Archive for January, 2015

 

 

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Robert Redford discusses his role of Bill Bryson in A WALK IN THE WOODS

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Pam Powell with Bill Bryson, author of ‘A Walk in the Woods’

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Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Nick Offerman

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors and A Walk in the Woods still sits on my bookshelf as well as stowed away in digital form on my Kindle.  Having readit when it was first published in the mid ’90′s, I never dreamed I would one day meet the author, let alone see this book become a movie.  That day has come.  The 2015 Sundance Film Festival is drawing to a close, but one of the highlights was to not only view the film version of “A Walk in the Woods,” but to also sit down with Bill Bryson and the talented cast and director of the film to chat about the process.

Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Bill Bryson, and director Ken Kwapis were

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Pamela Powell with Robert Redford

available to discuss their perspectives on the adaptation of the brilliantly written book A Walk in the Woods.  Here’s a clip from the interview: Robert Redford talks AT and Independent Film Making

The entire interview is now available!  Click  here  to listen!

 

 

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Nick Offerman

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Director Ken Kwapis with author Bill Bryson

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WARREN Reviewed by Pamela Powell

WARREN
Starring:  Alex Beh, John Heard, Jean Smart and Sarah Habel
Written and Directed by:  Alex Beh

“Warren” is a film we can all relate to whether we are a parent or a twenty-something trying to figure out where life will take us, there is something for everyone to enjoy in “Warren.”  Written and directed by, as well as starring Alex Beh, this film captures the turning point in one young man’s life and how it affects those near and dear to him.  As quoted from the film, “There’s what you’re supposed to do and what you have to do.”  The choice is Warren’s.

Warren, the main character, has given up on his dream of being a comedian and now works as a barista at a coffee shop in Chicago.  Frustrated by his spinning wheels and lack of forward progression, he bumps into his lost love.  Old feelings come rushing back, but this woman is now engaged to be married.  Warren must now decide where his life will take him. Will he “follow the fear or forever be stuck in neutral?

“Warren” has such a talented cast and is set in the perfect city—Chicago.  Yes, I’m biased, but that’s ok.  Watch the film and I am sure you will understand my prejudice.  ”Warren” captures Chicago’s lake, its neighborhoods, and its vibrancy.   Along with Alex Beh, John Heard, Jean Smart, and Sarah Habel star in this “slice of life” film.  The first scene sets the tone of the entire film.  Jack (Heard) is talking to his son, Warren (Beh), 10 feet away…using a megaphone. This is exactly the embarrassingly funny stunt many fathers would do if they had a megaphone in hand.  As the neighbor looks casually over to see today’s antics, Warren sits dreamily in the old Porsche stored in the garage, key in the ignition, ignoring his father for just a few more moments.  Immediately, you see that dreams have been either lost or put on the back burner.  In the film, we discover that the father-son connection is very close and that trying not to have the apple fall far from the tree is a conscious choice.

Warren is like many other twenty-somethings trying to fulfill dreams and seize the moment when they can. Regrets at an early age are a hard topic to deal with and when Emma (Habel), Warren’s former love, bumps into Warren working at the coffee shop, the disappointment and embarrassment is palpable.  Warren’s support system as he works out his thoughts and feelings about Emma are comical, yet real.  With stand-up comics for friends, there is no lack of humor in dealing with this situation.  This well-rounded film also incorporates Jack and Warren’s relationship, both past and present.  Jack has never given up on loving his soon-to-be ex wife, Claire.  Jack and she have been working on getting those final divorce papers signed for 5 years.  Unfortunately, Warren gets caught up in the havoc that occurs when you still live near your parents and don’t pursue your own dreams.

This strong cast brought life, love, and family to the screen.  John Heard and Jean Smart are the perfect North Shore separated parents who still share two children together; one adult and one in high school with some rebellion issues.  The film has two focal points:  Warren and Emma, and Warren and his father.  While Warren’s feelings of love and loss with Emma are evident, an equally heart-felt part of this movie is his relationship with his father.  The connection between these two men is not only seen, but felt by the viewer.  Watching Heard’s character sitting and eating pizza with his boys is so natural and realistic that you truly feel like this is a family.

Heard transforms himself into Warren’s father, Jack.  But his character is much more complex than just being Warren’s dad.  Jack has his own struggles, professionally and personally, that are so subtly revealed that you can empathize with his every emotion.  But at the end of the day, you realize that this father wants exactly what every parent wants for his child—to be happy.

While the entire cast is compelling, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other standout in this wonderful cast:  Marc Grapey.  A Chicago area native (Kankakee), Marc’s character of the obnoxious cell phone user/customer at the coffee shop becomes increasingly funnier with each scene.  I know we have all encountered such a person and he completely embodies that character.  Well-done!

