Written and Directed by: Howard Goldberg

Starring:  Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Gia Mantegna, and Jane Seymour

If you could have a chat with your younger self, what would that younger version say?  Would he/she be disappointed or proud?  What words of wisdom would you give yourself now?  That’s exactly what happens in the new comedy “Jake Squared.”   Jake Klein is a 50 year old filmmaker who decides to throw a party while making a film about himself when he was young.  He hires a drop dead gorgeous and chiseled young man to play this role and two begin to film the movie at Jake’s home.  (Now, don’t hold that against Jake.  Who would YOU hire to play your younger version? I’d pick Kiera Knightley)  As the filming begins, confusion ensues, but in a completely entertaining way.  Jake appears to have many forms of his younger self appearing at different times, interacting with everyone and yielding many different reactions!  Are these people real?  Is Jake having a nervous breakdown?  Or is he just trying to sort through his complicated love life and past decisions?  




“Jake Squared” is absolutely hilarious while it still asks very important questions about life and how this character has chosen to live it.  Jake’s teenage daughter seems to have it more together than he does.  Many of their interactions are that of a typical father-daughter, but sprinkled into the mix is great maturity and knowledge on the part of  Sarah (Gia Mantegna).  There’s not a moment in the film that doesn’t entertain or enlighten you.  This is a smart comedy, happily pulling the viewer along, requiring you to pay close attention so you don’t miss any key elements.  Jake and his best girl friend, Beth (Virginia Madsen) frequently talk to the camera to break into the viewers’ world, helping you to dejakeyuoucipher what is happening to Jake and why he has such a complicated love life.  

Elias Koteas has the arduous task of  playing Jake.  He’s also Jake at 40 and Jake at 30.  Having a conversation with these other versions in the same room was sheer perfection.  You truly believed that these other Jakes were there to question and at times antagonize Jake (50).  Throw in another version of himself at 17 (played by Kevin Railsback), a deceased father and grandfather as well as a young version of his mother to help him figure out why he can’t commit to love, and you have glorious chaos.  The conversations that these characters have with the Jake at 50 are really quite amazing.  He finds out information about his parents’ relationship as well as his own foibles.  He is unlucky in love, but maybe with a bit of “neurotic introspection” as Howard Goldberg, writer and director of the film termed it, he’ll figure it all out perfectly.

Jakesssss(Howard Goldberg Interview on The Reel Focus)

The entire cast in “Jake Squared” harmonizes together perfectly, never hitting a sour note.  The timing and interactions enable this film to be more than funny; it strikes a chord in your own life.  Jane Seymour resonates beauty, grace, and love in her role as Joanne.  It is Madsen’s character of Beth, Jake’s best friend with whom he shares his true thoughts and feelings, that completes the complicated circle of friends and family.  She is the epitome of a best friend of the opposite sex.  We can easily read her feelings as she and Jake talk, but Jake is so consumed by the strange events occurring that he is blind to what’s right in front of him.  Madsen portrays that inner struggle perfectly. And I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed watching the hot tub scenes focusing upon Mike Vogel as the young hired actor Jake.

“Jake Squared” is a fast paced, comedically intense film which capitalizes on the energy and talent of not only the cast but also the succinctly written script.  This is a very complicated story, but at the heart of it all it is really quite simple.  It’s about a high energy and confused man trying to find love and not make any more mistakes that he might regret.  Following the story-line feels a little difficult, but rest assured the loose ends are all neatly tied up for a completely satisfying film.  ”Jake Squared” is one of the most creative and unique films I’ve seen in a long time.  How many films have you seen that can make you laugh, sigh with empathy for a situation, nod your head in understanding, feel like the actors are addressing you from the screen, and make you think about your own life and decisions?  My guess is, not many.  Check out “Jake Squared” and enjoy the roller coaster ride of life.  Then ask yourself, “What would my younger self say to me?”JAkesvirginia

You can see JAKE SQUARED on VOD as well as across the country in theaters!


