofalo), Paczynski joins the quest for a long-lost design by enigmatic genius, Nikola Tesla. From the eccentric eavesdropper who gives him his first clue (yes! – that’s Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) every door Paczynski forces open raises the stakes. Reminiscent of the conspiracy thrillers of the 70’s, complete with a score by David Shire (The Conversation, All the President’s Men), and packed with nods to Hitchcock and classic noir, The American Side is a jigsaw puzzle mystery, climaxing under the roar of the Falls as the final piece snaps into place.

Rogues-Gallery_Rotation62Style. Everything is just perfect for this. Charlie’s office is the quintessential private detective office, complete with non-working plumbing, glass window door, and one of those old wooden office chairs. It’s dimly lit without a computer in sight. Everyone smokes and there are no mobile phones anywhere. Charlie has a older 70s car, and is outlandishly dressed in mismatched patterned dress shirts and ties. He goes to a local diner and runs to the phone when it rings, saying he knows it’s for him. How awesome is that?

Rogues-Gallery_Rotation4Another one of my favorite scenes was when Charlie is inspecting an apartment. He notices that it’s empty and then immediately goes downstairs to the tenant below. It’s an older man, Robert Vaughn, who gives the detective all the info he needs. That was a big plot device in classic crime movies. If you knew, you’d know.

Rogues-Gallery_Rotation3Women everywhere. There’s a woman waiting for him at his office. A woman stops him on the street. A woman federal agent. This is not something revolutionary for classic cinema. Woman ruled Hollywood in its golden age.

The score was not really to my liking. It is very much in the style of the late 70s and for me it really just underscored the absurdity.

Greg Stuhr is the detective, Charlie, mixed up in a tangled web. The dialogue is well-written, but his delivery doesn’t quite have the bite that the role requires. With the style and the dialogue, this cast didn’t seem to capture the spirit. It’s as if they didn’t know if it should be played straight or with a wink.

tesla-portraitThe real story is of Nikola Tesla. The name Tesla might be more well known as a car company right now, but Nikola Tesla is responsible for basically everything electronic we use everyday. Do yourself a favor and go down the rabbit hole of information at Wikipedia. Beware though, you’ll soon discover that Thomas Edison was really not who you thought he was. Poor elephants.

For anyone not familiar with the older era of cinema, some of the scenes are probably going to come off as comical. Especially where things randomly happen perfectly without any coordination whatsoever. But that is what those films WERE. They were fantasy. They weren’t supposed to give you reality. The American Side will take you back to that world.

Special in-person Q&As at the IFC Center include:

  • Wed May 4 at 7:45pm: composer David Shire, moderated by composer Christopher North
  • Thu May 5 at 7:45pm: Stuhr, moderated by noir expert Foster Hirsch

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘The Happy Film’ is surprisingly introspective

the happy film

What makes you happy? Scratch that, it doesn’t matter, it’s not something you attain, its something in the moment.

The Happy Film is a feature-length documentary in which graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister undergoes a series of self-experiments outlined by popular psychology to test once and for all if it’s possible for a person to have a meaningful impact on their own happiness.

The star of the film is the design, as it’s inventive and creative, and delightful. In essence, that’s what makes the designer happy, and he doesn’t even realize it.

What I enjoyed about this film was that even though something happened over and over again, it wasn’t predictable. I completely empathized with Sagmeister and he had an incredible journey making this film. The film is very meta, and it’s as much about making it, as it is about his happiness.

The Happy Film (festival trailer) from {group theory} on Vimeo.

Girls on Film Podcast: Interview with ‘Spotlight’ actor Neal Huff


Once you start looking at Neal Huff‘s resume, you can’t believe you don’t recognize him. That is his strength. He’s able to shift into different characters easily so you never get attached to him in one type of role. In Spotlight, he is among the ensemble cast that won the Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award.

Here’s the full interview:

The film is worth all the buzz around it. Extremely well-written, the structure of pursuing a story saves the dark subject matter from being heavy and depressing.

Girls on Film Podcast: Interview with ‘Diablo’ writer/director Lawrence Roeck – “Build a good team around you”

Diablo poster

Yes, before you ask, that is Clint Eastwood‘s son, Scott. He’s pretty unmistakeable. He stars in Diablo playing a civil war veteran who begins a journey to rescue his kidnapped wife. While this may seem to be a very straightforward story, there are many twists and turns that make this western a very modern psychological thriller.