It’s so refreshing to see a young writer and director take on a film and successfully tell an entertaining and emotional story.  The keen direction and intelligent writing pulls you immediately into this story, reeling you along and allowing you to laugh at irony and look at your own life by comparison.  There are even a few words of wisdom you might want to take to heart.   Beh brings this tale home, deftly tying up all loose ends that you are supposed to know.  He leaves a few things to your imagination which makes you think and come up with your own back story about things like why the house is slated for demolition.  ”Warren” is a slice of life full of emotion and reality.  Again, well-done!

Watch for the interview with Alex Beh or catch it soon on WKCC’s The Reel Focus!

 

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“Female Pervert’ is a bit of a role reversal film.  As Phoebe (Jennifer Kim) attempts to survive in the dating world, she, being true to herself, drives men away.  Why? Well, she’s a bit “perverted.”  Social skills according to Emily Post have not been mastered.  I’m guessing she probably doesn’t even know who Emily Post is.  Phoebe finds the raunchy bits of life entertaining and her obsession with hair, in all places, being removed seems to be the icing on the cake in her relationship attempts.  Hair can make or break her attraction to a man.

The beginning is hysterical, showcasing her unique view on life without an edit mode.  Throw in some interesting characters in her book club and you get a full picture of the real Phoebe and what makes her tick.  The question is, “Would her behavior seem out of the ordinary if it was a male character?

We see woman in one light and when she behaves more like a male, we find it shocking.  Phoebe’s obsession with body parts and hair coverage seems a bit over the top.  She’s not shy in what she does in front of a male and to say she is awkward is an understatement.  For example, as she clips her toenails on a date, the guy mentions that he didn’t think they were at the “toenail clipping stage of the relationship yet.”  Typical male raunchy antics are funny to her, but because she’s female, it seems wrong.  This laugh out loud role reversal film makes you think about double standards.

Jennifer Kim seems to embrace her character of Phoebe.  The supporting cast and the writing of this film is quite unique.  The book club discussion scenes scattered throughout the film are always extremely entertaining.  The members of the group are quite varied and bring significant humor to the film as it bounces back and forth between funny and awkward.

Written by a woman, Jiyoung Lee is a bold new filmmaker who dares to renounce gender stereotypes.  I’d like to personally thank the writer for giving me a way to get rid of those pesky phone solicitors!  Bravo, Miss Lee, bravo!

 

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Ilan Eshkeri walks the red carpet for the comedy DON VERDEAN

Ilan Eshkeri is a renowned BAFTA-nominated composer who has collaborated with Annie Lennox and many other musical greats.  Ilan talks with Pamela Powell of Reel Honest Reviews’ The Reel Focus, about his new films premiering at Sundance this year, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ and ‘Don Verdean.’  In addition, Ilan talks about why he was so passionate about being a part of ‘Still Alice’ and what fills his soul when he’s not working.

 

Audio interview with Ilan Eshkeri

Don

DON VERDEAN

Shaun

SHAUN THE SHEEP

 

 

For me, the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals are complete as I am now back in the Chicago area.  With a pile of reviews to happily write and interviews to edit and post, the fun continues on as I reminisce.  The 2015 Park City adventure couldn’t have been any more spectacular.  The films were absolutely outstanding, the interviews were a chance of a lifetime, and the events were completely entertaining.  The only thing that seemed to be missing was sleep.

Before I attempt to catch up on everything, I thought it would be enjoyable to check out a sampling of the photos I took during both of these extraordinary film festivals.  I’ll have a complete wrap up by tomorrow!  Enjoy the photos!

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Robert Redford answers reporters questions during the Opening Press Conference

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The cast and writer/director from SEOUL SEARCHING

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Sandra and Sophie of “The Amina Profile”

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Margot Robbie during the Q&A for “Z FOR ZACHARIAH”

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Chiwetel Ejiofor during the audience Q&A for his new film “Z FOR ZACHARIAH”

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Chris Pine after the premiere of his new film “Z FOR ZACHARIAH”

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Dana Nachman and her publicist Margot Hardy after an interview about BATKID!

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Amazing new boots from Australia, Blundstone

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Dana Nachman, filmmaker for BATKID!

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Nick Nolte during the roundtable interview for A WALK IN THE WOODS

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Robert Redford discusses the making of A WALK IN THE WOODS

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The talented cast and filmmakers from the Slamdance thriller BODY!

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Pam Powell gets a chance to meet her favorite author, Bill Bryson!

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Pam Powell interviews Robert Redford for A WALK IN THE WOODS

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Ed Asner, aka Lou Grant, enjoys having fans nearby as he chats about THE GAMES MAKER

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Gary Cole chats with Pam Powell about Illinois, Chicago, and ISU…we forgot to chat about his film THE BRONZE!