It’s the future.  The world is not a familiar one.  There is no war, famine, pain or suffering.  There is no snow, cold, anger or jealousy.  And there is no color.  There is only sameness in shades of grey.  No one is unhappy, but no one is happy either.  It is a community of dullness which is run by a small group of “Elders.” When the children reach a certain age (a concept similar to “Divergent”), they are assigned a job or position in life.  In this futuristic world, seldom is a child identified as having special gifts.  Jonas, however, is this special child and it becomes his duty to see history or the memories of generations long past in order to guide the Elders.


“The Giver” is a concept that is reminiscent of the 1998 film “Pleasantville.”  Both films depict an era when everyone does their job without question and every day is sunny and pleasant.  No one questions who they are and what lies beyond the boundaries of the town or community.  That is, until someone let’s them take a bite of the forbidden fruit, eliciting emotions, feelings, and quite literally, color.  In both films, emotion dictates change and without emotion, everything is the same—there is no point to life.  However, in “The Giver” there is one difference—there an evil component.  We now have a story about good versus evil.   When one of the first colors seen is a bright red apple which changes lives, this is reminiscent of an even older story—Adam and Eve.  And with Big Brother always watching via camera drones, the film also has a mix of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.


giver1Placed in the future, this familiar, yet entertaining story is updated as it is told from a young adult’s perspective.  What a bland and quiet world this would be without human emotion and compassion. The oversaturated, vibrant colors and increase in decibel levels contrast perfectly with the mundane and quiet lifestyle as the film bounces back and forth between the current day and the past.  The Giver allows Jonas to feel and experience all of this, but with this comes a heavy price to pay.


Jeff Bridges is an Elder called The Giver.  With Bridges’ speech and mannerisms remaining the same from film to film, it takes some time to not think of him as The Big Lebowski or Rooster Cogburn, but he eventually succeeds.  He actually brings heart and soul to a film filled with characters who have none of that.  Meryl Streep takes her role to her typical high level as the unfeeling, powerful matriarch of the society.  Only she knows what emotions can do, yet she chooses to keep her “community” blind to the possibilities.  Although her outward appearance is harsh, bordering on ugly, he flat affect is actually quite rich.  Beneath that intimidating and intelligent facade, is hatred, anger and the ability to manipulate.  Not surprisingly, Streep takes what could have been a pedestrian role and gives is such depth.


Along with the shining stars of Streep and Bridges, comes a new star named Brenton Thwaites.  He is our knight in shining armor or “The Reciever.”  His personality unfolds to reveal a caring, charming, and powerful young man, set on doing what is right. With knowledge comes power. Thwaites agivertwollows the viewer to experience his gifts from The Giver.  We feel what he feels as he jumps from a cliff or dances at a party from Medieval times.  Balancing his reactions with the vivid and stimulating past, Thwaites makes the viewer a believer.  Alexander Skarsgard is a man of many faces:  unrecognizable from film to film, but able to become whomever he desires.  This time, Skarsgard is the father figure to Jonas.  Katie Holmes is the rule-following, emotionless mother figure who stops at nothing in order to follow the rules.  The roles for Holmes and Skarsgard are relatively benign, not allowing them to stand out and shine, but their performances are adequate.  One of the most lovable stars, however, is the very young Gabriel played by a set of twins, Alexander and James Jillings.  To protect and love a baby is at the core of human emotion and these little guys help you to understand that.


“The Giver” is a very familiar story, blending many old stories and films into a futuristic setting.  The concept is creatively portrayed allowing the viewer to become a part of this world.  Streep and Bridges bring credibility to the film which may not have been nearly as good with lesser actors.  The young love story that strives to survive will capture everyone’s heart even with its predictability.  “The Giver” succeeds in entertaining in the way it reminds us what makes the human race so special…the ability to love.


“The Giver” is a film for young teens or a young couple.  Many will enjoy the familiar story as it is entertaining, but given the repetitive themes, you may want to wait for the DVD.


