Liz’s Review: Get raunchy with ‘BALLS OUT’

Balls Out posterYou never know what you’re gonna see at Tribeca Film Festival. One out of left field film from last year was BALLS OUT. Wrong sports metaphor in this case since this particular movie revolves around an intramural college flag football league. Starring a rag tag team of hilarious and talented people like Jake Lacy, Kate McKinnon, Nikki Reed, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah and many, many more, Balls Out pulls no punches when it comes to the A-typical sports genre movie. Balls out cast stillCaleb (Jake Lacy) is a fifth year senior with law school on the brain and an overbearing and hilariously high-on-life girlfriend (Kate McKinnon). Suddenly finding himself faced with having his future mapped out for him, he begins to reminisce about his freshman year and his flag football team’s- The Panthers- epic win over a douchebag rival team the Titans. Haunted by the how the first game ended with the paralysis of his best friend, Caleb struggles to commit to what makes him truly happy. Balls Out is an unapologetic underdog story, that’s frankly funny as hell. Every single sports cliche you can think of is admittedly thrown in your face. Training montages, two stoner fans acting as the league’s “official announcers”, hidden personal agendas, each Panther member being just slightly too weird for reality, and a rival captain so damn ridiculous you love to hate him. All this is admitted in the actual dialogue. The film never takes itself seriously at any moment, which is what makes it so great. I was not expecting to like this film at all, and it ended up being my favorite comedy of the fest last year.Kate KcKinnon Balls Out stillSo let’s talk performances in Balls Out. Jake Lacy is, for lack of a better phrase, relatively straight laced, in comparison to the rest of the cast. Nikki Reed does an excellent job playing the girl who comes into Caleb’s life just when he needs it most. This was a nice departure for Reed coming off the Twilight series and a great follow up to her quirky performance in last year’s Murder of a Cat. She is cool and fun. Kate McKinnon steals every scene she is in. Since she joined SNL, I have been touting her as the new Amy Poehler. One wide-eyed look from this gal is comedy gold. Newly minted Panther head coach is played by Nick Kocher. Wher has this kis been all my life? He easily flips from just amusing to sidesplitting comedy with the ease of someone twice his age. How is he not in everything right now? Team him up with Chris Pratt, like yesterday. I want over saturation of Kocher immediately. Jay Pharoah and D.C. Pierson‘s narration as the sideline peanut gallery makes the game sequences what they are. Balls Out Beck StillNow, let’s get real  for a moment. Hands down, once again,the star of this film is Beck Bennett. I have been a fan ever since his national AT&T campaign. Believing he is vastly under utilized on SNL, I have been privileged to see his outstanding movie roles thus far. His last film, Beside Still Waters (a MUST see), was on the opposite end spectrum on his testosterone driven revenge obsession in Balls Out. Like McKinnon, each frame he appears in he completely owns. I don’t know how anyone kept a straight face having to be in a scene with him. It makes me wonder how much of his dialogue is improvised. I would imagine the DVD blooper reel with feature him heavily. Cheers to Beck for bring this film over the goal line.

BALLS OUT arrives theatrically and on VOD June 19th.

Genre: Comedy
TRT: 100 min
Camera: RED Epic
Language: English

Rated: R for crude and sexual material, language and some drug use

SYNOPSIS: With graduation, marriage, and an uncertain future on the horizon, fifth year college senior Caleb Fuller (Jake Lacy) decides to do the one thing he vowed to never do again: get the ol’ flag football team back together. Now with the help of his Panther teammates and unorthodox head coach Grant Rosenfalis (Nick Kocher), Caleb must defy all odds and logic if he ever hopes to achieve the intramural football glory he once had. Set in the highly popular world of college intramural sports, BALLS OUT is the epic sports movie for the guys who don’t deserve one.

Liz’s Review: ‘EVERY SECRET THING’ is a twisted tale of emotional manipulation.

EVERY SECRET THING_POSTERLaura Lippman‘s best-selling novel Every Secret Thing has been brought to life by Academy Award(r) Nominated Filmmaker Amy Berg. Two 11 year old girls are convicted of kidnapping and killing a biracial infant. Released after seven years in a jeuvenile detention center, Ronnie and Alice are back in their hometown attempting to adjust to normal life as newly minted adults. Two weeks after their release, another young biracial girl goes missing from a local furniture store. Can the lead detective from the first case survive this new one? Who can you trust? Every Secret Thing puts your suspicions to the test at every turn.