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The gorgeous Sarah Silverman strikes a pose for the red carpet for the premiere of her film I SMILE BACK

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A virtual hike through the Dolomites courtesy of Merrell hiking boots

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Pam Powell’s actual injury during a virtual hike…only I could do that!

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Chicagoans connect!

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First time director Diego Ongaro’s film ‘Bob and the Trees’ premiered at the Sundance Film Festival yesterday.  Starring Bob Tarasuk, the film takes a harsh and bitter look at the life of a logger in rural Massachusetts.  Taking an already difficult job and making it even worse, Bob makes one poor business decision after another.  Working with his son in this small business, the two are at oddsBob tres with one another regarding how to run it.  Bob makes a monetary executive decision unbeknownst to his son which may be the ultimate death of this long-running family business.

‘Bob and the Trees’ is an unusual film in that it captures the true feeling of a place and dire situation.  It’s bitterly cold in Massachusetts.  You can hear the cold.  You can almost feel the cold with the sound of the dry crunch of snow and the constant wind droning softly in the background.  As Bob tends to his farm animals in a loving way, it feels so remote and lonely, yet Bob loves what he does.  Unfortunately, Bob has to compete in the logging business with big companies.  As any mom-and-pop business owner understands, sometimes it’s almost impossible to do so.  Bob invests almost his last cent into a project, but it’s a huge gamble.  The price he pays may be more than monetary.

This unique film portrays a desperate man who resorts to desperate measures to try to just stay afloat.  The complications he experiences involve his relationship with his son and his honesty with his wife.  Life seem bitterly unfair for Bob, but he must figure out how to set things right or at least deal with the fall out.  ’Bob and the Trees’ is a study in the levels of society as well as the psychology behind a typical hardworking man.  What Bob has experienced is what many blue collar workers truly experience in the United States.

‘Bob and the Trees’ is a thought-provoking and insightful film typifying a working man who has hit some bad luck.  But is it luck or is it bad decision making?  Or perhaps it’s a bit of both.  In either case, these issues affect Bob and his son as well as both of their futures.  ’Bob and the Trees’ is a beautifully filmed movie bringing each and every scene to life.  Itis a film that you experience on every level; visually, auditorily, emotionally, and almost tactily, as the film makes you feel the bitter cold.  This film stimulations conversation about where we are in society and how the bigger businesses are making it nearly impossible for “the little guy” to have success.  It’s truly a bitter, but enlightening slice of the American pie.

 

 

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“Body” premiered last night at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival.  Written, produced and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, this ever-increasingly intense psychological thriller will make you question your own morals and values.  Starring Helen Rogers, Alexandra Turshen, and Lauren Molina these three older college aged kids are home on vacation.  Finding themselves a bit bored and feeling “pathetic” for not having anything to do on the weekend, they go out to have a bit of fun.  The fun, seemingly innocuous, turns horribly wrong and with every wrong turn, there’s another one just ahead of them.  How will they right these wrong turns?

BODY Trailer

Cali (Turshen) appears to be the fun-loving ring leader in this pack of girls.  Convincing the others that her extremely wealthy uncle and his family are away on vacation, they borrow the use of his house for a little R & R.  Drinking, talking, using the owner’s toys, and hanging out seems quite innocent.  But then a bit of truth is uncovered.  This isn’t the house Cali said it was.  Suddenly, there’s a man in the house.  The girls hide, but it’s no use.  Upon confrontation, the man has an accident and the girls, as a group, must decide how to handle the situation.  Each of them has a different perspective and as each decision is made, the waters become muddier and muddier until those waters are completely black.

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“Body” is such an intense film, that admittedly, I had to turn it off and walk away for a few moments to regroup.  The situation at hand becomes realistically horrific and the true personalities of each of the girls becomes more apparent.  It’s truly a gripping and disturbing psychological analysis of what happens to people in a dire situation.

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You’ll be on the edge of your seat and talking to the screen (even if you aren’t a “screen talker”) trying to convince someone to make a different decision.  ”Body” will impact you long after you see it.  You’ll be asking yourself what you would do or perhaps what would your own daughter do in a situation like this.

“Body” is a gem of a find if you enjoy intense psychological thrillers!  With superb acting, clear writing and directing, this film is a success in its genre!

Check out the interview with these talented filmmakers and actresses!  Interview

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imageThe gay community has been duped via an internet hoax.  “The Amina Profile” premiered Saturday, January 24th, exposing how anyone can become anything on the internet, but the cost of this particular lie has international effects.

‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ began as a blog that swept across the world.  The political uncertainty and pervasive violence in Syria is well0known, but to speak out and declare one’s sexual orientation being anything other than a heterosexual has severe ramifications.