Hundred-Foot-JourneyWhat happens when you combine Lasse Hallstrom, known for such cinematic treasures as “Chocolat,” “The Cider House Rules,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” and “My Life As a Dog” with Steven Wright who wrote the intense  drama “Locke?”  You create a deliciously rich and vibrant film called “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”  Spice it up with the talents of relative new-comer, Manish Dayal, Charlotthundredfamilye Le Bon, and the seasoned Helen Mirren and you produce a scrumptious and satisfying film.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” shows us what happens when you mix two cultures together.  Papa (Om Puri), now widowed, takes hisfamily from a battle-ridden and unstable Mumbai to the pristine countryside in France.  The family leaves their home, possessions, and livelihood, a successful restaurant, behind.  Hassan, the eldest son,  has his mother’s passion for cooking as he finds food to be more than sustenance—it is his heart and soul.  Settling in a quaint, picture-perfect town in France at first seems like mixing oil and water, but with a little emulsifier of compassion, the two foods and cultures seem to blend delectably.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” pits two restaurants against each other: one, a prestigious restaurant in possession of a Michelin Star and run by the cut-throat,hundredmirren no nonsense owner, Madame Mallory (Mirren);  the other a effervescent and luminous creation just a mere hundred feet across the street run by the Kadam family. But these restaurants could be on each side of the Atlantic Ocean, their differences are so great. The Kadam family prepares traditional Indian food, in dazzling form complete with zesty spices and spirited ambience.  The real star, however, doesn’t have the name Michelin—it’s Hassan.  The two families and restaurants are at war, but where there is war there is also love and this is most certainly a love story.  
Food is at the very core of “The Hundred-Food Journey,”  This is food that makes your mouth water as you can almost smell the aromas and feel the freshness of every ingredient used in making these decadent dishes.  As the camera creates clear and vibrant shots while the chefs shop at  outdoor markets, toss and chop ingredients, then paint each plate using food as the palate, the viewer becomes ever more hungry.  The blending of food and the backdrop of a quaint French village along with several touching stories, creates a savory film.  All of the characters in this film are essential to moving the story along, providing levity and humor as well as angst and anger.
Helen Mirren brings credibility to any film and this is no exception to the rule.  She pulls off the pretentious, cold, and condescending restaurant owner with ease.  Om Puri who is an Indian actor, finds success with this American film.  As the patriarch of the family, Om creates a character that is familiar and relatabhundredchefle in any culture.  He is multi-layered and complex, yet still portrays the simplest of characteristics such as wanting his children to be safe and happy.  Manish Dayal is a pure pleasure to see on the silver screen.  He is gorgeous with big brown eyes, and the innocence of a lamb.  Charlotte Le Bon, his on-screen love interest, is equally beautiful and real.  Both capture your heart with their smiles, their feelings, and their ability to make you believe they are focused, love-struck, and conflicted chefs.


“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a delicious love story portraying the melting and blending of two opposing cultures.  With this mixing of cultures, there is also the delicate marriage of two types of food.  The journey that each character takes, sometimes together and with the unlikely help of a neighbor, enables each to find their destiny.  Sometimes a hunhundredboydred-foot walk can feel like a million mile journey.  Although the story is somewhat predictable and at times a bit sappy, it still is a completely entertaining film that will satisfy your craving for a decent movie.  “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a delectable cinematic delight with its writing, acting, and directing as well as its captivating and enticing cinematography.  
As Reel Honest Reviews is a consumer advocate, it is with great pleasure that this film is deemed appropriate and enjoyable for ages over 15.  If you’re a foodie, you will love this film even more. Take my advice and make dinner reservations for after the film!




Be sure to tune in to WKCC’s The Reel Focus today, Thursday, August 7 at 4:30 pm CST to hear Dan Cohen and Michael Rossato-Bennett talk about their film ALIVE INSIDE.  You can see this film at the Music Box Theater in Chicago starting tomorrow.  If you go, be sure to bring an old iPod to donate.  This simple donation can change a life!