Every Secret Thing (15)Utilizing flashbacks and he said/she said interrogation tactics, Berg skillfully crafts a film filled with mystery. Having not read the book, I was pleasantly surprised that the film clearly stands on it’s own. Never once did I feel cheated or left in the dark for the wrong reasons. In fact I was scratching my head, trying to figure it out right along with the detectives. I was fully engrossed with the story and structure.  Bravo, I say.

Every Secret Thing (16)Dakota Fanning plays Ronnie with a beautiful mixture of shyness and a hardened edge. Ronnie is from “The wrong side of the tracks”. Quiet and smart, her heavily rimmed eyes speak volumes as a severely damaged young woman. Danielle Macdonald gives one hell of a performance as Alice. Her eerie lack of emotional growth is startling. She walks a fine line between naivete and incredulity. Someone go cast her in something else, please?

Every Secret Thing (6)Diane Lane plays Alice’s mother, Helen. This is a woman with issues in broad daylight. Her relationship with Ronnie and Alice is beyond peculiar and most definitely off putting. Alcoholic and self loathing, she has been silently molding the girls whether she realizes it or not. This performance should garner her attention for the sheer sliminess and moral justification that comes off the screen. Elizabeth Banks play Detective Nancy Porter. Haunted by the death of the first child 7 years earlier, she is determined to figure out the truth this time around. Banks is vulnerable but tough in all the right areas.

Every Secret Thing (14) It was so refreshing to see a cast that was female dominated and extraordinarily talented. This film blows the Bechdel test out of the water. Applause to Berg, screenwriter Nicole Holofcener, and executive producer Frances McDormand for bringing Every Secret Thing to the big screen. I will say, even after seeing the film twice, (once at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and again this week) I am still intrigued to go out and grab Lippman’s novel. At the heart of it all, this is a story about emotional abuse and it’s long term consequences. Every Little Secret will keep you guessing until the very last frame.

Synopsis: From a producer of FOXCATCHER and based on the novel by New York Times best-selling author Laura Lippman, EVERY SECRET THING is a gripping psychological thriller about the chilling consequences of the secrets we keep.

Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) is still haunted by her failure to save the life of a missing child from the hands of two young girls. Eight years later, another child goes missing in the same town just days after Ronnie and Alice (Dakota Fanning and newcomer Danielle Macdonald), the two girls convicted of the former crime, were released from juvenile detention. Porter and her partner (Nate Parker) must race against the clock to prevent history from repeating itself. But as they begin to investigate the girls and their families, especially Alice’s protective mother (Diane Lane), they unearth a web of secrets and deceptions that calls everything into question.

Directed by Academy Award(r) Nominated Filmmaker Amy Berg and Executive Produced by Frances McDormand.

Rated R

RT: 93 Minutes

Release: In theaters, On Demand and iTunes May 15, 2015
Additional VOD platforms: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, DirecTV, Dish, and more…

Girls On Film Podcast: Interview with the ‘I AM BIG BIRD’ filmmakers Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina.

I am big bird posterHands down one of the most touching documentaries to come out of theTribeca Film festival last year is I AM BIG BIRD. This is the heartwarming story of the man inside the big yellow icon, Caroll Spinney. I’ve already gushed about the film in my review, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to talk with directors Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina this afternoon. Here is our brand new episode of Girls On Film: I Am Big Bird

I AM BIG BIRD is now playing in theaters in selected cities with a national expansion coming in throughout the summer. Stay tuned to Reel News Daily for more information!


‘I AM BIG BIRD’ hugs your heart and soul. Liz talks childhood flashbacks and this touching documentary.