Amina Arraf began an on-line love affair with a woman from Toronto, Sandra Bagaria.  during their 6 month relationship, the two shared intimate details about their lives, opening up to each other an any couple would do.  When Amina began her blog, ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus,’ speaking out against the political regime  was so daring that she became quite the internet sensation.  ‘The Guardian’ picked up her blog which catapulted her popularity.  Other news groups as well as individuals all over the world followed her daily posts, but then she went missing.  The world showed its caring side and tried everything to find this young woman.  Government organizations and news and media groups connected and utilized their skills and searching for Amina.  What they found turned out to be devastating to everyone involved.  It breached the trust and good will of many.  Amina was just a fictitious character developed by an everyday Joe in the United States.

“The Amina Profile” is a documentary expose which carefully unravels the detailed story of Amina from the beginning to the confrontational ending.  Utilizing interviews with those directly connected with Amina, the film follows the trail of breadcrumbs to uncover the truth.  The film gives a well-rounded and in-depth report allowing the viewer to discover the truth right along with the filmmaker.

The interesting style of interviewing all of those involved in sequential order, splicing all of it together for a cohesive and enlightening film.  “The Amina Profile” shows us how easy it is to be fooled given the technology of today.  Thousands of people were affected negatively by this hoax; some more severely than others.  How can we as a society trust what we read?  Will this affect the outpouring of help when it is truly needed.  Check out the film and see what answers you find.

 

 

imageThe Resurrection of Jake the Snake Trailer

For all you wrestling fans out there, the name Jake the Snake Roberts needs no explanation.  But for those of you who have never followed the sport, like me, let me give you a little background information.  Pro wrestling back in the 80′s had quite the unconventional characters performing in an arena with thousands of spectators.  These performers were also athletes and with the right marketing and use of  gimmicks,  they may rise to stardom.  Snakes tossed upon the defeated man most definitely was an attention getter!  This combined with Jake’s ability to woo the crowed, enabled Jake the Snake to rise to the top.  But Jake fell to the bottom and almost into  oblivion.

 

What happened to this man?  Now 30 years later, he has alienated his family, uses major drugs, drinks, and is a complete mess.  Years ago, Jake had taken under his wing a young wrestler who no one else believed in.  Jake helped this man who later became a successful wrestler in his own right—”Diamond” Dallas Page.  Page came to Jake’s rescue as he had hit bottom.  With Page’s help and knowledge, he gave back to Jake exactly what Dallas had been given so many years ago.

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“The Resurrection of Jake the Snake” documents the path upon which Jake travels to battle his inner demons and attempt to become the person he truly has the potential to be.  The struggle is difficult and raw, shown over the course of many months.  His progress is a bit of a roller coaster ride which mirrors this man’s personality.  The loyalty and commitment that Dallas and his friends show to Jake is truly inspiring.  We see the heartache and inner struggle of everyone as they strive for the same goal:  recreating Jake the Snake.

“The Resurrection of Jake the Snake” is not a story about wrestling, although the footage used from years gone by is quite extraordinary.  This is a story about a wrestler.  It’s a story about a man who has lost his way and with the help of long-lost friends, he picks himself back up.  This is a human story with heart and soul.  It’s everyone’s story,

Imagine sending your daughter off to NYC from a thousand miles away to grad school.  Imagine getting occasional updates about her day.  Now imagine that there is someone who has hacked into every techie gadget she has and that “someone” has eyes on her at all times.  Little by little, the personal invasion increases and that “someone” can completely interfere with every aspect of your daughter’s life.

That’s what RATTER proposes in their film.  Using genuinely unique filming techniques and a story line that sets up an increasingly intense thriller, RATTER will bring you to your knees as you watch the story unfold.

Written and directed by Branden Kramer, this intense film expresses what today’s technology and those with ill will could possibly be capable of doing.  How safe is our iPhone or our tablet and laptop?  Today’s generation is in constant contact with these technological devices, but what if someone could stalk you using them?  RATTER is just such the film to pose these questions and bring the answers to full living color before your eyes.  It is a mesmerizing film that brings you into the world where you have no control and your fate is determined by someone else.

RATTER is simply superb in its execution of the story along with a talented actress, Ashley Benson, to carry the film.  Although there are other actors, this film rests solely on the talents and abilities of  Ms. Benson to portray the ever increasing paranoia and fear.

RATTER harnesses fear in today’s technology, portraying a believable story-line with a young grad student, Emma.  The overall feeling of impending doom with the hope of justification, is the extreme emotional tug of war that occurs throughout the entire film.  RATTER is truly a unique film, utilizing creative filming techniques, solid writing, and precision acting.  It’s one of the best psychological (and realistic) thrillers I have seen in a long time.

Check it out at Slamdance right now!