Tune in at WKCC Public Radio

For showtimes at The Music Box Theater in Chicago go to:  Showtimes and Ticket Info

For additional venues go to:  Alive Inside Official Website

IF YOU MISSED THE SHOW, check out the archived recording right here!  ALIVE INSIDE INTERVIEW ON WKCC





Kankakee, Illinois continues to grow exponentially in the arts and entertainment category thanks to the efforts of our Artist In Residence, Brandi Burgess.  With the coordination of area leaders in art, the “Made In Kankakee Film Festival” was a success.  Hopeful filmmakers were challenged to produce a film in just 48 hours.  Each group randomly drew a genre and various items or phrases to use in their film.  The filmmakers then scrambled to use their smart phones to produce a quality film to be judged.  The top films will be shown at the FEED Arts Center in Kankakee on Sunday at 7 pm.


The 12 groups of filmmakers began the process, but quickly dwindled to 6 as the grueling pace and other commitments like a paying job, did get in the way.  But for those who handled the pressure, time commitment, and lack of sleep, the payoff was well worth it.  With a bit of ingenuity, logistical problems seemed to disappear which enabled these filmmakers  to produce an amazing array of films.  In any competition there must be a winner, but unlike other competitions, there were no losers.  The calibre of films that were produced demonstrated that fact.


The winner of this year’s “Made In Kankakee Film Festival” goes to ALWAYS THERE.  The group of filmmakers included Cody Gindy, Carl Maronich, Pete Worth, Rhonda Stenzinger, Bailey Testerman, and Michael Keigher.  The group took on various roles to produce an amazingly professional and high quality film.  The background and age of each of these talented people varied tremendously.  From DePaul, ONU, and high school students, to seasoned public relations professionals, this team combined flawlessly to produce a standout film.


A father-daughter relationship is almost always a strong and special one and ALWAYS THERE portrays that in perfect form.  From the moment we see the old pressed red rose fall out of the novel and the long-lost look on Amanda’s face, the story becomes not just intriguing, but captivating.  This young woman has an interesting past and the viewer is pulled in to her world—we not only want to learn more, but we need to learn more. As she packs her belongings, moving on to another chapter in her life, she needs some sage advice.  Who better to ask than her father?  The interactions between Amanda and her father, Henry, are sincere and thoughtful.  A father’s advice to his daughter is obviously valued and cherished by Amanda.  The film cuts back and forth from present day to relevant memories.  It is apparent that Amanda and her father have had a strong bond since she was a little girl.  Nothing can break that trust and bond and the story solidifies that notion.


ALWAYS THERE is an emotionally loaded short film illustrating the love and bond between a father and daughter.  The writing is powerful and succinct while giving life to the characters. But even with this emotional story, there is still humor sprinkled in to show the levity in all situations.  The character of Sue the Waitress with her constant dating issues is quite humorous.  The use of off-camera lines just adds to the comedic aspect of the situation.  The cinematography augments the overall feeling using wonderful depth of field and unique camera angles.  The color and lighting coordinated beautifully to accent each scene as well.  Each and every aspect of this movie, from acting, writing, directing, filming, and editing, amplified the basic message giving us a meaningful and heartfelt film.


And the winner is…Kankakee!  With films like ALWAYS THERE and all of the other films that were entered into this grueling contest, the Kankakee area and residents are the winners.  Congratulations to the ALWAYS THERE team and all of the filmmakers who participated in this creative event.  Be sure to check out and support these talented filmmakers on Sunday, August 10 at 7 pm at the FEED Arts Center in Kankakee.  I promise you will be amazed.

ESE PosterNEW1

“Eat Spirit Eat” is about an orphaned boy, Oliver, who wants nothing more than for his father to come back for him.  Oliver’s father had promised that when he became a movie star, he would come back for him.  That promise was made before Oliver’s mother died and was held on to until he had become an adult.  With the help of his foster siblings that came and went in his early life, Oliver set out to see if his father would keep his promise.