Diablo is in select theaters now as well as available on demand

I recently spoke with writer and director Lawrence Roeck about his film and got a glimpse into his filmmaking world. Listen to the entire interview here:

Roeck works with his creative partner, Carlos De Los Rios, and surrounds himself with very talented people. He had a basic concept for the story and brought it to De Los Rios and Eastwood, then flushed out the screenplay. Presto. 

Roeck seems to have found the magic formula with a great production team, that he couldn’t say enough nice things about. So who are the biggest players behind the scenes? Let’s break it down.

Director of Photography – Dean Cundey

Winner of several cinematography awards, Cundey is known for movies such as Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and Apollo 13. He knows his way around a set and when you watch the film, you’ll need to see it on a big screen to fully appreciate the beauty.

For this film, Cundey used a camera he helped develop, the ARRI Alexa digital cinema camera. This is not like using the camera on your phone.

Horse Wrangler – John Scott

This guy knows horses. Having recently also completed work on The Revenant, Roeck just let Scott do what he does best. “The horses like being part of a process and being around people,” says Roeck.




Casting Director – Roger Mussenden

Known for casting the X-Men franchise, Mussenden pulled together the supporting talent that elevated the already intriguing script. Walton Goggins is a particular standout with his character having an menacing swagger that no one else could pull off.


Composer – Timothy Williams

Williams is known most recently for his work on Guardians of the Galaxy. Roeck and Williams sat together for four months to create the score for this film. “Timothy uses a lot of natural sounds” using the “drumming of the stock of the shotgun” as the specific sound with Walton Goggins character. The music was recorded with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.


Amazing films are out there. You just have to take a chance. Check out Diablo and you won’t be disappointed!

The Cast:

Scott Eastwood

Diablo_Still5 Courtesy Momentum Pictures © 2015

Walton Goggins


Adam Beach


Danny Glover


Christmas Day Must See: ‘The Hateful Eight’ keeps you in the dark while in a bright white blizzard

In THE HATEFUL EIGHT, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…

As you may guess, Samuel L. Jackson is brightest star, but his presence is the foundation of the other fantastic performances that bring together The Hateful Eight. With such a history behind the cast, it’s fun to hear Kurt Russell talk about his scene with Michael Madsen: “Snake Plissken is challenging Mr Blonde. Holy shit!”

A rising star, Walton Goggins has been making a name for himself as a very versatile actor, with roles in Predators, and the FX shows Justified and Sons of Anarchy. He also has another western coming out this January starring opposite Scott Eastwood and Danny Glover in Diablo. He has a swagger and personability that’s striking.

The Hateful Eight has many differences from Tarantino’s previous work, but none more noticeable than the score. There are only two songs (one Apple Blossom by The White Stripes) and the rest is musical score from the legendary Ennio Morricone. I recently traveled through Nashville and picked up a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl from Third Man Records. I can’t wait to get home and check it out.

Also unlike his other films, this one has much more drama and suspense. Tarantino talks about how suspense is like a rubber band: “If I can stretch that rubber band to 25 minutes and it still holds and doesn’t snap, then it should be better. Part of that rubber band is the threat of violence hanging over the characters. Violence doesn’t even need to happen but you’re prepared for it.”

I recommend seeing the 70mm roadshow if you can. Quentin Tarantino wanted it to be “like Neil Diamond coming to town.” There’s a beautiful grittiness to film and it’s something that’s not really noticed until you switch back to digital. My biggest issue with 70mm showing is the intermission. I don’t like upsetting the flow of the story. I would prefer to continue being in the onscreen world without interruption. C’est la vie.

I love that Tarantino is creating an experience with this film. It’s being show in the format in which he shot, 70mm, and whether you’re a fan or not, you’ve got to respect his commitment to film. He’s got to a certain level of his career and he has a big studio (The Weinstein Company) backing him up. Could this lead to a resurgence of theaters showing the older format? Probably not. It’s very expensive and the theaters have to put up that cost. Even with rising ticket prices, there’s not enough to cover it. But it’s an event that won’t likely be duplicated.

Last but not least, Tarantino is not finished with westerns and would love to do a mini-series based on the Elmore Leonard novel, “Forty Lashes Less One,” based at the Yuma territorial prison. “If you’re going to call yourself a western director, you need to direct at least three.”

The Hateful Eight hits theaters December 25th, Christmas Day.