I am big bird posterWhen I was a very small child, my mother would set me up each morning on my little wooden and plastic potty with a tray of cheerios and Sesame Street. Every night, I listened to the likes of Bert and Ernie, Telly and Grover, but I as I think back to a voice that was so distinct, I always think of one in particular. A tall, endearing, yellow fellow named Big Bird. When I was a preschool teacher I played my students the songs of my past and I fully intend to share the same memories with my own children. Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina bring us the joyous new documentary about the man inside the bird, Caroll Spinney. I AM BIG BIRD is a fascinating look into how this beloved character came to fruition.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

From humble beginnings, a volatile relationship with his father, and a supportive mother, Caroll fell in love with puppetry early on. As a young boy this did not necessarily make school an easy environment, but he soldiered on in his passion. Caroll was discovered at a 1969 Puppet Festival by none other than Jim Henson and fate. The two had a very special  relationship, with Jim being a less of a boss and more of a friend and mentor to Caroll. Navigating through bouts of depression and low self worth, work was his saving grace as was his second wife Debra. Her love brought him back to life and has sustained the magic both on screen and behind the scenes ever since. The Big Bird we know now what not always this childlike. Initially, he was a very skinny yokel type. Thankfully, with more self confidence and encouragement from the entire Sesame Street family, Caroll gave us the magical creature we adore today.

Caroll Spinney and Debra Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney and Debra Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Walker and LaMattina had a gold mine of footage from Sesame Workshop but the jackpot came from Caroll and Deb’s years of home video footage. Mixed with Caroll’s own art work, intimate sit down interviews with his children, Sesame cast members, and even Jim’s daughter, we are privileged as an audience to see how moments of time came to be. From Follow The Bird to Big Bird in China and many other Muppet specials, we see the good and the bad. There are no kid gloves when it comes to talking about Caroll and company. One of innumerable interesting things we learn is that Caroll also plays Oscar the Grouch. You learn how this has become the perfect counter balance to our big yellow friend and Caroll alike. Their memories become your own and tear at your heartstrings. You feel so special as you see past the feather into Caroll’s soul.

Caroll Spinney and Jim Henson in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney and Jim Henson in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

We all have an innate love for Kermit and Big Bird. The Muppets and Sesame Street have molded millions of minds all over the globe since their inception. You will watch this film with tears in your eyes and laughter in your heart. There is no escaping the love that engulfs this movie. This is a timeless classic you will want to show your children down the line. I AM BIG BIRD is nothing short of extraordinary.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Stay tuned for an interview with directors Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina in the next few days!

Release Date

VOD: Available on iTunes & VOD: May 5, 2015
Theatrical: Select theatrical release beginning May 6, 2015
New York: IFC Center – opens May 6, 2015
May 15:
Boston: Brattle Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Chicago: Gene Siskel Film Center – opens May 15, 2015
Columbus: Gateway Film Center – opens May 15, 2015
Detroit: Cinema Detroit – opens May 15, 2015
Los Angeles area:
– Los Angeles: Royal – opens May 15, 2015
– Santa Ana, CA: South Coast Village – opens May 15, 2015
Minneapolis: St Anthony Main – opens May 15, 2015
New Orleans: Zeitgeist Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Philadelphia: PFS at Roxy Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Portland: Living Room Theaters – opens May 15, 2015
San Diego: Digital Cinema – opens May 15, 2015
Santa Fe: CCA – opens May 15, 2015
San Francisco area:
– Berkeley: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood – opens May 15, 2015
– San Francisco: Balboa Theater – opens May 15, 2015
– Sonoma: Sebastopol Rialto Cinemas – opens May 15, 2015
Scottsdale: Shea 14 – opens May 15, 2015
May 22:
Eugene, OR: Metro Cinemas – opens May 22, 2015
Gainesville, FL: The Wooly – opens May 22, 2015
Louisville: Village 7 – opens May 22, 2015
Miami area:
– Coral Gables: Cosford Cinema – May 22,2015
– Miami: O-Cinema – opens May 22,2015
Palm Springs: Camelot – opens May 22, 2015
Pittsburgh: Hollywood Theater – opens May 22, 2015
Sedona, AZ: Mary Fischer Theater – opens May 22, 2015
May 29:
Denver: Sie Film Center – opens May 29, 2015
June 10:
Boulder, CO: Boedicker Theater – opens June 10, 2015
June 12:
Seattle: SIFF Cinema – opens June 12, 2015
Bellingham, WA: Pickford – opens June 12, 2015
Pelham, NY: Picturehouse – opens June 12, 2015


Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker


Dave LaMattina


Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker


Caroll Spinney


87 minutes


For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, I Am Big Bird features extraordinary footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon. And as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.