Trailer for EAT SPIRIT EAT

The movie starts at the end as Oliver narrates his current dire circumstances.  The situation looks tense with police surrounding him as he gets out of a car with what appears to be war paint on his face.  As the movie goes back in time to explain how Oliver got to this place, the pace and overall feel of the movie take on an entirely different characteristic.  It becomes lighthearted and whimsical.  We watch Oliver grow up.  We are introduced to the his foster mother and foster siblings who are all very unique individuals.  Oliver makes a pact with each of them, promising that they would help him make his father a movie star so that he could come back to Oliver. This sweet, charming, and eccentric movie incorporates an eclectic group actors to portray these orphans.  From the Indian-Mexican kid to the pompous, pretentious brat and every character in between, these now grown “kids” help Oliver, the sweet and lovable glass-is-half-full kind of guy find his father and help him fulfill his promise.  The film weaves in and out of various situations as if following a treasure map to the big red “X.”


Oliver now needs to find a producer to help him set up a film for his father to star in; therefore making Oliver’s dad a success.  Vera and her twin sister Vill are just the two coffee shop owners/dog walkers to do this.  Having “seen over 250 movies,”  this automatically makes them experts in the field!  Each aspect of Movie-Making 101 is covered with each foster sibling having just the right skill to help.  With the whole gang in collaboration of making this movie, “hiring” Oliver’s dad to play this strange role in this bizarre pseudo-movie begins.  With a Zombot invading the area, hilaesezombot1rious chaos ensues.  (You don’t know what a Zombot is?  You’ll have to rent the movie to find out!)

The entire cast of “Eat Spirit Eat,” delivering their quick-witted lines, is superb.  The story is sweet yet unpredictable which was engaging.  Utilizing vibrant colors, exaggerations in every category, yet keeping to a touching story, enables the film to be a success.  “Eat Spirit Eat” is a truly sweet story about belonging, family, and a search for a father.  The sincerity of the feelings one might have in search of one’s father are interspersed in this otherwise lighthearted, feel-good, humorous film.  The pace of the film is quick and the colors of the clothing and backgrounds are striking and almost cartoonish.  The style of speech from Vera is staccato and overarticulated which makes it so fun to listen to!  All of the characters are an over-exaggeration, but this just adds to the fun of the film.  The story takes time to develop so that we care about Oliver and all the other characters; even the father.  The ridiculousness of many of the situations just endear you to Oliver and his circumstances even more.  This story has heart as well as humor; a wonderful combination.

This film is available on VOD on August 5, 2014.  Check out the interview with the filmmakers, James Bird, Anya Remizova, and Adriana Mather from RHR’s radio show on WKCC’s The Reel Focus:  WKCC Interview



Kate Logan, a film student at a small Christian college, traveled to the Dominican Republic in search of a positive story about faith and its ability to help troubled kids.  Her strong Christian values allowed her to gain  access into Escuela de Caribe to tell what she had hoped would be an enlightening story about how faith helps people.  What she found was a horror story instead. Kidnapped for Christ Websitekfcdirector


Kate and her film crew randomly began interviewing teens who seemed comfortable in sharing their own personal story.  Beth, Tai, and David were the focus of the film; each came to Escuela de Caribe for different reasons, but what they did have in common was the fact that they were all there against their will.  In addition, these minors were there to be reformed or rehabilitated.  Many had drug and criminal problems, and their parents looked to this school as a last resort in getting their children on the right path—at a cost of $72,000 per year.  Kids were “committed” to this program, thousands of miles away, for a minimum of 18 months to a possible maximum of 24 months.  But money wasn’t the only price that was paid.  David waskfcDavid a prime example of the extreme costs of this program.