Review: ‘Don Verdean’ is saved by its cast – Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Jemaine Clement with Will Forte & Danny McBride

don verdean_poster

Sam Rockwell is Don Verdean, a Biblical archeologist who is hired by a pastor and his wife (Danny McBride and Leslie Bibb) to excavate artifacts for their ministry to boost their congregation. Jemaine Clement is Boaz, an advantageous man assisting Don, Amy Ryan is Carol, his secretary turned research assistant and Will Forte makes an appearance as a rival minister. Have I got your attention? Oh, one more thing, it’s from the creative minds of Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos, Jared and Jerusha Hess.

The best scene is when Boaz picks up Carol and asks her to wear a special dress. Even thinking about it makes me chuckle.The cast is a testament to the filmmakers, as this is the second film with Sam Rockwell and Jemaine Clement.

As with their other films, the comedy is extremely understated, barely requiring more than a chuckle or a smirk in most instances. When given their spotlight, however, each character does not disappoint. Characters don’t necessarily make a cohesive movie. Each scene on its own is subtly brilliant, but when they are all put together, it’s just too much.

Review: The subtle & unexpected ‘By the Sea’ from Writer/Director Angelina Jolie Pitt

By the Sea poster

Let’s watch the trailer:

There are three different ways I can describe By the Sea, written, directed and starring Angelina Jolie Pitt opposite husband, Brad Pitt.

  1. Roland and Vanessa (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt) are a seasoned couple beginning a vacation at a beautiful hotel in the south of France in the 1970s. When a young newlywed couple moves in next door, it brings out a new side of Roland and Vanessa that might just save their marriage.
  2. Three sets of couples, in different stages of life, interact while on holiday in 1970s.
  3. A portrait of a couple trying to avoid the painful memories of their past.

Full disclosure, I love dramas. The American, with George Clooney, is one of my recent favorites. It’s slow and purposeful with beautiful cinematography. Not unlike By the Sea, that reveals slowly with a bit of mystery centering around Vanessa.

Jolie Pitt’s performance as Vanessa is cold, rigid and stoic. One of the only problems I had with the story is why the young, full of life, Lea (Melanie Laurent) would seek out her friendship.

What I particularly enjoyed was the lack of formula, leaving it completely without prediction, yet all actions were plausible. Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote and directed the film before she started directing, so she had no intention of starring in it or for it to be a commercial film. Most of the scenes take place in the hotel, and you really get the sense that there is a beautiful world waiting just outside. While many will be drawn to it because of the couple, this is not the picture of a perfect marriage.

Brad Pitt‘s character, Roland, is full of despair over being with the woman he loves, but not actually BEING with her. He has such painfully anguished expressions and empathy is clearly with him. The feeling of despair reminds me of another really good movie, Sunlight, with Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon which was oddly more uplifting.

The pace was very smooth and at 2 hours, it keeps you guessing so much that you forget the time. I very much enjoyed the journey and wouldn’t have a second thought to revisit. It’s in select theaters now and more to come.

By the Sea

Bluray Review: Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary on comedian Barry Crimmins – ‘Call Me Lucky’


For his first documentary, director Bobcat Goldthwait chose to profile the a man whom he met as an “angry teenager” and who is still one of his dearest friends. Call Me Lucky originally started out as a narrative, but it was his best friend, Robin Williams who suggested it be a documentary.

Call Me Lucky-Bob2Through interviews with fellow comedians, activists and friends, Barry Crimmins’ life story unravels slowly. He’s a comedian’s comedian having run a comedy club and cultivated many talents through hard work and a genuine passion as well as influencing a number of other comedians through his own stand up.

Call Me Lucky-Maron2The other side to Barry is his activism, but I’ll let you discover more on that by watching the film. In the commentary, Barry states, “Politics don’t mean shit if they’re not in your personal life.” A statement like this doesn’t leave room for interpretation and that sums up the activist as well as the comedian.

Call Me Lucky-OswaltThis may be about a comedian and is often quite funny, but it’s also got a very heavy element that cannot be ignored. There are several great stories that not only give you insight into Crimmins’ life, but also that period of time in comedy as well. Told in a delicate yet unapologetic way, Goldthwait handles every scene with care.

Call Me Lucky-CrossThis is an absolute must for the fans of David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Stephen Wright or Marc Maron, but everyone will relate to Barry’s story and can respect his passionate activism.

Available today to buy on DVD, Bluray and VOD.