David’s story, I am sure like many others at this reformatory, was a familiar one.  David was one of many kids whose parents couldn’t handle the concept that their son could possibly be gay.  After coming out to them, as David stated, his mother said, “I could never love a gay son.”  He went on to share how hurt and rejected he felt.  It was as if she rejected “a part of me.”  The “issue” of homosexuality was addressed in the film as the director okfctiaf the facility shared that they really don’t focus on homosexuality.  The philosophy is that the kids that come in “thinking they are gay” come to the realization that they really aren’t—it turned out they all had trust issues with someone of the opposite sex due to previous abuse.   Kids left their facility cured of this “problem.”  


Tai relayed that she conformed just to get out of the facility.  David, an honors student who had been taking AP classes, looking forward to his senior year, was now stuck in the desolate area of the Dominican Republic with no hope of graduating or following the path he had worked so hard to pave.  He did not want to conform; he wanted out.  He attempted to communicate with the outside world, but his efforts were squashed through Escuela de Caribe’s militaristic and abusive  punishment system.  David held strong to his own faith, thinking that as an American citizen who was turning 18, he had rights.  David had nothing but his own faith, but this turned out not to be enough.  David  tried to mask his own feelings and attempted  to contact the outside world.  You see, he had been taken from his room at his parents’ home in the middle of the night with brute force.  He was placed on a plane against his will and was looking for any way to get back home.  He befriended the filmmakers in an effort to communicate with his friends and neighbors.  As confused and scared as David was, those who knew him back home and at school were just as baffled.  These people had been in search of David for months.


The film continued to watch what is happening in this remote area of the Dominican Republic, in the name of Christ.  It became evident that as long as the leaders said their punishments and teachings were done in the name of Christ, it was ok.  Interviews with these leaders demonstrated their lack knowledge in basic psychology as well as human compassion.  The words of Christ were manipulated and twisted to fit this community’s goals.  David’s hopes plummeted as he understood that his anger was derived from the rejection from his parents.  This happy, loving, intellectual, and creative young man, with the world at his fingertips, was now, as he phrased it, hiding behind a mask; unable to express who he was.  Seeing the spiral downward of not only David, but others who were emotionally and physically abused, was gut-wrenching.  For example, an amputee with an artificial leg was forced to run hill intervals as his prosthetic device caused tears and infections.

Doing something in thekfcpit name of Christ cannot be justifiable.  As I recall, God (if you believe) gave us free will to make choices.  Isn’t that the entire “Adam and Eve” story?  And I also recall something about not judging others.  Escuela de Caribe took away all free will and judged these children in the harshest way possible.  They were to conform or be beaten both physically and emotionally.  I can only hope that the majority of the parents of these teens didn’t realize the cruelty inflicted upon their children.  


There are thousands of these Christian reform schools across the country and in North America.  It is a multibillion dollar enterprise.  Parents do need help with troubled teens at times, but from qualified therapists who can identify one simple concept:  What is a problem and what isn’t?  A boy who is gay is not a problem.  David is a child that anyone could have and should have been proud to have as a son.  This boy is now forever changed and not for the positive.  He is angry.  And justifiably so.  How can a parent not love their child for who they are?  David and thousands of others have paid a very high price for their reformation.  The question is, will they ever recover from it?



Check out this film on Showtime.  Air times and dates for KIDNAPPED FOR CHRIST

lollaThe much-anticipated (dreaded) summer weekend in Chicago is well underway.  You know, Lollapalooza. The crazy music festival that invades the city with huge headliners and throngs of crazy college kids and 20-somethings.  Yes, my two college kids are a part of that craziness.  And the control freak aspect of my OCD personality insists that I at least be within a 10 minute walk (or a 45 minute drive through the ridiculously crowded streets) from the Congress Hotel.  The hotel that can charge the same price as the W on LSD and without having been updated in the last 75 years.  No, I am not exaggerating.  But I digress…  Because I traveled to and from the city yesterday 3 times (a total of 6 hours on the road…I could have been in Cleveland, (You know what a huge draw Cleveland is this time of year.) I missed screeners JonElmaand just released films such as GET ON UP.  So this is my attempt to catch up without getting on up.  Trust me, you don’t want me to “get on up.”
GET ON UP is the story about the legendary musician James Brown.  Now, before the film even started, I found my perfect seat at 4:57 pm, three minutes before the film was to start.  Yes, I know there are trailers.  Almost 30 minutes later..let me emphasize this…THIRTY MINUTES…the film began.  I have an attention span that allows only 90 minutes of viewing time unless the film is astoundingly intriguing, 86 is perfect, but my personality is willing to be flexible on this so I’ll push it to 90.  The film


 is 2 hours and 18 minutes with 30 minutes of trailers. That puts it right up there with BOYHOOD without the trailers.  Too much for me, but I have Adult Onset ADD, thanks to my children.  (Love you, Jon and Kelsey.)  Thankfully, the film begins with a bang as we learn about James Brown, the child.  The story continues with its infectious music, while it intersperses flashbacks from James’ atrocious upbringing as he becomes the man he was destined to be.

Now when I think of James Brown (please forgive me and remember that I am a total imbicile wheGOUMicn it comes to music), I think of the Michael Reese Hospital commercial with the background music of ‘I Feel Good.’ ( I FEEL GOOD)  I am sure there are other viewers out there that aren’t familiar with the historical aspects of music and rest assured that this film, accurately or not, I do not know, will give you tons of background information about this larger than life performer.  James Brown was a poor black man who rose above his background to use his God-given talents to help him succeed in a time where racism was at its peak.  getonupWhatever obstacle he encountered, even jail, did not deter him from being true to himself and his music.  The other supporting musicians who rode his coattails and put up with his broken financial promises truly weren’t the reason for his success.  James Brown was responsible for James Brown, as he stated in the third person numerous times.  As a womanizer and a misogynist, he still did not lack for the company of women.  James Brown took care of himself in every way imaginable.

The film seems to paint a realistic picture of this musician in that he wasn’t all good or all bad.  He wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but whose life is?  The film truly succeeded in telling one man’s story who was probably responsible for influencing generations of music to come.  Where the film failed was in its never-ending detail. It was truly too long.  Even with the amazing music and the captivating foot work, it just wasn’t enough to hold you for over 2 hours.  The film began to drag during the last 30 minutes as it tried to wrap up all parts of his ilfe.  Having the nearly 30 minutes of trailers before the film didn’t help the cause at all.


Chadwick Boseman portrays James Brown and is an uncanny physical double of the man—from the teeth to the footwork (yes, I googled it after I saw the film), Boseman nailed the role perfectly.  Dan Aykroyd as the “tired, old, Jewish man” played the part well, although his dialect seemed to wax and wane from scene to scene.  Viola Davis never disappoints as she played the role of Susie Brown, James’ mother.  Nelsan Ellis, the character of Bobby Byrd, enabled us to not only care for him, but to also truly understand him.  The remainder of the cast fit wonderfully and the music was simply scintillating.
If you’re a music fan, check out this film or wait for the DVD when you don’t have to sit through 30 minutes of trailers first.  I’d also recommend seeing MUSCLE SHOALS or TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM if you’re interested in the history of music.  (MUSCLE SHOALS the movie) (TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM the movie)

LollaChiAs I sit here on this gorgeous summer night, at Howls and Hood on Michigan Ave, looking up at the bright white Wrigley building, I am thankful for Lollapalooza.  OK.  I’m exaggerating.  I’m not thankful for the music event that produces more grey hair to cover, but I am thankful for a beautiful summer night and the fact that “Lolla” is over in one more day.

‘VERY GOOD GIRLS’ by Ian Simmons


very good


Ian Simmons, a fellow movie critic, has this to say about the new film “Very Good Girls:”

I posted this on Facebook a couple weeks ago: “Watching a terrible movie in two sittings isn’t QUITE defeat, but it feels awfully damned close.” Very Good Girls turned out not to be terrible, unless you consider mediocrity an affront to quality–which I do, so the statement stands.

The problem with writer/director Naomi Foner‘s coming-of-age story is that it’s so generic as to be unworthy of the cast assembled to tell it. Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen star as Lilly and Gerri, two high school seniors who vow to lose their virginity before heading off to college. They fall for the same hunky ice cream vendor (Boyd Holbrook), but keep their affections secret from one another. Yes, it’s a summer of first times, last times, betrayal, and half-nude shenanigans as the girls learn about life ‘n stuff.

For the full review of “Very Good Girls,” go to: Kicking the Seat Website



Zach Braff, more well-known as Dr. John ‘J.D.’ Dorian on ‘Scrubs’ and of “Garden State” fame (“Garden State” Trailer), is reminding us of his exceptional talents in his new film that he writes, directs, and stars in called “Wish I Was Here.”  The film is a slice of life about Aidan (Braff) and Sarah (Kate Hudson) as they try to manage finances, raise two children and care for an aging and sick parent.  There are times in your life that you hit a brick wall,and Aidan’s wall must somehow be torn down and reassembled.


Aidan is a struggling actor.  Audition after audition, yields nothing leaving his wife to support the family on an income not suitable for their California lifestyle.  Aidan’s father, Gabe, (Mandy Patinkin) is an older man with a strong Jewish faith, disappointed in his son’s choices in career and Christian wife.  Gabe has supported his son’s family by paying for Hebrew school until Gabe receives the news that he has Stage IV terminal cancer.  This revocation of financial support sets the entire family into a downward spiral, forcing Aidan and his rather eccentric brother to grow up and become men. (Mandy Patinkin Changes Luck of “Wish I Was Here”)


wishhudson“Wish I Was Here” is a thought-provoking and realistic look at so many families.  What happens when there is a blending of two religions in one family?  Who hasn’t been hit with financial woes in their life?  When is it time to give up that dream and face reality?  There are so many issues this film brings to light including that of love, forgiveness, death, and being present in the moment.  The film reminds us that we can easily get caught up in the day to day garbage and forget that life should be lived.  


Both Braff and Hudson show their true range of abilities in acting in this film.  Braff demonstrates humor and sincerity as a father and husband, but also quickly portrays the human emotion of struggle, frustration, and disappointment.  A longing for childhood and childhood games of saving the world in his imagination are interspersed from the beginning to the end of the film, tying all the strings together perfectly. For Kate Hudson, this is one of her best roles since “Almost Famous” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”  She exhibits strength as she plays this complex character.  Her ability to show compassion and understanding of those around her is truly remarkable.


Initially, the film is very funny and although the hilarity decreases with the seriousness of the film, the humor remains interwoven throughout themovie.  From the overstuffed “swear jar” to the Comic Con costume contest, wishcomicand a shaved head donning a pink wig, funny situations are continually entertaining.  But at the same time, the story unfolds quickly and develops each character, exposing who they really are and with what issues they are dealing.  Aidan’s longing for childhood and dreams of “saving the world” in his imaginary world are interspersed from the beginning to the end of the film, tying all the strings together perfectly.  


Sarah has work issues that spill over into her home life.  And dealing with her disapproving father-in-law pushes her to grow.  Aidan’s brother Noah is brilliant, but extremely quirky and a “big disappointment” to his father.  Relationships branching out to all parts of the family come to a head.  With Aidan and Sarah’s  young teen daughter and her religious convictions and an active young boy, their work is cut out for them.  The film is full of the crossroads in life and it is enlightening to watch if they turn left of right.


“Wish I Was Here” is a film about life; the good and the bad and all the parts in between.  Family dynamics can be difficult, but at the heart of everything is family.  “Wish I Was Here” is a wonderfully balanced film as it delves into so many serious situations yet still finds a way to make you smile through humor or empathy.  The empathetic aspect will also find a way to make a few tears stream down your cheek as well.  “Wish I Was Here” is a sincere look at life with a message for everyone: live life because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.